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 no attraction.
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 obtaining there." [`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. [Some white South Africans in recent years have migrated to the Katanga region in the Belgian Congo. I have read in the South African daily papers, correspondence from some of them complaining of their inability to make money. They attributed this difficulty to the fact that the Belgian officials will not permit them to exploit the labour of the Congolese as freely as white men are accustomed to make use of the Natives in British 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 must have taught us the wrong arithmetic. Is it any wonder that it is becoming increasingly difficult for us to continue to love and respect the great white race as we truly loved it at the beginning of this century?
We would submit a few problems in this Report for the British People and their Parliamentary Representatives to solve: —
First: Who are to become the occupants of the lands from which the Commission recommends the removal of the native proletariat?
Secondly: In view of certain upheavals which we have seen not very long ago, and others which might take place in the future, it is pertinent to ask, concerning the "very small minority of the inhabitants" — the Whites — alluded to by Mr. Schreiner at the head of this chapter, (a) what proportion is in full sympathy with the ideals of the British Empire; (b) what proportion remains indifferent; and (c) what proportion may be termed hostile?
Thirdly: Does the autonomy granted to this "small minority" amount to complete independence, or does it not?
Fourthly: Would it not be advisable also to inquire: Of "the vast majority of the inhabitants" the King's Black subjects, doomed by this Report to forfeit their homes and all they value in their own country, (a) how many of these are loyal, and (b) how many are not?
Finally and solemnly we would put it to all concerned for the honour and perpetuity of British dominion in South Africa, can the Empire afford to tamper with and alienate their affections?
As stated already, this "very vast majority of the inhabitants" of South Africa has been strafed by the "very small minority" for over three years. And when the burden loaded on our bent backs becomes absolutely unbearable we are at times inclined to blame ourselves; for, when some of us fought hard — and often against British diplomacy — to extend the sphere of British influence, it never occurred to us that the spread of British dominion in South Africa would culminate in consigning us to our present intolerable position, namely, a helotage under a Boer oligarchy. But when an official Commission asks Parliament to herd us into concentration camps, with the additional recommendation that besides breeding slaves for our masters, we should be made to pay for the upkeep of the camps: in other words, that we should turn the Colonials into slave raiders and slave-drivers (but save them the expense of buying the slaves), the only thing that stands between us and despair is the thought that Heaven has never yet failed us. We remember how African women have at times shed tears under similar injustices; and how when they have been made to leave their fields with their hoes on their shoulders, their tears on evaporation have drawn fire and brimstone from the skies. But such blind retribution has a way of punishing the innocent alike with the guilty, and it is in the interests of both that we plead for some outside intervention to assist South Africa in recovering her lost senses.
The ready sympathy expressed by those British people among whom I have lived and laboured during the past two years inspires the confidence that a consensus of British opinion will, in the Union's interest, stay the hand of the South African Government, veto this iniquity and avert the Nemesis that would surely follow its perpetration.
Her mind must have been riveted on South Africa when, quite recently,
Ida Luckie sang: —
Alas, My Country! Thou wilt have no need
Of enemy to bring thee to thy doom. . . .
For not alone by war a nation falls.
Though she be fair, serene as radiant morn,
Though girt by seas, secure in armament,
Let her but spurn the vision of the Cross;
Tread with contemptuous feet on its command
Of mercy, Love and Human Brotherhood,
And she, some fateful day, shall have no need
Of enemy to bring her to the dust.
Some day, though distant it may be — with God
A thousand years are but as yesterday —
The germs of hate, injustice, violence,
Like an insidious canker in the blood,
Shall eat that nation's vitals. She shall see
Break forth the blood-red tide of anarchy,
Sweeping her plains, laying her cities low,
And bearing on its seething, crimson flood
The wreck of Government, of home, and all
The nation's pride, its splendour and its power.
On with relentless flow, into the seas
Of God's eternal vengeance wide and deep.
But, for God's grace! Oh may it hold thee fast,
My Country, until justice shall prevail
O'er wrong and o'er oppression's cruel power,
And all that makes humanity to mourn.