The Early Years – Part 1 by Richard Rive
During 1911, a thirty-year-old black lawyer with a growing practice in Johannesburg, South Africa, took the major initiative in organising a nation-wide congress of black representatives. This was an idea that had already germinated in his mind eight years before while he was still an undergraduate student in New York. His name was Pixley ka Isaka Seme. He was a Zulu barrister-at-law, practising in the Transvaal as an attorney of the Supreme Court of the Union of South Africa.
In this historic call, he emphasized the necessity for black unity.
“The demon of racialism, the aberration of the Xhosa-Fingo feud, the animosity that exists between the Zulus and the Tongas, between the Basutos and every other native must be buried and forgotten... We are one people. These divisions, these jealousies, are the cause of all our woes and of all our backwardness and ignorance today.”1
On January 8, 1912, his hope seemed to be realised when personalities from black communities all over Southern Africa converged on Bloemfontein. Appropriately Pixley Seme, as the initiator, gave the keynote address.
“Chiefs of royal blood and gentlemen of our race, we have gathered here to consider and discuss a theme which my colleagues and I have decided to place before you. We have discussed that in the land of their birth, Africans are treated as hewers of wood and drawers of water. The white people of this country have formed what is known as the Union of South Africa – a union in which we have no voice in the making of laws and no part in their administration. We have called you therefore to this conference so that we can together devise ways and means of forming our national union for the purpose of creating national unity and defending our rights and privileges.”2
The assembled delegates then sang Tiyo Soga`s hymn, `Lizalise Dingalako Tixo We Nyaniso` (Fulfill Thy Promise, God of Truth) and Seme formally proposed that
“...The delegates and representatives of the great native houses from every part of South Africa here assembled should form and establish the South African Native National Congress.”3
His motion was seconded by Alfred Mangena, a fellow lawyer, who had been called to the bar two years earlier at Lincoln`s Inn, London. The African National Congress was born.
|ANC President Jacob Zuma and Zimbabwen President Robert Mugabe expected to attend the Centenary Celebrations in Bloemfontein starting Sun 8 Jan 2012|