Native Life in South Africa, Before and Since the European War and the Boer Rebellion
Part 3 out of 8
The oxen which they received at Vechtkop they were allowed to keep,
and these came in very handy for ploughing and transport purposes.
No doubt the Rev. Mr. Archbell, the Wesleyan Methodist missionary and apostle
to the Barolong, played an active part on the Barolong Relief Committee,
and, at that time, there were no more grateful people on earth
than Hendrik Potgieter and his party of stricken voortrekkers.
After a rest of many moons and communicating with friends
at Cape Colony and Natal, the Dutch leader held a council of war
with the Barolong chiefs. He asked them to reinforce
his punitive expedition against the Matabele. Of course they were to use
their own materials and munitions and, as a reward, they were to retain
whatever stock they might capture from the Matabele; but the Barolongs
did not quite like the terms. Tauana especially told Potgieter
that he himself was a refugee in the land of his brother Moroka.
His country was Bechuanaland, and he could only accompany the expedition
on condition that the Matabele stronghold at Coenyane (now Western Transvaal)
be smashed up, Mzilikasi driven from the neighbourhood
and the Barolong returned to their homes in the land of the Bechuana,
the Boers themselves retaining the country to the east and the south
(now the "Free" State and the Transvaal). That this could be done
Tauana had no doubt, for since they came to Thaba Ncho, the Barolong had
acquired the use of firearms -- long-range weapons -- which were still unknown
to the Matabele, who only used hand spears. This was agreed to,
and a vow was made accordingly. To make assurance doubly sure,
Tauana sent his son Motshegare to enlist the co-operation of a Griqua
by the name of Pieter Dout, who also had a bone to pick with the Matabele.
Pieter Dout consented, and joined the expedition with a number of mounted men,
and for the time being the Boer-Barolong-Griqua combination
proved a happy one. The expedition was successful beyond
the most sanguine expectations of its promoters. The Matabele were routed,
and King Mzilikasi was driven north, where he founded
the kingdom of Matabeleland -- now Southern Rhodesia -- having left the allies
to share his old haunts in the south.
This successful expedition was the immediate outcome of the friendly alliance
between the Boers in the "Free" State and Moroka's Barolong at Thaba Ncho.
But Boers make bad neighbours in Africa, and, on that account,
the Government of the "Free" State thereafter proved a continual menace
to the Basuto, their neighbours to the east. Pretexts were readily found
and hostile inroads constantly engineered against the Basuto
for purposes of aggression, and the friendliness of the Barolong
was frequently exploited by the Boers in their raids,
undertaken to drive the Basuto further back into the mountains.
This, however, must be said to the honour of the mid-nineteenth century
"Free" Staters, in contrast to the "Free" Staters of later date:
that the earlier "Free" Staters rewarded the loyalty of their Barolong allies
by recognizing and respecting Thaba Ncho as a friendly native State;
but it must also be stated that the bargain was all in the favour of one side;
thereby all the land captured from the Basuto was annexed to the "Free" State,
while the dusky warriors of Moroka, who bore the brunt of the battles,
got nothing for their pains. So much was this the case that Thaba Ncho,
which formerly lay between the "Free" State and Basutoland,
was subsequently entirely surrounded by "Free" State territory.
Eventually Chief Moroka died, and a dispute ensued between his sons
concerning the chieftainship. Some Boers took sides in this dispute
and accentuated the differences. In 1884, Chief Tsipinare,
Moroka's successor, was murdered after a night attack
by followers of his brother Samuel, assisted by a party of "Free" State Boers.
It is definitely stated that the unfortunate chief valiantly defended himself.
He kept his assailants at bay for the best part of the day
by shooting at them through the windows of his house,
which they had surrounded; and it was only by setting fire to the house
that they managed to get the chief out, and shoot him. As a matter of fact
the house was set on fire by the advice of one of the Boers,
and it is said that it was a bullet from the rifle of one of these Boers
that killed Chief Tsipinare.
President Brand, the faithful ally of the dead chieftain,
called out the burghers who reached Thaba Ncho after the strife was over.
He annexed Thaba Ncho to the "Free" State, and banished the rival chief
from "Free" State territory, with all his followers.
The Dutch members of the party which assassinated the chief
were put upon a kind of trial, and discharged by a white jury at Bloemfontein.
Of course, Boers could not be expected to participate in any adventure
which did not immediately lead to land grabbing. But, fortunately for
some Barolongs, the dead chief had in his lifetime surveyed some farms
and granted freehold title to some of the tribesmen. In fact,
his death took place while he was engaged in that democratic undertaking.
The Boer Government, which annexed the territory, confiscated all the land
not yet surveyed, and passed a law to the effect that those Barolongs
who held individual title to land could only sell their farms to white people.
It must, however, be added that successive Boer Presidents
have always granted written exemptions from this drastic measure.
So that any Native who wanted to buy a farm could always do so
by applying for the President's permission, while, of course,
no permission was necessary to sell to a white man; several Natives,
to the author's knowledge, have thus bought farms from Natives,
and also from white men, by permission of the State President,
and the severity of the prohibition was never felt. But after
the British occupation in 1900, the Natives keenly felt this measure,
as the Governor, when appealed to by a Native for permission to buy a farm,
always replied that he had no power to break the law.
Thus, under the Union Jack, sales have gone on from black to white,
but none from white to black, or even from black to black.
In the crowd which met Mr. Dower that morning were two Barolong young men
who had lately inherited a farm each under the will of their deceased uncle,
and the law will not permit the Registrar of Deeds to give them title
to their inheritance; their numerous representations to the Union authorities
have only met with promises, while lawyers have taken advantage of the hitch
to mulct them in more money than the land is worth. The best legal advice
they have received is that they should sell their inheritances to white men.
Now the Natives' Land Act, as applied to the whole Union of South Africa,
is modelled on these highly unsatisfactory conditions relating to land
in the "Free" State. The six months' imprisonment, the 100 Pounds fine,
and other penalties for infringement of the Land Act, are borrowed from
Chapter XXXIV of the "Free" State laws, to which reference is made
in Section 7 of the Natives' Land Act. Section 8 of the Natives' Land Act
is a re-enactment of some of the reprehensible "Free" State land laws
which had been repealed by the Crown Colony Government
after the British occupation in 1900. When the Natives' Land Bill
was before Parliament the Opposition moved that the remaining native farms
be scheduled as a native area, where Natives might purchase farms,
of course from other Natives. The passage of such an amendment
was more than could be expected as the real object of the Natives' Land Bill
was to block every possible means whereby a Native may acquire land
from a Native, or from any one else; but when the motion was rejected
the Natives of Thaba Ncho were exceedingly alarmed. They telegraphed
their fears to Mr. Sauer, who promised to visit them when Parliament rose,
but his purpose was frustrated by his death, immediately after
the passage of the Act.
To return to Mr. Dower's meeting, the Native Affairs Secretary
received a warm welcome from the Natives, who hoped that his coming
would show them a way out of their dilemma. As already stated,
a thousand Natives came from the surrounding farms, some on horseback,
others on bicycles, and other conveyances such as carts, wagons, etc.;
they included evicted wanderers and native tenants under notice
to leave their farms, with letters of eviction and other evidence
in their pockets; they included some refugees, who had likewise been evicted
from other districts -- refugees who, as one of them put it,
were "constantly on the move, and hurried hither to plead for shelter
for our homeless families, now living in wagons."
The morning was showery. Thaba Ncho Hill in the background,
always visible for scores of miles in every direction, towered high above
the surrounding landscape. Its stony slopes covered with a light mist
from peak to base, it stood like a silent witness to the outraged treaty
between the Barolong and the Boers.
Mr. Dower, who was accompanied by his secretary (Mr. Apthorpe) and
the Thaba Ncho Magistrate (Major Robertson) and the Location Superintendent,
addressed the Natives for half an hour. The speeches were
correctly interpreted by Mr. Jeremiah Makgothi, a native farmer,
and formerly a local school teacher, who collaborated
with Canon Crisp in the translation of the Scriptures into Serolong
for the world-renowned S.P.C.K. The Rev. P. K. Motiyane,
the local Wesleyan minister, also assisted in the task of interpretation.
Mr. Dower made some pathetic references to the life and work
of the late Hon. J. W. Sauer, the great Cape politician
who had just passed away; then he proceeded to refer at length
to sundry inconsequential topics of minor local significance;
and, having repeated his great pleasure at seeing them,
without making a single reference to the momentous measure
that was ravaging the Natives of the country, the Government Secretary
resumed his seat amidst looks of astonishment and consternation
from the assembled Natives.
The Rev. J. D. Goronyane, a gentleman who, as secretary to the late chiefs,
played a leading part in the Boer-Barolong relations
of the nineteenth century, was the next speaker. He thanked the Secretary
for coming. No people, he said, regretted Mr. Sauer's death
more than the Barolong; they had looked forward to meeting him
in connexion with the new cloud now looming over the country
in the shape of the Land Act, and they were sorry that his coming
had been frustrated by a Higher Power. Turning to Mr. Dower, he said:
"All the people you see before you are frightened by the new law.
They have come here for nothing else but to hear how they are expected
to live under it."
Other speakers followed, but when the actual sufferers began
to narrate their experiences there were so many who wished to come forward
that the leaders decided that, their cases being more or less similar,
they should wait and hear how the representative of the Government
would deal with the cases of those who had already spoken.
MR. DOWER'S REPLY
He regretted that, as one speaker had said, some people read the Act
through the spectacles coloured by their desires. Others seemed
to be glad at the uncertainty and endeavoured to keep on turning
the wheel of discontent. It was true that some people were imposing
on the Natives, but, on the whole, there was a reasonable desire
to comply with the Act, although it was not always properly understood.
Few individuals had been evicted, though many had received notice.
Some of the notices given under a misapprehension, and with a desire
not to contravene the Act, had, since the Magistrates' explanations,
actually been withdrawn. "So your best course is to explain the facts
to your Magistrates, if possible, in the presence of the master."
(A Voice: "Who'll bring him there?") After explaining
that the principle of the Act was a first step towards
territorial segregation, Mr. Dower said it gave protection
to some parts of the country which formerly were not so protected.
He mentioned as an instance that more than one-half of the farms
formerly owned by Natives in that district were no longer in their possession.
In other Provinces THE ACT WAS RESTRICTIVE, while IN THE FREE STATE
IT WAS PROHIBITIVE. The old practice of "sowing on the halves"
might continue so long as the lawfully executed contracts lasted;
but at the expiration of those contracts the practice should cease,
as Parliament had decided on its abolition. It amounted to a partnership
between a white man and a black man. With a civilized Native
the system might have been good, but a raw Native always got
the worst of the partnership. He would advise them to make
the best temporary arrangements within the four corners of the law.
It might be by adopting one of three alternatives: (1) Become servants
(in which case it would be legal for a master to give them pieces of land
to plough and graze a number of stock); or (2) move into the reserve --
(voices: "Where is the reserve?"); or (3) dispose of the stock for cash.
(Sensation.) The arrangement would only be temporary until Parliament
took further steps in terms of the Commission's report. It would be better
than trekking from pillar to post, till all the cattle had died out,
and eventually returning penniless. Farmers always had the right
to evict their native tenants. (A voice: "But we could go elsewhere.")
Because some old laws which had been repealed had now been re-enacted,
let them not think that there was a desire to oppress.
"They may have been unjust, as you say, but understand that this law
is not the last thing said by Parliament. A final settlement must depend
on the recommendations of the Commission, and such action will be taken
as will be to the lasting interests of white and black.
The Lands Commission has already held its first sitting,
and you will be serving your best interests by bringing all your information
to the Magistrate, so that it be laid before the Commission.
Show by your wise action that you are inspired by the justice of your case.
The course of agitation will not help you. Remove suspicions and mistrust
from your minds, and bring cases of real hardships to the Magistrate,
who will see that this Act is administered as smoothly as possible.
But THE ACT DOES NOT PROVIDE FOR ANY SPECIAL CASES IN THE FREE STATE
being submitted to the Governor-General under the first section of the Act."
The concluding statement settled the minds of those who
had expected from the Government any protection against the law,
and the disappointment under which the meeting broke up was indescribable.
This law is full of rude shocks, and this day this spokesman of the Government
told the Natives that in the other three Provinces the Governor-General
will only exercise his right in exceptional cases, while in the "Free" State
the law did not permit him to exercise it even in such cases,
so that the Government alone knows why that provision was inserted.
Chapter IX The Fateful 13
He hath disgraced me and laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains,
scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends,
heated mine enemies; and what is his reason? I am a Kafir.
Hath not a Kafir eyes? hath not a Kafir hands, organs, dimensions,
senses, affections, passions? Is he not fed with the same food,
hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases,
healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same summer and winter
as a white Afrikander?
If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh?
If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us,
shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest,
we will resemble you in that.
Merchant of Venice.
The Natives of South Africa, generally speaking, are intensely superstitious.
The fact that they are more impressionable than tractable causes them,
it seems, to take naturally to religion, and seems a flat contradiction
of Junius's assertion that "there are proselytes from atheism,
but none from superstition." With some South African tribes
it is unlucky to include goats amongst the animals paid
by a young man's parents as the dowry for his bride; it was equally bad
to pay dowry in odd numbers of cattle. The payment must be made
in an even number of oxen, sheep, or other animals or articles,
such as two, four, six, eight, ten, and so on. The man who could not afford
more than one sheep to seal the marriage contract would have
to exchange his goat for a sheep to make up a presentable pair.
If he were too poor to do that, a needle or any other article
was admissible to make up the dowry to an even number,
and so avoid giving one or three, or more odd numbers of articles.
Conscious as they were of the existence of some Supreme Being,
but worshipping no God, true or false, the white man's religion
which makes such a worship obligatory through a mediator found easy access
among so susceptible a people; and with equal ease they likewise adopted
the civilization of the white man. But the Natives received
not only the white man's civilization and his religion,
but have even gullibly imbibed his superstitions. Thus is
their dread of the figure 13 accounted for. The Native witch-doctors
in the early days took advantage of their credulity, whilst civilized people
traded on their susceptibilities, and the semi-civilized Natives also traded
upon the fears of their more impressionable brethren.
To give a concrete case or two, we might say that when
the main reservoir of the Kimberley waterworks was built,
one of the labourers one week-end lost the whole of his weekly pay.
He inquired, and searched everywhere he could think of,
but nobody had seen his missing purse. But on Monday morning
he conceived a plan for the recovery of his lost purse.
In pursuance of this plan, on the Monday he asked for and obtained a day off;
then he declared to the gang of labourers that he was going
to the nearest location to consult a bone-thrower. Instead of going
to the location, however, he went to the open country, gathered some plants,
returned to the dormitories while the others were at work, boiled the herbs
in a pot of water and put it aside to cool. When the workmen returned
for their midday meal he announced an imaginary consultation he had had
with the bone-thrower, and that that functionary had divined
the whereabouts of the purse; it was to the effect that the purse
had been stolen and was in the possession of a fellow-worker.
"The doctor," he said, "gave me some herbs. I have cooked them,
and by his direction each of you is invited to immerse his hands
in the decoction which is now cool. If you are not the thief,
nothing would happen to you, but to the one who has stolen my money,"
he added with emphasis, "the doctor said that the medicine
will snap the thief's fingers clean off and leave him only with the palm."
One by one the men dipped their hands in the "medicine",
and as they took turns at the pot, one young fellow at length
became visibly disturbed, and believing that the concoction was true,
he confessed to the theft and undertook to refund the money,
rather than lose his fingers.
Another case was this. "A Transkeian missionary once heard
of the serious indisposition of a Native. It was not a natural sickness,
it was believed, but was the effect of sorcery, and news in that sense
was noised abroad. Such cases primitive Natives believe
to be beyond the skill of a medical man. White doctors,
they would say, know next to nothing at all about such things.
They do not believe in witchcraft and how could they be expected
to be able to smell it out of a patient. Only a witch-doctor
-- if he is more skilful -- can smell out and subdue the charm
directed by another witch-doctor into the body of the bewitched.
Having heard this piece of native philosophy on witchcraft,
the missionary startled the Natives by telling them in their own tongue
that he could cure the disease. And he did cure it.
He captured a baby lizard from the rocks which abound
in the craggy undulations of most parts of the Transkei.
He hid it in the inside pocket of his coat and proceeded to the sick-bed
with some real medicines in his hand. "When a man who is not sick
imagines himself sick," says Dr. Kellogg, "he must be sick indeed,"
and truly, in accordance with this saying, the Native was dangerously ill.
A bone-thrower, who had in the presence and hearing of the sick man
divined his malady, pronounced that he was not only bewitched by a snake,
but also that the reptile was within him and was eating him to death.
In these circumstances the missionary administered an emetic
to the reluctant patient, in the presence of some incredulous spectators,
who had never known a white man to extract a reptile
from the person of a bewitched Native. Further, by some agility of the hand,
the missionary produced from his pocket unobserved, just as
the emetic was acting, the baby lizard he had taken from the rocks.
So smartly was this done that everybody, including the patient,
believed the reptile to have been extracted from his body
by the power of the medicine administered by the missionary.
The sick man at once stood up and walked, and the missionary was known,
by all who witnessed the marvel, as the greatest witch-doctor
of the neighbourhood.
In like manner, when some civilized Christians made remarks
on New Year's Day about the figure 13, there was much gossiping
among the more superstitious Natives as to the form of trouble
which the year 1913 had in store for the Natives, although none knew
that a revolutionary law of Draconian severity would be launched
in their midst during this eventful year.
The powerful African potentate, Menelik of Abyssinia
(whose death had been falsely circulated no fewer than seven times
during the past dozen years), really died in 1913.
Letsie II, paramount chief of the semi-independent Basuto nation,
departed this life during this same year.
Dinizulu (son of the great Cetewayo, whose impis slew the Prince Imperial
in 1879), who was born to inherit the throne of his fathers, and who lived
to be one of the most disappointed men of his day, spent many years
in prison and in exile, and was known in his lifetime as the Black Napoleon;
was released from prison by the Union Government, and given back
his pension of 500 Pounds per annum. Sharing the hopes of his people
that in accordance with the Government's erstwhile good intentions
now tottering before a growing Republicanism, Zululand would be restored
to the Zulus, and he established as their ruler under the Crown. He, too,
died in the year 1913.
An unusually large number of good and noble men of greater or lesser renown
were gathered to their fathers during this year.
It is perhaps not generally known that few British statesmen
did so much for the South African Natives, in so short a term of service
at the Colonial Office, as the Hon. A. Lyttleton. And he, too, left us
rather suddenly during this troublous year of 1913. In this year, too,
South Africa was visited by a drought which for severity was pronounced to be
unprecedented in the knowledge of all the old inhabitants.
Remarks -- some pithy, some ugly -- were made upon the drought by Dutchmen.
They all remembered how the God of their fathers used to send them
nice soaking rains regularly each spring-time, and that it usually continued
to nourish the plants and other of the country's vegetation
throughout the summer, and they concluded that there must be some reason
why He does not do it now. The majority of Dutchmen whom the writer
thus overheard attributed the visitation to the sins of the foreigners,
who are fast buying up the country, and cursing it by settling godless people
upon it. One or two saw in it the vengeance of the Supreme Being
for the unnecessary persecution of His black creatures, but they were afraid
to say this aloud. "See," said one, "is the drought not worse
in the `Free' State where Kafirs seem to be very hard hit by this new law?"
This was true. Dutchmen's cattle were dying of poverty in the "Free" State,
and the land was so parched in some parts that it seemed difficult
to believe that grass could ever grow in these places again,
supposing the long-looked-for rain came at last.
On our birthday, October 9, 1913, they hanged four murderers
who had been condemned to death at the preceding criminal sessions.
The selection of the morning of our birthday for the execution
of four prisoners at our home was curious as executions in Kimberley
take place only about once or twice in ten years. The event, of course,
was purely accidental; but middle-aged Natives seemed
to have an aptitude for remembering catastrophes which,
in the lives of their fathers and their fathers' fathers,
followed such coincidences. Whilst the executions were taking place,
on the morning of our birthday, an ugly ocean tragedy
was taking place away out on the Atlantic. The `Vulturno' was ablaze
with a number of passengers on board. Innocent white men and women
were being roasted alive, because the sea was too rough
to permit their transfer from the burning ship to the rescuing liners;
and so they perished, literally, "between the devil and the deep sea" --
within full view of relief.
Dutchmen as a rule are like Natives in that they live as long as they can,
and die only when they must; but in the Transvaal a Dutch farmer
all but exterminated his family on this day with a revolver,
which he had previously secured for the purpose. On this day also
the mind of an English miner at Randfontein having suddenly become unhinged,
he shot his wife, his baby, and his aunt, then coolly pocketing the pistol,
he cycled down to the school, called out his two children,
shot them down in cold blood, and retired to a quiet place
where he put an end to his own life. During that fateful week
in which disaster followed disaster in rapid succession,
there occurred the following, namely, the colliery disaster at Cardiff,
which left a thousand dependents without breadwinners, to say nothing
of the damage to property, which is estimated at over 100,000 Pounds.
There were also railway accidents and aviation disasters,
causing damage to life and property. There were commercial troubles
due to the Johannesburg strike in July, and this effect of the strike
indicates the influence exercised by the "golden city"
over South African commerce. In that sad upheaval in the labour world
many innocent people lost their lives and property, and unfortunately,
as is always the case, besides adding largely to the taxpayers' burdens,
seriously affected people who had nothing to do with the strike.
Yet when some of our friends expressed thankfulness that the year did not have
thirteen months, we were obstinate enough to refuse to waste valuable time
in considering the subject.
Individuals, like communities, suffered heavily from one cause or another
in the year 1913. Thus the writer's little family also had
its baptism of sorrow. On New Year's Day of that year 1913,
his little boy, a robust child of three months, was prattling in the house.
He first saw the light in the last quarter of 1912, on the very day
we opened and christened our printing office, so we named him after
the great inventor of printing type: he was christened Johann Gutenberg.
Somehow or other he could never keep well after the New Year,
for though he tried to look pleasant, it was visibly
under serious difficulties. It had been our fortune,
during a married life of fifteen years, to keep our children
in remarkably good health; but the health of this little fellow
showed unmistakable evidence that this immunity was reaching its end.
Vehement attacks of whooping cough now overtook the little ones.
The others got rid of it during the winter months, but with Gutenberg
the disease developed into inflammation of this organ, and of that;
and taking the whole year from January to December, it would not be too much
to say that the little boy scarcely enjoyed three full months of good health.
And by the end of the year it was clear that he was going the way
of half a dozen cousins who were gathered into eternity
all during one month -- December, 1913. Before the New Year was a week old,
the doctor, who had then become a regular member of the family,
gave us the final warning.
For a month past loving aunts had tenderly relieved the child's
inexperienced parents of the daily ministrations and of the more exacting
night watches. After the doctor's warning there came "the calm
before the storm". It only lasted for one day; the deceptive strength
which had temporarily buoyed the little patient up was now passing away
and the inevitable reaction was setting in. Oh, if he were only a year older
so that he could have communicated to us by speech his feelings and his wants!
His little body, which stood the long sickness with such fortitude, got frail.
His bright eyes, high forehead and round cheeks remained, however, to defy
the waste of the disease. The parson came and uttered words of encouragement.
"Symptoms of death," he said, pointing to the sick-bed
(and he was no novice in such matters) "were very far from there,"
but the surroundings of the sick-bed seemed to us to ring out the command
with a force as strong as six peals of thunder, saying "Suffer little children
to come unto Me," and such Divine orders, comprehensible only to those
to whom they are issued, took precedence of any words of encouragement
that may be uttered by a mortal minister of religion.
That these good men of God know the ways of their Master is patent
in that they always couple the encouragement to the sick,
or to the friends of the sick, with the advice to surrender
to the Divine injunction. The grandmother of the child was composed.
"When the Lord's will is to be done," she said, "no mortal can stay it,"
but his aunts were restless. "Go, call the doctor at once,"
they demanded. He came, gave a solemn look and stood silent.
After feeling the pulse he said: "The child has collapsed.
I have done all I could and can do no more." Next came the anxious looks
of the other attendants, the footfalls of inquiring neighbours,
messages to nearer and further relatives about the pronounced "collapse".
This was at noon, and each one expected that he could hold out for two hours
at the most; but he breathed throughout the afternoon with a gallantry
that was wonderful in its way. His large round eyes turned upward
as though they had become blind to their immediate surroundings.
It seemed that those eyes could no longer see the objects in the room
and its anxious inmates; truly they could no longer see
the sun or the moon and stars that night. Kimberley was no longer a home
to the little chap whose short lease of life was clearly drawing to an end.
A new outlook seemed to have dawned over his now brightening face.
His eyes were riveted on the New Jerusalem, the City of God,
and he seemed to be in full communion with the dear little cousins
who preceded him thither during the previous month. Evidently they
were beckoning him to leave this wicked South Africa and everything in it,
and come to eternal glory. In this condition we left him
early in the afternoon to answer the call of our daily and nightly drudgery
-- it would be gross extravagance to call it "duty" -- an occupation
which has no reverence for mournful occasions. At 9.15 p.m.,
just about the time of his birth sixteen months before, the little soul
was relieved of its earthly bonds.
There he lay robed in a simple white gown, his motionless form
being an eloquent testimony of the indelible gap left in our domestic circle
as a visitation of 1913. But the celestial expression of his face,
his deep-brown colour, and his closed eyelids, seemed to say to us:
"Be at ease, I have conquered."
Still, it must be confessed that to us this wrench was
a most painful experience, and that the doctrine of "Thy will be done"
was found to be a great deal more than a mere profession of faith.
The sympathies of relatives, friends, and other mourners,
their deeds and words of condolence, followed by a solemn religious service,
took the sting out of the affliction, although it must again be confessed
that so deep was our sorrow for the dead child's mother that for some time
we could not bear to look her in the face.
Painful and unusual solemnities and formulae were gone through
during the next day, and these again were lightened by
the kind and sympathetic assistance of genuine friends,
like Messrs. Joseph Twayi, H. S. Poho, and others, some of them delegates
to a Temperance Conference then sitting in Kimberley.
In the absence of the pastors of St. Paul's Mission, who were both
attending the annual synod at Pniel, two Wesleyan ministers --
Rev. Jonathan Motshumi of Kimberley, and Rev. Shadrach Ramailane of Fauresmith
-- took charge of the funeral service, and a row of carriages
followed the hearse to the West End Cemetery.
As the procession turned round Cooper's corner into Green Street, Kimberley,
something caused us to look out of the carriage window;
we then caught sight of one of the carriages that formed the procession
in which some little girl friends and relatives of the deceased were driving,
their plain white dresses relieved only by a scrap of black ribbon
here and there. Their silent sympathy, expressed with
girlish shyness, was evident, though their snow-white dresses
were in striking contrast to the colour of their carriage and of the horses,
and the sombre black of the rest of the funeral party.
As we saw the solemn procession and heard the clank of the horses' hoofs,
we were suddenly reminded of that journey in July, 1913,
when we met that poor wandering young family of fugitives
from the Natives' Land Act. A sharp pang went through us,
and caused our heart to bleed as we recalled the scene of their night funeral,
forced on them by the necessity of having to steal a grave
on the moonless night, when detection would be less easy.
Every man in this country, we thought, be he a Russian,
Jew, Peruvian, or of any other nationality, has a claim
to at least six feet of South African soil as a resting place after death,
but those native outcasts, who in the country of their birth,
as a penalty for the colour of their skin, are made by the Union Parliament
to lead lives like that awarded to Cain for his crime of fratricide,
they might, as in the case of that wandering family, be even denied
a sepulchre for their little ones.
The solemnity of the funeral procession, of which we formed the mainmast,
almost entirely disappeared from our mind, to be succeeded
by the spirit of revolt against this impious persecution
as these things came before us. What have our people done
to these colonists, we asked, that is so utterly unforgivable,
that this law should be passed as an unavoidable reprisal?
Have we not delved in their mines, and are not a quarter of a million of us
still labouring for them in the depths of the earth in such circumstances
for the most niggardly pittance? Are not thousands of us
still offering up our lives and our limbs in order that South Africa
should satisfy the white man's greed, delivering 50,000,000 Pounds
worth of minerals every year? Have we not quarried the stones,
mixed, moulded and carried the mortar which built the cities of South Africa?
Have we not likewise prepared the material for building the railways?
Have we not obsequiously and regularly paid taxation every year,
and have we not supplied the Treasury with money to provide free education
for Dutch children in the "Free" State and Transvaal, while we had to find
additional money to pay the school fees of our own children?
Are not many of us toiling in the grain fields and fruit farms,
with their wives and their children, for the white man's benefit?
Did not our people take care of the white women -- all the white women,
including Boer fraus -- whose husbands, brothers and fathers were away
at the front -- in many cases actively engaged in shattering our own liberty?
But see their appreciation and gratitude! Oh, for something to --
Strike flat the thick rotundity o' the world!
Crack Nature's moulds, all germins spill at once!
That make ungrateful man!
When one is distressed in mind there is no greater comforter
than an appropriate Scriptural quotation. Our bleeding heart
was nowhere in the present procession, which apparently
could take care of itself, for we had returned in thought
to the July funeral of the veld and its horrid characteristics;
and a pleasant reaction set in when we recalled a verse of Matthew which says:
"The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests,
but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head." How very Christlike
was that funeral of the veld. It resembled the Messiah's
in that it had no carriages, no horses, no ordained ministers,
nor a trained choir singing the remains into their final resting place.
The veld funeral party, like the funeral party of the Son of Man,
was in mortal fear of the representatives of the law; it, like that party,
had not the light of the sun, nor the light of a candle,
which charitable friends in our day would usually provide
for the poorest of the poor under ordinary circumstances.
Still, it was not cold at Golgotha, or should not be to-day
as it was on the first Good Friday; but even the Madonna and the disciples
must have had some house in which to gather to discuss the situation.
One of the most astounding things in connexion with
the unjust treatment of the Natives by the Whites of South Africa
is the profound silence of the Dutch Reformed Church,
which practically is now the State Church of South Africa.
This Christian body does not only exclude coloured worshippers
from participating in its services, but would arraign them before the law,
or otherwise violently assault them should they visit its places of worship
at other times.
When it is remembered that the predikants of the Dutch Reformed Church
in the old Republics dare not pronounce the benediction
on a coloured congregation, we think it will not be considered
unfair to say that the calculatingly outrageous treatment
of the coloured races of South Africa by the Boer section of that community
is mainly due from the sanction it receives from the Dutch Reformed Church.
If the predikants of the Dutch Reformed Church would
but tell their congregations that it was gross libel on the Christian faith,
which they profess, to treat human beings as they treat those
with loathsome disease -- except when it is desired to exploit the benefits,
such as their taxes and their labour which these outraged human beings
confer upon the Dutch: we say that if the predikants
would but instruct their congregations so, then this stain,
which so greatly disfigures the Christian character of the Boers
would be removed.
The Dutch almost worship their religious teachers; and they will continue
these cruelties upon the Natives as long as they believe that they have
the approval of the Church. Let the predikants then tell their people
that tyranny is tyrannical even though the victims are of a different race,
and the South African Dutch will speedily abandon that course.
Just two instances by way of illustration. Ten years ago we attended
an election meeting at Burghersdorp, a typical Dutch constituency at the Cape.
The present Minister of Railways and Harbours was wooing the constituency,
and he appeared to be the favourite candidate among three others.
Dutchmen from the surrounding farms flocked to attend the meeting.
The speeches were all in the Taal. No hall in the town was large enough
to hold the number that came, so the four candidates addressed the gathering
in the Market Square. This was how Mr. Burton asked the Dutch electors
for their votes: "Whenever you speak of making South Africa comfortable
to Afrikanders, do not forget that the blacks are the original Afrikanders.
We found them in this country, and no policy can possibly succeed which aims
at the promotion of the interests of one section of the Afrikander race
to the neglect of another section."
There were a few native listeners in the throng, and we blacks
at once thought that the speaker had held out the red-rag to the bull,
and that every word of this candid statement would cost him
at least fifty Dutch votes. But we were agreeably surprised,
for the open air rang with the loud cheers and "Hoor, hoors"*
from hundreds of leather-lunged Boers. One old farmer turned round to Tommy
-- the blackest Native in the crowd -- held him by the shoulders,
and shouted as brusquely as his tongue could bend to the vernacular:
"Utloa, utloa, utloa!"**
* "Hear, hear", in Dutch.
** "Hear, hear", in Sesuto.
Mr. Burton was returned at the head of the poll.
A more recent instance: In 1913, the South African Asiatic laws
operated so harshly against British Indians that Westminster and Bombay
demanded instant reform. In deference to this outside intervention
the Union Government appointed the Solomon Commission
to inquire into the matter. While the investigations were in progress,
emphatic protests were constantly uttered against this "outside interference".
Some of the South Africans went as far as to assert that "if Imperialism
meant a `coolie'* domination in South Africa, then it was about time
that South Africa severed her Imperial bonds." The clamourers
who designated the inquiry as a concession to outsiders
seemed almost to dictate to the Commission not to recommend anything
that "savours of a surrender to the coolies".*
* A contemptuous South African term for British Indians.
But when General Smuts, in terms of the Commission's report
and as a concession to Anglo-Indian feeling, tabled a Bill in 1914,
to amend the hardships before they had been a year in operation, the clamour
at once died down; and we have not heard that any one in South Africa
was a penny the poorer as a result of this "outside interference",
and its consequent "surrender to the coolies".
Dutchmen only follow their leaders. Hence, let the leaders
direct them into cruel ways as they are seemingly doing
at the present time, then if Mr. Burton's assertions be right
(and we think no one will deny that he is right when he says
the one-sided policy can never succeed), these leaders,
instead of producing a South Africa which is rich and contented,
will only succeed in producing a South Africa which is poor and discontented.
Those, too, who wish well for South Africa and are at the same time
sympathizers of the present Government, let them also strive to induce
the Ministry to cease its policy of dilly-dallying and of equivocation
at the expense of the coloured tax-payers. So that the Dutch
throughout South Africa, as did the Dutch of Cape Colony,
under the able leadership of Jan Hendrik Hofmeyr, may pursue a fresh course --
the course of political righteousness. When the Labour Party discover
that white votes alone will not give it the reins of Government, its leaders
will most probably advocate a native franchise in the Northern Colonies
similar to the native franchise of the Cape. And we can assure them
that the first man who would successfully tackle such a problem
will not only secure for his party the votes thus created,
but that sheer gratitude will in future place at his disposal
the coloured vote of the Cape as well.
It is also our belief, in regard to the Dutch, that if a trusted leader
from among them were to propose a native franchise for the Northern Provinces,
the proposal would ultimately be accepted.
The predikants of the Dutch Reformed Church, who largely influence
the leadership of the South African Dutch, ought to know
that the English colonist can be just as devilish as the Boers
on questions of colour; and that some of them, with their
superior means and education have almost out-Boered the Boer in this matter;
but that even they have been held in check by the restraint
imposed upon them by the English Churches in the country.
Thus, knowing the Dutchman's obedience to the commands of his pastor,
we are afraid that if ever there come a day of reckoning
for the multifarious accumulation of wrongs done to the Natives,
the Dutch Reformed Church, owing to its silent consent to all these wrongs,
will have a lot to answer for.
Chapter X Dr. Abdurahman, President of the A.P.O. /
Dr. A. Abdurahman, M.P.C.
(Native of the Cape, and M.B.C. of Edinburgh)
President of the African Political Organization
on the South African Colour Trouble
The following presidential address was delivered by Dr. Abdurahman
at Kimberley on September 29, 1913, at the opening of the tenth annual
Conference of the A.P.O. His Worship Councillor E. Oppenheimer,
Mayor of Kimberley, presided: --
Nearly two years have elapsed since we last met in Conference --
two years crowded with events that have an important bearing
on the future of South Africa, and especially on the Coloured races.
Thanks, however, to the A.P.O. newspaper, every intelligent Coloured man is
acquainted with those events, and there is no need for me to dwell in detail
on any one of them. Nevertheless, a cursory enumeration will be desirable
in order to answer certain questions I propose to submit to you: it will be
further necessary to make a retrospect of the conditions that prevailed
at the time when White South Africa, amid exuberant exultations,
and a chorus of hosannahs, wildly welcomed the Act of Union
as a beacon light, that would blaze down through ages of history,
indicating the commencement of peace and prosperity for the land,
and the birth of a new nation -- the foundation of a new nationalism.
Ushered in by its authors with the blare of trumpets,
and with an incense of self-adulation for their vaunted achievement,
it surely cannot have belied their sanguine hopes, and proved to have been
nothing more than a dream of Alnaschar. Whether Europeans
are wholly satisfied with the results of Union is their business;
but I think we are warranted in looking for some indication
of the fruits of that Act from our point of view. But, before doing so,
let us take a cursory glance at the condition of the Coloured races
in pre-Union days, and then, after a rapid review of the legislation
since that memorable date, we will ask ourselves: How have those events
impressed the minds of the Coloured races, and what is our duty
to ourselves and to our country?
Such are the questions that I propose to put myself to-night,
and I shall endeavour to answer them in the most candid and straightforward
manner possible. Justice and equity are our demands --
are inherent rights of every man, especially a free-born British subject,
even in South Africa. Heedless, therefore, as to whether some of our views
please or displease the privileged section of this country's population,
we are in duty bound to speak out our honest convictions
boldly and fearlessly. I shall endeavour to state my opinions, therefore,
without any heat, but with a cold, passionless calmness that is possible
only to those who, despite bitter experiences, base their remarks
on stern facts and undeniable realities.
Of late, it has become the fashion in the Press of the Union
to dub any one who has to utter unpleasant truths an emotionalist.
That is, of course, not argument. The silent suffering of years
that must have been undergone by the Coloured man in South Africa
is not likely to have left much of the emotional side of humanity
in his composition. However, unpalatable as the facts may be
that I have to present for your consideration to-night,
I trust that my critics will be honest enough on this occasion
to face them boldly. They may question their accuracy, if they will,
or dispute the validity of my deductions from these facts.
That is the honest course for them to adopt. Furthermore, I trust that
White South Africa, especially those who boast loudest of British traditions,
will remember that it is an inalienable right of a British subject,
no matter in what part of the Empire he may be, to address his fellow-subjects
on the momentous question of Government. "If," declared an English lawyer,
"no man could have awakened the public mind to the errors and the abuses
in our English Government, how could it have passed on from stage to stage,
through reformation and revolution, so as to have arrived from barbarism
to such a pitch of happiness and perfection?" Such an inquiry
as I now propose will not be without its lessons. If South Africa
is worthily fulfilling her mission; if she has been faithful to her trust;
if she is promoting the cause of civilization, and if her actions
are based upon humanitarianism, then she may strenuously and conscientiously
proceed on the course she has been following. But if it can be shown
that there is no ethical basis to her policy of dealing with Coloured races,
that humanitarianism as a dominating factor is invariably wanting, and that
underlying her present policy is the principle of class aggrandizement,
then we may urge her to halt ere it is too late, and pursue another course.
Now although there never was a time when the white and the black races
stood on a footing of practical equality -- civilly and politically --
it is a fact that, under the old Cape constitution, theoretical equality
was ensured to all, irrespective of race or creed. The Coloured races were,
in this Colony, treated with much consideration, if not with
absolute equality. The advancement made by them under that regime was always
held up to the world's admiration. It was regarded as convincing proof
that a policy based upon justice was the right one to be followed
in governing subject races. The peaceful habits of the Coloured races
since the granting of the old Cape Constitution is a complete vindication
of the broad liberalism entertained by English statesmen sixty years ago.
"It is the earnest desire of Her Majesty's Government that all her subjects
at the Cape, without distinction of class or colour, should be united
by one bond of loyalty, and we believe that the exercise of political rights
enjoyed by all alike will prove one of the best methods of attaining
this object." Thus reads the dispatch of the Duke of Newcastle to
Governor Cathcart, when transmitting "to the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope
Ordinances which confer one of the most liberal constitutions enjoyed
by any of the British possessions."
But even in the Cape, prior to Union, signs were not wanting that
some slight reactions had set in. By degrees the doctrine of equal rights,
which formed the basis of the Cape Constitution, despite its resuscitation
by the famous declaration of the great Rhodes, was losing its force.
However, in the face of minor infractions of the principle of equal rights,
and some invasions of the necessary corollary to that principle, the right
to equal opportunity -- in the industrial as well as in the political world --
we were not wholly dissatisfied with the White man's rule in the Cape.
The Northern Colonies
Now let us consider the position in the Northern Colonies, especially in
the misnamed Free State. There a very different picture is presented.
From the days that the voortrekkers endeavoured to escape English rule,
from the day that they sought the hospitality of Chief Moroka,
the history of the treatment of the blacks north of the Orange River
is one long and uninterrupted record of rapine and greed,
without a solitary virtue to redeem the horrors which were committed
in the name of civilization. Such is the opinion any impartial student
must arrive at from a study even of the meagre records available.
If all were told, it would indeed be a blood-curdling tale,
and it is probably well that the world was not acquainted
with all that happened. However, the treatment of the Coloured races,
even in the Northern Colonies, is just what one might expect
from their history. The restraints of civilization
were flung aside, and the essentials of Christian precepts ignored.
The northward march of the voortrekkers was a gigantic plundering raid.
They swept like a desolating pestilence through the land,
blasting everything in their path, and pitilessly laughing at the ravages
from which the native races have not yet recovered. Their governments
were founded on the principle that is subversive of all Christian ethics,
that the Coloured man was entitled to no recognition
either in Church or State. Cruelty and oppression amounting to serfdom were,
and still are, the outstanding features of the Free State.
And he would be a bold man who would assert that the native races
have progressed at all as a result of contact with the white man
in the Free State. Progress could not be looked for under such circumstances,
for nowhere are there any signs that the Free State was ever inspired
by altruistic motives.
Such was the condition of things at the time of Union. Injustice, repression,
and inhumanity characterized the treatment of the Coloured races in the north:
justice, benevolence, and equality of opportunity in the south.
Now, it is said that "where slavery is prohibited, there civil liberty
must exist; where civil liberty is denied, there slavery follows."
These maxims, every student of history will admit, have been
abundantly verified in the history of South Africa. Take, for instance,
a comparison of the condition of the Coloured people of this town
and that of Bloemfontein, the capital of the Orange Free State.
Your member of Parliament has stated that in Kimberley our people are a credit
to the district, and the most advanced and progressive Coloured people
in South Africa. This is no doubt due to the excellent educational facilities
with which you have been provided for some considerable time,
to the liberty and freedom you enjoy, and to the kindly treatment
you have received at the hands of the Europeans. In Bloemfontein,
on the other hand, there are practically no educational facilities
for children, who, as soon as they reach the age of fifteen,
must enter the service of a white man, or be cast into prison.
There is no freedom, no liberty, and the result is that
the Coloured people of the capital of that British Slave State
are uneducated, poor, and degraded.
Here, then, one can easily see the results produced by
the two different systems of governing Coloured races --
the benevolent and the despotic. In the north the denial of civil rights
produced a state of virtual slavery, and the recent denial
of the complete enfranchisement of the Coloured people in the Union
has similarly resulted in the passing of an Act -- the Natives' Land Act,
which means nothing less than the partial enslavement of the races
throughout the Union. With two such divergent policies in force
in South Africa, it is not surprising that the Coloured races
viewed with the gravest apprehension the Union of the Colonies upon a basis
which would give the Northern Colonies sufficient power and influence
to shape the legislation of the Union. And I have no hesitation
in declaring that when Union was accomplished, and the Coloured people
were partially disfranchised, the death-knell of political equality
for the Coloured races was sounded, and the triumph of the north
over the south was heralded.
Sincere regrets were expressed by our friends at the abridgement of our rights
and the curtailment of our privileges that were effected
by the South Africa Act. Fervent hopes were entertained
by Cape politicians that not only would we not suffer any injustice,
but the position of the Coloured races in the north would be improved,
and their rights eventually be admitted. They fondly believed
that the leavening influence of the Cape ideas would mitigate
the barbarity of those of the northerner. We had no reason to doubt
the sincerity of our friends' beliefs, but we had no faith
in the northerners -- men whose public professions and practice
were void of a vestige of justice or honour in their dealings
with the Coloured races.
In November, 1904, when the question of Union was under discussion,
I expressed myself thus: "In a central Parliament there would be
the danger of the policies of the north slowly creeping into our Colony,
and undermining our Constitution. The men of the north have already told us
what they would do if they got into power; and European friends,
numerous and influential as they might be, would not be able
to safeguard the interests of the Coloured people." How far
that prediction has been verified is well known to every Coloured man.
The position of the Coloured man at the time of the Union
was such as I have described.
Scarcely had the blessing of the Almighty been invoked on the proceedings
of the Union Parliament at the opening of its first session when,
to its eternal shame and infamy, it placed upon its statute book a law
that would debar Christ Himself from membership of the Dutch Reformed Church.
A Parliament capable of such blasphemy is capable of any iniquity.
Then followed the Marriage Bill and the Squatters' Bill,
both abortive measures, but, nevertheless, showing clearly
the attitude of mind of the white rulers towards the Coloured races.
In order to find employment for poor whites, Coloured railway employees
who had served the country faithfully and well were dismissed.
A white South Africa has been declared in the Union Parliament
and from every platform. The white race must preserve its dominance.
To this end a rigorous policy of repression was adopted;
and the enthusiastic hopes of an extension of franchise rights
to our northern fellow-men, that was entertained by Cape politicians
and the Imperial Parliament, is now as far distant as the Greek Kalends.
I shall not recount the long catalogue of other persecutions and injustices.
We have all felt some of them in one phase of life or other.
So serious had matters become in 1911 that in my warning to the Coloured races
against the dangers that such a policy must entail, I was bold enough
to declare at our Johannesburg Conference that when Europeans were ready
they would enter upon a war of extermination. I was severely taken to task
for imputing such inhuman motives to Europeans. I was denounced
in even worse language than has been used towards the labour leaders
in the recent strike. No vituperative epithet was strong enough
to fling at my head. My statement met with almost universal condemnation
at the hands of the editors of the white Press; but it was condemned
not on account of any falsity in it, but simply because
it was unwise and inexpedient to make such remarks. Barely eighteen months
have elapsed from the time when I made that prediction
ere we find the Union Parliament pass the Natives' Land Act,
which creates conditions, if not amounting to extermination, yet designed
to enslave the Natives of this country. That tyrannical mandate is scattering
multitudes of Natives from their homes. Mother earth is to them now
only a step-dame. They may enter either into perpetual bondage on the farm,
or spend "a sunless life in the unwholesome mine".
To-day there is also a revival of persecution in the Free State.
The old laws of the dark days are being enforced with relentless rigour.
The sanctity of homes is violated. Wives are compelled to carry passes.
Mothers driven to abandon their offspring of tender years and seek employment.
Daughters are wrenched from parental care and control,
and forced into the service of some white scoundrel. Husbands are not allowed
to work at their trades for themselves without paying 5s. per month
for the privilege. Such is the condition of things in the slave State.
And all this is done behind the power of the British flag
which floats over that Province, and yet these acts were impossible
while the Free State lacked the power to face British public opinion.
Moreover, in the Cape Colony the Free State laws are gradually
being introduced. The Curfew Laws are enforced. A distinct colour line
is being drawn in every phase of life, more distinctly since General Smuts
declared that colour and colour only is to be the dividing line.
Such a long list of tyrannical acts of persecutions as I could make out
-- persecutions of the Coloured people as a class as well as individually --
can point to but one conclusion, and that is that the whites are determined
at all hazards to repress all aspirations of the Coloured people
for a higher life, to deny all opportunities of betterment,
to keep them politically, civilly and industrially as slaves,
and even to force those who have risen back into a state worse than slavery.
South Africa is fast becoming
A land of tyrants, and a den of slaves,
Where wretches seek dishonourable graves.
Duty of Europeans
What is the duty of Europeans towards the Coloured races of the country?
Take the oft-repeated assertions of Europeans themselves.
Their leaders are fond of talking of their responsibilities to us. They have
everlastingly had, or used to have until quite recently, on their lips
these nice-sounding phrases about "our duties and our responsibilities
to our Coloured brothers". But are such phrases not hollow and meaningless?
If Europeans have duties towards the Coloured people, what else is implied
than the need for humane dealings, and endeavours to ameliorate their lot,
and uplift them in the scale of civilization. If that is what
their duties mean, let us ask how far they have fulfilled them.
Instead of kindly, humane treatment, we find barbarous cruelty and inhumanity.
Instead of ameliorating our lot they endeavour to accentuate its bitterness.
Instead of aiming at our upliftment they seek to degrade us.
Instead of lending a helping hand to those struggling to improve themselves
they thrust them back remorselessly and rigorously.
Instead of making it possible for them to enjoy the blessings
of an enlightened Christianity and a noble civilization,
they refuse them the right to live, unless they are content
to slave for farmers or descend into the bowels of the earth
to delve the gold which enslaves the world, and before whose charms
all freedom flies. In short, the object of the white man's rule to-day
is not to develop the faculties of the Coloured races so that they may live
a full life, but to keep them for ever in a servile position.
The spirit that underlies this view of governing Coloured races
spread into this Colony with the Union, and is now universal
throughout South Africa.
The Coloured people resent this, and one cannot be astonished
at the feeling of violent hostility that has sprung up.
It is a natural result. And, in the words of Carlyle, it may be said
that "to whatever other griefs the Coloured people labour under,
this bitterest grief -- injustice -- super-adds itself:
the unendurable conviction that they are unfairly dealt with,
that their lot in this world is not founded on right,
nor even on necessity and might, is neither what it should be,
nor what it shall be." The Coloured peoples are sentient beings.
Their souls smart under the stigma of injustice. They are nursing
a sullen revengeful humour of revolt against the white rule.
They have lost respect for the white man, and are refusing to give their best
to the country.
The duty of Europeans is plain. Show the Coloured people that the Government
is for the good of all, not for the privileged class. Prove that
the first aim is not to keep us as hewers of wood and drawers of water
to men who have the power. Engage the Coloured races by their affection.
Grant them equal opportunities. If you do so, then the happy harmonization
of the whole community will be achieved, and you may be sure of receiving
the grateful return of the affection and respect of the Coloured races.
The treatment we might reasonably expect from the dominant race
is just what they themselves would expect were they in our position.
We have as much right to the land of South Africa as they.
We have as much right as they to be governed on the same basis of humanity.
In the language of one of England's greatest statesmen, Europeans themselves
would have been shut out from all the blessings they enjoy,
of peace, of happiness, and of liberty if there had been any truth
in these principles which some gentlemen have not hesitated to lay down
as applicable to the case of Africa. "Had those principles been true,
we ourselves," said William Pitt, "had languished to this hour
in that miserable state of ignorance, brutality, and degradation,
in which history proves our ancestors to have been immersed.
Had other nations adopted those principles in their conduct towards us;
had other nations applied to Great Britain the reasoning
which some of the Senators of this very Island now apply to Africa,
ages might have passed without our emerging from barbarism;
and we, who are enjoying the blessings of British civilization,
of British laws, and British liberty, might at this hour have been
little superior either in morals, in knowledge, or refinement,
to the rude inhabitants of the coast of Guinea."
Such were the words of Pitt in a speech he delivered in 1792
in the course of a debate on the Slave Trade. His opinions
were vastly different from those of our South African Premier,
who only refrains from using the sjambok, so he has told us,
on no other ground than that it might also hurt himself,
and who is determined to allow no native representative
in the Union Parliament as long as the Almighty spares him to be overlord.
He does not look forward as Pitt did to the day when "We (British)
might behold the beams of science and philosophy breaking in upon Africa,
which, at some happy period, may blaze with full lustre."
But this policy of repression cannot last much longer.
If a handful of Indians in a matter of conscience can so firmly resist
what they consider injustice, what could the Coloured races not do
if they were to adopt this practice of passive resistance?
We must all admire what these British Indians have shown, and are showing,
in their determination to maintain what they deem to be their rights.
The inhumanity of the Free State has driven our women to resist the law.
Numbers of them went to jail rather than carry passes. The Coloured races
applaud the noble actions of those brave daughters of Africa.
I am convinced that if our people as a whole were prepared to suffer likewise
we could gain redress of our most serious grievances
while General Botha is still alive. Are we to be driven to that course?
Europeans should ask themselves that question, and ask it promptly.
For example, if the 200,000 Natives on the mines were,
in the language of the white Labour Party, to "down" tools,
and prefer to bask in the sun than to go down the mines;
if the farm labourer at harvesting time refused to work
for one shilling and sixpence a day, the economic foundation of South Africa
would suddenly shake and tremble with such violence that
the beautiful white South Africa superstructure which has been built on it
would come down with a crash, entailing financial ruin
such as the world has never witnessed before. If Europeans
wish to prevent such a calamity in this country, they must
pursue the right course and encourage the Coloured people of South Africa
to improve their position and become more useful citizens
than they have ever been. They will themselves participate
in the blessings that spring from our improvement and prosperity,
and they will receive "ample recompense for their tardy kindness
(if kindness it can be called) in no longer hindering" our progress.
We also should urge Europeans to go back to the path of justice, to retrace
their steps along the route they appear to have been travelling of late.
They can influence the Legislature. Whatever Parliament does
is done in the name of the white people, and whites should,
if they wish to see South Africa a happy, prosperous and peaceful country,
check the Parliament in its mad career. It is worse than insensate folly
to pursue that path any further. Many people have revolted at less oppression
than we have had to suffer. At present we have no other course
than to endure in silence the persecution of our tyrants,
and conform to the servitude imposed on us. We may well exclaim
that this is a country where
The wanton whites new penal statutes draw
Whites grind the blacks, and white men rule the law.
Nevertheless, it is not too late to mend. The estrangement
between the two races is not irreconcilable. Europeans could,
with advantage to the country, if they would only be men,
show the Coloured people that the white man's rule is for the good of all,
not for the privileged class only. If they grant the Coloured races
equal opportunities, and do not penalize them on account of race or colour,
they may see a happy realization of the dreams of the wisest statesmen
that all classes should be contented, and should work together
for the good of all.
Dr. Abdurahman's address provided material for leading articles
in the South African papers during that and the following week,
the criticisms, with very few exceptions, being more or less hostile.
Not one of them, however, accused him of telling untruths;
but they vehemently resented the tone of his speech, which they characterized
as inflammatory. One daily paper showed some inconsistency in the matter.
It upbraided the doctor for his attack upon oppressive legislation,
and two days later, presumably after second thoughts,
came out with a leading article urging Europeans to check
their oppression of the blacks, and in their own interests
deal justly by the native and coloured sections of the population.
By the Natives it was said that under the present circumstances
the speech could have been better for a little moderation;
but they nevertheless pronounced it the clearest and most accurate
representation of their condition under the Union Administration
that was ever uttered on a South African platform.
It should be remembered that Dr. Abdurahman delivered his address
at a time when the operation of the Land Act was raging like a plague
in the Northern Provinces, and its victims included an old man of 119 years,
respected by his white neighbours, with his nonogenarian wife,
and his sons aged seventy and eighty.
From the point of view of the Native, it is satisfactory to note
that such sincere white students of the native question
as Dr. J. E. Mackenzie of Kimberley, and Rev. Chas. Phillips of Johannesburg,
when asked to dissociate themselves from Dr. Abdurahman's charges
of "cruelty, inhumanity," etc., refused to do so until it could be pointed out
that he had spoken untruths; that, however, could more easily be done
by a shrug of the shoulders than by adducing substantial facts.
Again, it is doubtful if any South African journalist possesses
the experience of Mr. Vere Stent, the editor of the `Pretoria News'.
Mr. Stent as a Kimberley youth spent many years in the de Beers
mining compounds, working with Natives of nearly all African tribes.
He was war correspondent in Ashanti and other parts of Africa, and also with
the Republican troops under General Joubert in the Northern Transvaal
in the 'eighties, and saw the Boers (whose primitive artillery
could not dislodge a native tribe that was impregnably entrenched
inside a cave) closing up the mouth of the cave and sealing up the masonry,
then leaving the Natives, men, women and children, to smother to death
with their belongings inside the cave. Further, Mr. Stent
accompanied Cecil Rhodes to the Mattopo hills, where the late Colossus
went unarmed to hold with the Matabele chiefs the pourparler
which brought about the peace of Southern Rhodesia. In the siege of Mafeking,
Mr. Stent was Reuter's war correspondent, and all things considered,
it must be conceded that he is better qualified to write
on a subject of this kind than all the critics of Dr. Abdurahman.
Commenting on Dr. Abdurahman's address, in the course of a leading article
Mr. Stent said:
Here is no paid agitator, but a professional man and a scholar,
who is addressing the Coloured workers of South Africa
from the lowest Aborigine to the Bantu, from the Bantu
to the Coloured tradesman, from the Coloured tradesman
to the professional man, of whom there are a few like himself,
a great mass of unenfranchised human beings that suffer
under disabilities and actual and obvious injustice.
This vast proletariat is slowly cohering. Tribal feuds
are being forgotten. The anti-colour laws of South Africa,
and particularly of the north -- which makes no difference
between the savage Zulu fresh from his kraal and the stately Malay,
between the Mashaangan and a man like Dr. Abdurahman himself --
are welding together this vast human mass, in the flux of a single grievance,
and that grievance, the disability put upon colour qua colour by the law.
What if some day, and sooner than we think, that great mass becomes mobile,
learns to co-operate, and moves irresistibly together?
What, again, which is more likely, if its molecules
realize the power of their inertia, if they simply decide
quite constitutionally and without violence to do nothing,
pending a remedy of their grievances?
It will, of course, be said that Dr. Abdurahman is a picturesque extremist;
that his position is an abnormal one; that he does not speak for
the Coloured people and the Natives as a whole. Do not let us be too certain
on the last point.
As to the first, there runs through the speech, holding it together
and making it difficult to attack, a single plain statement in it --
a steel strong thread of truth.
He throws quite a new light upon the Voortrekkers when he says: --
"The northward march of the Voortrekkers was a gigantic plundering raid.
They swept like a desolating pestilence through the land,
blasting everything in their path, and pitilessly laughing
at the ravages from which the native races have not yet recovered."
But from the point of view of the native races, the description is a true one.
To say of the Natives' Land Act, "That tyrannical mandate is scattering
multitudes of Natives from their homes" is extravagant. Only a few so far
have been disturbed, but many must be disturbed for the Natives' Land Act
is tyrannical. In fact, though couched in the flowing language of an orator,
the speech on the whole is not an unfair summing up of the grievances
of the coloured people, and there is a very solemn warning in it.
The European labour agitators may well envy Dr. Abdurahman:
his logic, his doctrine and his power of invective. He has so much
to complain of, he asks for so very little. Just equality of opportunity.
He does not propose to set up any Trades' Hall government within a government;
he does not talk about or attempt to incite to riot or revolution;
he does not speak for a few skilled artisans who are living in comfort,
and sometimes luxury, upon the sweat of the black man's brow;
he speaks for the dark, submerged 5,000,000 South Africans upon whom light
is very slowly breaking.
It should also be recorded that long before Dr. Abdurahman
became President of the Coloured Organization, white men
have been delivering speeches, some of them rather indignant,
on the treatment of His Majesty's coloured and native subjects
in South Africa. We will refer to just a few for example:
"I will leave out of account altogether," said His Excellency,
"the unwise and hard things said by reckless and unthinking white men
about Natives; I will only ask white men to consider whether they have
ever calculated the cumulative effect on the Natives of what I may call
the policy of pin-pricks? In some places a Native, however personally clean,
or however hard he may have striven to civilize himself,
is not allowed to walk on the pavement of the public streets;
in others he is not allowed to go into a public park or to pay
for the privilege of watching a game of cricket; in others he is not allowed
to ride on the top of a tram-car, even in specified seats set apart for him;
in others he is not allowed to ride in a railway carriage except in
a sort of dog-kennel; in others he is unfeelingly and ungraciously treated
by white officials; in others he may not stir without a pass,
and if, for instance, he comes, as thousands of Natives do,
from the farm on which he resides to work in a labour district
-- (an act which is highly beneficial to the State and commendable
in the eyes of all white men) -- he does not meet with facilities,
but with elaborate impediments. In the course of his absence from home
he may have to take out at least eight different passes, for several of which
he has the additional pleasure of paying, though he would be much happier
without them; and it is possible that, in an extreme case,
he may have to conform to no fewer than twenty different pass regulations.
Now, let a white man put himself in the position of a black man,
and see how he would like it, and let him ask whether
such regulations and laws really make his task easier?" -- Lord Selborne,
before the Congregation of the University of the Cape of Good Hope,
February 27, 1909.
The Hon. Dewdney W. Drew, M.A., who was member of the Legislative Council
under the Crown Colony Government in the Orange River Colony, now misnamed
the Orange "Free" State, is one of the leading South African journalists.
In his pamphlet on the Native Question, about four years ago,
Mr. Drew made the following remarks:
Most Europeans adopt towards the Natives the privilege of the aristocrat --
not always with the manners of an aristocrat. Many whites expect
as a matter of course obeisance and service from all Natives,
and think it perfectly natural to cuff and correct them when
they make mistakes. Any resentment is apt to draw down severe punishment.
In the law courts the Natives do not get the same justice as the whites.
A Native convicted of an offence gets, in the first place, the punishment
which a white man would get and something extra for the colour of his skin --
often lashes. The bias of white juries in trying Natives
charged with offences against whites is such as to have brought
the jury system into disrepute, and become a chief argument among lawyers
for its entire abolition. The Natives suffer various restrictions
on their liberty; they may not use the side-walks, nor visit a friend's house
after a certain hour at night, nor move abroad, or even exist
anywhere in this "white man's country" without a pass.
All the police, if not all Europeans, have the right
to arrest and search them, and the exercise of this right is made sometimes
a means of shamefully molesting their women. In one Colony
the Natives are not allowed to own land, and in another they can only do so
under virtually prohibitive conditions. If the tenant families
residing upon a farm grow beyond a certain limited number -- three or five --
the surplus are liable to be driven off by the police. As a rule
only the worse-paid forms of work are permitted to the Natives,
and even these are grudged them. A legislator rises in one Colony to move
that all native messengers and other native servants in the Government offices
be immediately discharged and replaced by poor whites. In another Colony,
the papers and the public chorus with joy to hear that the C.S.A.R.
has been able to reduce its native staff, and hopes ultimately
to get rid of them all. There are municipalities in which Natives,
if they drive a cab, have to pay a higher licence than a white man,
and in which they are not permitted to make bricks unless they do so
for a white employer. In these municipalities they are not allowed
to educate their children above the age of sixteen, nor may they keep
their daughters at home under their own protection after that age,
except the girls find positions in service, in which case they may sleep
under the roof of their parents if the distance is not too great.
And, of course, the Natives pay relatively a higher taxation than the whites.
Articles which they use, but which are little bought by the whites,
are marked for special customs duties. For instance,
the white farmers' machinery is duty free, but in several Colonies
the native hoes pay an ad valorem tax of 25 per cent.
So of shawls; the Customs officer is content to take 12 1/2 per cent
on the kind used by Europeans, but when he comes to the native shawl,
the duty is again 25 per cent. In addition to these stiff indirect taxes,
the Native pays direct taxes amounting to one-sixth part of their average
annual wage. Not only they, but even the most respectable coloured people,
are in some places not allowed to ride in trams or walk in the parks,
or attend public sports, or evening concerts, or even follow a deceased white,
though he should be their own father, to his last resting place
in the European cemetery. As to the laws, they realize,
in all the Colonies but one, Wellington's great ideal for the people,
by having nothing to do with them except obey them. In addition
to this treatment, varying from mere pin-pricks to oppression,
they are mostly referred to in the Press, in public speeches,
and private conversation, with words of opprobrium and contempt
as "niggers" and "black brutes". The occasional outbreaks of a few,
usually maddened with drink which Europeans have sold to them,
are put to the discredit of the whole race. Those who,
when they hear of a case of rape, talk about the black peril,
forget apparently that it is largely the result of a bad environment.
In their own country the Natives are by no means lacking in respect
to white womanhood. A European lady travelling in Basutoland without escort
would probably be safer there than in England under the like condition.
The Hon. H. Burton, Attorney-General of the Cape Colony,
reports, after visiting the Transkei, that in that great reserve,
where ten thousand Europeans are surrounded by a million Natives,
the molestation of white women is a thing unheard of. . . .
Obviously the treatment which the Natives get is not on the whole
such as he can be expected to like, and the drift of things
appears to be towards greater harshness, especially towards
severer pass laws and the stricter denial of property rights.
In one of our Parliaments a Commission has just reported
in favour of breaking up the reserves and bringing the Natives
under a system resembling slavery.
Chapter XI The Natives' Land Act in Cape Colony
It must not be lost sight of that all land held by Europeans
in Africa has been acquired by conquest or diplomacy,
and that the aboriginal Natives have been ousted by the white man:
that being so, I cannot see any reason why the Native
should not be allowed to buy back what he has lost; in my opinion
he should be encouraged to do so. . . .
He is a better citizen than the thriftless European who lives
from hand to mouth and makes no effort to better his circumstances. . . .
Legislation should be carefully watched lest endeavours be made
to deprive deserving Natives of the privilege of acquiring title to land.
In the Transvaal strong efforts are being made to restrict
the acquisition of land by Natives; but I can see
neither justice nor reason in such a measure. If the Native
by his education, honesty, thrift and industry has got the means
to buy land, even in the Transvaal, why should he not be allowed
to do so? . . .
The Natives are already pretty tightly "squeezed" in the matter of land
in South Africa, and it is time this "squeezing" process came to an end.
They must have somewhere to live. What would we do in this country
Mr. J. Hemming, a Cape Magistrate.
During the month of October, 1913, the fell work of the iniquitous
provisions of the Natives' Land Act was done so remorselessly
that the British blood of certain editors of Natal dailies
rose superior to their Colonial prejudices and they lashed out against
such wicked and wholesale injustice on the part of the legislation
against the peaceful native population. It has already been pointed out
that when the Secretary for Native Affairs started to tour the districts,
to teach Magistrates how to enforce the new Plague Act,
some people thought that the tour was part of a scheme to alleviate
the distress that followed the enforcement of the Natives' Land Act,
but the Natives and those of their sympathizers who followed
Mr. Dower's itinerary very soon discovered that the authorities
were waging a war of extermination against the blacks;
and that they were bent upon reducing the independent black peasantry
to a state of thraldom. Commenting on Mr. Dower's visit to the "Free" State,
the `Natal Advertiser' of October 4, 1913, said: --
The explanation of the Natives' Land Act, given to the Barolongs of Thaba Nchu
by Mr. Dower, is so illuminative of the wretched unsatisfactoriness of the Act
that the occasion certainly merits notice. It would be difficult
to conceive a more thoroughgoing and drastic condemnation of the Act
than this attempt at faint praise of it, delivered by
the Secretary of the Native Affairs Department. All he can say
to these unfortunate Natives is, that it would be better
to engage as labourers or sell up than to trek from pillar to post,
till all their cattle had died. As to saying that farmers
always had power to evict, the interrupting Native hit the nail on the head
by his ejaculation: "But we could go elsewhere."
On October 5, the daily papers published the following telegram
As the result of the passing of the Natives' Land Act, groups of Natives
are to be seen in the different Provinces seeking for new land.
They have crossed over from the Free State into Natal, from Natal
into the Transvaal, and from the Transvaal into British Bechuanaland. . . .
Yesterday a native arrived in Johannesburg from the Umvoti district, Natal,
and reported that a chief, together with his tribe, had been evicted
from a farm in the Greytown district, Natal, and that feeling in the matter
had become acute.
In the Western Transvaal hundreds of natives are crossing over
into the Bechuanaland Protectorate, and in the Eastern Transvaal
they are concentrating on three farms in the Wakkerstroom district
that have been bought by a native land company.
At present the attention of those working for the repeal of the law
is being concentrated on the collection of funds for the purpose of sending
a deputation to England. They hope to arouse public opinion there
by lectures and other means.
The `Natal Mercury' said:
We pointed out at the time that the Act was passed that it was being
rushed through the House without any proper inquiry and without much regard
for native opinion or native feeling in a matter that affected
their most vital interests. It was replied that the administration of the Act
would be carried out on sympathetic lines, and that Mr. Sauer
would make himself personally responsible for the administration
being carried out in a manner which would inflict the least possible hardships
on the Natives affected. The industrial crisis was followed
by the untimely end of Mr. Sauer which made his tour impossible,
and the Act now seems to be put in force on the most approved red-tape lines,
with the result that the Natives are in a state of great alarm and agitation.
At the recent Missionary Conference at Maritzburg on July 8,
the question was the subject of considerable discussion,
and a series of resolutions were passed.
What is happening is that in many places the Natives are being driven off land
where they have been from time immemorial, so to speak. They consider the Act
as an attempt to drive them into slavery, and numbers of them are being placed
in the position of having no place to which to go.
It must not be supposed, however, that all English colonial journalists
regretted the operation of this atrocious law. The `Cape Times',
for instance, vied with the Hertzog press in congratulating the minister
on having successfully passed it, and in belittling the hardships
of the victims of the Act. One English farmer wrote to the `Farmer's Weekly'
that the evictions were effective, but at the same time he regretted that
"as long as the Native kept to the public road he still had a resting place
for the hollow of his foot." The Native had been successfully legislated
off the land, and apparently this farmer wanted him to be legislated
off the roads as well. Another English journalist wrote to the `Sunday Post'
that the hardships are exaggerated, as he had himself seen
only twelve families evicted in one day and on one farm.
The question which this statement suggests is: How many families
must be ejected from one farm in one day to constitute a hardship;
and whether this journalist would view with the same coolness
a law which forcibly turned twelve white families off a farm,
against the wishes of themselves and the landowner?
Again, it cannot be said that South African politicians as a whole
were indifferent to the suffering of the luckless victims of the Land Act,
but they eased their consciences with the palliative thought
that the sufferers were not so many. However this blissful
though erroneous self-satisfaction was nailed to the counter
by the Rev. A. Burnet of Transvaal, when he said: "I have yet to learn
that a harsh law becomes less harsh, and an act of injustice less unjust,
because only a few people are affected by it."
The section of the law debarring Natives from hiring land
is particularly harsh. It has been explained that its major portion
is intended to reduce the Natives to serfs; but it should also
be noted that the portion of the Act that is against Natives
acquiring any interest whatsoever in land aims directly
at dispossessing the Natives of their live stock. Section 5
provides for a fine of 100 Pounds, or six months' imprisonment,
to a farmer convicted of accommodating a Native on his farm.
And if after the fine is paid, the Native leaves the stock on the farm,
for a number of days, while he goes to search for another place,
there will be a fine of 5 Pounds per diem for each day the cattle remain
on the farm. The cattle should be consigned to the road
immediately the order is given for the ejection, and they should remain
without food till their owner sells them, or finds employment under a farmer
as a wage-earner. Thus it would seem that the aim of Section 5
is not only to prohibit native occupation of land, but, in addition to it,
makes it impossible for him to be a cattle owner.
When this harsh provision of the law was brought to the notice
of Cape politicians, they shrugged their shoulders and remarked
that they were happy that things in the Cape were not so bad.
But this is no excuse at all, for in accordance with the wording of the Act,
as substantiated by its results upon the Cape Natives,
the condition of these Natives is worse in many instances
than it is among the Natives of Natal, or of the Transvaal.
In these two Provinces a European who has no intention of evicting his Natives
may retain their services under certain restrictions (see Sub-sect. 6 (c));
but in the Cape and the Orange "Free" State, the Native,
according to Section 1, may retain no interest whatever in land,
including the "ploughing on shares".
Well-to-do Natives, from Grahamstown to the Transkeian boundaries,
mainly derived their wealth from this form of occupation. It enabled them
to lead respectable lives and to educate their children. The new prohibitions
tended to drive these Natives back into overcrowded locations,
with the logical result that sundry acute domestic problems,
such as disordered sanitation caused by the smallness of the location,
loss of numerous heads of cattle owing to the too limited pasturage
in the locations, are likely to arise. These herds of cattle
have been the Natives' only capital, or the Natives' "bank",
as they truthfully call them, so that, deprived of this occupation,
the down-grade of a people, under an unsympathetic quasi-Republican Government
like the present Union Administration, must be very rapid.
The fact that the traditional liberal policy of Cape Colony
has broken down through this law can no longer be disputed:
indeed, the only comfort that had been held out to the Natives
was that Mr. Sauer would make the Natives' Land Act a dead letter.
This statesman having since died, we were anxious to see how the Cape Natives
were faring under the Act, so we left Kimberley on November 1, 1913,
on a tour of observation in the eastern districts of the Cape Province.
Our programme included visits to two alleged defenders of the Act,
in the persons of Rev. James Henderson of Lovedale, and Mr. Tengo Jabavu
of King Williamstown, editor of the Xosa Ministerial newspaper.
Our object in visiting these gentlemen was to acquaint ourselves
with their point of view, and if possible to arrive at an agreement with them.
We reached Alice in the forenoon and walked through the town
to the famous Native Institution. We made our first acquaintance
with Lovedale, and we hardly remember having seen so many native boys
housed in any one place before. But it pained us to think what must be
the future lot of this great gathering of young fellows, who are now
debarred by law from rights of ownership of the soil of South Africa,
their own homeland.
During our three hours' stay at Lovedale we had an interview
with Mr. Henderson, the Principal, about things in general,
and the Native College Scheme in particular, and lastly, but not least,
about the Native Land Act. Unfortunately we could learn nothing
from the eminent educator, for we found that his conclusions
were based on second-hand information. He had never met
any member of the Government, or their representatives,
in fact it was news to the Principal that in going to Lovedale, that morning,
we had met men on their way from the Magistrate's office in Alice,
not far away, who had been definitely warned by the Magistrate
against re-ploughing their old lands on the farms. Of course Mr. Henderson
was moved with sympathy for a people so ruthlessly treated by a Government
they had loyally served. And it would seem that the Principal of Lovedale
had since made independent inquiries, for we have read in the Lovedale paper
other evidence of the operation of this drastic law that had not come under
our own observation. Thus in supporting the case of the Native Deputation
in the Imperial Parliament on July 28, 1914, Sir Albert Spicer
effectively read passages from the `Christian Express', the organ of Lovedale.
One of the instructors at Lovedale very kindly lent us a horse,
and Mr. Moikangoa accompanied us to an all-night meeting at Sheshegu,
a famous political "rendezvous" which has acquired this distinction
because it is the centre of numerous little locations,
within easy reach of four surrounding Magistracies. At the all-night meeting
at Sheshegu there were chiefs, headmen, and other Natives from the Peddie,
Fort Beaufort and Alice districts. There were a number of school teachers
also from these districts, and two or three native storekeepers.
The disclosures made by the several speakers concerning
the operation of the Land Act among the Natives made one's heart bleed.
The chieftain Kapok Mgijima, who entertained many of the visitors
to the meeting, had his own peculiar experience under the Act.
Not only had he been debarred from re-ploughing his own lands,
but he had also been ordered to move his oxen from a farm owned by a European,
where for fourteen years he had grazed his oxen. Another Native,
who had been ploughing in the direction of King Williamstown,
was warned by the authorities not to resume his ploughing in 1913.
He could only do so as a servant in the employ of a white landowner.
He was further warned that if he connived with the white man to cheat the law,
by representing themselves as master and servant, they would, when found out
to be still carrying on their old relation of landlord and tenant,
be dealt with very severely.
The landlord was furious. "Why," he asked, "did you tell them
of your intention? You should have done your business quietly;
now that you have apprised them they will watch us, you fool."
"But," said the Native, "owing to the existence of East Coast fever
in Transkei, no animals can be taken from one plantation to another
without a magisterial permit disclosing the object of the removal.
I had to tell what I wanted to come here for. I was asked
at the Magistrate's office if I did not know the law.
I said that I was aware of such a new law, which had created
a lot of disturbance in the Northern Provinces, but I had never heard
that it was applicable to the Cape. To this the Magistrate's clerk replied
that it was not a Provincial law, it was a law of the Union,
of which the Cape formed part. There were certain exemptions,
the clerk added, but they did not exempt the Cape Natives from
the prohibition of ploughing on white men's farms and grazing their cattle
on those farms."
Other speakers narrated their experiences under the Act, and these experiences
showed that the Plague Act was raging with particular fury
in the old Cape Districts of Fort Beaufort, Grahamstown, King Williamstown,
and East London. At this meeting it was resolved to support a movement
to send an appeal to His Majesty the King, against this law.
Our visit to these places took place just after the glorious showers
of the early summer. On the wider tracts of land owned by Europeans
the grass looked invitingly green. The maiden soil,
looking beautiful and soft after the soaking rains, cried silently
for cultivation. The people who had hitherto depended on such cultivation
for their subsistence were now prohibited by reason of their colour
from earning their usual livelihood, as directed by Almighty God,
"In the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat bread."
This prohibition seems particularly contemptible when it is remembered
that the majority of the Natives of these locations are Fingoes,
and that their fathers in the early days joined the British
in fighting most of the Kafir wars, side by side with British troops.
They shared in all the massacres and devastating raids
committed upon the British settlers by unfriendly native tribes.
As a mark of recognition of their loyalty to the Government,
and of their co-operation with the British forces in the field of battle,
this country was given, in the name of Her late Majesty Victoria,
to their chiefs by a British Governor. But in spite of this treaty,
the people have been gradually dispossessed of the land during the past
three-quarters of a century. Hence the occupation, now crystallized
into ownership, passed bit by bit into white hands. Hitherto the right
to live on, and to cultivate, lands which thus formerly belonged to them
was never challenged, but all that is now changed. Naturally the ingratitude
meted out to these people by the authorities in return for services
consistently rendered by three successive generations of them will be a blow,
not only to the economic independence of a loyal and patriotic people,
but to the belief in British sense of justice.
Chapter XII The Passing of Cape Ideals
Naboth was right to hold on to his home. There were garnered memories
that all the wealth of Ahab could not buy.
From the great meeting place -- Sheshegu -- we went through
the Alice district. In this district we met several men
who would get no crops -- their annual income -- the next year,
as the law had placed an embargo on their ordinary avocation.
King Williamstown was also visited, and there at a meeting
held in the Baptist Church, which was kindly lent for the purpose
by the Rev. Mr. Pierce, it was unanimously resolved to appeal
to His Majesty the King against the Natives' Land Act.
Mr. W. Sebe presided over this meeting of representative Natives,
and Mr. Bassie translated the Act.
At Queenstown a similar resolution was passed by practically
the whole meeting. Beyond answering questions at each of these meetings,
the writer said little else besides reading the Act, which told its own tale.
Many Natives who had never seen a copy of the Act before,
but who had heard its praises sung by interested parties and had believed
the false teachers, attended the meetings to oppose any undue interference
with "the law". But these men were appalled when the law was read to them,
sentence by sentence, and translated by their own teachers
in their own tongue. Then a discussion would follow, invariably ending
with the query: "Can a Parliament capable of passing such a law
still be trusted by the community concerned?"
The Queenstown meeting, which was held in the Native Baptist School
kindly lent by Messrs. Damane and Koti, was more interesting than the others
because it is the only one of the many native meetings we attended
where there was any dissent. There were four dissentients
at Queenstown, and we take this opportunity of congratulating
all genuine enemies of native welfare on the fact that they had
four staunch protagonists of colour, who showed more manliness
than Mr. Tengo-Jabavu because they attended the meeting.
Still, if the courage of these opponents was admirable,
we confess we did not like the gross callousness, and what seemed to us
an indecent disregard of native suffering that was manifest in their conduct:
when the story of the hardships of unfortunate victims of the Land Act
was narrated they laughed, and repeated the newspaper excuse
that the evictions were not directly due to the Act.
We agree with them that evictions have always taken place,
since the first human couple was sent out of the Garden of Eden, yet they
must admit that until the Union Parliament passed the Natives' Land Act
there never was a law saying to the native population of South Africa,
"You must not settle anywhere, under a penalty of 100 Pounds,
unless you are a servant." These unsympathetic Natives made no effort
to defend the Act itself, but attempted to bluff the meeting
with the supposed danger of "reprisals by spiteful Boers, who, they said,
will be more vindictive if Natives dared to appeal to the King,
over the heads of the Boer Government." But the meeting would not be bluffed.
One speaker especially remarked that the Act embodied
the very worst form of vindictiveness, and the sooner the whole world
understood the Union Parliament's attitude towards the blacks
the better it would be. The meeting agreed that no slavery could be worse
than to be outlawed in your own homes, and the motion was carried
against the said four dissentients.
We interviewed a number of the Natives passing through Queenstown,
and the result showed that many and varied were the vicissitudes
of the Natives in the eastern districts of the Cape Province.
From Queenstown we touched some of the north-eastern districts
of the Cape Province. In one of these districts a fairly prosperous Native
was farming as a tenant on a farm. By sheer industry
he had earned and enjoyed the respect of all who knew him.
His landlord, a white man, was particularly proud of him.
This Native went into town one morning and as he passed the Magistrate's Court
on his way to the stores, a messenger hailed him inside.
Having entered the office, the Assistant Magistrate served him with a notice
to leave his hired farm, on which he had been a tenant since his youth,
and which was as much a home to him as to the proprietor.
The landlord, on hearing of this, naturally resented this usurpation
on the part of the authorities, who, he said, had unduly interfered
with his private affairs. Next day the Baas drove into the town to interview
the Magistrate, and to remonstrate with him on what he thought to be
the unauthorized interference of the Assistant Magistrate.
He and the Magistrate read and re-read the Natives' Land Act,
and both came to the conclusion that it was a law that was as complicated
as it was unnecessary; but the Magistrate, being a representative of the law,
decided that, rightly or wrongly, it must be obeyed.
This visit of the Baas to the Magistrate had made our native friend hopeful
that it would result in averting the calamity that threatened
him and his family, but, to his utter dismay, the landlord on returning soon
undeceived him and gave his own opinion of "the most peculiar and wicked law"
that he had ever heard of. Although Dutchmen had known and had heard of
some strange laws, yet this Dutchman was so full of indignation
at the strangeness of this law that his description of it
was made up of largely untranslatable Dutch adjectives. These adjectives,
however, could not relieve the suffering of his native tenant
from the wound inflicted by the law in his sudden expulsion from his home.
It seems clear that no South African Native, on leaving a Dutch farm,
had ever received a more respectable send-off than our friend did
on leaving his farm in compliance with the Natives' Land Act.
The white landlord accompanied him right up to the boundary of the farm
which for seventeen years had been his home, and which he was so cruelly
forced to leave. For the first time in his life, as the Dutchman said,
he shook hands with a Kafir. And, as he did so, he called down
the direst curses upon the persons responsible for the impasse --
curses, by the way, which seem to be liberally answered.
It would, perhaps, be interesting to add what has happened since.
Our native friend took his family to the town, because the Act
is not enforceable in municipal areas. Leaving his family there,
he started roaming about the districts, looking for a place
where he could graze his cattle. In the course of the wandering
his stock thinned down, owing to death from starvation and other causes.
At home his old master found he could not get on without him,
so learning of the whereabouts of the Native and also of his sad plight,
the master sent out to him and advised him to return home,
graze his stock there, and "hang the legal consequences."
May they never be found out.
It has now amounted to this that white men who wish to deal humanely
with their native friends must resort to clandestine methods, to enable
a Native and his stock to drink the fresh water and breathe the pure air
in the wide tracts of South Africa, for by law Natives have now less rights
than the snakes and scorpions abounding in that country.
Can a law be justified which forces the people to live
only by means of chicanery; and which, in order to progress, compels one
to cheat the law officers of the Crown? This case is but one of many
that came under our own observation, and there may be many more
of which we know nothing.
The `Cape Times', the leading Bothaite daily newspaper of the Cape,
has defended every action of the Union, including the dismissal
of English Civil servants. It justifies this last act
by alleging that the dismissed officials did not know Dutch.
Consequently it could not be expected that this journal
could have any qualms about a law enacted specifically to repress black men.
It supported every harsh clause of the Natives' Land Bill,
including Clause 1. However, when the native deputation to England
gave proofs of the ravages of the "plague law" in Cape Colony,
the `Cape Times', instead of defending its pet law, said:
"The complaint to which they give precedence is particularly instructive,"
and so, quoting from the deputation's appeal which says: "In the Cape Colony,
where we are repeatedly told that the Act is not in force,
the Magistrates of East London, King Williamstown and Alice
prohibited native tenants from reploughing their old hired lands last October,
and also ordered them to remove their stock from grazing farms,"
this ministerial daily adds: "It is unnecessary to consider
the justice or otherwise of this complaint for it is perfectly clear
that if a Magistrate oversteps the bounds of the law, it is a matter
to be dealt with by the Union Government."
It will be observed that this is an insinuation that the Magistrates
who administer the Land Act at the Cape are exceeding their authority
and should be "dealt with by the Union Government". Now, what are the facts?
It is well known that all Magistrates, including those at the Cape, are paid
to administer every legislative instrument, whether sensible or absurd,
passed by the partly literate Parliament of the Union of South Africa.
Hence, these Magistrates, in ordering Natives off their farms,
and turning native cattle off the grazing areas, are only carrying out
Section 1 of the Natives' Land Act. One Cape Magistrate who ruled
that to plough on a farm was no breach of the law, WAS "dealt with
by the Union Government", for a peremptory order came from Pretoria
declaring such a decision to be illegal.
Therefore, so far from the Cape Magistrate "overstepping
the bounds of the law" in expelling Natives from the farms and native cattle
from their pastures, these Magistrates could legally have done worse,
inasmuch as they could, under Section 5, have sent these Natives to prison
for contravening Section 1. In justification, then,
of its own and of its party's share in this legislative achievement,
the `Cape Times' should have sought a more worthy excuse than thus attempting
to make scapegoats of a band of fair-minded men who presumably,
prior to the Union, never thought it would be part of their duty
to administer from the Cape bench an Act which inflicted such gross cruelty.
Who, in the days of the Murrays, Mr. F. Y. St. Leger, and subsequently
of Mr. F. E. Garrett, could have thought that the `Cape Times'
would in this manner have destroyed its great traditions,
built up during the nineteenth century, by sanctioning a law
under which Cape Magistrates would be forced to render homeless
the Natives of the Cape in their own Cape of Good Hope? The one Colony
whose administration, under its wise statesmen of the Victorian era,
created for it that tremendous prestige that was felt
throughout the dark continent, and that rested largely
upon the fact that among its citizens, before its incorporation
with the northern states, it knew no distinction of colour,
for all were free to qualify for the exercise of electoral rights.
The old Cape Colony of our boyhood days, whose administration,
despite occasional lapses, managed during a hundred years
to steer clear of the familiar massacres and bloodshed of punitive expeditions
against primitive tribes, massacres and bloodshed so common
in other parts of the same continent; the old Cape Colony whose
peaceful methods of civilization acted as an incentive to the Bechuana tribes
to draw the sword and resist every attempt at annexation by Europeans
other than the British: a resistance so determined that it thwarted
the efforts to link German South West Africa with the Transvaal Republic,
and so kept open the trade route to Rhodesia for the British.
All this done without any effort on the part of the British themselves,
and done by the Natives out of regard for Cape Colony ideals.
But alas! these Natives are now debarred from tilling the soil of the Cape,
except as Republican serfs. What would Sir George Grey, or Bishop Gray,
or Saul Solomon, say of this? What would these Empire builders say if they
came back here and found that the hills and valleys of their old Cape Colony
have ceased to be a home to many of their million brawny blacks,
whose muscles helped the conqueror to secure his present hold of the country?
What would these champions of justice say if they saw how,
with her entrance into the Union, Cape Colony had bartered
her shining ideals for the sombre history of the northern states,
a history defiled with innocent blood, and a territory
soaked with native tears and scandalized by burying Natives alive;
and that with one stroke of the pen the so-called federation
has demolished the Rhodes's formula of "equal rights for all civilized men,
irrespective of colour"? How are the mighty fallen!
But while we sing the funeral dirge of Cape ideals, the Republicans
sing songs of gladness. Thus, when Mr. Sauer, a noted disciple
of the late Mr. Saul Solomon, died, the `Bloemfontein Friend',
the leading Ministerial daily of the "Free" State, said:
He stood uncompromisingly for Rhodes's ideal of complete equality,
and it was an open secret that Mr. Sauer, who piloted the Natives' Land Act
through Parliament last session, would, had circumstances been different,
have been its strongest opponent. It was the irony of fate that made him
Minister of Native Affairs when a law had to be passed which appeared to be
in entire conflict with his cherished lifelong convictions.
The Act he passed embodied the hated northern principles which
he had consistently opposed during the whole of his political career, and,
as in the case of the Act of Union, it was only Mr. Sauer's influence that
allayed the feelings of the intransigent section of the native population.
Mr. Sauer was a convinced disciple of the teachings of Saul Solomon,
who founded and preached the gospel of the Cape native policy.
In our view that was a mistaken policy. Its principal modern exponent has now
been taken away, and if God, and not man, shapes the destinies of nations,
we may be pardoned the belief that Mr. Sauer's death at this juncture
means something more than the mere passing from the finite into the infinite
of one human being.
If this is a brutal utterance, it is at any rate more frank,
and therefore more manly, than the vacillating policy of the `Cape Times',
the Ministerial organ of the Cape Colony. It is said that "politics
make strange bed-fellows", but not even the shrewdest of our political seers
could have predicted that in 1913 the `Cape Times' would be found
in the same camp as its Republican contemporaries which sing glees
over the demolished structure of Cape traditions, and over
the passing away of Victorian statesmen and the principles they stood for --
Victorian principles, which the `Cape Times' of other days helped to build up
in another political camp! How are the mighty fallen!
Dear lovely bowers of innocence and ease,
Seats of my youth when every sport could please,
How often have I loitered o'er thy green,
Where humble happiness endeared each scene!
How often have I paused on every charm:
The shelter'd cot, the cultivated farm,
The never failing brook, the busy mill,
The decent church that topt the neighbouring hill,
The hawthorn bush with seats beneath the shade
For talking age and whisp'ring lovers made!
How often have I blest the coming day,
When toil remitting lent its turn to play!
And all the village train, from labour free,
Led up their sports beneath the spreading tree;
With bashful virgins' sidelong looks of love,
The matron's glance that would these looks reprove.
These were thy charms, sweet Province, sports like these,
With sweet succession, taught e'en toil to please;
These round thy bowers their cheerful influence shed,
These were thy charms -- but all these charms are fled.
Sweet smiling village, loveliest of the lawn,
Thy sports are fled and all thy charms withdrawn;
Amidst thy bowers the tyrant's hand is seen
And desolation saddens all thy green:
And trembling, shrinking from the spoiler's hand,
Far, far away, thy children leave the land.
Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates and men decay.
The Cape Native can thoroughly endorse these sentiments of Oliver Goldsmith,
which, however, compared with his own present lot, are mild in the extreme;
for it could not have been amid scenes of this description,
and with an outlook half as bad as ours, that the same author further sings:
A time there was e'er England's grief began,
When every rood of ground maintain'd its man;
But times are alter'd: Trade's unfeeling train
Usurp the land and dispossess the swain.
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