6: The system they defend

Cartoon by Mike Keating

lt is not the purpose of this document to present an exhaustive picture of conditions in Rhodesia and South Africa, but in this final section are presented some facts which undermine the validity of Salisbury’s case concerning the white man’s civilizing role in Africa.

The conditions under which Africans are forced to live have changed little since the white man first set foot in Rhodesia. In 1967 this description of segregated “locations” was given by an African petitioner before the United Nations Special Committee on the ending of colonialism:

“Both of the two main African locations outside Salisbury were surrounded by high fences topped with barbed wire. Each location had two main gates, and had become a virtual concentration camp. Africans leaning them to go to work had their hands stamped with indelible ink to identify them, and in return they had to approach with upraised hands to enable the police at the gates to see the mark”. (37)


The 1896 constitution of the Republic of South Africa declares: “the people will not permit the equalisation of coloured with white inhabitants”. This mentality derived both from the predelictions of the Afrikaaner Reformed Church, and from a cool business logic:

“The unexampled profits which slave labour yielded to slave master and investors in an expanding world trade between European power and their colonies, with the clamorous demand for more s|aves and more slave labour, initiated a wholesale invasion of the African coast and interior by slave-traders who seized thousands of Africans and flooded the slave market with slaves from Africa. The result was that ‘slave’ came to mean ‘Afiican slave’ and the black skin became the universal badge of slavery and inferiority”. (38)


Today there are 12% million Africans in South Africa, and 355 million whites. The white minority composes 19% of the total population. In Rhodesia the white settlers are in an even smaller minority. There are 4.5 million Africans to 241,000 Whites. That is, 94.4% as against 5.1% of the population.


In South Africa the white population owns 87% of the land and all the industrial wealth. All seats in the legislature are restricted to whites; the Africans have had since 1963 their own Transkei Legislative Assembly which has limited powers over the Bantustan (African area) and whose bills must receive the assent of the Republic’s Cabinet. In Rhodesia in 1965 only 255 Africans were eligible to vote under the new Republican constitution.


The average monthly wage for a white South African in manufacturing is £135. The average ANNUAL income for an urban African is £70-£75. An African living in a reserve earns only £18-£21 a year. Today the average day-shift wage for a white man in mining is £6.1 6.6d. for a black African a mere 8/10 in cash and food.

In Rhodesian, the average monthly wage for an African is £8. This compares with the average of £170 a month for a white. Only 697,000 out of a total black population of 4.9 million are employed. (39). The bulk of the adult African population are subsistence farmers. In 1965 the average annual cash income for African rural households was £10.0. 3d. (40)


In South Africa 9% of total education expenditure is spent of educating African school-children. 77% is spent on educating white children. That works out at £7 per African child, £75 per white child.

In Rhodesia 1% of African children complete secondary education, compared to 8 1% of white children. Average per capital expenditure on education in 1965-66 was £9.9.0. for Africans, £103.0.0. for Whites. (41)


Average life expectancy for a white South African male is 64.6 years, for an African 40 years. The rate of infant mortality is 13.69 per thousand amongst Whites, but 269.18 amongst Africans. Tuberculosis rates are 15 times higher amongst Africans than whites. (42).

63% of Rhodesian African schoolchildren suffer malnutrition compared to 3.2% of white schoolchildren. (43)

“Apartheid keeps African labour cheap. Cheap labour keeps Africans underfed. In the urban areas [of South Africa] four out of every five families are starving. The rate is higher in country areas. The result is that the African population is exposed to the ravages of diseases easily traceable to poverty” (44)


South Africa, and increasingly Rhodesia, are the armed camps of a white minority. Since the Sharpeville massacre in 1960 all meaningful methods of African non-violent struggles have been blocked by repressive legislation and the full political and military might of the state. South Africa budgets over £200 million for defence and police purposes. The total of political prisoners in South Africa may be as high as 10,000.

The U.N. has reported: “for opponents of apartheid, the apartheid laws and the treatment of political detainees and prisoners is turning or has turned the Republic of South Africa into a police state and the laws and methods in question increasingly resemble these adopted under Fascist regimes”. (45)


For  an insight into how the system of apartheid governed every aspect of life in South Africa from 1948 to 1991, explore this area of the BBC archive online: Life Under Apartheid. The programmes and documents illustrate what life was like for ordinary South Africans as well as revealing key moments in the struggle against this political system.


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