"Presidential Address" by the Rev. J. A. Calata, ANC (Cape), July 1948
Ladies and Gentlemen, I welcome you all to this thirty-sixth annual session of the Provincial conference of the African National Congress (Cape). I know what personal sacrifices each and all of you have undergone to be here. I would indeed have been surprised not to see a good attendance of branches as I know how seriously the African is looking at the period through which the country is passing just now.
THE DEATH OF PROFESSOR JAMES THAELE:
Please allow me to speak to you shortly about Prof. James Thaele of Cape Town who passed away on the 3rd June 1948. I was extremely sorry not to be able to attend his funeral, but I am happy to know that the message 1 sent was read at his funeral.
Although Prof. Thaele's last days were spent outside Congress, he, nevertheless is worthy of all the respect we can give him, for during the period of his presidency over the Western Province the African National Congress was a live organization in that part of the country. His name and that of the late Kenneth his brother will always be connected with the properties which Congress branches bought and in which today there are buildings used by those branches. I refer to the property at Jansenville and I have heard recently from Dr. Xuma that there is another Title deed which has come into the Head Office through Mr. Runeli Hugenot. It is possible that there are other such properties waiting for Congress to release the title deeds and Mrs. K. Thaele may help to enable us to get them. Surely the contribution of Professor Thaele in this respect is unique and worthy of remembrance. He was one of the few Africans who served with deeds more than with words.
CONGRESS AND RURAL AREAS:
This is the first time for Congress to hold its Provincial conference in this town since 1930 when I took up leadership and I desire therefore to ask you to pay attention to Rural problems for here we are in the centre of Rural areas and East London is the key to both Transkei and Ciskei rural areas. This should provide an opportunity for the organisation of Congress in the Reserves for the people of the reserves need our assistance. The powers of our chiefs need strengthening. I am sure we all welcome the granting of the right to try civil cases to Chief Matanzima. Chief Matanzima has led the way for education among the chiefs and the Government in thus recognizing him has taken a step in the right direction.
Another note-worthy step is that of appointing Mr. Mbuli at Mtata assistant Prosecutor. This will alter the translation of the term Prosecutor to another word which will not mean persecutor. This will surely change the whole attitude of the African people towards South African law courts. It will assist the new movement for Penal Reform which is gaining ground among Europeans, and restore the confidence of the Africans in Magistrates and the police. We may well hope to see before long African Magistrates and Commissioners in the reserves and African Superintendents of Town locations.
LAND FOR AFRICANS:
I saw a report of a certain meeting the other day in which ah important official of the Government suggested that with regard to land the African needed education in the use of the land he possessed before he got additional land. While I agree with the necessity for this kind of education, I feel, however, that it should not be in the way of the fulfilment of the promises made under the 1936 Land Act.
I do not think that we as the African National Congress are satisfied with the wholesale townward drift of our people. Those of us who have lived in towns most of our lives know that it is not a healthy sign, although we would not support prohibitive measures, still I think we ought to do all we can to support the strengthening of our rural population by supporting all progressive measures which the Government will from time to time put forward provided such measures are for the benefit of our people.
Sometimes by our desire to show sympathy we may hinder progress. Please do not take me to be pro Government in its so called Reclamation and Rehabilitation schemes. I am only making a lead for discussion by which we shall learn more about what is actually happening in the carrying out of these schemes. There is no doubt that the inadequacy of land for Africans is to a great extent responsible for the townward drift of our people and for the breakdown of morals and religion. I think I can say without fear of contradiction that the breakdown of morals and religion amongst our people is caused by detribalisation which is the natural result of multi-racial contacts in urban areas, combined with economic difficulties and backed by the system of migratory labour [which] recurs in the rural areas
and makes the task of administration harder for the headmen and chiefs.
I have lived more than twenty years in the Cape Midlands and my work has taken me to many farms in the districts of Cradock, Somerset East, Pearston, Hofmeyr and Middleburg. One thing seems to stand out more clearly to me and that is the state of the farm usually reflects the life of the labourers. Good farmers who provide their labourers with facilities, health, education and religion usually get better fruits of labour. I have come to the conclusion that factors which contribute to the breakdown of health and moral and religious lives of communities are detrimental to pastoral and agricultural people. Soil erosion is very often the result of soul erosion.
THE CHANGE OF GOVERNMENT:
The change of Government has been received with a certain amount of excitement and anxiety by Africans. The African press has asked our leaders to confer and on Friday the 25th June Dr. Xuma and I discussed the position and decided to call the National Executive for the 1st of August at Bloemfontein. It is, however, a mistake to think that we have any power to influence the Government. I was surprised to notice that the press regarded the three European members of Parliament representing Africans as part of the United Party on national issues, for they are not supposed to ally themselves with any political party. Their duty and our duty now is to strengthen the African Congress which will give them power to wield the singular balance caused by the narrow majority between the two major parties in Parliament. However we must not lose sight of the fact that there is very little difference between the policies of the two parties as far as we are concered and many United Party members are nearer the Nationalists than say Mr. Hofmeyr their Deputy leader. The African National Congress is gaining ground and last year our membership was about 7,000, with Transvaal and Natal having over 2,000 each. The leaders of the African National Congress have succeeded in getting the co-operation of the Members of the Native Representative Council and the members of the Native Representative Council have gained the full recognition of leaders of their people by the people. This was due to the bold step of adjourning themselves when they realised that the Government did not afford them the same recognition which they got from those they represented. Their aim as well as ours is to make the Government realise that the African is an integral part of the body politic of South Africa. This talk of White South Africa is just as bad for the country as any talk of Black South Africa because there can be no divided South Africa. Apartheid in concrete form is not possible. General Smuts with his sharp political eye saw the new political situation developing among Africans and immediately set about some way to meet it. He met six M.R.C.'s and made certain suggestions to them, one of which was to meet the whole council and put his proposals to them. Some African politicians had already planned a passive resistance campaign beginning with the boycott of all elections under the 1936 Act. This step appeared to be too fast and likely to divide the people instead of uniting them and the Congress resolved to proceed with the elections of the N.R.C.'s but not to abandon the Boycott issue. The Cape is to be congratulated in its following the leadership of the Congress and returning Professor Matthews, Messrs Godio and Xiniwe unopposed. The African National Congress felt that the wisest course lay in keeping our organisation intact and giving General Smuts the chance he needed to fulfill his promises to the members of the Representative Council. This is what caused the excitement over the change of Government after the elections.
You will remember, however, that in my Presidential address last year at Cradock I pointed out the possibility of the Nationalists winning the elections. I had the 1924 experience at the back of my mind and 1 remembered the Nationalists' Black Manifesto of 1928 which gave them greater popularity in 1929. South Africa is a funny country in that its rulers are full of fear. They fear the Black people who out number them by 3:1. It is supposed to be part of the British Commonwealth of Nations and yet it can have an anti-British Government. It is a country of many races, yet it is possible for it to have a Cabinet composed of men of one race. This signifies that the problem of race relations is not easy to solve and that is why South Africa cannot stand before the United Nations Organisation with a Government policy that is acceptable with regard to its treatment of non-European and African races.
THE NATIVE POLICY OF THE NATIONALISTS' GOVERNMENT:
Dr. Malan has told the country what the attitude of his Government is going to be. His Government would follow the policy of Apartheid. What that means in actual practice is hard to understand; but in theory Apartheid for the Non-European means a large measure of independence through the growth of their self reliance and self respect, and at the same time the creation of greater opportunities for free development in conformity with their own character and capacity.
For the European it means a new sense of security resulting from the safeguarding of their own identity and future. For both races it means peaceful mutual relations and co-operation for their common weal, declared Dr. Malan in his first speech as Premier broadcast from Pretoria. He further went on to say that the Government will with fixed determination endeavour to achieve the realisation of this felicitous state of affairs.
Then suddenly he remembers that he is responsible not only to his party nor to the European people of South Africa alone for his declared policy but also to God The Almighty and then he said: In South Africa's Constitution the Sovereignty of God in the destiny of our country is specially acknowledged and in exercising our Governmental functions we wish to act in conformity with that confession. Lastly he appealed to the Church to give him support. Well, his Church has advised him not to court disfavour by careless administration of Native Affairs. Even apart from that Dr. Malan will not risk another election before his term is over through his administration of Native Affairs.
AFRICANS NEED NOT FEAR:
As I have said before we are not wedded to any political party. No party cares for our support. We have to accept the Government that is in power and find a way to co-operate with it in promoting our welfare. If Dr. Malan expects the Church to support him he must abandon his apartheid policy for the Church of God should not be a party to a policy of Colour Bar.
Our chief trouble is going to be the small officials who will serve the public behind the counter at the stations, Post Office, and such like Government controlled establishments, for already some of us have met with some of the uncultured young Afrikaans-speaking officials who think that their chance has come to play the fool. Such people should just be reported to their head Office and they will certainly lose their jobs. You, leaders of the people, must not allow the people to fall a prey to the unscrupulous officials.
I know that when the late Tielman Roos was Minister of Justice we appealed to him against the indiscriminate shooting of our people and we received satisfactory attention and support from him. Dr. Jansen, the Minister of Native Affairs, is not new to this post and may not be worse than Dr. Van der Byl by any means.
Mr. Erasmus has already removed our anxiety by stating that he does not want African soldiers, for those soldiers who fought against Robey Liebrandt and his Nazi friends would not find it easy to fight under his direction in this country. We plead with our people to be careful in the future when our country is threatened with an outside invasion and not to present themselves for any war service blindly as they have done before. Let us adopt a strict neutrality policy; neither to cause trouble ourselves nor be concerned in any party trouble which may involve the country in bloodshed.
Don't worry about Mr. Schoeman's statement on the training of African Building Artisans. It will not have any effect. Just go about your work as usual as if nothing had happened and you shan't notice any difference in the treatment except the usual pinpricks you would expect under this Government, which should not be beyond your ability to face.
THE BEST OPPORTUNITY FOR CONGRESS:
I want to stress the importance of organisation and unity of action. If we are united we shall make the work of our Parliamentary Representatives easier in bargaining for our rights. There is a strong feeling among some leaders that we must boycott the election of our European Parliamentary Representatives. I still maintain that it would be wiser for us to wait for the action of the Nationalist Government who have already said that they are going to abolish this form of Representation. Perhaps who knows when the Act is revised it may turn out better than it actually is. I do not think it wise for us to meet trouble, let us wait for it to show itself and then face it.
We know what the Nationalists have been saying about us when they wanted the votes of the Europeans and we can use those statements very successfully for rallying our people round our organisation. It will be easy for them to join so that by the time we have to face the foe we shall be strongly united. If we remain divided we shall never be strong.
Please do not take my remarks to mean that we are never to co-operate with this Government. I do not want us to adopt an anti-Nationalist attitude for such an attitude could easily lead to our alliance with one or other of the parties that are not in power. 1 am aware of the great respect we have for men like Mr. Hofmeyr. I know how we love the people of British descent because of what we owe them, but we must not overlook the fact that there are many Nationalists who are good men and women.
Mr. Bekker of Cradock is a strong Nationalist in Politics but a real gentleman as a farmer. Sometimes I am tempted to suggest we should look for an Afrikaner for one of our Parliamentary Representatives and not only have English speaking people.
THE FAGAN COMMISSION REPORT:
When the Stellenbosch University Professors criticized this report, Justice Fagan went to Stellenbosch and explained it to them. After reading his address to the Professors of Stellenbosch I felt that a man like him might not be a bad choice as our Representative in Parliament if he could offer himself. Justice Fagan is a Nationalist and was at one time Minister for Native Affairs. Today it is he who defends the urban African and goes out of his way to show other Nationalists why Urban Africans must be regarded as co-citizens with the other sections of the Urban population. His Commission's Report offers useful suggestions regarding the Pass laws although they do not say they must be abolished altogether. They see that they are a source of unnecessary irritation to African people, and recommend some modification.
I cannot say that I agree with them for I want to see a total abolition of the pass but anyway some modification of the present system might help our people. Men of Justice Pagan's standard of education know that the world opinion must be taken into serious consideration and that what is known as the Native problem is after all the problem of Colour which is by no means peculiar to South Africa.
SOUTH WEST AFRICA:
I believe this conference is aware that this Government is already moving by consultation with the Authorities in South West Africa, and there is no doubt that they will try to perform what they had been saying, that is annex South West Africa without necessarily fulfilling the requirements of the United Nations' Organisation. It was clear from reports that Representatives of the Commonwealth at U.N.O. did not wish to offend South Africa by supporting those who were against incorporation, however, the Trusteeship Council has submitted its questions to South Africa and some of them concern the treatment of Africans. We must watch the outcome.
THE SOUTH AFRICAN CONSTITUTION:
General Smuts admitted at the Transvaal United Party Congress at the end of last year that the South African Consitution needed a thorough overhauling. May we hope that this overhauling of the Constitution will be proceeded with as soon as possible. If 40 years ago it was necessary to have a colour bar clause in the Act of Union to prevent Africans from taking their full share of responsibility in the shaping of the destiny of this land, it certainly is wrong now after the efforts to educate them have been so abundantly rewarded. Surely it cannot be right to refuse direct representation to the original inhabitants of this country in Parliament for all time. Such a policy is not only wrong but dangerous, for Africans will in the long run start their own parallel institutions and follow the example of the Burmese.
If the Europeans of this country shut their eyes to the fact that the non-white races of the world are dissatisfied with the attitude of the White people against them and are drawing closer together in order to resist White domination everywhere, then they must be strange people indeed. They will wake up one day when it is too late and their children will curse their graves.
I am one of those who have been preaching that Christianity is a world brotherhood, and that a European Christian is a nearer person to me than an African Mohammedan, but I am beginning to wonder if my European brethren preach a similar doctrine to their people. Well there is your chance Reverend Dr. Malan. Prove to the world that you stand by the principles of Christianity which involve the Fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man.
GOD BLESS AFRICA
James A. Calata