From the book: The Segregation Fallacy and Other Papers by D.D.T Jabavu
The franchisement was first granted to the Native of Cape Colony in 1854, without, distinction as to white and black. Before this privilege was conÂferred upon the Natives, the evidence of both oral tradition and Cape historical records of the years 1848 -1854 enables us to judge that the motives inspiring the officials of the then British Parliament were born of the essential Christian ethic, namely: " Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." They were founded on a system of unimpeachable equity to all human beings regardless of colour, race or creed.
Translated into practical politics by Sir George Grey and his contemporaries, who meticulously eschewed all discrimination based on the colour of a man's skin, they were finally crystallised by Cecil Rhodes formula of "Equal rights to all civilised men south of the Zambesi." This Rhodesian dictum imposed the criterion civilisation on everybody alike, excluding both white and black uncivilised men. It was an equitable standard, because it threw the door open for all to qualify for true citizenship and a voice in the councils of a State in which civilized men were bound for the same destiny.
Under such a scheme it was no disadvantage to wear a black skin, because all men who could prove their civilisation by a recognised educational and property test were eligible for the franchise and Parliamentary membership. Judged from the religions standpoint this was perfectly Christian and at the same time sound economics. The ministers of Queen Victoria thus made Britons of all civilised black men under the Union Jack on a uniform equality of citizenship with all other British subjects elsewhere in the Empire on which the sun ever sets. The old Cape Colony adhered to this policy for nearly half a century, producing a progressive, contented and sane Bantu population.
Change of Spirit
At the conclusion of the Boer War and pacification of 1902 a compromise was made by which the Britishers yielded to the tradition of the Northern ex-Republics on the principle that a man's black colour should prohibit him from the right to the franchise. A worse compromise was pressed from the same quarter in 1909 when under the Union Act; the right of membership to Parliament was taken away from the Cape Native and Coloured voters. We know that in the deliberations of the 1908 Convention it was the Northern members who pressed for the exclusion of non-Europeans from Parliament; and that it as only under inexorable pressure that the Cape delegates were brought to give way to the notorious Colour Bar Clause No. 26 of the Constitution, and to Clause No. 35, which made it a possibility to dispossess the Cape Natives of their franchise, and which constitutionally placed it under the jeopardy of election vicissitudes whereby all non-European could some day be disqualified by a two-thirds majority in a Joint Sitting.
The spirit that produced this clause was without doubt illiberal, un-Christian and subversive of all that is best in British tradition, resulting in palpable unrest among' the people thus stigmatised, as well as considerable mystification and perplexity in the Imperial Parliament when the Draft Union Act was taken thither for ratification. Lord Crewe, all urging the South African delegation to abandon the un-British and shortsighted Colour Bar in the Constitution; but to no purpose, made memorable speeches in the House of Commons by the Prime Minister, Mr. H. H. Asquith, and in the House of Lords. In view of this adamant position on the part of the South African delegation King Edward VII. took the extraordinary step of preserving the right of the Cape Native franchise against future dispossession in his " Letters of Instruction" to all future Governors-General. Again, the Imperial Commoners in their dispair, after endeavouring to influence the Convention delegates towards a more humane attitude, exhorted the delegates to modify their policy on their return so as to seek a way to withdraw the Colour Bar and extend the Cape Native franchise northwards.
It was not a question of uninformed English negrophiles unduly intermeddling in the local affairs of South Africa; but a case of indepenÂdent external examiners criticising the patent failure on the part of South African politicians to observe the universal laws common to all humanity. Locally, it was the historical conflict between the ideals of the liberal Cape and the inflexible Northern Provinces habituated to governing their subject races on the principles of so-called "firmness.'' The Imperial Parliament and' the King of the British Empire, in their capacity of unbiassed judges, could not forbear to censure the Convention delegates for the glaring injustice comÂmitted against the inarticulate Bantu races.
Less than two months prominent Cape politician gave expression in a public speech to the following apposite remarks:
"A new spirit had come into Native policy in recent years as far as the Union was concerned- a policy of injustice, a policy that back entirely the policy of the old Cape Colony. He would go as far as to say that had they at the Convention, or had the leaders of the old Cape Colony in those days, known the position as it is was to-day, there would have been no Union. That was absolutely certain. If they could have foreseen the Bills, which were now before Parliament for discussion next session, they would never have dreamt of going into Union. They thought at that time that, with the experience, which the Union Government would get, the policy of the old Cape Colony would gradually extend and be supported by the whole of the people of the Union. The policy now was to go back on the policy of the old Cape Colony. Under this (Representation of Natives) Bill it was proposed to take every Native off the register, which was absolutely contrary to the Act of Union . . . and it is against the assurances given to the Imperial Government when the Act of Union was passed." - (W. Jagger, M. L. A., Cape Times, December (16 1926.)
These facts are incontestable and cannot lightly be dismissed as political opportunism or platform chicanery. Since then a change for the worse has become manifest from the spirit that obtained in 1854 and 1910. The Northern provinces have undergone no change of heart since the last sixteen years. On the contrary, there is cumulative evidence that they have steadily overpowered the Cape policy. Indeed their dominance has given birth to the Colour Bar Act of 1936, and to the Native Bills, of which we are to consider clause-by-clause the one entitled "The Representation of Natives in Parliament."
The Franchise Bill
The preamble to this Bill contains three extraÂordinary proposals: -(a) The first is to alter sub-section (2) of section 35 of the South Africa Act in order to remove all the names of Native voters from the registers. The original law guaranteed " No person who at the passing of any such law (i.e. to disqualify any person by reason of his race or colour only) is registered as a voter in any province shall be removed from the register by reason only of any disqualification based on race or colour." This proposal constitutes a revoluÂtionary violation of both the letter and spirit of the Union Act.
(b) The second is " to make special and uniform provision for the representation of the Native inhabitants of the Union in the House of Assembly." Tin's proposal postulates what we cannot accept, namely that the members of Parliament should be split into sections according as they represent whites and blacks who live territorially mixed. It is further vitiated by its preliminary basis of depriving one section of the Natives of its franchise rights enjoyed for more than seventy years without abuse or misuse.
(c) The third is " to alter certain other provisions of the South Africa Act, 1909, and the laws governing voters' rolls and parliamentary elections, with a view to effect such representation."
There appears to be no justification for tampering with the Constitution for the purpose of introducing; an injustice at the expense of the Cape Native voters.
On this preamble we would offer as a construcÂtive suggestion that no alteration whatever be made in section 35 of the Union Act, but that special provision be introduced to initiate the Natives of the three Northern Provinces into a modified form of the franchise with a high educational and property qualification. That would be a step in the direction of honouring the assurances given in England in 1909 by the Convention deputation. Incidentally it would rectify the long-standing anomaly of the existence of voteless educated Natives and create justice where it is clamantly wanted.
Clause 1 of this Bill definitely disfranchises the Cape Native voters because it repeals sub-section (2) of section 35 of the Union Act.
As we oppose the retrogressive step of the disfranchisement of the Cape Natives, we respectÂfully suggest that Clause 1 be deleted from the Bill.
Clause 2 establishes seven European members to represent all the Natives of the Union and divides each or the larger provinces into two electoral constituencie s where voting' is to be carried ' by Chiefs, Headmen, members of local Councils, or by other groups to be organised by government machinery. This clause is both revolutionary and indefensible; revolutionary because such of group voting is without precedent in the British Empire; and indefensible because, (a) the number of members will be clearly inadequate for the immense population concerned: (b) the geographical size of the constituencies will be for efficient management; (c) the character electoral brigades will be that of men indebted to the Government either as servants or nominees; (d) it supplies only a shadow of its intended substances because the proposed electorates, being all but suborned in advance, give but a faint reflex of real representation.
As a constructive suggestion we would eliminate this clause and substitute instead a modified individual franchise for the three Northern Provinces based on an educational and property qualification.
Clause 3 lays out the manner, date and place of elections.
Clause 4 makes seven members additional to those in the Union Act, and perpetuates the old and contentious Colour Bar of section 43 of the Act.
Clauses 5 and 6 limit the privileges of the seven members in certain respects, and these respects are just those matters in which the Native voters are at least as deeply concerned as are the European voters.
Clause 7 completes the process of the disfranchisement of the old-time Cape Native voter begun under clause 1 of the Bill.
Now, clauses 3 to 7 should be deleted under our scheme inasmuch as they logically depend for their validity upon clause 1 and 2, which we have already expunged.
Clause 8 is a legal riddle. According to the reading of General Smuts it preserves the status quo of the Native voters in their relation to the Provincial Council. According to Sir Charles Crewe it abolishes it. The ambiguity of this clause thus permits of two diametrically opposed legal interpretations. In either case it is difficult to imagine how the Native voters will continue to vote for their Provincial Council once their names are struck off the register as provided under clauses 1 and 2 of this Bill. This confusion of aim on the part of the authors of the Bill somewhat upÂholds our suggestion against any tampering with the old Cape Native Vote.
Clauses 9 to 11 are negligible as they merely define terms.
Thus we are left with nothing to improve in the Bill except the constructive suggestions already outlined.
In support of this position we may at this juncture state that the Natives of the Northern provinces have, by means of their organisations, journals, meetings and all other methods of expression, unequivocally rejected offers made under this Bill.
They do not want the Bill so long as its advantages to them involve the whittling down of the old Cape Native vote. They prefer to wait until in God's good time the European race of South Africa may be induced to start them on a franchise similar, even if modified, to that of the Cape. It will therefore be purposeless upon these people a pseudo-franchise they animously repudiate.
On the other band the Cape Natives have already lost so many of their old treasured privileges since Union (that is, by the disabilities under the Colour Bar clause in the Constitution, the restrictions arising out of the 1913 Lands Act, the Poll Tax, Pass Laws, the abolition of the right to appeal to the Privy Council, the dispossession of the right to land tenure under the Urban Areas Act, the Colour Bar Act of 1926), they have already lost so many of their privileges, I say, that they can hardly be blamed for being now unwilling to sacrifice their greatest asset for the sake of conÂferring the franchise on somebody who says he does not want it.
The Case Against the Native Vote
We shall now discuss eight arguments levelled against the Cape Native Franchise by the Prime Minister at Smithfield (Nov. 13th, 1925) and by others from time to time.
Firstly, the Cape Native Vote is a danger to European civilisation.
Our answer is that a little thinking will show that this is erroneous because the ordinary Native cannot be a voter until he satisfies the standard set for all civilised men. To become civilised he begins by renouncing barbarism and develops political aspirations that are harmonious with progress and modern culture. Barbarism, as an inferior stage of ethnic development, can always be subjugated by civilisation. Therefore it is a logical fallacy to assume that the Cape Native vote can by any possibility be a menace to European civilisation. On the contrary the history of the last years contains abundant proof that the Native vote has substantially advanced the cause of European civilisation, because it has been wisely exercised, producing parliamentarians of the calibre of Sir James Rose-Innes who first-entered Parliament in the early eighties as a direct choice of the Victoria East Native voters. Far from being amenable to bribery by unscrupuÂlous orators, it has exhibited judicious selection, decorating the House of Assembly with illustrious statesmen like Mr. Merriman, Mr. Sauer, Sir Richard Solomon, Sir. Charles Crewe, and many more. It has never committed any mistakes. Therefore theory and experience are entirely on the side of the Cape Native vote.
Secondly, we are told it is a danger because it will in time swamp the European vote by reason of its numerical preponderance, transferring political ascendancy from white to black and making this a black man's country.
Our reply is that this is a confession of an unjustifiable fear. Past history provides no more ground for fear on this account than the Cassandra prophecies deduced from census figures Government official two years ago. A study the figures reveals that in 1910 there were 6,633 Native voters to 121,346 European voters, that is one to eighteen; and now sixteen years after that there are 14,182 to 156.531, one to eleven. This comparative slowness of Native growth beeping with the slow process of a true education, a natural course of development did swamp the whites in our present day, what reason is there to fear four million uncivilised Natives on the part of a million civilized population backed by forty-five million Englishmen plus the whole League of Nations? A lion might as well fear the future of the mouse. Just as Natal has framed laws stringent enough to limit its franchise to a Few Natives, so will the Union Parliament always be in a position to circumstance the Native vote within whatever standard of Natives it judges to be adequate for the sentimental purpose of obtaining white dominance in Parliament. Furthermore when the Native voters of five centuries hereafter are numerous enough to swamp the whites they will ipso facto be civilised enough to run the country in civilised lines and with the intelligence and dignity associated with civilised races elsewhere in the world.
Thirdly, it is argued that political equality will lead to social equality, a position repugnant to Europeans.
In answer, we say political equal means synonymous with social intermixture and miscegenation any more than the present Native Voters seek intermarriage with European women. We desire political equality not for social intercourse but in order to rise in our economic and political circumstances. We cannot thrive economically until we have our due share to the land rightly adjusted. And we cannot obtain our land rights until we get a direct voice in Parliament, that is, political equality. We are already inexÂtricably bound up with Europeans in our territorial occupation of the land, but minus the means whereÂwith to protect our interests in the land we jointly occupy. Without political equality there is no hope of our attaining justice in our territorial problems; and it is obvious that territorial segregation will forever be a physical impossibility in South Africa. Christianity alone has failed to secure justice for the - Natives. The Natives will get justice only when they get political equality. It follows then that political equality is the only practical policy, which Christianity should adopt for the Bantu of South Africa. This has nothing to do with social intercourse.
Fourthly, it is averred that the vote is in essence contrary to the African tradition of tribal rule by chiefs.
Against this we submit that African tribal rule has undergone such disintegration that it can never be re-established among detribalised Natives. Our tribal system is being gradually dislodged by the European democratic system and will ultimately be eliminated according as education spreads. It is useless to urge tribal communism as our ultimate goal in face of the Union Act based on British individualism, which is the enemy of communism. Even a racial or differential imperium in imperio will be ineffectual in this country.
Fifthly, it has been said that the Cape Natives vote is obnoxious because it places the Cape Native on a higher footing than the Northern Native.
Against this we would point out that the reason why the Cape Native stands politically on a footing than his Northern compatriot is that the Cape tradition was historically based upon impartial justice. Christian morality, so far as we understand it, requires that the happy man shall not be penalised by degradation in order to establish a uniform injustice. Rather, the unhappy Native helot of the Orange Free State should be sympaÂthetically raised to the rightful citizenship enjoyed by his more fortunate Cape brother.
Sixthly, political advantage granted to Native will recoil detrimentally to European interests.
This is a favourite Northern argument based on the theory that the Natives are children and should therefore be treated as political minors. Plausible as this theory sounds, it will be found on closer examination to be faulty because the Native people in the Union are not all children or barbarians. Some have achieved considerable progress and we cannot, afford to despise or defy their vanguard of worthy leaders who are already fit to exercise the franchise by their unobtrusive qualification of good character, education and substance. Another mistake lies in the assumption that they will perpetually remain children and never grow out of childhood. A wise policy is that which makes due provision for such members of the population as grow out of the condition of childhood, as was done at the Cape. Under such a policy the Bantu leaders developed confidence in, and loyalty and love for their Government system, leading the masses behind them to a similar appreciation of authority, thus eliminating any possible detriment to the interest of the rulers.
Seventhly, it is affirmed that the political interest of the Europeans are distinct from those of the Natives.
Our reply is that economic interests in the last analysis govern all political affairs. Now in the union it is admitted on all sides whites and black are economically interdependent. in Native Affairs the land question is supreme because the land is the indispensable asset that governs the economic status of the Native. All Native prosperity automatically increases European prosperity. Every Native wealthy enough to contribute a substantial income tax is by that much a more valuable citizen to the white government than his impecunious brother who pays only the poll tax, and accordingly deserves a voice in the counsels of the State in which he has so much prosperity at stake. The identity of white and black political and economic interests should be accepted as an indisputable axiom in this country. The only alternative for all those who deny this identity of interest is the impossible task of effecting absolute territorial segregation, placing the blacks on some virgin land where they shall conduct their own separate administration directly under the Imperial Government.
Lastly, it has been recently stated, "As the voting power of the Native increases, so the feeling of bitterness against him will take possession of the white man. It will then doubtless-pass that the basis of popular government honest difference of opinion on great questions, will give place to a division on colour and lines to the neglect of everything else."
This is perhaps the strongest of all the arguments ever advanced against the Native franchise: and it is of paramount importance that the whole of the intelligent public opinion of South Africa be familiarised with the truth that will explode me fallacies that underlie this and the other seven propositions just discussed.
This particular argument presuppose two things to which we cannot subscribe, namely (a) that the white man holds an incorrigible holds black man: and (b)) that white and black in South Africa are irreconcilable enemies.
So far as the Cape Province is concerned we venture to state that the voting power of the black-man has never produced bitterness against Division on racial lines has from the very beginning been conspicuous by its absence. The Natives have always divided along ordinary Parliamentary lines. We remember in the days of the old Afrikander Bond that Onze Jan Hofmeyr was in league with John Tengo Jabavu with a big following of Native voters; whilst the Progressiveness had Dr. Jameson with the Rev. Walter Benson Rubusana and an equally large share of the Native voters behind them. These were divisions on lines of honest differences of opinion persisting down to the year 1909, with the South African Party and the Unionist each claiming a substantial following of Native voters. There was not even the mention of racialism. There are the historical facts. This situation was due to the kind of spirit that ruled in the Cape. Probably it is an approximation of a Christian spirit of non-racialism. If others are incapable of rising to it, then there appears no good for them to blame the Cape European for being good Christians. The pessimistic expectation of a division on race lines is destitute of historical foundation, and either betrays a lack of faith in Christianity, or amounts to a confession that Christianity, as we know it in South Africa is bankrupt.
The Cape Native View
It is desirable that the view of the black possessor towards his franchise should be known.
He regards his vote as a treasured gift of justice inherited from Queen Victoria, the Good. This Queen attracted the Basuto, the Bechuana and the Pondo chiefs voluntarily to surrender their unconquered lands under British tutelage. This franchise is ethically moral because it places a premium on merit rather than colour. It is Christian, indicating the white man's humanitarian duty towards the black. It is economically sound for it confers equality of opportunity on all to rise freely in the scale of civilisation. It fulfils the challenge of the New Testament towards peace as against hate. It has bestowed the highest mundane privilege of man, citizenship, as opposed to serfdom. The Cape Natives being full-fledged citizens have been immune from the rigours of the Pass Laws, which are the curse of their voteless comrades in the Transvaal. Likewise have they been saved by the grace of the franchise from the operation of the 1913 Lands Act with its painful evictions. They have good reason for being vigilant against any impending dispossession of this citizenship lest such a misfortune be followed by an era of mutual hatred that can only end in the dim and dismal future with a sanguinary conflict. This franchise is thus nothing less than the noblest monument of the white man's rule, emblematic of his genuineness in practising the precepts of Holy Scripture towards the subject races.
The obvious Christian policy is that which will in our day truly lay the foundations for a glorious future of co-operation and good understanding. There seems to be no likelihood of keeping the black man down or back from his march towards ultimate liberty in education, economic life and political privilege any more than it was possible for King Canute to block the ocean tide by an act of volition.
Oppression and restriction will perhaps serves as useful expedients for a time, but the unerring course of evolution and the ultimate destiny of Christianity will inevitably predominate.
All the Native people of the Union pray that the Churches of South Africa will, under the courageous leadership of the Dutch 'Reformed Churches, awake and respond to the call of Christian duty at this momentous hour when we are at the cross-roads of Native policy, exhorting European public opinion to abandon the fatal path of mare expediency and injustice, guiding all to the safe haven of self-denial, peace and goodwill towards men.