18 OCTOBER 1919, Page 13



am glad to see the letter from Messrs. Travers Buxton and J. H. Harris which appears in your issue of September 13th, and trust it will have the desired result in calling attention to the case of the Rhodesian natives. May I put in a word with regard to some other matters, at present apt to be overlooked, which certainly ought to be taken into consideration in any after-war settlements, if our professions regarding the rights of the weaker peoples have the smallest value? It is well known what zeal and what loyalty to the British Crown were shown by the native tribes of South Africa during the late war. This has been freely acknowledged—by the King, in his Message to the South African Chiefs and people, July 10th, 1917; by Sir Douglas Haig, General Botha, Lord Buxton, and others. It may be less generally known that, while these people were suffering the cruellest hardships under the Lands Act of 1913, they refrained, at the desire of their Chiefs and the Native National Congress, from pressing their legitimate grievances on.the Union Government during the trying time consequent on the rising of 1914-15.

A deputation of South African natives is now in this country for the purpose of laying before His Majesty's Government the wrongs for which they can get no redress in the Dominion. The late General Botha was always sympathetic towards the natives, and never .refused to see their representatives; but the opposition of his own supporters (many of whom were ready on questions of this sort to make common cause with the Hertzog party) was too strong to let him carry out any really remedial measures. The Lands Act of 1913 prohibits any native from buying or renting land outside the Reserves, which are wholly insufficient to accommodate a population of five millions. The Commission of 1915-16 recommended the setting aside of additional land for native occupation; but (1) their recommendations, if accepted, would only have brought up the total area available for five million natives to 13 per cent. of the Union territory, leaving 87 per cent. for the 1,500,000 hites; (2) much of this land is malarial, or stony and unfit for cultivation—or can only be made productive by irrigation works, which the natives have not the means to carry out; (3) it was suggested that some land for this purpose should be acquired by the Government from white owners, a proposal which would have called forth virulent opposition. Even before the issue of the Report it appears that General Hertzog's followers (with many adherents of other political parties) were agreed that, "no matter what the Commission reported, they would never vote for the changing of white men's land into native areas."

Hundreds of natives, farming on something like the Ingtager system (and, hitherto, with quite satisfactory results), have been evicted under this Act. and, unable to convey their stock to the Reserve, forced either to see the animals perish on the roads 'it is illegal for any farmer to let them graze on his land, even for one night) or to sell them at a ruinous loss. In fact, a native has no locus stundi outside the Reserves, except as a hired servant; and as under the circumstances he has no choice but to accept any wages offered him, or starve, his state is almost one of virtual slavery. But this is not the worst. Cases of cold-blooded murder, for which juries refuse to convict, occur with shocking frequency. (I have never yet-, by the by, heard of a native serving on a jury.) Mr. Scully, in the Edinburgh Review for July, gives particulars of two such cases, which I will not repeat here. But from private information I have received the following list: March, 1918, one at Reitz, O.F.S.; one at Thalia Nchu; first week in April, one at Ficksburg; two at Bethlehem; one at Fauresmith. These within a period of six weeks at the outside. My informant adds : "The majority of these Leases1 never find their way into the newspapers." I have not been able to get details of the above, but have been assured that the following is a fairly typical incident. A farmer refuses to pay his native labourer the wages due to him; they quarrel, perhaps come to blows, and the master shoots the man dead, declaring, if there is any inquiry, that it was done in selfdefence. As there are usually no witnesses, or none whose word would be taken against the white man's, this assertion cannot be disproved.

The Native Affairs Administration Bill, 1917, is just now in abeyance, so I will say no more about it here, except that one of its provisions removes the natives from the jurisdicticn of the Supreme Court and places them under that of five Commissioners, " who will advise the Minister for Native Affairs and have the power of making proclamations which will have the force of law, without reference to Parliament." Last year saw the introduction of the Native Urban Areas Bill, which is the complement of the Lands Act : the one drives the native off the land, the other drives him out of the towns. Ile is not allowed to carry on any trade on his own account or reside (unless employed by a white man) within any town. Men and women who come into town to work are compelled, not only to carry passes, but to submit to a medical examination, which is sometimes (as at Sterkstroom) of a most degrading character.

I have left myself no space for details of the Pass Regulations, which are complicated and vexatious to an almost incredible degree, even apart from the worse evils already alluded to. Large numbers of native women and girls have gone to prison rather than submit to them.

On May 8th the Native Delegates were received by the Under-Secretary for the Colonies, and laid before him the facts of which I have here attempted to give some notion. lie informed them that it was impossible for the Imperial Government to interfere in the internal affairs of South Africa, and advised them " to return to their country and fight their battles in a constitutional way." They have been doing nothing else (except during the interval, already mentioned, when they refrained out of consideration for the Government) for the last five years. The question of intervention is, I am aware, a delicate one, but I have never been able to understand why the clause in the Act of Union by which legislation affecting the natives may be reserved for the Royal veto has, from the first, been treated as a dead letter.—I am, Sir, &e.,