HC Deb 18 March 1886 vol 303 cc1161-2
MR. MASON (Lanark, Mid)

asked the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, Whether his attention has been called to the recent prosecution for criminal libel of the Reverend John G. Don, Presbyterian Minister in King William's Town, South Africa; whether he is aware that the alleged libel consisted in Mr. Don having publicly protested against the unwarranted action of the Premier and Attorney General of Cape Colony in preventing the trial for manslaughter of a Dutch farmer who had shot dead an inoffensive Kaffir, while the latter was searching for his master's horse; and, whether, in view of the action against Mr. Don having resulted in an acquittal, and full justification of his conduct in protecting the rights and lives of the Native races, Her Majesty's Government will take steps to see that the costs of his defence, amounting to about five hundred pounds, are defrayed out of the public revenue of the Cape Colony?


My attention has been called to the recent prosecution in the Cape Colony of the Rev. J. G. Don for criminal libel. I have read a paper which the hon. Member has been good enough to send me, headed, Mr. Don's "Triumphant Vindication of Kaffir Life and Rights in South Africa," and purporting to give an account of the trial; but it is only just to Mr. Upington, the Premier and Attorney General of the Cape Colony, to state that he emphatically denies having, either directly or indirectly, interfered in the case of Pelzer, the Dutch farmer referred to in the Question; the fact being that, in declining to prosecute, the Solicitor Ge- neral, who is not a political officer, acted quite independently and on his own judgment. With regard to the last Question, the hon. Member must surely have forgotten that the Cape Colony is a self-governing Colony, and that whatever may have been the merits or the result of the trial to which he refers, Her Majesty's Government have no power to interfere with the administration of justice by the Courts of that Colony, or to see that the costs of any proceedings in such Courts shall be defrayed out of its public Revenue.