The draft Ordinance of October 1903 imposed further restrictions in the ex-Free State Republic on persons of colour, or 'coloureds', according to contemporary terminology. Indian Opinion reflected upon the disabilities the Ordinance sought to impose, and on the fate of hundreds of British Indians who wished to settle in the Orange River Colony. Source: Indian Opinion, 12 November 1903.
A recent number of the Government Gazette shows quite plainly that the Government of the Orange River Colony is not to be deterred by any considerations whatsoever from following up the legislation restrictive of the liberties of Coloured people. In the Gazette dated 23rd October is published a draft Ordinance to amend the Law relating to municipalities, and we read the following provision regarding the qualifications of voters for the municipal elections. Any one who is a Coloured person in terms of article 8 of Law 8 of 1893, and who is not the offspring of a lawful marriage of a white father with a Coloured mother, or a Coloured father with a white mother, or who, being such an offspring, has not obtained the right to the ownership or occupation of immovable property in this Colony under provisions of chapter 34 of the Law is disqualified from being a voter.
Now by article 8 of Law 8 of 1893, the expression 'Coloured person' appearing in this Law shall be interpreted and taken, unless the context clearly forbids it, to apply to and include a man, or men, as well as a woman, or women, above the age or estimated age of sixteen years, of any Native tribe in South Africa, and also all Coloured persons, and all who, in accordance with law or custom, are called Coloured persons, or are treated as such, of whatever race or nationality they may be.
The definition, therefore, is as wide as could be imagined, and includes British Indians also. Taken by itself, the provision is hardly of much consequence, for we are aware that the Transvaal Government has only lately disfranchised all Coloured people from participation at municipal elections, and such a disqualification is by no means the most important disability of the British Indians, but taken as an indication of the deliberately hostile policy of the Government against the British Indians, it is a matter of no small importance. There is, for the Government of that Colony, absolutely no turning back from the inheritance of the past. When there is any change at all in the past legislation, it is for the worse. Mr. Chamberlain, in his despatch to Lord Milner in reply to his demand for Asiatic indentured labour, dwelt upon the anti-Indian legislation in both Colonies, and expressed the hope that they would grant relief in the direction pointed out by him. The clause we have referred to above and the clauses we are about to refer to are the answers returned to the despatch by the Government of the Orange River Colony. It is inconceivable how the Government of that Colony, which is, after all, subordinate to, and under the direct control of, the Colonial Office, can defy the head of that Office and continue not only to refuse to undo the past but to tighten the cord that binds the British Indians. Later, in the same draft Ordinance, we notice certain clauses referring to locations. The marginal note merely mentions 'native locations', but the clause itself clearly applies to 'all Coloured persons'. It reads:
The council is empowered to establish locations in such part or parts of the municipal land as they may think fit, within which all Coloured persons, other than domestic servants residing on their employers' premises, shall be compelled to reside, and they may from time to time close such locations and establish other or others. The council is further empowered to frame regulations for the proper control of all such persons”¦. No Coloured person, male or female, above the estimated age of sixteen years, or under the estimated age of sixty years, shall reside for more than forty-eight hours within any such location, unless
(a) he is actually in the employment of a white employer residing within the municipality, or within a radius of five miles from the limit of the municipal area and is in possession of a permit from the town council to that effect. Or unless
(b) he has obtained a certificate of permission to work on his own account in terms of article 3 of Law 8 of 1893, and is actually engaged in such work Or unless
(c) he is a person who has obtained a letter of exemption under the provisions of the Coloured Persons Relief Ordinance, 1903. Or unless
(d) she is the lawful wife of a person residing within such location under the aforesaid provisions.
Boiled down, these sub-clauses mean that, even to be able to live within the confines of a location, which like a stable or a pound may be removed at the sweet will of the council, a Coloured person must have obtained previous permission and must be a menial servant; that is to say, he cannot reside in any part of the Colony except as a labourer pure and simple. Lest our readers might imagine that there are very great privileges reserved, by the laws referred to, to the wearers of a coloured skin, we may mention that article 3 of Law 8 of 1893 contemplates special permission to be given by the local board on payment of a fee of 5s. per month to a Coloured man to sell his services to anybody he likes, provided that he obtains the necessary certificate for so doing. The Coloured Persons Relief Ordinance defines the qualifications, which are high enough, entitling a Coloured person to obtain exemption from liability to carry a personal pass renewable from time to time and bearing a certain fee. The precious exemption is granted after very irksome formalities having been gone through, and really consists in the carrying of the exemption certificate in exchange for the ordinary pass. Beyond this, the Ordinance gives no relief, and leaves such exempted persons under all the other disabilities, namely those as to trading, farming, holding immovable property, residence outside locations, etc. Such, then, is the attitude of the Government of the Orange River Colony towards Coloured persons, and unless the Colonial Office chooses to exercise its prerogative for the protection of non-white subjects of the Empire, it will go hard with the hundreds of British Indians who are waiting to emigrate to the Orange River Colony and settle there for purposes of earning a livelihood. We trust that the friends of British Indians in England will see these remarks of ours, study them, and come to the rescue and insist on the Colonial Office doing its duty towards the loyal Indian subjects of the King-Emperor. During his fiscal campaign, Mr. Chamberlain has not been slow to lay stress upon the fact that India contains an inexhaustible reserve of fighting material upon which the Empire could draw without the slightest hesitation in case of need. Yes, India is ever ready to do her part for the service of the Empire at large. Will the Right Honourable Gentleman also use his influence in inducing the Colonies to do theirs?