From: South Africa's Radical Tradition, a documentary history, Volume One 1907 - 1950, by Allison Drew

Document 73 - Letter from The Spark to M.S. Njisane, Flagstaff, 15 September 1938

The Spark

Organ of the Workers Party of South Africa

                                                                                                                                                   P.O. Box 1940,

                                                                                                                                                      CAPE TOWN.

                                                                                                                                     15 th September, 1938.

M. S. Njisane,

Nkozo Location,


Dear Comrade,

Please excuse our long delay in replying to the questions you raised in your letter.

You will remember that there has been a great deal of talk in Government circles about the delimitation of livestock in the Reserves. Year in year out the Magistrates and the Bhunga have been harping on this question and each year with greater intensity than before. During the last session of the Native Representative Council, and also of the Bhunga, this question was raised, and the Chief Magistrate of the Transkei gave a warning that if the Natives did not cut down the number of their cattle, the Government would do it for them. Judging from your letter, the threat is being fulfilled.

The pretext for ihis delimil.alion crusade is that the Territories are overstocked, and this results in soil erosion. This is quite true, but it is equally true that the Territories are overpopulated. Is Ihe

Government going to suggest the delimitation of Natives in the Temtones? The problem of overstocking is the problem of overpopulation, and this in turn is the problem of insufficiency of land. This is the crux of the rnatter, and any "solution" that does not touch this fundamental problem - the land problem - is sheer hypocrisy and can solve nothing.

There are about a million Natives in the Transkei and they have about 800,000 morgen of land between them. Every Native in the Transkei has to be a small peasant. He must have a piece of land to plough in order to provide food of a sort tor his family, yet "in 1928-1929. 11,000 married but owners had no arable plots".

Giving evidence before the Native Economic Commission, Mr. S. Buller, then Head of Tsolo School of Agriculture, stated that the number of oxen that the Natives in the Transkei had was far below their needs, and to make up the deficiency the Natives were forced to use calves and cows for ploughing purposes. The staple diet of Natives in the Transkei is mealies and milk. Mr. Butler showed that the cows in the Transkei did not produce sufficient milk for all the people in the Transkei.

This last may be atributed to the fact that the Natives keep scrub cattle which do not produce much milk, but the Government has made very very weak attempts to help the Natives stock better cattle. The Government is not prepared to finance the scheme and the bulk of the people, who of course have no money, will never have these Friesland cows. Only the well-to-do can afford these expensive cows, and the Government takes every opportunity of showing these cattle to tourists as an exarnple of what the Government is doing to the Natives.

All this goes to show that the problem is not overstocking but insufficiency of and.

But before we go into this question of land, there is another question: what is the Government doing to ensure reasonable prices for the cattle the people are being forced to sell? And the answer is: nothing. There used to be a meat market in East London where people could sell their cattle direct to butchers, but this does not exist anymore so far as I know. But this did not even begin to solve the problem for the bulk of the Transkei Natives, because to make the thing pay, one had to sell at the same time a large number of cattle. It would be absolutely ridiculous to rail three or four cattle to be sold in East London. What little you would make be swallowed by the transportation. The Government will do nothing to ensure reasonable prices for the cattle which they will force the people to sell. The cattle dealers, who already make large profits, will make still larger ones.

Now seeing that the problem boils down to more land for the Natives, why does the Government not give us more land? And this brings us to another question: is the Government really worried about the misery of the Bantu in the Reserves? Whether they have scrub cattle or no cattle at all? What is the aim of the Government with respect to the Natives in the Reserves?

The Reserves are for the Government nothing but a reservoir of cheap Native labour for the mines and for the farms, and the misery in the Reserves is fostered towards this end. Do you think that if the Natives had sufficient land and sleek fat catttle they would go to the mines and to the farms lo look for work? Of course not, and that is why the Government will not give Natives sufficient land to plough and to graze their cattle on.

But this was not enough, and so additional pressure in the form of Poll-Tax had to be put on the Native to force him out of the Reserves to work for the mines and the farms at any price. This is the whole story in a few words. "Starve the Native out of the Reserves, so that he is forced to go to the mines and farms to look for work and take any wage that is offered him."

But some will say that the Bhunga is doing something for the Natives. Do you think that if the Bhunga meant to do anything for the Natives there would be Native demonstrators going without jobs when the territories need them so badly? Do you think that the abundance of water in the Transkei would be allowed to go waste instead of having it conserved for irrigalion purposes? No, the Bhunga is not meant to help us, it is only an instituuon of parasitic bureaucrats for which we pay dearly, as you know, and which is used to suck us dry "in the name of the Native people of the Transkei".

There can be no solution to this problem, no answer to your questions so long as we live under a system based on the exploitation of man by man. Only under Socialism, in a system that will be concerned with serving the needs of the people and not with making profits, can we hope for a solution of the land problem: a society in which there will be a scientific dislribution and use of land, a society whose motto will be, "From each according to his ability; to each according to his needs".

                                                                                                                                     yours for Socialism,