The Indians of South Africa: A Voyage of Generations

The centuries-old South African Indian community is part of the largest Indian diaspora living in a single city.

Veruschka Mungroo

September 29, 2020

The Indians of South Africa: A Voyage of Generations
A historical mugshot depiction of indentured laborers the moment they set foot on South African shores. They were only identified by colonial numbers. (From Cane Fields to Freedom)

Preserved in the KwaZulu Natal Documentation Archives is the story of one Munigadu Rangadoo, who returned to India with his four South African-born children aboard the Umhloti on August 26, 1920. He was grieving the death of his wife and thought he would find solace among his extended family in India. But too much time had passed: they found India to be ‘almost a foreign country,’ as stated in the archive documents. 

They could not return to South Africa because, by choosing to return to India, Munigadu had abandoned his and his family’s right to domicile in South Africa. But they were determined: they made their way to Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania and sought permission to enter South Africa. When this was refused, they walked for more than 2,000 miles, through present-day Mozambique and northern Zululand, until they were apprehended in Mkuzi. Their request to remain in South Africa was rejected once again. In the meantime, one of Rangadoo’s daughters had married a Natal-born Indian in Zanzibar. She was allowed to remain in South Africa, but Rangadoo was deported. 

At this point, they disappear from the archives.