Essay Of African Nationalism Crash

From the book: Freedom In Our Life Time by Anton Muziwakhe Lembede

On Easter Sunday 1944 a group of young political activists gathered at the Bantu Men's Social Centre in downtown Johannesburg to launch the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL). Motivatedby their desire to shake up the "Old Guard" in the African National Congress (ANC) and set the ANC on a militant course, this "Class of '44" became the nucleus of a remarkable generation of African leaders: Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Jordan Ngubane, Ellen Kuzwayo, Albertina Sisulu, A. P. Mda, Dan Tloome, and David Bopape. Many of them remained at the forefront of the struggle for freedom and equality in South Africa for the next half century.

However, the person the Youth Leaguers turned to in 1944 for their first president is not even listed in this group. He was a Natal born lawyer, Anton Muziwakhe Lembede. Known to his friends as "Lembs," Lembede was a political neophyte when he moved from the Orange Free State to Johannesburg in 1943 to practice law. His sharp intellect, fiery personality, and unwavering commitment to the struggle made an immediate impression on his peers, and he was quickly catapulted into prominence in both the Youth League and the ANC. Though his political life was brief ”” he died tragically in 1947 ”” he left an enduring legacy for future generations. He is best remembered for his passionate and eloquent articulation of an African-centered philosophy of nationalism that he called "Africanism." A call to arms for Africans to wage an aggressive campaign against white domination, Africanism asserted that in order to advance the freedom struggle, Africans first had to turn inward. They had to shed their feelings of inferiority and redefine their self-image, rely on their own resources, and unite and mobilize as a national group around their own leaders. Though African nationalism remains to this day a vibrant strand of African political thought in South Africa, Lembede stands out as thefirst to have constructed a philosophy of African nationalism.

As South Africa enters a new era, we have decided to remember Lembede's contribution to the freedom struggle by assembling this collection of writings by and about him. Writing about Lembede is a challenging task for several reasons. One is that we are still faced with significant gaps in our knowledge of his life, especially the years before he moved to Johannesburg and entered politics. Another is that Lembede did not have the opportunity to develop many of his ideas fully because of the short time period in which he was politically active. Consequently, it is difficult to chart precisely the evolution of his political ideas. However, we believe this collection, which brings together Lembede's writings from his student days to just a few days before his death, significantly broadens our understanding of a seminal figure in South African political thought.”Š1

We have divided this collection into eight sections. The first consists of essays he wrote in the 1930s when he was a student at Adams College and, later, a teacher in Natal and the Orange Free State. Subsequent sections present his political writings from 1944 to 1947 when he was active on the political scene and began to frame his philosophy of African nationalism. His views on African nationalism, religion, the ANC Youth League, cultural affairs, and other political movements were primarily set out in letters and essays he submitted to the black press. But we have also included reports on his speeches. a book review, excerpts from his M.A. thesis for the University of South Africa, and reactions to his activities and ideas. Finally, we have included tributes to Lembede by his contemporaries on his death.


Looking back on his childhood days in Natal, Lembede was fond of telling his Johannesburg friends, "I am proud of my peasant origin. I am one with Mother Africa's dark soil." This declaration served a dual purpose: defining a political orientation and commitment and underscoring the fact that whatever his considerable educational, professional, and political achievements, he remained strongly attached to his rural roots.

Born on 21 January 1914 on the farm of Frank Fell at Eston, Muziwakhe Lembede was the first of seven children of Mbazwana Martinand Martha Nora MaLuthuIi Lembede.”Š2”‰His father was a farm laborer who, according to his family, had a reputation among whites and blacks in his area for "listening, thinking . . . and ... a quality ofthe fear of God which he impressed upon his children by deeds."

His mother attained a Standard V education (a considerable achievement for any African at that time) at Georgedale School and taught at schools at VredeviUe, Darlington, and Umlazi Bridge. She tutored Anton at home in the basics of reading and writing until he was ready to pass Standard II. But she was anxious for him and her other children to escape their gruelling lives as farm laborers. Around 1927, she prevailed on her husband to relocate the family to Mphephetho in the Umbumbulu "native" reserve (situated mid-way between Pietermaritzburg and Durban) so that their children could have access to formal schooling.

The Lembede family history portrays their move to Umbumbulu as a positive search for educational opportunity, but it also coincided with a major upheaval on Natal's white farms. For a variety of reasons, white farmers evicted thousands of Africans from their farms in the late 1920s. Most of the dispossessed made their way to the urban areas or the overpopulated, overstocked, and unproductive African reserve areas that comprised roughly 7 percent of South Africa's land. Indeed, Lembede's father could not make ends meet on his plot of land at Mphephetho, and he had to supplement his income by working as a seasonal laborer on nearby white and Indian farms.”Š3

Before the Lembede family moved to Umbumbulu, Muziwakhe, who had been baptized in the Anglican church and given the name Francis, converted to Catholicism and, with his father and brother Nicholas, joined a Roman Catholic church near Eston. The priest at Eston, Father Cyprian, gave Muziwakhe an additional name, Anton. The church was to play a central role throughout Anton's life. As teenagers, he and Nicholas often played a game in which they acted out the role of a priest. Indeed, both told their family that they intended to become priests. However, Anton promised that before joining the priesthood, he would teach for a few years to pay school fees for his brothers and sisters.

Anton's formal education did not begin until he was 13, but he showed immediate promise in his classes. His teacher at the Catholic Inkanyezi school was nineteen year old Bernadette Sibeko of Lady smith, who was fresh out of Mariannhill Training College. Inkanyezi was her first teaching post.

About 60 students squeezed into her classroom in a "building made of wattle and daub with a corrugated iron roofing but with no ceiling.”Š4”‰To Standard I and II students, she taught Zulu, English, hygiene, and scriptures. In addition, to Standard III and IV students, she taught nature study, short stories from South African history, regional geography and reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Sibeko was the sole teacher for all the classes, and one of her techniques for coping with such a large and diverse group of children was to parcel out responsibilities. Since Anton was one of her best students, she often taught him a lesson and had him instruct the others. Anton's dedication to his studies left distinct impressions on both his family and Sibeko. His family remembers him herding the family cattle, but being so engrossed by his books that he let the cattle wander off. One of Sibeko's recollections was of watching him at a football match, walking up and down a field in deep thought and occasionally kicking the ball when it came his way.”Š5

On one occasion, Sibeko asked Anton to write an essay on money. His response, written out on a slate with a pencil, so impressed her that she copied it and entered it in a contest at a teachers' conference. It was awarded first prize. When we interviewed her in August 1991, she had no hesitation recollecting his short essay.

Money is a small coin, a small wheel bearing the picture of the King's head. Round this head is an inscription ”” head of the King of England ”” George V. You can go to any store. If you present this coin the store-keeper gives you whatever you want. The nations know the value of money, and we too realise that money rules the world.

After Anton completed Standard III, Sibeko encouraged him to continue his education. He worked for a while in a kitchen at Escombe in order to buy books and pay school fees at Umbumbulu Government School, where he completed Standard VI with a first class pass. Then, Hamilton Makhanya, a local school inspector, assisted him in securing a scholarship at nearby Adams College.


Established in 1849 to train African assistants to European missionaries, Adams College had by the 1930s become one of the premier schools for African students from all over southern and central Africa.”Š6”‰ Adams had three divisions: a high school which took students through matriculation; an industrial school for training students in carpentry and building; and a teachers' training college, opened in 1909. A new teachers' course introduced in 1917 prepared students for the Native Teachers Higher Primary Certificate (later renamed the T3), which allowed a teacher to assume jobs in Intermediate Schools, High Schools, and Training Colleges. This was the course for which Lembede enrolled in 1933.

Lembede left indelible impressions on his classmates at Adams. First, there was his abject poverty which was apparent to everyone because of his shabby dress: his patched pants and worn-out jackets. Jordan Ngubane, a classmate and one of the founders of the ANC Youth League, described Lembede as the "living symbol of African misery."”Š7”‰ Girls were embarrassed to be seen with him in public. Lembede was "very stupid in appearance," one female classmate recol-lected. "If any girl ever saw you, even if Antony [Anton] was innocently talking with you, then you'd become somebody to be talked about for the day."”Š8”‰

But there was another side of Lembede that his classmates consistently commented on, his brilliance and dedication to his studies. Edna Bam, who later taught in the faculty of education at the National University of Lesotho, drew a comparison of Lembede with J. E. K. Aggrey, the Ghanaian-born educator who had addressed an Adams  audience in April 1921 when he visited South Africa as part of the Phelps-Stokes delegation investigating African education.”Š9”‰ Aggrey was touted as the role model for all aspiring African students. Bam and other Adams students were told stories about Aggrey being so dedicated to his schooling that in the middle of winter he studied with his feet in a bucket of hot water. And that was the image that came to mind when she remembered Lembede.

Lembede excelled in learning languages. At Adams he picked up Afrikaans, Sesotho and Xhosa as well as German from German nuns residing near Adams, and he began studying Latin. Learning Afrkaans was even then regarded skeptically by African students. But Ellen Kuzwayo recollected an occasion where Lembede spoke before a group of students preparing for a debate with students at Sastri College, an Indian school in Durban. He started off his speech In English,but then switched easily to Afrikaans.

In one of his student essays in the Adams' publication, ho Lomuzi, Lembede advised that the best way to learn new languages was to combine the techniques of learning grammar with reading elementary readers.”Š10”‰ In that same essay, he maintained that studying foreign languages allowed one to understand other people and that contributed to lessening racial hatred. However, he also supported Africans learning languages other than their own in order to put them in a position to challenge whites who had established a monopoly over African languages through their control of orthography and publications. "It speaks for itself," he stated, "that we want educated Bantu men who have studied various Bantu languages, and who will be authorities on them."

Two other student essays, "The Importance of Agriculture" and "What Do We Understand by Economics?", provide a glimpse into Lembede's thinking on political and economic issues.”Š11”‰ In them, he placed the onus for black poverty on the African people themselves. He charged that poor farming techniques and the laziness of African farmers were directly responsible for their failures. Instead of drawing a connection between government policies and land shortages, he faulted African farmers for reducing themselves to the level where they had to seek work on white farms for a pittance. Lembede's own father had been forced to supplement his family's income by periodically going out to work on the farms of neighboring white and Indian farmers.

Lembede's solution was an education that taught people an appreciation for manual labor and applied modern agricultural techniques.His role model was Booker T. Washington, the black American educator, whose ideas on industrial education and self-help had been transplanted to Natal in the early twentieth century by an American trained Zulu, John Dube. Washington's principles permeated Dube's own school, Ohlange Institute, and they had a significant impact on the thinking of those in charge of African education throughout South Africa in the following decades.

Lembede's student views are a pointed contrast to his criticisms of the government in the mid-1940s, but they highlight themes that consistently surface in his later writings ”” that Africans had to rely on their inner resources to overcome inequities and that spiritual beliefs were a necessary component of economic and political advancement.

The fact that Lembede's essays were not overtly political is not surprising since descriptions of Adams generally agree that the school did not have a politicized environment. Although Adams teaching staff included Albert Luthuli and Z. K. Matthews, who were to be carefully insulated students from the political currents circulating about them. There was nevertheless one aspect of Adams that possibly influenced Lembede's nationalism of later years, a conscious effort on the part of Adams administrators to defuse ethnic tensions between students.

In this regard, a highlight of the school year was Heroes of Africa Day set aside to celebrate heroes of the African past. The campus had recognized Moshoeshoe Day and Shaka Day in the past, but when Edgar Brookes took over as Adams' principal in 1934, he created a Heroes' Day on 31 October, the eve of All Saints Day when "heroes" of the Christian faith were honored. ”Š12”‰ On Heroes' Day, students wore their national dress and gathered at an assembly to pay tribute to noted African figures from a culture other than their own. An Adams student, Khabi Mnqoma, has described the day's significance:

The day is set aside to sing praises to heroes of South Africa, and to attempt to recapitulate the mode of life of our ancestors. As Adams College is what one might term cosmopolitan, the various students contribute towards drawing a picture of primitive African life.”Š13”‰

Ellen Kuzwayo recalls her feelings about the day: 

We crossed the tribal division on that day. ... If I was Tswana, I had a freedom to depict my hero in another community in that cultural dress. Because I lived very near Lesotho, my grandfa-ther's home . . . and I saw more of the Basotho people, saw their traditional dresses, their traditional dances, everything, and I would be nothing but a moSotho. . . . And I think we didn't realize it . . . but it kept us as a black community without saying, "You are Zulu. You are Tswana. You are Xhosa."”Š14”‰


After leaving Adams in 1936, Lembede took up a series of teaching posts, first at Utrecht and Newcastle in Natal and then in the Orange Free State at Heilbron Bantu United School, where he taught Afrikaans, and Parys Bantu School, where he was headmaster.

His thirst for more education never stopped. Over the next decade he steadily advanced himself through a series of degrees, all through private study and financed with his meagre personal resources. He passed the Joint Matriculation Board exams in 1937, taking Afrikaans A and English B and earning a distinc A. M. LEMBEDE, "Mr. Msimang Answered," llanga lase Natal, 19 July 1947.tion in Latin. In 1940 he studied for a B.A. degree, majoring in Philosophy and Roman Law, through correspondence courses with the University of South Africa. He then tackled the Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) degree through the University of South Africa, completing it in 1942.. Finally, he registered for a M.A. degree in Philosophy in 1943 at the University of South Africa, submitting his thesis entitled "The Conception of God as Expounded by, or as it Emerges from the Writings of Philosophers ”” from Descartes to the Present Day" in 1945.”Š15”‰ Considering the fact that only a few Africans had attained graduate degrees, A. P. Mda's tribute to Lembede on completing his M.A. was well-deserved: "This signal achievement is the culmination of an epic struggle for self-education under severe handicaps and almost insuperable difficulties. It is a dramatic climax to Mr. Lembede's brilliant scholastic career."”Š16”‰

Lembede's ascetic lifestyle and his disciplined, austere study regmen were a major part of his educational success. According to B. M. Khaketla, his roommate in Heilbron, Lembede would wake up at five and read until six, when he prepared for school.”Š17”‰ He taught from eight until one. After lunch, at two, he came directly home and studied until seven o'clock when he broke for his evening meal. After dinner, he studied until eleven. He followed this timetable religiously on weekdays. On Saturdays, he read from five in the morning until lunch. After lunch he read until he went to bed. Sundays he set aside for church, reading newspapers, and socializing. Lembede also participated in the Orange Free State African Teachers' Association, an organization he scathingly censured In a letter to Umteteli wa Bantu (8 November 1941).

Every year, many resolutions are adopted by the Conference. What is the fate of many of them? Some end just on the paper on which they are written. They are not acted upon, thus they fail to realise their ultimate destiny ”” action. . . . We must be action-minded. The philosophy of action must be the corner stone of our policy. . . . In our ranks we have men and women of high talent and ability. Our poor, disorderly position Is not occasioned by lack of talent, but (a) by lack of scientific organisatlon and utilisation of that talent, (b) by lack of will-power. Africans! Our salvation lies In hard and systematic work!

Never one to hold back his criticisms of African shortcomings, Lembede's impatience with the Association's inaction and lax discipline and his desire for positive action foreshadowed sentiments that made their way Into his political views several years later.

Lembede also attended church services of the African branch of the Nederdults GereformeerdeKerk (Dutch Reformed Church (DRC), where he occasionally translated Afrikaans sermons into seSotho. Khaketla was struck by Lembede's fluency in both languages, and that he was willing to attend and appreciate services of denominations other than Catholic. His attitude was that "God Is Indivisible" and not subject to man-made divisions. He put on his best clothes and prepared himself for the monthly nagmaal services. Lembede thought nagmaal (Holy Communion) was more graceful and meaningful than the Holy Communion celebrated in the Catholic church; and he even chided Khaketla, an Anglican, that he could never understand the joy of nagmaal becouse Anglicans celebrated communion too frequently.

This is a pertinent anecdote because much has been made of Lembede's attachment to the Catholic church. Khaketla recollected that during one vacation, he went to Johannesburg and met Lembede by chance at Park Station. Lembede invited him to visit a friend, A. P. Mda, in Orlando township. As tliey approached the Roman Catholic church in Orlando, they saw Mda in the churchyard. Khaketla recognized Mda because they had trained together as teachers at Mariazell school near Matatiele. Lembede asked Khaketla not to tell Mda that he had regularly attended DRC services in Heilbron. To Lembede, church affiliation did not mean as much as a belief in God. Moreover, participating in the DRC had partly been a tactic to get a job. He represented the DRC at Bantu United School, where every sponsoring denomination had to be represented on the staff.

An interesting sidelight of Lembede's stay in the Orange Free State was his search for a wife. According to his Parys roommate Victor Khomari, Lembede had a great reverence for educated women. ”Š18”‰ He vowed that he wanted to meet and marry the most brilliant woman he could find rather than confining himself to someone from within his own ethnic group. When he read in the press about a woman from Lesotho who had been a spectacular student at Morija Training College and the University College of Fort Hare, he decided to go to Mafeteng in Lesotho with Khomari on their school holiday. Khomari loaned him a bike to peddle to Thabana Morena, the school where the woman was teaching, but he was not able to meet her. By coincidence, the young woman in question, Caroline Ntseliseng Ramolahloane, later married B. M. Khaketla, Lembede's Heilbron roommate, in 1946.

One of Lembede's last acts before moving to Johannesburg was to contact J. D. Rheinallt Jones, director of the South African Institute of Race Relations, in June 1943 offering to do research for the Institute during the July vacation period. Rheinallt Jones asked Lembede to conduct a study of how African youths became "delinquents" by examining records of the Diepkloof Reformatory to determine how young people had run foul of the law. In accepting the offer, Lembede replied; "I think the work will be of some educative value to me also; and I hope my knowledge of Zulu, Sesotho, and Afrikaans will help me a lot in the investigation."”Š19”‰ We do not have any record of the study that Lembede was commissioned to carry out, but his experience is probably reflected in the occasional comments on the deleterious impact of urban life on African youth that were woven into his political essays.



When Lembede had finished his LL.B. degree, he took up an offer to serve his articles with the venerable Pixley ka Seme, who had established one of a handful of African law firms in Johannesburg. After practicing law for over three decades, Seme was in poor health and on the verge of retirement, and he was looking for someone to take over his practice. His law career had had its less than distinguished moments. In 1932. he was struck from the roll of attorneys in the Transvaal, but was reinstated in 1942.”Š20”‰

He had also been a founding father of the ANC in 1912., and had served as its president from 1930 to 1937. A conservative, autocratic figure, Seme's presidency was marked by discord, and when he was ousted as president, he left the ANC at a low ebb. By the time Lembede began to work in his law firm, Seme was no longer a major player in ANC politics.

Whatever vicissitudes Seme had experienced in his legal and political careers, Lembede still held him in high regard. Moreover, because Seme was still a respected figure in the African community, he certainly eased Lembede's entry into African political and social circles.”Š21”‰ In 1946, after Lembede had served his articles. Seme made him a partner in his firm. An Umbumbulu businessman, Isaac Dhlomo, loaned Lembede £500 to buy into Seme's firm.”Š22”‰

Lembede's law career was brief, but his linguistic abilities and his uniqueness as an African lawyer provided some memorable moments. One was when he shocked a magistrate in Roodepoort by conducting his case in Afrikaans. Another was when Lembede broke into Latin in a magistrate's court in Johannesburg, prompting the magistrate to interrupt and implore him: "Please, Mr. Lembede, this is not Rome, but South Africa."”Š23”‰

On another occasion Lembede appeared in a criminal case in a Pretoria court. The court officials were either unaware that there was a black attorney practicing or did not want to acknowledge him. So when Lembede arrived and informed the prosecutor that he was the attorney of record, the prosecutor brushed him off. Lembede responded by sitting in the public gallery. When his case was called, Lembede jumped up and announced from the gallery that he was appearing for the accused. The magistrate was taken aback by a person from the gallery claiming to be a lawyer and he called the prosecutor and Lembede into his chambers. Lembede came out to represent the defendant. The incident caused a stir among Africans in the gallery, primarily because Africans, too, were unaware that there were African attorneys, and because of the boldness of Lembede in challenging the prosecutor.”Š24”‰

After moving to Johannesburg, Lembede also renewed his friendship with A. P. Mda, whom he had first met in 1938 at a Catholic teachers' meeting in Newcastle. The two exchanged addresses, and when Lembede had occasion to visit Johannesburg, he would look up Mda. Born in 1916 in Herschel district near the Lesotho border, Mda had also received a Catholic education and earned his Teachers' Diploma at Mariazell. He moved to the Witwatersrand in 1937 and, after taking up a variety of jobs, he landed a teaching post at St. Johns Berchman, a Catholic primary school in Orlando Township. He rapidly rose to prominence in the Catholic African Union, the Catholic African Teachers' Federation, and the Transvaal African Teachers' Association. In the latter organization, he became a leading figure in the campaign to improve teachers' salaries and conditions of service. He was also a veteran of African political organizations. He had been baptized into politics by attending the All African Convention (AAC) meeting in Bloemfontein in 1937. But he soon grew disen chanted with the AAC, and he moved into the ANC when it was revitalized in the late 1930s. Mda was clearly more politically experienced than Lembede. As Ngubane put it, living on the Witwatersrand had seasoned Mda as a political thinker and "as a result he had more clearly-defined views on every aspect of the race problem."”Š25”‰

For a while Mda and Lembede shared a house in Orlando. And as Lembede wrote his M.A. thesis, they became "intellectual sparring partners."”Š26”‰ Mda sharpened Lembede's understanding of philosophical ideas by assuming opposing positions on issues and vigorously debating them with him. Mda was the perfect foil for Lembede because he loved the cut and thrust of debate, and he doggedly defended his positions with as much fervor as Lembede. Mda remembered their exchanges this way:

I had to defend a certain position while he attacked it. . . . He wanted to gain some clearer understanding of the subject matter he was studying. He used me as a tool to archieve that goal. . . He learned a lot from controversies because sometimes I attacked his positions just to give im an exercise in refuting his arguments.”Š27”‰

In the same manner, the pair took on the major political questions of the day. There were occasions when Mda and other Youth Leaguers had to curb Lembede's instinctive bent to take extreme positions. When Lembede was living in the Orange Free State, in order to improve his command of Afrikaans, he began reading Hendrik Verwoerd's column, "Die Sake van die Dag," in Die Transvaler, the ultranationalist Afrikaans newspaper, and imbibing his ideas. As a result, after Lembede moved to Johannesburg, "Mda found Lembede rather uncritically fascinated with the spirit of determination embodied in fascist ideology, to the point where he saw nothing wrong with quoting certain ideas of Hitler and Mussolini with approval."”Š28”‰ In the Orange Free State Lembede did not have the benefit of having peers around who could scrutinize and refine his thinking, but in Johannesburg, he had Mda and others who challenged him ”” not always successfully ”” to rein in some of his extremist ideas. For instance, Mda forced Lembede to rethink his fascination with fascism by pointing out Hitler's ideas about racial superiority and how they specifically applied to black people. By the close of the Second World War, Lembede was unequivocally rejecting fascism and Nazism in his writings.

Mda and Lembede found common ground on many political issues. And out of their discussions with each other and with their peers emerged a vision of a rejuvenated African nationalism ”” centered around the unity of the African people ”” that could rouse and lead their people to freedom.


The years of the Second World War saw a quickening of the pace of African protest on the Witwatersrand.”Š29”‰The immediate cause of this ferment was the war itself, which disrupted trade flowing into South Africa. As a consequence, South Africa's manufacturing and mining sectors dramatically expanded to supply goods and arms for the allied war effort and for southern Africa. The economy boomed, and as white workers were siphoned off into the army, tens of thousands of African men and women, fleeing the stagnation of the rural areas. poured into the urban areas seeking jobs. Between 1936 and 1946, roughly 650,000 people moved into the urban areas. During those same years, Johannesburg's population leaped from 229,122 to 384,62.8, almost a 75 percent increase.

The wartime economy may have opened up employment opportunities for African workers, but at a cost. Prices of basic goods soared; housing shortages grew more acute; and municipalities charged higher prices for public transportation. White government and municipal officials did little to alleviate these burdens, and as a result, a series of protests ”” bus boycotts, squatter protests, and worker strikes ”” were triggered off in African townships throughout the Witwatersrand.

By and large, ANC leaders remained aloof from this protest. For the ANC the 1930s had been years of inaction and the All African Convention (AAC) had taken advantage of the ANC's lethargic leadership by eclipsing it as the pre-eminent vehicle for African opinion during and after the controversy over the Hertzog Bills. By the late 1930s, however, a group of activists, unhappy with the lack of direction and the compromises of AAC leaders, turned to resurrecting the ANC. An important step in the ANC's revitalization was the election (by a slim majority of twenty-one to twenty) of Dr. A. B. Xuma as ANC president in 1940. Xuma, who had a flourishing medical practice in Johannesburg, rescued the ANC from its parlous economic condition by raising dues, soliciting donations from private sources, and contributing some of his own resources.

He also pushed through a new constitution in 1943, eliminating an Upper House of Chiefs. He toured throughout South Africa, imposing discipline and shoring up support among provincial ANC congresses. He opened a national office for the ANC in Johannesburg in December 1943. And he put the ANC in a position to respond to day-to-day situations by setting up a small working committee of people who lived within a fifty-mile radius around Johannesburg.”Š30”‰

There was no question of Xuma's commitment to equal political rights for Africans and the abolition of discriminatory laws, but he remained wedded to bringing about change through constitutional means. Although he was not at heart comfortable with mass protest and he was wary of the ambitions of younger ANC members, he understood that the ANC could not survive unless it brought younger members into its fold.

The inspiration for forming a Youth League came from several different quarters.”Š31”‰ One influence came from the numerous youth and student organizations that had sprung up around the country. For instance, in 1939, Manasseh Moerane, principal of Umpumulo High School, and Jordan Ngubane, a journalist, founded the National Union of African Youth (NUAY) in Durban to promote literacy, economic and business training and political advancement for the African community. Without openly declaring it, they also intended to build an organization capable of breaking A. W. G. Champion's personal stranglehold over the Natal wing of the ANC.”Š32”‰ 

Several cohorts of future Youth Leaguers ”” Oliver Tambo, Congress Mbata, Lancelot Gama, William Nkomo, Nelson Mandela, Lionel Majombozi, James Njongwe and V. V. T. Mbobo ”” also emerged from the mid-1930s on at Fort Hare, the university college founded for African, Coloured and Indian students in 1916. By the Second World War several hundred students from all over southern Africa were studying for degrees at Fort Hare; and a number of them were intensely engaged in discussing and debating the political issues of the day: the abolition of the Cape African vote, the creation of a Natives Representative Council (NRC), the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, and the contest for global supremacy during the Second World War and its implications for Africans.

In the early 1940s Fort Hare students also received a bittersweet introduction to protest politics through their involvement in two strikes.The first was touched off in September 1941 after the white supervisor of the dining hall struck an African woman employee. Over three quarters of the students showed their sympathy with the worker by boycotting classes for three days. The Fort Hare administration had no sympathy for the strike and the issues raised by the students. They demanded that strikers submit a formal letter of apology for their actions and pay a fine of £1 or be suspended. All but one complied.

The second strike in September 1941 came about wtien Bishop C. J. Ferguson-Davie, the warden at Beda Hall, the residence for Anglicans,turned down a request by Beda students to play tennis on Sunday.When the majority of Beda students refused to cooperate with Ferguson-Davie in other activities such as chapel, he demanded that they sign a formal apology; if they did not they would be suspended from the university. Most of the students refused to sign the apology, and forty-five of the sixty-four Beda students, including Ntsu Mokhehle and Oliver Tambo, were suspended for varying periods of time.”Š33”‰

Another route to the Youth League was through the aggressive campaign of the Transvaal African Teachers' Association to improve the paltry wages and poor job conditions of black teachers. Teachers like A. P. Mda and David Bopape played prominent roles in educating and mobilising their communities behind the teachers' grievances. A high point of the teachers' protest was a march through downtown Johannesburg in May 1944 that reinforced a belief among its participants that militant resistance to the government could produce positive results. African teachers were to form a significant constituency in the Youth League.

A final factor that produced the Youth League was the challenge to the ANC by the newly-formed African Democratic Party (ADP), which featured two dynamic young leaders, Paul Mosaka and Self Mampuru. Mampuru had sought support from ANC youth when he considered standing for the presidency of the Transvaal ANC in 1943, but he had suddenly jumped to the ADP. Fearing the ADP would siphon off younger ANC members, Xuma cultivated relationships with youth leaders. And he responded positively when they proposed establishing a Youth League within the ANC.

Whatever their backgrounds, the common denominator for young ANC activists was their impatience with the unwillingness of the ANC "Old Guard" to adopt militant tactics to contest white rule. In the latter half of 1943 they began holding conversations on trains and at meetings at churches, the Bantu Men's Social Centre, and homes to discuss forming a youth wing in the ANC. A formal proposal to found a Youth League was put forward at the December 1943 meeting of the ANC in Bloemfontein, where pressing issues such as the approval of Africans' Claims in South Africa, a policy statement that spelled out ANC objectives as well as a Bill of Rights, and the relationship of the AAC and ANC were on the agenda. Youth leaders introduced and passed a resolution, proposed by Moerane and seconded by Mda, that stated: "henceforth it shall be competent for the African youth to organise and establish Provincial Conferences of the Youth League with a view of forming a National Congress of the Youth League immediately."”Š34”‰

After winning the blessing of Xuma, who overcame his misgivings about the ideas and roles of Youth Leaguers within the ANC, the Youth League issued its manifesto in March 1944 and held its inaugural meeting at the Bantu Men's Social Centre the following month.”Š35”‰ Speakers included Lembede, Mda and V. V. T. Mbobo as well as senior Transvaal ANC leaders such as R. V. Selope Thema, E. P. Moretseleand Xuma. Youth Leaguers selected W. F. Nkomo and Lionel Majombozi, medical students at Witwatersrand University, as provisional chair and secretary, respectively, until the Youth League drafted a constitution and conducted a formal election for officers.

Nkomo and Majombozi enjoyed popularity among Youth Leaguers, but they were also selected because their status as medical students gave them the right educational credentials for senior ANC leaders such as Dr. Xuma. However, Nkomo and Majombozi were viewed as transitional appointments since it was known they would have little free time as students. In addition, Nkomo's leftist leanings troubled nationalists in the Youth League such as Mda and Lembede who believed Nkomo was secretly a member of the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA). A tip-off, according to Ngubane, was Nkomo's suggested wording for the Youth League Manifesto "which in our opinion would have given it a slightly Communist slant."”Š36”‰

However, a political showdown was unnecessary. When Youth League elections took place in September, Nkomo stepped aside to concentrate on his studies. He remained a strong supporter of Youth League activities. Lembede was then elected first president of the Youth League, a position he held until his death. Lembede had already begun making his mark on Youth League policy when Youth Leaguers delegated him, Ngubane, and Mda to draft the Youth League manifesto adopted in March 1944. Like Lembede, Ngubane was an Adams product and a newcomer to the Witwatersrand. He had been a reporter for John Dube's Uanga Use Natal before moving to Johannesburg in 1943 to become an assistant editor at Selope-Thema's Bantu World. Ngubane, Lembede, and Mda were all Catholics and implacable opponents of the Communist Party.


The period between the world wars was a time of intense political and intellectual change for people in Africa. For Europeans, it was a time of consolidation, during which they tried to build up a more effective colonial administration. The urban population in Africa began to call for more say in how things were run. To make their voices heard new movements and associations were formed. But the political activity engendered by World War One had no sooner built up momentum than a second world war was on the horizon. The people of Africa put aside their objections and once more made a crucial military contribution since African soldiers fought and men were being recruited by force to serve as carriers and to supply European armies on the battle field. When the war ended, people felt that having fought for freedom in Europe; they were entitled to it for themselves.[1]

As far as world wars are concerned, it is evident that they raised a number of consequences on the African continent and it is better to say something on these consequences after having a brief introduction on how these wars occurred and countries involved.

II. PART I WORLD WAR I(1914-1918)

The world war I broke out in August 1914, and was fought between two camps, that is, triple entente, which included Britain, France, Russia, Belgium, Romania, Serbia, USA and later Italy against Triple alliance that consisted of Austria, Hungary, Germany, Turkey and Bulgaria. World War I did not only involve the above countries but the whole world, where even the African countries were involved in fighting on behalf of their colonial masters. This world war resulted from the tension which had mounted over a long period of time and make the world explosive by 1914-1935.


It was evident that the World War I was the result of leaders' aggression towards other countries which was supported by the rising nationalism of the European nations. Economic and imperial competition and fear of war prompted military alliances and an arms race, which further escalated the tension contributing to the outbreak of war.

Firstly, Economic imperialism among European countries led to conflicts that led to world war I, an example is the Moroccan crisis of 1906, was a crash between France and Germany, where Kaiser Williams II visited Tangier, a town in Morocco in 1905, which resulted in the conference of 1906 where European countries voted for Germany to be out of Morocco, eventually creating hostility and mistrust between France and German that led to the world war I.

Secondly, arms race led to the World War I, the growth of militarism between France and Germany brought a lot of suspicion and fear among powers, arms race made countries arrogant and reckless in dealing with international affair, and gain powers which had manufactured weapons waited for an opportunity to test them, which was after Sarajevo Incident.

Thirdly was the growth of Nationalism also contributed to the world war I, the 19th century was characterized by emergency of nationalistic movements in Europe, as early in 1871, Italy and German emerged as strong states , which changed European balance of power, that eventually led to the formation of strong alliances for defensive purposes. There was also the Great Serbian movement, which resulted in the Sarajevo incident, leading to the World War I.

Fourthly ,the role of the mass media played a big role in the outbreak of World War I, That is TV, radios, newspapers, did not only publicize the preparation of the war but even increasing arms race, but also when the war began . It could not be stopped because of over dramatizing of war situation in the press.

Fifthly, the Triple Alliance also led to the First World War, two years after Germany and Austria Hungary concluded their agreement, Italy was brought into the fold with the signing of the Triple Alliance in 1881. Under the provisions of this treaty, Germany and Austria-Hungary promised to assist Italy if she were attacked by France, and vice versa: Italy was bound to lend aid to Germany or Austria-Hungary if France declared war against either. Finally, should any of the three determine to launch a 'preventative' war, the others would remain neutral. One of the chief aims of the Triple Alliance was to prevent Italy from declaring war against Austria-Hungary, towards whom the Italians were in dispute over territorial matters.[2]

Last but not least, was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary? In June 1914, a Serbian nationalist assassinated him and his wife while they were in Sarajevo, Bosnia which was part of Austria-Hungary. This was in protest to Austria-Hungary having control of this region. Serbia wanted to take over Bosnia and Herzegovina. This assassination led to Austria-Hungary declaring war on Serbia. When Russia began to mobilize due to its alliance with Serbia, Germany declared war on Russia. Thus began the expansion of the war to include all those involved in the mutual defense alliances.[3]

It was regarded as the First World War because almost all countries of the world participated some directly others indirectly and even because the effects of the war were faced worldwide like economic depression of 1929 that was characterized by unemployment, low income, low aggregate demand, low investment and economic activities.


As briefly explained how the two world wars occurred, it left a number of consequences be it on All countries that directly participated but also a number of consequences observe on the African continent economically, socially and politically as explained below;


Firstly, Africa experience the consequence through the exclusion of Germany from trade and since Germany was regarded as the large partner of tropical Africa on the commercial aspect before the first world war, it was completely excluded from the continent and the goods that belonged to the Germans and merchandise got confiscated by the winners and this broke the link of German to African merchandise thus a decline in exports to foreign countries.

Secondly, World War I had a general negative influence on the trade and development of Africa. Considering the fact that the price of all commodities went up in Africa following the war, the economy stalled, and the poverty rate became worse than ever. The Pan African Congress stated that “The shabby treatment of African and Caribbean people in Britain prompted a large number to return home, disaffected, but also politicized and radicalized.” The Great War caused trading to cease with many countries, including Germany, one of Africa’s main trading partners at the time.[4]

Thirdly, the war needed enough food to feed the armies on war, therefore African populations were supposed to search for the food to stand the armies on the battle field , thus living African populations with shortage of food that decreased level of living and death due to food insecurity in African societies due to the War.

Fourthly, is that not since the American War of Independence, when 14,000 slaves and freemen fought as black loyalists alongside the British had such a huge number of people of African descent been involved in fighting for Europeans and very few were combatants. They were recruited to carry heavy weapons and supplies which affected their body and badly paid and given food which was either of poor quality or entirely foreign to them. While travelling through new territories for them, they often fell sick and were affected by different types of malaria thus causing death to many numbers of African people.

The war needed to raise troops and carriers on the one hand, to produce crops of export on the other hand, caused the shortage of manpower in several parts of the African continent. For example, the recruitment of the carriers from Katanga for the campaign of Eastern Africa led to decrease in domestic incomes that were incurred by the Men and women who used to work for themselves and they were taken to war to play a role of carriers and food suppliers.


First, on the social point of view the world war gave rise to a crucial change in the relationship between Europe and Africa. Over two million people in Africa made huge sacrifices for the European Allies. 100,000 men died in East Africa and 65,000 men from French North Africa and French West Africa lost their lives others disabled as a result of war, destruction of infrastructure, devastation and diseases.

Second, through the combats experience and social cohesion with the Europeans the African peasants soldiers discovered the concrete realities of the European society and gave confidence to Africans to play a role in their administration of colonies In the territories, which had contributed heavy shares to the effort of war in men and material, the population hoped for social and political reforms by themselves and an a live example was in Senegal, for example, the reforms promised by France to Blaise Diagne were not applied after the war which led its partisans to withdrew their confidence in him.

Third, the First World War marks a clear evolution of the international opinion with regard to colonialism. Before the war, the colonial powers did not have to report to anybody. Afterwards, in 1919, the conference of Versailles examined the colonial past of Germany and considered it not quite in conformity with the new rules of morality, which were to govern the administration of the colonial people. It is one of the reasons, which made it that they withdrew the colonies from it.


[1], consulted on 27th July 2011

[2], consulted on 27th July 2011

[3], consulted on 25th July 2011

[4], consulted on 26th July 2011

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