1 FEBRUARY 1963, Page 4

Gloom Descending

THE relief that is felt at the possible lightening of the situation in Central Africa should not encourage anyone into thinking that Britain is at last approaching the end of her colonial respon- sibilities. With the installation of African govern- ment in Northern Rhodesia and the reintegration of Katanga, the trouble spots are ominously moving South and so nearer the eventual and in- evitable confrontation between African nationalism and South Africa. It is the British High Commission territories of Bechuanaland, Basutoland and Swaziland which are likely to be the next focus of world attention, and where the British position in the eyes of the United Nations is likely to be the most vulnerable and difficult of all. Each of these three territories, though pre- dominantly black, is economically dependent on South Africa and so sensitive to Dr. Verwoerd's slightest move against them. It is improbable that he will easily assent to their becoming either bases for South African rebels or citadels of black government on his doorstep. He has not needed to act so far only because white South African interests in the territories have been strong enough to prevent any really significant growth of African nationalism, and in Swaziland have been buttressed by a lucky alliance with traditionalist African chiefs. At the Con- ititutional Conference in London this week Swazi traditionalists and whites alike are seeking to have this dominance perpetuated in a con- stitution which gives half the power to the old native National Council and half to the 10,000 whites, as a supposedly fair, way of representing minority interests. Both groups are seeking to ex- clude the territory's nascent political parties alto- gether, representatives of whom are, however, present at the Conference.

The British Government's acceptance of such a constitution could only be seen as a concession to the might and influence of white South Africa. It could be interpreted only as a refusal to face now a problem that might be many times more difficult in the near future, and would have un- doubted repercussions throughout nationalist Africa. The number of white representatives should be considerably reduced and strong attempts made to reconcile the traditionalists with African political parties. Britain should also remember that the one way of protecting all three territories from Dr. Verwoerd is to help them to economic self-sufficiency.