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Memorandum Submitted by the ANC to the 1959 session of the General Assembly of the United Nations on the "Question of Race Conflict in South Africa resulting from the Policies of Apartheid of the Government of the Union of South Africa"

  1. The African National Congress which is the premier National Organisation of the South African citizens of African origin desire once more to make representations to the General Assembly of the United Nations. The African National Congress has, as a non-governmental organisation submitted memoranda to the General Assembly in previous years.

  2. The Congress once again respectfully requests the Secretary-General of the United Nations to circularise this memorandum to all delegations of member-states when the "Question of Race Conflict in South Africa Resulting from the Policies of Apartheid of the Government of the Union of South Africa" comes up for consideration.

  3. The African National Congress and its democratic allies who, together with it, constitute the CONGRESS MOVEMENT are pledged to work for South Africa such as is enshrined in the FREEDOM CHARTER. This Charter of the democratic organisations in South Africa enjoys the support of the overwhelming majority of the peoples of South Africa. The Freedom Charter is testimony of the determination of the African National Congress and its allies to uphold the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter and the Declaration of Human Rights. The Freedom Charter is attached herewith marked Annexure "A".

  4. The All White Government of the Union of South Africa which represents a minority of the population has, on the contrary, consistently defied the recommendations of the United Nations, flouted the conscience of mankind and relentlessly pursued its inhuman policy of Apartheid.

  5. It is impossible within the confines of a single memorandum to deal in detail with the disabilities suffered by the people as a result of the implementation of the Apartheid policy. The several reports of the United Nations Commission on the Racial Situation in South Africa as also the statements and memoranda submitted by various non-governmental organisations fully set out the position. The purpose of this memorandum is to deal with recent trends and developments covering the last two years.

  6. We respectfully submit further material evidence to show that there has been a further alarming deterioration in the racial situation in South Africa notwithstanding Resolutions of the United Nations calling upon the government of the Union to reconsider its position in the light of the high principles expressed in the United Nations Charter and the Declaration of Human Rights.


  1. At the beginning of this year the Nationalist Government announced with a great flourish what was termed a new policy in regard to the African people of the Union. When Parliament opened this year Dr. H. F. Verwoerd, Prime Minister of the Union, put himself forward as a man with a "new vision." A law was introduced by the Minister of Bantu Administration and Development, Mr. De Wet Nel, setting out the framework of this new policy. The purpose was said to be the creation of "autonomous Bantu areas which will have full independence within the framework of the South African State." In the same session of parliament the Prime Minister of the Union said:

  2. "The Bantu would be given opportunities for development, and the progress they achieved would be in accordance with their abilities. The opposition had welcomed with great praise the development Britain was granting to Basutoland. But that development was the same as that which the South African Government was now beginning."

  3. It is typical of the Nationalist propaganda techniques that they describe their measures in misleading titles which often convey the opposite of what the measures contain. Thus a measure to entrench European authority is called the Bantu Authorities Act; a law to extend the Pass system (system to control movement of Africans in the Union) is called the `Abolition of Passes` Act; a measure for the suppression of liberties is called ‘Suppression of Communism’ Act and so on. It is not surprising therefore that the Promotion of Bantu Self-Government Act should have the same characteristics. The theory behind the Act is to set up at least six "homelands" for different ethnic units (e.g. Xhosa, Zulu, Venda, Tswana, Sotho). Each unit is to receive very gradually increasing legislative powers at a pace determined by the Government until the "homelands" become self-governing. The so-called national units are to be composed of the present Reserves which the government’s own Tomlinson Commission found to be distressed areas, shockingly congested and completely unable to sustain even their present population of 3 1/2 million Africans, roughly a third of the African population of the Union.

  4. To justify the idea of the reserves as the "national homeland" of the African people, a reckless falsification of history is being paddled by the South African authorities. The fantastic idea is being put forward according to which South Africa was empty territory when the Whites arrived in the Union except for those portions now occupied by the Africans. According to this fairy tale the 87% of the area of the Union now owned by the Whites was unoccupied lands which they took over from nobody. In terms of this interpretation of historical events in the Union the Africans are themselves invaders who arrived in South Africa at the same time as the Whites.

  5. Whilst the African National Congress is prepared and able to establish the completely unscientific nature of the above theories it feels that this is not an issue at all. The attitude of the African National Congress is clear. It regards the whole of South Africa as the homeland of all the peoples of South Africa whatever their racial origin. The Congress rejects the concept of national homes for Africans in certain arbitrary defined areas. Africans are indigenous inhabitants of the country with an indisputable claim to the whole of South Africa as their home. There is no part of the country to the development of which they have not made their full contribution. Such a concept facilitates the exploitation and economic strangulation of the Africans and perpetuates White domination.

  6. The organs of Government for these units is to be the Bantu Authorities established in terms of the Bantu Authorities Act of 1951. Since 1951 the Government has been trying to impose the Bantu Authorities Act on the African people in the Reserves and has met with resistance. Violent upheavals which have led to the exile of hundreds of persons and the imprisonment of hundreds more have occurred in areas such as Zeerust and Sekhukhuniland as a result of Government efforts to force Bantu Authorities down the throats of the people.

  7. The Government has dared to compare the Bantu Authorities system to that which obtains in the British Protectorate of Basutoland following recent constitutional changes there. Basutoland is situate in the middle of the Union and is a territory less developed than the Union of South Africa. Yet a cursory examination will be sufficient to show that the people of Basutoland have advanced constitutionally far ahead of anything the Union Government contemplates.

  8. Firstly and most fundamentally the present position in Basutoland has been arrived at by agreement between the British Government on the one hand, and the Chiefs and people of Basutoland on the other.

  9. The South African scheme as always is an imposition. Knowing full well that no African with any self-respect can accept this bluff the government imposes it by force from above and blasphemes by calling it freedom.

  10. The proposed Basutoland National Council shall have power to legislate for all persons in Basutoland on all matters except those reserved to the British Government. Even on the matters reserved for the British Government the Basutoland Council must be consulted. The South African Bantu Territorial Authorities will have no power to legislate for Europeans or Whites who live in the Bantu area. The Territorial Authority shall only have power to legislate on a very limited number of subjects. Overall legislative control over the Reserves as a whole will continue to reside in the Central Parliament in which Africans in terms of the Bantu Self-Government Act have no representation at all.

  11. The Basutoland National Council is to consist of both elected and non-elected members. The elected members will form about half of the National Council of Basutoland. They will be elected by District Councils which themselves will be elected by direct vote of the people based on adult suffrage.

  12. The Bantu Territorial Authorities will consist entirely of appointed persons. The Heads of the Authorities will be Government appointed chiefs who are really employees of the state. The rest of the members will themselves also be appointed. The government may also cancel the appointment of any member. The elective principle is completely rejected by the Nationalist Government.

  13. In other words the Africans in the most highly developed territory in Africa from the point of view of industrial and economic development, who in spite of and not because of various Union Governments has achieved a fair degree of education which compares favourably with that of any other territory or country in Africa is to be fobbed off with farcical Bantu Self-Government in place of real citizenship rights in South Africa.

  14. The reason for this deception is to pretend to the White people of South Africa that something is being done to give the African people a stake in the country. Realising that developments are taking place rapidly in the direction of independence and freedom in Africa the Nationalist Government has sought this as a means of showing that from the worst racialist oppressors they have become champions of African freedom. Mr. Eric Louw, Minister of External Affairs of the Union, who is leading the Union delegation to the United Nations, will no doubt make this fraudulent Bantu Self–Government scheme the centre of his policy speeches. As far as the African National Congress is concerned the Promotion of Bantu Self–Government Act of 1959 provides merely for the continuation of rule by sjambok in disguise.


Nothing illustrates the real intentions of the Nationalist Government so much as steps taken in connection with African education.

  1. All African education except Higher or University education was taken over by the State in 1955 in terms of the Bantu Education Act. That control has now been exercised for the past four years and the worst fears of the people of South Africa have been confirmed. With typical cynicism the Government presents the control of the State over education as being controlled by the African people themselves. No private schools are allowed today. The churches which have built up by the help of their congregations the edifice of education as we find it amongst Africans have been pushed aside. The Nationalist Party which has never had any interest whatsoever in African education now claims all the advances in African education as its own achievement. Their actions have proved that their interest is to produce a generation which will willingly accept the humiliation of Apartheid. Having established control firmly in primary and secondary schools the Government has this year assumed control over higher education.

  2. The Extension of University Education Act (in reality an Act to retard and interfere with University Education) was passed at the last session of the Union Parliament. This Act proposes the establishment of tribal or ethnic University colleges for Africans and also gives the Government power to prohibit the admission of African and non-white students generally to existing Universities such as Cape Town University or Witwatersrand University. The whole concept of a University is outraged by this idea of University colleges exclusively for specific ethnic or tribal groups to which no others may be admitted. The aim of Government measures in education is clearly to destroy African unity which they regard as a menace to the continuation of white rule. The African people under the leadership of their political organisations, particularly the African National Congress, have for over half a country created out of the various tribal units an African National group. Today the oppressors of the African people who, more than anyone, made tribal society impossible, encourage and foster tribalism allegedly in the interests of the African people. Under the guise of developing African languages, the Government is discouraging the teaching and use of English. The aim is to cut off the African people from the main stream of world culture and progress. The impression of interest in African languages on the part of the Nationalist Party is sudden. Throughout the history of the African people it is particularly English and French missionaries who have, together with the Africans, worked to develop African languages. Those missionaries are anathema to the Government which now pretends interest in African culture and language.

  3. The hatred by the government of any achievement which is progressive and does not conform to their narrow racial Apartheid doctrine is shown in the destruction of the University College of Fort Hare.

  4. This University College is the only one catering by and large for non-white students in the Union of South Africa. It was founded in 1916 and was opened by the then Prime Minister of the Union, the Rt. Hon. General Botha. In its development from these early years the University College of Fort Hare has followed the pattern observed in regard to other South African Universities. The College was controlled by a Governing Council on which there were a few government representatives who constituted a minority. Academic matters were in the hands of a senate composed of heads of departments in the University College. Although the College was primarily designed to provide for the needs of the African people, it admitted students of all races including white persons. Hundreds of students throughout Africa as a whole have been educated at Fort Hare University College. In African countries such as Uganda, Kenya, Nyasaland, North and Southern Rhodesia and the Union itself, Fort Hare students have achieved high positions in the political, social and economic life of their respective countries.

  5. Today after forty-three years of progress the Nationalist government, without any consultation, has passed the University College of Fort Hare Transfer Act, whereby the State is to take control of Fort Hare on January 1, 1960. In the place of Fort Hare is to be created an Ethnic or tribal College completely in the hands of the State as regards staff, admission, curricula, administration and finance. Even before taking over the College the Government has already informed numerous members of staff that they will not be wanted after the 1st January, 1960. Government spokesmen have made it clear that Fort Hare is to be destroyed because it does not fit in with the Government plans which aim at the indoctrination of the African people to accepting Apartheid. They state that Fort Hare taught Africans that they were equal to the white man and prepared them for a life which South Africa was not prepared to give them. It is alleged that Fort Hare turned out "Black Englishmen." The destruction of Fort Hare University College in this ruthless manner will create such bitterness as will hardly be erased until Fort Hare is restored to its honoured position. Such bitterness will be engendered throughout Africa as it will be found that Government leaders, politicians, teachers, doctors and lawyers have in many territories owed their first degrees to the University College of Fort Hare.


    Not content with foisting all manner of unwanted schemes on the African people in particular, and the other non-whites in general, the Government is determined to make them pay for their schemes.

  1. There seem to be three methods the Government intends to follow to ensure that the Africans pay for schemes over which they have no control. The first is to increase direct taxation payable by Africans. The second is to increase the use of forced labour, euphemistically called "self help"; the third is to keep the wages paid to African workers as low as possible by rendering strikes illegal and denying them the right of collective bargaining.

  2. The Natives Taxation and Development Act No. 38 of 1958 provides that as from 1st January, 1959, every male African of the age eighteen years and over, domiciled or resident in the Union, will pay a basic general tax of £1-5-0 (One pound fifteen shillings) a year instead of £1 (one pound) paid previously. As from 1st January 1960, men earning over £180 per annum will pay increased amounts and women will, for the first time, become liable to pay general tax. There will be a sliding scale according to which the tax payable will increase depending on income. The income of a wife will be regarded as her separate income and not that of her husband. The new system is in the view of the African National Congress inequitable and will create further hardships for the people. We deal with it here because the Government has clearly stated that this money will be used to finance Apartheid schemes.

    The system is inequitable in the following respects:

    1. According to the new rates African men with income of under £140 will pay more in general taxation than men of any other racial group, whether married or single, pay in general tax anywhere in the Union. In other words so far as the lowest income groups are concerned Africans will be required to pay more than do whites with the same incomes.
    2. Africans become liable to pay tax at the age of 18, while members of other groups do not pay personal tax until they attain the age of 21.
    3. The new scheme not only makes Africans pay more although they are not the least able to pay, but takes no account of taxes which only Africans pay. The Africans are called upon to pay Local Tax of 10/- (ten shillings) per year, educational levies, dipping fees, grazing fees, dog tax, pass and compound fees, etc.,
    4. Africans are imprisoned for non-payment of tax. In the case of other races there is no criminal sanction for failure to pay taxes. In 1955, 177,890 Africans were arrested and brought before the courts for failure to pay tax.
  3. The Government has therefore callously introduced increased taxation for Africans in spite of the fact that the African people are generally paid extremely low wages. An investigation by the Institute of Race Relations in Johannesburg showed that the poverty datum line for a family of five in Johannesburg in 1954 was £23.10.4. Since then costs have risen. It is now estimated that £27-10-0 is the poverty datum line. On this basis, it was found that 87% of the African families in Johannesburg were living below the bread line. Average income in Johannesburg is £15-18-11.

  4. Dr. D. L. Smit said in Parliament that the Prime Minister had been kind enough to allow him to see the report of an inter-departmental committee which, between 1951 and 1956 examined various aspects of African taxation and submitted proposals on which the Bill was based. Goodness only knows how the Committee had come to the conclusion that African taxes should be raised, he said: "In accordance with departmental practice, the Committee accepted £180 per annum as the dividing line between taxpayers who should pay a flat rate and those on the higher scale. They estimated that out of 2,180,000 male taxpayers 2,135,000 belonged to the under £180 or lower income group… Attached to the report there are a number of schedules of native earnings, and if anything is required to prove the inability of the Natives to pay, one has only to refer to those schedules… Schedule M shows the wages earned by the Natives in Commerce.

  5. It appears that 6,416 males earned from £ 51 to £ 60 a year,
    24,940 males earned from £ 61 to £ 70 a year
    47,744 males earned from £ 101 to £110 a year
    only 159 males earned  above £180.

    "On European farms they found that the annual earnings in cash were as follows according to estimates: Cape Province - £49- 1-0; Natal - £33-2-0; Transvaal - £36-0-0; Orange Free State - £29-17-0. The average for the total farm labour force of 636,799 Natives in the Union was £37-1-0. This does not include income from crops or from stock sold.

    "In the schedules there is an estimate of the number of male taxpayers in the Union in order of income, excluding rations and accommodation, with this result:

    1,107,730 Natives earn less than £ 50 per annum

    209,820 " " from £ 51 to £ 60 " "

    22, 791 " " " £ 61 to £ 70 " "

    253, 431 " " " £101 to £110 " "

    Some 40, 000 are shown as being above £180 " "

    "While it is perfectly true that wages have risen during the past 30 years and large sums have been provided by Parliament for Native housing and development, the figures avoid the irrefutable fact, Sir, that a £1 was worth twenty shillings in 1925 and that it is only worth about seven shillings and sixpence today, and that with the constant rise in the cost of living the native is no better off today than he was then."

    A Natives Representative added, "I do not want to know how much Native wages have gone up; I want to know how much Native starvation has been overcome."

  6. Not only is the Government not interested in speeding up the rise of African wages but it does everything to keep them depressed. The farming interests which the Nationalist Party largely represents want to see African wages kept low so as to enable them to run South African farming on backward, feudal lines with cheap labour. If wages were to rise in industry and commerce the farmers will have greater difficulty in obtaining labour.

  7. The total control over the movement of Africans by means of the notorious pass system makes it difficult for the Africans to sell their labour in the best market. The pass system which includes a system of influx control is the chief weapon used to maintain the cheap labour structure in the Union of South Africa. It is not surprising that in the recent widespread people’s revolt in the Natal province, influx control was the main grievance of the people.

  8. Undoubtedly the pass is used by the authorities to control the movements of Africans in the urban areas in order to prevent the stabilisation of any community and in order to harass trade unionists and Congress leaders. But the man function of the pass remains the direction of labour. This is borne out by the rash of new regulations that have been promulgated recently creating labour direction offices, and by the increasing number of arrests under the pass laws, thus giving the Government the power to send them to labour wherever they see fit.

  9. The Johannesburg Star announced on 10/3/59 that "one and a quarter million Africans are prosecuted per year for trifling offences, the great proportion of which are infringements of pass laws, labour regulations, movement control and curfew restrictions." This means that every African male in the cities can expect to be arrested at least once a year and then drafted for farm work. It is only in this way that the farmers can obtain the labour they require.

  10. The labour bureaux make a great show of controlling and directing African labour in the urban areas. But in fact if these offices were abolished, the ordinary labour needs of commerce and industry would be readily met by the thousands of Africans who are constantly streaming to the cities on the basis of the law of supply and demand. The mines, on the other hand, have their own labour recruiting machinery operating in the reserves. Thus the labour bureaux, when striped of all the trappings, boils down to a mechanism for diverting labour from the towns to the countryside, with the pass laws as their instrument. The South African Year Book of 1956 states that 6,000 Africans were redirected by the labour bureaux in one year. Now that labour bureaux are established at the office of every Native Commissioner or Magistrate, this figure will increase sharply.

  11. However, the Year Book figure does not by any means give the whole picture and does not take into account the other ways in which labour is forced to the farms.

  12. For example there is the contract system operated by the Native Affairs Department. This system was recently given a great deal of publicity in the press and the public outcry was so great at the terrible abuses which arose out of the system, that it has been temporarily suspended pending investigations by two Government appointed commissions. The commissions, however, are representative only of the Government, big farming interests and the police, and all three being interested parties in the maintenance of the contract system. We nevertheless give the information relating to the contract system because it illustrates very clearly the attitude of the Government to farm labour. We have little doubt that the commissions will whitewash the scheme and that it will be implemented once again in some slightly modified form in the near future when the commissions report. Every African who wished to enter an urban area to seek work had first to apply for a permit to seek work from the local authority. If the permit was refused he either had to leave the area within 72 hours and then try his luck in another urban area, or else agree to accept farm work at the Native Affairs Department in the area. His choice was a cruel one, for he knows that he could well carry on wandering from town to town only to be refused admission and be offered the same alternative. In many cases Africans agreed to take farm work for a short period either because they hoped that having served on a farm they would be given a permit for factory work thereafter or because they had come to the end of their tether and resources. In Johannesburg the City Council refused entry to 710 Africans in December 1958 (a quiet month) and of these 232 signed farm contracts at the N.A.D. Labour Bureau.

  13. What happened to the remaining 478 nobody knows, but that many remained in the urban area illegally is clear from the number of Africans who are arrested monthly for having been in the urban area illegally. For example in January 1959, 1642 Johannesburg Africans were arrested for "petty offences" which are in fact mainly transgressions of the pass laws. Many of these offenders are undoubtedly old residents of Johannesburg who have never regularised their right to stay there, but others are newcomers who have failed to get the necessary permission to enter from the City Council.

  14. These people are fingerprinted by the police on arrest and then taken to the Labour Bureau where they are screened and offered farm work. Those who refuse it are returned to the police for prosecution in court. The choice here is a difficult one, that between ‘the devil and the deep blue sea.’ When it is in fact offered, many instances have come to light where Africans were pushed into taking farm work without knowing that they have the right to defend themselves in court.

  15. The most famous case is that of Nelson Langa who was arrested in the street in Johannesburg, wearing his municipal employee’s badge and carrying his broom, taken to the labour bureau and sold into bondage with some farmer at Bethal. Nelson was subsequently released by order of the court on the application of his brother. Many similar cases have occurred and a cloud hangs over the activities of the labour bureau.

  16. The extraordinary thing about the bureau work is that those Africans who have agreed to accept farm work rather than face prosecution are regarded as probationers even though they have not been convicted of any offence.

  17. The contract form is filled out in duplicate – one for the farmer and the other remaining with the bureau – and is supposed to stipulate the period covered by the contract, usually 90 days, and the rate of pay. The average in the Johannesburg area is 70/- per thirty days worked, not including the food, quarters and medical attention supplied. Any period of illness is not paid for in any way. Taken together all the wages in cash and kind probably average £60 per year.

  18. In reaping season the demand for labour becomes so great that open competition has to be prevented between farmers. Here the labour bureaux become important. The farmers’ Agricultural Unions arrange for the contracting in bulk with the labour bureaux of all available labour, then dividing out the Africans among the farmers. Surely one of the worst modern examples of trafficking in human beings?

  19. Bad as this system is at present, it will undoubtedly become infinitely worse when African women have been forced to take out reference books, for it has been officially admitted that the contract system will then be extended to include women too, especially in harvest time. The brutalities that will follow on this step may well be imagined. It will also be a new departure in South Africa, for today even convicted women prisoners are prohibited from being forced to do farm labour by the Prison Act (13/1911).

  20. The contracts signed at the bureaux are unique in legal procedure for not only does the African sign it under duress, but he may not break it, even if the conditions are fulfilled. On the other hand, in terms of the Native Labour Regulation Act, it is an offence for an African to ‘neglect to perform any work or refuse to obey any lawful command or use insulting language to his employer.’ The most that he can do is report the farmer to the nearest police station or Native Affairs Department official. How much sympathy he would receive from either of these quarters depends on the individual concerned, but where there is so much hatred between black and white (particularly in the countryside), and where the farmer is probably on social terms with the official, most Africans would rather not take this course. Instead they try to escape.

  21. Officials admit that this happens frequently. Some say that sometimes as many as five out of the ten contracted labourers escape before finishing their term, this being the biggest possible indictment of the whole scheme.

  22. That the conditions on most farms are very bad is also not denied. There has been too much publicity in the press for them to be able to do so. However, nothing is done to improve matters and if anything conditions are getting worse.

  23. Assaults on farm labourers are among the worst features of the system, and that their frequent occurrence is giving cause for concern, is reflected by the fact that in the recent labour regulations promulgated (6164/1959) six references are made to procedure and penalties that are to be applied in such cases. Unfortunately there is no effective machinery for checking on assaults and the penalties are likely to remain on paper only.

  24. The regulations themselves have many remarkable features. Chapter 9, for example, gives power to any compound manager to maintain law and order in the Native quarters in his charge, and may arrest without warrant any person committing an offence there. He may also search without warrant etc., and keep "a written record in ink" of all the articles confiscated. He must also control the entrance to the compound in a proper manner, preventing any unauthorised women from entering.

  25. Another feature of the regulations is the provision in Chapter Two that depots may be established by any district employment officer and any African registered at the local Labour Bureau may be forced to live there until he has accepted employment in the area or has left the area. Any African living there must obey any ‘lawful’ order by the person in charge of the depot. The difference between these labour depots and slave markets must be purely academic.


  1. Speaking at Riversdale in February 1959, Mr. V. R. Vorster, the Head of the Prisons Department in South Africa, said "Lack of labour is the farmer’s greatest problem. The Department of Prisons has become the focal point to the farmers from the Limpopo to the Cape. They all want labour from us, but we cannot supply it all, but we are doing everything in our power to meet the emergency. More than 12,000 convicts are used daily for the building of dams in this area."

  2. That there is an emergency in the scarcity of farm labour is an accepted fact. But the emergency is nothing now, and is a product of the industrialisation that has been the feature of our economy this century. As far back as 1932, strong measures were taken to try to alleviate the shortage with the introduction of what was known as the "6d per day scheme." First offenders in the prisons who were serving periods less than three months were handed to farmers to serve their sentences on the farm for the remuneration of 6d per day plus food, quarters and clothing. The scheme was compulsory and resulted in "not infrequent desertions and reports of unfavourable conditions of employment and treatment by escapees." (Director of Prisons Report, 1953.)

  3. The scheme came under very heavy fire from the famous judicial commission on prisons – the Landsdowne Commission of 1947. The Commission report found that the scheme was ‘very undesirable’ and recommended that it terminated immediately and that other labour be found to replace the convicts. This finding of a judicial commission did not prevent the director of prisons report of 1952 from saying that "the scheme proved successful." Clearly necessity creates its own standards.

  4. Unfortunately the commission did not consider where the labour which was to replace the convicts was to be found, and after a placatory suspension of six months in response to heavy pressure, the scheme was restarted.

  5. The objections of the commission are of importance for they still apply today. They felt that the cheap convict labour undercut the rates of pay of ordinary labour. The frequent distortions were an undesirable feature, as was the fact that there were occasions when the prisoner was not released on termination of the sentence. The most important finding of the commission was that the Prisons Department’s accommodation difficulties should not be solved by sending the short term convicts to farms, but by reducing their number in the first place.

  6. The resumption of the scheme was supposed to have been accompanied with some modifications. Prisoners were no longer to be forced to take on farm work and the pay was raised to 9d a day. Nevertheless the number of convict farm workers increased. In 1951 the number was 28,000; 1953 – 40,553 and 10,000 for the two years 1953/4 (Government Prisons Reports). No later figure is available other than that in the first six months of 1958, 36,000 were contracted in the Transvaal alone.

  7. In practice the scheme, which is Union-wide, is mainly applied to "petty offenders" i.e. pass, permit and tax defaulters and the prisoner is considered to be on parole while working on the farm. The danger is that farmers do not look at it this way. They consider that having gone to the trouble to get this labour and having been obliged to pay his wages in to the prison authorities in advance, the labourer is regarded as a prisoner in the farmer’s charge.

  8. Much is made out of the fact that the scheme is voluntary in the Prisons Report of 1953/4, but it is nevertheless true that in at least one jail, the prisoners do not make any mark of acquiescence on the contract form (P.D.4) although provision is made for them to do so. It is doubtful whether prisoners are actually aware of the fact that they have the right to refuse farm work at all.


  1. Long term prisoners are also hired for farm labour work under a number of different schemes.

  2. The first is that of the farm jails system. A number of years ago when the Government was faced with the problem of housing an increasing number of convicts, they devised this scheme which had the additional advantage of not requiring capital expenditure from loan funds. An arrangement has been arrived at between the Government and various Farmers’ Unions whereby the Unions build a jail in their area with their own capital and then draw on prisoners from the Government jails in proportion to the funds they have invested in the building. The Department of Prisons supply the staff to supervise the jail but the Union is responsible for its maintenance. The Cape Province has five such jails, the Orange Free State one and the Transvaal ten. All these jails accommodated a daily average of 4,600 in 1953 or 135,000 man days per month.

  3. Although workers are supposed to be supplied by the Prisons Department, frequently the farmers supply their own workers who are sworn in at the prison to guard the convicts while they are at work. If they do so the normal fee of 2/- per day per convict is reduced to 1/9d. These fees are paid into Prison Funds and the convict gets nothing for his labour.

  4. Hitherto the farm jails were inspected by prison officials four times a year in addition to the inspection carried out by the local magistrate but with the passing of the new Prisons Act 1959, the magistrate’s obligation to do so is waived. Inspections of conditions on the farms where the convicts are actually working are rare.

  5. Another variation of the system is in force whereby the jails and the warders are provided by the Government. In this case the prisoners are sent out to surrounding farms daily under official guard.

  6. Government Departments also use this labour extensively. Apart from the great number of convicts used for the building of dams, the railways used about 2,000 prisoners daily, the Department of Public Works used 1,000 ‘units’ and various other Departments 5,500 daily in 1954. The Department of Labour has given its sanctions to this labour scheme.

  7. Exposures of assaults and ill treatment of labourers by farmers, compound managers and boss boys have frequently stirred the city public. Periodically a public spirited person takes the matters a little further by taking up some particular case, yet no significant dent is made in the armour of the whole farm labour set up.

  8. In the last thirty to forty years a group wielding great political power has grown up in the countryside with a vested interest in cheap forced labour. Like an octopus its arms reach out into the prisons, the pass offices and labour bureaux seeking yet more methods with which to ensnare the African worker and snatch him from the cities. For in the words of a prison chief, "the farms cannot do without labour," and to fulfil his needs the African people must be ‘controlled’ to such an extent that the whole state machinery becomes enmeshed in its structure. For the imposition of the pass law on the African people has meant that a large proportion of the Government’s activities have become connected with it.

  9. But the use of forced labour is also to be found in the Reserves which are designated the "homelands" of the African people by the Government. In the reserves there are projects introduced by the Government which make the people work without pay. One practice that has attracted a great deal of attention is one whereby dipping tanks in reserves are serviced, repaired and kept in order by African women who are not paid for their services. In other words the people in the reserves who are poverty stricken have been compelled to work for nothing. If a particular household did not supply the labour required, they would be charged with committing an offence and made to pay a fine of at least £5 – a considerable sum in the reserves.


  1. Further amendments have been introduced to the Industrial Conciliation Act. The amendments have as their aim:
    1. the extension of Apartheid in the trade unions;
    2. Further steps to continue the Government’s policy of "bleeding the African trade unions to death";
    3. The tightening up and extension of job Apartheid.
  2. The main amendments will affect not only registered unions, but non-registered unions as well. In addition through the extension of job reservation or Apartheid, the vital interests of all workers will be affected.

  3. In this Memorandum we shall endeavour to set out the main amendments and their consequences.

  4. Under the 1956 Act, mixed Unions were compelled to separate their members into white and coloured branches, but was still permitted to cater for both white and coloured members. In terms of an amendment to Section 7 of the Act, registered unions will have to declare in advance in their constitutions that in any new areas or for any further interests for which they propose to cater, they will cater for white persons only or for coloured persons only. In other words, they will not be allowed to recruit white and coloured workers, even in separate branches, into their unions should they go to new areas or cater for new interests. For example, if a trade union today caters for white and coloured workers in a certain industry, but in Johannesburg only, it will have to declare in its constitution now whether it proposes taking the future direction of an all-white or an all-coloured union in any new areas where it starts organising the workers. If it decides to be an all-white union in these areas, and the employers decide to employ coloured workers on a large scale in such areas, the union concerned will not be able to cater for these workers.

  5. An amendment to Section 8 of the Act tightens up the restriction of racial mixing in the unions. The 1956 Act compelled the mixed unions to hold separate meetings for the separate branches. It was, however, possible to hold mixed congresses, conferences and meetings other than branch meetings. The amendment prevents this. It says that the constitutions of mixed unions must provide for "the holding of separate meetings by white persons and coloured persons." A further amendment to this section makes it clear that only officials and office bearers of one race may attend meetings of members of branches of another race. At present a member of one race may not attend branch meetings other than those of a branch established for his race. In terms of the amendment members (other than officials and office bearers) will be prevented from attending not only branch meetings, but all meetings held in terms of the union’s constitution with another race – i.e., district committees, representative meetings and so on.

  6. A series of further amendments [a new section 8(6) (e) and sections 21(5) and 37] lay down that a registered union shall not appoint or elect an African as an official or office bearer. No African may be appointed as a representative or alternate representative of employeeS on an industrial council. Nor shall any African be appointed as a representative of the employees on a conciliation board.

  7. The sum total of these amendments is to enforce greater apartheid in the registered trade unions.


  1. The Government is always looking for ways to pursue its vain policy of "bleeding the African trade unions to death."

  2. One such method is revealed in an amendment to Section 51 of the 1956 Act. There are some employers who have been operating a stop order system for trade union subscriptions for African workers, besides white and coloured workers. The Minister of Labour immediately took the step of excluding the stop order clause from industrial council agreements when these agreements were extended to African workers. However, the industrial councils overcame this – in at least one case – by exempting employers from this prohibition on stop order payment of subscriptions for African unions. The amendment to Section 51 prohibits the granting of an exemption in this case without the Minister’s approval. In view of the Government’s stated attitude to African trade unions, it is highly unlikely that it will ever grant its approval to stop orders for African unions. Not only unions, but "any association of persons" (e.g. sports clubs, or medical aid scheme) will be affected by this section.


  1. The many difficulties facing the Government in enforcing job reservation are reflected in the insertion of a completely new section 77 in the Act. In the first draft of the Bill, published last September, the power of submitting recommendations to the Minister was taken away from the Industrial Tribunal, making it purely a "fact-finding body." In the final draft, the powers of recommendation of the Tribunal are restored. But the section as a whole is so tightened up that the extension of job apartheid is made easier and will be wider.

  2. In the first place, the amendment does away with all references to "safeguarding the economic welfare of employees of any race in any undertaking, industry, trade or occupation…" This pretence of job apartheid is dropped and it is providing that "whenever it appears to the Minister that it may be desirable," he can direct the tribunal to make an investigation. In other words, he can now refer any matter he thinks fit to the tribunal - the delusions of a "safeguard against inter-racial competition" have forever gone.

  3. In the second place, the Minister has devised a method of trying to coax employers to apply an unofficial job reservation. He is empowered to send letters to the parties who in his opinion "should be consulted," and to invite them to make proposals for applying job reservation without the necessity of a determination.

  4. When the Minister is of the opinion that the investigation should be proceeded with, he may then direct the tribunal to do so, and in doing so he is not bound by the terms of his letter to the parties whom he has consulted. It is to be noted that the representative nature of the tribunal which makes the investigation, is altered by an amendment to section 17(14) of the Act. At present the Minister may appoint "such member of assessors as in his opinion are necessary to ensure reasonable representation of those principally concerned" in any matter being investigated by the tribunal. This is changed to read "such member of assessors to represent the interests of employers and employees respectively, as he considers desirable." This will allow him to appoint anyone without worrying about that person’s qualifications, to represent the interests of employers and employees, provided that the person appointed is either an employer or an employee concerned in the matter (including office bearers of trade unions and employer’s organisations.)

  5. In the third place, the Minister has tried to overcome some of the implications of the two legal actions in which garment workers successfully upset the job reservation in their industry. The tribunal is now empowered to recommend one or all of the following methods of job reservation :

    1. The prohibition of an employer replacing one race of employees by another race, or reducing the percentage of employment of one race.
    2. The reserving, whether wholly or to the extent set out in the determination, or work or a class of work for a specified race.
    3. The laying down of the minimum, maximum or average or percentage number of persons of a specified race who may be employed.
    4. The regulation of the number of employees of a specified race who may be employed.
  6. The tribunal in making its recommendation is not to be limited in any way by the extent to which persons of any race are at the time of the investigation employed or available for employment in the undertaking industry, trade occupation or class of work specified. The tribunal is also allowed to "use any method of differentiation or discrimination it may deem expedient" in recommending the industry, undertaking or class of work to be reserved. It may make different recommendations in respect of different areas or different portions of an undertaking or industry.
  1. The powers given to the tribunal are now so wide that it will be difficult for them to "misconceive their powers," as was found in the legal actions mentioned above. They may in fact even be able to override wage regulating measures in the application of job reservation. For example, the tribunal may be able to make a determination that in a given industry the number of employees shall be 100 whites at £12 a week, 50 coloureds at £5 a week and 10 Africans at £3 per week. Where there is no wage determination the Minister will certainly be able to include wages which are to be paid in a job reservation determination. He may even be able to override an industrial council agreement regarding wages.

  2. Once a recommendation is made, the tribunal reports to the Minister and he may then make a determination. It would seem that the tribunal’s recommendation will still be of a decisive nature, and the Minister’s discretion will be whether to apply it as a determination or not.

  3. In the fourth place, section 77(11) of the existing Act is to be deleted. This means that the Minister will be able to override the industrial councils when applying job reservation. At present he cannot bind any industry, trade or undertaking with determination, during the operation of an industrial council agreement. The opposition of industrial councils, consisting of employers and employees, has led the Minister to interfere in their affairs, and give himself the power to apply job reservation without hindrance.

  4. In the fifth place, the colour bar created by Section 77 may also be applied to the mines. The existing section which prevents this happening is deleted. Greater powers, including the right to delegate his powers to an officer, are given to the Minister to enforce job reservation.


  1. The effect of the amendments will thus be:

    1. To carry the enforcement of trade union apartheid one stage further.
    2. To attempt to restrict even more than before the development of African trade unions, and to try and hold back those workers who are organised and have shown militancy.
    3. To give the Government almost unfettered powers to carry out the policy of job apartheid.


  1. We have referred to a few developments in recent years which indicate a determination on the part of the Nationalist government to pursue a reactionary policy inimical to the interests of the people of South Africa as a whole

  2. On their part the oppressed people in the Union together with freedom-loving South Africans of European origin, have endeavoured to halt the policies of apartheid by means of peaceful, non-violent methods. Despite constant Government provocation, the African National Congress has endeavoured to conduct their struggle on the basis of peaceful, non-violent organisation.

  3. During April 1958 the White electorate of South Africa went to the polls to elect a new Parliament. The non-whites, who have no vote, organised a protest campaign popularly known as the Stay-at-Home campaign. The object of this protest was, in the words of Chief A. J. Lutuli, (President-General of the African National Congress) to gatecrash the elections and make White South Africa aware of the fact that the non-whites are entitled to rights and were people with ideas and feelings. A strike called to coincide with the protest campaign did not achieve success. But the African National Congress captured the headlines and forced itself upon the White electorate who had to take note of the Congress and its demands. The Government reacted by taking strong measures against the African National Congress. The Congress was banned in certain rural areas including Sekhukhuneland, the Marico district in the Zeerust area and in the Zoutpansberg district of the Northern Transvaal. Also meetings of more than ten Africans were banned in the major urban areas of the Union from April 12th 1958 to 29th August 1958. Following the Stay-at-Home campaign, scores of persons were arrested and sent to prison.

  4. The African National Congress and its allies sent delegations to the historic Accra conference and supported the decisions taken there. In particular the Congress draws attention to the proposed Economic Boycott of South African goods which was decided upon at the Accra conference. In South Africa itself an Economic Boycott of goods produced by firms which support Government policies has been launched. In many countries moves are afoot to ban South African goods as a protest against the apartheid policies of the Union Government. The Congress naturally welcomes the support and solidarity exhibited to the freedom-loving people of South Africa by the international community.

  5. The Accra conference also passed a resolution urging the strengthening of the United Nations Commission on the Racial Situation in South Africa. A more representative Commission with wider powers of reference would be more dynamic and effective in its work.

  6. During the current year despite Government action the Congress and its allies have grown considerably in strength. There have also been widespread spontaneous actions by the African women in the province of Natal which testify to the growing desperation of the people at the inhumanity of apartheid.

  7. The anxiety of the people of South Africa at the policies of the Nationalist Government can be seen in the fact that White South Africans are more and more repudiating these policies and expressing themselves in favour of an extension of rights to all people in the country. A growing united front against apartheid composed of democratic organisations, churches, newspapers, prominent individuals and even businessmen is beginning to emerge composed of all races.

  8. The reaction of the Government has been typical. Chief A. J. Lutuli, beloved leader of the African people, has been exiled to his home in the Reserves and ordered to be confined there for five years. He has also been banned from attending any gathering for a period of five years. A similar order banning Mr. P. P. D. Nokwe (Secretary-General) from attending gatherings has been made. Banning orders have also been issued against other prominent leaders of the Congress movement such as Mr. P. Beyleveld, Mr. O. Tambo. Others have been exiled to remote points of the country. The editor of a leading international magazine, "Africa South", Mr. R. Segal has been similarly banned from attending gatherings for a period of five years. Action is being taken against foreign and local press correspondents as criticism against the Government’s policies rises. These actions have been taken by the Government in most cases in terms of the notorious Suppression of Communism Act. As was pointed out at the time this Act was passed, it has nothing to do with suppressing communism at all and is in fact designed to deal with any opponent of Government policy.

  9. Reference must be made to what remains the chief attack of the Government on the democratic opposition in the country. This is the mammoth Treason Trial which is now about to complete the third year. The Freedom Charter attached herewith as an annexure forms the kernel of the case by the Government against the accused in the Treason Trial.

  10. At this time when more and more African peoples are achieving freedom and independence, the policies of the Union Government are becoming more intolerable than ever. Many countries appalled at the consequences of this policy, are adopting concrete attitudes towards it. The utter contempt with which the Union treats decisions of the United Nations Assembly constitutes a serious threat to peace in Africa and therefore in the world.

  11. In the light of this situation, we hope the United Nations Organisation will take effective measures to end the evils of racial discrimination and apartheid in the Union of South Africa.

  12. The African National Congress and its allies will for their part continue to struggle in a determined manner for the implementation of the principles enshrined in the Freedom Charter – for a democratic South Africa in which all, irrespective of race, sex, colour or creed will have equal rights.

    P. P. D. NOKWE

P. O. Box 9207,
South Africa