The 1949 Anti-Indian Pogrom and the Crisis in the Natal ANC

Presented by
Seminar Date
April 13, 2011
This chapter focuses on one of the most traumatic and controversial events in Natal’s history. On the 13th of January 1949, a clash between and an Indian shopkeeper and an African boy escalated into a melee between crowds of Indians and Africans in the Grey Street Area. After word of the battle (in Zulu, impi) spread overnight, African workers from local hostiles and groups of shantytown dwellers in areas like Cato Manor organized to retaliate the next day, leading to large-scale racial violence directed against Indians throughout Durban and outlying areas. Groups of Africans humiliated, beat, and killed Indian men and raped Indian women; after most Indians had fled, they turned their rage against Indian-owned stores and houses. The rioters directed their rage at those nearest at hand; frequently, they attacked poorer Indians who lived near and among Africans in the city’s slums. Many Africans who worked for Indians fled the carnage, afraid for their own safety; other Africans helped shield Indians from vengeful mobs. Indian men, sometimes armed with guns, retaliated when they found opportunity. At the end of the two-day pogrom, South Africa police and Navy forces suppressed the rioters with heavy weapons fire, killing dozens more. The violence resulted in the death of over 140 people, the temporary displacement of nearly half Durban’s Indian population, and the destruction of the Indian presence in large parts of once racially mixed shantytowns, like Cato Manor.
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