Jayaseelen “Jay” Naidoo (1954-) was born on 20 December in Durban and matriculated from Sastri College in 1972. At a young age, Naidoo was greatly affected by Apartheid; his family was evicted from their Durban home through the Group Areas Act. Naidoo enrolled at the University of Durban-Westville (UDW) to study science. It was here that his efforts as a tireless anti-Apartheid campaigner were realized; he joined the South African Student Organisation which was responsible for protest action against the government. Naidoo continued to play an important role in politics and became the leader of the country’s biggest federation of trade unions, COSATU.
Naidoo’s autobiographical novel, Fighting for Justice, is a harrowing, gripping, passionate and exciting novel that details his life and contributions to the democratization of South Africa. The autobiography traces his Indian origins, his rebellious youthful phase at UDW, the rise of COSATU, creating a relationship between COSATU and the ANC, his relationship with Steve Biko and his current involvement in community upliftment and politics. Fighting for Justice received positive reviews upon release and was nominated for the 2011 Alan Paton Award.
Naidoo currently resides in Morningside with his wife, Lucie Page and their two children. He writes opinion pieces regularly for The Daily Maverick and is currently completing his next book.
Excerpt from Fighting For Justice (2010:25):
Our community celebrated and shared all the cultural and religious festivals. We would enjoy the delicacies and the feast that had been prepared, skipping in and out of each other’s homes. We were Muslims in Eid ul-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy fasting period of Ramadan, and Hindus during Diwali, the festival of lights to signify victory of good over evil within an individual.
But it was Christmas, coinciding with the summer holidays, the year end and the country winding down to a standstill, that most excited us. It was the time to stop and take a breath from the pressures of the year. As a child a favourite activity was window-shopping down West Street, the bustling nerve centre of the Durban metropolis with its brightly coloured Christmas lights dazzling our spirits. Crowds of people came to celebrate the decorated store fronts. We had the chance to buy candy floss from street vendors as we skipped up and down the street.
It was on these occasions when we ventured into the wider world of the city and the seafront that we were confronted with the ugly face of petty racism. We could not afford much of what was advertised and when I did venture inside these stores the shop security was quick to make me feel unwelcome, with suspicious surveillance shortly followed by, ‘Hey coolie, what do you want here? Be on your way!’ Blacks were not encouraged to enter the high Mecca of ‘The White’ shopping paradise.
2011. Fighting for Justice. Johannesburg: Picador Africa