29 September 1951
We are most grateful to Chief A.J. Lutuli, President of the Natal branch of the African National Congress for opening our Annual Conference this year. 1 Chief Albert John Lutuli was elected President of the Natal branch of the African National Congress in 1951. He was President-General of the African National Congress from 1952 until his death in 1967. He received the Bobel Peace Prize for 1960.
The presence of Chief Lutuli on our platform is an indication of the fact that the Indian people in Natal want to work in closest cooperation with the African people who form a majority of the oppressed people of South Africa, and that the African people support this policy of cooperation.
The Annual Conference of the Natal Indian Congress, besides serving the vital and necessary purpose of enabling the Indian people of the Province to review their past year's activities and of making considered decisions on the problems facing them, serves to emphasise a very cardinal point. In terms of the segregation policies pursued by past governments, and under the more ruthless manifestations of that policy, now parading under the name of apartheid the country is told that separation is the only solution of the problems facing our multi-racial society. This policy has led to racial disharmony and dissensions, for the authors of segregation and apartheid have always preached colour hatred in order to obtain emotional support for themselves and to disguise their real motive - the economic exploitation of the non-European people in the interest of those whom the White rulers of South Africa really represent.
At the opening of our conferences the presence of representatives of the different racial groups in South Africa and their utterances on such occasions have given the lie to the policy of segregation. From our platform has always come not the message of separation but of unity; not the message of fascism but of democracy. The message we give from our platform is a message which our country, South Africa, needs more than anything else at present, for particularly under the Nationalist regime, the Union has seen the further growth of colour prejudices, hatred and despair. The cancer of racialism is busy destroying all that is healthy in the life of the people of South Africa.
The preaching of racialism in high places in South Africa by those who govern the country and who are elected by the vote of a very small minority of citizens, is the real reason why South Africa is suspect in the councils of the nations of the world. The world cannot remain blind to the real motivating force behind the policies of segregation and apartheid. Every new apartheid legislation, every administrative measure of the government giving effect to the policy of segregation, every speech by government spokesmen in support of these outmoded and archaic policies, brings South Africa into further disrepute in the international field.
It will not help the rulers of South Africa to tell the world that they are following a policy in the interest of "Christian civilisation", for their policy is neither Christian nor civilised. Christianity is based on the brotherhood of man and apartheid is the very negation of the noble principles which humanity has inherited from Christ.
The last session of the General Assembly of the United Nations again gave a concrete answer as to how the member States of this body view the question of racial discrimination in the Union. In the debate on India's complaint against the Union Government, South Africa's racialists found themselves isolated. It is no use blaming the "agitators" in South Africa for what the world has to say on the policies pursued by the Union Government, for it is not the demand for democracy, justice and equality which is responsible for world criticism; the real blame for the blot on South Africa's name rests entirely with the rulers of South Africa.
The Union Government has deemed it fit and proper to defy the United Nations in face of almost a unanimous world condemnation. Instead of meeting India and Pakistan in conference to discuss the question of the treatment meted out to South African citizens of Indian origin, the Union Government, on the eve of the expiry of time fixed by the United Nations for the convening of a round table conference, brought the Group Areas Act into operation. India has once again lodged with the United Nations her complaint against the Union Government and when the General Assembly of this body meets again in November further consideration will be given to this question.
The Group Areas Act, which received careful consideration by the United Nations, and whose suspension by the Union Government was urged, aims at total apartheid and as far as the Indian people of the Union are concerned, separation is merely a prelude to the enforcement of the Nationalist policy of mass expatriation.
The Act, like any other measure flowing from the policy of segregation and apartheid, is totally unacceptable to the Indian people. It is a measure against which there must be a most concerted resistance and it will be the task of delegates attending this Conference to give a most serious and careful attention to it.
In the forefront of the agitation for the ruthless implementation of this measure are to be found the English-speaking people of Natal and of Durban in particular. The Durban City Council is proving to be even more anti-Indian than the Nationalist Government and is seeking, from the Nationalists, further amendments to this Act in order to facilitate the speedy ruination of the Indian community.
Denied as they are of any representation in the municipal, provincial and central governments of the Union, the Indians have always been made the scape-goat by the racialist white politicians. Anti-Indianism in Natal has become the passport for all European politicians seeking to aspire higher in the political world on the votes of the race-prejudiced electorate.
Every year we have serious anti-Indian outbursts by politicians. With municipal elections scheduled to take place in Durban on October 3rd and with the Mayor of the City, Councillor Percy Osborn, facing a three- cornered contest, we have had another typical example of such emotional outbursts. The Mayor of Durban has discovered that there are twenty thousand Indians in Durban who could not be accounted for by the figures of registration of births or immigration into the country. He has also discovered that there are twice as many Indians under the age of twenty-one as Europeans.
The cry of "Indian menace" raised by the Mayor will perhaps pay him handsome dividends on October 3rd but let the English-speaking South Africans realise that by rallying behind the Nationalist banner of apartheid they are bringing their own doom nearer. Under the Republican Constitution, published with the authority of Dr. Malan, the English-speaking people will lose the privileged position which they hold today in the caste structure of the Union. We issue a warning from this platform to all white South Africans, who are against the creation of a Nationalist Police State, that their freedom remains in danger as long as freedom is denied to non-Europeans who form the majority in South Africa. Democracy is indivisible. You cannot have liberty for one section and oppression for the other under it. Had the non-Europeans the vote there would have been no Nationalist Government in power today. We would have had a government pledged to the democratic ideal, governing the Union in the best interest of all its people and of the country. It is the denial of the vote to the non-European which has brought the danger of the establishment of a police State under which whites and non-whites will be without any civil liberties.
In reply to the Mayor let us state that there is nothing startling about his disclosures. As far as the twenty thousand "surplus" Indians are concerned, their presence is completely in conformity with the natural population trend from rural to urban areas in South Africa, a trend which is to be found in all sections of the country's population. Instead of offering this factual explanation the Mayor's statement has tended to create the impression that perhaps these Indians entered Durban and South Africa as illegal immigrants.
That the Indian population is more youthful than the European is a fact well-known to all who have taken the trouble to make a serious study of South African Indians. In the booklet Indian life and labour in Natal, edited by Professor H.R. Burrows and published in 1943, it is disclosed that 47 percent of Indians in Natal in 1936 were under the age of 15 years and only 13 percent were above the age of 45 years. For the same year the European figures were 27 percent under 15 years of age and 26 percent over 45 years. The authors of this booklet after giving these figures state :
"On the lines of present tendencies it looks as though Natal should plan to build more houses and schools for the youthful Indian population and more hospitals and homes for the aging European section. Certainly any economic and social planning in Natal, particularly in its Municipalities, must cater for a rapidly increasing Indian population during the next twenty-five or thirty years."
It did not suit the Durban municipality in 1943 to take note of the youthful character of the Indian population and to follow the advice given in Indian Life and Labour. In fact the Durban municipality's record on Indian housing, on civic amenities and in making available sites for the building of schools, is indeed a black one. At present it suits the Mayor to take note of the youthful character of the Indian population, not for the purpose of improving their lot but for the sinister purpose of uprooting Indians from Durban to country areas so that Europeans can live nearer to the heart of the city and raise larger families.
Our Conference tomorrow and the day after will have to give most serious attention to the dangers facing the Indian people. The present Congress has at all times stressed that the Indian question is not one to be viewed in isolation. It is part of the larger non-European question, for all non-Europeans in South Africa are subjected to a common policy of oppression.
Because we realise this basic truth we have been staunch advocates of non-European cooperation to meet the dangers facing the non-European people and to defeat the policy of oppression. Of course, we welcome European democrats in this great struggle for democracy in South Africa.
All our political actions must be based on the realisation of the fact that without non-European cooperation liberation will not come to the oppressed in South Africa. Our policy and principles are hence clear. We can at no time become participants in the machinery of our own oppression. It was this policy which was responsible for the rejection by Congress of the communal representation granted under the Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Act of 1946, and for the refusal of the Indian people to serve on the Asiatic Land Tenure Board. I wish to reiterate that in all our future actions we will be, and must be, guided by this clear policy based on sound principles.
One of the important tasks of delegates to this Conference is furthering of non-European cooperation in all parts of Natal. Let it be the duty of each and every Indian, no matter where he may be, to make the policy of non-European cooperation a living reality.
This Conference meets at a time when our very future existence in South Africa is threatened. This is no time for despair or defeatism. We have to stand unflinchingly by our policies and principles.
Let us get down to the difficult tasks facing us and as servants of our people let us count no sacrifice too great for a better life for our people enabling us to make our fullest contribution to the prosperity of our country.