Salient: Victoria University Students' Newspaper. Vol. 24, No. 9. 1961
South Africa In Turmoil
South Africa In Turmoil
"A New Zealander Looks at South Africa" was the theme of the address given by Rev. A. Pyatt, to the World Affairs Council, on Wednesday, May 31.
Speaking on the withdrawal of South Africa from the British Commonwealth, Rev. Pyatt stated that most people knew it had to happen and that it was a relief that it finally had happened. Because of South Africa's racial policy its membership in the Commonwealth attached a moral stigma to our own membership. He suggested also that the difference in racial policy was not the only reason for South Africa leaving the Commonwealth. It was possibly only strong economic reasons which had prevented Dr. Verwoerd from walking out previously.
To understand the problem we must go back into South Africa's history and consider the antipathy between the British and the Boers—being brought to a head periodically by differences over the native question.
At the end of the 16th century when the Dutch and British East India Companies were active, the Dutch took the initiative in settling men at Capetown. By the end of the 18th century there were some 15,000 Europeans and 20,000 slaves in an area the size of New Zealand. Even then the Dutch were outnumbered and there were clashes with the British over these slaves. To get away from Government interference, the Boers trekked out of Cape Colony. They entered Natal, which was occupied by the Zulus, and Transvaal, where they overran the Bantu. Rev. Pyatt pointed out that there are two popular misconceptions about this episode—that the Boers pushed the Bantu off their tribal lands and that the Bantu invaded Transvaal after the Boers had settled there. What actually happened was that the Boers took the land from the Bantu, but it was not tribal land, the Bantu having invaded from the north some years previously.
The Dutch were basically not cruel to their slaves. They showed, rather, an amused tolerance, and although the whip was used frequently, this was the British idea of brutality, not the Dutch. It is commonly thought that had they reversed their policy they would have got on much better with the natives than the British did, having common farming interests.
The idea of superiority of race is not unique to South Africa. Apartheid evolved out of the philosophy that one race is superior to another. "Theoretically," proposed Rev. Pyatt, "many of us agree with the policy of separate but equal development, but in South Africa there is no attempt being made at equality. In any case it is just not possible with the economic set-up. The two races are intertwined and need each other."
"The present Government has carried apartheid to its insane conclusion. The blacks in South Africa are now three times as numerous as the Europeans. In a group of four," said Rev. Pyatt, "three would be black, one would be white. The natural reaction of that one white man, if he has a peculiar philosophy which is a combination of outdated Old Testament thinking and Nazi ideas of superiority of race, is one of fear."
The black man can only own a limited amount of land; he is heavily taxed; the pass system controls where he can live. There is hunger in the reserves, and although 30% of South Africa's earnings come from its industries, the Government is lighting against the consequent move of the blacks to the towns. It is thus lighting against its own industrial progress. No African can own land in an urban area, and he can be shifted from one place to another.
With the crowding on the reserves and the impossibility of buying land in urban areas, two and a half millions live on Afrikaan's farms. They are paid, but are virtually slaves, having no freedom of movement.
None of the black men of South Africa have real freedom to choose where they will live, where they will send their children to school, where they will work, or how and where they will travel. (South Africa is in effect a police state.)
There are 28,000 police to maintain laws. The country is ruled by these police in their Saracen armoured cars. They have impossible laws to enforce, and therefore must use impossible ways to enforce them, he pointed out.
"It will not be easy to find a solution to the problem," said Rev. Pyatt, "and we in New Zealand cannot be too complacent about it. South Africa's problems are greater than ours, and we have not yet found answers to many of our own difficulties."
What the consequences will be in South Africa it is impossible to say, but when the majority of the people in a country disagree with the Government's policy something has to give way some time. Rev. Pyatt suggested that the freedom in the air from the north was encouraging the natives of South Africa to think more about their own lot. The outside pressure as shown by the United Nations vote of 93-1 against South Africa could also have an effect.
"Three million people cannot keep down nine million people," he declared. "There will be an appalling blood bath unless the whites in South Africa wake up to their responsibilities to their black brothers."