The Road to Freedom is Via the Cross

Text of a public statement by Chief Lutuli in November 1952 when the Government dismissed him from his position as Chief for refusing to resign from the African National Congress.

I have been dismissed from the Chieftainship of the Abase-Makolweni Tribe in the Groutville Mission Reserve. I presume that this has been done by the Governor-General in his capacity as Supreme Chief of the "Native" people of the Union of South Africa save those of the Cape Province. I was democratically elected to this position in 1935 by the people of Groutville Mission Reserve and was duly approved and appointed by the Governor-General.

Thirty years of knocking in vain

Previous to being a chief I was a school teacher for about seventeen years. In these past thirty years or so I have striven with tremendous zeal and patience to work for the progress and welfareof my people and for their harmonious relations with other sections of our multi-racial society in the Union of South Africa. In this effort I always pursued what liberal-minded people rightly regarded as the path of moderation. Over this great length of time I have, year after year, gladly spent hours of my time with such organizations of the Church and its various agencies such as the Christian Council of South Africa, the Joint Council of Europeans and Africans and the now defunct Native Representative Council.

In so far as gaining citizenship rights and opportunities for the unfettered development of the African people, who will deny that thirty years of my life have been spent knocking in vain, patiently, moderately and modestly at a closed and barred door?

What have been the fruits of my many years of moderation? Has there been any reciprocal tolerance or moderation from the Government, be it Nationalist or United Party? No! On the contrary, the past thirty years have seen the greatest number of laws restricting our rights and progress until today we have reached a stage where we have almost no rights at all: no adequate land for our occupation, our only asset, cattle, dwindling, no security of homes, no decent and remunerative employment, more restriction to freedom of movement through passes, curfew regulations, influx control measures; in short we have witnessed in these years an intensification of our subjection to ensure and protect white supremacy.

New spirit of the people

It is with this background and with a full sense of responsibility that, under the auspices of the African National Congress (Natal), I have joined my people in the new spirit that moves them today, the spirit that revolts openly and boldly against injustice and expresses itself in a determined and non-violent manner. Because of my association with the African National Congress in this new spirit which has found an effective and legitimate way of expression in the non-violent Passive Resistance Campaign, I was given a two-week limit ultimatum by the Secretary for Native Affairs calling upon me to choose between the African National Congress and the chieftainship of the Groutville Mission Reserve. He alleged that my association with Congress in its non-violent Passive Resistance Campaign was an act of disloyalty to the State. I did not, and do not, agree with this view. Viewing non-violent Passive Resistance as a non-revolutionary and, therefore, a most legitimate and humane political pressure technique for a people denied all effective forms of constitutional striving, I saw no real conflict in my dual leadership of my people: leader of this tribe as chief and political leader in Congress.

I saw no cause to resign from either. This stand of mine which resulted in my being sacked from the chieftainship might seem foolish and disappointing to some liberal and moderate Europeans and non-Europeans with whom I have worked these many years and with whom I still hope to work. This is no parting of the ways but "a launching farther into the deep." I invite them to join us in our unequivocal pronouncement of all legitimate African aspirations and in our firm stand against injustice and oppression.

Servant of the people

I do not wish to challenge my dismissal, but I would like to suggest that in the interest of the institution of chieftainship in these modern times of democracy, the Government should define more precisely and make more widely known the status, functions and privileges of chiefs.

My view has been, and still is, that a chief is primarily a servant of his people. He is the voice of his people. He is the voice of his people in local affairs. Unlike a Native Commissioner, he is part and parcel of the Tribe, and not a local agent of the Government. Within the bounds of loyalty it is conceivable that he may vote and press the claims of his people even if they should be unpalatable to the Government of the day. He may use all legitimate modern techniques to get these demands satisfied. It is inconceivable how chiefs could effectively serve the wider and common interest of their own tribe without co-operating with other leaders of the people, both the natural leaders (chiefs) and leaders elected democratically by the people themselves.

It was to allow for these wider associations intended to promote the common national interests of the people as against purely local interests that the Government in making rules governing chiefs did not debar them from joining political associations so long as those associations had not been declared "by the Minister to be subversive of or prejudicial to constituted Government". The African National Congress, its non-violent Passive Resistance Campaign, may be of nuisance value to the Government but it is not subversive since it does not seek to overthrow the form and machinery of the State but only urges for the inclusion of all sections of the community in a partnership in the Government of the country on the basis of equality.

Spirit of defiance

Laws and conditions that tend to debase human personality - a God-given force - be they brought about by the State or other individuals, must be relentlessly opposed in the spirit of defiance shown by St. Peter when he said to the rulers of his day: "Shall we obey God or man?" No one can deny that in so far as non-Whites are concerned in the Union of South Africa, laws and conditions that debase human personality abound. Any chief worthy of his position must fight fearlessly against such debasing conditions and laws. If the Government should resort to dismissing such chiefs, it may find itself dismissing many chiefs or causing people to dismiss from their hearts chiefs who are indifferent to the needs of the people through fear of dismissal by the Government. Surely the Government cannot place chiefs in such an uncomfortable and invidious position.

Will remain in the struggle for a true democracy

As for myself, with a full sense of responsibility and a clear conviction, I decided to remain in the struggle for extending democratic rights and responsibilities to all sections of the South African community. I have embraced the non-violent Passive Resistance technique in fighting for freedom because I am convinced it is the only non-revolutionary, legitimate and humane way that could be used by people denied, as we are, effective constitutional means to further aspirations.

The wisdom or foolishness of this decision I place in the hands of the Almighty.

What the future has in store for me I do not know. It might be ridicule, imprisonment, concentration camp, flogging, banishment and even death. I only pray to the Almighty to strengthen my resolve so that none of these grim possibilities may deter me from striving, for the sake of the good name of our beloved country, the Union of South Africa, to make it a true democracy and a true union in form and spirit of all the communities in the land.

My only painful concern at times is that of the welfare of my family but I try even in this regard, in a spirit of trust and surrender to God's will as I see it, to say: "God will provide."

It is inevitable that in working for Freedom some individuals and some families must take the lead and suffer: The Road to Freedom is via the CROSS.




Presidential Address to the 42nd Annual Conference of the African National Congress

Queenstown, 18-20 December 1953

Sons and Daughters of Africa,
Africa! Africa! Mayibuye!
Inkululeko Ngesikathi Sethu!
Freedom in Our Lifetime!

My first pleasant task is to join Mr Speaker in welcoming you all, delegates and visitors to this Conference of the African National Congress. It is most encouraging to me, as your President-General, to know that at a great sacrifice of your time and money, you have travelled, many of you, long distances to come to this conference, impelled by nothing other than a high sense of duty and loyalty to the cause of liberating our country, the Union of South Africa, from the exclusive domineering and selfish rule by whites to a true democracy where all people domiciled in the land have full civic rights and obligations.

This annual getting together of ours may be a most unwelcome event among those whites who mistakenly believe that denying us opportunities for free association and free speech will stop us from fighting for our rights and so ensure white domination over us. They forget that the urge and yearning for freedom springs from a sense of divine discontent and so, having a divine origin, can never be permanently humanly gagged and that human effort to artificially gag it by means of harsh discriminatory laws and by threats must result in suspicions, strains, and tensions among individuals; or groups in a nation, as, unfortunately, is the state of things in our country, the Union of South Africa.

On the other hand, our annual meeting is an event always most welcomed and eagerly awaited for, by all freedom loving people in our land and in other countries who truly desire the realisation of peace in the world and know that no true peace and progress can be secured and maintained in any country so long as there are others in that country denied full democratic rights and duties.

I am happy at this point, to express, on behalf of the African National Congress, the sincerest and deepest appreciation and thankfulness to the local authority of Queenstown for consenting to our meeting in their area of jurisdiction. When the African National Congress is persona non grata in many quarters among whites, it is most reassuring to find a white civic authority that does not indulge in the dangerous and undemocratic action of attempting to muzzle people from voicing their legitimate aspirations and feelings and so becoming guilty of doing a disservice to one's country, helping to create and increase discord, suspicion, tensions and strains in human relationships in the country.

Another pleasant task of mine which I am happy to perform now, is that of thanking most sincerely, on behalf of the African National Congress, the Congress authorities and people in the Cape Province, at both the provincial and local levels for consenting at very short notice to undertake, most willingly, the heavy responsibility of acting as hosts to this conference. In this connection, a special word of thanks is due to the local Congress branch and the people of Queenstown, who, in the circumstances, must bear the brunt of providing us all hospitality.

Last year, the annual Conference of the African National Congress honoured me greatly and placed on my shoulders the heavy responsibility of leading Congress, at one of the most difficult and critical periods in her history and that of the Union of South Africa. Very significant moves and changes are evident in the Union and in the world. I may refer to some of these more specially later.

I am glad to say that despite the ban imposed on some leaders of the people by the Government with the specific object of crippling the liberatory movement of the people, we are able to carry on the work of our Congress fairly effectively. We maintained the policy of working with other national organizations accepting our objectives and programme. In this connection I must specially mention the most active and effective co-operation between us and the South African Indian Congress.

My deepest appreciation and thanks go to my colleagues for their helpful and loyal support.

I must now pass on from the very necessary and pleasant duty of expressing appreciation and thanks, and address myself to some aspects of Congress activities, views and observations.

Some significant trends in our South African situation

We, who are vitally concerned with the emancipation of Africans in their land should keep a keenly observant eye on events and trends in our homeland that manifest themselves from time to time in our country since prudence demands that our programme of action should take account of these trends and events. Within the compass of one address and having regard for the need for brevity, I can do no more than briefly touch upon a few illustrative instances.

Deterioration in healthy human relations

Since Union, legislation discriminating most disastrously against non-whites, especially Africans, has increased in volume and severity. This has been due mainly to the ascendency of conservative and reactionary forces among whites. These forces, at whose vanguard must be placed the Nationalist party of Dr Malan, became more aggressive and virulent with the coming to power of the Nationalist party in 1948.

Since this year we have witnessed an accelerated crescendo in the singing and acting of the apartheid song. All this has brought about suspicion, severe strains and tensions within and between the white groups themselves, but, even more so, between black and white. With apartheid as the dominant note in the Union of South Africa, how could it be otherwise? From the utterances of the Nationalist leaders themselves, apartheid is intended to maintain white supremacy, which, conversely, means the permanent subjugation and domination of non-whites by whites.

Apartheid laws are being enacted in great haste and impatience and, are being implemented in the same tempo and ruthlessness with studied utter disregard for human feelings and sufferings of the people affected who happen to be voteless and, therefore, voiceless and defenceless non-whites. It is precisely because the vote is the key to the security of an individual in a state, that the African National Congress unequivocally demands full democratic rights now, during our lifetime and not in infinity.

The Group Areas Act

The basic wickedness of this Act is that it unashamedly robs people without compensation by the State of their property, often acquired at much sacrifice of hard-earned savings or by instalment, which is, in fact, a form of mortgaging one's future for that property.

We are told that the Act is meant to create better and healthier relations between the races. Even if this were true, which is not the case, what a price to pay! But the tragedy is that this argument is based on a fallacy that "In Separation of Races is Automatic Evidence and Contentedness" History and general human experience have many examples that prove the contrary to be more in accordance with facts. How could non-Europeans in the Western areas of Johannesburg, Charlestown in Natal and other areas affected by the Act be expected to be happy?

Industrial Laws

The influx control laws deny the Africans the fundamental human right to sell one's labour in the most remunerative market, according to his ability and tastes. Taken together with other industrial laws of the country, these laws, with their colour-bar practice, create conditions most inimical to the interests of the African workers and make a mockery of the Union in the civilized world.

It becomes difficult to see how a country claiming to be civilized and to be Christian, could allow such discrimination to go on and how it could give white farmers permission to build private jails to ensure cheap labour.

The Separate Amenities Act

This Act removes from apartheid measures any sugar-coating which may have deceived some people to accept apartheid as a fair policy. The Act merely legalises the evil that was being practised. It removed the fig leaf which concealed the nakedness of the unjust policy of apartheid and has showed up most convincingly the Nationalist conception of separation or apartheid. It revealed it as basically "separate and unequal " and not "separate but equal". In the African National Congress we stand for equality; hence we find ourselves so violently opposed to apartheid.

It is for that reason, basically, that we shall continue to oppose, by all legitimate means, apartheid acts like the Bantu Education Act. To add insult to injury is to embrace without protest all apartheid laws because it is alleged that they are made for our protection and convenience. In the African National Congress, we shall continue to protest most vehemently against discrimination.

The Union of South Africa Becoming A Fascist State

The non-violent Defiance Campaign Against Unjust Laws has helped to show up most convincingly that the Union of South Africa under the Nationalist regime is fast becoming a dictatorship. The Nationalist Government of Dr Malan will go down in history, not only as a Government that has made the most tyrannical laws with sweeping dictatorial powers such as we find in the Suppression of Communism Act, the Public Safety Act and the Criminal Laws Amendment Act, but also as a most ruthless Government in dealing with opposition to it. In and out of Parliament it has shown the tendency to crush anyone opposing it. On the pretext of fighting Communism and the non-violent Defiance Campaign, it has banned many leaders of political trade union organizations. It has deposed chiefs who have tried to oppose government measures. On behalf of the African National Congress, I would like to express our sympathy to all who in any way have become victims of the ruthlessness of the Malan Government in suppressing free speech, free association, due to a guilty conscience of the public wrongs it has committed against those who have sought the welfare of the Union of South Africa in ways different from their own. As President-General of the largest political organization in the Union, I call upon all freedom-loving people to regard no sacrifice too great in opposing the fascist Government of Dr Malan's before it is too late.

Rise to Power of the Afrikaner Under the Leadership of the Nationalist Party

Some of us are violently opposed to the Nationalist Party led by Dr Malan. Our opposition arises from the fact that we regard as undemocratic and un-South African, most of the political theories and practices, such as their master-race theory, their idea of regarding civilization as the white man's prerogative or exclusive possession, their claim to exclusive white supremacy and so on; but we must not be blinded by our opposition to them, to admire them for the way they worked hard and sacrificed much to attain the position they are in.

Their success was due, inter alia, to some of these qualities, if my observation is correct: loyalty to an idea or ideal and a singleness of purpose in working for the realization of that idea or ideal. The ideal was the founding of an Afrikaner Nation, and so, Afrikaner nationalism become their focal point of rallying their people.

We are now in a position in Union politics when we have two main opposing forces: Afrikaner nationalism and African nationalism. Some of us hope and believe that African nationalism shall remain broader, democratic and progressive, in keeping with the declared policy of the African National Congress of seeking to establish in the Union of South Africa, a democracy which shall provide for a partnership in the Government of the Union of South Africa within the present framework of the Union.

The Growth of the Liberatory Movement Among Non-whites

It is well for us to note that the African National Congress and the South African Indian Congress, whilst retaining their full identity as National Organizations in their own communities respectively are no longer isolated organizations but together with other national liberatory movements, whose object is to awaken the political consciousness of the non-white and white masses and to get the present rulers in the Union to accept the non-white on the basis of equality and no other and extend to them full democratic rights so as to enable them to share in the government of the country.

Further, we must regard our liberatory movement in the Union as part of the liberatory movement in the whole of Africa. In this connection, I am happy to say that the African National Congress is already interesting itself in the proposition of a Pan-Africanist conference.

We welcome the interest taken in this matter by the Prime-Minister of the Gold Coast, Mr Nkrumah; the President of Egypt, General Naguib and the Prime Minister of India, Mr Nehru.

The African National Congress has played a noble role in setting into motion the liberatory movement. It can well regard itself as being the vanguard of the movement in the Union. Contrary to the criticisms of some of our critics, it was the African National Congress that took the initiative in inviting other national organizations in the Union to discuss the matter of jointly prosecuting a militant programme against the oppressive measures by the present rulers of the Union.

It was in 1949 that this militant programme took shape and received the approval of the Annual Conference of the African National Congress. It is well to point out that in this programme of action many forms of carrying on the militant programme of action were agreed upon in principle. Non-violent passive Defiance Campaign of great fame was only one of the forms of militancy.

Some Significant Events in the Union of South Africa

The Non-violent Campaign for the Defiance of Unjust Laws

The non-violent campaign for the defiance of unjust laws organized and jointly launched in 1952 by the leading political organizations among the non-whites: the African National Congress, the South African Indian Congress and the Franchise Action Council, will rank as one of the most outstanding events in the political history of the Union of South Africa. Whether it is admitted or not, its effects have been profound and far-reaching. Many events have followed precipitously in its train. It accounts for the notorious short session of Parliament which produced the twin anti-defiance Acts: the Public Safety Act and the Criminal Laws Amendment Act. It brought about the hurried formation of the Liberal party of South Africa.

In Church circles and Liberal circles, it has brought about talks on the need to hold a nation-wide National Conference to discuss non-European affairs, with the Dutch Reformed Church seeming to take a lead in the matter. The Christian Council of South Africa and the Institute of Race Relations have spoken about the matter too.

The campaign has so sharpened the political issues in the country as to leave no room for middle-of-the-road individuals or groups. Hence the dissension in the great Smuts' Party, the United Party and also the Labour Party of South Africa. Hence also the silence of some leading people in our own communities. One has to accept the justice of the claim of the non-whites for freedom and work unreservedly and openly for its realization or he guilty of directly or indirectly assisting the Nationalist Party in its relentless and unmitigated oppression and suppression of the non-white peoples in their claim for free democratic rights.

In a word, the non-violent campaign has caused much heart searching among some people and much ire and violent reaction with others in all communities. Much to the discomfort of the present rulers of the Union, the search-light of the world has been focused on the Union of South Africa more than ever before by the Campaign. Racial discrimination has become an international issue and no amount of talk about domestic jurisdiction will deceive the world regarding its true nature and effect.

What about its effect on the non-whites as a whole?

It is no exaggeration to say that the effect of the campaign on the non-white peoples as a whole, especially those who took an active part in it, has been profound and beneficial. It accelerated greatly the political consciousness of the people. It gave them a new feeling of courage and confidence in themselves as a people. But, even more profound, it forcefully brought them a new awareness of the potency of united and co-operative action among all oppressed people irrespective of colour or class. The co-operation of the non-white groups in the political sphere has come to stay whatever lying propaganda may be made against it. Prudence on our part demands its continuation.

I must, at this point, on behalf of the African National Congress, express the deepest appreciation and thankfulness of the African people to those who directly or indirectly assisted to make the Campaign the success it became. I must mention in particular in this regard, the nine thousand men and women who, by the indelible ink of their sacrifice and sweat in jails all over the Union of South Africa, wrote in the history book of humanity the protest and opposition of ten million non-whites in the Union against studied oppression by the present rulers of the land since they came into our country three hundred and one years ago.

What Next?

A perfect legitimate question is being asked by well-wishers and opponents alike, but, naturally, with differing motives.

The reply is that the Defiance Campaign, being one of the several forms in our programme of action is kept in abeyance at our pleasure. But the struggle in some form will be carried on until we do reach our goal. What is important and that to which I direct my presidential call is that:

"We must keep up the spirit of defiance and, thus keep ourselves in readiness for any call to service in the interest of our liberatory movement.

We can assure the world that it is our intention to keep on the nonviolent plane. We would earnestly request the powers that be to make it possible for us to keep our people in this mood.

We call upon our people and all other freedom loving peoples to join our ranks in large numbers in order to give a death blow to the discriminatory laws in the Union of South Africa, designed to hinder our progress and injure our human dignity.

Relation to Other Political Organizations

I have already indicated that the year 1952-53 saw the formation of new political parties initiated by the whites. They are the Federal Party; the Liberal Party of South Africa; and also the Congress of Democrats. Our general stand is that we are prepared to co-operate fully on the basis of equality with any national political party or organization provided we share common objectives and common methods of achieving our ends. The co-operation would always be on the basis of equality and mutual respect for the individual identity of our organizations.

I should state further that on this basis of equality and mutual respect for the identity of our respective organizations we may co-operate on specific issues with any group if we feel that it is entirely in the interests of our liberatory movement to do so. It is appropriate to state here that the Liberal Party, then still an association, wrote us and sought understanding and co-operation on agreed specific issues. We must be on guard against members of the African National Congress becoming members of political parties whose objectives are different from our own. Divided allegiance would be difficult for the individual concerned. In general, we should not give respite to the Government and those who support it, by indulging in a dogfight with other groups, provided of course, those groups by word and deed do not stand on our way, but, in frankness, I must say that any African desiring an unqualified emancipation of the non-whites, must join the liberatory movement through the African National Congress.

Notable Victories

I have already referred to the success of the Defiance Campaign. I must here put on record other victories won by the democratic front.

I must record with appreciation the fact that our policy of co-operating with other groups for our emancipation has withstood the onslaught of malicious propaganda by the Government and other enemies of the people. The Government has been frantic in its effort not only to enact and implement new apartheid laws, but to deprive people of the rights they already enjoyed. We are glad that so far the Government has failed to legally enact the Separate Voters' Act; I make an appeal to the Coloured community to join our liberatory movement and not be delayed by useless offers by the Government of what are merely apartheid palliatives.

In its hurry to enact and implement its unjust laws, the Government has not only been morally and politically wrong, but, quite often legally wrong. As a result it has lost ignominiously, many legal battles in its efforts to crush opposition to its undemocratic policy and practices. We note, with much jubilation, the invalidation of the ban illegally imposed on some of our leaders; I refer to the recent decision of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, on the Ngwevela appeal. Whether won or lost, we applaud the fight behind those appeals; by this judgement the higher organs of the judiciary of the Union have once more proved themselves to be bulwarks of legal justice and guardians of the rule of law.

In the Rest of Africa and the World

Our interest in freedom is not confined to ourselves only. We are interested in the liberation of all oppressed people in the whole of Africa and in the world as a whole. This accounts for our taking an active part in the Pan African Conference movement. Our active interest in the extension of freedom to all people denied it makes us ally ourselves with freedom forces in the world. It is a matter of great concern to us that most territories in Africa are still under the grip of imperialistic powers of Europe who maintain colonialism that keeps the inhabitants of those territories in subjection and poverty.

There are encouraging signs that the people in some of these territories are becoming politically conscious. We condemn most strongly the imperialist powers controlling these territories for meeting the progressive move of the people by tyrannical suppression. I would cite here the indiscriminate shooting and bombing of the African people in Kenya, on the pretext of restoring law and order when, in fact, it is to maintain their imperialistic hold on Africa. The revolt is no doubt prompted by the legitimate aspiration of the African people; and so the extension of freedom to the people of Kenya should be the reply of the British Government and not bombing and shotting. We also condemn most strongly the action of the British Government in banishing the Kabaka of Uganda for supporting his people in their demand for self-government. In this condemnation we also include the continued deposition and banishment of Seretse Khama, and the high-handed manner in which the British Colonial Office deposed a constitutionally-elected Government of the people of British Guiana and placed the Territory under the autocratic rule of the Governor.

I would like here to reiterate our stand on the protectorate question: namely, that we are most strongly opposed to the incorporation of the High Commission Territories by the Union Government. We are entirely opposed to the racial and discriminatory policies of the Union of South Africa. The incorporation would result in the increase when we are fighting for the liberation of Africans and other peoples in the Union.

Let me state unequivocally that we regard as an unfriendly action towards Africa the allowing of the United States of America to establish air-bases in Africa, nor do we welcome the making of Central Africa by the British Government a war arsenal since the forced withdrawal from India and its precarious hold and maintenance of influence in the East and Middle East.

Africa likes to enjoy peace, prosperity and freedom and would like to ally itself with those forces of peace and freedom and so, does not like to be made a war zone in any war that war-mongers may plunge the world in.

In this matter of working for the liberation of colonial peoples we applaud progressive elements in Great Britain and other colonial powers that fight against the oppressive policies of their governments and champion the cause of freedom for colonial peoples.

In the world scene I must express our gratitude for the continued interest taken by the United Nations in fighting against racial discrimination practised by some of its Member Nations. We note with deep appreciation the initiative taken in this matter by countries like India. under the leadership of its Prime Minister, Mr Nehru.


You will agree that the masses of the African people live in abject poverty in both rural and urban areas and so many Africans find themselves landless and homeless. They find themselves suffering from hunger, malnutrition and disease. You must agree that the basic cause of this deplorable state of affairs is due, inter alia, to:

  1. The inadequacy and crowdedness of the land allowed them, being only about twelve per cent of the land surface of the Union for eight million Africans, as against practically the rest for the 2.5 million whites.
  2. The uneconomic wages they receive.
  3. The economic and political restrictions placed on them to make it impossible for them to exploit, each according to his ability, the resources of their God-given land.

How Will These Disabilities Be Removed?

Certainly not as some fondly and foolishly believe, that it will be by the voluntary benevolence of the white man! These disabilities will only be removed as has happened with other people in other lands, all through the ages to our day, by the united struggle of the oppressed people themselves to exert pressure on the rulers to grant them freedom. And so, I call upon all Africans who truly desire to see these disabilities removed, to join the African National Congress, to fight in the comradeship of other oppressed people for the attainment of freedom which is the main key to the removal of man-imposed disabilities.



Yours in the National service
A. J. Lutuli
African National Congress


Resist Apartheid Campaign Message to Meeting in Johannesburg

JULY 11, 1954

Chief Lutuli intended to address a meeting in Johannesburg on July 11, 1954, in protest against the Western Areas Removal Scheme--the forcible removal of Africans from their homes in Johannesburg to segregated locations. However, a banning order was served on him as he landed at the Johannesburg airport. He then issued the following statement to be read at the meeting.

Sons and Daughters of Africa!
Mayibuye! Inkululeko
Ngesikathi Sethu!

On account of the ban re-imposed on me last night immediately after my landing at the airport, I cannot be with you in the flesh but I am with you in the spirit, and the spirit is a greater human force than the flesh. I am glad to bring to you not just the greetings and best wishes of your fellow-countrymen I have the honour to lead through the African National Congress, but to bring you also their messages of determination and assurance to be with you in your hour of trial, when forces of reaction, as represented by the Government of Dr Malan, seek to uproot you from your sacred shrines and castles - your homes - acquired through hard-earned savings. The fact that it is legalized robbery does not make the action less a sin.

Your invitation has given me an opportunity to reiterate my call for Resist Apartheid Campaign. We have met here today primarily to unitedly demonstrate in unmistakable terms our solidarity in supporting this Congress Call for Resist ApartheidCampaign, and for the Congress of the People Assembly, whereat people from all walks of life in our multi-racial nation will have the opportunity to write into this great Charter of Freedom their aspirations on freedom.

The Western Areas Removal Plan of the Government represents their major implementation of their apartheid policy and, no doubt, is a forerunner to what will be done in other centres; and so our Resist Apartheid Campaign in connection with this scheme must be firm and decisive. The fate of Africans in the cities of the Union rests on the stand we take against this tyrannical action of the Government. As leaders, we shall do all in our power to consolidate the country to oppose the carrying out of this outrageous tyrannical scheme. I must here publicly acknowledge with the deepest appreciation the support already given us by individuals and groups from other communities, especially our allies in the freedom struggle: the South African Indian Congress; the South African Congress of Democrats; the South African Coloured Peoples' Organization.

We are met here to express our utter resentment at the claim made by South Africa through its governments and parliaments since Union to determine and shape our destiny without ourselves, and arrogantly assign us a position of permanent inferiority in our land. Contrary to the plan and purpose of God our Creator, who "created all men equal", and to us too, not to whites only, He breathed the divine spirit of human dignity. And so we have all the human and moral rights to resist laws and policies which create a climate inimical to the full development of our human personalities as individuals, and our development as a people. The laws and policies of white South Africa are no doubt inimical to this development. And so I call upon our people in all walks of life - Ministers of the Gospel of Christ, who died to save human dignity, teachers, professional men, business men, farmers and workers to rally round Congress at this hour to make our voice heard. We may be voteless, but we a re not necessarily voiceless; it is our determination more than ever before in the life of our Congress, to have our voice not only heard but heeded too. Through gatherings like this in all centres, large and small, we mean to mobilize our people to speak with this

I large and small, we mean to mobilize our people to speak with this one voice and say to white South Africa:

We have no designs to elbow out of South Africa anyone, but equally we have no intention whatsoever of abandoning our divine right, of ourselves determining our destiny according to the holy and perfect plan of our Creator; Apartheid can never be such a plan.

Friends, let us make no mistake, the road to freedom is always full of difficulties. Before we reach the summit of freedom, many will have fallen by the wayside as a result of enemy action; and others through personal despondency may abandon the fight. But I call upon you as true sons of South Africa to be true to Africa, a nd count no sacrifice too great for her redemption. Now and here, I call upon all men and women present to pledge themselves and come forward to enlist themselves as Volunteers in this noble cause of freedom under the rallying cry of Resist Apartheid Campaign. I am confident that this my call will, as in the past, provoke the greatest response which will shake to repentance the hearts of white South Africa.



Message to the Annual Conference of the African National Congress in Bloemfontein

16-19 December 1955

Introductory Remarks

It is proper and fitting that my friend and close colleague in Congress, Professor Z. K. Matthews, having acted for me the whole of this year as President-General on account of my illness throughout this year, should speak to Congress and the world, through the medium of the Presidential Address.

I embraced with great joy and eagerness the privilege extended to me by the National Executive to speak to conference through a special Presidential Message, if I felt that my health permitted my doing so. I am indeed very happy to be able to do so.

I would be untrue to the deepest human feelings if I did not, on behalf of my family and myself, commence my message by expressing our deepest thanks to the Almighty for bringing about my miraculous recovery. I would like to closely associate in these thanks to the Almighty the staff of McCord Zulu Hospital who were willing and devoted instruments in God's hands in bringing about this recovery. Our feelings - my family and myself - would not be adequately expressed if I did not say that we were deeply touched by the concern and sympathy in my ill-health and the welfare of my family shown by many, many people in our land and abroad during those difficult times. It was this concern and sympathy which helped my family, especially my wife, to bear with such great fortitude the burden of my illness.

My message: the African National Congress in recent years, especially the last seven years

The chief burden of my message is to make a brief appraisal - not flinching from even an agonising critical appraisal - of the reaction of the African people in general and the African National Congress in particular to the political situation in the Union of South Africa, as it has affected Africans in recent years.

It is a matter of common consent that the African National Congress has been unusually active in recent years. What is the background to this activity? Any appraisal of Congress activity and the general reaction of the African people to this activity must be preceded by a brief, if only cursory, reply to this question - "What is the background to our present Congress activity?"

The Significance of and background to present-day Congress activity

In my judgement, this period in the national history of the African people will go down as one of the most outstanding periods in the all-round political awakening of the African people, despite the almost insurmountable obstacles put in their way by the White rulers of South Africa, who have selfishly created barriers to African progress and advancement in South Africa in order to promote their own selfish interests.

One of the most significant features in the development of our struggle is that the African National Congress in recent years, after much internal questioning and discussion, adopted a militant Programme of Action in 1949. This Programme was a direct outcome of a conviction that had been growing among the people that the white people in South Africa had no intention of extending democratic rights to the non-whites. The discriminatory laws that disgrace the statute books of successive white governments from colonial days to the present day are proof enough of the white man's hostility to the progress of Africans and the non-white people in general . But can any one even with only a cursory knowledge of the position of things as affecting the African truly blame them under such circumstances for having lost confidence in the declared but as yet unexecuted - good intentions of the white governments that have in succession ruled South Africa. It is under numerous bitter experiences and disappointments with white rule that Africans under the leadership of the African National Congress, came to realize after their further betrayal in 1936 that the only correct course to take was no longer merely to struggle for the amelioration of economic and social disabilities here and there under which they suffered, but to attack the whole citadel of white supremacy and domination, protected by a network of discriminatory laws designed to keep the African people and the non-Europeans in general in a state of perpetual servitude.

Congress, in alliance with her allies in the liberatory movement, the South African Indian Congress, the South African Coloured Peoples' Organization and latterly the South African Congress of Democrats, has consistently directed her resources and energies in resisting tyranny and oppression. On June 26,1950, Congress together with her allies called upon the people of South Africa to observe this as a day of mourning and prayer, as a protest against injustice by white governments to non-Europeans. On June 26, 1952, the great Defiance of Unjust Laws Campaign, which was to have a great impact on the world and South African politics was launched. Since then all along the line Congress has sought to develop in the hearts of the people a spirit of defiance of anything that degrades human dignity and arbitrarily sets limits to the development of any person's mental, physical and spiritual faculties to their utmost. Still on that historic day, June 26,1955, in response to a clarion call issued by our Congress movement to the people of South Africa, black and white, the Congress of the People met at Kliptown and unanimously adopted the Freedom Charter as the basis for our struggle now and in the future. The Charter is now placed before you for consideration and ratification.

One is happy to record that during this period the African National Congress has emerged as the universally accepted leader of the liberatory movement in South Africa. In co-operation with other progressive groups, it is building slowly but surely a solid united front against oppression. No one can deny that in the last seven years Congress has played no mean part in mobilizing all progressive forces regardless of race or class, into a growing, formidable army, which in due course will cleanse South Africa of all traces of domination, racialism, and exploitation. The initial success which has attended the efforts of Congress in building up a solid opposition to apartheid his driven terror into the selfish hearts of the white rulers of South Africa, hence the shameful ruthlessness of the Nationalist Party Government in its attempts to stem the rising tide of freedom forces about to engulf and destroy this evil thing, "Baaskap Apartheid".

Some Urgent Problems in the Present Situation of Congress

We would be less than human if we would not have made grievous mistakes in our Congress under the Militant Programme of Action which was adopted in 1949. As intelligent people, we should take cognizance of our failures and shortcomings and God knows, they are legion - and try to make them "stepping stones to success".

What are some of these problems and shortcomings! Here again time and space can only allow a fleeting mention of only a few.

1. We have been busily engaged in a laudable effort to establish a spirit of defiance of unjust laws and treatment along non-violent lines and in getting Africans to see that no one is really worthy of freedom until he is prepared to pay the supreme sacrifice for its attainment and defence. We have, unquestionably, met with a measure of success in both our objectives since we can truthfully claim that Congress followers have shown marvellous restraint in the face of police provocation. We can also claim that we have established an inner core of bitter-enders in fighting oppression - "the faithful few" of whom we can say as said Sir Winston Churchill to defenders of Britain in the Battle of Britain during the World War II:

"Never have so many owed so much to so few". But for all this we cannot claim to have prosecuted our campaigns with anything bearing semblance to military efficiency and technique. We cannot say that the Africans are accepting fast enough the gospel of "Service and sacrifice for the general and large good without expecting a personal and at that immediate reward", they have not accepted fully the basic truth enshrined in the saying "no cross, no crown" .

It is time we took stock of methods of planning and prosecuting our campaigns. l would suggest that the incoming National Executive should be charged with the task of making a study of general organizational machinery with special reference to its fitness for our present situation.

2. Faced as we are with the battle for freedom, it seems a wise stand to say that the African National Congress should not dissipate its energies by indulging in internal ideological feuds - a fight on "isms". It is not practical and logical, however, to expect Congress to be colourless ideologically. She must in some way define or re-define her stand and outlook as regards, for example, her interpretation of African nationalism which she made the philosophic basis of our struggle for freedom. Fighters for freedom in Africa, it is fair to infer, were to be mobilized under its banner. lt is also fair to infer that the African National Congress, having accepted the fact of the multi-racial nature of the country envisaged an all inclusive African Nationalism which, resting on the principle of "freedom for all" in a country, "unity for all" in a country, embraced all people under African Nationalism regardless of their racial and geographical origin who resided in Africa and paid their undivided loyalty and allegiance. Congress should not be ashamed to tell the African people that it is opposed to tribalism but for obvious practical considerations it must gradually lead Africans from these narrow tribal loyalties to the wider loyalty of the brotherhood of man throughout the world.

3. There does seem to be laxity in the machinery of Congress resulting in lack of sound disciplinary behaviour in some Congress levels. Manifestations of such behaviour at any Congress level anywhere must create confusion and uncertainty in the ranks of Congress, especially among the masses and to say nothing about its most disastrous effect in lowering the dignity of Congress in the eyes of the world. This observation leads me to close this aspect of my "agonizing re-appraisal" of Congress activity by repeating what I suggested earlier, namely, that it might pay Congress handsome dividends in efficiency and dignity if from time to time it took stock of its workings and its machinery.

What of the Future

Let me close my message by drawing you away from our failures and disappointments to a vision of a glorious future that awaits us: a South Africa where all people shall be truly free. Our cause is just and we have the divine assurance that right must triumph over wrong - and apartheid is an evil policy and the methods by which the Nationalist Government seeks to get a following among the people are base and false. They are based on submission through coercion and not through acceptance by love - the only sure basis for any lasting acceptance. They are based on acceptance of apartheid by an appeal to the baser instincts of man: selfishness and greed; personal aggrandisement.

Let us march together to freedom saying: "The road to Freedom may be long and thorny but because our Cause is just, the glorious end - Freedom - is ours."

Let us truly pledge to work together in love of Freedom for all in our lifetime - not just freedom for "Europeans only", and as we march, pledge to struggle together for freedom. Let us draw inspiration from the Freedom Charter - THE PEOPLE SHALL GOVERN.



Yours in the cause of Freedom
A.J. Lutuli
African National Congress


Letter To The Prime Minister, Mr J.C. Strijdom, May 28, 1957

Chief Lutuli addressed this letter to the Prime Minister on behalf of the African National Congress, suggesting a multiracial convention to seek a solution to the country's pressing problems. Apart from a formal acknowledgement on June 7, 1957, from the Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, the letter received no response from the Government.

The Honourable the Prime Minister,
Union of South Africa,
House of Assembly,
Honourable Sir,

At a time when in many respects our country is passing through some of the most difficult times in its history, I consider it my duty as leader of the African National Congress, a Union-wide premier political organization among the African people in the Union of South Africa, to address this letter direct to you as Head of the Government, to apprise you personally of the very grave fears and concerns of my people, the Africans, at the situation now existing in the Union, especially about matters affecting them.

I shall venture to place before you respectfully what I consider to be some of the disturbing features of our situation and suggest steps that could be taken by the Government to meet the position.

I have addressed this letter to you, Sir, and not to any Department for two reasons.

Firstly, because the gravity of our situation requires your direct personal attention and, secondly, because what I shall say fundamentally affects the welfare of the Union of South Africa as a whole, since both basically and in practice, the so-called "Native Affairs" are not only intricately interwoven with the true interests of other racial groups, but are a key to a proper understanding and appraisal of South African affairs and problems, for indeed, "all South African politics are native affairs".

One of the tragic aspects of the political situation in our country today is the increasing deterioration in race relations, especially in Black-White relations. There can be no two viewpoints on this question. Never has there been such an extremely delicate relationship as now exists between the Government of whites only, of which you are head, and the vast masses of non-European people in general, and the African people in particular. This unfortunate state of affairs has resulted from a number of factors, the basic one being the policy of segregation, especially its more aggressive form, white baasskap and apartheid.

It is in the economic sphere that this disastrous policy of discrimination has affected Africans hardest and most cruelly. It has brought on them an economic plight that has shown itself in the dire poverty of the people both in the urban and in the rural areas. This fact has long been attested to from time to time by economic experts and by findings of government commissions. Recently, as a result of the Rand and Pretoria Bus Boycott, the extreme poverty of Africans in urban areas, has been acknowledged by even commerce and industry. It is not necessary for one to describe the generally admitted horrifying state of degradation this poverty has brought upon the African people or to refer in any detail to the tragic social consequences such as disease, malnutrition, bad housing, broken families and delinquency among children and youth.

The denial to the African people of the democratic channels of expression and participation in the government of the country has accentuated the stresses and strains to which they are subject. My people have come to view with alarm every new session of Parliament because it has meant the passing of more oppressive discriminatory legislation there. As a result of this annual influx of new legislation, there are already in the statute books of the Union of South Africa, a large number of laws which cause my people tremendous hardship and suffering. The African people view these laws as further weapons of attack on their very existence as a people. For the sake of brevity, I shall refer to only a few of such laws in support of my charge. Here are the categories of some of such laws:

1. The land laws which to all intents and purposes deny the African people the right to own land in both the rural and the urban areas. In rural areas Africans are tenants in State rural reserves or in privately-owned land. In urban areas they are tenants in municipal lands.

The land allocated to Africans in rural areas is most inadequate. It will only be 15 per cent of the entire land surface of the Union when all the land promised them in the Natives' Land and Trust Act of 1936 shall have been acquired. On account of this inadequacy of land, the African people live under extremely congested conditions in rural areas and in the urban areas and find it difficult to make a living above subsistence level from the land. These land laws are in many respects reminiscent of the worst features of the feudal laws of mediaeval days.

2. The pass laws, which not only deny the African people freedom of movement, but are enforced in ways that cause people much unnecessary suffering and humiliation.

They are definitely an affront to human personality and it is not surprising that their extension to our womenfolk has resulted in Union-wide protests and in the expression of deep indignation by the entire African population. These protests and demonstrations are indicative of a state of unrest and intense tension among the African people.

Section 10 of the Native (Urban Areas) Consolidation Act of 1945, as substituted by Section 27 of Act 54 of 1952, places serious and far-reaching restrictions on the right of my people to enter into and remain within an urban area in order to compel them to seek employment on European farms where working conditions are extremely shocking. Acting under this provision, local authorities and members of the police force have forcibly removed from their homes and families thousands upon thousands of my people in the interest of the European farming industry.

3. The master and servant acts, which are designed effectively to limit to unskilled categories the participation of the African people in industry and commerce. This relegates the bulk of African workers to low uneconomic wages. My people note with grave concern the efforts of your Government to destroy the African trade union movement.

The current session of Parliament affords the country no respite from apartheid legislation. It has before it a large number of measures of far-reaching consequences for the country in general, and the African people in particular. There is the Native Laws Amendment Bill, which is seen by the African people as another measure attacking the civil and religious liberties of the people and aimed at preventing contact on a basis of human dignity and equality between the African people and the rest of our multiracial population.

The African people are similarly disturbed by other measures now before Parliament, such as the bill of Apartheid in University Education, the Apartheid Nursing Bill, the measure to increase indirect taxation of the African people despite their poverty, and a bill intended to prevent the operation of alternative bus services where the boycott weapon has been effectively used by a people who have no other means of seeking redress against an economic injustice.

We are greatly concerned at the policy of apartheid and the administrative action flowing from it because we honestly believe that these are against the true interest of democracy and freedom. I would like to point out here that the enforcement of the discriminatory apartheid laws brings the African people into unnecessary contact with the police. Unfortunately, the impatient and domineering manner in which the police often do their work among Africans results in unfortunate clashes between the people and the police. The net result is that Africans tend to lose respect for the law and come to look upon the Union of South Africa as a Police State.

...What does my Congress stand for?

My Congress is deeply wedded to the ideals of democracy and has at all times emphasised its firm and unshakeable belief in the need for the creation of a society in South Africa based on the upholding of democratic values, values which are today cherished the world over by all civilized peoples.

We believe in a society in which the white and the non-white peoples of the Union will work and live in harmony for the common good of our fatherland and share equally in the good things of life which our country offers in abundance. We believe in the brotherhood of man and in the upholding of human respect and dignity. Never has my Congress preached hatred against any racial group in the Union. On the contrary, it has stretched out its hand of friendship to all South Africans of all races, emphasising that there is sufficient room for all in this beautiful country of ours in which we can and must live in peace and friendship. Unfortunately, there are people, among them Ministers of the Crown - Mr Louw, Mr Schoeman, Dr Verwoerd, to mention some - who, according to Press reports, believe that the aims and objects of the African National Congress are to drive the white man out of Southern Africa and to set up a "Native State". These people charge that the African National Congress is highly subversive and fosters a communistic-tainted African nationalism or a rabid tyrannical and narrow African nationalism and intends, in either case, to deprive the white minority in South Africa of their share in the Government of the country.

This is not - and never has been - the policy of my Congress. On the contrary, Congress believes in a common society and holds that citizens of a country, regardless of their race or colour, have the right to full participation in the government and in the control of their future. Anyone who has taken the slightest trouble to study the policy of my Congress and followed its activities should know how baseless and unfounded these fears about Congress are.

Why do we believe in a common society?

Firstly, we believe in a common society because we honestly hold that anything to the contrary unduly works against normal human behaviour, for the gregarious nature of man enables him to flourish to his best in association with others who cherish lofty ideals. "Not for good or for worse", but for "good and better things" the African has accepted the higher moral and spiritual values inherent in the fundamental concepts of what, for lack of better terminology, is called "Western Civilization". Apartheid, so far, has revealed itself as an attempt by White South Africa to shunt the African off the tried, civilized road by getting him to glorify unduly his tribal past.

Secondly, we believe that the close spiritual and moral contact facilitated by a common society structure in one nation makes it easier to develop friendship and mutual respect and understanding among various groups in a nation; this is especially valuable in a multi-racial nation like ours and these qualities - friendship, mutual respect and understanding, and a common loyalty - are a sine qua non to the building of a truly united nation from a heterogeneous society. In our view, it will not be easy to develop a common loyalty to South Africa when its people by law are kept strictly apart spiritually and socially. Such a state of affairs is likely to give rise to unjustified fears and suspicions which often lead to deadly hatreds among the people and, more often than not, end in disastrous antagonism within the nation.

Lastly, we hold the view that the concept of a common society conforms more than does apartheid to the early traditional closer Black-White contact. This, undoubtedly, accounts for the relatively rapid way in which Africans, from the days of these early contacts, to their advantage and that of South Africa as a whole, took to and absorbed fairly rapidly Christian teachings and the education that accompanied it.

Strongly holding as we do the views I have just stated, you will appreciate, Sir, with what heartfelt concern, alarm and disappointment we learnt recently from Press reports that the Government intends banning the African National Congress and arresting 2,000 more of its members. I humbly submit that such an action would serve to increase the dangerous gulf that exists between the Government and the African people and, in particular, those African leaders who have knowledge of social and economic forces at work in the modern South Africa of today and the world in general. No loyal South African, white or non-white, should view with equanimity such a situation. It is this loyalty and deep concern for the welfare of the Union that makes me say most emphatically that your Government has no justification whatsoever in banning the African National Congress and making further arrests of its members. I would support my plea by emphasizing with all the strength at my command that such actions would be against the true interests of South Africa.

I make no undue claim when I say that my Congress represents the true and fundamental aspirations and views of practically all the African people in the Union and these aspirations and views are not alien to the best interests of our common country. Rather, it will be found that they conform to the United Nations Charter and the international Declaration of Human Rights.

If it should appear that my Congress pleads strongly and uncompromisingly for the advancement of the African people only, it would not be because it is actuated by a partisan spirit, but rather because the African people are at the lowest rung of the ladder. I am sure that with the same meal, vigour and devotion it would espouse - and in fact does espouse - the uplift of other under-privileged peoples regardless of their colour or race.

My people crave for an opportunity to work for a great United South Africa in which they can develop their personalities and capabilities to the fullest with the rest of the country's population in the interest of the country as a whole. No country can prosper when antagonisms divide its people and when, as we Africans see it, Government policy is directly opposed to the legitimate wishes and interests of a qreat maiority of the population.

I might here point out that the African National Congress has always sought to achieve its objectives by using non-violent methods. In its most militant activities it has never used nor attempted to use physical force. It has used non-violent means and ways recognized as legitimate in the civilized world, especially in the case of a people, such as we are, who find themselves denied all effective constitutional means of voicing themselves in the sovereign forum of the country.

I would, for emphasis, reiterate that it is our ardent desire in Congress to see human conduct and relations motivated by an overriding passion for peace and friendship in South Africa and in the world in general and so we would as strongly be opposed to Black domination, or any other kind of domination from whatever source, as we are uncompromisingly opposed to White domination. We regard domination, exploitation and racialism as arch enemies of mankind.

What should be the Government's reply to the views and aspirations of my organization which I have tried faithfully to present?

In my opinion, the only real answer the Government could give to the stand of my Congress and its inevitable agitation, is for it to make an earnest effort to meet the progressive aspirations of the African people and not to attempt to silence Congress and its leadership by bannings and arrests, for it is the African National Congress and its leadership that is the authentic and responsible voice of the people.

Rather than outlaw the African National Congress or persecute its members and supporters, the Government, in a statesmanlike manner, should reconsider its "Native Policy" with a view to bringing it in conformity with democratic and moral values inherent in any way of life meriting to be described as civilized.

It is the considered view of my Congress that the lack of effective contact and responsible consultation between the Government and the non-European people is at the root of the growing deterioration in race relations and in the relation between the African people and the Government.

Unless healthy contact and purposeful consultation take place at the highest level between the Government and the accredited leaders of the people, misunderstanding and strained relations must grow.

Persistently to ignore the legitimate wishes and interests of the African people and permanently to close the door to consultation with representative organizations enjoying the loyalty of the people, is not the path of statesmanship and can lead only to even more dangerous and chaos in the country.

The Government should earnestly address itself to seeking ways and means of establishing some permanent democratic machinery to enable all citizens to participate intelligently and effectively in the government of the country as is done in all truly democratic states. The existing forms of consultation, such as do exist, are, in my opinion, not only inadequate, but undemocratic: the quarterly meetings of African chiefs, the Bantu Authorities (where these exist) and the Advisory Boards in urban areas; even the so-called Native Representatives in the Senate and in the House of Assembly can be no substitute for truly democratic representation and consultation.

My Congress is convinced that it is today urgently necessary for the Government to devise new ways to meet the challenging problems before South Africa. It is eminently in the interest of the country as a whole that this present impasse be broken and the danger to future tensions recognized and averted before it is too late.

It should not be beyond the capacity of statesmen in South Africa - and I would not like to believe that South Africa is bankrupt of statesmanship - to take in faith steps which could inaugurate a new era in inter-racial co-operation and harmony in our country.

As I have stressed directly and indirectly throughout this letter, no time should be lost in making contact with the leadership of organizations and bodies, among them the African National Congress, representative of organized African opinion, with a view not only to discuss the problems and issues such as I have drawn attention to in this letter, but to consider the advisability and possibility of calling a multi-racial convention to seek a solution to our pressing national problems.

In the name of the African National Congress, I am happy to make this approach to you in the hope that our country's future and happiness will triumph over established conventions, procedures and party considerations.

I need hardly mention that in the event of your Government not acceding to this request, my organization must continue to fight for the rights of my people.

I am,
Honourable Sir,

Yours respectfully,
African National Congress


A Message to Every Voter from the African National Congress, April 1958

This message was published early in April 1958, before the general elections.

Sir or Madam,

You may be surprised to receive this message from the African National Congress: surprised because this is something unusual and because you have no connexion with the African National Congress. The African National Congress is the oldest and the biggest and most representative organization of Africans. For many years we have addressed protest, petitions, memoranda, deputations and other memoranda to the Government. These appeals have fallen upon deaf ears. Today we are addressing ourselves directly to you, to voters, who in the last resort are responsible for the Government.

On April 16 you are going to exercise your right to vote for your representative in Parliament. You may perhaps ask what this has to do with us, who have no votes. It has a great deal to with us. Parliament makes laws which govern non-whites as well as whites. We have to obey those laws - which always bear more severely upon us than upon anyone else - though we have never been consulted about them, or given any say in choosing those who make them.

Frankly, we are by no means satisfied with this state of affairs. We consider it neither fair nor just, and we shall never rest content until the democratic principle which is conceded for Europeans is extended to include the entire population.

But so long as this unfair position continues, and our people are excluded from the franchise, have we not at least the right to state our views? And have not you, the voter, a solemn duty to consider those views carefully and without prejudice? We are sure that we have that right, and that you have that duty: a duty to remember that you vote not only for yourself but also on behalf of many fellow-South Africans who are denied the franchise.

Neither the Nationalist Party nor the United Party represent or are supported by the African National Congress. They both stand for a narrow policy of racialism and racial domination. We who stand for a broad and true South Africanism extending to all in our country, irrespective of race or colour, can never accept or support the policy of either party.

But we must say that never since Union have our people suffered such hardships, humiliations, and sheer brutality as we have had to undergo during the past ten years of Government by the Nationalist Party. Both in the towns and in the rural areas we have known no peace; people have been removed in their thousands and in their tens of thousands, their homes and their families broken up. While prices have gone up, our wages have been pegged down and our poverty has become desperate.

Every door through which we might have sought advancement, culture and a higher civilization has been slammed in our faces. Our schools are being turned into schools for ignorance, tribalism and servitude. The universities are being closed to us. Any sphere of employment other than ill-paid unskilled labour is being closed to us. Every means of legitimate national expression and protest is being closed to us. Our leaders and spokesmen are arrested banned, deported and silenced.

Where can this road lead our country, South Africa? We see the crime rate rising day by day. Savage punishments, whippings and floggings will not stop it rising - for the crime has its roots in the slums and the poverty, the hopelessness and frustration in which the people are living.

We see unrest and disturbances occurring more and more widely and frequently. It is not the African National Congress or the "agitators" which are responsible for these things, nor will more repressions, bannings and police terror prevent them. They are signs of deep discontent, of something profoundly wrong in the way in which our people are treated.

You may have been led to believe that our Congress is anti-white, that it is a reckless organization out to stir up racialism. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are a serious and responsible minded body of men and women, and our aim, as we have stated many times, is neither White supremacy nor Black supremacy, but a common South African multi-racial society, based upon friendship, equality of rights and mutual respect.

The Nationalist Party, with its policy of blatant oppression and racialism, is however, creating a legacy of bitterness and hatred which, if it is allowed to continue, we shall all of us live to regret. And it is not only as Africans, but also as fellow-South Africans, deeply concerned with the future of our country and all who live in it, that we speak to you on the eve of this crucial election. We trust most earnestly that you will heed our message.

Yours, in the service of South Africa.

African National Congress


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