17 NOVEMBER 1961, Page 6

Prehistoric Monsters

By T. R. M. CREIGHTON SIR ROY WELENSKY'S public appearances last week brought some lines from Meredith's Modern Love irresistibly to mind.

With sparkling surface-eyes we ply the ball: It is in truth a most contagious game: Hiding the Skeleton shall be its name;

Such play in truth the devils might appal.

Behind his remarks to the Institute of Directors and his adroit evasions in several radio interviews, Sir Roy was hiding the same skeleton—the fact that he and the United Federal Party are governing the Central African Federation without the con- sent and against the will of the enormous majority of its population, of eight million, and that Federation in anything like its present form, his own Premiership of it, and the dominance of the UFP, can only survive in the face of their bitter unappeasable hostility. Whenever consent is men- tioned, Sir Roy begins to talk with sparkling sur- face-eyes of something else—the iniquities of Dr. Nkrumah, his own objections to universal suffrage, his refusal to equate political indepen- dence or majority rule with freedom, the virtues of 'partnership' as practised in the Federation, the 'extremism' and 'racialism' of Africanist leaders or the threat of Communism: Sir Roy must know that he governs without consent, and that this must be concealed from the sentimental British public. This is not to impugn his sincerity. tle seems really to believe, in the face of overwhelmingly contrary evidence, that this is the best way to govern Africans and promote African advance; that Africans are so backward and irresponsible that they must not be given what they want but what the white man knows is good for them and at the slow pace he wisely sees to be necessary; and that since the West perversely and ignorantly wishes to extend to natives democratic theories that any white African knows do not apply to them, since it is so spineless and `jelly-boned,' it must be cozened into accepting his beliefs under the watchwords of 'partnership' and 'civilised standards' rather than accepting manfully the white man's burdens of paternalism and white supremacy. Sir Roy cannot, it is true, afford to believe in government by consent. It would mean the end of the Federation and the reduction of the UFP to a meagre opposition representing a quarter-million Europeans and a handful of obsequious Africans against the forces of Africanism and inter- racialism. And the white man is doing very nicely out of his Central African supremacy at present. But it is not because of any conscious wickedness, oppressiveness or racialism that Sir Roy is the greatest danger Britain faces in Africa. It is be- cause he is hopelessly out of date in his views of what Africans are like, what they want or can be induced to put up with, hopelessly ill-informed about the irresistible resolution with which they demand adequate representation in the govern- ments that rule them and about their ability to make use of it and hopelessly antediluvian in his belief that they can be denied it by a white minority. He is not a bad man but a prehistoric monster; and the Central Africa he envisages would be a colony of prehistoric monsters in the Africa of today.

Sir Roy's thesis is that most Africans are not yet capable of using political representation or exercising political responsibility; they must be 'brought on' slowly till they can appreciate and apply 'European standards.' As they do so, they will gradually be admitted, by a European- manipulated qualitative franchise, to increasing representation. And when the white man sees that enough of them are civilised enough to want the same things as Europeans want, they may be allowed a majority of votes—but not before.

Apart from the temptation to which this ex- poses Europeans to retard African advance from crude self-interest, it seems, and rightly, to Africans an affront to their human dignity. They cannot see why to be African should expose them to second-class citizenship. They do not agree that all Europeans are virtuous and voteworthy and most Africans are not. They do not regard European standards as practised in Central Africa as sacrosanct. They do not want to be 'brought on' by Sir Roy Welensky, or to attain to an alien standard of culture and conduct. They want to express themselves in the society that is being formed and, since it contains thirty-six Africans to every European, they cannot see why Sir Roy Welensky should deny to them the right to con- tribute as much as Europeans to its building.

Sir Roy still speaks as if the Monckton Com- mission, with its clear recommendation of an African majority in Northern Rhodesia and its outright statement that Federation without sweeping changes in favour of African rep- resentation is unviable, had never sat. He still futilely attempts to denigrate Dr. Banda's vic- tory in Nyasaland as 'extremist' and unrep- resentative because he must reconcile his claim that the Federation is the freest country in Africa with the fact that the only territory enjoying majority representation wants above all to leave it. Even in his attacks upon Ghana, Sir Roy over- looks the fact that, whatever its deficiencies, Dr. Nkrumah's government was elected by universal suffrage, whereas his own is supported by a tiny fraction of the total population. And in defend- ing Tshombe as representing an African majority in Katanga,* because he is prepared to play the European game, while opposing one in Northern Rhodesia because Kenneth Kaunda is a true inter- racialist, he reaches the limit of expedient in- consistency.

Sir Roy is attempting to shelter his fragile Federal house of cards against the blasts of the wind of change. Britain should pay no attention, but introduce the necessary changes to the Northern Rhodesian constitution—a fair per- centage for the qualification for Nation'al seats and the abolition of special Asian and Coloured seats—and refuse to abandon her reserved powers under the present inequitable Southern Rhodesian constitution. Perhaps good sense and Mr. Maudling will be able to insist on this in the Cabinet: tor if they do not,.it will mean the end of British influence in Central Africa.