The South African Races Congress: Inaugural address
The name South African Races Congress is selected to indicate the view of the promoters that they wish to live in absolute peace and harmony with every race in this country be it black or be it white, green or yellow.
– J Tengo Jabavu, President, South African Races Congress
S.A. Races Congress
At the South African Races Congress held at Toleni the inaugural address, of which the following is the substance, was delivered by The PRESIDENT (J. TENGO JABAVU) who cordially welcomed the Chiefs, delegates and people, some of whom had travelled long distances to be present. Anthropologists classified people in an ascending scale - as Individuals, Families, Clans, Tribes, Nations, with Humanity at the top - according to the ties of Friendship, Sympathy and Love. Unfortunately Natives are still in the meshes of the Fourth Group, and are only able to act as Tribes, with the jealousies and feuds inseparable from that crude state of development. At the stage reached the controlling and governing power is the Chiefs. But in their earlier history the power of the Chief was modified by its delegation to the Counsellors, and thus, even in our rude and crude state we, as a people had realised the important principle which in more civilised countries is comprehended in the saying that "The King can do no wrong." It means that in practice counsellors are responsible for any mistakes that occur in the government of the people, and not the chief. It is earnestly to be hoped that in the development of their people the chiefs will ever bear this in mind and not think that they, as Counsellors are, or can be their rivals, but that they would regard them as what they really are - their servants and protectors. (Cheers.)
Their Congress, he might state is
Not a New Movement
As some may recollect it was called into being by Sir Gordon Sprigg`s Native Disfranchisement Bill some 25 years ago. The aim and effect of that measure was to declare all land occupied by Natives as of no value in computing the qualifications of a registered voter for the Parliamentary Franchise. That was the first attack on Native rights and liberties as British subjects levied at them. They then found that they were unable to resist the invader hampered by tribal antipathies and jealousies; although the Bill itself aimed at all the Native races without distinction of tribe. It was then that they felt that some organisation, over and above and beyond their tribal arrangements should be formed to cope with this uncalled for assault on their privileges as the subjects of the Queen. An informal Congress of representatives of their tribes, was summoned by himself and met in King Win`s Town in 1887. Delegates came not only from all the Native tribes in what was then the Cape Colony, but also from the Coloured people of Stockenstrom. The tribes then stood as one man and decided on an appeal to the Imperial Government and empowered him to summon the Congress when occasion required. It was under that authority that they were represented on the Color Bar Deputation despatched to England in 1909. The Executive Committee has now decided to make provision for the regular conduct of the work of the Congress by drafting a simple and effective Constitution which will be submitted to them for approval during this sitting.
is made as broad and comprehensive as possible. The name South African Races Congress is selected to indicate the view of the promoters that they wish to live in absolute peace and harmony with every race in this country be it black or be it white, green or yellow. They are perfectly convinced that race and color hatred are the curse and blight of any country, and are determined to fight them to the utmost. They would order themselves under Providence to co-operate with all who work for the best interests of this land to promote the happiness and prosperity of every member of the community. Having said that much as to their aims he would glance at some of the
Questions of the day,
noting how they would apply their long and broad aims to them. First and foremost at all Native gatherings is the gratuitous insult which the founders of the Union of South Africa, for some unaccountable reason, thought fit to cast on a great and deserving section of the people of this country and their posterity by the insertion of the Color Bar in the Constitution. They are proud of the color they wear, because Providence designed it for them, and woe betide him who would reproach them on it. Unfortunately their leaders were so badly advised that they used this rotten stuff as one of the foundations of the future of this country. As they were aware, they protested earnestly against this miserable and shortsighted policy, and carried their protest to the Imperial Government and Parliament where its justice was acknowledged by all parties in the State. The Imperial Government made no secret that they would have removed the regrettable blot, but for the fear that it would have retarded Union; and the British Premier publicly and earnestly announced that the imperial Government had urged it upon the delegates of the Uniting States to remove the blot themselves and he expressed a hope, amounting to a conviction, that this would be done by the South Africans themselves, and that sooner than later. (Cheers.) Until this is done, it must ever be the cardinal policy of every Native gathering to call attention to this deplorable blunder in their constitution "lest they forget, and lest they forget." (Hear, hear.)
Those interested in the privileges conferred by Clause 13 7 of the Constitution are moving heaven and earth to have effect given to it. Now as Natives, certain valuable rights were conferred on them by Clause 147 of the same instrument whereby all Native Affairs were taken out of Municipal, Divisional and Provincial Councils, which are minor bodies, and reserved to be dealt with by the pick of the statesmen of the Union. But what do they find? They still find Natives harried and harassed by town and divisional bodies with the most exasperating regulations ever devised to vex and worry a people. It is high time they claimed their rights under the clause indicated, and had these things brought under review by the Union Minister responsible for their wellbeing and happiness as a people. Under the same clause they might consider matters affecting
which at present seems to be nobody`s because it is everybody`s affair, for while they are expressly removed in every respect from the local Councils, by another section of the Act of Union elementary education is reserved to the Provincial Council. The question is where, as Natives, they came in? As Mr. Malan once put it, the question of Native education is inseparable from the Native question; and he believed he was right. As no Minister of Native Affairs could deal satisfactorily with the Native problem with the factor of Native education excluded. Hence it is to the Department of Native Affairs they must go with their educational troubles, and by clause 147 of the Act of Union it cannot legally divest itself of responsibility, and pass its burdens on to a subordinate Provincial Council Department such as the Department of Education at the Cape. (Hear, hear.) Again, in view of the great failure of Native students at their Missionary Institutions they think that the remedy is in introducing into the management boards of these Institutions a dash of Native representation. The children now being taught at them are sons and daughters of those who were themselves educated in them, and it is very curious that the standard reached by the children is inferior to that attained by the parents. That there is something wrong in the state of Denmark everybody feels convinced and the remedy they suggest seems to be the only one if they are to exert control on the appointment of those who are to teach, direct and mould the future of the coming Native generation. Then as to mission schools, such is the rivalry of sects that schools are placed with an utter disregard to efficiency. This procedure has outgrown their requirements, and the next step would probably be to combine missionary managers with intelligent Natives in Missionary District School Boards, so that schools might be planted where they are required by the people not where a sect wishes them in its zeal for No. 1. (Cheers.)
Among the reforms that are being carried out, for various reasons they attach great importance to Government seeing that small allotments are given to Natives with families in towns and labor centres so that they can live with their families and lead decent lives. (Hear, hear.) Dealing with
The Squatters` Bill
he condemned the principle underlying it of rooting Natives out of farms and old established locations under the specious title of Crownlands, the tendency being to establish whites rather than Natives on the land. The policy is futile since the Native is naturally a peasant while experience has shown that the poor whites cannot compete with him on small allotments. He earnestly begged Government to desist from such a policy and rather follow General Hertzog`s of endeavouring to raise the standard of comfort of the Natives until they are on competing terms with the poor whites. The question was a pure economic one, and should not be dealt with on color lines.
Lastly they felt that it is impossible to restrict the sale of fire water too much from their people, if they are to thrive and prosper. They hoped the effort to run their Congress on approved lines would tend to the services of the Natives as well as that of the other sections of the South African people. (Cheers during which the speaker resumed his seat.)
- Source: ANC
- Date Created: 02/04/1912