Indian South Africans Timeline: 1920-1929
February, The Asiatic Inquiry Commission, headed by Sir Johannes Lange, is appointed to inquire into laws concerning the right of Asiatics to trade and acquire fixed property in the Union.
12 May, the Asiatic Inquiry Commission, appointed in February 1920 to inquire into laws concerning the right of Asiatics to trade and acquire fixed property in the Union, submits an interim report. Although the Commission found that the 'Asiatic menace' was a myth, it recommended voluntary segregation and firmer immigration laws. The all-white Durban City Council (DCC) began to restrict Indian trade and voting rights. From 1922 the Council stopped the sale of municipal land to Indians, and when a councillor suggested that Indians were in need of land, Councillor H. Kemp replied that there was plenty in India. Indians were deprived of the municipal franchise in 1924.
December, P.K. Naidoo and others form the Congress Resuscitation Committee (CRC) to resuscitate the Natal Indian Congress (NIC) that had become defunct after a split with Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in 1913.
The Indian population of Durban increased from 16 400 in 1921 to 123 165 in 1949 and the African population from 29 022 to 109 543 during this period.
3 March, The Asiatic Inquiry Commission, appointed in February 1920 to inquire into laws concerning the right of Asiatics to trade and acquire fixed property in the Union, concludes its activities and submits its final report. The Commission rejects the grievances of the South African League and proposes a system of voluntary repatriation and segregation of Indians. It also recommends that existing legislation on Indians in the Transvaal be retained, but that new measures be introduced in Natal to prohibit Indians from buying agricultural land in a specified area along the coast.
5 March, The Durban Land Alienation Ordinance, No. 14 of 1921 (Natal), enables the Durban City Council to exclude Indians from the ownership or occupation of property in white areas. The ordinance evokes strenuous opposition.
The Provincial Council of Natal approves the Township Franchise Ordinance, which will deprive Indians of their municipal franchise rights. The Union Government, however, vetoes the ordinance.
The Provincial Council of Natal approves the Rural Dealers' Licensing Ordinance, which limits Indian traders' right of appeal against the refusal of trading licences by municipal licensing officers.
6 March, The Natal Indian Congress (NIC) is resuscitated and reorganised at a meeting in Durban. Ismail Gora is elected President.
20 June, The Imperial Conference begins in London. At the Conference, V.S. Srinivasa Sastri, the Indian representative, puts forward a strong case for the granting of full citizenship rights to Indians in South Africa and other British colonies. The South African Prime Minister, General J.C. Smuts, opposes Sastri's resolution that calls for equality and maintains that he cannot grant the franchise to Indians while withholding it from Blacks.
A South African Indian deputation, supported by Sir Jamshetji Jeejibhoy and other Indian leaders, meets the Viceroy in India.
Minister of Interior, Sir Patrick Duncan, introduces Class Areas Bill, which proposes compulsory residential and trading segregation for Indians throughout South Africa.
Boroughs Ordinance No. 189 of 1924 - This Bill effectively disenfranchises Indians in Natal. They lose vote in boroughs.
Industrial Conciliation Act - this Act provides for job reservation.
31 May, the Mayor of Durban, Walter Gilbert J.P., officially opens the third national conference of Indian organisations in the Durban Town Hall. The Conference formally decides to establish the South African Indian Congress (SAIC) and Omar Hajee Amod Jhaveri is elected its first President.
1-3 June, The third national conference of Indian organisations continues at Parsee Rustomjee Hall in Queen Street, Durban. The Conference draws up and adopts the constitution and standing orders of the newly established South African Indian Congress.
The Boroughs Ordinance, Ordinance No. 189 of 1924 effectively disenfranchises Indians in Natal. The South African Indian Congress threatens passive resistance.
Indian progress in industry was limited by the Apprenticeship Act, Industrial Conciliation Act (1924), and the Minimum Wage Act (1925), which gave preference to white workers. Indians established a position as poorly paid semi-skilled and unskilled industrial operatives.
January, The Minister of the Interior, Sir Patrick Duncan, introduces the Class Areas Bill, which proposes compulsory residential and trading segregation for Indians throughout South Africa.
27 January, The Natal Indian Congress and the Natal Indian Association (NIA) jointly organises a mass meeting in Durban in opposition to the Class Areas Bill. The mass meeting is attended by 3,000 Indians.
15 February, A deputation of the South African Indian Congress (SAIC) meets with the Minister of the Interior, Sir Patrick Duncan, and presents him with a memorandum setting out their objections concerning the Class Areas Bill.
April, After an invitation from the Natal Indian Congress (NIC), Mrs. Sarojini Naidu, a celebrated poetess from India, returns to South Africa from a visit to Kenya. She addresses scores of meetings and puts forward the case of the South African Indian Congress (SAIC) concerning the Class Areas Bill in interviews with the Prime Minister, General Jan Christiaan Smuts, the Minister of the Interior, Sir Patrick Duncan, the leaders of the Opposition and other prominent members of Parliament. She is also present in Parliament during its discussions of the Bill. The Government later decides not to pursue the Bill pending the general elections to be held in June.
8 April, The Industrial Conciliation Act, Act No. 11 of 1924, provides for job reservation.
21-25 April, The South African Indian Congress (SAIC) convenes an emergency conference in Durban. In a resolution adopted by the Conference, the SAIC approves Mrs Sarojini Naidu's suggestion that a Round-table Conference be held between delegates from the SAIC, the Union Government and the Indian Government.
The Transvaal Dealers (Control) Ordinance, Ordinance No. 11 of 1925, aims to restrict Indian trade by placing further obstacles in the way of obtaining licences.
The Minimum Wages Act leads to a form of job reservation and promotes White employment by earmarking certain trades for Whites.
25 January, Sir Dinshaw Petit and Sir Purushottamdas Thakurdas head a deputation to the Viceroy of India to press for a round-table conference with South Africa.
8 April, The Indian Government sends a telegram to the Union Government to suggest a round-table conference. In his reply to the telegram, the Union Governor General states that the conference must acknowledge repatriation as fundamental to the discussions.
16 June, The Union Government rejects a round-table conference with India on the grounds that it will constitute interference in South African affairs.
23 July, Dr. D. F. Malan, Minister of the Interior, introduces the Areas Reservation and Immigration and Registration (Further Provision) Bill in Parliament. The Bill is more stringent than the Class Areas Bill; whereas the Class Areas Bill was designed for the purposes of enforcing mere segregation, the Areas Reservation Bill defines Indians as aliens and recommends the limitation of the Indian population through repatriation.
31 August, The Natal Indian Congress (NIC) holds a mass meeting in Durban in protest against the proposed Areas Reservation and Immigration and Registration (Further Provision) Bill. Anglia and J.K. Roberts call for a round-table meeting of Indian organisations, but the resolution is opposed.
24 September, in a communiqué to the Indian Government, the Union Government again declares that there is no need for a round-table conference and that the two Governments need only to discuss the repatriation of South African Indians.
9-12 November, The fifth Conference of the South African Indian Congress (SAIC) in Cape Town rejects the Areas Reservation and Immigration and Registration (Further Provision) Bill and calls for a round-table conference to be held between the Governments of India and South Africa and representatives of the SAIC. The Conference also adopts a resolution that a deputation be sent to India.
16 November, Advocate J.W. Godfrey leads the South African Indian Congress (SAIC) deputation to the Minister of Interior, Dr D.F. Malan, to put forward the case of the Indian community with regards to the Areas Reservation and Immigration and Registration (Further Provision) Bill. The deputation urges the Minister to agree to a round-table conference between the Governments of India and South Africa.
23 November, A deputation of the South African Indian Congress (SAIC) leaves for India to lobby the Indian Government about the issues of the Areas Reservation and Immigration and Registration (Further Provision) Bill and a round-table conference between the Governments of India and South Africa.
December, The Paddison Deputation, led by the Commissioner of Labour in Madras, G.F. Paddison, arrives in South Africa. The other members of the deputation are the Hon. Syed Raza Ali, G.S. Bajpai, C.S Ricketts and Sir Deva Prasad Sarvadhikary. The aim of the deputation is to study the general position and economic conditions of the Indians in South Africa. This delegation paves way for the first Round-table Conference.
19 December, The South African Indian Congress (SAIC) delegation, led by Dr Abdullah Abdurahman (President of the African People's Organisation, APO, but now involved with the plight of the Indians), meets with the Viceroy of India. The other members of the delegation are: Amod Bayat, J. W. Godfrey, Pandit Bhawani Dayal, V. S. C. Pather, Sorabjee Rustomjee and A. A. Mirza.
26 December, The South African Indian Congress (SAIC) deputation attends 40th session of All-India Congress (also referred to as the India National Congress) at Cawnpore, India. Sarojini Naidu, President of the Indian National Congress, links the problems of South African Indians with India's subjection to foreign rule and calls for the freedom of India.
The Mines and Works Amendment Act , Act No. 25 of 1926 (Colour Bar Act), provides certificates of competency for skilled work, but Indian workers are excluded. Because of the differential treatment instituted as a result of this and other discriminatory Acts, Indian workers feel that separate Indian and Coloured Unions would best serve their needs, especially as white Trade Unions refuse to admit Indian members who want to fully benefit of Industrial Conciliation Act. i.e. representation on Industrial councils and Conciliation Boards.
In terms of the proposed Liquor Bill, Sections 107 and 144, Indians and Africans cannot be employed by licence holders and are not allowed on licenced premises or to drive in liquor supply vehicles. 3,000 Indians employed in the brewery trade are affected.
30 January, Prime Minister, Gen. J.B.M. Hertzog and the Minister of the Interior, Dr D.F. Malan, meet with the Paddington delegation after a great deal of pressure from the British government. The meeting results in the decision that a Select Committee will be set up to enable the Paddison deputation to argue on the principle of Areas Reservation Bill. The deputation also succeeds in getting the Union Government to agree to a round-table conference.
February, The South African Indian Congress (SAIC) deputation to India returns to South Africa.
17 February, The South African Government agrees to round-table conference with the Government of India provided discussion is restricted to repatriation of Indians. The conference is to be held at the end of 1926. It is further agreed that a South African Government deputation will visit India before the conference.
23 February, The South African Indian Congress (SAIC) calls for a national day of prayer (hartal), strikes and the closure of shops in opposition to various pieces of proposed anti-Indian legislation. The South African Indian community heeds this call on national scale.
31 May, Indian Government invites a delegation from the South African Government to visit India in an attempt to foster closer mutual cooperation.
19 September, A South African Government delegation, led by F. W. Beyers, the Minister of Mines and Industry, in the Hertzog Government, and Patrick Duncan, the Minister of the Interior in the previous Smuts Government, arrives in India.
October, General J.B.M. Hertzog, South African Prime Minister, attends the Imperial Conference in London. The Conference focuses on the clarification of the dominions' status within the British Empire and its activities result in the Balfour Declaration.
19 November, Following the Imperial Conference held in London in October, Lord Balfour, the former British Prime Minister, announces the Balfour Declaration, in which the status of the dominions in the British Empire is clarified as follows: “[Britain and her dominions] are autonomous Communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations”.
6-7 December, The South African Indian Congress holds an Emergency Conference.
1926 - 1927
17 December - 12 January, Representatives of the South African and Indian Governments meet for a round-table conference in Cape Town. The Conference leads to the conclusion of the Cape Town Agreement between South Africa and India. In terms of the agreement, the Indian population of South Africa shall be limited through assisted emigration; the entry of naturalised Indians' wives and minor children will be facilitated in accordance with paragraph 3 of the Reciprocity Resolution; and the South African Government commits itself to the upliftment of the Indian Community in South Africa. It is also decided that Agents of the Government of India will be appointed to represent India in South Africa.
At the age of 17, Gangathura Mohambry 'Monty' Naicker leaves South Africa and travels to Scotland to study medicine at Edinburgh University. At Edinburgh he meets a fellow Durban student, Kesaveloo Goonaruthnum Naidoo (Dr Goonam)and another South African, Yusuf Dadoo.
At Edinburgh Naicker was appointed editor of the Edinburgh Indian Association Rulebook (cum Yearbook) and was a member of several committees. His experiences in Edinburgh cut across racial boundaries and he was friendly with those who were imbued with the ideals of anti-imperialism
12 January, The Cape Town Agreement is signed on the last day of a round-table conference of representatives of the South African and Indian Governments. The South African Minister of the Interior, Dr D.F. Malan withdraws the Areas Reservation Bill, while the Government of India agrees to the policy of voluntary repatriation.
21 February, The Cape Town Agreement is published and a joint communiqué on the Cape Town round-table conference is issued by the South African and Indian Governments.
12 March - 13 March, The seventh annual Conference of the South African Indian Congress (SAIC) is held in Johannesburg to discuss the Cape Town Agreement signed by South Africa and India in February. The SAIC accepts the Agreement. Transvaal delegates also try unsuccessfully to get a decision from the Conference to move the SAIC headquarters to Johannesburg.
12 April, in an article published in The Star, The Minister of the Interior, Dr D.F. Malan presents the Cape Town Agreement as an agreement between South Africa and India to repatriate Indians.
27 April, The Minister of the Interior, Dr D.F. Malan, introduces the Immigration and Indian Relief (Further Provision) Bill in Parliament. The introduction of the Bill follows closely on the Round-table Conference between India and South Africa and has as its aim to provide legal guidelines for the implementation of the Cape Town Agreement. The Bill requires children of South African Indian parents, born outside the Union, to enter the country within three months of birth. In addition, South African Indians who absent themselves for three continuous years from the country forfeit their rights of domicile, while Indians who have entered the country illegally (mostly at the time of the Anglo-Boer War) will be condoned and issued with condonation certificates. However, families of condonees will not be allowed to join them. The Act also establishes a scheme of voluntary repatriation of South African Indians to India with the compliance of the Indian Government. Repatriates are to receive bonuses of £20 per adult and £10 per child, plus free passage to India. This bonus is doubled in 1931 and finally abolished in 1955 when it becomes apparent that only the old, who intend to retire in India, are taking advantage of it.
8 May, The Transvaal British Indian Association (TBIA), dominated by Muslim merchants, secedes from the South African Indian Congress (SAIC). The TBIA feels that the SAIC, dominated by representatives of the Natal Indian Congress, does not pay sufficient attention to the problems experienced by Transvaal Indians.
10 May, the Natal Provincial Council passes a motion against the Cape Town Agreement over fears that existing licensing legislation will be relaxed.
27 May, V.S.S. Sastri is appointed as the first Agent of the Government of India in South Africa. The South African Indian Congress (SAIC) sends a deputation to the Minister of the Interior, Dr D.F. Malan, to protest against Section 5 of the Immigration and Indian Relief (Further Provision) Bill. This section empowers Immigration Officers and Boards to cancel registration certificates and certificates of domicile. After pressure by V.S.S. Sastri, Malan, does not put Section 5 into effect.
23 June, Dr. A. Abdurahman, leader of the African People's Organisation (APO), organises a Non-European Conference in Kimberley to protest against the so-called 'Hertzog Bills' that aims to further segregation and are to be tabled in Parliament later. At Abdurahman's invitation, the South African Indian Congress (SAIC) sends a delegation led by V. Lawrence. The delegation, however, declares that the SAIC cannot be bound by resolutions adopted at the Conference, because of the delicate position of Indians following the Cape Town Agreement and the appointment of an Indian Agent.
23 June, The Northern Districts Act of 1927 determines that Transvaal laws will be applied to Indians in Utrecht, Vryheid and Paulpietersburg. Restrictions are placed on the purchase of land by Indians, as well as their trade and residence rights.
29 June, The first Agent of the Government of India, the Right Hon. V.S. Srinivasa Sastri arrives in South Africa.
5 July, The Immigration and Indian Relief (Further) Provision Bill becomes law as the Immigration and Indian Relief (Further) Provision Act, Act No. 37 of 1927 and the scheme of the assisted emigration of Indians comes into operation
October, The Nationality and Flag Act denies Indians the right to become South African citizens by naturalisation.
12 October, The Indian Agent in South Africa, V.S.S. Sastri, addresses a public meeting in Johannesburg to explain Section 5, concerning the entry of minor Indian children into the Transvaal, of the Immigration and Indian Relief (Further) Provision Act, Act No. 37 of 1927.
17 November, Due to the efforts of the Indian Agent in South Africa, V.S.S. Sastri and C.F. Andrews, the Natal Commission for Indian Education is appointed.
18 December, Dissidents from the Transvaal British Indian Association (TBIA) (encouraged by the Indian Agent, V.S. Srinivasa Sastri) establish the Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC). The TIC affiliates with the South African Indian Congress (SAIC) at the annual conference of SAIC in January 1928.
2 January - 5 January, The affiliation of the Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC) to the South African Indian Congress (SAIC) is accepted at the SAIC's annual conference.
February, Section 104 of the Liquor Bill of 1927 is withdrawn. If implemented, this section would have prohibited Indians from being employed on any licenced premises. The spark for union organisation among Indians was Section 104 of the Liquor Bill of 1927, which stipulated that Indians could not be employed in establishments that served liquor. This was a serious threat, as Indian workers comprised 97 percent of hotel employees in Natal.
Francis C. Pillay, chairman of the Durban Hotel Employees Association, called a mass meeting at which a resolution was passed condemning the proposed law and an appeal was made “to the people of India and in general to Asia to extend their moral support to Indians in South Africa in their struggle for existence.” Speakers included A.I. Kajee and P.R. Pather. They pressurised the government to delete this clause from the Liquor Bill. Moderate politicians regarded the Bill as a violation of the Cape Town Agreement and feared that it would be a precursor to other restrictive legislation
25 March, The South African Federation of Non-European Trade Unions is formed. The Natal Indian Congress (NIC) and the South African Indian Congress (SAIC) help establish several Indian trade unions and bring them together in a Natal Workers Congress with NIC officials in key positions.
19 September, The Minister of Public Health appoints the Executive Committee of the Central Housing Board to enquire into the sanitary and housing conditions of Indians in and around Durban. The Committee becomes known as the Thornton Committee after its chairman, Sir Edward N. Thornton.
December, The Natal Indian Congress (NIC) arranged a conference of workers, merchants and professionals to address racism in employment. The Indian Opinion pointed to the anomaly that whereas “in other parts of the world such movements are inaugurated to fight against the capitalists, the movement in South Africa is not to fight the capitalists but their fellow European trade unionists.” At this inaugural Indian Trade Union Congress the platform was shared by Albert Christopher, A.I. Kajee, P.R. Pather, Sorabjee Rustomjee and Srinivas Sastri. A Natal Workers Congress (NWC) was formed under the tutelage of merchants and professionals. Albert Christopher was elected President, and A.I. Kajee and P.R. Pather as Vice-Presidents.
28 December - 30 December, at a conference held in Johannesburg, the South African Federation is launched with Abdul Karim as President. The Federation repudiates the Cape Town Agreement, as it is opposed to the reduction of the Indian population in South Africa and their repatriation.
Bhawani Dayal Sannyasi, Vice President of Natal Indian Congress (NIC), President of the All-India Emigrants Conference and a member of the South African Indian Congress deputation to India in 1925, publishes a report on the subject of the repatriation scheme in which he reaches the following conclusions:
- The repatriation scheme had failed because it brought great misery upon the repatriates, especially those born in South Africa, who were accustomed to a different standard of living.
- The caste system in India presented great difficulties to repatriates born of inter-caste marriages in South Africa.
- The Indian Government had been able to help a few repatriates in South India but hardly any in North India.
- Foodstuffs in India were very costly. The repatriates would be better off financially in South Africa.
- The repatriates, especially the skilled workers, found it very difficult to settle happily in India because of climatic conditions and low wages.
- The repatriation scheme would become increasingly unpopular, as the true facts became known.
- It was morally wrong to encourage unsuspecting persons to take advantage of the scheme and thereby find themselves in great difficulties in return for which those left behind would be uplifted. It was selfish for those in South Africa to benefit at the expense of the repatriates, as it was immoral for India to support the scheme without ensuring the total assimilation of the repatriates into Indian society.
January, Sir Kurma Reddi succeeds V.S.S. Sastri as Agent of the Government of India in South Africa.
October, The Governor-General of South Africa, the Earl of Athlone, opens Sastri College, a high school for Indian boys, in Durban.
1929 - 1930
29 December - 1 January, The tenth annual conference of the South African Indian Congress (SAIC) is held in Cape Town. At the Conference, the Indian Agent in South Africa, Sir Kurma Reddi, comes under severe criticism because of the way he is handling the interests of South African Indians.