Pixley ka Isaka Seme (c. 1881 – June 1951). The Little known Founder of African National Congress
Pixley ka Isaka Seme was one of the first black lawyers in South Africa (Alfred Mangena was the first black attorney, Duma Nokwe the first black advocate), and a founder and President of the African National Congress. President of the African National Congress In office1930–1936.
Seme was born the fourth son of Sinono Kuwana Seme in the area that would come to be known as Daggakraal, in what was then called the Colony of Natal, at the Inanda mission station of the American Zulu Mission of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. He graduated from Mount Hermon School, MA, in 1902 (now the Northfield Mount Hermon School). He attended Adams College which was part of the mission.
At 17 years of age Seme left to study in the U.S., first at the Mount Hermon School and then Columbia University. In 1906, his senior year at University, he was awarded the Curtis Medal, Columbia’s highest oratorical honor. He subsequently decided to become an attorney. In October 1906 he was admitted to Oxford University to read for the degree of Bachelor of Civil Law; while at Oxford he was a member of Jesus College. He was admitted to the Middle Temple on 12 February 1907 and was Called to the Bar on 8 June 1910. Seme returned to South Africa in 1910, and began to practice as a lawyer in Johannesburg.
In 1911, Seme established the South African Native Farmers Association in order to encourage black farm workers to buy land in the Daggakraal area, and thus attain personal independence. Consequently, this led the white government to enact the Natives Land Act of 1913, barring black people from owning land in South Africa.
In response to the formation of the Union of South Africa, Seme worked with several other young African leaders recently returned from university studies in England, Richard Msimang, George Montsioa and Alfred Mangena, and with established leaders of the South African Native Convention in Johannesburg to promote the formation of a national organization that would unify various African groups from the separate colonies. In January 1912, these efforts bore fruit with the founding meeting of the South African Native National Congress, later renamed the African National Congress.
Seme was also the lawyer of Queen Regent Labotsibeni of Swaziland, through whom the first ANC newspaper Abantu-Batho was financed. Later, in 1922, Seme accompanied King Sobhuza II as part of a delegation to London to meet British authorities and the King regarding the land proclamation in Swaziland.
Seme was very close to the Zulu and Swazi royal families. This is primarily symbolized by his marriage to Phikisele Harriet Dinizulu, the daughter of Zulu king Dinuzulu, and to Lozinja, daughter of Swazi King Mbandzeni.