Native Life in South Africa, Before and Since the European War and the Boer Rebellion
Part 7 out of 8
This was perhaps due to several causes. He had never attempted
to exploit his "gift" and impressed most of those who came
in contact with him with his apparent sincerity. If he duped others,
it seemed he also duped himself. Moreover, and this was perhaps
the secret of his continued success, his "visions" were invariably
symbolic and mysterious; they possessed an adaptability of character
that was truly Delphic. Indeed, his hearers were compelled
to put their own interpretation upon his visions. The seer seldom pretended
to understand or explain them himself.
General De la Rey took a great interest in the seer, who had belonged
to his commandos during the Anglo-Boer War. Van Rensburg again
had the greatest admiration for General De la Rey, and had frequently
hinted to his circle that great things were in store for the General.
One of his visions had been well known to General De la Rey and his friends
for some years. The seer had beheld the number 15 on a dark cloud,
from which blood issued, and then General De la Rey returning home
without his hat. Immediately afterwards came a carriage covered
with flowers.* What these things portended, Van Rensburg could not say.
He believed that they signified some high honour for the General. . . .
* General De la Rey was accidentally shot on the night of September 15.
The last house he stayed in was No. 15, and the funeral train
that brought his body to Lichtenburg had a carriage full of floral tributes.
When the war at last broke out, the effect in Lichtenburg was instantaneous.
The prophecies of Van Rensburg were eagerly recalled, and it was remembered
that he had foretold a day on which the independence of the Transvaal
would be restored. One officer actually called up his men
to be in readiness on Sunday, August 9, as that would be the day on which
the prophecy would be fulfilled. After this, too, certain individuals
could be seen daily cleaning their rifles and cartridges in order to be ready
for THE DAY. Several men in this district claimed to be
in regular communication with German South-West Africa before August, 1914.
Within a week of the declaration of war between England and Germany
the district was further profoundly stirred by the news
(now become generally known) that a great meeting of local burghers
was to be held at Treurfontein on August 15, and that certain local officers
were commandeering their burghers to come to this meeting
armed and fully equipped for active service. . . .
The meeting was to be addressed by General De la Rey,
and it was generally believed that the assembled burghers
would march on Potchefstroom immediately after the meeting.
The prophecies of Van Rensburg had a great deal to do with the excitement
which had been produced locally. The strange vision of the number 15,
which had long been common knowledge, was now discussed with intense interest.
The 15, it was said, signified August 15, the day of the meeting.
That would be THE DAY, which had been so long expected --
the day of liberation. Van Rensburg was now the oracle.
His prophecies with regard to the great war had been signally fulfilled.
Germany was at grips with England, and her triumph was looked upon
The day had arrived to strike a blow for their lost independence.
Van Rensburg assured his following that the Union Government was "finished".
Not a shot would be fired. The revolution would be complete and bloodless.
Between the 10th and the 15th the plotters in Lichtenburg
were actively preparing for the day. There is evidence
that German secret agents were working in concert with them.
The 15th would mark the beginning of a new era. When doubters asked
how they could be so certain that the 15 signified a day of the month
-- and of the month of August in particular -- they were scornfully
if illogically told that "in God's time a month sooner or later
made no difference."
The Government had been informed by its local supporters
of these alarming preparations. It was quite clear that an attempt
was to be made on the 15th to start a rebellion. Everything would depend
on the meeting which was to be addressed by General De la Rey.
General De la Rey's position in the Western Transvaal was unique.
He possessed an unrivalled influence and was looked up to
as the uncrowned King of the West. His attitude at the meeting
would sway the mass of his adherents and decide the question of peace or war.
General Botha summoned General De la Rey to Pretoria some days
before the meeting, and was able to persuade him to use his best endeavours
to calm the excited feelings which had been aroused and to use his influence
to see that no untoward incidents should occur.
On Saturday, the 15th, the great meeting was held. About 800 burghers
were present. General De la Rey addressed them and explained
the situation in Europe. He exhorted his audience to remain cool and calm
and to await events. After the address "a strange and unusual silence"
was observed. A resolution was passed unanimously expressing complete
confidence in the Government to act in the best interests of South Africa
in the present world-crisis. The address seemed to have had
a very good effect. The burghers appeared to have taken their leader's advice
to heart, as they dispersed quietly to their homes.
All danger of a rebellious movement had apparently been averted,
but only for a time.
The Potchefstroom `Herald' tells a story of what it describes
as "the inner history of a damnable plot", and of how near
Potchefstroom* was to falling into the hands of the rebels through
the treachery of Beyers and his accomplices on the night of September 15,
which was the date on which the late General De la Rey was killed.
* The old capital of Transvaal where General De Wet and General Kemp
held the dramatic meeting on October 2, 1914.
It is unquestionable (says the `Herald') that Beyers, who was forced to admit
that he was on his way to Potchefstroom when the accident happened,
was to have started an attempt to overthrow the Government
with the aid of the men, over 2,000 in number, who had just finished
their period of three weeks' training in the Active Citizen Camp
at Potchefstroom. Both he and Kemp had resigned their positions,
and, knowing the treacherous mission upon which he was setting out that night
as the emissary of the German enemy, little wonder was it that at Langlaagte
Beyers cowered with fear, and lost his nerve entirely, because he thought
his own arrest was at hand.
Continuing the account, the paper says: On the morning parade
on Tuesday morning the rebel Colonels Bezuidenhout and Kock
had each addressed their men in an attempt to imbue them
with a spirit of revolt against their own Government.
All the Dutch-speaking Afrikanders were advised not to volunteer
for German South-West; that was the job of the Englishman.
The officers plainly said that they had no intention of doing their duty:
they had other fish to fry. And they permitted the few volunteers
who stood out in spite of them to be jeered at by the "neutrals".
The disgrace of that early morning parade scene must for ever be upon
the traitors concerned. It was certain that dastardly influences
were at work, but thanks to the sterling loyalty of certain men
from among the Dutch population, the plans of the conspirators
were more or less known, and arrangements were made to checkmate them.
All honour to these true patriots who took a big risk
for the safety of the country.
That evening a meeting of Britishers took place in Potchefstroom
to discuss the situation (says the `Herald'), and it was agreed
that its seriousness was such as to necessitate direct communication
with General Smuts, which was duly carried out. For one thing,
practically all Britishers were unarmed. How critical was the position,
or how near Potchefstroom was to complete disaster, was not then
fully realized. On that night, too, there was another and more sinister
meeting in the town. It was at a certain house in Berg Street,
where a number of residents, male and female, who can be named,
expected the arrival of the chief conspirator. Then, too,
at the Defence Force headquarters Kemp had stored a quantity of ammunition
that was altogether out of proportion to the requirements of his district,
and during the week there had been frequent communications with
the Lichtenburg "prophet". Beyers had arranged to reach the Defence Force
at 3 a.m., where motor-cars waited.
Later he was to have marched upon the town with all the armed men
he could bring under his influence, knowing full well,
by previous arrangement, that he could rely on the aid of rebels
within Potchefstroom itself. So intense was the feeling of danger
in camp that night that loyal officers slept with loaded revolvers at hand
and all the spare ammunition under the beds. The Union Jack
was to be supplanted and the new Republic was to be declared
with the Vierkleur flying -- or would it have been the German flag?
That was the morning of September 16, and as showing
the concerted character of the traitorous plans, it should be noted that
the proclamation signed by the Governor-General of German South-West Africa,
the "scrap of paper" used as a sop for the Boers, was dated for
the self-same day.
Plot Providentially Thwarted
But the motor-car tragedy in the dark at Langlaagte was the second blow
to this criminal plot (continues the paper), and when Beyers,
trembling and unnerved, spoke through the telephone at midnight
on September 15, telling of the fatal shot, and that his journey
had been cut short, those who had waited in the camp and in the town
knew that, for the time being at any rate, the little game was up.
Kemp, of course, at once tried to withdraw his resignation, but luckily
General Smuts gave the snub direct. Already the names of local men
to be terrorized, and even shot, were in the mouths of the irreconcilables
-- skulking cowards for the most part -- of whom more must yet be written
in the interests of public morality.
That night Potchefstroom might easily have fallen into the hands
of the rebel crew, sharing the fate of the Free State towns or worse,
and loyalists, both English and Dutch, must thank an ever-watchful Providence
for being saved from a position of ignominy and humiliation.
If all this be true,* and the Government had been informed of it,
one cannot understand why General Beyers, with his fingers steeped in treason,
was let loose upon the community to poison the loyalty of the Dutch
along the country-side and to complicate the task of the Government.
It seems that he should have been detained that evening,
and thereby, having been turned from the path of suicide, other lives
would also have been saved. When one considers the amount of harm
that he was able to do subsequently, it is staggering to think
what the task of the loyalists would have been had his plans been reinforced
by the success of this night plot. It would have given
a link of tremendous power to the rebel movement throughout the country
if they had captured the stores, munitions, and a ready army that awaited
General Beyers's arrival at Potchefstroom. The fact that some Burghers
were found organizing rebel commandos in the "Free" State and Transvaal
even after the capture of General De Wet and the drowning of General Beyers
ought to show the prevailing Backveld spirit up to the early months of 1915.
* The `Herald's' story has since been confirmed by the Government Blue Book
on the Rebellion.
When the rebels were tried in Pretoria and elsewhere in January and February,
Burghers crowded the law courts and rose to their feet,
as if in token of their fellow-feeling with the prisoners,
each time a rebel was placed in the dock. At Pretoria,
this vaunting demonstration seems only to have been ended
by the announcement of the Magistrate that if they did it again
he would have to clear the court. It is not stated, however,
whether the prisoners duly acknowledged the sympathy thus shown
with a bow from the dock. One member of Parliament (not a rebel)
is said to have swaggered into the Bloemfontein court and, after shaking hands
with the prisoners, conversed with them in an audible tone.
Nothing better illustrates the unsatisfactory nature of the South African
military appointments than the Press report that the English artillerymen
who served under Maritz were in constant danger of their lives, and that,
realizing this fact, they were compelled sometimes to keep their machine guns
trained on their comrades. The poor men must have had an awful time,
literally "sleeping with one eye wide open".
When Colonel Maritz at length threw off the mask and openly proclaimed
his treachery, he put these artillerymen under arrest and handed them over
to the Germans as prisoners of war.
Of course, if the Government of the Union was as well administered
as was the Cape Government before it, such things would have been impossible,
because only tried men with military experience would have been appointed
to the command of the Union Forces -- men whose loyalty was beyond reproach --
that is to say, if high official appointments went by merit and not by favour.
A professional lawyer like General Beyers would have been the last person
to get a position which should have been given to a trained soldier,
of whom there are many in the country. But as his appointment took place
at a time when some English officials were politely removed
from high positions to make room for influential Dutchmen,
and in certain cases useless posts, such as "Inspector of white labour",
and inspector of goodness-knows-what (all of them carrying high emoluments),
were created for political favourites, General Beyers's appointment
caused no surprise, as the "pitchfork" had already become
part of our Government machinery. But how such a man as Manie Maritz
became a Colonel in the Colonial Defence Force is one of those things which,
as Lord Dundreary would say, "no fellah can understand".
The man is not only said to have rebelled during the South African war,
but he is also said to have escaped to German South Africa
to evade the consequence, and that he only returned to British South Africa
when the Boers got their constitution. And when British officers
like Colonel Mackenzie and Colonel Lukin apparently acquiesce
in an appointment that places them on a level with a man like that,
the voteless black taxpayer who has no control over these appointments
cannot be blamed for feeling perplexed at the turn events are taking.
Here is an expression of this perplexity: The old chief Tshabadira
asked the Government Secretary in 1913, at Thaba Nchu,
"How many kings have we? Is there an English King and a Dutch King,
each trying to rule in his own way? And since we cannot very well
follow both, which one are we to obey?" Dutch and English colonists
have ruled the Cape for forty years and no such questions were ever asked.
If General De Wet were to be tried by a court of native chiefs,
who followed "the wheels of administration" during the past five years,
they would in all probability decide that the British Government,
to which he pledged his allegiance, and the semi-Republican Government
against which he rebelled are two entirely different bodies.
They would possibly reason that he pledged his allegiance
to a Greater Britain -- or to localize it, to a Greater Cape Colony,
not to a Greater Transvaal.
The Cape Colony is often reproached because native taxpayers
within its boundaries have votes and help their white neighbours
to elect members of Parliament. But strange to say,
when a revolutionary mob seized the South African railways in 1914, it was
the railway men of the much-abused Cape who, in spite of the native vote,
dragged the Government out of a serious situation. Similarly when
these high officers of the Defence Force in Transvaal and Orange "Free" State
rebelled and joined the Germans with their commandos, the Dutchmen of the Cape
(presumably because "they vote side by side with the Kafirs")
denounced the treachery in unmistakable terms. The South African party
at the Cape beat up its followers to the support of the Government,
and the voice of the Cape section of the Dutch Reformed Church
rang from pulpit and platform in denunciation of disloyalty and treason.
But in the Northern Provinces, where white men are pampered and guarded
by the Government against the so-called humiliation of allowing
native taxpayers to vote, there the rebellion, having been regarded
with seeming approval, gained a marvellous impetus.
And the strangest of all these things is how men with bank balances
like the Dutchmen of Transvaal and the Orange "Free" State
could fail to appreciate the debt they owe to the British Navy,
by which the commercial routes from South Africa to the outer world
are kept open to them, when practically the whole world is ablaze.
The banner of revolt having been unfurled, the "Free" State towns of Reitz,
Heilbron, and Harrismith being in the hands of "Free" State rebels,
martial law was proclaimed, and General Botha, as forecasted
in the native letter quoted in a previous chapter, assumed command
of the Union Forces and squelched the upheaval. Altogether the rebellion
cost South Africa some of the finest of its young men.
Dutch, English, coloured and native families suffered the loss of their sons
in the flower of their youth, including among many others,
prominent South Africans, such as Mr. W. Pickering, the general secretary
of the Kimberley mines, and Mr. Justice Hopley of Rhodesia,
who each lost a son.
One loss which the Natives, judging by articles in their newspapers,
will not easily forget is that of Captain William Allan King,
the late Sub-Commissioner of Pretoria. He was shot by a rebel,
on November 23, near Hamaanskraal, whilst helping a wounded trooper.
In his lifetime his duties brought him in touch with employers of labour
in the Pretoria Labour District and with Natives from all over South Africa.
A non-believer in the South African policy of least resistance, he was
without doubt the ablest native administrator in the Transvaal Civil Service,
and as such the vacancy caused by his death will be very hard to fill.
He was an expert on Native matters, and no commission ever sat
without his being summoned to give evidence before it.
The Natives called him "Khoshi-ke-Nna", which means "I am the Chief".
A firm but just Englishman, with a striking military gait,
he would have been an ideal leader of the native contingents
had the offer of native help been accepted by the Union Government.
The casualty list on both sides exceeded one thousand.
Over ten thousand rebels were imprisoned, of whom 293 leaders will be tried,
the rest being detained up till the end of the trouble.
After various encounters with the Union forces under General Botha,
General De Wet suffered a series of heavy defeats. Many of
his followers surrendered, and his son was killed on the battlefield.
He tried to escape to German South West Africa, but was overtaken and captured
in Bechuanaland, with fifty followers, including his secretary, Mr. Oost,
formerly editor of a Pretoria weekly paper.
Considering his initial bounce and bluster, General De Wet's surrender
was a particularly tame affair. Said the captive to the captor:
"I seem to know you -- are you not Jordaan?" "Yes, General,"
replied the captor. "I saw you at Vereeniging where we made peace."
"Very well," rejoined the captive, "I must congratulate you
on your achievement. It was very smart. Anyway, I am glad
that I am taken by you and not by an Englishman."*
* Gen. De Wet was tried and sentenced by the Special court
to six years' imprisonment and a fine of 2,000 Pounds.
General Kemp succeeded in eluding his pursuers by means of forced marches
across the Kalahari desert, and effected a junction with Maritz
in German South West Africa; but after only a few weeks' taste of German rule
he returned to the Union and surrendered with his commando and all arms,
evidently satisfied with British rule. Some of his men were wearing
German uniforms. The prophet Rensburg, carrying a big umbrella,
also surrendered with him.
General Beyers was the first to succumb. Cornered by the loyal forces,
he was driven up against the Vaal River in flood. With his pursuers
on the one side and the raging torrent on the other, he was drowned
in an ill-starred attempt to escape across that treacherous river.
Parties were sent out to drag the river and search for the body,
and a reward of 50 Pounds was offered to the finder.
Mrs. Beyers left Pretoria in a special train with a coffin on board,
to join the search party. She was accompanied by a few relatives and friends,
including one doctor of medicine and one minister of religion. They travelled
along the Johannesburg-Kimberley line as far as Maquasi, near the river,
where they received tidings of the recovery of General Beyers's body.
It was found by a Dutch farmer, who promptly claimed the 50 Pound reward.
A telegram to Pretoria brought back a reply from General Smuts
stating that it was inadvisable to convey the body to the capital
at the time, so he was buried by the parson on the veld
to the accompaniment of lightning flashes which blind the eye,
and salutes of loud peals of African thunder, which shake the earth
in a manner that is known only to persons who have spent a summer
in the interior of South Africa.
It is said that the late General insured his life so heavily before
the outbreak that representatives of the several insurance companies concerned
had to meet after his death and consider the matter of their liability.
The remainder of the story of the "Five Shilling Rebellion" is soon told.
After the proclamation of martial law the Premier assumed
the supreme command of the Union forces and called out all the citizens --
the whites to arms and the blacks as drivers and manual labourers
at the front. Some Boers who could not give a satisfactory excuse
disobeyed the call, and were sentenced to terms of imprisonment
with hard labour under the Defence Act. Thus backed by the overwhelming
support of the various peoples of the Union of all creeds and colours,
the Prime Minister made a clean sweep of the rising,
and in less than two months the Rt. Hon. Louis Botha was once again
master of the situation from the shores of the Indian Ocean in the east
to the Atlantic coast in the west. And when the rebel leaders
were cogitating over the situation in durance vile, the Prime Minister
was sending a message from German South West Africa, on February 26,
asking Parliament to deal leniently with the rebels.
Keise qusa Tipereri,
Kgam'se gaqu ha;
Keise qusa Tipereri
Artie ti gxawo si mu.
Hamnci gqo Pikadili.
Hamnci Gqo Lester Skuer
Keise qusa, qusa Tipereri
Mar, ti xawo nxeba ha.
"Tipperary" in Qoranna.*
* This language is also spoken by the Namaquas and some of the tribes
in German South West Africa.
Chapter XXIV Piet Grobler
Lecture delivered by Mr. Sol T. Plaatje before the "Marsh Street Men's Own"
Literary Society in the Lecture Room of their Institute,
Hoe Street, Walthamstow, on February 26, 1915.
Keep me in chains? I defy you.
That is a pow'r I deny you!
I will sing! I will rise!
Up! To the lurid skies --
With the smoke of my soul,
With my last breath,
Tar-feathered, I shall cry:
Ethiopia shall not die!
And hand in hand with Death,
I shall not curse you. But singing --
My singing fatefully ringing
Till startled and dumb
You falter, the sum
Of your crime shall reveal --
This do I prophesy . . .
O Heart wrung dry,
Startle the world with thy cry:
Ethiopia shall not die!
Otto L. Bohanan.*
* In the Kalahari language, BOHANAN means: `Be combined'.
The gentleman whose name forms the title of my lecture
is a lawyer, a grand-nephew of the late President Kruger and,
till lately, a member of the Union Parliament. He represented
the Dutch constituency of Rustenburg, a district whose Burghers
were responsible for a kind of administrative native land arrangement
in the Transvaal Republic. This arrangement, the result of a petition
from Rustenburg, made it compulsory for native landowners in the Republic
to register their farms in the names of white people.
In accordance with it, Natives who bought land had to register it
in the name of the Minister of Native Affairs. But as such Ministers
did not always command the trust of the Natives they resorted to the expedient
of registering their farms in the names of some European friends,
missionaries or otherwise. Some European gentlemen thus became
the registered owners of land belonging to Natives, giving the Natives
receipts for the money and documents explaining the nature of the transaction.
Other Europeans, including missionaries, were not so scrupulous.
They gave the Natives no receipt, so that after their death
the properties of these Natives passed into the estates of the deceased.
The following case is an example.
The native peasants on a Transvaal farm found themselves in such a dilemma
after the death of General Joubert, late Superintendent of Natives
of the Transvaal Republic. The black "owners" had no document showing
that they were the real owners of the farm and that General Joubert's name
was only registered to meet the requirements of the Volksraad.
In such circumstances they received notice from his executors
to leave the General's farm. They appealed to the law-courts and adduced
verbal evidence in support of their purchase and ownership of the farm;
the sale had been a public one. Besides, according to their ideas,
it needed no documentary evidence, since they were legally in possession.
The Court, after listening to the evidence concerning the sums paid
by individual Natives of the tribe, of the total sum paid for the farm,
and of the legal reason why the title bore a white man's name,
held that however unfortunate was the position of those Natives if their story
was true, it could only give judgment in terms of the title deeds.
Thus Natives who were originally dispossessed of their land
by conquest, and who swore to having purchased in hard cash
land in their own country from the conquerors, were now for the second time,
so they stated, dispossessed and turned off that land
all owing to the complicated registration under this "Besluit"
After the British occupation in 1900, the Courts held
that the "Besluit" and its practices did not have the force of law,
and Natives took advantage of the ruling to transfer their properties
to their own names; but in 1913, Mr. Piet Grobler, M.L.A.,
moved and succeeded in getting the Natives' Land Act carried
in the Union Parliament, which has placed the Natives of the whole country
in a more terrible plight than were the Natives of the Transvaal Republic
before the war.
Since he took his seat in the Union Parliament, Mr. Piet Grobler,
like Mr. Keyter of Ficksburg, has given the Natives no rest. He first made
his power felt in 1911, when General Smuts introduced a Bill to consolidate
the marriage laws of the four Provinces. Mr. Grobler then moved
a fatal colour clause which had the effect of killing the Bill,
for the Ministry, on finding that the Bill could only be carried
with the assistance of the Unionists, preferred to drop it
rather than divide the Boer majority; and hence, thanks to Mr. Grobler,
the chaotic confusion still obtains in the South African marriage laws.
This gentleman, in 1913, led the attack in Parliament on Sir Richard Solomon,
the Union's representative in London, for not keeping his mouth shut
when he is among British foreigners, and for daring to suggest
British emigration to South Africa. As stated above, Mr. Grobler demanded,
among other things, that the Government should introduce
"during this session" (1913) a law to stop the purchase and lease of land
by Natives, and the Natives' Land Act of 1913 was the result of the demand --
a measure whose destructive severity forced the Natives
to sue for Imperial protection against the South African Parliament.
When the present European War broke out, Mr. Grobler was among
the Parliamentary clique of representatives whose Christian principles
forbade them to vote for an armed expedition against
their friendly neighbours, the Germans. They said that,
in Deuteronomy 19:14, God specifically warned the Boers
against moving the landmarks of their neighbours. But strange to say,
the religious scruples of these pious objectors never revolted against
removing the landmarks of their native neighbours and of appropriating,
not only their land and their labour, but even the persons
of these neighbours. The Natives, according to Mr. Luedorf,
a German evangelist among the Bechuana, witnessed the Boer trekkers
maltreating conquered Natives and taking their children as slaves.
Children who were unable to walk to their serfdom being
gathered in a heap and burnt alive. This, says Mr. Luedorf,
caused the Natives to exclaim: "Mzilikasi, the Matabele King,
was cruel to his enemies, but kind to those he conquered; whilst the Boers
are cruel to their enemies and ill-treat and enslave their friends."*
* "The Boer States" (Keane), pp. 137-138.
Now, Mzilikasi had no Bible, but the Boer has the Bible and professes
to honour it. But his Bible, being of a flexible sort,
it did not prevent a certain clique of Boers from taking up arms
against the Government of which Mr. Lloyd George (a gentleman
who staked his reputation and risked his life in his fearless protests
against the annexation of the Boer Republics) was a prominent member;
and against the Liberal Government, which, as compensation
for the mere change of flags, made them a nice little present
in the shape of the two old English Colonies of South Africa
and the undisturbed permission to rule all that is therein. Mr. Piet Grobler,
the author of most of our miseries, reached the climax of his career when,
after voting against the Union expedition to German South West Africa,
he not only persuaded British subjects not to volunteer for service
in the expedition, but himself joined a force, as alleged
by the South African papers to hand by the latest mail, to shoot down
the King's loyal subjects. He was taken prisoner by General Botha's forces
at the head of a rebel commando, presumably whilst on the way
to join the Kaiser's forces in the German Colony. He is thus
one of the members of the Union Parliament who forfeited their seats
by breaking the Parliamentary oath and participating in the recent rebellion.
Mr. Solicitor Grobler's ideas about the sacredness of an oath
are curious and original. Every member of the Union Parliament,
before taking his seat, has to subscribe to the following oath of allegiance
"before the Governor-General, or some person authorized by him",
usually a Judge of the Supreme Court:
I, M. . . . M. . . . do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance
to His Majesty King George V, his heirs and successors according to law.
So help me God.
Mr. Grobler, it is said, was caught red-handed in the treasonable act
of leading a force of fifty armed rebels against the Government,
and for his breach of the oath he was taken prisoner. Last week,
whilst his trial was still pending, he applied for bail,
and in support of his application, he pleaded that he was anxious
TO ATTEND TO HIS PARLIAMENTARY DUTIES. Here is a bit of Boer candour
The honourable and learned member is further stated to have pleaded
that his district provided the largest proportion of rebels and he was anxious
to be in Capetown when Parliament opens this afternoon,* in order to be able
to represent their case when the Legislature discusses the rebellion.
That is South African logic in a nutshell. The Judge, however,
took a rational view of things and dismissed the application.
* The S. A. Parliament opened on the afternoon of the same day as the Lecture.
There may be motives other than those stated by the incarcerated
member of Parliament actuating his desire to get to Capetown.
Every member of Parliament who absents himself without leave
forfeits 2 Pounds a day out of his Parliamentary emoluments,
so that Mr. Grobler's continued confinement in prison would entail
a serious financial deficit. This was not the only instance in which
anxiety of this kind was betrayed by recipients of Government bounties
in South Africa. There are a large number of well-to-do Boers
who draw annually hundreds of pounds from the Union Treasury, salaries which
a paternal Government taxes the poorly paid labourers of South Africa
to provide. This is particularly the case in the Transvaal.
There, princely salaries are paid for filling such superfluous posts
as that of "Inspector of White Labour", "Field Cornet", and kindred offices.
The Field Cornet of each sub-district of the Transvaal
is a very important gentleman, as is evinced by the intense labour
attached to his office. The duties of this "hard-worked" functionary
consist of the checking of the Parliamentary voters list of his ward,
once every two years, and of acting as chief canvasser and election agent
for the Ministerial candidate, who, however, is usually returned unopposed;
and for these onerous duties he is rewarded by an ungrateful Government
with the "beggarly" salary of 260 Pounds a year.
Besides these, there are sundry little sinecures, equally remunerative,
to which well-to-do Dutch farmers, who are the more
generally preferred, aspire; and each fills his role
with acceptable dignity and a serious sense of responsibility.
Consequently, there is more gnashing of teeth on the farm
over the loss of one of these appointments than over
the failure of a whole year's crop.
Several of these nominal "members" of the Union Civil Service
were said to have taken up arms and joined the rebellion.
According to the South African papers, the wife of one of them
applied to the defence office for the salary of her husband.
When it was pointed out to her that her husband was at that time engaged
in fighting against the forces of the Defence Department,
she coolly told the official that that had nothing to do
with his private affairs, i.e., the income from the Government.
In regard to the faithfulness of the class of officials just mentioned,
I cannot refrain from drawing the attention of my audience
to the fact that, as the electoral supporters of the Cabinet, they guided
the policy of the Union Government during the past five years, and they are
the type of legislators in whose tender care the Imperial Government
would fain entrust the liberties of the voteless Natives
without even the safeguard of a right of appeal.
Personally I am not revengeful, and would wish Mr. Grobler every success
in his defence; the Transvaal native taxpayer, on the other hand,
earns an average wage of 20 Pounds per annum: out of this he pays taxation
on the same scale as the white labourer who earns 25 Pounds a month;
in addition, he pays a native tax of 3 Pounds 4s. per year, presumably as
a tax on the colour of his skin, for no white man pays that. This extra tax,
apparently, is in order that Transvaal Field Cornets and members of Parliament
should more easily draw their pay. In return for all these payments,
and as a result of Mr. Grobler's legislative efforts,
the Transvaal native taxpayer got the Natives' Land Act of 1913;
and I am afraid that HE will not be very sorry to know that some one else
enjoys the 400 Pounds per annum hitherto received by Mr. Grobler,
together with his free first-class travelling ticket
over the South African railways.
British pioneer officials, in Africa and elsewhere, have for generations
been left in charge of mixed communities of white Colonials and black Natives
and other immigrants. In spite of occasional human lapses,
they have ruled these communities successfully throughout the past century,
and maintained the high administrative reputation of the English
in Africa, Asia and other parts of the globe. The dominant race
in South Africa, on the other hand, may be fit to govern themselves,
but their dealings with us show them to be wholly unfit to rule
the native races. There is no more glaring illustration of this weakness
than the conduct of the rebel Boers and the loyal Boers
during the present war. According to my latest information
from different centres of South Africa, native peasants were horsewhipped
into the enemy's service as soon as the standard of rebellion was unfurled.
There can be no reason to doubt the veracity of my information
when the Press reports have clearly shown that even a white skin
has ceased to be a protection against illtreatment. At least
one loyal Magistrate and a postmaster were violently assaulted by
General De Wet's Burghers, so the official dispatches say. Those shopkeepers
who hesitated to open their stores to the rebels were sjambokked
as were the ordinary Natives, and the Mayor of a "Free" State town
was also flogged.
After the proclamation of martial law General Botha marshalled
the loyal Boers throughout the country. These loyal Burghers,
taking advantage of the presence of martial law, committed all kinds
of excesses against loyal coloured civilians. These atrocities
not only took place away in the Backveld, but sometimes
in Capetown and Kimberley, the centres of African civilization;
there black men were frequently tied to the wagon-wheels and lashed
by the loyal Boers, and some of these coloured victims, I am told,
have been cruelly done to death.
Of course, if the particular Burgher who dealt the death-blow
can be identified he will be prosecuted, but that will not resuscitate
the victims. It will only add misery to the innocent family of the offender.
But the fact remains that during the South African War,
South Africa was a huge military camp, yet the unarmed Natives,
many of whom were then in the enemy's service, suffered nothing but kindness
at the hands of Imperial troops, and there never was any conflict
between the military and native civilians. And it but reveals
the unfitness for self-government of the dominant race out there
that the Natives, who sympathize with the Government,
should be exposed to violence immediately the loyal Burghers are armed.
That is the condition of life under true South African ideals.
Having had the ear of the Union Government since the federation of the
South African States, Mr. Piet Grobler and other men of his way of thinking
have been largely responsible for the repressive native laws
that have found their way into the statute book of the Union.
If the Natives of the other three Provinces had votes
like those of the Cape Province, they would help to return
sober-minded members to Parliament who are not inimical to the public welfare,
instead of which they have been represented in the South African Parliament
by budding subalterns of the German Army in South-West Africa.
But since the Imperial Government in its wisdom when granting
a Constitution to South Africa saw fit to withhold from the blacks
their only weapon of protection against hostile legislation,
viz., the power of the ballot, they surely, in common fairness
to the Natives and from respect for their own honour,
cannot reasonably stand aside as mere onlookers while
self-condemned enemies of the Crown ram their violent laws
down the throats of the Natives. The Imperial Government
by the obligations of its overlordship and its plighted word
to the Natives, at the time of the federation, is in duty bound
to free the unrepresented Natives from the shackles of these laws,
or otherwise, declare its guardianship of the interests of the Natives
to have ceased, and counsel these weaker races to apply elsewhere for relief.
* * * * *
Oh, hear us for our native land,
The land we love the most:
Our fathers' sepulchres are here,
And here our kindred dwell;
Our children, too; how should we love
Another land so well?
After partaking of hot cross buns at the family table
of a dear old English family the day before yesterday (Good Friday),
I went to Walthamstow, and there heard a moving discourse
delivered by the Rev. James Ellis on the sufferings and death of Christ
for the redemption of mankind.
At my abode this morning, after receiving such tokens of friendship
as Easter eggs and artistic picture cards, I attended an Easter service
at the London University Hall and heard the little choir of four voices
rendering mellifluous anthems to the glory of God. At the invitation
of the Rev. R. P. Campbell this afternoon I went to Lloyds Park
to tell the P.S.A. there about a South African Easter and to deliver
at the same time the native message to the British public.
In the evening I went to the City Temple, where I listened to
an intellectual Easter sermon, by the Rev. R. J. Campbell,
on the triumph of Christianity, and heard the uniformed choir
artistically sing doxologies to the risen Christ.
As I recall these services, I am transported in thought
to St. Martin's Church in the heart of the "Free" State,
6,000 miles away, where thirty-seven years ago, as an unconscious babe
in my godmother's arms, I went through my first religious sacrament,
performed by an aged missionary who made the sign of the cross
on my forehead and on my breast. I think also of another church
on the banks of the Vaal River where, over twenty years ago,
another missionary laid his white hands on my curly head and received my vow
to forsake the Devil and all his works. I know that in these two places,
as well as in all other native churches and chapels throughout
South Africa, native congregations have this day been singing
in their respective houses of worship and in a variety of tongues
about the risen Christ. But thinking also of the lofty spires
of the Dutch Reformed churches in the South African towns and dorps,
I am forced to remember that coloured worshippers are excluded from them.
Still, in these churches as well, Dutch men and Dutch women have this day
been singing of the triumphs of the risen Christ. Yet to-morrow
some of these white worshippers, in the workshops and in the parks,
will be expressing an opposite sentiment to that conveyed
in their songs of praise, namely, "Down with the verdoemde schepsels"
(damned black creatures) -- the Natives -- for whom also,
these white worshippers say, Christ died.
The Infant Christ, when King Herod sought to murder Him,
found an asylum in Africa.
The Messiah, having been scourged, mocked, and forced to bear His cross
up to Golgotha, and sinking under its weight, an African,
by name Simon of Cyrene, relieved Him of the load.
To-day British troops are suffering untold agony in the trenches
in a giant struggle for freedom. In this stupendous task
they are assisted by sable Africans from the British, French,
and Belgian colonies of the Dark Continent, thus fulfilling
the Biblical prophecy, "From Africa (Egypt) I have called my son."
But other Africans, again, are debarred by the South African Constitution
on account of their colour from doing their share in this war of redemption.
This prohibition surely carries the conviction that the native complaint
against the South African Constitution is something more
than a mere sentimental grievance.
The newspapers are telling us of "a growing spirit of justice
in South Africa"; but in the face of what is happening to-day,
the Natives are wondering if the word `justice', in this newspaper allegation,
is not a misprint for `hatred', for up till as late as 1914
whole congregations have been arrested on leaving some of their farm chapels
on "Free" State and Transvaal farms. They had their passes in their pockets,
but the police contended that they had no special permits,
signed by the landowners on whose farms the chapels are situated,
to attend divine service at the particular places of worship
on that particular day, and the courts upheld this contention.
Up to five years ago no such sacrilegious proceedings interfered
with the Sunday attendances of native worshippers in the same country,
so that there is no mistake as to the kind of spirit that is
"growing in South Africa".
* * * * *
When a man comes to you with stories about a "growing spirit of justice
in South Africa", ask him if he knows that in 1884 there was a great debate
in the Cape Parliament as to whether Natives should be permitted
to exercise the franchise, and that the ayes had it. Ask him, further,
if he thinks that such a proposal could ever be entertained to-day
by any South African Parliament. If he is honest, he will be bound
to say "no". Then ask him, "Where is your growing spirit of justice?"
* * * * *
In 1909, a South African Governor made a great speech in which
he declaimed against the South African policy of pinpricking the blacks.
In 1911, another South African Governor authorized the publication
of regulations in which, by prohibiting the employment of coloured artisans
on the South African mines, the pinpricks were accentuated.
In 1913, a South African Governor signed the Natives' Land Act
which made the Natives homeless in South Africa. Whereas the Government
have announced their intention not to disfranchise the South African rebels,
judging from the present legislative tendency we fear that,
unless the Imperial Government can be induced to interfere,
it is not improbable that should the rebels return to power
after the general election
In 1916, there will be horrible enactments in store for the blacks.
* * * * *
In 1906, His Majesty's Government gave the Transvaal Colony
self-government under a constitution which included a clause placing
the voteless native taxpayers under the special protection of the Crown.
In 1907, His Majesty's Government likewise gave the Orange River Colony
(now Orange "Free" State) self-government under a constitution
which contained a similar provision. At this time the Governor of Natal,
as representing the King, was Supreme Chief of the Zulus in that Colony.
The Natives lived happily under these protecting reservations,
and the white people had no complaint against the just restraint
of the Imperial suzerainty.
In 1909, His Majesty's Government passed the Union Constitution, sweeping away
all these safeguards. In that Act they practically told South Africa to do
what she liked with the Natives in these three Colonies and South Africa
is doing it. Where, then, is this "growing spirit"?
* * * * *
During the South African War in 1901, the Imperial Government
informed the Federal (Dutch) Government that no peace terms
could be considered which did not extend to the native races
the same privileges -- the rights of the franchise -- which are enjoyed
by the Natives of the Cape Colony.
In 1902, the British Imperial and Dutch representatives signed the Peace terms
at Vereeniging. In these, the rights of the coloured citizens
were postponed till after the old Republics had responsible Government.
Responsible Government has since been granted, and has in turn
been succeeded by the Union. But when the Imperial Parliament,
In 1909, considered the Act of Union, English and Dutch South Africans
came over and represented to the Imperial authorities that there would be
a striking demonstration (or words to that effect) against the federation,
and even against South Africa's relation to the Mother Country
if native rights were as much as mentioned in the Constitution;
and the South African Native Franchise has now receded as far off
as the Greek calends. So where is that "growing spirit of justice"?
* * * * *
When you speak of converting Mohammedans, let the question be asked:
"What must Mohammedans think of those whose religion having said
`In the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat bread,' they nevertheless
uphold the policy of rulers who pass regulations debarring
one section of the community from following an honest occupation
in their native land? And what impression must be created
in the minds of black converts who are subjected to discriminations,
including prohibitions that were not in existence five years ago?"
And if in spite of beautiful voices that I have heard this Easter Sunday
singing anthems concerning the triumph of the kingdom of love the British flag
continues to defend the policy of repression and colour hatred
in South Africa, then I fear that the black victims of this policy,
many of them converted to Christianity through your efforts,
might very well class your Easter anthems and their great teaching
with the newspaper canard relative to a "growing spirit of justice
in South Africa"; for our bitter experience proves that spirit to be at best
but a dwindling one.
Two years ago I was alarmed by the impious utterances of a coloured man
whose friendship I valued. He being influential among our people,
I gently remonstrated with him lest through his action many of our people
become unsettled in their faith. This was his explanation:
He was going along an East Rand suburb at eleven o'clock one Sunday morning
when the bells were ringing. He saw a number of people entering
a Dutch church, and as he was far from home he mingled with them,
intending to spend the hour at worship instead of continuing his walk.
But no sooner was he inside than the usher jostled him out of the church,
hailed a policeman and handed him in charge, so that he spent the next hour
in the charge office instead of at chapel. On the Monday morning
he was convicted by the East Rand Magistrate and fined 1 Pound
for trespassing on a private place, to wit, a church.
And that was a Dutch Reformed church, the State Church of South Africa.
Others had reproached him before me for such utterances, he said,
but he will have "no more of our religious mockery with its theoretical
`Come unto Me' and its practical `1 Pound or a month with hard labour'."
John Ruskin, writing on `State Intervention', says:
"When a peasant mother sees one of her careless children fall into a ditch,
her first proceeding is to pull him out; her second, to box his ears;
her third, ordinarily, to lead him carefully a little way by the hand,
or send him home for the rest of the day. The child usually cries,
and very often would clearly prefer remaining in the ditch;
and if he understood any of the terms of politics, would certainly
express resentment at the interference with his individual liberty:
but the mother has done her duty."
Ruskin goes further and depicts the calamities of a mother nation which,
like a foxhunter, complies with the request of its daughter nations
"to be left in muddy independence."*
* `Political Economy of Art': Addenda (J. E., Section 127).
Let us appeal to you, in conclusion, to remember that the victorious Christ
"has gathered your people into a great nation, and sent them
to sow beside all waters and multiply sure dwellings on the earth. . . .
"Let not the crown of your pride be as a fading flower.
But be equal to your high trust: reverent in the use of freedom,
just in the exercise of power, and generous in the protection of the weak."
* * * * *
This has been the most strenuous winter that the writer has ever experienced:
a dark, dreary winter of almost continuous rains, snowflakes, cold,
mud and slush. Reading of the severity of English winters at a distance,
I never could have realized that the life I have lived in England
during the past four months was possible. An existence from which
the sun's rays are almost always obliterated by the inclement weather,
by snow and by fog. I cannot describe the sensations caused
by the dismal gloom of the sunless days -- a most depressing life --
especially in December, when it would suddenly turn dark,
compelling one to work by gaslight when the clocks indicated
that it was high noon. Not till then did I realize why some people are said
to worship the sun. I find that I have unlearned my acquaintance with
the larger planets and heavenly bodies (a knowledge acquired since boyhood)
because the winter fog and clouds have continually hidden the moon and stars
* * * * *
But now that the country is throwing off its winter cloak and dressing itself
in its green, gorgeous array; now that King Day shines in all his glory
through the mist by day, and the moon and stars appear in their brilliancy
in the evenings; now that, as if in harmony with the artistic rendering
of Easter anthems by your choirs, the thrush and the blackbird twitter forth
the disappearance of the foggy winter with its snow, sleet and wet;
now that the flocks of fleecy sheep, which for the past four months
have been in hiding and conspicuous by their absence,
come forward again and spread triumphantly over the green
as if in celebration of the dawn of the new spring;
now that the violet and the daffodil, the marguerite and the hyacinth,
the snowdrop and the bluebell, glorious in appearance, also announce,
each in its own way, the advent of sunny spring, we are encouraged
to hope that, "when peace again reigns over Europe", when white men
cease warring against white men, when the warriors put away
the torpedoes and the bayonets and take up less dangerous implements, you will
in the interest of your flag, for the safety of your coloured subjects,
the glory of your Empire, and the purity of your religion, grapple with
this dark blot on the Imperial emblem, the South African anomaly
that compromises the justice of British rule and seems almost to belie
the beauty, the sublimity and the sincerity of Christianity.
Shall we appeal to you in vain? I HOPE NOT.
[ Map was inserted here. ]
Report of the Lands Commission
To attempt to place the different people of the country
in water-tight compartments is very attractive in a general way,
but it is bound to fail.
You have got a comparatively small European population
-- a million and a quarter -- and something like
half a million mixed race, and then you have got between
four and five million of the aboriginal inhabitants of the country.
Any policy that aims at setting off a very small proportion
of the land of the country for the use and occupation
of the very vast majority of the inhabitants, and reserving
for the use and occupation of a very small minority of the inhabitants
the great majority of the land of the country, is a policy
that economically must break somewhere. You can start and move
in that direction to a certain extent, but you will be driven back
by the exigencies of a law that operates outside the laws of Parliament --
the law of supply and demand.
This theory of segregation is to some minds attractive,
but the forgotten point is that you need the Native.
You cannot segregate him because you need him. If you drive him
out of his existing life and occupation, you run a great risk
that you will lose many of your Natives.
Hon. W. P. Schreiner, K.C., C.M.G.,
(High Commissioner for the Union of South Africa,
Ex-Premier of Cape Colony,) before the Lands Commission.
If we are to deal fairly with the Natives of this country,
then according to population we should give them
four-fifths of the country, or at least half.
Hon. C. G. Fichardt, M.L.A.
The best way to segregate the races would be by means of a boundary fence
along the main line of Railway from Port Elizabeth,
straight through to Bloemfontein and Pretoria, to Pietersburg,
putting the blacks on one side and the whites on the other side
of the Railway line.*
M. J. M. Nyokong, before the Native Affairs Commission.
* This would give about one-third of the Union to the four and a half
million blacks, the one and a quarter million whites retaining two-thirds.
During the past two years while the Empire was involved in
one of the mightiest struggles that ever shook the foundations of the earth,
South Africa was wasting time and money in a useless and unprecedented attempt
at territorial segregation betwixt white and black. Judging by
the recently published Report of the Lands Commission, however,
she has failed ignominiously in the task.
Whenever, on behalf of the Natives, the hardships disclosed in this book
were mentioned, the South African authorities invariably replied
that these hardships would cease as soon as the Commission submits its Report.
This has now been done. General Botha laid the Report
on the table of the house on May 3, 1916, and intimated as he did so
that "the Government propose to take no immediate action
upon the recommendations, but will give the country twelve months to consider
the Report and the evidence." Meanwhile the eviction of Natives from farms
continues in all parts of the country, and the Act debars them
from settling anywhere, not even in Natal, although Natal witnesses
(like the Chairman of the Commission) have definitely claimed
the exemption of their Colony from this form of Union tyranny.
It is a Report of many parts. A good deal of it is instructive and much of it
is absurd. Most of the Commissioners and many of the witnesses have
expressed themselves with a candid disregard for the rights of other people.
Government publications, at least, should be beyond question;
thus, old Government archives give correct histories of native tribes
for 500 years back, because their compilers invariably sought and obtained
reliable evidence from Natives about themselves. But this Commission's Report
(to mention but one instance among several inaccuracies) tells us,
on page 27 of U.G. 25-'16, of "the original inhabitants of Moroka ward
who had lived in Bechuanaland under the Paramount Chief Montsioa (sic).
Their original chief was Sebuclare" (!)
No Barolong tribe ever had a chief by this name. The fact is,
that Governments of to-day frequently publish unreliable native records,
for they are mainly based on information obtained from self-styled experts,
who, in South Africa, should always be white.
Again, it is not explained why the Commission publishes,
in a permanent record, particulars of encumbrances on native farms
such as we find on page 29 of the same volume. Is it to damage
the credit of the native farmers? Supposing some of the hypothecations given
in the "list of mortgaged native-owned farms in the Thaba Ncho District"
were wiped off before the Report was issued, will it be fair
to the native owners to read, say in 1999, that their farms are mortgaged
for those amounts?
In the published evidence given before other Commissions
questions put to the witnesses are usually printed along with the answers.
This has not been done in the present instance, and consequently
some of these replies are so clumsily put that the reader cannot even guess
what the witness was answering. If the questions had also been printed,
the whole Report might have been illuminating. It is interesting,
for instance, to read what was apparently a lively dispute
between the Commissioners and one witness -- Mr. J. G. Keyter, M.L.A.,
the arch-enemy of the blacks and one of the promoters of the whole trouble --
as to what is, or is not, the meaning of the Natives' Land Act.
Indeed the various definitions and explanations of the Act,
given by the Commissioners and some of the witnesses, contradict those
previously given by the Union Government and Mr. Harcourt.
And while the ruling whites, on the one hand, content themselves
with giving contradictory definitions of their cruelty the native sufferers,
on the other hand, give no definitions of legislative phrases
nor explanations of definitions. All that they give expression to
is their bitter suffering under the operation of what their experience
has proved to be the most ruthless law that ever disgraced
the white man's rule in British South Africa.
The Report and the evidence at any rate bear out the statement
set forth in this book, namely, that the main object in view
is not segregation, but the reduction of all the black subjects of the King
from their former state of semi-independence to one of complete serfdom.
The Commission's Awards
The population of South Africa is very commonly overestimated.
As a matter of fact there are in South Africa about
one and a quarter million whites and four and a half million blacks.
According to the Census of 1911, the exact figure is a million less
than the population of London, -- viz., 5,973,394 -- scattered over
an area of 143,000,000 morgen -- nearly ten times the size of England.
A morgen is about 2 1/9 English acres.
But if we are to understand what is proposed, we would have to consider
the position in the sub-continent under different heads: --
I. English or Urban Areas, inhabited by 660,000 whites and 800,000 blacks:
1 3/4 quarter million morgen; and
II. The remaining 141 1/4 million morgen, which the Commission
would divide as follows: --
(a) NATIVE AREAS, for the Bantu and such other coloured races as are
classed along with them numbering just about 4,000,000 SOULS:
18 1/4 MILLION MORGEN.
(b) EUROPEAN AREAS, or nearly the whole of Rural South Africa,
for the occupation of 660,000 RURAL WHITES (mainly Boers):
The English Areas (I) are not affected by the troubles which form
the subject of this book. None but the four million blacks will be allowed
to buy land in the Native Area (II(a)); while all the blacks
who hitherto lived on the Boer Areas (II(b)) must clear out.
They would only be allowed to come back to Union territory
as servants to the white farming population.
That, in a nutshell, is the Report of the Segregation Commission.
The Chairman Dissents
On the whole these drastic findings are against the weight of evidence.
The Report, moreover, shows that the decisions were not carried through
without some difference of opinion. It would seem that Sir William Beaumont,
the Chairman of the Commission, a retired Judge of the Supreme Court
(whose legal training and experience were assuredly entitled to more respect
than they received) gave a saner interpretation of the Natives' Land Act.
He evidently wished to treat the amount of land awarded to Natives
as an instalment to which additions might be made in the future.
This, he said, was quite within the power of the Commission to recommend.
But his colleagues presumably preferred, not the legal,
but their own interpretation, namely, that this sane interpretation was
"contrary to the intention of the legislature". The Chairman's well-weighed
judicial verdict appears on page 42 of volume one of the Report: --
In my opinion, neither the Natives' Land Act, nor the terms of its reference,
require the Commission to delimit the whole extent of the Union
into European and Native Areas respectively . . . and I think
it is quite competent for this Commission, where this cannot
be conveniently done, to leave undefined areas which would be open alike
to white and black for the acquisition of land. But this opinion
is not shared by my fellow-commissioners, who regard it as contrary
to the intentions of the legislature and the terms of the Act.
Sir William Beaumont's rejected opinion is supported by
the evidence of Senator T. L. Schreiner, who said: --
When the Bill was before the House, I brought to its notice the fact
that there were areas in the country which it was impossible to declare
native areas or non-native areas. The late Minister said
it was not the intention to divide the whole country of the Union;
therefore I thought that the difficulty was covered (p. 224 vol. ii).
But as in Parliament so also in the Commission it would appear
that the steam-roller was set in motion; and it operated in each instance
in favour of repressing the black races.
These four Commissioners presumably thinking that Imperial attention
would be too much engrossed with the war to notice such insignificant affairs
as the throttling of the South African Blacks, seem to have decided
that now or never was the opportune moment for degrading the aborigines
into helots; therefore, the Chairman, finding that he could not persuade
his colleagues to adopt his view of things, indited the following
minority report respecting his own Province of Natal and Zululand
(vol. i. p. 41): --
The conditions in Natal are, and have been, totally different
to those in the other Provinces. There has been no demand in Natal
for the enforcement of a Squatters Act or for any further
segregation of the natives. Indeed, the opinion of Natal, as expressed
in the evidence given before the Commission by those best qualified to know,
is against the application of the Natives' Land Act to Natal.
In Natal, since it became a British possession, the Natives have always had,
and largely exercised, the right to purchase land outside
their defined locations, and they regard any infringement of this right
as a breach of the terms of the Proclamation issued by Her late Majesty
Queen Victoria at the time the country was annexed by Great Britain.
(See the petitions presented to the Commission.) The Natives in Natal
now privately own about 359,000 acres, on which are residing
some 37,000 Natives. These lands are, in certain areas,
so intermixed with lands owned by Europeans that any line of demarcation
can only be arbitrarily made, and may result in serious hardship or injustice
to both European and Native owners.
The area set aside for native occupation (including mission reserves)
and preserved for their use by Royal Letters Patent and by
the South Africa Act, amount to nearly two and a half million acres,
or about 15 per cent. of the whole of Natal. These areas are,
according to the native mode of occupation, almost all fully occupied,
and do not afford more than a very limited opportunity
for the introduction of Natives from outside.
A further point which has to be considered, and it is one
on which the Natives lay great stress, is that it seems unjust
to debar the native from purchasing land in areas where the Indian,
who is alien to the country, is free to do so.
As regards Zululand, it is sufficient here to point out
that Zululand was delimited into native reserves and Crown lands
by the Zululand Delimitation Commission of 1902-1904,
the Crown lands being made available for disposal by the Natal Government,
to which the country was annexed. It was not, however, intended,
nor did the Zulus understand, that they were to be deprived of their right
to acquire any portion of the reserved Crown lands by purchase.
The delimitation was made after a very thorough inquiry
by persons well acquainted with the Zulus and their country;
but, even so, we find that whole tribes or large portions of tribes
who had long been in occupation of their lands -- some of which
were not acquired by conquest but by voluntary surrender --
were not provided for, and were left on the reserved Crown lands.
There are to-day some 24,328 Zulus and Amatonga occupying these lands,
and they are asking to-day for their lands to be restored to them.
The delimitation was acquiesced in by the Zulus only because
they had no alternative, and the inevitable had to be accepted.
Since the delimitation they have remained loyal and peaceful
and the bitterness of the losses suffered is past.
The Delimitation Commission in its report expressed the hope
that the delimitation would be: "as final a settlement
as it is possible to effect, and that no further changes
will be initiated in the near future . . ."; but if the question
is now re-opened and European and native areas are defined anew,
I think endless trouble is likely to ensue. If any alterations may be found
necessary in the future, either in the interests of black or white,
the machinery exists whereby such alteration can be effected
with little or no disturbance of the natives.
Colonel Stanford Reverses His Views
One redeeming feature in a Report which otherwise is melancholy reading
is to be found in the consistency of the statesmen of Natal,
which is admirable in comparison with the fast degenerating land policy
of Cape Statesmen. Ten years ago the Native Affairs Commission
reported on the question of Land Tenure in South Africa.
Messrs. Marshall Campbell and S. O. Samuelson, Natal representatives
on that Commission -- ably supported by Colonel Stanford,
the Cape representative -- expressed themselves unambiguously against
this limitation of native progress. History was about to repeat itself
in favour of justice in the latest Commission but for the manner
in which Colonel Stanford completely reversed his former attitude.
He is the only member of this Commission who had a seat
on the first Commission, and in 1905 he was reported thus: --
Col. Stanford dissented from the view of the majority
on the question of restricting to certain areas only
the right of the individual Native to purchase land. He holds that
the acquisition by the more advanced Natives of vested individual interests
in the land is a powerful incentive to loyalty. In his opinion
sufficient cause has not been shown for the curtailment of privileges
enjoyed for many years in the British Colonies. . . .
The contention that the safety of European races must be guarded
by such restrictions as have been under discussion he does not hold
to be sound. The Church, professions, commerce, trade and labour
are open to the ambition and energy of the Natives, and with so many avenues
open to their advance the danger of their swamping Europeans, if a real one,
is not avoided by denying them the right individually to buy land.
He can see no decadence of the vigour, the enterprise and the courage which,
since the occupation of the Cape Peninsula by the early Dutch settlers,
have resulted in the extension of European control and occupation
to the limits now reached. Moreover, artificial restrictions
of the occupation of land in the late Dutch Republics
resulted in the evasion of the law by various forms of contract
whereby native occupation of farms was effected, while at the same time
advantage was taken of the opportunities thus afforded of fraudulent practices
on the part of Europeans employed as agents or so-called trustees. . . .
If the design be to allow purchase by Natives in localities
regarded as unsuitable for Europeans, sight is lost of the fact
that usually the Native who desires to become a landed proprietor
belongs to the civilized class, and such localities offer to him
Europeans are more and more entering into occupation of land regarded
as set aside for Natives. Missionaries, traders and others are permitted
to establish themselves and carry on the duties of their respective callings.
Townships spring up at the various seats of magistracy and Census Returns
clearly show that such influx is steadily increasing in volume.
It is thus demonstrated that the idea of separate occupation of land
by Natives, even in their own Reserves, is not maintained at the present time,
nor can it be in the future.*
* `Colonies and British Possessions -- Africa (Session 1905)',
vol. lv. pp. 102-103.
But now we must conclude that the gallant Colonel has fallen a victim
to the new reactionary spirit, for he has deserted Sir W. Beaumont,
the Natal Commissioner, and taken up with the Northerners,
a position diametrically opposed to the noble sentiments he then laid down.
The Cape Land Policy
The pronounced inconsistency of the Cape representative on these Commissions
is in harmony with the reaction which has set in as regards
the Land Policy of the Cape. It is true that the Cape, so far,
has been more liberal in the matter of the Franchise. And the very fact
that some of the Cape voters' lists included some native names
has had a restraining influence on the utterances of certain
Cape members of Parliament who would otherwise have given expression
to reactionary sentiments. But it is no less true that in later years
the same native Franchise has been hypocritically used as a cloak
to cover a multitude of political sins, such, for instance, as free trade
in liquor among the Natives and the systematic robbery of native lands.
To my own personal knowledge, the Cape Government have on several occasions,
arbitrarily, on the slightest pretext, or none whatever, confiscated lands
that were awarded to native tribes by Imperial representatives,
in the name of Queen Victoria, and parcelled them out to Europeans.
A striking instance of such rapacity on the part of successive
Cape administrations appears on page 30 of the Minute by Sir William Beaumont,
Chairman of the Lands Commission. Sir William shows how
loyal black taxpayers in Griqualand West had been systematically
robbed of Queen Victoria's gifts and driven from pillar to post.
Commission after Commission had been sent out to them
at intervals of ten years, systematic spoliation and pillage following
the visit of each commission. It has been my sorrow to be among those
who witnessed the coming and going of some of these decennial commissions
and the truculent attitude of the Cape Government, who,
trading on the people's ignorance, treated Queen Victoria's awards
like so many scraps of paper, drove these tax-payers from their homes,
and invited white men to occupy their territories.
This is what Sir William writes about the Commission of the last decade: --
The case of these Natives calls for special consideration. They were promised
that they would never be removed so long as they remained loyal,
and in the end they were burnt out. There is a very strong feeling
amongst them that there has been a want of faith towards them.
The subject was specially reported on by Mr. P. Dreyer,
Civil Commissioner of Kimberley, on August 27, 1909.
He made specific recommendations, which appear to be quite sound,
but do not appear to have been adopted.
Now, this is only with reference to Griqualand West. But similar
acts of violence have marked the land-grabbing propensity of the Cape
in Bechuanaland, in Peddie and the Transkei, even during my lifetime.
The So-Called Native Areas
Turning to the evidence, we find that if we omit the depositions
of Natal whites, of Missionaries and of Natives, the remaining witnesses
-- a minority of the whole -- emphatically declared that the aborigines
were not entitled to a square yard of their ancestral lands and that
they should be tolerated only as servants. Those, at any rate, who thought
that we were entitled to some breathing space, were willing to concede
certain little "reserves" in the centre of groups of white men's farms,
into which black men and women could be herded like so many heads of cattle,
rearing their offspring as best they could and preparing them
for a life of serfdom on the surrounding farm properties.
They held it to be the duty of the parent serfs to hand over their children,
as soon as they were fit, to the farmers who would work them out;
and when age and infirmity had rendered them unfit for further service,
they could be hustled back to the reserved pens, there to spend
the evening of their lives in raising more young serfs
for the rising white generation. The Commission's findings
seem to have been influenced largely by the latter type of white witness,
for all that they award us, in our ancestral South Africa,
might be called human incubators considering the amount of space.
A contemplation of the circumstances attending these selfish recommendations
leads one to wonder whether the Commissioners suffered from
the lack of a sense of humour or an undue excess of it.
In North and South America, for instance, we read that the slave-pens
were erected and maintained by the farmers at their own cost.
That "the interest of the master demanded that he should direct
the general social and moral life of the slave, and should provide
especially for his physical well-being;" but the pens proposed
by the South African Land Commission, on the other hand, are to be maintained
entirely by the slaves, at their own cost, the farmer's only trouble being
to come to the gate and whistle for labourers.
It is lawful in certain parts of South Africa for Natives
to dispose of or "sell" their daughters to men, the purchase price
being sometimes fixed by the Government. It is thus that white magistrates
have at times condemned unfortunate black girls to cohabit with men
they hated, provided the latter have paid the price; and having regard
to the object for which the proposed native pens are to be set aside,
the reader can picture to himself the coming commercial traffic in black girls
within the enclosures of the said "native areas".
Several of the witnesses have made the statement that Natives are not making
economic use of the land. As far as we have read, not one of such witnesses
supported his point with figures. But most of those who expressed
the contrary view -- that native lands are shockingly overcrowded --
have backed their statements with figures. Prominent among them,
there was Mr. Adamson, the Natal Magistrate. In answer to further questions
by Commissioner Wessels -- questions which this Report does not disclose --
the same witness also said: "I say the Location is crowded because
there are too many Natives for the ground, which is very poor and precipitous.
It is only down towards the valley where they can do a little cultivation.
The population is 12,368."
Other magistrates and farmers gave similar evidence regarding their districts.
They included Mr. J. S. Smit, the Klerksdorp Magistrate,
who incidentally exploded the stale old falsehood about Natives living
on the labour of their wives. The Rev. J. L. Dube said inter alia:
"It is a fact that none can deny that the white man has got the best land.
In the Free State you can go for miles without seeing anything;
but if it had been native land there would have been an outcry,
`Look at this beautiful land, and the Kaffirs not cultivating it.'
Going to Johannesburg by the mail from here any day one can see waste land
belonging to white people."
Mr. E. T. Stubbs, Commissioner of Louis Trichardt, said: "The density
of the native population on reserves is 106 to 177 per square mile;
on white farms only 28, and on Crown land 3 to the square mile."
Yet in the face of these and similar official figures,
the Commission reiterates the unsupported allegation of prejudiced witnesses
that "Natives are not making economic use of their land."
But on turning to the Census figures one sees at once how unfounded
is the repeated charge. Take only one of the Provinces -- Cape Colony --
in which it is said the Natives hold (and therefore "waste") the most land.
Province of the Cape of Good Hope
Cape Colony is about 83 3/4 million morgen in extent. It is usually
referred to as: --
(a) THE COLONY PROPER: 78,800,000 MORGEN, feeding 560,000 WHITES
and 1,090,000 BLACKS, with their 1,603,625 cattle,
240,000 horses and 20 million sheep and goats; and
(b) THE TRANSKEIAN NATIVE TERRITORIES: 5,000,000 MORGEN,
feeding 20,000 WHITES and 900,000 BLACKS, with their
1,111,700 cattle, 90,000 horses, 3 1/2 million sheep and goats,
and more poultry and pigs than in the Colony Proper.
Surely, no further mathematical demonstration is needed to show
on which side of the Kei there is a waste of land, if any.
But it is a maxim in South Africa that, except as mechanical contrivances,
Natives do not count, and cattle in their possession are not live-stock;
thus the districts in which they eke out an existence
are so much derelict land. The Commission, therefore,
propose the following alterations: --
The 20,000 whites in the Transkei must not be disturbed. A million morgen
in the Transkei is set aside for them, and it shall be unlawful
for the blacks to live there except as servants. On the other hand
the million odd Natives in the Colony Proper must betake themselves
to the remainder of the Transkei, with their cattle and other belongings.
A million morgen of Kalahari sand-dunes, worthless for farming purposes,
and the small tribal communes near Queenstown and King Williamstown,
are also set aside as native areas. And then the whole of Cape Colony
(supposing the Commission's extraordinary recommendations be enforced)
will balance itself as follows: --
(a) EUROPEAN AREAS: 76,392,503 MORGEN, feeding 560,000 WHITES,
their 1,030,000 CATTLE, 180,300 HORSES AND 15 MILLION
SHEEP AND GOATS.
(b) NATIVE AREAS: 7,356,590 MORGEN, feeding 1,500,000 BLACKS,
with their 1,580,000 HEAD OF CATTLE, 154,630 HORSES AND 8 MILLION
SHEEP AND GOATS.
At first sight it would appear that these awards allotted
say 288 acres per white and 7 acres per black person;
but, as the bulk of the English (a quarter of a million)
live in towns and are not affected by this trouble,
we may deduct the Urban districts and their white and black populations.
Then the Commission's allotments really work out at about 589.31 acres
per Boer (man, woman or child) and only 10.3 acres per Native.
And even then, this would be by no means the limit of the disproportion.
Appendix VIII (Annexure I) of the same Report recommends
future inroads by whites upon these attenuated native reservations,
but, to the blacks, there is to be no territorial compensation
from the Colony, which an adoption of all these recommendations
would practically depopulate.
As things are at present, the black population of these areas
is as much as 70 to 90 persons to the square mile. In density of population,
some of these "rural" native districts are second only to Capetown,
Durban, and Johannesburg -- South Africa's most populous centres.
Not one of the other South African "cities" can show
a population of more than 20 to 30 persons to the square mile.
So that every individual inhabitant of a city occupies a larger space
than some of these native farmers can have for themselves,
their livestock and agricultural pursuits. So says the Census Report
(U.G. 32-'12), which is fully borne out by the writer's own observations
in a travelling experience of more than ten years.
The average density of the rural population in white areas
is about five to eight persons per square mile. In native areas
the average is ten times that number, while the black belt
along the Indian Ocean contains from 100 to 140 Natives per square mile
(see Schedule F. and Tables XIII-XVI, of the Census Report).
Yet the Commission would saddle these congested native areas
with additional populations from the Colony Proper and raise the density
to something over 200 souls per square mile.
The density of cattle to the square mile in Cape Colony
is 6.39 in white areas, and 61.15 in native areas (see U.G. 32h. 1912.
pp. 1227-1228). Adopt the Commission's Report and you will have
in white areas 0.24 and in Native areas 163.26 cattle per square mile.
Is it fair or reasonable that the indigenes of an open country
who pay taxation for the benefit of their rulers and not of themselves,
should be forced to live the overcrowded lives of the Belgians without
Belgium's sanitary arrangements, or the precautionary hygienic measures
necessary in other thickly populated areas?
Is it natural that their cattle should be subjected to this
starvation process, while the grassy tracts of their God-given territories
are mainly untenanted and preserved as breeding grounds
for venomous snakes and scorpions?
Has it come to this that the standard of our unfortunate country
has sunk so low that dog-in-the-manger stories are now read
in Parliamentary publications?
It is clear that under the proposed arrangement native cattle must starve
and their owners with them. For it has come out in evidence
that even now (while many Europeans hold large tracts of idle land)
some of the blacks have not enough grazing for their stock.
But that little difficulty the Commission solves by proposing
that Natives should be taught to give up cattle breeding,
which alone stands between them and the required serfdom!
An African home without its flock and herd is like an English home
without its bread-winner.
"Von Franzius considers Africa the home of the house cattle
and the Negro the original tamer. . . . Among the great Bantu tribes
extending from the Soudan toward the South, cattle are evidence of wealth;
one tribe, for instance, having so many oxen that each village
had ten or twelve thousand head. Lenz (1884), Bouet-Williaumez (1848),
Hecquard (1854), Bosman (1805), and Baker (1868) all bear witness
to this, and Schweinfurth (1878) tells us of great cattle parks
with two to three thousand head, and of numerous agricultural
and cattle-raising tribes . . . while Livingstone describes
the busy cattle raising of the Bantu and Kaffirs."*
* `The Negro' (Du Bois), pp. 108-109.
But the Commission would force us to give up our agrarian occupation
when we are debarred by Acts of Parliament from following
other profitable industries in our own country. This is equivalent to saying
that Englishmen must be taught to close down their shops,
stop their shipping industry and give up their maritime trade.
The Orange "Free" State
The Provincial difficulties I have endeavoured to point out become
more serious when we regard the conditions in the so-called "Free" States.
There the native position is rendered exceptionally desperate
by a number of rigorous class enactments. Formerly these discriminating laws
were eased by the action of the State Presidents who were in the habit
of issuing exemption certificates to Natives who wished to buy land,
either from other Natives or from Europeans; but now, these harsh laws,
besides being rigidly enforced against all Natives, were made more acute
in 1913, while there is no one in the position once occupied by the President,
who might be able or inclined to grant any relief.
Whenever by force of character or sheer doggedness one Native has tried
to break through the South African shackles of colour prejudice,
the Colour Bar, inserted in the South African Constitution in 1909,
instantly hurled him back to the lowest wrung of the ladder
and held him there. Let me mention only one such case.
About ten years ago Mr. J. M. Nyokong, of the farm Maseru,
in the Thabanchu district, invested about 1,000 Pounds
in agricultural machinery and got a white man to instruct his nephews
in its use. I have seen his nephews go forth with a steam sheller,
after garnering his crops every year, to reap and thresh
the grain of the native peasants on the farms in his district.
But giving evidence before the Lands Commission two years ago,
this industrious black landowner stated that he had received
orders from the Government not to use his machinery except under
the supervision of a white engineer. This order, he says,
completely stopped his work. The machinery is used only at harvesting time;
no white man would come and work for him for two months only in the year,
and as he cannot afford to pay one for doing nothing
in the remaining ten months, his costly machinery is reduced
to so much scrap iron. This is the kind of discouragement and attrition
to which Natives who seek to better their position are subjected
in their own country.
The Native Affairs Department
Perhaps the greatest puzzle in this ocean of native difficulties,
to which one can but slightly refer in this chapter, is the attitude
of some of the gentlemen in charge of the Native Affairs Department --
the only Branch of the South African administration run exclusively
on native taxes. It is perhaps as well to cite one instance
illustrative of their methods of administering native affairs.
The Rev. J. L. Dube, President of the Native Congress,
gave evidence before the Lands Commission and produced letters
addressed to him by certain Natal firms, from which I extract
the following passages: --
If you are prepared to purchase this land my Company would be prepared
to do business with you. . . . In view of the fact that you and Cele
have already purchased portion of the Company's property adjoining the land
now offered for sale, we think there would be no objection
on the part of the Governor General in giving his consent to the transfer.*
* U.G. 22, p. 557.
Another extract runs: --
"We have a piece of land at the edge of our estate cutting right into land
owned by various Natives, and we are willing to dispose of this land to Cele
for this reason. We understood that the Department of Native Affairs raised
no objection, but we were astonished when everything was "cut and dried"
to find them refusing the application."*
* U.G. 22, p. 557.
How then can the Native be expected to survive this organized opposition,
on the part of the authorities, and also of these official beneficiaries
and prospective pensioners of native taxes? Will it be believed
that these gentlemen of the Native Affairs Department, whose salaries
are actually paid by us, should have sent messengers at our expense
to convene a meeting of their colleagues, at which letters were dictated
prohibiting the sale of this land to Zulus -- the stationery,
the typewriter and the typist's labour, to say nothing of the cigarettes
smoked by those present, being paid for out of native money?
Is it surprising if we feel that their adverse interference in matters
which so vitally affect us has long since become intolerable?
It may be asked what useful purpose is served by the Native Affairs Department
as it now stands? This would be my answer: --
The Department is responsible for the gathering in of all native taxes
throughout the Union. And after paying the salaries of the staff,
it pays over annually a huge surplus to the Union Exchequer
for the benefit of "a white South Africa". Further, the Transvaal Natives
believe that they would get along much better with the white population,
and with officials of other Departments of State, were not
"the Native Affairs Department continually stirring them up against us."
The justice of this complaint is well exemplified at Johannesburg,
where the autocrats of this department are armed with, and liberally exercise,
the peculiar and exceptional powers of locking up Natives without warrants,
without any charge, and without a trial -- powers which even
the Judges of the Supreme Court do not possess.
General Hertzog's Scheme
It may interest the reader to know that General Hertzog
is the father of the segregation controversy. The writer and other Natives
interviewed him before Christmas, 1912, at the Palace of Justice, Pretoria,
when he was still in the ministry. We had a two hours' discussion,
in the course of which the General gave us a forecast of what he then regarded
as possible native areas, and drew rings on a large wall-map of the Union
to indicate their locality. Included in these rings were several Magistracies
which he said would solve a knotty problem. He told us that white people
objected to black men in Government offices and magistrates in those areas
would have no difficulty in employing them.
General Hertzog was dismissed shortly after, and it has been said
that in order to placate his angry admirers the Ministry passed
the Natives' Land Act of which this Report is the outcome.
Judging by the vigour with which the Union administration has been
weeding Natives out of the public service and replacing them with Boers
without waiting for the Commission's Report, it is clear
that they did not share General Hertzog's intention as regards
these magistracies. I cannot recall all the magistracies
which General Hertzog mentioned as likely to fall in native areas;
but I distinctly remember that Pietersburg and Thaba Nchu were among them;
while Alice and Peddie (and possibly a neighbouring district)
were to be included in a southern reserve into which the Natives
round East London and Grahamstown would have to move, the land vacated by them
to be gradually occupied by the white settlers now scattered over the would-be
native block. He went on to forecast a vast dependency of the Union
in which the energies and aspirations of black professional men
would find their outlet with no danger of competition with Europeans;
where a new educational and representative system could be evolved for Natives
to live their own lives, and work out their salvation in a separate sphere.
But the lands Commission's Report places this plausible scheme beyond
the region of possibility, for no native area, recommended by this Commission,
includes any of the magistracies mentioned.
General Hertzog's plan at least offered a fair ground for discussion,
but the Commission's Report is a travesty of his scheme.
It intensifies every native difficulty and goes much further
than the wild demands of the "Free" State extremists.
Thus even if it be thrown out, as it deserves to be,
future exploiters will always cite it as an excuse for measures
subversive of native well-being. In fact, that such legislation
should be mooted is nothing short of a national calamity.
How They "Doubled" a Native Area
Near the northern boundaries of Transvaal there lies
a stretch of malarial country in which nothing can live unless born there.
Men and beasts from other parts visit it only in winter and leave it again
before the rains begin, when the atmosphere becomes almost too poisonous
to inhale. Even the unfailing tax-gatherers of the Native Affairs Department
go there only in the winter every year and hurry back again
with the money bags before the malarial period sets in.
A Boer general describes how when harassed by the Imperial forces
during the South African war, he was once compelled to march through it;
and how his men and horses -- many of them natives of the Transvaal --
contracted enough malaria during the march to cause
the illness of many and the death of several Burghers and animals.
Of the native inhabitants of this delectable area the Dutch General says:
"Their diminutive, deformed stature was another proof of the miserable climate
* `My Reminiscences of the Anglo-Boer War' (General Ben Viljoen), p. 222.
When the Land Commissioners contemplated this "salubrious" region,
their hearts must have melted with generosity, for whereas
in our own healthy part of South Africa they have indicated
possible native areas by little dots or microscopical rings
(as in Thaba Nchu for instance), here, in this malarial area,
they marked off a reserve almost as wide as that described
by General Hertzog himself at our Pretoria interview. It is possibly
in this way, and in such impossible places, that the Commission is alleged
to have "doubled" the native areas. In the rest of the country
they ask Parliament to confiscate our birthright to the soil of our ancestry
in favour of 600,000 Boers and aliens whose languages can show
no synonym for HOME -- the English equivalent of our IKAYA and LEGAE!
The Britishers' vocabulary includes that sacred word: and that, perhaps,
is the reason why their colonizing schemes have always allowed
some tracts of country for native family life, with reasonable opportunities
for their future existence and progress, in the vast South African expanses
which God in His providence had created for His Children of the Sun.
The Englishman, moreover, found us speaking the word `Legae',
and taught us how to write it. In 1910, much against our will,
the British Government surrendered its immediate sovereignty over our land
to Colonials and cosmopolitan aliens who know little about a Home,
because their dictionaries contain no such loving term;
and the recommendations of this Commission would seem to express
their limited conception of the word and its beautiful significance.
Natives Have no Information about the Coming Servitude
All too little (if anything at all) is known of the services rendered
to the common weal by the native leaders in South Africa. In every crisis
of the past four years -- and the one-sided policy of the Union
has produced many of these -- the native leaders have taken upon themselves
the thankless and expensive task of restraining the Natives
from resorting to violence. The seeming lack of appreciation
with which the Government has met their success in that direction
has been the cause of some comment among Natives. On more than one occasion
they have asked whether the authorities were disappointed because,
by their successful avoidance of bloodshed, the native leaders
had forestalled the machine guns. But, be the reason what it may,
this apparent ingratitude has not cooled their ardour in the cause of peace.
To-day the Native Affairs Department has handed over 7,000 Pounds
from native taxes to defray the cost of the Land Commission,
consisting of five white Commissioners, their white clerks and secretaries --
the printing alone swallowed up nearly 1,000 Pounds with further payments
to white translators for a Dutch edition of the Report.
But not a penny could be spared for the enlightenment of the Natives
at whose expense the inquiry has been carried through.
They have been officially told and had every reason to believe
that the Commission was going about to mark out reservations
for them to occupy and live emancipated from the prejudicial conditions
that would spring from contiguity with the white race.
For any information as to the real character of the contents
of the Dutch and English Report of this Commission, they would
have to depend on what they could gather from the unsalaried efforts
of the native leaders, who, owing to the vastness of the sub-continent,
the lack of travelling facilities and their own limited resources,
can only reach a few localities and groups.
It may be said with some reason that English leaders of thought
in South Africa have had a task of like difficulty: that they worked
just as hard to get the English colonists to co-operate loyally
with a vanquished foe in whose hands the Union constitution has placed
the destiny of South Africa. It could also be said with equal justice
that the Boer leaders' task has been not less difficult,
that it required their greatest tact to get the Boer majority
-- now in power -- to deal justly with the English who had been responsible
for the elimination of the two Boer flags from among the emblems of
the family of nations. But the difficulties of their task is not comparable
to that of the native leaders. English and Dutch Colonial leaders
are members of Parliament, each in receipt of 400 Pounds a year,
with a free first class ticket over all systems of the South African Railways.
They enjoy, besides, the co-operation of an army of well-paid
white civil servants, without whom they could scarcely have managed
their own people. The native leader on the other hand,
in addition to other impediments, has to contend with
the difficulty of financing his own tours in a country
whose settled policy is to see that Natives do not make any money.
His position in his own country approximates to that of an Englishman,
grappling single-handed with complicated problems, on foreign soil,
without the aid of a British consul.
Bullyragging the Natives
For upwards of three years the Government of the Union of South Africa
has harassed and maltreated the rural native taxpayers as no heathen monarch,
since the time of the Zulu King Chaka, ever illused a tributary people.
For the greater part of our period of suffering the Empire was engaged
in a titanic struggle, which, for ghastliness is without precedent.
I can think of no people in the Eastern Hemisphere who are absolutely
unaffected by it; but the members of the Empire can find consolation
in the fact that almost all creation is in sympathy with them.
Constant disturbance has brought a realization to the entire universe
that nature, like the times, is out of joint. The birds of the air
and the fishes, like other denizens of the deep, are frequently drawn into
the whirlpool of misery; and a mutual suffering has identified them as it were
with some of the vicissitudes of an Empire at war. And they too
have in their peculiar way felt impelled to offer their condolence
to the dependants of those who have fallen in the combat on land, in the air,
on sea, and under the sea. And while all creation stands aghast
beside the gaping graves, by rivers of blood, mourning with us
the loss of some of the greatest Englishmen that ever lived,
South Africa, having constituted herself the only vandal State,
possesses sufficient incompassion to celebrate the protection
conferred on her by the British Fleet and devote her God-given security
to an orgy of tyranny over those hapless coloured subjects of the King,
whom the Union constitution has placed in the hollow of her hands.
Is there nobody left on earth who is just enough to call on South Africa
to put an end to this cowardly abuse of power?
We appeal to the Colonists of Natal, who have declared themselves against
the persecution of their Natives; and would draw their attention to the fact
that in spite of their disapproval, expressed to the Lands Commission,
the Union Government, at the behest of a prisoner, is still tyrannizing
over the Zulus.
We appeal to the Churches. We would remind them that in the past
the Christian voice has been our only shield against
legislative excesses of the kind now in full swing in the Union.
But in the new ascendency of self and pelf over justice and tolerance,
that voice will be altogether ignored, unless strongly reinforced
by the Christian world at large. We appeal for deliverance
from the operation of a cunningly conceived and a most draconian law
whose administration has been marked by the closing down
of native Churches and Chapels in rural South Africa.
We appeal to the Jews, God's chosen people, who know
what suffering means. We would remind them that if after 1913
there was no repetition of a Russian pogrom it was largely because
the native leaders (including the author) have spared neither pains nor pence
in visiting the scattered tribes and exhorting them to obey
all the demands of the South African Government under the Grobler law
pending a peaceful intercession from the outside world.
But for this self-imposed duty on the part of the native leaders,
I am satisfied that numbers of the native peasantry would have been mown down
early in 1914, and humanity would have been told that they were
justly punished for disobedience to constituted authority.
We appeal to the leaders of the Empire -- that Empire for which
my own relatives have sacrificed life and property in order to aid
its extension along the Cape to Cairo route, entirely out of love for
her late Majesty Queen Victoria and with no expectation of material reward.
We ask these leaders to honour the plighted word of their noble predecessors
who collectively and severally assured us a future of peace and happiness
as our membership privilege in the Empire for which we bled.
They were among the noblest Englishmen that ever left their native shores
to create a prestige for their nation abroad. They included
heroes and empire-builders too many to mention, who all told us that they
spoke in the name of Queen Victoria and on behalf of her heirs and successors.
What has suddenly become of the Briton's word -- his bond -- that solemn
obligations of such Imperialists should cease to count? And if it is decided
that the Victorian Englishman and the Twentieth Century Englishman
are creatures of different clay (and that with the latter honour is binding
only when both parties to the undertaking are white), surely this
could hardly be the moment to inaugurate a change the reaction of which
cannot fail to desecrate the memories of your just and upright forebears.
We would draw the attention of the British people to the fact
that the most painful part of the present ordeal to the loyal black millions,
who are now doing all they can, or are allowed to do, to help the Empire
to win the war, is that they suffer this consummate oppression
at the bidding of a gentleman now serving his term for participating
in a rebellion during this war. We feel that it must be
a source of intense satisfaction to Mr. Piet Grobler in his cell,
that the most loyal section of the King's South African subjects
are suffering persecution under his law -- a fact which, looked at
from whatever standpoint, is equal to an official justification of the ideals
for which he rose in rebellion. And if there is to be a return
to the contented South Africa of other days, both the Natives' Land Act
-- his law -- and the Report of the Lands Commission -- its climax --
should be torn up.
For three years and more the South African Government have persecuted
my kinsmen and kinswomen for no other crime than that they have meekly
paid their taxes. I had come to the conclusion, after meeting Colonials
from all quarters of the globe and weighing the information
obtained from them, that in no Colony are the native inhabitants
treated with greater injustice than in South Africa.* Yet in spite of all
I had seen and heard, I must say that, until this Report reached me,
I never would have believed my white fellow-countrymen capable of conceiving
the all but diabolical schemes propounded between the covers
of Volume I of the Report of the South African Lands Commission, 1916,
and clothing them in such plausible form as to mislead
even sincere and well-informed friends of the Natives. There are
pages upon pages of columns of figures running into four, five or six noughts.
They will dazzle the eye until the reader imagines himself witnessing
the redistribution of the whole sub-continent and its transfer to
the native tribes. But two things he will never find in that mass of figures;
these are (a) the grand total of the land so "awarded" to Natives;
and (b) how much is left for other people. To arrive at these he has to do
his own additions and subtractions, and call in the aid of statistics
such as the Census figures, the annual blue books, etc., before the truth
begins to dawn on him. They talk of having "doubled" the native areas.
They found us in occupation of 143,000,000 morgen and propose to squeeze us
into 18 million. If this means doubling it, then our teachers
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