Born of indenture stock, Vish Suparsad, hails from
Plessislaer (Pietermaritzburg) where his grandfather began market
gardening shortly after the expiration of his term of indenture.
His mother was a source of inspiration to him, In the 1980’s
she called for the Release of Nelson Mandela. “An old
lady in a white sari, standing with this banner in the middle
of a highway (it) was quite a sight”. This is how Vish
saw his mother, a tower of strength who helped “to shape
us in terms of our values and our commitment” .
Vish’s first act of Defiance was in 1966 when
he protested against the Republic Day Festival by distributing
pamphlets and stealing the school bell. After his matriculation,
Vish went to London and Canada and while in (Edmonton) Canada
formed the Free Southern Africa Committee to raise awareness
about the atrocities of Apartheid. While there, he hosted the
ANC, Yusuf Dadoo and Freni Ginwala all of whom helped to publicise
events in South Africa.
He came back to South Africa in 1976 ‘to engage
in the revolution ’ and was thereafter steeped in intelligence
work for the ANC. He first underwent political training under
The National Youth Leadership Training Programme and thereafter
was employed by the Tongaat Child Welfare Society. Even though
the ANC was banned, Vish worked underground affiliating to the
Natal Indian Congress. During this period he embarked on the
OCMS program [Organisation, Consciousness-building and Mobilisation]
in Tongaat. He helped form the Tongaat Youth Club which became
active during the Soweto Uprisings of 1976 and thereafter. During
this period relationships with the Black township of Hambanati
was forged through the establishment of a joint civic structure
called JORAC- all of which culminated in the formation of the
UDF (United Democratic Front) component of the Tongaat area.
The role of civic organisations was critical in establishing
networks and this period (1980’s) saw the establishment
of DHAC (Durban Action Housing Committee) and the Community
Research Unit (CRU), which were used as starting points to
reach out to communities in their efforts to conscientise people
through door-to-door visits and surveys. Vish talks extensively
of the activities leading up to the formation of the UDF and
the ANC involvement in this process.
In his interview Vish talks of the tricameral system,
the Rubicon speech of P W Botha, the township of KwaMashu, the
State of Emergency in 1986, Operation Vula, the British Consulate
sit-in protests, CODESA, the Minority Front, Amichand Rajbansi,
the TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Commission), and finally of
HIV/aids and his many visits abroad.
Compiled by K. Chetty