Do you consider that Communism is a serious menace to South Africa?

No, I do not. The nature of our own movement at present is Nationalist rather
than Communist. There should be room for all political parties among us.
At the moment we are only concerned with rescuing ourselves out of the mire,
and we cannot yet say which direction we shall follow after that. For myself,
I would wish for Socialism, in the British sense - if I were in England I
would vote for Attlee. But in Congress we have people of many different political
beliefs - Capitalists, Socialists, and the rest...

Is there a danger of extreme nationalism in Congress?
There is no sign of it at present, and the fact that we have welcomed co-operation
with other races shows that it is being avoided. We recognise the danger
and are guarding against it.

Do you think there is hope for South Africa?

Yes, I do. But a bitter conflict can only be avoided if those in power can
adjust their thinking to accept the sharing of power with others. Otherwise
there will be no real peace in this country.

I firmly believe that the different races can live together amicably: but first
they must abandon selfishness and fear. Most of the difficulties that the
Europeans are now facing are the result of selfishness. We are like members
of a family, who cannot live together if they are selfish or jealous of one

Will your Presidency mark a change in Congress policy?

Not necessarily. Our elections are not party elections. Anyone accepting the
presidency of Congress should do so because he believes in the objectives
of Congress. Any man worthy of being president by his ability and prestige
should make his influence felt in the organisation so that what he says is
given due consideration by his colleagues; but the final decision in any
matter is the collective will of the executive or the National Conference,
as the case may be. It should be clear from this that in general the policy
before my election remains the same.

Will the policy of Congress be affected by the party in power?

As the Nationalists themselves have said, the laws we oppose were not passed
by them alone. One which we consider most unjust, for instance, the Land
Tenure Act of 1913, was passed by the South African Party, from which the
United Party has evolved.

Do you think that there is a common cause between Indians and Africans? of the world, it would be absurd and contradictory if we were to shun
working closely with Indians in our country. I therefore would oppose most
strenuously any African who acted tyrannically and discriminatingly against
other racial groups, including Indians.

Can Congress claim to be truly representative?

Yes. We genuinely represent organised African opinion in this country, and
we are not influenced by any single clique. The fact that the last three
Presidents have been in turn Xhosa, Basuto and Zulu, shows that there has
been no tribal bias.

Are Africans still prepared to accept leadership from the Whites?

Since the 1936 Hertzog bills the African peoples have lost faith in the good
intentions of the Whites to improve their conditions, and the Congress movement
has become more and more a liberatory one. It is no longer possible for an
African leader to appeal for better conditions only: what the people demand
is political rights. By joining Natives' Representative Council the African
leaders gave the Whites a last chance to prove their good faith, but they
have not done so.


Last updated : 04-Apr-2011

This article was produced for South African History Online on 04-Apr-2011