About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Indian South Africans - A Future Bound with the Cause of the African Majority

In recent years we have witnessed a flurry of diplomatic activity and policy pronouncements by the apartheid regime. These developments have caused a renewal of speculation about détente and dialogue, about South Africa's outward-looking policy generally, and the possibility of the emergence of a new southern African grouping, which would include the Republic.

Within South Africa the doors of the prestigious Nico Malan Theatre have been thrown open to men and women of all colours. Black and white feature together in sporting and cultural events. Some 'Europeans Only' signs have been removed from lifts and park benches. The doors of learning are opening up to larger numbers of hitherto deprived children. Generally prospects of improved living conditions apparently brighten the face of economic reality.

A number of people people, including some blacks, who perceive in these events a change of heart among the Nat politicians, are inclined to sit back as they see the beginnings of the end of problems that have plagued the country for centuries.

It would be short-sighted to ignore or dismiss these happenings. On the surface at least, there can be no doubt that the Nats are trying to project a new image. However, it would be a mistake to allow oneself to be carried away and only see the South Africa of 1976 through rose-coloured spectacles.

The National Party and white South Africans generally have a neurotic obsession with colour and numbers. Every white child is taught that the prerequisite to remaining happy, human and secure is to remain white; that the biggest threat to its future is the black man, who by virtue of his superior numbers is sure to swamp the whites and drive them into the sea.

In 1963, just before the Rivonia arrests, Dr Eben Donges, then Minister of the Interior pinpointed the growth of African political movements at the time as the biggest threat to South Africa, meaning of course, white South Africa. He appealed to whites, Coloureds and Indians to stand together in the face of this 'threat' and called for their 'five million hearts to beat as one'. This sentiment has since been echoed in varying degrees by people of different hues of 'verligte'3 opinion. The bolder ones postulate the complete integration of Coloured and white; a few broaden this to include the Indians. The cynical ones advocate this tripartite grouping without significant adjustments to the existing political-socio-economic position of the Coloureds and Indians.

A fair amount of Nat thought is today directed towards winning the Coloured and Indian peoples as allies of the whites. This follows the logic of apartheid reasoning. First, break the unity of the African people by dismembering them into ethnic groups and dispersing them among the nine projected Bantustans. Having done that, the whites would still find themselves outnumbered by Africans in the rest of so called 'white South Africa'. Some sort of equilibrium would be necessary. Hence the Coloureds and Indians must be detached from the Africans and won over to the side of the whites.

In order to assess the prospects of the Nats seriously adopting this line of approach, it is necessary to review their policies and activities since 1948. In this essay we shall use Indian South Africans as a case study.

The National Party was swept into power in the 1948 elections on the slogan of 'Die Kaffer op sy plek en die Koelie uit die Land' (literally: 'The kaffir'4 in his place and the coolie out of the country). The official policy was set out in a pamphlet, Race Relations Policy of the National Party, published at the end of 1947. It stated that 'the Party regards the Indians as a foreign element, which cannot be assimilated in the South African, set up. Not being native to the country they cannot expect more preferential treatment than an immigrant community. We accordingly have in mind the repatriation of as many Indians as possible ...With the Indians still in our midst a definite policy of Apartheid should be enforced between them and the Whites, and likewise as far as feasible between them and the indigenous non-white sections.'

We need not dwell on the 'foreignness' of the Indians and the calls for their repatriation. It is sufficient to state that almost 100 per cent of the Indian South Africans were born in South Africa and know no other homeland. Even D.F. Malan (who became the first Nat Prime Minister in 1948) said in Parliament in 1946: 'Probably 85 to 90 per cent of the Indians in South Africa have been born in South Africa. In India they are aliens. Consequently, I take up the attitude that they form part of the permanent population of South Africa'.

As for repatriation, in spite of coercion, harsh legislation and the inducement of double bonuses for would-be repatriats, these proposals never got off the ground. Only Nat politicians and a few members of the South African Indian Council5 believed and perpetuated the oft-repeated myth that Indians only became South African citizens in 1961 when Verwoerd announced the creation of a Department of Indian Affairs. The fact is that already with the arrival of the very first indentured Indians in 1860 it was laid down that after the expiry of their period of indentured labour those who chose to remain in Natal were to be regarded as full citizens and treated accordingly.

In 1961 is the Nat regime was obliged to acknowledge the long established fait accompli that Indians were part of the permanent population. Former Minister of Interior, Senator Jan de Klerk, said that the attitude of successive governments had generated the 'feeling that [Indians] were being regarded as a foreign group that did not belong here'.6 Referring to the change of attitude he said that the government had decided to 'start making use of a rubber and rub out what had been done in the past. One gains nothing by continually trying to play politics…' Benevolent words! And surprising too, coming as they did from one who some years previously had reacted to India's anti-racist activities at the UN by referring to that country's UN ambassador Mrs Vijayalakshmi Pandit as 'daardie Koeliemeid' ('that coolie maid').

Why did the Nats decide to adopt this 'new look' policy and what does it mean in terms of the every-day lives of the Indian people?

First, the Nats saw the need to have a more balanced population in terms of numbers. This is the essence of the Bantustan policy. It is also the reason why three-quarter million Indians and two million Coloureds are being wooed to form a common front with the whites.

Secondly, the National Party was no longer a parliamentary opposition. As an opposition party it could make extravagant statements and unrealistic promises for the purpose of winning electoral support. While white domination and herrenvolkism7 still remain its basic tenets, as a governing party it has found that its public programme now has to be couched in terms that would project an aura of respectability and responsibility.

The National Party is no longer a party where farmers and farmers' interests and attitudes predominate. The post-war years have seen a radical change in the socio-economic conditions of the Afrikaners. There has emerged among them an industrial, mining and finance capitalist class. True, the farmers are still there, but to an increasing extent they, too, are no longer the bearded, tobacco-chewing, khaki-clad men whose thoughts and leisurely pace seldom exceeded that of the ox wagon they drove and whose vision of the world did not extend much further than the confines of their farms.

In the economic upsurge that the country still seems to be experiencing it is the bankers, insurance men and financiers, the supermarket operators, factory owners, mining magnates, scientists and technocrats who are exerting greater influence. While unwilling to abolish race oppression their outlook is guided primarily by economic realities and their predominant interest is economic expansion and exploitation. Of necessity, they are more sensitive to pressures and developments, both local and international. For instance, with ever keen, almost colour-blind eyes, they see the giant African continent less as a monster to be feared and repulsed and more as a potential market and field of investment on their very doorstep, to be wooed and bought over. And in the process, if the need arises, to parley with erstwhile Frelimo 'terrorists' over the electricity of Cabora Bassa, or with the Marxist MPLA over the Kunene River project, well, then parley with them they shall. Never mind the pledge nor the blood that is being spilt to 'ensure a communist-free southern Africa and to preserve it for the West'. Of course, in their business-orientated outward policy they are also eager to neutralise the neighbouring states against the use of their territories for guerrilla incursions against the Republic.

Another factor is the steadfast resistance of the Indian people. From the time their forefathers set foot on South African soil they have fought a relentless struggle against racial discrimination and for equality. In the face of the severest repression and victimisation, of boycotts of Indian businesses, starvation wages, blatant discrimination by legislation and open incitement to violence, they have persevered with dogged determination, not only to retain what they had gained, but also to win respect and human dignity.

In what condition, then, do we find the Indian community today?

Let us take education. In 1974 there were 366 Indian schools of which 287 were primary, 72 high, 4 nursery schools and 3 schools for handicapped children. Of these, 154 were built with funds raised by the Indian community itself. The total Indian school population in 1973 was 176 238. Between 1966 and 1974 the number of primary school pupils increased by 4,8 per cent while the number of secondary school pupils rose by 78,1 per cent. In 1974, 50 434 pupils were enrolled at high schools, 21 612 (42,85 per cent) of whom were female.

But, according to Prof. A.L. Behr of the University of Durban-Westville, of the 18 586 pupils who were in Standard 1 in 1966 only 9 339 remained to complete Standard 8 in 1972; of 172 141 Indian children at school in 1972 only 380 obtained matriculation exemption.

A survey of Indians in Natal and Transvaal carried out in 1973 by Market Research (Africa) Pty. Ltd. reported the following: 11 per cent of Indians over 16 had no education at all, 32 per cent of Indians over 16 had some primary education, 19 per cent over 16 had completed primary school, 7 per cent over 16 had finished high school and 1 per cent of Indians over 16 had some university education.

In 1973 compulsory education was introduced for Indians. It is expected that the dropout rate will be reduced substantially.

In 1974 there were 112 410 university students in South Africa. Of these students 95 881 were white, 8 040 were African, 5 247 were Asian, and 3 242 were Coloured.

These figures look impressive. But they do not tell the whole story. They do not indicate that there still remains an enormous disparity in the per capita expenditure for whites, Indian, African and Coloured school children. The Minister told Parliament that the average unit cost for Indian children in 1968-1969 was R70 per pupil. The average for the same year per white pupil in the Transvaal was R191, while in Natal it was R285. The figures do not indicate the difference in facilities such as laboratories, libraries, sports fields, gymnasia, etc. One of the first actions of the Nat regime was to withdraw the school feeding schemes for black children.

The figures do not show the hungry, barefooted children trudging to school each day, the majority from homes where the parents cannot make ends meet, where one or other necessity has to be sacrificed and the child has to spend the afternoons playing in the streets because they are denied access to recreational facilities.

They do not show the disparity in the salary scales between white and black teachers and the ratio of pupils to teachers. The viciousness of race discrimination can be appreciated when looking at the salary position of the teaching staff at the University of Durban-Westville. Though this is an apartheid institution set up for Indian students, Indian lecturers' salaries are lower than those for their white colleagues at the same university and possessing the same qualifications. In December 1974, soon after Pik Botha, South Africa's delegate to the UN, promised to end racial discrimination, Vorster could boast to the South African Indian Council only of 'the very favourable ratio between salaries of whites and Indians' at the Indian university. His manner of ending discrimination was to announce that the government had approved that the university could 'out of its own funds, that is, funds not provided by the State (my emphasis) enhance the salary scales and further narrow the gap or bring it on par with the whites'. What cynicism!

In 1975 the South African Indian Council decided to make representations to the government that all educational institutions for Indians be opened to students of other racial groups. Even this separate development body was obliged to acknowledge the futility of the apartheid philosophy in education. Years ago the Congress organisations had expressed the universal desire of the black people in the Freedom Charter that the doors of learning and culture should be open to all.

Indian housing and living conditions are directly linked to the Group Areas Act, which was described by Malan as the kernel of apartheid policy. The people of South Africa - already classified, and often reclassified, into separate ethnic and colour compartments - are obliged to settle in their respective group areas. In conformity with the principles of the Group Areas Act the African people are being forced into nine ethnic Bantustans, which together make up barely 13 per cent of the surface area of South Africa.

The public has been accustomed to seeing photographs of luxurious Indian owned mansions, huge supermarkets and department stores, the oriental Plaza in Johannesburg, economic and sub-economic housing schemes, recreational halls, sports fields, clinics and other imposing buildings - all in Indian group areas (except in the Orange Free State, where Indians are not allowed to settle at all).

It is said that between 1966 and 1974, 33 561 housing units for Indians were erected. Much slum housing has been eradicated. According to figures quoted by Anson Lloyd, Chairman of the South African Sugar Millers Association, local authorities had advanced R53 million between 1966 and 1974 for building 27 000 housing units for Indians.

Very impressive! But again, this portrays only a part of the picture. Statistical data are notorious for the facility with which they allow themselves to secrete as well as expose conditions.

The application of the Group Areas Act in 1976 - cruel, unjust and oppressive as it is - seems almost benign when compared with what it was actually designed to achieve. Nat politicians made no bones about what it held in store. Indians were already living in segregated areas. The Act aimed at uprooting them and herding them into fenced-in locations under conditions not dissimilar to those in which the African people had so long been condemned. The greater portion of its venom was aimed at the Indian merchant class, which it sought to cripple and destroy. No provision was originally made in the group areas for alternate accommodation for displaced tenants and traders.

To facilitate the application of the pending legislation, a Nat-inspired movement was launched in the Transvaal in 1949 to boycott Indian businesses. Known as Die Suid-Afrikaanse Beskermbeweging (the South African Protection Movement), it initially received widespread support among whites in a few rural areas. It was allowed to propagate its racist policies of incitement and intimidation. In fact one of its top officials was elevated to judgeship.

In 1950 the Congress of the federated Dutch Reformed Churches urged wholesale and immediate against the Indians, and that all Indians should be repatriated. A leading Nat politician prophesied that when the full effect of the Group Areas Act was felt Indians would be only too happy to get out of South Africa.

What was the size of the 'monster' against which such big artillery was turned? In 1946 the total area of land held by Asians was about 150 000 acres!8 In relation to the size of the country and the landholding of the Whites, the Indians could by no stretch of imagination be said to have presented a threat. The only explanation for Nat action was the sinister aim of destroying the economic position of the Indian community and reducing its members to the status of hewers of wood and drawers of water.

Past masters at euphemism, Nat politicians frequently boast that the text of their legislation does not mention any particular ethnic group or community but applies to all equally. By 1969, 108 767 families were deemed to have occupied premises in areas that were set aside under the Act for members of other racial groups. The disqualified families were made up as follows: 68 897 Coloured families; 37 653 Indian families; 899 Chinese families; 1 318 white families. Of these the following had already been forced to move out of those areas: 34 240 Coloured families; 21 939 Indian families; 64 Chinese families; 1 196 white families. Invariably the whites were least affected, and the few who were resettled, were resettled with the least inconvenience.

These statistics do not reveal the disruption, the agony and upset, the material and spiritual losses suffered by the Coloured and Indian people. Thousands were uprooted from premises they and their forebears had occupied and, under threat imprisonment, they moved many miles away into group areas.

True, the Indian people have not been driven into fenced-in locations as envisaged, or into bare fields without alternate accommodation. True, the Act has been mellowed somewhat. But this was no generous gesture on the part of the regime. There was a number of contributing factors.

Foremost among these were the systematic resistance by the Indian people under the leadership of the South African Indian Congress (SAIC). From the outset the SAIC set out to oppose the Act by every means at its disposal. At almost every sitting of the Group Areas Board, the SAIC appeared and assisted the local communities to expose the gross injustices being perpetrated and to refuse to submit any plans or take any action that may be construed as willingness to co-operate with the nefarious activities of the Board. This was done side by side with a massive propaganda campaign throughout South Africa and overseas. Whenever the opportunity arose, Congress-briefed legal representatives challenged the Act in the courts. Sometimes winning judicial relief, always causing obstruction and delay in implementation, their actions often led to a modification of the Act. The Group Areas Act became one of the most amended pieces of legislation.

On 26 June 1950 the SAIC joined with the ANC (and the CPSA) to stage the first national political strike against, inter alia the Group Areas Act and the Suppression of Communism Act. In 1952 the Congresses jointly launched the Defiance Campaign against Unjust Laws, with the Group Areas Act singled out as one of the six unjust laws for attack.

In addition, there were numerous acts of individual defiance. In this regard the Transvaal Indian Congress President Nana Sita stands out. Arrested, brought before court and jailed repeatedly, Nana Sita refused to move out of his premises and until his death symbolised the resistance of the Indian people.

So effective was the opposition that when the Minister of Interior Eben Donges was criticised in Parliament for the delay in the implementation of the Group Areas Act Minister of Interior Eben Donges, in a rare admission, said that the delay was caused by the systematic obstruction organised by the Indian Congress.

This legislation is so repugnant and unjust that even the Nat-created Indian Council, having pledged to work within the framework of the policy of separate development, after years of efforts to seek amelioration, was in 1975 compelled to call upon the government to totally repeal the Group Areas Act and other legislation.

Economic Position

Let us look at the economic position of Indian South Africans. The Republic is the most highly industrialised country on the African continent and its economy has been steadily expanding. White South Africans can boast a standard of living that is among the highest in the world.

In 1969 the following figures were given in Parliament about the economically active persons in the different population groups: Africans - 4 800 000; whites - 1 438 000; Coloureds - 692 000; Indians - 157 000.

In 1974 Anson Lloyd of the Sugar Millers Association said that of a total Indian population of over 700 000 there were 202 000 who were economically active. Unemployment, which stood at 30 000 a decade ago, had been reduced to 1 250. From 1961 to 1974 the number of Indians employed in industry in Natal increased from 32 000 to 82 000, that is by 156 per cent. This, he said, exceeded the growth of employment amongst whites, Africans and Coloureds.

H.C. Morecamve, President of the South African Federated Chamber of Industries, said (in 1974) that by 1970, 26 per cent of whites, 35 per cent of Coloureds, 41 per cent of Indians and 14 per cent of Africans who were economically active were employed in secondary industry. According to the Department of Statistics the number of people employed in the manufacturing industries in 1969 was as follows: Africans - 608 000; whites - 279 000; Coloureds - 196 000; and Indians - 74 000.

It is reported that 20 years ago the only industry in which Indian apprentices were found was the furniture industry. Ten years ago the building industry was added. With the growth of the economy and the concomitant shortage of skilled labour more and more avenues of employment have opened up for Indian workers. In 1973 the M.L. Sultan Technical College in Durban offered training courses to Indians in the following trades and vocations: plumbing, sheet metal work, radio, fitting and turning, welding, motor mechanics, building, draughtsmanship, surveying, medical technology, etc. In 1974, Indian telephone technicians were being trained.

A survey of Indians over the age of 16 in Natal, the Witwatersrand and Pretoria was carried out in 1973 by Market Research (Africa). The survey claimed a coverage of 327 000 Indians over 16 living in the above areas, that is 83 per cent of the total adult Indian population. It showed that 34 per cent of the Indians were tradesmen and labourers, 18 per cent were salesworkers, 15 per cent were clerical workers, 8 per cent service workers, 7 per cent professional and technical workers, 6 per cent transport and communication workers, 2 per cent administrative or executive personnel and 10 per cent not gainfully employed. The above data show that significant developments have taken place over the last decade in the field of Indian occupation and employment.

In 1966 a Bureau of Market Research Report on Indians in Durban showed that the mean monthly household income was R95,78; but that the median was R77,30. Research workers pointed out that the median was more important to establish for Indians than for other communities since there is a small minority of comparatively wealthy professional men, traders and industrialists, but that the majority of the people live in poverty. This survey showed that just over half of the households had incomes below the Poverty Datum Line (PDL), and that 54,8 per cent of the heads of households earned less than R60 per month.

Figures relating to the manufacturing industry published by the Department of Statistics in 1969 confirm not only the continuing low income of Indian workers, but also the great disparity between black and white wages. The gross monthly income of white workers was R278, Indians R67, Coloureds R65, and Africans R48.

In 1969 the Natal Regional Survey carried out by P.W. Pillay and P.A. Allison studied a sample of 835 Indian households in Durban. The average number of persons per household was 6,9. They estimated monthly living cost to be R73,51 per household. The survey found that between 50 and 60 per cent of the households had incomes below this amount. Of these 15,4 per cent had incomes of less than R40 per month.

In 1970 a survey of Indians in Durban was conducted by Media Community Research on behalf of the Daily News. It showed that 1 in 100 earned a monthly income of R400, while 14 per cent fell within the R150 to R400 bracket. The bulk, that is, 68 per cent had incomes less than R150 per month. A breakdown of the lower income group showed that 14 per cent earned between R26 and R50 per month; 19 per cent earned between R51 and R75 per month; 18 per cent between R76 and R100 per month; and 13 per cent between R101 and R150 per month.

Finally, the South Africa Bureau of Statistics gave the following wage rates in manufacturing industry for the years 1970 and April 1973:






Average wage per month - 1970


R 71

R 75

R 51

Average wage per month – April '73


R 97


R 67

The annual rate of increase was the highest for Indians. However, the salary gap between Indians and whites, though narrower, still remained large. Taking into account the inflationary conditions, the high prices and rents, which invariably hit the lower income groups hardest, it is fair to conclude that a significantly large percentage of Indian South Africans still live in conditions of poverty.

Reference has been made to a developing minority of wealthy industrialists, traders and professional men among the Indians. Statements about the exact number of industrialists differ. Former Minister of Indian Affairs, Owen Horwood, said that in 1961 there were 161 Indian industrialists in Natal and these increased to 700 in 1973. Former minister of Interior Theo Gerdner said that the number increased from 181 in 1961 to 527 in 1969. Anson Lloyd says there were 191 in 1961 and over 800 in 1974. M.B. Naidoo of the South African Indian Council said that between 1961 and 1973 there were 800 new industrial ventures among the Indians. It is clear that there has been a considerable increase over the last decade in the number of Indians who fall into the category described as "industrialist". It is believed that a few Indian-owned enterprises each employ close to 1 000 workers. At least one was listed on the stock exchange. Cottwall of the Natal Clothing Manufacturers Association said in 1974 that all in all there were 208 clothing factories in Natal employing about 24 000, 95 per cent of whom were Indians. Over half the manufacturers were Indians. It was not clear how many of the 24 000 workers were employed by Indian manufacturers. It is assumed that a considerable number, if not the majority, of the Indian 'clothing manufacturers' consisted of small cut-make-and-trim (CMT) establishments, each employing a handful of workers. This assumption is made on the basis of the type of undertakings included by Theo Gerdner as industrialists. His 527 industrialists included: 46 food processing establishments, 12 textile mills, 40 timber undertakings, 62 motor garages, 24 furniture factories, 24 printers and 72 laundry and dry cleaners.

In the agricultural sector Indian interests are negligible. B.M. Sutney of the Department of Agricultural Technical Services estimated in 1975 that 2 500 Indians were engaged in agriculture, 1 800 of this as registered sugar cane farmers. The median size of the farms was 7,9 hectares, far less than the minimum 24 hectares regarded as an economic holding under sugar cane. The Indian farmers in Natal occupy a total of approximately 37 000 hectares.

It has been established that 81 per cent of the sugar cane farmers of the North Coast had net incomes of less than Rl 000 per annum. Of these 62 per cent earned less than R500 per annum and 4 per cent had a net income of R300 per annum.

Some years ago it was estimated that 15 per cent of Natal Indians and 71 per cent of Transvaal Indians were engaged in commerce. This referred to the Indian retail and wholesale shopkeepers and presumably included the shop assistants. A considerable number of these, if not the majority, were small retail shops run by family members, employing few if any shop assistants. Another investigation found that a large number of these remained constantly in debt and were frequently on the verge of bankruptcy. Shop owners were in effect glorified workers who preferred to cling to some measure of independence. Also, the lack of opportunities, particularly in the early years, had left open few avenues for Indians apart from joining the unskilled labour force.

It was because of this lack of opportunities that Indians who could afford it gradually began to enter the professional sector, although even here the opportunities were severely restricted. Of the 9 152 doctors, lawyers, chemists, engineers and other professionals in 1936, only 25 were Indian, 23 Coloured and 14 African. In 1968 there were 385 Indian doctors, 59 interns, 14 dentists, 52 attorneys (in Natal) and 5 advocates. In 1974 there were 6 590 Indian teachers in South Africa. The minority of wealthy Indians, who constitute the bulk of the income taxpayers in the community, come from these latter groups.

To round off on the extent of poverty among Indian South Africans the Market Research (Africa) survey of 1973 showed that 86 per cent of Indians in Natal, Witwatersrand and Pretoria owned no property at all. Only 12 per cent owned their own houses and 30 per cent owned some other property.

In the economic plane it is apparent that the Indian people are somewhat better placed in relation to the other black groups, but their standard of living and economic advancement could by no stretch of imagination be compared with that of the whites. In fact, the surveys referred to show that about half of the Indians still live in conditions of poverty.9

Finally, what does the much-vaunted Nat change of attitude towards the Indians mean in terms of political rights? Indians, like Africans and Coloureds, do not have the vote in the municipal, provincial and parliamentary institutions of the country. In Natal, Indians were deprived of the parliamentary vote in 1894 and the municipal vote in 1924. In the Transvaal they never possessed the franchise. The handful that enjoyed the vote in the Cape lost it together with the Coloureds in 1955.

In 1946 the United Party government of General Jan Smuts passed legislation that offered the Indian community in Natal and Transvaal the right to elect three whites to represent them in Parliament. In addition, Natal Indians could elect two members of the Provincial Council, who could be Indians. The Indian people, under the leadership of the SAIC, rejected these proposals and condemned them as an insult to their dignity and honour. United, they a rallied behind the Congress demand for the extension of the vote to all the people of South Africa on a basis of equality. So powerful was the Congress-led campaign that the government was unable to implement the legislation. When the Nats came into power in 1948 they regarded even this sham representation as conferring too many rights on the Indians, and abolished it soon after.

In 1961 the Department of Indian Affairs, headed by a Minister of Indian Affairs, was created. This was followed by setting up the South African Indian Council and numerous local affairs committees in Indian group areas. The new department took over responsibility for some acts of parliament affecting the Indian people. In the implementation of these laws the Department works in close collaboration with the Indian Council. In 1961 the Department had 102 posts, of which Indians filled approximately 30 per cent. By 1973 the posts had increased to 648, of which Indians occupied 50 per cent.

The new dispensation allowed for the setting up of local affairs committees (LACs) in Natal. In the Transvaal and the Cape they were called consultative committees. Initially the committees consisted of five members, all nominated by the Provincial Administrator. Later most of the members were elected. These committees are supposed to provide local Indian communities with avenues of contact with the white municipalities, which retained all effective control. The law graciously required the municipalities to 'consider' any suggestions and comments made by these Indian committees.

The first LAC was set up in Glencoe in 1963. By October 1972 there were 21 LACs in Natal, 9 consultative committees in the Transvaal and 3 in the Cape. When they reach a partly elected stage these bodies are called management committees. Under certain circumstances they can graduate to the status of 'local authorities'. They are then known as town boards - for example Verulam and the two Isipingos. With a few exceptions these are fully elected and have their own 'mayors', 'town clerks', etc.

Let us briefly look at the experiences of the Verulam Town Board, the first of the three town boards established in 1969. As a municipality it became a member of the United Party (UP)-controlled Natal Municipal Association and sent two representatives to attend its annual conference. The two representatives 'voluntarily refrained' from attending social gatherings, but their attendance at the conference led to protests by the four Nat-controlled municipalities in Natal, which threatened to boycott the gatherings. Thereafter Verulam, presumably with the acquiescence, if not at the request of the UP, refrained from sending delegates to the conferences although it was allowed to retain membership of the Association, after a motion supported by 32 local authorities against four.

Not all LACs can aspire to being raised to the status of town boards. This was made clear by the former Minister of Indian Affairs, Owen Horwood, towards the end of 1973. Only those that were financially viable could hope to become autonomous, he said. The Natal Ordinance conferring 'self-government' to Indian areas requires the fulfilment of the following criteria: size of the area, financial viability, number of voters, and availability of suitable people. From this it is clear that with the exception of a few areas with a large concentration of Indians (Umzinto, Durban, Stanger and Pietermaritzburg) the great majority of LACs are doomed to remain powerless bodies. They can be likened to toy telephones to be used by members to transmit messages to the white authority in the hope that somehow their voices would be heard.

The UP member and chairman of the Non-white Local Government Administration Committee of the Natal Provincial Council, E.P. Fowler, saw great merit in this arrangement. Addressing the South African Indian Council in 1974, he said he was pleased the government was seeing to it that the Indians were receiving good grounding in local government through LACs, instead of being required to assume responsibilities for which they were not ready. He appealed to the Indians to work within the framework of separate development. This type of humiliation and insult is not allowed to go unchecked. The Indian Council has been forced to take note of these feelings. As a result the Council resolved in 1975 that it would not be to the advantage of the Indian community to create small local authorities that had very little prospect of development and of adequately meeting the needs of the community. The Council decided to recommend to the government that the present system of local government be replaced by one in which all the racial groups would be able to be represented by one local authority for the whole of a particular area.

On a national level, the South African Indian Council was established in 1964. During the 13 years of its existence it has concerned itself with questions such as the removal of inter-provincial restrictions against Indians, bilingualism (that is Afrikaans and English) in the hotel trade, employment of domestic servants, recognition of medical degrees from India and Pakistan, the establishment of training facilities and cultural organisations. It remained a body of 25 members, all appointed by the Minister of Indian Affairs. In 1972 the chairman of the Council, H.E. Joosub, complained that until the Council became at least a partly elected body it would not be able to convince the Indian community that it was representing its interests adequately. He said there was a growing lack of faith in the Council. Eventually, Joosub withdrew from the Council because of the 'ineffectiveness', 'sterility' and 'impotence' of the body.

The State President and the Minister of Indian Affairs have the power to declare the body partly or fully elective. But because of the continuance of wide-spread anti-Nat feelings among the Indians, the call for universal franchise for all the people of South Africa, and as a result of its experience with the Coloured Peoples Representative Council (CRC) and the Labour Party, as well as with some Bantustans, the government refuses to allow elections for the Indian Council.

With the first so-called partly elected Council in November 1974 the government was not yet prepared to take the risk of throwing the election open to the community. The membership of the Council was increased to 30, 15 of which were to be appointed by the Minister and 15 'elected' by a system of electoral colleges in Natal, the Cape and Transvaal. In 1973 a member of the Indian Council told the Natal Daily News that the electoral colleges meant that only about 400 out of a total of over 700 000 Indians would be able to vote for the first Council elections. Indeed even less than 400 in fact took part.

One of the matters considered by this body was the question of a fully elected Council. In January 1975 and again in July 1975 it resolved to ask the government to set up an elected council of 45 to hold office for five years. It also wants a fully elected Executive of 7 and an elected chairman. All Indians over the age of 18 should be allowed to vote.

In all probability the Government will be obliged to grant this request. But after having reached this stage, what then? Let Vorster answer. For he has got it all worked out already. He told members of the South African Indian Council: 'I am aware of the fact that the composition of the Council and the manner in which half its members have been elected has come up for criticism…This should not worry you unduly because of the fact that this step in the development of an Indian constitutional authority is not the final word but just another phase ... It is not the ultimate goal but another stepping stone from which we can set out to chart the future ... The government envisages that constitutionally the Indian community will develop along the same lines as the Coloured people ... The main population groups which constitute the South African society must as far as practically possible be placed on the road to self-determination so that each and every one of these groups can determine in accordance with its own tradition and ideals and with due regard to the equivalent aspirations of other groups, its own destination.'

Lest the optimistic and credulous Indian councillors mistake their 'own destination' and begin to harbour illusions, Vorster, in all fairness, made clear their place in his scheme of things. In no uncertain terms he reiterated that the white man will remain boss. He said: 'Sight should not be lost of the fact that the white population group, by virtue of certain cultural and historical circumstances has played and will in the future continue to play the leading role in the constitutional developments of the country.'

Nat policy could not have been more clearly pronounced, and the allegation should not be made that the Indian and Coloured people were misled. From Vorster's own mouth we have it that the existing machinery and institutions such as parliament, the Cabinet, and provincial and local authorities are to remain the preserves of the whites. What the Nats envisaged for the Indians as the ultimate in constitutional development is really little more that a change of nomenclature for the existing institutions. As far as its functions are concerned, it will confine itself to the same matters that have occupied the attention of the Indian Council since 1964, such as education, social welfare, sports and cultural affairs. Within the strict limitations imposed by the prophets of separate development the Indian councillors will be given a more or less free rein. One thing from which there would, however, be no departure, is that it must for all times remain a subordinate body. Laws will still be made for it, which it will merely be expected to implement. The final authority will continue to be vested in the white parliament and whatever the Indians do they will have to act out within the room allowed by this mother and father of the whole conglomeration of Nat style 'democratic institutions' catering at different levels for the different ethnic groups.

In spite of categorical pronouncements it appears that members of the Indian Council persisted in asking the Prime Minister to spell out the highest position that an Indian citizen could aspire to attain. Vorster obliged in clear and unequivocal terms: there was no question of Indians and Coloureds ever being represented in the white parliament. It was never neither his nor his party's policy that this should ever happen. But after the Indians reach 'cabinet status' he envisaged the creation of a 'cabinet council', 'which would serve the purpose of liaison between their Council on the one hand and Parliament and the government on the other'.

Further it had been agreed that Indians would be appointed as fully fledged members of the majority of statutory bodies dealing with matters also affecting Indians, for example, wage boards, transportation boards, etc. In pursuance of this S.E. Bhan was appointed to Vorster's Economic Advisory Council during the latter half of 1975. It is in accordance with this line of thinking that the government included M.B. Naidoo in the UN delegation of 1974 to represent the Indians, together with K.D. Matanzima, and D. Ulster to represent Africans and Coloureds.

Taken together with the conditions obtaining in the fields of education, housing, and economic life in general, as outlined above, it is obvious that the Indian South Africans are condemned in Nat thinking and policy never to rise above the level of second-class citizens in the land of their birth.

Under the circumstances what are the prospects of a movement among the Nats for the whites, Coloureds and Indians to stand together against the 'African danger'? There can be little doubt that this has rapidly become the desire not only of Nats but also of a considerable number of non-Nat whites in the Republic. At the same time it is clear that the members of the ruling party remain steadfast in their purpose to perpetuate the inferior status of the Coloured and Indian people. This was confirmed when the former Minister of Interior, Theo Gerdner put the matter to the test within the National Party and among the white electorate. He had been outspoken in his belief that in the search for a solution to South Africa's problems top priority must be given to the complete integration of whites, Coloureds and Indians. This was totally rejected by the National Party. Gerdner then formed his own party and propagated his views among the whites. For holding such sacrilegious and almost criminal views Gerdner was unceremoniously flung into the political wilderness.

From the side of the Indian community it could hardly be expected that such a shoddy manoeuvre would meet with success. Ever since the emergence of the Naicker-Dadoo leadership in Indian politics in the late 1930s and early 1940s the community became increasingly committed to the view that its struggle for freedom was inextricably linked with that of the African and Coloured people. Prior to 1945 the policy of the Indian Congress had been to try to secure separate concessions and reforms in the conditions of the Indian people. In the mid-1940s Dr Monty Naicker and Dr Yusuf Dadoo, with the organised support of the overwhelming majority of the Indian people, wrested control of the Indian Congress on the fundamental platform of unity with the other black groups, and for a militant struggle for a free and democratic South Africa for all its people. Referring to this event Premier General Smuts said in a letter to Lord Wavell (one-time Viceroy of India): 'The Indians have moved more to the left and have emphasised their standpoint more forcibly ... The Indian Congress has elected a new executive of a more uncompromising character who have pressed for their maximum programme - equal rights, equal franchise on a common roll, and other economic items of their programme.'

This policy has gained universal support among the people despite Nat attempts at separation. Events such as the African-Indian riots in Natal in 1949, and the blatantly anti-Indian policies of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) since its foundation and until the mid-1960s at least, did not deter the Indians from following the policy of unity. Further, in spite of the setbacks suffered by the Indian Congress in the 1960s as a result of Nat repression the Indian people have not wavered from this path. Indeed, it must certainly be the continued strength of this feeling that obliges even leaders of the apartheid Indian Council to make statements such as the one made by its chairman, J.N. Reddy, when he said: 'The leaders of the Indian community have on numerous occasions indicated very clearly that we stand for a South African society where all the inhabitants of the land will have equal opportunity.' On a more recent occasion he again expressed the hope for the complete 'disappearance of out-dated practices and unnecessary irritations ... which affect the lives of a large section of our population.'

When we examine the situation as a whole it cannot be denied that there have been improvements in the position of the Indian people. But this must most certainly not be ascribed to any desire on the part of the Nats to promote racial equality. It is essentially a phenomenon brought about by the economic upsurge that South Africa is experiencing. What the Nats want is a docile community, voteless and inferior, but at the same time performing all the tasks that the economy demands. There must be no doubt that at the first signs of a recession the main sufferers will again be the Indian people together with the Coloureds and Africans.

When looking at their prospects for the future Indians cannot be expected to find the slightest consolation in attempts at 'toenadering' (rapprochement) with the ruling party and its policies. The Indians' path remains in the continued and closer identification with the struggle of the oppressed people as a whole.

In 1962 the South African Communist Party (SACP) adopted its policy programme, which contained a careful analysis of the situation in South Africa and described the relations between black and white, between oppressed and oppressor, as colonialism of a special type. Here within the boundaries of the same country a situation had emerged in which the status of the white oppressor and the black oppressed was in many ways akin to that of the relations that obtain between the imperialists on the one hand and the colonial people on the other. The programme observed that before Union the provinces of South Africa had been, at one time or another, colonies of Great Britain. Thereafter, although there was a political withdrawal, massive British economic interest not only remained, but also increased manifold. Later this was supplemented by American and continental investments. In the meantime there came into being an indigenous white capitalist class which independently, as agents of, and in close collaboration with international interests maintained a stranglehold on the economic life of the masses of the black people. In effect, beginning with the years of British rule, and subsequently throughout the entire period that followed right up to the present, the black people in South Africa live and suffer under conditions of colonial exploitation.

The programme, taking into account these conditions, set out its short-term aims for immediate attainment, and long-term aims towards which the SACP eventually hoped to lead the people. The demands and objectives contained in its short-term programme coincide to a large extent with the objectives set out in the Freedom Charter. The long-term objective is establishing a socialist South Africa.

Nothing of a fundamental nature seems to have occurred in the years since l962 to warrant a departure from the basic analysis contained in the SACP's Policy Programme or from the objectives set out in the policies of the Congresses. Because of circumstances the views expressed in an essay of this nature relating to the tasks ahead must of necessity be tentative. On the basis of what limited information is available it does appear that the pending developments in the Transkei and other Bantustans confirm the prognosis outlined in the programme. The urgent and immediate tasks remain the national liberation of the oppressed black people from racial oppression and the establishment of a free and democratic South Africa for all its people as envisaged in the Freedom Charter.

Opinions are increasingly being voiced to the effect that the political situation existing today necessitates a radical shift in the policies propagated by the freedom organisations. It is held that the character of the struggle has changed from one of national liberation to a class struggle for the elimination of capitalism and for the establishment of a socialist society. Such viewpoints have been greatly encouraged by the dramatic developments across our borders in Mozambique and Angola.

Meanwhile, it is essential that one should not allow oneself to be swept away alone by feeling of impatience or enthusiasm. The situation and developments in other countries, no matter how close in proximity, cannot just be transposed to our own. One cannot, however, escape the overpowering effects of the prospects of socialist states right on our doorsteps on the people of our country. Closely related is the fact that in South Africa we can boast of having not only one of oldest communist parties in the world but also one of the handful existing on the entire African continent. Through the years of its existence the SACP has consistently propagated the ideas of socialism and carried them to the distant corners of the land. Not only are our people today no strangers to the virtues of socialism, but despite the outlawing of the CPSA and concomitant repression and persecution, the government has dismally failed in its efforts to annihilate socialist thought and activity.

These facts notwithstanding, an objective analysis and approach to developments is indispensable. The historical development of our country, the economic conditions obtaining today, the social composition of our people, the 325 years of racial oppression and all it entails, are some of the factors that single out South Africa from the rest of the continent. Programmes and policies that seem clear-cut in other parts of our continent are not in ours.

The 1962 programme of the SACP is still substantially valid in today's conditions. The short-term objectives coinciding with the Freedom Charter still appear to be the immediate minimum goal to work for. The task of overthrowing white domination and herrenvolkism and the attainment of national liberation for the black people seem as applicable in today's situation as they did in 1955, when the Freedom Charter was adopted. Freeing the black man spiritually and physically from oppression based on colour, ridding him completely of any of any vestiges of a 'slave mentality' and opening up to him full and equal opportunities in every walk of life is still the prerequisite of political and social advancement.

The remaining question then is an assessment of the forces that comprise the national liberation movement, the organisations that lead it and the methods to be utilised for the attainment of the objectives.

The burden of carrying the struggle remains the responsibility of the masses of African, Coloured and Indian people. It is an elementary lesson of history that benevolent rulers do not just arise out of the blue in order to confer freedom upon oppressed people. Those who are deprived of freedom have to fight for it every inch of the way.

Based on the data and facts relating to the condition of the Indian people provided earlier it is clear that no fundamental changes have taken place in their economic wellbeing. They remain part of the oppressed and exploited black people.

There is an aspect, however, that requires some elaboration. Arguments have periodically been advanced for the exclusion from the struggle of what is variously described as the 'Indian middle class' or 'Indian bourgeoisie' or 'Indian capitalist class'. So extreme have been some of the attacks as to place the said class of Indians in the camp of the enemy. This is an erroneous approach and serves only to dissipate the liberation forces. It is politically incorrect and does not take into account precedents and historical experience from the struggles of other peoples.

It is true there is a more developed middle class among the Indians than among the Coloureds and Africans. In addition, there has come into being among the Indians the rudiments of a capitalist class in the Marxist sense of the term.8 It follows that by virtue of its relative affluence the middle class and capitalists enjoy a higher standard of living. But there is no evidence that these people have been exempted as a class from the racial laws. It may be that these laws apply at different levels. But too suffer humiliations and frustrations on account of the colour of their skin.

Racism and racial laws do not distinguish between classes. Even in their advanced economic status they come up against laws which set a definite limit beyond which they may not progress. A number of individuals may have betrayed the struggle and, by accepting separate development, gone over to the side of the enemy. The majority may be conspicuous by their absence from the rough and tumble of the political struggle. As employers and landlords they may be no better and, in some cases, even worse than their white counterparts. In spite of this it will be a mistake to lumped them together and discard the whole class as enemies of the people.

Not for a moment do I contend that as a class they can be expected to play a leading role in the struggle. The leading role must be taken by the working class, as has already been the position in the SAIC. At the same time the Indian merchant class is part and parcel of the people suffering from racial discrimination and they can play a positive role in the struggle.

In this regard one can do no better than to take a leaf out of the experience of the great Chinese Revolution. In an article in 1957 entitled 'On the Correct Handling of Contradictions among the People', Mao Tse Tung deals very clearly with the question as to who constitutes 'the people'. He says that the term 'people' has different meanings in different countries and in different historical periods. In China during the Japanese aggression, all those classes, strata and social groups that opposed aggression belonged to the category of 'the people', while the Japanese imperialists, the Chinese traitors and pro-Japanese elements belong to the category of the enemies of the people. During the war of liberation, the US imperialists and their henchmen, the bureaucratic capitalist and landlord classes were the enemies, while all the other classes, strata and social groups who opposed these enemies belonged to the category of 'the people'. At this stage of the building of socialism, all classes, strata and social groups that approve, support or work for the cause of socialist construction, belong to the category of 'the people'.

Mao Tse Tung distinguished between antagonistic and non-antagonistic contradictions. He analysed contradictions among the people and contradictions between the working class and the national bourgeoisie. In the period of the bourgeois democratic revolution there was a revolutionary side to the character of the national bourgeoisie as well as a tendency to compromise with the enemy. But he went on to explain that the national bourgeoisie differed from the imperialists, landlords and bureaucratic capitalists. He also noted the contradictions among the intellectuals, and made an observation that must always be remembered: since the contradictions between ourselves and the enemy and those among the people differ in nature they must be solved in different ways. The former was a matter of drawing a line between ourselves and our enemies, while the latter was a matter of distinguishing between right and wrong.

In South Africa there are apparent contradictions between the interests of the masses and the more affluent minority. But as in China, if these contradictions are handled properly, they can be resolved. In the meantime it will be correct to regard them as contradictions among the people. Based on Mao's writings, it remains the primary task of the national liberation movement in South Africa to guard against any tendency towards sectarianism, and to work to unite the broadest sections of the people. Once convinced of the correctness of the policies and objectives of the movement the main aim should be winning friends and adherents and to avoid dissipating energy on seeking, creating and increasing the number of enemies. In the final analysis it will be the policies and activities of the liberation organisations that will be decisive.

Then there is the question of the whites, more especially the role of white progressives. Just as it is wrong to lump together the entire Indian middle class as enemies of the struggle, so it will be equally incorrect to dismiss all whites. In spite of their bloody history of aggression, of dispossessing the African people of their land, of conquest, of enslavement and domination over all black people, the whites in South Africa are here to stay and they form part of the permanent population. Unlike in other African states, the whites in South Africa cannot be regarded as a settler population. It is unfortunately true that the overwhelming majority of them still cling to the racist policies of the National Party, the UP and the Herstigte Nasionale Party (HNP) and would like to see the perpetuation of racial discrimination and exploitation.

Over the years, a crack has appeared in the monolithic attitudes of the whites and gradually this crack is widening. The gallant band that followed the footsteps of Bram Fischer and the communists, and Helen Joseph of the COD, have identified themselves fully with the Congress movement. By their bravery and sacrifice they have established for themselves a position second to none.

There are a variety of white anti-Nat attitudes represented in organisations like the Christian Institute, the Liberal Party, the ARM, the Christian churches, NUSAS, the South African Institute of Race Relations, the Progressive Reform Party, TUCSA and others. In so far as they represent a departure from the brazen racism of the two major parties they must be welcomed. There remains, of course, the uphill of persuading them and winning them over towards the goals outlined in the Freedom Charter.

There should be no illusion about the possibility of winning the majority of the whites over. At best one can hope to neutralise very small portions of them. They have a great deal of vested interest in maintaining the dominant position they occupy and must be expected to vehemently resist any moves that threaten in to shift them from their position in any way.

After 28 years of Nat rule, the government remains an Afrikaner government. In spite of the social transformation it is rapidly undergoing, the bulk of the Afrikaners are still the most narrow, prejudiced, parochial and bigoted of the white groups. Although somewhat hidden by the 'sophistication' of a new leadership, anti-Semitism and anti-English feeling are still rife among them. One must be careful not to attach to much importance to this divisive tendency. On the question of racial discrimination the English and the Afrikaners stand solidly united and should be expected to do all in their power to defend the status quo.

Thus an assessment of the forces pitched against each other in South Africa reveals broadly the following position: On the one hand there is the overwhelming mass of black people - African, Indian and Coloured - from all walks of life; workers, peasants, students, intellectuals and merchants. To this must be added the small number of whites represented by such people as Bram Fischer and Helen Joseph. This side stands uncompromisingly against the racist policies of the Nats and for full freedom and equality of opportunity for all. On the other hand there are the overwhelming majority of whites who are committed to the perpetuation of racial discrimination and white domination. To them must be added a small minority of blacks who have openly accepted the ideology of apartheid and separate development and who have ranged themselves on the side of the oppressor. Then there are the whites represented by the Liberal Party, the Progressive Reform Party (PRP) and others who have firmly come out against the Nats but at the same time refuse to throw their lot in with the aims and aspirations of the liberation movement, and remain a wavering element.

We come next to the organisations that make up the freedom movement. These include the African, Coloured and, Indian Congresses and COD, the PAC, the NEUM, the SACP, and the BPC (including SASO) and the various bodies represented by the Black Consciousness Movement. Of all these organisations, only the SACP and the Congress movement have evolved a programme and policy that can realistically be put forward for acceptance by all the people of South Africa, black as well as white.

It should be clarified that the BPC, SASO and allied bodies have not been set up as rivals to the existing bodies and, apart from fulfilling an ad hoc role in the political vacuum created by the banning of the ANC and PAC, have never claimed to usurp the role of the old established organisations. The emergence of the Black Consciousness Movement is an understandable reaction to the racist policies of the Nats. The commendable and inspiring activities and the display of political awareness especially by SASO and the black students have greatly boosted the national liberation movement. The fact that they have, in the face of great odds and extreme provocation, preserved a balance and refused to succumb to racism is a display of their maturity.

It is to be hoped that the feeling already existing will gain ground and give a broader connotation to the term 'black' so as to embrace all South Africans, regardless of colour who suffer persecution and are hounded, jailed, banned and outlawed as a result of their opposition to the pernicious doctrines of racism. In a word, to make the term 'black' include the Bram Fischers, the Helen Josephs and others who have by their courage and sacrifice earned nothing less than a glorious niche in the history and hearts of all South Africans who struggle against racism. Indeed, could it be disputed that if Bram Fischer in his lifetime were to have contested elections against K.D. Matanzima in Soweto or against J.N. Reddy in Durban or Tom Schwartz in Cape Town, the black people would have given a resounding 'Yes' to Bram Fischer?

While it is not for a moment asserted that the tenets of the Freedom Charter and the Congress movement and of the 1962 Policy Programme of the SACP should remain unalterable, it is maintained that these two documents remain the only ones that offer substantial guidance for the solution of the problems of this country. The 1946 Passive Resistance Campaign, the Xuma-Dadoo-Naicker pact of unity of 1947, the ANC Programme of Action of 1949, the national strike of 26 June 1950, the Defiance Campaign of 1952, the Congress of the People of 1955, the birth of MK in 1961, and the activities of the ANC External Mission are some of the outstanding landmarks in a process that has found increasing support among the people of South Africa and has helped entrench the ANC and its allies as the undisputed leaders of the freedom struggle.

As a result of the repression let loose by the Nats in the early 1960s the Congress organisations have been severely handicapped in their public activities. Nevertheless the results of their pioneering work among the masses of the people have never ceased to make themselves felt in many spheres of life. Directly or indirectly the grinding spadework of individual Congressites, assisted by the consistent campaigns of politicisation and education of the masses led, for instance, to the earlier doctrine in the field of sport of an uncompromising policy of non-racism. In this regard, special mention should be made of bodies such as the South African Soccer Federation, the South African Cricket Board of Control, the South African Sports Association (which preceded SANROC), SANROC and other bodies. Their activities led to the isolation of white racist sports bodies from the arena of international sports. The leadership and example set by Congressites such as George Singh, Dennis Brutus and many others in the field of sport led to banning and persecution. But instead of thwarting their efforts the ideology of non-racism gained increasing ground. Sports leaders among the whites and blacks who were the principal opponents of non-racial sports are today becoming its main proponents.

In all aspects of South African life one sees the impact of the policy and activities of the Congresses. If one were to trace the historical origin of the courageous activities of the students in the 1970s and their united stand in the face of Nat attempts at racial separation, one will find that this can in no small measure be regarded as the fruits of the early efforts of the Congresses. The white students too have not remained unaffected by this influence. Similarly, in the trade unions, in the churches, in women's organisations, in cultural bodies, in business and professional organisations, in every field, the cry is being raised for the abolition of racism and by word and deed stamping their approval of the ideals symbolised by the policies of the Congress movement.

These remarks should not be understood as claiming that the other organisations of the liberation movement were without influence. This is certainly not so. For example, the NEUM has made its influence felt among the Coloured people in the Western Cape, especially among the teaching profession and students. The impact of the PAC has been more widespread among the African people. Its campaigns of 1960 and 1963, with all the reservations and criticisms one may have about them, made a significant impact, particularly on the minds of African students and youth and on sections of the African intelligentsia. In today's context of rising African nationalism it would be unrealistic to ignore their future role and influence. The Freedom Charter provides an adequate basis for the broadest unity among the people of South Africa. At the same time it should not be ruled out that circumstances might necessitate a flexible approach. While insisting on the spirit embodied in that document the Congress organisations may be called upon in the interests of unity to make concessions to the letter. It is certain that the ANC and its allies appreciate the vital importance of unity and can be confidently relied upon to display their usual mature and non-dogmatic approach.

Being a national movement that claims to offer to the people of South Africa an alternative to the policies of herrenvolkism perpetuated by successive regimes, the Congresses are repeatedly called upon to expand on aspects of their policy, to clarify problems, to answer accusations, to give assurances. The experiences in several African states, in the post-independence era in particular, added to doubts, reservations, criticisms, fears and antagonisms among sections of the public. By and large these attitudes are the result of deliberate and systematic propaganda by the enemies of the freedom struggle and therefore it is often the best approach to ignore them. But unfortunately such allegations do succeed in pervading the minds of ordinary, well-meaning people and can cause disquiet. Moreover, they tend to inhibit some partisans of the movement and place them on the defensive. The type of things said include:

Ø. blacks are incapable of exercising the vote intelligently and of utilising State institutions in a responsible manner;

Ø. black majority rule means the swamping of whites, the perpetration of cruelties against them, and eventually driving them into the sea;

Ø. the activities and demands of the liberation organisations are 'communistic';

Ø. that by seeking aid from outside countries, especially the communist countries, the liberation organisations have shown disloyalty to South Africa and are guilty of treason;

Ø. that multi-racial societies have not succeeded anywhere;

Ø. that there would be no safety under black rule for minority groups such as Indians and Coloureds.

We do not intend a detailed refutation of these and similar allegations, but only to offer a few comments. The oft quoted examples of the Congo, Uganda, etc., as examples of 'inefficiency', 'instability', 'irresponsibility' should not be allowed to undermine confidence in our own organisations and struggle. While one cannot condone the unfortunate excesses that have taken place in these and other countries, these happenings must be placed in their proper perspective. It is true that a handful of white nuns cruelly lost their lives in the Congo disturbances in 1960. It is also true that the Indian communities in Uganda, and to a lesser extent in Kenya and Malawi experienced unnecessary hardships, and it cannot be denied that a number of newly independent states experienced instability and even chaos. But having said this, the question must be posed: Can these, and even more serious events such as Biafra, Rwanda and Burundi be placed higher than the teething troubles of emergent nationalism?

Comparisons are not always apt, but one should also recall the warfare, the bloodshed and dislocation that accompanied the rise of nationalism in Europe and of Afrikaner nationalism in South Africa. One should also note that while constant references are made to half a dozen or so countries, many African states underwent such momentous transformations in relative peace. And when it comes to cruelty, violence, plundering and rape, would it not be better if Christian European accusers paused for a moment to examine the biblical beam in their own eyes? In case the reprehensible slavery activities and the rape of black colonial lands are deemed to have taken place long ago, one needs to point to the Second World War in our lifetime, which was the cruellest in all history. It was the Germans, with their thousand-year-old civilisation, who conceived of the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps, where the most unbelievable brutalities were committed. It was the Germans who wiped out six million defenceless, non-combatant Jews. Then, at the tail end of the war, when Allied victory was only a few weeks away, it was the civilised Americans who wantonly thought it necessary to drop atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. When peace was declared in Europe, the British, French and Dutch imperialists continued to fight viciously to maintain their stranglehold on the black colonies. In 1950 the Americans used the ghastly napalm and germ bombs against the people of Korea; in the 1950s the British bombed villages in Kenya and Malaya. In Vietnam, the American atrocities of Mai Lai and countless others are still fresh in our minds. And, when South African whites point self-righteously to the unfortunate nuns in the Congo, they seem to forget that nowhere amidst the turbulence and turmoil of emergent Africa have whites been subjected to anything reminiscent of the Sharpeville massacre of 1960. The 70 Africans cold-bloodedly shot at Sharpeville were by no means the first or the largest number to be killed that way. The history of white oppression is studded with numerous such tragic incidents.

Soliciting aid from foreign lands for the freedom struggles has a long history and is not without precedent, even in our own country. In 1946 the SAIC persuaded the government of India to break off diplomatic relations with South Africa, to impose trade sanctions and to raise the question of South African racism at the United Nations (UN). India took the lead in opposing the incorporation of Namibia into South Africa. Since then, these issues have been increasingly internationalised. Today the Republic stands alone in the forums of world opinion. This isolation of South Africa and the universal condemnation of its policies are in keeping with the policy of the Congress movement. The External Mission of the ANC must to a great measure be credited with the mobilisation and consolidation of this international solidarity. Apart from support by the UN and the OAU, the ANC has received most consistent and unselfish material and moral aid from the socialist countries, aptly described by President Samora Machel as the natural allies of the liberation struggle. In Angola, where socialist Cuba and the Soviet Union rendered such massive practical and material aid to the MPLA Government in its victorious fight against the South Africans, imperialist-backed FLNA and UNITA have evoked a chorus of protest from the Nats and other oppressors. Not only do they conveniently forget the blatant aggression committed by South Africa in Angola, but they also seem to take no notice of an analogous position in their own history. During the Anglo-Boer War a foreign legion was organised by a Frenchman, General De Villebois-Marevil, at the behest of presidents Kruger and Steyn to fight on the side of the boer republics. The legion was made up of French, German, Dutch, Irish and Scandinavian soldiers. Boer generals Botha, De Wet and De la Rey were sent to Europe to organise the aid.

Let us consider the question of communism and the freedom struggle. For many years the Nats and UP have been busy whipping up a communist bogeys. The Nats see the ghost of communism in every activity, in every organisation and every individual who does not subscribe to the policy of white domination. The axe first fell on the CPSA in 1950 and thereafter, as predicted, more and more organisations and individuals fell victim to the persecution conducted under the guise of combating communism. From the outset the Congress movement exposed the real aim of the witch-hunt, which was to destroy all effective opposition. In the SAIC Indian trade unionists, led by well-known communists, helped the Naicker leadership gain control of the Natal Indian Congress in 1945. In 1946, the Transvaal Indian Congress elected Dr Yusuf Dadoo, a known communist, as its president. Communists like Debi Singh, Dawood Seedat, S.V. Reddy, George Poonen, M.D. Naidoo, M.P. Naicker, M. Thandray, T.N. Naidoo, Cassim Amra and many others have been in the forefront of the activities of Congress. They worked in close harmony with nationalists like Monty Naicker and Moulvi Cachalia, with devout Moslems like Moulvi Saloojee, with ardent Gandhiists like Nana Sita, and never has there been the slightest conflict as a result of their differing ideological beliefs. Never has the Indian Congress been faced with demands by its members to exclude communists. Even in the face of severe persecution of communists by the government the Indian people, through the Indian Congress, consistently expressed their fullest confidence in the leadership, communist and non-communist alike.

A similar position obtained in the ANC. In their attitudes, the Congresses displayed great foresight and maturity. They refused to allow themselves to be deflected from the main issues facing the oppressed people, namely, the building of the broadest unity among the people in order to bring about the defeat of white domination and racism. The Congresses also never allowed the class issue to cause divisiveness in their ranks. Within their leadership and rank and file are to be found workers, intellectuals, businessmen, and religious leaders - men and women from all strata of the population. The Congresses brought them all together against the common enemy. This correct attitude has stood the test of time.

Finally the propaganda about the failure of multi-racial societies and the danger to and insecurity of minority groups under black majority rule calls for a few comments. One has but to look at the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean Islands. Whatever criticisms one may have about the conditions of the people there, whatever conflicts one may perceive between rulers and ruled, the outstanding thing is the absence of conflicts arising out of race and colour. In Cuba, Brazil and in the West Indian Islands, black and white, live and go forward together without a consciousness of or concern with skin colour. The greatest living example of harmonious existence different nationalities and people of varying backgrounds can be found in the USSR.

As to the question of minority groups in South Africa, the SAIC has long examined this matter, especially relating to the future of the Indian minority here. It sees in the path and policies pursued by the Congress movement, in the successful realisation of the ideals contained in the Freedom Charter the greatest guarantee of a harmonious future for all the peoples of this land. However, it must be admitted that owing to several reasons the prospect of black rule in South Africa does give rise to misgivings, feelings of doubt, insecurities and disquiet among Indian people. In an atmosphere where racial thinking is deliberately kept to the fore by the powers-that-be, this is understandable and not untypical of minority groups in other countries. Even if it exists among a small number the matter cannot simply be brushed aside. However, even their experiences under white rule will not automatically make them votaries of black rule. It remains the responsibility of the ANC and the SAIC and their allies to continue to do all in their power to educate and win the confidence of all the people. Their record in this respect already stands them in good stead. The task remains to extricate the people's attention and thinking from the racial groove in which they move.

Although for historical reasons the establishment of majority rule in South Africa will invariably mean the rule of the African majority (at least for the immediate future) the ANC and its allies have consistently refrained from giving emphasis to the factor of colour or race. When racist thinking is done away with, the colour of the legislators will be of no importance. The fundamental requirement is the adherence to policies and principles aimed at bringing about maximum security and peace to all the peoples of the country, irrespective of their colour.

The starting point of this essay was the promise made at the UN by white South Africa's ambassador Pik Botha that South Africa was to end racial discrimination, and the feverish diplomatic activities that followed. An examination was attempted of the educational, social, economic and political position of Indian South Africans in the light of these developments, more particularly against the background of speculation about the integration of the Indians, Coloureds and whites. I maintained that both from the point of view of the white ruling class and the Indians there would be no integration as envisaged by some Nats. Under the circumstances, the task of the Indian community, in close collaboration with all the oppressed people of South Africa, is to continue to strive for the achievement of a radical change in South Africa - the establishment of a non-racial society based on the Freedom Charter. Finally some of the problems that confronted the liberation movement in the struggle to realise these aims were touched upon. Having set our sights on the achievement of a minimum programme, some expression of ideas is desirable on matters such as the methods available to the oppressed people for the realisation of these aims. Ever since they were established - the Natal Indian Congress in 1894, the African Peoples' Organisation in 1902, the African National Congress in 1912 - the liberation organisations have consistently striven for better conditions for black people by methods that caused the least friction. Only when all else failed have they found themselves obliged to seek recourse to methods that the authorities describe as 'confrontational'. The passive resistance movements and general strike of Indian workers in Natal in the early part of the century under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and the Congress were proceeded by numerous resolutions, appeals, mass meetings, petitions, deputations and lengthy negotiations. An ANC delegation even proceeded to Versailles at the Peace Congress in the hope of making heard the black voices whose requests had fallen on deaf ears at home. And when the white legislators did consent to lend their reluctant ears they were willing to open the doors only very slightly - and insultingly. They said that they would allow three white men to represent each of the black groups in order to convey to the 150 parliamentarians the feelings and frustrations, the desires and dislikes of the black millions. Humiliating, totally inadequate and ineffective as it was, even this mock representation was deemed by the Nats as conceding too much. And in due course it was withdrawn. Instead the herrenvolk mind conceived of formulas for representations even more unjust, farcical and humiliating. The millions of Africans, regardless of where they were born and bred, regardless of where they worked or where they desired to spend their lives, were assigned to one or other of nine tribal areas. Instead of one they are to be given nine parliaments, nine speakers, nine maces, nine prime ministers and cabinets, nine sets of laws in nine languages. Nine enormous pieces of humbug - fraudulent, futile and ludicrous - which could all be dismissed as comical were it not for the fact that they contained the seeds of inevitable tragedy.

The Coloureds and Indians, who have no homeland of their own are not to suffer the slightest deprivation as a result of this difficulty, we are told. They, too, will be able to exercise the vote - in the South African Indian Council and the Coloured Representative Council - where they, too, will be able to play the parliamentary game to their heart's content. With mock maces, sergeants-at-arms, speakers and all the parliamentary paraphernalia these legislators will be able to gather together every year to give free rein to their eloquence but not to legislate. This worrisome burden would be borne by the parent parliament. In other words, the Indians and Coloureds are to be given all the tinsel and trappings of parliamentary democracy, but not the substance.

The prospects of securing democratic rights and equality of opportunity cannot and do not lie along this path. The Coloured and Indian people will have to turn elsewhere and seek other methods. Reference has been made to extra-parliamentary forms of struggle employed in the past, such as the Passive Resistance Campaign and Defiance Campaign, the political strikes, boycotts, meetings and demonstrations. These have been the methods par excellence of oppressed people everywhere. One or other, or combinations of them have been used with great success in Russia, China, India, Latin America, Europe and Africa. In South Africa, too, all these well-tried methods have been used and have come under heavy attack from the oppressor. Anything that is not in conformity with separate development has been condemned as communism and frequently provided an excuse to let loose a reign of terror, of detention without trial, torture, bannings and house arrest, heavy jail sentences, prohibition of literature and cold-blooded killings.

After the wanton massacre of defenceless demonstrators at Sharpeville in 1960, which was followed by the declaration of martial law and the banning of the ANC and PAC, the crushing of the peaceful political general strike of 1961, a new phenomenon made its appearance on the South African scene - the decision by blacks, to meet violence with violence in an organised manner. On 16 December 1961 Umkhonto weSizwe, under the aegis of the ANC, announced this to the people of South Africa to the accompaniment of bomb attacks against the hated symbols of oppression. In the following year the ANC sent the first batches of young men out of South Africa for training in methods of guerrilla warfare. In the course of 1962 members of the PAC also engaged themselves in forms of violent activity. Instead of reading the writing on the wall and taking appropriate action, the Nats responded with wholesale terror and repression on a scale unprecedented in South African history. And for a short while they vaunted that all 'subversive' activity had been effectively subdued.

But freedom movements have certain resilience and even the worst forms of persecution have not succeeded in obliterating them. So it has been with the ANC. Now signs are increasing that ANC freedom fighters abroad are making active preparations to launch guerrilla activities. This follows the breath-taking events of the last year, which witnessed the birth of Frelimo and MPLA governments in Mozambique and Angola. Attention is at present focused on Rhodesia, where the struggle is fast gaining ground. To underline the gravity of developments Fidel Castro issued the timeous warning that continued South African aggression in Angola could very well lead to full-scale war that was likely to overflow not only into Namibia but into South Africa itself.

About a decade ago an Afrikaner author writing of developments in Southern Africa, gave his book the title Die Vuur Brand Nader ('The Flames Come Closer'). Not only have we begun to feel the heat of the flames but front-line defenders of apartheid have already been locked in actual combat and a number have fallen. Vorster showed a proper appreciation of the situation when he said that the alternatives to a peaceful solution in southern Africa were too ghastly to contemplate. Yet he and his government stubbornly go about finding the answers in the wrong way. They offer not a morsel that can be regarded as a significant departure from the policies that condemn in perpetuity the African people to 13 per cent of the land and the Coloured and Indian people an everlasting status of inferiority. There is no indication that South Africa is willing to forgo her imperialist domination of Namibia. Surely even the most naive Nats cannot seriously expect that their insincere utterances and outdated policies will appease the intense hunger of the black millions for freedom.

In this state of affairs what is to be the role of the oppressed people, especially of Indian South Africans? There is no room for doubt that, being part and parcel of the oppressed and exploited people, their future is indissolubly linked with them. Their only way forward is by way of relentless struggle to which they have made a consistent and honourable contribution.

One thing is clear: the only effective weapons at the hands of the oppressed people are the weapons of extra-parliamentary action - meetings, demonstrations, boycotts, campaigns of defiance, political strikes and organised violence, including sabotage and guerrilla warfare. The oppressors have brought about a situation that leaves the oppressed people with no alternative.

Recent events in southern Africa have increased speculation about the imminence of guerrilla activities at home. It is evident that this is going to be the primary form of struggle and the resources of the movement will have to be harnessed more and more towards it. While the armed struggle takes precedence, this does not mean that other forms of political activity and methods of struggle are to be abandoned. Indeed, a successful armed struggle is dependent on building and consolidating political activity. In the meantime the day-to-day political work must not be neglected. Continued attention must be given to building and strengthening the organisations of the people within the country. The SACP, ANC, SAIC, CPC, COD, SACTU and others are the most experienced and mature organisations of the struggle and there can be absolutely no substitute for them. Under their leadership the systematic and wide-scale politicisation of the masses must continue. The message of the struggle must reach every nook and cranny of the country and all available means must be utilised for the purpose.

Congress members will have to continuously search for new platforms and means of reaching the masses of the people. Individual Congress members must be active in trade unions, ratepayers' associations, vigilante and tenants associations, student and professional bodies, churches, women's organisations, sports and cultural groups - in fact, in every organisation catering in one way or another for the needs of the people. No body of organised people must be deemed too small or unimportant. Indeed, if the Congress organisations should deem it necessary, then the very dummy institutions and creations of separate development might have to be utilised. The history of freedom struggles is full of examples where similar institutions were used to good effect. The activities of the Bolshevik deputies in the Tsarist Duma and the capture of state governments by the All India Congress are but two outstanding instances. They emphasise the point that the utilisation of such bodies by the freedom movement is not a matter of principle but a tactic that can be resorted to if necessary. However, great care must be taken to ensure that in the process the attention of the membership and of the people at large is not in any way diverted from the main struggle. At their very best these are secondary methods that can only be used for very limited objectives. And if it is found that the limited objectives can be attained without recourse to this method, so much the better.

The main tasks are the building of the existing organisations and the mobilisation of the masses to bring them into a constant state of preparedness for the struggle ahead. This is an absolute prerequisite for any advance we are to make. With this aim we enter the second half of the decade. The eyes of the world are increasingly focused on the southern part of our continent as they witness the unfolding of the dramatic battle against the last bastion of racism. It is evident that the white supremacists are determined to plunge the country into a blood bath rather than make efforts at a peaceful solution. South Africa can do this by withdrawing from Namibia and by the extending full democratic rights and equality of opportunity to all the people, regardless of race, colour or creed. It is saddening to contemplate the chaos, disorder, bloodshed, death and destruction that are the concomitants of violent struggle. For their irresponsibility and disregard of the consequences and their stubbornness history will hold the Nat regime criminally responsible.

It is five minutes to midnight. At this late hour the hope still lingers that somehow the white racists will come to their senses and avert disaster. Let the responsible and oft repeated message of the ANC and its allies ring louder, and let it be drummed into the hard racist head. It is not in the policies of the National Party or the United Party, but only under the banner of the ANC that there is a guarantee for the safety and bright future for whites. It has never been in the past nor is it now the desire of the ANC to substitute white racism with black racism, to subjugate the whites and drive them into the sea. All we wish is to win and enjoy full rights to work and live our lives in the land of our birth in full dignity and respect, shoulder life's challenges, and together, partake of its joys. Instead of fragmentation let there be one united, indivisible country; instead of a dozen divided ethnic groups let there be one powerful people; instead of 4 million let there be 24 million South Africans speaking with one voice. Once and for all let the humiliation and hardship of colour be done away with. Let there be raised in its place and to its full height the majesty and greatness of human worth.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to theThis resource is hosted by the site.