Of all the characters of cruelty, I consider that as the most odious
which assumes the garb of mercy.
On arrival in London the native delegates were received by several friends, including Dr. Chas. Garnett, M.A., of the Brotherhood League; Rev. Amos Burnet, of Transvaal, introduced them to the Wesleyan Missionary Committee in session at Bishopsgate; the Anti-Slavery and Aborigines Protection Society communicated with the Colonial Office regarding an interview. The Colonial Secretary agreed to see the deputation on condition that they were accompanied by no one from the Society.
When the native deputation reached England there were a number of South African missionaries on furlough in England who had taken part in Church meetings in Africa, of protest against the Act. Some of these gentlemen had witnessed the cruel operations of the Act; but the decision to receive the native delegates by themselves meant that no such eyewitnesses as these could testify to what they had seen of the working of the Act.
In accordance with the time fixed for the interview, the deputation duly waited upon the Secretary of State, whose reply was more fully given in Parliament. At the interview he took notes on nothing, and asked no questions. On every point he had "the assurance of General Botha" to the contrary.
No headway having been made with the Government, it was resolved upon that the delegates should appeal to the British Parliament and thence to the British public in terms of the native mandate.
Later on Messrs. T. Buxton and J. H. Harris, the secretaries of the A.S. and A.P.S., arranged a meeting for the delegates to meet certain members of Parliament. The meeting took place in No. 11 Committee Room of the House of Commons. The British peerage was represented by Lords Emmott and H. Cavendish Bentinck. After hearing the delegates and asking them questions, the members of Parliament intimated that their decision would be arrived at later in the absence of visitors. It must be mentioned here that besides the above secretaries of the A.S. and A.P.S. there were also present at this meeting a few sympathizers who were not members of Parliament. They included Miss S. Colenso of Amersham, and the Rev. Dr. Howie of Stirling, and Mrs. Howie, etc.
By the kindness of Mr. and Mrs. Buxton, Mr. and Mrs. Cobden Unwin (in conjunction with Mrs. Saul Solomon), Lady Scott of Westminster, Mrs. S. J. Colenso of Amersham, and Mr. H. E. Wood, J.P., of Camberwell (the latter being a prelude to a successful meeting of the delegates with the Baptist Council of England), Sir Albert Spicer, M.P., and Lady Spicer, and Mr. and Mrs. Harris of Dulwich, receptions — some of them attended by English and Colonial guests — held at the residences of the friends named, were given in honour of the delegates.
IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
Mr. P. ALDEN: I wish to bring to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman the question of the native lands in South Africa. I happen to have been responsible for a Resolution passed unanimously in this House previous to the passing of the Act of Union, and in the discussion which took place on that occasion the Under-Secretary of State to the Colonies laid it down as one of the duties of the Imperial Parliament to protect in every possible way the interests of the Natives in their land, and protect their rights and liberties in that respect. If we take away the land from the Native we take away his liberty. In reference to the Natives Land Act of 1913, I want to put two or three points before the right hon. Gentleman. In the Union of South Africa, blacks own about 4,500,000 morgen of land, and the whites own fourteen times as much land as the blacks, though, of course, they are very much smaller in number. The inequality is very noticeable in the Transvaal, where there are 300,000 whites holding 31,000,000 morgen of land, and the 1,000,000 Natives only have 500,000 morgen of land which they can call their own.
It has been said over and over again in South Africa that this law applies equally to Europeans and whites as well as to the Natives. There is, they say, no injustice. The European is estopped from this purchase of land, just as the Native is estopped. All I can say in answer to that is that the fallacy is shown the moment you begin to ask what land the Natives have to sell. The native areas are already overcrowded, and they positively have no land which they could sell. When once a Native leaves his farm or is evicted, or has to quit for any reason whatever, the Act does not allow him to purchase, hire or to lease anywhere else for farming purposes except from Natives, who have not the land to lease or to sell. He therefore must become a servant on the farm. There is absolutely nothing else for him to do but to become a servant. This Act has already produced very great hardships. It has produced hardships to the people who were under notice to quit at the time the Act was passed, to the people who have actually since then been evicted from their farms, to the Natives who were in search of land and who are wandering about with their families and stock and have nowhere to settle, and to the Natives who have had to leave their crops unreaped. There are many hundreds of such cases of hardship which have been inflicted under the Act which is being enforced on all sides. I do not wish to go into this question at very great length, because the right hon. Gentleman knows more about it than anybody in the House in all probability, and he knows the difficulties of the situation.
I want to put before him just one point with regard to what can be done. WE CALL OURSELVES THE PROTECTORS OF THE RIGHTS OF THE NATIVES, and we claim that we have always, in season and out of season, insisted that those rights should not be infringed, and that no action should be taken against their liberties. The Imperial Government cannot, of course, intervene in the sense of asking the Government of South Africa either to rescind an Act of Parliament or to amend an Act of Parliament, unless it is their own wish, but I must point out that Clauses 1, 4, and 5 do operate most harshly against the Native, and it might be possible, on the representation of the right hon. Gentleman, for the Prime Minister of South Africa to mitigate the hardships.
Mr. CAVE: The subject to which the hon. Member has referred is no doubt of importance, and no one can quarrel with the tone of the speech in which he has introduced it.
Sir ALBERT SPICER: I quite realize that in South Africa we have a self-governing country, and, therefore, one would be desirous to be very careful in what he said with regard to its administration and legislation. But this, at any rate, is the right place to express the views that are held by very large numbers of people in this country, who have devoted a good deal of time and money in doing what they can to educate and uplift the native races of South Africa. Those of us who know South Africa, are perfectly well aware that whilst it is now a country owned by the white races, it can only be properly and fully developed with the help of the native races, and the better educated they are, the better work they will be able to do for South Africa. This Native Lands Act was passed very hurriedly. Of course, we cannot blame South Africa for passing legislation hastily, seeing that we are accustomed sometimes to do the same thing in the Mother of Parliaments. Again, the appointment of the Commission, which is now inquiring into the subject and is taking evidence, is helping, I think, to produce injustice in some cases, so far as the Natives are concerned, because the introduction of the Lands Act has led farmers to take action to enforce their rights. They have terminated the rent-paying agreements of former tenants, and, knowing that these are precluded from making new agreements for the hire of land, they have either ejected them or have demanded from them three months' unpaid service per annum, which has had the indirect effect of reducing a free people to a condition of service. I could give instances of that from well authenticated sources. I will refer to one only. It is the case of a chief and his people living on land which they and their fathers have dwelt upon for eight generations. The farm was recently purchased by a farmer resident in another province. He decided to terminate the rent-paying conditions previously in existence between the former owner and the Natives, and to substitute labour conditions, under which even the chief, an old man, has been required to give service. The people were called upon to quit their houses, square buildings, timbered and thatched, and in connexion with this the owner gave less than one month's notice in the following terms: —
"This is to notify I can let you have the school building no longer. I bought the farm and wish to receive the same at the end of your school quarter."
We desire to speak with all due respect of the self-governing Dominions of South Africa, but I think we may fairly ask the Colonial Secretary to help the Union Government to realize that there is a strong feeling in this country in favour of everything possible being done to secure just and reasonable treatment for the Natives. One may fairly ask the right hon. Gentleman to use all reasonable influence with the Union Government to secure for the Natives a fair quid pro quo for the loss of their former rights of land purchase, which would mean in some cases an extension of the native area, and if it were possible to suspend to some extent the operation of the Act until the Land Commission has reported. Having been connected with South Africa for a good many years, having travelled through it, and given a good deal of time to it, I desire to do what I can for the uplifting of the people of that country, and that is my reason for intervening in this Debate.
Other sympathizers, including the Member for Woolwich, rose in different parts of the House to support the foregoing appeal, but the Colonial Secretary stopped them by delivering his reply.
The RT. HON. L. HARCOURT: The hon. member for Tottenham (Mr. Alden) and the hon. Baronet the Member for Hackney (Sir A. Spicer) have drawn attention to the South Africa Land Act. It is not a sudden inspiration of the Botha Government. It is the outcome and result of a Commission appointed by Lord Milner some years ago, presided over by Sir Godfrey Lagden. The Commission was appointed
"In view of the possible federation of the South African Colonies to gather accurate information as to native affairs so as to arrive at a common understanding on questions of native policy."
That Commission sat for two years. It had upon it representatives of every colony and territory. It arrived at what I believe was a unanimous (sic) report,[Col. Stanford (the Cape Colony representative on the Lagden Commission) and Messrs. Campbell and Samuelson (the Natal representatives) sent in two strongly-worded minority reports against such restrictions.] Vide S.A. Native Affairs Commission, 1903-5, Vol. I. — Author. and this Act is practically doing no more than carrying out its recommendations. The Act has already been in operation for twelve months. The Commission of Inquiry, which was to be instituted under the Act, is now sitting. It is bound by the terms of its appointment to report within two years, and will probably report by Christmas next.[After Christmas the Commissioners' "terms of appointment" were altered from two years to three years.] The whole of this Act is a temporary measure until that Commission reports. A native deputation has come over and seen me, and I believe many other members. That deputation left Africa against the advice of General Botha, and against almost the entreaties of Lord Gladstone. They knew that the Act would not be disallowed, because it had been announced months before in South Africa. The day the deputation saw me the period of twelve months during which that Act could be disallowed on my recommendation had already expired, and it is now an act which can only be suspended by the Government and Parliament of the Union of South Africa.
Sir W. BYLES: Does it forbid the holding of land by Natives?
Mr. HARCOURT: Perhaps the hon. member will allow me to complete my statement as the time is short.[Mr. Harcourt would have shortened the time considerably, had he said "Yes" or "No", instead of replying in sixteen words.] The suspension of the Act would be worse than useless at the present stage. It would suspend the Inquiry which is taking place at this moment in the interests of the Natives themselves. I cannot believe that any further Commission is necessary, as the existing one seems to me both efficient and sufficient.
It is not clear why Mr. Harcourt made this statement as the Natives, in their petition to the King, never asked for a suspension of the whole Act. All that they wished was that the harshest clauses of the measure might be suspended, leaving the others in operation until the Commission rendered its report.
When Mr. Harcourt's reference to the Commission was made known in South Africa the Commissioners, then sitting in Pretoria, were informed of the plight of evicted Natives. The Commissioners replied that any grievance arising out of the operation of an Act of Parliament was beyond the scope of their enquiry, and that they could not consider such grievances. This was exactly what they had previously told the Natives at King Williamstown and elsewhere. At Harrismith the Commission heard the complaint of a son of Chief Wietzie, who, during the Basuto wars, had always remained loyal to the "Free" State Boers. The son had been evicted from the ground on which he and his fellow-tribesmen had resided for generations and he was forced to live on an urban location where it is impossible to do any farming. The President (Sir William Beaumont) said he was sorry to hear that a son of Wietzie found himself homeless, but he regretted that the Commission could not help him. Mr. Harcourt, therefore, must have been incorrectly informed regarding the functions of the Commission.
Yet another puzzle. After the appointment of this Commission in September 1913, there was a newspaper report to the effect that the Commission found the native difficulty most acute in the "Free" State, and that it had decided on setting aside without delay a strip of territory in the Western "Free" State as a native settlement. Immediately after the appearance of this report in the Press, angry meetings of the whites were held in Boshof and Hoopstad to protest against the proposals attributed to the Commission. In reply to these protests, Mr. Theron, the Minister of Lands, evidently speaking on behalf of the South African Government, not only repudiated the report but he also added significantly that "the Government had no intention of creating a native area in Hoopstad or anywhere else." So, where do we stand? Can it be wondered that the Natives are beginning to conclude that their position under the Union is hopeless?
But, to return to Mr. Harcourt, the Colonial Secretary also gave the Imperial Parliament a fresh explanation of the Natives' Land Act. It is a pity that we cannot reproduce his explanation side by side with the four explanatory circulars issued by the Union Government in 1913. Such a reproduction would show the discrepancy between the five explanations. We wrote to South Africa but could only secure one of these circulars, which purports to be an explanation of a previous explanatory circular — an explanation of an explanation. However, the definition of the Act, as given by the other three circulars, leaves, as far as we can remember, the root principle of the Act unexplained. Moreover, the statements set forth in these circulars are not in harmony; they have only one point of agreement, namely: that when Natives are driven out of their homes by the law, and are debarred by the same law from establishing other homes (the only provision made for them being that they should live as servants of the whites) the circumstances give them no ground for complaint.
Take for instance only two sentences in Mr. Harcourt's explanation. In the first of these, he appears to approve of the system of forced labour established by the Act; in the second, he denies the evictions that took place in July when he spoke, and those that took place subsequently. He seems to flatly deny not only what is admitted by Lord Gladstone and General Botha, but he likewise contradicts the terms of the Act itself. Indeed, if we had not been there and heard him we should have felt, on reading this part of his speech, that he had been misreported in Hansard. Thus —
If the Natives are farm labourers there is no limit to the number who may reside on white property. If not, they are not dispossessed until Parliament acts upon the report of the Commissioners, and then only when suitable land is provided by addition to a native reserve.*
— * At Downing Street Mr. Harcourt informed the Deputation that he had the "assurance of General Botha" that the Natives have too much land already. — ==
The Imperial explanation being as obscure as the Colonial explanations which preceded it, the reader's remedy is to fall back on the plain English of the Act (Chapter III), which alone has the force of law. Again Mr. Harcourt: —
If General Botha breaks his word I have no power to enforce it.
I cannot bind his successors. If the Government of South Africa
is not to be trusted in this matter they are to be trusted in nothing;
and we know perfectly well that they can be trusted in these matters.
NOTE WHAT HAS BEEN DONE WITH RESPECT TO THE INDIAN IMMIGRATION ACT.
THIS WAS PASSED NOT FROM LOCAL DESIRE, BUT FROM IMPERIAL CONSIDERATIONS.
THE PROVISIONS OF THAT ACT HAVE BEEN ACCEPTED BY THE COLONISTS
AND BY THE REPRESENTATIVES OF THE INDIANS, WHO CONSIDER IT
THE MAGNA CHARTA OF THE INDIANS IN SOUTH AFRICA. I think that that should be
a sufficient guarantee as to the way in which General Botha proposes to act.
General Botha, too, used THESE WORDS in Parliament: —
"He had told the deputation that he had given standing instructions to the magistrates throughout the country that if they found any one in their districts ejecting Natives from the farms they had to go and make inquiries and report to him. He had in all those cases which had been brought to his notice used the influence of his Department." ==
All we can say in regard to "these words" is that the Magistrates apparently ignored the "standing instructions" alluded to, for they allowed the officials of the Department of Lands to scatter the native tenants from Government farms at Standerton, Colworth and elsewhere and sent them adrift over the country, well knowing that they could find no other shelter.
On the 31st of January, 1914, the Magistrate of Ladysmith, presumably acting under instructions from one of General Botha's Departments, issued the following notice to 79 native families in his district: —
"To Vellem Sibisi, Kraal Head residing on one of the following farms, viz. Remainder of Brakfontein, Remainder of Weltevrede, etc.,
"Take notice in terms of Section 4 of Law 41 of 1884 that you are required to remove with your Kraal and inmates from whichever of the said farms you may be residing on, six months from this date, the aforementioned farms having all been purchased by Government for closer settlement purposes."
The Magistrate who so ruthlessly ejected these and other native families acted under the orders of the Government, who settled white people on the farms at the expense of a Treasury maintained also by native taxpayers. And it seems difficult to conceive how a Government which proved so indifferent regarding the fate of its own native tenants or of tenants on farms freshly acquired at the public expense, could be solicitous about the welfare of Natives evicted by private landowners. The statement, on the face of it, is incongruous.
In his heroic efforts to defend South Africa's giant wrong, Mr. Harcourt gave away his case when he referred approvingly to what he calls "the Magna Charta of the Indians in South Africa". Now, what is this "Magna Charta"? In 1913, when the South African Parliament was at the noontide of its "mad career", it passed this iniquitous land law to repress the native race; and also a law imposing the most humiliating limitations on British Indians. Yet it must be added that the Indian law was the milder of the two, as it did not prohibit Indian residents in South Africa from living on the land. The Rt. Hon. A. Fischer, Union Minister of the Interior, who died two years ago, called these two laws of 1913, "the Kafir law and the Coolie law".
As already stated, the London Committee of the Wesleyan Methodist Church asked to see Mr. Harcourt and inform him how drastically the "Kafir law" was operating against their converts and other Natives in South Africa, but Mr. Harcourt discreetly refused to see the Committee.
As for the Indians, no one in South Africa paid any heed to their complaints against the "Coolie law"; but their cry reached India and Lord Hardinge demanded the redress of their grievances. His Lordship insisted so forcibly that (unlike the Wesleyan missionaries) he could not be ignored. The result was that the South African Parliament, "not from local desire, but from Imperial consideration", was obliged in the next session (1914) to amend the "Coolie law" with a "Magna Charta of the Indians in South Africa", and Mr. Harcourt's reference to this episode conveys the suggestion that what is sauce for the Indian goose, with Lord Hardinge at its back, can be by no means sauce for the native gander without the backing of a Viceroy.
We cannot believe that to boast in one and the same speech about a "Magna Charta of the Indians" and dismiss the native appeal against a vital wrong is true Imperialism. For if Imperialism stands for the protection of a few thousand Indians in South Africa because they are supported by a Viceroy, and the neglect of the groans of five million Natives because (unlike a Viceroy) the missionaries who plead for them cannot enforce their claim with a political or diplomatic blow, then there would appear to be the suggestion of more fear than justice in Imperialism.
Mr. Harcourt further credits the Milner Commission, presided over by Sir Godfrey Lagden, with the origin of the Natives' Land Act. We do not wish to defend the policy of these two former South African Statesmen, as we feel certain that they can take care of themselves. But we must say at once that we read the recommendations of the Lagden Commission ten years ago, as carefully as we have since read the controversy of the Natives' Land Act; and with the knowledge thus gained, we can safely tell the reader that that Commission never recommended that: —
1. "Except with the permission of the Governor-General", Europeans must be debarred from buying land from Natives (who have no land to sell), and Natives must be debarred from buying land or leasing land from Europeans, who alone deal in land. — (Sect. 1 of the Nat. Land Act).
2. When evicted Natives apply for the said "permission of the Governor-General" they should be told that that permission "will only be granted to a few exceptional applicants" and that it could under no circumstances be granted to Natives in the colony in which the applicants resided (The Government's reply to the "Free" State wanderers).
3. The Government should always take from three to six months to deliver this refusal, during which period applicants may have already become serfs or fled the country. (This has been the experience of all applicants within the writer's knowledge.)
4. There should be a fine of 100 Pounds or six months' hard labour on any farmer who provides the Native with a shelter while he is waiting for this disappointing reply to his application (Sect. 5 Nat. Land Act).
5. Native tenants to be hounded out of the Government farms long before the segregation takes place and that white people, who are not debarred from buying or leasing land for themselves, be settled thereon at Government expense. (See magisterial notice above.)
If Mr. Harcourt has been told by any one that the Lagden Commission recommended any of these pitiless iniquities, then we are afraid that his informer is a romancer of the superlative degree. The Lagden report was never discussed in any South African legislature, much less adopted by any Parliament in South Africa; indeed, it is detested because it recommended a Native Franchise for South Africa like the Maori Franchise of New Zealand.
One member of Parliament (Mr. Joynson-Hicks) said South Africa was a Home Rule country and he wondered what would happen if after Home Rule had been granted to Ireland some one asked the Imperial Parliament to interfere with Irish legislation.
We wonder who could have told this hon. Member that there was Home Rule in South Africa! There used to be Home Rule in the Cape Colony alone, but this has been swamped by the Act of Union, which has since established an oligarchic Government throughout the country. And if by Home Rule to Ireland it is intended to give the franchise to a selfish, greedy and tyrannical few; and give carte blanche to this few, telling them thereby to do what they wish with the rest of the population of Ireland, and telling them further that they will be accountable to nobody for any good legislation that they might enact on the one hand, or any maladministration that they might perform on the other hand as is the case in South Africa — if that be what is meant by Home Rule for Ireland, then God have mercy on the Irish.
When the reply of Mr. Harcourt was published in South Africa, supporters of this cruel law bubbled over with joy concerning it. One Dutch writer, after saying in a Dutch journal some very fine things about Mr. Harcourt, wound up a high-sounding eulogy by congratulating South Africa on having such a good Colonial Secretary at Downing Street. "Had Mr. Harcourt's predecessors been like him," said this writer to his readers, "South Africa would have been saved many tears." We doubt if Mr. Harcourt, the object of this appreciation, would feel flattered by it if he knew that all the black victims of this cruel law, and all their European sympathizers, stood firmly by the Imperial Government and by the Colonial Government in the present struggle, while the gentleman at whose instance it was introduced in Parliament, as well as the Dutch editor of the journal alluded to, are at present (May 1915) committed for trial on charges of high treason; and the proprietor of another Dutch journal, in which we read similar vaunting adulations of Mr. Harcourt, was fined 60 Pounds (so his paper says) for alleged complicity in the recent rebellion. These facts should impel the Rt. Hon. the Colonial Secretary to stop, look round and inquire "who's who" among his South African admirers.
Two members of the South African Parliament — Senator T. L. Schreiner and Mr. Wilcocks, M.L.A. — the former an opponent and the latter a supporter of the Natives' Land Act, recently discussed the Act from separate points of view; and both came to the conclusion that the measure was designed to keep the blacks in subjection. This conclusion is in harmony with the bitter experiences of the native races since this Act was enforced. Yet in the face of this unanimous testimony of different observers, Mr. Harcourt equivocates behind the irrelevant "assurances of General Botha" about a possible segregation, which question is not now before the country. Assurances on segregation only serve to confound the issue. If the Beaumont commission, or its successor, should ever report then the question of segregation may come before Parliament some time in 1926. The point before the country now is not segregation, but the Natives' Land Act of 1913, which is now scattering the Natives about the country. That is the measure against which the Native appeals for Imperial protection. Not the future segregation.
The only serious objection with which Mr. Harcourt apparently was able to charge the native deputation, and one which the Natives do not deny, is that they came to England against the "entreaties of Lord Gladstone" (who previously had twice refused to see them), and against the "advice of General Botha", by whose Cabinet the measure was enacted and enforced.
It is a pity that Mr. Harcourt did not at the same time tell the House of an authentic case where an aggrieved party ever sued for redress with the consent and advice of his oppressor. In this connexion, the scope of our reading being limited, our ignorance is possibly abysmal; but it must be confessed that we have never heard of such an interesting appellant and we are inclined to believe that there never has been one.
If General Botha wished to tell the whole truth, instead of making vague assurances to Mr. Harcourt, he would say: "I foresaw all the difficulties under which the Natives are suffering; and when Mr. Grobler proposed the summary stoppage of the sale and lease of land to Natives before the areas are segregated, I warned the House against this trouble, but the Hertzogites being too much for me I had to give in." Gen. Botha could go further and say to Mr. Harcourt: "If you will turn up page 579 of the South African Hansard (first column) reading from the top of the page, you will find my warning in these words: —
Unless they went slowly and carefully, there was a danger that they might take steps which would be unreasonable, unjust, and unfair on one section. For that reason, he regretted the amendment proposed by General Hertzog, because the amendment would have bad results if it were accepted. It would lead to an over-hasty measure of a most impracticable kind. This House would have to demarcate exactly and immediately those parts where the Natives would have to live, and he asked them: was this House able to do so? (Cries of "No".) It was all very nice to talk and take a map and draw lines on it. On the map they might be able to beacon off parts, and say, "This is for the Natives," but then, when they put their scheme into effect, they might find that the ground of many individuals had been taken away without any inquiries or any investigations having been made. (Laughter, and "Hear hear".) This House would expropriate the rights of many white people, and they would meet with the greatest opposition. Where were they going to put these people then? In the Transvaal, farmers certainly would not consent to this; he did not know the people of the Free State so well, but he doubted whether they would agree. (A Free State Member: "No, they certainly will not.") Instead of taking any steps like this, they should be practical, and not land themselves into greater difficulties than they could help. Governments before them had done their best. He agreed that the squatting of Natives should be put an end to as soon as possible, but they should not lose sight of the fact that many Governments before them had done their best to put an end to this squatting evil. He knew well how the Transvaal Government had, year after year, taken up this matter. But what did they find? Simply that when they had passed a Squatters Law they could only put it into operation in one small part of the country. (Hear, hear.) To introduce another Bill like that would simply mean deceiving the country — (hear, hear) — and the Natives. If they accepted the proposal of the Minister of Native Affairs to appoint a Commission to investigate the various conditions prevailing throughout the country, he thought they would be taking a step in the right direction. (Hear, hear.) However, care was essential, because they must prevent causing a sort of revolution through the country. What they wanted was a measure which would be acceptable to the white man as well as to the Native. (Hear, hear.)
These were General Botha's views when the Land Act was first mooted, but in defiance of his solemn warning, the Bill, when gazetted, provided that the eviction of native tenants should precede the Commission's inquiry; harsher and still harsher clauses were inserted in the Bill until the Act finally embodied all the proposals brought forward by General Hertzog. The promise to refer the Bill to a Select Committee was also broken, presumably as a result of pressure from the caucus. The Government could not face a Select Committee after this complete change of front as they must have known that reason was absolutely against them.
It might be asked: How could a Minister turn round afterwards and give "assurances" concerning the benefits of a measure which he had opposed before? To such a question we would hazard the following explanation: Our Prime Minister, on the one hand, is a British Privy Councillor and a General in the British Army; and, on the other hand, he is a simple Afrikander Boer, who only speaks Dutch in Parliament and addresses English audiences through an interpreter. And so in the eyes of General Botha, the British Crown Minister, if the Natives be treated justly, as British subjects should be treated, it is right; and, again, in the eyes of General Botha, the Afrikander Boer, if the Natives be treated harshly and barbarously, that too is right.
It is not unusual to find these two natures contending against each other in one and the same person, whenever the Prime Minister deals with native questions; then more often than not the Boer view, being that of his own nature, dominates the British sentiment, which is a fresh acquisition.
Having given above a striking extract from a speech on native policy, by the Rt. Hon. Louis Botha, Premier of British South Africa, we will now proceed to give an extract from another declaration by General Louis Botha, the Transvaal Boer. The Union Premier was giving evidence before the Labour Commission in Johannesburg and this is what he then said: —
11,302. Sir GEORGE FARRAR: You said that you would recommend the breaking up of Locations like Swaziland, Zululand and Basutoland and the putting of white settlers there? General BOTHA: I would suggest that these countries be given up to the white people to live in. . . .
11,337. The general tenor of your remarks is that there is sufficient labour, and it only wants a little patience to wait for it, that is all? I have distinctly stated that there is a greater amount of labour than has at present been obtained. But there are farmers who have farms, and have no Natives living on these farms. For these people it is difficult to obtain Natives because the Natives who are not living on the farms are in locations. If the locations were broken up the Natives would be made to live on farms.
11,338. You suggest that we should break up such land as Basutoland, Swaziland and Zululand? Yes, I say that such places are a source of evil. It is building up a Kaffir kingdom in the midst of us which is not only bad for the Kaffirs themselves but is a danger in the future.[One of the Chiefs in these locations gave General Botha 200 bullocks to feed his troops engaged in crushing a rebellion of white men. —
11,339. But take Zululand, for instance; there is a quarter of a million people there. What would you do with them if you break up their territory? They would all live on the farms as the white people are doing now.
11,340. Oh, you want to cut up the land into farms, give it to the white people and retain the Kaffirs on the farms? Yes.
11,343. But what will the white people do with the Kaffirs, pay them wages or charge them rent for the ground or what? My opinion is that Kaffirs who now live in locations should work for the white people, and the land should be exploited. The white people would pay them for the work they did and this would civilize them.
11,344. A nation like the Basutos you would deal with in the same way? — Yes.
11,345. They at present occupy the land, we have had it in evidence before us to the effect that every inch of land in Basutoland is occupied and worked by the Kaffirs themselves as their own property? — That is just my argument . . . because there is opening for the Kaffirs there they go and live there without doing anything.
11,347. But they do something. They work the whole country, they have a lot of grain? — Yes, for themselves.
11,352. . . . I have shown you that Basutoland is fully occupied by Kaffirs, and they work it. Do you want to apply your scheme to Basutoland? — I do not know very much about Basutoland, I have never been there personally; but I am well acquainted with Zululand and also Swaziland, and I want to state this, that in my opinion it is not only a wrong policy, but also dangerous policy to have large tracts of country inhabited by uncivilized races, and to keep them there on the present terms.
11,353. But these Natives lived there from time immemorial. It was theirs before we came here. How can we drive them off the land now, and take it for ourselves? I think we are feeling very happy that we drove them from Johannesburg in the olden days. They lived in this country too just the same and the Kaffirs who became civilized under us have improved. [`Transvaal Labour Commission', pp. 717-726.]
In the foregoing extract the reader has the root principle of the Natives' Land Act in a nut-shell. Not from hearsay "assurances" but from what fell from the Premier's own lips.
Mr. Jacob de Villiers Roos, head of the Union Law Department (who knows more about South African law than outsiders who have to rely on "assurances",) says in his evidence given before the Select Committee on Public Accounts, February 25, 1914, incidentally or accidentally: —
"A circular was issued by our Department, at the instigation of the Native Affairs Department, asking that prosecutors under the Natives' Land Act, before commencing prosecutions, should refer to the Native Affairs Department as otherwise IT WAS FEARED THAT AN UPHEAVAL MIGHT RESULT. The Transvaal Attorney-General drew our attention to this circular and said that it was an infringement of his powers. . . . When Mr. Beyers went away on leave Mr. Greenlees was appointed Acting Attorney-General, and he first drew the attention of the Minister to it. The Minister took no action until Mr. Beyers returned when the matter was again raised and then this circular was withdrawn."[S.C. 1-'14, pp. 136-137.]
Now, what, in the name of common sense, does a supposedly civilized Government want with a law that it knows will cause "an upheaval"?
This Act should be abolished in the interest of the morality of the State and for the sake of the reputation of the Union Jack, because of the harm it does to the Natives and because its promoters have rebelled against the Crown. The Act has benefited no one; it has driven the Natives from the country to the cities, and has also disappointed the White Labour Party, who supported it in the belief that by its clause forcing Natives to work for white farmers it would keep the Natives away from the industrial centres.
It should be abolished in the interests of the Boers, for it has aroused the bitterest enmity of the blacks against the Dutch section of his Majesty's subjects.
Further, the Act should be abolished because it has lowered the prestige of the Union Jack in the eyes of the coloured subjects of the King, who have suffered and are still suffering untold misery under it. Perhaps nothing illustrates more clearly this changed feeling of the Natives than the present state of things in South Africa. Thus, if German South-West Africa had been annexed to the Cape before the Union, every Native, south of the Zambesi, would have approved of the step, whereas to-day, as a result of the Natives' Land Act, there is a different feeling extant. For now the Natives know that annexation to the Union will mean the elimination of the Imperial factor, and that as Capetown, like Pretoria, has ceased to represent British ideas of fair play and justice, such a change would in the annexed territory establish "Free" State ideals under the aegis of the Union Jack. The Natives of the Union shudder at the possibility of the Damaras, who are now under the harsh rule of the Germans, being placed under a self-governing Dominion in which the German rule will be accentuated by the truculent "Free" State ideas of ruling Natives. And they think that in the existing state of circumstances, Portuguese or French rule would be infinitely better for the Damaras than a Government which, although protected by the Union Jack, yet is inspired from Pretoria and Bloemfontein. And it is to be feared that the pernicious principles which Tommy Atkins is now fighting on the Continent to suppress, are going to be rigorously applied in a South-West Africa under Burgher rule. The prosperity of no State can afford to alienate the sympathy of any considerable portion of its tax-payers. And so, as 5,000,000 blacks have been alienated in their sympathies to the Union by this oppressive law, and as the Union Government is unable or unwilling to amend it, in the interest of the Union Government, no less than the 5,000,000 blacks, outside intervention becomes a necessity.
During three separate white men's upheavals in the last two years — two bloody strikes and a civil war — white revolters made frantic efforts to embroil the Union in a native rising, but the Natives very sensibly sided with the Government. The native leaders, in order to counteract this mischief-making, had to incur the expense of journeys by rail besides financing their own mission to reach the scene of the would-be native disturbance.
The time will come when these leaders will tire of spending their own money in paying fares to the Government Railways, to render free services to a Government which taxes them to pay other people lavishly for similar work, while it does not even tender them so much as a word of thanks.
Instead of the smallest recognition for our voluntary services, the Union Government repays our loyalty by persecuting our widows and fatherless children with the cold-blooded provisions of the Natives' Land Act. These cruelties are euphemistically described as the first step towards the segregation of white and black, but they might more truthfully be styled the first steps towards the extermination of the blacks.
When the war broke out, the Government promptly suspended the inquiries of the Commission, whose report is naively alleged to be pregnant with the fruits of the millennium, but the cruel evictions under the same law of the rebel Grobler are pursuing their course while the war lasts and the Union Government remains unconcerned. It was only when a whole tribe was evicted during the war that the Government interceded on behalf of the victims, but then, the only extent of the intervention has been to secure exemption for the chief of the tribe alone, on the condition that HE FORCED THE REST OF HIS TRIBE TO RENDER EVERY YEAR THREE MONTHS' LABOUR TO THE LANDOWNER. Yet these people could live happily on some other farm did not the Government prohibit their happiness at the behest of a rebel who, at or about the time of this enthralling compromise, was conducting treasonable operations against the Government.
The sublime ingratitude of the Union Government is wellnigh unbearable!