From the book: A Documentary History of Indian South Africans edited by Surendra Bhana and Bridglal Pachai

In a Notice published in the Staats Courant of 26 April 1899, the Transvaal Government announced its intention to proceed with the demarcation of locations for Asiatic residence in terms of Law 3 of 1885. In a letter to the British Agent, dated 21 July 1899, M. K. Gandhi pointed out the implications of relocating Johannesburg Indians.Source: Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, vol. 3, pp. 86-90.

On behalf of the Indian community in Johannesburg, I beg to lay the following before Your Honour:

1. At the interview you were graciously pleased to grant the deputation, consisting of Mr. Hajee Habib Hajee Dada, Mr. H. O. Ally, Mr. Abdul Rahman, and myself on Thursday last (July 20, 1899), you informed the deputation that Her Majesty's Government would not at present interfere as regards the general question, viz, the whole status of the British Indians in the Transvaal; that the Indians must abide by Law 3 of 1885, as amended in 1886, but that Her Majesty's Government would be prepared to interfere at any time with reference to special cases, such as the sites of locations, cases of long leases, etc.

2.I am to say that Her Majesty's Government having accepted the above law; there is no desire on the part of the Indian community not to abide by the law, so long as it remains on the statute book of the Republic.

3.But I am to point out, as it was done at the above interview, with due deference, that as the locations are to be pointed out, as the law states, for the purposes of sanitation, the necessity on that ground ought to be clearly established. And if in that case the question be that of each Indian having to prove that he has been living in accordance with the sanitary regulations, and that his presence in town is in no way a danger to the community generally from a sanitary point of view, the matter even then seems to be extremely simple. If Her Majesty's Government succeed in establishing the point that the Transvaal Government would not remove those Indians who produce satisfactory evidence as to their sanitary condition, I venture to submit that the rest of the burden could be discharged by parties affected, without having to trouble Her Majesty's Government.

4.In Johannesburg and the suburbs, apart from the present Indian location, there are, it appears, about 125 British Indian storekeepers and about 4,000 hawkers, the storekeepers possessing unliquidated assets collectively estimated at about £375,000, and the hawkers about £400,000.

5.Most of the storekeepers possess leases, with the exception of 3 or 4. However, none of them has availed of the Government Notice calling upon them to register their leases.

6.The people were and are in a state of terror; they do not know what to do. The cablegram appearing in the newspapers to the effect that Her Majesty's Government were still in communication with the Transvaal Government, and that Her Majesty's High Commissioner was instructed to take up the matter at the Bloemfontein Conference served as an effective check against the storekeepers registering their leases.

7.The Indians residing in Johannesburg cannot, even if they wanted, remove to the location situated in the Brickfields.

8.It contains, according to the report of the Inspector of Natives and Traffic in Johannesburg, dated the 10th January 1896, ninety-six stands, each 30 by 50 ft. The location was even at that date, as the inspector states, overcrowded, containing a population of 3,300. The state of the location at present, from that point of view, is probably worse than it was in 1898.

9.The Government of the South African Republic, it is understood, intends to remove the Indians in town to a place called Waterval, 43/4 miles distant from Johannesburg Market Square, the central part of Johannesburg....

10.It is submitted that to ask the Indians to remove to that place would be practically asking them to leave the Transvaal. The storekeepers could never do any business there. The hawkers could not be expected to walk with their wares from and to that place every day.

11.The fact that there are no sanitary arrangements there, no water, no police protection and that the place is situated in the vicinity of the place | where the refuse of the town and night-soil are deposited, are minor considerations in comparison with the fact that it is situated at such a great distance as 4 3/4 miles with no population of any kind within practically two-mile radius.

12.The Government appears to have entered into an agreement with Herman Tobiansky, of Johannesburg, in connection with this site.

13.The lease bristles with provisions extremely harmful to the persons that might be located on the ground leased, but it is unnecessary to dilate thereon as the site itself is so manifestly unsuitable for the purposes mentioned.

14.It appears that the Kaffirs too, who are most of them labourers and not affected from a commercial point of view, have lodged their protest against their removal to the above site.

15.It has often been submitted that the removal of the Indian storekeepers to locations, wherever they may be, would mean almost certain ruin for them.

16.It is respectfully submitted that if Her Majesty's Government could not see their way to move in the direction humbly suggested in paragraph 3 hereof, the least that would prevent the entire ruin of the Indian store-keepers would be to leave the present storekeepers untouched. The hawkers could, if absolutely necessary, be removed to a location if it is suitably situated and otherwise not objectionable. Exceptional sanitary provisions might, if necessary, be made regarding the storekeepers.

17.If, however, relief of the nature above indicated could not be secured, I am humbly to submit that a spot in the business portion of the town set apart for the Indian storekeepers for their business purposes, subject to such rent and other regulations that may be necessary, might enable a large number of the traders to earn their livelihood; but such an arrangement would not by any means afford relief to the few large Indian merchants.

18.While the matter is in course of settlement, the extension of time enabling the Indians to obtain temporary licences, or an understanding that they will not be interfered with in pursuit of their trade in the mean time is very necessary by way of immediate temporary relief.

19.It may be stated that the Transvaal Government seem to have granted the above relief in Johannesburg. I am further to state that the Government of the Republic has served the following notice on the owners of the stands in the ‘Coolie Location', dated the 23rd May 1899:

You are hereby warned that, in accordance with the Government Notice no. 208, appearing in the Staats Courant of the 26th April 1899, only you and your family will be allowed to reside on your stand, after June 30th of the present year.

20.It appears that a protest with reference to this notice has already been lodged with His Honour the British Vice-Consul. The intention underlying the notice is obvious. It is submitted that in Law 3 of 1885 and its amendment, there is absolutely no sanction for any such restriction.

21.It is hoped that the Transvaal Government have no right and that they will not insist upon disturbing the rights of the present population in the Indian location.

22.But if the town population must be partly or wholly removed to a location, it is clear that another site will become necessary.

23.The town council, with the approval of the Transvaal Government, has adopted certain regulations regarding locations, which go far beyond the scope of Law 3 of 1885, and its amendment”¦

24.It is much feared that the Transvaal Government would apply these regulations to any new site they may select for the removal of the Indians residing in the town....

25.Any scheme, therefore, for the removal of the Indians, whether hawkers or others, in order to be at all satisfactory, should give the Indians the same proprietary rights in the locations as are granted to the other communities in town generally.

26.There is no prohibition in the law above referred to against Indians owning land in locations or dealing with it as they choose. Indeed, hawkers could not be expected to buy land and erect their own buildings in the locations. And it is respectfully submitted it would be a great injustice if the land in Indian locations or the right to build thereon were given to any but Indians.

27.In conclusion, it is to be hoped that before accepting any scheme for a location or a general settlement, the responsible Indians will if possible be taken into confidence, so as to enable them to make suggestions if necessary.

28.Now that there is a prospect of Indians generally being shifted to locations, will it be too much to expect a change of official name 'Coolie Location' for 'Indian Location'?

29.I may state that I had the honour to wait upon His Honour the State Secretary on Saturday morning not in my representative capacity, but in my individual capacity, and while telling him that with regard to their grievances they must in future, as they had done in the past, lay them before their own Government, [I] humbly pleaded for magnanimity in view of the fact that the Indians possessed great antecedents, were, no matter where they went, most law-abiding, and instead of being in any way a harm to the burghers of the State, they were rendering a humble but useful service to them in their various pursuits. The State Secretary was good enough to extend to me the utmost courtesy, and granted me a long and patient hearing.