Native Life in South Africa, Before and Since the European War and the Boer Rebellion
Part 4 out of 8
Those gentle hours that plenty bade to bloom,
Those calm desires that ask'd but little room,
Those graceful sports that grac'd the peaceful scene,
Liv'd in each look and brighten'd all the green,
These far departing seek a kinder shore,
And rural mirth and manners are no more.
In all my wand'rings round this world of care,
In all my griefs -- and God has giv'n my share --
I still had hopes my latest hours to crown,
Amidst these humble bowers to lay me down.
Chapter XIII Mr. Tengo-Jabavu, the Pioneer Native Pressman
Egotists cannot converse; they talk to themselves only.
There is issued in King Williamstown (Cape) `Imvo', the second oldest
newspaper published in any one of the South African native languages.
This paper formerly had a kind of monopoly in the field of native journalism,
and it deserved a wide reputation. In later years the `Izwi',
another native journal, appeared on the scene; and then
the King Williamstown pioneer could hardly hold its ground
against the new rival. The `Izwi', though somewhat too pronounced
against the traditional policy of the Dutch, appealed to a large section
mainly by reason of its Imperial sentiment. The result was that
Mr. Tengo-Jabavu's paper began to sink into difficulties and had to cast about
for a financial rescuer. Prominent supporters of the present Ministry
came to the rescue; three out of the ten members of the first Union Cabinet
became shareholders in the sinking `Imvo', so that the editor,
in a sense, cannot very well be blamed because his paper is native
only in language. However, we do not think that he does full justice
to his ministerial employers.
God forbid that we should ever find that our mind had become
the property of some one other than ourselves; but should
such a misfortune ever overtake us, we should at least strive
to serve our new proprietor diligently, and whenever our people
are unanimously opposed to a policy, we should consider it a part of our duty
to tell him so; but that is not Mr. Jabavu's way of serving a master.
Throughout the course of a general election, we have known him
to feed his masters (the S.A. party), upon flapdoodle,
fabricating the mess out of imaginary native votes of confidence
for his masters' delectation, and leaving them to discover
the real ingredients of the dish, at the bottom of the poll,
when the result has been declared.
He did the same thing in the case of the Natives' Land Bill.
Thus when he found that the trouble was organizing the Natives
on an unprecedented scale, and that the Native Press and the Native Congress
were unanimous in denouncing the Grobler-Sauer Bill,
a Reuter's telegram appeared in the newspapers purporting to give
the proceedings of a meeting of the Natives of King Williamstown,
who, it was alleged, approved of the Bill. When the author reached
King Williamstown, during this visit, he found the King Williamstown Natives
disgusted with what they said was Reuter's speculation upon their feelings.
But Reuter's agent on the spot, whose office we also visited,
knew nothing about the meeting. The only meeting ever held in the place,
we were told, was one of nineteen persons presided over by Mr. Tengo-Jabavu,
and when Mr. Jabavu asked the other eighteen Natives present in the meeting
besides him to signify their approval of the legislation,
Mr. W. D. Soga (a well-known native politician) asked the chairman
to place a motion before the meeting, as he was ready to move an amendment.
The temper of the meeting having already shown itself unfavourably
to the chairman's suggestion, the latter, instead of challenging
a positive defeat, suggested an adjournment. This was agreed to
for the simple reason that nineteen persons were too few
to express the wishes of the 100,000 Natives of King Williamstown.
But, the next morning, the message "from Reuter's agent at King Williamstown"
appeared in all the daily papers, except that of King Williamstown,
conveying the Natives' approval of the Bill, and Mr. Sauer, in Parliament,
made capital out of the "mess"-age. But Mr. Tengo-Jabavu lived
to rue his action in this matter before very long. His authority,
or rather his leadership, of the Natives, was put to the test in March, 1914,
when he contested the Tembuland seat against Dr. W. B. Rubusana.
Dr. Rubusana had always been supposed to occupy the second place,
and Mr. Jabavu the first place, in the estimation of the Natives
of the Cape Province: yet, to the surprise of everybody,
Mr. Jabavu, although assisted by the Dutch vote, polled only 294 votes,
while Dr. Rubusana, who relied entirely on the coloured vote, polled 852.
We mentioned, in a previous chapter, the names of Principal Henderson
and Mr. Tengo-Jabavu, as those whom we especially desired to interview
during our trip. Having stated the fulfilment of this desire
in regard to Mr. Henderson, we now proceed to state it
in regard to Mr. Jabavu.
There was to be a meeting of the Natives of King Williamstown,
in the Baptist Chapel, on November 3, 1913, to discuss the Natives' Land Act.
To this meeting we had been invited by telegram; and in going
to King Williamstown we made up our mind to invite Mr. Jabavu
to this meeting of Natives of his town, and in fact, to treat him
with the same respect as we had shown the Principal of Lovedale
with such happy results; but, to our horror, we found that Mr. Jabavu
was not only preaching the Backvelders' dangerous politics, that were ruinous
to native interests, but that, besides their dangerous politics,
he had imbibed their baser quality of ingratitude. For this man
had not only enjoyed our free hospitality on three occasions,
when he visited up-country, and the hospitality of our relatives
at various times in other parts, but when he was about to leave for Europe,
on a holiday jaunt, and wanted some one to take charge of his work,
we left our own affairs and went to King Williamstown, at our own expense,
to fill that post, and we filled it without a fee; but, see his retaliation.
We reached King Williamstown on Saturday evening and called
at Mr. Jabavu's house on Sunday afternoon. Mrs. Jabavu said her husband
had gone to Stutterheim, and would be back by a late train. On Monday morning
we called at Mr. Jabavu's office, and his son whom we saw said his father
would be there in the afternoon. We called in the afternoon and was told
that he was inside and would see us later. We waited from 2.30
till nearly 4 p.m., chatting with his son, while Mr. Jabavu was closeted
in the next room, evidently unwilling to see us. As his son had to leave,
we also went away, but returned to his office at 6 p.m., just an hour before
the opening of the public meeting to which we wished to invite him.
Mr. Jabavu sent a verbal message, with the young lady who had taken in
our card to him, to the effect that he was not prepared to see us.
That in brief was our reception by the man who edits "a native paper".
We went to the meeting at the Baptist Chapel, which was a huge success.
Mr. W. Sebe presided. The editor of the King Williamstown daily paper,
an Englishman, attended the meeting in person and took notes for his paper,
while no reporter represented the soi-disant native paper
of King Williamstown.
When the proceedings of the meeting appeared in the King Williamstown
English paper, Mr. Jabavu attempted to discount the report by writing
in his own paper that "the `Cape Mercury' evidently does not know that there
are Natives and Natives, as well as King Williamstown and King Williamstown,
there being town and country," etc. This being a veiled insinuation
that the rural native view was opposed to the urban native view
at King Williamstown, we could not leave the matter unchallenged,
so we posted the following challenge to Mr. Tengo-Jabavu, which he evidently
found it impossible to accept: --
Dear Sir, --
`Imvo' comments disparagingly on Monday's meeting, and adds that
the Natives who composed the meeting were a handful drawn by curiosity.
Now, I challenge `Imvo', or Mr. Tengo-Jabavu, to call a series
of three public meetings, anywhere in the district of King Williamstown.
Let us both address these meetings immediately after the Natives' Land Act
has been read and interpreted to each. We could address the meetings from
the same platform, or separately, but on the same day and at the same place.
For every vote carried at each of these meetings in favour of his views
on the Act I undertake to hand over 15 Pounds to the Grey Hospital
(King Williamstown), and 15 Pounds to the Victoria Hospital (Lovedale),
on condition that for every vote I carry at any of the meetings,
he hand over 15 Pounds to the Victoria Hospital (Mafeking),
and 15 Pounds to the Carnarvon Hospital (Kimberley).
That is 30 Pounds for charity, if he will accept.
I will not place difficulties in his way by inviting him to meetings up here,
but leave him to call meetings among his own people (if he has any)
in his own district, and I will attend at my own expense.
(Sgd.) Sol. T. Plaatje,
Editor of `Tsala ea Batho', and Secretary S.A. Native National Congress.
14, Shannon Street, Kimberley.
Dear Sir, -- I am instructed by the Editor of "Imvo" to acknowledge
the receipt of your letter, and to inform you that as he has not been
reading and following your writings, etc., he cannot understand
what you mean by it. In short, to let you know that he takes no interest
in the matter.
I am, Sir,
(Sgd.) A. M. Jabavu.
"Imvo" Office, King Williamstown,
November 24, 1913.
Poor fellow! He had not met a single member of the Government
since the plague law was so rudely sprung upon an unsuspecting country,
and since it sent unprotected widows and innocent children adrift,
to wander about with their belongings on their heads.
Mr. Jabavu had not met any member of Parliament and discussed the measure
with him or with a responsible Government official; so he found it awkward
to accept a challenge to substantiate his arguments, in the presence of one
who had not only discussed the measure with members of Parliament,
with Cabinet Ministers and their representatives, but who had also witnessed
the ravages of the Act amongst the Natives in the country.
The general complaint of the Natives of King Williamstown,
his fellow-townsmen, is that he refuses to attend their meetings and relies
on the white daily papers for information about the Natives at large.
But Mr. Jabavu is nothing if he is not selfish. We are informed,
and have every reason to believe, that, three months after the Act was passed,
he wanted to raise a loan of 200 Pounds on landed security,
but was debarred by the Natives' Land Act. The next issue of his paper
praised the Act for the sixtieth time and noted the following exception:
"There is only one flaw in this otherwise useful Act,
which is occasioning a manifest hardship through harsh administration,
and that is the provision relating to lending money."
Now, from our point of view, this seems to be the only defensible provision,
as it would tend to discourage usury, a common evil in money transactions
between Europeans and Natives; but because it interfered
with Mr. Jabavu's personal aims, that is the only flaw.
The cold-blooded evictions and the Draconian principle
against living anywhere, except as serfs, are inconsequential
because they have not yet touched Mr. Jabavu's person.
Chapter XIV The Native Congress and the Union Government
Pity and need make all flesh kin. There is no caste in blood
which runneth of one hue; nor caste in tears, which trickle salt with all.
Sir Edwin Arnold.
A native meeting was called to meet at Johannesburg on July 25, 1913,
under the auspices of the South African Native Congress.
The Congress was attended by Natives from as far south
as East London and King Williamstown, and from as far north
as the Zoutpansbergen in Northern Transvaal, and also from Natal, Zululand,
and from Bechuanaland; in fact from nearer and distant centres
in all parts of the country they had gathered to discuss
the situation arising from the serious conditions created
by the Natives' Land Act. Thus the proceedings of the meeting
were conducted under a grave sense of responsibility.
There was little of the customary loquaciousness which characterizes
native gatherings; and there was much less free translation of the speeches
for the benefit of the European visitors. Translations, as a rule,
take up a great deal of valuable time, and it was their curtailment
on this occasion, apparently, which caused the `Transvaal Leader'
-- a morning paper of the Rand -- to complain that Natives
had become unusually secretive and had ceased to be as communicative
as at previous meetings. The `Rand Daily Mail', on the other hand,
referred to the closing session in a very few lines. It said:
"Last evening, a number of Native women attended the Native Congress,
attired as befitting the solemnity and importance of the occasion.
The orderly behaviour of the 200 or more delegates was attributable
to the presence on the platform of Mr. Dube, an able chairman,
supported by two native solicitors who passed their B.A. in London."
Mr. R. W. Msimang is a solicitor who was articled to
a firm of solicitors in England; but the reference to
the second "native solicitor" and "London B.A." is about
the most undeserved compliment ever paid to the author,
who, until 1914 (a year after the Congress reported by the `Mail'),
had never been on board a ship, nor inside a London college.
At the annual Congress, March, 1913, a deputation had been appointed
to proceed to Capetown and to present to the Government the native objections
against the proposed embargo on the purchase and lease of land.
The deputation consisted of Mr. J. L. Dube, Dr. W. B. Rubusana,
Mr. Advocate Mangena, Rev. L. Dlepu, Messrs. W. Z. Fenyang, S. Msane,
L. T. Mvabaza, D. Le Tanka, and S. T. Plaatje; the writer, however,
was not able to proceed to Capetown at the time. The July Congress
was specially called to receive the report of the delegates to Capetown,
and further to consider what other steps it might be necessary to take.
Dr. Rubusana gave a report on the deputation to Capetown. They had
four interviews with the Minister of Native Affairs, and several interviews
with members of Parliament, urging the setting aside of some Government farms,
to which evicted native tenants might go, as the effect of the Bill,
then under discussion, would inevitably be to make numbers of them homeless.
The Minister, he said, never denied the possible hardship
that would follow the enforcement of such a law, but he seemed to be driven
by a mysterious force in the face of which the native interest did not count.
What that force was, he said, could only be surmised. General Hertzog,
who had always advocated some such measure (though he had never been able
to carry it out), had just been excluded from the Botha Cabinet;
to placate his supporters, who were very angry over his dismissal,
the Government carried out this alleged policy of his,
so that while General Hertzog in office was not able to bring about
the enslavement of the blacks, General Hertzog out of office succeeded
in getting the Government to sacrifice their principles of right and justice
and to force the Act through Parliament, in order to retain
the support of the "Free" State malcontents.
When every effort with the Ministry failed, the delegates asked
for a postponement of the Bill pending the report of the Commission.
This also was refused by the Government. Finally he wrote a letter
to Lord Gladstone, asking him to withhold his assent to the Bill
until he had heard the native view. To this His Excellency replied
that such a course was "not within his constitutional functions".
All this took place in May, 1913.
In July, Mr. Dube, the president of the Congress, wrote to Lord Gladstone
asking for an interview to lay before him the nature of the damage
that the Act was causing among the native population. Again His Excellency
replied that it was "not within his constitutional functions".
The Natives' Land Act, which was then law, was read to the assembled Natives,
most of whom narrated their experiences and the result of their observations
of the effect of the Act during the six weeks that it had been in force.
Congress considered these, and as a result of their deliberations
it was resolved to appeal to His Majesty's Government; and also to take steps
to apprise the British public of the mode of government carried on
in British South Africa under the Union Jack, and to invoke their assistance
to abrogate the obnoxious law that had brought the Congress together.
The Congress considered at length how His Majesty the King
and the British public could best help the Natives in these matters;
and it was concluded that if South Africa were really British,
then any suffering taking place in that country must be of concern
to His Majesty the King and the British public. The next point
for inquiry by the Congress was the journey of a deputation to be chosen
to proceed on this mission, a journey consisting of six thousand miles by sea
and a thousand miles by rail. When the Europeans of South Africa
went to England to ask the Imperial Government for a Constitution,
their delegates were easily sent, because the native taxpayers,
although with hardly any hope of benefiting by the gift
-- which amounted to a curtailment of their rights -- were compelled
to contribute to the travelling and other expenses of these envoys;
but in the Natives' own case no such funds are at his disposal,
even though he goes to the Imperial Government to point out
that his taxes had been used by a Parliament in which he is unrepresented
as a rod for his back. In order to meet this necessary demand for
ways and means, Mr. Msane was deputed to tour the country and ask for funds
from the Natives. A Johannesburg committee was appointed
to superintend this effort and take charge of the funds which he might raise.
The members of the said committee were: Messrs. W. F. Jemsana (chairman),
Elka M. Cele (treasurer), D. S. Letanka, R. W. Msimang, H. D. Mkize,
B. G. Phooko, D. D. Tywakadi, D. Moeletsi, M. D. Ndabezita,
H. Selby Msimang (hon. sec.), S. Msane (organizer). Finally a deputation
was appointed to proceed to Pretoria to lay before the Union Government
three resolutions that the Congress passed. The first,
condoling with the Government on the death of Hon. J. W. Sauer,
late Minister of Justice and Native Affairs, who died just as the Congress
was about to meet; the second resolution, that the Natives
dissociated themselves entirely from the industrial struggles
on the Witwatersrand and elsewhere, and preferred to seek redress
for their grievances through constitutional rather than by violent means.
The third resolution, that humble representations to the authorities against
the eviction of Natives from farms, having proved unavailing, the Natives
had now decided to raise funds for the purpose and convey their appeal
to His Majesty the King and to the British public. That Mr. Msane
had been appointed organizer of the appeal fund and that a safe conduct
was requested for him to tour the native villages. The following deputation
was appointed to present these resolutions to the Union Government
at Pretoria: Chief Karl Kekana and Mr. S. M. Makgatho of the Transvaal,
Mr. E. Mamba of the Transkei (Cape), Mr. Saul Msane and Rev. R. Twala (Natal),
Mr. S. T. Plaatje (Kimberley), and Mr. J. M. Nyokong
of the Orange "Free" State.
Mr. S. F. Malan, the Minister for Native Affairs pro tem.
received the deputation in the Government Buildings,
which were the Transvaal Houses of Parliament before Union.
With the Minister of Native Affairs were Messrs. E. Barrett,
Assistant Secretary for Native Affairs, Mr. Pritchard,
the Johannesburg Commissioner, and Mr. Cross, a Rand Magistrate.
The Minister readily received the resolutions and confessed to
a feeling of relief at the moderation of their tone. Further,
he listened to the story of hardships already suffered by the Natives,
as a result of the enforcement of the Land Act, specific instances of which
were given, some being of Natives not far from Pretoria,
who, after being evicted from their old homes and having found new homes,
were told by the Commissioner that they could not settle therein.
The delegates submitted to the Minister that their complaint
was not a sentimental grievance, but real physical suffering.
The Minister having listened to these statements, pointed out
that this Act was the law of the land, which must be obeyed.
He was not so sure, he said, that the Natives could achieve anything
by means of a deputation to England as the law had already been signed
by His Majesty's representative on the spot without hesitation.
He could not see why the Natives should be interfered with
when holding meetings and organizing a deputation to go to the King,
as long as they kept within the four corners of the law. But it seemed to him
that they should have waited until a commission had been appointed
under Sections 2 and 3 of the Act. An appeal to the Sovereign, he added,
was the inherent right of every British subject; but he expressed the desire
that the appeal to England should be dropped until the commission
had first made its report. The delegates explained that as the law
had in six weeks done so much harm, it was alarming to think
what it might do in six months, while there was nothing definite to hope for
from the report of a commission not yet appointed, and whose report
might conceivably take six years.
The deputation made it clear that the appeal to the King
would be dropped if the Government undertook to amend the law
pending the report of the commission.
THE NATIVES' LAND ACT IN NATAL
In the following months both the Minister in charge of Native Affairs
and the Chief Native Commissioner of Natal asked Rev. John L. Dube,
President of the S.A. Native National Congress, to furnish them
with information and particulars of Natives in misery
as a result of the Natives' Land Act. Mr. Dube had been collecting
some concrete cases of hardship, including Chief Sandanazwe of Evansdale,
Waschbank, who stated that he and fifty members of his tribe
"are given notice to remove, and that he has made representations
to the authorities in Maritzburg asking for land without success."
Mr. Dube sent the following letter to the Secretary for Native Affairs,
with a list of evicted farm tenants, on September 12, 1913.
The Chief Native Commissioner for Natal approached me
shortly after the publication in the Press of my open letter*
with a request similar to that made by you, viz., that I should furnish him
with particulars and information. From time to time
I did so furnish those names to the Chief Commissioner,
and I send you herewith a list of those names and also additional names
which have come to my knowledge since my correspondence
with the Chief Native Commissioner.
* Mr. Dube was here referring to an open letter which he sent
to the `Natal Press', explaining the hard lot of the Native victims
of the Act, and appealing to the colonists to intercede
with the South African Government on behalf of the sufferers.
In regard to the concluding paragraph of your letter to the effect
that the only result of the Chief Native Commissioner's request
was the submission of the case of a Native in the Weenen County
who received notice from his landlord over a year ago,
you must be misinformed. As you will see from the list,
scores of names were furnished to the Native Commissioner, and furthermore,
some of the individuals themselves who were suffering hardship
were sent by me to the Chief Commissioner and were interviewed by him.
The trouble has been that the Chief Commissioner, instead of dealing
with these individual cases himself, has, I am informed, in many instances,
sent the individuals on to the Magistrates, and my letters also
have been forwarded to the Magistrates, with the request that Magistrates
would go into the matter. However anxious the Magistrates may be
to help in this matter they are but human, and in many cases,
I am informed, they are overweighed with other work and have been unable
to give the attention to these matters that they required.
Moreover the Magistrate acts purely as an official, and the Native
who is wandering about the country helpless does not get
the immediate sympathy and attention which his case deserves and demands.
In many cases the individuals I sent on are under the impression,
rightly or wrongly, that nothing is being done for their relief.
If I might make a suggestion, it would be that some independent gentleman
should be appointed to investigate these cases -- some gentleman
who would have sufficient time to devote to the investigation
of the various instances of hardship that would come before him,
and who would be empowered to do what was necessary to relieve the deserving.
I may say further that since the introduction of the Squatters Bill
during the 1912 session of Parliament eviction by farmers has been
much increased, possibly in view of the impression that prevailed generally
among the farming community that the Squatters Bill or some similar measure
was to be re-introduced by the Government, the result being that those Natives
who had been evicted by farmers now the Natives' Land Bill has become law,
are prevented from entering into agreements with land owners
as rent-paying tenants, and only under servile conditions, with the result
that in many cases they become wandering and helpless vagrants.
Another form of hardship which prevails very generally
as the result of the Natives' Land Act is this: The younger Natives
do not receive the wage from farmers as can be easily earned,
say, on the Rand mines, with the result that the younger men
leave their homes and their fathers and proceed to the mines;
the father is unable to supply the labour demanded by the landlord
owing to the absence of his sons, and as a result he is evicted --
many cases of this sort can be cited.
I may here cite two cases within my personal knowledge:
(1) Bhulose was living on Mr. R. Miller's farm, "Dalmeny",
near Phoenix. He was evicted with his wife and family in June last.
He is seeking a place now to reside on, but cannot obtain one.
(2) A native woman Vatplank, a widow with a family, was evicted
from the property of a farmer, Mr. Adendorff, near Newcastle; this woman
with all her household goods and her family had to camp out on the veld.
She was barred by the Act from going to neighbouring farmers for a residence.
I have done my utmost to give you concrete examples and names of persons
suffering hardship. If I can supplement the information
contained in this letter and in the accompanying list I shall only be
too happy to do so.
Might I suggest further that you should ask the Chief Native Commissioner
to forward to you all my correspondence with him on this matter?
This will show you and the Government that the statements contained
in my open letter are not mere fabrications, but are based upon solid facts.
John L. Dube.
Mr. Dube's list includes evictions from the districts of Greytown,
New Hanover, Ekukanyeni, Homeless (a very appropriate name
in the circumstances), Howick, Estcourt, and Mid-Illovu.
Here is a specimen of notice: --
I hereby give you Mandwasi notice to leave my farm Blinkwater
by the end of July, 1913.
July 20, 1913. Freestone Ridge.
"The wheels of administration moved slowly" (to borrow an official phrase)
between the Native Affairs Department and the other departments of State.
Thus, while the authorities were temporizing with this
and similar representations, the Natives' Land Act was scattering the Natives
about the country, creating alarm and panic in different places.
The high officials of State, instead of relieving the distress thus caused,
were interviewing Natives and urging them not to send a deputation to Europe.
The Natives received this advice hopefully. They believed
it was an indication that the Government was about to amend the law,
in which case, of course, the deputation would be unnecessary;
but, besides this advice, the officials in each instance promised no relief.
The Natal Native Commissioner held a similar meeting with a number of Zulus.
The meeting asked for some relief for the evicted tenants
who were roaming about the country, but the official significantly
evaded the point. The disappointment of the meeting, created by
his evasive replies, having overcome the proverbial native timidity
when in the presence of authority, resulted in one petty chief
saying to the Commissioner: "Local authorities levy a tax every year
on each of our dogs. We don't know what they do with the money.
You have never complained against that waste, so why should you complain
if our money is spent in sending a deputation to the King?" The answer,
if there was one, is not reported.
General Botha, until then, never met native tax-payers
to discuss their grievances with them. But in the latter part of 1913,
he actually met some Natives in the Eastern Transvaal, who desired
to inform him of the ravages of the Act. But instead of holding out any hope
that an asylum would be found for the wanderers, he proceeded
to advise them against sending a deputation to England. The Natives
having given specific instances of the plight of certain evicted tenants
in the neighbourhood, asked for an abode for them, but on that point
the Premier would not be drawn. The Government's indifference
to native sufferings being thus revealed, the Natives of Vryheid
became more eager to help to organize the proposed deputation.
General Botha's efforts against the deputation, without offering any homes
to the evicted Natives, was probably the best stimulus
towards the deputation fund. The Premier visited a northern tribe
some time after and was said to have warned the chief and his people
against the pretensions of the Native Congress. When Mr. Dube called there
a few days later, they handed him 200 Pounds towards the deputation fund,
which they had collected since General Botha's visit. Mr. Saul Msane
similarly raised 360 Pounds for the fund in the Eastern Transvaal
where the Premier first warned the Natives against the deputation
without offering them any relief.
Those Natives who were not immediately affected by the Act
were rather lukewarm regarding the proposed deputation.
But when the officials warned them against wasting their money on a deputation
and told them in the next breath that it was a breach of the law
to find an abode for the evicted wanderers, these Natives,
perceiving the hollowness of the Government's advice,
determined that as a last resort a deputation should be sent to England.
Chapter XV The Kimberley Congress / The Kimberley Conference
Sorrow like this draws parted lives in one, and knits anew the rents
which time has made.
When everything was ready another special Congress was called
to meet at Johannesburg in February, to carry out the deputation's scheme
and appoint the delegates to proceed to England. In view of
the dissatisfaction of the Government after the July Congress,
the author considered it his duty to inform the Government
that a meeting was about to take place. This information
called forth a peremptory intimation from the Government
that because of the recent strike of white men (from which the Natives
had publicly disassociated themselves) the Native Congress could not be held.
But at the time that this telegraphic prohibition reached us
General Smuts, Minister of Defence, was announcing in Parliament that
the embargo on public meetings, in areas where, owing to the recent strike
(of January, 1914), martial law was proclaimed, had been removed.
Logically then General Botha's decision made the previous day
in regard to the Congress meeting fell to the ground; and so we telegraphed
to Senator Schreiner and Dr. Watkins, members of Parliament,
to ascertain if this was so. Both these gentlemen answered
that in spite of the removal of the prohibition of public meetings of whites,
the Prime Minister directs that the one in regard to the "Native Congress"
must stand. Thereupon the writer, after consulting a few native residents
in Kimberley, intimated to the executive of the Congress that:
Kimberley, my home, is not yet a Republic in its sentiments.
There we have not reached the stage where some one's permission
must be asked before a meeting can be held. So we invite the Congress
to hospitable and British Kimberley, where public meetings close
with singing the British National Anthem and not with singing
the "Volkslied" or the "Red Flag", as is the case in meetings
at some other South African centres.
After the notices were out the Government sent an intimation to the effect
that the Congress was not actually prohibited. That it was only deemed
undesirable to allow it to be held at Johannesburg, where a strike
had taken place; and that even there the Government no longer objected,
provided it be held indoors. But this belated reconsideration was unnecessary
as the Kimberley preparations were far advanced and some of the delegates
were already on their way to Kimberley.
The Congress was opened in St. John's Hall at 10 a.m. on
Friday morning, February 27, 1914, by the Rt. Rev. W. Gore-Browne,
Bishop of Kimberley and Kuruman. His lordship was accompanied
by Archdeacon de Rougemont and Rev. I. I. Hlangwana of St. Paul's Mission,
who gave out the native hymns. In the absence of the president,
who reached Kimberley in the afternoon of that day, the Bishop
was received by Mr. Makgatho, vice-president of the Congress.
After the religious exercise had ended, the Bishop counselled the Congress
not to ask for a repeal of the whole Act, but only for relief
from the oppressive clauses, and then to wait for the Commission's report
in regard to the remainder of the Act. "There may be something good in it,"
added the Bishop, "as the glittering diamonds of Kimberley are found
in blue clay."
Mr. Makgatho, in thanking the Bishop for opening the Congress, thanked him
for the allegory, but added, however, that he had never heard of a father
who said to his child, "You are hungry, my son, and I am going
to prepare some dinner for you, but meanwhile you had better wait outside
in the rain." After the Bishop gave the Congress his benediction,
Prince Malunge-Ka-Mban-deni of Swaziland was introduced to him,
as were the Chiefs Molotlegi and Mamogale of Transvaal,
Moiloa of the Bahurutshe, and Messrs. Elka M. Cele of Natal,
Meshach Pelem from the Cape, J. M. Nyokong, S. Litheko of the O.F.S.,
and other native leaders.
In the evening a large public reception was held in the City Hall
in honour of the delegates. Kimberley joined wholeheartedly in the function.
De Beers Company, which had hitherto shown the greatest hospitality
only to European assemblies and not to native conferences and organizations,
acted otherwise in the case of this Congress and its requirements.
Presumably Mr. Pickering, the secretary of De Beers, had had information
that even the mining labourers in the enclosed mining compounds were
heart and soul with their countrymen outside; and so the Company's hospitality
was extended to the native delegates.
Bioscope films were projected by Mr. I. Joshua, the chairman of the A.P.O.,
Messrs. Lakey and September, other A.P.O. committee men, acting as
masters of ceremonies. The coloured people attended in their hundreds,
and cheered the musicians of their native brethren who entertained the people
who thronged the City Hall till many were refused admission.
The Coloured People's Organization sent a speaker, Mr. H. Van Rooyen,
to welcome the delegates on behalf of the African Political Organization.
The president of their Ladies' Guild, Mrs. Van der Riet,
a school teacher and musician of long standing, attended and played
the accompaniment for the Greenport Choir on the pianoforte;
Miss M. Ntsiko, who had borne the brunt of the evening's accompaniment,
was thus relieved.
Mr. Joseph Kokozela, on behalf of the Kimberley and Beaconsfield
branches of the Congress, welcomed the Congress to Kimberley,
and presented Mr. Dube, the president, with an address,
which was beautifully illuminated by the Sisters of St. Joseph Convent,
of Mafeking. Mr. H. Van Rooyen associated his people with the Natives
in their present struggle for existence, and Dr. J. E. Mackenzie,
who spoke on behalf of the Europeans, made a fine speech.
He said that nobility was not confined to any particular race or colour;
that men with black skins have been known to be just as noble
as men with white skins. Amongst other questions he asked,
"What could be more noble than the Bedford boy leader who subsequently became
the St. Augustine of Central Africa, or what could be more noble
than the action of the two servants of Dr. Livingstone, who carried his body,
for hundreds of miles, through difficult forests, to the coast,
and thus ensured his burial in Westminster Abbey?"
Dr. Mackenzie's speech was afterwards referred to by several native delegates
to the Congress. They said that before they came to Kimberley
they felt certain that English ideas were utterly obliterated
in the Union of South Africa, and that English sentiments
were things of the past; but that Dr. Mackenzie's speech had given them
fresh hope, as it was like cold water to a traveller in the desert.
It was, they said further, like a dream to hear a white man talk like that
in a mixed audience.
The Congress received sympathetic telegrams from such
old residents of Kimberley as Sir David Harris and Dr. Watkins.
Both these gentlemen telegraphed their felicitations from Parliament.
Mr. H. A. Oliver, member for Kimberley, a great Wesleyan
and Sunday School leader, who was at Capetown for the Parliamentary session,
instructed his manager at Kimberley to book seats on his account
for the senior classes of the Newton Wesleyan Sunday School
to attend the Congress entertainment.
The Resident Magistrate of Kimberley telephoned to us on this same day
that he had received the following telegram from the Secretary
for Native Affairs: --
"LEAVING TO-NIGHT FOR KIMBERLEY TO ATTEND THE NATIVE CONGRESS.
It had never previously happened that a representative of the Government
attended a coloured political assembly, and it was felt
that wiser councils had prevailed with the Government,
and that as a result it had decided to meet the Natives, at least half-way.
If gambling was one of the indulgences of the Natives,
some at least of the delegates would have wagered that Mr. Dower
was conveying a concession to the Native Congress, by which
it would be unnecessary for the latter to send a deputation to England.
So thoroughly was the idea of a concession associated
in the mind of the Congress with the approaching visit of Mr. Dower
that it postponed the election of delegates for the mission to England.
This anticipation was a reasonable one as the Union's recent legislation
was in the melting-pot.
The law against British Indians, passed at the same time
as the Natives' Land Act, was just then recommended for modification,
under pressure brought to bear upon the Imperial Government
by the Government of India and other agencies. Again, the Labour members
were creating difficulties both at Capetown and Westminster
over General Smuts's Deportation Bill, which compelled the Government
to amend its conditional banishment clause -- a hardship that was not
as vital or as absolute as the banishment clauses against black tenants
in the Natives' Land Act. Consequently, the native delegates to Congress,
representing as they did an overwhelming majority of the inhabitants
of South Africa -- a section that had received nothing but violent legislation
from the South African Parliament since the inauguration of Union --
had every reason to expect that, for the first time,
a Government emissary was carrying an olive branch to the Natives;
but, alas! unlike the industrial strikers, the Natives had no votes
to create a constitutional difficulty; unlike the British Indians, they have
no Indian Government at their back; therefore, their vital interests,
being negligible, could comfortably be relegated to the regions of oblivion,
and this hope, like all its predecessors, was falsified.
Mr. Dower attended the Congress on Saturday, February 28,
and again on Monday, March 2, and made speeches.
He was profuse in expressions of the gratitude of the Government
to the Natives, their leaders and their chiefs, for the loyal co-operation
they have always rendered the authorities, and he came to ask them,
he said, to perpetuate that loyal co-operation and to refrain
from appealing to Great Britain on the Natives' Land Act.
To appeal would be to put back the clock of the Native Affairs Department
for many years. Of course, it did not matter about
the putting back of the Natives' own clock, since its only use
is that of an index for the registration of Government taxes,
municipal pass fees at one shilling or more per month per Native,
and similar phases of the black man's burden. Thus, in answer to questions
put by the members of the Congress, Mr. Dower was not able to say
that one iota of the provisions of that Draconian law would be modified
before the Commission made its report, nor could he give a pledge
in the name of the Government that if the Commission reported
favourably to the Natives, Parliament would carry into effect
the Commission's report, even though the pledge sought
took no account of the possibility of the Commission's report being hostile
to the interests of the Natives. This then was the character of the visit
which the Government Secretary paid to the Native Congress.
It was entirely barren of results, and as such it left the Congress
as it found it, in bewilderment and gloom.
Fresh fears took hold of the Congress. When the commissioners' names
were gazetted, they were not received with any great amount of enthusiasm
by the native population, for the best that could be thought
of the Natives' Land Commissioners was that they were not associated
with any political party. With such a view, it can be understood
what were the feelings of the Congress when it thereafter learnt
that four of the five commissioners were present, as delegates,
at the conference of the Ministerial party held at Capetown two months before
(the conference at which Generals Hertzog and De Wet definitely severed
their connexion with General Botha), nor was there anything to show
that the fifth commissioner was not there also. Therefore, the situation
amounted to this, that this Land Commission, which should be
composed of impartial members, or, if made up of party politicians,
it should at any rate represent the three political parties
as well as the Natives, was in reality but a branch of the Ministerial party
which foisted this very Land Act upon the country.
It was finally resolved to appoint a deputation of five
to accompany the president, Mr. Dube, to England if further efforts failed.
The Congress nominated nine names, and the election of five delegates
from these was entrusted to a committee of fourteen members of the Congress,
who balloted for five and reported the result to the full Congress
as follows: --
S. T. Plaatje 13
S. M. Makgatho 9
Saul Msane 6
W. Z. Fenyang 3
T. M. Mapikela 3
Dr. W. B. Rubusana 2
A. K. Soga 2
M. Pellem 2
Chief Mamogale 1
The first-named five were therefore declared elected. Mr. Fenyang
subsequently stood down in favour of Dr. Rubusana; Mr. Makgatho was not able
to reach Capetown in time for the steamer's departure, so the deputation
that eventually accompanied the president to England were: --
1. Dr. Rubusana.
2. S. T. Plaatje.
3. Saul Msane.
4. T. M. Mapikela.
Their instructions were first to approach the Prime Minister and ask him
to undertake on behalf of his parliamentary majority to repeal
the Natives' Land Act, failing that, to endeavour at least
to get the clause rescinded which prevents evicted native tenants
from finding settlements anywhere except as servants, and that
if the Prime Minister should refuse to grant this request, they were forthwith
to appeal to the Imperial Parliament and the British public.
It may be added that the Congress, before it rose, received telegraphic
advices from Mr. Gibson of the Cape Church Council, and also from
the Hon. W. P. Schreiner, not to appeal to England. These communications
encouraged the delegates to believe that intermediate relief was being
arranged for, to ameliorate the condition of the wandering evicted Natives,
in which case there would, of course, be no occasion to appeal to England.
But it subsequently transpired that the Natives were advised against
making an appeal to England without the offer of any relief.
Before Congress rose votes of thanks were passed in favour of
the Bishop of Kimberley and Kuruman, the De Beers Company,
the `Diamond Fields Advertiser' for its liberal reports of the proceedings,
Mr. Dower for entertaining the delegates to a dinner on Monday,
and also to the residents of Kimberley.
The special thanks of the Congress were voiced by Mr. Makgatho
to the various committees, whose strenuous efforts for
the comfort of the delegates left nothing to be desired. These were: --
COMMITTEES OF LOCAL BRANCHES
KIMBERLEY. -- Messrs. Thos. Leeuw (chairman), S. Marogo (treasurer),
Bill Tshabalala, H. Ndlovu, Z. Jumane, A. R. Mashoko, T. Diniso (secretary).
BEACONSFIELD. -- Messrs. J. Smith (chairman), W. January,
S. Pehla (treasurer), Jas. Ngcezula, Ntshenge, B. Mradu,
J. S. Kokozela (secretary).
LOCAL ACCOMMODATION AND REFRESHMENTS COMMITTEE: Mesdames J. Smith,
S. Sidziya, M. Mahuma, S. Kawa, Mildred Kokozela and L. Skota;
Messrs. J. Chologi, J. Matsebe, S. Pehla, Soga, J. Ngcezula and A. Ntshoko.
CITY HALL RECEPTION COMMITTEE: Mesdames J. J. van der Riet and M. Ntsiko;
Messrs. Isaac P. Joshua, Sidney Motlhabi, P. W. Mama, T. Diniso,
Tony Msengana and J. G. Motlhabi.
An honorarium of 10 Pounds was voted in favour of the honorary secretary,
Mr. S. T. Plaatje.
After the deputation reached Capetown on May 13, 1914, we wrote Lord Gladstone
informing him that we were bearers of a petition from the native population
to His Majesty the King, which we would ask His Excellency
to graciously convey. Of course we expected a short note from His Excellency
to the effect that "it was not within his constitutional functions"
to meet us, but to our surprise this time His Excellency wrote
appointing a meeting with us at noon on May 15 at Government House.
But, in the interview, the reason why that particular appointment
came within the pale of His Excellency's constitutional functions
became apparent: for the Governor-General only made it the opportunity
to urge the deputation not to go to England.
The deputation replied that, even in native politics there was always
an appeal from the action of an induna to the native chief
and from the latter to the ruler; that it was straining the loyalty
of the black millions of South Africa to tell them that there was no appeal
to His Majesty the King against the oppressive laws of a Parliament
in which they had no representatives.
It must be added that although the Governor-General did not say so,
yet the barbarous cruelties of this relentless law appeared to have produced
a sympathy that was visible in his facial expression. Astonishment and pity
were amongst the sensations which seemed to be depicted
on Lord Gladstone's face. Still, he held out no hope that his good offices
would be used to secure an amelioration of the conditions complained of.
All His Excellency advised us to do was to abandon the appeal to England.
"But, your excellency, what about these cruelties that are now in progress?"
"Oh, well," said Lord Gladstone, "the Natives are not the only sufferers,
even in England people have suffered hardships from time to time,
till they were compelled to emigrate to America and other places."
"That is true, your lordship, but it is to avert such a contingency,
if possible, that the Natives appointed a deputation to lay their case
before His Majesty the King, as they have no means to emigrate to America,
or any other country."
"Oh, no," he answered, "don't misunderstand me; I only use that
as an instance, not that Natives must emigrate."
The Governor-General then repeated the advice not to appeal to the Crown,
but he held out no hope of an amendment in the Act, and so the deputation
sailed for England.
Previous to this interview, no less a personage than General Botha himself
-- Premier and Minister for Native Affairs -- condescended to meet
the deputation. Prior to this meeting, the deputation entertained
strong hopes that the Premier would come to it with an offer of, say, at least
allowing the hiring of land by Natives, pending the report of the Commission,
even though the prohibition to buy land remained in force.
But instead of such a minimum, the only hope that General Botha held out
was that he had not evicted the Natives on his own farm,
and that he had further told some farmers not to evict their Natives.
These personal acts of the Premier on his own farm, and with regard to
some other farmers, had not helped the entire native population of the Union
since the Act was promulgated. Nor would they assist those native wanderers
who are now without a home on earth, as General Botha himself
could not allow any of them to settle on his farm without breaking the law.
Again, it did not seem quite clear how General Botha's efforts
in this direction could make any impression on private landowners when
his own officials were carrying out wholesale evictions of native tenants,
on the Government farms at Standerton and elsewhere, and sending them adrift
about the country. The only remedy, and that a partial one,
would be to legalize the settlement of tenants who have been evicted.
But to this General Botha said, "If I went to Parliament now
with a Bill to amend this law they will think I'm mad."
That statement confirmed the decision of the deputation to proceed to England,
and accordingly they at once made arrangements for sailing.
One painful fact which these interviews revealed was
the ignorance of the Government in matters relating to the Natives.
The 5,000,000 blacks of the Union are taxed to maintain
what is called the most expensive Civil Service in the world.
The officials of the Native Affairs Department, in return for
their huge salaries, paid out of the proceeds of taxes levied from
relatively the most poorly paid manual labourers in the world,
namely, the Native taxpayers, are called "the guardians of the Natives";
but General Botha, the Minister of Native Affairs, "Father of the Natives"
and supreme head of the Civil Service, seemed (or pretended)
to know absolutely nothing of the manner in which his official underlings
play battledore and shuttlecock with the interests of the Native population.
To mention but one instance: at one stage of the interview we attempted
to enlist his sympathy on behalf of the "Free" State Natives in particular,
who, in spite of prohibitive laws in the Boer statute books,
had not to our knowledge been debarred by the Boer Government
from buying or leasing land. General Botha not only denied that his was
the first Boer administration which definitely enforced these prohibitions
but he also asserted, with all the dignity of his office,
that no living Native had ever bought a farm in the "Free" State
from a white man -- in short he accused us of telling lies.
Fortunately Mr. E. Dower, who remembered that some Native landowners
in both the Hoopstad and Thaba Ncho districts of the "Free" State
had acquired their properties from white people under the Republican regime,
was present at the interview and he then bore out our statement:
thus on May 15, 1914, the Prime Minister and Minister of Native Affairs
heard for the first time in his life that there were some Natives
actually living in the "Free" State who pay him quit-rent on farms
which they had bought from white people under Republican rule.
The assertion that "Free" State Natives lost nothing by the enforcement
of the Natives' Land Act is but one phase of the maze of ignorance
through which the Union Government is groping in a hopeless attempt
to discharge their trust to the native taxpayers.
The co-operation of intelligent and responsible native taxpayers,
which could sweep away these administrative cobwebs of ignorance,
is always at the disposal of the Government if they deigned
to avail themselves of it; but they prefer, at enormous cost
to the taxpayers (including native taxpayers), to purchase
from the non-native section of the community arm-chair views
based largely on hearsay evidence, which is often tainted by colour prejudice.
Hence the shroud of ignorance which surrounds the native policy
of the Union of South Africa.
Chapter XVI The Appeal for Imperial Protection
Of all the characters of cruelty, I consider that as the most odious
which assumes the garb of mercy.
On arrival in London the native delegates were received
by several friends, including Dr. Chas. Garnett, M.A.,
of the Brotherhood League; Rev. Amos Burnet, of Transvaal,
introduced them to the Wesleyan Missionary Committee in session
at Bishopsgate; the Anti-Slavery and Aborigines Protection Society
communicated with the Colonial Office regarding an interview.
The Colonial Secretary agreed to see the deputation on condition
that they were accompanied by no one from the Society.
When the native deputation reached England there were
a number of South African missionaries on furlough in England
who had taken part in Church meetings in Africa, of protest against the Act.
Some of these gentlemen had witnessed the cruel operations of the Act;
but the decision to receive the native delegates by themselves
meant that no such eyewitnesses as these could testify
to what they had seen of the working of the Act.
In accordance with the time fixed for the interview, the deputation
duly waited upon the Secretary of State, whose reply was more fully given
in Parliament. At the interview he took notes on nothing, and asked
no questions. On every point he had "the assurance of General Botha"
to the contrary.
No headway having been made with the Government, it was resolved upon
that the delegates should appeal to the British Parliament
and thence to the British public in terms of the native mandate.
Later on Messrs. T. Buxton and J. H. Harris, the secretaries
of the A.S. and A.P.S., arranged a meeting for the delegates
to meet certain members of Parliament. The meeting took place
in No. 11 Committee Room of the House of Commons. The British peerage
was represented by Lords Emmott and H. Cavendish Bentinck.
After hearing the delegates and asking them questions,
the members of Parliament intimated that their decision would be
arrived at later in the absence of visitors. It must be mentioned here
that besides the above secretaries of the A.S. and A.P.S. there were also
present at this meeting a few sympathizers who were not members of Parliament.
They included Miss S. Colenso of Amersham, and the Rev. Dr. Howie of Stirling,
and Mrs. Howie, etc.
By the kindness of Mr. and Mrs. Buxton, Mr. and Mrs. Cobden Unwin
(in conjunction with Mrs. Saul Solomon), Lady Scott of Westminster,
Mrs. S. J. Colenso of Amersham, and Mr. H. E. Wood, J.P., of Camberwell
(the latter being a prelude to a successful meeting of the delegates with
the Baptist Council of England), Sir Albert Spicer, M.P., and Lady Spicer,
and Mr. and Mrs. Harris of Dulwich, receptions -- some of them attended
by English and Colonial guests -- held at the residences of the friends named,
were given in honour of the delegates.
IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
Mr. P. ALDEN: I wish to bring to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman
the question of the native lands in South Africa. I happen to have been
responsible for a Resolution passed unanimously in this House
previous to the passing of the Act of Union, and in the discussion
which took place on that occasion the Under-Secretary of State to the Colonies
laid it down as one of the duties of the Imperial Parliament
to protect in every possible way the interests of the Natives in their land,
and protect their rights and liberties in that respect.
If we take away the land from the Native we take away his liberty.
In reference to the Natives Land Act of 1913, I want to put
two or three points before the right hon. Gentleman.
In the Union of South Africa, blacks own about 4,500,000 morgen of land,
and the whites own fourteen times as much land as the blacks,
though, of course, they are very much smaller in number. The inequality
is very noticeable in the Transvaal, where there are 300,000 whites
holding 31,000,000 morgen of land, and the 1,000,000 Natives
only have 500,000 morgen of land which they can call their own.
It has been said over and over again in South Africa that this law
applies equally to Europeans and whites as well as to the Natives.
There is, they say, no injustice. The European is estopped
from this purchase of land, just as the Native is estopped.
All I can say in answer to that is that the fallacy is shown
the moment you begin to ask what land the Natives have to sell.
The native areas are already overcrowded, and they positively have no land
which they could sell. When once a Native leaves his farm or is evicted,
or has to quit for any reason whatever, the Act does not allow him
to purchase, hire or to lease anywhere else for farming purposes
except from Natives, who have not the land to lease or to sell.
He therefore must become a servant on the farm. There is absolutely
nothing else for him to do but to become a servant. This Act has already
produced very great hardships. It has produced hardships to the people
who were under notice to quit at the time the Act was passed,
to the people who have actually since then been evicted from their farms,
to the Natives who were in search of land and who are wandering about
with their families and stock and have nowhere to settle,
and to the Natives who have had to leave their crops unreaped.
There are many hundreds of such cases of hardship which have been inflicted
under the Act which is being enforced on all sides. I do not wish to go
into this question at very great length, because the right hon. Gentleman
knows more about it than anybody in the House in all probability,
and he knows the difficulties of the situation.
I want to put before him just one point with regard to what can be done.
WE CALL OURSELVES THE PROTECTORS OF THE RIGHTS OF THE NATIVES,
and we claim that we have always, in season and out of season,
insisted that those rights should not be infringed, and that no action
should be taken against their liberties. The Imperial Government cannot,
of course, intervene in the sense of asking the Government of South Africa
either to rescind an Act of Parliament or to amend an Act of Parliament,
unless it is their own wish, but I must point out that
Clauses 1, 4, and 5 do operate most harshly against the Native,
and it might be possible, on the representation of the right hon. Gentleman,
for the Prime Minister of South Africa to mitigate the hardships.
Mr. CAVE: The subject to which the hon. Member has referred
is no doubt of importance, and no one can quarrel with the tone of the speech
in which he has introduced it.
Sir ALBERT SPICER: I quite realize that in South Africa
we have a self-governing country, and, therefore, one would be
desirous to be very careful in what he said with regard to
its administration and legislation. But this, at any rate,
is the right place to express the views that are held
by very large numbers of people in this country, who have devoted
a good deal of time and money in doing what they can to educate and uplift
the native races of South Africa. Those of us who know South Africa,
are perfectly well aware that whilst it is now a country
owned by the white races, it can only be properly and fully developed
with the help of the native races, and the better educated they are,
the better work they will be able to do for South Africa.
This Native Lands Act was passed very hurriedly. Of course,
we cannot blame South Africa for passing legislation hastily,
seeing that we are accustomed sometimes to do the same thing
in the Mother of Parliaments. Again, the appointment of the Commission,
which is now inquiring into the subject and is taking evidence,
is helping, I think, to produce injustice in some cases,
so far as the Natives are concerned, because the introduction of the Lands Act
has led farmers to take action to enforce their rights. They have terminated
the rent-paying agreements of former tenants, and, knowing that these
are precluded from making new agreements for the hire of land, they have
either ejected them or have demanded from them three months' unpaid service
per annum, which has had the indirect effect of reducing a free people
to a condition of service. I could give instances of that
from well authenticated sources. I will refer to one only.
It is the case of a chief and his people living on land
which they and their fathers have dwelt upon for eight generations.
The farm was recently purchased by a farmer resident in another province.
He decided to terminate the rent-paying conditions previously in existence
between the former owner and the Natives, and to substitute labour conditions,
under which even the chief, an old man, has been required to give service.
The people were called upon to quit their houses, square buildings,
timbered and thatched, and in connexion with this the owner gave
less than one month's notice in the following terms: --
"This is to notify I can let you have the school building
no longer. I bought the farm and wish to receive the same
at the end of your school quarter."
We desire to speak with all due respect of the self-governing Dominions
of South Africa, but I think we may fairly ask the Colonial Secretary
to help the Union Government to realize that there is a strong feeling
in this country in favour of everything possible being done
to secure just and reasonable treatment for the Natives.
One may fairly ask the right hon. Gentleman to use all reasonable influence
with the Union Government to secure for the Natives a fair quid pro quo
for the loss of their former rights of land purchase, which would mean
in some cases an extension of the native area, and if it were possible
to suspend to some extent the operation of the Act until the Land Commission
has reported. Having been connected with South Africa for a good many years,
having travelled through it, and given a good deal of time to it,
I desire to do what I can for the uplifting of the people of that country,
and that is my reason for intervening in this Debate.
Other sympathizers, including the Member for Woolwich,
rose in different parts of the House to support the foregoing appeal,
but the Colonial Secretary stopped them by delivering his reply.
The RT. HON. L. HARCOURT: The hon. member for Tottenham (Mr. Alden)
and the hon. Baronet the Member for Hackney (Sir A. Spicer)
have drawn attention to the South Africa Land Act. It is not
a sudden inspiration of the Botha Government. It is the outcome and result
of a Commission appointed by Lord Milner some years ago,
presided over by Sir Godfrey Lagden. The Commission was appointed
"In view of the possible federation of the South African Colonies
to gather accurate information as to native affairs so as to arrive
at a common understanding on questions of native policy."
That Commission sat for two years. It had upon it representatives
of every colony and territory. It arrived at what I believe
was a unanimous (sic) report,* and this Act is practically doing no more
than carrying out its recommendations. The Act has already been
in operation for twelve months. The Commission of Inquiry,
which was to be instituted under the Act, is now sitting.
It is bound by the terms of its appointment to report within two years,
and will probably report by Christmas next.** The whole of this Act
is a temporary measure until that Commission reports. A native deputation
has come over and seen me, and I believe many other members.
That deputation left Africa against the advice of General Botha,
and against almost the entreaties of Lord Gladstone. They knew that the Act
would not be disallowed, because it had been announced months before
in South Africa. The day the deputation saw me the period of twelve months
during which that Act could be disallowed on my recommendation
had already expired, and it is now an act which can only be suspended
by the Government and Parliament of the Union of South Africa.
* Col. Stanford (the Cape Colony representative on the Lagden Commission)
and Messrs. Campbell and Samuelson (the Natal representatives)
sent in two strongly-worded minority reports against such restrictions.
Vide S.A. Native Affairs Commission, 1903-5, Vol. I. -- Author.
** After Christmas the Commissioners' "terms of appointment" were altered
from two years to three years.
Sir W. BYLES: Does it forbid the holding of land by Natives?
Mr. HARCOURT: Perhaps the hon. member will allow me to complete my statement
as the time is short.* The suspension of the Act would be worse than useless
at the present stage. It would suspend the Inquiry which is taking place
at this moment in the interests of the Natives themselves. I cannot believe
that any further Commission is necessary, as the existing one seems to me
both efficient and sufficient.
* Mr. Harcourt would have shortened the time considerably,
had he said "Yes" or "No", instead of replying in sixteen words.
It is not clear why Mr. Harcourt made this statement as the Natives,
in their petition to the King, never asked for a suspension of the whole Act.
All that they wished was that the harshest clauses of the measure
might be suspended, leaving the others in operation until the Commission
rendered its report.
When Mr. Harcourt's reference to the Commission was made known in South Africa
the Commissioners, then sitting in Pretoria, were informed of the plight
of evicted Natives. The Commissioners replied that any grievance
arising out of the operation of an Act of Parliament was beyond
the scope of their enquiry, and that they could not consider such grievances.
This was exactly what they had previously told the Natives
at King Williamstown and elsewhere. At Harrismith the Commission heard
the complaint of a son of Chief Wietzie, who, during the Basuto wars,
had always remained loyal to the "Free" State Boers. The son had been
evicted from the ground on which he and his fellow-tribesmen
had resided for generations and he was forced to live on an urban location
where it is impossible to do any farming. The President
(Sir William Beaumont) said he was sorry to hear that a son of Wietzie
found himself homeless, but he regretted that the Commission
could not help him. Mr. Harcourt, therefore, must have been
incorrectly informed regarding the functions of the Commission.
Yet another puzzle. After the appointment of this Commission
in September 1913, there was a newspaper report to the effect
that the Commission found the native difficulty most acute
in the "Free" State, and that it had decided on setting aside without delay
a strip of territory in the Western "Free" State as a native settlement.
Immediately after the appearance of this report in the Press,
angry meetings of the whites were held in Boshof and Hoopstad
to protest against the proposals attributed to the Commission.
In reply to these protests, Mr. Theron, the Minister of Lands,
evidently speaking on behalf of the South African Government,
not only repudiated the report but he also added significantly
that "the Government had no intention of creating a native area
in Hoopstad or anywhere else." So, where do we stand? Can it be wondered
that the Natives are beginning to conclude that their position under the Union
But, to return to Mr. Harcourt, the Colonial Secretary also gave
the Imperial Parliament a fresh explanation of the Natives' Land Act.
It is a pity that we cannot reproduce his explanation side by side
with the four explanatory circulars issued by the Union Government in 1913.
Such a reproduction would show the discrepancy between the five explanations.
We wrote to South Africa but could only secure one of these circulars,
which purports to be an explanation of a previous explanatory circular --
an explanation of an explanation. However, the definition of the Act,
as given by the other three circulars, leaves, as far as we can remember,
the root principle of the Act unexplained. Moreover, the statements set forth
in these circulars are not in harmony; they have only one point of agreement,
namely: that when Natives are driven out of their homes by the law,
and are debarred by the same law from establishing other homes
(the only provision made for them being that they should live
as servants of the whites) the circumstances give them
no ground for complaint.
Take for instance only two sentences in Mr. Harcourt's explanation.
In the first of these, he appears to approve of the system of forced labour
established by the Act; in the second, he denies the evictions that took place
in July when he spoke, and those that took place subsequently. He seems
to flatly deny not only what is admitted by Lord Gladstone and General Botha,
but he likewise contradicts the terms of the Act itself.
Indeed, if we had not been there and heard him we should have felt, on reading
this part of his speech, that he had been misreported in Hansard. Thus --
If the Natives are farm labourers there is no limit to the number
who may reside on white property. If not, they are not dispossessed
until Parliament acts upon the report of the Commissioners, and then only
when suitable land is provided by addition to a native reserve.*
* At Downing Street Mr. Harcourt informed the Deputation
that he had the "assurance of General Botha" that the Natives
have too much land already.
The Imperial explanation being as obscure as the Colonial explanations
which preceded it, the reader's remedy is to fall back
on the plain English of the Act (Chapter III), which alone has
the force of law. Again Mr. Harcourt: --
If General Botha breaks his word I have no power to enforce it.
I cannot bind his successors. If the Government of South Africa
is not to be trusted in this matter they are to be trusted in nothing;
and we know perfectly well that they can be trusted in these matters.
NOTE WHAT HAS BEEN DONE WITH RESPECT TO THE INDIAN IMMIGRATION ACT.
THIS WAS PASSED NOT FROM LOCAL DESIRE, BUT FROM IMPERIAL CONSIDERATIONS.
THE PROVISIONS OF THAT ACT HAVE BEEN ACCEPTED BY THE COLONISTS
AND BY THE REPRESENTATIVES OF THE INDIANS, WHO CONSIDER IT
THE MAGNA CHARTA OF THE INDIANS IN SOUTH AFRICA. I think that that should be
a sufficient guarantee as to the way in which General Botha proposes to act.
General Botha, too, used THESE WORDS in Parliament: --
"He had told the deputation that he had given standing instructions
to the magistrates throughout the country that if they found
any one in their districts ejecting Natives from the farms
they had to go and make inquiries and report to him. He had
in all those cases which had been brought to his notice
used the influence of his Department."
All we can say in regard to "these words" is that the Magistrates
apparently ignored the "standing instructions" alluded to,
for they allowed the officials of the Department of Lands
to scatter the native tenants from Government farms at Standerton,
Colworth and elsewhere and sent them adrift over the country,
well knowing that they could find no other shelter.
On the 31st of January, 1914, the Magistrate of Ladysmith,
presumably acting under instructions from one of General Botha's Departments,
issued the following notice to 79 native families in his district: --
"To Vellem Sibisi, Kraal Head residing on one of the following farms,
viz. Remainder of Brakfontein, Remainder of Weltevrede, etc.,
"Take notice in terms of Section 4 of Law 41 of 1884 that you are required
to remove with your Kraal and inmates from whichever of the said farms
you may be residing on, six months from this date, the aforementioned farms
having all been purchased by Government for closer settlement purposes."
The Magistrate who so ruthlessly ejected these and other native families
acted under the orders of the Government, who settled white people
on the farms at the expense of a Treasury maintained also by native taxpayers.
And it seems difficult to conceive how a Government which proved
so indifferent regarding the fate of its own native tenants or of tenants
on farms freshly acquired at the public expense, could be solicitous about
the welfare of Natives evicted by private landowners. The statement,
on the face of it, is incongruous.
In his heroic efforts to defend South Africa's giant wrong,
Mr. Harcourt gave away his case when he referred approvingly
to what he calls "the Magna Charta of the Indians in South Africa".
Now, what is this "Magna Charta"? In 1913, when the South African Parliament
was at the noontide of its "mad career", it passed this iniquitous land law
to repress the native race; and also a law imposing the most
humiliating limitations on British Indians. Yet it must be added
that the Indian law was the milder of the two, as it did not prohibit
Indian residents in South Africa from living on the land.
The Rt. Hon. A. Fischer, Union Minister of the Interior,
who died two years ago, called these two laws of 1913,
"the Kafir law and the Coolie law".
As already stated, the London Committee of the Wesleyan Methodist Church
asked to see Mr. Harcourt and inform him how drastically the "Kafir law"
was operating against their converts and other Natives in South Africa,
but Mr. Harcourt discreetly refused to see the Committee.
As for the Indians, no one in South Africa paid any heed to their complaints
against the "Coolie law"; but their cry reached India and Lord Hardinge
demanded the redress of their grievances. His Lordship insisted so forcibly
that (unlike the Wesleyan missionaries) he could not be ignored.
The result was that the South African Parliament, "not from local desire,
but from Imperial consideration", was obliged in the next session (1914)
to amend the "Coolie law" with a "Magna Charta of the Indians
in South Africa", and Mr. Harcourt's reference to this episode
conveys the suggestion that what is sauce for the Indian goose,
with Lord Hardinge at its back, can be by no means sauce for the native gander
without the backing of a Viceroy.
We cannot believe that to boast in one and the same speech
about a "Magna Charta of the Indians" and dismiss the native appeal
against a vital wrong is true Imperialism. For if Imperialism stands
for the protection of a few thousand Indians in South Africa because they are
supported by a Viceroy, and the neglect of the groans of five million Natives
because (unlike a Viceroy) the missionaries who plead for them
cannot enforce their claim with a political or diplomatic blow,
then there would appear to be the suggestion of more fear than justice
Mr. Harcourt further credits the Milner Commission, presided over by
Sir Godfrey Lagden, with the origin of the Natives' Land Act. We do not wish
to defend the policy of these two former South African Statesmen, as we
feel certain that they can take care of themselves. But we must say at once
that we read the recommendations of the Lagden Commission ten years ago,
as carefully as we have since read the controversy of the Natives' Land Act;
and with the knowledge thus gained, we can safely tell the reader
that that Commission never recommended that: --
1. "Except with the permission of the Governor-General", Europeans must
be debarred from buying land from Natives (who have no land to sell),
and Natives must be debarred from buying land or leasing land from Europeans,
who alone deal in land. -- (Sect. 1 of the Nat. Land Act).
2. When evicted Natives apply for the said "permission of
the Governor-General" they should be told that that permission
"will only be granted to a few exceptional applicants"
and that it could under no circumstances be granted to Natives
in the colony in which the applicants resided (The Government's reply
to the "Free" State wanderers).
3. The Government should always take from three to six months
to deliver this refusal, during which period applicants may have
already become serfs or fled the country. (This has been
the experience of all applicants within the writer's knowledge.)
4. There should be a fine of 100 Pounds or six months' hard labour
on any farmer who provides the Native with a shelter while he is waiting
for this disappointing reply to his application (Sect. 5 Nat. Land Act).
5. Native tenants to be hounded out of the Government farms
long before the segregation takes place and that white people,
who are not debarred from buying or leasing land for themselves,
be settled thereon at Government expense. (See magisterial notice above.)
If Mr. Harcourt has been told by any one that the Lagden Commission
recommended any of these pitiless iniquities, then we are afraid
that his informer is a romancer of the superlative degree.
The Lagden report was never discussed in any South African legislature,
much less adopted by any Parliament in South Africa; indeed, it is detested
because it recommended a Native Franchise for South Africa
like the Maori Franchise of New Zealand.
One member of Parliament (Mr. Joynson-Hicks) said South Africa
was a Home Rule country and he wondered what would happen if after Home Rule
had been granted to Ireland some one asked the Imperial Parliament
to interfere with Irish legislation.
We wonder who could have told this hon. Member that there was Home Rule
in South Africa! There used to be Home Rule in the Cape Colony alone,
but this has been swamped by the Act of Union, which has since
established an oligarchic Government throughout the country.
And if by Home Rule to Ireland it is intended to give the franchise
to a selfish, greedy and tyrannical few; and give carte blanche
to this few, telling them thereby to do what they wish
with the rest of the population of Ireland, and telling them further
that they will be accountable to nobody for any good legislation
that they might enact on the one hand, or any maladministration
that they might perform on the other hand as is the case in South Africa --
if that be what is meant by Home Rule for Ireland, then God have mercy
on the Irish.
When the reply of Mr. Harcourt was published in South Africa,
supporters of this cruel law bubbled over with joy concerning it.
One Dutch writer, after saying in a Dutch journal some very fine things
about Mr. Harcourt, wound up a high-sounding eulogy
by congratulating South Africa on having such a good Colonial Secretary
at Downing Street. "Had Mr. Harcourt's predecessors been like him,"
said this writer to his readers, "South Africa would have been saved
many tears." We doubt if Mr. Harcourt, the object of this appreciation,
would feel flattered by it if he knew that all the black victims
of this cruel law, and all their European sympathizers,
stood firmly by the Imperial Government and by the Colonial Government
in the present struggle, while the gentleman at whose instance
it was introduced in Parliament, as well as the Dutch editor of the journal
alluded to, are at present (May 1915) committed for trial
on charges of high treason; and the proprietor of another Dutch journal,
in which we read similar vaunting adulations of Mr. Harcourt, was fined
60 Pounds (so his paper says) for alleged complicity in the recent rebellion.
These facts should impel the Rt. Hon. the Colonial Secretary to stop,
look round and inquire "who's who" among his South African admirers.
Two members of the South African Parliament -- Senator T. L. Schreiner
and Mr. Wilcocks, M.L.A. -- the former an opponent and the latter
a supporter of the Natives' Land Act, recently discussed the Act
from separate points of view; and both came to the conclusion that the measure
was designed to keep the blacks in subjection. This conclusion is in harmony
with the bitter experiences of the native races since this Act was enforced.
Yet in the face of this unanimous testimony of different observers,
Mr. Harcourt equivocates behind the irrelevant "assurances of General Botha"
about a possible segregation, which question is not now before the country.
Assurances on segregation only serve to confound the issue.
If the Beaumont commission, or its successor, should ever report
then the question of segregation may come before Parliament
some time in 1926. The point before the country now is not segregation,
but the Natives' Land Act of 1913, which is now scattering the Natives
about the country. That is the measure against which the Native appeals
for Imperial protection. Not the future segregation.
The only serious objection with which Mr. Harcourt apparently was able
to charge the native deputation, and one which the Natives do not deny,
is that they came to England against the "entreaties of Lord Gladstone"
(who previously had twice refused to see them), and against
the "advice of General Botha", by whose Cabinet the measure
was enacted and enforced.
It is a pity that Mr. Harcourt did not at the same time
tell the House of an authentic case where an aggrieved party
ever sued for redress with the consent and advice of his oppressor.
In this connexion, the scope of our reading being limited,
our ignorance is possibly abysmal; but it must be confessed that we have
never heard of such an interesting appellant and we are inclined to believe
that there never has been one.
If General Botha wished to tell the whole truth, instead of making
vague assurances to Mr. Harcourt, he would say: "I foresaw all
the difficulties under which the Natives are suffering; and when Mr. Grobler
proposed the summary stoppage of the sale and lease of land to Natives
before the areas are segregated, I warned the House against this trouble,
but the Hertzogites being too much for me I had to give in."
Gen. Botha could go further and say to Mr. Harcourt: "If you will turn up
page 579 of the South African Hansard (first column) reading from
the top of the page, you will find my warning in these words: --
Unless they went slowly and carefully, there was a danger that they might
take steps which would be unreasonable, unjust, and unfair on one section.
For that reason, he regretted the amendment proposed by General Hertzog,
because the amendment would have bad results if it were accepted.
It would lead to an over-hasty measure of a most impracticable kind.
This House would have to demarcate exactly and immediately
those parts where the Natives would have to live, and he asked them:
was this House able to do so? (Cries of "No".) It was all very nice
to talk and take a map and draw lines on it. On the map they might be able
to beacon off parts, and say, "This is for the Natives,"
but then, when they put their scheme into effect, they might find
that the ground of many individuals had been taken away
without any inquiries or any investigations having been made.
(Laughter, and "Hear hear".) This House would expropriate
the rights of many white people, and they would meet with
the greatest opposition. Where were they going to put these people then?
In the Transvaal, farmers certainly would not consent to this; he did not know
the people of the Free State so well, but he doubted whether they would agree.
(A Free State Member: "No, they certainly will not.") Instead of taking
any steps like this, they should be practical, and not land themselves
into greater difficulties than they could help. Governments before them
had done their best. He agreed that the squatting of Natives should be
put an end to as soon as possible, but they should not lose sight of the fact
that many Governments before them had done their best to put an end
to this squatting evil. He knew well how the Transvaal Government had,
year after year, taken up this matter. But what did they find? Simply that
when they had passed a Squatters Law they could only put it into operation
in one small part of the country. (Hear, hear.) To introduce
another Bill like that would simply mean deceiving the country
-- (hear, hear) -- and the Natives. If they accepted
the proposal of the Minister of Native Affairs to appoint a Commission
to investigate the various conditions prevailing throughout the country,
he thought they would be taking a step in the right direction. (Hear, hear.)
However, care was essential, because they must prevent causing
a sort of revolution through the country. What they wanted
was a measure which would be acceptable to the white man
as well as to the Native. (Hear, hear.)
These were General Botha's views when the Land Act was first mooted,
but in defiance of his solemn warning, the Bill, when gazetted, provided that
the eviction of native tenants should precede the Commission's inquiry;
harsher and still harsher clauses were inserted in the Bill until the Act
finally embodied all the proposals brought forward by General Hertzog.
The promise to refer the Bill to a Select Committee was also broken,
presumably as a result of pressure from the caucus. The Government
could not face a Select Committee after this complete change of front
as they must have known that reason was absolutely against them.
It might be asked: How could a Minister turn round afterwards
and give "assurances" concerning the benefits of a measure
which he had opposed before? To such a question we would hazard
the following explanation: Our Prime Minister, on the one hand,
is a British Privy Councillor and a General in the British Army;
and, on the other hand, he is a simple Afrikander Boer,
who only speaks Dutch in Parliament and addresses English audiences
through an interpreter. And so in the eyes of General Botha,
the British Crown Minister, if the Natives be treated justly,
as British subjects should be treated, it is right; and, again,
in the eyes of General Botha, the Afrikander Boer, if the Natives be treated
harshly and barbarously, that too is right.
It is not unusual to find these two natures contending against each other
in one and the same person, whenever the Prime Minister
deals with native questions; then more often than not the Boer view,
being that of his own nature, dominates the British sentiment,
which is a fresh acquisition.
Having given above a striking extract from a speech on native policy,
by the Rt. Hon. Louis Botha, Premier of British South Africa,
we will now proceed to give an extract from another declaration
by General Louis Botha, the Transvaal Boer. The Union Premier
was giving evidence before the Labour Commission in Johannesburg
and this is what he then said: --
11,302. Sir GEORGE FARRAR: You said that you would recommend
the breaking up of Locations like Swaziland, Zululand and Basutoland
and the putting of white settlers there? General BOTHA: I would suggest
that these countries be given up to the white people to live in. . . .
11,337. The general tenor of your remarks is that there is sufficient labour,
and it only wants a little patience to wait for it, that is all?
I have distinctly stated that there is a greater amount of labour
than has at present been obtained. But there are farmers who have farms,
and have no Natives living on these farms. For these people it is difficult
to obtain Natives because the Natives who are not living on the farms
are in locations. If the locations were broken up the Natives would be made
to live on farms.
11,338. You suggest that we should break up such land as Basutoland,
Swaziland and Zululand? Yes, I say that such places are a source of evil.
It is building up a Kaffir kingdom in the midst of us which is not only
bad for the Kaffirs themselves but is a danger in the future.*
* One of the Chiefs in these locations gave General Botha 200 bullocks
to feed his troops engaged in crushing a rebellion of white men.
11,339. But take Zululand, for instance; there is a quarter of a million
people there. What would you do with them if you break up their territory?
They would all live on the farms as the white people are doing now.
11,340. Oh, you want to cut up the land into farms,
give it to the white people and retain the Kaffirs on the farms? Yes.
11,343. But what will the white people do with the Kaffirs,
pay them wages or charge them rent for the ground or what?
My opinion is that Kaffirs who now live in locations should work
for the white people, and the land should be exploited. The white people
would pay them for the work they did and this would civilize them.
11,344. A nation like the Basutos you would deal with
in the same way? -- Yes.
11,345. They at present occupy the land, we have had it in evidence before us
to the effect that every inch of land in Basutoland is occupied and worked
by the Kaffirs themselves as their own property? -- That is just
my argument . . . because there is opening for the Kaffirs there
they go and live there without doing anything.
11,347. But they do something. They work the whole country,
they have a lot of grain? -- Yes, for themselves.
11,352. . . . I have shown you that Basutoland is fully occupied by Kaffirs,
and they work it. Do you want to apply your scheme to Basutoland? --
I do not know very much about Basutoland, I have never been there personally;
but I am well acquainted with Zululand and also Swaziland,
and I want to state this, that in my opinion it is not only a wrong policy,
but also dangerous policy to have large tracts of country inhabited
by uncivilized races, and to keep them there on the present terms.
11,353. But these Natives lived there from time immemorial.
It was theirs before we came here. How can we drive them off the land now,
and take it for ourselves? I think we are feeling very happy
that we drove them from Johannesburg in the olden days.
They lived in this country too just the same and the Kaffirs
who became civilized under us have improved.*
* `Transvaal Labour Commission', pp. 717-726.
In the foregoing extract the reader has the root principle
of the Natives' Land Act in a nut-shell. Not from hearsay "assurances"
but from what fell from the Premier's own lips.
Mr. Jacob de Villiers Roos, head of the Union Law Department (who knows more
about South African law than outsiders who have to rely on "assurances",)
says in his evidence given before the Select Committee on Public Accounts,
February 25, 1914, incidentally or accidentally: --
"A circular was issued by our Department, at the instigation
of the Native Affairs Department, asking that prosecutors
under the Natives' Land Act, before commencing prosecutions,
should refer to the Native Affairs Department as otherwise
IT WAS FEARED THAT AN UPHEAVAL MIGHT RESULT. The Transvaal Attorney-General
drew our attention to this circular and said that it was
an infringement of his powers. . . . When Mr. Beyers went away on leave
Mr. Greenlees was appointed Acting Attorney-General,
and he first drew the attention of the Minister to it.
The Minister took no action until Mr. Beyers returned
when the matter was again raised and then this circular was withdrawn."*
* S.C. 1-'14, pp. 136-137.
Now, what, in the name of common sense, does a supposedly civilized Government
want with a law that it knows will cause "an upheaval"?
This Act should be abolished in the interest of the morality of the State
and for the sake of the reputation of the Union Jack,
because of the harm it does to the Natives and because its promoters
have rebelled against the Crown. The Act has benefited no one;
it has driven the Natives from the country to the cities,
and has also disappointed the White Labour Party, who supported it
in the belief that by its clause forcing Natives to work for white farmers
it would keep the Natives away from the industrial centres.
It should be abolished in the interests of the Boers,
for it has aroused the bitterest enmity of the blacks
against the Dutch section of his Majesty's subjects.
Further, the Act should be abolished because it has lowered the prestige
of the Union Jack in the eyes of the coloured subjects of the King,
who have suffered and are still suffering untold misery under it.
Perhaps nothing illustrates more clearly this changed feeling of the Natives
than the present state of things in South Africa. Thus, if German
South-West Africa had been annexed to the Cape before the Union, every Native,
south of the Zambesi, would have approved of the step, whereas to-day,
as a result of the Natives' Land Act, there is a different feeling extant.
For now the Natives know that annexation to the Union will mean
the elimination of the Imperial factor, and that as Capetown, like Pretoria,
has ceased to represent British ideas of fair play and justice,
such a change would in the annexed territory establish "Free" State ideals
under the aegis of the Union Jack. The Natives of the Union
shudder at the possibility of the Damaras, who are now under
the harsh rule of the Germans, being placed under a self-governing Dominion
in which the German rule will be accentuated by the truculent
"Free" State ideas of ruling Natives. And they think that
in the existing state of circumstances, Portuguese or French rule would be
infinitely better for the Damaras than a Government which, although protected
by the Union Jack, yet is inspired from Pretoria and Bloemfontein.
And it is to be feared that the pernicious principles
which Tommy Atkins is now fighting on the Continent to suppress,
are going to be rigorously applied in a South-West Africa
under Burgher rule. The prosperity of no State can afford to alienate
the sympathy of any considerable portion of its tax-payers. And so,
as 5,000,000 blacks have been alienated in their sympathies to the Union
by this oppressive law, and as the Union Government is unable or unwilling
to amend it, in the interest of the Union Government, no less than
the 5,000,000 blacks, outside intervention becomes a necessity.
During three separate white men's upheavals in the last two years
-- two bloody strikes and a civil war -- white revolters made frantic efforts
to embroil the Union in a native rising, but the Natives very sensibly
sided with the Government. The native leaders, in order to counteract
this mischief-making, had to incur the expense of journeys by rail
besides financing their own mission to reach the scene of the would-be
The time will come when these leaders will tire of spending their own money
in paying fares to the Government Railways, to render free services
to a Government which taxes them to pay other people lavishly
for similar work, while it does not even tender them so much
as a word of thanks.
Instead of the smallest recognition for our voluntary services,
the Union Government repays our loyalty by persecuting
our widows and fatherless children with the cold-blooded provisions
of the Natives' Land Act. These cruelties are euphemistically described
as the first step towards the segregation of white and black,
but they might more truthfully be styled the first steps
towards the extermination of the blacks.
When the war broke out, the Government promptly suspended
the inquiries of the Commission, whose report is naively alleged
to be pregnant with the fruits of the millennium, but the cruel evictions
under the same law of the rebel Grobler are pursuing their course
while the war lasts and the Union Government remains unconcerned.
It was only when a whole tribe was evicted during the war
that the Government interceded on behalf of the victims,
but then, the only extent of the intervention has been to secure
exemption for the chief of the tribe alone, on the condition that
HE FORCED THE REST OF HIS TRIBE TO RENDER EVERY YEAR THREE MONTHS' LABOUR
TO THE LANDOWNER. Yet these people could live happily on some other farm
did not the Government prohibit their happiness at the behest of a rebel who,
at or about the time of this enthralling compromise, was conducting
treasonable operations against the Government.
The sublime ingratitude of the Union Government is wellnigh unbearable!
Chapter XVII The London Press and the Natives' Land Act
Slaves cannot breathe in England: if their lungs
Receive our air, that moment they are free;
They touch our country, and their shackles fall.
The native deputation (thanks to Mr. H. Cornish, secretary of
the Institute of Journalists) can truthfully assure their people,
at the present critical state of their position, of the sympathy
of the London Press. It is hardly necessary to mention
that religious papers, to which the object of the deputation was made known,
published some very encouraging articles on the same,
and bespoke the deputation a cordial reception and a sympathetic hearing
throughout the United Kingdom; but the mission might have been
somewhat monotonous had we friends only and no enemies in the London Press.
And a weekly paper with a yellow cover, called `South Africa',
did its best to fill the role of an enemy.
It abused the Brotherhood Movement and the Aborigines Protection Society for
taking up the cause of the deputation. The General Press Cutting Association,
however, through whom we learnt of the attacks of `South Africa',
did not tell us whether this journal also abused our other friends
represented by the London Press. Such has been our good fortune
in this respect that friends frequently congratulated us
on the unanimity of the Press in our favour. In this we think
they were right, as a cause with only one enemy could very well be depended on
to take care of itself.
On one occasion some of our friends heard that the author
was going to interview the fine-fingered editor of the `Westminster Gazette'
by appointment, and they strongly advised us against doing so.
"Why not?" we asked. "Oh," said our friends, "he edits the leading
Government organ, and he is going to pump you of all information
in order to use it against your cause and in favour of the Government."
But we went -- firstly, because we refused to believe
that the editor of that great organ of British thought
was capable of taking such a mean advantage of us; and secondly,
because we were confident of being able to take care of ourselves
against any kind of pump; and we can now say with satisfaction that,
on the part of the British public, there was such a demand
for back numbers of the two editions of the `Westminster Gazette'
which contained a report of our interview and a photograph of the deputation
that in a fortnight both issues were sold out of print. Further,
it is safe to say that from the wide area from which inquirers wrote to us
mentioning the `Daily News', it would seem that either that journal
has a very big circulation or its readers are mainly interested
in South African Affairs. And what, may be asked, are the qualifications
of the newspaper `South Africa' which attempted to run counter
to this overwhelming opinion in our favour?
Unlike some of its contemporaries, `South Africa' has not
a single native contributor to its columns. Some London newspapers
are in regular receipt of exchange copies from native newspapers
published in South Africa, London papers which never claimed
a monopoly over South African thought; yet here is a paper,
South African in title and in pretensions, which cannot even boast
of a South African native paper on its exchange list! What information, then,
can the editors of such an exclusive London paper possess
about an Act specifically enacted to operate against Natives?
Logically, they would know absolutely less than next to nothing
about such a law or its fell work. That alone should dispose of
the qualifications of this enemy of the deputation, and his authority to speak
on the subject of its mission.
The `African World' is an Anglo-African weekly which has
native newspaper exchanges and several African correspondents
both white and black. Its editor-in-chief was born in South Africa
and was a journalist there before he came to reside in England;
and it must be admitted that a paper with such connexions
is in a better position to discuss the subject from both points of view.
And so the `African World' says:
THE SOUTH AFRICAN NATIVE DEPUTATION
It must be admitted that the South African Native Deputation
now in this country have gone about their business with decorum.
They have not pressed themselves forward unduly, and, so far,
the publicity given to them has been moderate in its tone, and the expressions
by the members of the deputation have been equally moderate.
Of course, their best friends discountenanced this visit, as we have noted
from the South African Press, but it seems to be the general opinion
that even though no appeal lies under the Union Constitution
to the British Crown as regards native rights, an extraordinary anomaly
seems to exist in this: That the Natives of South Africa within the Union
appear to have fewer rights than those outside the Union, especially so far
as an appeal to London on various matters affecting their interests
is concerned. We are aware that Mr. Harcourt treated the deputation
with the utmost discretion when he received them. We also know
that Mr. Harcourt and General Botha are on very friendly personal relations,
and under these circumstances, without wishing to dictate
any action in the matter to the powers that be on both sides of the water,
we would like to join our contemporary `The Globe'.
And what did `The Globe' say?
THE NATIVE APPEAL
The complaint of the South African Natives who have laid their grievances
before certain members of Parliament amounts in effect to a complaint
that Parliament is not Imperial. Their grievances are real and pressing,
as anybody can discover who troubles to look up the recent proceedings
of the Union Parliament, but they have no constitutional means
of ventilating them. No native franchise exists in South Africa,
and although certain members of the Union Senate are presumed
to keep an eye on native questions their influence has proved ineffective.
No appeal exists under the Union Constitution to the Crown
as regards Native rights, for although this omission was pointed out
at the time the Act of Union was debated in the Imperial Parliament
and was adversely commented on, no steps were taken by the Colonial Office
to rectify the constitution in this respect. We are, therefore,
brought up against the extraordinary anomaly that Natives of South Africa
within the Union have fewer rights than those outside -- for the Basutos,
who remain under direct Imperial control, have successfully appealed to London
on various matters affecting their interests -- or even than
the Natives of Crown Colonies elsewhere, as the appeal of native landowners
on the Gold Coast against recent legislation in that territory attests.
In the latter case the appeal to the Colonial Office
was successful in modifying the offending enactments;
in the far more serious grievances of the South African Natives
the Colonial Office has no constitutional title whatever.
Nevertheless the relations between Mr. Harcourt and General Botha
in other respects are notoriously so close and confidential that we may hope
the Colonial Secretary will take the present occasion by the hand
and urge upon the head of the South African Government
the wisdom of dealing with native discontents in his own proper sphere
before he prosecutes his claim for the inclusion of the Basutos and Rhodesia
in the Union -- a claim which both the black Natives and the white colonists
have repudiated with all the emphasis at their command.
General Botha could scarcely fail to give heed to private advice
from the Colonial Office. In the case of the Natal Indians, whose grievances
he recently redressed, he proved himself a man capable of taking
a broad and generous view of a difficult question. There is no reason
to anticipate until the contrary is proved, that he will fall below
his own level in the present not less difficult or dangerous case.
VIEWS OF THE `DAILY NEWS'
"The South African National Congress, after resorting to
every constitutional means of pressing their case against the Land Act
on the Union Government, have sent five of their number to London
in the firm conviction that the King of England, to whom they look
as their natural defender and vindicator, will turn no deaf ear
to their pleas. Two of the five -- the Rev. J. L. Dube and Mr. Saul Msane --
are Zulus; Dr. Rubusana is a Xosa; Mr. Mapikela, a Fingo;
and Mr. Plaatje, the secretary of the National Congress, a Bechuana.
All of them are men of obvious culture and with a striking command
of the English language."
"Having failed to make any impression on the Union Government
(`If we had votes,' Dr. Rubusana observed, `we could fight our own battles')
the deputation has come to England in the hope of influencing
the Imperial Government through the Colonial Secretary.
"What they ask for is:
"First, a suspension of the operation of the Act pending the report
of the Delimitation Commission:
"Second, an inquiry into native grievances under the Act; and,
"Thirdly, an assurance that the Home Government will express its concurrence
with certain promises made recently on behalf of General Botha,
but obviously depending for their value on the continuance of
his personal political supremacy.
Four Blacks to One White
"In carving out estates for themselves in Africa the white races have shown
little regard for the claims of the black man," says the `Daily News'.
"They have appropriated his land, and in appropriating his land
have taken away his economic freedom, and have left him in a worse case
than they found him. How the Native has been dispossessed may be illustrated
by the facts in regard to the Union of South Africa. Here the blacks,
as compared with the whites, are in the proportion of four to one;
but they are in legal occupation of only one-fifteenth of the soil.
"Under the Natives' Land Act, which has brought the matter to a crisis,
even the poor fragment of rights in the soil that remains seems doomed.
For under the Act the Native is denied the right -- except with
the quite illusory `approval of the Governor-General' to purchase, hire,
or acquire any rights in land from a person other than a Native.
Under this provision, the Native whose tenancy expires, or who is evicted
from a farm, is legally denied any career except that of a labourer.
He cannot own, he cannot hire, he cannot live a free man.
A Legal Serf
"In the language of Mr. Dower, the Secretary for Native Affairs,
he must `sell his stock and go into service.' He must accept any conditions
the white farmer chooses or the mine-owner gives, and an ingenious clause
encourages the white farmer to exact unpaid service from the native tenants.
In a word, the Native is a legal serf in his own land.
"As British subjects, the deputation of Natives now in England
have appealed to the Imperial Government for protection.
They asked for its help to secure the suspension of the Act
until the Land Commission report is before Parliament,
and for machinery to inquire into and redress their grievances.
They have got no satisfaction on these points.
"It is time that Parliament gave some attention to its obligations
in regard to the South African Native. He has no vote and no friends --
only his labour, which the white man wants on the cheapest terms.
And the white man has got this by taking his land and imposing on him
taxes that he cannot pay. In fact, the black man is `rounded up'
on every side, and if, as the deputation suggest may be the case,
he is forced to acts of violence, it will not be possible to say
that he has not had abundant provocation.
Rights to the Soil
"There is only one principle that can be applied for his protection.
It is the principle that he has rights in his native soil.
Perhaps segregation is the only remedy now, but if so
the reservations allocated to him in the Union area ought to have
some relation to his needs. We cannot do much for him there,
but we should do what we can."
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