Imperialism and South Africa
Effect on South Africa Imperialism was a movement that affected all parts of the world, beginning as early as the 19th century. Wealthy and established nations would annex and take control of underdeveloped nations and civilize them. This may sound good in theory, but Imperialism seemed to take advantage of the so-called “inferior” nations more than truly help them. The economic superpowers seized the land of the territories they thought to be subordinate, using it as trading depots, an outlet to gain natural resources, and to civilize the native people.
These three factors continued to be a main staple in society of South Africa even after imperialism ended and it was an independent nation. Racial segregation was extreme, and it all stemmed from imperialistic qualities left from those such as Ferry and Paton. Qualities assumed from imperialistic times had a lasting negative effect on South Africa, leading to racial segregation and a sense of inferiority in the black population during the second half of the 20th century.
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At the outset, imperialism has an extensive background that affected all parts of the world, including South Africa, the New Hebrides, Tunisia and Madagascar. The economic superpowers- England, France, the U. S. S. R, the United States, Portugal, and several other European nations- began to expand their empires. Areas of primitiveness that were rich in valuable natural resources were obvious and popular targets for expansion (Notes 10/25).
This soon became a race to see which countries could annex as much land as possible, and in the case of Africa, the competition soon became known as the “Scramble for Africa”. Yet why was this land so valuable? Ferry said it best when he talked about reasoning behind colonial expansion. The main goals behind imperialism were to open up trade routes, gain land and therefore the natural resources found there, and to civilize the subordinate people that populated the regions (Ferry 1-2).
Many countries would have been benefited by opening trade routes and hoped to get an edge on the competition. Having ports all around the world would create an economic boom for a country. Paton, a Scottish missionary sent to the New Hebrides, explained the desirable aspects of this incentive when he says, “Because the New Hebrides are already a British dependency in this sense – all its imports are from Sydney and Melbourne and British colonies, and all its exports are also to British colonies” (Paton 1).
These o-called subordinate lands were an important feature to expanding the trade market of the powerful European nations. Another important aspect of why Imperialism was so popular had to do with the valuable natural resources found in the annexed countries. The “Scramble for Africa” was ultimately a race to see what country could gain the most land, and therefore the most natural resources to help stimulate the economy. Ferry speaks of the immense amount of coal that could be found on Africa’s islands- coal which could be used to power their naval ships to offer the country protection (Ferry 2).
Paton also goes on to mention the vast agricultural benefits, “The islands on this group are generally very rich in soil and in tropical products so that if a possession of Great Britain, and if the labor traffic stopped so as to retain what remains of the native populations on them, they would soon, and for ages to come, become rich sources of tropical wealth to these colonies, as sugar cane is extensively cultivated on them by every native of the group, even in his heathen state…The islands also grow corn, cotton, coffee, arrowroot, and spices, etc. , and all tropical products could be largely produced on them (Paton 2).
Each of the overly-industrialized European nations wanted to reap the benefits of the agriculturally opulent countries. However, the most mutable aspect of Imperialism would be the “civilizing” of the native people. The Imperializing countries believed the native people to be a subordinate race in need of civilization. In the eyes of Ferry, the native people had no right to the land. He claimed that the land belonged to the French, as they were a superior race of people (Ferry 2). He exclaimed, “Gentlemen, we must speak more loudly and more honestly! We must say openly that indeed the higher races have a right over the lower races” (Ferry 1).
Ferry again went on to explain that it was the duty of the superior people to cultivate the lives of the natives. Paton and Great Britain also shared the same views on civilization as the French, but with more of a religious point of view. Missionaries were sent to spread Christianity, as Paton explains, “The islands of this group on which life and property are now comparatively safe, the 8,000 professed Christians on the group, and all the churches formed from among them are, by God’s blessing, the fruits of the labors of British missionaries, who, at great toil, expense, and loss of ife have translated, got printed, and taught the natives to read the Bible in part or in whole in nine different languages of this group” (Paton 2).
It seemed that all of the so-called superior countries agreed upon the fact that they saw the native people as subordinate beings. Together, these three factors of Imperialism shaped the future of South Africa in the second half of the 20th century. Although South Africa was fundamentally independent during this time period, there were irreversible changes made in the mentality of the South African citizens.
For instance, the white populous still saw South Africa as an outlet for natural resources. There was an immense amount of coal deposits in Apartheid, which were mined and exported. The spread of Christianity also remained a staple in South African culture, which was originally an effect of Imperialism. However, what proved to be the most outstanding attribute adopted from Imperial lifestyle was the inferiority of the black race to the whites. Apartheid, a predominantly white governed territory in South Africa, was plagued with severe racial segregation.
Even though Imperialism had ended and South Africa was now independent, blacks were still thought to be subservient to the white population. The blacks were paid less to work in jobs that were menial and sometimes hazardous, they were given a lesser education, were forced to live in areas of poor conditions, and were not allowed to hold any positions of power (Tutu 3). This inferiority could also be seen through Geyer’s writings about Apartheid, especially when he refers to the entire black South African population as Bantu, which shows the extent of the segregation.
Geyer even has the audacity to confront the issue of the native blacks holding no power in Apartheid by saying, We believe that, for a long time to come, political power will have to remain with the whites, also in the interest of our still very immature Bantu” (Geyer 2). Geyer continues to defend himself and the racial discrimination in Apartheid by referring to the old Imperial powers, such as Ferry and Paton, as reasoning for why it is acceptable.
Geyer relates Apartheid to Ferry and Paton when he says, “The only alternative is a policy of apartheid, the policy of separate development. The germ of this policy is inherent in almost all of our history, implanted there by the force of circumstances… Apartheid is a policy of self-preservation. We make no apology for possessing that very natural urge. But it is more than that. It is an attempt at self- preservation in a manner that will enable the Bantu to develop fully as a separate people” (Geyer 2).
Imperialistic values held by those such as Ferry and Paton translates to the independent territories of South Africa, with the blacks still being seen as an inferior race of people. Geyer refuses to see the native South African people as anything but inferior, and inhibits their development. In conclusion, the characteristics imperialism inflicted during the scramble for Africa had a lasting negative effect on the lives of the black population during the second half of the 20th century in South Africa.
Although by this time Imperialism had come to an end and South Africa was an independent nation, the blacks were still seen as an inferior race as seen during Imperialistic times. Many qualities of imperialism still held strong in South Africa, and it shaped South Africa into a racially segregated society, where blacks made less money, had lesser education, and were not allowed to hold positions of power. It goes to show how the radical opinions of old imperialistic leaders could still hold strong even decades later.