African National Congress (ANC)

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Delegation from the SANNC that went to England in 1914 to convey the objections of the African people to the 1913 Land Act

ANC Origins and Background

The African National Congress (ANC) was formed in 1912 as a result of many grievances. This included black dissatisfaction with the South Africa Act of 1910 that established the Union of South Africa, their treatment after the South African War and numerous laws that controlled and restricted black movement and labour.

The end of the South African War (1899-1902) paved the way for the establishment of the Union of South Africa in 1910. The eight years between the end of the war in 1902 and the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910 was marked by intense negotiations between the four, previously unconnected provinces. Populations of the Cape Province and Natal were considered to owe allegiance to Britain, while Transvaal and the Orange Free State had become independent Boer/Afrikaner republics in 1852 and 1854 respectively. The war was fought over the question of independence of the latter two provinces from British control.

During the eight years of negotiations, it became apparent that delegates of the four provinces were determined to forge a settlement that excluded Africans from meaningful political participation in the envisaged unified South Africa. This galvanised different African political formations, hitherto fragmented and each with a ‘provincial’ appeal, to forge a unified political movement that would challenge the exclusion of Black people. The African People’s Organisation, largely a Cape political formation, the Orange River Colony Vigilance Association and the Transvaal Vigilance Association were all formed during this period.

In 1909, a group of Black delegates from the four provinces met in Waaihoek, Bloemfontein to propose a means to object to the draft South Africa Act, and Union Constitution. This was the South African Native Convention (SANC). A nine man delegation was sent to England. The Convention is considered a precursor to the South African Native National Congress (SANNC). Apart from sympathetic coverage from the British media to the plight of Blacks, little else was achieved by the delegation.

The SANC continued to be active in 1910 and in 1911, objecting to further discriminatory legislation. The need for a permanent body to represent Blacks on a national level was the reason for the transformation of the body into a more representative and dynamic organisation. Pixley ka Isaka Seme, a well educated attorney, and author Solomon Plaatje, pioneered the formation of the South African Native National Congress (SANNC).

Last updated : 08-Aug-2014

This article was produced for South African History Online on 20-Mar-2011