SOUTH Africa's policy of apartheid, or separation of the white from the colored races within its community, has been denounced abroad as repressive. Most South Africans are at a disadvantage in meeting this charge--with which a great many of them agree--because they still do not know, in spite of earnest questionings of themselves and others, exactly what the policy is. In theory there are two kinds of apartheid. South Africa has not yet made up its mind which kind it wants, and it stands in fretful indecision between them like an ass between two bales of hay.

Last year there were disturbances in the small Witzieshoek Native Reserve, an offshoot within the Union of South Africa of the British Protectorate of Basutoland. The natives there opposed orders to cull stock on their overgrazed lands, destroyed government-erected fences and ignored summonses to appear before the Native Commissioner. They contended that the remedy for overgrazing was more land, and that much of their traditional land had been taken away from them last century. The dispute eventually led to a clash with the police. Lives were lost on both sides.

A commission of inquiry investigated. It recommended additional land for the natives, but noted that the Reserve could not permanently hold the whole of its population and the natural increase. Many had already migrated to the towns of the Free State and Transvaal, and the commission proposed that they should be formed into communities there with some measure of local self-government. It recommended that natives who have been absent from the Reserve for many years should no longer regard it as their home to which they are entitled to return at any time; after two years they should be considered to have left permanently.

Apart from the clash with the police, the dispute and the report caused little stir. The Reserve is small and unimportant and few natives are involved. Yet there were two significant reactions to the report. The first came almost automatically from the neighboring white farmers, who instantly condemned the proposal to give the natives more land. The same thing has happened wherever an attempt has been made to extend the Native Reserves. That is one reason why the promise of some 15,000,000 more acres made in General Hertzog's "final solution" of 1936 remains only half fulfilled after 15 years.

The other reaction, which is more to our purpose here, came from the South African Bureau of Racial Affairs. SABRA is of fairly recent origin and provides a center for Afrikaner intellectuals devoted to the cause of apartheid. In general it stands in opposition to the long-established South African Institute of Race Relations, which makes a study of race relations on liberal lines. SABRA thus enjoys government patronage and is intended to rationalize government policies.

The Witzieshoek report, although signed by a prominent supporter of the government, was instantly condemned by SABRA as the negation of apartheid. The recommendation that the majority of the natives should be integrated into the European economy was described by the Bureau as "extremely dangerous." The commission, it said, had rejected the theory that the Reserves should be the national home of the natives and advocated their permanent residence in urban areas, with local self-government. To imagine that in such circumstances they would be content with local self-government was wishful thinking. The recommendations, in SABRA's view, gave the impression that the commission was indifferent to the implications of the rival policies of integration and separate development. It regarded the Reserves as undeveloped farming areas and ignored the need for their industrialization. This reaction from the purists of the apartheid theory exposed once again the controversy within the apartheid controversy.

II

To understand what this argument is about it is necessary to look at the over-all picture. When the expanding white settlement at the Cape of Good Hope met the slowly advancing Bantu tribes 400 miles east of Cape Town at the beginning of the nineteenth century, repeated attempts were made by the governments of the time to set up a boundary between the two and keep it intact. The attempts broke down again and again, and for more than 50 years Cape history is the history of the struggle for the border lands. By the time the last of the long series of Kaffir Wars was fought the boundary had been pushed nearly 200 miles eastward. In the process large numbers of the Bantu had either been isolated in scattered groups on the white side of the frontier or had become landless and had been absorbed into the Colony as laborers on white farms and servants. The frontier was at last fixed at the Kei River, and the Transkei became the first permanent Native Reserve, in which no white man might acquire land.

Long before this had happened, however, the head-on collision of these two forces and the consequent pressure on land had burst the Colony's seams and produced the Great Trek into the vacant lands to the north. These plains were vacant for two reasons. The Bantu in their slow progress down Africa had followed the fertile, well-watered eastern seaboard. Less numerous offshoots had turned westward, skirted the Kalahari Desert and reached the Atlantic in southwest Africa, or settled on the eastern edge of the desert in what is now Bechuanaland. They had spread thinly over the interior plateau of what are now the Orange Free State and Transvaal; but the Great Trek was preceded by a period of intense tribal warfare, and the trekkers found the interior between Natal and Bechuanaland almost cleared of inhabitants by the Zulu and Matabele impis which had passed that way. They drove the Matabele across the Limpopo to found the dynasty which Cecil Rhodes was to extinguish in his settlement of Rhodesia.

In Natal the trekkers from one side, and the British from their settlement at Port Natal on the other, cut a broad corridor through the long strip of Bantu land in the east, isolating the Transkei in the south from Zululand and the great mass of black Africa in the north. The patchwork pattern of black and white with which South Africa entered the twentieth century derived from these movements and conflicts.

But although boundaries are fixed, populations are fluid. The trekkers in their progress overran and absorbed many sub-tribes before halting at the main tribal boundaries, just as they had done on the Cape eastern frontier. They had been accustomed to Hottentot servants and imported slaves long before they came into contact with the Bantu, and although slavery was never revived, the familiar pattern of colonial life with its ample colored labor on the farm and in the home remained unchanged, although it now came to include squatting by native groups on European farms, labor-tenancy and sharecropping.

This sudden fixing of boundaries had a profound effect on Bantu economy, which had from time immemorial been based on shifting agriculture and grazing. This way of life had carried the tribes down Africa; if white settlement had been delayed another 200 years Europeans landing at the Cape of Good Hope would undoubtedly have found the Bantu instead of the less powerful and more nomadic Hottentots in occupation there. This impetus continued and still continues to carry the Bantu forward; but they move across the boundaries now as hired laborers, leaving their cattle and often their families behind. The movement is inescapable. Their primitive methods of agriculture have not changed greatly, their cattle still serve a social rather than an economic purpose. The Reserves, devoid of towns or industries, are overstocked and overcrowded in terms of a peasant economy and are in danger of deteriorating into agricultural slums.

In these circumstances the able-bodied men move out of them at a steady rate, at first as migrant laborers in the mines, farms and industries, after a time as permanent emigrants. The great South African gold mining industry is almost entirely dependent on the first kind of migration; secondary industry is responsible for a great deal of the second type. The unsatisfied demands of the cities and farms for labor of all kinds, including domestic labor, with the consequent steady rise in cash wages offered, provide additional inducements. But in fact little inducement is needed, for the flight from the land is a result of hard necessity.

Various South African Governments have tried to do by legislation what the frontiersmen did by warfare. The "pass laws" and controlled entry to the towns were designed to check the exodus and place some sort of governor on the rate of flow. Natives were prevented from acquiring land outside their Reserves (which are likewise closed to white ownership) except in restricted areas in a few townships. The great mass of urban natives are municipal tenants. The Hertzog laws of 1936 were aimed at the abolition of squatting and tenant farming. Segregation, as apartheid was still called, seemed a realizable ideal. But the success of these measures was limited. South Africa was already in the midst of its industrial revolution, with growing demands for labor and a steady movement away from the land by both white and black.

That this was seen as a continuation of the old battle in a new form is shown by an address delivered by Dr. D. F. Malan, now Prime Minister, on the occasion of the centenary of the Great Trek in 1938. Speaking at Blood River in Natal, where the decisive battle between the trekkers and the Zulus was fought a hundred years before, he drew attention to the fact that whereas the European population of the towns had increased in the last 15 years by 460,000, the non-Europeans had increased by 812,000 in the same period.

"If you think that in this New Great Trek of the Afrikaans-speaking section to the towns the centers of our industrial and commercial life are becoming whiter you are indeed mistaken. They are becoming blacker. On this new Blood River battlefield our people and the non-Europeans meet one another and come into very close contact. And they are in much more stressful struggle than 100 years ago, when the white-tented waggons protected the laager and rifle and assegai clashed. . . . The Afrikaans-speaking men of the New Great Trek meet the non-European at the new Blood River half or completely unarmed, without the entrenchment between them and without the protection of the river. They meet him defenceless in the open plain of economic equality." The significance of this long-forgotten speech can now be seen. Ten years later Dr. Malan's party came to power on an apartheid program, and it at once set about disposing its forces for the new Blood River battle.

III

The situation with which it found itself faced was this: In round figures the total native population at that time was 8,000,-000 (as against 2,400,000 Europeans). Of these natives some 3,000,000 lived in the Reserves. The rest were distributed throughout "white" South Africa, outnumbering the whites by more than two to one. Nearly 2,000,000 were in the towns, forming a growing industrial proletariat; the remaining 3,000,000 were on the farms or settled in "black spots" outside the Reserves.

The pure theory of apartheid was, and still is, that the Natives' Reserves are the "national home" of the Bantu. There they shall develop "on their own lines" apart from the Europeans, although under European tutelage. In this way conflict and competition, the clash of a higher with a lower civilization, are to be avoided and justice and harmony will prevail. The obstacle in the way of this ideal is the knotty figures just quoted. If 60 percent of the Bantu are now outside the Reserves, how are these to become their "national home?" And if they could in fact all be put back there, what would happen to the South African economy, based as it is on unskilled native labor, and the South African way of life with its almost unlimited supply of black servants?

The apartheid theorists have ridden uneasily over this problem. More than 25 years ago a commission of inquiry formulated the position to which "practical" apartheid has now returned: "If the Native is to be regarded as a permanent element in municipal areas and if he is to have equal opportunity of establishing himself there permanently, there can be no justification for basing his exclusion from the franchise on the simple ground of colour . . . [therefore] the Native should only be allowed to enter urban areas, which are essentially the white man's creation, when he is willing to enter and to minister to the needs of the white man, and should depart therefrom when he ceases so to minister."

This formula is still serviceable, not only for the urban areas but for the whole of "white" South Africa. It is, of course, completely unreal. The Fagan Report (the Native Laws Commission), the modern textbook of native policy published just before the change of government in 1948, quoted the passage with distaste, and remarked that "now, 25 years later, we cannot get away from the fact that there is indeed a considerable Native population permanently settled in the urban areas, and that an argument about the desirability or undesirability of that state of affairs is purely academic--it is a state of affairs that is going to remain and that simply cannot be altered."

Nevertheless the formula is fundamental to the apartheid policy for the very reason given by the earlier commission. It is realized that in the long run no permanent part of the population can be denied some form of political rights irrespective of the stage of development reached. As political rights for natives are in any circumstances inadmissible, it is necessary to maintain the fiction of impermanence indefinitely. Thus the 60 percent of the Bantu population outside the Reserves are officially regarded as expatriates from the Bantuland beyond the border, from which they are temporarily absent in search of employment. They have been compared with Italian laborers in France.

It is not, of course, only political rights that are involved. Dr. Malan's picture of the white man meeting the impact "defenceless in the open plain of economic equality" is of crucial importance. The entrenchments must be dug, the laager must be drawn against the invasion of the skilled trades and professions which are the white man's preserve. This is being done; but it must be defended. In theory it is defensible only on the assumption that the native is a "foreign worker" holding a conditional passport.

There are, however, many earnest and honest believers in apartheid to whom these polite fictions are unacceptable. Early in the régime one of them, Dr. Eiselen, was taken out of an academic post and made Secretary for Native Affairs because, it was said, it was necessary to have in this position a man who supported the apartheid policy. When he was still Professor of Social Anthropology at Pretoria University in 1949, Dr. Eiselen published a paper in which he dismissed any inherent inferiority in the natives as unscientific and the "master and servant" relationship as unfair and unacceptable. In a mixed society, he said, the natives would never be given the opportunities to which they were entitled. A caste society was being produced, with an increasingly resentful black proletariat. His solution, therefore, was complete separation, the break-up of the present white-and-black society into two distinct and autonomous societies.

He therefore proposed the withdrawal of all native labor over a period of 20 years. White South Africa would have to pay the price in poverty and hard work. They would have to bend their backs, encourage immigration from Europe and maintain a high standard of quality to hold their own against the competitive industries in the native areas. They would also have to give up much land. The chief difficulty, he foresaw, would be to convince the whites that they were not a Herrenvolk entitled to cheap labor. But the only alternative would be for the white group to "cling frantically to its master-people complex, to become embroiled in progressively more inescapable economic, social and political entanglements, and ultimately to forfeit its cherished superiority and perhaps its racial identity."

His was not a voice crying in the wilderness. His views, already shared by many apartheid intellectuals, were soon to be powerfully reënforced. In April 1950 the Federated Dutch Reformed Churches, which claim the adherence of the great majority of Afrikaans-speaking people and therefore have very close affiliations with the government, held a congress in Bloemfontein to discuss native affairs. It agreed on a policy of complete racial and territorial segregation, for which it would be essential for all native labor to be systematically and gradually superseded by European labor in all European industry, including farming. The natives should be removed into an industrial system of their own to be established in the Reserves. This policy, said the congress, would mean the complete reorientation of European industry and economy, and would call for "great sacrifices."

In a document prepared by the "action committee" and privately circulated among the delegates, the arguments in favor of this policy were set out. The authors point out that "we cannot keep Natives in our service, educate and develop them, and keep them pegged to unskilled occupations. On the other hand we cannot expect that if we give them full opportunity for economic development and allow them to rise to the highest rungs they will be satisfied to leave their economic, political and social interests to the care of others. They will fight for a say in national affairs, and in this struggle they will seek support from various sides and even abroad."

The treatise goes on to discuss, although in no great detail, a transition period lasting possibly 50 or 100 years, and including "intensive" native development. Elsewhere it reiterates that "no people in the world worth their salt will be content indefinitely with no say, or only an indirect say, in the affairs of the State or in the socio-economic organisation of the country in which decisions are taken about their interests and future."

This formidable challenge was politely declined by the government. The Minister of Native Affairs said the government would treat the resolution with "great respect," but was in no way committed to it. He described it as an "idealistic extension of and not in conflict with the Government's stated policy."

The Prime Minister, Dr. Malan, was also somewhat equivocal when taxed in Parliament with the Church's views. He described total territorial separation as "an ideal" but not practical policy nor the policy of the Nationalist Party. Europeans and natives must continue to live together "for a time." The first aim would be to check the flow of natives from tribal areas without harming the demand for labor in European areas. This policy, he said, was not in conflict with that of the Church. The government would further the Church's aim but much would have to be done before it was achieved. Meanwhile, as many natives as possible would be returned to their tribal homes. A "great increase" in native areas would be necessary for this.

It is nevertheless legitimate to believe from these pronounce-merits that the government is fundamentally in agreement with the Church and that its appointment of Dr. Eiselen to a key post was not without significance. The new Minister of Native Affairs, Dr. H. F. Verwoerd, has indicated that present policies are the first step toward a distant goal. It would, however, be politically inexpedient, perhaps suicidal, to announce a program that would, even in the long run, deprive white South Africa of its native labor and so revolutionize the whole pattern of its life. It is seldom really wise to go to an electorate with talk of "great sacrifices."

The apartheid program, therefore, has taken the form almost exclusively of popular apartheid. When the Prime Minister was asked, not for the first time, what apartheid is, he pointed to the separation of Cape colored passengers on Cape Town's suburban railway trains and said: "You ask what apartheid is: this is it." Separate queues were instituted at Post Office counters. Large notices at Johannesburg railway stations and elsewhere indicated that certain entrances were for "Europeans only" and "non-Europeans only." Legislation began with the prohibition of marriage between white and colored and the extension of the Immorality Laws to make casual unions of this kind illegal. It proceeded to the Group Areas Act, which is intended to bring about social separation by defining areas of residence, ownership and trade, although only in the local sense as between one part of a town and another. The next move was on the economic front, where provision for training native builders was balanced by a ban on their employment outside the native townships and areas.

Finally the government turned to the difficult but vital political problem. The franchise is already confined to whites everywhere except in the Cape Province, which entered the Union with a liberal tradition not shared by the other provinces. General Hertzog segregated the native vote in the Cape in 1936 by removing the native voters from the common voters' roll and giving them three (white) representatives of their own in the Assembly and four in the Senate. Now the government proceeded to apply the same policy to the colored voters in the midst of a stormy constitutional controversy arising from the fact that the requirement of a two-thirds majority of both Houses sitting together for any such change was set aside. The effect of this is to confine the 1,000,000 colored people to four (white) representatives in the Assembly and one in the Senate, and to prevent them from influencing elections in the other Cape constituencies.

At the same time a move has been made toward modifying the 1936 settlement by abolishing the Natives' Representative Council, an advisory body designed to create an extra-parliamentary institution in which the natives of all provinces could discuss legislation affecting themselves. In practice this body was neglected and ignored and was in open revolt against its own impotence before the change of government. General Smuts had proposed to meet the situation by extending its functions and giving it some executive powers with a view to developing a kind of subordinate Native Parliament. The new policy, however, is to establish a number of tribal and regional councils with some return to native tribal institutions. A central assembly which could be a focal point of native nationalism is viewed with disfavor.

The apartheid pattern as it has so far evolved, therefore, is one of social, economic and political separation within the framework of a mixed society. The National Register about to be compiled will fix the race and with it the status of all the inhabitants of the country. Europeans, natives, colored and Indians will each be confined to their own residential areas (as the natives have long been by the Urban Areas Acts), many trades and occupations will be similarly divided by barriers which will in theory be vertical but in practice often horizontal, and all political power will be concentrated in European hands, with some local self-government for each ethnic group. This system, it is contended, will preserve racial purity, maintain white political supremacy, and minimize economic conflict.

It was set out recently by the Minister of Labor, Mr. Ben Schoeman, in Parliament: "We have never advocated total apartheid. We accept the position that there will be a permanent Native population resident in the urban areas." It was absolutely essential, he continued, that secondary industry should have non-European labor and there was no intention of withdrawing it from them. "We have no intention of disrupting the economy of this country by withdrawing non-European labour from secondary industry." Already many thousands of natives were doing semi-skilled jobs, and he agreed that the native must be allowed to advance and that, with some training, would be able to do operative jobs. "The whole crux of the policy of the Government is that we do not want to create a permanent stratum of European unskilled labour and then allow Native labour to advance beyond the European."

This somewhat confused policy might succeed for a time. It would be acceptable to most Europeans, who regard an adequate supply of non-European labor within easy distance as essential, yet combine a fear of economic competition with a strong distaste for any form of social contact except in a master-and-servant relationship. Above all, they dislike the possibility of miscegenation which economic and social equality might bring. Antagonisms, economic and racial, also exist between non-European groups. Separation so far as it is possible seems to be the answer. It is certainly not an entirely new policy.

IV

In the long term, however, it is clearly no solution. It is theoretically possible to create "separate but equal" social amenities. In practice the equality is usually lacking, and the separation is costly, as the duplication of transport and other services is already proving. It is not even theoretically possible to offer separate but equal economic opportunity in an integrated society. The whole range of industry and other economic activity cannot be duplicated in a single city, yet without such duplication the best jobs must remain permanently closed to those on the wrong side of the dividing line. And it is not even theoretically admitted that there should be equality of political opportunity. In order to justify this bar-in-perpetuity to political evolution it is necessary, in spite of Mr. Schoeman, to invoke the doctrine of impermanence previously referred to--the doctrine, that is, that "the Native should only be allowed to enter urban areas, which are essentially the white man's creation, when he is willing to enter and to minister to the needs of the white man, and should depart therefrom when he ceases so to minister." Yet this doctrine conflicts violently with the conception of parallel development that the kind of apartheid just described is designed to bring about.

There is, in fact, no escape from the moral and practical dilemma to which the Dutch Reformed Church, Dr. Eiselen and others have drawn attention. It remains true, as Dr. Eiselen said, that in a mixed society of this sort the natives would never be given the opportunities to which they are entitled. It remains true, as the Church pointed out, that "we cannot expect that if we give them full opportunity for economic development . . . they will be satisfied to leave their economic, political and social interests to the care of others."

Now the leaders of apartheid thought are by and large neither unintelligent nor lacking in moral sense. They believe firmly, it is true, in white supremacy because throughout the history of their people in Africa the white man has represented civilization, and it has always been true that any real dilution of his power or his blood would have threatened civilization itself in this continent. They see no reason to believe that this is not still true. But they are well aware of the political stirrings going on among the non-white races of the world, on the African continent and among their own subjects. They would like to believe, as many South Africans do, that these movements can be kept at arms length, and they will do their best to control and discourage them; but they know that the line cannot be held indefinitely against the whole world. For these reasons the tidy pattern of local segregation and the Group Areas Act cannot be the final solution. The logical end of apartheid can be only the total apartheid which Dr. Malan recognized as "the ideal."

Thus while Dr. Malan has announced that the government has almost reached the end of its apartheid program, cautious steps are being taken toward a reversal of the trends of a century. Not much can be hoped for from the stricter control of native migration, although this is being tried. It is realized that the native can be drawn back into the (possibly enlarged) Reserves, if at all, only by powerful economic counterattraction. There is much talk of developing industries in these areas and thus diversifying and enlarging the peasant economy and opening up large new fields of opportunity. A government commission is at present investigating the industrial possibilities.

The prospects, however, are not encouraging, and the over-all task so formidable that only the conviction that national survival is at stake would impel any people to undertake it. That conviction is present, but it is still necessary to disguise the full scope of the operation from those who would have to attempt it.

Many of the Reserves, it is true, lie in the most fertile and bestwatered parts of the country. But their fertility has been greatly reduced by misuse and overcrowding. No minerals have been found in them and no industrialists have yet been tempted to transfer their enterprise from the big centers of population with their modern power and transport facilities and ready-made markets to these depressed agricultural areas. The Social and Economic Planning Council, whose reports are a modern textbook of South African society, surveyed the Reserves situation and disclosed possibilities of planned development which included some cautious industrial beginnings based on the processing of agricultural produce. It visualized, too, the creation of villages (now almost entirely lacking) in which landless natives would find occupation in providing local services. But the Council emphasized that these steps are necessary if the Reserves are to retain their present populations and some of the increase, and if they are to be raised above a subsistence economy. There could be no question of making room for more from outside.

Whether the new commission will be able to report more hopefully may well be doubted. Even the improvement of native agriculture is a slow and thankless task in the face of immemorial African conservatism. It is certain that the transformation of the Reserves into modern industrial states--and nothing less would be required -- would call for an enormous expenditure of capital, if indeed it could be done at all. There are no signs yet that this or any South African Government would be prepared or able to devote large capital sums to these purposes.

The effects on the European economy if such a policy is ever seriously attempted are incalculable. Not only would it create an acute and apparently insurmountable manpower shortage, while calling into being a whole new white laboring class which is now nonexistent, but it would set up a parallel Bantu economy which would be a formidable threat to South African standards of living. These standards are based on high wage levels made possible by the wide gap between white skilled and non-white unskilled labor. Given expert white direction, which would in any case be necessary for a long time to come, Bantu industry, mechanized and using operative labor, could become highly productive at low cost. Only the color bar has prevented this happening before on a larger scale, although a pilot textile industry on the borders of a Native Reserve is already proving that it is possible. Indeed, this form of industrial organization is being tried with success in some of the cities, for the color bar is still customary rather than statutory and can be overcome.

These difficulties in the way of real apartheid have not yet been squarely faced, and it is unlikely that they will be unless and until the policy is openly admitted and discussed. Meanwhile the attempts to achieve it by stealth, as it were, are so puny as to be insignificant. The stream is flowing so powerfully the other way that something much more heroic will be needed to turn it back. The preliminary census figures for 1951 recently released show that whereas the European population of Johannesburg has remained almost stationary during the last five years, the Bantu population has increased by nearly 100,000. Johannesburg, the Union's largest city and preeminently the "white man's creation," has a European population of some 330,000 and a native population of 480,000. And the process goes on apace. The National Resources Development Council estimates that the new Orange Free State gold areas will by 1966 have a European population of 146,000 and a native population of 277,000. This was until a few years ago virgin soil. The same pattern is repeated wherever a new project comes into being. Thus a large power station is being built on a Free State coalfield to supply the new mining area; 200 Europeans and 3,000 natives will be required to operate it.

All this is happening while the theorists discuss apartheid, and timid measures are being taken to sweep back the sea with a mop. It is plain that the frontiers so tenaciously defended 100 years ago have been crossed, and the onward march of the Bantu goes on irresistibly.

V

Dr. Malan's apartheid government can therefore be seen (as it sees itself in moments of emotion) as the last gallant stand of the white man in Africa; or merely as an anachronism. A new kind of society is being created in South Africa, and for better or worse it is a multi-racial society. Its pattern has not yet been worked out. Residential separation on Group Areas lines will undoubtedly remain its social design for many years to come, but solutions have yet to be found for the economic and political problems such a society presents. Economic opportunity cannot be indefinitely withheld from any section of a community; political representation in some form cannot indefinitely be denied. In other words, if total apartheid cannot be applied, then the alternatives, not unfairly stated by the Church and other apartheid theorists, must be faced. Similar problems are being faced elsewhere in Africa and tentative solutions are being tried. The Union of South Africa has the problem in a much more advanced stage than any of these territories and can also draw upon a much longer experience.

The real misfortune of the apartheid policy is that it postpones, but only postpones, the day when a real attempt will be made to solve the problems of a multi-racial society composed of layers at several different stages of development and civilization. Valuable time is being wasted on impracticable and wishful policies when time is the one thing South Africa cannot afford. No South African can, however, afford to be self-righteous in dismissing the apartheid solution as illusory, for few of those who condemn it are prepared to come to grips with the real problems South African society presents. No political party has yet ventured to produce a formula and stand by it.

It is, of course, not difficult to put such a formula on paper. The Native Reserves are to a great extent self-contained units with a way of life of their own not yet too greatly influenced by direct European contact. They are, in fact, South Africa's "colonial" territories, and it is still possible to apply to them a "colonial" policy of indirect rule. As with other colonial territories in Africa, they are in urgent need of economic aid and development, and the need is the more urgent in South Africa if their populations are to be stabilized and prevented from erupting into South African society. Indeed, all the energy apartheid can muster in its treatment of the Reserves will not be too much for the task in hand there. Politically, tribal institutions are capable of adaptation to modern conditions, and would stand in the same relationship to the Union Government as other colonial institutions stand to their colonial powers. Their ultimate destiny, however, would be a federal relationship rather than complete independence; in the meantime Senate representation would be appropriate.

This policy differs from that of the apartheid policy in only one important respect: it is complementary to and not a substitute for a native policy. The Planning Council's report on the Reserves commented that "no Reserve policy, not even the policy advocated in this report, will make it possible for South Africa to evade the issues raised by the presence of Natives in European farming and urban areas."

Outside the Reserves, therefore, the large Bantu population might be divided into two classes--those capable of exercising a direct franchise, and those for whom some less direct method is more suitable. The first class, to whom educational and other "civilization" tests would apply, might be entitled to enrolment on a special roll for the election of a specified number of native representatives to the Assembly, which is the main legislative chamber of the South African Parliament. These voters would be the equivalent of the évolués of French and Portuguese colonies, but would nevertheless be confined to communal and therefore relatively inelastic representation. This is necessary to prevent the voters' rolls being overwhelmed in a short time by "advanced" natives, who would thus replace the Europeans as the dominant political group. Faced with this possibility there would be every inducement to Europeans to check rapid Bantu progress.

The less advanced Bantu, who still form the great mass outside as well as inside the Reserves, might have local and regional councils on the lines now proposed as part of the apartheid policy, with suitable representation in the Senate. It should be noted that the South African Senate is a house of review with powers that are more apparent than real. It is, however, already an outlet to a limited extent for native opinion through representatives chosen for the purpose, and Senate representation in some form is conceded by apartheid. It might be necessary to make some more far-reaching change in the character and functions of this House, if it is to serve a real purpose in a system of multi-racial representative government.

An alternative solution, put forward by the South African writer and historian Dr. A. Keppel-Jones, is the federalization of South Africa, with a number of states in each of which one of the races (European, Bantu, colored and Indian) would predominate and rule. This is an extension of the apartheid idea without the need for physical separation, except in so far as racial groups chose to migrate to neighboring states in search of a more congenial régime.

Important as political arrangements are in a country in which racial security is regarded as of paramount importance, the economic problem is the more immediate. Color apart, a low wage group is always a threat to an artisan class with high living standards. The obvious defense--a minimum wage for all in skilled trades--is nevertheless regarded with misgiving by many of the white trade unions and most of the political parties. The color bar is more effective and avoids the complication of social equality at the workbench. Yet it is difficult to see how economic injustice is to be avoided in any other way than through a standard wage divorced from color; and, more urgently, how the country's economic problem of poverty and underproduction is to be solved if the straitjacket of the color bar is not removed.

Such solutions as these are vague and unformed chiefly because South Africans refuse to discuss them, and policies that have not withstood the test of public controversy necessarily have an academic unreality. The reason why they are neglected is that most white South Africans have an instinctive belief that once they have set such a course they will be caught irresistibly in the current that will sweep them and their particular values into oblivion.

For the argument hitherto has been entirely between Europeans about the Bantu. The Bantu themselves have remained silent; or when they have spoken their views have been dismissed as the voice of agitators and extremists. Most of them, it is true, are inarticulate and politically indifferent. Yet events in other African territories and the subtle change in the South African atmosphere itself are a warning that the argument may soon be with the Bantu, not merely about them. The effective opposition to apartheid will eventually come not from an opposing political party but from the non-Europeans themselves. And that opposition may extend beyond apartheid to any policy that falls short of complete equality. The president of the African National Congress, the main Bantu political movement, Dr. Moroka, remarked recently, with the kind of tolerant understanding that Europeans find more frightening than threats, that the Afrikaner had not been satisfied in the past with anything less than equality; he could see no logical difference between the nature and purpose of the Afrikaner struggle and the nature and purpose of the African struggle. Each was a struggle of a nation to ensure for itself those conditions that make life possible. Dr. Moroka added that the outcome of apartheid would be the death knell of civilization in South Africa and the complete collapse of the edifice of white baasskap (boss-ship) which apartheid sought to construct.

The question has still to be answered whether the civilization, if not the boss-ship, can be preserved undamaged either with apartheid or without it. Mere repression is bound to fail, and any apartheid other than the unattainable total kind (and perhaps even that) will inevitably be repressive. But will concession fail too? To put the question in another way, will the education of the Bantu in Western culture and Western democracy keep pace with his political demands? If it does not, the well-meant alternatives to apartheid may not avert the conflict. The best that can be said is that in the one case the conflict is certain, in the other the way is left open for peaceful solutions in the future.

You are reading a free article.

Subscribe to Foreign Affairs to get unlimited access.

  • Paywall-free reading of new articles and a century of archives
  • Unlock access to iOS/Android apps to save editions for offline reading
  • Six issues a year in print, online, and audio editions
Subscribe Now