(A reply to the speech of Mr. Eric Louw at the Foreign Press Association luncheon on October 22, 1948)
Mr. Eric Louw, the chief South African delegate to the United Nations and Dr. D. F. Malan's representative at the Commonwealth Conference just concluded, waxed virtuous in his speech at last Friday's luncheon of the Foreign Press Association. The whole purpose of this speech is to lull the British public and the world generally into a false idea of the true character of the Malanite Government and to dampen the justifiable alarm and fear that is being expressed in informed quarters of opinion about the course of violent race hatred which Malan's Government has let loose upon the country. The hymn of hate by all members of the Malanite administration, including Mr. Louw, against the non-white peoples of South Africa in particular, as well as against the Jews and English, and Malan`s emergence during the war years as the apostle of national socialism, is primarily responsible for what has been said about the Nationalists in the British and American press. To Louw, this is "a campaign of sowing suspicion". The best answer to such charges would be to quote from the statements of leading members of the Malanite administration and, in the words of Mr. Louw, "without telling you what a Nationalist is, leave it to you to draw your own conclusions... as to whether a Nationalist in South African politics is a fire-eating racialist - a narrow-minded bigot - and above all a man who hates everything British to the depths of his soul".
"England is fighting only in her own interests and not, as she pretends, to guarantee democracy and freedom. General Smuts is docilely following in the footsteps of England and, in the difficulties in which he finds himself today, he is seeking the help of the Afrikaners. Why does he not look for it among the Jingoes (British), the Jews and the "loyal Dutch" who look for war? General Smuts must give way for a Nationalist Government, and the next day we shall negotiate with Germany and Italy for peace."
-Mr. Eric Louw speaking at Merweville. Reported in "Die Burger', July 25, 1940.
"I quite frankly admit this - the Jew is an alien in any country and cannot be assimilated - but let me point out that even old established Jews in this country are discriminated against in society and hurt more than we newcomers".
-Mr. Eric Louw in the Assembly, 1939.
"As long as we remain in the British Commonwealth as a Dominion or a sham republic, we shall be continually hindered by British liberalism in our attempts to solve the colour problem and the Jewish question".
-Mr. Eric Louw, reported in Die Burger, January 20, 1944.
"The United States is arming only in her own interests. She is not arming for war but for peace because she wants a say in the armistice and wants to be the heir to Britain's estate."
-Dr. Malan at Pietersburg, June 11, 1940.
"Gallows are being erected where they themselves may hang in years to come. We say so not only to the Jingoes but we say so to the Jews. You are putting up gallows for the Germans, but beware, the day may come when you yourselves may hang from these same gallows."
-Mr. A. J. Worth, Nationalist M.P., in the Assembly, February 25, 1942.
South Africa is in the grip of a violent race hysteria and is likely to experience the most terrible race convulsions in the near future if the present drift to totalitarianism continues. The country is like a diseased body, the toxic poison of race mania is flowing swiftly into the vital arteries of its heart and mind. The basis of democracy. resting on the precarious sands of "white supremacy" and "European culture and civilisation", is so narrow, and each day growing narrower, that the party wielding most effectively the cult of race and colour poison against the disenfranchised non-white population, which forms the majority, is returned to power by the electorate, which is 98 percent white. That Dr. Malan was able to climb into power because he was successful in whipping up an hysterical campaign of race hatred, is largely due to his skill and technique of wielding a weapon common to the arsenal of fascism. Any observer of the South African scene would discern the resemblance and parallel that exists between South Africa and Nazi Germany. Politics, commerce, industry, labour, culture and education are all steeped with the most cruel manifestations of colour despotism. A pattern of hate akin to Nazism against the person who has not the blessings of a white skin is pursued. He is deemed inferior by the colour bar doctrine of the State and is unable to share the rights of citizenship and perform skilled work.
Mr. Louw would have his audience believe that "there is a spirit of quiet confidence among all sections of the population". I challenge Mr. Louw to give evidence to justify such a statement. South Africa is today seething with unrest and discontent never before equalled in its history.
Apartheid, the Nationalist prescription for the non-white peoples, is regarded with the greatest terror by them. Mr. Louw will fail to give the name of any accredited representative, mild, moderate or left, of the Africans, Coloureds or Indians, or of any of their organisations, which has approved in any form the policy of apartheid.
It is the most cruel policy yet adopted by any government in South Africa to reduce the non-white peoples to a perpetual position of inferiority and degradation, without dignity or the most elementary rights.
The first brief installment of apartheid has meant the removal of the franchise clauses of the Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Act of 1946, the promise that this Act was to be further extended to the Cape, a change in the electoral laws so as to exclude a large proportion of the handful of Coloured voters in the Cape from registration, the Parliamentary declaration that the Coloureds would be removed from the common voters' roll and given the limited representation at present given to the Africans who have the right only in the Cape to elect three white persons to an Assembly of 153 members, the decision to remove altogether even this miserable representation from the eight million Africans, the introduction of segregation on the suburban trains of the Cape where the non-white people were permitted the small mercy of freedom of travel (this new restriction was accompanied by violent protests, demonstrations and arrests) and the promulgation of Proclamation 1890 which makes it illegal for any organisation, the African National Congress, the trade unions or cultural bodies to collect subscriptions or any form of contribution from Africans - a move ostensibly designed to make all the organisations of the African people illegal. Louw says: "Apartheid is the policy of European races". This policy springs from the philosophy that the non-white people are inherently inferior beings, fit only for the most servile and menial tasks. Therefore they must not be allowed to mix in any way with the white people. The Dutch Reformed Church, to which the members of the Malanite administration belong, believes that the white man has been ordained by God to rule over the black man. There is no moral basis in this age for such a doctrine. It has been rejected by the nations and will continue to be rejected by all civilised peoples.
But such a policy could only be put into operation by repression, bringing in its train squalid misery, poverty and degradation for its victims. Segregation has made South Africa a vast prison house for its non-white population - the country which now enjoys the reputation of having the largest jail-going population in the world in relation to its African population; segregation has been responsible for the fact that it is difficult in South Africa to find an African who has reached the age of 25 who has not seen the misery of a prison wall; in South Africa the expenditure on the police force and prisons is beyond that spent on African education (L- 3 million as against L- 2 1/2 million); segregation has foisted upon the African a rigid system of passes to control his movements, restricting in the most cruel way his liberty of movement. There are about 12 types of special passes which control his movements, and failure to carry any one of these is a criminal offence. Once the African reaches the age of 18, he must have a special pass if he wishes to (a) leave his reserve, (b) seek work, (c) go to a school, (d) buy a train ticket, (e) enter a town, (f) visit a friend after curfew hours i. e., between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., (g) show he has paid his taxes, and several others. In 1945 alone, the pass law convictions were 74,109; this was 12,000 more than in 1936.
Mr. Louw claims that large tracts of the most infertile parts of South Africa have been set aside as Native reserves. Only 13 per cent of the land is reserved for four-fifths of the population, and as to the state of this land, I will quote from the report of the Native Laws Commission, pages 14, 15 and 16:
"... when we still have the position that more than half of the Natives in the Union are in the so-called European areas, and less than half in the Native areas (approximately 60 % : 40 %). The idea of total segregation therefore assumes that it will be possible to develop and extend as Native areas on a scale sufficient to render them capable of providing a home for more than twice the number of Natives which they hold today, together with the further increase, which up to the present has been at an average rate of something like 2 per cent per annum".
"...It is desirable at this stage to note two prime facts which have so far emerged, namely;
(a) That nearly 30 per cent of families are landless in spite of the fact that the average unit of arable land is sub-economic and that at least 20 % of all arable land is not suitable for cultivation; and
(b) that over 60 % of families own 5 or less cattle, including 29% who own none, in spite of the fact that the Reserves are carrying double the number of stock that should run if deterioration is not to take place".
"In the ninth report of the Social and Economic Planning Council (U.G.No.32/1946) we read, at page 44 (para 173):
'Another important factor, which has already been referred to in the case of the Union's Native Reserves, is the incapacity of the Native Reserves to provide even the minimum subsistence requirements under present conditions. In the words of the Mine Wages Commission, "a considerable percentage of the Reserve Natives have to work for hire almost continuously with relatively short breaks to earn a living." (U.G.21/2944, para. 207). The Native Reserves at their present stage of development, are both overpopulated and overstocked.`
"In any event the figures and other data we have quoted lead to the irresistible conclusion that it would be utterly impossible to put the Native population which is already outside the Reserves, back into the Reserves, or even to keep the whole of the increase there in future".
The rich dividends that the segregation policy has yielded in matters of health, education, etc. for Africans are worth noting. Facts speak louder than words.
Infantile mortality: 400-500 per 1,000 births in certain areas.
Tuberculosis: 800-1200 per 100,000. Europeans 32 per 100,000.
Malnutrition: In Letaka, Northern Transvaal, in the schools, 90 per cent of the African boys and 80 per cent of the girls suffer from malnutrition. The National Health Commission appointed by the South African Government reported in 1944:
"One factor stands out preeminently - the grinding poverty of almost all the non-European (non-white) population ... almost eight million Natives must be classed as paupers ... The evidence we have received strongly suggests that in the (Reserve) territories, on the (white) farms and in the towns their poverty is increasing and their health deteriorating."
Blindness: 24,442 registered cases of blindness, of which 95 per cent is preventable.
Education: 90 per cent illiterate; 7 per cent, that is, one million children of school-going age are without schools. Less than L- 3 million per year is spent on African education, while L- 35 per head is spent on the white population. Education is compulsory and free for the white child, but not for the African.
Search the length and breadth of South Africa and try to find a single African engineer, electrician, architect, engine driver. Search South Africa to find a single technical college, a single theatre, a single swimming pool for Africans, while millions of pounds are
spent annually in providing hundreds of these amenities for "Europeans only". I ask Mr. Louw, is it not a fact that there are actual laws on the statute book which prevent the vast majority of its black folk from doing skilled work, such as the "Colour Bar Act"(1) of 1925? Was not his party the foremost in finally preventing the training of African builders? Is it not true to say that South Africa has now far outdone Nazi Germany in the number of racial laws on its statute book? The whole of South Africa is littered with offensive notices like "Europeans only", "Non-Europeans not allowed", "Non-Europeans and Dogs not allowed". A person coming from Mars or Jupiter to this earth would have no difficulty in picking out South Africa.
What a tremendous waste of money and human worth is involved on this segregation policy, to say nothing of the restrictions it imposes on the progress of the country. There must be separate entrances to post offices, railway stations. etc., for non-whites. Trams, buses, coaches, latrines, restaurants, etc., must be separate and often the worst type made available for Non-Europeans. The Railway Department has spent over a million pounds on a station in Durban so that there should be separate entrances and entirely different platforms for whites and non-whites. A similar project has been launched for the Johannesburg Park station.
The report of the Native Laws Commission states (page 19):
"From what we have already said it should be clear firstly, that the idea of total segregation is utterly impracticable; secondly, that the movement from country to town has a background of economic necessity - that it may, so one hopes, be guided and regulated, and may perhaps also be limited, but that it cannot be stopped or be turned in the opposite direction; and thirdly, that in our urban areas there are not only Native migrant labourers, but there is also a settled, permanent Native population. These are simply facts which we have to face as such. The old cry 'Send them back!` - still so often raised when there is trouble with Natives, therefore, no longer offers a solution".
The archives of the Union Government are full of reports of Government Commissions which are in themselves an indictment of segregation. Segregation is retarding and killing the development of South Africa. Apartheid is the most violent expression of the policy of segregation. Recently a journalist, Oliver Walker, was given an assignment by the Union Government to formulate a comprehensive report for the express purpose of answering the world-wide criticisms and condemnations of South Africa's treatment of the non-white majority. The factual data that he presented were of such a revealing character that his report has been shelved. He has now written a book, Kaffirs are Lively, which should shame any spokesman of the Union Government from having the effrontery to stand in public and talk of "huge tracts of land" for Africans and of "developing along their own lines and in accordance with their own customs and traditions". All this talk is mere verbiage, to conceal the oppressive and racial character of a policy designed to keep the non-white peoples in a state of serfdom.
Mr. Louw says that the Union of South Africa is an outpost of European civilisation and solicits support for its racial policies on this ground. I say this in all seriousness, that if it is European civilisation or Western democracy to deny elementary rights and opportunities on the basis of the colour of a person's skin, to disregard a man's worth and his ability, to stop him from acquiring skill, to spurn him and treat him as a chattel and a pariah in the land of his birth, to subject him to hundreds of racial laws and notices, then that civilisation is a menace to mankind and we will have no truck with it. Such a civilisation would condemn the overwhelming majority of mankind to perpetual inferiority. The sooner such a civilisation disappears from the face of the earth, the better for us all.
I may ask further, is not racial discrimination a fundamental and gross violation of the United Nations Charter, Western democracy and European civilisation? Neither the African nor the Indian is asking for his blood to be mixed with the white peoples of South Africa. We are not asking for privileges in South Africa, but we are fighting for our rights to live as decent human beings in the land of our birth, without all the stigma of inferiority that is daily heaped upon us. We claim citizenship rights for every human being, regardless of his race or colour, and there is no power on earth that is going to stop us from attaining our birthright.
It is Mr. Louw who is trying to conjure up pictures of black hordes threatening the two million whites of South Africa, when we ask for citizenship rights! But let me warn Mr. Louw and those who think like him, that they are building up a vast reservoir of hate for the white man if they continue their present mad career of violations of human rights, and Mr. Louw and his ilk will rue the day when the flood gates break loose in South Africa. No people can go on watching passively their rights being hacked away and humiliation heaped upon them. That is the lesson of history, and Mr. Louw would do well to acknowledge it.
Mr. Louw calls "all moonshine" the discriminatory treatment of Indians in South Africa. Twice already the United Nations, the highest tribunal of mankind, has passed large majority decisions against South Africa on this question. But white South Africa has flouted the conscience of the world and seems well set to take the mad plunge of open defiance.
The appeal to the United Nations was made in 1946 by the South African Indian Congress, the mouthpiece of the Indian people of South Africa. Malan's envoy expresses doubts whether 5 per cent of Natal Indians were interested in the complaint. The registered membership of the Natal Indian Congress alone is 35,000 in a total population of 228,000, a figure inclusive of the non-adult population. Mr. Louw speaks for less than one-fifth of the total population of South Africa, but the South African Indian Congress delegation to the United Nations carries with it the good wishes and support of the nine million people, non-whites, constituting four-fifths of the South African population, and representing their deep urges, hopes and aspirations.
Mr. Louw`s charge that the Congress was dominated by Communists is a canard which I hurl back into his teeth. Anyone that challenges South Africa's racial doctrines is a Communist, according to the Nationalists. The whole of its press at present is filled with charges of Communist against the Hon. J.H. Hofmeyr, former Deputy Prime Minister, simply because he has dared to raise his voice in protest against some of the policies of racial oppression enunciated by Dr. Malan.
The Natal Indian Congress was founded by that great apostle of truth and non-violence, Mahatma Gandhi. He has given it the great tradition of his matchless weapon of passive resistance which he first tried out in South Africa. It is that spirit and resolve not to yield to injustice which permeates the Congress. For the last two years, two thousand brave men and women in the true spirit of passive resistance suffered imprisonment and untold hardships, exposing South Africa`s racial practices to the glare of world opinion.
Mr. Louw claims that the South African Indians are Union nationals, while Dr. Malan, his Prime Minister, has been busy in Parliament stating that the Indians are "a foreign and outlandish element. They do not form part of the permanent population and must therefore remain in the country under restrictions".
Mr. Louw is a brave man in South Africa, where he has become the most bitter race-baiter known to the land. The short experience that be has had at the United Nations in its various Commissions, and particularly in the Human Rights Commission, must forcibly have conveyed to him that the mental climate in the rest of the world is not the same as in South Africa in as far as race hysteria is concerned; that the tirade and race contempt that he has been able to pour upon the people who are unrepresented in the House of Assembly, filled mostly with the apostles of colour despotism, requires far less courage. He has therefore changed his tune and now engages in deception of the worst kind. Deception may be a great weapon for some, but for Mr. Louw and Dr. Malan, their vile record of race hate is too well-known and cannot be easily camouflaged by a few pious statements.
We are tired of the spokesmen of the South African Government, who from time to time speak with two voices, one for South Africa as champions of the creed of race and colour superiority and the other for the outside world as "trustees" of the South African sanctuary where black men and women are periodically given doses of the white man's civilisation.
The Indians of South Africa have never claimed any privileged position. All they say is that if they are regarded as Union nationals, they have full rights as Union nationals without the sixty-six racial laws that deny them elementary citizenship rights and civil liberties. As long as these rights are denied them, they will continue to appeal to India, to the United Nations and to the conscience of the world. Legally it has been established by the United Nations that the Union Government must respect, as binding and as treaties, the agreements with the Government of India under which the Indians came to South Africa.
The Indians did not go as aliens or oppressors to dominate the Native population of South Africa. They were taken to South Africa to work on the plantations and to develop the country. They were persuaded to remain after their terms of labour were over by inducements of land grants. Ninety per cent of Indians in South Africa have descended from the loins of those early labourers. They constitute the third and fourth generation of those born in the country. They know no other land than South Africa and they say that under no circumstances would they agree to any form of repatriation. They have contributed to the prosperity of the country, and they have a right to share it with all sections of the population. This is their simple claim.
Mr. Louw has indirectly appealed to the press not to support the fight against the injustice in South Africa, not to comment on the racial measures that are being put into operation by the Malanite administration and not to give the truth of what is happening in this Dominion, on the pretext that this will help Moscow. It is not for us to tell the British or foreign press what they should or should not do. The press have an important role to fulfill, and as long as they maintain truth in the true perspective we shall have no complaints. But I do want to refute it. Louw`s claim that in as much as nationalisation is a matter for the United Kingdom, it is not the concern of the people in Britain or elsewhere to take cognisance of the indignities, injustices and oppression that is taking place in South Africa. Hitler used arguments of a similar character when he carried his policy against the Jews to the dreadful conclusions that he had envisaged. There is no parallel between nationalisation and the race tyranny to which a small minority is subjecting the vast majority of the population in South Africa.
It will be a sad commentary if there are no voices of protest raised against the violation of fundamental human freedoms and human rights. This cannot remain the especial concern of a Government bent upon race and colour rule. I do, however, want to say that the majority of the people constituting the Commonwealth are not white. They cannot view with indifference the idea held by a member of the Commonwealth of the inherent inferiority of the black man. The population of India alone constitutes more than the population of all the dominions put together. The people of India will never acquiesce in any form of inferiority for those who have sprung from their kith and kin. The treatment meted out to Indians in South Africa will be a constant source of affront, not only to the brown Dominions, India, Pakistan and Ceylon, but to all the peoples of Asia. New pages of history are being writ there, and the effects are being felt in Africa also.
The days of slumberous calm and peace for the white despots in South Africa have fled. The non-white people of South Africa have been witnesses too long of the history of dwindling rights, of promises unfulfilled, of solemn undertakings flouted and of agreements violated. They have now refused to remain any longer to be passive spectators of this process. They have raised the cry "We shall resist", to add fresh chapters of history for the rights of man with the help of the United Nations, and have declared that they are no longer willing to be dumb slaves of white masters.
1 Mines and Works Amendment Act, 1925