South African Congress of Democrats (COD)

The Torch Commando in action. © National Library of South Africa, Cape Town Campus. Cape Times Negative Collection.

In 1952, Whites who identified themselves with the aspirations of those who participated in the Defiance Campaign formed the South African People's Congress. The following year, the South African People's Congress met with the African National Congress (ANC), the South African Communist Party (SACP), the South African Indian Congress (SAIC), banned members of the Communist Party and other organisations in the Congress Alliance, with the view to form a Congress of Democrats (COD).

The ANC played a major role in the formation of the COD because it was felt that ANC policy should be publicised among Whites. During these consultations, it was consequently decided that the COD would form part of the Congress Alliance and would consist of Whites only. At this stage, ANC membership was not open to Whites and it was felt that the COD would have greater meaning if it took part in politics as the white wing of the Congress Alliance. As such, the COD never became a political party but remained a "small and strictly secondary wing of the Congress Movement" with the aim of attaining full human rights, as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as political rights for all South Africans.

With the founding of the COD, many members of the banned Communist Party joined the organisation. The organisation, however, was never communist in nature. It was a small movement, which never had more than 700 members, but it was very energetic and took part in every campaign of the Congress Alliance until it was banned in September 1962.

The importance of the COD in the struggle against apartheid was that it showed that there were Whites in South Africa who were also opposed to the apartheid policies of the National Party Government and who wanted to play a part in the liberation struggle. Furthermore, the COD also stimulated political debate in White community.

The South African Congress of Democrats (COD) was aligned to the following organisations:

  • African National Congress (ANC)
  • South African Communist Party (SACP)
  • South African Indian Congress (SAIC)

Last updated : 05-Jul-2018

This article was produced by South African History Online on 30-Mar-2011

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