Statement In Court At Trial For Speech At Benoni, January 31, 1941

(Dr. Dadoo, then Secretary of the Non-European United Front, was sentenced to four months` imprisonment with hard labour on a charge of making statements at the Benoni Location calculated to incite the public to oppose the Government. He had been arrested under Emergency Regulations for making an anti-war speech.)

This is the second occasion on which I have been dictated by a sense of duty to submit a statement to Court.

The Non-European United Front, in duty bound to its principle of working for the emancipation of the Non-European people, and in honour bound to the confidence reposed in it by the masses of the people, must carry on the struggle against pass laws, poll tax, pick-ups, anti-Asiatic legislation, segregation, colour bar in industries, low wages, sweated labour, poverty, unemployment, and all the other laws that oppress our people, and must fight for the recognition of African trade unions and full rights of citizenship. In other words, a relentless struggle for the democratic rights of the Non-European people must be carried on.

In pursuance of this sacred task, we have no other alternative but to explain to our people the true nature of the war that is raging in Europe, Africa and other parts of the world, and to give them a proper guidance as to the attitude they should adopt.

The rulers of the British Empire have time and again proclaimed that they are fighting the war for democracy and yet, when the hungry and starving millions of India, South Africa and other parts of the vast colonial empire ask that these democratic rights be extended to them first before they be asked to fight for what the imperialists call "the independence of small nations of Europe", they are beaten up, flung into prisons and concentration camps and subjected to all sorts of brutalities.

As D. N. Pritt, K.C., M.P., one of the outstanding leaders of the progressive section of British public opinion, points out:

"They wage war to preserve the system of exploitation at home and in the colonial Empire."

We maintain that it is our legitimate right to criticise a policy of the Government which affects the people adversely. Even the Cabinet Ministers are saying that the people have the freedom of criticism. To quote one example, may I be allowed to mention that Mr. J. H. Hofmeyr, the Minister of Finance, said in a broadcast speech on Tuesday, 21st January:

"Voltaire said: 'I don't agree with a word you say, but I shall fight to the death for your right to say it.` How utterly incongruous these words would sound in a dictator country today? How utterly in conflict they are with the spirit of Nazism, Fascism, or any other form of authoritarianism?

"The first assault of dictatorship is on freedom of criticism. For the normal functioning of democracy, freedom of criticism is indispensable."

I wonder what Mr. Hofmeyr thinks of the Government of which he is a responsible member? The Government has not allowed the Non-Europeans the freedom of criticism which according to Mr. Hofmeyr, is the indispensable function of democracy; otherwise, I should not be standing here in the dock this morning.

Instead the Government has resorted to the weapons of oppression to suppress the right of the freedom of speech.

Anti-fascists who have all long stood and fought for the principles of democracy have been put into concentration camps whilst Nazis and Fascists are allowed to overrun the country to preach the dangerous and abhorrent doctrines of fascism.

Under the democracy of the Union Government there is a very big difference in the allowances given to the families of European soldiers compared with the Non-European soldiers.

The struggle of the Non-European people for liberation is not an isolated struggle; it is merely a continuation of the struggle of the oppressed masses carried on in many lands. Four hundred million Indian people are at this very moment carrying on the struggle. The President of the Indian National Congress, Moulana Abul Kalam Azad, is languishing in jail. That great-hearted and world respected leader, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, is undergoing four years` hard labour in the jail of British imperialism. Thousands of others are suffering the same fate. The people of South Africa are playing their part. The Government may imprison me, it can fling hundreds and thousands into jail and concentration camps, but it cannot and it shall not suppress the demand for freedom which arises from the crying hearts of the Non-Europeans and other oppressed people.

The struggle goes on

In conclusion, I make this appeal to the Non-Europeans of South Africa. African, Coloured, Indian, Malay, all Non-Europeans unite! Create a fighting unity! Have confidence in your own mass strength, and carry on the struggle with unflagging determination until we have a People's Government which will end the persecution of Non-Europeans and recognise our rights to live as human beings, institute real machinery of democracy and work for a just peace which will put an end to the devastation of war.

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

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