The Danish Peace Academy

THE SMUTS-GANDHI AGREEMENT, JUNE 30, 1914

(The agreement consists of a letter from E. M. Gorges, Secretary of the Ministry of the Interior, to Gandhiji on behalf of the Minister of the Interior, General J. C. Smuts, and the reply of Gandhiji)

Letter from E. M. Gorges to Gandhiji

Cape Town,
June 30, 1914

Dear Mr. Gandhi,

Adverting to the discussions you have lately had with General Smuts on the subject of the position of the Indian community in the Union, at the first of which you expressed yourself as satisfied with the provisions of the Indians` Relief Bill and accepted it as a definite settlement of the points, which required legislative action, at issue between that community and the Government; and at the second of which you submitted for the consideration of the Government a list of other matters requiring administrative action, over and above those specifically dealt with in that Bill; I am desired by General Smuts to state with reference to those matters that:

1. He sees no difficulty in arranging that the Protector of Indian Immigrants in Natal will in future issue to every Indian, who is subject to the provisions of Natal Act 17 of 1895, on completion of his period of indenture, or re-indenture, a certificate of discharge, free of charge, similar in form to that issued under the provisions of Section 106 of Natal Law No. 25 of 1891.

2. On the question of allowing existing plural wives and the children of such wives to join their husbands (or fathers) in South Africa, no difficulty will be raised by the Government if, on enquiry, it is found, as you stated, that the number is a very limited one.

3. In administering the provisions of Section (4) (1) (a) of the Union Immigrants` Regulation Act, No. 22 of 1913, the practice hitherto existing at the Cape will be continued in respect of South Africa-born Indians who seek to enter the Cape Province, so long as the movement of such persons to that Province assumes no greater dimensions than has been the case in the past; the Government, however, reserve the right, as soon as the number of such entrants sensibly increase, to apply the provisions of the Immigration Act.

4. In the case of the "specially exempted educated entrants into the Union" (i.e., the limited number who will be allowed by the Government to enter the Union each year for some purpose connected with the general welfare of the Indian community), the declarations to be made by such persons will not be required at Provincial borders, as the general declarations which are made in terms of Section 19 of the Immigrants` Regulation Act at the port of entry are sufficient.

5. Those Indians who have been admitted within the last three years, either to the Cape Province or Natal, after passing the education tests imposed by the Immigration Laws which were in force therein prior to the coming into effect of Act 22 of 1913, but who, by reason of the wording of Section 20 thereof, are not regarded as being "domiciled" in the sense in which that term is defined in the Section in question, shall, in the event of their absenting themselves temporarily from the Province in which they are lawfully resident, be treated, on their return, as if the term "domicile" as so defined did apply to them.

6. He will submit to the Minister of Justice the cases of those persons who have in the past been convicted of "bona fide passive resistance offences" (a term which is mutually understood) and that he anticipates no objection on Mr. De Wet`s part to the suggestion that convictions for such offences will not be used by the Government against such persons in the future.

7. A document will be issued to every "specially exempted educated entrant" who is passed by the Immigration Officers under the instructions of the Minister issued under Section 25 of Act No. 22 of 1913.

8. All the recommendations of the Indian Grievances Commission enumerated at the conclusion of their Report, which remain over and above the points dealt with in the Indians` Relief Bill, will be adopted by the Government; and subject to the stipulation contained in the last paragraph of this letter the necessary further action in regard to those matters will be issued without delay.

With regard to the administration of existing laws, the Minister desires me to say that it always has been and will continue to be the desire of the Government to see that they are administered in a just manner and with due regard to vested rights.

In conclusion, General Smuts desires me to say that it is, of course, understood, and he wishes no doubts on the subject to remain, that the placing of the Indians` Relief Bill on the Statute Book of the Union, coupled with the fulfilment of the assurances he is giving in this letter in regard to the other matters referred to herein, touched upon at the recent interviews, will constitute a complete and final settlement of the controversy which has unfortunately existed for so long, and will be unreservedly accepted as such by the Indian community.

I am, etc.,
E. M. Gorges

M. K. Gandhi, Esq.
Cape Town

Letter from Gandhiji to E. M. Gorges

Cape Town,
June 30, 1914

Dear Mr. Gorges,

I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter of even date herewith setting forth the substance of the interview that General Smuts was pleased, notwithstanding many other pressing calls upon his time, to grant me on Saturday last. I feel deeply grateful for the patience and courtesy which the Minister showed during the discussion of the several points submitted by me.

The passing of the Indians` Relief Bill and this correspondence finally closes the passive resistance struggle which commenced in the September of 1906 and which to the Indian community cost much physical suffering and pecuniary loss and the Government much anxious thought and consideration.

As the Minister is aware, some of my countrymen have wished me to go further. They are dissatisfied that the trade licences laws of the different provinces, the Transvaal Gold Law, the Transvaal Townships Act, the Transvaal Law 3 of 1885 have not been altered, so as to give them full rights of residence, trade and ownership of land. Some of them are dissatisfied that full inter-provincial migration is not permitted, and some are dissatisfied that, on the marriage question, the Relief Bill goes no further than it does. They have asked me that all the above matters might be included in the passive resistance struggle. I have been unable to comply with their wishes. Whilst, therefore, they have not been included in the programme of passive resistance, it will not be denied that some day or other these matters will require further and sympathetic consideration by the Government. Complete satisfaction cannot be expected until full civic rights have been conceded to the resident Indian population. I have told my countrymen that they will have to exercise patience and by all honourable means at their disposal educate public opinion so as to enable the Government of the day to go further than the present correspondence does. I shall hope that, when the Europeans of South Africa fully appreciate the fact that now, as the importation of indentured labour from India is prohibited and as the Immigration Regulation Act of last year has in practice all but stopped further free Indian immigration and that my countrymen do not aspire to any political ambition, they, the Europeans, will see the justice and, indeed, the necessity of my countrymen being granted the rights I have just referred to.

Meanwhile, if the generous spirit that the Government have applied to the treatment of the problem during the past few months continues to be applied, as promised in your letter, in the administration of the existing laws, I am quite certain that the Indian community throughout the Union will be able to enjoy some measure of peace and never be a source of trouble to the Government.

I am,
Yours faithfully,
M. K. Gandhi

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