18 AUGUST 1939, Page 14

Commonwealth and Foreign



WHEN the Cape native franchise, in its orthodox liberal form, was abolished three years ago, a very interesting attempt was made to replace it by representa- tive institutions more in conformity with the policy of separate, parallel development which the Hertzog Govern- ment has adopted as the basis of the relations between White and Black in South Africa. I must resist the temptation to discuss the pros and cons of this policy: for the time being the governing races of South Africa have turned their back upon the liberal principles of the old Cape policy. Their new outlook is essentially one of White domination, but within it there is scope for considerable development of the Bantu or African group in conformity with the doctrines to which the name of trusteeship has been generally given. An active minority still holds to the older principles of liberalism, but for the time being its chief activity must lie in encouraging those groups within the majority to whom the doctrine of trusteeship makes an appeal. Hence neither the Banm themselves nor their European friends have adopted a non-co-operative attitude in connexion with the new institutions, but are endeavouring to use them as a stepping-stone to something better.

In Parliament itself the Bantu voters of the Cape Province have three representatives in the House of Assembly, while the Bantu of the Union as a whole elect four Senators by the elaborate system of indirect election. In addition to this actual Parliamentary representation, where the Bantu must speak through their European members, there is what is called a " Natives' Representative Council," which in com- position is probably almost unique in the British Common- wealth, and for that reason alone deserves some study.

The Secretary for Native Affairs is ex officio Chairman of the Council, but he is the only European who has any vote in it. The five Chief Native Commissioners of the Union are present as advisers, with the right to speak, but not to vote. The voting membership consists of sixteen Bantu representatives, four from each of the Native Electoral Areas of the Union. Of these sixteen, four—one from each area— are nominated by the Government. It must be said that the first nominations have been very satisfactory, for the Govern- ment has used its power discreetly not to appoint sup- porters so much as to provide for the representation of unrepresented tribes, areas, or classes. The twelve elected representatives are chosen by indirect election. In the case of the Transkeian Territories the electing body is the Transkeian Territories General Council, itself a thoroughly representative body. In each of the other areas one of the three members is chosen by the urban areas through their municipal advisory boards, and two by the rural areas through a very complicated electoral system, in which chiefs and local councils and committees bear a part. The sixteen members represent many different walks of life ; journalism is particularly well represented, but the members include a hotel-keeper, a builder and contractor, a 'bus and taxi-pro- prietor, and the principal of a school, in addition to six chiefs.

While the functions of the Representative Council are advisory and not legislative, it has a definite statutory posi- tion in relation to Parliament. Bills specially affecting the Bantu are to be laid before it, and its views must be circulated to both Houses of Parliament before the dis- cussion of such Bills. Estimates of expenditure on certain welfare services, particularly agriculture and education, have also to be laid before the Council, which is given the oppor- tunity of questioning the administrative officials concerned under each separate head. It may be mentioned also that the Council has the right of initiating discussions on any subject.

So far the members of the Council have risen thoroughly to the dignity of their new position, and have shown very considerable statesmanship and restraint. Difficulties will undoubtedly arise in the near future on account of clashes of opinion between the Council and the Government. The future effectiveness of the Council will depend very largely on the extent to which Government and Parliament are prepared to give way gracefully in the case of some of these clashes.

Some of these clashes of opinion have arisen owing to the urgency of additional welfare expenditure, and the reluctance of the Union Government to approach Parliament directly for the voting of funds from general revenue for specifically Bantu services. There is much good will, at any rate among certain members of the Union Government, but, strange though it may seem, the Government prefers to " Do good by stealth, and blush to find it fame."

There is a school of thought fairly strongly represented on the Government benches which, in defiance of the generally accepted canons of taxation, believes in what may be termed " fiscal segregation "—in other words, the doctrine that native welfare should be financed entirely out of native taxation. The Government is not willing to challenge this conception, though occasionally it succeeds in circumventing it.

One of the outstanding matters on which there is a difference of opinion between the Government and the Representative Council has become urgent precisely because of financial stress. This is the control of Bantu education. Funds are very urgently needed for its extension, but the Government feels that it will be idle to ask for more money without placing Bantu education under the control of the Native Affairs Department of the Union. For various reasons, perhaps most of all from the fear that the education given under these auspices will be limited and unduly influ- enced by considerations of policy, the Representative Council is strongly opposed to the change.

Representative councillors, particularly those from urban areas, feel that the Government is in its policy adopting too uncritically the view that the tribal Bantu living in reserves are the norm, and that as a result many essential services are neglected. The Government, for example, is not willing to extend old age pensions or invalidity pensions to the Bantu at all, and is only willing to give children's grants under very stringent conditions, on the plea that the Bantu family system, with its strong sense of communal responsi- bility, should make this action unnecessary. Such is the case in primitive tribal society ; it is far from being generally true in urban areas, and even in a good many rural or semi- rural areas which have been strongly affected by European industrialism and individualism.

Nevertheless, on many points the Council and the Govern- ment are succeeding in working together with real good will, not least on agrarian policy and agricultural develop- ment. Very gradually—all too gradually—the Bantu are learning to appreciate the positive elements in the Govern- ment's policy, and the Government to appreciate the reasonableness of the attitude of the Bantu leaders and the reality of their needs.