Home |  Current Issue |  Links |  Conferences/Events |  Archives
About the Journal |  Submit |  Subscribe

Search Janus Head               

Victory is Ours: Some Thoughts on Apartheid and Christianity

Alan Schwerin
Monmouth University

(Text ONLY version)

In September 1982 then Bishop Desmond Tutu appeared before the Eloff Commission of Inquiry. After politely explaining the activities of the South African Council of Churches to the government appointed commission, Tutu ended on a defiant note:

God's purposes are certain. They [i.e. the S.A. government] may remove a Tutu; they may remove the South African Council of Churches, but God's intention to establish His Kingdom of justice, of love, of compassion, will not be thwarted. We are not scared, certainly not of the Government, or any other perpetrators of injustice and oppression, for victory is ours through Him who loves us.1

Others have also made appeals like this in time of need, and many are bound to continue the practice in the future. However, it is tragically ironic that the institutions and individuals that Tutu singles out as the "perpetrators of injustice and oppression" in his deputation invoke the very same deity in their deliberations. As I shall show in this paper, the founders of apartheid also lay claim to God in their attempts to overcome their sociological and political problems. But the Afrikaners are not alone in their appeal to faith to justify their actions. Many of the early settlers in South Africa also rest their vision of the solutions to the problems of South Africa on their understanding of "God's intention to establish His Kingdom of justice, of love, and compassion." Prominent among those with this vision for Africa are the missionaries.

An assessment of the involvement of the missionaries in South Africa is clearly too vast an undertaking for this paper. What I can do here is provide only some indication of the perspective imported by some of these influential participants in the development of the country. This I do in the first section of the paper. With this material behind us we can better understand what I view as the outgrowth of this gestalt: namely, apartheid. In the second section of the paper I briefly outline some of the elements of the racist gestalt on which apartheid is founded. As will become apparent, the policy of apartheid rests on a foundation that is not that dissimilar to the perspective imported by the missionaries that operated in South Africa.

Section One: The Missionaries' Vision

From the outset, written accounts of the indigenous population in Southern Africa make mention of their moral -- better, invariably immoral -- character. The reports from the early travelers are replete with references to the customs and ideas of the "very beastly and stinking" strange inhabitants. Without fail, these coarse descriptions are accompanied with exhortations that others turn their attention to Africa, and bring with them the word of God to save "the degenerates." Typical is the clarion call from the explorer Manuel de Mesquita Perestrello to King Dom Sebastian in 1576:

Of the people of the country I am able to speak as well from what I have seen now as when I was wrecked in the ship St. Benedict in the year 1554...They have simplicity and a natural disposition to receive the doctrine of the knowledge of God and the evangelical law...I hope that in this fortunate reign of Your Highness such service will be performed that the sound of its word will reach those so distant and extreme ends of the round world, for the salvation of so many souls that are there quite lost...2

This call for God's word, "for the salvation of so many souls that are there quite lost", would resonate for centuries. It stirred many, most notably the missionaries.

The view that the indigenous Blacks are lost and unable to save themselves is a recurrent theme in missionary literature from Africa, as many of the archival documents below testify. This theme, however, is overshadowed by an even more pernicious refrain: namely, the view that the Blacks in South Africa constitute a constant threat to the settlers --both physically, and culturally. What was at risk, apparently, was both the physical well-being of the whites and their unique way of life. Many early accounts went as far as to suggest that, unless it was protected, European civilization would succumb to the relentless onslaught of the indigenous Black population. Apparently, one had to be forever vigilant about the encroachment of 'the other' Black culture.

Arguably the most insidious form of fear manifested by the settlers and the missionaries, was the fear of losing their European civilization. Without this way of life, with its imported set of values and norms, the settlers and the missionaries in South Africa saw themselves as vulnerable sojourners, liable to lose their Christian European identities. What was equally daunting was the prospect that they ultimately adopt the new, unfamiliar identities of the indigenous Black population groups they encountered in the South African veld. Menzel spoke for many, when he wrote in 1787, that those who dare to "live in the most distant wilderness among the Hottentots, rather than among civilized people" will "degenerate and become uncivilized."3 While not necessarily endorsing a formal program of separation between the races -- such as that later promulgated by Verwoerd--- missionaries and other settlers in South Africa have long feared the culture of the strange inhabitants they encountered in remote South Africa. And as the following documents testify, many relied on their faith to overcome this fear. But unlike settlers like Menzel, who advocated abstention, the missionaries made a conscious effort to confront the perceived threatening indigenous population with their faith.

The missionaries saw it as their duty to involve themselves in the affairs of the Blacks. Unwilling to distance themselves from the indigenous populations -- and simply tolerate the differences between the groups -- the missionaries made a concerted effort to change the life-styles of the natives who apparently had fallen from grace. As Cassidy boldly puts it,

we must endeavour by education, to remove those vile superstitions which, while they 'confine the intellect and enslave the soul', place all the energies of a brave and powerful race, at the entire disposal of soothsayers. Sunk, however, as this people are in savage superstition, we must not despair of raising them to a scale of civilization, commensurate to their acknowledged abilities.4

To rescue these uncivilized superstitious savages, and to protect the settler communities, the missionaries attempted to inculcate a set of Christian values into the indigenous Black population. The documents that immediately follow provide us with some indication of this vision imported by the missionaries. With this background, we will be in the position, in the second section of the paper, to consider the essentials of an alternative, yet related vision: namely, that advocated by some politicians. As will become apparent, there are sobering similarities between the missionaries' vision for "the problems of South Africa" and the infamous policy of apartheid.

The very reverse of Human kind.

[The Ancient Inhabitants of this Promontory] retain the vulgar name of Hotantots, because of their constant repetition of that word in their hobling Dances. There is a vast difference between the nature of these People that dwell upon this place, and the Country they Inhabit; for of all parts this affords a Dwelling most neat and pleasant, and of all People they are the most Bestial and Sordid. They are the very reverse of Human kind, Cousin Germans to the Halalchors, only meaner and more filthy; so that if there's any medium between a Rational Animal and a Beast, the Hottantot lays the fairest Claim to that Species. They are sunk even below Idolatry, are destitute both of Priest and Temple, and saving a little show of rejoicing, which is made at the Full and the New Moon, have lost all kind of Religious Devotion. Nature has so richly provided for their convenience in this Life, that they have drown'd all sense of the God of it, and are grown quite careless of the next...

Those that can be induc'd to labour, and undergo any Toil among the Hottantots, are made Slaves of by the Dutch, and imploy'd in all servile Drudgeries. But their Native Inclination to Idleness and a careless Life, will scarce admit of either Force or Rewards for reclaiming them from that innate Lethargick humour.

Their common Answer to all Motives of this kind, is, that the Fields and Woods afford plenty of Necessaries for their Support, and Nature has Amply provided for their Subsistence, by loading the Trees with plenty of Almonds, which grow in the Forests, and yield them Food, and by dispersing up and down many wholesome Brooks and pure Rivolets to quench their Thirst: So that there is no need of Work, when such innocent Diet offers itself daily without Pains, and on which they can live without Care. And thus many of them idly spend the Years of a useless, restless Life. But the Governour of the Fort, and several Dutch Inhabitants of the Town prevail upon some of them, and make Converts of them to labour and hardships. Thus the Hotantots have degenerated into the strangest kind of Rationals, and have successfully survived the Noble and common Instincts of Humanity...

A Voyage to Suratt in 1689: Chaplain J. Ovington (1696)

My eyes have convinced me.
Cape of Good Hope, March 1765

I have purposely deferred giving you any account of the natives of this country, the Hottentots, till I could be assured that the strange accounts I heard of them were true; my eyes have convinced me, that some of them are, and others I have from good authority.

They are by nature tolerabaly white, and not unhandsome, but as soon as a child is born, they rub it all over with oil, and lay it in the sun; this they repeat till it becomes brown: and always break the infant's nose, so that it lays close to its face, as they grow up, they continue constantly to rub themselves with oil or grease, and by degrees become almost a jet black; this it seems they do to strengthen themselves.

Their dress is the skins of beasts quite undressed, one they tie over their shoulders, and another round their waste by way of apron; their wrists, ankles, and wastes, are ornamented with glassbeads, bits of tobacco pipes, pieces of brass, and such kind of trumpery, and sometimes even the dried entrails of beasts.

Their only riches is in cattle, and their employment feeding them; except the hunting of wild beasts, at which they are exceedingly expert; the skins they constantly bring to the town, and barter with the Dutch for trumpery beads, &c. &c. or spirituous liquors, of which they are excessively fond.

Drunkenness and gluttony are the vices to which they are most addicted; having no moderation in either eating or drinking, but whenever it is in their power, indulge themselves in either to the greatest excess, devouring as much at a meal, as would be sufficient for days, seldom leaving off while there is any thing left to eat or drink: they then lay down in their hovels till pinched again by hunger.

They have no superiority amongst them but the chiefs which are chosen when they make war, which one nation of Hottentots often does against another, though never against the Dutch; but these chiefs have no distinction in their manner of living, for they have not the least idea of the grandeur, or what all other people esteem the necessaries, of life.

It is doubtful point whether they have any notion of a deity, as nothing like a religious ceremony is ever observed amongst them: but most of the Dutch are of opinion that they worship the sun; a very natural conjecture, for although they appear hardly a degree above the brute creation, still one must allow they have the faculty of thinking, consequently must attribute the earth, the sky, and all about them, to some superior power. The sun is the most glorious object we behold, and the most likely to inspire awe and reverence into those who are not informed, that it is only one, of the many wonderful works of the Almighty.

They have no books or letters of any kind, their language consisting chiefly in signs, nodding the head, and an undistinct rattling in the throat.

The custom in regard to their old people is truly shocking: whenever they come to such an age as to be unable to support themselves, their relations convey them to some distance, and let them starve to death. In all other respects they are the most quiet inoffensive people in the world.

They sometimes become servants to the Dutch, and behave perfectly well; their honesty may be depended upon for anything but liquor, but they have all, both men and women, such a strong natural propensity to intoxication, that it is never to be conquered: those who are servants alter their appearance, and dress like slaves, but sometimes return among their own people, and to their own manners.

Letters from the East Indies: (Letter XVl)

Tame Hottentots seldom destroy their offspring.

November 1, 1804

Dear Sir, and honoured Brother in Christ,

More than two years are elapsed since we received your last letter, dated Sept 13, 1802; since that time I have written four letters to you, the last of which, dated 12th March this year, is committed to Capt. Shaw, who intended to deliver it personally into your hands...

I inclose the account of my disbursements for the two last years, requesting that it may be examined, and if it be found in due order, approved. From this account you may be induced to conclude, that this institution of Bethelsdorp will annually upon an average cost not more than about 150 rix dollars or 30l. Sterling. But I think that this calculation would deceive us. The reason why so little money has been expended, is, that we have as yet done nothing with respect to the establishing of this institution upon a solid basis, which the uncertainty of our permanent residence in this part of the country, depending upon the fitness of the ground, and many external and changeable circumstances, hitherto has prevented. If these should continue to prove favourable, we will attempt to convert our church, houses, magazines, &c. which at present are only huts of wood and reed, into more durable buildings of brick.

Our first care has been to provide victual for the workmen, by collecting, without expenses to the society, a sufficient stock of cattle and corn. This we have hitherto not been able to accomplish. Last year our harvest failed, so that we are entirely destitute of bread, and are even obliged to substitute in its place some other farinaceous substances in celebrating the Lord's supper. The stock of our cattle is as yet small, but thrives pretty well, especially our sheep. Timber is not to be found in our vicinity, and a small stream of water is not sufficient to moisten our arable ground, which is hilly.

Another obstacle, is the inconceivable laziness and indolence of our Hottentots, who if put to work, soon leave off, and refuse to work any longer, if not superintended by faithful overseers in order to keep them constantly employed, and these we want more than even workmen. Struggling with these difficulties, and the opposition of the Boors, who deprive us of our workmen, and are unwilling to sell us either cattle or corn, we have by the help of the Lord, and the exemplary sedulity of Brother Read, been able to erect our church, &c. without expence to the society: the 500l. which you have destined for this establishment as yet being untouched.

But if the Directors wish, that this institution should gradually be put in a proper condition to answer their benevolent purpose, it will be necessary to devote anually a sum of 1500 rix dollars, or 273l. sterling for its maintenance, as you may see more in detail by this calculation.

Rix Dollars
For a waggon, and appurtenances -------------------------------500
Two plows ----------------------------------------------------------50
Lesser utensils, tools for building, agriculture, &c. -------------100
Two Missionaries and a Schoolmaster, each 150----------------450
Books, papers, &c. &c. for the school ----------------------------50
Other articles not specified ----------------------------------------350

I have not mentioned workmen's wages, to whom we pay every day a sixpence, and three pounds of meat, as I do not consider this as a permanent, but as a transitory expence to be paid out of the 500l. mentioned above: the few labouring men, who may constantly be kept in service, I comprehend under the not specified articles. I think there is reason to expect, that if God blesses our endeavours, and protects us against hostile depredations, this annual subsidy will be gradually diminished by internal resources, especially the products of our field and cattle, which by proper management may perhaps be converted into a permanent fund, sufficiently to pay all future expences: but this is only a perhaps...

The [Hottantots] are total strangers to domestic happiness. The men have several wives, but conjugal affection is little known. They take no great care of their children, and never correct them except in a fit of rage, when they almost kill them by severe usage. In a quarrel between father and mother, or the several wives of a husband, the defeated party wreaks his or her revenge on the child of the conqueror, which in general loses its life. Tame Hottentots seldom destroy their offspring, except in a fit of passion, but the Boschemen will kill their children without remorse on various occasions, as when they are ill-shaped, when they are in want of food, when the father of a child has forsaken its mother, or when obliged to flee from the Farmers or others; in which case they will strangle them, smother them, cast them away in the desert, or bury them alive. There are instances of parents throwing their tender offspring to the hungry Lion, who stands roaring before their cavern, refusing to depart till some peace-offering be made to him. In general, their children cease to be the objects of a mother's care, as soon as they are able to crawl about in the field. They go out every morning, and when they return in the evening, an old sheep's skin to lie upon, and a little milk or piece of meat, if they have it, is all they have to expect. In some few instances, however, you meet with a spark of natural affection, which places them on a level with the brute creation.

The Boschemen frequently forsake their aged relations, when removing from place to place for the sake of hunting. In this case they leave the old person with a piece of meat and an ostrich egg-shell full of water; as soon as this little stock is exhausted, the poor deserted creature must perish by hunger, or become the prey of the wild beasts. Many of these wild Hottentots live by plunder and murder, and are guilty of the most horrid and atrocious actions.

Such are the people to whom the Providence of God has directed our course; and among them, blessed be his name - he has been pleased to call many to the fellowship of the Gospel, and to render them the distinguished trophies of his almighty grace.

Rev. Mr Kitcherer's narrative of his mission to the Hottentots.
Transactions of the London Missionary Society. (Vol 2) (1804)

We now travelled through a barren sandy heath.

About four o'clock p.m. we left Cape Town, accompanied by the best wishes of
our worthy and generous friends. Our caravan consisted of four waggons. The
first, drawn by twelve, and the second, by fourteen bullocks, were occupied
by our own party. In the third, which was uncovered and drawn by sixteen, a
young Englishman, travelling our way, was allowed to have a seat. That, and
the fourth, with fourteen bullocks, were appropriated for baggage and stores,
destined for Groenekloof and its neighbourhood.

The waggons in use at the Cape have a strong frame-work body, with wheels
and axle-trees made of iron-wood, or other wood, equally hard and tough. A
travelling-waggon is furnished with seats, suspended by leather straps, to
give them play, which, in some respects, answers the purpose of springs, and
with a tilt of matting, covered with sailcloth, supported by hoops of bamboo.
Curtains, of sailcloth or leather, hang before and behind, to secure the
company against wind and rain.

The bullocks draw by a wooden yoke, consisting of a strong bar laid across their necks, to which are fixed, in right angles downwards, four short pieces, so as to admit the neck of each animal between two of them. These are kept in their places, by being tied together below the neck with a small thong. A strongly plaited leather thong runs from the ring at the end of the pole to the yoke of the first pair of oxen, being fastened, in passing, to the middle rings of each yoke. The bullocks, by pushing with their shoulders, seem to draw with ease.

The Hottentot driver has a whip, the stick of which is a strong bamboo, twelve and more feet long, and the lash, a plaited thong of equal or greater length. With this, to European grasp, unwieldly instrument, he not only clacks very loud, but hits any one of his bullocks with the greatest surety. But the chief engine of his government is his tongue, and he continually calls to his cattle by their names, directing them to the right or left by the addition of the exclamations of hott and haar, occasionally enforcing obedience to his commands by a lash, or by whisking or cracking his whip over their heads. A boy leads the foremost oxen by a thong fastened about their horns, and they seem to follow him willingly. We were accompanied a short way by our friends, Mr. Hancke and Mr. Daniel Disandt. The weather was clear, and the view of the mountains delightful...

30th. We passed by a farm on the Blauberg, belonging to a Mr. Knotzee, and about sun-rise reached a place called Trefonteyn, an appendage to a farm, belonging to a Mr. Kous. Here we made another halt, and breakfasted under a thicket, consisting of different kinds of brush-wood and flowering shrubs. Into this cover, we saw a snake hastening with a young frog, entangled in its coils, but its swiftness was such, that all our exertions to destroy it only rescued the wretched captive. We now travelled through a barren sandy heath, but the weather having cleared up, the sight of the hills about Groenekloof afforded us much pleasure, and Brother Schmitt pointed out the spot, where, some years ago, he narrowly escaped death, in a rencontre with a tyger. Being about an hour's drive from the settlement, we discerned at some distance a group of Hottentots, men, women and children, who had come out to meet us, with the missionary, Brother Fritsch, standing on a small rising ground near the road. As soon as the waggons had reached the spot, we alighted, and were welcomed by the Hottentots, who joined in singing that hymn, "Now let us praise the Lord", &c.

To describe our feelings on this occasion is not in the power of words. The various subjects for reflection, which rushed upon my mind at once, on seeing this company, lately a scattered race of wretched, ignorant, and wicked heathen, but now brought together as a people of God, among whom His word dwells daily and richly, made me inwardly exclaim: "Where is the wisdom of the wise! Where is the disputer of this world" and the visionary theorist! Here is proof by facts, that "the Word of the Cross is the power of God unto salvation to all them that believe". Here is seen the effect produced by the preaching of the gospel of a crucified Saviour, unadorned and unaided by human eloquence! I was greatly affected, beyond the power of utterance, and we all stood in silent devotion, listening to the sweet voices, which formed the delightful chorus. We shook hands with all of them, old and young, while, in the most affectionate and humble manner, they expressed their joy at our arrival. The whole procession now moved forward, some of the Hottentot women in an open bullock-waggon, which they had brought with them; the rest, with the men, partly on horseback and partly on foot. The settlement is seen like a fruitful field in the midst of a desert, and the
road to the missionaries' houses lies through a small popular wood. About five p.m. we arrived at the dwelling-house, and met with a most cordial welcome from another party of Hottentots, who had assembled at the door, and expressed their gratitude, that God had again sent teachers to them by singing several verses, and by unaffected declarations of their joy.

Journal of a visit to South Africa, in 1815 and 1816: Rev. C.I. Latrobe

Alas, I am with a people whose God is their belly.

22nd December: Mr. Krano mentioned to Mr. S. to-day an instance of the wickedness of one of his slaves which frequently occurs in this abandoned place. Slaves are not allowed here to appear in the streets in an evening after darkness without a light in a lantern, and when found offending against the Colonial law in this respect are taken up by the Dienaares, or Government Petty Officers, and placed in the trunk or prison for the night, and the master has to pay two rix-dollars for the release of the slave. It is customary with the Dienaares to reward a person with perhaps 4 skillings for informing of a slave wandering about the streets contrary to the above regulation; and Mr K's slave agreed to be discovered without a light, upon the information of one of his companions, upon the condition of sharing in the fee which the Dienaares would give the informant, and which was spent in wine. Four skillings will purchase about four bottles of wine.

25th December: Met with a few of the Society early this morning for the purpose of social prayer. Attended the church service with a view to partake of the Lord's supper, but it was not administered. In the evening preached to 20 persons. Last Christmas-day I was at Retford in Nottinghamshire and surrounded by a pious, lively people, but here [i.e. Cape Town], alas, I am with a people whose God is their belly and who commemorate the birth of our adorable Saviour in rioting and drunkenness. Nothing but a strong sense of duty could reconcile me to remain in this wicked town, amongst those who will not even hear the gospel...

22nd March: Bade farewell to Mr. Melville and Mr. Beavan who set off for the interior early this morning, the former to Griqua as Government Resident, and the latter to live amongst the Bootchuannas in order to master their language, to promote the translation of the Scriptures for the benefit of the natives.

Few such instances of disinterested love to God and man are to be met with in the religious world, for Mr. M. has resigned a situation under Government producing, with its attendant privileges, at least 7,000 Ds. (£500) for one with a salary of only 1,000 Rds., chiefly with a view of promoting the spread of the gospel amongst the natives by the missionaries in that part and of preaching that gospel himself to heathens. Mr. B. has come from England at his own expense, or by the assistance of his friends, and under a fixed conviction of duty. He intends residing with the Bootchuannas, where he must necessarily endure greater hardships than even the regular appointed missionaries themselves endure in that distant land. Surely the primitive spirit of Christianity has not yet departed from amongst men, for there still exist those who count not their life dear unto themselves if they might but finish their course with joy. (Acts 20/24) Blessed men! My heart accompanies you, for when I beheld the loaded waggons and saw the oxen inspanned I had to check a rising wish to turn my back upon the inhabitants of this wicked town and launch amongst the heathen...

30th March: Witnessed the execution of a Hottentot (so-called), I believe for murder, and several slaves and others whipped and burnt with the marking-iron. The life of a Hottentot is thought little of in Cape Town, and I was disgusted with the apparent indifference of the spectators in general, who seemed to regard death, even effected in so solemn a manner, as of trifling concern. Indeed, I felt much less solemnity and reverence on this occasion than at the execution which I witnessed in Lancaster. The man walked from the court to the drop, a distance of at least 1/2 mile, ascended the drop with the utmost composure, and was launched into eternity just as he gave his last farewell "goeden dag mine vrienden". [good day my friends]

Was much grieved to see the prisoner refuse to kneel down while the Dutch minister formally and with some pomp read a prayer before him. How awful to see a fellow creature reject the last offices of religion, and yet this need not excite surprise for the poor man had probably never heard anything relative to his soul, not even after his trial; and to join in a prayer before two of the members of the court of justice who had condemned him, the doctor and the clergyman, who had given himself no concern about his soul till then, might seem to him a farce, though on the brink of eternity, of which, however, perhaps he had never heard. Poor soul! he is gone, and to meet a just and merciful Being.

Flogging in this land is quite an art, and must require much practice to do it so dexterously as some of the servants of the prison performed it. The black boys flog with a small bundle of canes and keep time with their feet, dancing in acting their part, so that the sound from the back of the criminal is like three men thrashing corn in England. The flogging boys are all black persons, by which the disgrace of being punished thus, is, in the judgement of white people here, considered greater, and one Englishman for theft undergoing the punishment gave rise to a most strange sentiment from one who stood near me, and who, I suppose considered himself a rational creature, viz., "that he had rather be hung by a white man than flogged by a black one".
Journal 3: Rev T.L. Hodgson (1822)

On the utmost ripple of the wave of civilization.

[A]s to the war, how frightfully disastrous! The frontier districts are in ruins; dwelling-houses are in ashes; flocks are scattered and destroyed; the immense herds are stolen and taken far away into Kafferland; the labours of the husbandmen have ceased, at least for a time; the quiet pursuits of civilized life have given place to the din and the excitement of war, and, lo! almost every man has become a warrior. Instead of swords being beaten into ploughshares, and spears into pruninghooks, and the art of war falling into desuctude, as Isaiah said it should, just the reverse has taken place, and ploughshares are turned to swords, and pruninghooks to spears. This surely is, and surely will be, a lamentation. And then think of the life that is lost, the sufferings endured, and all the other sad consequences which follow in the train of that perhaps most fearful of all calamitous events, the over-running of a civilized territory by hordes of barbarians coldly cruel...

Our situation is naturally dangerous. We ought ever to be on our guard. Just take your map, and look where we are; "far hence", indeed, "among the Gentiles". We are surrounded by barbarians, we are on the utmost ripple of the wave of civilization: still we have not let it recede from us; we are trying to guide it further into the barbarian territory, to civilize, humanize, Christianize; for it is Christian civilization of which we speak...

We hope that these moral "wastes will find a voice", that these lonely "deserts will yet rejoice", because in them are found the "trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified".

The light is penetrating.

[M]uch remains to be done. There is still a struggle between truth and error, between light and darkness. Those however, who live among the Heathen can perceive a progress, perhaps very gradual, but nevertheless, sure and certain. The Gospel is thus gaining ground, and every succeeding year witnesses an accession of influence. On the whole, the light is penetrating into the recesses of darkness; some dead souls are awakening to spiritual life; knowledge is extending, and civilization is following in the train of the Gospel.

The letters of Rev. J. Richards and Rev. R. Giddy.
Wesleyan Missionary Notices, &c. (1847)

Civilization to a certain extent is necessary to religion.

[W]e do not by any means maintain, that the Government should assume the missionary character in its details, but we do ask for such exertions from 'the powers that be', as may enable the missionary to enter upon his labours with some hopes of success. Having studied the native character in different countries, and under almost all circumstances, we have long been of opinion, that we must increase the wants, remove the prejudices, and develop the intellectual faculties and resources of the black man, before we can make any lasting religious impression upon him.

We have heard much of the wonderful changes and sudden conversions, which have attended the labours of some missionaries among the heathen; but without casting a doubt upon the reality of the change, individual instances, we do think, that civilization to a certain extent is necessary to religion; without it, you cannot raise the mind of the savage to higher conception of the Deity, than can be represented by an idol of wood or stone; and, however single-minded and zealous some of the missionaries unquestionably are, it is manifest that their teaching, unsupported , falls very short of the great and pressing demands of the case. The Government alone can meet the difficulty; with them it rests to carry out a comprehensive scheme of education, which shall include in one uniform system all the bordering tribes.

Some persons have pronounced all idea of educating the Kaffir wild and visionary. They look upon him as an untameable savage, whom no kindness can soften, no teaching improve; and therefore give up all hopes of ever making him a peaceful and agreeable neighbour; these opinions, we submit, are not founded upon reason and experience. What says our favourite poet?

'There is a soul of goodness in things evil,
Would men observingly distil it out'.

We do not, it is true, conceal from ourselves the difficulty, which must attend our exertions in subduing the spirit of evil, and calling forth the soul of goodness which exists in the savage breast. After all the treachery, misery, and confiscation, which, from his first acquaintance with the Christian have soured the temper of the Kaffir--with failing fortunes, and longing eyes cast back upon the rich plains of his ancestors, it will be no easy task to remove from his mind the prevailing idea, that the white man is his natural enemy. Shrewd, sensitive, and revengeful, he cannot easily forget that his greatest and most revered chiefs have been humbled to the dust, their lands confiscated, and their necks stretched out to be trampled upon by the foot of the Christian.

Still, believing in the capacity of the Kaffir to learn, we feel great confidence in the policy which the [British] Government has adopted. We must endeavour by education, to remove those vile superstitions which, while they 'confine the intellect and enslave the soul', place all the energies of a brave and powerful race, at the entire disposal of soothsayers and magicians; who, by assuming supernatural powers, exercise vast influence over the people, and use this power equally to direct and control the worst passions of their nature, and to extort with cruelty from hapless individuals, the principal revenues of the chiefs. Sunk, however, as this people are in savage superstition, we must not despair of raising them to a scale of civilization, commensurate to their acknowledged abilities. When we consider what was effected by such mental illumination, as was introduced by the ancient Romans, amongst a people once as barbarous and superstitious as the Kaffirs; when we reflect upon the manners and customs of the ancient Britons, whose descendants are now exalted amongst the most civilized Christian nations of the earth, we find that they did not materially differ from the savage tribes, now scattered over the Cape frontier.

The Kaffir and the Christian: Captain Loftus Cassidy (1856)

Aim at its extirpation among the natives.

I believe, of course, that the practice [of polygamy] is at variance with the whole spirit of Christianity, and must eventually be rooted out by it, wherever it comes. And I believe that it is our duty, as Christian men and Ministers, to aim at its extirpation among the natives of this land, as speedily as possible...

Much may be...done to inculcate upon the native mind right notions of marriage, before the question arises of their admission as candidates for Christian baptism, as well as to inspire all who have embraced Christianity with a just abhorrence of the practice of polygamy...

[I]t is not necessary to repel a polygomist from Christian instruction; baptism may be deferred till increasing light in the minds of the parties, or the Providence of God, remove difficulties out of the way. It is testimony of many Missionaries that comparatively few polygamists seek baptism, for the natural conscience feels the difficulty, and shrinks from a Christian profession, however favourably disposed in other respects: it is scarcely possible to conceive that one who truly believes in God would be willing to continue in a course of polygamy, after he knows the truth. There is little fear of sincere converts therefore being repelled; while the fact of each Christian convert being the husband of one wife, in a land of sensuality is both a test of sincerity, and a striking evidence of the power of religion.

Remarks on the proper treatment of cases of polygamy as found already existing in converts from heathenism: Rev. John W. Colenso (1855)

So little has been done for them systematically.

There are two parties here, as all over the world, about the 'black man'. I cannot say that I see an improvement on the whole in the tone of our people here. I do not mean our own little black parish, but the wild ones, and "William", who ought to know, says that the natives who live in [Pietermaritzburg] are being ruined morally by contact with the white people...He thinks, poor fellow, that white people ought not to want teaching by this time, with their power of reading and their multitude of books, and he feels his people will never receive the Gospel according either to the High or Low Church party. The doctrine of damnation for misbelief is one they cannot accept, and other things.

But I cannot allow what some people maintain that the deterioration of the natives is the necessary result of attempting to civilize them. They may be more available as drudges in their wild state, though I doubt that, but so little has been done for them systematically, and nothing by Government, it has all been left to various religious bodies whose great object has been to cram them with certain dogmas. It is common for colonists to say that one fresh from the Kraal is better, more honest, more tractable than the 'missionary kafir'...but as I said, so little has really been done for them we cannot tell what the effect might be of systematic teaching and training by teachers appointed by Government.

They are so much accustomed amongst themselves to obey constituted authorities. I often think what a wonderful power it is which binds a nation of wild men like the Zulus under the sway of an old enfeebled man like Mpanda, or under any one man, who has absolute power over the lives and properties of so many, or the chiefs within the limits of Natal. How is it that their people obey them and give them money, there is no compulsion exercised there! ...

The great mass of the natives are certainly deteriorating. They are becoming more insolent too, as the old men die out who found a refuge here from bloody tyranny, and the young men grow up whose pride is galled by the white man.

Rev Colenso to Lady Lyell: 21 April 1866

I found it a little trying.
Near Escoute,
November 28th 1881

Many thanks for your kind letter of help and comfort. You no doubt will have heard ere you receive this letter that I had left Maritzburg for Potchefstroom, en route to Shoshong, Bamangwato, where I should be among a fair company of my own countrymen, and where I should have the best opportunity of learning the dialect of the Sechuana language nearest to that spoken by the Batoka, Makalola, and other interior tribes. I expect to reach Potchefstroom about Christmas time. I may have to remain there a few months for waggon communication to Shoshong. Among others there are a Mr. M'Kenzie and his wife, missionaries at Shoshong, well spoken of by the Christians here; and also a Christian young man in a store there, whose heart, I am told, lies much to work among the natives.

I have not been seven days on my journey, and am only about sixty miles from Maritzburg; heavy rains and bad roads have kept us back. My sleeping accommodation is on the ground under a waggon, and with a drenching rain and 4 degrees of frost, as we had for two nights crossing the Karkluff hills, I found it a little trying; but I find myself increasing in bodily strength daily, and as I am generally travelling alone with the Kaffirs, I trust it may be a time of increasing in the knowledge of my Lord and His ways.

I do feel cast upon Him, and long for a more childlike spirit, so that I may be willing to go on blindfold if He only lead. It is sweet to know the promise of His presence; to know that He has said , "I will never leave you nor forsake you"; but to realise His presence, and to hear His "Fear not" at a time of separation from all visible intercourse with His people, is indeed an unspeakable joy, and, if we judged aright, a position to be desired rather than shunned. In a letter I received from Glasgow a hope was expressed that some one would soon come out to help me in the work; but I would rather wait for years for a fellow-worker than that one should come out hastily. Mr. Beaumont, Town Office, Maritzburg, Natal, has kindly offered to receive and forward letters.

From Natal to the Upper Zambesi: Rev. Fredrick S. Arnot (c 1882)

A strange joy possessed me as a thousand dusky faces looked into my face with
eager longing for the word of life.

My mission commenced on Sunday, July 31st. The native schoolmaster acted as interpreter. Before preaching, I took him alone, and went over the sermon with him, explaining difficult words, emphasising the points most important, and particulary enforcing the necessity of his imitating my movements and modulating his voice as I did. The first service was at 11 a.m., when the church was so crowded that we were obliged to pack the aisles to accommodate the people. I occupied the pulpit, and the interpreter stood by my side.

A strange joy possessed me as a thousand dusky faces looked into my face with eager longing for the word of life. I felt inspired for the occasion, and assured of victory before I commenced. Failure was out of the question - God was with me, and that was enough.

It was an audience such as I had waited for years, to confirm again the theory I have always held, that it is possible to preach the gospel, even to heathen, with saving power through an interpreter. Many heathen were present, painted with red ochre, the men wearing a blanket only, and the women a short skirt of leather, with a head-dress of feathers, etc., in true Kaffir style. The Christians and station people were clothed in European costume, except that the women wore upon their heads various-coloured handkerchiefs, turbaned round with a considerable degree of taste.

After singing and prayer, the text was announced, and for about an hour I reasoned with them "of righteousness, temperance, and judgement to come", addressing myself almost entirely to the understanding, the conscience, and the will. My interpreter did his work well, skillfully as well as faithfully pressing home the messasge. More than once I thought, as I watched the audience, that the word was being applied to their heart with even greater power than if I had been able to speak to them directly. Occasionally he had to ask the meaning of some word, as, for example, the word "destiny" puzzled him, and I had to give another word in its place. But these slight interruptions did not seem to detract at all from the impressiveness of the service, though they made demands upon the resources of the evangelist.

Profound silence reigned during the sermon, but tearful eyes and distorted features indicated the keen piercing of the Spirit's sword. This developed into suppressed sobbing and smothered cries for mercy during silent prayer: but when we commenced to sing, they could control themselves no longer.

One after another, men and women, hurried out to the communion rail, broken down and penitent, until the scene presented was one never to be forgotten. They were now all praying audibly, and the floor was wet with tears; such sighs and groans, such prostration, such agony of soul, are rarely seen in England. It was useless attempting to speak: even singing for a time was rendered impossible. Eighty souls that day professed to find remission of sins, among them several Europeans and not a few heathen.
My Mission Tour In South Africa: Rev. Thomas Cook (1893)

Some day they will come to the maturity of full manhood.

We call the black men "boys". And there is a certain appropriateness in the expression. By contact with missionaries and other Europeans they have grown out of the stage of boyhood, and assumed that of youth. Some day they will come to the maturity of full manhood. They have a past history. So far as we know it we can trace its several stages: first savagery, then slavery, then submissive dependence and protection. In inquiring what the next stage will be it is helpful and important to remember what the last was...

It must be frankly admitted that the native has his faults. With such a primitive past it is natural that he should have. Indeed, the wonder is that they are not more serious. A Zulu once remarked to the writer: "You must not expect too much of us; we are like rusty nails picked up on the veld". It is a strange and unaccountable fact that we expect a higher standard of life and morality in the native convert to Christianity than in our own fellow countrymen. If our countrymen abroad sometimes disgrace the name of Christian it causes us no surprise; if a native convert does the same it shocks us...The faults which the black man shows so conspiciously are often laid at the wrong door. It is quite true that a young native who dresses grandly in the latest styles, has a smattering of education, and follows the example of the average European as to religion, is a most unpleasant person, and is found in large numbers. And it is true also that the primitive creature straight from the kraal is more amenable and twice as attractive. But--who educates him? ...

Here is a hut where his father lived, and a hut where his mother lived, and a hut for the children, and another where they keep their stock of grain. Around these are other huts, and connecting them is a sort of stockade enclosing a little courtyard. There he has grown up, seeing none but heathen like himself, and never a white man. One day he hears his companions talking about a white man who has come to the neighbourhood, and who is offering money to the Chief to allow the young men to go to Johannesburg, with plenty of money for all who go; plenty of money so that they can come back and soon buy the cattle for a wife.

He and a few others go with the white man. They travel a long way on foot. Then they come to a great thing they have never seen. Rails and great moving monsters. One of these carries them away very fast. They come to towns, houses, trams, people, shops, food, books, clothes, machinery, motors, money, and drink: things which they had never even dreamt of. Presently the train stops. They are all bundled out, and marched off to a huge courtyard, where they find they are to live for the next six months. It is a mine compound. They have begun their education. It continues as it has begun, "only more so". They imbibe rapidly new tastes and new ideas. The old tribal customs begin to lose the hold they had. New ambition, new desires for knowledge, desires for independence begin to surge in their brains.

The probability is that by the end of his six months this young man has never even seen a missionary. But he is no longer a raw native. The question is: Who has educated him? And the answer is: The mines have done it. And the education they thus receive is often attributed to the effect of Missions and missionaries upon the raw heathen; whereas part of their work consists in counteracting this form of education.

African Missions: Rev. B.G. O'Rorke (1911)

The realities which lie behind their words.

The tasks we have been considering--the work in the village, the training of African workers, the conduct of Christian higher institutions, the meeting of the needs of the industrial and mining areas--depend for their carrying out on persons. The whole programme that has been before us stands or falls with the response of the younger generation to this opportunity. Those who have had contact with that generation know how eager many of them are to find a work that is really worth doing and how ready they are to devote their lives to ends which touch their imagination.

Achimota has never had any difficulty in recruiting its staff. Though missions cannot afford to pay the salaries offered by government, we do not believe that the consideration of financial reward is an important factor in the minds of those who hear a clear call to the service of their fellow-men. A quite definite line of action to be taken by those who love and desire to serve Africa is to allow their imagination to be fired by the task of Christion education in that continent and to talk about it to their friends of the younger generation. A small group in each country could kindle a flame of enthusiasm. The realities which lie behind their words cannot fail, if rightly presented, to make appeal to the heart of youth, and, in proportion as they are understood, they may awaken a response in this generation similar to that which was called forth in an earlier one by the voice of Livingstone.

The Remaking of Man in Africa: Rev. J.H. Oldham and B.D. Gibson (1931)

Section Two: Verwoerd's vision for South Africa

Unlike the missionaries, politicians in South Africa expressed little interest in 'saving' the indigenous Black population. But many have argued for the need to protect the immigrant White community. The most vociferous group calling for protection were the Afrikaners. This call culminated in the formation of the policy of separate development, or apartheid. Hendrik Verwoerd can be viewed as one of the leading, if not the leading architect of apartheid.5 What follows is a brief analysis of his rationale for this program, and a few extracts from a famous speech of his in which he outlines his political vision for South Africa. The similarities between this vision and that espoused by the missionaries are striking.

In his 1948 speech to parliament defending the formal system of separation, then Senator Verwoerd was forthright, if not a little wistful. As he saw it, the policy must necessarily be regarded as less than perfect. It would be unrealistic to view the defense of apartheid as an attempt to support a proposal for absolute separation:

Nobody has ever contended that the policy of apartheid would be identified with 'total segregation'. The apartheid policy has been described as what one can do in the direction of what you regard as ideal. (below)

According to Verwoerd, the constraints on a rigorous application of the National Party's program of segregation were in large measure due to the foibles of the historical developments in South Africa. Unfortunately, South Africa had now reached a stage in its evolution that precluded the possibility of total separation. The various racial communities had already integrated to such an extent that a policy of complete separation would no longer be feasible. Drawing on his knowledge of the three nations that dominated the settler community in South Africa -- namely, Britain, Holland and France -- Verwoerd boldly proclaimed that the problems facing the country would not have emerged had the country been divided into racially pure segments from the outset. What is more, Verwoerd continued, his solution to "the friction and the difficulties" facing the country had universal acceptance:

Nobody will deny that for the Native as well as for the European complete separation would have been the ideal if it had developed that way historically. If we had had here a white South Africa in the sense in which you have a white England and a white Holland and a white France, and if there had been a Native state somewhere for the Natives, and if this white state could have developed to a self-supporting condition as those European states have developed by themselves, then we should certainly not have had the friction and the difficulties which we have today. Surely it would have been an ideal state of affairs if we had not had these problems. (below, my emphases)

As Verwoerd saw it in 1948, the clock could not be turned back. What integration had taken place, unfortunately, could not be completely undone. To
suggest otherwise would be to adopt an impractical proposal. So Verwoerd's reservations about the implementation of a program of total separation -- a
program he regards as the ideal solution to 'the problem' -- were pragmatic and
not ethical. It was not because the policy was morally deficient, but because
reality -- that is to say, South Africa as it existed in 1948 -- was less than perfect, that one had to reluctantly concede that the policy could not be applied as rigorously as one desired!

What, then, were the factors mitigating against the adoption of a policy of
absolute separation? As Verwoerd saw it, there were primarily two obstacles to
the implementation of his ideal program: white economic dependency and Native

On the one hand, Verwoerd reluctantly conceded that the two racial groups in South Africa were economically interdependent. More pointedly, he acknowledged the dependence of the whites on Black labor. As others had also made clear,6 there were strong economic and political reasons to conclude that it would be impractical to implement a policy of 'total segregation':

our own people, our farmers and thousands and tens of thousands of others, who use the services of the Natives and coloured people as labour, would never agree to it. (below)

This reliance on Black labor, and the implicit suggestion that the National
Party could not afford to antagonize its supporters by meddling in their labor
relations, thus made it impossible for a viable white state to form, bemoaned
Verwoerd. Unlike the European states that he idolized, a prospective white
South African state would not, and more seriously, could not be self
sufficient. Not only were Britain, France and Holland relatively racially
homogeneous, these states had "developed by themselves." (below) This "self supporting condition" could not be satisfied in South Africa. In this part of Africa, one had to face the facts, however unpleasant they may appear. The economic and social realities being what they were in South Africa, a program of absolute separation of the races would ultimately fail.

On the other hand, Verwoerd maintained that the indigenous Black population was unable to administer its own affairs. This unfortunate situation, he suggested, compelled the whites to intervene on their behalf.

If the Native had not had anything to do with the whites, if he were capable of managing his own affairs, it would also have been an ideal state of affairs for him. (below)

So the Blacks in South Africa had to be protected from themselves! Having accepted "the Christian trusteeship of the European race", Verwoerd
magnanimously pledged that his party would view its (Christian) commitments as
the basis "of its policy in regard to the non-European races." (below) Intervention in Black affairs, would then be governed by Christian tenets.7 Now these two hurdles to the adoption of his ideal solution to "the problems" facing South Africa in 1948 might strike one as insurmountable, conceded Verwoerd. Nevertheless, he implored his audience to be steadfast:

If you appreciate that you are saddled with a complicated situation, a highly complicated situation, you must have the direction in which you wish to move to solve your problems clearly in mind. In every field of life one has to fix one's eyes on the stars, to see how close one can come to achieving the very best, to achieving perfection. For that reason I say this: keep in view what promises to be best for your country and try to approach it within the realm of what is practical... (below)

To make matters worse, the situation alluded to in this exhortation to his parliamentary colleagues appeared to be deteriorating. For the problems endemic to the highly complicated racial situation in South Africa were intensifying. Or so thought Verwoerd.

Race relations had deteriorated to such an extent, suggested Verwoerd, that the
country had now reached a decisive stage in its development:

Europeans and non-Europeans in recent years have been working up to a crisis. Ten, twenty, thirty years ago we did not know points of dispute in every field of life as we know them now. (below)

This widespread tension, continued Verwoerd, led to conflict in the (white) towns, contributed to an increase in the crime rate, and brought about "the creation of all sorts of hamlets on the borders of the towns full of poverty and misery, clashes on the trains, assaults on women." (below) In short, racial tensions, according to Verwoerd in 1948, threatened the very fabric of South African society. More seriously, from his vantage point there could be no doubt that white civilization in South Africa was itself under threat.8 As Verwoerd rhetorically put it, "if it is a fact that there is a danger to European civilization in South Africa, then surely we are allowed to say that..." (below)

As we have seen above, Verwoerd's cataclysmic vision of South Africa is not
without precedent. When he introduced the National Party's program of racial separation, he leaned heavily on a set of racist prejudices and fears that had evolved over many centuries. As the extract below testifies, Verwoerd's views are not dissimilar to those espoused by the missionaries in South Africa. What follows is from the speech in parliament by Senator Verwoerd on 3 September 1948, prior to an amendment -- carried by 20 votes to 19 -- supporting the Government's policy of apartheid.


It is a matter for regret that when one is engaged in discussing a point of view with great earnestness, one gets only a repetition of words which are really not fit to be used in this Place [i.e. Parliament]. I am referring to the allegation that the attitude of this side of the House is 'political fraud', that it is 'scandalous'. Those are the terms of one of the pamphlets of the chief organiser of the United Party. These words are to be found there. Here is another pamphlet issued by the chief organiser of the United Party, namely Election News, and these words are there: 'The Nationalist Party's Great Political Fraud'. 'Apartheid is Political Fraud'. So I could go on quoting example after example of instances where the ideas which have been put up here as new criticism of the Government's policy are nothing else than political propaganda. That, then, is the first reason why we so greatly regret the attitude of the Opposition towards the policy of this side of the House. We are anxious, moreover, that everything that can be said against the attitude which we take up should be said, but then it must not be said in terms of vague, general charges; that is scarcely fitting under the circumstances in which we find ourselves today.

Then, in the second place, we must regret the fact that (quite apart from the mistake that the Hon. Senator [Conroy] has made in this regard) he has made an effort to bring to the front once more an atmosphere created in an election of years ago. He referred, in fact, to a certain poster, which he called the 'halfbreed' poster. If I heard him aright, he referred to that as a poster which as used in connection with the election of 1929, in connection with the black peril, as he calls it. That was naturally a mistake, the poster was used in 1938, and not in 1929. What were the true facts in connection with that poster? They were that at that period a comprehensive inquiry was being made into the question of mixed marriages, and that during that period things had been said on the part of leading members of that side of the house against which the party on this side of the House had raised objections. On 5 May 1938, Mr. Hofmeyr addressed a meeting at Ceres in the Cape Province, and a question was put to him. The question was: 'Assuming now that the Commission of Inquiry into the question of mixed marriages recommended that legislation prohibiting mixed marriages was essential, on which side would you vote?' Then his answer was that if the Commission recommended that, the Government would have to decide what it was going to do, but that he would not remain a member of a government which introduced legislation of that sort. In the light of a point of view such as that a poster was then drawn up in which an appeal was made to the mothers of South Africa to see that legislation prohibiting mixed marriages really was introduced. Figures were produced which placed before the public the unhappy and regrettable extent to which mixed marriages had taken place. On that there followed an atmosphere of recriminations and suspicion, to which I do not want to refer at any greater length now, except to say that one should like to discuss the matter of mixed marriages on this occasion, but not again in an atmosphere which everybody regrets; after all, it is wrong and unnecessary to create such an atmosphere once again.

In similar manner, more or less, it is stated on the opposite side of the House that incalculable damage had been done by the fight as to what we are said to have called the 'black peril'. The Hon. Senator Conroy condemned us in the strongest terms. But has he forgotten that his own leader, the former Prime Minister, also referred to the black peril? I want to quote here what he said on the 29 January 1947. It is recorded in Hansard. He was then speaking about immigration and on the need for increasing the European population, and on that occasion he said, among other things, the following: 'We had before us certain facts which the Government had at this stage to take into account. In addition we were aware of the fear of the people that unless special steps were taken the small forces of European civilisation would be in danger'. But he did not leave the matter there, at his statements on the fears of the people, of which he was aware. He associated himself with those words, by going on a little bit further: 'We have come face to face with the fact that something has happened here, that there is a red light which shows us that there is danger' (Hansard 1947; No. 24, Col. 11843). Mr. President, if the former Prime Minister was able to talk about the phenomenon as a danger, then we at least are also entitled to do so, and if it is a fact that there is a danger to European civilisation in South Africa, then surely we are allowed to say that as well. I remember that the former Prime Minister six months later in his customary way went back on his words and attacked us. He then also spoke about the terrible position we were in and that we were driving the whites and the non-Europeans into conflict with one another, just as the Leader of the Opposition in this House has done at present. He also made the mistake of saying that for that reason the Native will be regarding us as a white peril. But, Mr. President, that will only happen if matters were to go on as they went on under the policy of members on the other side of the House, and then I should not blame any Native for talking about a white peril. With the disorder and chaos that were arising in the country under the administration of the previous Government we were becoming a mutual danger to one another. That is really the object of the whole apartheid policy - the whole object of the policy adopted by this side of the House is to try to ensure that neither of the two will become a danger to the other...

Europeans and non-Europeans in recent years have been working up to a crisis. Ten, twenty, thirty years ago we did not know points of dispute in every field of life as we know them now. It was under the policy of the previous Government that we saw more and more trouble blowing up, clashes in the towns, crimes, the creation of all sorts of hamlets on the borders of the towns full of poverty and misery, clashes on the trains, assaults on women. Wherever you go, and in every field, you find an increase in the tension between Europeans and non-Europeans. That was the result of the policy of the other side. In this policy of ours we are seeking to achieve, and to take steps for the achievement, of a condition of greater peace. We want to get rid of these points of friction and these clashes themselves in so far as that is humanly possible...

Nobody has ever contended that the policy of apartheid should be identified with 'total segregation'. The apartheid policy has been described as what one can do in the direction of what you regard as ideal. Nobody will deny that for the Native as well as for the European complete separation would have been the ideal if it had developed that way historically. If we had had here a white South Africa in the sense in which you have a white England and a white Holland and a white France, and if there had been a Native state somewhere for the Natives, and if this white state could have developed to a self-supporting condition as those European states have developed by themselves, then we should certainly not have had the friction and the difficulties which we have today. Surely it would have been an ideal state of affairs if we had not had these problems. If the Native had not had anything to do with the whites, if he were capable of managing his own affairs, it would also have been an ideal state of affairs for him. And if that is the case, then surely it cannot do any harm to see it and to state it; it can do only good. If you appreciate that you are saddled with a complicated situation, a highly complicated situation, you must have the direction in which you wish to move to solve your problems clearly in mind. In every field of life one has to fix one's eyes on the stars, to see how close one can come to achieving the very best, to achieving perfection. For that reason I say this: keep in view what promises to be best for your country and try to approach it within the realm of what is practical...

This is what the Minister of Lands, the leader of the National Party in the Transvaal, wrote, among other things:

As far as territorial segregation is concerned, 'total segregation', as you call it in your letter of 31/10/42 addressed to the secretary of our party on the Rand, would have been the ideal solution, but in practice it is incapable of being carried out, because quite apart from all the other difficulties, our own people, our farmers and thousands and tens of thousands of others, who use the services of the Natives and coloured people as labour, would never agree to it. For that reason, as far as 'territorial segregation' is concerned, we have adopted as a policy mainly the following:

(1) That Natives should not be allowed to own land among white people, but that so far as the ownership of land is concerned they should be confined to the various Native reserves;

(2) that Natives and coloured people in our towns and villages should not live in European residential areas, but that there should be seperate residential areas for them, that is to say, separate Native and coloured villages; and

(3) that in our factories, etc., Europeans and non-Europeans should not be allowed to work among one another, but separately, and that certain sorts of work should be reserved for the Europeans.

In connection with that I myself have stated up to now, I want to draw attention to the fact that he says in it precisely what was said above, total segregation may be the ideal but that that is not practicable, and that what can be put into effect are these forms of territorial segregation, among other things. (Naturally, political segregation as well)...

Mr. President, I also have here in my possession a number of documents which are general knowledge. They have been spread far and wide. In them is set out the colour policy of this side of the House in unequivocal terms. In the first place the basis on which it is founded is to be found in the programme of principles of the party. Here it is as it appeared in the Transvaal as the programme of principles of the party. In each of the provinces the relevant clause is exactly the same;

The party accepts the Christian trusteeship of the European race as the basic principle of its policy in regard to the non-European races. In accordance with this it desires to afford the non-European races the opportunity of developing themselves in their own fields, according to their natural ability and capacity, and it desires to assure them of fair and just treatment in the administration of the country, but it is emphatically opposed to any mixture of blood between the European and the non-European races.

It further declares itself in favour of the territorial and political segregation of the Natives, as well as in favour of the separation between Europeans and non-Europeans in general in the residential and, in so far as it may be practicable, also in the industrial field.

Further, it desires to protect all sections of the population against Asiatic immigration and competition, among other things by prohibiting further intrusions into their fields of activity, as well as by an effective scheme of Asiatic segregation...

Two things again emerge very clearly everywhere, that the non-European worker will be there to assist in the economic progress of the country; and that there will be protection for one group as well as for the other. It has also been stated, and we are propagating it, that there must be a worthwhile wage for European labour. It has also been stated that there must be enough non-European labour for the country districts. That has been propagated openly...

The [National Party] believes that a determined policy of separation between the European race and the non-European racial groups, and the application of the principle of separation between the non-European racial groups as well, is the only basis on which the character and the future of each race can be protected and made secure and enabled to develop in accordance with its own national character, abilities and destiny.

In their own areas the non-European racial groups will be afforded a full opportunity of development and they will be able to develop their own institutions and social services, and in that way the abilities of the more progressive non-Europeans will be enlisted in the advancement of their own people...

The policy will aim at concentrating in so far as it is possible the main ethnical groups and sub-groups of the Bantu in their own separate territories, where each group will be able to develop into a self-sufficient unit.

This is not an effort to exploit differences between the races, this is not an effort to stir them up to hostility towards one another - an effort to divide and rule! As the nations of the world each in its own territory accomplishes its own national development, so also the opportunity will be given here to the various Native groups each to accomplish its own development each in its own territory. To each of them, from the tribal chief to the ordinary Native, the chance is being given to accomplish a fair and reasonable development within his own national group...

The Native reserves must become the true fatherland of the Natives. It is there that his educational institutions should be, and it is there that these improved services for the Natives should be made available, in contrast to the present policy which is to make them available in urban locations. Prestige and respect must be accorded to the Natives in all fields in the reserves, so that they may set a standard and act as the mouthpiece of the Bantu.

Is that oppression?

A greater variety of economic activities will gradually be brought into being so as to bring about greater productivity and stability for the Native reserves, and for this purpose planning committees will be instituted...

The [National] Party appreciates the danger of the influx of Natives into the towns and undertakes to preserve the European character of our towns, and to take energetic and effective measures for the safety of persons as well as of property and for the peaceful life of urban residents.

All Natives must be placed in separate residential areas, and their concentration in our urban areas must be counteracted. The Native in our urban areas must be regarded as a 'visitor', who will never have the right to claim any political rights or equal social rights with the Europeans in the European areas.

Let me just interpolate something here, and make a statement to Hon. Senators as to what, for example, happens in other countries where a great trek of workers from one country to another takes place. It is known that so far as France is concerned about three million labourers come in there from Italy every year; they are seasonal workers. Those three million seasonal workers who come from Italy do not obtain any civil rights in France; they are regarded as visitors. And the same thing will apply to the Native in the European areas, though, at the same time we are now going to give him civil rights in his own territories such as he enjoys nowhere at present. That will be the place in which to achieve his ideals. The Native who becomes a lawyer, or the Native girl who becomes a nurse or teacher or whatever the case might be, will in the first place be able to provide his services there in his own community. However, as soon as the native comes into an area of a European community, then he will have no such political rights there, there in the white man's country. But the reverse is also true. If there are Europeans who have to go into the native territories, and they will only go there because they have to in order to help the Natives, they will not enjoy any political rights there...

[W]e hope that some of those Natives who become able to serve their own people actually will migrate to the reserves. They should be dealt with in such manner that they will go there. What will happen is that in that sense the numbers in the cities will be frozen to such an extent that no more Natives will be allowed to come in from outside other than the Natives who have the full residential right to stay there; let only those who are there retain that right. That is not unreasonable. Freezing therefore means that we are not going to permit any new influx as happened under the previous Government, and, indeed, to such an extent that Johannesburg and the Witwatersrand and the whole of that neighbourhood has become one vast breeding-place of unjustice and crime, of unemployment and all sorts of misery, of poverty and of mutual oppression. Within and outside that city the position has become impossible. It is also stated here that all surplus Natives in the towns should be sent back to the country districts or to the reserves from which they came. They must be away from the misery of those hovels, away from those sacking villages, away from starvation, of little boys who run about and perish and degenerate, and go back to places where some care can be taken of them again...

Section Three: A concluding thought.

Where human problems are concerned there can be no doubt that the solutions that emerge are influenced, if not completely determined by the cultural milieu that exists at the time. These norms and values that form the background framework for the problem and its proffered solutions act as both guide and arbiter: guide to the likely solutions, and more fundamentally, arbiter of the nature of the problem. As my paper has shown, some of the most divisive attempts to understand and define the so-called problem of the indigenous people of South Africa have rested on Christian values and norms. Or at least those cultural constraints as they existed during the Victorian empire and shortly thereafter. The evidence gathered here strongly suggests that there is much in common between the perspective imported by the missionaries and that imposed by the politicians who endorsed apartheid. Whether the liberated new South Africa can successfully discard the oppressive elements of the past and adopt a more realistically humane countenance remains to be seen.


1 Desmond Tutu: Hope and Suffering. Compiled by Mothobi Mutloatse, and edited by John Webster. William Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1983.

2 The letter from Perestrello to King Dom Sebastian is in Records of South-Eastern Africa (translated and edited by Georg Theal, 1900).

3 From his A Description of the African Cape of Good Hope, 1787.

4 Captain Loftus Cassidy: The Kaffir and the Christian (1856)

5 Hendrix Fensch Verwoerd (1901-1966) was prime minister for eight years, until his assassination in Cape Town. Born in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, he obtained his doctorate in psychology from the University of Stellenbosch in 1925, and went on to be professor of applied psychology and, later, of sociology at the university. In 1937, he launched the National Party’s Transvaal Newspaper, Die Transvaler. Initially defeated in his bid for a seat in the lower house of parliament, Verwoerd accepted a government nominated seat in the Senate that was offered by the Prime Minister Dr. D. F. Malan. As Minister of Native Affairs, Verwoerd developed the policy of apartheid. He became Prime Minister in 1958 and was prominent in the initiatives to ban the African National Congress (A.N.C.) and the Pan-Africanist Congress (P.A.C.) in 1960. To neutralize some of the external objections to apartheid, Verwoerd engineered the withdrawal of South Africa from the Commonwealth in 1961. In September 1966, he was stabbed by an unemployed White during a debate in the Houses of Parliament.

6 For instance, in his speech, Verwoerd refers to a letter from “the Minister of lands, the leader of the National Party in the Transvaal.” (above) The letter, apparently, makes it clear that the Minister endorses the view that total separation between the races “would have been the ideal situation.” However, his view was that there were practical reasons for not attempting the implementation of this harsh policy.

7 What is more, suggested Verwoerd, his policy of separation would prevent Whites from threatening the Blacks:

With the disorder and chaos that were arising in the country under the adminstration of the previous Government we are becoming a mutual danger to one another. That is really the object of the whole apartheid policy -- the whole object of the policy adopted by this side of the House is to try to ensure that neither of the two [races] will become a danger to the other... (p. 319, my insert)

While the races needed to be separated, according to Verwoerd, intervention could be justified, provided it followed Christian principles. But the Whiles would also be prevented from endangering the Blacks. As self-appointed Christian trustees, the members of the National Party would prevent the Whites from endangering the Blacks and oversee the affairs of the (allegedly) incompetent Blacks.

8 Surely a nation (allegedly) not “capable of managing [it’s] own affairs” could not constitute a serious threat to other nations -- let alone threaten one (allegedly) in the position to intervene on behalf of the (allegedly) weaker nation? This logic appears to have (conveniently?) escaped Verwoerd’s assessment of ‘the problem’ in South Africa in 1948.

List of References - arranged chronologically

A Voyage to Suratt in 1689: Chaplain J. Ovington (1696)

Letters from the East Indies: (Letter XVl)

Rev. Mr Kitcherer's narrative of his mission to the Hottentots.
Transactions of the London Missionary Society. (Vol 2)(1804)

Journal of a visit to South Africa, in 1815 and 1816: Rev. C.I. Latrobe

Journal 3: Rev T.L. Hodgson (1822)

The letters of Rev. J. Richards and Rev. R. Giddy.
Wesleyan Missionary Notices, &c. (1847)

Remarks on the proper treatment of cases of polygamy as found already existing in converts from heathenism: Rev. John W. Colenso (1855)

The Kaffir and the Christian: Captain Loftus Cassidy (1856)

From Natal to the Upper Zambesi: Rev. Fredrick S. Arnot (c 1882)

My Mission Tour In South Africa: Rev. Thomas Cook (1893)

African Missions: Rev. B.G. O'Rorke (1911)

The Remaking of Man in Africa: Rev. J.H. Oldham and B.D. Gibson (1931)

Hansard 1948: Speech delivered by Hendrik Verwoerd on 3 September to the Houses of Parliament, South Africa.

Hope and Suffering: Bishop Desmond Tutu (1983)