Full text: Forced labour in Africa

“A list submitted by the Secretary-General to the 
members of the Council of the League of Nations on 30th 
August 1928 shewed that at that date twenty-four States 
had ratified or definitively acceded to the Slavery Conven-~ 
tion.” One of these States was the Union of South 
In returning the Draft Convention to the Secretary- 
General the South African Government had remarked 
that its provisions *“ would not affect any existing condi- 
tions or customs obtaining in South Africa.” 
This on the face of it is a very fortunate position for this 
country to be in, and would seem to justify the claim made 
by General Smuts at Oxford that for the solution of Cen- 
tral African Native problems the experience of South 
Africa should be called in. “ For a century and more 
South Africa has laboured and suffered over the very 
problems which are beginning to agitate the young com- 
munities in the North. This experience should be help- 
ful beyond the Union.” A little reflection however 
tends to modify the optimism of such a conclusion. 
With the exception of the indentured Indian labour 
which was brought to Natal to work the sugar estates and 
the Chinese employed for a short period at the gold 
mines, all, or practically all, the unskilled labour of South 
Africa on railways, roads, mines, farms, at the harbours 
and in the towns is being done by the Natives and has all 
along been done by them. Indeed, though General 
Smuts was obviously thinking only of the White people 
when he spoke of South Africa having laboured and 
suffered, the South African Natives might quite well 
claim that the labour had been all on their part and a large 
share of the suffering too, and that it is their experience 
that would be most instructive as a guide to Central 
African policy. No one who knows anything of the con- 
ditions under which for many years Native labourers 
worked in the gold mines and the coal mines and what the 
death-rate was among those unfortunate men will have 
any doubt about the suffering.

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