Dr Yusuf Mohamed Dadoo played an outstanding role in the South African liberation movement for over half a century - in persuading the Indian community to link its destiny with that of the African majority, in building the unity of all the oppressed people and democratic whites of that country in a common struggle against racism, in promoting fearless and militant resistance to the oppressors, and in developing the international outlook of the movement and international solidarity with it. He led the non-violent Indian passive resistance movement - uniting Gandhians, Marxists and others. He was a founder and leader of the Non-European United Front and of the Communist Party when it was revived as a clandestine organisation. And since going into exile in 1960, he played a key role in promoting underground and armed struggle in South Africa and a world-wide anti-apartheid movement." - ES Reddy

Early life

Dr Yusuf Mohamed Dadoo was born on 5 September 1909 in Krugersdorp on the West Rand, Transvaal (now Gauteng). His father, Mahomed Dadoo, was born in 1881 in the small village of Kholvad along the south banks of the Tapi River, a few miles outside the ancient South Gujarat city of Surat, in India.

In 1896, at the age of 15, Dadoo, Senior, arrived in South Africa as part of the “passenger Indian” population that followed after the initial indentured labourers of 1860. This was just prior to the South African War. He was only 15 years old when he settled with his family in Klerksdorp, after which he moved to Krugersdorp where he started a business in 1904.

 In 1909, during the height of the Satyagraha Passive Resistance Campaign, which was initiated by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, in which Mohamed Dadoo was an active participant, Mohamed and Fatima Dadoo had the first of eight children, Yusuf. 

Yusuf Mohamed Dadoo began his education at the age of 6 years old. He attended a Coloured school in Krugersdorp until he completed his Standard 2 (Grade Four), after which he started to attend the Bree Street School in Forsdsburg, Johannesburg, Transvaal (now Gauteng), the only school available specifically for Indian children. The policy of segregation instituted by the White government of the day meant that the six-year-old Yusuf had to travel daily by train to the Johannesburg suburb of Fordsburg to receive his primary education with other Indian children. Fordsburg was a mixed working class suburb with English, Afrikaans, Jewish, Lebanese, Indian, Chinese, Coloured and African communities housed in overcrowded shanties and tenements.

The young Dadoo was forced to travel by train twenty miles (approximately 32 kilometres) every day. This experience introduced him to the impact of segregationist laws. During these trips, Dadoo was aware of how the different population groups were separated on the train and throughout the train station. On his walk to the school from the train station, Dadoo recalled how White children along the way would sing insulting ditties like “Sammy, Sammy, ring a bell, coolie, coolie, go to hell,” and physical confrontations often occurred.

Prior to the end of World War I, the Dadoo family went on holiday to Gujarat, India. Dadoo’s memories of the trip included monsoons, attending madressa (Islamic religious school), contracting malaria, and the blackouts and fear of being detected by German submarines while travelling across the Indian Ocean.  Upon his return to South Africa, his father, became engaged in a court battle against the Krugersdorp Municipality. White members of the community were agitated by the success of businesses such as Mohamed Dadoo’s and the Asiatic Land and Trading Act of 1919 was enacted to stall the success of the Indian businesses. This piece of legislation declared that Indians could only conduct trade in designated areas outside of Asiatic Bazaars and aimed to cut down on the acquisition of property through the usage of limited liability properties. Unexpectedly, Dadoo’s case was successfully defended by Gandhi. Gandhi argued that the business, Dadoo Ltd., existed prior to the enactment of the legislation and that it was unlawful to racially classify a business.

 In 1920, a 22 year old PS Joshi moved to Johannesburg from India and began teaching at Dadoo’s school. Joshi’s background as a militant Indian nationalist had a major influence on the young school boy. After the passage of the Class Areas Bill of 1923, the South African Indian Congress invited the acclaimed female activist and poet Sarojini Naidoo to visit South Africa. During her visit to the Transvaal, Joshi organized a meeting that was chaired by the 15 year old Dadoo.

At the end of 1923, Dadoo left Johannesburg to complete his matriculation at Aligarh Muslim College in India. During these formative years, Dadoo attended meetings and speeches hosted by former followers of Ghandi and developed his views with his young contemporaries such as Molvi Cachalia.

Evidence of Dadoo’s political education was confirmed shortly after his return to his hometown of Krugersdorp at the age of 18.  At a reception hosted by the Indian community at the Krugersdorp Town Hall to honour the appointment of V. Srinivasa Sastri, the first Indian Agent-General to South Africa, Dadoo was asked pass the vote of thanks. Dadoo used this opportunity to deliver a controversial speech in which he accused Sastri of betraying the Indian community.

Although Mohamed Dadoo envisioned his son taking over the family business, Yusuf managed to persuade his father to allow him to study in England. In January 1929, Yusuf Dadoo set sail for London. In his YMCA lodgings, he was introduced to fellow Indian students who were active in the campaign for India’s independence struggle against the British, and he quickly became involved with student political movements while in London.

He joined the British Labour Party and actively participated in its London Central Branch. Here, Dadoo befriended influential figures such as Jimmy Maxwell and Salif Walla, the first Communist MP in Britain.

Dadoo’s sudden introduction and interest in Marxist literature even resulted in him taking classes in Russian in order to learn more about the Soviet Union. Dadoo participated in a student demonstration in protest of the Simons Commission and was arrested as a result. He received a six month suspension from school, but due to his age and lack of a previous record he was let off in terms of the First Probation Offender’s Act.

 At home, Yusuf’s father was very unhappy with his conduct. Mohamed told his son that he could either return home or pursue his medical studies further at the University of Edinburgh in an attempt to curb Yusuf’s political involvement. After he enrolled at Skerry College at University of Edinburgh, Yusuf Dadoo began a new chapter in his life that started by befriending his fellow South Africans,  Mohambry Gangathura 'Monty' Naicker and Kesaveloo Goonaruthnum Naidoo (Goonam), both medical students as well, who were to later feature prominently in the struggle for liberation back home in South Africa.

The student years

While Dadoo continued his studies, the relationship between the South African Indian population and the ruling White minority government grew more tumultuous with the passing of new Bills. On 5 October 1930, The Asiatics Land Tenure (Amendment) Bill of 1930 was passed and imposed strict segregation on Indians in the Transvaal. The Bill prohibited Indians from occupying land designated as a public mining area and offered no protection to people who acquired interests on proclaimed mining land previously. As of 1 April 1930, traders were given five years to move to “an exempted” area as defined by the municipalities and with the given consent of the Minister.

The Bill spurred greater coordination and involvement in the South African Indian Congress (SAIC), Natal Indian Congress (NIC), and Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC) as more prominent members of the Indian community began to join and take on important roles in the organizations.

The Second Round Table Conference took place from 12 January – 4 January 1932 and worked to postpone the passage of the Asiatic Land Tenure (Amendment) Bill but it ultimately became law in June 1932.

The Bill was essentially the same as the original 1930 document and it also set up the Feetham Commission, which was meant to “enquire into the occupation by coloured persons [mainly directed at Indians] of proclaimed land in the Transvaal insofar as such occupation is affected by the provisions of...Act No. 35 of 1932.”

This was the political climate to which Yusuf Dadoo returned in 1932. Upon his return, Dadoo attended the SAIC Round Table Conference held on 27-28 August where the Asiatic Land Tenure Act was the main topic of discussion.

At this conference, Dadoo began to understand the benefit that came with cooperation among national organisations in order to unify Africans, Indians and Coloureds. Dadoo was also opposed to the conduct of the Round Table Conference as he was not a supporter of the Cape Town Agreement, an agreement that he believed was just an extension of British Imperialist policy through the Agent General of India and not in the best interest of the Indian people.

In July 1935, Dadoo wrote his final medical examinations and qualified as a medical doctor at the Royal College in Edinburgh. After returning to South Africa, Dadoo opened his first surgery in Pageview, Johannesburg. Shortly thereafter, Dadoo’s father assisted him by buying a semi-detached-property in the poor working class area of Doornfontein in Johannesburg. Half of this house served as Dadoo’s surgery while the other half served as his home. It was also during this time that Dadoo became a member of the TIC.

In1937, Dadoo began to take on more of a leadership role in the Indian community when he initiated the formation of the Indian Social Reform Society and was elected President. In a December meeting held in Johannesburg, Dadoo called for a community reform in cultural practices such as the education of women. In March 1938, Dadoo was elected as one of the delegates to a conference called by the National Liberation League (NLL) in Cape Town. This conference gave birth to the Non-European United Front (NEUF), comprising of Africans, Coloured, and Indians in order to achieve social, political, and economic equality. In December 1938, Dadoo attended a reception held by the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) Central Committee during their annual conference in Johannesburg. Here, Yusuf Dadoo was introduced to Moses Kotane, who at this meeting was elected the General-Secretary of CPSA. In early 1939, Dadoo became a member of the CPSA after being approached by Michael Harmel and Edwin Mofutsanyana. In 1939, he was also elected Chairman of the Madressa Anjuman Islamia of Kholvad Mosque. He only served as Chairperson for four years as he believed his involvement with a specific group contradicted his claims to be working for and representing Transvaal Indians across all religious and ethnic divides.

In February 1939, the Minister of Interior, HG Lawrence, introduced new legislation to further segregate the European population from Coloureds and Indians. The “Servitude Scheme” amendment separated the residential areas of the populations if it was supported by 75% of the White vote in the township. The controversial amendment prompted a protest meeting on 1 March hosted by the TIC. At this meeting, the divide between the moderate leaders and the new contingent of radicals led by Dadoo increased their ideological divide. The NIC and TIC agreed on responses that heavily relied upon support from the Indian Government and a change of heart by the Union Government. Dadoo’s radicals, on the other hand, presented an amendment to elect a Council of Action in order to “devise ways and means of starting a passive resistance campaign” and to foster relationships with other ‘non-white’ political organisations. Although the amendment received majority support, the TIC President and Chairman of the meeting, Mr. Valod, denied the support and the mandate of the amendment. As a result, Dadoo and his radical colleagues formed their own group called the Nationalist Bloc within the TIC. While they remained part of the TIC, they conducted their own propaganda and agitation campaigns and attracted significant numbers to their meetings. The Nationalist Bloc included such noteworthy people as Thambi Naransamy Naidoo, P.S. Joshi, Molvi Cachalia, Nana Sita, G.H.I. Pahad, and J. Nanabhai. Dadoo himself became known as a powerful orator at this time as he toured the Transvaal and gave speeches to boost support.

On 4 May 1939, the government proposed a new segregation bill entitled the Asiatic Transvaal Land and Trading Bill, also known as the Pegging Act, to replace the Stuttaford Scheme. While the NIC and TIC lacked a strong stance, the Nationalist Bloc organised a mass meeting on 7 May 1939 that resulted in the decision to conduct a Passive Resistance Campaign. A Passive Resistance Council of 25 people was elected to manage the campaign with Dadoo acting as Chairman. Despite this proactive attempt by the Nationalist Bloc to shun the discriminatory legislation, the SAIC refused to support the resolution. V.S.C. Pather, the SAIC President, decided at an executive meeting that although Rule 16 of the constitution allowed for provincial bodies to make representations, it was only the “conference assembled” that could make official policy decisions. Following the meeting, the executive committee passed a motion to condemn the Bill, but failed to offer a proposal on how to conduct opposition.

The Nationalist Bloc did not accept the SAIC’s decision to reject the Campaign and compelled the TIC to officially discuss the matter further. On 4 June 1939, a mass meeting took place at Osrin’s Picture Palace, in Johannesburg, to discuss the stance of the TIC. Armed attendees in support of the Valod-Nana group disrupted the meeting and assaulted the members of the Nationalist Bloc.

One attendee, Manilal Gandhi, wrote that it “resembled a slaughter house, butcher knives being freely used in addition to bottles, heavy clubs, bicycle chains and knuckle-dusters.” As a result, several people suffered severe injuries and the attack cost Dayabhai Govindji his life. The tragic event prompted new support for the radical group and their Passive Resistance Campaign. At a mass meeting held on 9 July 1939, the Agent-General reported that:

The passing of the Asiatic Land and Trading Act and the use of violence at the meeting swung Indian opinion heavily in favour of passive resistance. Many branches of the TIC passed resolutions of no confidence in the officials and in support of Dr. Y.M. Dadoo and his nationalist movement.

The Nationalist Bloc capitalised on this moment of positive public sentiment and used the funeral of Govindji as an opportunity for a mass political demonstration. On 9 July 1939, the funeral attended by over 6,000 (nearly one-fifth of the total Transvaal Indian population) at the Indian Sports Ground in Johannesburg and featured speeches from several notable members of the Indian community. The speeches condemned the Asiatic Land and Trading Act as being in direct violation of the 1927 Cape Town Agreement, a gratuitous insult to the Indian community which was aimed towards the “ultimate annihilation” of the Indian population. The three-fold resolution offered at the funeral was to first the launch the Transvaal Passive Resistance Campaign on 1 August 1939. The second and third resolution requested the withdrawal of the Agent-General from India and the denouncement of the moderate leaders followed by the full support of the policies and programmes of the Nationalist Bloc, respectively.

Gandhi did not interfere with Dadoo’s desire to embark on a Passive Resistance Campaign and merely told Dadoo, “You have to suffer not I; therefore let God be your guide.” Prior to the onset of the Campaign, Gandhi engaged in what he believed to be fruitful talks with Jan Smuts and the Union Government. Gandhi foresaw an opportunity for the Indian and British Governments to enact an “honourable settlement” with the South African Government and claimed that the time for Satyagraha was not right. Although the movement had achieved mass support in the Transvaal, Dadoo personally received a request from Gandhi to postpone the campaign.  According to Gandhi, it was the code of the passive resisters “to seize every opportunity of avoiding resistance if it can be done honourably.” Dadoo’s respect for Gandhi outweighed his disappointment, and the campaign was postponed.

Anti War

With the postponement of the campaign decided, Dadoo’s focus shifted to a proactive stance against South African involvement in World War II. Dadoo’s initial opinion about the war was reflective of the stance of the SACP. Following the 4 September 1939 Parliamentary vote to support Great Britain’s decision to go to war, Dadoo protested African participation in what he referred to as an “imperialist war.”  In two letters dated 4 and 5 July 1940 to Professor D.D.T. Jabavu, the President of the All African Convention (AAC), Dadoo attempted to dissuade Jabavu from supporting participation in the war prior to a meeting to be held in Bloemfontein to discuss the topic. Dadoo stressed the fact that the Union Government was attempting to “wage war for Democracy and Justice, [but] has not made the slightest effort to lighten the burden of oppression which weighs so heavily on the shoulders of [non-European South African] people.” He accused the Government of “a callous and criminal disregard of the sanctity of African lives” for deploying troops to some of the most dangerous points without sufficient armament. Instead, Dadoo wanted the focus to be put on “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.”

Dadoo charged

Dadoo’s proactive anti-war stance landed him in court in August 1940 after he was arrested for printing and distributing anti-war NEUF pamphlets. The pamphlets protested the lack of freedom and justice for the non-European population and concluded by stating:

“We answered the call in 1914-1918. What was our reward? Misery, starvation and unemployment. Don’t support this war, where the rich get richer and the poor get killed.

After the trial was delayed to September, Dadoo was charged with contravening the Emergency Regulations and sentenced to one month imprisonment or a fine of twenty-five pounds in addition to two months of hard labour suspended for two years. Although he refused to pay the fine, a fellow member of the Nationalist Bloc, M.D. Baruchi, paid the fine and Dadoo was released from prison. At the trial, Dadoo read a statement in which he passionately denounced the actions of the Union Government and defended the accuracy of the NEUF pamphlets he was caught distributing. Dadoo stood by his assertion that the war was, “an imperialist war, and therefore an unjust war. It is not a war to free the people, but to maintain and extend imperialist domination.”

Central Committee of the CPSA

At the beginning of January 1941, Dadoo was elected to the Central Committee of the SACP on which he would serve for 42 years and not miss a session until he fell ill near the end of his life. The end of January took an unfortunate turn for Dadoo as he once again found himself back in court under the Emergency Regulations, this time for making an anti-war speech in Benoni.

Prior to the day of his trial, Dadoo issued a statement on 30 January 1941 in order to encourage the Indian population to enrol and aid in organising the Passive Resistance Council, in addition to nominating Ismail Ahmed Cachalia to lead the movement. On 31 January 1941, Dadoo unsuccessfully defended himself in court and was sentenced to four months imprisonment with hard labour and a fine of £40. In his speech, which he delivered from the dock and published in full, in both The Star and Daily Mail, Dadoo exclaimed:

The Government may imprison me, it can fling hundreds and thousands into jail and concentration camps, but it cannot and it will not suppress the demand for freedom which arises from the crying hearts of the Non-Europeans and other oppressed people.

The case received an incredible amount of attention and became a household topic amongst the non-European community. In the Blue Sky Prison in Boksburg, Transvaal, Dadoo bore witness to the humiliating ways in which the Black prisoners were treated compared to the rest of the inmates. Although many offered to do his work, Dadoo did not shy away from the menial tasks and performed his duties like the rest of the prisoners. He also arranged for his legal counsel, Harry Bloom, to bring him books under the pretext that he was studying. When Dadoo was released on 30 April 1941, he came out to a hero’s welcome and was transported by a procession of approximately 50 cars from Boksburg to Johannesburg.

Following the 22 June 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union by Nazi forces, Dadoo’s official stance on the war took a dramatic turn. In 1942, the CPSA launched the “Defend South Africa” campaign designed to support the Allies. This caused great consternation amongst the supporters and the critics of the CPSA. Although Dadoo and Moses Kotane supported the campaign and delivered speeches, many of the crowds booed them and did not reciprocate the support. On 28 July 1942, a conference of 88 ‘non-European’ organisations met in a meeting convened by Dadoo to discuss the official stance on the war. While opinions ranged, the two largest factions were split between people who thought Japan had the potential to liberate South Africa, and those who thought fascism should be defeated at all costs. Eventually, a manifesto was drafted after the majority of attendees chose to promote the latter position and support the Allied war effort. Although it was agreed that support would be given to the government, Dadoo wanted the government held accountable for supplying equal arms and equipment and loosening political restrictions to ensure the ‘non-Europeans’ could “go all out to win this war.”

In 1944, a large contingent of the Indian population rallied and protested the Pretoria Agreement struck by the leaders of the NIC (largely AI Kajee) and Prime Minister Jan Smuts on 18 April 1944. The agreement was in response to the Pegging Act and it established a licensing board to regulate the occupation of formerly European homes by Indians. This was in contrast to the restrictions outlined by the Pegging Act proposed by the Smuts Government in 1944 that would have imposed a strict regulation on Indian occupation of households that were occupied by a European before 22 March 1944.

The first organised response to the Agreement was prompted by the Durban District Branch of the CPSA. On 25 April 1944, a petition was circulated, which garnered a few thousand signatures. On 28 April 1944, 35 representatives from Indian organisations met in Durban and formulated the Anti Segregation Council (ASC) to oppose the Pegging Act and obtain full franchise rights for the Indian population. On 6 May 1944, the newly formed ASC held a conference in which the Pretoria Agreement and the constituents that negotiated on behalf of the NIC were condemned. The various delegates in attendance began to put pressure on the NIC to hold elections and eliminate the moderates from control. A few days later, the CPSA organised a rally in which 10,000 people gathered for a rejection rally of the Agreement. A more official and organised response occurred on 20-21 May 1944 when a mass anti-pass conference was attended by 540 delegates at the Gandhi Hall in Johannesburg. A National Anti-Pass Council (NAPC) was elected to collect one million signatures to present to Parliament of which Dadoo was elected Vice-Chair. Following the conference, the delegates marched to Market Square where Dr. A.B. Xuma, the Chair of the NAPC, and Dadoo addressed the crowd of 15,000 people before they continued to march through the centre of Johannesburg. In a statement written by Dadoo in May 1944 regarding the Pretoria Agreement, Dadoo expressed his discontent with the “weak-kneed betraying” Indian leadership. Even worse, Dadoo worried about how the deal might help Smuts gain legitimacy on the international stage due to the “gross and shameful betrayal by some of the Natal Indian Congress leaders.”

The following year marked a period of tremendous institutional change in the NIC and the TIC. At a meeting that took place on 28 January 1945, the ASC and the moderates in charge of the NIC attempted to negotiate the distribution of power within the NIC and the holding of elections. As the relationship continued to deteriorate, the ASC decided to contest every seat in the upcoming NIC elections. In an open letter written by Dadoo and addressed to Natal Indians regarding the upcoming elections, Dadoo stressed that support of the Kajee-Pather leadership would have certainly led “the Indian people to certain ruin, ghettos and deprivation of economic rights and privileges for all, rich and poor alike.” Dadoo, instead, supported the ASC and encouraged voters to remember the ASC’s “record of unflinching faith in the united strength of the people, of a bold and uncompressing stand against the Pegging Act, the Pretoria Agreement, the Natal Ordinances and all measures of segregation.” In August 1945, the radicals of the NIC were forced to institute judicial proceeding against the NIC moderates. The radical leaders applied for a court injunction and called upon the other 96 members of the NIC to hold elections before 30 September 1945. On 11 September 1945, Justice Hathorn ruled in favour of the radicals and ordered the NIC to hold an annual general meeting no later than 22 October 1945 in addition to paying the costs of the applicants.

The Kajee-Pather leadership was able to see the writing on the wall and on 14 October 1945, they resigned from the leadership of the NIC.  Shortly thereafter, at a general meeting held at Curries Fountain in Durban on 21 October 1945, the radicals were voted into power. Dadoo’s colleague since his days at the University of Edinburgh, Dr Monty Naicker was elected to lead the organisation. At the meeting, it was decided to adopt a more vigorous and intensive programme in which there was to be closer cooperation with Coloured and African organisations and the Union Government was urged to participate in a Round Table Conference. This contrast in conduct was reflected in a memorandum submitted to Smuts on 9 November 1945. In the memorandum, the demands of the last general meeting were clearly laid out and requested rather than another attempt to negotiate with conciliatory gestures. The TIC experienced a similar changing of the guard when on 16 December 1945 a new executive was elected with predominantly Nationalist Bloc members filling the positions. Most importantly, Dadoo was elected President of the TIC.

With Dadoo and Naicker at the helm, the TIC and NIC adopted a more proactive attitude. At the 17th session of the SAIC in Cape Town that took place between 8 -11 February 1946, Prime Minister Smuts was called upon by a deputation of sixty Indians to postpone the Asiatic Land Tenure and Representations Bill but the proposal was rejected. As a result, the landmark decision was made to embark on a collective Passive Resistance Campaign.

Passive Resistance Campaign

Councils to coordinate the Passive Resistance Campaign (PRC) were set up throughout Natal and the Transvaal as the SAIC prepared to organise the Indian population. At this same conference, it was decided that Dadoo would not go to India to garner the support of the Indian Legislative Assembly because of their expulsion of communists. Dadoo was, instead, asked to go to the United States of America and Britain in order to gain goodwill and support.

On 3 March 1946, an SAIC deputation led by Sorabjee Rustomjee left for India to garner support. The deputation met with the major political organisations, such as the Indian National Congress, the Muslim League, and the Indian Liberal Foundation. On 12 March 1946, the SAIC delegation was introduced to the Viceroy by the Aga Khan and numerous prominent members of the Indian community. A petition that was drafted in consultation with Gandhi was submitted and as a result, the Government of India announced the termination of their trade agreement with South Africa.

Despite the pressure from Indian political organisations and the Indian Government, Prime Minister Smuts introduced the Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Bill (Ghetto Act) in the House of Assembly on 15 March 1946. The Bill severely affected where Indians could reside or trade and prohibited land transfers between Indians and non-Indians in Transvaal and Natal except in cases where the Minister’s consent was acquired regarding an “exempted area.” The Asiatic Land Tenure Board was set up to deal with the issues sparked by the new Bill. In order to quell the negative responses of the masses, Smuts offered two White representatives in the Senate and three Whites in the Assembly to represent the rights of Indians, and two Indians who could serve in the Natal Provincial Council.

Dadoo, I.C. Meer, J.N. Singh and Transvaal Indian Congress Youth (TIYC) members embarked on a two week tour of Transvaal to educate people about the Ghetto Act and the negative outcomes. On 2 June 1946 the Governor-General signed the Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Bill into law. On 10 June 1946, Dadoo circulated a letter to trade unions, progressive organisations, democrats and anti-fascists that denounced and condemned the Government for passing this “piece of legislation which could easily have been conceived by the former leaders of fascist Germany.”

In June 1946, Dadoo once again found himself on trial. This time, Dadoo plead guilty to violating the Riotous Assemblies Act due to his role in the Passive Resistance Campaign. Dadoo used his statement before the court in order to “clarify the situation and explain [his] action.” In response to the Magistrate’s question about why Dadoo chose to violate the law, Dadoo responded:

Because we are carrying out a campaign of Passive Resistance against the Ghetto Act and it is no fault of ours if the Government chooses to side-track the real issue and invoke the aid of the Riotous Assemblies Act...We are doing our duty to all true democrats and fighting for our rights in South Africa.

Prior to receiving his sentence of three months in prison with hard labour, Dadoo issued another statement on 27 June 1946 in which he encouraged the Indian people to “give whole-hearted support to the Passive Resistance Campaign which symbolises the struggle of the Indian people against the most vicious racial legislation in recent times.”

 On 13 August 1946, Dadoo was once again arrested while in prison along with other members of the Johannesburg District Committee, of which Dadoo was a member of the Central Committee and the Chair. He was brought from the Newcastle Prison in Natal (now kwaZulu-Natal) to the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court to face charges of “conspiring to assist the legal strike.” The strike referred to here was the African Mineworkers strike. During this time, Dadoo kept up his various organisational involvements, which included Vice-chair of the National Anti-Pass Council, President of the TIC, Chair of the Transvaal Passive Resistance Council and Joint-chair of the National Passive Resistance Council.

Upon Dadoo’s release on 26 September 1946, he was met by a large crowd of supporters and was welcomed home by a large rally held in Johannesburg for him and his co-accused, Zainab Asvat, a few days later. Dadoo addressed a large crowd at the New Town Market Square where people pledged their support for the Anti-Pass Campaign and the Passive Resistance Campaign. In his speech, Dadoo relayed an optimistic tone due to the rising popularity and support of the campaign within South Africa, a breakdown in the relations of the Indian and South African Governments, and the approaching United Nations Assembly meeting. Dadoo considered these successes to be the sign of “the first glow of a new dawn for South Africa and a decisive turning point in her history.” At the November elections for the TIC, Dadoo was re-elected President and for the first time women, Zainab Asvat, Mrs Suriakala Patel and Mrs P.K. Naidoo were elected to the Executive Council of the TIC.

Collaboration with the ANC and CPSA

At the end of 1946 and the beginning of 1947, signs of greater collaboration started to appear among the different political organisations. At the African National Congress (ANC) Annual Conference that took place, 14-17 December 1946, a resolution was taken for the newly elected National Executive Committee to “consider the possibilities of closer cooperation with the national organisations of other non-Europeans in the common struggles.” At the annual CPSA conference held in Johannesburg on 3-5 January 1947, the CPSA called for the establishment of a fighting alliance and endorsed the ANC’s boycott call of all elections under the Representation of Natives Act of 1936.

On 9 February 1947, Sorabjee Rustomjee returned from his trip to India with advice from Pundit Nehru to “co-operate with the African people” and unite the struggle. These gradual moves toward co-operation culminated in the landmark treaty, the Three Doctors’ Pact. The Joint Declaration of Cooperation, as it was officially known, was signed by Dr AB Xuma, President of the ANC, Dr G M Naicker, President of the NIC, and Dr Dadoo himself. The Pact was signed on 9 March 1947 as the three recognised the importance of uniting the Indian and the African people and to unite all ‘non-Europeans’ in the struggle against the government. The monumental pact was a forerunner to the Congress of the People, the multi-organisation committee that drafted the Freedom Charter in Kliptown on 25-26 June 1955.

Following the Doctors’ Pact, Dadoo and Naicker prepared to make a goodwill trip to India. On 10 March 1947, the day before their departure, they were given a farewell at a packed meeting at Gandhi Hall in Johannesburg. Dadoo and Naicker were in India for over two months and held talks with Nehru, Gandhi and other prominent Indian leaders.

Perhaps the most significant event attended by Dadoo and Naicker during this trip was the All-Asia Conference from 23 March to 2 April 1947. This conference was attended by 190 delegates and 45 observers from all over Asia to discuss liberation and freedom throughout Asia. It was decided that that the first step to freedom was the “liquidation of imperial regimes” to be followed by pursuing socialist economies free from foreign capital. While politically and professionally Dadoo and Naicker made great strides for the position of Indian South Africans, they also found time to enjoy themselves, as well. One person close to them during their time in India, Unus Meer, recollected how he, “never saw two people become so sober and so clear so quickly before” in time to appropriately conduct themselves for important meetings. 

The trip by Dadoo and Naicker was very successful and ensured widespread support from the Indian nation. At a 1947 NIC Conference, Naicker announced to the crowd that every political party in India had pledged its full support. As a result, India committed to raising the issue of South Africa at the United Nations General Assembly in order to illuminate local issues that required international attention and to put pressure on the Smuts government. Pundit Nehru was a major contributor to this initiative. He not only made South Africa a major priority, but his standing as the President of India provided him with the resources necessary to actually raise the issues.

On 30 January 1948, one of Dadoo’s greatest influences and mentors, Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in New Delhi. In a statement released on the day of his passing, Dadoo referred to Gandhi as “not only the ‘Spirit of India’ but he was also the torchbearer of liberation to all the disenfranchised, enslaved communities of the colonial and semi-colonial countries.” Although Dadoo’s support for the Communist Party put him at odds with aspects of Gandhi’s philosophy, Gandhi dismissed letters and comments from people requesting that Dadoo be distanced from him. In a letter dated 27 November 1947 to S.B. Medh, Gandhi wrote “The best way is not to bother about what any ‘ism’ says but to associate yourself with any action after considering its merit. Dr. Dadoo has made a favourable impression on everybody here [India].”

In another statement released in February 1948, Dadoo reminisced about an encounter with Gandhi during his 1947 visit with Naicker to India. Other records of this encounter attest to the fact that Dadoo and Naicker greatly wanted to go with Gandhi on one of his walks before sunrise. When Ghandi came to wake them up, the night had run too late the night before to allow them to join Bapu [Gandhi]. Dadoo recalled waking up to Gandhi’s laugh – “a laugh which was all his own” as Gandhi realised the two young men were in not in any condition to join the well-meaning Gandhi. 

Dadoo and the second phase of the Passive Resistance Campaign

In 1948, Dadoo was once again in trouble with the South African courts. On 25 January 1948, R.A. Pillay and R. Mahabeer lead 15 resisters on a journey from Durban to Charlestown in order to begin the second phase of Passive Resistance. I.C. Meer and other resisters led by Dadoo waited in Charlestown as resisters crossed over the border from Natal to Transvaal in defiance of the 1913 Immigrants Regulation Act. Dadoo and Meer decided the resisters should go to Forsdburg, Transvaal and pitch tents before Dadoo himself went to Durban to coordinate another resistance group. Instead of arresting the Durban resisters, the police chose to arrest Dadoo and Naicker. The resisters were arrested two weeks later and given suspended sentences on the condition that they did not contravene the Immigration Act again. Dadoo and Naicker, on the other hand, appeared in court on 26-29 February 1948 to face charges for “aiding and abetting Asiatic persons in entering the province of the Transvaal from Natal” while knowingly defying the Immigrants Regulation Act of 1913. In their response to the court regarding the charges, Dadoo and Naicker pleaded guilty to the charge but stated that it was:

Reasonable and in accordance with natural justice to exercise the most elementary right of citizenship, that of freedom of movement within the boundaries of one’s country of birth. Any denial of such basic human rights would only make a mockery of democracy and democratic principles.

On 29 February 1948, Dadoo, Naicker, Manilal Gandhi and Sundra Pillay were each sentenced to six months imprisonment. In his speech delivered on the eve of his imprisonment, Dadoo condemned the actions of the Union Government, and called on the Indian people of the Transvaal to “stand solidly behind the Transvaal Indian Congress and its policy and continue their wholehearted support for our great Passive Resistance struggle.”

On 10 July 1948, Dadoo and Naicker were released from prison. Following a reception held at the People’s Square in Pietermaritzburg, Dadoo went to Johannesburg where he was met by his supporters and taken to address a Transvaal Passive Resistance Council meeting at Red Square. Later in July, Dadoo and Naicker made a joint appeal to the ‘non-Europeans’ in Cape Town and warned them about the oncoming threat of the Ghetto Act being enacted in the Cape. Furthermore, Dadoo and Naicker released a joint statement that applauded the Indian and Pakistan Governments for continuing to raise the South African Indian question before the United Nations (UN) General Assembly. 

In 1948, the Passive Resistance Campaign of 1946 officially came to an end. According to Dadoo, the primary success of the Campaign came in greater unity and consolidation across three fronts. First, it provided an opportunity for the majority working class Indians to work together with the wealthier, trading class Indians. Secondly, the Campaign proved the incredible devotion of the South African Indian population to the liberation cause of the ANC and other movements and therefore opened up channels for discussing new joint endeavours. Finally, it created a stronger unity between the SAIC and the Indian government.  At the behest of the SAIC, the Indian government broke off relations with South Africa and imposed economic sanctions. Furthermore, the Indian government also began to take up the treatment of South Africans of Indian origin before eventually broadening to the issue of apartheid as a whole.

Dadoo abroad

In October 1948, the SAIC sent Dadoo overseas, as an ambassador to garner support. After he passed through immigration, Dadoo’s passport was impounded. As a result, Molvi Cachalia and Nana Sita (Nanabhai) arranged a charter flight that flew Dadoo to London. When Dadoo arrived in London, he was assisted by Cassim Jadwat, a South African student in London, who helped Dadoo set up offices at the Indian League premises.

In an attempt to have Dadoo attend the UN General Assembly meetings in Paris, the Indian Government attempted to lobby for support from various UN member states to allow Dadoo to attend the Paris Assembly, but the French government remained staunchly opposed to letting Dadoo in without a passport.

During his time abroad, Dadoo spent time attending meetings and giving lectures organised by the Indian League throughout Scotland, Wales and England. Dadoo was also put into contact with various prominent politicians from around the world as a result of attending numerous conferences. At the fifth conference of the Polish Workers’ Party, Dadoo met various delegations from Latin America and Asia. Dadoo also attended the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference where he lobbied the Prime Ministers of Canada and New Zealand, but was offered only a lukewarm response.

The Durban riots

The year 1949 began with one of the most formative events in the history of Indian South Africans. The Durban Riots broke out on 13 January 1949. In the violence that ensued, 142 lives were lost, 1,087 people were reported to be injured and many shops and houses were either destroyed or damaged. Dadoo’s official statement was delivered at a multiracial demonstration in London on 25 January 1949 while a life-sized effigy of Malan was burnt in Trafalgar Square. In the statement, Dadoo said the “primary and main responsibility” [for the Durban riots] belonged to the Nationalist Party (NP) and their leader, Dr. D F Malan.

The hands of the Malan government are stained with the blood of innocent men, women and children. The Government and their racialistic supporters cannot escape their responsibilities.

He applauded the work done by organisations and people from all spheres in their relief efforts and hoped this event would attract action from the United Nations.

In October, Dadoo returned to South Africa and was welcomed at a rally at Market Square in Johannesburg. A week after returning, Dadoo was met by another crowd in Durban on 23 October 1949 where he outlined his work done overseas. It was at this time that Dadoo and Sam Khan (South Africa’s first communist elected in 1943) were banned from speaking in eight cities around South Africa. Dadoo found out about his ban from appearing in public meetings from Naomi Shapiro after she read about the ban in an Afrikaans language newspaper in November. On 13 December 1949, the TIC, ANC, SACP, Johannesburg District Committee and the African People’s Organization (APO) convened a mass meeting and collectively condemned the ban on Dadoo.


Defend Free Speech Convention

The 1950s began with a new commitment to cross-organisational coordination. At an ANC meeting of 10,000 people in February 1950 at Newtown Market Square, ANC President Dr J S Moroka declared his support for united action against government laws. Moses Kotane of the CPSA was also present and delivered a speech at the same meeting.

At a 26 March 1950 rally, over 10 000 people gathered in Johannesburg’s Market Square to support a general strike. Approximately 528 delegates from organisations such as the Transvaal ANC, TIC, APO and the Johannesburg District of the CPSA, representing over a million people throughout the Transvaal, gathered at what was deemed the Defend Free Speech Convention at Ghandi Hall in Johannesburg. The convention condemned the ban of Yusuf Dadoo and Sam Khan and declared 1 May 1950 to be observed as Freedom Day - a day for people of all races to stay home from work and show their support for freedom. Although the ANC did not support the convention, the Transvaal ANC unofficially supported it by and the meeting was presided over by ANC President, Dr. Moroka.

The joint honorary secretaries of the Convention, David Bopape, Yusuf Cachalia and Dan Tloome wrote to the leaders of the ANC, SAIC, APO and Coloured People’s National Union to request a National Convention in Johannesburg on 1-2 July 1950.

Dadoo and Khan also attended an ANC delegates' conference at Gandhi Hall. In the legislation that barred them from attending meetings, the Riotous Assemblies Act, a legal loophole allowed them to attend “private conferences” and Dadoo spoke at the meeting. 

In May, the Union Government presented the Unlawful Organisations Bill, better known as the Suppression of Communism Act. The broadly worded piece of legislation banned any group or individual that intended to “bring about any political, industrial, social or economic change in the Union by the promotion of disturbances or disorder, by unlawful acts or omissions or by the threat of such acts and omissions.” The Government not only gained the power to ban publications that they believed promoted the objectives of Communism, but they also acquired the ability to bar people on their own accord from holding office, attending meetings or practicing as lawyers. As a result of the Bill, the meeting organised earlier in the year in Johannesburg (6-8 January) was the last legal conference held by the CPSA until it re-emerged, legally, as the South African Communist Party in 1991.

Dadoo and the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA)

On 20 June, the Central Committee met to discuss the future of the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) [later renamed the South African Communist Party - SACP]. The CPSA had to decide whether to go underground or dissolve in order to avoid violating the new law and subsequently facing the harsh outcomes. Dadoo supported the argument to move the organisation underground while members such as Moses Kotane, JB Marks and Edwin Mofutsanyana believed the move underground was unwise without more preparation. As a result, the CPSA elected to dissolve a few days prior to the official enactment of the Suppression of Communism Act, No. 44 of 1950.

A liquidator, J. de Villiers Louw, was appointed by the Minister of Justice to oversee the dissolution of the Party. The liquidator filed a report that the Party continued to exist despite their claims to the contrary, and received a court order shortly thereafter to expedite the process of dissolution and name the appropriate people affiliated with the CPSA. In a letter to the Minister of Justice in September 1951 regarding the liquidator’s request to receive explanations as to why their names “should not be placed on a list of members and supporters of the now dissolved Communist Party” written by Sam Khan, Fred Carneson, Dadoo and others, the men declined “to make such representations.” The letter also accused the Government of forcing the legislation through despite “the protest of every important political, religious, professional and trade union in the country...in order to preserve a narrow, backward, and primitive social system, based on race and class oppression.”

Although members could no longer publicly align their voices with the CPSA, it was understood that the views published in journals such as The Guardian, Fighting Talk and Liberation represented the views of the executive committee and the “Party line” on particular issues.

Dadoo made his personal stance on the Suppression of Communism Act publicly known in a June 1950 interview published in The Guardian. In the interview, “Malan Cannot Succeed Where Hitler Failed,” Dadoo likened the actions of Malan and the Nationalist Government to Hitler and the Nazis. He also supported the day of mourning to be held on 26 June 1950 in memory of the people murdered at the May Day massacre. The May Day massacre was a joint national strike in protest against discriminatory laws and a demand for full franchise. It was the first major joint campaign with popular support from Indians and Coloureds in South Africa's history. In Alexandra Township, Johannesburg and other areas, police opened fire on the crowds and killed 18 people and wounded 30. 

The initiative was spearheaded by the ANC after an emergency meeting organised by the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) on 21 May 1950. At a mass rally in Durban on 28 May 1950, the ANC, SAIC, CPSA and African People’s Organisation (APO) all resolved to observe 26 June as a day of mourning due to the May Day massacre and a protest against the Unlawful Organisation Bill. After he pledged Indian allegiance, Dr Monty Naicker declared the ANC President, Dr. Moroka, as “Commander-in-Chief.”

On 26 June, Parliament approved the Suppression of Communism Act and declared the CPSA illegal, with full enforcement to begin on 17 July 1950. A day of national mourning and protest was held as the SAIC and ANC encouraged a general strike to commemorate the lives lost on May Day.

On 30 July, the homes of ANC and SAIC members were raided by police. On 20 August, ANC and SAIC members were arrested and charged for promoting Communism, under the Suppression of Communism Bill, and were released on £100 bail.

On 15 September, Dr. Moroka opened the 19th session of the SAIC in Johannesburg. Dr. Naicker nominated Dadoo, who was still banned, as President of the SAIC, which was unanimously accepted. A resolution was also passed to approach the ANC and other organisations to “devise all effective and concrete ways and means of offering resistance to all discriminatory laws.”

In November 1950, Dadoo released a statement supporting the UN’s decision made at the General Assembly conducted in the same month. In the item entitled, “Treatment of people of Indian origin in the Union of South Africa,” the UN recommended that a round table discussion be conducted between the Governments of India, Pakistan and South Africa before 1 April 1951; otherwise, a three-member commission would be elected by each nation to coordinate a time for the round table discussion. Furthermore, the UN called upon the Governments to  “refrain from taking any steps which would prejudice the success of their negotiations, in particular, the implementation or enforcement of the provisions of ‘The Group Areas Act,’ pending conclusion of such negotiations” in addition to the decision to “include this item in the agenda of the next regular session General Assembly.” Dadoo welcomed this resolution with the "deepest satisfaction."

On 1 January 1951, Dadoo published a New Year message in The Guardian newspaper entitled, “Fight for Peace, Democracy and an end to exploitation.” The statement reviewed the racist status of South Africa and Dr. Malan’s Nationalist Government. Dadoo also laid out the tasks for the coming year in order to end Apartheid and combat racist legislation, such as the Malan-Havenga Pact that Dadoo considered to be “a most sinister attack on democracy as such.” This piece of legislation withdrew the right of the Coloured population to vote on the common voters roll in the Cape. Officially titled the Separate Representation of Voters Act, the Act was initially declared illegal by the Supreme Court because it did not have a two-thirds majority. Malan circumvented this problem by increasing the amount of seats and votes in government in order to receive greater support.

This legislation also lead to the creation of the Franchise Action Committee in January, which would later be renamed the Franchise Action Council (FAC) at a conference in February. The FAC was formed to defend voting rights of Coloureds and to extend voting enfranchisement and equal representation across all populations of South Africa. In order to mobilise the population, Dadoo went on a speaking tour around the Cape with Reggie September and Alex la Guma. He spoke at demonstrations, factories, residential areas and at Cape Town’s Grand Parade.

As 1951 progressed, Dadoo devoted his time helping to mobilise the Coloured population to protest the Separate Representation of Voters Act and speaking in various places to promote resistance to apartheid.

Dadoo and the Defiance Campaign

On 28-29 July, the ANC invited the SAIC, the APO and the FAC executives to meet in Johannesburg to outline the path for a defiance campaign against unjust laws. The focus was narrowed to six specific laws””Pass Laws, Separate Representation of Voters Act, Suppression of Communism Act, Bantu Authorities Act, Stock Limitation Regulations and the Group Areas Act of 1950. At this same meeting, a Joint Planning Council (JPC) was elected to plan for the campaign. Dr. Moroka was elected Chairperson with Walter Sisulu and J B Marks of the ANC, and Dadoo and Cachalia of the SAIC elected onto this Council.

As the Congresses prepared for the Defiance Campaign, the Nationalist Government took action against leading NIC and TIC members, by having them "named" under the Suppression of Communism Act. Dr G M Naicker, Debi Singh and IC Meer, President, General Secretary and Vice-President respectively of the NIC, Nana Sita and Yusuf Cachalia, President and Secretary of the TIC were named. Dadoo as President of the SAIC had already been named.

At a meeting of the Pretoria branch of the TIC, in October, Yusuf Cachalia analysed the implications of the Group Areas Act and declared that Blacks in South Africa "will not accept the Act, which the Government regarded as the kernel of apartheid." He then made the first public announcement of a joint campaign. He told his audience, "In the very near future you will be called upon to do your share in the struggle against Apartheid tyranny."  Other speakers at this meeting were Dr William Nkomo, Nana Sita, Ramlal Moolloo and the TIC secretary Mervin Thandray.

On 8 November 1951, the Joint Planning Council (JPC) gathered at the home of Dr. Moroka in Thaba ‘Nchu, Orange Free State (now Free State Province) to compose a report for the Executive Committees of the ANC and SAIC. The report reflected the goals set by the Joint Conference of the National Executives of the ANC and the SAIC and the representatives of the Franchise Action Council that took place in Johannesburg on 29 July 1951. The conference immediately initiated a mass campaign to repeal the six unjust laws and establish a JPC to “coordinate the efforts of the national organisations of the African, Indian and Coloured peoples in this mass campaign.”  The JPC recommended “defiance of unjust laws” and “industrial action” as appropriate forms of struggle.

The campaign was to progress through three stages. The first stage was to initiate the campaign with demonstrations by “selected and trained persons” in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth and Durban. The second stage focused on increasing both the size of the movement through enrolment and the establishment of more “centres of operation.”  After the growth of the movement, the goal of the third stage was to expand countrywide in which both the rural and the urban areas were informed and involved. The report was signed by J.B. Marks and Walter Sisulu on behalf of the ANC and Y.M. Dadoo and Y. Cachalia as representatives of the SAIC. Dr Moroka served as the Chairman of the Council.

In December, the Government threatened to prevent the publication of The Guardian. Dadoo embarked on a campaign to save the newspaper by selling it in the street and publicly supporting its continuation. The case of The Guardian was placed before the Human Rights Commission at the United Nations

Dadoo also went to Durban in order to support Naicker and the NIC in their opposition to the Group Areas Act. The Durban Municipal Council defined racial areas and planned to uproot 120,000 Indians from the central areas of Durban. Together, Dadoo and Naicker headed an active campaign against the Zoning Commission by speaking at meetings throughout Natal.

On 15 – 17 December 1951, Cachalia, Gandhi and James Phillips (the President of the Transvaal Council of Trade Unions) addressed the ANC National Conference in Bloemfontein. The ANC adopted the JPC report and resolved to call upon the Union Government to repeal all unjust laws by no later than 29th February 1952.

Also during December 1951, at the ANC National Conference in Bloemfontein, the organisation adopted the JPC report and vowed to call upon the Union Government to repeal all unjust laws by 29 February 1952.

At the conference some African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) members raised the issue of collaborating with Indians in the Defiance Campaign as they believed that it impaired the "nationalistic" ideal. The majority of the ANC voted down the issue and a letter was subsequently drafted that demanded the repeal of repressive legislation, otherwise mass action would take place to oppose the Government. A letter was submitted on behalf of Dr. Moroka and Walter Sisulu to Prime Minister Malan conveying this ultimatum on 21 January 1952.

In December, Sisulu, Dadoo, Marks and Y.A. Cachalia (all members of the JPC) together with R.T. Chari, the former Secretary of the Indian High Commissioner in the Union, visited Basutoland (now Lesotho).  There they held discussions with headmen and chiefs about the inauguration of the Protectorate by Great Britain.

In January 1952, Dadoo issued a New Year message for the second consecutive year, entitled, “Oust the Nationalists from power.” In the statement, Dadoo voiced his support for the ANC and the campaign for the Defiance of Unjust Laws as “historical in its significance as have been mass movements in other lands.”

On 25-27 January 1952, at its 20th annual conference in Johannesburg, the SAIC officially adopted the JPC report. During this conference, on 26 January, the police arrested Dadoo and nine other delegates without warrant or reason. On the same night, they were released on £15 bail without any charges. In his extensive Presidential address delivered at the beginning of the conference, Dadoo reviewed the status of the nation and stressed the absolute importance of the Plan of Action for the Defiance of Unjust Laws. Dadoo denounced multiple pieces of Apartheid legislation as being a tool the Minister of Justice provided himself in order to “victimise and terrorise any person whose conscience [compelled]  him to protest against Government policy which he [considered] to be against the interests of the people.”He also criticised the Separate Representation of Voters Act for attempting to deprive “the Coloured people of whatever limited democratic rights they possessed in the election of members to Parliament.” The most ominous Act, according to Dadoo, was the Group Areas Act. For Dadoo, the operation of the Group Areas Act meant a “life without hope and purpose, a life cut off from the moorings of civilisation and a life at the mercy of the powers that be.”  Furthermore, Dadoo told the “herrenvolk-minded Nationalists” to alter their policies to get back in line with history because they could not “hope to halt the onward march of the people towards greater democracy.” After reiterating his support for the ANC’s plan of action, Dadoo ended his speech with these words:

Forward In the Struggle of the Defiance of Unjust Laws!

Forward for a Free and Democratic South Africa! 

In response to the letter sent by Dr. Moroka and Sisulu on 21 January, Prime Minister Malan lambasted the ANC, through his private secretary, for contacting him directly rather than through the Minister of Native Affairs, then HF Verwoerd. After Malan’s Government officially rejected the repeal of the six unjust laws, the ANC announced that the Defiance Campaign would proceed.

On 20 February, the SAIC sent a letter signed by Dadoo and Cachalia to President Malan. The letter reflected the content and spirit of the SAIC conference held the previous month. The letter detailed how legislation specifically affected and harmed society. Similar to Dadoo’s Presidential address, the letter emphatically pleaded for the Group Areas Act not to be reinforced because it meant “to the non-European an end to all progress in every sphere of life.” In the letter, they also supported a letter sent by the ANC to Malan that was lambasted and rejected by the President. While the ANC’s letter received a negative response, the letter from Dadoo and Cachalia received no response or acknowledgement at all.

On 6 April 1952, rallies were held throughout the country while the tercentenary function of Jan Van Riebeeck’s arrival at the Cape took place in Cape Town. The ANC and the TIC issued a flyer entitled “April 6: Peoples Protest Day.” Dr Naicker, P Simelane, IC Meer, JN Singh, Hassen Mall (who spoke on behalf of the Natal Indian Youth Congress) and Manibehn Sita (daughter of Nana Sita) were all keynote speakers at the Durban meeting held at Red Square.

Dadoo spoke, along with Dr Moroka, in Johannesburg during a mass meeting held at Freedom Square, Fordsburg and then proceeded to present Dr. Moroka with a black, green and gold robe. Thereafter, Sisulu outlined the “Plan of Action” for the Defiance Campaign to the massive crowd gathered. Other keynote speakers at the event were Kotane, Mandela, D. Bopape, Dan Tloome and James Philips.

After this protest, Sisulu, Marks, Cachalia and Dadoo travelled to the Transkei to meet the Bhunga (Parliament) in order to present and outline the Defiance Campaign. During the discussion, the Special Branch police arrived and pressured Dadoo and Cachalia to present the required permits to enter the Transkei, which they did not have. After questioning the police left, but the encounter left the Bhunga intimidated and with diminished enthusiasm for the Defiance Campaign.

On May 17, at the TIC Conference at the Trades Hall in Johannesburg, Nana Sita, the TIC President, told delegates that the Government was determined to crush the Indian community with measures such as the Group Areas Act. Referring to the pending Defiance Campaign, he said that Indians were fighting for the rights of all oppressed people in South Africa. The conference, which Dadoo opened, was informed of the plan to enrol ten thousand volunteers and to collect one million shillings for the Freedom Fund.

Dadoo banned

On 25 May, CR Swart, the Minister of Justice, used the Suppression of Communism Act to remove Sam Khan and Fred Carneson, Communists representing of Africans in the Cape Provincial Council. Swart also banned TheGuardian, the unofficial publication of the CPSA, but it reappeared shortly after as The Clarion. Swart also ordered Party members such as Kotane, Marks, Bopape, Ngwevela and Dadoo to resign from their organisations and not address political meetings for two years.

In a statement released after Swart’s announcements, Dadoo condemned the banning orders. Dadoo dismissed Swart as “extremely foolhardy...to imagine that by removing some leaders from official posts in their organisations, he will manage to strangle the activities of these organisations.”

By the time the Joint Executive Committee of the Congress Alliance (ANC, CPSA, SAIC and SACPO) met at Dr James Lowell Zwelinzima Njongwe’s  home in New Brighton, Port Elizabeth on 31 May, the Malan government had banned Marks, Kotane, Bopape, Ngwevela and Dadoo under the Suppression of Communism Act. Specifically, Dadoo was ordered to resign from the SAIC and the JPC within 30 days. At a press conference held on 1 June following a meeting between the ANC and SAIC National Executive Committees, Dr. Moroka and Dr. Naicker announced that the five banned leaders of the CA would defy the Minister’s ban and that they would be the first volunteers to enlist for the Defiance Campaign. They announced the launch of the Defiance Campaign was set for 26 June.

Dadoo also issued an additional statement related to his personal banning order. He warned about the darkness of fascism that was “rapidly descending upon the country.” While he did not yet offer precise details of the forthcoming Defiance Campaign, he did describe the context of the Campaign as a venture for,

When all normal constitutional avenues for voicing the opposition of the people against certain unjust laws are ruthlessly closed by the Government then the people have no alternative but to express their disapproval even by defying these laws.

On 5 June, Ismail Bhoola, J.B. Marks, David Bopape and Dadoo addressed a gathering in Johannesburg and were subsequently arrested for defying their bans. After being represented by Bram Fischer and A. O’Dowd in court, Dadoo was sentenced to six months in prison while others such as Marks and Kotane received four-month sentences. Dadoo was sentenced to an additional two months because of his previous convictions in respect of his anti-war stance and his role in the 1946 Passive Resistance campaign.

The JPC declared 22 June as the “Day of Volunteers” for the Defiance Campaign. The first joint mass meeting took place between the ANC and the SAIC in Durban, Natal at the Red Square and was attended by over 8,000 people. The National Volunteer-in Chief for the ANC, Nelson Mandela, spoke at this meeting. His first speech in Durban explained the purpose and the details of the campaign. The former ANCYL leader shared the stage with the Natal Presidents and Secretaries of the ANC and NIC, as a member of the ANC National Executive Committee.

The Defiance Campaign was officially launched on 26 June 1952, in Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth. Over 8,000 people from all racial groups participated in the campaign by contravening selected discriminatory laws and regulations and risking court imprisonment.

In July, Dadoo issued a statement from the dock before being sentenced in the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court for defying his banning orders under the Suppression of Communism Act. In the brief statement, Dadoo expressed concern and disappointment in the ability of the National Government’s system to reduce “the overwhelming majority of our population, namely the Non-European people, to a state of chronic malnutrition, ill-health, illiteracy and poverty.” On 30 July, the Government ordered raids on the homes of ANC and SAIC members in 16 centres countrywide.

Twenty leaders, including Dadoo, were arrested and indicted on a charge under another section of the Suppression of Communism Act on 12 August. The charge claimed that through the Defiance Campaign they were perpetrating unlawful acts to bring about political, industrial, social, and economic change in the Union. By definition of the Act, this was tantamount to Communism. The trial dragged on for five months until all the leaders were found guilty of “statuary communism.” The sentences of all the leaders were suspended.

In November 1952, Dadoo wrote a letter to The Star regarding a speech given to the Indo-European Joint Council at Pietermaritzburg by Archbishop Denis Hurley. In his statement, Dadoo quoted Archbishop Hurley as saying that the Indian community needed to make a “gesture of goodwill, that [Indians] accept residential segregation as a means of allaying European fears in the interests of better understanding and as a means of furthering their own development towards full citizenship.” Dadoo described this proposal as “not only wholly unjustified, but also misdirected.” Furthermore, Dadoo believed that Archbishop Hurley was failing to fulfil his role as a leader of Christian values. He requested that Archbishop Hurley either work to repeal all legislation that did not “abide by the Christian principle of human brotherhood” or “resign gracefully so that Christian and human principles of equality and brotherhood may find an abiding place in our country which we love so dearly.”

Dadoo and the re-emergence of the SACP

At the beginning of 1953, the CPSA held its first formal underground meeting behind the retail shop of an Indian merchant in a small Eastern Transvaal town. Twenty-five delegates from all over the country elected Dadoo as Chairman of the Central Committee and Moses Kotane as Secretary of the newly renamed South African Communist Party (SACP). Shortly thereafter, Dadoo and Chief Albert Luthuli, the President of the ANC, were banned again. The leadership of the SAIC passed on to Dr. Naicker. In May, Dr. Naicker was also banned and prohibited from visiting main city centres outside of Durban and from public gatherings anywhere for 12 months.

On 21 February, Chief Albert Luthuli opened the annual NIC Conference. He pledged ANC support for the Indian people in the struggle against the Government’s repatriation policy [the Government wanted to repatriate Indians back to India] and lauded the relationship between the ANC and the SAIC as, “our formidable alliance based on a common genuine regard for true democracy." On 24 April, Chief Luthuli called off the Defiance Campaign.

Kotane, Sisulu, Marks and Dadoo read a message at the unveiling of a memorial to Johannes Nkosi in Durban on 18 July. Nkosi, a Communist leader, was shot during an anti-pass demonstration in Durban and passed away on 19 December 1930.

A unique event was organised on 26-27 September, to bring the population together and to mobilise the population. The Transvaal Youth Festival for Peace, Friendship, and Racial Harmony was held at Mia’s Farm. The Transvaal Indian Youth Congress (TIYC) hosted this event, which was attended by 1,500 people.  Since the event was classified as a recreational activity, banned people such as Dadoo and Kotane were able to attend. Both these men participated in the football match between the veterans and the youth.

In March 1954, the JPC, later renamed the National Action Council (NAC), was established to organise the Congress of the People. Chief Luthuli was elected Chairman and Sisulu and Cachalia were elected Joint Secretaries. The NAC was in close contact with all regions of the country and directed peoples’ demands to a drafting committee that consulted regional bodies. The members of the national drafting committee subsequently drafted the Freedom Charter in Johannesburg.

The TIYC honoured Dadoo with a picnic to celebrate his 45th birthday in September. Dadoo received thousands of messages from all over South Africa for his birthday.

Over 25 and 26 June, approximately 8, 000 people representing the ANC, the Congress of Democrats (COD), the SAIC, the South African Coloured Peoples’ Organisation (SACPO), and the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) met in Kliptown, Soweto at the Congress of the People (COP).  It was at this meeting that the SACTU became an active member of the CA.  SACTU was represented on the Alliance’s National Co-ordinating Committee. The ANCYL and TIYC worked tirelessly to accommodate the needs of the delegates.

 At the COP, the Freedom Charter was adopted and officially became the common programme of the Congresses. Notable leaders such as Monty Naicker, Albert Luthuli, Yusuf Cachalia, Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Ahmed Kathrada, IC Meer, JN Singh, Fatima Meer and Dadoo were barred from attending the launch of the Charter due to banning orders. On the second day, the meeting between the 2,844 elected delegates was stormed by fully armed police, who took down banners and posters in addition to documenting every delegate present.

In 1955, the ANC bestowed the Isitwalandwe/Seaparankoe Award on Dadoo along with Chief Luthuli and Father Trevor Huddleston. This award was deemed the ANC’s highest accolade in honour of their contributions to the struggle for freedom and democracy. Dadoo’s mother accepted on his behalf as he was unable to attend due to his banning orders.

On 18 April, Moses Kotane and Molvi Cachalia represent the ANC and SAIC, respectively, left to attend the Bandung Conference for Asian-African countries in Indonesia. Although he did not attend the conference, Dadoo issued a statement regarding the conference. Dadoo believed the conference was “proof in itself of the growing maturity and strength of those countries which not so long ago lay prostrate under the iron heel of imperialist colonial rule.”

In a letter to the New Age, dated 12 January 1956, Dadoo appealed to readers to donate to the newspaper, in order to keep it alive, but also to expand the paper from four pages to eight. Dadoo referred to the “people’s paper” as “one of the most important and indispensible weapons in all these struggles.”

 At a special conference held on 31 March - 1 April, the ANC officially adopted the Freedom Charter despite disruptions by the Africanists who later went on to form the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) lead by Robert Sobukwe.

On 25-26 August, the TIC held a conference at Gandhi Hall in Johannesburg to discuss the Group Areas Act. Over 1,500 Indians attended and Dadoo issued a statement to be read at the conference. Dadoo’s statement urged Indians not to comply with the Group Areas Act and move to “Lenasia or any other group areas set aside” for Indians. Furthermore, he hoped people would not be compelled to think they could negotiate any type of fair deal with the Government and called upon Indian property owners “to cease charging goodwill money and exorbitant rents” in order to support fellow Indians.

At the SAIC’s 22nd annual conference held on 19 -22 October, the SAIC declared that the Freedom Charter “reflected the true aims of the overwhelming majority of the people of our country – no one dare disregard it and no political organisation can succeed without satisfying these aims and any effort to thwart them will be defeated by the people.”  Although he was still the President of the SAIC, Dadoo was unable to participate openly due to his banning order.

Dadoo was banned, again, for an additional five years from attending any gatherings or meetings in 1957.

In 1959, the TIC launched a campaign to prevent the visit of Frank Worrell’s West Indies cricket team as it encouraged the Government’s Apartheid policy. Dadoo, a cricket fan, was a Patron of the Witwatersrand Indian Cricket Union (WICU).  Since a small section of WICU officials wanted to “keep politics out of sports,” they deposed Dadoo from the panel of Patrons of the WICU.  In his place, they appointed the Captain of the West Indies team as a patron.  Dadoo was eventually reinstated in the late 1960s.


Due to the instability and tumultuous events that took place in 1960, Dadoo would never return to South Africa after this year. On 21 March 1960, the Sharpeville Massacre took place at Sharpeville, Transvaal. The bloodiest massacre in the history of South Africa resulted in the death of 69 men, women and children and 186 wounded, after the police opened fire on an unarmed crowd. In Langa, Western Cape, the police also opened fire and killed five people in addition to hundreds of injuries. The Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) responded by calling on a work stoppage to last for two weeks, and as a result, ninety-five percent of the workforce went on strike following the massacre. The African National Congress (ANC) immediately announced for 28 March, 1960 to be observed as a day of mourning.  

On 22 March, Hendrik Verwoerd explained to the South African Parliament that the riots could not be understood as a reaction to Apartheid and had nothing to with passes. Additionally, he announced the arrest of 132 members of the PAC, including Robert Sobukwe, who were being held in Johannesburg on charges of sedition. The next day, Sobukwe and Kitchener Leballo, the President and National Secretary of the PAC respectively, were charged with 11 others with incitement to riot. The following day, on 24 March, the National Government issued a ban on public meetings of more than 12 people until 30 June in an effort prevent the mass protests against the pass laws. Shortly thereafter, on 27 March, the Commissioner of Police announced the Pass Laws suspended until order has been restored. He said the Pass Laws were not suspended “because of the Bantu agitators, but because the jails could no longer fit the Africans who openly accepted arrest for violating Pass Laws”. On the same day, Oliver Tambo departed from South Africa by the behest of the ANC to facilitate the opening of bases outside of the country’s borders and to secure international funding and support. After he crossed the border into Bechuanaland (Botswana), Chief Albert Luthuli publicly burned his pass.

The following day, the ANC called for a nation-wide stay-at-home protest in light of the Sharpeville Massacre. While several hundred thousand people across the country stayed at home, some took to the streets to burn their passes in public bonfires.

On 29 March 1960, Dadoo made his last public appearance in South Africa outside the courthouse where the last few accused in the Treason Trial were in session. The next day, the Government declared a State of Emergency. The Minister of Justice announced that a State of Emergency had been declared in 80 magisterial districts and that Citizen Forces had been mobilised to supplement the police, army and air force.  Almost 2,000 political activists and leaders were arrested and detained without trial for up to five months, including Nelson Mandela. Chief Luthuli was also detained and he was held until August. He was tried and sentenced to a fine of £100 and a six-month suspended sentence.

The day before the State of Emergency, Ben Turok managed to slip the police raids. He took refuge at a safe house that belonged to Ralph Sepal””a friend and a former member of the Communist Party. A short time later, Dadoo joined Turok, Kotane and Michael Harmel at Sepal’s home, which became the Party’s nerve centre. Dadoo continued to be his cordial self and cooked dinner for the group while they hid.

Around the same time, Winnie Kramer [Dadoo] was arrested and detained for five months at the Johannesburg Fort with Hilda Bernstein, Rica Hodgson, Molly Fisher, Violet Weinberg and Sonia Bunting.

On 7 April, The Unlawful Organisations Bill was rushed through Parliament which allowed for organisations considered to be a threat to public order or safety to be declared illegal On 8 April, Justice Minister Frans Erasmus declared the ANC and PAC to be unlawful organisations.


The Communist Party of South Africa decided a representative was needed to serve the struggle from the outside. After consulting with the South African Indian Congress (SAIC) on 9-10 April, it was decided that Dadoo would be sent overseas to assist the Party “with the organisation of solidarity work and to consolidate the external apparatus” of the Party. Although Dadoo strongly preferred to stay and work in the underground, where he believed he was needed most, he was overruled and eventually agreed to honour the collective decision.

The plan for Dadoo to escape was detailed and meticulous. After attending his last SACP cell meeting in Jeppestown, an SACP member named Wolfie Kodesh took Dadoo on the first leg of the escape. After he drove Dadoo to a designated spot in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs, Dadoo’s brother Ahmed drove him through the second leg. The two men spent the night in Magaliesburg where their mother came from Krugersdorp to see them. This was Dadoo’s last meeting with his mother as he crossed the border the next day into Bechuanaland (Botswana) and never returned to South Africa for the rest of his life.

According to police intelligence, Dadoo arrived in Francistown the next day and met with Oliver Tambo on 14 April. Accompanied by Ronald Segal, the three departed for Palapye, Botswana. On 15 April, they left from Palapye for London by travelling through friendly African states in order to instigate an overseas mission of the Congress Alliance. After receiving travel documents through the Indian Government from Frene Ginwala, Tambo and Dadoo boarded a plane chartered for London by the Defence and Aid Fund. The trip was in danger when the plane landed to refuel in Malawi and they were detained by Malawian authorities to be deported to South Africa. They were released due to a legal technicality and made stops in Blantyre and Dar-es-Salaam before they finally arrived in London.

Upon arriving in London, Dadoo was welcomed to the India League offices where he was provided with a room in the attic to conduct his work. Shortly after, Tambo and Dadoo travelled to Accra, Ghana and met with Kwame Nkrumah, the President of Ghana. While these meetings took place, Tambo became aware that Indians and Communists were not welcome as Africans tended to believe the PAC was the dominant liberation movement.

On 19 June the South African United Front (SAUF) was established in London. The SAUF consisted of an alliance between the ANC, SAIC, PAC, South West African Peoples Organisation (SWAPO) and South West Africa National Union (SWANU). The SAIC sent delegations to countries all around the world, but generally part of the Commonwealth, in their attempt to ostracise South Africa and remove them from the Commonwealth. Within Britain, the SAUF appeared on radio, television, and gave newspapers in order to spread awareness. They also travelled to countries such as India, Malaysia and Sri Lanka in order to meet with their Prime Ministers.

On 14 July, the SACP issued a leaflet that announced for the first time to the country and the world that they existed as the South African Communist Party (SACP) and had been operating underground since their ban in 1950.  Later in July, Dadoo made his first trip to Russia accompanied by Vella Pillay as official representatives of the SACP. The meeting laid the foundations for cordial relations between the SACP and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). At the talks held by Dadoo and Pillay at the Moscow headquarters of the CPSU, the SACP delegates reviewed the Sharpeville Massacre and the conduct of the SACP from the underground.

In August, Winnie Kramer [Dadoo] left for Israel after her release from detention. She reunited with Dadoo in London where the two wed and eventually had a daughter, Roshan. During this time, Dadoo sent a message to the 16th Annual Conference of the Transvaal Indian Youth Congress as a show of support. At the end of the month, the State of Emergency was lifted by the Government. However, 10,500 people were still in detention for their actions.

In November, Pillay, Harmel and Joe Matthews accompanied Dadoo to the Soviet Union to attend the International Meeting of Communist and Workers Parties. A few days prior to the conference, Dadoo and Vela Pillay accepted an invitation from the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) to meet in Peking, China. Dadoo described this meeting as both "extraordinary" and "bizarre." After the initial hosting courtesies, they were put in a room for four days to listen to a presentation of the entire policy of the Party, their international relations and their domestic pursuits during sessions that lasted three hours at a time. 

According to Dadoo, the main message the presentations attempted to convey was the burden of the relationship with the CPSU and an explanation for the sour relationship they held with the Soviet Union. Following these sessions, Dadoo and Pillay visited Shanghai and Canton followed by an opportunity to meet with Mao Zedong on 3 November. During his meeting with Zedong, he explained that the conditions in the Soviet Union, China and South Africa were all different and that the struggle was bound to take different forms. For instance, Dadoo explained the difficulty in South Africa due to the enemy's expansive communication abilities due to military posts and access to military hardware such as helicopters. Dadoo credited Zedong with taking much more time to listen and learn than the previous Central Committee members. Zedong, for instance, asked for a map to be brought out for a better understanding of the terrain of South Africa and how that impacted the nature of the struggle. Although extensive conversations took place about the relationship between CPC and the CPSU, Dadoo said that the Chinese Central Committee refused to "budge from their viewpoint."

The SACP later met with a Chinese delegation led by Teng Shiao Ping in Moscow during the latter half of November. The SACP was, once again, surprised by the position taken by the Communist Party of China. After years of publicly supporting the Chinese Party as part of the world Communist movement, the Communist Party of China had no desire to reciprocate the favour due to the SACP’s relationship with the CPSU. The leaders of the Communist Party of China instead chose to offer their support to the anti-Communist PAC rather than the ANC, who they accused of being “running dogs of Moscow.”

The SACP delegation travelled to the Soviet Union to address a meeting on the issues in South Africa at a meeting of the International Communist Movement during the first half of November. At a discussion that followed the meeting, the issue of the South African trade embargo was raised as the SACP was a concerned about a report they received about the sale of South African wool to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The USSR’s Ministry of Foreign Trade assured the delegation that the wool was actually purchased from Australia and that Soviet organisations stopped signing contracts with South Africans in November 1960. Furthermore, the USSR had been looking for an alternative way to sell Soviet diamonds in order to avoid business with the South African diamond company, De Beers.

Dadoo spent the first few months of 1961 travelling all over Africa and Asia on behalf of the SAIC and SAUF. He started by visiting Malaysia, Ceylon, Pakistan and India with an SAUF delegation. In New Delhi, he met with Nehru and was assured that India would continue to take a staunch stand against the apartheid system. After Asia, the delegation travelled to Egypt and spoke with President Abdul Nasser. From here, they went to Nigeria and spoke to the Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa, and received his full support. Finally, the group went to Guinea in order to meet Sekou Toure. The delegation took turns, each constituent organisation was to present the SAUF’s case to each country’s representative and for Guinea, Dadoo was the main spokesperson. Dadoo was able to secure Sekou Toure’s full support.

Before returning to London in March, Dadoo addressed a meeting of the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs. The speech reviewed landmark events in the history of the struggle, such as the Land Act of 1913, participation in World War II and the Sharpeville Massacre. Dadoo in his speech thanked the people and nation of Pakistan for their support of the struggle, but called on them to enforce a full boycott of South African goods like the one implemented by the many other states of Africa.

In March, Dadoo returned to London and took over the position of Chair of the London New Age Committee Party (LNAC) and immediately embarked on a fundraising mission.  At a LNAC party attended by two hundred contributors, the famous African-American singer and actor, Paul Robeson, gave a recital, a £200 cheque and a photograph of himself with the inscription, “Best Wishes to New Age.”

A statement issued in March voiced Dadoo’s support of South Africa’s official expulsion from the Commonwealth. Dadoo referred to the event as a “stunning defeat” for Verwoerd and the National Government and entitled the published statement: “Historic Step Forward in Struggle against Apartheid.” Of note, Dadoo called upon the British government to honour the Commonwealth Conference decision and finally cut off all “backdoor trade and other deals with the Verwoerd Government.”

In an article that appeared in the August issue of New Age, Dadoo laid out the plans for the conduct of the ANC while in exile. A mailing address for readers was also included to send birthday wishes to Dadoo was also published in the editorial.

In October, Dadoo and Kotane attended a CPSU meeting in Moscow. A new programme was adopted that promised to build a Communist society in the lifetime of one generation under the leadership of Nikita Khrushchev. The sides also held talks about the decision to turn towards an armed struggle in South Africa.

On 16 December, uMkhonto we Sizwe (The Spear of the Nation/MK) was launched. A series of explosion took place in Durban, Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth. The manifesto of the organisation claimed that it was an independent body that included South Africans of all races in the ranks. Although the organisation was considered to be strongly affiliated with the ANC, many people believed that the SACP played a major role in the creation of MK.

Dadoo finished December and the year by attending the celebrations of Tanzania’s independence in Dar-es-Salaam and the fervour of the celebration carried over into a heavily optimistic New Year’s message in 1962. Dadoo believed that the people of South Africa were “entering into the great new epoch of the deliverance of mankind from the exploitation of man by man” and that the “final and complete liquidation of apartheid and colonialism [was] on the agenda of history.”

In January 1962, the Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM) organised an event for the 50th anniversary of the ANC at the Africa Unity House in London at which Dadoo was the guest speaker. His speech focused on the relationship between the Indians and Africans of South Africa as they worked together through the liberation struggle. Robert Resha spoke on behalf of the ANC, and regarding the relationship between the SACP and ANC, said that the only important stance of ANC supporters was their position on freedom, not communism or conservatism.

During the early part of the year, the fifth SACP National Conference took place underground in Johannesburg and adopted a new Party Programme, “The Road to South African Freedom.” Although his name is not present on the document, Dadoo studied the draft and made amendments and suggestions prior to the unveiling at the conference.

On 13 March, the SAUF was dissolved in London after it was discovered that the PAC had independently established its own connections in order to establish their own financial support.

In April, Dadoo visited India to attend the opening of the ANC office in New Delhi. At a press conference, he appealed to the Indians to support a boycott of South Africa’s attendance at the UN Conference on Trade and Development which was to be held in New Delhi later in the year. Dadoo then returned to London, but stopped in Bombay on the way.

Upon the banning of The New Age, Bunting wrote to Dadoo and asked him to organise a protest in London. On 23 May, Dadoo honoured the request and launched a protest and composed a declaration as Chair of the LNAC. Dozens of well-known British writers and politicians sign the declaration, including William Plomer, Basil Davidson, Doris Lessing, Kingsley Amis, Iris Murdoch, Muriel Spark and Robert Bolt. On 7 June, Dadoo sent a copy of the signed declaration to all of the newspaper editors in the UK and asked them to write editorials condemning the conduct of the South African Government. The next day, Dadoo and Vella Pillay met with Mandela (Mandela had slipped out of the country illegally on ANC business) and Tambo in London.  Mandela told Dadoo that the ANC had to be represented only by Africans at international conferences and not by the Congress Alliance. Later in June, Dadoo went to India and attended a meeting convened by the National Council of the Indian Association for Afro-Asian Solidarity, where he also took time to meet with Jawaharlal Nehru, the Indian leader.

In September, Dadoo and Tambo met Nehru at the home of the Indian High Commissioner, M.C. Chagla, in London. As they discussed the exile status of the liberation movements, Dadoo appealed to Nehru and Chagla to apply pressure on other countries to cut economical and political ties with South Africa. In this year, India furthered this initiative domestically by banning South Africa from their airspace.

On 30 November, the Congress of Democrats (COD) was banned under the Suppression of Communism Act. Additionally, most of the staff of New Age was arrested and banned.

Dadoo spent a large portion of 1963 touring through countries of Africa as part of the World Peace Council (WPC) delegation. He befriended the President of the WPC, Ramesh Chandra, and held discussions in Kenya, Tunisia, Algeria and Ghana about colonialism and racism, in addition to trying to set up local Peace Committees in Africa. While Dadoo travelled the continent preaching disarmament and peaceful co-existence between countries with different social systems, he also met Oginga Odinga, a prominent figure from Kenya’s liberation struggle. 

Dadoo was in London to meet Joe Slovo, accompanied by J.B. Marks, after he was exiled on 2 June. Also in 1963, the first meeting of the SACP Central Committee was held in Prague. Seven of the nine Central Committee members attended, including the General Secretary and the Chair.

On 6 March 1964, Dadoo presented a memorandum on behalf of the SAIC to the UN group of experts on South Africa. Dadoo blamed the ability of South Africa’s economy to flourish despite the UN’s enforcement of a global boycott and many countries committing to this endeavour on the “unwillingness of the imperialist States, particularly Britain and the [USA], to comply with the decisions of the [UN].” Dadoo’s suggestions to the UN revolved around garnering greater support from the countries with the largest amount of influence.

In April 1964, Dadoo addressed the UN Special Committee on South Africa for the first time.

His speech once again stressed the dire importance of effectively imposed economic sanctions on South Africa and also to help the accused in the Rivonia Trial. While explaining the impact of strictly enforced sanctions, Dadoo attempted to debunk two commonly held misconceptions about the possible repercussions. First, Dadoo acknowledged the concern that sanctions would have brought about furthering suffering on behalf of the ‘non-White’ people of South Africa and believed that this concern needed to be “scorched right away.” Dadoo believed that the people who had already proven that they were willing to die in the struggle were “prepared for whatever sacrifices may come as a result of the economic sanctions.” The second argument Dadoo attempted to debunk was the matter of White public opinion. Some expressed the view that economic sanctions would only harden White public opinion and make progress more difficult for the non-White population. According to Dadoo, the majority of the White population was already on the side of the Government and would not budge until “effective action [was] taken.”

Shortly thereafter, the UN set up a special committee to continuously review Apartheid, and called for an embargo on the arms, ammunition and military equipment exported to South Africa. They also requested the release of all political prisoners.

In July, the SACP Central Committee held their second meeting in Moscow. Dadoo was also in Algiers during the month of July in order to accept the Joliot Curie Gold Medal for Peace from The Algerian Peace Committee and Algeria’s President, Houari Souyah, on behalf of Nelson Mandela. Finally, he managed to be present in London for a demonstration of 20,000 people organised to support the Anti-Apartheid Movement against Mandela’s arrest and imprisonment.

In 1964, Dadoo and J.B. Marks embarked on a six week tour of India at the invitation of the Afro-Asian Solidarity Committee and the All-India Peace council. The tours helped to increase awareness and forge bonds of solidarity in India and internationally as they met with political, trade union and cultural groups.

At a meeting in September 1965, Tambo attempted to accommodate the concerns of the non-Africans in exile. At the first Morogoro Consultative Conference in Morogoro, Zambia during the previous June, Tambo was appointed Acting President of the ANC. Tambo’s efforts resulted in the creation of a task committee to discuss solidification of inter-Congress relationships. Dadoo, Joe Slovo and Joe Matthews served on this committee together. The Committee supported the acceptance of all Congress Alliance members and proposed a Council of War to coordinate the activities across all of the Alliances.

In March 1966 Bram Fischer, the SACP National Chairman, was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment. While the SACP was completely functioning underground, the South African bases effectively collapsed and left the Party to be led from the outside. J.B. Marks assumed the role of Party Chair, while Moses Kotane took on the role of General Secretary.

 The Congress Alliance convened in November to address problems of organisational efficiency. A committee made up of Duma Nokwe, Slovo, La Guma, MP Naicker, Harmel, Mark Shope and Ray Alexander was appointed to discuss the malignant issues present in the struggle. One of the most serious debates hampering the members of the liberation movement at this time was the membership of non-Africans in the ANC. Dadoo became increasingly vocal about his preference to open membership to all South Africans and even threatened to quit the Congress Alliance if the issue was not settled. Dadoo was joined by senior ANC member Flag Boshielo in his attempt to broaden membership.

Dadoo ended 1966 by travelling to Saudi Arabia in order to perform the Islamic pilgrimage known as the Haj. Dadoo embarked on the journey with Molvi Cachalia, who was exiled in Botswana at the time and was also joined by Ahmed Timol, who was later killed in detention in South Africa at the hands of the Security Police. Following the trip, Cachalia travelled back to India with Alfred Nzo of the ANC and they established the first Asia-based ANC office.

A SACP Central Committee meeting in Moscow, in January 1967, critically assessed their internal situation after the arrest of Bram Fischer, showed that the ability to communicate with people in South Africa was becoming increasingly difficult. Dadoo also released a statement at this time that supported the publication of Sechaba, the newly established monthly journal of the ANC, as playing a “useful role by bringing before world public opinion every known instance of injustice committed in apartheid South Africa.”

In February of 1968, the SACP met and discussed the Party’s participation at the Morogoro Conference. In a June 1968 memorandum to the UN Special Committee against Apartheid, Dadoo took on a stricter tone from his last speech and declared:

What is at stake here is not only the future of the South African people but, in a large measure, the future of the United Nations Organisation itself.” Dadoo spoke on behalf of the SAIC and told the Chair of the UN Committee that the UN resolution on the Rivonia Trial and “on the thousands of other political prisoners, [had] been treated with contempt by the South African government.” Dadoo warned the Committee that the “vocabulary of condemnation (had) run out” and asked for more immediate and effective action.

 Also in 1968, Dadoo issued his first leaflet to the South African Indian community since he went into exile. The leaflet called on the community to support them in the armed struggle. In May, Tambo wrote to Dadoo and reported on the results of a clash between Rhodesian and South African soldiers on the eastern front.

Between 25 April 25- 1 May 1969, the Morogoro Conference was held in Morogoro, Tanzania. The meeting was convened by the National Executive Committee of the ANC and included the leaders of the Congress Alliance in order to review revolutionary perspectives and forecast possible avenues for continued resistance. The Conference also attempted to integrate all of the different exiled activists into the internal struggle more efficiently and prominently. Dadoo attended as the representative for the SACP and was elected to serve as the Vice-Chairman for the Revolutionary Council, which was established at the conference.

At a June meeting after Morogoro at which Slovo and Dadoo were present, Tambo spoke at the first formal meeting of the ANC and SACP. He referred to the two organisations as the “two pillars” of the struggle.

In 1975 he led an SACP delegation to People's Republic of Congo. Dadoo travelled extensively and in December 1976 he represented the SACP at the fourth National Conference of the Vietnam Workers Party. In 1977 he opened the first meeting of the Worker's Party of Tropical and Southern Africa and in September 1978 he attended the International Conference of Solidarity on the struggle of the African and Arab people, held in Ethiopia. During February 1979 he met Eric Honecker, the General Secretary of the Socialist Party of Germany (SED) in Maputo Mozambique, and in March he represented the ANC at an "emergency International Conference in Support of Vietnam", held in Helsinki, under the auspices of the WPC. He also led an official delegation of the SACP to Hungary in May.

Earlier in 1981, Dadoo travelled to the Soviet Union with Moses Mabhida, General Secretary of the SACP, to attend the 26th Congress of the CPSU.  During 1981, Dadoo also travelled to Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and Germany to attend their respective Communist Party Congresses.

In 1982, Dadoo fell ill.  Friends recall that he was obviously in a great deal of pain but he never complained and carried on working. He spoke at Father Trevor Huddleston's seventieth birthday party and at the moving of the Anti Apartheid Movement's offices to the newly named, "Mandela Street" in London.  Dadoo consulted doctors in the United Kingdom who told him that he had cancer.  He travelled to the Soviet Union for further medical treatment.  It was in the Soviet Union that he learnt that that his cancer was terminal and he did not have long to live.

News of his illness spread and messages of concern came from all over.  In South Africa, the National Intelligence Service spread the rumour that "die groot koelie vrek"( the big coolie had died).  Dadoo from his sick bed drafted a message, which was sent to all his supporters in South Africa.  Dadoo's last days were spent in a hospital bed where he drifted in and out of a coma. Friends and colleagues visited and his brother Ibrahim and sisters Amina and Zulieka had travelled from South Africa to be with him. Yusuf's devoted companion, Winnie, and his daughters Roshan and Shireen were at his side.

Joe Slovo his trusted friend and comrade who was to replace him as Party Chairman was with Dadoo at his bedside, Dadoo asked Slovo to render the freedom song Amajoni which Dadoo could only wave his arms in tune to.  His last words to Slovo were, "You must never give up, You must fight to the end."

Yusuf Mahomed Dadoo passed away on September 19, 1983, after having lapsed into a coma.  The ANC and SACP held a short ceremony at which Oliver Tambo spoke and after which he was buried according to Muslim rights at Highgate Cemetery, a few metres away from the grave of Karl Marx.

The inscription on his tombstone reads, "Yusuf Dadoo, Fighter for National Liberation, Socialism and World Peace"

Condolences for Dadoo's death poured into the SACP office in London from Communist and Socialist Parties the world over as well as from various leaders, colleagues and friends.  In South Africa, a meeting organised in Lenasia to pay tribute to him was promptly banned, as were two pamphlets entitled, respectively, "Yusuf Dadoo - Portrait of a Freedom Fighter" and "Yusuf Dadoo 1909- 1983 He fought for freedom, he died our leader".

Dadoo's words and legacy, like other opponents of the apartheid regime, was a threat even after his death.  On the 4th of July 1986, the Government Gazette Number 1417 announced another five-year banning order imposed on Yusuf Mahomed Dadoo.

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  • Bram Fischer – Afrikaner, Stephen Clingman, David Philips Publishers, Claremont, South Africa, 1998
  • ANC – A view from Moscow - Vladimir Shubin, Jacana Media, Auckland Park, South Africa, 2008, David Philips

SLOVO-The Unfinished Autobiography ”“ Introduction by Helena Dolny, 1995, Ravan Press, South Africa | Ismail Meer; A Fortunate Man Introduction ”“Fatima Meer ”“ 2002, Zebra Press, Cape Town, South Africa|Walter & Albertina Sisulu ”“ In Our Lifetime ”“ Elinor Sisulu, David Philips Publishers, 2002, Cape Town, South Africa|Portrait of a People ”“ A Personal photographic record of the South African liberation struggle ”“ Eli Weinberg, IDAF ”“ London 1981|Nothing but the Truth- Behind the AN’s Struggle Politics ”“ Ben Turok, Jonathn Ball Publishers (PTY) Ltd, Jeppestown, South Africa, 2003|Moses Kotane, South African Revolutionary, A Political Biography, Brian Bunting,  Mayibuye Books, University of the Western Cape, Bellville, South Africa, 1998|Ahmed Kathrada, Memoirs, Ahmed Kathrada, Zebra Press, Cape Town, South Africa, 2004|All my life and all my strength, Ray Alexander, (Edited by Raymond Suttner), STE Publishers, Park Town, South Africa, 2004|The Guardian, The History of South Africa’s Extraordinary Anti-Apartheid Newspaper - James Zug, Unisa Press, Pretoria, South Africa, 2007|Oliver Tambo, Beyond the Engeli Mountains, Luli Callinicos, David Philip Publisher, Claremont, South Africa, 2004|Memory Against Forgetting Memoirs from a life in South African politics, 1938 - 1964, Rusty Bernstein, Penguin Books, Sandton, South Africa, 1999|Long Walk to Freedom, The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, MacDonald Purnell, Randburg, South Africa, 1994|Mandela, The Authorised Biography, Anthony Sampson, Jonathan Ball Publishers (Pty) Ltd, Jeppestown, South Africa, 1999|Satyagraha in South Africa, MK Gandhi, Navajivan Publsihing House, Ahmedabad, India, 1928|Crusade against Racism, PS Joshi, Bipin P Joshi & Mahendra P Joshi (editors), Published by Mahendra P Joshi, Pretoria, South Africa, 2000|Passive Resistance 1946 ”“ A Selection of Documents, compiled by ES Reddy & FatimaMeer, Institute for Black Research/ Madiba Publishers, Durban, 1996|Class & Colour in south Africa ”“ 1850 ”“ 1950, Jack & Ray Simons, IDAF, London, 1983|Timol ”“ A Quest for Justice, Imtiaz Cajee, STE Publishers, Johannesburg, 2005|Gandhi’s Legacy ”“ The Natal Indian Congress ”“ 1894 ”“ 1994, Surendra Bhana, University of Natal Press, Pietermaritzburg, 1997|Slovo ”“ The Unfinished Autobiography, Introduction by Helena Dolny,  Ravan Press, Randburg, South Africa, 1995|Bram Fischer ”“ Afrikaner, Stephen Clingman, David Philips Publishers, Claremont, South Africa, 1998|ANC ”“ A view from Moscow - Vladimir Shubin, Jacana Media, Auckland Park, South Africa, 2008, David Philips

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