The theory of Natural selection says that the strongest will survive and the weak will perish; adapt or die! So what about the colonized, the enslaved and the oppressed? One might argue that it all depends on which side of the pistol or whip you happen to be on, besides no empire was ever built on peace and non-violence right? Would America be the powerful nation that it is today if it hadn’t massacred millions of Native Americans including children and women? The truth is Columbus and his brethren had guns and the Native Americans bows and arrows; Columbus and his brethren were infinitely brutal and cunning in their pursuit for power and the Native Americans brave as they were, stood no chance.
Military power, deception and brutality are ultimately what all colonizers used to seize control of the land and its resources. Subsequently fear, religion and exclusion is used maintain control over the decedents of the colonized native. In South Africa (Azania) the process of colonization happened over a period of approximately 3 centuries with the Natives fighting back and winning many battles but ultimately losing the war.
This book was written by the eloquent and inspirational Sol Plaatje between 1913 and 1916. It is the story of Native life in South Africa when the colonizer landed the crippling blow that would render the native powerless. That was when the Union government of The British and Afrikaner(which excluded the native from voting) passed a law that essentially made “land grabbing” and forceful removal of Natives from their ancestral lands legal (The 1913 Land Act).
The author introduces himself by telling the story of his life and how he had come to being not only one of the documentarians of the effects of that cruel Act but also being one of the founding members of the current ruling party (ANC); who would travel the country and indeed the land of the colonizer to try garner support from the people, media, churches and ultimately from the British crown.
You will come across sobering stories of courage and hope but also of betrayal and cruelty. Plaatje details the state of the country after the law had been passed and ultimately leaves the reader with a feeling of hopefulness and empathy.
Just over 100 years later in a democratic South Africa the effects of the 1913 Land Act stick out like a sore thumb and the wrongs of that Act are yet to be righted. It goes without saying that this is a huge challenge for the citizens of this country. I only hope that those that benefited and still benefit from the then 1913 Land Act will do what is just give back the land or at least reimburse the disenfranchised , whether you agree with me or not – fact remains that power will never concede without demand.
Yet I have every bit of faith in South Africa and believe that the transition can be bloodless, but fact remains that “eventually something will have to give”.
This book is a necessary read especially for young South Africans of all cultural backgrounds, although the only drawback I found is the old-school English which might be a little challenging at times. I give it a 10/10 rating purely for its necessity.
2016 will be a century since “Native Life In South Africa” was published and I hope it will be read and reviewed a 100 years later.