African National Congress (ANC)

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African National Congress Timeline 1920-1929

The ANC in the 1920s was largely weakened and suffered from both organisation incapacity and financial constraints. During this period, the party attempted to reinvigorate itself by changing its name from the SANNC to the ANC, adopting a national anthem and a flag, and significantly adopting the Bill of Rights. Another significant development was the formation of the Communist Party of the South Africa (CPSA later renamed SACP). This resulted in tensions between the ANC and the Communist Party of the South Africa (CPSA) as some members and leaders of the ANC embraced communism. Despite starting out as opponents, the ANC and SACP later forged an alliance to fight against apartheid. Anti pass protests and strikes became was a common weapon in the 1920s that was used to challenge the growing assertion of white minority rights at the expense of black people.

1920
The Housing Act is passed. This Act made funds available for the government to house the poor. “The resultant estates were required to be racially segregated, separated from one another by open spaces and with separate access roads” (Christopher, 1994: 38)
Albert Luthuli attends the Higher Teachers' Training Course at Adams College on a scholarship and joins the staff upon the successful completion of the course.
February, The South African National Native Congress (SANNC) helps to organise a strike of more than 40 000 African mineworkers on the Witwatersrand.
March, General Jan Smuts forms a government with a narrow parliamentary majority.
The Native Affairs Act No. 23 is passed. This Act was yet another outcome of the South African Native Affairs Commissions report of 1905. It led to the creation of a countrywide system of tribally based, but government appointed, district councils. These councils were modelled on the lines of the Glen Grey Act of 1894. The SANNC participates in Native Conferences that are held under this new Act. The Act also paves the way for the establishment of the Native Affairs Commission to investigate the pass law problem, as “Natives were chafing under these irritating laws”¦” (General Smuts in Karis and Carter, 1989: 311)
11 June, Meshach Pelem president of the Bantu Union gives his testimony before the Select Committee on Native Affairs with regards to the Native Affairs Bill. 
15 June, J.T Jabavu and Rev Z.R Mahabane testify before the Select Committee on Native Affairs with regards to the Native Affairs Bill.  To read Jabavu’s testimony click here and for Mahabane’s testimony click here.
July, A National Convention of African and Coloured workers is held in Bloemfontein under the chairmanship of Selby Msimang. At the conference Clements Kadalie puts forward a new constitution for the Industrial and Commercial Union (ICU) as a nation-wide union.
D.D.T Jabavu, eldest son of J.T. Jabavu and the first African professor, presents his paper, “Native Unrest”, to the Natal Missionary Conference. The paper surveys the condition of the African in South Africa.
8 August, Nimrod Sejake a trade unionist and ANC member is born in Evaton.
1921
Rev. Z. R. Mahabane addresses the Cape branch of the SANNC.  In his speech Mahabane decried the position of the black man by stating that “The poor black man is...reduced to a position of utter voicelessness and votelessness, hopelessness, powerlessness, helplessness, defenceless-ness, homelessness, landlessness, a condition of deepest humiliation and absolute depen­dency. God forbid that we, as human beings, made in the image of and after the likeness of Himself, should permit other human beings, made in like manner, to abrogate to them­selves a position of superiority over us.” To read his address click here.
Josiah Gumede is appointed full-time General Organiser for the SANNC. His duties include touring the Union in search of financial assistance.
24 May, Frustrated White authorities finally resort to the use of force after the Israelites Millenarian (see below for explanation) Separatist Sect repeatedly refuse to move from outside of Bulhoek in the Cape Province, where they had been squatting for over a year.
When a reinforced Police Unit is sent led by Police Commissioner Colonel Theodore Truter, the Israelites launch an attack armed with clubs, assegais and swords. They are fired upon by the police and more than 180 people are killed, 100 wounded and 150 were arrested.” The incident became known as the Bulhoek Massacre. Prophet Enoch Mgijima, the leader of the Sect, and his two brothers, are arrested.
Millenarianism is often the last resort of desperate people”¦ can be seen as a reaction against a steady tightening of White control in the ‘native areas’, running in tandem with greater industrialization and increasing demands for cheap migrant labour”¦” (Giliomee: 2007)
June, A Non-European Convention is held in Kimberly to protest against the pass laws and the Hertzog Bills (which proposes the removal of the limited Cape franchise). Dr. Abdurahman of the African People's Organisation (APO) is elected as the chairperson.
July,  John Dube attends the Second Pan-African Congress in London.
30 July – 1 August, The founding conference of the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) takes place in Cape Town and the party’s manifesto is adopted. The ISL joins other organisations to form the CPSA. William H. Andrews is elected as first General Secretary and Sidney Bunting is elected Treasurer and becomes editor of The International.
10 September, J.T Javabu dies at the age of 62 at the home of his son D.D.T Jabavu at Fort Hare.
November, One-hundred and sixty-two women are arrested by the police in Maquard, Free State for protesting pass laws.
16 December, The CPSA called for a united front in a pass burning campaign on Dingaan's Day.
1922
The Stallard Report of the Transvaal Local Government Commission recommends allowing 'natives' in the ur­ban areas only 'as long as their presence is demanded by the wants of the White population'.
The first significant action by women in the rural areas occurs in Hershel. They boycott stores as a result of price hikes using passive resistance tactics that had been used earlier in the Free State.
The Apprenticeship Act is passed which gave unionized White workers a secure position by setting educational qualifications for apprenticeship in numerous trades. Such educational levels make it difficult for Africans to be apprenticed since they lack the means to meet the prescribed level of educational qualifications.
The SANNC receives an invite to attend a race conference in New York hosted by the Garveyite Universal Negro Improvement Society (UNIA).
Inkatha kaZulu is formed as a cultural movement and gains the support of the Zulu monarchy and becomes a rival to Congress, especially in Natal.
March, The First Native Conference is held under provisions of the Native Affairs Act of 1920.
June, The third conference of the ICU takes place in Queenstown and resolved to recognise the SANNC and APO as the official Black political bodies.
September, Rev. Selope Thema, founding member of the SANNC, encourages biracial meetings in an article published in The Guardian.
1923
A SANNC delegation meets with the Prime Minister to protest the exclusion of African freehold title in the Urban Areas Bill.
The Transvaal Native Congress (TNC) forms a branch in Alexandra with John L. Mophosho as president and T.S. Mngadi as general secretary.
The issue of pass laws is discussed at a Native Conference, held under the Native Land Act of 1920. Present at the conference is Selby Msimang, Sefako Mapogo Makgatho, Rev Z.R Mahabane, Thomas Mapikela, D.D.T Jabavu, Charlotte Maxeke, Dr. Molema, Selope Thema, Walton Fenyang, Meshach Pelem and S.F Zibi, amongst others. To read extracts from the conference click here.
April, The National Party and South African Labour Party conclude an electoral pact to challenge General Smuts’ government.
28-29 May, At its annual conference the SANNC changes its name to the African National Congress (ANC). To read other resolutions made at this conference click here.
14 June, The Native (Black) Urban Areas Act No 21 is passed. This Act devolves the function of implement­ing pass laws and administering African townships onto White municipalities; property rights are not allowed in the 'locations'. The Act:
Made each local authority responsible for the Blacks in its area. ‘Native advisory boards' regulated influx control and removed ‘surplus' people, i.e. those who were not employed in the area.
The country was divided into prescribed (urban) and non- prescribed areas, movement between the two was strictly controlled (Horrell 1978: 2-3). This Act was consolidated by the 1945 Blacks (Urban Areas) Consolidation Act.
The Act is legislated on a broad front to regulate the presence of Africans in the urban areas. It was only intermittently applied until the end of the 1940s.
The ANC, through Abantu-Batho, makes it known that it opposes the Native (Black) Urban Areas Act as it promotes and strengthens segregation.
26 July, Trade unionist, ANC member and Rivonia treason trialist Elias Motsoaledi is born in Sekhukhuniland.
September, The European-Bantu Conference is held under the auspices of the Dutch Reformed Church. It encourages the ANC to withdraw from direct political action. To read extracts of the conference’s proceedings and resolutions click here.
1924
Colonel Creswell addresses the Native Conference on the government’s labour policy. The meeting is attended by John Dube, Selope Thema, Sefako Mapogo Makgatho, D.D.T Jabavu and Rev Z.R Mahabane amongst others. To read extracts of the proceedings click here.
31 May, At the annual conference of the ANC, Rev. Z. R. Mahabane is elected as president.. After formal application by representatives from the Transkei, the ANC’s annual convention formally recognises the Transkei as a province under the ANC’s constitution. The branch becomes known as the Transkeian Territories African Congress (ANC-TT). To read other resolutions made at the conference click here.
June 17, The Pact coalition between the National Party and South African Labour Party wins the national election and General J.B.M. Hertzog becomes Prime Minister. The new Pact Government establishes the Department of Labour with Colonel F.H.P Creswell of the South African Labour Party as the Minister of Labour.
December 30, The third conference of the CPSA is dominated by the issue of whether to allow Africans membership. Bunting leads the pro-membership group while Andrews leads the opposition. All the delegates at the conference are white except for three Africans mentioned in the register as “visitors” – Thomas Mbeki, J.M.K Sibella and Silwana. A resolution is passed at the conference to focus on mass action and include Africans. Sidney Percival Bunting is elected as Chairman of the CPSA.
1925
The Pact government comes to power under General Jan Smuts and General Barry Hertzog.
The Bill of Rights is adopted at the ANC’s national conference. The Conference also adopts Nkosi Sikelel’ i-Afrika (‘Lord Bless Africa’) as its anthem and a new flag, proposed by Thomas Levi Mvabaza, with “black for the people, green for the land and gold for the riches” (Benson, 1985: 46).  
The Minimum Wages Act is passed which gives the Pact Government the power to determine wage rates within specific industries and to earmark certain trades for Whites only. Excluded from this Act are agricultural and domestic workers – the largest category of lowest paid African workers.
An attempt to extend pass laws to African women is blocked by a court decision instigated by ANC.
The ANC sends a deputation to meet with the Native Affairs Commission to discuss the election of political and labour representatives to the Native Conferences.
The Report of Native Churches Commission is published and states that: “‘the activities of Congress vary inversely with the prosperity’ of Africans” (Limb, 2010: 289).
The ANC Western Province establishes a labour bureau in Cape Town to assist its members.
The African World is established with the slogan ‘African for Africans’ and reports on ANC matters.
Alex La Guma, future leader of the South African Coloured People’s Organisation (SACPO), is born in Cape Town.
14 September, Ruth Mompati, founding member of the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW), is born in Vryburg.
13 November, General Hertzog outlines his "solution" for the 'Native Question' at Smithfield, where he presents proposals regarding the Coloured Persons Rights Bill.
November/December, General Hertzog addresses the Native Conference regarding issues of Native administration. Present at the address is D.D.T Jabavu, Sol Plaatje, Selope Thema, and Rev Z.R. Mahabane amongst others. To read extracts from the proceedings click here.
1926
Prime Minister General Barry Hertzog introduces a Bill to eject Africans from the political system.
The Liquor Bill, Sections 107 and 144 is passed. As part of this Act Indians and Africans could not be employed by licence holders and are not allowed on licensed premises and liquor supply vehicles. Three thousand Indians employed in the brewery trade are affected.
The ANC, in alliance with the ICU, plan a nationwide campaign after the publication of the Black Native Bills. Leaders of the two organisations pull out from the endorsement and the campaign fails to take off.  However the ICU presents a list of resolutions with regards to the Native Bills.
The Natal Natives Congress is renamed the Natal African Congress.
Congress in the Cape split into the Cape African Congress (CAC) and ANC Western Province (ANC WP).
The Native Conference debates issues regarding the Representation of Natives in Parliament Bill. To read extracts of the proceedings click here.
4-5 January, The ANC holds its annual conference. To read extracts of the proceedings and resolutions of the conference click here.
23 May, Joe Slovo, central committee member of the SACP, MK Chief of Staff and post apartheid’s first Minister of Housing   is born in Lithuania.
May, The Mines and Works Amendments Act (Colour Bar Act) 25/1926 is passed. It reinforces the colour bar in the mining industry and also excludes Indian miners from skilled jobs.
July, The African World is closed down by the ANC.
1927
Walter Sisulu leaves school at the age of 15 and shortly afterwards goes to Johannesburg where he attended various educational organisations.
Moses Kotane joins the ANC.
3 February, The second (and last) European-African Conference is sponsored by the Dutch Reformed Church. To read extracts of the conference report click here.
10 February, Josiah Gumede, representing the ANC, James La Guma, as a delegate for the CPSA, and Daniel Colrane, representing the South African Trade Union Congress; attend the first international conference of the League Against Imperialism in Brussels. At the end of the conference Gumede and La Guma travel to the Soviet Union.
15 April, At the Convention of Bantu Chiefs held under the auspices of the ANC, which attracts 22 chiefs, Josiah Gumede succeeds in having a proposal which condemns the ties between the CPSA and ANC withdrawn. To read other resolutions of the convention click here.
May, Philemon (Duma) Nokwe, the first African advocate of the Supreme Court of Transvaal, ANC member and director of International Affairs is born in Evaton .
6 May, Charles Sakwe, Elijah Qamata and William Miandu of the Transkeian Native General Council give evidence before the Select Committee on the Subject of Native Bills. To read their testimony click here.
30 May, D.D.T Jabavu, Walter Rubusana and Rev. A. Mtimkulu from the Cape Native Voter’s Convention and Meshach Pelem of the Bantu Union give evidence before the Select Committee on the Subject of Native Bills. To read their testimony click here.
June, Josiah Gumede is elected president-general of the ANC. After his election Gumede, accompanied by James La Guma, again travels abroad to attend the 10th   anniversary of the communist revolution of 1917 in the USSR.
Dr. A. Abdurrahman, leader of the APO, organises a Non-European Conference in Kimberley to protest against the so-called Hertzog Bills that aim to further segregation and are to be tabled in Parliament.
1 September, Black (Native) Administration Act No 38:
Section 5(1)(b) provided that ‘whenever he deemed it expedient in the public interest, the minister might, without prior notice to any persons concerned, order any tribe, portion thereof, or individual black person, to move from one place to another within the Republic of South Africa' (Horrell 1978: 204).
Section 29(1) of the Act prohibited the fomenting of feelings of hostility between blacks and whites. Amended by s4 of the Black Laws Further Amendment Act No 79 of 1957. This was extended to all racial groups in terms of s 1 of the 1974 Second General Law Amendment Act (see below). ‘All the reported cases concern charges of inciting hostility among blacks towards the white section of the community' rather than cases of whites who cause feelings of racial hostility by racially abusive comments. (Dugard 1978: 178). The Act commenced on 1 September 1927.
Josiah Gumede’s first statement as president of the African National Conference is published in The National Gazette.
30 September, The Immorality Act No 5 is passed. This Act forbade "extra-marital carnal intercourse ... between whites and Africans" (Dugard 1978: 70) The Act commenced on 30 September 1927. It was later extended in 1950 to include a ban on sexual relations between whites, Coloureds and Asians.
November, The ANC-TT carries out protests against high local taxes after complaints by members in Tsomo, Willowvale and Nqamakwe.
1928
The ANC organises workers in Cape rural areas.
A Defense Committee is formed in Johannesburg by the ANC, CPSA, APO and various African unions.
Moses Kotane joins the Communist Party’s night school.
26 January, Abantu-Batho publishes an editorial entitled ‘What Do the People Say?’ which looks at the increasing segregation being enforced under the Hertzog government.
February, The outcome of the meeting between James La Guma and Nikolai Bukharin, in Russia, is a new draft resolution sent back to South Africa “suggesting” the CPSA adopt a new slogan: “An independent Native republic as a step towards a workers’ and peasants’ government”. This leads an upsurge in membership of Africans in the Party. Josiah Gumede supports the motion and this provokes the ANC.
25 March, The South African Federation of Non-European Trade Unions (SAFNETU) is formed.
April, James La Guma is offered the post of general secretary of SAFNETU.
30 April, Pixley ka Isaka Seme succeeds Josiah Gumede as ANC president. Albert Luthuli commented later: “with his ascendancy, the African National Congress shifted several degrees rightwards into almost total moribundancy.”
1928 - 1929
The Durban Beer Protests occur in opposition to liquor acts that extend the scope of police raids on the brewers, usually women.
1929
Sydeny Bunting and Edward Roux establish the League of African Rights and it is launched with Josiah Gumede as president, Bunting as chairman and Roux as joint secretary with Albert Nzula. This comes from a directive from the Comintern, however, at the end of the year a telegram arrives from Moscow ordering dissolution of the League.
Walter Sisulu returns to Johannesburg after undergoing traditional Xhosa initiation rites in Transkei. In Johannesburg Sisulu obtains work at a gold mine.
General Barry Hertzog campaigns for votes to the White Electorate under the banner of the Black Manifesto in which the “Swart Gevaar” (“Black Danger”) is made the central issue.
Josiah Gumede purchases a controlling share in Abantu-Batho which provides the national ANC with a mouth-piece.
23 May, Johannes (Joe) Modise, future Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) leader and post apartheid’s first Minister of Defence is born in Doornfontein, Johannesburg.
February, The First National European-Bantu Conference takes place. To read extracts from the conferences proceedings and resolutions click here.
14 June, National elections take place. Nationalists gain parliamentary majority, and General Hertzog forms a government without the aid of the South African Labour Party.
1 September, At the second national conference of the SA Federation of Trade Unions, held at Inchcape Hall, Johannesburg; Moses Kotane is elected as vice-chairman.  At the suggestion of Albert Nzula, Kotane joins the CPSA.
November, Minister of Justice, Oswald Pirow, leads the police force in Durban against discontented Africans who are boycotting the Municipal Beer Halls in protest of beer monopoly and other grievances.
16 December, A protest march, organised jointly by the CPSA, ANC and ICU, is held in Cape Town and across the Rand in protest against the passing of the Riotous Assemblies Act. In a protest meeting in Potchefstroom attended by several thousand African and several hundred Whites, an African CPSA member, Hermanus Lethebe, is shot (and later dies in hospital) by a bullet intended for J.B Marks and E.T Motfutsanyana, the key-note speakers. Six other people are injured.

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Last updated : 12-Dec-2013

This article was produced for South African History Online on 19-Jul-2011