Fighting for Justice is an autobiographical account of Jay Naidoo’s life. The book charts a course of struggle, commitment and sacrifice, seen through Jay’s eyes from turbulent rebelliousness of youth, to leading the country’s biggest federation of trade unions, COSATU. It navigates the successes and challenges of transitional justice and the political maneuverings of the country’s nascent democracy.
The book is a human story of the difficult choices and balancing acts that define many a life of many political leaders. It is a story of commitment and betrayal, and of leadership and development activism.
Recommended Retail Price: R210 | Publication: 22nd of July 2010 | ISBN: 978-1-77010-177-7 | Category: Non-fiction (Autobiography) | Format: TPB – 170 x 240 mm | Page extent: Approx 448 pp
Jay Naidoo was a tireless anti-apartheid campaigner in the 1980s, serving as the first General Secretary of Coastu, South Africa’s largest union federation and the backbone of the internal mass struggles against apartheid. In 1993, he stepped down to lead twenty leaders from Cosatu into parliament on an ANC ticket, and was asked by Nelson Mandela to work as the Minister responsible for the Reconstruction and Development Programme, and then as the Minister of Communications.
In 1999 Jay moved away from politics and entered the world of business, setting up the J&J Group, an investment and management company. He remained engaged in the field of development and was
appointed as the Chairman of the Development Bank of Southern Africa. In 2003 he became the Chairman of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, launched to fight the malnutrition facing 2 billion people around the world.
Fighting for Justice is a gripping account of Jay’s life, from his roots in a distant village in India to his present fierce engagement with global issues of social justice. It tells the story of a man from a working-class family living with the cruel realities of apartheid, his life-changing encounter with Steve Biko and his involvement in student, community and national politics.
It is also a searingly honest recount of the painful personal choices Jay has had to make, and includes his intercontinental love affair with the French Canadian journalist and writer Lucie Pagé. Fighting for Justice weaves an enthralling tale of intrigue, pain and triumph as the issues of race, language and culture encounter the uncompromising terrain of political and social activism.
*JAY NAIDOO was born on 20 December 1954 in Durban, South Africa. He is married to Lucie and considers his three children Shanti, Kami and Léandre his greatest achievement.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
— Universal Declaration of Human Rights
In 1975, I lay on a bed in Wentworth Hospital, Durban, suffering from a complicated auto-immune disease called sarcoidosis, which medical science knew little about. It was on the back of a year-long treatment that I had undergone for lymphatic tuberculosis. As the anaesthetic wore off after the biopsy to diagnose my debilitating illness, I looked up, drowsy and disoriented, the fan above my bed whirling sluggishly, and saw the furrows of anxiety in the faces of my mother and eldest sister.
They had come with an older woman, impeccably dressed in a sari and holding a rosary of meditation beads. Mrs Patel, a healer and sage, had come to do a prayer. She held my hand and as she clicked the rosary beads she slipped into a deep meditation chanting a mantra I did not understand. After a few minutes she stopped, turned to my mother and sister and said, ‘He will be fine. He is touched by the spirit of service. He has much to do in his life.’ She gathered her things and left.
It would be many more years of struggle, surprises and promises of change before I fully understood what she meant.
I was fortunate to be born into an exhilarating period of our history. The chemistry of circumstance often provides wonderful opportunities. Mine was to play a role in our struggle for freedom, to interact with some of the greatest leaders of our time and to appreciate the magnificence of the collective experience, with few regrets. I sought the solidarity of our comradeship even in the many moments of great pain and suffering and sacrifice.
I was irresistibly drawn into the courageous struggles of our people across the political and class spectrum. I listened intently to their views and their wisdom stoked by the daily hardships at the coalface of apartheid. It was from the poorest of the poor, living in brutal conditions in single-sex hostels, torn from their families, from the township residents eking out a living in the poverty of our slums and from workers in the factories, mines and farms of our country that I learnt the most important lessons that shaped my life.
I learnt from this reservoir of humility, honesty, patience, tolerance and compassion as we sat down and shared a simple meal. It was here that I witnessed human dignity and a group solidarity and identity that would unite our people.
It was this tsunami of civic, youth, women, labour and religious organisations that became the unstoppable force that brought apartheid to its knees and compelled it into a negotiated political settlement. Our struggle was to give voice to the needs of our people and not for title or position for individuals or organisations.
History can influence events but human decisions determine our current realities. We experienced a burst of optimism when South Africa joined the community of nations as a full member, proud of the democratic traditions and progressive Constitution that our new-found rainbow democracy brought in 1994. Our world was charged with hope for a better future, our sense of belonging achieved.
My foray into business, following my departure from government in 1999, ushered in a new phase in my life, one where I felt constantly challenged on a number of fronts. It remains a critical learning curve for me. Finding ways to get business, government and civil society to work together for our common goal of creating a better life for all is an opportunity to rethink the existing and outmoded paradigms of social change and development.
I believe it is possible to combine business acumen with a commitment to ending poverty and inequality. It is possible to build businesses that imbue the dynamism and innovation of the market but also serve the poor.
Writing this book has provided an opportunity to reflect on my journey and has enabled me to fine-tune my vision and the direction I have chosen. It has forced me to face some of the painful experiences, the betrayals and broken promises, but mostly it has allowed me to recount some of the many lessons that hold promise of a ‘new’ South Africa. My story is one of comradeship and is testimony to the many ordinary heroes and heroines of our struggle for freedom in South Africa, many of whom will not be written into our history books.
I have realised that the future of our destiny globally lies in our hands as citizens. The South African freedom struggle was one of the world’s finest examples of global social solidarity. As we continue to fight for social justice, in a world where insatiable greed continues to trample on human rights and our environment let us not forget the lessons of our past.
The right to a ‘better life for all’ is a fundamental human right. That was the meaning in life that I found.
This is the story of my journey.
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