Minutes of the Annual Conference of the ANC, December 15-19, 1949

1. Conference opened at 10:10 a.m. on the 15th December, 1949. In the absence of the Senior Chaplain the Speaker, Cr. R. V. Selope Thema, called upon Rev. J. A. Calata to lead devotions.

2. The Speaker then introduced the Manager of the Non-European Affairs Department, Bloemfontein, Mr. Viljoen. The Manager welcomed all the del­egates to Bloemfontein. He declared that good relations existed between his administration and the local Branch. Here there was none of that spirit of mutual distrust and suspicion experienced in other places. He hoped delegates would have a happy stay and wished Conference great success.

Professor Matthews proposed a vote of thanks to the Manager. He thanked the Manager especially for refraining from the usual giving of advice to delegates. It has become traditional for officials to give a plethora of pieces of advice to our people often resulting in merely confusing our people. Africans must learn to rely on their own advice if they hoped to win freedom.



.... Mr. P. Motsita seconded by Mr. Nthaja moved the adoption of the Minutes.
At this stage Mr. D. Mji required an explanation from the Chairman as to whether or not all the members then assembled in Conference, Black and White, were accredited members of the A.N.C., whether with regard to the members of the Press, the A.N.C. approved of the reports usually published by the independent press after such members had covered Conference, especially in view of a misleading impression that could have been gathered from the Press reports of last year's Conference; whether Conference would not rather rely upon its own reporters, and finally Mr. Mji begged leave to move that Conference should go into Committee and all non-members should be excluded.

A short discussion ensued on these points after which the Speaker ruled Mr. Mji's motion out of order ....
Mr. N. Mokhehle desired to know whether it was the policy of the A.N.C. to distribute the delegates' badges to all and sundry indiscriminately and, more particularly, he objected to the sale of the badges to the members of the White press.

At this stage Conference adjourned for 15 minutes in order to enable the Credentials Committee to complete and present its report.
Conference resumed at 12 Noon.


Mr. G. I. M. Mzamane reported accredited delegates present at Conference as follows: ....[101 names are listed, including 12 members of the National Executive, 23 from Cape Province, 41 from the Transvaal, 2 from Natal, and 23 from the Orange Free State.]

Mr. R.G.Baloyi then required to know why his name did not appear on the National Executive. The General-Secretary explained that Mr. Baloyi had been suspended last year and Mr. Makabeni was acting for him and that at a later stage the President-General would give a fuller explanation.

Mr. Mokhehle again insisted on a defined policy on the badges. Rev. Calata explained that the Badges were printed and distributed always by the local Committee to supplement its funds and this matter had always remained in their hands. The Speaker ruled the matter out of order.

Mr. Pitje asked why Mr. Mbobo was recording the proceedings of Conference whereas he was not a delegate according to the Credentials Committee's report.

Mr. Resha moved that Mr. Mbobo should be replaced by a bona fide delegate. Messrs Maseko and Tloome explained that their Provincial-Secretary would only arrive in the evening when Conference would then know whether Mr. Mbobo was a delegate or not and pleaded that pending the arrival of their Secretary Mr. Mbobo should continue to record the proceedings. Mr. L.K.Ntlabati added that pending the arrival of the Transvaal Secretary it was difficult to accept any Transvaal Credentials as true or not. Mr. Pitje seconded by Mr. W.Mbete moved the nameofJ.A.MokoenatoreplaceMr. Mbobo. The General-Secretary, supported by Mr. Selby Msimang, G. Radebe and V.M.Kwinana, deposed that constitutionally the Executive had to carry out its functions and was at liberty to do that through any functionary in whom they had confidence. The Speaker then ruled that Mr. Mbobo should continue to record Conference proceedings.
Conference adjourned for lunch.


Conference resumed at 2.30.p.m. and Dr.A.B.Xuma, President-General, delivered his presidential address ....

Mr. A.P.Mda moved that Conference should go into Committee for the purpose of discussing the presidential address and in this regard endorsed remarks made by Mr.Mji earlier about press reports of Conference. He was seconded by Mr.L.K.Ntlabati.
The Secretary-General read messages of goodwill sent by telegram from Messrs. R.H.GodIo, M.J.Sipamla, Nyasaland African National Congress, and the S.A. Indian Congress through Dr. Naicker.

Mr. Mtwesi deposed that Mr. Selope Thema was also a member of the press and should be excluded from Conference. A motion by him of no-confidence in the Speaker [Selope Thema] failed by reason of no seconder.

With Mr. Makabeni in the Chair discussion on the presidential address took place. Mr. H.S. Msimang said that the position of the African was so rapidly deteriorating that a time had arrived when the ability of our leadership was to be put on a true test. The great object now was for all of us to find the best way out. Mr. G.I.M. Mzamane deplored the silence of our leadership during times of crises, to wit, when the bona-fides of Rev. Michael Scott were queried by the South African press, also during the recent happenings of Lovedale Hospital and at St. Matthews College.

Mr. G. Radebe said Congress stood in dire need of a re-orientation of policy and a departure from the beaten track of speeches to which he had listened for the past 15 years.

Mr. A.P. Mda spoke at length by popular consent on this need for re-orientation of policy. It was imperative that Congress, as a National Liberation Movement, should set itself a goal, an ideology towards which every member should strive, and this, he submitted, can only be found in the doctrine of African Nationalism and the instrument with which to achieve this ideal could be none other than Boycott. The following also spoke, Messrs M.P.Ntlabati, J.G. Mtwesi, D.J. Mji, N.C. Mokhehle, J. Kotsokoane, Mac. Maseko.

At 5.p.m. the hour scheduled for adjournment some dozen names were still on the list due to speak. Mr. Msimang, seconded by Mr. E.C.Duma, moved that these people should speak when the question of the Programme of Action is discussed at a later stage and there was to be no further discussion on the presidential address as such.

It was announced that Conference would on 16th assemble at 8.30.a.m. and then march to the Market Square to hear a public declaration of a considered statement by the African National Congress.
Conference adjourned at 5.20.p.m. in order to allow the Congress Youth League to hold their own Conference for the rest of that evening.


Conference resumed on the second day, 16th December, 1949, at 9. a.m.

8. The Rev.L.Soga led the Devotions. Rev. J.A.Calata explained the significance of raising the right thumb when singing the African National Anthem. The first four fingers symbolised Unity, Determination, Solidarity and Militancy, while the thumb was raised as a supplication for Africa to come back to us. The symbol was first introduced by the C.Y.L. at the Cape and it has been found meet to adopt it universally in Congress. [In A Short History of the African National Congress prepared by Calata during the early stages of the treason trial of 1956-1961 (8 mimeographed pages, 8/2/57), he wrote regarding "the Africa Salute": "In June 1949 the Provincial Conference of the A.N.C. (Cape) adopted a THUMB-UP Sign by which Congressites might recognise and salute each other. Its meaning was presented as: a) The closed four fingers denoted Unity, Determination, Solidarity, and Militancy, b) The Thumb re­sembled the sharp point in Central East Africa known as Cape Guardafui, which the Africans regarded as THE HORN of Africa. This had the significance that all Africans in South Africa recognise themselves as the inhabitants of Africa. This sign was then adopted later by the National Conference the same year."]

9. Minutes of the previous day were read and adopted ....


The President-General being absent at this stage, the house required that he should report at Conference and lead the march down to the Square when a Statement on the Voortrekker Celebrations was to be read in public. Upon the arrival of the President, Mr. Letlaka seconded by Mr.L.K.Ntlabati moved that the Conference should go into Committee in order to consider the Statement before adopting it.

Dr.A.B. Xuma then read the Statement. Mr. N.Mokhehle stated that he felt the statement did not properly reflect the African point of view, the whole approach[ed] did not evince the spirit of the African, on the contrary the Statement rather inclined towards the Whiteman's point of view. A long discussion ensued in which the following participated and introduced various amendments:-Messrs. N. Mokhehle, G. Radebe, Prof. Mathews, M. Kotane, G. Mzamane, L.A. Gama and J.S. Mtwesi. In its re-cast form, the statement was then adopted.

Orders were then given on the manner of marching down to the Square with Mr. E. Manyosi appointed as man in charge. At the Square the Speaker, Cr. Selope Thema made an introductory speech and then called upon the President-General to read the Statement.

Mr. A.P.Mda, the President-General of the C.Y.L. was called upon to second the National-President. He declared that an action in this connection signified not only our challenge to the Whiteman's point of view but also an inflexible determination on the part of the African to struggle for National Freedom, and that in spite of the odds heavily loaded against the African by an enemy highly organised and armed with a perfected technique of domination.

Cr. Thema in his closing remarks said that in short we had come to dedicate our lives to the cause of those heroes who fell 100 years ago and to leave as a heritage to our children the fighting spirit of our erstwhile heroes like the Dingaans, Ndlambes, Moshoeshoes and Sekukunis.

11. Conference resumes at 2.25.p.m. and the President briefly replied to matters which had been raised by those members who had spoken on his Presidential address ....


Discussion followed on the reports. At this stage the National Council of Women paid Conference a visit. The President introduced the members and welcomed them. Then Miss M.Soga briefly addressed Conference. She said their presence there was an expression of goodwill. They did not believe in physical warfare. They believed in commanding rather than demanding justice. Miss Soga was seconded by Mrs. Nkomo.

Mr. Leshoai of Bloemfontein led a collection that brought in the sum of 15/6d ....

After certain announcements with regard to Conference Reception and a session of C.Y.L. at 7.30.p.m. at the B.S.I., conference adjourned at 5.10.p.m. till 9. a.m. the next day.


Conference resumed on the third day, the 17th December, 1949 at 9.25.a.m. Devotions were led by the Chaplain Rev.J.J. Skomolo.
The Secretary-General announced the death in Durban of Mr. P. Mngadi, once an organiser of Congress, and the house rose in silence for a minute.
Minutes of the previous day were read and confirmed. The reply to the question as to the collection of 15/6 the previous day was that this had gone to Congress coffers. Prof. Matthews suggested that if the matter of raising right thumb in singing the National Anthem was to be regularised it had to come as a Resolution.
Secretary-General read the Agenda for the day.



The Executive retired for consultation and the house then heard the report given by Mr. Mzamane on the Programme of Action. The Programme was thoroughly scrutinised paragraph by paragraph and amendments made, the follow­ing participating, Dr.Molema, Dr. Njongwe, Sobukwe, Dr.Moroka, M.P. Ntlabati, Sisulu, Mzamane, Phooko, Mokhehle, Mtwesi and Rev. J. J. Skomolo. The Programme was then accepted in its amended form unani­mously and it was pointed out that only those people who signified their willingness to carry out this Programme should be elected into the incoming Executive. [The Programme of Action is Document 60.]


At 9.30. p.m. the Executive returned to the house and the General-Secretary presented their report. The National Offices were now at 2/3 New Court Chambers, Johannesburg, where there was a full-time typiste. Mr. Tambo was the Honorary Secretary of the Working Committee. The Executive had taken into hand the situation in Durban during the riots of January, 1949, and Joint Councils of Goodwill consisting of Africans and Indians had been established.... On the question of the unity between A.A.C. and A.N.C., a joint meeting had been held in April, 1949 by Executives of the two bodies, but no agreement could be reached and the matter has been shelved sine die....


1. That the Executive was far too large and should be reduced to seven (7) elected members in addition to the Office Bearers.
2. There should be an Inner Executive consisting of the President, Treasurer, Secretary, plus the 4 Provincial Presidents.
3. Constitution should be amended with a view to creating proper machinery for dealing with disciplinary matters....


Financial Report was read by the Acting Treasurer Mr. G. Makabeni, Prof. Matthews in the chair. Explanation was made that much difficulty had been experienced by the whole Office and the Acting Treasurer owing to the failure of the ex-Treasurer to hand over the seals of his office. The last financial statement had been presented in 1947, and Conference had refused to accept same as it was not audited. The then incumbent was required to present same audited in 1948, but, on the contrary, was not even present at Conference, hence the appointment of an Acting Treasurer. The matter had now been amicably settled and next Conference the audited statement would be presented. The Report showed a deficit of £ 219.6.4. which had been met by drawing on a Reserve A/C. A/C No. 2 had now £ 471 and No. 1 A/C £ 20.
Discussion followed in connection with the Cape not having forwarded the share or'the National Executive, and it was explained that this was no dereliction of duty but a cautious step due to lack of confidence in the Treasury Department in the light of explanations referred hereto above. The Report was adopted.


A motion to defer elections for a year on account of the state of Finance Department was defeated.
Messrs. Motili and J. Hiekani were appointed scrutineers, the Programme of Action was re-read for benefit of prospective candidates.



President-General: Dr. J. S. Moroka. Secretary-General: Mr. W. M. Sisulu. Treasurer-General: Dr. S. M. Molema.


1. Dr. A. B. Xuma.
2. Dr. R. T. Bokwe.
3. Rev. J. A. Calata.
4. Mr. A. P. Mda.
5. Rev. J. J. Skomolo.
6. Mr. L. K. Ntlabati.
7. Mr. 0. R. Tambo.
8. Dr. J. L. Z. Njongwe.
9. Mr. G. Radebe.
10. Mr. J. A. Mokoena.
11. Mr. G. M. Pitje.
12. Mr. D. Tloome.
13. Mr. M. M. Kotane.
14. Mr. R. G. Baloyi.
15. Mr. V. V. T. Mbobo.

Dr. Xuma presented the new President to Conference, saying he wished him the best of luck in his term of office. When he first took on nine years back. Conference hardly made a total of 40 delegates and there was nothing in the treasury. He thanked all those who had served with him and given him unstinted loyalty.
Dr. Moroka assured Conference that he would do his best for success of aspirations of Congress and hoped that neither he nor they should live ever to rue the day when he was elected.

Prof. Matthews replied that Kotane was co-opted to the Resolutions Com­mittee as Msimang had left.
The Annual National Service would be held in this Hall at 3.p.m. 18th. December, 1949.


Council of Action would be appointed on the 18th December, 1949. The new Executive had to meet by Constitution on day of election. Conference would resume at 10.a.m. the next day. Conference then rose at 2.30.a.m....


Conference resumed on the 18th December at 11.30.a.m....

At this stage Mr. L. A. Gama moved a vote of thanks to the retiring Executive and spoke in glowing terms of the wise and patient leadership of the retiring President, in particular of his magnanimous act of true statesmanship in agreeing to serve on the new Executive. He mentioned also the General-Secretary and the Speaker for his guidance and control of the House even when difficulties arose.

The Executive then retired into consultation. The session then was devoted to the Youth League....
Conference adjourned until 2.30.p.m.



1.(a) That this Conference of the A.N.C. rejects the conception put forward by the Union Government that the problem of the relations between Black and White in S. A. is merely one of domestic jurisdiction and states that U.N.O. has a right to intervene in this matter, which, unless dealt with in accordance with the principles of the U.N.O. Charter, will ultimately lead to armed conflict between the races in this country.
(b) This Conference does not accept the contention that the representatives of the Union Government in U.N.O. in any way express or represent the views of the African people, because both by legislation and otherwise the African people are not accorded citizenship rights in the Union.
(c) Therefore this Conference claims the right to choose its own representatives to express the views of the Africans in international councils, and accordingly directs the National Executive to seek ways and means of implementing this resolution.

2. This Conference views with serious concern and alarm the deterioration which has taken place in the position of the African people as a result of the application of the policy of apartheid within the last eighteen months as indicated by the following:—

(a) The abolition or reduction of Trust Medical Scholarships.
(b) The threat to introduce compulsory academic segregation in Universities.
(c) The implied threat to Africans contained in the terms of reference of the Native Education Commission.
(d) The reduction of School Feeding for Africans while allowances are being increased for Europeans.
(e) Reduction of funds for rehabilitation in the Reserves.
(f) Expulsion of thousands of Africans from Urban Areas because of temporary unemployment.
(g) Retrenchment of Africans in accordance with the so-called Civilised Labour Policy.
(h) The refusal to register even employed Africans on the grounds that they happen to reside outside the area of jurisdiction of the Municipality.
 (i) The bringing of undue pressure on Africans to take up farm labour and mining.
(j) The reduction of old age pensions, invalidity grants and other social security benefits for Africans while they are being increased for Europeans.
(k) The reduction of funds for housing Africans.
This Conference is uncompromisingly opposed to the policy of apartheid as preached and practised not only by the present Government but also by previous Governments, whatever the name they choose to call it by. The African people are resolved to fight it until we achieve the objective set out in our Programme of Action.


This Conference resolves that in future during the singing of the National Anthem the sign of the clenched right hand with the thumb pointing to the right shoulder should be used as a symbol which stands for Africa and is a sign of Unity, Determination and Resolution.


This Conference instructs the Executive to investigate:
(a) The state of affairs adumbrated in the announcement by the "Association of Heads of Native Institutions" that Sesotho-speaking school children are not to be admitted in Institutions in the Xhosa-speaking areas and vice versa.
(b) The basic cause of school riots in our Institutions by the appointment of an African Commission of Enquiry.
(c) The fate of the Malcomn Commission Report of 1943.
(d) The fact that minor children are made to sign declarations.


There was discussion on the attitude to adopt towards the new Syllabus in schools. Mr. Mokhehle suggested that teachers should be called upon to refuse to teach the said syllabus as soon as it came into force and Mr. Kotsokoane added that children and parents should be organised to resist the syllabus.

It was also pointed out that children from the Protectorates were now being refused admission into Union schools. It was generally felt that apartheid was being applied even outside the boundaries of the Union and that the Protectorates were willing to close ranks with the Union inhabitants, as was demonstrated by the telegram from Chief Sobuza. It was suggested that Congress should make positive contacts with the Protectorates and that at the next Conference a report on such contacts should be made. Some members felt that these contacts should extend over all other African territories like Gold Coast, Nigeria, etc....
It was decided to send a reply of thanks to Chief Sobuza for his message and Dr. Molema was requested to draft same, which was adopted.

The resolution on the question of U.N.O. was referred to the Executive for a thorough discussion and implementation.


Prof. Matthews gave the Report of the Executive in 1948 during the elections of European representatives to Parliament on behalf of Africans. Messrs. Baloyi, Gumede and Modise participated as agents of certain candidates belonging to the Nationalist Party. The Alexandra Branch decided to take disciplinary measures against all three on the grounds that they had committed a breach of the Con­stitution and gave them various periods of suspension from membership. They then appealed to the Transvaal Provincial Executive and later to the Transvaal Provincial Conference and both bodies upheld the decision of the Branch. All three then appealed to the National Executive, the fourth body; the only other body above this and the highest according to the Constitution, was the National Conference.

The Transvaal Executive had objected to the appeals being entertained by the National Executive on the grounds that the Constitution made no such provision, but this objection had been overruled as it was based upon a false interpretation of the Constitution.

The facts in favour of the Appellants were that they claimed that they had participated in the elections because no direction had been given as to the attitude to be adopted by Congress members and they were accordingly free to support whom they pleased.

At the 1948 Conference one of the Branches had brought a similar case and the ruling of Conference was that, until Congress had laid down a definite policy with regard to supporting or otherwise of the various political parties in this country, no disciplinary action should be taken against anybody. Prof. Matthews said that Mr. Baloyi invoked this ruling in his favour, but the defence had to fail because his offence had been committed prior to this ruling. Moreover, Mr. Baloyi had been present when the National Executive drew up a statement, stating in unequivocal terms Congress's opposition to apartheid and all its protagonists. This statement was issued in July, 1948 and Mr. Baloyi's offence was subsequent to that date.

In October, 1948, prior to the said elections, the Transvaal Provincial Conference resolved that none of its members should support a Nationalist candidate and called upon its members to support one Mr.W.G.Ballinger.

Mr. Baloyi had argued that he had called upon the Working Committee to clarify the fog surrounding a definite policy as to what candidates to support. There was, however, no documentary evidence in support of this contention.

The Transvaal Executive, now Respondents in this appeal, had dismissed the appeal on the following grounds:—

(a) Appellant's act was prejudicial to interests of Africans as laid down in the Constitution.
(b) It was a direct and flagrant violation of their resolution at the Pretoria Conference.

Prof. Matthews said that the Executive frankly admitted that there had been much confusion among the most loyal of Congress members owing to the vac­illating policy of Congress on this question. But the Executive had met in July, 1948 and issued a Statement in which they condemned apartheid in un­equivocal terms. Mr. Baloyi was aware of this statement. He could not then go scot-free.

Prof. Matthews said that the other appellants, Modise and Gumede, were not present to present their cases. However, as the times of suspension they had been given had already expired, no useful purpose would be served by considering their appeals.

Prof. Matthews then read the written judgement of the Executive against which Mr. Baloyi was now appealing to Conference.

"We condemn the action of Mr. Baloyi in principle as being politically prejudicial to the interests of Congress, having regard to its declared policy towards apartheid. While we are satisfied that the lower Courts of Congress which dealt with this case acted in good faith, we are of the opinion that the sentence imposed was too severe and we accordingly reduce the sentence from three years to six months from the date of his lodging the appeal, i.e. 30th November, 1949."

Among those who participated in the discussion that followed on this were Messrs. Mokhehle, Manyosi, Radebe and Z. Matthews. It was agreed that Con­ference accepted the information constituting the case that Conference should then constitute a court to deal with the case, the members of the Executive not to stand on the Committee that might be elected for this purpose, and then Mr. Baloyi should be called upon to present his case. Conference then adjourned and was to resume for this purpose at 9 p.m.


Conference resumed at 9.50.a.m. Devotions were led by Rev.J.J.Skomolo.

The Speaker then explained that Conference had adjourned the previous night at 8 p.m. to resume at 9 p.m. He and other members, mostly members of the C.Y.L. had remained in the Hall till 12.15.a.m., and Mr. Baloyi was there all the time. It had been decided against hearing Mr. Baloyi's appeal in the absence of the National Executive and the Transvaal Executive, the respondents in the case. Accordingly it was decided to hold the last session of Conference on this day, especially in view of the fact that Conference had not been formally closed. When Conference had adjourned the previous night it was to have resumed at 9.p.m. especially to hear Mr. Baloyi's appeal. He had been there, but the Transvaal, the Respondents, had failed to turn up. Prof. Matthews explained that it was only fair that Conference had decided to extend the time of the Respondents in which to appear until 9.30.a.m. on the following day. But the Respondents had still defaulted. Mr. Mbobo then moved that in view of the absence of the Transvaal Executive this Conference resolves to give the Appelant Absolution from the instance. Mr. Kongisa sec­onded the motion, which was adopted unanimously.

Mr. D.Mji moved that the incoming Executive be empowered to elect the Council of Action. This was seconded by Mr. Moleleki. Mr. Mzamano pointed out that it would be competent to co-opt any bona-fide member of Congress into the Council of Action.

Prof. Matthews moved a vote of thanks to Speaker for conducting Conference smoothly. He also thanked the local Committee for all arrangements for our happy stay at Conference and thanked our hosts and hostesses whose hospitality has almost become proverbial. Mr. Mji moved a vote of thanks to the out-going Executive.

Mr. Mbobo sounded a warning to Conference that as a result of the adoption of the Programme of Action serious developments should be expected and clearly bitter times lay ahead and an Emergency Conference during the year should not be ruled out of possibility.

The new President thanked conference for electing him. He said it was not his intention to antagonise the other sections of our mixed population. On the contrary he intended to strengthen friendly relations with the Coloureds and Indians, but when it came to the question of the rights of his people, then there was no room for compromise. He thanked his predecessor for his statesmanship in being so willing to serve on the Executive. He was fully aware how difficult was the task which he had taken upon his shoulders. But he enjoined all of us to enter the struggle ahead with courage and fortitude. Above all also he would devote himself to the task of unifying the African people.

The Chaplain, Rev. Skomolo, led the House in closing prayers and Conference ended its business at 11.15.a.m.

V.V.T.Mbobo Conference Recorder.