From Community Memory
The First Publications
Much of the history of Indian South Africans can be found in the archives of printed media. All dimensions of the life of the Indian community, established around Durban since 1860, were documented by Indian journalists through the last 150 years, mainly in local newspapers. Indian journalism in Durban started off in 1898 with the publication of Indian World, soon to be followed by a weekly called Colonial Indian News, and the African Chronicle, the latter two published by PS Aiyar in 1901 and 1902. These publications did not survive for any length of time, and were succeeded by the more successful monthly South African Indian Review.
After the demise of the Colonial Indian News, Gandhi founded the Indian Opinion in June 1903. Gandhi’s vision was to provide a voice to the Indian community and keep his people informed on political, social and moral issues. For the first number of years the paper was published in four languages, Hindi, Gujarati, English and Vijavahark’s International Printing Press in Durban; the following year the Press moved to Phoenix, some 20 km north of Durban. Virjee Mehta, a poor Gujarati Hindu who had come as a passenger to Natal in 1908, was employed as a printer. In 1924 he set up the Bombay Printing Works in Durban, which later became Universal Printing Works. The first editor of the Indian Opinion was M H Nazar. He also used the paper to spread the meaning of Satyagraha and promote his philosophy of active non-violent resistance. Through the paper this political activism became entrenched among the Indian people and succeeding journalists have maintained this character of the paper until its final issue in August 1961.
The Indian Opinion
Indian Views, published in 1914, originally focusing on Muslim interests rather than Hindu, in later years became the voice of the Indian community at large. A famous ghost columnist writing for the paper regularly was Hawa H Ahmed.
The 1930’s saw the publication of yet another Indian newspaper, The Guardian. The paper soon gained in popularity, with and initial circulation of 1000 soon rising to 5000 in the 1940’s. Columnist Ami Nanackchand of the Weekly Post remembers that the paper changed its name to New Age, which he used to sell in the 1950’s as part of the drop off by the Natal Indian Congress to its Overport branch. During the 1930’s another newspaper, the Call was published by a group of people who would later become well known political activists, including H A Naidoo, Cassim Amra, D A Seedat, George Ponan, A K M Docrat and I C Meer.
The Leader, first published in 1941, recorded the affairs of the Indian community in a political climate of increased anti-Indian agitation. Following on new acts passed by Parliament aimed at holding back “Indian penetration” further into the country, the Passive Resistance Campaign was started by the Indians in 1946. In this year Ranji Nowbath, a reporter at the newspaper since its inception, took over the editorship of The Leader. Many well known Indian journalists occupied the desks in the news room of The Leader over the years, including Bobby Harrypersadh at the sports desk, C G Moodley as the Piermaritzburg correspondent and Ronnie Govender, award winning autor and playright. The memoirs of I C Meer appeared in The Leader from 1980 to 1990, sharing much of the history of the Indian community and their political views of the time.
Golden City Post
In March 1955 the first issue of the Golden City Post hit the streets of Durban. As the first tabloid newspaper this Indian weekly was a resounding success, arguably the biggest selling Indian newspaper of its time. Initially the Indian community was outraged at the candid journalism, reflecting mostly urban life of the Indian community, its crime, scandal, gossip and exposes. However, it soon became extremely popular among young and old. After being sold to the Argus Group, the newspaper moved from 202/204 Goodhope Centre, in the heart of Durban’s casbah, to new premises next to Ilanga Lase at 126 Umngeni Road. Later on the paper changed from a tabloid to a broadsheet and now resides at 85 Field Street.
1. Post, 10-16 November 2010.
2. Govender, BG & Naidoo, TS, 2010. The Settler: tribulations, trials, triumph.