A petition dated 17 September 1906 was sent to the Secretary of State for the Colonies by three Parsees, P.Dorabjee, P.B. Dorabjee, and Pdjunjibhoy, all residents of Johannesburg. They certainly enjoyed some of the rights and privileges usually reserved for whites in the South African Republic. But their arguments did not persuade the British authorities to treat them differently from other Indians. Source: Gov. P.S. 15/12/06, vol. 951, Transvaal Archives.
The humble memorial of the undersigned Parsees, residing at Johannesburg, Transvaal Colony, respectfully sheweth:
That your memorialists are British subjects, by nationality Parsees and descendants of a Persian race, hence Aryan stock, and are therefore distinct from Asiatics.
That your memorialists are residents of this country for the last twenty-two years, since 1884.
That your memorialists under the late Republican Government received and enjoyed the same rights and privileges as Europeans and as per certificate dated the 2nd day of May 1899, and signed by Joh. Z. de Villiers, the then burgomaster of Johannesburg, and at present member of the Legislative Council of the Transvaal, they enjoyed the privileges of burghers, certificates may be seen if required.
That your memorialists paid poll or personal tax to the late Republican Government, and also to the present Government up to the end of the year 1902, when the tax was abolished altogether....
That the said poll tax was never exacted from any save Europeans, and was not at any time a Native or Asiatic tax.
That your memorialists beg to draw your attention to the fact, that your memorialists' names were registered in the fieldcornet's books and not in the books of the Asiatic Department, and therefore not classed as Asiatics.
That your memorialists most humbly submit, that they were registered owners of stands in townships and elsewhere....
That your memorialists were allowed the privilege of holding liquor and bar licences in their own names, such privileges not being given to [those] properly classed as coloured persons....
After the occupation of this Colony by the British the military Governor of Johannesburg gave instructions, that your memorialists should continue to enjoy the vested rights and privileges as they enjoyed under the late Republican Government, and not to be treated as Asiatics.
That all documents belonging to, and in possession of your memorialists were distinctly marked with the word 'Parsee', which said documents are as yet in the possession of your memorialists.
Your memorialists most humbly beg to submit, that at the Legislative Council of the Transvaal, held at Pretoria on the 10th day of September 1906, in discussing the Asiatic Law Draft Ordinance, the Colonial Secretary, replying to Mr. de Villiers, expressed himself that he knew that certain Parsees were treated by the late Government as practically white men, and these people had applied to the present Government, asking that they should be treated as white men, the Government had replied regretting that they were unable to do so, but must carry out the law.
That your memorialists, in the name of justice and fairplay, beg most emphatically, though respectfully, to protest against the inclusion of your memorialists in the said Draft Ordinance. Further that when Assyrians and other races of Western Asia are allowed the full rights and privileges of white men, your memorialists fail to understand why their vested rights and privileges can be ignored, and not allowed to continue on, notwithstanding the fact that they were acknowledged and recognized not only by the late regime, but also by the British Government on and after the occupation of the Colony.
Your memorialists therefore do hope and trust that your Lordship in Council will protect us, and our vested rights and privileges, and interfere with the local Government in recognizing the said rights to the same extent, as heretofore, and should be provided for in the new Draft Ordinance before the assent of His Majesty in Council is given.
Your memorialists beg most respectfully to submit that Mr. Burgess, Asiatic Commissioner under Colonel Colin MacKenzie, gave them a note stating that they would be treated as Europeans. This note was issued under direct orders of Col. MacKenzie as Military Governor.
Your memorialists beg to lay great stress on this agreement. The note constitutes a promise of the British Government and such a promise could not be broken, once the same was given, and such a case is not known to your memorialists, and the Government should consider itself bound.
In conclusion your memorialists beg humbly though emphatically, to urge the high level of civilization and education that the Parsee race has reached; two of them had been member of the Imperial Parliament, and two of them are baronets.
Wherefore your memorialists most humbly pray that it may please your Lordship to redress their grievances, and further to request His Majesty to order and empower the Transvaal Government to continue on unto your memorialists the vested rights and privileges heretofore enjoyed under the late Republican Government, and also the British occupation, and hereby again sought for, as your humble memorialists have every reason to trust to the sense of British justice, and believe that your memorialists will get the same in their case....