African National Congress (ANC)

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African National Congress Timeline 1940-1949

In the 1940s the ANC rejuvenated itself and began to work more closely with the SACP, putting behind the antagonistic relationship between the two parties in the 1920s and 1930s. Two significant developments took place in the ANC in the 1940s: for the first time women were admitted as full members of the ANC in 1943, leading to the establishment of the ANC Women’s League; and the ANC Youth League was formed in 1944. During this period, passive resistance campaigns such as the Alexander bus boycotts and the miners’ strike in 1946 were woven into the broader struggle for freedom. At the end of the decade, the ANC adopted the ‘Programme of Action’, which proposed the abandonment of moderate methods – such as petitions and deputations to government – in favour of mass action. Leadership changes in the ANC at the end of the decade were largely influenced by a desire for a more aggressive stance towards an increasingly racist government. In elections held in 1948, the National Party seized power and set in motion plans to implement apartheid.

1940
Walter Sisulu and Professor Z. K. Matthews join the African National Congress (ANC).
The ANC establishes a ‘Department of Social Welfare’ to investigate the needs of the increasingly urban population. 
7 July, The Executive Committees of the All African Convention (AAC) and the ANC meet and pass a resolution regarding World War II. They sympathise with the British Commonwealth and urge the South African government to give full recognition to the Africans participating in the war.
15-17 December, At the annual ANC conference Dr. A.B. Xuma is elected ANC president and begins to reju­venate the organisation. He gives the go-ahead for the forma­tion of the Congress Youth League. Moses Kotane and J.B Marks are elected to the Resolutions Committee and E.T Mofutsanyana is nominated by Dr. A.B Xuma, to serve as Secretary for Labour in his Cabinet. To read the minutes of the conference click here.
1941
The ANC congress resolves to review its position on women membership. Dr. A.B. Xuma is elected as the Chairman of the Johannesburg Joint Council.
23 February, Dr. A.B Xuma gives an address at the Mendi Memorial Celebration held at the Bantu Sports Grounds, Johannesburg. In paying tribute African servicemen who perished in the Mendi tragedy,   Xuma asked “Can a race which is willing to make such sacrifices and which produces men of such courage, dependability and devoted service to King and Country in the hour of greatest need be denied any rights and privileges at the gift of the State? I answer emphatically, NO!”
26 June, The ANC’s Transvaal branch holds a mass meeting to protests against the shooting and killing of two Africans in Sophiatown.
8 July, The ANC deputation comprising of Dr A.B. Xuma, President General, S.P. Matseke and Selope Thema, who was later replaced by E.T Mofutsanyana because of his inability to join with other members of the deputation, meets with the Minister of Justice. To read the report of the meeting click here.
26 July, The ANC in Transvaal issues a flyer, “Africans Shot in Cold Blood”, which calls for a mass meeting at Newtown Market Square, Johannesburg.
August, As an indication of the growing relationship between the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) and the ANC, Dr. A.B. Xuma uses the columns of the Party’s organ Inkululeko to address a long statement on ‘The Policy and Platform of the African National Congress
3 August, A representative mine workers conference is called by the Transvaal Provincial Committee of the ANC. The outcome of the conference is the formation of the African Mine Workers' Union (AMU) which elects J.B. Marks as its president.
November, Moses Kotane presides over the founding conference of the Council of Non-European Trade Unions (CNETU). The focus of the Council is to address the poor working conditions of African workers.
Moses Kotane is elected as one of ten members of an ‘African Parliamentary Committee’ of lobbyists to be in contact with the Native Representative Council (NRC) at the AAC conference in Bloemfontein.
14-16 December, The ANC holds its annual conference. During his address Dr A.B Xuma declared that “... the African National Congress is the mouthpiece of the African people of the Union of South Africa. All its efforts are and must be concentrated upon raising the status of the African people from their semi-serfdom to citizenship.” To read more of  Xuma’s presidential address click here.
1942
E.T Mofutsanyana and Alpheus Malibu are selected by the CPSA to stand as candidates for the NRC elections but neither is elected to the NRC. The ANC’s candidates of Rev. John Dube, A.W.G. Champion and Professor Z.K. Matthews are elected to the NRC.
4 March, The ANC deputation meets with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Native Affairs, Colonel Denez Reitz, to discuss African concerns ranging from the question of Army Services and African Representation during World War II, Land, Education, Wages and Recognition and Registration of African Trade Unions, the Native Administration Act and the Pass Laws. To read the report click here.
April, Moses Kotane is commissioned by the CPSA to document Japan’s involvement in the war and he produces a pamphlet entitled, Japan – Friend or Foe?
June 18, Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki , future president of South Africa, is born in Idutywa district in the Transkei. Mbeki is the second child of Govan Mbeki and Epainette Mbeki.
June 28, A ‘Non-European People’s Manifesto’ is adopted by a conference in Johannesburg representing 88 non-European organizations convened by the Non-European United Front. The Manifesto calls for government to “abolish the colour bar and enable the black peoples of South Africa to play their full part in the country’s war effort” (Bunting, 1998)
October, The government appoints the Smit Commission to look into the issue of African trade unions. The Smit Commission’s report on ‘Social Health and Economic Conditions of Urban Natives’ recommends the recognition of African trade unions as well as the abolition of pass laws.
November, After returning to Johannesburg from a meeting in Bloemfontein, Moses Kotane is arrested for making a “subversive” statement on the terms of the war emergency regulations.
11 November, Paul R. Mosaka writes to Dr. A.B. Xuma about to his appointment as a member of the NRC. He accuses Xuma of depriving him of “encouragement and support for personal reasons.”
December, War Measure No. 42 is promulgated which prohibits strikes and imposes compulsory arbitration. 
The United Party Government starts relaxing influx control measures.
After representation by the CPSA’s barrister, Franz Boshoff, is made to the Minister of Justice, Dr. Steyn, prosecution against Moses Kotane is withdrawn.
20-22 December, The ANC conference held in Bloemfontein approves the formation of a youth wing and adopts the “Atlantic Charter from the Standpoint of Africans within the Union of South Africa” and Bill of Rights documents. Click here for the resolution.
1943
Women are formally admitted as full members of the ANC. The ANC Women's League is formally established. Madie-Hall Xuma is elected President, a position she holds till 1949.
26 June, Professor D.D.T Jabavu issues a statement on the Atlantic Charter.
July, Pressure by the African Mine Workers Union results in the creation of the Mine Wages Commission to “Inquire into Conditions of Employment in the Mines.” The Union presents a 50-page report on conditions at mines to the Commission.
7 July, General elections are held with the United Party, under General Jan Smuts winning a majority of seats in Parliament. The National Party, under D.F. Malan, begins to makes gains as the official opposition.
26 August, The AAC manifesto is redrafted as a Call to Unity which is adopted by the AAC’s National Executive.
2-11 August, In Alexandra, the local bus company increases fares by 1d. In a spontaneous protest the 20 000 residents begin a bus boycott and walk approximately 14kms into town and back home. A Bus Service Committee is set up by the ANC and included leaders of the community and representatives from trade unions, Vigilance Societies, and the CPSA. After nine days the bus company agrees to reduce the fare back to the original 4d. A Commission of Inquiry is set up to look into bus fares.
26 September, The African Democratic Party (ADP) is launched by, amongst others, Paul Mosaka, Self Mampuru and Dan Koza. It has a social-democratic programme and hopes to provide an alternative to the ANC. Former Communist Hyman Basner addresses its inaugural meeting, criticising the ANC-CPSA alliance. The party becomes influential in Alexandra and Orlando and lasts about five years. To read their manifesto click here.
December, Seventy-two delegates, including Indians and Coloureds, attend the AAC. It coincides with the first meeting of the Non-European Unity Movement (NEUM). The meeting of these two organisations takes place in Bloemfontein and is chaired by Professor D. D. T. Jabavu. To read the “Draft Declaration of Unity” of this conference click here.
13-14 December, The Atlantic Charter Committee, led by ANC leader Dr A.B Xuma, meet in Bloemfontein and draw up a memorandum titled The Atlantic Charter From the standpoint of Africans within the Union of South Africa. In this memorandum the articles of the Charter are discussed one by one and observations are made about each article. This becomes the basic policy statement on which all subsequent ANC documents are based.Dr. A.B Xuma, with the help and advice of Professor Macmillian and Bram Fischer, draft a new constitution for the ANC.
16 December, The new ANC constitution is adopted at the Congress’s annual conference. The conference also adopts Africans’ Claims in South Africa’.
1944
January, Moses Kotane and Dr. Yusuf Dadoo are the main speakers at a mass anti-pass demonstration organized by the newly formed Anti-Pass Committee.
March, The ANCYL provisional committee publishes its Congress Youth League Manifesto, the central theme of which is the African’s decision to “determine his future by his own efforts” (Walshe, 1970: 335).
April, Moses Kotane and Dr. A.B. Xuma spend the rest of the year speaking at anti-pass demonstrations up and down the country.
2 April, The ANC Youth League (ANCYL) is officially formed by young radicals at the Bantu Men`s Social Centre in Johannesburg. Amongst some of the young people that had actively canvassed for its formation were Anton Lembede, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela, Dan Tloome, William Nkomo, Ida Mtwa, Lillian Ngoyi, Ashby Mda, Duma Nokwe, James Njongweni and B. Masekela. To read a copy of the ANCYL’s constitution click here.
The ANCYL Transvaal branch is established in Johannesburg.
Adelaide Tambo is elected courier for the ANC.
20-21 May, At a mass anti-pass conference in Johannesburg, a National Anti-Pass Council is elected to collect 1 million signatures. Moses Kotane is voted onto the council and Josie Palmer also begins to work with the Council. To read the resolutions of the conference click here.
August, The NRC passes a resolution that the government's segregation policy is the root of all distrust among races and concluded that the policy is thus not conducive to peaceful relations between Black and White, and is not in the best interest of South Africa.
10 September, A mass youth conference is held at Bantu Men`s Social Centre in Johannesburg to formally launch the national structure of the ANCYL. The first National Executive members are Anton Lembede, president, Oliver Tambo, secretary, Walter Sisulu, treasurer, A.P. Mda organiser, with Nelson Mandela and David Bopape as additional members.
November, The government gives its assent for bus fare to be increased to 5d. This is done despite evidence by a Commission of Inquiry, set up after the Alexandra bus boycott of 1943, that no urban African could afford such an increase. As a result residents of Alexandra carry out another bus boycott which lasts for seven weeks.
1945
The Port Elizabeth branch of the ANC organises protest marches against any extension of single accommodation or compound housing.  
Albert Luthuli is elected to the Executive Committee of the Natal branch of the ANC.
February, The ANCYL national president, Anton Lembede, issues an article entitled Some Basic Principles of African Nationalism in Inyaniso.
8 May, There are no official government celebrations on V-E Day. The ANC and SACP leaders celebrate the Allied victory over Hitler at a spontaneous gathering in Johannesburg. The people march through the streets of central Johannesburg gathering at the City Hall steps. Dr. Yusuf Dadoo, Michael Harmel and J.B. Marks make impromptu speeches at the steps of Johannesburg City Hall.
Dr. A.B. Xuma makes a statement entitled “Africans and San Francisco”.
June, Moses Kotane, Dr. Yusuf Dadoo and Selope Thema take the anti-pass petition to Cape Town.
1 June, Native (Urban Areas) Consolidation Act No 25 passed. The Act introduces influx control, applicable to Black males only. People who are deemed to be leading idle or dissolute lives or who had committed certain specified offences could be removed from an urban area.
July, A statement is issued by the NEUM entitled “A Declaration to the Nations of the World” and is signed by Rev. Z.R. Mahabane, Dr. G.H. Good and E.C. Roberts.
October, The Pan-African Conference is hosted in Manchester and is attended by Mark Hlubi and Peter Abrahams from the ANC and delegates from the AAC and Non-European Front.
At a meeting in Cape Town, 8000 Africans called for the immediate implementation of the ANC’s newly drafted Atlantic Charter.
16 December, The annual ANC conferences unanimously adopts “African Claims”
1946
At a meeting called by the Anti-Pass Committee in Langa, Cape Town, where Moses Kotane is a key note speaker, the crowd takes a militant step and burns their passes.
Dr A.B Xuma attends the first session of the General Assembly of the United Nations in the hope to present the views of the ANC regarding the Smuts government racial policies. The South African Indian Congress (SAIC) assists Dr. A.B Xuma to come into contact with the Indian delegation at the United Nations (UN).
The Natal Inter-Race Soccer Board is established with the help of Chief Albert Luthuli.
January, Dr. A.B. Xuma sends a cable to the UN opposing the incorporation of South-West Africa (later re-named Namibia).
14 January, Dr. A.B. Xuma issues a statement on the African Worker.
11 February, Rev. John Dube dies in Umhlanga, Natal. His position as the Natal representative on the Natives' Representative Council (NRC) is filled by Albert Luthuli.
31 March, Six thousand Indians march in Durban to protest against the Asiatic Bill (called the Ghetto Act by Indians), and support the SAIC resolution for Passive Resistance. Dr Monty Naicker, President of the NIC, addresses the demonstrators. H.I.E. Dhlomo of the ANC and L.A. Smith of the African People’s Organisation (APO) speak at the meeting and declare the support of the African and Coloured people to the Indians in their struggle. This began the passive resistance campaign which lasted until 1948.
April, Two-thousand mine workers attend a rally where they demand 10 shillings a day, adequate food amongst others. These demands are ignored by the Chamber of Mines.
May, Anton Lembede publishes an article on the “Policy of the Congress Youth League” in Inkundla ya Bantu.
June, A full conference of the Anti-Pass Council is held. Dr. A.B Xuma addresses the conference, stating that the pass laws were the ‘very foundation of economic exploitation’ (Walshe, 1970: 312). 
13 June, African miners strike from the East to the West Rand, police open fire, kill and injure hundreds of workers.
4 August, A mass meeting of mine workers is held at Market Square, Newtown, Johannesburg where a decision is taken to undertake a general strike on the mines.
12 August, The African Mineworkers Union launches the biggest strike since the Rand Revolt of 1922. More than 60 000 African mineworkers take part. During the strike nine workers are killed and 70 are dismissed. The CPSA’s offices are raided by the police along with other organizations that had supported the miner’s strike.
14 August, As a result of the governments crack down on the mine worker’s strike, a decision is taken to indefinitely adjourn the NRC. 
6 October, Moses Kotane attends an emergency conference in Bloemfontein called by the President-General of the ANC, Dr. A.B Xuma, to discuss the Mineworkers strike.
20 November, The NRC meets to hear the government’s response on the adjournment decision. The caucus decides to maintain the decision of indefinitely adjourning the Council. Professor Z.K. Matthews’ issues a pamphlet entitled Reasons Why the Native Representative Council in the Union of South Africa Adjourned.
14-17 December,  At the annual conference of the ANC, held in Bloemfontein, Moses Kotane, along with other CPSA members such as J.B Marks, Dan Tloome and Lucas Philips, are elected onto the National Executive Council (NEC). The ANC annual conference asks its NEC to consider the possibilities of closer cooperation with the national organisations of other non-Europeans in the common struggle. To read the resolutions made at the conference click here.
18 December, Steve Biko, leader of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM), is born in King Williams Town, Eastern Cape.
1947
The Industrial Conciliation (Natives) Bill is passed. The Bill provides for a degree of recognition for African trade unions, however, African unions are not allowed to affiliate to any political organisation or participate in political activities as well as join any trade union confederation. The Act also excludes the mining industry from its terms.
The ANC is represented at an All-African Trade Union Conference, in Dakar, by J.B. Marks and Dan Tloome (both from the Transvaal Congress).
3-5 January, At the annual conference in Johannesburg, the CPSA calls for the establishment of a fighting alliance and endorses the call by the ANC to boycott all elections under the Representation of Natives Act of 1936.
1-2 February, The National Executive Committee of the ANC has a meeting. To read the minutes click here.
9 March, Dr Monty Naicker (Natal Indian Congress), Dr Yusuf Dadoo (Transvaal Indian Congress) and Dr A.B. Xuma (ANC) meet in Johannesburg. The presidents of the three congresses sign the Doctors Pact, a joint declaration of co-operation between them. To read the statement issued by Dr. A.B. Xuma, click here.
21 March, Dr A.B Xuma issues a flyer To All Africans and Friends of Justice. Amongst other things that Xuma called for were the abolition of the Pass Laws and the removal of Land Restrictions against Africans in urban and rural areas. Click here to read other demands in the Flyer.
23 March, A meeting of the ANC, APO, NIC and TIC is held in Johannesburg to discuss cooperation.
8-9 May, Prime Minister Jan Smuts calls in Professor Z.K. Matthews and five other NRC representatives to negotiate giving the NRC some definite responsibility over the government and management of reserves. Dr. A.B Xuma responds by stating that “we do not accept any proposal that does not provide for direct representation of all sectors of the community in all legislative bodies” (Levy, 2011). To read a report of the meeting click here.
11 May, Dr. A.B. Xuma, on behalf of the ANC, responds to the proposals made by the Prime Minister on restarting the NRC.
29 July, The ANCYL president, Anton Lembede, dies at the age of 33.
November, The NRC Caucus issues a statement on the Prime Minister’s Policy towards the NRC.
1948
Albert Luthuli visits the United States of America to attend the North American Missionary Conference and undertakes a lecture tour under the auspices of the American Board.
The ANCWL holds its first conference, with Ida Mtwana as President.
Albertina Sisulu joins the ANCWL.
The ANCYL executive committee issues a statement which covers the “Basic Policy of the Congress Youth League.”
5 April, Dr. A.B. Xuma issues a statement on the upcoming general election.
26 May, The National Party wins the most seats in the general election on its policy of racial segregation (later to become known by the Afrikaans word apartheid). National Party leader D.F. Malan becomes Prime Minister. The CPSA calls for the formation of an anti-Nationalist front in response.
3 June, Professor James Thaele dies in Cape Town.
July, Rev. J.A. Calata gives his presidential address at a conference of the ANC’s Cape Province branch. This was the first Provincial Congress to be held in town since 1930.
3 October, Dr. A.B. Xuma calls a meeting of twelve African leaders to end the rift between the ANC and the All-African Convention. The leaders sign “A Call for Unity”.
17 November, Tension between members of the AAC arises. The AAC members at the joint conference with the ANC cannot find common ground on issues pertaining to the running of the organisation. The AAC rejects the ‘Call for African Unity’ proposal.
25 November, Dr. A.B. Xuma sends a cable to the UN with regards to a statement made by Eric Hendrik Louw.
16-17 December, A joint conference of the ANC and AAC is held in Batho Location Community Hall, Bloemfontein. To read the minutes click here.
1949
Fatima Meer establishes the Durban Districts Women's League.
Joe Slovo marries Ruth First.
Ida Mntwana replaces Madie-Hall Xuma as the president of the ANC Women’s League.
14 January, Charges of slum-lord tactics and exploitation laid against Indian landowners in Cato Manor result in an Africa-Indian race rebellion. Two days of murder, pillage and arson leave some 50 Indians dead, more than 500 injured and thousands in makeshift refugee camps. The Africans, whose toll was 87 killed and 550 injured, believe they'd won the Battle of Cato Manor. Other sources, such as Liebenberg and Spies (1993: 377) place the death toll at 53 Indians and 83 Africans.
20 January, The ANC Working Committee issues a statement signed by Dr. A.B Xuma on the Durban Riots.
27 January, Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma, ANC member, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minster of Home Affairs in post apartheid South Africa is born.
6 February, The Joint meeting of African and Indian leaders from the ANC and SAIC is held in Durban and they agree on closer co-operation. To read the statement issued click here.
17-18 April, A second joint conference between the AAC and the ANC is held. At the conference AAC calls upon the ANC to support the policy of non-collaboration with government. This conference fails to form a union between the two organisations. To read the minutes of the conference click here.
8 May, Moses Kotane writes to Professor Z.K. Matthews reporting on the joint meeting between the AAC and ANC.        
8 July, Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act No 55 is passed and prohibits marriage between Whites and any other race group.
15-17 December, The ‘Programme of Action’ is adopted by the ANC which abandons the traditional moderate approach of petitions and deputations in favour of mass action using the tactics of boycotts, strikes and civil disobedience. This leads to the Defiance Campaign of the 1950s.
Dr. A.B Xuma is replaced as President-General of the ANC by Dr. J.S. Moroka and Walter Sisulu is elected Secretary-General. The Congress also authorises the official ANC sign – the clinched right hand with the thumb pointing to the right shoulder. To read the minutes of this meeting click here.  

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Last updated : 27-Jul-2016

This article was produced for South African History Online on 16-Aug-2011