6 JUNE 1931, Page 8

The Colour Bar [The Spectator does not necessarily agree with

all the views of the writers contributing to this series on the Colour Bar. Our object in publishing the series is to attempt some explanation of why the Colour Bar exists, and to emphasize the importance of the problem for the British Commonwealth. Next week Lord Lugard will write on the administrative aspect of the Colour Bar. Our correspondence columns are open at all times to letters which seem to us to add to the interest of this discussion ; and such correspondence is cordially invited.—En. Spectator.]

South Africa To-day


ACHANGE has come over South Africa in the last few months. The chief cause has been the sudden break in prosperity owing to world trade depression. This affected South Africa much later than other countries because of its immense gold resources. But even in this land of mineral wealth the depression has now visibly set in. There is extreme distress among the Bantu popula- tion. The " poor whites " are on the verge of destitution. The Boer farmers, who are still in character and deter- mination the backbone of the country, have suffered very severely. The doubtful reception which General Hertzog recently received in Namaqualand from members of his own party was entirely due to the compelling stress of want, bordering on starvation. It has been the driving force behind Dr. Steenkamp's new " National Workers and Farmers' Bond," whose rapid advance has been looked upon with dismay by the Nationalist Government in power.

The public expenditure has been cut down by the Finance Minister, Mr. Havenga, with a ruthlessness which did not spare even the non-European census. To the great regret of all social workers, the sum of £50,000 has been economized by undertaking at the last moment the European census only, although the papers for the full census had been already prepared. Such a short-sighted action reveals a state of mind in which excessive caution predominates.

In facing the grave economic crisis, the sterling qualities of the Dutch and British settlers have been made evident in a very striking manner. There has been a universal determination to win through by rigid economy and thrift. Men and women have gone back to their hard-won expe- rience inherited from their ancestors, who had faced in their day similar seasons of distress. There has been also a deepening of personal religion in the hearts of the people. The farmers on the veldt have a simple, practical faith which gives a wholeness to human life and integrates moral character. It is a gift which the vast silent spaces under the cloudless sky help to foster. When fortitude is needed such a faith carries the Boer farmers through with a high courage that makes life true at the centre. In their patience these men win their souls.

It is not without significance that the Scots, by their sympathy in the things of religion, have won the affection of the Boer farmers on the veldt more than any other European people. Andrew Murray, who came out long ago to help their Church, has almost become their patron saint. His own family, intermarrying among the Dutch people and sharing their religious life, has brought about a physical as well as spiritual kinship. His statue in marble, outside the oldest Dutch Reformed Church in Capetown,i sheds its radiance on the passers-by. I have often seen the Dutch and British people pause before it to receive, as it were, its benediction. A second group of statuary at Stellenbosch University, representing the two Murrays and Hofmeyr together, is almost equally noble. Livingstone and Moffat are two further names which are honoured and revered by Dutch and British alike. Such links with Great Britain are far more binding and lasting than resolutions passed by Imperial Conferences.

For it needs to be continually remembered. in this country, as, the key to the heart of South Africa, that the Boer families who settled there many 'generations ago have not weakened in their religious character as the ages - have gone by. They retain a joy in the Old Testament, ' which we ourselves not seldom find it bard to recover. On the voyage home I travelled with a Dutch friend who was a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church. At the religious service on board ship he brought to my reeollec- tion the old Scottish usage by choosing those hymns which were paraphrases of the Psalms. The Dutch Church is deeply indebted to Scotland for sending, in an hour of need, her very best men and women as helpers to South Africa. They have been as the salt of the earth, loved by all her people. Andrew Murray was only one in a great succession.

Beneath his rugged exterior the Boer farmer retains a sentiment which runs very deep. He has a warm heart always open to welcome the stranger. His hospitality is not only for his neighbour who may assist him in return, but also for those who can make a home in South Africa and learn to respect her as the country of their adoption. The name of Emily Hobhouse is revered in every Dutch household on account of her fearless championship of the women and children in the concentration camps during the Boer War, and her love for their country. I met her nearly twenty years ago in the house of Mrs. Botha, when she was a complete invalid, unable to rise from her bed of sickness. Her moral influence was supreme. General Botha almost worshipped her goodness ; and General Smuts paid her at Bloemfontein after her death a beautiful memorial tribute.

With all this, which is most lovable in South Africa, there is one profound limitation. For the " colour bar " is retained, among the Dutch generally, both in Church and State. It has been established with a rigidity that seems almost impossible to break down. After a recent tour through a similar " colour bar area" in the- United States I should be the last to judge harshly those in South Africa who are face to face with the same problems, even though I repudiate utterly the system itself which has been devised as its practical solution. For I have witnessed, with my own eyes, a deep affection still con- tinuing between the American negroes and the Southern Whites, born often of a common adversity ; and I can feel, in exactly a similar manner, how, in spite of the " colour bar " in South Africa, there is not seldom a mutual affection between Dutch and Bantu which has sprung up out of common sorrows. The two races have lived so long together, helping one another in hard times. that there remains still a kindly spirit which may in the end prevail over the evils of the " colour bar " itself.

Certain things have happened during the last four years which have done much already to weaken this obsession of colour prejudice among the younger gene- ration. First of all the coming of the Rt. Hon. V. Srina- vasa Sastri, as Agent of the Government of India, has worked wonders. His personal charm of character was so great and his intellectual powers so commanding that impenetrable barriers have given way before him. One of the older members of Dutch South Africa said to me : " It was impossible to keep up the ' colour bar' against a man like Mr. Sastri, who was so obviously superior to ourselves in every sense of the word."- It would be difficult to exaggerate the effect of his eventful stay in South Africa, which lasted for nearly three years. 111 spite of his bad health, he performed a miracle of trans- formation, and I found the change he had wrought still continuing when I visited the country this year.

Secondly, much may be accredited to the steady pres- sure of the Indian Government, which has refused to consent to legislative injustice being done to Indians resident in South Africa on racial grounds. The very same year, 1927, which witnessed the Colour Bar Act, saw also the Capetown Agreement made with the Indian Govern- ment. This contained an " Upliftment Clause," which acknowledged the duty of the South African Government to uplift each community "to the full extent of its capa- city and opportunities." In this way the Indian problem has helped materially to solve the Bantu problem as well.

Two other influences have been no less great, though much harder to appraise ; for they are both of a religious nature. Two years ago, a group of young Oxford Univer- sity men and women came out together and spoke simply of their own Christian experience of conversion. The very simplicity of their faith had its marked effect. It awakened a definite searching of heart on this whole problem of race - and colour which led to a change of life. I have spoken to many Dutch and English people in South Africa, who have told me that their way of life has been altered with regard to their treatment of the coloured races, since they had received this new Christian experience.

The last point to mention is perhaps the most interesting and hopeful of all. Last year the World Student Christian Federation met for its Conference at Fort Hare, which is the centre of the higher Bantu education in South Africa. The Dutch students came in considerable numbers, especially from Stellenbosch University. On the first day they remained somewhat aloof from the Bantu students, though meeting them in the religious gatherings. But on the second day the Dutch students themselves asked that these barriers should be removed. Then the whole Conference had its meals and games in common. Before parting, the Holy Communion was received together by all present. The Stellenbosch students had never had this Christian experience before in such a public manner, and though some of their elders afterwards rebuked them, they have remained firm to the principle they have thus established. When I visited Stellenbosch this year they told me that there had been no wavering or indecision in the matter. They had carried the younger generation in South Africa in a great measure with them in the conviction that an entire change of view on the colour question had to be brought about.