Letter To Prof. D. D. T. Jabavu, July 4, 1940

It has come to my knowledge that the All African Convention, of which you are the President, has been convened to meet at Bloemfontein on the seventh of this month to discuss the all-important question of War and the manner in which the African people could render their support to the prosecution of the war efforts of the British and the Union Governments.

In your capacity as the president, the Conference shall naturally look to you for guidance, and the course and the eventual outcome of its deliberations will depend to some, if not to a large, extent on the line of policy that you shall outline before it in your presidential address.

As a non-European and as one who is profoundly convinced that the future of the non-European people of this country depends on the coming together of the African, the Coloured, the Indian and the Malay into one solid and powerful organisation which would be capable of giving an honest and bold lead to them, I take this liberty of placing before you certain observations for your consideration so that they may not escape your attention, though I have not the least doubt that your longer experience and maturer years must have steeled you to face all the complex problems of life in a calm and logical manner and to unravel them with an insight which is only born of experience and honest conviction.

The present war raises one question in the answer to which depends the attitude of the non-European peoples of this country. That question is what is this war all about. We have full knowledge of the events in the international field from the time of the conquest of Manchuria by Japanese imperialism in 1931 and the rise of Hitler to power in Germany up to the time of the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany and the declaration of war conjointly by Britain and France on the Third Reich last September and the subsequent swift and shocking events that followed in the wake of war that this is yet another imperialist war waged with all the ferocity and the brutality of which the imperialist machine (whether of imperialist Britain or Nazi Germany makes no difference) is capable of, to divide, distribute and hold the territories and colonial possessions of the imperialist Powers.

The Union Government as an integral part of the British Commonwealth of Nations, despite the opposition of a large number of the Afrikaans elements and without consulting the non-European people at all, has thrown in its lot with Britain in their war against Nazi Germany on the pretext that it is a war for Democracy and Justice and Independence of small nations. The question that the non-Europeans may well ask ourselves is "what has the Union Government done to institute and grant the democratic rights of citizenship to the non-European peoples". The pass and poll tax laws continue to sap the lifeblood of our brethren and unbearable conditions in locations, besides degrading the physical and mental vitality, continue to spread in its train the most dreaded infectious diseases like tuberculosis, venereal diseases, small-pox, typhus and a host of others; extremely low wages coupled with the high cost of living (it has risen considerably since the outbreak of war) and the uncivilised "Civilised White Labour Policy" continue to spread misery, starvation and unemployment among our people; and the denial of political franchise tends to keep us down at the lowest level of development. Thus the Union Government, although it professes to wage war for Democracy and Justice, has not made the slightest effort to lighten the burden of oppression which weighs so heavily on the shoulders of our people. This in itself is a clear manifestation of the "no change" policy adopted and pursued by the Government of the country. The words "Democracy" and "Justice" are very cleverly used by the powers that be to mislead public opinion of this country, and so accumulate as much cannon-fodder as possible in order to carry on the war for imperialism and all that it implies.

However much we may detest the brutality and arrogance of Nazism, we cannot, nevertheless, allow the iron heel and infernal machine of imperialism to go on crushing the vitality, blood and life of our people.

The time has come for the non-European peoples to assert their mighty power of mass unity to attain the natural rights of citizenship which have been so ruthlessly and systematically denied to them by the successive Governments of this country.

My contact with our peoples, particularly our African brethren,has convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are conscious of the way in which they are exploited to make the European capitalists rich and powerful and they are also conscious of the task before them... that of freeing themselves from the bondage of imperialist slavery. What they need most of all at the present moment is a strong,honest and realist leadership which could and would express in sincere and scientific manner the will of the non-European people as a whole.

And now the All African Convention has been afforded an opportunity of giving that much expected and much wanted leadership to its people...The non-European peoples all over South Africa, in town and village,in workshop and farm, look to their leaders who are meeting shortly at Bloemfontein, to lay down an active and vigorous policy which shall demand the immediate abolition of the Pass and Poll Tax and all the other suppressive and colour-bar laws, and lay down a policy which shall outline a practical programme for economic and political emancipation of the people.

I make this appeal to you in the name of the sacred cause of all non-European peoples to give that lead and thus redeem the confidence and trust that your people have so implicitly reposed in you during all these years.

I am sure that a right and militant lead given by you after a true evaluation of recent events and their significance would mark a great and historical step forward in the march of our people towards the goal of freedom and independence. Such a call would be taken up by the All African Convention and subsequently by all the non-European people of South Africa.

Dear Professor, I shall watch with keen interest, hope and expectancy your deliberations and decisions at Bloemfontein.

Wishing your conference every success.

Yusuf Mohamed Dadoo South Africa's Freedom Struggle: Statements, Speeches and Articles including Correspondence with Mahatma Gandhi