The Tshwane Tour: From Tour Guides to Tourists

On the 5th and 6th October 2017 our Long March To Freedom site guides were invited to a Tshwane Familiarization Tour hosted by the Gauteng Tourism Authority. During this two-day tour our site guides learnt about what the city of Tshwane had to offer and had new insights into their own work as site guides.

The first day of the tour was jam-packed with outings to various historical sites. The tour started at the Kgosi Mampuru Correctional Services prison. Here the site guides were able to get a deeper understanding of prison life. They were guided by one of the inmates who shared their prison experiences and their knowledge of the daily routines of the prisoners.

The next destination was a tour of the well-known heritage site Freedom Park. Freedom Park which is situated on Salvokop in Pretoria, includes a memorial with a list of the names of those killed in the South African Wars, World War I, World War II as well as during the apartheid era. It was after this tour that the site guides were taken to the Gautrain Station where they experienced the day-to-day running of the Gautrain. The day ended off with an exciting township tour, where the site guides explored both Solomon Mahlangu Square and the popular Jack Buddha tavern.

The next day was a highlight for many of the site guides as they were given a tour of the Cullinan Diamond Mine and the Kwalata Camp site where they did a game drive and ended off their two-day tour. For the site guides it was here that they thought about ways to improve their tours at the Long March To Freedom.

Site guide Mario had this to say:

The second day for me was very interesting as we learned that first impressions are very important. On our arrival to the Kwalata Camp the cultural dancer made me feel more than welcome. (Mario. NHM Siteguide)

Site guide Tumo shared this experience:

 I learned that it is always critical to maintain a professional attitude at all times. I now feel like being a tour guide is almost similar to being a waiter. This is because when we were at Kwalata Bush Camp we were pampered with luxurious African dining and I took time to observe the people serving us. You see for me now, guiding is a service. I am now in a stage of practising everything that I have learnt from my experience at Kwalata. (Tumo. NHM Site guide)

Another site guide, Alfred Mahapa who was familiar with the tourist attractions did learn that: “What interested me the most as a guide was learning how other guides conduct their tour in their respective sites.” (Alfred. NHM Site guide)

Momo also shared what she learnt from her two-day tour experience:

As a tour operator and guide, it cemented the value of my work and taught me how to present myself as a guide. I learnt that I must always be informed with every aspect concerning our country all the time. (Momo. NHM Site guide)

This two-day tour hosted by the Gauteng Tourism Authority was a blessing for the Long March To Freedom site guides as it allowed them to enjoy and learn about what other South African tourist attractions have to offer. It was fun for them to be the tourist for a change!

Celebrating Sports Heritage at the Long March To Freedom

Last month we were fortunate to have the Mamelodi Sundowns Academy visit the Long March To Freedom on 24 September, our national Heritage Day.

The young players were excited to be there and wanted to learn more about our struggle heroes. During their visit, one of the Long March site guides, Alfred Mahapa grew particularly interested in the history of soccer during the struggle period, and in particular, the role it played for political prisoners at Robben Island.

The prison on Robben Island was home to many of South African political prisoners during the Apartheid era. Nelson Mandela and other members of the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) including Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Robert Sobukwe, Stanley Magoba, Jacob Zuma, Steve Tshwete and hundreds of others who fought against the government were exiled to the island, many serving out long sentences that would see them leave as old men.

As with any prison, space if confined, and tasks repetitive and boring. Robben Island prisoners are known for their hard labour on the island’s lime quarries, and the daily menial tasks of every political prisoner worldwide, that included laundry duty and cleaning of the amenities. It was in this context, that soccer would prove to be, almost literally, a lifesaver.

In 1964 the inmates discovered a FIFA rulebook from the shelves of the prison library, which led to the formation of the Makana Football Association. This was the prison’s first football league. The association drew its name from the 19th Century Xhosa warrior, Makana, who was sentenced to prison on Robben Island after he tried to unite his people to overthrow the British Empire.

At first the men played secretly in their cells using balls made of paper, cardboard and rags. Then in 1965, after sustained lobbying, the authorities allowed prisoners to play outside on Saturdays. The teams built their own goals and threw off their prison uniforms to put on team colours.

Through the organising of teams, managers and referees, the league became official by 1967. The prison league played every Saturday for two hours, discussed the results of the game every Sunday evening, discussed the rules of the game from Monday to Wednesday and strategized and chose squads on a Thursday and Friday.

ANC member Steve Tshwete, sentenced to 15 years on Robben Island, played a vital role in the soccer league and other sports leagues. He ran the rugby club and the Athletics Association and was the vice-chairman of the Dynaspurs United, which was one of 27 football teams on the island. Interestingly, current South African President Jacob Zuma played central defender and was appointed as a referee for most of the matches.

Mandela, Sisulu and Ahmed Kathrada were banned outright from watching and participating in the soccer league that began in 1966 and ended in 1973, when it was shut down by the government and prison. They, as well as Govan Mbeki, were forced to watch the games secretly from an isolation wing of the island’s prison.

Prisoners in the wing were able to follow the progress of teams through a secret communication system and they found a way to actually watch many of the games, until the authorities built a wall that blocked their view.

Although the league was banned by the Apartheid government and prison in 1973, the league was a positive outlet for all of the prisoners. Soccer helped unite prisoners from various anti-apartheid organisations. Some prisoners were from the African National Congress (ANC) and others from the rival, Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), who were renowned for their conflicting views on how to deal with the Apartheid government.

Two of the most godforsaken soccer pitches in the world are on Robben Island. This did not matter to the players of the game. After his release from Robben Island, Mandela shared his view on the prison soccer league and the World Cup: “While we were on Robben Island, the only access to the World Cup was on radio. Football was the only joy to prisoners.”

Did You Know: In 2007 the film ‘More than Just a Game’ was released in South Africa and chronicled the story of the prison league. It featured Tsotsi star Presley Chweneyagae and tells the soccer drama through the eyes of five men who spent their youth on the island: Anthony Suze, Liso Sitoto, Marcus Solomons, Sedick Isaacs and Mark Shinners. Harry Gwala also features in the movie, a leading political prisoner who is expected soon to join The Long March to Freedom.



Heritage Month Highlights

The month of September was packed with exciting events and developments that made it a memorable celebration of our heritage at Fountains Valley in the City of Tshwane. The excitement around Spring day on the 1st and the new Instagram frames were an instant hit among visitors signalling the increasing popularity of the Long March To Freedom as one of the leading tourist and heritage destinations in the country.

Young couple poses with instagram phrame and chief Maqoma in the background.

Heritage Day, held every year on the 24th September, was definitely the main highlight of the month. Tumo, one of the Long March tour guides, was on site on the day and said of his experience with the many visitors,

On Heritage Day South Africans proved they were not Heritage Refugees by flooding in their numbers to the Long March to Freedom wearing different cultural regalia … It was so spectacular that I wished dressing in our traditional clothing would be an everyday thing. (Tumo Bopape. Long March to Freedom site guide)

Many visitors found the Long March to Freedom so inspiring they had to resort to song and dance to honour their heroes. For example, during heritage weekend the baPedi could be seen dressed in their traditional garb, dancing around King Sekhukhune. Tumo said people were decked out in different traditional attires that would complement the type of fashion displayed by some of the Long March figures who themselves are depicted in traditional dress, most notably Chiefs Faku, Tshwane, Pilane and Dalisile.

The National Heritage Monument was extremely excited to welcome King Haile Selassie as the newest addition to the Long March To Freedom during this festive month. He is one of the most colourful and greatly anticipated sculptures to date and a most valued addition to the almost 100 heroes on site. Other ‘newcomers’ to the site included King Cetshwayo and Chiefs Langalibalele, Doman and Sekhukhune, four of our sculptures that had been on loan to the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town for the 350-year celebrations. They were now safely returned to their rightful place at Fountains Valley. King Cetshwayo became the centre of attention as he came new and improved from the foundry at Sculpture Casting Services. He now had a more colourful blanket which site guide Momo thought made him the best sculpture among all the statues and her all out favourite so far.

The Mamelodi  Sundowns Junior Academy also graced us with their presence towards the end of the month. The visit, according to Alfred Mahapa was in remembrance of former Robben Island inmates and the role of football in their lives in prison. The youngsters had a lot of passion and willingness to learn and celebrated the heroes in song. It was inspiring to watch them sing around the statue of Chris Hani as they honoured him.


Youngsters from the Sundowns Academy enjoy their time at the Long March To Freedom.

We also commemorated the deaths and births of some of our most prominent icons. We celebrated Yusuf Dadoo’s birthday on the 5th of September and commemorated the 40th anniversary of Steve Biko’s death on the 12th of September, an important event to celebrate as many visitors remember his contribution to the struggle through his ideologies. Interestingly, Ray Alexander, a heroine of trade unionism, another bronze figure in our procession, also passed away on the 12th of September. An eventful month for the Long March to Freedom, where we consider every day, Heritage Day.





Professor Phil Bonner

Professor Phil Bonner

We here at the National Heritage Monument heard with great sadness that our esteemed colleague and respected historical advisor Professor Phil Bonner passed away on Sunday, 24 September 2017. It was national Heritage Day – a striking coincidence that would not have been lost on Prof, in fact, no doubt he would have chuckled at that.

Professor Bonner was instrumental in helping to draw up our first long list of people to be commemorated in the Long March to Freedom, a list that is still consulted today. He has contributed greatly to the development of the biographical panels that accompany the sculptures now standing in Fountains Valley, and corrected many an error in historical fact, grammatical turns of phrase and political jargon.

Of particular importance to him was the burning desire not to whitewash history, and even when commemorating, to tell the whole story. He never shied away from revealing weaknesses, whether in an individual or in an organisation, but always put these in their greater context, because at heart he always wanted people to get the fuller picture. Not the headline stuff, but the much more interesting nuanced and complex ‘sub-events’ that give rise to the more known bigger events.

Although not born in South Africa, he deeply loved this country, and knew its history better than most.

He is a loss to the Long March to Freedom, but we have no doubt that our research team and researchers in the future will continue stumbling across his work and use it to great effect when rewriting South Africa’s history.

For a fuller understanding of Professor Bonner’s political and academic contributions, please follow this link

Some of Professor Bonner’s books:


The Long March To Democracy

Today the National Heritage Monument celebrates the International Day of Democracy which is a United Nations observance day. However, it is not a public holiday. The United Nations General Assembly resolved on November 8, 2007, to make September 15 the annual date to promote and raise awareness on the centrality of democracy in our systems of government today.

The Long March to Freedom procession is in itself a celebration of democracy and the struggle it took to achieve it.  It brings South Africa’s’ struggle to life through almost a hundred life size bronze figures which will grow into a procession of over 400 bronze statues over time. It represents the epic journey to freedom walked by iconic leaders through four epochs, demonstrating a protracted struggle which began long before the introduction of Apartheid. It began with the chiefs who led the Wars of Resistance in the 17th century, followed by early activists and intellectuals of the 1900s, the revolutionaries of the Defiance era after 1948 and lastly the struggle period from 1960 to 1994.

The preamble of the United Nations resolution on democracy affirmed that:

  • While democracies share common features, there is no single model of democracy and that democracy does not belong to any country or region.
  • Democracy is a universal value based on the freely-expressed will of people to determine their own political, economic social and cultural systems, and their full participation in all aspects of life.

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, countries can be classified into four categories which are full democracies, flawed democracies, hybrid regimes and authoritarian regimes. In 2016, the United States was downgraded from a full to a flawed democracy. By the end of 2016, only 5.5 % of countries in the world were classified as Full Democracies.

This year’s theme of democracy and conflict prevention focuses on the critical need to strengthen democratic institutions to promote peace and stability. The day is observed by many countries all over the world. In 2015, to mark International Day of Democracy, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) Pakistan organized a seminar on civil society engagement in social and political life in Pakistan. In Australia this year, one can participate by wearing black and bringing posters to Brisbane.

In spite of the fact that the day is not a public holiday which might make it less known and celebrated  than other observance days, the National Heritage Monument seeks to bring it to the fore this year. The bronze figure procession at Fountains Valley Recreation Resort, tells the compelling story of how the journey to Democracy which reached its height in 1994 with the first democratic elections, began as far back as the 1650s. Over three centuries before Nelson Mandela endured 27 years at Robben Island, rebel chiefs such as Autshumato who was banished to the Island twice in the 1650s had paved the path to resistance and  struggle which their descendants was to walk.  In 1819, Makhanda, advisor to Xhosa Chief Ndlambe, Regent of the amaRharhabe, was also transported to Robben Island along with David Stuurman who had recently been recaptured by the British for leading resistance to colonial encroachment. We also celebrate heroines such as Harriette Colenso, an advocate of democracy who became the first woman to give testimony before the British House of Commons when she spoke on King Dinuzulu kaCetshwayos’ behalf. This was when he was arrested and charged for alleged involvement in the Anti-Poll Tax Rebellion led by Bhambatha. The National Heritage Monument is indeed a place where one sees the time, sacrifice and dedication that our predecessors gave for democracy to be achieved.



Women’s Month Highlights:

The Long March to Freedom site has been jam packed with events this Women’s Month! Ranging from school visits to television interviews, the Long March to Freedom has really become a popular heritage site for all ages.

Our first event was receiving our first big school tour on Friday 11 August from the Ekukhanyiselweni Christian School in Tembisa.  The students were blown away by their visit to this unique outdoor history class.

History teacher Daniel Joseph took his class to visit the Long March to Freedom as part of one of their history assignments. The 23 students were each given one of the almost 100 sculptures on site to research and spent a long time getting to know the sculptures and their role in South Africa’s history.

Among the favourites were Shaka, King of the Zulus, Solomon Mahlangu, martyr from the 1976 Soweto Uprisings, and South Africa’s first democratically elected president Nelson Mandela.

Our second school visit, which was from the Indoni Junior Secondary School in Soweto, took place at the Long March to Freedom site on Thursday 17 August. Our site guide Tumo enjoyed this visit thoroughly:

“It was a great experience to host the Indoni Junior Secondary School. It was interesting to witness an exciting learning environment… You really had to be there to appreciate the beauty of having young people engage with the life-size statues.”

All schools are welcome to visit the Long March to Freedom which is open from Mondays to Sundays. For more visitor information, visit our websiteGet in touch for a guided school visit.

Our next event was an exciting experience as the Long March to Freedom was featured on the eTV show Frenzy. This was in line with preparations for Women’s month, during which they were recording inserts for the eTV shows Frenzy and Sisterhood. Our tour guide, Tumo was interviewed by the Frenzy presenters Walterique and Nkanyiso. Tumo gave a tour of the statues, explaining why they were so important. He explained that Fountains Valley is a resort in which one finds an amazing procession of South African heroes known as the Long March to Freedom.

One of the figures that captured the attention of the presenters was Queen Labotsibeni. They were fascinated to learn that she was a powerful woman who took over the Swazi throne after the death of her husband at a time when few African kingdoms allowed women to rule. She went on to form political alliances with the ANC and as a result was inducted as one of its Deputy Presidents. This was again a first as in its early years the ANC, then called the South African Native National Congress, did not allow full membership of women to the party. This convinced the presenters that she indeed deserved to be honoured and recognised during the Women’s month. Annie Silinga was also one of the significant, otherwise lesser known struggle icons that the presenters got to know about. Her refusal to carry a pass for all her life really made her stand out.

Throughout these exciting events the Long March to Freedom site was still fortunate in receiving diverse groups of visitors. Our site guide Mario enjoyed engaging with tourists who came to share the life of Chief Hintsa:

“When tourists come to the site and listens to the tour guides and they start to tell you more about the specific sculpture, that shows you how interested that person is.”

Our site guide Momo’s highlight of this past month was giving a tour to members of parliament:

“My highlight of this month was seeing how excited the parliamentarians were to see the sculptures and in particular how the chairperson was so amazed to see some of the Xhosa chiefs.”

Although the end of Women’s Month is upon us, we invite all for Heritage Month! To be a part of the Long March to Freedom’s highlights be sure to visit the site and share your experiences on our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages.

eTV Visits the Long March To Freedom!

The month of August is a time when we celebrate iconic women who contributed to South Africa’s liberation. On the 9th of August 1956, over 20 000 women from all walks of life marched to the Union Buildings to protest against the carrying of passes. This march, is the inspiration behind Women’ Day as never before in South African history had women risen on such a large scale to fight injustice. We also celebrate every woman who fought for justice even before and after 1956.

It was a day of fun, education and games as the eTV crew and presenters visited Fountains Valley Resort. This was in line with preparations for Women’s month, whereby they were recording inserts for the eTV shows Frenzy and Sisterhood. Our tour guide, Tumo kicked off the day by giving the presenters Walterique and Nkanyiso a tour of the statues, explaining why they were so important. He explained that Fountains Valley is a resort in which one finds an amazing procession of South African heroes known as the Long March To Freedom.

Tumo explaining the Long March to Freedom to Walterique and Nkanyiso

One of the figures that captured the attention of the presenters was Queen Labotsibeni. They were fascinated to learn that she was a powerful woman who took over the Swazi throne after the death of her husband at a time when few African kingdoms allowed women to rule. She went on to form political alliances with the ANC and as a result was inducted as one of its Deputy Presidents. This was again a first as in its early years, the ANC, then called the South African Native National Congress, did not allow full membership of women to the party. This convinced the presenters that indeed she deserved to be honoured and recognised during the Women’s month. Annie Silinga was also one of the significant otherwise lesser known struggle icons that the presenters got to know about. Her refusal to carry a pass for all her life really made her stand out.

The bubbly Walterique went on to interview our Heritage Manager Sarah regarding the technical process of making a bronze statue. Sarah explained that although professional and experienced artists make the statues, there is also a mentorship programme where students from Tshwane University of Technology for example are given an opportunity to make statues and learn new skills as well. Asked which of the statues her favourite was, Sarah chose Lillian Ngoyi. She explained that Ngoyi was a powerful woman because she chose to lead women during the struggle when conditions were extremely difficult and very few would have made that choice under the same circumstances. Lillian Ngoyi was the principal leader of the Women’s march against passes.

There were many discussions off camera as well which showed that the presenters and crew were not only interested in recording but were very much captivated by the Long March to Freedom. The sun was scorching hot and the directors and cameramen ensured that recordings were perfect by asking for a retake here and there. However this did not in any way dampen spirits as the presenters found the energy to play games which they were taught by Tumo.
There is no doubt that the show will be great.

The Frenzy episode which features the LongMarchToFreedom will be broadcast on the 15th of August on eTV at 16h00 and again on Friday the 18th of August at 16h00.

WELCOME Ekukhanyiselweni Christian School!!!

A group of students from Ekukhanyiselweni Christian School learning about the ancient art form of bronze sculptures










We received our first big school tour on Friday from the Ekukhanyiselweni Christian School in Tembisa, who were blown away by their unusual visit to this unique outdoor history class.

History teacher Daniel Joseph took his class to visit the Long March to Freedom as part of one of their history assignments. The 23 students were each given one of the almost 100 sculptures on site to research and spent a long time getting to know the sculptures and their role in South Africa’s history.

One of the students from Ekukhanyselweni Christian School studying information on struggle icon Walter Sisulu, who walk proudly next to wife Albertina Sisulu

The Long March was littered with learners sitting or standing next to info panels that gave a brief biography of the many liberation heroes of South Africa’s 350-year struggle to democracy.

Among the favourites were Shaka, King of the Zulus, Solomon Mahlangu, martyr from the 1976 Soweto Uprisings, and South Africa’s first democratically elected president Nelson Mandela.

With tour guides Alfred Mahapa and Tumo Bopape, the students walked through a procession of some of the country’s most inspiring icons in this unique heritage park.

History class will never be the same again for these young visitors…

All schools are welcome to visit the Long March to Freedom which is open from Mondays to Sundays. For more visitor information, visit our website. Get in touch for a guided school visit.

Site guide Reverend Alfred Mahapa giving his own history lesson


You Strike a Woman, You Strike a Rock!

Today we commemorate one of the most influential events in South Africa’s history. On 9 August 1956, 20 000 women marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against the carrying of passes by women—which severely restricted the movement of women across the country—as well as a host of other repressive legislation.

The march was led by four extraordinary women: Lilian Ngoyi, President of the Federation of South African Women (FedSAW), Helen Joseph, a founding member of FedSAW, Rahima Moosa, organiser of the Congress of the People, and Sophia Williams De-Bruyn, founder member of the South African Congress of Trade Unions.

The four leaders united behind them thousands of women who descended on Pretoria from all over South Africa to present petitions against the carrying of passes by women to then prime minister, Johannes Gerhardus Strijdom . Strydom was not present at the Union Buildings to accept the petitions, which included approximately 100 000 signatures, so they were handed over to the prime minister’s secretary.

When the four women returned from the offices, they entered the Union Buildings amphitheatre where thousands of protesters were waiting under umbrellas to hear the outcome of the handover. In a show of strength and solidarity against the prime minister’s absense, the women stood in silence for 30 minutes and then sang the newly created freedom song Wathint’ abafazi, Strijdom!, which later became a powerful song and slogan that translates into You Strike a Woman, You Strike a Rock!

The 1956 march is noted as one of the largest and most influential demonstrations of the Apartheid era. Most women travelled through the night to take part in the march and many risked losing their jobs by joining it. Incidents of intimidation were reported on the day, with Apartheid police stopping trains and buses en route to the Union Buildings. Despite all attempts to silence the women, the turnout on the day far exceeded the expectations of the organisers.

African National Congress Women’s League (ANCWL) member Albertina Sisulu was one of the co-organisers of the march while Amina Cachalia, first treasurer of FedSAW, raised transport funds for the march through cake sales and other activities. Bertha Gxowa, another FedSAW founder member travelled with Helen Joseph in her small Volkswagen around the country in the weeks leading up to the march to collect the petitions that eventually would make it to the Union Buildings.

Although there were numerous popular women figures throughout the planning of this march, there were many others, including Annie Peters, Caroline Motsoaledi, Fatima Meer, Fatima Seedat, Florence Mophosho and Letitia Sibeko, who played a significant role. They were involved in the extensive planning of the demonstration and encouraged women from all walks of life to sign the petition and take time off to support the march.

The 9 August is an historic event that represents the courage and strength of South African women, and is an example of the power of unity across all racial backgrounds in a racist society. It depicts how women challenged the laws of the Apartheid state, and beyond that, challenged prevailing gender stereotypes that up until then judged women as a support act to the many causes being fought.

This Women’s Day, we honour three of the four leaders of the 1956 Women’s March: Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph and Rahima Moosa, all to be found in the #LongMarchtoFreedom.

The Long March to Freedom at Fountains Valley is open on all public holidays. Tour guides are on site from 11:00 to 16:00.



‘The hour of youth has struck!’: Anton Lembede and The Formation of the ANC Youth League

Today Anton Lembede would have celebrated his 70th birthday, had he not died so young at 33. We honour this founding member and first president of the ANC Youth League in the #LongMarchToFreedom. Visit him and other Young Lions, #Tambo, #Mandela and #Sisulu at #FountainsValley, Pretoria.

‘The hour of youth has struck!.’ So proclaimed a flyer issued by the Provisional Executive Committee of the newly formed ANC Youth League, advertising the organisation’s first conference to be held in September 1944.

The Youth League had launched six months earlier, at Johannesburg’s Bantu Social Centre in March 1944 but it was at the September conference that Anton Lembede was elected from among his equally dynamic peers to become first president of the ANC’s youth wing.

Outstanding because of his intellect, qualifications and passion, the dynamic leader invented and was greatly driven by the ideal ‘Africanism.’ He had a deep and almost fanatical love for Africa and would, on occasion remark that, ‘I live for the freedom of my people, and I shall die for Africa’s freedom’. It is no surprise that the motto of the Youth League was ‘Africa’s’ cause must triumph!’

According to Lembede’s close friend and housemate Ashby P. Mda, the first person to mention or suggest the founding of a Youth League was actually Manasseh T. Moerane. However, Moerane was not to take a leading role in the formation of the League and subsequently has not been noted in popular histories of the ANCYL.

Both founding members, Lembede and Mda had become close friends in 1943 and had to share accommodation as a result of their low wages. Their time together was spent engaging in intellectual discussions which gave birth to the ideals that were to shape the organisation and future generations to this day.

Mda acknowledged that Lembede ‘took his word in many things’ and was very respectful and loving toward him. He never wanted to clash openly with him, but in private they had intense arguments. He would attack others publicly but was to Mda ‘as soft as a newly wedded maiden’. This gave others the impression that Mda was steering Lembede from behind the scenes, but in fact they clashed in privately on many issues of principle.

Bronze statue of Anton Lembede at Fountains Valley Resort in Pretoria

In the 1930s the ANC, under the leadership of Alfred Bitini Xuma, had been revived but its methods remained cautious and respectful towards the white elite. Every resolution of the ANC started with statements like, ‘We pray the Minister… We humbly request…’  Annoyed by this pacifism, this group of young intellectuals became agitated and demanded a shift towards a more militant style of politics. Jordan Ngubane, a youth leader regarded as a philosopher, together with Lembede and Mda drafted the League Manifesto, although Lembedes’ ideas are said to have dominated the document.

 Although Xuma was worried that the manifesto was disrespectful as it was scathingly critical of the senior ANC, he still gave the youth support. The document pointed out that the formation of the Youth League was based on criticisms against the ANC which was seen as elitist and ‘not an efficiently organised bloc’, lacking a ‘constructive programme to enforce the repeal of all oppressive legislation’. The Youth League aimed at imparting to the ANC a national character rooted in African nationalism and African self-determination.

Many older ANC leaders dismissed the League as irresponsible and cheeky, partly because Lembede was extremely passionate and dogmatic about his beliefs. However, his influence was shown when the moderate Xuma lost the presidency in 1949 to James Moroka who was more supportive of the Programme of Action presented by Lembede in the same year.

Sadly, Lembede died prematurely on the 30th of July 1947 at the age of 33. Mda took over leadership and formed a working committee consisting of Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela. These, as history has shown went on to further prove that indeed the hour of youth had struck.


Glaser Clive. The ANC Youth League. Johannesburg: Jacana Media, 2012.

Karis Thomas and G.M Carter. From Protest to Challenge: A Documentary History of African Politics in South Africa, 1882-1964. Vol 2. California: Hoover Institution Press, 1979.

Statement during the Anton Lembede Memorial Lecture at the University of Fort Hare. 10 October 2002.

Gerhart, Gail M. Interview with Mda, A.P. 01 January 1970.