22 MAY 1959, Page 7

The Last Great Fight


WHILE the votes were still being, counted in March's general election in Northern Rhodesia, a telephone call came to Harry Franklin, deputy leader of the newly formed Central Africa Party. It was from William Nkanza, an Independent candidate, and at first sounded depressing. 'I am going to beat your man here in North-Western,' said Nkanza—and then, 'but never mind, I want to join your party, too.'

This short speech was as encouraging as any- thing that the group which can be called the progressive liberals had heard in Rhodesia for a year. It also illustrates the amount of fluidity which exists in Rhodesian politics; obviously this is greater among those—mainly Africans—who have just .qualified for a vote, but the optimistic liberal sees the pendulum movements at the three elections held in different parts of the Federation this last year and nurtures the hope that it will really swing his way before too long. For, he argues, the future balance depends on the newly enfranchised Africans, if they can be persuaded to overcome scepticism and register as voters.

One other incident that same month cheered liberals in Southern Rhodesia greatly. It was at the emotional height of the Government's Emergency. Police had grabbed 500 Africans from their homes in one night and whisked them behind barbed wire and bren-guns. The Premier, Sir Edgar Whitehead, was announcing legislation to keep some 200 of these 'political agitators' in Prison or restricted areas for five years without proper trial; privately he was telling protest dele- gations that, now that he had outlawed the African National Congress, Africans would have to (and would, indeed, be encouraged to) find political expression inside his and Sir Roy Welensky's United Federal Party. Good as his word, hi sent

* Mr. Sanger has recently returned from Rhodesia, where he was Deputy Editor of the Central Africa Examiner.

a recruiting team of MPs to make speeches in a Salisbury location; the hostile crowd hooted them out of the township without ceremony. Mr. Gar- field Todd, due to speak in the township a few days later, was told by police that his meeting could not be held, for fear of riot. He had to shift his meeting into the city and expected few Africans to come and listen to him. Yet more than 6,000 trailed a dozen 'miles to hear and cheer the former Premier, as he denounced the Govern- ment's repressive legislation and painted a bright picture of a future Rhodesia rich in material rewards and racial goodwill for all.


Is it self-delusion for a liberal to grasp at these incidents and draw hope from them? Todd is out of power, most of his audience had no vote, and the total parliamentary strength of the Central Africa Party is four seats out of thirty in the Northern Rhodesia Legislative Council. They have as yet no Federal leader and only tiny party funds. These incidents may be little sunshine patches, but only bright because the rest of the sky is so cloud- laden and lowering. With Nyasaland Africans in continuing ferment and hopelessly at enmity with the present Federation, with Welensky quarrelling with Socialists and threatening to 'go it alone' and declare the Federation independent, with Nkrumah and Mboya and all Black Africa equat- ing and castigating Rhodesia along with South Africa, what hope is there that the liberals can save the country from chaos and self-dissolution?

The pessimists say there is no hope. They point out that Todd's men got only 10 per cent. of the European votes in the Southern Rhodesian elec- tions last June, and that some of his followers have since left him, disliking the wilderness. They assert that Britain must consider as paramount her obligations to the Africans in the Protectorates of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland; and that, to carry out these obligations properly, Britain will need to break up the Federation. Neither Todd nor Franklin nor Sir John Moffat, who lea ds the Central Africa Party in Northern Rhodesia, has reached such a gloomy conclusion yet. They are now making their last great fight to build a genuinely multi-racial State in Africa. Though a small group, they are in fact a most important element in Rhodesian politics. The last two years have demonstrated that there is no com- mon meeting ground between Welensky and Whitehead and representative Africans; but Todd and Moffat have kept the trust of Africans, despite the failure so far of liberals to be effective in action. But then, they are equipped for this fight better than ever before; they lost political power, which was anyway circumscribed by a group within their own ranks, but have gained un- encumbered moral power. To explain this paradox and its vital importance, one needs to draw on the history of Rhodesian politics during the last two years.

Two years ago Todd was Premier of Southern Rhodesia, with twenty-six of the thirty seats in the Assembly held by his United Rhodesia Party. But it was united only in name. He had to threaten to resign in order to widen the franchise slightly; when one of his own back-benchers brought in an Immorality Bill, he condemned it as a racial measure but, having allowed a free vote, had to watch his whole Cabinet file into the opposite lobby and pass the Bill. He admonished Southern Rhodesia's newly formed African National Con- gress, and made vague threats to suppress it. At the time this was thought the action of Todd the missionary-paternalist flourishing the cane at the cheeky child; but, six months later, when his Cabinet resigned, it became clear that he had made this anti-Congress speech to placate his colleagues and heal the Cabinet breach.

Todd had made other mistakes in trying to com- promise. In November, 1957, he led his tattered party into a merger with Welensky's Federal Party (they had never opposed each other, but had operated at different political levels—federal and territorial). This he did because he believed he could 'liberalise' the federal franchise proposals, then being considered; others saw the prime pur- pose of the merger quite differently—the removal of Todd from the premiership. Todd was removed within four months.

Even. then, Todd went on compromising and served in Whitehead's Cabinet alongside the men who had toppled him. The popular simplification had it that two schools of thought existed then in the merged United Federal Party about African advancement—'There's not, much time left, y'know' and 'We mustn't push things too fast.' Todd was convinced the first would prevail. Only when Whitehead turned on Todd and blamed him for his own by-election defeat (which precipitated the general election), did Todd leave the Cabinet and re-form his old party from among his faith- fuls. The 4,663 voters (15 per cent. of the poll) who supported his party included 1,700 non- Europeans. Among them was Robert Chikerema, vice-president of Congress and a man not nor- mally given to sentiment. '1 voted for Todd, he told me, 'because he resigned for his principles and I trusted him then.'

Todd's re-formed party did not fight the Federal elections last November. Instead, Todd, a New Zealander who ,rad enerrtically immers2 . h self in Southern Rhodesian mission and political life for twenty )ears, took a deep breath of fresh air : he went on a long tour of America and the Commonwealth, began to inquire deeply into the problems of the other two territories of the Feder- ation, and returned to Salisbury at the height of the Emergency turmoil, a changed and broadened man.

Sir John Moffat has undergone a similar purifi- cation by political fire. His is the family most renowned in Rhodesia for public service, from the earliest missionaries through a Premier to the present Federal Chief Justice. Himself a retired provincial commissioner who had sparred with Welensky in the Northern Rhodesia Legislative Council, he came to the first Federal Parliament as a nominated member and chairman of the African Affairs Board, then considered the chief safeguard of African interests written into the Federal Constitution. But in the winter of 1957-58 the Board's powers were first tested and proved feeble : the Bills enlarging the Federal House, altering the franchise and providing for the elec- tion of six more African MPs were considered discriminatory against Africans by the Board, and Sir John appealed them to the British Parliament. After a quick visit by Lord Home to Salisbury, Tories were instructed to endorse these Bills. Africans, who saw this action as a betrayal by the Tories, nevertheless respected Sir John for his outspoken fight on their behalf.

His final disillusion with Welensky's policy came in July when, as a leading proponent of the 'There's-not-much-time-left' school, he put for- ward his Motion for Co-operation between Peoples of the Federation. It was a condensed version of the Moffat Resolutions which passed the Northern Rhodesia Legislative Council without a division years before, and deserves to be quoted in full, as it is now the basis of the Central Africa Party's policy : (1). The objective of policy in the Federation is to remove from each race the fear that the other might dominate for its own racial benefit. Until this objective can be achieved, a period of transi- tion remains during which special arrangements in the machinery of Government must be made, so as to ensure that no race can use the preponder- ance of its members or its more advanced stage of development to dominate the other for its own racial benefit; (2). Every lawful inhabitant of the Federation has the right to progress according to his charac- ter, ability and industry without distinction of race, colour or creed.

His theme was that 'the vast majority' of Euro- peans were willing to come to terms with their African fellow-countrymen and make concessions 'if they could be assured that the granting of these concessions does not mean further demands for further concessions until they were swamped,' and that 99 in every 100 Africans desired to co-operate, given a mass 'rallying point.' Realistically, he be- lieved (he said) that 'the African people can obtain a majority in this Federation on the voters' roll far sooner than they could be trusted with the power that goes with that majority.' His solu- tion then was• a Constitutional Court within Rhodesia (rather than the British Parliament on appeal) which could veto discriminatory legisla- tion and would establish a reputation for fairness by Europeans while they still had the upper hand politically.

The Government's almost curt reply was that

Sir John had soared to philosophical heights they could not pursue, and that they had no faith in the efficacy of his motion, which was thereupon relegated to the foot of the order paper until it disappeared a month later.

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Liberal politics in the Federation have in the past been confused for two reasons: first, as already explained, because liberals tried to 'liberalise' a more right-wing party either from inside (as with Todd), or from a nominated gov- ernment position (as with Moffat and Franklin) which carried its own inhibitions. Secondly, be- cause the only organisation which tried to link the liberals of all the Federation's three territories together was the idealistic Capricorn Africa Society which, to keep its legal status as a charit- able organisation, could only hover on the verges of politics as a pressure-group. Eventually it put on a political helmet as the Constitution Party, but its seven candidates were trounced in the Federal elections, and it has retired into the quieter field of adult education. The battlefield has been left clear for the Central Africa Party to deploy in.

Their first skirmish, in the Northern Rhodesian elections in March, was successful beyond any- one's hopes. Only 400 out of 7,617 African voters voted UFP, but the CAP candidates got solid African and Indian support; Sir John and Harry Franklin also received a large proportion of European votes—indeed, they could not have been elected without them, due to the system of re- ducible votes on a lower-qualification roll. Alfred Gondwe beat his Congress opponent handsomely, showing that many Africans welcomed a truly multi-racial party. And the CAP foursome who were elected is now the basis in the Legislative Council for a larger voting bloc (including the Congress president, Harry Nkumbula), which will hold the balance between Colonial Office Minis- ters and Welensky's men.

The differences between their policy and Welensky's is becoming clearer each month, now that they are not trying to reconcile these differ- ences in order to get close to, and so try to influence, Welensky. It is not just a question of 'being trusted by Africans' and recognising the urgency of African advancement, though their defined policies stem from this base. In Todd's own words, 'the Federal Prime Minister has made no secret of the fact that the official policy of Partnership would never be allowed to threaten the supreme policy of European domination. . . . The Federal Electoral Law . . . was designed to retain power in the hands of Europeans. This policy of European domination has brought us to a state of emergency and threatens to break up the Federation.' His own policy is to interpret literally the Preamble to the Federal Constitution, that Dominion Status shall not be granted until the majority of its inhabitants so desire (whereas Welensky almost incredibly equates 'inhabitants' with 'present voters,' asserting as grounds that nine Africans in ten do not understand the mean- ing of Federation).

The party also 'lays stress on the preservation and consolidation of territorial rights and resis- tance to any depredations upon the rights by the Federal Government.' Welensky they see as an unrepentent Amalgamationist, to whom Federa- tion itself was a set-back and who is working still for a unitary government (White-run, of course) by the erosive method of federalising, one by one, territorial government responsibilities like agriculture and—the subject of his current cam- paignHaw and order. No explanation is needed why this 'states rights' policy of the CAP is the one most attractive to Africans who are reconciled to Federation only by the promise of meaningful territorial self-government soon:


No specific mention has yet been made in this 'article of Nyasaland. The Central Africa Party is unlikely to get much early support from Nyasa- land Africans, whose racial attitudes have hard- ened since the Emergency and some of whose leaders were deported by Todd from Southern Rhodesia years ago; support is even less likely to come from the settlers, most of whom do not seek Dominion status but passionately want closer links with the central government for (as they see it) their own self-preservation. A few Nyasaland Europeans and Indians—mainly lead- ing traders and missionaries—see further than this, and believe that a speedy programme of handing over substantial territorial powers to the Nyasas is the only course offering an escape from pro- longed trouble in a country where the ' Africa n- European ratio is 325: 1.

The Central Africa Party already supports such a policy; but, if it is to win any Nyasa backing, it must go further and advocate that, at next year's review of the Federal constitution, Nyasa- land should be offered a constitutional way out of Federation at a (specified) later date. Such an offer would, at a stroke, remove the claustrophobia which plagues Nyasaland, and would allow its African leaders time to examine rationally--in- stead of dismissing emotionally---the benefits their country gains from being in Federation. That there are economic benefits is clear; though it is far from clear that they are of the enormous order which the Federal Government claims. But a few years with Africans in responsible administrative positions in Nyasaland and able to assess these benefits for their own worth, rather than as a political debating point, offer the only real chance of saving the Federation from break-up. It must be a free association of peoples for mutual benefit, or it will not'survive.

There is evidence that the Central Africa Party is moving towards making such a far-sighted policy statement. Their frequent conditional re- marks beginning, 'If Federation is to sur- vive, . . .', contrast with Federal (and British) Government statements which declare : 'Federa- tion is here to stay. It must be made to work. Everyone must realise why it's the best course, and that there is no practicable alternative.'

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Such are the liberal policies which may yet bridge the widening gap between the races. They are based on enlightened and long-term self- interest, rather than on the short-term self-interest which guides Welensky, who has always art. proached politics in his old role of trade-union negotiator. The disadvantage with these policies is that, in the short term, they are not going to win many parliamentary seats for the Central Africa Party. An intensive registration of voters drive among Africans in Southern Rhodesia might give the party three seats in thirty at the next ter- ritorial election. The federal franchise, with its communal rolls, offers them practically no chance of a seat for either an African or European candi- date.

So the party's short-term tactics must be to act as a 'ginger' group on Welensky's party and to speak with a clear voice at the 1960 Constitutional talks, which their Northern Rhodesia Legislative Council seats entitle them to attend. Their strength may begin to grow quickly if Europeans, as in Kenya, suddenly come to realise that their security depends on coming to terms with, rather than sup- pressing, genuine African opinion.

In the long term, the future belongs to the Cen- tral Africa Party more than to Welensky. Already Africans comprise a quarter of Northern Rho- desia's territorial electorate, and this new pattern will spread provided that new franchises intro- duced are fair and not loaded against Africans by reducible-vote clauses or other devices now used.

But all this depends on there being an the long term' for the Federation at all, and on enough Europeans realising, with Moffat and Todd, that 'there's not much time left' to come to terms with Africans. There is hope that the troubles in Nyasa- land have shaken a number of Europeans into this realisation.