Waiting for the Barbarians - Tidbit 4: How It Began

Waiting for the Barbarians by ‎J.M. Coetzee

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Waiting for the Barbarians - Tidbit 4: How It Began

Unread postby fireflydances » Sat Jul 20, 2019 3:56 pm

How It Began



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Clipping from January 1950 issue of Life Magazine, photos by Margaret Bourke White



Statement by the National Party of South Africa, March 29, 1948

There are two sections of thought in South Africa in regard to the policy the policy affecting the non-European community. On the one hand there is the policy of equality, which advocates equal rights within the same political structure for all civilized and educated persons, irrespective of race or colour, and the gradual granting of the franchise to non-Europeans as they become qualified to make use of democratic rights.

On the other hand there is the policy of separation (apartheid) which as grown from the experience of established European population of the country, and which is based on the Christian principles of Justice and reasonableness.
Its aim is the maintenance and protection of the European population of the country as a pure White race, and the maintenance and protection of the indigenous racial groups as separate communities, with prospects of developing into self-supporting communities within their own areas, and the stimulation of national pride, self-respect, and mutual respect among the various races of the country.

We can act in only, one of two directions. Either we must follow the course of equality, which must eventually mean national suicide for the White race, or we must take the course of separation (apartheid) through which the character and the future of every race will be protected and safeguarded with full opportunities for development and self-maintenance in their own areas, without the interests of one clashing with the interests of the other, and without one regarding the development of the other as undermining or a threat to himself.



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White Bench



The statement above comes from a pamphlet produced by the National Party during the 1948 elections. It outlines specific elements of its apartheid policy including: forbidding marriage between Europeans and non-Europeans, and between Colored and Europeans, separate areas for non-European racial groups, complete supervision over the molding of youth with no interference or propaganda from the outside world with regard to the racial problems of South Africa, and discontinuation of the “present unhealthy system that allows Coloreds in the Cape to be registered on the same voters’ rolls as Europeans.” In its place, the National Party offers the possibility for Coloreds to vote for 3 European representatives, who will be allowed to vote on some legislation proposed by the state, but not on the following: confidence in the government, a declaration of war, or a change in the political rights of non-Europeans.

In 1993 Coetzee was working on Boyhood, Scenes from Provincial Life. From his notes comes the following reflection: “Deformation. My life as deformed, year after year, by South Africa.” In the finished book Coetzee called South Africa “a wound within him.” Compare these thoughts with the National Party’s desire for “complete supervision over the molding of youth,” and you Coetzee’s words on a much deeper level. This tidbit is a short tour through the steps that brought the National Party to power and imposed apartheid on South Africa’s people for almost 50 years.

The National Party has its origins in the Second Boer War (1899 - 1902). It was Great Britain versus the Boers. What happened to the Netherlands you ask? The Dutch lost the Cape Colony in 1806 when the colony was occupied by Great Britain during the Napoleonic War. The occupation brought changes: new English colonists, the official language became English, and the sense of the place became dominated by English cultural maxims, which included freeing slaves. When slavery was altogether abolished in 1834, the Boers got serious about finding and settling new territory.

By 1899 there were two Boer republics - Orange Free State and the Transvaal. The British controlled Cape Colony and Natal. More than anything the British wanted to create a unified colony under British power: a concept that left the Boer completely disinterested. The discovery of gold in the Transvaal changed everything. While the Boer remained committed to their rural farming lifestyle, Transvaal was deluged by thousands of foreigners in a mad gold rush. Gold production soared; Transvaal world prominence did as well. And the British redoubled its desire to control all of South Africa. Tensions escalated: a dispute about train rates, the border between the two territories closed, a British-inspired raid into the Transvaal resulted in defeat. A meeting between principals in London made matters worse. War was declared in October 1899.

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White and Black Stairs



It was a devastating war, a ‘take no prisoners’ sort of war where Boer farms were torched, cattle killed, and Boer women and children placed in concentration camps. Approximately 10,000 black Africans were employed in Boer commando units in a service capacity, while 30,000 black Africans were armed and fought on the side of the British. Total people lost in the war: 22,000 British, 34,000 Boer and at least 15,000 Africans. After the war, Orange Free State and the Transvaal republics lost their independence, and Boer combatants lost their firearms. Many Boer and Africans were reduced to poverty.

More than anything, the war inspired an intense desire for self-determination among the Boer, a sense of themselves as “race pioneers,” and a people intent on political domination of South Africa. Within months of the war’s end a variety of laws were passed in the Cape and Natal colonies, which had previously been British, to control where non-Europeans could live, and denying them the right to vote. In 1909 the British Parliament united Cape, Natal, Orange Free State and Transvaal as the Union of South Africa, a self-governing dominion of the British Empire, and bowed out of South African politics. One year later the Union enacted its first Constitution which took away the right to vote from the majority of non-white South Africans. And two after that, the South African Native National Congress (SANNC) was born, its leadership believing that South Africa “could only be understood as a composite of its ethnic groups.” This organization would eventually become the African National Congress (ANC).

Perhaps the most telling sign of change ahead was the 1913 Natives Lands Act which prohibited Blacks from buying or renting in 93% of South Africa, thereby segregating them to live within specially designated reserves unless a person could prove they had employment which allowed them to move between home and job. Technically speaking, such a separation of the races applied only to Natal and the Transvaal, as a similar law had been in place in 1876 since Orange Free State. The Cape represented a different state of affairs because such a law would have been in violation of the 1910 Constitution whereby the Cape joined the former Boer republics. The stated reason for such a dramatic separation of the races? Friction. The potential of friction between the races.

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An Apartheid Shop -- This is a photograph of a butcher shop in Johannesburg, South Africa, taken in May, 1965. They advertise second grade meat, which is sold at a lesser price, bought mostly by the black Africans and servants. (AP Photo/Royle)



The founder of the National Party was JBM Hertzog. Fiercely nationalistic, Hertzog was a member of the first government organized after the creation of the Union of South Africa. Not well-liked by English-speaking South Africans, Hertzog appealed to the Afrikaners, by then the more common term for descendants of the original Dutch-speaking Boer. Hertzog was liked because he placed the interests of South Africa over those of Great Britain and the concerns of the Afrikaner over those of English-speaking South Africans. Because of these views, Hertzog was asked to resign, and the National Party was born.
There were two key concepts for the new party. Political freedom from Britain was regarded as essential, but even more important was the desire to focus the nation’s “ambitions and beliefs along Christian lines”. (SAHO) The party was also committed to pressing for equality between the two official South African languages: English and Dutch.

When World War I broke out, the National Party’s strenuous in opposing the British request that South Africa invade German South West Africa (now Namibia) solidified support of the party by Afrikaners. Following the war, a combination of labor unrest and a general unease among white townspeople about the number of black Africans moving into towns or worse, establishing squatter communities, led to the defeat of the South African Party. New legislation that restricted where Africans could live and further curtailed Non-European voting rights.

Of monumental importance to South Africa’s future was the passage of the Native (Urban Areas) Act of 1923. Under this law, ‘the town’ was identified as ‘the creation of the white man and the black man’s presence there could be justified only in so far that he served the white man’s needs.’ All Blacks who were employed in a town or city were required to carry permits or passes. The act also gave cities and towns the power to set aside separate areas called ‘locations’ where Blacks were permitted to live. Those living in a location resided there at the pleasure of the town, and were required to move as soon as their job ended.

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Life Magazine, January 1950 - photo by Margaret Bourke White


For the next roughly ten years, a coalition party ruled South Africa. Tensions returned with the outbreak of World War II. Smuts was Prime Minister. A former South African Party member, Smuts was pro-British and brought South Africa into the war on the side of the Allies. This was the worst state of affairs many Afrikaners could imagine, but the country remained an active supporter of the war effort, sending ground troops to North Africa and Italy, and pilots to join the Royal Air Force.
By 1948 those South Africans eligible to vote were ready for change. There were economic pressures. The country was still under wartime restrictions, and the cost of ordinary things -- housing, food etc. had continued to rise. Perhaps most critically there was pressure to put more rigor into the Native (Urban Areas) act because the flow of African workers into towns and cities was still continuing to grow. This placed additional stress on farmers who had long counted on African workers to keep farming costs down.

On May 26, 1948 the National Party, with a majority of only 5 seats in the legislature and just 40% of the electoral vote, won the election. For the next forty-six years the National Party would remain in control. In addition to the arrival of apartheid, the election saw the abolition of British citizenship, the scraping of God Save the Queen, and the removal of the British Union Jack. One son of a South African governor-general wrote, ‘English South Africans are today in the power of their adversaries. They are the only English group of any size in the world today that is, and will remain for some time, a ruled, subordinated minority. They are beginning to know what the great majority of all South Africans have always known -- what it is to be second-class citizens in the land of their birth.’ (SAHO - National Party)




Sources:

Facing History and Ourselves website - Chapter 1 Before Apartheid


Fordham University Modern History Sourcebook: The National Party’s Colour Policy, 1948


Life Magazine, January 1, 1950

Margaret Bourke-White (1904 - 1971) An American photo-journalist known for her documentary work, particularly in Life Magazine. Her husband was the writer Erskine Caldwell of Tobacco Road fame

South African History Online (SAHO) website and the following articles: National Party, A History of Apartheid in South Africa, Daniel F. Malan, History of slavery and early colonization in South Africa, Treks and Land Conflicts 1600 - 1800s


Updike, John. ‘The Story of Himself’ The New Yorker. July 2, 2002
"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested." Sir Francis Bacon, Of Studies

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Waiting for the Barbarians - Tidbit 4: How It Began

Unread postby SnoopyDances » Sat Jul 20, 2019 4:40 pm

So much history to be learned in this world. I've always loved learning history and felt that the US school systems didn't do nearly enough to teach us about the rest of the world. Or the US, for that matter. History class was a matter of memorizing dates and learning folk tales about Ben Franklin's kite or George Washington's cherry tree. :twocents:

Thanks for your tidbit covering a very complicated subject. :hatsoff:

I remember reading "Cry the Beloved Country" in high school. Even though I didn't understand the political situation of South Africa at the time, I couldn't help but be moved to tears reading about Kumalo's journey to find his family. Maybe after Barbarians, I'll try to find that book in the library again. :noodlemantra:

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Waiting for the Barbarians - Tidbit 4: How It Began

Unread postby fireflydances » Sat Jul 20, 2019 8:06 pm

I agree with you. Frankly I didn't know much at all about how apartheid began. Didn't know anything really of South African history. We've all seen the images of the fight against apartheid, the terrible imprisonments and deaths, but HOW it began, no I didn't know what happened and why. I think our system of education concentrates too heavily on the US and European history. I think it is very important to know the history of one's country, but I would like also more about ancient history, and the Middle East and Africa and India. So much out there. I think the more history one knows, the better one understands the present moment. The past always informs the present, and without that knowledge we risk repeating mistakes, misunderstandings etc.

Anyway, rereading that book sounds like a good plan.
"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested." Sir Francis Bacon, Of Studies

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Waiting for the Barbarians - Tidbit 4: How It Began

Unread postby gipsyblues » Wed Jul 24, 2019 5:03 am

Thank you so much fireflydances. I am impressed by your great work, I give you all my respect. Honestly, thank you very much !!! :myheart:

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Waiting for the Barbarians - Tidbit 4: How It Began

Unread postby gipsyblues » Wed Jul 24, 2019 5:29 am

I also read the Barbarians and was impressed by the book. Forgive me, that I can not articulate myself so well. I use a translation program because my English is not good enough. Good luck and have good Time. :namaste:

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Waiting for the Barbarians - Tidbit 4: How It Began

Unread postby fireflydances » Wed Jul 24, 2019 2:00 pm

gipsyblues, your English is excellent. Very clear, nothing incorrect. I feel honored by your words and the respect you have for me. I think this book is a very important and has great relevance for our world. My hope is that the movie is well and widely received.
"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested." Sir Francis Bacon, Of Studies


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