Nov. 16, 1860, a ship carrying 342 indentured Indians arrived in South Africa, marking the beginning of a long and painful period in the history of the Indian diaspora in the region.
The first batch of Indians came on board the Truro in 1860. They were followed by others who were also imported as indentured laborers to work on the Sugarcane plantations of
Natal. The rest are descended from Indian traders who migrated to South Africa shortly afterwards, many from the Gujarat area. KZN's largest city, Durban, has the largest Asian
population in sub-Saharan Africa and South Africa as a whole has got the largest population of people of Indian descent born outside of India.Indian independence leader Mahatma
Gandhi worked from 1893 as a lawyer in South Africa in the then Colony of Natal, and the Transvaal Republic, where the city of Pretoria is located.
Discriminated against by Apartheid legislation like the Group Areas Act, Indians were forcibly moved into Indian townships, and had their movements restricted. They were not
allowed to reside in the Orange Free State, and needed special permission to enter that province. They were also, as a matter of state policy, given an inferior education
compared to white South Africans.
The University of Durban-Westville (now part of the University of KwaZulu-Natal) was built with a dollar-for-dollar or Rand-for-Rand contribution from Indians and the government
in the 1970s, so that Indian students would not have to brave the waters by taking a ferry to Salisbury Island's abandoned prison that served as their university until then.
Indians in South Africa were (and sometimes still are) referred to by the racial epithet coolie by racists.
In 1983, the Constitution was reformed to allow the Coloured and Indian minorities a limited participation in separate and subordinate Houses of a tricameral Parliament, a
development which enjoyed limited support. The Indian house was called the House of Delegates. Some aspects of Indian life were regulated by this house, including education. The
theory was that the Indian minority could be allowed limited rights, but the Black majority were to become citizens of independent homelands. These separate arrangements were
removed by the negotiations which took place from 1990 to provide all South Africans with the vote.
Indians played an important role in the anti-apartheid struggle, and a few rose to positions of power after the 1994 elections in South Africa. After the end of apartheid, it
seemed like many Indians, particularly the poor, had begun to support formerly white parties such as the Democratic Alliance and New National Party, as they felt threatened by the
policies of the ruling African National Congress. This trend appeared to have been reversed in the 2004 elections, with most historically Indian areas voting for the ANC.
Following the end of apartheid, a new wave of South Asian immigration commenced, paralleling the movement of Africans from the diaspora and neighboring African countries to the New South Africa, some of whom are illegal, or obtain their residency by dubious means.
Indians are considered black for the purposes of Employment Equity, and are thus eligible for affirmative action,although some of them feel discriminated against for "not being