1913 – 1949
Petitions for Change
Petitions for Change
Dr. Yusuf Mohamed Dadoo with a young Nelson Mandela. Dadoo and Mandela were the first to defy unjust laws when they broke their banning orders by addressing a prohibited meeting. Immediately afterwards they were arrested. This picture was taken in 1945.
The Nationalist government's battery of repressive legislation was a direct response by white supremacists to the increased organisation, unity and militancy of the ANC and its allies. The 'Programme of Action’, adopted by the ANC in 1949, called for non-cooperation with the government, including strike action.
A Passive Resistance campaign, against new repressive 'Ghetto' legislation, was set in motion on 13 June 1946 by the Indian Congress. Dr. G. M. Naicker, with Yusuf Dadoo and more than 1,700 other resisters by 1948, the end of the campaign, had been imprisoned. ANC members were among those sent to jail.
In 1946, 75,000 African mineworkers in 21 mines on the Witwatersrand came out on strike for higher wages. As in 1920 troops were called in to drive the miners back into the mines at bayonet point. Thirteen strikers were killed and 1,200 injured. Fifty trade union officials were arrested and put on trial including JB Marks, President of the Mineworkers Union.
Govan Mbeki, father of former president Thabo Mbeki, was a political activist in his own right. He served in the high command of uMkhonto weSizwe and was amongst the high commanders of MK who were arrested in Rivonia and sentenced to life imprisonment in Robben Island Maximum Security Prison. He was a graduate of University of Fort Hare and a journalist by profession. He was the first amongst the Rivonia treason trialists to be released.
Dr Yusuf Dadoo, President of the Transvaal Indian Congress, with a young Nelson Mandela addressing a crowd in Pietermaritzburg. Mandela and Dadoo were addressing the public from the steps of the Johannesburg City Hall in 1945.
During the 1930s there were further attacks on the rights and living standards of the African people. The ANC sent a deputation to Cape Town to protest against the Representation of Natives Act, 1936, which terminated the franchise for Africans in the Cape. It consisted of (left to right, back row) Z. K. Matthews, R. G. Baloyi, A. J. Sililo, R. H. Godlo. (front) T. M. Mapikela, J. Calata, A. B. Xuma, E. Qamata.
The post world-war economic crisis and the world wide revolutionary upsurge following the Russian revolution resulted in a wave of strikes in South Africa. Conditions in the booming gold mine industry, including poverty, wages and humiliating searches, led to 2 major strikes of African workers.