From the book: The Segregation Fallacy and Other Papers by D.D.T Jabavu

General Hertzog is rightly recognised first politician to urge with constant seriousness the segregation of the Bantu in the Union of South Africa as a solution of what is called the Native question. He suggested this many years ago, and has preached it until, on acceding to Parliamentary power, lie outlined it in his Smithfield speech of November 13, 1925, and embodied it in his four Bills of 1926 the Land Amendment Bill, the Native Union Council Bill, the Representation of Natives in Parliament Bill and the Coloured Persons' Rights Bill.

In the first place we wish to submit that the Native is not '' a question." The question facing the rulers of the country is how to do justice by the Native. And the problem that equally confronts the Europeans and the Bantu in the Union of South Africa is that of the readjustment of inter-racial relationships in a manner that will conduce to mutual confidence and universal good will.

The meanings attached by various people to the principle of segregation are numerous and confusing. Some consider it only territorially, others politically; some industrially, others residentially; some socially, others only with reference to intermarriage and so forth.

There is, therefore, a real need for clarity of thought on the subject before segregation as the settled policy of the Union of South Africa should be approved, discarded or compromised with.

Reasons in Favour


Those who favour segregation are at their best when they cite Basutoland as their idea] exemplification of segregation. There is indeed much to commend in this example for these among other reasons: -

(1) Basutoland is a country explicitly reserved for the Basuto by a treaty with Great Britain. It successfully resisted all conquest by Europeans, and was voluntarily surrendered to Queen Victoria by Chief Moshoeshoe.

(2) It is governed by Basuto chiefs in accordance with African tribal custom; and Resident Commissioner with his staff of officials is there to see that this rule by custom is managed without any perpetration of inhumanities such as would be repugnant to common justice.

(3) Here the African has his opportunity to ''develop along his own lines" unhampered by European officiousness and institutions. Indeed, lines free to work out a culture of his own, which may, if it has any intrinsic value, render its own peculiar contribution to the rest of civilisation. The policemen and civil service of clerks and interpreters here are all black men.

(4) Basutoland is conveniently near to the Europeans of the Union, who constantly need the Basuto as workers in their farms, kitchens, mineral mines and all other types of unskilled labour where his low wages are a blessing to employers.

(5) Basutoland is not too spacious. It is not spacious enough to make the Mosuto independent of employment in white areas. It is, in fact, so overcrowded that all arable land is already allotted. Even the mountain slopes of the Drakensberg are being ploughed, and serious encroachments are being made on the remaining limited pasture lands. Many Basuto are obliged, in consequence, to leave their country and seek a living in Union towns, and one finds them in considerable numbers in Bloemfontein, Kimberley, De Aar and as far afield as East London, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town. This is all excellent to the segregationist, because he does not wish the black man to be too far away or unavailable for labour, though segregated.

(6) The African in Basutoland has his own Parliament, the Pitso (or National Council handsomely accounts for him by keeping him off from intermeddling in European politics (as the Xhosa do at the Cape) at the same time gives him ample scope to exercise his penchant political activity.

(7) The Basutoland scheme obviates and disposes of all the social difficulties that arise from the contiguity to the towns of Native urban locations, villages and settlements, where the lower ten of both sides tend to social intermixture with results of immoral miscegenation.

There may be additional reasons, but we think the above constitute a fair summary of the case for the segregationists.

The case is a strong one so long as we confine our attention to the conditions of Basutoland. If it could be applied to the Union, or to portions of the Union in toto, very few people would be found to oppose the principle of segregation. Given a full chance, a virgin country like Rhodesia or Tanganyika, its supporters can make it work just as it has done in the " Switzerland of South Africa." But the insurmountable question is, can it be applied on all fours to any section within the Union? Our answer is in the negative.

For our reasons we may conveniently take the points enumerated above seriatim.

Reasons Against

The Union contains no stretch of land equal in dimensions to Basutoland, devoid of European settlers and so exclusively reserved for the Bantu that Whites may never enter. The Basuto, it is to be remembered, are about half a million in number and their country is 11,000 square miles in area. With this fact in our minds let us consider the Union provinces one by one and compare their circumstances with Basutoland.

In the Cape Province there are about 1,600,000 blacks. The territory eastwards from Cape Town to the Kei River and roughly northwards to Herchel and the Orange River is occupied by black and white in such hopeless intermixture that segregation there is definitely belated and physically impossible because not only could the present occupants not be moved elsewhere, but the cost of buying them out of their possession would be fabulous. This is one of the discoveries made by a Government Commission eleven years ago. The blacks here are in a state of land hunger because their congestion, for an agricultural people in a country frequented by devastating droughts, is so serious that in certain sections it works out at 100 Natives-owned land.

Turning to the Transkeian territories we may divide them for our argument into four sections East Griqualand, Pondoland, Transkei proper. The first three average more than a quarter of a million people each, and the fourth much less. East Griqualand and Tembuland already partly white and partly black, and being fully inhabited must be left out of consideration here. The Transkei proper has many white and is already feeling the pressure of over population (with over 40 Natives to the square mile), and offering no room for extraneous additional Natives, needs room for expansion. This leaves us Pondoland as the only portion of the Cape Province that comes anywhere near Basutoland in similarity of circumstances. It is purely black and completely inhabited. Its government is by chiefs in accordance with Native custom. It has its national council. Like Basutoland it was never conquered by European forces, but spontaneously submitted itself under British tutelage by a treaty that debarred all immigration. But against all this we make bold to say Pondoland is too late for the possibility of segregation according to the Basutoland model for two causes. First, some years ago certain Europeans managed to get behind the Paramount Chief and secure a large slice of land round Port St. John's with freehold title and the entire territory is now treated like ordinary conquered Crown land no longer safe from alienation, while there is no knowing when its owners may be again outwitted by whites. Secondly, its taxes go to the consolidated revenue of the Union Government, whereas all Basuto taxes go to the Pitso at Maseru to be managed by the aborigines themselves. It is contrary to human nature to expect the Union Government to abandon the Pondoland taxes for the sake of an academic abstraction like the theory segregation.

In Natal the Native population, which is a little less than that of the Cape, lives more or less mixed with the whites except in the Zululand reserves. These reserves being Crown land are not assured to the Zulus and not long ago a portion of them alienated by the Government for European settlements. This alone shows there is no intention to apply segregation, and, according to the determined expressions of the farmers in that province before the Native Affairs Commission two years ago, not another acre" will be released by whites for Natives occupation. That is the inflexible reply vouchsafed to the 1913 Lands Act and its amending Bill of General Hertzog. Thus segregation in Natal is indubitably foredoomed to failure.

The Orange Free State is a thinly populated province because its white farmers individually possess huge blocks of land, much of which could be spared and released for the accommodation of landless Natives. This would call for great sacrifices, which South Africa is not yet Christian enough to make. Apart from Christian considera­tions there is an Old Dutch law by which Native is allowed to buy land in that province. The Boers are not likely to amend that law in the direction of benefiting the blacks, even the accommodate their pet belief in segregation. So we have a blank non-possumus here that cannot be circumvented. The three tiny oases of Native reserves found there-namely, Thaba 'Nchu. Seliba and Witzie's Hoek-make no difference to the general fact quoted.

The Transvaal has a Native population nearly equal to that of the Cape Province, but advantage of containing regions of occupied land. Even these, however, are not enough to supply a new Basutoland and meantime they are being so fast encroached upon that it will not be long before a replica of the Natal stalemate position of hardened opinion.

Under this point we may therefore conclude fairly that territorial segregation on the model of Basutoland is an absolute impossibility in the Union.

'The Civilised Labour '' Policy

(2) Government through Native chiefs has historically justified itself everywhere in the world, especially in West Africa and New Zealand. It is the only practical policy for ruling people living in the stage of primitive tribal condition. On this account it cannot yet be dispensed with like Pondoland, Herschel, Peddie, Tembuland in the Cape, Zululand in Natal, Witzie's Hoek in the Orange Free State, and among the Bapedi and many other tribes in North Transvaal.

But, as the history of Europe teaches, it is a transitory stage that gradually suffers disintegration by the invasion of individualistic ideas which 'sooner or later come of necessity to all peoples. There is abundant evidence that the Bantu are no exception to the tendency of such metamorphosis. This institution requires to be recognised and provided for, as due to contact with the white man's Western individualistic civilisation whereby the Bantu who have left the countryside and gone to form an integral part of the urban populations can no longer come under the personal surveillance of a chief. This class of Natives is sometimes termed " detribalised," but this is a misnomer, because some of them, though urbanised, are not necessarily detribalised. The present writer, for instance, though urbanised by the circumstances of his vocation is nevertheless not detribalised. Most of these urbanised Natives have come within the ambit of the European system by reason of their residence and occupation for two or three generations and cannot be governed separately from whites living under similar conditions. And it must be remembered that the Native became urbanised not of his desire in the first instance, but of a set policy of his rulers, who destroyed tribal life as being a danger to European civilisation, arguing that the Native should be taken out of his ''idle" kraal life and brought to the towns to be taught the dignity of manual labour. Incidentally he has acquired his lesson of the dignity of labour so thoroughly that the boot is now worn other foot; and we behold the inconsistent spectacle of a subversive "civilised labour " to drive blacks out of urban areas back to the '' idle" kraal life out of which they coerced by the same whites. The tribalism has once been destroyed can never resuscitate. It has gone irrevocably. Our experimentalists in segregation ignore or are ignorant of this steady transition of the black man out of communistic tribalism into democratic individualism and imagine he can be dealt with as an indivisible brood capable of being herded back any time from urbanism to the ancient kraal life of the chief's community. Existing circumstances, if commonsense fails, will teach our segregationist legislators the necessity of making provision their economic and political schemes for the two classes of Natives: the primitive tribalist and the modern urbanist or individualist who has out­grown the good old days of communism. They need to learn also that the Bantu chief's system is not autocratic, but democratic, for it is the counsellors who decide, and the chief acts only as their mouthpiece and executive officer. Modern philosophers have discovered that autocratic rule for certain type of mentality is quite as efficient as democratic government. For us Bantu the path of wisdom lies in recognising that the basis of the Union Government and that of the British Imperial Parliament is democracy. Our aspirations and energies, if wisely guided, should therefore be directed towards the well-tried system of our exemplars who have brought us the pattern.

A Shallow Fallacy

(3) We are constantly exhorted along our own lines," as apart from, against and in competition with white civilisation, just because we are Africans. This shallow fallacy has by sheer repetition become popular and almost a fetish with those who reiterate it. When we seek to elicit further explanation on this article of creed from our kind exhorters we find their conception of it indefinable. Others interpret it to mean that the black man should withdraw from "white" areas (the towns) and emigrate in Israel­ite fashon back to his own areas, the reserves (which, as we have pointed out, are now crowded), there to make his own discoveries and inventions, stew in his own juice and work out his own salvation away from the white man who now wants the towns to absorb the poor whites. This is admirably honest, even if brutal, for it is tantamount to the "civilised labour" (i.e., the "white labour") policy under which the Colour Bar Act aimed to drive out black men from all skilled trades and industries. This is Native repression often born of race prejudice, here hidden under academic terminology and disguise. It amounts to inviting the aborigines to go out into the wilderness " to see a reed shaken with the wind." Where is this unoccupied land or wilderness to which we are advised to go? Some have suggested the arid wastes of South-West Africa. Why not the Kalahari or the Sahara Desert? The bathos of absurdity in argument those who suggest that the black must first get himself out of touch with European influences and institutions in order to be able to build a new and peculiar civilisation and make his contribution to the world of music and invention. As if Sir Edward Elgar, Signor Caruso, Herr Mark Hamburg. Monsieur Bleriot and Mr. Morris must first be cut off from contact with modern civilisation be exiled to Siberia in order to be able to make their contribution to music and invention.

As to the civil service, the black man in the Union to-day has to trust to prayer if be is to eat even the children's crumbs that fall under the table while he is elbowed out by whites even in his special field of interpreting for his people certain districts and in circuit courts.

(4) The proximity to the European of the Bantu with their cheap unskilled labour is a sine qua non throughout the Union. It goes without saying that the most rabid segregationist does not want the African to be too far away from this purpose. He wants his Native servant within his backyard.

(5) The secret but unmentioned purpose 1913 Lands Act is to confine the black the black man within such circumscribed limits that he should never territorially independent, but be compelled by intolerable congestion to go out of his habitat and seek labour with whites and thus constitute a never-drying reservoir of cheap unskilled labour, especially for the farmers.

Confused Thinking

(6) The most pitiful confusion of thinking on the part of segregationists occurs in connection with the council system of the Transkei territories. The joyful the Transkei Council has been a magnificent success; therefore give all the blacks similar councils and thus get them out of the white man's Parliament and from the vote."

The position is not quite so simple. That the Transkei General Council has been an unqualified success we heartily agree; and we would be gratified to see some form of it made available for all the aborigines of the Union. But the limited, range of deserves to he better understood. It deals only with purely local affairs such as are managed elsewhere by municipalities and divisional councils under the Provincial Councils. Not at all does it touch the larger affairs of State that are in the power of the House of Assembly, where the interest of the blacks are inextricably intertwined with those of the whites, the interests Railways and Harbours, Customs and Excise, State Agriculture, Higher Education, Mines and Industries, Justice, Posts and Telegraphs, Public Health, Defence, Labour, Native Affairs, Union Finance, and so on. We have a stake in each and every one of these great Government departments because we contribute by direct and indirect taxation thereto on parity with the white man. Those who suggest that representation in the Senate is sufficient for the 'Natives must be in­adequately informed as to the functions of Parlia­ment. We are under no illusion. The House of Assembly is the sole arbiter over State finance.

The Draconian Poll Tax

Over and above this we pay an extraordinary poll tax of 30s. per male, beginning with mere boys of 18 years of age and which singles out the black man only by reason of his colour. This is the heaviest tax in Christendom when one reckons that the Native labourer whom if afflicts earns an average of only £30 per annum. If the government dared to impose a general tax of £10 oil every European male earning £300 a year we should soon see a bloody revolution in white South Africa. But that is exactly the extent of the enormity of the incidence of this draconian tax, which we can­not help but regard as the penalty of being black in our home country. This poll tax also goes to the Treasury of the House of Assembly. The Senate has no control over it; neither have the Native local councils. One would like to know how in the name of commonsense the Native can lie ruled out of having a say, or an individual vote for his direct representation in a Parliament or his circumstances, contributes so substantially? Only one fourth of this unconscionable tax is earn marked for the Native Development Account. The remaining three-fourths are dumped into the general Treasury to benefit Europeans, Coloureds and Indians who are exempted from such a tax. If all of it were credited to the Native Development Account we would have less to say about it. As things are it remains the most bare-faced act of oppression, in the British Empire. The Basutoland analogy breaks down here because while the Basuto themselves control all their taxation, our is dispensed for the whites and for us conjointly by the House of Assembly. We can obtain our just share of the joint funds only in proportion to the influence commanded by our representation in this Assembly. Hence the importance of the old Cape Native franchise, our jealous vigilance over its entrenchment in the Constitution, and the reason why it is the crux of the Premier's four Bills. No amount of partial or local segregation can help us here. The only imaginable scheme along lines of segregation is one of pure fantasy, that of transplanting all the Bantu out of the Union and right away into some unoccupied country where, like the Basuto, they shall be free from the irksome entanglements of Union taxation.

Segregation Impracticable

According to a certain Transvaal Native, the Creator originally fixed the most genuine segregation when He separated the European from the Bantu by means of the Atlantic Ocean. But as the white man chose of his free will to transgress this natural boundary he can hardly expect us to make room for a new segregation. We are destined to live together as a nation within the same borders. This is the truth in a nutshell. It offers us Hobson's choice, and that choice is not segregation.

(7) The Native urban townships arise out of the need of Native labour in the towns. The un­desirable sort of contact at low social levels between black and white in towns is due to slum quarters. Once the housing question is satisfactorily solved, as it is in Bloemfontein, the com­plaint disappears. But South Africa suffers from a chronic mania for making on racial lines. 'Subjects like " social equality " (another meaning-less shibboleth), racial contact, inter- marriage, half-castes, racial integrity, and so on seem to cause our legislator constantly to dream of creating new regulations for the humiliation of the black man as if the black man alone were responsible for the evils of immorality in the country. What we need here is not segregation laws, but organised patriotic efforts for the moral uplift and the social amelioration of the lower classes on both sides of the colour line. Birds of a feather will continue to flock together and black people like all other human beings, will gravitate to the same residential districts without compulsion by law so long as town authorities grant them reasonable amenities of life and residential facilities as Bloemfontein does. The social contact of intellectual equals with common interests among different races need not and cannot be prohibited by law. There is a limit even to law making. Legalised racial discrimination, as has been well said, tend to produced antagonism and unhealthy feelings of superiority and inferiority. Under present circumstances in the Union, statutory segregation is both unnecessary and impracticable. The day has arrived for the final expulsion of the elusive phantom of segregation from South Africa.