Resolution against the Natives Land Act 1913 and the Report of the Natives Land Commission, by the South African Native National Congress
2 October 1916
Having heard the main features of the Report of the Natives Land Commission on the Natives Land Act of 1913, and having learnt its principal recommendations, this meeting of the South African Native National Congress held at Pietermaritzburg, Natal, this 2nd. day of October 1916, resolves: –
THAT looking to the interests and welfare of the Bantu people within the Union, the Report of the Natives Land Commission as presented to Parliament is disappointing and unsatisfactory, and fails to carry out the alleged principle of territorial separation of the races on an equitable basis for the following reasons:-
THAT it confirms all our previous apprehensions prior to the passing of the Act: That it offers no alternative for the restriction of the free right to acquire land or interest in land: It recommends no practical or equitable remedy for the removal of the manifold objectionable disabilities imposed on the Natives by the Natives Land Act.
THAT it has failed to fulfill the official promises made to the Natives and also to satisfy their anticipations that the Report of the Commission would provide more land sufficient for occupation for themselves and their stock.
WHEREAS the land now demarcated or recommended by the Commission is inadequate for permanent settlement or occupation in proportion to the needs of the present and future Native population: And Whereas the said land is, in most parts, unsuitable for human habitation as also for agricultural or pastoral requirements, seeing that it has been studiously selected on the barren, marshy and malarial districts more especially in the Provinces of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State:
AND WHEREAS according to the evidence given before the Commission there is conflict of opinion amongst the whites as to the approval or disapproval of the principle of the Natives Land Act – the majority of the whites in the Northern Provinces are opposed to the Natives having the right to purchase land or acquire any interest in land in their` own names: Nor are they in favour of any large tracts of land being granted to Natives for occupation or settlement except in the unsuitable districts as aforesaid.
BY REASON of these facts the Report of the Commission as presented for consideration by Parliament cannot be acceptable as a basis for the alleged intended territorial separation of the races or as a fair application of the alleged principles of the Act, on just and equitable lines.
ON THE OTHER HAND, while the ostensible aim of the Natives Land Act is that of territorial separation of the races, the evidence in the Report of the Commission shows that the ulterior object of the Government as well as the real desire of the white population of the country, is:-
To deprive the Natives as a people of their freedom to acquire more land in their own right: To restrict or limit their right to bargain mutually on even terms for the occupation of or settlement on land: To reduce by gradual process and by artificial means the Bantu people as a race to a status of permanent labourers or subordinates for all purposes and for all times with little or no freedom to sell their labour by bargaining on even terms with employers in the open markets of labour either in the agricultural or industrial centres. To limit all opportunities for their economic improvement and independence: To lessen their chances as a people of competing freely and fairly in all commercial enterprises.
THEREFORE this Congress, representing all the tribes of the Bantu Races within the Union, earnestly prays that Parliament unhesitantly reject the Report of the Natives Land Commission and instantly withdraw the Natives Land Act 1913 from operation as a statute.
With regard to ZULULAND it can only be pointed out as an acknowledged historical fact that the parcelling out of this territory into private farms for whites by the successive Colonial Governments was a breach of the Royal proclamation especially making this territory of Zululand a permanent reserve for the original owners. Having regard to the breaches of the aforesaid Royal proclamations and apart from the Natives Land Act 1913, this Congress urges Parliament to take the bold step of restoring the status quo in Zululand by proclaiming it a territory and a permanent place for the original owners thus securing an act of justice where it is due.
FINALLY, this Congress begs to point out that the great bulk of the Native population in South Africa has no protection or any privilege under the Constitution of the Union, no legal safeguard of their interest and vested rights as subjects of the British Empire, no channel for any other intervention on their behalf in the redress of their just grievances, no recognised means whereby they can effectively make their legitimate objections felt on any proposed legislation in the Union Parliament; and that as things stand the Executive for the time being in its own initiative and their interest and that of their supporters may (without any previous consultation with the Natives and their Chiefs) impose any law on the Native people without let or hindrance and regardless of the principles of that law and its effects on the people concerned. Guided by these facts and by the light of political experiences in the past we cannot accept the projected solution of the land question. We regard the Natives Land Act as one-sided and as inconsistent with the ideals of fair Government by reason of the disabilities it imposes on the Native people of the Union, while the Report of the Lands Commission is based on the objections of the European people only. Consequently, instead of establishing good relationship it is creating friction and racial antipathies between the blacks and the whites.
That the welfare of this country depends upon its economic development while this Act is calculated to retard the law of supply and demand. The Act as designed is wrong in principle as violating the laws of nature that every man is a free agent and has a right to live where he chooses according to his circumstances and his inclinations. Any system therefore of settlement on land to be lasting and beneficial without the least injury to any section of the community can only be on natural lines, and not by means of artificial legislation. Further that partial territorial separation of the races already obtains in every sphere of life in the urban and rural places: and therefore this cannot effectively be met by retaining the Natives Land Act on the statute Book. We submit there should be no interference with the existing conditions and vested rights of the Natives, and there should be no removal or ejectment of them from their ancestral lands or from lands they have occupied for generations past: but they should have unrestricted liberty in every Province to acquire land wherever and whenever opportunity permits.
For these and diverse reasons this Congress consisting of delegates representing the various Native tribes of South Africa in declaring its unshakable opposition to the Natives Land Act 1913 reiterated all its former resolutions with respect thereto and hereby further resolves to employ all means within its power to secure the repeal of this mischievous Act and the non-enforcement of the Commission`s Report.
In spite of our previous promises to desist from agitation in connection with the Natives Land Act 1913, and recognising the Act is still in operation with detrimental effects to our people, the Executive Committee is instructed to immediately inaugurate a campaign for the collection of funds for the purposes of this resolution and to educate the Bantu people by directing their attention towards this iniquitous law.
That this resolution be sent to the Governor-General, the Missionary Societies and other interested bodies, and to the Anti-Slavery and Aborigines Protection Society. That the Chief Executive appoint a deputation of three to place this resolution before the Union Government at the earliest opportunity and also to lay same before the Union Parliament next session.