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Modi pays floral tributes to Mahatma Gandhi

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Johannesburg: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday visited Constitution Hill here, the site of South Africa’s highest constitutional court and where Mahatma Gandhi was once incarcerated, and played floral tributes to the leader of India’s freedom struggle.

“Homage to a remarkable history. PM visits Constitution Hill, earlier a prison which housed both Gandhiji & Mandela,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted along with photographs.

Modi also inaugurated a special exhibition on Gandhi and Nelson Mandela during the course of his tour across the site besides interacting with anti-apartheid revolutionaries and families, Swarup said.

According to the Constitution Hill website, the place has a very complex history going back to 1892 when the Old Fort was built under the Zuid Afrikaanse Republiek.

“Functioning as a prison, except for the brief period of the South African War (1899-1902) when it was a military defence post, new buildings were added to the site in the late 1900s and early 20th Century: the so-called Natives’ section and isolation cells known as Sections Four and Five where black male prisoners were held, a Women’s Prison (1907), and an Awaiting Trial building (1920s),” the website posting reads.

In 1906, Mahatma Gandhi was incarcerated here for resisting the colonial and apartheid regime.

“Waves of resistors to the repressive regime of the new apartheid state passed through the entrance of the Old Fort: many involved in the 1952 Defiance campaign, the Treason Trialists of 1956 (including Nelson Mandela), and those imprisoned after various waves of resistance: Sharpeville in 1961, the 1976 uprising and the harsh clampdowns of the mid 1980s States of Emergency,” the website states.

In the mid-1990s, however, the entire site was injected with a new meaning and energy when it was chosen as the site for the new Constitutional Court, the highest court in the country on constitutional matters.

Modi is also scheduled to visit the Nelson Mandela Foundation here later on Friday.

In the evening, he will address an Indian diaspora rally in Johannesburg before departing for Durban where his engagements are scheduled for Saturday.

India and South Africa signed four agreements following delegation-level talks headed by Modi and South African President Jacob Zuma in Pretoria earlier on Friday.

Modi arrived in South Africa from Mozambique on Thursday night on the second leg of his four-nation tour of Africa.

This is his first visit to mainland Africa and is also the first prime ministerial visit from India to South Africa since the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived in 2013 for the G20 summit in Durban.

–IANS

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