A history of Indians in South Africa Timeline: 1654-2008

Indian South Africans timeline 1900-1909

1900

The East London Mayor's Minute for 1899-1900 states that 1000 refugees from war in the Transvaal and the Free State are camping on the city's beaches, while a further 3 000 are being accommodated in hotels in the city. In addition, 'about 1000 Coolies and natives [are] located near the East Bank Location'. Public health measures are enforced when an Indian refugee from the Transvaal comes down with smallpox, but the isolation of his contacts and his removal to hospital prevents any spread of the disease.
1902
31 May, The Anglo-Boer War/South African War ends with the signing of the Treaty of Vereeniging. The South African Republic (Transvaal) and the Orange Free State become British colonies. Indian, African, Coloured and White refugees return to the Transvaal.
The Immigration Act is passed in the Cape Colony and makes all future immigration of Indians to the Cape subject to an education and literacy test.
1903

The Peace Preservation Ordinance and Ordinance No 5 of 1903 is promulgated in the Transvaal to regulate the re-entry of Indians who had left the Transvaal for Natal, the Cape Colony and India when war broke out. It segregates Asiatics into locations, refuses trading licenses except in Asiatic bazaars and pre-war licenses of Asiatics become non-transferable.

Lord Milner's Government seeks to restrict Indian immigration into the Transvaal. Although all entrants to the Transvaal are in terms of the Peace Preservation Ordinance to be issued with permits on request, Indians, as a rule, are refused permits and thereby prevented to return from returning to their houses and businesses. Milner also establishes the Asiatic Affairs Department to enforce the provisions of Law 3 of 1885. In addition, the Department is charged with compiling a dossier of all anti-Indian measures that prevailed in the Boer Republics and these measures are subsequently applied with a vengeance.

The Immorality Ordinance, Act No. 46 of 1903 is passed in the Transvaal. 

February, the ?British Indians of East London' petitions the Indian National Congress, Bombay, against East London's municipal regulations, which interfere with their freedom of movement. The petitioners protest at having to carry a pass, at being debarred from residing in certain parts of East London and at being forbidden to use the town's footpaths. 

4 June, The first issue of Indian Opinion, the newspaper started by Mahatma Gandhi and M.H. Nazar, is published in Durban.

1904

The voter's roll of East London in the Cape Colony, for 1903-04 lists 259 Indians as voters (nine of which are women), compared with 3 242 White voters.

1905

The Immigration Restriction Act of 1905 is passed in the Transvaal. The Act provides for the Government's control of the entry of Indians into the Transvaal through a special permit system.

1906

Ordinance 29 of 1906 is proclaimed in the Transvaal and subjects all Indians to compulsory registration and identification by means of fingerprints. Registration Certificates (Passes) are to be carried at all times and must be produced on request to a police officer under penalty of a fine or imprisonment.
 The Hawker's Licences Act, Act No. 35 of 1906, is passed in the Cape Colony. Similar to the Dealers Licenses Act, No 18 of 1897 in Natal, municipal licensing officers are empowered to issue or refuse trading licenses to Indians.
1 January, A poll tax of £3 on Indians 18 years and over is enforced in Natal.
February - June, The Bambatha Rebellion erupts in Natal in protest against the so-called ?hut tax? levied by the Natal Government.

24 April, The Natal Indian Congress (NIC), under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, decides  to establish an ambulance corps to assist the British in the campaign to put down the rebellion.

11 September, A mass meeting of Indians is held at the Empire Theatre, Johannesburg, to decide on action against the Asiatic Law Amendment Ordinance, No 29 of 1906. Two of the resolutions adopted at the meeting respectively calls for a deputation to be sent to England and for non-violent or passive resistance (Satyagraha)

21 September, The Transvaal British Indian Association decides to send Mahatma Gandhi and O.H. Ally to London to lobby the British Government to refuse assent to the Asiatic Law Amendment Ordinance, No 29 of 1906.

28 November, Mahatma Gandhi and O.H. Ally meet with Winston Churchill in London to protest the Transvaal Asiatic Law Amendment Ordinance, No 29 of 1906.

3 December, Winston Churchill informs the British House of Commons that the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Elgin, has declined to approve the Transvaal Asiatic Law Amendment Ordinance, No 29 of 1906.

6 December, Transvaal receives responsible self-government from Britain.

1907

The South African Indian Committee, comprising of the Natal Indian Patriotic Union and the Natal Indian Congress, is established. At this time, both organisations are critical of Mahatma Gandhi.  Adam H.C. Mohamed, chairman of the British Indian League, raises the question of the treatment of British Indians in East London, particularly regarding the issue of trader's licences and the registration of voters, with the Cape Colonial Government. He is told that the Government is unable to interfere in the regulations drafted by the East London municipality, but that he is free to address the Colonial Secretary about parliamentary voters and their registration.

Arms and Ammunition Act, Act No 10 of 1907 (Transvaal), prohibits the issue of arms and ammunitions licences to Indians without sanction of the applicable Minister.

The Education Act, Act No 25 of 1907 (Transvaal) prohibits Coloured children from being allowed into European schools and establishes separate schools. Although education is free and compulsory for white children, it is not for coloured children. (Coloured means all people of colour, Africans, Indians and Coloureds).

The Vredendorp Stand Ordinance, Act No 27 of 1907 (Transvaal), transfers the freehold titles of certain stands to the Johannesburg Municipal Council on condition that such titles are not be transferred to an Asiatic, native or Coloured person.

The Workmen's Compensation Act, Act No 36 of 1907 (Transvaal) denies benefits to Asiatic, African and Coloured people). A workman is defined as a White person.
7 February, Winston Churchill informs the British House of Commons that the Natal Government has been refused leave to introduce legislation that will exclude Asiatics from obtaining trading licences.
2 March, The Transvaal British Indian Association protests to the Registrar of Asiatics against the discriminatory taking of fingerprints by the police.
11 March, Indians hold a mass meeting at the Gaiety Theatre, protesting against the discriminatory treatment of Indians.
19 March, The Transvaal Colonial Secretary, General J.C. Smuts, re-introduces the Asiatic Law Amendment Ordinance, No 29 of 1906, which failed to gain assent in December 1906, as the Transvaal Asiatic Registration Bill.
22 March, The Transvaal Asiatic Registration Bill is passed by the Transvaal Parliament. All male Asians are to be registered and finger printed and are required to carry registration certificates (passes) at all times, which have to be shown to the police on demand.
29 March, Indians hold a mass protest meeting at the Gaiety Hall in Johannesburg against the Asiatic Registration Act, Act No. 2 of 1907 (the ?Black Act?) and offer to register voluntarily if the Act is withdrawn.
4 April, Mahatma Gandhi leads a deputation to the Transvaal Colonial Secretary, General J.C. Smuts and presents him with the resolutions adopted at the Indian mass meeting held on 29 March 1907 in Johannesburg.
7 June, The Transvaal British Indian Association decides to send a deputation to the Transvaal Prime Minister, General Louis Botha, to urge acceptance of a compromise proposal concerning the Asiatic Registration Act, Act No. 2 of 1907, but Botha declines to meet the deputy.
1 July, The Asiatic Registration Act, Act No. 2 of 1907, comes into operation. The first permit office is opened in the Transvaal and Indians are notified that they have to register within three months.
3 July, the Transvaal Immigration Restriction Bill is published. The Bill makes provision for education tests to be imposed on all future immigrants to the Transvaal and establishes the Immigration Department to check against illegal Asiatic entries.
9 July, The Transvaal British Indian Association petitions the Transvaal Parliament on the Transvaal Immigration Restriction Bill.
24 July, Mahatma Gandhi calls at Ali Khamisa's shop in Pretoria where applications for registration certificates are being received secretly. Those who give their fingerprints as part of the registration application, are referred to as ?playing on the piano?.
28 July, An Indian mass meeting held at the Hamidia Islamic Society Hall in Johannesburg protests against the Transvaal Immigration Restriction Bill and declares a day of hartal in the Transvaal.
31 July, An open air Indian mass protest meeting is held in Pretoria against the Transvaal Asiatic Registration Act, Act No. 2 of 1907. The meeting decides on passive resistance (Satyagraha) against the Act - to go to prison rather than to register, and, later, to hawk without licences.
8 August, Mahatma Gandhi sends a letter to the Transvaal Colonial Secretary, General J.C. Smuts, and suggests amendment to the Transvaal Asiatic Registration Act, Act No. 2 of 1907.
21 September, A petition against the Transvaal Immigration Restriction Bill is addressed to the Transvaal Colonial Secretary, General J.C. Smuts, and circulated for signatures.
11 November, Ramsundar Pandit of Germiston becomes the first passive resister to be arrested for failing to register in terms of the Transvaal Asiatic Registration Act, Act No. 2 of 1907. Mahatma Gandhi defends Pandit in court free of charge.
14 November, Ramsundar Pandit is sentenced to one month's imprisonment for failing to register in terms of the Transvaal Asiatic Registration Act, Act No. 2 of 1907. Indians declare hartal in Johannesburg.
30 November, Only 511 Indians out of the total Indian population of over 13 000 register by the closing date of registration in terms of the Transvaal Asiatic Registration Act, Act No. 2 of 1907.

1908

Increasing competition between Indian and White merchants for the control of the Kimberley fresh produce market culminates in the submission of a series of petitions to the municipal authorities. A large group of White stallholders complain ?the tables in the Market House are crowded to such an extent by Indians and others of the same class, that it is almost impossible for Europeans to approach them with any degree of comfort?. In return, Indian stallholders submitted various petitions about the management of the market and the way in which lots were offered for sale.

They also maintained that the complaints of the White stallholders could 'only be regarded as an ungenerous thrust at the Indians who are the largest purveyors and purchasers at the morning market' (Bhana and Brain 1990: 107).
The Immorality Amendment Ordinance, Act No. 16 of 1908 (Transvaal) outlaws sexual relations between Whites and Coloured persons.

The Townships Amendment Act, Act No. 34 of 1908 (Transvaal) proclaims that Coloured persons are to live in townships only as domestic servants, and not as independent merchants of free citizens.

The Precious Base Metals Act (Gold Law) of 1908 (Transvaal) restricts the occupation by Coloured persons of land proclaimed as a public digging. Coloured persons are further debarred from acquiring mining titles and privileges and from trading in such areas. Obstacles are also placed in the way of Coloured goldsmiths.
1 January, The Transvaal Immigration Restriction Act, Act No. 15 of 1907, enters into force. A mass meeting is held at Surti Mosque in Fordsburg, Johannesburg.
4 January, The Transvaal British Indian Association informs the Transvaal Government that, if Indians are not issued trading licences because they have not registered in terms of the Transvaal Asiatic Registration Act, Act No. 2 of 1907, they will trade without licences. The Transvaal Colonial Secretary, General J.C. Smuts, declares that the Asiatic Registration Act will not be repealed and refuses to meet with Mahatma Gandhi.
8 January, Mahatma Gandhi tells Reuters that if the Transvaal Asiatic Registration Act, Act No. 2 of 1907 is suspended, Indians will register voluntarily.

10 January, Mahatma Gandhi is sentenced to two months' imprisonment for violating a court order to leave the Transvaal after being charged with picketing.
21 January, The Transvaal Colonial Secretary, General J.C. Smuts, sends Albert Cartwright, the editor of the Transvaal Leader, to meet Mahatma Gandhi in prison and present him with a settlement proposal with regards to the Transvaal Asiatic Registration Act, Act No. 2 of 1907.
28 January, Albert Cartwright brings the compromise terms with regards to the Transvaal Asiatic Registration Act, Act No. 2 of 1907, from the Transvaal Colonial Secretary, General J.C. Smuts, to Mahatma Gandhi in prison. Gandhi discusses the terms of the settlement with fellow prisoners Leung Quinn (from the Chinese Association) and Thambi Naidoo (from the Transvaal British Indian Association). They make some amendments and then sign the proposal.
30 January, The Transvaal Colonial Secretary, General J.C. Smuts, accepts the compromise with regards to the Transvaal Asiatic Registration Act, Act No. 2 of 1907. Mahatma Gandhi is escorted from prison to Pretoria for a meeting with Smuts. They agree that Indians will register voluntarily, that negotiations will be validated and that the Asiatic Registration Act will be repealed. Gandhi is released and taken to Johannesburg, where he addresses a midnight meeting at the Hamidia Mosque to explain the terms of the settlement.
3 February, Mahatma Gandhi meets the Transvaal Colonial Secretary, General J.C. Smuts, who confirms that the Transvaal Asiatic Registration Act, Act No. 2 of 1907 will be repealed if Asiatics register voluntarily.
5 February, The Transvaal Colonial Secretary, General J.C. Smuts, announces that the Transvaal Asiatic Registration Act, Act No. 2 of 1907 will not be repealed as long as a single Indian has not complied with requirements. Mahatma Gandhi urges all Indians to register.
10 February, Voluntary registration by Asiatics commences as agreed under the Gandhi-Smuts agreement. Mahatma Gandhi is assaulted by Mir Alam Khan.
9 May, By the last day of voluntary registration of Asiatics, as agreed under the Gandhi-Smuts agreement, 8700 Indians have registered and 6000 were accepted by the Transvaal Government.
13 May, The Transvaal Municipal Consolidation Bill empowers municipalities to grant licences to traders and hawkers and denies them the right of appeal to courts of law.
27 June, A well-educated Parsee, Sorabji Shapurji Adajania tests the Transvaal Immigration Restriction Act, Act No. 15 of 1907, by entering the Transvaal from Natal without a permit.
31 June , The Transvaal Colonial Secretary, General J.C. Smuts, states that the repeal of the Transvaal Asiatic Registration Act, Act No. 2 of 1907 is preposterous and Mahatma Gandhi accuses the Transvaal Government of ?foul play?.
2 July, Mahatma Gandhi warns the Transvaal Colonial Secretary, General J.C. Smuts, that the voluntary registration certificates (passes), which Indians had applied for under the Smuts-Gandhi agreement, will be burnt.
7 July, Indian traders applying for trading licences are subjected to giving thumbprints under the Transvaal Asiatic Registration Act, Act No. 2 of 1907.
8 July, Sorabji Shapuri Adajania is imprisoned after he contravened the Transvaal Immigration Restriction Act, Act No. 15 of 1907. He is not prosecuted under the Immigration Restriction Act, however, but sentenced to one month's imprisonment under the Transvaal Asiatic Registration Act, Act No. 2 of 1907. Following the Adajania case, more Indians from Natal enter the Transvaal illegally. They are arrested and ordered to leave the Transvaal within 7 days. However, they do not leave, and are re-arrested and deported without trial. After deportation, they again re-enter the Transvaal, whereupon they are fined £50 or 3 months imprisonment with hard labour. All choose to go to prison.
20 July, A mass campaign of satyagraha begins in protest of the Transvaal Asiatic Registration Act, Act No. 2 of 1907, the Transvaal Immigration Restriction Act, Act No. 15 of 1907, and the Transvaal Municipal Consolidation Bill. Satyagrahis are imprisoned for unlicensed trading.
1 August, The Chinese Association joins the satyagraha campaign against anti-Asiatic legislation in the Transvaal.
14 August, Mahatma Gandhi makes a further appeal to the Transvaal Colonial Secretary, General J.C. Smuts, to repeal the Transvaal Asiatic Registration Act, Act No. 2 of 1907, failing which he warns that voluntary registration certificates (passes) will be burnt. Smuts refuses.
16 August, More than 2000 registration certificates (passes) are burned during an Indian mass meeting at the Hamidia Mosque in Fordsburg, Johannesburg, in reaction to the Transvaal Colonial Secretary, General J.C. Smuts' alleged breach of the Gandhi-Smuts agreement and continued refusal to repeal the Transvaal Asiatic Registration Act, Act No. 2 of 1907. The Committee of European (White) Sympathisers is formed with William Hosken as Chairperson.
18 August, Mahatma Gandhi meets with the Transvaal Prime Minister, General Louis Botha, the Transvaal Colonial Secretary, General J.C. Smuts, and members of the Progressive Party to discuss the Indian question.
20 August, Indians reject the Transvaal Government's proposed amendments to the Transvaal Asiatic Registration Act, Act No. 2 of 1907, at a mass meeting. Mahatma Gandhi sends an ultimatum demanding the Repeal of the Act to the Transvaal Colonial Secretary, General J.C. Smuts.
21 August, The Transvaal Colonial Secretary, General J.C. Smuts, introduces an amendment bill to the Transvaal Asiatic Registration Act, Act No. 2 of 1907. The bill is passed as the Asiatic Registration Amendment Act, No 36 of 1908. Indians reject the Act and vow to continue with the satyagraha campaign. More registration certificates (passes) are burned at mass meetings during the next few days.
27 August, Natal Indian Congress officials are arrested at a meeting in the Anjuman Islamic Hall in Pretoria and deported from the Transvaal.
12 October, The National Convention, consisting of delegates from the Cape, Natal, Transvaal and Orange River Colonies, begins its deliberations in Durban on the incorporation of the four self-governing colonies into a Union of South Africa. Subsequent sessions of the National Convention take place in Cape Town between November 1908 and February 1909.

1909

The Transvaal Companies Act is proclaimed. Under this act a limited liability company does not con stitute a racial entity. Hence Indians, despite other restrictions, are able to trade in areas other than those set aside for them, and could also purchase land from Whites if they formed a company.
25 March, A meeting of Indian women at the Hamidia Society Hall in Johannesburg is addressed by Mrs Thambi Naidoo, Mrs Patel and Miss Schlesin. They form the Indian Women's Association.
3 April, Indian women in Germiston form an Association.
11 May, Having referred the draft constitution for the Union of South Africa to the Parliaments of the Cape, Natal, Transvaal and Orange River Colonies, the National Convention concludes its business in Bloemfontein. The Transvaal and Orange Free State Parliaments subsequently accept the draft constitution unanimously, while the Cape Parliament accepts it with two dissentient votes. In a referendum in Natal, in which only 58,2% of the electorate participates, 11 121 voters approves the draft constitution, with 3 701 voters opposing.
5 September, A delegation of Indians, led by Mahatma Gandhi, goes to London to negotiate on behalf of Indians with regard to the South Africa Act and discrimination against Indians.
Yusuf Dadoo is born in Krugersdorp, Transvaal.
20 September, King Edward VII signs the draft constitution for the Union of South Africa into law as the South Africa Act of 1909, after it was passed without amendment by the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The Act would come into force on 31 May 1910.

Last updated : 04-Mar-2017

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

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