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

One hundred and ten organisations met in Durban on 10 and 11 October 1981. Among them were the Natal Indian Congress, the Anti-S.A.I.C. committees of the Cape, Natal and Transvaal, trade unions and sports organisations, which sponsored the two-day national conference. The conference rejected the Government's apartheid policy, and proposed guidelines for a democratic South Africa in a Charter for Change, a document that was adopted by the meeting. It is reproduced here as it appeared in the Sunday Tribune, 18 October 1981.

We South African democrats, gathered in Durban on this day, recognising the unequivocal rejection of Government-created ethnic institutions by the oppressed people and having experienced this directly in the Anti-South African Indian Council Charter for Change, declare for all South Africans and the world to know that the struggles of the past 25 years have convinced us that the only viable alternative to the present exploitative and repressive system is one based on the principles for meaningful changes, politically. Accordingly this national conference firmly believes that:


True democracy must be based on the will of all the people of South Africa in a unitary national state. All adult South Africans shall participate in the political process and institutions at every level of government.

The present Government, Bantustans, President's Council, South African Indian Council and local advisory bodies reinforce domination and exploitation by a minority and exclude the possibility of establishing a people's democracy.


The land belongs to all the people, whereas at present a minority owns it. The creation and consolidation of Bantustans and the implementation of the Group Areas Act and similar legislation continue to uproot and dispossess settled communities.


Separate education is specifically used by the state to perpetuate apartheid. Protests in schools and universities in these past few years have demonstrated quite clearly that this education has failed to satisfy the needs of the majority of South Africans, who demand a system whose objectives are consistent with the achievement of a free, equal, just and democratic society.

Racist society distorts and destroys the culture of the people. The free expression of cultural values and the development of an authentic national culture can only occur in a free and democratic society.


Decent housing at rents and prices people can afford, comfort and security, are inaccessible to the majority of South Africans. The absence of these necessities, inter alia, has resulted in the destruction of family life.

Democratic control by the people will guarantee the provision of these essentials and eliminate the mass removals of settled communities. The disabilities that our people suffer in health and welfare are directly due to and exacerbated by the poverty imposed on our people. These problems of the people can only be eliminated by a new social order which guarantees optimum health and welfare.


The law, as it exists, is repressive, discriminatory and designed to entrench apartheid. The law must not only be just but must be seen to be so. This is only possible, if it is based on the will of the people and accords with a people's concept of justice.


The majority of workers are still denied the right to free association and control over their own affairs. Continuing and ever-increasing worker action reveals national discontent of working people, who will settle for nothing less than full participation in free democratic trade unions.


The natural and human resources of this country are being exploited in the interests of a privileged minority. Control of South African resources by the people will ensure its utilisation for the benefit of the people, as a whole. We declare:

that in the absence of the democratic freedoms outlined herein, no constitutional schemes or dispensations are acceptable to us, and that we will not participate in any constitutional arrangement that does not flow from a national convention representative of all the peoples of South Africa;

that the preconditions for a successful holding of such a convention are the release of all political prisoners, the return of all exiles and banished, the unbanning of all persons and organisations, and the repeal of all unjust laws.

We further declare that in the intervening period we re-dedicate ourselves to strive fearlessly for the realisation of these freedoms through genuine people's organisations.

We hereby dedicate ourselves to fight side by side for these freedoms and we pledge that we will not rest until we have established a democratic South Africa.