A Programme for Africa
of the non-violence programme of the Congress has brought to some of their (the
Negro race in the Union of South Africa—Ed.) leaders a fresh glimmer of hope,
and Rev. Tema was anxious to learn the secret of that success. "How can my
people make their Congress as successful as the Indian National Congress?" he
Congress," replied Gandhiji, "became successful for the simple reason that it
was inaugurated by the most selfless and cultured people that could be found in
that age. They made themselves the representatives of the people, and captured
their imagination by reason of service and self-sacrifice. They were from the
people and of the people." After describing in some detail the services and the
evolution of the Congress as a democratic organization, Gandhiji proceeded: "You
have not, as far as I am aware, a band of Africans who would be content to work
and live in impecuniosity. Among those who are educated there is not that
absolute selflessness. Again, while most of your leaders are Christians, the
vast mass of the Bantus and Zulus are not Christians. You have adopted European
dress and manners, and have as a result become strangers in the midst of your
own people. Politically, that is a disadvantage. It makes it difficult for you
to reach the heart of the masses. "You must not be afraid of being 'Bantuized'
or feel ashamed of carrying an assagai or of going about with only a tiny clout
round your loins. A Zulu or a Bantu is a well-built man and need not be ashamed
of showing his body. He need not dress like you. You must become Africans once
A Non-white United Front?
there has been some talk of forming an Indo-African united Non-white Front in
South Africa. "W7hat do you think about it," asked Rev. Tema. "It
will be a mistake," replied Gandhiji. "You will be pooling together not strength
but weakness. You will best help one another by each standing on his own legs.
The two cases are different. The Indians are a microscopic minority. They can
never be a 'menace' to the white population. You, on the other hand, are the
sons of the soil who are being robbed of your inheritance. You are bound to
resist that. Yours is a far bigger issue. It ought not to be mixed up with that
of the Indians. This does not preclude the establishment of the friendliest
relations between the two races. The Indians can co-operate with you in a number
of ways. They can help you by always acting on the square towards you. They may
not put themselves in opposition to your legitimate aspirations, or run you down
as 'savages' while exalting themselves as 'cultured' people, in order to secure
concessions for themselves at your expense."
"What sort of relations would you favour between these two races?"
"The closest possible. But while I have abolished all distinction between an
African and an Indian, that does not mean that I do not recognize the difference
between them. The different races of mankind are like different branches of a
tree — once we recognize the common parent stock from which we are sprung, we
realize the basic unity of the human family, and there is no room left for
enmities and unhealthy competition."
"Should we adopt violence or non-violence as a means for our deliverance?"
"Certainly, non-violence under all circumstances. But you must have a living
faith in it. Even when there is impenetrable darkness surrounding you, you must
not abandon hope. A person who believes in non-violence believes in a living
God. He cannot accept defeat. Therefore, my advice is non-violence all the time,
but non-violence of the brave, not of the coward."
example," continued Rev. Tema, "has shed so much influence upon us that we are
thinking whether it would not be possible for one or two of our young men, who,
we are hoping, will become leaders, to come to you for training."
quite a good and sound idea," replied Gandhiji.
"Do you think Christianity can bring salvation to Africa?"
"Christianity, as it is known and practised today, cannot bring salvation to
your people. It is my conviction that those who today call themselves Christians
do not know the true message of Jesus. I witnessed some of the horrors that were
perpetrated on the Zulus during the Zulu Rebellion. Because one man, Bambatta,
their chief, had refused to pay his tax, the whole race was made to suffer. I
was in charge of an ambulance corps. I shall never forget the lacerated backs of
Zulus who had received stripes and were brought to us for nursing because no
white nurse was prepared to look after them. And yet those who perpetrated all
those cruelties called themselves Christians. They were 'educated', better
dressed than the Zulus, but not their moral superiors."
had one more question to ask. "Whenever a leader comes up in our midst, he flops
down after a while. He either becomes ambitious after money or succumbs to the
drink habit or some other vice and is lost to us. How shall we remedy this?"
problem is not peculiar to you," replied Gandhiji. "Your leadership has proved
ineffectual because it was not sprung from the common people. If you belong to
the common people, live like them and think like them, they will make common
cause with you. If I were in your place, I would not ask a single African to
alter his costume and make himself peculiar. It does not add a single inch to
his moral stature."