Although Mohandas Gandhi has many strong links with Durban, the South African city he arrived at in 1893, it was the ten years he spent in Johannesburg between 1903 and 1913 that first tested the philosophies for which he is famous. As an advocate, he frequently appeared in the Transvaal Law Courts (now demolished), which stood in what has since been renamed Gandhi Square in downtown Jo’burg. Defending mainly South African Indians accused of breaking the restrictive and racist registration laws, Gandhi began to see practical applications for his concept of Satyagraha, soul force, or passive resistance, as a means of defying immoral state oppression.

Gandhi himself was twice imprisoned, along with other passive resisters, in the fort in Braamfontein, on what is now Constitution Hill. On one of these occasions he was taken from his cell to the office of General Jan Smuts to negotiate the prisoners’ release, but finding himself at liberty had to borrow the railway fare home from the general’s secretary.

Gandhi’s ideas found resonance in the non-violent ideals of those who established the African National Congress in 1912. Forty years later, only a few years after Gandhi’s successful use of Satyagraha to end the British Raj in India, the start of the ANC’s Defiance Campaign against the pass laws in 1952 owed much to his principles. MuseuMAfricA contains displays on Gandhi’s time in Johannesburg, and he is commemorated with a statue on Gandhi Square.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

South Africa features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Budget trips: 20 of the cheapest places to travel

Budget trips: 20 of the cheapest places to travel

That ever-growing travel wish list might be putting some pressure on your pocket – but there are plenty of destinations where you'll get more bang for your b…

11 Oct 2017 • Emma Gibbs camera_alt Gallery
The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

There's nothing like an amazing view to inspire you to book your next trip, whether you're drawn by rolling countryside, isolated islands or soaring mountain …

30 Aug 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
6 reasons your next trip should be to Durban, South Africa

6 reasons your next trip should be to Durban, South Africa

Subtropical heat, golden beaches, craft distilleries and spicy curries: Durban is an intriguing mix of urban South Africa and the Indian subcontinent, with a ge…

25 Apr 2017 • Andy Turner insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook