The African National Congress

The African National Congress is a good example of the way that the Lord will be coming in these last days, establishing justice by empowering the south. Just to be acquainted with the history of the ANC is a spiritual undertaking.

The African National Congress is the main fraternal black political power in black Africa and the oldest. The efforts toward freedom and self determination in South Africa has a long history, going back to the days when the African people fought with spears against the British and Boer colonizers. The African National Congress is the major force in Africa that God has used the keep the spirit of resistance against racial hatred and imperialism alive. Liberation and deliverance is a mighty act from God and His people are evident here, they fought for their home-land, they fought against Bantu education, they fought for higher wages and for the right to vote for the persons of their choice.

It was from Holland that the first white settlers came to South Africa in 1652. They outright stole the land and the livestock, killing many and dispossessing others, but the South Africans were still independent. It was not until the 1860's that the English came and brought with them their armies, horses and modern armament, taking control of South Africa and all of her peoples. The Xhosa and the Zulu resisted the colonizers and had surprising victories but were finally defeated in 1878, the Pedi fell soon afterward. During this time gold and diamonds were discovered and imperialist logic took its natural course. A single diamond would be worth the lives of a whole village and any black soul was considered worthless in comparison. Large numbers of Africans were forced to work the mines for slave wages.

By 1900 The British had crushed the African kingdoms and they fell under the thumb of the colonial government. By 1910, the control was handed over to the Boer and British settlers themselves and they were granted independence. From the beginning, it was a white racist government that denied rights to blacks.

Pixley ka Isaka Seme appealed to Africans in 1911 to unite together in one national organization and forget the differences of the past. He said: "We are one people. These divisions, these jealousies, are the cause of all our woes today."

The African National Congress was formed in 1912 as an organization wanting to obtain equality and civil rights through non-violent and peaceful actions in South Africa. Prominent individuals, chiefs, and church organizations were called to Bloemfontein to form the ANC for the purpose of bringing all Africans together as one people to defend their rights and freedoms. In 1913 the Land Act was passed, forcing the legal residents from their lands and herded onto worthless reserves. The people were forbidden to buy, rent or even use the land and impossible for many to live off the land. The land act laws caused overcrowding, poverty and starvation. The Africans were told where to live, their movements were controlled by pass laws, they were forced to work on farms or in the mines and could not quit, strikes were forbidden and discontent was sorely frustrated. The misery of the people was overwhelming.

1918 saw the triumphant anti-pass campaign led by the Bantu Women's League of South Africa. This Women's branch of the ANC was formed by Charlotte Maxeke. Union organization was set upon the same year and many strikes led to many arrests and imprisonments. The Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU) was formed in 1919. Soon after, the African National Congress in Transvaal led a campaign against the pass laws. The ANC also supported the militant strike by African mineworkers in 1920.

Some of the ANC leaders opposed militant actions like the strikes and protests. They argued for more passive action by appealing to Britain. Delegations had already visited Britain in 1914 to protest the Land Act, but were ignored. Now they again appealed to Britain to recognize African rights, but ignored again. This cautious approach led to an inactive decade in the 20's, all the while the oppression and misery continued. The union did win some major victories for its workers through militant actions and some minor concessions. The ICU could not sustain itself, however, and in the late 1920s it fell apart and disbanded, leaving the African National Congress as the leading voice of the oppressed.

The Bulhoek Massacre took place near Queenstown on May 24, 1921. The police commissioner, Colonel Theodore Truter led six squadrons against an Israelite religious sect during their annual gathering on the land of their leader and prophet, Enoch Mgijima at Ntabalanga. The rampage was over in only ten minutes and cost 190 lives. Mgijima and his two brothers were sentenced to six years for the petty crime of defiance of white authority by refusing to demolish huts built on crown land. Things could only get worse but organization, discontent and God's plan of liberation were to follow.

During the 20s, white racist government policies became harsher. In many of the industries, a color-bar was established to stop blacks from holding semi-skilled jobs. Blacks were forced into menial jobs that the whites did not want and made sure that they were paid a lot less. During this time, Socialist organizations began to organize black workers. The International Socialist League merged with other groups to form the Communist Party in 1921, becoming the first non-racial political organization in South Africa.

The oppressive nature of capitalist society would only insure the further enslavement and misery of the blacks and communism seemed at the time to be the only answer toward social justice and economic freedom. In 1927, J.T. Gumede was elected President of the African National Congress and tried to invigorate the ANC by fighting against the racist policies. He wanted the ANC to co-operate with the communists, but in 1930 Gumede was voted out and the ANC fell into conservative leadership. Historically, conservatism has never effected progressive social change anywhere, at any time, and the ANC proved the rule by being relatively inactive throughout the 30's.

The 30's was a time for organization and opened with the Non-European Convention in Kimberley as a climax to a campaign of protest meetings. It was attended by more than 100 delegates representing the ANC, the APO, the Indian Congress, the Native Voters' Association, the Bantu Union and religious and welfare societies from all over Southern Africa. Dr Abdurahman was elected to the chair. The All-African National Convention held in 1935 attracted 400 delegates to Loemfontein and proposed the removal of the limited franchise the Cape Africans enjoyed and define, once and for all the area to be allocated to the Africans in the Natives' Land and Trust Bill. The same year the National Liberation League for Equality, Land and Freedom adopted a program and constitution pledged "to unite all individuals, organizations and other bodies in agreement with the program of the League to struggle for complete social, political and economic equality of Non-Europeans with Europeans in South Africa," reflecting the need for unity against the white minority.

The ANC gained new life in the 40's. As Hitler and the Axis powers plunged the world at war, the ANC Conference in Bloemfontein in 1939 made this statement: "Unless and until the government granted the Africans full democratic and citizenship rights the ANC was not prepared to advise the Africans to participate in the present war in any capacity." During the war, racial unity was repeatedly called for, the ANC was firmly established as the mouthpiece of the African people throughout South Africa and the ANC Women's League was founded. The ANC youth league was created by young, outspoken members like Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu in 1944. These men were to later lead the blacks in that country to freedom. Their ideas were based on African nationalism and believed Africans would be liberated only by their own efforts. The Youth League directed their attention to the masses for a militant struggle.

After the war the violence would intensify. 100,000 African miners held a strike from the East to the West Rand in August of 1946. The South African police, with bayonets drawn, charged the striking workers and opened fire, forcing the workers back underground. Hundreds of workers were murdered or injured. In March of the next year, the Xuma-Naicker-Dadoo Pact was signed on behalf of the African National Congress, the NIC and the TIC. This laid the groundwork for the fighting Congress Alliance, the national liberation front of South Africa.

By 1948, the Nationalist Party came to power entrenching white minority domination of South Africa. The white-minority government of south Africa passed the apartheid laws of racial segregation. The African National Congress naturally opposed the laws and urged its members to resist them. The conflict intensified and membership rose even higher.

During the 50's the Defiance Campaign begun as a mass movement of resistance to apartheid. No longer would the people be content with "Europeans Only" entrances and the "Whites Only" exclusivism inherent in apartheid. The government banned its leaders and passed new stricter laws to separate the races. Africans repeatedly broke these laws and demanded service. Steadily, they were breaking new ground and made significant progress; the ranks of the African National Congress grew along with white support. Demands were called forth from all sides for self government and land reform, insisting on adequate housing, better education and worker's rights.

The Freedom Charter was drafted and adopted at the non-racist Congress of the People at Kliptown on the 26th June 1955, attracting both whites and blacks. It made the point that South Africa belonged to all who live in it, black or white and contained outlines for a democratic, free and racially equal society.

Military force intensified even more and there were many massacres in the sixties. During this time all black political organizations were banned by the government, not to be accepted again until 1990. The Congress was denounced as communists prone to the violent overthrow of the government and the leaders of the Congress were arrested and brought to trial. Peaceful demonstrations at Sharpville in 1960 and elsewhere provoked an armed attack by the police, they opened fire, killing 69 and wounding many more. The brutal murders of the police against unarmed protestors in Sharpville brought peaceful protests to a close and the African National Congress ideas of more violent action gave birth. A state of emergency was declared and the activists were arrested and thrown into prison. The 60's opened with armed revolt.

For thirty years, from 1960 to 1990, the African National Congress was banned by the white government and forced to lead its underground guerilla fight from outside the country. The headquarters was placed in Zambia and the most important leaders were kept in prison. The ANC was now underground. The organization Umkhonto we Sizwe ("Spear of the Nation") (MK) was formed as a military branch of the ANC in 1961 and the armed combat begins. They vowed to "hit back by all means within our power in defense of our people, our future and our freedom". The MK would carry out 200 acts of sabotage and the government responded with more repression and violence to counter the movement. Laws were passed making it punishable by death any acts of sabotage, people were detained without trial, leadership offices were raided and many were forced to leave the country and organize from without. International support was needed and the sympathies of the rest of the world was called upon. The ANC membership was finally opened to include non-Africans.

In the 1970s white and black sympathizers, workers and especially students denounced the system and fought back. It was met with more violence and oppression and killing by the white minority government. After the Soweto rebellion in 1976 the membership swelled even more. A revolt in Soweto in 1976 leads to even stronger opposition among blacks. Strikes continued, resistance intensified and in 1986 a national emergency was declared, lasting until 1990, where 300,00 people, including children, were detained. Activists were murdered, homes were burned, ANC bases were destroyed in neighboring countries and the violence increaseed even more. Vigilante groups were formed and warlord thugs were hired to terrorize the people and every attempt to suppress the resistance was unleashed against the people until it shocked the entire planet. People then took to the streets with flags and banners and declared the ANC unbanned. International support against apartheid grew and the liberation movement gained assistance from all over the world. This denunciation of the oppression in South Africa and its resulting sympathies from outside forces had the greatest impact on its future.

Through the protests of the world and the economic pressure of disinvestiture of many multi-nationals under boycott, the black political organizations were accepted by the South African government. In February 1990, the white minority government was finally forced to unban the ANC. This gave the African National Congress the chance to soften its stance on violence and indicate for the first time that it might be prepared to try and solve South Africa's problems through negotiation. The ANC, now allowed to work openly, quickly evolved as the most important political party and ended the armed fight. Nelson Mandela was freed after 27 years of imprisonment and emerges as the leader.

A national conference was held and the membership elected. Nelson Mandela was elected President of the African National Congress in 1991 and past president Oliver Tambo was elected National Chairperson. After giving his whole adult life to the ANC, Tambo died only two years later, he must have passed victorious and happy. By 1993, the ANC and the South African government agrees to a five-year plan of a common government after the first democratic elections. The first free, multi-racial elections in South African history was held and Nelson Mandela is inaugurated president on May 10th, 1994.

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