The Durban Municipality was a major employer of Indian labour, employing an average of 2 000 workers through the 1930s and 1940s. Municipal workers and their dependants totalled almost 10 000. Most were housed at the Magazine Barracks in Somtseu Road, Durban, where conditions were deplorable and barely upgraded over the years, in spite of many protests. Councillor Knight provided one explanation for the refusal to do something about it: “The more wretchedly the Indians are housed and paid, the more likely they will be willing to be repatriated to India.”
The Barracks persisted because they helped to maintain discipline and increase the efficiency of workers. It was fenced all round with entrances in the front and rear that were guarded by Sirdars (Foremen) who maintained 'law and order' and had the power to arrest anyone breaking by-laws. They were provided with batons and cuffs, and given the status of Special Constables. Municipal employees were among the lowest paid workers in Durban.
A 1946 survey of the 6,140 residents of the Magazine Barracks found that the average family size was 6.1 persons with 1.4 wage earners per household. The income of municipal employees accounted for two-thirds of their total expenditure, with the balance made up by the income of women peddlers and domestic servants, and males who worked in the evenings or on weekends to supplement their incomes. Malnutrition was widespread and 70 % of families were in debt because of the high cost of food, clothing, and medical fees.
3 February, Following problems over Indian trading rights and ownership of property in the municipal areas of Springs, Krugersdorp, and Norwood and Braamfontein in Johannesburg, the Minister of the Interior, Dr D.F. Malan, appoints a Select Committee to look into the questions of Indian trading rights and ownership of property in the Transvaal.
13 May, the Select Committee, appointed in January 1930 to look into the questions of Indian trading rights and ownership of property in the Transvaal, publishes its report and makes the following recommendations:
- Asiatics are in the future to be prevented from acquiring property in any form outside the areas set aside for them.
- Sections 130 and 131 of the Gold Law are to be strictly enforced after 1 May 1930, even in townships like Springs, which were held to be outside Gold Law.
- Trading licenses are to be issued only to Asiatics who are the lawful owners of the premises that they occupy. Immediately following the recommendations of the Select Committee, the Minister of the Interior, Dr D.F. Malan, introduces the Transvaal Asiatic Land Tenure (Amendment) Bill. The Bill contains three main provisions concerning the ownership of fixed property by Asiatics in the Transvaal; the occupation of stands in prohibited areas and their residence thereon; and the method of granting trading licences to Asiatics. Its aim was to close every loophole in existing laws and regulations. The Bill sparks widespread protest and is regarded by Indians as a betrayal of the Cape Town Agreement.
9 August, The Government of India sends a telegram to the South African Government in protest against the proposed Transvaal Asiatic Land Tenure (Amendment) Bill.
5-6 October, An emergency conference of the South African Indian Congress (SAIC) is held in Johannesburg in order to formulate opposition to the Transvaal Asiatic Land Tenure (Amendment) Bill.
Sir Kurma Reddi, the Indian Agent in South Africa, addresses the Conference. The Conference calls upon the South African Government to withdraw the Bill and presses for another round-table conference to be held between the South African and Indian Governments. Should the South African Government fail to accept such a conference, it is asked that India shall withdraw its Agent as protest against Bill.
28 October, Representatives of India, Sir Muhammad Shafi and G.S. Bajpai hold informal talks with Prime Minister, General J.B.M. Hertzog.
28 January, The Government of India formally requests the South African Government to postpone the Transvaal Asiatic Land Tenure Bill pending negotiations between the two Governments concerning a second round-table conference.
6 May, the Minister of the Interior, Dr D.F. Malan, announces the postponement of the second reading of the Transvaal Asiatic Land Tenure Bill and a tentative date is set for the Second Round-table Conference in December.
September, as unemployed Indians became desperate; they took matters into their own hands. Following a mass meeting, over 500 'weary, footsore, and hungry' workers marched to the Indian Agent's house demanding action. This induced an instant response and the Natal Indian Congress (NIC) criticised government apathy at a mass meeting. An Unemployment Register was started and the Sir Kurma Reddy Unemployment Fund was established. Over 4 000 workers registered by August.
4 January, A delegation of the Government of India arrives in South Africa for the Second Round Table Conference with representatives of the South African Government. The delegation is led by Sir Fazli Hussein and the other members are V.S.S. Sastri, Sarojini Naidu, Sir Geoffrey Corbett, Sir d'Arcy Lindsay, Sir Kurma Reddi and G.S. Bajpai (Secretary).
12 January, The Second Round Table Conference between the Governments of India and South Africa opens in Cape Town. The South African delegation is led by the Minister of the Interior, Dr D.F. Malan, and includes the Minister of Land, Oswald Pirow, the Minister of Native Affairs, E.G. Jansen, and Patrick Duncan and G.H. Nicholls as representatives of the opposition South African Party.
12 January - 4 February, During the Second Round Table Conference between the Governments of India and South Africa, the South African Minister of the Interior, Dr D.F. Malan, indicates the failure of Cape Town Agreement with regards to the repatriation of Indians and introduces the Colonisation (Emigration) Scheme. In terms of this scheme, a Committee was to be appointed to investigate possible outlets or areas abroad, to which South African Indians can be relocated. Malan also produces a signed document by South African Indian leaders, including Advocate Albert Christopher, P.R. Pather and Manilal Gandhi, in which cooperation in a colonising scheme is offered. This issue would later lead to a split in the South African Indian Community with the formation of the Colonial Born and Indian Settlers Association.
4 February, The Second Round-Table Conference between the Governments of India and South Africa ends in Cape Town without any decisions or agreements on the contentious Transvaal Asiatic Land Tenure Bill of 1930.
5 April, The Report on the Second Round-table Conference between the Governments of India and South Africa is released. Indian leaders in South Africa express their disappointment with the results of the Conference and its emphasis on the Scheme of Assisted Emigration.
18 April, The Minister of the Interior, Dr D.F. Malan, requests the South African Indian Congress (SAIC) to nominate a representative of the South African Indian community to the Colonisation Enquiry Committee.
June, The Transvaal Asiatic Land Tenure (Amendment) Act, Act No. 35 of 1932 becomes law. The Transvaal Asiatic Land Tenure Act and its subsequent amendments in 1934, 1935 and 1937 establish the statutory segregation of Indians in the Transvaal and end the state of uncertainty about their status in the Province that has existed since the passing of Law 3 of 1885.
3 August, Sir Kunwar Maharaj Singh arrives in South Africa as the successor to Sir Kurma Reddi as Agent for the Government of India in South Africa. The Indian Government places the Agent at the disposal of the proposed Colonisation Enquiry Committee.
The South African Indian Congress (SAIC) convenes a conference in Johannesburg. The Conference adopts a resolution in which it agrees to co-operate with the Indian and South African Governments to find good opportunities for Indians in other countries in terms of the proposed Assisted Emigration Scheme. However, the Conference stresses that this decision is neither an admission that Indians are undesirables nor an acceptance of attempts to reduce the South African Indian population.
14 August, The Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC) holds a mass meeting, attended by one thousand people, to respond to the Transvaal Asiatic Land Tenure Amendment Act. After an emotional appeal by Thambi Naidoo, the meeting resolves to appoint a committee to organize resistance to the Act.
27 August, The twelfth annual conference of the South African Indian Congress (SAIC) is held in Johannesburg. The SAIC President, Sorabjee Rustomjee, supports the Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC) decision to resist the Transvaal Asiatic Land Tenure Act.
4 October, The Feetham Commission, led by Mr Justice Feetham, is appointed to enquire into the occupation of proclaimed land in the Transvaal by Coloured persons and to compile a register of persons in legal/ illegal occupation. The Agent-General of India, Kunwar Sir Maharaj Singh, appeals to the Commission on behalf of South African Indians. The Commission is boycotted by the Transvaal and South African Indian Congresses (TIC and SAIC).
A 1933 report of the Durban Town Council noted that 16 100 Indians lived in housing categorised as 'unsuitable owing to inferior design and construction, decay and dilapidation, lack of ventilation and lighting and hygienic necessities.' The situation was so desperate that 1 700 were living in stables previously used as animal shelters.
16 June, The new Minister of the Interior in the Coalition Government, J.H. Hofmeyr, appoints the Indian Colonisation Enquiry Committee and announces the Committee's terms of reference and composition. Known as the Young Committee after its Chairman, James Young, its other members are G. Heaton Nicholls, P.K. Kincaid and a nominee of the South African Indian Congress (SAIC).
9 July, The Executive of the South African Indian Congress (SAIC) meets in Durban and appoints S.R. Naidoo as the SAIC's nominee to the Young Committee. Albert Christopher, Manilal Gandhi and P.R. Pather, arguing for non-cooperation with the Committee, strongly condemn the appointment.
23 July, Twenty two leading Indian leaders, including Manilal Gandhi, Albert Christopher and P.R. Pather, call for a mass meeting to protest the decision of the South African Indian Congress (SAIC) to cooperate with the Young Committee.
28 July, The Young Commission, charged with investigating possible outlets or areas abroad to which South African Indians can be relocated, begins its work.
22 August, Albert Christopher, Manilal Gandhi, S.L. Singh and P.R. Pather form the Colonial Born and Settlers Indian Association (CBSIA). Christopher is elected President; Manilal Gandhi, Vice-President; S.L. Singh and A. Haffejee secretaries; and K.K. Pillay and P.G. Naicker (father of Dr. G.M. Naicker) treasurers. The formation of the CBSIA is essentially in protest against the cooperation of the South African Indian Congress (SAIC) and the Government of India with the Young Committee.
19-20 August, The South African Indian Congress (SAIC) holds an Emergency Conference in Johannesburg. The Conference, opened by the Indian Agent-General, Kunwar Maharaj Singh, sanctions a policy of cooperation with the Young Committee and confirms the nomination of S. R. Naidoo to the Committee. Manilal Gandhi, Albert Christopher and Transvaal Indian Congress delegates C.K.T. Naidoo, B.L.E. Sigamoney, P.S. Joshi, E. Mall and S.B. Medh oppose the SAIC line.
24 August, A meeting of the Colonial Born and Indian Settlers Association (CBSIA) at the Durban City Hall is attended by Sir Kunwar Maharaj Singh, the Indian Agent in South Africa, and his wife. Lady Maharaj Singh brings the rowdy meeting to order.
September, Members of the Colonial Born and Indian Settlers Association's (CBSIA) Pietermaritzburg branch, armed with knives, knuckledusters, bicycle chains and iron rods, disrupt a meeting in the Pietermaritzburg City Hall and the police is called in.
23 September, A. Christopher and P.R. Pather address meetings in Pretoria and Johannesburg. These meetings are disrupted by Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC) supporters of S.M. Nana.
31 December, The first provincial conference of the Colonial Born and Indian Settlers Association (CBSIA) is held in Durban.
Monty Naicker returns to Durban after qualifying as a medical doctor in Edinburgh.
9 January, The South African Indian Congress (SAIC) presents a statement to the Young Committee, requesting full citizenship rights for Indians in South Africa.
7 February, The Young Committee, charged with investigating possible outlets or areas abroad to which South African Indians can be relocated, completes its work.
16 February, The British Indian Union of East London dissolves and forms the Colonial Born and Indian Settlers Association (CBSIA, East London).
26 February, The Young Committee publishes its recommendations on the proposed Indian Assisted Emigration Scheme. The Committee identifies British North Borneo, British New Guinea and British Guiana as suitable for Indian colonisation. However, the Committee's findings are not taken seriously and the Committee expires. Though a few Indians do emigrate, Scheme of Assisted Emigration continues, until suspended during WWII.
February, Sir Syed Reza Ali becomes the new Agent of the Government of India to South Africa.
June, The Feetham Commission releases Parts I & II of its report.
October, The Feetham Commission releases Part III of its report. The Commission recommends that some 202 acres of land on the Rand be exempted from the Transvaal Asiatic Land Tenure Act for occupation and ownership by Indians.
16-17 December, The Anti-Fascist League called on factory workers throughout the country to send delegates to a national conference in Johannesburg. H.A. and Ponnen represented Durban clothing workers. They meet prominent unionists such as Solly Sachs, Harry Snitcher, Edwin Mofutsanyana, Issy Wolfson, and Hymie Basner. The pair came away convinced that workers must be strongly organised into trade unions to keep Fascism at bay. They were dismissed when they returned to work in January 1936. H.A. did get a job with a small trouser manufacturer, but Ponnen took to organising workers.
Dr. Yusuf Dadoo returns to practice in South Africa after obtaining a medical degree in Edinburgh. He subsequently joins the Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC) and is offered a position on the executive of TIC, which he refuses.
Chamberlain Nakasa, brother of Nat Nakasa and compositor and columnist on African Affairs in "Indian Views" weekly, starts a monthly journal called New Outlook. The editorial board consists of himself, B. Asher, Dr. Goonam, Farooqi Mehtar and I.C. Meer. A radical journal, New Outlook lasts for a short time. New Outlook is followed by Call, published by H.A. Naidoo, Cassim Amra, D.A. Seedat, George Ponen, A.K.M. Docrat and others who later become active in the Liberal Study Group.
January, The representative of the Indian Government in South Africa is raised from "Agent" to "Agent-General".
18 January, Sir Reza Ali, a Muslim, the Indian Agent-General to South Africa, marries a Hindu, Miss Ponnoo Sammy, a Hindu from Kimberley. This causes a furore and several Hindu officials and Sorabjee Rustomjee resign from the leadership of Natal Indian Congress (NIC) and the South African Indian Congress (SAIC). The leadership of the NIC passes to A.I. Kajee and other Muslims. The marriage brought out the political and cultural tensions in the Indian community. Community delegations appealed to Sir Raza Ali to call off the wedding as it would exacerbate religious tensions and work against the attempts to forge a united front, but he refused to back down. The President, one of the two Joint Secretaries and one of the two Joint Treasurers, and four members of the Executive of the South African Indian Congress (SAIC) resigned. Two days later, eight members of the NIC executive, led by V.S.C. Pather and Sorabjee Rustomjee, and 14 ordinary members also resigned. Despite the opposition Raza Ali refused to back down and completed his tenure on 13 February 1938.
February, The fifteenth annual conference of the South African Indian Congress is held in Durban and attended by the Indian Agent-General, Sir Reza Ali.
28 May, The Minister of the Interior, J.H. Hofmeyr, introduces a Bill to give legal form to the Feetham Commission's recommendations, namely the Asiatic Land Tenure Amendment Act. The Bill, as amended by the Select Committee comes up for a second reading. The Indian Agent-General, Sir Syed Raza Ali, fearing that a second reading will remove elements favourable to Indians, gives evidence in Parliament favouring voluntary segregation in an attempt to prevent second reading. The South African Indian community is outraged at the suggestion of voluntary segregation.
16 June, The Asiatic Land Tenure Amendment Act, Act No 30 of 1936 is passed. The Act empowers the Minister of the Interior to exempt further areas for Indian occupation with the possibility of freehold title. The Act accepts the policy of segregation whereby Indians are to be confined to separate areas.
28 August, The Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC) hosts a banquet to honour a delegation of South African Members of Parliament, led by J.H. Hofmeyr, the Minister of the Interior, to India.
19 September, A South African Parliamentary delegation consisting of eleven Members of Parliament, led by J.H. Hofmeyr, Minister of the Interior, arrives in Bombay, India. The visit, solely for the purpose of courtesy and goodwill and not for negotiations, will last 26 days. The delegation consists of J. H. Hofmeyr, Minister of the Interior; J. G. Kemp, Minister of Lands; Members of Parliament J. G. Derbyshire, Dr. N.J. Van der Merwe, Leif Egeland, and M.J. Van den Berg; P. I. Hoogenhout, Secretary of the Interior; P.F. Kincaid, Commissioner for Immigration and Asiatic Affairs; and C. J. Dames and K.V. Penzhorn, the Private Secretaries of the two Ministers.
December, Seth Govind Das, member of the Central Legislative Assembly of India, visits South Africa on behalf of the Indian National Congress and advises Indians not to accept any qualified franchise.
Between 1937 and 1942, Indian workers were involved in 46 strikes in Durban
Gopalall Hurbans joins the NIC at the age of 22 and was immediately co-opted onto the Working Committee. From 1953 he was vice-president and secretary of the NIC and SAIC. When Monty Naicker was banned, Hurbans was elected (Acting) chairman. He was also elected as chairman of the Natal Vigilance Committee, which had been formed in 1956 to monitor the Group Areas Act.
January, Sir Syed Reza Ali, Indian Agent-General, advises Indians to accept qualified franchise. This is contrary to advice given by Seth Govind Das and indicates the division between the Indian Government (colonial and British-controlled) and the Indian National Congress, comprised of people like Gandhi, Nehru, Seth Govind Das and Sarojini Naidu.
The Marketing Act, Act No. 26 of 1937 debars Indians from holding seats on regulatory boards. While the Marketing Bill was still under Parliamentary discussion, the South African Indian Congress (SAIC) sent a deputation to the Minister of Agriculture, Deneys Reitz, in protest, but to no avail.
The Native Administration Amendment Act, Act No. 9 of 1937 prohibits Indians and other persons of colour from employing whites.
The Industrial Conciliation Act, Act No. 36 of 1937 introduces the colour bar in trade unions. Transvaal Asiatic Land Tenure (Further Amendment) Act of 1937 is passed.
22 February, J.J. Pienaar and J.H. Grobler of the United Party introduce three discriminatory Bills to the South African parliament:
- The Mixed Marriages Bill aims to prohibit marriage between Asiatics, Europeans and Africans. In the event, the Bill is not passed, but a Mixed Marriages Commission is appointed.
- The Provincial Legislative Powers Extension Bill aims to refuse trading licenses to non-Europeans who employ white people. The Bill is later passed as the Native Administration Amendment Act, Act 9 of 1937.
- The Transvaal Asiatic Land Bill aims to deny the right of owning property to any white woman married to a non-European. The Bill is later passed as the Transvaal Asiatic Land Tenure (Further Amendment) Act of 1937.
After several secret meetings, HA Naidoo and Ponnen draft a constitution and print enrolment forms, done without compensation, during their lunch breaks. They call a general meeting where the (unregistered) Iron and Steel Workers Union (Natal) was formed. H.A. Naidoo was elected secretary, P.M. Harry, a worker at the factory, was elected chairman, and M.O. Thompson was appointed organiser. When management found out, Harry, 15 Indian and one African worker were dismissed as part of a 'retrenchment' programme. Around 400 workers, mostly Indian, went on strike to demand recognition of their union. Despite intimidation from the police and employers, the workers remained defiant. In response to accusations that the strike had been instigated by Communists, Harry wrote to the Natal Advertiser that they did 'not know what Communism means. We are entirely unorganised ‘[It] has been unfair to us [that] by raising the bogey of Communism [you] are trying to alienate public sympathy from our cause.'
April, The NIC and SAIC requested permission from the Minister of Labour to establish parallel trade unions for Indians because of the racism of white unions, but this was turned down
11 July, The strike was resolved on this date after the SAIC intervened and worked out an agreement with the Minister of Labour. However, only 119 workers were re-employed. The strike had incredible consequences; Rowley Arenstein recollected that it marked 'the beginning of tremendous growth of trade unionism amongst Indians. Also important is that the strike was supported by Indian traders. As Arenstein points out, 'The merchants didn't realise what a thorn the Indian working class was going to be for them - the Indian merchant class closed ranks and collected money and gave support to the Indian strikers.' After the Falkirk strike not all Indians joined but generally Indian workers felt that unions could do something for them.
Late 1937, The Liberal Study Group was a seminal influence in radicalising Indian professionals, and both Monty Naicker and Dr Goonam joined the Group. It was founded in late 1937 by H.A. Naidoo, George Ponnen, Dawood Seedat, Cassim Amra, A.K.M. Docrat, P.M. Harry, Wilson Cele and I.C. Meer. They were joined by the likes of Debi Singh, Steven Dlamini, Leslie de Villiers, Jacqueline Lax (Arenstein), poet Peter Abrahams, E.J. Dhlomo, editor of iLangalasi Natal, S.V. Reddy, R.D. Naidoo, and M.I. 'Beaver' Timol.
A.I. Meer worked for Indian Views for a short while before starting The Express Printing Works in this year.
Vera Gwendoline Alberts, born in London in 1916, migrates to South Africa.
Dr Goonam sets about organising women, first forming the Indian Women's League (IWL) in 1938. The IWL included Mrs V.R.R. Moodley as president; Mrs Sundaram and Mrs R.K. Naidoo as vice-presidents; Mrs G. Christopher was secretary; while the committee comprised of Dr Goonam, Miss M. Pather, Mrs R.N. Pather, and Mrs Peter Rajoo. Its aims were to encourage women to enter professional trades, educate them to join trade unions and work for their 'general advancement.' Organisations like the IWL, while pioneering, came up against a pervasive chauvinism. Dr Goonam was aware that the road ahead would be difficult, and created a furore when she approached the NIC for representation for women.
February, The Indian Agent-General in South Africa, Sir Syed Raza Ali, returns to India. The new Agent-General, Sir Benegal Rama Rau, arrives in May.
The Commission on Mixed Marriages, under the chairmanship of Mr Charles de Villiers, is appointed to investigate the issue of mixed marriages. In its report, the Commission found no justification for legislation to prevent the White or Cape Malay wives of Asiatics from owning property, but recommended legislation prohibiting marriages between Whites and Blacks.
3 February, The Transvaal Asiatic Land Laws Commission is appointed to report on the evasions of Asiatics of restrictive measures concerning the use, occupation and ownership of land. At a conference called by the Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC), a proposal "to offer cooperation" to the Transvaal Asiatic Land Laws Commission is defeated by 56 votes to 44 due to opposition by Dr. Yusuf Dadoo and others.
April, The Coloured National Liberation League convenes a conference in Cape Town. At the conference, African, Coloured and Indian delegates representing 45 organisations decide to form to form the Non-European United Front (NEUF). Cissie Gool is elected President. Subsequently, a branch of the NEUF is formed in the Transvaal with Ebrahim Asvat as President, Dr. Yusuf Dadoo as secretary and includes J.B. Marks and others.
April - May, The Natal Indian Congress (NIC) is revitalised after former members, who resigned from the NIC following the former Indian Agent-General, Sir Syed Raza Ali's marriage to Miss Poonoo Sammy, rejoin the Congress.
18 April, The Natal Indian Congress (NIC) and the Colonial Born and Settlers' Indian Association (CBSIA) meet to hammer out an agreement on reconciliation.
30 April, The Natal Indian Congress (NIC) and the Colonial Born and Settlers' Indian Association (CBSIA) both hold special meetings to discuss a merger of the two organisations.
May, Sir Benegal Rama Rau, the new Indian Agent-General, arrives in South Africa. He would remain in office until April 1941. He immediately begins work to bring the Natal Indian Congress (NIC) and the Colonial Born and Settlers' Indian Association (CBSIA) together in Natal.
1 May, Swami Bhawani Dayal is elected President of the Natal Indian Congress (NIC) - the first Hindu to be elected as NIC President since the formation of NIC in 1894.
4 May, The Union Government introduces the Asiatic (Transvaal Land and Trading) Bill, which provides for the protection of Indians in exempted areas for two years and for certificates for trading licences to be authorised by the Minister of Interior. Asiatics are not allowed to appoint nominees to buy land and obtain trading licences on their behalf. The Bill elicits protests from India, but eventually becomes law as the Asiatics (Transvaal Land and Trading) Act, Act No. 28 of 1939.
June, The Minister of the Interior, Mr. Stuttaford, announces the Servitude Scheme after meeting with a deputation from the conference of the Pretoria Ratepayers' Associations. He informs the deputation that ''he would propose to the Government that legislation be introduced providing that, in cases where sixty per cent or more of the owners of property desired it, servitudes in respect of such properties be registered free of charge to prohibit the sale to, or hire of such properties by Indians" (Muthal, Tyranny of Colour: 232).
December, the unity of the Natal Indian Congress (NIC) and the Colonial Born and Settlers' Indian Association (CBSIA) is short-lived. A.I. Kajee and Swami Bhawani Dayal re-establish the NIC.
9 December - 10 December, The Natal Indian Congress (NIC) Conference passes resolutions regarding penetration, industrial legislation, education, social welfare and trade. Government attitudes and actions are severely criticised.
February, H.A. Naidoo and George Ponnen formed the Natal Indian Youth League, a federal structure of around 40 Indian youth organisations. Ponnen, was elected the Vice-President. They recruited important people like Debi Singh, Cassim Amra, Dawood Seedat, who later held leading positions in the NIC and the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA). Ponnen also formed a Worker's Study Circle in Clairwood to educate workers in outlying areas.
March, Dr Yusuf Dadoo forms the Nationalist Bloc in the Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC).
1 March, The Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC) calls a meeting called to protest latest anti-Indian measures (including the proposed servitude scheme of the Minister of the Interior, Mr. Richard Stuttaford). The meeting is attended by one thousand people - a large number as the total Indian population of Transvaal numbers only about 25,000 at this time. S. M. Nana, the secretary of the TIC, moves a resolution to protest the proposed anti-Asian measures. Dr Yusuf Dadoo moves an amendment to declare a definite policy of Passive Resistance and to set up a Council of Action to devise ways and means to start a passive resistance campaign if the servitude scheme is introduced in Parliament. He also calls for cooperation with other non-white organisations. The amendment receives a large majority, but there is heated dispute as to whether the amendment has been carried. The older group of the TIC opposes vigorous measures of protest in the hope that the Feetham recommendations will be accepted by parliament. Nana offers to resign, but the President, M.E. Valod, declares that no passive resistance Council of Action will be set up.
April, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, an Indian philosopher and statesman, visits South Africa.
The first national conference of the Non-European United Front (NEUF) is held in Cape Town. The Conference is attended by 125 delegates representing 83 organisations, including trade unions, religious, social, sporting and civic bodies. Officers of the Natal branch of the NEUF, formed subsequent to the Conference, include Cassim Amra, D.A. Seedat and Dr. Goonam.
30 April, A meeting of NIC branches approve the proposal which was sent to the Special General Meeting of the NIC on 4 June 1939 for ratification. Kajee, who had agreed to unity, delayed its consummation. The 4 June 1939 meeting was postponed so that he could attend a meeting of the Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC) in Johannesburg. He found several excuses to postpone future meetings. Kajee eventually met privately with Albert Christopher and suggested that they first resolve the naming issue. He suggested Natal Indian Association (NIA) and this is agreed upon when the Congress and Colonial Born and Settlers Indian Association (CBSIA) next met on 22 August 1939. Kajee opted out of the merger.
7 May, A mass meeting of Indians, organised by the Nationalist Bloc of the Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC), is held at Patidar Hall, Johannesburg, under the Chairmanship of E.I. Asvat, and attended by 3,000 people. Dr. Yusuf Dadoo is elected to lead Passive Resistance against what becomes the Asiatic (Transvaal Land and Trading) Act of 1939. The meeting maintains that the Union government's proposal for Indians is linked to an acceptance of segregation and 'pegging legislation'. A Passive Resistance Council of 25 persons is appointed for the campaign.
4 June, The Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC) leadership calls another protest meeting and gangs of thugs appear with lethal weapons. They began beating members of the Nationalist Bloc. Dr. Yusuf Dadoo escapes narrowly and one of his supporters, Dahyabhai (Dayabhai) Govindji, is disembowelled and dies on 8 June. Nine other persons are injured - four seriously - and hospitalised. All those injured are supporters of the Nationalist Bloc. The five Indians arrested by the police in connection with this incident are relatives of S. M. Nana and A.I. Kajee. One is an executive member of the TIC. The accused are released on bail, but the Attorney-General withdraws charges against them after the magistrate commits them for trial. The funeral of the victim becomes a major political event, drawing thousands of people. The violence leads to revulsion against the Valod-Nana group in the TIC leadership and Transvaal Indian support swings to Dadoo.
9 July, at a meeting of 6,000 Indians, held at the Indian Sports Ground in Johannesburg under the chairmanship of E. I. Asvat, a decision is taken to launch the Passive Resistance Campaign (as decided upon at the earlier meeting of 7 May) on 1 August. A Council of Action for the campaign is set up with Dr. Yusuf Dadoo as Chairman. India declares its support for the intended the campaign of Passive Resistance.
19 July, Gandhi sends a telegram to Dr. Yusuf Dadoo suggesting the postponement of the intended Passive Resistance Campaign.
23 July, To show the solidarity of Natal Indians with the intended Passive Resistance Campaign in the Transvaal, a mass meeting is organised mainly by leaders of the Colonial Born and Settlers Indian Association (CBSIA). However, passive resistance is later postponed following the earlier request of Mahatma Gandhi, who believes that a honourable settlement can be achieved.
29 July, Recruitment of Indians into the South African Defence Force (SADF) begins under Colonel Morris.
19 August, The Mixed Marriages Commission, under the Chairmanship of Mr. Charles de Villiers, releases its report and recommends that a law be introduced that would make mixed marriages impossible and illicit miscegenation punishable.
22 August, The Indian Agent-General, Sir Benegal Rama Rau, convenes another meeting of representatives of the Natal Indian Congress (NIC) and the Colonial Born and Settlers Indian Association (CBSIA) in a fresh attempt to achieve reconciliation between the two factions.
27 August, A NIC meeting elected Sorabjee Rustomjee as president and accepted the amalgamation proposal despite opposition from a faction led by Cassim Anglia, a supporter of Kajee.
1 September, Germany invades Poland and the Second World War commences when Britain declares war on Germany on 3 September.
4 September, General J.C. Smuts becomes the new South African Prime Minister after Parliament narrowly approves his motion that South Africa should enter the Second World War on the side of Britain and the Allies. In India, the Indian Congress remains opposed to Indian involvement in the war, and links the supporting of Britain in the war to India's independence. Lord Linlithgow, Viceroy of India, states that dominion status is the goal of constitutional development and that action in this regard is to be taken after the war. In South Africa, South Africa's participation in the war also causes division in Indian ranks.
October, In an attempt to get Black support for the South African war effort, the Union Government tones down segregationist rhetoric and decides not to proceed with anti-Indian legislation during the Second World War. Following an 'informal understanding' between Mr H.G. Lawrence, the new Minister of the Interior, and Sir Benegal Rama Rau, the Indian Agent-General, the Union Government further indicates that an inquiry will be made to establish the extent of Indian penetration of de facto White areas, and that the cooperation of the Indian community was required to ensure that the status quo is maintained and that no new cases of penetration would take place.
8 October, at a public meeting of 2,000 people in Durban, the Indian philosopher and statesman, Sir Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, reconciles the Natal Indian Congress (NIC) and Colonial Born and Settlers' Indian Association (CBSIA) members to form the Natal Indian Association (NIA). Hajee A.M.M. Lockhat elected President, and Sorabjee Rustomjee and P.R. Pather secretaries. The name of the new organisation is cleared with Gandhi. The NIA is backed mainly by leaders of the CBSIA and the radicals in the NIC. However, once again this unity proves to be short-lived. A group headed by A.I. Kajee and Swami Bhawani Dayal does not recognise the decision of the NIC to unite with the CBSIA and decline positions in the NIA. Messages of support came from Prime Minister Smuts, Minister of Interior, H.G. Lawrence, and Minister of Finance, J.H. Hofmeyr.
November, The executive of the newly formed Natal Indian Association (NIA) decides to cooperate with the envisaged Lawrence Committee, which, in conjunction with the Durban City Council, shall investigate and regulate the acquisition of property in Durban by Indians.
20 November, The first Natal conference of the Non European Unity Front (NEUF) took place. A.I. Kajee and A.W.G. Champion were patrons of the body, H.A. Naidoo was chairman, Dr Goonam and Philemon Tsele, vice-chairpersons, Cassim Amra secretary, Sarah Rubin assistant-secretary, and Dawood Seedat was treasurer. According to R.D. Naidoo, Indian members of the CPSA eventually withdrew from the NEUF on instruction from the Party whose theoreticians felt that the different racial components were not sufficiently well organised to form such a front.