Passive Resistance in South Africa

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Passive Resistance Campaign Timeline

1906
11 September, A mass meeting of Indians took place at the Empire Theatre in Johannesburg in connection with the agitation at present going on in the Transvaal against the Asiatic Law.
1907
30 November, established as the deadline for the registration of Asian immigrants
28 December: first arrests of Asians for refusing to register
1908
Jan Smuts proclaims an end to the immigration of Asians to South Africa.
28 January, Gandhi reaches a compromise with Smuts. Smuts agrees to repeal the Act as long as voluntary registration takes place. Gandhi finds this acceptable as it meant compulsion had been resisted. Fingerprints of prominent Indians were waived.
10 February, Gandhi is violently assaulted by a Pathan on his way to the registration office.
10 Feb – 9 May: Voluntary registration was carried out.
May, Need to continue Passive Resistance is resumed as it became compulsory for people outside the colony to register upon their return. The compromise is now in the balance.
22 June, Smuts makes Gandhi a new offer to repeal the Act, but amendments would be made to the Immigration Act. Gandhi rejects Smuts offer and calls off talks.
24 June: A mass meeting of 700 – 800 was held to reopen the campaign.
11 August: The second round of negotiations with Smuts broke off.
16 August: Another mass meeting was held and registration certificates were burnt at Fordsburg Mosque.
1909
February, 97% of Asians had taken out registration certificates.
October – December: Gandhi was arrested for the second time.
1910
4 January, A petition was sent t the legislative assembly regarding trading rights for Indians
1911
13 March, Colonial Born Indian Association formed due to the Immigration Bill’s failure to allow freedom of movement.
25 April, The Immigration Bill is withdrawn by the government
April, Indentured labour prohibited from 1 July.
October, The South African Indian Committee (SAIC) is formed with the aim of repealing the £3 tax on formerly indentured Indians who failed to reindenture or return to India after completing their contracts.
1912
January, Gandhi resumes talks with Smuts and doubts whether the concept of Satyagraha will work.
February, A pamphlet entitled ‘The £3 tax: an appeal to the Empire” was sent by the SAIC to newspapers.
1913
4 March, A Judgement is passed by the Cape Supreme Court that prevents the emigration of wives to South Africa who had been married by ceremonies which allowed polygamy. This denoted all Muslim and Hindu women.
12 April, The third Immigration Bill is passed which prohibited new immigrants from entering South Africa even if they passed the education tests. Women and children would also not be allowed to enter.
26 April, Natal Indian Congress meeting in which all secretaries resigned and new officials were to be elected.
June, Gandhi engages in more negotiations with Smuts and Fischer.
June, “June, Anti-Indian Legislation: Immigrants Regulation Act (No 22 of 1913)”
“June, The Immigrants Regulation Amendment Act, Act No. 22 of 1913, persons not literate in a European language and so-called undesirables (persons deemed undesirable on economic grounds or on account of standards or habits of life) could be excluded from country. The Minister of the Interior classifies all Asiatic persons undesirable and Indian immigration is halted indefinitely.”
12 September, Gandhi declares that Passive Resistance will be resumed. The goals of the movement were: to remove the £3 tax, secure the status of married women in South Africa and to improve the status of Indians in the Immigration Bill
22 September, The first batch of Indian passive resisters, consisting of 12 men and 4 women (including Mrs. Kasturba Gandhi) are arrested at Volksrust and imprisoned in Pietermaritzburg.
28 September, Gandhi informs the Minister of the Interior that indentured labourers would begin to strike.
13 October, Public meeting in Newcastleheld by Thambi Naidoo.
16 October, The strike begins in Natal
17 October, More than 2000 workers were on strike in Natal and within two weeks, 4000 -5000 were striking.
19 October, At a meeting of the Natal Indian Congress (NIC) in Durban, NIC secretaries, M. C. Anglia and Dada Osman, severely criticise Mahatma Gandhi and tender their resignations. However, their resignations are not accepted and the meeting withdraws the NICs support of the passive resistance campaign. In reaction, Gandhi and his supporters withdraw from the meeting and form a new body, the Natal Indian Association (NIA), at Parsee Rustomjees house. The NIC would become defunct until its resuscitation in 1920.
21 October, Transvaal women satyagrahis begin defiance activities, hawking without licenses in Vereeniging. They are not arrested. They cross the Natal border and encourage the miners in Newcastle to strike. Phoenix satyagrahis, including five women who cross the Natal Transvaal border, are arrested and sent to prison in Pietermaritzburg.
23 October: Gandhi makes the official statement that he will lead workers out of mine compounds to the borders of the Transvaal to seek arrest.
28 October, Albert Christopher, Ruben Joseph and three other Colonial-born Indians leave Durban to assist in the strike area.
29 October: Gandhi led 200 strikers to the Transvaal border and within days this number increased to 400 people. Smuts was confident that this strike would collapse.
November, Lord Hardinge delivers a speech in Madras, India, in which he expresses sympathy with the Indian passive resistance struggle in South Africa.
6 November, Great March led by MK Gandhi includes 127 women, 57 children and 2037 men
9 November: Gandhi is arrested, followed by Kallenbach’s arrest on 10 November. Many more arrests occurred in the following two weeks.
18 December, The Indian Inquiry Commission, also known as the Solomon Commission, commences its sittings in Pretoria.
1914
14 January, The Gandhi-Smuts Agreement is reached between Gen. J.C. Smuts and Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi promised to suspend the Passive Resistance Campaign provided that new legislation would fulfil the goals of the movement.
20 January, The first group of Transvaal Indian women satyagrahis are released from Pietermaritzburg Prison after three months imprisonment. Among them is Valliamma Moonsamy Moodaliar.
10-11 February, In accordance with the understanding reached by General J.C. Smuts and Mahatma Gandhi on 14 January 1914, 60 passive resistance prisoners are released from the Pietermaritzburg Prison. In addition, 40 passive resisters are released in Durban, 8 in Newcastle and 11 in Port Elizabeth.
22 February, Sixteen-year-old Valliamma Mudaliar dies of a fever contracted in prison.
26 June, Anti-Indian Legislation: Indian Relief Act passed after a protracted period of Passive Resistance led by Gandhi, following the report of the Solomon Commission.
26 June, After a protracted passive resistance campaign led by Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian Relief Act is passed following the report of the Solomon Commission. The Act abolishes the 3 poll tax, recognises marriages contracted in terms of traditional Indian (Muslim or Hindu) rites, and facilitates the entry into the Union of the wives of Indians already domiciled locally. However, Indians remain disenfranchised and are still not allowed to own property in the two former Boer Republics (Transvaal and the Orange Free State), or to live in the Orange Free State. Furthermore, restrictions on Indian trading remain in force.
18 July, Mahatma Gandhi leaves South Africa for London.
The impact of the Passive Resistance Campaign is that the lives of colonial born Indians were improved due to their new rights.
Women and children could now immigrate to South Africa and families would be reunited.
The lifting of the £3 tax meant that Indians no longer had to work as indentured labourers.

References:
• Further reading: http://www.sahistory.org.za/archive/53-significance-settlement-colonial-born-india Swan, M., (1985),
• Gandhi: The South African Experience, (Ravan Press), pp. 136 – 256.
• Further reading: http://www.sahistory.org.za/archive/satyagraha

Last updated : 28-Jan-2016

This article was produced for South African History Online on 08-Oct-2013