A court in Malawi halted the work on a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in the country’s commercial capital, Blantyre, after campaigners accused the Indian freedom fighter of using racial slurs, BBC reported on Thursday. A judge granted an injunction suspending work on the statue until a further hearing or a new court order.
“Being black people ourselves, such remarks [racial slurs allegedly used by Gandhi] have invited a sense of loathing and detestation of Gandhi,” the Gandhi Must Fall group said in its court application.
Spokesperson for the movement, Pemphero Mphande, expressed satisfaction with the legal action, according to Malawi24. “We do it for Malawi and the future,” he wrote on Facebook. “Our country is not for sale. We will honour our own heroes.”
Mphande said Gandhi does not deserve to be honoured in Malawi because he was racist, according to The Nation. Over 3,000 Malawians have signed a petition opposing the statue, saying Gandhi had done nothing for the southeast African country, AFP reported.
The statue and a convention centre named after Gandhi were part of a $10-million deal with India.
Indian Vice President Venkaiah Naidu was scheduled to inaugurate the centre and the statue during his visit to the country on November 4 and 5. He reached Botswana on Wednesday, and will visit Zimbabwe before reaching Malawi on Sunday.
In 2016, professors at the University of Ghana had called for the removal of a Gandhi statue on their campus, saying he had a “racist identity”, according to BBC. They cited quotes from his writings, in which he described Africans as “savages or the Natives of Africa” and “kaffirs” (a racial slur for a black African).