Political address by Limpopo ANC Chairperson Cde Cassel Mathale during the African National Congress Centenary Lecture

Political address by Limpopo ANC Chairperson Cde Cassel Mathale during the African National Congress Centenary Lecture

13 January 2012, Sekhukhune Region

PEC members
Chairperson of the Region
The Regional leadership
Branches representatives
The leaders of the Alliance
The leadership of the Veterans League and MKMVA respectively
The leadership of the Women’s League
The leadership of ANCYL, YCL, SASCO & COSAS
Traditional leaders present here

Please, receive revolutionary greetings from the Provincial Executive Committee. This lecture is very special and unique for it is not about the life of an individual, but is about the revolutionary voyage of our glorious movement, the African National Congress. The ANC is 100 years old this year and it is important to pause for a moment in order to reflect on the history of this liberation giant, which was established to free the oppressed masses of our people from the brutal regime of apartheid.

The history of our movement cannot be told without explaining the compelling reasons that saw the idea of forming an organized structure to represent the subjugated African masses coming about.

The founders of the ANC were prepared to embark on a long and difficult course of pursuing the British monarch to grant African men the right to vote. But little did they know that the journey will be brutal, and dangerous as the white apartheid regime was not prepared to surrender or share power with black people who were considered objects that must be used, harassed and where the situation requires, murdered with impunity without incurring any criminal responsibility.

The beginning of African political consciousness in Southern Africa can best be traced back to the first half of the nineteenth century, to the impact of the Christian missions and to the development of a non-racial constitution in the Cape.

As the century progressed, mission-educated Africans came to have some influence within Cape politics, and the Native policy of that colony was seen to contrast favourable with those politics developing in the Boer republics and Natal.

By the turn of the century a new African elite had emerged, committed to non-racial ideals gleaned from Christianity and supported by the theory, and to some extent the practice of Cape politics.

At that time, black people under the leadership of their traditional leaders in what was called Basutoland, based in Transvaal and Orange Free State, which now includes Limpopo, Free State, and North West which at that time also included Gauteng were not considered for any thing except being treated as objects without any rights.

Before, navigating further in this input, please allow me to highlight the fact that at some point in history, in particular in the Cape, Africans were permitted to vote and enjoyed many rights as compared to their fellow brothers and sisters who lived inland, with specific reference to places which were under the Afrikaner domination.

Africans in the Cape with specific reference to those who owned property or earned a certain salary were accorded a certain limited right to vote. In certain instances they could not vote directly but had to vote through a white male fellow. This means individually they were required to tell the white man the person they were voting for and it was the responsibility of the white man to cast the vote on their behalf.

In the 1828, the social conditions of the Hottentots and other persons of colour were improved. Gradually equality before the law was established and in 1872 a non-racial franchise was developed and maintained. Through this means, the vision of a common non racial citizenship was retained and made available, not only to the increasing number of Africans who found themselves under Cape jurisdiction, but also to the African elite that began to emerge throughout Southern Africa as teachers, ministers of religion, craftsmen, clerks, interpreters and others.

Unfortunately, the relationship between the Dutch, English and Hottentots of the Cape Colony were consequently replaced by issues of political stability throughout Southern Africa and the Cape non-racial tradition had to struggle for survival amidst the turmoil generated by the emerging Afrikaner nationalism, the imperialism of the British and the increasing sophisticated African communities which were beginning to demand more equal rights.

Perhaps it is necessary to mention that the emergence of Afrikaner nationalism and the British imperialism was not only a concern to Africans, but it was also a concern to other white intellectuals; in particular those who had experienced the benefits of civilization where all human race stayed and lived together as one. One amongst such was Olive Schreiner who wrote in 1909 under the work Closer Union that:

"If it is possible for us out of our great complex body of humanity to raise up a free, intelligent, harmonious nation, each part of acting with and for the benefit of the others, then we shall have played a part as great as that of any nation in the world’s records...If we as a dominant class, realise that the true wealth of a nation is the health, happiness, intelligence and content of every man and woman born within its borders, then I think the future of South Africa promises greatness and strength."

Schreiner continued but now in the form of a warning that: "But if we fail in this; blinded by the gain of the moment we see nothing in our dark man but a vast engine of labour; if to us he is not a man, but only a tool; if we force him permanently in his millions into the locations and compounds and slums of our cities, obtaining his labour cheaper; if unbound to us by gratitude and sympathy, an alien to us in blood and colour, we reduce this vast mass to the conditions of a great seething, ignorant proletariat then I would rather draw a veil over the future of this land."

Schreiner made this statement not because she did not want to enjoy the benefits that were given to the people of her colour. But she made that bold articulation after realizing that the course of oppressing black people may be the thing of a moment even though it may take time to change. She knew that no regime no matter how strong it could be can permanently deprive the indigenous people of this land their fundamental rights which are credited to every person upon birth.

More often, the history of the African National Congress is articulated or discussed from the historic call that was made by Pixley Ka Izaka Seme in 1911 urging all people to forget their differences, including tribal differences and act as a united force for the liberation of the people.

When we say, from the time immemorial, we never advocated for the domination of blacks over other racial groups, we are accused of distorting history to gain political mileage.

In the 1800s Africans were no longer having scattered opinions on what ought to be the way forward in mapping their future as equal citizens with their white counterparts in the land of their ancestors. Africans began to organize themselves demanding amongst others involvement in the new economic and social order of that time.

Indigenous newspapers were printed and circulated in numbers informing and educating Africans about their inherent socio-economic rights. The first African newspaper was printed in 1876 under the name Isigidimi Sama Xosa (The Xosa Messenger) under the editorship of Rev Elijah Makiwane who was succeeded by Mr. Tengo Jabavu in 1881. Jabavu strongly emerged as a true personification of the new political awareness that was taking shape and later became the first African professor.

Jabavu as an editor and also through participation in the Cape politics was considered as a person who did more to orientate his fellow Africans to the political realities of the day than any other man of his generation. Later, Jabavu established and became the editor of his own newspaper Imvo Zabantsundu and he declared that his mission was to "open the eyes of the Natives to their rights."

Jabavu had an informed fear that the Afrikaner nationalism was a threat to the rights of black South Africans. He never suspected anything similar with the English, precisely because he thought Britain will ultimately live up to its principles of common justice and common humanity which will also be applicable to Africans. This was shared by many African intellectuals until the generation of Antone Lembede, OR Tambo, Welter Sisulu, and AP Mda. Regrettably, little did Jabavu and others know that Britain was more than ready to deny those principles to blacks as long as it was in their narrow selfish interests.

Later Jabavu was convinced that the European hypocrisy was as bad as the Afrikaner nationalism and therefore Europeans could not be trusted in any course. These sentiments were shared by Selby Msimang who wrote in his pamphlet The Crisis that:

"Let us now admit, both publicly and in our conscience, that ‘white’ Parliament and the white people of South Africa have disowned us, flirted and trifled with our loyalty. They have treated us as rebels."

During the Boer War, Jabavu supported the English liberals and African politics began to diversify into several camps leading to the establishment of a rival newspaper called Izwi Labandu under Rev Walter Rubusana. But the message and content never lost shape owing to such development. The struggle for the betterment of the rights of Africans remained the central theme of every African initiative.

The fact is that whereas in the Cape Africans were offered a limited opportunity for participation in a common citizenship, the Boer republics formed constitutional and practical barriers to any comparable involvement that accelerated the African self-consciousness.


We cannot adjourn this lecture without paying tribute to many black people who perished during the Anglo Boer War after being forced to fight the battle that was not theirs. The outbreak of the South African War in 1899 which was known as the Ango-Boer War became one of the defining moments in the history of our country.

After our forefathers were deceived by the Afrikaners who told them that the British were all out to remove them from their land, and they will not only take women as slaves, but they will also rape and kill their children, saw it proper to stand up in defense of the artificial catastrophe that was looming.

On the other hand, another detachment of black South Africans mainly from the areas that were controlled by the British fought along side the British under the false promise that all British principles will be imported to South African after the Anglo Boer War victory. Some of the African intellectuals who had the rare opportunity to study in Britain and other western states knew what was promised and did not have reasons to doubt what was pledged. But unfortunately that was not to be.

The Boers knew deep down in their hearts that they were telling blatant lies, so were the British.

A sizable number of Africans were made to believe, but of course others owing to their own calculations, that the Anglo-Boer War was being fought to establish British non-racial justice throughout South Africa. To the surprise of many indigenous people including intellectuals, nothing was mentioned about the future of black South Africans in the Peace Treaty of Vereeniging.

Instead, all decisions pertaining to the future rights of Africans were deferred until the introduction of the new government which was later created in 1910 with the formation of the Union. The fact that the British who dictated terms during the Vereeniging talks could not push forward the issue of black South Africans left many Africans especially intellectuals with many suspicions about the promise that was made by the British.

Peter Walshe in his book, The Rise of African Nationalism in South Africa: The African National Congress 1912-1952 summarizes it correctly when he says that:

"As the debate on Union progressed in European circles, so Africans fears were rekindled."

Perhaps it might be beneficial to indicate that the fear that engulfed many Africans compelled them amongst others to formulate various political organizations to confront what was due to occur. Although others existed before the War, many structures such as: Natal Native Congress, Cape Native Convention established by Tengo Jabavu, Native Vigilance Association based in Transkei, South African Native Congress in the Western Cape, African People`s Organisation dominantly composed of coloured members, the Orange River Colony Native Vigilance Association, which later become Orange River Colony Congress based in the north were established.

In Transvaal there were also several structures established to push forward the rights of Africans, such the Transvaal Congress, a Bapedi Union and a Basuto Association.

In 1909, our forefathers realized that the intention of both the British and the Boers was to exclude them from the future as important role players. And also after coming to terms with the fact that they will not make any impact in engaging the powers that be from scattered directions, they converged in Bloemfontein under the banner of the South African Native Convention to propose amongst others objection to the any law or document that did not empower Africans especially affording them the right to vote.

Indeed, Africans were removed from the centre of events and the establishment of the Union was followed by the ruthless exploitation of their labour under the evolving policy of segregation, which later left many freedom fighters tortured, murdered and dispossessed of their land, livestock, and most of all their inherent human dignity.

Post the war the English and the Boers were working together, although without any trust, towards establishing one state with one constitution. In 1910, the Union was formed bringing together all states under one authority. All practices of racial discrimination were now migrated to the Cape with all Africans deprived of the right to vote.

It is worth indicating that these developments in the aftermath of the Anglo-Boer War also played a major role in giving politics of Africans a national face, just as they assisted the English and Boers to join their efforts and forces against Africans. This is because now Africans had to confront the same enemy and no longer individual states. Also important, is that the War settlements proved to all conscious Africans that the English and the Boers were not different.

The capitulated Cape political system came to represent the most fundamental demand of Africans. Andre Odendaal in his work titled Vukani Bantu! The Beginnings of Black Protest Politics in South Africa to 1912 strongly argues that when the white power was unified in the country, it so consolidated and unified Africans who ultimately converged to form the first national organization, the African Native National Congress in 1912, later the African National Congress.

As we may know, the generation that formed the ANC included, Rev John Dube who was elected the inaugurating president, J Thaele, Alfred Mangena, RS Msimang, SM Makgatho who become the second president, PKI Seme, GD Montsioa, Rev W Rubusana, Sol Plaatjie, S Msane, Rev HR Ngcayiya, T Mapikela, J A Calata, R G Baloyi and many others, including Kings and religious leaders.

At the core of its establishment the African National Congress always believed in non-racial principles and envisaged a future South African society characterised and enriched by the growing interdependence and co-operation of its various population groups within one economic and political system.

At the infant stages, the leadership of the ANC was committed to search for opportunities and the basic right to vote through peaceful means. But the frustration was growing every single moment with the white government asserting its authority over the oppressed and exploited masses of our people through all means possible. This left some of the leaders with no option but to speak against such developments publicly.

The leaders came to realise that they will never make any breakthrough without demonstrating the fact that they represent the vast majority of the marginalized and oppressed African population. This reality and also various conditions of the day, dictated terms for the ANC to become a mass based movement for change, something which was not supported by others within the ranks of the movement.


The history of our glorious movement is very rich, but can sometimes be confusing. One of the best methods to know and understand the historical evolution of the politics of our movement is to relate every epoch to what was happening in the Country at that point in time. This means we should reflect about the ANC between 1912 until 1948 when the Afrikaners took over power from the British and formally introduced the policy of apartheid.

Between 1912 and 1948, the leadership of the movement was committed to the path of acquiring the rights of Africans to participate in the decision making processes and most importantly, the right to vote. The leadership was convinced that it was possible to achieve this through dialogue. And their conviction led to the crossing of the seas to argue their cases with the British and also later led to some formulating the All-African Convention under the presidency of Professor Jabavu which immediately dispatched a delegation to meet the white minority regime.

Jabavu together with another delegate remained in Cape Town after their comrades left and secured a deal which allowed Africans to elect seven white parliamentarians on a separate roll and twelve black representatives to a government advisory body called the Native Representative Council. But these developments were not accepted by all comrades.

When the ANC was still pleading for inclusion in the administrative politics of the new order under the Union Constitution, the Native Land Act was passed in 1913 stripping blacks of their right to own or lease in white areas which also led to many blacks being forced out of their houses and forcefully evicted from their land. This situation compelled cde Solomon Plaatjie the first Secretary-General of the movement to write that:

"Awakening on Friday morning, June 29, 1913, the South African native found himself not actually a slave, but a pariah in the land of his birth. Black families were evicted from white farmers in their thousands. Loading their belongings on to their heads, they trudged for days and nights in the middle of winter, driving small herds and carrying children from one white farm to the next as they begged for shelter. It looks as if these people are so many fugitives escaping from a war"

The ANC continued to operate as a moderate organization engaging the regime through meetings and letters. This also was informed by the fact that the regime was not using a heavy handed method to suppress the dissenting opinion which was peaceful at that time.

The situation changed with the Nationalist Party of the Boers seized power two years after the Second World War which did not receive the support of all Africans who were still recovering from the deceit of the Ango-Boer War. The National Party did not only officially apply apartheid laws but enforced them, killing and torturing any descending view.

The call by the ANC Youth League for a militant and radical approach was partly informed by the manner in which the white apartheid regime was responding to demands that were made peacefully. The Youth League felt that the ANC needed a new militant approach that had the capacity to defend and protect demonstrators and the oppressed people.

As pressure was mounting on the regime, the African National Congress together with other formations was banned. Now, the ANC was practically divided into three. The ANC in exile; the ANC in prison and the ANC as the underground force. But all these three components were under one commander in the name of President-General OR Tambo and under one headquarters which was in Lusaka.

The ANC from 1948 to 1991 was very different from that of the previous epoch. The African National Congress between 1991 to 1994 was different because it was dominated by negotiations with the white apartheid regime as part of paving the way for the democratic breakthrough. The fact is that the ANC of yesteryears cannot be the same as the ANC of today and may also not be similar with the ANC of tomorrow. This also suggests that the challenges may not be the same on every aspect.

The ANC is not immune from challenges and what is important is the methods applicable in solving such challenges. Please allow me to indicate some of these challenges which if not addressed properly may liquidate our movement. The issue of tribalism, factionalism opportunism, careerism, fighting for positions in the movement, intolerance, abuse of government processes to settle party political differences; and ill-discipline are a threat to the movement.

Our movement as the governing party has an elementary obligation to improve the living conditions of our people without any excuse.


Black South Africans are the last people in the modern world to be brought face to face with the atrocious treatment by the white minority regime which enjoyed the support of certain powerful states notwithstanding the enactment of international legal instruments that declared apartheid an international crime. Black people in particular and the freedom fighters in general fought a bitter struggle to attain freedom and it is incumbent upon us to defend the freedom.

Thank you for this opportunity and for listening. Let us build a strong, relevant and responsive African National Congress.

ANC Lives!
ANC Leads!