The Congress Alliance was an anti-
apartheid Apartheid (South African English: ; , segregation; lit. "aparthood") was a system of institutionalised racial segregation that existed in South Africa and South West Africa (now Namibia) from 1948 until the early 1990s. Apartheid wa ...
political coalition formed in
South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. With over Demographics of South Africa, 59 million people, it is the world's List of countries by population, 23rd-most populous nation a ...
in the 1950s. Led by the
African National Congress The African National Congress (ANC) is the Republic of South Africa's governing political party. It has been the ruling party of History of South Africa (1994–present), post-apartheid South Africa since the election of Nelson Mandela in th ...
, the CA was multi-racial in makeup and committed to the principle of majority rule.

Congress of the People and the Freedom Charter

The National Action Council, made up of executives of the ANC, the South African Indian Congress (SAIC), the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU), the Coloured People's Congress (CPC) and the
South African Congress of Democrats The South African Congress of Democrats (SACOD) was a radical left-wing white, anti-apartheid organization founded in South Africa in 1952 or 1953 as part of the multi-racial Congress Alliance The Congress Alliance was an anti-apartheid ...
(COD) met in Tongaat on 23 June 1955. This group, who became known as the Congress Alliance, developed the document known as the Freedom Charter and planned the Congress of the People, a large multi-racial gathering held over two days at Kliptown on 26 June 1955. At this rally, the Charter was read out in three languages (
, Sotho and Xhosa), and discussed by various delegates. The Charter was the statement of core principles of the Alliance, which included a commitment to multi-racial democratic government and a fundamental restructuring of all aspects of South African Society. The Alliance was part of the ANC's efforts to promote a multi-racial anti-apartheid movement. Other organisations associated with the Congress Alliance included the
South African Communist Party The South African Communist Party (SACP) is a communist party in South Africa. It was founded in 1921, was declared illegal in 1950 by the governing National Party, and participated in the struggle to end the apartheid system. It is a partne ...
(SACP) and the Federation of South African Women.


In December 1956 many key members of the Alliance were arrested and charged with treason, including the entire executive committee of the ANC. 105
Africans The population of Africa has population growth, grown rapidly over the past century and consequently shows a large youth bulge, further reinforced by a low life expectancy of below 50 years in some African countries. Total population as of 20 ...
, 21 Indians, 23 White South Africans, whites (about half of whom were History of the Jews in South Africa, South African Jews), and 7 Coloureds, Coloured members of the Congress Alliance were arrested. Many leaders, including Nelson Mandela, were detained in communal cells in Johannesburg Prison, resulting in "the largest and longest unbanned meeting of the Congress Alliance in years.". These arrests led to the 1956 Treason Trial, which lasted until 1961 but led to the eventual acquittal of all charged.


{{Political history of South Africa, state=expanded Anti-Apartheid organisations Defunct civic and political organisations in South Africa Defunct left-wing political party alliances History of the African National Congress National liberation movements Organisations associated with apartheid Political party alliances in South Africa United fronts