Native Life in South Africa, Before and Since the European War and the Boer Rebellion
Part 2 out of 8
within two years after the commencement of this Act, and may present
INTERIM reports and recommendations: Provided that Parliament
may by resolution extend (if necessary) the time for the completion
of the commission's inquiry. All such reports and recommendations
shall be laid by the Minister, as soon as possible after the receipt thereof,
upon the Tables of both Houses of Parliament.
3. (1) The commission shall consist of not less than five persons,
and if any member of the commission die or resign or, owing to
absence or any other reason, is unable to act, his place shall be filled
by the Governor-General.
(2) The commission may delegate to any of its members
the carrying out of any part of an inquiry which under this Act
it is appointed to hold and may appoint persons to assist it or to act
as assessors thereto or with any members thereof delegated as aforesaid,
and may regulate its own procedure.
(3) The reports and recommendations of the majority of the commission
shall be deemed to be the reports and recommendations of the commission:
Provided that any recommendations of any member who dissents
from the majority of the commission shall, if signed by him,
be included in any such report aforesaid.
(4) The commission or any member thereof or any person acting
as assistant, or assessor, or secretary thereto may enter upon any land
for the purposes of its inquiries and obtain thereon the information necessary
to prosecute the inquiries. The commission shall without fee or other charge
have access to the records and registers relating to land in any public office
or in the office of any divisional council or other local authority.
4. (1) For the purposes of establishing any such area as is described
in section TWO, the Governor-General may, out of moneys which Parliament
may vote for the purpose, acquire any land or interest in land.
(2) In default of agreement with the owners of the land
or the holders of interests therein the provisions of the law in force
in the Province in which such land or interest in land is situate
relating to the expropriation of land for public purposes
shall apply and, if in any Province there be no such law,
the provisions of Proclamation No. 5 of 1902 of the Transvaal
and any amendment thereof shall mutatis mutandis apply.
5. (1) Any person who is a party to any attempted purchase,
sale, hire or lease, or to any agreement or transaction which
is in contravention of this Act or any regulation made thereunder
shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine
not exceeding one hundred pounds or, in default of payment, to imprisonment
with or without hard labour for a period not exceeding six months,
and if the act constituting the offence be a continuing one,
the offender shall be liable to a further fine not exceeding five pounds
for every day which that act continues.
(2) In the event of such an offence being committed by a company,
corporation, or other body of persons (not being a firm or partnership),
every director, secretary, or manager of such company, corporation, or body
who is within the Union shall be liable to prosecution and punishment and,
in the event of any such offence being committed by a firm or partnership,
every member of the firm or partnership who is within the Union
shall be liable to prosecution and punishment.
6. In so far as the occupation by natives of land outside
the scheduled native areas may be affected by this Act, the provisions thereof
shall be construed as being in addition to and not in substitution for any law
in force at the commencement thereof relating to such occupation;
but in the event of a conflict between the provisions of this Act
and the provisions of any such law, the provisions of this Act shall,
save as is specially provided therein, prevail:
Provided that --
(a) nothing in any such law or in this Act shall be construed
as restricting the number of natives who, as farm labourers,
may reside on any farm in the Transvaal;
(b) in any proceedings for a contravention of this Act
the burden of proving that a native is a farm labourer
shall be upon the accused;
(c) until Parliament, acting upon the report of the said commission,
has made other provision, no native resident on any farm
in the Transvaal or Natal shall be liable to penalties
or to be removed from such farm under any law,
if at the commencement of this Act he or the head of his family
is registered for taxation or other purposes
in the department of Native Affairs as being resident on such farm,
nor shall the owner of any such farm be liable to the penalties
imposed by section FIVE in respect of the occupation of the land
by such native; but nothing herein contained shall affect any right
possessed by law by an owner or lessee of a farm to remove
any native therefrom.
7. (1) Chapter XXXIV of the Orange Free State Law Book and Law No. 4 of 1895
of the Orange Free State shall remain of full force and effect,
subject to the modifications and interpretations in this section provided,
and sub-section (1) (a) of the next succeeding section shall not apply
to the Orange Free State.
(2) Those heads of families, with their families, who are described
in article TWENTY of Law No. 4 of 1895 of the Orange Free State
shall in the circumstances described in that article be deemed to fall under
the provisions of Ordinance No. 7 of 1904 of that Province or of any other law
hereafter enacted amending or substituted for that Ordinance.
(3) Whenever in Chapter XXXIV of the Orange Free State Law Book
the expressions "lease" and "leasing" are used, those expressions
shall be construed as including or referring to an agreement or arrangement
whereby a person, in consideration of his being permitted to occupy land,
renders or promises to render to any person a share of the produce thereof,
or any valuable consideration of any kind whatever other than
his own labour or services or the labour or services of any of his family.
8. (1) Nothing in this Act contained shall be construed as, --
(a) preventing the continuation or renewal (until Parliament
acting upon the report of the said commission has made
other provision) of any agreement or arrangement lawfully
entered into and in existence at the commencement of this Act
which is a hiring or leasing of land as defined in this Act; or
(b) invalidating or affecting in any manner whatever
any agreement or any other transaction for the purchase of land
lawfully entered into prior to the commencement of this Act,
or as prohibiting any person from purchasing at any sale
held by order of a competent court any land which was hypothecated
by a mortgage bond passed before the commencement of this Act; or
(c) prohibiting the acquisition at any time of land or interests in land
by devolution or succession on death, whether under
a will or on intestacy; or
(d) preventing the due registration in the proper deeds office
(whenever registration is necessary) of documents giving effect
to any such agreement, transaction, devolution or succession
as is in this section mentioned; or
(e) prohibiting any person from claiming, acquiring,
or holding any such servitude as under Chapter VII,
of the Irrigation and Conservation of Waters Act, 1912,
he is specially entitled to claim, acquire, or hold; or
(f) in any way altering the law in force at the commencement of this Act
relating to the acquisition of rights to minerals,
precious or base metals or precious stones; or
(g) applying to land within the limits in which a municipal council,
town council, town board, village management board,
or health committee or other local authority
exercises jurisdiction; or
(h) applying to land held at the commencement of the Act by any society
carrying on, with the approval of the Governor-General,
educational or missionary work amongst natives; or
(i) prohibiting the acquisition by natives from any person whatever
of land or interests in land in any township lawfully established
prior to the commencement of this Act, provided it is
a condition of the acquisition that no land or interest in land
in such township has at any time been or shall in future be,
transferred except to a native or coloured person; or
(j) permitting the alienation of land or its diversion from
the purposes for which it was set apart if, under section
ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY-SEVEN of the South African Act, 1909,
or any other law, such land could not be alienated or so diverted
except under the authority of an Act of Parliament; or
(k) in any way modifying the provisions of any law whereby
mortgages of or charges over land may be created
to secure advances out of public moneys for specific purposes
mentioned in such law and the interest of such advances,
or whereunder the mortgagee or person having the charge
may enter and take possession of the land so mortgaged or charged
except that in any sale of such land in accordance with such law
the provisions of this Act shall be observed.
(2) Nothing in this Act contained which imposes restrictions
upon the acquisition by any person of land or right thereto,
interests therein, or servitudes thereover, shall be in force
in the Province of the Cape of Good Hope, if and for so long
as such person would, by such restrictions, be prevented from
acquiring or holding a qualification whereunder he is or may become
entitled to be registered as a voter at parliamentary elections
in any electoral division in the said Province.
9. The Governor-General may make regulations for preventing
the overcrowding of huts and other dwellings in the stadts,
native villages and settlements and other places in which natives
are congregated in areas not under the jurisdiction of any local authority,
the sanitation of such places and for the maintenance of the health
of the inhabitants thereof.
10. In this Act, unless inconsistent with the context, --
"scheduled native area" shall mean any area described in the Schedule
to this Act;
"native" shall mean any person, male or female, who is a member of
an aboriginal race or tribe of Africa; and shall further include
any company or other body of persons, corporate or unincorporate,
if the persons who have a controlling interest therein are natives;
"interest in land" shall include, in addition to other interest in land,
the interest which a mortgagee of, or person having charge over, land acquires
under a mortgage bond or charge;
"Minister" shall mean the Minister of Native Affairs;
"farm labourer" shall mean a native who resides on a farm and is bona fide,
but not necessarily continuously employed by the owner or lessee thereof
in domestic service or in farming operations:
Provided that --
(a) if such native reside on one farm and is employed
on another farm of the same owner or lessee he shall be deemed
to have resided, and to have been employed, on one and the same farm;
(b) such native shall not be deemed to be bona fide employed
unless he renders ninety days' service at least
in one calendar year on the farm occupied by the owner or lessee
or on another farm of the owner or lessee and no rent is paid
or valuable consideration of any kind, other than service,
is given by him to the owner or lessee in respect of residence
on such farm or farms.
A person shall be deemed for the purposes of this Act
to hire land if, in consideration of his being permitted
to occupy that land or any portion thereof --
(a) he pays or promises to pay to any person a rent in money; or
(b) he renders or promises to render to any person a share of the produce
of that land, or any valuable consideration of any kind whatever
other than his own labour or services or the labour or services
of his family.
11. This Act may be cited for all purposes as the Natives' Land Act, 1913.
The foregoing result of a legislative jumble is "the law",
and this law, like Alexander the coppersmith, "hath done us much harm".
Mr. Sauer carried his Bill less by reason than by sheer force of numbers,
and partly by promises which he afterwards broke. Among these broken promises
was the definite assurance he gave Parliament that the Bill
would be referred to the Select Committee on Native Affairs,
so that the Natives, who are not represented in Parliament,
their European friends and the Missionary bodies on behalf of the Natives,
could be able at the proper time to appear before this committee and state
any objection which they might have to the Bill. But when that time came,
the Minister flatly refused to refer it to the committee.
This change of front is easily explained, because the weight of evidence
which could have been given before any Parliamentary committee
would have imperilled the passage of the Bill.
As might have been expected, the debate on the Bill created the greatest alarm
amongst the native population, for they had followed its course
with the keenest interest. Nothing short of a declaration of war against them
could have created a similar excitement, although the hope was entertained
in some quarters, that a body of men like the Ministerialists in Parliament
(a majority of whom are never happier than when attesting
the Christian character of their race) would in course of days
attend the Holy Communion, remember the 11th Commandment,
and do unto others as they would that men should do unto them.
Our people, in fact a number of them, said amongst themselves
that even Dutchmen sing Psalms -- all the Psalms, including the 24th;
and, believing as they did that Dutchmen could have no other religion
besides the one recommended in the New Testament and preached by
the predikants of the Dutch Reformed Church, were prepared
to commend their safety to the influence of that sweet and peaceable religion.
However, some other Natives, remembering what took place before
the South African war, took a different view of these religious incidents.
Those Natives, especially of the old Republics, knew that
the only dividing fence between the Transvaal Natives and complete slavery
was the London Convention; they, therefore, now that the London Convention
in fact had ceased to exist, had evil forebodings regarding
the average Republican's treatment of the Natives, which was seldom influenced
by religious scruples, and they did not hesitate to express their fears.
Personally we must say that if any one had told us at the beginning of 1913,
that a majority of members of the Union Parliament were capable of passing
a law like the Natives' Land Act, whose object is to prevent the Natives
from ever rising above the position of servants to the whites,
we would have regarded that person as a fit subject for the lunatic asylum.
But the passing of that Act and its operation have rudely
forced the fact upon us that the Union Parliament is capable of producing
any measure that is subversive of native interests; and that
the complete arrest of native progress is the object aimed at
in their efforts to include the Protectorates in their Union.
Thus we think that their sole reason for seeking to incorporate Basutoland,
Swaziland and Bechuanaland is that, when they have definitely eliminated
the Imperial factor from South Africa, as they are unmistakably trying to do,
they may have a million more slaves than if the Protectorates were excluded.
In this connexion, the realization of the prophecy of an old Basuto
became increasingly believable to us. It was to this effect, namely:
"That the Imperial Government, after conquering the Boers,
handed back to them their old Republics, and a nice little present
in the shape of the Cape Colony and Natal -- the two English Colonies.
That the Boers are now ousting the Englishmen from the public service,
and when they have finished with them, they will make a law
declaring it a crime for a Native to live in South Africa,
unless he is a servant in the employ of a Boer, and that from this
it will be just one step to complete slavery." This is being realized,
for to-day we have, extended throughout the Union of South Africa,
a "Free" State law which makes it illegal for Natives
to live on farms except as servants in the employ of Europeans.
There is another "Free" State law, under which no Native
may live in a municipal area or own property in urban localities.
He can only live in town as a servant in the employ of a European.
And if the followers of General Hertzog are permitted
to dragoon the Union Government into enforcing "Free" State ideals
against the Natives of the Union, as they have successfully done
under the Natives' Land Act, it will only be a matter of time
before we have a Natives' Urban Act enforced throughout South Africa.
Then we will have the banner of slavery fully unfurled (of course,
under another name) throughout the length and breadth of the land.
When the Natives' Land Bill was before Parliament, meetings were held
in many villages and locations in protest against the Ministerial surrender
to the Republicans, of which the Bill was the outcome.
At the end of March, 1913, the Native National Congress met in Johannesburg,
and there a deputation was appointed to go to Capetown
and point out to the Government some, at least, of the harm
that would follow legislation of the character mapped out in Parliament
on February 28 when the Land Act was first announced. They were to urge
that such a measure would be exploitation of the cruelest kind, that it
would not only interfere with the economic independence of the Natives,
but would reduce them for ever to a state of serfdom, and degrade them
as nothing has done since slavery was abolished at the Cape.
Missionaries also, and European friends of the Natives, did not sit still.
Resolution after resolution, telegraphic and other representations,
were made to Mr. Sauer, from meetings in various parts of the country,
counselling prudence. Even such societies as the Transvaal Landowners,
who had long been crying for a measure to separate whites from blacks,
and vice versa, urged that the Bill should not be passed during
the same session in which it was introduced, that the country should be given
an opportunity to digest it, in order, if necessary, to suggest amendments.
The Missionary bodies, too, represent a following of Natives
numbering hundreds of thousands of souls, on whose behalf
they pleaded for justice. These bodies urged that before passing a law,
prohibiting the sale and lease of land to Natives, and expelling squatters
from their homes, the Government should provide locations
to which the evicted Natives could go. But all these representations
made no impression upon the Government, who, instead, preferred to act
upon the recommendation of thirteen diminutive petitions
(signed in all by 304 Dutchmen in favour of the Bill)* than to be guided
by the overwhelming weight of public opinion that was against its passage.
Thus it became clear that the Native's position in his own country
was not an enviable one, for once a law was made prohibiting
the sale of landed property to Natives, it would be almost impossible
to get a South African Parliament to amend it.
* One of these thirteen petitions had only four signatures,
which was but one better than that of the Tooley Street tailors.
The Government, which at the beginning assured Parliament of their
humane intentions, proceeded to delete the mildest clauses of the measure
and to insert some very harsh ones; and almost each time
that the Bill came before the House, one or two fresh drastic clauses
were added. But it is comforting to note that even Parliament
was not entirely satisfied with this, its heroic piece of legislation.
Thus Mr. Meyler of Natal did, as only a lawyer could with a view
to recasting the Bill, some very useful work in pointing out
the possible harm with which the Bill was fraught. We wish that
his clever speeches and observations (much of which have come true),
might yet be sifted out of the big Parliamentary Reports,
and published in a concise little pamphlet.
Sir David Hunter, another member of Natal, expressed himself as follows: --
While every one seemed animated with a desire to do what was right and just
to the Natives, there was a feeling that certain of the details of the measure
required amendment. He was more than pleased when the Minister
closed the debate by a speech in which he seemed to be willing to meet
the wishes of those in the House who thought that amendment was required.
He could not have imagined that the Bill would develop into the shape
into which it had developed, and had he known that so great an alteration
would take place in the general effect of the measure
from what was foreshadowed by the hon. Minister when he had made
that interesting speech on the second reading he (the speaker)
could not have conscientiously voted for the second reading.
He would have been better pleased had a resolution been taken
not to bring in a Bill until the Commission had reported.
That was the position he had taken up all through and he would much rather now
that the matter should be dealt with in that way. If, however,
the Bill was to be pressed through there should be guarantees in it
which should allay all suspicion. Anything affecting the native people
required to be done gradually and should be placed before them
a long time before the change took place. He hoped there would yet be
some steps taken to give them a greater sense of security.
To give some idea of the feeling in the minds of the Natives
he read a letter from a gentleman in Natal, largely interested
in the Natives, which had expressed the opinion that the Natives
stood uncompromisingly against any change in their present status
until the Commission had reported. He hoped the hon. Minister
would even yet endeavour to do something to meet their views.
Mr. C. H. Haggar (Roodepoort) said that from the point of those
who had worked successfully in turning the uncivilized man
into the civilized man the Bill was bound to be a failure.
It was necessary not only to have legislation theoretically just,
but also practically right and good. But there were many who felt
that so far from the effect of that Bill being good it would be disastrous
to a very large extent. The great sin which they had been committing
was that they had always been legislating ahead of the people,
and there had not been sufficient preparation for the changes
which were proposed in that Bill; the Natives were not ready for it.
The hon. member for Victoria West had said that there was a disposition
in certain directions to repress the Natives. He (the speaker) believed
that there was a feeling that white men had some divine right
to the labour of the black, that the black people were to be
hewers of wood and drawers of water, and he wanted to say that while men
were obsessed with that feeling they would never be able to legislate fairly.
They had no more divine right to the labour of the black people
than they had to the labour of the white. To his mind the great point was,
should their policy be one of repression or a policy of inspiration?
They had inspired the Natives to a certain extent, but no sooner
had they created an appetite than they had told the Natives
they should go no further. Their policy was the policy of Tantalus.
That Bill would create a feeling of insecurity in the minds of the Natives.
There were those who said that if the Natives would not submit to dictation
they should be wiped out. But that should not be their policy.
They must cease the policy of repression and let it be
one of wide inspiration.
But alas! these and similar pleadings had about as much effect
upon the Ministerial steam-roller as the proverbial water on a duck's back.
With a rush the Natives' Land Bill was dispatched from the Lower House
to the Senate, adopted hurriedly by the Senate, returned to the Lower House,
and went at the same pace to Government House, and there receiving
the Governor-General's signature, it immediately became law.
As regards the Governor-General's signature, His Excellency,
if Ministers are to be believed, was ready to sign the Bill
(or rather signified his intention of doing so) long before it was introduced
into Parliament. This excited haste suggests grave misgivings
as to the character of the Bill. Why all the hurry and scurry,
and why the Governor-General's approval in advance? Other Bills
are passed and approved by the Governor, yet they do not come into operation
until some given day -- the beginning of the next calendar year,
or of the next financial year. But the Natives' Land Act
became law and was operating as soon as it could be promulgated.
After desperately protesting, with individual members of Parliament
and with Cabinet Ministers, and getting nothing for their pains,
the delegates from the Native Congress wrote Lord Gladstone,
from an office about two hundred yards distant from Government House,
requesting His Excellency to withhold his assent to the Natives' Land Bill
until the people mostly concerned (i.e. the Natives) had had a chance
of making known to His Majesty the King their objection to the measure.
His Excellency replied that such a course "was not within
his constitutional functions." Thereby the die was cast,
and the mandate went forth that the land laws of the Orange "Free" State,
which is commonly known as "the Only Slave State", shall be
the laws of the whole Union of South Africa. The worst feature in the case
is the fact that, even with the Governments of the late Republics,
the Presidents always had the power to exempt some Natives
from the operation of those laws, and that prerogative had been liberally used
by successive Presidents. Now, however, without a President,
and with the prerogative of the King (by the exercise of which
the evils of such a law could have been averted) disowned by
the King's own Ministers on the spot, God in the heavens alone
knows what will become of the hapless, because voteless, Natives,
who are without a President, "without a King", and with a Governor-General
without constitutional functions, under task-masters whose national traditions
are to enslave the dark races.
Chapter IV One Night with the Fugitives
Es ist unkoeniglich zu weinen -- ach,
Und hier nicht weinen ist unvaeterlich.
"Pray that your flight be not in winter," said Jesus Christ;
but it was only during the winter of 1913 that the full significance
of this New Testament passage was revealed to us. We left Kimberley
by the early morning train during the first week in July,
on a tour of observation regarding the operation of the Natives' Land Act;
and we arrived at Bloemhof, in Transvaal, at about noon.
On the River Diggings there were no actual cases representing
the effects of the Act, but traces of these effects were everywhere manifest.
Some fugitives of the Natives' Land Act had crossed the river in full flight.
The fact that they reached the diggings a fortnight before our visit
would seem to show that while the debates were proceeding in Parliament
some farmers already viewed with eager eyes the impending opportunity
for at once making slaves of their tenants and appropriating their stock;
for, acting on the powers conferred on them by an Act signed
by Lord Gladstone, so lately as June 16, they had during that very week
(probably a couple of days after, and in some cases, it would seem,
a couple of days before the actual signing of the Bill)
approached their tenants with stories about a new Act which makes it criminal
for any one to have black tenants and lawful to have black servants.
Few of these Natives, of course, would object to be servants,
especially if the white man is worth working for, but this is where
the shoe pinches: one of the conditions is that the black man's
(that is the servant's) cattle shall henceforth work for the landlord
free of charge. Then the Natives would decide to leave the farm
rather than make the landlord a present of all their life's savings,
and some of them had passed through the diggings in search of a place
in the Transvaal. But the higher up they went the more gloomy
was their prospect as the news about the new law was now penetrating
every part of the country.
One farmer met a wandering native family in the town of Bloemhof
a week before our visit. He was willing to employ the Native
and many more homeless families as follows: A monthly wage
of 2 Pounds 10s. for each such family, the husband working in the fields,
the wife in the house, with an additional 10s. a month for each son,
and 5s. for each daughter, but on condition that the Native's cattle
were also handed over to work for him. It must be clearly understood,
we are told that the Dutchman added, that occasionally the Native
would have to leave his family at work on the farm, and go out
with his wagon and his oxen to earn money whenever and wherever
he was told to go, in order that the master may be enabled to pay
the stipulated wage. The Natives were at first inclined to laugh at the idea
of working for a master with their families and goods and chattels,
and then to have the additional pleasure of paying their own small wages,
besides bringing money to pay the "Baas" for employing them.
But the Dutchman's serious demeanour told them that his suggestion
was "no joke". He himself had for some time been in need
of a native cattle owner, to assist him as transport rider
between Bloemhof, Mooifontein, London, and other diggings,
in return for the occupation and cultivation of some of his waste lands
in the district, but that was now illegal. He could only "employ" them;
but, as he had no money to pay wages, their cattle would have
to go out and earn it for him. Had they not heard of the law before?
he inquired. Of course they had; in fact that is why they left
the other place, but as they thought that it was but a "Free" State law,
they took the anomalous situation for one of the multifarious aspects
of the freedom of the "Free" State whence they came; they had scarcely thought
that the Transvaal was similarly afflicted.
Needless to say the Natives did not see their way to agree
with such a one-sided bargain. They moved up country, but only to find
the next farmer offering the same terms, however, with a good many more
disturbing details -- and the next farmer and the next --
so that after this native farmer had wandered from farm to farm,
occasionally getting into trouble for travelling with unknown stock,
"across my ground without my permission", and at times
escaping arrest for he knew not what, and further, being abused
for the crimes of having a black skin and no master, he sold some of his stock
along the way, beside losing many which died of cold and starvation;
and after thus having lost much of his substance, he eventually worked his way
back to Bloemhof with the remainder, sold them for anything they could fetch,
and went to work for a digger.
The experience of another native sufferer was similar to the above,
except that instead of working for a digger he sold his stock
for a mere bagatelle, and left with his family by the Johannesburg night train
for an unknown destination. More native families crossed the river
and went inland during the previous week, and as nothing had since
been heard of them, it would seem that they were still wandering somewhere,
and incidentally becoming well versed in the law that was responsible
for their compulsory unsettlement.
Well, we knew that this law was as harsh as its instigators were callous,
and we knew that it would, if passed, render many poor people homeless,
but it must be confessed that we were scarcely prepared
for such a rapid and widespread crash as it caused in the lives of the Natives
in this neighbourhood. We left our luggage the next morning
with the local Mission School teacher, and crossed the river
to find out some more about this wonderful law of extermination.
It was about 10 a.m. when we landed on the south bank of the Vaal River --
the picturesque Vaal River, upon whose banks a hundred miles farther west
we spent the best and happiest days of our boyhood. It was interesting
to walk on one portion of the banks of that beautiful river --
a portion which we had never traversed except as an infant in mother's arms
more than thirty years before. How the subsequent happy days at Barkly West,
so long past, came crowding upon our memory! -- days when
there were no railways, no bridges, and no system of irrigation.
In rainy seasons, which at that time were far more regular and certain,
the river used to overflow its high banks and flood the surrounding valleys
to such an extent, that no punt could carry the wagons across.
Thereby the transport service used to be hung up, and numbers of wagons
would congregate for weeks on both sides of the river
until the floods subsided. At such times the price of fresh milk
used to mount up to 1s. per pint. There being next to no competition,
we boys had a monopoly over the milk trade. We recalled
the number of haversacks full of bottles of milk we youngsters often carried
to those wagons, how we returned with empty bottles and with just
that number of shillings. Mother and our elder brothers
had leather bags full of gold and did not care for the "boy's money";
and unlike the boys of the neighbouring village, having no sisters of our own,
we gave away some of our money to fair cousins, and jingled the rest
in our pockets. We had been told from boyhood that sweets were injurious
to the teeth, and so spurning these delights we had hardly any use for money,
for all we wanted to eat, drink and wear was at hand in plenty.
We could then get six or eight shillings every morning
from the pastime of washing that number of bottles,
filling them with fresh milk and carrying them down to the wagons;
there was always such an abundance of the liquid that
our shepherd's hunting dog could not possibly miss what we took,
for while the flocks were feeding on the luscious buds of the haak-doorns
and the orange-coloured blossoms of the rich mimosa and other wild vegetation
that abounded on the banks of the Vaal River, the cows, similarly engaged,
were gathering more and more milk.
The gods are cruel, and one of their cruellest acts of omission
was that of giving us no hint that in very much less
than a quarter of a century all those hundreds of heads of cattle,
and sheep and horses belonging to the family would vanish
like a morning mist, and that we ourselves would live
to pay 30s. per month for a daily supply of this same precious fluid,
and in very limited quantities. They might have warned us
that Englishmen would agree with Dutchmen to make it unlawful
for black men to keep milch cows of their own on the banks of that river,
and gradually have prepared us for the shock.
Crossing the river from the Transvaal side brings one
into the Province of the Orange "Free" State, in which,
in the adjoining division of Boshof, we were born thirty-six years back.
We remember the name of the farm, but not having been
in this neighbourhood since infancy, we could not tell its whereabouts,
nor could we say whether the present owner was a Dutchman,
his lawyer, or a Hebrew merchant; one thing we do know, however:
it is that even if we had the money and the owner was willing to sell the spot
upon which we first saw the light of day and breathed the pure air of heaven,
the sale would be followed with a fine of one hundred pounds.
The law of the country forbids the sale of land to a Native.
Russia is one of the most abused countries in the world,
but it is extremely doubtful if the statute book of that Empire contains a law
debarring the peasant from purchasing the land whereon he was born,
or from building a home wherein he might end his days.
At this time we felt something rising from our heels along our back,
gripping us in a spasm, as we were cycling along; a needlelike pang, too,
pierced our heart with a sharp thrill. What was it? We remembered
feeling something nearly like it when our father died eighteen years ago;
but at that time our physical organs were fresh and grief was easily
thrown off in tears, but then we lived in a happy South Africa
that was full of pleasant anticipations, and now -- what changes for the worse
have we undergone! For to crown all our calamities, South Africa has by law
ceased to be the home of any of her native children whose skins are dyed
with a pigment that does not conform with the regulation hue.
We are told to forgive our enemies and not to let the sun go down
upon our wrath, so we breathe the prayer that peace may be to the white races,
and that they, including our present persecutors of the Union Parliament,
may never live to find themselves deprived of all occupation and
property rights in their native country as is now the case with the Native.
History does not tell us of any other continent where the Bantu lived
besides Africa, and if this systematic ill-treatment of the Natives
by the colonists is to be the guiding principle of Europe's scramble
for Africa, slavery is our only alternative; for now it is only as serfs
that the Natives are legally entitled to live here. Is it to be thought
that God is using the South African Parliament to hound us
out of our ancestral homes in order to quicken our pace heavenward?
But go from where to heaven? In the beginning, we are told,
God created heaven and earth, and peopled the earth,
for people do not shoot up to heaven from nowhere. They must have had
an earthly home. Enoch, Melchizedek, Elijah, and other saints,
came to heaven from earth. God did not say to the Israelites
in their bondage: "Cheer up, boys; bear it all in good part
for I have bright mansions on high awaiting you all." But he said:
"I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt,
and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters;
for I know their sorrows, and I am come down to bring them
out of the hands of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land
unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey."
And He used Moses to carry out the promise He made to their ancestor Abraham
in Canaan, that "unto thy seed will I give this land." It is to be hoped
that in the Boer churches, entrance to which is barred against coloured people
during divine service, they also read the Pentateuch.
It is doubtful if we ever thought so much on a single bicycle ride
as we did on this journey; however, the sight of a policeman ahead of us
disturbed these meditations and gave place to thoughts of quite another kind,
for -- we had no pass. Dutchmen, Englishmen, Jews, Germans,
and other foreigners may roam the "Free" State without permission --
but not Natives. To us it would mean a fine and imprisonment
to be without a pass. The "pass" law was first instituted
to check the movement of livestock over sparsely populated areas.
In a sense it was a wise provision, in that it served to identify
the livestock which one happened to be driving along the high road,
to prove the bona fides of the driver and his title to the stock.
Although white men still steal large droves of horses in Basutoland
and sell them in Natal or in East Griqualand, they, of course,
are not required to carry any passes. These white horse-thieves,
to escape the clutches of the police, employ Natives
to go and sell the stolen stock and write the passes for these Natives,
forging the names of Magistrates and Justices of the Peace.
Such native thieves in some instances ceasing to be hirelings
in the criminal business, trade on their own, but it is not clear
what purpose it is intended to serve by subjecting native pedestrians
to the degrading requirement of carrying passes when they are not
in charge of any stock.
In a few moments the policeman was before us and we alighted
in presence of the representative of the law, with our feet
on the accursed soil of the district in which we were born.
The policeman stopped. By his looks and his familiar "Dag jong"
we noticed that the policeman was Dutch, and the embodiment of affability.
He spoke and we were glad to notice that he had no intention
of dragging an innocent man to prison. We were many miles
from the nearest police station, and in such a case
one is generally able to gather the real views of the man on patrol,
as distinct from the written code of his office, but our friend
was becoming very companionable. Naturally we asked him about
the operation of the plague law. He was a Transvaaler, he said,
and he knew that Kafirs were inferior beings, but they had rights,
and were always left in undisturbed possession of their property
when Paul Kruger was alive. "The poor devils must be sorry now," he said,
"that they ever sang `God save the Queen' when the British troops
came into the Transvaal, for I have seen, in the course of my duties,
that a Kafir's life nowadays was not worth a ----, and I believe that no man
regretted the change of flags now more than the Kafirs of Transvaal."
This information was superfluous, for personal contact
with the Natives of Transvaal had convinced us of the fact.
They say it is only the criminal who has any reason to rejoice over
the presence of the Union Jack, because in his case the cat-o'-nine-tails,
except for very serious crimes, has been abolished.
"Some of the poor creatures," continued the policeman,
"I knew to be fairly comfortable, if not rich, and they enjoyed
the possession of their stock, living in many instances just like Dutchmen.
Many of these are now being forced to leave their homes.
Cycling along this road you will meet several of them in search of new homes,
and if ever there was a fool's errand, it is that of a Kafir
trying to find a new home for his stock and family just now."
"And what do you think, Baas Officer, must eventually be the lot of a people
under such unfortunate circumstances?" we asked.
"I think," said the policeman, "that it must serve them right.
They had no business to hanker after British rule, to cheat and plot
with the enemies of their Republic for the overthrow of their Government.
Why did they not assist the forces of their Republic during the war
instead of supplying the English with scouts and intelligence?
Oom Paul would not have died of a broken heart and he would still be there
to protect them. Serve them right, I say."
So saying he spurred his horse, which showed a clean pair of hoofs.
He left us rather abruptly, for we were about to ask
why we, too, of Natal and the Cape were suffering, for we,
being originally British subjects, never "cheated and plotted with
the enemies of our Colonies", but he was gone and left us still cogitating
by the roadside.
Proceeding on our journey we next came upon a native trek
and heard the same old story of prosperity on a Dutch farm:
they had raised an average 800 bags of grain each season,
which, with the increase of stock and sale of wool, gave a steady income
of about 150 Pounds per year after the farmer had taken his share.
There were gossipy rumours about somebody having met some one
who said that some one else had overheard a conversation
between the Baas and somebody else, to the effect that the Kafirs
were getting too rich on his property. This much involved tale
incidentally conveys the idea that the Baas was himself getting too rich
on his farm. For the Native provides his own seed, his own cattle,
his own labour for the ploughing, the weeding and the reaping,
and after bagging his grain he calls in the landlord to receive his share,
which is fifty per cent of the entire crop.
All had gone well till the previous week when the Baas came
to the native tenants with the story that a new law had been passed
under which "all my oxen and cows must belong to him, and my family to work
for 2 Pounds a month, failing which he gave me four days to leave the farm."
We passed several farm-houses along the road, where all
appeared pretty tranquil as we went along, until the evening
which we spent in the open country, somewhere near the boundaries
of the Hoopstad and Boshof districts; here a regular circus had gathered.
By a "circus" we mean the meeting of groups of families,
moving to every point of the compass, and all bivouacked at this point
in the open country where we were passing. It was heartrending
to listen to the tales of their cruel experiences derived from
the rigour of the Natives' Land Act. Some of their cattle had perished
on the journey, from poverty and lack of fodder, and the native owners
ran a serious risk of imprisonment for travelling with dying stock.
The experience of one of these evicted tenants is typical of the rest,
and illustrates the cases of several we met in other parts of the country.
Kgobadi, for instance, had received a message describing
the eviction of his father-in-law in the Transvaal Province, without notice,
because he had refused to place his stock, his family, and his person
at the disposal of his former landlord, who now refuses
to let him remain on his farm except on these conditions.
The father-in-law asked that Kgobadi should try and secure a place for him
in the much dreaded "Free" State as the Transvaal had suddenly
become uninhabitable to Natives who cannot become servants;
but "greedy folk hae lang airms", and Kgobadi himself
was proceeding with his family and his belongings in a wagon,
to inform his people-in-law of his own eviction, without notice,
in the "Free" State, for a similar reason to that which sent
his father-in-law adrift. The Baas had exacted from him
the services of himself, his wife and his oxen, for wages of 30s. a month,
whereas Kgobadi had been making over 100 Pounds a year, besides retaining
the services of his wife and of his cattle for himself.
When he refused the extortionate terms the Baas retaliated with a Dutch note,
dated the 30th day of June, 1913, which ordered him to "betake himself
from the farm of the undersigned, by sunset of the same day,
failing which his stock would be seized and impounded,
and himself handed over to the authorities for trespassing on the farm."
A drowning man catches at every straw, and so we were again and again
appealed to for advice by these sorely afflicted people.
To those who were not yet evicted we counselled patience and submission
to the absurd terms, pending an appeal to a higher authority
than the South African Parliament and finally to His Majesty the King who,
we believed, would certainly disapprove of all that we saw on that day
had it been brought to his notice. As for those who were already evicted,
as a Bechuana we could not help thanking God that Bechuanaland
(on the western boundary of this quasi-British Republic) was still
entirely British. In the early days it was the base of David Livingstone's
activities and peaceful mission against the Portuguese and Arab slave trade.
We suggested that they might negotiate the numerous restrictions
against the transfer of cattle from the Western Transvaal and seek an asylum
in Bechuanaland. We wondered what consolation we could give
to these roving wanderers if the whole of Bechuanaland were under
the jurisdiction of the relentless Union Parliament.
It was cold that afternoon as we cycled into the "Free" State from Transvaal,
and towards evening the southern winds rose. A cutting blizzard
raged during the night, and native mothers evicted from their homes
shivered with their babies by their sides. When we saw on that night
the teeth of the little children clattering through the cold,
we thought of our own little ones in their Kimberley home of an evening
after gambolling in their winter frocks with their schoolmates,
and we wondered what these little mites had done that a home should suddenly
become to them a thing of the past.
Kgobadi's goats had been to kid when he trekked from his farm;
but the kids, which in halcyon times represented the interest on his capital,
were now one by one dying as fast as they were born and left by the roadside
for the jackals and vultures to feast upon.
This visitation was not confined to Kgobadi's stock,
Mrs. Kgobadi carried a sick baby when the eviction took place,
and she had to transfer her darling from the cottage to the jolting ox-wagon
in which they left the farm. Two days out the little one began to sink
as the result of privation and exposure on the road, and the night
before we met them its little soul was released from its earthly bonds.
The death of the child added a fresh perplexity to the stricken parents.
They had no right or title to the farm lands through which they trekked:
they must keep to the public roads -- the only places in the country
open to the outcasts if they are possessed of a travelling permit.
The deceased child had to be buried, but where, when, and how?
This young wandering family decided to dig a grave under cover of the darkness
of that night, when no one was looking, and in that crude manner
the dead child was interred -- and interred amid fear and trembling,
as well as the throbs of a torturing anguish, in a stolen grave,
lest the proprietor of the spot, or any of his servants, should surprise them
in the act. Even criminals dropping straight from the gallows
have an undisputed claim to six feet of ground on which to rest
their criminal remains, but under the cruel operation of the Natives' Land Act
little children, whose only crime is that God did not make them white,
are sometimes denied that right in their ancestral home.
Numerous details narrated by these victims of an Act of Parliament
kept us awake all that night, and by next morning we were glad enough
to hear no more of the sickening procedure of extermination
voluntarily instituted by the South African Parliament.
We had spent a hideous night under a bitterly cold sky,
conditions to which hundreds of our unfortunate countrymen and countrywomen
in various parts of the country are condemned by the provisions
of this Parliamentary land plague. At five o'clock in the morning
the cold seemed to redouble its energies; and never before
did we so fully appreciate the Master's saying: "But pray ye that your flight
be not in the winter."
Chapter V Another Night with the Sufferers
Heureux ceux qui sont morts dans le calme des soirs,
Avant ces jours affreux de carnage et de haine!
Ils se sont endormis, le coeur rempli d'espoirs,
Dans un reve d'amour et de concorde humaine!
Ils n'ont pas entendu la sinistre remeur
Qui monte des hameaux consumes par la flamme,
Ni les cris des enfants et des vierges en pleurs,
Ni le gemissement des vieillards et des femmes!
Heureux les morts!
We parted sadly from these unfortunate nomads of an ungrateful
and inhospitable country, after advising them to trek from the Union
into the arid deserts of Bechuanaland. In our advice we laid special stress
upon the costliness of such an expedition as theirs and upon
the many and varying regulations to be complied with, on such a trek,
through the Western Transvaal. But, cost whatever it may,
they, like ourselves, understood that as the law stood
they would be better off and safer beyond the boundaries of the Union.
From here we worked our way into the Hoopstad district. There we saw
some Natives who were, as it were, on pins and needles, their landlords
having given them a few days in which to consider the advisability
of either accepting the new conditions or leaving their houses.
Our advice to these tenants was to accept, for the time being,
any terms offered by their landlords, pending an appeal to His Majesty
the King; we also passed through a few farms where the white farmers were
visibly sympathetic towards the harried Natives. Some of the white farmers
were accepting Natives as tenants on their farms in defiance of the law.
We naturally thanked these for their humanity and went our way,
promising never to disclose their magnanimity to the Government officials.
"What has suddenly happened?" one of these landlords asked.
"We were living so nicely with your people, and why should the law
unsettle them in this manner?"
We may here mention that a fortnight later we were in General Botha's
constituency in the Transvaal. A few days before we arrived there
a meeting of white farmers was held at one of the Dutch farm-houses
at which it was resolved to take the fullest advantage of the new law,
which had placed the entire native population in the hands of the farmers.
It was further resolved that a Kafir who refused to become a servant
should at once be consigned to the road.
A similar resolution was passed at another meeting of landlords
at another place. Part of the proceedings of this meeting
was reported in some, though not all, of the Dutch newspapers.
Without breaking our promise not to disclose any names of landlords
who felt it a duty to resist injustice, even though it bears the garb of law,
we will mention Mr. X., a Boer farmer, of the farm ----, near Thingamejig,
between the town of ---- and the river ----. He protested at the meeting,
stating that the Transvaalers were not compelled to turn the Natives out,
and that they were only debarred from taking any new native tenants;
that it was wicked to expel a Kafir from the farm for no reason whatever,
and so make him homeless, since he could not, if evicted, go either
to another farm or back to his old place. For expressing his views so frankly
Mr. X. was threatened by his compatriots with physical violence!
His opponents also said that, if he continued to harbour Kafirs on his farm
as tenants, they would hold him responsible for any stock
that they might lose. The incidents of the meeting were related
to the Natives by Mr. X. himself. He told the Natives, further,
that he would go to the expense of fencing his farm with the Natives inside,
so that they may be out of the reach of his infuriated neighbours.
We spent the next night in some native huts on a farm
in the district of Hoopstad. On that occasion we met a man
who had had a month's notice to leave his farm, and was going
from farm to farm in search of a new place. He had heard
alarming stories about evictions wherever he went. During that evening
we were treated to some more pitiful stories concerning
the atrocities of the wretched land Act. Many native wanderers
had actually passed that farm during the preceding few days,
trudging aimlessly from place to place in search of some farmer
who might give them a shelter. At first they thought
the stories about a new law were inventions or exaggerations,
but their own desperate straits and the prevailing native dislocation
soon taught them otherwise.
The similarity in the experiences of the sufferers would make
monotonous reading if given individually, but there are instances
here and there which give variety to the painful record,
and these should yield the utmost satisfaction to the promoters of the Act,
in proving to them the fell measure of their achievement.
One example of these experiences was that of a white farmer
who had induced a thrifty Native in another district to come and farm
on his estate. The contract was duly executed about the end of May, 1913.
It was agreed that the Native should move over to the new place
after gathering his crops and sharing them with his old landlord,
which he did in the third week in June. On his arrival, however,
the new landlord's attitude towards him aroused his suspicions;
his suspicions were confirmed when, after some hesitation,
the landlord told him that their contract was illegal. Having already
left his old place the legal embargo was also against his return there,
and so his only course was to leave that place and wander about
with his stock and family. They went in the direction of Kroonstad,
and they have not been heard of since.
The next example is that of the oldest man in the "Free" State.
He had been evicted (so we were told during that evening on the farm)
along with his aged wife, his grey-headed children,
the children's children and grandchildren. We may here add that we read
a confirmation of this case in the English weekly newspaper of Harrismith.
The paper's reference to this case will also illustrate the easy manner
in which these outrageous evictions are reported in white newspapers.
There is no reference to the sinister undercurrent and hardships
attending these evictions. The paper in question, the `Harrismith Chronicle',
simply says: --
AN ANCIENT COUPLE
A venerable Native whose age is no less than 119 years,
accompanied by his wife, aged 98, and a son who is approaching 80,
left Harrismith on Tuesday by train for Volksrust. The old man
acquired some property in the Transvaal, and is leaving this district
to start a new home with as much interest in the venture
as if he were a stripling of twenty. The old lady had to be carried
to the train, but the old man walked fairly firmly. The aged couple
were the centre of much kindly attraction, and were made
as comfortable as possible for their journey by the railway officials.
It is difficult to realize in these days of rapid change
that in the departure from the "Free" State of this venerable party
we are losing from our midst a man who was born in 1794,
and has lived in no less than three centuries of time.
Good luck to them both; may they still live long and prosper!
Now, as a matter of fact, this "ancient couple" had not left the "Free" State
of their own free will. Their stock had been expelled from
their grazing areas, and they were told that they could only continue to graze
if the centenarian tenant agreed to supply a certain number of labourers
to work on the landowner's farm and with his sons ceased to do any ploughing
as tenants. This system of sharing the crops has been followed
ever since the Boers planted themselves in the "Free" State, and the family
had had no other means of support. Happily the aid of Providence
in the case of this "ancient couple" was speedy, as the old people
quickly found an asylum on the farm of Mr. P. ka I. Seme, a native solicitor
in the Transvaal.
At the same place on the same evening we were told of a conversation
between a well-known Dutchman and a Native. "The object of this law,"
said the Burgher, "is to goad the Natives into rebellion,
so that the Government may legally confiscate what little ground
was left to them, and hand over the dispossessed Kafirs and their families
to work for the farmers, just for their food." The policy of
goading the Natives into rebellion is not wholly foreign to Colonial policy;
but the horrible cruelty to which live stock is exposed under the new Act
is altogether a new departure. King Solomon says, "The righteous man
regardeth the life of his beast, but the tender mercies of the wicked
are cruel"; but there is a Government of professed Bible readers who,
in defiance of all Scriptural precepts, pass a law which penalizes
a section of the community along with their oxen, sheep, goats,
horses and donkeys on account of the colour of their owners.
The penalty clause (Section 5) imposes a fine of 100 Pounds on a landowner
who accommodates a Native on his farm; and if after the fine is paid
the Native leaves his stock on the farm to go and look for a fresh place,
there will be an additional fine of 5 Pounds for every day
that the Native's cattle remain on that farm. They must
take the road immediately and be kept moving day and night
until they die of starvation, or until the owner (who is debarred,
by Section 1, from purchasing a pasturage for his cattle) disposes of them
to a white man.
Such cruelty to dumb animals is as unwarranted as it is unprecedented.
It reads cruel enough on paper, but we wish that the reader had accompanied us
on one journey, say, during the cold snap in the first week in August,
when we travelled from Potchefstroom to Vereeniging,
and seen the flocks of those evicted Natives that we met.
We frequently met those roving pariahs, with their hungry cattle,
and wondered if the animals were not more deserving of pity than their owners.
It may be the cattle's misfortune that they have a black owner,
but it is certainly not their fault, for sheep have no choice
in the selection of a colour for their owners, and no cows or goats
are ever asked to decide if the black boy who milks them shall be their owner,
or but a herd in the employ of a white man; so why should they be starved
on account of the colour of their owners? We knew of a law to prevent cruelty
to animals, but had never thought that we should live to meet in one day
so many dumb creatures making silent appeals to Heaven for protection
against the law. "What man has nerve to do, man has not nerve to see",
and oh! if those gifted Parliamentarians could have been mustered here
to witness the wretched results of one of their fine days' work
for a fine day's pay! But "they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne",
then draw their Parliamentary emoluments and retire to the quiet
of their comfortable homes, to enjoy more rest than is due to toilers
who have served both God and humanity.
During this same night in Hoopstad district we were also told of the visit
of a Dutch farmer in the middle of June, 1913, to his native tenants.
One of the Natives -- named Kgabale -- was rather old. His two sons are
delving in the gold mines of Johannesburg, and return home each spring time
to help the old man and their two young sisters to do the ploughing.
The daughters tend the fields and Kgabale looks after the stock.
By this means they have been enabled to lead a respectable life
and to pay the landowner fifty per cent. of the produce every year,
besides the taxes levied by the Government on Natives.
Three weeks before our visit, the farmer came to cancel
Kgabale's verbal contract with him and to turn the family
into unpaid servants, in return for the privilege of squatting on his farm.
As Kgabale himself was too old to work, the farmer demanded of him
that his two sons should return immediately from Johannesburg
to render manual service on his farm, failing which, the old man
should forthwith betake himself from the place. He gave Kgabale seven days
to deliver his two sons.
Naturally this decision came upon Kgabale and his daughters
like a bolt from the blue. The poor old man wandered from place to place,
trying to find some one -- and it took him two days to do so --
who could write, so as to dictate a letter to his sons in Johannesburg,
informing them of what had happened. The week expired before he could get
a reply from Johannesburg. The landlord, in a very abusive mood,
again demanded the instant arrival of his two sons from Johannesburg,
to commence work at the farm-house the very next morning.
Kgabale spent the whole night praying that at least one of his sons
might come. By daybreak next morning no answer had arrived,
and the Dutchman came and set fire to the old man's houses,
and ordered him then and there to quit the farm. It was a sad sight
to see the feeble old man, his aged wife and his daughters
driven in this way from a place which they had regarded as their home.
In the ordinary course, such a calamity could have been made more tolerable
by moving to the next farm and there await the arrival and advice of his sons;
but now, under the Natives' Land Act, no sympathetic landowner
would be permitted to shelter them for a single day. So Kgabale was said
to have gone in the direction of Klerksdorp.
One of the sons arrived a week after the catastrophe. He found
his old home in ruins, and that his aged parents and their children
had become victims of the turpitude of an Act of Parliament.
The son went in search of his relatives across the Vaal,
but it was not known if they succeeded in finding the refuge
which the law had made unlawful.
Among the squatters on the same farm as Kgabale was a widow named Maria.
Her husband in his lifetime had lived as a tenant on the farm,
ploughing in shares until his death. After his death
Maria kept on the contract and made a fair living. Her son and daughter,
aged fourteen and sixteen respectively, took turns at herding her cattle
and assisting the mother in other ways. During the ploughing season,
they hired assistance to till the fields, but they themselves
tended and reaped the harvest and delivered 50 per cent of the produce
to the landowner. Such were the conditions on which she was allowed
to live on the farm. Maria, being a widow, and her son being but a youth,
it was hoped that the landlord would propose reasonable terms for her;
but instead, his proposal was that she should dispose of her stock
and indenture her children to him. This sinister proposal makes it evident
that farmers not only expect Natives to render them free labour,
but they actually wish the Natives to breed slaves for them.
Maria found it difficult to comply with her landlord's demand,
and as she had no husband, from whom labour could be exacted,
the Dutchman ordered her to "clear out, and," he added with an oath,
"you must get another man before you reach your next place of abode,
as the law will not permit you to stay there till you have a man
to work for the Baas." Having given this counsel the landlord is said
to have set fire to Maria's thatched cottage, and as the chilly south-easter
blew the smoke of her burning home towards the north-west, Maria,
with her bedclothes on her head, and on the heads of her son and daughter,
and carrying her three-year-old boy tied to her back,
walked off from the farm, driving her cows before her.
In parting from the endeared associations of their late home,
for one blank and unknown, the children were weeping bitterly.
Nor has any news of the fate of this family been received
since they were forced out on this perilous adventure.
Chapter VI Our Indebtedness to White Women
O woman! in our hours of ease
Uncertain, coy, and hard to please,
And variable as the shade
By the light quivering aspen made;
When pain and anguish wring the brow,
A ministering angel thou.
Some farmers (unfortunately too few) who had at first intended
to change the status of their native tenants, had been obliged
to abandon the idea owing to the determined opposition of their wives.
One such case was particularly interesting. Thus, at Dashfontein,
the wife of a Dutch farmer, a Mr. V., on whose property some native families
were squatting, got up, one morning, and found the kitchen-maid
very disagreeable. The morning coffee had been made right enough,
but the maid's "Morre, Nooi" (Good morning, ma'am) was rather sullen
and almost bordering on insolence. She did her scullery work as usual,
but did not seem to care, that morning, about wasting time inquiring
how baby slept, and if Nonnie had got rid of her neuralgia, and so on.
She spoke only when spoken to and answered mainly in monosyllables.
Mrs. V. was perplexed.
"What is the matter, Anna?" she asked.
"Nothing, Nooi," replied Anna curtly.
Mrs. V. tried some of her witty jokes, but they seemed to be wasted on Anna.
After jesting with the servant had failed, scolding was next tried,
but nothing seemed to bring back the girl's usual cheerfulness.
"Oh, Anna," said the mistress at length, "you make me think of the olden days,
when such disagreeable whims on the part of frowning maids
used to be cured by ----"
Anna was evidently not listening, and, if she had heard the mistress,
she did not care two straws (or one straw for that matter) what cures
Mrs. V.'s great-grandmother had prescribed for sullen servant girls.
In fact, Anna had become a wild Kafir, for though she went about her work
in silence, her face bore an expression which seemed to speak louder
than her mouth could have done. She was clearly engaged
in serious thought. The mistress tried to dismiss from her mind
the inexplicable attitude of her servant, but the frowning look on Anna's face
made the attempts unsuccessful. The fact that when Anna went home,
the previous night, she was happiness personified, did not decrease
Mrs. V.'s perplexity.
"There must be something wrong," Mrs. V. concluded, after vainly trying
ruse after ruse to get a smile out of her servant girl. "Something is amiss.
I wonder if one of those well-dressed Kafirs from Potchefstroom
had been prowling about the farm and instilling in Anna's simple mind
all kinds of silly notions, about town flirts and black dandies,
silk dresses in Potchefstroom and similar vuilgoed (rubbish).
And if a town Kafir is going to marry Anna, where on earth am I going to get
a reliable servant to whom I could securely entrust my home when I have
occasion to go to town or to the seaside on a shorter or longer vacation?
Who could cook and attend to my husband's and children's peculiar wants,
if Anna is going to leave us? It seems certain that Anna's heart
is not on the farm," she said to herself. "It was there right enough
when she went home last night, but it is clear that some one has stolen it
during the night. Anna is helplessly lovesick. I must find out who it is.
The swain must be found and induced to come and join, or supervise,
our squatters. We cannot let him take her away, for what will the homestead
be without Anna? I was looking forward to her marrying on the farm
and giving her a superior cottage so that other Kafir girls may see
how profitable it is to be good. Anna leaving the farm, O, nee wat! (Oh, no).
We must find out who it is; but wait, there is old Gert (her father) coming,
with old Jan (her uncle). I must find out from them who had been intruding
into the company of their daughters last night. I should warn them
to be on the alert lest Anna elopes to Potchefstroom with somebody,
probably to take the train and go farther -- to Johannesburg or Kimberley,
as did Klein Mietje, whom I had hoped to train as our housemaid ----"
"Good morning, Auta Gert, how is Mietje and the kleintjes (little ones)?"
Auta Gert's demeanour was a greater puzzle to Mrs. V. than his daughter's
when he replied, "So, so."
Mrs. V. (between horns of the same dilemma): "And you, Auta Jan?"
"Ja, Missus," replied Jan.
Mrs. V.'s perplexity was intense, for it became evident that the two Natives
were there as a deputation, charged with some grave mission.
Before she uttered another word the two Natives asked for an interview.
"Not to waste much time, Missus," began old Gert, "a thunderbolt has burst
on the native settlement on the farm, and Dashfontein is no longer
a home to us ----"
"No longer a home!" exclaimed Mrs. V. "I hope you idiotic Kafirs
are not going to be so foolhardy as to leave me, leave the Baas,
and leave the farm upon which your fathers and mothers lie buried.
Do not you know that during this very week numbers of Natives have been
calling on the Baas, asking him for places of abode, complaining that
they have been turned adrift, with their little ones and their hungry animals,
for refusing to become servants to farmers on whose property
they had been ploughing on shares? White men have suddenly
become brutes and have expelled Natives with whom they have lived
from childhood -- Natives whose labour made the white man wealthy
are turned away by people who should treat them with gratitude.
And are you going to leave your old home just when the Devil
appears to have possessed himself of the hearts of most farmers?
In your own interest, apart from my own and the Baas's, Auta Gert,
you should have left us long ago when you could find a place elsewhere.
Are you so deaf and blind as not to hear and see the change
which has come over the country of late? White men formerly punished a Kafir
who had done some wrong, now they worry him from sheer cussedness.
You must be mad, Auta Gert, to try and leave us. What is going
to become of your family and your beautiful cattle. No wonder that Anna
is so upset. I have been thinking that some rondlooper (vagabond)
from the towns had been trying to take her away."
As Mrs. V. spoke she was agreeably surprised to find the sobering effect
which her rebuke seemed to have upon her husband's native tenants.
She knew her influence over them, especially over the old native families,
but in all her dealings and close association with them she could not remember
an impromptu speech of hers that produced such immediate results.
The faces of the two Natives brightened up, and they kept
looking at one another as she spoke. At length she turned round
towards the stoep and there was Anna, for the first time that morning,
interested in and delighted by what she said. Usually it would have been
a serious breach of the rules of the house for Anna to listen
when the Missus was speaking about something that did not immediately concern
her scullery duties; but Mrs. V.'s satisfaction was unbounded
on seeing the bright look on her servant's face, which she had hitherto
"Now, you see," said Anna to her father, "I told you it would never happen
if the Missus can help it."
At this, the men could scarcely suppress a laugh. The Missus
looked round again, and said:
"Anna, have you Kafirs plotted to fool me this morning? Because I take
such a deep interest in your welfare, you have so far forgotten yourselves
that you connived with your parents to come over to my house and fool me
on my own farm? What is the meaning of all this?"
Auta Gert unfolded his story. The Baas was at the native settlement
the previous day. He called a meeting of the native peasants and told them
of the new law, under which no Kafir can buy a farm or hire a farm.
He added that, according to this law, their former relations
of landlord and tenants have been made a criminal offence,
for which they could be fined a hundred pounds, and he gave them ten days
to decide whether they would become his servants or leave the farm.
"Go away, Auta Gert; you were dreaming, my husband would never talk
such nonsense. You have been with him from childhood,
long before I ever knew him, and yet you do not know that my husband
is incapable of uttering anything half so wicked?"
"He said it was the law, the new law."
"Of course you need some stringent measures against the useless,
sneaking and prowling loafers, but there is no fear that such laws
could apply to Natives like you and Mietje and your children."
"But, Nooi, the Baas told us to leave the farm as the law
did not permit him to ----"
"Get you gone, Auta Gert, he was joking. You must know that the law
did not buy this farm. The old Baas purchased it from Baas Philander.
I personally helped to add up the number of morgen and to calculate the money,
and there was not a penny piece from any Government. Go home, Auta Gert,
and leave everything to me, and do not let me hear you saying
Dashfontein is no longer your home."
"Well, Nooi," assented the Natives with some relief, "if you say
it is all right, then it must be so, and we will go back and reap our mealies
in peace, and if a policeman comes round demanding a hundred pounds
we will tell him to arrest us and take us to the Nooi of the farm.
"Good-bye, Auta Gert; good-bye, Auta Jan ---- Poor Anna, my dear little maid,
why did you not tell Nooi this morning that you were worried over this matter.
Really, Anna, I was thinking that you were lovesick. How did poor old Mietje
take it? Sadly, did she. Well, I will speak to the Baas about it.
He had no business to attempt to bring bad luck over us
by disturbing our peaceful Natives with such godless tidings.
Tell your mother that Nooi says it will be all right."
A few days later, Hendrik Prins, the farm manager in the employ of Mr. V.,
was due at the native settlement to see the steam sheller at work
and also to receive the landowner's share of the produce. Instead of Prins,
Mr. V. attended in person. Each Native regarded this unusual occurrence
as the signal for their impending eviction and thought that day would see
their last transaction with their old master and landlord.
Mr. V. counted the separate bags filled with mealies and Kafir corn
placed in groups around the sheller. He counted no fewer than 12,300 bags,
and knew that his share would total 6,150, representing about
3,000 Pounds gross. Could he ever succeed in getting so much,
with so little trouble, if poor whites tilled his lands
instead of these Natives? he thought. After all, his dear Johanna was right.
This law is blind and must be resisted. It gives more consideration
to the so-called poor whites (a respectable term for lazy whites),
than to the owners of the ground. He, there and then, resolved to resist it
and take the consequences.
The grain was all threshed; a number of native girls were busy
sewing up the bags, and the engine-driver ordered his men
to yoke his oxen and pull the machine away. Mr. V. ordered Auta Gert
to call all the `volk' together as he had something to tell them.
Auta Gert, knowing the determination of his mistress,
did so in confidence that they were about to receive some glad tidings.
But the other folks came forward with a grievous sense of wrong.
The fact that some Natives on the adjoining property
had been turned away three days before and sent homeless about the country,
their places being taken by others, who, tired of roaming about and losing
nearly everything, had come in as serfs did not allay their fears.
Auta Hans was already conjuring up visions of a Johannesburg speculator
literally "taking" his Cape shorthorns for a mere bagatelle,
as they did to William Ranco, another evicted squatter from Hoopstad.
Mr. V., the farmer, mounted a handy wagon hard by and commenced to address
the crowd of blacks who gathered around the wagon at the call of Gert.
"Attention! Listen," he said. "You will remember that I was here last month
and explained to you the new law. Well, I understand that that explanation
created the greatest amount of unrest amongst the Natives in the huts
on my farm. Personally, I am very sorry that it ever came to that,
but let me tell you that your Nooi, my wife, says it is not right
that the terms under which we have lived in the past should be disturbed.
I agree with her that it is unjust, and that the good Lord,
who has always blessed us, will turn His face from us
if people are unsettled and sent away from the farm in a discontented mood."
(Loud and continued applause, during which Mr. V. took out
his pouch of Magaliesburg tobacco and lit his pipe.) "The Nooi," he continued
after a few puffs, "says we must not obey this law: she even says,
if it comes to physical ejectment, or if they take me to prison,
she is prepared to go to Pretoria in person and interview General Botha."
(More cheers, during which the Natives dispersed to cart away their mealies
amidst general satisfaction.)
* * * * *
The writer visited Dashfontein in July, 1913, when the above narrative
was given him word for word by old Gert.
As old Gert narrated the story, Aunt Mietje, his wife,
who had had timely notice of the impending visit of the morulaganyi (editor)
from her husband (who slaughtered a sheep in honour of the occasion),
superintended with interesting expectations over frizzling items
in the frying-pan on her fireplace. Her bright eyes, beaming from
under her headkerchief, suggested how she must have been
the undisputed belle of her day. The rough wooden table was covered
with the best linen in the native settlement, and on it were laid
some clean plates, and the old yet shining cutlery reserved for
special occasions, besides other signs of an approaching evening meal.
Having learnt the art from an experienced housewife on whose farm
her people were squatting, and improved upon her teaching,
she was famous in the neighbourhood for the excellence of her cooking.
Her only worry in that department was her seeming lack of success
in training her daughters up to her elevation. She is usually sent for
when important visitors come to Dashfontein, and would then don
her best costume of coloured German print, and carry down with her
the spotless apron which Mrs. V. gave her the preceding New Year;
and in spite of her advancing years, she would cause Anna,
and every other upstart at the homestead, instinctively to play
second fiddle to her. And when we suggested that our wife
could measure swords (or, shall we say, forks) with her as a cook,
she giggled and remembered some white man's proverb about
the proof of the pudding being in the eating.
After the harrowing experience of the previous week, during which
we were forced to see our fellow-beings hounded out of their homes,
and the homes broken up; their lifelong earnings frittered away
by a law of the land, their only crime being the atrocious one of having
the same colour of skin as our own, and finding ourselves suddenly landed
on an oasis, the farm of a kind Dutchman and his noble wife,
on whose property, and by whose leave, little black piccaninnies
still played about in spite of the law, it can be readily understood
with what comfort we sat down and did justice to the good things
provided by Aunt Mietje. In the course of her preparation
every step of hers suggested that she entertained no sort of misprised opinion
about her superiority over her compeers; and nothing pleased her better
than when she dazzled her husband and family connexions
with deeds which proved her superiority over her contemporaries,
in everything that tends to make the virtuous and industrious house-wife.
She gave a dramatic ending to her husband's narrative when she said --
"Who would have thought that Hannetje, naughty little Hannetje,
who was so troublesome when my sister used to nurse her --
who would have thought that she would ever prove to be
the salvation of our people? Who ever anticipated that all the strong Boers,
on whom we had relied, would desert us when the fate of our whole tribe
hung in the balance? Natives have been moving from north to south,
and from south to north, all searching at the same time
for homes and grazing for their cattle. During the last few weeks
the roads were hidden in clouds of dust, sent up by
hundreds of hoofs of hundreds of cattle, their owners with them,
vainly seeking places of refuge; but in the case of Dashfontein,
we reclined on a veritable Mount Ararat, by grace of naughty little Hannetje,
whom God in His mysterious foresight had raised up to be Mrs. van V.,
proprietress of Dashfontein. If my prayers are of any value,
God will appoint in heaven a special place for her when she gets there,
though, for the sake of our people, I hope that time is very far distant.
However, I hope to be somewhere near: in truth, I should like
to accompany her, when Elijah's chariot comes for her soul,
so as to render her what little aid I can on board, when she soars
through unknown tracts of space to the spirit world on high,
so that if there be any uncomfortable questions about her maiden vagaries,
I may be there to attest that she has since atoned a hundred fold for each,
and thus accelerate her promotion. No no, Hannetje is not a Boer vrouw,
she is an angel."
Chapter VII Persecution of Coloured Women in the Orange Free State
Ripe persecution, like the plant
Whose nascence Mocha boasted,
Some bitter fruit produced, whose worth
Was never known till roasted.
When the Free State ex-Republicans made use of the South African Constitution
-- a Constitution which Lord Gladstone says is one after the Boer sentiment --
to ruin the coloured population, they should at least
have confined their persecution to the male portion of the blacks
(as is done in a milder manner in the other three Provinces), and have left
the women and children alone. According to this class legislation,
no native woman in the Province of the Orange "Free" State can reside
within a municipality (whether with or without her parents, or her husband)
unless she can produce a permit showing that she is a servant
in the employ of a white person, this permit being signed
by the Town Clerk. All repressive measures under the old Republic
(which, in matters of this kind, always showed a regard
for the suzerainty of Great Britain) were mildly applied.
Now, under the Union, the Republicans are told by the Imperial authorities
that since they are self-governing they have the utmost freedom of action,
including freedom to do wrong, without any fear of Imperial interference.
Of this licence the white inhabitants of the Union are making the fullest use.
Like a mastiff long held in the leash they are urging the application
of all the former stringent measures enacted against the blacks,
and the authorities, in obedience to their electoral supporters,
are enforcing these measures with the utmost rigour against the blacks
because they have no votes.
Hence, whereas the pass regulations were formerly never enforced by the Boers
against clergymen's wives or against the families of respectable
native inhabitants, now a minister's wife has not only to produce a pass
on demand, but, like every woman of colour, she has to pay a shilling
for a fresh pass at the end of the month, so that a family consisting of,
say, a mother and five daughters pay the municipality 6s. every month,
whether as a penalty for the colour of their skins or a penalty for their sex
it is not clear which.
There is some unexplained anomaly in this woman's pass business.
If the writer were to go and live in the "Free" State, he could
apply for and obtain letters of exemption from the ordinary pass laws;
but if his wife, who has had a better schooling and enjoyed
an older civilization than he, were to go and reside in the "Free" State
with her daughters, all of them would be forced to carry passes
on their persons, and be called upon to ransack their skirt pockets
at any time in the public streets at the behest of male policemen
in quest of their passes. Several white men are at present undergoing
long terms of imprisonment inflicted by the Orange "Free" State Circuit Courts
for criminally outraging coloured women whom the pass laws had placed
in the hollow of the hands of these ruffians. Still many more mothers
are smothering evidence of similar outrages upon innocent daughters --
cases that could never have happened under ordinary circumstances.
The Natives of the "Free" State have made all possible constitutional appeals
against these outrages. In reply to their petitions the Provincial Government
blames the municipalities. The latter blame the law and the Union Parliament,
and there the matter ends. We have read the "Free" State law
which empowers the municipalities to frame regulations
for the control of Natives, etc., but it must be confessed
that our limited intelligence could discern nothing in it
which could be construed as imposing any dire penalties
on municipalities which emancipate their coloured women
from the burden of the insidious pass law and tax. Hon. Mr. H. Burton,
as already stated, was Minister for Native Affairs before the Union Government
surrendered to the "Free" State reactionaries. A deputation
consisting of Mrs. A. S. Gabashane, Mrs. Kotsi and Mrs. Louw,
women from Bloemfontein -- the first-named being a clergyman's wife --
waited on him in Capetown on the subject of these grievances,
and he assured them that in response to representations made
by the Native Congress, he had already written to Dr. Ramsbottom,
the Provincial Administrator, asking him to persuade
the "Free" State municipalities to relieve the native women from this burden.
And if to relieve native women in the "Free" State from a burden
which obtains nowhere else in the Union were unlawful,
as the municipalities aver, Mr. Burton -- a K.C. -- would have been
the last person to ask them to break the law.
Subsequently the women petitioned Lady Gladstone for her intercession.
But we wonder if the petition was ever handed to Lady Gladstone
by the responsible authority who, in this instance, would have been
the Department of Native Affairs. Notwithstanding all these efforts,
native women in the "Free" State are still forced to buy passes
every month or go to prison, and they are still exposed
to the indecent provision of the law authorizing male constables
to insult them by day and by night, without distinction.
After exhausting all these constitutional means on behalf of their women,
and witnessing the spread of the trouble to the women and children
of the country districts under the Natives' Land Act, the male Natives
of the municipalities of the Province of the Orange "Free" State
saw their women folk throwing off their shawls and taking the "law"
into their own hands. A crowd of 600 women, in July, 1913,
marched to the Municipal Offices at Bloemfontein and asked
to see the Mayor. He was not in, so they called for the Town Clerk.
The Deputy-Mayor came out, and they deposited before him a bag
containing their passes of the previous month and politely signified
their intention not to buy any more passes. Then there occurred
what `John Bull' would call, "----l with the lid off".
At Jagersfontein there was a similar demonstration, led by
a jet-black Mozambique lady. She and a number of others
were arrested and sentenced to various terms of imprisonment.
The sentences ranged from about three weeks to three months,
and the fines from 10s. to 3 Pounds. They all refused to pay the fines,
and said their little ones could be entrusted to the care of Providence
till their mothers and sisters have broken the shackles of oppression
by means of passive resistance. As the prison authorities
were scarcely prepared for such a sudden influx of prisoners
there was not sufficient accommodation for fifty-two women,
who were conveyed on donkey carts to the adjoining village of Fauresmith.
When this happened, Winburg, the old capital of the "Free" State,
also had a similar trouble. Eight hundred women marched
from the native location to the Town Hall, singing hymns,
and addressed the authorities. They were tired of making friendly appeals
which bore no fruit from year's end to year's end, so they had resolved,
they said, to carry no more passes, much less to pay a shilling each
per month, PER CAPITA, for passes. A procession of so many women
would attract attention even in Piccadilly, but in a "Free" State dorp
it was a stupendous event, and it made a striking impression.
The result was that many of the women were arrested and sent to prison,
but they all resolutely refused to pay their fines, and there was a rumour
that the Central Government had been appealed to for funds and for material
to fit out a new jail to cope with the difficulty.
This movement served to exasperate the authorities, who rigorously
enforced the law and sent them to jail. The first batch of prisoners
from Bloemfontein were conveyed south to Edenburg; and as further batches
came down from Bloemfontein they had to be retransferred north to Kroonstad.
In the course of our tour in connexion with the Natives' Land Act
in August, 1913, we spent a week-end with the Rev. A. P. Pitso,
of the last-named town. Thirty-four of the women passive resisters were still
incarcerated there, doing hard labour. Mrs. Pitso and Mrs. Michael Petrus
went with us on the Sunday morning to visit the prisoners at the jail.
A severe shock burst upon us, inside the prison walls,
when the matron withdrew the barriers and the emaciated figures
of ladies and young girls of our acquaintance filed out and greeted us.
It was an exceptionally cold week, and our hearts bled to see
young women of Bloemfontein, who had spent all their lives
in the capital and never knew what it was to walk without socks,
walking the chilly cemented floors and the cold and sharp pebbles
without boots. Their own boots and shoes had been taken off,
they told us, and they were, throughout the winter,
forced to perform hard labour barefooted.
Was ever inhumanity more cold-blooded?
Do these "Free" Staters consider their brutality less brutal
because it happens to be sanctioned by law?
Is Heaven so entirely unmindful of our case that it looks on with indifference
when indignity upon indignity is heaped, not only upon our innocent men,
but even upon our inoffensive women?
Tears rolled down our cheeks as we saw the cracks on their bare feet,
the swellings and chronic chilblains, which made them look like sheep
suffering from foot-and-mouth disease. It was torture to us to learn
the kind of punishment to which they were subjected and the nature of the work
they were called upon to perform; these facts were stated to us
in the presence of the prison officials, and they were communicated by us
to the Native Affairs Department merely as a matter of course.
But what must be the effect of this brutal punishment upon girls
who knew only city life? To our surprise, however, they vowed
never to buy passes, even if they had to come back.
A month later, when we visited Bloemfontein, a majority of those
who were at the Kroonstad jail had already returned to their homes,
and the family doctors were doing a roaring trade. Their practice, too,
was most likely to continue to boom as the sufferers were still determined
to buy no more women's passes.
This determination caused a white man to suggest that "instead of being
sent to prison with hard labour, these madcaps should be flogged" --
and this because the women refuse to be outraged by law.
Our visit to Kroonstad took place just after the Circuit Court
had convicted the white superintendent of the Kroonstad Native Location
for an outrage upon a coloured woman. He arrested her in the location
ostensibly because she could not produce her residential pass,
and in the field between the location and the town through which
he had to escort her to prison he perpetrated the atrocity.
In sentencing him to four years' hard labour, the Chief Justice said
for a similar crime upon a white woman a black man would be liable
to the death penalty.
When General Botha assumed the portfolio of Native Affairs
at the time of this trouble, the writer, as General Secretary of the Congress,
telegraphed to him the greetings of the South African Native Congress,
and pointed out to him that over two hundred coloured women were at that time
languishing in jail for resenting a crime committed upon them,
a crime which would have been considered serious in any other place
outside the "Free" State. The chivalrous General replied in a Dutch telegram
containing this very courteous reply: "It shall be my endeavour, as hitherto,
to safeguard the just interests of the inhabitants of this land
irrespective of colour."
General Botha's assurances are so sweet, especially when they are made
to persons who are not in a position to influence his electoral support.
The Natives, who know the "sweets" of these assurances cannot be blamed if
they analyse the Premier's assurances in the light of their past experience,
especially the phrase "as hitherto". To them it conveys but one idea, namely,
"If the future policy of the South African Government found it convenient
to send coloured women to prison in order to please the ruling whites,
they will, AS HITHERTO, not hesitate to do so."
While on the subject of native women, it is deeply to be regretted that during
this year, while the Empire is waging a terrible war for the cause of liberty,
His Excellency the Governor-General in South Africa should have seen his way
to issue a Basutoland Proclamation -- No. 3 of 1915. This law decrees
that under certain penalties, no native woman will be permitted
to leave Basutoland "without the permission of her husband or guardian".
The Proclamation on the face of it may look comparatively harmless,
but its operation will have wide and painful ramifications
amounting to no less than an entrenchment of the evils embraced
in polygamy; and in carrying out this decree civilization
will have to join hands with barbarism to perpetuate the bondage,
and accentuate the degradation, of Basuto women.
It is a fact that no respectable Mosuto woman wants to leave
her husband or guardian; but the economic conditions of to-day
press very heavily on polygamous wives. Their lord and master
finding himself no longer able to provide for half a dozen houses at a time,
bestows on them the burden and anxieties of wifehood without its joys,
namely, a husband's undivided care and the comforts due to wives
in monogamous marriages.
Some of these polygamous wives have from time to time
sought relief in emigrating to European centres where they could
earn their own living and send food and raiment to their little ones.
A woman cannot always be blamed for having entered into
a polygamous marriage. More often than not, she did so in obedience
to the wishes of her aged parents. The old people, in many instances,
have judged present day economics from the standard of their own happy days
when there was plenty of land and rainfalls were more regular;
when the several wives and children of a rich cattle-owner
could always have enough grain, eat meat, drink milk and live happily.
But times are altered and even a monogamist finds the requirements of one wife
quite a stupendous handful. The country is so congested
that the little arable land left them yields hardly any produce.
I have seen it suggested in official documents that sheep-breeding
should be limited in Basutoland as there is not enough grazing for the flocks.
And under this economic stress these surplus wives are sometimes driven
to accept the overtures of unscrupulous men who gradually induce them
to wallow in sin; hence too, they give birth to an inferior type of Basuto.
That such a law should be adopted during the reign of Chief Griffith,
their first Christian Chief and the first monogamist
who ever ruled the Basuto, is disappointing. And while
we resent the policy of the British authorities in the Union,
who promote the interests of the whites by repressing the blacks,
we shall likewise object to an attempt on the part of the same authorities
in the native territories to protect the comfort of black men by degrading
black women. God knows that the lot of the black woman in South Africa
is bad as it is. One has but to read the report of the Commission recently
appointed by the Union Government to inquire into cases of assault on women
to find that their condition is getting worse. Presumably the evidence
was too bad for publication, but the report would seem to show
that in South Africa, a country where prostitution was formerly unknown,
coloured women are gradually perverted and demoralized into a cesspool
for the impurities of the family lives of all the nationalities
in the sub-continent.
In her primitive state, the native girl was protected against
seduction and moral ruin by drastic penalties against the seducer,
which safeguards have since the introduction of civilized rule
been done away with. With tribes just groping their way
from barbarism towards civilization natural hygienic and moral laws
have been trampled upon, and for this state of affairs
the white man's rule is not wholly free from blame. It should be a crime
to defile a potential mother and a woman should continue to be regarded
as the cradle of the race and her person remain sacred and inviolate
under the law, as was the case in former times.
The only charge that could be brought up against primitive native socialism
was that by tolerating polygamy it had incidentally legalized concubinage;
but taking all circumstances into consideration, it is doubtful
if the systematic prostitution of to-day is a happy substitution
for the polygamy of the past.
There were no mothers of unwanted babies; no orphanages, because there were
no stray children; the absence of extreme wealth and dire poverty
prevented destitution, and the Natives had little or no insanity;
they had no cancer or syphilis, and no venereal diseases
because they had no prostitutes.
Have we not a right to expect a better state of affairs
under civilized European rule?
It is apparently in revolt of similar horrible conditions
that when the war broke out, British and Continental women
were fighting for the vote with a view to liberating their sex and race
from kindred impurities, for the soul rises up in "divine discontent"
against a state of affairs which no nation should tolerate -- evils to which
the coloured women of South Africa are now a prey.
To this kind of degeneracy may also be traced the undoing
of the finer elements of the native social system, the undermining
of their health and of the erstwhile splendid physique of the African race
and the increasing loss of the stamina of our proverbially magnificent
men and women. The effect of these evils and of the abuses
inherent to the liquor traffic is manifest in several of the tribes
who are to-day but shadows of their former selves.
The safeguarding of our maidens and women folk from the evils of drink,
greed and outrages resulting from indefensible pass laws
and the elimination of bad habits among men by a rightful policy
will restore that efficiency, loyalty, and contentment which aforetime
were the boast of pioneer administrators in British South Africa,
and which if fostered will render them a magnificent asset to the Empire
for all time.
But as often as the coloured woman has been attacked she has humbly presented
"the other cheek". Evidence of her characteristic humility
is to be found in the action of the coloured women of the "Free" State,
whose persecution by the South African Government, at the instance of certain
"Free" State Municipalities, prompted the writing of this chapter.
After the war broke out (the Bloemfontein `Friend' tells us)
the native women of that city forgot their own difficulties,
joined sewing classes, and helped to send clothing to the afflicted Belgians
in Europe. Surely such useful members of the community deserve
the sympathy of every right-minded person who has a voice
in the conduct of British Colonial administration; so let us hope
that this humble appeal on their behalf will not be in vain.
Chapter VIII At Thaba Ncho: A Secretarial Fiasco
Man's inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn.
The beginning of September, 1913, found us in the Lady Brand district.
Besides numerous other sufferers of the land plague,
the writer was here informed of one case that was particularly distressing,
of a native couple evicted from a farm in the adjoining district.
After making a fruitless search for a new place of abode,
they took out a travelling pass to go to Basutoland with their stock.
But they never, so the story went, reached their destination.
We were told that they were ambushed by some Dutchmen,
who shot them down and appropriated their stock. To a stranger
the news would have been incredible, but, being a Free Stater born,
it sounded to us uncommonly like the occurrences that our parents said
they used to witness in the early days of that precious dependency.
We were further told that one of the Dutch murderers
had been arrested and was awaiting his trial at the next criminal sessions.
As both the native man and woman were shot, it seemed difficult to conceive
how the prosecution could find the necessary evidence to sustain
a charge of murder.
The trial duly came off at Bloemfontein a month or two later,
and the evidence in court seemed more direct and less circumstantial
than we had expected. For, not only were the stolen cattle found
in the possession of the prisoner, but the bullet picked up
near the bodies of the dead refugees (according to the evidence
given in court) fitted the prisoner's pistol. General Hertzog
personally attended the court at Bloemfontein and conducted the defence;
and, presumably more by his eloquence than anything else,
he convinced a white jury of the guiltlessness of the accused,
who was acquitted and acclaimed outside the court by his friends
as a hero. In justice to the police it must be added
that they re-arrested this man and charged him with the theft,
or with being in possession of the deceased Natives' cattle.
On this charge the prisoner was convicted before the Circuit Court
a few months later, and in sentencing him to three years, with hard labour,
the presiding judge is said to have made some references
to the previous trial and the manner in which the prisoner had escaped
the capital sentence.
From Lady Brand we travelled south towards Wepener, not far
from the Basuto frontier. Evictions around here were numerous,
but beyond the inevitable hardships of families suddenly driven
from home, they had not suffered any great amount of damage.
Being near to the Basuto border, a Native in these parts, when ejected,
can quickly take his stock across the boundary, and leaving them
in friendly pastures, under sympathetic laws, go away to look for a new place.
But it became abundantly clear that the influx of outsiders into Basutoland
could not continue at the rate it was then proceeding
without seriously complicating the land question in Basutoland,
where chieftains are constantly quarrelling over small patches of arable land.
A pitiable spectacle, however, was the sight of those who had been evicted
from the centre of the Orange "Free" State. It was heartrending
to hear them relate the circumstances of their expulsions,
and how they had spent the winter months roaming from farm to farm
with their famishing stock, applying in vain for a resting place.
Some farmers were apparently sympathetic, but debarred from entertaining
such applications by the sword of Damocles -- the 100 Pound fine
in Section 5 of the Natives' Land Act -- they had perforce to refuse
the applicants. The farms hereabout are owned by Boers and English settlers,
but many are owned by Germans, Jews, Russians, and other Continentals.
Some of the proprietors do not reside on the farms at all;
they are either Hebrew merchants or lawyers, living in the towns and villages
away from the farms. Many have no wish to part with the Natives,
who seem invariably to have treated their landlords well,
but they are forced to do so by the law.
It seems a curious commentary on the irony of things that South Africa,
which so tyrannically chases her own Natives from the country,
receives at this very time with open arms Polish, Finnish,
Russian and German Jews, who themselves are said to have fled
from the tyranny of their own Governments in Europe. With a vengeance,
it looks like "robbing Peter to pay Paul".
Standing by the side of a kopje, very early on that September morning,
it was a relief to see the majestic tops of the mountains of Basutoland,
silhouetted against the rising sun, beyond the Caledon River,
which separates the "Free" State from Basutoland.
A number of fugitives were at that time driving little lots of stock
across the broad and level flats which extend in the direction
of the Basutoland Protectorate. How comforting to know
that once they crossed the river, these exiles could
rest their tired limbs and water their animals without breaking any law.
Really until we saw those emaciated animals, it had never so forcibly
occurred to us that it is as bad to be a black man's animal
as it is to be a black man in South Africa.
To think that this "Free" State land from which these people are now expelled
was at one time, and should still be, part and parcel of Basutoland;
and to remember that the fathers of these Natives, who are now fleeing
from the "Free" State laws, were allies of the Boers, whom they assisted
to drive the Basutos from this habitable and arable part of their land;
that with their own rations, their own horses, their own rifles,
and often their own ammunition, they helped the Boers to force the Basutos
back into their present mountain recesses, and compelled them
to build fresh homes in all but uninhabitable mountain fastnesses,
in many instances inaccessible to vehicles of any kind,
in order (as was said at the time) to give themselves "more elbow-room";
to see them to-day fleeing from the laws of their perfidious Dutch allies,
expelled from the country for which they bled and for which
their fathers died; and to find that, at the risk of intensifying
their own domestic problems in their now diminutive and overcrowded
Mountain State, the Basutos are nobly offering an asylum to those
who had helped to deprive them of their country; and to remember
that this mean breach of faith, on the part of ex-Republicans towards
their native allies, is facilitated by the protection of the Union Jack,
sheds, in regard to the Basutos, a glorious ray of light
upon black human nature.
Look at these exiles swarming towards the Basuto border, some of them
with their belongings on their heads, driving their emaciated flocks
attenuated by starvation and the cold. The faces of some of the children,
too, are livid from the cold. It looks as if these people
were so many fugitives escaping from a war, with the enemy pressing hard
at their heels.
It was a distressing sight. We had never seen the likes of it
since the outbreak of the Boer War, near the Transvaal border,
immediately before the siege of Mafeking. Even that flight of 1899
had a buoyancy of its own, for the Boer War, unlike the present
stealthy war of extermination (the law which caused this flight),
was preceded by an ultimatum. But the sight of a people
who had loyally paid taxation put to flight in these halcyon times,
by a Parliament the huge salaries of whose members these very exiles,
although unrepresented in its body, have meekly helped to pay,
turned one's weeping eyes to Heaven, for, as Jean Paul says, "There above
is everything he can wish for here below." But if the Native of other days
has been sold by the perfidy of his Dutch allies of the day,
the British soldiers and British taxpayer of the present day
have been deceived by "we don't know who". They fought and died and paid
to unfurl the banner of freedom in this part of the globe,
and the spectacle before us is the result. This must be
what A. H. Keene referred to when he said, "The British public were also dumb,
and with that infinite capacity for being gulled which is so remarkable
in a people proud of their common sense, acquiesced in everything."
Visiting the farms, we found some native tenants under notice to leave.
We informed them that Mr. Edward Dower, the Secretary for Native Affairs,
would be in Thaba Ncho the following week, and advised them
to proceed to the town and lay their difficulties before
this high representative of the Union Government, with a request
for the use of his good offices to procure for them
the Governor-General's permission to live on farms,
a course provided in Section 1 of the Natives' Land Act.
We made no promises, as previous requests for such permission
had been invariably ignored. But we hoped that the Government Secretary's
meeting with the sufferers and speaking with them face to face
would soften the implacable red-tape and official circumlocution,
and perhaps even open the way towards a modification of the administration
of this legislative atrocity; but we were mistaken.
The meeting duly took place on Friday, September 12, 1913.
A thousand Natives gathered at the racecourse on the wide level country
between the railway station and Thaba Ncho town. A few historical facts
relative to Thaba Ncho might not be out of place.
Thaba Ncho (Mount Black) takes its name from the hill below which
the town is situated. Formerly this part of Africa was peopled by Bushmen
and subsequently by Basutos. The Barolong, a section of the Bechuana,
came here from Motlhanapitse, a place in the Western "Free" State,
to which place they had been driven by Mzilikasi's hordes from over the Vaal
in the early 'twenties. The Barolongs settled in Thaba Ncho
during the early 'thirties under an agreement with Chief Mosheshe.
The Seleka branch of the Barolong nation, under Chief Moroka,
after settling here, befriended the immigrant Boers who were on their way
to the north country from the south and from Natal during the 'thirties.
A party of immigrant Boers had an encounter with Mzilikasi's
forces of Matabele. Up in Bechuanaland the powerful Matabele
had scattered the other Barolong tribes and forced them
to move south and join their brethren under Moroka. Thus during the 'thirties
circumstances had formed a bond of sympathy between the Boers and Barolongs
in their mutual regard of the terrible Matabele as a common foe.
But the story of the relations between the Boers and the Barolong
needs no comment: it is consistent with the general policy of the Boers,
which, as far as Natives are concerned, draws no distinction
between friend and foe. It was thus that Hendrik Potgieter's Voortrekkers
forsook the more equitable laws of Cape Colony, particularly that relating
to the emancipation of the slaves, and journeyed north to establish
a social condition in the interior under which they might enslave the Natives
without British interference. The fact that Great Britain
gave monetary compensation for the liberated slaves did not apparently assuage
their strong feelings on the subject of slavery; hence they were anxious
to get beyond the hateful reach of British sway. They were sweeping
through the country with their wagons, their families, their cattle,
and their other belongings, when in the course of their march,
Potgieter met the Matabele far away in the Northern Free State
near a place called Vecht-kop. The trekkers made use of their firearms,
but this did not prevent them from being severely punished by the Matabeles,
who marched off with their horses and live stock and left the Boers
in a hopeless condition, with their families still exposed to further attacks.
Potgieter sent back word to Chief Moroka asking for assistance,
and it was immediately granted.
Chief Moroka made a general collection of draught oxen
from amongst his tribe, and these with a party of Barolong warriors
were sent to the relief of the defeated Boers, and to bring them back
to a place of safety behind Thaba Ncho Hill, a regular refugee camp,
which the Boers named "Moroka's Hoek". But the wayfarers
were now threatened with starvation; and as they were guests of honour
amongst his people, the Chief Moroka made a second collection of cattle,
and the Barolong responded with unheard-of liberality.
Enough milch cows, and sheep, and goats were thus obtained
for a liberal distribution among the Boer families, who, compared with
the large numbers of their hospitable hosts, were relatively few.
Hides and skins were also collected from the tribesmen,
and their tanners were set to work to assist in making veldschoens (shoes),
velbroeks (skin trousers), and karosses (sheepskin rugs)
for the tattered and footsore Boers and their children.
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