AN ADDRESS BY MR. A. H. TATLOW, MANAGER,
PUBLICITY DEPARTMENT, SOUTH AFRICAN RAIL
WAYS AND HARBOURS, JOHANNESBURG.
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto,
October 16, 1924.
PRESIDENT BROOKS introduced the speaker of the day.
Mr. Tatlow was received with applause and said
Mr. Chairman, My Lord Bishop (referring to Dr. Headland, Bishop of Gloucester, England), and Gentlemen,--I should first of all like to thank the members of the Empire Club of Canada for their kind invitation to me to be a guest at your luncheon and speak to this assembly. I share fully the regrets of the Chairman that my slides are not here, for I feel that they would have spoken to you much more eloquently than it is possible for me to do. But there it is; I am here and the slides are in New York, and we will have to make the best of it.
I hope I shall not be misunderstood when I say that since my arrival in New York some three weeks ago I have found with many of the men to whom I have talked that there is only a vague idea of what South Africa really is. I remember being at a luncheon some months ago at which the Governor of Nigeria was speaking, and by way of trying to indicate to the assembly that Nigeria seemed to be very little understood he told of two men-who were talking about Burma, and a third man, over
Mr. A. H. Tatlow is manager of the Publicity Department of the South African Railways and Harbours, and is connected with the office of the High Commissioner for the Union of South Africa.
hearing the conversation said, "Burma, Burma? Why, my brother was talking to me about Burma the other day, but he pronounced it 'Bermuda.'" Now, I do not for a moment wish to suggest that there is such deplorable ignorance as that about South Africa, but still it does seem to me that it is time that South Africa, woke up and made her country and her resources a little better known.
Africa, has always seemed to me to be an enigma of the continents. It was the first continent to be discovered, and it is the last continent to be explored. If you leave out the discovery of South Africa somewhere about the middle of the seventeenth century, of the whole record of Africa itself there is an authentic account of only a little of the northern fringe. Then you know that was the Africa of the Pharaohs, of the Hannibals, of Augustine, and of Anthony and Cleopatra. Those early colonists of Africa, failed to impress themselves upon the continent. They seemed to be absorbed, rather, by the darker blood; and so it came about that in the course of time the scene shifted from the northern to the southern end.
I sometimes think that the discovery of South Africa was more the result of cause and effect. You will recall the struggle that was going on about the middle or end of the fifteenth century between the Cross and Crescent, and that it was owing to the efforts of those early Portuguese navigators endeavoring to find a way round to the East Indies where they found the Mussulmans were getting their wealth, that South Africa was discovered.
If you would understand South Africa at all you must reflect on two or three very its--climate, matters, and such physical facts as its climate, its rain fall, because, after all, in the last resort, what we eat, and what we drink, and where withal we shall be clothed depend very much upon these primary matters. If I could bring to your mind a picture of the map of South Africa you would see that starting from Cape Town and following the eastern coastline of the Indian Ocean, there is a long range of mountains known as the Drakensberg Mountains, which run in a continuous line for 2,000 miles to the Limpopo River, which divides the northern Transvaal from southern Rhodesia. Those mountains play an important part in the economic life of South Africa, for the reason that our prevailing winds and rains come from the south and the southeast. The wind-bearing clouds are precipitated against the buttress wall of the Drakensberg with the result that the much larger rainfall goes to the eastern side of that watershed of South Africa. Indeed so varied is the rainfall that on the eastern side of the Drakensberg you can get as much as 100 inches of rain per year in favored parts of the east coast, and if you go to the Atlantic side, to a little place called Walfish Bay, you get as little as half an inch of rain in a year. Put it another way-on the eastern side of the Blakensberg you could feed 30 sheep on one acre of ground, and on the far side it would take 30 acres to feed one sheep. The sparse rainfalls account for the fact that the rivers of South Africa, are useless for navigation. We are in quite a different position from your favored land, where you have wonderful waterways, while we have practically none. Our ships right in from the ocean front into our harbors.
There is another very important physical feature of South Africa, and this is its high average elevation. While Africa has the same average elevation as Asia, the latter has the loftiest mountains in the world. Its elevation is twice as high as that of Australia, and one-third higher than Europe, and nearly one-third higher than America, north or south. When you remember that for every 300 feet you ascend the temperature drops one degree, you will then see that the Union of South Africa, which in parts would otherwise be very hot, the heat is greatly modified by this average high elevation of 4,000 feet above the sea. That is a point which it is well for those who contemplate settling in South Africa, to remember, and that though our country being more or less in a sub-tropical area, the heat is, as a , matter of fact, very greatly modified.
Now a word or two about our population, because therein lies one of our greatest problems. The area known as South Africa comprises what we call Southwest Africa-which at one time was German West Africa-has a total area of something like 800,000 square miles. In the whole of that country we have only a little over 1,500,000 white people, or about one-sixth of the population of Canada, while in the same area we have something like 5,500,000 black people, or natives. This constitutes one of our problems-a huge territory, a small and almost stationary white population, and a larger and growing black population.
I would remind you that in connection with the native population there are also several other human problems; not only the problem of the advancing natives-because, gentlemen, you cannot for all time keep these people back; the best you can do is to regulate and nurse them, so to speak, so that in their development they shall move slowly and in such a way as not to be a hurt or a menace to their white neighbors.
Then we have our Asiatic problem, because years ago the Province of Natal brought Indians to work in the sugar-cane fields. That is a position surrounded with difficulties. Then in Cape Town and the Peninsula itself we have also another form of the colour question, in that there are a large number of half-breeds, and the position they occupy in the social economy is a matter that gives our statesmen very considerable and anxious thought.
Turning now from these matters, which are of importance, I should like to say a word or two about the possibilities of the Union of South Africa. All who know that country are agreed that its agricultural development is one of its most important assets. It is true that South Africa, as a schoolboy essayist once wrote, is famous for gold and diamonds and Smuts. (Laughter) It is true that South Africa has been for years known as a country producing gold and diamonds, but you should know that her greatest asset lies and will continue to lie for many years to come in her agricultural development. It is a country which, owing to its varying climates and varying altitudes, can grow almost anything. Its staple crop is maize, or what in this country you call corn. It is a crop that grows in almost all parts of our country. Through the railway department, maize is now handled in bulk, and in the last few years in various parts of the country grain elevators have been built to grade and handle that crop, and it is now being shipped overseas in bulk instead of in bags as formerly.
Wool is our next important export. In wool and mohair we rank next to Australia. It will not serve very much purpose to give you figures, because you have to remember that any modest statistics about South Africa which might be quoted find their root cause in the fact of the very limited white population to which I have already referred.
There is another crop that is going to become an important export from South Africa, and that is cotton. We are growing cotton in various parts of the eastern Transvaal, in Natal and in Zululand, and from the latest reports it would seem that in the near future South Africa is going to be one of the greatest cotton producing countries, not only of the Dominions but of the world.
Then as to sugar, it is not many years ago since South Africa was importing sugar, but today she grows all the sugar she consumes, and every year she is increasing the margin for export.
Of course you know that South Africa is a fruit-growing country, and I sometimes wonder whether we could not find a market for some of our oranges not only in Canada but in the United States. Our oranges come into ripeness about June and July, and that seems to me to be the real season of the year for orange eating in this northern hemisphere; and one hopes that as there is already a dried fruit export to Canada and the United States, that it will not be long before fresh fruit, particularly in the form of oranges, can find a market in this great continent.
Then Tobacco, both the Turkish and the Virginian leaf, is grown in the Union, and practically all the tobacco consumed in South Africa is grown in the country. There is not much export, owing largely to trade relations which at the present moment seems to militate against expansion in that direction.
Then I should not overlook the fact that South Africa is one of the few great countries for ostrich breeding and for the ostrich feather industry. In the South African pavilion at Wembley Exhibition there was a very fine collection of ostrich feathers, and I am told by our trades commissioner that there is an increasing market, and a very important one, in the United States. I hope the feathers are finding their way into Canada. They seem to have come back into favour and fashion, and certainly it is a very beautiful form of adornment, while to South Africa, at any rate, the industry represents between two and three million pounds sterling per year.
With regard to South Africa's minerals, of course you know that the mines at Kimberly and Pretoria produce practically the entire world's diamond supply. South Africa is also producing something like half of the world's gold supply, although I am told by a friend sitting in front of me that Canada hopes soon to be a competitor. (Hear, hear, and applause) Of course the gold industry has given very much to South Africa and from the latest returns I have received the output this year will be a record one, exceeding probably $40,000,000.
Unfortunately our general industries lag for the reason that our white population is so limited. We have such a small local market that it is very difficult to get industries established on an economic basis. That is why we want visits from you people of this country and also from those of the United States, and by the provision of capital and experience see if you cannot give us a hand in developing the resources of South Africa.
South Africa is fortunate in having unlimited coal supplies. While in England I asked an official of the Great Western Railway Company what he paid for the best South Wales coal at pit-mouth, and his answer was about 25 shillings a ton. Well, I believe I am quite right in saying that the South African Railway buy their coal at the pit-mouth of the colleries in the Transvaal at something like five shillings per ton, and I want to remind you that that coal is only a fraction below the best South Wales coal in quality. The development of industries. is however receiving the most careful consideration and at this very moment there is now erecting a a large power station in Natal for generating current to provide power for such industries as may be started.
Durban, the port of Natal, is one of our biggest bunkering ports, and next month there will be open in Natal a section of the railways about 200 miles long to be worked by electrification power. Other districts where the traffic is heavy, and on suburban lines running around Cape Town, electrification transport will later be introduced.
So far as base metals are concerned, South Africa has its share; but after all, gentlemen, great as is our country, and the possibilities of its agricultural and industrial development, one of its greatest assets is the scenery and the sunshine. I may be addressing some people who have visited us, but nearly everyone who comes to us tells us how wonderfully favorably they are impressed. It is a haunting country, infinitely mysterious, infinitely beautiful and infinitely strange. We have every kind of foliage, from the pine to the palm; we have every race, from the Orient to the Occident; and we have almost every climate, from the temperate to the tropic. There are features of scenic beauty in Africa which I do not think can be eclipsed by anything even you have. I have yet to see some of your beautiful scenery; I am starting tomorrow for Vancouver, and I hope to see some of the great scenic wonders of Canada of which I have read; but I would remind you that we have in our Drakensberg mountains one of Nature's finest spectacles. In the Victoria falls we have one of the wonders of the world, falls 424 feet high and more than a mile wide--a little bigger than Niagara; in fact, I have been told by an American that, in comparison, Niagara is only a presiration. (Laughter)
I should not close without a word about the Department to which I have the privilege to belong--the Railways and Harbors Department. In South Africa we have something like 12,000 miles of railway lines, state-owned. In Sir William Hoy, the General Manager, we have a man who is progressive in his policy and conduct of the Railway Department. Although Government management is depricated in some countries, I can safely say that private enterprises would never have done for South Africa what the Railway Administration has accomplished. The policy of the Department has been to carry a large number of passengers and a big freightage at low rates and low fares, rather than to carry a smaller percentage of passengers and a smaller volume of goods at high rates. That policy has gone far to develop a new sparsely populated country. I venture to think that travelling in South Africa, is in every way as comfortable as it is in your own great country, and I think I am right in saying it is not quite so expensive, when you reckon all the dollars added to ordinary railway fares for drawing room and sleeping cars and compartments. The gauge of the South African railways is 3.6 feet, but owing to the overhang of our coaches the seating space is as generous as you find in the 4.81/2 gauge. During the last ten years the Railway Department has surrendered something like three millions sterling of revenue to bring down rates and fares.
The Railway Department also controls the harbors, and is busy developing them, and today at Durban there is nearing completion one of the largest graving docks in the world in which the biggest ships afloat can find refuge and repairs.
My mission in this country is to endeavor to see whether travel cannot be stimulated between Canada and South Africa and between the United States and South Africa. We feel that if we could only persuade you people of the North to come and see us in the South the result would be good for both; that we would understand each other better; trade relations would gradually become established and improved, and all these things would make for mutual benefit. We know that there are difficulties in the way. We are 9,000 or 10,000 miles distant from you. We are at the southern end of a southern continent while you are at the northern end of a northern continent; yet difficulties are only there to be overcome. So far as South Africa is concerned we want to find if we can get a place in the world's cruise lists and programmes. In all the notices I have seen of so-called world's cruises, South Africa, does not appear to be on the map. We hope to get that rectified. As I said to the Canadian Pacific Railway officials at Montreal the other day, the radio, telegraph, dirigibles and aeroplanes have contracted the world and you cannot for long keep South Africa out of the world's cruise list, for from hearing you will want to see, and when we do find a place there we hope that in the next few years we shall have a steady stream of North Americans visiting South Africa; and I can assure you, gentlemen, that South Africa, will give you a very hearty welcome. (Applause)
MR. F. B. FEATHERSTONHAUGH voiced the thanks and appreciation of the Club for the interesting and helpful address.