From: South Africa's Radical Tradition, a documentary history, Volume One 1907 - 1950, by Allison Drew

Document 91 - John Gomas, "The Native Representation Bill is Passed: What Must be Done Now?" Umsebenzi, 25 April 1936

Despite the vast majority of Natives and many other freedom-loving people of South Africa being strongly opposed to the Native Representation Bill of General Hertzog, the joint session of Parliament and the Senate had the brazenness to pass the Bill. It is correct to say that this Parliament and Senate do not represent the interests of the greater section of the South African population - the Native people - but only that of the small group of capitalist and landlord exploiters. The fact is clearly demonstrated that we have a dictatorship established over all the toilers of South Africa and particularly over the Native people by this minority whose sole object is to exploit the toilers for profit- for Big Business.

Had this government been a democratic state, i.e., carrying out the wishes of the majority of the people of South Africa, then the uncompromising objections against the Native Bills at the All African National Convention and the protests all over South Africa should have been taken into consideration and the Bills dropped. But no, fairplay and rule by the majority is a thing that these capitalists plunderers of human rights can ill afford, for that would spill the domination of their system of robbery.

This government of imperialist robbers are not satisfied that they have robbed the Native people entirely of their land, subjected to a state of beastial misery, cruel exploitation and treated worse than the disease affected foreigners in our own home land. The passing of the Hertzog bill has for its object to deprive the Native people of the Cape of the last vestige of the elementary democratic right - the vote - thus to further stifle progress and "keep the nigger in his place".

If our reformist friends, who prate so much about adopting constitutional methods to gain our rights, are at all serious, then it is high time that they took this lesson seriously to heart. It must be only too obvious to any sensible person that the white rulers are determined not to render any betterment in the conditions of the Native people but is studiously planning to increase this exploitation and oppression, as instanced by the oppressive legislation and restrictive measures passed against the Native people from time to time.

Why is it that the white rulers treat the Native people with the utmost contempt? It is because the Native people do not put up a sufficiently powerful mass organised struggle for better conditions of living and for all elementary human rights of freedom.

The Communist Party have always for many years stated that the Unity of Action of the whole Native population and its organisations is the main and decisive condition which will make our struggle for freedom victorious. Ten years ago, when the Native Bills of Hertzog were presented to the country the Communist Party proposed that united action with the African National Congress and the I.C.U. should be established for the fight against these Native Bills and for the immediate demands of the Native people. The proposals of the C.P. was not only turned down by the leaders of the A.N.C. and I.C.U. but they energetically opposed the C.P. in its efforts to bring about unity of action in demand for the most essential needs of the Native people. It cannot be denied that this attitude of the A.N.C. and I.C.U. leaders have strengthened the hand of the oppressors. However, we say to these people there is still time to repent and make amends to their countrymen. We therefore greet most heartily the uncompromising stand of many of these leaders against the Native Bills at the Bloemfontein All African National Convention.

The Native Representation Bill which, as is boasted, is the better part of General Hertzog's life work, is to tie down the Native people further into perpetual slavery. This Bill is passed, and the other Bills undoubtedly will be an easy-going matter through Parliament. Whilst it can be said that these reactionary and despotic have aroused the bitter resentment and indignation of the whole Native, non-European and white democratic minded population against the government of oppressors, it must be honestly admitted that the "peaceful", "uncompromising" form of opposition to the Bills as decided by the Convention was hopelessly ineffective, and left the Government stone cold.

There is no doubt that the government was aware that the mind of the Native people was agitated to a point of revolting indignation against the Government. But the Government was promptly reassured by the "academic" form of "uncompromising" opposition and the defeatist attitude taken up by the leadership of the Convention. Professor Jabavu said: "we cannot fight the Government for we do not possess guns". This assertion, coming from the leader of the Convention, simply damped the spirit of militancy and expectancy for action that was prevalent at the Convention from the beginning. It was apparent, too that every attempt was made to curb and keep in check the virile individuals who made proposals that the convention should decide for militant action in the form of protest demonstrations, passive resistance, to organise a general strike, to refuse to pay taxes, etc.

This was curtly turned down from the stage and all the meek and mild and defeatist "leaders" were given every opportunity to discourage the delegates of the Convention, finally these leaders succeeded in passing lengthy pious resolutions as an attempt to "educate" the "misguided" government and calling for a "day of prayer and humiliation" on the 19th January, the only effect this had on the government was the satisfactory assurance that the indignant masses of Native people were well under control of chickenhearted "leaders."


Now what must be done? Undoubtedly the significance of the Convention is of enormous historical importance to the Native people's struggle for freedom. New intensive preparations must be made to make the 28th June meeting of the Convention (at Bloemfontein) a mighty force which must decide to work out a programme of organisation and action of an all in National Liberation Movement with the general slogan "Equality, Land and Freedom."

All delegates must come to the Convention with constructive proposals to work out a programme which should contain the most immediate and essential needs of the Native people. In brief, it should contain demands for the complete abolition of all discriminating and oppressive laws against the African people in all spheres of life; for an equal redistribution of the land; for complete equality with the white citizens; and to participate equally in the governing, administrative, productive, commercial judicial and educational institutions of this country. Such a programme which will challenge in every respect the whole system of exploitation, oppression and discrimination must meet with the whole-hearted support of all the Native and coloured people.


What form of organisation must this Convention hammer out? At present the Convention is not established on a membership nor even on a basis of organisations affiliated to the Convention. The millions of Native people are unorganised and none of the existing organisations can claim that it is the leader of the people in their needs and aspirations. Therefore an entirely new organisation must be built up by the people, existing under the democratic control of the people, an organisation that is connected closely with the people and is at the same time able to unite and co-ordinate the actions of the existing organisations. This organisation must be based on individual membership as well as providing for other organisations of the non-European people to affiliate to it, such as Trade Unions, churches etc.

As the Trade Union form of organisation for workers is their most powerful weapon and since the Native workers are the largest and lowest paid section of the working class in S. Africa, this new national mass organisation must give every assistance to forming Trade Unions of Native workers, which must be affiliated to the National Liberation Movement. It is also necessary that this organisation provide for the establishment of a united front with those sections of the white population which are also exploited by the capitalists and landlords. Such unity with the OPPRESSED PART of the white population would add additional strength to our movement for national emancipation and create a fuller guarantee of victory.

As to what this national liberation or anti-imperialist organisation should be named is not important. What is vitally important is that the programme should outline clearly the demands in the struggle for national liberation, to determine effective methods of struggles in the past showed clearly that the Union Government did not take note of our demands and resolutions, and that only a property militant organised mass movement can force the Government to fulfil our demands.

It now becomes our BOUNDEN DUTY to minimise all minor differences, to establish co-operation between organisations and individual leaders to work energe [-””] tion to have represented at the 28th June Convention the most politically advanced, brave, energetic and patriotic leaders pledged to the cause of our liberation; to arouse the masses of African people to the necessity of supporting and to become active in this mass liberation movement; to form local committees in towns, villages, locations and kraals to carry out these tasks successfully.

The Communist Party is ready to support wholeheartedly the united front of the people against hunger and slavery. The Communist Party will devote all its energy and will put forward its forces for the preparation of this 28th June Convention so as to assure its success as a broad, fully-representative people's Convention. All hands to the cause of freedom!