In the 1830s, Natal was for a brief time a Boer Republic called Natalia. Several Boers acquired farms for themselves including Inanda. These were largely abandoned when the British took control of Natal in 1843 and they fell into the hands of land speculators. Around the turn of the century, several wealthier Christians from Inanda mission including the Dubes and Gumedes, bought land from these speculators. Many ex-indentured Indian agriculturalists also bought land here. Until the 1920s, these landowners were able to make a decent living from their crops (Dube for example grew sugar cane). However they steadily found that discrimination was undermining their long-term viability. In the 1930s, the entire area of private landholding in Inanda was designated as an African area in terms of unfolding segregationist legislation. This was, of course, a direct attack on Indian landowners there who were thereafter reluctant to add any new investments to their farms. Matters dragged on in a state of uncertainty until the late 1950s, when the apartheid government which had been in power for ten years, turned its attention to urban Africans. In order to introduce tight controls over entry to urban areas, the state built new townships all around Durban.
Access to housing became dependent on jobs. The largest and most important informal shanty town in Durban, Cato Manor, was destroyed and eligible residents were moved to KwaMashu. Those with no jobs were meant to leave the city altogether. They, however, moved further out to places like Inanda. Landholders in Inanda, now in a desperate state, found that they could rent out plots for shacks which became a much steadier form of income than crop farming. They became ‘shack farmers’ and this was the beginning of urbanisation in Inanda.
From the late 1970s, Inanda saw a vast influx of people from the drought stricken rural areas. In the 1980s, Inanda changed from being a relatively quiet shanty town to an extremely dense settlement characterised by high levels of unemployment. This, combined with the social pressures of rapid urbanisation, the insecurity that most tenants felt, and the intensification of the anti-apartheid struggle in these years, produced an extremely volatile situation. In addition, the apartheid state wished to control this shack settlement and its own policies did much to destabilise the area.
From 1985 onwards, Inanda was caught up in a spiral of violence that has not altogether played itself out. First, the remaining Indian residents of the area were chased out (1985). Then there was warfare between the ANC and IFP particularly in Lower Inanda (around Bhambayi, Lindelani, and in the new sections of Newtown township). Inanda was one of the most violence-stricken areas in the whole province. Since 1994, the situation has calmed down dramatically, however, outbreaks of violence presently still continue owing to political factionalism and marking out of exclusive territory for particular political leaders.
Today Inanda, Ntuzuma and KwaMashu (INK) collectively form part of an ambitious urban regeneration programme, initiated by the South African government.