Native Life in South Africa, Before and Since the European War and the Boer Rebellion By Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje
[South African (ethnic Tswana) Editor, Author, Statesman. 1876?-1932.] First Secretary-General of the South African Native National Congress (forerunner of the ANC), 1912-1917. Author of "Mhudi", generally considered the first novel written by a black South African.
[The two portraits are not available for this ASCII text. They are titled "The Author." and "Mrs. S. T. Plaatje. Without whose loyal co-operation this book would never have been written."]
[Note on text: Italicized words or phrases are CAPITALIZED. Some obvious errors have been corrected (see Notes).]
Native Life in South Africa, Before and Since the European War and the Boer Rebellion
By Sol. T. Plaatje Editor of 'Tsala ea Batho', Kimberley, S.A. Author of 'Sechuana Proverbs and their European Equivalents'
Foreword (Native Life in South Africa electronic text):
Sol Plaatje began work on 'Native Life in South Africa' in 1914, while on his way to Britain to plead with the Imperial Government against the Natives' Land Act of 1913, as part of a deputation of the South African Native National Congress. The book was intended as a means of reaching the British public with the deputation's message.
The method seemed sound enough — it was quite similar in form to the successful deputation which had pleaded to keep Bechuanaland (modern Botswana) under direct Imperial control in 1895. But circumstances were different in 1914 — South Africa had been granted self-government, and the First World War began shortly after the deputation's arrival in England and distracted all parties. This latter event also influenced the final form of the book, as Plaatje played to the patriotic sentiment so strong in Britain at the time. For all his appeals, Plaatje did not succeed: the Act went on to become one of the first steps toward the system of Apartheid. For all that, there is sometimes in defeat the seeds of victory — these troubles united black South Africans like nothing before, and Plaatje's successors, in the form of the ANC, finally succeeded in the early 1990's.
The Natives' Land Act of 1913, which forbade natives to buy or rent land, except in a few small reserves consisting largely of wasteland, was finally overturned in 1991.
Thanks should be given to Neil Parsons, for his advice on this subject, and for being so kind as to research and write the introduction that follows.
Alan R. Light July, 1998. Monroe, North Carolina (USA).
Introduction, by Neil Parsons
"Native Life in South Africa" is one of the most remarkable books on Africa, by one of the continent's most remarkable writers. It was written as a work of impassioned political propaganda, exposing the plight of black South Africans under the whites-only government of newly unified South Africa. It focuses on the effects of the 1913 Natives' Land Act which introduced a uniform system of land segregation between the races. It resulted, as Plaatje shows, in the immediate expulsion of blacks, as "squatters", from their ancestral lands in the Orange Free State now declared "white". But Native Life succeeds in being much more than a work of propaganda. It is a vital social document which captures the spirit of an age and shows the effects of rural segregation on the everyday life of people.
Solomon Tshekeisho Plaatje was born in 1878 in the lands of the Tswana-speaking people, south of Mafeking. His origins were ordinary enough. What was remarkable was the aptitude he showed for education and learning after a few years schooling under the tuition of a remarkable liberal German Lutheran missionary, the Rev. Ludorf. At the age of sixteen Plaatje (using the Dutch nickname of his grandfather as a surname) joined the Post Office as a mail-carrier in Kimberley, the diamond city in the north of Cape Colony. He subsequently passed the highest clerical examination in the colony, beating every white candidate in both Dutch and typing.
From Kimberley the young Plaatje went on to Mafeking, where he was one of the key players in the great siege of 1899-1900. As magistrate's interpreter he was the vital link between the British civil authorities and the African majority beleaguered inside the town's military perimeter. Plaatje's diaries from this period, published long after his death, are a remarkable record both of the siege and of his early prose experimentation — mixing languages and idioms, and full of bright humour.
After the war Plaatje became a journalist, editor first of one Tswana language newspaper at Mafeking and then of another at Kimberley. Like other educated Africans he came out of the war optimistic that the British would enfranchise all educated and propertied males in the defeated Boer colonies (Transvaal and Orange Free State) without regard to race. But in this he, and the others, were soon sorely disappointed. The British gave a whites-only franchise to the defeated Boers and thus conceded power to a Boer or white Afrikaner parliamentary majority in the 1910 Union of South Africa which brought together the two Boer colonies with Cape Colony and Natal. Clinging to the old but diminished "colour blind" franchise of the Cape, Plaatje remained one of the few Africans in South Africa with a parliamentary vote.
Plaatje's aggravation with the British government can be seen in an unpublished manuscript of 1908-09 titled "Sekgoma — the Black Dreyfus". In this booklet he castigated the British for denying legal rights (specifically habeas corpus) to their African subjects outside the Cape Colony.
Plaatje became politically active in the "native congress" movement which represented the interests of educated and propertied Africans all over South Africa. He was the first secretary-general of the "South African Native National Congress", founded in 1912 (which renamed itself as the African National Congress or ANC ten years later).
The first piece of major legislation presented to the whites-only parliament of South Africa was the Natives' Land Act, eventually passed in 1913, which was designed to entrench white power and property rights in the countryside — as well as to solve the "native problem" of African peasant farmers working for themselves and denying their labour power to white employers.
The main battle ground for the implementation of the new legislation was the Orange Free State. White farmers took the cue from the Land Act to begin expelling black peasants from their land as "squatters", while the police began to rigorously enforce the pass-laws which registered the employment of Africans and prescribed their residence and movement rights.
The Free State became the cockpit of resistance by the newly formed SANNC. Its womens' league demonstrated against pass law enforcement in Free State towns. Its national executive sent a delegation to England, icluding Plaatje, who set sail in mid-1914. The British crown retained ultimate rights of sovereignty over the parliament and government of South Africa, with an as yet unexercised power of veto over South African legislation in the area of "native affairs".
The delegation received short shrift from the government in London which was, after all, more than preoccupied with the coming of the Great War — in which it feared for the loyalty of the recently defeated Afrikaners and wished in no way to offend them. But, rather than return empty-handed like the rest of the SANNC delegation, Plaatje decided to stay in England to carry on the fight. He was determined to recuit, through writing and lecturing, the liberal and humanitarian establishment to his side — so that it in turn might pressure the British government.
Thus it was that Plaatje resumed work on a manuscript he had begun on the ship to England. "Native Life in South Africa". The book was published in 1916 by P. S. King in London. It was dedicated to Harriette Colenso, doughty woman camnpaigner who had inherited from her father, Bishop Colenso, the mantle of advocate to the British establishment of the rights of the Zulu nation in South Africa.
While in England Plaatje pursued his interests in language and linguistics by collaborating with Professor Daniel Jones of the University of London — inventor of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) and prototype for Professor Higgins in Shaw's "Pygmalion" and thus the musical "My Fair Lady". In the same year as Native Life was published, 1916, Plaatje published two other shorter books which brought together the European languages (English, Dutch and German) he loved with the Tswana language. "Sechuana Proverbs" was a listing of Tswana proverbs with their European equivalents. "A Sechuana Reader" was co-authored with Jones, using the IPA for Tswana orthography.
Plaatje returned to South Africa but went once again to England after the war's end, to lead a second SANNC delegation keen to make its mark on the peace negotiations in 1919. This time Plaatje managed to get as far as the prime minister, Lloyd George, "the Welsh wizard". Lloyd George was duly impressed with Plaatje and undertook to present his case to General Jan Smuts in the South African government, a supposedly liberal fellow-traveller. But Smuts, whose notions of liberalism were patronizingly segregationist, fobbed off Lloyd George with an ingenuous reply.
Disillusioned with the flabby friendship of British liberals, Plaatje was increasingly drawn to the pan-Africanism of W. E. B. Du Bois, president of the NAACP in the United States. In 1921 Plaatje sailed for the United States on a lecture tour that took him through half the country. He paid his own way by publishing and selling 18,000 copies of a booklet titled "The Mote and the Beam: an Epic on Sex-Relationship 'twixt Black and White in British South Africa" at 25 cents each. In the following year, after Plaatje had left, this new edition of "Native Life in South Africa" was published, by the NAACP newspaper "The Crisis" edited by Du Bois.
Plaatje returned home to Kimberley to find the SANNC a spent force, despite its name change to ANC, overtaken by more radical forces. At a time when white power was pushing ahead with an ever more intense segregationist programme, based on anti-black legislation, Plaatje became a lone voice for old black liberalism. He turned from politics and devoted the rest of his life to literature. His passion for Shakespeare resulted in mellifluous Tswana translations of five plays from "Comedy of Errors" to "Merchant of Venice" and "Julius Caesar". His passion for the history of his people, and of his family in particular, resulted in a historical novel, "Mhudi (An Epic of South African Native Life a Hundred Years Ago)", dedicated to his daughter Olive who had died in the influenza epidemic while Plaatje was overseas — described in the dedication as "one of the many victims of a settled system".
"Mhudi" was published by the missionary press at Lovedale in 1930, in a somewhat bowdlerized version. It has since been republished in more pristine form and is today considered not just the first but one of the very best novels published by a black South African writer in English.
Plaatje lived an extraordinary life but died a largely disappointed man. His feats of political journalism had been largely forgotten and his creative talents had hardly yet been recognised — except in the confined world of Tswana language readership. But today Plaatje is regarded as a South African literary pioneer, as a not insignificant political actor in his time, and as a cogent commentator on his times. He was an explorer in a fascinating world of cultural and linguistic interaction, who was in retrospect truly a "renaissance man".
Sol T. Plaatje (ed. John Comaroff with Brian Willan & Andrew Reed), "Mafeking Diary: a Black Man's View of a White Man's War", Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press & Cambridge Meridor Press, 1990. (1st edn. London: Macmillan, 1973, publ. as The Boer War Diary of Sol T. Plaatje).
Sol. T. Plaatje (ed. Tim Couzens), "Mhudi", Cape Town: Francolin, 1996; definitive edition.
Brian Willan, "Sol Plaatje: South African Nationalist, 1876-1932", London: Heinemann, 1984.
Brian Willan (ed. & comp.), "Sol Plaatje: Selected Writings", Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1996.
Neil Parsons is a Professor of History at the University of Botswana. He is author of "King Khama, Emperor Joe, and the Great White Queen", which details the journey of the Batswana delegation to England of 1895, and other books relating to the history of the region.
To Miss Harriette E. Colenso, "Nkosazana Matotoba ka So-Bantu", Daughter of the late Rt. Rev. J. W. Colenso (In his life-time Bishop of Natal and "Father of the Zulus").
In recognition of her unswerving loyalty to the policy of her late distinguished father and unselfish interest in the welfare of the South African Natives,
This Book is Dedicated.
(A) Who is the Author? (B) Prologue Chapter I A Retrospect Chapter II The Grim Struggle between Right and Wrong, and the Latter Carries the Day Chapter III The Natives' Land Act Chapter IV One Night with the Fugitives Chapter V Another Night with the Sufferers Chapter VI Our Indebtedness to White Women Chapter VII Persecution of Coloured Women in the Orange Free State Chapter VIII At Thaba Ncho: A Secretarial Fiasco Chapter IX The Fateful 13 Chapter X Dr. Abdurahman, President of the A.P.O. / Dr. A. Abdurahman, M.P.C. Chapter XI The Natives' Land Act in Cape Colony Chapter XII The Passing of Cape Ideals Chapter XIII Mr. Tengo-Jabavu, the Pioneer Native Pressman Chapter XIV The Native Congress and the Union Government Chapter XV The Kimberley Congress / The Kimberley Conference Chapter XVI The Appeal for Imperial Protection Chapter XVII The London Press and the Natives' Land Act Chapter XVIII The P.S.A. and Brotherhoods Chapter XIX Armed Natives in the South African War Chapter XX The South African Races and the European War Chapter XXI Coloured People's Help Rejected / The Offer of Assistance by the South African Coloured Races Rejected Chapter XXII The South African Boers and the European War Chapter XXIII The Boer Rebellion Chapter XXIV Piet Grobler Epilogue Report of the Lands Commission
Native Life in South Africa
(A) Who is the Author?
After wondering for some time how best to answer this question, we decided to reply to it by using one of several personal references in our possession. The next puzzle was: "Which one?" We carefully examined each, but could not strike a happy decision until some one who entered the room happened to make use of the familiar phrase: "The long and the short of it". That phrase solved the difficulty for us, and we at once made up our mind to use two of these references, namely, the shortest and the longest. The first one is from His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught, and the second takes the form of a leading article in the 'Pretoria News'.
== Central South African Railways, High Commissioner's Train.
On February 1, 1906, Mr. Sol Plaatje acted as Interpreter when I visited the Barolong Native Stadt at Mafeking, and performed his duty to my entire satisfaction.
(Signed) Arthur. Mafeking, February 1, 1906. ==
== We commence to-day an experiment which will prove a success if only we can persuade the more rabid negrophobes to adopt a moderate and sensible attitude. We publish the first of a series of letters from a native correspondent of considerable education and ability, his name is Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje. Mr. Plaatje was born in the district of Boshof, his parents being Barolongs, coming originally from Thaba Ncho, and trekking eventually to Mafeking. He attended the Lutheran Mission School at the Pniel Mission Station, near Barkly West, as a boy, under the Rev. G. E. Westphal; and at thirteen years he passed the fourth standard, which was as far as the school could take him. For the next three years he acted as pupil-teacher, receiving private lessons from the Rev. and Mrs. Westphal. At the age of sixteen he joined the Cape Government service as letter-carrier in the Kimberley Post Office. There he studied languages in his spare time, and passed the Cape Civil Service examination in typewriting, Dutch and native languages, heading the list of successful candidates in each subject. Shortly before the war he was transferred to Mafeking as interpreter, and during the siege was appointed Dutch interpreter to the Court of Summary Jurisdiction, presided over by Lord Edward Cecil. The Magistrate's clerks having taken up arms, Mr. Plaatje became confidential clerk to Mr. C. G. H. Bell, who administered Native affairs during the siege. Mr. Plaatje drew up weekly reports on the Native situation, which were greatly valued by the military authorities, and in a letter written to a friend asserted with some sense of humour that "this arrangement was so satisfactory that Mr. Bell was created a C.M.G. at the end of the siege."
Had it not been for the colour bar, Mr. Plaatje, in all probability, would have been holding an important position in the Department of Native Affairs; as it was, he entered the ranks of journalism as Editor, in the first place, of 'Koranta ea Becoana', a weekly paper in English and Sechuana, which was financed by the Chief Silas Molema and existed for seven years very successfully. At the present moment Mr. Plaatje is Editor of the 'Tsala ea Batho' (The People's Friend) at Kimberley, which is owned by a native syndicate, having its headquarters in the Free State. Mr. Plaatje has acted as interpreter for many distinguished visitors to South Africa, and holds autograph letters from the Duke of Connaught, Mr. Chamberlain, and other notabilities. He visited Mr. Abraham Fischer quite lately and obtained from him a promise to introduce a Bill into Parliament ameliorating the position of the Natives of the Orange River Colony, who are debarred by law from receiving titles to landed property. Mr. Plaatje's articles on native affairs have been marked by the robust common sense and moderation so characteristic of Mr. Booker Washington. He realizes the great debt which the Natives owe to the men who brought civilization to South Africa. He is no agitator or firebrand, no stirrer-up of bad feeling between black and white. He accepts the position which the Natives occupy to-day in the body politic as the natural result of their lack of education and civilization. He is devoted to his own people, and notes with ever-increasing regret the lack of understanding and knowledge of those people, which is so palpable in the vast majority of the letters and leading articles written on the native question. As an educated Native with liberal ideas he rather resents the power and authority of the uneducated native chiefs who govern by virtue of their birth alone, and he writes and speaks for an entirely new school of native thought. The opinion of such a man ought to carry weight when native affairs are being discussed. We have fallen into the habit of discussing and legislating for the Native without ever stopping for one moment to consider what the Native himself thinks. No one but a fool will deny the importance of knowing what the Native thinks before we legislate for him. It is in the hope of enlightening an otherwise barren controversy that we shall publish from time to time Mr. Plaatje's letters, commending them always to the more thoughtful and practical of our readers. — 'Pretoria News', September, 1910. ==
(The writer of this appreciation, the Editor of the Pretoria evening paper, was Reuter's war correspondent in the siege of Mafeking.)
We have often read books, written by well-known scholars, who disavow, on behalf of their works, any claim to literary perfection. How much more necessary, then, that a South African native workingman, who has never received any secondary training, should in attempting authorship disclaim, on behalf of his work, any title to literary merit. Mine is but a sincere narrative of a melancholy situation, in which, with all its shortcomings, I have endeavoured to describe the difficulties of the South African Natives under a very strange law, so as most readily to be understood by the sympathetic reader.
The information contained in the following chapters is the result of personal observations made by the author in certain districts of the Transvaal, Orange "Free" State and the Province of the Cape of Good Hope. In pursuance of this private inquiry, I reached Lady Brand early in September, 1913, when, my financial resources being exhausted, I decided to drop the inquiry and return home. But my friend, Mr. W. Z. Fenyang, of the farm Rietfontein, in the "Free" State, offered to convey me to the South of Moroka district, where I saw much of the trouble, and further, he paid my railway fare from Thaba Ncho back to Kimberley.
In the following November, it was felt that as Mr. Saul Msane, the organizer for the South African Native National Congress, was touring the eastern districts of the Transvaal, and Mr. Dube, the President, was touring the northern districts and Natal, and as the finances of the Congress did not permit an additional traveller, no information would be forthcoming in regard to the operation of the mischievous Act in the Cape Province. So Mr. J. M. Nyokong, of the farm Maseru, offered to bear part of the expenses if I would undertake a visit to the Cape. I must add that beyond spending six weeks on the tour to the Cape, the visit did not cost me much, for Mr. W. D. Soga, of King Williamstown, very generously supplemented Mr. Nyokong's offer and accompanied me on a part of the journey.
Besides the information received and the hospitality enjoyed from these and other friends, the author is indebted, for further information, to Mr. Attorney Msimang, of Johannesburg. Mr. Msimang toured some of the Districts, compiled a list of some of the sufferers from the Natives' Land Act, and learnt the circumstances of their eviction. His list, however, is not full, its compilation having been undertaken in May, 1914, when the main exodus of the evicted tenants to the cities and Protectorates had already taken place, and when eyewitnesses of the evils of the Act had already fled the country. But it is useful in showing that the persecution is still continuing, for, according to this list, a good many families were evicted a year after the Act was enforced, and many more were at that time under notice to quit. Mr. Msimang, modestly states in an explanatory note, that his pamphlet contains "comparatively few instances of actual cases of hardship under the Natives' Land Act, 1913, to vindicate the leaders of the South African Native National Congress from the gross imputation, by the Native Affairs Department, that they make general allegations of hardships without producing any specific cases that can bear examination." Mr. Msimang, who took a number of sworn statements from the sufferers, adds that "in Natal, for example, all of these instances have been reported to the Magistrates and the Chief Native Commissioner. Every time they are told to find themselves other places, or remain where they are under labour conditions. At Peters and Colworth, seventy-nine and a hundred families respectively are being ejected by the Government itself without providing land for them."
Some readers may perhaps think that I have taken the Colonial Parliament rather severely to task. But to any reader who holds with Bacon, that "the pencil hath laboured more in describing the afflictions of Job than the felicities of Solomon," I would say: "Do, if we dare make the request, and place yourself in our shoes." If, after a proper declaration of war, you found your kinsmen driven from pillar to post in the manner that the South African Natives have been harried and scurried by Act No. 27 of 1913, you would, though aware that it is part of the fortunes of war, find it difficult to suppress your hatred of the enemy. Similarly, if you see your countrymen and countrywomen driven from home, their homes broken up, with no hopes of redress, on the mandate of a Government to which they had loyally paid taxation without representation — driven from their homes, because they do not want to become servants; and when you know that half of these homeless ones have perforce submitted to the conditions and accepted service on terms that are unprofitable to themselves; if you remember that more would have submitted but for the fact that no master has any use for a servant with forty head of cattle, or a hundred or more sheep; and if you further bear in mind that many landowners are anxious to live at peace with, and to keep your people as tenants, but that they are debarred from doing so by your Government which threatens them with a fine of 100 Pounds or six months' imprisonment, you would, I think, likewise find it very difficult to maintain a level head or wield a temperate pen.
For instance, let us say, the London County Council decrees that no man shall rent a room, or hire a house, in the City of London unless he be a servant in the employ of the landlord, adding that there shall be a fine of one hundred pounds on any one who attempts to sell a house to a non-householder; imagine such a thing and its effects, then you have some approach to an accurate picture of the operation of the South African Natives' Land Act of 1913. In conclusion, let me ask the reader's support in our campaign for the repeal of such a law, and in making this request I pray that none of my readers may live to find themselves in a position so intolerable.
When the narrative of this book up to Chapter XVIII was completed, it was felt that an account of life in South Africa, without a reference to the war or the rebellion would be but a story half told, and so Chapters XIX-XXV were added. It will be observed that Chapters XX-XXIV, unlike the rest of the book, are not the result of the writer's own observations. The writer is indebted for much of the information in these five chapters to the Native Press and some Dutch newspapers which his devoted wife posted to him with every mail. These papers have been a source of useful information. Of the Dutch newspapers special thanks are due to 'Het Westen' of Potchefstroom, which has since March 1915 changed its name to 'Het Volksblad'. Most of the Dutch journals, especially in the northern Provinces, take up the views of English-speaking Dutch townsmen (solicitors and Bank clerks), and publish them as the opinion of the South African Dutch. 'Het Westen' (now 'Het Volksblad'), on the other hand, interprets the Dutch view, sound, bad or indifferent, exactly as we ourselves have heard it expressed by Dutchmen at their own farms.
Translations of the Tipperary Chorus into some of the languages which are spoken by the white and black inhabitants of South Africa have been used here and there as mottoes; and as this book is a plea in the main for help against the "South African war of extermination", it is hoped that admirers of Tommy Atkins will sympathize with the coloured sufferers, who also sing Tommy Atkins' war songs.
This appeal is not on behalf of the naked hordes of cannibals who are represented in fantastic pictures displayed in the shop-windows in Europe, most of them imaginary; but it is on behalf of five million loyal British subjects who shoulder "the black man's burden" every day, doing so without looking forward to any decoration or thanks. "The black man's burden" includes the faithful performance of all the unskilled and least paying labour in South Africa, the payment of direct taxation to the various Municipalities, at the rate of from 1s. to 5s. per mensum per capita (to develop and beautify the white quarters of the towns while the black quarters remain unattended) besides taxes to the Provincial and Central Government, varying from 12s. to 3 Pounds 12s. per annum, for the maintenance of Government Schools from which native children are excluded. In addition to these native duties and taxes, it is also part of "the black man's burden" to pay all duties levied from the favoured race. With the increasing difficulty of finding openings to earn the money for paying these multifarious taxes, the dumb pack-ox, being inarticulate in the Councils of State, has no means of making known to its "keeper" that the burden is straining its back to breaking point.
When Sir John French appealed to the British people for more shells during Easter week, the Governor-General of South Africa addressing a fashionable crowd at the City Hall, Johannesburg, most of whom had never seen the mouth of a mine, congratulated them on the fact that "under the strain of war and rebellion the gold industry had been maintained at full pitch," and he added that "every ounce of gold was worth many shells to the Allies." But His Excellency had not a word of encouragement for the 200,000 subterranean heroes who by day and by night, for a mere pittance, lay down their limbs and their lives to the familiar "fall of rock" and who, at deep levels ranging from 1,000 feet to 1,000 yards in the bowels of the earth, sacrifice their lungs to the rock dust which develops miners' phthisis and pneumonia — poor reward, but a sacrifice that enables the world's richest gold mines, in the Johannesburg area alone, to maintain the credit of the Empire with a weekly output of 750,000 Pounds worth of raw gold. Surely the appeal of chattels who render service of such great value deserves the attention of the British people.
Finally, I would say as Professor Du Bois says in his book 'The Souls of Black Folk', on the relations between the sons of master and man, "I have not glossed over matters for policy's sake, for I fear we have already gone too far in that sort of thing. On the other hand I have sincerely sought to let no unfair exaggerations creep in. I do not doubt that in some communities conditions are better than those I have indicated; while I am no less certain that in other communities they are far worse."
Chapter I A Retrospect
I am Black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon. Look not upon me because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me: my mother's children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept. The Song of Songs.
Awaking on Friday morning, June 20, 1913, the South African Native found himself, not actually a slave, but a pariah in the land of his birth.
The 4,500,000 black South Africans are domiciled as follows: One and three-quarter millions in Locations and Reserves, over half a million within municipalities or in urban areas, and nearly a million as squatters on farms owned by Europeans. The remainder are employed either on the public roads or railway lines, or as servants by European farmers, qualifying, that is, by hard work and saving to start farming on their own account.
A squatter in South Africa is a native who owns some livestock and, having no land of his own, hires a farm or grazing and ploughing rights from a landowner, to raise grain for his own use and feed his stock. Hence, these squatters are hit very hard by an Act which passed both Houses of Parliament during the session of 1913, received the signature of the Governor-General on June 16, was gazetted on June 19, and forthwith came into operation. It may be here mentioned that on that day Lord Gladstone signed no fewer than sixteen new Acts of Parliament — some of them being rather voluminous — while three days earlier, His Excellency signed another batch of eight, of which the bulk was beyond the capability of any mortal to read and digest in four days.
But the great revolutionary change thus wrought by a single stroke of the pen, in the condition of the Native, was not realized by him until about the end of June. As a rule many farm tenancies expire at the end of the half-year, so that in June, 1913, not knowing that it was impracticable to make fresh contracts, some Natives unwittingly went to search for new places of abode, which some farmers, ignorant of the law, quite as unwittingly accorded them. It was only when they went to register the new tenancies that the law officers of the Crown laid bare the cruel fact that to provide a landless Native with accommodation was forbidden under a penalty of 100 Pounds, or six months' imprisonment. Then only was the situation realized.
Other Natives who had taken up fresh places on European farms under verbal contracts, which needed no registration, actually founded new homes in spite of the law, neither the white farmer nor the native tenant being aware of the serious penalties they were exposed to by their verbal contracts.
In justice to the Government, it must be stated that no police officers scoured the country in search of lawbreakers, to prosecute them under this law. Had this been done, many 100 Pound cheques would have passed into the Government coffers during that black July, the first month after Lord Gladstone affixed his signature to the Natives' Land Act, No. 27 of 1913.
The complication of this cruel law is made manifest by the fact that it was found necessary for a high officer of the Government to tour the Provinces soon after the Act came into force, with the object of "teaching" Magistrates how to administer it. A Congress of Magistrates — a most unusual thing — was also called in Pretoria to find a way for carrying out the King's writ in the face of the difficulties arising from this tangle of the Act. We may add that nearly all white lawyers in South Africa, to whom we spoke about this measure, had either not seen the Act at all, or had not read it carefully, so that in both cases they could not tell exactly for whose benefit it had been passed. The study of this law required a much longer time than the lawyers, unless specially briefed, could devote to it, so that they hardly knew what all the trouble was about. It was the Native in the four Provinces who knew all about it, for he had not read it in books but had himself been through its mill, which like an automatic machine ground him relentlessly since the end of the month of June. Not the least but one of the cruellest and most ironical phases — and nearly every clause of this Act teems with irony — is the Schedule or appendix giving the so-called Scheduled Native Areas; and what are these "Scheduled Native Areas"?
They are the Native Locations which were reserved for the exclusive use of certain native clans. They are inalienable and cannot be bought or sold, yet the Act says that in these "Scheduled Native Areas" Natives only may buy land. The areas being inalienable, not even members of the clans, for whose benefit the locations are held in trust, can buy land therein. The areas could only be sold if the whole clan rebelled; in that case the location would be confiscated. But as long as the clans of the location remain loyal to the Government, nobody can buy any land within these areas. Under the respective charters of these areas, not even a member of the clan can get a separate title as owner in an area — let alone a native outsider who had grown up among white people and done all his farming on white man's land.
If we exclude the arid tracts of Bechuanaland, these Locations appear to have been granted on such a small scale that each of them got so overcrowded that much of the population had to go out and settle on the farms of white farmers through lack of space in the Locations. Yet a majority of the legislators, although well aware of all these limitations, and without remedying any of them, legislate, shall we say, "with its tongue in its cheek" that only Natives may buy land in Native Locations.
Again, the Locations form but one-eighteenth of the total area of the Union. Theoretically, then, the 4,500,000 Natives may "buy" land in only one-eighteenth part of the Union, leaving the remaining seventeen parts for the one million whites. It is moreover true that, numerically, the Act was passed by the consent of a majority of both Houses of Parliament, but it is equally true that it was steam-rolled into the statute book against the bitterest opposition of the best brains of both Houses. A most curious aspect of this singular law is that even the Minister, since deceased, who introduced it, subsequently declared himself against it, adding that he only forced it through in order to stave off something worse. Indeed, it is correct to say that Mr. Sauer, who introduced the Bill, spoke against it repeatedly in the House; he deleted the milder provisions, inserted more drastic amendments, spoke repeatedly against his own amendments, then in conclusion he would combat his own arguments by calling the ministerial steam-roller to support the Government and vote for the drastic amendments. The only explanation of the puzzle constituted as such by these "hot-and-cold" methods is that Mr. Sauer was legislating for an electorate, at the expense of another section of the population which was without direct representation in Parliament. None of the non-European races in the Provinces of Natal, Transvaal and the "Free" State can exercise the franchise. They have no say in the selection of members for the Union Parliament. That right is only limited to white men, so that a large number of the members of Parliament who voted for this measure have no responsibility towards the black races.
Before reproducing this tyrannical enactment it would perhaps be well to recapitulate briefly the influences that led up to it. When the Union of the South African Colonies became an accomplished fact, a dread was expressed by ex-Republicans that the liberal native policy of the Cape would supersede the repressive policy of the old Republics, and they lost no time in taking definite steps to force down the throats of the Union Legislature, as it were, laws which the Dutch Presidents of pre-war days, with the British suzerainty over their heads, did not dare enforce against the Native people then under them. With the formation of the Union, the Imperial Government, for reasons which have never been satisfactorily explained, unreservedly handed over the Natives to the colonists, and these colonists, as a rule, are dominated by the Dutch Republican spirit. Thus the suzerainty of Great Britain, which under the reign of Her late Majesty Victoria, of blessed memory, was the Natives' only bulwark, has now apparently been withdrawn or relaxed, and the Republicans, like a lot of bloodhounds long held in the leash, use the free hand given by the Imperial Government not only to guard against a possible supersession of Cape ideals of toleration, but to effectively extend throughout the Union the drastic native policy pursued by the Province which is misnamed "Free" State, and enforce it with the utmost rigour.
During the first year of the Union, it would seem that General Botha made an honest attempt to live up to his London promises, that are mentioned by Mr. Merriman in his speech (reproduced elsewhere) on the second reading of the Bill in Parliament. It would seem that General Botha endeavoured to allay British apprehensions and concern for the welfare of the Native population. In pursuance of this policy General Botha won the approbation of all Natives by appointing Hon. H. Burton, a Cape Minister, to the portfolio of Native Affairs. That the appointment was a happy one, from the native point of view, became manifest when Mr. Burton signalized the ushering in of Union, by releasing Chief Dinizulu-ka-Cetywayo, who at that time was undergoing a sentence of imprisonment imposed by the Natal Supreme Court, and by the restoration to Dinizulu of his pension of 500 Pounds a year. Also, in deference to the wishes of the Native Congress, Mr. Burton abrogated two particularly obnoxious Natal measures, one legalizing the "Sibalo" system of forced labour, the other prohibiting public meetings by Natives without the consent of the Government. These abrogations placed the Natives of Natal in almost the same position as the Cape Natives though without giving them the franchise. So, too, when a drastic Squatters' Bill was gazetted early in 1912, and the recently formed Native National Congress sent a deputation to interview Mr. Burton in Capetown; after hearing the deputation, he graciously consented to withdraw the proposed measure, pending the allotment of new Locations in which Natives evicted by such a measure could find an asylum. In further deference to the representations of the Native Congress, in which they were supported by Senators the Hon. W. P. Schreiner, Colonel Stanford, and Mr. Krogh, the Union Government gazetted another Bill in January, 1911, to amend an anomaly which, at that time, was peculiar to the "Free" State: an anomaly under which a Native can neither purchase nor lease land, and native landowners in the "Free" State could only sell their land to the white people.
The gazetted Bill proposed to legalize only in one district of the Orange "Free" State the sale of landed property by a Native to another Native as well as to a white man, but it did not propose to enable Natives to buy land from white men. The object of the Bill was to remove a hardship, mentioned elsewhere in this sketch, by which a "Free" State Native was by law debarred from inheriting landed property left to him under his uncle's will. But against such small attempts at reform, proposed or carried out by the Union Government in the interest of the Natives, granted in small instalments of a teaspoonful at a time — reforms dictated solely by feelings of justice and equity — ex-Republicans were furious.
From platform, Press, and pulpit it was suggested that General Botha's administration was too pro-English and needed overhauling. The Dutch peasants along the countryside were inflamed by hearing that their gallant leader desired to Anglicize the country. Nothing was more repellent to the ideas of the backveld Dutch, and so at small meetings in the country districts resolutions were passed stating that the Botha administration had outlived its usefulness. These resolutions reaching the Press from day to day had the effect of stirring up the Dutch voters against the Ministry, and particularly against the head. At this time General Botha's sound policy began to weaken. He transferred Hon. H. Burton, first Minister of Natives, to the portfolio of Railways and Harbours, and appointed General Hertzog, of all people in the world, to the portfolio of Native Affairs.
The good-humoured indulgence of some Dutch and English farmers towards their native squatters, and the affectionate loyalty of some of these native squatters in return, will cause a keen observer, arriving at a South African farm, to be lost in admiration for this mutual good feeling. He will wonder as to the meaning of the fabled bugbear anent the alleged struggle between white and black, which in reality appears to exist only in the fertile brain of the politician. Thus let the new arrival go to one of the farms in the Bethlehem or Harrismith Districts for example, and see how willingly the Native toils in the fields; see him gathering in his crops and handing over the white farmer's share of the crop to the owner of the land; watch the farmer receiving his tribute from the native tenants, and see him deliver the first prize to the native tenant who raised the largest crop during that season; let him also see both the Natives and the landowning white farmers following to perfection the give-and-take policy of "live and let live", and he will conclude that it would be gross sacrilege to attempt to disturb such harmonious relations between these people of different races and colours. But with a ruthless hand the Natives' Land Act has succeeded in remorselessly destroying those happy relations.
First of all, General Hertzog, the new Minister of Native Affairs, travelled up and down the country lecturing farmers on their folly in letting ground to the Natives; the racial extremists of his party hailed him as the right man for the post, for, as his conduct showed them, he would soon "fix up" the Natives. At one or two places he was actually welcomed as the future Prime Minister of the Union. On the other hand, General Botha, who at that time seemed to have become visibly timid, endeavoured to ingratiate himself with his discontented supporters by joining his lieutenant in travelling to and fro, denouncing the Dutch farmers for not expelling the Natives from their farms and replacing them with poor whites. This became a regular Ministerial campaign against the Natives, so that it seemed clear that if any Native could still find a place in the land, it was not due to the action of the Government. In his campaign the Premier said other unhappy things which were diametrically opposed to his London speeches of two years before; and while the Dutch colonists railed at him for trying to Anglicize the country, English speakers and writers justly accused him of speaking with two voices; cartoonists, too, caricatured him as having two heads — one, they said, for London, and the second one for South Africa.
The uncertain tenure by which Englishmen in the public service held their posts became the subject of debates in the Union Parliament, and the employment of Government servants of colour was decidedly precarious. They were swept out of the Railway and Postal Service with a strong racial broom, in order to make room for poor whites, mainly of Dutch descent. Concession after concession was wrung from the Government by fanatical Dutch postulants for office, for Government doles and other favours, who, like the daughters of the horse-leech in the Proverbs of Solomon, continually cried, "Give, give." By these events we had clearly turned the corner and were pacing backwards to pre-Union days, going back, back, and still further backward, to the conditions which prevailed in the old Republics, and (if a check is not applied) we shall steadily drift back to the days of the old Dutch East Indian administration.
The Bill which proposed to ameliorate the "Free" State cruelty, to which reference has been made above, was dropped like a hot potato. Ministers made some wild and undignified speeches, of which the following spicy extract, from a speech by the Rt. Hon. Abraham Fischer to his constituents at Bethlehem, is a typical sample —
"What is it you want?" he asked. "We have passed all the coolie* laws and we have passed all the Kafir laws. The 'Free' State has been safeguarded and all her colour laws have been adopted by Parliament. What more can the Government do for you?" And so the Union ship in this reactionary sea sailed on and on and on, until she struck an iceberg — the sudden dismissal of General Hertzog.
— * A contemptuous South African term for British Indians. —
To the bitter sorrow of his admirers, General Hertzog, who is the fearless exponent of Dutch ideals, was relieved of his portfolios of Justice and Native Affairs — it was whispered as a result of a suggestion from London; and then the Dutch extremists, in consequence of their favourite's dismissal, gave vent to their anger in the most disagreeable manner. One could infer from their platform speeches that, from their point of view, scarcely any one else had any rights in South Africa, and least of all the man with a black skin.
In the face of this, the Government's timidity was almost unendurable. They played up to the desires of the racial extremists, with the result that a deadlock overtook the administration. Violent laws like the Immigration Law (against British Indians and alien Asiatics) and the Natives' Land were indecently hurried through Parliament to allay the susceptibilities of "Free" State Republicans. No Minister found time to undertake such useful legislation as the Coloured People's Occupation Bill, the Native Disputes Bill, the Marriage Bill, the University Bill, etc., etc. An apology was demanded from the High Commissioner in London for delivering himself of sentiments which were felt to be too British for the palates of his Dutch employers in South Africa, and the Prime Minister had almost to apologize for having at times so far forgotten himself as to act more like a Crown Minister than a simple Africander. "Free" State demands became so persistent that Ministers seemed to have forgotten the assurances they gave His Majesty's Government in London regarding the safety of His Majesty's coloured subjects within the Union. They trampled under foot their own election pledges, made during the first Union General Election, guaranteeing justice and fair treatment to the law-abiding Natives.
The campaign, to compass the elimination of the blacks from the farms, was not at all popular with landowners, who made huge profits out of the renting of their farms to Natives. Platform speakers and newspaper writers coined an opprobrious phrase which designated this letting of farms to Natives as "Kafir-farming", and attempted to prove that it was almost as immoral as "baby-farming". But landowners pocketed the annual rents, and showed no inclination to substitute the less industrious "poor whites" for the more industrious Natives. Old Baas M——, a typical Dutch landowner of the "Free" State, having collected his share of the crop of 1912, addressing a few words of encouragement to his native tenants, on the subject of expelling the blacks from the farms, said in the Taal: "How dare any number of men, wearing tall hats and frock coats, living in Capetown hotels at the expense of other men, order me to evict my Natives? This is my ground; it cost my money, not Parliament's, and I will see them banged (barst) before I do it."
It then became evident that the authority of Parliament would have to be sought to compel the obstinate landowners to get rid of their Natives. And the compliance of Parliament with this demand was the greatest Ministerial surrender to the Republican malcontents, resulting in the introduction and passage of the Natives' Land Act of 1913, inasmuch as the Act decreed, in the name of His Majesty the King, that pending the adoption of a report to be made by a commission, somewhere in the dim and unknown future, it shall be unlawful for Natives to buy or lease land, except in scheduled native areas. And under severe pains and penalties they were to be deprived of the bare human rights of living on the land, except as servants in the employ of the whites — rights which were never seriously challenged under the Republican regime, no matter how politicians raved against the Natives.
Chapter II The Grim Struggle between Right and Wrong, and the Latter Carries the Day
Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed; To turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the fruit from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless. Isaiah.
On February 18, 1913, General L. Lemmer, member for Marico, Transvaal, asked the Minister of Lands: — (a) How many farms or portions of farms in the Transvaal Province have during the last three years been registered in the names of Natives; (b) what is the extent of the land so registered; and (c) how much was paid for it?
The Minister of Lands replied: (a) 78 farms; (b) 144,416 morgen; and (c) 94,907 Pounds.
Some very disturbing elements suggest themselves in this question and in its prompt answer. A question of the kind should have taken some time to reach Pretoria from the seat of Parliament; more time to search for and compile the necessary information, and further time to get the answer to the Table of the House of Assembly in Capetown. For instance, on March 11 Mr. T. L. Schreiner called for an explanation in connexion with the same return. He had to ask again on April 1, the answer in each instance being that the required "information had been telegraphed for and would be laid on the table when it is available" (vide Union Hansard, pp. 777 and 1,175). It was only on May 13 — two months and two days after — that an answer to Mr. Schreiner's question of March 11 could be furnished.
Again, on May 20 Mr. Schreiner called for a similar return, embracing the four Provinces of the Union.* If it were so easy for General Lemmer to get a reply in regard to the Transvaal, where most of the registration took place, it should have been relatively more easy to add the information from the Cape and Natal, since no registration could have taken place in the Orange "Free" State, where Natives cannot buy land. But strange to say, all that Mr. Schreiner could get out of the Minister was a promise to furnish a reply when it is available, and it does not appear to be on record that it was ever furnished during that session. Therefore, a Native cannot be blamed for suspecting that when General Lemmer asked his question, the return was "cut and dried" and available to be laid on the table as soon as it was called for.
— * It does not appear to have occurred to any one to call for a return showing transfers of land from blacks to whites. —
Another significant point is that the questioner did not want to know the extent of land bought by Natives, but of the land "registered in their names" during the period; and Mr. Schreiner was able to show later in the session by an analysis of the return that it mainly comprised land awarded to Native tribes by the Republican Government, some of it when they conquered the country. They include farms bought or awarded to Natives as long ago as the early 60's and 70's, but the owners were not able to obtain titles as the late Republican Government did not allow Natives to register land in their own names. They had been held in trust for them by European friends or missionaries, and it was only during the last three years that the owners claimed direct titles, which right was restored to them since the British occupation.
But the Lemmer Return did its fell work. It scared every white man in the country. They got alarmed to hear that Natives had during the past three (!) years "bought" land to the extent of 50,000 morgen per annum.
Thanks to Mr. Schreiner's questions, however, the misleading features of the statistical scarecrow were revealed — but, unfortunately too late.
Origin of the Trouble
On February 28, 1913, Mr. J. G. Keyter (a "Free" State member) moved: That the Government be requested to submit to the House DURING THE PRESENT SESSION a general Pass and Squatters Bill to prohibit coloured people (1) from WANDERING ABOUT WITHOUT A PROPER PASS; (2) from SQUATTING ON FARMS; and (3) from SOWING ON THE SHARE SYSTEM.
Mr. T. P. Brain,* another "Free" Stater, seconded the motion.
— * This gentleman died during 1913. —
Mr. P. G. W. Grobler,* a Transvaaler, moved (as an amendment) to add at the end of the motion: "and further TO TAKE EFFECTIVE MEASURES TO RESTRICT THE PURCHASE AND LEASE OF LAND BY NATIVES."
— * Mr. Grobler forfeited his seat when he was convicted of complicity in the recent rebellion. —
Mr. Schreiner strongly protested against both the motion and the amendment.
The Minister for Native Affairs* spoke somewhat against Mr. Keyter's motion but promised to comply with Mr. Grobler's amendment, which promise he redeemed by introducing a Natives' Land Bill.
— * Hon. J. W. Sauer, Minister of Native Affairs, died a month after the Bill became law. —
Before the Bill was introduced, the Minister made the unprecedented announcement that the Governor-General had given his assurance that the Royal Assent would not be withheld from the Natives' Land Bill. Section 65 of the South African Constitution provides that the King may disallow an Act of Parliament within twelve months after the Governor-General signed it. And the abrogation of the Constitution, as far as this Bill is concerned, literally gave licence to the political libertines of South Africa; as, being thus freed from all legislative restraint, they wasted no further time listening to such trifles as reason and argument.
The following are extracts from the debates on the Natives' Land Bill as reported in the Union Hansard of 1913.
== The adjourned debate on the motion for the second reading of the Natives Land Bill was resumed by
MR. J. X. MERRIMAN (Victoria West). It was with very great reluctance (the right hon. gentleman said) that he rose to speak on this measure. It would have been more convenient to have given a silent vote, but he felt, and he was afraid, that after many years of devoted attention to this question of the native policy of South Africa, he would not be doing his duty if he did not give this House — for what it was worth — the result of his experience through these years.
He should like to emphasize a brighter side of the question, and that was to point out that the Natives, if they were well managed, were an invaluable asset to the people of this country. (Hear, hear.) Let them take our trade figures and compare them with the trade figures of the other large British Dominions. Our figures were surprising when measured by the white population, but if they took the richest Dominion that there was under the British Crown outside South Africa, and took the trade value of those figures per head of the white population, and multiply those figures by our European population, then they might very well apply any balance they had to our native population, and then they would see, strangely enough, that upon that basis it worked out that the actual trade of three Natives was worth about that of one white man. That, of course, was a very imperfect way of looking at the value of these people, because the trade value of some of these Natives was far greater than the trade value of some of our white people. He had merely indicated these trade figures to show what an enormous asset we had in the Natives in that respect. Let them think what the industry of the Natives had done for us. Who had built our railways, who had dug our mines, and developed this country as far as it was developed? Who had been the actual manual worker who had done that? The Native: the coloured races of this country. We must never forget that we owed them a debt in that respect — a debt not often acknowledged by what we did for them. Proceeding, he said that they ought to think what they owed to the docility of the Natives, and the wonderfully easy way in which they had been governed when treated properly. He also paid a tribute to the honesty of the Natives.
What must strike any one was the fact that though this Bill was really, to a certain extent, a beginning, or was thought to be in certain quarters, of a revolution in their dealing with the native races, it was not even mentioned in the speech of the Governor-General. It fell upon them like a bolt from the blue. He remembered the afternoon. They had heard a very impassioned and very heated speech from the hon. member for Ficksburg on the enormous danger of squatting in the Free State, and that was the occasion for introducing a general statement of the policy of the Government towards the Natives and the introduction of this Bill. He did not think that that was the way they liked to see a thing of this magnitude approached. They often heard demands for what was called a general declaration of policy with regard to native affairs — a policy which should be applied to the highest civilized Native, the owner of a farm, and the naked barbarian. They could not do it. People who demanded a general declaration of that kind had not had the experience which some of them had had. The hon. member who spoke before him said that he was in favour of the underlying principle of the Bill. What was the underlying principle? The underlying principle was what one read into the Bill. One hon. member read into it that it was the separation of the two races. That might have been done when the two races first came in contact at the Fish River, but it could not be done now. Since then they had been developing the country with the labour of these people. They had been advancing by our aid. They had mixed themselves up with these people in an inextricable fashion and then some said "Haul your native policy out of the drawer and begin with a policy of separation." He was sure that the hon. member who had brought in the Bill had no idea of that sort in his mind. Another person had the idea that they were going to set up a sort of pale — a sort of kraal in which they were going to drive these people. Then another gentleman sneered at the policy hitherto adopted, and he said that one side said that the policy towards the Natives should be firm and just, while the other side said that it should be just and firm.
It seemed to him that they had not got sufficient information. Beyond the bald statistics which were given by the Minister in the course of his interesting and moderate speech, they had nothing. They were going into a thing that would stir South Africa from end to end, and which affected hundreds of thousands of both races. They had no information as to what were the ideas of the Natives. It was unfortunate that, owing to this lack of information, wrong ideas had got about with regard to this Bill. It was difficult to find out what the Native thought about these things; he doubted whether anybody could say that he had got at the mind of the Native. The only way, and he must say that he did not take it as a real indication, was what they wrote in their newspapers. He was alarmed, but not surprised, at some of the articles in their newspapers, because they took their views from the heated speeches and writings in party newspapers all over the country, and they were very much alarmed. He thought that before a Bill of this sort was passed, there should be some attempt made to get their views. As far as one section was concerned, the Bill was going to set up a sort of pale — that there was going to be a sort of kraal in which all the Natives were to be driven, and they were to be left to develop on their own lines. To allow them to go on their own lines was merely to drive them back into barbarism; their own lines meant barbarous lines; their own lines were cruel lines. All along they had been bringing them away from their own lines. It reminded him of what an English writer said about a similar policy in Ireland, because when the English went to Ireland they regarded the Native Irish in the way some extreme people here regarded the Natives of South Africa. They thought they would root them out. They treated them as dogs, and thought that they were dogs. They set up a pale. They set the Irish within that pale, to develop upon their own lines, but there were always Englishmen living in that pale, just as in the same way they found Europeans living among Natives. Sir George Davis in describing this policy wrote that it was the intention of the Government to set up a separation between English and Irish, intending in time that the English should root out the Irish. If they changed the Irish for Natives they would see how the illustration would apply. A policy more foredoomed to failure in South Africa could not be initiated. It was a policy that would keep South Africa back, perhaps for ever. (Hear, hear.) What would be the effect of driving these civilized Natives back into reserves? At the present time, every civilized man — if they treated him properly — every civilized man was becoming an owner of land outside native reserve, and therefore he was an asset of strength to the country. He was a loyalist. He was not going to risk losing his property. He was on the side of the European. If they drove these people back into reserve they became our bitterest enemies. Therefore, he viewed anything that tended that way with the gravest suspicion. Again, in this Bill there was not sufficient distinction between those Natives who tried to educate themselves and the ordinary raw barbarian. They were all classed under the word "Native".
He came now to what was the main object of the Bill, and that was: to do away with the squatting evil. Why was there a squatting evil? Was it the fault of the Native? (An hon. member: No.) Was it the fault of the law? (No.) They had got the most stringent laws concerning Natives of all the laws in the whole country, in the Province of which his hon. friend (Mr. Keyter) was a member. He did not think anything was more surprising than when they came to look at the increases in the native population in the Orange Free State. They had a huge native population in the Cape, and the increase during the census periods from 1904 to 1911 — he wanted hon. members to pay some attention to this, because it showed the value of legislation — the increase in the Cape Province during that period was 8.33 per cent. In Natal, which had a huge — in fact, an overwhelming — native population, curiously enough, the increase was the same, even to the actual decimal figure, viz., 8.33 per cent.: but some allowance must be made, because a large number of Natives were out at work in the mines. Now, in the Transvaal — and in taking the Transvaal figures these did not apply as regarded squatting, because the increase was mainly due to the number of Natives employed in the mines. In the Transvaal the Natives increased by 30.1 per cent. Now, when they came to his friend's little State, where the most stringent laws were made to keep out the Natives, how much did they suppose the Natives increased in the Free State? By no less than 44 per cent. (Opposition cheers.) Was that the fault of the Natives? No, it was because — having the most stringent laws — the people found it best to evade those laws. (Hear, hear.) He hoped his hon. friend would be a little tolerant. Do let him pick the mote out of his own eye before he tried to pick the beam out of other people's. (Hear, hear.) In the Free State these laws were very severe; for instance, punishments — amazing punishments — were given, and yet the result was the increase in five years by 44 per cent. of their native population. This was something that they should take a warning by. They were going to do away with the squatter in appearance, but he would still survive as a labour tenant. They might do away with the labour tenant, and he would still be surviving as a labour servant. How was the Government to distinguish between these? They had in the Cape a law which stated how many labour tenants a man should have upon his farm.
What they wanted in this country was administration and not more legislation, and if they were to put the laws which they had into force in the Free State at the present time he had no doubt that there would be a rebellion. (Hear, hear.) They would have platforms swarming with people who would say that they could not grow one bag of mealies without the Natives. But they had the laws to do it. Now they went and tried in this Bill to make a uniform law. Turning towards the Minister, Mr. Merriman said: "My poor friend! that after all the years we had laboured together he of all people should be the author of a uniform law on native matters! (Laughter.) I say this more in sorrow than in anger — (laughter) — because the conditions were totally different in the four Provinces."
In the Free State, proceeded Mr. Merriman, the people had most excellent laws from their point of view for keeping out the Natives — stringent, Draconian, and violent laws, but they were not carried out, and the Natives had flooded the country. All they wanted to do was to turn the Native from a tenant to a labour tenant, and then salvation would be at hand. He could not see very much difference between the two, except that one was a contented advancing man and the other a discontented man approaching very closely to the Russian serf — he was a soul. Shortly we should hear of a farm being up for sale with so many souls.
In the Transvaal the problem had been complicated by the decisions of the Court and the curious way in which some ground had been given out in the Zoutpansberg district, where, he was told, farms had been given out on which the Natives had been living for years, and these farms — with the Natives on them — had come into the possession of companies and individuals, and now it was proposed to turn the Natives off. That would not be an agreeable thing, but he would not offer an opinion now as to the justice of it.
He would like to revert to the state of things which had grown up under the Draconian laws of the Free State. According to a very interesting Blue-book containing reports of magistrates, one magistrate had reported that "the pernicious system of squatting was detrimental to the working farmer, the Native reaping the whole of the benefit." The man who worked generally reaped the whole benefit in the long run. In the Harrismith district there were some 40,000 Natives against some 8,000 Europeans. How did they get there? Having been a Free State burgher he knew that the Natives had not forced their way in. These Natives ploughed on the half-shares, and he would like to know whether they were labour tenants or squatters. If they were squatters it would require very little dexterous management to convert them into labour tenants. The Magistrate of Hoopstad, went on Mr. Merriman, had referred to the pernicious system of native squatters. But why did not the Free State magistrates do something and put the law in force? That was the principal reason why the House was forced to pass that Bill without information, and without giving any opportunity to people who had the deepest interest in this matter to have their views heard, or to let them know what the House was going to do because the magistrates in the Free State would not enforce the law. He did think that was rather hard. In conclusion Mr. Merriman said: I dare say I may have said a great many things which may be distasteful to my hon. friends, but I do claim their attention because at a time when they were not in such a dominant position as they are now, I pleaded for right and justice for them. Therefore, they should not take it amiss from me, because now they are in a dominant position, I plead also for justice, toleration, moderation, and delay in this matter.
MR. H. MENTZ (Zoutpansberg) said the right hon. gentleman had earned their gratitude for the high tone in which he had carried the debate. The speech which he had delivered was a most instructive one, and although the speaker was not in entire agreement with him on all points, he was in agreement on the point that the matter was one to be handled with prudence, but it was to be regretted that under the Bill a Commission was to be appointed. The Minister should not listen to the request for a postponement of the question, by referring it to a Select Committee. If they were to refer the Bill to a Select Committee, it would never be passed this year.
MR. G. L. STEYTLER (Rouxville) expressed his thanks to the Government for bringing forward the Bill. He said he felt that it was not a complete solution of the whole question, but it was certainly a step in the right direction.
MR. A. FAWCUS (Umlazi) said that as the representative of 70,000 Natives in Natal, not one of whom so far as he knew had a vote, he should like, on their behalf, to thank the right hon. member for Victoria West for the manner in which he had handled this question. In the course of his speech the right hon. gentleman asked, what did the Natives think about this Bill before the House? His (Mr. Fawcus') opinion was that the Natives did not think anything at all about it. He should not think there was one Native in a thousand in South Africa who was aware that this matter, so vitally affecting their future, was at present at issue. The hon. member for Middelburg had referred to the Natives as "schepsels".* He believed the day was rapidly passing away when we should refer to Natives as "schepsels". They were an easy-going folk, and they thought little about title deeds and land laws. So great was the Native's attachment to the land on which he lived, in many instances, that they could not rackrent him off it. These were the people that the Bill wished to dispossess and drive off the land. The figures placed before them showed that THE LAND HELD BY EUROPEANS PER HEAD WAS FIFTY TIMES THE AMOUNT HELD PER HEAD BY THE NATIVES. Surely there was no need at the present time for legislation which would prevent Natives getting a little more land than they now had. He did not think it could be put down to the fault of the Native if he was willing to buy and live on land rather than pay rent. The figures given in this connexion were very instructive. EIGHT ACRES PER HEAD WERE HELD BY THE NATIVES IN THE CAPE, SIX ACRES IN NATAL, ABOUT 1 1/2 ACRES in the Transvaal, and about one-third of an acre in the Free State. He thought this Bill was perhaps coming on a little before there was any necessity for it.
— * Creatures. —
MR. C. G. FICHARDT (Ladybrand) said he felt very much that the Bill that was before the House did not carry out all that should be carried out, and that was equality of justice. IF THEY WERE TO DEAL FAIRLY WITH THE NATIVES OF THIS COUNTRY, THEN ACCORDING TO POPULATION THEY SHOULD GIVE THEM FOUR-FIFTHS OF THE COUNTRY, OR AT LEAST A HALF. How were they going to do that? As he said in the earlier part of his remarks, he was prepared to accept the Bill as something to go on with, but he hoped that in the future it would not constitute a stumbling-block. He would much rather have seen that the matter had been gone into more fully, and that some scheme had been laid before them so that they might have more readily been able to judge how the Bill would work. It was because of all these difficulties that he felt that they could only accept the Bill if it laid down that there was no intention of taking the country from the white people and handing it over to the blacks.
MR. J. G. KEYTER (Ficksburg) said he wished to openly denounce, and most emphatically so, that the people or the Government of the Orange Free State had treated the coloured people unreasonably or unjustly, or in any way oppressively. On the contrary, the O.F.S. had always treated the coloured people with the greatest consideration and the utmost justice. The O.F.S. had made what Mr. Merriman called stringent laws. He (Mr. Keyter) called them just laws. They TOLD THE COLOURED PEOPLE PLAINLY THAT THE O.F.S. WAS A WHITE MAN'S COUNTRY, AND THAT THEY INTENDED TO KEEP IT SO. (Hear, hear.) THEY TOLD THE COLOURED PEOPLE THAT THEY WERE NOT TO BE ALLOWED TO BUY OR HIRE LAND, and that they were not going to tolerate an equality of whites and blacks; and he said that they were not going to tolerate that in the future, and if an attempt were made to force that on them, they would resist it at any cost to the last,* for if they did tolerate it, they would very soon find that they would be a bastard nation. His experience was that the Native should be treated firmly, kept in his place and treated honestly. They should not give him a gun one day and fight him for it the next day. They should tell him, as the Free State told him, that IT WAS A WHITE MAN'S COUNTRY, THAT HE WAS NOT GOING TO BE ALLOWED TO BUY LAND THERE OR TO HIRE LAND THERE, AND THAT IF HE WANTED TO BE THERE HE MUST BE IN SERVICE.
— * By passing the Bill, the Government conceded all the extravagant demands of the "Free" Staters; yet, a year later they took up arms against the Government. —
MR. J. A. P. VAN DER MERWE (Vredefort) deprecated sending the Bill to a Select Committee, arguing that the House itself should decide it. He referred to the difficulties experienced by farmers in the Free State. If a farmer refused to allow a Native to farm on the share system he simply refused to work. There were thousands of Natives on the farms there who hired ground and did little work. The farmers had to keep their children at home to do the work. Some of the Natives hired ground, did some sowing, then went to work in Johannesburg, and paid the owner of the farm half what he reaped from the harvest. That was not satisfactory. He was pleased to see the provisions the Minister proposed to make in this regard, and expressed the hope that the Native would only be tolerated among the whites as a labourer. The Bill would meet what he considered a great want, and, as it was an urgent matter, he hoped the proposal for a Select Committee would not be agreed to.
Third Reading Debate.
SIR LIONEL PHILLIPS (Yeoville): But why should a Bill of this sort be brought before them now? The Government in the past had not been bashful in the appointing of Commissions, and one question he would ask was why, in this important matter, the Government had not appointed a Commission to take all the evidence and then come to the House with a measure which the House would have to approve of. Instead of that, they were cancelling the rights the Natives had in South Africa, and creating a very awkward hiatus between the time the Commission would be appointed and the time the Commission could define the areas which would be regarded as white areas and the areas which would be regarded as native areas. That was the one serious blot upon this measure.
He could see no justification, except that the hon. Minister, yielding to pressure from a certain section on that side of the House, had hastily brought on this measure. He thought from the speeches made in the House it was the consensus of opinion that Natives should not have farms in areas that were essentially white, just as it was desirable that white men should not be found in areas essentially native. And especially when they told the native population that they were taking away from them a right they had to-day, and they were going to substitute that right by appointing a Commission, they were giving them very little justification for being satisfied with this measure. He did not think they were going to gain anything by putting the cart before the horse. He did not know if Mr. Schreiner was accurate, but he told them that, roughly, in the Transvaal, where the matter was most acute, the Native population had bought something like 12,000 or 15,000 morgen of land in twelve years. That, he thought, showed there was no extreme urgency for the measure. To that extent he agreed entirely with the hon. member, and he believed the Minister would be well advised to send the Bill to a Select Committee, so that many of the details, which were extremely complicated and difficult, might be thrashed out in that atmosphere, rather than on the floor of the House. (Opposition cheers.)
MR. E. N. GROBLER (Edenburg) said: The present was one of the best measures that the Government had so far brought forward, and it appeared clear that they had a Government which truly represented the wishes of the public. It was impossible to delay the solution of the Native problem, and legislation on the subject had for a long time past been asked for.* At the same time, he did not entirely agree with the methods, proposed to be applied, and he did not like the system of allocating reserves for Natives. When once those reserves had been allocated, would it not result in injury to agriculture and cattle breeding? The farmers would suffer from lack of labour, and that deficiency would be a growing one. Neither could he agree to the principle of expropriation of land belonging to whites in order to increase the size of the native reserves. He considered the Bill was a complicated one. The matter should be settled by way of taxation, in the following way. All Natives who were in the service of whites should be exempted from taxation, and treated as well as possible, and other Natives should be encouraged to take similar service. There were enormous reserves where the Natives could go and live,** and if they refused to go there they should be required to pay a stiff tax. Then they would go and work for white people. The hon. member for Tembuland had offered many objections to the Bill. They should make that hon. member king of Tembuland. In a country of the blind a man with one eye would be king.
— * By a "solution of the Native problem", "Free" State farmers generally mean the re-establishment of slavery. ** It will be observed that these and similar mythological disquisitions subsequently formed General Botha's assurances to Mr. Harcourt. See Chapter XVI. But some light is thrown on the subject of these visionary Native Reserves by Mr. Fawcus' speech based on official statistics (page 36 [above — last Fawcus quote]). —
MR. P. DUNCAN (Fordsburg) said he hoped the Minister would not take the view of the last speaker. Under the Bill it would be possible for farmers to accumulate on their land as many Natives as they could get, so long as they could use them as servants. (Labour cheers.) So far as he could see, even if it were carried out to the extent that it was proposed to go, it would not very much reduce the social contact which at present existed between whites and natives.
SIR W. B. BERRY (Queenstown) said he would like to know why the Minister had run away from the Bill that had passed the second reading, and now tabled another Bill in the shape of many amendments. One would naturally complain that, seeing that they had in that House a Native Affairs Committee, a non-party committee, specially chosen to consider all matters relating to native affairs, that Bill, which was a most important matter and dealt with native affairs from A to Z, should have been referred to that committee. The same thing happened last session in reference to a Bill the Minister of Native Affairs kept on the paper until nearly the end of the session, and the House had to take the very unusual step almost on the last day of moving that committee proceedings on that Bill be taken that day six months. He (Sir W. B. Berry) proposed to move a similar amendment to the motion now before the House. In the remarks he addressed when the Bill came up for second reading he had ventured to say that there was no call for a bill of that nature at all; there was no need for a Bill revolutionizing the attitude of the Union with respect to the natives generally. The only clue they could get to the reason why the Bill was introduced was that a few die-hards on the other side of the House had given the Minister to understand that unless he brought in a Bill of that kind, or of a similarly drastic nature, the position of the Government was in danger. He hoped some of these die-hards would come forward that evening and tell them plainly and bluntly why they wanted that Bill, why they were going to thrust it on the country without any notice, and why they were calling on the House to revolutionize the whole tenour and the whole order of things in regard to land matters as far as the Natives were concerned. Proceeding, the hon. member said the only justification that had been offered for this Bill was that a large amount of land had been transferred from Europeans to Natives. An analysis of the return, however, showed that only sixteen farms in the Transvaal had been so transferred during the last three years. Surely that was not any justification why the European people of the Union should get into a panic and why the administration of the day were seeking to place on the Statute Book this most drastic legislation. Another reason why he objected to this Bill was that it purported to appoint a Commission to investigate to what extent and in what parts and in what time land should be selected by the Commission for the purpose of being reserved as additional native areas within the Union. They were not given any guarantee that the Commission was going to be appointed nor any guarantee that it would ever report, but at the same time whilst these indefinite assurances were attempted to be given to the House there was no getting over this fact, that there was no time limit in the Bill by which the real enacting clause in the Bill was to have any cessation. When he spoke on this Bill before he supported it only on the understanding that a time limit was to be put in, or that it should be an annual Bill. He said unhesitatingly that the whole tendency of the Bill, as it stood at the second reading, and more especially as it stood with the amendments by the Minister on the notice paper, was to drive the Native peasant off the land. The only refuge that that Native had was the town.
The country had not been prepared in any way for a Bill of this kind. A cry had been heard throughout the land against the iniquities proposed in the Bill. If it had been found absolutely necessary that legislation of this kind should be introduced, the least that could be expected was that ample time should be given to the Natives to thoroughly acquire a knowledge of the contents of the measure. That opportunity had not been given them, and in this respect there was a very serious grievance. For the good order and peace of the Union there was a very great danger ahead. He had understood from those well versed in native affairs that one of the greatest dangers that could threaten us was to give the Natives anything in the shape of a common grievance. Divide and rule had been a wise precaution in the government of the Natives. When a common grievance was found by four or five million people one could understand how great that grievance must be. One amendment the Minister had put on the paper must give serious pause. The late Minister of Native Affairs issued to members last session a Squatters Bill. The greatest objection to that measure, and one which he thought led to its withdrawal, was that it proposed to remove thousands upon thousands of natives from land which they had been in the occupation of for scores of years. It was in consequence of the disturbance which that Bill caused throughout the Union that it was withdrawn. In one of the amendments on the paper the present Minister of Native Affairs brought back in a somewhat clandestine manner the most objectionable feature of the Bill that was withdrawn.
Mr. Speaker: The amendment is not yet before the House.
SIR W. B. BERRY: What Bill is it then that is to go into Committee? (Hear, hear.) Is it the Bill which was read a second time or the Bill comprised in the Minister's amendments? He moved that the House go into committee on the Bill this day six months.
MR. T. L. SCHREINER (Tembuland), in seconding the amendment, said that sufficient notice had not been given of the provisions of the Bill, although the Natives, thanks to the time which had elapsed since the second reading, were better acquainted with the measure than they were a little while ago.
Mr. Schreiner proceeded to quote opinions from native newspapers on the Bill. The 'Tsala ea Batho', of Kimberley, said: "We are standing on the brink of the precipice. We appealed to certain members of Parliament against the suspension clause in Mr. Sauer's Land Bill, and the result of our appeal has been an agreement between Sir Thomas Smartt and the Minister to the effect that the first part of the Bill only be proceeded with. The effect of this agreement is infinitely worse than the whole Bill. In its entirety, there were certain saving clauses, one of them practically excluding the Cape Province from the operation of the Bill. Under the present agreement, all these clauses are dropped, and section 1 of the Bill, which prohibits the sale of land between Europeans and Natives (pending the report of a future Commission) is applicable to all parts of the Union, including the Cape Province. Now, then, if this suspension clause becomes law, what is going to happen? It is simply this: That the whole land policy of the Union of South Africa is the land policy of the Orange Free State, and it will be as difficult to abrogate that suspension as it is difficult to recall a bullet, once fired through some one's head, and resuscitate the victim. Our object then should be to prevent the pistol being fired off, as prevention is infinitely better than cure." One paper that he was quoting from was (Mr. Schreiner went on to say) pleased, because it believed that this Bill was going to Select Committee. There was another native paper, published in Natal, which acknowledged the efforts which the missionaries had made on behalf of the Natives in regard to this Bill. There was a native paper, published at Dundee, which said that, if the Bill were in the interests of the Natives, and the Government were actuated by a sincere regard for them, they would not have hesitated to publish it broadcast, instead of being in such haste to push the matter through the House.*
— * All efforts to induce the South African Government to circulate translations of the Natives' Land Act among the Natives of the Union have proved fruitless. — Author. —
Mr. Schreiner (continuing) referred to the resolution passed by the Natal Missionary Conference, and the views expressed by the Chairman of the Transvaal Missionary Conference in opposition to the Bill. He mentioned that it had been decided in Johannesburg to call a meeting of missionary societies throughout the Union, to determine what action could be taken in case clause 1 was proceeded with. He had also received a telegram from the Witwatersrand Church Council, stating that a telegram had been sent to the Minister strongly protesting against section 1 being enacted before the proposed Commission had thoroughly investigated the whole question of alternative areas. Mr. Schreiner urged that, if they proceeded with this Bill, and passed clause 1 of the old Bill, and appointed a Commission, these restrictions with regard to purchase and sale, which the Natives had feared, and which the missionaries, on behalf of the Natives, feared and protested against, would become a fact. For that reason, he said they should rather put off the Bill.