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Changing the guard: Champion-Msimang-Luthuli. the Anc in Natal 1945-1951

Institute of Commonwealth Studies
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  • History
  • Engineering
  • Law
  • Political Science


CHANGING THE GUARD: CHAMPION-MSIMANG-LUTHULI. THE ANC IN NATAL, 1945-1951 Maynard Swanson At Durban on the 31st of May 1951, in a tumultuous general meeting of the Natal ANC, veteran rough and tumble Zulu politician A W G Champion was overthrown and removed from the provincial presidency, a post he had held since 1945. It was a dramatic defeat, signalling the end of old-line leadership opposed to the demands of the Congress Youth League for militant defiance of apartheid. The victor, as is well known, was Chief Albert J Luthuli, teacher, farmer, chief of a Christian Kholwa community, and a relative newcomer to national politics. Accounts of Champion's political demise have generally subordinated the event to wider perspectives, asserting more or less briefly and simply that it was determined by personal foibles and engineered by the Youth League. This paper attempts to draw out some details of Champion's presidency and its breakdown, in the belief that they may add to understanding of its circumstances. The 1951 election itself serves well to open the issues, personalities and behaviour that shaped the confrontation and its outcome. Champion himself presided over his own downfall, occupying the chair throughout in violation of the normal practice of having the meeting chaired by the speaker of the house. In typical fashion, Champion had also arbitrarily set aside the constitutional provision for branch delegate voting and declared the meeting open to all, over-ruling a notice issued by Henry Selby Msimang as provincial secretary. [l] Behind this move was a struggle over control of membership and branches which could determine the election. The meeting was, in fact, a resumption of one in January that had been aborted in an open quarrel between Champion and Msimang. The secretary had been loyal to Champion through thick and thin since the latter's accession, but the two had fallen out in the previous year when Msimang had accepted Youth League affiliation against

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