FREEDOM IN OUR LIFETIME
Presidential Address to the 46th Annual Conference
of the African National Congress, Durban, December 12-14, 1958
Sons and Daughters of Afrika,
Nationalist Returned to Power
We meet for our 46th Annual Conference when the fury of the
Nationalist Party Government in its implementation of apartheid shows no signs
of abatement. We have no reason to expect it to be otherwise since the
Nationalist Party was returned with an overwhelming majority in the General
Election held early this year. Their return was not unexpected but not the near
landslide that it was. This clear mandate is a full endorsement by white South
Africa of the Nationalist Party policy of baaskap apartheid.
The Nationalist Party on their part responded to this honour and trust by
elevating Dr. Verwoerd to the leadership of the Party and so to the Premiership
of the country in succession to the late Mr. Strijdom. The results of the
General Election are an ominous sign for all with political eyes to see: to see
the rise to mighty power of the Nationalist Party with its apartheid policy and
their full entrenchment, and to see how this forebodes further oppressive laws
for non-whites and a consequent further interference and curtailment of the
freedom of the whites.
The whites are already experiencing this in the application of the Influx
Control Regulations, the policy regarding the siting of industry and the policy
and regulations governing the holding of meetings by Africans in urban areas.
The truth embodied in the saying "Freedom is indivisible" is dawning
on some whites hitherto indifferent to restrictions under which non-whites,
especially Africans, suffered.
The rise by Dr. Verwoerd to the Premiership of the country added to our
concern but not to our surprise. Our experience of him in the Ministry of
African Affairs made us most apprehensive of our future and that of the Union
with Dr. Verwoerd controlling the reins of the State. Undoubtedly, he is the
most ardent and relentless apostle or apartheid determined "to keep the
native in his place." He is not the type to hesitate when he deems it
necessary to forcefully disabuse "the Bantu" from any pretensions to
graze in the green pastures of the Union he regards as the preserve of the
whites only. His Bantu Education Act and Bantu Authorities Act, his amendments
to existing laws such as the Urban Areas Act, the various measures governing
Rural Reserves, reveal his ruthless mind and qualify him as an arch-oppressor of
non-whites. It is such a man the Nationalist Party made Premier of the country.
As would be expected from a power-hungry man like him, he skilfully made sure in
his appointment of his Cabinet that he remained unchallenged within the Cabinet
itself. He made the office of the Prime Minister a most vigilant nerve centre of
the Government than, to our knowledge, had ever been done before. No doubt, this
and other arrangements not here pertinent will give him strong control of the
Government, his party and the country. Unfortunately, the large majority in
white South Africa welcome a Prime Minister who will ensure their retention of
the privileged position they hold in South Africa.
Do these whites forget that RESISTANCE is the natural reaction to DOMINATION
AND FORCE? This could not be in the best interests of the country.
Peoples Resistance Grows
To their credit, it can be truly said that the African National Congress and
other member-organisations of the Congress Alliance, together with other
democratic groups like the Liberal Party and progressive political freelancers,
have continued to expose without fear and to oppose most vehemently the policy
of apartheid. These groups and individuals have been the watchdogs of the
On the whole the response from among the oppressed, having regard to the
degree of their political education and awareness, has been encouraging and
gives promise to the building of an effective MASS FREEDOM FRONT. Equally
encouraging has been the manner in which many freedom lovers in the white
community have come out openly and boldly to champion the cause of making the
Union a true democracy for all, and not be what it is now: a democracy for
whites and a police state for non-whites. There is encouraging evidence of a
determined not just sporadic attack on apartheid from leaders of some
sporting organisations, artist groups and religious leaders when hitherto it was
practically all quiet in some of these sectors of the nation-community.
The growth of this spirit of opposition should make the Liberatory Movement
redouble its efforts to build a Democratic United Front against the apartheid
front. Something more will be said later in the address on this important
The courage and determination of some of the freedom fighters has been
marvellous and seems to have risen in proportion to the severity of the
tyrannical application of any apartheid laws; indeed, their courage has been
true to the hymn-words "Let Courage Rise with Danger." In this
connection let us refer very briefly to some freedom struggle activities of the
year that deserve special note and appreciation.
The Treason Case: The Treason Trialists have shown admirable
fortitude in their crucial testing time as front-line volunteers in the freedom
struggle; and so have their families and dependants.
Let me here thank warmly all those, here and overseas, who have spared no
effort to raise funds to provide the accused with the most capable defence team
and helped to a most appreciable measure to relieve the accused and dependants
of much physical suffering and mental anxiety. The treason case has dominated
the political scene in South Africa and has provided an effective political
rallying point. It has helped, not only to make the African National Congress
more widely known and recognised as a political force in the country, but has
directly and indirectly helped to spread the Congress spirit of opposition to
apartheid. The Treason Trial has provided another instance of "good out of
We regret its tortuous progress which has been punctuated intermittently by
many adjournments. The African National Congress joins the voices that have
urged the Government, as an act of manliness and honour, to abandon this case.
The Opposition to the Issue of Reference Books to African Women
Magnificent effective mass demonstrations were staged in different parts of
the country. As a result of these protests and demonstrations some women have
been victims of police arrest and quite unnecessarily police brutality. We say BRAVO!
to those African women who in any way showed their courageous opposition to the
pass system which is responsible for so much suffering among Africans. During
any one year thousands of African people are arrested and introduced to jail
life through the operation of pass laws. To many, this introduction has proved
to be the beginning of a most destructive life of crime.
The Congress and the General Election
The voteless non-whites, as an important third political force in the
country, made an effort to intervene in the General Election held early this
year. Protest week activities, despite the setback suffered by the Stay-at-Home
efforts of non-white workers, were a successful gate-crashing for the first time
into a white general election hitherto erroneously regarded by the non-whites as
not of their concern but of whites only. By this attitude the non-whites showed
a lack of appreciation of the truth in the words: "South African Affairs
are African Affairs." It must be so since Africans, by their labours and
services, impinge on all sectors and aspects of South African life.
The combined frantic efforts to smash the demonstration were made by the
government, the white employers agencies and the non-white ill- assortment of
despicable collaborators. This unholy alliance showed up as nothing could, the
importance of this form of demonstration. That some thing was done in the face
of such terrific opposition, no matter how feebly, should be a source of
gratification to the leaders of the non-white workers.
On the positive side the demonstration-protest helped to highlight the
pecuniary plight of non-white workers whose wages, it is admitted, are on
starvation level. Some employers are forestalling workers demands by making
puny shameful increases out of tune with the realities of the facts of the
situation. This is undermining the workers demands for a minimum wage of L1
a day for unskilled African workers. I fear that the workers, since protest
week, have been losing the initiative. The Congresses should endeavour to their
utmost to give effective lead to workers in their demand for a living wage in
Further Increases in Taxation for Africans
Parliament met in June shortly after the General Election. True to its now
regular feature and practice Parliament produced and placed on the Statute Book
more oppressive apartheid measures; the main measure was an Act providing for an
increased taxation of 15/- on the 20/- general tax for African men over the age
of 18. The same Act makes provision for some form of apartheid Income Tax on an
ascending scale for African men and women beginning with those in receipt of a
minimum income of £180 per year. There are other taxes
Africans have to meet such as Bantu Authorities Levies, levies by School Boards
for educational purposes, etc.
I commend to this Conference and the African public in general an excellent
pamphlet by the African National Congress on the subject of increased taxation
We look forward with much apprehension to the first Verwoerd session of
Parliament. We can expect from it more and more oppressive measures: more
controls, more permits and what not. Indeed, the operative words in apartheid
are "Control" and "Permission." One would think that
Africans got to inhabit the continent of Africa by the "permission"
and under the "control" of some ancient white prototype of Dr. Malan,
Mr. Strijdom or Dr. Verwoerd. It galls and humiliates one to be so treated in
The challenge of all this to the African National Congress and its allies and
other freedom-lovers is that there is no force in the white community in any
foreseeable future that will defeat the Nationalist Party. It seems it is only
the combined struggle efforts of the oppressed non-whites, working with white
freedom lovers on the basis of equality, mutual respect and friendship, that
will form a new force to defeat apartheid. Fortunately, there is a growing
number of white freedom lovers who, with no ulterior motives, genuinely wish to
see the full liberation of non-whites.
Why the African National Congress Utterly Rejects Apartheid and with
Thunderous Voices Says: Away with Apartheid
We say: AWAY WITH APARTHEID because:
- It is a policy guilty of political immorality; it is born of fear,
selfishness and greed; it stands for domination of whites over blacks and
thus it contributes to strained black-white relations since domination
naturally produces resistance.
The strained relations impair the establishment of an effective
co-operative effort between black and white on a voluntary basis in the
interests of the country. No country can truly become great and prosperous
under such inimical conditions.
- It robs the majority in the country, the ten million non-whites, of their
natural right of each developing to their fullest his creator-given
capabilities. South Africa becomes the poorer because of this dwarfing of
its non-white genius-potential.
Deservingly its policy of apartheid becomes the target of world
condemnation. Progressive forces in the country should not be deterred from
encouraging this outside non-violent pressure because of the fear to be
attacked as disloyal to South Africa. The alternative attitude is disloyalty
to Truth and it is terrible thing to be disloyal to Truth. This makes one
receive the condemnation of the world and the disdain of posterity.
- It often puts in a false position the administrative officers charged with
the task of selling it to the general public, especially its victims, the
non-whites. The administrative officers often find themselves resorting to
various forms of camouflage and subterfuge, some of which dangerously
borders on false enticing, if not deceit.
When camouflage seems to fail intimidator tactics, up to coercion at its
worst, are used. Victimisation is extensively used to put fear into others.
Such methods make the officers using them or ordering their use to be guilty
of subordinating moral principle to oppressive expediency.
- INJUSTICES ARE DESCRIBED AS BENEFITS :
What benefit is it to Africans:
- to have had African voters in the Cape removed from the Common Roll to a
separate roll and giving them a mere token representation in Parliament?
- to have allocated them, being 8 million, only 13% of the land in South
Africa when whites, who are only 3 million, hold practically the rest of
the land, i.e., 87%?
- to have instituted a colour-bar in industry which bars them from skilled
work and Trade Union rights and thus subjecting them to starvation wages
that place 70% of the workers in industry and commerce below the
- to apply to them the principle of "Do-It-Yourselves" in the
matter of Public Services when for whites, more affluently placed,
the State assumes full responsibility?
In all civilised countries the poorest section of the community is
taken as the responsibility of the State and given generous assistance
commensurate with the financial strength of the country.
- to displace them by removals from their long established homes some
held in freehold and thus impoverishing them and placing them in
The same can be said about the workings of apartheid among other sections of
the non-whites. We could here validly ask, what benefit the Group Areas Act, Job
Reservation, to mention only a few, are to non-whites? Dr. Donges, then Minister
responsible for the Group Areas Act said that the Act would be applied with
justice and fairness. So far in its implementation "justice and
fairplay" are conspicuous by their absence.
In this regard, no doubt, Mr. W. Maree, now Minister of Bantu Education, was
more correct than Dr. Donges when he indicated that the intention of the Group
Areas Act was to force the Indian to return voluntarily to India, or engage in
diversified forms of manual labour instead of being exclusively traders. Could
there be greater injustice than this of robbing a people of their wealth in
order to get rid of them or reduce greatly their pecuniary status?
The Bantu Education Act and the Bantu Authorities Act, two cardinal apartheid
Acts, are glaring and typical examples that refute another unfounded claim of
apartheid, namely, PROGRESSIVENESS. These Acts, like many other apartheid
measures, so bound in injustices and unfair play that to describe them as
progressive is to suggest the impossible: the possibility of "going forward
by going back."
The Challenge of Apartheid to White South Africa
White South Africans are historically and culturally inheritors of what is
called Western Civilisation. They rightly pride themselves of a connection with
a civilisation which, at its best, stands for high value standards in all
aspects of life. The pillars of its political morality are: LIBERTY, EQUALITY
and FRATERNITY regardless of colour, race or creed. This implies a respect for
human dignity, the brotherhood of man and mans individual worth.
Their forebears heroically sacrificed life itself in the task of propagating,
upholding and defending these values. Why should white South Africa, being heirs
to so rich a heritage, be guilty under apartheid of not living up to the tenets
of the political creed of their forefathers in the multi-racial setting and
atmosphere of South Africa? It would be an act of honour for which their
contemporaries and generations to come would thank them if they passed these
values on to posterity, not only unimpaired, but enriched by the diversity of
cultural assets found in our multi-racial South Africa.
We make all allowance for human frailty which makes man fail to live up to
the best he knows. But he must show evidence of his efforts to reach the
pinnacle of morality in his dealings with his brother-man, regardless of the
newness of a situation. Jungle morality can never be justified under any
circumstances. Upholding apartheid, in our view, is utterly inconsistent with
upholding these ancient and eternal values which, in our day, find unqualified
endorsement in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and in the creeds
of all worthy religions. These values, rights and obligations, are inherent in
any way of life claiming to be described as civilised.
Let me in this connection say this: It does dishonour to the Union of South
Africa to find our Minister of External Affairs and his Delegation walking out
of UNO because of UNOs attempts to insist on member-nations, including the
Union, making an effort to respect and uphold these human rights in their
It is no valid excuse for white South Africa to say that these
value-standards were developed in the setting and atmosphere of racially and
culturally homogeneous communities. The challenge to our age is to nurture these
eternal values in racially and seemingly culturally heterogeneous communities.
Our noble calling is to create spiritually homogeneous multi-racial communities
resting on a broad cultural base enriched by the cultural variations making up
our multi-racial society: a kind of Unity in Diversity.
Some Aspects of our Policy
- For ourselves we have no desire or intention to dominate over others by
virtue of the superior numbers of our racial group. We work for the
corporate multi-racial society in which the criterion of recognition as a
citizen will not rest on class or racial considerations but on loyalty to
multi-racial South Africa on the basis of democratic universal suffrage.
Democratic, and not racial considerations, should motivate the exercise
of franchise rights. We, in the African National Congress, are opposed to
the outlook that the colour of ones skin, i.e., ones race, should
determine ones politics.
Subject to and subordinate to the wider interests of our common country,
South Africa, ones politics should be influenced and determined by the
ideals and interests one holds supreme.
- White South African must cast aside fear and greed and voluntarily bring
about a black-white partnership on the basis of a common society.
The African National Congress stands or falls by Free Democracy. It is as
opposed to a racial majority masquerading as a democratic majority, as it is
opposed to a minority of any kind, racial or otherwise, dominating over
others because, for some reason, it seized the full control of the State. We
say that in a truly multi-racial country democracy should, by the nature of
things, be colour-blind.
- We say that whites can only ensure their survival by deliberately
democratising all the inhabitants of the country. This means that they must
propagate and share without reservations the values, rights and obligations
inherent in civilisation and democracy and not horde them by making them a
They should not over-worry about losing their identity to a coloured race.
Fortunately, racial pride not racial dominance seems to be a common
desire among our main racial groups. This is the strongest guarantee against
wholesale miscegenation which is often used as a bogy by white supremacists to
retain political power. We feel that individual freedom in this matter must,
with a few exceptions, be respected. By exerting its influence society should
attempt to condition individuals and groups to the common outlook of a racial
pride which abhors miscegenation in any form. Apart from doubting the efficacy
of law as a curbing moral force in this matter, we dislike its interference with
individual freedom in so personal a matter.
In any case, we submit that no one has a right, not even Parliament, to
persecute and deny anyone or group of people human rights on the grounds of
seeking to preserve his groups identity. For one thing it is not given to any
people to know the likes or dislikes of its posterity. We must credit posterity
with some intelligence to know what is best for it in the circumstances of its
age. We should not over-concern ourselves with posterity to the point of making
fully legalised plans for it. What we regard as wisdom may be looked upon with
disdain and contempt by posterity in whose name unforgivable indignities and
atrocities are often perpetrated on man by man.
Co-operation in the Days of Freedom-Struggle and after
The African National Congress accepts the important fact of our situation
multi-racialism. This recognition, to be meaningful and honest, must find
expression in a co-operation in the struggle that embraces all progressive
liberation forces. The Congress Alliance already forms an important nucleus and
vanguard of this co-ordinated co-operative effort. We desire to see it grow. The
member-groups in this co-operation may retain their independence and not
sacrifice cherished principles save voluntarily.
If Africans are true potential democrats and realists, as we think they would
prove to be so in the test, they should wholeheartedly support the African
National Congress in its objective and stand aimed at making this co-operation a
vital force in the freedom fight: a force to outmatch the apartheid front. This
apartheid front is supported by the might of government forces which receive
substantial support from an ill-assortment of non-white collaborators consisting
of people with misguided selfish motives and others with inadequate knowledge of
the issues involved.
These non-whites collaborators would have us be content with pickings from
the apartheid Garbage Tin and with mere Ambulance Services; directly or
indirectly they counsel a striving for a mere mess of pottage to the abandonment
of our noble pursuit for mans worthiest heritage, FREEDOM, and at that,
"FREEDOM IN OUR LIFE TIME." This is the goal the African National
Congress has unequivocally set before the people and not a wallowing in the
apartheid mud as others would have them do.
We believe that even with the potential at our command to go it alone in the
struggle for freedom, respect for other freedom lovers in other racial groups in
our country would demand that we invite them to be our comrades-in-arms in the
fight for freedom, if we are to co-operate with them as equals and with a deeper
appreciation and trust of one another in the truly free democratic South Africa
we are working for. Such a co-operation, born of comradeship in the struggle
would be the surest guarantee against the arrogance, now and after victory, of
would-be political exclusivists-dictators. There is no other way by which we can
show our earnest and concern for the creation of a democratic multi-racial South
Africa if we are to ensure a progressive and peaceful future for our beloved
fatherland, South Africa.
Method of Struggle
So long as white South Africa denies the non-whites full democratic freedom
we shall have no option but to advise and continue to lead the voteless
non-whites to use extra-parliamentary non-violent methods of struggle. To
abandon the fight would be to surrender to the status quo; a surrender to
enslavement with all the paraphernalia used in its maintenance such as the
obnoxious control permits, reference books and apartheid measures in general.
The African National Congress can never be a party to the counselling of
non-whites to themselves be instruments of their own spiritual and moral, if not
Some of our Urgent Needs
- We should make greater use than heretofore of the Anniversaries of certain
important days in our freedom struggle. This, inter alia, would help us to
build a spirit of comradeship among our people. Such a programme,
reinforcing our regular cultural programme, would enable us to capture and
more effectively retain the imagination and enthusiasm of the youth for the
freedom struggle and so ensure their support for it.
- There is too much compartmentalising of our struggle efforts and
campaigns. Sometimes by doing this we give an undue sectional organisational
stress on a campaign. Too often we think of the Group Areas Act as an Indian
concern only, and too often our discussions and plans for our campaign
against the Group Areas Act are done in isolation, in complete oblivion of
some equally disastrous removals planned for Africans, and vice versa when
Africans discuss removals affecting them.
Do we see the resistance at Zeerust, in the Transvaal, Pedie in the Cape,
Imbumbulu in Natal, the attitude to identity cards by those affected by them, as
part of one gigantic struggle? There is need for a more co-ordinated plan with
specific objectives for each stage.
I am not advocating the dulling and subduing of the dynamic local struggle,
interest and leadership, but I do wish to stress the need for a co-ordinated
freedom struggle by the High Command.
Let me here, somewhat irrelevantly, reiterate my call for the enlisting of a
Volunteer Corps for the carrying out of our many errands and duties in the
struggle. I make a special appeal to our youth.
Freedom Forces on the March in the World
Only yesterday London, Washington, Moscow and Paris dominated the world.
Other independent countries practically danced to the tune of either one or more
of these capitals.
Now, significantly enough, even the big and older nations of the world
eagerly listen with concern and sometimes anxiety to utterances and reactions in
Delhi, Bandung, Cairo, Peking and now Accra.
On the threshold of full freedom, to mention a few, are Nigeria, the
Caribbean Federation and some Trust Territories. Things are astir in the French
colonial empire with frantic efforts by General de Gaulle to save it by
intimidatory tactics which border on economic blackmailing.
Bravo! to French Guinea for preferring full independence to qualified
independence that would still leave a country that accepts it subservient to
Metropolitan France. The freedom struggle is in earnest in Kenya, Uganda,
Nyasaland, Northern Rhodesia, now to some extent in Basutoland and Southern
The Middle East, the emergent African States and some Asian countries are
being besieged by rival suitors among the big nations.
We would advise these emergent nations, some of them victims of colonialism
or of the intrigue of great powers, to jealously guard their hard-won
independence by :
- adopting as their international policy the recognition of the co-existence
of independent nations, and themselves adopt the policy of active neutrality
and non-alignment with amity to all nations and enmity to none.
- jealously guard, propagate and defend democratic tenets to the utmost
limit of magnanimous forbearance.
After the historic Bandung Conference in 1955, Africa, this year, has been
the scene of Conference, respectively, at Cairo and Accra. These Conferences
have had as their objective the strengthening of ties among independent states
of Africa and Asia or, as the one now sitting in Accra, seeking plans of helping
to further the cause of freedom in countries still under colonial rule. Whether
any one likes it or not, the voice of Africa, claiming a place of honour for her
children, will be heard with growing insistence and force in the coming days.
We deeply appreciate the concern for our freedom by the independent
Afro-Asian nations. These countries, themselves beset with their own urgent and
serious problems, on the main a legacy of colonial rule, have spared no effort
in the United Nations forums and elsewhere, to champion the cause of helping to
free the still oppressed peoples of Asia and Africa.
In conclusion let me confront you all with the main challenge of what I have
tried to breathe out through this Presidential Address:
- Are you serious about freedom? How far are you prepared to sacrifice for
it? Others have died for it.
- What is your reply to the undoubted ascendancy of the Nationalist Party
with its emotional but suicidal apartheid policy?
Are you prepared to follow with intelligent loyalty the African National
Congress lead in its opposition to Nationalist Party rule?
- What is your response to the moral and diplomatic efforts by some
independent nations to further your cause of freedom? They can only help you
indirectly. The winning of freedom, in the final analysis, rests with you :
- The oppressed non-whites ;
- The white freedom lovers in South Africa.
South Africa cannot grow to greatness when three quarters of her people are
still in bondage. Only a Free Multi-Racial South Africa can solve the problems
affecting multi-racial South Africa and not an apartheid Government of
We have reason to hope for freedom in our lifetime but you, and you alone,
can turn this hope into a glorious reality.
Freedom in Our Lifetime!