From: Passive Resistance 1946 - A Selection of Documents compiled by E.S. Reddy & Fatima Meer
Reports of the Passive Resistance Councils ”” Natal and Transvaal
"Five Months of Struggle" : A Brief account of the Passive Resistance Struggle from 13 June to 13 November 1946
We are Marching on
Dr Y.M. Dadoo
The completion of five months of our historic struggle coincides with the release of our national leaders, Dr G.M. Naicker and Mr. M.D. Naidoo after serving six months hard labour (with 45 days remission) ”” the longest sentence yet served by Passive Resisters in the present struggle.
This pamphlet attempts to give you an account of the epic story of our struggle against the Ghetto Act; the heroism and endurance of our Resisters against the organised attacks of European hooligans the heart-stirring courage of our sister Resisters; and some facts about the united support of the entire Indian community.
Five months in the struggle of a people for fundamental human rights is too brief a period in which to pass a verdict on it.
A proper evaluation can only be made when it is reviewed in historical perspective. We leave that task to history. But in reviewing the events of the last five months we are in a position to judge whether or not we have reached the first objectives in our battle for full rights of citizenship.
The first few weeks were fateful. There were groups of people who were hesitant and uncertain. Scepticism prevailed in certain quarters. How will the struggle fare? How will the people react? ”” Were questions uppermost in the minds of not uninfluential bodies of people? It was an acid test for the leadership.
It demanded courage and endurance from the Resisters. To make matters worse, organised squads of European hooligans began attacking the camp of Resisters. Tents were pulled down and burned. Resisters, both men and women, were brutally assaulted. Taunts, sneers and insults were hurled at them.
The European hooligans did not show a trace of "civilisation" -they behaved like wild beasts pouncing on their prey. The Resisters' patience and endurance were taxed to the utmost but they proved their quality as brave fighters for freedom ”” non-violent and persevering, unafraid and manly. From night to night, the attacks grew more violent, the Resisters becoming more determined.
In this trying period of uncertainty, the heroism of the Resisters and the undaunted leadership of men like Dr Naicker and Mr. M.D. Naidoo shone like a beacon of hope.
The government invoked the Riotous Assemblies Act, arrests were made, and Resisters were sent to prison and the struggle passed into a decisive phase. The magnificent response of the people made it possible for us to record achievements of which the Indian people can well be proud.
The struggle has rallied the entire community in total opposition to the Ghetto Act. There is a complete boycott of the Land Tenure Advisory Board. The sham form of communal representation has been wholly rejected.
Hundreds of men and women of all ages have responded to the call of duty by enlisting as volunteers. A new spirit of freedom pervades the Indian people.
South Africa's Racial Policy laid bare
General Smuts and the Union government find themselves in the dock at the United Nations Assembly. The Union government stands condemned in the eyes of the democratic people of the world for its fascist racial laws against the non-European population, and for the violation of the United Nations Charter.
The United Nations Organisation itself is being confronted with an important test: whether it will justify its existence for the maintenance of world peace and assurance of basic human rights and freedoms to all people irrespective of race, religion or sex, or whether by failing to stand up to this task it will let the world slip into international and race conflict.
We look forward to the outcome of the present discussion with confidence; the stern and determined stand taken by the Indian government's delegation, together with wholehearted support of the Soviet Union, China and other member states, make the situation very hopeful indeed. We have succeeded in rallying international democratic opinion to our side in our just struggle. Whatever the outcome we shall continue to expose South Africa's fascist policy to the outside world and pursue our struggle within the Union.
Towards the Struggle of all Non-European People
We are not unmindful of the fact that our Passive Resistance Movement is a part and parcel of the larger struggle of all the non- European peoples against segregation and discrimination and for full democratic rights in the land of their birth and adoption. The African and coloured peoples are supporting our movement in measure and indeed, not a few have already enlisted as Passive Resisters and have served term in prison.
We, for our part, have declared our full support to them in the recent great African miners' strike and in the campaign against the pass laws and other inhuman and racialist measures. We hope for and expect a progressive unfurling of a great resistance movement on their part so that unity of action can be welded on the anvil struggle.
White supremacy and herrenvolkism cannot and will not be able to withstand the torrent of simultaneous and united action.
India and Trade Sanctions
The interim government's uncompromising stand and the united support of India's leaders and national and political organisations of all shades of opinion and the stringent application of trade sanctions, have not only brought about a rupture in the trade relations between the two countries but have also hit hard the European farmers and consumers in this country.
The acute shortage of grain bags, soap, essential oils, textiles and other commodities has caused a crisis of the first order. This will, we hope, drive home to the European people the hard lesson that their rulers cannot carry on with impunity, and this with their consent, the policy of racial and colour oppression. The higher law of peoples' will and human conscience must in the end prevail.
Europeans and the Struggle
Our struggle is forcing the Europeans in no uncertain manner to decide whether they are for or against democracy. Democracy cannot be maintained for the Europeans themselves whilst they deny it to others. Denial of democracy to one section leads surely and inevitably to fascism and all its attendant evils.
The setting up of bodies like the Council for Asiatic Rights in the Transvaal and the Council for Human Rights in Natal, the resolutions of the Church and progressive bodies, and the active participation and heroic sacrifices in the present struggle of such courageous European Christian stalwarts as the Reverend Michael Scott and the Reverend Satchell, and private citizens like Miss Mary Barr and Max Itzkin, are an indication of the fact that democratic-minded Europeans are beginning to realise the true implications of the fascist policy of their government towards the non-European population.
We welcome Dr Naicker and Mr. M.D. Naidoo
Thus it is with a sense of pride and self-vindication that we welcome back in our midst our national leaders. We say to them:
"Your sacrifices and those of the hundreds of Passive Resisters have not been in vain. We have taken a step forward." On their release, we reaffirm our pledge to continue the struggle with sober confidence and calm resolve. We shall not bend our knee to the oppressor. We shall not rest as long as the Ghetto Act is on the Statute Book. We shall fight on until the rights of man are ours.
We Shall Resist! Long Live Resistance!
Transvaal Passive Resistance Council
Although in accordance with a Joint Council decision no "front line" action has yet been started in the Transvaal, the Transvaal Council is carrying out work which, in importance and magnitude, compares with the work of the Natal Council. Transvaal, in spite of the smallness of the Indian population, has mobilised hundreds of Resisters and raised thousands of pounds for the campaign.
The Transvaal Council produces the Passive Resister, the official organ of our movement, and a considerable part of our local and overseas propaganda is managed by it.
Passive Resistance and the Cape
The Indians and other non-Europeans of the Cape, although not affected by the Ghetto Act and other anti-Indian laws, have not hesitated to contribute their share in our struggle for freedom. Passive Resistance Councils have been set up in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London and Kimberley to mobilise maximum support for the resistance campaign.
Three batches from the Cape have already gone into action considerable financial assistance has been given to the Natal Passive Resistance Council and more is promised.
Women in the Struggle
A most significant feature of our struggle has been the glorious part played by Indian women. No sooner had the campaign begin, than women of all ages left the seclusion of their homes to take their place beside the men in the heat of battle. The devotion to duty, the sacrifices and. heroism of our women folk has earned for them a place among the foremost women of the world. Many women who, for various reasons, could not court imprisonment, came forward voluntarily to render valuable service in the various other spheres of work. A special word of appreciation is due to the women of the Transvaal who gave Indian womanhood a gallant lead by taking their place in the first batch of Resisters on 13 June and by maintaining a steady stream of volunteers since then.
The numerous Action Committees which have done splendid work in various centres by enlisting volunteers and raising funds have carried passive resistance to every nook and corner of Natal.
To date £17 000 has been spent, the bulk of which has gone to the dependents of Resisters as maintenance. The financial support from the Indian community has been highly satisfactory, both businessmen and workers having contributed liberally.
The Durban Women's Action Committee has done magnificent work in the raising of funds. Since the very beginning of the campaign members of this important committee have worked tirelessly under difficult, and sometimes trying, conditions. Proof of the success of their work lies in the fact that they have raised about a third of the total amount collected.
On 27 August the Passive Resistance Council opened a Canteen to serve free meals to those Resisters who had been released from prison and had not yet secured jobs. This was made possible by the generosity of a local Indian businessman who provided premises free of rent. Most of the foodstuffs are gladly donated by Indian market gardeners, butchers, grocers and merchants.
To impart political and general knowledge and to instil discipline and sense of responsibility, training classes have been established for Resisters. The results are promising and we hope to produce point conscious and capable leaders to continue and widen our freedom movement.
Our movement is conducted on a highly organised and efficient basis. Every step is carefully planned and nothing left to chance. With the growth and intensification of our campaign, large and complex machinery has been built up and the success of the struggle depends on the efficient working of this machinery.
The supreme body, which analyses each new situation ail formulates policy and vital principles, is the Joint Council compose of representatives of the Natal and Transvaal Passive Resistance Councils.
Numerous departments have been created, each entrusted will the management of a particular task. The success of these department has been due entirely to those men and women who have come forward voluntarily to render unstinted service in the interests of their people, and for the cause of freedom and justice. The fact that they, without receiving praise or publicity, are continuing work with unflagging interest and devotion augurs well for the future of our struggle.