African National Congress and Pan Africanist Congress


Africa was under the rule of westerners in the early 19th century. During this period, there was rampant racism, inequality, and denial of rights to black people. In South Africa, for instance, these aspects of the bad ruling were very common. As a result, African nationalism emerged and movements were formed to address the situation. Africa’s Political environment improved as most African leaders attempted to detach from western rule. This led to the formation of the African National Congress (ANC) and Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) which were meant to fight for the rights of Africans. ANC was formed by Africans in Africa while PAC was formed by Africans in Diaspora as revealed by Mills (1). ANC and PAC held different interpretations of African nationalism. This essay will discuss different interpretations of African nationalism which influenced the strategies and objectives of ANC and PAC. It will also assess the success of ANC and PAC up to 1961.

Strategies and the objectives of the African National Congress (ANC)

The main aim of the African National Congress was to create a united, non-racial and non-sexist, and democratic society that will treat all people equally irrespective of their origin. This was meant to liberate Africans from political and economic bondage so that they can enjoy the resources in their country. This was also meant to improve the quality of life of the black people in South Africans. The national democratic movement was the main strategy that was used to achieve these objectives.

Strategies and the objectives of Pan Africanist Congress (PAC)

PAC was formed by a group that broke from the African National Congress due to its dissatisfaction with ANC representation and policies. The PAC members felt that ANC had many white members who could not assist ANC in fighting for the liberation of whites. Its main aim was to empower the black people to fight for their own rights without being assisted by the whites.

The main strategies employed by PAC include: fighting for the liberation of blacks via promoting African nationalism, socialism, and ensuring unity within the African Unity.

How different interpretations of African nationalism influenced the strategies and the objectives of the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC)

The ANC and PAC had different interpretations concerning African nationalism. Their differences varied in the leadership ideology, the position of the black man in society, and the future leadership.

According to Walshe (p. 953), African nationalism has been perceived as the movement of African people towards achieving freedom from colonialists. African nationalism in South Africa was viewed as a political ideology undertaken by Africans in an attempt to gain their rights from the colonial powers. Also, African nationalism was seen by some as a strategy to change the social status of Africans. Therefore, ANC was an avenue to end apartheid.

According to Beinart & Dubow (624), African nationalists formed the ANC party which was meant to unite Africans and become united. Based on the British system, the complex ANC constitution had provisions for African elites to be treated with dignity. The party was seen as a tool to fight for Africans so that they could own land.

African nationalism was determined to fight for the people’s land (Mills (p. 1). The act that restricted Africans from owning land triggered ANC to send a delegation to Britain. This act was not in favor of the Africans and this affected the farmers mostly since they were not allowed to own land. Their attempt to prevent this act was not successful despite efforts by the African elites to institute and send a delegation.

ANC and PAN were meant to defend the political interest of Africans. For this reason, Africans involvement in international meetings gained momentum. Furthermore, African elites began to import ideas from other parts of the world. This made them put more effort and determination into fighting for their rights. ANC chose to be non-violent in its fight for freedom and often used petition, resolution, and deputations as its techniques.

African nationalism was against racism and wanted the adoption of a multiracialism policy. These ideas were also deeply rooted in Christianity. The clergy supported African nationalism and preached equality for all. Discrimination based on one’s color was discouraged. This means that more Africans would participate in politics. In a higher sense, ANC wanted racism to be abolished so that Africans could have equal opportunities in employment and economic development. ANC translated the party as a platform for launching equality.

African nationalism was advocating for the development of African society. ANC subscribed to this idea, where they advocated for the development of their society so that they could be at par with the rest of the world in the future. To achieve this objective, ANC advocated for equality, liberalism, and progressive improvement in society.

Another PAC interpretation of African nationalism was that Africans needed to get educated and engage in economic activities. Consequently, politics would be left for the Americans. PAC interpretation was rejected by ANC because they believed that Africans should lead Africans (Walshe, p. 953).

African nationalism gained support from the communist party. As a result, Africans joined the communist party in exchange for the support they gained from it. The support did not last for long since African leaders in ANC were capitalists. Most members of the communist party were white people. ANC, therefore, was tolerant to capitalists, communists, and other parties and this caused contradictions. In 1959, PAC was becoming stronger and Africans in Diaspora had much interest in encouraging freedom because they also lived in oppression and supported liberty for all Africans (Lodge, p. 45).

PAC was championed by the black people in western and the majority of its African members were students studying abroad. PAC members fought for the rights and equality of black people. Some wrote inspirational books that addressed the same and this strengthened PAC strategy. Marcus Garvey believed that Africans would hardly gain equal rights with the whites. As a result, Garvey accepted apartheid and even managed to influence some leaders. Garvey believed that racism was deep-rooted and the gap between Africans and whites was too wide. As a result, he did not have confidence in the leadership of African leaders since he thought that they were incompetent in decision-making.

According to Mills (1), the interpretation held by PAC on communism was that communism was a tool that was going to be used by colonialists to exploit Africans. The blacks who lived abroad were in most cases the minority and were not aware of the situation in Africa. They were aware that despite the blacks being the largest population, the whites were still dominant.

Another interpretation was held by the students who had lived for a long abroad and were aware of the events taking place in Africa. Nkrumah and Kenyatta were some of these students. Their interpretation steered the spirit of African nations to gain independence and they held consecutive conferences that eventually led to the formation of the Organization of African Union (OAU).

PAC fostered notions held by Africans on the superiority of the black people. Moreover, women were also significantly important in African nationalism and contributed to the achievement of its objectives. Their movements mobilized people and were openly against inequality. They proposed that democracy should be upheld.

Assessing the success of ANC and PAC up to 1961

Critiques of the ANC argue that the movement was dominated by westernized African elites and failed to protect the common man’s interest. African elites were seen as greedy people who were seeking to secure their positions in African leadership. However, the critique failed to note that the westernized elites had an advantage of knowing the western culture and system of rule that would greatly affect African leadership. This is because they were under the rule of westerners and hence their political system was westernized.

ANC has been successfully influenced by African nationalism in dealing with the issue of racism. African nationalism influenced ANC to pursue democracy, multiracial society, equality, and progressive development in the society. These ideologies mobilized and prepared Africans for independence (Gerhart, p. 56).

ANC and PAC were effective in affirming that Africans had rejected being labeled inferior due to their skin color. Moreover, the effort set a pace for the struggle for equality and democracy in Africa. This did not only happen in Africa but also for Africans in Diaspora. PAC set a stage for African independence. Some African states had gained Independence by 1961 and joined the OAU.

In 1955, ANC succeeded in gaining interracial unity. Participation of the blacks as well as the Indians had increased because the Whites were fewer in number. However, the racial separation did not end as the whites were still in power.

The struggle for independence and African nationalism caused ANC to form the Youth League which accommodated youth leaders, among them Nelson Mandela. The Indians formed their congress and ANC accepted it since they did not support apartheid. The world view of the South African people widened and this made them more focused and inspired to gain freedom just as other states in Africa.


The African nationalists were devoted to rejecting racism, inequality, and domination by Whites. They were also aware of the existence of discrimination against owning land and accessing privileges. Their strategies to fight this segregation included the fight for freedom of all and demand for democracy, non-racism, equal opportunities, and human rights for all. ANC believed that Africans were capable of ruling themselves and were entitled to human rights as well as equality. On the other hand, some of the members of PAC believed that Africans needed education and to be established in the economy for them to be at the same level as the whites before becoming leaders. Another interpretation was that the whites could be defeated and that African leaders were incapable of making decisions. ANC was tolerant of communism and movements that were against apartheid. ANC and PAC helped set a plan that led to the beginning of independence and unity of Africans. Equality campaign gained prominence and the rights of all races as well as democracy in Africa was achieved. Several states had gained independence by 1961.

Works Cited

  1. Beinart, William and Dubow, Saul. Segregation and apartheid in twentieth-century South Africa. London and New York: Routledge, 1995.
  2. Gerhart, Gail. Black power in South Africa. California: University of California Press, 1979.
  3. Lodge, Tom. Black politics in South Africa since 1945. Johannesburg: Ravan Press, 1983.
  4. Mills, Wallace. African Nationalism, 2010.
  5. Walshe, Peter. The rise of African nationalism in South Africa. Craighall: Ad Donker, 1987.