This year marks 35th anniversary of the death of Dr Yusuf Mohamed Dadoo. “Mota” or “Doc”, as Cde Yusuf Dadoo was affectionately known, died on 19 September 1983, a few days after his 74th birthday, in the Whittington Hospital, London after succumbing to the ravages of cancer. “Mota” is a Gujerati term of endearment reserved for those held in high regard and esteem.
He was born on 5 September 1909 in Krugersdorp. After attending school in South Africa and India, Yusuf Dadoo graduated as a medical doctor at the University of Edinburgh and return to practice his profession in South Africa in 1936 but was immediately drawn into the political struggle. Whilst still in his 20’s he found himself in the leadership of campaigns to unite the Indian, African and Coloured people in the fight against white minority domination.
He joined the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) in 1939 and found in Marxism-Leninism the theoretical foundation for his lifelong service to the cause of proletariat internationalism. As Chairperson of the Johannesburg district of the CPSA, Dadoo made his contribution to the strengthening and development of African trade unions, but it was above all the sterling work of his comrade-in-arms and friend J. B. Marks which welded the African Mineworkers’ Union into a force capable of bringing out, in the week of August 12 to 19, 1946, 100,000 African miners on strike for higher wages – one of the high points of African resistance in the past century.
Together with Maulvi Cachalia, ‘Naran’ Naidoo, Rev. Sigamoney, Nana Sita and others he founded the crusading nationalist bloc, challenging the entrenched right-wing leadership of the Transvaal Indian Congress. At the same time (for his interests were never confined to the affairs of the Indian community alone, he joined J. B. Marks, Josie Mpama, George Carr, S .Joshi, Alpheus Maliba and others in forming the Non·European United Front. It was on behalf of the latter organisation that he spent in 1941, many prison sentences in Boksburg jail – the trial and sentence sparking off the ‘Support Dadoo and Defend Freedom’ campaign: predecessor of many mass protests in the next two decades.
When the National Anti-Pass Council was established in 1945, Dr Xuma became the Chairperson and Dr Dadoo became his deputy. Dadoo was arrested with 50 others on charge under Riotous Assemblies Act for his part in the historic 1946 mineworkers’ strike. Together with Dr G Naicker, he toured India to win support for the passive resistance against Smits’ Ghetto Act https://www.sahistory.org.za/dated-event/ghetto-act-or-asiatic-land-tenure-and-indian-representation-act-no-28-1946-passed This is where he met leaders like Ghandhi and Nehru.
The historic 1947 Drs Dadoo-Xuma-Naicker Pact or Three Doctors’ Pact signed between the Transvaal Indian Congress, African National Congress and Natal Indian Congress pledged for co-operation of Africans and Indians in the struggle against discriminatory and oppressive laws and demanded full franchise for all. Drs Dadoo and Naicker were sentenced to six months imprisonment for defying 1913 Immigration Act which prohibited Indians from moving from one province to another without a permit. Yusuf Dadoo, JB Marks, Walter Sisulu, Dr JS Moroka, and Y Cachalia were elected into the Joint Planning Council to organise the Defiance of Unjust Law Campaign. Nelson Mandela was elected Volunteer-in-Chief of the Defiance Campaign with Molvi Cachalia his deputy. Already at that time Mandela’s courage, devotion to duty, magnetic personality and dynamism had manifested themselves.
Dadoo was elected into the Central Committee of the newly reconstituted South African Communist Party in 1953 at its first clandestine Congress held in Johannesburg. At the epoch-making Congress of the People which adopted the Freedom Charter in 1955, Dadoo, Chief Albert Luthuli and Father Trevor Huddleston were awarded with Isitwalandwe-Seaparankwe. Because of banning orders, only Father Huddleston attended.
The ANC Morogoro Conference of 1969 is considered as a historical milestone. After a careful and frank analysis, decisions were taken which have had a positive impact on the course of the revolutionary struggle. The Conference set up a Revolutionary Council which was entrusted with the task of improving the underground structures of the ANC, strengthening the capacity of Umkhonto-We-Sizwe to meet the firepower of the enemy with the fire-power and superior tactics of the guerillas, and relating the armed struggle to the mass actions of the working people. Oliver Tambo was unanimously and enthusiastically elected Chairperson and Dadoo deputy Chairperson of the Revolutionary Council. Since its formation in 1969 the Revolutionary Council has considerably heightened the activities of the ANC underground and Umkhonto-We-Sizwe. Dadoo has worked tirelessly and selflessly, never sparing himself.
As a leading member of the SACP Dadoo was also occupied by his Party duties and functions. In August 1972 J. B. Marks, then Chairperson of the SACP, died and was buried in the former Soviet Union, or to use Dadoo’s words -“in the land of the proletariat”. Noting the heavy blow sustained by the Party and the entire liberation movement by the death of Comrade J.B. Marks, the Party expressed its determination to strive ceaselessly for the fulfilment of his life’s work. At the Central Committee meeting held soon thereafter, Dadoo was unanimously elected Chairperson. He conceded that that his election was a great honour and a heavy responsibility; more so since he had to follow the high standard of leadership set by Marks. However, once he took on this responsibility he made and continues to make valuable contributions to the extension of the Party’s influence and position inside and outside the country.
Dadoo’s tenure as the Chairperson of the Party represented a totally different generation of young, nationalistically-oriented Communist militants-which he largely inspired through his own selfless and passionate involvement in mass struggles of Indian people of South Africa. Dadoo’s period of office marked the Communist Party’s steadily strengthening alliance with the national liberation struggles of Blacks in general and Africans in particular, and its total acceptance of the leading role of the ANC.
In some organisations, the position of Chairperson is horrific, bestowed on worthies who served their time and are thus ennobled to the diplomatic arena and other ceremonial functions. This is not the case in the SACP. Traditionally in the Party, the Chairperson has been the premier diplomatic and public presence, while the General Secretary has been the principal political and administrative figure. Despite the public apparent separation of functions, the Chairperson nevertheless shares the responsibilities of political leadership and the formulation of policy. These functions are far more political than decorative.
He dictated a farewell message signed few hours before his death to his comrades in the Central Committee of the SACP. He expressed his sincere regret for his inability to preside over the next session of the CC scheduled to be held the following day. He wrote, inter alia; “Our Party, whatever its weaknesses over the years, has also consistently been a great source of strength and power. This strength is rooted in the firm foundation laid, from the very beginning, the emphasis placed on a correct understanding of Marxism-Leninism and proletarian internationalism by all cadres; on the emphasis of education classes and correct teaching of Marxism-Leninism to cadres; on the unqualified disciple and high level of commitment demanded from cadres, and in the unswerving loyalty and respect our Party has for CPSU”.
He told his daughter, Roshan that “death is part of life and that if you have to fought until the end you can accept death; that others who continue with the struggle will continue with your life.” ANC President Cde Oliver Tambo delivered the following message of support: “Loved and admired throughout the movement, ‘Doc’- as he was affectionately known- combined the best qualities of a revolutionary patriot and dynamic leader of the working class. Because of his clear understanding of the factors underlying national oppression and economic exploitation of the black masses, he was able, in his unassuming manner, to guide and inspire others to commit themselves fully in the struggle for the noble ideals of freedom, democracy and a just social order. Most important of all he led by example”.
Paying homage to Dadoo, SACP General Secretary Moses Mabhida wrote that “I would best describe him as a gentle giant. Dr Dadoo never flinched, he never relented in the fight for the alliance of the oppressed people. Cde Dadoo was strangely disciplined. He was never a man who lived above any other person. He never defied the word of his organisation.” Messages of support were received from fraternal organisations the world over. The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union described him as “a selfless fighter against imperialism, for the national and social liberation of the people of South Africa, for peace in the whole world. He consistently fought for the principles of Marxism-Leninism and proletariat internationalism, the cause of unity of revolutionary forces”.
Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba issued the following statement: “Convinced that the unity of the oppressed masses would yield final victory over the fascist regime which oppressed his people, Dadoo clearly understood, as a true internationalist, the organic relationship between the struggle in South Africa and the world-wide struggle against capitalism, colonialism neo-colonialism and imperialism, for national freedom, peace, democracy and socialism”.
Yusuf won positions in our history which, in combination, are perhaps unique. He reinjected into the Indian Community the Ghandhi-like spirit of pride and defiance; and became this community’s foremost national leader. But he went further than the Ghandhi of earlier days, he saw more clearly than the young Ghandhi that the fate of all black oppressed is indivisible. And through his endless drive for unity in action between all the dominated peoples, he became one of the foremost heads of all the black oppressed.
He never bought his national popularity at the expense of hiding the very driving force of his political life, a devotion to internationalism, to socialism as the ultimate foundation for true freedom and liberation. He was a proud communist and this devotion informed everything he did as a revolutionary nationalist.
At the time of his death, Dadoo was national Chairperson of the SACP, a deputy Chairperson of the ANC Politico-Military Council, and a member of the Presidential Committee of the World Peace Council, in whose activities he had taken a prominent part for many years. He had led many delegations of the SACP to many different parts of the world and was a firm champion of the international communist movement. On his 70th birthday he was awarded the Order of Dimitrov of Bulgaria, the Order of Karl Marx by the German Democratic Republic, the Order of the Friendship of the Peoples by the Soviet Union, the Gold Medal of the Afro-Asia People’s Solidarity Organisation, the Decoration of the Hungarian Peace Movement and the ‘Wielki Proletariat’ of Poland. He was succeeded by Joe Slovo as the Chairperson of the Party. He was buried on 24 September 1983 at Highgate Cemetery in London just across the pathway from ideological mentor and father of scientific socialism, Karl Marx.
Dr Lehlohonolo Kennedy Mahlatsi is SACP Free State PEC (Provincial Executive Committee) Member and Anc Member. He writes in his personal capacity