The Role of the Missionaries in conquest - Chapter XII - End and Beginning

From the book: The Role of the Missionaries in conquest by Nosipho Majeke

THE MILITARY DEFEAT of the Africans was followed by their political and economic enslavement, thus completing the purpose for which the people had been conquered and their land confiscated. We have said that the establishment of British supremacy meant the establishment of the new economic system, of capitalism. The discovery of diamonds and gold had opened up vast possibilities of development in commerce and industry. This demanded an ever-increasing supply of cheap Black labour for the mines, the farms, the towns. In other words, African labour was to be exploited in order to build up the South African State, but the Black man was not to be allowed to share in the fruits of the civilization he was building.

This opened up a chapter of history, brief in time, but as long and tortuous in its machinations as the century of military aggression that preceded it. It is a period that is well known to us. The conditions under which we live to-day, as outcasts in the land of our birth, are the direct result of the system of repressive legislation which, step by step and with enormous ingenuity, has been evolved with one purpose, to enslave the Non-European peoples of South Africa. This period, too, has required its special agents, each with his specific function to perform. It has required a ruthless financier and politician like Rhodes; a Viscount Milner, who began his career as a member of the British Liberal Party and who, as High Commissioner, paved the way for the "Act of Union.

"It has required a General Smuts, who, like his early prototype. Lieutenant Governor Andries Stockenstrom, was a Dutchman who became the staunch servant of British Imperialism. It has also required its liberals. If the first generation of liberals, the missionaries and the "humanitarians," had served a useful purpose, the second generation, their inheritors, had an equally important function to fulfil. In fact, so important was this function that there had to be a division of labour. They were required in the political field and they were required in the all-important field of education.

The liberal politicians came particularly to the fore; as the missionaries during the period of military aggression had fostered the myth of British "Protection," so during the period of political struggles the liberal politicians, Merriman, Sauer and company, were to foster the myth of "Christian Trusteeship," which is Imperial "Protection" under a new name, but no less predatory in its purposes, And the function of the liberals "as still the same””to split up the forces of the Non-Europeans and carry out once more the policy of "divide and rule."

Other hands will deal with this important chapter in history. For we are but at the beginning of the task of rewriting history that is free from the distortions and falsifications necessarily employed by the herrenvolk to bolster up the myth of White superiority.

Here, in the final chapter of this preliminary survey of the first period of British Imperialism in the 19th century, with its emphasis on the role of the missionary, we shall indicate the initial stages of the second period of aggression, i.e., in the political and economic field, always remembering that the process is continuous and unceasing. We shall indicate the lines of policy laid down by the rulers (where possible letting them speak for themselves), and conclude by forecasting the role of those agents, the missionaries, against the particular political and economic background.

It is in a double sense that we deal with an end and a beginning. The period of great economic expansion was the culmination of the period of military aggression, the completion of its purpose, which from the outset was inherent in the situation. At the same time it marked the beginning of the period of political and economic enslavement, not only of the Africans, but of all the Non-Europeans of South Africa. But it marks something else””the beginning of a new period of struggle of the Non-Europeans, a struggle on the political plane.

The rulers, then, saw themselves as faced with two problems: they had to harness the Africans to the economic machine, and at the same time they had to ensure the continuance of White domination. From this time onwards we hear continually about the "Native Question" or the "Native Problem." For the rulers it is indeed an insoluble problem. To put the matter another way: they had to draw the Africans into the new society and they had to shut them out. The needs of an expanding capitalism compelled them on the one hand to accelerate the breakdown of tribalism and force the Africans into the new economy, but on the other hand they wanted to arrest the inevitable consequences of bringing a whole people into contact with an industrial civilization. For a man's mode of existence in society dictates his social relationships, his morality, his way of thinking. Tribalism is one mode of existence and has its corresponding relationships and ideas, while capitalism is a totally different mode of existence, with ideas and relationships appropriate to it. Actually the two aims of the rulers, to ensure White supremacy and to exploit African labour within the new economy, presented them with an insoluble contradiction. From the outset they attempted violently to arrest the natural process of development””by depriving the Africans of their political rights.

By the eighteen-eighties, with the military conquest nearing completion, the Cape Government began revising the Constitution as laid down in 1852, which had given legal equality to the Non-Europeans. The Parliamentary Registration Act of 1887 marked the first step in the disfranchisement of the Africans. By excluding from the vote all those who held land on communal tenure (they called it the "Blanket Vote" ) they disfranchised large numbers of Africans.

During the parliamentary debates "Native" policy was dearly defined. Rhodes had a happy propensity for bluntness and uncouth language, so we cannot do better than quote him when he stood up in the House t defend this Bill, which he and J. H. Hofmeyr, leader of the Dutch Party, were steering through Parliament:

"It is a perfect farce to call this Bill an interpretation of the Constitution Ordinance. I prefer to call a spade a spade. ... It is the basis upon which we shall have to govern the country. . . . Let us boldly say: In the past we have made mistakes about native representation. . . . We intend now to change all that.. . . .You say: 'We are going to be lords of this people and keep them in a subject position.... They should not have the franchise, because we don't want them on an equality with us.' ... Now, my honourable friends are right in their views on the Native question. . . . Well, I have made up my mind that there must be class legislation, that there must be Pass Laws and Peace Preservation Acts (depriving Africans of guns) and that we have got to treat natives, where they are in a state of barbarism, in a different way to ourselves. We are to be lords over them. . . . These are my politics on native affairs and these are the politics of South Africa. . . . The native is to be treated as a child and denied the franchise. . . . We must adopt a system of despotism, such as works so well in India, in our relations with the barbarians of South Africa." From that day to this, the rulers have been filling the Statute Book with legislation carrying out this policy. The elaborate business of "Settling the Native Question" has been an attempt to reverse the natural process of development under a capitalist economy. In order to maintain White domination the rulers had to invent another myth, the Inferiority of the Black man. On this Lie they built up a whole structure of oppressive legislation based on segregation. They would have us believe that it was necessary to "protect" a "child race." And they were to coin a name for the Lie”” "Christian Trusteeship."

The Franchise and Ballot Act of 1892 carried a step further the disfranchisement of the Non-Europeans as a whole, though it professed to have no colour bar. It restricted the franchise by raising the property qualifications from £25 to £75 and including an education test. By this time the liberal politicians””chief among them Merriman, Sauer and Rose-Innes””were in full swing and they had to do some strenuous political acrobatics to square their acceptance of this Bill with their avowed defence of the rights and liberties of the Non-Europeans. Mr. Rose-Innes handed out the liberal argument in the ail-too familiar "liberal tradition" that he was prepared to pocket his principles in order to "save the poor natives" from the more drastic legislation which the Dutch Party would bring in if it were in power. In other words, he proposed to defend Non-European rights by supporting a Bill to take away those rights' Merriman, on the other hand, made no bones about this alarm at the increase in the Non-European vote: "Did members realise that if the Non-Europeans acted together, they could disfranchise the white man?" he asked. So blunt a question made it necessary for those Africans who expressed their faith in their liberal "friends" to defend the Bill””and their "friends" ””against the interests of their own people, using the specious argument that "Compromise is the soul of statesmanship." Altogether it was a situation which fully revealed the treacherous role of the second generation of liberals, and would well repay a fuller study.

With the ground thus prepared, the rulers proceeded to pass the Glen Grey Act of 1894, which can be said to mark the end of one period, the military conquest of the Africans, and the beginning of the period of economic exploitation. The system of administration and control embodied in this Act had been worked out over a number of years by Charles Brownlee, now Secretary of "Native" Affairs, and by others who had acted as magistrates in the various districts. They supplied the details, while Rhodes denned the policy. His designation of it as "A Native Bill for Africa" (the land of the maNdebele having just been confiscated) is eloquent of the aims of Imperialism and the insatiable needs of its economic system, which he so accurately interpreted. A few quotations from his speech on moving the second reading of the Bill, will sum up the main points of policy.

"If the whites maintain their position as the supreme race, the day may come when we shall be thankful that we have the natives with us in their proper position."
"We want to get hold of these young men and make them go out to work and the only way to do this is to compel them to pay a certain labour tax."
"It must be brought home to them that in the future nine-tenths of them will have to spend their lives in daily labour, in physical work, in manual labour."
"My idea is that the natives should be kept in these native reserves and not be mixed with the white men at all."
"Though we place them in individual positions with regard to certain pieces of agricultural land ... the native has no right to claim a vote for it."
"Now I say, the natives are children. . . . They have human minds and I would like them to devote themselves wholly to the local matters that surround them and appeal to them. I would let them tax themselves. . . ."

The Glen Grey Act is already well known to us. It was designed as the answer to the herrenvolk's labour problem. It is based on the principle of segregation and laid the foundation of "Native" policy that was to be fully worked out after the "Act of Union" between British Imperialism and Dutch Feudalism in 1910. The main points of the Glen Grey Act were: the establishment of the Bunga system of local councils for the governing of Africans in Reserves; the creation of machinery to force the African to labour for the White man. Hence the labour tax. The system of land tenure on a quit-rent basis was devised for the same purpose. The first experiment along these lines had been the Rev. Calderwood's Location scheme for the Fingos. Africans were granted individual titles to their plots, but did not possess full ownership of the land thus held, nor did it entitle them to the vote.

The Glen Grey Act had this in common with the 50th Ordinance of 1828, which had purported to "liberate" the Khoikhoin while incorporating the old labour laws appropriate to serfdom””it faced in two directions, backwards to feudalism, and forwards to capitalism. Or, in other words, it combined capitalism with serfdom. This was dictated by the dual aims of the rulers, to pull the African into the new economic system, but to ensure White domination.

Second Problem of education

Against this political and economic background what was the task of the missionaries? The legislative weapon for the oppression of the Africans was a strong one. But legislation by itself could not ensure the continuance of White domination; for this a more subtle means had to be employed. Education itself had to be used as an instrument of enslavement. Having drawn the African into the economic system, the rulers had assigned him a particular place in their society. It was necessary therefore to educate him to his "proper place." This was to be the task of the missionaries more than any other educative force.

Now in acting as agents for the political and economic enslavement of the Africans, and of all Non-Europeans, the missionaries were acting consistently with their function throughout. It is only as the pattern of this industrial civilization brought by the invaders, developed, that the true meaning of missionary education, or the full import of the missionary as educator, becomes clear. Yet the logic of it was there from the beginning. It was not a question of humanitarianism, but of necessity. If we remember where the missionaries came from, we will have no difficulty in understanding their real function, both in the early stages when the rulers had to draw the African into the orbit of the new society and now at the later stage when they wanted to shut him out from the benefits of the civilization he was helping to build. As we have said, it was the very forces of an industrial civilization with its need for new markets, new sources of labour, new profits, that had sent its various agents of expansion throughout the world. When we fully understand this process, then the question: "Didn't the missionaries bring Christianity and Civilization to the Black man?" falls into its proper perspective.

It was exactly at the time of the passing of the Franchise and Ballot Act and the Glen Grey Act that the Government gave new and clear directives to the mission schools as to the special kind of education required for the Black child. Sir George Grey had subsidized missionary institutions so that they might provide industrial training as well as elementary education, for the purpose, of course, of fitting the Bantu youth into the new economy. But from about 1890 the emphasis on manual instruction acquires a new significance.

In 1891 we find Sir Langham Dale, the Superintendent of Education, writing in his Report on Native Education:

"What the Department wants is to make all the principal day-schools places of manual industry as well as of book instruction."

In the following year his successor, Dr. Muir, is complaining that education for Africans is "too bookish and unpractical." From this time onwards there is increasing emphasis on manual training on the one hand and religious and moral instruction on the other.

The Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on "Native Education," 1935-6, is a highly instructive document, summing up as it does the educational policy of the Government. In this Report we read that: "By 1893 the mission schools eventually came to be the schools solely for Non-European pupils. Schools for White pupils, on the other hand, ceased to be under church control and came wholly under Government control. The Report continues: " There are weighty considerations in favour of retaining the direct influence of the missions in a South African system of Native Education. . . . The missions must remain active partners of the Government in the fulfilment of the task of giving a sound education to the Native."

Endorsing the recommendations of the 1919 Commission on "Native Education," it outlines a differentiated primary school course for African children, placing religious instruction first on the list as being of "paramount importance." The key to all this is in the following often-quoted statement of policy in the same Report:

"Practically considered, the aim in the two cases (White and Black education) is not the same, because the two social orders for which education is preparing White and Black are not identical. ... It is not merely a question of method. The ends themselves are different in the two cases. The education of the White child prepares him for life in a dominant society and the education of the Black child for a subordinate society. . . ."

Having invented the Lie of the inferiority of the Black man, the rulers have built up a whole system of legislation for his enslavement and a system of education to correspond with it, which is indeed an integral part of it. Segregation in education is the counterpart of political and social segregation, and segregated education for the Black child is education for a subordinate position in society.

Now the rulers have always known the paramount importance of training the young, of moulding the young mind to the pattern most suited to the interests of the State. This is where the special usefulness of missionary-controlled education comes in. The African child has to be trained to accept his subordinate position in society; the idea of inferiority has to appear natural to him. Of course segregated education in itself does this; the ill-paid and often ill-trained teacher; the crowded class-room; the travesty of education in the instruction dished up to the child, the learning of words and facts parrot-fashion, all ensure the impoverishment of the mind in the purely educational sense. And it is all measured in terms of L.S.D.

The amount spent on African education is less than a seventh of the amount spent on European education. Actually the disparity is even greater than the figures would indicate. For this amount is spent only on 30 %, or less, of African children of school-going age, while the vast majority receive no education at all. On the other hand, education for European children is compulsory up to the age of sixteen.

But the process of preparing the Black child to accept inferiority involves something even more insidious than this. The stress on religious and moral instruction, to which far more time is devoted in a school for the non-White than for the White child””is not by accident. For this religious and moral instruction is made synonymous with training in obedience, humility, patience, fear, and passivity. It bids the individual accept his lot, not struggle against it; it bids him endure the sufferings and tribulations of this world as a preparation for happiness in some world to come. The potency of this device to induce the oppressed to endure the thousand shocks of their daily life under the present system of society is incalculable. The mission-school, then, feeds the Black child on inferiority and starves him educationally. But the training does not end there.

The missionary institution intensifies the process on the growing youth. The mind of the young man or woman has to be moulded even more rigorously than that of the child. For the mind of youth wants to expand; it has hopes, ambitions, dreams, no matter what conditions of poverty it has lived in. And this is a quality that must be controlled. Yet the very impressionability of the mind of youth can be turned by the educator to his purpose, making it easier for him to divert that energy along circumscribed channels. It is possible to indoctrinate the youth with the desired ideas, to insinuate into his mind all the habits of thought that will make him accept inferiority. To enlist obedience to a supernatural censor of all one's actions and all one's secret thoughts, is to reinforce obedience to authority in whatever form or shape it may subsequently appear. Thus, locked in the narrow confines of the segregated missionary institution, the youth has been steadily conditioned into accepting, unquestioningly, the place assigned to him in the social system. In most cases he has not even been aware of what was happening, but accepted his position as the natural order of things. Here it may be added that what the individual missionary is or is not, is irrevelant to the process that has been taking place; he is nevertheless carrying out his function as the servant of the Christian capitalist civilization.

Missionary-controlled education, therefore, has played an important part in subjugating the minds of the people and in this way ensuring the continuance of White domination. To leave the majority of African children illiterate and subject the rest to missionary-controlled education has had the effect of frustrating the development of a whole people. But the full extent of this frustration only becomes evident when we pursue still further the ramifications of this whole process of controlling the people by controlling their outlook and ideas. In the political field the leadership was necessarily drawn from the small educated section, those who from childhood to manhood had received their training from the missionaries. And from whom did these leaders in the past receive their political education? At the end of the 19th century it was the liberal politicians who came forward as their "friends" and the "defenders" of their rights, those liberals who proceeded to throw out a smoke-screen to cover up the first steps in the disfranchisement of the Africans in the Parliamentary Registration Act (1887), the Franchise and Ballot Act (1892) and the "Act of Union" (1910) which was the third in the series.

Thus we see two layers of liberals operating in conjunction to maintain an intellectual stranglehold over the leadership of the non-Europeans as a whole, and in this way disarming the people. It was this factor that so long delayed the political struggles of the non-Europeans and prevented them from launching an independent struggle against oppression.

Historic Task

Economic forces, however, are stronger than man-made laws, stronger even than indoctrination with false ideas. "Christian Trusteeship," which cloaks exploitation under the pretence of a "sacred trust" towards the "child races," is up against an insoluble contradiction. It has drawn the Black man into the orbit of industrial civilization (they call it "Western Civilization" ) and it wants to escape from the inevitable results of that process. The rulers have laboriously evolved a system of oppressive legislation and employed artificial methods to deny the worker the rights of a worker, the member of a society the rights of that society, the builder of a civilization the fruits of that civilization. And the more the economic forces burst through the artificial impediments, the more desperately the herrenvolk attempts, by means of legislation, to arrest the process of development. Its latest attempt is the Bantu Authorities Act, which would erect the forms of a dead tribalism in the midst of an industrial civilization.

But the rulers in South Africa cannot defy the laws of the system which they themselves have set in motion. Industrial civilization, by its very nature, creates the conditions whereby the African becomes part of the forward progress of mankind. A whole people cannot be drawn within the orbit of this civilization without acquiring the modes of behaviour and the habits of thought belonging to it.

In other words, they cannot be part of a society and yet be cut off from the ideas of that society. If the Black man feeds the industrial machine””even if it makes him starve””he is being educated and moulded by that process. The conditions of his daily existence, together with the ideas belonging to that society, supply him with the elements of enlightenment and suggest to him forms of struggle.

In spite of themselves, the rulers provide the oppressed with the means of education in the broadest sense. From the very beginning the missionaries, who were the protagonists of capitalism, sought to implant the ideas of that system, which had recently vanquished feudalism in Europe under its famous slogans of liberty, equality, fraternity””the powerful slogans of democracy. In every collision between British capitalism and Dutch feudalism in Southern Africa, the Africans found themselves being drawn in on the side of the more progressive force, i.e., capitalism.

When it was Dr. Philip attacking the feudal system of the slave-owning Dutch, he "liberated" the Khoikhoin under the slogans of liberty and equality, which had a tremendous appeal for the oppressed. When it was a question of the fight between the British and the Boers in the Boer War, the Africans were drawn in on the side of those whom the liberals had so eloquently presented as the bringers of Civilization and the defenders of their right to liberty. When, after the "Act of Union," it was a question of ensuring a majority for the English section in Parliament, the Africans were enlisted as supporters of those who stood for the "liberal tradition" inherited from the days of the British "Humanitarians." But while, for the White politicians, their high-sounding slogans were no more than empty promises, to the Africans they were in real earnest. They crystallised the aspirations of an oppressed people, and the very contrast between those lofty ideals and the degradations of their daily existence, was a forceful education in itself. All these experiences were gradually supplying them with ideas in the political field””ideas which were of the very warp and woof of the system into which they had been drawn.

In the economic field, too, new ideas were being borne in on them because of their daily experience. When the White workers formed trade unions and pressed their right to collective bargaining or higher wages and better conditions of work, they found it convenient to appeal to the Non-European workers. Altogether, every time the various sections of the herrenvolk engaged in skirmishes amongst themselves, they found it necessary to draw in the Non-Europeans and in this way provided them with the means whereby they would one day fight for their own emancipation. The fact that the Non-Europeans were in every case denied the benefits of victory did not in any way lessen the value of the education they thus received. On the contrary, it heightened their consciousness of their true position, so that their very failures were from this point of view a gain. They could see how others benefited from the struggle while they, who were part of the same system, were excluded from its benefits.

It was inevitable that sooner or later the Non-Europeans would break away from the leadership of the various sections of the herrenvolk who made use of them in their sectional disputes. They had to strike out under their own banner and launch a determined struggle for democratic rights.

Nothing can alter the fact that the Non-European peoples of South Africa are part of the new economic system. The objective forces themselves have placed them within reach of the instruments of liberation. Capitalism has shattered tribalism and destroyed the social relationships that go with it; it has broken the old tribal bonds, but it has created new ties that bind men together in a much wider unity. With its continuous growth it is steadily cutting across all artificial colour barriers. It brings men face to face with the objective industrial forces, for the whole of society is organized around industry and commerce and men take their place within it irrespective of what tribe or race they belong to. In this way the very forces that destroyed tribalism are welding the people together””people who have common disabilities and a common experience and who are inspired with a common aspiration. These are the instruments of unity on a nation-wide scale. It is in this sense that the objective forces themselves place within the hands of the oppressed the means of their own liberation. And it will be their historic task to build on South African soil a true democracy. Only then will all men and women be able both to build civilization and to share its fruits.

The Rôle of the Missionaries in conquest