South African Elections: Gandhi's heirs fearful of black majority

MAHATMA GANDHI confronted racial discrimination in South Africa with passive resistance, but Indian voters today have swung behind the architects of apartheid and could undermine the African National Congress's hopes of winning a majority in Natal.

The Indians' common cause with the African majority was broken in recent years by the removal of racist laws by President F W de Klerk; now they feel threatened. Many cite the occupation last year of 800 homes earmarked for Indian families in Cato Manor outside Durban by their African neighbours as a harbinger of things to come.

'Indians are really afraid of being swamped by a black majority,' said Raj Bodasing, 50, a lawyer and sugar plantation owner who plans to vote for the ANC. 'The leadership of the ANC has many Communists, and for religious and economic reasons, Communism is alien to the average Indian.'

President de Klerk's ruling Nationalist Party, and Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party, are expected to gain from the swing away from the ANC by Natal's 900,000 Indians.

With the ANC expected to win about 40 per cent of the vote in Natal and the KwaZulu homeland it surrounds, the Indian vote could be critical in determining which party wins the provincial premiership and controls the provincial assembly. The National Party could win 20 per cent of the vote in Natal and Inkatha almost 30 per cent, providing them with a workable majority should they form a coalition.

Between 60 and 70 per cent of Indian voters - 10 per cent of the province's electorate - are estimated to back the National Party, leaving the ANC with between 15 and 30 per cent. Mr Bodasing predicted the National Party would win 70 per cent, while Sathish Jaggernath, director of the Child, Family and Community Care Centre in Durban, put the figure at 60 per cent. 'How do you remove tangible fear in the hearts of the people,' said Mr Jaggernath, an ANC member. 'They do not feel reassured enough to vote for the ANC.'

Despite Inkatha's late entry into the race, there is little chance that Chief Buthelezi's party will win significant votes among Indians. 'The Zulus have always been aggressive towards the Indians,' said Mr Bodasing. 'They say if the Indians had not come to Natal, the whites could not have oppressed them so easily.'

Babu Naidoo, the first Indian to arrive in Natal in 1855, was followed by tens of thousands who came as indentured workers on the sugar plantations, where Zulus refused to work. Sugar magnates continued to import Indian workers until 1911, when they outnumbered whites in Natal. That arithmetic, and the Indians' success in competing with white traders and businessmen, sparked a white backlash. Further Indian immigration was stopped by the 1913 Immigration Act, which in turn prompted Gandhi's campaign.

It was through the Natal Indian Congress, and subsequently the ANC and the unions, that Indians started to fight against racism and, after the election of the National Party government in 1948, apartheid. In 1949, riots erupted in Durban after an Indian shopkeeper manhandled an African boy. The death toll was 142; at least 1,000 were injured.

Eighty per cent of the Indians in Natal are working-class, living mainly in areas such as Phoenix, Avoca Hills, Verulam, Isipingo, which border some of the most violent black townships, like KwaMashu, Bhambayi, Umlazi and Ntuzuma. 'The average Indian has a car, television and a video, the basic symbols of middle-class contentment,' said Mr Jaggernath. 'They are scared of losing their goodies.'

In Phoenix, Indians are frightened that Africans will forcibly occupy their homes, as happened in Cato Manor, although no one was living in the homes there at the time. The Cato Manor occupations were organised by the ANC- aligned residents' association.

Several Phoenix residents said that young black men have come to them with 12- cent 'deposits' - 10 cents for the house, 1 cent for the car and another cent for their furniture - which they said they would take over after an ANC victory.

'Apartheid and the Group Areas Act . . . taught you to be divisive,' said Mr Jaggernath.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee