"If I were Prime Minister": Article by Albert Luthuli, 2 December 1961

Many problems face the emergent Black States in this continent. Among these problems are:

  1. the avoidance of economic chaos when independence comes;
  2. the problem of speeding up education among the masses so that the people will be able to take an adequate
  3. part in government and a full and responsible share in administration;
  4. ownership and control of industry and other branches of the country’s wealth;
  5. administration and management of industry and other branches of the country’s wealth;
  6. apportionment of land;
  7. the housing problem;
  8. health and technical services;
  9. the farm programme - methods of agriculture;
  10. State subsidies for backward areas and service;
  11. the question of tribalism and to what degree tribal traditions should be maintained;
  12. relations with other racial groups within the State;
  13. extent of powers of the Government in order to maintain law and order during the change-over while avoiding dictatorship.

These problems are common to nearly all emergent independent states. I look forward to the day when my own people will face these problems of an emergent free state.

I outline here my own suggested solutions of some of these problems. These solutions should, of course, be regarded as general principles of conduct, rather than as necessarily firm methods of dealing with the individual circumstances which may arise. But, generally, this is what I would do if I were Prime Minister of South Africa.

The solution to the South African problem will call for radical reforms. The basic political need is for a government which is truly a government of all the people, for the people, and by the people.

This can only be so in a state where all adults - regardless of race, colour or belief - are voters. Nothing but such a democratic form of government, based on the parliamentary system, will satisfy.

Then there is the land question. The Whites, being a quarter of the population, possess 87 per cent of the country’s land in freehold. Africans, who form three-quarters of the population, were allocated by legislation only 13 per cent of the land - some of it poor land. Of this land, 99 per cent is trust land (government-owned land); only 1 per cent or less is held by Africans in freehold. In trust land, Africans are virtually state tenants.

To meet this man-made inequality will demand what will appear to whites in South Africa to be revolutionary changes. Some form of a system such as is found in Great Britain and Sweden might meet the case.

The land must be re-distributed and allocated to those who have to live and make their living on the land. Land would be held in freehold by individual farmers and peasants. This would not preclude some land being held by the State for renting to individuals and for state experimental farms.

There would be no indiscriminate purchase of land from individual to individual without the sanction of the Government. This would largely be done to stop speculation on land, which is the basic heritage of the people.

The present so-called African reserves, which are very much depressed areas, will need special attention as all other special depressed areas. The duty of the Government would be to rehabilitate both the land and the people.

Special aid should be given to farmers in depressed areas. Technical services and marketing facilities would form an important and indispensable part of the state programme.

Each person should be allocated so much land as he can cultivate himself with the help of his family. This, I believe, is the policy in India. Co-operative farm settlements of a larger acreage would be encouraged and aided liberally to secure the advantage of large-scale farming. The experience of Israel should be drawn upon here.

Private enterprises, commerce and industry would be under government control as now, and probably stricter. Supertax on all high incomes should be levied on a higher percentage than now to meet the needs of uplifting the oppressed of former days.

State control should be extended to cover the nationalisation of some sectors of what at present is private enterprise.

Human rights as declared by the United Nations would be entrenched in the State Constitution.

All workers would enjoy unqualified trade union rights with a charter laying down minimum wages and conditions. There would be no discrimination on grounds of colour or race. Merit would be the qualifying factor.

The present framework of industrial legislation in so far as it applies to Whites would form the basis of industrial legislation. Workers would have the right to strike, for even if strikes might be costly and wasteful, it gives the individual a greater security if he knows he has the right, and it makes him feel a partner in the undertaking.

More immigration

Generally, there must be planned social and economic development to increase employment and raise standards of living all around. This is the best guarantee against fears and prejudices arising from a sense of economic insecurity.

All discriminatory legislation and restrictions on legitimate freedom of movement will, of course go. Immigration would not be limited to any one race. Greater latitude would be allowed to immigrants - both Black and White - from other parts of Africa.

Only a republican form of government would meet the broad needs of the majority. I would like to see it as part of a larger unit, the Commonwealth of Nations. This would not preclude the Union from forming other alliances or unities in Africa or outside.

It is reasonable to expect that there will be regional groupings formed in Africa, and maybe in some period these would form a Federation of African States.

Franchise rights would be extended to all adults. To me, the expression, "Africa for Africans" is valid in a non-racial democracy, only if it covers all, regardless of colour or race, who qualify as citizens of some country in Africa.

My Government, mainly through education - directly and indirectly - would discourage the attitude of thinking and acting in racial categories. Racialism, and all forms of discrimination, would be outlawed.

The question of reserving rights for minorities in a non-racial democracy should not arise. It will be sufficient if human rights for all are entrenched in the Constitution.

The main thing is that the Government and the people should be democratic to the core. It is relatively unimportant who is in the Government. I am not opposed to any government because it is White. I am only opposed to one which is undemocratic.

I do not like such expressions as "the All-Black Government," "the African majority." I like to speak about "a democratic majority," which should be a non-racial majority, and so could be multi-racial or not.

My idea is non-racial Government consisting of the best men - merit rather than colour counting. The political parties in the country should also reflect the multi-racial nature of the country. Parties, basically, should arise from a community of interests rather than from a similarity of colour.

Appeals to racialism at elections would be an offence in law.

In countries that have become free, such as India and Nigeria, the people have put into the government their tried men of stature, and there has been no question of lowering standards of government. So the question of "swamping" the Whites in South Africa does not arise. It is merely a bogy.

Within the orbit of my State, the individual would remain cardinal, for "the State exists for the individual," and not "the individual for the State."

I realise that a state such as I visualise - a democratic social welfare State - cannot be born in one day. But it would be the paramount task of the Government to bring it about and advance it without crippling industry, commerce, farming and education.

Speculation and exploitation on housing as well as on land would not be tolerated.

Individuals would be assisted and encouraged by loans to have their own houses on their freehold sites or on rented municipal sites. Rents would be strictly controlled.

Education is a paramount unifying factor in building consciousness and pride - a healthy community spirit. In my non-racial democratic South Africa there can be no question of a different system of education for different racial groups.

It would only be in the lower classes - say up to fourth year of school - and never beyond the eighth year of school - where mother tongue instruction would predominate.

Education would be free and compulsory for all in the primary stage at first, and later up to matriculation. Substantial aid would be given to universities with a generous system for bursaries and loans to students.

In technical and trade schools education would be free. Special efforts would be made to remove illiteracy. Night schools to provide working adults with facilities for part-time education in any standard would be encouraged and liberally subsidised.

Multi-racial schools will be demanded by the need to develop common patriotism and national solidarity.

Role of small nations

My South Africa would encourage the harnessing of science and technology to every day uses of man, and not for his destruction. It will seek to play a prominent part in bringing about the banning of nuclear warfare and in working for some degree of disarmament.

The present is a most unsafe world for small nations such as South Africa. But the combined influence of all small nations can make the big nations see the futility of spending their money on armaments.

My South Africa would support the United Nations and its agencies fully, and would encourage foreign investment - subject to her own interests of course.

South Africa would give priority to training and producing her own technicians, but would always encourage the importation of technicians from other parts of the world to supply the needs of the country which cannot be met from her own manpower.

The rule of law must be the basis of the administration of justice and be scrupulously respected. Rule by proclamation and administrative edicts would be reduced to the barest minimum, and be subject to appeal to the law courts.

Citizens would have an unhampered right to appeal to the courts whenever their personal and corporate rights are invaded by any person or agency, be it the Government itself.

The present framework of the South Africa Act, stripped of its discriminatory provisions, would form the basis of the non-racial democratic South Africa I visualise.

Special care would be taken to develop a police force that is civil and efficient in doing its work. The policeman must become a symbol of protection.

For the defence of the country, there must be a defence force consisting of citizens given adequate training. The foundation of the defence would be a permanent force - a people’s army.

Finally, the challenge to South Africa is to assist in finding and formulating a harmonious way of living by people in our multi-racial communities. What an opportunity South Africa has of leading the world in this regard!

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