If I Were Prime Minister

A full-blooded Zulu and an African aristocrat, ALBERT JOHN LUTHULIwas educated in the Umvoti Mission schools on the coast of Natal, near Durban. In 1936, when he was a teacher at Adam’s Mission Station College, he was elected Chief of his people, and he was plunged right into South African politics, He gave up his chieftainship under government pressure in 1952, but he has never ceased to work for the rights of Africans. Last December, he was awarded the 1960 Nobel Prize for Peace.

THE solution to the South African problem will call for radical reforms, some of them of a revolutionary nature. The basic reform will be in the type of government. At present, there is a government by whites only. It should be replaced by a government which is truly a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

This can exist only in a state where all adults — regardless of race, color, or belief—are voters. Nothing but such a democratic form of government, based on the parliamentary system, will satisfy.

There is much inequality in South Africa at the present time. The whites, who comprise a quarter of the population, possess 87 percent of the country’s land in freehold. On the other hand, Africans, who form three quarters of the population, were allocated by law only 18 percent of the land — some of it poor land. Of this land, only about one percent is held by Africans in freehold; 99 percent is trust land (government land) where Africans are virtually state tenants. The government of South Africa speaks of this land as the “Homeland for Africans,”where we are supposed to be satisfied forever. In these areas we are promised a sham self-government without representation in Parliament.

All South African legislation concerning land has tended to deprive nonwhites of democratic land rights, drastically reducing the amount of land they hold. This is the effect of the Group Areas Act and the Native Resettlement Act, to mention only two of the recent land acts. In urban areas, nonwhites live in townships as tenants in municipal houses. A few are allowed to build their own houses on rented municipal land, which they hold for a period of only thirty years, subject to rules concerning good behavior. Africans are regarded as mere sojourners in urban areas. The vast majority are unskilled workers, and their average wage in urban areas ranges between one and a half and two pounds a week. From this pittance they are expected to meet all their needs.

Many Africans are labor tenants on white farms, where they are generally allotted a small garden plot, usually five or six acres per family, and the right to graze from five to ten head of cattle. The law requires that the labor tenant give service to the master for nine months without pay, the plot of land and limited grazing rights being granted in lieu of wages. Most farmers voluntarily pay these workers between one and two pounds a month. When the pressure of work is great, as in reaping time, the farmer generally calls upon the whole family to work for no pay.

The Tomlinson Commission, which was appointed by the Nationalist government as soon as it came into power in 1948 to study the socioeconomic position of Africans in rural reserves, promises peasants a gross income of sixty pounds (less than $180) a year, which may be doubled by expert husbandry. Who can raise a family on this income? It is clear that in both urban and rural areas, nonwhites—in particular, Africans—are subject to grinding poverty.

Correction of this man-made inequality will require what will appear to whites in South Africa to be revolutionary changes. The land should be redistributed and allocated to those who have to live and make their living on the land. Land should be held in freehold by individual farmers and peasants. This would not preclude some land’s being held by the state for renting to individuals and for state experimental farms. The sale of land from individual to individual should be subject to approval by the government, in order to prevent speculation.

Mainly as a result of the policies of past governments, the so-called African reserves are very much depressed areas, overcrowded and unproductive. The burden of the government would be to rehabilitate both the land and the people. Broadly speaking, people of the reserves, as they come to stand on their own, should be encouraged to live anywhere else in South Africa. This will help relieve the congestion in the reserves.

If I were Prime Minister, I would introduce controls to eliminate exploitation of land. The government would give liberal assistance to farmers in the form of loans and technical advice, and special aid would be given to farmers in depressed and drought-stricken areas. Technical services and marketing facilities would form an important and indispensable part of the state program. Easy purchase terms would be made available for the landless, and those who have to give up their land in the redistribution process would be compensated.

Each person would be allocated only as much land as he could cultivate himself with the help of his family. This, I believe, is the policy in India. Cooperative farm settlements of a larger acreage would be encouraged and aided liberally to secure the advantages of large-scale farming. The experience of Israel could be drawn upon here.

Nationalization and state control, even on a larger scale than exists now, must be carried out by the new government after freedom has been won, if justice is to be done to all. Already in South Africa there are state-controlled enterprises, such as the post office and allied services, telephones, the telegraph, radio, and the railways and transport generally.

State control should be extended to cover the nationalization of certain private enterprises, including the monopoly industries, the mines, and the banks, but excluding such institutions as building societies. I would not want to close all private enterprise; I oppose the abuses of private enterprise, just as I attack monopoly industries but not all industry. For South Africa, my proposals would be radical reforms which would need to be explained to the electorate. My aim would be to build this new welfare state in a spirit of cooperation. The government would put its program in a fairly elastic framework and seek the approval of the voters.

The bulk of the people would naturally be workers in state-owned undertakings and in private enterprise. They would enjoy unqualified tradeunion rights, with a charter for workers setting forth minimum wages and conditions of service. Needless to say, in this nonracial state there would be no discrimination on grounds of color or race. Merit would be the qualifying factor.

Workers should have the right to strike, for even if strikes are costly and wasteful, the right to strike gives the individual a greater security and makes him feel a partner in the undertaking. There would be planned social and economic development to increase employment and raise standards of living all around. This is the best guarantee against fear and prejudice arising from a sense of economic insecurity.

Measures like influx control would have to go. This refers to a part ol the pass system in South Africa which stipulates that no African may go to work or remain in any urban or industrial area without the permission of both the state and municipal officers concerned. Freedom of movement within and without the country for legitimate reasons would not be interfered with, as it is at present. Greater latitude would be allowed to immigrants, both black and white, from other parts of Africa.

IN THE context of our South African situation, only a republican form of government will meet the broad needs of the majority. I should like the Union of South Africa to be part of the larger unit, the British Commonwealth of Nations. This would not preclude the Union’s forming other alliances in Africa or outside.

I would give the vote to all adults. All citizens would be known as South Africans, and in that broad context would be Africans. To me, the expression “Africa for Africans” is valid in a nonracial democracy only if it covers all citizens, regardless of color or race.

The government should, through education — directly and indirectly — discourage the attitude of thinking and acting in racial categories, and racialism and all forms of discrimination would be outlawed. The question of reserving rights for minorities in a nonracial democracy should not arise, since human rights for all would be safeguarded in the constitution.

The main thing is that the government and the people should be democratic to the core. It is relatively unimportant who is in the government. I am not opposed to the present government because it is white. I am opposed to it only because it is undemocratic and repressive.

My idea is a nonracial government consisting of the best men, chosen on the basis of merit rather than of color. The political parties in the country should also reflect the multiracial nature of the country. If the people happen to elect a onecolor government, that should be accidental and not deliberately planned. Appeals to racialism at elections should be a legal offense.

In the development that has taken place in countries that have become free, such as India and Nigeria, the people have put into the government their tried men of stature, and there has been no question of lowering standards of government. The question of nonwhites swamping the whites does not arise as it does in South Africa. This fear is merely used as an excuse by certain whites to perpetuate their domination over us. In South Africa today a white hobo in the street and an eighteen-year-old white youth are rated politically — if not in all respects — as being above a nonwhite educated person.

No doubt, as a result of the unfortunate historical developments which have stressed divisions according to color and as a result of the state’s having previously legislated racially, people have become color conscious. This will not change quickly. People should not be blamed for thinking in racial categories, but discrimination can be eliminated by law and by a process of re-education in all spheres of life.

I consider it imperative that all discriminatory laws be removed from the statute books and that civil liberties be extended to all, without qualification.

Fundamental human rights must be guaranteed by the constitution. Individual freedom will be fully respected and will be basic. Within the orbit of my state, the individual will remain cardinal, for the state exists for the individual and not the individual for the state.

I realize that a state such as the one I visualize — a democratic, social-welfare state —cannot be born in a day. But it will be the paramount task of the government to bring it about and advance it without crippling industry, commerce, farming, and education.

EDUCATION for the needs of the people and the state has ever been the concern of man. I believe that all people should have the opportunity for education according to their talent, particularly in modern states, where the requirements of life are complex and the struggle to make a living is very intense. Education provides a common language, creates common attitudes and norms for citizens. It is an important unifying factor in building national consciousness and pride and a healthy community spirit. An education not meeting the demands of society is not worth the name. It is clear that in the South Africa I visualize — a nonracial, democratic South Africa — there can be no question of different systems of education for different racial groups.

The position of nonwhites in education under Nationalist rule is tragic. Nonwhite education, especially Bantu education, is poor in content and poorly supported financially. In fact, the aim of Bantu education, as stated by Prime Minister Verwoerd, is to give the African “an education to fit him for his station in life.” This means an inferior education for the African, for apartheid assigns him an inferior status in the country. The lowering of standards in Bantu education is evidenced by the fact that the government specifies that instruction in African schools should be in the vernacular up to matriculation in the university.

I would have education free and compulsory for all, in the primary grades, at first, and later, through high school. Substantial aid would be given to universities, with a generous system for scholarships and loans to students. No child of ability would be denied higher education because of lack of money.

In technical and trade schools, which would be state schools, education would be free. At the discretion of the government, trade and technical schools, subject to government control and supervision, might be established as private schools. State schools at the level of higher education would be established to supplement independent universities.

A special effort would be made to stamp out illiteracy. In this regard, night schools to provide working adults with facilities for part-time education would be encouraged and liberally subsidized in an ambitious literacy program. A large-scale research program in conjunction with the universities and industry would be worked out, adequately financed by the government.

Only multiracial schools, at all stages, would be allowed. What differentiation there might be would exist in the lower grades, where instruction in the mother tongue would predominate up to the fourth year, but certainly not beyond the sixth year. Multiracial schools will be demanded by the need to develop common patriotism and national solidarity. Religious schools, which must be set up on a multiracial pattern, would not be prohibited. But the sectarian curriculum would have to follow the state syllabi and be subject to government inspection.

A word more about Bantu education today. According to the Nationalist Party government, state aid to Bantu education is limited to 6.5 million pounds per year. Africans are expected, by direct and indirect taxation and by other means of raising money, to meet the heavy burden of their education, although the African community is not only the poorest section but is overwhelmingly illiterate. Of black children who enter school, hardly 3 percent remain beyond the age of eight, whereas for white children, education is free up to the age of about sixteen, by which time the average child graduates.

That Bantu education is inferior is a fact. In 1960, the scoring of African students in the joint matriculation examinations was appalling. Only 18 percent passed, though in previous years between 40 and 50 percent passed. This is largely because African children now follow a syllabus different from and in many respects inferior to that in white schools. The tragic fact is that Africans cannot bear the heavy burden of financing even this inferior education. When the history of my people comes to be written, surely this will be recorded as one of the most memorable examples of self-sacrifice for self-help.

THE world is now a neighborhood, although, unfortunately, people are not sufficiently neighborly. Each ultranationalist group seeks domination over others. I should like to see a South Africa that takes an interest in seriously establishing peace and friendship in the world. My South Africa would encourage the use of science and technology for the benefit of man rather than for his destruction. It would wish to play a prominent part in bringing about the banning of nuclear weapons and in working for some degree of disarmament.

The world is a most dangerous place for small nations such as South Africa. But the combined influence of all small nations can make the big nations see the futility of spending their money on armaments. To encourage a healthy relationship between nations and people, I should like to see a South Africa that develops itself to the highest level and shares for the benefit of mankind any special knowdedge and skills it acquires. I would vigorously guard against bringing about an isolated and selfish South Africa, for this would result in a dwarfed South Africa. To secure efficient and wider cooperation, I would encourage regional groupings in Africa. This might bring to fruition the ideal of a United States of Africa.

My South Africa would support the United Nations and its agencies fully and would encourage foreign investment — subject to its own interests, of course. World investors would be told where they stood, so that they could invest freely, with the full knowledge of the limits set for private enterprise and the relevant methods of control.

South Africa would give priority to training and producing its own technicians but would always encourage the importation of technicians from other parts of the world to supply the needs of the country which cannot be met from its own manpower.

The immigration policy would allow people to come in and visit South Africa freely, but insofar as seeking permanent citizenship is concerned, immigration would be limited to the needs of the country. All things being equal, domicile rights would be first given to people of Africa — black and white. Recruited labor would be done away with.

Freedom of movement within and outside the country for legitimate reasons would not be interfered with. At present, the operation of the pass system seriously limits the movement of Africans. Indians are restricted to their provinces of domicile and can visit other provinces only by obtaining permits. There are no restrictions on the movement of whites.

Sharp critics of government policy — black and white — are now generally denied the right to visit overseas. The possession of a passport is regarded as a privilege, issued at the government’s pleasure. Entrance permits for foreign visitors are generally confined to those friendly to the government and not too critical of its policy.

The South Africa I envisage will call for revolutionary thinking and a willingness to embark on revolutionary action that cuts across traditional concepts. Without being dictatorial, the government will have to be strong and persistent in carrying out its program once it has received the mandate of the people. The reforms envisaged cannot be realized in a day, but will have to be pursued faithfully and consistently in a spirit of educating the people and winning more and more of them to the ways of the new state.

The challenge of South Africa is to assist in formulating a harmonious way for people to live in multiracial communities. In this regard, South Africa has an opportunity to lead the world.