The National Liberation Heritage Route is an undertaking by the National Heritage Council and eThekwini Metro to celebrate the sites and icons of our struggle for freedom and democracy in South Africa. At heart, the route pays homage to individuals representing a wide range of organisations who gave their lives in pursuit of freedom.
South Africa’s struggle for liberation began with wars of resistance against colonial invasions and was followed by a coordinated fight against oppression and apartheid by national political movements. In 2005 UNESCO adopted a resolution entitled Roads to Independence: African Liberation Heritage to recognise the universal value and significance of this heritage.
The National Liberation Heritage Route seeks to ensure that our young people today, as well as those of future generations, fully appreciate the great sacrifices made by ordinary women and men, from all walks of life, to achieve the rights all South Africans now enjoy.
The Indian Congresses turned passive resistance into an active form of struggle. In the late 1940s, the leaders of the Natal Indian Congresses, Dr Monty Naicker and Dr Yusuf Dadoo, supported by dozens of militant unionists and activists, revived the spirit of the 1913 mass campaigns. Mobilising and organising the Indian community became their single focus. On 13 June 1946 they launched the Passive Resistance Campaign against the Ghetto Act of 1946, which restricted Indian ownership of property. Fifteen thousand people marched from Red Square in Grey Street (renamed Dr Yusuf Dadoo Street) to this spot at the corner of Gale Street and Umbilo Road, in a restricted white area. A small group, including female students and housewives from the Transvaal, pitched tents and courted arrest.
The authorities connived with white thugs who brutally assaulted the resisters. Having adopted the principle of non-violence, the resisters had to absorb the blows and stand their ground. The leaders, Naicker and Dadoo, were among the first resistors to go to prison in 1946 and the last to be released when the campaign ended at Volksrust in 1948. During the course of this campaign over 2 000 people of Indian origin, together with some whites and Africans, went to prison. Among them were 235 women and more than 500 factory workers. They served up to three months in prison, and some were repeatedly incarcerated. The Passive Resistance Campaign made a huge impact, particularly on Nelson Mandela, who said it changed the way he looked at strategy, tactics. He even began to reshape his thinking about the need to work together in the struggle.
(Extract from the ‘South Africa in the Making’ exhibition)