H.O.A. ALLY’S FIGHT: “TO DO OR DIE” FOR INDIANS IN SOUTH AFRICA (1893 – 1911)
“Indians were subjects of the British Empire and moved from one part of the Empire in India to another part of the Empire to South Africa. Nearly one(1) million Indians supported Queen Victoria in the First World War with nearly half a million taking part in active combat and laying down their lives for their Queen. Indians who came to South Africa demanded nothing less than the same rights every other British subject was entitled to. According to the president of South Africa, President Zuma the arrival of Indians in South Africa 150 years ago unleashed many heroes who fought for freedom in the country. This was the life and work of one of the greatest heroes of the Indians in South Africa in Cape Town, Kimberley, Natal and the Transvaal.
(2 OCTOBER 2010 AUTHOR GANIEF HENDRICKS B.A. HONOURS UWC)
THE H.O. A. ALLY LEGACY
Hadjie Ojer Ally a near forgotten South African Indian hero was an Indian Moslem born in Mauritius in 1853 and the threat of dying from smallpox did not stop him from fighting for the dignity and rights of Indians in South Africa for over 25 years. After he performed the pilgrimage to Mecca he came to the Cape and was active in Malay matters securing for them a burial ground in Salt River next to Groote Schuur hospital after riots and arrests. Being a Hadjie he was highly respected by the local Imams and his grandsons Sheikh Ganief Booley and Hafiz Yusuf Booley became leading religious leaders after his death. His granddaughter Asa Mimish had an accommodation establishment in Mecca used by thousands of South African pilgrims and granddaughter Ghairoonesa Hendricks is a veteran of the New Unity Movement and accommodated many struggle stalwarts at her house in District 6 including the wives of Robben Islanders soon after the Rivonia trial as well as many judges in the new South Africa and the famous African academic who reframed the field of social anthropology Dr Abdullah Archie Mafeje born in Gubenza Engcobo in the Eastern Cape. Mr Ally’s grandson Thaabiet Booley co-founded the MYM and great grandson the MSA, a Muslim Political Party and a Muslim radio station. Another great grandson Nadeem Hendricks is known as a champion of restitution of land rights and in the forefront to get past residents to return to the land they were forcibly removed in terms of the Group Areas Act. The legacy of Mr H.O.A. Ally will hopefully live on as his progeny all over the country are involved in several good causes.
COLOURED PEOPLE’S ASSOCIATION (C.M.A.)
In Kimberley H.O.A. Ally was a champion of the local non white community helping “Coloureds” in their struggle to retain their ‘accumulated’ voting rights and putting a representative in parliament. He had close ties with the Native National Congress and identified with their “no pass agitation” campaign in the Free State and Transvaal. For Hadjie Ojer Ally Indians and Natives were regarded as Coloured just like Africans, Indians and Coloureds are recognized today as Blacks. On 2 March 1893 at the Prince Imperial Hotel in Kimberley he won election as a chairman of a meeting that later formed South Africa’s first Coloured Political Party or Black Party in today’s terms the “Coloured Peoples Association” (CPA). The meeting was attended by 450 Indian, Native, Moslems and other coloureds from the Cape. And most of those who attended became card carrying memebers. Indians were addressed in their own language at the meeting and told to organize to protect themselves to protest against the “Segregation of the Indians Bill”.
CAPE ATTEMPT TO SEGREGATE INDIANS
Mr Ally’s energy levels at age 40 were amazing. He immediately turned his attention to the Cape when it came to his attention that the combined municipalities at the Cape petitioned parliament to segregate Indians and to restrict immigration. He cabled a counter petition to Lord Ripon in London who showed his support and promptly notified the Cape legislature that all future legislation adversely affecting Indians should first be submitted to His Majesty’s government for their sanction. Mr Ally also started to lobby for the establishment of a Permanent Committee in London for British Indians in South Africa.
TRANSVAAL GOVERNOR’S ATTEMPT TO MOVE INDIANS TO LOCATIONS
Later in the year in Johannesburg the Transvaal Governor wanted to relegate Indians to the locations and restrict their rights and restrict their trade. With the support of Mr Gandhi Mr Ally boldly withstood these attempts and prevented its immediate implementation.
LORD MILNER’S ATTEMPT TO THUMB PRINT INDIANS
Mr Ally was the first to protest against the giving of thumb prints which Lord Milner wanted to introduce in 1903.
OFFENDING CLAUSE AGAINST INDIAN WOMANHOOD
In 1906 the Asiatic Amendment Bill was tabled in the Transvaal which had an offending clause against Indian woman womanhood. Mr Ally rallied the support of members of his Hamidia Association to object to this clause. Indian woman were not brought to South Africa to be domestics and work in the sugar cane fields. The offending clause was subsequently withdrawn.
LAW TO GET INDIANS TO CARRY A PASS
He also objected to other provisions of the amendment which required Indians to carry the pass like the Natives in the Free State and Transvaal confining them to locations and restricting their trade but this amendment was adopted.
THE “RIPON PROVISION”
Seven years earlier he secured the “Ripon provision” which required the Transvaal government to get the signature of His Majesty’s government with regard to legislation that may be detrimental to British Indians.
GANDHI AND ALLY DESPATCHED TO No 10 DOWNING STREET LONDON
A delegation consisting of himself and Mahatma Gandhi was dispatched by boat from Cape Town to England to lobby for the rejection of the amendment and put in place further provisions to protect the rights of British Indians in South Africa. They received a letter of acknowledgement from No 10 Downing Street .
“TO DO OR DIE”
They left in September 1906 and Mr Ally undertook the trip although he was very ill. For him although only 53 years old it was “to do or die”. Mr Gandhi was very concerned about his health and booked him in at the Lady Margaret Hospital in Bromley soon after their arrival in London. Ghandi wrote to him from his Cecil Hotel to the hospital pleading that he stop smoking the “dreaded cigars”. He recovered to continue his mission.
THE PERMANENT COMMITTEE
First on the agenda was the Permanent Committee. They got the ear of Lord Mancheri and Sir William Wedderburn. Gandhi proposed to them that such a committee composed of people “representing all shades of opinion be established in London for two(2) years. This he did after writing to Mr Polak in South Africa for a definite ‘yes or no’ after getting the support of Mr Ally. The delegation was successful and returned to South Africa. Lord Headley sent a telegram to Mr Ally informing him that the establishment of the permanent committee was granted and extended his congratulations. On the 1 January 1907 the Natal Indian Congress presented a joint citation to Messrs H.O. Ally and M.K. Gandhi congratulating them on their victory to get a Permanent Committee in Great Britain for watching the interests of Indians in South Africa. The citation commended the foresight and wisdom of Mr Ally which mooted the Permanent Committee as far ago as 1893 and now stood to benefit all Indians in South Africa and further a true and just solution of the status of Indians in South Africa.
PASSBOOKS FOR SOUTH AFRICAN INDIANS PUT ON HOLD
The crowning glory although short lived for the delegation was a historic award signed by Mr Anglia and Mr Polack on behalf of both the Natal and Transvaal Indian Congress as heroes whose “sojourn to London” was successful. Indians could not be forced in South Africa to carry the dreaded passbook and be confined to locations and trade in restricted locations.
POSTSCRIPT: An editorial in “The Indian Views” on 30 July 1920 on the eve of a holiday to Mauritius to recover from smallpox paid tribute to Hadjie Ojer Ally’s record of public work and success in the service of all the oppressed people in South Africa particular Indians. He was accompanied by his wife and his youngest son and stayed in Mauritius for quite a while. When the family returned his 10 year old son could only speak French and not a word of English or Afrikaans. They brought with them the French song “Ale be me Noo Mama ala Be me noo te” and their children which is still today a treasured family song in the Ally and Booley family putting all new born babies to sleep. One is not an Ally or Booley if you don’t know about this French song. The smallpox mark is on the forehead of many of the members of these two families a grim reminded of the fight o the death of H.O. A. Ally. His wife also brought a tray on which all babies were named. She was guest of honour at the first birthday celebration of the first birthday party of H.O. A. Ally’s first great grandson.
Indian matters always occupied Mr Ally and he had personal interviews during his career with such statesmen as Sir Hercales Robinson, Sir Hennery Leek, Sir Graham Bower, President Kruger, Dr Leyds, Sir Jacobus De Wet, Sir Cunningham-Green, Sir Alfred Milner, the Rt. Hon J. Chamberlain and others. While he differed with Cecil John Rhodes they were house friends and he and Gandhi often had tea and snacks and ate peanuts at his fruit and vegetable wholesalers sitting on potato sacks according to his wife Sadiah and eldest granddaughter Salegha who lives in Wynberg.
Mr Anglia of the Natal Indian Congress visited Cape Town after Mr Ally’s demise and invited Mr Ally’s daughter Rabia and granddaughter Ghairoonesa to a banquet in the Old Drill Hall in February 1950 organized by the South African Indian Congress where the guest of honour was Pundit Kunzau from India. Delegates from Durban included Messrs Ismail Dhooma , Bassa and Cassiem. Ghairoonesa was married to Mr Dhooma’s cousin Imam Shaikh Latiff Hendricks whose father Mr M.H. Latiff was a top soccer player for Bluebells and co-founder of the Grey Street mosque and an associate of Mahatma Gandhi and a senior member of the Natal Indian Congress.