Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Umkhonto we Sizwe (Military wing of the African National Congress): We are at War! (December 16, 1961)

Umkhonto We Sizwe (“Spear of the Nation”) was founded partly in response to the notorious Sharpeville Massacre of March 1960. Its leader, Nelson Mandela, was to be arrested shortly after this manifesto was published, eventually being sentenced to life in prison, though he was released in 1990, with the end of apartheid.

On 16th December, 1961, Umkhonto We Sizwe, military wing of the ANC, made it known that we, the oppressed people of South Africa, would fight for our rights. We made this known not only with words. Dynamite blasts announced it.

From 13th August, 1967, our men of Umkhonto We Sizwe, together with our brothers of ZAPU (Zimbabwe African People’s Union) have been fighting the oppressors in Matabeleland, Wankie and further south.

The Vorster government, through the radio and newspapers, continues to lie bout this fighting.

The truth is very different from what these newspapers have reported. Our men are armed and trained freedom-fighters, not “terrorists.” They are fighting with courage, discipline and skill. The forces of the Rhodesian racialists suffered heavy losses. So also did the white soldiers sent to Rhodesia by Vorster to save the Smith regime from collapse.

The freedom-fighters have inflicted heavy losses on the enemy. Apart from those who have been ambushed and killed, hospitals at Bulawayo and Wankie are crowded with wounded Smith and Vorster forces. Several South African helicopters and military transport planes have been brought down over the past three months.

The fighting will go on in Rhodesia and South Africa. We will fight until we have one, however long it takes and however much it will cost;

Why we fight

To you, the sons and daughters of the soil, our case is clear.

The white oppressors have stolen our land. They have destroyed our families. They have taken for themselves the best that there is in our rich country and have left us the worst. They have the fruits and the riches. We have the backbreaking toil and the poverty.

We burrow into the belly of the earth to dig out gold, diamonds, coal, uranium. The white oppressors and foreign investors grab all this wealth. It is used for their enrichment and to buy arms to suppress and kill us.

In the factories, on the farms, on the railways, wherever you go, the hard, dirty, dangerous, badly paid jobs are ours. The best jobs are for whites only.

In our own land we have to carry passes; we are restricted and banished while the white oppressors move about freely.

Our homes are hovels; those of the whites are luxury mansions, flats and farmsteads.

There are not enough schools for our children; the standard of education is low, and we have to pay for it. But the government uses our taxes and the wealth we create to provide free education for white children.

We have suffered long enough.

Over 300 years ago the white invaders began a ceaseless war of aggression against us, murdered our forefathers, stole our land and enslaved our people.

Today they still rule by force. They murder our people. They still enslave us.

Only by meeting force with force can we win back our motherland.

We have tried every way to reason with the white supremacists. For many years our leaders and organizations sent petitions and deputations to Cape Town and Pretoria, even overseas, to London and the United Nations in New York. We organized mass demonstrations, pass-burnings, peaceful stay-at-homes.

What answer was given by the government?

Strikers and demonstrators were shot in cold blood. New acts of oppression and injustice were heaped upon us. Our leaders and spokesmen were banned, gagged, jailed, banished–even murdered. Our organization, the African National Congress, was outlawed. Our meetings, journals and leaflets were prohibited.

The Nazi Vorster, who was interned for helping Hitler, is now the Prime Minister of South Africa. This man is the murderer of Mini, Mkaba, Khayingo, Bongco, Saloojee and other brave sons of Africa. He has condemned Mandela, Sisulu, Mbeki, Bhlaba, Motsoaledi, Mlangeni, Kathrada, Fischer and many others to rot away in jails for life.

They have declared war on us. We have to fight back!

Our Indian brothers know full well the hardships and bitterness of white baaskaap rule. Since the time of Mahatma Ghandi and before, they have had to face persecution–attempts to deport them to India, Ghetto Acts, Group Areas and other forms of oppression.

The South African Indian Congress fought back. Led by men like Yusuf Dadoo, Monty Naicker and Nana Sita, the Indian community marched hand in hand with the ANC for liberty, for the rights of all South Africans.

Our Colored brothers know how even the few privileges they were allowed–crumbs from the master’s table–have been taken away from them. Votes, skilled jobs, trade union rights–one by one they are being taken away. Now apartheid madness is conscripting the Colored youth into labor camps and jails for pass offenders. The ghetto walls grow higher. That is why the Colored People’s Congress (CPC) pledged its support to the Freedom Charter and why its leaders are driven into jail or exile.

And what of the white minority? For years they have been misled by racialist politicians, dominees and fascists who told them they were the superior race. They have followed the Vorsters and the de Villiers Graffs, and now they are being called upon to fight and die in Defense of apartheid. Let them ask themselves: is it worth it? Has it brought anything but uncertainty and fear, isolation and contempt at home and abroad. Is this a future to fight and die for–a life in an armed camp, surrounded by the hate and anger of the oppressed non-white people?

The African National Congress, remembering also the Bram Fischers and the Dennis Goldbergs, calls on white South Africans to take their place on the side of liberty and democracy, the side of our freedom fighters–now before it is too late.

What we fight for

We are fighting for democracy–majority rule–the right of the Africans to rule Africa. We are fighting for a South Africa in which there will be peace and harmony and equal rights for all people.

We are not racialists, as the white oppressors are. The African National Congress has a message of freedom for all who live in our country.

What you should do

The battle has begun.

In Rhodesia, we have met the oppressors with guns in our hands! That was the start. Soon there will be battles in South Africa.

We will speak to them with guns, again and again, now here, now there, until their day is done and apartheid destroyed for ever.

We call on you to be prepared.

Stand up and speak out against Vorster and his Nazis. Don’t collaborate with them! Take courage from our immortal freedom-fighters who died in the name of freedom for all.

Our country will be free. We fight for all South Africans, for you and your children and your children’s children.

Prepare to support our fighting men!

Pass this message to your friends and relatives, throughout Southern Africa–in Botswana, Lesotho, South-West Africa, or Swaziland; in Rhodesia, Mozambique or Angola, and in every corner of South Africa itself.


MAKE THEIR PATH EASY! Make the enemy’s path hard!






This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

This is an excerpt from Reading About the World, Volume 2, edited by Paul Brians, Mary Gallwey, Douglas Hughes, Azfar Hussain, Richard Law, Michael Myers, Michael Neville, Roger Schlesinger, Alice Spitzer, and Susan Swan and published by Harcourt Brace Custom Books.The reader was created for use in the World Civilization course at Washington State University, but material on this page may be used for educational purposes by permission of the editor-in-chief:

Paul Brians
Department of English
Washington State University
Pullman 99164-5020

This is just a sample of Reading About the World, Volume 2.

Reading About the World is now out of print. You can search for used copies using the following information:Paul Brians, et al. Reading About the World, Vol. 1, 3rd edition, Harcourt Brace College Publishing: ISBN 0-15-567425-0 or Paul Brians, et al. Reading About the World, Vol. 2, 3rd edition, Harcourt Brace College Publishing: ISBN 0-15-512826-4.

Try Chambal: (vol. 1) (vol. 2)

Reading About the World, Vol. 2

reader_cover_2Reading About the World, Volume 2, edited by Paul Brians, Mary Gallwey, Douglas Hughes, Azfar Hussain, Richard Law, Michael Myers Michael Neville, Roger Schlesinger, Alice Spitzer, and Susan Swan.

This anthology prints short selections sharply focussed on major topics of interest to beginning students of World Civilizations. It combines traditional historical sources with literary and philosophical selections.




By clicking on the hotlinks below you can access samples from Reading About the World, Volume 2. The third edition was published by Harcourt Brace Custom Publishing, 1999.


Additional selections not included in the printed version of the reader are marked with an asterisk (*).

Africa 1500-1750

*Selections marked are supplementary readings omitted from the 2nd edition of Reading About the World.

Reading About the World, Volume 1

Reading About the World is now out of print. You can search for used copies using the following information:Paul Brians, et al. Reading About the World, Vol. 1, 3rd edition, Harcourt Brace College Publishing: ISBN 0-15-567425-0 or Paul Brians, et al. Reading About the World, Vol. 2, 3rd edition, Harcourt Brace College Publishing: ISBN 0-15-512826-4.

Try Chambal: (vol. 1) (vol. 2)

For all other queries, write Paul Brians at paulbrians@gmail.

General Education home page

Richard Hooker’s World Civilizations reader

Washington State University home page