Minutes of the Joint Conference of the ANC and the AAC, December 16-17,1948

A. THURSDAY 3 P.M., 16TH DECEMBER, 1948.

1. ATTENDANCE:

One hundred and sixteen delegates represented the African National Congress and about thirty delegates the All-African Convention. Well over 50 people attached to neither of these two bodies also attended [in the Community Hall, Batho Location, Bloemfontein].

2. CHAIRMAN OF CONFERENCE:

Professor D. D. T. Jabavu, the President of the A.A.C. presided over Conference jointly with Dr. A. B. Xuma, the President-General of the A.N.C.

3. PURPOSES OF CONFERENCE:

1. "A direct attack on democracy has accelerated the desire of all of us to come together" said Dr. Xuma in outlining the history of the unity negotiations, "We must speak with one voice. The statement issued on the 3rd October last was a result of long planning and negotiations dating as far back as August, 1943." Dr. Xuma went on to show how he negotiated from stage to stage with the officials of the A.A.C. for the unification of the two Premier Bodies until the meeting of the 12 leaders who issued a statement calling upon the African People to unite against the threat of apartheid and initiated the joint Conference.

2. "We have been criticised" concluded Dr. Xuma, "because we did not consult the provinces. Mistakes in details and in the manner of approach to the question may have been made but we feel we were justified in this move;

the defects cannot be of greater .moment than the urgent question of consolidating and deploying our forces against the present political situation; the cause of Democratic South Africa is greater than any man."

4. POSTPONEMENT OF JOINT CONFERENCE TO THE 1711211948:

Professor Jabavu associated himself with the remarks and explanations made by Dr. Xuma. He informed Conference that the majority of the members of the A.A.C. were still meeting at a Conference of the African Voters' Association in Queenstown so that the A.A.C. could not commence discussions on the question of Unity. This was due to a misunderstanding regarding the date of the Joint Conference. Professor Jabavu then asked for a postponement of Con­ference until the afternoon of the 17th December, 1948.

Dr. Xuma suggested an acceptance of the request made by Professor Jabavu in the light of the explanation made.

5. DISCUSSION ON POSTPONEMENT OF JOINT CONFERENCE:

Messrs. G. Makabeni, L. S. Phillips, L. K. Ntlabati and D. W. Bopape took part in discussing the matter.

Mr. S. Elias, seconded by Mr. H. A. Schultz, moved

"That, in view of Professor Jabavu's explanation, the Joint Conference of the A.N.C. and the A.A.C. be deferred to the afternoon of the 17th December, 1948."

Agreed. Conference then adjourned at 3:50 p.m.

B. FRIDAY 3 P.M. 17TH DECEMBER, 1948:

6. PRELIMINARY MEETING:

1. Cr. A. W. G. Champion, who had been presiding over the A.N.C. Conference made some noteworthy remarks before he vacated the Chair at a preliminary meeting to the Joint Conference. He said that the policy of the Nationalist Government made every white man an enemy of the African who would do everything possible to obtain his liberation from white oppression. The Africans, concluded Cr. Champion, would welcome assistance of any nation or race, be they Russians or Japanese or Indians.

2. The following delegates were chosen to speak at the Joint Conference on behalf of the A.N.C.: Professor Z. K. Matthews, Cr. A. W. G. Champion, Cr. R. V. Selope Thema, Cr. R. H. Godlo, Dr. R. Setlogelo, Mr. A. P. Mda, Mr. M. M. Kotane, Mr. H. Selby Msimang and Mr. J. B. Marks.

7. OPENING OF JOINT CONFERENCE:

When the Conference opened at 3.30 p.m. the All-African Convention was now represented by over 40 delegates. Professor Jabavu jointly with Dr. Xuma, presided over the Conference.

8. WELCOME OF DELEGATES:

Dr. A. B. Xuma, as Convenor of the Joint Conference, welcomed the delegates of the two bodies. "We are not gathered here to fight against the whites but to join hands and fight for fundamental rights to contribute freely to the enrichment of world civilisation", said Dr. Xuma after he had covered the same ground of the history of unity negotiations as he had done the previous day.

9. READING OF THE MINUTES OF THE PREVIOUS DAY'S PRO­CEEDINGS:

Rev. J. A. Calata read the minutes of the proceedings of the previous day.

Mr. W. S. Sisulu, seconded by Mr. E. Kongisa, moved

"That the minutes be adopted as a correct record of the previous day's pro­ceedings."

Agreed.

10. OFFICIAL INTERPRETERS:

Messrs. A. B. Malunga and C. S. Ramohanoe were elected Xhosa and Sesuto interpreters respectively.

11. INTRODUCTORY REMARKS BY LEADERS:

1. "Your response to this call is an indication of your seriousness and sincerity about the issue at stake. If difficulties there are, they will be fundamental difficulties and not superficial and personal ones. Is the distress of your people less important than your personal differences here? That is the test of our political maturity as a race," said Dr. Xuma in addressing Conference. He then called upon his Senior, Professor D. D. T. Jabavu, to address Conference.

2. Professor D.D.T. Jabavu addressed Conference."Whilst I identify myself with Dr. Xuma's outlook on this matter, I want us to address our attention to the essentials. I have no doubt that our spirit, desire and sentiment are one but we have to see that the foundation we build is one of cement," remarked Professor Jabavu.

3. Rev. Z. Mahabane also addressed Conference. Rev. Mr. Mahabane traced the history of the franchise of the African since 1909 up to date. He showed that gradual whittling away of the franchise was going on all along until now the Nationalist Government was threatening to take away that vestige of it which yet remained. "It is time we said to the Europeans of this country 'Thus far, and no farther'. A state of emergency exists. Urgent measures must be adopted. The call is 'To Arms', not by taking weapons but by coming together and speak with one voice and act as one man," concluded Rev. Mr. Mahabane.

Mr. Mda, seconded by Mr. J.N. Hiekani, objected to long and eloquent speeches.

12. MR. I. TABATA OPENS DEBATE:

1. Mr. Tabata lead the discussion on behalf of the A.A.C. He argued very ably that the federal character of the A.A.C. was a source of strength and not weakness. He said that the Herrenvolk parties were united in their oppression of the Non-Europeans, and there was intrinsically no difference between them. On May 26th "the velvet glove was replaced by the brutal, mailed fist. For us it produces the same kind of blow."

2. Mr. Tabata informed Conference that the A.A.C. had decided to give Congress a given percentage of the seats on the Executive of the proposed Convention of the two bodies. He placed before Conference the conditions under which the A.A.C. would agree to unity, namely:

1. It should be based on the Convention's 10-point Programme. The ten points were read to Conference.

2. The federal structure of the Convention should be retained.

3. The Unity should be based on the acceptance of the principle of the unity of all the Non-Europeans.

4. It should be based on a policy of "non-collaboration with the oppressor." The reference here was to Bodies like the Bunga and the Native Representative Council.

3. "We must say we do not want separate institutions. We want to go to the only Councils recognised in the land - Parliament, Provincial and Municipal Councils," ended Mr. Tabata.

13. PROFESSOR Z.K. MATTHEWS:

1. Professor Matthews impressed that it was necessary to keep to the essentials and fundamentals of the issue and feared that long speeches might cloud the important and real issue.

2. The cause of trouble between the two bodies was similarity rather than difference of objectives. Both organisations claimed to be the mouthpiece of the African people; they spoke one thing with different voices causing confusion among the people.

3. "To the average Congress person the proposal of the A.A.C. seems to mean that one mouthpiece of the African people (the A.A.C.) is wanting to swallow up the other mouthpiece (the A.N.C.), " suggested Professor Matth­ews.

4. Professor Matthews then spoke for the Congress view point as embodied in the resolution which read as follows:

"That (a) the principle of unity between the A.N.C. and the A.A.C. be accepted; that

(b) a Steering Committee be appointed to facilitate the process of giving effect to unity; and that

(c) The Steering Committee be instructed to approach, to interest and, as far as it may extend its activities, to open negotiations with any other African organisations for the consummation of a national unity of African organisations."

Professor Matthews felt that unity could not be achieved overnight, and that there were also other organisations which should be drawn into the process of unification.

14. MR. MOSES M. KOTANE (A.N.C. CAPE TOWN).

Mr. Kotane said that the two groups appeared to have different conceptions of unity. He did not agree that a federal body was necessarily a strong one.

"In order to eliminate conflicting directions, interests and ideologies," Mr. Kotane went on, "we want one political organisation that will speak for the individual members of the organisation. A federal organisation tends to be an organisation of different interested bodies that come together to consult but have always to go back to their executives for directions."

15. CR. A.W.G. CHAMPION, (A.N.C. DURBAN).

Cr. Champion felt that no useful purpose would be served by arguing as to the best character of the proposed Convention at this stage. These were details which could be thrashed out by the Steering Committee. "Was the A.A.C. agreeable to the setting up of the Steering Committee?" he queried.

16. MR. W.M. TSOTSI (A.A.C. PORT ELIZABETH).

1. Mr. Tsotsi felt that the differences between the two bodies were basic and fundamental. He said that the people wanted to know whom to follow; they wanted to know why the A.N.C. did not join the Non-European Unity Movement, and whether or not the A.N.C. subscribed to the boycott movement which the A.A.C. preached to them.

2. "Unity is not an end in itself. Unity of individuals is not enough. People must follow a common policy. They must agree to unite on a programme and a policy. Congress is an old organisation but its membership is low. This shows that the people do not see salvation in it,' concluded Mr. Tsotsi.

17. MR. A.P. MDA (HERSCHEL, C.P.).

Mr. Mda said that the basis of unity must be African Nationalism””the liberation of Africans as a race from European domination. He maintained that differences in the conceptions of the best form of organisation acceptable to both bodies must not stand in the way of unity. The differences existing between the two organisations must be reconciled.

Mr. Mda added that the A.N.C. accepted the ten-point programme as read to Conference by Mr. Tabata; in fact there was nothing new in it. The points were all covered by the Constitution of the A.N.C.

18. MR. D. KOZA (A.A.C. JOHANNESBURG).

Mr. Koza maintained that unity had to be achieved at the Conference. The fundamental differences of the two bodies had not been fully explored and the ground on which unity could possibly be laid had not been prepared. "We are not going to take the dangerous step of appointing a Committee and giving it a blank cheque", said Mr. Koza.

19. MR. I. TABATA'S APPEAL.

Mr. Tabata rose to appeal to the House to discuss the basic issue and leave alone technical difficulties which could be solved at a later stage.

20. MR. R.S. CANCA (A.A.C. CAPE TOWN).

Mr. Canca said that immediate and fundamental essentials had to be tackled at the Conference. He said that the A.A.C. had come forward with a definite programme and it was for the A.N.C. to accept or reject that programme. He did not subscribe to the liquidation of the organisations; the delegates had come to build, and not to destroy. "But white domination we must do away with. That is why we are here," said Mr. Canca.

21. MR. R.H. GODLO (A.N.C. EAST LONDON).

Mr. Godlo appealed for the acceptance of the Steering Committee and said that trying to score debating points would not get the Conference anywhere. It was a healthy sign to see the adoption of the principle of Unity by the two bodies. The details could be safely left in the hands of the Steering Committee. Moreover, the ten-point programme was embodied in the African Claims issued by the A.N.C.

22. MR. R. SELLO (KROONSTAD).

"Am I to understand that the principle of unity is acceptable to both organisa­tions?" questioned Mr. Sello. The House Agreed.

23. MR. H. SELBY MSIMANG (A.N.C. PIETERMARfTZBURG).

Mr. Msimang said that the A.A.C. wanted the A.N.C. to wash its dirty linen in public. The best course was that recommended by the A.N.C. - the matter should be left in the hands of the Steering Committee.

24. MR. MDA MDA (A.A.C. UMTATA).

Mr. Mda said that there had been some misunderstanding as to what the two bodies met at Bloemfontein for. "Are we here to perpetuate the N.R.C. and the Bunga?" he asked. He maintained that the A.N.C. aimed at swallowing the different organisations in the Transkei. In his opinion what divided the two major bodies was a clear difference in conceptions in regard to important and national issues. 'Non-collaboration with the oppressors' was the principle on which to base the national struggle. "The Ballingers and the rest of them must have no place in our midst", emphasised Mr. Mda.

25. MR. A.C. JORDAN (A.A.C. CAPE TOWN).

Mr. Jordan said that his objection to the matter being left to the Steering Committee was that the differences between the two bodies had not been fully discussed and disclosed. It was necessary for the rank and file to express its opinion on the matter. He argued in favour of a federal body. In such a body, he said, one finds the best brains of different walks of life unifying their struggle and co-ordinating their resources for common interests.

26. MR. J.B. MARKS (A.N.C. JOHANNESBURG).

Mr. Marks said that whatever differences existed between the two bodies, it was evident from the speeches made that Africans demanded nothing short of equality in all walks of life. The differences were therefore subsidiary and subordinate to the real and main objective: freedom from white oppression. His experience as Head of the Trade Union Movement convinced him that a federal organisation was difficult to get to act quickly as and when need arose. The opinion of affiliated bodies had to be solicited whilst the situation deteriorated. "We want to have such a body as can take IMMEDIATE action. Under the iron heel of the present Government, the people are being crushed whilst we complacently quibble about technical difficulties," thundered Mr. Marks.

27.MR. S. JAYIYA (A.A.C. CAPE TOWN).

Mr. Jayiya accused the A.N.C. of insincerity. He said that the spokesmen of the A.N.C. accepted the ten-point programme whereas the first point in that programme demanded full democratic rights. Only on the basis of 'non-collaboration with the oppressors' could the A.A.C. agree to unite with the A.N.C. "If the members of the N.R.C. are sincere in this move and honest with their people, they must resign forthwith", demanded Mr. Jayiya.

28. CR. P.P. MOSAKA (JOHANNESBURG).

Cr. Mosaka said that there was a definite need for both a unitary and federal body. "But the A.A.C. suffers from a serious obsession. Their policy is a negative one - they do not want this or that. I am agreeable to the policy of non-co-operation, but where and when is it going to be carried out? The A.A.C. have decided their 'where and when' in pursuance of this policy of non-co-operation with the Whites. Now they want to force their will on everybody. I cannot agree to this form of dictatorship," said Cr. Mosaka.

29. MR. A.C. JORDAN.

Mr. Jordan interpolated and said that the teachers, unlike the members of the N.R.C., had not canvassed for their posts nor for travelling in coaches specially reserved for Africans.

30. PROFESSOR D.D.T. JABAVU'S SUGGESTION REJECTED TWICE BY THE A.A.C. DELEGATION.

Professor Jabavu urged Conference to adopt the statement of the 3rd October last. He said, "We could not reach finality in our deliberations this afternoon. I am desperate. Let us at least go away having said something." He then read the statement to the Conference so as to guide it. The A.A.C. delegation rejected this suggestion. He then put the same issue differently. He urged that he and Dr. Xuma be empowered to issue another statement drawn up in the light of the discussions of joint Conference. This also was unacceptable to the A.A.C. delegation, chief spokesman on the matter being Mr. R.S. Canca.

31. REV. Z. MAHABANE'S MOTION.

Rev. Z. Mahabane moved

(1) "That the principle of unity be adopted"””carried unanimously.

(2) "That a Committee be appointed to go into the question of unity and to report to Conference''. This was also unacceptable to the A.A.C. delegation until Dr. G.H. Gool moved an amendment "That the Com­mittee should consist of the two Executive Committees." Then the amendment was carried unanimously.

(3) Rev. Mr. Mahabane again moved that the statement of the 3/10/48 be adopted and that another statement be issued by a Committee of 4, consisting of Dr. A.B. Xuma and Professor Z.K. Matthews on the one side and Professor D.D.T. Jabavu and Mr. I. Tabata on the other side. The A.A.C. delegation rejected this motion.

32. PROFESSOR D.D.T. JABAVU'S SUGGESTION AGAIN PUT TO CONFERENCE.

Ignoring the members of the A.A.C. delegation, who were sitting on one side of the House, Professor Jabavu put his suggestion to adopt the statement of the 3/10/48 to Conference for the third time. When the House agreed to it, he shouted "It is carried".

33. CLOSING OF CONFERENCE.

Conference was declared closed at 6 p.m.

Ntabetemba, CRADOCK, C.P.

J.A. CALATA,

SECRETARY-GENERAL. RECORDING SECRETARY