BISHOP BUTLER has done what for a cleric is an unfashionable thing. He has written to The Times to urge that reasoned protest about apartheid should be combined with a recognition of the difficulties faced by the South African Government.
Mr. Neil Wates, managing director of our biggest building company, on the other hand, has done what for a tycoon is certainly an unusual thing. Having, like the Bishop, paid a fact-finding visit to South Africa, he has written a report describing it as "the ideal land for investment". Yet he has declared that the notion of doing business there is totally unacceptable to him.
Here we seem to have the customary roles reversed—a bishop pleading for a greater understanding for the per petrators of apartheid, and a hard-headed businessman
turning his hack on them and their offer of rich profits. I admire this topsyturyydom. It is good to find a great business firm with a moral conscience. It is even better to find a man of God who does not automatically issue blanket condemnations of groups caught up in historical dilemmas. The Church cannot, like the firm of Wates, turn her back on South Africa. She is the Mother of all its people, white as well as brown and black. Mr. Wates met "liberal businessmen of the highest calibre" who argued that economic forces were bound in the end to bring about the downfall of apartheid. These businessmen were undoubtedly right. As South Africa becomes more industrialised and prosperous, the non white races will dispose of increasing economic power both as producers and consumers, and the time will come when this economic power can no longer be contained in the socio-political strait-jacket imposed by the white minority. At some point an explosion will occur—not because of boycotts by firms like Wates, nor of demonstrations at sports grounds. nor even of a denial of arms, but because of the situation within South Africa itself.
i douht whether Mr. Wates's liberal businessmen ever sit down to contemplate the nature of this explosion. By giving intellectual assent to its possibility, they salve their consciences as they make hay while the sun shines. Since most of us would act in the same way were we in their shoes, it is not for us to blame them.
But it is the Bishop, rather than the industrialist, who has put his finger on the really interesting element in the South
African situation. In his brief letter to The Times he declared that "a great moral debate is going on in the hearts of many who still count themselves among the supporters of the existing Government", This may he a surprising statement, but all my own experience of South Africa suggests that it is true. The white revolutionaries there desire an immediate change that would bring only chaos; the white liberals propose mere palliatives; but there is a growing number of Afrikaner Nationalists who have made a real attempt to face up to the problem. Their solution does not convince Mr. Wates, and it does not convince me. It is based on a theory that each race in
South Africa is entitled to develop in its own way and on its own territory. Carried to its logical conclusion, this would involve a radical partition of the Republic, and the abandonment in the "white" part of it of the prosperity that now depends on what is virtually black slave labour.
The existing plan for exiguous independent "Bantustans", with the white man's industries artificially grouped along their borders. is a ludicrous parody of what must be done if the theory is ever put into practice—and the theory itself makes no proper provision for the Asians and Coloured (people of mixed race), who, unlike the Africans, have no tribal areas. real or imaginary, of their own.
Nevertheless, the theory is deserving of respect, not so much for its practical viability as for its recognition of the right of every man to fulfil. in the society to which he naturally belongs, his innate potentialities. This is a very partial acknowledgement of the brotherhood of man, and it ignores the principle of the interaction of cultures, but its implications in the context of South Africa are exceedingly far realet opens the way to a process Which, once begun, must continue, peacefully or otherwise, until a real measure of social justice has been achieved. In some ways it is an improvement on the attitude of Mr. Wates, who would leave South Africa to stew in its own juice, and of his liberal friends there, who justify white supremacy by the mere statement that it is doomed.
Principle of sharing
What is lacking in all these attitudes is the Christian principle of sharing. The early British colonists gave the vote to the non-whites of the Cape in the genuine belief that parliamentary democracy was an exportable commodity. The early missionaries certainly thought that the Gospel and European civilisation were two sides of the same coin. But as the local white societies grew and prospered, these notions were lost sight of. The Dutch Reformed Church developed a monstrous travesty of Christ's teaching. and the other denominations did little more than try to sanctify the emerging social pattern.
This is a Christian failure for which we are all responsible. and the Catholic Church as a whole must bear a share of the blame. Her South African record of resistance to Government encroachment on her freedom to preach the Gospel to all men is a noble one, but she has patiently not succeeded in imparting to her white members an interior conviction that all men belong to one great human family.
Are white South Africans, then, a peculiarly evil tribe? Of course they are not. They merely behave as most of us, I am afraid. would behave in similar circumstances.
The whole people of God, who now, in the rest of Africa, are represented by articulate black bishops and an articulate hlack laity. must learn to put on the new man, after the image of Him who created them, where there is neither Greek nor Jew. bond nor free, but Christ is all, and in all.
Norman St. John-Stevas is on holiday