Anti-apartheid icon Swaminathan Karuppa Gounden dies

Tributes have poured in for political activist and trade union leader Swaminathan “Swami” Karuppa Gounden, who died on Tuesday morning.


He was 94-years-old. Gounden was born in 1927 in Durban.

Gounden was popularly known as one of the last surviving ANC members who attended the historic signing of the Freedom Charter at the 1955 Congress of the People in Kliptown, Soweto.

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He participated as an activist and leader in most of the major historical campaigns in the Struggle against apartheid in South Africa.

These included the 1946 Passive Resistance Campaign, the 1952 Defiance Campaign, the 1955 Kliptown Conference and the 1983 launch of the UDF.


The ANC said Gouden was fortunate enough to see the dawn of democracy and voted for the first time in 1994 as a free and equal citizen of his country.

“His contribution and community service towards improving the living conditions of the oppressed people have been profoundly recognised. Because of his dedication and service to the people of South Africa, President Cyril Ramaposa bestowed him with the order of Luthuli.

“We want to extend our sincere condolences to the Gounden family, and while we mourn his departure, we take comfort and will always be indebted to his contribution in our liberation struggle, and we can attest to his generosity, humility, and respect for human dignity,” the ANC Provincial Spokesperson Nhlakanipho Ntombela said in a statement.

Ntombela further urged all those who loved Gouden to celebrate ‘this most remarkable icon of our movement‘.

“Undoubtfully, his name will always be adorned in the history of our struggle.

“To the family, we say take solace from knowing that the Congress movement shares your pain, and you are in our prayers as you prepare to lay to rest our dedicated comrade, a stalwart, and a leader of our people,” she said.

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