§ 2.50 p.m.
§ LORD WALSTON rose to draw attention to the book, Violence in Southern Africa, published by the British Council of Churches and the Conference of British Missionary Societies; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. At the outset I must correct a misapprehension in what I put down on the Order Paper, 68 where I implied that the report which we are now to discuss was the work of the British Council of Churches. That is not strictly accurate: it is in fact the work of a working party set up by the international department of the British Council of Churches, and it carries only the authority of those who have signed it. To my mind, and I am sure to your Lordships' minds, that does not in any way detract from its value and its great importance, because if we turn to the list of the signatories we can hardly find a better, more knowledgeable and—I was going to say "more respectable", but I will say more objective and thoughtful a group of people. The group comprises men of outstanding distinction in various walks of life, and they are all men with a deep knowledge of the areas which they discuss. The majority of them are in fact in Holy Orders—missionaries, Methodists, Anglicans—but not all of them, and I urge upon your Lordships to take this report with the utmost seriousness.
§ My object in bringing the report before your Lordships to-day is not, as some may think, because of contemporary events in Southern Africa. They add a great deal of poignancy to the subject which we are discussing, but in some ways I might almost say it is unfortunate that we are to-day being confronted with problems in, particularly, Rhodesia but also in Ovamboland, which I am sure will be referred to, because it may make it appear that if only those particular problems were settled there would be nothing else for us to worry about. What I particularly want to urge upon your Lordships is that the particular problems we are going to discuss to-day are not isolated, localised problems, no matter of how great importance they may be, but are of much wider significance throughout the whole of Africa and, I may say, throughout the whole of the world. In my view our actions in Southern Africa may quite legitimately be looked upon as the touchstone by which the moral standards of the West are judged throughout the whole of the world. So it surely must be of great importance, not only to practising Christians but to those who, like myself, are not practising Christians but who are believers in the Christian ethic and whose countries and Governments are based fundamentally upon the Christian ethic.69
§ What does this report say? What does it deal with? It deals with South Africa, South-West Africa, Rhodesia, Mozambique and Angola. Those are the areas which it includes in the term "Southern Africa", and it makes quite clear at the beginning that it is addressed only to the British people. To use its own words, it does not set out in any way to provide a blueprint for dealing with the problems of Southern Africa: it presents the problem as a challenge to those of us who have certain moral standards, and although it makes some suggestions at the end, it leaves a big question-mark for every individual to provide the answer.
One may ask, why does it pick on Southern Africa, and in particular on South Africa? There are many places in the world where abuses analogous with those that we associate with Southern Africa take place. Why not discuss them? That point is answered in the Foreword, where it says
We believe that the South African régime denies the dignity which human beings ought to possess more explicitly than any other authoritarian régime and claims that it is thereby defending Christian principle. It is a Christian responsibility to refute this claim.
If your Lordships will cast your minds around to other parts of the world where there are authoritarian régimes denying rights to other human beings, I think you will find that none of these others does it in the name of Christianity.
§ I will go quite briefly through this book for the benefit of those (I hope the minority of your Lordships) who have not read, or are not going to read, this report. In Chapter I there are set out, briefly and objectively, the facts. There is no need for me to remind your Lordships of them, other than to state that we are dealing here with 35 million people—35 million human beings—and that more than 85 per cent. of those individual human beings are non-white. These are the subjects of oppression. What forms does this oppression take? There is a whole list of them, and again I shall quote briefly from the book. The refusal of the franchise—that is, of the right to vote in national elections—denial of the freedom to live and work in the place of one's choice, often involving the break-up of families (I shall come back to that later); inequalities of wages and conditions of work; denial of the right to marry the person of one's choice; denial of the right 70 to free movement within the country; denial of the right to free speech and freedom to meet (and that is of special reference to-day in the context of Rhodesia); severe restrictions on educational opportunities; constant liability to arrest and constant exposure to the arbitrary action of the police. Those are the conditions in which 85 per cent. of these 35 million human beings in fact live to-day.
Topically, let me draw your Lordships' attention to the situation in Ovamboland to-day, that section of South-West Africa where, as you will have read in the newspapers, there have been strikes, unaccompanied, I am glad to say, by violence, but strikes on the part of the Ovambo workers, which are now leading to a serious problem for the Government of South Africa. I have here a paper which has been prepared by an Anglican priest from the diocese of Damaraland, in Windhoek. I will not quote the whole of the paper but only one small section of it, where he gives the background to strikes. He says:
Men from both parts of Ovambo have formed an important part of the unskilled labour force for the mines, farms and factories of the southern part of South-West Africa, generally known as the 'police zone'. Men wishing to work in the police zone may normally only do so by means of the contract labour system. An organisation which represents the employers, the South-West Africa Native Labour Association, is the sole recruiting agency. Prospective employee; report to the recruiting office in Ovamboland and, if accepted, are sent to the rail head in the police zone. From there they are graded"—
one might almost say "degraded"—
and despatched to employers throughout the territory. The workers are graded according to physical fitness and age. Minimum wages are laid down for each class. The prospective employer fills in an order form, in which he orders the class of labourer he desires, and pays a deposit to pay for railage, food en route and blankets. The employer also has to provide board and lodging for the employee for the duration of the contract. The contract normally lasts for one year, and may be extended by mutual agreement for a further six months.
I think we have to ask ourselves whether that form of labour employment—that is, sending in orders for a specific number of heads, having them graded impersonally and dispatched in this way—is consistent with our own ideas of how human beings should be treated in a Christian society.
§ Now we must turn to Chapter 2. This sets out the historical background. I 71 think it is worth remembering, without going into too much detail, that the original natives in Southern Africa as a whole were the Hottentots and the Bushmen. These were attacked and virtually exterminated, not only by the white settlers coming up from the South but also by the black tribes coming down from the North. In the 19th century these two groups of invaders, the blacks from the North and the whites from the South met, resulting in the Zulu wars, the Matabele wars and so on. The whites were victorious, and the blacks were subjugated. Since then there has been a constant struggle between those who are conquered and the conquerors, with the exception, I may say, of the High Commission territories, the British Protectorates. I suggest that these are an example of what in fact can be done with a different form of treatment and a different form of Government throughout the generations—because this is a long-term process—and, above all, without oppression.
§ I am not for a moment suggesting that the oppression of the Africans in Southern Africa is a new phenomenon, and I would not like to give the impression that our hands are clean in this and that it is only the Afrikaners and the present régime, the present Government in those parts, who are responsible. We had our share of blame. The oppression started long before even the First World War. However, since 1948, when the Nationalist Party took power in South Africa, the repressive laws multiplied. A whole string of them came into force, and there was a reaction from the Africans. But that reaction was not a violent one; it was a reaction based on civil disobedience and on an effort, without bloodshed, to obtain the rights due to any human being.
On page 16, the report says:
A national passive resistance movement was called in 1952 in the course of which 8,000 people volunteered to offer themselves for arrest. The government response was repressive: the Criminal Laws Amendment Act and the Public Safety Act contained extremely severe penalties for anyone found guilty of breaking a law by way of protest, or inciting anyone else to do so; these included not only heavy fines but flogging or imprisonment or both.
In other words, the peaceful, passive resistance of the Africans to the repressive laws was met by force, by violence, on
the part of the government of the country. The report continues, on page 17:
In 1950 the Population Registration Act established a Racial Register; everyone from the age of sixteen must now by law carry an identity card declaring his race—European, African or Coloured (including Asians). It can hardly be imagined how much anguish has been caused by this law. As a report to the United Nations expresses it:
'A person's racial classification is of the utmost importance to him, for it decides, inter alia, where he may live, how he may live, what work he may do, what sort of education he will receive, what political rights he will have, if any, whom he may marry, the extent of the social, cultural and recreational facilities open to him, and generally, the extent of his freedom of action and movement.'
So that is the progress (if you can call it progress) that has taken place recently.
Now we turn to Chapter 3 of this Report, where the existing conditions are set out. I do not think that there is any need to go into these in detail. Those of your Lordships who have attended debates here, who have read newspapers which report faithfully and well on these matters, know these matters only too well. All I shall do here is to quote just one case, which could be multiplied by any of your Lordships who have experience of South Africa in particular. At the bottom of page 40, one reads:
An African girl had worked as a housemaid in a white home in Cape Town. She had lived only nine years in Cape Town, not ten, and was therefore not entitled to be regarded as a resident. When she married, she was 'endorsed out': this means that she was ordered to leave, the object being to prevent the growth of an urban population. She was forcibly put on the train to Kimberley with which her only link was that, many years before, she had nursed a sick uncle there who had long since died. She had no relations in Kimberley, no home to go to, no job. Her marriage one month old, she was subject to indefinite separation from her husband, who would lose his job and his residential qualification of ten years if he left Cape Town to rejoin his wife, …
That is one example out of many of the conditions under which 85 per cent. of the population live.
We all know about job reservation, and the restriction it places on the African to rise up in whatever avocation he may follow. We all know about land tenure, which restricts the ownership of land. This is of vital importance to the Africans, and of special importance to-day in Rhodesia, which allocates land to the whites and to the blacks on a
purely racial basis. We all know about education: the amount spent per head of the population on the whites and on the blacks, and the opportunities for secondary and more advanced education. We have only to read contemporary newspapers to know of police victimisation and torture, especially in South Africa (where fortunately quite a lot of publicity is given to it), and also in Mozambique and in Angola. These sufferings, these indignities, must not be taken in isolation, one case here, one case there, one column or one headline in a newspaper. The Report says at page 53:
They are not separate sufferings but an accumulation of pain and frustration felt in the societies of five similar states.
Those are the conditions. The question I put to all of your Lordships individually sitting here, and to which I hope you will put an answer, is, what would you do in these circumstances if you were an African living here with these accumulated frustrations and indignities, this lack of opportunities, and these attempts at peaceful, passive resistance have been met by greater force and by greater violence on the part of your Government? What would you do? What should you do?—because that may not always he exactly the same thing. In answering those questions I suggest that for the moment you forget about Africa and you think of Europe: bring it closer home, bring it to ourselves. We in this country, and in our Christian civilisation, accept that there can be such a thing as a just war: a war to protect one's own property, a war to protect one's own material possessions, against an aggressor. Unless we are completely and solely materialistic, we must surely all the more accept that there can he just wars against those who aim to destroy our physical and spiritual freedom, our freedom to live according to our beliefs and to develop all those potentialities which God has given us. If we accept that there can be just wars, then surely such a war must be a just one.
§ History is full of such wars, but we need not go further back than to the time of Hitler, to the occupation of France; or, more recently, to the events in Hungary and Czechoslovakia. In all those countries there were oppressive Governments. There was injustice of one form or another, injustice against people because of their race—the Jews; injustice against people because of their 74 political views; injustice against people because they dared to oppose the Government of the day. That sort of régime, that sort of Government, violated all our moral principles. We, as a country, gave what support we could to the Free French fighting to free their country not only from a foreign aggressor—the Germans—but from their own Government of Petain and Laval. We gave our blessing, we gave our physical support. To Hungary and Czechoslovakia we gave our moral support, for what that was worth, hut for reasons we do not go into to-day we gave no physical support.
§ In circumstances such as those, there are various possibilities open to us. We can of course follow the line of least resistance. We can keen our noses clean; we can do the best we can for ourselves; we can each say, "I am not my brother's keeper. What goes on outside my own little domain is of no concern to me. I shall continue to make money, to live as well as I can and to ignore injustice. "That is one course. I do not think many of us would take that course; I know that none of us would admire ourselves if we or anybody else did. The second course—probably the commonest, if we are honest with ourselves—is to sit in the background and encourage and even help, at some slight risk to ourselves, those who have the courage to risk their lives for our values as well as for their values. That, I think, is where the majority of us would find ourselves—to our shame, but I think we would. Or, thirdly, we can offer passive resistance, knowing well the threat of concentration camp and of torture and, perhaps, of death. The men who do that are great men, are brave men, and they deserve all the praise and credit that we can give them.
Here, again, I should like to quote to your Lordships from Chapter 5 of this report:
The ethical discussion about the justification of revolutionary violence is concerned with both means and ends. But it is not a discussion that can be conducted dispassionately at a safe distance. It is a practical discussion by those who are actually prepared to struggle for liberation and to die in the process. Only where this readiness exists does the next question become relevant: am I also prepared to kill in the process? The answer of Gandhi, Luthuli, Luther King has been 'no'. This is the 'no' of the martyr. It is the genuine and legitimate 'no' of the disciple who knows and witnesses to the fact
that an act which makes it impossible to love the enemy is an act of surrender to the enemy.
And, again, my Lords, quoting the great Brazilian Archbishop Helder Camera, speaking about the situation in his own country:
Let me say it naïvely and simply: I respect men who, driven by their conscience, decide to use violence—not the cheap violence of the drawing-room guerilla, but the violence of those who have testified to their sincerity by sacrificing their lives. It seems to me that Father Camillo Torres and Che Guevara deserve as much respect as Martin Luther King. Those whom I accuse are the real perpetrators of violence, those who, on the right and on the left, offend against justice and make peace impossible. For myself, I go the way of a pilgrim of peace. I should much rather be killed than kill.
Those, then, are the three possibilities which face us—keeping out of it all; leaving it to others and giving such help as we can, with safety to ourselves, give; and passive resistance, with all the attendant dangers.
§ As our final alternative, my Lords, we can use whatever force we may command. Here I think it is worth mentioning that to my mind, in this context, there is no difference between force and violence. For people in this situation to be prepared to use force at all it must be violent force, just as the force which a Government uses to suppress is also violent force. But whatever you do, my Lords, you must make your choice. As I said, I suspect that many of us would take the second, cowardly action, letting others fight our fight for us and helping them when we can do so at no great risk. Most of the rest of us would choose violence, to fight against evil in the only way we knew how; and a very few, very brave and very great men would choose passive resistance.
§ I think here it is worth taking a look—and, as I said, I do not want to be too contemporary—at the situation in Rhodesia to-day, and when I say "to-day"I mean literally to-day. We have read about the demonstrations in Gwelo; we have read about the police violence, shooting and killing the demonstrators; and we have this morning read about the arrest and detention of a former Rhodesian Prime Minister, Mr. Garfield Todd, and his daughter. I suggest that your Lordships try once more to translate 76 this into terms nearer home. This may be a fanciful analogy, but I think it has its uses. Let us suppose for a moment, in all seriousness, that this country was governed by an extreme Left-Wing Government which suppressed freedom and denied the vote to those who disagreed with it, and which put into detention, in some form or another, the leaders of the Opposition, the leaders of the Conservative Party. Let us suppose—and I mean this in all seriousness, although it may sound fanciful—that we had a situation where Mr. Heath was in prison, Mr. Maudling was in detention and there was about to be a test of public opinion to see whether, in fact, the country liked this extreme Left-Wing Government that was in office.
§ On the eve of that ascertainment of opinion, with the two leaders of the Opposition Party in detention and in prison one of the leading elder statesmen of that Party—may I say the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury—is suddenly pounced upon and is also put into prison. Would that not convince any noble Lord opposite that there was no hope whatsoever of getting a fair answer to that ascertainment of opinion? Would that not convince all noble Lords that the Government of the day were determined to hang on to power and never allow the Opposition to gain power? Having been convinced of that, what would noble Lords do? Would they do nothing, sit down quietly, or use the only weapon left to them, having been denied the ballot box, having been denied the possibility of peaceful persuasion, having been denied the Press, which was no longer free, and the radio and other media? Force is all that is then left to you.
My Lords, let us now turn back to South Africa. Here, there are three things that I would ask your Lordships to remember, again quoting from this book. First of all, remember that in this matter
Neutrality is de facto support for the present injustices.
One cannot be neutral. By doing nothing, one supports the status quo, the present Government. Secondly, remember that:
The situation in Southern Africa concerns Christians all over the world, but it is of special concern to us; our trade and our arms help to keep the situation as it is.
Thirdly, we must remember that:
Those who are themselves in comfort and security cannot urge armed rebellion on others who would thereby face death or life imprisonment. Nor can they preach patient endurance of a suffering they do not have to bear. But there can be a just rebellion as well as a just war and we cannot sincerely withhold support from those who have decided to face the certain suffering involved in such rebellion".
§ So where do we now go, my Lords—not as a Government; I am not speaking to the Government; I wish I could —but as individuals? Where do we go, those of us who do not have the courage of Byron to go out and fight for the oppressed against unjust oppression?—and there are not many who have that courage to-day. Let me give your Lordships my own, purely personal, views. I believe, regretfully, that sanctions are unrealistic, and so is economic boycott. We have little control over firms and private investors, so the scope for action there is very limited; and we all know the limitations of sanctions. Therefore we cannot rely on those. We want, I imagine, if we possibly can, to avoid violence in Southern Africa. We certainly do not want to encourage others to undertake it when we are sitting safe, and we certainly do not want to encourage others to put up with sufferings we do not have to put up with ourselves. But violence there, or indeed anywhere in the world, is abhorrent to all of your Lordships. So first we must stand up and be counted. We must say out loud where our sympathies lie, and there must be no mistake about our voices.
§ Secondly, we must give no aid to the perpetrators of injustice, wherever they may be found. In the case of South Africa, we are governmentally giving aid by the offer to sell arms— an offer which, I am glad to say, has not been taken up: but how much better if it had never been made! So we must urge upon our Government to think again on this matter. And do not let us forget Portugal. Portugal is a member of NATO; an ally of ours in Europe. Surely we have sufficient influence with one of the smaller members of NATO, especially if we talk to our larger friends in NATO, to persuade Portugal to change, radically to change, its policies in Southern Africa. After all, we always have the threat of expulsion from NATO—no great harm to the solidarity of Europe and the North Atlantic, but a very great unhappiness 78 to Portugal. That is a threat which we have never used. Thirdly, we must refuse, even at this late hour, to compromise with the racialist régime in Rhodesia; and we must insist—and this is something that the Government can do and I believe will do—on completely free access to Lord Pearce's Commission for all Africans, with no restrictions, with no police, with no shootings and with no imprisonment of those who speak against the settlement. We must allow those people to be represented, if they wish to be, by lawyers, such as Sir Dingle Foot, who, so far as we know, is still a prohibited immigrant into Rhodesia. Here we still have power. We can do something; and we must use that power.
Fourthly, we must, as individuals, encourage companies throughout Southern Africa to initiate good practices. Some do it already. Their example should be followed, and the process should be speeded up: equal pay regardless of colour; equal prospects of promotion; a special fund for education, following the example of the American company, Polaroid. There are ways of doing this, and as individuals some of us can have some influence here. We can also pay attention to what is going on to-day in South West Africa; for example, the Ovamboland strike. We can make known our support, our approval, of this action, this passive resistance, this passive protest. My Lords, may I here quote from an Afrikaans newspaper, Rapport, on this particular matter? It writes:
… it is a good thing that the defects in the contract system",
which I described earlier,
have been frankly admitted and that a new system will replace it shortly. That such a system could persist for such a long time—and the published reports about the painfully low cash wages have never been convincingly denied—is in itself sufficient ground for astonishment. One assumes there was a certain amount of agitation behind the whole strike, otherwise it could not have spread so widely throughout the whole territory. But the ability of agitators to succeed is in the nature of the case limited—unless the soil is prepared for them beforehand by an accumulation of grievances.
The best weapon against agitators, after all, is still the visibly fair treatment of the people among whom the agitators seek to carry on their work. Or, to put it negatively—for who is ever wholly satisfied?—treatment that is not visibly unfair.
The strike has for the first time made most of us realise that such large numbers of people can still be allowed to work for us under such antiquated contracts.
My Lords, there is encouragement in this, because it shows that here, at least, in South West Africa, the concerted peaceful action of a group of the population can make aware, in South Africa, those people who were living in happy ignorance. So, if we wish to avoid violence, these are the things which we must support.
§ My Lords, since the white man first went to Africa he may not have been loved—though many were—but he was respected. He was respected for his strength and his power. He was respected for his skills and he was respected for his honesty. Now the strength and the power of the white man is lessening: there are others who share that power. His skills are no longer pre-eminent: there are others who have those skills. And, my Lords, in the place of honesty one sees hypocrisy. One sees the preaching of certain moral standards; one sees the lip service paid to the Christian ethic; and one sees behaviour which is the complete antithesis and rebuttal of such teaching and such moral attitudes. If we, who profess the Christian ethic, give aid and comfort to the unjust; if we merely pass by on the other side; if we fail to help, in any way that lies in our power, the oppressed and those who fight against injustice, we deserve the name of hypocrites. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.30 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF DURHAM
My Lords, as, I am sure, are many other noble Lords, I am grateful to Lord Walston whose Motion, by calling attention to this report, can help forward a better understanding of a topic on which there is widespread ignorance, misunderstanding and a reluctance to face facts. The report can give us, as the noble Lord, Lord Walston, has just reminded us, something that is primarily meant for the British reader, a better understanding of the situation in Southern Africa. By reading it, we can come to understand better why it should happen that in this context of Southern Africa words like "revolution "and "violence "(which, as the report says, to older people in Britain have connotations that are only bad) 80 begin to seem good in themselves. The report can help us also to form a better appraisal of those who support violent revolutionary movements which, as the report frankly admits, to most professing Christians in Britain, are probably objects of suspicion. If anything, that is an understatement.
For all these reasons, it is a report that we can welcome as an educational document, and I am grateful to Lord Walston for making its existence better known. Whatever the outcome of this debate, one result is certain. The letters of those who speak with the kind of expression of opinion I shall be using will show a steep rise in the numbers expressing disfavour ranging from friendly criticism to sheer abuse. We can anticipate some of the phrases in those letters already, although I shall translate them into more polite words than those which my correspondence normally contains: "You have never been there! You don't know what you're talking about!" "Do the job you are paid for. What business is it of yours? There are enough problems to be faced here. Why not bother equally about oppression in Russia or in China?" And, lastly, "You should not be making political speeches. You should concentrate on the Christian work of prayer and reconcilation." It is to questions like those, of which I have given some examples, that the report provides admirable ammunition for answering. All the members of the Working Party are expert and well experienced in some aspects of Southern African affairs. They do know what they are talking about. As the noble Lord. Lord Walston, reminded us, it is their authority which this report possesses.
As to how this becomes the business of a Christian and why it has a special claim to our attention, let me read only a few sentences from the foreword which concludes with phrases that Lord Walston himself has already quoted:It may be asked why attention should once again be directed to Southern Africa, when there are so many injustices and miseries all over the world. The reasons … are, first,"—and this is in summary form—that we in Britain have a special responsibility for Southern Africa, because of our long political association, our trade ties, financial investment, and defence agreement, because of involvement in the mission field, and special relations with churches in Southern 81 Africa, because of our association with South African universities. Nor is this old history; throughout the Third World we are seen today as tacitly supporting South Africa. Secondly"—and this is the passage Lord Walston quoted—we believe that the South African régime denies the dignity which human beings ought to possess more explicitly than any other authoritarian régime and claims that it is thereby defending Christian principle. It is a Christian responsibility to refute this claim.We can welcome this report for the contribution it makes to a better understanding of a world problem and for underlining our responsibility in the matter, whether because of the historical role we played in Africa in the last century or because of our present involvement in African affairs, ecclesiastical, financial, economic, industrial. What does the report tell us, for instance, of the historical background and the present context in which questions of violence arise? I shall read only briefly. It says thatfrom the closing decades of the 19th century efforts were made by African, Asian and Coloured people to gain political rights. The emphasis was placed on political organisation, the education of leaders and on passive resistance by both men and women. But no progress was made towards the objective and latterly it has receded. After the second world war the African National Congress and other bodies were very active, but each passing year made the task more difficult. From 1948 onwards the doctrine of 'separate development' has explicitly guided the government of South Africa, and under the premiership of Malan, Strijdom. Verwoerd and Vorster segregation has become increasingly rigid and white privilege even more sacrosanct.Of Rhodesia, there is the report of a visitor in 1912. He asks:Is the black race overall treated with justice? The rights of the natives are protected,"—he grants that—but is a people well-governed merely because it is not exposed to crimes? Africans are powerless to look after their own interests. The Bantu people of Rhodesia are at the mercy of their European conquerors. The system is conceived totally in the interests of the whites.That was in 1912.What dominates all is a preoccupation with the interests of the whites and the absence of a genuine social policy inspired by the interests of the blacks.The report remarks that, "This comment has always been basically true", and continues, "and still is."
82 So to the present. What of the present facts? The noble Lord, Lord Walston, quoted the instance of a girl, just married, who had to leave Cape Town for Kimberley a month after her wedding. As an African clergyman remarked,Stringent regulations now compel African men to live for 353 days of the year away from their wives.Perhaps I may take an example from elsewhere, from another publication in which a friend of mine wrote:Cosmas Desmond was a close friend of ours, who lived in our house in Johannesburg for a year or so. He is now under a banning order and house arrest, in another house in Johannesburg. His book, The Discarded People, is now published by Penguins: it is a detailed study of how the harshness of apartheid has been intensified in the last few years, among people whose plight has been previously almost unknown, namely the rural Africans.We know",my friend continues,that Cos's book is true: We have been to some of the places he describes—and my wife has had to pay fines for doing so. Cos himself is in real difficulties now. The effect of the restrictions imposed on him (without charge, trial or conviction) is that he is in effect a prisoner at his own expense. He is virtually unemployable, because he may not enter any institution which published or educates.The passage concludes:There is no unemployment benefit and nothing like the National Health.Those facts, my Lords, as I am sure you will all agree, are so extraordinary and so scandalous that we are bound to ask: "Why on earth do people, some of whom we look upon as friends, support such a régime?" There are two reasons that I can discern in all the reports and discussions. The first reason, to me, seems even more incredible than the facts that it seeks to explain. It is that this flagrant social injustice is defended by an appeal to Christian principles. The second reason is more understandable; it is what I can only describe as something between self-interest and narrow-mindedness. Let the Christians among us recognise with shame and regret that appeal to justify these practices is made to Biblical texts in a way that is as illogically suspect as it is historically absurd, morally shameful and politically disastrous. By choosing highly advantageous texts, perhaps I need not say from the Old Testament, and by combining that partial selectivity with the crudest of all ideas of revelation, against that most unpromising background the 83 permanent subordination of the native Africans to be hewers of wood and drawers of water and the exclusive domination of the white man is supposed to be given a Christian justification. The report actually remarks:…as Christians, we must further denounce as manifestly untrue the pretence that the social and political conditions we are describing are a 'defence of Christian civilisation'.It continues:The Christian faith challenges us to strive for the worth and dignity of every human being, and to seek to embody justice and love in social structures. We cannot escape a profound concern for caritas or love, and for justice.This brings me to the second kind of reason, which attempts to defend the injustice by a more general kind of reasoning. Here is my only criticism of the report: that this reason was not, I think, explicitly articulated. I have in mind the kind of reason I have been given by friends and correspondents at one time or another. Some would say, "Here is the heritage which my own father pioneered and worked for. Why should I surrender it, something which means so much to me and has meant so much to my family? Why should I see it disappear in the kind of conflict which is inseparable"—they would say, in their view— "from native power seeking?"
Or again, they might say, "Here is what is apparently an attractive life." I can quote here from the report:It may perplex or distress some people who have visited Southern Africa that we write here in such tragic language of the miseries of many people there. There are visitors from Europe, America, who visit Southern Africa as tourists, or briefly on business, and claim that the majority of Africans in South Africa, Rhodesia and other territories are cheerful and satisfied. Moreover, visitors are often impressed by the scale and speed of industrial development, by the discipline and order of society, and by the comfort and the affluence which they are able briefly to share.Say their white friends, "Here is a high civilisation. We do not want to lower our standards or our affluence." "Here," they would say, rightly or wrongly, "is Christian civilisation. We cannot let it he destroyed by disaffected, upstart Africans." There is a quotation in another booklet, War on Three Fronts, relating to the Portuguese colonial revolution in South Africa, and I think it expresses admirably the sentiments of those who 84 are opposed to African freedom. Caetano said on April 8, 1970,Self determination cannot be expressed by small scraps of paper"—and the scraps of paper were voting cards—put into the hands of Savannah savages.Think of the attitude contained in words like that! I know of no parallel unless it is what the owners said about the miners in County Durham about 150 years ago.
South Africa may appear civilised to the visitor to Johannesburg, particularly if he stays in one of the lusher hotels. Civilised it may feel to those who are basking in the warm light of its comfort and affluence. But it is a civilisation founded on a cold neglect and the denial and suppression of native hopes, and maintained by a legal treadmill which has been specifically designed to crush African aspirations and the African spirit. I never look at that great building in Trafalgar Square, South Africa House, without seeing it as a parable of the situation in South Africa to-day. Seen in the warm, orange light of the evening it can speak, at first sight, attractively of beauty and order and prosperity. But look at it in the cold, hard light of a winter's day and it is indeed a whited sepulchre, built over a grave containing the hopes and aspirations of countless Africans.
So to the crucial question which the noble Lord. Lord Walston, raised: what would we do, what should we do? What can be done about the flagrant injustice and the monstrous claim to do all this in the very name of Christ? What is likely to happen when you constantly and, as a matter of expressed policy, oppress and crush the spirit of man—though, like a useful animal, he may be reasonably fed and watered? Have we any better strategy than violence? It has been remarked, and your Lordships may have heard the quotation before:Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.The noble Lord, Lord Walston, recalled the remarks of Archbishop Helder Camara of Brazil. I merely repeat the closing words. He said:Those whom I accuse are the real perpetrators of violence, those who, on the right and on the left, offend against justice and make, peace impossible. For myself, I must go the 85 way of a pilgrim of peace. I should much rather be killed than kill.With those sentiments I personally agree. But what this report shows, I believe, is that at least for some—perhaps for very many—it can be a conscientious decision, and one deserving our moral respect, that the radical change and the freedom necessary in Southern Africa cannot now be brought about except with violence. The Rivonia Trial, quoted in Appendix III of the report should be enough argument for anyone.
And what, my Lords, can we ourselves do? Certainly the report urges, for instance, study of the situation in Southern Africa. Use imagination and understand what it means in the lives of human beings. Bring to light the injustices which many people are suffering. Communicate to others what we have learned and understood ourselves. Persuade a wider public of the need for action and, I may add, lose no time in protesting against actions such as we have heard about in Rhodesia on this very day. Again, bring every kind of pressure against these countries—diplomatic, economic, financial; use the mass media in the fight for truth. The question which further haunts me and which the report prompts is this: is there any way of bringing about greater prosperity and greater opportunity for the native Africans? Is there any way of meeting creatively their legitimate aspirations, when so much is denied to them?
There are friends in Southern Africa of a liberal frame of mind who tell me that they deplore the régime, who recognise the utter injustice of the law and the forcing of apartheid: but they will tell you, as they tell me, that they feel powerless. In any case, all they own in the world is there. And I ask myself the question: what then can we do to help them to make common cause with the native Africans? The report in this context suggests that some organisations might assist in community training and scholarship programmes. Aid might be channelled through responsible liaison committees. Support might be given to create community services and advance the livelihood of the people.
There comes to our minds another question. Is the fate of the Dean of Johannesburg a fearful warning of what might happen when people try to show 86 creatively what the report calls their "solidarity "with those who are struggling for freedom and self-fulfilment? Can we then wonder at violence? Thinking of my abusive letters, if someone then says to me, "What about reconciliation and prayer?". I answer that reconciliation is never a matter of silence, of smooth words. All reconciliation is costly—very costly, indeed; is costly as the Cross itself. The first step to reconciliation is to make the facts plain for all to see. This is what the report so admirably does. Nor must prayer be seen as an alternative to action, for prayer without appropriate action is almost blasphemy; and what we must painfully seek is some action which will be congruous with our prayers, congruous with our understanding of God and the Gospel and its story: and not the least value of this report is that it can help us to a better understanding of one of the most crucial problems of our day, enable us to take it into our lives in a way more worthy of humanity and the Gospel, and in this way help us to a much more reliable judgment and much more responsible action. We can wish for nothing more than that this debate, initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Walston, will enable this report to have the wide influence which it most surely deserves.