From the book: A.I. Kajee His Work for the Southern African Indian Community by C. H. Calpin
During the black-out on the night of the 7th December 1942, somewhere about 10 O'clock, there was a scuffle outside the Avalon Theatre in Victoria Street, Durban as the patrons were leaving after the show. The Avalon Theatre was the first cinema established by Kajee and his partner Mr. A. B. Moosa. It is a modern building situated in the centre of the Indian business area and caters, through the Twentieth Century Fox-Circuit, for non-Europeans-Indians, Natives, and Coloureds. Victoria Street is a busy thoroughfare. At night it is a parading place and rendezvous for hundreds of non-Europeans seeking the warmth of nightlights and, in the black-out, the excitement of the unusual.
On the whole orderly, most of the patrons of the cinema on this occasion were unaware of a sharp altercation on the pavement and dispersed to their homes ignorant of the fact that a young Indian, G. H. D. Shaik, had been stabbed. The lights had just gone off in the cinema as he ran back from the pavement to the entrance where he collapsed inside the door and begged another Indian to stay and help him. The cinema manager telephoned for an ambulance. The wounded boy was taken to St. Aidan's hospital where, though he received medical attention, he died early the following morning.
The police investigation fastened upon the movements of Adulhaq Kajee, the second son of A. I. Kajee, who was then employed as assistant projectionist in the Theatre. Statements were taken from a number of persons who were in the vicinity when the stabbing took place. As soon as he was aware of the suspicions falling upon him young Kajee surrendered himself to the police in company of his lawyer. He was detained and later brought before the magistrate at Durban on three occasions on a charge of murder. On January 5th 1943 the Public Prosecutor gave instructions to withdraw the charge and to continue investigations. Two or three months later he was allowed to sail for India, the Immigration authorities having been advised by the police that they had no reason to insist upon withholding a permit. In India young Kajee joined the merchant marine and served in various merchantmen plying the Pacific ports. Towards the end of the war he reached London where he found employment in a cinema and in part-time study.
The failure of the police to solve the crime led to some dissatisfaction in certain quarters. The records show that there was in the mind of the police a theory that the crime was motivated by jealousy over a woman and that some suppression of evidence had been obtained. Affidavits were taken from numerous people without fresh evidence being forthcoming, and nothing else was heard of the matter in public until three years later, when, in 1945, Mr. J. S. Marwick, then M. P. for Pinetown, raised certain questions in Parliament. The case was investigated for a second time with the same result. Later still renewed questions were put in the House of Assembly, and there followed a third examination by the Police which led to the application for an extradition order against young Kajee in London.
In his questions Mr. Marwick spoke of the extraordinary conduct shown in the investigations of the case and demanded to know the name of the officer responsible for the investigations, as well as the name of the father of the alleged assailant, his address and occupation. In the ordinary way a parliamentarian's concern for the correct conduct of police investigations requires no comment. Part of the function of a member of Parliament is to watch the interests of justice in cases of this sort, and a zealous appreciation of responsibilities in this respect has always been one of Mr. Marwick's claims upon public esteem.
It happens in this case that Mr. Marwick's questions on an incident which had occurred three years before, and which had been disposed of by the Attorney General of Natal, were linked with other questions set down for the Minister's reply on the same day. At this time the South African Indian Congress was considering the advisability of sending a deputation to the San-Francisco Conference to advice the delegates from India upon the Indian questions in South Africa and to inform delegates of other nations of the plight of Indians in the Union. Marwick referred to a Press report in which the names of the Indian delegation were given. He asked the minister whether the father of the suspect in the Avalon Theatre stabbing case was included in the list, and whether the police would lodge an objection to the issue of any exit permit for the father of the suspect to leave the Union until the investigation of the case had been completed. By linking the movements of the father to the son's alleged connection with the stabbing incident, Mr. Marwick laid himself open to a suspicion that he was attempting to make capital against Kajee out of the son's situation.
The suspicion was aggravated by the fact that other members of Parliament were questioning the Government at the time on the advisability of issuing exit permits and passports to South African Indians for the purpose of attending the San Francisco Conference. They felt it was an attempt on the part of local Indians to influence the governments of other countries to interfere in the domestic affairs of the Union.
As a member of the Dominion Party, Mr. Marwick was recognised by Indians as an anti-Indian. He had taken a leading part in the agitation for protection against Indian penetration, and was responsible, with his colleagues of the Dominion Party, for the pressure upon the Government which resulted in the introduction of the Pegging Bill. It may be that Mr. Marwick's attitude towards Indians persuaded them that his interest in the stabbing case at the Avalon Theatre was dictated by the desire to discredit their leader, Kajee, in the eyes of the Indian masses as well as to arouse European feeling against him. One Parliamentarian, referring to this matter, remarked that Mr. Marwick anxiety seemed to be to visit the sins of the son upon the father.
Whatever the motive, the effect of Mr. Marwick's questions in Parliament upon Kajee could not be anything but shattering. He was already suffering from a sense of political defeat and frustration, added to which a domestic blow of this kind brought double tragedy and shame upon him. He used to say that public opinion should never be allowed to divert one from a course resting on deliberate conviction, and that public ridicules and opposition must be accepted as part of the process through which a leader eventually triumphed in his cause. In his public utter-ances, and in the published policy to which he gave his allegiance, there was never any sign of weakness in the face of the opposition, European or Indian. Few would look him as a man to whom the constant sustaining encouragement of his intimate friends was a psychological necessity. Yet such was the case. He was, in fact, extremely sensitive to the opinion in which those outside it held him, both by his own community and. He would never, for example, enter a European shop to make any purchase, fearful of being slighted by some toughest assistant. He gave a lot of his cash to European shops, but his shopping was always done for him friends.
At the same time he had a very strong sense of family pride, and anything which seemed to touch him through the actions of his children or through their failure to attain certain standards of conduct or status overwhelmed him in personal responsibility. He made no allowances. Like many parents his judgment of his children suggested had forgotten his own boyhood. His family then constant concern to him and the smallest dereliction of one of its members a source of anxiety and sorrow he often showed in a ruthless and critical discipline personal letters to his children are occasionally marked by expressions of dismay which suggest that he expected more from them than any parent is entitled and from his offspring. The case of Abdulhaq illustrates one or two aspects of character which have a bearing upon his public work. As a private individual he reacted to the attack made upon a member of his family, as any father possessed of a sense of filial duty would react. He sought means whereby his son's position might be fortified. After Mr. Marwick's questions in Parliament, the Department of Justice, furnished with additional evidence through officers detailed to probe deeper into the matter arrested a woman, who, it was alleged, had some connection with the affair. At the same time the authorities sought to bring Abdulhaq Kajee to South Africa.
The son was arrested in London on a provisional warrant under the Fugitive Offenders' Act and was remanded for seven days pending the arrival of the necessary papers and a police escort from South Africa. Young Kajee was lodged in Brixton Prison, bail having been refused.
When this was known Kajee wrote the following letter to his son:
"My dear Abdulhaq,
This letter will serve to introduce to you Detective Head Constable.... of South African Police, Criminal Investigation Department, Durban. Mr. is being sent to England, to act as an escort in the event of an extradition order being granted, to accompany you back to South Africa. You will find Mr. , in the event of an order being granted, courteous and considerate, and I am sure he will show you every consideration in his power. You, I am sure, will reciprocate by complying with his lawful requests, and making no unnecessary difficulties or embarrassments for him of any kind. He has his duty to do as a police officer, and, of course you cannot take him into your confidence in any way, and you must do and say nothing without prior advice from your legal advisers.
With kind regards,
Before this letter was sent, and, indeed, immediately Mr. Marwick's questions had been asked in Parliament, and before any action had been taken by the Department of Justice, Kajee indicated through his lawyers that he was willing to bring back his son at his own expense to meet the charges against him. No indication was given of the Minister's attitude to Kajee's offer, though it was repeated as soon as the decision of the Department of Justice was made to apply for an extradition order. Kajee would have preferred that if the boy was to return to South Africa he should return without the humiliation of a police escort. At the same time, enraged and dismayed by what he considered to be the result of a political attack on him by Mr. Marwick and others, he was determined to fight the case in London with all the means in his power.