Kwame Nkrumah with other co-founders of the Non-Aligned Movement: Nehru of India, Nassar of Egypt, Sukharno of Indonesia and Tito of Yugoslavia in late 1960
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire Photo File.
By South African President Thabo Mbeki
ANC Today, March 2, 2007
Fifty years ago, as Ghana prepared to accede to independence on 6 March 1957, the all-white parliament of apartheid South Africa was engaged in an intense and protracted debate of the "Flags Amendment Bill". The Bill had been introduced by a member of the ruling National Party (NP) effectively to end the use of the British Union Jack as a South African national flag.
THE UNION JACK OR THE BLACK STAR OF GHANA?
During this debate, on 4 March 1957, one of the NP MPs, JLV Liebenberg, said: "In Ghana the Union Jack is being struck tomorrow. Ghana will remove the Union Jack tomorrow and substitute its own flag, a black flag with a golden star...If a nation is independent, it must in the first place retain its respect. Its dignity is symbolised in its own flag."
Another NP MP, PMK le Roux, said: "If (the Members of the Opposition) are correct in saying that in taking this step we are insulting Britain and others (in the Commonwealth), then I want to ask: what about the other members of the Commonwealth? What about the latest Independent State which is also going to become a member of the Commonwealth, namely Ghana? Are we to take second place to the most primitive State that has obtained its independence on the Continent of Africa, a Native state?"
MP Liebenberg added: "(One of the things the Opposition) will learn in Ghana is how a primitive people like that now has only one great ideal. They want to be a nation. They want to be a nation under their own symbols, and we see that they want to build a large dam and build electric schemes..."
NP MP JH Fouche said: "The youngest member (of the Commonwealth), Ghana, has now also scrapped the Union Jack, and the Prime Minister of Ghana hauled it down with tears in his eyes, but those tears were not for the Union Jack. He had to borrow a handkerchief from one of his Ministers because of his gratitude in being able to hoist the national flag of Ghana."
On 5 March, another NP MP, AG Barlow, said: "There is a new country coming into the Commonwealth of Nations as we all know, Ghana. A new country, a Black country, and a country which we will have to talk to very, very carefully one of these days, because it is now one of our member states. There are nine of us now, and Ghana is just as loyal to the British Crown as my hon. (Opposition) friends here. Now this is the latest news from Ghana -The favourite slogan in the street demonstrations is "Forward Ghana", and the new Ghanaian flag is flying everywhere.
"By Tuesday the Union Jack will have been lowered forever - in the centre gold panel (of the flag of Ghana) is a five-pointed black star, symbolising the dawn of Black African nationalism. And this is what their Prime Minister (sic) says -
"If you want to show your opposition to Dr Kwame Nkrumah and his Convention People's Party - and many do - you fly the flag upside down.
"I say to my hon. friends here that if they don't love my flag, let them fly the Union Jack upside down."
Later, on 8 March, the all-white parliament discussed an Opposition motion calling for a National Convention of representatives of all the people of South Africa, black and white, to decide the future of the country. In this regard, an NP MP, Dr AH Jonker, said:
"At such a convention there would also be persons from South Africa who agree with the words used by the Prime Minister of Ghana, Dr Nkrumah, as reported in the newspapers this morning, when he said: "I loathe and hate apartheid. If I had my way, I would smash it." That is also the policy of the Leader of the Labour Party (A. Hepple). If he had his way, he would smash apartheid...
"(According to Mr Hepple) we must not ask to what race a person belongs; we should only ask: is this Native sufficiently mature; is this Indian civilised enough; is this Coloured man clever enough? And if they comply with these qualifications, we must give them full citizenship in South Africa. That is why the hon. the Leader of the Labour Party is able to propose a convention where the so-called human rights as laid down by the UNO [United Nations Organisation] are to be discussed and accepted as valid for South Africa...
"In all parts of the world it has become clear that where the Europeans have not taken early steps to see that they retain the supreme power in their hands in that part of the world which they could call their own, they were forced out and expelled by the rising tide of colour. The hon. Member for Rosettenville must not think that if South Africa becomes a Crown Colony of Ghana he will be the Gauleiter there.
"He will also be driven out and expelled and there will be no room for him either. I say that this fear which opens our eyes to the reality of the danger is the fear that inspires us to take positive steps in order to ensure the preservation of South Africa and of the authority of the White man in White South Africa."
SOUTH AFRICA, GHANA & THE COMMONWEALTH
"Primitive" as it might have been in the eyes of the white supremacists, independent Ghana did indeed show its mettle in the struggle against the oppressive "authority of the White man in White South Africa". In 1961, apartheid Prime Minister, HF Verwoerd, was obliged to withdraw South Africa from the Commonwealth.
'Time' magazine reported this important development in a Friday, 24 March 1961 article headed "Exit Sighing". It wrote: "As the twelve leaders of the British Commonwealth gathered last week in London from all parts of the world, only one question obsessed editorialists and statesmen: Would they, or would they not, expel South Africa? Canada's John Diefenbaker asked for a Commonwealth declaration on the rights of man, regardless of race. Ghana's messianic Kwame Nkrumah wanted the issue of apartheid threshed out, said: 'If no one else raises the question. I think I shall have to.' Dr Hendrik Verwoerd, the icy-eyed Prime Minister of South Africa, insisted to newsmen that apartheid (literally, apartness) was simply another name for neighbourliness. Britain's Harold Macmillan tried to construct a typical British compromise. It was the nation of South Africa that belonged in the Commonwealth, he argued; the Verwoerd government and its apartheid policies might be only temporary. Besides, Commonwealth members should not concern themselves with the internal affairs of other members.
"Round the green baize table in London's mirrored Lancaster House, Nkrumah, India's Nehru and Nigeria's Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa backed a proposal of Canada's Diefenbaker: they agreed not to press for a showdown on apartheid, provided that a communiqué permitted them to spell out in general terms, their feelings about Verwoerd's racial policies...
"Adamantly rigid, Dr Verwoerd dashed any vagrant hopes of compromise. South Africa's internal policies, he said, were its own affair, and apartheid is not discrimination, merely a separate 'development' of the races. Verwoerd further insisted that South Africa could not accept diplomatic representatives from coloured states - even if they were members of the Commonwealth. It was argued that this made a complete mockery of Commonwealth membership.
"Verwoerd, said an observer, 'was completely rigid, absolutely adamant and just wouldn't budge'.' The other members were angry and disturbed; no one asked that he reverse his policies or amend them, just that he 'take note' of their criticisms. Instead, Verwoerd kept playing over and over the same record. Recalls one witness: 'It got to be extremely irritating.'
"Everybody felt it. Nerves were frightfully on edge. The worst of it was that Verwoerd got more and more pleased with his own policies. He was never angry - just fanatical. He set himself up as a sort of smiling saint with a crusade, rather pitying the others who couldn't see the light. It was a very grating experience."
"No agreement was possible. Verwoerd and Macmillan retired to another room for a spot of tea. When they returned, tall, silver-haired Dr Verwoerd had a statement in his hand. He read it: The Union of South Africa was withdrawing from the British Commonwealth, effective May 31, when it would become the independent Republic of South Africa...
"Pale and weary, Macmillan reported to Parliament his 'deep regret' at the split. But in Britain and abroad, South Africa's exit was the occasion for (as Nehru put it) 'relief, not elation'. Malaya's Prime Minister Abdul Rahman stated the view of the Afro-Asians: 'No man, because of his colour, should be regarded as an outcast. We of the Commonwealth have proclaimed our stand to the world.' The London Times saw the Commonwealth as now on 'a secure multiracial basis', and the Guardian stated bluntly: 'An unhealthy limb has been removed.'
Two years earlier, in 1959, apartheid South Africa had been forced to abandon its quest to take the "Commonwealth seat" on the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member. In this regard a 18 June 1959 report of the Ministry of External Affairs of Canada said:
"The affair was suddenly brought to a head on June 5 when the South African press ran a Reuters despatch from New York (apparently based on corridor gossip) revealing South Africa's candidature and the possibility of an opposing Ghanaian candidate, and commenting on the embarrassment which such a contest would cause to the rest of the Commonwealth. (To be defeated by Ghana, not only a very new Commonwealth member but also a 'black' African one, would of course be the ultimate humiliation for South Africa.) The United Kingdom was preparing to urge once more that a decision be reached at once when the South Africans forestalled this latest hastener by announcing their decision to us and to the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand (that they were withdrawing their candidature)."
After this incident, but before the 1961 Commonwealth meeting, British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, had tried to urge apartheid South Africa to change, taking into account the process of decolonisation in Africa, strongly symbolised by the independence of Ghana. Addressing the South African apartheid Parliament on 3 February 1960, he said:
MACMILLAN vs VERWOERD
"As I've travelled around the Union (of South Africa), I have found everywhere, as I expected, a deep preoccupation with what is happening in the rest of the African continent. I understand and sympathise with your interests in these events and your anxiety about them.
"Ever since the break up of the Roman empire one of the constant facts of political life in Europe has been the emergence of independent nations. They have come into existence over the centuries in different forms, different kinds of government, but all have been inspired by a deep, keen feeling of nationalism, which has grown as the nations have grown.
"In the twentieth century, and especially since the end of the war, the processes which gave birth to the nation states of Europe have been repeated all over the world. We have seen the awakening of national consciousness in peoples who have for centuries lived in dependence upon some other power. Fifteen years ago this movement spread through Asia. Many countries there, of different races and civilisations, pressed their claim to an independent national life.
"Today the same thing is happening in Africa, and the most striking of all the impressions I have formed since I left London a month ago is of the strength of this African national consciousness. In different places it takes different forms, but it is happening everywhere.
"The wind of change is blowing through this continent, and whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact. We must all accept it as a fact, and our national policies must take account of it."
Almost as a precursor of the position that he would take at the Commonwealth conference in London the following year, apartheid Prime Minister, HF Verwoerd, responded to Macmillan and said:
"The tendency in Africa for nations to become independent, and at the same time to do justice to all, does not only mean being just to the black man of Africa, but also to be just to the white man of Africa.
"We call ourselves European, but actually we represent the white men of Africa. They are the people not only in the Union but through major portions of Africa who brought civilisation here, who made the present developments of black nationalists possible. By bringing them education, by showing them this way of life, by bringing in industrial development, by bringing in the ideals which western civilisation has developed itself.
"And the white man came to Africa, perhaps to trade, in some cases, perhaps to bring the gospel; has remained to stay. And particularly we in this southern most portion of Africa, have such a stake here that this is our only motherland, we have nowhere else to go. We set up a country here, and the Bantu came in this country and settled certain portions for themselves, and it is in line with the thinking of Africa, to grant those fullest rights which we also with you admit all people should have and believe providing those rights for those people in the fullest degree in that part of southern Africa which their forefathers found for themselves and settled in. But similarly, we believe in balance, we believe in allowing exactly those same full opportunities to remain within the grasp of the white man who has made all this possible."
In the end, the wind of change that blew through Africa brought independence to Zimbabwe. Twenty-three years after the independence on Ghana, on 6 March 1980, as Zimbabwe approached its independence day on 17 April 1980, NP Senator Dr JH Loock said: "On that map (of Africa) is a sword with its point stretching right down to the Cape at the bottom. The motto on the crest is: 'For the freedom of Africa.' It should be clear that that is a good reflection of what is happening today. It is a disturbing development...
"We have now come up against a new order, and it is no longer the survival of the NP and the Afrikaner and his identity which is at stake but the survival of the White man on the Continent of Africa...The question we must answer in the 'eighties is whether there will be a place for the Whites on the continent of Africa, and how we are going to establish it...
"What must we do as Whites to safeguard our position on the continent of Africa? We must show the rest of Africa that they need us, that we can give them things that they cannot get for themselves...Show me one project in Africa which was initiated without the help of the White man. Would they have food, would they have homes, would they have education?...
"We must just go our and convince the rest of Africa that it will pay them to cooperate with us. Mugabe has seen that now. There is talk of his taking White people into his Cabinet, in spite of all his statements. We do not know how far he will take this, but the fact is that he has seen the light. Machel has seen the light. And what we have done with Machel we can do with Mr Mugabe; we can enter into agreements with him...
"We were out here to carry out a task and that task is to make available to the rest of Africa, which lives in poverty and is undeveloped, our technology and our sources of revenue...The Black man has not yet proved that he is able to build up an infrastructure, and unless we control ourselves and plan our affairs and get that right, we shall not be able to carry out our task...That is the direction in which we can safeguard the White man's place in Africa, that is, by proving and propagating his indispensability."
On 16 April 1980, the day before Zimbabwe's independence, NP MP, JD du P Basson, said: "All of us sitting here as representatives of the White voters of South Africa and as products of the special position of power which the Whites have. We are therefore all part of the structure, on whichever side of the House we may sit...
"It is indeed essential that Parliament should provide the strongest possible leadership in respect of what we must regard as matters of fundamental agreement, beyond party-political differences. For example I refer to what occurred in certain circles in this country just after the general election in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. Suddenly we had a group of people and newspapers who lost their heads and maintained that the hour had struck for us, too, and that we should now make all haste to fetch Mr Mandela to appear before the Government so that we could negotiate with him...What I want to refer to is those people in South Africa who, after the events in Rhodesia, lost all perspective and now just want to throw in the towel."
On the very day that the people of Zimbabwe celebrated their independence, 17 April 1980, the apartheid Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, H Schoeman, said: "Do the hon. (Opposition) members want the events in the rest of Africa to be repeated here? I ask this because they want to release Mandela. What happened in Mozambique? When the White man left the country, it went to rack and ruin. There is no food. What happened in Angola and the rest of Africa? What happened in Rhodesia when unrest broke out there? Today Rhodesia is a country which has to import meat, while we used to buy meat from Rhodesia. Rhodesia is asking us for maize, and they had good rains in that country during the past season. Its production has been ruined."
On 29 April 1980, the Minister of Transport Affairs, JC Heunis, said: "The NP's policy is not a fair-weather phenomenon, like political parties and leaders and their policies on the other side. In a continent which is simmering, which is boiling over and which obviously cannot find its true course, the NP, in spite of the things to which the hon. the Prime Minister referred, the things which testify to development and growth, has been and is a factor of continuity, a factor of stability and of order and development, not only for White people, but also for the Black people in our country."
On the same day, 29 April, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Information, RF Botha, said: "(The Government) also has to keep a watch on world politics, on the changing situation on our borders, and it is against that background of a massive onslaught on it such as has never yet been experienced in history! How is the Government to move ahead, against the background of events in Rhodesia, against the background of a threatening and difficult situation in South West Africa, and against the background of improved standards of living?"
On 1 May 1980, the Minister of Defence and Prime Minister, PW Botha, said: "There is the external threat as far as Zimbabwe is concerned. I believe that the new Zimbabwe will probably be pressurised to play an active role in the onslaught on the Republic of South African the future...developments around Zimbabwe and South West Africa are creating opportunities that can be exploited by the Soviet block, which is prepared to act in a purposeful and aggressive manner in order to achieve its objectives and promote its interests."
THE IMPERATIVE OF SOLIDARITY
On 12 April 1961, Malcolm Fraser, future Prime Minister of Australia and co-leader with President Olusegun Obasanjo of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group, addressed the Australian House of Representatives on the issue of the Commonwealth and apartheid South Africa. Among other things he said:
"More precisely, the reasons why I believe that apartheid, although internal in its administration, is international in effect are these: Africans in South Africa are second class citizens without political rights. They are subjugated and often are treated in a brutal fashion. Their blood brothers or cousins - people who are racially the same - in Nigeria, and in the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland in particular, are completely equal and completely free. It is intolerable for the coloured people of other nations of the Commonwealth to see those who are essentially their blood brothers in subjugation in a neighbouring country on the same continent. The force of the emotion engendered by this issue is something that cannot be disregarded however much we feel that perhaps we should disregard it. To expect Asians and Africans to take a detached legal view of this matter is to expect too much. I do not think that there are many Australians who can take a detached view of the white Australia policy. How much reason, then, have we to expect Asians or Africans to take a detached view of this other problem? I do not think that this element can be disregarded in the present circumstances."
PW Botha was therefore correct to expect that independent Zimbabwe could not be indifferent to the fate of fellow Africans in our country, who continued to suffer under the yoke of apartheid, as independent Ghana could not be indifferent to the fate of the millions of Africans who, in 1957, were still subject to colonial and white minority domination.
The wind of change brought liberation to our country in 1994. For 13 years already, democratic South Africa has demonstrated the complete and utter bankruptcy of the racist apartheid proposition that our liberation would threaten "the survival of the White man on the Continent of Africa". It has exposed the grave danger posed by racist ideology, which contemptuously dismissed Ghana as a "primitive, Native state", and caused great losses of life and property in South Africa and the rest of Southern Africa as the apartheid regime fought to guarantee "the authority of the White man in White South Africa".
THE BEATING DRUMS
When Nelson Mandela addressed the Summit Meeting of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) Heads of State and Government in Tunis, in June 1994, for the first time as our Head of State, he said:
"In the distant days of antiquity, a Roman sentenced this African city to death: 'Carthage must be destroyed (Carthago delenda est)'.
"And Carthage was destroyed. Today we wander among its ruins, only our imagination and historical records enable us to experience its magnificence. Only our African being makes it possible for us to hear the piteous cries of the victims of the vengeance of the Roman Empire...
"But the ancient pride of the peoples of our continent asserted itself and gave us hope in the form of giants such as Queen Regent Labotsibeni of Swaziland, Mohammed V of Morocco, Abdul Gamal Nasser of Egypt, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Murtala Mohammed of Nigeria, Patrice Lumumba of Zaire, Amilcar Cabral of Guinea Bissau, Aghostino Neto of Angola, Eduardo Mondlane and Samora Machel of Mozambique, Seretse Khama of Botswana, WEB Du Bois and Martin Luther King of America, Marcus Garvey of Jamaica, Albert Luthuli and Oliver Tambo of South Africa.
"By their deeds, by the struggles they led, these and many other patriots said to us that neither Carthage nor Africa had been destroyed. They conveyed the message that the long interregnum of humiliation was over. It is in their honour that we stand here today. It is a tribute to their heroism that, today, we are able to address this august gathering."
On 6 October 2000, I had the privilege to address the Parliament of Ghana. Then, I said: "None among us is not deeply moved by the fact that this morning we are among the elected representatives of the people of a great sister country that is very close to our hearts, Ghana, a pioneer and a pathfinder in Africa's quest for the realisation of the hopes and dreams of the children of Africa.
"None among us is not deeply moved by the knowledge that in Ghana we are in a country which, to us, is a home away from home.
"We also feel strong today because of the knowledge that, as we stand here, we are among fellow combatants for the accomplishment of the realisable goal of the all-round and total emancipation of Africa, of the rebirth of our Continent.
"I say this because the people of Ghana, a forward echelon in that continuing struggle, elected you as their leaders and representatives because they knew that you would work to advance their cause and the cause of the peoples of Africa.
"This, after all, is the charge that that great gift of Ghana to our Continent, the late Kwame Nkrumah, bestowed on you and us and all successor generations.
"You will remember that as he looked back on that glorious day on which Ghana attained her independence, Kwame Nkrumah wrote the following inspiring lines:
"'The independence of Ghana, achieved on March 6, 1957, ushered in the decisive struggle for freedom and independence throughout Africa - freedom from colonial rule and settler domination. On that day I proclaimed to the world 'the independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked with the total liberation of the African continent'.
"'Immediately, the beating drums sent this message across rivers, mountains, forests and plains. The people heard and acted. Liberation movements gained strength, and freedom fighters began to train. One after another, new African states came into being, and above the world's horizon loomed the African Personality. African statesmen went to the United Nations; Africans proudly wore the ancient regalia of their ancestral land; Africans stood up and spoke for Africans and the people of African descent wherever they might be.'
"The decisive struggle of which Kwame Nkrumah spoke led to our own liberation nearly four decades after you achieved your own emancipation...
"I am convinced that a generation of a progressive leadership on our continent has re-emerged, including you who sit in this august house - a generation that is moved by this plight of the people, and seeks to advance their interests...
"The new leadership that has emerged on our Continent gives hope to the millions of our people that our combined actions will free all of Africa's children from tyranny, war and poverty. We dare not and must not disappoint those hopes."
Well ahead of Harold Macmillan's "wind of change" speech, in his Presidential Address to the 46th Annual Conference of the African National Congress in Durban, December 1958, Albert Luthuli said:
"After the historic Bandung Conference in 1955, Africa, this year, has been the scene of Conference, respectively, at Cairo and Accra. These Conferences have had as their objective the strengthening of ties among independent states of Africa and Asia or, as the one now sitting in Accra, seeking plans of helping to further the cause of freedom in countries still under colonial rule. Whether any one likes it or not, the voice of Africa, claiming a place of honour for her children, will be heard with growing insistence and force in the coming days."
In his December 1961 Nobel Lecture at the University of Oslo, entitled "Africa and Freedom", Chief Albert Luthuli said:
"Our people everywhere, from north to south of the continent, are reclaiming their land, their right to participate in government, their dignity as men, their nationhood. Thus, in the turmoil of revolution, the basis for peace and brotherhood in Africa is being restored by the resurrection of national sovereignty and independence, of equality and the dignity of man...
"The African revolution has swept across three quarters of the continent in less than a decade; its final completion is within sight of our own generation...By comparison with Europe, our African revolution - to our credit, is proving to be orderly, quick and comparatively bloodless...
"In bringing my address to a close, let me invite Africa to cast her eyes beyond the past and to some extent the present with their woes and tribulations, trials and failures, and some successes, and see herself an emerging continent, bursting to freedom through the shell of centuries of serfdom. This is Africa's age - the dawn of her fulfilment, yes, the moment when she must grapple with destiny to reach the summits of sublimity saying - ours was a fight for noble values and worthy ends, and not for lands and the enslavement of man.
"Africa is a vital subject matter in the world of today, a focal point of world interest and concern. Could it not be that history has delayed her rebirth for a purpose? The situation confronts her with inescapable challenges, but more importantly with opportunities for service to herself and mankind. She evades the challenges and neglects the opportunities to her shame, if not her doom. How she sees her destiny is a more vital and rewarding quest than bemoaning her past with its humiliations and sufferings."
FORWARD EVER, BACKWARD NEVER!
During the years of struggle for freedom, the Southern African liberation movements used to sing a liberation song with these lyrics:
"There is victory for us. There is victory for us.
In the struggle for Africa, there is victory for us.
Forward ever, backward never.
In the struggle for our freedom there is victory."
We inherited the slogan, 'Forward ever, backward never', from Kwame Nkrumah's Convention People's Party (CPP). Our movement and the people of South Africa extend heartfelt congratulations to the sister people of Ghana on the historic occasion of the 50th anniversary of their independence. Forward ever, backward never!