From Hosea Jaffe, A History of Africa (London, Zed, 1988), pp. 109--110.

The Indian leader Gandhi came to Natal as a legal adviser in 1893, founded the Indian Congress in 1894 and remained in South Africa until 1914. Of Indian professional middle-class origin, like so many of the Indian leaders in South Africa, he held a paternalistic view of Africans, whom he saw as naive tribalists to whom civilization was a danger. He formed a stretcher corps for Britain in the Boer War and again when Britain crushed the Bambatta workers' revolt in 1906. It was during this repression of a great peasants' uprising by 10,000 `White' and over 5,000 African troops that Gandhi formulated his ideas of Satyagraha and Passive Resistance. In his 1906 campaign against Smuts's anti-Indian Registration laws he went to Downing Street. Later, after imprisonment by Smuts, he signed a `compromise gentleman's agreement' under which he agreed, in 1908, that a majority of Indians would voluntarily register if no compulsory legislation was passed. (It was, none the less.) Gandhi, Abdurahman and Jabavu went separately, under the Liberal leadership of none other than the old racialist W.P. Schreiner, to London between 1906 and 1909, when the Act of Union passed in Westminster finally denied access to Parliament to any of them or their descendants. He had a mass following of workers and peasants, but he was part of a merchant and professional class, leading the Indian Congresses, a group tutored politically by British and South African liberalism, interested in bargaining for commercial and professional concessions and taking a `constitutionalist' stand in a country where the people had no constitutional rights.

In December 1912, Gandhi wrote in Abdurahman's APO (African People's Organization) newspaper in defence of passive resistance, which was `as pure as the ideal itself. Suffering is the panacea of all evils. It purifies the sufferers'; and the policy was best suited to `illiterate natives'.


The major reference is Gandhi's Satyagraha in South Africa (Madras, 1928).

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