South Africa

on the World today


August 1948

ON MAY 26, 70 per cent of the voting population of the Union of South Africa went to the polls and defeated General Smuts and his United Party. They voted into office the Herenigde Nasionale Party under the leadership of 74-year-old Dr. Daniel François Malan, former Predikant of the Dutch Reformed Church and Minister of the Interior in the Hertzog cabinet.

The Nationalists won this election on the racial issue, aided by the aggravations of the high cost of living, of shortages, and of controls. But those irritants were secondary. The “black peril" was the bogey of the election campaign, and the chief decision before the voter was whether to approve total segregation or to concede that the non-European might, in the course of time, become a part of European civilization.

There is no doubt that the status of the native is a burning issue in South Africa and that the solution of the problem is essential to the well-being and stability of the country. There are 7,725,809 natives and 282,539 Asiatics who are politically nonexistent in a country of only 2,335,460 Europeans.

The reservations set aside for native occupation are eroded and inadequate for their support. Driven by hunger and poverty the natives, in increasing numbers, have poured into the cities and towns, looking for work. Housing in the locations set aside for native residence in the towns is utterly deficient by any standards, crime has increased, discontent has mounted, and the European consequently feels, and quite often is, unsafe.

At this time there is little agitation among the natives for political equality. What the native wants — and now — is economic and educational opportunity. The European wants his labor, and also security from the lawlessness bred by the crowded and miserable state in which most natives live. The United Party proposed the gradual extension of such democratic rights as economic and educational opportunity to non-Europeans, and recognized that political equality might come in time to those equipped to handle it. The Nationalists offered Apartheid—separation of the two cultures — and the country accepted it.

This means that no natives are to live permanently in urban areas. Those now there, the whole 2,000,000 of them, presumably are to be sent back to the reserves, from which the state will recruit labor and allocate it to mines, factories, and white farms. Further, according to reports, criticism of this native policy will be “checked” as “foreign to the nation.”

Only the Herrenvolk vote

For the Asiatics in the Union, Nationalist Party policy points to repatriation to India as fast as possible and, until that happy day, segregation, both social and political. In 1946 the Indians in Natal were for the first time given the opportunity to vote, but only on a communal roll and only for European representatives. But even this was too much for the Nationalists and for many non-Nationalists as well. The Nationalists fought the bill for the limited franchise bitterly, and have since agitated for the extension of this Indian segregation to the Cape Province. Now the party is in a position to put its Indian policy into effect.

The colored people in the Cape are also on the communal roll, but the Nationalists propose to remove these half-castes from it and to segregate them as well. The “white supremacy” racial policies of the Nationalist Party also extend to the Jews, of whom there are many. They are influential throughout business and in the mining industry, which is the bulwark of South African economy.

Eric Louw, now Minister of Economic Development and Mines, is a rabid anti-Semite. Dr. Malan once introduced into Parliament a bill to bar Jews of any nationality from living in the Union. During the election campaign he favored recognition of the Jewish position in Palestine (conceivably so that he could advocate the return of Jews to their “home”) and made the statement that, should the Nationalist Party win, the property rights of Jews would be “protected.” Respect for other rights was not mentioned.

Afrikaner Broederbond

The implications of this election, however, extend further than the race problem, and the average South African may find that he has more than he bargained for in throwing in his lot with the Nationalist Party on color policy. The policies of the extreme rightist, nationalistic group in the Cabinet may lead to an isolationist foreign policy and to efforts to promote, at the expense of the English-speaking South African, a dominant position for the ware Afrikaner — defined as one who “thinks with his blood” and does not speak English or fraternize with the English-speaking.

Before the election, the political correspondent of the Rand’s leading daily pointed out that a victory for the Nationalist Party would mean that South Africa would be ruled by the Afrikaner Brooderbond. The composition of the Cabinet formed by Dr. Malan supports this view. The Broederbond, a small, secret Afrikaner organization set up on the cell system, was described by the late Prime Minister Hertzog as a “state within a state.” As long ago as 1935 he warned the country against its machinations, as has General Smuts since that time.

Bond membership emphasizes quality, not quantity; lawyers, professors, ministers, and other members of the professions dominate. An Executive Secretariat of three rules the Bond, and the administration is in the hands of the Executive Committee and the General Council. Members may not apply for admission to the Bond. They are nominated by existing members and must be accepted unanimously. If a member withdraws, he is blacklisted and victimized by every possible means.

Broeders are “responsible only to God” and they are pledged to infiltrate ware Afrikaners into influential positions.

It is reported from South Africa that more than 60 of the 93 candidates which the Nationalist Party put up in the election are members of the Broederbond. As 79 of their candidates won their seats, most of the Nationalist members of Parliament must be Bond members. There is no member of the Cabinet who is reported not to be a member of the Bond, and the English-speaking population is not represented. This fact alone is significant and may be understood as a statement of policy.

The extent to which the Nationalists can carry out Bond policies will depend on the Strength of the Opposition. The Nationalist Party has a bare majority of four votes, but that is sufficient to carry a motion. The strength of public opinion and the pressure of outside events and influences may be the factors which will temper Nationalist extremists. It has been pointed out that once in the saddle, the Nationalists could always increase the electoral load against the towns, United Party strongholds, so as to ensure themselves a permanent majority. Any such attempt would bear watching.

South African Republic?

Since the party was formed, the Nationalists have agitated for a “Christian Socialist” Republic and a break with the British Crown. This issue was soft-pedaled during the campaign, in an effort to win the Englishman’s vote on the color issue without alarming him about the Commonwealth status of the Union. Since becoming Prime Minister, Dr. Malan has stated that the Union would not pull out of the Commonwealth.

The Nationalists have made no secret of the fact that they are opposed to any involvement in Empire defense. But Dr. Malan has said that, opposed to Russia, South Africa “will not remain neutral or plead for neutrality. Our sympathy will be on the side of the anti-Communist countries and, if it is sought and is practicable, our active support as well.” “Active support” was not defined.

The anti-British policies and past actions of the Nationalist Party and its leaders must shake British confidence in the Union’s Commonwealth position. A vigorous Afrikaner development in South Africa would widen the rift between the British and Dutch elements of the population, would increase race tension, and would undermine the stability of the country.