Statement On The Pretoria Agreement, May 1944

The Pretoria Agreement is a shameful negation of all the noble principles for which the Indian people have stood and fought during all the years of their experience in South Africa. It is an outrage on the honour and existence of the Indian community.

For several decades the Indians have held their ground against all attacks by the succeeding Governments to segregate them into ghettos. Indeed such has been their spirit of resistance by mass united action that under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi in 1913 they successfully obtained the repeal of the unjust and iniquitous £3 tax.

But today the Indian people are unfortunate in a weak-kneed betraying leadership which is willing to barter away freedom of movement and the right of lawful occupation of the whole Indian community for temporary gain in investment for an inconsiderable but wealthy class – a class on whom the Prime Minister did not disdain to pour venomous scorn when he wanted to push the Pegging Bill through Parliament. But now this very class has received the kind attention of General Smuts.

General Smuts Embarrassed

The reason for this about face is not far to seek. The Union Government was target of the indignation and protests aroused by the Pegging Act in India, Britain, and the United States. General Smuts, to say the least, was embarrassed to face the Empire Conference in London.

Thanks to the gross and shameful betrayal by some of the Natal Indian Congress leaders, he is able to show his face with equanimity in the councils of the Empire and the United Nations.

But the Pretoria Agreement has more far-reaching significance for the Indian people. It sounds their death knell as a community aspiring to full rights of citizenship in this country. Not only would acquiescence remove the Indian question from the international field, but it would also isolate the Indian people into separate areas from whence they can look forward to further and more damaging restrictions in the economic and social field. It would be a policy of mass political suicide.

But the Indian people will not fall into such trap. We shall show by our united efforts and mass struggles in common with other sections of the non-European people, that the Pegging Act must be repealed immediately and unconditionally and that elementary democratic rights and not segregation must be awarded to our people.

Yusuf Mohamed Dadoo South Africa's Freedom Struggle: Statements, Speeches and Articles including Correspondence with Mahatma Gandhi

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