HC Deb 11 July 1899 vol 74 cc472-4
MR. LAMBERT (Devon, South Molton)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he can state approximately what number of Uitlanders in the South African Republic have the right to exercise the franchise now, and what number would have it presuming the conditions were the same as in the Orange Free State; and if he could state what number would receive it within a reasonable time under Sir Alfred Milner's proposals, and how this would compare with the latest proposals of President Kruger.


I do not know the number of Uitlanders in the South African Republic now entitled to exercise the franchise. In reply to the other questions, I have received the following, telegram from Sir A. Milner: 8th July. No. 4.—Your telegrams of 28th June and 7th July, No. 2, reliable statistics. are unobtainable. Only roughest possible estimates can be given. British Agent in South African Republic has obtained through Vice-Consul at Johannesburg estimate on two of the points raised (?two), viz.: (1) What number would have franchise presuming conditions same as in Orange Free State? Answer; approximately 44,000, (2) What number would receive it in a reasonable time under my proposal? Answer; highest approximate estimate is 33,000. I do not know how these figures are arrived at. But I have myself gone somewhat elaborately into figures, using such scanty official material as exists, and taking account of proportion of persons under age to those of full age in different classes of population, average death rate, etc., using all the statistical data I can get, and bearing in mind extremely fluctuating nature of population, especially miners, think that male Uitlanders of full age domiciled in, country for five years do not much exceed 30,000. But, of course, many do not possess property or income qualification, and of those who do a certain number would not desire to become citizens of South African Republic. I believe, even if conditions of admission were as liberal as possible, not more than two-thirds of number become citizens immediately. Two independent estimates I have heard of from well-informed persons familiar with conditions in Transvaal put number at about 15,000, but I do not know basis of their calculation. As regards President's scheme, in its original form it would have admitted very few people indeed at once—I think about 1,000. In a further telegram received from Sir A. Milner, he reports the following conversation with Mr. Hofmeyr: I inquired of Hofmeyr whether Government of South African Republic had any idea how many Uitlanders would be admitted under this or any scheme. He replied, estimates varied greatly, but nobody really knew. This was one reason why proportion of Uitlanders to total seats could not be finally fixed at once. It would be necessary to wait and see how many obtain franchise. It would take six months at least to complete lists. Election could not be held till next year. He had advised four new seats for mining districts at once; this was what Executive Council intended to grant. General scheme of redistribution would be postponed till later.

MR. J. E. ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether any communications have been made to the responsible Ministers of the self-governing Colonies of the Cape and Natal with respect to the despatch by the Government of special service officers to South Africa to organise the residents as well as the police and local forces; whether any replies have been received to such communications; and whether such communications and replies will be laid before the House.


No, Sir; no such communications have been made.


Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether he will present more Papers with regard to the Transvaal to the House?


Well, Sir, I am very much in the hands of the House with regard to the matter. I do not think that there is any reason against the presentation of the Papers now, but at the same time the matter is not concluded, and any Papers that could be presented would be incomplete, and would not add much to the information already in the possession of the House. But if it is desired, I could easily present Papers at once as to the suzerainty which have been published already in the Green Book of the Transvaal, and also the Papers with a full account of the Conference at Bloemfontein, which are now rather out of date in consequence of subsequent proposals.


I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can give the House any information as to the position of affairs in South Africa.


At the Conference at Bloemfontein proposals were made by Sir Alfred Milner and President Kruger respectively as to the enfranchisement of aliens in the South African Republic. Sir Alfred Milner regarded the President's proposals as altogether inadequate to meet the case, and the Conference broke up. Since the Conference there have been private and unofficial discussions between the Government of the South African Republic and Mr. Hofmeyr, Mr. Herholdt, one of the Cape Ministers, and Mr. Fischer, a Member of the Executive of the Orange Free State, which have resulted in new franchise proposals being submitted by President Kruger to the First Volksraad of the South African Republic. Sir Alfred Milner's proposals were, briefly, franchise after five years, retrospective. Under the President's original proposals not a single Uitlander would get the franchise immediately. Those who came in before 1890 would get it in two and a half years. Others already resident for two years would have to wait five years longer. Those coming in in future would have to wait seven and a half years. All would have to undergo the objectionable naturalisation period. Under the latest proposals the naturalisation period is removed. Those who came in before 1890 get the franchise at once and those who came in in 1890 and subsequent years get it as soon as they have completed nine years' residence. There will thus be a small immediate enfranchisement of aliens who are already resident in the country, and additions will be made each year until five years from the passing of the Act, when all aliens who have been seven years in the country at that time, and who possess the conditions, may be enfranchised. Newcomers will be entitled to the franchise seven years after they have given written notice of their desire to become burghers of the State. The number of members allotted to the Gold Fields is will be increased by four. In the absence of fuller information it is impossible to be absolutely certain of the practical effect of the whole scheme. So far as we arc able to judge from the information before us the new scheme will have no immediate effect on the representation in the First Volksraad of the alien population; it is not certain that they could carry any of the seats allotted to the Rand until a much later period.