Liberation Struggle in South Africa 1950s

The 1950’s began with a new commitment to cross organisational coordination. At an ANC meeting of 10,000 people in February 1950 at Newtown Market Square, ANC President Dr Moroka declared his support for united action against Government laws. Moses Kotane of the CPSA was also present and delivered a speech at the same meeting.

At a 26 March 1950 rally, over 10,000 people gathered in Johannesburg’s Market Square to support a general strike. 528 delegates from organisations such as the Transvaal ANC, TIC, APO and the Johannesburg District of the Communist Party of South Africa represented over a million people throughout the Transvaal at what was deemed the Defend Free Speech Convention at Ghandi Hall in Johannesburg. The convention condemned the ban of Yusuf Dadoo and Sam Khan and also declared 1 May 1950 to be observed as Freedom Day; a day for people of all races to stay home from work and show their support for freedom. Although the ANC did not support the convention, it was unofficially supported by the Transvaal ANC and presided over by ANC President, Dr. Moroka.

The joint honorary secretaries of the convention, D. Bopape, Y. Cachalia and D. Tloome wrote to the leaders of the ANC, SAIC, APO and Coloured People’s National Union to request a National Convention in Johannesburg on 1-2 July 1950.

An ANC delegates conference at Gandhi Hall was actually attended by Dadoo and Khan. In the legislation that barred them from attending meetings, the Riotous Assemblies Act, there was a legal loophole that allowed them to attend “private conferences” and Dadoo spoke at the meeting. 

In May, the Union Government presented the Unlawful Organisations Bill, better known as the Suppression of Communism Act. The broadly worded piece of legislation banned any group or individual that intended to “bring about any political, industrial, social or economic change in the Union by the promotion of disturbances or disorder, by unlawful acts or omissions or by the threat of such acts and omissions.” The government not only gained the power to ban publications that they believed promoted the objectives of communism, but they also acquired the ability to bar people on their own accord from holding office, attending meetings or practicing as lawyers. As a result of the bill, the meeting organized earlier in the year in Johannesburg (6-8 January) was the last legal conference held by the CPSA until they were reinstated (as the South African Communist Party) in 1991.

On 20 June, the Central Committee met in order to discuss the future of the CPSA. The Party had to decide whether to go underground or dissolve in order to avoid violating the new law and subsequently facing the harsh outcomes. Dadoo supported the argument to move the organisation underground while members such as Moses Kotane, JB Marks and Edwin Mofutsanyana believed the move underground was unwise without more preparation. As a result, the CPSA elected to dissolve a few days prior to the official enactment of the Suppression of Communism Act, No. 44 of 1950.

A liquidator, Mr. J. de Villiers Louw, was appointed by the Minister of Justice to oversee the dissolution of the Party. The liquidator filed a report that the Party continued to exist despite their own claims to the contrary, and received a court order shortly thereafter in order to exacerbate the process of dissolution and name the appropriate people affiliated with the CPSA. In a letter to the Minister of Justice in September 1951 regarding the liquidators request to receive explanations as to why their names “should not be placed on a list of members and supporters of the now dissolved Communist Party” written by Sam Khan, Fred Carneson, Dadoo and others, the men declined “to make such representations.” The letter also accused the government of forcing the legislation through despite “the protest of every important political, religious, professional and trade union in the order to preserve a narrow, backward, and primitive social system, based on race and class oppression.”

Although members could no longer publicly align their voices with the CPSA, it was understood that the views published in the journals like The Guardian, Fighting Talk and Liberation represented the views of the executive committee and the “Party line” on particular issues.[1]

Dadoo made his personal stance on the Suppression of Communism Act publicly known in a June 1950 interview published by The Guardian. In the interview, entitled “Malan Cannot Succeed Where Hitler Failed,” Dadoo likened the actions of Malan and the Nationalist Government to Hitler and the Nazis. He also supported the day of mourning to be held on 26 June 1950 in memory of the people murdered at the May Day massacre. The May Day massacre was a joint national strike in protest of discriminatory laws and a demand for full franchise. It was the first major joint campaign with popular support from Indians and Coloureds in South Africa's history. In the Alexandra Township and other areas, police opened fire on the crowds and killed 18 people and wounded 30. 

The initiative was spearheaded by the ANC after an emergency meeting organized by the African National Congress National executive Committee (NEC) on 21 May 1950. At a mass rally in Durban on 28 May 1950, the ANC, SAIC, CPSA and African People’s Organisation (APO) all resolved to observe 26 June as a day of mourning due to the May Day massacre and a protest against the Unlawful Organisation Bill. After he pledged Indian allegiance, Monty Naicker declared the ANC President, Dr. Moroka, as “Commander-in-Chief.”

On 26 June, Parliament approved the Suppression of Communism Act and declared the CPSA illegal, with full enforcement to begin on 17 July 1950. A day of national mourning and protest was held as the SAIC and ANC encouraged a general strike to commemorate the lives lost on May Day.


On 30 July, the homes of ANC and SAIC members were raided by police. On 20 August, ANC and SAIC members were arrested and charged for promoting Communism, under the Suppression of Communism Bill, and were released on £100 bail.

On 15 September, Dr. Moroka opened the 19th session of the SAIC in Johannesburg. Dr. Naicker nominated Dadoo, who was still banned, to be President of the SAIC which was followed by a unanimous election supporting the nomination. A resolution was also passed to approach the ANC and other organisations to “devise all effective and concrete ways and means of offering resistance to all discriminatory laws.”

November 12, J.B Marks is elected Transvaal President of the African National Congress.

December 6, Walter Sisulu addresses a South African Peace Movement meeting at the Ambagsaal, Johannesburg.  Dadoo and Michael Harmel also speak at this meeting

December 26, William (Bill) H. Andrews, Chairperson of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of South Africa and veteran trade unionist, passed away in Cape Town at the age of 80.  Dadoo speaks at his funeral.


In November 1950, Dadoo released a statement supporting the UN’s decision made at the General Assembly conducted in the same month. In the item entitled, “Treatment of people of Indian origin in the Union of South Africa,” the UN recommended that a round table discussion be conducted between the government of India, Pakista and South Africa before 1 April 1951, otherwise a three-member commission would be elected by each nation to coordinate a time for the round table discussion. Furthermore, the UN called upon the governments to  “refrain from taking any steps which would prejudice the success of their negotiations, in particular, the implementation or enforcement of the provisions of ‘The Group Areas Act,’ pending conclusion of such negotiations” in addition to the decision to “include this item in the agenda of the next regular session General Assembly.” Dadoo welcomed this resolution with the "deepest satisfaction."


On 1 January 1951, Dadoo published a New Year message in The Guardian newspaper entitled, “Fight for Peace, Democracy and an end to exploitation.” The statement was reviewed of the current racist status of South Africa and Dr. Malan’s Nationalist Government. Dadoo also laid out the tasks for the coming year in order to end apartheid and combat racist legislation, such as the Malan-Havenga pact that Dadoo considered to be “a most sinister attack on democracy as such.” This piece of legislation withdrew the right of the Coloured population to vote on the common voters roll in the Cape. Officially titled the Separate Representation of Voters Act, the ACT was initially declared illegal by the Supreme Court because it did not have a two-thirds majority. Malan circumvented this problem by increasing the amount of seats and votes in government in order to receive greater support.


This piece of legislation also lead to the creation of the Franchise Action Committee in January, which would later be renamed the Franchise Action Council (FAC) at a conference in February. The FAC was formed to defend voting rights Coloureds and to extend voting enfranchisement and equal representation across all populations of South Africa. In order to mobilise the population, Dadoo went on a speaking tour around the Cape with Reggie September and Alex la Guma. He spoke at demonstrations, factories, residential areas and he spoke at Cape Town’s Grand Parade.


As 1951 progressed, Dadoo devoted his time to helping to mobilize the Coloured population to protest the Separate Representation of Voters Act and speaking in various places to promote resistance to apartheid.


In January, the Franchise Action Committee, later renamed the Franchise Action Council (FAC) was established to defend the Coloured franchise, to demand votes for all South Africans on an equal basis and direct representation for Blacks in Parliament. At a conference in February, the FAC formed to oppose the removal of Coloureds from the common voters roll.  Dadoo travelled around Cape Town and spoke at demonstrations to people outside factories, in residential areas and on Cape Town's Grand Parade with Reg September and Alex la Guma. After Cape Town, they travelled to George and Knysna to mobilise people. Despite the protests and mobilisation, President Malan announced the Separate Representation of Voters Bill on 1 March.


On 28-29 July, the ANC invited the SAIC, the APO and the FAC executives to meet in Johannesburg and begin to outline the path for a defiance campaign against unjust laws. The focus was narrowed to six specific laws: (1) The Pass Laws (2) The Separate Representation of Voters Act (3) The Suppression of Communism Act (4) The Bantu Authorities Act (5) The Stock Limitation Regulations (6) The Group Areas Act of 1950. At this same meeting, a Joint Planning Council (JPC) was elected to plan for the campaign. Dr. Moroka was elected chairman with Sisuli and Marks of the ANC, and Dadoo and Cachalia of the SAIC joined him, as well.

As the Congresses prepared for the Defiance Campaign, the Nationalist Government takes action against leading Natal Indian Congress and Transvaal Indian Congress members, by having them "named" under the Suppression of Communism Act. Dr GM Naicker, Debi Singh and IC Meer, President, General Secretary and Vice-President respectively of the Natal Indian Congress, Nana Sita and Yusuf Cachalia, President and Secretary of the Transvaal Indian Congress were named. The President of the South African Indian Congress, Dr YM Dadoo, had already been named."

October, At a meeting of the Pretoria branch of the TIC Yusuf Cachalia analysed the implicationsof the Group Areas Act and declared that blacks in South Africa "will not accept the Act, which the Government regarded as the kernel of apartheid." He then made the first public announcement of a joint campaign. He told his audience that "In the very near future you will be called upon to do your share in the struggle against apartheid tyranny."  Other speakers at this meeting were Dr William Nkomo, Nana Sita, Ramlal Moolloo and the TIC secretary Mervin Thandray.


On 8 November 1951, the Joint Planning Council (JPC) gathered at the home of J.S. Moroka in Thaba ‘Nchu to compose a report for the Executive Committees of the ANC and SAIC. The report reflected the goals set by the Joint Conference of the National Executives of the ANC and the SAIC and the representatives of the Franchise Action Council that took place in Johannesburg on 29 July 1951. The conference resolved to “declare war on Pass Laws, and Stock Limitation, the Group Areas Act, the Voters’ Representation Act, the Suppression of Communism Act and the Bantu Authorities Act,” immediately instigate a mass campaign to repeal the aforementioned laws, and establish a JPC to “coordinate the efforts of the national organisations of the African, Indian and Coloured peoples in this mass campaign.” The JPC recommended “defiance of unjust laws” and “industrial action” as appropriate forms of struggle. The two dates proposed to start the Defiance of Unjust Laws on one of two historically significant dates in 1952: either the tercentenary celebration of Jan Van Riebeeck’s arrival to South Africa (6 April 1952) or the second anniversary of the National Day of Protest (26 June 1952). The campaign was to progress through three stages. The first ignited the campaign with demonstrations by “selected and trained persons” in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth and Durban. The second stage focused on increasing both the size of the movement through enrolment and the establishment of more “centres of operation.”  After the growth of the movement, the goal of the third stage was to expand to a country-wide scale in which both the rural and the urban landscapes were informed and involved. The report was sign by J.B. Marks and W.M. Sisulu on behalf of the ANC and Y.M. Dadoo and Y. Cachalia as representatives of the SAIC. J.S Moroka served as the Chairman of the council.

In December, the Government threatened to prevent the publication of The Guardian. Dadoo embarked on a campaign to save the newspaper by selling it in the street and publicly supporting its continuation. The case of The Guardian was put before the Human Rights Commission at the United Nations

Dadoo also went to Durban in order to support Naicker and the NIC in their opposition to the Group Areas Act. The Durban Municipal Council defined racial areas and planned to uproot 120,000 Indians from the central areas of Durban. Together, Dadoo and Naicker headed an active campaign against the Zoning Commission by speaking at meetings throughout Natal.

On December 15 - 17, Cachalia, Gandhi and James Phillips (the President of the Transvaal Council of Trade Unions) addressed the African National Congress National Conference in Bloemfontein.  The ANC adopts the Joint Planning Council report  and resolves to call upon the Union Government to repeal all unjust laws by no later than 29th February 1952.

Also during December, at the ANC National Conference in Bloemfontein, the ANC adopted the JPC report and vowed to call upon the Union Government to repeal all unjust laws by 29th February 1952.

At the conference, some ANCYL members raised the issue of collaborating with Indians in the Defiance Campaign because they believed that it impaired the "nationalistic" ideal. The issue was voted down by the majority of the ANC and a letter is subsequently drafted that demanded the government to repeal repressive legislation, otherwise mass action would take place to oppose the government. The letter was submitted on behalf of Dr. Moroka and Walter Sisulu to Prime Minister Malan conveying this ultimatum on 21 January 1952.

December, Walter Sisulu, Dadoo, J.B. Marks and Y.A. Cachalia (all members of the Joint Planning Council) together with R.T. Chari, the former Secretary of the Indian High Commissioner in the Union, visit Basutoland.  There they have discussions with headmen and chiefs about the inauguration of the Protectorate by Great Britain.

Finally, in December, Walter Sisulu, J.B. Marks, Y.A. Cachalia and Dadoo (all members of the JPC) visited Basutoland along with the R.T. Chari, the former secretary of the Indian High Commissioner in the Union. Meetings took place with headman and chiefs about the inauguration of the Protectorate by Britain.

In January 1952, Dadoo issued a New Year message for the second consecutive year, entitled, “Oust the Nationalists from power.” In the statement, Dadoo voiced his support for the direction of the ANC and the movement for the Defiance of Unjust Laws as “historical in its significance as have been mass movements in other lands.”

On 25-27 January 1952, at its 20th annual conference in Johannesburg, the SAIC officially adopted the JPC report. During this conference, on 26 January, the police arrested Dadoo and nine other delegates without warrant or reason. On the same night, they were released on £15 bail without any charges. In his extensive Presidential address delivered at the beginning of the conference, Dadoo holistically reviewed the status of the nation on and stressed the absolute importance of The Plan of Action for the Defiance of Unjust Laws. Dadoo denounced multiple pieces of Apartheid legislation, such as the Suppression of Communism Act for being a tool the Minister of Justice provided himself in order to “victimise and terrorise any person whose conscience [compelled]  him to protest against Government policy which he [considered] to be against the interests of the people.”He also criticised the Separate Representation of Voters Act for attempting to deprive “the Coloured people of whatever limited democratic rights they possessed in the election of members to Parliament.” The most ominous Act for the Indians attending the conference to beware of according to Dadoo, was the Group Areas Act. For Dadoo, the operation of the Group Areas Act meant a “life withoutout hope and purpose, a life cut off from the moorings of civilisation and a life at the mercy of the powers that be.”  Furthermore, Dadoo told the “herrenvolk-minded Nationalists” to alter their policies to get back in line with history because they could not “hope to halt the onward march of the people towards greater democracy.” After once again reiterating his support for the ANC’s plan of action, Dadoo ended his speech by emphatically calling on the people:



In response to the letter sent by Dr. Moroka and Sisulu on 21 January, Prime Minister Malan lambasted the ANC through his private secretary for contacting him directly rather than through the Minister of Native Affairs. After Malan’s government officially rejected the repeal of the six unjust laws, the ANC announced that the Defiance Campaign would proceed.

On 20 February, the SAIC sent a letter signed by Dadoo and Cachalia to President Malan. The letter reflected the content and spirit of the conference conducted by the SAIC during the previous month. The letter offered details for how legislation specifically impacted and harmed particular spheres of society. They appealed to the Africans and the Bantu Authorities Act, the communists and the Suppression of Communism Act and the Coloureds and the Separate Representation of Voters Act. Similar to Dadoo’s Presidential address, the letter emphatically pleaded for the Group Areas Act not to be reinforced because it meant “to the non-European an end to all progress in every sphere of life.” In the letter, they also supported a letter of the same ilk sent by the ANC to Malan that was lambasted and rejected by the President. While the ANC’s letter received a negative response, the letter from Dadoo and Cachalia received no response or acknowledgement at all.

On 6 April, rallies were held throughout the country while the tercentenary function of Jan Van Riebeeck’s arrival at the Cape takes place in Cape Town. The six major rallies were held in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth, Durban, East London and Cape Town. The ANC and the TIC issued a flyer entitled “April 6: Peoples Protest Day.” Dr Naicker, P Simelane, IC Meer, JN Singh, Hass Mall (who spoke on behalf of the Natal Indian Youth Congress) and Manibehn Sita (daughter of Nana Sita) were all keynote speakers at the Durban meeting held at Red Square. Dadoo spoke along with Dr Moroka in Johannesburg during a mass meeting held at Freedom Square, Fordsburg and then proceeded to present Dr. Moroka with a black, green and gold robe. Afterward, Sisulu outlined the “Plan of Action” for the Defiance Campaign to the massive crowd gathered. Other keynote speakers at the event were Kotane, Madela, D. Bopape, Dan Tloome and James Philips, the trade unionist.

After this protest day, Sisulu, Marks, Cachalia and Dadoo travelled to the Transkei to meet the Bhunga in order to present and outline the Defiance Campaign. During the discussion, the Special Branch police force arrived and pressured Dadoo and Cachalia to present the required permits to enter the Transkei, which they did not have. After questioning the police left, but the encounter left the Bhunga intimidated and with diminished enthusiasm for the Defiance Campaign.

May 17, At the Transvaal Indian Congress Conference at the Trades Hall in Johannesburg, Nana Sita, the Transvaal Indian Congress President tells delegates that the Government is determined to crush the Indian community with measures such as the Group Areas Act.  Referring to the pending Defiance Campaign, he says that Indians are fighting for the rights of all oppressed people in South Africa. The conference, which Dadoo opens, is informed of the plan to enrol ten thousand volunteers and to collect "one million shillings for the Freedom Fund?.

On 25 May, CR Swart, the Minister of Justice, used the Suppression of Communism Act to removed Sam Khan and Fred Carneson, the Communist representatives of Africans in the Cape Provincial Council. Swart also banned The Guardian, the unofficial publication of the CPSA, but it reappeared shortly after as The Clarion. Swart also ordered Party members such as Kotane, Marks, Bopape, Ngwevela and Dadoo to resign from their organisations and not address political meetings for two years.

Dadoo condemned the banning orders issued by Swart under the Suppression of Communism Act in a statement released after the announcements. Dadoo dismissed Swart as “extremely imagine that by removing some leaders from official posts in their organisations, he will manage to strangle the activities of these organisations.” Furthermore, Dadoo issued an additional statement that concerned his personal banning order. He warned about the darkness of fascism that was “rapidly descending upon the country.” While he did not yet offer precise details of the forthcoming Defiance Campaign, he did describe the context of the Campaign as a venture for “When all normal constitutional avenues for voicing the opposition of the people against certain unjust laws are ruthlessly closed by the Government then the people have no alternative but to express their disapproval even by defying these laws.”

By the time the Joint Executive Committee of the Congress Alliance met at Dr. Njongwe’s home in  New Brighton, Port Elizabeth on 31 May, the Malan government had banned J.B. Marks, Kotane, Bopape, Ngwevela and Dadoo under the Suppression of Communism Act. Specifically, Dadoo was ordered t resign from the SAIC and the JPC within 30 days. At a press conference held on 1 June following a meeting between the ANC and SAIC National Executive Committees, Dr. Moroka and Dr. Naicker announced that the five banned leaders of the CA would defy the Ministers ban and that they would be the first volunteers enlisted in the Defiance Campaign. They also announced that the Defiance Campaign start date was set for 26 June.

The JPC proposed the two stages of defiance. The first required volunteers to break laws such as entering prescribed areas without permits, using “whites only” facilities and remaining in town after curfew. The second stage constituted mass defiance, as it required volunteers to participate in strikes and industrial actions.

On 5 June, Ismail Bhoola, J.B. Marks, David Bopape and Dadoo addressed a gathering in Johannesburg and are subsequently arrested for defying their bans. After being represented by Bram Fischer and A. O’Dowd in court, Dadoo is sentenced to 6 months in prison while others such as Marks and Kotane only received four month sentences. Dadoo was sentenced to an additional two months because of his previous convictions in respect to his anti-war stance and his role in the 1946 Passive Resistance campaign.

22 June was declared the “Day of Volunteers” for the Defiance Campaign. The first joint mass meeting took place between the ANC and the SAIC in Natal at the Red Square and was attended by over 8,000 people. One of the speeches was made by the National Volunteer-in Chief for the ANC, Nelson Mandela. His first speech in Durban explained the purpose and the details f the campaign. The former ANCYL leader shared the stage with Natal Presidents and Secretaries of the ANC and NIC as a member of the ANC National Executive Committee.

On 26 June 1952, the Defiance Campaign was officially launched in Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth. Over 8,000 people from all racial groups spurred the campaign by contravening selected discriminatory laws and regulations and risking court imprisonment.

In July, Dadoo issued a statement from the dock before being sentenced in the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court for defying his banning orders under the Suppression of Communism Act. In the brief statement, Dadoo merely expressed concern and disappointment in the ability of the National government’s system to reduce “the overwhelming majority of our population, namely the Non-European people, to a state of chronic malnutrition, ill-health, illiteracy and poverty.” On 30 July, the Government ordered raids on the homes of African National Congress and South African Indian Congress members in 16 centres countrywide.

On 12 August, twenty leaders, including Dadoo, were arrested and indicted on a charge under another section of the Suppression of Communism Act. The charge claimed that through the Defiance Campaign they were perpetrating unlawful acts to bring about political, industrial, social, and economic change in the Union.  By definition of the Act, this was tantamount to Communism.  The trial dragged on for five months until all of the leaders were found guilty of “statuary communism.” The sentences for all of the leaders were suspended.

In November 1952, Dadoo also wrote a letter to The Star regarding a speech given to the Indo-European Joint Council at Pietermaritzburg by Archbishop Denis Hurley. In his statement, Dadoo quoted Archbishop Hurley as saying that the Indian community needed to make a “gesture of goodwill, that [Indina] accept residential segregation as a means of allaying European fears in the interests of better understanding and as a means of furthering their own development towards full citizenship.” Dadoo described this proposal as “not only wholly unjustified, but also misdirected.” Furthermore, Dadoo believed that Archishop Hurley was failing to fulfill his role as a leader of Christian values. He requested that Archbishop Hurley either work to repeal all legislation that did not “abide by the Christian principle of human brotherhood” or “resign gracefully so that Christian and human principles of equality and brotherhood may find an abiding place in our country which we love so dearly.”

At the beginning of 1953, the CPSA held its first formal underground meeting behind the retail shop of an Indian merchant in a small Eastern Transvaal town. Twenty-five delegates from all over the country and elected Dadoo to the position of Chairman of the Central Committee and Moses Kotane to the position of Secretary of the newly renamed South African communist Party (CPSA). Shortly thereafter, Dadoo and Chief Albert Luthuli, the President of the ANC, were banned again. The leadership of the SAIC passed on to Dr. Naicker. In May, Dr. Naicker was also banned and prohibited from visiting main city centres outside of Durban and from public gatherings anywhere for 12 months.

On 21 February, Chief Albert Luthuli opened the annual NIC Conference. He pledged ANC support of the Indian people in the struggle against the government’s repatriation policy and described the lauded the relationship between the ANC and the SAIC as, “our formidable alliance based on a common genuine regard for true democracy." On 24 April, Chief Luthuli called off the Defiance Campaign

On 18 July, a message was read at the unveiling of a memorial to Johannes Nkosi in Durban that was composed by Kotane, Sisulu, Marks and Dadoo.  Nkosi, a Communist leader, was killed during an anti-pass demonstration in Durban on Dingaan's Day, 1930. The various leaders honoured the contribution of “this great people’s leader” and called upon the people of South Africa to understand the moment as one of renewal in the “great struggle to make south Africa a happy country for all.”

On 26-27 September, one of the unique events was organized to bring the population together and mobilise the population. The Transvaal Youth Festival for Peace, Friendship, and Racial Harmony was held at Mias Farm. The event was hosted by the Transvaal India Youth Congress and attended by 1,500 people. Since the event was classified as a Recreational activity, banned people such as Dadoo and Kotane were able to attend. Both of these men even participated in the football match between the veterans and the youth!

In March 1954, the JPC, later renamed the National Action Counc (NAC), was established to organise the Congress of the People. Chief Luthul was elected Chairman and Sisulu and Cachalia were elected Joint Secretaries. The NAC was in close contact with all regions of the country and directed people’s demands to a drafting committee that consulted regional bodies. These members of the national drafting committee subsequently drafted the Freedom Charter in Johannesburg.

In September, Dadoo was honoured by the Transvaal Indian Youth Congress with a picnic held to celebrate his 45th birthday. Dadoo received thousands of messages from all over South Africa for his birthday.

On 25-26 June, approximately 8, 000 people met and represented the ANC, the Congress of Democrats, the SAIC, the Coloured People’s Congress, and the SACTU in Kliptown, Soweto at the Congress of the People (COP).  It was at this meeting that the SACTU became active members of the Congress Alliance and became represented on the Alliance’s National Co-ordinating Committee. The ANCYL and Transvall Indian Youth Congress worked at the event to accommodate the needs of the delegates. At this conference, the Freedom Charter was adopted and officially became the common programme of the Congresses. Notable leaders such as Monty Naicker, Albert Luthuli, Yusuf Cachalia, Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Kathy Kathrada, IC Meer, JN Singh, Fatima Meer and Dadoo were barred from attending the launch of the Charter due to banning orders. On the second day, the meeting between the 2,844 elected delegates was stormed by fully armed police and took down banners and posters in addition to documenting every delegate present. The spirit of the meeting remained high as Ida Mtwana led the delegates in the singing of freedom songs. In August, the National Action Council decided to have the Freedom Charter endorsed by a campaign to garner one million signatures. A mass conference was called for the TIC, the ANC, South African Coloured People’s Orrganisation and Congress of Democrats at Trades Hall in September in order to organise a campaign to gain the Transvaal’s quota of signatures.

In 1955, Dadoo was awarded the Isitwalandwe/Seaparankoe Awardfrom the ANC along with Chief Luthuliu and Father Trevor Huddlestone. This award was deemed the ANC’s highest honour and in honour of their contributions to the struggle for freedom and democracy. Dadoo’s mother accepted on his behalf because he was unable to attend due to his banning orders.

On 18 April, Moses Kotane and Molvi Cachalia departed to observe the Bandung Conference for Asian-African countries in Indonesia and represent the ANC and SAIC, respectively. Although he did not attend the conference, Dadoo issued a statement regarding the conference. Dadoo believed the conference was “proof in itself of the growing maturity and strength of those countries which not so long ago lay prostrate under the iron heel of imperialist colonial rule.”


On 12 January 1956, Dadoo appealed to readers of New Age to donate not only in order to keep the newspaper in publication, but also to expand the paper from four pages to eight. Dadoo referred to the “people’s paper” as “one of the most important and indispensible weapons in all these struggles.”

 At a special conference that took place 31 March 31 - 1 April, the ANC officially adopted the Freedom Charter despite disruptions by the Africanists.

On 25-26 August, the TIC held a conference at Gandhi Hall in Johannesburg to discuss the Group Areas Act. Over 1,500 Indians attended and Dadoo issued a statement to be read at the conference. Dadoo’s statement urged Indians not to comply with the Group Areas Act and move to “Lenasia or any other group areas set aside” for Indians. Furthermore, he hoped people would not be compelled to think they could negotiate any type of fair deal with the government and called upon Indian landlords “to cease charging goodwill money and exorbitant rents” in order to support fellow Indians.

At the SAIC’s 22nd annual conference held on 19 -22 October, the SAIC declared that the Freedom Charter “reflected the true aims of the overwhelming majority of the people of our country – no one dare disregard it and no political organisation can succeed without satisfying these aims and any effort to thwart them will be defeated by the people.”  Although he was still the President of the SAIC, Dadoo was unable to openly participate due to his banning order.

In 1957, Dadoo was banned for an additional five years from attending any gatherings or meetings.

On 13-14 December, over 200 delegates attended the ANC annual conference and passed a resolution to support the Freedom Charter and the Congress Alliance. Additionally, it was decided at the conference to call for mass action against the pass laws and increase pressure towards an economic boycott from all African countries.1959

In 1959, the TIC launched a campaign to prevent the visit of Frank Worrell’s West Indies cricket team because it encouraged the Government’s apartheid policy. Dadoo was a fan and a Patron of the Witwatersrand Indian Cricket Union (WICU).  Since a small section of WICU officials wanted to “keep politics out of sports,” they deposed Dadoo from the panel of Patrons of the WICU.  In his place they appointed the Captain of the West Indies team as a patron.  Dadoo was eventually reinstated in the late 1960s.

CHECK COMMI BOOK October 10, The November 1952 Darragh Hall meeting is hailed as a historic one, which leads to a group of mainly White Communists, committed to the principles of non-racialism, to establish the Congress of Democrats (COD).

February, Dr TE Donges, the Minister of the Interior, announces that the National Party Government has decided to abolish the Smuts-Gandhi Agreement of 1914.  The South African Indian Congress responds in a letter to Dr DF Malan, the Prime Minister, perhaps one of the last letters written by the Indian political body in South Africa to the Nationalist government.----1953


Appendix 1: freedom fighters on the march: a message from Dr. Y. M. Dadoo to the Indian people

--recap of many of the aspects of the struggle

--commends the brave work of many soldiers in many parts of the struggle

--calling on the Youth to join the fight

Appendix 2: the effects of the South African government’s educational policy on the education of the Indian people

--dismantles educational system and how it weighs in favour of Europeans

--effect of Group Areas Act on education→had to move school into Lenasia




[1]South African Communists speak


Yusuf Mohamed Dadoo South Africa's Freedom Struggle: Statements, Speeches and Articles including Correspondence with Mahatma Gandhi

Support South African History Online

Donate and Make African History Matter

South African History Online is a non profit organisation. We depend on public support to build our website into the most comprehensive educational resource and encyclopaedia on African history.

Your support will help us to build and maintain partnerships with educational institutions in order to strengthen teaching, research and free access to our content.