Dube's Political Role

When Dube came back from the States in 1905 (after his third visit) there were signs of tension between him and the white missionaries. Ilanga lase Natal attacked the decisions of missionaries on land allotment on the Reserves, and the Mission Reserve rent, as well as the social aloofness of missionaries and their lack of trust for the converts, inadequate selection of African officers and failure to defend African interests. In 1908 he resigned from the pastorate of Inanda. The tension between Dube on the one hand and the government and missionaries on the other hand was resolved in 1907 but he was constantly warned that he was "playing with fire". But in the columns of Ilanga and as part of many delegations of Amakholwa he protested and petitioned the government against the proposed legislations.

 But ideologically Dube had accepted the missionary gospel It is true that generally the impact of missionaries on African culture and value systems has been superficial in Africa but for Dube and his generation and the one immediately after him .the "psychological conversion" if not "psychological colonisation" was almost complete. This was one of the sources of contradiction in the views and ideas of this generation. Talking about the religious aspects of Dube we have said that the Whites were suspicious of Ethiopianism. If by Ethiopianism they meant that Dube and his colleagues were determined to prove and to demonstrate to the whites that the black man can run an educational institution without any white assistance, then we agree with them. That was basically the essence of Ethiopianism. But to them Ethiopianism meant something different - an equivalent of a devil, a black one at that.

Talking about Dube's political baptism, it should be remembered that he was detained during the Anglo-Boer war for alleged seditious statements. The Natal Native Congress was formed during the war Dube, together with Saul Msane, J.T Gumede, Stephen Mini, Mark Radebe, B. Cele, S. Nyongwana, Martin Lutuli expressed African feelings and brought African grievances to the attention of the government. Ipepa lo Hlanga, a non-missionary paper in Natal appeared, sponsored by the same group which rounded Congress and edited by Mark Radebe, but was later to be replaced by John Dube's llanga. Ilanga, from the outset, was overtly political. Dube used his paper to stress the need for African unity and African representation and to air more specific grievances. It emphasised the need for education, financial help from white philanthropists. In September 1906, Dube was calling for a meeting of the Transvaal, Cape and Natal congresses and "welcoming signs that tribal antagonisms are dying down as indications of progress". He was a bitter opponent of the 1913 Land Act. He spoke and wrote on this subject. In an article in 1914 he wrote:

"It is only a man with a heart of stone who could hear and see what I hear and see and remain callous and unmoved. It would break your hearts did you but know, as I know, the cruel and undeserved afflictions wrought by the hateful enactment on numberless aged, poor and tender children of my race in this their native land. From the ashes of their burnt out kraals, kicked away like dogs by Christian people from their humble hearths, from the dear old scenes where their fathers were born and grew up in simple peace, bearing malice to none, and envying neither European nor Indian the wealth and plenty they amass themselves from this their land, these unfortunate outcasts pass homeless, unwanted, silently suffering, along the highways and byways of the land, seeking in vain the most unprofitable waste whereon to build their hovel and rest and live, victims of an unknown civilisation that has all too suddenly overwhelmed and overtaken them..."

Dube wrote and spoke strongly and emotively on the government's land policy. The 19i3 Land Act was so hydra-headed that it affected every stratum of African rural society. In 1914 Dube was one of the ANC delegates to London to protest against the Act. This delegation caused some controversy within the ANC. It was fed Dube had made some compromises on the principle of segregation. The bone of contention within the ANC was the Land Act. Dube was ousted from the presidency of the ANC. From this time onwards Dube concentrated his activities in Natal but in the 1940's Xuma influenced him to participate in the movement nationally with some success.

In the 1920s, like some of his generation (and the stratum of mission-educated Africans? he became involved in a series of. "liberal' attempts to establish "racial harmony" between black and white, such as the Smuts' Native Conferences established under the 1920 Act (which Dube left in 1926 on the grounds of their powerlessness) the Joint Councils and many missionary conferences. In 1926 he was one of the South African delegates to the international conference at Le Zoute in Belgium, a visit he combined with fresh fund-raising for Ohlange. He was involved in replacing the left-wing Gumede with Seme as president of the ANC in 1930 and in 1935 became a member of the All African Convention. He represented Natal on the Native Representative Council from 1936 until his death, in 1946, when he was replaced by Chief Albert Lutuli on the Council.

One of Dube's controversial actions was in 1930. He openly flirted with Hertzog's bills in the hope that they would at least Provide some extra additional funds for development. It should be remembered that Dube was ousted from the presidency of the ANC in 1917 for his apparent acceptance of the principle - if not the contemporary practice - of segregation. Dube forged an alliance with the segregationist, Heaton Nicholls, and he toured the country soliciting the support of African leaders in Johannesburg, Kimberly, Bloemfontein and the Eastern Cape for a bill on Land Settlement promoted by Nicholls. This provided for the allocation of seven million morgen of land, to be added to the already scheduled areas, and the provision of adequate funds. The problem was that, like Hertzog's proposals, Heaton Nicholls coupled his land schemes with an attempt to end the franchise of the Cape Africans. This scheme also envisaged the representation of Africans in-the senate. But this never materialised. But all this did not discredit Dube. In 1935 he was elected to the Executive of the All African Convention. He became disenchanted with the government schemes -- at a meeting of the Natal Debating Society in 1935 he made a sharp attack on the government's policies, which Jabavu printed as a pamphlet: "Criticisms of the Native Bills". In it Dube expounded his nationalism and his rejection of African inequality and his belief in the principle of African representation.

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