In submitting the following points for the consideration of the Court, I feel that this matter is not one that concerns me alone. It is one that concerns all the Non-European people, and this case is one that might set a precedent for similar actions against other Non-European people. In view of the fact that I am a public figure among the Non-European people, and one to whom many of them look for guidance, I feel that it is my duty to submit a statement to the Court.
One of the mass Non-European organisations, namely, the Non-European United Front of the Transvaal, of which I am the Secretary, works for the complete economic and political emancipation of all the Non-European peoples. When it was confronted with this question of the war, it had, in accordance with its avowed policy and principles, to give an honest and truthful lead to its people; and therefore the question was very seriously considered by its Council, and after proper deliberations it decided to issue a leaflet reflecting the true and accurate picture of the position and status of the Non-European people as a whole, and giving them a guidance on the necessity for certain definite conditions being fulfilled by the Government of this country before the Non-European people could be expected to participate in the war efforts of the Government. I was, in my capacity as Secretary of this body, accordingly instructed by my Council to carry this decision into effect, and I did so willingly and wholeheartedly.
In view of the oppression and tremendous disabilities of my Non-European people, I submit that if the Council had taken any other course than the one it did take it would have consciously and deliberately and against all canons of justice betrayed the very principle for which it stood, and it would also have, to its and its people's utter shame and degradation, lined itself up with reactionary and opportunist organisations. I am, indeed, proud to say that the Non-European United Front had the courage of its convictions to stand up and give the right guidance to its people, although it had to do so at a most trying and difficult time.
It is my contention that the contents of the leaflet which forms Annexure 2 of the Charge-Sheet, sets out the true position of the Non-European people and that the Non-European United Front had given, which it was entitled to do, the right and correct guidance to its people and therefore I desire to point out to the Court at this juncture by means of proof and examples that the leaflet in question was not mala fide or issued with any intention to mislead or defraud the public or a section of the public. Furthermore, I contend that "incitement" could be calculated to be caused or a "feeling of hostility" to be engendered only when attempts or appeals are made on malicious grounds and with the utilisation of all known methods of falsehood to warp the reason and rouse the base instincts of man to gain certain ulterior motive or motives by setting one section of the public against another section.
The appeal of the Non-European United Front, as contained in the leaflet, is based on facts and directed in a perfectly legitimate and righteous fashion to the conscience and the instincts of reason and justice inherent in the mind of man not to allow the further perpetuation of injustice and oppression, but to work for their removal.
The Pass System has inflicted an unbearable burden on the African people. An African has to carry a number of passes, including:
If he has three passes on his person and one in his room, he is arrested and convicted for breaking the law.
Natives paid in taxes, 1938, (all males over 18): £2,310,747
Number of Non-Europeans prosecuted, 1938: 700,000
Out of the above number, the number convicted: 588,329
Approximately 66 per cent of those convicted were sent to prison for paltry and, at times, inadvertent breaches of such iniquitous laws like Pass Laws, Municipal Bye-Regulations, Location Regulations, Municipal Bye-Laws etc. Such an intolerable state of affairs and indiscriminate convictions have tended to create a band of criminals out of a simple hard-working and honest race of men. Little wonder then that, from time to time, eminent authorities like Dr. Krause and even some of the leading newspapers like the Star and the Daily Mail have openly called for the abolition of the Pass Laws and Poll Tax.
Africans must live in locations and they are prohibited from owning property or from conducting business in European areas. Coloureds and Indians are prohibited from living in many areas and are, in effect, segregated. Ownership of land and property is denied to Indians in the Transvaal and restricted for the Coloured people, The Asiatics (Transvaal Land and Trading) Act of 1939 has prohibited the issue of new licences and tremendous difficulties are put in the way of transfers of trade from one name to another or from one place to another.
This bug-bear is used to play up to the prejudices of the European people. Thousands of Africans and Coloureds have been displaced from work by Europeans. But instead of Europeans benefitting from such a policy, their standards are dragged down because it is the usual practice for employers to dismiss the Africans at one door and re-engage them at another door to force down wages of both Non-Europeans and Europeans. This policy is definitely aggravating the "poor white" problem.
This is an undeniable fact. The average annual wage of 343,380 African workers employed on the gold mines was £40 in 1939; whereas in that year the average wage of 39,974 Europeans on the mines was £400.
The cash wages per annum average from £16 to £12.
26/6 per week in Cape Town; 17/11 per week in Durban; 19/7 per week on the Witwatersrand; 11/- per week in the sugar mills.
Thousands of Africans in engineering and building industry earn just over a pound per week on which an African is expected to bring up himself and family. The African workers have managed to obtain a slight increase in their wages in those industries or factories wherein they have been organised into trade unions.
The Indian labourers in the sugar industry are receiving very low wages. They receive 45/- per month. The Fact Finding Commission on the Coloured Question has reported on the poverty of the Coloured people due to low wages and unemployment.
The low wages have reduced the purchasing power of the vast majority of the South African population, particularly the Non-European people, to such a low level that the local manufacturers are finding home markets too small for the development of local industries; and therefore the Chamber of Industries and dozens of press editorials from time to time are demanding that there should be a rise in African wages.
Poverty is rife among Non-Europeans, especially Africans. Rents paid by Non-Europeans are very high. For example, the rents in Sophiatown and Vrededorp are as high as £-5s. per room per month. The housing conditions are appalling. Most of the streets in Non-European areas, e.g., Sophiatown, Newclare, Alexandra Township and other locations are not streets at all but veritable mud-tracks. Sanitary services are negligible. Overcrowding is an undoubted fact. There is no unemployment relief. Unemployed are liable to be forcibly transferred to areas where labour shortage occurs. No accurate statistics are kept which could give one some idea of the appalling misery of the Non-European people. The Unemployment Benefit Act operates in certain scheduled industries such as Mining and Motors but the Africans are deliberately excluded though they are the lowest paid and the first to lose their jobs.
These are too numerous to quote in full. Suffice it to say, one sees the revolting sign: "Europeans Only". Trams, lifts, hospitals, trains, places of amusement, libraries, universities, skilled jobs, parks, halls - in fact, all the essential requirements of the community are reserved exclusively for the Europeans whilst in some directions wholly inadequate facilities are provided for Non-Europeans. Yet the use of all these has only been made possible thanks to the labour of the Non- European people. They are not permitted to use the things which they have helped to build.
Total expenditure on education in 1938: £9,8l9,804
of which on African education £827,058
on Coloureds and Asiatics £812,325
which means, in other words, that the amount spent on European per head of population was £4-16-0
whereas African was £0-2-9 Coloured and Asiatic was £0-18-2
Most legislation on the Statute Book is repressive class legislation in the interests of the governing wealthy class. And most of this repressive legislation is still more oppressive in its effect on Non-Europeans. The laws in question are too numerous to quote in full but the following list will serve to give us some idea; Pass Laws, Tax Laws, Segregation Laws, Native Urban Areas Act, Apprenticeship Act, Colour Bar Act (mining industries), Industrial Conciliation Act, Unemployment Benefit Act, Wage Act; Anti-Asiatic Acts like Law 3 of 1885, Gold Law of 1908, Transvaal Land Tenure Act of 1932, Land and Trading Act of 1939; the Riotous Assemblies Act.
This brief resume of the intolerable conditions under which the Non-European people have to live in this country conclusively proves that these conditions are deliberately created and fostered by the Government and European capitalists in order to reduce the mass labour power of the Non-European people into a commodity which could be used and utilised at will to increase the wealth, luxury and happiness of a small well-to-do section of the European community. The Non-Europeans are used as one would use an orange - the labour to be mercilessly squeezed out and the skin and pips to be thrown aside.
In conclusion, I maintain before this Court that during the last World War of 1914-1918 the Non-Europeans played their part and thousands made the supreme sacrifice. But after the war, the promises for a better life were not fulfilled; on the contrary, the oppression has become worse. The profiteers and big industrialists waxed fat and the position is the same today. The gold mines, in 1938, paid in dividends £l5,573,904 or 35 per cent and the estimate for 1940 is £20,000,000.
The "state of war" was declared by the Union Government after a very small majority decision of Parliament, but the part on which I desire to lay particular stress is this: that at no stage during the time that this momentous decision was being taken were the Non-European peoples who constitute over 80 per cent of the citizens of the Union, directly consulted or allowed the opportunity to declare their considered opinion on a vital question of life and death, that of whether this country should go to war or not.
I submit that on a question of such vast magnitude and severity, it was the supreme duty of the Government to directly consult every section of the citizens of the State. Despite this act of deliberate omission, the Union Government, in the prosecution of its war efforts, made an intensive and extensive drive to obtain the active services of the Non-European people. The war and peace aims were at no stage clearly defined by the Government but appeals were issued that it was a War for Democracy, Freedom and Independence of Nations, Countries and Peoples. These appeals were not clearly understood by the vast majority of the Non-European people since they were not allowed by the State to enjoy the fruits of Democracy, Freedom and Independence and, therefore, it fell on the shoulders of their mass organisations and leadership to explain to them the true position in relation to the war and then, after a full explanation, to give them a correct and proper guidance on the matter.
The workers are called upon to bear the greatest part of the brunt in this war; they have to go to the front and lay down their lives; they have to speed up in industries and factories but their wages are not raised, their lives not bettered.
The present war is an imperialist war, and therefore an unjust war. It is not a war to free the people, but to maintain and extend imperialist domination. Even at this critical juncture, the Union Government would not even consider the request to postpone the sitting of the Asiatic Penetration Commission for the duration of the war, thus showing that it is not one whit concerned about affording any relief to the Non-European people. Under these conditions, I submit to the Court, how could any representative body of Non-European public opinion, or I, as one of the leaders, be expected to acquiesce in the war efforts, if we are to remain truthful and loyal to our people?
This war could only be transformed into a just war for the preservation of democracy and the defeat of fascism when full and unfettered democratic rights are extended to the Non-European people of this country and when the oppressed peoples of India and the colonial and semi-colonial countries are granted their freedom and independence. If these conditions and rights are given them, only then, could we believe that this is a war for the preservation of Democracy and the institution of a new social order; and there would be no sacrifice too great and no risk too hazardous for us, the Non-Europeans, to offer for the defence of this new social order.
In view of these facts, I plead not guilty to both the charges alleged against me. Whatever the decision of the Court be, for us there is no cause so sacred, and no cause so noble, as the cause for which the Non-European United Front is fighting and shall go on fighting, surmounting every obstacle, suffering every consequence, till justice is vindicated and freedom won.