Explore some of the key moments and events that have helped shape the course of South African Communist Party. Follow the links for more detail.


William H. Andrews (Bill), a pioneer of the trade union movement and first General Secretary of the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA), is born in Suffolk, England.


Sidney Percival Bunting, the son of Sir Percy William Bunting, is born in London.


Sidney Percival Bunting wins the Chancellor’s Prize at Magdalene College, Oxford.


William H. Andrews immigrates to South Africa from England.


Clements Kadalie the future leader of the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU) is born in Malawi.

Edwin Thabo Mofutsanyana long standing member of the CPSA is born in Witzieshoek in the Orange Free State (OFS _ now Free State Province).


Sidney Percival Bunting volunteers to serve in the British army in the Second Anglo-Boer War. When the war ends, he stays on and settles in Johannesburg, Transvaal (now Gauteng Province) where he works as a lawyer.


William H. Andrews helps found the first Trades and Labour Council in South Africa.


Moses Mauane Kotane is born at Tamposstad near Zeerust in the District of Rustenberg, Transvaal, the second son of 11 children, to Samuel Segogwane and Siporah Mmadira Kotane, both prominent members of the local community.


23 April

Abram (Bram) Fischer is born in the Orange Free State.


5 September

Dr Yusuf Dadoo, future leader of the Transvaal Indian Congress (TIC), South African Indian Congress (SAIC)) and the South African Communist Party (SACP), is born in Krugersdorp, Transvaal (now Gauteng)

9 – 11 October

William H. Andrews becomes the first chairman of the South African Labour Party at its founding conference in Johannesburg. Its official newspaper is entitled “The Worker”.


Sidney Percival Bunting enters politics by joining the South African Labour Party.


Sam Kahn, future trade union and SACP, leader is born in Cape Town.


William H. Andrews is elected to the South Africa Parliament as Labour Party member.


Sidney Percival Bunting is elected Labour Party member in the Transvaal Provincial Council.


William H. Andrews is not re-elected to the South African Parliament as a result of disagreements with the Labour Party about the First World War and South Africa's participation in it.


International Socialist League (ISL) is formed and William H. Andrews is elected as Chairman and David Ivor Jones as Secretary. Other leading figures in the ISL include the Buntings, the Sachs brothers and the First family. The ISL launches its own newspaper “The International”. The ISL begins recruiting black workers such as Reuben Alfred Cetiwa, Johnny Gomes, Hamilton Kraai, R. K. Moodley, B.L. Sigamoney, and Thomas William Thibedi. In Cape Town, under the Industrial Socialist League, left wing trade unions organized by White Anarchism Syndicalist union activists began emerging amongst Coloured, African and Indian workers.


9 January

Bunting introduces a “Petition of Rights” for African Workers at the first national conference of the ISL, held in Johannesburg.


The Russian Revolution takes place after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1914.


The Communist International (Comintern), also known as the Third International (1919–1943), an international organization that advocated world communism and controlled by the Soviet Union, is launched.

Clements Kadalie forms the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU).


William H. Andrews organises the anti-war International Socialist League (ISL). Brian Percy Bunting, son of Sydney Percival Bunting, is born in Johannesburg.


The Industrial Socialist League and the Communist League (a splinter group of the ISL) unite to form the first Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA). Their application to Moscow to become the official Communist Party of South Africa is refused.


30 July - 1 August

The founding conference of the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) takes place in Cape Town and the CPSA’s manifesto is adopted.

The ISL, together with the Social Democratic Federation of Cape Town, Communist Party of Cape Town, Jewish Socialist Society of Cape Town, Jewish Socialist Society (Poalei Zion) of Johannesburg, Marxian Club of Durban, and other Socialist bodies and individuals form the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA). Andrews is elected as the CPSA’s first General Secretary and Sidney Bunting is elected Treasurer and becomes the editor of this organisation’s publication, The International.


2 June

Sidney Bunting and his wife, Rebecca, travel to Moscow, Russia, to attend the Congress of the Communist International. November, William H. Andrews is elected to the Executive Committee of the Communist International and spends most of 1923 in Russia. On his return he becomes the Secretary of the Communist Party of South Africa



Due to the 1922 Miner’s strike the CPSA does not hold a congress. The official second congress is opened by Andrews at the Trades Hall in Johannesburg. Julius First (father of Ruth Heloise First) is elected as Chairman.


Andrews leaves for Russia to take up duties as a full-time officer on the Comintern Committee. As a result, Bunting takes his place as Secretary of the CPSA.

14 December

At a meeting for the Central Committee of the CPSA, a letter from veteran trade unionist, Harry Haynes, is read out voicing his objection to the ‘native policy’ which had been under serious debate.


John Beaver Marks and Johannes Nkosi join the Party.


Andrews returns to South Africa. is elected as the first General Secretary of the South African Association of Employees' Organisations, which later becomes the South African Trade Union Congress (TUC).

30 December

The third conference of the CPSA is dominated by the issue of whether to allow Africans membership. Bunting leads the pro-membership group while Andrews leads the opposition. All the delegates at the conference are white except for three Africans mentioned in the register as “visitors” – T. Mbeki, J.M.K Sibella and S. Silwana. A resolution is passed at the conference to focus on mass action and include Africans. Sidney Percival Bunting is elected as Chairman of the CPSA.


Various officials of the CPSA join the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU) and members of the ICU had also joined the CPSA. William H. Andrews resigns from his capacity as secretary of the CPSA but retains his membership to the Party.

A CPSA night school in Ferreirastown, Johannesburg is established. James La Guma and Johnny Gomes join the Party in Cape Town.


The CPSA holds its annual conference in Cape Town. T.W. Thibedi is the first black person to be elected to The Party’s central committee. For the first time three black people are present as delegates: J. Gomes, E.J. Khaile, P. De Norman.


21 June

The Central Committee decides that articles be published in African languages in the South African Worker.

16 December

At the ICU National Council meeting in Port Elizabeth a motion is put forward by George Champion requiring all communists to be expelled from the ICU. At the time four or five members of the ICU National Committee were members of the CPSA, all refused to resign. As a result, all communist members were kicked out of the ICU.


The annual CPSA Conference takes place in Cape Town. During the conference a row breaks out between Harrison and Bunting which results in Harrison’s expulsion from the Party for 6 months.


Edwin Thabo Mofutsanyana and his wife Josie Palmer join the CPSA

As official delegate for the CPSA, La Guma travels to Brussels for the first international conference of the League Against Imperialism. A member of the delegation is African National Congress (ANC) President Josiah Tshangana Gumede. During his trip, he visits Russia where he meets with Bukharin, the leading person in the Comintern.


Kotane joins the Communist Party night school.

The CPSA has a successful demonstration together with the ANC, attended by 5000 people.


The outcome of the meeting between La Guma and Bukharin is a new draft resolution sent back to South Africa “suggesting” the CPSA adopt a new slogan: “An independent Native republic as a step towards a workers’ and peasants’ government”.  The slogan was later incorporated in the new programme of the Communist Party of South Africa at its conference held at the Inchcape Hall, Johannesburg. The full slogan read: ‘An independent native South African republic as a stage towards a workers’ and peasants’ republic, with full equal rights for all races, black, coloured and white’.[i]  This leads to an upsurge in membership of Africans in the Party.

March 1928

T W Thibedi held a meeting in the Potchefstroom location, Makweteng, Western Transvaal (now known as North West Province), which drew over 400 people.[1] After he was arrested for holding the meeting, members of the audience marched to the magistrate’s office in protest, where “blows were exchanged” in a confrontation with over 100 whites opposing the meeting.[2] Thibedi was charged under the Native Administration Act of 1927, but the case was ruled in his favour as the judge noted that the CPSA’s [Communist Party of South Africa] struggle was between the “haves and the have-nots and not on the subject of race”.[3]

April 1928: Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) chairman Sidney Percival (SP) Bunting and Molly Wolton (CPSA member and activist in the 1920s) hold a meeting in the Potchefstroom location. The conflict between the location residents and the white town inhabitants became increasingly violent, evidenced by the army being present at a meeting.[1]

May 1928

Within two months the CPSA had gained a local membership of 700. Edwin Mofutsanyana, who was a prolific CPSA activist in Potchefstroom, was tasked with running the branch with fellow CPSA member Shadrach Kotu in June 1928. While Mofutsanyana and Kotu did not get along particularly well, their running of the branch was met with repression by the notoriously violent location superintendent, Andries Weeks, who tried to get them ejected from Makweteng while continually harassing and arresting them.[1] This spurred Mofutsanyana to fight with tenacity over lodgers’ permits and to use the courts to fight evictions.[2]


[1] Edgar, Robert R. The Making of an African Communist: Edwin Thabo Mofutsanyana and the Communist Party of South Africa 1927-1939 (Pretoria: Unisa Press, 2005), p.9.

[2] Ibid., p.9.


The draft resolution is to be discussed and adopted at the sixth world congress of the Comintern. The CPSA is allowed three delegates and Sidney Bunting, his wife and Eddie Roux attend. The Congress accepts the resolution. Those expelled from the ICU form the Non-European Trade Union Federation with Bennie Weinbren as the Chairman and T.W. Thibedi as the General Secretary, both are CPSA members.


[1] Edgar. The Making of an African Communist”, p.10.

[2] Ibid., p.11.

29 December - 2 January [1929] (28 December 1928 – 1 January 1929)[ii]

The CPSA holds its annual conference in Johannesburg where the delegates vote in the new programme approving the Comintern’s orders for the Black Republic. A decision is also taken for the Party to contest in the general elections with Wolton contesting for the Cape Flats and Bunting for Tembuland (both lose). Bunting is voted as Chairman and Treasurer, Solly Sachs as Vice-Chairman and Douglas Wolton as General Secretary and Editor.

The CPSA designates December 16th as a day to commemorate the freedom struggle and mobilises its members around the country to hold demonstrations against the pass laws.


The CPSA engages in struggles across South Africa and publishes various newspapers including Umsebenzi and The Worker. William H. Andrews is expelled from the CPSA. Bunting and Roux establish the League of African Rights and it is launched with Gumede as president, Bunting as chairman and Roux joint secretary with Albert Nzula. This comes from a directive from the Comintern, however, at the end of the year a telegram arrives from Moscow ordering dissolution of the League.

31 January

Nzula is the first African to address the weekly Sunday night Communist Party meeting on the Johannesburg City Hall steps.


Wolton leaves for England and Moscow and his position as General Secretary of the CPSA is filled by Nzula.

1 September

At the second national conference of the SA Federation of Trade Unions, held at Inchcape Hall, Johannesburg, Kotane is elected as vice-chairman. At the suggestion of Albert Nzula, Kotane joins the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA).

Together with Gumede, S.P. Bunting, Nzula and others, Kotane forms the League of African Rights.

16 December

A man is killed at a Potchefstroom meeting by a bullet intended for Marks and Motfutsanyana.

16 December 1929

The CPSA held a rally remembering the struggle against white domination and the battle between the Boers and Dingaan. The meeting was addressed by CPSA activist Sammy Marks and there were many white people present in the crowd.[1] Marks’ speech incensed the white members of the crowd who began hurling insults and interrupting him. Joseph Weeks, brother of superintendent Andries Weeks, then fired a gun injuring four black members of the audience. One man, Herman Lithipe, died a few days later.[2]


The African National Congress (ANC) rejects Communism.

Sam Kahn joins the CPSA.

Josie Palmer visits the USSR and participates in the Seventh Congress of the Comintern.

T.W. Thibedi is expelled from the CPSA.

Johannes Nkosi, one of the first black leaders in the CPSA, is killed in violent clashes with the police during an anti-pass campaign in Durban, Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal)

January to May 1930

Julia Wells describes the stayaway of location residents during the months January to May 1930 in The Day the Town Stood Still, where women fought against the imposition of lodgers’ permits forcing men to not to go to work.[1] Josie Mpama was a key activist in the Potchefstroom location. She had led anti-pass campaigns from 1928 through to 1930.  When Mpama was asked why women were more politically active than men, she responded saying: “Because men are cowards. They are afraid of losing their jobs!” Women employed a variety of tactics to challenge the incessant badgering by Weeks over the lodger’s permits.

30 November

An issue of the South African Worker carries an article by Kotane in the form of a letter headed, “African Workers Criticise the Proposed Riotous Assemblies Act Amendment”

Douglas Wolton returns from Moscow. He is appointed by the Executive to take over Bunting’s duties


At the ninth conference of the CPSA, Wolton announces that he has been ordered by the Comintern to “purge the party of rightist deviations” and produces a list of candidates for confirmation into the new leadership of the Party

20 December

Ikaka Labasebenzi (Shield of the Workers) is formed to provide legal defence mainly for Communists who faced prosecution under the Riotous Assemblies Act. Kotane serves as Ikaka’s president for some years.

December 1930

Both Mpama and Mofutsanyana addressed a crowd in Potchefstroom and urged people to burn their passes.[1]



Kotane becomes the compositor of the CPSA’s paper Umsebenzi.

Alfred Nzulu and, a few months later, Moses Kotane leaves South Africa to study at the Lenin School in Moscow.

1 May

The CPSA organizes a May Day rally of African and White workers in Witwatersrand.

4 September

A copy of the political bureau is published with names of members to be expelled. On the list are S.P. Bunting, C.B Tyler, Solly Sachs, J.A. La Guma and Bill Andrews.


The sales of Umsebenzi fall from 5000 a week to 5000 a fortnight.

1931:  Lodgers’ fee is abolished, only to be recouped in other forms.[1]

[1] Robert Edgar. The Making of an African Communist, pp.12-13.


Sam Kahn earns an LL. B degree from the University of Cape Town.

Bram Fischer begins his studies at Oxford, England, as a Rhodes Scholar after completing his studies in South Africa.


Kotane leaves the Soviet Union for South Africa.



Kotane arrives back in South Africa and is shocked to find the CPSA, due to Wolton’s ‘purges’, has dwindled. Kotane is given a false name (K. Motsoakai) and ordered to live in hiding in Sophiatown. At the 4th Plenum, attended by delegates from all over the country, Kotane is elected to the Political Bureau and as the general secretary and political editor of Umsebenzi.

Nzula dies of pneumonia in Moscow at the early age of 28.

Sidney Percival Bunting produces a pamphlet called “An African Prospect and Appeal to Young Africa, East, West, Central, South” calling for the creation of a socialist order across the continent.

11 April

Denis Theodore Goldberg is born.


Wolton is arrested and sentenced to three months imprisonment due to his involvement in a tram-and-bus strike in Cape Town.


Wolton is released from jail and accepts a position to work at the Yorkshire Times in England.

Lazar Bach takes over from Wolton at the CPSA political bureau.


Bram Fischer returns to South Africa to begin his career as a member of the Johannesburg Bar.

George Gangen Poonen and H.A. Naidoo, two young Indian workers, are recruited by Eddie Roux into the Party in Durban. They become the first Indian members of CPSA and go on to become some of the most influential members of the Party in Natal and the Natal Indian Congress (NIC).


Kotane goes on a tour of South African to visit Party branches.

24, 27 May & June 2

A special meeting is called to deal with the factionalism that had formed between Kotane and Bach (who had taken over after Wolton left the country in 1933). However, the meeting is not able to come to a resolution.


Kotane speaks at an anti-fascist conference convened by the South African Trades and Labour Council.

16 December

The CPSA organizes nine separate meetings in the townships to overcome the restrictions of the Urban Areas Act. A car with Party speakers visits each site in turn.


James La Gama initiates the formation of the National Liberation League (NLL) with Cissie Gool elected its president and la Gama as Secretary. Sam Kahn is an organiser of the National Liberation League.


Due to the split between Bach and Kotane, a number of Kotane supporters are suspended or expelled from the Party. Behind the scenes Roux, Kotane and Ngedlane are suspended from the Political Bureau.

9 August

Kotane leaves for Moscow travelling via Lourenco Marques (now Maputo).


Eddie Roux and Moses Kotane are removed from the political bureau. A new directive is received from Moscow to establish a National or Worker’s Front in South Africa. Many of those who were purged by Wolton return to the Communist Party.

9 November

Kotane arrives in Moscow but is too late for the Comintern Congress. After two sessions the commission adjourns without a conclusion, and never reassembles.

15-18 December

A meeting, which becomes known as the All-African Convention (AAC), is called in Bloemfontein to demonstrate against the racial policies of Prime Minister Hertzog. Party leaders Marks and Mofutsanyana are elected to various standing committees set up by the Convention. A decision is taken to boycott the elections in 1936.


5-8 April

A Communist Party Plenum pledges its support for the AAC. The Plenum also resolves to form a Farmer-Labour Party which never materializes.

25 May

Sidney Percival Bunting dies from a stroke in Johannesburg.


Kotane returns from Moscow. He is co-opted back onto the Political Bureau, but he is not put back in charge of the Party newspaper or the secretaryship.


The CPSA’s political strategy is outlined in a pamphlet Organize a People’s Front in South Africa which calls for one united front against Anglo-Boer imperialism.


Andrews goes to Moscow to represent the South African Friends of the Soviet Union at the celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the Soviet Union.

The CPSA brings out a new publication called ‘The Guardian’.

The National Liberation League calls for a “National Convention of the Subject People of South Africa.”

Marks is excluded for a technical breach of regulations, but is allowed to rejoin the Party a couple of years later.


Kotane moves from Johannesburg to Cape Town and stays with Roux. Shortly after his arrival, Kotane receives a letter notifying him that he has been suspended from the Political Bureau of the CPSA, but he remains a member. Kotane and Roux co-operated in the publication of ‘The African Defender’, a hang-over from ‘Ikaka Labasebenzi’.


Sam Kahn is elected to the Central Executive Committee of the CPSA, a position he holds almost continuously until the party’s dissolution in 1950.

Bram Fischer becomes a member of the CPSA (according to his statement from the dock in 1966).

The CPSA transfers its headquarters to Cape Town.


The Party journal, ‘Umsebenzi/South African Worker’, ceases publication due to a lack of funds.

1 May

William H. Andrews is readmitted into the CPSA

29 December

The conference of the Central Committee takes place in Johannesburg as the result of pressure from the Cape Town and Durban districts. Moses Kotane is elected General Secretary of the CPSA at this conference. attends a reception held by the CPSA Central Committee during its annual conference in Johannesburg.


Yusuf Dadoo joins the CPSA early in 1939. He joins the City Branch of the Communist Party of South Africa and attends study classes run by Michael Harmel and Edwin Mofutsanyana.

Brian Percy Bunting graduates from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, Transvaal (now Gauteng).

Moses Kotane becomes General Secretary of the CPSA, taking over from Mofutsanyana. He is also the Chairman of the Cape Town Central Branch of the ANC.


Kotane is one of three delegates representing the Cape Western Province in a large deputation from the ANC and the Congress of Urban Advisory Boards which interviewed the Minister of Native Affairs around a large number of African grievances.


William H. Andrews serves as Chairman of the CPSA's Central Committee.

Bram Fischer serves on the Johannesburg District Committee and the Central Committee of the CPSA.

Joe Slovo becomes an active member of the CPSA

Dadoo is elected to the Johannesburg District Committee of the CPSA March,

The National Conference of the CPSA endorses the Central Committee’s opposition to WWII. It agrees to fight pro-Nazi white nationalists at home and begins to agitate amongst the black community for full democratic rights.


At the ANC annual conference in Bloemfontein, Kotane and Marks are elected to the Resolutions Committee. Mofutsanyana is nominated by the newly elected President General, Dr. Alfred Bitini Xuma, to serve as Secretary for Labour in his Cabinet.



Dadoo is elected to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of South Africa. He serves on the Central Committee for the next 42 years, and other than when he becomes terminally ill, does not miss a session of the Party’s Central Committee.

22 June

Germany invades the Soviet Union. The Communist Party's Central Committee supports the Soviet Union’s participation in World War II. This problem has serious repercussions within the Indian community and the opponents of the Communist Party of South Africa see this as a betrayal. The Party undertakes the “Defend South Africa” Campaign throughout the country, addressing meetings in all the towns in the Transvaal, Natal and the Cape explaining why the Party supported South Africa’s participation in the War. Dadoo and the Communist Party come under strong attack from some quarters. A two-day conference, with 88 organizations attending, is called in Johannesburg to discuss the war. There is heated debate and discussion because there are people who cannot see how the character of the war has changed and why they should support it. Dadoo opens the Conference and also delivers the closing speech. As a result, when the delegations went back, various organisations begin to take an active part in the whole struggle. The Party’s demand of the Government is that unless there is full and equal treatment of black recruits joining the war with white soldiers, their participation has no meaning.

At a meeting, in Pietermaritzburg, to explain the Communist Party of South Africa’s position on the war, Dadoo, Moses Kotane and Michael Harmel are shouted down as they attempt to explain the Party’s position. Subsequently they had to abandon the meeting.

Dadoo, with fellow Party members then travel to the Transkei, to the Bhunga to explain to the Chiefs their position on the war.


As an indication of the growing relationship between the CPSA and the ANC, Dr. Xuma uses the columns of the Party’s organ Inkululeko to address a long statement on ‘The Policy and Platform of the African National Congress’.


Bram Fischer delivers a speech at one of the initiatory conferences of the Medical Aid for Russia.

Kotane presides over the founding conference of the Council of Non-European Trade Unions in Johannesburg.


Kotane is elected as one of ten members of an ‘African Parliamentary Committee’ of lobbyists to be in contact with the Native Representative Council the All-African Convention conference in Bloemfontein.


The CPSA devotes all its efforts to a ‘Defend South African’ campaign. Kotane, as general secretary, spends months travelling to all the main centres of South Africa.


Kotane is commissioned by the CPSA to document Japan’s involvement in World War II. He produces a pamphlet entitled, “Japan – Friend or Foe?”


Bram and Molly Fischer set up a Soviet pavilion for a Liberty Cavalcade.


Bram Fischer travels to Kimberley to speak to South African soldiers about the Red Army and social services in the Soviet Union.

28 June

A ‘Non-European People’s Manifesto’ is adopted at a conference in Johannesburg representing eighty-eight organizations convened by the Non-European United Front (NEUF). The Manifesto calls for government to “abolish the colour bar and enable the Black peoples of South Africa to play their full part in the country’s war effort”.


Bram Fischer performs at the Friends of the Soviet Union pageant.


After returning to Johannesburg from a meeting in Bloemfontein Kotane is arrested for making a “subversive” statement on the terms of the war emergency regulations.

All six Communist Party candidates in the East London Advisory Board elections win outright majorities in a record poll.


Fischer is elected onto the Johannesburg Bar Council (a body on which he serves for the next ten years despite his alignment with the Communist Party).

After representation by the CPSA’s barrister, Franz Boshoff, is made to the Minister of Justice, Dr. Steyn, prosecution against Kotane is withdrawn.


Sam Kahn serves as a member of the Cape Town City Council from 1943- 1952.

Kotane, Marks and Mofutsanyana are appointed by President-General of the ANC, Dr. Xuma, as members of the committee “to go into the question of the Atlantic Charter and to draft the Bill of Rights to be presented to the Peace Conference at the end of the Present War”. The document produced was entitled ‘African Claims’.

Bram Fischer helps A. B. Xuma revise the African National Congress (ANC) Constitution.

30 March

At the national conference of the CPSA held in Johannesburg, Kotane reveals that the Party’s membership has more than trebled.

3 June

The Communist Party of South Africa Conference discusses the dissolution of the Communist International as well as the upcoming parliamentary elections that had been announced at the end of May


Bram Fischer travels to Bulawayo, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) where he attends meetings and gives speeches on the United Soviet Socialist Republics.

4 December

Dadoo opens an Anti Pass Conference called by the Communist Party. Dadoo is elected to a committee to mount an anti pass campaign. The Committee is given the task of setting up regional committees throughout South Africa prior to the convening of a national anti pass conference in Easter 1944.


Three Communist Party candidates are returned in the Johannesburg Advisory Board elections.

Kotane accompanies Archie Muller throughout the Eastern Cape in an election campaign for the Cape Provincial Council


William H. Andrews' biography by R.K. Cope, is published.

Edward Roux publishes “S. P. Bunting: A Political Biography” about Sidney Percival Bunting.

Co-operation between the CPSA and ANC continues to develop, with attention being focused on a nation-wide campaign against the pass laws.


Kotane and Yusuf Dadoo are the main speakers at a mass anti-pass demonstration organized by the newly formed Anti-Pass Committee.

14 – 16 January

At the CPSA Conference, a resolution, amongst many others, calls on Party members to take an active part in building the national organisations of the African, Coloured and Indians peoples and the establishment of strong local branches in every centre.


Kotane is the lead speaker at a CPSA ‘country conference’ in Paarl. This is the first of its kind to be held and is attended by delegates from all parts of the Western Cape Province.


Kotane and Dr. Xuma spend the rest of the year speaking at anti-pass demonstrations up and down the country.

25 April

The Durban District Branch of the Communist Party of South Africa is the first organisation, to protest against the Pretoria Agreement and circulates a petition, condemning the Agreement between A. I. Kajee and Jan Smuts. The Party is able to gather thousands of signatures.

14 May

The Communist Party of South Africa organises a rally where 10 000 people assembled at the Red Square, Durban, Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal – KZN) rejected the Smuts-Kajee Agreement.

20 - 21 May

At a mass anti-pass conference in Johannesburg a National Anti-Pass Council is elected to collect 1 million signatures. Kotane is voted onto the Council.


Communist Party candidates sweep the board in elections in Langa location, Cape Town.


Bram Fischer is elected onto the central committee of the CPSA


At the annual conference of the Johannesburg District Committee of the Communist Party of South Africa, Dadoo is nominated as chairperson. He declines to stand. The runoff is between Danie du Plessis and Edwin Mofutsanyana. du Plessis is elected as Chairman.

8 May

There are no official Government celebrations on V-E Day. African National Congress and South African Communist Party leaders celebrate the Allied victory over Hitler at a spontaneous gathering in Johannesburg on V - E Day. The people march through the streets of central Johannesburg gathering at the City Hall steps. Dadoo, Michael Harmel and JB Marks make impromptu speeches at the steps of Johannesburg City Hall.


Kotane, along with Dadoo and R.V. Selope Thema, take the anti-pass petition to Cape Town.


A 15-page pamphlet, An African Speaks, written by J.E.N. Tchamase is published by the Communist Party.

27- 30 December

The Communist Party of South Africa annual conference held in Johannesburg debates whether the Party should support the creation of black trade unions or non-racial unions. Non-racial unions win the day. The Party also argues that it does not see any contradiction in supporting ethnic groups being organised separately in their own political formations.


Bram Fischer and 49 others are charged with incitement during the African Mineworkers’ Strike.

Brian Percy Bunting is elected to the Johannesburg District Committee of the CPSA. He is also arrested after the African Miner's Strike in the same year, but all charges against him are dropped.

At a meeting called by the Anti-Pass Committee in Langa, Cape Town, where Kotane is a key note speaker, the crowd takes a militant step and burns their passes.


The CPSA’s offices are raided by the police along with other organizations that had supported the Miner’s Strike.

26 August

Kotane, as CPSA’s general secretary, together with the entire Johannesburg District Committee of the Party and the miners’ leaders are charged under the Riotous Assemblies Act. The charges are dropped against Kotane and five others, while the others are fined £50 when the charge of conspiracy is dropped.

6 October

Kotane attends an emergency conference in Bloemfontein called by the President-General of the ANC, Dr. Xuma, to discuss the mine workers strike.


Andrews, Kotane and other members of the Central Committee are arrested in Cape Town on a charge of sedition. After a long trial, the case is eventually withdrawn in 1948.14 - 17 December

At the annual conference of the ANC, held in Bloemfontein, Kotane, along with other CPSA members such as Marks, Dan Tloome and Lucas Philips, are elected onto the NEC.


Bram Fischer writes to ‘The Friend’ in Bloemfontein in the wake of police raids on Communist Party, trade unions and ‘The Guardian’ offices.

3 – 5 January

At the annual conference in Johannesburg, the CPSA calls for the establishing of a fighting alliance and endorses the ANC boycott call of all elections under the Representation of Natives Act of 1936.

9 March

Dr Monty Naicker (Natal Indian Congress - NIC), Dr Yusuf Dadoo (Transvaal Indian Congress - TIC) and Dr AB Xuma (ANC) sign the Doctors Pact, a joint declaration of co-operation between the Congresses.



The Communist Party, at its annual conference, decides to support candidates in to the Native Representative Council (NRC) who pledge to work for universal franchise. Edwin Mofutsanyana, Alpheus Maliba and A. S. Damana would represent the Party in the NRC elections. The conference demands the withdrawal of criminal charges then pending against members of the Central Executive as a consequence of the strike by African miners in 1946.


The CPSA holds its Johannesburg District Committee meeting. Dadoo is elected Chairman in absentia. The Party writes to the Minister of Justice objecting to the imprisonment of Dadoo and Naicker.

Bill Andrews leads the CPSA in celebrating the one hundredth year anniversary of the Communist Manifesto in Cape Town.


The CPSA holds a ‘People’s Assembly for Votes for All’ in Johannesburg.

20 May

In an interview with the Guardian, Kotane urges all progressives to vote for candidates of the CPSA in the general election.

The Communist Party calls for the formation of an anti-Nationalist front in response to victory of the Nationalist Party (NP) victory in the general elections.

10 September

The publication of a draft Proclamation No. 1890 for the “Financial Protection of Natives”, promulgated under the Natives Administration Act of 1927 receives significant public outcry, including from the Communist Party, because it stated that “no organization or individual could collect money from Africans without the written permission of the Native Commissioner or magistrate”.

October – November

Dadoo travels with Harry Pollitt of the British Communist Party to the fifth conference of the Polish Workers’ Party where he meets various delegations from Latin America and Asia. Dadoo is the only person from Africa at the Conference. Dadoo is taken to visit a Turkish community. He addresses the community through an interpreter and allays their fears, as a Muslim community, of a Communist Government. Dadoo attends the Fifth Congress of the Bulgarian Communist Party where he meets Georgi Dimitrov also of the Bulgarian Communist Party.


Sam Kahn is elected to the South African Parliament by the ‘non-white’ people of the Cape Western District.

Joe Slovo marries Ruth First.

17 – 18 April

Kotane is part of an ANC executive committee at a joint meeting with the All-African Convention (AAC) to find a way to work together. After hours of wrangling no agreement is reached.


The CPSA makes a statement calling on the African, Indian and Coloured people to unite in resisting Nationalist aggression.


Naomi Shapiro after reading Die Burger, an Afrikaans language newspaper, informs Dadoo of a Government ban on him against appearing at public meetings.

13 December

At a mass meeting convened in Johannesburg, the Transvaal Indian Congress, African National Congress, Communist Party of South Africa, Johannesburg District and the African People’s Organisation (APO) condemn the ban on Dadoo.

17 December

At the annual ANC conference where the famous Programme of Action is adopted, Kotane is appointed onto a drafting committee to consider amendments and suggestions from branches.



A resolution adopted by the CPSA’s national conference states that “Race relations in South Africa are coming to a crisis”


The Government publishes the Unlawful Organisations Bill, subsequently known as the Suppression of Communism Act.

1 May

The May Day strike called for by the CPSA takes place. The strike is well supported, but turns violent with the police killing 18 people.

5 – 6 May

An emergency meeting of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of South Africa, convened in Cape Town discusses the impending Unlawful Organisations Bill, declaring the propagation of Communism illegal. The Bill earmarks the forcible dissolution of the Communist Party and lays down various measures that the Government intends enacting against members of the Communist Party of South Africa. The meeting was to consider how the Communist Party of South Africa was going to deal with the Government’s threat.

20 June

The Central Committee meeting of the Communist Party of South Africa in Cape Town discusses the impending banning of the organisation. The options for the Party are either to go underground or to dissolve rather than face a host of breaches of law and subsequent penalties, which would curtail members’ ability to fight the cause. Dadoo argues for the Party to go underground. Only Bill Andrews and Michael Harmel oppose dissolution of the Party. Moses Kotane, JB Marks, and Edwin Mofutsanyana point out the dangers of going underground without preparation.

The Communist Party of South Africa declares that it dissolves itself a few days before the Government passes the Suppression of Communism Act, No. 44 of 1950.

The Minister of Justice appoints a liquidator, a Mr J.de Villiers Louw, to wind up the affairs of the Party. The liquidator claims that the Party still continues to exist as it had not been dissolved in terms of the Constitution. A court ruling allows the liquidator to perform his duty of winding up the affairs of the Party. Sam Khan announces in the House of Assembly that the Communist Party of South Africa will dissolve from this day onwards.

26 June

The African National Congress (ANC) declares this day a day of mourning for the 18 Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) members killed during the May Day strike on 1 May 1950. The South African Indian Congress (SAIC) and the African National Congress calls for a general strike in commemoration of those killed. Leaders of the Indian Congress, African Peoples Organisation, and Communist Party pledge their support and join the African National Congress on a coordinating committee with Walter Sisulu and Yusuf Cachalia as joint secretaries.

The Durban City Council dismisses 334 Indian municipal council workers as against 80 African workers. This is a deliberate attempt to divide workers.

In Cape Town a similar call is made upon people to stay at home.

With the dissolution of the CPSA, Kotane decides to move back to Johannesburg and begins a furniture business with a partner. Along with other comrades Kotane works towards the reconstitution of the Party, something which he had to do great care because, as the Party’s chief executive officer, he was under constant police surveillance.

20 August

ANC and SAIC leaders are arrested and charged for promoting Communism in terms of the newly passed Suppression of Communism Act. They are released on £100 bail.


The first round of ‘naming’ letters are sent out which creates the Minister of Justice’s list of ‘office-bearers, members or active supporters’ of the CPSA.

26 December

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.

Despite appearing on the final list of communists, Bram Fischer is admitted as a senior advocate thus becoming a member of the Queens Council.


The Franchise Action Council is established in Cape Town to defend the Coloured vote after the Separate Representation of Voters’ Bill is introduced in Parliament. Former CPSA member Reginald September is elected secretary and the committee includes Johnson Ngwevela, Sam Kahn, Fred Carneson and John Gomas.

J.B. Marks is voted onto as the Transvaal presidency for the ANC.


The executives of the ANC, the SAIC and representatives of the Franchise Action Council meet in Johannesburg and decide to embark on a mass campaign for the repeal of the pass laws and stock limitations, the Group Areas Act, the Separate Representation of Voters Act, the Bantu Authorities Act and the Suppression of Communism Act. This meeting and the six laws it identified became the basis of the Defiance Campaign.


Brian Percy Bunting is banned.


Sam Kahn is expelled from Parliament and Fred Carneson from the Cape Provincial Council under the Suppression of Communism Act as their names appeared on the liquidators list of former members of the banned CPSA. At the same time The Guardian is banned under the Suppression of Communism Act. The Guardian is immediately replaced by The Clarion which is placed under the editorship of B.P. Bunting.

1 June

The day after receiving his banning orders, Moses Kotane, the first to defy from the ranks of the ANC, speaks at a public meeting in Alexandra Township. The next day he is arrested.

25 June

The Defiance Campaign begins.


Twenty leaders are arrested and indicted on a charge, under another section of the Suppression of Communism Act that through the Defiance Campaign they are perpetrating unlawful acts to bring about political, industrial, social, and economic change in the Union. This, by definition of the Act, was tantamount to Communism. Bram Fischer defends these Congress leaders. Dr James Moroka, ANC President, dissociates himself from his fellow trialists. The trial drags on for five months and all the leaders are found guilty of ‘statuary communism’. The defendants are eventually found guilty of ‘statutory communism’ and are sentenced to nine months imprisonment suspended for two years. The accused included Dr. J. S. Moroka, President of the ANC, Walter Sisulu Secretary-General of the ANC, Dr. Y. M. Dadoo, President of the SAIC, and Nelson Mandela, President of African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL), JB Marks, D. Bopape, Dan Tloome, James Philips, Nana Sita, Ahmed Kathrada, Maulvi Cachalia and Yusuf Cachalia.

18 September

The Minister of Justice, CR Swarts, announces in Parliament that thirty-three trade union officials and eighty-nine other people are served with notices in terms of the Suppression of Communism Act.

22 September

Thousands of supporters of the twenty liberation movement leaders, who are on trial under the Suppression of Communism Act, demonstrate at the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court during the preliminary trial.

November – October

Brian Percy Bunting is the Cape Western District Natives' Representative in the House of Assembly.


A national conference of the CPSA is called and the name South African Communist Party (SACP) replaces the old Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA). The first formal underground conference is held behind the retail shop of an Indian merchant in a small Eastern Transvaal town. Twenty-five delegates, representing Communist Party of South Africa cells from all over the country, attend the meeting to officially reconstitute the Communist Party. Yusuf Dadoo is elected Chairman of the Central Committee and Moses Kotane as the Secretary.

Billy Nair joins the SACP.

20 August

Bram Fischer is served with two notices under the Suppression of Communism Act, banning him from any gathering for two years, from the membership of the Congress of Democrats (COD) and the South African Peace Council as well as 15 other organisations, some of which he is not even a member.

22 August

Bram Fischer beats his banning by recording a message for the inaugural conference of the South African Peace Council where he was to have delivered the opening address.



Brian and Sonia Bunting arrive in the Soviet Union as guests of the All-Soviet Society for Cultural Ties with Foreign Countries (VOKS).

Sam Kahn visits Russia. He is prohibited from attending gatherings and is subsequently convicted of violating his ban, but the conviction is overturned on appeal.



Kotane and Maulvi Cachalia leave South Africa, without passports, to attend the Asia-African conference in Bandung. While on route they are arrested in Cairo. Kotane and Cachalia are detained by the police after their names appeared on ‘The 500 Most Dangerous Communists in the World’ list published by the United States Congress.

25 – 26 June

About 8 000 people representing the African National Congress, the Congress of Democrats, the South African Indian Congress, the Coloured People’s Congress (SACPO), and the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) meet in Kliptown, Soweto at the Congress of the People (COP). The SACTU becomes an active member of the Congress Alliance. It is represented on the Alliance's National Co-ordinating Committee. The ANCYL and Transvaal Indian Youth Congress (TIYC) are active in attending to the delegates’ needs. The COP adopts the Freedom Charter, which becomes the common programme of the Congresses.

18 September

Members of the ANC, the SACTU and the SACP meet at the Trades Hall, Commissioner Street, Johannesburg, to discuss the Freedom Charter and the way forward.

1 October

Kotane is among 2000 delegates from foreign countries in Peking, China invited to review the military and civilian parades for the 6th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China.


Kotane returns home to a welcome party of 400 at Jan Smuts Airport.

1956 - 1961

Bram Fischer helps defend the leaders of the Anti-Apartheid movement during the Treason Trial.


4 May

Kotane is arrested under the Urban Areas Act for being in Alexandra Township without a permit. He is found guilty and is sentenced to 14 days imprisonment and a £1 fine.  

19 September

Policeman arrive at Kotane’s house to arrest him once again under the Urban Areas Act.

5 December

Kotane (together with 155 other political leaders and activists) is arrested once again this time on the charge of high treason.


At a Party conference the Central Committee, consisting of 15 members. is elected, seven of whom are Executive Members and three members of its Secretariat. The Executive is made up of Yusuf Dadoo (Chairman), Moses Kotane (General Secretary), Walter Sisulu, Bram Fischer, Lionel ‘Rusty’ Bernstein, Joe Slovo and Michael Harmel. Kotane, Sisulu and Harmel constituted the Secretariat. The other Central Committee members are J.B. Marks, Dan Tloome, Ruth First, Brian Bunting, Fred Carneson, Ray Alexander, Raymond Mhlaba and M.P. Naicker.



The first issue of The African Communist is published but not under the name of the Party. An editorial note stated: “This magazine, The African Communist, has been started by a group of Marxist-Leninists in Africa to defend and spread the inspiring and liberating ideas of Communism in our great continent, and to apply the brilliant scientific method of Marxism to the solution of its problems”. Rusty Bernstein first moots the idea for the magazine.


The ANC and Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC) are banned and some members go into exile. The two organisations remain banned until 1990. Brian Percy Bunting is detained by the South African government. Sam Kahn leaves South Africa illegally and lives in Britain.


The New Age is banned for the duration of the 1960 State of Emergency. Kotane, Harmel and Dadoo, along with many others go into hiding.

30 March

Joe Slovo is detained under the new State of Emergency.

9 – 10 April

The South African Communist Party needs a representative in London to serve the struggle from outside. In consultation with the South African Indian Congress, it decides that Dr Yusuf Mohamed Dadoo be sent overseas to assist the Party ‘with the organisation of solidarity work and to consolidate the external apparatus’ of the Party.


The SACP Central Committee convenes a meeting of members who are not detained and other activists and the decision for the SACP to go public is made.


Yusuf Dadoo and Vella Pillay visit the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) as representatives of the SACP to establish ties and solicit support. They present reports on South Africa after the Sharpeville crisis and on the situation within the South African Communist Party with regards to it having operated underground and its decision to announce itself.

14 July

The underground existence of the SACP is announced through pamphlets. The leaflets call on workers to rally against the fascist Government and all its pernicious laws.


It is acknowledged in the third issue of The African Communist that it is published by the SACP.


Vella Pillay, Michael Harmel and Joe Matthews accompany Dadoo to the Soviet Union again, this time, to attend the International Meeting of Communist and Workers Parties. En route to the Soviet Union, Dadoo and his colleagues stop in China and engage in discussions with the Chinese Communists.


Ronnie Kasrils and Chris Hani join the SACP.

29 March

The treason trial comes to an end when Mr Justice Rumpff finds the remaining 61 accused not guilty.


Dadoo and Kotane attend a meeting in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Kotane is visiting Russia after 25 years. Kotane and Khrushchev hold talks with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union where the main topic of discussion is the turn to the armed struggle.

16 December

Umkhonto we Sizwe (The Spear of the Nation - MK) is launched. A series of explosions takes place in Durban, Johannesburg, and Port Elizabeth. The manifesto of Umkhonto we Sizwe declared it is ‘a new independent body — it includes in its ranks South Africans of all races’. Although MK is formed as an organisation affiliated to, but separate from the ANC, it is widely contended that the SACP influenced its formation.


The New Age, which is published in Cape Town, is banned.


The fifth SACP National Conference takes place underground in Johannesburg. This Conference adopts a new Party Programme, The Road to South African Freedom an elaborate policy document which Bram Fischer (who is acting chairman of the central committee of the SACP) helps to draft. In the pre-Conference period Dadoo studies the draft and makes suggestions and amendments.


The SACP, represented by Arthur Goldreich and Vella Pillay, requests a meeting in Moscow to discuss assistance to MK. ‘Technical consultations’ with relevant Soviet specialists were organized for Goldreich.

1963 – 1964

June-October, Dennis Goldberg is tried in the Pretoria Supreme Court along with Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu and others in the Rivonia Trial. The defence team is led by Bram Fischer.


Brian Percy Bunting is prohibited from publishing while writing for Spark. Dennis Goldberg is served with a stringent banning order from the South African government.


Joe Slovo and J.B. Marks leave South Africa to try and get support from various African states.


Dave Kitson resigns from the SACP to head MK. Bram Fischer becomes Dave Kitson’s liaison with the Party.

8 – 9 December

The first meeting of the SACP Central Committee is held in Prague with seven of the nine Central Committee members including the Chairman and the General Secretary attending.



The External Central Committee of the SACP holds a conference in Moscow.


Bram Fischer, along with 11 others, is arrested for being a member of the banned SACP. Specialized training in guerrilla warfare is organized for the higher levels of the ANC and SACP leadership, including Oliver Tambo, Moses Kotane, Duma Nokwe, Joe Slovo and Ambrose Makiwane.


The government publishes a notice of the 303 names of whom banning notices had been served, of which only 68 were listed as Communists under the Suppression of Communism Act.


Bram Fischer is tried for contravention of the Suppression of Communism Act and is released on bail. He goes underground and is recaptured in November.


The SACP meets to look at reconstructing itself. It takes five years before the Party headquarters formally moves to London.


5 May

Bram Fischer is found guilty of violating the Suppression of Communism Act and conspiring to commit sabotage, leading to a conviction of life imprisonment. The SACP operates from underground. Its structures within South Africa effectively collapse. JB Marks assumes Chairmanship of the Party externally, with Moses Kotane as General Secretary.


Bram Fischer is awarded the Lenin Peace Prize.


The SACP Central Committee meeting takes place in Moscow. The meeting critically assesses the internal situation of the SACP in the country following the arrest of Fischer. Contact with members in the country becomes increasingly difficult.


1 January

Kotane suffers a severe stroke and is taken to Moscow for treatment. As a result, J.B. Marks becomes Party Chairman.

25 April – 1 May

The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC convenes a special consultative conference in Morogoro, Tanzania, which includes leaders of the Congress Alliance, to review its revolutionary perspectives and to seek solutions to some of the problems, which conditions of exile has created in the fields of organisation and style of work. The Morogoro Conference aimed to establish a political and structural framework, which would integrate revolutionaries of all the national groups living in exile into the external mission on an equal basis. Only the composition of the NEC is not affected. Dadoo is the South African Communist Party representative. A special body known as the Revolutionary Council is established. Joe Slovo, Reg September and Dadoo are elected, among others, to serve on this body.


At the first formal meeting of the ANC and the SACP after the Morogoro Conference, Tambo, speaking on behalf of the ANC, calls the ANC and SACP “two pillars” of the struggle. Slovo and Dadoo are present at this meeting.


An SACP delegation, led by J.B. Marks, participates in the International Communist and Workers’ Party Meetings.


At the SACP Central Committee meeting in Moscow decisive steps are taken to reorganize the SACP. This meeting is the first time a group of younger Party members participate, many from MK ranks such as Thabo Mbeki and Josiah Jele. The session re-elects Moses Kotane and J.B. Marks to the highest positions in the Party, though in practice Kotane is unable to carry out his duties. The Central Committee is enlarged and younger members, such as Chris Hani and Thabo Mbeki, are elected. The Party makes further calls for South Africans to take up the armed struggle.



The underground edition of the Inkululeko/Freedom paper is launched but is not published on a regular basis.

J.B. Marks falls seriously ill and is transported from Dar es Salaam to Moscow for lengthy treatment.


1 August

J.B. Marks suffers a fatal heart attack and dies in a Moscow hospital.


At the Central Committee session in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), Yusuf Dadoo is elected SACP Chairman. In addition, since it is clear that Kotane will no longer be able to carry out his official duties, the post of Assistant General Secretary is created and Chris Hani is elected to it.


At the SACP Central Committee meeting it is decided that Chris Hani should return to South Africa to start creating a permanent underground structure within the country.


Bram Fischer is seriously ill with cancer and liberal newspapers and political leaders mount an intensive campaign for his release. They are successful and he is allowed to move to his brother's home in Bloemfontein, Orange Free State (OFS – now Free State Province).

14 May

The trial of ex-political prisoner and SACP veteran Harry Gwala and nine other ANC members starts in Pietermaritzburg.

16 December

A tombstone for J.B. Marks is unveiled in the Novodevichye Cemetery, traditionally reserved for the most prominent figures in Soviet political, academic and cultural life.


8 May

Bram Fischer dies.

Chris Hani is elected to the ANC National Executive Council.



The SACP Central Committee meeting is convened in the GDR where a document titled “The Way Forward from Soweto”. The Executive Secretariat is dissolved and replaced with the Politburo, consisting of Moses Kotane, Yusuf Dadoo, Moses Mabhida, Joe Slovo and Thabo Mbeki.

29 April

 M.P. Naicker dies suddenly on his way from London to Berlin.


19 May

Moses Kotane dies in Moscow.

26 May

A tombstone is erected for Kotane at the Novodevichye Cemetery.


A plenary session of the SACP Central Committee is held outside Moscow, which focusses on the state of the labour movement in South Africa.


Alex Moumbaris, an MK operative, escapes from Pretoria Central Prison along with two other ANC and SACP activists, Stephen Lee and Timothy Jenkins. All were part of the ‘Pretoria Six.

At the SACP Central Committee meeting Moses Mabhida is elected General Secretary but this is not announced for another year.


24 January

The Bulgarian Communist Party awards Dr Yusuf Dadoo the Order of Georgi Dimitrov.


23 February – 3 March

Dadoo travels to the USSR with Moses Mabhida, SACP General Secretary to attend the 26th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU).

29 March

Dadoo attends a meeting of 12 African Communist and Workers Party in Moscow.


In response to the SACP’s top leadership, the CPSU Central Committee Secretariat took a decision to organise a course of special training in the USSR for a SACP representative on ‘party technique’.

30 July

Dadoo speaks at the 60th anniversary of the SACP. The General Secretaries of the Communist Parties of Great Britain and Ireland also attend.

Dadoo writes introduction to the book “50 South African Communists Speak” published by Inkululeko Publications – edited by Brian Bunting.

11 – 13 September

Dadoo visits Portugal. He also travels to Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and Germany to attend their respective Communist Party Congresses.


17 August

Ruth First is killed by a parcel bomb in Maputo. Her funeral is attended by presidents, members of parliament and ambassadors from 34 countries.


Dr Yusuf Dadoo, the SACP Chairman, undergoes an operation for the removal of cancerous growth. Unfortunately, the operation is not very successful and Dadoo’s condition continues to deteriorate.


Moses Mabhida represents the SACP at the funeral of Leonid Brezhnev.


John Motshabi is expelled from the SACP Central Committee for factional activity and violation of discipline.


A meeting takes place at the CPSU Guest House to discuss steps to encourage trade union unity inside South Africa.


The SACP holds its Central Committee meeting in Moscow. The meeting aims to formulate the SACP’s policy on trade unions with an emphasis on encouraging the work of Communists in SACTU.

For the first time, Dadoo is absent from a Central Committee meeting as his illness becomes terminal.

19 September

Dr Yusuf Mohamed Dadoo dies in England after falling into a coma. He is buried in Highgate Cemetery, just a few feet away from Karl Marx.


In a Cape Argus article, it is alleged that Joe Slovo is a Russian KGB General and has a dozen passports.

5 May

With Mozambique trying to improve relations with South Africa, Moses Mabhida is required to leave Maputo for Lusaka, which became the SACP headquarters for the next decade.

2 November

The SACP Congress is held in Volynskoe. At the meeting the new constitution of the SACP is approved. A new Central Committee is elected with Moses Mabhida as the SACP General Secretary and Joe Slovo as the National Chairman.

Moses Mabhida suffers a stroke while in Havana.


12 January

Public information about the SACP Congress is distributed in London.


Joe Slovo is invited to attend the USSR’s 40th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany.


The SACP Central Committee meeting takes place in the GDR.


The SACP commemorates the 40th anniversary of the 1946 Mineworkers Strike.

8 March

Moses Mabhida suffers a fatal heart attack in Maputo.

30 July

The 65th Anniversary Meeting of the SACP takes place in London led by Alfred Nzo, Secretary General of the ANC and Joe Slovo.


Joe Slovo heads a SACP delegation to China and relations are restored between the Parties.


Joe Slovo is elected General Secretary of the SACP and Dan Tloome as National Chairman at the meeting of the SACP in Bulgaria.



On the written request of the SACP, Joe Slovo is relieved of his duties as Chief of Staff of MK by the ANC National Executive Committee to devote more time to his responsibilities as SACP General Secretary.


Joe Slovo presents a paper for an international meeting of delegations from many countries, which takes place after the 70th anniversary of the October Revolution in Moscow.



Joe Slovo and Dan Tloome visit Moscow after a meeting of the SACP Central Committee in Hungry at which preparations are made for the 7th SACP Congress in Havana, Cuba.


The 7th Congress of the SACP is held in Havana where a new party programme is adopted and a new Central Committee is elected.


2 February

The SACP and ANC are unbanned and the release of Nelson Mandela is announced in by former South African President Frederik Willem de Klerk at the opening of parliament.

11 February

Nelson Mandela is released from prison.


Nelson Mandela is awarded the Lenin Peace Prize but does not have the opportunity to receive it – this happens 12 years later.

25 July

Mac Maharaj is arrested and Ronnie Kasrils and Janet Love are put on a ‘wanted’ list by the South African Police and are described as ‘armed and dangerous’.

29 July

The SACP is relaunched at a public rally at a football stadium outside Soweto, Johannesburg attended by 40 000 people. At the Party’s 69th anniversary the SACP Interim Leadership Core is elected. The SACP goes into an alliance with the ANC and Cosatu forming the Tripartite Alliance.



The last top-level contact between the CPSU and SACP, with Joe Slovo visiting Moscow, takes place.


A new leadership of the SACP is elected at the 8th Congress and a new constitution is adopted.

Chris Hani accepts the position of General Secretary of the SACP and Ronnie Kasrils is voted onto the Central Committee.



Ronnie Kasrils attends the first round of multi-party negotiations, Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA), as a delegate for the SACP.

A SACP delegation, headed by Chris Hani, visit Moscow in transit to Pyongyang and Beijing.

Chris Hani steps down as Chief of Staff of the MK to devote more time to the organisation of the SACP.


10 April

Chris Hani, Secretary-General of the SACP is assassinated.


27 April, South Africa’s has it first ever democratic election in which the SACP ran with the ANC. After the election a number of high ranking SACP members were appointed Ministers:

  • Ronnie Kasrils – Deputy Defence Minister
  • Joe Slovo – Minister of Housing
  • Mac Maharaj – Minister of Transport


Joe Slovo receives the Isitwalandwe medal, the ANC’s highest award, from Nelson Mandela at the ANC’s 49th National Conference in Bloemfontein.


6 January

Joe Slovo dies after a long battle with cancer. He is buried at the Avalon cemetery in Soweto.


The SACP marks the 75th Anniversary of its founding

i Paul Trewhela • Daily Maverick, 22 July 2021 - A system in need of reform: The stage is set for a showdown between the ANC’s ‘inzile’ and exile political cultures. Accessed on 23 July 2021

ii Some sources cite this as the date for the CPSA Conference


Archival Sources

  • NASA, JUS, 919, 1/18/26, vol.13 – vol.15. Report from the Criminal Investigation Department at Potchefstroom to the District Commandant of the SAP at Potchefstroom, 23 March 1928.
  • NASA, JUS, 919, 1/18/26, vol.13 – vol.15. Clipping of Rand Daily Mail article on 28 March 1928
  • NASA, JUS, 919, 1/18/26, vol.13 – vol.15. Letter from the District Commandant of the SAP at Potchefstroom to the Deputy Commissioner of the SAP at Pretoria, 28 March 1928
  • NASA, JUS, 920, 1/18/26, vol.16 – vol.18. Report from the Criminal Investigation Department to the District Commandant of the SAP at Potchefstroom, 30 April 1928
  • NASA, JUS, 924, 1/18/26, vol. 29 – vol.31. Report by the Potchefstroom SAP, 21 December 1930

Books and articles

  • Jansen van Rensburg, Fanie. "Protest by Potchefstroom native location's residents against dominance, 1904 to 1950." Historia 57, no. 1 (2012): 22-41
  • Edgar, Robert R. The Making of an African Communist: Edwin Thabo Mofutsanyana and the Communist Party of South Africa 1927-1939 (Pretoria: Unisa Press, 2005)
  • Julia Wells, “’The Day the Town Stood Still’: Women in Resistance in Potchefstroom 1912-1930” in Belinda Bozzoli eds., Town and Countryside in the Transvaal: Capitalist Penetration and Popular Response (Johannesburg: Ravan Press, 1983): 269-307.

Collections in the Archives