The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers

Clements Kadalie,[1] Secretary, ICU,[2]to Samuel M. Bennett Ncwana[3]

Dear Bennett,

With regard to my statement in my f[i]rst letter about the "Efficiency Institute" I have had the pleasure of interviewing the Manager of the School[4] and [they] have arranged to start with me from next Wednesday, May 26th, 1920. It is a great pity that you are already in the College and there is no possibility of taking you in the same course. My essential object is to be the great African Marcus Gorvey [Garvey] and I don't mind of how much I shall pay for that education.[5] I wish you to come on Saturday as soon as possible and you will likely find me at the Dock Gate. I have got all the information and I shall be looking /for/ young men to go along with me and open the Club at which the instructor will once a month come and teach in public.[6] Man, I am not pleased to see that you are locked up[7] for I would wish to go along with you as my own Colle[a]gue. Well, I think I cannot help but that in the length/y/ of days the Almighty will prepare a chance for us two to be close in touch.
Kindly, be good to forward the Constitution by post before nex/t/ Friday meeting 21st. inst. for there is great work to be performed out of the Constitution.[8] Or if you can see Mr. Paulse'/s/ daughter[9] try and give it to her[,] she will bring it up to me before the time. Hoping you will do this without failure. Always trusting you. Yours sincerely,
Clements Kadalie
[Address:] S. M. Bennett Ncwane, Zonnebloem College,[10] Cape Town.
KCAL, MSS Collection, J. S. Marwick Papers, file 74, KCM 8315. TLS, recipient's copy.
[1] Clements Kadalie (1896?–1951), one of the most prominent Africans in South Africa in the 1920s and 1930s, was the leader of the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU). Kadalie was born in the Nkhata Bay district of Nyasaland, near the Bandawe mission station. His grandfather, Chiweyu, was the paramount chief of the Tonga. Kadalie was educated at the Livingstonia Missionary Institute until 1912, when he graduated with training as a teacher. He worked at clerical positions in Mozambique and Southern Rhodesia before moving to South Africa, where he hoped to earn funds to further his education in Europe. After holding a series of southern African white-collar jobs in which he fought against racial discrimination, he joined his brother in Cape Town in 1918. He found that segregationist policies were even more harshly applied in Cape Town, and he was forced to work mostly as an unskilled laborer for the next two years.
In response to these conditions, Kadalie founded the ICU in January 1919 with an initial membership of twenty-four, most of whom were dockworkers, and served as the organization's secretary-general. The first meeting was attended by African and "coloured" dockworkers, who, in December 1920, would be responsible for a major dock strike that resulted in the stoppage of exportation of foodstuffs from South Africa to Europe. The ICU was supported in the strike by the National Union of Railwaymen, an all-European organization, and the National Union of Railways and Harbours, which employed mostly Africans. The strike ended after three weeks, with only minimal concessions granted in the wages of dock laborers. Officials responded with a call for Kadalie's deportation. Influential friends, however, prevented the order from taking effect.
In July 1920 Kadalie was a delegate to a coordinating conference called to unify the actions of black trade unions nationwide. Henry Selby Msimang was elected head of the new, expanded union, known as the Industrial and Commercial Workers' Union of Africa (ICWU). Kadalie remained remote from the organization and worked through his old Cape Town local. During 1920, when his ICU remained outside the ICWU, Kadalie consolidated his links with Garveyites, addressing at least one UNIA meeting and, with S. M. B. Ncwana, promoting black business enterprise. Some leading ICU members were also UNIA members. For example, Garveyite J. G. Gumbs joined Kadalie and Ncwana in negotiating with employers of ICU members in August 1920. Kadalie backed the Garveyites when a struggle between Garveyites and Communists ensued within the ICU. He expelled members of the Communist Party of South Africa from the ICU board and from ICU membership in the mid-1920s. It was through Kadalie and the ICU that many central Africans were first introduced to Garveyism, including the young Kamuzu Banda, who later led Nyasaland to independence as the nation of Malawi. Kadalie also encouraged Isa M. Lawrence in his allegiance. "Marcus Garvey . . . is another hero of the race," he wrote to Lawrence; "thank God we have such men" (Kadalie to Lawrence, 4 April 1925, NaMal, S 2/50/23). Kadalie took the lead in appeals to Britain concerning Lawrence's conviction on importing the banned Negro World—as well as Kadalie's Workers' Herald—into Nyasaland.
In 1921 Kadalie challenged Msimang's leadership and succeeded him as national secretary of the ICWU, which was usually simply called the ICU. A strong and flamboyant speaker and organizer, Kadalie proved a great asset to the ICU movement. Its membership swelled to 150,000 by 1928, with branches throughout South Africa and neighboring countries. Rural Africans flocked to hear Kadalie's impassioned orations, in which he promised land, liberty, and full equality with whites. Others were suspicious of Kadalie's association with whites, his mismanagement of funds, and his personal opportunism.
Kadalie edited the ICU's Workers' Herald from 1923 to 1928. In 1924 he supported the candidacy of J. B. M. Hertzog against that of Jan C. Smuts, hoping that a National-Labour coalition would bring improvements for blacks. He toured Europe in 1927 in the hope of winning support from white labor movements and progressives. In the following year he was charged under the "hostility clause" of the Native Administration Act of 1927 but after a well-publicized trial was acquitted. Under both internal and external criticism, Kadalie resigned from the disintegrating ICU in 1929. In March 1929 he helped form the Independent ICU. Although this group led a general strike in East London the following year, neither he nor his union ever regained the support of the parent organization. Kadalie served a brief prison sentence in connection with his leadership of the 1930 strike, and was banned from public speaking and assembly. Nevertheless, he continued to work through the ANC and led opposition to the Hertzog bills in 1935 and 1936. He remained politically active until the end of his life and wrote his memoirs in the 1940s (Gregory A. Pirio, "The Role of Garveyism in the Making of the Southern African Working Classes and Namibian Nationalism" [paper presented at conference, "South Africa in the Comparative Study of Class, Race and Nation," New York City, September 1982]; Clements Kadalie, My Life and the ICU: The Autobiography of a Black Trade Unionist in South Africa [London: Frank Cass, 1970]; Bridglal Pachai, Malawi: The History of the Nation [London: Longman, 1973]; Tony Martin, Race First: The Ideological and Organizational Struggles of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Ass ociation [Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1976], pp. 119–120; Phillip Short, Banda [London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1974], p. 18; FPC 4; HDM).
Clements Kadalie
[2] The Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU) held its founding meeting on 17 January 1919 in Cape Town. Presiding was a white would-be politician by the name of A. F. Batty; Kadalie was unanimously elected secretary. By 1929 the ICU had split into three branches: the ICU of Africa, led by William Ballinger; the ICU of Natal, which followed A. W. G. Champion; and the Independent ICU, under the continued direction of Clements Kadalie (Kadalie, My Life and the ICU, pp. 39–45, 181).
[3] Samuel M. Bennett Ncwana (b. ca. 1893), Cape Town resident, political organizer, Pondo activist, and journalist interested in commercial development and labor issues, was conversant with others interested in Garveyism in southern Africa. Ncwana was an early and prominent member of the ICU, but his tenure with the organization was fractious. He moved periodically between the ICU and its rival, the ICWU, and in 1921 launched a bitter attack on the ICU in his newspaper the Black Man. He helped found the African Land Settlement Scheme with the object "to assist the Government by inducing Natives living in towns to settle on the land" (P. L. Wickins, The Industrial and Commercial Workers' Union of Africa [Cape Town: Oxford University Press, 1978], p. 66). At other times Ncwana acted as the general organizer of the Cape Native Voters Association, which mobilized black voters for the South African party. According to Kadalie, Ncwana also helped write the election literature for the National party candidate Professor Schoeman, who defeated Margaret Ballinger in 1949.
Ncwana had also established connections with activists in Lüderitz before his visit in July 1922. Copies of the Black Man had been sent regularly to Lüderitz, and John de Clue, the ICU leader, was listed as the newspaper's agent in Lüderitz. Following Ncwana's conviction on a charge of entering the territory without permit under the alias of W. Jackson, a petition bearing the names of over one hundred black residents of Lüderitz was submitted to the administrator, pleading that he be allowed to stay on in South West Africa. The petition, signed by de Clue, Fitz Headly, and other prominent black leaders, was turned down by the administrator. In the summer of 1922, before his deportation, Ncwana confronted Prince Arthur of Connaught during the prince's royal visit to Lüderitz. Ncwana "pushed himself forward and before his business could be ascertained read a long address touching on various native questions including the treatment of the Bondelswarts. His Royal Highness when replying made no reference to this address" (Office of the Magistrate, Lüderitz, to the secretary for SWA, 4 August 1922, NaNam, SWAA, A 50/32). It appears, however, that Ncwana was allowed to stay on for a few weeks after his conviction; during this period he was instrumental in organizing members of the ICU and UNIA into the South West African National Congress. In 1925–1926 he wrote a series of articles in Imvo Zabantsundu (African Opinion), critical of South African government policies toward Africans. He characterized missionaries as "the forerunners of European domination" and called for passive resistance to segregationist policies. By 1930, however, Ncwana had become one of the only African leaders in eastern Cape politics to support Hertzog's proposed laws for African franchise. He also supported the National party in its apartheid policies after 1948 (Native Affairs, Lüderitz, to secretary for SWA, 26 May 1921, NaNam, SWAA, ADM C248; report from Windhoek Advertiser, n.d., reprinted from Cape Argus, 22 September 1921, NaNam, SWAA, A50/13/1; Black Man [Cape Town], December 1920; Les Switzer, "The Ambiguities of Protest in Rural South Africa: Rural Politics and the Press during the 1920s," IJAHS 23, no. 1 [1990]: 93, 102; Kadalie, My Life and the ICU, pp. 45, 55, 57; Wickins, Industrial and Commercial Workers' Union, pp. 61, 66, 76).
[4] Kadalie concentrated on lessons in public speaking at the Efficiency Institute, which he claimed had previously excluded blacks (Kadalie, My Life and the ICU, p. 45).
[5] It was an expensive education: at a guinea a month, the institute absorbed about one-third of the wage of an ordinary laborer, and one-eighth of Kadalie's monthly salary as secretary for the ICU (Kadalie, My Life and the ICU, p. 45).
[6] Throughout the ICU's history, considerable emphasis was placed on cultural and educational activities. The 1921 constitution stated that one of the union's aims was to establish and manage clubs in the interests of members ("Industrial and Commercial Workers' Union of Africa, Rules and Regulations Adopted on October 24, 1921," SAGA, ARB 713, L.C. 1054/25).
[7] On 9 May 1919, Ncwana had been sentenced to eleven months' imprisonment on three counts of theft (CID officer, Kimberley, to CID officer, Umtata, 14 July 1926, SAGA-CA, Tsolo magistrate's correspondence, 1/TSO 21).
[8] It is not clear from the text whether this was a reference to the constitution of the UNIA. A white member of the British Amalgamated Society of Engineers was a moving spirit in the formation of the ICU, and the 1919 constitution seems to have corresponded closely to the rules of this society. Kadalie's concern about the constitution was probably linked to the impending ICU unity conference held in July 1920, when agreement on a constitution was the first item on the agenda (Peter Wickins, "The Organisation and Composition of the ICU," SALB 1, no. 6 [September–October 1974]: 27).
[9] Paulse's daughter was the child of "coloured" parents who were both involved in the ICU. Poe Paulse, a foreman working for a shipping company, was the ICU's first chairman; he participated in the union's 1919 dock strike and was honorary treasurer by 1920 (Black Man [Cape Town], August 1920; Kadalie, My Life and the ICU, p. 41).
[10] Zonnebloem College was founded on the outskirts of Cape Town in 1858. Although initially intended to Westernize African chiefs, it was opened to other races during the nineteenth century. Fewer Africans attended as other schools closer to their main areas of residence were opened, and whites were debarred from entry in 1913. Zonnebloem College increasingly became a "coloured" educational institution, which by 1920 was offering teacher training as well as secondary education (introduction, Archives of Zonnebloem College, University of Cape Town; Janet Hodgson, "A History of Zonnebloem College, 1858–1870: A Study of Church and Society," 2 vols., M.A. [Religious Studies], University of Cape Town, 1975).