Memorandum To The United Nations Special Committee Against Apartheid, April 1964 

On behalf of the South African Indian Congress I express my appreciation for this opportunity to address you.

This is not the first time that a representative of my organisation has been accorded the privilege of making submissions to those agencies of the United Nations Organisation concerned with one of the most important moral testing points for the whole of humanity - the theory and practice of the racial regime which holds power in South Africa.

My people - the 600,000 Indians - have a proud and noble tradition of opposition, struggle and sacrifice against the white supremacy State. Brought to South Africa more than a century ago to satisfy the insatiable greed for cheap labour and bigger profits, the Indian people have never been ready to submit to herrenvolkism and all that it means to those whose skin colour is not White. As long ago as the beginning of this century the great Mahatma Gandhi who founded the Natal Indian Congress, the principal unit of my organization, led my people in a campaign of resistance against the now entrenched pattern of treating non-whites as foreigners and strangers in the land of their birth. He, together with many of his colleagues, was thrown into jail.

In the half century which has passed since then, the Indian people have played no small part in the resistance movement against white rule. For us it is a matter of pride that our organisation, following the 1946 Passive Resistance Campaign, played such an important role in placing the question of the treatment of South African Indians on the agenda of the United Nations Organisation, and thus, for the first time, gaining acceptance that the treatment of non-white people in South Africa is no domestic matter but goes to the very root of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It is also a matter of pride for us that the Indian people have over and over again rejected with contempt the efforts by the South African State to divide them from the African people in their common ideal to create a non-racial democracy in our land. The vicious discrimination to which Indians are subjected is repeated tenfold when it comes to the African people. We have always recognised that our fate is inextricably tied up with that of our African brothers whose organisation, the African National Congress, stands at the head of the movement for national liberation. Together with the African National Congress, the South African Coloured Peoples' Congress, the South African Congress of Democrats, and the South African Congress of Trade Unions, our organisation has made the Freedom charter part of its aims and objects and we are fully committed to its achievement. It follows that we can accept nothing less than the creation of a society in which those who do not accept majority rule have no place.

In the last fifteen years many members of the South African Indian Congress have demonstrated in practice that they are prepared to fight in order to destroy the Verwoerd regime. The thousands who went to gaol during the Defiance Campaign, those who were accused for four years in the Treason Trial, those arrested during the 1960 State of Emergency; all this and more speaks of a determination on the part of my people in the heroic struggle for liberation. During the last few years when almost all avenues of peaceful protest have been closed, many Indians have found themselves amongst those who are prepared to die rather than submit. Savage sentences of up to twenty years are being served by members of my organisation. In the infamous Rivonia Trial one of our leaders, Ahmed Kathrada, is in the dock together with men like Mandela, Sisulu, Bernstein and others.

The men in the Rivonia Trial today stand in the shadow of the gallows and whether they are allowed to die will depend on the extent to which the members of the United Nations Organisation respond to their responsibilities.

The political prisoners in South Africa, over 5,000 of whom crowd Verwoerd's gaols, represent the cream of the resistance movement. The oppressed and fighting people of South Africa will never submit to Verwoerd's tyranny despite an almost Job-like patience which they have displayed for over fifty years. The stage has been reached where it would be both absurd and unreal to counsel moderation and constitutional methods of persuasion. Every protest, every demonstration, every exhortation has been met with the bullet, the baton, and the hangman's noose.

The enormity of the situation requires to be re-emphasised. For in this second half of the twentieth century, when the world is moving inexorably towards the eradication of race and national oppression, Verwoerd and his clique are still at large to spread their insults and race poison at home and in important world councils. They are encouraged and feel their strength because they are not alone. No amount of sanctimonious condemnation of apartheid and all its evils will blind mankind to the fact that Verwoerd has important friends and allies.

I refer particularly to a few governments who would have us believe that they are the bastions of the free world but who at the same time clutch South Africa to their protective bosoms. They endeavour to render ineffective the resolve of the vast majority of mankind to put an end to the shame of apartheid. The "Saracen" armoured cars, the machine guns and rifles which left seventy dead at Sharpeville and which are still used to answer every legitimate expression of political opposition, have their origin in the arms factories of these very countries.

The luxury of the white minority which serves to keep Verwoerd economically prosperous and stable is fed by investors and traders who have a stake in the continuation of apartheid because of its effectiveness in bringing in maximum returns. Countries like Britain and the United States of America who make profit out of apartheid and who attempt to undermine every real effort for United Nations action are as much a part of this regime as if they were actually sitting in its executive councils.

Apartheid is not only a moral question. It is bound up with the question of maintaining international peace, particularly on the African continent. The existence of the white-dominated State constitutes a daily provocation to the pride and self-respect of every non-white outside South Africa. It further constitutes a concrete threat to the achievements of the independence movements in Africa. By virtue of its arms build-up and its connection with the Salazar colonialists it has become an important factor in the conspiracy to turn the clock back in Africa and to re-establish foreign control in the liberated areas. Its collaboration with, and assistance to, the Tshombe group in the Congo is just one example of this. Nor has Verwoerd abandoned his Government's declared aim to add the three British Protectorates to his cheap-labour reservoirs. This live threat to the peace and security of the continent of Africa has in it the seeds of a world-wide conflagration.

It does not require a great deal of argument to become convinced that what is going on in South Africa is the responsibility of all humanity. If only the nations of the world had responded to that responsibility in time in the case of Nazi Germany, all the blood-letting might have been avoided.

It is no longer a question of whether there will be a clash. It is a question of when and how many lives will be lost or ruined. A shirking by the nations of the world of their responsibilities will not, in the long run, prevent the inevitable victory of the people. It will make the coming struggle more protracted, more bitter and more bloody. It will increase its dimensions. United and effective world action could isolate and cut out this cancer and will make the inevitable transformation less costly and less painful.

For the mass of the non-white people in South Africa time is running out and patience is wearing thin. Inspired as they are by what has already been done at the united Nations, they look to this forum to play its true role in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which is its very foundation. If it does not carry out this responsibility it will reveal an impotence which will undermine the confidence of people everywhere in its humanistic purposes and declarations.

Not one session of the United Nations Organisation has passed without a scathing condemnation of the system of apartheid and without an appeal to the South African Government to change its ways and to start abandoning its vile policies. Far from being persuaded the South African Government has arrogantly spat contempt and defiance at this world body. It is a measure of the strong feeling of revulsion which people have towards this form of racial barbarism that over half the countries of the world had by 1963 complied with the spirit of the United Nations resolutions relating to sanctions and arms embargo.

But the continued direct and indirect support which flows to Verwoerd from those who are his business partners had enabled him to claim an expansion in foreign trade and an unprecedented economic boom. Up to now even the limited steps taken by the United Nations have been welcomed by us all, but the time has come when nothing short of mandatory international action, backed by United Nations strength, will serve to make an effective contribution to the expressed desire of the United Nations for an end to the fascist practices of South Africa. In putting forward this proposal we stand together with the most important leadership of the African people - the African National Congress.

The reluctance to take effective measures because of the argument that it would also do harm to the non-white people does not bear analysis. Every nation represented here has, at some stage or another in its history, been caned upon to make sacrifices in an attempt to stamp out tyranny. Lives have been lost and in many cases the suffering has been immeasurable. If suffering and deprivation caused by such struggles was the sole measuring rod, the whole of humanity would still be living in bondage.

Of course the imposition of effective sanctions in all fields will result in short-term deprivation to the non-white people. But of what importance is such deprivation when compared to the prolonged and unmitigated agony of a life under apartheid.

The bluff and the boast are weapons in the armoury of racists everywhere. When Verwoerd tells the world that the non-white will suffer more than he will, if it isolated South Africa and strangled it economically, he is drawing on these weapons. He, and all who make profit out of apartheid, know very well that those who would be dealt the death blow by this sort of action are the very ones who keep apartheid going because of its immense financial profits. It is precisely for this reason that not one representative voice of the non-white people has even hinted at opposition to various far-reaching and effective measures which have been proposed from time to time. Indeed, it is for this very reason that the non-white people call for, and wholeheartedly support, effective sanctions measures against the Verwoerd regime.

In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, I want to refer to the fact that the United Nations resolution on the Rivonia Trial and on the thousands of other political prisoners, has been treated with contempt by the South African Government. There are today over forty Africans in the death cells waiting for the door to be opened and for the short walk to the scaffold. A further three have been added when Mini and his two colleagues were sentenced to death two weeks ago. The men in the Rivonia Trial and in dozens of other political trials throughout the country are still undergoing the ordeal of the expectation of what is to come. We all owe it to those heroic victims of apartheid, and the oppressed people they represent, that the racist regime be urgently prevented from pressing on with its persecution and its judicial killings.

Allow me to repeat. The time for talking is past. The vocabulary of condemnation has run out. A failure to take effective action will only encourage the South African Government in its belief that it can with impunity ignore United Nations appeals for sanity. Nothing less than the most energetic enforcement of the 1962 and the 1963 sanctions resolutions can have the desired effect. Any delay in implementing this and any further pandering to those big Powers who attempt to sabotage every real effort, will weaken the authority and prestige of the United Nations as an international force for peace, security and justice. What is at stake here is not only the future of the South African people but, in a large measure, the future of the United Nations Organisation itself.

Y. M. Dadoo
South African Indian Congress

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

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