From the book: Black ViewPoint by Ndebele, Ndamse, Buthelezi, Khoapa
Chief M.G. Buthelezi is the Chief Executive Councillor of the KwaZulu Legislative Assembly.
In South Africa, this is one of those rare occasions where people meet across the colour line not as masters and servants but as fellow compatriot to communicate. This is not deny the fact that I came here as a representative of the underdogs of this land who are the servants-class of South Africa, and whether we like this or not you represent the master-class of this land on whom my people depend for a living.
It was suggested that I should in my short talk deal with ‘The Current Economic Situation and it Affects the Zulu Homeland’. I must say that with all due respect for this suggestion, I am no economist. I will, however, do my best to present in as few words as possible the picture as I see it from the point of view of a black man in the street.
As a historian I will be excused of reading a bit of well-known history of our land, because I believe that no one can never see things in their proper perspective, save against the wider canvas of the history of the land. This is regardless of whatever one wants to look at, be it political issues, cultural or social problems. This applies equally to our economic ills. As a layman I cannot make presentations that I can offer a diagnosis or even a hazard guess at any cures for our economic ill in KwaZulu.
However, being a representative of the patient, I can at least describe the pains particularly the very sharp ones around the tummy which are so excruciatingly painfully! Even the doctor needs this is to arrive at an accurate diagnosis.
As early as 1880 The Natal Witness disputed the suggestion that Africans had any right to consider Natal as their country: They are here as immigrants on sufferance, and not as citizens'. This was after the Zulu War, when even Zulu territory north of the Thukela was fragmented deliberately in order 'to break the Zulu power once and for all', in the words of Sir Bartle Frere and Zulu Territory was opened up by the conquerors for white occupation. This was not peculiar to Natal, but happened throughout this southern-most point of Africa.
My people were at first self-sufficient because there was enough to eat and no problems of population explosion. This too was soon brought to an end by the new conquerors who called upon Chiefs to supply young men to work on what was then known as Isibhalo. They were in other words forced to sign contracts to come to places like Johannesburg and Kimberley and other industrial areas to build the white industrial empires that we see in full bloom in all the metropolitan areas of South Africa. Taxation was one of the methods used to force Africans to move into urban areas to work.
The tragedy deepened when even in the urban areas my people found themselves regarded as temporary sojourners who were there on sufferance, only to minister to the reasonable wants of whites. According to the 1852-1853 Commission Report it was recommended that 'All kaffirs should be ordered to go decently clothed. This measure would at once tend to increase the number of labourers because, as they would be obliged to work to procure the means of buying clothing, it would also add to the general revenue of the Colony through Customs Duties'.
Coming to the question of the so-called Homelands, as early as 1849 Earl Grey agreed that it would be 'difficult or impossible' to assign to Africans reserves of such a size that they could continue to be economically self-sufficient. He added that it was desirable that Africans should 'be placed in circumstances in which they should find regular industry necessary for their subsistence' 1 .
Not all Africans could be accommodated on the reserves, and the remainder continued to occupy crown lands and colonist owned farms. Africans ultimately spilled over into the white farms as squatters. The reserves were made up of the worst farming lands in the Colony. According to G.R. Peppercorne, most of the land in the Impofana reserve is 'as worthless as the sands of Arabia' (2). Only thirty percent of KwaZulu is arable land.
According to Brookes and Hurwitz there was no increase in land provision for Africans between 1864 and 1913 (3). The promises made by the Hertzog Government under the Native Trust and Land Act of 1936 for an additional quota of land to my people and other ethnic groups was a recognition of this fact. Little wonder that whereas other people improve with times, my people have sunk lower and lower into poverty over the years because they are caught between two devils.
When the Zulu Territorial Authority was inaugurated in 1970 I made it clear that without consolidation of land, the present Government's policy would not make any sense. There has been very little done or said about this aspect of government policy until last year when the Prime Minister promised to consolidate the Zulu Homeland only to the extent of the 1936 land quota. I pointed out to him then that consolidating in terms of that quota could hardly be adequate in terms of setting us up as a separate independent State in terms of his government's policy.
What happened last week has been merely confirmation of what the Prime Minister said last year and also a few weeks ago in Parliament. I refer here to the so-called draft map for the consolidation of KwaZulu. This is a question which is crucial to the whole exercise of setting up KwaZulu as a country and on it hangs the issue of whether we can ever be economically viable or not. I wish also to submit that the whole question of our economic potential depends on it.
Earlier this year I opened a conference at the University of Natal's Institute for Social Research on Towards Comprehensive Development in Zululand'. This Conference was interesting in so far as we did not try to find cures for KwaZulu's economic ills, but managed to assess the complexity of KwaZulu's economic ills. We found that there are two issues closely interlinked, the problems relevant to the development of the Zulu homeland territories, on the one hand, and those relevant to the development of the Zulu people on the other. Although the two issues are closely interlinked, the problems facing the development of the Zulu people, the AmaZulu, relate not only to the Zulu Homeland Areas, but more directly to the entire economic, social and political structure of South Africa. The development of the AmaZulu (or that of other blacks for that matter) is much more closely interlinked with change and progress in the common economy and common area of South Africa, than is the development of KwaZulu (4).
To me the most important area which concerns all of us is that of the development of my people. At present we have hardly any employment opportunities for the KwaZulu citizens, no wonder we have only about a third of citizens in KwaZulu at any time. More than sixty percent of our able-bodied males are away most of the time.
We have at present no industrial growth points except Sithebe which has few Zulus at present, who are paid very low wages. The specious argument used by the Bantu Investment Corporation is that although Sithebe has low wage levels and ample supply of labour on the credit side, the relatively low level of training is ranking high on the debit side and it is, therefore, not strange to find that an unskilled worker is being paid a weekly wage of R 5 to R7. The Bantu Investment Corporation further state that they would prefer wage levels comparable with those in the metropolitan areas but realise that it is far better at this stage of development in KwaZulu to have say 100 Zulus employed at R7 a week than to be able to create say only 10 employment opportunities at R12 per week. It must also be remembered that the cost of living in metropolitan areas is very much higher than in the vicinity of Sithebe (5).
The argument on the cost of living being lower in rural areas is a partial truth, because people can only live in accordance with their means of livelihood. And in any case this is also on account of poverty and since we have no cash crops except sugar cane in some parts of KwaZulu, we have a cash economy and it is a remittance economy, as families depend entirely on cash from their breadwinners, who must earn wages elsewhere. The measuring rod as far as wages are concerned is the poverty datum line. Food is cheaper in town than in the rural areas where people are charged extra for transport costs.
The greatest shock so far in this whole question of whether KwaZulu can ever be economically viable now or in the dim misty future has been the decision by the all-powerful South African government in deciding that Richards Bay should be developed as a white port, and in doing so depriving KwaZulu of the only opportunity of having an outlet to the sea. No one disputes the fact that Richards Bay is providing jobs for Zulus, and that this will increasingly be the case as the Richards Bay complex develops. Job opportunities are welcome as is the concern of governments throughout the world. But the question that arises after that is whether we can really be independent as easily as it is so often glibly said these days, if at most KwaZulu's development means that it is merely going to continue to be a vast labour farm for white South Africa, as all Black Homelands are at present?
What is not so encouraging is that even in the metropolitan areas of South Africa very few of our people are paid above the poverty datum line. Many surveys have been carried out including one by an employee of the Johannesburg Municipal Non-European Affairs Department. I feel certain you are all familiar with these. On the average it is now well-known that the ratio of black to white wages is 1:14. Other industries give what are called fringe benefits and many of them boast that they look after their employees and provide them with a balanced diet. What Dr Francis Wilson had to say last week on this point is quite illuminating concerning the recent rise in the wages in the Gold Industry (6). It is also true to say that any wise person who uses any beast of burden, would look after it, feed it well and shelter it so that it can be in good condition to bear its burdens.
One must also thank and encourage all the other industries that are trying to narrow the wage-gap. But we blacks wonder what underlies white thinking in this respect because when one looks around there are no subsidised shops that sell necessaries of life at sub-economic rates. At the same time the majority of white South Africans have for years rejected the idea of accepting black urban workers as anything but temporary sojourners. These people are supposed to send money to their families in the Homelands and to help us develop in the Homelands. The question is, in view of the above, how does one do it? So far there seems to be no serious consideration of consolidating these Homelands, as a result KwaZulu cannot at present take even displaced Africans from white farms as it is congested. We are developing a new class of rural Africans who cannot even have token arable allotments, and cannot keep any stock, who are settled in what are called closer settlements. Owing to the stringent application of Influx Control regulations these people cannot freely go to look for jobs in urban areas.
An additional burden is caused by lack of a free and compulsory education for blacks, which is available for the white group. So that some of the meagre earnings that are sent for necessities have also to be used to pay for the children's education, in fees, books, in some cases for the privately paid teachers and also to put up school buildings. At this juncture I wish to congratulate those white people who are assisting in providing funds towards the Rand Bursary Fund, ASSECA and other similar projects. These are palliatives that are very necessary and which we highly appreciate.
The Homelands are all being given 'self-government'. In other words we are supposed to provide facilities for our people from our taxation and from allocations from the Consolidated Revenue Fund made to us by the Republican government. At present it is not yet apparent that these Homeland governments can provide separate but equal facilities on the basis of this. In fact the KwaZulu budget of 32 million rand for the current financial year is, despite inflation, hardly a drop in the ocean, in terms of providing facilities for four and a quarter million Zulus. Even for our Civil Service it is going to be difficult to get the best men in view of this differentiation in salaries on the basis of race.
There is an apparent reluctance on the part of white South Africa to consolidate the Homelands realistically, to make them independent countries in a meaningful way. There is also an equal reluctance to accept our people who are in the urban areas as permanent residents in these areas. It might also be pointed out that all of us including myself, may be indulging in self-hypnosis by even trying to believe we can successfully create several ethnically oriented economies in South Africa instead of one.
Several questions at once arise such as, does white South Africa hope to have her cake and eat it? At some point we have got to decide one way or the other. Or does white South Africa hope we can all live in a make-believe world ad infinitum through sheer force of arms? This seems to be the time for decision whether we are going to be set up as viable Homelands or not. This is the dilemma of white South Africa, in which South Africa alone has placed herself. It is black South Africa's dilemma too, with the difference that since black South Africa does not wield the power of the bullet and the ballot, it is a dilemma in which black South Africa has been placed by white South Africa. So that in a sense we are not equally culpable as far as the apportioning of blame in this dilemma I am talking about is concerned. But we all have equal reason to 'Cry the Beloved Country', since our destinies are so inextricably intertwined.
How long are urban Africans going to remain temporary sojourners in the metropolitan areas of South Africa? If we blacks are as human as whites can anyone tell me what are these virile able-bodied men in hostels and compounds supposed to do in order to enjoy feminine company? Of the married temporary sojourners from the Homelands who are forbidden to bring their wives with them into metropolitan areas, the question can be asked: Can our male white compatriots countenance the idea of living in separation a mensa et thoro from their wives, and only make love to their wives during the Easter weekend and during a few days at Christmas time?
Many of you will, I am sure, want to ask me, why then be involved in the Homelands policy? I believe that it is a moral duty to be involved in alleviating human suffering, even if that is the most one can do. For this reason I believe that despite the many snags I have pointed out there is still some scope to help my people to develop even within the limitations of the policy. That is why I have great admiration for what American firms like Polaroid, I.B.M., and Pepsi Cola, and banks like Barclays Bank and Standard Bank are doing in giving equal pay for equal work regardless of race. These firms should by now have put our own South African firms to shame, if at all we still have a conscience such as I believe South Africans have. Do South Africans feel happy that foreign firms should take this lead, and that South African firms should drag their feet instead of following in their footsteps?
I believe that apart from the development of people themselves there is still a little scope for developing these Homelands whether one believes in separate development or not. The Homelands to me are a challenge whether one regards the Homelands policy as a political fact or a fantasy.
I believe that their development even on the basis of establishing micro-economic activities is something in which all of you can assist us. Community development schemes are a necessity in areas such as KwaZulu where people are as a result of poverty still victims of diseases of want such as malnutrition, kwashiorkor and tuberculosis.
I believe that where there is economic infrastructure, industry and commerce in South Africa should not hesitate to help us to establish industries, not necessarily as cures for our economic ills but even as palliatives. To me while South Africa battles in trying to make up her mind about the future, we should not forget that human lives are at stake here. What is more our whole future, yours and ours, and that of our children depends on this. I believe the manner in which the future will unfold, that is whether it will be peacefully or violently, depends to a large measure on these factors. We cannot hope that the nerves of our black population will stand this insecurity indefinitely both in the urban and rural areas.
We do not ask to be given doles or what we do not deserve. We would like to be self-reliant and having contributed so much towards the production of South Africa's wealth, we are at least entitled to a little of it, to set up on our own feet, be it in the urban or rural areas.
The Ovambo strike has given us a foretaste of what may one day overtake us, and I do not believe that we need to wait for the trauma of a confrontation of that kind to ensure our peaceful coexistence on this southernmost point of Africa.
At this particular time in the history of South Africa it might be as well to ponder over the words of Mr H.D. Winter who was Minister for Native Affairs in the Natal Government when the Bambatha Rebellion, which arose as a result of the imposition of the Poll Tax, took place. After the Rebellion a Commission was appointed to hold an inquiry into the causes of the Zulu Rebellion. Mr H.D. Winter's evidence is interesting to read the more so as he was by no means sympathetic to the cause of the black people in Natal and this is what he had to say among other things:-
The heavy burdens which - had been pressing on the people for many years past; for he added, the master may continue to hit and strike his dog until the time comes when the dog seizes hold of the hand of the master. This was what had occurred' (7).
1 David Welsh: The Roots of Segregation (Oxford University Press. 1971) p. 117.
2 David Welsh: Ibid.
3 Edgar H. Brookes and N. Hurwitz: The Native Reserves of Natal (Natal Regional Survey Vol. 7 (Cape Town) p. 57).
4 Statement summarising Major Points emerging during the proceedings of the Conference: Towards a Comprehensive Development in Zululand' prepared by the Organising Secretary, L. Schlemmer, Dr. Francis Wilson and S. Kahn, p. 1.
5 Dr. M.J. Olivier: Interview with Tim Muil The Natal Mercury dated 8th June, 1972, p. 8.
6 Financial Mail: 2nd June, 1972.
7 David Welsh: The Roots of Segregation (Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 312. (Quotation from evidence 1906-1907 Commission Report, p. 9).