Africans in White Dominated South Africa
- beginning in the 19th C but becoming more differentiated in the 20th, Africans were incorporated into the economic and social system of South Africa in 3 distinct settings.
- in the wake of conquest and various treaties, many Africans lived in areas which were set aside for their exclusive occupation; this was not primarily a product of generosity, but more a result of African resistance to being pushed off.
- however, the reserves comprised only a small portion of the land area of southern Africa and most of that was in the high commission territories (Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland). The largest areas in South Africa itself were the Transkei and Zululand; there was very little in the Orange Free State and fairly limited areas in the Transvaal.
- Africans had acquired small amounts of land in Natal and the Cape by purchase (groups of Africans joined to raise the money to make the purchase). Tiny amounts of land had been acquired in this way in the Transvaal after 1902 until the 1913 Native Land Act.
- it was in the reserves that Africans had the greatest opportunity to maintain African traditional culture, etc. However, Christianity also had many followers and steadily increased its adherents to the present.
- most Africans, especially males, spent some time outside the reserves as migrant labour; in fact, some might spend a good portion of their adult working lives in such labour.
II White farming areas
- this was a consequence of conquest and involved most of the land in what became the Union of South Africa. Africans came to be there in 2 ways:
- not all Africans living in this context were Christians, but it was often difficult to maintain all aspects of traditional religion and culture as the political context was missing. Also, traditional social relations were often constrained by the orders of the white farmer. [For example, he might limit the number of people from other farms etc, who could visit for celebrations. Traditionally, African hospitality decreed that everyone, near and far, was welcome.]
- Africans went to white occupiers/owners and made some sort of arrangement to live and work there (well discuss the kinds of arrangements shortly).
- this happened especially in the Cape where the wars had resulted in white forces driving out Africans who later came filtering back.
- Whites came and claimed the land where Africans lived; Africans might try to resist, at times with some success in the short term.
- this happened especially in the Boer republics (only whites could own or register land); in the early days after the Great Trek, many Boers were not able to enforce their claims. However, as time went on and white control became more consolidated, Africans usually had to make some sort of deal with the whites who claimed ownership. Then, the white man or one of his children would go to live on the farm.
III Urban settings
- African migration to towns began on significant scale in the 1880s in the Cape where there were more and larger towns. There had always been a few in the small towns, but not many who were fully urbanisedi.e., those who lived most of their lives there, had families and raised children; those who no longer regarded themselves as temporary residents who had their real place still in the country and would return there.
- there were a number of factors underlying this trend, especially economic development of ports because of mining (growth of East London, Port Elizabeth, and Cape Town). As early as the 1880s, the African elite was already talking about and discussing the phenomenon; they were also expressing concerns about the social and moral dangers and problems.
- the proportion of Africans living in urban areas has been increasing continuously in the 20th C. By 1960, almost 50% of Africans were living in urban areas in spite of government policies whose object was to slow down the migration (i.e., all the legislation and the vast apparatus of influx control); in fact, apartheid was supposed to reverse the migration back to rural areas. Although apartheid may have slowed the rate of urbanisation a bit, the proportion living in the cities continued to increase.
- until the later 1970s, the government insisted that cities were for whites, not Africans, and that the migration was reversing. [I remember early in the 1960s, the government one year produced statistics which purported to show that there were fewer Africans in the urban areas than previously. However, the count was taken at Christmas time when it was customary to allow African migrant workers a couple of weeks to return to visit their families; all of them and more returned early in January!]
- by the early 1970s, the government was admitting that some Africans would never go to the rural areas and had in fact become permanent urban dwellers (by that time some African families had been urbanised for up to 4 generations or more!). Only later did they admit that the future for the majority was in fact in the urban areas; because such an admission would be a confession that apartheid was a fraud, the government had denied it in claiming that cities were white areas even though the overwhelming majority of those who lived there were not whites.
- the dominant cultural feature of urban Africans is assimilation; in addition to Christianity, which as we shall discuss has been a major mechanism for adaption to urban life, urban life is very different from traditional life. [e.g., most celebrations involve killing an animal, but most urbanites do not keep stock.]
- as discussed briefly previously (see lecture 8 Cape liberalism), Colin Bundy has argued that there was a short period of relative prosperity and independent agricultural production for Africans in the reserves, especially in the Cape but also in Natal and Basutoland in the 19th C. See the following references:
- during this period (1860s-late 1880s), according to Bundy, there was a sharp upturn in the production of agricultural surpluses for sale on markets by Africans; they were innovative in adopting plows, irrigation, new crops, etc. This contradicts most economic writers in the 20th C who have argued that the poverty in the reserves is due to endemic backwardness, failure to innovate, etc. Finally, he argues that this peasant production was a development option that was viable and had plenty of potential.
- Colin Bundy, The Rise and Fall of a South African Peasantry, 1979
- ________ . The Response of African Peasants in the Cape to Economic Changes, 1870-1910: A Study in Growth and Decay, The Societies of Southern Africa in the 19th and 20th Centuries, III, (1971-72), 24-37.
- ______ and William Beinart, Hidden Struggles in Rural South Africa, 1987.
- Jack Lewis, The Rise and Fall of the South African Peasantry: A Critique and Reassessment, Journal of Southern African Studies, XI, 1(1984), 1-24.
- however, changing circumstances economically but also the deliberate actions and policies of dominant whites arrested this development and snuffed it out. Therefore, the impoverishment of Africans, especially in the reserves, was not simply the result of backward peasantry and overcrowding, but also a consequence of deliberate policies and programmes. The deterioration began from about 1890.
- before dealing with the rest of his argument, we should notice Jack Lewis argument. Lewis says that the increased sale of products in markets that Bundy used for his argument was primarily induced by the need to pay new taxes introduced in the 1860s and was not based upon any significant increase in productivity as a result of innovations.
- only a small minority of Africans had enough land and cattle to own and use plows, etc. For most, the products sold to pay taxes came out of family consumption (i.e., lower standards of living and well being).
- thus, this golden age was not really an alternative path that would have left Africans better off. At best, this period (1860s-1890) represented for Africans, a pause in the long-term decline in African living standards and well-being.
- the point to note is that all researchers, myself included, are struck very quickly by the evidence of this deterioration in living standards that set in after 1890.
Why this deterioration?
- there are a number and variety of explanations:
- Natural disasters
- Cattle sicknessrinderpest. This epidemic swept down from east and central Africa arriving in S. Africa in 1895 and reaching the Cape in 1896. Up to 90% of cattle died. Eventually, a process for immunization was discovered, but by then losses were enormous; as cattle were the major source and aspect of African wealth, this was a tremendous disaster and Africans were never able to recoup fully.
- Droughtthe worst drought since the 1820s began just after the S. African War and lasted for the rest of the decade (i.e., c1903-1911); distress and hardship in the Cape were great and widespread.
- Political Changes
- the growth of racism had its impact in South Africa, especially in the Cape because it was the only area that had somewhat more liberal policies. We noted this before in talking about Cape liberalism. The effect was to reduce jobs for which Africans would be hired, especially in government service; this affected white collar jobs but even in letter and telegram deliveries.
- there was less willingness to increase government support for African education (and thus restrained growth in teaching jobs for Africans). This was happening just as education had become a big priority for Africans and much larger numbers of graduates were emerging from the mission schools.
- The South African War
- in the short term, the effects of the war were ambiguous; prices for produce soared as did wages for greatly increased jobs in the ports and in transportation to facilitate the flow of men and supplies from abroad for the war effort (i.e., income increased). However, the prices of goods soared even more so that the effects of inflation nullified for most the rise in incomes.
- the depression after the war caused prices for agricultural products and wages to drop drastically, but the prices of overseas goods dropped much less; thus, Africans were being squeezed.
Glen Grey Act 1894
- Changing economic and political factors
- gold mining in the Transvaal greatly accelerated the processes already begun in diamond fields, that is, transforming South Africa into an urban, industrial society; at first, industry was mining rather than manufacturing, but it was a drastic change from agricultural society that for large numbers, whites as well as blacks, had been primarily subsistence (Boers had produced only small amounts of surplus for the markets earlier). The growth of cities provided markets for agricultural products but required more production. This meant more commercialization and more investment. Thus, agriculture now had to be more capitalist and market oriented.
- Africans had much less opportunity to take advantage of these developments; however, just as important as natural disadvantages were the deliberate blockages which white competitors, using political power as voters, were able to interpose. Bundy, following Legassick and Trapido, argues that white farmers had long felt in competition with Africans and had wanted to have greater access to African labour at the very low wage rates they wanted to pay.
- complaints about inadequate labour were endemic and well come back to discuss this soon. Here, we should note that the reserves were often a source of complaint in this regards; white farmers argued that Africans could meet most of their limited needs by grazing cattle and cultivating a bit of ground; therefore, an adequate labour supply (and farmers looked at the reserves as Cassius was described by Shakespeare, with a lean and hungry look) required that, short of abolishing the reserves entirely, Africans should be forced to leave the reserves to work for whites.
- with the growth of the mining industry and urbanisation, white farmers were even more eager to take advantage of opportunities by expanding production, but needed and wanted large additional sources of cheap labour; mining too needed large amounts of cheap labour. At the same time, farmers wanted to reduce the competition from African producers who were formidable competitors according to Bundy et al.
- the fruits of these aims showed up in this act in the Cape Colony. It was introduced by the 2nd Rhodes government to deal with a fairly large African reserve in the north-east corner of the Cape, near the border with Basutoland.
- the discriminatory features of the Glen Grey Act were obvious to everyone; the politically active elite among Africans, while liking the conversion to individual tenure, condemned and opposed the passage of the act, to no avail. Appeals to Britain to disallow the Act were not accepted.
- the act replaced communal tenure of land with individual tenure; however, the plots were only 4 acres and no more than one plot per man was allowed.
- the act also provided a special tax for any male who had not gone outside the reserve to work in the previous year; i.e., work outside the reserve was in effect made compulsory with the special tax penalty.
- land held under this legislation did not count for the property qualification for the vote. The Registration Act of 1887 had disqualified land held under communal tenure; the Glen Grey Act established individual tenure (individual tenure was supposed to be one of the great educative effects for improving and civilising Africans). Now, this act ensured that they did not gain any political power from the change. Moreover, you can see that this was a clear departure from non-differentiation in Cape liberalism Africans in the Glen Grey district covered by this law were treated differently from everyone else in the Cape Colony.
- the act did set up a system of local government (a council of Africans) employing a combination of traditional leaders (chiefs) and elected representatives.
- the administration was carried out still by the officials of the Cape Native Affairs Dept (i.e., the Resident Magistrates and their staffs) and were responsible and answerable to the Cape government, not to the native council. However, it did allow Africans to tax themselves for purposes they decided (e.g., roads, additional education facilities, etc.).
- this system was later introduced into the Transkei where a territorial body, the Bunga, was established; the Bunga was usually judged to be a success. The Bunga also provided a model which the National Party government under Verwoerd could adapt in developing and imposing its Bantustan policies in the 1950s and 60s.
- it was a large and significant departure from the spirit as well as the letter of the Cape liberal tradition; it was thus a step along the road to harmonising the Cape with the other 3 white settler societies of South Africa. This was not accidental; Rhodes wanted to see a united South Africa under the British Empire and knew that the Capes liberal policies were unacceptable to the others.
- the small plots were not adequate in most cases to provide a family with subsistence for a year let alone allow for production of a surplus, especially as African consumption patterns increasingly incorporated outside goods and products. Thus, maintaining standards of living, let alone raising them, required that family members must go outside the reserve to perform wage labour.
- in Natal, the same goals (to force Africans into wage labour) were achieved simply by raising taxes, payment of which usually required family members to enter the wage labour market; there were head taxes on males, hut taxes (this hit polygynists doubly), as well as customs duties on imported goods.
- in customs duties, Natal was rather blatant in charging higher rates for goods for Africans than for whites (consumption patterns were sufficiently distinct to be able to do this with considerable effect). This helped to keep the taxes on whites relatively low. Thus, the taxes were deliberately regressive, rather that progressive.
- Bundy argues that the attempt to provide more labour and less competition for whites can be seen in the anti-squatter legislation that was passed in the Cape in the 1st decade of the 20th C. Well define what squatter means in South Africa shortlyits not what you expect! Attempts at control of squatters had been attempted before but never got more than minor controls.
- this struck at Africans in white farming areas, but it is important to note that this legislation was a preview of the Native Land Act of 1913. It was also part of the process by which whites were using their political power to advance their economic and social interests at the expense of Africans, even in the Cape.
II White rural areas and agriculture
- an excellent source on this topic is Francis Wilson, A Century of Agriculture, 1866-1966, in Oxford History of South Africa, v. 2, 104-171.
- up to the 1870s, finding markets for farm produce had been a problem. The development of wool and later of ostrich products (feathers and leather) had provided some development in the Cape; sugar had done the same for farmers in Natal.
- however, it was mining and urbanisation which really opened up possibilities by creating large, growing markets in South Africa. However, a major on-going complaint, which white farmers endlessly proclaimed was inhibiting them, was the inadequacy of labour supplies. This has in fact been the subject of a great deal of mythology in South Africa.
The Backward Sloping Labour Supply Curve
- it was argued that Africans were lazy and unwilling to work; Africans would exert themselves only in response to need and then only for as long as it took to meet minimum requirements. Therefore, it was argued that Africans had too much land (that got incorporated into the Glen Grey Act, as we saw).
- alternately, it was argued that African needs must be increased; unlike missionaries and merchants who thought of new consumption (and therefore higher living standards), farmers usually argued for increased taxes to create the necessity to get extra income.
- contrary to the myth that Africans were unwilling to work, the real problem was that Africans were reluctant to work for the wages that white farmers wanted to pay. With the opening of the diamond fields and railway building in the 1870s, tens of thousands of Africans responded, even making long, dangerous migrations to and from the work areas.
- also, some farmers showed that by paying a bit higher wages than most farmers tried to insist upon, they got all the labour they needed.
- yet, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, whites have generally insisted that paying higher wages would give them less labour! It is as if the demand curve for labour was, for some reason, reversed in South Africa and backward sloping!
- until very recently at least (although I doubt if it has disappeared) whites in general and white farmers in particular have maintained this absurd assertion. The result has been a continual demand for compulsion to be used (i.e., they do not believe in or are unwilling to provide a carrot and as a result put their reliance on the stick!).
- of course, compulsion had almost always been relied upon by whites, including slavery and the virtual slavery of the vagrancy and apprenticeship laws. Wilson suggests that there were deeper psychological and sociological factors than just the desire to eat their cake and have it too (i.e., if they used compulsion to get labour, then they did not have to pay for it). He suggests that the urge to use compulsion is also tied to race consciousness and the desire to dominate, to the need to see Africans as special beings, conceptually and intellectually inferior, therefore requiring domination of whites.
Natals Special Arrangements
- before discussing the various kinds of relationships which emerged in white farming areas, we should digress to discuss some of the expedients in Natal in the 19th C.
- Natal had a system of labour requirements for public projects called isibalo. It was a kind of labour tax. White magistrates or officials would go to the local chief and demand that a specific number of men be available to perform work on some project (repairing a road, building schools, etc.). The chief then assigned specific men under his jurisdiction to provide this labour.
- sufficient land was available that most Africans did not have to work for white farmers. When sugar was introduced, large supplies of disciplined labour was required. With Africans unwilling or considered unsuited, the problem was solved by importing indentured Indians. At first, these Indians were allowed to buy land and to bring their families after their initial 5 year contract was completed. Later, strong efforts were made to prevent this and to require that labourers return to India at the completion of their contracts.
- proposals and experiments to bring Irish peasants failed: social dislike, farmers were unwilling to pay enough and the labourers themselves left farming as soon as possible to go to more remunerative employment.
- late in the 19th C (as indicated above), increased taxes were used to force Africans in increasing numbers into the labour market.
- at the beginning of the 20th C, the pull of whites into the urban areas added a new problem. Would land acquired from Africans by conquest be lost back to Africans by sale or economic factors?
- a great deal of government activity and legislation has been directed to deal with this problem i.e., keep the platteland (interior farming areas) white and stem the processes of beswarting (literally, blackening). If whites leave the farms, then they are taken over by Africans, either by sale or more usually by some form of what was often crudely termed Kaffir farming.
- one of the ways to keep whites on the farm is by providing ample labour supplies at very low cost.
Types of Labour Relationships in Agriculture
- Full time workerthis is probably the major type.
- usually, the wages are paid in cash and in kind (the latter might includes some form of housing, some food, the right to graze some stock, some land for their own food production, sometimes clothing; in western Cape often wine and brandy rations). They and their families live on the farm in small houses.
- Labour tenantthis system is very like feudal serfdom except Africans have never acquired the security of tenure achieved in feudal Europe.
- the African family is allowed to live on and use part of the farm in return for labour from 90 days to 6 months.
- this form of kaffir farming has not been attacked by legislation as strongly as other forms; perhaps it has been tolerated more because a white farming family still remains to farm part of the land, relying on the labour tenants.
- Cash tenantusually called a squatter. This term is a peculiar usage in South Africa although it was also used subsequently in colonies with white settlers such as Rhodesia and Kenya.
- in this arrangement, the tenant pays a specific rent for use of a portion of the farm. Usually, the entire farm would be let out in this way and was called a location. Normally, the white owner of the land does not live on the farm and only comes around to collect the rent.
- the term squatting has pejorative connotations and its not clear why it is used in this context. Renting out land to tenants is the overwhelming arrangement in agriculture in Britain (this has perhaps been changing as a result of death duties which have taken a toll on the land holdings of the traditional landed families of the aristocracy and gentry).
- moreover, when whites leased or rented land to other whites, they did not call that squatting! Basically, the use of the term indicates the strong dislike which other whites have when some of their colleagues take advantage of such arrangements.
Whites in Rural Areas
- Half-shares farmingshare-croppingalso referred to as squatting.
- as with cash tenants, the entire farm is divided among the tenants in a location, but instead of a specific rent, the tenants pay half the crop produced to the owner. This has the advantage that the risks of having a poor crop is shared between the owner and the tenant whereas with cash rent, the risk is entirely borne by the tenants.
- with both these last 2 relationships, the tenants supplied all or most of the working capital, having their own teams of oxen, plows, sometimes wagons and provide their own seed. As such, they were substantial men with their own capital.
- also, the relationships was more or less an equal partnershipthe landowner providing the fixed capital (the land) and the tenant providing the working capital and the labour.
- both were also the subject of hostility and of vigorous attempts to eliminate them by making them illegal (as we shall see); there was considerable, but not complete, success.
- Isibalo labourmentioned this form of labour in Natal. It was only used in Natal and disappeared at the time of Union.
- Prison labour
- this had often been used in the 19th C, usually for public works. It became a very important development after World War 2 and under apartheid. We shall come back to this shortly.
- Migrant labour
- these are workers brought in, usually from a considerable distance, for specific periods (e.g., planting or harvest, or perhaps for an entire season). They are not intended to be permanent employees and are often men without families.
- Daily labour
- may live on the farm, but often are trucked in daily or weekly from nearby areas. They often work for substantial portions of the year, but farmers have no long term contracts with them.
- Landowner/farmer and his familythis was the ideal for Afrikaner nationalists and the object of so much solicitude by governments.
- Farm managerusually poor whites or at least landless whites. There were never many whites in this category and they became increasingly rare. In fact, increasingly, Africans were becoming de facto farm managers.
- Bywoner (literally, someone who lives nearby). These were landless, poor whites who were, to some extent, like labour tenants. The bywoner provided services to the landowner, often as an overseer, in return for being allowed to live on the farm and use a portion of the farm for his own account. This has disappeared in the 20th C.
Africans in White Dominated South Africa
Native Land Act of 1913
- this act was one of the early fruits of the union created by the South Africa Act in 1910; it was a savage blow in undermining the economic and social status (and well-being) of Africans.
- 3 major areas of African well-being were attacked:
- Wilson argues that half-share farming has had lots of appeal as whites had to do nothing and received half the crop; for Africans, it provided an opportunity to build up their own capital and they could take advantage of their labour (and that of the family) to make more income. Sharecropping also shared the risks as they were not tied to a fixed rent.
- it was opposed by other whites because they disliked the idea of whites and blacks in a partnership relationship rather than one of domination and subordination.
- some whites tried to justify their opposition by claiming that share-cropping fostered destructive land practices; however, whites have been as much or more destructive in their land practices, so this appears as a rather flimsy argument.
- the main reason for opposition by white farmers was that the system allowed Africans to earn more than white farmers were willing to pay. Wilson argues (p.128) It is possible to regard the 1913 Land Act as being an act of collusion amongst the hirers of farm labour not to give remuneration above a certain level. White farmers had to pay higher wages or get rid of such competition; whites preferred to eliminate the competition!
2 Squattingrent tenancy
- squatting was disliked as much as sharecropping for the same reasons. Specious arguments were thrown up as to why such arrangements were bad, but the main reason was that the existence of these alternatives gave labourers a bargaining position. As long as they had some place to go, they could afford to change jobs or refuse to work unless the farmer paid reasonable wages. It will be ruination, wrote a Free State farmer in 1911, if we allow our natives to be placed in locations. [location was the term used in legislation when a farm was turned over to rent tenancy of Africans] We shall then hear of strikes, hitherto unknown here. We shall have to go daily, hat in hand, to the location if the crops are ripe, and will have a great deal of trouble. (Wilson, p. 129)
- Wilson argues that most of the pressure for the 1913 Land Act came from those who wanted to ensure cheap labour by eliminating squatting and half-share farming.
3 Land purchases by Africans
- this had become legal in the former republics after the S. African War; Rev. Tsewu had fought a court case in the Transvaal which resulted in the laws prohibiting purchases by non-whites being struck down.
- the 1913 Native Land Act allocated all land, in what was supposed to be permanent demarcation, between racial groups. The division meant that existing reserves for Africans amounted to just over 8% of the land and all the rest was white (although it also included Coloureds and Indians who had no separate allocation); however, it was proposed to add additional land to bring the total for Africans up to about 12%. A special commission was to be set up to determine which land was to be acquired to add to the reserves). The commission was to buy up land from whites to add to reserves, but it was also to eliminate small patches of African-owned land among whites (known as black spots).
- most whites agreed that 12% of the land should be allocated to 65-68% of the population, but when it came to the crunch, nobody was willing to give up their land to make up the 12%! Everywhere the commission went, it faced stiff opposition to any proposal to take their land. Except for eliminating the black spots, almost no land was purchased and little added to the reserves.
- several times over the next 70 years, the promise to bring the African reserves land up to 12% were repeated, especially when governments were taking something away from Africans. For example in 1936 when the Cape Native Voters Act was removing Africans from the common voters roll in the Cape, the promise of the 12% was repeated.
- in 1953 when the Group Areas Act was passed (the Group Areas Act simply carried the demarcation process begun under the 1913 Land Act to absolute and absurd lengths) and many times subsequently (in fact for many years government propaganda in the 1960s and 70s used to claim that Africans were allocated 12%), the government promised the 12%. However, every attempt to do something ran up against the same opposition from whites. There was some change in the years under apartheid when attempts were made to consolidate reserves in larger chunks to make the bantustans practical (many reserves were relatively small fragments and scattered). Nevertheless, the net effect was not too large; by the 1980s, the total for the reserves was still just over 9%.
- the 1913 Land Act prohibited the purchase of any land by Africans outside the reserves. Why this provision was included and was such a hot button for whites is not too clear because purchases of land by Africans were minuscule. In the Transvaal where the problem was stated to be the worst, less than 1,000 morgen per year (about 2,000 acres) was being purchased. Furthermore, the Supreme Court later declared that this provision could not apply to the Cape because it affected the franchise and access to the franchise was one of the entrenched clauses of the South Africa Act, the constitution. Experience in the Cape confirms that the legal right to purchase land did not threaten white domination in ownership of land as it never reached very significant proportions. In other words, although much attention has focused on this provision, it in fact did not make that much difference to Africans. African land purchases were constrained very strongly by economic factors in any case; they were too poor. The overwhelming impact of the 1913 Land Act arose out of the provisions attacking squatting and sharecropping.
- the disruption and hardship imposed by the 1913 Land Act on Africans was massive. As Wilson argues, Few laws passed in South Africa can have been felt with such immediate harshness by so large a section of the population. (p. 130). A good description of the effects can be found in Solomon Plaatjes Native Life in South Africa which is available in its entirety on line.
- many of the Africans affected were not aware of the law and what it meant to them. Those involved with squatting or half-shares farming were either told they had to leave or that they had to accept becoming an employee and being exploited (see Plaatje). Many ended up on the road looking for a place to start again without being aware that the law applied everywhere. Soon, they were obliged to sell their stock and ox teams, but because many others were forced to do the same, prices were very low. With nowhere to go, most were eventually forced to accept whatever terms were offered. They were wiped out and suddenly disadvantaged.
- the law did not completely end squatting as it was too profitable; as a result in the next decades, legislators returned repeatedly to further legislative attempts to stamp out the practices and variations that replaced them.
- the use of prisons as a source of farm labour developed after 1948. Opposition to the implementation of apartheid and the operation of apartheid with its vast array of permits and regulations produced huge numbers of people who were arrested and convicted. The National Party government encouraged farmers to form cooperative organisations to build farm prisons in their areas. The farmer investors then got the right to draw labour from the prison for which they paid only a small daily fee which covered the operating costs, although the government paid for the guards.
- the prisons involved a good deal of investment and created a vested interest; the right to draw labour added greatly to a farms value. It meant that these investors had a vested interest in crime; a continuing flow of criminals is needed in order to make the investments worthwhile and to provide the labour supply.
- there was a variation of this for minor offences. The pass laws [it was compulsory for all Africans (originally only adult males but women were added in the 1950s) to carry an identity document (a pass or as the government tried to give it a better name in the 1970s, an internal passport) on their person at all times when they were outside an area reserved for Africans] produced hundreds of thousands of convictions each year. While fines were relatively small (R10), wages even in good jobs for a long time ranged R30-40 per month while servants made much less. As a result, high proportions of Africans were unable to pay the fines. Failure to pay might mean a sentence of 3 months in prison.
- as an alternative to prison, many Africans were offered the chance to volunteer to serve the term on a farm performing labour. Usually, they were supposed to be paid a small wage at the end. There were abuses as compulsion and underhanded forms of intimidation, even outright mistreatment occurred; as a result, this system was greatly reduced subsequently in response to intense domestic and foreign denunciations.
- in spite of all the laws and policies put into place to ensure that white farmers had adequate labour supplies, it continued to be a problemi.e., a continuing source of complaints by farmers.
- migration from rural areas has continued. Wilson points out that there have been both push and pull factors underlying the migration. The general effects and pressures apply to both whites and blacks.
- growing landlessness for whitesRoman-Dutch law (as in Quebec where the French civil law has the same roots) provides for property and land to be divided equally among heirs. This means that over time and subsequent generations, the plots get subdivided and become smaller. Thus, more and more heirs receive holdings that are inadequate to provide an adequate living and they are compelled to seek other ways to make a living.
- for Africans, who were restricted by the Land Act to only 8% of the land, relatively high birth rates have intensified the over-crowding and forced them to go outside the reserves. Working on white farms is often unattractive because of the low wages as well as the behaviour of some farmers. There was a huge variation in how African workers and families were treated:
- for both whites and blacks, the ravages of drought and erosion have devastated the productive capacity of large areas of land.
- on one extreme, some white families displayed a paternalistic approach in taking an interest in the well being of their workers (the farm wife going to the huts of workers families with medicines for someone sick);
- on the other, some very brutal and unreasonable employers (some who would go into rages and kill or seriously injure employeesthis was not that uncommon).
- even with good employers, farm workers and families were subject to greater control and less freedom than elsewhere; restrictions on visiting were especially hard on the young people wanting to socialise with members of the opposite sex.
- better wages and higher standards of living in urban areas;
- more opportunity, even if a long-shot, than in rural areas;
- bright lights syndrome (cities are more exciting) is an age old appeal of urban areas.
III Urban settings
- in many ways, the problems and pressures of urban life were more severe for Africans than for whites. The ties that linked them to the reserves were stronger (i.e., African culture and the very strong social ties of family) and the cities were even more alien than for the Afrikaners. As well, Africans were always subjected to a much greater degree of subordination than that of Afrikaners. This point is significant because Afrikaner nationalists have frequently made such a big deal about what an ordeal it has been for poor white Afrikaners! Whatever Afrikaners have had to endure, the costs to Africans were many times greater.
- as we have noted, Africans mostly were regarded as temporary sojourners in towns and cities. For much of the 19th C there was good justification for that view.
- the view generally was that towns were not for Africans.
- the diamond fields required vast numbers of labourers, a large portion of whom were temporary migrant workers. Initially, non-whites had been able to acquire diggers claims, but after rowdy whites rioted, authorities ceased this practice and claims could only be held by whites.
- a significant problem on the diamond fields was theft and the I.D.B. (Independent Diamond Buyers); also, there were frequent complaints about lack of discipline in the labour force, especially that access to canteens led to excessive drinking and workers not able to work because of the effects of drunkenness. The solution was the implementation of closed compounds. These were barracks-like living quarters on mine property where workers spent their entire term of contractnot allowed to leave (with barbed wire and armed guards, these compounds were [are] more like prisons). Stores were available inside the compounds.
- at the goldfields, store owners mounted too strong an opposition to allow closed compounds; also, theft was not a problem. As a result, open compounds were established. Very rarely did mining companies establish facilities for miners to bring their families, although some coal mining companies in Natal did do that for a while.
- there were not many restrictions on African urbanisation in the early years after union, but the migration caused growing concern because the poor and poorly paid Africans created shantytowns on the outskirts of cities. Various commissions investigated and early in the 1920s, action began to be taken.
- in Natal: Let them understand that the towns of the Colony are the special places of abode for the white men, who are the governing race...
- in the SAR, no African was allowed to live in or near towns without special permission (i.e., were given a pass); in 1899, Africans were prohibited from walking on sidewalks.
- in the Orange Free State: The traditional conception of our Native locations in the Free State ... undoubtedly is that they are merely convenient reservoirs for the purpose of supplying the legitimate labour requirements of our towns and villages. The Free State had the strictest curfew laws.
- in 1921, a Native Affairs Commission established a pattern and trend which remained for the next 25 years or so. It should be understood that the town is a European area in which there is no place for the redundant Native, who neither works nor serves his or her own people but forms the class from which the professional agitators, the slum landlords, the liquor sellers, the prostitutes and other undesirable classes spring. Africans were not by nature town dwellers.
- in 1922, a Transvaal commission declared, It should be a recognised principle of government that nativesmen, women and childrenshould be permitted within municipal areas in so far and for so long as their presence is demanded by the wants of the white population.
The masterless native in urban areas is a source of danger and a cause of degradation of both black and white.
Native Urban Areas Act 1923
- the Smuts (South Africa Party) government enacted this law. In essence, it introduced a policy of segregation, but it was not a complete one.
- the rapid urbanisation of Africans was regarded as the ultimate threat to white supremacy. This fear was reinforced when trade unionism emerged among non-whites in the 1920s. Especially successful was the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU) led by Clements Kadalie. This union, which included Coloureds as well as Africans, had a meteoric rise in the late 1920s; most of its strength was in the Cape and Natal. It later became divided and declined almost as quickly, but it caused many fears during its short heyday.
- one M.P. declared, The locations in the towns are the incubators of unrighteousness, and Kadalie and his myrmidons find the locations the most fruitful place for their operations. Another declared, The towns constitute the front trenches of our position in South Africa. It is in the towns that siege is being made against our civilised standards.
- whites needed labour but did not want that labour permanently living in the towns; the solution was migrant labour. As Smuts declared in 1929, While the native may come voluntarily out of his own area for a limited period of every year to work with a white employer, he will leave his wife and children behind in their native home ... migration of the native family, of the females and children, to the farms and towns ... should be prevented.
- the key point is that both Hertzogs National Party and Smuts South Africa Party (with the exception of a small liberal wing that was led by the younger Jan Hofmeyr) were committed to segregation and it was not a serious issue when they coalesced to form the United Party. However, Malan and his more extreme nationalists in the Purified National Party continually castigated the United Party government after 1933 for allowing the continued migration of Africans into the cities. We noted Malans speech on the Centenary of the Battle of Blood River in which he discussed the new battleground where Afrikaners confronted Africans in the cities in an economic life and death struggle.
The Colour Bar
- as we already noted, the colour bar, which had been partly in place in many areas already as far as practice was concerned, was placed formally into law during the Pact Government 1924-28. In many ways, this did to urban Africans what the 1913 Native Land Act did to farming Africans. That is, it placed an almost absolute barrier to economic advancement for Africans, and it advantaged whites by eliminating the competition from Africans.
- once the gold standard for South African currency was abandoned (i.e., allowing the monetary price of gold to rise), the gold mining industry began to revive and industrial development was stimulated in the later 1930s; as well, industrial development accelerated during the 2nd World War as it was no longer possible to get most manufactured goods from Europe or the United States. As a result, the demand for labour was much greater and migration was stimulated!
- in spite of the restrictions introduced in the 1920s, Africans in the towns doubled between 1921 and 1936; by 1946, the total had increased by another 60%.
- frequent charges were made about redundant Natives and unemployed idlers; however, several commissions in different cities upon investigating found most of these charges untrue. The squatters in shanty towns were in fact gainfully employed. Moreover, if the demands to send them away were acceded to, Johannesburgs economy would be crippled as if by a general strike.
- by 1946-47, Smuts United Party government was coming around to the view that the economy needed permanent African labour and that migrant labour was disrupting the economy. This view was articulated clearly by the 1946-48 Native Laws Commission (Fagan Commission) report. The idea of total segregation is utterly impracticable; secondly, that the movement from country to town has a background of economic necessitythat it may, so one hopes, be guided and regulated, and may perhaps also be limited, but that it cannot be stopped or be turned in the opposite direction; and thirdly that in our urban areas there are not only Native migrant labourers, but there is also a settled, permanent Native population. It went on to state that the idea of returning Africans to the reserves was a parrot-cry and that migrant labour was a system which, in the long run, cannot be maintained otherwise than on a limited scale. Finally, after over 25 years of illusions, some politicians were beginning to face reality.
- it was in this context that the National Party coined the term apartheid and fought the 1948 election. They rejected the Fagan Commission and revived all the outmoded ideas which were current in the 1920s.
- there were strong elements of support for restrictions on Africans in urban areas:
- armed with these outmoded ideas, ideas which had been proven mistaken and wrong repeatedly, the National Party of Malan and his successors embarked upon apartheid and influx control and another 35 years or so of delusion and pipedreams.
- White farmers (towns and higher town wages were attracting African labour away from the farms);
- Poor whites (hardly poor anymore by 1948, but people of restricted education who continued to see Africans, especially educated Africans, as an economic threat) often felt in competition for housing and facilities.
- Afrikaner leaders in church and politics who were obsessed with the dangers of intermingling and miscegenation.
- there are a great many indicators of the effects of implementing apartheid and influx control. One way is Charles Simkins, Agricultural Production in the African Reserves of South Africa, 1918-1969, Journal of Southern African Studies, VII, 2 (April 1981), 256-83.
- Simkins says the period can be divided into 2 sub-periods:
- Period of fragile productivity 1918-1954
- there was a slight tendency for output per head to drop, but the proportion of subsistence requirements produced remained relatively constant. This is largely explained by emigration from the reserves as density grew only slowly from 50/sq. mile in 1918 to 60/sq. mile in 1955.
- Period of rapid decline 1955-1969
- influx control reduced the outlet of emigration. The average densities increased from 60/sq mile to 110 in 1969. Production per head plummeted; the proportion of subsistence requirements was by the late 1960s only 2/3 of the 1955 level. There was a great increase in the dependency of people in the reserves on remittances from the urban areas.
- what this indicates is that while influx control did not stop let alone reverse African migration to the cities, it did slow it down during a period of rapid population growth. As a result, population densities increased (almost doubled). Production per capita declined for several reasons; unless production increased at the same rate the population was increasing, there would be a per capita decrease. However, the population remaining in the reserves was not balanced, there being a disproportion of children, old people and women with children; many working age men and young women, the most productive workers, were absent as migrant labour. It was hard or even impossible for this unbalanced labour force to maintain maximum production. As overcrowding increased, problems of soil depletion and erosion further reduced production. As a result, residents in the reserves were less and less able to meet their subsistence needs from their own production and increasingly relied on income from absent family members to survive. This downward or vicious circle was a direct effect of apartheid policy. Ironically, the policy was increasing the push for Africans to go to the cities and thus producing the opposite of what was intended and wanted! No matter how repressive influx control was made, necessity forced Africans continually to circumvent it and infiltrate into the cities.
- Simkins comments, Indeed, it may not be fanciful to see the states homeland development programme (seriously started in the late sixties) as a response to a crisis it had precipitated fifteen years earlier. (p. 271).