JOHANNESBURG: A bust of a teenage martyr, who fought alongside Mahatma Gandhi in his fight against racial discrimination in South Africa, has been unveiled here after her statue was destroyed by vandals in a mainly Indian township.
Valliamma Munuswami was 16 when she joined Gandhi in 1913 in the struggle against discrimination. She was sentenced to three months imprisonment with hard labour.
The installation of the bust by Tamil Federation of Gauteng (TFG) marks the 101st anniversary of Munuswami's death on February 22, 1914.
Flanked by two columns, the bust, unveiled in Lenasia, south of Johannesburg, tells her story in the liberation struggle.
The young leader died after contracting illnesses during imprisonment because of her marches with Gandhi against discriminatory laws in the then Transvaal province.
The TFG unveiled the new, bigger bust in a public park to replace that was destroyed by vandals barely weeks after being installed last year.
Veteran community leader Mickey Chetty promised that security would be arranged this time for the new bust created by renowned South African sculptor of religious deities Jeram Bhana.
President Jacob Zuma wished the Tamil community in South Africa well in commemoration of Mudliar on February 22.
"Valliamma participated in various protests in the then Natal against discriminatory laws on the members of the Indian community, which included prohibition of marriages which were not conducted according to Christian rites, such as Hindu and Muslim," Zuma said in a message.
"Valliamma's courage and selflessness in rejecting an offer of early release from prison despite have taken ill during incarceration distinguishes her as a rare child martyr whose heroic deeds must continue to resonate with deepest meaning today," Zuma added.
Outgoing TFG President Nadas Pillay made an impassioned plea for his successor to lead a project to identify the many other heroines of the past century who had also joined protest action against discriminatory laws of the time.
"The history of our Tamil leaders of the time has not been well-documented. We have busts of Valliamma now and Gandhi's statue stands alone at Gandhi Square in Central Johannesburg, but we are only now finding out about many other women like Valliamma who had joined in such actions even before Gandhi's movement was started," Pillay said.
Special awards were given to the third and fourth generation descendants of two such women, Letchmee Pillay and Mooniamal Moorgasen Pillay.