Freedom Struggle in the Protectorates

 

by Franz J. T. Lee

 

Article in Africa and the World, No 3, December 1964


 

Including South Africa - still under the yoke of apartheid - there are still eight countries in the fangs of colonialism and imperialism in Southern Africa, struggling for political independence. They are South Africa, South West Africa, Angola, Mozambique, Southern Rhodesia, Bechuanaland, Basutoland and Swaziland. The three British „Protectorates“ are over half the size of the Republic of South Africa and have at present a population of nearly 1.5 million.

 

Bechuanaland - about the size of France - is the largest; sparsely populated, mainly Kalahari desert, partly semi-desert with here and there grass and thorrny scrub in the southern and (line missing in the Original)…

 

It does not lie as an enclave, like the other two, within the boundaries of South Africa. Basutoland is about one-and-a-half times the size of Wales; Swaziland slightly smaller. The former has the great Drakensberg range in the east and the Maluti mountains in the west; hence more than half of its area is unsuitable for agriculture. The latter is mostly lowland, having the southern tip of the Lembombo mountains in the north, a good climate and comparatively fertile soil.

 

 

The Peasants

 

Bechuanaland has an annual rainfall of less than nine inches. Of the arable land, only 5 per cent is under irrigation and cultivation - on which the African peasants grow mainly maize, sorghum (mabela), millet, cowpeas, tobacco and groundnuts. Over 90 per cent of the Mochuana people are engaged in stock raising chiefly cattle, although on a small scale also goats and sheep.

 

The African peasant and farming communities are dependent to a great extent on stock raising and animal husbandry. Further there is considerable mineral wealth in Bechuanaland. Asbestos and manganese are mined on a significant scale. Small quantities of gold are also mined. Lately geological surveys have revealed extensive deposits of coal.

 

 

Little Industry

 

Similar to Basutoland, apart from mining, which is in the hands of foreign monopoly capitalists, there is very little industry in the country. In 1959 an agreement was made between the Bamangwato Reserve and the Rhodesian Selection Trust, allowing the latter exploiting rights in the territory.

 

About 20,000 Mochuana men, i.e., about 20 per cent of the population, are always away toiling for British monopoly companies either in Southern Rhodesia or South Africa. This export labour only brings in an average annual revenue of Pounds 55,000 sterling.

 

Bechuanaland has the peculiar distinction of being the only country which has its capital outside its borders i.e., Mafeking in the northeastern Cape Province. Three years after South Africa is out of the Commonwealth, British officials are still administering the Mochuana people from South African territory! And not from Serowe, as some South African history books state!

 

At Lobatsi, an abattoir, a maize mill and soap factory have been established lately. Further at Francistown - where there is a small airport, chiefly to recruit migrant labour there is a creamery, hides and skins depot and a bonemeal factory.

 

These border towns differ very little from their South African counterparts - the „dorps“ - which have pleasant houses and beautiful gardens and facilities on the one end, and crowded „locations“ with no electricity or water on the other end.

 

To a certain extent Herrenvolk racial discrimination and „Bantu Education“ are also practised here. Africans are forbidden to enter the „Whites Only“ hotels, bars, cafes and public gardens. The civil service is dominated by whites. Progressive publications are banned and refugees from South Africa are curtailed in their political activity by law, carrying a heavy fine.

 

 

Kidnapped

 

Some like Jack and Rita Hodgson and Michael Harmel have been refused residence Permits. Others like Dr. Kenneth Abrahams and his comrades have been very easily „kidnapped“ by Verwoerd’s sabotaging hooligans. Prominent South African personalities like Ben Schoeman, Minister of Transport, own ranches in Bechuanaland.

 

The South African Herrenvolk underground sabotage organisations can enter the territory without hindrance to persecute refugees in the territories. Such agents were responsible for the explosion of the East African Airways Dakota aircraft intended to airlift Wolpe and Goldreich in 1964.

 

The different tribes in Bechuanaland live in eight respective reserves - the largest being the Bamangwato reserve. The leader of this tribe is Seretse Khama, who was exiled by the British government because he dared to marry a white woman. Later he was allowed to return and founded the Bechuanaland Democratic Party in opposition to the Bechuanaland People’s Party, under the leadership of Mpho and Macheng. The latter has split lately. Mpho has founded the Bechuanaland Independence Party (BIP), which is the most progressive tendency at present.

 

Basutoland (Lesotho) is completely surrounded by the Republic of South Africa and is the most populous of the three. In this „Switzerland of the South“, the Africans own all the land. There are white traders and officials but they have no rights to buy land.

 

 

Labour Reservoirs

 

Under British rule - which did practically nothing for these „protectorates“, and only used them as cheap labour reservoirs to feed the British controlled industries in the neighbouring territories - the soil has been terribly eroded, yet the sturdy, proud and independent Basothos are tilling the soil and raising cattle, horses, sheep and goats. Like in the other two territories, maize and sorghum are the main crops and staple foods.

 

Basutoland has very few minerals. The Oppenheimer monopoly has been negotiating for rights to exploit the rich deposits of alluvial diamonds but with little success, due to protests of the Basothos.

 

A domestic market is almost nonexistent. Economically, just like the other two, Basutoland is completely dependent on South Africa. More than half of the adult males, i.e., about 150,000 Basothos, work as cheap migrant labourers in the Republic.

 

Due to a strong independence tradition and a working-class consciousness - in fact, Lesotho was never really conquered by the Boers or the English; Marematlou Freedom Party, also supported by reactionary chiefs, Roman Catholic missionaries and government officials, as Bishop Mpeta puts it, „obsessed with the idea of feudalism, colonialism and churchism“; and the Communist Party of Lesotho, which „remains the only legal Marxist Leninist Party on the continent of Africa“ (sic!), (The African Communist, December, 1963). Beyond doubt, it is the most progressive organisation of the people in Lesotho.

 

Swaziland is the smallest but the wealthiest of the three protectorates. It has a fertile soil, lush climate and substantial mineral wealth. In 1959 it exported goods worth £4,383,528 mainly chrysolite, asbestos, sugar, cattle, patulite (chipboard), seed cotton, rice, pineapples, tobacco, timber, butter, citrus fruit and bananas - and imported goods worth £3,979,464 - chiefly food, drinks, oil, petrol, coal, motor vehicles, tobacco and cigarettes from South Africa.

 

 

Workers Strike

 

In 1963, the 1,500 African workers employed in the Havelock asbestos mine - the fifth largest asbestos mine in the world - operated by Amianthus Mines (Pty.) Ltd. of Johannesburg, and owned by the British monopoly of Turner and Newall, Manchester, advertising itself as „Worldwide leadership in asbestos, plastics and insulation“, went on strike, demanding a wage of £1 a day, as against earning (about £2) a month.“

 

British and South African companies have invested in the iron manganese mines and the sugar-cane industry. The British Colonial Development Corporation has already invested £15 million.

 

 

£40 Millions

 

Further, in co-operation with the Anglo American Corporation of South Africa, and Guest, Keen and Nettlefold of Britain, it has started to dig out 12 million tons of iron ore, controlled by the Swaziland Iron Ore Development Co., and sell them to the Yawata and Fuji Steel companies of Japan over the next 10 years for £40 million.

 

The Bomvu Ridge (Ngwenya) is calculated to have 47 million tons of iron ore deposits. This agreement was signed without consulting the Swazi people at all. Further, the Japanese have invested £50 million in partnership with De Beers Diamond Corporation of South Africa, having Anglo American interests.

 

To transport the iron ore, a special new railway line is being built. In 1960 a copper-nickel-cobalt belt deposit was located. Two creameries, two bone-meal factories, two sugar mills, a pulp mill, a canning factory, a tannery, a clothing factory and a few engineering plants have been established.

 

 

White Settlers

 

The 10,000 whites, chiefly true disciples of the Herrenvolk doctrine of their South African families, own 45 per cent of the best soil of Swaziland. The rest is left for the nearly 300,000 Swazis.

 

The labour force is comparatively stable in Swaziland, due to the high demand. Contrary to Basutoland, there is unfortunately very little political activity. The Swazi king, the Ngwenyama (Lion) - Chief Sobhuza II - and his court of quisling chiefs place their feudal privileges above the interests of the Swazi masses and hence collaborate with the South African and British imperialists.

 

Important organisations of the people are the Ngwane National Liberation Congress, with Dr. Ambrose Zwane as President, and who organised the big general strike, and the Swaziland Democratic (SDP) and Progressive (SPP) Parties, the latter having J. J. Nquku as leader.

 

The All-African Trade Union (line missing in the Original)… ing the Swazis in their struggle.

 

In a „White Paper“ the British Government has „substantially“ accepted the constitutional proposals of granting Bechuanaland „internal selfgovernment“ by March, 1965. The present executive will be replaced by a cabinet presided over by the British Colonial Commissioner, and will consist of a Prime Minister, his Deputy and five other ministers.

 

The Legislative Assembly will consist of a Speaker, 32 elected members, an Attorney General and a Financial Secretary. A House of Chiefs, examining certain draft bills before their introduction into parliament and advising parliament on matters that affect tribal interests, will also be established.

 

 

Next Year

 

On April 20, 1964, the Basutoland Constitutional Conference was opened in London. Three weeks later, on May 15, the conference concluded with agreement on steps towards „independence“, scheduled for 1965.

 

The new constitution provides for a bicameral system of parliament. On the basis of „one man one vote“, with all its bourgeois implications on universal adult suffrage, the lower House will be elected. The Senate will consist of 22 principal chiefs or their nominees and other Persons - all nominated by the Basutoland Paramount Chief, leaning toward the British imperialists.

 

It will have a cabinet of a Prime Minister and seven other ministers. Also the new constitution for Swaziland is similar to the other two, one third of the seats in the legislative council reserved for whites and all the Herrenvolk dummies sitting in the Cabinet and Senate.

 

 

Overripe !

 

Hence Britain has at last considered these „protectorates“ to be „ripe“ for „selfgovernment“ - in fact, for neo-colonialism, i.e., the British Empire without the royal flag.

 

THE TRUTH IS THAT THESE COUNTRIES ARE ALREADY „OVERRIPE“ AND THAT THEY SHOULD COALESCE THEIR LIBERATORY FORCES INTO A UNITED FRONT FIGHTING FOR REAL INDEPENDENCE, i.e., POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC, IN THE STRUGGLE FOR A UNITED SOCIALIST STATE OF AFRICA.