Malawi Court rejects Gandhi statue over racist views

The High Court in Malawi has ruled that the Mahatma Gandhi statue should not be erected in Malawi due to Gandhi’s racist views.

Judge Michael Tembo has made the ruing today in Blantyre following an appeal by activists Pemphero Mphande and Mkotama Katenga Kaunda.

Tembo found the decision by the Blantyre City Council to erect the statue as unreasonable and unjustifiable.

In 2018, the Government of India approached the Malawi Government with a proposal to “add on to the honour” of Mahatma Gandhi by erecting a statue at the junction where Mahatma Gandhi road starts, that is, Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital round-about.

But the two activists dragged the council to court saying Gandhi’s called Africans ‘kaffirs’ and further derided them to be savages and living lives below that of human beings.

Mahatma Gandhi

The claimants asserted that being Black people themselves, such remarks have invited a sense of loathe and detestation for the said Mahatma Gandhi and that the construction of the Statue on an open public land will only serve to reignite and fuel this sense of loathe as they use the road.

They further noted that the council did not meet to make a decision on allocating land for the statue as required by law and that the land was identified by Malawi Government.

Blantyre City Council, on its part argued that Gandhi made the racist remarks when he was young and that when he became Mahatma, Gandhi was anti-racist, championed unity, was against gender discrimination and was against abortion.  The council further argued that Malawi already has Mahatma Gandhi road and Gandhi is relevant today.

However, the court agreed with claimants’ arguments that  by not following the law to let the Planning Committee decide on the planning permission for the erection of the Statue, the public interest in the matter never featured in the decision making process hence  feelings of some Malawians who have serious reservations to the erection of the Statue were never considered.

The court also agreed with the claimants that they would not have challenged the naming of Mahatma Gandhi road, since the decision was taken when Malawi was under autocratic rule.

On Gandhi’s racist views, the court said it finds such views to be clearly racist and it was not shown to the court that indeed Gandhi held those views only as a naïve young lawyer, as the council wanted the court to believe.

“What is clear is however that the 1st defendant has not brought any literature showing that Gandhi acknowledged and recanted his offensive views expressly at any given point in his life time.

“In the premises, the 1st defendant’s decision to allow the erection of the Statue herein would be a constant reminder to the claimants, and others like them, of the racist views held by the person honoured by the Statue. That would not sit well with the dignity of the claimants and those like them who know what racist statements the one honoured by the Statue said about Black people and what views he held about Black people,” reads part of the ruling.

The council has since been ordered to pay costs for the case.