4: A ‘respectable reputation’?

“Do not let us be ashamed of our record in Central Africa. There is no finer chapter in our whole history. We have brought to the primitive people of those parts a peace, justice and security that hitherto they have never known. Sometimes one hears in this country almost severe criticisms of Southern Rhodesian policy towards the Africans, often by people who have never been in Southern Rhodesia at all, and which seem quite incredible to those who have. The pictures these critics draw of racial antagonism and repressive government policy is a pure figment of their imagination”.
– Marquess of Salisbury,Lords, 2 July 1952

“When a person was arrested he was taken to some remote area and interrogated by as many as ten policemen. Several had lost their sense of hearing from the treatment they had received. Some were given electric shocks, and electric sticks were sometimes used .. . . Other methods were to strip the prisoners and drive pins through the penis and hold them down and beat the genitals in order to force them to sign statements prepared by the police. Another way of attempting to force them to give information was to tie them to a tree and light a stick of gelignite that had been fixed to it. Many had died rather than submit. “A number of resisters in the countryside had been rounded up and shot, having been taken to European farms by white-settler constables. Other prisoners were starved”.
– Account of Rhodesian methods of interrogating Africans by Mr. George Silundika of ZAPU, Report of UN Committee, June 24 1967

“Reduced to its simplest form the problem is nothing else than this: we want to keep South Africa White …. ‘Keeping it White’ can only mean one thing, namely, White domination: not ‘leadership’ not ‘guidance’ but control, ‘Supremacy’.
– Hendrik F. Verwoerd, former Prime Minister of South Africa. House of Assembly, 25 January 1963

One of Salisbury’s biggest arguments is that British rule has brought peace, justice and prosperity to the African. In a letter to the Times Salisbury speaks of ‘all that British colonial rule had done for the peoples of Central Africa, and equally all that has happened in those countries which the white man has abandoned”. (17)

A corollary to this argument is that the Africans still remaining under white rule – in Rhodesia and South Africa – are considerably better-off than they would be under black rule: “they are today protected by the law from intimidation and extortion. They are enjoying a steadily rising standard of life and their children can get a far better education than the children of people like themselves in the African-ruled countries”. (18)

What is Britain’s record in central Africa?  Have British settlers brought peace, justice and prosperity to the Africans? Is Salisbury right?

The aim of this section is to analyse the nature of Rhodesian and South African society today, consider the conditions under which the African exists, and examine the role of men like Liverpool University’s Chancellor, Lord Salisbury, and of white business investment in general in the economic and political development of Central and Southern Africa.

The facts will show that when Salisbury talks of peace in these areas he is talking of a calm produced by the brutal repression of any kind of social questioning. When he talks about justice he means justice for the white few, not the African millions. And when he speaks of prosperity he is talking of the undoubted wealth that the exploitation of Africa and the Africans has brought to big business in Britain and the white settler in Rhodesia and South Africa.

So we have as Chancellor of our University a man who has made more than most out of the oppression of black Africa and who actively campaigns for the continuance of the apartheid systems in Africa.

The Salisbury family has been active in Rhodesia since the first settler arrived; the motive force always profit and power rather than any kind of civilizing mission. Rhodesia has always had closer links with South Africa than the United Kingdom. The area was originally colonised by South African settlers pushing north to find more mineral wealth. The idea of a northward thrust was the brainchild of Cecil Rhodes, Prime Minister of Cape Province from 1890, President of De Beers’ gold mining monopoly, and one of the richest men in the world at the time. His dream was to see a “red route” of British possessions extending from Cairo to the Cape, and to begin this expansion he founded the British South Africa Company which eventually ruled Rhodesia from 1890 to 1923.

The rationale behind such imperialist expansion – to open up new markets and reduce the strains in the economic system at home – was expressed lucidly by Cecil Rhodes himself:

“I was in the East End of London yesterday and attended a meeting of the unemployed. Ilistened to the wild speeches, which were just a cry for “bread”, “bread”, and on my way home I pondered over the scene and I became more than ever convinced of the importance of imperialism …. My cherished idea is a solution of the social problems, i.e. in order to save the 40,000,000 inhabitants of the United Kingdom from bloody civil war, we colonial statesmen must acquire new lands to settle the surplus population, to provide new markets for the goods produced in the factories and the mines. The Empire, as I have always said, is a bread and butter question. If you want to avoid civil war, you must become imperialists”. (19)

The Salisburys were leading participants in the new company. In 1889 Queen Victoria granted a Royal Charter to the British South Africa Company after pressuring from her Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, grandfather of today’s Chancellor, and the man after whom the Rhodesian capital was named. The Charter gave the Company broad authority over an area including both Southern and Northern Rhodesia, as the new territories were to be designated in the late 1890s. The company was granted the right to promote trade, commerce, civilization and good government in the area.

The company was, however, to be more than just a colonial mining concern – it was to form the government of Rhodesia for 33 years, with its own police and security forces. A Colonial Office minute of 1889 reads: “A cardinal principle shall be that the Company which is to enjoy the profits …. shall also discharge and bear all the responsibilities of govemment”.

The first settler, attracted by Rhodes’ promise of gold claims and 3,000 acres of land for each of them, established Fort Salisbury on 12 September, 1890. The opposed interests of settlers and Africans soon became evident, and in 1893 a Company force clashed with a native army. The Europeans’ superior firepower brought victory in a few days.

An examination of the manner in which the country was governed during the period of the British South Africa Company’s rule reveals not an attempt to bring “peace and prosperity” to the region, as Lord Salisbury would have us believe, but a brutal system of exploitation by the white settlers – exploitation of the native African, and exploitation of the natural wealth of the area. Prosperity meant prosperity for one section of the population only – the white minority.

What kind of society were the white colonies introducing? From the very beginning Rhodesian society bore marked similarities to the South African discriminatory system. Rhodes had already introduced South Africa’s system of Roman Dutch Law, its Civil Service system, schooling and Native Administration systems – all inherently racialist. A South-African style pass system for Africans was introduced.

The franchise excluded Africans from power, the education system was based on racial discrimination, and the method of land division perpetuated economic inequality between the races.  All this was to achieve the white colonisers’ main objectives – cheap labour, white privilege – and profits.

Further evidence of the way men like Lord Salisbury regard developments in Africa was seen in the post-war movement for a Central African Federation. During the War copper was discovered in great quantities in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). After the War, therefore, the northern territory became a rich prize for the central African developers. The then Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia, Sir Godfrey Huggins, backed by the northern Rhodesian settler leader, Roy Welensky, mounted a full-scale campaign for the federation of the two territories. They found ready allies in London, amongst them the present Lord Salisbury and his fellow-directors on the British South Africa Company board.

In 1951 Salisbury became Commonwealth Relations Minister, an influential post for a committed federation man. The proponents of federation made no secret of the ideology upon which it would be based. Huggins saw no place for African representation in his vision of a Federation government: “there are not enough civilized natives to justify one constituency”. He defined “racial partnership” (the principle upon which Federation was to be based) as “partnership between horse and riders”. (20)

In 1953 Southern Rhodesia voted for Federation: there were 46,000 white voters on the electoral roll and 380 Africans.

The course Rhodesia followed in the 1960’s had been charted long before. We have shown how the main concern of the business interests which opened up Rhodesia were mineral resources, cheap labour and a high rate of profits. The social system of segregation and exploitation was a necessary pre-requisite for the colonisers’ plans. The roots of UDI lay deep.In 1922 the white settlers held a referendum to decide whether to become the fifth province of the Union of South Africa or to accept “responsible government” under the Crown. They chose the latter – and this meant virtual complete control of the country, including its one million Africans, for though the British Government had the power of veto over Rhodesian legislation, that power was never used.

Yet the white Rhodesians used their virtual independence to build up a system Of racial oppression increasingly akin to South African apartheid. The Native Urban Area Accommodation Registration Act, which set up a pass system, and the Land Apportionment Act of 1930 gave the government effective control over every major aspect of an African’s life – where he should live, where he might work and for whom, whether he might travel, how his children should be educated. UDI was an unavoidable extension on the part of the ruling Rhodesian Front Party of their white supremacist policies. The Front needed formal independence and the freedom to achieve its objective – an apartheid-orientated political and military alliance with South Africa and Portugal.

The late fifties had seen a “wind of change” blowing through Africa. States gained independence and Africans took control. In South Africa there was a brief whiff of revolt – strangled at Sharpeville in 1960. In the Central African Federation there was mounting opposition to federation from the black African leadership in exile. The main attack on the Federation came from the Nyasaland African Congress who demanded that Nyasaland, the mostdeprived part of the Federation, should have the right to secede. The white minority found formidable allies in the Rhodesia/Katanga lobby in the British parliament. This consisted of a number of powerful Conservative members of the Commons and Lords either directly or indirectly connected with the complex of mining and financing companies operating in the northern Rhodesia and Katanga copper belts.  These included amongst their foremost spokesmen Lord Salisbury and Julian Amery of the British South Africa Company.

But by February 1963 Nyasaland had won the right to secede. The Federation was doomed and was dissolved before the year was out. White Rhodesia was now becoming increasingly isolated amongst independent black nations. Racist attitudes began to harden. ln Rhodesia the United Federal Party was replaced in power by the Rhodesian Front, opposed to UFP policy of concessions to multi-racialism, and aiming at an open alliance with South Africa. A mental frontier against black Africa had been drawn along the Zambesi.

In 1963 all African political parties were outlawed by the Front. Prominent black leaders like Joshua Nkoma have been in jail ever since. A State of Emergency has been in force since August 1964. This gives the Rhodesian government the power to arrest or detain without trial under the 1960 Emergency Powers Act.  Since UDI the Rhodesian Front government has increased its repressive legislation – full scale censorship is in force and the liberal 1961 Constitution has been revoked.

Smith’s latest plan for a Republican Constitution proposes two stages of constitutional change. The second stage, in about four years time, will bring about full, unashamed apartheid with racially separate legislatures.

”Behind all these incidents lies the fact that after 1960, when the rest of Africa set its course firmly in the direction of national independence on the basis of majority rule, the white minority regimes of the south found themselves increasingly drawn together to halt this process. They share similarities in political and economic systems and there is a high degree of actual economic integration”. (21)

Footnote

Read more about Lord Salisbury and the role he played in 1952 as Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations in the notorious affair of the marriage of Seretse Khama, Botswanian statesman, here (thanks to Nev Bann for this).

His Wikipedia entry is here

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