Many Chinese community organisations have flourished throughout South Africa, but one of the oldest still in existence is The Chinese Association (Gauteng), previously known as the Transvaal Chinese Association. It was formed in 1903 to represent the interests of the approximately 900 Chinese who lived in the province then known as the Transvaal (across the Vaal River).
As an objective to create a more united and stronger community. We have established different divisions within the organisation such as:
The aims and objectives of TCA shall be:
In its first 10 years TCA objected strenuously to laws introduced by the British government to register and fingerprint all Asiatics. Chinese collaborated with the Indian community to protest against the law. Among its many activities, TCA:
Chow Kwai For, a 24-year-old man from Hainan who was employed as a domestic servant, did not know of the community’s objections. He followed his employer’s orders to register before finding out that other Chinese had refused. Feeling he had unwittingly betrayed the community, he committed suicide in November 1907. Hailing him as a martyr to the cause, TCA organised a large traditional burial service and erected a tombstone on his grave. The stone, although vandalised, still stands in the Braamfontein cemetery.
Leaders of the TCA embarked on passive resistance and went to jail with Indian leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi. The unity in the community did not last long and eventually opposing factions were formed — those who supported passive resistance and those who opposed it. This led to a split in TCA with different groups coming to blows, even shooting at each other. Newspapers of the time, in 1909, carried colourful descriptions of the fights which broke out in Chinatown, located in Ferreirastown on the western end of Commissioner Street. *
Since its inception, TCA underwent a stop-start existence. It usually took a crisis of some kind to mobilise the community to action. From 1917 TCA again took the lead in appealing for more rights for Chinese. It objected to restrictions in the liquor law and assisted Chinese wanting to bring wives and children into the country.
Throughout the 1930s and 1940s TCA appealed for “equal rights” for Chinese. Discrimination in all areas of life remained a huge obstacle since Chinese were not permitted to own land in the Transvaal, the immigration laws prohibited adult Chinese males from entering the country and segregation was enforced both in business and socially.
TCA was one of the many organisations which formed a national representative body, the Central Chinese Association, in the 1960s to appeal against restrictions imposed by the Group Areas Act and countless discriminatory measures which existed under apartheid. TCA remains an active member of the national representative body for the community, the Chinese Association of South Africa.
From the 1980s TCA became a driving force in this province, hosting large community celebrations and launching a national newsletter to spread word of its activities. It holds biennial elections for TCA executive committee members who are expected to volunteer their services. *
*Extracted from research conducted for the book, Colour, Confusion and Concessions: The history of the Chinese in South Africa, by Melanie Yap and Dianne Leong Man