The Downside of Imperial Collapse
When Empires or Great Powers Fall, Chaos and War Rise
THE goal of federation for Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, long sought by Europeans on the spot though opposed by many of the native leaders, took tangible form when the Conference on Closer Association of Central African Territories, held in London last May, reached agreement on a draft constitution. Though it had seemed at one time that the London Conference would break up in failure, it reported agreement at the end on "all important matters of principle." The draft constitution has been published as a White Paper for discussion in the United Kingdom and Central Africa, and another conference will be held in January to put it in final form.
The proposed constitution includes provisions for the setting up of a federal legislature and executive, the maintenance of the protectorate status of the two northern territories and of the self-governing status of Southern Rhodesia within the federation, the composition of the federal assembly (including two elected Africans from each of the three territories), and the division of powers between the federal and territorial governments. The draft also suggests financial arrangements for the federation, and covers such important matters as the method of appointment and the function of a statutory African affairs board, the establishment of a Federal Supreme Court, and the procedure for amending the federal constitution. The conference also reaffirmed and gave effect in the draft scheme to earlier assurances on the subject of African land rights. It was decided to appoint fiscal, judicial and public service commissions to fill in the details of certain parts of the draft constitution in the light of principles accepted at the conference. The White Paper sums up the draft proposal in the following general terms:
The scheme endeavours to safeguard the essential interests of the three Territories and all their inhabitants and to strike a fair balance between the need to create a Federation possessing, both economically and politically, adequate scope and strength for its work and the requirement that the Territories themselves shall continue to exist as vigorous entities, independent of the Federation within the sphere of government assigned to them.
Reporting the achievements of the Conference, the London Times found the most striking feature of the draft proposal to be the strength of the safeguards for African interests: "The protectorate status of the two northern territories is fully maintained. Assurances on subjects such as African land rights are written into the draft scheme. The protection of a Supreme Court, from whom appeal lies to the Privy Council, is given to these provisions, thereby differing materially from that obtaining in South Africa, where there is only appeal to a Court deriving its existence from South African law."
Even so, though the African representatives from Southern Rhodesia participated in the work of the Conference, African delegates from Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland abstained. No one can foresee the exact results of the draft proposals on the two main communities in Central Africa. Already they are being attacked by the extremists on both sides. The African extremist sees in it the death of his prospects of settling up a purely African state, and his European counterpart says that since it rules out apartheid, it is selling the country to the blacks. The leader of the Opposition Party in Southern Rhodesia has declared that "Gold Coast ideas are permeating the Central African Federation." The moderate element will, I hope, see in this draft constitution a sincere and deliberate effort by the leading statesmen and officials of the various governments concerned with Central Africa to produce a state that will demonstrate to the world at large that the human race can devise a form of government that can make a multi-racial society work with justice to all men. Europeans in Central Africa cannot ignore the march of African nationalism, but they still have an opportunity to guide it on sane lines.
The latest estimate of the population of the three territories is 188,000 Europeans, 16,000 Coloreds and Asiatics, and 6,205,000 Africans. Of the Europeans 140,000 live in Southern Rhodesia, 40,000 in Northern Rhodesia and 4,000 in Nyasaland. In Southern Rhodesia, 55 percent of the Europeans live in the six main towns of Salisbury, Bulawayo, Umtali, Gwelo, Que Que and Gatooma, the remainder in the rural areas. In Northern Rhodesia the Europeans live mainly along the line of the railways, with concentrations of population in Lusaka, Livingstone, Broken Hill and the copperbelt area which includes the towns of Ndola, Luanshya, Kitwe, Chingola and Mufulira. The European and Asiatic population of Nyasaland lives mainly in the three urban areas of Blantyre, Limbe and Zomba.
The African population in Nyasaland exceeds that of Southern Rhodesia, though its area is only one-third of the size and is by far the most densely populated of the three territories. Northern Rhodesia, with double the area of Southern Rhodesia, has an African population of approximately the same size. A common feature of the three territories has been the rapid expansion of the European population, which has more than doubled since 1938.
Southern Rhodesia is a self-governing colony. Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland are protectorates, though Northern Rhodesia has achieved a far greater measure of self-government than Nyasaland, which is at present administered by a Governor assisted by an Executive Council. The physical resources of the three territories are to a great extent complementary. Both Rhodesias possess much mineral wealth, Southern Rhodesia producing asbestos, chrome, gold, coal, iron ore and limestone, while copper, lead, zinc, vanadium, cobalt and limestone are mined in Northern Rhodesia. Nyasaland's mineral resources are largely unexplored, but deposits of coal, asbestos and bauxite are known to exist. The coal and iron resources, together with the wide range of non-ferrous metals in the Rhodesias, constitute a broad base for the provision of the capital goods required for the development of the area and for a valuable export trade.
Southern Rhodesia and Northern Rhodesia are both excellently suited to temperate-zone agriculture and the production of pastoral and dairy products. Nyasaland is particularly suited to the production of cotton, tung oil, tea and cassava, and her inland fisheries find a ready market in Southern Rhodesia. All three territories produce large quantities of tobacco and have many common problems in agriculture and conservation of natural resources.
Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland all use the port of Beira as their main route for overseas trade. Ever since the war the capacities of this port, and of the railway line to Beira, have been inadequate to meet the demands of British Central Africa. Under the terms of a convention signed in June 1950, the Portuguese Government has agreed to develop the port of Beira in return for guarantees that it will continue to be fully used by the Central African territories. Southern Rhodesia and Northern Rhodesia also make use of South African ports, particularly Port Elizabeth, for certain types of import traffic, in order to leave Beira as free as possible for the export of base metals. An agreement has been concluded, and awaits the approval of the Governments concerned, which will enable a certain amount of traffic for Northern Rhodesia to be moved via the port of Lobito Bay by the Benguela (Angola) and Belgian Congo Railways. There is an international airport at Livingstone in Northern Rhodesia, and air transport services are completely coordinated in the three territories through the Central African Air Authority which, besides representing the interterritorial control over Central African Airways, exercises control over operation by independent firms. The Rhodesia Railways serve Southern Rhodesia, the adjoining territories of Northern Rhodesia and the Bechuanaland Protectorate, and extend 112 miles into the Union of South Africa. Nyasaland operates its own group of railways from Salima to the port of Beira.
Northern Rhodesia is the watershed of Africa; from it many streams flow south to the Zambesi River where the magnificent Victoria Falls have already been harnessed to supply the electricity for the town of Livingstone. The power for the Broken Hill zinc and lead mine is produced from the Mulungushi River, a tributary of the Zambesi; and a much more ambitious hydroelectric scheme which would provide power from the Kafue River for the whole of the Copperbelt is at present under active consideration. In short, these territories are a naturally unified and well endowed area, with splendid possibilities for fruitful development.
The problem of peaceful political development in a multi-racial society such as exists in Central Africa, where there are such tremendous gaps between the standards of living of the various communities with different cultures, traditions, religions, languages and not least of all, political leanings, is a baffling task. But if there is to be industrial development and political peace in Central Africa it must be tackled.
The European population of Northern Rhodesia, composed mainly of immigrants from South Africa, the United Kingdom and Southern Rhodesia, feel that if this country is to develop its magnificent natural resources a much greater share in the government of the country must be handed over to the settlers who now have their roots in this country. They argue that government by the Colonial Office 6,000 miles away is a failure. To support this contention they indicate the stagnation that existed in this country until the large copper deposits began to be developed by private enterprise; until money was available as the result of this exploitation, funds provided by the United Kingdom were infinitesimal. They argue, too, that it has been the Europeans who for some 60 years have provided the initiative and capital which have advanced Northern Rhodesia from a slave traders' paradise to a country where, out of a total African population of approximately 1,800,000 people, 140,000 African children are already receiving primary education. Hospitals are being provided as rapidly as funds permit and workmen being trained in skilled trades. With the progressive economic development of the area, the African is constantly assuming a greater share in the life of Northern Rhodesia. Through a body known as the African Representative Council, Africans already elect two members to the legislature; in addition, an African who has the ordinary franchise qualifications applicable to a European can also be included in what is known as the Common Voters Roll. The settlers themselves say they want large-scale immigration of Europeans into the country because there are insufficient people, white and black, in Northern Rhodesia to provide the labor to develop her resources. There are, in fact, less than seven people to the square mile.
In the main, the African leaders oppose placing a greater degree of self-government in the hands of the European community. They argue that the present legislature with only four out of 23 members (of whom two are Africans) representing African interests does not provide fair representation for them. They hold that since they are a majority of the population they should have at least the same number of members in the legislature as the Europeans. They argue alternately that even if they are not fit for direct representation now, no more progress toward self-government should be permitted until they are able to shoulder their fair share of that responsibility. African leaders go on to say that the whole of the African population is opposed to any suggestion of closer union with either Southern Rhodesia or Nyasaland, though this is not substantiated in fact. The underlying fear of Africans is that any federation may lead to a native policy similar to that in existence in the Union of South Africa. In particular they object to certain laws of Southern Rhodesia, one of which compels Africans to carry night passes for being in a town after certain hours of darkness; and they say that their land rights would not be safe in other hands than those of Her Majesty's Government.
Of late they have even begun to have doubts whether Her Majesty's Government can be trusted. I think it is correct to say that this latter development is a result of Communist influences. Nonetheless, the general attitude of the African toward Her Majesty's Government's representatives in this country is still one of considerable regard.
It is not a disservice to the African to state the truth about the present political capacities of the vast majority: not for two or three generations will they be able to play a major part in their own government. The vast majority are illiterate. The women are exceptionally backward and hold on most tenaciously to old tribal customs. The witch doctor is still the most powerful person in any purely African community; polygamy is very widely practised. The general standard of living is indeed unbelievably low in comparison with American standards, but so is the effort and output of a people who have not accepted the dictum of Western civilization that men must work for a living. Their communal way of life assures the majority of Africans a subsistence form of living in the villages, and there has been little sign of any great liking for accumulating wealth through self-exertion. Many Africans are still "target" workers: they will come to a town to earn sufficient money to purchase a specific article--a bicycle, a sewing machine or a wife, and leave when that particular objective has been achieved.
It is true, on the other hand, that the European at one time did not look upon Northern Rhodesia as a permanent home. He came here to make money, and then to return to his native land. But there has been a decided change here in the last 30 years. Europeans have gone in extensively for farming, and have provided the skill and the capital for agricultural development. Much more is needed. Even today a considerable portion of the effort of European farming is directed to feeding the African: only once during the last ten years has the maize crop been sufficient for the country's needs. But it would be wrong to convey the impression that every European in this country is blessed with a liberal outlook toward the progress of the indigenous people. There are some, but not too many, who would keep the African as a hewer of wood and a drawer of water forever. It is true that there is discrimination in this country against the black man. It is also true, though the fact is seldom realized abroad, that there is a great deal of discrimination in his favor. Eighty-odd percent of the land in this vast area is set aside for him. He pays no income tax no matter how much money he earns; the maximum direct tax he can pay per annum is 17/6d; and if he is an employee he has to be fed, housed and hospitalized by his employer.
I endorse fully the principle that political and economic partnership is the only solution of our ills in Central Africa, and I accept Rhodes' dictum of equal rights for all civilized men. It should not be beyond the bounds of human endeavor or ingenuity to produce an agreed definition of what is meant by "civilized man." The qualifications on the franchise, which require that a voter be a British subject, shall have resided in the country for six months or more, and be in possession of property worth £ 240 or earning more than £ 200 a year, is in itself an attempt to help define these standards.
I am under no illusion as to our difficulties; events in South Africa have caused the African to become even more suspicious than ever. He has asked quite openly, "What is the good of safeguards, and what safeguards can be produced, that cannot be torn up by people who are determined to do so?" I believe that adequate safeguards are enshrined in the draft constitution for Central African federation. Just as sincerely do I believe that the best safeguard that can be provided for the African, indeed for all of us in Central Africa, is a bloc of British states with close ties to the United Kingdom, peopled in the main from the British Isles and European countries--particularly those countries which have demonstrated their love of democratic freedom.
Now that the Northern Rhodesia Government has a draft constitution which can be explained to Africans, I do not believe that all Africans will reject the draft scheme. But I do not think that if the Africans persist in rejecting it after we have explained its provisions to them, the Government concerned should turn it down for that reason alone.