South African’s National Liberation Movement

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National Conference​


Presidential Address by Chief Lutuli

16 December 1954

Sons and daughters of Africa,

Afrika! Afrika! Mayibuye! Mayibuye!

I greet you all on behalf of myself and thousands of others within and without Congress who share with you our hope for the attainment of freedom for all in our land in the not-distant future.

I ask you to receive special greetings and best wishes for a successful conference from your banned and banished leaders who are with you in spirit. Thank God that Divine Providence has not endowed Minister Swart with the power to ban Congress out of the people`s hearts.

I ask that your loving remembrance of our own banned and banished leaders should embrace the banned and the banished of our allies in the Liberatory Movement.

As an act of remembrance and re-dedication of ourselves to the cause of freedom in our land, I would ask the Conference, at this point, to stand and perform the acts which I have proposed to Mr. Speaker.

The wholesale banning of our leaders should challenge us all – banned and unbanned – to devote ourselves unreservedly to the cause of freedom.

I am glad to report that despite the bannings, Congress work at both National and Provincial levels has been carried on at a high level of efficiency but this was possible only at great personal sacrifice on the part of those Congress officials who are still free of the notorious bans.

On your behalf, I am sure you would want me to thank all those who in any way have helped to keep the machinery going. I have much pleasure in publicly thanking them.

The treasury will submit to conference a formal appeal for funds to enable us to meet special obligations Congress has to our banned and banished leaders and also to help us to meet our increased administration costs. I feel confident that our leaders at all levels – national, provincial and branch – will do all they can to get the masses to contribute generously to this special appeal for funds. Let me close my introductory remarks by thanking most sincerely the authorities of the City of Durban for allowing us to hold our Annual Conference in their area of jurisdiction.

Our warmest and sincerest thanks go to the authorities of the Beatrice Street Y.M.C.A., Durban, for making available to us the excellent facilities of their great establishment to enable us to carry on under comfortable conditions the various activities of our Conference.

Last, but not least, we express our deepest appreciation to the Natal Provincial Division of the African National Congress for voluntarily inviting the Annual National Conference of the African National Congress to come to Natal and for sparing no effort to secure facilities necessary for the convenience and comforts of delegates. In our warm thanks to the Natal Provincial authorities of the African National Congress we gladly associate the local Congress organs and officials in the Durban District who must have borne the brunt of the burden of Natal playing host to the Annual Conference of her mother body, the African National Congress.

I must now bring to an end the felicitous aspect of my address and in conformity with traditional practice touch very briefly upon some activities and events in the political scene in our country, in particular, and the world in general, especially those events and activities that have a direct bearing on the noble task of emancipating mankind in Africa.


We find ourselves so busily engaged in the terrific political battle in our country that we miss to note the gains we make here and there, no matter how small.

In my opinion, despite the ruthless intensification of the Apartheid policy, we have on the credit side a few notable victories.

a. The success of the Congress of the People Campaign.

We have still much to do to rally all sections of our country to the Congress of the People Campaign, but it is making no extravagant claim when I say it grips the imagination of the common man wherever the campaign had reached. The frantic way in which the government is seeking to cripple the Campaign is evidence of its political potency.

Let us intensify our call for 50,000 Freedom Volunteers.

I can see through the Congress of the People thousands and thousands of South Africans from all sections of our multi-racial nation marching together to freedom as a direct result of this campaign. In any case the campaign has already enlarged and consolidated our united FREEDOM FRONT considerably.

b. The Christian Churches and Apartheid.

There is no doubt that speaking generally the Church has made no noticeable impact on the political thinking of the Ministry in general and in the laity, both black and white. There have been lonely voices here and there that have condemned the South African Native Policy on Christian grounds .

There is a tendency, especially in the African section of the Church to dismiss politics as other worldly matters. We do not expect the Church to back up any political party or theory but we do expect it to arm its adherents with Christian principles that will enable them to pass intelligent judgment in terms of Christian principles on any political programme or theory.

Whilst, with the exception of the Dutch Reformed Church and, maybe, a few Lutheran Churches that support the Bantu Education Act, of 1953, there is no unanimity among church leaders as to what to do with schools in terms of the Bantu Education Act; it has come to us as a refreshing breeze to hear them give a unanimous categorical rejection of the Act on grounds of incompatibility with Christian principles of the Apartheid principles and practices inherent in the Act.

In the African National Congress we support the uncompromising rejection of the Act by the Roman Catholic Church and the Authorities of the Diocese of Johannesburg under the Rt. Rev. Ambrose Reeves. This year will be remembered for the unequivocal public condemnation of the policy of Apartheid by a good number of churches in the Union and overseas, especially the Church of England in Great Britain. It was heartening to hear the condemnation of Apartheid coming from such a world-important body as the Assembly of the World Council of Churches which recently met in Evanston, Illinois, U.S.A.

We shall not forget the visit to our country of that great Christian Crusader, Canon Collins. We thank God for men like Canon Collins who live the words of the Christian hymn which say “Let courage rise with danger. “

c. The rise of Spirit of Resistance among Workers.

This year, especially in Durban, we witnessed with joy the rising tide of opposition by African employees to unsatisfactory conditions of service. We single out for mention the Dock Workers, the United Tobacco Company workers and workers in some Pine Town factory.

Congress at both National and Provincial levels should establish closer cooperation between itself and Trade Union leaders and organisations.

We regret the sell-out of labour interests made by the recent so-called Unity Conference [of October 1954, resulting in the formation of the South African Trade Union Council] which ended up as a Disunity Conference in support of the Apartheid policy of the Minister of Labour, Mr. Schoeman; it refused to recognise African Unions or mixed Unions with African membership.


I feel called upon to remind the African people of the grim fundamental facts of our situation which are painful reminders of our enslavement by White South Africans. While it is true that the propaganda of the Nationalist Government through the information section of the Native Affairs Department tries to cleverly conceal the evils of Apartheid by promises which are nothing but deceptive palliatives, yet on the other hand, we should be grateful to the Nationalist Party Government for unambiguously making it plain that in the interest of perpetuating white domination they will stop at nothing in their determination to realise their goal of keep non-Whites in a state of permanent servitude. What is surprising is that in the face of this frankness you should find some Africans in positions of influence counselling the African people to submit to the status quo.

These false persons generally support the betrayal of the African people by false reasons such as these: “Half a loaf is better than no loaf`; “the African people are not yet ready for freedom”; “convert the white man first by being moderate in your demands.” Indulging in wishful thinking they ideally say that without exerting ourselves God in his own time will give us freedom. They forget that God has long been waiting for African Freedom Volunteers whom He could harness to the noble cause of bringing freedom to all people in Africa. These false leaders would have the African accept the shadow for the substance, thus rendering himself guilty before God of having a perverted sense of values which exalts expediency above principles and a mere mess of pottage – crumbs of apartheid – above freedom. our basic God-given heritage.


In order to convince you of the seriousness of our situation let me remind you of some of the grim facts of our situation.

a. Decline of Liberalism in the Union of South Africa:

It is a sad commentary on the attitude of white South Africa that in the Union of South Africa liberalism should be held to such extreme and malicious scorn that any white person showing any leanings towards liberalism is regarded as a renegade and so shunned if not completely ostracised. It is a measure of the littleness of our little Union of South Africa that such great South Africans as the late J. H. Hofmeyr should have been abused even by members of their own party. White South Africa should know that Africans applaud and honour those Europeans who work for the liberation of Africans on the basis of making the Union of South Africa a true Democracy for all people regardless of their colour, class or creed. Hence we are grateful to the formation of the Congress of Democrats with which the African National Congress is in alliance in the Liberatory Movement, especially in the campaign of the Congress of the People. We are grateful also for the existence of the Liberal Party between whom and ourselves there exists a warm sympathetic understanding and friendly cooperation on specific issues where our policies agree.

Let me here most emphatically state that while the African National Congress must naturally work for its own growth, yet it is equally committed to the policy of forming a multiracial united Democratic front to challenge the forces of reaction in this country.

b. The Ascendency of the Forces of Reaction.

We must not be blind to the fact that the baasskap spirit of the Boer Republics is in the ascendancy in the Union. This accounts for the fact that every day the United Party is becoming indistinguishable from the Nationalist Party. The long-waited-for new Native Policy of the United Party can be described as being a mark time order from Drill Master, Mr. Strauss, with an occasional “March backward” order, as in the case of their decision not to give recognition to African trade unions whereas the Party at one time seriously considered giving recognition to African trade unions.

After all both the United Party and the Nationalist Party vie for the position of being Guardians of the traditional Native Policy of South Africa and the essence of this policy is the baasskap spirit of the Boer Republics where each white farmer was a supreme lord over his African servants.

c. The Economic Advance of the African is deliberately curbed by legislation which is reinforced by a hostile public opinion.

This curb of our economic advancement became marked after Union when in 1913 Africans were deprived of the right of buying land in freehold title. The grim story of our being robbed of opportunities for economic advancement is too long to narrate in a Presidential address.

d. Deliberate Efforts to Suppress and Dwarf our human personality

Leaders of white public opinion take every opportunity to present us in the world as sub-human beings incapable of assimilating civilisation. This vilification has been going on since the whites first met us. This matter of dwarfing our personality and trying to make us believe we are nobodies is the worst sin the white man has committed against Africans.

In the Bantu Education Act of Dr. Verwoerd, an effort is being made to use the school as an instrument of dwarfing our human personalities. The African child is to be made to feel that he is the inferior of the white child.


We are grateful as we always have been to progressive opinion in the world that has not hesitated to champion our cause in the Union of South Africa. We watch with interest the developments towards full democracy in Western African territories under British rule.

The British Covernment must not allow its policy to be dictated by white settlers who selfishly try to grab as much wealth as they can from Africa, otherwise she will find herself confronted with man-made situations as in East Africa, or extremely strained relations as in Uganda and Bechuanaland, where people rightly resent the banishment of their hereditary heads.


Let me conclude my address by asking you this question ! What must we do to meet this challenge of a people spiritually, if not physically, destroying us as a people?

2. We must join our national organisation, the African National Congress, where the true significance, purpose and probable disastrous outcome of Government policy would be explained to us by our own people who work for our liberation.

After all, the white man has told you that he wants to make you his servant forever and so what good thing can there be for you in his policy? Do not listen to propaganda of the Information Section of the Native Affairs Department.
3. Develop in you the spirit of resisting anything that curbs or limits the development of your talents to their fullest capacity.
4. Cultivate a sense of service and sacrifice without which Africans can never gain freedom. Freedom comes only to people who are prepared to pay dearly for it.