Adieu Amichand Rajabansi the Bengal Tiger

By Crystal van Wyk
Posted on Friday, 30 December 2011 11:23

Nicknamed the Bengal Tiger for his opinions and outspokenness during the dark of apartheid days, controversial to some, Amichand Rajabansi was loved and hated by many.

The 69 year old died on Thursday after being admitted to hospital in Durban, in October with bronchitis. 

Rajbansi was Chief Minister of the House of Delegates Tricameral Parliamentary Chamber for Indian people during apartheid. The colourful politician was leader of the Minority Front party whose support base was mostly in Kwazulu-Natal, Rajbansi’s political home and base.

Born in Durban in 1942, Rajbansi was sports administrator, professional soccer referee, civic leader, and serving in local government structures dealing with local affairs. In the late 1970’s he was elected to the Indian Council.

But the ambitious Rajbansi wasn’t satisfied and wanted more and in 1981 he formed the National People’s Party, NPP and was elected leader.

Three years later, following the then Prime Minister PW Botha’s constitutional reforms, the NPP stood for the newly constituted House of Delegates, the Indian only parliamentary chamber, and won the majority of seats in the House. The tricameral system was criticised by ANC activists, with its leaders being seen as sell outs by those fighting against the apartheid.

South Africa has lost a true South African patriot

Rajbansi was undeterred and continued serving in the tricameral parliament, later becoming member of the South African cabinet and chairman for the Ministers’ Council for Indian Affairs.

After South Africa’s transition to multi-racial democracy in 1994, the NPP became the Minority Front. But after the 2004 elections, Rajbansi made an alliance with the African National Congress and he became MEC for Sports and Recreation for Kwazulu-Natal.

ANC in KwaZulu-Natal said Rajbansi had a long and remarkable career in politics, spanning both the pre- and post-apartheid eras.

The Inkatha Freedom Party’s Mangosuthu Buthulezi said Rajbansi was one of South Africa’s political giants. “His deep commitment to deepening and consolidating our democracy cannot be questioned,” the IFP leader said in a statement. “He was a man with firm beliefs, who was never afraid to take a stand. His passion for politics and the people of South Africa was commendable.”

Buthelezi said he developed a strong working relationship with Rajbansi during the height of apartheid as members of the Black Alliance. “Like many politicians, he was both revered and reviled. South Africa has lost a true South African patriot.”

Democratic Alliance leader, leader Helen Zille said Rajbansi helped bring “coalition politics” to South Africa. “He was one of the people who introduced the idea of coalition politics to South Africa by strategically aligning his party with others to achieve his objectives,” Zille said in a statement.

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