History reveals that Britain (United Kingdom) has never protected indigenous or non-British interests – whether in Africa, Australia, India or New Zealand and so on. The British have always opposed and suppressed the interests of other nations, if their interests were in conflict with those of the “British Empire.” The 18 September 2014 Scotland Referendum was no exception. When the “Yes” campaign vote in Scotland for national independence gathered momentum, all the three main political parties in Britain began their own massive campaign of intimidation against the people of Scotland, especially a few days just before the referendum.
Labour Party leader Ed Miliband told the BBC that the “the pro-independence campaign had an ugly side.” Prime Minister David Cameron painted a bleak picture such as the use of the British pound by Scots people if they voted “Yes”. Queen Elizabeth II though claimed to be “neutral” and said she hoped that “the Scottish voters would think carefully”. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) also poked its nose into the affairs of the Scottish people. Its Deputy Spokesman W. Murray said, “A Yes vote would raise a number of important and complicated issues that would have to be negotiated.”
But what is clear is that the “Yes” vote by the Scottish people would have been a double edged sword if the United Kingdom tried to punish Scotland for its independence after their “Yes” vote. This would be due to the following reasons:
(a) The United Kingdom nuclear missiles are based in Scotland;
(b) UK would lose its royal regiment of Scotland;
(c) The U.K. would be a new country with less power and prestige internationally if Scotland voted “Yes” in the
(d) Wales and Northern Ireland might re-think their status within the powerless territorially reduced United Kingdom;
(e) The pro-republic sentiment in Australia and Canada to break ties with the English monarch would gain momentum;
(f) The British Commonwealth would sooner than later collapse;
(g) The United Kingdom U.N. Security Council would be insecure; and
(h) The Irish people did not suffer any currency problem when they dropped the British pound.
As expected, the United Kingdom encouraged the “No” vote in the Scotland Referendum to protect its own interests, not those of the people of Scotland. The September 2014 Scotland Referendum brings to mind how the United Kingdom then called “Great Britain” protected its national interests in Africa at the expense of the African people, especially in South Africa.
The United Kingdom protected its colonial interests by military power in Africa, using the most barbaric methods and intrigues. For instance, in Kenya the agents of the British government castrated the anti-colonial Kenyan fighters opposing colonialism. They called them “Mau Mau” and murdered hundreds of them and seized large parts of their fertile land.
They practised colonial brutality in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) sentencing to death the spiritual female leader of the Zimbabweans, Ambuye Nehanda and the Rev. John Chilebwe in Nyasaland (Malawi) for leading the anti colonial struggles in their own countries. They exterminated the indigenous people of Australia, New Zealand and Canada to protect British colonial interests. After many wars of national resistance against British colonialism led by African kings such as Hintsa, Cetshwayo, Moshoeshoe, Sekhukhune and Makhado, Britain through its guns over the spears of the African people seized the African country and handed it over to its colonial settlers.
Through the Union of South Africa Act 1909, a British Statute of the United Kingdom, on 20th September of that year, Britain gave legislative powers to its colonial settlers. Section 44 of that imperial law, among other things reads, “That the qualifications of a Member of the House of Assembly shall… be a British subject of European descent”. Within three years of this racist draconian law the colonial parliament with the connivance of the British government passed the colonial law allocating five million indigenous African people 7% of their own land called “Native Reserves”. This 7% of the African concentration camps became a reservoir of “cheap native labour” for the farms and mineral mines which were now owned by the colonial settlers and their “mother country” – the United Kingdom. The 93% of the African country and land and its riches was handed to the 349837 settlers. This is the peculiar concept of “British justice” that is still boasted of with much British national pride today.
Sooner than later, South Africa became a British colony to go by the title of “Dominion,” because it was not the custom of the English to rule “white people” as a colony. This was argued in imperial circles. It was advocated by people who are today self-appointed teachers of “human rights” and “democracy” in Africa.
In 1931, British colonial lawyers Gilbert Dold and C.P. Joubert argued that the Westminster Statute of 1931 had conferred “independence” and “sovereignty” on South Africa. These lawyers wrote, “The Statute of Westminster 1931 under the skilled statesmanship of General Hertzog, Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa…made rapid progress from its subordinate position to that of a free, independent and sovereign state within the British Commonwealth” (I .I. Lukashuk, HRC Vol.135 1972 page 237).
Section 2 and 3 of The Colonial Laws Validity Act 1865 by the British Parliament contained a “repugnance clause.” Is it not puzzling that despite this clause, both the Union of South Africa Act 1909 and the Native Land Act 1913 and the whole concept of “Dominion” were racist? This was long before Daniel F. Malan coined the word apartheid in South Africa in 1948.
In October 1930, Piet Grobler, a settler colonial Minister of Lands had already stated, “The supremacy of the white man’s rule in South Africa was essential if he was to retain his birthright or his civilisation.” How could a colonial settler utter such words without being rebuked by the United Kingdom Government?
Things were getting worse for Africans under the United Kingdom colonial government in South Africa. A.S. Harris in his article “A Plea For Even-Handed Justice”, wrote: “In none of the [British] colonies are there laws punishing white men for sexual intercourse with coloured women while the Statute Book is full of enactments punishing black men for intercourse with white women even with their consent.” Harris continued stating that “A case recorded recently of a Boer farmer being acquitted in the face of the strongest evidence of guilt of outraging a native girl, while a native boy…for mere solicitation of a white girl is shot dead and the act is applauded by the white community” (MHUDI: Sol T. Plaatje page 6, Heinemann Educational Books Ltd London 1982.
The British Government spoke with two tongues when it came to protecting African human rights in its South African Colony. Were its representatives displaying mere duplicity and hypocrisy stemming from racism?
On 29th February 1906, Winston Churchill speaking in the British Parliament said, “We are provided with a most sure foothold for intervention on behalf of natives. A self-governing colony is not entitled to say one day ‘Hands Off’, no dictation in our internal affairs.”
Colonel Seely, Under Secretary of State for Colonies declared, “No scheme of unity in South Africa to be satisfactory which does not provide some safeguard for the great native population. It would be immoral and wrong for this country to wash her hands of the whole native problem….she has a responsibility to the natives; they are under our direct control: they are under that shadowy vision of the ultimate imperial authority, the kingship, and more real vision of his Majesty the King to protect them in their ancient rights and privileges, and we must not fail them. I am happy to say that those who are meeting together in South Africa realise our obligation….the number of South Africans taking a reactionary view in the native question is rapidly diminishing, and they realise that we cannot stand by with our folded arms while a scheme is devised which may militate against the rights of and privileges and safety of the native races that dwell under the king’s sway” (Anti-Slavery Reporter February 1906).
Yet after the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) had led the Sharpeville Uprisings which resulted in the massacre of 84 Africans and 365 wounded throughout South Africa; the British government resisted the United Nations comprehensive economic sanctions on the South African apartheid colonial regime.
In the 1976 Soweto Uprising of 16 June, 176 people were killed and an estimated 700 wounded. They were mainly young people. The United Kingdom stood by its protection of its economic interests with its colonial settlers and opposed economic sanctions against apartheid South Africa. Yet as we speak, the United Kingdom has been crushing a developing country like Zimbabwe with economic sanctions and not long time ago invaded Saddam Hussein’s Iraq on false pretence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.
As a consequence of British colonialism in Azania (South Africa), even in so-called “New South Africa” or “rainbow nation,” the 2012 population census has revealed that an average African – headed household earns R60313 per year or R5051 a month. A white headed household earns 365,340 a year or R30, 427 per month. Educationally only 2% of the 41 million African population had university degrees.
Africans were colonised by Britain centuries ago. They are still allocated 13% of their own country. The African population is 79.2%. Their land dispossession is entrenched in Section 25 (7) of the “new rainbow nation” Constitution. This law is the new name for the Native Land Act 1913.
In today’s Lesotho in Southern Africa, Britain signed a treaty to protect the Basotho people against rampaging Boer colonial settlers called “Afrikaners.” They came largely from Holland and France. This British treaty is known as Sir George Napier Treaty of 1843. It was meant to protect the Basotho from rapacious colonial land grabbers. When however, the economic interests of the British coincided with those of the Boers, the British colonial government supplied guns to the Boers while making sure the Basotho got no arms or very little. Consequently, over 50% of the Basotho land is today part of economically white controlled South Africa.
“The outstanding theme of Lesotho’s economic history in the last hundred years is the transition from granary to labour reserve,” wrote Dr. Colin Murray. “In the middle period of the 19th century, the Basotho vigorously exported grain to other Africans and to white settlers on the highveld, and from 1870, to the burgeoning diamond camps.”
Dr. Murray concluded by stating that “In the 1970’s Lesotho is a net importer of grain and most rural households are primarily dependent for their livelihood on the earnings of migrant labourers employed in the mining and manufacturing industries of South Africa” (Time Is Longer Than The Rope by Edward Roux 16).
Writing about Lesotho in 1939, Edwin E. Smith observed that “A very large part of fertile area of Basutoland (Lesotho) as recognised by Sir George Napier in the [British] treaty of 1843 was now in the hands of white settlers [in the Orange Free State, parts of Eastern Cape and Gauteng]” (The Mabilles of Basutoland by Edwin W. Smith, Hodder and Sloughton 1939, pages 96-97).
In broad daylight and under the flag of the British Empire, colonial settlers grabbed “the whole of the agricultural part of Lesotho proper, leaving the mountains to the Basotho.” This is how I. Schapera puts it in The Bantu-Speaking Tribes Of South Africa, page 346 Maskew Miller Ltd 1966, edited by himself.
Of course, King Moshoeshoe of the Basotho Nation was not amused by this kind of “British protection. Writing to Sir George Grey, a British colonial governor in the Cape colony in South Africa, King Moshoeshoe declared, “I gave whites permission of living in my country… but they have never obtained any right to property to the soil from me, had I granted that, such a right should have been contrary to the law of the Basotho nation which allows no such alienation.” Deeply disappointed with the way the United Kingdom administered its “British justice” especially towards Black people, King Moshoeshoe proclaimed that “The white men seem to be bent on proving that in politics Christianity has no part….It may be you, Europeans do not steal cattle, but you still whole countries; and if you had your wish, you would send us to pasture our cattle in the clouds….Europeans are larger thieves…they are stealing black man’s land in the Cape [colony] to here [Orange Free state, land of the Basotho] and call it theirs” (Moshoeshoe Profile I by Ntsu Mokhehle, page 26 Khatiso Ea Lesotho 1976).
Britain has never protected non-British interests. It is no wonder that after 307 years, a sizeable number of the people of Scotland demanded their national independence. It is not surprising that the United Kingdom politicians intimidated the Scottish voters for a “No” vote. The “Yes” vote would have hurt the United Kingdom more than SCOTLAND if Britain decided to punish the Scots for winning the referendum for their national independence.
By Dr. Motsoko Pheko
The writer is author of several books including: APARTHEID: THE STORY OF A DISPOSSESSED PEOPLE and SOUTH AFRICA: BETRAYAL OF A COLONISED PEOPLE. During the liberation struggle in South Africa he represented the victims of apartheid and colonialism at the United Nations in New York and at the UN Commission On Human Rights in Geneva. He is a former Member of the South African Parliament.