I am writing to you in the name of the African people of the Union of South Africa, on the authority of the National Action Council set up by the All-in African Conference held in Pietermaritzburg on March 25th and 26th of this year. That conference was attended by 1,500 delegates from town and country in the Union, representing 145 political, religious, social, sporting and cultural associations. It met to consider a matter as important for your future as it is for ours-the decision of the Union government to proclaim a Republic on 31st May.
Neither your people nor ours have been consulted in this decision. The decision has been reached by a small majority vote of the white community only. It is designed to free the hands of the Verwoerd government so that it can intensify its policies of race discrimination and oppression against all of us, whether we live in the Union or in South West Africa.
The All-in Conference declared its total opposition to any form of government which relies on force alone to maintain a system of white supremacy. It called on the Union government to convene a National Convention before May 31st, composed of elected representatives of all the peoples of South Africa, with full powers to draw up and decide upon a new, democratic constitution for a multiracial South Africa.
Conference further decided that, if the government failed to call this Convention, countrywide demonstrations would be held on the eve of the Republic, against the Republic and against the Verwoerd government. Conference called on all sections of the population, White, Coloured and Asian to refuse to cooperate in any way with the proposed Republic or with any form of white supremacist government. It called on the peoples and the governments of the world not to recognise or have any dealings with the Republic, and to apply sanctions against it.
The decisions of this conference have been acclaimed and greeted with enthusiasm by the people of South Africa. Its challenging resolution has become a stirring call to action. The people of this country are preparing for massive and stunning demonstrations against the Verwoerd government, and against the policy of white supremacy. These demonstrations will come to their full flower on May 29th, 30th and 31st.
Your future, no less than ours, is being decided by these actions on which we have embarked. Your people suffer perhaps even worse than ours under the tyranny of the Verwoerd government. Your leaders, like ours, are arrested, banished, imprisoned. Your organisations, like ours, are illegalised. Your homes, like ours, are snatched away, and your people, like ours, shifted from place to place to meet the whims of the masters of apartheid. Your movements and freedom, like ours, are everywhere chained to pass laws, imposed on your people and ours by Verwoerd's police force. The time has come to end this nightmare.
We, the African people of the Union, have always held the view that your people-like us-are ready to rule themselves, that you-like us-have the fundamental human right of deciding your own future, and claiming your own independence. We are striking out for these rights now! We ask you to join with us, to fight with us against the common enemy.
We are preparing now for a great blow against the Verwoerd government at the end of May! We call on you-the people of South West Africa. Act with us, at the same time, in whatever way your organisations decide! Let us go forward together to freedom!
In the name of the African people of the Union, I greet the people of South West Africa. The day of our liberation is dawning. Let us stand together like brothers, for liberty, for freedom and for independence.
N R MANDELA,
All-in African National Action Council
1. Leaflet issued by the All-in African National Council, signed by Mandela (April 1961) At this time, the country of Namibia was administered by South Africa. As 'South West Africa' the territory was represented in the Cape Town parliament by MPs voted for by a whites-only electorate, and had a South African administrator.
Some years later Mandela was to meet Andimba Herman Toivo ja Toivo and other Namibian leaders on Robben Island.