"Native barrister told to get out of office"

An article published in The Friend reports on Duma Nokwe being denied access to chambers in His Majesty's Building, and the Bar Council's decision to take up the matter with the Minister of Native Affairs.

"Mr Philemon Pearce Duma Nokwe, who only four months ago became the first Native in the Transvaal to be called to the bar, has been told that he cannot take up chambers in His Majesty's Building in terms of the Group Areas Act and the Native Urban Areas Act.

"A spokesman of the Bar Council told me today that representations would be made to the Minister of Native Affairs. "This is a matter which affects all advocates in the practice of their professions," he said.

"A letter to Mr Nokwe, signed by the Native Commissioner, Mr FJ Cronje, said that Mr Nokwe's application for accommodation in His Majesty's Building could not 'be favourably entertained as it is contrary to policy'.

"The letter added: 'You are advised to explore the possibility of obtaining office accommodation in one of the municipal Native residential areas.'

Stream of complaints

"This decision is regarded as a victory for a small group of less than 20 among the 160 advocates whose chambers are in His Majesty's building.

"I understand that more than 140 barristers were prepared to accept Mr Nokwe as a colleague, but that the minority has kept up a constant stream of complaints about the consequences.

"It seems particularly ironic that the Minister's decision coincides with an article and photographs in the latest overseas State Information Office bulletin in which Mr Nokwe is held up as a shining example of the progress being made by Natives - where it is stated, anyone with ability can become a professional man."

- This article, written by "The Friend Correspondent", originally appeared on August 10, 1956, p7


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"We have fought for years to get one of ours into the Bar. Are we now going to lose that over a cup of tea?"
Walter Sisulu on Duma Nokwe
Duma Nokwe, left, and Robert Resha
Picture: © Bailey’s African History Archive


Minutes of meetings as historical sources

This lesson plan demonstrates to learners why minutes of meetings are good sources of historical evidence. Learners can also learn the valuable skill of taking minutes.

Lesson plan
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Archive Photo Gallery
A selection of images of Nokwe’s life before he fled South Africa to escape the threat posed by the apartheid authorities.
Artwork Photo Gallery
Nokwe’s widow, Tiny, and George Bizos reunite at the memorial outside the Johannesburg High Court.
Take an illuminating 360° degree tour of the Nokwe memorial outside the Johannesburg High Court on Pritchard Street.
Audio Slideshow