Elliot Tonjeni was born in 1895 in the Transkei and later went to Cape Town, where he joined the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) and was active in the Industrial and Commercial Workers' Union and the African National Congress. He left the CPSA in 1929 but continued to co-operate with left-wing leaders and to use Umsebenzi, the Communist paper, as an instrument for promoting political consciousness among African and Coloured workers, particularly in die rural areas of the western Cape. In 1930 he supported J. T. Gumede's unsuccessful bid for re-election as president of the African National Congress (ANC). Together with Bransby Ndobe he challenged the leadership of James Thaele in the western Cape and briefly formed an Independent ANC. This effort was cut short, however, when Ndobe was deported to Basutoland, and Tonjeni, whose organisational work with farm workers had made him notorious among whites, was banned from the western Cape. Moving his base of operations to the Cradock area of the eastern Cape, he continued to attack the conservatism of the established ANC leadership and to urge Africans to adopt more radical forms of resistance, such as nonpayment of taxes, tactics which eventually brought him a two-month sentence with hard labour for "provoking hostility between the races." He died in 1962.



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