African National Congress (ANC)

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African National Congress Timeline 1910-1919

This period was characterized by events leading up to the formation of the African National Congress in 1912 as well as the organization’s early years. Events include the fight against the 1913 Land Act, the formation of the Bantu Women’s League and the formation and growth of working class consciousness as evidenced by the formation of the ICU which eclipses the ANC.

1910
Sol Plaatje becomes the editor of Tsala ea Becoana (‘Friend of the people’), a self-styled “independent race newspaper” (Limb, 2010: 141).
31 May, Dr. Abdullah Abdurahman  and Dr. Walter Rubusana are elected to Cape Provincial Council
9 July,Govan Mbeki is born. He is the youngest child of a headman, Skelewu of the amaZizi of Mpukane and Johanna, the daughter of a Healdtown minister, the Reverend Abram Mabula.
1911
The Union parliament enacts laws that widen “the racial divide”. This includes the Black Labour Regulation Act which “”¦made it an offence to break an employment contract”¦” and the Mines and Works Act, which establishes “Colour Bar” in employment. This act effectively “”¦consolidated job reservation for Whites, confirming the status of Blacks as cheap labour by putting a range of skilled jobs beyond their reach on the basis of ‘competency’.” (Morris: 2004)
Lillian Ngoyi, future leader of the  ANC Women’s League, is born in Pretoria. Ngoyi together with others organized and participated in numerous anti pass campaigns spearheaded by women.  
July, The Universal Races Congress is held at the University of London, John Tengo Jabavu and Dr. Walter Rubusana are present.
24 October, Pixley ka Isaka Seme, future co-founder of the SANNC, proposes the establishment of a "Native Union", in an article in the newspaper Imvo Zabantsundu
1912
8 January, The South African Native National Convention - later the African National Congress is formed at the Wesleyan School, Waaihoek in Bloemfontein, as Union in 1910 had persuaded many educated Blacks to unite into a single organization in 1912. The SANNC declares that its aim is to bring all Africans together as one people, to defend their rights and freedoms. The executive of the SANNC is:

At the conference it is also decided to establish Abantu-Batho (‘The People’), a multi-lingual (English, Xhosa, Zulu and Sotho language) weekly newspaper.
23 February, The Natal Native Congress (NNC) agrees to affiliate to h the SANNC at a meeting in Durban. A decision is also taken to harmonise their constitution with that of the SANNC.
March, Leaders of the African People’s Organization (APO) and the SANNC meet in Cape Town. They issued a joint statement supporting cooperation between Coloured people and Africans while agreeing that amalgamation was not possible because of the divergent interests of the people they represented.
26 March, Imvo Zabantsundu (‘African Opinion’) comments that the SANNC ‘is nothing less than a Native Parliament’ (in Benson, 1985: 28).
2 April, South African Races Congress is formed under the leadership of John Tengo Jabavu. For the inaugural address click here.
18 May, Future founding member of the ANC Youth League, Secretary General of the ANC and member of MP High Command and Vise President of the ANC  Walter Ulyate Max Sisulu, is born in Engcobo District, Transkei
1913
A strike of 9000 African miners takes place at Jagersfontein Diamond mine, after a fellow-worker is kicked to death by a White overseer. White employees join in in brutally suppressing  the strike. Eleven African mineworkers are killed and 37 injured.
Abantu-Batho, the mouthpiece of the SANNC, is published. Financial backing for the newspaper came from Natotsibeni, the Queen Regent of Swaziland.
March, SANNC delegates meet for the first inaugural annual conference with approximately 106 delegates. It is decided that a deputation should be sent to Cape Town to lobby for the withdrawal of the Land Act. Amongst the delegates was Thomas Levi Mvabaza.
June, An emergency meeting of the South African Native National Congress Executive Committee is held  to discuss the Native Land Act.
19 June, The Land Act, Act No 27, is passed. The Native Land Act formally divides land between Black and White people. This Act “”¦restricted the Black majority’s ownership to just seven percent of the country”¦ [and] scheduled certain areas for exclusive Black settlement.” It also “”¦prevented Africans from buying land anywhere outside these areas [except in the Cape province].” Sol Plaaitjie wrote of the act: “”¦on Friday morning, 20 June 1913, the South African native found himself, not a slave, but a pariah in the land of his birth.” (Morris: 2004)
July, Six hundred women in the Orange Free State take the lead in a mass protest when they march to the municipal office in Bloemfontein and deposit a bag containing their passes.  In Winburg, Charlotte Manye Maxeke is arrested along with 800 women on an anti-pass march to the town hall.
A SANNC delegation which is made up of Plaatje, Makgatho, Saul Msane, J. Nyokong and Enoch Mamba meets with F.S. Malan, the Acting Native Affairs Minister to discuss the Land Act.
27 August, The government appoints the Native Land Commission, headed by Sir William H. Beaumont, to solve the ‘native problem’. The aim of the commission was to “delimit areas to be reserved exclusively for European and areas to be reserved exclusively for African ownership” (Flemmer, 1972: 1)
22 September, The SANNC calls a second conference of 200 delegates in Johannesburg to discuss the results of the deputation to Cape Town and to consider responses to proposed  Land Act had become law. It is decided to appeal directly to His Majesty and the British public. Fundraising is carried out to send a deputation to Britain
23 September, Women protests take place in the Orange Free State, led by Charlotte Maxeke, to resist government attempts to impose passes on women. It is the first time passes are burnt in protest. (Morris: 2004)
1914
After completing Standard Four, Albert Luthuli continues his education at Ohlange Institute under Dr. John Dube; the founding President of the South African Native National Council (SANNC). After only two terms at Ohlange, Luthuli passes the end of year examinations and is transferred to a Methodist Institution at Edendale, near Pietermaritzburg.
The testimonies of farm labourers and squatters in the Orange Free State (OFS), which had been collected by R.W. Msimang are published in a SANNC pamphlet entitled Natives Land Act 1913: Specific Cases of Evictions and Hardships.
January, A delegation from the South African Native National Congress, made up of Dube, Plaatje and Rubusana among others, travels to Great Britain to protest against the Natives' Land Act. They are met by Colonial Secretary, Rt Hon. L. Harcourt who concludes that the SANNC should make a case to their Parliament and not to the Crown. Plaatje remains in England when the other delegates return.
February, The SANNC hosts its annual conference which is attended by the Secretary of Native Affairs, Edward Dower. However, he announces that the British Crown had already been advised by the British Government to assent to the Land Act. 
14 February, A petition against the Natives Land Act written by Rev. Dube president of the SANNC is sent to the Prime Minister.
August, John Tengo Jabavu opposes Walter Rubusana in Cape Provincial elections.
4 August, Britain declares war against Germany and so enters into the First World War. South Africa, as part of the empire, also enters to the war. A revolt is staged by anti-war Afrikaner nationalists, as many had German family ties and remembered German support during the South African War.
1915
The annual SANNC conference rejects the draft constitution and a Constitution Committee is set up to consider the matter under the chairmanship of R.W. Msimang.
22 September, The International Socialist League (ISL) is formed by the anti-war section of the Labour Party. William H. Andrews is elected chairman and David Ivon Jones as Secretary. Some of ISL’s ideas later influenced and radicalized SANNC people such as Thomas Levi Mvabaza who attended the organization’s meetings.    
20 October, The Union’s second general elections occur. The South African Party (SAP) led by General Botha emerges as the largest party but do not receive a majority. Botha forms a minority government with parliamentary support from the Unionist Party.
21 December, Two-thousand eight-hundred African miners strike at the Van Rhyn Deep mines, in a bid to redress some of their grievances.
1916
The dedication of the South African Native College at Fort Hare takes place, and the future University of Fort Hare founded.
Sol Plaatje's Native Life in South Africa is published
 T.W. Thibedi  joins the ISL and later in the 1920s joins the CPSA.
February, The first meeting between the ISL and Congress takes place in protest against the Land Act.
2 March, The Natives Land Commission report is issued
2 October, At a meeting in Pietermaritzburg, the SANNC passes a resolution which describes the report of the Beaumont commission as “disappointing and unsatisfactory”.
1917
The Natives Administration Bill considers additional land to be allocated to reserved “Native” areas.
The SANNC Executive Committee splits, with Dube accepting the theory of territorial segregation. As a result Samuel Makgatho assumes office as president.
Albert Luthuli completes a teacher's training course at Edendale and becomes principal and sole staff member of a tiny intermediate school in Blaauwbosch, Natal.
February, Sol Plaatje returns to South Africa after three years of lecturing and working as a language assistant at London University.
21 February, More than 600 men of the South African Native Labour Contingent drown off the Isle of Wight when the SS Mendi sinks after colliding with another vessel the SS Darro, in thick fog. Yet, after the World War I, none of the Black South African troops receive the customary acknowledgement of a medal or a ribbon.
22 May, General Smuts delivers a speech entitled “The White man’s task” at a dinner given in his honour in London. The speech sets out the whites ruling elite principle of segregation and the policy of separate development.
15 & 18 June, A delegation from the Natal Native Congress made up of Chief Mini, J.T Gumede and Abner Mtimkulu testify before the Select Committee on Native Affairs on what . To read extracts from the testimony click here.
July, Out of the joint meetings between the ISL and the Transvaal Natives Congress (TNC) emerges the Industrial Workers of Africa (IWA), the first documented African labour organisation.
27 October, Oliver Tambo President of the ANC  is born in the village of Kantolo in Pondoland.
1918
The Transvaal Native Congress declares Abantu-Batho its main organ.
18 January, At a meeting of 300 women and 100 men in Ebenezer Hall, Johannesburg the Bantu Women’s National League is formed. The executive is made up of the following women:

  • President:Charlotte Maxeke
  • Vice-Presidents: Mrs. C. Mallela and Mrs. More
  • Secretary: Mrs Nonjekwa
  • Treasurer: Mrs. Mohan
A delegation, led by Maxeke, was also elected to meet with the government.
30 March, The Transvaal Branch of Congress launches a passive resistance campaign with 2000 Africans gathering in Vrededorp.
6 June, Fifty Johannesburg municipal sanitary workers go on strike for an extra 6d a day. This becomes known as the ‘bucket strike’
8 June, The number of striking municipal sanitary workers on strike increases to 4000. Over 150 African workers are arrested and sentenced to two months’ hard labour ( Limb (2010: 163) Other sources cite May as the date)
8 July, As a result of the high number of strikes by African workers in June, a delegation of African religious and political leaders, amoungst them Saul Msane and Isaiah Bud-M’belle of the SANNC, and workers from the Rand meet with Botha.
18 July, Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela pres ident of the ANC and first Commander of Chief of MK and First President of a democratic South Africa  is born in the small Transkeian village of Mvezo.
2 August, The SANNC Select Committee, headed by R.W. Msimag, receives the revised Constitution at a meeting in Bloemfonetin.
11 November, An armistice is signed between the Allied and the Central Powers. This brings and end to the First World War.
16 December, The SANNC sends an appeal to King George V which lists African loyalty in the war and requests the intervention of the King to overturn the policy of the Union government.
1919
SANNC delegation visits Britain to protest against the Land Act for the second time.
A protest is held in the Orange Free State against the carrying of passes by women.
The South African Native National Council organises an anti-pass campaign. In Johannesburg alone, 700 arrests are made. (Limb (2010: 175) suggests that the anti-pass campaigns were organised by the Transvaal Native Congress (TNC).
The Bantu Purity League is formed by Sibusisiwe Makhanya with the aim of protecting young women.
70,000 African miners go on strike on the Witwatersrand. The strike is highly disciplined and organised and an alarmed government throws police cordons around each of the compounds, preventing coordination of demands and actions. Troops break through the workers` barricades, with bayonets fixed, killing 3 and wounding 40. Police and armed White civilians attack a meeting of solidarity with the striking miners, killing 8 and wounding 80.
7 January, The Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU) is formed in Cape Town, under the leadership of Clements Kadalie. The ICU membership and influence grew to eclipse the SANNC and later the ANC in the 1920s.
The Bantu Women’s League holds it ‘Campaign Against Pass Laws’.
19 February, The first Pan African Congress is held in Paris, France and is headed by William Edward Durghardt Du Bois and attended by Sol Plaatje.
26 February, The Bantu Union is formed in Queenstown, under the leadership of Meshach Pelem. To read his address click here.
A delegation from the South African Native National Congress, which includes Josiah Gumede, Sol Plaatje and Selope Thema, travels to Great Britain and Europe to present the African case at the Versailles Peace Conference.
30 March, Anti-pass demonstrations on the Witwatersrand are lead by the South African Native National Congress. Several thousand protestors gather to hand in their passes.
1 April, An interview which looks at the decision to carry out the passive resistance campaign with members of the SANNC Isaiah Bud Mbelle, J.W. Dunjwa, and P.J. Motsoakae  is reported in The Star.
6 May, The SANNC holds its first Annual Conference in the Cape Colony. To read the ‘Presidential Address’ by Makgatho click here
September, The constitution of the SANNC is finally approved at a general meeting. To read extracts from the constitution click here
October, A dock strike by African and Coloured dockworkers in Cape Town takes place, and is lead by the Industrial and Commercial Union (ICU). The dockworkers' salary of 3 shilling and 8 penny per day for unmarried workers and 4 shilling per day for married men was unacceptable. Three-thousand workers respond to the call and within a few days some 5 000 African workers in the railway yards, in factories and on public works follow suit in sympathy of the dockworkers. The union's demand for a wage of 8 shilling and 6 penny per day, and an increase of 1 shilling per day is offered but unions reject it.

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Last updated : 12-Dec-2013

This article was produced for South African History Online on 26-Apr-2011

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