analyse black political and labour movements in the period 1924-1949 SSHV 201 Introduction There were many black political movements that were formed in resistance to the racial segregation system in South Africa. There were many different motives or aims and goals to be achieved by these black political and labour movements but what there had in common was that they were all fighting for liberation or representing black majority whether in terms of land,labour,economic or any other form of struggle faced by black majority under the union government. They were formed to fight constitutional rights of black majority. All these movements were aimed at fighting back at the white domination over blacks or African in all spheres to fight the segregation policy that was implemented by the union government between whites and blacks.
It could be said that what triggered the formation of theses black political and labour movements was the passing of the Land act of 1913 and the Mines and Works Act of 1911. The main aim or focus of the union government was to lay solid foundations of segregation between the blacks and white in South Africa and he was intending to do that by passing this two legislation acts among others. The new union government was set about extending the policies into a nationwide system of segregation and it first step was the passing of the Native land Act of 1913. The 1913 Native Land Act and Mines and Works Act of 1912 Among other legislation acts that were formed by the union government, the 1913 Native Land Act shaped the momentous implication for the African political consciousness. The act restricted black ownership of land to a woefully inadequate 7, 3 per cent of the total area of the Union. The act was responsible for the force removals of the black majority.
The land act was the first challenge faced by the African National Congress (ANC), not only a challenge faced by the ANC but to the rest of the black majority in South Africa and around the African continent. Black people were forced to move from the land that was believed to belong to white minority. Africans were forced to move into small areas as squatters in such areas as close to reserves. The reason for the Native land act was the labour need for the mines (Lapping, 198686).
Africans could only stay in white owned land only if they were labourers. Black people were not allowed to own or even rent any land that was outside of jurisdiction of areas called reserve, which was later called the Bantustans or homelands. Even within the reserve, black people were not allowed to own a big piece of land and this prevented the majority of black people from subsistence farming to feed themselves on it or grow sufficient or enough food for living.
The acts also undermined the rights of blacks sharecroppers on white farms. The second legislation that also triggered the formation of black political and labour movements was the Mine and Work Act of 1911. This was a legislation act that was implemented as a cornerstone of job reservation, or the allocation of jobs on the basis of race. This act prevented black workers from getting any skilled job. Skilled jobs or positions were only in place or reserved for white workers only.
Blacks were never recognised as workers as they were not allowed to join or form any workers union like those were formed for whites workers. For black workers, there was no form of dispute or access resolution such as unions like the white workers had. They had no right to strike or form any complain whether in terms of their wages or working conditions. This also led to a pass law system which restricted the movement of black workers from one area to another to such an extent that they were forced to move to cities to work in the mines and leave their families behind. Period between 1924-1949 Between 1924-1949 there was not only an increased level of resistance among farm workers, mine workers, labour tenants, reserve peasants and peasant migrants, but also a search for new and appropriate forms of resistance. The reason for this heightened conflict are complex, but they appear to include the following acute and explicit pressures on labour tenants and squatters-peasants, dislike of the 1925 legislation which for Cape and Natal it raised taxation alarm generated by Hertzogs Native Bill of 1926 economic privatised due to drought and rising consumer prices and possibly a relocation of radicalism from urban into rural areas consequent upon the retrenchment by 1924 of a conservative petty-bourgeois leadership in African urban areas.
During and prior to this period many black and labour movements were formed all over South Africa. Both these acts, the Native land act of 1913 and the Mines and Works Act of 1911 led to the rise of liberation movements such as the African National Congress and the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union in Africa to oppose the evils of the oppression and segregation associated with colonialism. The African National Congress (ANC) The Mines and Works Act of 1911 and The Native Land Act of 1913 were the most important factors leading to the formation of the African National Congress which was at the time of it formation named the South African Native National Congress (SANNC). The land act was what triggered the formation of the congress.
The new African National Congress was created against the backdrop if massive deprivation of Africans right to land. It was a liberation movement during the period of it formation or the period of racial segregation in South Africa as to what is today in the twenty first century under democracy, more of a political party. When the ANC was formed in 1912, it was formed as a liberation movement as compared to what it is today, to fight against the dominant discourse of racial segregation. It spearheaded the fight against racial segregation under the Union government. The mandate of the ANC or it goal was to fight the racial prejudiced that was faced by black majority in South Africa. The ANC was to be the voice of the oppressive or act as a forum for all African viewpoints in order, among other things, to present the grievances of the black majority to the Union government. At the founding of the ANC it was led by John Dube as the president, Walter Rubusana as the honorary president, Sol Plaatjie as the secretary general, Pixley Seme the treasure and Thomas Mapikela as the speaker. The ANC,which was then the SANNC, had an impression that the union government is eager in enforcing more legislative acts which were going to make the lives of black majority more difficult as it was and that was the case.
It is evident with the 1923 Native (Urban area) Act which was to impose tight control over Africans in urban areas. Under this act, the union government held a full right to remove upon himself to remove Africans from urban areas back to the reserve whenever he wanted too or felt the need of doing so. Even in urban areas, Africans had their own separate area that they were allocated to not around whites and pass laws were strictly administered. The ANC tried to challenge many legislation acts that were implemented thereafter by the union government since from its formation in 1912 to the dates in question (1924-1949), but none seemed to successes. This impacted negatively on the movement as they were losing support from the majority of Africans. The land issue was at the heart within the ANC members as the most vital issue to be dealt with among other issues. This led to a demand of African Representatives in Parliament and the 1919 constitution of the ANC stated very clear of it goals to be achieved by constitutional means. As much as the Congress was failing in achieving some of its goals, one thing for sure is that they never gave up on the issue of having a direct representation in parliament and it therefore rejected the Hertzog bills in 1926.
The Hertzog Legislation The role of the ANC in the Hertzog legislation was not a pleasing one despite its rejection of the Hertzog bills in 1926. What led to this situation was the ANC losing it pre-eminence in black politics and lacked both the organisation and the leadership to coordinate opposition to the Hertzog legislation. This therefore led to the All African Convention (ACC) as an organisation carried by Africans to oppose Hertzog Bills. The ACC was aimed at promoting African rights through boycotts.
The ACC drew many delegates including of the prominent ANC members to it formation. Because of the power that Hertzog possessed unfortunately the legislation succeeded and became the law and Africans were aware of the implications brought upon the passing of the legislation. In the passing of Hertzog legislation, a new form of representation of Africans was introduced. Black voters for the first time elected three whites members of parliament from the Cape and four white senators from the country as a whole. These seven representatives made a huge impact in the legislature than Hertzog expected (Lapping 1986119). The African National Congress used this opportunity and placed a huge input on the Natives Representatives by outlining all the information about living and conditions of the natives and this was at the best interest of the congress which also led to a Native Representative Council whereby the Africans selected 12 of their leaders, whom the government understood to consult on native issues. Again the congress used this concession at it advantage and it members won several seats on the council. When the British prime Minister, Winston Churchill and the United States president, Franklin Roosevelt signed an agreement, which was called the Atlantic Charter announcing the aims for which the second world war was being fought.
The charter lied on the roots of freedom, democracy and the right of people to self-determination and this was seen to be one document that South Africa needed. It was seen as the document that applied to the South African situation in such a way that the congress supporters on the native representative council quoted the Atlantic Charter by proposing that charter should mean the replacement of the council itself by a proportionate place of Africans in Parliament and their acceptance as co-partners in this country. (Lapping 1986120-121). The 1943 election was another milestone as it led to a formulation of another document called the African Claims. It was the congress which prepared this document of the African claims which outlined in details what blacks in, South Africa understood of the charter and the committee proposing this document was led by Dr A.B Xuma who was at a time the president of the congress. The African Claims was more of a policy for the congress. The Youth League When the census between the 1936 and 1941 showed results that the number of African living in town has increased more than double, from 1,1 million to 2,3 million (Lapping 1986121), their concentration in industry was becoming sufficient to form the base for a mass movement which they called the Youth League.
The youth league appeared as a movement that was determined to mobilise forces that might be impossible to control. The youth leagues belief that non-collaboration was the better policy was supported by a rash of spontaneous actions. This also gave hope to the black people or more specifically black workers that in the rights circumstances black solidarity could win the day. Anton Lembede was the man who gave the youth league ideas.
In the 1943, in the township of Alexandra, Bus Company within the area raised bus fare from 4d to 5d and this increase bus fare was more than what the Africans could afford. Many workers choose to walk to their placed of walk and back. A huge number of workers including clerks, messengers, cleaners and washerwoman chose to walk and the numbers increased every day and it was a big loss for the bus company that within nine days the company cancelled the raise and that marked as the first act of the Alexandra bus boycott. Black people went back to travelling with the bus but fifteen months later, in November 1944, the bus company tried again to raise the bus fare, by 1d and again black workers went back to boycotting and this time the boycott lasted longer than expected about seven weeks. Black workers tried other means of getting to work, some borrowed cars, others took bicycles, horses, taxis and again the majority walked. This was one peaceful boycott that African has conducted and completely succeeded in their objectives which is today is now known as the Alexandra Buss Boycott. The Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU) In 1919, a black Union movement, the Industrial and commercial Workers Union was formed.
The founder of the union was Clement Kadalie, who was originally what is known as Malawi today. The main aim of the Industrial and Workers Union (ICU) was to improve working conditions and higher wages for African people or workers. The ICU attracted a lot of it followers at a time when the congress was fizzling out on the Rand. It was not a good time for the congress and with what was happening within the congress, it could be said that the ICU came at a right time for African workers. The ICU attracted both unskilled and semi-skilled workers. It first approach was by demonstrating the potential power of mass membership and made no attempts in solving the dilemma of race relations or political power of which was a struggle for black majority. It functioned alone with exclusion of the congress. It did not partner with the congress or form any alliance and this impacted negatively on the ICU as it led to the loss of its members in 1925.
During this period of membership loss within the ICU, Clement Kadalie decided to approach this matter by spreading the ICU, creating or forming more branches throughout the country. He turned his main focus to the rural areas if Natal, the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. As more branches of ICU were formed within rural areas each had their own leaders. The ICU leaders were divided by both theoretical and personal quarrels. Some local strikes were effective, but nationally the ICUs mobilisation of the workers, both urban and rural, was to prove as important as the petitions and delegation of the congress (Lapping 198692). Somehow it shifted from trade unionism to political issues.
By 1928, the HYPERLINK http//www.sahistory.org.za/pages/governence-projects/organisations/ICU/icu-history.htm ICU did little to offer solidarity for Blacks as it was riddled by internal squabbles and it could not direct its energy where it was supposed to, therefore its membership numbers dwindled (SAHO, 2011). Conclusion The period 1924-1949 marks a significance period for the black majority of South Africa in terms of it political and labour movement.
Many strikes took place in fighting the dominant discourse. As much as there were some hiccups or failures within the movements that were formed with many unsuccessful encounters or fell apart but they made a huge impact in the union government and the black majority. Different organisations were formed but all of them had one purpose which was to fight for liberation. Reference list Beinart, W and Dubow, S.1995.Segregation and apartheid in twentieth century South Africa. Routledge London Grundlingh, A.1987.
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