1.The Probem of Land
After twenty-one years in South Africa, Gandhi returned to India in 1914. He took Thambi Naidoo’s four sons with him to continue their education under his tutelage.ÂÂ
Thambi Naidoo, with the rest of his family, came back from Tolstoy Farm to central Johannesburg where they resumed their normal routines.
Thambi took up his business as a produce merchant once again. Veerammal resumed her roles as housewife and mother.
Thayanayagie and Seshammal went back to school.Â They attended the school for Coloured and Indian children in Market Street. As a result of moving about so much, they were the oldest children in their classesThayanayagie, who turned fourteen at the end of Std 3 (Grade 5), was considered too old to stay in school and did not continue.Â Seshammal stayed on until Std 7 (Grade 9).
The family soon became involved in the struggle for property and trading rights once more. Gandhi's negotiations with Smuts had led to the Indian Relief Act of 1914. But the Act gave no relief with regard to trading and property rights.
The Satyagraha movement had dealt with problems of registration certificates and the restriction of movement across provincial boundaries.
These oppressive measures sprang from the government’s determination to stop Indian expansion and development by preventing Indians from acquiring land.
And the new Union Government was determined to restrict and confine all Black people.
The four provinces, the Cape, Transvaal, Orange Free State and Natal had united to become the Union of South Africa in 1910. The first Prime Minister was Louis Botha and the Minister of Defence was Jan Smuts. It was a government of white supremacy. And it had immediately begun on a program of colonialism.
Colonialism is institutionalized racism. Colonialists base their actions on the belief in their racial superiority. This belief entitles them to conquer and exploit.
In 1913, the Union government passed the Natives Land Act No 27 and appropriated 93% of South Africa’s land.ÂÂ African people were confined to tiny reserves in 7.3% of the land. Thus their development was severely curtailed.
[In 1936, land for the African majority was increased to 13%; this was no mprovement.]
In 1913, the Union Government also passed the Immigrants’ Regulations Act which placed restrictions on Indians. The aim was to confine and repress Indians as they had Africans.
Depriving people of land is the way to disempower them. It leads to what Karl Marx called the proletarianization of people.[Proletarianization means moving people from being employers, unemployed or self-employed, to being employed as wage labour by an employer. People are thus reduced to dependency.ÂÂ It happened in the Industrial Revolution in Europe. And it was the main strategy of colonialism.]
After Gandhi left, land became the main focus of the Indian struggle in South Africa
Despite the many laws instituted from 1885 to confine and repress Indians, they had expanded their trade and ownership of land.Â
They had bought into areas not specifically designated for them. That had happened partly because laws, under the colonies and republics, had not been strictly applied.Â
The 1909 Companies Act had allowed Indians to purchase land if they formed companies.
They also had the right to appointÂ nominees (usually white), in whose names they bought land.
They had also acquired property through marriage to white or Malay women, who were allowed to own property.
Their growth and expansion through acquisition of property and trading enterprises, was resented by the white population.
[Such resentment is similar to what is seen today in the attacks against people of north Africa – Somalis, Nigerians etc who have
settled in South Africa and set up small businesses in African townships.]
World War 1, 1914 – 1918, interrupted the sequence of events in South Africa.
But soon after the war, the Union Government resumed its programme of proletarianization..
According to the historian, TRH Davenport, Sir Abe Bailey formed the South Africans' League in 1919. The league’s main aim was the expropriation of Indian property.
“In January 1919 the Krugersdorp local council successfully restrained a European owned company from letting its premises to an Indian. This action precipitated a crisis which led to the passing in July of the same year of the Transvaal Land and Trading Amendment Act of 1919. “(Essop Pahad, doctoral thesis)
The recommendations of Abe Bailey’s league had also influenced the passing of The Asiatic (Land and Trading) Amendment Act (Transvaal), 37/1919. This Act, repealed The Companies Act so Indians could no longer buy land by forming companies. However, they were still able to acquire land through nominees. And they retained the right to trade on property outside designated Asiatic Bazaars. But new licences were stopped. A register was to be compiled of existing licences and businesses owned by Indians. (South African History Online)
“The TBIA [Transvaal British Indian Association which later became the Transvaal Indian Congress] vehemently protested against the legislation. It organised mass meetings and petitions and sent protest telegrams to the Viceroy of India, the British Prime Minister, Lord Sinha, Generals Smuts and Botha, Gandhi, H.S.L. Polak, Sir M.M Bhowanaggree and Lord Buxton, the Governor-General of South Africa. In an interview with the latter they requested him to refuse consent to the Act. Lord Buxton, though recognising the validity of the objections, declined to do so.”ÂÂ (Essop Pahad, doctoral thesis)
Nevertheless, the Union Government could not act with the same impunity against Indians as it had against African people.Â
Through Gandhi, Indian people had established a connection with prominent leaders in India and with the Indian National Congress.
As South Africa and India were both under the control of the British, representatives from both countries attended Imperial Conferences in London. At these conferences South African Government representatives had to face the criticism of Indian
representatives with regard to the treatment of Indians.
So the struggle continued. Thambi Naidoo and his daughters became involved in new protest action. Thambi, a leader in the new movement, organised meetings in Johannesburg. With his teenage daughters by his side, he addressed gatherings and took part in protest activities.Â
He encouraged his daughters to speak out against oppression. Thayanayagie,who was a shy young girl, needed his help with her speeches. But Seshammal, a fiery young idealist, wrote her own speeches. She was a forceful and dynamic speaker.
Indians had been fighting restrictive laws on an individual and provincial basis. But after The Asiatic Land and Trading Amendment Act of 1919 was passed, they too saw that there was strength in unity. [“Unity is Strength” was the motto of the Union Government]
As Indians in South Africa were no longer dealing with separate provincial governments, they needed a national organisation to deal with a national government.Â
Gandhi had founded the Natal Indian Congress (NIC) in 1894 and the Transvaal British Indian Association (TBIA) in 1903. [In 1927. the TBIA became the Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC).] In the Cape, the Cape British Indian Council (CBIC) was the voice of Indian people.
[The use of the word British in the titles of the TBIA and CBIC reflects Gandhi’s understanding of Indians as citizens of the British Empire.]
In 1919, on the intiative of the Cape British Indian Council, the three organisations formed an informal association known as the South African Indian Congress.
It took the passing of The Asiatic (Land and Trading) Amendment Act (Transvaal), 37/1919 and the re-introduction of the Rural Dealers Licensing Ordinance, (which the NIC had successfully petitioned against in the previous year), before the three organisations finally formalised the South African Indian Congress in 1923.
Omar Hajee Amod Jhaveri was elected its first President.
“O.H.A. Jhaveri delivered the presidential address, which was once again couched in moderate terms, appealing to the good sense of the Europeans to do justice to the Indians. However, the speech also included a blistering, attack on segregation but excluded an analysis of the various options open to the SAIC in its struggle to resist the continuous assault of discriminatory legislation and virulent prejudice.” (Essop Pahad, doctoral thesis)
2.ÂÂ Involvement ofÂÂ Leaders from India
The South African Indian Congress “ was under conservative leadership for many years; the SAIC depended on petitions and deputations to the authorities and appeals for help to the Government of India, which was then under British control.” (South African History Online)
During Gandhi’s time in South Africa, he had made appeals to the British Government and to leaders in India, especially to his mentor and political guru, Gopal Krishna Gokhale.
Gokhale was a senior leader in the Indian National Congress and founder of the Servants of India Society. At Gandhi’s invitation, he had visited South Africa in 1912. He had even spent a night at Tolstoy Farm.
The South African Indian Congress (SAIC) in its early years followed Gandhi’s example.ÂÂ It appealed to the Union Government, to the British Government, The Indian National Congress (of India) and prominent leaders in India, notably Srinivasa Sastri, Tej Bahadur Sapru and Mrs Sarojini Naidu, to intercede with the South African Government. Unlike Gandhi, however, the SAIC did not engage in active resistance.
Following in Gokhale’s footsteps, Indian leaders began visiting South Africa to assess the plight of Indians in the country. Dr Srinivasa Sastri in1921 and Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru in 1923, demanded fair treatment for Indians.
Their demands led to clashes between South African Government Representatives and Indian Government Representatives at Imperial Conferences in London.ÂÂ (South Africa and India were both under British control.)
In 1924, Mrs Sarojini Naidu, the renowned singer, poetess and president of the National Congress of India, came on a visit to South Africa. Thambi Naidoo’s daughters, Thayanayagie and Seshammal, in white saris and red rosettes, were hostesses at a meeting that she addressed.
Mrs Naidu's powerful oratory along with her insightful assessment of conditions in South Africa had a tremendous impact on the girls. This encounter with a formidable woman leader inspired Thayanayagie to assert her own power as an activist.ÂÂ Later, despite efforts to confine her to the role of traditional wife and mother, she would become a leader in the Marabastad Asiatic Bazaar and Laudium communities.
Mrs Naidu and other leaders from India appealed to the Union Government for fair treatment of the local Indians. According to T.R.H. Davenport, General Smuts saw the demands for better treatment of Indians, in terms of “the white man's position in society, and in the last resort of his continuing presence in Southern Africa."Â Smuts regarded the granting of rights to Indians as the thin end of the wedge that would open the way to rights for the African majority.Â
So anti-Indian legislation continued.
Things became worse when the South African Party (SAP) under General Smuts was defeated in the 1924 elections and the PACT government under JBM Hertzog came into power.Â
During its term of office, the SAP had pushed for segregation and separate development but Hertzog's government wanted Indians out of the country altogether.
In1925, Dr. D. F. Malan, Minister of the Interior, introduced the Areas Reservation and Immigration and Registration (Further Provision) Bill in Parliament.
“Malan 's 1925 Bill sought to restrict severely Indian trading and occupational rights and was designed to lessen the Indian population to an "irreducible minimum''. (Essop Pahad, doctoral thesis)
The Bill defined Indians as aliens and recommended limitation of population through repatriation.(SAHO)
Towards the end of 1925, the Government of India sent the Paddison Deputation to discuss Malan’s Bill and to investigate living conditions of Indians in South Afiica. It succeeded in getting the South African Government to agree to a round table conference with representatives from the PACT government.
Though Indian leaders had wanted the South African Indian Congress to be represented at the conference; the PACT Government did not agree to that.
From 27 December 1926 to 11 January 1927, round table discussions were held between a deputation from India and the PACT Government. The round table discussions led to the Cape Town Agreement.Â
The Agreement set out a scheme of subsidised repatriation that reflected the PACT Government's wish to get rid of all Indians.
The terms of the Agreement also specified the appointment of an Indian Agent to mediate between Indian South Africans and the South African Government. The Pact Government apparently did not wish to deal directly with local Indians.
These measures roused the anger of the young radicals in the South African Congress and led to divisions within the organisation.
As a result, the 1930’s was a decade of struggle between radicals and conservatives in the Congress movement.
3.Â Repatriation and Colonization
In 1927, the Cape Town Agreement was signed between the leaders from India and the PACT government.
Under the agreement, Indian Agents-General were to be appointed to mediate between the government and Indian South Africans and to oversee a repatriation and colonizationÂ process.
Between 1927 and 1948, there were seven Indian Agent-Generals. The Rt. Hon. V. S. Srinivasa Sastri, 1927 - 1929, was the first.Â He was followed by , Sir Kurma Reddi, 1929 -1932, Sir Kunwar Maharaj Singh,, 1932 -1935, Sir Syed Raza Ali 1935 – 1938, Sir Benegal Rama Rau, 1938 – 1941, Sir Shafa'at Ahmad Khan, 1941 – 1944, and the last Agent-General, Ramrao MadhauraoÂÂ Deshmukh, 1945 -1946. [Essop Pahad, The Development Of Indian Political Movements In South Africa, 1924-1946]
The Agents-General were all eminent, erudite leaders from India.Â Indian South Africans in general revered them all and were very proud to welcome them.
But young radical political activists regarded them as ‘accomodationists’ for their aceptance of the PACT government’s repatriation scheme. The PACT government was intent on reducing or getting rid of the Indian community.
The majority of Indians, however, were not interested in repatriation so the presence of Agents-General made little difference in this regard.Â
A second round table conference was held from 12 January - 4 February 1932. At this conference, the Colonisation Committee was created to take up the matter of repatriation and colonization It was called the Colonisation Committee because it considered sending Indians to British colonies such as British North Borneo, British New Guinea, and British Guiana.
According to P. S Joshi,Â “An emergency conference of the South African Congress was held in Johannesburg in August 1933, to decide whether the Indian community should co-operate or non-co-operate with the Union Government in the investigation on Indian colonization. This matter mainly affected Natal, but it appeared that the Natal leaders had come with the fixed idea of cooperating with the Government, and that the Cape delegates would also stand behind Natal.” (60)
The NIC and the SAIC did agree to serve on the Colonisation Committee. S.R. Naidoo of the NIC was elected as the SAIC representative. But there was opposition to participation in the Colonisation Committee. It was condemned by people like Thambi Naidoo of the TIC and Advocate Albert Christopher, P. R. Pather and Manilal Gandhi of the NIC.
Thambi Naidoo would probably have led the opposition to the Colonisation Committee in the Transvaal but he was suffering from a long-term illness. He died in 1933.
In Durban, the decision to co-operate with the government, led to a split in the NIC.Advocate Albert Christopher, P. R. Pather, Manilal Gandhi and others who opposed participation in the Colonisation Committee, withdrew from the NIC.
In August 1933, in protest, they formed a new organisation – the Colonial Born Settler Indian Association (CBSIA).
Adv. Christopher was elected President of the CBSIA, Manilal Gandhi, Vice-President; S.L. Singh and A. Haffejee secretaries; K.K. Pillay and P.G. Naicker (father of Dr. G.M Naicker) treasurers.
The CBSIA was totally against co-operation as this meant acceptance of segregation.Â
Segregation did not simply mean acceptance of inferior status. It also meant acceptance of inferior facilities. It meant poorly serviced overcrowded settlements in unfavourable environments with little infrastructure development.
But the NIC was willing to negotiate with the government and the DCC in order to protect the property and trading rights that had been gained by the wealthier Indians.
The CBSIA claimed to represent the poor and won wide support in the community.
So there was conflict between the CBSIA and the NIC. The CBSIA disrupted mass meetings of the NIC in Durban and Pietermaritzburg. That forced the Congress to give up mass meetings for a while. The CBSIA went on with its mass meetings and the formation of branches in various parts of Natal.
S. R. Naidoo who represented the SAIC on the Young Commission (The Colonisation Committee), came under attack from the CBSIA. In a letter to V.S.S. Sastri, the first Agent-General of the Indian Government, Naidoo wrote: "Since my appointment. Christopher, Manilal and P.R. Pather gathered forces of colonial born Indians, openly preached sedition against the Congress, and have told the community that the Congress was out to sell their birth right." (Essop Pahad, doctoral thesis)
Indian Agents-General, first Sir Kunwar Maharaj Singh and then Sir Syed Raza Ali, tried to reconcile the NIC and the CBSIA.Â
But in 1936, when Sir Syed Raza Ali, the Indian Agent-General from 1935 to 1938, married a Tamil Hindu, Miss Poonu Samy, the marriage created another division in the NIC.
“Following the marriage, V.S.C. Pather (President), S.R. Naidoo (joint hon-secretary), J.W. Godfrey (vice-president) and B.M. Patel (treasurer) resigned from their official positions on the SAIC.
The joint secretary, treasurer, four vice presidents and fourteen committee members of the NIC subsequently joined them. The officials, all Hindus, resigned” (Essop Pahad, doctoral thesis)
Abdulla Ismail Kajee stepped into the breach and took over the leadership of the NIC.Â Following the policy of the NIC, he entered into negotiations with W.T. Walker of the Natal Municipal Association and Jan Hofmeyer, Minister of the Interior in the Union Government. Kajee gave the assurance that the NIC would stop Indians from further acquisition of land in European areas.
So the conflict between the CBSIA, the anti-segregationists, and the NIC, the accommodationists, continued.Â But it seems that they were fighting each other more than they were fighting for justice.
New leadership was needed.
“By 1936, some of the factors, which were to contribute to the emergence and rise of the radicals, had surfaced. These were the continuous legislative restrictions imposed on the trading and residential rights of the Indians in the Transvaal [and in Natal and the Cape]; the gradual involvement and participation of the masses in the political organisations; and the economic expansion of South Africa, which was to absorb a greater number of Indians into the semi-skilled and unskilled industrial ccupations.” (Essop Pahad, doctoral thesis)
1924 THE TOWNSHIP FRANCHISE ORDINANCE, NATAL - Indians deprived of municipal franchise.
1924 THE RURAL DEALERS ORDINANCE, NATAL - This Ordinance attempts to restrict trading by Indians.
1924 THE DURBAN LAND ALIENATION ORDINANCE, NATAL - This Ordinance prevented Indian ownership of land in white areas.
Â 1925 TRANSVAAL DEALERS (CONTROL) ORDINANCE 11/1925 - This ordinance puts obstacles in the way of obtaining licences: the aim to restrict Indian trade.
1925 MINIMUM WAGES ACT - This Act leads to a form of job reservation and promoted white employment. Certain trades earmarked for whites only
1925 CLASS AREAS BILL - This Bill is designed for segregation.
1925 23 July AREAS RESERVATION AND IMMIGRATION AND REGISTRATION (FURTHER PROVISION) BILL introduced by Dr. D. F. Malan, Minister of the Interior
in Parliament. It defines Indians as aliens and recommends limitation of population through repatriation.
1926Â THE MINES AND WORKS AMENDMENTS ACT (COLOUR BAR ACT) 25/1926.This Act provides certificates of competency for skilled work. Indian workers are excluded.
1926 THE LIQUOR BILL, SECTIONS 107 AND 144 - Indians and Africans could not be employed by licence holders and were not allowed on licensed premises and liquor supply vehicles. 3000 Indians employed in the brewery trade are affected.
1926 THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT (PROVINCIAL POWERS) ACT denies citizenship rights to Indians.
1927 27 April, IMMIGRATION AND INDIAN RELIEF FURTHER PROVISION) BILL, introduced by Minister of Interior, D. F. Malan, after the Round Table Conference between India and South Africa. It required children of South African Indian parents, born outside the Union, to enter the country within three months of birth.ÂÂ In addition South Africans who absented themselves for three continuous years from the country to forfeit domicile rights, and Indians who have entered the country illegally (mostly at the time of the Anglo-Boer War) to be condoned and issued with condonation certificates. Families of condonees not allowed to join them. The Act also established a scheme of voluntary repatriation of South African Indians to India. Indian Government complies. Repatriates to receive bonuses of £20 per adult and £10 per child, plus free passages. Bonus doubled in 1931, and finally abolished in 1955 when it becomes apparent that only the old, intending to retire in India, take advantage of it.
1927. THE ASIATIC IN THE NORTHERN DISTRICTS ACT. Transvaal laws were to be applied to Indians in Utrecht, Vryheid, and Paulpietersburg. Restrictions were placed on land purchase, trade and residence rights.
1927 THE LIQUOR ACT - Africans and Indians denied employment by licence holders; not allowed to serve liquor and drive liquor vans; denied access to licensed premises.
1927Â THE WOMEN'S FRANCHISE BILL - No Indian woman allowed to vote.
1927 THE RIOTOUS ASSEMBLY ACT - Any Indians considered dangerous agitators subject to deportation.
1928 THE IMMIGRATION AND INDIAN RELIEF (FURTHER) PROVISION: ACT 37/1927. This Bill becomes law and the scheme of assisted emigration comes into operation.
1928 NATIONALITY AND FLAG ACT denies Indians the right to become citizens by naturalization.
1928 2 January, THE LIQUOR BILL - Section 104 of the Liquor Bill, prohibiting Indians from entering licensed premises, is withdrawn.
1930 May, THE TRANSVAAL ASIATIC LAND TENURE (AMENDMENT) BILL introduced by Minister of Interior as a result of recommendations of the Select Committee which
proposes segregation: relocation of Indians to designated areas exempted from the Gold Law within five years. No protection for those who had acquired interests on proclaimed (mining) land.
1931 THE ASIATIC IMMIGRATION AMENDMENT ACT - Indians have to prove the legitimacy of their domicile in the country.
1932 TRANSVAAL ASIATIC LAND TENURE (AMENDMENT) ACT 35/1932 - The Transvaal Asiatic Land Tenure Act and its subsequent amendments in 1934, 1935 and 1937 establish statutory segregation of Indians in the Transvaal. It ends the state of uncertainty about their status in the Province that had obtained since the passing of Law 3,
1885. It is passed in 1935.
1934 THE SLUMS ACT is aimed at improving conditions in locations, but actually expropriates Indian property.
1935 THE RURAL DEALERS LICENSING ORDINANCE, NATAL - This Ordinance causes the refusal of licenses to people whose properties have depreciated in value or whose licenses endanger the comfort and health of neighbours.
1936 16 June, THE ASIATIC LAND TENURE AMENDMENT ACT, 30/1936. Minister of Interior empowered to exempt further areas for Indian occupation with the possibility of freehold title. The Act accepts policy of segregation. Indians to be confined to separate areas.
1936 NATIVE REPRESENTATION ACT, ACT 12 OF 1936.
1936 NATIVE REPRESENTATION ACT, ACT 34 OF 1936.
What is presented here is an overview of events. For detailed information please consult:Â
Bagwandeen, Dowlat, 1991, A People On Trial, Durban: Madiba Publications;
Bhana, Surendra books and articles
Joshi, P.S., 1946, The Tyranny of Colour: A Study of the Indian Problem in South Africa, Durban:EP &Commercial Printing Company, Ltd.,
1951, Struggle for Equality, Bombay: Hind Kitabs Ltd.;
Pahad, Essop,The DevelopmentÂ of Indian Political Movements in South Africa, 1924-1946, D. Phil Thesis, University of Sussex, July 1972ÂÂ (Available on the SAHO website)Â
Pahad, Essop “Yusuf Dadoo: A Proud History Of Struggle,” The African Communist, No.78, 3rd Quarter 1979;Â
Pather, Riashnee, 1998, “The story of PR Pather, the grand old man of Indian Politics in South Africa.” Honours Degree thesis; (on line)
SAHO (South African History Online);
Vahed, Goolam and Desai,Ashwin National Liberation, Non-Racialism and “Indianness” the 1947 visit of Dadoo and Naicker to India.
(on line)]Â Â
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