Magazine article New African

How the ANC Betrayed Its Found Principles

Magazine article New African

How the ANC Betrayed Its Found Principles

Article excerpt

What was the fundamental objective of the African National Congress (ANC) when it was formed in 1912? Did ANC leaders, especially those from 1955 onwards, pursue the primary goat of the 1912 vision envisaged by the founding fathers? Does the present ANC have the same objectives as the 1912 ANC? These are some of the many questions that Dr Motsoko Pheko addresses as he takes us back to where South Africa's ruling party actually began.

WHEN OPENING THE INAUGURAL CONFERENCE OF the ANC (then called SANNC) on 8 January 1912, Dr Pixley ka Seme said: "Kings of the royal blood and gentlemen of our race, we have gathered here to consider and discuss a scheme my colleagues have decided to place before you ... In the land of our birth, Africans are treated as hewers of wood and drawers of water. The whites have formed what is known as the Union of South Africa in which we have no voice."

African kings had fought many wars of national resistance against colonialism for over 200 years until their spears succumbed to the guns of the colonial aggressors. All had their lands forcefully taken from them. Others, like King Hintsa, had fallen by the bullet of the foreign invader in battle defending the African country against rapacious colonial forces.

In 1952, Dr S. Moridi Molema, an ANC leader, described these colonialists as "men who are nothing else but robbers, villains and traitors to the highest and noblest teachings of Christianity which they so blatantly profess, men shockingly contemptuous of their conscience and now in a frenzy of self-adulation preparing to embrace each other and shake their bloody hands ... and ready to commence another evil era of rapine and oppression."

The colonial laws that precipitated the formation of the ANC in 1912 were the Union of South Africa Act 1909 and the Native Land Act 1913. The British parliamentary Act enacting the Union of South Africa read as follows: "I. This Act may be cited as the South Africa Act 1909 ... The qualifications of a member of the House of Assembly shall be as follows: He must ... be a British subject of European descent.

There were five million Africans in South Africa in 1909 compared to 349,537 colonial settlers (according to the 1904 census). The five million indigenous Africans remained helpless spectators as the tragedy of their land dispossession unfolded before them.

The draconian British colonial law was followed by another one called the Native Land Act 1913. This colonial law allocated 93% of the African country to the 349,837 European settlers and 7% to five million Africans!

Sol Plaatje, who became the ANC's first secretary in 1912, wrote about why Africans were dispossessed of their land. "In the harvest of 1911, there was panic among white farmers because an African had garnered 3,000 bags of wheat and another 1,600 bags ... in a neighbourhood where their white neighbours reaped 300 to 400 bags of wheat. African export produce was looming in the not distant future. Then public opinion, which in this country stands for white opinion, asserted itself


"Where will we get servants?", it was asked, "if the kaffirs are allowed to become skilled? A kaffir with 3,000 bags of wheat! What will he do with the money? if they are inclined to herd pedigree stock let them improve their masters' [whites'] cattle and cultivate for them."

Earl Glen, a British official, had put the issue of land dispossession in South Africa, colonially clear. "The Africans are generally looked upon by whites as an inferior race whose interests must be systematically disregarded when they come into competition with their own, and should be governed with a view to the advantage of the superior race. For this reason two things must be afforded to white colonists obtaining land: the kaffir should be made to furnish as large and cheap labour as possible."

Enter King George V

On 20 July 1914, the leaders of the newly formed ANC, armed with the mandate from the kings and African people of the country, went to England to present a petition to King George V, protesting land dispossession of the African people. …

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