PIONEER

Rev John Langalibabele Dube

Reverend John Dube. The heritage portal
Reverend John Dube. The heritage portal

Journalist | Religious leader | Community activist

Born: 1871 Died: 1946

“My main desire is to bring about such a relationship between Europeans and Natives of Natal as to ensure the peace of the country and the progress and welfare of both races ... in bringing forward these bills which you honestly believe will benefit the Natives, you are really calling into existence measures which, I think, will cause discontent and probably further trouble with a section of the Native population … Ungangifulateli ‘Pambana noMkandlu.’ Yini inceku yako etobekileyo (Don’t turn your back on me. I don’t want to be at odds with the government. Your humble servant.)”

Who was
Rev John Langalibabele Dube?

Leading political thinker and African rights’ activist in the early 20th century.

Professions
and Roles

Spiritual leader, journalist, editor of Ilanga Lase Natal, educationalist, and outspoken political activist.

Best Known For

Being the first President of the South African Native National Congress.

Life highlights

  • Dube schooled at Oberlin College in Ohio, United States, and later went to university to study theology in Brooklyn, New York.
  • In 1900, Dube set up the Natal Natives Congress which advocated for black parliamentary representation, free land ownership laws, improved education for black children and the end of enforced labour in Natal.
  • Dube raised funds for the legal defence of the participants in the Bambatha Rebellion, who were arrested for protesting new poll taxes and land dispossession.
  • Dube also travelled to London in 1909 as part of a deputation of black and coloured leaders who were protesting the imminent formation of Union between the British and Boer forces. He went to London again in 1914 to protest the 1913 Natives Land Act.
  • In 1912, Dube was elected the first President of the South African National Natives’ Congress, what would later become the African National Congress (ANC).
  • Dube started a school called Ohlange Institute with his first wife, Nokutela Dube. It was modelled on Booker T Washington’s Tuskegee University in the United States. It is still operational today.

IN THEIR OWN WORDS

“My main desire is to bring about such a relationship between Europeans and Natives of Natal as to ensure the peace of the country and the progress and welfare of both races … in bringing forward these bills which you honestly believe will benefit the Natives, you are really calling into existence measures which, I think, will cause discontent and probably further trouble with a section of the Native population … Ungangifulateli ‘Pambana noMkandlu.’ Yini inceku yako etobekileyo (Don’t turn your back on me. I don’t want to be at odds with the government. Your humble servant.)”

– John Dube


IN THE WORDS OF OTHERS

“John Dube fought all his life for the unity and liberation of all Africans.”

-The Presidency

“Dube’s pre-eminence as a leader came from his ability to speak to (or, more importantly, for) so many different constituents – chiefs, commoners, workers, the educated but squeezed and struggling middle classes … he was animated by a powerful vision of redemption and representation …”

-Heather Hughes, biographer, 2011

Dube was known as ‘Mafukuzela Onjenge Zulu’ by his followers, meaning the ‘Zulu Storm that Woke the Nation’.

EXPLORE THE ARCHIVE

Audio Visual

President Mandela gives his State of the Nation address in Parliament. Mandela ends his address with the words, “Let us all get down to work”.

“We must construct that people-centred society of freedom in such a manner that it guarantees the political and the human rights of all our citizens.”– President Mandela, extract from State of the Nation Address, 24 May 1994

President Nelson Mandela announces his cabinet. It includes members of the African National Congress, National Party and Inkatha Freedom Party.

“There was pride in serving in the first democratic government in South Africa, and then the additional pride of serving under the iconic leadership of Nelson Mandela … [He] represented the hopes of not just our country, but of oppressed, marginalised and the poor in the world.”– Jay Naidoo, then Minister of RDP housing
“We place our vision of a new constitutional order for South Africa on the table not as conquerors, prescribing to the conquered. We speak as fellow citizens to heal the wounds of the past with the intent of constructing a new order based on justice for all.”– President Nelson Mandela, 10 May 1994