1946 Passive Resistance Campaign


An acute labour shortage forced White settlers in Natal to plead to the Indian Government to send its citizens to work in their cane fields. After protracted negotiations between the Natal Government and the Secretary of State for the Colonies, the Natal Coolie Law, Law 14 of 1859 was passed. On securing the reluctant agreement of the Indian Government (under British rule) the wheels of immigration were set in motion.

This law made it possible for the Colony to introduce immigration of Indians as indentured labourers in the Natal sugar cane fields, with the option to return to India at the end of the five year period in which case a free passage would be provided. The system also provided for the labourers to re-indenture for a further five year period which would make them eligible to settle permanently in the colony. The indentured Indian labourers were also entitled to a gift of crown land and full citizenship rights.

The first batch of 342 indentured labourers arrived in Durban, Natal on 16 November 1860.   From their arrival Indian workers were forced to endure the harshest working and inhuman living conditions. A slew of racist legislation was employed to advance and protect the interests of the plantation owners rather than the new arrivals.

Deprived of the franchise, segregated into overcrowded areas and uninhabitable housing, prohibited from walking on pavements or travelling from one province to another, the newly arrived Indians were treated nothing less than serfs. Their lot was aggravated by a lack of legislation to protect them. 

Notwithstanding the unrelenting vitriol of a largely rabid White racist community, through sheer sacrifice and perseverance, they overcame the humiliation of being relegated to and treated as second class citizens in their newly adopted country.

Discriminatory laws directed at the Indian community

In 1876 the Free State Republic passed legislation allowing Indians to enter the Republic with the understanding that they have no permanent right of residence.

The Volksraad of the South African Republic (as the Transvaal was then known) passed the first racially discriminatory legislation, Law 3 of 1885, which prohibited Indians from acquiring citizenship or owning property in the South African Republic except in ‘streets, wards and locations’ set aside for them. The “Gold Law” of 1908 extended this prohibition to the gold fields of the Witwatersrand.

In 1888 legislation is passed compelling Indians to carry passes or court arrest.

The Orange Free State Act 29 of 1890 "aims to provide against the influx of Asiatics and the removal of White criminals entering the state from elsewhere." There were nine licensed Indian, traders in the Free State. By 1891, The Volksraad in the Orange Free State (OFS) passed a law expelling all Indians from the province. The expelled are awarded nominal compensation.

The Franchise Act of 1894 is introduced in Natal to disenfranchise Indians. The Franchise Act No 8 of 1896 disenfranchised Indians. African people were disenfranchised in 1865. Only three Africans and 251 Indians ever acquired voting rights in Natal. There were 9,309 White voters in 1896.

The Peace Preservation Ordinance and Ordinance No. 5 of 1903 regulated the re-entry of Indians who had left the Transvaal for Natal, the Cape Colony and India when war broke out. It restricted Indians into segregated locations, refused trading licenses except in the ‘Asiatic bazaars’ and pre-war licences of Asiatics become non-transferable.

The Immigration Restriction Act of 1905 provided the government to control entry of Indians into Transvaal through a special permit system.

The Precious and Base Metals Act, Act No. 35 of 1908, Transvaal (“Gold Law”) was, over the next 30 years, extended in scope and amended in an attempt to close loopholes. This law prevented Coloured persons (African, Indian or Coloured) from residing or owning land in certain areas except when such persons are in the employ of White people or the local authority has granted permission for usage.

The Immigrants Regulations Act, No. 22 of 1913 prevented Indians from moving to other provinces. The majority of Indians were compelled to remain in Natal, with the greatest concentration being in and around Durban. The endeavours made by Indians to acquire and occupy property brought in its wake a great deal of anti-Indian legislation and propaganda.

As a response to an upsurge in anti—Indian sentiment among South African Whites, a call is made for a national conference to discuss this issue. The initiative comes from the Cape British Indian Council (CBIC) which holds a conference, in Cape Town on 2 January 1919; leading to the formation of the South African Indian Congress (SAIC) on 4 June 1923.

Discriminatory practices against Indians in acquiring property

Indentured Indians lived in barracks and huts on the sugar plantations; Free Indians with neither capital nor security of tenure in towns or peri-urban areas lived in structures of an impermanent character and Indians who could afford to do so constructed brick houses or lived in premises attached to dwellings. Areas occupied by Indians came to be characterised by a welter of shacks and shanties amid substantial homes.

The Union Government’s Minister of the Interior, Patrick Duncan, introduced the Class Areas Bill in January 1924, the first major attempt to compulsory segregate Indians, residentially and commercially, in South Africa.

Dr Daniel François Malan, the Minister of Interior, introduced The Areas Reservation and immigration and Registration (Further Provision) Bill, in July 1925, which dealt with residential and commercial segregation in the Indian community as well as land ownership and the Immigration Regulation Act.

In 1927 The Government of India intervened and an agreement was reached between the South African and Indian Governments which provided, inter alia, that efforts should be made to induce Natal Indians to return to India by paying their passages and giving them a generous bonus on landing in India.

The Cape Town Conference was the result of South African Indian agitation against Malan’s proposed 1923 Areas Reservation and Immigration and Registration (Further Provisions) Bill, which sought to forcefully segregate Indian residence and trading and to reduce the number of Indians living in South Africa. The Pact Government, under MaIan’s leadership, guided by its ‘white supremacist support base in the alliance between the white petit bourgeoisie and labour, had no doubts about the purpose of the proposed Bill:

- - - the Indian...is an alien element...and that no solution of this question will be acceptable to the country unless it results in a very considerable reduction of the Indian population - - -

The Thornton Commission

The Cape Town Agreement recommended an investigation into the sanitary and housing conditions of Indians in Durban and its environs. On 19 September 1928, the Minister of Public Health appointed a Committee to enquire into the sanitary and housing conditions of Indians in and around Durban. The Chairman of the Committee was Sir Edward N. Thornton. The Committee went on a tour of inspection to various parts of the Borough of Durban and the peri-urban areas. It heard evidence from the local authorities concerned. The Indian community is allowed to express its views to the Thornton Commission through representatives of the Natal Indian Congress (NIC) and other organisations.

The Committee noted the NIC’s opposition to the Durban Land Alienation Ordinance, No 14 of 1922 (Natal) which enabled the Durban City Council (DCC) to exclude Indians from ownership or occupation of municipal property. Because of the strenuous opposition to the Ordinance the Government gave an assurance to the Indian community:

The Government considers it reasonable that the Administrator in giving his approval to racial restrict ions introduced into land sales should see as far as possible that the Asiatics should be given reasonable opportunity of acquiring adequate residential sites.

However, the Ordinance was passed and Indians were prohibited from acquiring municipal land. When the Council opened such areas as Glenwood and Morningside for sale, Indians were precluded from purchasing sites in these regions by an anti-Asiatic clause. Indian representatives protested that the DCC had acted in breach of the Council’s undertaking to the Government in not providing land for Indians. The Thornton Commission Report said that ‘out of 14 municipal land sales, all the land was earmarked for Europeans and none for Indians’.

Role of the Durban City Council

The DCC in its evidence to the Thornton Commission maintained that there were few available sites within the Borough which could be utilised to provide housing on a viable basis.” The Council complained that the Indian community was not willing to co-operate in establishing an Indian village at Cato Manor because they regarded it as segregation to which they were totally opposed.” The Thornton Commission however castigated the Council for its failure in providing housing for Indians.

Almost a decade elapsed, after the Thornton Commission presented its report, before the DCC begins to plan its first Indian housing scheme comprising fifty economic houses and fifty sub-economic houses at Cato Manor. The Council probably would not have commenced with such plans had Dr Malan, Minister of the Interior, not threatened to withdraw the £50 000 grant to the DCC.

The first housing survey in the ‘Greater Durban’ area revealed that among the poorly housed the greatest deficiency was in respect of Indians. Closely allied to the problem of housing was the question of housing loans. Though the Council was empowered to make loans to individuals in terms of the Housing Act No 35 of 1920 and the Thornton Commission recommended a sum of £25 000 for the purpose. In September 1929, the DCC adopted the principle of granting loans to Indians from the Housing Loan Fund to erect buildings on their freehold properties.

It was only in April 1934 that the first loan of £300, at an interest of 4% p.a. (over 20 years) was granted to Saminaden Chetty to erect a house. The next year, loan conditions were made more stringent, disqualifying many applicants. By 1940, only twenty-two loans had been granted totalling £7,409 out of 63 applicants. The Indian applicant had to satisfy the City Treasurer that his financial position warranted the granting of a loan.

The Special Committee for Housing recommended the provision of one hundred sub-economic houses for Indians at Cato Manor and Springfield to accommodate Indians who were being housed in Mayville and Riverside in terms of the Council’s slum clearance activities. The City Council resolved on 6 December 1937 that 100 quarter acre sites at Cato Manor were to be utilised for an economic housing scheme for the Indian community. Fifty of these sites were to be made available to applicants who wished to engage their own contractors. The remaining fifty sites were to be devoted to the construction of fifty detached four-roomed houses erected at a total cost of £31,273. The selling prices of these houses were to range from £500 to £660. The monthly repayment ranged from £2.12.O to £3.0.0 extending over a period of 29 years. A deposit of £5 was required.

Indians declined the houses as they simply could not afford them as well as the fact that the scheme was segregated. The DCC refused to construct further houses for Indians because of their response to the schemes at Cato Manor and Springfield.

On 4 May 1938, the Hertzog Government introduced the Transvaal Land and Trading (Asiatics) Bill, a two year interim measure designed to restrict Indian trading and property rights in the gold mining areas of Transvaal.

The eminent Indian philosopher and statesman, Sir Sarvapillai Radhakrishnan, persuaded the NIC and the Colonial-born and Settlers’ Indian Association (CBSIA) to unite. They formed the Natal Indian Association (NIA) on 8 October 1939. This unity was short-lived and three months later A. I. Kajee and Swami Bhawani Dayal led a splinter group into the NIC, an organisation founded by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in l894.

The NIA opposed the policy of segregation suggested by the DCC. The organisation focussed on Indian poverty and emphasised that Indians in general did not have the means to threaten White property holdings. It pointed out that after 80 years since their immigration to the country, only 88,226 Indians out of a total population of approximately 2 million in Natal, owned rateable property valued at £4 000 000 against a total valuation of £48,998,500.

The DCC continued its vendetta against Indians. The Town Clerk of Durban wrote to the Secretary for the Interior, reporting that ‘Indian penetration’ was growing worse because from 1 August 1937 to 31 July 1939 some 140 properties were acquired from Europeans by Indians in the Old Borough of Durban.

The Government represented by Minister of the Interior, H.G. Lawrence, intervened in what developed into a conflict between the NIA and the DCC. The NIA vehemently opposed any statutory segregation of Indians, and Prime Minister General Jan Christiaan Smuts, worked out a subterfuge solution—there would be no statutory segregation, but the NIA would dissuade Indians from purchasing property in European areas. In the meanwhile there would be an enquiry into the accusation of penetration.

The Minister proposed that an Indian sub-committee be appointed to work in close co-operation with the House Committee of the DCC. This was the first time that Indians were offered any direct representation in solving a problem directly affecting them. They accepted the offer. The DCC however, was reluctant. It took considerable persuasion from the Central Government to get the DCC to agree to cooperate with the NIA on a joint committee following the Government’s announcement of a Commission of Inquiry. The NIA undertook that the status quo, regarding the acquisition of property by Indians in White areas was maintained until the findings of the Commission were published.

The Lawrence Committee

In 1936 Kajee agreed to a suggestion made by the Minister of the Interior, Jan Hendrik Hofmeyr, to come to an agreement regarding amenities for the Indian and White communities in urban areas.

The arrangement between the Natal Municipal Association (NMA) and the NIC was that the former would notify the NIC of any attempt by an Indian to purchase property in White residential areas. The NIC would endeavour to dissuade the person from such a transaction. This understanding came to be regarded as the ‘Kajee Assurance’, also referred to as the ‘Gentleman’s Agreement’ since it was not reduced to writing.

The DCC agreed to the establishing of the Joint Committee, regarded as the first attempt to discuss mutual Indo-European interests in terms of ‘voluntary co-operation and goodwill’. The NIA convened a mass meeting on 11 February 1940 to confirm the terms of the assurance. A more radical opposition group within the NIA, the Nationalist Bloc, represented by Manilal Gandhi, Cassim I. Amra, M.I. Timol, George Ponnen, H.A. Naidoo and Dr Gangathura (Monty) Mohambry Naicker opposed the assurance on the grounds ‘that they were opposed to the principle of segregation and the assurance amounted to a voluntary submission to that principle’.

The DCC agreed to the establishing of the Joint Committee, regarded as the first attempt to discuss mutual Indo-European interests in terms of ‘voluntary co-operation and goodwill’. The NIA convened a mass meeting on 11 February 1940 to confirm the terms of the assurance. A more radical opposition group within the NIA, the Nationalist Bloc, represented by Manilal Gandhi, Cassim I. Amra, M.I. Timol, George Ponnen, H.A. Naidoo and Dr Gangathura (Monty) Mohambry Naicker opposed the assurance on the grounds ‘that they were opposed to the principle of segregation and the assurance amounted to a voluntary submission to that principle’.

Despite the Nationalist Bloc’s strong opposition, A. Christopher, J.W. Godfrey, A.S. Kajee, P.B. Singh, Sorabjee Rustomjee, P.R. Pather and A.M.M. Lockhart were selected as the NIA representatives on the Joint Committee on 17 February 1940. The Council’s representatives were the Mayor, Councillor R. Ellis-Brown and Councillors H.G. Capell, T. Kinloch, W.E. Knight, D.C. Shepstone and J.M. Harris.

The Government appointed the Lawrence Committee, which held its inaugural meeting on 14 March 1940 — its function was to prevent the acquisition of property by Indians, occupied for residential purposes by Europeans, within the borough of Durban.  Committees were appointed by the DCC and the NIA and by joint consultation to further the aims of the Lawrence Committee. In the early months of its existence the Lawrence Committee did useful work; the Indian members were also commended for their good work.

The NIA also hoped that through the Committee, the DCC would be made aware of the serious need for Indian housing’’ as the question of housing and civic amenities would be central to the discussion of the Committee.  The Nationalist Bloc within the NIA considered participation in the Lawrence Committee ‘a self inflicted slur and stigma on the name of the Indian community.’ 

With time, problems appeared as members of the Lawrence Committee held irreconcilable views with regard to the scope of the Committee. The Indian representatives held the view that in dissuading Indians from acquiring properties in predominantly White areas they hoped that the DCC would provide Indians with sites which would enjoy the same civic amenities as available to Whites residents of Durban. These hopes remained unfulfilled.

The DCC, for its part, held the view that these expectations were not intended in the machinery created by the Lawrence Committee. Because of these diametrically opposite views a deadlock resulted. This necessitated the intervention of the Minister of the Interior, H.G. Lawrence, on 7 November 1940. The Minister pointed out to the Committee that the Indian members were justified in their expectations and that the DCC “should not leave the Indian community in the lurch”.

However, the DCC had no intention of giving way to the suggestions or to the requests made by the Indian representatives of the Committee. In July, 1942, a further deadlock in the working of the Committee resulted when the DCC proposed a scheme to expropriate the Riverside, Merebank and Sydenham areas for White use.

The Indian representatives told the Lawrence Committee that the DCC was doing nothing more for Indian housing than creating agitation. They stated that they were no longer prepared to act only as “policemen” and that Whites had to be blamed for selling to Indians, thus creating a situation which gave rise to complaints of “penetration” into European areas.

The Indian representatives of the Lawrence Committee were not the only persons to protest against the DCC’s expropriation scheme; a Durban Joint Council of Action was formed to oppose the scheme. Senator Edgar Brookes was one of the speakers at a protest meeting organised by this Council. He said that the proposed expropriation was “an effort to introduce segregation under the guise of slum clearance”.

These irreconcilable views led to the demise of the Lawrence Committee as it was unable either to control Indian “penetration” or to provide satisfactory housing schemes for Indians. The Committee failed because of the attitude of the DCC, which was reluctant to provide adequate Indian housing in the more suitable areas. Furthermore, the Committee also failed because the NIA Indian representatives were unable to claim to be the representatives of the entire community. Some of the more wealthy Indians who were outside the pale of the Association could not be prevailed upon to refrain from making purchases of property in European areas. The Lawrence Committee was dissolved in 1942. The Minister of the Interior announced that an Indian Advisory Board would take its place.

The Broome Commission

The Government’s concern over complaints that Indians were penetrating White areas led to the appointment of the Indian Penetration Commission (Broome Commission) under the Chairmanship of Justice F.N. Broome on 15 May 1940. The Commission was to enquire and report on the extent of Indian penetration since 1 January 1927 ‘for trading or residential purposes in predominantly European areas in Natal and in the Transvaal (excluding proclaimed lands)’.

The Indian community was opposed to the Broome Commission claiming their indisputable right to reside and trade according to their choice in any locality. The NIA appealed to the Government to suspend the Commission but this was refused. It said that the community was opposed to segregation in any form and the Commission “was humiliating to Indian nationhood” because the Indian community was singled out “for investigation with a view to segregation”.

By the end of May 1940 the Commission had dealt with 33 cases. In each case, it had established Indians had purchased properties in White areas in order ‘to live in a decent locality where not only better environments but also civic amenities were available’. The Committee failed, as it was bound to, because of the conflicting agendas of the two groups — Indians, who had no desire to live with Whites, saw it as a means of obtaining land and housing for Indians who had been condemned into slum conditions; the DCC saw it as a means to block Indians from acquiring any further property in the only areas where any property at all could be found, White areas or areas under municipal control.

Rise of the radicals

The radical bloc in the Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC) held a mass meeting on 7 October 1940 to protest the establishment of the Indian Penetration Commission (Broome Commission) to inquire into alleged penetration of predominantly ‘European’ areas by Indians in Natal and the Transvaal since 1 January 1927.

The Nationalist blocs in the TIC and in the NIA — the younger and more militant political activists who were rapidly gaining ground towards the eventual leadership of these political bodies called on Indians to boycott the Commission, and appealed to the Government of India to express its strong disapproval. The Union Government took action against some of them under the War Measures Act. Some of those arrested (both from the NIC and the TIC) were Dr Yusuf Mohamed Dadoo, H. A. Naidoo, C. I. Amra, R. K. Naidoo, K. S. Pillay, and D. A. Seedat.

On 2 March 1941 the NIA convened a mass meeting at the Durban City Hall to protest against impending appropriation of Indian land for White housing. The representatives of the NIC and the NIA met the Special Committee regarding Housing on 31 March 1941. They were scathing of the DCC’s actions regarding the expropriation of Indian land, maintaining that the DCC was intent on segregation through eliminating Indian residents from their lands to make way for White housing

Report of the Indian Penetration Commission


The Report of the Indian Penetration Commission was made public on 11 October 1941. In the Transvaal, the Commission found 339 cases of penetration from 1927 to 1940; 246 cases being for trade and 93 for residence. Of the 232 cases of urban penetration, 111 occurred in the unproclaimed portion of the Johannesburg municipal area. Of the 111 cases, 50 occurred in Doornfontein which was a predominantly White area in 1927 but lost its White character since then because of a common characteristic of urban development — migration. The Commission reported that the facts did not disclose “a situation which can by any stretch of imagination be described as critical”.

In its Report the Commission considered the reasons for Indian penetration. It rejected the view that there was a general desire among Transvaal Indians to live among Whites. It also rejected the view that White exodus from towns such as Doornfontein was caused by Indian infiltration into such areas. The Commission concluded that White exodus preceded the entry by Indians. The Commission then advanced three factors that contributed to penetration in urban areas. In areas other than Johannesburg and Pretoria, centralisation of trade was taking place in the larger centres through improved means of communications; smaller centres appeared less attractive to the trader. The second factor was that the traditional family system was changing and some sons were branching off after marriage and more and more Indian traders were living away from their shops, increasing the demand for residential premises. The third factor was the acquisition of immovable property by companies in which Indians held a predominant interest or by Cape Malay women married to Indians: once de facto Indian ownership was established, Indian occupation followed.

The Commission’s Report was a clear vindication of the Transvaal Indians and it showed that there was nothing unusual, abnormal or damaging in what bad taken place in respect of penetration. Far from the European being aggrieved, the Commission found that “truly the Transvaal Indian is between the horns of a cruel dilemma.”


The Commission divided Natal into two parts – Natal, excluding Durban, and Durban alone. In the first part the Commission found 328 cases of penetration for residential and trading purposes and 89 cases for agricultural purposes. Having regard to the Indian population in this area, (103 173 in 1936), the Commission found that the position did not appear to be serious being “little more than a trickle”.

The Commission then dealt with the position in Durban in two parts: the Old Borough up till 1932 (which consisted of approximately 13 square miles) and the Added Areas since 1932 which extended the Old Borough of 13 square miles to the new Municipal area of 67 square miles). In the Old Borough the Commission found 512 cases of penetration by Indians into predominantly White areas, of which 150 sites were acquired and occupied and 362 sites were acquired but not occupied. In the Added Areas, the Commission was unable to establish which portions were predominantly White in 1927 since it did not receive any information from the DCC on the position prior to 1934. Of the 1, 759 divisions acquired by Indians since the beginning of 1934 the Commission found that 730 of these adjoined sub-divisions which were already in Indian ownership on that date. The Commission found that the greater part of the Added Areas was not predominantly White in 1927 and it concluded that the position in the Added Areas was not acute.

The Commission found that the desire to make investments was the most important single reason for “penetration” in Natal. In its over-all findings the Indian Penetration Commission exploded two commonly held myths of that and of an earlier time — that there was inordinate Indian “penetration” in predominantly European areas in the Transvaal and in Natal and that one of the reasons for this “penetration” was the desire of Indians to live among Whites. In its concluding remarks, the Commission said:

“. . . before we leave the subject we desire to repeat that we do not believe there is any general desire on the part of Indians to live among Europeans. Where they have acquired properties in European areas they have been actuated by the desire to make money, or by the desire to live in areas that are more attractive to them for reasons other than the presence of Europeans there.”

The findings of an impartial judicial Commission showed that the allegations made against Indians were unfounded. It was a reasonable expectation that the Government would take serious note of the true position and act in support of the Commission’s findings — the Government did not. 

The Indian community’s on-going struggle for decent housing

The DCC‘s Special Committee on Housing convened a meeting of all parties opposed to the its housing scheme on 7 November 1941. The NIA and NIC were allowed only one representative each and input limited to ten minutes. Nonetheless, they argued forcefully and put their case succinctly.

P.R. Pather, representing the NIA, took strong exception to the fact that the Mayor made representation without consulting or even informing the Indian members of the Lawrence Committee and said that it was pointless for the NIA to continue cooperating with the Housing Committee under the circumstances. The NIA withdrew from the Committee. The NIC, however, adopted a more conciliatory approach. A. I. Kajee, representing the NIC, argued that Riverside represented the thorniest problem since Indians were being removed to make way for Whites. He suggested Riverside, and for similar reasons, Sydenham, should be omitted from the Council’s plans and the Council should continue its plans with building houses for Indians in Merebank/Wentworth. He objected to the expropriation of any Indian-owned land for groups other than Indians. Any expropriation should be restricted for roads or public amenities. He proposed that two assessors, one nominated by the landowner and the other by the DCC should determine the current fair market value of the property where expropriation was mutually agreed upon as in the case where White lands in Merebank/Wentworth, adjacent to the Indian properties, had to be acquired for Indian housing. The Council considered the suggestions made by the Indian representatives as unviable for the monumental scheme contemplated. A stalemate thus ensued, which was only resolved when the Central Housing Board decided to inspect the areas in question.

On the international front, the Government had still to show that it was concerned about the damaging results its policy towards Indians had, especially in the relations between South Africa and India. Far from evincing any concern, the Union Government took a number of steps during the last three years of the war which aggravated the position. The first of these steps was the appointment of an Asiatic Affairs Advisory Board to take the place of the defunct Lawrence Committee. The Board was to comprise four White and four Indian members, with a White chairman.  

The first breach in the working of the Board was caused when, Sorabjee Rustomjee, declined to accept appointment because of doubts concerning the attitude of the DCC, especially after the experience of the Lawrence Committee. Rustomjee said that he doubted whether the Board would be able to serve any useful purpose until the DCC was “prepared to do justice to Indians as citizens and not act in a partisan spirit”.

The second was the appointment of a Second Commission of Enquiry in the person of a single commissioner, Justice F. N. Broome, to enquire into acquisitions of sites by Indians in Durban since 30 September 1940, in those areas which the previous Indian Penetration Commission of 1940 found to be predominantly European on 1 January 1927.

In appointing a Commission to investigate “penetration” by Indians in European areas between 1940 and 1943 the Union Government clearly indicated that it was not satisfied with the findings of the Commission of 1940 that there was no justification for the complaints made by Europeans that penetration was taking place at a rapid pace in Durban mainly because Indians wanted to live next to Europeans.

The Indian Government’s reaction

After Indians had been absolved from the charge of penetration by the Commission of 1940, it was obvious that the appointment of the latest Commission would not serve to improve relations between India and South Africa. Already relations were deteriorating and this was in evidence when the Central Legislative Assembly in New Delhi passed the Indian Reciprocity Act in 1943, which aimed to impose the same restrictions on South African Whites in India as were imposed on Indians in South Africa.

In terms of the Act it was possible for such Whites in India to be declared undesirable elements, to be denied permanent residence in India, required to deposit £100 before entering India, denied contact with Indian women, segregated in post offices, railways, public places and to occupy seats especially reserved for them.

Though the Act was not yet enforced, and it was not even clear how its enforcement would result in improving the political atmosphere between Pretoria and New Delhi, a statement by the Minister of the Interior H. G. Lawrence, in Senate, on 22 March, 1943, did nothing to improve the situation. He said that if the Report of the Second Indian Penetration Commission upheld the allegations of the DCC, the Government would have to act and that any legislation introduced would have retrospective effect as from 22 March 1943. The Minister mentioned that feelings were running so high that racial riots [between Indians and Whites] were possible in Durban.

The High Commissioner for India, Sir Shafa’at Ahmad Khan, after reading press reports of Lawrence’s Senate speech, informed the Minister that the Government and the people of India would strongly oppose any statutory solution of the Indian question in Natal which involved the segregation of Indians in prescribed residential areas. The High Commissioner asked to be informed of the Union Government’s intentions before any irrevocable steps were taken. On 26 March Sir Shafa’at Ahmad Khan saw Smuts who was non-committal on the matter. On the following day the High Commissioner informed Minister Lawrence that he had been instructed by the Government of India to repeat objections against any segregation measures.

The report of the Second Indian Penetration Commission dated 25 March 1943 was made public. The High Commissioner again reminded the Minister of the Interior on 30 March 1943 that the Government of India had asked for an opportunity to be informed of the proposals of the Union Government in order to make their representations before any final decision was taken.

The report vindicated the DCC’s allegations that penetration on a large scale was taking place in Durban. Between October 1940 and February 1943, it found 326 cases of penetration. The Commission found that the number of sites acquired during 1942, the last complete year of its enquiry, was 24 times greater than the highest previous yearly total, viz., 1939; that during the first two months of 1943 Indians paid more for sites in White areas than during any complete year dealt with by the previous Commission, and that the amount so paid by Indians during the 29 months covered by the present Commission did not fall far short of the total amount paid during the whole of the 13 complete years covered by the previous Commission.

The Commission said that the abnormal conditions brought about by the war restricted the trade facilities enjoyed by wealthy Indians in Durban with the result they invested their money in immovable properties. The NIC claimed that there was acceleration in acquiring properties and this applied to White purchasers as well. It asserted that properties were also changing hands from Indian ownership to Whites. The Commission, however, found that this process was of a lesser extent in that only 16 properties were so acquired as compared to 326 sites acquired by Indians from Europeans.

Having shown that there were no general changing hands of property, the Commission went on to consider the other reasons for the rapid penetration since 1940. One of these was the impression created by reading only the summary of the first Indian Penetration Commission Report, which conveyed the mistaken idea that no Indian penetration had taken place since 1927. The Indian community, which shared this mistaken impression, felt that having been acquitted of the charge of “penetration” they were free to penetrate further. Finally, the Commission said that a possible reason was the desire of the Indian community “to pass through the door while it is still ajar”.

The Report was accepted by both the Union Government and Parliament as complete justification for restrictive legislation. The Union Cabinet met on 6 April, the day on which the Report was published, to discuss the nature of the proposed legislation. The next day the newspapers carried news of a Cabinet crisis in which J.H. Hofmeyr threatened to resign because of his disagreement with the suggested legislation.

The Bill covering both Natal and the Transvaal was published on 7 April 1943. Its purpose was to restrict trading and the occupation of land in Transvaal by Indians and to impose restrictions on the acquisition and occupation of land in Natal — The Trading and Occupation of Land (Transvaal and Natal) Restriction Bill 35/1943 . All acquisitions or occupations were to be controlled by permits from the Minister.

In Natal, the position in Durban was to be pegged so that no Indian would be permitted to occupy or acquire property occupied or owned by a White before 22 March 1943. Similar provisions could be applied at any time to the rest of Natal by proclamation. Whites were disqualified from acquiring property in Indian ownership or possession on 22 March. These provisions were to cease to have effect on 31 March 1946, but could be extended or revived by resolution of Parliament.

The Pegging Act

With approaching general elections, attempting to woo support by pursuing a virulently anti-Indian line, Prime Minister Smuts renewed the Transvaal Land and Trading Act but this time for a period of three years. He also extended its restrictive provisions with regard to the purchase and occupation of residential property to Durban by introducing the Trading and Occupation of Land (Transvaal and Natal) Restriction Act which banned White–Indian property transactions in Durban for three years. It was called the “Pegging Act” as the intention was to “peg” Indian acquisition and occupation of land at 22 March 1943 levels until further measures were introduced.

On 7 April 1943 the NIC convened a mass meeting at the Avalon Theatre in Durban to protest against the proposed legislation. The Chairman, M.A. Motala, in his speech accused the Government of rushing in a racist Bill ‘with an eye on the forthcoming elections and that the Government desires to appease a few vociferous European voters and is not concerned with the feelings of the thousands of Indians - - -‘

The Government of India issued a press communiqué on 8 April 1943 in which they emphasised their interest in the proposed legislation and expressed its regret at the failure of the Union Government to give them an opportunity to comment on the proposals. It further requested the Union Government to re-examine the position and to arrive at a scheme for the voluntary restriction of inter-racial purchases of property. The Union Government was informed that the Reciprocity Bill has been passed into law with the unanimous approval of the Indian legislature as retaliation.

The Bill was first read on 10 April 1943, a day after a deputation of 16 NIC members waited on the Minister H.G. Lawrence, and presented him a comprehensive memorandum in which the Indian case was set out with great clarity. It pointed out that the Second Penetration Commission did not draw a distinction between ownership and occupation and that if this had been done, 326 cases of acquisition would have been set out in correct perspective showing only 54 cases of ownership for purposes of actual occupation.

The memorandum went on to state that the Commissioner had appended a map showing acquisitions in “Block AL.” This map dealt with a small part of Durban’s residential Berea. The pictorial presentation of the map showed at a glance the accelerated pace of Indian purchases — from two sub-divisions in 1927, twenty-five from 1927 to 1940, to 77 in the twenty-nine months of the war.

Building societies in Durban decided no loans would be granted to Indians to acquire property in areas considered to be predominantly White. This decision was conveyed to the DCC. Yet from May 1942 onwards, building societies continued giving loans on properties acquired by Indians in the western portion of “Block AL”, which facilitated the acquisition of properties by Indians. The majority of the 77 sub-divisions were purchased by Indians after May 1942. This policy indicated that the building societies considered the western portion of “Block AL” one in which Indians should be allowed and assisted to purchase property.

The NIC pointed out that the total number of 838 acquisitions since 1927, coupled with the 204 acres which were deemed to be predominantly Indian in 1927, totalled 359 acres which constituted only 4 percent of the total acreage of the Old Borough of 8 274 acres. The DCC was content to confine its 25 000 Indians in an area of 204 acres.

Its memorandum revealed some interesting figures concerning Indian housing in Durban up till 1943 — that while 50 economic houses had been built by the DCC at a cost of £26,708 and 225 sub-economic houses at a cost of £117,000 for an Indian population of 90,000, 705 houses costing £659,882 had been built for a White population of 102,000; and while 1,100 sites had been sold to Europeans, only 16 were sold to Indians.

Referring to the case presented by the DCC on Indian “penetration”, the NIC memorandum claimed that the DCC had exaggerated the position out of all proportion; that the value of property held by Indians in the Old Borough was £4 million compared to White holding of £35 million; Indians owned 1,783 sites as against 12,782 owned by Whites. If Indian holding in 16 years had increased by £2, 7 million of which £1, 7 million was in- Indian areas – White holding had increased by £15, 6 million in the same period; of a total of 8,274 acres, Indians held 359 acres or 4% of the total.

Following the submission of this statement to the Minister of the Interior, copies of a booklet containing the memorandum were sent to all members of the Senate and the House of Assembly, together with an open letter to each member whereby the NIC made a fervent plea for the Bill to be rejected.

On 18 April 1944 Smuts met a NIC delegation led by A.I. Kajee, P.R. Pather and S.R. Naidoo and announced the Pretoria Agreement. While the Agreement was meant to apply to land for housing, the authorities in Natal extended this to the occupation and acquisition of business and agriculture property.

A section of the Indian community denounced the Pretoria Agreement as a betrayal by their leaders in that it was a voluntary acceptance of segregation; the rank and file of the Indians suspected wealthy Indians would use the Agreement to invest their wealth in purchasing property in Durban. In their eyes, those Indians who had negotiated the Agreement were “wealthy Indians”. Whites opposed the Pretoria Agreement because those primarily concerned, viz., the DCC and the citizens of Durban were not consulted at all.

The Government then announced the appointment of a Commission of Enquiry into Matters Affecting the Indian Population of the Province of Natal, (Third Broome Commission). It was to go into all matters pertaining to Indians in Natal and especially to report on how best to implement the “uplift” clauses of the Cape Town Agreement.

The members of the Commission were Justice Broome (Chairman); W. M. Power, M.E.C., Natal; Senator D. G. Shepstone A. L. Barns; A. I. Kajee and S. R. Naidoo — the two last-named representing the NIC. The Indian members made it clear that they regarded themselves as free to continue to work for the repeal or the withdrawal of the “Pegging” Act.

The SAIC presented a memorandum to the Prime Minister, General Smuts, on 29 March 1944, which pointed out that the effect of the “Pegging” Act was to freeze the elementary right of ownership and occupation of property. The memorandum suggested that the “Pegging” Act be annulled and that, for Durban, its place should be taken temporarily by a Board or Committee of two Whites and two Indians, with a chairman with legal training. This Board or Committee should have the power to issue licences for occupation of houses in areas where there was “a sharp racial distinction of residential property occupation”.

The Prime Minister and the Minister of the Interior meet the Administrator of Natal and D. E. Mitchell, M.E.C., Senator D. G. Shepstone and NIC representatives: A. I. Kajee, P. R. Pather, S. R. Naidoo, A. B. Moosa, T. N. Bhoola, M. Ebrahim and S. M. Paruk in connection with matters arising out of the application of the “Pegging” Act in Natal. At the end of the meeting, held in Pretoria on 18 April 1944, the Prime Minister issued a press statement that the Board would be constituted in terms of an Ordinance to be introduced by the Natal Provincial Council, whereupon the “Pegging” Act would be withdrawn by proclamation.”

Though the Pretoria Agreement met with great local opposition, it was an attempt at modifying the provisions of the “Pegging” Act and to that extent it received the support of the Government of India. In terms of the Agreement, the Natal Provincial Council was empowered to introduce an Ordinance which would create a Board to prevent juxtapositional living. The Natal Provincial Council drafted an Ordinance which was rejected by the NIC as being contrary to the agreed terms. A second Ordinance called the Draft Occupational Control Ordinance was introduced and was met with firm opposition from Whites.  The Provincial Council referred it to a Select Committee which submitted an entirely new Draft Ordinance called the Residential Property Regulation Draft Ordinance.

The NIC claimed that the latest draft was in conflict with the Pretoria Agreement in many respects. It made provision for the control of acquisition of residential property whereas the Pretoria Agreement was concerned only with the occupation of individual dwellings; the scope of the new Draft Ordinance was not limited to Durban, it gave statutory legality to voluntary agreements arrived at between local authorities and local Indian communities; it interfered in the sphere of property transactions; it made provision for the White members of the Board to be drawn from persons nominated by local authorities and the views of the town councils or town boards had to be taken into account.

The Residential Property Regulation Draft Ordinance was one of four Ordinances which were, at the time, interdependent and “designed to relegate the Indian community to certain specific areas” — a principle which Indians had always opposed. The three other Ordinances were the Natal Housing Board Ordinance, the Provincial and Local Authorities Expropriation Ordinance and the Town Planning Ordinance. The NIC refused to accept the Draft Ordinance and carried its protests from the Provincial level to the Prime Minister.

The Pegging Bill received its first and second readings in the Senate. Senator Edgar Brookes presented a petition from the NIA asking for the Bill to be rejected. He felt that India had the right to make representations to the Union Government on issues which affected her internal situation. South African Indians appealed to India because, the Senator said, fair treatment was not given to them:

“Indians will behave as sons of South Africa” he said, “when South Africa ceases to treat them as step-sons. You cannot ask an Indian to feel the same unfeigned loyalty to South Africa which a member of the more privileged classes, unhampered by legal restrictions, feels.

Indians in South Africa and India protested against the measures from its inception. Both the NIA and the NIC presented petitions to be heard at the Bar of the House through private Members, Morris Alexander and Mrs Ballinger, but were unsuccessful. A.I Kajee addressed a meeting of Natal M.P.s. Similarly, the TIC presented a memorandum to the Minister of Interior — all to no avail.

The Pegging Bill received international attention during the war and brought denunciation from Axis radio stations in Berlin, Tokyo, Rome and Saigon.  

On 28 April 1944 the Anti Segregation Council (ASC), with Dr Monty Naicker as Chairman, was formed to oppose voluntary segregation. Other elected members were  A.K.M. Docrat (Secretary), M. Rajab (Treasurer), George Singh, M.D. Naidoo, Dr K. Goonam and Dr S.R. Deenadayalu (Committee Members)

A 1944 NIC survey, Report of Investigation into Housing Conditions and Housing Needs and the Provision of Civic Amenities, reported on the Indian housing situation. In the Clairwood area there was a total Indian population of 7 659 occupying 763 houses. This region was considered to be the most densely populated in Durban, greatly overcrowded and with extremely grave housing needs.

Comparing the available civic amenities with Montclair, a nearby area occupied by Whites, the NIC reported glaring discrepancies in the construction of roads, pavements, kerbs and gutters. Other areas surveyed, such as Puntan’s Hill, Overport, Springfield, the Mayville area and Sydenham generally presented as dismal a scenario as that of Clairwood.

In the Clairwood-Jacobs area four squatter settlements accommodating in excess of 3 000 families occupying some 426 shanties constructed mainly from wood and iron existed. The fact was that the DCC as the landlord — the lands were leased to the squatters by it — allowed the situation to persist. The conditions prevailing in these areas were deplorable, extremely unhygienic and most depressing emphasising the dire urgency for the DCC to erect houses for the Indian community. Tap-water was only provided after an outbreak of typhoid. Some eighteen taps were installed for the entire Clairwood South slum serving 295 shanties for which a water charge of £1.5.0 per annum per house was levied. It was also observed that around the ‘communal taps’ no outlets were provided so that the water remained stagnant, proving an ideal breeding place for mosquitoes. The report on this area concluded with a reference to the Corporation’s neglect in removing household refuse.

The NIC conveyed its protests to the Administrator of Natal and to the Prime Minister. In spite of all this, the Draft Ordinance passed through all its stages by 2 November, 1944. Simultaneously with this Ordinance, two other Ordinances, the Natal Housing Board Ordinance and the Provincial and Local Authorities Expropriation Ordinance were also passed. These Ordinances gave rise to yet more bitter agitation among the Indian community in South Africa and in India. The atmosphere was so charged with racial bitterness that the Third Broome Commission, which had up to now been working in an atmosphere of goodwill and co-operation from the Indian community, decided not to continue its public sittings.

The Pretoria Agreement, like its forerunner the Lawrence Committee, was now no more. The Agreement aimed at modifying the “Pegging” Act but had failed to do so. It had the indirect result of bringing into power the more militant nationalist group of the NIC and the Anti-Segregation Council. The Council finally ousted the old Congress leadership of the Kajee—Pather group and took over the reins of the NIC on 21 October 1945.

The Indian Government’s response

The Extraordinary Gazette of India published news of the enforcement of the Indian Reciprocity Amendment Act against South African Europeans on 4 November 1944. The Act had three sets of rules: (a) the Reciprocity (South Africa) Rules under which all persons of non-Indian origin domiciled in South Africa were declared prohibited immigrants and as such were not allowed to enter or reside in India without obtaining exemptions or entry permits; (b) the Reciprocity (Natal and Transvaal) Rules under which persons of non-Indian origin domiciled in the Transvaal and Natal could not acquire any property without a permit from the Government of India or occupy any land or premises in India which was not occupied by a South African before 1 December, 1944; and (c) the Reciprocity (South Africa) Local Franchise Rules which debarred persons of non-Indian origin domiciled in the Union, excepting the Cape Province, from the franchise of a local authority in India unless already on the electoral roll before the commencement of the Act.

On 6 November 1944, the Indian Central Legislative Assembly adopted a motion that economic sanctions against South Africa be enforced and the Government of India exercises its powers under the Reciprocity Act. For the first time in the history of British rule in India the principle of retaliation was adopted and enforced by the Government of India against an independent fellow member of the British Empire.

Natal Indian Congress’s response

A NIC deputation met the Prime Minister on 28 November 1944 to protest against the three Ordinances recently passed. After the interview the Prime Minister announced that the Pretoria Agreement was “stone dead” and that the first objectionable Ordinance would not be assented to as long as the “Pegging” Act remained unrepealed.’

General Smuts stated in the House of Assembly on 14 March 1945   that the Natal Ordinances were ultra vires and that legislation was to be introduced in the current session amending the 1920 Housing Act to enable the Government to exercise powers of expropriation contemplated in the Natal Ordinances. This would facilitate setting aside separate residential areas.

The Indian High Commissioner received a copy of the Draft Housing (Emergency) Bill on 21 May 1945 which proposed to empower Government to frame regulations giving powers of expropriation to local authorities. It also empowered Provincial Councils to establish Housing Boards.  Regulations under Housing (Emergency Powers) Act were promulgated on 31 August 1945 and on 7 >September 1945 the High Commissioner sent a detailed memorandum to the Minister of Interior outlining his objections to the proposed Natal Housing Ordinance. 

On 14 September 1945 the Natal Provincial Council passed the Natal Housing Ordinance. A.I. Kajee led a NIC delegation on 3 October 1945 to the Minister of Interior in connection with the Natal Housing Ordinance. The meeting was adjourned to 19 October 1945.

The Kajee–Pather grouping boycotts the NIC AGM. At a mass meeting, on 21 October 1945, nominees of the ASC are elected to office with Dr Gangathura Mohambry ‘Monty’ Naicker as President, George Singh, Chairman of Committee and A.I. Meer and M.D. Naidoo as Joint Secretaries.

A nine-member NIC deputation, led by its President Dr Monty Naicker, submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister Jan Smuts, on 9 November 1945, raising various issues of deep concern to the community. Among these is a call for the repeal of the Pegging Act and the Expropriation Ordinance and the convening of a Round Table Conference with the Government of India to discuss issues pertaining to the Indian community in South Africa.

On 21 November 1945 the Indian High Commissioner sends a note to the Union Government protesting against the Natal Housing Ordinance.

With the Pegging Act due to expire on 31 March 1946, Smuts announced on 21 January 1946 that the Government would introduce the Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Bill (Ghetto Bill) to regulate the occupation of fixed property by Indians. The Act also provided ‘a special franchise for Indians’ to get representation in Parliament. The Act would be retrospective, effective from the date of his announcement.

On 2 January 1946 the NIC cabled the Government of India protesting the envisaged land legislation. It requested the Indian Government to press for a Round Table Conference with the Smuts Government and raise the issue before the United Nations Organisation (UNO).

A NIC mass meeting in Durban on 3 February 1946  protested against the Ghetto Bill, rejecting communal franchise with educational and property qualifications; proposing a round table conference between South Africa and India and advocated effective mass resistance.

A SAIC Conference in Cape Town, held from 8 to 12 February 1946, resolved to oppose the South African Government’s proposed Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Bill.  The conference resolved:

- - - to mobilise all the resources of the Indian people in this country in order to take every measure possible to secure the lapsing of the Pegging Act and to oppose the proposed legislation of the Government by

(i) Sending a deputation to India to urge the Government of India the convening of a Round Table Conference, failing which to request the Government of India to withdraw its High Commissioner in South Africa and apply economic sanctions against South Africa, carry out a campaign of propaganda in India to secure the fullest support of India’s millions, and invite Indian leaders to come to South Africa;

(ii) Sending deputations to America, Britain and other parts of the world;

(iii) Proceeding immediately to prepare the Indian people of South Africa for a concerted and prolonged resistance.

During the conference a deputation of 60, led by A.I. Kajee and Sorabjee Rustomjee, called on Prime Minister Smuts, and urged him to postpone the legislation, pending a round table conference with India. He refused their request and insisted on proceeding with the Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Bill (Ghetto Bill).

The road to the 1946 Passive Resistance Campaign

The 12 February 1946, SAIC Conference resolved to prepare for resistance and to send delegations to India, Britain and the United States of America (USA). Sorabjee Rustomjee led a SAIC deputation to India to solicit support for their opposition to the Bill. The delegation to India comprised Advocate A. Christopher, Sorabjee Rustomjee, S. R. Naidoo, M. D. Naidoo, A. S. Kajee, A. A. Mirza and S. M. Desai (Transvaal). They were warmly received and Indian political parties pledge their fullest support for the resistance campaign in South Africa. The delegation to visit Britain and America comprised A. I. Kajee, Dr. Y. M. Dadoo, A. M. Moola, Rev. B. L. E. Sigamoney and P. R. Pather.

M. D. Naidoo, Joint Hon. Secretary of the NIC, in a letter to Sorabjee Rustomjee, refused to be associated with the SAIC delegation to India. He feared that a compromise solution on the lines of the Pretoria Agreement would be accepted. He stated that it was a calculated insult to Natal to be given one delegate out of seven and to have had Natal’s proposal for the inclusion of A. I. Kajee and A. I. Meer in the delegation to India turned down

The NIC called for 20 February 1946 to be observed as a day of prayer. An appeal is made to Indian business and professionals to close from 1 o’clock to 5 o’clock.  The call is an overwhelming success. Some Indians lose their jobs as a result of their support for the NIC call. The community adopts a resistance pledge to carry out the instructions of the NIC to attain complete freedom.

The Durban City Council (DCC) resolves, inter alia, at its meeting on 25 February 1946:

That subject to its being satisfied with the delimitation of the scheduled areas in Durban, the Durban City Council supports the general principles of the Asiatic Land Tenure Bill – – – Council regards the Government’s proposals as a fair and reasonable compromise of the conflicting demands of the European and Indian populations in the matter but recognises and records that the support of these principles in their present form involves substantial concessions by the European population of the City.

A SAIC delegation — Sorabjee Rustomjee, S.R. Naidoo, A.A. Mirza and A.S.M, Kajee — meet Mahatma Gandhi in Poona on 3 March 1946 to discuss the South African crisis. The delegation is received by Viceroy, Lord Wavell, in Delhi on 12 March 1946. The delegation is introduced by the Aga Khan, supported by leaders of the Indian National Congress and other prominent Indians. They submit a petition drafted in consultation with Gandhi. The Indian High Commissioner delivers a note to the Union Government from the Government of India protesting the proposed legislation and regretting the Union Government’s rejection of a Round Table Conference. In view of the Union Government’s attitude, the Indian Government gave notice of termination of a Trade Agreement with South Africa.

Nonetheless, on 13 March 1946, Smuts informed the House of Assembly that he intended proceeding with the Bill in spite of the Indian Government’s note. On 15 March 1946, Smuts introduced the Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Bill (Ghetto Bill) in Parliament with the Second Reading of the Bill scheduled for 25 March.

 On 17 March 1946 Dr Dadoo, assisted by two Witwatersrand University students J.N. Singh and I.C. Meer, undertook a vigorous tour of the Transvaal to whip up support for the resistance campaign. Within a fortnight they travel to 15 different areas where they are ‘heartily and enthusiastically received’. The tour culminated in a huge mass meeting of 5,000 people from all over Transvaal to voice their opposition to the Ghetto Bill.

Gandhi sends a telegram to Smuts on 18 March 1946 asking him to withdraw the Ghetto Bill. He also issued a press statement describing the Bill as a challenge to Asia and Africa.

On 24 March 1946 a SAIC Executive meeting mandated the NIC and the TIC to plan and prepare for a concerted and prolonged resistance to the Ghetto Bill. A NIC Special Provincial Conference, held in Durban on 30 March 1946, unanimously decided that resistance should begin immediately the Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Bill (Ghetto Bill) becomes law. A 25 member Passive Resistance Council (PRC) to conduct the struggle is appointed.

Mrs Z. Gool addressing a Passive Resistance meeting, Red Square, Durban, 1946 Image source: Gandhi-Luthuli Documentation Centre

On 21 April 1946, the TIC at a mass meeting in Johannesburg, Transvaal, established a Passive Resistance Council (PRC) with 15 members, under the chairmanship of Dr Y.M. Dadoo.

The Cape was not affected by the provisions of the Ghetto Act but the Indian community of the Cape wished to identify with their compatriots in the Transvaal and Natal.  In Cape Town, a committee made up of Mrs Z. Gool, Sundra Pillay and Cassim Amra was formed; in Port Elizabeth, the leaders were M.M. Desai, V.K. Moodley and Dr S.V. Appavoo while in East London the PRC was led by Dr N.V. Appavoo, O. Jonathan and R. Harry

The Government of India gives a formal 3-month notice of the termination of the 1938 trade agreement with South Africa which provided for “most favoured nation” treatment.

The “Pegging” Act expires on 31 March 1946. The Union Government is scheduled to replace it with the Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Act. There is nothing new in the first part of the Act which is no more than a perpetuation of the legislation dealing with Asiatic land tenure in the Transvaal since 1932 (although in so far as the Act was extended to Natal) it was a new thing for which Natal was first prepared when the Pegging Act had made its appearance in 1943.

On 31 March 1946 a procession, of some 6,000 people march, four to five deep, down Durban’s West Street, proclaiming, “To hell with the Ghetto Bill”.

Earlier Dr Monty Naicker, NIC President, addresses the crowd, declaring that, “- - - we are determined to end this exploitation once and for all. The Bill is a radical measure and requires a radical operation.”

H.I.E. Dhlomo, poet and playwright, addressed the meeting, saying,

“Justice is not Indian and neither is freedom Indian. We want all people to be free. The young people in the African National Congress support the struggle of the Indians.”

L.A. Smith of the African Peoples Organisation (APO) told the meeting,

“If White civilisation means this Bill, then it has no right to exist. It itself should perish.”

The Delhi Branch of the All India Women’s Conference passed a resolution on 31 March 1946 assuring total support for South African Indians.

On 7 April 1946 students from the Durban Indian Girls High School, Sastri College and the Natal University College condemn the legislation and express their determination to support the NIC.

Ramaswami Mudaliar, Leader of the House in the Central Legislative Assembly, announced on 16 April 1946 that the Government of India was to initiate steps to bring the issue of the oppression of Indians in South Africa before the United Nations Organisation (UNO).

Press reports of 28 April 1946, in London, stated that Radio Moscow in two separate commentaries pledged support for South African Indians at the UNO.  The 30 April 1946 issues of the Daily Worker in London attacked Smuts’ treatment of South African Indians.

On 1 May 1946, the South African Indian delegation in London, Ashwin Choudree and P. R. Pather, issued an informative booklet,  A Commentary on the Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Act and A Short Survey of the Indian Question in South Africa. They addressed various public and private meetings. Among the organisations whose support they solicited were the India League, Royal Empire Society, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Society of Individualists and National League for Freedom, the Society of Friends, Fabian Society, the National Peace Council, the International Missionary Council and the Women’s International League. Resolutions adopted at the meetings, addressed by the delegates, condemned the proposed measure and asked that it be abandoned.

The 5th May 1946 saw the delegation to Britain address one of the largest meetings convened by the National Council of Civil Liberties, of 800 trade unions and industrial and co-operative organisations, at Grosvenor Place, London. The delegation to Britain, as in India, had a successful trip in informing overseas opinion and soliciting support.

The first meeting of the Joint Passive Resistance of the NIC and the TIC takes place in Durban on 11 May 1946.

M. D. Barmania, one of the Secretaries of the SAIC, addressed Parliament for fifty minutes on 23 May 1946. This was only the second time in 32 years that such a privilege had been granted for a ‘non-European’ to appear before the highest tribunal in the land. The petitioner objected to the restrictions on the purchase and occupation of property as well as to the communal franchise.

India then recalled its High Commissioner in South Africa, Ramrao Madhavrao Deshmukh, for consultations.

On 3 June 1946, the Governor General of South Africa assented and signed the Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Bill (Ghetto Bill) into law and on 6 June 1946 the Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Act, No. 28 of 1946 (Ghetto Act) came into force. The NIC met at an emergency session in Durban and designated 13 June “Resistance Day” to mark the beginning of Passive Resistance against the Ghetto Act. Mahatma Gandhi, in an article in the Harijan, 3 June 1946, advised Satyagraha against the Ghetto Bill.

The Government of India announced on 11 June 1946:

As a protest against the South African Union Government’s attitude of indifference to representations by the Government of India for the postponement of the Asiatic Land Tenure and Representation Bill, the existing trade agreement between India and South Africa is being terminated; and as matters do not seem to improve it has been found necessary to recall the High Commissioner.

The 1946 Passive Resistance Campaign

The PRC declared 13 June 1946 as Hartal Day (cessation of work or a strike) to mark the beginning of passive resistance against the Ghetto Act. The Indian community observed total hartal throughout the country. This was the first clear demonstration marking the Indian community’s determination to carry its opposition to the Ghetto Act.

After a mass meeting of over 15,000 people, at Red Square in Durban, a huge procession marched to the intersection of Gale Street and Umbilo Road where, under the leadership of Dr Monty Naicker and M.D. Naidoo, the first batch of 17 passive resisters, including seven women, pitched five tents on a piece of vacant Municipal land in defiance of the Ghetto Act. Resisters occupied Resistance Plot or Resistance Camp as this piece of ground became known and are charged with contravention of the Riotous Assemblies Act.

This day also marked the commencement of the third passive resistance campaign by the Indian community in South Africa. The first was on 9 May 1907 against the Transvaal Asiatic Law Amendment Act, No. 2/1907 and the second was in July 1913 against the Immigrants Regulations Bill of 1913.

Mrs Lakshmi Govender, a widow with five children, was one of the first volunteers and member of the first batch of passive resisters in Natal. Earlier in the afternoon, Mrs Govender addressed the huge gathered crowd in Tamil.

The Working Committee of Indian National Congress adopted a resolution on 15 June 1946 expressing full sympathy for the Resisters in their brave struggle. The All India Muslim League also condemned the Ghetto Act, as “an intolerable affront to Indians everywhere and a direct challenge to the conscience of the world.” Its President, M.A. Jinnah, called it, “A blot on civilisation.”

On 16 June 1946 Whites raid Resistance Camp, remove tent pegs and damage the tents that the resisters are occupying. The hooligans severely assaulted Mrs Veerama Pather and Miss Zainab Asvat. The attacks continue nightly but police make no attempt to arrest the hooligans. On 17 June 1946 more than a hundred Whites raid Resistance Camp, pull down tents and smash camp stretchers. Some resisters are injured in the scuffle, including women from the Transvaal. Police take no action.

Dr A.B. Xuma, President of the African National Congress (ANC) pledged support of Africans for the Indian struggle. 

Whites again attack Indians in and around the camp. Thousands of Indians visited the camp in support of the resisters; hundreds more enrol as resisters all over South Africa.

The Resisters continued to occupy the plot despite harassment and assaults by Whites. Police still take no action against the Whites engaged in violence. White people in Durban establish the Council for Human Rights to support the Passive Resistance Campaign, with Mrs Lavoipierre as chairperson to educate Whites on the campaign. A Council for Asiatic Rights had been formed earlier in the Transvaal for the same purpose. A Women’s Action Committee is formed in Durban to assist the struggle.

The first batch of resisters is arrested for “trespassing” on 21 June 1946. They are found guilty but cautioned and discharged. That very evening the resisters return to Resistance Plot camp. They are again charged with “trespassing” and the magistrate passes a suspended sentence of seven days hard labour. Undeterred, the resisters promptly make their way back to the Resistance Plot and occupy the camp.

The authorities warned the resisters to vacate the camp. The Attorney General for Natal, W.J. McKenzie, appealed to Whites not to interfere. Police vans arrive in the evening and arrest 13 resisters led by Dr Monty Naicker; including two women from the Transvaal, Miss Zainab Asvat and Mrs Jamila Bhabha and Mrs Lakshmi Govender from Durban.

Dr Naicker, speaking on behalf of the resisters, made it clear to the authorities that they would not accept bail, but rather remain in detention. The resisters are charged with contravention of Natal Act of 1874 (Law of Trespass), and found guilty, cautioned and discharged. They go back to the camp and are again charged for trespassing. The magistrate passes a suspended sentence of seven days imprisonment with hard labour.

Krishnasamy Pillay, an Indian member of the South African Police (SAP) is severely assaulted by a mob of Whites. He is found in a gutter in Davenport Road with lacerations to his head. Pillay passed away on 30 June 1946 in hospital.

Speaking at a prayer meeting in New Delhi, Gandhi calls on the South African Government to stop the hooliganism by Whites.

Resisters, led by Dr Monty Naicker appear before a Durban magistrate. All Resisters, except Dr Naicker and M.D. Naidoo, are cautioned and discharged. Dr Naicker and M.D. Naidoo are asked to appear before the magistrate on 22 July.

The Reverend Michael Scott joins the Resisters on 22 June. He is also arrested. The Government of India sends a letter to the United Nations Secretary-General requesting that the question of the treatment of Indians in the Union of South Africa be included in the provisional agenda of the United Nations General Assembly.

On this same day, at 10.30 pm, Dr Goonam leads the second batch of passive resisters to occupy the Resistance Camp. Among the resisters is a White sympathiser, B. Sischy.

Mrs Hansa Mehta, President of the All India Women’s Conference, issues a statement voicing the resentment of the women of India against the treatment of South African Indians. Also, the leader of the Indian delegation to the United Nations, Sir A. Ramaswami Mudaliar, writes to the Secretary-General requesting that the question of the treatment of Indians in the Union of South Africa be included in the provisional agenda for the second part of the first session of the General Assembly.

On 23 June 1946 at 8.10 pm a group of 30 White men including two women assault members of the 6th and 7th batches of resisters including the Rev. Michael Scott, a member of the Committee for Asiatic Rights. Miss Zainab Asvat, leader of the 6th batch receives a cut on the side of her head. Mrs Rabia Docrat, wife of A.K.M. Docrat, is also assaulted, sustaining internal injuries. Five other Resisters are knocked unconscious. The attackers use a variety of lethal weapons including knuckle dusters. The absence of the police indicates collusion on their part. The attackers yell, “We don’t want the Coolies here.”

The Whites arrive again at 9.05 pm. and assault the resisters. Batches led by Dr Naicker, Miss Asvat and Dr Goonam are detained.

At 11.15 pm the eighth batch led by J Joshi occupies the settlement. A mob of Whites attack, stamp and kick them. Indian supporters and spectators are beaten up and badly injured. Stones and bottles are thrown at their cars by the mob, and car windows smashed.

When Reverend Michael Scott, who was released at 11 .45 pm. that day, arrived on the scene, he found five resisters lying unconscious in the gutter where they had been thrown by the mob. He said in a statement:

None of those who resorted to violence were arrested ... two Indian girls were both struck by the hooligans. These girls were very brave and self-possessed, and referred to the Europeans as misguided.”

The ANC’s National Anti-pass Conference held in Johannesburg on 23 June 1946 declared its support for the passive resistance campaign.

J Joshi, who led the 8th batch of passive resisters, again leads a batch of resisters, the tenth. They are arrested and taken to court. J. Padayachee leads the ninth batch of resisters to occupy the camp.

Supporters of the Campaign incensed by the brutal attack on the resisters present a sum of £600 to the resisters who appeared in Durban’s “B” Court.  All Resisters arrested the previous evening are remanded to 1 July.

At 5.30 p.m. Dr Dadoo addressed a mass meeting, attended by thousands of people at Red Square. The meeting pledges, “We shall resist!”  

On 24 June 1946 the South African Police (SAP) District Commandant read a Proclamation under the Riotous Assemblies Act prohibiting any gathering within 500 yards of the intersection of Gale Street and Umbilo Road. Defiantly, the Resisters continued to occupy Resistance Camp and are charged with contravention of the Riotous Assemblies Act.

At 9 pm Dr Dadoo leads a batch of 50 resisters—the 12th group— to Resistance Camp. This batch is arrested at 10:05 pm on 25 June 1946.

At II am. Doctors Goonam and Monty Naicker and M.D. Naidoo together with 47 passive resisters are tried in court. They are charged under the Riotous Assemblies Act. The three leaders are sentenced to seven days hard labour suspended for three months. The other resisters are cautioned and discharged. The very same evening (25 June 1946) Dr Naicker leads the 13th group of 50 people, of whom 28 were cautioned and discharged the previous day, to occupy the Resistance camp. Dr Naicker’s group of resisters is arrested.

The Afrikaans language newspaper, Die Transvaaler, in its 25 June 1946 issue, urged a boycott of India in the economic sphere.

On 27 June 1946, Miss Zainab Asvat is sentenced to three months with hard labour under the Riotous Assemblies Act. Dr Monty Naicker is sentenced to six months and seven days hard labour without the option of a fine under the same Act.  Dr Dadoo appears before a Durban Magistrate on charges of contravening the Riotous Assemblies Act. He is sentenced to three months hard labour without the option of a fine.

The charges against 98 other passive resisters, also under the Riotous Assemblies Act, are withdrawn and they are asked to appear in court the next day on a charge of trespassing.

The 14th batch of resisters under M. D. Naidoo is also arrested.

At one of the largest meetings ever held at the Gandhi Hall, on 27 June 1946, the Johannesburg Indian community spontaneously donated over £ 1,600.00 to the “Resistance Fund”.

On 28 June 1946 M.D. Naidoo, Joint Secretary of the NIC, is sentenced to six months and seven days hard labour (with 45 days remission) for his role in leading a batch of resisters.  Other members of his batch are remanded. Dr Goonam, accompanied by the Reverend Michael Scott, leader of the 15th batch of resisters is arrested. This group includes 13 women.

A batch of nine ex-servicemen, led by Sgt J. M. Francis, is arrested. In a statement he says:

- - - go to fight again for these things in which I, with my comrades fought for in World War II. When we came back from the war we thought that the blood of our comrades had not been shed in vain - - - - but we are disillusioned and we have to fight again. My comrades will not be found wanting.....

The others who formed this ex-servicemen’s group are R.D. Naidoo, S.M. Chetty, J. Pillay, P.V. Chetty, K.N. Naidoo, I. Moodley, S. Morgan and P. Soobramoney.

Dr Goonam is sentenced to six months and seven days hard labour, of which four months have been suspended, for her role in the Passive Resistance Campaign. In her statement in court, on 29 June 1946, she said:

The hour of trial has come. The Indian people must answer the call now. No longer can we accept oppression and injustice. We shall challenge the might of the oppressor. Our challenge is not one of guns and bullets. It is the most dignified manner conceived by man.  – – – Nothing is too great to pay the price as the price of freedom and liberty.

The 16th and 17th groups of resisters, led by R.A. Pillay and Sorabjee Rustomjee respectively, are arrested.  A group of sympathetic Whites form the Council for Human Rights to assist the passive resisters.

At its 29 June 1946 conference in Cape Town, the ANC (Cape) assured the passive resisters that it also condemned the policy of colour discrimination of which the Indians were the most recent victims.

A meeting of the Joint PRC of Natal and the Transvaal, in Durban from 29 - 30 June 1946 congratulated the national leaders of the Indian people, who are the first to be sentenced to prison, for their inspiring example of courage and sacrifice. This meeting also pledged the full support of the Indian people to the Anti-Pass struggle of the African people.

A mass meeting at Red Square on 30 June 1946 endorsed the actions of the national Passive Resistance Campaign leaders. Speakers at the meeting are: Debi Singh – Chairman, Mrs Lavoipierre – Chairwoman-Council of Asiatic Rights, Durban, Ismail Meer, J N Singh, Nana Sita, Reverend Scott, Sorabjee Rustomjee and Bennie Sischy – Secretary - Council of Asiatic Rights, Johannesburg.

Sorabjee Rustomjee, leader of the 17th batch and 49 other passive resisters, is arrested.

Gandhi appeals to White South Africans against lynching. He also appealed to Whites in India to persuade their fellow Whites from assaulting passive resisters in South Africa.

In July 1946, the Passive Resister reported that the recent Second ANC National Anti-Pass Conference held in Johannesburg, attended by 205 delegates from all over the country supported the passive resistance campaign. Conference passed a resolution:

That this Conference conveys its message of sympathy to the South African Indian Congress and the Indian people in the struggle against the Ghetto Act, and on behalf of the African people pledges wholehearted support.

The authorities use new means of breaking the resisters’ morale by imposing a fine without the option of imprisonment. All resisters refuse to pay this fine and the authorities are left helpless with this development. On 1 July 1946 J. Padayachee and a group of 51 resisters are arrested. R.A. Pillay and Sorabjee Rustomjee, leader of the SAIC delegation to India, are sentenced to three months hard labour on 2 July 1946.

At its conference, the Natal Indian Teachers Society expressed sympathy with the Passive Resistance movement. The Society cancelled all social events which included a boat cruise around the Bay which the Mayor of Durban had organised. Conference adjourned early to enable members to attend Krishnasamy Pillay’s funeral. Over 10 000 people attend Krishnasamy Pillay’s funeral, which leaves from Red Square to the Queen Street cemetery.

The Asiatic Land Tenure Board holds its first meeting on 1 July 1946. Senator Clarkson, Minister of the Interior, in his opening address, invites Indians to submit a panel of names for two vacancies on the Board for Indian members. The NIC and TIC says that any Indian who volunteers to serve as a member of the Board will be branded as a traitor to his people.

The Cape Passive Resistance Council is formed at a mass meeting in Cape Town attended by over 1 500 people on 2 July 1946. Among the first to volunteer are a number of Africans. It is announced that Councillor Mrs Z. Gool would lead a Cape batch of resisters to Resistance Camp.

Kay Moonsamy, a member of the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) quit his job and joined the campaign on 5 July 1946. He was arrested on his 25th birthday and sentenced to four months imprisonment at the Durban Central Prison where around 2 000 prisoners were housed in atrocious conditions. As the number of resisters increased, the prison became overcrowded, and they were sent to different parts of Natal. Moonsamy’s group was sent to a farm jail in Ixopo after 18 days, where he spent more than three months as a convict labourer.

A PRC mass meeting on 7 July 1946 at Red Square passes a resolution “noting with gratification the declaration of the Chinese Government to oppose all racially discriminatory laws such as the Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Act as being contrary to the United Nations Charter. Speakers at this meeting are Debi Singh, Chairman, Miss Zainab Asvat, A.I. Meer, George Singh, Dr Vallabhai Patel, Rev. Michael Scott, A.W.G. Champion and Ashwin Choudree.

The All India Congress Committee, meeting in Bombay, said in a resolution that the Indian resisters were “suffering not only for their self-respect but for the honour of India, and by their heroic resistance setting a noble example to all the exploited peoples of the earth”. The resolution was moved by Mrs Sarojini Naidu and seconded by Govind Vallabh Pant.

In a new turn of events on 10 July 1946 a batch of Transvaal volunteers cross the border into Natal without permits in defiance of the law that required Indians to carry a permit to cross between the two provinces. Among the group of 25, are six women resisters—Mrs P.K. Naidoo, Miss Aisha Ganchi, Mrs Danoo Dajee, Mrs Suriakala Patel, Miss Jumnakumari Patel and Miss Violet Ramsamy.

The next day ten passive resisters set up a second resistance camp at the corner of Umgeni and Walter Gilbert Roads in Durban. By now, hundreds of resisters are fined £5 each with no alternative of imprisonment. Resisters are told that if they did not pay their fines, their property would be attached. Still, no one paid the fine.

Whites throw stones at the resisters, knocking one person to the ground, resulting in him cracking his forehead. The police refuse Miss Zainab Asvat’s offer to attend to the injured person, who is bleeding profusely. He is later taken to the hospital and subsequently taken to the police station where he charged.

On 17 July 1946 a film show featuring footage of the NIC elections, the camp at Gale Street and resistance mass meetings held at Red Square is screened courtesy of E.H. Ismail of the NIC and Peters Radio Service at Resistance Hall. 

The Department of Commerce in India issues a notification banning trade with South Africa.

B.M. Kisten, leader of the 27th batch of passive resisters who served in the Union Defence Force during World War II as a corporal appears in court on 18 July 1946. He asks the court to impose the maximum sentence on him.

Women organise their own meeting at the Gandhi Library, Durban. Miss Zainab Asvat, Suryakala Patel, Fatima Meer, Mrs P.K.Naidoo, Mrs Hajee S.M. Mayet, and Miss J. Patel address the large gathering of women.  Later, a convoy of about 50 cars escorted seven Transvaal women resisters to the Resistance Camp.  Batch number 28 –a women-only batch – included Miss Zainab Asvat, Suryakala Patel, Jumna Devi Patel, Sangama Naidoo, Violet Ramsamy Solly, Mrs Danbo Darjee and Ayesha Ganchi.  A huge crowd gathered to see them off. They are arrested after occupying the camp from 8:10 pm to 8:40 pm. The women continued to sing freedom songs in the vernacular even after they are arrested. Among the women is 55 year old Mrs P. K. Naidoo who served a term of imprisonment during the time of Gandhi. The other women are Mrs D. Moonsamy, Miss A. Ganchi, Miss V. Solly and Miss J. Patel.

Jawaharlal Nehru of India sends a telegram to the Secretary of the NIC pledging support for the passive resistance campaign.

On 21 July 1946 the Students’ Passive Resisters Relief Committee stage three one-act plays to raise funds for the campaign.

The SAIC Executive meets in Cape Town on 21-22 July 1946 and agreed to send a delegation to New York to assist in the preparation of the Indian Government’s case before the United Nations. Ashwin Choudree, the Joint PRC’s delegate, had already arrived in New York to enlist support of the American people. He is welcomed by J.J. Singh, President of the India League of America.

The Press in India published a Reuters’ report, on 22 July 1946, from Moscow saying that Pravda published a lengthy despatch from its Istanbul correspondent attacking the Ghetto Law.

The Executive Committee of the SAIC nominates members of its delegation – A.I.Kajee, A. Christopher, P.R. Pather, S.R. Naidoo, A.M. Moola, Minty and Chonilal Palsania – to assist the Indian Government at the UNO.

A mass meeting of the Port Elizabeth Branch of the Cape Indian Congress resolved, on 25 July 1946, to form a passive resistance council.

On Saturday, 29 July 1946, Mrs Gadija Christopher, the wife of Albert Christopher ex-President of the SAIC, is sentenced to 30 days imprisonment in Durban. The batch of women included Mrs Fatima Khan, Mrs B. Naidoo, Mrs Gnambal Naidoo and Miss Kamatchie Naidoo.

Mrs Z. Gool addresses a meeting in Vereeniging, Transvaal on the Ghetto Act. The meeting realises a sum of over £500.

On 31 July 1946, five resisters led by a former soldier I. Nariansamy Reddy, occupied the camp the previous night. They appeared in court and were sentenced to 30 days hard labour or a fine of £3.00. The magistrate orders Reddy to remove his Gandhi cap, worn by resisters, and refused to allow him to read his statement out in court. Reddy, served four years fighting in North Africa in the Union Defence Force,  

To celebrate the Transvaal Indian Football Association’s Golden Jubilee, a soccer team from Natal is chosen to play against a Transvaal team on 3 August 1946.  The proceeds from the match are donated to the PRC. C.A. Babenia made three cars available, free of charge, to transport the team to the Transvaal.

The Passive Resister of 4 August 1946 reported that over 300 resisters were serving sentences ranging from 20 days to 6 months. It also reported that at a mass meeting held by the ANC in Germiston Location, Transvaal, to organise people for an anti-pass campaign, a resolution was adopted congratulating the Indian people on launching Passive Resistance and assuring them of the support of the African people “realising that their struggle is our struggle”.

The Indo-Egyptian Union of Cairo passed a resolution on 9 August 1946 urging Arabs to support India’s case at the UNO.

Five youth, lead by Harilal Hemraj Mooljee, appear in court on 10 August 1946.  The others are Ratilal Raniga, Mogamberry Moodley, Hoosen Kader and R. Sonny. They are each sentenced to 30 days hard labour or a fine of £3.

Mrs Suriakala Patel and Jumnaden Patel leading singing of a freedom song at Red Square, 4 August 1946 Image source: Gandhi-Luthuli Documentation Centre

Major L.F. Williams appeared in court on 11 August 1946. He was asked to remove his Gandhi cap. He refused to abide by the magistrate’s instruction. His batch was sentenced to a fine of £3 or 30 days imprisonment. The other two resisters, Hassan Khan and Kalanjee Soni also from the Transvaal were sentenced. Williams was the Secretary of the Johannesburg Indian Young Men’s Cultural Institute and was for four years Honorary Secretary of the Transvaal Indian and Coloured Teachers Association.

A Special Meeting of the Executive Sub-Committee of the Natal Municipal Association (NMA) held in Pretoria also on 11 August 1946 resolved that its President, A.L. Barns, travel to the United States of America, at the cost of the NMA,

. . . to take all available steps, as to him may appear proper, to counter the organised propaganda which is being employed by Indians and others, against the European public of Natal in connection with the Asiatic Land Tenure Act, - - - when the Indians make representation against this Act at the forthcoming U.N.O. meeting . . .

The PRC of the TIC pledged its full support for the African Mineworker’s Strike which commenced on 12 August 1946. It passed a resolution pledging support for the workers and their strike.  The Natal PRC also pledged support for the mineworkers and passed a similar resolution. The meeting in Natal spontaneously raises a sum of £100 which it donated to the African mineworkers strike.

Mrs Z Gool from the Cape led a batch of 16 volunteers including nine women — three each from the Cape, Natal and the Transvaal on 13 August 1946. The other women are Miss D. Naidoo, Miss K. Naidoo, Mrs Diana Saloon, Miss Radio Saloon, Miss Douching Macho, Mrs Hilda Khan, Miss S. Lily Lucas, Miss Save Chetty, and Mrs S. David Harry. Mrs Gool and her batch appear before a Durban magistrate and are sentenced to 30 days hard labour each. Two girls from the batch are treated as juveniles and discharged.

The 19th of August 1946 signalled the second phase of the Passive Resistance Campaign. George Singh led the first batch of four resisters to occupy a privately owned plot of land in Wentworth, south of Durban in a controlled area under the Ghetto Act. However no action was taken by the authorities.

In the evening over 7,000 Indians attend a mass meeting at Red Square to welcome Dr Goonam who was released from Pietermaritzburg prison and to launch the second phase of the struggle—occupying areas other than Resistance Plot in defiance of the Ghetto Act.

Razak Surtee, a merchant from Basutoland, leads resisters to occupy Resistance Plot on 20 August 1946.

The United States of America (USA) branch of the Women’s’ International League for Peace, in a message to Ashwin Choudree, dated 21 August 1946, declared their support for the South African passive resisters.

On 26 August 1946 Dr Dadoo is brought from the Ladysmith Prison, Natal, to appear in the New Magistrates Court, Johannesburg and charged with incitement under the War Measure 145. He appears in Court with other members of the Johannesburg District Committee of the Communist Party who are also facing a similar charge. The Prosecutor offered Dr Dadoo bail of £100, which he refused.

The Joint Passive Resistance Council met in Durban on 31 August 1946 and decided on a nationwide day of protest and demonstrations on 23 September when the United Nations General Assembly session is scheduled to open.

Miss Mary Barr, a great admirer and follower of Gandhi, led a batch of women on 1 September 1946 to occupy Resistance Plot.  All the women are sentenced to 30 days imprisonment on 2 September 1946.

Rugnath Singh occupied a house with his family in the controlled area of Wentworth on 2 September 1946. Over 2,000 people gather to bid him and his batch farewell

On this same day, hundreds of people gather when Dr Dadoo and JN Singh, Secretary of the PRC of the TIC and others appear in court, in Johannesburg, for a Preparatory Examination arising out of the African mineworkers strike.

On 11 September 1946 the NIC declined an invitation from the Durban Mayor’s 0ffice to send delegates to a committee to give advice on enabling the Indian community to see the British Royal family during their visit to Durban in March 1947. The organisation said:

The Indians of South Africa were passing through the most critical period in their history because of a series of discriminatory Acts depriving them of elementary human rights, and had launched a campaign of Passive Resistance.

This peaceful protest was still going on and 627 people, including national leaders like Dr Yusuf Dadoo and Dr G.M. Naicker, had been sent to jail where they were treated like common criminals.

While the Indian community finds itself in such an unhappy situation in a part of His Majesty’s Empire, it is most unreasonable to expect Indians to participate in any rejoicing or celebrations in honour of Royalty. In the circumstances we cannot but suggest that you advise their Majesties to postpone their visit until such time as there is peace and goodwill in South Africa between the rulers and the ruled, the white and the non-white, the represented and the unrepresented, the privileged and the under-privileged, so that all who constitute the South African nation can equally share, not only its burdens, but also its rewards.

The Secretary of the Natal Provincial Administration writes to the Town Clerk of the DCC informing him that an amount not exceeding £ 1,000.00 was approved “on the preparation and dissemination of propaganda to counteract misleading Indian propaganda overseas.”

Miss Zainab Asvat is released from the Pietermaritzburg Prison on 22 September 1946 after serving a sentence of three months hard labour. The next day a SAIC Executive meeting in Cape Town elected Sorabjee Rustomjee as a delegate to the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.

A public reception is accorded to Dr Dadoo, Rev. Michael Scott and Miss Zainab Asvat, at the Natalspruit Indian Sports ground, on 29 September 1946 following their release from prison.

The Transvaal ANC says in an appeal:

The Indian Passive Resistance requires our active support. Their struggle against the principle of discriminatory legislation is our struggle and we must not let them down.

Among the 11 passive resisters arrested, on 10 October 1946, six are African people from the Transvaal.

At a mass election meeting, held on 20 October 1946, over 12,000 people, from all over Transvaal, unanimously adopt the candidates list submitted by Dr Dadoo’s radical group under the banner of the Democratic Congress Action Committee. Dr Dadoo is re-elected President of TIC

Gandhi congratulates the NIC on its reply to the Mayor of Durban’s invitation to participate in discussions on the impending 1947 Royal visit, saying:

The Royal visit can evoke no feeling of joy among those who are fighting for their self-respect in South Africa in the making of which they have had no mean share. Let us hope that the Royal visit will be postponed to a more propitious time when the colour bar has become a thing of the past.

On 11 November 1946 the world famous author, George Bernard Shaw, speaks out against the anti Indian law in South Africa.

A.I. Meer, Joint Secretary of the NIC, in a telegram to the Minister of Justice, H.G. Lawrence, outlined the harsh and brutal treatment meted out to passive resisters in prisons throughout Natal.  Passive resisters were forced to dress in dirty shirts and torn sacking. Blankets in their cells were lice infested and they were confined to cells with no lights. At the Dundee Prison, passive resisters were given no change of clothing for 17 days. The PRC in Natal received written statements from released resisters of the brutality inflicted on them by prison authorities.  

The Passive Resistance Campaign and the United Nations

The UNO General Assembly began on 23 October 1946 at Lake Success. The Government of India, under the leadership of Mrs Vijayalakshmi Pandit, submitted a detailed memorandum on the position of Indians in South Africa.

General Smuts proposed the deletion of the South African Indian Question at the opening of the General Assembly of the UNO–proposal is rejected. A second proposal by Smuts to refer this issue to the Political and Legal Committees is also rejected. The United States of America (USA), supported by the United Kingdom (UK), recommendation to the General Assembly to refer the question to the Political and Legal Committees is adopted.

The next day a massive campaign is organised in Durban to coincide with the opening of the General Assembly. Several thousand witness mass detention when 358 passive resisters are arrested.>

On 22 November 1946 Mrs. Vijayalakshmi Pandit opened the debate before the United Nations Joint Session of the Political and Legal Committees. Smuts argued that it was a matter of domestic jurisdiction. He urged that the matter be referred to the World Court. Dr Wellington Koo of China strongly supported India saying that the political aspects of the case outweighed the legal. Mrs. Pandit moved a resolution saying that the treatment of Indians in South Africa constituted a denial of human rights and fundamental freedom and that the Union Government should revise its policy and report to the General Assembly what action it had taken in this regard.

On the same day, at the second joint meeting of the Political and Legal Committees, Justice Chagle from India presented legal arguments. Canada, the USA and the UK proposed referring the issue to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The Polish and French delegates support India. The South African delegate, Heaton Nicholls, makes offensive remarks at India.

The debates continued for two days — 27-28 November 1946 — at the UNO. China objected to referring the issue to the ICJ. Norway, New Zealand and Argentina supported referring the case to the ICJ. Egypt, Ethiopia, Colombia, Uruguay, Chile, El Salvador and Panama supported India’s case.

A French–Mexican resolution read that the treatment of South African Indians should be in conformity with the obligation under agreements concluded between the two governments.

The Franco-Mexican Resolution:

For: Byelorussia, Chile, China, Columbia, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Iran, Iraq, Mexico, Philippines, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Syria,  Ukrainian S.S.R., Uruguay, U.S.S.R., Venezuela, Yugoslavia.

Against: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Greece, Iceland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Sweden, Union of South Africa, United Kingdom, United States of America.

Abstention: Denmark, Ecuador, Honduras, New Zealand, Panama, Turkey.

Absent: Afghanistan, Argentina, Bolivia, Lebanon and Liberia.

On 30 November 1946 the Joint Committee of the First and Sixth Committees of the General Assembly considered the Indian Government’s complaint against South Africa and adopted the French-Mexican resolution, supported by India and opposed by the Union of South Africa, by 24 votes to 19, with 6 abstentions.

A South African delegation —Dr A.B. Xuma, President-General of ANC, Sorabjee Rustomjee and H.A. Naidoo representing the Joint Passive Resistance Council and Senator H. Basner — is in New York to assist the Indian delegation to the United Nations and lobby delegations of other countries. A.I. Kajee, P.R. Pather and A. Christopher are also in New York as representatives of the SAIC.

The General Assembly of the UNO debated the issue over two days, 7 - 8 December 1946, and then adopted a Franco-Mexican resolution related to Indians in South Africa, asking the Governments of South Africa and India to report at the next session of the Assembly on the measures adopted to settle their disputes about the treatment of Indians in South Africa.

The Indian complaint is discussed in plenary meetings of the United Nations General Assembly. The decision of the General Assembly is announced. The South African resolution asking that the meeting refer the dispute to the International Court of Justice is defeated by 31 votes to 21 with 2 abstentions; the Franco–Mexican resolution as recommended by the Joint Committee is adopted by 32 votes to 15, with 7 abstentions.

With this decision of the General Assembly, the first on the South African Indian question, an important milestone is reached in the history of the South African Indians. The issue is deemed to be of sufficient importance to find a place indeed among the first matters of international proportions is placed on the first agenda of the first General Assembly of the United Nations, in the forums of the new world body.

The Assembly adopts resolution 44 (1) by 32 votes to 15, with 7 abstentions. Under the resolution, the General Assembly expressed the opinion that “the treatment of Indians in the Union of South Africa should be in conformity with the international obligations under the agreements concluded between the two governments and the relevant provisions of the (United Nations) Charter”; and requested the two governments “to report at the next session of the General Assembly the measures adopted to this effect”.

South African Resolution in the General Assembly:

For: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Greece, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Sweden, Turkey, Union of South Africa, United Kingdom, United States of America

 Against: Byelorussia, Chile, China, Columbia, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Iceland, India, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Liberia, Mexico, Norway, Panama, Philippines, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Syria. Ukrainian S.S.R., Uruguay, U.S.S.R., Venezuela, Yugoslavia.

Abstention: Afghanistan and Bolivia.

Franco-Mexican Resolution in General Assembly:

 For: Afghanistan, Byelorussia, Chile, China, Columbia, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Guatemala. Haiti. Honduras, Iceland, India, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Liberia, Mexico, Norway, Panama, Philippines. Poland, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Ukrainian S.S.R., Uruguay, U.S.S.R., Venezuela, Yugoslavia.

Against: Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Greece, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Union of South Africa, United Kingdom, United States of America

Abstention: Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Denmark, Ecuador, Sweden, Turkey.

The Joint PRC hailed the United Nations resolution a victory but decided that the struggle should continue. Resisters go into action once a week, rather than daily as earlier while the Council awaited discussions by the Union of South Africa and India under the United Nations resolution. The Council also decided to send Dr Naicker and Dr Dadoo to India for consultations with Indian leaders.

The 20 December 1946 issue of the Passive Resister carried an article from the Transvaal Provincial ANC to the PRC congratulating the Indian community of South Africa:

- - - on the victory achieved at the United Nations Assembly. This victory has been possible, no doubt, because of the struggle your people have waged for the last five months – the passive resistance struggle.

The unity of purpose and solidarity of the whole Indian community of South Africa against the Ghetto Act is clearly indicated by the history this movement has created within a short space of time.

The Passive Resistance Movement has exposed South Africa’s non European policy of colour discrimination to the entire world. We are grateful that world opinion is with us in our struggle for democracy in this country.

In January 1947 the government seized the passport of Dr Dadoo, and rejected an application by Dr Naicker for a passport. They are forced to postpone their plans to travel to India on 9 February. There were many protests and even pro-government newspapers criticised the government’s action.

P.R. Pather, a SAIC delegate and advisor to the Indian Delegation to the UNO, proposed that the passive resistance be suspended as a gesture by Indians. The suggestion met with wide spread opposition.

On 21 January 1947 Dr D.F. Malan introduced a motion in Parliament rejecting the UNO’s request that South Africa negotiate with India on the ‘Indian question’. Smuts claimed that the ‘Indian question is a domestic one’, declaring, “The Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Act must stand.”

At a Special Conference of the NMA on 21 January 1947, its President, A.L. Barns, reiterated the call for Indians to be repatriated to India.

The Minister of the Interior, Senator Clarkson, announces that the Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Act will remain in operation and that in terms of the Act an Indian Advisory Board is to soon be appointed. This announcement is met with opposition from Indians who hold a mass meeting in Durban, on 9 February 1947, to reject the proposed Advisory Board and to protest the refusal of passports to Drs. Dadoo and Naicker, who applied for permission to travel to India for consultations with the Interim Government of India and to attend the All-Asian Conference convened by Nehru, scheduled to take place in New Delhi on 24th March 1947.

 On the same day a meeting of Whites in Pietersburg, Northern Transvaal, a resolution proposing the boycott of Indian traders is passed. It is also proposed that Whites entering Indian stores and White women working in Indian stores be ‘tarred and feathered’.

The next day, at a NIC meeting in Pietermaritzburg, speakers call on the Indian community to boycott the British Royal visit. At a meeting in Johannesburg, P.R. Pather appealed to the Indian community not to boycott the British Royal visit. A.I. Kajee and A. Christopher support Pather’s call.

Representatives of the ANC, NIC and TIC meet in Johannesburg on 9 March 1947. The Presidents of the three Congresses — Dr Xuma, Dr Naicker and Dr Dadoo — sign a “Joint Declaration of Cooperation” — The Three Doctors’ Pact. This signalled the birth of the Alliance Politics between the oppressed groups.

Drs Dadoo and Naicker in India

After intervention by Mahatma Gandhi and the Government of India, which invited them to the Asian Relations Conference, Doctors Dadoo and Naicker are granted passports and leave by air for India to attend the Conference. After a stop-over in Cairo where they meet the Secretary-General of the Arab League, they arrive in India on 18 March. Dr Dadoo and Dr Naicker meet Mahatma Gandhi in Patna on 20 March 1947 and hold several hours’ discussions with him.

On 23 March 1947, a meeting of the ANC, APO, NIC and TIC is held in Johannesburg to discuss cooperation. The Asian Relations Conference opens in Delhi. Dr Dadoo and Dr Naicker hold discussions with many delegations from Asia and Egypt. At the conclusion of the conference they go on a tour of India. They address large mass meetings and are given civic receptions in several cities. They are assured of support by all political parties, many public organisations and prominent leaders.

Three batches of resisters led by K. Rajah, B. Govindsamy and Lalla Moses occupy Resistance Plot on 9 April 1947. They are all sentenced to terms of hard labour varying between one and three months. In a statement to the Court, Rajah informed the Magistrate that they are before the court because they had refused to submit to the provisions of the Ghetto Act. “We go to prison with a clear conscience with the knowledge that we are waging a just war against an unjust law, he added.”

Dr Dadoo and Dr Naicker meet Mohamed Ali Jinnah President of the All India Muslim League (and later, Governor General of Pakistan), on 16 May 1947; Jinnah assures them of support.

Dr Dadoo and Dr Naicker meet again with Mahatma Gandhi in Patna on 18 and 19 May 1947.

They return to Johannesburg from India on 27 May 1947 after attending the Inter Asian Conference.

South African Representatives at the United Nations

South African Indian representatives at the last session of the United Nations were hopelessly divided among themselves. This division was carried further in the internal politics at home. There were two clear groups, the first of which represented the “new guard”, militant young men whose leaders made up the Joint PRC and whose membership was drawn from the NIC and the TIC. Their leaders are Dadoo and Naicker.

The second group represented the “old guard”, Kajee-Pather group, which lost its hold over the NIC and soon over the SAIC. At an international level these two groups were divided on the issue of finding a solution to their local problems. The first group was of the view that local agitation such as a passive resistance campaign will project the South African Indian question in a dynamic manner on the world forum at New York, from which direction some assistance would be forthcoming. The Kajee-Pather group felt that local difficulties should be resolved between the Union and Indian governments without any interference from other sources. The first group was referred to as the “extremists” and the second, the “moderates”.

Consequently, an informal meeting of representative Indians was held under the chairmanship of Hajee Ahmed Sadek Kajee, who was one of the delegates of the SAIC to India in 1946. Kajee explained what had transpired at a meeting with the officials of the NIC on 18 April 1947, when the officials of the NIC did not give a clear reply on the issue of accepting in principle the necessity for a round table conference between the Government of India and the Union Government. Speaking at this meeting, P. R. Pather said that on his return from the United Nations he had suggested that passive resistance be suspended to pave the way for discussions between the two governments. Pather suggested three alternatives to the meeting: to go into the fold of the NIC which would mean fighting among themselves on questions of policy; to form a group on the lines of the Anti Segregation Council which would again result in similar quarrels; or to form a body to speak for moderate Indians. The meeting adopted a resolution to convene a conference of representative Natal Indians to decide on what steps to take in the future.

At a conference held in Durban on 4 May 1947 a new political body called the Natal Indian Organisation (NIO) was constituted. On 21 May 1947, a NIO delegation presented a memorandum to Smuts requesting that he take immediate steps for the resumption of diplomatic relations between the Union and India and that he initiate discussions in accordance with the United Nations resolution of 8 December 1946, between representatives of the Union and Indian Governments to arrive at a solution of all matters affecting Indians and in such discussions to allow South African Indian representatives to participate. In respect of the Asiatic Advisory Board, the NIO memorandum stated the formation of such bodies will accentuate racial differences

A batch of seven passive resisters, led by 52 year old Albert Thomas, a hawker, is sentenced for resisting the Ghetto Act on 21 May 1947. The magistrate discharged R.N. Padayachee owing to his age. The others sentenced were Sewchuprah Singh, M.D. Singh, G.R. Pillay, R.P. Naidoo, K.G. Chetty and I.J. Chetty all from Durban.

Senator H. M. Basner opens the first Biennial Conference of the NIC, held at the Kathiawad Hall, Lorne Street, Durban on 6 – 8 June 1947, presided over by Dr Monty Naicker.

The NIC and TIC observe the first anniversary of the PRC on 13 June 1947.

Six members of the TIC, D.S. Ramsamy, K.S. Ramsamy, I.M. Desai, S.M. Timol, N. Sammy and C. Samy, from Heidelberg, received summons for the alleged contravention of the Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Act. The summons stated that they being Asiatics “wrongfully and unlawfully without the authority of a permit - - - occupy land or premises which is not allowed to be occupied by Asiatics under the Ghetto Act.

Dr Yusuf Mohammed Dadoo is re-elected as leader of the TIC on 24 August 1947. He calls for international sanctions against South Africa.

By 10 October 1947, the Authorities stop arrests at the resistance camp in Gale Street in an attempt to break the resistance. As a result, the NIC holds a mass meeting in Durban to launch a new phase of the Passive Resistance Campaign in view of the stalemate at the Gale Street resistance camp and the activities of the “moderates”.

Ashwin Choudree and a batch of resisters occupy Resistance Plot in Durban on 10 November 1947. Among them is Khalil Saloojee of Johannesburg — his second stint as a passive resister — the Chairman of the Newlands Branch of the Transvaal Indian Youth Volunteer Corps. Other members of the Corps in the same batch included Essop Seedat (second time) and Mahommed Wajah. The rest of the batch is made up of Suliman Esakjee, Ismail Hassen, Soobramoney Pillay and Marimuthu Moodely. Neither the furious gale, that blows away the tents that the resisters had set up, nor the pelting rain deters them. The batch continues to occupy Resistance Plot.

To date, 13 November 1947, the total number of passive resisters imprisoned 17 months later, was 1,588 men and 338 women.

Change in resistance strategy

Since October 1947, as a tactic to break up the campaign, the police decline to arrest resisters occupying the Camp. Small groups of resisters continued to occupy the camp but interest began to wane. The Joint Council of the PRC decided on 9 January 1948 to change its tactics. It resolved to contravene the 1913 Immigrants Regulations Act as Gandhi had done 35 years earlier and to reinvigorate the campaign — by defying restrictions on inter-provincial movement. This decision of the Joint PRC is endorsed by a conference of its Action Committees and Congress branches held in Durban on 11 January 1948.

Rungasamy Aranajalam Pillay and R. Mahabeer lead the first batch of 25 resisters across the Natal/Transvaal border on 24 January 1948. The police only arrest them on 10 February 1948 after Pillay addressed numerous meetings in the Transvaal. When no arrests are made he declared at a public meeting that the passive resisters were to move into the Orange Free State where Indians were barred from entry. On 10 February 1948 they are sentenced in the Johannesburg Magistrates Court to one month’s imprisonment, suspended, provided the offence was not repeated. They were then sent back to Newcastle across the border.

Mahatma Gandhi, in a speech at a prayer meeting two days before his assassination on 28 January 1948, supported the new stage of the Passive Resistance Movement.

Drs Naicker and Dadoo are charged with aiding and abetting the resisters in the Durban Magistrates Court. They are each sentenced to six months imprisonment in terms of the 1913 Immigrants Regulations Act on 10 February 1948.

After being deported to Newcastle, 15 of the 25 resisters once again contravene the Immigrants Regulations Act and re-cross the Natal-Transvaal border on 12 February 1948 and are arrested. On 18 February they are sentenced to three months hard labour with one month suspended sentence. By May 1948, 92 persons were arrested for crossing the Natal-Transvaal border

On 13 March 1948 Dr Goonam leads a batch of twelve resisters across the Natal-Transvaal border and on 11 April 1948, Manilal Gandhi leads a batch of resisters across the Natal-Transvaal border. He is not arrested but members of his batch are arrested and sentenced to three months with hard labour.

A Transvaal batch of five resisters crosses into Natal on 9 May 1948. Three of the members who are below the age of 21 — Jackie Govender, Harold Solly and Albert Vittie — are sentenced to whipping.

The National Party (NP) wins the general elections on 26 May 1948 and soon instituted apartheid as state policy. Dr D.F. Malan becomes Prime Minister of South Africa

On 2 June 1948 the Joint Passive Resistance Council issued a statement that Passive Resistance would be suspended pending a meeting with the new government so that discussions could “be held in an atmosphere removed from any strained conditions”

By June 1948 the Passive Resistance Campaign had been operational for exactly two years and by the time the campaign was suspended over 2,000 people are arrested

Dr Dadoo and Dr Naicker are released from prison in July 1948. They call for a united front against fascism. Dr Naicker calls for a “united democratic front”.

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