This is an excerpt from the Dadoo Memorial Lecture delivered by E.S. Reddy in 1996 in New Delhi. The lecture touches upon the relationship of the struggle against colonialism in India to that against Apartheid in South Africa and the legacy of Yusuf Dadoo. The emphasis is all Reddy's own.
During the course of history, people from India have settled in all regions of the world. And people of Indian origin have contributed to the struggles for freedom and human rights in many countries around the globe but nowhere more than in South Africa.
Dr. Yusuf Mohamed Dadoo is symbolic of thousands of people of Indian origin who gave their lives, or spent long years in prison, restriction and exile, in the struggle for the liberation of South Africa from apartheid and racism.
In honouring Dr. Dadoo, let us recall and pay tribute to the many Indian martyrs in South Africa:
Let us remember the great leaders of the long struggle who passed away before they could see the new South Africa - Ahmed Mohamed Cachalia, Parsee Rustomjee, Thambi Naidoo, Dr. G.M. Naicker, and many, many others.
Let us also recall with respect Mahatma Gandhi who, as long ago as 1908, spoke of his vision of a new South Africa where "all the different races commingle and produce a civilisation that perhaps the world has not yet seen".
By their contribution to the liberation struggle, side by side with the Africans, under the leadership of Dr. Dadoo and others, Indian South Africans have earned not only their right to full citizenship but respect in South Africa. Gone are the days when the minority racist regimes sought to expel the Indians from South Africa and incited Africans against the Indians.
Indians constitute less than 3 percent of the population of South Africa. But today, of the 25 Ministers, five are Indian. The Speaker of the Parliament is Indian and until recently the Deputy Speaker was also Indian. The Chairman of the Law Commission, the Director of the Commission on Higher Education and the Chief Executive of the SABC radio are Indian. Many ambassadors are Indian. I can think of no other country where a small minority has earned so much recognition by its sacrifice, competence and contribution.
We cannot but admire the generosity and the statesmanship of the African National Congress and its leader, Nelson Mandela, and, indeed, of the South African people.
BUT YUSUF DADOO WAS MUCH MORE than a leader of the Indian South Africans.
He was one of the architects of the unity of the Indian and African people - indeed, of all the oppressed people and democratic whites - a unity which brought down the monster of apartheid.
His thinking was moulded by the legacy of Gandhiji and the Indian national movement, by the suffering and struggles of the African people, and by the anti-colonial and anti-fascist movements around the world. He responded to the call for the unity of the oppressed people and democratic whites which emanated seventy years ago from the International Congress against Imperialism, held in Brussels in February 1927, which was attended by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Josiah Gumede, the President of the African National Congress of South Africa (ANC).
Dr. Dadoo's return to South Africa in 1936, after medical studies in Edinburgh, was in a sense a landmark in the liberation struggle in South Africa.
That was a time when the African, Coloured and Indian people were subjected to new oppressive measures by the Hertzog government. They needed not merely leaders adept at drafting and presenting petitions, but freedom fighters who were prepared to make personal sacrifices and mobilise the people in militant struggle.
Dr. Dadoo was such a fighter, fearless and ready to give his life if need be for his convictions.
He was soon leading the Non-European United Front in the Transvaal and the Nationalist Bloc of the Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC). Mahatma Gandhi recognised his dedication and lent him encouragement and support.
In 1940 and 1941, Dr. Dadoo was arrested for inciting the Africans against the war. He had already become popular among the Africans and a square in Orlando, the African township of Johannesburg, was named after him.
In 1945, he led the struggle of the African people against the inhuman pass laws and was elected Vice-Chairman of the Anti-Pass Council, of which Dr. A.B. Xuma, President of the ANC, was Chairman. He was arrested in that campaign.
He was thus incarcerated thrice in struggles of the African people before he served two terms of imprisonment in the Indian passive resistance of 1946-48 which he led with Dr. G.M. Naicker, President of the Natal Indian Congress.
In March 1947, Dr. Dadoo and Dr. Naicker signed with Dr. Xuma the pact of cooperation between the African National Congress and the Indian Congresses of the Transvaal and Natal.
He was one of the planners and leaders of the great Campaign of Defiance against Unjust Laws in 1952, which led to the Congress Alliance, a fighting alliance encompassing all the oppressed people and the white democrats. In appreciation of his contribution, the ANC bestowed on him its highest honour in 1955. He was, in fact, the first to receive the award, together with Chief Luthuli and Father Trevor Huddleston.
In later years, Dr. Dadoo was to go into exile and become one of the leaders of the political and military struggle for liberation waged by the ANC. Nelson Mandela described him in 1960 as "one of the most outstanding leaders in our movement, revered throughout the country".
At his funeral in 1983, Oliver Tambo, President of the ANC, called him one of the foremost national leaders of South Africa, a "giant" of the liberation movement.
Walter Sisulu, the elder statesman of the ANC, in his message to this meeting, describes him as "a giant among mortals" and "one of our foremost heroes of the struggle for a free, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa".
YOU HAVE DONE ME A GREAT HONOUR by inviting me to deliver the first Dadoo lecture.
My own interest in South Africa began in 1943 when, as a student in India, I happened to read a pamphlet by Dr. Dadoo calling on the Indian community in South Africa to fight against racist domination in cooperation with the African majority.
It is a happy coincidence that the Dadoo lecture is inaugurated this year.
It was in 1946, as President of the Transvaal Indian Congress and as a leader of the Indian passive resistance movement, that Dr. Dadoo came into national prominence and became known around the world. It was also during that year that Dr. Dadoo was charged with inciting the great African mine workers' strike of August 1946.
In November that year, I joined a demonstration against South African racism in New York, led by Paul Robeson, to support the Indian passive resistance and denounce the massacre of African mine workers. Since then my own life came to be associated with the liberation struggle in South Africa.
I have been privileged to have had the friendship of Dr. Dadoo during the last two decades of his life when I was able to seek and obtain his guidance in promoting United Nations action against apartheid.
He was a man who loved life but was ready to give up all pleasures for the struggle. A leader respected around the world, he was very modest, a foot soldier whom I often saw in picket lines and demonstrations in London.
I HAVE CHOSEN TO SPEAK on the theme "India and South Africa". I will not attempt to expound on the past, present and future relations between the two countries, but will only draw attention to a few aspects of Indian-South African relations.
As this meeting is under the auspices of the Institute of African Studies, I thought it appropriate to make special reference to the contribution of our Africanist scholars. If I point to the deficiencies, I hope it will be understood that it is only because of my concern for friendship between India and South Africa, and the importance I attach to the role of scholars in informing and moulding public opinion.
INDIA IS ENTITLED TO BE PROUD of its consistent and unflinching support to the liberation struggle in South Africa.What began as an action in defence of India's honour and the rights of the Indian minority in South Africa developed into a total identification with the struggle of all the people, under the leadership of the African National Congress, for the liberation of the country.
The sacrifices made by India in solidarity with the South African people are more than generally recognised.
By instituting the trade embargo in July 1946, India lost five percent of its exports and one percent of its imports - and a very favourable trade balance - at a difficult time in the aftermath of the Second World War.
Perhaps even more important, India's uncompromising opposition to racist South Africa earned her the hostility of South Africa's allies, particularly the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
I believe that non-alignment proclaimed by India in September 1946 assumed its deeper content because of the attitudes of the Western governments toward colonialism and South African racism, which were the most important concerns of India at the time, and especially their desire to neutralise free India. Some of you may recall that soon after the United Nations debates on South Africa and Namibia, John Foster Dulles, an American delegates to the United Nations and later Secretary of State, described the interim government of India, led by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, as the "Hindu Communist Government".
Confronting South Africa, valued by the Western Powers as a source of profit for their corporations and a reliable ally in the cold war, required courage. It is not generally known that when the issue of apartheid was raised by India and twelve other countries in 1952, conspicuous among those who did not sign the request were the two black African States in the United Nations at that time - Ethiopia and Liberia - which were under strong American influence. The United States was able to prevent a condemnation of apartheid until the Sharpeville massacre.
I have had occasion, as head of the United Nations Centre against Apartheid, and even after my retirement from the United Nations, to approach the Indian government on several occasions to suggest new actions against apartheid. India was always ready to respond without any hesitation.
It was the first government to contribute funds to provide assistance to political prisoners in South Africa and their families.
It gave the first major international honour to Nelson Mandela - the Nehru Award for International Understanding for 1979.
It was the only country to declare members of the segregated chambers of parliament in South Africa "prohibited immigrants".
Without publicity and without seeking any recognition, India gave generous assistance in cash and kind, including military assistance, to the liberation movement. It provided hundreds of scholarships and places in educational institutions to South Africans.
Of special significance is the fact that all political parties and organisations in India favoured support for the struggle against racism and apartheid.
Perhaps the first issue on which Indian public opinion was united nationally - from "moderates" to "radicals", from students to princes - was support to the satyagraha led by Gandhiji in South Africa early in the century.In the 1940s, all parties supported sanctions against South Africa - and they were instituted by the Viceroy's Executive Council in which N.B. Khare pressed for action despite the reluctance of the Viceroy, Lord Wavell.
The decision to bestow the Nehru Award on Nelson Mandela was taken by the Janata government, in which Atul Behari Vajpayee was the Minister of External Affairs.
In 1986, when the Africa Fund of the Non-aligned Movement was set up on the proposal of India, and officials in the government were considering an Indian contribution of five or ten million dollars, there was fear that public opinion may not appreciate a contribution when India had serious foreign exchange problems. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, however, decided on $50 million and there was not the slightest public opposition, but only pride at India's action.
I would also like to draw attention to the particularly valuable contribution of the government and people of India, as well as Indians in South Africa, in organising international support for the liberation struggle in South Africa.
Friends of Indian independence became friends of the South African struggle. The first committee in the West set up especially to support the South African struggle was the South Africa Committee founded in 1946 by the India League in London, with the participation of several members of Parliament.
In the anti-apartheid movements, Abdul Minty and Vella Pillay in London, Kader Asmal in Dublin, Yusuf Bhamjee in Wales, and Sam Ramsamy of SAN-ROC, and many other Indian South Africans made outstanding contributions. One of the first to court imprisonment in an anti-apartheid demonstration was Cheddi Jagan of Guyana.
Ramesh Chandra, as President of the World Peace Council, made a significant contribution in promoting support to the ANC, and was honoured by the United Nations in 1982.
In my contacts with numerous student, youth and other anti-apartheid groups around the world, I found that young men and women from India were often among the most tireless activists.
Opposition to apartheid became a passion for India. For us, this was more than solidarity with the South African people; their struggle became our struggle.
I recall meeting Oliver Tambo, President of the ANC, in March 1983, soon after he had returned from a visit to India. He was glowing with praise for India. "E.S.," he said, "we have countries in Africa which are geographically the Frontline States. But in India we have a country which is totally committed, a Frontline State in feeling and action."
WHILE REFERRING TO INDIA'S PROUD RECORD, I must warn, however, against thoughtless exaggerations - such as that Gandhiji started the struggle against racism in South Africa - which are untrue and insulting to the South African people who have a great tradition of struggle against alien occupation.
I also hope that the saga of friendship between our two countries will not be vitiated by any suggestion that India is entitled to recompense by free South Africa.
In providing support to the liberation movement, India looked for no return for itself or for Indian South Africans. Freedom in South Africa was the only reward we sought because we believed that our own independence was not complete until all colonial countries were free.Moreover, the history of Indian-South African relations did not consist only of assistance by India to South Africans. We have shared experiences and our countries influenced each other.
Gandhiji brought to India from South Africa his detestation of untouchability and his urge for Hindu-Muslim unity because of his experience with the humiliations in South Africa and the imperatives of resistance.
South Africa was a mirror in which he looked at Indian problems. It has remained a factor in shaping our national thinking.
If we contributed to South Africa, South Africa has contributed to us too.
OUR RELATIONS WITH SOUTH AFRICA did not begin in 1893 when Gandhiji went to Natal or even in 1860 when the first shipload of Indian indentured labourers landed in Durban. They have a long history.
Dr. Cyril Hromnik, a South African historian, claims in his book Inda-Africa published in 1981, that Indians had settled in southern Africa more than two thousand years ago to exploit gold and other minerals. According to him, the term "Bantu" comes from the Sanskrit word bandhu (relative) which the Indians used for their African helpers or servants.
I am not competent to evaluate the archaeological and linguistic evidence he produced in support of his thesis.
But there are records since the Dutch settled in the Cape in 1652 and they are still waiting to be studied by Indian scholars.
We used to think that it was Africa's great misfortune to be the victim of slave trade and India's fate to have many of her sons and daughters exported as indentured labour to toil under semi-slave conditions when slavery was abolished in the nineteenth century.
But researches on slavery in South Africa - by scholars from South Africa, Britain and the United States - have shown that Indians were taken to the Cape from the 1650s to be sold as slaves and that their descendants may well outnumber the Indians in South Africa. Many of the prominent Afrikaner families have Indian ancestors. The Coloured community of almost four million has perhaps more ancestors from India than from any other country or region. Some Indian slaves learnt African languages and found refuge among Africans, especially in the Transkei.
It may be painful to delve into this past but we cannot undo history and we should not avoid the truth. In fact, the result may well be a coming together of the Indian and South African peoples as we learn and acknowledge that people from Bengal, Coromandel and Malabar are related by blood to the Afrikaner and Coloured people of South Africa and perhaps even to the Africans.
The struggle for freedom in South Africa began with the resistance of the indigenous people, the San and Khoisan, and the uprisings of the slaves, long before M.K. Gandhi landed in Durban in 1893. Indians were often among the leaders of the slave revolts.
There was considerable trade between the Dutch settlements in India and the Cape in the 17th and 18th centuries. Trade between the two countries expanded after the Cape came under British rule.
The Cape was the way station between India and Europe until the Suez Canal was opened in the second half of the nineteenth century. Raja Rammohan Roy was one of the many Indians who stopped over in the Cape on the way to Britain.Coming closer to the twentieth century, we know of the Natal Ambulance Corps, organised by Gandhiji during the Anglo-Boer War, and its service for a little over a month, but we hardly know of the 7,000 Indian auxiliaries who served in South Africa throughout the war. Many of them settled in South Africa and now form part of the Indian community there. More than nine thousand Boer prisoners of war were confined in camps all over Indian subcontinent. One of them even became a scholar of Indian religions.
I would urge our scholars, in cooperation with their counterparts in South Africa, to undertake research on the little known but significant aspects of Indian-South African relations, to some of which I have made reference.