Speech At Anti-Pass Conference, Johannesburg, December 4, 1943

An Anti-Pass Conference called by the Communist Party was held in Johannesburg on November 21, 1943. One hundred and fifty-three delegates and an audience of over 200 visitors were present. Speaking from a platform decorated with banners - Mayibuye i Afrika! - and a portrait of Johannes Nkosi, the Communist leader who was killed by the police during the great anti-pass demonstration in Durban on Dingaan Day, 1930, the Chairman, Dr. Y. M. Dadoo, opened the Conference.

"This Conference", he said, "is one of the most important of recent times for the Non-European people. Today we realise that the basis of the brutal oppression of the African people is the pass laws. We have seen that during this war the war effort against Fascism has been hampered and hindered by the Government. There was only one way for a full war effort against Fascism, and that is by mobilising the entire population of the country. This can only be done properly and effectively if the oppression and exploitation of the Non-European people is removed. This is the only way of galvanising the Non-European people to rise in defence of their own country and in defence of freedom against the Axis. The Government has failed in this great task."

"As the danger of Fascism retreats from the shores of Africa, new dangers arise before the Non-European people. The time has come for the Non-European people to raise their voices, to carry on a campaign against the pass laws, the badge of slavery which humiliates them. You have come here determined to win the support of your organisations for a great anti-pass campaign as a step toward the liberation of our people. We who are here will not be alone. If we campaign properly we will win the support of the Indian and Coloured people; if we campaign properly we will win the support of the progressive Europeans. You are charged this morning with the responsibility of giving a lead to your people in the greatest of all fights, the fight for national liberation."

After discussion the following were elected to the committee: Messrs. Mofutsanyana, Bopape, Marks, Radebe, Moema, Pillay, Mafethe, Mabuse, Ramohanoe, Dadoo, Fish, Xaba, Mokoena, Monongoaha and Josie Palmer. The committee has been charged with the responsibility of setting up regional committees in all areas throughout South Africa as a preliminary to the convening of a national anti-pass conference in Easter 1944 in cooperation with the African National Congress. The following resolution has been sent to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Native Affairs:

"The conference of African organisations on the Reef and Pretoria condemns the pass laws which are contrary to the promises of freedom contained in the Atlantic Charter, and calls for the immediate abolition of these laws which oppress and humiliate the African people."

The resolution was also sent to members of the Native Representative Council with the request that they take the matter up strongly with the Government. A further resolution requested the Native Representatives in Parliament and the Senate to introduce a Bill for the abolition of pass laws at the next session of Parliament.

In closing the conference Dr. Y. M. Dadoo, the Chairman, said: "This has been an historic conference which will deliver a tremendous blow and will shiver the chains that hold the African people. Our task will not be easy. But like the generals of an army, we must plan our campaign to remedy the weaknesses of past struggles and avoid past mistakes. The stage is set for the great offensive, the offensive of the African people for their rights. We will not rest until we have reached our objective."

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

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