ZACHARIAS RICHARD MAHABANE
PRESIDENCY: 1924 – 1927 / 1937 – 1940
By the late 1930s, when the ANC had declined to a new low under Pixley Seme’s leadership, Mahabane was pressed back into service and from 1937 to 1940 was again president-general, this time when support for the Congress was gradually increasing.
Mahabane’s political career spanned the years of crisis over the Hertzog Bills, and his views on the franchise issue reflected the complexity of the African dilemma.
As the President of the Cape Congress and vice-president of the Cape Native Voters’ Convection in the period before 1936, Mahabane took the public position that a separate voter’s roll for the Africans would be acceptable if whites found the prospect of a common roll too menacing.
Mahabane was a member of the 1936 All Africa Convection (AAC) delegation that conferred with Prime Minister J. B. M Hertzog prior to the submission of the separate-roll compromise to Parliament.
From 1937, while he was at the head of the ANC, Mahabane acted as vice-president of the AAC, and from 1940 to 1954 he served as the AAC’s official vice-president first under Jabavu and then under Wycliffe Tsotsi.
As a leading personality in both the ANC and ACC, he did his best to promote the reconciliation of these organisations, but unity proved elusive and a merger was unreachable.
Mahabane cooperated with Abdul Abdurahman in calling the series of non-European conference that met between 1927 and 1934. He became the President of the ACC in 1943, until 1956 when he was pressured to resign following his refusal to take part in Bantu Education school boards, thus violating the Non-European Unity Movement (NEUM) policy boycott.
From 1940s Mahabane concentrated much of his energy on church related activities and in particular the strengthening of the interdenominational African Ministers Federation, founded in 1945. In 1956, he was the principal convener of the Bloemfontein conference to discuss the recommendations of the Tomlinson Commission, and in December 1957 he chaired the follow-up multiracial conference convened in Witwatersrand. He died in 1970.