ATTHE southern tip of Africa, Table Mountain, flanked on the right by Lion’s Head and on the left by Devil’s Head, looks down on the rocky point which divides the Indian and the Atlantic oceans. When the first white man saw this dramatic headland rising from the open sea, he named it the Cape of Storms. Many years later some canny Dutch burgher renamed it the Cape of Good Hope, and today the whole world waits anxiously to know which man was right.
Since it is not yet clear whether the current storm of world opinion will destroy the Republic of South Africa or pass out into the open sea of history and there be forgotten, I decided to do as the modern weather forecaster does. I flew out and peered down into the eye of the hurricane.
As I left the plane at Johannesburg, I was determined to enter the country with an open mind. I believe that I achieved this, but it was not easy to do. Like most Americans, I had formed strong convictions on the doctrine of apartheid and had displayed no hesitancy in expressing them. I recall having said five years ago that South Africa could not possibly survive for five years if it continued that policy, yet it has, and in that period there has been great progress for both the whites and the nonwhites. We Americans are like that. We shoot from the hip in world matters. We read the headlines — headlines designed to sell newspapers— swear, and pass on.
There is a great deal in South Africa which no thoughtful American could possibly accept in our own country. It begins with those ghastly forms which the traveler must fill out as his plane approaches the Jan Smuts airport at Johannesburg. I boiled with hot anger. No American wants to be compelled to list himself as a “European,” and if South Africans wish to receive our tourist dollars, or persuade our investors to send their capital to their country, they must abandon requirements that only serve to irritate Americans.
Nor can we stomach the intrusions into personal liberty: the constant carrying of identification cards; the requiring of passes for both the white man and the black man when either enters territory reserved for the other; house arrest and detention solely upon the accusation of the police; the separation of husband and wife after years of wedded life; judicial determination of race; the denial to nonwhites of the right to own land in freehold in an urban area; the recent decree that requires professional societies such as law and medicine to enforce segregation; and the Sabotage Act. Yet there is cruel irony in the fact that bitter criticism of South Africans for limiting personal freedom comes from other African countries whose leaders themselves throw their political opponents into jail and keep them there without trial.
Further, we cannot accept “job reservation,” the policy under which certain callings are permanently closed to black citizens. In my code, whoever is worthy to be employed at all should be permitted to go as far as his God-given talent will take him. The job should always go to the best man. Most South African businessmen privately agree with my view, but almost none among them will sit at a table with a black man, no matter how able he may be. This, too, I cannot accept.
Roaring at South Africa, however, will not help. External pressure, unwisely applied, will merely solidify the country. No great reform is ever imposed from without. It must come from within, and there are clear signs that liberalizing forces are at work in South Africa: businessmen are organized for the purpose of increasing Bantu wages; new spiritual values are evolving within the Dutch Reformed Church; the wealthy Afrikaner is becoming international-minded; an independent press still survives in spite of rumors to the contrary; the Bantu may, and do, buy shares in South African corporations on the stock exchange; and the government-owned and -operated airplanes are not segregated.
I had the privilege of meeting the nation’s leaders in every walk of life, including Prime Minister Verwoerd. the characteristic of these men is personal honor. I often differed with them, but never for a moment did I doubt that they earnestly believed what they said.
I also met leaders of the non white group, including Albert Luthuli, Nobel Prize-winning Zulu chief and leader of the African National Congress. His clear eyes, line mind, and radiant personality left a memory that will be with me always. It is not right that such a man be confined to the magisterial district of Stanger and be forbidden to communicate with his followers. Yet the moderate Luthuli is powerless to restrain the terroristic activities of a minority of his own people.
Both sides are stubborn, and both reflect in their attitudes the history of their people. The Atrikaners — and they run the country — pursue policies that have been three hundred years in the making. On the other hand, in the blood of the Bantu runs the heritage of generations of tribal warfare. And the Bantu are not united. Each tribe distrusts the others, and the Bantu as a race can be as intolerant toward the Asiatics and the Coloureds as the white man is toward the black.
Only the incredibly naive can honestly believe that political democracy — “one man, one vote “ — will at once solve this complex problem. The sober truth is that it would probably create chaos from which the country might never recover.
But now that I have had the extraordinary privilege of seeing at firsthand every part of the Republic of South Africa under experienced guidance, and of talking with leaders of thought in all groups, I must go on the record. I must know what I believe, and why.
LET us now look at the other side of the shield. The indelible general impression made upon my wife and myself was that here was a country beautiful beyond words, possessed of a climate that even Californians must envy, endowed by Providence with incredible natural resources, a country which greets the stranger with overwhelming kindness. If there are tensions between the races which threaten the future security of the nation, we saw no evidence of them. On the contrary, we were greatly impressed by the gaiety of spirit and the capacity for hard work with which people of all races went about their daily tasks.
My second conviction is that in terms of our own national security, these people are our friends. We have no stauncher ally in the struggle against Communism. Our military people understand this, and so do our scientists, who are receiving such effective cooperation in the development of our space programs. It is my earnest hope, therefore, that Americans will face tip to the controversial racial problems in South Africa with their minds as well as with their emotions and endeavor to form judgments that are based on genuine understanding.
To do this they must first understand the vocabulary. For example, in South Africa the designation “European” means white. This group is divided into two parts. About two thirds are Afrikaners, who speak Afrikaans. Their ancestors were the sturdy Boers who made the “great trek north from the Cape as far as the upper limits of the Transvaal. They were primarily Dutch, but there was also a strain of French Huguenot blood, of German, and even of Scandinavian.
l’lie other third of the European group is of English origin, and herein lies a serious threat to the future of the republic. South Africa is a nation which most urgently needs unity of purpose and ideals at this critical time, yet the cleavage between the two segments of the white population makes unity all but impossible. Unhappily, the Boer War is not yet quite over.
The principal nonwhite group, and the one which is the center of the controversy, is the Bantu. Next are the Asiatics, some of whom had as their forebears Malay slaves, brought to South Africa by Dutch ships trading with the Indonesians as long ago as three hundred years. Others are descended from laborers brought from India under the indenture system in the middle of the nineteenth century, when sugar plantations were first undertaken in Natal. Finally, there are the Coloureds, a term which does not have the same significance as it does with us. It means mixed races — any two. This group, though not large, is important because of its high degree of cultural achievement, and because it fears the preponderance of the Africans for the same reasons that the whites do.
We must keep in mind the population statistics, since the severe imbalance of races is the principal cause of friction and antagonism. Here are the approximate figures:
Only 30 percent of the Bantu live in the urban areas. Another 30 percent are found in white rural areas, and the rest reside in areas reserved exclusively for the Bantu people.
Now, let us take a square look at the doctrine of apartheid, for which the Republic of South Africa is currently on trial before the court of world opinion.
The common American error is the assumption that the problem in South Africa is the same as that of racial integration in our Southern states. This is both wrong and unfair.
The historical backgrounds are different. We brought the Negro from West Africa against his will, and every consideration of honor and morality demands that we accept him as a full member of our society. In South Africa, on the other hand, the Dutch and the Bantu, both migrating, first encountered each other in open territory which no other race occupied. This is not a case where the white man dispossessed the black man.
When our forebears landed on Plymouth Rock, Indians watched from the forest. They are gone. When, on April 6, 1652, Jan van Riebeeck landed at the Cape, natives also watched from the hills, but they were not Bantu. They were Bushmen and Hottentots. They, too, are gone, victims, for the most part, of the white man’s diseases, like smallpox.
The Bantu had come originally from far north in Africa, and they began their own “great trek” to the south into what is now the territory of the republic at the same time that the white man began his trek to the north from the Cape. The land between them was unoccupied. Nearly a hundred and fifty years later these two migrations encountered each other. The Kaffir wars ensued, and finally an uneasy truce was established between these two distinct groups.
It is this historic separation which apartheid seeks to perpetuate. It is argued that, in the area which he staked out for himself, as our ancestors staked out the open prairies, the white man is within his rights when he names the conditions upon which the black man may enter his territory. He may not have done this in a manner which we approve, but we cannot challenge his right to establish whatever conditions he wishes. That is precisely what we have done through the years by our own immigration laws. Let us not forget the persistency with which we have tried to exclude the yellow race.
How has the Bantu fared under this policy of separation? First of all, he has today, beyond question, the highest per capita income of all of the black races in Africa, an income that exceeds that of the citizens of Ghana or of Nigeria, for example. His opportunity to earn makes him the envy of all his neighbors to the north, as witness the fact that 20,000 of them endeavor each year to enter South Africa illegally. Moreover, the Asiatics have four times the income of their brothers in India, and the Coloureds many times that of the citizens of Ceylon. The nonwhite populations, taken together, own more than 100,000 automobiles, which, in ratio, is four times as many as are owned privately in the Soviet Union.
Four out of every five Bantu children are in school; and there are more than 2000 university graduates, as compared with less than a dozen each in some of the new African states which now vote in the United Nations. In 1962 the total expenditure for the Bantu and other nonwhite groups exceeded $56 million. Of this, taxes paid by the Bantu covered 28 percent only. The balance was paid by South Africa’s white population, at the approximate rate of $280 per family.
Among the Bantu there are 7500 nurses, 70 doctors, 70 librarians, and 50 attorneys. Baragwanath Hospital, near Johannesburg, which was established for nonwhites, has 2500 beds and 200 doctors, half of whom are specialists. Twenty of the doctors are Africans.
It is against this highly creditable record of conduct on the part of the white population that the doctrine of apartheid must be weighed. White South Africans are prepared to go on doing all this and much more, provided the physical separation of the races is strictly maintained, with cooperation limited to the economic field.
It is the urban Bantu who is involved in this relationship, and except for the separation, he is much better off in many ways than Africans residing in cities elsewhere on the continent. Slums have been almost entirely eliminated from the metropolitan centers. Resident workers, whether in the mines or the factories, are housed with their families in newly built “locations,” “settlements,” or “townships.” The quarters assigned to a family are not large, but they are comfortable and fully equipped with modern facilities. Minority groups in the United States often live under less favorable circumstances. For rent, including water and light, the worker pays not more than 15 percent of his monthly wage. If he wishes to build his own house, he may have a thirty-year lease.
Migrant workers coming down from Mozambique, Nyasaiand, and other northern areas for periods of temporary employment are housed in dormitories called “compounds.” They do not bring their families. Their earnings, when taken home, strengthen economies which are close to the subsistence level. And before Americans criticize the migrant worker system, let them not forget the Mexicans who cross our border into the Southwest each year for exactly the same reasons.
Apartheid is conceived of by the government of South Africa as a “separate and parallel” development, and to implement it the government is creating Bantu states or provinces, where complete selfgovernment will be not only permitted but encouraged, after a period of transition. The ultimate objective will be a dual commonwealth in which the Bantustans will be constituent units. Industry will be urged to establish production facilities along the borders of the new states —the plants to be in white territory, with much of the labor coming from native territory.
The first of these states is the Transkei, and this I saw at firsthand. The area here set aside for the Bantu is their natural home and is one of the most fertile regions in the entire republic. As the Bantu came down from the north, they passed up the grasslands, which were later taken up by the Boers, and turned eastward toward the coast. They wanted four things: a warm climate, timber, open water for cattle, and hilltops from which to watch for enemies, of which there were many. All of these, plus rich soil, they found in the Transkei, and there they have been ever since. The present population of the new state consists of about 2,000,000 Bantu, 15,000 Europeans, and 13,000 Coloureds. By way of economic assistance the republic plans to contribute $25 million to the Transkei during the next five years, over and above all administration costs.
Self-government is to be developed on the basis of tribal traditions, the objective being full democracy, but in the form most readily assimilated by the African. This process was first conceived early in the nineteenth century, but it was greatly advanced seven years ago by the passage of the Native Authorities Act. Next year general elections will be held, a Bantu Parliament chosen, and a Bantu Prime Minister placed in power.
Time will be required for this transition, and it is my firm opinion that the republic is entitled to a fair trial period within which to prove its good faith before it is condemned by outside opinion. If the world wants another Congo, the fastest way to get it is to move in explosively and block an orderly turnover.
I had the privilege of an interview with the high commissioner to the Transkei, who has the matter in charge, and I was impressed with his grasp of the problem, his humility in the face of a difficult task, and his manifest sincerity. I also saw at Tsolo the school where the sons of chiefs, headmen, and counselors are being trained for the future leadership of the Bantu people. If ever I have seen a dedicated man, it was the headmaster of that school, and again I say that no greater tragedy could occur than for the outside world to intrude hastily into such a relationship.
Because there is so much in South Africa that is magnificent, combined with so much that we believe to be wrong, I dare to make this plea to my fellow countrymen. Let us lower our voices. Let us drop the tough talk, which will take us nowhere, and adopt instead friendly argument and thoughtful persuasion, on a man-to-man basis.
The white people of South Africa are charged with a great responsibility toward the black people, and they know it. At heart they are our kind of folk. In the end they will do right. Let us give them a little more time.