Josiah Gumede

Josiah Gumede, 4th President of the ANC


1 Early Years
2 South African War Years 1899-1902
3 Political Career
4 The Brussels Congress 1927
5 Presidency of the ANC

Early Years
An early photograph of Josiah GumedeJosiah Tshangana Gumede was born on 9 October 1867 in the village of Fort Beaufort, Eastern Cape. After school he attended the ‘Kaffirs’ Institute in Grahamstown and moved to Natal in 1884 when he accepted a teaching post at Adams College, Umbumbulu. There he befriended a colleague, Saul Msane. Together they started a Zulu Choir in 1890 and went on tour to Britain with the choir in 1892. Gumede married Margareth Sithole, a teacher from Bergville and is subsequently employed by Chief Ncwadi as an induna.

South African War Years 1899-1902
In 1894 He was one of the first Blacks to be recruited by the Natal Intelligence Dept before the outbreak of the SA War in 1899. In 1899 Gumede and Msane met Hariette Colenso to discuss the formation of an African political organisation and in 1900 together with Martin Luthuli and Saul Msane he became cofounder and general secretary of the Natal Native Congress, a position he held for several years.

Political Career
After the war Gumede becomes a land agent with Thackeray Allison & Albert Hime Solicitors for 14 years. In 1906 he joined the delegation to Britain over the land laws of the Orange Free State and is subsequently arrested and charged for leaving Natal Colony without a pass, but after appeal he is released by the Native High Court. In the same year Gumede joins Iliso lesizwe Esimnyama, an organisation of Wesleyan converts and chiefs.

In 1919 he again went to London with the ANC delegation to petition the British Government. In 1921 Gumede met with delegates from the National Congress of British West Africa, and back in South Africa in 1924 he is elected as new president of the Natal Native Congress (NNC).

The Brussels Congress 1927
Gumede attended the Brussels Congress with Jimmy A. La Guma (ANC and Communist Party) and Dan Colraine (South African Trade Union Congress). Josiah Gumede (centre) at the Brussels Congess of 1927 The Congress was inclusive of communists, non-communists, anti-colonial freedom fighters from the Caribbean, Asia, Africa and Latin America, humanists and social democrats. Gumede spoke twice at the Brussels Congress and on both occasions his speeches made notable impressions on delegates. During the fifth session on 12 February he uttered the following:

“I am glad to be here as I am one of the representatives of South Africa which has been painted white on the map as if imperialism does not operate there. I have to relate a very sad story to you of what is happening to the proletariat of South Africa, white and black. I will take the trade unions of Europeans in South Africa. They do not work together with us. Race prejudice in Africa is even more violent than in America. There is a fear in South Africa that if the natives increase and are not taken in hand they will lift themselves up and very soon claim the government of the country and rule their country because of their numbers. Therefore they have got to be kept down to be “hewers of wood and drawers of water” only, and I can assure you it is done properly too.”

The three South African delegates proposed resolutions which were adopted by the Conference. Resolutions were:-

  • The right of self-determination by the complete overthrow of capitalist and imperialist domination.
  • The right of establishing full educational facilities for the development of all peoples.
  • The abolition of all oppressive taxation.
  • The abolition of all indentured labour.
  • The right of all classes of workers to organise themselves into trade union organisations for their economic and social emancipation.
  • Free speech and assembly to be the unfettered right of all workers and peoples irrespective of colour or creed, and further, that no embargo be placed against any leader or representative of workers and the people traveling the country in the interests of the rights demanded in the preceding clauses.

Presidency of the ANC
In July 1927 Gumede is elected as the 4th President-General of the African National Congress (ANC), a position he held until 1930.

In 1933 Gumede involves himself in activities of the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU) and in 1935 attends the All Africa Conference (ACC). He is honoured as Life President of the ANC at the annual meeting of the ANC in Bloemfontein in December 1945 and dies on 6 November 1946.

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