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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back