Page 2, 7th July 1950

7th July 1950
Page 2
Page 2, 7th July 1950 — RACE RELATIONS IN S.A.

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Is Michael Scott wise?

SIR,-In view of the wide publicity given in your columns recently to the ┬░pintoes of the Reverend Michael Scott and his sympathisers, perhaps you will grant space for some consideration of the other side of the problem, lest too partial and teillformed a judgment on the ques

tion of race relations in South Africa be formed by your readers of this country.

We must recognise from the outset that SA, (I refer to the Union, to which my experience is limited) is confronted with an immense problem of peculiar complexity, to which there is no facile and immediate solution. Even given a spirit of goodwill on all sides, the achievement of a harmonious and just settlement will take generations, if not centuries; it will call for patience, wisdom, forbearance. generosity, and statesmanship of the highest order. Hence for people at a distance to approach the problem in a spirit of criticism, with the conviction that all that has been done in the past is unjust or springs from sinister motives, is not merely foolish-it is also impertinent. For instance, many of the measures that are today loudly denounced as Oppressive. such as the Pass Laws, or the system of mine-compounds, were originally framed for the most part in the interests of the natives themselves in an attempt to arrest the process of de-tribalisation, already, alas!, too far advanced.

Now it cannot he denied that the native policy of the present Government is retrogressive. In view of this fact. the Report of the Native Laws Commission (set up by the Smuts Government in 1946) makes sad reading, for it recommends many and considerable improvements in the living conditions and status of the natives which would presumably have been implemented had the same Government returned to power in 1948Unfortunately it did not. And although we may hope that the present phase is temporary, there is a factor whIch may unduly prolong the tenure of the Nationalist Government; that factor is the threat of outside intervention in South African affairs. '1 here is a traditional suspicion, especially. but not exclusively, among Afrikaners (the Afrikaans-speaking section of the white community), that people in this country do not understand the native problem, or sympathise with the difficulties of the whites in a country to which their claim is historically quite as strong as that of the Bantu (a fact not always recognised by philanthropists ignorant of South African history).

This lack of understanding and sympathy in this country was one of the rocks on which S.A was split at the time of the Great Trek, and again at the time of the Boer War; at the present juncture, the same lack of understanding might prove the catalyst, separating out once again, and permanently, the racial elements, chiefly English and Dutch in origin, upon whose harmonious fusion depends the welfare of the country until such time as the natives are capable of entering into equal partnership with them. The present Government's posithan is weak; it could be immeasurably strengthened by an appeal to national solidarity m the face of outside interference in what it regards as a domestic problem. Therefore, while admiring the courage and outspokenness of Mr. Scott, many who have the welfare of the natives as much at heart as he has may well doubt the wisdom of his campaigning in America and England on the native question in S.A. What did he hope to achieve by his appeal to the United Nations Assembly? South Africans may be pardoned for feeling that it is not the natives, but countries of the Soviet bloc (and also Mate, who has a grievance against S.A.), who derived most satisfaction from this fishing in the troubled waters of Lake Success. (Incidentally, the intervention of India illustrates how easily denunciations against the colour bar may become vitiated by hypocrisy; for it is common knowledge in S.A.-confirmed by my own experience in the Native Affairs Department in Johannesburg-that, generally speaking. the Indian is a worse exploiter of the native than the European is.)

As for the advisability of holding protest meetings about the colour bar over here, it should be pointed Out that people who have not lived among these primitive races cannot be expected to understand the vast problems involved in integrating the mass of the native population into the complex life of a modern state. Nor can it he demonstrated that such integration is immediately desirable, even if it were possible. Here again we come up against a popular misconception: the word 'apartheid" (segregation) is generally used as though it were a synonym for iniquity and oppression; and it is invariably used as a cudgel with which to belabour the Malan Government. Yet I am sure many missionaries would agree that the prospects, both temporal and eternal, of the natives would be greatly enhanced if complete segregation (on equitable terms) could be brought about. After all. the famed -Reductions" of Paraguay were only an ideal expression of the policy of -apartheid"! But the day when such a settlement of the native problem in S.A. might have been possible is long past, if it ever existed at all. The charge against "apartheid" is not that it is unjust, but that it is impracticable under modern economic conditions.

The struggle for the full rights and independence of the native must be fought and won in S.A. Undoubtedls this will involve a change of heart among large sections of the white population; but already. among thinking men and women, many consciences are troubled-not so much at the condition of the great majority of the natives, uneducated, illiterate, unprogressive, but on the whole not discontented with their lot; but at the plight of the small minority who by education and aptitude are already fitted to take their place in the normal social and civic life of present-day civilisation. These are the most pressing claimants for immediate consideration and deliverance from tutelage: but unfortunately even in this

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country they do not fully escape the implications of the colour bar.

Therefore those who would actively serve the interests of the natives should address themselves to public opinion,' and especially to those in high places, in the country which is accused of dealing unfairly with its native subjects. We in this country, onlookers of this struggle, must preserve Christian charity towards both sides, and pray for a just and peaceful solution. As Catholics we can do no less; hut to try to do more N., Ould he rash, and might be calamitous.


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