GOPIO, the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (www.gopio.net), together with the Gopio Chapter of Durban South Africa held a very successful and enlightening business conference for 2 and half days where attendees from many countries gathered to network, exchange ideas and come with suggestions to help South Africa progress to greater heights through Cooperation, Guidance and Entrepreneurship.
Ishwar Ramlutchman, Convention Convener and International Coordinator along with his team of volunteers did a wonderful job of planning, hosting and welcome of the delegates visiting from many countries. He had a lineup of the Royalty and top Government officials who attended the various events and mingled with the guests.
May 19th. Durban – For the GOPIO visitors from other countries, the convention started right at the airport. A delegation dressed in traditional Indian clothes received us with folded hands saying Namaskar. Pictures were taken in front of the Gopio banners announcing the Gopio convention and creating quite a stir among the onlookers. This was an excellent advertisement besides the television, radio and print ads, which had been running in Durban for weeks ahead of the summit.
Later the same afternoon, Dr. Shashank Vikram, the Consul General of India in Durban, invited the whole international delegation and prominent community members for high tea at the Indian Consulate and met with each one individually and welcomed us to South Africa.
As if that was not welcome enough a reception was held for all GOPIO members and local Indian dignitaries and business people to meet with the GOPIO visitors and local members at the hotel.
Among the many welcome addresses the ones that hit the spot were by Shameen Thakur-Rajbansi, member of Parliament for Minority Front in Durban, South Africa. She brought forward the point that Indian Diaspora needs to be recognized and appreciated for the success they have achieved in foreign countries. And that GOPIO is a wonderful platform for PIOs/ NRIs for such acknowledgement and appreciation.
Dr. Udit Raj, Member of Indian Parliament (Lok Sabha) who was visiting from New Delhi, emphasized that today India is a land of opportunity under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi. He also extended the invitation to all Indians living abroad to come to India and his doors will be open to help them
Dr. Thomas Abraham, chairman GOPIO from the US made a power point presentation tracing the journey of GOPIO since its inception 28 years ago mobilizing the community as an activism group looking at the human rights violations to a group which is involved in all aspects of community development and contribution to India and other countries. GOPIO has now launched GOPIO International Chamber of Commerce (GICC) where the GOIPO members can successfully network and utilize their membership to meet with other likeminded business people and entrepreneurs from all over the world.
GOPIO Executive Vice President Noel Lal quoted Prime Minister Modi extolling diaspora Indians to commit and contribute to the countries they live in. Ishwar Ramlutchman Africa International coordinator and convener for the GOPIO Business summit finished off with a very emotional vote of thanks, specially to those who have traveled from far of countries to visit his South Africa. He thanked his team for their tireless work of last few months to put the convention together. He finished off with very important message,” Let us all take something from this convention”.
Many discussion panels were held covering the entire gamut of topics for helping Africa Grow through entrepreneurship and helping in the growth of Industries like Hotel and Tourism, Small Scale Industries, Micro Credit Financing to name a few.
Some of the local dignitaries who attended and spoke were Acting High Commissioner of India Dr. S. Janakiraman, Consul General of India Dr. Shashank Vikram, Deputy Mayor of Durban Fawzia Peer, and Ravi Pillay, MEC for Rural Development and Public Works.
In the afternoon, the business summit was honored by the presence of His Majesty the King Goodwill Zwelithini KaBhekuZulu and his wife. The King was pleased to be attending the summit and to be among Indians in particular. In his speech, he emphasized that ALL RELIGIONS should live together in harmony. South Africa, he said that today his people are called, “The Rainbow Nation”. His majesty King Goodwill Zwelithini and her Highness, Prince MG Buthelezi MP, A.V, Mohammed of Jumma Masjid Trust and Deputy High commissioner of India Dr. S. Janakiraman and south African Member of parliament Aumsen Singh.
The Gala dinner was a display of warmth, love and hospitality of the South African Indians. It seems the clock may have stopped for them, 3-4 generations ago when their ancestors landed in Durban as indentured labor on a ship. Today the success and their achievement is noteworthy and something to be proud of.
From lightening the traditional lamp to welcome speeches to fabulous array of dishes on the buffet table was a sight to be seen. Highlight was the plaques of recognition to professional and business achievers, the host committee team and the people who needed to be recognized for their service to the community and the growth of Indian heritage in general. The King was presented with the Life Time Achievement Award.
His majesty the King Goodwill Zwelithini himself stood on the dais and presented each and everyone with the plaque of recognition with a smile and handshake. He was seen having quite a chat with some of the dignitaries and visitors. In fact, he seemed to be enjoying himself immensely.
In his speech, he again reiterated his comments, “It is a great pleasure to have been invited to express my message of support to such a great celebration of unity among people of Indian origin that is kept intact by the leadership and members of the Gopio organization of the people of the Indian origin. We are aware that inculcating a culture of unity is difficult enough in a classroom or a community but when unity such as the one achieved by the Indian community on a global scale as pioneered by GOPIO has to be celebrated, Ubuntu dictates that I express my support.”
The highlight of the conference was a Visit to Mahatma Gandhi’s Phoenix Settlement, hosted by Mrs. Ela Gandhi, the granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi. The delegates got to see and read information they have heard about from the history books.
Original pictures and depiction of Mahatma Gandhi’s life has been recorded chronologically with very nice photographs and inscriptions on the walls. The delegation was served wonderful vegetarian lunch and a plaque of appreciation was given to Mrs. Ela Gandhi by GOPIO team.