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The 1908-10 Campaign Against Incorporation Into South Africa (Part 7)

JEFF RAMSAY
We left off where a number of British backbench and opposition MPs took up the Basotho-Batswana-Swazi cause following Joseph Gerrans’ success in getting the views of the Dikgosi Bathoen, Linchwe and Sebele, in particular, prominently covered in the British press, as well as delivered to Westminster and the Colonial Office.

Prominent among the MPs who took up their cause was the pioneer Scottish Labour leader Keir Hardie, who first raised the issue of the Protectorates’ future during Parliament question time when he asked (reportedly to Ministerial cheers) the Colonial Office Undersecretary, Colonel Seely.

(Hardie:) “...whether in the concurrence of all parties in the measure native opinion in the Protectorates has been taken into account, whether in the event of the time coming when it is proposed to transfer the Protectorates from the Crown to the new Parliament the House of Commons will be allowed to discuss the matter before it becomes finally binding?”

(Seely:) “as to the natives, we have taken every step we possibly could to ascertain what their wishes are. With regard to the second point, which is akin to it, as to the transfer of the Protectorates, I think I made it plain in my statement that the schedule to the Bill is permissive, that it arranges the broad principle in regard to native rights and immunities on which such a transfer shall be affect, if and when that transfer is desired by South Africa as a whole and is assented to by the Crown.”

(Hardie:) “Including the natives?”

(Seely:) “Certainly when I say South Africa as a whole I mean South Africa as a whole.”

In his response Seely had sidestepped the question of whether the Commons would have the opportunity for discussion prior to any change in the status of the Protectorates. But two weeks later, during the formal Commons’ debate on the South Africa Act, he, in response to further opposition queries, confirmed his government’s commitment to allow the house to express its opinion before any transfer.

 In what subsequently proved to be a symbolically important promise, he went on to say that “the wishes of the natives in the territories will be most carefully considered before any transfer takes place.”

On May 31, 1910 the Union South Africa came into formal existence. This event coincided with the forwarding of three new petitions to “our Great Chief, Edward VII” from Bathoen, Khama III and Sebele, that once more laid out their case for the preservation of the 1895 status quo.

The appearance of these appeals brought to a close the Batswana campaign to prevent their initial inclusion in the Union of South Africa, as well as the beginning of the much longer campaign to preserve their status outside

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the powerful settler ruled Dominion now established along their borders.

 

Postscript – The Formation Of The ANC

 Two years after the Union was formed, some 60 delegates gathered in Bloemfontein to start a new regional all-African organisation.     Conference organiser, Pixley ka Seme, stressed that the new grouping should serve as a “united voice”, not only for blacks living in the Union, but also for Africans in the neighbouring Protectorates.

He concluded by moving  that “the delegates and representatives of the great native houses from every part of South Africa here assembled should form and  establish the South African Native National Congress.”

A number of delegates then seconded this motion, including Mokgalagadi Moisakgomo, representing Kgosi Seepapitso II of the Bangwaketse. All the delegates voted to form the group, which was renamed the African National Congress (ANC) in 1923.

The 1912 formation of the ANC can be seen as a direct product of the coalescing of the organisations that had participated in the 1909 Coloured and Native Peoples’ Delegation. Many Batswana, including Bathoen, Sebele, and Segale Pilane, had prior to this also been active in supporting the growth of regional African politics.

Both Sebele and Bathoen had passed on before the Bloemfontein meeting. However, the conference recognised the efforts of Batswana royals by making Dikgosi Khama III, Linchwe, and Lekoko of the Barolong, “Honorary   Vice-Presidents”. Khama turned down his appointment, perhaps fearing that acceptance would draw the Bangwato closer to the affairs of the Union.

Linchwe also decided to remain personally aloof. Even so, he continued to be linked to the ANC, with his brother, Kgari Pilane, serving as the ANC treasurer. In 1921 Linchwe’s son, Isang Pilane, tried during a meeting of the Native Advisory Council to have the then ANC constitution adopted as the basis for internal self-government in Bechuanaland. This was rejected by the British.

Meanwhile, in 1913 Peter Sidzumo was succeeded as Bakwena Tribal Secretary by his brother, Richard, who also served as the Secretary-General of the ANC’s Bechuanaland and Griqualand West Provincial Congress.

The membership of this section, one of five regional divisions of the original movement, was then made up of Batswana from both sides of the border. In 1916 the British invoked Proclamation no. 15 of 1907 to expel Richard Sidzumo and a colleague named George Mashwe from the Protectorate.

The ties between Protectorate dikgosi and the ANC subsequently weakened in the mid-1920s when the movement’s fortunes temporarily declined.



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