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Ronald Segal at his desk in Walton-on-Thames, England.
EDITED BY M.J. DAYMOND and CORINNE SANDWITH
Published in 2011 by University of KwaZulu-Natal Press Private Bag X01 Scottsville, 3209 South Africa Email: email@example.com Website: www.ukznpress.co.za © 2011 University of KwaZulu-Natal All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from University of KwaZulu-Natal Press.
Managing editor: Sally Hines Editor: Alison Lockhart Typesetter: Patricia Comrie Indexer: Abdul Bemath Cover design: luckyfish
Printed and bound by Interpak Books, Pietermaritzburg
Preface Introduction Interview with Ronald Segal Editorial: The Grave of the Mind Ronald Segal South Africa’s Struggle for Democracy Walter Sisulu Portrait of a Cabinet Minister George Clay African Tragedy Phyllis Ntantala Desegregation and the US Labour Movement Willard S. Townsend Association by Permission Alan Paton Ethnic Universities Z.K. Matthews The Bus Boycott Ruth First The South African Police Harry Bloom The Press: Strijdom’s ‘Last Barrier’ George Clay and Stanley Uys Portrait of a Suburb: Hillbrow Arnold Benjamin Women and Passes (I) Helen Joseph ix 1 15 29 39 45 52 61 67 74 80 89 99 110 114
The Fact of African History (I): An Introduction Basil Davidson The East Coast Cultures Gervase Mathew The Pattern of Yoruba History Saburi Biobaku Lagos Diary Cyprian Ekwensi Ghana: The Morning After Ian Colvin The Fact of African History (II): Islam in West Africa Thomas Hodgkin Shamba Bolongongo: African King of Peace Morris Siegel West African Wood Carving K.C. Murray The Sekhukhuneland Terror James Fairbairn No Revolution Round the Corner Julius Lewin An African Diary Rosalynde Ainslie Revolutions are not Abnormal Michael Harmel Revolution in South Africa Edward Roux Satyagraha in South Africa Fatima Meer The Dutch Reformed Church Militant W.P Carstens . The Anatomy of Revolution G.D.H. Cole Mass Trials James Fairbairn
119 125 129 134 137 143 152 158 162 168 174 181 187 190 197 203 208
Women and Passes (II) Helen Joseph Revolution: Further Reflections Joe Matthews The Africanists Cut Loose Peter Rodda Congress and the Africanists Walter Sisulu Editorial: Revolution is Now Ronald Segal Durban Explodes Myrna Blumberg Universities in Ethnasia Maurice Pope Rights and Riots in Natal Leo Kuper Travels in Tribalism Anthony Delius Jacobus and the Barricades Arnold Benjamin Windhoek Diary Brian Bunting The Mafekeng Affair Myrna Blumberg Sex, Colour and the Law Julius Lewin Southern Rhodesia Explodes Enoch Dumbutshena The Pondoland Massacre Dennis Kiley Diary from Refuge An Anonymous Correspondent The Horror of Mozambique Chikomuami Mahala
215 222 227 231 238 242 250 255 259 267 274 281 288 295 300 305 312
The Birth of African Nationalism Lionel Forman The Asian in Kenya Sarjit S. Heyer The Gold of Migrant Labour Ruth First African Trade Unionism in South Africa Leon Levy The Seven Generals: A Study of the Sudan Peter Kilner Libyan Notebook Roger Owen The Living Dead Helen Joseph Anglicans and Apartheid T.N.W. Bush Out of the Strike Nelson Mandela The Congo Compromise Eric Rouleau Nigeria in Crisis Mokwugo Okoye Index
321 329 335 344 352 358 365 375 382 391 397
When Ronald Segal presented a seminar at the Howard College campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) on his recently published Islam’s Black Slaves in 2004, discussion included references to Africa South, the journal that he had begun and edited in Cape Town in 1956. The idea to re-publish the magazine was mooted after the seminar and Segal consulted with a number of UKZN scholars, including Margaret Daymond. About a year later she and Corinne Sandwith (who had recently been awarded a doctorate for her work on oppositional journals published in South Africa from 1930–50) took up the idea. It was agreed that they would select and edit essays from the magazine for publication as a book and that the possibility of digital publication of the full 21 issues would also be pursued. Segal was happy with this idea. As Segal had retained copyright over the journal, he gave us permission to use, reproduce and publish any of the original articles as we saw fit and he also agreed to the extensive interview that is published here. We were able travel to England to conduct this interview with the financial support of the National Research Foundation (NRF), for which we tender our thanks. Segal also offered to assist with information about those who wrote for the magazine, but this help was perforce limited as all the Africa South files and correspondence were lost when he had had to flee South Africa. The essays published in Africa South are compelling and absorbing and with the magazine running to 21 volumes, each containing around 20 essays (some 460 in all), the task of selecting a small number was daunting. Our selection was guided by two key principles. First, we wanted to convey a sense of the historical, political and intellectual significance of the magazine – its opposition to apartheid, its cogent sociopolitical analysis, its transnational reach and its detailed documentation of popular resistance and everyday life. We also wanted, as far as possible, to do justice to the historical period by providing a representative selection of authors, issues, perspectives, topics and styles, paying particular attention to the magazine’s coverage of major historical events, its significance as a public forum attracting some of the leading intellectuals of the day, and its intellectual contribution to the fields of African historiography and political theory. With these principles in mind, we also incorporated the subjective criterion of choosing essays that had the most personal impact. Our training in English Studies was probably decisive as it is clear that a large proportion of the selected essays – those we
judged most compelling and memorable – combine socio-political analysis with narrated ‘life’. They tell stories in which larger social forces are explored through the rich textures of individual human experience and they experiment with innovative combinations of the ‘journalistic’, the ‘autobiographical’ and the ‘literary’. While some of the essays were selected for their historical significance, others have been included for their continuing interest in the present – those engaged in areas of increasing academic and public interest (such as sexuality, transnationalism, urban space, African history) as well as those covering areas of contemporary political concern, such as media freedom and social change. All the essays in Africa South were original publications, many of them personally solicited by Ronald Segal himself. A number of essays – such as the extract from Ruth First’s ‘The Gold of Migrant Labour’ and Nelson Mandela’s ‘Out of the Strike’ – have been published in the same or minimally altered form elsewhere. The decision to republish them as part of this collection was taken not only because they were judged to be excellent in themselves, but also because we felt these essays were essential to an understanding of what Africa South achieved. It was the same emphasis on historical and intellectual significance which led to our decision (in some cases) to publish more than one article by the same author. The pressures on space have, inevitably, been considerable. In order to include as many articles as possible, and thereby do justice to the magazine’s extraordinary range, we took the liberty of making a number of internal cuts to selected essays, all of which are indicated in the text (by ellipses in square brackets). Even so, there have been significant exclusions and many writers who made an important contribution to the magazine – such as Patrick Duncan, Alex Hepple, A.C. Jordan, Christopher Gell and Colin Legum, amongst others – have had to be omitted. However, in 2008, Digital Innovation South Africa (DISA) undertook the scanning and digitisation of the entire Africa South collection in order to facilitate access to and preserve valuable source materials on South African political and social history. The present collection is thus complemented by a digital version of the complete Africa South collection, available at http://www.disa.ukzn.ac.za. Also omitted from this collection are short stories and poetry. Several possibilities presented themselves for the organisation of this material, namely arrangement by writer, topic, region or chronology. While there are obvious benefits to all of these choices, we decided to follow a chronological organisation since it allows present-day readers to follow the trajectory of historical events, to witness the flow of history and to understand and situate the arguments as part of larger historical narratives. A chronological selection also avoids the problems presented by essays engaged with multiple themes or regions. Information for the brief author biographies at the beginning of each essay was gathered from a range of sources, including the Internet and reference books. Of these
the most important were Political Africa: A Who’s Who of Personalities and Parties (1961) by Ronald Segal and Catherine Hoskyns; From Protest to Challenge: A Documentary History of African Politics in South Africa, 1882–1964, Volume 4: Political Profiles, 1882–1964 (1977) by Gail Gerhart and Thomas Karis and Companion to South African English Literature (1986) by David Adey, Ridley Beeton, Michael Chapman and Ernest Pereira. Apart from selected internal cuts, no changes have been made to the original essays except for the silent correction of obvious typographical errors and stylistic inconsistencies. Editorial additions are in square brackets. We have also retained the names and (where used) the titles of contributors as well as the brief by-lines which appeared on the first page of most essays in their original form. Finally, we would like to thank the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research at the University of KwaZulu-Natal for funding that assisted with publication costs. We would also like to take this opportunity to thank all the people who have been involved at various stages in this project. We are particularly grateful to Jeff Guy for the loan of his copies of Africa South and to Brendan Hughes who collected copies of the journal and first gave them to Jeff Guy when they were working in Lesotho. Grateful thanks also to William Beinart, Anthony Chennells, Tendai Dumbutshena, Brian Fulela, Michael Gardiner, Jenni Gould, Barbara Harlow, Judith Heyer, John Hilton, Catherine Hoskyns, Eva Hunter, Chris Hurst, Bill Johnson, Ester Lee, Leon Levy, Norman Levy, Patricia Liebetrau, Raymond Louw, Terryl McCarthy, David Morrell, Liz Palmer, Vishnu Padayachee, Chirag Patel, Graham Pechey, Don Pinnock, Maurice Pope, Susan Segal, Milton Shain, Gillian Slovo, Brian Spencer, Gavin Stewart, Raymond Suttner, Judith Todd, Ann Torlesse, Penny Tyson, Stanley Uys, Randolph Vigne and Ann Marie Wolpe.
Africa South began in Cape Town as a quarterly publication in October 1956 and was published for five years until October 1961. For the last two years, it was run from London as Africa South in Exile because the founder and editor, Ronald Segal, had been forced to leave South Africa. Launched amidst growing state repression and gradually mounting resistance, Africa South combined its forthright attack on racism and apartheid rule in South Africa with an analysis of political developments across the African continent and other parts of the African diaspora. Unlike papers with a similar purpose, such as New Age (the Guardian’s successor), the Liberal Party’s Contact and the pro-Congress Fighting Talk, Segal gave the magazine a formal style and tone, closer to that of an academic journal than a news-sheet or a tabloid. It engaged with the complexities of colonialism and its aftermath, and with apartheid, through a combination of reportage, scholarly reflection, political analysis, historical overview, exposé and cultural critique. Those who wrote for the magazine (and who did so from ideological positions that ranged from liberal to extreme left) were historians, politicians, sociologists, journalists, teachers, art historians, archaeologists, literary scholars, short-story writers and poets, economists, lawyers and jurists, diplomats, trade unionists, political leaders and activists. As Ronald Segal says in the interview published here, the journal’s launch was precipitated by Prime Minister J.G. Strijdom’s decision in 1956 to pack the upper house of Parliament, the Senate, so as to get the necessary two-thirds majority needed to take away the constitutional right of the Coloured population to be included on the common voters’ roll. For Segal, this was the final straw, leading him to abandon his studies in the United States and to pursue the ‘struggle against violence and cruelty’ (Segal 1963, 109) as a publisher. In his autobiography, Into Exile, Segal says that he wanted the magazine not only to combine the disparate strands of South African militancy into an ‘intellectual united front’, but also to connect these struggles to the rest of Africa and ‘the world beyond’ (1963, 109). In carrying out his plan for Africa South, Segal successfully put into practice one of the most important arguments advocated by his journal: the need to unite across political, class and racial divides against the power of the apartheid state.
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Segal edited, managed and distributed Africa South himself, although at first he had planned otherwise. He knew that some academics at the University of Cape Town were planning an oppositional journal and so, on his return, they met to discuss a joint project. Nothing came of it because the ‘liberal professors and lecturers’ would not agree to allow him ‘the final say in shaping the policy of the magazine’ (1963, 125). Maurice Pope was one of those academics and he gives a rather more self-critical version of what happened: In the middle of 1955 a letter arrived from Virginia. It offered the necessary funding, and not only that but something equally necessary, a free full-time assistant to carry out the secretarial work and the copy-editing. However, we ourselves would be the governing Board: policy, choice of contributors, the accepting or rejecting of articles would remain firmly in our hands.1 All that Ronald [. . .] demanded in return was to be able to withdraw the money after due notice if at any time the enterprise was obviously not going to succeed. The offer was not only spectacularly generous but it was also presented in modest and businesslike terms. If it had been made by a Rhodes or an Oppenheimer I am sure it would have been fawningly accepted. But it was being made by a young man who had only just graduated, and it put us into a great panic which we disguised as moral indignation. We professed to find the idea that the benefactor could turn off the flow of money if it was running to waste quite unacceptable, an insult in fact, and against all principles of academic freedom. We had no hesitation in refusing the offer point blank. The next week Ronald announced the foundation of a Political Quarterly to cover exactly the same ground we had hoped to cover, but which was to do so with infinitely more verve, courage and open-mindedness than we would have shown, and with the infinitely snappier title of Africa South.2 Thus, according to Pope, the stumbling block was the question of editorial control. The academics’ rebuff probably led Segal, always a ‘strident’ individualist (1963, 123) if not a maverick figure, to appreciate the advantages that he would enjoy, and which he was to use so effectively, as an autonomous editor and publisher. Certainly he said while being interviewed that when in London in 1961 he was searching for the means of sustaining Africa South in Exile, he would not consider any offer that would place him under the control of an editorial board.
1. Pope’s essay ‘Universities in Ethnasia’ appears in this volume. He names the ‘chief movers’ of the projected journal as Leonard Thompson, Monica Wilson and Ben Beinart. He suggests that Philip Segal and Jack Simons might also have been involved. 2. Personal correspondence with Maurice Pope, October 2008.
As the founding moment of Africa South suggests, it was going to operate in an increasingly oppressive period as the South African Nationalist government began to systematise and entrench its racist rule – and its vision of what came to be called ‘apartheid’ – through legislation. Much of this legislation entailed a steady abrogation of the rule of law. This was accompanied by increasingly brutal methods of enforcement that, as Harry Bloom says in ‘The South African Police’ in this volume, turned the police force into an arm of the state, rather than a safeguard of civil society. The measures that codified racial separation in private and public life were fiercely contested in the pages of Africa South, as can be seen in, for example, ‘Association by Permission’ by Alan Paton. Underpinning the seemingly rational notion of ‘separate but equal’ (which ignored the economic reality that the white state was entirely dependent on black labour) were measures that gave priority to the criterion of race in all areas of life. African, Indian and Coloured people (in that order of subjection) were steadily deprived of their rights in matters such as education, health, labour and domicile. These moves were analysed and their early effects documented in Africa South. On education, Segal’s editorial ‘The Grave of the Mind’ concludes that it would be better for universities to shut down than to comply with separatist principles, while Z.K. Matthews in ‘Ethnic Universities’ implicitly demonstrates why he preferred to resign as acting principal of Fort Hare, rather than see it brought under the control of H.F. Verwoerd, then the Minister of Native Affairs. On domicile, Phyllis Ntantala in ‘African Tragedy’ documents the impact of influx control on a representative African family in an urban slum. These laws were accompanied by a sharp crackdown on radical opponents of the regime and here race played little or no part in the state’s actions. The Treason Trial, which lasted for four years because of the prosecution’s poor preparation (possibly a deliberate ploy to keep the accused out of active life), was reported in eight articles in Africa South from April 1957 to July 1961 (not included here), while the state’s use of legal procedures for the purpose of intimidation was analysed in essays, such as James Fairbairn’s ‘Mass Trials’, reprinted here. At the same time there were equally punitive measures levelled against ordinary people, including rural people, which were carefully chronicled and analysed: see, for example, Dennis Kiley’s ‘The Pondoland Massacre’ and James Fairbairn’s ‘The Sekhukhuneland Terror’. So too was the often heroic resistance of the people targeted. Helen Joseph’s two-part essay on ‘Women and Passes’; Myrna Blumberg’s ‘Durban Explodes’; Leo Kuper’s ‘Rights and Riots in Natal’ and Nelson Mandela’s ‘Out of the Strike’ all show clearly the resilient opposition of ordinary people to state control and punishment. A personal account of the dangers of seeking political exile in countries bordering on South Africa is given in the anonymous ‘Diary from Refuge’. As South West Africa (now independent Namibia) was subject to the Nationalist government’s control and ideological influence, it is not unexpected that events there should mirror what was happening in South Africa. Thus Brian
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Bunting, visiting from South Africa, conveys eye-witness accounts of the 1959 forced removals and riots in his ‘Windhoek Diary’. Assembling accounts of these measures, enacted over five years, might suggest that a despairing response would characterise Africa South. But, while the tone of the essays, and particularly of Segal’s editorials, is often one of anger and defiance, the magazine never suggests an intimidated people or intelligentsia. Instead, the contributing writers’ resolve and their certainty in their cause remain strong, making the essays an invigorating read today. Walter Sisulu charts with dispassionate care ‘South Africa’s Struggle for Democracy’ and in ‘Congress and the Africanists’ he rebuts with an equal resolve and far-sightedness the allegation, made by the breakaway Africanist group, that the African National Congress (ANC) was abandoning its founding principles. In ‘The Africanists Cut Loose’ Peter Rodda gives an analysis, from a Congress Alliance perspective, of the first conference held by the Africanists after their breakaway. Ruth First analyses with rigour the economics of a bus boycott in Alexandra, an analysis which at the same time brings home the stoical determination of the urban workers not to give in. And in ‘The Gold of Migrant Labour’, First exposes with characteristic precision the drive for profit that has shaped the long history of exploitation on the gold mines. The Nationalist government’s determination to control its opponents also meant that Africa South itself had to survive, without making concessions, in a climate of growing political oppression. In its day, many opposition publications were banned or otherwise run to ground. Once again, the legislation in question, abrogating freedom of speech and curtailing the press, was vigorously contested in essays such as ‘The Press: Strijdom’s “Last Barrier” ’ by George Clay and Stanley Uys. There were also practical, material difficulties facing the magazine as Segal struggled to find willing printers, to sell advertising space and to sustain a viable distribution. At first the Cape Times company printed Africa South, but after the third issue, which was dedicated to three of the Treason Trialists and carried Anthony Delius’s satirical portrait in verse of several South African Parliamentarians, this service was withdrawn (Segal 1963, 145).3 Africa South seems never to have attracted much advertising revenue and Segal records that what did come in could not pay for more than the cover (Segal 1961, 1).4 Each issue was soft-bound in a single, eye-catching colour and featured an African woman’s head drawn in pared-down profile by the well-known sculptor, Lippy Lipshitz. The financial
3. Delius’s poem was published in full in The Last Division (1959). His description of the patent but unacknowledged contradictions between modernisation and tribalism that he witnessed while being taken with other journalists around the ‘reserves’ (soon to become the ‘homelands’) has been included here – see ‘Travels in Tribalism’. 4. Among the few irregular advertisers were the South African Institute of Race Relations, Encounter and British publishing houses, such as Penguin and Collins.
difficulties meant that the magazine was always heavily reliant on Segal’s personal funds and on further financial assistance from Christian Action in London (Segal 1963, 124). Circulation, initially undertaken in South Africa by the Central News Agency, fared rather better, for the magazine soon became its own best advertisement and although it was comparatively expensive (3/9d. per issue) it reached a print run of between 7 000 and 8 000 per quarterly issue. It rapidly established itself as one of the leading publications on African and South African affairs (1963, 152) and, as Segal says in the interview here, its prestige was reflected in the personal respect he was accorded by leaders in the ANC. As editor of a magazine that confronted the state, Segal was under personal threat too. His car was bombed, his offices searched, he was subjected to obvious police surveillance and midnight phone calls. Then he was banned under the Suppression of Communism Act. Eventually, when he heard, amidst the sweeping nationwide arrests after the Sharpeville massacre in April 1960, that the police were searching for him, he decided to leave the country. Segal kept this story out of the pages of Africa South, but made sure that many other stories of personal persecution were told. Myrna Blumberg in ‘The Mafekeng Affair’ recounts the story of Elizabeth Mafekeng, a trade unionist in Paarl who was summarily banished to the northern Cape because she led a strike of factory workers and, in ‘The Living Dead’, Helen Joseph writes about the many rural leaders who refused to impose government measures on their people and were summarily banished to remote and alien parts. There they had to exist without income or other resources and without the means of communicating with their families. When Helen Joseph began her work, no one knew whether these people were still alive, let alone where they were. In the interview here and in Into Exile, Segal is forthright about the advantages of his affluent family background, which, he says, included the example his father gave of how to use money well – that is, for the benefit of others, as well as oneself. Segal always spoke openly of having built on his family connections in creating the network of contributors, advisers, business managers and some early patrons, who shaped and protected his magazine. His first priority was to assemble a group of local and international sponsors, which would help to protect the journal against government threat. In South Africa, once Africa South had demonstrated its principles and standards, Segal enlisted the support of Chief Albert Luthuli (President-General of the ANC), Dr G.M. Naicker (President of the Natal Indian Congress), Len Lee-Warden (Vice-President of the Congress of Democrats), Dr Ellen Hellman (ex-President of the Institute of Race Relations), Margaret Ballinger (a longstanding ‘Native representative’ in Parliament and member of the Liberal Party), the Right Reverend Ambrose Reeves (Bishop of Johannesburg) and Alex Hepple (leader of the Labour Party). Within South Africa the support of the ANC was decisive in establishing political credibility for the journal. Without it, Segal writes, ‘Africa South would have remained for me a
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fundamental failure, a flourish at the mere edges of the crowd’ (1963, 124). From England, Segal secured the support of the novelist Joyce Carey, Arthur Creech-Jones (former Secretary of State for the colonies), the historian Basil Davidson, and Kingsley Martin (editor of the New Statesman and Nation). In the United States, Segal approached people he had met while studying there, again with success. Thurgood Marshall and Henry Lee Moon, both of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) and Victor G. Reuther of the Automobile Workers’ Union became patrons and contributors. By the fifth issue of Africa South, Segal was also able to announce the patronage of Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Victor Gollancz (publisher of the Left Book Club in London) and Jo Grimond (leader of the Liberal Party in Britain). Later he enlisted the philosopher and political theorist Bertrand Russell, Indira Gandhi (President of the Congress Party of India), Nicolas Nabokov (SecretaryGeneral of the Congress for Cultural Freedom), Louis Fischer (a left-wing American journalist), the Reverend Michael Scott (petitioner to the United Nations on behalf of the African people of South West Africa), and the British poets Stephen Spender and Louis MacNeice. Segal’s intuitions and connections served him equally well in finding contributors, as the Contents page of this selection will testify. Accompanying his outgoing personality was a cool-headed judgement of whom to approach to write on particular topics and whom to ask for further contacts and suggestions. And he was prescient in the writers he commissioned, for most of those he approached were at the beginning of their careers in the late 1950s, but would, as the biographical notes at the beginning of each article indicate, go on to attain distinction in their respective fields. As with Segal’s own work, their essays suggest what he calls in the interview a particular quality of joy in writing in opposition to racist assumptions, policies and practices wherever they occurred. The contributors totalled 260 writers and, besides those in this selection, were South Africans such as H.A. Naidoo, Vella Pillay, Duma Nokwe, Hilda Bernstein (writing as ‘Thandi’), Patrick Duncan, Len Lee-Warden, Jack Simons, Jordan Ngubane, A.C. Jordan, Can Themba and Arthur Maimane. From other regions in Africa, Segal solicited pieces from political leaders and activists such as Julius Nyerere, Kenneth Kaunda, Joshua Nkomo, Hastings Banda, Tom Mboya and Hosea Kutako (Paramount Chief of the Hereros), all of whom brought the anti-colonial struggle of other regions into revealing alignment with the South African scene. From the United States, Britain and France, Segal received pieces from the Labour Member of Parliament Barbara Castle, the journalist Colin Legum, the historians Thomas Pakenham and Terence Ranger, and the director of the overseas service of Le Monde, Jean Lacouture. Politically, Segal positioned himself with care for the sake of the magazine. His tiny office in Parliament Street in Cape Town became a hive of activity as local people and visitors dropped in to discuss politics and frequently to offer contributions, but Segal himself chose to remain on the fringes of all politically organised resistance for he
knew, as he says in the interview, that his flamboyant and gregarious individualism would not allow him easily to take direction from others. Although he was drawn to the Congress Alliance, he also judged that for Africa South to meet his objective of building a united intellectual front against racism, he could not be seen to align himself with any particular party or grouping. As many of these essays were commissioned, their identification of key issues and their range point to the sensitivity of Segal’s own ‘antennae’, as he puts it in the interview, and the good advice that he was given about topics and writers. Among the trusted advisers he has identified were Ruth First, Stanley Uys, Bishop Reeves, Basil Davidson and Rosalynde Ainslie. That he engaged vigorously with his writers is evident in letters written by Fatima Meer to her husband, Ismail Meer, while he was in Johannesburg as one of the accused in the Treason Trial. She begins: ‘I had suggested about four angles from which the subject might be tackled. He [Segal] has chosen “Satyagraha in S. Africa” as the background against which the topic of Indian political development may be approached. I feel quite satisfied and will get down to it now’ (18 July 1957). In her next letter, she reports Segal’s requirements in more detail: He wants me to answer the following questions: the peculiar status of S.A. Indians, a) politically and b) economically; the attitude of gvt. toward him [Gandhi]; the attitude of past administrators and the white pop[ulation]; his [Gandhi’s] political sympathies; his attitude to India; the history of his agony in the country and the weapons he forged to overcome it (20 July 1957).5 In our trying to reconstruct what the journal represented in its day, individual essays and series of essays have served to indicate the range and importance of the issues that Africa South tackled and its spread over three broad geopolitical areas of concern. In the case of South Africa, besides the analyses of apartheid ideology, the measures taken by its proponents and the punishment heaped on those who resisted, was a full description of and principled debate about ways of opposing apartheid (by white as well as black writers). These contributions ranged from ‘Passive Resistance’ by Patrick Duncan (not included here) to a path-breaking discussion of revolution beginning with Julius Lewin’s piece of October 1958, ‘No Revolution Round the Corner’. This series of nine essays (the others published here are by Michael Harmel, Edward Roux, G.D.H. Cole and Joe Matthews) climaxed in the editorial by Segal, ‘Revolution Is Now’, and was regarded by him as probably the most memorable of the topics broached in Africa South. Other topics were equally fearlessly debated: the rapidly changing relationship between church and state, as in the essays here by Reverend T.N.W. Bush and W.P. Carstens; changes in educational policy and practices; labour issues and the troubled
5. Permission to quote from these letters was kindly given by Professor Fatima Meer.
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growth of the trade unions in essays here by Lionel Forman and Leon Levy. George Clay’s ‘Portrait of a Cabinet Minister’ describes Jan de Klerk’s early attacks on trade unionism in South Africa, made because he recognised that a unified labour movement would be an obstacle to his ethnic nationalism. Probably because gender was not an established topic for debate during the period of Africa South, it did not feature alongside race as a category through which to analyse what was happening. This was despite the magnitude of the women’s march on the Union Buildings in 1956 to protest against the imposition of passes on African women. The government’s actions and the protest itself make it clear that all communities were, however unevenly, structured on gendered principles, but in the aftermath of the march a theorising of gender as one of the factors in the oppression of women did not emerge.6 On the other hand, the control of sexuality that was central to apartheid thinking and led to a preposterous but ever more vigilant ‘attempt to police intimacy’ (Attwell 2005, 3) was recorded and examined – as in ‘Sex, Colour and the Law’ by Julius Lewin. In a related vein were a 1957 editorial entitled ‘Sex and Sedition’ in which Segal points to the ‘booming market in prosecutions for statutory sex offences’ in South Africa and appeals to Southern Rhodesia’s legislators not to take the same disastrous route and a 1958 account by Owen Williams of the impact of classification under the Population Registration Act on the lives of ordinary people in Cape Town (neither piece is included here). Arguing that the legislation, which Prime Minister Malan had declared was the cornerstone of apartheid policy, does not and cannot actually define ‘race’ or racial groups, Williams depicts in intimate detail what happens to people who might have grown up believing themselves to be white (for example) but suddenly find themselves, for reasons unknown to them, invited to appear before a race tribunal and to answer what he calls questions ‘of an almost unbearable delicacy’. The co-option of sexual matters into racist policies indicates another reason why the magazine’s dominant focus was on race, as race was steadily made to encompass everything. Consequently, a factor such as class entered the magazine’s analyses only by default (see Segal’s comments in the interview) and gender, now much more central in sociopolitical thinking in South Africa, was overlooked. In the case of Africa more widely, the magazine concerned itself chiefly with issues of liberation and the neo-colonialism that had already begun to follow. The limits and possibilities of the emerging post-colony are pinpointed in Eric Rouleau’s ‘The Congo Compromise’ where he argues that after Lumumba’s death the coalition government of the day had been formed largely in the interests of foreign companies such as Belgium’s Union Minière. A complex, many-sided debate emerges which evidently resonated in countries throughout the continent. Besides the writing of politicians
6. Walker (1990, 3) and Bazilli (1991, 8–10) both indicate that gender as an analytical category was only just gaining acceptance in the early 1990s, the time of their pioneering studies.
already mentioned, much accrued around the proposed federation of Northern Rhodesia, Nyasaland and Southern Rhodesia (Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe) – see Enoch Dumbutshena’s ‘Southern Rhodesia Explodes’. Contributing more indirectly to this debate, historian Morris Siegel looks to Africa’s past for examples of polities and policies that might serve emerging states in contemporary Africa better than the models promoted by the lingering or departing colonists. He introduces the great King Shamba Bolongongo, of the pre-colonial Bushongo peoples of central Africa, whose pacifist policies led to significant social advances for his people. The historical investigations published in Africa South are part of a growing challenge to colonial assumptions about Africa’s past being uniform and barbaric while also providing constructive guidance to the emergent modern states in Africa. This line of argument begins with Basil Davidson’s asserting ‘The Fact of African History: An Introduction’ and continues in Gervase Mathew’s account of early interactions with Islam and the cultural assimilation that occurred in the trading posts on the East African coast, and in Thomas Hodgkin’s account of the influence of ‘Islam in West Africa’. History infuses the account of West African wood carving by K.C. Murray and Saburi Biobaku traces ‘The Pattern of Yoruba History’ until the rapid decline brought about by the Atlantic slave trade. Coming into the present, but thinking as a subject in history, Z.K. Matthews writes about the education of African people as a self-professed modernist and Mokwugo Okoye observes the signs in Nigeria that civil rights and public debate will be curtailed. A comparable consideration of political intolerance in Ghana comes from Ian Colvin. From countries where colonial control was being sustained with increasing cruelty come reports such as Chikomuami Mahala’s ‘The Horror of Mozambique’, while the presence of a large Asian community in Kenya was the subject of Sarjit Heyer’s report on their decision to forgo minority group rights in the Constitution (as the country developed a sense of nationhood) and to rely instead on guaranteed individual rights for their protection. Although Africa South began with its focus set south of the Sahara, in the last years of its publication there was a steady flow of information about northern Africa too: Peter Kilner on ‘The Seven Generals: A Study of the Sudan’ and Roger Owen on the consequences for Libyan society of the discovery of oil. In representing issues in the United States, Europe and Britain, as well as in its reach into India, Africa South’s principle of conjuncture, its comparative focus, was a deliberate policy from the beginning. Fatima Meer, for example, investigates the lead given by Gandhian principles of satyagraha to political resistance in South Africa. Attention was also given to common economic issues: in ‘Desegregation and the US Labour Movement’, Willard Townsend argues that the process of desegregation was helped by the labour unions’ recognising the increasing benefits of worker solidarity. From England, the exiled Vella Pillay was strongly critical of the probable impact of the newly formed European Economic Community on African countries, arguing that its
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regulations would, by limiting the African countries connected to the member states to supplying raw materials, prevent a balanced economic development in these excolonies (this essay is not included here). Allied to the magazine’s featuring accounts of African culture by historians are human interest stories, which become integral to the analyses of weighty socio-political matters that Africa South carried. These stories offer glimpses of history from below, indicating both that individual temperaments and circumstances were part of the force of ideas that shaped social developments and that individual lives were a good barometer of what was important in these developments. The former possibility is evident in Cyprian Ekwensi’s account of Lagos and in Rosalynde Ainslie’s capturing the political climates of Nairobi, Kampala and Lusaka by describing the people she met and with whom she stayed. A barometric piece is Arnold Benjamin’s focus on the everchanging patterns of habitation in Hillbrow. Benjamin also explores human drama in the true but extraordinary (for its day) story of an African child, Jacobus, whose adoptive white, Afrikaner parents were lovingly raising him as their own and intending that he would be trained as a missionary. Fiction, never perhaps as surprising as fact, and poetry also featured regularly in Africa South and so did a pioneering literary critical series by A.C. Jordan on developments in the Xhosa narrative tradition.7 Besides the impact of individual essays in their day, is a question about the journal as a whole, as a phenomenon, both as we can recover it for the late 1950s and as it will be seen today. Its character was one of serious, courageous and outspoken commentary; it was not a newspaper, but its editor was quick to identify the important events and issues of its time and made a sure choice of the right expert to write seriously in a sophisticated, but lucid style suited to a non-specialist readership. The magazine’s approach was to humanise its socio-political analyses without softening their import or the distinctive perceptions of each writer. Segal records a particular dislike for what he calls ‘the blowsy short stories, [and] the laced-in articles, which reduced so much human horror to sentiment or statistical tables’ (1963, 274) and he saw to it that his magazine attracted writers who could provide a fearless but considered account of current affairs. The magazine’s achievement in creating an international network of writers and readers, all engaged by related issues and experiences, may impart to today’s reader a reassuring sense that in the 1950s it could articulate a public opposition to apartheid that was intellectually vigorous and that resistance had not yet been shut down by the Nationalist government’s repressive measures. But, of course, today’s appreciation of this liveliness is also shaped by the knowledge of how much worse things were to get in the next three decades, before change would come.
7. Jordan’s essays were subsequently published as a monograph, Towards an African Literature: The Emergence of Literary Form in Xhosa, in 1972.
Seeing the magazine as an archive inviting such historical reflection is not, however, the only or even the most important kind of insight that Africa South offers, for there are features of the magazine which are directly relevant to the concerns of the post-apartheid present. As global forces impact on all our lives and as a world-systems approach becomes ever more necessary to understand these forces, the intercontinental, pan-Africanist vision that emerges from the pages of Africa South is provocative. It is a vision that is inclusive of diversity and rests in shared experience, rather than an essentialist idea of identity. Segal’s early contacts with members of the NAACP such as Thurgood Marshall (then the NAACP’s legal adviser who later became Justice of the United States Supreme Court) were instrumental in pushing the journal towards a fresh understanding of internationalism, which would complement the more practical goals of generating awareness and forging an ‘intellectual united front’. As part of the international pan-Africanist movement, the NAACP sought to challenge racial discrimination in the United States through strategic co-operation with other victims of racial oppression around the world. The NAACP’s director of special research was none other than W.E.B. du Bois, the main driving force behind the first four pan-African congresses held in various parts of the world in the late 1910s and into the 1920s. Frequent requests to Segal from members of the NAACP for a magazine that would ‘study developments in Africa and relate them to the world beyond’ (1963, 109) were an important catalyst for his own growing attraction to the strategic and conceptual value of a pan-Africanist perspective. As Segal says in the interview, Africa South took up the challenge of both continental and international versions of the pan-Africanist project (Appiah 1992, 180) through its detailed coverage of three main areas of ‘racial turmoil’ – the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, the anti-colonial movements gathering pace across the African continent, and the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. Segal had maintained relations with the London-based West African Students’ Union, which was established in 1924 and had provided a meeting point for pan-Africanist intellectuals such as George Padmore and Kwame Nkrumah (Young 2001, 228, 427). These relations meant that to the well-established pan-African circuit, Segal could add the struggles of the African diaspora in Britain (by carrying a report on the Notting Hill riots of 1958, for example), thereby drawing in all three vectors of the classic pan-African triangle – Africa, the United States and Britain (Geiss 1968, 353). In this way pieces about bus boycotts, forced removals, Afrikaner nationalism, re-tribalisation policies, police tyranny, labour conscription and the plight of women in impoverished rural reserves in South Africa are to be read and understood alongside the betrayal of South West Africa by the United Nations, the imposition of the Central African Federation, post-Mau Mau repression and militant trade unionism in Kenya, successful anti-colonial struggles in French West Africa, violent resistance in Algeria, independence celebrations in Nigeria and Ghana, race riots in Britain and desegregation in the southern United States.
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From the mid-1960s (after the forced demise of Africa South) these connections would disappear as South Africa became a closed society, encouraged in its isolation by a laager mentality within and regarded as a pariah state from the outside. This closing off had the intellectually and politically damaging consequence of allowing the country’s policies and problems to seem unique, an outlook which came to ‘dominate . . . cultural theorizing’ (Nuttall and Michael 2000, 2). Reading Africa South today is a way of rediscovering the place of racism in intercontinental relations of the 1950s and of understanding the dynamics and essential continuity of its particular manifestations in South Africa. Such insight will offer a further refinement of the conceptual basis for a post-apartheid reintegration into Africa, as the countries of this continent continue to negotiate their place in the contemporary, ever-shifting balance of power. What Segal calls in the interview his aim to ‘document the causes and course of rebellion’ in each region of the diasporic triangle allows not only for serendipitous and illuminating comparison, but also for a re-imagining of an often fragmented political reality and a vision of the dynamics of the whole that is unusual. In this way Africa South built on the Black Atlantic connections and exchanges already established by people such as Sol Plaatje and Alfred Xuma (Willan 1984, 268–73; Gish 2000, 94–95, 205–06) and redeveloped the older lines of connection across the Indian Ocean (Hofmeyr 2007, Hofmeyr and Duphelia-Mesthrie 2007) to which Gervase Mathew’s and Thomas Hodgkin’s essays point. Today, as political thinking moves further away from its old base in the nation state, as intellectual interest in transnationalism grows and as the practical consequences of globalisation increase, contemporary readers may well find the perspectives offered in Africa South both instructive and congenial. The magazine’s pan-African vision was not so much a sign of an overarching political framework and omniscient theoretical perspective. Rather it remained a babel of voices, a somewhat uncoordinated alliance, a broad front in which the process of socio-political clarification and understanding was prioritised over the naming and exposing of political error (as happened in some party-aligned publications of the day). The journal’s noisy polyvocality is to some extent held in check by the enforced calm of the long essay format, but its political eclecticism nevertheless allowed for both explicit and implicit argument and an ongoing clash of ideas which did not seek resolution. This dialogic quality is evident, for example, in the influential series of essays on revolution, which explored the possibilities of an imminent revolutionary overthrow of apartheid rule. While an individual essay may present a self-confirming, monologic argument, its appearance alongside others with a different perspective plus the absence of a controlling editorial viewpoint is what gives the journal its inherently dialogic quality. As a result, individual pieces undermine, expand, qualify, support and modify each other in a continually evolving, always provisional argument. This heterogeneity of perspective encourages an understanding of social reality as complex and multidimensional, multiple rather than unitary, provisional rather than fixed and it
has extraordinary relevance to the thought processes needed in an avowedly heterogeneous South Africa today. The transcontinental reach of Africa South has prompted reflection here on the nature of and responses to the powerful bond that drew its writers and readers together: the common enemy of racism. But further than this, the visionary quality of the magazine’s pan-Africanism invites speculation on whether a journal or magazine today could (or should) tap into or create comparably fluid bonds between various peoples and interests. The answer will depend on one’s sense of how conditions and needs then and now compare. In considering the 1950s, it is striking that the approach to racism in Africa South was, accompanying its materialist analysis of issues (the work of Ruth First, for example), one of moral critique, of outrage in search of clarity. This note conveys the distinct climate of that decade, a period both different from and similar to the present and to the decades between. The mood then was sharper and more focused than that of the present, for anger such as Segal describes in the interview stimulated a wish for informed insight, rather than either the revolutionary activism – a taking to the streets, a mass refusal of education, a making the townships ungovernable – which characterised the 1980s, or the sense of lost opportunities (after the promise of the country’s first democratic elections) that seems pervasive now. Also significant in the magazine’s representation of the 1950s in South Africa is its demonstration that political organisations found that single-issue protests, such as the bus boycott, were far more effective and could be sustained for much longer than any of the calls for mass action on a broad range of issues that were tried at that time (for example, in ‘Out of the Strike’ Mandela grapples valiantly with the only partial success of the three-day strike that was called early in 1960 in an effort to push the government towards a national convention).8 The focus in society of the 1950s on moral critique and analytical clarity had been replaced in the 1980s by the exhilarating certainty of mass action that came with the formation of the United Democratic Front. It was a decade which held a promise of ‘radical democracy’ (O’Brien 2001, 2). Today, that promise has faded and a gap between South Africa’s remarkable Constitution and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on the one hand and socio-political failures such as poverty (signalling a
8. In an essay not included in this volume, ‘The Strike that Failed’, Stanley Uys analyses the reasons for the failure of the three-day strike/stay-at-home called by the ANC to mark the general election of 1958. He suggests that the ‘failure’ came about because of inadequate organisation and because the exact reason for the demonstration was not made sufficiently clear to workers. They were given three broad reasons (to dissuade white voters from electing another Nationalist government; to attain a better minimum wage and a general anti-apartheid protest), each of which might have gained support, but as a trilogy proved too complex.
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widening, not shrinking, inequality), corruption and endemic violence, on the other hand, has grown increasingly evident. It is a gap that seems difficult for public intellectuals, let alone the ruling party, to address. Activism is not absent, for civil society contains more and more groupings of people who have been drawn together by particular issues – HIV and AIDS, gendered violence, climate change and other threats to the environment, or the need for social services and better housing (Ballard, Habib and Valodia 2006) – but this activism is seldom part of a larger, unifying vision. In its potential to speak to this lack of unity, another of the distinctive features of Africa South might prove important: its ability, gained through its transnational perspective and analysis, its dialogic mode and its search for clarity, to give forceful presence to the connections between the micro-politics of individual lives and the forces operating at national or international levels. If democracy is to be deepened in South Africa, such a link, or set of links, between the personal, the national and the transnational has to be recreated and understood afresh.
Appiah, Kwame. 1992. In My Father’s House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture. London: Methuen. Attwell, David. 2005. Rewriting Modernity: Studies in Black South African Literary History. Pietermaritzburg: UKZN Press. Ballard, Richard, Adam Habib and Imraan Valodia, eds. 2006. Voices of Protest: Social Movements in Post-Apartheid South Africa. Pietermaritzburg: UKZN Press. Bazilli, Susan, ed. 1991. Putting Women on the Agenda. Johannesburg: Ravan Press. Daymond, M.J. 2009. ‘ “Letters . . . in the Thick of Affairs”: The Place of Fiction in Africa South’. Transformation: Critical Perspectives on Southern Africa 70: 31–53. Delius, Anthony. 1959. The Last Division. Cape Town: Human and Rousseau. Geiss, Immanuel. 1968. The Pan-African Movement. London: Methuen. Gish, Steven. 2000. Alfred B. Xuma: African, American, South African. London: Macmillan. Hofmeyr, Isabel. 2007. ‘The Idea of “Africa” in Indian Nationalism: Reporting the Diaspora in The Modern Review 1907–1929’. South African Historical Journal 57: 60–81. Hofmeyr, Isabel and Uma Duphelia-Mesthrie. 2007. ‘South Africa/India: Re-imagining the Disciplines’. South African Historical Journal 57: 1–11. Nuttall, Sarah and Cheryl-Ann Michael. 2000. Senses of Culture: South African Culture Studies. Cape Town: Oxford University Press. O’Brien, Anthony. 2001. Against Normalisation: Writing Radical Democracy in South Africa. Durham: Duke University Press. Sandwith, Corinne. 2009. ‘ “Entering the Territory of Incitement”: Oppositionality and Africa South’. Social Dynamics: A Journal of Africal Studies 35(1): 123–36. Segal, Ronald. 1961. ‘A Valediction Forbidding Mourning’. Africa South in Exile 6(1) October– December: 1. ———. 1963. Into Exile. London: Jonathan Cape. Walker, Cheryl, ed. 1990. Women and Gender in Southern Africa to 1945. Cape Town: David Philip, London: James Currey. Willan, Brian. 1984. Sol Plaatje: A Biography. Johannesburg: Ravan Press. Young, Robert. 2001. Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell.
INTERVIEW WITH RONALD SEGAL
Interview with Ronald Segal
Margaret Daymond and Corinne Sandwith interviewed Ronald Segal over three days, from 5–7 June 2007, at his home in Walton-on-Thames, England. At the time of this interview, he was writing a second volume of his autobiography. Segal died in February 2008.
What decided you to launch Africa South?
In 1948 when the Nats [National Party] came in, it seemed to bolster everything I hated. I’d been politically very active in the latter stages of my three and a half years at UCT [University of Cape Town]. In my launching address as National Union of South African Students director of cultural studies – we had a conference within the wider conference – I attacked government policy as inimical to cultural studies in any sensitive, sensible meaning of the word. Surprisingly, this was picked up by the opposition press and there was a huge headline: ‘Student Leader Attacks Government’. I went from the conference to Johannesburg to fly off to England because my acceptance at Trinity College, Cambridge, had arrived. My father came to say goodbye to me, carrying the major newspapers turned to the headline, and he said to me: ‘I am so glad you’re going’. I went as if I was going for good, not in flight at all, because I was going to be an internationally known literary critic, which I knew would take some time. What made me return was – strangely, because I have no respect for Parliament at all – the packing of the Senate.1 By then I was at the University of Virginia and I went to see the Dean and I said: ‘I’m resigning the fellowship because I feel it necessary to go back to South Africa to get myself involved in politics again’. I explained that the Nats had just decided to pack the Senate and that although this was by no means the worst that had happened, it was the end of even the pretence of constitutional government. ‘There’s only one way open,’ I said and he replied: ‘Ah well, your fellowship remains
1. In 1956, Prime Minister J.G. Strijdom decided to deal with the ‘problem’ of the Coloured vote (an entrenched constitutional right, which required a two-thirds majority to overturn) by doubling the Senate from 48 to 90 seats, thereby ensuring a Nationalist majority in that house and the overall majority he needed to remove Coloured people from the general voters’ roll.
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there for you and I suppose we’ll see you in a few years’ time’. He clearly had in mind a kind of Central American situation, as if something curious and unacceptable was going on in Guatemala or Costa Rica and I would go back to one of those places, there would be a palace revolution and I would then return. Whereas I was plunging into the sea and after that there was no coming back . . . In retrospect it’s always so neat but it wasn’t neat at the time, it was just: ‘What should you do? You should try and propagate your views that things should change or that things are wrong. How can you best do it? Do it through the one thing you know, which is writing. How do you do it? You do it through some sort of magazine. What sort of magazine? Is there a magazine there?’ Well, there was the Guardian, but the whole issue of anti-Semitism and the Communist Party [CP] was very much in my mind so I couldn’t go to the Guardian or to Fighting Talk because they had connotations which were unsavoury. And the liberals, I remembered from my UCT days, they were really wishy-washy on these things. Then there were members of the Parliamentary Labour Party which had an appalling history on racial issues, although the newish Labour characters like Alex Hepple were very different. And that’s why I decided to start a magazine myself.
You have suggested that you wanted the journal to encourage a broad front of opposition and that your wish was to find a real middle ground . . . Yes, a common front. I think this goes back to my UCT political days where if you
weren’t mentally dead or climbing some sort of ladder into the greater glory of the United Party or, for a minority of the student population, a supporter of resurgent Afrikanerdom, you were either a liberal of some sort or a Communist. The Liberal Party didn’t yet exist, but there was a society that represented liberal views and there were the Communists, the conventional Soviet-type Communists, who were either in the party or on the fringes of the party. They had their camouflage organisation, the Modern World Society, it was called. And then there were the Trotskyists, the Teachers’ League of South Africa, who were mainly Coloured people with a sprinkling of white young women. Cissie Gool was the most publicly prominent . . . on the city council, I think. I won’t say I even flirted with the Trotskyist group, but it was the least inimical of all. They were moral I thought and still think, as morality goes. I knew that the liberals weren’t getting anywhere and I always had this distaste for the Stalinist CP because of its links with anti-Semitism . . . although nearly all the legitimate or conventional Communist Party members were Jewish. This was already at a time when those who knew more about the history of Stalinism were aware of the undercurrent, of there being the show trials and all sorts of things. The major figure there was Sam Kahn who eventually became, as you know, the so-called ‘Native representative’. I thought: ‘We’ve got this mammoth-like political horror overshadowing everything and we’re squabbling about how we’re going to fight them in some way’. And the
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initiatives I took, I took without consulting anyone else. I stood as an independent and got in and my major mark was the proposal that UCT boycott the celebrations of Van Riebeeck’s 300th anniversary. I didn’t consult anyone on that; they either came along with me or they didn’t, that’s all. I had this attitude, partly . . . ‘Tant pis, you don’t agree, you’re entitled not to, but don’t tell me what I should do because I’m in control of my own morality’. There the beginnings were settled of independent judgement and the opportunity that independence provided not to control or command others, but to explore a strategy or tactics behind which others would give you support. I don’t think I even verbalised it that way, but certainly it was in those days that this independence formulated itself and it nestled there during the years I was abroad. When I returned I still had contacts with the NEUM [Non-European Unity Movement].2 I thought it was ridiculous, when we were in essentially an incipient revolutionary situation, having splinters instead of a common front. And that there must be a way of saying: ‘Exist in your separate groups, but combine on one issue’. So the magazine was a way of advancing this idea. Alongside it was – your mind becomes a kind of motorway of parallel lines going the same direction – the realisation that such a magazine could not deal simply with South Africa, for all sorts of reasons. I don’t know if I thought strategically in that sense, but intuitively I knew that whatever collision there would be in South Africa would have to involve other parts of Africa. That meant you had to deal with, and you should deal with, the rest of Africa. Racism in South Africa was part of a wider one, a continental one, and once you accepted the idea of panAfricanism, how could you ignore the United States?
Were you always internationalist in your thinking?
From the moment I began seriously to think, I was an internationalist not a nationalist and African nationalism was to me a manifestation of racism. It may have been our racism rather than their racism, but it was an aspect of racism and dangerous. Years later, in London, I was asked to give evidence to a United Nations committee – I think it was the committee on apartheid. A few of my African National Congress [ANC] inexile colleagues were also giving evidence and at some stage the phrase ‘African nationalism’ was used, and not in a pan-African context. I said that I wanted to make it clear that while I associated myself with, wholly associated myself with, the views of the ANC, I was not a disciple of African nationalism in its literal meaning. All my politics related to an internationalism. I remember getting involved in the debate over Central African Federation and being astonished at how ignorant and indifferent on African matters my generation at Cambridge was. Of course, there was a union at which people were active but
2. This is the group that Segal calls the Trotskyists.
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somehow the more exploratory of that academic generation went into the theatre and the satiric element in the theatre. I’m talking now about 1952–54, so this wasn’t the sixties, but it was the presentiment, or the preparation for the sixties. That was the kind of dissent there was, except of course for Suez. I wasn’t there for Suez. Suez radicalised a large number of young people at university. All of this just contributed to my feeling and so did the literature and the studies I was doing. I mean I was becoming international: I wasn’t South African any longer, I wasn’t British, I wasn’t American when I was in America. I think too that I absorbed very early the idea that anti-Semitism was an integral outcrop of nationalism. I knew too that the way to confront not just anti-Semitism, but its other manifestations as well, was to confront the source in nationalism. And I was nourished in this view by the very propaganda of the very people I feared and disliked. Afrikanerdom as a concept, which they at one time had seen as defensive, purely defensive, had become aggressive and discriminating against any competitive claim. The racists in Afrikanerdom spoke in nationalist terms. It was, after all, ‘the National Party’.
Your internationalism was of practical value to the magazine too . . .
Somewhere was the belief that if the magazine was productive, if it served a purpose, if it was functioning as it should, then it would be in danger. If it would be in danger, it would require protective devices. The only protective devices would be the association with it of people that it would have been unwise for the state to affect. And so almost from the start I got international sponsors and the more I got, the more I got. And the more important they were, the more important were those I then went for. Eleanor Roosevelt was a great catch. Reinhold Niebuhr was a great catch, because he had very high theological influence and standing. And they in turn got me contributors or suggested contributors, so the idea of internationalism – it ‘just grew’d’ – was part of a logical progression and answered all my . . . the pattern of my revulsion and detachment.
You have said that the production of a magazine such as Africa South has to be fun, to be dangerous . . .
One of my abiding memories of those years involved in publishing and editing the magazine was that amidst all the excitement and anger and commitment that it involved, there was also, almost as a background emotion, a sense of immense enjoyment. I called it fun, fun not as belittlement; fun as when you suddenly turn to yourself and say: ‘This is really enjoyable, you know, this is what living is about’. And that, paradoxically, was apparent even at times of great stress. I can’t genuinely or convincingly argue that when my life was being threatened (and you know the phone calls were coming regularly: ‘You’ve got ten days to live; you’ve got nine days to
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live . . .’) that I said to myself: ‘This is really fun’. But it’s a sense of heightened living, which in its own way is fun. In the early years, I did everything; when I say everything, I mean I even parcelled the books and took them down to the post office. And I would from time to time think: ‘This isn’t really editorial work, this, but who the hell else is going to do it?’ And anyway that is how people publish innovative magazines and it’s all part of the process and the process is enriching. I actually developed as a person enormously during those years of Africa South simply because I was for the first time rapt by something. It’s also in the sense that you don’t know what’s going to happen next, which is exciting. Of course the magazine’s purposes also engaged one of my basic convictions and devotions. I hate bullies. I had been cruelly bullied. My parents’ economic peers sent their children to schools like Bishops or SACS,3 whereas I was quite rightly sent to the local Sea Point Boys’ Junior and Sea Point Boys’ High Schools. But, I was brought in by a chauffeured Chrysler and called for in a chauffeured Chrysler. And just the fact that my accent was uncommon, my material surroundings were uncommon . . . Anyway, there were two invigorating views that I developed. One was from a popular song I’d heard. I’ve quite forgotten what the melody was, but the lyrics went: ‘Time will take care of everything, and time will take care of you’.4 I was really impressed. I hummed it to myself during the KKK affair, when I was getting those telephone threats.5 And the second view was to say: ‘You’re not going to beat me down, that’s all’. I’m not suggesting that I hated racism simply because racism was bullying, but it was outrageous. It was cruel and outrageous and irrational. Hitting back was fun. Starting the magazine was like someone who wants to be an artist and doesn’t know how and suddenly finds a piece of clay and starts making something out of it. And he knows then: ‘You can’t paint, or draw, but you can actually make something with your fingers out of this’. And that’s more or less, now that I reflect, the kind of joy and excitement that I suddenly encountered or discovered: ‘This is what you can do, and this is what you should do’.
Did you ever get a sense that the debates raised in Africa South had filtered down into political discussions at the time?
It’s almost impossible to say. I know that the magazine was well regarded because it was independent. It was well regarded because it was read and it was read by most of those who took their politics seriously.
3. Founded in 1829, the South African College School is the oldest in the country. 4. The song is by Lou Rawls, ‘Time Will Take Care of Everything’. 5. In 1959, Segal began receiving abusive and threatening telephone calls from an organisation calling itself the ‘Ku Klux Klan’. Not long afterwards, his car was petrol-bombed outside his family home. The events are recorded in his memoir, Into Exile (1963, 206–08).
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It’s a question that requires speculation, rather than evidence. I had no standing outside the magazine. Most people who functioned politically had a constituency; I had no constituency outside the magazine. The fact that I was invited in ’58 or ’59 to address what the ANC originally envisaged as a mass meeting in Alexandra Township, said something of what I represented through the magazine. Otherwise why on earth ask me, and why ask me to talk on economic sanctions? Again, I had no constituency; I was just propagating the idea. The fact that Nelson [Mandela] asked me to discuss the potato boycott in 1957 suggests that the political leadership took me seriously because they took the magazine seriously. Despite my increasingly evident partisanship, if I wanted something from the Pan-Africanist Congress, for example, I got it. Although I made it clear I objected strongly to the split from the ANC, I offered them a chance. I had no other representative status, whereas all the other people who were active were active as members of organisations – I mean the white people.
What did you think was the most important material that appeared in Africa South?
I think to reduce Africa South, as if were a sort of stew or soup, into what was important or what was less important is a distracting exercise. But if I were required to save only one theme, I think that the whole revolution symposium would be it. The very nature of, the very use of, the word dictated the – I was going to say the drift – the rush towards closer identification with the subject. The subject was, at the end, armed uprising, or its effectual alternative. And the effectual alternative in my view was to use increasingly enormous economic pressures, which at the minimum would weaken the capacity of the South African government. In the process it was also such a weapon of propaganda and influence since the objections to violence are great. I’ve always felt this. People who talk about violence in passing really ought to think what it is they mean. I’m not a pacifist, never have been. But you don’t say, for example: ‘You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs’ because you’re not dealing with eggs, you’re dealing with heads. You’re dealing with people.
Do you think you were able to create a favourable climate of opinion abroad through the journal?
It was certainly my purpose and I have absolutely no doubt that it became my function to do so. I had the contacts, I had the equipment and I saw myself as a propagandist. This was part of the triangular function that I envisaged in founding Africa South in the first instance – that it would connect three components of racial turmoil in the world: the anti-colonial movement in Africa, the civil rights struggle in the United States and the revolution in South Africa. The magazine would feed into and fortify the revolutionary forces. History was very collaborative. I had a relationship for instance with the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People]. If you look at the list
INTERVIEW WITH RONALD SEGAL
of sponsors, there is Thurgood Marshall. He was the legal adviser to the NAACP and later became a judge of the Supreme Court in the States. And the publicity director of the NAACP, a guy called Henry Lee Moon, I corresponded with. The relationship between events in the two countries was almost certainly largely coincidental, but there was a kind of moral and political correspondence, particularly in the bus boycott. It was almost simultaneous, Rosa Parks refusing to move in the bus in Montgomery, Alabama and the Alexandra bus boycott.6 I think Ruth First did one of her articles on the boycott and the second on the Bethal farm labour scandal.
Did you seek influence in the political sphere alone?
From the start Africa South had a strong literary section and that became part of the whole reassessment of African writing, African art. I knew A.C. Jordan through my NEUM connections at UCT and so I asked him to write a series on orature in southern Africa. His wife, Phyllis Ntantala, wrote ‘The Widows of the Reserves’ for the magazine. It was the start of her writing career. We also gave attention to the whole new archaeology. We were the first to publish a new historical revision of Africa – all the new views about Great Zimbabwe for example. And Gervase Mathew who wrote the new assessment of the city states in East Africa. When I started writing The Black Diaspora in 1989–90 and again with Islam’s Black Slaves, I did quite a lot of research into current thinking on the history of Africa and Mathew’s article was seminal and the knowledge hasn’t changed. The historian Basil Davidson became a great friend and helped to develop the magazine’s interest in African history and culture. The main principle was to document the causes and the courses of rebellions and to express the classic anti-colonial commitment: to explain to the ignorant and prejudiced that Africa had a past.
In Africa South a sense emerges that the anti-pass laws campaign was pulling very ordinary African women into political life and that they were crossing boundaries in becoming politicised.
Well, that would have been fed into the magazine either connectedly, or particularly, as it was fed into my own political consciousness, through the people who were involved in the process. This is the sort of thing Phyllis Ntantala would talk about, Ruth First would talk about, Ann Marie Wolpe would talk about. All the politicos I was in social and professional contact with were aware of these developments and reported them. And, of course, anything that registered change . . . I mean, my antennae vibrated at anything hopeful or threatening to the regime. I met Lilian Ngoyi incidentally.
6. Rosa Parks’ action took place on 1 December 1959.
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When was the great march on Pretoria? 1956. Yes, I was very conscious of that whole thing. I believe in luck, not overwhelmingly, but . . . just everything that I thought was going to happen, happened. It was logical, there was a kind of logic in all this and as Africa South seemed in its progress to be reflecting the rearrangement of pieces in this whole popular struggle, it became more and more exciting to be part of it.
Did you commission articles and did you pay contributors? How were contacts with contributors made?
I took the decision at the beginning that if I wanted the best stuff, I would have to pay for it. It’s all very well having a missionary purpose on the basis of which you can appeal for assistance and collaboration from others, but however willing people are to help, the fact that they have been commissioned and will be paid . . . First of all it allows the editor and publisher to remind them and press them for delivery, whereas if you are getting something gratuitously you have to be mendicant in the way you conduct your relations. The line between accepting a contribution or soliciting a contribution was very blurred. I cannot now remember whether I said to Ruth: ‘I want an article on the bus boycott’ or whether Ruth wrote to me and said: ‘I would like to write an article on the bus boycott’. That was the way the magazine worked.
Were you quite strict on the word length that people were allowed?
I would give them a rough estimate of how many words I wanted. But here I was very loose – it was quality that mattered. If I didn’t like the style, if I didn’t like the presentation, if it wasn’t, in my editorial judgement, good . . . I can’t remember actually returning anything which I commissioned, but then I was quite careful about whom and what I commissioned, not least because it was well paid. Stuff that just arrived, I rejected with the appropriate charitable letters. But some of the stuff that I thought was remarkably good just arrived, like these little, these ‘Grim Fairy Stories’ by E.V. Stone.7
So, many of the contributors you wouldn’t have known personally?
First of all, quite a number of those who contributed then, wanted to contribute again so they would be in touch with me. I never met Tom Mboya, for instance, but once I got one article, he offered me another one. And Julius Nyerere I only met when Africa South was suspended, or in transit, I think would be the correct word.8
7. These stories have not been included in this selection. 8. Julius Nyerere’s contribution to Africa South took the form of a letter to the editor. ‘On the Boycott’ (Vol. 4.1, October–December 1959) was written in support of the ANC’s national boycott of South African goods.
INTERVIEW WITH RONALD SEGAL
How did you get Langston Hughes’s pieces?
I think I got them through the NAACP.9 I don’t think I would have got them directly. I don’t remember corresponding with him but I did have, or had, his typescript versions of the poetry. To my knowledge they were first published in Africa South. They were not reprints. In fact I can’t remember reprinting anything. The whole idea was to be an original, not a news magazine, but an original publication.
Did other contributors come your way by chance?
Well, there is the story of Paul Bowles. I’m sitting in the office when there arrives an American of somewhat curious appearance. Dressed-for-the-beach sort of American, with a north African friend, quite clearly north African. The American was a writer, I was told, and obviously very interested in Africa South. I took them round the peninsula, discovered that his lover was a very talented painter, sort of miniaturist, little illuminations, luminous fish sort of thing, beautifully done. I wish I had bought one, but my mind wasn’t on it at the time. Bowles was more of a novelist than a reporter. To give you an idea of how much, let me read from his autobiography. This, as they say, bears the same connection to reality as I to the astronomer royal: Ronald Segal, of the anti-government magazine Africa South, piloted us around the city during the few days we spent there . . . RS had a dramatic and well-publicised escape from South Africa shortly after, in which he and a friend swam the Limpopo while the police shot at them . . . Anyone who knew me and could imagine I’d swum over the Limpopo, notoriously infested by hippos and crocodiles, must have been mad, or plain stupid. Yes, that is a perfect illustration. I would never have asked Paul Bowles to write on anything if he hadn’t walked into my office and I sized him up as someone who had style, which he certainly had, and could probably write. And he lived in Tangier. I thought it might be salutary for the readers of Africa South to read about a world they were most unlikely to become otherwise acquainted with. I must have asked him, actually, when we were driving round the peninsula, rather than when I was swimming the Limpopo. Because I was urbane to that degree, people did, they came in. And then of course the Johannesburg contingent would come down to Cape Town. In the early days, Muizenberg was a very fashionable part of the country and all sorts of people used to arrive, including, somewhat later, the radical Johannesburgers. Harold Wolpe or Joe
9. The poems by Langston Hughes were published in Vol. 1.3. They are ‘Johannesburg Mines’, ‘Memo to the Non-white Peoples’ and ‘In Explanation of Our Times’.
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Slovo would invite me to play poker. I think they hoped to fleece me. And later we were joined by Lionel Forman. But these were not simply social occasions, I mean, there we were and what did we discuss? We discussed politics. We were all interested in politics. Meanwhile I was more interested in Ruth than I was in Joe, so I talked to Ruth about things. So it was a social as well as political and intellectual commitment and one fed into the other.
On the covers of some issues it says that the magazine circulated in India and Ceylon. How was that contact made?
Ah . . . a very esoteric explanation, but nonetheless valid. It was through Rosalynde Ainslie who was, I think, already married to Accha de Lanerolles. Accha was from Ceylon and his father was an architect, I think, and a Sinhalese radical of some sort. Maybe an editor, but I’m not sure. So Accha of course had contacts. You should remember that London at the time was a veritable Babylon of exile groups, students, activists, critics – chiefly of the new liberation regimes. So any contacts for distribution would have been through him and Ros. Certainly I didn’t have a resident representative in Ceylon.
Was the same serendipity responsible for the circulation in Australia and New Zealand?
Very probably. I mean, someone would come in, rather like the Paul Bowles story. Anyone who was politically sensitive, or had come across a copy of Africa South or, to be slightly cynical, wanted to explore the situation, or who was passing through Cape Town, would sooner or later come into my office. Or would come into someone else’s office, who then came and brought him or her to see me in my office. So it was a busy little place, that office. And because it was a floating mine all these social accidents led to other things and people who had contributed led to new people: ‘You really ought to go and see so-and-so’. So I had a huge acquaintance, along with a gregarious spillage and I was quite happy to meet all sorts of people, because they might be useful. It was not on any personal basis, but on a ‘what can they do for Africa South?’ sort of basis: ‘Are they worth exploiting for an article or a poem or something?’ I was fairly singleminded on the basis that if I wasn’t there, it would be a magazine without a mind and what would have happened to it? Ultimately, and I’m not selling short my moral investment which was considerable, but like many of my career, we’re not entirely without vanity and once I’d invested myself in a project, I didn’t want to be embarrassed by it. So I did set out frequently to advance its principles, but also its existence.
INTERVIEW WITH RONALD SEGAL
A question that was much debated on the left is whether South Africa should be understood in terms of race or in terms of class struggle . . . while you were defining things for yourself, did you have to grapple with that?
I never bothered with it. That sounds absurdly dismissive, but it just didn’t . . . that ideological dispute seemed to me marginal and even distracting. It didn’t affect, in the way I visualised a productive strategy, the work that I was doing. In other words, it would have brought more trouble than I believed it was politically worth. I wasn’t organising and it was never my intention or conscious consideration to organise a revolutionary movement. I wasn’t in a position to do so. I moved almost imperceptibly but measurably towards Congress because I was persuaded they were the practical possibility of a revolutionary force. But I couldn’t come out openly on their side while I was propagating a popular front until, in about 1958 (I think it may have been simultaneously with the apparent development of an Africanist force within the ANC) I became seized by the danger of Congress becoming Africanist and therefore I felt the need for Congress to desegregate. But again, now it sounds facile and oversimplified.
How did you decide that fiction should be included in Africa South?
What was political and what was literary. Yes. It’s material that someone said of George Bernard Shaw, ‘a good man fallen among Fabians’. And I’m essentially an English scholar fallen among politicians. I mean, my majors at UCT were English, Latin and Ethics. Then I went on to Cambridge for the English tripos and then I won a fellowship at the University of Virginia to do a doctorate and so I always saw myself as a writer and critic, but more a critic than an original writer. The Tokolosh, which was my first essay into serious writing, started as a children’s story and it was political. I just had this idea of the metaphor of a tokolosh for a belief in the revolution. Some people saw him and some people didn’t. So when I started Africa South I thought, of course it’s going to be predominantly political, but there ought to be a literary section because, after all, we don’t separate the one from the other.
Do you think the literary side of the journal matches the political?
No, I don’t think it does. I think . . . I think the answer is it’s politically driven, imaginatively as well as technically and therefore the kind of application and, if you like, imagination and ingenuity of which I was arguably capable was devoted to the political side, with the literary as auxiliary. I think some of the best writing I did in those editorials was politically driven. Actually, I was thinking about this yesterday, there were three interesting editorials: one of course was ‘Revolution Is Now’, which was the putative death knell. In some ways they were very prescient editorials. Another is ‘Exodus’: I posed the hypothetical case that a man takes power in a republic or island of two thousand or so people and sets out to kill everyone, one after the other. At what stage is it the obligation of outsiders to stop him doing so? And the subtext was
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internationalist – what is all this nonsense about domestic affairs being sacrosanct?10 The other one was ‘Hungary and South Africa’, which was a signal that the South African Communist Party may be part of the common front, but let’s be clear, Stalinism is beyond the pale. And because it was written in response to outrage at what happened in Hungary while the South Africans themselves were behaving in this appalling way, I think it made its point. So, I think, yes, while there are some people who can do two things at the same time, the political issue was dominant with me. I was so outraged by the whole thing, I was in a constant state of anger, which is not a bad thing, you know, if you’re writing a political journal. It’s when you become jaded or cynical or tired that you actually become second-rate in what you’re doing. So Africa South was a political magazine with literary extensions and it was very original in that. I didn’t wittingly follow the New Statesman as an example. I didn’t read the New Statesman until later, when I was in London. But it was the English tradition to have a political magazine that had a literary section. Even the Spectator is part of the whole English historical tradition of politics with literature and independent literary criticism.
In South Africa, magazines more often combined book reviews and theatre reviews with political comment, as in Trek or South African Opinion. Africa South and Fighting Talk were the two which actually published short stories.
I think from the beginning I envisaged that one should also encourage writing, not just South African writing. It was partly a political and partly a publishing decision. It made sense because it would bring in another constituency and the one constituency would merge into the other so that you’d get a constituency that was twice what the others would have been. Of course, one doesn’t know if one is ever being truthful in retrospect, because one’s whole attitude changes in the meanwhile, but I think from what I remember of my development that it was also a case of meeting different people whom I thought would be of use to the magazine and hence to the objective, which was the common front. That’s why one of the earliest people I went to see was Ruth First – because I wanted someone intelligent in the Communist group with whom I could culturally correspond. She was an extraordinarily – given her character and achievements and courage – uncertain person, you know? Quite diffident in some ways. I don’t think she’d have written a book without my insistence – at irregular intervals. Certainly, she would never have written 117 Days. I had asked her to do a book on South West Africa because I thought on the basis of the articles she wrote for
10. ‘Exodus’ appeared in Vol. 5.4. The occasion was Dr Verwoerd’s taking South Africa out of the Commonwealth in 1961 in what Segal saw as an attempt to evade criticism or intervention because of its policies.
INTERVIEW WITH RONALD SEGAL
Africa South she would do a very good book of reportage; she had the right investigative antennae. She didn’t go to a subject, with the book already written, merely to find confirmation. Then, after she was taken into detention, as soon as she was released, I said: ‘You must write a book on your experiences’ and she said: ‘I can’t, it’s too painful . . .’.11
Although many contacts were made by chance, editorial shaping is evident in each issue. The coherence suggests you have planned ahead to some extent, but there must have been a fairly ad hoc process by which things got there?
Absolutely. Half of it is serendipity and half of it is strategy. I think you can do it more easily if you’re running a quarterly, however bulky the material, than if you are running a daily or a weekly paper. Then a publication date presses on you, whereas I always had a sense of space and of time. Maybe, however, that wasn’t the initial reason for my choice of the form. I chose a quarterly because it gave me room and I thought I’d need room to establish it. If you do even a monthly, you’re in such a hurry to complete your copy that you can’t plan and so on, unless you have a large staff. I made a calculation right at the beginning that there were so many difficulties confronting me, or that I was confronting, that it had to be international. I couldn’t just talk about it being international; I had to give it an international appearance and significance – not necessarily importance, but significance. And therefore it would have been an absurdity to put out an issue which was only involved with South Africa, for instance. So I said: ‘What have we got in Africa? Where are things happening? Where should they be happening? Why aren’t they happening? And who can do it?’ I mean, for instance, Ros Ainslie in London was useful because I could get in touch with her and ask: ‘Will you find me someone who will write on this?’ In America I had relatives and my business manager was Sylvia Pauley. I would ask her whether she’d go and see someone or let me know.
Is there a call for a new Africa South today? Would you try to do something similar now? What would the spirit of a new journal have to be?
I was very lucky in the 1950s because I was there at the right time and I happened to bring the right independent resources to the magazine, so it was a combination of ideological and material good fortune. We need such a thing very badly today; more perhaps even now than we did then. I’m talking here in global, not merely South African, terms though it applies in extremis in my view in South Africa. All the old certainties, orthodoxies, dependencies, moral and intellectual, appear to have
11. 117 Days was first published in the Penguin African Library series in 1965. The series was edited by Ronald Segal.
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evaporated, or to be sick, ailing. There’s a kind of tubercular wasting of belief and purpose. Democracy has become such a meaningless descriptor if it encompasses the international conduct of the United States, which doesn’t open its mouth without praising democracy as its crucial self-definition almost. The left is barren because classic Communism, conventional Communism, is so disreputable that no one can seriously advocate it. And the left, the independent left, the socialist left, has partly sold out. Partly tired, I think, and it’s negative. I don’t want to sound like part of the belittling lobby but, even when the periodical press is well intentioned, there’s earnestness without enterprise. It’s all pedestrian. I don’t mean this in any snobbish way, it just lacks élan, it lacks excitement, it lacks enjoyment. There’s no real fun because spite is not fun and at present the only real wit is the wit of deprecation, dismissal, distaste. With Africa South, we were lucky, because we came at a time when there was nothing to be said for our enemies. They were absolutely disgusting and we knew we were right and that it was a matter of time. We believed in history, we cared about the future, we had a sense of direction. It was like that period of the French Revolution when the English poets thought ‘glad morning, confident glad morning’ that the world was changing and opening up.12 And after all those dreadful years, when it still hadn’t happened, continuing the fight was so necessary and joyful. Now, people don’t believe in anything. They’re distrustful of the future and they are obsessed with money and I find it so . . . I know that I’m spoilt in a way, because I grew up with all this money and in a family where money was put in its proper place. It was there to be used. My father always gave away much more than he could afford. But today the whole of politics is in terms of what you buy. Economics is not irrelevant, but it’s not the whole of life.
12. It was a later poet, Robert Browning, who, in ‘The Lost Leader’, characterised the loss of this attitude as: ‘Never glad confident morning again!’
THE GRAVE OF THE MIND
Vol. 1.2, January–March 1957
Editorial: The Grave of the Mind
In this early editorial, Ronald Segal documents the steps taken by the National Party government to implement the policy of Christian National Education. The original proposal for an education system based on the principles of white supremacy and racial segregation was first mooted in 1948. Written almost ten years later, ‘The Grave of the Mind’ documents the National Party’s efforts to give material substance to its original vision. Segal’s worst fears were realised in 1959 with the passing of the Extension of University Education Act, which excluded black students from previously open universities and established segregated colleges organised on ethnic lines (see the essays by Z.K. Matthews and Maurice Pope). Ronald Segal’s life is outlined in the interview and the introduction of this book (see pages 1 and 15). He was an outspoken critic of the apartheid government. A socialist by conviction, but repelled by Stalinism, he retained an independent political stance throughout his life. After the apartheid regime had forced him into exile in London, he continued to castigate the South African government in public lectures and promoted the international boycott of South African goods. He later became founding editor of the Penguin African Library series, overseeing the publication of some 65 influential titles on African politics and society. Aside from his autobiography Into Exile (1963) and a political satire called The Tokolosh (1960), he also published a number of groundbreaking studies on international politics, including The Crisis of India (1965); America’s Receding Future (1970); Whose Jerusalem? (1975); The Tragedy of Leon Trotsky (1983); The Black Diaspora (1995) and Islam’s Black Slaves (2001). He died of cancer in 2008.
n February 1948, the same year the purged Nationalist Party first took possession of the country, a group of prominent Afrikaners calling themselves the Institute for Christian National Education proposed a new educational policy for South Africa that amounted ultimately to a ruthless and perpetual policing of the mind. That the influential Federation of Afrikaans Cultural Societies should have sponsored the policy statement of the Institute gave sufficient cause for general alarm. But that men like Dr T.E. Dönges, Member of Parliament, Dr E.G. Jansen, Member of Parliament and Professor J.G. Meiring should have been actual directors of the Institute, disturbed the one consolation the text itself may have provided, that the whole was a product of the lunatic fringe of Afrikaner nationalism. A short burst of absolute horror followed the publication of the statement.
The horror has subsided now, as one horror does in South Africa, to make room for another. Most of us who in 1948 raised startled heads high for a moment in protest have now forgotten even the name of the doctrine and our fright along with it. But then Dr E.G. Jansen is now His Excellency, the Governor-General of South Africa, Dr T.E. Dönges is Minister of the Interior and Professor J.G. Meiring, Superintendent-General of Education in the Cape. It was said in the first brave flush of opposition that Christian National Education was not Christian, not ‘National’ and not education. Since it defined Christianity as ‘the creeds of the three Afrikaner Churches’ (Article i) and since it is still open to question whether the thin, stooping Calvinism of the Afrikaner churches perfectly represents the teachings of Christ, we were right in regarding the definition as a pledge of sectarian tyranny. Since also ‘National’ was defined as ‘imbued with the love of one’s own, especially one’s own language, history and culture’ and since South Africa is a nation of many peoples, languages, histories and cultures and there is nothing less national in it than concentration upon group instead of society, the emphasising and sanctifying of differences, we saw in the word that bleak promise of racial domination which was to become in the end, as we know, the insanity of ‘apartheid’. Least of all could Christian National Education have been considered education:
All white children should be educated according to the view of life of their parents. This means that Afrikaans-speaking children should have a Christian National education, for the Christian and National spirit of the Afrikaner nation must be preserved and developed (Article 1). The spirit of all teaching must be Christian-national, in no subject may anti-Christian or non-Christian or anti-nationalist or non-nationalist propaganda be made (Article 6(i)). History should be seen as the fulfilment of God’s plan for humanity . . . God has enjoined on each nation its individual task in the fulfilment of His purpose. Young people can only undertake the national task fruitfully if they acquire a true vision of the origin of the nation and of the direction of the national heritage. Next to the mother tongue the history of the Fatherland is the best channel for cultivating the love of one’s own which is nationalism (Article 6(vi)). It is the Afrikaners’ sacred duty to see that the Coloureds are brought up Christiannational. Only when he is Christianized can the Coloured be truly happy; and he will then be proof against foreign ideologies which give him an illusion of happiness but leave him in the long run unsatisfied and unhappy. He must also be nationalist. The welfare and happiness of the Coloured lies in his understanding that he belongs to a separate racial group (hence apartheid is necessary in education) and in his being proud of it (Article 14).
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This, we all cried out, was not education, the development of independent thinking, of individual personality. It was mass indoctrination, a ruthless assassination of personality that would make from South Africa at last a grave of the mind. With such a spade were the foundations of the Afrikaner Reich to be laid. It seemed absurd and impossible, the whole black programme. Thousands of Afrikaner children were to be disfigured into believing in their divine mission to rule over the ‘Fatherland’ while hundreds of thousands of Coloured and African children were to be taught that they were born, and were always unprotestingly to remain, the servants of the chosen servants of God. We may be forgiven for having forgotten the doctrine of Christian National Education so soon, for having had our one quick spurt of panic and then having tucked the statement away in a far fold of the mind. We forgot, but the Nationalist Party did not forget. In 1948 its provincial congresses in the Cape and the Transvaal called upon the government to make Christian National Education the educational policy of the country. And every move the government has made since first it barged its way into power in 1948 has been another firm step down the road to the Christian National state. ‘We want no mixing of languages, no mixing of cultures, no mixing of religions and no mixing of races.’ So wrote J.C. van Rooy, chairman of the Federation of Afrikaans Cultural Societies, in his preface to the Institute policy statement. And some months after the publication of the statement the herding into racial camps began. Separate facilities, never equal, for separate races. Separate doors and separate counters in public buildings, separate seats in public buses, separate benches in public parks. Separate laws and laws to separate – residentially, industrially, politically, intellectually, sexually. Separation of white and black, of black and Coloured, of white and Coloured, of black and black and of white and white. And all separation firmly rooted in the schools:
There should be at least two kinds of primary and secondary schools; one for the children of Afrikaans-speaking parents, with only Afrikaans as medium and the other for children of English-speaking parents, with only English as medium. In each there should be the right relationship between home, school, church and state (Article 8(i)).
To date, the Transvaal and the Orange Free State have both passed language ordinances abolishing parallel-medium schooling – a system which has encouraged the mixing of children across the language line during breaks and extra-mural activities – and establishing instead compulsory single-medium education up to Standard 8 (two years before matriculation). The separation of English- and Afrikaans-speaking schoolchildren in both provinces is now complete. And the separation allows of no exception. The child is to be taught in the language which the authorities judge that he knows best, not in the language his parents may desire for him. The school principal investigates and decides and the parents have the right to appeal to the Director of Education. But the director’s
decision is final and there may be no further appeal from it. The compound walls must be made so high that no one can climb over them. Only in the Cape Province, which was once, so long ago, the home of liberalism, have the authorities allowed themselves to be bent a little by the pressure of public opinion. Here also single-medium schooling has been made compulsory up to Standard 8, but the parent can change the language medium of his child after primary school if he can obtain a written statement by the principal, countersigned by an inspector of the Education Department, stating that his child is capable of benefiting from instruction in another language. The final decision, however, still lies in the pocket of departmental officials, so that the escape clause depends for access entirely upon the tolerance of its guards. Civilised democratic society will accept the 1949 pronouncement of the general assembly of the South African Presbyterian Church that ‘the parent is the primary custodian of the child . . . and should have the right to choose between the different schools available’. But Christian National Education upholds the paramount right of the state:
The parents in community (not as individuals) must establish, maintain and control schools which will foster their own view of life, they must appoint the teachers and keep a watch on the teaching (Article 8(iii)). It shall be the general policy of the Administrator to recognize, reveal and cultivate the Christian principle in education, and to maintain the national outlook, in order to develop in pupils a Christian philosophy of the world and life, to inculcate a healthy sentiment of undivided love for and loyalty to the common Fatherland and to cultivate an esteem for the traditions, language and culture of all sections of the people (Ordinance 16).
What their own view of life is to be if they are Afrikaners, the Orange Free State Language Ordinance of 1954 leaves in little doubt. One can only return with a shudder to the pamphlet issued by the Institute: ‘Our Afrikaans schools must not merely be mother tongue schools; they must be places where our children will be saturated with the Christian and National spiritual cultural stuff of our nation’ (Preface). The white schools had been dealt with for the meantime. It remained only to deal as well with the black ones. Article 15 of the Christian National Education pamphlet deals with the education of Africans: ‘Native education should be based on the principles of trusteeship, non-equality and segregation; its aim should be to inculcate the white man’s view of life, especially that of the Boer nation, which is the senior trustee’. In 1949 a special government commission on Bantu Education was constituted, to accomplish, amongst other things: ‘The formulation of the principles and aims of education for Natives as an independent race, in which their past and present, their
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inherent racial qualities, their distinctive characteristics and aptitudes and their needs under ever-changing social conditions are taken into consideration’. In a moment of astonishing lucidity, the commission reported that ‘no evidence of a decisive nature was adduced to show that as a group the Bantu could not benefit from education or that their intelligence and aptitudes were of so special and peculiar a nature as to demand on these grounds a special type of Education’. But the report was not to be caught with its slip showing again. English and Afrikaans must be taught ‘in such a way that the Bantu child will be able to find his way in European communities, to follow oral or written instructions; and to carry on a simple conversation with Europeans about his work and other subjects of common interest’ (Paragraph 924) [and] ‘your Commission recommends that handwork in the first four years of school should aim at the establishment of the habit of doing manual work’ (Paragraph 932(c)). No wonder then the report emphasised so strongly agricultural training for girls as well as boys, suggested needlework as an appropriate subject for boys and paid less attention to university education than to gardening. Boer trusteeship and the principles of non-equality and segregation were to become in practice what they were in Christian National principle – education for service in kitchen, garden and on farm. What of the millions of Africans living in the cities, many of them born there and knowing no other home?
Your Commission feels that special steps should be taken in the Reserves to facilitate and encourage the evolution of a progressive, modern and self-respecting Bantu order of life. Cosmopolitan areas in industrial centres where people of many languages and customs are herded together provide particularly difficult conditions for the orderly and progressive development of Bantu culture.
Bantu schools ‘of a Western type’ already existing were objected to as being out of harmony with existing Bantu social institutions (Paragraph 759). And out of harmony they most assuredly are. But rather with the government’s policy of turning back to the tribe millions of Africans absorbed by an industrial economy and heavy with its habits and demands. The planned expulsion of numberless women and children from the cities, the forced calamitous breakup of so many homes and families, the establishment at camps like Langa of barracks for thousands of adult African males, these are the pock-marks underneath the paint of ‘the evolution of a progressive, modern and selfrespecting Bantu order of life’. Since even the bleached Christian National state cannot do without labour, it will be imported from the areas where Bantu culture is in brightest flower. Wives and children will be taught the virtue of unprotesting slavery in the reserves as part of their peculiar cultural heritage, and adult males, though husbands and fathers most of them, will be so suffused with a sense of duty to their trustees that they will leave their families for years
on end to live in sterile squalor at the service of the state. With millions starving in the eroded reserves, the ‘progressive, modern and self-respecting Bantu order of life’ will never be progressive, modern or self-respecting enough to allow African males to live contentedly with their families in their homes in the reserves. The measure of a tyranny is the degree to which it tolerates opposition. The Institute for Christian National Education is unequivocal in its distaste for criticism and firm in its decision to smother it:
The spirit of all teaching must be Christian-nationalist; in no subject may anti-Christian or non-Christian or anti-nationalist or non-nationalist propaganda be made (Article 6(i)). The Church must exercise the necessary discipline over the doctrine and lives of the teachers. The vigilance must be exercised through the parents (Article 8(iv)).
And so, in the policing of the mind, there are the truncheons of the law. With the absolute authority given him by the Bantu Education Act, the Minister of Native Affairs has become the patrolling Black Maria of African education. He is empowered to close any school, private, mission or government, at his discretion, and appoint, promote, transfer or discharge any teacher on the staff of a government school, either directly or through a petty official of his department, without reason or redress. Since 31 March 1955 every African school has had to be registered with the minister whether applying for grants-in-aid or not. Such registration may be refused if
the Minister, acting on the advice and recommendation of the Native Affairs Commission . . . is of the opinion that its establishment or continued existence is not in the interests of the Bantu people . . . or is likely to be detrimental to the physical, mental, or moral welfare of the pupils or students attending . . . such school (Clause 9(ii)). Any person who, after the date fixed under sub-section (i), admits any Bantu child or person to, or establishes, conducts or maintains any Bantu or native school which is not registered in terms of this Act, shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding £50, or in default of payment, to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 6 months (Clause 9(iii)).
Amongst others, the School of Christ the King in Sophiatown has already been refused registration on the grounds that it was ‘a protest school’ and from 1 January 1957 Adams College, for over a hundred years one of the finest schools for Africans in the country, will have to close down because the minister has refused to register it as a private school. It is a concentration camp of the mind that the government is busy building for South Africa. All schools will soon be government schools and
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the Minister may from time to time make regulations – (c) prescribing a code of discipline for teachers in Government Bantu schools, the punishments which may be imposed for, and the procedure to be followed in connection with, any contravention or a failure to comply with the provisions of such code, and the circumstances in which the services of any such teacher may be terminated (Clause 15(i)).
It seems so monstrous as to be utterly unreal. The Bantu Education Act and the edicts of the Minister of Native Affairs since its passing have flourished the principles of Christian National Education in the white face of a country frightened into shutting its eyes. No article in the original pamphlet has been neglected, not even that grotesque and shameless one that ‘Native education should not be financed at the expense of white’. Since what is spent on a white child is 30 times what is spent on an African one, so that at present only 25 per cent of African children ever get to school at all and of those 50 per cent are in the sub-standards and since the Bantu Education Commission speaks of ‘incentive to economy’ and no ‘high financial demands’, we are left in no further doubt what the Christian National future of African education is to be. With the Minister of Native Affairs threatening to levy further taxes on African men and introduce taxation for African women, the meaning of the article in the pamphlet takes on a measure of horror that only the millions of Africans starving in the reserves and the crooked shantytowns can fully appreciate. A nation of slaves needs little education and what little is needed to make it efficient and satisfied can be paid for by drilling another hole in its belt. In Nazi Germany, we may remember, the victims of Hitler were made to dig their own graves. With the Bantu Education Act and the provincial language ordinances, Christian National Education is already part of our society, a malignant growth on the stricken mind of South Africa. And now this creeping death is to attack the universities. For what in the context of present government policy does the threatened enforcement of segregation upon the liberal ‘mixed’ universities ultimately mean? Only the annihilation of higher education in this country – the spawning of monster government academies in which Geography will not hobble beyond the Limpopo, in which History will deal with the apocalypse and the mission of the Afrikaner elect to govern South Africa, in which lecturers will be appointed for their blind loyalty to the government and students relentlessly disfigured into bigots and slaves. Let us remind ourselves of what the Institute for Christian National Education had to say of higher education in Article 11:
(ii) The secular sciences should be taught according to the Christian and National view of life . . . Science should be expounded in a positively Christian light, and contrasted with non-Christian science. Universities should never give unintegrated
instruction, merely choosing here and choosing there; there should be no attempt to reconcile or abolish the fundamental oppositions; for Creator and created, man and beast, individual and community, authority and freedom remain in principle insoluble in each other. Especially in the Universities do we need the right personnel; for professors and lecturers make the institution and determine its guiding spirit. It is all-important therefore that the teaching staff should be convinced ChristianNational scientists. (iii) Higher education should be so controlled that the Christian-national view of life may come into its own.
We have been warned already. The ‘conscience clause’ – that teachers do not need to possess any particular religion in order to be accepted as teachers in government schools and universities – is fundamental to educational practice all over the civilised world. But in 1949, Mr C.R. Swart, Minister of Justice still and then Minister of Education as well, told a Free State audience that as far as he was concerned, the ‘conscience clause’ might very well be scrapped. And in 1950, Parliament passed the Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education Bill. Instead of the usual ‘conscience clause’, the constitution of the new university was made to read: ‘In appointing teaching, research and administrative staff the Council shall ensure that the Christian-historical character of the University shall be maintained, provided that no denominational test shall be applied to any person as a condition of his becoming a graduate or staff member of the University’. In protesting, fruitlessly, against the change, 45 professors and lecturers at the University of Cape Town wrote that the amended conscience clauses
clearly envisage the exclusion of individuals from the staff of the new university on religious grounds. We consider that such a limitation cannot be justified in an institution supported by taxation of all sections of the public. We regard this . . . as a precedent which, if it is once established, may become a source of danger to academic liberty in all South African universities.
This year Mr J.C.F. Littlewood was forced to resign as lecturer in English from the staff of the University of Stellenbosch because his method of teaching English to Afrikaansspeaking students was ‘not conducive to the best interests of the University’. The method complained of was the use in comprehension tests of ‘provocative’ passages containing religious and political opinions most likely to stimulate fluent discussion and critical scrutiny – a technique employed in civilised countries to awaken interest through controversy. Mr Littlewood was told that ‘very important people’ were seriously concerned about his ‘activities’ and the rector warned him that he had in his possession a dossier on Mr
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Littlewood who had been ‘under observation’ for some time. This has happened at Stellenbosch, not Potchefstroom where Christian National Education has its nest and constant observation of staff is to be expected. Is a university teacher to employ only those techniques of which ‘very important people’ approve, although the ‘very important people’ may know nothing at all of how to teach the subject involved? The whole Littlewood case smacks of mental wire tapping of the most sinister sort. The late Dr T.B. Davie, principal of the University of Cape Town, said in a lecture in 1955 on ‘Education and race relations in South Africa’:
the ‘universality’ of the university is in general regarded as one of its basic requirements. Its doors should at all times be open to everyone who can benefit by or contribute to its teaching. Its desire for freedom from interference is primarily directed to what is taught, but is inextricably bound up also with who shall teach and who shall be taught.
Once the government has imprisoned the universities by establishing its power to dictate to them who shall be taught, it will employ its authority to dictate to them also who shall teach and ultimately, what shall be taught. Segregation is a moral leprosy, it flaunts injustice under the guise of being scrupulously just. Even if we were convinced that equal university facilities were to be provided for the non-white students abandoned by the ‘mixed’ universities, we would utterly oppose it, because in the words of the Supreme Court of the United States of America: ‘Separate facilities are inherently unequal’. As it is, there is not the slightest doubt that equal facilities will not be provided. Indeed the sort of higher education that the Bantu Education Act promises is inherently unequal in content and intention. If the African is to be educated for manual work under a system which, in the dark phrase of the Minister of Native Affairs must ‘stand with both feet in the Reserve’, it is unlikely that he will enjoy anything approximating to a university education once removed from the ‘mixed’ universities. But inextricably linked to this issue is the right and the duty of a university freely to admit all students regardless of race, colour or creed, to assist them in the pursuit of truth and knowledge, to train them for service to the community as a whole. It is this right and this duty which the government seeks to assassinate – all in the cause of the tyranny over mind and body that it plans. The universities cannot and must not accept this. If the government stops the financial grant on which they depend for most of their running expenses, they must call on the country and the world in the name of education to keep them firm in their struggle to survive as universities. If, as is more likely, the government introduces segregation into the ‘mixed’ universities by law, it is better, far better that they should close than that they should give themselves up whole to the government for their disfigurement. It would be a monstrous betrayal of all the universities stand for if they were to provide the cells for
their own imprisonment. To say that a bad education is better than no education at all is false to the roots. It speaks, as Father Huddleston wrote, in the voice of Vichy. If the universities must suffer mutilation, let them suffer it as victims, not condone it as accomplices. For otherwise they will be as guilty in the end as the original perpetrators. But so far as it is the concern of the universities, so far is it the concern of the whole country. There comes a time in the agony of a people when out of their despair they must gather up courage enough to say – no more, not at any price. Our fight to keep the universities free is a fight as much for our children as for ourselves. To allow the state to lay in South Africa clusters of academies which will deform the minds of future generations into the belief that they were born masters or a belief that they were born slaves is to build for ourselves and for those coming after us a country bordered by barbed wire and lit only by searchlights.