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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 2, No. 8. May 31, 1939

Legalised Slavery

Legalised Slavery

To the layman Africa is a land of gold and diamond mines, Zulus and Kaffirs. Ostrich feathers come from there, too, and Rhodes, the "Empire builder," left his legacy to British countries in the shape of scholarships by which the cream of the white race are enabled to grapple with the problems of an Empire Let us look a little closer at this Africa, this dark and mysterious Africa, and sec if we cannot illuminate the darkness even though our "Empire builders" do not want us to.


Let us examine a few of the Acts passed by the Anglo-Dutch population who have charge of the Government machinery. To understand these the following data is necessary. The present area of the Union is 417,917 square miles. Of this the white population, numbering about two millions, own about 80 per cent., while nearly seven million Bantu have been allowed less than 10 per cent. The natives are completely segregated from the white population in Reserves and Locations. Those living in rural districts are confined to the Reserves. About two and a half million Africans are now living within these areas. Most of the lands allocated to them are unsuitable for agricultural and pastoral purposes, and are over-congested. To avoid starvation the natives are forced to sell their labour to white farmers and mining companies.

The First Act.

The Natives Land Act of 1913 makes it illegal for any native to occupy land except as a farm labourer. Any European farmer permitting a black to graze cattle on his land is liable to a fine of £100 or six months imprisonment. Legislation additional to this makes it a criminal offense for any native to rent land outside the Reserves. The first was passed because Africans, unable to find room in crowded native areas, wore able to buy or rent allotments under individual tenure from white farmers of the Cape. Transvaal and Natal. By this means they established themselves as independent peasant proprietors. But this system deprived employers of a valuable cheap labour market. Hence big landlords and mine owners pressed the Government into the passing of the above Act. The second was passed to prevent the squatting of natives, without land in the Reserves, on the farms of poor whites who were glad to rent a portion of the land in return for share-cropping. By this means the native could raise his tax money. Again, large agrarians and mining companies were denied a source of cheap labour and again the retaliation.


The Native Service Contract Act also states that every native living on a Epropean farm must give 180 days' work to his master each year. The right to decide which days the native shall work rests with the employer, and to keep the black permanently to the farm, owners usually spread the term of service over the whole year. No wages are paid, the native is merely given a plot of land, upon which he builds a hut and grows mealie and kaffir corn. Any breach of the Act makes the black liable to criminal prosecution and imprisonment. The African may not terminate his service at his own will but must obtain permission of his employer to leave. On the passing or this Act thousands of independent cultivators became serfs.

An easy method of getting the natives to work is by the tax laws. In South Africa every male native, employer or not, has to pay a tax of £1 to £1/10/-. "Poor whites" the Union are exempt from all forms of direct taxation, and Europeans with incomes of £500 and less pay practically nothing. 18.915 natives were convicted in 1936 for failure to pay their taxes.

Particularly iniquitous are the Pass laws. A Trek Pass gives the bearer the right to travel and must be obtained before the native leaves his Reserve to go to town. A Traveling Pass must be produced to secure a railway ticket.

A strong deterrent to active protest by natives against their abominable social conditions is the Riotous Assemblies Act. This law empowers the Minister of Justice to order the arrest and banishment without trial of any African "creating feelings of hostility between Europeans and natives."

No Quarter.

The Colour Bar Act continues racial discrimination into industry, and was the outcome of pressure from the labour Party and Trad Union movement, membership of which is denied blacks. The establishment of any Trade Union or industrial organization is prohibited. The natives receive no benefit from most of the social legislation applying to whites, such as unemployment relief and old age pensions, and are [unclear: excd] from the advantages which the white workers receive under the industrial Conciliation Act, the Factory Act. Juveniles Act, Wage Act.

The Colour Bar regulations make it an offense for natives to be employed in skilled occupations. White workers are guaranteed a minimum of £1 a day in the mines, while the natives on an average receive 1/6.

A Legal Basis.

A final Act disfranchising natives living in the Cape and Natal Provinces, passed in 1936 by Generals Smuts and Hertzog government, meant that the last symbol of citizenship was withdrawn. In a word, segregation is absolute. Even this brief review of the conditions in South Africa will surely reveal that slavery is not non-existent in the British Commonwealth of Nations. In these Acts you have a legal basis for slavery, a legal basis for exploitation, that might be paralleled with the days of slave plantations in Virginia. That such conditions exist in a British country may sound amazing and deplorable, yet they do exist, not only in Africa but in India and the West Indies. Occasional riots may figure in small headlines in our newspapers, but the real meaning, the real cause of them is carefully veiled and concealed by those interests who are concerned with exploitation and profits. If they were not hidden, mass indignation would demand justice and democracy for the subjected natives of the world.