After the magistrate and the Chairman had addressed the gathering [about 200 Africans] the following representative natives were heard:
Solomon Tutu. I am a representative of the South African Native National Congress. Our Congress has fully considered this new Law [Native Land Act of 1913]. The sore point with us is this proposed segregation between black and white. We ask that this matter be postponed until twelve months after the war. Then upon the matter meetings of our people could deal with being brought up again it and the thing decided one way or the other. Another point to which we wish to draw the attention of the committee is that there has been no land set apart for natives on the highveld.
Joseph Hlubi. I am a Swazi and representative of the South African Native National Congress.
The Chairman has explained to us very fully the circumstances under which we are to live in future. It is repugnant to us that we should be made to live apart from the white people. We want to live among them. Before you white people came, there was a great deal of bloodshed and trouble among us. Then when you came, we lived among you and we became men. We rose in the scale of civilization, and instead of fighting among ourselves we became well ordered under the rule of the white man. The white man showed us the light. Now you wish to remove us from the light and make us stay apart by ourselves. I say chief, that when the English were subject to the Romans and if the Romans had segregated them, they would not be what they are today. You wish to separate us from you so that we may not have the same opportunities of advancement as you have had. That is why this proposed legislation is not acceptable to us. You want to keep us underfoot. That is why we say this Bill must remain in abeyance because it is killing us. There is another point in connection with the control of our people who remain in non-native areas. The provisions relating thereto are very unpleasant. What we object to is that a native and his family living on a white man's farm should have to be registered. That man is no longer free. He would never be able to rid himself of the shackles of the white man. There are many little things like that to which I could refer. The white people should protect us and help us, because we need them. We need to live among you to get the light that you have had.
John Msimang. Our request is that the Government should give us the right to possess land in the Ermelo district. I have ground on Spitzkop. My request is that the Government should allow us to buy ground in the whole of the district among the white people. The native wants to live among the white people. We ask the committee to receive our request today that we be allowed to live among the white people. When a father has given his child cattle he does not go behind his back and take them away again. Our father gave us the right to purchase land, now our father turns round and asks us to give up that right. His children say "No".
Rooikop Sheba. I am an Induna of the Ermelo district, and live on the farm Mooi-plaats.
[To the natives: — I am surprised that you have elected men to represent your views who have not my knowledge or the knowledge of many of us. I hear that Tutu claims to speak for us. I deny that.]
We have come to represent our views to the committee, but I wish first of all to put certain questions to the committee. I appear before you but I did not know where the areas were. I had never gone into this question of ground. I grew up among the white people for whom I worked, and even now I work for them.
What I want to say is that I am surprised that our daughters and our wives are allowed to board trains at will and leave their kraals without the authority of their fathers and guardians. Secondly there is the question of Lobola. We wish the Lobola system to continue the same as before.
I am not prepared to make any representations with regard to native areas because it is a matter that I have not previously gone into. I should like to be given the opportunity of meeting my people and discussing the matter with them, I do not want to make a separate representation as an individual.
John Tabeti. I am a Swazi and live at Carolina. I was elected by the headmen to appear before the committee.
I am surprised that we natives are not in agreement before you. It appears that there is no union among us. There are many important people in Ermelo. It is surprising to me that they did not know before what the provisions of this Bill are. I thought that this had been made known among the natives and that they had agreed to have their representatives. The induna who has just spoken has no right to voice our views. He is not a chief.
We do not accept the areas recommended by the first commission, because the ground is low-lying, infertile and unhealthy. We wish to have the ground upon which we were born. We do not wish to leave it. All of us say that. The Government being in authority has power to give us ground to suit our purposes.
Mashosha. I am a Swazi and live at Steynsdorp.
I notice that there is no union among the natives of the Ermelo district. I think there ought to be a meeting of the natives now that the Chairman has explained the position and that they should come forward later and express their views. Some of us know about this matter, and others do not. We should all retire and come to some understanding.
Simon Siluma. I am a member of the committee of the South African Native National Congress. I agree with what has been said by our representatives.
Bonifacius. I am a Basuto. I was born in the Free State and have been here three years.
There are a few of us here who own land, Where I am at New Ermelo there are about fifty of us. Before we had finished buying, the law came and prevented us from buying. We want these stands to be thrown open. It is now three years that this has been going on. The difficult thing about these meetings is that we go back just as stupid as we came.
In this question of parting the ground between black and white there is only one thing, which presses hardly upon us. We do not object to the principle of the thing, but what we do find hard is that we should have to go to country in which we are unable to live because it is unhealthy. We want the Government to give us ground on the high veld where it is possible for us to live. Things will not come right if we have to go into the low veld and into Swaziland. We should be glad if the Government gave us ground on the high veld. That is the whole thing. We do not want to go into the unhealthy parts of the country.
The meeting adjourned at this stage to give the natives an opportunity of consulting further. On the resumption the following persons were heard:
Rooikop Sheba. I am not in favour of having the ground cut up. We should like to remain as we have been in the past. I speak for those of my people who agreed to the resolution just taken.
Joseph Hlubi spoke to the same effect, and the meeting closed.