Farewell Speech on Eve of Imprisonment, February 29, 1948


(Dr. Dadoo, Dr. G. M. Naicker, Manilal Gandhi and Sundra Pillai were each sentenced to six months' imprisonment each for their leadership of the Passive Resistance Movement. The following is the report on Dr. Dadoo`s speech at a meeting in Johannesburg on February 29, 1948 on the eve of his imprisonment.)

When Dr. Dadoo rose to speak on Sunday at the great solidarity meeting in his honour held in Johannesburg, the huge crowd rose with him shouting "We shall Resist" and "Long Live Drs. Dadoo and Naicker". The Non-European people of the Transvaal pledged to him their unqualified and unstinting support.

In dealing with the second phase of the resistance struggle and the summonses served on him, Dr. Naicker, Manilal Gandhi and Sundra Pillay, he said, "The Joint Passive Resistance Council has unanimously decided that all the four accused should plead guilty to the charge. This is in keeping with the tenets of Passive Resistance. We have no quarrel with the administrators of the law. Our fight is against the lawmakers of South Africa - the Parliament and the Government of the land, Our only crime is that we are putting into practice what our Prime Minister preached before the United Nations Assembly. He claimed before the world's assembly that South African Indians were Union nationals. How hollow and baseless this claim is has been amply demonstrated by the stern action of the Government against the resisters in the present phase of the struggle. These brave resisters, in crossing the Provincial borders, are merely exercising their inalienable and most elementary right of citizenship. We are paying the penalty of claiming to be Union nationals. In the eyes of South African law we may be looked upon as lawbreakers, but the world at large will condemn the lawmakers of South Africa.

Dr. Dadoo then went on to deal with the claim of the rulers that South Africa is a democratic State governed by Parliament elected by the people and a Government responsible to the people. "By the constitution of the land 20 per cent of the population is vested with the power of life and death over 80 per cent of the people, This is not democracy; this is rank herrenvolkism and savours of fascism. The inevitable consequence of such denial of democratic rights to sections of the people is to turn the State into a police State. The greater the attempt at repression, the greater becomes the resentment of the oppressed. As the great national bard of India Rabindranath Tagore points out in one of his poems:

The more their eyes redden with rage,

the more our eyes open,

The more they tighten their chains

the more the chains loosen."

"On the other hand, greater is the tendency among the herrenvolk to assume more and more authoritarian power and to resort to fascist methods."

Appeasing Nazi elements

Dr. Dadoo went on to trace how successive laws affecting the African and Indian people have led to police rule in the case of the Africans and to the Ghetto Act of 1946 in the case of the Indian people. "Where does such a process stop? What are the oppressed to do?" he asked.

Dr. Dadoo alleged that the whole policy of the Union Government in suppressing the legitimate demands of the Indian and other oppressed peoples for natural justice and elementary democratic rights was aimed at appeasing the extreme racial and Nazi elements in the country.

"Today the Government is in a dilemma. It realises that world public opinion is not favourable to South Africa, It recognises that by taking action against the resisters this feeling of hostility existing in the outside world is liable to be further aggravated. The government is also aware that the continuation of the dispute with India and Pakistan threatens to disrupt seriously and beyond repair Commonwealth relationship. But at the same time the Government is not prepared to set aside its policy of appeasing the herrenvolk. The Government, therefore, is seeking to get out of the quandary by taking stern action against the resisters and by attempting to split the united stand and struggle of the Indian people. It was with this aim in mind that Mr. Lawrence, the Minister of Interior, said in Parliament that the Passive Resistance Movement was not a spontaneous effort of the Indian people, but that it was instigated by a few individuals motivated by a foreign ideology.

"We in the Passive Resistance movement have no desire to make exaggerated claims. We prefer to stick to truth which is our guiding principle."

Solidarity with struggle

Dr. Dadoo showed how during the last twenty months the Indian people have demonstrated their support and solidarity for the struggle, and how over two thousand brave men and women voluntarily suffered varying terms of imprisonment in the jails of South Africa.

"The operation of the Ghetto Act has been virtually brought to a standstill by the united and total opposition of the Indian people.

"In this new phase too the people are solidly standing behind us. Your presence here in large numbers, as well as texts of messages of solidarity which we have received from far and wide, is but an indication of the spontaneous urge of our people to lend every possible support to our righteous cause and just struggle.

"Whether we are instigators as Mr. Lawrence wants to make us out - or whether we are loyally carrying out our responsibilities of leadership entrusted to us by the will and the mandate of the people, the course and progress of the struggle alone will show.

"We are servants of the people; we have dedicated our lives to the freedom struggles of the oppressed; we have devoted our time and energy to the great cause of transforming our country, South Africa, into a genuine democratic State in which our multi-racial population will live and work in harmony and on a basis of equality in a progressive State. We are prepared to offer the supreme sacrifice if needs be. There can be no defeat for those who struggle for a just cause,

"But for the successful prosecution of our present struggle a great and heavy responsibility rests on your shoulders. Whether the struggle is to be of long or short duration will depend in a large measure on the degree of unity we are able to maintain within our ranks. The Government, as I said before, is attempting to split our movement, but so far it has not met with any tangible success."

Smuts-sponsored goodwill mission

Referring to the delegation of the newly-formed Natal and Transvaal Organisations which was received by the Prime Minister, Dr. Dadoo said:

"Through this delegation the Government has announced its willingness to meet the Governments of India and Pakistan at a Round Table Conference. General Smuts has even gone further and has sponsored a 'goodwill mission` from these newly-formed bodies to proceed to India and Pakistan.

"What is the master plan behind this ostensibly conciliatory manoeuvre of the South African Government? If it is a question of a Round Table Conference then we are the first ones to welcome such a move provided of course, that it is compatible with the dignity of the newly acquired status of India and Pakistan. We are entitled to know from the Union Government the basis on which such tripartite talks will take place. Until such time as General Smuts makes a direct approach to the Governments of India and Pakistan, the proposal for a Round Table Conference must of necessity remain outside the realm of practical possibility.

Government`s death trap

"In the meantime, however, the Union Government is trying to use this vague and abstract proposal to win the cooperation of the Indian people for the purpose of making the Ghetto Act work. Feverish attempts are being made by the Asiatic Land Tenure Board, which has been set up in terms of the Ghetto Act, to obtain the approval of the local Indian community throughout Natal and the Transvaal in the setting aside of separate townships and areas for the Indian people. In this way will not only the operation of the Ghetto Act become a fait accompli but the acquiescence of the Indian people will be used by the Government to remove the fundamental and important question of land and occupation rights from the agenda of the Round Table Conference when it takes place. My warning to the people is - beware of this death trap."

The General Election

The forthcoming General Election was the next question commented upon. "We have no say," said Dr. Dadoo, "in the election of Parliament. But the Government has provided in terms of the Ghetto Act for the election of three European representatives to Parliament by a restricted and qualified number of Indian voters on a communal roll. This provision is not only unjust but adds insult to injury. It has been rejected in toto by the entire Indian community and I am confident that not a single Indian will be found who will put his name on the communal rolls if and when they are compiled. The degree of opposition to the communal representation has been clearly manifested by the complete inability of the Government to put into effect the section dealing with representation in the Ghetto Act."

Appeal to Indians

In concluding his speech Dr. Dadoo said;

"On the eve of my departure to become His Majesty's guest, my appeal to the Indian people of the Transvaal is to stand solidly behind the Transvaal Indian Congress and its policy and continue their wholehearted support for our great Passive Resistance struggle.

"The Transvaal Passive Resistance Council has unanimously elected Mr. Nana Sita to act in my place during my absence. Mr. Nana Sita`s devotion to the cause and his able leadership is known to all. I have no doubt that you will render him full support as you have done to me. Whilst Mr. Sita is away in Rhodesia I have great pleasure in nominating Mr. T. N. Naidoo to act as the Chairman of the Council.

"The struggle will be a difficult and trying one - it will call for all your enthusiasm and determination - some of us may fall by the wayside but I am confident that the overwhelming majority of our people will not fail the struggle.

"I go to prison with an easy mind knowing that your support will not flag and having implicit faith in the masses of the people. We have broken a pass law which affects our people, but there are many pass and permit laws which affect four-fifths of our population - the African people. They too are with us in the struggle - they too will carry on the fight against racial discrimination and for democratic rights.

India and Pakistan with us

"The freedom-loving people of the world are with us too. India under Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru will always stand behind us. That great champion of our cause, the Father of our Struggle, Mahatma Gandhi, is no more with us. We shall miss his precious advice, guidance and constant attention, It is a great and grievous loss but we are fortunate in having a worthy successor in Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru whom we have accepted in the Resistance Movement as our undisputed leader and adviser. Pakistan is with us too - and its Prime Minister, Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan has always given us his and his colleagues' fullest support.

"We shall march forward; we shall not falter. Some of us may perish in the struggle but we will not allow our community to perish. We may be put into prison bars but we will break the fetters that keep four-fifths of our population in bondage.

"We shall Resist!"


(Dr. Dadoo and Dr. Naicker were charged in the Durban Magistrate's Court in February 1948 with aiding and abetting passive resisters to cross the Natal-Transvaal border in violation of the Immigration Act of 1913. They pleaded guilty and were sentenced to six months each with hard labour. The following is an extract from their joint statement to Court before the sentence, read by Dr. Naicker.)

...We submit, Your Worship, that our only offence is that of putting into practical effect the assertion of the Union Prime Minister, General Smuts, made so forcefully before the 1946 session of the United Nations (General) Assembly that the South African Indians are Union nationals, This assertion was reiterated by the Minister of the Interior, Mr. H. G. Lawrence at the 1947 session. If we are Union nationals then it is but reasonable and in accordanoe with natural justice to exercise the most elementary right of citizenship, that of the freedom of movement within the boundaries of one's country of birth. Any denial of such basic human rights would only make a mockery of democracy and democratic principles.

The crossing of the Provincial borders in wilful defiance of Act 22 of 1913, constitutes the second phase of the Passive Resistance Movement which is being conducted by the Indian community under the aegis of the Joint Passive Resistance Council of the Natal and Transvaal Indian Congresses against the Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Act of 1946, the Ghetto Act.

During the last twenty months over two thousand gallant men and women resisters of all races have courted imprisonment. They preferred to suffer the rigours of jail life rather than submit to unjust and undemocratic laws.

Gandhiji - father of the struggle

Your Worship, it is in this great cause and noble struggle that we called upon volunteers to cross the borders and bear the penalty of the law. We consider it an honour to do so. The Passive Resistance struggle which we are conducting is based on truth and non-violence and is associated with the name of the greatest man of all times, Mahatma Gandhi, on whose death in tragic circumstances just a few weeks ago the whole world wept. Among the millions of men who paid their last tribute to this great soul was Field Marshal Smuts, the Prime Minister of South Africa.

Mahatma Gandhi was the father of our struggle, Gandhi too defied the unjust laws of South Africa and suffered imprisonment during the 1906-1913 Passive Resistance struggle.

This is the man whom Field Marshal Smuts referred to as a "Prince among Men". This is the man - the pilot of India's march to freedom - who is the source and inspiration of our struggle for democratic rights in South Africa.

This struggle of the Indian community against racial discrimination of all kinds is part and parcel of the struggle of the whole Non-European and democracy-loving peoples of South Africa to turn this country into a genuine democratic State in which our multi-racial population will live and work in harmony. It is in view of these considerations that we are pleading guilty to the charge. We are willing to bear the full penalty of the law.

Spirit cannot be crushed

Our bodies may be incarcerated but our spirits cannot be crushed. It is the spirit of freedom which lives in the hearts of the oppressed. It is the spirit which aims to do away with racial discrimination and herrenvolkism. It is the spirit deep-rooted in the heart of every Non-European generating the urge for a better life. It is the spirit which alone can deliver the people from colour bondage in South Africa and make this land a happier land for the generations to come.


(Dr. Dadoo gave this message to the Indian people of South Africa just after he was sentenced to six months` imprisonment. He handed the message before going down the grille.)

I am fully convinced as Dr. Naicker is that the Indian community will wage a relentless battle against the Ghetto Act while we are in prison and with this knowledge our six months will come to an end soon.

To the Indians I say, I have confidence in you. Please do nothing while I am away which will bring discredit to our people. The honour and prestige of our people and of India and Pakistan demand that we do not bend before oppression.

1. 1 From Passive Resister, Johannesburg, March 5, 1948

2. 2 From: Passive Resister, Johannesburg, March 5, 1948

3. 3 From: Passive Resister, Johannesburg, March 5, 1948


© Liberation Archive 2005. Page generated at 00:05:02; 18 January 2005