Page 12, 13th March 1936

13th March 1936
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Page 12, 13th March 1936 — Shall "Natives" Have Votes?
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Shall "Natives" Have Votes?

The Issue In South Africa

"Where White Rules Black"

A recent leading article in the Catholic Herald described the fundamental economic inequality between whites and natives in the Union of South Africa and the determination of the whites to preserve it, with the rifle if necessary. Since that was written the Native Representation Bill has been debated, on its second reading, in the Union parliament. (It is being dealt with by a joint session of the two House.s because it amends the Act of Union.) Generals Hertzog and Smuts have both made important pronouncements.

General Hertzog, in particular, has spoken with illuminating frankness about white South Africa's fear of black domination and the real intention of the present bill, which is to establish this supremacy beyond doubt.

GENERAL HERTZOG'S CANDOUR

Here are some extracts from the report in The Times: " The white people in South Africa, he said, were haunted by a double fear -fear of miscegenation [interbreeding] and fear of black domination. The whites had avoided miscegenation, but if the natives had political equality, if they voted at the same polls and for the same candidates, it would lead to social equality and miscegenation " Although in the past the whites had felt it their duty to advance the interests of the natives, they had held back because they had felt that every forward step of the natives was another threat to white superiority. Consequently the whites had never been quite honest with the natives, They were never dishonest purposely, but they were compelled to be dishonest. If the bill were passed white supremacy would be secured, and the whites could encourage native development without fear."

A Correspondent's Reminiscences

When this is the language used by the prime minister of the Union in public debate, it will be easier for readers who have not travelled " where white rules black " to realise that the leading article referred to was a very moderate statement of the position. In fact, a friendly correspondent suggests that it was much too moderate.

Speaking of the unity that springs into existence between English and Dutch when the native question is seriously raised, he says quite truly that it is almost impossible to describe their ordinary attitude towards the native without being accused of gross exaggeration.

From long residence in South Africa he is able to describe to the life the pointless tyrannising, sometimes petty, sometimes brutal, in which the Afrikander (South African of European descent) frequently indulges towards the native just

because he is a native. And he quotes from two Afrikanders, the first of Dutch and the second of British descent, two wild expressions of the point of view that General Hertzog has put into parliamentary language: ', The dominant thing has not been justice at all; it becomes a question of the preservation of white civilisation. If we want to hold our own we must exterminate the native."

" The white man is determined to do

all that he can to remain, and, what is more, to rule. This is to us in South Africa such a vital matter that no ethical considerations, such as the rights of man, will be allowed to stand in the way."

Permanent Panic

These are the words of men with whom panic has become a habit of mind. Happily there are many white South Africans who do not speak or think like that-more perhaps than our correspondent allows for. But it is unfortunately true that the Catholic body cannot claim any particular distinction over Calvinists and others in this matter, or at least not as much as they ought to be able to claim; and it is said that even the kindly hints contained in Fr. Martindale's book on his South African travels were resented by many of

them.

On the other hand there is a good deal of truth in what the South African so bitterly asserts, that those who do not live in contact with the natives and under the actual shadow of their vastly superior numbers simply cannot understand the problem as the South African sees it, nor talk realistically about it (only he puts it more tersely and much more rudely).

Positive Policy

Nor would it be fair to leave the reader with the impression that the bill now before the Union parliatnent is merely negative in its provisions.

To begin with, it is not the bill originally introduced, which altogether abolished what is called the Cape native franchise whereby educated natives in Cape Province (and Cape Province only) may vote and sit in parliament on the same basis as Europeans.

It leaves educated natives in Cape Province with the vote, but places them on a separate register, so that instead of voting in the ordinary constituencies they will elect, as a separate body, three members of the lower house, who must be Europeans. (One effect of this will be that however much the educated natives increase in numbers their electoral power will remain constant, until there is another amendment to the constitution.)

Native Council

Besides this, both the original bill and the present one give the natives something they have not had before, namely, a native representative council on a Unionwide basis. The five European commissioners for the natives will sit on it, but only the sixteen native members will have a vote. It will have advisory but not legislative powers on all matters specially affecting natives.

Election to this council will be by four electoral colleges consisting of chiefs, headmen, and other responsible natives. Each of these colleges will elect also one senator (who must be a European) to the upper house of the Union parliament.

A Separate Community?

It will he seen, therefore, that the whole tendency of 'the new legislation is that whatever political rights the natives acquire, now or in the future. shall be exercised by them as a separate community.

That has always been the positive programme of the more reasonable opponents of the Cape franchise, as it is of those who, like Dr. Malan, are opposing even the present bill as being, not too " reactionary," but too " liberal."

After all, the great majority of the natives still have their permanent homes in the tribal reservations, and a Native Trust and Land Bill has been introduced as a companion to the Representation Bill with the intention of making these reservations less inadequate in extent than they admittedly are at present.

Moreover, without condoning for one moment the mentality illustrated by some of the foregoing quotations, it must be said that a scheme of salvation by votes on the lines of English parliamentary Liberalkm is the very last thing likely to provide a tolerable solution for any but the infinitesimal handful of completely detribalised and Europeanised educated natives.

On the other hand, the industrialisation of the male native population has gone so far as to make it very doubtful whether the complete segregation that some have advocated would now provide a stable solution even from the natives' point of view; and it is certain that it would bring down with a crash the whole economic structure of white South Africa, which is completely dependent on underpaid native labour.

But this is raising issues too large for one issue even of the Catholic Herald!




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