Indian South Africans timeline 1940-1949

Indian South Africans Timeline: 1940-1949

1940

January, A meeting is held between the Nationalist Bloc, Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC) leadership and the Indian Agent-General, Sir Benegal Rama Rau, to unite the Indian political factions in the Transvaal. However, the meeting ends in failure.

February, The decision of the Natal Indian Association (NIA) executive to cooperate with the Lawrence  Committee in controlling the purchases of property by Indians in Durban is ratified by the NIA's general body. The NIA's decision to cooperate with the Committee is largely thanks to the persuasive influence of the efforts of the Indian Agent-General, Sir Benegal Rama Rau, who stresses that the Committee will provide an opportunity to discuss Indian housing problems and the need for proper amenities in the predominantly Indian-occupied areas, as well as the need for good alternate residential areas for the Indian middle class. The Lawrence Committee, which included Indian members Albert Christopher, J.W. Godfrey, A.S. Kajee, Sorabjee Rustomjee,

P.R. Pather, and P.B. Singh, is appointed to talk prospective Indian buyers out of purchasing property in ‘white’ areas. This was condemned by the radical faction, as shown by a February 1940 editorial in Call remarking that ‘humiliating as the plight of the non-Europeans is, perfidious and incongruous is the policy of appeasement taken up by the leaders of the NIA. By the very acceptance of voluntary segregation, these gentlemen have conceded the principle of segregation.’ Radicals failed to reverse this decision at a mass meeting at the Durban City Hall on 9 June 1940. They continued within the NIA as the Nationalist Bloc but refused to have anything to do with the ‘Assurance’, instead carrying out an extensive campaign among workers ‘to put an end to the short-sighted and narrow-minded path of expediency.’  Following the meeting Dr Monty Naicker, Cassim Amra, Beaver Timol, George Ponnen, H.A. Naidoo, and Manilal Gandhi were expelled from the NIA

4 February, The A.I. Kajee group declares that the Natal Indian Congress (NIC) is still in existence and that the procedures followed during the amalgamation of the NIC with the Colonial Born and Settlers Indian Association (CBSIA) were wrong. The depleted NIC, under the leadership of Kajee, strongly opposes the decision of the Natal Indian Association (NIA) to cooperate with the Lawrence Committee, arguing that it constitutes Indian acceptance of voluntary segregation. However, this stance is ironic, since Kajee in 1936 gave a similar assurance to the Natal Municipal Association.

11 February, Dr Gangathura Mohambry (Monty) Naicker makes his maiden speech at the City Hall.  He takes a forceful stand against ‘non-Europeans’ supporting the war, and vigorously attacks the NIA leadership for collaborating with the white authorities to enforce voluntary segregation on Indians.

5 March, The Natal Indian Youth League’s first AGM is held in Clairwood. George Gangen Ponnen is elected chairman and B.M. Vengtas, as secretary. They organise classes in political economy, grammar, and public speaking. George Singh organises the Merebank Literary and Debating Society. Its patron was Manilal Gandhi.

14 March, The Lawrence Committee, named after the Minister of the Interior, H.G. Lawrence, holds its inaugural meeting in Durban. The Committee consists of Mr R. Ellis-Brown (the Mayor of Durban), H.G. Capell, T. Kinloch, W.E. Knight, D.G. Shepstone and J.M. Harris as representatives of the Durban City Council; and six representatives of the Natal Indian Association (NIA), namely A. Christopher, Godfrey, A.S. Kajee, P.B. Singh, Sorabjee Rustomjee and P.R. Pather. The Indian Agent-General, Sir Benegal Rama Rau, also attends the inaugural meeting.

15 May, The Indian Penetration Commission, under the chairmanship of Justice F.N. Broome, is appointed to investigate and report on the extent of Indian residential and trading penetration of predominantly White areas in the Transvaal and Natal since 1 January 1927 (the date of the Cape Town Agreement).

June, Following a decision taken at a mass meeting of the Natal Indian Association (NIA) on 9 June, the Indian Service Corps is formed to provide transport, medical, hygiene and ambulance services in support of the South African Second World War effort.

The depleted Natal Indian Congress (also known as the A.I. Kajee group), with E.M. Paruk as president, holds a general meeting in Durban. The meeting is attended by 1,400 people.

9 June, At a mass meeting of the Natal Indian Association (NIA), the NIA leadership (backed by the Indian Agent-General, Sir Benegal Rama Rau) declares its support for the Union Government's war effort, but demands that there should be full equality between White, Black, Indian and Coloured troops and other staff in the armed services and that democratic rights be extended. However, this decision is far from unanimous, as the NIA leadership is split between those who support the South African war effort and those opposed. Those opposed to the South African war effort, known as the radicals, demand that equal democratic rights first be extended to the disenfranchised population groups in South Africa, before they are expected to support and participate in the war effort. Strongly disagreeing with the NIA's decision to support the South African war effort and further opposed to the Association's cooperation with the Lawrence Committee on Indian penetration in the predominantly White areas of Durban, the radicals in the NIA form the Nationalist Bloc. In reaction to these developments, the NIA expels seven of the radicals, including H.A. Naidoo, Dawood Seedat, George Singh, Dr Gangathura Mohambry (Monty) Naicker, and Cassim Amra.

At a second meeting, at the Royal Picture Palace [the old Rawat Bioscope Hall], Dr Monty Naicker seconded H.A. Naidoo’s resolution condemning the Christopher- Rustomjee fraternisation with the Provincial Council to prevent Indians from buying properties in ‘white areas’. Quietly but firmly    Dr Monty Naicker asserts the right of Indian South Africans to live and trade where they wanted, and rejected the concept of ‘penetration’ into European areas. ‘It is racist Europeans,’ he contended, to rousing applause, ‘who were encroaching on Indian rights and Indian freedom

14 July, Around 50 people attended a meeting where a resolution was passed voicing ‘deep resentment at the attitude taken up by the officials of the NIA. They strongly protested against the expulsion of certain members of the Nationalist Bloc and further demanded the reinstatement of those members in the interests of the Indian community as a whole.’

29 July, Recruiting for the Indian Service Corps (mechanical and transport section) begins under a Colonel Morris. In a later confidential report, Colonel Morris praises highly the efforts of the Natal Indian Association (NIA), and especially that of A. Christopher, P.R. Pather, S.R. Naidoo and S. Rustomjee, each of whom had spent ten hours daily in assisting the recruiting programme. In the report, he gives the following examples of the contribution made by the NIA's war committee: They provided premises free of charge to the Durban recruiting office; contributed £100 to the Regimental Funds; presented the Indian Services Corps with five motor cars to assist in the instruction of drivers; supplied free hot meals to those attested and waiting for enrolment; provided blankets for all recruits proceeding to  Johannesburg; organised a gifts and comforts committee; and offered to supply a musical band without charge.

20 September, The Indian Agent-General, Sir Benegal Rama Rau, reluctantly admits that the recruitment drive under Indians in Natal for the South African Indian Service Corps (established to provide transport, medical, hygiene and ambulance services in support of the South African Second World War effort) has been a failure mainly due to the anti-war activities of the Nationalist Bloc in Natal.

1941

5 February, Dawood Seedat addresses a mass meeting of 2 000 people at Red Square, Durban. He made a statement that became synonymous with his name: ‘if freedom will not be given to us, we will have to use force and take our freedom.’  He was charged with contravening the new National Security Regulations of 1941and of ‘scandalous and dishonouring words’ against King George VI.

31 March, The anti-war stance of the NIC radicals was given a huge boost by the visit of Indira Nehru (Gandhi), daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, who arrived in Durban en route to India from England where she was studying. She sympathised with the anti-war faction; her own father was behind the crafting of the September Manifesto that gave the British an ultimatum – India would support Britain if it was given full independence.  This was rejected. As Japan entered the war on the side of Germany and Italy, Gandhi called on the British to Quit India.

2 April, The Nationalist Bloc turned to their old nemesis, Kajee, for the Avalon Cinema for a mass meeting to welcome Indira Nehru. Kajee, to his credit, made the hall available for the meeting on  2 April 1941. H.A. Naidoo was chairman and introduced Indira Nehru who spoke briefly while Ismail Chota (IC) Meer and Dawood Seedat made impassioned anti-war speeches.  Indira was accompanied by Fhiroz Gandhi, her future husband, Chupta Gupta, and Parvathi Kamaramangulam, whose parents were also imprisoned for resisting the British. On the night before they left, Dr Monty Naicker held a party at his home for them.

17 July, Dawood Seedat was sentenced to three months with hard labour. When he was released pamphlets were circulated widely advertising a meeting under the auspices of the Non European United Front (NEUF) and the Nationalist Bloc of the NIA to accord ‘a Public Welcome to a Young Leader who was imprisoned for Championing the cause of Non-European Freedom.’ Seedat was warned not to engage in subversive activities, but he ignored this and addressed the Liberal Study Group (LSG) on 31 August 1942, for which he was imprisoned for a further 40 days.  For Rusty Bernstein, the arrest of Dadoo and Seedat ‘triggered the biggest campaign of meetings, handbills and posters that the Party had managed for years. Both were found guilty of anti- war activities and sentenced to short terms of imprisonment, making them the first martyrs of the Communist Party revival.

November, Vera Ponnen was appointed the first Guardian representative in Durban when the newspaper opened an office at Pembroke Chambers in West Street.

20 November, during the 1940s, the Durban Indian Municipal Employees Society (Dimes) leadership comprised of George Singh (Secretary), S.L. Singh (Hon. Organiser), Billy Peters (Organising Secretary) and T. S. John (President). Only John was an employee of the municipality, as the others were professional organisers. Dimes saw itself as part of the wider trade union and political movements, and its Monthly Bulletins reported regularly on the activities of other unions, while workers were urged to read The Guardian, described as ‘the premier union newspaper in South Africa.’ Dimes were also a member of the Trades and Labour Council. On 20 November 1941, John spoke at a rally organised by the ‘Friends of the Soviet Union’ which was attended by thousands of workers to raise money and implore the Allies to render full aid to the USSR.

1942

Dr Goonam formed the Women’s Liberal Studies Group (WLSG) in 1942. Debi Singh and I.C. Meer addressed their first meeting at the Gandhi Library in Durban. Other members included Radhi Singh, who was studying for a BA degree at the University of Natal, Mrs R. Jithoo, and Minnie Ramawthur, a student at Girls High, Irene Godfrey and Gertrude Lazarus.

5 July, Dimes took part in a rally organised by the CPSA, where £250 was raised for the Party. Workers at Magazine Barracks also formed the Red Rose Social Club which had communist leanings. Its meetings were held in an area of the Barracks known as “Stalingrad”.  Dimes was involved in the political debates and mobilisations of the time as an affiliate of the Anti – Segregation Council (ASC) and regularly hosted ASC meetings, for example, a meeting on 3 December 1944 was attended by 8 000 people. Dimes urged its members to attend the NIC AGM in 1945 through its Monthly Bulletin.

August, Dr Goonam and 12 other women organised a meeting to protest the arrest in India of Indian nationalists like Sarojini Naidu and Kasturba Gandhi. The meeting was addressed in Tamil, Hindi and Gujarati since few Indians spoke English.

At the Dunlop Tyre factory in Durban, management replaced ‘radical’ Indian employees with whites and Africans, and the number of Indian employees dropped from 282 in March 1942 to 149 by December 1942. According to Rowley Arenstein, employers felt if African workers ‘were just left alone, if they weren’t agitated by the Indian workers and by the communists, then everything would be fine.’ At Dunlop, workers demanded arbitration and succeeded in getting higher wages. ‘Employers were furious. And they regarded the Indian workers as culprits.’ The situation erupted when 13 Indian employees, with long periods of service, were dismissed in December 1942. Indian and African workers went on strike to demand their reinstatement and recognition of their union. The company used scab African labour to break the strike.

17 December, Many whites felt that the Lawrence Committee did not go far enough and continued to agitate against Indian penetration into white areas. The First Broome Commission (1940) concluded that Indians lived among whites to access better amenities.  An indication of the depth of white feeling on this issue is that when P.R. Pather, a moderate politician of long standing, bought a house at 232 Moore Road on 17 December 1942, Councillors Boyd and Pritchard issued a statement that they would ‘muster 200 men who will certainly see that Mr Pather does not occupy his house.’ Vandals damaged the house, and Pather was only given the key after paying the full purchase price. He moved into his new home on 16 April 1943, but was arrested in July and convicted for violating the Pegging Act. H. Barren, the Chief Magistrate of Durban, postponed sentencing to November to allow Pather time to apply for a residential permit. However, his application was turned down, and in November he was ordered to pay £5 or spend seven days in prison. An irate Pather told the court that while the law ‘may appease and pacify the racialists of Durban,’ to ‘dislodge a man from his own home is not the law of civilised society but that of the jungle.’  Pather’s appeal was dismissed by Justice J. Selke, but he refused to pay the fine, rather asking to be imprisoned. However, the fine was paid anonymously.  Pather called the person who paid his fine ‘a traitor to the Indian cause. “I was fighting for a principle and was attempting to establish the rights of the Indian people in South Africa,’ Pather said. While the identity of the person remains a mystery,  according to I.C. Meer there were two rumours doing the rounds, one being that P.R. Pather had arranged with one of his friends to pay off the fine, and another that Senator Clarkson, Smuts’s Interior Minister who was responsible for the Pegging Act, paid it to defuse heightening tension.

1943

By 1943, 16 617 Indians in Durban were members of trade unions. A University of Natal study in 1943/44 reported that 70 % of Indians were living below the poverty datum line and that 40 percent were destitute.

Dr Goonam reported in 1943 that in Clairwood, tuberculosis and bronchial asthma were rampant, caused by living in a hollow, while the loose dusty soil of the roads led to infectious diseases. In Cato Manor, the clay soil and cement floors caused rheumatism, arthritis and chest infections.

H.A. Naidoo left Durban for Cape Town in 1943. He and Pauline were ‘named’ communists and the Central Committee suggested that they go into exile since they would not be able to operate underground because of their public visibility. H.A. applied for a passport in Durban and Pauline in Cape Town, but both were refused. When attempts to get backdoor passports failed, they sought to leave the country illegally, and eventually convinced two Indian lascars to assist.

16 January, A meeting of 30 organisations and trade unions emphasised that the Dunlop strike had ‘assumed an Indian national aspect’ because of the racial dimension. The NIC agreed to take the matter up with the government as well as Dunlop management, and to provide support.  The Dunlop Strike Committee reads like a “Who’s Who” of Indian membership of the CPSA. It included Ponnen, H.A. Naidoo, M.D. Naidoo, and R.D. Naidoo. Pauline Podbrey was the only woman member of the committee. It was a strike that saw R.D. Naidoo come to the fore.

21 January, The NIC asked the Minister of Labour to appoint an arbitrator. Management, however, insisted that all vacancies had been filled. No Indian worker was re-employed by Dunlop.

1944

April, Radicals form the Anti-Segregation Council (ASC) under Monty Naicker’s presidency.  The ASC was a broad front of intellectuals, trade unions, sports, cultural, youth and farmers’ associations, including the CPSA, LSG, Overport Social Club, Hindustan Youth Club, and Springfield Farmer’s Association.  On the suggestion of the Agent Sir Shafa’at Ahmad Khan, who was more outspoken than many of his predecessors, the ASC agreed not to break away from the NIC but work from within to effect change.

6 May, The ASC hosted a conference at which 29 organisations rejected the Pretoria Agreement and, beginning with a rally at Red Square, set about mobilising the masses.

2 November, Pather agreed to vacate his Moore Road premises while the Pretoria Agreement was being negotiated. When that Agreement failed, he returned to his home and was promptly rearrested.

3 November, A mass meeting was held to protest Pather’s arrest. His wife’s eviction while he was in prison intensified community anger and at another mass protest Advocate J.W. Godfrey echoed the majority sentiment that ‘we as Indians are not going to tolerate this action against us and even less against an Indian woman.’

December, Kay Moonsamy joins the CPSA.

1945

January, The ASC tours Pietermaritzburg, Dannhauser, Dundee and Glencoe to mobilise support.

4 March, Natal’s Indians were to hold the annual election of the NIC, where they hoped to boot out the moderates.

December, A major strike by 800 Indian laundry workers at 25 laundries in Natal saw once again, African scab labour being used to break the strike which lasted three months. Few Indians were rehired. Indian Views opined that the failure of strike leaders to heed the lessons of Falkirk and Dunlop had resulted in ‘hundreds of the poorest Indians being unemployed.’ It criticised union organisers for ‘irresponsibly’ calling for strikes and then begging for donations to support workers.

1946

8-12 February, Monty Naicker attends the SAIC conference in Cape Town. Though the radicals controlled the NIC and TIC, conservative factions retained control of the SAIC. Councillor Ahmed Ismail of Cape Town was elected President ahead of Councillor MM Desai, the radical trade unionist from Port Elizabeth. Conference delegates included Monty, Dadoo, Debi Singh, J.N. Singh, Billy Peters, M.D. Naidoo, and A.I. Borat. They argued solidly for passive resistance because of Smuts’ intransigence and won the debate which was ‘eloquent and of a high standard.’  The conference resolved to elect delegations to travel to America, Britain and other parts of the world to inform them of the plight of Indians in South Africa and to prepare the Indian people of South Africa for a concerted and prolonged resistance.  The radicals, in the minority, failed to get their candidates chosen for the overseas delegations. Sorabjee Rustomjee, Albert Christopher, Ashwin Choudree, and A.I. Kajee united against the Dadoo-Naicker leadership and voted against Dadoo, Naicker and A.I. Meer. Dadoo’s nomination to travel to India was rejected by 56 votes to 44, and A.I. Meer’s by 51 votes to 41. The delegation to India was to consist of Sorabjee Rustomjee, A.S. Kajee, M.D. Naidoo, Albert Christopher, S.R. Naidoo, A.A. Mirza and S.M. Desai. Dadoo and A.I. Meer, the conservatives feared, were such powerful individuals that they would overshadow the conservatives. M.D. Naidoo, being younger and less well known, was acceptable to the conservatives but he refused to go without the NIC’s backing. The delegation to the United Kingdom (UK) and United States of America (USA) was to comprise of A.I. Kajee, Ashwin Choudree, Sol Paruk, A.M. Moolla, Reverend B.L.E. Sigamoney and P.R. Pather.

20 February, Sorabjee Rustomjee, A.S. Kajee, S.R. Naidoo and A.A. Mirza left for India. They were received by Viceroy Lord Wavell in Delhi, and had the support of the Indian National Congress and Nehru and Gandhi (Poona, 3 March 1946), whom they also met.

4 March, Natal’s Indians were to hold the annual election of the NIC, where they hoped to boot out the moderates.

12 March, The Indian government announces that it would terminate its trade agreement with South Africa. According to Rustomjee, Indian traders in South Africa would not be affected by the move; ‘the loser may be the sugar exporter – the white exploiter of the poor labourers in the sugar industry – because he wants gunny bags from India.’ When Nehru met the South Africans his message was that Indians in South Africa should not look at their problem as a local issue or one for India, but as one affecting all the oppressed peoples of the world. This explains the change in attitude of both Sorabjee Rustomjee and Ashwin Choudree towards the passive resistance campaign, and Sorabjee’s keenness that Dr AB Xuma should attend the United Nations (UN) session later that year. The UK delegation left on 23.

15 March, The Ghetto Bill was introduced in the House of Assembly on 15 March 1946. Gandhi sent a telegram to Smuts on 18 March to withdraw the Bill, and issued a press statement describing it as a challenge to Asia and Africa. The debate on the Second Reading of the Bill began on 25 March. The Indian Government gave formal notice that it was terminating a 1938 trade agreement.

21 April, The Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC) also establishes a 15-person Passive Resistance Council (PRC) under Yusuf Dadoo’s leadership at a meeting of 7000 people

6 May, When the first meeting of the PRC was convened 11 people were willing both to volunteer for passive resistance and serve on the PRC – Monty Naicker, M.D. Naidoo, A.E. Patel, S.V. Reddy, Dawood Seedat, R.G. Pillay, M.P. Naicker, P.B.A. Reddy, M. Moodliar, R.A. Pillay and Debi Singh. Dr Monty Naicker was elected chairman, Debi Singh secretary, and A.E. Patel treasurer. The PRC decided that the struggle would be launched as soon as the Ghetto Bill became law

11 May, The first meeting of the joint PRC of Natal and the Transvaal was held in Durban, comprising ten members, five from each province. Monty Naicker and Yusuf Dadoo alternated as presidents.  The Cape Indian Congress, under the leadership of the ultra-conservative Ahmed Ismail, who was also president of the SAIC, did not support the campaign.  However, individuals in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, and East London formed PRCs to support the campaign. They included Sundra Pillay, Cassim Amra, S. Gool, and Yusuf Motala from Cape Town; Dr N.V. Appavoo, Ms D. Jonathan, and R. Harry from East London; and S.V. Appavoo, V.K. Moodley, and M.M. Desai of Port Elizabeth. The first batch of 12 resisters from Cape Town, which included three women, was led by Mrs Z. Gool, and was sentenced in Durban on 13 August 1946. The Port Elizabeth PRC sent four resisters and contributed £600, while the East London PRC contributed £250 during the first year.

13 June, The historic mass meeting at Red Square on Hartal (Protest) Day culminated with a great procession to the corner of Gale Street and Umbilo Road. 20,000 people assembled at the Square to listen to Dr Monty Naicker. A procession marched behind Dr Naicker from Red Square to Gale Street where they pitched a camp and people occupied that site. In Pietermaritzburg, the NIC organised a meeting at the H.Y.M.A. Hall on the 13th. The inevitable has happened. The Tenure Bill has been passed against the whole Indian community of South Africa

21 June, Dr Monty Naicker and the resisters were finally arrested for trespassing. They were found guilty, cautioned and discharged. They returned to Gale Street and were again charged with trespassing, and this time, the magistrate passed a suspended sentence of seven days hard labour. Undeterred, the resisters occupied the camp once more.

5 July, Kay Moonsamy was arrested on his 25th birthday and sentenced to four months imprisonment. He was sent to Durban Central Prison (the present-day Workshop Mall) where about 2 000 prisoners were housed in atrocious conditions. As the number of resisters increased, the prison became overcrowded, and they were sent to different parts of Natal. Kay’s group was sent to Ixopo after 18 days.

21 July, The Students PRC held a ‘Show of Shows’ which included three one-act plays at the Avalon Theatre. E.H. Ismail of the NIC and Mr Peters of Peters Lounge in Victoria Street recorded what was described as ‘Grand Film Shots’ of the NIC elections, the Gale Street camp, and the meeting at Red Square, and this was shown at Resistance Hall on 17 July to raise money.

December, The African National Congress (ANC), at its conference in Bloemfontein, passed a resolution commending ‘the gallant men and women of the Indian community and their leaders.’ Reflecting on the campaign, Nelson Mandela wrote that it ‘became a model for the type of protest we in the [ANC] Youth League were calling for, “They reminded us that the freedom struggle was not merely a question of making speeches but of meticulous organisation, militant mass action, and, above all, the willingness to suffer and sacrifice.”

A major strike by 800 Indian laundry workers at 25 laundries in Natal saw once again, African scab labour being used to break the strike which lasted three months. Few Indians were rehired. Indian Views opined that the failure of strike leaders to heed the lessons of Falkirk and Dunlop had resulted in ‘hundreds of the poorest Indians being unemployed.’ It criticised union organisers for ‘irresponsibly’ calling for strikes and then begging for donations to support workers.

1947

February, From New York, H.A. Naidoo went to the Empire Conference in London where he was given a standing ovation when he addressed the annual conference of the British CP.

March, Dr Monty Naicker and Yusuf Dadoo visited India in the midst of the passive resistance campaign. India was also a significant part of international left-wing discourse of national liberation. They were given a rousing farewell at a packed Gandhi Hall, Durban on the eve of their departure on 11 March 1947.  Monty and Dadoo attended the All-Asia Conference from 23 March to 2 April 1947.

28 May, Monty and Dadoo, returned to South Africa on, inspired by the retreat of the British in India and the confidence of the nationalist movements.

9 September, Ashwin Choudree and A.I. Meer, representing the TIC and NIC respectively, attended the UN session. They met with J.J. Singh, President of the India League, the Pakistani Ambassador to the USA, M.A.H.Ispahani, and the Indian delegation led by Mrs Vijaylakshmi Pandit. A.I. Meer prepared a pamphlet “South Africa Defies UN: What Next?” and when Rustomjee arrived at the end of September, this pamphlet as well as another, “Indian Question in South Africa” were published on behalf of the Council for Asiatic Rights. The Reverend Scott joined them on 10 November. According to Meer, ‘his name and fame had preceded him’ and this ensured that they were given wide coverage in the press. Meer addressed meetings organised by the India League, the National Association for the Advancement of the Coloured People (NAACP), and Progressive Citizens of America.

1948

24 January, R.A. Pillay and R. Mahabeer, chairman of the Sydenham Branch of the NIC, led the first batch across the Natal-Transvaal border. They were arrested on 10 February 1948 and sentenced in Johannesburg to one month’s imprisonment, suspended on condition that the offence was not repeated, and were deported to Natal. On 12 February, however, 15 of the 23 resisters again crossed the border. They were sentenced on 18 February to three months hard labour. In all, 72 resisters were arrested for crossing into the Transvaal and 20 for crossing in the opposite direction.

25 January, Dr Monty Naicker led a group of 15 resisters from Natal and crossed the border into the Transvaal at Volksrust. This was a significant moment for Monty for he was following the path of his guru, Gandhi, who had led the same campaign in 1913. A convoy of cars wended their way through the hills and valleys of Northern Natal and reached the bridge that linked the two provinces. Dr Monty Naicker and Dr Yusuf Dadoo crossed the border together. However, there was no police presence and no arrests were immediately effected. Eventually, Dr Dadoo and Dr Naicker were summonsed and sentenced to six months imprisonment for violating the law. Dr Naicker was defiant as he read out a statement in court on 2 February 1948 on behalf of himself and Dr Dadoo.

29 March, During a campaign speech D F Malan assured whites that there would be no parliamentary representation for Indians who would be kept apart from indigenous races, facilities for trading outside Indian areas would be ‘drastically curtailed and gradually abolished’ in African areas, and interprovincial movement prohibited. He promised to deal ‘severely with Indians who incited non-European races against the Europeans.’

June, The Passive Resistance campaign continued for exactly two years, and by the time it was halted in June 1948, over 2,000 arrests had been made.

4 June, A.I. Meer and Yusuf Cachalia wrote jointly to Malan for a meeting to discuss the Ghetto Act. Malan’s office replied on 14 June that the matter had been referred to Minister of Interior, Donges.

25 June, Meer and Cachalia again wrote to Malan requesting an appointment to discuss ‘highly important and urgent matters affecting the Indian community.’ Malan’s Monty was due to go to the UN in July 1948 but the government denied him a visa.

1949

According to one estimate, 7 000 Indians were unemployed in 1949. An independent study by the NIC reported that only 400 received unemployment benefits. The few who collected benefits were made to queue at least three hours each Monday to “sign in” and several more hours on Thursday to collect their money.

17 January, 44 738 Indians were housed in camps following the rioting that took place in Durban, following an altercation between an Indian shopkeeper and an African youth. In all, 268 Indian homes were completely burnt and 1 690 partially destroyed and looted. Forty seven Indian businesses were completely burnt and 791 partially destroyed and looted. Indian-owned vehicles to the value of £49 980 were destroyed. Official figures gave 87 Africans, 50 Indians, 1 white and 4 others (whose identity could not be determined) as being killed and 1 087 (541 Africans, 503 Indians, 11 Coloureds and 32 whites; of the injured 58 died) were injured in the riots. In the midst of this carnage, factory owners announced that unless Indians returned to work, they would be dismissed, while the Durban municipality debated whether they should deduct the wages of employees absent because they were affected by the riots.

18 January, The Mayor convened a meeting to coordinate relief. Two committees were established. One dealt with homeless refugees and the other provided ‘essentials’ to families to restart their lives. M.D. Naidoo (NIC), Khadija Christopher (Durban Indian Child Welfare Society), and A.S. Kajee (NIO) were on the committee for the homeless while J.N. Singh (NIC) P.R. Pather (NIO), and Mr Moonilal (Bus Owner’s Association) were on the second committee.  Wesley Hall in West Street was opened as a Food Depot and as ordinary citizens brought in food, a convoy of cars and lorries transported this to refugee camps. The public donated food (sugar, legumes, canned foods, loaves of bread), medicine, blankets, mattresses, utensils, clothing, and shoes. Within the first week, five tons of food was sent from Stanger alone. Stallholders at the Indian Market provided fruits and vegetables.  This was insufficient and the NIC requested that Mayor Leo Boyd open a Relief Fund. The Natal Distress Fund was opened with the government subsidising it on a pound-to-pound basis until 30 June 1949. Indians were initially denied representation on the committee.

1 February, The NIC and NIO submitted a Joint Memorandum stating ‘it is most essential that individuals, representing the main sufferers and having intimate and first-hand knowledge of their needs and who can speak for the Indian and African communities, should find a place on this committee.’ The chairman reluctantly appointed A.M. Moolla to the executive and J.N. Singh to the Action Committee. Boyd announced that it was ‘confidentially expected that substantial contributions will be made by the Indian community to alleviate the distress of the sufferers, among whom are a very large number of their own people.’ Around £85 000 was spent when the Fund was closed at the end of September 1949.

 

Last updated : 27-Jun-2018

This article was produced for South African History Online on 04-Apr-2011