Freedom Struggle in Southern Africa
An Interview with Franz J. T. Lee
“Young Socialist”, Oct./Nov. 1966, Vol. 10, No. 1
The following interview was given to the Young Socialist by Mr. Franz J.T. Lee, the European Representative of the African Peoples Democratic Union of Southern Africa, who is currently touring the United States and Canada under the auspices of the Alexander Defense Committee. While here, Mr. Lee will also address the United Nations Special Committee on Apartheid.
The interview was given on September 5, the day before the assassination of Prime Minister Verwoerd of South Africa.
Mr. Lee, how did you become involved in the liberation movement of South Africa?
As a rule, any African in the Republic of South Africa who is of poor parentage, aspires to live a decent life, to have human worth and dignity and is concerned about the welfare of his or her black fellow human beings, must sooner or later come into conflict with the South African racially discriminatory society.
From my birth, because I have a white father and a black mother, I was flung into the midst of this racial and economic conflict. My whole youth was simply a struggle for survival, a struggle for education, a struggle for hope and freedom. With time, I came to realize that as social beings my black brothers and sisters and I could only free ourselves through social relations and united action.
I became involved in the liberation movement in 1960 and joined the Unity Movement of South Africa.
What is the African People’s Democratic Union of Southern Africa, generally known as APDUSA?
Under the banner of the Unity Movement of South Africa, APDUSA was formed in 1961, after the Sharpeville Massacre of black African workers who demonstrated peacefully against the hated passbook laws and for higher wages, and after the Pondoland Massacre of black peasants in the reserves who were struggling to achieve land and liberty. APDUSA came into existence as a direct result of these massacres, and at a time when a workers’ and peasants’ organization was an immediate necessity.
What is APDUSA’s program?
The name of the organization itself contains its central theme: democracy. The constitution of APDUSA states its chief aim: „To struggle for the liquidation of national oppression of the oppressed people in Southern Africa, that is, the removal of all disabilities and restrictions based on grounds of race and color and the acquisition by the whole nation of those democratic rights, at present enjoyed by only a small section of the population, namely, the white people.“
APDUSA inherits from the Unity Movement of South Africa the policy of non-collaboration with the oppressors and the political boycott as a weapon of struggle.
Many American students have heard of the Group Areas Act, the Bantu Education Act and the attempts of the Verwoerd government to re-institute a system of tribal law. Could you tell us a little about these conditions in South Africa at the present time and how they affect the work of APDUSA?
First, the Group Areas Act. It was passed in 1950 and reserves certain areas of South Africa for each of the racial groups. Great resettlements of the population were organized, mainly at the cost of the blacks, and by 1961, 7,500 whites, 95,000 Africans and 5,000 Asians had been resettled.
The Africans have no residence permit in white South Africa, which comprises 86.3 percent of the total land area. Furthermore, over the last decade, black masses have been streaming into the industrial centers in search of work, and we now have an urban working class of five million. The government plans to return these masses to the reserves, which total 264 at present, and which are in fact the labor concentration camps of South Africa.
Even in these reserves, however, the Africans are not allowed to possess, buy or sell land. In short, the whole black population of South Africa has been robbed of all land and all political rights.
Thus it is clear why APDUSA has adopted the slogan: Land and Liberty. This revolutionary spark has set the „Bantustan-prairies“ on fire over the last half-decade and made the rulers of South Africa tremble.
And the Bantu Education Act?
The Bantu Education Act, initiated by Dr. Verwoerd, the present Prime Minister of South Africa, was passed in 1953. Its distilled essence can be found in an utterance by Hitler in 1933: „If you want to control a people, you must get hold of their education.“ The enslavement of the human mind in order to oppress a certain section of the population has been a weapon used by ruling classes throughout history.
Bantu education intends to re-enslave and retribalize the Africans, cut them off from modern education and detain them in an intellectual and spiritual ghetto. Only 0.0008 percent of the black population attends a university, or rather one of the five special tribal colleges. Among other subjects, they have to study Bantu law, Bantu education, Bantu history and Bantu medical science.
Bantu law is, of course, the laws passed by the black chiefs who are in fact the Tshombes and Uncle Toms of the „Herrenvolk“ (master race) of South Africa. Dr. Verwoerd explains Bantu education as follows: „. . . Until now, he (the native) has been subjected to a school system which drew him away from his own community and misled him by showing him the green pastures of European society in which he was not allowed to graze. . . . If the native in South Africa today . . . is being taught to expect that he will live his adult life under a policy of equal rights, he is making a big mistake.“
Bantu history, quite obviously, is the history of the past three centuries from the vantage point of the ruling class. The students have to study about the so-called „Kaffir Wars,“ („Kaffir,“ meaning „Heathen,“ has its origin in the Arabic-language), and about the „ferocious, savage“ chiefs, Dingaan and Chaka or Cetewayo, who were, in fact, military geniuses and great statesmen who fought the white invaders.
Bantu medical science is the study of the herbs and tribal rites of the witch-doctor.
Now, quite obviously, Bantu education has nothing to do with modern education, nor even with education per se. It is an outrage to human intelligence, human dignity and worth in the twentieth century.
Would you give us a picture of the present economic situation of South Africa?
Well, South Africa is the most highly industrialized country in Africa, in fact, in the Southern Hemisphere. At present, it is experiencing an economic boom. The main sectors of the economy are mining, secondary industry and agriculture. The first two are mainly under the control of British and American international financiers who have invested over 95 percent of the capital. The Boer government controls only the agricultural sector. The first two sectors are by far the most important.
All three industries depend on cheap black labor. Thus the blacks carry the whole economy of South Africa on their shoulders, and they are its Achilles’ heel. It is they who will change the present oppressive socio-economic system and radically transform the whole society in the future.
Of the more than, $ 4,222 million of foreign capital invested in this unhappy country, some $ 2,500 million is British, $ 800 million is West European and $ 464 million is American. In 1964, U. S. monopoly capitalists earned, in South Africa, a 27 percent ratio of net profit to net worth - the highest in the world. The return on „raw“ investments was 13 percent, while the world average was 7.7 percent. Overseas investors have a stake in virtually every strategic sector of the economy, and Britain, the U. S., France, West Germany, Canada, Italy and Japan control nearly 75 percent of the export and import trade of South Africa. So it is quite obvious that the above countries have a contradiction between their stated political policies toward South Africa, which condemn apartheid, and their economic policies, which strengthen the economic backbone of apartheid.
What is the importance for the liberation movement in South Africa of the struggle in Angola, the establishment of Smith’s government in Rhodesia and the recent International Court of Justice decision on South West Africa?
The Portuguese „overseas provinces“ in Africa, the ex-British protectorates and Rhodesia all form a front line of defense for South Africa, acting as buffer states, to protect the vested foreign interests of the „free world,“ as I have just outlined them. Thus, the liberation struggles in these areas are one and the same as the struggle for liberation in Southern Africa. They are just different fronts, reaching as far north as the Congo. In fact, it is the same struggle throughout the colonial world.
Further, as I wrote in my pamphlet, Anatomy of Apartheid in Southern Africa, „the declaration of unilateral independence of Smith’s Rhodesian Front signals the impingement of apartheid upon Rhodesia.“ An unholy alliance is being formed between Rhodesia and the Republic of South Africa, and even Portugal; and a United Liberation Front against the forces of fascism and ultra-colonialism in Southern Africa as a whole becomes an immediate necessity for the oppressed peoples of this area.
The decision of the World Court fits in this same picture. Due to the laws which govern the capitalist world, this court, which is its court, had to decide in its favor, against the oppressed masses. Again, as I wrote in the same pamphlet, „The South African revolution will be the work of the million-membered toiling masses of South Africa and South West Africa, struggling for equality, justice, human dignity, freedom and peace, in solidarity with the same struggle on a global scale.“
As the founder of the Alexander Defense Committee in West Germany, could you tell us briefly what the ADC is, and how we can help?
It was formed to help eleven opponents of apartheid in South Africa, headed by Dr. Neville Alexander, a leader of the Unity Movement of South Africa and its affiliated organization, APDUSA.
In July, 1963, he and his ten friends were arrested, and later tried and found guilty in April, 1964, of „sabotage.“ The prosecution could not prove one act of sabotage committed by them, only that they had read books that are banned in South Africa and wanted to overthrow the police state of Verwoerd. (I might just add that the books banned in South Africa include such works as Black Beauty, Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native, and Stendhal’s The Red and the Black.) Of course, Dr. Alexander and his friends read books which any leader of the struggle at this time is reading, including books on guerrilla warfare and others.
The „Alexander Eleven“ were given prison sentences in Robben Island concentration camp, ranging from five to ten years, and under South African law these could be extended to life sentences. Robben Island is the South African equivalent of Belsen, Dachau or Auschwitz. At present, it is minus the gas chambers, but the gasses, soman, tabun, sarin, are already being produced on a large-scale in factories on the Witwatersrand.
The ADC paid the expenses for the trial and the two appeal cases, and continues to help the families of the Eleven who are starving and in dire need, and pays for the studies of the Eleven (as a special concession has been made for them to study, due to the international interest in this case). The ADC also helps other victims of oppression, and focuses world public attention on the oppressive situation in South Africa.
Committees have been set up in England, Erie, Japan, Scandinavia, the U. S., Canada and other countries to continue this urgent work. At present, there are thirteen chapters of the ADC throughout the United States, with a head office in New York. Last year, the ADC organized a national lecture tour for Mr. I. B. Tabata, the president of the Unity Movement of South Africa, and this year they have organized a tour for me to lecture in Canada and the United States.
In Canada, as well as in the United States, I have found a great interest in and support for the liberation cause in my homeland. I was surprised at the hunger for knowledge about South Africa, and international events generally, especially among student circles.
Our determination to fight for freedom and democracy for all South Africans is unconquerable, but we urgently need your moral as well as material support. All contributions can be sent to the Alexander Defense Committee, 873 Broadway, 2nd Floor South, New York, New York 10003.