Presidential Address to the 46th Annual Conference

of the African National Congress, Durban, December 12-14, 1958

Sons and Daughters of Afrika,

Nationalist Returned to Power

We meet for our 46th Annual Conference when the fury of the

Nationalist Party Government in its implementation of apartheid shows no signs

of abatement. We have no reason to expect it to be otherwise since the

Nationalist Party was returned with an overwhelming majority in the General

Election held early this year. Their return was not unexpected but not the near

landslide that it was. This clear mandate is a full endorsement by white South

Africa of the Nationalist Party policy of baaskap apartheid.

The Nationalist Party on their part responded to this honour and trust by

elevating Dr. Verwoerd to the leadership of the Party and so to the Premiership

of the country in succession to the late Mr. Strijdom. The results of the

General Election are an ominous sign for all with political eyes to see: to see

the rise to mighty power of the Nationalist Party with its apartheid policy and

their full entrenchment, and to see how this forebodes further oppressive laws

for non-whites and a consequent further interference and curtailment of the

freedom of the whites.

The whites are already experiencing this in the application of the Influx

Control Regulations, the policy regarding the siting of industry and the policy

and regulations governing the holding of meetings by Africans in urban areas.

The truth embodied in the saying "Freedom is indivisible" is dawning

on some whites hitherto indifferent to restrictions under which non-whites,

especially Africans, suffered.

The rise by Dr. Verwoerd to the Premiership of the country added to our

concern but not to our surprise. Our experience of him in the Ministry of

African Affairs made us most apprehensive of our future and that of the Union

with Dr. Verwoerd controlling the reins of the State. Undoubtedly, he is the

most ardent and relentless apostle or apartheid determined "to keep the

native in his place." He is not the type to hesitate when he deems it

necessary to forcefully disabuse "the Bantu" from any pretensions to

graze in the green pastures of the Union he regards as the preserve of the

whites only. His Bantu Education Act and Bantu Authorities Act, his amendments

to existing laws such as the Urban Areas Act, the various measures governing

Rural Reserves, reveal his ruthless mind and qualify him as an arch-oppressor of

non-whites. It is such a man the Nationalist Party made Premier of the country.

As would be expected from a power-hungry man like him, he skilfully made sure in

his appointment of his Cabinet that he remained unchallenged within the Cabinet

itself. He made the office of the Prime Minister a most vigilant nerve centre of

the Government than, to our knowledge, had ever been done before. No doubt, this

and other arrangements not here pertinent will give him strong control of the

Government, his party and the country. Unfortunately, the large majority in

white South Africa welcome a Prime Minister who will ensure their retention of

the privileged position they hold in South Africa.

Do these whites forget that RESISTANCE is the natural reaction to DOMINATION

AND FORCE? This could not be in the best interests of the country.

People’s Resistance Grows

To their credit, it can be truly said that the African National Congress and

other member-organisations of the Congress Alliance, together with other

democratic groups like the Liberal Party and progressive political freelancers,

have continued to expose without fear and to oppose most vehemently the policy

of apartheid. These groups and individuals have been the watchdogs of the


On the whole the response from among the oppressed, having regard to the

degree of their political education and awareness, has been encouraging and

gives promise to the building of an effective MASS FREEDOM FRONT. Equally

encouraging has been the manner in which many freedom lovers in the white

community have come out openly and boldly to champion the cause of making the

Union a true democracy for all, and not be what it is now: a democracy for

whites and a police state for non-whites. There is encouraging evidence of a

determined – not just sporadic – attack on apartheid from leaders of some

sporting organisations, artist groups and religious leaders when hitherto it was

practically all quiet in some of these sectors of the nation-community.

The growth of this spirit of opposition should make the Liberatory Movement

redouble its efforts to build a Democratic United Front against the apartheid

front. Something more will be said later in the address on this important

freedom front.

The courage and determination of some of the freedom fighters has been

marvellous and seems to have risen in proportion to the severity of the

tyrannical application of any apartheid laws; indeed, their courage has been

true to the hymn-words "Let Courage Rise with Danger." In this

connection let us refer very briefly to some freedom struggle activities of the

year that deserve special note and appreciation.

The Treason Case: The Treason Trialists have shown admirable

fortitude in their crucial testing time as front-line volunteers in the freedom

struggle; and so have their families and dependants.

Let me here thank warmly all those, here and overseas, who have spared no

effort to raise funds to provide the accused with the most capable defence team

and helped to a most appreciable measure to relieve the accused and dependants

of much physical suffering and mental anxiety. The treason case has dominated

the political scene in South Africa and has provided an effective political

rallying point. It has helped, not only to make the African National Congress

more widely known and recognised as a political force in the country, but has

directly and indirectly helped to spread the Congress spirit of opposition to

apartheid. The Treason Trial has provided another instance of "good out of


We regret its tortuous progress which has been punctuated intermittently by

many adjournments. The African National Congress joins the voices that have

urged the Government, as an act of manliness and honour, to abandon this case.

The Opposition to the Issue of Reference Books to African Women

Magnificent effective mass demonstrations were staged in different parts of

the country. As a result of these protests and demonstrations some women have

been victims of police arrest and quite unnecessarily police brutality. We say BRAVO!

to those African women who in any way showed their courageous opposition to the

pass system which is responsible for so much suffering among Africans. During

any one year thousands of African people are arrested and introduced to jail

life through the operation of pass laws. To many, this introduction has proved

to be the beginning of a most destructive life of crime.

The Congress and the General Election

The voteless non-whites, as an important third political force in the

country, made an effort to intervene in the General Election held early this

year. Protest week activities, despite the setback suffered by the Stay-at-Home

efforts of non-white workers, were a successful gate-crashing for the first time

into a white general election hitherto erroneously regarded by the non-whites as

not of their concern but of whites only. By this attitude the non-whites showed

a lack of appreciation of the truth in the words: "South African Affairs

are African Affairs." It must be so since Africans, by their labours and

services, impinge on all sectors and aspects of South African life.

The combined frantic efforts to smash the demonstration were made by the

government, the white employers’ agencies and the non-white ill- assortment of

despicable collaborators. This unholy alliance showed up as nothing could, the

importance of this form of demonstration. That some thing was done in the face

of such terrific opposition, no matter how feebly, should be a source of

gratification to the leaders of the non-white workers.

On the positive side the demonstration-protest helped to highlight the

pecuniary plight of non-white workers whose wages, it is admitted, are on

starvation level. Some employers are forestalling workers’ demands by making

puny shameful increases out of tune with the realities of the facts of the

situation. This is undermining the workers’ demands for a minimum wage of L1

a day for unskilled African workers. I fear that the workers, since protest

week, have been losing the initiative. The Congresses should endeavour to their

utmost to give effective lead to workers in their demand for a living wage in

this matter.

Further Increases in Taxation for Africans

Parliament met in June shortly after the General Election. True to its now

regular feature and practice Parliament produced and placed on the Statute Book

more oppressive apartheid measures; the main measure was an Act providing for an

increased taxation of 15/- on the 20/- general tax for African men over the age

of 18. The same Act makes provision for some form of apartheid Income Tax on an

ascending scale for African men and women beginning with those in receipt of a

minimum income of £180 per year. There are other taxes

Africans have to meet such as Bantu Authorities Levies, levies by School Boards

for educational purposes, etc.

I commend to this Conference and the African public in general an excellent

pamphlet by the African National Congress on the subject of increased taxation

for Africans.

We look forward with much apprehension to the first Verwoerd session of

Parliament. We can expect from it more and more oppressive measures: more

controls, more permits and what not. Indeed, the operative words in apartheid

are "Control" and "Permission." One would think that

Africans got to inhabit the continent of Africa by the "permission"

and under the "control" of some ancient white prototype of Dr. Malan,

Mr. Strijdom or Dr. Verwoerd. It galls and humiliates one to be so treated in

one’s fatherland.

The challenge of all this to the African National Congress and its allies and

other freedom-lovers is that there is no force in the white community in any

foreseeable future that will defeat the Nationalist Party. It seems it is only

the combined struggle efforts of the oppressed non-whites, working with white

freedom lovers on the basis of equality, mutual respect and friendship, that

will form a new force to defeat apartheid. Fortunately, there is a growing

number of white freedom lovers who, with no ulterior motives, genuinely wish to

see the full liberation of non-whites.

Why the African National Congress Utterly Rejects Apartheid and with

Thunderous Voices Says: Away with Apartheid

We say: AWAY WITH APARTHEID because:

1. It is a policy guilty of political immorality; it is born of fear,

selfishness and greed; it stands for domination of whites over blacks and

thus it contributes to strained black-white relations since domination

naturally produces resistance.

The strained relations impair the establishment of an effective

co-operative effort between black and white on a voluntary basis in the

interests of the country. No country can truly become great and prosperous

under such inimical conditions.

2. It robs the majority in the country, the ten million non-whites, of their

natural right of each developing to their fullest his creator-given

capabilities. South Africa becomes the poorer because of this dwarfing of

its non-white genius-potential.

Deservingly its policy of apartheid becomes the target of world

condemnation. Progressive forces in the country should not be deterred from

encouraging this outside non-violent pressure because of the fear to be

attacked as disloyal to South Africa. The alternative attitude is disloyalty

to Truth and it is terrible thing to be disloyal to Truth. This makes one

receive the condemnation of the world and the disdain of posterity.

It often puts in a false position the administrative officers charged with

the task of selling it to the general public, especially its victims, the

non-whites. The administrative officers often find themselves resorting to

various forms of camouflage and subterfuge, some of which dangerously

borders on false enticing, if not deceit.

When camouflage seems to fail intimidator tactics, up to coercion at its

worst, are used. Victimisation is extensively used to put fear into others.

Such methods make the officers using them or ordering their use to be guilty

of subordinating moral principle to oppressive expediency.


What benefit is it to Africans:

i. to have had African voters in the Cape removed from the Common Roll to a

separate roll and giving them a mere token representation in Parliament?

ii. to have allocated them, being 8 million, only 13% of the land in South

Africa when whites, who are only 3 million, hold practically the rest of

the land, i.e., 87%?

iii. to have instituted a colour-bar in industry which bars them from skilled

work and Trade Union rights and thus subjecting them to starvation wages

that place 70% of the workers in industry and commerce below the


iv. to apply to them the principle of "Do-It-Yourselves" in the

matter of Public Services when for whites, more affluently placed,

the State assumes full responsibility?

In all civilised countries the poorest section of the community is

taken as the responsibility of the State and given generous assistance

commensurate with the financial strength of the country.

v. to displace them by removals from their long established homes – some

held in freehold – and thus impoverishing them and placing them in

agonising insecurity?

The same can be said about the workings of apartheid among other sections of

the non-whites. We could here validly ask, what benefit the Group Areas Act, Job

Reservation, to mention only a few, are to non-whites? Dr. Donges, then Minister

responsible for the Group Areas Act said that the Act would be applied with

justice and fairness. So far in its implementation "justice and

fairplay" are conspicuous by their absence.

In this regard, no doubt, Mr. W. Maree, now Minister of Bantu Education, was

more correct than Dr. Donges when he indicated that the intention of the Group

Areas Act was to force the Indian to return voluntarily to India, or engage in

diversified forms of manual labour instead of being exclusively traders. Could

there be greater injustice than this of robbing a people of their wealth in

order to get rid of them or reduce greatly their pecuniary status?

The Bantu Education Act and the Bantu Authorities Act, two cardinal apartheid

Acts, are glaring and typical examples that refute another unfounded claim of

apartheid, namely, PROGRESSIVENESS. These Acts, like many other apartheid

measures, so bound in injustices and unfair play that to describe them as

progressive is to suggest the impossible: the possibility of "going forward

by going back."

The Challenge of Apartheid to White South Africa

White South Africans are historically and culturally inheritors of what is

called Western Civilisation. They rightly pride themselves of a connection with

a civilisation which, at its best, stands for high value – standards in all

aspects of life. The pillars of its political morality are: LIBERTY, EQUALITY

and FRATERNITY regardless of colour, race or creed. This implies a respect for

human dignity, the brotherhood of man and man’s individual worth.

Their forebears heroically sacrificed life itself in the task of propagating,

upholding and defending these values. Why should white South Africa, being heirs

to so rich a heritage, be guilty under apartheid of not living up to the tenets

of the political creed of their forefathers in the multi-racial setting and

atmosphere of South Africa? It would be an act of honour for which their

contemporaries and generations to come would thank them if they passed these

values on to posterity, not only unimpaired, but enriched by the diversity of

cultural assets found in our multi-racial South Africa.

We make all allowance for human frailty which makes man fail to live up to

the best he knows. But he must show evidence of his efforts to reach the

pinnacle of morality in his dealings with his brother-man, regardless of the

newness of a situation. Jungle morality can never be justified under any

circumstances. Upholding apartheid, in our view, is utterly inconsistent with

upholding these ancient and eternal values which, in our day, find unqualified

endorsement in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and in the creeds

of all worthy religions. These values, rights and obligations, are inherent in

any way of life claiming to be described as civilised.

Let me in this connection say this: It does dishonour to the Union of South

Africa to find our Minister of External Affairs and his Delegation walking out

of UNO because of UNO’s attempts to insist on member-nations, including the

Union, making an effort to respect and uphold these human rights in their

respective countries.

It is no valid excuse for white South Africa to say that these

value-standards were developed in the setting and atmosphere of racially and

culturally homogeneous communities. The challenge to our age is to nurture these

eternal values in racially and seemingly culturally heterogeneous communities.

Our noble calling is to create spiritually homogeneous multi-racial communities

resting on a broad cultural base enriched by the cultural variations making up

our multi-racial society: a kind of Unity in Diversity.

Some Aspects of our Policy

1. For ourselves we have no desire or intention to dominate over others by

virtue of the superior numbers of our racial group. We work for the

corporate multi-racial society in which the criterion of recognition as a

citizen will not rest on class or racial considerations but on loyalty to

multi-racial South Africa on the basis of democratic universal suffrage.

Democratic, and not racial considerations, should motivate the exercise

of franchise rights. We, in the African National Congress, are opposed to

the outlook that the colour of one’s skin, i.e., one’s race, should

determine one’s politics.

Subject to and subordinate to the wider interests of our common country,

South Africa, one’s politics should be influenced and determined by the

ideals and interests one holds supreme.

2. White South African must cast aside fear and greed and voluntarily bring

about a black-white partnership on the basis of a common society.

The African National Congress stands or falls by Free Democracy. It is as

opposed to a racial majority masquerading as a democratic majority, as it is

opposed to a minority of any kind, racial or otherwise, dominating over

others because, for some reason, it seized the full control of the State. We

say that in a truly multi-racial country democracy should, by the nature of

things, be colour-blind.

3. We say that whites can only ensure their survival by deliberately

democratising all the inhabitants of the country. This means that they must

propagate and share without reservations the values, rights and obligations

inherent in civilisation and democracy and not horde them by making them a

white preserve.

They should not over-worry about losing their identity to a coloured race.

Fortunately, racial pride – not racial dominance – seems to be a common

desire among our main racial groups. This is the strongest guarantee against

wholesale miscegenation which is often used as a bogy by white supremacists to

retain political power. We feel that individual freedom in this matter must,

with a few exceptions, be respected. By exerting its influence society should

attempt to condition individuals and groups to the common outlook of a racial

pride which abhors miscegenation in any form. Apart from doubting the efficacy

of law as a curbing moral force in this matter, we dislike its interference with

individual freedom in so personal a matter.

In any case, we submit that no one has a right, not even Parliament, to

persecute and deny anyone or group of people human rights on the grounds of

seeking to preserve his group’s identity. For one thing it is not given to any

people to know the likes or dislikes of its posterity. We must credit posterity

with some intelligence to know what is best for it in the circumstances of its

age. We should not over-concern ourselves with posterity to the point of making

fully legalised plans for it. What we regard as wisdom may be looked upon with

disdain and contempt by posterity in whose name unforgivable indignities and

atrocities are often perpetrated on man by man.

Co-operation in the Days of Freedom-Struggle and after

The African National Congress accepts the important fact of our situation –

multi-racialism. This recognition, to be meaningful and honest, must find

expression in a co-operation in the struggle that embraces all progressive

liberation forces. The Congress Alliance already forms an important nucleus and

vanguard of this co-ordinated co-operative effort. We desire to see it grow. The

member-groups in this co-operation may retain their independence and not

sacrifice cherished principles save voluntarily.

If Africans are true potential democrats and realists, as we think they would

prove to be so in the test, they should wholeheartedly support the African

National Congress in its objective and stand aimed at making this co-operation a

vital force in the freedom fight: a force to outmatch the apartheid front. This

apartheid front is supported by the might of government forces which receive

substantial support from an ill-assortment of non-white collaborators consisting

of people with misguided selfish motives and others with inadequate knowledge of

the issues involved.

These non-whites collaborators would have us be content with pickings from

the apartheid Garbage Tin and with mere Ambulance Services; directly or

indirectly they counsel a striving for a mere mess of pottage to the abandonment

of our noble pursuit for man’s worthiest heritage, FREEDOM, and at that,

"FREEDOM IN OUR LIFE TIME." This is the goal the African National

Congress has unequivocally set before the people and not a wallowing in the

apartheid mud as others would have them do.

We believe that even with the potential at our command to go it alone in the

struggle for freedom, respect for other freedom lovers in other racial groups in

our country would demand that we invite them to be our comrades-in-arms in the

fight for freedom, if we are to co-operate with them as equals and with a deeper

appreciation and trust of one another in the truly free democratic South Africa

we are working for. Such a co-operation, born of comradeship in the struggle

would be the surest guarantee against the arrogance, now and after victory, of

would-be political exclusivists-dictators. There is no other way by which we can

show our earnest and concern for the creation of a democratic multi-racial South

Africa if we are to ensure a progressive and peaceful future for our beloved

fatherland, South Africa.

Method of Struggle

So long as white South Africa denies the non-whites full democratic freedom

we shall have no option but to advise and continue to lead the voteless

non-whites to use extra-parliamentary non-violent methods of struggle. To

abandon the fight would be to surrender to the status quo; a surrender to

enslavement with all the paraphernalia used in its maintenance such as the

obnoxious control permits, reference books and apartheid measures in general.

The African National Congress can never be a party to the counselling of

non-whites to themselves be instruments of their own spiritual and moral, if not

physical, destruction.

Some of our Urgent Needs

1. We should make greater use than heretofore of the Anniversaries of certain

important days in our freedom struggle. This, inter alia, would help us to

build a spirit of comradeship among our people. Such a programme,

reinforcing our regular cultural programme, would enable us to capture and

more effectively retain the imagination and enthusiasm of the youth for the

freedom struggle and so ensure their support for it.

2. There is too much compartmentalising of our struggle efforts and

campaigns. Sometimes by doing this we give an undue sectional organisational

stress on a campaign. Too often we think of the Group Areas Act as an Indian

concern only, and too often our discussions and plans for our campaign

against the Group Areas Act are done in isolation, in complete oblivion of

some equally disastrous removals planned for Africans, and vice versa when

Africans discuss removals affecting them.

Do we see the resistance at Zeerust, in the Transvaal, Pedie in the Cape,

Imbumbulu in Natal, the attitude to identity cards by those affected by them, as

part of one gigantic struggle? There is need for a more co-ordinated plan with

specific objectives for each stage.

I am not advocating the dulling and subduing of the dynamic local struggle,

interest and leadership, but I do wish to stress the need for a co-ordinated

freedom struggle by the High Command.

Let me here, somewhat irrelevantly, reiterate my call for the enlisting of a

Volunteer Corps for the carrying out of our many errands and duties in the

struggle. I make a special appeal to our youth.

Freedom Forces on the March in the World

Only yesterday London, Washington, Moscow and Paris dominated the world.

Other independent countries practically danced to the tune of either one or more

of these capitals.

Now, significantly enough, even the big and older nations of the world

eagerly listen with concern and sometimes anxiety to utterances and reactions in

Delhi, Bandung, Cairo, Peking and now Accra.

On the threshold of full freedom, to mention a few, are Nigeria, the

Caribbean Federation and some Trust Territories. Things are astir in the French

colonial empire with frantic efforts by General de Gaulle to save it by

intimidatory tactics which border on economic blackmailing.

Bravo! to French Guinea for preferring full independence to qualified

independence that would still leave a country that accepts it subservient to

Metropolitan France. The freedom struggle is in earnest in Kenya, Uganda,

Nyasaland, Northern Rhodesia, now to some extent in Basutoland and Southern


The Middle East, the emergent African States and some Asian countries are

being besieged by rival suitors among the big nations.

We would advise these emergent nations, some of them victims of colonialism

or of the intrigue of great powers, to jealously guard their hard-won

independence by :

1. adopting as their international policy the recognition of the co-existence

of independent nations, and themselves adopt the policy of active neutrality

and non-alignment with amity to all nations and enmity to none.

2. jealously guard, propagate and defend democratic tenets to the utmost

limit of magnanimous forbearance.

After the historic Bandung Conference in 1955, Africa, this year, has been

the scene of Conference, respectively, at Cairo and Accra. These Conferences

have had as their objective the strengthening of ties among independent states

of Africa and Asia or, as the one now sitting in Accra, seeking plans of helping

to further the cause of freedom in countries still under colonial rule. Whether

any one likes it or not, the voice of Africa, claiming a place of honour for her

children, will be heard with growing insistence and force in the coming days.

We deeply appreciate the concern for our freedom by the independent

Afro-Asian nations. These countries, themselves beset with their own urgent and

serious problems, on the main a legacy of colonial rule, have spared no effort

in the United Nations forums and elsewhere, to champion the cause of helping to

free the still oppressed peoples of Asia and Africa.

In Conclusion

In conclusion let me confront you all with the main challenge of what I have

tried to breathe out through this Presidential Address:

1. Are you serious about freedom? How far are you prepared to sacrifice for

it? Others have died for it.

2. What is your reply to the undoubted ascendancy of the Nationalist Party

with its emotional but suicidal apartheid policy?

Are you prepared to follow with intelligent loyalty the African National

Congress lead in its opposition to Nationalist Party rule?

3. What is your response to the moral and diplomatic efforts by some

independent nations to further your cause of freedom? They can only help you

indirectly. The winning of freedom, in the final analysis, rests with you :

i. The oppressed non-whites ;

ii. The white freedom lovers in South Africa.

South Africa cannot grow to greatness when three quarters of her people are

still in bondage. Only a Free Multi-Racial South Africa can solve the problems

affecting multi-racial South Africa and not an apartheid Government of

"Europeans Only."

We have reason to hope for freedom in our lifetime but you, and you alone,

can turn this hope into a glorious reality.

Afrika! Mayibuye!

Freedom in Our Lifetime!