From the book: A.I. Kajee His Work for the Southern African Indian Community by C. H. Calpin

Kajee turned from his opponents, the Europeans, to is opponents in his own community.

He was faced with a rising storm of opposition from he anti-segregationalists led by Dr. Naicker in Natal and Dr. Dadoo in the Transvaal. The Congress at this time was divided into three groups. There was the group around Kajee, which included men like P. R. Pather of the old Natal Indian Association, Advocate J. W. Godfrey, and personal friends whose loyalty never wavered. There was the Anti-Segregation Council which was to develop into the passive resistance organisation. And there was a third group, smaller in numbers, which seemed to hover between the two. The outstanding personality of this small group was Sorabjee Rustomjee, who, as we have seen, was Kajee's political rival.

Congress affairs up to this time had been in the hands of a small section of leaders. Many of these leaders failed to appreciate the growing resentment felt among Indian trade unionists and so-called progressives for the dictatorial manner in which Congress policy was formulated. The anti-segregationalists set out to force a congress election on the issue of the Pretoria Agreement and the leadership of "the old gang, of which Kajee was the chief".

This election campaign in the end came to nought. The anti-segregationalists were able to add to their numbers and at the same time add to the membership of Congress thousands of Indian workers who before had taken no interest in Indian politics, but who were now aroused in the way masses of people can be aroused by the demigogues.

It was obvious that if the election fight ever came to the ballot box it would go in favour of the rebels, among whom, as leaders were many avowed communists. Over many weeks, after attempts had been made to placate the rebels while offering them some represent­ation on Congress executive, a typical election campaign was carried on. In the event, when the elections were due to be held at a mass meeting at Currie's fountain, the Congress party and its leaders kept away, leaving the field to the rebels who constituted themselves into Natal Indian Congress and took over power quite pro­perly and legitimately.

In effect Kajee and his Congress supporters lost the election by default. The communists win every time. It was always Kajee's hope that this class warfare amongst Indians would not arise until Indians, as a race, had obtained their democratic rights in South Africa. Now the Indians were split in several ways. There were the old religious and communal divisions underlying a new class division. Internally disrupted by these considerations, their leaders were still divided on personal rivalry.

The difficulty of the new Congress was to get itself recognised by the Government. As a fighting force among the masses its strength is obvious. Its weakness lay in diplomacy with the Government. This is understandable. Lack of experience was the main factor in accounting for some of the clumsiness with which the new Congress played its cards.

Meanwhile Kajee was able to move freely within his well-known diplomatic circles. He was out of power in Natal, but he and a few of his friends retained office in the South African Indian Congress. It was not until 1946 that he was ousted from the National body.

During this time he had worked hard on the Natal Indian Judicial Commission. The word judicial has very special meaning for Indians. They have implicit faith in the integrity and probity of the Supreme Courts, and with good reason, for the Supreme Courts in South Africa retain the qualities for which the Judiciary in Britain is known. Indians always receive a judicial commission with great satisfaction.

The Natal Indian Judicial Commission was graced by chairmanship of Mr. Justice F. "N. Broome. His name alone carries great confidence in all sections of the community, and Indians were satisfied that the outcome that Commission would be just if not favourable. Unfortunately however, the intervention of the Pretoria Agreement and the new Ordinance placed the Commission in a very invidious position. It was called upon to enquire into the condition of Indians which had been stabilised bij the Pegging Act. Now that an Ordinance had intervened which altered that stabilised situation, the Chairman of the Commission felt very properly that is investigation was prejudiced. He therefore suspended its work and issued an interim report.

This report made several suggestions, among them that the Government should give some consideration to the possibility of Indian representation in Parliament of the common roll with Europeans. It also recommended that the only way to reach any solution to the Indian problem was to initiate discussions with the Government of India. The Government and the European public would have none of it. There was scarcely a single leading article in the newspapers that welcomed such an idea. Indeed such was the tempo of the times that in order to give expression to public demand, the Prime Minister introduced in 1946 a new comprehensive bill. This legislation enjoys the full title of "The Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Act No. 28, of 1946". It is known among Indians as a Ghetto Act. The whole of India and the whole of South African Indian community rose in opposition to this legislation. Kajee scarcely slept for weeks preceding the parliamentary debate, so great was the demand upon his time and energies. Conferences were held daily and nightly, in Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town in an endeavour to influence parliamentarians and to formulate plans by which legislation could be opposed. The Government of India played its part through the High Commissioner, Mr. Shafa'at Ahmed Khan; arid recalled this official as soon as the Act was passed, preparatory to an appeal to the United Nations Organisation.

The South African Indian Congress divided in a manner already indicated. Kajee and his friends were determined to be represented when the disputes had gone before the United Nations. Mr. Sorabjee Rustomjee rushed to India to make his protest, and the anti-segregationalists now in control of the Natal Indian Congress sent their delegates to New York. Kajee followed with Mr. P. R. Pather and Mr. A. C. Christopher. The Prime Minister who took with represented the South African Government him a number of people representing Natal including a City Councillor of Durban, Mr. A. L. Barnes. Arriving in New York Kajee set to work to prepare memoranda, to contact the newspaper editors, and to do what he could in the lobbies of the assembly. These days were full of interest if not of great achievement. They were notable for one interesting feature. Kajee realised, and regretted the fact, that the Indian problem was rapidly passing out of the hands of South African Indians into the hands of the international body where all manner of consider­ations bore down upon its significance. As the debates proceeded he became less and less convinced of the value of the United Nations as an arbiter on such a peculiar issue. And he left the United Nations feeling that the sooner the problem was returned to a round table con­ference in South Africa in which local Indians should take part, the better for all concerned. He was aware, of course, of the powerful significance of worldwide publicity which had been given to the dispute, but he never ceased to maintain that in the end the dispute would have to be settled between Indians and Europeans in South Africa. He returned home then with this con­viction firmly in his mind, and set himself to influence public opinion on the desirability of a rapid return of the problem from Lake Success to Cape Town.

In this, of course, he differed fundamentally from his opponents. They placed their confidence in a rapid decision of the United Nations. The United Nations however, worked slowly and tentatively on the problem, making recommendations that the two countries should get together and resolve their differences. For two years more this tentative approach continued, and at the time of writing only the prospect of a Round Table conference, as Kajee desired, remains. While he was in America Kajee thought he might take advantage of the medical services at the Johns Hopkins Institute. He had been ailing for some time and was anxious to have a check-up at that Institution. Unfort­unately he was not able to arrange the inspection. He left the matter too late. When the debates in the Assembly were over he spent some time in the United States.

'I also saw a play,' he wrote, "called 'Deep are the Roots'. 'A mixed cast enacted it, and the plot was about the negro problem in the South and the love of a white girl for a returned negro soldier. It was a brave and courageous play. I met the leading actress, Edith Atwater."

'Last Sunday I roamed about Harlem. It is not a separate suburb for the avenues and streets are a continuation of the main thoroughfare!

'New York is a great city. It looks hard and material­istic but here are many humane people among its inhabitants.

'I am having breakfast tomorrow with Dave Kerr of Life Magazine.

'I attended the Premiere of "Razor's Edge" last night, and it was really a great affair.'

These excursions extended to a visit to Los Angeles and the Niagara Falls. All along the route he met many correspondents and acquaintances in the journalistic or the cinema world and enjoyed himself largely. This visit to the United States was in many ways a very happy interlude. His mind always lifted as soon as he got out of Durban and Natal. He was happier for example in Cape Town than he was in Durban. It provided some relief from the importunities of his office and the tense atmosphere which he always felt in Durban. At the same time his own people were never very far from his mind and he was glad to get back to the rough and tumble of South African politics.

The passive resistance movement was at its height. Jail was sought after as a martyr's crown. Indians were disturbed by the dramatic quality of sacrifice, and they, men and women, the young, and the not so young felt that the best service they could perform was to follow the example of Gandhi and invite arrest rather than stand by and accept the Ghetto Act. Kajee was not unaware of the sincerity of many of these passive resistors, though he thought the movement was ill advised. Particularly he was concerned over the fact that avowed communists led these passive resistors. He was afraid that the identification of the Indian cause with communists and communism would seriously damage Indian aspirations. The Government frowned upon communists, and Kajee always insisted that the Indian cause could not be merged into an ideological cause without injury to Indians in general. It is not un­reasonable to assume that communist leadership in Indian politics gave the whole problem a new slant and project-id it from an issue concerning a quarter of a million Indians into an issue embracing ten million non-Europeans in South Africa.

For some months Kajee acted as a free lance in politics, keeping his contacts with members of the Government and doing what he could to counteract the extremer follies of Congress leaders. He had however, no power to act for any group of Indians, though there were Indians in large numbers who opposed Congress Policy and who were only too anxious to follow moderate leader­ship. Out of this need there arose a small and influential body called the Natal Indian Organisation. Its president was Mr. A. S. Kajee, and among its officials were Mr. P. R. Pather, Mr. A. B. Moosa and Mr. A. M. Moolla. In this organisation Kajee was the obvious spokesman though he remained outside it. Its policy, however, coin­cided with that of Kajee's. It rested on the belief that the best way to deal with the Indian problem was for the two Governments to meet with representatives of local Indians present completely without prejudice. The two Governments at the time were at variance about the basis of a round table conference. The Government of India maintained the stand taken up by the United Nations Assembly, and would not consider a round table conference except on the basis of the resolution passed by the Assembly. General Smuts, on his side indicated that this resolution was damaging to South Africa. To concede it as the basis of a round table conference would be to acknowledge South Africa's guilt. This, General Smuts was in no mind to do. The prospects then of an early round table conference were very gloomy.

General Smuts was moving towards the desirability of a conference. In 1946, during the debates in Parliament, he looked upon a round table conference as a counsel of despair, reminding his hearers the Government of India had a representative in the presence of the High Commissioner through whom any representations should be made. Later he was annoyed by the withdrawal of the High Commissioner and the imposition of trade sanctions against his country. The war was over, and he could afford to stiffen his attitude. As time went on, with second meeting of the United Nations some of the emotion died down.

There was a better atmosphere, and once or twice Mr. H. G. Lawrence who led the South African delegation at the 1947 assembly was able to approach the Indian delegation on more friendly terms. There was a feeling that a round table conference might be held "without any strings attached". This was what Kajee and a few of his friends aimed at. Kajee hoped and worked for a round table conference on the basis of the Cape Town Agreement, which provided for periodical discussions. He was concerned entirely with getting the parties together, feeling that, whatever the agenda, the benign atmosphere of the Committee room would divert the talks into accommodating channels. This was the line he took whenever he had an opportunity of meeting Europeans either in private conversation or on public platforms. He spoke in these terms at one or two Rotary Club lunches to which he was invited and where he was received with respect if not with sympathy. He was never successful in persuading the Government of India of the wisdom of his views. The Government of India had its own policy, and was not likely to be influenced very much by what a South African Indian had to say. Moreover, Kajee was not very popular with the Govern­ment of India at this time. His support lay in the broad will of thousands of Indian people throughout the country. These moderate people were less articulate than the Congress leaders. Moderation is unpopular in these days, and moderate men are too apt to remain silent when their speech would be useful in combatting the follies of extravagance.

In the latter part of 1947 the strain upon Kajee was almost too great to be borne. No man can see his life's work challenged without being physically affected by it. The shock may not be effective at once. It is in the after­effects that the significance of defeat is shown. Kajee was a sick man. No one know how sick. For twenty-five years rising from obscurity he had striven and reached a point at which success was in his grasp. He had long ago become a fairly wealthy man. Wealth in South Africa is judged in terms of the huge fortunes made by the few in the diamond and gold-mining industries. Kajee was not a rich man by this judgment. "I spend too much," he said. But he had an economic competence and he could claim to be a successful businessman. He and his partner A. B. Moosa now owned a considerable cinema circuit, the Avalon Associated Cinemas, his business as a Broker was well established.

What remained now was to achieve as a public man those aims and objects to which he had set his mind. The strains of the years were not to be denied. Before Mr. H. G. Lawrence returned from the 1947 Assembly Kajee fell sick. His doctors advised him to take a long rest. His friends were anxious for him to do so. He chose however, to continue his work, promising himself com­plete retirement from business and public affairs as soon as a round table conference was held. Instead therefore, of seeking some relief from Indian politics he continued more than was necessary to engage upon a score of things, from the management of his several schools to interviewing the Prime Minister, which might have been left to those to work and travel. Indeed at this time he devoted himself to a variety of objects to which he had given much service during his life. The average man inclined to social service usually chooses one cause and makes that his contribution to society. Kajee gave himself to so many causes of educational and social character that it is quite impossible to enumerate them without burden­ing the reader with a catalogue. There is scarcely a single department of Indian social life which he did not touch. His files are full of correspondence dealing with all sorts of work. One or two of his clerks spent all their time dealing with his personal interests, his books and newspapers, the Avalon Scholarship fund, Indian Child Welfare, Muslim Education, Relief Funds, the problems of his friends. It remains a constant source of wonder how he managed to accomplish so much. At this latter part of his life he returned to these things and made of them a diversion from his more serious political work.

It was as if he wanted to see how everybody with whom he had come in contact was getting on. Perhaps for the first time in his life he discovered his family and his friends, the extent of his interests and the progress .of his efforts in the small things. It was as if he were beginning to realise that he hadn't so long to live.