House of Assembly: Vol106 - MONDAY 23 JANUARY 1961
Mr. SPEAKER took the Chair at 2.20 p.m.
In accordance with the provisions of Section 7 of the Senate Act, 1960, I wish to announce that the under-mentioned Bills are to be introduced in the Senate during the current session of Parliament:
Kimberley Leasehold Conversion to Freehold Bill.
- Vyfhoek Management Amendment Bill.
- State-owned Land Disposal Bill.
- Deeds Registries Amendment Bill.
- National Parks Amendment Bill.
- Building Societies Act Amendment Bill.
- Coloured Persons Communal Reserves Bill.
- Census Act Amendment Bill.
- Aliens Act Amendment Bill.
- Public Service Amendment Bill.
Group Areas and Development of Group Areas Amendment Bill.
- Universities Amendment Bill.
- Anatomy Amendment Bill.
- Industrial Conciliation Amendment Bill.
- Precious and Base Metals Amendment Bill.
- Atomic Energy Amendment Bill.
- Foundation Seed Bill.
- Seed Bill.
- Medical, Dental and Pharmacy Act Amendment Bill.
- Post Mortem Examinations and Removal of Human Tissues Act Amendment Bill.
- Public Health Amendment Bill.
- Marketing Act Amendment Bill.
- Dairy Industry Acts Amendment and Consolidation Bill.
Mr. SPEAKER appointed the Prime Minister and Sir de Villiers Graaff a Committee to assist Mr. Speaker in regard to the printing of the House.
Mr. SPEAKER appointed the following members to constitute with Mr. Speaker the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders, viz.: The Prime Minister, the Minister of Lands, the Minister of External Affairs, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Education, Arts and Science, Sir de Villiers Graaff, Dr. A. I. Malan, Mr. J. E. Potgieter, Mr. Higgerty, Mr. Lawrence, Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Bloomberg.
Mr. Speaker, with the leave of the House, I should like to make the following statement:
The Secretary-General of the United Nations visited the Union of South Africa at the invitation of the Government. It was felt that much misunderstanding might be avoided if the chief official of this world organization could acquaint himself personally with at least certain major aspects of the South African scene, and could talk with the Government on matters falling within the authority conferred on the Secretary-General under the Charter of the United Nations.
It was made clear that no infringement on the sovereign independence of the Union, or intervention in its domestic affairs, or any action implying accountability to the United Nations for its policies or their implementation, could be implied or countenanced. On this basis a frank exchange of views over a whole range of matters concerning the world at large and South Africa in particular could take place between the Prime Minister and the Secretary-General. A spirit of understanding and goodwill existed throughout the talks, even though, as could be expected, most divergent points of view had at times to be put on both sides.
The curtailment of the Secretary-General’s visit for similar reasons to those which unfortunately prevented a visit last year, necessarily upset the programme arranged, but not seriously. Perhaps it should be stated publicly once again that suggestions for the programme, and afterwards the final draft, were submitted to the Secretary-General and his officials, and that the Prime Minister invited him to make any alterations or alternative suggestions he wished.
The Prime Minister also endorsed the arrangements made by the Minister of External Affairs on behalf of the Government during the preliminary talks with the Secretary-General in London last year, that the latter would be quite free to meet whomsoever he wished among all races. Any co-operation he requested to make this possible was granted. No obstacles whatsoever were placed in his way. That the huge number of requests for interviews which reached him could not be granted by him within the very limited time available, can be readily understood.
Much time was given to the main objectives of his visit, as set by the Secretary-General himself, namely the discussions with the Prime Minister. Officials of the United Nations Secretariat and the Department of External Affairs were present throughout.
The talks, the content of which has now been conveyed to the Government by the Prime Minister, dealt with international relations, South Africa’s interest in the United Nations, her relations with other states, the misunderstanding of the Union’s policies which tends to militate against harmonious relations, and the extent and manner that difficulties arising therefrom might be overcome.
While the Government must guard against South Africa becoming involved in any form of accountability, just as other member nations are not subjected to it, they are convinced that the personal contact established is of considerable value, and, having found the talks with the Secretary-General useful and constructive, they have decided to invite him, at an appropriate time, or times, to visit the Union again in order that the present contact may be continued.
This decision has already been conveyed to the Secretary-General in New York.
Was an opportunity given to the hon. the Leader of the Opposition to have discussions with Mr. Dag Hammarsjkoeld?
I move, as an amendment—
- (a) it is unequivocally established that the proposed republic will remain in the Commonwealth; and
- (b) the Government gives an assurance that provision is or will be made in such legislation for guaranteeing such basic rights as will advance national unity in South Africa.”.
That amendment, Mr. Speaker, has two legs. I propose to deal with the second first because it will be dealt with in greater detail by the seconder of my amendment.
You will know, Mr. Speaker, and hon. members opposite will know that throughout the referendum national unity was the theme, was given as the objective of the republic. Now, Sir, a large section of the English-speaking section in South Africa have stated their wishes and desires and have asked the hon. the Prime Minister in a spirit of true South Africanism to consider certain of their fears and hopes for the future, and they have asked him to consider whether he is prepared to introduce certain guarantees into the legislation before us. What has happened? By the very fact that the hon. gentleman has introduced this legislation in a sitting of this House instead of at a Joint Sitting of the Senate and the House of Assembly, he has made it clear that in so far as we understand constitutional procedure at the present time, he is not making any provision for any guarantees or entrenchments of any kind in the Bill which he is introducing to-day. I know I shall be told that there is a guarantee for the language rights, but he knows as well as I do that the sitting of this House alone as a bicameral legislature, cannot affect a guarantee which already exists one way or another, cannot add to it or subtract from it. So the hon. gentleman has shown that he has not only turned down any suggestion of guarantees in the Constitution, but, Sir, he has made it clear that he is not prepared to consider any guarantees of any kind. In other words, Sir, national unity is to be national unity on his terms and he is prepared to consider no other terms. All the propaganda made during the referendum has been forgotten overnight.
There is another point. Throughout the referendum we were told that it was the earnest desire of this Government that the republic when formed should remain within the Commonwealth. Now I want to be fair and state that the hon. the Prime Minister in one speech, I think at Lichtenburg, made it perfectly clear that even if we were not to remain in the Commonwealth, he would regard any majority which he obtained in that referendum as a mandate for a republic, even if it were outside the Commonwealth. He was one of very few Ministers who did that.
We all said so.
The hon. member says “We all said so I can only say, judging from the Press, that very few said that. Certain hon. Ministers on the other side were at pains to show not only that it was a certainty that we would remain within the Commonwealth—Sir, the Minister of Finance found that it was conventional that we should apply and that it was a convention that it should be accepted. And what did the hon. the Minister of the Interior say? He said “We just give notice”, and they did their level best, Sir, to leave the public under the impression that our future membership of the Commonwealth was assured. I have no doubt, and I know they have no doubt when they search their hearts, and the public have no doubt, that the overwhelming majority of people who voted for this republic, voted either in the hope or in the belief that that republic would be within the Commonwealth of Nations, and they were left with that hope and left in that belief by the propaganda made by hon. gentlemen opposite. And now, Mr. Speaker, what has happened since the referendum? What steps have been taken by this Government to ensure that South Africa will remain within the Commonwealth? You know, Sir, the hon. the Prime Minister has made a statement that he has indicated to the British Prime Minister as chairman of the Conference of Prime Ministers that he will attend the conference and that he will make that application. But surely the hon. Prime Minister knows, as every sensible person in this House knows, that what those Prime Ministers decide is going to be affected by what their Press and their public believe in respect of South Africa’s future membership of the Commonwealth! What steps have been taken by this Government to see that South Africa’s case is put before those members of the public and the Press in other Commonwealth countries? He knows, or ought to know, that our future membership is not a certainty. He knows, too, Sir, that many believe that the ground for exclusion is to be as was quoted in a letter by Sir Clifford Heathcote-Smith in the Daily Telegraph in London on Wednesday, 30 November—
Sir, that is the case against it, and clearly the hon. the Prime Minister could meet that case, this Government could meet that case by producing evidence that the so-called oppressed peoples of the Union of South Africa—the Natives, the Coloured people and the Indians— wish South Africa to remain in the Commonwealth as is pointed out by Sir Clifford. Surely the hon. gentleman and his Government are aware of this sort of propaganda that is being made against us. What steps has he taken to ascertain the views of those people? What steps has he taken to be able to go to the Prime Ministers’ Conference and say “These people also wish to remain within the Commonwealth”? Now, Sir, the Coloured people have three representatives in this House. I believe they will be able to say on behalf of the Cape Coloured people that their constituents wish to remain within the Commonwealth.
The fourth representative, the hon. member for Outeniqua (Mr. Holland) apparently no longer represents the Coloured people.
There is one representative of the Coloured people who is a member of this party, and I know that their views are the same as those of members of this party. But I go further. The hon. the Prime Minister has removed from this House the representatives of the Native people who might have been able to express their views. [Time limit.]
I second the amendment. Mr. Speaker, because of the nature of this debate, under the rules, I have a very limited time in which to say much which I would wish to say on an occasion such as this. May I therefore commence at once by saying that I don’t seek to make this an opportunity for the ordinary kind of constitutional wrangle in Parliament which must of necessity arise from time to time in considering our constitutional position. I seek to make this an opportunity for another appeal to the hon. the Prime Minister and the Government to hearken to us in terms of sub-section (b) of this amendment to the Prime Minister’s motion, and to ask for some security to be given us in regard to the new Constitution, the republican constitution, which is being proposed. Now, Sir, in the past, after the referendum, quite constitutionally we have approached the Government and asked them for those guarantees. To-day we come again with another request, and I know that there are many people, probably many thousands of people, who will say “What is the use of approaching the Government with requests? Surely, Douglas Mitchell, by now you know that they are unable to listen to anything you are going to say which may divert them from the particular course which they have set for themselves. It will be a complete waste of time.” Mr. Speaker, that may be a very widely held view, and I believe it is. Nevertheless I believe that it is incumbent upon us, those who do not share the views of the Nationalist Party, South Africans who do not agree with the Nationalist Party, to use any constitutional endeavour to bring home to the Government the necessity, if there is to be national unity in this country, of giving some kind of security, some kind of guarantee to those people who do not agree with the Government in regard to this particular matter.
I want to go for a moment to an appreciation of that point of view which was raised some five years ago by the late Mr. Strydom. The late Mr. Strydom, on 10 October 1955— he was then Prime Minister—said this—
It is that guarantee that I am referring to this afternoon. I believe that the late Mr. Strydom was right and that if we are going to get national unity, we can only achieve that on the basis of guaranteeing to each other and entrenching in the Constitution those things that belong to each other.
My hon. Leader has dealt with the question of the Commonwealth membership. Sir, that is naturally the overriding consideration at the moment. I want to say quite frankly, and I hope the hon. the Prime Minister will accept it as a sincere expression of opinion, that I think that I voice the view of hundreds of thousands of people in this country when I say that they believe that he does not want to stay in the Commonwealth as a permanent arrangement at all. He probably wishes to stay for the time being in the Commonwealth if for no other reason than because of the assurances that were given by his Ministers and other people, the Minister of Finance, for instance, who tried to make out that it was just a formality this application for membership of the Commonwealth, and so on. For their own political reasons at this moment, the Government may desire to remain in the Commonwealth. I have no doubt whatever that they don’t intend that to be a permanent arrangement, the more so, Sir, if there is to be any question of not having guarantees. Now, Sir, I think it is going to be an extremely dangerous thing for South Africa to go into a republic without guarantees for those people who do not feel and think politically the same as the Nationalist Party. Let us be quite clear, Sir, that the passing of a law does not make us change our sentiments, does not make us change our feelings, does not make us change our views on fundamental issues in South Africa. The passing of laws and the changing of laws does not change the feelings of men and women and if we do not take into account the feelings of men and women in this country, what will become of the basis for unity, the unity which I think the Prime Minister meant when he made that appeal in the course of the referendum campaign, on which the greatest doubt is being cast to-day? The question is being asked to-day whether he meant anything of the sort. That appeal for unity, Sir, seems to be to-day not an appeal for unity on the terms that the Prime Minister laid down, but unity in terms of membership of the Nationalist Party—that there is to be no unity on terms outside the Nationalist Party, but that there is to be unity only if you are a member of the Nationalist Party. Sir, that is entirely unacceptable to us. I hope, Sir, it will never be necessary for us in this country to say that we are being governed now by force, not by consent at all, that we look upon ourselves as governed by a Government which is inimical to us, hostile to us, and governs us by force. I hope that that will never arise. That is why I make this appeal to the hon. the Prime Minister. The truth of the matter is that utterances by the hon. the Prime Minister and members of his Cabinet—and I am not going to elaborate on the recent speeches of the Minister of Posts and Telegraphs and will refer to that only in passing, but I say that when you get that kind of speech being made at a time like this, we can be forgiven if those of us who are opposed to the Nationalist Party feel that the time has come for us to say that we are sick and tired of being pushed around by this Government. [Laughter.] Hon. members may interrupt and may laugh and they may make provocative interjections while I am speaking, but that cuts no ice. There is nobody outside this Honourable House listening to these trivialities to-day. The people are sick and tired of being pushed around by this Government. We are making now again a constitutional appeal to get South Africa on a proper basis, not on a basis where those who are opposed to the Government will love the republic; we won’t; of course we won’t; but where we will be able to ask the people who think as we do to make a new start, to try and forget the past and to get down to it in the belief that it may yet be possible to hammer out a future for us in a united South Africa—not on the basis of ramming down our throats a number of political concepts— that is nonsense, that is ridiculous! But on the basis that the future of our people in this country demands that we settle these things and see whether we cannot get together. But, Sir, the basic principle on which we can get together is, as the late Mr. Strydom put it: “Upon guaranteeing to one another those things that belong to each.” My honourable Leader has said that the hon. the Prime Minister would have come with a Joint Sitting if he had intended any entrenchments at all. The very fact that he has come with a bicameral sitting of Parliament indicates that he does not intend to entrench anything. He is immovable, he is granite-like. But we must still make this appeal. We ask that the views of people who do not agree with the Nationalist Party shall be taken into account, that there shall be statesmanship as distinct from leadership of a political party. I know, Sir, where the hon. the Prime Minister will go if he is going to be under the pressure of the hon. members behind him on the back benches. They will drive him so far—it might be a good thing for South Africa that they drive South Africa to a catastrophe much quicker than would otherwise be the case; but the hon. the Prime Minister may be able to hold his wild men. I see that even the Chief Whip on the opposite side laughs. He knows who the wild men are on his side. Sir, that is why I am making this appeal. [Time limit.]
Mr. Speaker, I think that the mere fact that the official Opposition are using an occasion such as this and are trying while the great majority of the White voters …
What great majority?
While the great majority of the White voters have voted in favour of a republic hon. members opposite are now trying to swim against the stream and this convinces me more than ever of the old saying: Those whom the gods would destroy they first make mad.
I want to raise two points. In the first place I want to tell the hon. the Leader of the Opposition that when he makes statements here, he should be very sure of his facts. There was not a single meeting which I addressed during the referendum campaign at which I did not state quite definitely and clearly that if we won this referendum, we would go ahead—we would go ahead with the establishment of a republic, whether or not we were then expelled from the Commonwealth. I went on to give reasons for that attitude and I stated that if we did not say so at this stage we would be placing a weapon in the hands of our enemies both at home and abroad. We would be giving Ghana, Malaya and all those countries which according to the Leader of the Opposition have the individual right of veto the means whereby they could prevent us becoming a republic for all time to come. Then we would be calling them in as arbiters over our system of government, not only to-day but in the future as well. I used the simile that it would be like the first payment which one makes to a blackmailer; once one has given in for the first time, one will have to give in again and again. Once we conceded that principle, even if we were eventually to gain a 100 per cent majority of the voters of South Africa in favour of a republic, one country such as Ghana or Malaya, according to the constitutional viewpoint of the Leader of the Opposition (with which I do not agree), could exercise its veto and make it impossible for us to establish a republic. We have always said what we intend doing. I said so at every meeting with the utmost emphasis and I also gave the reasons. I said that I was not prepared to hand ourselves over bound hand and foot into the hands of the enemies of South Africa, into the hand of those people who would like to expel us from the Commonwealth. That is why I adopted this attitude.
The fact that the hon. the Leader of the Opposition has now come forward with this amendment merely represents a continuation of the attitude he adopted throughout the entire referendum campaign. The question I want to ask is whether the United Party are genuinely in earnest in saying that we should remain a member of the Commonwealth. Because his behaviour during the referendum campaign and his behaviour here to-day is not that of someone who wishes us to remain a member of the Commonwealth, but the behaviour of someone who is prepared to play into the hands of those who do not want us to remain a member. I therefore now wish to put this question to the hon. member. Does he want to help South Africa retain her membership of the Commonwealth, yes or no? If he is in earnest and if he does want to help, then he must immediately withdraw this amendment of his. And if he is in earnest that we should make an attempt to retain our membership of the Commonwealth, then this motion of his is calculated to have the opposite effect to that which he wishes.
I do not want to devote much time to the hon. member for South Coast (Mr. Mitchell). He referred to statements which were made during the referendum campaign. I think that if there is anyone in South Africa who is saddled with statements he made during that campaign, it is the hon. member for South Coast. He said many things during the referendum campaign; and now the chickens are coming home to roost. To-day he has difficulty in his own province where he made those statements. Now he must try to calm where previously he incited. His amendment represents nothing but “saving face”. He must now try to rehabilitate himself somewhat. I only want to say these few words about the substance of what he has said. The position is quite clear. For our part we have said that all we intend by this Bill is the acceptance of the South Africa Act as a basis, with the one change that the President replaces the Queen and the Governor-General. They have said that they do not believe it. They have said that we have all sorts of things up our sleeve. They did not believe that this was the only change we envisaged. They have demanded that there should be no changes. Now that the Bill has been published, now that they have seen that we have kept our word, now it is they who do not want to accept the South Africa Act. Now they are saying that we should write a whole number of provisions into this Bill—provisions which the South Africa Act never contained. I say that we shall still have many opportunities to discuss the constitutional arguments. Here we have the two fundamental points which I have mentioned. Mr. Speaker, you will forgive me if I repeat myself and if I close where I began: It is this type of behaviour on the part of the official Opposition which leads me to believe that it is really true that those whom God would destroy he first sends mad.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to move as a further amendment—
- (a) for a rigid constitution and the protection of minority rights;
- (b) for adequate decentralization of powers to the provinces; and
- (c) for the participation of all responsible citizens in the government of the country irrespective of race or colour.
In moving this amendment it is not my intention to cover the entire field, the entire basis of our opposition to the establishment of a republic in South Africa. That we made quite clear during the referendum campaign. It is also not my intention to be unrealistic. We accept that the Government is going to proceed with the mandate that they have received from the electorate of South Africa, to establish a republic. We would have liked to have seen that mandate more representative than it is. That, too, we made quite clear during the campaign, that we would have liked to have seen all responsible citizens of South Africa, irrespective of what particular race they might belong to, have a say in this fundamental change envisaged in our country. But we do accept that the Government must execute its mandate which they have received from the European electorate of South Africa. And in the execution of that mandate we realize that there are certain dangers for South Africa.
Mention has been made here, this afternoon, of some of those dangers. I think, however, it is a matter that needs further analysis in order that we may determine the basis of the harm that might be done, and to determine the basis of the criticism. It is easy to say that we are being criticized; that we are being harmed, that we are being rejected. Why? Because we in South Africa believe in racial discrimination. It is also true that very many people in South Africa have fears for the future. I am not saying that those fears are legitimate or not legitimate; but those fears are there and unless we can remove things like that, and unless we can remove the reasons for the attacks on South Africa and for the damage being done to this country I therefore think it is unwise for the Government not to accept the amendment now moved by me. I move.
Mr. Speaker, these two motions have one point in common. It is that notwithstanding all the pious suggestions that the movers accept the mandate given by the electorate, but that they just want to set certain conditions before allowing the Bill to be debated, these statements are meaningless. They in fact in so doing intimate that they are going to oppose our becoming a republic. They do not want the republic, and now they make certain demands which they know to be impossible. The hon. member who has just resumed his seat wants to state as a condition for co-operation in the establishment of a republic, i.e. the implementation of the mandate given by the electorate, that it must be a multi-racial republic with a constitution which provides for a multi-racial government. He knows that that is what the public does not want and what this House does not want. He knows that that is what only the small party sitting behind him wants. In other words, he should not get up here and say that they accept that there is a mandate as if they are co-operating in its implementation. In actual fact, they want to frustrate the will of the people. The amendment of the official Opposition commences with a very clear statement. It is that we must give an unequivocal guarantee that the Union will remain within the Commonwealth. Unless we give that guarantee, they oppose the establishment of a republic, in spite of the fact that the mandate asked is quite clear.
What was the mandate?
The mandate was this, that South Africa, when it becomes a republic, wants to remain a member of the Commonwealth. That is the first point. I gave the assurance that I would do my best, notwithstanding all the doubt in the minds of hon. members, to keep our word to try to achieve that. And if we succeed we will continue, as we said in all honesty, to remain a member of the Commonwealth as long as the Commonwealth remains what it is. If in future the Commonwealth should change its character and become a body which tries to interfere in the domestic affairs of member states, then for the same reasons why otherwise we would not become a member, we would then not be able to remain a member. Everybody understands that. As long as the Commonwealth remains what it is we stand by our firm undertaking to co-operate to the best of our ability with a Commonwealth which does not interfere in the affairs of member countries. Now the honesty of that standpoint is being unjustifiably doubted.
But there was a second leg to our standpoint, viz. this. If the Commonwealth should refuse us membership, or if we should be granted membership only subject to humiliating conditions which would reflect on the honour of our country, we will still become a republic, but not a member of the Commonwealth. Those who voted for a republic also voted for this second aspect of our standpoint.
Now I want to tell the hon. member this also. If he puts this question to us, as he does in the amendment, then all that is necessary to negative the decision of the electorate is that at the next Commonwealth Conference there should be a refusal for us to remain a member. If I give the guarantees he asks for the establishment of the republic would be destroyed. And who prepared the smoothest path for a refusal of membership, if only we want to make this concession, but the hon. the Leader of the Opposition himself? Before the election on 5 October, he allowed the impression to be created overseas that if only they are firm enough in preventing us from becoming a member of the Commonwealth their opposition would eventually triumph.
The hon. member now says: “Voters voted in the belief that we would remain a member.” That is an admission on his part of the absolute failure of his propaganda. His propaganda was that we would not be able to remain a member and he wanted people to vote against because they believed it. We said that we believed we would be able to remain a member. He now admits that the electorate did not believe him, but in fact believed us! If hon. members are honest in saying that they want us to remain a member of the Commonwealth, they would not have continued with the propaganda which is being made to-day; then they would not have forced us into another debate about membership in this way. I therefore doubt whether hon. members opposite are honest in their express desire that we should remain a member of the Commonwealth, I think they have the idea at the back of their minds that if we are expelled that will provide nicely troubled waters for them in which to fish. It seems to me that that is their desire, because unless that is so they are now adopting a foolish course.
In regard to the second argument used by the hon. the Leader of the Opposition, I just want to say this. He quoted what was said by a person who does not want us as a member of the Commonwealth. All that person voiced was criticism on the internal policy of South Africa itself. Still the Leader of the Opposition wanted us to propagandize those other states to negative that type of attack. Let me tell the hon. the Leader of the Opposition this, that we shall certainly not go and plead for our membership of the Commonwealth by going to the other member states and delivering pleas to them in support of our policy, as if they are allowed to interfere and thinking that this will convert them to supporting our point of view. The basic principle on which we shall and can become a member is the old principle of non-interference in each other’s affairs, but co-operation in respect of matters of common interest.
The hon. the Leader of the Opposition also advanced another argument, namely this: We must now go to the various other population groups here and seek their support in order to remain a member. Does the hon. member now want us to hold a referendum for each of them? Or does he want us to consult those leaders who we say are the leaders of the Bantu but who they always say are not the leaders? Or does he want us to approach the subversive groups amongst the Bantu and get the opinion of their leaders? Of what value are the opinions of these various individuals? That is not the way of testing a racial group if one wants to test it and if it is correct in principle to make such a test. The Opposition know as well as I do that from all the various groups unsolicited statements have been made that they would like South Africa to remain a member. In other words, their own express opinion is clear enough. Why does the Leader of the Opposition not rather say that practically everybody in the country wants us to remain a member, and clear the way in that manner? Instead of doing that he still at this date casts doubt on what the feeling of the people is and whether it has been properly expressed.
Therefore I say that this is nothing else but an attempt to obstruct our becoming a republic and the Leader of the Opposition will be held responsible by the country for adopting this attitude after having suffered such a severe defeat on that point on 5 October.
Where was this severe defeat?
Hon. members ask where the severe defeat was. They were so afraid that we would win by a majority of one or two. They then said that if there was a majority of 40,000 or 50,000 they would accept it. And then it was 75,000!
Two per cent.
The fact is that the first point in the amendment is nothing else but an attempt to stop us becoming a republic or otherwise to make it as difficult for us to become a member of the Commonwealth. [Time limit.]
I have listened to the hon. the Prime Minister very attentively, and before I deal with what I propose to say in this debate I want to pose a question to the hon. the Prime Minister; a question that occurs to me as a result of what he has just said. I would ask this: What does he regard as more important for South Africa, that we should have a republic by 31 May 1961, or that we should take steps to safeguard the stability of our country and our economic future by remaining a member of the Commonwealth? I ask that question in all seriousness. That, to my mind, is the very crisp issue involved in the motion presently before this hon. House. I will develop that argument in a few moments, but I think it is important that I should present to this House the attitude of the leaders of the Coloured people of this country.
Mr. Speaker, I should like, at the very outset, to confirm the statement made by the hon. the Leader of the Opposition to the effect that the vast majority of the Coloured people of South Africa are overwhelmingly in favour of their country remaining a member of the Commonwealth. And I use the term “their country” advisedly, because this is their only country. They have no other home; they have no other allegiance but their allegiance to South Africa.
What is your allegiance?
Do not be personal. I do not know which hon. member made that interjection but I should like to say that I have as much allegiance to South Africa as he has.
The Government proceeded with this referendum on the question of a republic disregarding entirely the wishes of the Coloured people on this very important issue. As a result of this action taken by the Government enforcing the referendum on the Coloured people, and leaving them absolutely voiceless in the matter, they have been deprived of any say in the destiny of their country. But at least, to-day, we are entitled to be heard as the voice of the Coloured people of this country. It is for that reason that I want to avail myself of this very early opportunity of saying, without doubt, that the overwhelming majority of Coloured people of South Africa are desirous of the country remaining a member of the Commonwealth.
We all want that.
I want the Coloured viewpoint to be put quite clearly before this House because I think it may help the hon. the Prime Minister in his deliberations overseas. The Government has, unfortunately, already demonstrated to the Coloured people —and, indeed to all our non-White population amounting to nearly 11,000,000 of our population—that in the Government’s view they have no common stake with the White man of South Africa. The very fact that our non-White population of South Africa was excluded from having any say whatsoever in the referendum to decide upon the republic was a clear indication—if any were needed—to the entire non-White population of this country and, indeed, to the outside world, that the Government had no intention whatsoever of paying any heed to the wishes of the non-Whites.
This unfortunate decision on the part of the Government has indicated to our 11,000,000 non-Whites that in the view of this Government their only function in South Africa is to fulfil our labour requirements. It is a clear indication that the non-Whites are to be kept in a subservient position and are not to have any voice in the proposed …
Order! I do not think the hon. member should wander too far afield.
No, Mr. Speaker, I am merely advancing reasons as to why this permission should not be granted.
Order! I do not think the hon. member should go into too much detail.
Very well, Sir, I will not go into detail.
Speaking on behalf of the Coloured people of this country, at the time of the referendum we asked the Government not to exclude the Coloureds from having a say in the destiny of their own country. I pointed out on that occasion, and my colleagues did likewise, that this would mean forfeiting our rights to require from the Coloureds national loyalty and national unity. But no heed was paid by the Government to that warning. All moral considerations dealing with the fundamental rights of citizenship of a large section of our population were entirely ignored. We were then told by spokesmen on behalf of the Government, in terms, that the Coloured people, through their representatives, would have the right to debate in this House any republican legislation which was forthcoming as a result of the referendum, although they could take no part in the referendum itself. It is for that reason that to-day, at this early stage, when permission is sought for the introduction of this legislation, we as the mouthpieces of the Coloured community find it necessary to make their position perfectly clear. And I say that their position is that they wish it to be known to this House and to the world at large that they are desirous of this country remaining a member of the Commonwealth. The Coloured community also wishes to make it clear that they want to retain the friendship and the co-operation and the understanding and other links with the Western world.
We all do.
I know we all do, but unfortunately the outside world may not listen to hon. members on the Government side of the House, for reasons which I do not wish to discuss now. But I conscientiously believe that they will pay heed to these 11,000,000 voices, to these people whose only method of announcing their wishes in this House is through the mouthpiece of my colleagues and myself.
Whilst the Government may remain complacent about South Africa’s position in this changing Continent, the Coloured people do realize what lies in wait for them if South Africa is excluded from the Commonwealth; what dangers lie ahead. They realize only too well that the international and the internal repercussions which are likely to take place if we are to be isolated in this unfriendly world are serious indeed. South Africa’s isolation from the rest of the Commonwealth can only lead to economic isolation with most disturbing results for the entire population.
For those reasons we feel that there should be a prerequisite to any legislation dealing with the establishment of a republic. That prerequisite should be an assurance that South Africa will be permitted to remain within the Commonwealth. As the hon. the Prime Minister pointed out, it is impossible for him to give any such assurance at this stage. But I want to say this to the hon. the Prime Minister, and to the Government, that for us to go forward blindly with a republican constitution against the wishes of nearly 50 per cent of the White population of this country and against the wishes of our entire non-White population …
How do you know that?
Well, why did you not test that issue then? Why did the Government not say that the non-White population could have a say in the referendum?
I say that for us to go forward in this way against the wishes of nearly 50 per cent of our White population and against the wishes of the entire non-White population of this country can only be termed suicidal on the part of the Government. Surely the sensible thing to do in the present circumstances is for us to ensure, beyond doubt, that we can remain within the Commonwealth before proceeding with this irrevocable step of changing our constitution. I consider that the hon. the Prime Minister should proceed to attend the Prime Ministers’ Conference as contemplated. I feel that in London the Prime Minister should explore, personally, and not through the means of his colleagues in the Cabinet, what prospects there are of our remaining within the Commonwealth. He should make every endeavour to obtain a favourable decision in that regard, and in the light of the answers and the information which he personally will glean at that Conference we should proceed to decide whether we will go ahead with this republican constitution or not. Surely we should not take an irrevocable step of this nature without knowing what the future holds for us.
Mr. Speaker, I repeat: What is more important for the hon. the Prime Minister, that we should have the republic before 31 May 1961 or that we should take reasonable steps to ensure the safety and the economic future of our country? To my mind, until our position in the Commonwealth is ensured this republican legislation should be held in abeyance. I ask the hon. the Prime Minister in all seriousness, what urgency is there for pressing the issue at this particular time? We all know that South Africa is short of investment capital; we all know that our country is, unfortunately, under a cloud throughout the world. Trade boycotts have been threatened against us. We are presently involved in a very serious issue before the World Court with regard to South West Africa. Very rapid changes are taking place in this African Continent all of which affect us. [Time limit.]
While the hon. the Prime Minister was speaking, I really began to feel sorry for the hon. the Leader of the Opposition. His customary smile gradually changed into a grimace. I must say that he is really becoming a pathetic figure in the public life of this country. He is no longer providing leadership; he is now leading from behind. He has now allowed the small group of Natal diehards to take him in tow. I am sure that if he had used his common sense and had followed his own wishes, he would never have moved this stupid (onnosele) amendment to-day. But he cannot do otherwise. He is obliged to do so, and to prove this submission we need only refer to the history of this matter.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, the hon. the Minister of Transport has used the word “stupid” (onnosel). I should like to know whether it is parliamentary? On a previous occasion I was asked to withdraw the word “dom” when I said that an hon. member was stupid (dom). I should now like to know whether the word “onnosel” is permissible, but not the word “dom”?
The hon. the Minister may proceed.
The hon. member is very fortunate that I was not referring to him when I used the word “stupid”. I was only referring to the amendment. Allow me to return to the reasons which have given rise to this amendment. There was a time during the referendum campaign when, as is his wont, the hon. member for South Coast (Mr. Mitchell) let his tongue run away with him. I remember the evening when he held a meeting in front of the Durban City Hall, and the hon. member for South Coast called out to his people: “If you are called on to march again, will you march again?” They then shouted in their thousands: “We will march again.” But at that stage they never expected to lose the referendum. But after the result of 5 October, the Natal diehards went to the hon. member for South Coast and said: “We want to march again.” The hon. member was left high and dry and he did not know where they should march. The only “march” he could then undertake was to Pretoria to see the Prime Minister. After his return from that visit, they met him at the airport and they asked him: “But when are we going to march again?” and, Mr. Speaker, then he wanted to hear nothing more of “marching”. But I must say I have a great deal of sympathy for the hon. member for South Coast. When the difficulties arose after the referendum result, he sought assistance. He sought help and he looked for his leader who should give him guidance in solving the difficulties in Natal which had arisen after he had let his tongue run completely away with him. The great Leader of the United Party, instead of coming to the aid of his lieutenant in Natal, decided to go overseas. “He went on a belly-crawling trip overseas.” He crawled on his stomach to implore that South Africa should please be allowed to remain a member of the Commonwealth. Mr. Speaker, the strange aspect is that, instead of going to Ghana to beg Nkrumah to give us permission to remain a member of the Commonwealth, he went to England and Canada. Now he has returned and by implication he is saying here that we have done nothing to ensure South Africa’s membership of the Commonwealth. He says he has done everything. I say the poor member for South Coast was left in the lurch by his great leader. He had to clear up the mess there and his great leader went overseas to go crawl on his stomach. Of course, as we expect of the Natal diehards, they then adopted the most stupid resolutions. They wanted certain guarantees from the Prime Minister. What the hon. Leader of the Opposition is asking to-day is exactly what the hon. member for South Coast and the Natal Provincial Council have asked, namely for certain guarantees. What are the guarantees they want? How can those guarantees be given? How can they be embodied in the Constitution? After all, he is supposed to be a lawyer, but he is now asking for entrenched provisions in the Constitution which he knows in his own heart are quite impossible, merely to save the skin of the hon. member for South Coast.
But you also have an entrenched provision, the language rights.
The hon. member for South Coast has let his tongue run away with him and now the Leader of the Opposition is following from behind and leading from behind in order to save the position. How can we take any notice of this amendment? As the Prime Minister has said, prior to the referendum they prophesied that we would not remain a member of the Commonwealth if we became a republic. Now they pretend that they want us to remain a member of the Commonwealth. They are merely paying lip service. They believe that if we are not a member of the Commonwealth, they can fish in troubled waters and they will then stand a much better chance of returning to power. Their behaviour to-day will have the effect of hindering South Africa’s application for membership. The whole debate and all their speeches are aimed at hindering South Africa’s application for membership and it seems that they will be very pleased if that application is refused, because they consider that they will be able to make a great deal of political capital out of such a refusal. Mr. Speaker, the hon. member claims that no one has said that, even if membership is refused, we shall still establish a republic; but every one of us has said so. Every one of us has repeatedly stated that if we are given the mandate and membership is refused, South Africa will nevertheless become a republic, and we repeat it again to-day. That is what will happen too. I do not for one moment expect that membership will be refused, but if it is refused, South Africa will become a republic on 31 May. If the hon. member wants sound advice, I want to tell him that his behaviour at the second reading should be quite different to his behaviour during this debate if he is in earnest in wishing South Africa to remain a member of the Commonwealth. That is the only possible way in which he can give the Government any assistance in respect of this matter. This trip overseas which he made was of no importance because no one took any notice of him. Let him now try to adopt new methods to assist the Government in retaining our membership.
Mr. Speaker, the difference between us and the Government was made quite clear by the speech of the hon. the Minister of Transport. While the hon. the Minister was playing at politics, we are concerned about the future of South Africa. All the Ministers have now suddenly told us that during the referendum campaign they made it quite clear that, if South Africa could not remain in the Commonwealth, they would continue with the establishment of a republic. Mr. Speaker, those of us who read the newspapers only found one passing reference to that matter in all the newspapers and that was in the speech of the hon. the Prime Minister at Lichtenburg. Sir, every citizen of the country received a personal letter as a “dear friend” from the Prime Minister. In that letter the Prime Minister addressed every citizen of the country personally. There was no suggestion of such an attitude in this letter. If this point is so important, if it is of such significance, why did the Prime Minister not say so in his personal communication to every citizen of the country? I received six copies of this letter and the only reference in the letter to this question which we are now discussing was this phrase—“a democratic republic within the Commonwealth …”.
On the conclusion of the period of one hour allotted for the debate on the motion for leave to introduce the Bill, the business under consideration was interrupted by Mr. Speaker in accordance with Standing Order No. 161.
Question put: That all the words after “That”, proposed to be omitted, stand part of the motion.
Upon which the House divided:
Tellers: W. H. Faurie and J. von S. von Moltke.
Tellers: A. Hopewell and T. G. Hughes.
Questioned affirmed and the amendments dropped.
Original motion accordingly agreed to.
The PRIME MINISTER thereupon brought up the Constitution Bill and moved—
Upon which the House divided:
Tellers: W. H. Faurie and J. von S. von Moltke.
Tellers: A. Hopewell and T. G. Hughes.
Motion accordingly agreed to.
Bill read a first time.
Bill to be read a second time on 30 January.
The following Bills were read a first time:
Part Appropriation Bill.
Unemployment Insurance Amendment Bill.
Workmen’s Compensation Amendment Bill.
The following Select Committees were appointed:
Select Committee on Internal Arrangements.
Select Committee on State-owned Land.
Select Committee on Public Accounts.
Select Committee on Railways and Harbours.
Select Committee on Library of Parliament.
Select Committee on Pensions.
Select Committee on Irrigation Matters.
The House adjourned at