Black States or Partnership?

Born near Sheffield in 1917, the son of an English coal miner, DAVID M. COLE was educated in the Blue Coat School and Sheffield University. He went to South Africa in 19A7, to the copper hell of Northern Rhodesia in 1948. and settled in Southern Rhodesia in 195’t ,where he is editor of the Central African EXAMINER, a fortnightly journal of opinion modeled, on the ECONOMISTand the only periodical of its kind published in Africa.

IF David Livingstone the missionary, Cecil Rhodes the empire builder, and a white citizen of modern Rhodesia or South Africa had sat together upon a rock kopje and looked at the approaching hordes of Zulu, Matabele, or Bemba tribesmen, Livingstone would have said, “What a flock of souls to be saved"; Rhodes would have said, “What a labor force”; and today’s white settler would, alone of all three, have felt the need of a question. “Who,” he would have asked, “has the vote around here?”

The first white men to live in Africa did so because they were, essentially, at one with either Rhodes or Livingstone. They were there either to uplift the black man or to exploit him: to teach him how to till his land or to take it from him; to show him how to run his country in civilized terms or to run up over it an alien flag. The map of Africa today is at once a damning commentary and a spectacular tribute to these white men and what they achieved.

In Nairobi, Salisbury, and Johannesburg the great majority of white men are as preoccupied as are the average citizens of Philadelphia or Manchester with income tax, children’s schooling, and the incidence of thrombosis. But they have other major preoccupations which are to be found, in this century and on this scale, in Africa alone.

All around are black men in vastly greater numbers, a black majority which ranges from three to one (with the illusion of manageability) in South Africa to one thousand to one in Uganda (with the certainty of an all-black state). And these are black men who are no longer mystified by the Chevrolet, for though they did not make it they know how it works, and no longer content to be ruled by men with white skins, for they know that, where the white men of Africa came from, all men now have a share in choosing their rulers and their form of government.

This is why one of the most difficult questions to answer about the “New Africa” is whether the white man has any real, permanent place in it other than as a technological expert and an adviser. In many countries south of the Sahara — including such independent African states as Liberia, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Guinea, such British colonies and former colonies as Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, the Gambias, Uganda, and Tanganyika, and Belgium’s — Congo the answer is no. These arc countries which have never had large permanent while communities. The whites who have lived and are still living in them, whether as administrators, technologists, missionaries, traders, or planters on estates producing tropical produce, have retained their roots in Europe. They continue to regard themselves as Italians, Britons, or Belgians and not as Somalis, Nigerians, or Congolese. These countries already have African governments or are committed to courses which must, before long, produce African governments, and whites, with the exception of a tiny handful who become assimilated into the local population, remain as aliens. The numbers of whites become fewer and their role less important as Africans learn their skills and begin to accumulate capital.

The classic contrast to these countries is the Union of South Africa, the one country of Africa which still thinks of itself as a white mans country. South Africa has far and away the largest white community in sub-Sahara Africa, both in numbers and in proportion to its total population. Its white citizens have for three hundred years regarded themselves not as Europeans working a temporary stint in Africa but as Africans, which (distressing though the idea is to the Dutchdescended dominant white group in South Africa) is all that their name, “Afrikaner,”really means. White South Africans have always been in Africa to stay. Few have any real roots left in Europe but, since they arc outnumbered three to one, they have concluded that the only way to maintain their foothold in the continent is to operate an economy and a system of government which denies all economic and political power to black Africans.

The deliberate adoption of this course has given white men a presently unassailable position in one part of Africa, has provided South Africa with the strongest and best-orgnized government and economy in the continent, and gives to the possessor of a white skin a position of superiority over all men with black skins. This would be a simple situation were it not for the fact that no privileged minority in history has yet succeeded in producing in the majority it rules a permanent and docile acceptance of inferiority, for this reason alone the South African solution is unlikely to provide a permanent place for white men anywhere in Africa.

South Africa itself — with a strong government unafraid of outside criticism and a well-developed economy — presents less immediate scope for internal revolution than any other country on the African continent. But in a twentieth-century world where nonwhite nations are increasingly in the ascendant and where South African theories of the superiority of the white race and the South African autocratic system of government are anathema almost everywhere, it is difficult to see how the Union’s solutions can be anything but temporary — nor, alas, how they can be changed except by drastic and violent means.

As the rest of the 220 million people of Africa move in the opposite direction, the position of the 3 million whites in the Union must become steadily more precarious. If it is left to external and internal pressures finally to bring about a day of reckoning south of the Limpopo, the white man there must expect to pay dearly for his few snatched decades of domination, a tragic outcome which no man who has lived and worked in South Africa and among South Africans can contemplate except with horror.

Between South Africa and the countries of East and West Africa, geographically as well as politically. is the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, formed in 1933 by linking together the British colony of Southern Rhodesia with the British protectorates of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland.

The Federation is a landlocked block of territory covering approximately half a million square miles. It is somewhat larger than the Union of South Africa and larger than Texas, California, and New York combined. Its three constituent territories differ widely in area and in population. Southern Rhodesia has an area of 150,000 square miles and a population of 2.5 million blacks and 200,000 whites; Northern Rhodesia’s 74,000 whites and 2 million blacks live on 290,000 square miles; while Nyasaland’s 37,000 square miles contain 2.5 million blacks and a mere 8000 whites.

It is in this vast, half-empty land — where a population of 7 million Africans and 300,000 whites still has a little time and a great deal of space in which to maneuver — that the only real chance of white-black partnership, of giving the white man a permanent place in Africa as a white African, still exists. And even here it exists only if positive action is taken, and soon.

White settlement in Central Africa did not begin until the closing decade of the last century. Southern Rhodesia was settled almost exclusively by whites who came north over the Limpopo from South Africa after Cecil Rhodes formed a corporation, under royal charter from Queen Victoria, to develop the area. These men were predominantly settlers, already regarding Africa as their permanent home and coming to Rhodesia to look for minerals and lo farm temperate-zone crops. The whites who came to Nyasaland, on the other hand, were chiefly from Britain and were of the administrator, missionary, trader, tropical-estate planter sort, typical of such African colonies as Uganda and Tanganyika and those on the West Coast. Northern Rhodesia falls somewhere in between. In the early part of its existence, its eastern half, which adjoins Nyasaland, was settled by the same kind of white men as was Nyasaland. Its western part lay within the sphere of Rhodes’s chartered company, and Rhodes’s own white miners and farmers came northwards to it, crossing the Zambesi from Southern Rhodesia.

The first turning point for the area came in 1923, when Rhodes’s chartered company administration ended. A referendum was held among Southern Rhodesia’s whites to see whether they wished to become a self-governing British colony or to join the Union of South Africa. They took the former course by a comparatively small (three to two) majority. At the same time Northern Rhodesia became a British protectorate, governed directly from London, the status which Nyasaland already enjoyed.

For the next thirty years, Southern Rhodesia developed as a self-governing colony on lines not unlike those followed by South Africa. Alongside it, Nyasaland drifted sleepily as a typical tropical African British colony. Southern Rhodesia, left alone, would eventually have found itself part of South Africa, as it nearly did in 1923, and Nyasaland would have become an all-African state resembling others with a similar population make-up in East and West Africa.

Three factors saved the day for those who believed multiracial states and multiracial partnership to be possible. The first, and most important, was the development in Northern Rhodesia of what is now the world’s third largest coppermining industry. The industry is under the control of two major international corporations, in one of which American ownership predominates and sees such issues as the industrial color bar and race prejudice in modern American and world terms rather than in a parochially African context.

Without this industry, Northern Rhodesia would have developed like Nyasaland. With copper there came into the country enlightened industrial leadership, which in turn produced a powerful white trade union (determined to protect its South-African-style white labor privileges) and, at a later stage, the strongest African trade union in the whole of Africa. A protectorate which had been controlled completely by a British government chiefly interested in keeping the peace until such time as a black population could take over was thus forced in a very short period of time into the stream of world affairs and international industry. Northern Rhodesia therefore became a unique territory in Africa, with a significant element of settled white citizens, and neither a tropical backwater like Nyasaland nor a while-dominated colony like Southern Rhodesia. Elements of both these factors were present, but Northern Rhodesia toed the line of neither.

The second factor was the growth of antiBritish Afrikaner nationalism in South Africa, culminating in the return to power in 1948 of the Afrikaner Nationalist Party government, which has increased in strength in two elections since. Although Southern Rhodesia was at first colonized primarily from South Africa and although Southern Rhodesian whites share many South African attitudes toward black people, the large majority of Southern Rhodesian whites today are of British and not South African Dutch descent. Many of them have old-style British imperialist foibles, but they do not suffer from the Afrikaner delusion that they are a chosen people, encircled bv a hostile world in which both capitalists and Communists are bent on mongrelizing the pure Afrikaner Volk. Southern Rhodesian whites, through Britain, remain closer to European and world thought than Afrikaners who, as the inevitable consequence of a policy of defying the world, now try pathetically to isolate themselves from it and take refuge in mystic beliefs in a “divine mission for the race.” Two fifths of Southern Rhodesian whiles in 1923 were prepared to go along with South Africa when that country was led by pro-British statesman General Jan Smuts. Not one Southern Rhodesian in ten would today be sufficiently unrealistic to want to join a South Africa led by men who cling to power on a twin policy of opposition to everything British in South Africa and the keeping of the black forever “in his place.”

The third factor, curiously, which prevented eventual Southern Rhodesian union with South Africa was the sharply contrasting economic positions in which the three Central African countries found themselves in the post-war years. Southern Rhodesia brought in many thousands of white immigrants after the war, overspent its resources in providing them with services and high living standards, and by the early fifties became involved in financial difficulties. Nyasaland, a country devoid of developed mineral resources, never rich at the best of times, found itself existing on handouts from a British government which in the post-war years was itself financially hard pressed.

Meanwhile, Northern Rhodesia was enjoying an unprecedented economic boom, the result of the sharply rising world copper prices which post-war reconstruction brought about and which the Korean War boosted still further.

It is fashionable in Britain and in Central Africa to suggest that the Federation was created largely to provide Africa’s last real chance of white-black cooperation. In fact, it was primarily economic considerations that finally decided the British government to unite the Rhodesias with Nyasaland in 1953 — together with, ironically, the fears the growth of an aggressive Afrikaner nationalism in South Africa had created both in London and in Central Africa.

Federation, which made the copper resources of Northern Rhodesia available outside the territory itself, saved the British government some of the expense of maintaining and developing Nyasaland. It saved Southern Rhodesia from a financial crash to which only the British government could have brought help.

Federation was accepted by Southern Rhodesian whites for economic reasons; by Northern Rhodesian whites, among them the present federal Prime Minister, Sir Roy Welensky, for political reasons, because it reduced the chances of Northern Rhodesia’s becoming an all-black African state; and by whites in Nyasaland for both economic and political reasons. It was welcomed by Southern Rhodesian Africans because it seemed to lessen the danger of Southern Rhodesian links with South Africa; and it met with a lukewarm, and in many cases downright hostile, reception from Africans in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland because they felt that to join Southern Rhodesia brought them nearer to South Africa and its policies. As much to reassure Northern Rhodesian and Nyasaland Africans as for any other reason, the progenitors of Federation, both in London and in Central Africa, proclaimed the policy of racial partnership as its cornerstone.

THE question is, will partnership be successful? A precise assessment of the success of the partnership idea is not easy. So much depends on the preconceived viewpoint of the observer. The short answer is that it has been working reasonably well, but that it will have to work much better in the next eighteen months if it is ultimately to succeed.

Economically the Federation has been the success it was expected to be. It has attracted considerable outside investment; it has successfully weathered the world slump in copper prices; it has begun to diversify its economy; it has almost completed one of the world’s largest hydroelectric schemes (Kariba on the Zambesi River), for which it obtained the biggest single loan ever made by the World Bank. And, in this economic progress, Africans have shared with Europeans. National income has risen from a pathetic £35 per head in 1953 to £43 in 1957. Communications, health, and educational social services have been expanded at a rate which would have been impossible without federation. Africans, especially in the predominantly African territory of Nyasaland. have benefited greatly from this expansion, much of which has been made possible by the capital and skill ol white men but which would have been impossible without the labor of black men.

In the Federation, as everywhere else in Africa, the white man initially contributed everything to what can be called Western-style economic development. In many parts of Africa, the white man is justly reviled because he took out of the country far more than he put into it. In Central Africa this is not true and has never been true and, in this sense at least, black-white partnership is working.

Partnership has not yet succeeded in the establishment of overt mutual confidence between the races. The Federation had never suffered race riots of the kind experienced by South Africa in recent years and by the Belgian Congo this year, until, with the emergence from self-imposed exile of the African demagogue, Dr. Hastings Banda, trouble broke out in Nyasaland in February. But less spectacular incidents continue to plague race relations: cases of assault by white farmers on their black laborers, by white miners on black miners, are still too frequent; Africans in some areas still regard whites with suspicion and stone motorists who are involved in accidents with African cyclists or pedestrians; and common courtesies in shops, post offices, and the like are too often lacking.

Far more important than these pinprick incidents is the overall failure so far of the two races to build a common loyalty to the Federation. Each still tends to regard itself primarily as being white or black and not as Rhodesian and Nyasalander. Where an Italian-American, a Chicago Negro, or a Puerto Rican thinks of himself as an American, most Rhodesian blacks think of themselves only as Africans, and to many Rhodesian whites being a Rhodesian is less important than being a European — a term which here indicates no special connection with the continent of Europe but which means simply white-skinned.

For this the British government must bear some blame. When the Federation was created in 1953, the federal government was given only limited powers, the British government reserving to itself considerable jurisdiction over matters directly affecting Africans in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. This reservation was well-meant, but its result has been that many Africans focus their loyalty on London rather than on the federal capital of Salisbury. The British government’s reluctance to see all control pass out of its hands too soon is, of course, understandable, for it has the example behind it of what happened in South Africa when London surrendered all power to Pretoria.

In the political field, the federal government, though answerable to an almost all-white electorate, has taken creditable practical steps toward implementing racial partnership. Recent changes in the franchise offer a reasonable certainty that no man, white or black, will in the future find it easy to be elected to parliament on an exclusively racialist program. The government has virtually abolished the color bar in the civil service; it has helped to establish a multiracial university in Salisbury. Yet, at last year’s federal general election, less than 4 per cent of the electorate was nonwhite. Few Africans had enrolled as voters, partly through apathy, partly because they were advised to boycott the elections by the Northern Rhodesian and Nyasaland African National Congresses, whose confidence the federal government has yet to win.

Industrially, the entrenched “white man’s job” clauses in copper-belt labor agreements have gone, and the color bar has been broken beyond repair; a major victory but spoiled because too few Africans have yet been trained to fill the skilled jobs now open to them.

Again, there arc few Africans in any but the junior civil service jobs and few African university students. The reason for this is that not many Africans are yet properly qualified either for senior civil service jobs or for university entrance, to which Africans will reply that whites are to blame for providing such meager educational facilities for Africans in the past, to which whites in turn reply that, since they and not Africans have been paying for 95 per cent of the educational facilities enjoyed by Africans in Central Africa for the past fifty years, this is scarcely a fair argument.

Thus any attempt to assess accurately which partner is the more to blame for the partial failure of racial partnership on the political level is unlikely to prove fruitful. The hard fact is that mutual confidence between the races is still lacking. For this the politicians themselves, black and white, are largely responsible. Welensky acts liberally and talks as if he is permanently haranguing an audience of black-hating artisans on South African railways. This, says Welensky, is because he has to talk tough if he wants to win elections with a predominantly white electorate and thereby be able to act liberally. He points to the example of former Southern Rhodesian Premier Garfield Todd. His party was wiped out at the polls last year, not because Todd acted any more liberally than Welensky but because he talked a whole lot more liberally. Similarly, the comparatively moderate Northern Rhodesian African nationalist leader, Harry Nkumbula, may be in danger of political eclipse because he has not carried advocacy of African nationalism to the extremes that fellow Northern Rhodesian Kenneth Kaunda and Nyasalander Hastings Banda have.

All this may seem to hold out little hope for the partnership experiment in the Federation. But the important fact is that means of communication between white and black exist in the Federation; Africans can and do become involved in the mechanics of government and in the economic machine. Twelve of the fifty-nine members of the federal parliament are black men; one is a government party whip; one is likely this year to be a Minister of the Crown. In Northern Rhodesia the copper-mining corporations have introduced a policy of deliberately advancing Africans to more skilled jobs. There is increasing contact between white and black in fields other than that of master and servant. Africans, organized in legally accepted trade unions in Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia, can and often do stand on their own feet and fight for their own rights, being free to repay rudeness with rudeness, fair treatment and a sympathetic hearing with the same response. To anyone who has been nauseated by heavy-handed paternalism and the patronage of “white baas speaking nicely to Kaffir boys,”this alone is a tremendous achievement.

What is vital in the crucial next eighteen months is that traffic through these channels of communication should be greatly increased, that there should be less talk on both sides aimed to prove that the speaker is a “good European” or a “good African,” and that more positive partnership actions should be taken.

Welensky and the whites may argue that, since they have already done more to implement partnership than have the Africans, it is now up to the Africans to do more than the whites. If they do advance this argument, they will be sadly mistaken. The choice in Africa today is not between white states, black states, or partnership. It is only between black states and partnership. Africans, therefore, start at a considerable advantage. They cannot lose. They can only win or draw. Whites, on the other hand, cannot win, but only draw or lose.