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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