South Africa Celebrates 157 Years Of Indian Presence

The Indian community marks the 157th anniversary of the arrival of indentured Indian labourers to South Africa who during the colonial era, were recruited by the government to work in the sugar plantations of Natal.

In commemoration of this event, the Gandhi-Luthuli Documentation Centre at the University of KwaZulu Natal Westville Campus will host an “Open House” on Saturday, November 25, where people wishing to trace their indenture origins can consult staff at the Centre.

The university’s head of special collections, Dr Praversh Sukram said: “This year marks the centenary of the end of British labour policy of indenture. There has been considerable interest among people wanting to study the ship records to find out where their forebears originate in India. Since weekdays may be difficult to access the centre, we have decided to open on this special Saturday session from 10am to 2pm.”

In search of a better life because of the caste system in India which left many in crippling debt and poverty, many Indians boarded the Truro ship that left Madras and anchored in Port Natal. They touched land on November 16, 1860.

Workers received food and board, and a small monthly stipend in return for their labour. These workers were also promised crown land and citizenship after five years of service.

The labourers soon discovered that their new working conditions were far from fair as many were made to toil from sunrise to sunset, six days a week and in 1891, the original promise of land and citizenship from the government was revoked and only 51 Indians actually received crown land from the colony.  By 1888, Indians were required to carry passes; and could not own land, live or vote outside designated areas.

The Gandhi-Luthuli Documentation Centre invites the public to consult or view other items in the Special Collections held at Westville this Saturday. These include documents on the South African freedom struggle. People wishing to consult the ship records should bring copies of their parents’ or grandparents’ unabridged birth certificates that list indenture numbers in one of the columns. Those numbers are also listed on documents marked “Pass to Indians”. Without reference to such documents, accessing the correct details on the ship records may prove difficult.

Trace your Indenture roots at UKZN

The Gandhi-Luthuli Documentation Centre is situated in the basement of the University Library opposite the Main Hall and diagonally opposite the Senate Chamber. Limited parking may be available in the vicinity of the Senate Chamber. The public parking is available opposite the Main Administration Building. Enquiries may be directed to Thiru Munsamy or Siya Narie on 031 260 7350/1.

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  1. Use this link to find passenger Indians: South African Indians Who’s Who:
  2. List of employers to whom Indentured Indians were assigned:
  3. List of passengers who arrived on the SS Truro from India to South Africa on November 16, 1860:
  4. Guidelines for tracing one’s roots:

Shri Mariammen Temple in Durban celebrated the arrival of the 1860 indentured labourers from India with a special event. Here’s the photos from the event

Sources: Public Eye PMB, Youtube, Newsbreak Lotus

About Indianspice Staff Reporter

Report and write stories for It is our ambitious goal to cover issues/events/news concerning South Africa and the diaspora.

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