THERE are various grounds on which it may be argued that the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland is the key to Africa. In the Union of South Africa, racial attitudes have hardened and the express political ideal of the dominant party is to increase separation between the races--social, political and economic. This is to run counter to the main trend of opinion in the world and in the long run would seem to most people in the United States and Britain a policy likely to lose Africa--that is, lose any hope of keeping the good will of African States when they eventually become independent. But to the north of the Union lies the Federation, which covers more than 485,000 square miles, larger than the states of Texas, California and New York put together, and has an economic potential to be reckoned with. Here the declared political ideal is not separation of the races but "partnership." Many eyes look from the south towards the Federation, some with cynicism, some with hope. If by any chance the Federation can find a solution to racial problems which can truly be described as "partnership" the Union would surely be affected, and still more so Kenya and Tanganyika. There are divided minds and uneasy consciences in the Union and the success of the Federation's policy would reinforce the consciences.

On one point it is possible to be tolerably certain. If in the course of the next ten years no solution based on a true form of partnership has emerged, then the small white minority who live in Central and East Africa must either cling to power by the naked use of force--and that can hardly be for long--or make the uncomfortable choice between leaving the country of their birth and reconciling themselves to a government in which African interests and attitudes are supreme.

To a visitor who has recently come from the Union, the Federation will seem at least superficially an extension of the country he has left. The basic factors in the situation are similar. Economically, the two races are necessary to each other. Management is white, and there are few Africans who have reached the level even of foreman or clerk. Exports--copper, tobacco, gold, tea, chrome--are all produced by European management. Without these exports the territory could not pay for its imports of motor cars, machinery, manufactured goods; the present structure would collapse. Equally, white management needs black labor, without which farms and mines would grind to a standstill.

So far the Federation is not very different from the Union in these respects, and the social pattern too is much the same. In the Rhodesias, as in the Union, there was until 1953, the date of Federation, virtually no social contact between the races. For instance, there are no restaurants or hotels in Salisbury, the capital of Southern Rhodesia, to which it is possible to take an African. Economically, the distinction between the races runs right through the earnings of daily paid workers. On the Copperbelt, for example, the average earnings of a European miner at one mine in 1954-5 were £2,042, to which must be added a house worth about £240 a year supplied for about £3 a month. The average for Africans at the same mine, including benefits in kind, was £168.58 per annum. In politics there were, as of April 30, 1956, 50,118 Europeans on the voters' roll in Southern Rhodesia and 526 Africans.

Against this broad similarity--in both cases, a society dominated by whites--must be set the extremely important difference of the proportion between the races. In the Union there is one white man to rather less than four Africans. (I omit the figures for Colored and Indian, which although significant in the Union may be ignored in a summary of the Federation's problems.) In Southern Rhodesia the proportion is approximately one white to 12 black; in Northern Rhodesia it is about one to 35; in Nyasaland it is one to 450.

This is the picture that is likely at first glance to strike the inquiring visitor from Britain or the United States. How this situation has arisen in the process of history must be understood before one can usefully consider how it is to develop in future. When Rhodes organized the pioneer column which marched from Kimberley and hoisted the flag at Fort Salisbury in September 1890, the greater part of what is now Southern Rhodesia was occupied by scattered tribes, loosely organized, who were continually threatened by raids from the one powerful group who might be called a nation, the Matabele, under their king, Lobengula. Every year a Matabele raid went out and returned with cattle and young people who were assimilated into the tribe. Old people who were no use for work and adult men were ruthlessly killed.

Such a people as the Matebele could no more live at peace with settlers and farmers than the Iroquois with the settlers of America. The Matabele were defeated in a brief war in 1893. In 1896 they rebelled; they had a number of grievances and--it was claimed by the settlers--had not been beaten properly in 1893. The rebellion spread to the Mashona in the east of the colony and throughout the whole country took the form of sudden risings and the slaughter of white people living on isolated farms or mines. It was repressed; the justice meted out was often rough and summary. The phase of frontier warfare was now over and the period of settling down began; it was inevitable that the European of the period should usually regard the Bantu as a people who had shown they were not to be trusted.

From the start one of the greatest problems of the settler was to get labor. The Matabele had lived by raids; the tribes loosely called Mashona had been economically self-sufficient--at a very low level of sufficiency--but had not used the plow or the wheel. They saw at first no reason to leave their homes and work for white men. But one by one they acquired the economic wants which white men thought proper for them and found it necessary to come to the farms and mines for a short time to earn money. The earner went back to his home as soon as he had got what he needed and one may suppose that usually he did as little work as possible. A tax was imposed, more to create the need to earn than for any return it would bring in; Africans began to want blankets and tools, later clothes, and today furniture, cooking pots, bicycles, gramophones, beauty cream, soap and motorcars. It remains, however, an article of faith with many white Rhodesians that to pay the African more will result in his going back sooner to his home.

Political rights were demanded by the white settlers from the start and--with memories still in mind of Burke and George III and the Declaration of Independence--Parliament in the United Kingdom was quick to grant them. In 1922, Southern Rhodesia became a self-governing colony with a prime minister, a cabinet and a parliament. A right of veto was reserved to the Crown in respect of any legislation which might be thought to be prejudicial to the interests of Africans; but this has proved a dead letter and has in fact never been exercised.

It is against this background--of bitterness resulting from the rebellions, of the primitive nature of the original inhabitants and their unwillingness to work, and of a white settler community virtually self-governing--that the present situation in Southern Rhodesia has come into being. And these same historical factors apply to the western part of Northern Rhodesia.

But while South African traditions spread up through Southern Rhodesia and northwards to what is now the Copperbelt and the borders of the Belgian Congo, a different influence and a different kind of administration came through Nyasaland and into northeastern Rhodesia. It was the travels of Livingstone and his reports of the horrors of the slave trade which roused among his fellow countrymen the keen philanthropic interest which sent the first missionaries to Nyasaland. It was Livingstone's belief that this trade could best be killed by an increase of wealth that would give the inhabitants something other than human beings to offer for the guns and cloth which they wanted. Missionaries were therefore followed by traders, and the flag followed the Bible and the ledger. Missionaries, traders and administrators alike found that their stockades became cities of refuge with no means of defense; humanity forbade the return of escaped slaves who fled to them for help and protection, yet without force it was hard to keep them. The African Lakes Company fought an abortive war around the north and east end of Lake Nyasa; in the end the work had to be continued under government control. It was carried out by a few hundred Sikh soldiers and some African auxiliaries under British officers. The slavers were defeated and administration extended over the country. But it was from the first a loose administration operating largely through native chiefs, a system which has continued until the present.

This system of indirect rule for the benefit of the African population forms the other half of the background to the argument which ended in Federation. Here were three territories lying side by side. One, Nyasaland, had a deficit trade balance every year. It was overcrowded and its people were forced to live by working in Southern Rhodesia or in the Union. In Southern Rhodesia there was an economy with great possibilities of development if labor and capital could be made available, but at present unhealthily dependent on tobacco exports of about £20,000,000 a year. Northern Rhodesia was comparatively a rich country but in her case 95 percent of the exports were copper. The economic arguments for bringing the three territories into some kind of union were unanswerable; but there was political objection from the Africans of the two northern territories, because they felt that Southern Rhodesia would dominate the Federation and that Southern Rhodesia's political philosophy, and in particular Southern Rhodesia's view of the natural lines of development for Africans, were not the same as those of the Colonial Office.

Although the Africans of these territories were not directly represented by voting power in the Assemblies, they were represented indirectly, and the people were consulted through the administrative machine. The Nyasalanders' feeling was that they were technically part of a Protectorate; they were "British Protected Persons;" they were not a conquered people, as the Africans of Southern Rhodesia had been. They had been brought up under the paternal care of the Colonial Office, and though they might disagree with the Colonial Office as to what was their best interest, they did not doubt that on the whole the Government considered their interests. Further, they had always been led to suppose that the aim of the Colonial Office here, as in British colonies throughout the world, was eventual "self-government." They might not be very clear as to what exactly this might mean and they certainly did not envisage it as meaning complete separation from the Commonwealth. But whatever "self-government" might mean, it was bound to be postponed by any form of association with Southern Rhodesia, where white colonists already enjoyed virtual independence. Every Nyasalander has some knowledge of Southern Rhodesia because many--indeed most--of them earn their living there; wages, it is true, are higher there, but--they say--the African there is a second-class citizen and the interests of the white settler, who is a voter, always come first.

Sentiments of this kind were almost universal in Nyasaland at the time of Federation and were only less strong in Northern Rhodesia where political consciousness was less widespread. They have today been modified only slightly; there are a few who feel that since Federation has occurred it is sensible to make the best of the situation, but in general the African population is not reconciled to what has taken place.

In the United Kingdom, however, the views of Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia Africans, though expressed by the Liberal and Labor Parties, were never understood by the electorate and were discounted by most of the Conservative Party. Those Conservatives who had studied the question most deeply felt that the economic advantages to Africans were overwhelming and that, as these came to be appreciated, political opposition would die down; that, if trusteeship has any meaning, it is the duty of the trustees to take the action they believe right in the interests of their wards; that relations between Europeans and Africans could be settled only in Africa and that the sooner Europeans in Africa realized that these relations were their responsibility the better. Finally, there were present in Conservative minds the desirability of a strong state in Central Africa and the tradition of the devolution of power which has run through colonial history since the loss of the American colonies.

While Africans in Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia were opposed to Federation, there were many in Southern Rhodesia who in private welcomed an accession of African strength, even though in their public utterances they felt they must support "their brothers from the north." Among the Europeans throughout the three territories there was a division of opinion. A right-wing element in Southern Rhodesia disliked Federation for the same reason that some Southern Rhodesian Africans welcomed it; it altered the numerical balance to their disfavor. There were Europeans in Northern Rhodesia who felt that they were paying Southern Rhodesia's debts, and others in Nyasaland who would have preferred unification to Federation. All these views were defeated in a referendum and an election, which were as much as anything else a vote of personal confidence in Sir Godfrey Huggins, now Lord Malvern, the former Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia who became the first Prime Minister of the Federation.

Federation became a fact, and in the preamble to the Constitution was embodied the statement that partnership was the aim of the new Federation. The Federal constitution is made complex by safeguards intended to protect the interests of Africans in Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia. More power is therefore vested in the territories than most constitutional lawyers or students of political science would think ideally desirable. Most notably, the subject of "Native Affairs" (which concerns the vast majority of the population of the three territories) is excluded from the Federal purview. These complications have undoubtedly hampered the development of the idea of partnership at the Federal level.

It is paradoxical that in Southern Rhodesia--which the Africans of the north feared as illiberal--there has been more apparent progress than at the Federal level. It is true that many Africans in Southern Rhodesia are bitterly disillusioned at what has been done since Federation, or rather at what has not been done; there are outside observers who express similar views. But the history of Southern Rhodesia has to be considered, as well as the fact that the Parliament has to answer to an electorate brought up in a rigidly separatist world. There is no democratic body anywhere whose acts correspond entirely with the ideas professed in the constitution or in the philosophy of the state. It is only three years since the Federation came into being and since Rhodesia consciously set about the task of giving partnership a meaning. Against this background, four measures stand out as distinguishing Southern Rhodesian policy sharply from that of the Union.

It has been a convention throughout southern Africa that the African worker came to the town as a visitor only. At first he was usually housed in barracks, often with several bunks to a room. Later it became more and more common for a wife and children to accompany the male worker, but he was still a visitor and his house must be given up within a fortnight of losing a job. Now Southern Rhodesia is giving African workers plots in the municipal areas on a 99-year lease. A four-room house with a kitchen, shower and lavatory and electric light will be built on each lot to become the property of the tenant by successive payments covering 20 years. The scheme is not perfect; industry is growing so fast that when these homes are built the waiting list is likely to be as long as it is now; there are other criticisms. All the same, the step is revolutionary because it does for the first time give the African worker a home he can call his own in the cities.

With this step goes a second, more ambitious in that it aims at being completed within five years and probably will really be finished in seven. The lands reserved for Africans, which in Southern Rhodesia constitute 45 percent of the total territory, were previously held in a common tribal system by which sale was impossible and improvement unrewarding. Under the new scheme, the land will be divided into small holdings, three of which can be combined into one, and which can be transferred by sale or inheritance. The result will be to build up a class of professional peasant farmers with a stake in the country. This is unpopular among urban dwellers because they see that their precarious and inefficient stake in the reserve will be extinguished. They will become town dwellers and will need a great extension of the home ownership scheme already outlined. But this must surely be a necessary step in the hard journey from a tribal society to a modern competitive industrial state.

Everywhere in Africa the visitor is impressed with the urgent need for education. In Southern Rhodesia, education for Africans has on the whole been undertaken by missionaries whose funds have been subsidized by the Government. There can hardly be two opinions that the educational system is today unfair. Europeans throughout the territory receive free education while in practically every mission, although it is state-aided, the African pupil has to pay a fee. Many African children never go to school at all; many disappear from the schools at a very early stage; there are not enough teachers and the standard of teaching is low. The Southern Rhodesia Government has just voted £12,000,000 for an educational scheme which will open new secondary schools and teachers' training colleges for Africans and eventually make primary education compulsory for every child in the urban areas. That this third big step is inadequate would hardly be denied by its warmest adherents, but it is a step forward and probably as much as could be implemented for the moment.

The fourth measure, when it becomes law, will make possible a single trade union system in which Africans and Europeans alike will be members. This is in marked contrast both with the Union of South Africa, where the Government is doing all it can to keep unions to one race only, and with Northern Rhodesia, where there are separate unions, where the European union has stood in the way of the advancement of individual Africans, and where the African unions are now, in the name of egalitarianism and labor's solid front, resisting management's attempts to build up in a separate union an African middle class of foremen and supervisory artisans. Here, in Northern Rhodesia's trade unions, lies the Federation's most obvious single immediate problem--yet it is only one facet of the total situation.

In the Federal sphere there are so far two landmarks, the setting up of an inter-racial university and the adoption of a scheme of grades for the Federal Civil Service based not on race but primarily on educational qualifications. These are both steps towards a free and integrated society, although in both cases there are concessions to the present state of European opinion to which it is possible to raise doctrinaire objections.

While these advances have been made in Southern Rhodesia--which the African of the north fears as a settlers' country--the Governments of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland have made slower progress and in a similar direction though at a slightly different angle. Their slower progress is partly because they have been more considerate of African public opinion. For example, in Southern Rhodesia the land reforms here briefly sketched are the result of years of experiment (in which an American missionary, Mr. E. D. Alvord, was a pioneer) and are being carried out by direction, with little consultation of African opinion. In Nyasaland, experiments of the same kind are beginning, but so great is African suspicion of any change in land tenure that progress at a comparable rate seems remote. The difference in angle is one that it would be easy to exaggerate. But while Southern Rhodesians have pictured "their" Africans developing as a prosperous peasantry who are not particularly interested in politics, the territories in the north, under Colonial Office pressure, have given politics and education a higher priority and have not insisted that economic development must come first.

What does partnership mean? Is it a partnership between two races, each considered as a unit? If that is so, and the two races are one day to be equal, it will mean that a member of one race has 35 times the power and wealth of a member of the other. Or is it an equal partnership between members of the two races? At first no definition was attempted. Lately there has been a tendency among European leaders towards the former definition, which can never satisfy the Africans. But it is not at present fashionable among the Europeans of these territories to suggest that the African should be in any way kept back. Discussion goes on constantly as to what is the ideal arrangement which will give Africans a say in political affairs and still not result in the Europeans being "swamped." Yet the hope that changes may not come in one's own lifetime is bound to be widespread in a privileged and dominant minority; the underprivileged majority are equally reluctant to postpone advantages to the afterlife or a later generation. The general situation on the white side is as though the former Confederate States had been required to lift themselves by their own boot straps, carrying out as a matter of conscience those advances which have actually been to a large extent due to northern pressure. Change is unlikely to proceed at the pace that African opinion would regard as satisfactory. On the African side, the atmosphere in the towns and among the educated is one of intense impatience of all limitations and restrictions. But, particularly in Southern Rhodesia, there is a force of African inertia just as on the white side.

There are Europeans in Southern Rhodesia who are aware of trends in world opinion which will not condone the permanent domination of a majority by a minority; there are others with some awareness of the strength of the upsurging desire of Africans throughout the continent for equality of status and opportunity--not 30 years hence but tomorrow. Yet to the European in Central Africa it seems axiomatic that a man cannot proceed in one generation from something close to savagery to equality in a modern industrial state. He says "slowly;" the African says "quickly." The result, to an observer, is something like a slipping clutch in which one set of wheels is trying to go faster than the other and both heat and smoke are generated.

In this heat and smoke, sight is often lost of certain economic problems which must here be expressed in a highly condensed form. First, the level of African unskilled wages is insufficient to provide bare necessities for a man with a wife and two children who live with him in a town and have no other means of support. And more and more often this is how the African unskilled worker does live. An increase in real wages would eventually lead to an increase in productivity and internal purchasing power--unless Central Africa is quite different from the rest of the world. Wages are going up, though slowly; productivity is not likely to increase more quickly than wages. Second, the standard of living which the town African desires--and indeed begins to consider a right--is higher than the income of the territories and his own productivity at present warrant. In 1951, the average money product of the African in Southern Rhodesia was £12 per annum. It is more now, but not enough to warrant a house costing £500 as the minimum standard provided for an unskilled worker. So there is going to be a big gap between the town worker and the peasant. Third, the territories as they become more industrialized are becoming every year more vulnerable to a world slump. They need capital badly and they need the good relations between management and labor without which capital will not come. As the Royal Commission on East Africa has said, Africa needs capital more than capital needs Africa. Capital will flow to Central Africa if the United States and the United Kingdom believe in her future. This they are likely to do just so far as those at present in power recognize the realities of the situation, turn the vicious circle outlined above into a benevolent spiral and take steps to establish a stable partnership.

The events of October 1956 in Poland and Hungary have surely underlined the dangers of disregarding the wishes of most of the people all of the time. The Federation has taken its decision against such a course and has set its face clearly away from separation as an ideal. The question is whether the conscious ideal set out in the constitution can overcome, before it is too late, the unconscious opposition set up by short-term self-interests. These are pushing all the time. It is easy to see that in the public interest Africans ought to be employed wherever they can be; it is much harder to take the trouble to train an African to do a job in your own office--risking possible failure and certain criticism. In the next few months we may have some clear pointers. We shall know whether the proposals for nonracial unions which have been approved so far by the Parliament of Southern Rhodesia actually become law or are smothered by opposition from the white trade unions; we shall see what proposals are put forward for self-government in African townships; we shall see, above all, whether the proposals put forward for the franchise can truly be described as implementing partnership.

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  • PHILIP MASON, Director of Studies in Race Relations, Royal Institute of International Affairs, London; formerly an official of the Indian Civil Service; author of "An Essay on Racial Tension" and "A New Deal in East Africa"
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