South African’s National Liberation Movement

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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"

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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
    Annexure “A”.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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
    Human Rights.


    1. 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.”

  1. 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 government’s 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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
    Nationalist Government.

  11. 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

  12. 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 Self–Government scheme the centre of his policy speeches. As far as
    the African National Congress is concerned the Promotion of Bantu Self–Government
    Act of 1959 provides merely for the continuation of rule by sjambok
    in disguise.


Nothing illustrates the real intentions of the Nationalist Government so much
as steps taken in connection with African education.

  1. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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
    respective countries.

  5. 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.


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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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:

      1. 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.
      2. 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.
      3. 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.,
      4. 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.
    3. 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.

    4. 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
this result:

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

    1. 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.

    2. 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 people’s revolt in the Natal province, influx control was the
      main grievance of the people.

    3. 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.

    4. 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.

    5. 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.

    6. 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.

    7. 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.

    8. 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.

    9. 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.

    10. The most famous case is that of Nelson Langa who was
      arrested in the street in Johannesburg, wearing his municipal employee’s
      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

  1. 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.

  2. 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?

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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
    whole scheme.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.


  1. 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 farmer’s 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.”

  2. 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.)

  3. 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.

  4. 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
    was restarted.

  5. 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 Department’s accommodation
    difficulties should not be solved by sending the short term convicts to
    farms, but by reducing their number in the first place.

  6. 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.

  7. 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 farmer’s charge.

  8. 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.


  1. Long term prisoners are also hired for farm labour work
    under a number of different schemes.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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 magistrate’s
    obligation to do so is waived. Inspections of conditions on the farms where
    the convicts are actually working are rare.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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 Government’s activities have become connected with it.

  9. 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.


  1. Further amendments have been introduced to the Industrial Conciliation
    Act. The amendments have as their aim:
    1. the extension of Apartheid in the trade unions;
    2. Further steps to continue the Government’s policy of “bleeding
      the African trade unions to death”;
    3. The tightening up and extension of job Apartheid.
  2. 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

  3. In this Memorandum we shall endeavour to set out the main
    amendments and their consequences.

  4. 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

  5. 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 union’s
    constitution with another race – i.e., district committees, representative
    meetings and so on.

  6. 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.

  7. The sum total of these amendments is to enforce greater
    apartheid in the registered trade unions.


  1. The Government is always looking for ways to pursue its vain
    policy of “bleeding the African trade unions to death.”

  2. 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 Minister’s approval. In view of the Government’s
    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.


  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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 person’s 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 employer’s organisations.)

  5. 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
    reservation :

    1. The prohibition of an employer replacing one race of employees by
      another race, or reducing the percentage of employment of one race.
    2. The reserving, whether wholly or to the extent set out in the
      determination, or work or a class of work for a specified race.
    3. The laying down of the minimum, maximum or average or percentage number
      of persons of a specified race who may be employed.
    4. The regulation of the number of employees of a specified race who may be
  6. 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
  1. 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.

  2. Once a recommendation is made, the tribunal reports to the
    Minister and he may then make a determination. It would seem that the
    tribunal’s recommendation will still be of a decisive nature, and the
    Minister’s discretion will be whether to apply it as a determination or

  3. 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

  4. 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.


  1. The effect of the amendments will thus be:

    1. To carry the enforcement of trade union apartheid one stage further.
    2. 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.
    3. To give the Government almost unfettered powers to carry out the policy
      of job apartheid.


  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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 Government’s 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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
    the world.

  11. 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.

  12. 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
    equal rights.



P. O. Box 9207,


South Africa