A Reply by Albert Luthuli to Mr. Jordan K. Ngubane’s
Attacks on the African National Congress, June 5, 1956

Mr. Ngubane has written most voluminously in several issues of the Indian Opinion making scathing and unjustified remarks about the African National Congress and its leadership.

It is my duty as President-General of the African National Congress to be its protector and sponsor. In this capacity and from personal convictions I shall attempt to reply to some of the charges Mr. Ngubane levels against Congress and its leadership. It is impossible for me to remember all that he has said, but relying on memory, I shall reply to some of his main criticisms.

Gross Inaccuracies and Insults

In his articles Mr. Ngubane makes a lot of unfounded and inaccurate allegations which he proceeds to use as a basis for his arguments that Congress is taking a wrong course, or is going to Moscow, or is moribund, or inactive. I find it my duty to expose the incorrectness of these allegations and to ask Mr. Ngubane to employ the services of a more reliable detective agency than the one he is apparently relying on for his facts and information about Congress.

Let me start on a personal note. There is no foundation to the allegation that I had attached conditions to my re-election as President-General of the African National Congress in December last year. If I had made such conditions I would have told conference so before allowing my name to stand for re-election. Even the condition he alleges I made is such that it could never have been constitutionally carried out by conference for it is not conference that determines where Congress Headquarters shall be; that is the duty of the National Executive Committee at its first meeting after election. The Congress Constitution does not provide that the Headquarters should revolve around the President-General, but merely requires the Working Committee to be elected from among members of the National Executive Committee who are resident within a fifty-mile radius from the Headquarters with the President-General as ex-officio member of the Working Committee.

Gross injustice is done to me by this incorrect Ngubane statement which he uses as a basis for a false conclusion that a section of Congress is using me for its own ends. Throughout his articles in reference to myself Mr. Ngubane breathes in some form or another insulting allegations that I am so weak as to allow myself to be used by unscrupulous men in Congress. He represents me as a feeble helpless man unable to challenge the forces that are "making me the laughing stock of the world," or as too politically immature to appreciate the significance of the alleged manoeuvres, or as so wedded to office that I would hold it at the expense of my personal honour. How else could one explain Mr. Ngubane’s statement that the "Left is committing me to ridiculous policies in an attempt to make me the laughing stock of the world?" He adds insult to injury when he presents me as a most unprincipled leader by suggesting that I am opposed to present Congress policies. The world must be wondering why I am not resigning from Congress.

He continues to heap insult on injury when he poses as my confident and thereby insinuating that I am so disloyal to Congress that I disclose to him Congress confidential and internal matters. How otherwise could any one interpret his statement that "in Congress things are done behind my back" unless it be that I told him so?

It is not true that I declined an invitation to visit one of the People’s Republics. I never had such an invitation. My attitude towards countries of the world is one of neutrality. I realise that there are good and bad things from both the West and East and I am prepared to take from each what I regard as good for Afrika.

I would be glad to visit any country in the world if an opportunity presented itself. I would decline a visit to a country only if I felt that such a visit would not be in the best interest of our liberation movement in the Union of South Africa.

May I add that my attitude towards world trends or ideologies is fairly definite and set and no visit to any country is likely to change my view on the current ideological philosophies and practices.

What I regard as important, as I have already said, is to gain the sympathy of liberal and progressive people in all countries with no other purpose than to further the CAUSE OF PEACE AND FREEDOM in Afrika in particular, and in the world in general.

When I say Freedom I mean true freedom and not the false freedom of the fraudulent apartheid policy of the Nationalist Government inflicted on the people of the Union of South Africa by the Nationalist Party.

The imputation that I have special followers in Natal who were thrown out of the National Executive Committee is not in accord with truth in that I have no special followers in Natal who, as it were, are my clique. I am personally very much averse to cliques in any organisation. If there are cliques or pressure-groups in Congress I am not associated with any. My followers are all Congressmen and women in the Union and many others not formally registered in Congress books but fully sharing Congress aspirations and accepting unquestioningly its leadership in the political sphere. My unanimous re-election last year to the position of President-General shows that I claim all Congressmen and women as my followers. I would be most untrue to this solemn trust if I thought and acted otherwise.

I am happy to feel that our Natal men who were not re-elected to the National Executive Committee do not, as Mr. Ngubane apparently does, see in their non-re-election "a deliberate move to show the world who the real bosses are in Congress." In passing let me suggest to Mr. Ngubane that the boss in Congress is the democratic majority obtained in voting on any issue. Our Natal men who were not re-elected accept gracefully the results of a democratic election. They are not petty or sour about the results. Mr. Ngubane’s statement is a veiled insult to them in that it suggests that they are so insular in their outlook that they would allow sectional and parochial considerations to outweigh national interests. I am happy to feel that responsible Congress men in Natal are above such pettiness and insularity.

Incorrect Allegations Affecting Other Leaders in Congress

Mr. Ngubane makes incorrect statements affecting other leaders in Congress. About Professor Z.K. Matthews: It is not true that Professor Matthews was forced to refuse to stand for re-election as President of the Cape Branch of the African National Congress by the so-called Left Wing. The fact is that Professor Matthews asked to be excused this year from holding a responsible position in Congress for a reason Congress accepted as reasonable and justified. If we accept Mr. Ngubane’s version of why Professor Matthews was not re-elected to the Cape Presidency then Professor Matthews becomes guilty of misleading Congress by a false reason he proffered and Congress fares no better for this version makes it to appear so unintelligent as not to see through Professor Matthews’ false excuses. What an injustice this baseless Ngubane version does to both Professor Matthews and to Congress! I would in all earnestness ask Mr. Ngubane whether he realises how much damage, directly or by implication, his unfounded and unfair statements make to people’s names and honour.

About Dr. J.L.Z. Njongwe: In trying to justify his theory that Congress is controlled by Moscow Mr. Ngubane says that Dr. Njongwe "has been quietly shunted out of the limelight." I should point out that no doubt Dr. Njongwe will ever remain Congress in spirit, but his active participation in Congress was terminated by the order of the Minister of Justice, Mr. Swart, who ordered him to resign from the African National Congress. Why does Mr. Ngubane not accuse Mr. Swart of "quietly shunting out of the limelight Dr. Njongwe?" Is it because Mr. Ngubane is not aware of this fact? I wonder. He certainly cannot be trying to appease Mr. Swart. This would be very much unlike the Ngubane we have known all along.

A Charge that Congress is going to Moscow

An unfair and unfounded charge that Congress is communistic runs through almost all of Mr. Ngubane’s articles on the African National Congress. Mr. Ngubane must be aware that this is a very serious charge to make against any person or organisation and when one takes into account the fact that communism has been outlawed in this country one would expect him to make more thorough investigations before rushing to print. I have in the past said that Congress has always had amongst its ranks people who are communistically oriented. I have never been refuted in this statement. It was so even before Dr. Xuma’s time and it is still so today. I would say that such people have taken such an active part in Congress that some of them have been in the National Executive for years long before I became an active leader in Congress. It is significant that the "African Claims," a document drawn by the African National Congress in 1944 during Dr. Xuma’s presidency, bears the signatures, among others, of at least two known members of the then Communist Party of South Africa. Could it be seriously suggested that "African Claims" was leading Congress to Moscow? I might remind Dr. Ngubane that his own Vice-President, when he was President of the African National Congress Youth League in Natal, was also at the same time Chairman of the Durban District of the Communist Party. Was Mr. Ngubane’s Youth League going to Moscow?

Let me examine some of the reasons Mr. Ngubane advances to show that Congress has gone red. He gives as one of his reasons the cold-shouldering by the African National Congress conference of a letter written by Dr. Xuma. Can it be suggested that a body like Congress in conference with a heavy agenda (which incidentally was not finished) should suspend its proceedings to attend to representations made in an indirect manner?

Another reason that Mr. Ngubane advances is that some Congress officials have decided to shut their minds to anyone not favourable to the Congress of Democrats. Mr. Ngubane forgets that officials are elected representatives of conference and for their action are answerable to delegates at conference and not to interested and inspired individuals who come to them to make representations at odd times and places. If Mr. Ngubane, Dr. Xuma and others are really concerned about Congress and her policies they have the channels open to them in the Xuma Constitution of Congress (which incidentally is still in force). They have to start at their local branch meetings and from there carry their representations to conference. This is the only democratic way of influencing conference. I do not see anything red there, Mr. Ngubane; or are we seeing with different spectacles? After all Congress is an organised and responsible body with a set of programme and rules of procedure.

The Freedom Charter

Mr. Ngubane reserves his bitterest attack on Congress for its participation in the Congress of the People and for its subsequent ratification of the Freedom Charter made at this assembly, the Congress of the People. Here, surely, is naked Communism for all to see: the nationalisation of certain branches of industry and commerce, the re-distribution of land amongst those who work it etc. Perhaps before we proceed to answer this charge an historical background of the Congress of the People and the Freedom Charter would be called for. The African National Congress at its conference in Queenstown in 1953, on a motion of the Cape Provincial Conference, accepted a proposal of having a Union-wide assembly to draw up a Charter of Freedom. The African National Congress immediately sought the co-operation of its allies in the freedom movement who at that time were the South African Indian Congress, the South African Congress of Democrats and the South African Coloured People’s Organisation as it was duty and honour-bound to do so before it could invite the co-operation of other bodies. Jointly with her allies the African National Congress proceeded to invite other groups. Finally the African National Congress conference had to bring the Freedom Charter before its conference for ratification or otherwise. Does Mr. Ngubane blame the majority in conference for having expressed itself against the Ngubane or any other minority wish? I might, whilst on this, explain that it is not correct to say that the Natal conference objected to the Freedom Charter. Natal clearly indicated that it accepted unreservedly the principles reflected in all the main clauses of the Freedom Charter. It merely thought it unwise to have padded the Charter with variable details in an all-time charter.

Mr. Ngubane poses as an expert on the Communistic doctrines of Marx, Lenin and Engels and finds the Freedom Charter a Congress implementation of these doctrines. I do not claim to be such an expert, but I deny categorically Mr. Ngubane’s charges and I dare him to prove them. The most that could be said about the Freedom Charter is that it breathes in some of its clauses a socialistic and welfare state outlook, and certainly not a Moscow communistic outlook. Mr. Ngubane is concerned that the Charter calls for the nationalisation of certain branches of commerce and industry - in actual fact the number of such industries and commercial undertakings so mentioned in very limited; the Charter in this regard reads: "The national wealth of our country, the heritage of all South Africans, shall be restored to the people; the mineral wealth beneath the soil, the banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole; all other industry and trade shall be controlled to assist the well-being of the people; all people shall have equal rights to trade where they choose, to manufacture and to enter all trades, crafts and professions." "The Land shall be shared among those who work it." Mr. Ngubane would like the world to believe that this is a document preaching the Moscow communistic creed. In modern society, even amongst the so-called capitalistic countries, nationalisation of certain industries and commercial undertakings has become an accepted and established fact. Only the uninitiated and ignorant would suggest that the Union of South Africa is going to Moscow because its Railways, Broadcasting and Post Office services are nationalised. Some industries in South Africa have been nationalised - or partially so - and are owned completely or in the main by the Government. Such is the position in the industrial sphere of the Electricity Supply Commission, Iron and Steel Corporation, SASOL and some others. We have the South African Reserve Bank, the Meat Control Board, the Maize Control Board and Deciduous Fruit Control Board etc., which are Government-controlled agencies that are set up to ensure that the economic even balance is maintained in the supply of money, of meat, of maize, of fruit etc., and through which the Government maintains an effective measure of control over certain commercial and industrial undertakings. Would Mr. Ngubane because of all these agencies of control call South Africa a socialistic state, to say nothing of calling it a communistic state? Would Mr. Ngubane say of the British Welfare State and the Indian Socialist State that they are going to Moscow? The Nationalist Government in our country has passed an Act against monopolies. Would Mr. Ngubane seriously suggest that because of this the Union of South Africa is on the road to Moscow?

The Freedom Charter calls for ownership of land in freehold and proposes that the land, regardless of colour, should be fairly distributed among those who use it. Is this not in conformity with the old established Congress policy of claiming a right for any individual to live and engage himself in any occupation of his choosing anywhere in South Africa? Certainly those Africans who have to live on the land must be assured of sufficient land on which to make a living and this cannot be done with the Africans possessing at the most thirteen per cent of the land. Would Mr. Ngubane rather support the Tomlinson Commission’s report which confines the so-called African farmers to peasant farming promising each family not more than ten acres of land?

After attacking the African National Congress of going to Moscow, Mr. Ngubane with his half-baked knowledge of Congress affairs, proceeds to suggest that the Congress of the People is being made a permanent organisation, the motive being to make Congress a subsidiary body of the so-called Congress of the People. We would remind Mr. Ngubane that it was never intended that the Congress of the People should be a permanent organisation. It was merely a name given to an organisation that was to assemble for the purpose of drawing up a Freedom Charter and it ended upon fulfilling its function of drawing up such a Charter in Kliptown, Johannesburg, on June 26, 1955. Now, from where does Mr. Ngubane get this secret information that there is a move to make the Congress of the People a permanent organisation?

What we have is a Consultative Body. To consolidate our experiences gained during the Defiance Campaign and the Congress of the People campaign and to co-ordinate our future joint efforts in the freedom struggle we wisely established a Co-ordinating Committee in which the allied Congresses are equally represented. It must be noted, however, that this Committee is purely advisory. The Executive Committee of each Congress and the conference of each Congress are free to accept, reject or modify in any way the recommendations of this committee. I see nothing in this to warrant the suggestion that it is a trick to create an organisation in which the African National Congress will be a junior partner. Why should Mr. Ngubane insinuate that the other allied organisations would league against Congress and not work with it in a friendly way? Shall we infer from this allegation of his that in the Liberal Party he is suspicious of his fellow-members who belong to other racial groups, other than his own: white, Coloured and Indian? If he is not, why should he insinuate that the relations among the allied Congresses are governed by suspicion of one another? The overriding interest of the African National Congress is in creating an atmosphere of trust in our multi-racial nation. The fears expressed by Mr. Ngubane that the African National Congress would be in the minority and so committed to policies it does not like if it accepts the principle of co-ordinating committees falls off in the light of the position explained above. The African National Congress is not interested in making its African majority a tyranny to other groups. It appreciates that the essence of true democracy lies in the majority seeking through discussion rather than in the mere counting of heads to accommodate to the utmost the legitimate wishes of the minority. The African National Congress has no desire to make the African majority the "tyranny of numbers." It is only interested in establishing a bond of true friendship amongst all sections of the South African population on the basis of true democracy.

It is unworthy of Mr. Ngubane to attempt to frighten the African National Congress and the African people generally from co-operating with other national organisations representing other racial groups by wrongly suggesting that Africans would be called upon to make sacrifices other sections of the South African community are not willing to make. I consider this approach to the freedom struggle as being narrow and nationalistic and unworthy of a liberal Mr. Ngubane claims he is. Fighters for freedom in this country are continually being drawn from all sections of our population. The African National Congress is the spearhead of this movement and does not intend to shirk its responsibility in this regard, especially on the flimsy ground that Africans are being called upon to make more sacrifices than other sections of the population. Besides, the insinuation is not true, and is unfair to people in the other racial communities who have sacrificed for freedom in our land as proved by those who participated in the 1950 Protest Day and in the great Defiance Campaign of 1952. In these campaigns all racial groups in South Africa actively participated and made sacrifices deserving of praise and not scorn by anyone genuinely desiring the liberation of Africa. I have said it in the past, and I repeat it here, that to me Afrika is a land for all who are in it who give it undivided loyalty, whatever their racial origin might be. I believe in and work for the acceptance of the conception of all in Afrika being known as Africans and merely differentiating, if such a differentiation must be made, by referring to their racial origin.

A Liberal, Mr. Ngubane, accusing the ANC of not being Nationalistic

I am aware that the 1949 Programme of Action of the African National Congress is based on African nationalism as a philosophy of struggle. The African National Congress has not abandoned this philosophy of building up national consciousness amongst its tribalistic people. In the present state of development of the African people it feels this is its major duty and a necessary contribution to to the building up of a broader African outlook - the united democratic nation of South Africa and eventually the United States of Africa. The African National Congress is opposed to the narrow chauvinistic nationalism (which is nothing but racialism or tribalism) relentlessly pursued by the Nationalist Party in the Union and echoed by some misguided individuals in our own community.

It is being wrongly suggested in some quarters that the African National Congress has abandoned its 1949 Programme of Action by its acceptance of the Freedom Charter, and by co-operation in the political field with other groups sharing its hopes and convictions. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Freedom Charter merely lays down certain broad objectives which on the basis of equality and fairness we should strive to realise through the liberatory movement in our multi-racial nation, but the 1949 Programme of Action, a purely African National Congress document, was the first step the African National Congress took in plotting out a militant programme of action, as distinct from objectives. It is naďve to suggest that this was the final word in the laying down of the fighting programme of Congress. Since then important developments in the prosecution of the struggle have taken place, and these would of necessity cause the African National Congress to revise its programme in the light of the needs and circumstances of the day. Since then we have had such developments in joint action as the Dadoo-Naicker-Xuma Agreement which established closer co-operation between the African National Congress and the South African Indian Congress; June 26, 1950, Protest Day; June 26, 1952, Defiance Campaign; June 26, 1955, Congress of the People.

Elsewhere in his articles Mr. Ngubane concedes that "one of the changes brought about by the Defiance Campaign was that it transformed what was the liberation struggle of the African people into the fight of all democrats against apartheid totalitarianism"; but he narrows down his outlook by seeking to get the African National Congress to confine its co-operation to the Liberal Party, whereas the African National Congress is interested in forming as broad a liberation front as possible which could include the Liberal Party even with its qualified programme. I charge that Mr. Ngubane reveals himself as a mere propagandist for the Liberal Party, concerned with getting recruits for his party by falsely vilifying the African National Congress, especially its leadership.

Mr. Ngubane is disturbed by the groundless fears that in working with its present allies Congress is losing its identity and independence. (Could he say this if Congress were in alliance with the Liberal Party which it would have sought were it not for the limiting aspects in the Liberal Party programme?) In doing so Mr. Ngubane reveals himself as a racialist and not a true liberal and alternatively as ignorant or unaware of the profound political changes that this country has undergone since 1948. These changes, I daresay, have far from making Congress a weak and dependent organisation, enhanced its prestige and strength amongst the African people, amongst the other racial groups in the country and in the eyes of the world at large.

I am not surprised that Mr. Ngubane’s knowledge of the African National Congress affairs and its inner workings has become so rusty and imperfect because since he ceased to be President of the African National Congress Youth League, Natal, in 1950, he has never held a position of leadership in any of the organs of the African National Congress and Youth League. It is obvious, therefore, that Mr. Ngubane relies on hearsay information about the African National Congress; some of it, no doubt, emanating from enemies of the African National Congress. I cannot, therefore, excuse Mr. Ngubane for posing as an expert on African National Congress affairs and as one of its leaders when he ceased long ago to be a member of Congress.

Mr. Ngubane in his fertile imagination sees a rift in Congress which I honestly have not discerned. I have said before that Congress being an omnibus liberatory movement rather than a party must inevitably have within its fold people with different political inclinations, but all subjecting their personal inclinations to the overriding needs of our day which are to fight and defeat apartheid in whatever form it might be masquerading. It is conceivable that there would be different shades of opinion within Congress ranging from the Left Wing to the Right Wing, but those have not organised themselves into schools of thought acting as pressure groups within Congress. Mr. Ngubane allows his imagination to manufacture active opposing groups each struggling for supremacy over the other and he even makes bold to give these wings leaders, hence the "Sisulu Wing," "The Liberal Christian Centre Wing," presumably led by me, and we have only to wait for a few more instalments by Mr. Ngubane to have the Right Wing leader named.

I know my mind very well and require no one to interpret it for me. I note that Mr. Ngubane assigns me to what he describes as the Christian Centre group. I detest being labelled, but even more seriously I resent the suggestion that if I were given a free hand I, and others he assigns to the Centre, would choose to work with the Liberal Party, thus implying that some forces, which he terms the Left Wing, are forcing us against our will into channels we do not desire. As a Congressman I cannot conscientiously work in unqualified alliance with the Liberal Party with its present qualified programme of action limited to fighting on constitutional lines and limiting franchise by an educational qualification.

To us in the African National Congress these are fundamental deficiencies in the Liberal Party programme. But, notwithstanding these limitations in the Liberal Party, the African National Congress, in its eagerness to make as broad a freedom front as possible, has established a friendly relationship with the Liberal Party by entering into a mutual understanding of co-operating on specific issues whenever the views of the two groups do not conflict.

Mr. Ngubane is being extremely unfair and false when he suggests that it is the Liberals only who stand for "a clear-cut policy of equality and opposition to the Colour Bar." Whatever we may dislike in the Congress of Democrats, we cannot honestly accuse them of being racialistic; indeed one wonders whether in actual practice they do not show freedom from prejudice much more than any other white group in the country and desire without limitation to extend to non-Europeans all the benefits of modern civilisation; in short, they accept in full the African National Congress objectives and programme of action.

In my opinion Mr. Ngubane seems to suffer from an illness of divided loyalties, and he strives hard to appear a member and supporter of the African National Congress and the Liberal Party at one and the same time; this is an impossible position which will eventually earn him the dislike and contempt of both.

With what he regards as an air of sweet reasonableness Mr. Ngubane concludes his diatribe against Congress and its leadership by what he calls a "constructive approach." I confess I could not find in words or in spirit any constructiveness in the so-called "Constructive Approach," as Mr. Ngubane more than anything else elaborated the alleged sins of commission and omission of the African National Congress and elevated to heights of glory the Liberal Party of South Africa which according to him should be called the "Greater South African Party."

The African National Congress knows where it is going, and Mr. Ngubane has deviated a long way from the path he once tred in 1950 and before as the Youth League leader. The African National Congress on the basis of its Programme of Action will strive to attain the ideals enshrined in the Freedom Charter with a full sense of responsibility to the African people and their aspirations. The African National Congress will carry on the programme of African liberation and freedom for all to the best of its ability, praying as it works: "HELP US GOD."


P.O. Groutville

5th June, 1956


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