From the book: Johnny Gomas Voice of the working class: A political Biography by Doreen Musson
Although out of active politics, Gomas observed with keen interest the sharp ideological battle that was raging between the Africanists and the Charterists within the ANC, interspersed with critiques from the NEUM. The anc had allied itself with other organisations in the ConÂgress Alliance. The latter consisted of the ANC, the South African InÂdian Congress (SAIC), the Coloured People's Congress (initially called the Coloured People's Organisation) and the Congress of Democrats. These organisations were based on colour differences which the ANC accepted as a fact of life. The demand for bourgeois democracy also allowed the ANC to make these alliances which represented vastly different class interests. The Africanists strongly opÂposed the Congress Alliance on the grounds that it was divisive. Under the guidance of Peter Raboroko, a Youth Leaguer and memÂber of the Africanist inner circle, an ad hoc grouping called the "Anti-Charterist Council" was formed. It was this grouping that eventually led the break-away from the ANC in 1958, to form the Pan African Congress (PAC). In a letter to the "Speaker" of the ANC Conference held at Orlando in November 1958 the break-aways claimed that they could not remain within an organisation which had adopted the Freedom Charter in defiance of the principles of African nationalism as embodied in the 1949 Programme of Action. And, they were breaking away "as the custodians of the ANC policy as it was formuÂlated in 1912 and pursued up to the time of the Congress Alliance".
The PAC criticised the presence of "whites" and "Indians" in the Congress Alliance because they would undermine the self-reliance of "Africans". They refused to accept the preamble and clause in the Freedom Charter that stated, "South Africa belongs to all who live in it black and white". South Africa had to be governed by Africans and whites that wished to remain would have to acknowledge this. The PAC would not guarantee minority rights because in a non-racial South Africa there would be no minority groups. This contrasted sharply with the multi-racialism of the ANC. The PAC did not go as far as detailed class analysis but they critically identified the white allies of the ANC as coming from the petty bourgeoisie and not from the white workers. The PAC also linked the South African struggle to other struggles in Africa much more than the ANC did.
Gomas identified himself with the basic tenets of Africanism. Like the PAC he looked to models in the Third World to find a solution to apartheid in South Africa. He was particularly inspired by the examples of Nkrumah's Ghana and Nasser's Egypt. Gomas, simplistically and without any qualms, applied these African models to South Africa. While he saw all whites, generally, as part of the oppressing nation, he did not apply the same logic to blacks: not all blacks were part of the oppressed nation; many blacks were actually "white" and acted in the interests of whites. This, Gomas claimed, applied especially to those classified coloured. He attacked R E Van der Ross for a speech he made at a public meeting in which Van der Ross pleaded for guarantees to be made to the "white minority group", in a new dispensation. "It is interesting," Gomas noted, "...to know how he (Van der Ross) would describe the guarantees of rights for the dispossessed [sic] Africans and subjugated Coloured group. It does seem rather that he represented the point of view of the white group ... Would Dr Van der Ross like to guarantee the white minority group to retain what they have i.e. would that mean the retention of the status quo? Then also, it would be very interesting to know where in this wide world would the democratic principle of government prevail, that the majority don't swamp the minority or that the minority are not subordinate to the will of the majority?"
The adoption of the Freedom Charter in Kliptown in 1955 induced Gomas to write in 1956:
The battle that is now raging in the ANC must finally decide whether it shall be led to decoy Africans, directed by whites, or by an independent African leadership. I am confident that the latter must sooner or later triumph. But it may happen that the stooges (largely unconsciously) will succeed in preventing an independent African leadership gaining control and may result in a split. Our so-called white comrades would sooner prefer that - thereby weaken or destroy the ANC. A similar battle has been going on in SACPO. The Indian Natal Congress is not so important and is otherwise in safe hands and toeing the 'line'. The political line and directions is decided on in Hillbrow and Orangesicht. That is where the Freedom Charter was formulated mainly and activity for its acceptance directed from. Apart from the fact that the FC was one of the finest programmes drawn up, the ANC only adopted it more than 12 months after.
In the above statement, Gomas was clearly concerned with what he saw as the undemocratic method employed by the Charterists in their determination, via the advisory co-ordinating council of the Congress Alliance, to get the Freedom Charter adopted; as well as with the questions of 'independent African leadership' and the role of what he termed 'stooges'. His views on these questions were profoundly influenced by his experiences in the CPSA, as well as by the Pan-African movements in Africa, Europe and the USA. One of the first works read by him during this period was George Padmore's 'Pan Africanism or Communism?' which was published in 1954. Included in his repertoire of literature at this time was International Opinion which was the mouthpiece of the International African Bureau, a small radical organisation in Britain. The Bureau sought to organise support and solidarity with colonial independence and labour struggles. Its leaders included C L R James and George Padmore. Gomas found no difficulty in identifying with Padmore's disillusionment with the Comintern in which he had formerly worked, which reflected much of his own difficulties with the Party in South Africa. Taking his cue from Padmore, he ascribed the failure of the CPSA to make a greater impact on blacks to tactical and psychological blunders. This thread runs throughout his Memoirs and his other writings of the period under review. Suffice it to say at this stage that Gomas, in the tradition of a Frantz Fanon (though there is no evidence that he had read Fanon), believed that the problem of colonialism and racism included not only the interrelations of objective historical conditions but also human attitudes toward these conditions. (This point is developed further in Chapters.).
From 1929 to 1935 his Party, the CPSA, did win a few hundred blacks to membership and it did awaken the sympathetic interest of the politically more advanced black workers and intellectuals, including those in the ANC. But the bureaucracy of the Party and the subservience of the 'black leaders' to the twists and turns of the Party Line were seen as an example of how blacks were used by whites for political purposes which had no bearing on the liberation struggle. With the 'People's Front Line' after 1935 the CPSA had openly become a party of bourgeois democracy. To exist and grow in this milieu it was forced to imbibe and practise some of the forms of racial discrimination inherent in South African society. It was forced for example to participate in the system of separate representation. On this question, Gomas wrote in 1956:
They never dream that non-whites should represent the whites in any institution, however. But as soon as there is a vacancy on any public body affecting the 'interests' of the non-whites, then we find any number of whites volunteering to be a staunch fighter for the rights of the non-whites. Every Dick, Tom and Harry (Harry is well up now) comes forward and swears to all that is sacred that he will fight with all in his power for the rights of non-whites. Irrespective whether the white candidate was a fighter or not, the fact remains: by offering to represent non-whites ipso facto supports white supremacy. In this way, the white who volunteers to sacrifice himself to represent non-whites is either blind to the degradation he imposes on non-whites or deliberately accepts the opportunity to perpetuate white domination or to enhance his personal interests.
It was thus not surprising that Gomas, who was especially susceptible to the manipulations and combinations of the Party Line and leadership in the 1930s, who stayed on when many other stalwarts had left, and whose only role in the 1940s was to publicly support CPSA candidates at elections, now adopted an aggressive black chauvinism. The very organisation that had fought against the nationalist tendencies of blacks, had actually fortified those tendencies in people like Gomas. He now re-affirmed the position that he had had in the 1930s: that the CPSA should have carried on an uncompromising struggle against the prejudices of the white workers, instead of against the embryonic nationalism of the black petty bourgeoisie and aspirant petty bourgeoisie. Like his new teachers (the ideological fathers to Pan-Africanism: Padmore, Richard Wright and especially Nkrumah whose successful bid for power in Ghana in 1957 played no small part in Gomas's re-education during this time) he stubbornly refused (or was unable) to understand the need for a strictly objective appraisal of the class forces and their alignments. He tended to evaluate events by a process of induction; generalising particular individual features and thus making uncertain conclusions. Splits in organisations were seen as caused by the interests of whites. Thus he wrote: "In the ICU left and right sections tried to please left and right white interests. The ANC leaders failed to make headway for the same reasons, more or less. The NLL too were split and subsequently died for the same reasons. Likewise the FRAC disappeared for the same reasons. How long will SACPO last?" As a pre-figurement of the Black Consciousness Movement of the 1970s Gomas set out re-educate himself in the 'values of Africa', an education which confirmed his demands for 'independent African leadership', self-reliance and non-collaboration with institutions (and persons) of oppression. Throwing overboard the class theory of the CPSA, he blamed the series of historic defeats suffered by the incipient black working class as well as petty bourgeoisie, on the "irreconcilable interest of black and white" and on the role of "stooges" and "quislings". On the question of stooges he wrote:
What kind of non-white persons can be willing to perform this degrading role? It can only be persons who are completely punch-drunk by the blows of white oppression suffered for generations and hopelessly demoralised. However such persons must again be made to feel unwanted in our midst ... The African and coloured leaders scrambled like dogs when the NRC and CAD were flung at them. Only the irredeemable, demoralised ones wilt speak commendably of this period in their careers.
On this score, Gomas aimed his venom particularly at the "lick-spittle Coloured middle-class". The coloured people, he claim, could never achieve strong political organisation "for the simple reason that they have always depended on white organisation's leadership". He was reiterating the stance of the NEUM on the 'slave mentality of the oppressed' when he wrote: If there is to be progress and democracy for the non-white people then this worship and acceptance of white superiority must be destroyed in the minds of the non-white people ... Therefore should the coloured people operate and support the Separate Representation Act for Coloured people to vote for white candidates, it will only mean setting in motion a process for further self-abasement. Nowhere else in the world are there people called upon to besmirch themselves as our 'friends and Comrades' are doing to us. Search all over the world and you will not find the like of a George Golding.
The elections of 1958 once again highlighted the hostility between the positions of the advocates and supporters of the policy of non-collaboration and those in favour of active participation in government institutions. At this election, the first white 'coloured representatives' were to be elected in terms of the Separate Representation of Voters' Act of 1956. SACPO, a member of the Congress Alliance, decided to support Piet Beyleveld, a white member of the COD, as 'coloured representative'. The result of the election was a resounding victory for the non-collaborationists and a blow for SACPO. "Of the 19 138 Coloured voters on the revised Coloured voters roll in 1958 (compared with 47 849 still on the "common" voters roll in 1954) under 20% voted. Of these votes, Beyleveld received a bare 813 as against Abe Bloomberg's 2 138!... By 1963 ... only Â± 10 000 voters, less than 5% of Coloureds eligible for the separate voters' roll, were registered, a fact which, typically, moved the Nats to make registration compulsory!".
A year earlier Gomas had privately warned against participation in the election and instead proffered Africanism as a solution. The coloureds, he advocated, who refused to become Africanists, must "clear out of Africa or be exterminated".
In response to the Africanist solution, a letter was published in the Golden City Post on 24 June, 1956 under the title "White Man's Conscience - A Cry from the Heart: What should I Do?" The writer, a white South African, put his/her question like this: "Given the facts, the hard facts of the racial situation as it is, what does the non-European think an individual European should do about it?" In the inevitable reply from Gomas, the old passion seemed to be returning; he was treading on familiar ground and regarded himself as competent "after 37 years in the movement for national liberation from white domination" to advise "any white man in South Africa". In order to convey the full spirit of the letter and since it evoked much criticism and condemnation, we will quote Gomas in full:
1. He must study and learn to understand that the white man's government in South Africa since its inception over 300 years ago was, to the Africans and subsequently to all non-whites, a nightmare of destruction to their human dignity and aspirations and that there can be no moral justification whatsoever for its continuance.
2. He must work among the white people to persuade them of the sacred justness of the black man's cause and to convince them that their display or acceptance of this practice of racial hatred against the non-whites are irrevocably inhuman.
3. He must not join non-white organisations for history shows South Africa, without a single exception, that a white presence in the same organisation with non-whites propagates and advances the interests and point of view of the whites, destroys initiative and self-confidence of non-whites and prevents the development of militant black leadership, free from the white man's interests and domination.
4. He must render whatever support and assistance lies in his power to the non-whites in their struggle towards progress and the achievement of democracy, without seeking any personal aggrandisement or expecting rewards.
5. He must learn to honour and respect the black man of Africa, for he is the harbinger of democracy, progress and peace. The white man's rule in Africa has proved the reverse.
He sent copies of this letter to newspapers and personalities, for example Eddie Roux and Patrick Duncan as well as to the Communist Party of Great Britain. The most heated response came from the editor of the CPSA mouthpiece, New Age, who asked Gomas three questions: Was he in favour of (1) the colour bar, (2) organisations in which black and white could meet a basis of equality and (3) the Industrial Conciliation Act?
The first question, Gomas stated, "reminds me what I have sea how white foremen kick non-white workers under the seat of their pants, then asks 'how do you like it?' I have personally experienced such kicks too. It hurts and is most undignifying. For 55 years I have suffered as a non-white under the oppression of the colour bar and for 37 years openly fought against it. Then a white man, who benefits against the millions of non-whites from the oppression of the colour bar, asks me 'how do you like it?'" To the second question Gomas gave an unhesitating and unequivocal no. As an answer to the third question, he reminded the Editor of "the history of trade unions" in South Africa, when, he claimed, whites had practised "without any qualms, apartheid in their unions - long before the existence of the I.C. Act."
In his response Roux succinctly re-emphasised his critique of the CPSA and assured Gomas that apart from a few reservations about Gomas's complete rejection of any contact between black and white and about the "innate virtues in a black skin", "I have," Roux replied "for a long time followed the advice set forth in your letter the GCP." Patrick Duncan objected to his points 2 and 3 since "they share something of the philosophy of the present government while the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) promised to bear his advice in mind "in our treatment of South Africa' matters".
Gomas persisted in the view that the awakened and heightened political consciousness of blacks naturally took the form of a demand and desire for independence from white control and that an independent African leadership had to be developed, free from white interference. This demand was to be asserted, not only in theory, but action.
In April 1959 the Pan African Congress (PAC) was launched. It received much impetus from the historic All-African People's Conference that met in Accra in December 1958, an impressive show of Pan-African unity. In a letter to Robert Sobukwe, first president of the PAC, Gomas wrote:
Allow me to congratulate you on the establishment of the Pan African Congress and hope every endeavour will be made to make it the decisive organisation to achieve African emancipation. Since 1951 I was beginning to think and realise that it was hopeless in the way the ANC and other non-white organisations were being led and that no headway can be made that way. However, I am pretty isolated and do not know what is happening. I am trying to get in locally. I would like to know whether you are issuing some information on policy and activities. If you do, please forward it to me. I hope too you have in mind, naturally, the publication of the PAC newspaper. The New Age is the paper of the ANC!
I am enclosing a circular expressing some views which speaks for itself. Further find out from Dr Eddie Roux about me. I shall be glad to hear from you. Carry on brother, it can be done
The tasks of the PAC and all the organisations of the oppressed were carried out under very difficult conditions. The victory of the NP in 1948 and its more blatant apartheid policy confronted these organisations with a new challenge. The state's declared anti-democratic aims threatened the continued existence of democratic organisations. The Suppression of Communism Act of 1950 was used to stifle political opposition. The people of South Africa were also more clearly distinguished as either white or non-white by the ruling NP. Thus the Group Areas Act and Separate Representation of Voters Act redefined the area of community struggle. After 1956 influx control was tightened and labour bureaux were established. Workers not needed in the cities were forced back into the reserves. The Bantu Authorities Act of 1953 and the Prevention of Illegal Squatting Act of 1954 were the prelude to the Bantustan Strategy. In this regard, Gomas wrote in May 1959, "The government of course, as usual proceed with the passing of the PBSG [Promotion of Bantu Self-Government Bill] without consulting the African people who are most affected by it, and more over who are constituting the majority of South Africa's population ... It is the policy of all the white parties, including the 'African' and 'Coloured' representatives, not to consult the non-white people on anything. Needless to say, it is a most unforgivable act of the latter representatives to conform to the same contemptuous policy". (20) Again Gomas did not make a sober appraisal of the nature of the Bantustan strategy other than blaming it on the lack of consultation with the affected people.
Popular resistance was split into at least three principal political camps: the Congress Alliance, the PAC and the NEUM. It is not certain but Gomas apparently joined the PAC before the Sharpeville-Langa March. At its first annual conference, the PAC had decided upon its plan of militant action: a non-violent, anti-pass campaign. It called for mass civil disobedience and mass arrests under the slogan 'No bail, no defence, no fine'. March 21, 1960 was fixed as the date for the start of the campaign. We are not sure of Gomas's role (if any) in the planning of the campaign although his Memoirs-Diary makes references to lunch-dates with persons who have been associated with the planning: Joe Nkatlo and Josias Madzunya.
A few days after the massacre at Sharpeville where 67 were killed and 180 wounded, 30 000 protesters, led by Philip Kgosana, marched to Caledon Square in Cape Town. The march was preceded by 10 days of political unrest and crisis. At Langa, 5 protesters were killed and 49 wounded. The stunned ANC at first blamed the violence on the precipitate action of its young rivals in the PAC, but a week later Chief Luthuli burnt his pass. When his neighbour observed that very few coloureds were amongst the marchers, Gomas noted with cynicism "they are busy consulting with Bloomberg". The events of Sharpeville-Langa were followed by mass funerals and mourning and finally led to mass arrests of many leaders. On April 8, 1960 the ANC and PAC were declared "unlawful organisations", a vote which was ratified by 128 votes to 16 in Parliament.
A state of emergency had been declared on March 30, 1960 and Gomas was one of the thousands detained; first at Roeland Street Prison, where conditions were so unhygienic that the first letter his wife received was stained with dead lice. Together with others, he was later transferred to the Worcester Prison from where he was released without having been charged, in July 1960.
The months in prison during the State of Emergency telescoped, in a sense, the history of a divided national liberation movement. The unity for which Gomas (and many other militant and dedicated activists) had struggled for the greater part of his life was still as elusive as ever. A year before his detention he wrote disenchantedly on the question of unity and again singled out the "lick-spittle Coloured middle class" as the brake in the quest for unity. "Amongst the Coloured people there has been a lot of talk about 'Unity', for more than 20 years. It has become a fetish and the excuse for failing to do the obvious task. We have had 'United' Fronts and even a Unity Movement. Dr R E Van der Ross writes just now that' we have 'two challenges to aid Coloured Unity'. We have had many such similar ones in the last 20 years. But of all the political organisations or groups of the Coloured people that he mentioned, they do not embrace an active or a membership in good financial standing of even 1 000 members." He then went on to illustrate by example the work done by Nkrumah in Ghana. "When the other leaders of longstanding refused to be associated with Dr Nkrumah, he went forth organising the people in his own Party under the slogan 'organisation decides everything'. To talk of Unity is an idle useless indulgence." The divisions among the oppressed were perpetuated right into the prison cells. In the dormitory where Gomas was, 115 persons were herded together. His mattress was between those of La Guma and Benny January. He later swooped La Guma for Nimrod Khota. "Old man La Guma said coloureds must be together by themselves. I didn't like it." Gomas blamed the Congress Alliance for the perpetuation of disunity, since the only solution as far as he was concerned, was the Africanist one. According to him: "the PAC tried to organise political discussions, but the ANC people refused to help... and this continued for long afterwards ... after the Emergency was over, it carried on like that."
In the few discussions that were held in prison Gomas tried to let his past dominate. In an interview conducted in June 1976, he tells of an episode in the Worcester gaol when a certain doctor, one Naidoo, who "was the political fellow as far as the Party was concerned, ... couldn't give a discussion, so I took the lead again." The discussions also afforded him opportunity to negate the negation of his past by the Party; even though he apparently still saw himself as a Party member and as such "a link between the PAC and ANC". Old habits do not die easily, and it was not possible for Gomas to completely transcend the mould of thinking he had lived and fought for his whole life. This becomes clear in his attitude to violence.
In September 1962 Umkhonto We Sizwe was set up as a sabotage group in the ANC. The first sabotage attempt was, however, made by the African Resistance Movement. Towards the end of 1962 the PAC launched its military wing called POQO which undertook its first attack on the Paarl Police Station on the night of November 21, 1962. As witness to the new phase in the history of national liberation, in which non-violence and the Ghandian methods came to be succeeded by violence as a method of struggle, Gomas wrote in April 1964: "The government employ force and violence in suppressing the rights and oppressing the non-white people. Thus the progress and social advancement of the people are prevented by the use of violent measures of the state - the police, prisons, courts, the army, etc. - against the non-white people." However, he did not venture the proposition or support violence in the liberation struggle. Instead he wrote:
"Christians in particular are supposed to 'do unto others as you would like others to do unto you'." Thus he was appealing to the "Christian consciences" of the whites and government. The appeal becomes more confusing in the light of his own acknowledged irreligiousness. But in this appeal he was still echoing his Party; the SACP (the new name of the old Party) leadership, still principally tried to provoke what Gibson calls "a crisis of conscience" among the whites in bringing about some form of democracy in South Africa.
It was also in prison that Gomas became aware of the 'generation gap' between himself and the younger brand of political activists. "He found fault with everybody, especially the young ones." Gomas himself remarked acidly: "We were not now the revolutionaries. George Peake was the new revolutionary. It was difficult to accept that one generation of struggle had come to an end; and a new one had started. The 'new revolutionaries' were indeed the youth who had become the mainstay of the liberation struggle. As one of the first generation of revolutionaries, was it time for Gomas to retire?
For Gomas, retirement from 'polities' was to retire from life. On his release from prison on July 7th 1960, the liberation struggle was about to enter a period of "historical somnolence". Most of Gomas's time was taken up with reading and making notes, interspersed with his own acid, bitter and often humourous comments. The subjects of interest were diverse: the role of liberalism in South Africa; public health in the Soviet Union, the "nationalities problem" in the Soviet Union, the "trauma" of detente without trial and of course his main pre-occupation, the question of white domination - superiority and racism in South Africa. Clearly concerned about the role and influence of the liberals in South Africa, Gomas singled out the Universities of Witwatersrand and Cape Town as examples of the "dubious" role of liberals . . .. While UCT did not discriminate in having mixed and equal facilities for non-white students it did not provide mixed and equal social relations ... The University supported this policy because SA pursued traditionally a policy of social segregation. This folios logically that they approve of the Mixed Marriage Act, Immorality Act, Group Areas Act, Senate Act etc. that is; they are essentially not opposed to apartheid. It is extremely difficult for me to reconcile social inequality and academic equality. Maybe it is because I am not so educated ... but it is most disastrous for the non-whites to be misled by dubious liberal protestations.
And he consistently warned young potential activists about methods used by white liberals in their efforts to influence thinking of blacks. "Members of the COD (Congress of Democrats) Gomas claimed, "... take committee members [of the Congress Alliance] about and to meetings by car, get them under obligation take them for something to eat at their homes, get the AK members compromised to pursue a certain line of policy. National leaders or provincial leaders are met on arrival by car and accommodated by whites of COD and take [sic] round to stooges the ANC." Were these mere expressions of his private thoughts, or attempts to achieve some catharsis in the soul of a bitter man? Critics may even blame him for being petty and irrational. But for Gomas the struggle was life, in all its facets, down to the level social fraternisation that occurs in the course of one's daily life.
A report in the newspapers by a psychiatrist, Dr Jane Elizabeth Bain, on the effects of solitary confinement on detainees prompted Gomas to comment. He supported Dr Bain's diagnosis that detention without trial and solitary confinement are forms of physical and psychological violence which inflict, in the words of Gomas "ineffable wounds" on all "lovers of freedom". Solitary confinement is also a symbol of oppression which denies people all attributes of humanity.
Armed with a barrage of draconian legislation, including security laws, the government was able to drastically curtail the liberation movement. The General Laws Amendment Act of 1963 gave the government unlimited power to deal with its enemies. The Act made provision for detention without trial; repeated detention periods of 90 days of persons deemed subversive by the Minister of Justice (the so-called Sobukwe Clause). With the government firm in its resolve to suppress any threat to the status quo, opposition politics became increasingly dangerous for black and white. Police spies and informers were at work everywhere. In 1964 Gomas unmasked an agent provocateur who was responsible for four young members of the Transvaal Indian Congress being sent to Robben Island.
On September 27, 1969 Imam Abdullah Haron was killed while in the custody of the police. His death caused international condemnation of the security system in South Africa. Through Imam Haron's death Gomas was led to his last physical 'encounter' with "the masses" which took place on Table Mountain where a priest, Father Bernie Wrankmore, went to fast for 40 days in protest against the death of Imam Haron. According to Gomas's confidante, Adrian Davies, the reception given to Gomas, who had gone to the Mountain in support of Wrankmore, by the people was so warm and emotional that both he and Gomas stood there "with tears in the eyes".
An important role that Gomas was playing during these last few years of his healthy life was that of mentor to some young potential activists. They could all safely vouch for the enthusiasm with which Gomas performed the task of teacher-cum-father. These young people frequented his house in Stirling Street, District Six, extracting from him the wisdom of experience. On some occasions they had to teach Gomas by summarising works which had always been "too difficult" for him. Another youthful contact that he maintained, as the Muslim Youth Movement which had its centre and library in Hanover Street. One of the participants in this movement, in a tribute to "Boeta John" wrote: "...when he sensed that the youth of District Six were seriously addressing the issues of the day, he was there among them - a rather youthful member with more grey hairs on his head than anyone else present."
During these years Gomas was also regarded as an important source of knowledge and information of the past by (would-be) writers and researchers. "There were always people in the house to see him," remarked his wife rather bitterly. His children agreed. He was never even sure which examination his daughters at Harold Cressy were writing. The criticism is shared by Elizabeth (Betty) the "apple of his eye", who was born a "laatlammetjie" on December 1955 and on whom Gomas "doted". It would seem that Elizabeth, at least, enjoyed some of the benefits of his company during his less active days, but she nonetheless felt as neglected as her two older sisters. In 1967, the patient, soft-spoken Cornelia had reached breaking point and they left the husband and father in Stirling Street only to return at the end of 1969 when he was hospitalised to ulcerated stomach. In 1972 he had his first stroke which left to partially paralysed and confined to a wheelchair. People recall to depressing conditions that Gomas had to endure: cramped quartets-unbearable heat during summer and most of all loneliness. It was this latter condition that Gomas found most difficult to come to terms with. He often spoke with much bitterness about how his friends and comrades had deserted him because he was "not useful" any longer. In the end it was the devotion of his neglected family - wife and three daughters, especially Elizabeth - which made those last six years bearable, both physically and mentally. His own mother Elizabeth, died in 1974 and a year later Gomas had a second stroke which left him bed-ridden, until his death four years later.