Plan for mass African protests on Republic

2008-05-27 00:00

AT 3.20 am yesterday, during an all-night debate in Pietermaritzburg, the ALL-in African Congress by resolution made a demand that a national convention should be called by the Government not later than May 31m 1961-the day on which the Nationalist intend to declare a republic-to decide on "a new non-racial democratic constitution for South Africa.

"We resolve that should the minority Government ignore this demand of the representatives of the united will of the African people, we undertake to stage country-wide demonstrations on the eve of the proclamation of the republic in protest against this undemocratic act."

In opening the debate, Mr. Nelson Mandela former president of the African National Congress in the Tranvaal stated that it was clear that a republic would bring more intense application of the racial policies which had earned South Africa the condemnation of the whole world.

The congress started on a dramatic note on Saturday afternoon when the venue was suddenly changed following allegations that the Special Branch had wired the hall for the sound and possibly had tape recorders in operation in the hall's projection room, which was locked.

When the changed venue was announced, almost 1 500 Africans had gathered at the Local Health Commission Hall in Edendale. While the leaders and organisers held secret discussion elsewhere, other kept those in the hall occupied in chants and songs. Shortly before 4 pm, during a heavy drizzle, the crowd marched to the Plessislaer Indian Hall, which had been obtained at the last moment through the service of the Natal Indian Congress.

By nightfall a lean-tent had been attached to the Plessislaer Hall to cope with the overflow crowd. As the night wore on some of the crowd rolled themselves up in blankets against the cold night air and slept, while those in the hall kept themselves awake by singing chants and dancing periodically through the night.

Special Branch

Special Branch men and two police vans were in the street outside the hall during most of the congress, but these vehicles all left during the early hours of the morning.

The Credentials Committee of the conference reported tht there were 1 398 delegates present, representing 145 organisations from throughout the Union. In addition to local Anti-Pass Committes and Residents and Vigilante Associations, and many trade union organisations were represented.

Mr Mandela, in his opening statement, said that the purpose of the conference was first to achieve unity among African people,and secondly to demand a national covention representative of all races.

Mr Mandela referred to Sharpville and Langa, Pondoland, the Transkeian Territories, Sekekuniland, Zeerust, last year's state of emergency and " the evils of Bantu Authorities". He said that Africans could either accept Government policies and their humilations, or could stand shoulder to shoulder against oppression. He added an instance of the application of the Pass Laws. "It is for this reason," he said "that we feel that the pass system together with the whole policy of the Nationalist Party of racial descrimination should be repealed, and a national convention be called before May 31.

"A few weeks ago the Prime Minister of the country made a promise to the nation tht he would try had and earnestly to remain in the Commonwealth. What happened? The progressive and democratic nations of the Commonwealth refused to accept South Africa unless he repudiated the evel policy of apartheid."

In demanding a national convention, Mr Mandela stated: " We have always held the view that no constitution or form of government decied without the participation of the African people who form the absolute majority can enjoy moral validity or merit support, either in South Africa or beyond its borders."

Inevitable

A message from ex-Chief Albert Luthuli, former president of the A.N.C and a member of the All-in Conference's Continuation Committee, said in a message to the conference that the decision to hold the conference was inevitable inspite of the arrest of members of the Continuation Committee.

One of the woman delegates to the conference, Mrs, Lilian Ngoyi, former president of the A.N.C. women's league, said that " all those who believe in a united South Africa must come and attend the national convention. We don't say the Europeans should leave South Africa, but there must be unity with them - but we say "no" to White Baasskap."

The first resolution was put to the meeting at 3:20 am, and was unanimously accepted. "We demand that a national convention of elected representatives of all adult men and woment on an equal basis, irrespective of race, couour or creed or other limitaion, be called by Union Government not later then May 31, 1961, and that this convention should have sovereign powers to determine, in any way the majority of the representatives shall decide,a new non-racial democratic constitution for South Africa."

The resolution added a call on African not to "co-operate or collaborate in any way with the proposed republic". and on Indians, Coloured and "democratic Europeans" in South Africa". It called for economic sanctions against the Government. The second resolution deplored the arrest of members of the Continuation Commettee.

A third resolution read: "This All-in Conference views with grave concern the deterioration in the living conditions of the people in the rural areas as wellas the forcible imposition of the system of Bantu Authorities, notwithstanding the unanimous opposition of the people to this scheme."

Fourthly, the conference welcomed the decision of teh London Commonwealth conference "which refused to accept South Africa's application for membership because of here repugnatnt and harbaric policies".

Life Ban of A.N.C

Fifly, the conference called on the Government to lift the ban on the A.N.C. Inspite of the call for unity from the conference in relation to the overall total of former A.N.C members there were illegedly only three former Pan African Congress members and seven Liberals present. The report of teh Continuation Committee, read at 5:10 am, mentioned the withdrawal of ex-P.A.C. Men from the organisation and the later resignation of three other members, Mr J.C Mbatha and twwo Liberals, Mr Jordan Ngubane and Mr H. Bhengu.

It stated that at a meeting of March 4, some members felt that "the conference should be postponed to allow time to heal the breach. The viw of the remaining members was , however, that the conference should continue. The conference eended at 6:30 am yesterday.

Related to the article by Stephen Coan.

Click here to read the article called More offical boycotts ahead for S.A., says Paton.

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