Apartheid over our Dead Bodies(1)

Speech by Yusuf Dadoo at Mass Welcome Meeting in Johannesburg Organized in His Honour by the Transvaal Passive Resistance Council on His Release from Prison In July 1948

I am deeply touched by the warm welcome which you have accorded me here this afternoon. I know that this welcome of yours is but an indication of the united stand of the Indian people against the Ghetto Act, against all measures of discrimination which are inflicted upon the Indian people of this country. I also take it as your tribute to the gallantry and heroism of those men and women who for the last two years elected to suffer rather than submit to oppression. I also take it that it Is your tribute to the number of women who played such a splendid part in the struggle during the last two years. I must add that without those number of efforts of our women, our struggle would not have reached the stage which it eventually managed to reach. It was the hard silent work carried on day after day and night after night by our women that had contributed to a large extent in making our struggle successful.

Dr. Naicker and I return and are with you again after a period of four and a half months. During those four and a half months a great deal has happened, great changes have taken place.

During the last four and a half months the high walls of prison had cut us off completely from the outside world. We did not know what was happening in South Africa. We only knew of the food we got, the work we had to do and the cold we had to bear. During those four and a half months the leadership of the Natal and Transvaal Indian Congresses and the Joint Passive Resistance Council was called upon to take decisions to meet with the demands of the situation.

I would like to make it quite clear that during the last four and a half months, Dr. Naicker and I had nothing to do whatsoever with any decision taken by the Transvaal or Natal Indian Congress or by the Joint Passive Resistance Council. I make this quite clear because of the reports circulated in some papers. It Is not possible in South African jails to consult us. There is a specific regulation for those who come to visit us and we are not allowed to discuss political matters. No consultations took place.

Full confidence in Joint Council

As far as Dr, Naicker and I are concerned, we had and have the fullest confidence in the leadership of the Transvaal and Natal Congresses and the Joint Passive Resistance Council. Whatever decisions they had to take in those circumstances they were justified in doing so.(2)

Since coming out we had some time and opportunity to catch up with events and make a study of what has taken place in South Africa, and as a result of whatever we have been able to gather, on the facts that we have had at our disposal, we must try and analyse the situation as it exists today.

Important events

As far as South Africa is concerned, two important events have taken place in the last two or three months.

Firstly, the great People's Assembly which assembled here in Johannesburg, representing vast masses of the Non-European people of the Transvaal and Orange Free State - representatives of more people than those who voted in the Transvaal and Orange Free State in the last General Election - declared quite clearly to the South African Government that as far as the vast masses o! the people are concerned, they demand immediately and now full franchise for all sections of the South African population; that this country faces a very dark future unless the franchise Is extended to all sections of the population. To my mind, it was a very important and momentous event.

The other very important event was the coming into power of the Nationalist Party. These two important events must be analysed. What is the future of South Africa? But in doing so it is necessary to have before you a general idea of what is happening in the outside world. South Africa cannot escape the repercussions of events outside her frontiers. What is happening to Greece, Berlin, Palestine or Malaya must be understood quite clearly by the people of South Africa. It is necessary for every South African to have a clear conception of what is taking place In the outside world because without that we cannot map out the policy for South Africa.

Two camps

We must take into consideration that the international world today is divided into two camps. On the one hand we have a democratic peoples' camp and on the other we have the imperialist camp. These are the two camps. The democratic peoples' camp represents the vast masses of the people throughout the world. This camp is headed by the Soviet Union which had to bear the major brunt in the war against fascism which wanted to dominate the world, and in fact remnants of which we still find today in this country. The Soviet Union ha emerged from this war as the most important Power in this world. It has stood before the peoples of the world as a champion of democracy. Also included in this democratic peoples' camp are the new democracies of Europe, the new democracies set up in Eastern Europe after the war where, by the united efforts of the workers, the peasants and the middle classes, the exploiters have been expelled. These exploiters were the vested interests who acted as agents of imperialism in those countries. In this camp we find hundreds or millions of people of the colonial and semi-colonial countries, This camp stands for independence of all countries, world democratic peace and economic opportunities for all.

Imperialist camp

On the other hand we find the imperialist camp which is headed by aggressive American imperialism. This camp is on the defensive. It struggles to maintain imperialist domination. We can see what is happening in Greece and China and other countries. Aggressive American imperialism is trying, with the aid of money and arms, to dictate conditions and interfere with the internal affairs of other countries. That is the policy of the imperialist camp, a policy which leads to war.

As far as South Africa is concerned, the South African Government stood inside the imperialist camp. The consequences of such a policy will affect every man and woman in this country. We must know the consequences of such a policy. If these consequences are against the interests of the people, then that policy must be changed. We also see now that Dr. Malan and his Government support the imperialist camp. Because of that it will be the duty of every South African to see that such a foreign policy is changed by the Government of this country.

High priest of imperialism

General Smuts, the ex-Prime Minister, soon after delivering his country into the hands of the Nationalists, flew over to Britain. There, as the High Priest of Imperialism, he delivered an oration in which he warned the people of the dark menace of Communism. General Smuts talked of freedom! He who denied franchise to four-fifths of the population of his own country - he warned the world of the menacing forces of Communism in Western Europe. So General Smuts, the spokesman for the Imperialist camp, talks of freedom of the people. And just the other day Dr. Malan went to a function to celebrate American Independence Day and there Dr. Malan praised American imperialism as a great saviour of mankind.

Nationalist Government due to United Party

This policy is detrimental to the interests of South Africa. We have had a change of Government in this country from the United Party to the Nationalist Party. It was a surprise. But if the Nationalists have assumed power then it is the logical outcome of the rotten policies pursued by General Smuts and his United Party Government. Their policy of repressing the Non-European people, cheap labour, colour bars and Ghetto Acts was a policy of segregation. If General Smuts and the United Party stand for segregation, then who is more capable than the Nationalist Party of putting that policy into effect? This we must understand quite clearly because on it will be based the future policy of South Africa. On this basis Dr. Malan and his Government have come into power.

Joint Council decision

When Dr. Malan and his Government came into power, the Joint Passive Resistance Council had to decide as to what the future policy of the Passive Resistance Movement was to be. So they took a decision that in view of the change of Government, we must await a pronouncement of Governmental policy on the Indian question. That policy has not yet been forthcoming but in keeping with the tenets of Satyagraha the Indian people had to suspend temporarily the Passive Resistance Movement.

The Passive Resistance Council acted wisely in temporarily suspending the movement, but it must be made quite clear that that must not be taken as a pretext for complacency, as an excuse that all is well as far as the Indian people is concerned. We have the declared policy of the Nationalists before us on the question of the Non-European people.

We would like to warn the Nationalist Government that South Africa can ill afford at the present moment to incur the hostility of two great countries like India and Pakistan. On the other hand friendly relations with India and Pakistan can be of great economic boon to South Africa,

Deepening crisis

But we must not be lulled into a false sense of security. The hour has struck now. New dangers are facing South Africa - the crisis is deepening and we will have to act. How are we going to act - that is the question we must discuss and decide. That is the question we will have to answer - on this question will depend the future of South Africa. We have seen the actions and policies of the Nationalist Government. We have heard the utterances of Ben Schoeman, Minister of Labour. He says that it is a declared policy of the present Government not to allow Africans and Non-Europeans to do skilled work, not to recognise African trade unions and give them their right to collective bargaining which they have given to the European people. It is a direct interference in the freedom the workers enjoy. On the pretext that the Government has to ensure that the trade unions conduct their affairs in a democratic manner, Mr. Ben Schoeman is planning direct State interference in the trade union movement. Mr. Erasmus, Minister of Defence, has declared that the non-European military corps is going to be disbanded, that there is going to be a Platteland Army. The purpose of this army, according to Mr. Erasmus, is internal security, The real reason is to use this armed force for the suppression of all legitimate aspirations of the people for freedom.

Donges` pronouncements

Dr. Donges, Minister of the Interior, has also made certain pronouncements on Indian policy. He said that as far as the Nationalist Government is concerned, at the first opportunity they are going to repeal Section 2 of the Ghetto Act, that section which deals with communal franchise. When this franchise was given to the Indian people, the Indian people unanimously, with a united voice, declared their total opposition to communal representation and I am sure that that policy still stands as far as the Indian people are concerned. Communal representation is not going to satisfy the Indian people. It is an insult to the honour and integrity of the Indian people. But when Dr. Donges says that they are going to repeal this section of the Act, they are not going to do so because they agree with the policy of the Indian people. Dr. Donges and his Government do so because of a reactionary motive.

Grave danger

From all these utterances come out the facts that important changes in high offices, Defence Department, are being conducted by the Nats. Today, they constitute a grave danger to the people of South Africa and as far as the Indian people are concerned, the Nationalist Party's rotten policy put before South Africa is known to us all. They declare that the Indian people are outlandish.

We the Indian people - a quarter of a million Indian people born in South Africa - we whose home is in South Africa - we who are the sons of the soil, we who have contributed our share in the prosperity and making of South Africa, we are declared outlandish elements. We say to the Government of South Africa, South Africa is our home cradle, and South Africa will be our grave - no one dare put us out.

If the Indian people are repatriated, then what of other sections of the population tomorrow? What of the Jews, the English people? Let us make it quite clear that we are South Africans - we are going to stay in South Africa and we are going to play our part in making South Africa a progressive and democratic State.

Time to act

That is the most important path before us. It is no use making speeches, the time has come in South Africa for everyone to act and here we must all act together. Now we must talk of a Democratic People's Front in South Africa. We must bring it about in this country--it must include not only Indians, Africans and Coloureds but the vast masses of the Europeans as well.

The Democratic People's Front is absolutely vital and necessary at the present stage of South Africa. It must fight for the preservation of democracy in South Africa or else we are doomed.

Communist bogey

We must be very careful because the Government is using a bogey. The Communist bogey is the highest political fraud perpetrated by any Government or any Party because it is done with the criminal intent to destroy the cherished principles of democracy and the democratic way of life. When they talk of crushing the Communist menace they do not mean what you mean by Communism. Under the guise of this Communist bogey, they want to come down on the legitimate organisations of the European and Non-European people, organisations which fight for democratic rights of the people.

There is no such menace. If Communism exists, it exists as the legitimate movement of the people because they fight for democracy, for a happy South Africa for all, but when Dr. Malan and Smuts talk about the Communist menace, they use it as the thin edge of the wedge to divide the people first and then go on to a further oppression of the vast masses of the people.

Meaning of apartheid

They want to tell us, the Non-Europeans, that they are going to put us into separate compartments in our own interests. The application of the policy of apartheid can only mean further repression and oppression for the Non-European people of this country. Policy of apartheid means creating by brute force a permanent force of cheap migratory labour for the mines and on the farms. That is apartheid.

In order to bring about this policy greater force and greater violence will be used and eventually the outcome of such a policy can only lead to a fascist police State in South Africa. That is a danger which is inherent in allowing the present policy to continue and therefore what we require at the present moment is a Democratic People's Front on a minimum programme.


It will consist of a programme which must include such fundamental demands as Votes for All. The right of all workers to organise, to skilled jobs, freedom of movement of the people, repeal of colour bar laws, Pass Laws, Ghetto Act, a minimum living wage for ail, homes for all - these are some of the vital demands which affect every section of our multi-racial population. These are the demands on which a Democratic People's Front must be started. Under these demands the people must go into action in order to save the country from the attacks on their rights and for the bringing about of a democratic State in this country.

These demands must be carried into effect and therefore I wish to make an appeal, first to the African National Congress as the National movement of the African people. I make an appeal to the leadership that they must have the courage to come out on such a declared policy and work for it and if such leadership is found wanting then those leaders must be ousted and the African national movement must be placed in the hands of a progressive leadership which enjoys the confidence of the masses.

I say to the Natal Indian Organisation and the Transvaal Indian Organisation, that they must fold up their organisations at the present moment. They must come within the ranks of the legitimate organisations of the Indian people, of the Transvaal and Natal Indian Congresses. There is no time at the present moment for the Natal Indian Organisation and the Transvaal Indian Organisation. In asking for an interview with Dr. Malan they say that their organisation excludes communists. They have sunk to the lowest level. It means that they are saying to Dr. Malan "We are with you." Such a policy is not only a great danger to the Indian people; such a policy is suicide for the Indian community. There is no time for such organisations to exist at the present moment.

We the Indian people demand that if you want to become leaders of the people you must serve the people. I say to the leaders of the Coloured people, that the time has come for them to see where they sit. I say to the members of the C.A.C.(3) when they talk so much about Coloured rights, they still sit in the chairs of the C.A.C. The time has come when they must come out and challenge the rotten policy pursued by the present Government of attacking the political rights little as they are, of the Coloured people.

I say to those democratic organisations among the European people - they must not create the illusion in the minds of the European people that the United Party is pushing back the undemocratic attacks of Malan. This is all nonsense. The time has come for European democrats to come out if they want to save democracy.

The hour has struck for serious and hard work. The time has come when on this policy we must go forward. That is the only policy which at the present moment can meet the dangers which face us in this country. We have vast and progressive forces throughout the world. If we can unite the progressive forces in South Africa we can beat back the reactionary forces in this country. Let us not panic. We have the strength and power in our hands if we act rightly. It may entail suffering and sacrifice and plenty of hard work, but we must realize that these reactionary forces can be defeated and must be defeated in South Africa. On those lines, we must go forward. My warning to the people, both Europeans and Non-Europeans, is this :

In the present circumstances, either we hang together or we hang separately. That is the question before South Africa.

That is the lesson which every democrat in South Africa must learn at the present moment.

Finally, in thanking you for this warm reception which you have given me, I would like to express my fullest confidence in the ability, in the strength, of the vast masses of the European and Non-European people to prevent fascism, attacks on the rights and liberties which exist today and in order to move forward to democracy for all. And I have the confidence in the ability and strength of the masses, to say to the tyrants that be that democracy for all or apartheid and fascism over our dead bodies.


(A joint appeal to all "suppressed" people in South Africa, whether European or Non-European, to form a United Front to fight for full democratic rights, was made by Drs. Yusuf Dadoo and G.M. Naicker, respectively Presidents of the Transvaal Indian Congress and the Natal Indian Congress, at a function in Cape Town in July 1948.)

Dr. Dadoo said Indians all over the Union were now faced with the question of what to do next. The Passive Resistance Movement had been temporarily suspended and a new Government was in power.

Both he and Dr. Naicker had just been released from gaol and they were both convinced that the present Nationalist regime would take even more drastic steps to suppress not only the Indians but all Non-Europeans.

By their courageous struggle the Indians had already nullified the effect of the Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Act. The Passive Resistance Movement had opened the eyes of other oppressed peoples as to what could be achieved by resisting the onslaught on human rights.

Furthermore, the Indians in South Africa had won the support of freedom-loving people outside South Africa and at the next session of the United Nations Organisation stronger steps than ever would be taken to fight their case.

The Nationalists` apartheid policy for the Indians was the logical outcome of the United Party's segregation programme but because the leaders of the United Party did not make their intentions clear, the electorate fell for apartheid which, to the followers of Dr. Malan, meant bigger and cheaper labour reservoirs.

Cape Indians

Indian leaders also expected the Nationalist Government soon to make an attempt to introduce the Ghetto Act in the Cape. For that reason Cape Indians must stand together to resist with all their power.

The move of the new Minister of Defence to build up a Platteland Army was just another step, under the pretext of a so-called Communist threat, to suppress Non-Europeans even more.

The Coloured people could expect measures to deprive them of their right to have their names on the common voters' rolls and if the members of the Coloured Advisory Council realised what was happening, they must resign and lead their people against the threat to their freedom. Similar threats were hanging over the heads of the African people.

Task of Non-Europeans

In view of all these dangers for Non-Europeans, said Dr. Dadoo, there was only one course - to fight with the utmost determination, but also with responsibility, until white South Africa realised that the Non-Europeans would never give in until they were given full freedom.

"We Indians," he said, "have only South Africa as a home and nobody is going to throw us out. We want to live here and help to build up our homeland, but we cannot live without liberty."

"We look forward with confidence, for although we know that many hardships and sacrifices await us, we also know that history is on our side and that in the end we must achieve our object."


Joint statement by Dr. G.M. Naicker, President of the Natal Indian Congress, and Dr. Y. M. Dadoo, President of the Transvaal Indian Congress, on the decision of the Government of India to raise the South African Indian question again before the United Nations General Assembly

The Indian people of South Africa welcome this step on the part of the Government of India as being most opportune and timely in view of the present political situation in South Africa.

South Africa can ill afford to incur the hostility of two great countries like India and Pakistan. On the other hand, friendly relations with them can be a great boon to the economic welfare of this country.

The Indian people of South Africa hope that the Union Government will act in terms of the United Nations Assembly's resolution and bring about an honourable solution of the Indian question, failing which they hope that the United Nations will act with dispatch on the recommendations proposed by the Government of India in the interests of relations between the Union of South Africa and the Governments of India and Pakistan, and in the interests of world peace.

1 From: Passive Resister, Johannesburg, July 16, 1948

2 The Joint Passive Reistance Council suspended the Passive Resistance Campaign in June 1948 in order to consider the new situation following the election of a National Party Government.

3 Coloured Advisory Council

4 From: Passive Resister, Johannesburg, July 23, 1948

5 From: Passive Resister, Johannesburg, July 23, 1948


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