Class and Colour in South Africa, 1850-1950 (African) by Harold Jack Simons, R.E. Simons

By Harold Jack Simons, R.E. Simons

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Passions ran higher in the crude mining camps of Kimberley and the Witwatersrand. Here white working men fought against great The Liberal Cape capitalist combines for rights. The struggle rarely crossed the colour line to unite workers of all races in a common front against the employing class. White workers usually chose to fight on their own, often under the banner of white supremacy. Racial discrimination, sponsored by governments, employers and white workers, divided the working class into antagonistic racial groups.

Indeed, he claimed, A 53 Class and Colour in South Africa r850-1950 workers were better off without a vote unless it was accompanied by the secret ballot. For, as they had learned at Kimberley before the the Cape introduced the ballot in 1894, employers exploited worker's vote under the open system. The National Union's leaders rejected a proposal to include a demand for secret voting in the franchise campaign, whereupon the labour delegates withdrew from the union. 6 Mine owners on the Rand, though arrogant, commanded less power than in the Cape where Rhodes, as prime minister, was able to promote legislation in which he, as managing director of De Beers and uncrowned king of Rhodesia, had a personal pecuniary interest.

Imvo made its first notable impact with a campaign against the Sprigg government's Parliamentary Registration Act of 1887, which disfranchised thousands of Africans in the eastern Cape. Rhodes, then in opposition and angling for the Afrikaner Bond's support, wanted to go the whole way. Africans, he argued, were a subject race and should have no vote at all, as in Natal. There could be no union of South Africa unless the Cape met its neighbours on the issue of African rights. Writing in Imvo's editorial columns, Jabavu claimed that the bill, in addition to being 'the severest blow' yet aimed at his people, would 'establish the ascendancy of the Dutch in the colony for ever' by disfranchising the English party's 'devoted allies'.

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