The “Pro and Con” of Apartheid in South Africa


The letter written by Dr. Daniel F. Malan, Prime minister of the Union of South Africa, published in our previous issue, provoked considerable reaction in the prime minister’s own country. Of the many letters received from sympathetic followers of Dr. Malan as well as from those opposed to his policies we print the following because we feel that they a re most representative of the divergent points of view. Here also the positions stated are wholly those of the writers of these letters, and should in no wise be constued as reflecting the editorial opinions of this magazine.


January 1, 1951


I was interested in your letter to our Prime Minister, which was published in our Afrikaans paper during the week. I understand he is busy drafting a reply, in which he will stale the case on behalf of the Government, but if you will allow me I want to put a few facts before you, from the point of view of an ordinary citizen.

The thing called apartheid (segregation) is as old as the hills, tacitly understood between Europeans and colored, and there was never any friction to speak of and nobody ever raised a finger against it. And here I may add that the English Churches applied it most rigorous. Most of them have mixed congregations but the Europeans never sat in the same pews with the colored and the two races had Holy Communion at different times.

The colored people mostly used to keep to themselves and were not in the habit of intruding, but during the last war the late Gen. Smuts needed colored soldiers and regulations separating the races on the railways and at stations especially in the Cape Peninsula were relaxed with the result that colored people swamped the trains and sat on benches at the stations, reserved for Europeans, in many cases ignoring those intended to be used by the colored. The result was inevitable friction, and it was this that made Dr. Malan declare during his election campaign that he was going to do something to keep the races separate. Unfortunately he used the word “apartheid” and his opponents immediately pounced upon it and began to tell the world about this new form of frightfulness invented by the Nationalist Party as a discriminatory measure against the colored people.

Then, when Gen. Smuts lost the general election six years ago he almost became demented and set the ball rolling against apartheid. The English Church dishonestly followed suit and the result was that the most fantastic stories were sent abroad against the Government. The reaction of English ministers was surprising because they have separate reception rooms in their parsonages where they receive colored callers when they have white company in their silting rooms, and responsible church officials are invariably white. I am not taking a biased view because the English Church cannot refute my charges.

Before the Dutch Reformed Mission Church was founded many or the more respectable colored people were members or the D.R. Church. They sat in their own pews for which all members had to pay in the old days, but they had Nagmaol (Holy Communion) at the same table as the Europeans and used the same Clip.

Eventually, however, it was felt that they would be happier in their own Church, run by their own church councils and so the D.R. Mission Church came into being. However, the colored families who preferred to remain in the white congregations were allowed to do so until they had died out. Our Wynberg congregation of which I am an elder still has a few elderly colored members. Strangely, the colored people have no faith in colored ministers so the ministers at their churches are white. Now, however, a move is made to train colored men as ministers and gradually they will replace the white ministers. Colored ministers have been apt to abuse their positions in such a way that their own people lost confidence in them. You can educate a man but you can not thrust responsibility on the shoulders of a man who has no traditional background and expect him to toe the line all the time. Therefore the African policy of the late English Labour Government may yet prove fatal in the long run, unless Providence lends a guiding Hand. He does not always do so, however, but often allows us to stew in our own juice because we do not want to listen. We create bodies like U.N.O., leaving him out, thinking that we can put the world straight and we bash our heads against the wall every time.

Well, up to the time that Dr. Malan took over, very little had been done for the colored. Their children who had matriculated found themselves at a dead end and had to go to the factories, the teaching profession absorbing a few members of the Cape Town Municipality showed the loudest against the new Government but not a single colored clerk was to be found on the municipal staff comprising more than a hundred men and women, and it was only recently that colored traffic constables were appointed. The old apartheid was therefore negative in its application but the policy followed by the Government is positive. A genuine attempt is being made to put colored men in responsible positions in police, the railway and postal services and considerable numbers are in training now. Also education, both with regard to colored and natives is receiving an impetus never known before.

Therefore all the talk about oppression and frustration is merely so much nonsense and calculated to be smirch our good name. We are not oppressive but we want the two races to develop side by side. That is why mixed marriages were prohibited and immorality laws were passed. The Government did not want the mixing of the races to continue, a process which is taking alarming proportions in parts of England today where there are large colored communities at certain seaports and inland places like Birmingham and others. Can you not visualize the ultimate results?

The colored nations of the world have contributed very little towards human advancement. The civilization some of them enjoy was thrust upon them by Europeans who took away their gods and expected them to carry on, with God as a step-father somewhere in the background. The Labor Government almost ruined the once mighty British Empire and the policy now followed in America, a country of a thousand races, can only spell ultimate chaos and ruin, and their god, the Dollar, will smile.

Has it ever occurred to you that in South America and also in the Central American States where all people were always supposed to be equal, the reins of Government are usually in the hands of the white race? How do you explain that? Please do not think that I am going out of my way to belittle those people, I am merely facing facts as I see them. Let the colored peoples of the world, black, red, yellow, etc., develop gradually on their own lines, divorced from alien European customs, but do not thrust things on them for which they are not ready. Colored governments are apt to be corrupt—Haiti, Cuba, Liberia, Gold Coast, to name a few, which shows clearly that these people are not yet ready to shoulder the responsibilities they are expected to carry, yet the unsophisticated are found to be strictly honest and highly moral in outlook.

But let me continue. It is the object of the Government to mark art residential areas for racial groups. In the colored areas facilities will be placed at the disposal of colored people to serve as civil servants and in banks. They will thus eventually have their own post offices, magistrates’ courts and whatever else there may be. The natives, however, present a different problem. Only people who know them can deal with them and it is most foolish for people who have never even seen one to prescribe a policy that will do them any good. The foolish meddling of English missionaries and politicians with the S. African native policy has caused bloody wars and wanton murder in this country in the past. They have not learned and persist with their devilish meddlings. People are openly and otherwise in· citing people with savageness still latent in them, to disobedience and worse, and if firm steps are not taken to combat the evil the future of this country and other European communities in Africa is dark indeed.

Just as the American knows the Red Indian so we know the Kaffir and what we are trying to do for him is exactly what will benefIt him most in the long run. When Gen. Smuts allowed the influx of Natives to the urban areas he almost caused the tribal system to be destroyed. Large numbers are now congregated in and new big towns with the result that so many of them cannot find employment that they are compelled to turn to crime, mostly of a vicious nature, and it is extremely difficult to get them to go back.

In the Native reserves, however, the recognized chiefs and their indunas enjoy a large measure of local government based on tribal customs, with European advisers always available, and the Government is always in close contact with them. Also their spiritual needs are well catered for.

But the busybodies keep busy and sometimes incite Native students to do all manner of rash things at their educational institutions. Last year a number of them smashed up their college to such an extent that the Government had to intervene. Their grievances turned out to be fantastic and the ringleaders had to be punished. Even in the English churches sermons are often preached which are calculated to create grievances which had never been felt before and instead of the good that is intended a lot of harm is done. It took the European races 2000 years to shake off their barbarous customs and evolve civilization as we know it, and even today, in spite of our Christian background, we have our Hitlers and the Communist fiends, so, do you honestly believe that you can change even a little savage into a civilized man according to our standards by a stroke of the pen? No sir. The missionaries and reformers howe tackled the job in the wrong way. They may have known the Bible but they knew nothing about psychology. Just think what will happen if a soft hearted nurse who attends to a patient just recovering from a severe bout of enteric fever gives him roast beef just because he feels hungry. I think you will understand the analogy. The nurse is kind but lacks medical knowledge.

Well, sir, I hope you understand things a little better now. Jf there is anything else that you may wish to know I shall be only too pleased to enlighten you. I should like to hear from you in any case.

Yours most sincerely






9th April, 1954


I have read with interest the letter sent you by our Prime Minister on February 12th last. Although I have only been in South Africa five years I have been impressed, and at times deeply moved, by that sense of divine calling which the Afrikaans people have, and to which Dr. Malan refers in his letter. At the same time it disturbs me because, while they have taken seriously the biblical concept of “the people of God,” it seems to me they so often fail to ask why this people was chosen. I think you will agree that Israel was chosen to be God’s instrument to draw mankind in a sin-disordered world back to himself and not to dominate other races. The location of being God’s people had to be worked out in terms of obedience to God for his own sake, and neither for their own interest nor to secure their own prosperity. On the Prime Minister’s own showing, apartheid is motivated by the urge for self-preservation. Nobody would quarrel with this desire, but the question at once arises if it is legitimate to tie up the satisfaction of this natural interest with that spiritual destiny of a people in such a way that a human policy is given religious sanctions. Further, one is bound to ask if the policy of apartheid will in the long run achieve what is hoped from it. This is one of the major issues in the debate now in progress among us here in South Africa. It would be wrong to imagine that those who oppose apartheid are indifferent to the continuance of the white inhabitants on this subcontinent. On the contrary, they believe that the enforcement of this policy may in the end only succeed in achieving all these things that Dr. Malan fears may come to pass.

The Prime Minister devotes much space in his letter to principles enunciated by the Dutch Reformed Churches, claiming that this is “much the largest church in South Africa.” That is undoubtedly true if one has in mind only the white inhabitants here. But if all racial groups arc included, about a quarter of the total number of Christians in South Africa are adherents of the Dutch Reformed Churches (1936 census). At the time of that census, a half of the black population were Christians. This means that while there are millions of “semi·barbarous blacks” in South Africa, there are also millions of those who, through baptism, have been born again into the life of the Church, and who, with us, are fellow-citizens in the household of God. It is interesting, also, to notice that in that year the non-Europeans were adherents of the various churches in the following proportions: Separatist Sects 33%; Methodist 21%; Anglicom 12%: Lutheran 9%: Roman Catholic 7%; Dutch Reformed 4.6%. While I do not want to exaggerate the importance of this fact, I think that you ought to know what the overwhelming majority of black Christians in this country are in Churches other than the Dutch Reformed Church.

Without attempting any detailed criticism of the seven points of the Conference of the Mlissionary Councilor the Afrikaans Churches, I should like to set before you, for your consideration, the findings of a Conference of the Christian Council of South Africa. The churches represented at this conference account for roughly a hair of the church population in South Africa, and have in their membership between forty and fifty percent of the non-European Christians in the country. This Conference declared:

1. God has created all men in his image. ConsequentIy, beyond all differences remain the essential unity.

2. Individuals who h:we progressed from a primitive social structure to one more advanced should share in the responsibilities and rights of their new status.

3. The real need of South Africa is not “apartheid” but “eendrag” (this is translated as “unity through teamwork”).

4. Citizenship involved participation in responsible government. The franchise should be accorded to all capable of exercising it.

5. Every child should have the opportunity of receiving the best education that the community can give, and for which the child has the capacity.

6. Every man has the right to work in that sphere in which he can make the best use of his abilities for the common good.

In communicating these findings to you, I must make it clear that the members of the churches who subscribed to them know only too well that we have not yet succeeded in implementing them fully in church life. But they indicate the road along which these churches are traveling. Dr. Malan admits that the policy of total apartheid cannot be carried out in the forseeable future. That may be true also of the principles enunciated at the Rosettenville Conference, but I do think it unfair to claim that within the churches considerable progress has already been made towards giving the non-European members a share in the government of the church, and certainly they have done their best to educate non-European children, for out of 4,827 schools for such children only 922 are state schools, with 209, 916 scholars in government schools out of a total of 883,896 children being educated, and it must be remembered that sixty percent of Native children of school age are receiving no education at all. Under the Bantu Education Act all schools will be taken over by the government, but my point is that until now the missionary bodies and churches have made a great contribution to native education, with the aid of substantial help from provincial authorities.

We recognize that much more needs to be attempted than anything yet that we have accomplished. And there are some who are members of the churches in the Christian Council, and I believe a growing number, who are ashamed of things as they are in our churches, and who ask God’s forgiveness for our failure to live out in the church more completely than we do the truth as God has given us to see it.

I realize that when you wrote Dr. Malan you only asked him for a description of “apartheid” and not for a complete picture of the approach being made by various groups to the contemporary problems in South Africa. At the same time I believe it is important that you should take into account the comments that  have made on the Prime Minister’s letter, especially when you try to assess the application of “apartheid” by the present government to the South African of today. Like Dr. Malan, I believe that government is the art of the possible. Much harm is done by Christians who demand a perfection in political action which is quite impracticable. But, side by side with the applicability of any policy to the immediate situation, there must also be a faithfulness on the part of statesmen to the general body of principles to which they subscribe. That I feel confident Dr. Malan would be the first person to agree to, and in part the conflict in South Africa arises over a deep difference on the principles. But I believe, with respect to the Prime Minister, that he is wrong, unless I completely misunderstand him, in equating “apartheid” with “the art of the possible,” as if the only reasonable course to adopt in South Africa at the moment is a policy of segregation. Obviously, due regard must be given to things as they are in our country, but even when this is done and full account is taken of the historical background of the present situation, some of us believe that such a policy as that which is now being pursued is in many respects most unreasonable. To say this, is in no way to attempt to minimize the extreme difficulty of ordering the life of a multi-racial society; our fear is that the policy of “apartheid” is only rendering the task more difficult.

Dr. Malan has set am in some detail what is now being done in a positive and constructive way for the Bantu people. Not for one moment do I wish in any way to minimize the achievements of this or previous governments in South Africa. But I am disturbed by what the Prime Minister doesn’t say in his letter. For example, he makes no reference at all to the appalling shortage of houses for the non-white population, say in a city like Johannesburg, when in the last five years only 1,760 houses for urban native workers have been built. It would be stupid to attempt to blame the present government entirely for this, but any account of the housing situation in the Union ought surely to take into account the frightful slums, overcrowding, and lack of amenities in which thousands of natives are living in the large centers of urban population. The same is true when he speaks of the political rights of the non-white citizens. It is strange that he makes no mention of the fact that over eight million people have only one Senator in eleven representing them, and that of the 159 members of the House of Assembly only 3 represent them. And as for the Advisory Boards in the urban areas, anyone who meets the members of these Boards knows only too well that they suffer from a constant sense of frustration in their work. I mention these facts merely to emphasize that throughout this section the Prime Minister’s letter is liable to mislead you, because in no instance does he relate the facts he records to the total situation which faces us. This is the more regrettable because it will make it harder for you to appreciate the size and difficulty of our problems: problems that some of us believe are being aggravated by the attempt that is now being made, no doubt quite sincerely, to apply a policy of apartheid to a country which is in the throes of a vast industrial revolution; a country which needs to employ our great resources of labor far more effectively in industry than is possible while the great majority of the urban non-whites are living near the poverty line, badly housed, and without hope of any appreciable increase in their rights as human beings. In writing this, I have no desire that you should pass judgment on South Africa or on its present government. My only concern has been. to attempt to comment on the letter you have received from Dr. Malan in the hope that you will understand better why some of us have serious misgivings over the present application of the policy of “apartheid.”

Yours very sincerely