1913 – 1949

Petitions for Change

Dr Yusuf Dadoo with a young Nelson Mandela

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.

1949 ANC Programme of Action

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.

Apartheid signage

Extreme institutional racism. "Kaffir" was the derogatory name given to Black South Africans.

1946 Passive Resistance campaign

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.

1946 Indian Congress

Like the ANC, the Indian Congress was being radicalised by young militants. A Passive Resistance campaign, against new repressive 'Ghetto' legislation, was set in motion on 13 June 1946. Dr. G. M. Naicker, seen above, was one of the leaders.

Strikes in the Witwatersrand

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.

Strikes on the Witwatersrand

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.

Govan Mbeki

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 addresses a crowd in Pietermaritzburg

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.

Nelson Mandela and ANC Youth League

Nelson Mandela with Yusuf Dadoo, president of the Transvaal Indian Congress, addressing the public from the Johannesburg City Hall steps in 1945.

ANC Youth League

Young people in the ANC demanded more militant action. The case for setting up an ANC Youth League was put at successive conferences of the ANC in 1942 and 1943. It was eventually instituted in April 1944.

Give him a gun – now!

The Guardian demanded that African conscripts should be allowed to carry guns. Those same conscripts returned to South Africa impatient for the democracy and freedom promised by their participation in the fight to destroy fascism.

Communist Party

The new militant unions, together with the increasing activity of the Communist Party, helped to revitalise the ANC.

Protest delegation against Representation of Natives Act

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.

Joint ANC and African Peoples Organization

Joint meeting of ANC and African Peoples Organization {later Coloured Peoples Congress) in Bloemfontein 1931. At the centre of the platform is Dr. Abdul Abdurahman leader of the APO and a force for national unity.

Wage demands

By 1930, due to police harrassment and internal conflicts the ICU had disintegrated. But low wages, slum conditions and higher expectations led to the growth and new militancy of African trade unions.

Bertha Mkhize

Bertha Mkhize (centre), a textile worker, was a leader of the ANC Women's League.

Silwana, Gomas and Ndobi

Increasing numbers of ANC activists became involved in the workers struggle - in the ICU and in the Communist Party like (left to right) Stanley Silwana, John Gomas and Bransby Ndobi.

Strikes

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.