18 JUNE 1948, Page 7



THOUGH the Union of South Africa has a parliamentary con- stitution, she is not a democracy, since effective political power lies with the white twenty per cent. of her peoples. Today a minority of this minority has returned an isolationist Nationalist Ministry, thanks largely to the fact that rural constituencies, in which such opinions flourish, enjoy a big preference over the larger English-speaking towns in the matter of sects. The religious views of Dr. D. F. Malan, the new Prime Minister, are unimpeach- ble by Dutch Reformed Church standards, his segregationist political views are eighteenth-century Cape Colonial, his recent war record is lamentable, his future political conduct largely unpredictable. Nevertheless, he is the King's Prime Minister in a Dominion, and as such entitled to receive the courteous consideration, and, whether he likes it or not, the good-natured criticism which his peers in the British Commonwealth States are wont to extend to one another.

' There can be little doubt that the Smuts Ministry expected their United Party to win by half a length or so ; but the party was not so strong as it looked. Malan's Nationalists and N. C. Havenga's Afrikaner Party had been carrying on an intensive propaganda for years past. They also possessed an elaborate and well-financed electoral machine. Further, they knew what they wanted. They wanted to get rid of Smuts, and of J. H. Hofmeyr, his right-hand man, whose Liberal views on non-European questions were anathema to them ; they did not intend that the despised Indians should have the Parliamentary representation that Smuts had offered them, and would have wished to dispense with the civilised coloured folk ; they meant to make the Smuts Government pay for its war-time mistakes and its present refusal to allow the Union's numerous maize-farmers to export, and thus to get the high world prices at the risk of leaving the Union's market, and especially the Bantu market, short of `mealies." To achieve these desirable ends by winning the wavering /Afrikanders and short-sighted English-speaking voters, they osten- tatiously laid " the Republic " aside for a season, and fought the election by parading the non-existent " Black Peril " which had served them and their then Labour allies so well (and Africa so ill) in the election of 1929. At the last moment Smuts played into their hands by recognising the new State of Israel, a step which may conceivably have helped him on the Rand, where there are many Zionists, but much more certainly harmed him in many other parts of the Union.

At the end of it all, the United Party's strength had fallen from 89 to 69, while that of its Labour collaborators stood steady at six. (Against them were Malan's 70 Nationalists in alliance with Havenga's nine Afrikaner Party men, who then enjoyed a majority of three after deducting Mr. Speaker and the Chairman of Committee. Smuts himself had lost Standerton in the south-eastern Transvaal, which he had held for nearly a quarter of a century. The outgoing Premier, for all his 78 years, took his unexpected defeat well. " I am now an old man . . .," he said. " If there is any blame for this present failure, let it be mine. . . . I can take it. . . . I look forward ./With confidence to the eventual completion of the task for which fifty years has been all too short a time "—the task of fostering con- ciliation and co-operation between ' all our people, of whatever party or race,' to which he and his one-time leader, Louis Botha, had devoted themselves in 1902 at the close of the South African War. rIt is good to know that ' the General' has accepted the offer of a presumably safe seat at Pretoria East.

Dr. Malan's reaction to success illustrates the difference between

his outlook and that of his predecessor. On the eve of the election Smuts had broadcast an Empire Day appeal to South Africans to recognise the existence of the outer world and the urgent bearing of its problems on their own affairs. The appeal had been of little immediate avail. Now the new Prime Minister-designate stepping but of the Blue Train at the small south-water Tranivaal town of Klerksdorp, announced from beneath the shade of the temporarily resurrected Vierkleur, that South Africans had come into their own. " Whereas once we were strangers in our own country, today we all feel at home in our land." Presently, at Pretoria, he thanked the many English-speaking voters to whom he owed much of his success, and rejoiced that a " miracle " had occurred. " South Africans have come to realise that South Africa is something of their own in a deeper sense than was the case before." Perhaps it is all to the good that a responsible Minister, even at the ripe age of 74, should have discovered what had long been obvious to most observers. It is certainly well that the much more moderate Havenga should have declared, also at Pretoria, that no one had anything to fear from this " bloodless revolution," and that the Union would be anxious to co-operate with the United Kingdom, if it were " in the national interest to be in step." And, presumably, if not, not. Which is the essential present problem of the Commonwealth.

The Malan Ministry was sworn in on June 4th. It is admittedly an able team, though with much less than the customary Transvaal membership. Eleven of the new Ministers are Nationalists, and one an Afrikaner Party man. But that one is Havenga, Minister of Finance. He is a key man, whose small personal following ensures Malan such small majority as he has. And though Havenga is, apparently, even less Liberal than Malan on the non-European questions, he by no means shares his enthusiasm for a republic. How, he asks, could South Africa enjoy more freedom as a republic than she has long done as a Dominion ? He may well ask.

Well, what does it all mean ? It is no use for the United Party, which failed to organise thoroughly, to plead that their opponents have won because they did do so ; it is not even true to put it all down, as some do, to the inevitable swing of the electoral pendulum after a great war. The thing is not so simple and one-sided as that ; there is here good and evil mixed. On the one hand, let it be noted that a very considerable majority of South African electors have stood by Smuts, and, therefore, presumably, by Hofmeyr, and his Liberal non-European policy. There is hope in these facts. On the other hand, a strategically placed minority has helped to install Smuts's isolationist opponent in office. It has done it avowedly on parish-party issues, closing its eyes to the existence of the outer world, except, possibly, the new Dominion of India from which Malan expects trouble, and reckoning at all costs to save its own white skin. This minority evidently shares its leaders' belief that the thorough-going segregationist policy of apartheid, on which, the election was won, will relegate the various groups of the Union's non-European peoples each to their own place, there to perform the miracle of developing " along their own lines," a miracle whose performance the very proximity of Europeans has long since rendered impossible. As for themselves, the Union's white folk are to have " a new feeling of safety through the protection of their identity and their future." It may be so ; but it is well to recall that the erstwhile dodo of Mauritius was, like the Reverend Doctor himself, a denizen of Africa who hoped to let the world go by. The world did not go by, and now what remains of this once plump, stocky and well-nigh brainless bird are " his bones and beak all in the Mus-e-um! "

Let us, however, not emulate that highly-strung organism, the London Stock Exchange, by panicking, even mildly, at the news of Smuts's defeat. It is not the end of the world, nor of Africa, still less of the British Commonwealth. It may do the United Party good to have a spell of heart-searching in the wilderness ; it will certainly do the Nationalists good to have a sobering term of respon- sible office. It is doubtful whether Malan can do much positive harm, unless indeed he manages to increase his majority at the further election within the year which he is already foreshadowing. In so far as his Ministry tries to enforce the policy of apartheid, the very fact that it advocates it is a bad business for all " Black Africa," and for more than one American republic. The chief immediate adverse effects of Malan's rise to power are likely to be felt not inside, but outside, the Union's borders. True, Malan assures us that South Africa will be loyal to the somewhat ineffective United Nations, and "especially cordial to the other members of the Commonwealth," with whom she will co-operate protded there is no " interference " with the Union's sacred sovereignty. This is well, as far as it goes. But it does not go very far ; nothing liko so far as Smuts would have gone with his insistence on the paramount importance, " for us in the Commonwealth also," of the organisation of the West and its " association " with the United States. In this regard the danger to

the Commonwealth and the world arising from the segregationist victory in South Africa springs not so much from what Malan will do as from what he will not do. It is as certain as anything political can be that at a time when the idea of a real and most necessary federation of as many States of Western civilisation as may be has been taken up openly by such men as Churchill, Bevin, Marshall, and Smuts himself, Malan's South Africa will be found sitting on the wrong side of the council-table—if it be sitting there at all.

As for the Nationalists' evident belief that Smuts's comparatively Liberal policy towards Non-Europeans is responsible for such spread of Communism in the Union as there has been, it may be suggested that the real cause of this very natural development is precisely the utterly illiberal and repressive policies which Nationalists themselevs advocate for the depressed and dark-skinned eighty per cent. of the inhabitants of the Union. The one sure way to defeat Communism is, not to curse it, but to do so well for the mass of your people that they will have no cause to listen to the missionaries of the Marxian Koran.