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Shirish Nanabhai

The Order of Mendi for Bravery in

Shirish Nanabhai Awarded for:
His bravery in the struggle against apartheid and resolute determination to realise the dream of a free and democratic South Africa.
Profile of Shirish Nanabhai

Shirish Nanabhai is a struggle veteran who is known and respected for standing firm on the courage of his own convictions. During the struggle he went by the alias Fakir Jasmath. So intense were his views that the Security Branch restricted him to Johannesburg.

In 1963 Nanabhai was sentenced under the General Law Amendment Act to 10 years imprisonment for sabotage. This former member of the Natal Indian Congress was banned and placed under partial house arrest on his release in 1973 and re-banned in 1978. Even in the custody of the fearsome Security Police who thought nothing of killing activists, Nanabhai stood his ground and complained of ill-treatment of prisoners, including himself.

Before his arrest Nanabhai together with Indres Naidoo and Reggie Vandeyar joined Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK). They were the first three members of Indian origin to be arrested for MK activities in the then Transvaal. They were arrested on 17 April 1963 at the railway signal site near Riverlea. Their arrest was due to one Gammat Jardien, who turned out to be working for the Special Branch and eventually got them arrested. Jardien supplied them with small arms and explosives, and succeeded in infiltrating their unit.

Nanabhai and his comrades’ first sabotage attack was on the Johannesburg Pass Office, then the Fordsburg Post Office and the Bantu Commissioner’s Court in Newtown. When they got home, lying in wait for them was the notorious Lieutenant van Wyk, Captain “Rooi Rus” Swanepoel and Major Brits. A shot rang out and it hit Indres in his right shoulder. At the police station Vandeyar was severely tortured and assaulted while Naidoo did not receive medical attention for his gunshot wound.

Nanabhai’s courageous acts eventually led to the democratic South Africa that is now home to all its citizens.