Letter dated 21 January 1952 from the African National Congress to Prime Minister D.F. Malan


P.O. Box 9207,
21st January 1952

The Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa,
House of Assembly,
Cape Town.


In terms of the resolution adopted by the 39th session of the African National Congress held at Bloemfontein we have been instructed to address you as follows:

The African National Congress was established in 1912 to protect the interests of the African people in all matters affecting them and to attain their freedom from all discriminatory laws whatsoever. To this end, the African National Congress has, since its establishment, endeavoured by every constitutional method to bring to the notice of the Government the legitimate demands of the African people and repeatedly pressed, in particular, their inherent right to be directly represented in Parliament, Provincial and Municipal Councils and in all Councils of State.

This attitude was a demonstration not only of the willingness and readiness of the African people to cooperate with the Government but also evidence of their sincere desire for peace, harmony and friendship amongst all sections of our population. As is well-known the Government through its repressive policy of trusteeship, segregation and apartheid and through legislation that continues to insult and degrade the African people by depriving them of fundamental human rights enjoyed in all democratic communities, have categorically rejected our offer of cooperation. The consequence has been the gradual worsening of the social, economic and political position of the African people and a rising tide of racial bitterness and tension. The position has been aggravated in recent times by the Pass Laws, Stock Limitation, the Suppression of Communism Act of 1950, the Group Areas Act of 1950, the Bantu Authorities Act of 1951 and the Voters' Act of 1951.

The cumulative effect of this legislation is to crush the national organisations of the oppressed people, to destroy the economic position of the people and to create a reservoir of cheap labour for the farms and the gold mines, to prevent the unity and development of the African people towards full nationhood and to humiliate them in a host of other manners.

The African National Congress as the national organisation of the African people cannot remain quiet on an issue that is a matter of life and death to the people; to do so would be betrayal of the trust and confidence placed upon it by the African people.

At the recent Annual Conference of the African National Congress held in Bloemfontein from the 15th to 17th December, 1951 the whole policy of the Government was reviewed and after serious and careful consideration of the matter, Conference unanimously resolved to call upon your Government, as we hereby do, to repeal the aforementioned Acts by NOT LATER THAN THE 29TH DAY OF FEBRUARY, 1952, failing which the African National Congress will hold protest meetings and demonstrations on the 6th day of April 1952 as a prelude to the implementation of the plan for the defiance of unjust laws.

In the light of the Conference resolution we also considered the statement made by the Prime Minister at Ohrigstad on the 5th instant in which he appealed to all sections of our population, irrespective of colour and creed, to participate in the forthcoming Jan Van Riebeeck Celebrations. It is our considered opinion that the African people cannot participate in any shape or form in such celebrations, unless the aforementioned Acts which constitute an insult and humiliation to them are removed from the Statute Book.

We firmly believe that the freedom of the African people, the elimination of the exploitation of man by man and the restitution of democracy, liberty and harmony in South Africa are such vital and fundamental matters that the Government and the public must know that we are fully resolved to achieve them in our lifetime.

The struggle which our people are about to begin is not directed against any race or national group but against the unjust laws which keep in perpetual subjection and misery vast sections of the population. In this connection, it is a source of supreme satisfaction to us to know (that) we have the full support and sympathy of all enlightened and honest men and women, black and white, in our country and across the seas and that the present tension and crises have been brought about not by the African leaders but by the Government themselves.

We are instructed to point out that we have taken this decision in full appreciation of the consequences it entails and we must emphasise that whatever reaction is provoked from certain circles in this country, posterity will judge that this action we are about to begin was in the interest of all in our country, and will inspire our people for long ages to come.

We decide to place on record that for our part, we have endeavoured over the last forty years to bring about conditions for genuine progress and true democracy.

Yours faithfully,

(Signed) Dr. J.S. Moroka

W. M. Sisulu

Letter dated 29 January 1952 from the Private Secretary to the Prime Minister to the A.N.C.


Cape Town, 29th January 1952

Dear Sir,

I am directed to acknowledge the receipt of your undated letter addressed to the Prime Minister and to reply as follows:

It is noted that your submission is framed in terms of a resolution adopted at its recent session in Bloemfontein of the "African National Congress". Resolutions adopted by the African National Congress at its annual meetings were, in the past, sent to and dealt with by the Minister of Native Affairs and his Department. On this occasion, however, there has been a definite departure from the traditional procedure in as much as you have addressed yourself directly to the Prime Minister in order to present him with an ultimatum. This new approach is probably accounted for by the recent rift or purge in Congress circles, after which it is doubtful whether you can claim to speak authoritatively on behalf of the body known to the Government as the African National Congress.

The Prime Minister is, however, prepared to waive this point and to reply to various points raised by you and also to your ultimatum as he feels that the Government's attitude in the matter should be clearly stated.

The first point which stands out clearly in your letter is that your organisation maintains that since 1912, although no Government in the past has even been able to consider this, the objective has been the abolition of all differentiating laws. It now demands such abolition as well as consequential direct representation in Parliament, provincial and municipal councils in all Provinces, and in all councils of state as an inherent right.

You will realise, I think, that it is self-contradictory to claim as an inherent right of the Bantu who differ in many ways from the Europeans that they should be regarded as not different, especially when it is borne in mind that these differences are permanent and not man-made. If this is a matter of indifference to you and if you do not value your racial characteristics, you cannot in any case dispute the European's right, which in this case is definitely an inherent right, to take the opposite view and to adopt the necessary measures to preserve their identity as a separate community.

It should be understood clearly that the Government will under no circumstances entertain the idea of administrative or executive or legislative powers over Europeans, or within a European community, to Bantu men and women, or to other smaller Non-European groups. The Government therefore, has no intention of repealing the long existing laws differentiating between European and Bantu.

You demand that the Union should no longer remain a State controlled by the Europeans who developed it to the advantage of all groups of the population. You demand that it should be placed under the jurisdiction of the Bantu, Indian and other non-European groups together with Europeans without any distinction whatsoever, and with no restriction on the possible gradual development of a completely mixed community. Nevertheless you apparently wish to create the impression that such demands should be regarded as a generous gesture of goodwill towards the European community of this country. It is quite clear that the opposite is true. This is not a genuine offer of cooperation, but an attempt to embark on the first steps towards supplanting European rule in the course of time.

Racial harmony cannot be attained in this manner. Compliance with such demands must inevitably lead to disaster for all population groups. Not only temporary racial tension, due to misunderstanding, but worse would follow, and the Bantu would suffer first and most. For instance, if the latter were to be exposed to full competition, without their present protection, they would soon lose the land now safeguarded and being increased for them. The masses would suffer misery indeed, if they lost the many privileges which the Union of South Africa - in contrast to other countries - provides for them. They would pay the price in order to satisfy the political ambitions of the few who are prepared to tear loose from the background of their own nation. The road to peace and goodwill lies in the acceptance of the fact that separate population groups exist, and in giving each group the opportunity of developing its ambitions and capacities in its own area, or within its own community on its own lines, in the service of its own people.

Your third point is that the differentiating laws are of an oppressive and degrading nature. This again is a totally incorrect statement. The laws are largely of a protective nature. Even those laws which are regarded as particularly irksome by the Bantu people, have not been made in order to persecute them, but for the purpose of training them in the performance of those duties which must be fully observed by all who wish to claim rights. The fact that you refer to a betterment law (Stock Limitation) as being one of the oppressive laws, is a clear indication of your failure to understand that the function of such laws is to protect the interests and the land of the Bantu Community, both present and in future.

It is even more significant that you should condemn the Bantu Authorities Act, which was designed to give the Bantu people the opportunity for enlightened administration of their own affairs in accordance with their own heritage and institutions, adapted to modern conditions. It should be clearly understood that while the Government is not prepared to grant the Bantu political equality within the European community, it is only too willing to encourage Bantu initiative, Bantu service and Bantu administration within the Bantu community, and there to allow the Bantu full scope for all his potentialities.

I must, now, refer to your ultimatum. Notwithstanding your statement that your Congress has taken the decision to present its ultimatum to the Government in full appreciation of the consequences it entails, the Prime Minister wishes to call your attention to the extreme gravity of pursuing the course indicated by you. In the interests of the Bantu he advises you to reconsider your decision. Should you adhere to your expressed intention of embarking on a campaign of defiance and disobedience to the Government, and should you in the implementation thereof incite the Bantu population to defy law and order the Government will make full use of the machinery at its disposal to quell any disturbances and, thereafter, deal adequately with those responsible for inciting subversive activities of any nature whatsoever.

The Prime Minister has instructed me to urge you to let wiser counsels prevail and to devote your energies to constructive programmes of development for the Bantu people. This can be done by the opportunities offered by the Government for building up local Bantu government and administration within all spheres of Bantu life.

This could be cooperation in the real sense of the word. Your organisation could render a lasting service to the Bantu population of South Africa, by helping the Government to carry out this programme of good-will. The Prime Minister trusts that you will take these words to heart, and that you will decide to work for the welfare of your people in a constructive way.

(Signed) M. AUCAMP
Private Secretary

The Secretary,
The African National Congress,
P.O. Box 9207,

Letter dated 11 February 1952 from the African National Congress to Prime Minister Malan


P.O. Box 9207,

11th February 1952

The Honourable the Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa,
House of Assembly,
Cape Town.


We, the undersigned, have the honour to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 29th January 1952.

The National Executive of the African National Congress, at a special conference convened for the purpose, has given careful consideration to the contents of your letter, and has instructed us to address you as follows:

It is noted that exception is taken in your letter to the fact that the resolution adopted by the African National Congress at its 1951 Conference was directed to the Prime Minister instead of the Minister of Native Affairs and his Department. The African National Congress has at no time accepted the position that the Native Affairs Department is the channel of communication between the African people and the State. In any event, the subject of our communication to you was not a Departmental matter but one of such general importance and gravity affecting the fundamental principles of the policy practised by the Union Government, and its effect on the relations between Black and White, that it was considered appropriate to bring these matters directly to the notice of the Prime Minister. The suggestion that we were actuated by a so-called "recent rift or purge in Congress circles" is without foundation and entirely beside the point in so far as the substance of our case is concerned.

In reply to our demand for the abolition of differentiating laws, it is suggested in your letter that there are "permanent and not man-made" differences between Africans and Europeans which justify the maintenance of these laws. The question at issue is not one of biological differences, but one of citizenship rights which are granted in full measure to one section of the population, and completely denied to the other by means of man-made laws artificially imposed, not to preserve the identity of Europeans as a separate community, but to perpetuate the systematic exploitation of the African people.

The African people yield to no one as far as pride of race is concerned, and it is precisely for this reason that they are striving for the attainment of fundamental human rights in the land of their birth.

It is observed that your Government rejects out of hand our claim for direct representation in Parliament and other Councils of State. This is the kernel of the policy of apartheid which is condemned not only by the African, Indian and Coloured people, but also by a large section of White South Africa. It is precisely because of this policy that South Africa is losing caste in international circles.

Your letter suggests that the policy of your Government is motivated by a desire to protect the interests of the African people in various spheres of life, e.g., land rights, and unspecified privileges not enjoyed by them in other countries. The Reserve land policy has always been designed to protect European rather than African land rights, and even within the so-called Reserves, Africans hold only occupancy privileges at the discretion of the Government. These Reserves are notoriously congested and overcrowded, and the so-called rehabilitation scheme, notwithstanding the protestations of just intentions with which it is camouflaged, has aggravated the misery of the people and rendered thousands destitute and homeless, and has exposed them to vexatious regimentation by Native Commissioners petty Trust officials. In this connexion we note that even the Native Laws Amendment Bill, which is now before Parliament, in spite of all its harsh and draconian provisions has been described as a "protective" measure. There can be no doubt that, like similar measures passed hitherto, this Bill is intended to protect and advance the interests of Europeans and not those of Africans. It is those discriminatory laws that are preventing the African people from developing their ambitions and capacities, and along lines satisfactory to themselves.

As far as the Bantu Authorities Act is concerned, it is clear that this Act is part of the policy to which we are opposed, namely, that "the Government is not prepared to grant the Africans political equality", and is not, as you suggest, "designed to give the Africans the opportunity of enlightened administration of their own affairs". Nothing contained in the Bantu Authorities Act can be a substitute for direct representation in the Councils of State.

With reference to the campaign of mass action which the African National Congress intends to launch, we would point out that as a defenceless and voteless people, we have explored other channels without success. The African people are left with no alternative but to embark upon the campaign referred to above. We desire to state emphatically that it is our intention to conduct this campaign in a peaceful manner, and that any disturbances, if they should occur, will not be of our making.

In reiterating our claim for direct representation, we desire to place on record our firm determination to redouble our efforts for the attainment of full citizenship rights. In conclusion we regret that the Prime Minister has seen fit to reject our genuine offer of cooperation on the basis of full equality, and express the hope that in the interest of all concerned the Government may yet reconsider its attitude.

(Signed) Dr. J. S. Moroka

W. M. Sisulu

Letter dated 20 February 1952 from the South African Indian Congress to Prime Minister Malan


P.O. Box 2948,

20th February 1952

The Honourable the Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa
House of Assembly,
Cape Town.


We, the undersigned, in terms of the resolution adopted at the 20th Conference of the South African Indian Congress, held at Johannesburg on the 25th, 26th and 27th January, 1952 are enjoined to address you as follows:

The South African Indian Congress, as the representative organisation and mouthpiece of the South African Indian community, has at all times striven to protect and safeguard the interests of the Indian people against discriminatory legislation and to ensure their honourable and legitimate share in the development and progress of the land of their birth and adoption, in common with all sections of the population, both white and non-white. In spite of all its attempts, however, the position of the Indians, together with the rest of the non-European people, has been rendered intolerable by the discriminatory laws of the country. Indeed, their position had become so precarious by the passing of the Asiatic Land Tenure Act of 1946 that the South African Indian Congress had no alternative but to embark on a Passive Resistance struggle as a protest, and to request the Government of India to raise this question at the United Nations Assembly.

It is to be noted that when a change of government took place as a result of the general elections of 1948 and your Government assumed office, the Passive Resistance struggle was suspended and an approach was made to you in your capacity as the Prime Minister for a statement of government policy.

This offer, as you may well recollect, was rejected and the Congress was informed through the Honourable the Minister of the Interior, Dr. Donges, that the Government was not prepared to grant the requested interview. This attitude was no doubt the outcome of the policy of your party as formulated in its election manifesto which laid the main stress on apartheid which meant the compulsory segregation of all non-European national groups into separate compartments or ghettoes, and which specifically stated: "The Party holds the view that Indians are a foreign and outlandish element which is unassimilable. They can never become part of the country and must therefore be treated as an immigrant community. The Party accepts as a basis of its policy the repatriation of as many Indians as possible and proposes a proper investigation into the practicability of such a policy on a large scale in cooperation with India and other countries".

The Group Areas Act, which the Prime Minister has claimed to be the "kernel" of apartheid, is a law which runs contrary to all the fundamental principles of democracy and of human rights. The enforcement of this Act will cause mass uprooting of the non-European people from areas and homes which they have acquired and built through the toil and sweat of many generations. The setting aside of Group Areas will mean to the non-European an end to all progress in every sphere of life. It will bring about economic retrogression and impoverishment with all its concomitant evils of crime and degradation. In so far as the Indian people are concerned, the Act is intended as a means of expelling them from this country (vide the Joint Departmental Committee's report on which the Group Areas Act is based). It is to be noted that even at this early stage of its enforcement untold damage has been done to the interests of the people. Their material and economic progress is coming to a halt and immovable properties and homes running into hundreds of thousands of pounds are in the process of being confiscated by the state in terms of the Act. The Minister of the Interior is using dictatorial powers by serving notices on many companies to sell their properties within a specified time, failing which the listed properties would be liable to forced sale by the State. Not only are privately owned properties affected but religious and public institutions communally acquired for the welfare of the community have also been served with such notices.

The Bantu Authorities Act is aimed at denying the African people their rightful role in the affairs of the country and rendering them ineffective as a political force. The purpose of the Act in granting controlled powers to the chiefs is to split up the African people into tribal groups which could beeffectively brought under rigid State control.

The purpose of the Suppression of Communism Act is to suppress the fundamental rights of the South African people to organise, to criticise, and to express by written or spoken word their opposition to any aspect of Government policy which they consider repugnant to them and anti-democratic. The way in which the arbitrary powers vested in the Minister of Justice have been used to attack the freedom of speech and of the press is already evident by the attempt to unseat a Member of Parliament and a Member of the Cape Provincial Council who were constitutionally elected to their offices, and by the Minister's threat to suppress the Guardian newspaper. It is apparent that this Act is intended to crush the activities of all democratic organisations and trade unions which are opposed to the apartheid and anti-democratic policies of your Government.

The Separate Representation of Voters Act is yet another apartheid measure which is depriving the Coloured voters of whatever limited franchise rights and effectiveness they possessed.

This brief summary of some of the main apartheid measures placed on the Statute Book by your Government will suffice to show that apartheid is primarily intended for the complete suppression of non-European people so as to procure an unlimited supply of cheap labour. With this purpose in mind the Government is endeavouring to divide forcibly the population of our country into separate racial groups and tribes. The policy of apartheid is anti-democratic, reactionary and contrary to the laws of natural development of history and can only be imposed by means of Fascist tyranny and unrestrained dictatorship. Indeed, not only have the non-European people become the victims of this policy but it has also encroached upon the rights and liberties of the European people as evidenced by the State interference with the freedom of individuals to travel abroad, with the freedom of the right of parents regarding their children's education, with the freedom of the press and with the freedom of trade unions to conduct their own affairs.

It is a fact of history that since your Government came into power, it has attempted to impose its apartheid policy with callous disregard for the feelings of the people and disastrous consequences to the country as a whole. Race relations have reached a most critical stage in our country's history. There has been unbridled incitement of race animosity and prejudice between the different population groups and unremitting race propaganda. There has been a steady increase in the use of violence and intimidation by the police and the occurrence of race riots hitherto unknown. There has been a constant tendency to place unlimited and arbitrary powers in the hands of the Ministers, powers which under the provisions of the various laws enacted by your Government are being used to crush the rights and liberties, particularly of the non-European people. There has been continuous impoverishment of the people with a steep and steady rise in the cost of living, with the brutal enforcement of the Pass Laws, the forcible deprivation of the African peasants of their only wealth, their cattle, and the further enslavement of the urban African population through the Native Laws Amendment Bill.

It was in this rapidly deteriorating situation that the Conference of the African National Congress resolved to adopt a plan of action to obtain the repeal of the Group Areas Act, the Bantu Authorities Act, the Suppression of Communism Act, the Separate Representation of Voters Act, the Pass Laws, and Regulations for the culling of cattle, as an immediate step to lessen the burden of oppression of the non-European people and to save our country from the catastrophe of national chaos and ever-widening conflicts. This plan of action was endorsed by the Conference of the South African Indian Congress which met in Johannesburg on January 25th, 26th and 27th, 1952. In terms of this decision we have been instructed to convey to you the full support of the South African Indian Congress to the call made upon your Government by the African National Congress for the repeal of the above-mentioned Acts, failing which the South African Indian Congress will participate with the African National Congress in holding protest meetings and demonstrations on the 6th day of April, 1952, as a prelude to the implementation of the Plan for the Defiance of Unjust Laws.

It is with abiding faith and calm confidence in the truth and justice of our cause and firm conviction in democratic ideals and principles that we made this supporting call notwithstanding the contents of your reply to the letter of the African National Congress.

We solemnly affirm that the Indian community of South Africa is South African and it shall live and work for the progress and prosperity of the country on the principles of equality of rights and opportunities for all sections of our population, irrespective of race, sex, colour or creed, and that it shall continue its firm alliance with the national organisations of the non-European people and all democracy-loving Europeans in the struggle for a Free and Democratic South Africa.

We unhesitatingly and emphatically state that our struggle is not directed against any national group, that we bear malice or illwill to none and that our struggle is solely against unjust laws.

The Indian people in South Africa bear the proud inheritance of the precepts and example of Mahatma Gandhi, of devotion to the cause of righteousness and truth, of courage and determination in the prosecution of peaceful struggles against injustice and oppression.

The non-European peoples cannot allow their own destruction by accepting apartheid - it would be a crime against man. Our ideal is clear, our duty is defined, and our efforts peaceful and our resolve not to succumb to the evils of apartheid unfaltering. In this historic era of greater democracy and of independence of peoples' rights (sic), both large and small, we in South Africa, too, are giving expression to the natural freedom urge and democratic rights of the people - for therein lies the true Pad van Suid Afrika.

In the interest of peace, humanity and the future well-being of our country and of our peoples, we expect that unbiased justice will prevail and that laws which offend the dignity of man and retard the progress of South Africa will be repealed.

(Signed) Y. M. DADOO

Joint Hon. Secretaries


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