Memorandum Submitted by the ANC to the 1959 session of the General Assembly of the United Nations on the "Question of Race Conflict in South Africa resulting from the Policies of Apartheid of the Government of the Union of South Africa"
The African National Congress which is the premier National
Organisation of the South African citizens of African origin desire once more
to make representations to the General Assembly of the United Nations. The
African National Congress has, as a non-governmental organisation submitted
memoranda to the General Assembly in previous years.
The Congress once again respectfully requests the
Secretary-General of the United Nations to circularise this memorandum to all
delegations of member-states when the “Question of Race Conflict in South
Africa Resulting from the Policies of Apartheid of the Government of the Union
of South Africa” comes up for consideration.
The African National Congress and its democratic allies who,
together with it, constitute the CONGRESS MOVEMENT are pledged to work for
South Africa such as is enshrined in the FREEDOM CHARTER. This Charter of the
democratic organisations in South Africa enjoys the support of the
overwhelming majority of the peoples of South Africa. The Freedom Charter is
testimony of the determination of the African National Congress and its allies
to uphold the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter and the
Declaration of Human Rights. The Freedom Charter is attached herewith marked
The All White Government of the Union of South Africa which
represents a minority of the population has, on the contrary, consistently
defied the recommendations of the United Nations, flouted the conscience of
mankind and relentlessly pursued its inhuman policy of Apartheid.
It is impossible within the confines of a single memorandum to
deal in detail with the disabilities suffered by the people as a result of the
implementation of the Apartheid policy. The several reports of the United
Nations Commission on the Racial Situation in South Africa as also the
statements and memoranda submitted by various non-governmental organisations
fully set out the position. The purpose of this memorandum is to deal with
recent trends and developments covering the last two years.
We respectfully submit further material evidence to show that
there has been a further alarming deterioration in the racial situation in
South Africa notwithstanding Resolutions of the United Nations calling upon
the government of the Union to reconsider its position in the light of the
high principles expressed in the United Nations Charter and the Declaration of
POLICIES AND ATTITUDES
At the beginning of this year the Nationalist Government
announced with a great flourish what was termed a new policy in regard to
the African people of the Union. When Parliament opened this year Dr. H. F.
Verwoerd, Prime Minister of the Union, put himself forward as a man with a
“new vision.” A law was introduced by the Minister of Bantu
Administration and Development, Mr. De Wet Nel, setting out the framework of
this new policy. The purpose was said to be the creation of “autonomous
Bantu areas which will have full independence within the framework of the
South African State.” In the same session of parliament the Prime
Minister of the Union said:
“The Bantu would be given opportunities for development,
and the progress they achieved would be in accordance with their abilities.
The opposition had welcomed with great praise the development Britain was
granting to Basutoland. But that development was the same as that which the
South African Government was now beginning.”
It is typical of the Nationalist propaganda techniques that
they describe their measures in misleading titles which often convey the
opposite of what the measures contain. Thus a measure to entrench European
authority is called the Bantu Authorities Act; a law to extend the Pass
system (system to control movement of Africans in the Union) is called the
`Abolition of Passes` Act; a measure for the suppression of liberties is
called Suppression of Communism Act and so on. It is not surprising
therefore that the Promotion of Bantu Self-Government Act should have the
same characteristics. The theory behind the Act is to set up at least six
“homelands” for different ethnic units (e.g. Xhosa, Zulu, Venda,
Tswana, Sotho). Each unit is to receive very gradually increasing
legislative powers at a pace determined by the Government until the
“homelands” become self-governing. The so-called national units
are to be composed of the present Reserves which the governments own
Tomlinson Commission found to be distressed areas, shockingly congested and
completely unable to sustain even their present population of 3 1/2 million
Africans, roughly a third of the African population of the Union.
To justify the idea of the reserves as the “national
homeland” of the African people, a reckless falsification of history is
being paddled by the South African authorities. The fantastic idea is being
put forward according to which South Africa was empty territory when the
Whites arrived in the Union except for those portions now occupied by the
Africans. According to this fairy tale the 87% of the area of the Union now
owned by the Whites was unoccupied lands which they took over from nobody.
In terms of this interpretation of historical events in the Union the
Africans are themselves invaders who arrived in South Africa at the same
time as the Whites.
Whilst the African National Congress is prepared and able to
establish the completely unscientific nature of the above theories it feels
that this is not an issue at all. The attitude of the African National
Congress is clear. It regards the whole of South Africa as the homeland of
all the peoples of South Africa whatever their racial origin. The Congress
rejects the concept of national homes for Africans in certain arbitrary
defined areas. Africans are indigenous inhabitants of the country with an
indisputable claim to the whole of South Africa as their home. There is no
part of the country to the development of which they have not made their
full contribution. Such a concept facilitates the exploitation and economic
strangulation of the Africans and perpetuates White domination.
The organs of Government for these units is to be the Bantu
Authorities established in terms of the Bantu Authorities Act of 1951. Since
1951 the Government has been trying to impose the Bantu Authorities Act on
the African people in the Reserves and has met with resistance. Violent
upheavals which have led to the exile of hundreds of persons and the
imprisonment of hundreds more have occurred in areas such as Zeerust and
Sekhukhuniland as a result of Government efforts to force Bantu Authorities
down the throats of the people.
The Government has dared to compare the Bantu Authorities
system to that which obtains in the British Protectorate of Basutoland
following recent constitutional changes there. Basutoland is situate in the
middle of the Union and is a territory less developed than the Union of
South Africa. Yet a cursory examination will be sufficient to show that the
people of Basutoland have advanced constitutionally far ahead of anything
the Union Government contemplates.
Firstly and most fundamentally the present position in
Basutoland has been arrived at by agreement between the British Government
on the one hand, and the Chiefs and people of Basutoland on the other.
The South African scheme as always is an imposition. Knowing
full well that no African with any self-respect can accept this bluff the
government imposes it by force from above and blasphemes by calling it
The proposed Basutoland National Council shall have power to
legislate for all persons in Basutoland on all matters except those
reserved to the British Government. Even on the matters reserved for the
British Government the Basutoland Council must be consulted. The South
African Bantu Territorial Authorities will have no power to legislate for
Europeans or Whites who live in the Bantu area. The Territorial Authority
shall only have power to legislate on a very limited number of subjects.
Overall legislative control over the Reserves as a whole will continue to
reside in the Central Parliament in which Africans in terms of the Bantu
Self-Government Act have no representation at all.
The Basutoland National Council is to consist of both
elected and non-elected members. The elected members will form about half of
the National Council of Basutoland. They will be elected by District
Councils which themselves will be elected by direct vote of the people based
on adult suffrage.
The Bantu Territorial Authorities will consist entirely of
appointed persons. The Heads of the Authorities will be Government appointed
chiefs who are really employees of the state. The rest of the members will
themselves also be appointed. The government may also cancel the appointment
of any member. The elective principle is completely rejected by the
In other words the Africans in the most highly developed
territory in Africa from the point of view of industrial and economic
development, who in spite of and not because of various Union Governments
has achieved a fair degree of education which compares favourably with that
of any other territory or country in Africa is to be fobbed off with
farcical Bantu Self-Government in place of real citizenship rights in South
The reason for this deception is to pretend to the White
people of South Africa that something is being done to give the African
people a stake in the country. Realising that developments are taking place
rapidly in the direction of independence and freedom in Africa the
Nationalist Government has sought this as a means of showing that from the
worst racialist oppressors they have become champions of African freedom.
Mr. Eric Louw, Minister of External Affairs of the Union, who is leading the
Union delegation to the United Nations, will no doubt make this fraudulent
Bantu SelfGovernment scheme the centre of his policy speeches. As far as
the African National Congress is concerned the Promotion of Bantu SelfGovernment
Act of 1959 provides merely for the continuation of rule by sjambok
Nothing illustrates the real intentions of the Nationalist Government so much
as steps taken in connection with African education.
All African education except Higher or University education
was taken over by the State in 1955 in terms of the Bantu Education Act.
That control has now been exercised for the past four years and the worst
fears of the people of South Africa have been confirmed. With typical
cynicism the Government presents the control of the State over education as
being controlled by the African people themselves. No private schools are
allowed today. The churches which have built up by the help of their
congregations the edifice of education as we find it amongst Africans have
been pushed aside. The Nationalist Party which has never had any interest
whatsoever in African education now claims all the advances in African
education as its own achievement. Their actions have proved that their
interest is to produce a generation which will willingly accept the
humiliation of Apartheid. Having established control firmly in primary and
secondary schools the Government has this year assumed control over higher
The Extension of University Education Act (in reality an Act
to retard and interfere with University Education) was passed at the last
session of the Union Parliament. This Act proposes the establishment of
tribal or ethnic University colleges for Africans and also gives the
Government power to prohibit the admission of African and non-white students
generally to existing Universities such as Cape Town University or
Witwatersrand University. The whole concept of a University is outraged by
this idea of University colleges exclusively for specific ethnic or tribal
groups to which no others may be admitted. The aim of Government measures in
education is clearly to destroy African unity which they regard as a menace
to the continuation of white rule. The African people under the leadership
of their political organisations, particularly the African National
Congress, have for over half a country created out of the various tribal
units an African National group. Today the oppressors of the African people
who, more than anyone, made tribal society impossible, encourage and foster
tribalism allegedly in the interests of the African people. Under the guise
of developing African languages, the Government is discouraging the teaching
and use of English. The aim is to cut off the African people from the main
stream of world culture and progress. The impression of interest in African
languages on the part of the Nationalist Party is sudden. Throughout the
history of the African people it is particularly English and French
missionaries who have, together with the Africans, worked to develop African
languages. Those missionaries are anathema to the Government which now
pretends interest in African culture and language.
The hatred by the government of any achievement which is
progressive and does not conform to their narrow racial Apartheid doctrine
is shown in the destruction of the University College of Fort Hare.
This University College is the only one catering by and
large for non-white students in the Union of South Africa. It was founded in
1916 and was opened by the then Prime Minister of the Union, the Rt. Hon.
General Botha. In its development from these early years the University
College of Fort Hare has followed the pattern observed in regard to other
South African Universities. The College was controlled by a Governing
Council on which there were a few government representatives who constituted
a minority. Academic matters were in the hands of a senate composed of heads
of departments in the University College. Although the College was primarily
designed to provide for the needs of the African people, it admitted
students of all races including white persons. Hundreds of students
throughout Africa as a whole have been educated at Fort Hare University
College. In African countries such as Uganda, Kenya, Nyasaland, North and
Southern Rhodesia and the Union itself, Fort Hare students have achieved
high positions in the political, social and economic life of their
Today after forty-three years of progress the Nationalist
government, without any consultation, has passed the University College of
Fort Hare Transfer Act, whereby the State is to take control of Fort Hare on
January 1, 1960. In the place of Fort Hare is to be created an Ethnic or
tribal College completely in the hands of the State as regards staff,
admission, curricula, administration and finance. Even before taking over
the College the Government has already informed numerous members of staff
that they will not be wanted after the 1st January, 1960.
Government spokesmen have made it clear that Fort Hare is to be destroyed
because it does not fit in with the Government plans which aim at the
indoctrination of the African people to accepting Apartheid. They state that
Fort Hare taught Africans that they were equal to the white man and prepared
them for a life which South Africa was not prepared to give them. It is
alleged that Fort Hare turned out “Black Englishmen.” The
destruction of Fort Hare University College in this ruthless manner will
create such bitterness as will hardly be erased until Fort Hare is restored
to its honoured position. Such bitterness will be engendered throughout
Africa as it will be found that Government leaders, politicians, teachers,
doctors and lawyers have in many territories owed their first degrees to the
University College of Fort Hare.
TAXATION, WAGES AND LABOUR
Not content with foisting all manner of unwanted schemes on the African
people in particular, and the other non-whites in general, the Government is
determined to make them pay for their schemes.
There seem to be three methods the Government intends to
follow to ensure that the Africans pay for schemes over which they have no
control. The first is to increase direct taxation payable by Africans. The
second is to increase the use of forced labour, euphemistically called
“self help”; the third is to keep the wages paid to African
workers as low as possible by rendering strikes illegal and denying them the
right of collective bargaining.
The Natives Taxation and Development Act No. 38 of 1958
provides that as from 1st January, 1959, every male African of
the age eighteen years and over, domiciled or resident in the Union, will
pay a basic general tax of £1-5-0 (One pound fifteen shillings) a year
instead of £1 (one pound) paid previously. As from 1st January
1960, men earning over £180 per annum will pay increased amounts and women
will, for the first time, become liable to pay general tax. There will be a
sliding scale according to which the tax payable will increase depending on
income. The income of a wife will be regarded as her separate income and not
that of her husband. The new system is in the view of the African National
Congress inequitable and will create further hardships for the people. We
deal with it here because the Government has clearly stated that this money
will be used to finance Apartheid schemes.
The system is inequitable in the following respects:
- According to the new rates African men with income of under £140 will
pay more in general taxation than men of any other racial group, whether
married or single, pay in general tax anywhere in the Union. In other
words so far as the lowest income groups are concerned Africans will be
required to pay more than do whites with the same incomes.
- Africans become liable to pay tax at the age of 18, while members of
other groups do not pay personal tax until they attain the age of 21.
- The new scheme not only makes Africans pay more although they are not
the least able to pay, but takes no account of taxes which only Africans
pay. The Africans are called upon to pay Local Tax of 10/- (ten
shillings) per year, educational levies, dipping fees, grazing fees, dog
tax, pass and compound fees, etc.,
- Africans are imprisoned for non-payment of tax. In the case of other
races there is no criminal sanction for failure to pay taxes. In 1955,
177,890 Africans were arrested and brought before the courts for failure
to pay tax.
- According to the new rates African men with income of under £140 will
The Government has therefore callously introduced increased
taxation for Africans in spite of the fact that the African people are
generally paid extremely low wages. An investigation by the Institute of
Race Relations in Johannesburg showed that the poverty datum line for a
family of five in Johannesburg in 1954 was £23.10.4. Since then costs have
risen. It is now estimated that £27-10-0 is the poverty datum line. On this
basis, it was found that 87% of the African families in Johannesburg were
living below the bread line. Average income in Johannesburg is £15-18-11.
Dr. D. L. Smit said in Parliament that the Prime Minister
had been kind enough to allow him to see the report of an inter-departmental
committee which, between 1951 and 1956 examined various aspects of African
taxation and submitted proposals on which the Bill was based. Goodness only
knows how the Committee had come to the conclusion that African taxes should
be raised, he said: “In accordance with departmental practice, the
Committee accepted £180 per annum as the dividing line between taxpayers
who should pay a flat rate and those on the higher scale. They estimated
that out of 2,180,000 male taxpayers 2,135,000 belonged to the under £180
or lower income group Attached to the report there are a number of
schedules of native earnings, and if anything is required to prove the
inability of the Natives to pay, one has only to refer to those schedules
Schedule M shows the wages earned by the Natives in Commerce.
It appears that 6,416 males earned from £ 51 to £ 60 a year,
24,940 males earned from £ 61 to £ 70 a year
47,744 males earned from £ 101 to £110 a year
only 159 males earned above £180.
“On European farms they found that the annual earnings in cash were as
follows according to estimates: Cape Province – £49- 1-0; Natal – £33-2-0;
Transvaal – £36-0-0; Orange Free State – £29-17-0. The average for the total
farm labour force of 636,799 Natives in the Union was £37-1-0. This does not
include income from crops or from stock sold.
“In the schedules there is an estimate of the number of male taxpayers
in the Union in order of income, excluding rations and accommodation, with
1,107,730 Natives earn less than £ 50 per annum
209,820 ” ” from £ 51 to £ 60 ” “
22, 791 ” ” ” £ 61 to £ 70 ” “
253, 431 ” ” ” £101 to £110 ” “
Some 40, 000 are shown as being above £180 ” “
“While it is perfectly true that wages have risen during the past 30
years and large sums have been provided by Parliament for Native housing and
development, the figures avoid the irrefutable fact, Sir, that a £1 was worth
twenty shillings in 1925 and that it is only worth about seven shillings and
sixpence today, and that with the constant rise in the cost of living the
native is no better off today than he was then.”
A Natives Representative added, “I do not want to know how much Native
wages have gone up; I want to know how much Native starvation has been
Not only is the Government not interested in speeding up the
rise of African wages but it does everything to keep them depressed. The
farming interests which the Nationalist Party largely represents want to see
African wages kept low so as to enable them to run South African farming on
backward, feudal lines with cheap labour. If wages were to rise in industry
and commerce the farmers will have greater difficulty in obtaining labour.
The total control over the movement of Africans by means of
the notorious pass system makes it difficult for the Africans to sell their
labour in the best market. The pass system which includes a system of influx
control is the chief weapon used to maintain the cheap labour structure in
the Union of South Africa. It is not surprising that in the recent
widespread peoples revolt in the Natal province, influx control was the
main grievance of the people.
Undoubtedly the pass is used by the authorities to control
the movements of Africans in the urban areas in order to prevent the
stabilisation of any community and in order to harass trade unionists and
Congress leaders. But the man function of the pass remains the direction of
labour. This is borne out by the rash of new regulations that have been
promulgated recently creating labour direction offices, and by the
increasing number of arrests under the pass laws, thus giving the Government
the power to send them to labour wherever they see fit.
The Johannesburg Star announced on 10/3/59 that
“one and a quarter million Africans are prosecuted per year for
trifling offences, the great proportion of which are infringements of pass
laws, labour regulations, movement control and curfew restrictions.”
This means that every African male in the cities can expect to be arrested
at least once a year and then drafted for farm work. It is only in this way
that the farmers can obtain the labour they require.
The labour bureaux make a great show of controlling and
directing African labour in the urban areas. But in fact if these offices
were abolished, the ordinary labour needs of commerce and industry would be
readily met by the thousands of Africans who are constantly streaming to the
cities on the basis of the law of supply and demand. The mines, on the other
hand, have their own labour recruiting machinery operating in the reserves.
Thus the labour bureaux, when striped of all the trappings, boils down to a
mechanism for diverting labour from the towns to the countryside, with the
pass laws as their instrument. The South African Year Book of 1956 states
that 6,000 Africans were redirected by the labour bureaux in one year. Now
that labour bureaux are established at the office of every Native
Commissioner or Magistrate, this figure will increase sharply.
However, the Year Book figure does not by any means give the
whole picture and does not take into account the other ways in which labour
is forced to the farms.
For example there is the contract system operated by the
Native Affairs Department. This system was recently given a great deal of
publicity in the press and the public outcry was so great at the terrible
abuses which arose out of the system, that it has been temporarily suspended
pending investigations by two Government appointed commissions. The
commissions, however, are representative only of the Government, big farming
interests and the police, and all three being interested parties in the
maintenance of the contract system. We nevertheless give the information
relating to the contract system because it illustrates very clearly the
attitude of the Government to farm labour. We have little doubt that the
commissions will whitewash the scheme and that it will be implemented once
again in some slightly modified form in the near future when the commissions
report. Every African who wished to enter an urban area to seek work had
first to apply for a permit to seek work from the local authority. If the
permit was refused he either had to leave the area within 72 hours and then
try his luck in another urban area, or else agree to accept farm work at the
Native Affairs Department in the area. His choice was a cruel one, for he
knows that he could well carry on wandering from town to town only to be
refused admission and be offered the same alternative. In many cases
Africans agreed to take farm work for a short period either because they
hoped that having served on a farm they would be given a permit for factory
work thereafter or because they had come to the end of their tether and
resources. In Johannesburg the City Council refused entry to 710 Africans in
December 1958 (a quiet month) and of these 232 signed farm contracts at the
N.A.D. Labour Bureau.
What happened to the remaining 478 nobody knows, but that
many remained in the urban area illegally is clear from the number of
Africans who are arrested monthly for having been in the urban area
illegally. For example in January 1959, 1642 Johannesburg Africans were
arrested for “petty offences” which are in fact mainly
transgressions of the pass laws. Many of these offenders are undoubtedly old
residents of Johannesburg who have never regularised their right to stay
there, but others are newcomers who have failed to get the necessary
permission to enter from the City Council.
These people are fingerprinted by the police on arrest and
then taken to the Labour Bureau where they are screened and offered farm
work. Those who refuse it are returned to the police for prosecution in
court. The choice here is a difficult one, that between the devil and the
deep blue sea. When it is in fact offered, many instances have come to
light where Africans were pushed into taking farm work without knowing that
they have the right to defend themselves in court.
The most famous case is that of Nelson Langa who was
arrested in the street in Johannesburg, wearing his municipal employees
badge and carrying his broom, taken to the labour bureau and sold into
bondage with some farmer at Bethal. Nelson was subsequently released by
order of the court on the application of his brother. Many similar cases
have occurred and a cloud hangs over the activities of the labour bureau.
The extraordinary thing about the bureau work is that those
Africans who have agreed to accept farm work rather than face prosecution are
regarded as probationers even though they have not been convicted of any
The contract form is filled out in duplicate one for the
farmer and the other remaining with the bureau and is supposed to
stipulate the period covered by the contract, usually 90 days, and the rate
of pay. The average in the Johannesburg area is 70/- per thirty days worked,
not including the food, quarters and medical attention supplied. Any period
of illness is not paid for in any way. Taken together all the wages in cash
and kind probably average £60 per year.
In reaping season the demand for labour becomes so great
that open competition has to be prevented between farmers. Here the labour
bureaux become important. The farmers Agricultural Unions arrange for the
contracting in bulk with the labour bureaux of all available labour, then
dividing out the Africans among the farmers. Surely one of the worst modern
examples of trafficking in human beings?
Bad as this system is at present, it will undoubtedly become
infinitely worse when African women have been forced to take out reference
books, for it has been officially admitted that the contract system will
then be extended to include women too, especially in harvest time. The
brutalities that will follow on this step may well be imagined. It will also
be a new departure in South Africa, for today even convicted women prisoners
are prohibited from being forced to do farm labour by the Prison Act
The contracts signed at the bureaux are unique in legal
procedure for not only does the African sign it under duress, but he may not
break it, even if the conditions are fulfilled. On the other hand, in terms
of the Native Labour Regulation Act, it is an offence for an African to neglect
to perform any work or refuse to obey any lawful command or use insulting
language to his employer. The most that he can do is report the farmer to
the nearest police station or Native Affairs Department official. How much
sympathy he would receive from either of these quarters depends on the
individual concerned, but where there is so much hatred between black and
white (particularly in the countryside), and where the farmer is probably on
social terms with the official, most Africans would rather not take this
course. Instead they try to escape.
Officials admit that this happens frequently. Some say that
sometimes as many as five out of the ten contracted labourers escape before
finishing their term, this being the biggest possible indictment of the
That the conditions on most farms are very bad is also not
denied. There has been too much publicity in the press for them to be able
to do so. However, nothing is done to improve matters and if anything
conditions are getting worse.
Assaults on farm labourers are among the worst features of
the system, and that their frequent occurrence is giving cause for concern,
is reflected by the fact that in the recent labour regulations promulgated
(6164/1959) six references are made to procedure and penalties that are to
be applied in such cases. Unfortunately there is no effective machinery for
checking on assaults and the penalties are likely to remain on paper only.
The regulations themselves have many remarkable features.
Chapter 9, for example, gives power to any compound manager to maintain law
and order in the Native quarters in his charge, and may arrest without
warrant any person committing an offence there. He may also search without
warrant etc., and keep “a written record in ink” of all the
articles confiscated. He must also control the entrance to the compound in a
proper manner, preventing any unauthorised women from entering.
Another feature of the regulations is the provision in
Chapter Two that depots may be established by any district employment
officer and any African registered at the local Labour Bureau may be forced
to live there until he has accepted employment in the area or has left the
area. Any African living there must obey any lawful order by the
person in charge of the depot. The difference between these labour depots
and slave markets must be purely academic.
Speaking at Riversdale in February 1959, Mr. V. R. Vorster,
the Head of the Prisons Department in South Africa, said “Lack of
labour is the farmers greatest problem. The Department of Prisons has
become the focal point to the farmers from the Limpopo to the Cape. They all
want labour from us, but we cannot supply it all, but we are doing
everything in our power to meet the emergency. More than 12,000 convicts are
used daily for the building of dams in this area.”
That there is an emergency in the scarcity of farm labour is
an accepted fact. But the emergency is nothing now, and is a product of the
industrialisation that has been the feature of our economy this century. As
far back as 1932, strong measures were taken to try to alleviate the
shortage with the introduction of what was known as the “6d per day
scheme.” First offenders in the prisons who were serving periods less
than three months were handed to farmers to serve their sentences on the
farm for the remuneration of 6d per day plus food, quarters and clothing.
The scheme was compulsory and resulted in “not infrequent desertions
and reports of unfavourable conditions of employment and treatment by
escapees.” (Director of Prisons Report, 1953.)
The scheme came under very heavy fire from the famous
judicial commission on prisons the Landsdowne Commission of 1947. The
Commission report found that the scheme was very undesirable and
recommended that it terminated immediately and that other labour be found to
replace the convicts. This finding of a judicial commission did not prevent
the director of prisons report of 1952 from saying that “the scheme
proved successful.” Clearly necessity creates its own standards.
Unfortunately the commission did not consider where the
labour which was to replace the convicts was to be found, and after a
placatory suspension of six months in response to heavy pressure, the scheme
The objections of the commission are of importance for they
still apply today. They felt that the cheap convict labour undercut the
rates of pay of ordinary labour. The frequent distortions were an
undesirable feature, as was the fact that there were occasions when the
prisoner was not released on termination of the sentence. The most important
finding of the commission was that the Prisons Departments accommodation
difficulties should not be solved by sending the short term convicts to
farms, but by reducing their number in the first place.
The resumption of the scheme was supposed to have been
accompanied with some modifications. Prisoners were no longer to be forced
to take on farm work and the pay was raised to 9d a day. Nevertheless the
number of convict farm workers increased. In 1951 the number was 28,000;
1953 40,553 and 10,000 for the two years 1953/4 (Government Prisons
Reports). No later figure is available other than that in the first six
months of 1958, 36,000 were contracted in the Transvaal alone.
In practice the scheme, which is Union-wide, is mainly
applied to “petty offenders” i.e. pass, permit and tax defaulters
and the prisoner is considered to be on parole while working on the farm.
The danger is that farmers do not look at it this way. They consider that
having gone to the trouble to get this labour and having been obliged to pay
his wages in to the prison authorities in advance, the labourer is regarded
as a prisoner in the farmers charge.
Much is made out of the fact that the scheme is voluntary in
the Prisons Report of 1953/4, but it is nevertheless true that in at least
one jail, the prisoners do not make any mark of acquiescence on the contract
form (P.D.4) although provision is made for them to do so. It is doubtful
whether prisoners are actually aware of the fact that they have the right to
refuse farm work at all.
LONG TERM PRISONERS
Long term prisoners are also hired for farm labour work
under a number of different schemes.
The first is that of the farm jails system. A number of
years ago when the Government was faced with the problem of housing an
increasing number of convicts, they devised this scheme which had the
additional advantage of not requiring capital expenditure from loan funds.
An arrangement has been arrived at between the Government and various
Farmers Unions whereby the Unions build a jail in their area with their
own capital and then draw on prisoners from the Government jails in
proportion to the funds they have invested in the building. The Department
of Prisons supply the staff to supervise the jail but the Union is
responsible for its maintenance. The Cape Province has five such jails, the
Orange Free State one and the Transvaal ten. All these jails accommodated a
daily average of 4,600 in 1953 or 135,000 man days per month.
Although workers are supposed to be supplied by the Prisons
Department, frequently the farmers supply their own workers who are sworn in
at the prison to guard the convicts while they are at work. If they do so
the normal fee of 2/- per day per convict is reduced to 1/9d. These fees are
paid into Prison Funds and the convict gets nothing for his labour.
Hitherto the farm jails were inspected by prison officials
four times a year in addition to the inspection carried out by the local
magistrate but with the passing of the new Prisons Act 1959, the magistrates
obligation to do so is waived. Inspections of conditions on the farms where
the convicts are actually working are rare.
Another variation of the system is in force whereby the
jails and the warders are provided by the Government. In this case the
prisoners are sent out to surrounding farms daily under official guard.
Government Departments also use this labour extensively.
Apart from the great number of convicts used for the building of dams, the
railways used about 2,000 prisoners daily, the Department of Public Works
used 1,000 units and various other Departments 5,500 daily in 1954.
The Department of Labour has given its sanctions to this labour scheme.
Exposures of assaults and ill treatment of labourers by
farmers, compound managers and boss boys have frequently stirred the city
public. Periodically a public spirited person takes the matters a little
further by taking up some particular case, yet no significant dent is made
in the armour of the whole farm labour set up.
In the last thirty to forty years a group wielding great
political power has grown up in the countryside with a vested interest in
cheap forced labour. Like an octopus its arms reach out into the prisons,
the pass offices and labour bureaux seeking yet more methods with which to
ensnare the African worker and snatch him from the cities. For in the words
of a prison chief, “the farms cannot do without labour,” and to
fulfil his needs the African people must be controlled to such an
extent that the whole state machinery becomes enmeshed in its structure. For
the imposition of the pass law on the African people has meant that a large
proportion of the Governments activities have become connected with it.
But the use of forced labour is also to be found in the
Reserves which are designated the “homelands” of the African
people by the Government. In the reserves there are projects introduced by
the Government which make the people work without pay. One practice that has
attracted a great deal of attention is one whereby dipping tanks in reserves
are serviced, repaired and kept in order by African women who are not paid
for their services. In other words the people in the reserves who are
poverty stricken have been compelled to work for nothing. If a particular
household did not supply the labour required, they would be charged with
committing an offence and made to pay a fine of at least £5 a
considerable sum in the reserves.
TRADE UNION APARTHEID
- Further amendments have been introduced to the Industrial Conciliation
Act. The amendments have as their aim:
- the extension of Apartheid in the trade unions;
- Further steps to continue the Governments policy of “bleeding
the African trade unions to death”;
- The tightening up and extension of job Apartheid.
The main amendments will affect not only registered unions,
but non-registered unions as well. In addition through the extension of job
reservation or Apartheid, the vital interests of all workers will be
In this Memorandum we shall endeavour to set out the main
amendments and their consequences.
Under the 1956 Act, mixed Unions were compelled to separate
their members into white and coloured branches, but was still permitted to
cater for both white and coloured members. In terms of an amendment to
Section 7 of the Act, registered unions will have to declare in advance in
their constitutions that in any new areas or for any further interests for
which they propose to cater, they will cater for white persons only or for
coloured persons only. In other words, they will not be allowed to recruit
white and coloured workers, even in separate branches, into their unions
should they go to new areas or cater for new interests. For example, if a
trade union today caters for white and coloured workers in a certain
industry, but in Johannesburg only, it will have to declare in its
constitution now whether it proposes taking the future direction of
an all-white or an all-coloured union in any new areas where it starts
organising the workers. If it decides to be an all-white union in these
areas, and the employers decide to employ coloured workers on a large scale
in such areas, the union concerned will not be able to cater for these
An amendment to Section 8 of the Act tightens up the
restriction of racial mixing in the unions. The 1956 Act compelled the mixed
unions to hold separate meetings for the separate branches. It was, however,
possible to hold mixed congresses, conferences and meetings other than
branch meetings. The amendment prevents this. It says that the constitutions
of mixed unions must provide for “the holding of separate meetings by
white persons and coloured persons.” A further amendment to this
section makes it clear that only officials and office bearers of one race
may attend meetings of members of branches of another race. At present a member
of one race may not attend branch meetings other than those of a branch
established for his race. In terms of the amendment members (other
than officials and office bearers) will be prevented from attending not only
branch meetings, but all meetings held in terms of the unions
constitution with another race i.e., district committees, representative
meetings and so on.
A series of further amendments [a new section 8(6) (e) and
sections 21(5) and 37] lay down that a registered union shall not appoint or
elect an African as an official or office bearer. No African may be
appointed as a representative or alternate representative of employeeS on an
industrial council. Nor shall any African be appointed as a representative
of the employees on a conciliation board.
The sum total of these amendments is to enforce greater
apartheid in the registered trade unions.
BLEEDING THE AFRICAN UNIONS TO DEATH
The Government is always looking for ways to pursue its vain
policy of “bleeding the African trade unions to death.”
One such method is revealed in an amendment to Section 51 of
the 1956 Act. There are some employers who have been operating a stop order
system for trade union subscriptions for African workers, besides white and
coloured workers. The Minister of Labour immediately took the step of
excluding the stop order clause from industrial council agreements when
these agreements were extended to African workers. However, the industrial
councils overcame this in at least one case by exempting employers
from this prohibition on stop order payment of subscriptions for African
unions. The amendment to Section 51 prohibits the granting of an exemption
in this case without the Ministers approval. In view of the Governments
stated attitude to African trade unions, it is highly unlikely that it will
ever grant its approval to stop orders for African unions. Not only unions,
but “any association of persons” (e.g. sports clubs, or medical
aid scheme) will be affected by this section.
THE EXTENSION OF JOB APARTHEID
The many difficulties facing the Government in enforcing job
reservation are reflected in the insertion of a completely new section 77 in
the Act. In the first draft of the Bill, published last September, the power
of submitting recommendations to the Minister was taken away from the
Industrial Tribunal, making it purely a “fact-finding body.” In
the final draft, the powers of recommendation of the Tribunal are restored.
But the section as a whole is so tightened up that the extension of job
apartheid is made easier and will be wider.
In the first place, the amendment does away with all
references to “safeguarding the economic welfare of employees of any
race in any undertaking, industry, trade or occupation ” This
pretence of job apartheid is dropped and it is providing that “whenever
it appears to the Minister that it may be desirable,” he can direct the
tribunal to make an investigation. In other words, he can now refer any
matter he thinks fit to the tribunal – the delusions of a “safeguard
against inter-racial competition” have forever gone.
In the second place, the Minister has devised a method of
trying to coax employers to apply an unofficial job reservation. He is
empowered to send letters to the parties who in his opinion “should be
consulted,” and to invite them to make proposals for applying job
reservation without the necessity of a determination.
When the Minister is of the opinion that the investigation
should be proceeded with, he may then direct the tribunal to do so, and in
doing so he is not bound by the terms of his letter to the parties whom he
has consulted. It is to be noted that the representative nature of the
tribunal which makes the investigation, is altered by an amendment to
section 17(14) of the Act. At present the Minister may appoint “such
member of assessors as in his opinion are necessary to ensure reasonable
representation of those principally concerned” in any matter being
investigated by the tribunal. This is changed to read “such member of
assessors to represent the interests of employers and employees
respectively, as he considers desirable.” This will allow him to
appoint anyone without worrying about that persons qualifications, to
represent the interests of employers and employees, provided that the person
appointed is either an employer or an employee concerned in the matter
(including office bearers of trade unions and employers organisations.)
In the third place, the Minister has tried to overcome some
of the implications of the two legal actions in which garment workers
successfully upset the job reservation in their industry. The tribunal is
now empowered to recommend one or all of the following methods of job
- The prohibition of an employer replacing one race of employees by
another race, or reducing the percentage of employment of one race.
- The reserving, whether wholly or to the extent set out in the
determination, or work or a class of work for a specified race.
- The laying down of the minimum, maximum or average or percentage number
of persons of a specified race who may be employed.
- The regulation of the number of employees of a specified race who may be
- The prohibition of an employer replacing one race of employees by
- The tribunal in making its recommendation is not to be limited in any way
by the extent to which persons of any race are at the time of the
investigation employed or available for employment in the undertaking
industry, trade occupation or class of work specified. The tribunal is also
allowed to “use any method of differentiation or discrimination it
may deem expedient” in recommending the industry, undertaking or
class of work to be reserved. It may make different recommendations in
respect of different areas or different portions of an undertaking or
The powers given to the tribunal are now so wide that it
will be difficult for them to “misconceive their powers,” as was
found in the legal actions mentioned above. They may in fact even be able to
override wage regulating measures in the application of job reservation. For
example, the tribunal may be able to make a determination that in a given
industry the number of employees shall be 100 whites at £12 a week, 50
coloureds at £5 a week and 10 Africans at £3 per week. Where there is no
wage determination the Minister will certainly be able to include wages
which are to be paid in a job reservation determination. He may even be able
to override an industrial council agreement regarding wages.
Once a recommendation is made, the tribunal reports to the
Minister and he may then make a determination. It would seem that the
tribunals recommendation will still be of a decisive nature, and the
Ministers discretion will be whether to apply it as a determination or
In the fourth place, section 77(11) of the existing Act is
to be deleted. This means that the Minister will be able to override the
industrial councils when applying job reservation. At present he cannot bind
any industry, trade or undertaking with determination, during the operation
of an industrial council agreement. The opposition of industrial councils,
consisting of employers and employees, has led the Minister to interfere in
their affairs, and give himself the power to apply job reservation without
In the fifth place, the colour bar created by Section 77 may
also be applied to the mines. The existing section which prevents this
happening is deleted. Greater powers, including the right to delegate his
powers to an officer, are given to the Minister to enforce job reservation.
The effect of the amendments will thus be:
- To carry the enforcement of trade union apartheid one stage further.
- To attempt to restrict even more than before the development of African
trade unions, and to try and hold back those workers who are organised and
have shown militancy.
- To give the Government almost unfettered powers to carry out the policy
of job apartheid.
ACTIVITIES OF THE OPPRESSED PEOPLE
We have referred to a few developments in recent years which
indicate a determination on the part of the Nationalist government to pursue
a reactionary policy inimical to the interests of the people of South Africa
as a whole
On their part the oppressed people in the Union together
with freedom-loving South Africans of European origin, have endeavoured to
halt the policies of apartheid by means of peaceful, non-violent methods.
Despite constant Government provocation, the African National Congress has
endeavoured to conduct their struggle on the basis of peaceful, non-violent
During April 1958 the White electorate of South Africa went
to the polls to elect a new Parliament. The non-whites, who have no vote,
organised a protest campaign popularly known as the Stay-at-Home campaign.
The object of this protest was, in the words of Chief A. J. Lutuli,
(President-General of the African National Congress) to gatecrash the
elections and make White South Africa aware of the fact that the non-whites
are entitled to rights and were people with ideas and feelings. A strike
called to coincide with the protest campaign did not achieve success. But
the African National Congress captured the headlines and forced itself upon
the White electorate who had to take note of the Congress and its demands.
The Government reacted by taking strong measures against the African
National Congress. The Congress was banned in certain rural areas including
Sekhukhuneland, the Marico district in the Zeerust area and in the
Zoutpansberg district of the Northern Transvaal. Also meetings of more than
ten Africans were banned in the major urban areas of the Union from April 12th
1958 to 29th August 1958. Following the Stay-at-Home campaign,
scores of persons were arrested and sent to prison.
The African National Congress and its allies sent
delegations to the historic Accra conference and supported the decisions
taken there. In particular the Congress draws attention to the proposed
Economic Boycott of South African goods which was decided upon at the Accra
conference. In South Africa itself an Economic Boycott of goods produced by
firms which support Government policies has been launched. In many countries
moves are afoot to ban South African goods as a protest against the
apartheid policies of the Union Government. The Congress naturally welcomes
the support and solidarity exhibited to the freedom-loving people of South
Africa by the international community.
The Accra conference also passed a resolution urging the
strengthening of the United Nations Commission on the Racial Situation in
South Africa. A more representative Commission with wider powers of
reference would be more dynamic and effective in its work.
During the current year despite Government action the
Congress and its allies have grown considerably in strength. There have also
been widespread spontaneous actions by the African women in the province of
Natal which testify to the growing desperation of the people at the
inhumanity of apartheid.
The anxiety of the people of South Africa at the policies of
the Nationalist Government can be seen in the fact that White South Africans
are more and more repudiating these policies and expressing themselves in
favour of an extension of rights to all people in the country. A growing
united front against apartheid composed of democratic organisations,
churches, newspapers, prominent individuals and even businessmen is
beginning to emerge composed of all races.
The reaction of the Government has been typical. Chief A. J.
Lutuli, beloved leader of the African people, has been exiled to his home in
the Reserves and ordered to be confined there for five years. He has also
been banned from attending any gathering for a period of five years. A
similar order banning Mr. P. P. D. Nokwe (Secretary-General) from attending
gatherings has been made. Banning orders have also been issued against other
prominent leaders of the Congress movement such as Mr. P. Beyleveld, Mr. O.
Tambo. Others have been exiled to remote points of the country. The editor
of a leading international magazine, “Africa South“, Mr. R.
Segal has been similarly banned from attending gatherings for a period of
five years. Action is being taken against foreign and local press
correspondents as criticism against the Governments policies rises. These
actions have been taken by the Government in most cases in terms of the
notorious Suppression of Communism Act. As was pointed out at the time this
Act was passed, it has nothing to do with suppressing communism at all and
is in fact designed to deal with any opponent of Government policy.
Reference must be made to what remains the chief attack of
the Government on the democratic opposition in the country. This is the
mammoth Treason Trial which is now about to complete the third year. The
Freedom Charter attached herewith as an annexure forms the kernel of the
case by the Government against the accused in the Treason Trial.
At this time when more and more African peoples are
achieving freedom and independence, the policies of the Union Government are
becoming more intolerable than ever. Many countries appalled at the
consequences of this policy, are adopting concrete attitudes towards it. The
utter contempt with which the Union treats decisions of the United Nations
Assembly constitutes a serious threat to peace in Africa and therefore in
In the light of this situation, we hope the United Nations
Organisation will take effective measures to end the evils of racial
discrimination and apartheid in the Union of South Africa.
The African National Congress and its allies will for their
part continue to struggle in a determined manner for the implementation of
the principles enshrined in the Freedom Charter for a democratic South
Africa in which all, irrespective of race, sex, colour or creed will have
P. P. D. NOKWE
P. O. Box 9207,