Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Conflicts of Interests in S African Union

Featuring an excerpt from an article first published shortly after the event in  American Political Science Review by Stephen Leacock.

Previously in Union of South Africa Formed. And now Stephen Leacock.

Time: May 31, 1910
Place: South Africa

First Union Cabinet.  PM Botha sits at table in middle.
Public domain image from Wikipedia.
The convention met first at Durban, October 12, 1908, where it remained throughout that month; after a fortnight's interval it met again at Capetown, and with a three weeks' interruption at Christmas continued and completed its work at the end of the first week of February. The constitution was then laid before the different colonial parliaments. In the Transvaal its acceptance was a matter of course, as the delegates of both parties had reached an agreement on its terms. The Cape Parliament passed amendments which involved giving up the scheme of proportional representation as adopted by the convention. Similar amendments were offered by the Orange River Colony in which the Dutch leader sympathized with the leader of the Afrikanderbond at the Cape in desiring to swamp out, rather than represent, minorities. In Natal, which as an ultra-British and ultra-loyal colony, was generally supposed to be in fear of union, many amendments were offered.

The convention then met again at Bloemfontein, made certain changes in the draft of the constitution, and again submitted the document to the colonies. This time it was accepted. Only in Natal was it thought necessary to take a popular vote, and here, contrary to expectation, the people voted heavily in favor of union. The logic of the situation compelled it. In the history of the movement Natal was cast for the same role as Rhode Island in the making of the Federal Union of the United States of America. The other colonies, once brought together into a single system, with power to adopt arrangements in their own interests in regard to customs duties and transportation rates, sheer economic pressure would have compelled the adhesion of Natal. In the constitution now put in force in South Africa the central point of importance is that it established what is practically a unitary and not a federal government. The underlying reason for this is found in the economic circumstances of the country and in the situation in which the provinces found themselves during the years after the war. Till that event the discord of South Africa was generally thought of rather as a matter of racial rivalry and conflicting sovereignties than of simple questions of economic and material interests.

But after the conclusion of the compact of Vereiniging in 1902 it was found that many of the jealousies and difficulties of the respective communities had survived the war, and rested rather upon economic considerations than racial rivalries.

To begin with, there was the question of customs relations. The colonies were separate units, each jealous of its own industrial prosperity. Each had the right to make its own tariff, and yet the division of the country, with four different tariff areas, was obviously to its general disadvantage. Since 1903 the provinces had been held together under the Customs Union of South Africa--made by the governments of the Cape and Natal and the Crown Colony governments of the conquered provinces. This was but a makeshift arrangement, with a common tariff made by treaty, and hence rigidly unalterable, and with a pro-rata division of the proceeds.

Worse still was the railroad problem, which has been in South Africa a bone of contention ever since the opening of the mines of the Rand offered a rich prize to any port and railway that could capture the transit trade.

The essence of the situation is simple. The center of the wealth of South Africa is the Johannesburg mines. This may not be forever the case, but in the present undeveloped state of agriculture and industrial life, Johannesburg is the dominating factor of the country.

Now, Johannesburg can not feed and supply itself. It is too busy. Its one export is gold. Its quarter of a million people must be supplied from the outside. But the Transvaal is an inland country dependent on the seaports of other communities. In position Johannesburg is like the hub of a wheel from which the railways radiate as spokes to the seaports along the rim. The line from Cape Town to Johannesburg, a distance of over 700 miles, was the first completed, and until 1894 the Cape enjoyed a monopoly of carrying the whole trade of Johannesburg. But with the completion of the tunnel through the mountains at Laing's Nek the Natal government railway was able to connect with Johannesburg and the port of Durban entered into competition with the Cape Ports of Cape Town and East London over a line only 485 miles long.

Finally, the opening of the Delagoa Bay Railway in 1894 supplied Johannesburg with an access to the sea over a line 396 miles long, of which 341 was in the Transvaal itself. This last line, it should be noticed, led to a Portuguese seaport, and at the time of its building traversed nowhere British territory. Hence it came about that in the all-important matter of railroad communication the interests of the Transvaal and of the seaboard colonies were diametrically opposed.

To earn as large a revenue as possible it naturally adjusted the rates on its lines so as to penalize the freight from the colonies and favor the Delagoa Bay road. When the colonies tried in 1895 to haul freight by ox-team from their rail-head at the frontier to Johannesburg President Kruger "closed the drifts" and almost precipitated a conflict in arms. Since the war the same situation has persisted, aggravated by the completion of the harbor works and docks at Lorenzo Marques, which favors more than ever the Delagoa route. The Portuguese seaport at present receives some 67 per cent, of the traffic from the Rand, while the Cape ports, which in 1894 had 80 per cent, of the freight, now receive much less.

Continued on Sunday, June 7th.

More information here.

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