From the book: The Segregation Fallacy and Other Papers by D.D.T Jabavu
Today we find ourselves in a crucial stage of African economic and political development. Our rulers have declared their intention, to incorporate in the Statue Book a newfangled Native policy that is destined, if wrong, to usher the country into an era of mutual distrust, the end of which is terrible to contemplate. This cannot be the objective of the Premier. We feel certain it never was, whatever be the influences that have induced him to do what he has done. On the contrary, we all owe him thanks for his endeavour and courage in compelling the public attention to Native affairs in a manner that has forced all intelligent people to think furiously.
But as to whether his policy is based on the wisest philosophy is a totally different matter, and one in which we can differ without imputing any sinister motives to the respected author of the Natives Bills.
Crossroads of Native Policy
We have, as a problem set before us, to make up our minds what sort of a Native policy is calculated to produce the most satisfactory interracial relationship for the dim future of South Africa. Is it to be the Northern policy (traditionally associated with the Transvaal and Orange Free State) or that of the Cape?
This country boasts many practical men, who adjure us to be practical at costs, including the coat of fairplay. They commend us to accept human nature in the Northern Provinces for what is it and accommodate ourselves to it or meet half way. This kind of philosophy virtually requires us to abandon ideals as impractical, especially the ideals in St Mathew v., and to content ourselves with bargaining with materialism. It is tantamount to a conspiracy to disregard the vital issues so far as those should be reconciled with the Christian ethic.
Ideals of Compromise
Compromise is the religious formula of the weak politician; but it is dangerous, if not immoral, to compromise on pure justice national affairs. And this just the danger into which the practical man is going to lead us. The practical man has been humorously defined as the man continually practices the errors of his ancestors.
On the specious plea of compromise the Cape Native is being exhorted to give up his original individual vote in order to bestow a general group franchise for Natives who are Government servants throughout the Union; truly remarkable pseudo-franchise. To us the Representation of Natives in Parliament Bill constitutes the crux of the proposed legislation, because the vole is our Victorian heritage, not a privilege, but an heritage of British generosity legalised in 1854 and entrenched in the Union Act in 1909 as a prescriptive right to indigenous Africans by the Imperial Parliament in a spirit that implied that it was not to be liable to confiscation so long as its possessors continued in loyalty to the British Empire.
It epitomises the Cape liberal tradition, which, notwithstanding all adverse criticism, granted all non-Europeans the liberty to develop without artificial obstacles, inspired a deep love for British political institutions that recognised no colour discrimination, and engendered loyal attachment to the late Queen of England. The Cape policy has been justified at the bar of history by its effects. It is now the envy of the northern Natives, and as such the Cape Natives without a desperate struggle, which will be followed by irreparable injury to their susceptibilities, can hardly give it up. Hence our unanimity in rejecting every compromise on tin's point and our determination to grasp and cling to the similitude of the ideal. We also feel that this is not the occasion for South Africa to yield to the insidious temptation of adopting the path of least resistance, namely, temporising with the policy of positive repression due to a baseless fear. Our desire and hope is that the dominant races in this land will practice active Christian charity in governing the Bantu rather than exploit their domination by taking advantage of the weak during their difficult stage of transition towards Western standards of life.
A Rigid Uniformity
Read through the eyes of the Cape Native, the Premier's Native Bills have been framed so as to establish a rigidly uniform standard of government, and such as will reduce the superior political rights of the Cape Bantu down to the level of the most backward in the reserves. No account is taken of the diversity of intellectual and social attainÂment in various areas. The northern Native is to gain only at the expense of the Cape Native every time. Why the Cape must first be penalised for its historical good fortune before benefit can be conferred on the North is a mystery; unless we postulate that the Transvaal policy is to displace that of the Cape in all future legislation. What that means we all know: it means denial of political fairplay.
This is utterly at variance with the promises made to the Imperial Parliament by the National Convention delegates in 1909 during the passage of the Union Act. This constitutes a breach of faith.
The Union is thus seen to have been a disaster for the blacks because under a Federation, which was then urged but to no purpose by the Natives each State would have preserved its traditional policy and no degrading system of uniformity would have been necessary to retard the progressÂive Cape Colony.
Under the circumstances there seems to be no way out but that of the following alternatives: (a) The elimination of the clause that serves to interlock these Bills. In this case, Parliament would be in a position straightaway to deal with the Lands Act, the most urgent of the Bills for it requires immediate articulation or repeal. This is the Bill that really matters, and we do not appreciate the necessity of its being made to depend upon the distant settlement of the conÂtentious franchise question unless the Bills are forced into the mangle of party politics, (b) The submission of all the Bills to an inter-racial national convention with all the sections involved being directly represented.
The Prime Minister has asked Parliament to deal with these measures in a non-Party spirit. It will be an earnest of his sincerity if he will disentangle the Bills and concentrate all attention on the Land Question. Likewise, he will do much to win the confidence of all those directly affected by his proposals if he will summon some national Convention or round-table conference.
The annual PretoÂria Government Native Conference does not meet this desideratum, because (a) neither the Minister for Native Affairs nor any other Cabinet member ever undertakes to discuss matters with the conference on round-table lines;
(b) the views expressed at this Congress are never submitted to Parliament; (c) the decisions made at Pretoria are subsequently altered and added to at the whim of the Minister; (d) the conference, though promised to the people as an annual event, has not been summoned in 1927, in deference to the caprice or convenience of the Minister.
The suggested Convention has been urged from all quarters ever since the Premier's Smithfield speech of 1925, and this appeal has been reinforced by Sir Abe Bailey, who cannot be characterised as a Negrophilist seeing that he believes in the mailed fist enclosed in a velvet glove; and by an important Native Conference that met at Kimberley two weeks ago, which petitioned that "no solution, in order that it may be satisfactory and acceptable to all sections of the population of the Union vitally affected, shall be arrived at until resort is had to methods of discussion whereby an opportunity would be afforded for free exchange of views and frank presentation of the case as it affects the respective sections of the views . The Congress, therefore, respectfully and yet strongly appeals to the Prime Minister seriously to consider, even at this eleventh hour, the exÂpediency and advisability of arranging for a round-table conference between representatives of the Government and the Opposition and those of the Bantu and Coloured communities, when careful consideration would be given to this great problem.''
E xternal Criticism
The Prime Minister has recently been taking long strong exception to criticism made from overseas on his Colour Bar Act, the Native Administration Act with its extraordinary restriction on individual and public freedom, and the present Bills. He regards the treatment of African aborigines as a purely domestic affair. Possibly he is correct in his interpretation of the constitution, but the inter-racial question is a worldwide issue exceedÂing the bounds of domestic politics. Slavery in the nineteenth century could not be circumscribed as a domestic concern in any country. There are certain ultimate and ethical standards of equity in political morality that transcend even kings, rulers and governments; and which cannot be disregarded without disaster to the body politic of a country.
All the more acceptable is this comment from impartial sources when we remember that, under the Union Act and the newly acquired Status, South Africa became its own final Court of Appeal and therefore the Privy Council if addressed thereto by the Natives of the Union can possibly entertain no appeal. By virtue of this omnipotence the political, domination of the white race has been guaranteed for all time as far as human agency can determine; and there can be no fear of harm from friendly comment by others outside of our country.
Whist South Africa is thus politically establishÂed beyond doubt as a white man's country, the Native should not be precluded from equality of opportunity to develop and exercise his ability in all legitimate spheres of life.
The ex-Republican Grondwetlay it down that there shall be no equality for the African in Church or State; and this paradoxical philosophy remains subconsciously at the back of all Transvaal mentality. One can dispense with both equality and membership in any given church; but not so with the State. The meaning attached to the word "equality" by various people confuses discussion on this subject. Most Europeans in this land when they use this term think only of inter-marriage between black men and white women. To the Natives, equality means equal wages for equal work. Social equality we neither ask nor need, just because it is not anything that need be asked for, because one tumbles suddenly into it by dint of achievement. What we want is an equal chance with all other citizens to develop economically, and so long as politicians legislate to repress us in industry and land acquisition, our salvation will depend upon political equality. Let us not lose sight of the forest because of the trees.
As a reply to those who ask for our constructive policy as an alternative to the Premier's Native Bills, we submit the following records:
- Memorandum "Constructive Proposals for a solution of the Native Land Problem " - by the Johannesburg Joint Council of Europeans and Natives. (See Minutes of Evidence taken in May 1927 before the Select Committee on the Native Bills, pages 148.)
- "The Cape Native Franchise," by the present speaker, -ibid, pages 239-249.
- Resolutions of the European-Bantu ConÂference of 1927-ibid, pages 339-349.
- Government Native Conference Resolutions 1926 -See Report of Native Affairs Commission for 1925-6, Annexure IV, page' 67, 68, 76, 77-not to mention innumerable references and further suggestions in the Native Press throughout the Union.
(This is the substance of an address delivered to an audience of Europeans and Bantu in January 1928 at the Reception Hall of the City Hall, Cape Town, under the auspices of the Cape Peninsula Natives Welfare Society.)