Class, Consciousness and Organisation:Indian Political Resistance in Durban, South Africa, 1979 - 1996

Kumi Naidoo
Magdalen College, D. Phil., Michaelmas, 1997

Resistance to the apartheid system, led by the African National Congress (ANC) and its allies dominated South Africa's political landscape in the 1980s. This study deals with political resistance amongst South Africans of Indian descent in the city of Durban. The variables of race, class, gender, religion and ethnic cleavages delineated the social fabric and political complexities of the city and shaped the contours of resistance.

The apartheid state attempted to co-opt Indians as part of a larger strategy of reform and control. Despite the failure of the state to co-opt the majority of Indians, the state fostered political indifference and fear among Indians, resulting in limited mass resistance. However, the vast majority of Indians broadly rejected apartheid but did not embrace non-racialism. Notwithstanding the growth of a myriad of progressive Indian organisations during the 1980s, solidarity between Indians and Africans did not extend beyond a relatively small band of progressive leaders.

Various objective factors, such as the structural context of Indians and the influence of the media determined the boundaries of resistance. However, various subjective factors, such as the organisational strategy of the dominant resistance organisations, discourses around ethnicity, the question of political leadership, amongst others, combined to restrict the scope and depth of Indian resistance. This study finds the need for a development of an Afrindian identity, which encourages Indians to indigenise themselves to Africa without necessitating a need to negate their historical heritage.