A PROMINENT Black South African recently came to the Houses of Parliament in Cape Town to speak to members of my political party. In the course of his speech he said: "In Europe and America I have found that the people will not listen to the White man from Africa. They only listen to the Black man. I sometimes have difficulty in persuading people over there that I might be mistaken--even although I am Black." He joined in the laughter that followed, which proves to me that with all their vexing difficulties South Africans have not lost their sense of humor. For those words he spoke are to White South Africans tragically true, and it is not their fault that it is true.

In the cold war now being waged between democracy and Communism, Africa is the great uncommitted continent. The allegiance of the 230,000,000 people who dwell on this vast land mass is one of the greatest prizes for which the giant contestants are striving. At the beginning of the cold war the Communists had an initial advantage in Africa. They could in accordance with the teachings of Lenin exploit the potential anti-colonial sentiments of millions of Africans who for a hundred years had been the subjects of metropolitan powers in Europe.

It had to become the policy of the West to move this weapon from the hands of the Communists. Colonialism, whatever benefits it had conferred upon less advanced people, had to go. The forces of anti-colonialism were greatly stimulated when the mighty United States of America, after Hitler's war, emerged from its traditional isolationism and accepted its full responsibility for the maintenance of peace and the frustration of Communist aggrandizement throughout the world. America's historical dislike of colonialism coincided with the strategic need to abolish it wherever it had persisted. Inevitably, the days of the colonial administrator from Europe, the plantation manager and the transient trader were numbered.

Throughout most of Africa the transition could take place smoothly. Europeans living in most parts of central Africa were not permanent settlers. They were sojourners temporarily resident in those areas to maintain the liaison which existed between the metropolitan power and the colony, primarily in the interest of the former, but incidentally also to the great advantage of the peoples in the colony.

In these areas the handing over of power to the indigenous people caused a minimum of disruption and, even if the new governments which replaced the colonial administration did not always correspond with Western concepts of democratic government, no great injustice was done, because the new forms of government corresponded with the national customs and character of the people affected.

But the position is different in those African territories where the White man is not a bird of passage but a permanent settler as truly identified with Africa as any Black man can be. To them the prospect of being submerged in a wave of African nationalism foreign to their concepts and to their way of life is truly frightening.

This is the reason why the problem of emancipation in Africa becomes increasingly difficult the larger the permanent European settlement. In the case of Ghana and Guinea and even Nigeria the problem was small. It becomes more involved in Kenya, where out of some 6,000,000 inhabitants 65,000 are Europeans. It is confusingly involved in Southern Rhodesia where some 200,000 Whites have made their permanent homes. It is the despair of statesmen in the Union of South Africa where, over a period of 300 years, more than 3,000,000 White people have settled and have become passionately attached to the land of their birth.

In the Union of South Africa the challenge to statesmanship is to devise a system of government and an order of society which will permit freedom to all its motley peoples while protecting the civilized standards brought to the subcontinent by the White people--standards passed on by them to 1,500,000 Colored people and 500,000 Asians, standards achieved by some and derived by all of the country's 9,000,000 Africans.

The Verwoerd Government now in power in South Africa seeks a draconian solution. Possibly influenced by precedents of partition established in India and in the Middle East, it believes in a policy of separate development for all the peoples of the Union. For the Africans it wants to set aside land areas where they will be free to develop to the utmost of their ability and, if they so desire, to full sovereign independence. Morally this policy is perhaps not the evil thing which world opinion believes it to be. Sincerely applied, with the White people willing to make the sacrifices it will involve, it might be beyond reproach. The policy is, however, threatened with failure.

The seeds of this failure lie far back in our history. A century before the first European reached Australia, 30 years after the Pilgrim Fathers landed in New England, White immigrants were entering Africa at its southernmost point. Only 150 years later did these immigrants make their first contact on the eastern frontier of the Cape Colony with the central African Negro, or Bantu. These people, it is believed, had a thousand years before begun a migration southward down the African continent. The first contacts between European and Bantu were clashes of strength over land, water and stock, so that the history of South Africa during the latter part of the eighteenth and the first part of the nineteenth century is in many ways a remarkable parallel to that of the United States, where a similar situation arose between the White settlers and the American Indians.

The clashes ended in the subjugation of the Bantu to White authority in return for the allocation of just over 21,000,000 acres of land for the undisputed and protected occupation of the defeated tribes. This separation of the Bantu tribes and the wise paternal administration of White magistrates in the Reservations brought peace to South Africa.

But increases in the Bantu population over the years and especially the rapid economic development of South Africa made it increasingly difficult to restrict the Bantu to the land areas set aside for them. In the last 50 years the Union of South Africa's Bantu population has grown from 3,500,000 to nearly 11,000,000--a tribute to the benefits which accrued to them when they exchanged their former warlike way of life for the orderly administration of the White man. In the same 50 years the Union's White population increased from about 1,000,000 to 3,300,000.

In 1910, when the Union of South Africa was founded, 85 percent of the Bantu population lived in the Reservations and in the rural areas. The bulk of the Bantu population was composed of tribal Natives and farm laborers. Today 70 percent of the 11,000,000 Bantu live outside the Reserves, 25 percent having moved into the cities. Three out of every four workers in the manufacturing industry are non-Whites, while the proportion in agriculture and mining is 90 percent.

This integration of the Black man into South Africa's economy is an indisputable and inescapable fact. It is the crux of our objection on practical grounds to the "separate development" or apartheid policy of the present South African Government. Together with the considerable divergence of cultural levels and living standards of the White population and those of the vast mass of the Bantu people, this fact of integration is also the crux of the South African dilemma as a whole.

Let us look at the divergences. Fifty years ago almost all our Bantu were completely illiterate. Today the school attendance of Bantu in South Africa has reached 1,500,000, and the figure is increasing by 100,000 a year. Most of these children admittedly go little beyond the equivalent of the American fourth grade, but about 8,000 reach the tenth grade and about 650 matriculate each year. In 1958 there were nearly 2,000 Bantu students at universities and in that year 200 graduated. In spite of obvious deficiencies, these figures are commendable; no other territory in Africa south of the Sahara can even approach this achievement--and we are justly proud of it. We know that much work still has to be done to educate the Bantu people of South Africa, and the great advance we have achieved as compared to the rest of Africa has certainly not caused us to rest on our laurels. But we cannot do the impossible with limited resources. After all, the revenue of the South African Government is only about $1 billion a year, and only about a tenth of this comes from the Bantu in both direct and indirect taxes.

The process of civilization through education has, therefore, unavoidably been a slow one; nor is civilization a simple process of exposing tribal man to educative influences with a certainty of uniform "civilizing" results. The mass of the Bantu are primitive and uneducated. In spite of the progress mentioned, probably fewer than 300,000 of the Bantu have reached the equivalent of the eighth grade.

As things are at present we cannot ignore the fact that the men who greeted our Dutch settlers 300 years ago were men of the Stone Age. The cultural gap of 10,000 years cannot, unfortunately, be bridged in a couple of decades, and it is the fear of the White African in the Union that he may become submerged in a reassertion of primitiveness if he surrenders political power. This explains what to many people outside Africa seems to be the psychosis of the South African people.

There is also a wide gap between the standards of living of the Blacks and the Whites in the Union and this also militates against an easy solution of our problems. This is true although the Bantu has undoubtedly made great advances in this sphere, too. Today 25 percent of our total national income is directly attributable to the earning capacity of people who 50 years ago were capable of only the most primitive forms of agriculture and the simplest forms of manual labor.

It is difficult to measure improvement in standards of living when that "improvement" involves a change-over from a communal and primitive subsistence economy, in which people do not even wear clothes, to a modern competitive money economy. But our Bantu are sharing in a rate of development that has made South Africa, whose geographic area is under 5 percent of the total African continent and where only 16,000,000 of its 230,000,000 people dwell, responsible for nearly a third of the output of the whole of Africa.

In the company of the White South African, the tribal Native has made extraordinary strides from an era of frequent famine and murderous internecine warfare as well as from what, if he had been left on his own, would have undoubtedly been a forlorn struggle to wrest a livelihood from South Africa's niggardly soil.

Today South Africa's real national income per head is about four times that of India and it is steadily rising. This growth of national income is based on the investment of new capital each year of about £ 200 million, of which 80 percent comes from local sources. This is no mean feat if one takes into account the vast drag of an undeveloped country and a largely backward population.

Today, too, South Africa's food consumption of 2,740 carbohydrate calories and 75 grams of protein per head compares very favorably with the United Kingdom's at 3,250 calories and 85 grams or with India's at 1,890 calories and 50 grams. Some luxury living is not beyond us either; the number of persons per motor vehicle in South Africa is about 19 compared with 23 in West Germany or 1,170 in India (1957).

Yet ignorance and poverty remain the stumbling blocks to an early or easy solution of our race problems. They are, in fact, the gravest obstacles to the stable development of Africa as a whole. We have to face the fact that the "color" revolution of the second half of the twentieth century has taken time by the forelock. In little more than a decade, two-thirds of Africa's 230,000,000 have achieved independent, indigenous rule. What this will mean to people who are for the most part nations in name only is not yet clear.

Professor Frankel, an eminent South African now resident in Oxford, has stated the problem in terms which those of us who know Africa can understand. He said:

The subsistence economies of Africa still dominate the economic pattern of the newly independent states of Africa. . . . The real enemy of the African people is social and economic stagnation--and the perpetuation of, or return to, the isolation on which it rests. . . .

It is clear, therefore, that any consideration of the economic aspects of the political changes now taking place in Africa must eschew mere wishful thinking or misplaced enthusiasm. The mere wish to attain the economic benefits of a modern way of life does not supply the means wherewith to do so. . . . The cost of pacifying the continent and establishing the rule of law and ordered government in it was borne mainly by the Colonial and Metropolitan Powers. . . .

It is the paradox of our time that just when science and technique stand poised for major advances in easing the burden of Man's labour and in multiplying his powers over the hitherto unopened, uncultivated or under-utilized regions of the world, the forces of unbridled nationalism and outworn tribalism bar the way to that private and collective international coöperation without which these advances cannot be made.[i]

Nothing could be more naïve than to assume that the withdrawal of White influence--which can mean the withdrawal of Western influence--from a country like the Union of South Africa would mean the immediate establishment of broadly based, responsible democracy on the Western model. Democracy, after all, is not merely a question of representative institutions of government. It is a way of life, acquired by many nations of the world who have practiced discussion and decision by majority at every level of life. We of the West, for example, practice this way of settling our affairs not only in our parliaments and congresses but also in our business organizations, our churches, our trade unions, our charitable undertakings, our scientific foundations and even in the heart of our families. Very often the practice of democratic methods in these varied aspects of our daily life preceded the culmination of democracy in representative and responsible forms of government. It is surely too much to expect that the natives of an area such as the Union of South Africa will overnight accept Western democracy and make it part of their way of life when only yesterday they were subject to, and accepted as natural, the fierce authority of the tribal chief and the dictates on moral issues of the witch doctor and his superstitions.

Were European influence and authority to be withdrawn from the Union of South Africa, we are convinced that a spiritual and political vacuum would result. Our ingenuousness would be incredible if we were to ignore the opportunity that such a situation would offer for the expansion of Communist influence, as experience elsewhere in Africa is already warning us. This situation is fraught with danger for Africa and the world at large; the wind of change can indeed become a destructive tornado.


This knowledge does not mean that South Africans are smug or complacent in a changing world. We do not ignore the fact that "self-determination-at-all-costs" is the political philosophy of our century and that the newly independent peoples, whose voices are now heard and whose influence is increasingly being felt in the councils of the world, find fault with the rate of adjustment by South Africans to this new ideal. It would be ridiculous to contemplate a hold-up in the evolutionary process of any racial group in Africa toward higher economic or political status. But that evolution, which cannot be held back, also cannot be forced without running the risk of grave and unhappy repercussions. That is why I believe that the White man in South Africa has a duty as the bearer of the older and more experienced civilization to guide that evolutionary process, where it is within his power to do so.

I sincerely believe that all South Africans accept this responsibility and seek a just solution to our race problems; I believe this is true of the Nationalist Party Government now in power. The difficulty with the Verwoerd Government's proposed solution is that they have thought of it 200 years too late.

I have said that there is in theory little wrong with separate development. The 36,000,000 acres of land (increased by legislation over the years from the original 21,000,000 acres) now allocated for the reserved and protected occupation of the Bantu is a considerable slice of South Africa. If we include the three British territories--Basutoland, Swaziland and Bechuanaland--geographically inseparable from the Union, nearly 50 percent of the country would belong to the Bantu peoples. But it would not be enough, and the policy of separate development can never be implemented. Integration, at least on the economic level, has gone too far; the egg cannot be unscrambled, even if the Government were tomorrow to begin spending colossal millions on the Bantu homelands. In the meantime the negative aspects of apartheid, which show up in attempt by legislation to "clear the lanes" and to keep the population moving in parallel lines of development even outside the reservations, are continuously running into impossible impasses.

Our industry depends on the labor of the Black man, and as we grow it will do so even more in the future. Dr. du Toit Viljoen, a prominent South African economist on whom the present Government leans heavily, has calculated that in the absence of considerably increased immigration there will be by the year 2000 some 329,000 artisans in the Union's industry, of whom fewer than half could be White. He has also calculated that whereas the Whites provided the workers in 41 percent of our tertiary activities in 1946 they will form only 25 percent of those workers by the end of the century. How does one maintain parallel development and rigid separation for the races in those circumstances?

In spite of this growing interdependence, Dr. Verwoerd, to further his policy of separate development, has said a categorical "no" to any representation of the Black people in the Parliament of our country. His intention is that the Black man should develop his own parallel institutions all based on the Native Reservations. But since, on sound opinion, it would appear impossible to provide a home for more than a quarter of our total Native population in those Reservations, the remaining 75 percent living in the "mixed" area will still constitute our biggest problem. The Government's policy of separate development is therefore no answer to South Africa's problem. The development of the Reservations, while a praiseworthy and necessary aim in itself, provides only an arm to lean on and does not bear the whole man.

An alternative policy must be found. It should be a policy which will retain for the millions of White South Africans their standards and the system of values which they have proudly derived from their Western forefathers. It should at the same time be a policy which will evince the will to share the fruits of Western civilization with all those emergent peoples in our country who are eager to prove their desire to coöperate in retaining the Union of South Africa as a bastion in Africa of the Western way of life.

We are persuaded that there is a community of 1,500,000 non-White people in South Africa who already satisfy this test. It is composed of those of mixed blood in our country known here as the Cape Colored people. They have accepted Western standards. They are civilized. The policy of the United Party, therefore, is that they should in every way be regarded as part of Western society in South Africa, enjoying the rights to which that status entitles them. They should be placed on a common voters roll and be free to nominate and elect their own people to Parliament on that roll. Any measure that may be necessary in the economic field to protect the higher standard of living of our civilized people should not apply to them.

Our 500,000 Asians are in a similar position. Attitudes to them in South Africa are bedeviled for historical reasons by the fact that they have in the past looked to India for protection and help, thus derogating from their status as South African citizens. But when my party, the United Party, is in power, it will reopen discussion with this important community with a view to reëstablishing their status as citizens of South Africa.

The formulation of a policy towards the Native people is more difficult, for reasons I have tried to explain before. When people are at varying stages of development one cannot be dogmatic about their position in society. The approach of the United Party to the Native people in South Africa is not one based upon hidebound theory or the arrogant belief that we have a blueprint for the future or that we can tie anything as dynamic as the evolution of man in an ideological strait-jacket. Our approach is to a large extent empirical, motivated by a sincere desire to do what is necessary and just in the light of circumstances presently obtaining and guided by the belief that every man is entitled to develop his God-given potential to the utmost of his ability.

And so, because our experience has shown that many of the moral problems which we have in South Africa are rendered intractable by the White man's fear of being submerged under a wave of primitive nationalism, we want to strengthen our White population in order to diminish that fear. We shall seek to augment our White population of 3,000,000 by increased immigration and by social planning to increase the birth rate. Relying on our vast natural resources and the untapped potential of our country, we shall strive to build our European population to at least 15,000,000 before the end of the century. When this is achieved we believe that the psychology of the White man in South Africa will be changed. His influence will be supported by numbers, as democracy demands; and his good intentions will then not be frustrated by the fear that justice done to the Native may mean his own cultural, economic and political annihilation.

Our other population groups will also benefit by such a vigorous policy. That policy will initiate, and will be maintained by, rapid economic development, and from this accelerated growth will arise greater opportunities for all the peoples of South Africa.

The second fact which we realize is that, while the White man's experience and knowledge may be invaluable to our country, our problem of living together here is a joint problem for which no solution can be found except when the races come together and act in concert. This requirement is not unique to South Africa; it is a universal truth that people will not coöperate unless they enjoy a sense of participation.

It is obvious that in order to be successful a South African race policy will have to gain the support and understanding of both Whites and non-Whites. Consultation with the non-White leaders will therefore play an important part in the implementation of our policy. We shall build bridges and make contacts which can never be attained if contact is limited to the official level or to the relationship of master and servant. Such consultation will take place at all levels. It will take place at the highest level in our Parliament, with parliamentary spokesmen for that responsible class of Natives qualifying for registration on their own voters roll. It will take place at lower levels with elective bodies--not archaic tribal authorities--in local government and in the administration of the Reservations.

The third fact which we appreciate is that if South Africa is to prosper it cannot be dismembered. That is another reason why we oppose the present Government's policy which envisages the partition of South Africa. We accept, nevertheless, that the Native Reservations must be developed energetically with capital and skills from all available sources in order to improve the standards of the people who live there; but they must remain an integral part of the Union of South Africa.

A fourth consideration underlying our policy is that primitive people should be given the opportunity of acquiring democratic ways. Experience in Africa has shown that the indigenous populations do not take readily to the democratic way of life and that institutions which the Westerner prizes can suffer grievously at the hands of over-zealous politicians. It will be our earnest endeavor to train the people in the Reservations to accept increased responsibilities so that they may gain experience of modern administration and the ways of democracy. In this way we see that in time the development of indigenous institutions in those areas will make it possible to give a geographical content to the principle of racial federation, which we believe is the ultimate pattern of development in the Union of South Africa. In the future I can foresee a South African Parliament retaining full control over major policy but delegating as of right certain powers and functions to these local institutions on a federal basis. Representatives of these areas will naturally be elected to the central government.

That is for the future. As an immediate step, the United Party will restore the representatives of the Native peoples to the central Parliament of the country. Parliamentary representation, which had in the past been limited to the Cape Province, will be extended to the whole country. At least in the initial stages the representatives will be White people; they will be chosen by Natives registered on the ground of character and responsible status on a separate voters roll.

We are sincerely convinced that a separate voters roll is a wise device for a multi-racial country like South Africa where the races exist on highly divergent levels. It makes unnecessary the odious task of devising "civilization tests" which must be at best arbitrary and unscientific. Moreover, the separate roll is a constitutional safeguard which the South African public understands, and it can be adapted from time to time to meet future constitutional developments.

There is a fifth important factor that the South African Opposition accepts. It is the necessity to differentiate between those Natives who are still rooted in their tribes and whose culture is based upon tribal ways and those who have left the Reservation for good and have become detribalized. As long ago as 1946 a Native Laws Commission of the Government under the chairmanship of Mr. Justice H. A. Fagan reported:

The townward movement of Natives is simply an economic phenomenon, which is also occurring with regard to the other races--and in the case of the latter, in proportion to their numbers, to even greater extent. . . .

It can be guided and regulated, but it is impossible to prevent it or turn it in the opposite direction. . . .

We, therefore, have to accept the fact that there is a permanent urban Native population.

At the same time there are differences between the races to which legislation has to pay due regard and which make a measure of separation in administrative affairs necessary and advisable.

We shall therefore accept these Natives in the mixed areas as a permanent and indispensable part of our population outside the Reservations, and treat them as such. But I should add, in agreement with Mr. Justice Fagan, that a policy suited to the South African situation will not for some years be able to avoid compromise necessitated by the fact that our population groups are at different stages of development. This will, for example, mean separate residential areas and separate institutions for lower education. But already there is no justification for segregation in our universities.

Our most immediate and urgent task in the urban area will be: 1, to amend those laws which offend against the dignity of our Native peoples as human beings; 2, to take steps which will bring real improvements in their standards of living and education; and 3, to give the urban Bantu a stake in the community by developing them into a responsible, property-owning, middle class in contrast to the dangerous proletariat which they may well become as things are at present.

The final fact which we accept is that the first demand which a man is entitled to make upon the society in which he lives is the right to rewards for his labor which will enable him and his family to live as decent human beings. We have for years pleaded that the gap between White and non-White wage rates should be narrowed. This differentiation has its origin in obvious historical accidents and has persisted in spite of the considerable improvement in the living standards of all our people. It is only sound common and economic sense that the necessary increase in the wage standards of our Bantu should go hand-in-hand with increases in productivity. This aim will require greater opportunities for the training of Native labor in modern technical skills. At the moment, it happens all too often that Black labor is regarded as not being "worth" more.

Part of our plans to give greater opportunities to all our peoples is our intention to abolish the Government's policy of "job reservation"--an attempt to protect different classes of labor by limiting certain categories of work to particular races. We in the United Party believe that the principle of "the rate for the job," which is upheld by trade unions throughout the civilized world, is all the protection that workers need against unfair competition or against the undercutting of wages.

Because economic advance in a modern state becomes difficult for the uneducated and the illiterate, we will adopt a policy that will end illiteracy as a first priority and will then allow for those who want it to share in education of the highest possible standard. Our Bantu people have a deep respect for learning; we would be missing our greatest chance to bring them all into the orbit of Western civilization if we were to deny them the opportunities to acquire the learning for which more and more of them earnestly yearn.

Such a policy as I have outlined will mark the change of direction in South Africa which is urgently necessary. It can bring us a long way toward a happier future for South Africa. There is so much good will amongst the races in our land--so much more than our caustic critics will allow--that our chances for an amicable solution of our problems are real, certainly better than in many other parts of Africa. But we have to act fast; we have to act before the agitator with his tongue of fire can set our lovely land ablaze.

The circumstances, the population distribution and the history of this multi-racial country which is the Union of South Africa combine to lay upon its people the duty of proving that men of different races, different color, different backgrounds and different standards of culture and civilization can work and live together successfully and in harmony in order to prosper together and to raise those who are lower in the historical stratification of society to the level of the higher. We must prove that. Otherwise the peoples of South Africa will become disillusioned in the promise of Western democracy and turn to that evil ideology which is today the alternative to our way of life.

[i]Overseas Quarterly, The Campfield Press, St. Albans, December 1960, p. 105-107.

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  • SIR DE VILLIERS GRAAFF, M.P. in the Union of South Africa Parliament since 1948; leader of the Opposition and Chairman of the United Party
  • More By De Villiers Graaff