Some of the legal disabilities suffered by the native populations of the Union of South Africa and imperial responsibility

Material Information

Some of the legal disabilities suffered by the native populations of the Union of South Africa and imperial responsibility
Series Title:
Papers of Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje
Alternate Title:
Some of the legal disabilities suffered by the native populations of South Africa and imperial responsibility', USA, Plaatje, prepared for the South African Native Delegation [to England concerning the Native Lands Act?]
Plaatje, Sol. T. (Solomon Tshekisho), 1876-1932 ( Author, Primary )
Place of Publication:
[New York]
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Race discrimination -- Law and legislation -- South Africa ( LCSH )
Land tenure -- Law and legislation -- South Africa ( LCSH )
Blacks -- South Africa -- Politics and government ( LCSH )
Blacks -- South Africa -- Social conditions. ( LCSH )
Blacks -- South Africa -- Economic conditions ( LCSH )
Apartheid -- South Africa ( LCSH )
Blacks -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- South Africa ( LCSH )
Apartheid ( LCSH )
Blacks -- Economic conditions ( LCSH )
Blacks -- Legal status, laws, etc. ( LCSH )
Blacks -- Politics and government ( LCSH )
Blacks -- Social conditions ( LCSH )
Land tenure -- Law and legislation ( LCSH )
Race discrimination -- Law and legislation ( LCSH )
South Africa ( LCSH )
Spatial Coverage:
Africa -- South Africa
-30 x 25


General Note:
Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje was born on 9 October 1876, in the district of Boshof, Orange Free State, South Africa. His parents were Barolongs, coming originally from Thaba Ncho, and trekking eventually to Mafeking. He was educated at Pneil Mission Station (Berlin Missionary Society), near Barkly West, until he passed the fourth standard. He then worked as a student teacher, continuing his study through private lessons from the Rev. G.E. Westphal. In March 1894 he joined the Cape Government Service as a letter- carrier in the Kimberley Post Office. In his own time he studied languages and passed the Cape Civil Service examination in typewriting, Dutch and native languages. In 1898 he was transferred to Mafeking as interpreter, and during the Siege of Mafeking at the outbreak of the Boer War in 1899, he was appointed Dutch interpreter to the Court of Summary Jurisdiction. Plaatje decided to become a journalist in order to give a voice to the Bantu people. He edited a number of Bantu language newspapers including Koranta ea Becoana ( The Bechuana Gazette ) 1902- 1905, a weekly paper in English and Sechuana, which was financed by Chief Silas Molema. He then became Editor of Tsala ea Batho ( The People's Friend ) 1910-c1912. He was elected First Secretary-General of the South African Native National Congress (forerunner of the African National Congress), 1912-1917. In 1914 and 1919 he was a member of the Congress delegation to London against the Natives' Land Act of 1913. As a result of financial difficulties he became stranded in London for some time, but used this time to address meetings and to write Sechuana Proverbs. He returned to South Africa in 1917. Plaatje was also a delegate to the first Government Conference held under the Native Affairs Act. He travelled throughout Europe, Canada and the United States to draw attention to the plight of black South Africans. He was the author of numerous books including Native Life in South Africa (1915), Sechuana Proverbs and their European Equivalents (1916), and A Sechuana Reader. In 1919 he wrote Mhudi (published in 1930), which was the first published novel written in English by a Black South African. He died on 19 June 1932. Further reading: Willan, B., Sol Plaatje: South African Nationalist 1876-1932 , (Heineman, 1984)
General Note:
Prepared for the South African Native Delegation by Sol. T. Plaatje …
General Note:
Portrait on title page
General Note:
8 pages
General Note:
VIAF (name authority) : Plaatje, Sol. T. (Solomon Tshekisho), 1876-1932 : URI

Record Information

Source Institution:
SOAS University of London
Holding Location:
Special Collections
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
MS 375495, Plaatje, Box 1 ( soas order with reference )
MS 375495/02/05 ( calm reference number )
26017640 ( oclc )


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Full Text
Some of the Legal Disabilities Suffered by the
Native Population of the Union of South Africa and
Imperial Responsibility
Prepared for
The South African Native Delegation By
Editor of The People’s Friend, Kimberley.
President and Founder, Diamond Fields Men’s Own Brotherhood. Senior Vice-President, South African Native Congress. Chairman of the Native Delegation to England.
Author of “Native Life in South Africa,” and other works.
For further information on this and cognate subjects please apply to
Mr. SOL T. PLAATJE. 67 W. 131st Street.
Mr. J. E. BRUCE, 107 West 131st Street
or to
Editor, Africa and Orient Review,
158, Fleet Street, London, E.Cf.4.

Some of the Legal Disabilities Suffered by the Native Population of the Union of South Africa and Imperial Responsibility
The root of the evil involved in the legislative tendencies oi the Union Parliament lies in the Act of Union which excluded coloured taxpayers from the exercise of the Franchise. The result is that no matter how loudly they protest against an accumulation of wrongs, the Legislature is not obliged to take any notice of their protests. A dozen of sympathetic members of Parliament have now and again delivered weighty protests against the anti-colour excesses of the Union Parliament; but, in a House of 130 members, their protests had about the same effect as a drop in a bucket of water.
The following are among the prohibitions imposed by Parliament since the accomplishment of Union:—
(a) In Cape Colony (where Natives have exercised the Franchise for sixty years) coloured voters may not now elect a man of colour to represent them in the Legislative Assembly. No Native taxpayer is entitled to a vote in Transvaal, Orange Free State or Natal. (The South Africa Act, 1909.)
(b) Coloured persons are excluded by Act of Parliament * from membership rights in the Dutch Reformed
Church outside Cape Colony (1911).
(c) Coloured mechanics are precluded from working as skilled labourers in the industrial centres (Mining Regu- ' lations, 1911).
(d) Coloured Citizens are excluded from military training • in the Citizens’ Defence force of the Union (Act 13 of 1912).
(e) The settlement of Europeans on Crown land and the establishment of a Land Bank to advance State funds to white farmers is limited to Europeans to the exclusion of Native taxpayers (Acts 15 and 18 of 1912).
(f) Native miners are not allowed to benefit by the pensions and other advantages provided by law for miners who contract Miners’ Phthisis (Act 19 of 1912).
(g) Natives are prohibited from buying fixed property in the Union except in tribal locations, that are already overcrowded and where tribal lands, being legally inalienable, cannot be bought or sold (Act 27 of 1913).

(h) The lease of landed property to Natives is forbidden in the Union under a penalty of £100 or Six months’ Imprisonment. They may only acquire interest in land from other Natives and this means nothing as Natives never had any land to let (practically the whole of the land being in the hands of Europeans).
(i) Native passengers holding tickets are not allowed to travel in any train other than in a native compartment. The effect hereof is that when a crotchety conductor refuses to carry Natives in his train, even though there be plenty of room in the carriages, it is lawful for him to leave them stranded in the veld, with their tickets in their pockets, if his excuse be that he had no compartment available for Natives. This hardship was imposed under sub-sections 4-6, Section 4, of Act 22 of 1916.
(1) Natives, whatever their qualification may be, are not employed in the public service except as “casual” menial labourers. (Public Service Regulations, 1912.)
(k) Native interpreters have been dismissed in the law courts and their places filled by white men, some of them with the most imperfect knowledge of the vernacular, thus reducing to a farce the administration of justice as far as native litigants are concerned.
THROUGHOUT THE UNION, during and since the great war.
1. -—-No Natives can get licenses to search for precious stones even in proclaimed diggings outside Cape Colony. In the Cape Province men of colour exercised this right along the Vaal River Diggings for forty years before the Union. But now, committees of white diggers are empowered to examine all applicants and to refuse or recommend their applications for diggers’ licenses. These Committees consistently refuse all coloured applicants in Cape Colony and recommend white ones only.
2. —After the British occupation of the Orange River Colony, the Crown Colony Government made it lawful for Natives to hire land and graze their cattle in the Orange River Colony—now Orange “Free” State. This right was abolished by the Union Parliament in 1913 and Natives can only live in the Orange “Free” State as serfs in the employ of Europeans.
3. —The Pass Laws on Farms. A native employed on a farm must have a service Pass. He cannot visit his brother on an adjoining farm without a “special” pass in addition to his service pass: and if he finds it necessary to continue such a visit, from the adjoining farm to the next, (his master not being there to give him a third pass) the service pass and the “special” will not avail him anything,

4. —If a Native earns say £1 per month, under one white farmer, and another white farmer offers him £3 per month, it is
a crime under the pass law to take the better job without a consenting pass signed by his master—the One Pounder.
5. —Urban Pass Laws vary in different towns and Municipalities but their rigorous operation is not dissimilar in the several districts. A native arriving in an industrial town from the territories, obtains a free pass which gives him one week in which to look for work. Failure to find work in the week gets him into trouble. He thus takes on anything that offers. Before commencing to work he must be contracted to his employer for a number of months and pay the Government a fee of two shillings per month for the service contract. This contract entitles him to stay on the mining property or in the particular part of the town where he works. He requires a “special” pass to visit his brother in the same town. If when he obtains leave to see his brother he finds him away in another part of the town, and attempts to follow him up, the monthly pass and the “special” pass will not save him from imprisonment.
6. —Natives residing in the town and holding all their passes and permits are not allowed outside their own houses after 9 p. m. without a special pass signed by their employer.
7. —In some of the towns married women are not allowed to stay in their husbands’ houses without paying the town clerk one shilling each per month for the privilege of -enjoying their conjugal rights. Failure to keep up this payment involves a fine of £ 1 or 30 days’ imprisonment.
8. —Daughters are not permitted to stay under the parental roof unless they:—
(a) Work for a white person; and
(b) Pay the town clerk a fee of one shilling per month. The girls so taxed often earn only 10/- to 15/- per month
9. —The multifarious Pass enactments in force in the different districts of the several Provinces of the Union, are embodied in Acts of Parliament, in Ordinances and in a thousand Proclamations, and Government Notices, and Regulations, each of them having the force of Law the moment a new issue of the Government Gazette containing one or more fresh ones leaves the Government Printing Works.
These Curfew regulations and Pass laws are now extended to the Cape Colony, where they never existed before the date of the Union.
10. —In the Northern Provinces, Natives pay over and above the ordinary taxes (which are also paid by white men), special native taxes that are not leviable against the whites. From the proceeds of the special native tax, the Transvaal Provincial Council gets £340,000 per year for the maintenance of educational institutions for the free and compulsory educa-

tion of white children—institutions to which the children of native taxpayers are not admitted. If there were no missionaries, the children of native taxpayers would get absolutely no education.
11.—Latterly we have had to pay taxes in order to provide pensions for white war widows and white orphans, while our own war widows and orphans whose bread-winners fell in the recent great war are not cared for.
The Land Act (G. & H.) —Of all the anti-native laws conceived by white men in the history of European colonization in South Africa, no single measure has ever created so much misery and distress among the Natives as did the Natives Land Act of 1913. It has cut off the very roots of native life by depriving us of nature’s richest gift—our ancient occupation of breeding cattle and cultivating the soil. Natives may only carry on their ancestral occupation as servants in the employ of, and for the profit and benefit of, white men; and any European permitting native cattle to graze on his farm is liable to a fine of £100 or six months’ imprisonment. This means that Natives who formerly earned a decent livelihood by hiring pieces of land from white men, cultivating the same and sharing the produce with the land-owner, have since been evicted and replaced largely by ill-requited labour.
Thousands of former farm tenants, finding their life-long occupation suddenly made illegal, have been forced to- sell their cattle for what they would fetch, and have drifted into the cities where, among strange surroundings and incomprehensible restrictions, their lot has become unbearable. Others, after trekking round with their emaciated stock in search of a place to graze them, and losing many head by starvation on the trek, have left Union territory altogether to seek places of abode in the Protectorates of in Portuguese East Africa. Many of such evicted tenants—men, women and children—perished through privations or succumbed to malarial fever or other climatic diseases in strange regions. Hundreds of such victims now lie buried at Madiloje, Southern Rhodesia, etc.
Others have got rid of their stock, accepted the new conditions and become serfs, so that men who formerly earned up to £200 per year as farm tenants, with plenty of spare time for their improvement, had perforce to submit themselves and their families to complete indenture at £20 or £30 per annum per family, and their time is never their own.
These prohibitions operate nowhere so harshly as in the Orange Free State, where even the tribal locations, which have in a measure mitigated the severity of the operation of the Land Act in other parts, do not exist. Two men in the O.F.S., each of whom had a farm left to him under their uncle’s will, were debarred from taking transfer as it was unlawful to pass landed property to persons of colour. And whatever may be said of other restrictions, those involved in the Land Act

certainly call for instant abrogation. When first passed it was said to be only temporary—“for a period of two years.” But this’ is the seventh year of our suffering, and the end is not yet in sight.
The Native Affairs Administration Bih passed the second reading in 19177 the further staged hemg postponed apparently till after the general election in 1920. Among other drastic designs it proposes to confirm and make permanent all the temporary hardships of the Land Act of 1913 and to introduce prohibitions that are not now in existence. The Judges, for instance, are to be deprived of all jurisdiction over Natives, so that the Provincial Divisions of the Supreme Court may exist solely for the benefit of white litigants, thus abolishing Magna Charta as far as it concerns the Natives, who are to be left to the caprices of the officials of the Department that taxes and rules them. The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court—a court too high for the scanty means of the native population—alone will be open to them.
It further proposes to divide the Union into white and black areas, allotting over 87 per cent, of South Africa to the one million whites, leaving 12% per cent, of South Africa to the five million blacks, much of the 12%, per cent, being awarded to the blacks by reason of its unsuitability for cultivation and its unhealthy climate.
A curious part of this unjust segregation proposal is that the bulk of the 12 per cent, awarded to Natives is in the English Province of Natal. No allotment is made in favour of thez tribes in the Cape Midlands. There is practically no place in the Orange Free State where Natives could pasture their stock, and no provision for the black mealie planters of Transvaal, except the uninhabitable malarial districts of the North, which, plus the tribal locations, make up the 12 per cent, in the entire Union.
The Natives Urban Areas Bill.*—It has been found that some Natives, evicted from the rural districts under the Natives Land Act, have become partly free by migrating to urban areas and complying with the numerous pass regulations. So this Bill provides for a fine of £100 or six months’ imprisonment on any one attempting to sell or lease a house to a Native in any town or village of the Union.
Native men and women may only work if they obtain passes and pay a shilling a month each for the privilege. These new restrictions and prohibitions are to operate even in towns and villages at present free from the pass laws.
In official quarters it is sometimes said that, the Union of South Africa being a self-governing Dominion, the Empire cannot interfere. But if the Union Parliament is permitted to make South Africa absolutely uninhabitable to the native population
*This Bill was accurately forecasted three years before on page 53 of
my “Native Life in S. A” ; even its short title ivas correctly guessed.

because of their loyalty to the Empire, has Britain got roofll enough in her little island to accommodate the black millions thus hounded out of their own homes? Many of these hardships are imposed to placate the over-bearing section of the Boer population, who refer to the Union-Jack as “the rag,” and oppose the Government because of its Imperialistic leanings.
The statement that autonomous Government cannnot be interfered with is not supported by precedents. But for British and American public opinion, the Belgian atrocities would still be flourishing in the Congo. Lord Hardinge, as Viceroy of India, has successfully interceded against a Union Act of Parliament passed in 1913, aimed at the few thousand Indian residents in South Africa. The result of his intercession was the Indian Relief Act 22 of 1914.
Equally ironic is it to say the Natives “must fight their case against their own Government in their own country.’1 The Natives have protested by written and telegraphic resolutions and by personal deputations to the South African Government ever since 1911, and the only response has been a multiplication of the Draconian prohibitions, because the only means of talking to a constitutional Government is the Ballot, which the Native, have not got. And it sounds sarcastic in the sufferers’ ears to hear of references to “their own country,” especially in those parts of South Africa where a native cannot even buy or hire a house.
On February the 28th, 1906, the following resolution was proposed by Sir William Byles and accepted by the House of Commons without division:—
“That in any settlement of South African Affairs this House desires a recognition of Imperial responsibility for the protection of all races excluded from equal political rights, the safeguarding of all immigrants against servile conditions of labour, and the guarantee to the native population of at least their existing status with the unbroken possession of their liberties in Basutoland, Bechuanaland and other tribal countries and reservations.”
The Imperial Government of the day, through the Under Colonial Secretary, Mr. Winston Churchill, accepted the resolution in language which left nothing to be desired, for he said:—
“His Majesty’s Government will not resist the motion of my hon. friend, but, on the contrary, we shall gladly further his wish to inscribe it in the journals of the House.
“We accept fully the proposition that there is an Imperial responsibility for the protection of native races not represented in legislative assemblies, and I have in former times, not so long ago, joined with my hon. and gallant friend, Major Seely, in asserting, as I hope it may. always be in my power to assert, the right of

any British subject of any race or any colour, however humble may be his position, and however distant the land in which he dwells, to the sympathy and respect of the House of Commons” . . . “A self-governing Colony is not entitled to say one day, ‘hands off: no dictation in our internal affairs/ and the next day to telegraph for the protection of a brigade of British infantry."
The South African abominations mentioned above are aimed principally at “native races not represented in legislative assemblies” ; and if such a resolution, by the Imperial Parliament, is to be trampled under foot it will be difficult to make the suffering Natives believe that the Allies have not lost the great war, in which they participated, in the hope that it was waged for the amelioration of the condition of oppressed people.
And to-day, those native races who had been impelled by what they believed to be Britain’s love of justice and fair play, to make enormous sacrifices for the spread of British Dominion in South Africa, are bitterly disappointed to find that, if things are left as they are, a British Dominion will be the first to be called to order when the League of Nations meets.
(With English Translations)
And their European Equivalents
“ Native Life in South Africa ”
(P. S, King & Son, Westminster) Portraits, 382pp. $2 00 nett