It has been my misfortune from time to time to report to the public deaths of Indians who have worked for and served India in far-off South Africa. One of the ablest of them, a cable from Mr. Rustomjee tells, just departed this life. His name was Dawood Mohamed.
Mr. Dawood Mohamed rose from the ranks. He never received any English education. I am not sure that he passed through more than two standards in a vernacular school in India. But his versatile ability and perseverance gave him such a wonderful grasp over languages without any book-learning whatsoever that I have known him hold discourses with people in Tamil, Hindi, Creole French, Dutch and English besides his mother-tongue, Gujarati. His native wit made him a popular speaker.
He was as keen a politician as he was a merchant. And when the critical moment for decision came he threw in his lot with the South African civil resisters, crossed the border and together with other merchants of note presented himself for arrest for crossing the sacred border of the Transvaal. Having carried on extensive business with European business houses, he was well known to many Europeans and owing to his great ability commanded their respect. And I am happy to be able to testify that for him who was used to a luxurious life and who was at the time 50 years old, to have risked imprisonment for the sake of conscience was an act which raised him still further in the estimation of his many European friends rather than otherwise.
It was a privilege for me to find men in South Africa drawn from the commercial class giving freely of their time, their money and even voluntarily risking loss of personal freedom by undergoing imprisonment and property. Mr. Dawood Mohamed was one of the best among these. He was President of the Natal Indian Congress for a number of years and known to Indians all over South Africa. In my humble opinion, though India knew him not, she has every reason to be proud of having produced Dawood Mohamed. Indians in South Africa badly needed his services at the present moment. They are the poorer for Mr. Dawood Mohamed's death and, may I add, poorer also for the death of that brave statesman, General Botha. The duty of India is therefore all the greater to see that the interests of her sons struggling for freedom are fully protected.
I am, etc.,
(sd.) M. K. Gandhi
30th August, 1919