Congress Alliance

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The Congress Alliance was an anti-apartheid political coalition formed in South Africa in the 1950s. Led by the African National Congress, the CA was multi-racial in makeup and committed to the principle of majority rule.

Congress of the People and the Freedom Charter[edit]

The National Action Council, made up of executives of the ANC, the South African Indian Congress (SAIC), the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU), the Coloured People's Congress (CPC) and the South African Congress of Democrats (COD) met in Tongaat on 23 June 1955. This group, who became known as the Congress Alliance, developed the document known as the Freedom Charter and planned the Congress of the People, a large multi-racial gathering held over two days at Kliptown on 26 June 1955. At this rally, the Charter was read out in three languages (English, Sotho and Xhosa), and discussed by various delegates.[1]

The Charter was the statement of core principles of the Alliance, which included a commitment to multi-racial democratic government and a fundamental restructuring of all aspects of South African Society.[2][1][3] The Alliance was part of the ANC's efforts to promote a multi-racial anti-apartheid movement.[4]

Other organisations associated with the Congress Alliance included the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Federation of South African Women.[citation needed]


In December 1956 many key members of the Alliance were arrested and charged with treason, including the entire executive committee of the ANC. 105 Africans, 21 Indians, 23 whites (about half of whom were South African Jews),[5]:60–61 and 7 Coloured members of the Congress Alliance were arrested. Many leaders, including Nelson Mandela, were detained in communal cells in Johannesburg Prison, resulting in "the largest and longest unbanned meeting of the Congress Alliance in years.".[6]

These arrests led to the 1956 Treason Trial, which lasted until 1961 but led to the eventual acquittal of all charged.[7]


  1. ^ a b "The Freedom Charter is adopted in Kliptown: Sunday, 26 June 1955". South African History Online. 22 June 2018. Retrieved 17 March 2019.
  2. ^ "Significance of the Congress of the People and the Freedom Charter". South African History Online. 4 August 2016. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  3. ^ Baard, Frances; Schreiner, Barbie. "The congress of the people". South African History Online. Retrieved 15 March 2019. From the book: My Spirit Is Not Banned by Frances Baard and Barbie Schreiner
  4. ^ Gerhart, Gail M. Black power in South Africa: The evolution of an ideology. University of California Press.
  5. ^ Shimoni, Gideon. Community and Conscience: The Jews in Apartheid South Africa. UPNE, 2003.
  6. ^ Mandela, Nelson (1994). Long Walk To Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela.
  7. ^ Naomi Klein (2007). The Shock Doctrine. London: Penguin Group.