Original Research

A fool’s errand? Black Consciousness and the 1970s debate over the “Indian” in the Natal Indian Congress

Ashwin Desai, Goolam Vahed
New Contree | Vol 86 | a22 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/nc.v86i0.22 | © 2023 Ashwin Desai, Goolam Vahed | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 26 January 2023 | Published: 30 July 2021

About the author(s)

Ashwin Desai, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
Goolam Vahed, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

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Abstract

Bantu Stephen Biko, born in Tarkastad in the Eastern Cape was murdered by the South African apartheid regime in September 1977, aged 31. The year 2021 marks the 75th anniversary of his birth. Biko remains iconic, but a figure that exists on the margins in South Africa. His impact in challenging both apartheid-imposed race categories and the dominant thinking of the African National Congress (ANC) inspired a whole generation through the 1970s. This article seeks to illustrate this through a previously under-researched topic; the debate between members of the fledgling Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) and those advancing the revival of the Natal Indian Congress (NIC). Through the mining of interviews and newspaper articles, the authors show how BCM adherents attempted to move the planned Indian Congress into a People’s Congress that went beyond ethnic and racial boundaries. The move was ultimately defeated, but it resonated through the 1980s and creates the possibility of new ways of thinking about still prevalent apartheid racial categories in the present.

Keywords

Biko; Black Consciousness; Natal Indian Congress; Nonracialism; Apartheid; South Africa

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