House of Assembly: Vol108 - THURSDAY 25 MAY 1961
Mr. SPEAKER took the Chair at
Mr. Speaker, may I with your leave make a short statement—
The Government has decided that when the Union becomes a Republic on 31 May “Queen’s Counsel” (Q.C.) will be substituted by “Senior Advocate” (S.A.).
Those persons who were appointed as “Queen’s Counsel” or “Kings Counsel” prior to 31 May, should note that the Executive will on that date automatically grant to all of them the appointment of Senior Advocate. They will, therefore, after 31 May use the distinction “S.A.”
Bill read a first time.
First Order read: Third reading,—Atomic Energy Amendment Bill.
Bill read a third time.
Second Order read: House to go into Committee on Iron and Steel Industry Amendment Bill.
House in Committee:
Clauses and Title of the Bill put and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Third Order read: House to resume in Committee on Defence Further Amendment Bill.
House in Committee:
[Progress reported on 24 May, when Clause 3 was under consideration, upon which an amendment had been moved by Mr. Gay.]
Amendment put and negatived.
Clause, as printed, put and agreed to.
On Clause 4,
I want to ask the Minister for some clarification here. The amendment reads that the following section be inserted in the principal Act after Section 34, that any member of the Citizen Force may voluntarily undergo training in addition to his ordinary training under such conditions as may be prescribed. In the principal Act the section which is having this particular clause added to it is one which deals largely with training and it provides that the trainee may apply for an extension of the period of his training. From the amendment we have before us now, it is not quite clear whether it means that the individual may apply for some specialized type of training or whether he can also apply to continue in the Force for a longer period on a voluntary basis; in other words, that he may apply to undergo additional training. It is not clear what this means; whether it means an additional period to be trained or whether it refers to the man who is being trained in, say, the use of small arms but who applies also to be trained in the use of artillery. I wonder if the hon. the Minister could clarify that point.
This Is really instead of 21 (3). As the hon. member knows they are allowed to apply for further and specialized training in certain branches.
They can ask to continue longer in service?
Clause put and agreed to.
On Clause 5,
This clause is probably one of the most important clauses in the Bill because it seeks to close an apparent gap that existed in the original Act as far as Commandos are concerned. The intention of the amendment is that citizens who have been drawn in the ballot will now become liable to serve in a Commando if they are not posted to any other unit of the Active Citizen Force. Sir, it is important to note that. The Minister, in his explanation of this clause in his second reading speech stated, as I understood him, that he wished to ensure that these men received training. He felt—and he also made public statements to the effect that English-speaking Commandos should be established—that these men should be posted to a Commando unit as he wished to rope in everybody for training in Commando units. He wanted to see that men who were not drawn, who escaped the ballot, received all the training that was possible under the existing Act. That is the position as I understood the Minister’s explanation. It is a matter of regret to me that we are still in this half-baked position in respect of the training of these men, because it is quite clear from a reading of this section, as it will now be amended, that there will be no compulsion on the Minister to enrol any of these men in a Commando. We know that the Commandos are largely manned on a volunteer basis. If a man’s name is drawn in a ballot but he is not posted to an A.C.F. unit, is the Minister going to compel that ballotee to be posted to a Commando unit and to undergo training? If that is not the case I cannot for the life of me understand why the Minister is even bothering to amend Section 37.
Because we want the power.
But even without this amendment a man can still go into a Commando if he volunteers, if the Minister accepts him. There is nothing in the world to prevent any citizen who is not drawn in the ballot and posted to an A.C.F. unit from volunteering for a Commando unit. The Minister says that a great deal of emphasis has been placed on the functions of the Commandos; on the fact that they are there primarily in times of internal disorder to act as a security shield for any action taken by the defence forces on the home front, whether we are at war with an enemy beyond our borders, or whether it is necessary to use our defence forces internally. If that is so and we still work under the system where men of considerable age occupy the ranks of the Commandos because the Minister failed to apply Section 35 of the Act as it stands, then what is the use of this amendment? It has no purpose; it does not mean anything. While we are dealing with this important change to the original Act, we shall be very glad if the Minister will give us a clear-cut statement as to what he intends in regard to the whole of the Commando system. He has been very frank with us on other aspects of defence matters, such as developing the A.C.F., and we appreciate that. Is the Minister going to use the Commandos and train them? The Minister will recall that earlier in the year we agreed to an amendment to apply the military discipline code to all men serving in Commandos. We welcomed that amendment because that was one of our recommendations for which we had fought for a long time. The Minister knows that under Section 35 there is no compulsion on any of these men who are drawn in a ballot and who are not posted to an A.C.F. unit to do any service whatsoever. They are completely free citizens; they can volunteer if they like, or they need not volunteer if they prefer not to do so.
But this gives me the power to use them.
With respect, this does not give any power at all, because the power to use members of the Commandos derives from the original Act. All that the Minister is doing in this amendment is to embrace a section of manpower that normally would have been serving in the A.C.F. but who escaped training because the establishments have been filled; they are told: “You have been drawn in the ballot but we do not want you.” The Minister now says that these men must go and serve in a Commando. What Commando? Where is the compulsion? This Bill does not give the Minister any power because the powers exist under the original Act. Let me read the exact words to the Minister to make my point clear. It says quite clearly—
Now the Minister says in this amendment “those who have been drawn in a ballot”—
Where is the compulsion? Nobody knows the total Commando strength; we have had various figures given to us from time to time ranging from 20,000 to 80,000. Where is the compulsion to use any of these men? All we ask for on this side of the House is a statement of the Minister’s intention as far as this amendment is concerned. We want to know that it is his intention to ensure that those men who were drawn in the ballot but who are not required to serve in the A.C.F. will be posted to Commandos and will receive the necessary Commando training as prescribed in the defence regulations. That is all we are asking for, but we have never been able to get a clear-cut statement in that regard. I shall be glad if the Minister will take this opportunity to tell us clearly what he visualizes in respect of the Commando system and what men he intends to take into the Commando system.
We have the three arms of our Defence Force, the Permanent Force, the Active Citizen Force and the Commandos. The Commando system is the system of volunteers. We all know what its shortcomings are, but the Commando system of defence based on volunteers has always throughout our history been peculiar to South Africa. The Commando system which originated in South Africa has been followed by other countries of the world. The Commando system has been of great use to us in South Africa. I have the greatest respect for these people who voluntarily join the Commandos. Last year we placed the Commandos also under the Military Discipline Code.
Yes, this year. We now make available to the Commandos members who have been balloted but who have not been allocated for service. But it may amount to thousands; it may be many more than we require in the Commandos. We cannot take up all those young men, because also those who are sent to the Commandos must be trained. They are supplied with uniforms. They are not free like the other members of the Commando; they have to render service. They have to serve in the Commandos for four years. In that way we shall train many young men who otherwise would have gone free. We shall now teach them to take an interest in the Commandos. The Commandos will as the result go through a process of rejuvenation. The only difference between me and the hon. member for Turffontein now is that he wants to make it compulsory that they should all serve there.
Then I cannot understand the hon. member. That is how I understood him, because he said that I had said that we must recruit all these people and therefore they should now all be sent to the Commandos. We say no, we will decide how many to allocate to the Commandos every year.
I am sorry the hon. the Minister has misunderstood me. It was never my intention to suggest that the few whose names will be drawn in the ballot but are not placed in an A.C.F. unit should be placed into Commando units, because obviously the number who can be placed with Commando units depends on the amount of money which the Government is prepared to make available for the maintenance of such numbers of Commandos as it considers satisfactory. That is obvious. What I am pleading for is this: The factual position to-day is that the Commandos are largely staffed by men well over battle age, men of 55 and 60 and so on.
Can you realize how glad you will be to have those men when we have any real trouble?
I agree that if we have trouble we will be glad to have the Commandos, but surely the Minister will never argue that a man of 55 or 60 …
Order! That is not under discussion; the hon. member must confine himself to the clause, especially the last three lines.
With respect, Sir, I am dealing with young ballotees who are drawn in the ballot and who will be posted in terms of this amendment to a Commando.
But the hon. member was referring to men of 60 to 65 years of age.
Yes, because I wanted to draw a distinction between using a man of 60 years of age as opposed to the worthwhileness of using a man of 20 to 25 years of age who is of battle age. All we are pleading for is that if Commando unit is to be made an effective unit for internal defence, these young men should not be excluded from training in the Commando, because the volunteer system today is so applied that men of much older age are used to make up the establishments of these Commandos. Surely that is a practical suggestion. There will only be a matter of a few hundred who will be drawn in the ballot and who will not be posted to A.C.F. units. It cannot run into thousands because the Minister fixes the number to be drawn in the ballot every year and surely the Minister is not going to fix a fictitious number; he will fix the number according to the establishment that he wishes to maintain in the A.C.F. That is all I ask for and I do not think it is unreasonable to make such a request to the Minister in order that the Commando system may be an effective system for the maintenance of internal order.
Clause put and agreed to.
On Clause 6,
I wish to move the amendment standing in my name on the Order Paper—
(a) by the substitution in paragraph (a) of sub-section (1) for the word “eighteenth” of the word “seventeenth
The reason why I move this amendment is that because the implication of the wording of the clause as it stands is that a man is going to be balloted for in the year in which he registers. The provisions of the Act in respect of the registration of citizens are quite clear. A citizen is expected to register for service in January of the year in which he turns 17. The Act as it now stands provides that a citizen having registered in January of the year in which he turns 17, will be drawn in the ballot in his eighteenth year. The Minister has made it quite clear—and we support his proposition—that he wishes to put forward by a year the liability for service; that the man should be called up to serve when he is 17 years of age. It is perfectly clear from the wording of the amendment proposed by the Minister that a man will be balloted for while he is still 16 years of age—in January of the year in which he turns 17. The Minister draws approximately 30,000 to 35,000 young men every year, and surely it cannot be argued that all those 30,000 to 35,000 young men will be 17 years of age in the month of January in the year in which they register. I am quite sure that it was never the Minister’s intention to take young boys of 16 years of age and to draft them immediately into the A.C.F. It is quite clear that 75 per cent of the young men who register will still be at school, and if this clause goes through as it stands, the position will be that the majority of the men whose names go into the ballot box will still be at school, young men who cannot possibly be called up in the year in which they register. The result is that they will have to apply for deferment, and the Minister will then sit from year to year with an accumulated balance and would have to ballot for thousands of men who have already been granted deferment because they were still at school at the time. Let me explain why it will work that way. The Minister knows that the provisional list has to be prepared by 31 March. The boy registers in January. By 31 March the provisional ballot list is prepared, and in terms of Section 70 of the original Act the ballot has to take place before 31 May, so there is a period of roughly two months before the final ballot list is posted up at the office of the registering officer and then the ballot takes place. But the Act goes on to provide that the ballot takes place. But the Act goes on to provide that the ballot shall take place as soon as possible after 31 May, and therefore if the ballot takes place in June, these men in terms of this clause will immediately be called to serve in the A.C.F.
No, the following year.
Sir, that is as it stands here. I can only go by the wording of this clause, and I am advised by the parliamentary draftsman that that is the factual position in terms of this wording. We want to meet the Minister; we agree with the Minister’s objective to call up men a year earlier than 18; we have no objection to that. The amendment that I have moved merely provides that the young man should be called to serve in his seventeenth year, instead of providing, as the Act does, that he shall be called to serve in his eighteenth year. I cannot see any objection to that. It complies with what we all want to bring about. But the position here is that young men will be balloted for while they are still 16 years of age.
What about the first-year batch—those who register this year? Then they will be free.
Certainly not. Why should they be free? They have been balloted and they are still liable for service under the existing Act. There is no exemption under the existing Act.
Section 66 (2) (b).
I hope that the Minister sees this point. I am quite sure that he will never rise in his seat and say that it is his intention to ballot as trainees for the A.C.F. young boys of 16 years of age.
That used to be the age in the past.
I suggest to the hon. the Minister that the amendment I have moved fully meets his wishes. We are at one; we also see the necessity of a young man of 17 years being drafted; there is no objection to that. It is in accordance with the practice of all Western countries. At present Section 66 reads—
All I am suggesting is the substitution of the words “seventeenth” for “eighteenth”. I think that would meet the position and I hope the Minister will see his way clear to accept the amendment.
I regret that I cannot accept the amendment. We will not take anybody of that age for training. The young men are registered in that year and they are balloted in that year and the next year they are given training, between 17 and 18 years. We are specifically making it a year earlier in order to assist these young men in regard to their studies or their apprenticeships. If the suggestion of the hon. member is accepted, it would mean that in the first year, in the transition period, we will have two groups of men, those who are balloted this year and those who will be balloted next year. Therefore in the first year we will have 60,000 men to be balloted. But if we accept the hon. member’s amendment we will lose the one group.
Sir, I accept the Minister’s statement that it was never the intention to draft men into the A.C.F. at 16 years. But we are dealing here with a clause and the clear implications of that clause. Nowhere in the Bill is it stated that a man will be called up in his seventeenth year. What is stated here is that he will be called to serve in the year in which he registers, and the Act states perfectly clearly that a man is required to register in January of the year in which he turns 17. That is indisputable; it stands in the Act, and the Minister now says, “I am going to ballot for you that year”. If the Minister ballots for the man in that year, the Act requires the Minister to use that man. That is perfectly clear from Section 70. The wording is perfectly clear. Sir, it is possible that the Minister has not been able to give sufficient consideration to this aspect and that he may want to discuss it further with his law advisers. I want to ask the Minister to go into this matter and, if he sees on further investigation that the arguments I have placed before him are correct, to see if an amendment cannot be effected in the Other Place when the Bill is considered there.
Ask him to allow the consideration of this clause to stand over.
There is one other aspect that I also wish to refer to. I asked the Minister in the second reading debate when the first draft under this Bill would take place. The Minister did not reply. When we dealt with an earlier clause and the implications of the ballot in respect of service I again asked the Minister when the first draft would apply, on this ground that young men will now be required to do nine months’ continuous training and parents who want to plan their sons’ future …
Order! That point has nothing to do with the clause.
With respect, Sir, it deals specifically with the ballot.
This clause deals with the ballot lists.
I am dealing entirely with the ballot lists. The provisional ballot list has to be drawn up on 31 March of every year. The final list, before the ballot takes place, must be prepared for 31 May. The effect of this amendment is that both those dates fall in the year in which the man actually registers; formerly it fell in the subsequent year. These lists have to be prepared in the same year in which the man registers. If these men are drawn in terms of the provision for which he is asking here, in the same year in which they register, when does he intend to draft them, if the Minister says that he does not want to take anybody at 16 years of age? But people are going to apply for deferment because their sons are still at school and there is going to be confusion. If the Minister persists with this amendment and he draws the names of these young men of 16 years out of the ballot box, in terms of this they will be liable for service. When does the Minister anticipate that the first quarterly batch of young men whom he intends to place for service will be drafted to the A.C.F. as trainees? I think the Minister owes a responsibility to the country to give a clear indication on that point.
May I suggest to the Minister that there does seem to be a slip-up in regard to this particular clause. It arises from the accident of the date of birth. Under the Bill the trainee has to register in the year in which he turns 17. A boy may turn the age of 17 on 2 January, and then he falls into this category, but in the same year, a boy may turn the age of 17 on 29 December and his year for registration is still the calendar year in which he turns 17, so until almost the end of December, until the date of his birthday, that boy is in his sixteenth year. It does seem to me that the result of this will be that boys who are still at school may be called up a year earlier really than the hon. the Minister intends. There is no question of opposition to the scheme contemplated by the Minister, but as a matter of drafting it does seem that an amendment is needed here to bring about what the Minister is really seeking and to avoid the danger of suddenly having a number of boys who are still at school in a critical period of education while they are in the matriculation stage being wafted away from school into the army. I am sure that that is not what the Minister wants. He has already said that and we accept it. In order to clarify the matter, will the Minister agree to let this clause stand over until we have dealt with the other amendments? That would give an opportunity for the matter to be carefully examined in the meantime so as to see whether there is any substance in the danger that we foresee.
I just want to quote Section 67 of the Act—
We ballot them now and we register them in the same year, the year in which they turn 17, and according to law they can only be brought in for training the next year, that is to say, the year in which they turn 18.
That is the existing Act.
Yes, but we are not changing that.
But you want it to be 17 now.
Hitherto the process has taken three years. In the first year they were registered; the next year they were balloted and the year after that they were brought in for training. We are now trying to combine the first two. We are trying to register and ballot them in the same year for training the next year. They will now be registered in the year in which they become 17; they will be balloted in the same year and they will be trained the next year. The year in which they become 18. Now the hon. member also put a question to me: “When will the first batch come in to be trained under this new amendment?” My answer is: Next year, January. They will be balloted about May this year and the parents will have six and a half months’ notice of the fact that their sons will have to come up next year, January, for nine months’ training.
Amendment put and negatived.
Clause, as printed, put and agreed to.
On Clause 7,
There is an amendment standing in my name on the Order Paper which I do not intend at this stage to move, as I would first like to discuss it with the hon. Minister, because it may be that the wording of the amendment as it stands is not acceptable whereas the object at which we are aiming is acceptable. The present amendment proposed in the Bill is for the creation of an exemption board, comprising a chairman and four members of whom one will be a representative of the Department of Defence. We feel that two things are necessary in the composition of this board. The first is that the board in order to carry the confidence of the public should have as its chairman a person whose impartiality and judicial approach to decisions is beyond question. Therefore our amendment asks that the chairman of an exemption board should be a magistrate or an ex-magistrate. We asked this because the cases that come before the board receive from the board a decision which is final. There is no appeal from it, there is no method by which a person, whose case has been decided by the board, may seek any other relief. It is a final and complete decision which can well affect the whole life of an applicant for exemption or deferment of training. In a matter of such vital importance, because many of the applications, if not most, will come before the board because there are special circumstances which require investigation, the decision is very important and we feel that it would create greater confidence in the board and would enable applicants to feel that whatever the decision, whether in their favour or against them, that board has given a most impartial and fair consideration to the case. I am not suggesting that the people to be appointed will not give fair consideration to these cases.
No, I am not suggesting that the people who are appointed will not give fair consideration, but there is an axiom that justice shall not only be done but it shall be seen to be done. We ask that the chairman of the board shall be a person whose background and training is one of judging issues. We suggest a magistrate or an ex-magistrate, because that is a person who knows how to judge issues, and applicants can feel therefore that the chairman of the board is a person accustomed to such decisions. We feel that it can only be in the interest of the board if the chairman be a person without any sectional interest, a person completely impartial. If the chairman should be a representative of the Department of Defence, it can be claimed that there is an instinctive bias. If he should be a member of the Department of Labour, it could be claimed that there is an instinctive Government bias in regard to his chairmanship, because the person is a full-time employee of the State. We feel that it would be better if neither the Department of Labour nor the Department of Defence, but an impartial magistrate with judicial training should provide the chairmanship.
What a mess it would be!
Yes, Sir, can you imagine what a mess it would be if that hon. member had to sit as chairman? What sort of impartiality would one get? You would get the sort of impartiality which we get in his contributions in this House, and as for the hon. member for Cradock (Mr. G. F. H. Bekker), who is also interrupting, if he were chairman of a board, he would exempt the shepherds and nobody else. Mr. Chairman, our second suggestion is that there should be at least one representative on this board representative of local interests, a person who is not a member of the State service, not a public servant, but who would represent local interests in the area for which the board is appointed. That is why I have not at this stage moved my amendment because our amendment specifies a person who shall be representative of the general interests of the inhabitants of a given area. An objection has been raised that it may be difficult to determine exactly who is representative of the general interests, and it might be possible to amend that to read “who shall be representative of public interests”, in which case it could be a representative of industry in an area where industries predominate, and in an area where agriculture dominates, a representative of agriculture. It would be entirely at the discretion of the Minister to determine who that person should be, subject only to the limitations that he should not be a public servant and that he should represent public interests. If the hon. the Minister would accept that concept, then I would like to move an amendment incorporating “a member representing public interests” and a chairman who is a magistrate or ex-magistrate. But I will not move the amendment at this stage, in order to give the hon. the Minister an opportunity to give us his views.
I can understand that hon. members are concerned about this matter of the exemption board. It is an important board and because I was also conscious of the importance of this board I believed that this board should be entrusted to the Minister of Labour, because the Minister of Labour and his Department deal with our manpower. At the moment the Secretary for Labour—and he has always held that position—is the chairman of the Manpower Board. In the same way, officials of the Department of Labour are the chairmen of industrial councils, etc. They have the closest connections with the various interests, and for that specific reason and after mature consideration I decided that it must be the Department of Labour. Now the hon. member says that because the decision must be final, a magistrate should be appointed. But a magistrate is not sufficient either, because above him there are the Supreme Court and the Appeal Court. Even the decisions of magistrates in regard to legal matters are not always final.
That was the law.
Yes, but there it was one board which sat now and again and which just dealt with exemption from balloting and not with exemption from allocation for service. Now we will get in many more men and they will serve for a much longer period—no longer for two or three months, but for nine months. Therefore the board will now have to decide on very serious matters, and more than one board will have to be appointed. I can visualize that in times of difficulty the board will have to be appointed in almost every city or area. Can we now in these circumstances bind the board to a specific type of official, a magistrate or an ex-magistrate, as chairman? These people are not always available. If there is only one board it is easy to get a magistrate or an ex-magistrate, but when there is more than one board it becomes more difficult.
Then the hon. member says that at least one member of the board should represent the interests of the public but he leaves it completely to the discretion of the Minister to say which interests he should represent in a specific area, whether it should be industry or agriculture or something else. But that discretion must in any case be left in the hands of the Minister. Then trust him to ensure that on every board a man will be appointed to represent the area properly. If, for example, somebody has to be appointed to the Witwatersrand area, the Minister still has to decide whether he should be a representative of the mines or of industry or of the Railways, or somebody who has special knowledge of these activities. In any case, the Minister must decide. It depends on the men available, and I really do not think the hon.
member should insist on his amendment. I realize that hon. members are serious about this matter of the board, as I am myself. Let me say frankly that I felt that if we were to appoint military men, from the very nature of the matter it would immediately be said that we just want to get men to train, and that one thing will be the supreme consideration, viz. material for training. But if we now hand it over to the Department of Labour, which has all the connections, they are the suitable people to decide who should be selected for training. I cannot do it in any other way. Therefore I cannot accept this amendment. I cannot bind the Minister of Labour to a magistrate or ex-magistrate in view of the fact that different boards will have to be appointed. Something may happen to the chairman, and then another magistrate will have to be looked for. That will result in an impossible position. When there is a single board which sits now and again and whose work is a mere bagatelle compared with what the board or boards will now have to do, it is quite a different matter. The most important body in our country in connection with manpower, the Manpower Board, does not have a magistrate as the chairman, but the Secretary for Labour, because he has enough legal knowledge and also because that department has people who have acquired experience in regard to the needs of industry and of every branch of life.
It seems surprising that whilst the hon. Minister says that he appreciates our feeling in regard to this matter and that obviously the Minister will use his discretion, he is not prepared to accept in the form of an amendment what he in fact says is going to happen in regard to representation of public interests. He says that obviously public interests will be represented. If that is so, why not accept our amendment which asks only that? It is not contrary to the Minister’s policy, because it is apparently his intention that the board should represent public interests. But the Minister says that we are only asking what is going to happen in any case, and therefore he cannot accept our amendment. But the Minister is not going to administer these boards, he is handing over control of the exemption boards to the Minister of Labour.
In consultation with me.
Yes, but the Minister of Labour will be in charge and will control the appointment of these boards, and the administration thereof. I frankly am unhappy about that. I would sooner see Defence control it. But I accept the logic of the argument that when you are dealing with the manpower of the country, Labour must come into the picture. We accept that principle, but then we ask that in abrogating the authority of Defence, certain precautionary provisions should be included in the Bill.
How are you going to define “public interest”?
Persons other than a member of the Public Service, representative of public interests. It is clear from the hon. the Minister’s reply that it is his obvious anticipation that the chairman will be a representative of the Department of Labour. If precedent is followed, then he will be a divisional inspector of Labour, a person who is not a very high State official, a comparatively junior public servant. That is the precedent in respect of other boards, and he is to be the chairman of a board which on the Minister’s own admission is going to deal with the future of many thousands of young South Africans. We say that in a matter of this importance, a magistrate should be appointed. Surely there are not going to be 500 boards, but at the most five or six or eight boards. Can we not find five or six or eight or ten magistrates, or ex-magistrates? It is not such a problem. There will obviously be boards for major areas.
Why a magistrate?
In my introductory remarks I said that the public has confidence in the impartiality of the Judiciary. They do not have confidence, unfortunately, in the impartiality of the Government as such. They cannot have confidence in people who are paid by a department of State where politics play an important part, such as the Department of Labour. We have to face it. Whether we like it or not, it is a fact. The Department of Justice has throughout the history of South Africa retained a reputation of impartiality. Our courts have carried the respect of the people, and people associated with the dispensing of justice have proved over the years that they are not guided by political considerations. That cannot be said for every department of State, and we are asking that impartiality should be maintained in these boards as it was in the existing provision.
Only one board.
If one board handling a few applications was important enough to have a magistrate as chairman, surely a number of boards handling very many more cases are even more important. If you increase the responsibility of the board, which we are doing, surely the impartiality of the board becomes correspondingly more important. You can’t say the board was unimportant and therefore it had a magistrate as chairman, but when it becomes important you do not need a magistrate. It is exactly the opposite. I am sorry we cannot accept the argument of the hon. the Minister, and I want to move as an amendment—
(c) The chairman of the board shall be a magistrate who has, or a person who has at some time, held office as a magistrate for a continuous period of not less than five years.
Mr. Chairman, that amendment meets (the first part of it) the position that the Minister himself foresees, and therefore I cannot see how he can refuse it. The second part meets what to us is an absolutely imperative need that these boards should carry the confidence of the public, a confidence, which the Department of Justice has managed to impart into its activities. I am sorry but a divisional inspector of labour will not carry the same confidence of the public. He is a man who has to deal with unemployment problems, he has to deal with unemployment insurance, he has to deal with workmen’s compensation, and in all those things, day to day, he is making decisions which, rightly or wrongly, are seldom the cause of a happy reaction from those with whom he is dealing. If you talk to any person who has had to deal with the Department of Labour over unemployment or other issues, which they handle, you will find a criticism, a lack of confidence which we do not want imparted into the selection of the soldiers who are going to be the backbone of South Africa’s defence. I do not say it is right, but I say that suspicion will be there that this is a departmental board representing only the Government, and that a person coming before it, if he goes and sees his Member of Parliament will be able to get favours from that board because it is a Government organization. We want to avoid that sort of situation. I tell you, Mr. Chairman, that in the last emergency most of the members here had requests for assistance from some of their electorates to get them exempted from service. I am prepared to bet that half the members of this House had such approaches, because they felt that their Member of Parliament could pull strings and get them exempted from service. We want to avoid that. We want to ensure that that does not happen and that it is clear to the people of South Africa that it cannot happen. Therefore I trust that the hon. the Minister will reconsider this so that we can get a Bill, and particularly this vital provision, accepted by agreement and not forced upon South Africa by a division. I hope we can reach agreement on this, because I feel it is important that the people should know that this is not a political issue, but one on which all parties agree, and which will give fairness and justice to applicants for exemption.
I can only express the hope that the hon. the Minister will not accept the amendments moved by the hon. member for Durban (Point) (Mr. Raw), because in principle we accepted certain things to which the hon. member for Durban (Point) also referred, namely, that this exemption board will be under the control of the Minister of Labour in consultation with the Minister of Defence. That we have accepted in principle. Now the hon. member for Durban (Point) says that they also accept it, but later in his speech he says that it is not desirable that it should be under the Department of Labour, because there are political matters in regard to which the Department of Labour will have to take decisions. I cannot quite follow him there, because he contradicts himself. We have accepted the principle that there shall be exemption boards, and I want to express the hope that the necessary guidance will be given to these boards to know what the basis will be, although every case will be dealt with on its merits, to inform these people in regard to what are essential services. In that case the board has to use its discretion. We cannot even determine this by legislation or by regulation and bind the hands of the board when it deals with applications for exemption from service. But I am particularly opposed to the suggestion made by the hon. member for Durban (Point) that we should in this Bill describe the character or the qualifications of the chairman of the board, because if, in the Bill, we provide that the chairman of that exemption board should be a magistrate or an ex-magistrate, we may run into difficulty when more than one board has to be appointed in a hurry. A magistrate or an ex-magistrate may not be available, and then, as the result of the provision in the Act, we cannot appoint the board because at the moment there is no chairman available who will comply with the conditions prescribed in the Act.
A magistrate will always be available.
It may be that a board has to be appointed in one of the smaller towns and that there is no magistrate, or that an ex-magistrate is not willing to serve on it. I think it would be a dangerous precedent to include this provision in the legislation. But I want to give the hon. member the assurance that, as we know the people of South Africa, it is not necessarily a legal matter to decide whether a person should be exempted or not. There may be a magistrate who is not able to decide whether it is in the interest of a farm boy to stay on the farm and to be exempted, whereas one might appoint a person from the neighbourhood who, perhaps, has no legal knowledge, but who is able to form a sound judgment as to what are essential services and what are not. I hope that this amendment will not be accepted, and that the clause will remain as it is. When such a board does not perform its duty or do its work properly, Clause 7 further provides that the hon. the Minister may dismiss that board or certain members of it and replace them by other members. But I really do not think that it will improve this measure if we prescribe further who should serve on the board. There is always a provision that at least one of the members of the board must be a member of the Permanent Force, and I have every confidence that the persons appointed to such a board will be able to give sound decisions. I want to express the confidence that where the board will fall under the Department of Labour, essential services will not be disrupted as the result of people being called up for training. I hope the board will act firmly enough sometimes to select youths to render service to their country against the feelings of their parents, and I emphasize their “feelings”, not their “intelligence”. One finds representations being made from time to time that a certain youth who has been called up should receive exemption, but I want to tell the hon. member that I have no knowledge of any cases during the recent riots where people approached Members of Parliament to obtain exemption. I am not aware of any such cases. On the contrary, I may say that our people were almost over-anxious to render service when the safety of South Africa was at stake. I say that quite in passing, Mr. Chairman, with reference to what was said by the hon. member opposite. I do not think we need worry that a responsible member of this House will try to influence that board to grant exemption in undeserving cases. I want to ask the Minister not to accept this amendment and to retain the clause as it stands.
I emphasized in my second reading speech that the success of this scheme depends upon the operation of the exemption boards. In my experience as a member of Parliament I have never received a request for exemption from training under the Defence Act. I come from a constituency which has sent hundreds of men to the Active Citizen Force, but I have never at any time had such an application. But I shall have them now, and I think every other member will have them now, because in constituting these exemption boards there is only one guide, the confidence of the public. If we do not have that confidence one will have comparisons—and comparisons which are very odious comparisons. Oom Jan’s son is on the farm and has been called up and has to go for training; Oom Piet’s son is not called up. Dr. Smith’s son is at the University but Dr. Jones’s son has to go for training before he can go to University. Those are the comparisons we are going to have, and it is going to be extremely difficult. Therefore at the second reading stage I emphasized that the most important consideration was to have an exemption board representative of the local community. That has not been accepted; I am not pressing the point. It is no good flogging a dead horse, but that is how I would have liked to have seen the scheme go through. That is why I wanted a Select Committee, so that we could thrash this thing out. It is too late for that now. What do we do?
I think the hon. member for Durban (Point) (Mr. Raw) has put the case in the best way it can be put in these circumstances. If we are going to entrust this task to the Department of Labour, I say “What about the Department of Education? What about the Department of Agriculture?” Surely the Department of Education will have to be consulted? It is not only a case of the Department of Labour consulting the Department of Defence. We shall be inundated with requests to go to university. My hon. friend, the member for Durban (Point), emphasized last night that we shall have young men who are brilliant mathematicians. They will say “That boy is now accustomed to study; do not break his period of study”. But another fellow who is not quite so brilliant—although he may be brilliant—will be told “You must go into the Forces”, It is these comparisons that are going to be difficult. It is going to be exceedingly difficult for the hon. the Minister to get that confidence.
I have had those comparisons in the past.
I have never had one, because it has been a short period of training. It has been a period of three months which does not interfere with the boy’s career. But now he is going to lose a year at the university; he is going to lose a year of his apprenticeship. If he is apprenticed as a fitter he will go out for a year. I know that the Department of Defence will help these people. I know that when it comes to the university mathematician, the boy who should be doing mathematics at university, our Department of Defence will say “This is the boy we want for radar; he is just the fellow we want. He has some brain and he understands this sort of work. We will put him on radar for a year”. He will be one of the trained experts. I know all that. And the young fitter will go into the workshops of the Air Force. We know that all these things will be done as far as they can be done.
Hon. members will recall that in the last war we took men out of the ranks against their wish and put them into the Air Force workshops. We had to do that because we did not have sufficient fitters, especially electrical fitters. And these young men used to desert in order to get into fighting regiments; they used to desert and join the Royal Navy.
Order! The hon. member must come back to the clause,
My point is, Sir, that although we do our best to ensure that the young men will be satisfied, unless we have the complete confidence of the public the scheme will become unpopular. And that will be fatal.
Mr. Chairman, I think that after the speeches which have been made here, the Minister should be more certain than ever before that he cannot accept this amendment. Whilst listening to these speeches, I came increasingly to the conviction that the whole argument of hon. members opposite, however nicely it was put, has just one thing in view, namely that they suspect that there will be partiality.
They have no confidence in whichever person might be the chairman or whichever person is appointed by the Government. The public outside does not share that suspicion. Hon. members opposite argue that if the chairman is a magistrate or ex-magistrate there will be no suspicion, and that argument sounds very funny coming from that side of the House. I want to mention an example to show how they contradict themselves. In 1948 the then Minister of Transport appointed a commission, of which the chairman was a magistrate, to investigate the grievances of certain people in the Railways. Then on every possible occasion in this House we heard about the partiality of that chairman. During every session of this House suspicion was cast on that chairman, and the then Minister of Transport was attacked for having appointed that magistrate as chairman. He was still a magistrate, and not even an ex-magistrate. Now we suddenly hear from them that the public will have such great confidence in a magistrate or ex-magistrate. That is not their real object. All they are doing is to sow suspicion in regard to who will be called up. Supposing we were to appoint an ex-magistrate like the hon. member for Johannesburg (North) (Mr. Plewman), will there not be suspicion as to who he exempts? If one wants to be suspicious, one can suspect any person. I want to give the Minister the assurance that in the past this worked well in connection with the three months’ service, and now it will work well in the case of the nine months’ or a year’s service also. If the Minister accepts this amendment he will also be guilty of casting suspicion on the board which will be appointed. I hope he will not accept the amendment.
I do not propose at the moment to deal with the hon. member for Mossel Bay (Dr. van Nierop) because as far as I am concerned his contribution to this debate is of little interest. My interest is to try and get the best possible Defence Act on the Statute Book that we can. I want to refer to the amendment moved by the hon. member for Durban (Point) (Mr. Raw), and to deal firstly with the question of a magistrate as a chairman of a board. In this respect I will touch for a moment on what the hon. member for Mossel Bay has said. It is not only the policy of this side of the House that a magistrate should be the chairman of the Deferment Board, it is a principle which was adopted by a Select Committee of this House after a very exhaustive examination of the Defence Bill itself. It is a principle which was adopted by the Select Committee after a most painstaking investigation. It so happens that I have here my copy of the original Act that was dealt with in the Select Committee, with my notations in the margin. The reasons we are advancing to-day have proved themselves to be justified, they satisfied the Select Committee and this House when they adopted the parent Act. I want to find points of agreement on this matter, not points of difference.
I think we can start off with two points right away, as far as we are concerned, and I stress that we are aiming at trying to get the best for our Defence Force and the Minister. One point of agreement, as the hon. member for Kensington (Mr. Moore) has already said, is that for this to be a success the Minister must carry with him the public of the country. That is necessary to avoid trouble over this Bill. This Bill brings about a very wide change in our defence training system which, in turn, will impose a variety of problems on the individuals concerned. I would regard the amending clause concerning the Deferment Board as the key clause in the whole amending Bill. It is the clause which establishes—or fails to establish, as the case may—public confidence. There is no question of trying to imply that the Secretary for Labour is going to act unjustly with regard to this Bill, but rightly or wrongly the House has accepted in the original Bill—and I say rightly, as a result of the Select Committee’s deliberations—and has accepted the principle that the man the country will be most satisfied with, by reason of his experience in forming judgements, will be a magistrate or a retired magistrate. That has worked well. The hon. the Minister has said that at the moment the existing board has very little to do and the boards that are now to come into being will have a tremendous lot more to do than the original board did. The hon. the Minister could not have been more correct. It is the very fact that the added work that the board will have to do and the added importance of that work, that warrants the strictest attention being paid to ensure that the constitution of the board is such that it will have the public’s confidence.
We are now forming a citizens army in which every mother’s son may have to serve. We have got to lay a foundation, and I am sure the hon. the Minister is with me in this—the foundation is to ensure that the board handling these deferments will have the public’s confidence. They will want to feel that if they say, “no” it is correct and if they say, “yes” it is correct.
The second point on which I think we are in agreement is that although the name of the Board is the Deferment Board, which is ostensibly to arrange for the release of people from service, I think I read the situation correctly when I say it is also important that this Board will not lightly give exemptions; in other words that the wave of exemptions now being applied for, which amount’to about 22,000 out of double that number of registered youths; those exemption applications will have to be examined so that they will not lightly escape their responsibility of service to the country. I think that is important. It is not a board constituted so much to give the exemptions as to make sure that only those applications which are fully justified do in fact get exemptions, and that the number of exemptions are cut down. That again makes it so much more important that a board of this nature must carry public confidence. Again we come back to the fact that one of the foundations of public confidence is that the man appointed should be one whose life and training and career has been devoted to forming impartial judgments.
In his second reading speech the hon. Minister referred to our proposal in which we gave the warning that we were not satisfied with the clause as it stood and may have to move an amendment, just as has now been moved. In referring to that the hon. the Minister said, more or less, that the board we had in mind was one to protect local interests and that he as the Minister had to look after a wide national interest. I am in complete accord with that, as we all are. But in order to protect the wider national interests it is essential that in time of war local interests are also protected. It is in each of the local areas that particular features of the strength of our Defence Force has to be built up. I am not talking now so much about the manpower side of defence as about industry, commerce, agriculture; the feeding of the Army and all the other resources of the country that have to stand behind the Army when they are called up. Each of those, in turn, depends upon certain interests in certain areas. Our idea of local interests, or public interests—whichever word the Minister is prepared to accept in this Bill is that those interests which dovetail into the requirements of defence should be safeguarded. By ensuring that the public interest in that regard is protected throughout and allowed to work at maximum efficiency, so the Minister will have behind his uniformed forces, the Civilian Force on which they have to depend for their very existence. That is the spirit in which we are approaching this matter.
I think that if we could get down to it on that basis and along these two lines which we suggest to the hon. the Minister, and which we honestly believe would improve the boards and assist the Minister in his work, then I believe we will get somewhere with it. It is not as the hon. member for Mossel Bay so foolishly suggested, that the object of our amendment is to cast suspicion on this, that or the other board or body, or to make the task of the hon. the Minister more difficult. We have set out to take political issues out of defence, and we intend to carry on that way. When you therefore get an hon. member with the seniority in this House of the hon. member for Mossel Bay making a foolish suggestion of that nature, it cannot be too strongly condemned. I would like the hon. the Minister to accept our recommendation in the spirit in which we put it. Again, as explained by the hon. member for Durban (Point), if the hon. the Minister feels that the wording in which we have suggested this amendment is not quite acceptable, we would say it is the spirit of the amendment which we want him to accept. If the hon. the Minister would frame an amendment in his own words but which will meet the spirit of our two points, we would be satisfied. There will be many boards that the Minister will have to set up in this case. One board will no longer be enough. When you are going to take a year out of a young man’s life for service in the Defence Forces there are going to be, as the hon. member for Kensington said, many more attempts from some quarters to escape that year’s training. There will therefore have to be a number of boards. If the hon. the Minister can see his way to meet us half way we will be very pleased: first the chairmanship of the board should be vested in someone whom the country generally accepts and, secondly, the board itself should give consideration to local interests which are in any event the interest of defence itself.
In the second reading the hon. the Minister fully explained the Bill, and I remember that the hon. member who has just resumed his seat said in his speech that they agreed with the Bill, although there were a few minor matters which worried them. That is correct, is it not?
He said that a few little things worried them, but in principle they agreed with it. Well, those hon. members have now heard the Minister saying that he cannot accept this amendment. We appreciate the Minister’s wonderful patience. I have never before seen anything like it. He has replied fully and repeatedly to every member opposite. The hon. member for Turffontein (Mr. Durrant) knows that, because he was responsible for a lot of obstruction. The hon. the Minister had a lot of patience. The Minister refuses to accept this amendment. Why now run into a stone wall? Hon. members do accept the Bill in principle. They can talk here until we become a republic, but the Minister will not amend the clause. Let us not play politics in connection with defence. Somebody has mentioned politics here again. Let us please keep politics out of our defence, as we have done hitherto.
What about the hon. member for Mossel Bay (Dr. van Nierop)?
I am not talking about Mossel Bay now. I am talking to that hon. member who went very far. We know he is notorious for it. We have already wasted much of the valuable time of this House on this Bill. Rightly or wrongly, the Minister has definitely said that he will not accept this amendment. We know about commissions which had a magistrate as chairman, in regard to which hon. members opposite in my time were very doubtful. They said he was not impartial. Here we are dealing with a department which is responsible for the manpower of the country. We know that people all make and receive representations, except the hon. member for Kensington (Mr. Moore). I have known him for many years, and I knew him during the war. He says that nobody has ever made representations to him. Well, he is the most fortunate Member of Parliament I know.
I have very good people in my constituency.
Well, that is an exception. In the past it did not always comply with its object. Here we now have an impartial Department which deals with the manpower of the country. There will be many applications, because it is being expanded on a colossal scale. Our Defence Force is being expanded on a large scale. Now we entrust this duty to the Department of Labour. I trust them. I trust all the departments. Who does not make mistakes? We all make mistakes. I am sure that this Department will act impartially and in the best interest of the country in troublous times, to exempt those people who are needed elsewhere. I think they are better equipped than any other Department to select and to exempt applicants, because they deal with the manpower of the nation. I want to ask the leader of the defence group opposite now to tell his members to stop talking so that the Bill can be passed. The hon. the Minister still seems hale and hearty, and I do not know where he gets the patience from to listen to all this talk. I do not want the Chairman to say that I am encroaching on his sphere, but I have never before heard as much repetition as in this debate this afternoon.
Why do you not leave that to the Chairman?
That hon. member speaks beautiful English because it is his language and he appears to be a highly educated man, but he repeated the same words three, four and five times. That is how I understood it, and I think we all understood it like that. The Chairman has given the hon. members opposite an opportunity. Now I just want to ask again before I sit down: Let us please accept this Bill, or at least this clause as it stands here, because the Minister clearly said that he could not accept the amendment.
Order! The hon. member may not repeat, and he is repeating himself now.
I do not want to repeat what I said but it seems to me that hon. members opposite do not understand. They are perhaps bilingual and perhaps we are better in English than in Afrikaans.
What is contained in the clause?
The clause says that we will not call you up in time of war.
I always appreciate the spirit in which the hon. member for Aliwal (Capt. Strydom) enters into a debate. Unfortunately I cannot agree with him in two of the things he said. In the first place he said that we were wasting time on this clause and on this Bill. Sir, this is a vital Bill. We live in dangerous times. That has been said by the hon. the Minister, and that is why we have this Bill before us. Surely a few extra hours spent on achieving the best sort of legislation possible in these sort of circumstances are not wasted hours.
Order! The hon. member must come back to the clause.
I am replying to the hon. member, Sir, but I will come back. The other point is this: the hon. member suggested that we on this side of the House were up against a granite wall in arguing the merits of our amendment. Now I do say this in regard to the hon. the Minister of Defence, that I do not believe he is a granite wall, unlike some hon. colleagues of his on those benches.
Order, order! The hon. member must come back to the clause now.
Yes, Sir. I do believe that the hon. the Minister will consider the arguments that we are putting to him.
This question of exemption from military service is a most difficult and intricate question. The hon. the Minister has very wisely recognized this, because in terms of this amending Bill he has said, in effect, that his Department does not want to be the arbiter of these exemptions. He does not feel that that would be the correct thing. In principle we agree entirely with him. He has gone a certain way in shedding his obviously partisan Department in this matter. Naturally the Department of Defence has the object of mobilizing and calling up every available young man, and the Minister has rightly recognized that he and his Department may be a little biased in that regard, so he has said, “I do not want to be the arbiter in this matter, I want to shift it to the Department of Labour”. He has gone a certain way in shedding this responsibility. Let me put it this way: What we are now asking is, that he goes just a little further in shedding this responsibility, that he does not leave it entirely with the Department of Labour. The clause says: “In consultation with” himself, but in consultation with the Department of Defence does not really mean anything, it has no legal sanction, it has no binding force at all. We are asking now that he goes a little further and that in the handing over of this responsibility to the Department of Labour …
It is not only that, but at least one of the members of the board must be from the Department of Defence.
I am very glad about that, Sir. Now we are going a little further and introducing two elements along that line of principle. We are saying, in effect, that the Department of Labour is not in the position to be the sole arbiter. For instance, it knows nothing about agriculture or the requirements of agriculture.
Nor do you.
Mr. Chairman, that is just the sort of interjection that we get from those hon. gentlemen on that side, gentlemen whose only knowledge of ribbons is confined to Coronation Medals; people who think that an M.I.D. is …
Very well I will not pursue that.
Who was mentioned in dispatches?
Just let us get this for the record, my colleague the hon. member for Durban (Point) (Mr. Raw) was mentioned in dispatches. Mr. Chairman, the point is this, the hon. the Minister has handed over the responsibility to the Department of Labour and he has said that on these boards there will be representatives of his own Department. We say, let us go a little further than that, let us have a representative, as Chairman of a board or boards—and these officers will be available—a member or members of the Department of Justice. Rightly or wrongly the Department of Justice is still, in the eyes of the public, a Department of high repute. Let us go a little further still, and say that on each of these boards the Minister of Labour must appoint somebody who is a representative in general of the public interests of that area. If it is an agricultural area let us have a farmer. If it is an industrial area let us have an industrialist. If it is a commercial area let us have someone from commerce. We are asking the hon. the Minister to extend the principle which he has accepted, that this is not a matter solely for the Department of Defence. We are asking him to admit that it is not a matter for the Departments of Labour and Defence solely. We want him to go a little further along this line, and we are not being difficult. We suggested last night that the hon. the Minister would be very much better off without the support of his friends in the Government benches. Fortunately he is without their support now—look at the empty benches.
This question of exemptions is a vital matter. It is always a difficult matter politically, it is difficult in relation to industry and it is difficult in relation to the morale of troops. If a man feels that he has been called up and his friend has been exempted, unfairly, then you are in trouble on the grounds of morale. We are trying to assist the hon. the Minister in this matter and I would plead with him. I know that he realizes that we are not trying to waste his time and we plead with him to accept this amendment, or another one in the general terms of this.
Mr. Chairman, you can understand hon. members’ concern. This provision may affect the lives of a great number of people. I am afraid, however, that what hon. members opposite are pleading for will just have the reverse effect. I do not think it will be possible for the Minister to appoint a sufficient number of boards, to serve local matters. The Minister has said that there may be four boards. In other words one board will have to serve a big area. Let us assume that there will be at least one board for every province. In other words, one board will serve a big area and there will be nobody who will be sufficiently acquainted with local matters to be able to judge. On the other hand I am not in favour of a local person, because he will not view the matter from a national point of view; he will be parochial and will consider all the local conditions. He will be the very man who will be subject to political pressure and pressure on the part of his friends. The further that board is removed from the public, and the stranger it is to the public, the more I expect from that board, and the less will that board be subject to political or local pressure or personal pressure. If the board consists of total strangers who do not know the people at all it will be much more impartial in its judgment and deal with every case on its merits. It will then be able to judge matters in the national interest and I will have much more faith in such a board—in the impartiality of its judgment—than I will have in a board that will promote local interests. This remains an important matter to me. The board should rather be removed as far as possible from the public than be brought nearer to the public. I take it that the Department or the Department of Labour will submit a sort of priority lists to the board in respect of the categories of persons who should be exempt immediately in the national interests. In other words, they will be given guidance and the board will act according to that guidance. That is why I think the board will receive guidance that will make it independent of the judgment of a magistrate. That does not mean that it cannot be a magistrate. The Minister does not make specific provision for this, but neither does he say that it has to be an official of the Department of Labour.
The board will fall under the Department, that is true, and the only provision that is laid down is that it will be an official of the Department of Defence, and for the rest it gives the Minister who has to appoint the board complete freedom.
Just something about the magistrates. I think we must stop continually burdening magistrates with work that has nothing to do with the administration of justice. There is a shortage of magistrates and the courts are over-crowded. They cannot cope with all the work and we are continually piling more work on to them from outside. I do not think that serves any useful purpose. I think it is important to have a board that is far removed from the public so that it can judge impartially. I suggest that we leave the matter as it is. Hon. members opposite accept that the Minister is honest in his intentions. We must take it that he has the best of intentions.
But the Minister is losing control.
I think that a local man and a local board will be subject to much more local and political pressure and personal pressure and that is why I think we should accept the clause as it stands.
Hon. members must please advance new arguments. I shall not allow any further repetition.
I shall be very brief. I ask the hon. member for Aliwal (Mr. Strydom) to be patient, because after all this is the only forum in the country at present where, when two or three are gathered together, it is not necessary to have a permit to speak.
Order! The hon. member must come back to the clause.
I want to say to the Minister that while I am not necessarily wedded to all the terms of this amendment moved by the hon. member for Durban (Point) (Mr. Raw), I accept the principle which he has put before the Minister. I want to tell the Minister that, first of all, I hope he will accept the amendment. But whether or not he does so, I would say that there are one or two members on this side of the House who have had practical experience of having to deal with exemptions and keymen during an emergency; and in the light of that experience, we found that it was very wise to approach this matter both from the point of view of the employers and of the employees. I would therefore say to the Minister that, while he is not appointing the board, I hope he will urge upon his colleague the Minister of Labour, to whose jurisdiction in the matter I do not take exception—I am of opinion that this is a matter primarily for the Department of Labour—I hope that the Minister will emphazise to the Minister of Labour that it will be very wise indeed if, in appointing the personnel of these committees, they could be representative of both employers and employees. In other words, I think it would be wise if on every committee there was a representative of the trade unions, and certainly in the urban areas a representative of the employers. I am not competent to say who would be the best representative in the rural areas. The Minister may say that he does not wish to be bound by any recommendation. I am not asking him to do so. I say that if he accepts the principle of having representatives of employers and employees on the committees, the Minister of Labour could then ask recognized trade unions to submit a panel of names in the area in which he proposes to appoint a committee, and it will be left to the Minister of Labour to decide which of these persons he is prepared to put on to the committee. We found in the past, when we had to deal with that problem during the war, that that system worked very well indeed in practice. You had men bringing their minds to bear on the matter who knew the problem from both sides, from the angle of the employers and of the employees. I seriously urge that the Minister, even though he is not prepared to incorporate any directive in this clause, should take the advice I am giving him, and that he should ensure that there are representatives on the committees of both the employers and the employees, and in the rural areas of the agricultural community, so that he could have a cross-section of opinion. The hon. member, who has just sat down, said there was a danger in having a local man; that he would be susceptible to local pressure. Of course that is so. But I am not suggesting that you should have a man who necessarily knows all the local inhabitants. What I am suggesting is that you should have an expert, from the trade unions, or from the employers, who knows the details of industry and who can give his advice in the light of that experience. Because I believe that something along these lines should be done, I propose to support the amendment. But whether or not it is carried, I hope the Minister will discuss this matter with the Minister of Labour and that he will come to an arrangement with him whereby he will constitute these boards on a non-official basis. It is a mistake, in my opinion, to have these committees composed entirely of public servants; not because I do not have a great respect for our public servants, but because I believe that in matters of this sort it is very much wiser to blend the particular experience of the public servants with the particular experience of the man who has to deal with these labour problems from the point of view of commerce, industry, agriculture or the trade unions. I hope the Minister will bear that in mind.
The provision that we are making here includes the provision which the hon. member for Salt River (Mr. Lawrence) has suggested, namely that the public should also have representation on the board. That is the very improvement that we are effecting here. The former board was constituted as follows: The Minister appointed the board which consisted of a chairman and three other members, two of whom were members of some or other force of the South African Defence Force and one a member of the Public Service. The entire board, therefore, consisted of public servants except the chairman who could be a magistrate, and if he was not retired he, too, was a public servant. The entire board, therefore, consisted of officials. We are now changing it so that the board may also be representative of the public because it will have a chairman and at the most four members of whom at least one must be a member of the Department of Defence. There are therefore four members who may represent the public.
Another point that has repeatedly been raised is that the public should have confidence in these boards. There is nothing with which I agree more. The hon. member for Kensington (Mr. Moore) said, “we are going to have comparisons” But we are having comparisons daily and we must remember that as the position was in the past the board could only grant exemptions in respect of balloting and allotment, it could not grant deferment or exemption in respect of training. It is not the function of the board to grant deferment in respect of training. That was only under one officer. The position of those people will now be easier because the board has to do that in future.
Will you give an undertaking that there will at least be one or two members on that board who are not public servants?
I cannot give that assurance because the Minister of Labour, in consultation with myself, appoints that board and it is obvious that particularly in times of war the public and industry must be represented on that board, perhaps agriculture as well and we are making provision for that contingency. But it is impossible to say at this stage that one or two members must represent the public. Give us the choice. In the past the public has not been represented at all. As the law stood there was no opportunity to get a representative of the public on a board, except if the magistrate was a retired magistrate. We cannot bind the Minister of Labour by prescribing word for word how he should constitute the board. The Minister of Defence will say what our requirements are, and the functions of the board and how it should act are laid down. Hon. members are very insistent on this question of a magistrate. The hon. member for Sunnyside (Mr. Horak) wants me to go a little bit further. The question is how far does the hon. member want me to go. That is my difficulty with that hon. member. He always wants me to go a little further but I do not know where he wants me to stop. We have already gone so far that it will be possible to have a bigger board on which there can also be members of the public. It is no longer a Public Service Board. How much further must we go? I really cannot accept this amendment. Seeing that the boards will be different in accordance with the various areas they have to serve, I cannot bind them to such an extent that they will assume a specific character. As far as the question of impartiality is concerned, I fully agree with the hon. member for Pretoria (West) (Mr. van der Walt) that as they are constituted at present, the board will be impartial. It is for the very reason that the Department of Labour appoints the board that they will be impartial. I cannot accept the amendment.
We do not intend to prolong the debate, but we feel that this is a matter of such vital importance that we must record the emphasis on our request for an impartial chairman …
The impartial chairman is all right.
But a chairman with a judicial background, and we think it should be a magistrate. Therefore we will vote for our amendment. We hope that even if the Minister rejects the amendment, as he is doing, he will use his influence to ensure that this Board does not merely become a minor sub-office of the Department of Labour. It is of the utmost importance that the public should have confidence in this board, and we intend to vote for our amendment in order to place it on record.
Amendments put and the Committee divided:
AYES—31: Basson, J. A. L.; Bronkhorst, H. J.; Connan, J. M.; Cope, J. P.; Cronje, F. J. C.; Dodds, P. R.; Durrant, R. B.; Eglin, C. W.; Gay, L. C.; Graaff, de V.; Holland, M. W.; Horak, J. L.; Hughes, T. G.; Lawrence, H. G.; Malan, E. G.; Miller, H.; Mitchell, D. E.; Moore, P. A,; Radford, A.; Raw, W. V.; Ross, D. G.; Shearer, O. L.; Smit, D. L.; Steyn, S. J. M.; Streicher, D. M.; Suzman, H.; Swart, R. A. F.; van der Byl, P.; Waterson, S. F.
Tellers: H. C. de Kock and A. Hopewell.
NOES—60: Bekker, G. F. H.; Bekker, H. T. van G.; Botha, P. W.; Coetzee, P. J.; de Villiers, C. V.; de Villiers, J. D.; Diederichs, N.; du Plessis, H. R. H.; du Plessis, P. W.; Erasmus, F. C.; Fouché, J. J. (Sr.); Fouché, J. J. (Jr.); Greyling, J. C.; Haak, J. F. W.; Hertzog, A.; Jonker, A. H.; Jurgens, J. C.; Keyter, H. C. A.; Kotze, G. P.; Kotzé, S. F.; le Roux, P. M. K.; Malan, W. C.; Martins, H. E.; Meyer, T.; Mostert, D. J. J.; Muller, S. L.; Nel, M. D. C. de W.; Niemand, F. J.; Otto, J. C.; Potgieter, D. J.; Rall, J. W.; Sadie, N. C. van R.; Sauer, P. O.; Schoeman, B. J.; Scholtz, D. J.; Steyn, F. S.; Steyn, J. H.; Strydom, G. H. F.; Treurnicht, N. F.; van den Berg, G. P.; van der Ahee, H. H.; van der Merwe, J. A.; van der Merwwe, P. S.; van der Walt, B. J.; van der Wath, J. G. H.; van Eeden, F. J.; van Niekerk, G. L. H.; van Nierop, P. J.; van Rensburg, M. C. G. J.; van Staden, J. W.; van Wyk, G. H.; Venter, M. J. de la R.; Venter, W. L. D. M.; Verwoerd, H. F.; Viljoen, M.; Vosloo, A. H.; Webster, A.; Wentzel, J. J.
Tellers: W. H. Faurie and J. von S. von Moltke.
Amendments accordingly negatived.
Clause, as printed, put and agreed to.
On Clause 8,
It seems that Clause 8 (a) calls for a further amendment to Section 69 (1) of the old Act. In the past the ballotees had a month’s time from the date that the provisional ballot lists were put up in the magistrate’s court within which to apply for exemption. In Clause 6 the date which is specified in Section 66 is changed from 15 March to 31 March. If we do not change the date 15 April in Section 69 (1), the ballotees will only have two weeks within which to apply and I do not think that is the intention of this legislation. If the intention is not that they should only have 14 days’ time, I suggest to the Minister that he changes this date, possibly in the Other Place.
Mr. Chairman, that is a misunderstanding. I know of that objection; it seemed a serious objection to me and I went into the matter but that is not correct. As soon as the provisional ballot list is available the ballotees are notified and the parents and the boys know at an early stage when the actual balloting will take place. They are then at liberty to apply for deferment. If their applications have to be in by 31 March, they have already had the information and they do not only have that period of two weeks from 31 March to 15 April within which to apply for exemption; they have already known about it for two months.
Clause put and agreed to.
On Clause 9,
This clause seeks to amend Section 70 of the principal Act, which deals with the procedure to be followed in any ballot that may be taken, and the Minister now seeks to surrender certain powers that he holds in terms of the original Act to fix the number of ballotees that may be drawn in excess of any establishment of the A.C.F. and to place those powers in the hands of the board or the presiding officer. I shall be glad if the Minister will tell us why he proposes to surrender these powers that he has. The Minister will remember that earlier in the debate he quoted Section 67 to me. Section 67 says quite clearly that every year the Minister shall fix the numer of men who will serve in the A.C.F., the number of men who will be balloted, and in this clause, which amends Section 70, the Minister has the power to say, “I want 10,000 men so I want you to draw 10,200 men from the ballot in case some of them are unable to do their training for some reason or other”. Now the Minister wants to hand these powers, which are very wide powers, to a board or some other officer whom he may appoint, to draw the additional names from the ballot box. Let me remind the Minister that the clause that we have just passed states quite emphatically that the decision of the board will be final. There will never be any redress in any circumstances for any man whose name has been included in the ballot. I should like to hear from the Minister what his reason is for surrendering what appears to be an important power. After all it is Parliament that determines, on the Minister’s recommendation, how many men will be trained because Parliament provides the money for the A.C.F. Why does the Minister surrender these important powers to the board or any other officer whom he may appoint.
The position is simply this: The Minister of Defence announces how many ballotees are required for allotment and the board simply determines how many should be balloted for. They know from experience how many should be balloted for to make up for the number who are usually granted exemption or deferment.
With respect, I do not think the hon. the Minister is quite correct. Section 70 is quite clear. It deals with the procedure to be followed in the ballot and it says quite clearly, “a percentage of names to be determined by the Minister from time to time in excess of the said number shall be drawn in order to make good any loss likely to be caused by reason of the fact that persons drawn in the ballot may subsequently be found medically unfit or otherwise unsuitable for training”. Section 67 clearly states that the Minister shall fix in April of each training year the number of persons to be enrolled for training. Therefore the number of men who will be drawn from the ballot box must be the number of men the Minister required to be trained. The Minister now says that some may subsequently be found to be medically unfit and unable to execute their duties, so he proposes to allow 200 in excess of the number he requires for training to be balloted. Now the Minister wants to give the board that power. Why should the board have that power? The board does not decide how many men will be trained. The Minister decides that—Parliament decides that. I shall be glad to have an explanation from the Minister.
Clause put and agreed to.
On Clause 10,
I move the amendment standing in my name—
In line 22, after “amended” to insert “(a)”; after “68” in lines 30 and 31, to add “and and to add the following paragraph at the end of the Clause:
I want to draw the attention of the Minister to the powers of these boards that are to be established to grant exemptions in times of war. These boards, as appointed under Section 98 of the original Act, function under the provisions of Section 97 and the only persons who can be exempted, except those who are exempted on account of the work that they do or their profession, are those people in whose cases it is regarded to be in the public interest that they are granted exemption. In other words, what is in the public interest is the only ground for exemption. I draw the Minister’s attention to this because this strengthens the argument that the only ground on which this board can grant exemption, except in the case of persons who do particular work or who are medically unfit, is the public interest. I want to ask the hon. the Minister whether the fact that the board has that power is not proof in itself that the public should be represented on that board. The committee passed a resolution this afternoon in respect of a board’s power to grant exemptions in peacetime. We are now dealing with the establishment of a board that may grant exemptions in times of war, and it is of greater importance in times of war that the public interests are safeguarded. Consequently I again want to appeal to the Minister, in spite of the fact that he did not accept our proposed amendment in respect of boards in peacetime, to see to it that the public is represented on the exemption boards in respect of war-time exemptions, because according to these powers, the public interest is the only thing that counts. The other grounds on which exemptions may be granted are on medical grounds, where the person is medically unfit and he produces a certificate to that effect signed either by a doctor, an official of Parliament, Judges of the Supreme Court, ministers of religion, etc. but the only ground for exemption is what is in the public interest.
I sometimes doubt whether Members of Parliament are in the public interest.
So do I. I should like to see every member of this Parliament doing service in the field for a certain period in a time of war, that every member on that side should do so, just as every member of this side has already done.
Order! The hon. member must come back to the clause.
Mr. Chairman, the Minister has made a suggestion to which I am reacting.
Yes, but the hon. member is not entitled to be irregular.
Then I will leave it at that. All I ask is that members on that side and those on this side should not do service together. We do not want to have to clean up behind them. [Interjections.] No, I am talking about the battle.
To be serious, I want to ask the hon. the Minister whether he will not again consider the point that I raised a moment ago. I am asking him that when he constitutes these boards to consider the importance of the public interest. This is the last opportunity he will have of doing so because the moment he hands his powers over to the Minister of Labour he will lose his control in this respect. This Bill presents the Minister with the final opportunity to ensure that proper consideration is given to the public interests in these new provisions.
Amendment put and agreed to.
Clause, as amended, put and agreed to.
On Clause 11,
I move the amendment as printed in my name—
In line 32, to delete “one, two and three” and to substitute “two, three and four”,
Clause, as amended, put and agreed to.
Remaining Clauses and Title of the Bill put and agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Fourth Order read: Second reading,—Interpretation Amendment Bill.
The provisions of this Bill are consequential upon the adoption of the Republic of South Africa Constitution Act. The Interpretation Act of 1910 was subsequently replaced by another Act, and at a later stage, in 1957, the Interpretation Laws of the Union of South Africa were consolidated into one Act in respect of the definitions and the interpretation of language used in those Acts. It is of course essential to have interpretation legislation. As a result of the Republic of South Africa Constitution Act it appears that some minor verbal amendments have to be effected and this Bill deals with the few verbal amendments that have to be effected to the Interpretation Act. I take it therefore that this is non-contentious legislation. The provisions of the Interpretation Act of 1957 apply in all cases where legislation has to be interpreted in this country. Once we are a republic those provisions will in the main still be applicable, as for example, how distances are measured, or how a period is calculated in terms of days, or what the position is when the administration of a certain Act is transferred from one Minister to another. There are, however, provisions which are only of significance under our present form of Government. In this connection for example, there is the reference to the Union or the Queen or the Governor-General. For example “Union” means the territorial limits of the Union whereas in future we will have to refer to the territorial limits of the republic. To my mind the most practical amendments to this Interpretation Act is the provision that where in the past reference was made to Rex vs. So and So or Regina vs. So and So in criminal proceedings, we will in future refer to the Republic vs. So and So. The most important change in practice will be that we will talk about the Republic vs. So and So and not of the State vs. So and So as is the case in America.
At the same time any reference to the “Union” in existing laws will have to be adapted to the new set-up. The same applies in the case of the Governor-General who is now replaced by the State President, and any existing reference to “the Governor-General-in Council” will in future be replaced by the “State President-in-Council”. Corresponding changes will have to be effected to laws that were passed before the establishment of Union. All these changes must come into operation simultaneously with the Constitution Act and provision is made for that in Clause 9.
That is briefly the necessary provisions of this Bill which is consequential upon the adoption of the Republic of South Africa Constitution Act.
We on this side of the House accept that the amendments contained in this Bill are necessary and that they are consequential on the change in the constitutional status of South Africa from the Union of South Africa to the Republic of South Africa. The Bill indicates that it will come into operation on 31 May of this year when changes in interpretation will be necessary in order to interpret the many statutes on the Statute Book. As regards the general provisions of the Bill therefore there will be no objection to them and the Minister can accept that the Bill is non-contentious as he has indicated.
As far as Clause 3 is concerned, I would like to make one or two comments. In the first place it does seem to be a substantive provision which seems to be inappropriate in an interpretation measure of this nature. Secondly I find it very difficult to understand precisely what is meant by Clause 3 which introduces a new Section 9. I find it difficult to understand what is meant by “any criminal proceedings purporting to be instituted in the name of the State, shall for all purposes be deemed to be instituted in the name of the Republic of South Africa”. Apart from not being clear it is certainly not very elegantly drafted. It seems to me that the matter can be dealt with much more briefly and clearly, because I assume that what is required is that criminal proceedings shall be instituted in the name of the State. I think that is all that is necessary to achieve the purpose which the Minister has in mind.
“Or purporting to be instituted in the name of the State”
How do you purport to institute proceedings in the name of the State? The State either institutes proceedings or it does not. The words “purporting to be instituted” are so vague that I really do not understand what they mean. At this stage I am merely asking the Minister to see whether this cannot be framed a little more elegantly to give effect to what is apparently intended. In other respects there will be no objection to the Bill.
I have examined the contents of this Bill and, subject to the comment which has been made by the last speaker, I am of the opinion that it is necessary, and in those circumstances we are fully prepared to support it. I think this is a necessary corollary of the constitutional change which is about to take place next week, and in those circumstances the Bill is perfectly innocuous so far as I am concerned.
I am grateful to hon. members for regarding this little Bill as non-contentious. As far as Clause 3 is concerned, to my mind there is no ambiguity, but I will ask the law advisers to go into the wording again and if any improvement is necessary it will be made, even if it has to be made in the Other Place. I hope that will satisfy hon. members, because I was hoping that we may be able to proceed to-day with the Committee Stage. I undertake to move an amendment in the Other Place, if it is necessary to do so for the sake of clarity.
Motion put and agreed to.
Bill read a second time.
That the House do now resolve itself into Committee on the Bill and that Mr. Speaker leave the Chair.
More than two members having objected,
House to go into Committee on the Bill on 26 May.
Fifth Order read: Second Reading,—Indemnity Bill.
This Bill should not be a contentious measure either. Because South Africa has throughout the years, since 1910, been accustomed to indemnity measures, this measure is nothing new, and that is why I trust that it will not be regarded as contentious. It has been customary in the past when a state of emergency had come to an end, an emergency which in the opinion of the Government had to be suppressed in the interests of the people of the country, to pass legislation which will protect officials of the State against legal action which is or which may be instituted against them as a result of possible incidental illegal acts that were committed in good faith in order to meet the position. And that is the object of this Bill. There are precedents for indemnity legislation outside South Africa and also in South Africa. As examples of the indemnity legislation which we have in South Africa I wish to refer to two important Acts, firstly the Indemnity and Undesirables Special Deportation Act of 1914 and secondly the Indemnity and Trial of Offenders Act of 1922. I also have a number of examples here of indemnity laws that have been passed in countries abroad. We have the British “Indemnity Act” of 1920. Although the Acts in respect of which indemnity was sought related to the 1914-18 war this legislation was only passed in 1920 with the result that the indemnity also covered a period in Britain when she was not at war. Wade and Phillips say the following in connection with this British indemnity in their book “Constitutional Law”—
No action or legal proceeding whatsoever, whether civil or criminal shall be instituted in a court of law for or account of or in respect of any act, matter or thing done, whether within or without His Majesty’s Dominion during the war before the passing of this Act if done in good faith and done or purported to be done in execution of his duty for the defence of the Realm of the public safety.
This Act was only passed two years after the cessation of hostilities, and it therefore covered a period when there was no war, but measures were passed from time to time because, during that time, there were disturbances in Britain which were covered by the provisions of that Act. On page 670 of their “Constitutional Law” Wade and Phillips say—
They say the following on page 671 in connection with the indemnity provisions in Britain herself—
I think we can accept it, therefore, that we have precedents inside and outside South Africa that it has become practically customary for a Government to ask for indemnity measures from time to time. It is not necessary for me to deal in detail with the occurrences that have given rise to this Bill. I refer to the incidents at Langa, Nyanga, Sharpeville, Everton and Vanderbijlpark on 21 March 1960. The facts are contained in the reports of the two commissions of inquiry which have already been tabled. I need only refer to the evidence of Robert Sebukwe, the President of the banned Pan African Congress, where he said—
It is the duty of the police to maintain law and order in a country and, in the exercise of that duty, it was, unfortunately, necessary for the police to resort to force on 21 March 1960. There were the following casualties: On the part of the demonstrators 70 were killed and 177 injured at Sharpeville; two were killed and seven injured at Vanderbijlpark; five killed and 72 injured at Langa; two killed and 41 injured at Nyanga. The police also suffered casualties, as hon. members know, but not to the same extent. No police were killed at Sharpeville, although 13 were injured; Vanderbijlpark: no police killed, but one injured; Langa: no police killed, but three injured; Nyanga: one policeman killed and four injured.
Mr. Speaker, one involuntarily thinks of other occasions in South Africa when we had similar disturbances and when force also had to be resorted to. But what can be regarded as a freak of history is the fact that, in respect of the disturbances that took place in the past, large numbers of people were killed or wounded, but the world hardly took any notice of it, but when the disturbances took place at Sharpeville, for instance, my colleagues, the Minister of Bantu Administration and Development informs me that after Sharpeville he saw a map in England on which there appeared only three names, namely, Sharpeville, Langa and Cato Manor. No Johannesburg, no Pretoria, no Cape Town, a blank map; that was how South Africa was represented to the world. I call it a freak of history that the world pays so much attention to a certain number of casualties, whereas it paid no attention to the others. I think of the casualties and the riots in 1913-4, before the war, and in 1921-2, after the war, where blood also flowed. But, strangely enough, the world took no notice of that. Take the case of Bulhoek in 1921. That is the most striking example. A great number was killed. I have the report here on the Bulhoek incident, the parliamentary report, A.4 of 1921. One hundred and sixty-two were killed at Bulhoek, and 129 were wounded. Compare those figures with Sharpeville, where 70 were killed and 177 wounded, and see to what extent the world paid attention to Sharpeville in comparison with the notice it took of Bulhoek. And if you consider the circumstances at Bulhoek, Sir, you will remember that in that case there was a large number of fanatics who walked into the rifles and bayonets. I cannot understand why the world pays so much attention to disturbances of this nature, whereas, in former years, when we had incidents like those in 1913-4 and in 1921-2 and Bulhoek in 1921, they hardly showed any interest at all, although the casualties were much heavier. Had 163 been killed and 129 wounded at Sharpeville, I cannot imagine what the world would have done to us. If it could, it would probably have tom us asunder. But there was no reaction to Bulhoek. During the 1913 strikes 152 people were arrested for offences committed as a result of the strike. There was public violence, and nine persons were summarily deported, without trial, and authority was subsequently obtained by the passage of Act No. 1 of 1914. On 15 January 1914 at Benoni 181 persons were arrested and detained for periods ranging from seven days to 16 days. I find it monstrous to think that people can be detained for 16 days; 12 days now and again, but I think a period of 16 days is going too far. Twenty-eight members of the Defence Force were injured and 21 strikers were killed and 74 injured and nine Bantu were injured. That was in 1913. But the world remained calm. The world was not so vehement in its criticism of South Africa. During the 1922 strike 76 persons were killed on the side of the Government, six more than at Sharpeville, and 237 were wounded, as against 177 at Sharpeville. During the 1922 strike 140 strikers were killed and 287 wounded; 31 non-Whites were killed and 67 wounded. During the actual rising of 10 March 1922 up to 14 March 1922 (four days), 10,000 persons were detained. Unfortunately it is not known why they were detained; the documents are no longer available. I think it is safe to assume that those killed and injured were present at the scene as demonstrators against governmental authority. According to the P.A.C. that was the first step in a series of steps aimed at the ultimate overthrow of the Government. And it can be stated that they themselves have to bear the consequences. The question now arises whether anybody who takes part in a campaign, which borders on internal revolt, and who gets injured in the process, can turn round and claim compensation from that very authority that he wanted to destroy by his acts. That sounds illogical to me. But there is nothing in our legal system, in spite of the fact that he is responsible for his own misfortune, that prevents a person from doing so. He may nevertheless institute action against someone else in an attempt to get compensation. Such a person is not expected to give security for the costs to which the other party will be put in contesting such a claim. The courts of the country are accessible to everybody and the courts can also be abused, as in the cases which have arisen from the position that we had, and the Government may be put to great expense in contesting claims that have been instituted without any hope of success. On the other hand you also have those who were compelled or persuaded by means of violence or terrorism or by means of deception to take part in demonstrations, people who have respect for governmental authority and who did not approve at all with the actions of the inciters. It is possible that some of those people were also killed or injured during the riots. It is not the Government’s intention to prevent those people or their dependants from getting the compensation to which they may perhaps be entitled. As hon. members know a committee has consequently been appointed, under the chairmanship of the Government attorney to consider all the claims properly and to submit recommendations in regard to compensation to persons who have been injured or to dependants of those who had been killed. The Committee is engaged on that task at the moment but it seems to be a very big task. The attorneys of the claimants have been requested to submit their claims in writing so that the committee may consider them. In connection with the Sharpeville incident the Government attorney has received 244 demands and 224 summons have already been issued. The total amount of the claims is £447,977 17s. 9d. made up as follows: Claims for compensation on account of the death of the breadwinner, £246,607 10s. 9d.; compensation for personal injury, £153.370 7s. 9d.; and alleged unlawful arrest, £48,000. Incidentally it is interesting to note that apart from six of these claims, all the others were submitted by one particular firm of attorneys in Johannesburg. It is significant that two of the partners in that firm visited the injured in hospital together with Bishop Reeves and took their statements. Both those two gentlemen were also detained under the emergency regulations. I am mentioning this because it is remarkable that one firm should handle so many cases.
It is mentioned in the report of the commission.
The hon. member will have all the opportunity she wants to defend them and to make out a case why that is the position. I am merely mentioning it. I am not making any accusations, I am merely mentioning it as being peculiar, but if any hon. member can advance a good reason why one firm is acting for all those people, except six, I am sure we would all like to hear that reason. In respect of the Langa/ Nyanga riots six claims to the value of £26,000 have been submitted. The House knows the circumstances which led to the proclamation of a state of emergency in various magisterial districts. It was necessary for the Government to take firm action in the interests of public order and safety and in order to terminate the state of emergency. Emergency regulations were promulgated and as a result those who were known to have taken part in subversive activities were arrested and kept in custody. Effective steps were also taken to clear up the gangs of tsotsis and to keep them in custody, those tsotsis who were actually used by the inciters as their shock troops. The fact that there were no further riots at a time when the position was most inflammable in many places, is due to the fact that those inciters and vagrants who always give the lead on such occasions had been put out of action. Those steps were taken after due consideration of the facts. The fact that the position was brought under control shortly after the outbreak of the riots, is an effective answer to the question whether such drastic steps were justified. It is the function of the State to suppress riots and to maintain public law and order. It is also the function of the State to take preventive steps where riots are expected. Action was taken against those persons who were arrested and detained in terms of the emergency regulations on evidence which had justified such action and I make no apology for it. By arresting and detaining those persons we acted within the law and any claims for alleged illegal detention arising from those steps have little hope of success in a court of law.
As I have already said there is nothing to prevent anybody from submitting a claim. It is therefore essential that we pass this legislation in order to prevent waste of time and waste of money which will inevitably be coupled with defending such actions. Apart from claims submitted by injured persons or the dependants of persons killed during the Sharpeville, Langa and Nyanga riots, the committee to which I have referred will not consider any claims by persons who alleged that they were unlawfully detained under the emergency regulations. Up to date 105 demands have been received for alleged unlawful detention. The total amount involved is £572,000. In connection with these cases it is also interesting to note that 70 of these 105 claims have been submitted by an attorney who is a listed person and who himself was detained. This measure covers action from 21 March 1960 up to the date when it comes into operation and is therefore also applicable to the steps that were taken to restore and maintain law and order in Pondoland. The committee to which I have referred will also consider any claims that may arise from the happenings in Pondoland, but will not consider any claims by persons who allege that they have been treated unjustly under the regulations to maintain law and order. The subject of the legislation before you, Mr. Speaker, is merely to obtain indemnity in respect of actions that were recommended, ordered, commanded or done in good faith, and also makes provision for announcements and statements and information made or published in good faith. On page 356 of his “South African Constitution” May says this about this type of legislation—
I must say that I am very much surprised at the way the hon. the Minister has introduced this Bill. He has expressed his indignation at the world because it did not react to Bulhoek in the same way as it reacted to Sharpeville and Langa. He says that it is incomprehensible to him that the world did not react to what happened in 1913 and 1914 and at Bulhoek in the same way as the world reacted to Sharpeville. It seems to me, after listening to the Minister’s speech that he is introducing this Bill in a spirit of revenge against the rest of the world in view of the attitude they are adopting against this Government. I cannot see what on earth world opinion to Sharpville as compared with world opinion to Bulhoek has got to do with this Bill. What has world opinion go to do with this Bill? Nothing at all! The Minister gave us the figures of the Bantu killed at Bulhoek and other parts of the country in earlier years as justification for introducing this measure now. I know that the principle of passing Acts of indemnity is not something new in this country. I know that other Bills of indemnity were passed, four in number, in 1914, 1915, 1922 and 1940, and the hon. the Minister in his introduction said “Ons het nou daaraan gewoon geraak”, that we have become used to indemnity measures. Sir, we have not become used to Acts of Indemnity being passed during peace-time! The hon. Minister only dealt with two of the previous Acts of indemnity, the 1914 and the 1922 Act. He did not deal with the 1915 or the 1940 Act. For obvious reasons. Those Acts were passed in time of war. The Government was indemnifying itself for actions of officials committed in a time of war. The hon. Minister dealt only with 1914 and 1922, because those Bills were passed in time of peace, same as this Bill is being passed now, when the country is not at war. But what were the facts in 1914 and 1922? I will read the Title of the 1914 Act—
Certain districts had been under Martial Law because there was open rebellion. There was a minor war being fought. In 1922 we had the same type of legislation to provide for the withdrawal of Martial Law from operation in certain districts of the Transvaal. Again the country was almost in a state of war. There was open rebellion. In fact in 1922 bombs were dropped for the first time in South Africa, and as far as I know, the only time. There was open warfare Martial Law had to be declared. We are not even living in a state of emergency now, not officially, anyhow.
Why don’t you say that there was a strike in 1913?
Admittedly there was a strike in 1913, but what happened in that strike? The strikers were organized, and, what is more, the strikers were given the impression, according to the debates in the House in 1914, which I have read, that there might be some assistance from the Commandos and the strikers came out in armed rebellion. In fact, the Commandos were called in to put down the strike and to help the Government to maintain order. That is what the Commandos were called out for.
I am only pointing out that the 1914 Act was the direct result of the 1913 strike.
The hon. Minister is quite right, but what happened was this: Martial law was proclaimed in certain districts, and the Minister of Defence in introducing the measure in 1914 said this: Parliament was in recess and we had to take drastic action, we had to proclaim martial law, we could not consult Parliament; it had to be done at once; and now we are taking the first opportunity to get Parliament to ratify what we did and to get indemnity for our actions. It is true that there was a strike in 1913 during the recess of Parliament, but the first opportunity was taken when Parliament met to introduce an Indemnity Bill. This Government itself has passed an Act of Indemnity already. A few months ago, they did the same in the Transkei, they issued a proclamation which has even more far-reaching effects than this Bill which is introduced here, and we hope to be able to discuss that proclamation later when it comes before the House. I say that the circumstances when previous Acts of indemnity were passed during peace-time were quite different from now. As I have said, we have no official state of emergency. The country is not in open rebellion, and the Prime Minister has frequently told us that there were many more riots and disturbances during the United Party régime than there are to-day, and, Sir, the United Party has had no occasion, except in 1940 when it was fighting a war, to introduce a measure of this kind; when we were supposed to have all those disturbances, when the country was more disturbed than it was to-day. A Bill of Indemnity was not passed for Bulhoek. The Bill which the hon. the Minister has now introduced covers the whole of the Union and it arose probably because of what happened at Langa and Sharpeville. That is probably the reason for the introduction of the Bill. But I want to draw the House’s attention to the fact that this Bill does cover the whole of the Union, and it is not confined to the particular period of Sharpeville and Langa. It will cover Pondoland. Any claims the Pondos may have for events which took place there before 30 November 1960 when Proclamation No. 400 of 1960 was promulgated, bringing about the indemnity in the Transkei are covered by that proclamation; but any acts committed before then will be covered by this Bill, and we, Sir, do not know how far-reaching this Bill will be, what far-reaching effects it may have. We do not even know what period it is going to cover. We know that it commences from 21 March 1960 and will cover all acts committed up to the time that this Act is promulgated. I think that is right. We do not know when that is going to be. So we do not know what circumstances are going to be covered by this legislation. We do not know for how long a period this indemnity is going to be given, and I say that we are legislating now to give indemnity for acts which may only take place in the future. Judicial inquiries were held in connection with the events of Sharpeville and Langa, and from the findings of the Presiding Judge at the Langa inquiry we know that there were certain wrongful actions committed by the policemen. The police are given protection under our law as it stands to-day, in the use of force where necessary to implement the law. They are protected by the law of the country. No miscreant or person who has broken the law or who has resisted the police can sue the Government for damages if he himself has been culpable. It is only where the police or officials of the State act wrongfully that they are liable to criminal prosecution or civil action. We realize that the police frequently have to act under difficult circumstances, circumstances in which they may occasionally lose their heads or be provoked in unlawful action. We quite agree with what May says, and the United Party accordingly—and I think I can say that I speak for the whole of the Opposition—are prepared to give this imdemnity as far as the police are concerned. We are prepared to give protection to officials in respect of any action they may have taken in times of stress. But we do not agree that the State should be protected, except in cases of war or open rebellion. But this Bill provides indemnity at a time when we are not at war, when there is no official state of emergency, and no application of martial law. And we cannot agree that the State should be absolved from all responsibility as a result of wrongful actions of officials in which innocent citizens may be seriously affected; where they may unjustifiably be denied their freedom or suffer damages through injury. In cases where the citizen deserves the treatment meted out to him or is responsible therefor then he cannot take action, but innocent persons must be protected. Grave injustices may be done against innocent persons, and in fact the Government itself recognizes this position. It has taken steps to see that persons who are injured at Langa and Sharpeville may be compensated.
The hon. the Minister was asked the other day whether this Commission was also going to inquire into the claims in Pondoland. He told us then that he did not know. He could not give us a reply. I wonder if he is able to tell us now because, as I have said, when this Bill becomes law it will also apply to Pondoland. I say that the Government itself recognizes that there may be justifiable claims, and this Commission has been appointed to make recommendations in that regard. The mere fact that the Commission was appointed is an admission of the probability of such claims being lodged, and the hon. the Minister has himself referred to that fact. We do not, however, feel that a Departmental commission is the correct body to adjudicate in matters of this nature. We feel that the citizen should have a right to go to court. We feel that a judicial officer, a court of law should sit in judgment to try these cases, to hear the evidence and to assess the damages. But it should not be a Departmental commission. As I have said, the Government itself recognizes the fact that there probably are just claims which are going to be presented to it, and the Government should give to those citizens the right to prove their claims in a court of law. If the Minister feels that the cost of such proceedings would be too great, he could appoint a special court to deal with these matters, or a judicial commission. He can make some suggestions along those lines and we can consider whatever proposals he makes. But it must be handled by a Judge or a magistrate, depending upon the size of the claim.
It may be that some of them would have a much better chance as it is, with ex gratia payments.
I did not realize the hon. the Minister was so reasonable. Let me put it to him this way. What he can do is this, he can pay out ex gratia payments to those who are prepared to accept them, and those who are not prepared to accept them should be allowed to go to court. That will save the Minister a lot of expense.
The hon. the Minister surprised me in another way. I must say I did not expect it from a Minister of Justice. One of the reasons he gave for not allowing these matters to go to court was the question of costs. That I can understand because there may be something in that argument. But the other reason was that one lawyer, or one firm of lawyers is handling all the Sharpeville cases. And because one firm of lawyers is handling all the Sharpeville cases he is going to deny all other aggrieved persons the right to sue the Government. That is a scandalous thing. I am surprised that the hon. the Minister. Who is a lawyer, should ever think of adopting an attitude like that. I wonder how he would feel if he was one of these aggrieved persons and he was told that he could not sue because all the other aggrieved persons in the Nationalist Party, for instance, had gone to a particular lawyer.
You know very well I did not give that as one of the reasons why they should not sue the Government.
If the hon. the Minister did not give that as a reason why did he mention it at all? He did not mention it once, he mentioned it several times. I would like to point this fact out too, that he seemed to take exception to the fact that the lawyer concerned went to see these people in hospital. Where else was he to see them? They were in hospital, they were laid up with their injuries. As a lawyer the hon. the Minister ought to know that the sooner the lawyer can get statements from the witnesses the better, whilst the facts are still fresh in their minds. So these lawyers had to go to hospital to see their clients. And the hon. the Minister ought to know, too, that lawyers frequently go to hospitals to see their clients.
Are they always accompanied by Reeves?
Now we have another reason. Now because Reeves accompanies them they cannot sue! What sort of sense of justice has this hon. Minister? Because Bishop Reeves happens to have accompanied the lawyers to see their clients in hospital, they can no longer sue the Government!
Supposing a member of the Dutch Reformed Church was in hospital seriously ill after having been assaulted, and his minister takes an interest in his welfare and goes to see a lawyer and then goes to see the injured man together with that lawyer. Is that a reason for prohibiting that man from suing, because a minister of the Church happens to accompany the lawyer?
May I ask the hon. member a question? I would like to ask him whether he thinks, or can explain how it is that all the clients went to one particular lawyer?
My reply is this, does the hon. member know that practically all insurance companies go to one firm of lawyers to handle their cases? Does he know that building societies go to one lawyer. Many different societies and organizations go to one lawyer. [Interjections.]
Mr. Speaker it is obvious that the hon. member is not a lawyer. The hon. the Minister gave another reason, and that was that most of the lawyers who are appearing for these people are persons who are named under the Suppression of Communism Act. That is his reason for prohibiting all other people from sueing the Government, the fact that some people have gone to named communists to appear for them. The hon. the Minister ought to know that his colleague tried to stop a named communist from going to the Transkei to appear for some people there, but he got the Minister to revoke that decree and that lawyer was allowed to go there because the Natives objected to this prohibition. If they want a particular lawyer, irrespective of whether he is named or not, they should be able to brief him and he should be allowed to go to Court to present a case on their behalf. And the Government ought to be able to defend that case. Surely it is not important whether that lawyer is a named person or not.
I have said that the Government itself recognizes that there are probably justifiable cases, that there are people who are justified in claiming damages from the Government. In that connection I want to refer to a few passages from the Commission of Inquiry into the Langa riots. I will not go into the other report, other hon. members on this side of the House will do so and will also deal with other precedents for this measure more fully than I have done. But to prove that there must be justifiable claims by people involved in these incidents I want to quote some of the findings of the presiding Judge. On page 78 of the report the Judge says—
of the order to disperse from the meeting. He felt, also that more than three minutes should have been given to the people to disperse. He said that the people were bewildered and did not know what was happening. That was one of the findings that the learned Judge made as to what had happened at Langa. On page 88 he goes on to say that the police had certain powers in terms of the Riotous Assemblies Act and that they could have acted under those powers. He quoted sub-section (3) of Section 7 which provides that—
The Judge then goes on to say—
Then on page 110 he tells of the evidence of a child, and he says—
The hon. the Minister must admit that from a reading of these two passages from the Judge’s report there must be people who have claims against the Government and who are entitled to compensation. I say it is quite wrong that because a number of people at Sharpeville happened to have briefed one lawyer, that these people should be deprived of their right to go to court and prove their claims. We do not know all the circumstances which may be covered by this Bill when it becomes law. We have only been told of Langa and Sharpeville, but this Bill will apply to the whole country and it will apply for the period from 21 March 1960 until some time this year when it is promulgated. We feel that any citizen who has been unlawfully treated, unjustifiably or wrongfully treated by an officer of the State, should be entitled to recover from the State damages as a result of that officer’s action. And we further say that his claim should be adjudicated on by judicial officers. I accordingly move an amendment as follows—
In conclusion I want to make it quite clear that as far as the officers themselves are concerned we are prepared to give this indemnity, but we are not prepared to indemnify the State for actions of State officials committed in a time of peace.
Does that include the Defence Force?
Yes, all the officers.
I second the amendment moved by the hon. member for Transkeian Territories (Mr. Hughes). Mr. Speaker, after Sharpeville last year the hon. the Prime Minister appealed to us to be careful and circumspect in what we said in connection with these matters, lest it should stir up more trouble, if it were taken as support for what had happened. We have no desire whatever to stir up more trouble for South Africa. We appreciate the hon. the Prime Minister’s point of view, but while we do condemn the use of violence we cannot remain silent over the causes of these tragedies. Goodness knows there has been enough propaganda over these incidents which have been referred to right throughout the world and used against South Africa, even though never a word was spoken by us.
I shall confine my remarks to the riots at Langa and Sharpeville, but I would point out that these are only two of a whole series of similar outbursts that have taken place all over the country, and which form a very unhappy background to what is happening in the Union to-day. I may mention the riots at Cato Manor, Windhoek, Paarl, Harding and Warmbaths, as also several riots that have taken place in the Native reserves, in which the use of force was found necessary to restore law and order. We feel very troubled about this Bill. There is no doubt that a number of innocent people were killed and injured by police action during the course of the riots at Langa and Sharpeville, people whose interests should be protected. But this Bill will deprive them of the right to sue for compensation, and it will indemnify the State against having to pay the just and proper claims of those who were injured, and also the claims of the widows and orphans of those who were killed. At Langa many people were induced to attend the assembly by leaders of the Pan-African Congress, by false representations that the police were going to make an official announcement in regard to their grievances over the Pass Laws. It is clear from the evidence before the Commission that inquired into these events that many of the crowd did not hear the statutory warning given by the police calling upon them to disperse, and that the warning was thus ignored by the crowd. This disobedience resulted in baton charges and firing on the crowd by the police, which caused serious injury to a number of the Natives who were present. In all there were 28 gun-shot casualties, two of which proved fatal, and 23 baton or stick injuries.
Mr. Justice Diemont who held the inquiry into the Langa Riots, in an able summary of his conclusions, has given a very clear picture of what happened. The hon. member for Transkeian Territories has already quoted certain extracts from that report, but I wish to read the summary which appeared at the end of the report which sets out the whole of his conclusions very, very clearly. Before the second reading of this Bill is approved I think it is desirable that I should read the final summary, or extracts from the summary given by the learned Judge. I read from page 128, paragraph 25—
- (a) the commanding officer should have attempted to communicate the order to disperse to the chairman of the meeting or the organizers before using force.
- (b) three minutes warning that force will be used is an unreasonably short period of time to give 10,000 people to disperse—although in the circumstances the outcome may have been the same even if longer time had been allowed,
- (c) owing to the noise the loudspeaker was ineffective. The commanding officer should have realized this and should have repeated the warning more than three times and from different vantage points.
Then in paragraph 26 this is said—
- (a) they struck people indiscriminately who were running away,
- (b) they struck people on the ground,
- (c) they used unnecessary force in some cases, and in a number of cases struck people on the head in breach of the rule to strike on arms and legs.>
I think that those were the material points that were given. The Judge also says—
There were 28 gunshot casualties of which two were fatal. There were 23 baton or stick casualties—16 of these were head injuries. The use of tear gas was not practical.
On their way back to the police station a number of policemen fired from their vehicles; some of this shooting must be condemned as unjustified and unlawful.
Here, Mr. Speaker, we have the facts found by an experienced Judge of the Supreme Court, which are unassailable. The Government, I submit, should not be permitted to escape liability for injuries that were unnecessarily inflicted by the police upon innocent men and women in the circumstances set out in the conclusions drawn by the Judge.
The hon. member for Transkeian Territories has referred to the appointment of a departmental committee to inquire into the claims of people who have been injured. The appointment of this departmental committee consisting of officers of the Department of Justice, the Police and Native Affairs, under the chairmanship of the Government Attorney, to inquire into the claims of those victims, is a most unsatisfactory form of procedure. Such claimants should be allowed to proceed with their claims, as has already been pointed out, in the ordinary course of the land. The fact that this procedure was not laid down in earlier indemnity Bills is quite beside the point, as has already been pointed out by my hon. friend. Times have changed since those days and some rough and ready methods that were followed in the earlier days cannot be accepted as a criterion to-day. In any event, the matter is so serious from every point of view that it should not be entrusted to a departmental committee of government servants. They are no doubt very estimable gentlemen against whose integrity we cast no aspersions whatever, but in the eyes of the public they are open to the aspersion that as servants of the Government they are acting as judges in the cause of their employers. That is absolutely wrong. If the courts are to be excluded then surely an independent commission presided over by a Judge of the Supreme Court should be appointed, a man in whose impartiality the public will have implicit confidence.
With even greater force these remarks apply in the case of the riots at Sharpeville. Unfortunately the Judge who presided at that inquiry—no doubt quite correctly—interpreted the terms of reference to mean that he was precluded from making any recommendations and he did not furnish a summary of his conclusions as was done by the Judge who presided at Langa. The record of the Sharpeville inquiry—and I say it with respect—is a very unsatisfactory document. It consists of 218 pages of typewritten material which it is quite impossible to assimilate. Unfortunately the terms of reference were such that the Judges were unable to make recommendations, so nothing is said about the major questions that arise upon this Bill. I will read the terms of reference that were given in both cases—
“To inquire into and report upon the events in the Langa Location, District of Wynberg, Cape of Good Hope, on 21 March 1960.”
What was needed was a non-partisan inquiry into the underlying causes of these and other riots that have been a feature of South African affairs during recent times. Something should have been done to enable the Natives to place their grievances before this commission so that they may have a clear statement …
Order, order! That is not under discussion now.
Very well Sir, if you rule that I cannot deal with that commission I will leave it. I was merely submitting that this departmental committee that the Minister has referred to is very unsatisfactory and should have been superseded by a commission of inquiry of the type I have mentioned. I do want to say this, that this commission should have consisted not only of a Judge but should have included economists, sociologists and an experienced man on Native affairs. There are wrongs at the root of this grievous state of affairs, the remedying of which should be made a task that transcends politics.
The vast majority of the Native people are peace-loving and law-abiding, but the truth has to be faced that they are being alienated and turned into enemies. The Government has put this down to the usual rabble of agitators who are leading these people astray. But that is not the root cause. Behind it all there is a rankling grievance that all these respectable Natives feel under the harsh application of the Pass Laws and other irksome regulations that press heavily upon their lives.
Order, order! That is not under discussion
I submit Sir, that you should permit me to put the causes of these riots before the House. I want to indicate that the causes are a result of the regulations that press upon the people. However if you rule that I cannot do that I will obey your instructions. I will then proceed with another portion.
The Sharpeville clash, I say, was a shocking affair in which some 70 Natives were killed and 180 wounded by police action. Whatever the facts may be—and there is a great deal of confusion—it is an event that has done incalculable damage to our good name throughout the world. Large numbers of the crowd assembled at the scene of the riot had come there for various reasons. Many had been intimidated into joining in the demonstrations. Others had gone there because they expected the authorities to make a pronouncement. Still others went there out of curiosity; people, many of whom were innocent of any evil design against the police, but who nevertheless suffered serious injuries in the action which the police took to disperse the gathering. It is of course easy to blame the police for all that happened. We recognize that the police have a very difficult task to perform. I have no desire to cast any aspersions on the police. There is no doubt that they were placed in a position of serious danger, and that with the recollection of the murder of members of the force by Natives at Cato Manor and Harding fresh in their minds, there was cause for great apprehension and fear, with this immense crowd of Natives estimated at about 20,000 in number pressing down upon the police station. But there are circumstances which require further investigation by the court. It would be presumptuous on my part or on the part of anyone else who has read the records of proceedings at the inquiries to go into details, but there is evidence that the shooting started before the order to fire had been given by the commanding officer, and that many Natives were killed or wounded while they were running away.
Order! That is not relevant.
I am trying to indicate that these people should be allowed to sue, because many of them were shot down while they were running away, and my contention is that those people should not be precluded from bringing an action in the courts. I say that these circumstances require further investigation by the courts. I say that an arguable case can be made out before the courts as to whether or not the shooting was justified. If any individual case the killing or wounding could be justified, that should be urged on behalf of the State before a court. Now that the clouds are lowering upon South Africa, we have a right and a duty to demand that innocent people who may have suffered injury or damage should not be deprived of their right of action in the courts. The Government has claimed above all things that they offer justice to our non-Whites, and I say that this Bill proves, as nothing else can do, that this claim is an empty platitude.
We must look at this whole matter against the right background. The hon. member for East London (City) (Dr. D. L. Smit) quoted at length from the reports, also from the report on Langa. I want to tell him that we should at least look at the background of the matter and I think the background is clear from this short paragraph on page 14 of the report on Langa—
I suggest that we regard this legislation against the background as sketched in this report. [Interjections.] It is not a question of ignoring the rest. I simply want to sketch the background. The problem is that we are dealing here with incitement by agitators, in spite of the fact that the hon. member for East London (City) apparently wishes to deny that. Where we are dealing with the incitement of non-Whites by agitators, there will be occasions, and there have been occasions in the past, where riots take place. I admit that when firm action is taken on such occasions innocent persons may be affected. I also admit that the people who have to suppress those riots do not always act 100 per cent correctly, because after all they are human beings, and every human being, when he acts under stress, can make a mistake. But the Government is bearing in mind the very fact that people may suffer an injustice, that innocent people may be adversely affected on such occasions. That was why the Minister appointed this commission to investigate whether innocent persons had suffered because we know that the agitators do not merely incite but they intimidate as well. We also know how prone people are, when there are riots, to be present where they ought not to be, and if they are present at a place where they ought not to be, or where illegal acts are being committed and they get injured, although they were not participating they cannot place all the blame on the shoulders of the Government or the officers who have to cope with the situation. Because when people have to act under pressure it is not always possible to distinguish between the innocent and the guilty. The Government is quite prepared to see to it that people who are really innocent do not suffer and that was why the Government appointed the commission to go into all these matters.
As far as the hon. member for Transkeian Territories (Mr. Hughes) is concerned, he started off by expressing his dissatisfaction with the Minister because, according to him, the Minister actually took it amiss that the world’s reaction to the incident at Bulhoek was not the same as its reaction to Sharpeville and Langa. However, I do not think the hon. member was serious because I know he is an intelligent person, and I heard the Minister when he spoke and that was not what he said. Surely the hon. member heard the Minister say that he did not hold it against the world; the only thing the Minister did was to point out the peculiarity of the position, namely that, whereas in the case of Bulhoek there was hardly any outcry in the world, in the case of the minor incidents that have taken place, there was such an outcry in the world. The Minister does not hold it against the world that they did not raise a cry about Bulhoek, but he was referring to the outcry which they have raised to-day.
The hon. member went further and said that the indemnity laws of 1915 and 1940 were justified by the fact that there was a war on. The hon. member then said that it was true that the other two acts, those of 1914 and 1922 covered a peacetime period, but according to him, there were special circumstances why there had to be indemnity in those cases. I grant the hon. member that the circumstances which he mentioned did exist, but in that case the hon. member must grant that I am right when I say that the circumstances which existed last year were also far from normal. A state of emergency was declared last year, and when that is done, conditions are not normal. Nobody in his right mind would have regarded those conditions as normal; they were abnormal, and it is because of the circumstances in which those incidents took place that the Government is now seeking indemnity.
Nine months ago.
That is not the point. The point is that when these acts were committed, they were committed in abnormal circumstances, because all those things that any democratic and civilized country regard as holy were threatened by the aims of the P.A.C. and because of all the other movements aimed at inciting the non-Whites, that were directly responsible for all the trouble that we had to face up to. Those organizations constitute a threat to everything that we regard as holy, things that mean more than life to us. That being so, the circumstances under which those acts were committed are just as abnormal as the circumstances under which the acts dealt with by the laws to which the hon. member has referred, were committed. The hon. member said that officially we were not in a state of emergency to-day. That is true but the fact remains that the acts in respect of which the Government is seeking indemnity were committed when we were in a state of emergency. The fact that the Government is now held responsible, now that the emergency is past, is not relevant, what is relevant is the fact that there was a state of emergency when those acts were committed.
The hon. member also said that it was slightly dangerous because hon. members did not know when this Act would be promulgated but I think the hon. member can rest assured that this Act will be promulgated as soon as possible, because it is obvious that when legislation such as this is introduced in this House, it is done with an object and that it will be placed on the Statute Book as soon as possible and this Act will be promulgated as soon as humanly possible.
Why did you wait such a long time before you introduced it?
Hon. members have been keeping this House occupied for weeks on legislation with which they agree, and now they ask a question like that! The hon. member says he agrees that the police ought to be protected in respect of acts which were committed at the time, but that the Government should not. For the same reason that the police have to be protected, the Government must be protected in respect of acts committed by the police. Surely that is obvious. What is more the indemnity legislation which was passed in the past, not by this Government, did not exclude the State from indemnity. If the indemnity legislation of the past also included the Government, on what grounds should the Government be excluded to-day?
Circumstances were totally different.
In what earthly respect were they different?
It was martial law.
But when these incidents took place there was a state of emergency. True, these acts were committed over a year ago but since then similar acts have continuously been committed. What happened in Pondoland happened subsequently to Sharpeville and Langa. In other words these acts continued to be committed and the people had to act under continuous pressure, and that is why I ask why the Government should be excluded in this case whereas it was included in the other instance.
Like the hon. member for East London (City) (Dr. D. L. Smit) the hon. member also objected against the fact that innocent citizens would not be protected, but I think the Minister stated very clearly that the Government did not want a single innocent citizen to suffer and that their interests would be protected. The hon. member also said that he could not understand how the Minister could advance the argument that he did not want to protect innocent people because all the complainants had lodged their complaints through the same attorney. But that was not what the Minister said. The Minister mentioned the fact merely to indicate to the House in what direction the position which had given rise to those incidents, was developing. The Minister wanted to indicate how remarkable it was that practically all those people had agreed to go to the same attorney, an attorney with a reputation as indicated by the Minister. That also applies to his further argument in connection with Bishop Reeves, that those attorneys, with their reputation, were accompanied by a person such as Bishop Reeves with his reputation. The Minister mentioned those things not as an excuse or a reason not to protect the interests of those people, but to show what the circumstances were in the country and to show that all the people who were concerned in these riots were not as innocent as would appear on the face of it, but that they formed part of the pattern according to which they wanted to destroy those things that were holiest to us. I do not think the hon. member himself regards his argument that all building societies and all insurance companies act through the same firm of attorneys, as a valid argument because he knows himself that when building societies or companies take action, that has nothing to do with the whole pattern of things, and that the Minister mentioned those things for the very reason that he wanted to indicate the pattern to the House. I think the hon. member will admit that that is not a good argument. For that reason I give this legislation my wholehearted support.
This is a far-reaching measure, which falls within the category of what one might call extraordinary legislation, i.e. legislation which on the face of it interferes with the rights of citizens under the common law or under statutory law. There are precedents, as the Minister has quite rightly pointed out, both in South Africa and in the outside world for such legislation. The Minister referred to the situation in 1913 and the legislation of 1914 and 1922, and to the legislation in Great Britain. An Indemnity Bill necessarily relates to a situation of emergency during which normal laws are suspended. The old maxim has it that the safety of the State is the supreme law. It is a maxim which a government can invoke on occasion with justification, just as it is a maxim which can be misapplied to bolster up false claims to interfere with the liberty of the individual. It is not inevitable that an indemnity Act should be retrospective. Legislation indemnifying the State or its servants against claims for damages can be adopted by the legislature in advance, e.g. where war is declared and the Government and its servants must be protected against future Acts in the interests of the safety of the State and of public order. When, on the other hand, martial law is declared in a sudden state of emergency, the ordinary laws are for the time being suspended in connection with the measures adopted by the Government to cope with the situation. In such cases the indemnity follows the event. That was the case with the 1922 and the 1914 Indemnity Acts. There, as the hon. member for Transkeian Territories (Mr. Hughes) has pointed out, there was an abnormal state of affairs and an emergency arose in peacetime. Parliament was not in session and it became necessary, therefore, to preserve and maintain law and order by declaring martial law. When once martial law is declared, the normal courts of the land will not apply the rules governing individual conduct in respect of actions taken by the servants of the State in the fulfilment of orders given to them by their superiors for the purpose of maintaining law and order. This Bill, of course, is also a Bill which is introduced in peacetime and in respect of a peacetime emergency, and it seeks a two-fold indemnity. In the first place it seeks indemnity for the Government; and secondly, it seeks indemnity for the servants of the Government. Now it is also retrospective and while it is retrospective, as was pointed out by previous speakers, its provisions will apply retrospectively up to the date of the commencement of the Act itself.
That was also the case in 1922.
That may be so. I am pointing out the fact, however, that the provisions of this Bill will have application in respect of events which may take place between now, when we are discussing the second reading, and the time when the Bill receives the assent of the Upper House and is placed on the Statute Book. So its provisions cover a long period, from 21 March 1960, up to such time as it is promulgated. That being so, it seems to me that it is essential that this Bill’s drastic provisions be scrutinized by hon. members with the maximum of care in order to decide whether these inroads into the lives and liberties of the individual citizens can be justified. On the Minister’s own admission it is an inroad. If this Bill becomes law, the liberty of the individual to seek redress from the courts of the land will be taken away from those persons who claim that they have a right of action against the State or against its servants. [Interjections.] The hon. gentleman says only certain lawless individuals. That, of course, shows his distorted approach to a measure of this sort, and in any case it is not correct. It might affect the hon. member for Mossel Bay (Dr. van Nierop). He might be mistaken in the course of next week for an intimidator, and one dark night, carrying a brief case from this place, he might get a bang on the head. He would find it scant comfort to be told that his right to sue for damages is now taken away because he is regarded as not being a law-abiding person. [Interjection.] How can the Minister give a guarantee that the law-abiding person will not be affected when the provisions of the Bill deprive any person from approaching the courts to establish a right, to establish whether an injury has been done to his person and to prove that he is law-abiding? In those circumstances, in view of the far-reaching nature of the Bill, and despite the fact that our Statute Book contains precedents for this sort of legislation, there is a very heavy onus indeed resting on the Minister of Justice and on the Government to show that the Government is entitled to come to the House now, in the first place, to ask for legislation of this sort, and, secondly, to justify his waiting until this time to do so,
In attempting to deal with this question of the onus …
The public was informed some time ago that such legislation would be introduced.
I concede that, but that does not diminish what I contend is a heavy onus resting on the shoulders of the Minister as the custodian of the Department of Justice to show that such a measure is necessary. The onus is on the Minister. But in deciding whether the Minister has discharged the onus, its provisions against the background of the statututory state of emergency last year—and it is obviously necessary to view this Bill and I emphasize that—and not against the “freak history” of the past 30 or 40 years to which the Minister referred.
Let me pause for a moment to say a word or two about this freak of history to which the Minister referred. As I understood him, he said that it was a freak of history that while in the days when the shooting took place at Bulhoek or when there were riots in Johannesburg or elsewhere in this country, in 1913 or 1914, there were no headlines in the world news, now when a Sharpeville or a Langa takes place there are shouts of protest all over the world. The Minister says that is a freak of history. I put it to the Minister: What is the freak, and who is the freak? Is it not perhaps that the Minister, in his official capacity, is a freak in the light of contemporary history? Is it not that the Minister is a Rip van Winkle still sleeping while the rest of the world has awakened? The Minister talks as if we are still living in the days of 1913 or 1922. Let me remind the Minister that 30 years ago the world headlines would not have splashed the news of riots in Alabama, nor would they have elevated Little Rock to its present eminence in international news.
Business suspended at 6.30 p m. and resumed at 8.5 p.m.
When business was suspended I was dealing with the curious observation of the hon. the Minister about what he called the freak of history, and I was suggesting that the real question to-day was whether it was a freak. I posed that question to the hon. the Minister before the dinner adjournment. I pointed out that quite obviously 30 or 40 years ago there were not huge headlines all over the world about what might have happened in the deep South of the United States of America or other parts of the world.
But the facts were wrong.
I agree entirely with the hon. the Minister. But attitudes have changed. I think that the hon. the Minister has failed to adjust himself to the new circumstances. Once upon a time, Sir, there was no reaction in the outside world to slavery either in South Africa or other parts of the world.
But it was still wrong.
Of course it was wrong according to modern concepts. If anybody tried slavery at the present time he would see what would happen in the world outside. It seems to me that that observation of the hon. gentleman was rather curious. Might I remind the Minister that 13 years ago the South African Broadcasting Corporation did not take notice of what happened at Alabama or in Mississippi or in the deep South. The present time is the first time that they are broadcasting such events in the New World. Why? Is that a freak of history, Sir? Is it a freak of broadcasting? Or is it a freak of new broadcasting control? Or it is just Albert?
I admit it was a slightly frivolous observation, Sir. I say times have changed, and I want to ask seriously why we have this concentration of world opinion on South Africa.
Why do you talk with the voice of Russia?
Order! The hon. member must withdraw those words.
I withdraw them Sir.
It is obvious that I do not talk with the voice of Russia. I have never talked with the voice of Nazi Germany either.
Mr. Speaker, I had to withdraw it when I said that he spoke with the voice of Russia and now he is saying …
Order! The hon. member for Salt River (Mr. Lawrence) must withdraw that.
What must I withdraw, Sir? I said that I did not talk with the voice of Russia and that I had never spoken with the voice of Nazi Germany.
Order! The implication is the same and the hon. member must withdraw it.
Mr. Speaker, I am not prepared to withdraw that I never spoke with the voice of Nazi Germany. That I am not prepared to withdraw. Because I never have done so.
On a point of order, Sir, the hon. member for Karas (Mr. Von Moltke) is accusing the hon. member for Salt River of talking with the voice of Russia and that is a criminal offence according to our law, but according to our laws being a Nazi is not a crime. In fact that hon. member was a supporter of the Nazi’s. No offence was meant because that is not a criminal offence.
Order! That is not a point of order.
I should like to go on, Sir. I am dealing with an important Bill and I am trying to deal with it seriously. I should like to round off my comments on the hon. the Minister’s suggestion that it was a freak of history by saying that in my opinion the Minister and his Government have failed to adjust themselves to the contemporary position. I leave it at that.
If we are going to view this Bill against the background of the statutory emergency last year, and not against the background of the so-called freaks of history, it seems to me that the following questions are relevant. The first question is whether the incidents which occurred at Sharpeville and Langa, where shooting of Africans by the police took place, could have been avoided? Secondly: If they were avoidable, was the Government justified in introducing a banning Bill, the Unlawful Organizations Bill, last year, and in declaring a statutory state of emergency thereafter? The third question is not only a question to the hon. the Minister but also a question to this House, because hon. members have to decide in which way they will vote on the second reading. The third question which I pose to hon. members is this: If the Government was justified last year in declaring a statutory state of emergency, were all the actions taken by the Government, or by officers or members of the public service, or by the police and other forces, reasonable and necessary to “suppress internal disorder in the Union or to maintain and restore good order or public safety”? The quotation, Sir, is from a clause of this Bill. Before applying my own mind to that question—remember, Sir, that I have emphasized that the onus is upon the hon. the Minister to justify the need for submitting this Bill to the House—I want to say that I believe that, in general, a distinction should be drawn between the Government and those servants of the Government who were acting bona fide according to the letter of their instructions. There is no doubt in my mind that the latter category, that is to say, servants of the Government, whether they be in the Police Force, in the Defence Force, whether in other sectors of the Public Service, but those who were acting bona fide in accordance with the letter of their instructions given to them, should be protected and indemnified against actions instituted against them personally. I agree with that principle. It is the task of the Government to protect them because they were acting in the scope and in the course of their ordinary duties. But, in my opinion, there is no case to be made out for those, if there are any—and I hope the Minister will tell us if there are any —who stepped outside the four corners of their instructions and took the law into their own hands. That is the question. I cannot answer that question. I do not know whether there were any who stepped outside the four corners of their instructions and acted beyond the scope of the authority given to them by their superior officers. I am not asking the Minister to hold the individuals personally responsible. We say that the Government should be held responsible for any actions by persons who acted outside the scope of their authority. In the ordinary course of events the liability would be on those persons themselves. That is our common law. A public servant who acts beyond the scope of his authority and does something wrong is personally liable. But I appreciate.…
Why stress that? Under all indemnity acts public servants are exempted.
I am stressing it for that very reason Sir, for the very reason that because of the exigencies of the situation, because of the fact that the Minister and the Government declared a state of emergency, there were many persons in responsible positions and others in less responsible positions who carried out certain acts, some of which may have been beyond the scope of their authority. In the ordinary course of events, if there had not been a state of emergency, those persons would, in my view, have been held personally liable in the established courts of the land for their actions. I do not believe that because there was a state of emergency we should now place that responsibility on the shoulders of the individuals. But I do say that the onus rests on the hon. the Minister to show why the Government should not be held liable if any wrongful, unlawful or negligent acts were committed by Government servants. [Interjections.] I am trying to deal with a serious matter, Sir.
The question of personal responsibility is not in question. The only question that we are dealing with is whether the Government is responsible.
On the contrary the question of personal responsibility is very much in question. Exemption is given to persons in this Bill and I am prepared to give that exemption to persons in their personal capacity. Clause 1 of this Bill, however, goes much further than personal exemption—it gives exemption to the Government. I draw a clear-cut distinction between the liability and responsibility of the Government in regard to the state of emergency that was declared last year and what has happened since then, and the responsibility of those servants who acted under instructions, presumably lawful instructions, given to them by their superior officers who acted on the instructions of the Minister. I draw a clear-cut distinction between those two. I am prepared to give indemnity to the individual who is a servant of the State and who acted in conformity with instructions given to him. But the point I am debating at the moment is whether the hon. the Minister has made out a case for exemption to be given to the Government. On the first two questions which I have posed, namely, whether the incidents at Sharpeville and Langa were unavoidable and, if they were avoidable, why the Government took action, we have a certain amount of help, but not a very great deal of help, from the reports of the judicial commissions in respect of Sharpeville and Langa. The hon. member for Transkeian Territories (Mr. Hughes) and the hon. member for East London (City) (Dr. D. L. Smit) read quotations from the Langa report in particular. I associate myself with the remarks in that regard. I would have quoted those particular references had they not been made by my hon. friends. I am quite clear in my own mind, from the observations made by the learned Judge who presided over the Langa inquiry, that a situation arose at Langa in which, because of human fallibility, those in authority did not act in the best way to prevent disorder. We have to consider this particular Bill against the background of the incidents at Sharpeville and Langa. The evidence that was quoted by my two hon. friends showed there was much that was avoidable both at Sharpeville and at Langa. And if there was much that was avoidable, then it seems to me that a Bill of this sort should not have been necessary in peace time in the Union of South Africa. The provisions of this Bill give indemnity not merely in respect of what happened at Sharpeville and at Langa during the emergency, but also give indemnity in respect of whatever may happen in South Africa up to the time of the commencement of this Act. It goes very far indeed, Sir. It seems to me in the first instance, that the Minister has failed to discharge the onus that rests on him to justify the drastic steps that were taken last year for the maintenance of law and order. And, secondly, because he has failed in discharging that onus, he has failed to prove that an indemnity Bill of this sort is necessary. I want to go even further, Sir, and I want to say this to the hon. the Minister: After the events at Sharpeville and at Langa the hon. the Minister and the Government had an opportunity of taking action. I want to examine that possibility in the light of the provisions of this Bill. My contention is this, that if the Government had taken appropriate action in the first instance, as was urged by hon. members on this side of the House, a Bill of this sort would not have been necessary to-night. I am reminded tonight of a speech of the hon. the Minister of Lands. He spoke at Humansdorp and he said that the old chapter of South Africa closed at Sharpeville. I believe that when the hon. the Minister of Lands made that statement, that was the supreme moment for the Government to have placed a moratorium on many of those laws that were irksome and regarded as iniquitous by the population, particularly by the Africans. That was the supreme moment to appoint an independent commission to go into the basic causes of the unrest. That to my mind is the crux of the matter.
I was asked for a judicial commission.
The hon. the Prime Minister and the Minister were asked for a judicial commission to go into the basic causes which led to what happened at Sharpeville and Langa. I do not propose now to attempt to examine or argue the causes which led to those two incidents. It would be wrong for me to do so because, as has been pointed out, the Sharpeville commission did not come to any findings. The Langa commission, the Diemont commission, did come to certain findings which are relevant. But as a lawyer I am not prepared to give a finding on facts in respect of which I have not heard the evidence. What I say is that the onus is on the Government to show that Langa and Sharpeville could not have been prevented. My own view is that they could have been prevented if the Government had realized in time the need to get down to basic causes and to consult with the non-White section of the population, to understand their problems, particularly those of the Africans who are disturbed and harassed by the pass laws and influx control and other similar laws …
With whom do you want to consult?
I think that if the Government had done that they could have prevented Sharpeville and Langa. It is not for me to make a finding on that matter because I have not got the evidence before me. What I do want to ask the Minister this evening is this: Has the Government not yet learnt a lesson from the past? Is this Bill a forerunner of similar ad hoc legislation in the future? Are further indemnity measures to be placed on the Statute Book? Are we to have a permanent position in the future Republic of South Africa in which we will have to rely upon indemnities, and upon the partial mobilization of our citizen force, and upon banning of people and meetings throughout the country, in order to maintain law and order? I ask to-night in all seriousness: are we to have a head-on clash between two seemingly irresistible forces, namely, the determination of the non-Whites to abolish race discrimination and the Prime Minister’s granite-rock policy of apartheid? I would have thought that the Prime Minister and the Government had learnt their lesson last year, but they obviously have not, and obviously some hon. members on that side of the House have not. We have the present blanket-banning legislation, a most extraordinary piece of legislation which the Minister of Justice has introduced and which prevents any gathering of more than two or three persons except on the authority of a magistrate.
This is the last speech, Sir, that I will make in a second reading debate in the Parliament of the Union of South Africa.
That will be the last “hear, hear” too.
You will permit me I hope, Sir, on this occasion to speak about the causes which have rendered a Bill of this nature necessary. I believe that this is a sorry prelude to the introduction of the Republic. I believe that this is a sorry augury for the future of the Republic and the future of Afrikanerdom. The Government is composed mostly of Afrikaners. I regard myself as an Afrikaner in the ordinary sense of the word. I would do all that I could, Sir, to help to save this country for the things that we believe in.
Save me from my friends.
I would say to the hon. the Minister this evening that if we are to save South Africa, now that we are about to embark upon this new historic era in the history of this country, cannot we now consider the possibility of consultating, of understanding? Cannot we follow a course other than the course of force, the course of saracens, the course of bannings? However well-meaning the Minister may be, he is following a course that cannot but make him anathema to those people … [Time limit.] May I move my amendment, Sir.
- (a) were illegal at the time they were committed, or
- (b) were the result of negligence or avoid able actions.”
On a point of order, Sir, the hon. member’s time expired before he moved his amendment, is his amendment in order in those circumstances?
Order! I gave the hon. member for Salt River permission to move his amendment.
I wish to second the amendment moved so eloquently by the hon. member for Salt River (Mr. Lawrence). Before I advance my arguments for seconding this amendment I wish to reply to one or two points that were made by the hon. the Minister when he introduced this Bill and also to points made by the hon. member for Smithfield (Mr. J. J. Fouché Jr.). The hon. the Minister was very put out by the fact that the world had not reacted to incidents in the past, incidents such as Bulhoek and other episodes in our history, the 1922 incident, as sharply as they reacted to the incidents which took place in March last year at Langa and Sharpeville. The hon. member for Salt River has rightly said that times have changed; the world is much more conscious to-day of colour problems and has obviously become conscious of injustices generally. I want to tell the hon. the Minister that in fact there was reaction to incidents that happened at that time. Perhaps we have forgotten about that. There was sharp reaction to incidents which in those days were as bad as the incidents which we experienced in this country last year. Has the hon. the Minister forgotten the words of Roy Campbell which echoed round the world and which were indeed severe condemnation at that time of what happened at Bulhoek. I would like to read the poem to the hon. the Minister to remind him. It is called “Holism”—
Sir, those words echoed round the world and indeed South Africa was very much condemned by the world. In the 1920’s in England there were condemnations of other actions similar to the actions which took place at Sharpeville and Langa. There were stirring speeches in the British House of Commons on the events in India. The hon. the Minister may have forgotten but in Britain to-day they still remember the events at Amritsar in India where fire was opened on a large crowd of Indians which resulted in the most tremendous public furore in that country and which indeed resulted in a famous speech by Winston Churchill in the British House of Commons, a speech in which he ended with these words—
I commend these words to the hon. the Minister. These were very sharp comments. This was the comment of Winston Churchill on the behaviour of the British army at Amritsar. As a result of that episode there was a complete re-organization in the British army in India and since that day there has never been opening of fire on civilians by troops in any part of the then Colonial Empire So there was sharp reaction and the hon. the Minister should not be so sensitive about the reaction of the world to the Sharpeville and Langa incidents.
The hon. the Minister also made an extraordinary point about the victims of Sharpeville all going to the same firm of attorneys, the two lawyers who had put in pleas on their behalf.
The same firm went to them.
“The same lawyers represented all of them” was what the Minister said, I think.
The lawyers went to them.
I shall deal with that in a moment. I do not agree with the hon. member for Transkeian Territories (Mr. Hughes) when he said that the Minister had advanced this as a reason for introducing the Bill. The Minister certainly introduced this discussion but where the relevance is I fail to understand. In point of fact it is very easy to know why all the people went to the same two attorneys. These happened to be the two attorneys who were originally briefed by Bishop Reeves to take evidence from people lying in the hospital at Barangwanath. It was quite obvious that those people knew of the attorneys who were going to represent them. Word gets round among people who are in a similar unfortunate position and that was why they went to those attorneys. To my mind, Sir, the only strange thing about these attorneys is that they were detained. The Minister has never explained to the world at large why he has detained the vast majority of people who were detained under the emergency regulations. It so happened that these two attorneys who went on an ordinary job, having been briefed by the Bishop of Johannesburg, were subsequently detained. They were never charged. They were never named. The only strange thing about the two attorneys that the hon. the Minister has introduced into the House to-night is the fact that these two people were in fact detained.
I want to reply to one or two remarks made by the hon. member for Smithfield. He quoted a section from the report of the judicial commission on Langa which stated that the bloodshed which ensued on 21 March was the result of a meeting which had been called during the preceding few weeks and which had been fermented by agitators and intimidators. It may very well be that if crowds had not gathered together at Langa, at Sharpeville, at Evaton, at Vanderbijlpark, etc., there would not have been any bloodshed. I am quite prepared to concede that. But what I am not prepared to concede is that these were necessarily illegal demonstrations. These people have no other way of demonstrating. They have no other way of protesting. They have no trade unions through which they can voice their legitimate grievances on wages and conditions of work. They have no political representatives in this House to whom they can voice their genuine grievances. There is no consultative machinery in this country through which the Government can learn, as the hon. member for Salt River quite rightly pointed out, the genuine grievances that do exist. Therefore, I am quite prepared to concede that had there not been gatherings at Langa and Sharpeville on 21 March of last year, there may very well not have been bloodshed. These people gathered together to demonstrate.
Are you justifying Sharpeville.
I will never justify Sharpeville, Sir; I am the last person in this House to justify Sharpeville. I am going to go on to condemn Sharpeville very strongly. What I do say is that the fact that people gathered together should not in itself be sufficient ground for the episodes that subsequently took place at Langa and at Sharpeville. Sir, if one reads the evidence that was brought before the judicial commissions of inquiry, both at Langa and Sharpeville, it becomes manifestly clear, particularly as far as Sharpeville is concerned, that there was no intent to attack the police.
How do you know?
I am referring to the judicial inquiry, and to what Judge Wessels found. If the hon. member wants the reference, I have got it here. Judge Wessels found that as his basic finding, and he said that if this was incorrect, then everything else he had to say in his report was also incorrect, and would be based on incorrect premises. He starts off with the basic finding “that there was no intent to attack the police” Although Judge Wessels did not go as far as did Judge Diemont in the Langa inquiry, because he interpreted his terms of reference much more narrowly and said that he did not interpret the terms of reference as making it necessary for him to cast reflections on the guilt or innocence of the people concerned, of the police or of the officer in charge, he nevertheless made certain firm statements in his report which I shall quote in a few minutes.
I wish to support the amendment moved by the hon. member for Salt River. The first reason is the one obvious reason which he himself has stated, and that is that what might have been a justifiable measure in 1922 (the Indemnity Bill of 1922 and the one in 1914) to deal with a particular emergency situation as a result of Martial Law, is to-day to be treated in a very different light, for the reason that we are moving here into a permanent state of emergency in South Africa. Since 21 March 1960, this country has been in a state of semi-emergency that we have known over the past 15 months, and unfortunately there seems to be no optimistic reason whatever to believe that we are going to move out of this state of semi-emergency. Now the 1922 Act, Sir, was an Act passed in respect of an isolated incident in our history, but, as I say, to-day we seem to be moving into a permanent state of emergency, and nobody can guarantee that there will not be a continuation of the events we have known in this country over the past 15 months. The reason is clear: That no changes have been made, and, as the hon. member for Salt River has pointed out, we have learned no lesson from Sharpeville and Langa, none whatever! We have learned no lesson and we are making no attempt whatever to investigate and get right the genuine grievances of the people concerned. I say that the idea of indemnity which may well turn into a permanent indemnity, should not be in the minds of the Government, nor in the minds of the Government’s servants in the near future, and therefore I am against passing this measure. I believe that to have this idea of indemnity in the mind of the Government or of the Government’s servants, may very well lead to actions which are perhaps even more reckless and uncontrolled than the actions that we have known in the past.
The only grievance now seems to be a national convention.
I want to tell the hon. the Minister that he can do a great deal worse than holding a national convention; he can do a great deal worse than getting the people in this country together to discuss our difficulties instead of using force and more force, Saracens and more Saracens, call-ups and more call-ups, more men under arms, R17,000,000 spent on defence. Does the hon. the Minister really think that that is going to solve our difficulties? He knows perfectly well that it is not so.
Don’t you want a safety valve?
The hon. member for Transkeian Territories (Mr. Hughes) made a very valid point when he pointed out that we do not know exactly when this Act is going to be promulgated. I admit, as the hon. member for Smithfield said, that it won’t be in the very distant future. It will probably be after the recess. But there are events which are anticipated, unhappily, in the meantime, and nobody knows what is going to happen. I want to point out to the hon. the Minister who used the Indemnity Act of 1922 as a comparison, that the Indemnity Act of 1922 was in force for two months only, because Martial Law was declared just two months before the Indemnity Bill was passed, and as soon as the Indemnity Bill became law, then of course only that particular period was covered. But the Bill which we are being asked to pass today will be of at least 15 months duration, and nobody knows what is going to happen in the near future, and certainly all the indications are that we are moving into a state of semi-permanent emergency in South Africa.
Because no changes have been made, no changes in policy, no alleviation of restrictions, no loosening of the screw, nothing at all. If anything, conditions have been made more difficult.
The other reason why I feel this Bill should be opposed, is that I think that so much took place in South Africa during the immediate period following Sharpeville and during the emergency period that was not only, even in terms of the commission’s findings, illegal and unlawful, but avoidable, so that we should think very hard indeed before granting any such blanket indemnity as asked for. I must remind this House, however distasteful it is, of some of the incidents which took place from the 21 March, last year, until the present time. We know of the raids that took place in the townships, we know of unbridled action that took place during that time, we were inundated with complaints from people who had been raided, who had been beaten up; citizens of Cape Town themselves witnessed with their own eyes the actions of the police against what the hon. the Minister then termed “agitators and intimidators”. We had ordinary people of the Cape Town public phoning us up and complaining bitterly of the unbridled scenes which they have had to witness …
The Black Sash!
May be the Black Sash too. And why not the Black Sash, may I ask? They have become the conscience of South Africa, and I want to remind the hon. the Minister too of statements made in the Commissions’ reports, the actual statements which were made in evidence and which were accepted by the Judges. I am going to refer particularly to the report on Sharpeville. Other hon. members have referred to the report on Langa. I want to remind the House of some of the evidence which was led before that commission and which I believe should lead us to think twice before we grant a blanket indemnity. [Interjections.]
Order! I now appeal to hon. members again to help me to maintain order. If they do not heed my appeal, I will have to take action.
Before I go on to the subject of Sharpeville, I want to say that the condemnation which I am going to utter now, is not directed so much at the inexperienced young policemen who were sent to deal with that situation, but at the Government. That is why I don’t believe the Government should be exempted from responsibility in this regard —I think it is shocking that young policemen, inexperienced nervous young men, understandably nervous, confronted with a very difficult situation, should have been sent to deal with emergency situations like that. And although the situation has probably been rectified in the meantime. I believe that the training given to the Police Force at the time in dealing with crowd control was very lax indeed. At the time I asked two questions in Parliament, and my questions referred to control and crowd control and training in methods of crowd control, because I thought they were extremely relevant at the time. I asked the hon. the Minister a question on 1 April, nine days after the Sharpeville episode, which the hon. the Minister answered on 5 April last year. I asked him—
The Minister answered “Yes” and then enumerated ten different methods of crowd control instructions which were given, and I want to read them to the House because they are extremely interesting—
- (a) To exercise self-control, patience, courtesy and humanity;
- (b) to endeavour by verbal persuasion and warning over loudspeakers to get crowds to disperse;
- (c) formation of cordons by coupling of hands;
- (d) water hoses;
- (e) batons and baton charges;
- (f) application of Criminal Procedure Act, Riotous Assemblies Act, and municipal regulations in regard to control of crowds;
- (g) tear gas;
- (h) rifle butts;
- (i) fixed bayonets;
- (j) firearms.
I have no doubt whatever that the information which the hon. the Minister gave in the House of Parliament, was information that was given to him at that time. But the fact of the matter is, as the evidence which was led before the commission proved quite conclusively, that the information was not accurate in several respects First of all, as far as the first question is concerned, one can pretty well dispose of practically every method of crowd control which was supposed to have been used at Sharpeville ranging from (a) to (i), and the second question which involved the use of loudspeakers and warnings to the crowd to disperse, as far as Sharpeville was concerned, can certainly also be disposed of. At Langa there is no doubt that attempts were made; at Sharpeville, as the evidence led before Justice Wessels clearly indicates, one officer made an attempt to address different parts of the crowd, but at no stage was any proper order given to the crowd to disperse before the use of firearms was resorted to. In other words, measures that should have been resorted to before firearms were used, were in fact not utilized.
What about Unessa?
This has nothing to do with Unessa. I am quoting from Judge Wessel’s report, and I don’t think that he has anything to do with Unessa either. There are some instances where I believe the contention of the hon. member for Salt River is irrefutable, and that is that there were obvious signs of negligence and that actions were taken during the emergency period, and at Sharpeville particularly, which could have been avoided had more experienced people been sent to deal with the situation. There are instances for instance where police Standing Orders were clearly disregarded. Indeed, the whole spirtit of the general instructions underlying the police Standing Orders, was ignored. Paragraph (1) says this—
This is reinforced by other Acts, by Section 7 (1) of the Riotous Assemblies Act, which states that “an order to disperse and a warning that force will be used must be given three times before force may be used At Sharpeville, as I mentioned earlier, the crowd was never ordered formally to disperse, nor was it warned that force would be used.” As I mentioned before, one police officer did make an attempt to address the crowd, but no actual order to disperse was ever given, nor was a proper attempt made ever to contact leaders of the crowd, nor, most important of all, were methods less likely to cause serious bodily injury or death first used. So all the other things which are detailed, such as water hoses, baton charges, and so on, rifle butts, fixed bayonets, none of these things were used before the opening up of fire took place at Sharpeville. Again at Langa there was a baton charge before the police opened fire. The commission report mentions that the officer in charge at Sharpeville appears to have been under the erroneous impression that such measures were first attempted, but in fact the proper examination of the facts shows that five hours before some attempt was made to disperse the crowd by means of tear gas.
Have you not got one kind word for the police?
You are going to get quite a lot of kind words. But the kind words are unimportant. The question is whether this is right or wrong, whether the commission’s findings are correct or not, whether what I am saying is right or wrong. That is all really that is at issue, and I am trying to be fair-minded as possible.
What happened at Cato Manor?
I am quoting mainly from this report, and I presume there is no imputation that the Judge was not as fairminded as possible. For instance, the point is made that one of the officers in charge indeed did a very sterling job by preventing greater bloodshed. This was the man, Sir, who actually walked around among his own troops telling them to stay calm, and when he was cross-examined by the Judge, he said the reason was that he realized that if his men had lost their heads at that particular instance, “it would have been frightful”. Those were his very words. He said that he would not ever have contemplated giving an order to fire into that crowd because “They were packed like fish in a tin and the massacre would have been horrible. What would have ensued would have been frightful”. That man did a fine job of work. He was an experienced officer and he managed to control his men. What I am trying to say is that if more action of that kind had been taken, the bloodshed and what happened at Langa and Sharpeville particularly could have been avoided.
And the Black man is never to blame!
If the Black man is to blame, I will be perfectly prepared to admit it.
Won’t hon. members ever admit that the White man can be to blame in this country? That there is some right on the part of the Black man? That there are occasions when a White man acts badly, acts rashly and recklessly?
Are you reflecting on the Judge?
Most significant of all was the finding of Judge Wessels that no order to shoot had been given by any senior officer. No order to shoot was given at Sharpeville. Now Standing Order No. 4, Sir, lays down that whenever members of the force, acting under orders, shall receive directions to fire, they must not upon any account do so except by regular word of command from the senior officer, or other senior member of the force present, and no senior officer gave the order to shoot, and in fact no senior officer fired a shot, no senior officer himself opened fire. In fact, Sir, it is significant, and here are some more kind words for the hon. the Minister, it is significant that all of them a few seconds after the shooting had started did their utmost to stop the firing. They rushed around, calling on their men to stop firing. But it was too late. There was too much noise, their orders were not heard and the men were using automatic weapons which, as Lt.-Col. Pienaar said, it is impossible to stop the firing with the precision of a push-button. So once the frightful thing had started, it was virtually impossible to stop it for several seconds. Now estimates vary, according to the Judge. They vary from four to five seconds after the order to stop shooting was given, although nobody heard it at the time, to anything up to 20 seconds and according to some evidence it was even longer, and it was during that time that over 700 rounds of ammunition were fired and that 69 people were killed and 180 people were wounded. I say that things could have been avoided at Sharpeville if the coolness displayed by Captain Coetzee for instance, the man who went around amongst his own people, controlling them, had been displayed by other officers in charge at that time.
Were you there?
No I was not there, but I am deducing from the Judge’s report. It is true, and I want immediately to say so, that under certain circumstances in an emergency, Standing Orders lay down that the members of the force are entitled to use their arms in their own discretion and without orders from a superior officer. That is in an emergency situation, and that is, for instance, if their stations or barracks are attacked, to defend themselves and others from death or serious injury, and it is equally true to say, Sir, that Judge Wessels says in his report that it is an accepted fact that the men who fired judged their lives to be in danger. Nobody is disputing that, nobody is disputing that the young men who were at Sharpeville that day judged their lives to be in danger. But what I say is that men who are inexperienced, who are young, who are untrained in crowd control, are not the men to send to cope with a situation like this where their judgment may not be good. But that they judged in good faith nobody can argue, but the fact is that they were not in a position to judge, that they did not have the experience nor the training, and they were in no position to judge. Because, as I say, the basic finding of this commission was that there was no evidence of any common intent on the part of the crowd to attack the police. No evidence of common intent on the part of the crowd to attack the police! [Interjections.] The fact is that no senior officer gave the order to shoot. The senior officers who are experienced men did not deem it necessary to give the order to shoot. That in itself bears out the findings of the Judge. And indeed, Lt.-Col. Pienaar himself said that had he been armed, he would not have shot. He said “Had I been armed, I would not have shot”. He said “I would have waited”. Colonel Pienaar, who was in charge of the station immediately before the shooting took place, said “Had I been armed, I would not have shot”. He continued “I would have waited for a more wholesale attack” In other words, as far as he was concerned, he would have waited.
So there was an attack?
Nobody knows whether there would have been a more wholesale attack or not, and I am not saying that in certain circumstances it may not have been necessary to fire. But I am saying that in the circumstances as judged by the senior officers, judged by Lt.-Col. Pienaar, and as judged by Mr. Justice Wessels himself, there was in fact no common intent to attack. I want to emphasize again, and this is where the Government’s culpability comes in, that under no circumstances whatsoever should inexperienced young men be sent to deal with an emergency situation. Only your best and well-trained men should ever be sent along in such a situation.
There are other points I could mention from the commission’s report, and also the question that Standing Orders had obviously been disregarded in other respects in this emergency situation, i.e. the fact that no shot must be fired after the necessity for firing ceases to exist. As I mentioned earlier, the officers had difficulty in getting this across to their men, because in the tremendous emotional impact it was impossible to get the men to stop firing. [Interjections.]
Order! The hon. member for Somerset East (Mr. Vosloo). I have warned members several times to discontinue these interjections.
Do the Rules of the House permit a speech like that to go out into the world?
Did the Sharpeville Report go out into the world?
The hon. Minister must remember that there is no secret about this. The reports have been published and indeed all the evidence was led at the Sharpeville inquiry and was published in the newspapers. It is the hon. the Minister who has revived these happenings by bringing this Bill before the House. [Interjections.]
Sir, I am being intimidated by an hon. member making certain signs.
The hon. the Minister has revived all this by coming with this Bill to Parliament to-day, and we would be failing in our duty if we did not give our full reasons for opposing this measure.
And you represent nobody!
I want only to emphasize on this score the danger of sending inexperienced men to deal with such a situation and of arming them with automatic weapons. And finally, I want to say that it is indeed tragic that the final warning which is issued in police Standing Orders, not issued by me or by agitators, or issued even by Bishop Reeves, was not heeded and that is “when in doubt, do not fire” That is the final line in the Standing Orders of the South African Police.
Now I want to come to the appointment of the commission which the hon. the Minister mentioned. He said he was asked to appoint a commission. That is correct. We did ask him for that. Of course we asked for far wider terms of reference to be given to those commissions. We asked that they should cover the inquiry in a much wider form. That was not done. But I want to say at once, Sir, that the commission although extremely valuable in many respects because it brought to light so many of the facts about which we would otherwise have been ignorant, nevertheless was no substitute for a proper inquiry into responsibility. And I say that because of the very way in which Judge Wessels interpreted his terms of reference. He said that he did not consider that it was within his terms of reference to place responsibility on individuals for their actions at Sharpeville. Therefore, Sir, this commission did not substitute for a proper inquiry into responsibility, and my contention is, which is the contention of the hon. member for Salt River, that proper courts of law are the only way in which responsibility and liability arising out of such responsibility can be properly investigated. That is where the damages resulting from actions that were taken during an emergency situation should be properly examined.
Now the Government, as the hon. the Minister has mentioned is giving ex gratia compensation to persons who suffered at Langa and Sharpeville and at other townships on 21 March 1960, and as far as one can see the compensation given is on generous lines. One is very grateful for that. But that is not the point. The rights of a citizen to go to the courts should he not consider the compensation adequate are being curtailed by this Bill, and that is what we object to. If the compensation is adequate, well and good, but if individuals consider it not adequate, they should have the right to go to the courts and to plead their cases.
They want to substitute rights for privileges.
It is substituting privileges for rights, and this is of course a tendency which we have been witnessing more and more over the years as far as the Government is concerned. Rights are removed, Sir, and then permits are given instead. That is not what we want to condone in this House, and that is why we are against this Bill.
I want to say finally that I was shocked to hear the hon. the Minister say that no compensation was going to be granted to persons who had been wrongfully arrested or detained during the emergency period.
Who decides whether it is “allegedly” or not, since these people were never charged and were never before the courts? It is impossible for anybody to judge under those circumstances whether they were allegedly wrongfully arrested, or in fact wrongfully arrested.
They have not been proved guilty.
They have not been proved guilty. No charges have been laid against them, and therefore we say that these people should be given the right to claim compensation, and maybe the hon. the Minister can then prove his case that in fact people were not wrongfully arrested. But I want to point out that just as grave losses were suffered by victims at Sharpeville and other places, physical losses and financial losses, in the case of the detained persons considerable financial losses were suffered by many of those people, loss of earning power, loss of employment, together with the stigma of being in gaol—all these things are, we believe, things which could be compensated by court of law if it is found in fact that these people had legitimate claims against the Government. For this reason and the other reasons which I have mentioned, I wish to support the amendment moved by the hon. member for Salt River.
In the first place I want to reply to certain aspects of the speech of the hon. member for Houghton (Mrs. Suzman) and as an introduction I just want to make the very clear submission that the Government in its defence of this Indemnity Bill will not allow the stigma to be attached to it that it is defending violence, as the hon. member has suggested on more than one occasion. If ever there was a nation and a Government which seen historically are deeply aware of the fact that violence and unnecessary bloodshed do not offer any lasting solution of political problems, it is we. For that reason my basic premise is that our object is not to shed blood, to elicit violence, or to condone such violence when it is used unnecessarily. But at the end of my speech I shall come back to the deeper implications and the aspect that there is sometimes a moral duty which is of even greater value than peace and which one must carry out even through the use of violence.
As regards the hon. member for Houghton, I just want to deal with two aspects of her speech, namely that at a later stage she dealt with the Sharpeville report in considerable detail but at the outset—and I shall link this to the Sharpeville report—she remarked that she and her party—and her fellow members also gave this statement their approval—approved of the fact that Natives congregated in large numbers as they did in March 1960 because this was supposedly their only method of protest. She has expressly approved of that behaviour and has recommended that the Bantu should be organized to foregather in protesting multitudes …
Oh yes, she did, and the hon. member for Zululand (Mr. R. A. F. Swart) affirmed that by way of an interjection. I admit that the hon. member for Salt River (Mr. Lawrence) has made a speech of a different calibre, but the Progressive Party through the hon. members for Houghton and Zululand have associated themselves with the concept that it is a legal and praiseworthy form of protest on the part of the Bantu for them to congregate at such meetings in conflict with the law. Before dealing with the case which the hon. member has submitted, I just want to give her this reply: When she who has studied the Sharpeville report, makes such a statement, does she not realize that she is provoking bloodshed and fatal incidents? Because what is the overall trend of the Sharpeville report? That a definite finding is not made, that there was also no definite intention to attack and murder on the part of the organized Bantu, and that there was no intention on the part of the organized police to shoot, but that this unruly congregation of Bantu created a position which resulted in the first unfortunate shots being fired and which not only caused infinite human suffering but tremendous damage to the country as a whole. In the light of those facts, is it not a deplorable action on the part of someone who has in fact studied this very report to say anything or to do anything which may encourage the congregation of Bantu for the supposed purpose of airing their grievances? That is all I want to say in that regard.
But such a biased version has been given of the Sharpeville incidents that I want to refer to one or two other aspects. In the first place it has been suggested that the Judge has found that there was no aggressive intent. That is quite correct. The Judge has found that there was no common purpose to attack. That of course does not exclude the possibility that there were very aggressive acts on the part of individuals. But I now want to discuss one or two aspects of the Judge’s findings. In the first place the telephone lines to the police station were cut. Para. 89 of the report reads as follows—
I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether this sounds like peaceful behaviour? What atmosphere did this position create amongst the beleaquered small group of police? What preceded this fatal outburst? What does the Judge say in para. 107—
That is the night preceding the shooting—
There was violence and threats during the night, and the atmosphere of violence already existed hours before the police were encircled.
May I ask you a question? Does the hon. member consider that the crimes of a group constitute a reason to refuse lawful compensation to those who have not committed crimes?
I am so sorry that I have given the hon. member an opportunity to put a question and that he has not succeeded in putting a sensible question. At the moment I am replying to the hon. member for Houghton’s one-sided version of the incidents at Sharpeville. I shall discuss the principles of the indemnity legislation later. I refer to para. 108 …
But you must read all of it. You are not reading all of it. Why do you not read 107?
Mr. Speaker, at the moment I am speaking and not hon. members who are interrupting me. I read para. 108—
This is once again a most significant finding as regards the general atmosphere. Then we have the collection of stones which is discussed in paras. 113 and 115. Thus the report continues until we come to the stoning which is discussed in para. 117—
There is the evidence of a certain person who was on his way to work in the morning, and then the report continues—
Mr. Speaker, I am merely mentioning these points to make it clear to the House in reply to the one-sided version of the hon. member for Houghton, that there was an aggressive atmosphere and that a small group of police were encircled by many thousands in this aggressive atmosphere. Then, as the hon. Judge found, someone fired without an order being given. But the hon. Judge did not find that the fear of that person could not be justified in terms of the police regulations. There is no finding on that point. I say that the hon. member has given an unfair version of these incidents.
What was her motive in giving this unfair version? She wants to support an argument that the police should not be encouraged by means of indemnity legislation possibly to shoot again in the future. She has argued that the state should not be encouraged by way of this Indemnity Bill to send the police without certain training into such situations where they may fire again in the future. I want to conclude by in fact submitting that we should pass this Bill in order to give the police and the state the required moral support. But before dealing with that aspect, I just want to make three remarks regarding the speech by the hon. member for East London (City) (Dr. D. L. Smit).
The hon. member has really made a speech to-night which he cannot justify in every respect and which was an unfair speech. Early in his speech the hon. member stated specifically: “There is no doubt that a number of innocent persons were killed and injured at Sharpeville and Langa.” The hon. member could quote a finding in the case of Langa to substantiate his attitude. But in the Sharpeville report there is no positive finding justifying that submission.
Why is the Minister paying ex gratia compensation?
I shall deal with the granting of ex gratia payments later. The hon. member for East London (City) then went further and concluded his speech with this far-reaching allegation. He says that this Government and this state claim that the state wishes to treat the Bantu justly but that that is a hollow claim in the light of this Bill. Mr. Speaker, is it not a far-reaching and deplorable allegation to claim in discussing an Indemnity Bill for which considerable justification exists even on the basis of the arguments of the United and Progressive Parties, that the Government’s claim that it wishes to treat the Bantu justly is turned into a hollow claim because an Indemnity Bill is being adopted in connection with this position. I want to go further. The hon. member for East London (City) has seen fit to read para. 26 of the Langa report containing the key findings of that report, in which it is found that after the warning had been given to the effect that the large crowd should disperse, a baton charge was carried out in which persons were unjustifiably assaulted. He is quite correct. In that respect he has substantiated his submission that people were unlawfully assaulted. He then left it at that. But what is said in paras. 27 and 28 which deal with the atmosphere which prevailed during the Langa incidents as a whole? Dealing with the developments after this baton charge, para. 27 says—
This hon. member is so clever with his interjections, but it never strikes him that a non-White does not have the right to carry firearms. The fact that he has firearms in his possession is in itself proof of his criminal and malicious intentions. One should not use such foolish arguments when one makes an interjection. I turn to para. 28—
I am mentioning these points because the hon. member for East London (City) chose in the light of the Langa incidents …
I read that paragraph.
… to argue that to pass an Indemnity Bill against the background of that position shows that no value can be attached to the Government’s statement that it wishes to treat the Bantu justly. Mr. Speaker, my submission is that the position which has given rise to this indemnity legislation one which we have unfortunately had before in South Africa’s history where there was a violent struggle between the State and elements which opposed the authority of the State and that the use of violence was justifiable.
This brings me to the first main point which I want to submit in connection with the Bill itself, namely that the martial law precedents provided by our earlier indemnity legislation represent entirely valid precedents for this Bill: In 1914 in respect of the 1913 strike; and 1922 in respect of the preceding strike. At that time martial law was the only available and customary emergency method which the Executive could use to meet such a situation. And to use the idiom of that time martial law was declared. The fact that martial law was not declared in this instance does not mean that the situation did not justify the use of martial law, but in the meantime milder methods have been evolved in order to replace martial law. There was indisputably a state of emergency, a position in which the State had to uphold its authority against violent attacks and consequently the precedents which had been established in the past are valid. As the hon. member for Salt River has conceded, it is the paramount duty of the State to preserve the security of the State itself and the steps which were taken were necessary. In any case it has not been disputed during the debate that it was necessary to preserve the security of the State and the United Party as such gave their general support to those steps last year. They can consequently not fall back on the argument that those steps were unnecessary. I cannot speak for the Progressives because I cannot remember what attitude they adopted.
We then come to the fact that both the hon. member for Transkeian Territories (Mr. Hughes) and the hon. member for Salt River have adopted the attitude that they are quite prepared to support an Indemnity Bill which indemnifies the police officers and other persons concerned in their personal capacities. But they are not prepared to indemnify the State. I now just want to put this very simple question: How can the State act otherwise than through the medium of those officials? Are these officials not precisely the people who take such decisions at the particular stage on behalf of the State; and if one finds that the position is such that one can morally justify granting indemnity to the individual who was the agent of the State, what logic is there then in withholding that indemnity from the State itself?
But they are not responsible for the policy of the State.
That is quite another matter. The hon. member now admits that they want to withhold this indemnity because they want to penalize the policy of the State, because they want to fall back on their underlying argument which they submitted at the outset. They said that another overall policy should have been followed, and then these conflicts would not have taken place at all. I leave that point at that, now that the hon. member has conceded it.
The next point I want to make in connection with this Bill is that we are not granting an absolute indemnity. It is true that under sub-section (3) the onus is placed on the claimant, but if the claimant can prove that the person who caused the damage did not act with intent to prevent or suppress internal disorder, etc., then he can still claim compensation. I submit that if damage was caused by the shooting which it is alleged in the Langa report took place while the police vehicles were already on their way back, there may be a case for saying that that action was not taken in the process of suppressing local disorders or for any of the other purposes mentioned. This is not an absolute indemnity.
Nor does it cover mala fides.
No, it is not covered. This legislation is not granting an absolute and unconditional indemnity. That is another justification for this legislation. Another and a very important aspect which has not been considered at all hitherto is the position which would arise if this Indemnity Bill was not adopted. What would we then find? We would have a protracted series of civil cases being dealt with by one group of attorneys which creates the inevitable suspicion that they are handling these cases not merely for the personal advantage of the claimant, but also for the political advantage which a certain ideological group hopes to derive from those cases. The personal advantage of the claimant is an incidental matter, and becomes less certain as they become grouped together in taking action which primarily has ideological objects.
But, Mr. Speaker, there would be a series of cases and Sharpeville and Langa would be re-discussed in every case, and the bitterness would be reported in every instance and broadcast to the outside world. I now ask: Is that in South Africa’s interests? Is it in the interests of South Africa, seeing that our country suffered a financial shock as a result of the initial incidents, to have this repetition? Old members will remember the bitter aftermath of the 1914 rebellion when the Government supporters who suffered as a result of the actions of the rebels instituted their claims against individual rebels. The Government of course did not grant indemnity, to the rebels, but only to the Government troops. We had a whole series of, let us call them, rebellion compensation cases. For how long did those cases incense feelings? Is it not in the public interest that we should settle these claims by way of departmental action as is now being done, and which even the Progressives concede is a generous arrangement? Mr. Speaker, I say that this constitutes justification for this legislation.
But before I conclude, I do want to ask briefly that the hon. the Minister should give consideration to the duration of this legislation. This indemnity applies until the date of commencement of this Bill, and this may create the impression that it is considered that there may be difficulties on 31 May. Seeing that we believe that there will not be such difficulties and seeing that we wish to avoid such difficulties, can we not contribute towards a clearer expression of that belief by considering limiting the indemnity granted by this Bill to a certain date—let us say the date on which the debate commenced or some other date? This is an amendment which the hon. the Minister can consider and can insert here or in the Other Place.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I just want to conclude by a general justification of this legislation. This is what the hon. member for Salt River also discussed in general in a very sensible speech. He discussed the question of whether there was adequate justification for granting the Government this indemnity, and his conclusion was that there was not. Mr. Speaker, my conclusion is that there very definitely is. Why must we now give the Government this indemnity? Because it will have an enormous moral significance to the Government and to the men who must preserve the security of the State, namely the police and if necessary, the Defence Force, it is desirable that the Government, the police and the Defence Force should know that the people wish to grant them every possible protection when they take action to preserve the security of the State. Because Mr. Speaker—it is here that hon. members are in error—we are not enaged in a early twentieth century liberal struggle to-day. We are engaged in a struggle in South Africa in which on the one hand communist tactics are being used against the State. We have here an inter-action between Communism and Black nationalism. Communism is using Black nationalism and then the nationalist in turn is using the communist. But the overall world phenomenon of unofficial wars, of the utilization of internal forces which are incited and which hit and run whenever they get the opportunity, is what we are experiencing in South Africa today. This is not the normal development of a liberal concept. To the extent that it is not communist, we must seek the basic cause in Black nationalism which is also making itself felt in South Africa. I do not need to refer again to all the aggressive statements being made in Africa. For this reason it is necessary that a state and a Government must have the assurance that it has the full and unconditional support of the nation in preserving the security of the state and that we do not wish to with hold any assistance from them. We do not say this in a spirit of aggression and animosity towards South Africa’s Native population. We say to the non-Whites of South Africa: We extend our hand to you on a reasonable and Christian basis. We are prepared to give the Bantu their own areas at heavy cost to the White man and partnership (deelgenootskap) to the Coloureds in those areas we retain. We cannot discuss those aspects to-day, but I just want to emphasize that our resistance is not based on an attitude of blind opposition. Members opposite speak of consultation. We say that we are consulting. We shall do far more than consult. We shall give until it hurts us. But we tell the modern communist aggressive forces of disorder and riot, of hit and run, and we tell the modern, fashionable, brutual forces of African aggression which want to drive every White man and every non-Black out of Africa that there is an answer in South Africa, and that answer is worded in the language those forces are using against us. And the language those forces are using is that of violence.
For that reason I return to my basic premise, Mr. Speaker. While we deplore violence, while we as a small nation stand for peace and know that our existence here depends on peace, we also know that these communist and Black nationalist forces who oppose us do not speak the language of peace but that they speak the language of destruction; and that surrendering and giving way before these forces will mean an end worse than death itself. For that reason we want to tell the Government; for that reason we want to tell the police; and for that reason we want to tell every member of the Defence Force: We are pleased to give you an indemnity in respect of whatever you have had to do in the past; we know that you may have made mistakes in the heat of the moment, and we shall be fair to the other side and by administrative means we shall compensate the innocent victims. But in future, just as hon. members opposite wish to do the reverse by voting the Bill down, so the fact that we pass this Bill will serve to tell the Government that the nation will support it absolutely unconditionally and to the end in using every method which can possibly contribute to our continued existence in South Africa.
Mr. Speaker, commenting on the remarks of the hon. member who has just sat down, I think it would be sufficient to say that whether this indemnity is in regard to Bantu or not has nothing to do with the Bill at all. Nor are we here concerned with what the facts are on which claims against the State are to be based. What we are concerned with is legislation designed to give exemption to the State, regardless of whether the individual can establish that he suffered injury due to a wrongful act. I am rather surprised that the hon. member, who is himself a member of the legal profession, should try to justify the remarks of the hon. the Minister when he, in fact, tried to prejudice the case of claimants for the sole reason that a large number of them went to the same firm of attorneys. I am reminded of an action which took place not very long ago when certain nationalist senators took action against a newspaper in Johannesburg. Does the hon. the Minister deny that they all had one firm of attorneys to present their case to the court? Does the hon. the Minister feel that they were wrong in having one firm of attorneys to present their case to the court? I am surprised that the hon. member for Kempton Park should have allowed himself to deal with this matter as well.
And he is an attorney.
Presumed to be.
Order, order! How many hon. members are making speeches at the moment?
The hon. the Minister in introducing this Bill finds himself in the uncomfortable or hapless position of trying to face, at the same time, in two opposite directions. He poses here as the modern Janus. As the Minister charged with the administration of justice he has a duty to respect and uphold the principles of right and justice, but as the agent of the party caucus he comes forward with a Bill to deny to injured men and women access to the courts of the land in the ordinary way to seek redress for alleged wrongful actions.
Other members have indicated, and I want to repeat, that no one doubts and no one denies that Executive Government is under a duty to use all lawful means at its disposal to suppress disorder. And for the maintenance of law and order or for the suppression of disorder, all necessary steps may be taken, and including the use of military forces. The law on the subject is very clear and quite simple. I quote from Gardiner and Lansdown, that excellent treaties on our criminal law where, under the heading “Principles of Criminal Responsibility” it says this—
That statement of the law, Sir, is the same for the State as it is for the individual. It follows, therefore, that any act of violence done on behalf of the State is excused by the law if it is done reasonably as a necessary measure of defence of persons or property, or for the due maintenance of law and order. I say, therefore, no one denies to the State the right to maintain law and order by all reasonable means that may be necessary in the circumstances of the occasion. But that is not the issue so far as this Bill is concerned. The issue here is a different one. What is in dispute here is the question whether Executive Government, having done its duty in restoring law and order, is then justified in excluding the courts of law from inquiry into any alleged wrongful acts during the course of the suppression of disorder. That, of course, is the purpose of this indemnity Bill. It is to suspend the ordinary law of the land and to exclude the courts of law from carrying out judicial scrutiny in the ordinary way into alleged wrongful acts which may have caused loss or injury to any private individual. In other words the purpose of the Bill is to exclude the courts from carrying out judicial scrutiny as to whether any violence used against persons was a reasonable and necessary measure to suppress disorder or to maintain law and order.
The central theme of our system of justice is that the State is liable for the consequences of any wrongful acts of its officials or agents, in the same way as the ordinary citizen is liable for the consequences of his wrongful acts. A court is the proper place to test the rights of any private individual who seeks redress against the actions of the State, whether, in fact, those actions were well-intended or not. It is hardly possible to over-estimate the importance of the mechanism of justice. The principles of justice are eternal, whether this Government regards them as such or not. Any denial of justice by a ruling class to the rule is an outrage to the human sense of justice.
The hon. the Minister saw reason to talk about how the outside world viewed the situation at Sharpeville. May I remind him that, as I have now stated the position, that is the way in which this Bill will be viewed to-day by the outside world and by most international jurists.
As other hon. members have indicated, I too, am perfectly well aware that there are precedents on our Statute Book for indemnity measures of this kind. I also accept that the terms of this Bill follow closely on the terms of the earlier legislative measures. But in that connection I want to draw attention to the fact that there are two significant factors in regard to what happened previously and what is happening now. Firstly, those earlier indemnity measures were strenuously opposed by the Opposition in Parliament of that day.
That is not different, we are opposing this too.
No, I say that is a significant fact, not that it is different. General Hertzog described the first of such measures, which was Act 1 of 1914, in these terms. He said it was a “very bad precedent” Then he went on to say it was designed—
He added that it was designed “to indemnify any illegal act” and he spoke of “might becoming right”. And those are very pertinent remarks to-day.
Oppositions have always considered it their duty to oppose.
I am glad to hear from the hon. the Minister that we are doing our duty.
Is that the only reason why you opposed the war, because you considered it your duty?
Order, order! That is not relevant.
But it is true.
The second of these indemnity measures was Act No. 11 of 1915, and that one General Hertzog described as giving—
I wonder what language he would have used had he been here to-day? I say that the same comments can be used in this case as well, for history has a way in South Africa—and it is a disconcerting way—of repeating itself, as I will shortly try to indicate.
The second significant factor which I wish to mention is the protracted nature of the circumstances that gave rise to the introduction of those earlier indemnity measures, in contradistinction to the circumstances which prevail in the present case. Let me deal briefly with them. The 1914 legislation followed the general strike on the Rand, which went on for several weeks. Violence increased day by day. Business on the Rand virtually came to a standstill, and strike leaders claimed that they had brought the Government to its knees. Parliament was not in session whilst this trouble was in progress, and the Government suspended the ordinary laws of the land by proclaiming martial law. In 1915 the legislation followed on the 1914 rebellion which had lasted many months. South Africa was then in a state of war, and once again Parliament was not in session and the ordinary laws of the land were again suspended by the declaration of martial law.
The third Indemnity Act, No. 6 of 1922, was the outcome of a very serious labour revolt on the Rand. The hon. the Minister has given the number of casualties both on the Government side and those on the side of the strikers, and I need not mention them. But the state of revolt lasted longer than the 1914 general strike and a complete state of revolution and terrorism prevailed throughout most of the Reef area. The strikers did, in fact, bring the Government to its knees on that occasion as the results in the 1924 General Elections confirmed. I have said that history has a disconcerting habit of repeating itself in South Africa. Permit me, therefore, to quote a significant extract from the report of the Judicial Commission appointed in April 1922, to inquire into the revolt and the need for proclaiming martial law. That was the occasion when the strikers formed armed Commandos, and the form of intimidation used in those days was called “pulling out scabs”, The movement spread very rapidly throughout the Reef and there was hardly a town along the Reef that did not have its Commando. These Commandos were drilled regularly and they had an intelligence system and signal corps and in some Commandos the men were exercised in movements in the unhorsing of mounted men and in bombing exercises. I quote—
History has a disconcerting way of repeating itself. It has certainly gone full circle now.
There is no need for me to give details of the 1940 indemnity measure. At that time the country was again in a state of war and many members opposite opposed the passing of that indemnity measure very strenuously. It is obvious from this brief outline that the number and the nature of the claims against the State in all those previous cases where immunity was provided by legislation were very great and varied and covered a wide field of activity and of lawlessness. In the present case a totally different set of circumstances exist. The disorder and the state of disturbance was limited both in time and in locality. The shooting at Sharpeville lasted approximately 20 to 25 seconds, and at Langa it was even shorter. Claims for alleged wrongful action are therefore likely all to be based on the same cause of action and the number of such claims is limited. The Minister has given the number of cases and I need not repeat it. I come back again to this unwarranted and inopportune method of prejudicing the cases of the would-be litigants by the fact that they had all gone to one firm of attorneys. Of course there are decided advantages in having the same counsel in similar cases. I have indicated that the cause of action is likely to be the same in all these cases and there is a great advantage in centering all the litigation in the hands of the same counsel. In the case of Sharpeville and Langa, moreover, not only was Parliament in session but there was no suspension of the ordinary law. Those incidents took place on 21 March 1960, at which time there was no suspension of the ordinary law of the land. That only took place some eight days later. In fact, it took place ten days later and it was made retrospective for two days. So 29 March was the date on which the emergency commenced. Now, what happened during that state of emergency after 29 March is veiled, of course, to a very considerable degree. That state of emergency lasted until August 1960. But the significant aspect is that the emergency regulations proclaimed under the Public Safety Act of 1953 contained indemnity provisions in the regulations which are certainly as wide, if not wider, than the present Act. Those indemnity provisions were added by Proclamation No. 167 of 17 May 1960. Therefore what happened during that state of emergency is partially covered by this Bill. Any wrongful act which may have taken place in which injury was occasioned between 29 March and 17 May 1960, is apparently protected by this Bill. But in all other cases protection is conferred by the new form of built-in indemnity provision. No wonder that the Minister talks about: “Die land is nou al gewoon daaraan,” it is accustomed to indemnity laws. They are now being provided as part of the routine in legislation. The same situation took place in regard to the Transkeian Territories. History shows that there has been trouble in Pondoland for a considerable period, but a state of emergency was proclaimed there only on 30 November 1960. What happened prior to that is presumably covered by this measure. What happened after that date, took place in terms of the regulations themselves and is apparently covered by the proclamation. Again, in the case of those regulations, we have this new type of built-in indemnity provision in the law. I think the Minister should clarify the position in regard both to the state of emergency and these incidents in Pondoland.
We have made it perfectly clear on this side of the House that an indemnity can be justified to protect the official who has to act on the directions of the State and whose duty it is to preserve law and order. That, of course, includes all police, defence and other officers. There is every justification for protecting the officials referred to in paragraphs (c), (d) and (e) of Clause 1, who may have acted wrongfully under the common law in all the circumstances prevailing at the time. We know that in troublous times like that the police sometimes have to act in difficult circumstances and sometimes in dangerous circumstances and I say therefore that there is all justification for indemnifying them. But Parliament is under an obligation also to protect the rights of the individual. Parliament is completely justified in protecting the officials, but that is not the whole of its duty. It has an equal obligation to protect the rights of the individual who has suffered as the result of acts not covered by the law. I say therefore with emphasis that the State, i.e. the Executive Government, should not be protected under this Bill. In the circumstances which I have already outlined, there can be no justification for exonerating the State by legislation from the legal responsibilities which have evolved as the result of any unlawful action which may have been taken by officials. In saying that, I also wait to emphasize again that the circumstances prevailing on every occasion when Indemnity Acts were passed previously are not present here. The protection given in 1913, 1914, 1922 and 1939-40 in the circumstances I have outlined do not apply here. The legal issues with regard to Sharpeville and Langa are relatively clear and the number of claims is definitely restricted.
How can you say that?
If the action taken and the injury caused in these two cases was necessary in order to preserve law and order, the court will reject the claim for damages. There is no reason to doubt that.
Why justify it in those days when the principles are the same to-day?
I have said that the principles of justice are perfectly clear and the courts will see that if the injury done was necessary for the protection of life and the preservation of law and order that the claim for damages is rejected. But if the principles of justice are to prevail, no private individual must be debarred from his right to attempt to prove his action which gives rise to his claim for damages. The issue is a very simple one. It is simply a question of leaving it to the court. By all means place limitations on the time when action should be taken and by all means insist on security for costs being forthcoming to prevent the mechanism of justice being used recklessly, but preserve the legal right of the individual and do not tamper with the principles of justice. In other words, leave the courts open. It is necessary to know where the limitations are as far as this Bill is concerned.
That is an excellent doctrine, but no government has followed it in South Africa.
Of course they have!
I have indicated that there is no similarity between the previous cases and these cases. [Interjections.] The most similar case is the one quoted by the Minister himself, that of Bulhoek, where there was a sudden incident which lasted a very short time. There was however no indemnity measure in that case.
Nor ex gratia payments.
The principle is not whether they got compensation, but that the courts were left open. [Interjections.]
Order! The hon. member for Salt River (Mr. Lawrence) has already made three or four speeches now.
I am sorry, Sir, it is just due to enthusiasm.
I come back to the question of where the limits are in regard to this legislation. I indicated that it starts on 21 March and it will end—we do not know when, or what it covers. I have dealt with the difficulties of the emergency period and the difficulties in Pondoland, but how many other isolated instances are there which are covered by this Bill? It is true that there is some limitation, of good faith, and that it must be in respect of a certain category of matters, but of course they are so wide that to talk about restoring good order or to preserve life and property covers a multitude of matters. Moreover in the legislation there are two presumptions which completely reverse the onus of proof and therefore make it almost impossible for the individual to ascertain where he is to draw this line of protection which is being granted to the Government. Amongst the incidents that have come to one’s notice is the Warmbaths incident which took place during the weekend of 30 April 1961; that clearly seems to be a case that is covered by this Bill. Notwithstanding that this Bill was introduced long after that incident took place, it will be covered by the provisions of this Bill. Therefore I again ask how many other isolated instances there are in this period of 14 months which are now going to be covered as well and about which this House has no information at all. Therefore I would appeal to the hon. the Minister to give us clarity in regard to these matters.
I have not overlooked the possibility that some form of ex gratia compensation may be payable to some of the claimants who may be debarred under this Bill from seeking redress in the courts. I accept that the appointment of an ad hoc committee, a departmental committee, to examine the claims of injured persons and to make recommendations, has much merit in it, but such a form of investigation can never take the place of judicial scrutiny in a court of law, where justice is not only done but is seen to be done and where ex parte statements can be openly refuted and statements can be tested under cross-examination. Such an ad hoc departmental committee is subject to two other serious defects. Firstly, it is to make the Executive a Judge in its own cause and to negative the principle of an independent judicial inquiry; and secondly it leaves those who have suffered injury through the wrongful acts of the Executive at the mercy of the Executive, and that being so, they can expect no more than charity from the Executive power. I say the appointment of the committee might have some merit, but it can never be a substitute for the right of judicial inquiry and therefore I support the amendment moved by my colleague the hon. member for Transkeian Territories.
The Opposition’s contribution to this debate has had one salutary effect, namely that the camouflage and the sheep’s clothing which have been used for all these months have fallen away to-night. The two Opposition parties have found one another once again. It is quite clear that in their agitation against and their opposition to this Bill they have once again become united. There is no difference whatsoever between them. To-night they have become the mouthpiece and the champions par excellence of the non-White agitators and gangsters in this country.
That is not true.
Sir, if one throws a stone in a bush and one hears a dog howl, then one knows one has scored a hit. The Opposition are angry. They are opposing this Bill because they are angry because there will be no bloodshed during this and the following week. That is why they are opposing this measure. They are using Sharpeville to show that the state should not be indemnified, but that compensation should be paid; provision must be made for the payment of compensation to those who were injured at Sharpeville.
The courts will decide.
If those people were so innocent, what were they doing at Sharpeville? I want to ask the hon. member for South Coast (Mr. Mitchell). He knows the Bantu. He knows that when a large number of Bantu congregate, an inflammable atmosphere is immediately created. It does not matter for what reason they have congregated; whether it be a meeting or a wedding. I think that he has often seen how when the Bantu congregate at a wedding where they intend celebrating, nine times out of ten the two groups attack one another. They gather peacefully, but as soon as they are together, only a spark is needed before the assegaai speaks.
What exactly happened at Sharpeville? I want to lay the responsibility for the incidents at Sharpeville at the door of the United Party. What happened at Klipfontein, when three constables were murdered? Did they then talk about compensation? No, what did the hon. member for Green Point (Maj. van der Byl) do as Minister of Native Affairs when three constables were murdered at Klipfontein? Did he take any action? No, he went to Klipfontein and he greeted the murderers and he said “I come as your friend”.
That is a lie, and you know it.
It has been said repeatedly in this House. That is a lie and the hon. member knows it.
The hon. member may not say that he knows it is a lie.
I shall certainly withdraw that statement if you say I must do so, but it has been stated on four or five occasions in this House and the hon. member heard it. He knows full well that it has been denied, but he does not accept the word of an hon. member, and he repeats it, and he knows it is untrue.
Order! An hon. member is only obliged to accept the word of another hon. member for something that has been said in this House.
I have denied in this House that that is true.
On a point of order, is the hon. member for Vryheid (Mr. D. J. Potgieter) entitled to allege that an hon. member of this House has gone to a murderer, taken his hand and called him his friend?
Order! The hon. member must resume his seat. He cannot argue with the Chair.
On a point of order, the hon. member opposite has said that it is untrue and the hon. member knows it.
On a point of order: A serious reflection has been made on an hon. member of this House, namely that he is in the habit of shaking hands with murderers. Under those circumstances I think the hon. member is entitled to deny it.
Order! The hon. member has denied it and I hope that the hon. member has heard that.
Mr. Speaker, if it is not true, then the newspapers which support that hon. member and his party gave a distorted version of what happened, but I read in their newspapers that the hon. member went to Klipfontein on the next day and shook hands with the Natives and said: “I come as your friend; I come in peace,” after they had stoned three White constables. And what was the result? At Cato Manor they again murdered White constables, they murdered White constables at Bergville and they tried to encircle White constables at Sharpeville, and the final result, if they had not fired, would have been murder. I say that I hold them responsible. What would have happened if the Natives had overpowered the police at Sharpeville and had got hold of the ammunition and rifles? Hon. members opposite can be thankful that the police prevented the Natives murdering them and that the Natives learnt once and for all that they must obey the law of the land.
What does that have to do with the Bill?
I know that I am getting under their skin. They are always trying to create the impression that the Government wants to oppress the poor non-Whites, but I just want to tell them that we have no feelings of guilt towards the non-Whites. We can look back over the past. We can only look back with pride at what this Government has done for the non-Whites and we have no feelings of guilt whatsoever. I can give them the assurance that after all this has been done for the benefit of the non-Whites, after all that has been done for them, and after this Government has evinced a spirit of friendship towards them, if the non-Whites do not appreciate that and still want to break the laws of the land …
Then you will have to shoot.
Order! If that hon. member does not keep his peace, I shall ask him to leave the House. [Interjection.] Order!
It is the attitude of hon. members opposite which encouraged the Bantu to hold these protest meetings which eventually resulted in the death of Whites, and they must not continually claim that the Government wants to oppress the Bantu. It is untrue.
Order! The hon. member must come back to the Bill.
This Government is not acting as hon. members opposite acted when they were in power. What did they do? They declared martial law.
On a point of order, are you going to allow the hon. member to discuss our Native policy?
That is not a point of order and the hon. member as a Whip should know it.
What did they do in such cases? Did they pass indemnifying legislation or did they declare martial law? Whenever such a position arose, they declared martial law, and they ruled the country with an iron fist. This Government is not going as far as that. It is not declaring martial law. It is merely asking for indemnification, and seeing that they ruled the country with an iron fist under such circumstances what right do hon. members opposite have to criticize this Government when it takes less drastic action?
May I ask a question?
No, you have wasted enough of my time. When the hon. member for Johannesburg (North) (Mr. Plewman) spoke …
Answer his speech.
The hon. member for Durban (Point) (Mr. Raw) knows only one language, namely that of the bicycle chain and the cudgel, and I am not prepared to take any notice of him.
What about your supporters?
Order! Hon. members must now stop making interjections to and fro across the floor of the House and they must not be personal.
While the hon. member for Johannesburg (North) was speaking, I thought of a certain Mr. Solomon. What did he say when legislation was also introduced during the previous century under Sir Gordon Sprigg? It was similar legislation, and then Mr. Solomon said that it was high time that they called in the assistance and support of the non-White against the Afrikaner.
Order! The hon. member is now going too far. He must come back to the Bill.
I want to conclude. I just want to warn the United Party that the language which has been used to-night to criticize the Government and by which they have acted as the mouthpiece of the non-Whites cannot benefit South Africa; it can only result in increased pressure from abroad on South Africa, and they must please stop pulling the pillars down on South Africa like Samson.
If I wish to answer the hon. member who has just sat down, I will find it extremely difficult because he has not given his attention at all to the measure introduced by the Minister of Justice. That is very disappointing in itself, because the Minister, in introducing this measure, took pains to do some investigation into precedents which he said were sufficient to satisfy this House that he has full justification for introducing the measure in this form. Those precedents he made use of referred to incidents which happened in this country, and except for one other precedent which happened outside the country, he had no other evidence to offer this House as to what could justify the introduction of this measure in the circumstances existing and which he felt made it advisable to introduce this bill. Now I do not know whether the hon. the Minister was badly briefed, nor do I know whether perhaps insufficient information was put before him, nor am I aware that he consulted other constitutional writers such as Dicey or Halsbury’s Laws of England, which give a complete picture of the particular Indemnity Act to which the Minister referred, because if he had done so he would have found in the preamble to the Act the following statement, and this would have disclosed to the House the essence of the whole case put up by the Opposition to-night. The Act to which the Minister has referred is the Indemnity Act of 1920, 10 and 11 George V 1948. That he will find in Halsbury’s Statutes of England, Second Edition, Vol. 26, issued in 1951.
At 10.25 p.m. the business under consideration was interrupted by Mr. Speaker in accordance with Standing Order No. 26 (1), and the debate was adjourned until 26 May.
The House adjourned at