Pixley ka Isaka Seme

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Pixley ka Isaka Seme
Pixley ka Isaka Seme 001.jpg
Pixley ka Isaka Seme in 1906
President of the African National Congress
In office
Preceded byJ. T. Gumede
Succeeded byZ. R. Mahabane
Personal details
Born(1881-10-01)1 October 1881
Daggakraal, Eastern Transvaal
Died(1951-06-07)7 June 1951
NationalitySouth Africa
Political partyAfrican National Congress
Alma materColumbia University, Jesus College, Oxford

Pixley ka Isaka Seme (c. 1881[1] – June 1951) was one of the first black lawyers in South Africa (Alfred Mangena was the first black attorney, Duma Nokwe the first black advocate), and a founder and President of the African National Congress.

Early life[edit]

Seme was born the fourth son of Sinono Kuwana Seme in the area that would come to be known as Daggakraal,[2][3] in what was then called the Colony of Natal, at the Inanda mission station of the American Zulu Mission of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. He graduated from Mount Hermon School, MA, in 1902 (now the Northfield Mount Hermon School). He attended Adams College which was part of the mission.

His mother was a sister of John Langalibalele Dube, and descended from a local chief.[4] At 17 years of age Seme left to study in the U.S., first at the Mount Hermon School and then Columbia University. In 1906, his senior year at University, he was awarded the Curtis Medal, Columbia's highest oratorical honor. He subsequently decided to become an attorney. In October 1906 he was admitted to Oxford University to read for the degree of Bachelor of Civil Law; while at Oxford he was a member of Jesus College. He was admitted to the Middle Temple on 12 February 1907 and was Called to the Bar on 8 June 1910.[5]

Seme returned to South Africa in 1910, and began to practice as a lawyer in Johannesburg.


In 1911, Seme established the South African Native Farmers Association[6] in order to encourage black farm workers to buy land in the Daggakraal area, and thus attain personal independence. Consequently, this led the white government to enact the Natives Land Act of 1913, barring black people from owning land in South Africa.[3][7]

In response to the formation of the Union of South Africa, Seme worked with several other young African leaders recently returned from university studies in England, Richard Msimang, George Montsioa and Alfred Mangena, and with established leaders of the South African Native Convention in Johannesburg to promote the formation of a national organization that would unify various African groups from the separate colonies. In January 1912, these efforts bore fruit with the founding meeting of the South African Native National Congress, later renamed the African National Congress.[3][8][9]

Seme was also the lawyer of Queen Regent Labotsibeni of eSwatini, through whom the first ANC newspaper Abantu-Batho was financed. Later, in 1922, Seme accompanied King Sobhuza II as part of a delegation to London to meet British authorities and the King regarding the land proclamation in Swaziland.

Seme's nationalist organizing among Africans paralleled the contemporaneous efforts of Mohandas Gandhi with South African Indians.

Personal life[edit]

Seme was very close to the Zulu and Swazi royal families. This is primarily symbolized by his marriage to Phikisele Harriet Dinizulu, the daughter of Zulu king Dinuzulu,[3] and to Lozinja, daughter of Swazi King Mbandzeni.


  1. ^ The birthdate is Seme's personal estimate at the time of his application to Mount Hermon.
  2. ^ "Pixley Ka Seme stature unveiled". SABC News.com. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d Samayende, Sizwe (12 January 2004). "Struggle hero honoured". News24. Retrieved 15 May 2017.
  4. ^ (Smith 1952)
  5. ^ Sturgess, H.A.C. (1949). Middle Temple Admission Register Vol. 2, 1782-1909. Butterworth & Co. (Publishers) Ltd.: London. p.762
  6. ^ "Pixley Ka Seme stature unveiled". South African Broadcasting Corporation. 31 March 2012. Archived from the original on 20 August 2017. Retrieved 15 May 2017. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  7. ^ Yende, Sizwe Sama (5 June 2014). "Going home 20 years later: Everything–and nothing–changes". News24. Retrieved 15 May 2017.
  8. ^ Odendaal, Andre (1984). Black Protest Politics in South Africa to 1912. Totowa, NJ: Barnes & Noble Books.
  9. ^ Walshe, Peter (1970). The Rise of African Nationalism in South Africa: The African National Congress, 1912-1952. Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press.


  • Bryant, A. T. ([1929] 1965). Olden Times in Zululand and Natal. Cape Town: C. Struik
  • Smith, Edwin W. (1952). The Life and Times of Daniel Lindley, Missionary to the Zulus, Pastor of the Voortrekkers, Ubebe Omhlope. New York: Library Publishers.

External links[edit]