ANC is no older than it thinks it is

2015-03-15 18:00

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Was the African National Congress really formed in 1887, not 1912? That’s what Xolela Mangcu claims in “The ANC is much older than it thinks” (City Press, March 8 2015).

He refers us to poet SEK Mqhayi’s article published in Umteteli on October 5 1928 as the source of his assertion.

I disagree with Mqhayi’s (and Mangcu’s) dates of the ANC’s birth. They are not entirely wrong. Mine is simply a qualification. The two misunderstood the evolutionary process and the nature of the ANC and its predecessor.

The SA Native Congress (SANC) was not the ANC, but its ancestor. The two differed in form and content, but shared a similar raison d’être: to secure equality for Africans.

While sharing roots, the differences between the two are stark. The SANC Mqhayi refers to was formed predominantly by Xhosa-speakers and remained Cape-based. He does mention the presence of other individuals “from all over southern Africa” at the SANC’s formation, but that appears to have been insignificant.

The SANC’s formation was triggered by the so-called Sprigg Bill that sought to limit the number of African and coloured voters. Only in 1904 did the SANC in the Cape make noteworthy movements towards recruiting nationwide membership.

Even then, one sees that the non-Cape presence appears to have been negligible in the Cape SANC. The Cape SANC was not unique. There were other provincially based congresses formed from 1900. Each was triggered by, and focused on, provincial issues, but they shared the common objective of achieving racial equality.They nevertheless remained divided organisationally and ethnically.

It was only the initiation of the establishment of the union that gave impetus to a similar process to fuse the provincial congresses into a national one. For instance, their initial meeting happened in 1909 after the introduction of the draft of the Union’s constitution.

Because they were to be subjected to a common government authority, they thought it prudent to combine their efforts and strive for a common dispensation for Africans.This was a significant step towards unity, and the selection of Bloemfontein as a meeting point was meant to ensure easy access for everyone.

Other national gatherings of the ANC followed in 1910 and 1911, before the formation of the SA Native National Congress (SANNC) in 1912.The three national gatherings were the initial point of distinction between the SANC and the SANNC.

It showed an eschewal of ethnic-based organisational life in favour of national unity. This was also a sign of an emerging national consciousness by the sharing of common experiences and contact in industrial towns like Kimberley.

The ethnic diversity and representativeness of the founding conference further distinguished the SANNC from its ancestry. This explains the insertion of the word ‘national’ in its name.

The ANC, which started as the SANNC, was markedly different to the SANC.

They are connected by genealogy, but distinguished by traits and scope. And the new offspring arrived in 1912. That’s the date of the birth.

Ndletyana is head of political economy faculty at the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.