Alfred Bitini Xuma is in 1893 gebore in Manzana, ‘n dorpie in die Nqobo distrik van die Oos-Kaap. Sy ouers het geen formele opvoeding ontvang nie, maar Wesleyaanse bekeerlinge het seker gemaak dat hy ‘n sendingsopvoeding ontvang. Zuma was ‘n uitmuntende student, en in 1911 kwalifiseer hy as ‘n laerskool onderwyser aan die Clarkebury Instituut. As student help hy om ‘n protes teen die ongelykhede in swart opvoeding te reël. Hy vertrek na die Verenigde State van Amerika waar hy die volgende dertien jaar spandeer om te kwalifiseer as ‘n mediese dokter, en spesialiseer in verloskunde, ginekologie en chirurgie, aan die Mayo Kliniek in Minnesota.

Alfred Bitini Xuma ca 1930

In 1927 keer hy terug na Suid-Afrika en word een van ‘n handjievol swart dokters wat privaat praktiseer. Hy open sy praktyk oorkant die magistraatskantoor in Johannesburg. Aanvanklik skram hy weg van politiek en hy wys twee keer die leierskapsposisie van die toe-trae African National Congress (ANC) van die hand. In 1940 stem hy egter daartoe in om  in die verkiesing te staan vir die rol van president van die ANC. Sy oorwinning is naelskraap. Onder sy leierskap word die organisasie weer herbou en uitgebrei, en versterk hul, hul bande met die swart vakbonde wat argumenteer dat hulle wetlik erken moet word. Hy probeer veral die jeug betrek maar sy verhouding met die Jeugliga bly maar problematies weens hul militante gedrag wat hy nie kon goedkeur nie. Dit lei dan tot sy bedanking vanuit die ANC uitvoerende raad in 1950.

Xuma is veral bekend as die president wat die ANC in die 1940’s laat herleef het en wat uit die pos gewerk is deur die organisasie se Jeugliga. Minder bekend is sy invloedryke openbare loopbaan as mediese dokter en sosiale hervormer, of sy prikkelende gedagtes geformuleer in drie dekades van toesprake en geskrifte, waarin hy konsekwent kritiek gelewer het op wit oorheersing, sosiale ongelykheid en die regeringsbeleid van segregasie en apartheid. Xuma se volgehoue bemoeienis met nasionale bevryding, gesondheid en swart identiteit verleen aan sy werk ‘n verbasende aansluiting by brandende kwessies van vandag. Hierdie volume bring vir die eerste keer die werke van hierdie politieke leier en sosiale hervormer uit die middel van die twintigste eeu bymekaar; sowel sy ongepubliseerde outobiografie as ‘n weloorwoë keuse uit sy groot versameling briewe, toesprake, pamflette en voorleggings aan regeringskommissies.

Drs Naicker, Xuma and Dadoo signing the ‘Doctors’ Pact’, 1947

Die onderwerpe waaroor hy skryf strek van politiek, gesondheid, en medisyne, die paswette, geslagskwessies, bier, belasting, behuising, opvoeding, misdaad, vakbonde, tot die toestande in Alexandria, buitelandse sake en die aanvang van apartheid. Sy vertel sy eie lewensverhaal asook die verhale van kollegas en vriende soos Charlotte Maxeke en die Xhosa digter, S.E.K. Mqhayi. Die boek onthul nuwe perspektiewe van sy lewe en era en beskryf ook mediese en sosiale kwessies asook geskiedenis van die ANC.

UITTREKSEL UIT DIE TEKS

[….]  “Many who dare to criticise the hierarchy have been expelled or ‘liquidated’ individually or en masse without a democratic hearing. This attitude is foreign to Congress as a democratic movement and smacks of totalitarianism or authoritarianism which a movement like Congress cannot countenance and still claim to be fighting for freedom from domination and suppression.

(d)  The Congress leadership seems to have turned their backs against the African National Congress Nation-building Programme of the 1940s and have even forgotten the Congress Charter of Human Rights ‘The Africans’ Claims’ in South Africa of December 16, 1945, which can only be superseded by the Charter of Human Rights of the United Nations instead of other vague, inconclusive so-called charters, which merely defer and confuse the Africans’ just and immediate claims.

Congress agreed in 1946 to co-operate with other non-European fellow nationals on all points of common interest but insisted that the respective national organisations must maintain their identity as integrated regiments in the struggle for common citizenship. This was intended to make each organisation play its full part in the struggle and bear the necessary sacrifices. It was to avoid the danger of sections using others without making sacrifices themselves.

Many of the delegates are new in Congress. To them I say: Ask the old stalwarts with whom I have struggled in the forties where we stood then. Above all, ask my ‘Kindergarten Boys’ [A derisory reference to ANCYL leaders such as Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela.] of the African National Congress Youth League whose foundation representatives met with me in my library at home and were baptised and established by me and the late Mr. R.V. Selope Thema at the BMSC in Johannesburg as the African National Congress Youth League, what they stood for. To them I say remember the 1940s, Remember Africa!

(e)  By acting on the principle ‘of action for action’s sake and for propaganda reasons’ instead of aiming at achieving results, Congress, through the Defiance Campaign, the Western Areas Removal Scheme and the School Boycott, the Congress aroused vain hopes in the breasts of the struggling Africans and made promises of ‘secret weapons’ and ‘provision of services’ for which no preparations were made.

It will be wise for Congress not to embark on revolutionary tactics unless the leaders with the rank are prepared to pay the price. If leaders arouse the masses and the leaders then fail the masses in the testing hour the loyalty and faith of the masses is shaken in the leadership, and what is worse, in the Organisation itself.

Such actions, under the circumstances, tended to set the clock of our progress back many years. I appeal to the Annual Conference to rescind its resolution of School Boycott.

With no effective alternative system of education, the boycott of schools with its interference with children and teachers, is bound to be worse for African progress than Bantu Education; in fact, it is not only negative but harmful in that in the long run, it will cause the African people to turn against the ANC.

I must appeal to all delegates to make this Conference one of the most constructive conferences, for examination and re-assessment of our methods, policies and attitudes. One and all must realise no one else will ever free the Africans but the Africans themselves.

Their genuine friends can help them, but the Africans themselves must rely on themselves. We must learn to do things for ourselves in order to grow, to plan our programme and campaigns and rely upon our own leadership.

Until we can do that, have faith in ourselves as well as self-reliance, depend upon our inner strength, we do not deserve freedom and could not maintain it if it were offered us on a platter. Let us re-organise our people, re-integrate the African National Congress as the mouthpiece of the African people.

We must organise ourselves not against other nationals, or to gain anything at anyone else’s expense, but only that we must gain strength in our unity because ‘charity begins at home’ and there can be no internationalism without nationalism.

Leadership means service for and not domination over others. True and genuine leaders serve the cause of the people and do not expect the cause to serve them or become a source of profit and honour for them. Africa expects all her sons and daughters to serve the cause of the people loyally, sincerely and honestly. Let us close ranks, fellow-Africans and do our duty. I wish your deliberations every success.

‘Right not might, freedom not serfdom’. Yours for the cause, A.B. Xuma.

REDAKTEUR

Peter Limb

Peter Limb is Adjunk Medeprofessor van Geskiedenis en Africana Bibliograaf aan die Michigan State Universiteit. Sy onlangse boeke sluit in The ANC’s Early Years: Nation, Class, and Place in South Africa before 1940 (Pretoria, 2010) en die geredigeerde volumes The People’s Paper: A Centenary History and Anthology of Abantu-Batho (Johannesburg, 2012), Grappling with the Beast: Indigenous Southern African Responses to Colonialism, 1840-1930 (Leiden, 2010), en Orb and Sceptre: Studies on British Imperialism and its Legacies, in Honour of Norman Etherington (Melbourne, 2008). Ander publikasies sluit in Nelson Mandela: A Biography (2008) en werke oor die internasionale anti-apartheid beweging. Hy redigeer saam met Peter Alegi ‘n gewilde podsending reeks oor geskiedenis, kultuur en politiek, Africa Past and Present (afripod.aodl.org). In 2012 ontvang hy die MSU Distinguished Faculty Award.

Luister na Peter Limb se onderhoud op Africa Past and Present 

Nog ‘n onderhoud met Peter Limb op SAfm          http://www.youtube.com/user/SABCSAFM?feature=mhee

Sommer herinerringe….

“Dr Xuma Comes Home”: Historia vol.58 n.2 Durban Jan. 2013