14 APRIL 1961, Page 18

SIR,—It was a pleasant surprise to read a letter signed

by Miss May Bell, Grahamstown, South Africa, in last week's Spectator. For those of us who come from the Eastern Province her letters to the local press are familiar. Had there been more people today, like Miss Bell, willing openly to condemn and criticise, it is more than possible there would have been no Sharpeville I

It is then unfortunate that in her last paragraph she makes the following statement: 'It is not done to criticise our country beyond our coast.' Thus Miss Bell denies the traveller and exile alike the right to criticise apartheid outside South Africa.

Was Thomas Pringle, the well-known writer and 1820 settler, disloyal to his newly adopted country when, through the tyranny imposed by Lord Charles Somerset, Pringle was forced to return to England? Here he not only criticised the Government of the day, but became secretary of the Anti-Slavery Society in London. He was in a position to advise the society from first-hand experience gained in South Africa.

Apartheid is, after all, a twentieth-century form of slavery, based on racialism Testing on a familiar eco- nomic foundation : the provision of cheap labour for the more privileged. Apartheid is no longer a South African issue, but an international one. I think that Miss Bell is wrong in denying herself and us who arc exiles the right to criticise Dr. Verwoerd's Govern- ment 'beyond our coast.'

. In South Africa, during the Emergency this time last year, I was one of the 11,000 people put into prison without trial. Last month I took part in the Sharpeville Vigil. During these two hours I wore the Black Sash and listed in my mind all the brave people I knew in South Africa who were fighting apartheid. May I, then, through this column, join thoughts with Miss Bell, who, together with others on Our Home Front, fight, as we are doing here, and in the words of Thomas Pringle, 'To make South Africa . . . a land wherein a man may speak the thing he will'?— Yours faithfully,


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