Shifting Grounds: A.I. Kajee and the Political Quandary of 'Moderates' in the Search for an Islamic School Site in Durban, 1943-1948

Goolam Vahed, Thembisa Waetjen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This article examines the attempts in the 1940s of A.I. Kajee and the Orient Islamic Educational Institute to secure a site for a world-class, modern boarding school for Muslim children in Durban. While the Institute would eventually build a school in 1959 that fell far short of its original vision, their struggles highlight several key issues related to Indian minority politics and the racialised South African state in the 1940s. In a context where anti-apartheid historiography is dominated by those aligned to Congress traditions, this article explores the motivations and actions of accommodationists, who sought concessions from the state through conciliation at a time when their relationship with the central state conceded ground to rising populist politics around white fears of Indian penetration. Kajee's increasingly frustrated efforts to employ a once-successful cooperative strategy reveal the uneven course of change in the ideologies of racial rule in South Africa, from an incorporationist imperial paternalism to an expulsory race nationalism. The case also exposes competing interests between the different levels of government in the quest for a unified white nation-state, with pressure for segregation more virulent at local level than articulated by the Smutsian cabinet. It offers insight into the experiences of leaders whose basis of authority in politics, rooted in a tradition of patronage, was waning. Struggles for civic recognition were moving towards an emergent new leadership of professionals and trade unionists, who increasingly garnered support from a nascent urban working class.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)316-334
Number of pages19
JournalSouth African Historical Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • A.I. Kajee
  • Durban
  • Indian Diaspora
  • Islamic schooling
  • Natal Indian Congress
  • Orient Islamic Educational Institute
  • Smuts
  • politics of accommodation
  • racism
  • urban segregation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History


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