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1913 Native Land Act:
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Cedric Offline
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1913 Native Land Act:
The following publication, linked to the Anglo Boer War website, has opened my eyes to what happened to the black people in our country.

You are invited to read through some of the following extracts, and i am sure you will link to the site for further information.

I will summarise my findings in Part 5 of this presentation:

BC:


1913 Naive Land Act, through the eyes of Sol Plaatjie:


20th June 1913:

Awaking on Friday morning, June 20, 1913, the South African Native found himself, not actually a slave, but a pariah in the land of his birth.
The 4,500,000 black South Africans are domiciled as follows: One and three-quarter millions in Locations and Reserves, over half a million within municipalities or in urban areas, and nearly a million as squatters on farms owned by Europeans. The remainder are employed either on the public roads or railway lines, or as servants by European farmers, qualifying, that is, by hard work and saving to start farming on their own account.
A squatter in South Africa is a native who owns some livestock and, having no land of his own, hires a farm or grazing and ploughing rights from a landowner, to raise grain for his own use and feed his stock. Hence, these squatters are hit very hard by an Act which passed both Houses of Parliament during the session of 1913, received the signature of the Governor-General on June 16, was gazetted on June 19, and forthwith came into operation.

18th February 1913:

On February 18, 1913, General L. Lemmer, member for Marico, Transvaal, asked the Minister of Lands: — (a) How many farms or portions of farms in the Transvaal Province have during the last three years been registered in the names of Natives; (b) what is the extent of the land so registered; and © how much was paid for it?
The Minister of Lands replied: (a) 78 farms; (b) 144,416 morgen; and © 94,907 Pounds.


But the Lemmer Return did its fell work. It scared every white man in the country. They got alarmed to hear that Natives had during the past three (!) years "bought" land to the extent of 50,000 morgen per annum.

28th February 1913:

On February 28, 1913, Mr. J. G. Keyter (a "Free" State member) moved: That the Government be requested to submit to the House DURING THE PRESENT SESSION a general Pass and Squatters Bill to prohibit coloured people (1) from WANDERING ABOUT WITHOUT A PROPER PASS; (2) from SQUATTING ON FARMS; and (3) from SOWING ON THE SHARE SYSTEM.
Extracts as reported in the Union Hansard 1913.

The adjourned debate on the motion for the second reading of the Natives Land Bill was resumed by MR. J. X. MERRIMAN (Victoria West). It was with very great reluctance (the right hon. gentleman said) that he rose to speak on this measure. It would have been more convenient to have given a silent vote, but he felt, and he was afraid, that after many years of devoted attention to this question of the native policy of South Africa, he would not be doing his duty if he did not give this House — for what it was worth — the result of his experience through these years.
He should like to emphasize a brighter side of the question, and that was to point out that the Natives, if they were well managed, were an invaluable asset to the people of this country. (Hear, hear.) Let them take our trade figures and compare them with the trade figures of the other large British Dominions. Our figures were surprising when measured by the white population, but if they took the richest Dominion that there was under the British Crown outside South Africa, and took the trade value of those figures per head of the white population, and multiply those figures by our European population, then they might very well apply any balance they had to our native population, and then they would see, strangely enough, that upon that basis it worked out that the actual trade of three Natives was worth about that of one white man. That, of course, was a very imperfect way of looking at the value of these people, because the trade value of some of these Natives was far greater than the trade value of some of our white people. He had merely indicated these trade figures to show what an enormous asset we had in the Natives in that respect. Let them think what the industry of the Natives had done for us. Who had built our railways, who had dug our mines, and developed this country as far as it was developed? Who had been the actual manual worker who had done that? The Native: the coloured races of this country. We must never forget that we owed them a debt in that respect — a debt not often acknowledged by what we did for them. Proceeding, he said that they ought to think what they owed to the docility of the Natives, and the wonderfully easy way in which they had been governed when treated properly. He also paid a tribute to the honesty of the Natives.

He would like to revert to the state of things which had grown up under the Draconian laws of the Free State. According to a very interesting Blue-book containing reports of magistrates, one magistrate had reported that "the pernicious system of squatting was detrimental to the working farmer, the Native reaping the whole of the benefit." The man who worked generally reaped the whole benefit in the long run. In the Harrismith district there were some 40,000 Natives against some 8,000 Europeans. How did they get there? Having been a Free State burgher he knew that the Natives had not forced their way in. These Natives ploughed on the half-shares, and he would like to know whether they were labour tenants or squatters.

They were an easy-going folk, and they thought little about title deeds and land laws. So great was the Native's attachment to the land on which he lived, in many instances, that they could not rackrent him off it. These were the people that the Bill wished to dispossess and drive off the land. The figures placed before them showed that THE LAND HELD BY EUROPEANS PER HEAD WAS FIFTY TIMES THE AMOUNT HELD PER HEAD BY THE NATIVES. Surely there was no need at the present time for legislation which would prevent Natives getting a little more land than they now had. He did not think it could be put down to the fault of the Native if he was willing to buy and live on land rather than pay rent. The figures given in this connexion were very instructive. EIGHT ACRES PER HEAD WERE HELD BY THE NATIVES IN THE CAPE, SIX ACRES IN NATAL, ABOUT 1 1/2 ACRES in the Transvaal, and about one-third of an acre in the Free State. He thought this Bill was perhaps coming on a little before there was any necessity for it.



Few of these Natives, of course, would object to be servants, especially if the white man is worth working for, but this is where the shoe pinches: one of the conditions is that the black man's (that is the servant's) cattle shall henceforth work for the landlord free of charge. Then the Natives would decide to leave the farm rather than make the landlord a present of all their life's savings, and some of them had passed through the diggings in search of a place in the Transvaal. But the higher up they went the more gloomy was their prospect as the news about the new law was now penetrating every part of the country.]
]


One farmer met a wandering native family in the town of Bloemhof a week before our visit. He was willing to employ the Native and many more homeless families as follows: A monthly wage of 2 Pounds 10s. for each such family, the husband working in the fields, the wife in the house, with an additional 10s. a month for each son, and 5s. for each daughter, but on condition that the Native's cattle were also handed over to work for him. It must be clearly understood, we are told that the Dutchman added, that occasionally the Native would have to leave his family at work on the farm, and go out with his wagon and his oxen to earn money whenever and wherever he was told to go, in order that the master may be enabled to pay the stipulated wage. The Natives were at first inclined to laugh at the idea of working for a master with their families and goods and chattels, and then to have the additional pleasure of paying their own small wages, besides bringing money to pay the "Baas" for employing them. But the Dutchman's serious demeanour told them that his suggestion was "no joke". He himself had for some time been in need of a native cattle owner, to assist him as transport rider between Bloemhof, Mooifontein, London, and other diggings, in return for the occupation and cultivation of some of his waste lands in the district, but that was now illegal. He could only "employ" them; but, as he had no money to pay wages, their cattle would have to go out and earn it for him. Had they not heard of the law before? he inquired. Of course they had; in fact that is why they left the other place, but as they thought that it was but a "Free" State law, they took the anomalous situation for one of the multifarious aspects of the freedom of the "Free" State whence they came; they had scarcely thought that the Transvaal was similarly afflicted.

Needless to say the Natives did not see their way to agree with such a one-sided bargain. They moved up country, but only to find the next farmer offering the same terms, however, with a good many more disturbing details — and the next farmer and the next — so that after this native farmer had wandered from farm to farm, occasionally getting into trouble for travelling with unknown stock, "across my ground without my permission", and at times escaping arrest for he knew not what, and further, being abused for the crimes of having a black skin and no master, he sold some of his stock along the way, beside losing many which died of cold and starvation; and after thus having lost much of his substance, he eventually worked his way back to Bloemhof with the remainder, sold them for anything they could fetch, and went to work for a digger.
The experience of another native sufferer was similar to the above, except that instead of working for a digger he sold his stock for a mere bagatelle, and left with his family by the Johannesburg night train for an unknown destination. More native families crossed the river and went inland during the previous week, and as nothing had since been heard of them, it would seem that they were still wandering somewhere, and incidentally becoming well versed in the law that was responsible for their compulsory unsettlement.
Proceeding on our journey we next came upon a native trek and heard the same old story of prosperity on a Dutch farm: they had raised an average 800 bags of grain each season, which, with the increase of stock and sale of wool, gave a steady income of about 150 Pounds per year after the farmer had taken his share. There were gossipy rumours about somebody having met some one who said that some one else had overheard a conversation between the Baas and somebody else, to the effect that the Kafirs were getting too rich on his property. This much involved tale incidentally conveys the idea that the Baas was himself getting too rich on his farm. For the Native provides his own seed, his own cattle, his own labour for the ploughing, the weeding and the reaping, and after bagging his grain he calls in the landlord to receive his share, which is fifty per cent of the entire crop.
All had gone well till the previous week when the Baas came to the native tenants with the story that a new law had been passed under which "all my oxen and cows must belong to him, and my family to work for 2 Pounds a month, failing which he gave me four days to leave the farm."
We passed several farm-houses along the road, where all appeared pretty tranquil as we went along, until the evening which we spent in the open country, somewhere near the boundaries of the Hoopstad and Boshof districts; here a regular circus had gathered. By a "circus" we mean the meeting of groups of families, moving to every point of the compass, and all bivouacked at this point in the open country where we were passing. It was heartrending to listen to the tales of their cruel experiences derived from the rigour of the Natives' Land Act. Some of their cattle had perished on the journey, from poverty and lack of fodder, and the native owners ran a serious risk of imprisonment for travelling with dying stock. The experience of one of these evicted tenants is typical of the rest, and illustrates the cases of several we met in other parts of the country.
Kgobadi, for instance, had received a message describing the eviction of his father-in-law in the Transvaal Province, without notice, because he had refused to place his stock, his family, and his person at the disposal of his former landlord, who now refuses to let him remain on his farm except on these conditions. The father-in-law asked that Kgobadi should try and secure a place for him in the much dreaded "Free" State as the Transvaal had suddenly become uninhabitable to Natives who cannot become servants; but "greedy folk hae lang airms", and Kgobadi himself was proceeding with his family and his belongings in a wagon, to inform his people-in-law of his own eviction, without notice, in the "Free" State, for a similar reason to that which sent his father-in-law adrift. The Baas had exacted from him the services of himself, his wife and his oxen, for wages of 30s. a month, whereas Kgobadi had been making over 100 Pounds a year, besides retaining the services of his wife and of his cattle for himself. When he refused the extortionate terms the Baas retaliated with a Dutch note, dated the 30th day of June, 1913, which ordered him to "betake himself from the farm of the undersigned, by sunset of the same day, failing which his stock would be seized and impounded, and himself handed over to the authorities for trespassing on the farm."
A drowning man catches at every straw, and so we were again and again appealed to for advice by these sorely afflicted people. To those who were not yet evicted we counselled patience and submission to the absurd terms, pending an appeal to a higher authority than the South African Parliament and finally to His Majesty the King who, we believed, would certainly disapprove of all that we saw on that day had it been brought to his notice. As for those who were already evicted, as a Bechuana we could not help thanking God that Bechuanaland (on the western boundary of this quasi-British Republic) was still entirely British. In the early days it was the base of David Livingstone's activities and peaceful mission against the Portuguese and Arab slave trade. We suggested that they might negotiate the numerous restrictions against the transfer of cattle from the Western Transvaal and seek an asylum in Bechuanaland. We wondered what consolation we could give to these roving wanderers if the whole of Bechuanaland were under the jurisdiction of the relentless Union Parliament.
It was cold that afternoon as we cycled into the "Free" State from Transvaal, and towards evening the southern winds rose. A cutting blizzard raged during the night, and native mothers evicted from their homes shivered with their babies by their sides. When we saw on that night the teeth of the little children clattering through the cold, we thought of our own little ones in their Kimberley home of an evening after gambolling in their winter frocks with their schoolmates, and we wondered what these little mites had done that a home should suddenly become to them a thing of the past.
Kgobadi's goats had been to kid when he trekked from his farm; but the kids, which in halcyon times represented the interest on his capital, were now one by one dying as fast as they were born and left by the roadside for the jackals and vultures to feast upon.
This visitation was not confined to Kgobadi's stock, Mrs. Kgobadi carried a sick baby when the eviction took place, and she had to transfer her darling from the cottage to the jolting ox-wagon in which they left the farm. Two days out the little one began to sink as the result of privation and exposure on the road, and the night before we met them its little soul was released from its earthly bonds. The death of the child added a fresh perplexity to the stricken parents. They had no right or title to the farm lands through which they trekked: they must keep to the public roads — the only places in the country open to the outcasts if they are possessed of a travelling permit. The deceased child had to be buried, but where, when, and how?
This young wandering family decided to dig a grave under cover of the darkness of that night, when no one was looking, and in that crude manner the dead child was interred — and interred amid fear and trembling, as well as the throbs of a torturing anguish, in a stolen grave, lest the proprietor of the spot, or any of his servants, should surprise them in the act. Even criminals dropping straight from the gallows have an undisputed claim to six feet of ground on which to rest their criminal remains, but under the cruel operation of the Natives' Land Act little children, whose only crime is that God did not make them white, are sometimes denied that right in their ancestral home.
Numerous details narrated by these victims of an Act of Parliament kept us awake all that night, and by next morning we were glad enough to hear no more of the sickening procedure of extermination voluntarily instituted by the South African Parliament. We had spent a hideous night under a bitterly cold sky, conditions to which hundreds of our unfortunate countrymen and countrywomen in various parts of the country are condemned by the provisions of this Parliamentary land plague. At five o'clock in the morning the cold seemed to redouble its energies; and never before did we so fully appreciate the Master's saying: "But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter."

A similar resolution was passed at another meeting of landlords at another place. Part of the proceedings of this meeting was reported in some, though not all, of the Dutch newspapers. Without breaking our promise not to disclose any names of landlords who felt it a duty to resist injustice, even though it bears the garb of law, we will mention Mr. X., a Boer farmer, of the farm ——, near Thingamejig, between the town of —— and the river ——. He protested at the meeting, stating that the Transvaalers were not compelled to turn the Natives out, and that they were only debarred from taking any new native tenants; that it was wicked to expel a Kafir from the farm for no reason whatever, and so make him homeless, since he could not, if evicted, go either to another farm or back to his old place. For expressing his views so frankly Mr. X. was threatened by his compatriots with physical violence! His opponents also said that, if he continued to harbour Kafirs on his farm as tenants, they would hold him responsible for any stock that they might lose. The incidents of the meeting were related to the Natives by Mr. X. himself. He told the Natives, further, that he would go to the expense of fencing his farm with the Natives inside, so that they may be out of the reach of his infuriated neighbours.
AN ANCIENT COUPLE
A venerable Native whose age is no less than 119 years, accompanied by his wife, aged 98, and a son who is approaching 80, left Harrismith on Tuesday by train for Volksrust. The old man acquired some property in the Transvaal, and is leaving this district to start a new home with as much interest in the venture as if he were a stripling of twenty. The old lady had to be carried to the train, but the old man walked fairly firmly. The aged couple were the centre of much kindly attraction, and were made as comfortable as possible for their journey by the railway officials. It is difficult to realize in these days of rapid change that in the departure from the "Free" State of this venerable party we are losing from our midst a man who was born in 1794, and has lived in no less than three centuries of time. Good luck to them both; may they still live long and prosper!
Now, as a matter of fact, this "ancient couple" had not left the "Free" State of their own free will. Their stock had been expelled from their grazing areas, and they were told that they could only continue to graze if the centenarian tenant agreed to supply a certain number of labourers to work on the landowner's farm and with his sons ceased to do any ploughing as tenants. This system of sharing the crops has been followed ever since the Boers planted themselves in the "Free" State, and the family had had no other means of support. Happily the aid of Providence in the case of this "ancient couple" was speedy, as the old people quickly found an asylum on the farm of Mr. P. ka I. Seme, a native solicitor in the Transvaal.
At the same place on the same evening we were told of a conversation between a well-known Dutchman and a Native. "The object of this law," said the Burgher, "is to goad the Natives into rebellion, so that the Government may legally confiscate what little ground was left to them, and hand over the dispossessed Kafirs and their families to work for the farmers, just for their food." The policy of goading the Natives into rebellion is not wholly foreign to Colonial policy; but the horrible cruelty to which live stock is exposed under the new Act is altogether a new departure. King Solomon says, "The righteous man regardeth the life of his beast, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel"; but there is a Government of professed Bible readers who, in defiance of all Scriptural precepts, pass a law which penalizes a section of the community along with their oxen, sheep, goats, horses and donkeys on account of the colour of their owners. The penalty clause (Section 5) imposes a fine of 100 Pounds on a landowner who accommodates a Native on his farm; and if after the fine is paid the Native leaves his stock on the farm to go and look for a fresh place, there will be an additional fine of 5 Pounds for every day that the Native's cattle remain on that farm. They must take the road immediately and be kept moving day and night until they die of starvation, or until the owner (who is debarred, by Section 1, from purchasing a pasturage for his cattle) disposes of them to a white man.
Such cruelty to dumb animals is as unwarranted as it is unprecedented. It reads cruel enough on paper, but we wish that the reader had accompanied us on one journey, say, during the cold snap in the first week in August, when we travelled from Potchefstroom to Vereeniging, and seen the flocks of those evicted Natives that we met. We frequently met those roving pariahs, with their hungry cattle, and wondered if the animals were not more deserving of pity than their owners. It may be the cattle's misfortune that they have a black owner, but it is certainly not their fault, for sheep have no choice in the selection of a colour for their owners, and no cows or goats are ever asked to decide if the black boy who milks them shall be their owner, or but a herd in the employ of a white man; so why should they be starved on account of the colour of their owners? We knew of a law to prevent cruelty to animals, but had never thought that we should live to meet in one day so many dumb creatures making silent appeals to Heaven for protection against the law. "What man has nerve to do, man has not nerve to see", and oh! if those gifted Parliamentarians could have been mustered here to witness the wretched results of one of their fine days' work for a fine day's pay! But "they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne", then draw their Parliamentary emoluments and retire to the quiet of their comfortable homes, to enjoy more rest than is due to toilers who have served both God and humanity.

During this same night in Hoopstad district we were also told of the visit of a Dutch farmer in the middle of June, 1913, to his native tenants. One of the Natives — named Kgabale — was rather old. His two sons are delving in the gold mines of Johannesburg, and return home each spring time to help the old man and their two young sisters to do the ploughing. The daughters tend the fields and Kgabale looks after the stock. By this means they have been enabled to lead a respectable life and to pay the landowner fifty per cent. of the produce every year, besides the taxes levied by the Government on Natives. Three weeks before our visit, the farmer came to cancel Kgabale's verbal contract with him and to turn the family into unpaid servants, in return for the privilege of squatting on his farm. As Kgabale himself was too old to work, the farmer demanded of him that his two sons should return immediately from Johannesburg to render manual service on his farm, failing which, the old man should forthwith betake himself from the place. He gave Kgabale seven days to deliver his two sons.
Naturally this decision came upon Kgabale and his daughters like a bolt from the blue. The poor old man wandered from place to place, trying to find some one — and it took him two days to do so — who could write, so as to dictate a letter to his sons in Johannesburg, informing them of what had happened. The week expired before he could get a reply from Johannesburg. The landlord, in a very abusive mood, again demanded the instant arrival of his two sons from Johannesburg, to commence work at the farm-house the very next morning. Kgabale spent the whole night praying that at least one of his sons might come. By daybreak next morning no answer had arrived, and the Dutchman came and set fire to the old man's houses, and ordered him then and there to quit the farm. It was a sad sight to see the feeble old man, his aged wife and his daughters driven in this way from a place which they had regarded as their home. In the ordinary course, such a calamity could have been made more tolerable by moving to the next farm and there await the arrival and advice of his sons; but now, under the Natives' Land Act, no sympathetic landowner would be permitted to shelter them for a single day. So Kgabale was said to have gone in the direction of Klerksdorp.
One of the sons arrived a week after the catastrophe. He found his old home in ruins, and that his aged parents and their children had become victims of the turpitude of an Act of Parliament. The son went in search of his relatives across the Vaal, but it was not known if they succeeded in finding the refuge which the law had made unlawful.
Among the squatters on the same farm as Kgabale was a widow named Maria. Her husband in his lifetime had lived as a tenant on the farm, ploughing in shares until his death. After his death Maria kept on the contract and made a fair living. Her son and daughter, aged fourteen and sixteen respectively, took turns at herding her cattle and assisting the mother in other ways. During the ploughing season, they hired assistance to till the fields, but they themselves tended and reaped the harvest and delivered 50 per cent of the produce to the landowner. Such were the conditions on which she was allowed to live on the farm. Maria, being a widow, and her son being but a youth, it was hoped that the landlord would propose reasonable terms for her; but instead, his proposal was that she should dispose of her stock and indenture her children to him. This sinister proposal makes it evident that farmers not only expect Natives to render them free labour, but they actually wish the Natives to breed slaves for them. Maria found it difficult to comply with her landlord's demand, and as she had no husband, from whom labour could be exacted, the Dutchman ordered her to "clear out, and," he added with an oath, "you must get another man before you reach your next place of abode, as the law will not permit you to stay there till you have a man to work for the Baas." Having given this counsel the landlord is said to have set fire to Maria's thatched cottage, and as the chilly south-easter blew the smoke of her burning home towards the north-west, Maria, with her bedclothes on her head, and on the heads of her son and daughter, and carrying her three-year-old boy tied to her back, walked off from the farm, driving her cows before her. In parting from the endeared associations of their late home, for one blank and unknown, the children were weeping bitterly. Nor has any news of the fate of this family been received since they were forced out on this perilous adventure.

Some farmers (unfortunately too few) who had at first intended to change the status of their native tenants, had been obliged to abandon the idea owing to the determined opposition of their wives. One such case was particularly interesting. Thus, at Dashfontein, the wife of a Dutch farmer, a Mr. V., on whose property some native families were squatting, got up, one morning, and found the kitchen-maid very disagreeable. The morning coffee had been made right enough, but the maid's "Morre, Nooi" (Good morning, ma'am) was rather sullen and almost bordering on insolence. She did her scullery work as usual, but did not seem to care, that morning, about wasting time inquiring how baby slept, and if Nonnie had got rid of her neuralgia, and so on. She spoke only when spoken to and answered mainly in monosyllables. Mrs. V. was perplexed.
"What is the matter, Anna?" she asked.
"Nothing, Nooi," replied Anna curtly.
Mrs. V. tried some of her witty jokes, but they seemed to be wasted on Anna. After jesting with the servant had failed, scolding was next tried, but nothing seemed to bring back the girl's usual cheerfulness. "Oh, Anna," said the mistress at length, "you make me think of the olden days, when such disagreeable whims on the part of frowning maids used to be cured by ——"
Anna was evidently not listening, and, if she had heard the mistress, she did not care two straws (or one straw for that matter) what cures Mrs. V.'s great-grandmother had prescribed for sullen servant girls. In fact, Anna had become a wild Kafir, for though she went about her work in silence, her face bore an expression which seemed to speak louder than her mouth could have done. She was clearly engaged in serious thought. The mistress tried to dismiss from her mind the inexplicable attitude of her servant, but the frowning look on Anna's face made the attempts unsuccessful. The fact that when Anna went home, the previous night, she was happiness personified, did not decrease Mrs. V.'s perplexity.
"There must be something wrong," Mrs. V. concluded, after vainly trying ruse after ruse to get a smile out of her servant girl. "Something is amiss. I wonder if one of those well-dressed Kafirs from Potchefstroom had been prowling about the farm and instilling in Anna's simple mind all kinds of silly notions, about town flirts and black dandies, silk dresses in Potchefstroom and similar vuilgoed (rubbish). And if a town Kafir is going to marry Anna, where on earth am I going to get a reliable servant to whom I could securely entrust my home when I have occasion to go to town or to the seaside on a shorter or longer vacation? Who could cook and attend to my husband's and children's peculiar wants, if Anna is going to leave us? It seems certain that Anna's heart is not on the farm," she said to herself. "It was there right enough when she went home last night, but it is clear that some one has stolen it during the night. Anna is helplessly lovesick. I must find out who it is. The swain must be found and induced to come and join, or supervise, our squatters. We cannot let him take her away, for what will the homestead be without Anna? I was looking forward to her marrying on the farm and giving her a superior cottage so that other Kafir girls may see how profitable it is to be good. Anna leaving the farm, O, nee wat! (Oh, no). We must find out who it is; but wait, there is old Gert (her father) coming, with old Jan (her uncle). I must find out from them who had been intruding into the company of their daughters last night. I should warn them to be on the alert lest Anna elopes to Potchefstroom with somebody, probably to take the train and go farther — to Johannesburg or Kimberley, as did Klein Mietje, whom I had hoped to train as our housemaid ——"
"Good morning, Auta Gert, how is Mietje and the kleintjes (little ones)?"
Auta Gert's demeanour was a greater puzzle to Mrs. V. than his daughter's when he replied, "So, so."
Mrs. V. (between horns of the same dilemma): "And you, Auta Jan?"
"Ja, Missus," replied Jan.
Mrs. V.'s perplexity was intense, for it became evident that the two Natives were there as a deputation, charged with some grave mission. Before she uttered another word the two Natives asked for an interview.
"Not to waste much time, Missus," began old Gert, "a thunderbolt has burst on the native settlement on the farm, and Dashfontein is no longer a home to us ——"
"No longer a home!" exclaimed Mrs. V. "I hope you idiotic Kafirs are not going to be so foolhardy as to leave me, leave the Baas, and leave the farm upon which your fathers and mothers lie buried. Do not you know that during this very week numbers of Natives have been calling on the Baas, asking him for places of abode, complaining that they have been turned adrift, with their little ones and their hungry animals, for refusing to become servants to farmers on whose property they had been ploughing on shares? White men have suddenly become brutes and have expelled Natives with whom they have lived from childhood — Natives whose labour made the white man wealthy are turned away by people who should treat them with gratitude. And are you going to leave your old home just when the Devil appears to have possessed himself of the hearts of most farmers? In your own interest, apart from my own and the Baas's, Auta Gert, you should have left us long ago when you could find a place elsewhere. Are you so deaf and blind as not to hear and see the change which has come over the country of late? White men formerly punished a Kafir who had done some wrong, now they worry him from sheer cussedness. You must be mad, Auta Gert, to try and leave us. What is going to become of your family and your beautiful cattle. No wonder that Anna is so upset. I have been thinking that some rondlooper (vagabond) from the towns had been trying to take her away."
As Mrs. V. spoke she was agreeably surprised to find the sobering effect which her rebuke seemed to have upon her husband's native tenants. She knew her influence over them, especially over the old native families, but in all her dealings and close association with them she could not remember an impromptu speech of hers that produced such immediate results. The faces of the two Natives brightened up, and they kept looking at one another as she spoke. At length she turned round towards the stoep and there was Anna, for the first time that morning, interested in and delighted by what she said. Usually it would have been a serious breach of the rules of the house for Anna to listen when the Missus was speaking about something that did not immediately concern her scullery duties; but Mrs. V.'s satisfaction was unbounded on seeing the bright look on her servant's face, which she had hitherto vainly sought.
"Now, you see," said Anna to her father, "I told you it would never happen if the Missus can help it."
At this, the men could scarcely suppress a laugh. The Missus looked round again, and said:
"Anna, have you Kafirs plotted to fool me this morning? Because I take such a deep interest in your welfare, you have so far forgotten yourselves that you connived with your parents to come over to my house and fool me on my own farm? What is the meaning of all this?"
Auta Gert unfolded his story. The Baas was at the native settlement the previous day. He called a meeting of the native peasants and told them of the new law, under which no Kafir can buy a farm or hire a farm. He added that, according to this law, their former relations of landlord and tenants have been made a criminal offence, for which they could be fined a hundred pounds, and he gave them ten days to decide whether they would become his servants or leave the farm.
"Go away, Auta Gert; you were dreaming, my husband would never talk such nonsense. You have been with him from childhood, long before I ever knew him, and yet you do not know that my husband is incapable of uttering anything half so wicked?"
"He said it was the law, the new law."
"Of course you need some stringent measures against the useless, sneaking and prowling loafers, but there is no fear that such laws could apply to Natives like you and Mietje and your children."
"But, Nooi, the Baas told us to leave the farm as the law did not permit him to ——"
"Get you gone, Auta Gert, he was joking. You must know that the law did not buy this farm. The old Baas purchased it from Baas Philander. I personally helped to add up the number of morgen and to calculate the money, and there was not a penny piece from any Government. Go home, Auta Gert, and leave everything to me, and do not let me hear you saying Dashfontein is no longer your home."
"Well, Nooi," assented the Natives with some relief, "if you say it is all right, then it must be so, and we will go back and reap our mealies in peace, and if a policeman comes round demanding a hundred pounds we will tell him to arrest us and take us to the Nooi of the farm. Good-bye, Nooi."
"Good-bye, Auta Gert; good-bye, Auta Jan —— Poor Anna, my dear little maid, why did you not tell Nooi this morning that you were worried over this matter. Really, Anna, I was thinking that you were lovesick. How did poor old Mietje take it? Sadly, did she. Well, I will speak to the Baas about it. He had no business to attempt to bring bad luck over us by disturbing our peaceful Natives with such godless tidings. Tell your mother that Nooi says it will be all right."
A few days later, Hendrik Prins, the farm manager in the employ of Mr. V., was due at the native settlement to see the steam sheller at work and also to receive the landowner's share of the produce. Instead of Prins, Mr. V. attended in person. Each Native regarded this unusual occurrence as the signal for their impending eviction and thought that day would see their last transaction with their old master and landlord.
Mr. V. counted the separate bags filled with mealies and Kafir corn placed in groups around the sheller. He counted no fewer than 12,300 bags, and knew that his share would total 6,150, representing about 3,000 Pounds gross. Could he ever succeed in getting so much, with so little trouble, if poor whites tilled his lands instead of these Natives? he thought. After all, his dear Johanna was right. This law is blind and must be resisted. It gives more consideration to the so-called poor whites (a respectable term for lazy whites), than to the owners of the ground. He, there and then, resolved to resist it and take the consequences.
The grain was all threshed; a number of native girls were busy sewing up the bags, and the engine-driver ordered his men to yoke his oxen and pull the machine away. Mr. V. ordered Auta Gert to call all the `volk' together as he had something to tell them. Auta Gert, knowing the determination of his mistress, did so in confidence that they were about to receive some glad tidings. But the other folks came forward with a grievous sense of wrong. The fact that some Natives on the adjoining property had been turned away three days before and sent homeless about the country, their places being taken by others, who, tired of roaming about and losing nearly everything, had come in as serfs did not allay their fears. Auta Hans was already conjuring up visions of a Johannesburg speculator literally "taking" his Cape shorthorns for a mere bagatelle, as they did to William Ranco, another evicted squatter from Hoopstad.
Mr. V., the farmer, mounted a handy wagon hard by and commenced to address the crowd of blacks who gathered around the wagon at the call of Gert.
"Attention! Listen," he said. "You will remember that I was here last month and explained to you the new law. Well, I understand that that explanation created the greatest amount of unrest amongst the Natives in the huts on my farm. Personally, I am very sorry that it ever came to that, but let me tell you that your Nooi, my wife, says it is not right that the terms under which we have lived in the past should be disturbed. I agree with her that it is unjust, and that the good Lord, who has always blessed us, will turn His face from us if people are unsettled and sent away from the farm in a discontented mood." (Loud and continued applause, during which Mr. V. took out his pouch of Magaliesburg tobacco and lit his pipe.) "The Nooi," he continued after a few puffs, "says we must not obey this law: she even says, if it comes to physical ejectment, or if they take me to prison, she is prepared to go to Pretoria in person and interview General Botha." (More cheers, during which the Natives dispersed to cart away their mealies amidst general satisfaction.)
* * * * *
The writer visited Dashfontein in July, 1913, when the above narrative was given him word for word by old Gert.
As old Gert narrated the story, Aunt Mietje, his wife, who had had timely notice of the impending visit of the morulaganyi (editor) from her husband (who slaughtered a sheep in honour of the occasion), superintended with interesting expectations over frizzling items in the frying-pan on her fireplace. Her bright eyes, beaming from under her headkerchief, suggested how she must have been the undisputed belle of her day. The rough wooden table was covered with the best linen in the native settlement, and on it were laid some clean plates, and the old yet shining cutlery reserved for special occasions, besides other signs of an approaching evening meal. Having learnt the art from an experienced housewife on whose farm her people were squatting, and improved upon her teaching, she was famous in the neighbourhood for the excellence of her cooking. Her only worry in that department was her seeming lack of success in training her daughters up to her elevation. She is usually sent for when important visitors come to Dashfontein, and would then don her best costume of coloured German print, and carry down with her the spotless apron which Mrs. V. gave her the preceding New Year; and in spite of her advancing years, she would cause Anna, and every other upstart at the homestead, instinctively to play second fiddle to her. And when we suggested that our wife could measure swords (or, shall we say, forks) with her as a cook, she giggled and remembered some white man's proverb about the proof of the pudding being in the eating.
After the harrowing experience of the previous week, during which we were forced to see our fellow-beings hounded out of their homes, and the homes broken up; their lifelong earnings frittered away by a law of the land, their only crime being the atrocious one of having the same colour of skin as our own, and finding ourselves suddenly landed on an oasis, the farm of a kind Dutchman and his noble wife, on whose property, and by whose leave, little black piccaninnies still played about in spite of the law, it can be readily understood with what comfort we sat down and did justice to the good things provided by Aunt Mietje. In the course of her preparation every step of hers suggested that she entertained no sort of misprised opinion about her superiority over her compeers; and nothing pleased her better than when she dazzled her husband and family connexions with deeds which proved her superiority over her contemporaries, in everything that tends to make the virtuous and industrious house-wife. She gave a dramatic ending to her husband's narrative when she said —
"Who would have thought that Hannetje, naughty little Hannetje, who was so troublesome when my sister used to nurse her — who would have thought that she would ever prove to be the salvation of our people? Who ever anticipated that all the strong Boers, on whom we had relied, would desert us when the fate of our whole tribe hung in the balance? Natives have been moving from north to south, and from south to north, all searching at the same time for homes and grazing for their cattle. During the last few weeks the roads were hidden in clouds of dust, sent up by hundreds of hoofs of hundreds of cattle, their owners with them, vainly seeking places of refuge; but in the case of Dashfontein, we reclined on a veritable Mount Ararat, by grace of naughty little Hannetje, whom God in His mysterious foresight had raised up to be Mrs. van V., proprietress of Dashfontein. If my prayers are of any value, God will appoint in heaven a special place for her when she gets there, though, for the sake of our people, I hope that time is very far distant. However, I hope to be somewhere near: in truth, I should like to accompany her, when Elijah's chariot comes for her soul, so as to render her what little aid I can on board, when she soars through unknown tracts of space to the spirit world on high, so that if there be any uncomfortable questions about her maiden vagaries, I may be there to attest that she has since atoned a hundred fold for each, and thus accelerate her promotion. No no, Hannetje is not a Boer vrouw, she is an angel."


01-27-2014 03:16 PM
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