In the following pages the reader will find what has been termed "Bill of Rights" and "The Atlantic Charter from the African's Point of View." This document was drawn up after due deliberations by a special committee whose names appear at the end of this booklet. Their findings were unanimously adopted by the Annual Conference of the African National Congress at Bloemfontein, on the 16th of December, 1943. We realise as anyone else the apparent inappropriativeness and vagueness of the expressions when adopted by us. We have, however, adapted them to our own conditions as they give us, the most dynamic way of directing the attention of our Government in the Union of South Africa, the European population of our country to the African position and status in this land of our birth—South Africa—because the Government and the European section alone have the absolute legislative and administrative power and authority over the non-Europeans. We know that the Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa and his delegation to the Peace Conference will represent the interests of the people of our country. We want the Government and the people of South Africa to know the full aspirations of the African peoples so that their point of view will also be presented at the Peace Conference. We want the Government of the United Nations to know and act in the light of our own interpretation of the ''Atlantic Charter'' to which they are signatories. This is our way of conveying to them our undisputed claim to full citizenship. We desire them to realise once and for all that a just and permanent peace will be possible only if the claims of all classes, colours and races for sharing and for full participation in the educational, political and economic activities are granted and recognised.
Already according to press reports there seem to be differences of opinion as to the applicability of the 'Atlantic Charter' as between the President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister of Great Britain. It would appear that President F. D. Roosevelt wanted the Atlantic Charter to apply to the whole world while the Prime Minister, Mr. Winston Churchill, understood it to be intended for the white people in the occupied countries in Europe.
In South Africa, Africans have no freedom of movement, no freedom of choice of employment, no right of choice of residence and no right of freedom to purchase land or fixed property from anyone and anywhere. Under the guise of segregation, they are subjected to serious educational, political and economic disabilities and discriminations which are the chief causes of their apparent slow progress.
We urge that if fascism and fascist tendencies are to be uprooted from the face of the earth, and to open the way for peace, prosperity and racial in so far as they relate to Africa, and to formulate a comprehensive statement embodying an African Charter, and
(b) to draw up a Bill of Rights which Africans are demanding as essential to guarantee them a worthy place in the post war world.
4. The President-General accordingly invited various African leaders to become members of the Atlantic Charter Committee which would meet in Bloemfontein on December 13 and 14, 1943 to perform this important national duty, as he saw it. At the same time the President-General called upon those invited to submit memoranda on different aspects of this subject for the subsequent consideration of the whole committee on the dates indicated above.
5. The response to the President-General's invitation as indicated by the number of well prepared and thought provoking statements submitted from different parts of the country was proof that his action was timely and in line with the thinking of Africans on the vital subject of post war reconstruction.
6. The Committee met at Bloemfontein and deliberated on Monday and Tuesday, December 13 and 14, 1943. The Committee elected Mr. Z. K. Matthews as Chairman and Mr. L. T. Mtimkulu as Secretary, and a Sub-Committee consisting of Messrs. S. B. Ngcobo, M. L. Kabane and J. M. Nhlapo, with the chairman and the secretary as ex officio members, to draft the findings of the Atlantic Charter Committee. Throughout its deliberations the committee acted under the able guidance of the President-General, Dr. A. B. Xuma.
7. As already indicated above, the work of the committee fell into two parts, viz., (a) the consideration and interpretation of the Atlantic Charter, and (b) the formulation of a Bill of Rights. In dealing with the first part of its work the Committee discussed the articles of the Atlantic Charter one by one and made certain observations under each article.
8. In considering the Charter as a whole, the Committee was confronted with the difficulty of interpreting certain terms and expressions which are somewhat loosely and vaguely used in the Atlantic Charter. Among the terms or words to which this stricture applies are 'nations,' 'states,' 'peoples' and 'men.' Whatever meanings the authors had in mind with regard to these terms, the Committee decided that these terms, words or expressions are understood by us to include Africans and other Non-Europeans, because we are convinced that the groups to which we refer demand that they shall not be excluded from the rights and privileges which other groups hope to enjoy in the post-war world.
9. The Committee noted with satisfaction that the twenty-six other nations which subscribed to the Atlantic Charter on January 2, 1942 made it quite clear that the freedoms and liberties which this war is being fought to establish in countries which have been victims of aggression in this war, must be realised by the Allied Powers "in their own lands as well as other lands." This is the common cry of all subject races at the present time.
10. The articles of the Atlantic Charter and the observations of the Committee under each are as follows:—
THE ATLANTIC CHARTER
From the standpoint of Africans within the Union of South Africa.
First Point—No Aggrandisement.
"Their countries seek no aggrandisement, territorial or otherwise."
In this article there is very important assurance which is intended to exonerate the Allied Nations from the charge of having entered into this war for territorial gains or imperialistic reasons. With that understanding we support the principle contained in this article and hope that the rejection of aggrandisement in the War Aims of the Allied Nations is genuine and well meant. Having regard, however, to the possible danger of aggrandisement in the form of the extension of the Mandates System which was instituted after the last Great War, in spite of similar assurances in President Wilson's FOURTEEN POINTS, and also to the possibility of 'annexation' of certain African territories through their economic strangulation under veiled forms of assistance, we have deemed it necessary to make these three reservations.
Firstly, the status and independence of Abyssinia and her right to sovereignty must be safeguarded, and any political and economic assistance she may need must be freely negotiated by her and be in accordance with her freely expressed wishes. Abyssinia should be afforded a corridor into the sea for purposes of trade and direct communication with the outside world.
Secondly, we urge that as a fulfilment of the War Aim of the Allied Nations namely, to liberate territories and peoples under foreign domination, the former Italian colonies in Africa should be granted independence and their security provided for under the future system of World Security.
Thirdly, there are the anxieties of Africans with regard to British Protectorates in Southern Africa. It is well known that the Union of South Africa is negotiating for the incorporation of the three Protectorates of Bechuanaland, Basutoland and Swaziland and that incorporation might be pressed during or after this present war as part of South Africa's price for participation in this war. The schedule to the South Africa Act of 1909 did envisage the transfer, under certain conditions, of the territories to the Union of South Africa, but Africans were not contracting parties to these arrangements and they do not regard the provisions of the schedule as morally and politically binding on them. They would deprecate any action on the part of Great Britain which would bring about the extension of European political control at the expense of their vital interests. Africans, therefore, are definitely opposed to the transfer of the Protectorates to the South African State.
Second Point—No Territorial Changes.
'They desire to see no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned.
This statement is intended to refer to territorial changes which have been brought about in Europe by military aggression. It is clear, however, that territorial changes are also being discussed in regard to other parts of the world. We are mainly concerned with such changes in so far as they relate to the African continent, and in this connection mention has to be made to the suggested territorial changes in regard to West Africa, East Africa and Southern Africa under a system of regional regrouping as outlined in the recent speeches and writings of Field Marshal Smuts.
We hope that the mistakes of the past whereby African peoples and their lands were treated as pawns in the political game of European nations will not be repeated, and we urge that before such changes are effected there must be effective consultation and that the suggested changes must be in accord with the freely expressed wishes of the indigenous inhabitants. Further, where territorial changes have taken place in the past and have not resulted in the political and other advancement of the Africans living in those territories or colonies it would be a mistake to continue to maintain the status quo after the war. The objective of promoting self government for colonial peoples must be actively pursued by powers having such lands under their administrative control, and this objective should also be a matter of international concern more than has been the case in the past.
Third Point—The Right to Choose the Form of Government.
"They respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live; and they wish to see sovereign rights and self government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them."
The principle of Self Determination made famous by President Wilson in his FOURTEEN POINTS on behalf of small nations has been reaffirmed by this article of the charter. This principle of self determination necessarily raises not only issues relating to the independent existence of small nations besides their more powerful neighbours but those also concerning the political rights and status of minorities and of Africans now held under European tutelage.
In the African continent in particular, European aggression and conquest has resulted in the establishment of Alien governments which, however beneficent they might be in intention or in fact, are not accountable to the indigenous inhabitants. Africans are still very conscious of the loss of their independence, freedom and the right of choosing the form of government under which they will live. It is the inalienable right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live and therefore Africans welcome the belated recognition of this right by the Allied Nations.
We believe that the acid test of this third article of the charter is its application to the African continent. In certain parts of Africa it should be possible to accord Africans sovereign rights and to establish administrations of their own choosing. But in other parts of Africa where there are the peculiar circumstances of a politically entrenched European minority ruling a majority European population the demands of the Africans for full citizenship rights and direct participation in all the councils of the state should be recognised. This is most urgent in the Union of South Africa.
Fourth Point—The Open Door Policy in Trade and Raw Materials.
"They will endeavour, with due regard for their existing obligations, to further the enjoyment of all states, great and small, victor or vanquished, of access, on equal terms, to the trade and to the raw materials of the world which are needed for their economic prosperity."
There is envisaged by this article an Open Door Policy in regard to trade and the distribution of the world's resources. Africa has figured prominently in the discussions on the better distribution of the world resources and of free international trade because of her rich raw materials most of which have not as yet been fully tapped. The exploitation that is suggested by the above article, judging by past experiences and present economic evils, raises in our minds considerable misgivings as likely to bring about a continuation of the exploitation of African resources to the detriment of her indigenous inhabitants and the enrichment of foreigners.
We are, however, in agreement with the necessity for the technical and economic utilisation of a country's resources with due regard for the human welfare and the economic improvement of the indigenous inhabitants. The primary obligation of any government is to promote the economic advancement of the peoples under its charge and any obligation, agreement, contract or treaty in conflict with this primary obligation should not be countenanced.
In our view it is essential that any economic assistance that might be rendered to weak and insufficiently developed African States should be of such a nature as will really promote their economic progress.
Fifth Point—Economic Collaboration and Improved Labour Standards.
'They desire to bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations on the economic field with the object of securing for all improved labour standards, economic advancement and Social Security."
This article of the charter has reference to the International Labour Office as the machinery by which nations shall collaborate in economic affairs. The Governments of African states have fully participated in the deliberations and exchange of ideas in regard to the promotion of improved living standards and industrial peace. For this reason Africans are vitally interested in the decisions and conventions of the International Labour Office.
But it is regrettable that conventions dealing with the welfare of African labour —forced Labour, Migrant or Recruited Labour, Health and Housing, Wage Rates — that have been drawn up at Geneva and accepted by the majority of civilised states have, for selfish reasons, been either rejected or half-heartedly applied by African governments whose protestations at being civilised have been loudest. Thus Africa has not to any large extent felt the beneficent influence of the International Labour Organisation.
Hitherto the International Labour Organisation has been representative mainly of the interests of Governments and the capitalist class. We claim that collaboration between all nations in the economic field must include consideration of the interest of labour as well as of capital, and that all workers, including African workers, must be fully and directly represented in this collaboration. In order to make participation by the workers effective it is essential that their right to collective bargaining should be legally recognised and guaranteed.
We shall understand, 'improved labour standards,' 'economic advancement' and 'social security' as referred to in this article to mean the following:—
(a) the removal of the Colour Bar;
(b) training in skilled occupations;
(c) remuneration according to skill;
(d) a living wage and all other workers' benefits;
(e) proper and adequate housing for all races and colours."
The policy of economic collaboration is probably more applicable to economic relations between sovereign states rather than to relations with weak and insufficiently developed states or territories. In our view it is essential that any economic assistance that might be rendered to weak and insufficiently developed African territories should be of such a nature as will really promote their economic improvement and not pauperise them.
The Sixth Point— The Destruction of Nazi Tyranny.
"After the final destruction of the Nazi tyranny, they hope to see established a peace which will afford to all nations the means of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries, and which will afford assurance that all men in all lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want.''
Africans are in full agreement with the war aim of destroying Nazi tyranny, but they desire to see all forms of racial domination in all lands, including the Allied countries, completely destroyed. Only in this way, they firmly believe, shall there be established peace which will afford to all peoples and races the means of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries, and which will afford the assurance that all men in all lands shall live out their lives in freedom from fear, want and oppression.
The Seventh Point—The Freedom of the Seas.
"Such a peace should enable all men to traverse the high seas and oceans without hindrance."
We agree with the principle of the freedom of the seas.
Eighth Point—The Abandonment of the Use of Force
"They believe that all the nations of the world, for realistic as well as spiritual reasons, must come to the abandonment of the use offeree. Since no further peace can be maintained if land, sea or air armaments continue to be employed by nations which threaten or may threaten aggression outside of their frontiers, they believe, pending the establishment of a wider and permanent system of general security, that the disarmament of such nations is essential.. .They will likewise aid and encourage all other practical measures which will lighten for peace-loving peoples the crushing burden of armaments."
We are in agreement in principle with the idea of the abandoning of the use of force for the settlement of international disputes, but we do not agree with the idea envisaged in this article of the character concerning the armament of some nations and the disarmament of other nations as this policy is provocative of future wars. As a preliminary, steps must be taken to nationalise the armament industry.
While recognising the necessity for the use of force within a country as part of its policing machinery, we must nevertheless deplore the fact that force, especially in South Africa, is frequently resorted to as a method of suppressing the legitimate ventilation of their grievances by oppressed, unarmed and disarmed sections of the population.
BILL OF RIGHTS.
Full Citizenship Rights and Demands
We, the African people in the Union of South Africa, urgently demand the granting of full citizenship rights such as are enjoyed by all Europeans in South Africa. We demand:—
1. Abolition of political discrimination based on race, such as the Cape "Native"franchise and the Native Representative Council under Representation of Natives Act, and the extension to all adults, regardless of race, of the right to vote and be elected to parliament, provincial councils and other representative institutions.
2. The right to equal justice in courts of law, including nomination to juries and appointment as judges, magistrates, and other court officials.
3. Freedom of residence and the repeal of laws such as the Natives (Urban Areas) Act, Native Land Act and the Natives Law Amendment Act that restrict this freedom.
4. Freedom of movement, and the repeal of the pass laws, Natives Urban Areas Act, Natives Laws Amendment Act and similar legislation.
5. [sic] Right of freedom of the press.
6. Recognition of the sanctity or inviolability of the home as a right of every family, and the prohibition of police raids on citizens in their homes for tax or liquor or other purposes.
7. The right to own, buy, hire or lease and occupy land and all other forms of immovable as well as movable property, and the repeal of restrictions on this right in the Native Land Act, the Native Trust and Land Act, the Natives (Urban Areas) Act and the Natives Laws Amendment Act.
8. The right to engage in all forms of lawful occupations, trades and professions, on the same terms and conditions as members of other sections of the population.
9. The right to be appointed to and hold office in the civil service and in all branches of public employment on the same terms and conditions as Europeans.
10. The right of every child to free and compulsory education and of admission to technical schools, universities, and other institutions of higher education.
11. Equality of treatment with any other section of the population in the State social services, and the inclusion on an equal basis with Europeans in any scheme of Social Security.
We demand the right to an equal share in all the material resources of the country, and we urge:
1. That the present allocation of 12½% of the surface area to 7,000,000 Africans as against 87¼% to about 2,000,000 Europeans is unjust and contrary to the interest of South Africa, and therefore demand a fair redistribution of the land as a prerequisite for a just settlement of the land problem.
2. That the right to own, buy, hire or lease and occupy land individually or collectively, both in rural and in urban areas is a fundamental right of citizenship, and therefore demand the repeal of the Native Land Act, the Native Trust and Land Act, the Natives Laws Amendment Act, and the Natives (Urban Areas) Act in so far as these laws abrogate that right.
3. That African farmers require no less assistance from the State than that which is provided to European farmers, and therefore demand the same Land Bank facilities. State subsidies, and other privileges as are enjoyed by Europeans.
Industry and Labour.
(1) We demand for the Africans—
(1) equal opportunity to engage in any occupation, trade or industry. In order that this objective might be realised to the fullest extent, facilities must be provided for technical and university education of Africans so as to enable them to enter skilled, semi-skilled occupations, professions, government service and other spheres of employment;
(2) equal pay for equal work, as well as equal opportunity for all work and for the unskilled workers in both rural and urban areas such minimum wage as shall enable the workers to live in health, happiness, decency and comfort;
(3) the removal of the Colour Bar in industry, and other occupations;
(4) the statutory recognition of the right of the African worker to collective bargaining under the Industrial Conciliation Act.
(5) that the African worker shall be insured against sickness, unemployment, accidents, old age and for all other physical disabilities arising from the nature of their work; the contributions to such insurance should be borne entirely by the government and the employers;
(6) the extension of all industrial welfare legislation to Africans engaged in Agriculture, Domestic Service and in Public institution or bodies.
(1) We protest very strongly against all practices that impede the obtaining of trading licences by Africans in urban and rural areas, and we equally condemn the confinement of African economic enterprise to segregated areas and localities.
(2) We demand the recognition of the right of the Africans to freedom of trading.
(1) The education of the African is a matter of national importance requiring state effort for its proper realisation. The magnitude of the task places it beyond the limits of the resources of the missionary or private endeavour. The right of the African child to education, like children of other sections, must be recognised as a State duty and responsibility. We, therefore, demand that—
(a) the state must provide full facilities for all types of education for African children.
(b) Education of the African must be financed from General Revenue on a per caput basis.
(c) The state must provide enough properly built and equipped schools for all African children of school-going age and institute free compulsory primary education.
(d) The state must provide adequate facilities for Secondary, professional, technical and university education.
(2) We reject the conception that there is any need of a special type of education for Africans as such, and therefore we demand that the African must be given the type of education which will enable him to meet on equal terms with other peoples the conditions of the modern world.
(3) We demand equal pay for equal educational qualifications and equal grade of work for all teachers irrespective of their race or colour. We also urge that pensions, conditions of service, and other privileges which are enjoyed by European teachers should be extended to African teachers on equal terms.
(4) We claim that the direction of the educational system of the African must fall more and more largely into the hands of the Africans themselves, and therefore we demand increased and direct representation in all bodies such as Education Advisory Boards, School Committees, Governing Councils, etc., which are responsible for the management and the shaping of policy in African schools. Institutions and Colleges and/or adequate representation in all bodies moulding and directing the country's educational policy.
Public Health and Medical Services.
(1) We regard it as the duty of the state to provide adequate medical and health facilities for the entire population of the country. We deplore and deprecate the fact that the state has not carried out its duty to the African in this regard, and has left this important duty to philanthropic and voluntary agencies. As a result of this gross neglect the general health of the entire African population has deteriorated to an alarming extent. We consider that the factors which contribute to this state of affairs are these:—
(a) the low economic position of the African which is responsible for the present gross malnutrition, general overcrowding, higher mortality and morbidity rates;
(b) the shortage of land resulting in the congestion in the reserves and in consequence the bad state of the African's health and the deterioration of his physique;
(c) the slum conditions in the urban areas;
(d) neglect of the health and the general education of the Africans;
(e) neglect of the provision of water supplies, proper sanitary and other conveniences in .areas occupied by Africans both in urban and rural areas.
2. To remedy this state of affairs we urge and demand—
(a) a substantial and immediate improvement in the economic position of the African;
(b) a drastic overhauling and reorganisation of the health services of the country with due emphasis on preventive medicine with all that implies in modern public health sense.
3. We strongly urge the adoption of the following measures to meet the health needs of the African population.—
(a) the establishment of free medical and health services for all sections of the population;
(b) the establishment of a system of School Medical Service with a full staff of medical practitioners, nurses and other health visitors;
(c) increased hospital and clinic facilities both in the rural and in urban areas;
(d) increased facilities for the training of African doctors, dentists, nurses, sanitary inspectors, health visitors, etc;
(e) A co-ordinated control finance of health services for the whole Union;
(f) the creation of a proper system of vital statistics for the whole population including Africans;
(g) the appointment of District surgeons in rural areas with a large African population.
1. We, the African people, regard as fundamental to the establishment of a new order in South Africa the abolition of all enactments which discriminate against the African on grounds of race and colour. We condemn and reject the policy of segregation in all aspects of our national life in as much as this policy is designed to keep the African in a state of perpetual tutelage and militates against his normal development.
2. We protest strongly against discourteous harsh and inconsiderate treatment meted out to Africans by officials in all state and other public offices and institutions. Such obnoxious practices are irreconcilable with Christian, democratic and civilised standards and are contrary to human decency. We, therefore, demand—
(a) the repeal of all colour-bar and/or discriminatory clauses in the Union's Constitution, that is the South Africa 1909 Act;
(b) the repeal of the Representation of Natives Act 1936;
(c) the repeal of the Natives' Land Act 1913 and the Natives Land Amendment and Trust Act 1936;
(d) the repeal of the Pass Laws, Natives Urban Areas Acts as amended, the Natives Administration Act 1927;
(e) Repeal of the "Colour Bar" Act or Mines and Works Act 1926, Natives Service Contract Act, Masters and Servants Act, the Natives Labour Regulation Act and the amendment of all discriminatory and disabling clauses against African workers contained in the Industrial Conciliation Act.
In short, we demand the repeal of any and all laws as well as the abandonment of any policy and all practices that discriminate against the African in any way whatsoever on the basis of race, creed or colour in the Union of South Africa.
LIST OF MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE.
(1) Mr. R. G. Baloyi, Treasurer-General, African National Congress.
(2) Dr. R. T. Bokwe M.B., Ch.B., Medical Practitioner, Executive Member A.N.C., Additional District Surgeon, Middledrift.
(3) Rev. James Calata, Priest, Secretary-General, African National Congress.
(4) Mr. R. H. Godlo, Member of Native Representative Council. President Location Advisory Board, Executive Member A.N.C.
(5) Mr. M. L. Kabane, B.A., Teacher, President O.F.S. African Teachers' Association.
(6) Mr. Moses Kotane, Secretary S.A. Communist Party, Member of the African National Congress.
(7) Mr. S. Mac. Lepolisa, Trader, Organiser O.F.S. African National Congress, Deputy Speaker, A.N.C.
(8) Rev. Z. Mahabane, Minister, Chaplain, A.N.C.
(9) Mr. G. Makabeni, Trade Unionist, President Council of non-European Trade Unions, Johannesburg.
(10) Mr. T. M. Mapikela, Honorary Life Speaker, A.N.C., Executive member of African National Congress.
(11) Mr. Z.K. Matthews, M. A., LL.B., Lecturer, Fort Hare College, member of the Representative Council, Executive memberA.N.C.
(12) Mr. C. Mbata, B.A., Teacher, Chairman African Study Circle, Johannesburg.
(13) Mr. G. A. Mbeki, B.A., B.Com., Trade Secretary, Federation of Organised Bodies, Transkei.
(14) Mr. M. T. Moerane, B.A., Secretary, Natal Bantu Teachers' Association.
(15) Mr. E. T. Mofutsanyane, member National Executive African National Congress.
(16) Dr. S. M. Molema, M.B., Ch.B., Medical Practitioner, Executive member of the African National Congress.
(17) Dr. J. S. Moroka, M.B.,,Ch.B., Member of the Native Representative Council, Treasurer All African Convention.
(18) Rev. Mpitso, Mendi Memorial Fund, Secretary-Organiser African Ministers Association, Executive Member A.N.C.
(19) Rev. AbnerMtimkulu, Minister, Acting-President, Natal A.N. Congress.
(20) Mr. Don. Mtimkulu, M.A., President, African Teachers' Federation.
(21) Mr. Leo. Mtimkulu, Attorney.
(22) Mr. J. M. Nhlapo, B.A., Wilberforce Institution, Executive member, A.N.C.
(23) Mr. Selby Ngcobo, B.A., B.Econ., Principal Loram Secondary School.
(24) Dr. I. P. Ka Seme, B.A., LL.D., Attorney at Law, Congress National Executive.
(25) Dr. R. Setlogelo, M.B., Ch.B., Medical Practitioner.
(26) Mr. R. V. Selope-Thema, Editor, Bantu World, Member Native Representative Council, Speaker African National Congress.
(27) Mr. B. B. Xiniwe, Member Native Representative Council.
(28) Dr. A. B. Xuma, M.D., B. Sc. (U.S.A.), L.R.C.P., L.R.C.S. (Edin.), L.R.F.P. & S. (Glas), D.P.H. (Lond.), Medical Practitioner, Medical Officer of Health Alexandra Health Committee, Physician-in-Charge Cragman Community, Clinic, Evaton.
Dear friends of SAHO
South African History Online (SAHO) needs your support.
SAHO is one of the most visited websites in South Africa with over 6 million unique users a year. Our goal is to fulfill our mandate and continue to build, and make accessible, a new people’s history of South Africa and Africa.
Please help us deliver this by contributing upwards of $1.00 a month for the next 12 months.