From the book: The Segregation Fallacy and Other Papers by D.D.T Jabavu
The beginning of the year 1926 sees South Africa standing at the cross-roads of race relationships. The adjustment of these has been a problem since the first contact between white and black in the East of the Gape Province in the last quarter of eighteenth century. War after war took place between these two races until 1880, after which Cape Colony became free from interracial conflicts. In the northern states (Orange Free State, Transvaal and Natal), however, struggles continued intermittently down to the Zulu rising under Bambata in 1906. After this date the whole country has been practically peaceful so far as white and black are concerned. The black races concerned in these struggles fall, roughly, under three types distinguished on general lines by their locality; the Zulus of Natal, the Basuto in the Orange Free State and Transvaal, and the Xosa (along with the Pondos, Tembus and several minor tribes) in the Cape Colony.
The colonization of South Africa was undertaken by Europeans coming from two stocks, the English and the Dutch, who, on the one hand, were rivals in the competition for the possession of the country and, on the other, were invaders holding opposite views as to what the treatment of the aboriginal subject races should be. The first English settlers were recruited principally from missionaries whose attitude towards the Natives was broadly liberal. The emigrants of Dutch extraction were mostly of the hard-working type whose chief objective was success in agriculture and the economic development of a virgin land. To the early English missionaries, the Bantu and Hottentots were brothers entitled to equality of opportunity in political, economic and even in social life. To the Dutch farmer the black man was a servant and a tool for carrying out the schemes of his master. There were dangerous extremes on both sides; on one hand, we have on record a British missionary who was such a thorough-going believer in social equality that he married an African woman; on the other side there were Dutch fanners who practised cruelty towards their African servants and slaves. This conflict in ideals came to a crisis in 1836 when certain Dutch farmers, moved mainly by the loss of their slaves by emancipation, made an exodus to the north and eventually established their republics. From this mere outline (which may be verified in any book on South African history) it will be seen that a fundamental difference in the attitude of white towards black in the Cape and the northern provinces of South Africa constitutes the first principle in the understanding of the political controversy on what is called the Native Question. The efflux of time with the intervention of deeper mutual knowledge has produced considerable modification; nevertheless it is the most important first principle that requires to be grasped by the honest student of racial developments.
In some countries where black and white live bide by side the matter of satisfactory race relationship presents no problem. For example, in the West Indies (say Jamaica or Trinidad) white and black rule together without distinction of colour, peaceably and on terms of perfect equality, the population being fairly balanced between the two colours. In New Zealand the Native Maoris are outnumbered but enjoy a large measure of equality in political and social conditions. In Dahomey the French are few but they have granted an unÂreserved equality in every sphere of life for the Native African. There is no colour question in Sierra Leone, Nigeria and the Gold Coast under English domination. The Latin races of Southern Europe tend to grant equality where they govern black people. The acute colour question is found in the United States of America and in South Africa and is far more acute in the latter. In the former the Negroes are outnumbered by ten to one but they have absolute equality of opportunity to develop economically. They are a growing power in politics with franchise rights but in social matters they are largely denied equality. This is the source of much inter-racial friction. In South Africa the blacks, outnumbering the whites by four to one, are denied the franchise, except in the Cape Province. They sneak different languages and they are to be found in all grades of civilization: firstly, those living: under primitive conditions of tribal life numbering about two millions out of the aggregate of four and a half millions; secondly, those who have abandoned their tribal conditions and are engaged in farm-work either as servants to Europeans or on their own locations under semi-civilized conditions, these also number about two millions; thirdly, those living in urban areas, brought into direct contact with the white man's civilization, these number a little over half a million. This third group includes all sorts of unskilled and semi-skilled workers, clerks, interpreters, teachers, ministers, editors of newspapers and seventy graduates (of whom five are doctors, ten arts graduates-five being graduates from Italian universities-five lawyers from British universities and graduates from American universities).
The social conditions of life, the graded stages of development and the variety of racial mentality present a complex study, which ought to attract social anthropologists from afar. The physical virility of the Bantu, with their apparent capacity for assimilating the white man's civilization has produced a real fear amongst the whites lest European civilization he submerged and black men are the dominant race. " Maybe we are afraid," said General Hertzog to the Government Native Conference at Pretoria on the 3rd December 1925, " and it may be that our policy is dictated by fear; be it so, but our fear is wisdom, for what we fear is a bad future. We are anxious for a good future, a future of goodwill."
This is an important admission. It represents the attitude of the three northern provinces towards the Bantu. The Europeans in those provinces really fear that the black man, given equal opportunity to rise economically and industrially, will overwhelm the white man. It is only a belief, and a fear. In Cape Colony there never was such a fear; the black man was from the beginning given equality of opportunity to rise in industry and politics and the white man was never once threatened by submersion, absorption or extinction. On the contrary the Cape policy proÂduced real contentment among the Natives. They even lost industrial enterprise and were politically satisfied and supine under white guidance, sponÂtaneously electing white candidates and declining to utilize their privilege of standing as candidates for Parliament. The Transvaal and Orange Free State republics believed that white supremacy depended upon the repression of the black man; that the blacks should not vote or have any say in politics; that Native education was unnecessary and even dangerous; and that colour bars should be set up against the Bantu in industries.
Sixteen years after the establishment of the Union of South Africa the opposite results of these pre-Union creeds are still evident: the northern provinces are the home of Native discontent, the Cape, the seat of Native progress. The influence of the Union has politically modified all races. Among the upper educated circles the number of liberal-minded Dutchmen of the type of the late " Onze Jan" (John H. Hofmeyr, the liberator of Cape Native voters from all anti-Native laws) has increased; on the other hand many EnglishÂmen have hardened and have espoused illiberal ideas. The Cape Natives are now losing confidence in the erstwhile beneficent tutelage of British institutions.
Out of this welter of contradictory views as regards the correct methods of governing the subject races emerges what is popularly called "The Native Question." The expression has been so much used in South Africa that the Bantu have begun to be bored at being a "Question". For why should they be a Native Question to the white man any more than they regard him White question? Is it the Bantu or the European, they ask, who squeezed by economic congestion and land hunger in his Native habitat, migrated to find a haven of rest in hospitable and spacious Africa? Which of the two is really the problem? We must, however, admit that these queries are belated and futile because the white man today claims Africa by the simple reason of his conquest and that not only by arms but by virtue of superior resources of capital, and business enterprise and intelligent organisation.
Agreed. But these advantages cannot be claimed and retained for the purpose of selfish interest alone. On that rock have all ancient civilizations foundered. Man cannot live by bread alone. There are higher duties and moral responsibilities towards backward races to be considered by the more advanced nations. Only by successful correlation of these two European domination be justified. What we have is not to solve is not so much the Native Question as the question of how to reconcile European domination based on battalions, education and professed Christianity, with justice and equity towards defenceless Africans aspiring to a modern civilization. To the Bantu the question is: How can we rise to the heights of civilization as all other races have done and fulfil our destiny under Providence? The British constitution is broad enough to allow defeated races to govern themselves; when then, and how, shall we too be allowed our fair share in the government of the country? To the EuroÂpeans the question is: How shall the supremacy won by centuries of effort and development be retained intact? How shall coming white geneÂrations be secured against the rising tide of colour?
Europeans have endeavoured to solve the proÂblem in three ways: (1) By the Cape policy that grants equal political and industrial rights to all civilized men, throwing open the door of equal opportunity and upward development for white and black in the same territorial and economic spheres. (3) By the northern repressive idea that in order to enable the white man to remain dominant the black should be kept down in a position of inÂferiority as servant to Europeans and be prevented by artificial legislative barriers-e.g. the colour bar in industry-from attaining to the white man's standard of life. (3) By the Hertzog compromise of equality of opportunity for white and black in separate territorial and industrial spheres.*
If we examine these three policies by turn in the light of academic theory and then in the light of actual facts they yield divergent results. These results offer guidance as to the ideal conditions that will produce the most satisfactory inter-racial relationships for the unknown future.
(1) The Cape policy was initiated by Sir George Grey (1854-1861), who is universally regarded as the best and wisest governor South Africa has ever had. On the granting of self-government to the Cape Colony in 1854, Sir George conferred the franchise without any distinction of colour. He adopted a forward policy of advancing the Natives in education and industries by instituting liberal grants to Lovedale and Healdtown (Native centres of learning and industrial training), by building the Grey Hospital in King Williamstown to counteract superstition, and by suppressing strong drink and fire-arms. The comment of historians is that these wise measures accomplished much good, and a set was given to the Native policy of the Cape, which still honourably distinguishes it. This cannot be denied. It is our experience. But while practical experience points to the wisdom of the Cape policy the northern doctrinaries preach the reverse. General Hertzog said in November 1925 at Smithfield: " It is clear to me that the other three provinces cannot permit the Native' franchise to be extended on the Cape neither can the Native be given the right to become a member of Parliament. It is clear, further, that the grant of the franchise to the Natives on the Cape basis would necessarily mean the ruin of the white population and of European civilization in the Union. ... It must be patent to all that the Cape franchise must be fundamentally altered unless we want to see either civil war or the white man's ruin and that of European civilization in South Africa."
Such is the contrast between actuality and hypothesis.
(2) The second policy is favoured by what Dr. C. T. Lei-am calls the " Repressionists,"1who must he classed as "the majority of the whites in the Southern States of America and in South Africa. Their view is that the black man is an inferior creature, and he cannot escape from that inferiority." He was condemned by the ancient curse of Ham to be the hewer of wood and drawer of water for the white man. "The moment he wishes to raise himself in the social scale, to profit by the white man's example and to turn to his own use the latent powers within him, then he is to be sternly repressed as imperilling the supremacy of the white man."
Thinking people have veered away from this repressive view, but the majority of whites in South Africa, especially the backvelders, clings to it or else remain utterly indifferent to the whole problem. It is typically the policy of the Transvaal and Orange Free State and it has historically proved wrong, unjust and bad. It has produced an anti-white race of Natives; it has perpetrated the worst forms of legal injustice, ugly racial collisions and a spirit of racial animosity. Examples are abundant but space forbids. As Dr. Loram says:
"If the Repressionist would listen it might be possible to convince him that his policy cannot be carried out today, even if it were ever desirable."
Although repression is still held by a large number of white South Africans as a policy, we may here dismiss it as impracticable and fraught with supreme danger to the future of South Africa.
(3) The newest proposal is that of Segregation as expounded by General Hertzog, the Prime Minister of the present Pact Government (Dutch Nationalist and English Labourists), and in political theory by Professor Edgar Brookes. Its aim is equality of opportunity in separate territorial and industrial spheres, so that on the one side the white should be sufficiently segregated to enable him to preserve his traditional civilization secluded from the degrading influence of the black man's lower civilization, and to rehabilitate the 130,000 "poor whites" whose degeneracy is assumed to be due to the black man's competition and upward rise; and, on the other side, to enable the black man to reach the zenith of political and economic achievement, developing independently " on his own lines " (as if two different types of civilization were now possible), unhampered by the thwarting influences of the European's superior organization.
At first sight this proposition looks attractive. It has the advantage of appearing just. But whether it is feasible is the problem of which as yet its sponsors vouchsafe no solution. It is the ideal dream of the Segregationist and it has been approved by a number of highly respected thinkers who need not be named here. We should therefore be satisfied that it is hopelessly impracticable before rejecting it in favour of the only other alternative, the Cape policy.
To begin with, the three forms of segregation that really concern us are the territorial, industrial and political, because social and education segregation are already in being, as the result of evolution dictated by local convention. At this juncture we need not discuss political segregation, for that will automatically follow when once terriÂtorial segregation is possible. Industrial segregation presupposes two things: first that the black man is able to conduct his commerce and pursue his present vocations alone and divorced from the white man; secondly, that the white man is able to carry on all forms of unskilled work on the roads, on the farms, in the stores, in the kitchens and underground at the mines, independently of the black man.
Both hypotheses, we may at once affirm, are equally impossible in South Africa. They are possible in the United States of America, in Australia and in West Africa, but the South African white man in incapable of undertaking unskilled work in the presence of the much cheaper and equally efficient black labour. As proof of this, the white Labour Party in the Hertzog Pact has devised the Colour Bar Bill, the effect of which will be to limit the black man by legislative barriers to the bottom unskilled work and to reserve all the skilled work to which he naturally aspires to the white man; in fact to "encircle a white oligarchy with a ring fence '' in the words of Genera! Smuts. Under such a system the black man will be between the agricultural serfdom of landlessness and the industrial serfdom of the colour bar-a veritable case of the devil and the deep sea. Such a principle is unlikely to outlast its days as a temporary expedient. It is not a solution with any element of permanency in it. It is selfish, unscientific, unnatural and non-moral, and carries with it its own damnation. Industrial segregation may thus be dismissed as impractical.
The key to the whole Native Question is territorial segregation. If the white people of South Africa were Christian enough to do the Bantu justice in a thorough-going scheme of territorial segregation then the future would be promising. But unfortunately Christianity has not yet been practised to that extent. The first attempt we have had of territorial segregation is that of the Natives Land Act of 1913. This Act confirmed the Natives in the sole occupancy of their reserves in which they were already overcrowded, proposed the setting aside of additional areas in which Natives could purchase land and forbade them to purchase in other areas except with the special permission of the Government. This Act satisfied no one. The Natives naturally objected to the restriction of their right to purchase and the Europeans were unwilling to have their farms set-aside for Native occupation. Two commissions were appointed to recommend the areas which should be set aside but their suggestions have never been accepted. The Act is now thirteen years old, but no additional areas have been opened for Native occupation. On the contrary the evictions of Native tenants who have nowhere to go have been rigorously carried out by the farmers with harrowing results. Both General Smuts and General Hertzog as Prime Ministers have proudly owned this Land Act as their first step towards a segregation policy, to the amazement of the Natives who expected the Act to be either repealed or carried out to its reasonable conclusion. Of all grievances harboured by the datives against European rule the greatest is this Land Act. Native confidence in the white man has been further undermined by the present Government which within twelve months lays claim to the doubtful record of having introduced a greater number of anti-Native bills in Parliament than any other previous Government: A tax on blankets used only by Natives; the Colour Bar Bill; the increase of Native taxation in three of the provinces; the attempted resuscitation of two defunct odious Pass Laws against Transvaal Native women and Transkei Native voters respectively; the civilized-labour policy that has displaced Native workers by white workers in railways and other industries and other projected anti-Native measures like the Masters and Servants Bill. The present Government are showing the world that their first care is the protection of the white race even at the cost of injustice to the Bantu, their candour has thrown the favourite political expression, "making South Africa a white man's country," into bold relief. We Natives are equally frank in our belief that present-day Christianity is not going to prove influential enough to induce Parliament to provide the land needed for Native development. Hence our lack of faith in the new Hertzog solution. We have no option but to judge it by its stern deeds and not by honeyed words.
Our lack of equal economic opportunity, now confirmed by the legal colour bar, is a stern reality.
'No cure is offered by the Churches to assuage our ills. We have been further disappointed that General Smuts, who has played an important part in European councils of world policy, has, in his native land, proved helpless in constructive measures of Native policy.
The most influential economic group in the country is that of European farmers. Their clamant need is cheap Native labour to operate their farms. They are solidly opposed to any scheme of segregation calculated to provide more land and independence for black men. These farmers control the government of the country. They rely for their labour on the black man who is squeezed out from his tribal location by the prevalent intolerable congestion. European farmers own large estates in many cases of five thousand to fifty thousand acres each, while black men are herded together, between thirty and a hundred souls to the square mile of Native-owned land. The belief of the white farmers is that additional land provided for the Natives will react detrimentally on their labour market. This is where the Hertzog compromise breaks down.
What then is our hope? In our view the Cape liberal policy proves itself best. It has stood the test of time, giving the maximum satisfaction to both white and black. The Transvaal policy satisfies only the Northern party and engenders an anti-white feeling in the hearts of the Natives, a feeling that will ultimately recoil disastrously on the whole country. The black man does not ask or much, only for justice, justice in land distribution, justice in economic opportunity and justice in political representation. This is no excessive demand. Historically it has been natural for all races from the time of the Greek helots and Roman plebs. There will never be any inter-racial goodwill in the country until the authorities grant it willingly. We Natives deliberately stand or fall by the Cape policy because we know; nor do we see any likelihood of its materialization under existing circumstances and in the light of our knowledge of the psychology of the materialization of the white South African. Our conviction is that the Hertzog conception of segregation is chimerical. It has no parallel in the world. What we observe in actuality is the complete racial, territorial and political segregation, of France, Italy and Portugal. If we were allowed to live in our own autonomous Crown Colony, like Basutoland or the Bechuanaland Protectorate, extracted from the Union of South Africa and governed direct from Downing Street, then we would heartily say:
"Yes" But the day of such a system of segregation has passed irrevocably.
The farmer-politicians of the northern provinces of South Africa are not prepared, to make any sacrifices for the purposes of enlarging the supply of Native land, for that would work against the interests of those who depend on Native labour for Their farms and industries. Some apposite comÂments are made in the Report of the Government Economic Commission (published February 1926) with reference to this argument: -
"The contact of the Native and the European has lasted too long, and the economic co-operation is too intimate and well established, for the Native to be excluded from European areas and European industries. The provision of adequate Native reserves has been delayed too long for it to be possible for the present Native population of the Union to live without dependence on outside employment, and it was far too long the policy of the Union to drive the Native by taxation and other devices to work for Europeans for it to be possible now to exclude him from the field of employment he is occupying."
We should have thought that the white South African could have realized, in his personal and business interest if from no nobles motive, that the economic development of the five million Bantu was a paying proposition for his markets. It is a curious spectacle to see one million and a half white settlers transporting all sorts of products to foreign markets and neglecting the five million potential consumers in their own country. In fact the lack of progress among the Natives is manifestly an economic hindrance to the white commercial community. Booker T. Washington was correct in saying that you cannot keep the black man down in the gutter without keeping yourself there too. The one process inevitably involves the other.
The application of legislative machinery, such as the Colour Bar legislation, by a modern civilized people for the purpose of repressing a backward race must be the despair of the rest of the civilized world. To quote again from the Report: " To the Commissioners it appears to be an unsound policy to exclude by legislation a class which has no representation in the legislature from the economic developments at present open to them, for the benefit of a politically privileged class. The white man has less to fear from an improvement than from deterioration in the economic status of the Native.... The Commissioners declare that a market for South African manufactures, from which much is hoped to be found, is the growing demands of the Native population, but any growth will be checked by a policy that restricts the Native's opportunities for employment and so keeps down his wages."
Our last hope lies with the world of the Church and its inculcation of higher ethical standards among the rulers of South Africa, where the underlying belief is that the application of Christianity to economics spells suicide. To believe this is to confess that Christianity is a failure. A Transvaal farmer-politician in commenting upon the Hertzog proposals on Native policy says: "A solution is impossible. It can only mean the extermination of the Native, and such a solution the white man will strenuously oppose, not because he loves the Kaffir so much, nor because he needs the Kaffir so badly, but simply because there is such a thing as right and justice, and because our deep-rooted Christian civilization prevents us from flying to remedies which are elemental, even if we had the power or strength to make use of them. Indeed, it is just this ingrained conception of fairness and equity that makes the problem so difficult. We wish to apply Christian principles, but apparently we cannot do so without committing suicide".
We do not believe that the application of the principles of Christianity to economics is suicidal, but the duty of proving and preaching' this falls to the Church. The most influential Church in South Africa is the Dutch Reformed Church, inasmuch as it claims the great majority of our rulers. We Natives are not in a position to bring any influence to bear directly within the councils of this Church, but we highly appreciate the recent important European-Bantu Conference convened by this Church at Johannesburg in 1923. Therefore we urge that the sister Churches should intercede in our behalf and pray with us that a new heart be created in our rulers. We trust to the Almighty God to help us out of our gloom. Laymen can help us through their Rotary Clubs and Round Table Conferences. We can do our share in the existing Joint Councils, Native Welfare Associations and other inter-racial conferences (such as the European-Bantu Conference) which have proved effective to a considerable degree in bringing together the moderate leaders of all sections and races, dispelling much mutual ignorance and suspicion and creating knowledge and good understanding.
See The History of Native Policy in South Africa, by Professor Edgar H. Brookes, m. a., D.Litt. Chapter XV. on' Segregation and the Land Question.'
See The Education of the South African Native, p. 17.