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A Political Biography of Selby Msimang: Principle and Pragmatism in the Liberation Struggle

Sibongiseni M. Mkhize
A Political Biography of Selby Msimang: Principle and Pragmatism in the Liberation Struggle
ISBN: 978-1-9282-4625-1
2019/256 pages
Distributed for Best Red, an imprint of HSRC Press


Henry Selby Msimang (1886-1982), one of the great South Africans of the twentieth century, was a founding member of the African National Congress in 1912,  president of the pioneering Industrial and Commercial Workers Union in the 1920s-1930s, general secretary of the All African Convention in the 1930s, a member of the Natives Representative Council and provincial secretary of the Natal ANC in the 1940s and early 1950s, a prominent member of the Liberal Party in the 1950s and 1960s, a founder and executive member of the Inkatha Yenkululeko Yesizwe in the 1970s—and more. He was also a prolific author, journalist, and public debater, and not least, a man who was steady in his commitment to the struggle for freedom, justice, and human rights.

In this first comprehensive political biography of Msimang, Sibongiseni Mkhize draws on a rich array of unpublished sources to tell a multilayered story of pragmatism, contradictions, and ideals. His book not only shines new light on Msimang and his milieu, but also shows us the diversity among the spectrum of political activists who were engaged in liberation struggles.


Sibongiseni M. Mkhize is a historian whose work focuses on South Africa's twentieth century socioeconomic and political history. He serves as chief executive officer of the South African State Theatre.


  • Introduction.
  • The Early Years of African Nationalism, 1886–1916.
  • Community Activist and Workers' Leader, 1917–1921.
  • The Politics of Race, Class, and Gender in Johannesburg, 1922–1936.
  • "Native Representation," 1936–1951.
  • African Economic Emancipation, 1930s-1950s.
  • Relations Between Africans and Indians in Natal.
  • The ANC's Programme of Action, 1949–1952.
  • The Liberal Party, 1953–1968.
  • Inkatha, 1972–1982.
  • Conclusion.