Speech by Ahmed Kathrada at a Meeting of People`s Defence Committee held after the Arrests of Leaders on Charges of High Treason
20 December 1956
Afrika! Afrika! Afrika! Mayibuye!
Mr. Chairman and Friends,
I speak today not as an individual, not as Kathrada, I speak today on behalf of a
minority of people in South Africa - on behalf of the Indian people who are also oppressed
and enslaved like yourselves. Strydom and his henchmen say that my people are foreigners
in this country. I want to tell you something that perhaps you don`t know, and what Die
Vaderland does not write about. Ninety percent of the Indian people of this country
were born and bred in this country. I was born and bred in this country. I am not from
India, but I will tell you who is a foreigner in this country. Dr. Verwoerd is a foreigner
in this country. Dr. Verwoerd was born in Holland, and they are trying to tell us that we
are foreigners in this country. I saw the countries from which Dr. Malan and Dr. Verwoerd
came. I was in Holland and I was in Britain, and the people there said to me, "Stay
behind in this country." I said, "No, my place is not to run away from my
country." My place is to be with you, to be struggling with you to the bitter end,
until this country has come back to its rightful owners.
They say our leaders are in for Treason; like Mr. Harmel I am not a lawyer, I do not
know what Treason is. I came here this morning together with you to send a message to our
leaders, that the people of South Africa are still with them. What do we see at this
meeting? What was the first thing we saw? Major Spengler with his policemen, his policemen
from the platteland - they work for £20 per month, and he brought them here to provoke
us. Mr. Spengler is disappointed.
The people of South Africa have seen too much blood. Western civilisation has shown us
too much blood. Western civilisation has shown us the horrors of machine guns and of
atomic bombs. Ever since Jan van Riebeeck came to this country we have seen nothing else
but blood. We don`t want to spill our blood unnecessarily, and if in the past, as the
result of provocation blood has been spilled, that provocation has not come from you
people; all the blame rests at the door of Mr. Swart. We have our peaceful meetings and I
think we will get on very well without ugly brutes standing in uniform around us.
Yes, they say our leaders will be tried for Treason. We know what our leaders have
said. You know what our leaders have been saying all these years. Our children playing in
the streets are hungry. The big beautiful homes that are built are not for us. All the
facilities of this country are not for us. There are thousands and thousands of our
children dying in the Ciskei because they have no food, and our leaders have said that all
these things are wrong.
We have said that the time is coming when we must begin to change these things and that
the time is past for us to just sit. We want to be up and about. We want to be doing
things in a peaceful manner, not in the uncivilised manner of Mr. Swart, not by brute
force. We want to change this country into a happy country; a beautiful country.
Instead of breaking down Sophiatown we want to build up Sophiatown. Instead of dividing
this country into group areas we want all the people to live more and more together and if
that is Treason, then tell Mr. Swart that as far as I am concerned, as far as the people
of South Africa are concerned, we will continue to commit Treason and no force on earth is
going to stop us.
Friends, these are trying times. These are times when we expect our friends to be with
us - I mean our European friends. I am very glad that those (pointing to Europeans)...are
here this morning, that not all the Europeans of South Africa follow Mr. Swart. Like Mr.
Harmel, hundreds and hurdreds of European friends stand with us - not only in our
struggle, but sitting with our leaders in Mr. Swart`s court. We welcome them.
There are other European friends whom we have asked to join us at this meeting.
Unfortunately they have not shown their faces. The people of South Africa will also
remember them. A friend stands with you when you need him. These people are absent and we
shall never forget them.
I want to end by sending from this powerful gathering our greetings, our fighting
greetings to Dr. [G.M.] Naicker, President of the Natal Indian Congress. Dr. Naicker is a
gallant son of South Africa and has served many terms of imprisonment, and the gaol will
never frighten him. We want to send our fighting greetings to Chief Lutuli, that great son
of the soil. We want to send our greetings to that great daughter of Africa, Lilian Ngoyi.
We know she was outside the country and she came back to take her place in the struggle,
and today she is behind iron bars. We send our greetings to Africa for having given birth
to such a noble daughter as she. We hope that Africa will continue to give us people who
will lead us to freedom.
We are not frightened of imprisonment because we read the newspapers. Swart and Donges
like to stop literature from coming into this country, but they will never stop the
messages of freedom from coming in and we know what is happening. The message of freedom
cannot be stopped. Nehru was in gaol not for one year but for more than twelve years but
he came out of gaol to take his place as Prime Minister of India. And on this Continent of
Africa Dr. Nkrumah was in gaol. The struggle went on, and today he is Prime Minister of
Gold Coast. We know that history teaches us that there are thousands and thousands of
people who went through rigours, the rigours of prison life and came out...
Other people suffered much more than that. Since our struggle started our people have
been shot down and in this very Sophiatown on the 4th May, 1950, people were killed. In
Kimberley and Witzieshoek, in Port Elizabeth - all over the country our people have been
killed. They have been killed whilst fighting for freedom. We honour them. We know from
that blood will grow the power of freedom. We honour our leaders today. Out of the gaols
they will come back to lead this country. Those who are sitting inside today are the Prime
Ministers of tomorrow.
I want all of you to say after me, "Long Live Chief Lutuli! Down with Strydom and
Swart! Long live Freedom!"