- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 22 Jan 1953, p. 169-178
- Aitken, Kate, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- South Africa as one of the world's hot spots for news and the speaker's determination to go there. People's fear that the uprisings in South Africa may lead to civil war, or to a continuance of the fight of the black against white. Preparation needed for such a journey. A description of the journey there on the BOAC Comet. The speaker provided a model of this jet plane. Highlights of the five landfalls during the trip. Some things to keep in mind about South Africa. The tax burden for 13-1/2 million people borne by 1-1/2 million. The shanty towns. Family occupations. The impossible task of feeding all the children in the shanty towns. The mines and the conditions under which the natives work. Population makeup in South Africa. Some comments on the future of South Africa. Dr. Malan and Smuts; the two strong men of South Africa and how they grew to hate one another; how they became enemies and what they are like. Johannesburg and Cape Town. The dark side to the coloured problem, with some examples and anecdotes. The problem of housing. South Africa as a beautiful country with unlimited problems. The magnificent work being done by the churches—Catholic, Protestant and Jewish. What must be done in South Africa.
- Date of Original
- 22 Jan 1953
- Language of Item
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- Full Text
- "BY JET TO JO'BURG"
An Address by KATE AITKEN Distinguished Radio Commentator
Thursday, January 22nd, 1953
CHAIRMAN: The President, Mr. John W. Griffin.
MR. GRIFFIN: Members and Guests of The Empire Club of Canada: 'With scripts in her fingers and wings on her toes she shall make news wherever she goes!' Kate Aitken makes 16 radio (and one television) broadcasts each week which leaves little doubt about the scripts in her fingers. As to the wings--since Christmas she has been in Yellowknife in the frozen wastes of the North West Territories and seen the magnificent rolling veldt of the Cape of of Good Hope. Not bad, grandma, not bad!
Canada's famous "Mrs. A." has had an extraordinary career since the day in 1923 when she began conducting cooking schools at the Canadian National Exhibition. In addition to many years spent as Women's Director of the C.N.E., she has served as an official of the Wartime Prices and Trade Board, as Women's Editor of the Montreal "Star", conducted European and Asiatic food surveys for the British Government and been Canadian delegate to numerous international conferences.
While she no longer conducts cooking schools "Mrs. A." still goes where the pot is boiling. In the wonderful land of South Africa, so sadly torn by racial strife since the political defeat of the great Smuts, she interviewed Prime Minister Malan just five days ago. Not content with this, Mrs. Aitken made a side trip to Nairobi and obtained valuable on-the-spot information about the native unrest in Kenya Colony. Ladies and Gentlementhe Woman of the Hour!
MRS. AITKEN: Thank you very much, Mr. Griffin, and good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.
When we come to a trip such as this to South Africa, the inevitable question I am asked by many of my friends is this, "How on earth can you hope to learn anything in the three days you will be there?" And that, I think would be the question in many of your minds.
The answer is this: South Africa is one of the world's hot spots for news. Many people fear that the uprisings in South Africa may lead to civil war--or to a continuance of the fight of the black against white. So it was with that thought in mind that I made up my mind three or four months before Christmas to go to South Africa, there to see for myself what was going on. Then all arrangements were made for flying to Cape Town and Johannesburg.
First of all, what preparation is needed for such a journey? Reservations are essential since the Comet jet planes are packed full every trip made to Jo'Burg and back again to London.
We have to investigate the climate. What kind of clothes do you need to take? It's June in January in South Africa so we buy cottons, summer shoes, shady hats and such like.
The background of the country? That knowledge is most essential if the best is to be gained from the journey. Follows the question of passports and innoculations. All of that which is the mechanical part of the journey has to be seen to. And on top of everything else are the inevitable appointments which must be made before we leave this country.
Now comes the business of getting to South Africa. It is easy enough from Toronto to Montreal. From Montreal overseas to London is now like an overnight milk run. We land at the airport of London, there pick up the Comet for overseas.
I could not leave the airport of London without referring to it in the kindest terms, because of all the airports to which I fly, the port of London is the one in which we receive the greatest amount of courtesy and consideration. I have never see anything like it. The Airport is going 24 hours a day with planes coming in and out every minute. Instead of the plane coming right to the airport centre, the buses run out to the planes. From the moment those gentle English voices say, "May I help you?" the way is smooth.
We landed at Sunday noon and took off very shortly after recording two broadcasts. Many of you ask me, "Are your broadcasts ever recorded?" No--unless we are in flight. So landing in London on Sunday we recorded our broadcast and got it to Canada for Monday. The BBC technicians came out to London airport with their sound truck and we did the broadcasts on the spot. The TCA plane was going out in a matter of moments . . no time for air express . . we rushed over to the TCA counter and asked, "Can you get these discs back to Toronto?" And that is the way we managed our broadcasts in Canada for Monday.
Then we took off in the jet plane. The BOAC Comet is a 36 passenger plane and you can see from the model on the table how slender it is--the two big wings and exhaust in front. We fly straight up until we are 37,000 feet in the air, roughly 7 miles. At that distance there is no vibration, nor indeed is there at any time in these jets. It is true, you can take up a pencil, stand it up on a table in front of you, and it does not waver. I have flown in the new jets to Yellowknife. There is a tiny bit more noise, I would say it was comparable to a DC3 in flight. The only time the noise is disturbing is when we began to descend those seven miles. We come screaming down sounding precisely like a cream separator in high gear.
Between London and Jo'burg we made landfall five times and if I may, we will take the highlights. We fly right through from London to Rome. To me the airport in Rome is most beautiful--it is of pure Italian design, and since I was there three months ago the new big restaurant is completed. To my way of thinking this is one of the most satisfying rooms in which I have ever been. The rounded ceiling is pure white, then comes down in a lighter beige tone. Set against a range of windows are pillars that come up and break over, and in those intersections were set white azaleas, the full length of the windows. And then an open fire place in which olive wood was burning with that grey-green flame it gives.
On to our next port of call which is Cairo. Egypt as you know is very much disturbed. The British are not popular so Egyptian police are right at the airport when we land. This is understandable in a country that has abolished all Parliamentary procedure for three years. We step off the plane, we come down the steps, while a column of Egyptian police check baggage and passports, then lead us in single formation to the airport. Jet passengers are not allowed to mingle with any other passengers in the airport. We are taken upstairs and given the run of the dining room. In the 50 minutes or so we are off the plane, the police search the plane from cover to cover, going under the seats with searchlights. One would wonder what they expect to find down there. Then when we are ready to take off we are again escorted to the Comet by military police.
The next port of call is Khartoum and that is the most easy going airport I've been in. In this hot atmosphere all kinds of insects thrive. As usual it is, "Will you have a cup of tea?" My tea comes in with two succulent bugs swimming in it. I point; the waiter picks them out; says, "Oh, pardon Madame"; hands me back the tea and I drink it.
When we got down into the heart of Africa we come into Entebbe and it is as different from Khartoum as possible. The airport is beautiful-a pure white stucco building, long and flat, with huge umbrellas on the green lawn. Under them are charming looking women in cotton dresses. Their food service is excellent. The place is immaculately clean.
Our next take-off is for Jo'burg. Flying there we sight the magnificent spectacle-Victoria Falls. We look at it with a nostalgic feeling and say, "Its spray is just like Niagara Falls at home."
We come into Jo'burg which is our last drop down. There we run into the segregation regulations. Up till now we have had common washrooms, etc. We come into Jo'burg--everything is either European or non-European. There is a European and a non-European waiting room. The same is true of the washrooms and the coffee bar. There is a distinct segregation from the moment one lands in Jo'burg. This includes even the buses which run into the city.
The city itself is a mining town . . like Timmins. Its suburbs are lovely, its business section a tribute to the business acumen of Kruger. When Jo'burg was laid out some smart man told Kruger that all the corner lots were valuable and the lots in between not so good. So he said, "Give us plenty of corner lots." Jo'burg is filled with corner lots and narrow streets, consequently the city is congested. There are three or four new buildings going up-straight up because of lack of ground space. Even the people of Jo'burg, filled with local pride, say "what a mess this is."
The residential section and the residences themselves are very beautiful with the roses, hydrangeas, asters, zinnias and a dozen other flowers in bloom.
But to me the most arresting part of Jo'burg is the huge piles of slag which surround and ring the city. There are 44 gold mines and 120 miles of underground tunnelling, somewhat like our coal mines in Nova Scotia. But these huge piles of slag look as though they were laid out by a master hand. At sunset they pick up the rose of the sun, shading to lavender and gray and green.
Then comes the tragic part of Jo'burg-the shanty towns surrounding the city. There are five of them. Their population runs from 20,000 to 30,000 each. Each shanty town is densely inhabited by natives.
When we talk about all the things which should be done in South Africa, I think it would pay us as rate-paying citizens to remember this; That in South Africa there are approximately 13 1/2 millions of people. Of those 11 millions are natives, 11/2 million are Afrikaners and approximately 1 million British. That small European minority must carry the taxation for 131/2 millions, for no native pays a tax of any sort except a poll tax. So you see the tiny minority is carrying the burden of government.
The shanty towns? There are rows and rows of mud huts with earth floors. The window may be glazed. The door usually has a curtain in front. There is no indoor plumbing or sewerage. There are taps out of doors for 30,000 people and those in the open. There are two ravines which run through these shanty towns and those ravines are the latrines for those 30,000 people.
Both mother and father in most families work. The mother earns about 10 dollars a month, the father from 20 to 30 dollars. They leave at six o'clock in the morning and come back at night. During the entire day the children, with no schooling, no shelter or education, just roam the ravines. And don't blame Jo'burg. Jo'burg is saddled with taxes. You can't take on 50,000 people, give them utilities, unless there is money coming from somewhere. The children are fed at noon, some of them, by the English speaking women. This is a voluntary business carried on in the shanty towns.
We went out at noon. We took with us a truckload of brown bread, peanut butter and fish oil. Eight hundred children were queued up by the native policemen. Every child got a piece of bread, spread with peanut butter and fish oil as far as it went. When 800 were fed there was nothing left, and there were another 800 or 1,000 left for whom there was no free food. These are not the children of mine workers. Their parents do cleaning, restaurant work and street work in the city.
The mines look after their natives very well-they are well fed. They work underground of course. In the mines they have rest areas, restaurants, showers. Workers take a hot shower at night before they leave. The miners live in compounds. They are indentured for 8 1/2 to 12 1/2 months, then they go back to the hills. In Jo'burg they are allowed out on a pass from the superintendent. They must of course go only to non-European theatres and non-European shops; they must keep themselves completely apart from the European population.
From Jo'burg to Pretoria is 30 miles. The Union of South Africa has two capitals, Pretoria and Cape Town. When I asked, "Why two capitals?" the answer was, "That was one of Smuts' ideas," and was told that both cities wanted to be the chief city so Smuts compromised and made two capitals. It reminds me of Toronto where we have two sections to the paper so that both Eatons and Simpsons can carry back page ads.
Cape Town is the administrative head.
Pretoria is an Africaner town. It is a Kruger memorial but of course the business of government is at Cape Town. It is like Vancouver or Victoria, possibly more like Victoria. It is a University town. When you fly in the impression is that it is soft and gentle and easy-going. It is only after you have been there a little while that you begin to notice the tension underneath which comes from the population, very largely from the Cape Coloured, the half castes.
That brings us to the question of population. We have in South Africa the Afrikaner or the Dutch or the Boer--that community developed from the 17 burgers who went out from Holland in the 1700's. Many of them sought permission to marry native wives. Some married them without permission; there lies the basis of the half caste Cape Coloured population. Next we come into that vast population of Bantus with its mixture of African tribes, plus the Hottentots, bushmen, millions of them.
Then of course there is the ever present problem of the Indian population, brought in to work the sugar plantations in the 1860's. In the Province of Natal there are more Indians than Europeans and natives combined. So you have your Cape Coloured from whom the vote has been taken. You have the Bantus and Indians who have no vote. Then you have your Europeans--the Afrikaner and the British.
What is the future of this country? Economically it is tremendously sound with the diamonds, the gold, the native mines, the cotton, the canned fruits and now uranium, because every gold mine slag pile is filled with uranium. Those slag piles are now being broken down. So that economically the future is bright. But you talk to the national people, the government people and you go on to the United people, the party which is competing in the election. You go to the coloured people. Every party to whom you talk has a different story, a different attitude. All I can do as a reporter is tell you some of the personal things which I have encountered.
The thing you would like to know most of all is about Dr. Malan. He is an amazing man. He terrifies me he is so strong. He is strong with a strength that Hitler or Mussolini never had because the man talks absolutely with the Word of God. You talk of native housing. Dr. Malan's attitude is that the natives can sleep under trees. You can't buck an attitude like that and yet the man supports everything he says with the Old Testament.
Malan and Smuts, the two strong men of South Africa grew to hate one another. Yet the amazing thing is this; as two farm boys they grew up side by side, exchanging dinners. One Sunday Smuts' people having dinner with the Malan family and another Sunday the Malan family having dinner with the Smuts' family. They grew up and went to University, and then the division started.
Two men, both Prime Minister of South Africa-one, Smuts, an enemy of the British who became a British Field Marshal. One, Malan, who never heard a shot fired in the Boer War yet to whom Ladysmith is as alive today as if he had been there. Malan hated Smuts and the Smuts policy and yet when Smuts died he wept. The Bible is on his desk always. Malan lives by the word of God as he interprets it.
You can see for yourself a man like that is far more dangerous than a man who is a demagogue, which that man isn't--than a man who is a political opportunist, which this man is not--a hypocrite which Malan is not. Today he is the strongest power in South Africa. Jo'burg! One thing I carried in my mind was the street signs. Here we have a city which is now Afrikaner. The street signs are Afrikaner and British or only Afrikaner. I saw no parking signs in English. They are all in Afrikaner. There is no singing of our National Anthem as we sang it today. In any theatre or opera that is wiped out.
In Cape Town one unforgettable thing--District 6 in Cape Town is the crime district. But one of the Cape Coloured native sons who has been taking ballet lessons was sent to England. The night I arrived in Jo'burg he won an outstanding success in London in the Sadlers Wells Ballet. I wanted to go down to see this boy's father and mother. I told the police I wanted to meet the parents in the place in which they live and I wanted to talk about their son. I was warned not to go. But I walked down into the district. Flags were flying in every part of it and there was not a man, woman or child who did not know that a native son had made good. It was one of the most thrilling things. I experienced. So you see it is not always a dark side.
But there is a dark side to this coloured problem. We went into the airport at Entebbe. We were sitting at a table, an Englishman, a Scotsman, and an Afrikaner and myself. We had a little native boy waiting on us in white tunic and bright red sash. He brought the meat, presented it to the Scotsman sitting here, then instead of going to the proper side he presented it to the Afrikaner. He shouted, "Over!" So the little boy pattered around. The Afrikaner took the meat. After that he deliberately placed the heel of his shoe on the small native's bare feet.
Another incident. We were driving into Jo'burg. Four natives were coming along on the street. We were in their way. They walked past the car, cursed us heartily and I felt they would happily have wrecked the car.
In every South African city housing is a problem but gradually that problem is being met. Every manufacturer, every employer of labour is now taxed 2s.6d. a month which is turned into Welfare and Housing. In Jo'burg, Cape Town, Pretoria and Elizabeth a native can now buy a house for $750. True it is only a two-roomed house ... but all the native has to do is pay down $250 and has 20 years to pay the balance.
It is a beautiful country with unlimited problems--with a huge native problem. From the tip of the Union of South Africa to the tip of Egypt there are 250,000 Europeans and 150 million natives. There is the problem of education, the problem of housing, of adequate wage scale.
But I feel I would be most remiss if I did not stress over and over again the magnificent work being done by the churches--Catholic, Protestant and Jewish. There is so much unselfishness, so much of self-denial going into the work of the churches that without them the life of the native would be very dull and drab. The teachers and the religious folks feel it is very difficult to teach the native children to sing, "There's a land that is fairer than day," when darkness, ignorance and disease becloud their fair and lovely land.
Can that cloud be lifted? Can bitter hatred between black and white be cancelled? Can living conditions become tolerable for 11 million natives?
The answer must be "Yes," else it will be sunset in South Africa instead of sunrise.
THANKS OF THE MEETING were expressed by Mr. Sydney Hermant, a Past President of The Empire Club of Canada.