Anti-Indianism in Kwazulu-Natal: Historical and contemporary realities.

11 December 2014

Indo-African relations in KwaZulu-Natal are about competition and rivalry for limited resources and privileges not only between these two segments, but by all four categories1 that make up South African society. It has been conditioned by White hegemony and the politics of divide-and-rule among the four classified racial groups who were stratified along a line of differentiated privileges. With Whites always on the top, Coloureds and Indians oscillated between 2nd and 3rd positions according to imputed criteria for the purposes of analysis by researchers, and Africans were always considered the least privileged. Ever since their arrival in 1860, Indians moved from being most welcomed and appreciated to most detested and unwanted among their White forbears. The reasons for this lay in the juxtaposition of their labour significantly and appreciatively boosting productivity in the colonial economy within a short space of time, and the unwanted challenges that post-indentured Indians provided to the nascent White entrepreneurial class who struggled to keep pace with their competence in petty trading. Similar situations of unwelcome politics of competition have bedevilled Indo-African relations in the 20th century and have filtered into the 21st century in ways that do require constructive analysis to contemporary conditions. This paper analyses three periods of anti-Indianism since 1860 viz. the latter period of the 19th century when Whites turned against Indians, the 1949 African-Indian clashes, and recent anti-Indian sentiments by a small segment of Africans in KwaZulu- Natal. This paper argues that if South Africans do not rise to challenge such sentiments, they will rise to dangerously engulf us.