UKZN’s Gandhi-Luthuli Documentation Centre has received a donation of documents collected by anti-apartheid stalwart, AKM Docrat.
The collection, donated to the University by UKZN alumnus, Mr Feizal M. Motala, includes articles written by prominent organisations during the liberation struggle, such as the Unity Movement and the Natal Indian Congress; reports; official publications; pamphlets and newspaper clippings. Many of these have not been seen before and will prove invaluable to researchers. Docrat, who was banned for 25 years, collected newspaper cuttings on banned persons, their trials and the restrictions they faced. A first edition of Satyagraha, by Mahatma Gandhi, was also donated by Motala.
Motala said while Docrat was banned he lived alone in a one-bedroom flat in Victoria Street, where he was confined for 22 hours a day and was only allowed out for two hours. ‘During this period he went around selling his books. I remember him barging into my uncle’s office and throwing books on the table before walking away. This was his manner irrespective of who was in the office - remember, he only had two hours out of his flat,’ said Motala.
Motala tells of Docrat’s determination to fight against the machinery of apartheid, even while he was banned. ‘His flat was Flat 1, Nirmal Court in Victoria Street. It was the last flat in the passage and there was a gate which he always kept locked. He could see the gate from his bathroom window and if you rattled the lock, he would allow you in or not. If he did not want to see you, he did not answer the gate,’ he said.
‘On one occasion a Lt Nayager, who was the highest ranking Indian policeman in the Security Branch at the time, came to visit him in the course of his official duty. He rattled the gate and A K M Docrat opened it. ‘Unfortunately for Nayager, he forgot his bag in Mr Docrat’s room when he left. He returned a few minutes later and rattled the gate again. Mr Docrat answered the gate and asked him who he was.
Lt Nayager’s response was that he had been there just a few minutes earlier and Mr Docrat knew him.
‘Mr Docrat said: “Don’t you know that I am a banned person and not allowed visitors? How do I know that you are Lt Nayager”.’ Lt Nayager humbly took out his police card and showed it to him to confirm who he was. Then only did Mr Docrat let him in.’
Motala, who has served as an attorney for 35 years, donated the Docrat collection to ensure it reaches a wider audience. Speaking fondly about his family friend and mentor, Motala said: ‘I hope Mr Docrat will be remembered for what he was, a forthright and dedicated activist, a simple man with profoundly important ideas and an honest, radical and dear friend.’
Motala’s personal collection includes pamphlets and invitations sent to Docrat from the African National Congress, a delegate’s card to the Congress of the People and an invitation card for fund raising for treason trials - ‘some of which I found in his books which he used to hide from the Security Police’.
Docrat’s estate was used to build a Library and Media Centre at Hartley Road Primary School.
- Download the poem on AKM Docrat written by acclaimed South African poet and editor, Mafika Gwala. The poem is an extract from anti-apartheid activist, lawyer and author Phyllis Naidoo’s book, Footsteps Swansong.