Non-Violence: The Weapon of the Strong

Mrs Z. Gool addressing a Passive Resistance meeting, Grey Street, Durban, 1946

Mrs Z. Gool addressing a Passive Resistance meeting, Grey Street, Durban, 1946

As we mark the eighth annual Mandela Day we also commemorate 60 years since the historic 1946 passive resistance march from Grey Street to Umbilo. Under the leadership of Dr Monty Naicker and M.D. Naidoo a crowd fifteen thousand people strong gathered to protest against the Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Act, commonly referred to as the Ghetto Act. One of dozens of laws passed by the apartheid government, the Ghetto Act sought to restrict occupation and ownership of land by Indians to specified areas, thereby limiting the acquisition of property by non-whites and impacting Indian people’s ability to earn a decent living by forcing them to operate within over-crowded slums and locations. The march marked the beginning of a two year passive resistance campaign in South Africa which saw more than 2000 people arrested and jailed.

The 1946 passive resistance march culminated at the intersection of Gale Street and Umbilo Road, where women and men pitched tents in defiance of the Ghetto Act. This historic landmark, part of the Liberation Heritage Route, is now home to Resistance Park, in honour of the countless people who stood up against the injustices of apartheid.

The idea of non-violent opposition to the discriminatory practices of apartheid is something that Nelson Mandela supported, and for many years followed. It was only after the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre, where the police opened fire killing 69 demonstrators, that Mandela took up an armed struggle against the South African government. More than just a celebration of Madiba’s life, Mandela Day is a global movement to honour his life’s work and a call to change the world for the better. Exactly what the thousands of people who gathered in Grey Street in 1946 were trying to do.

Photograph courtesy of sahistory.org.za.

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