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The Political Situation. Schreiner, Olive, 1855–1920.
page: 36
page: 37


But our evil has not stopped here. Owing to the mental capacity of some of these speculators, and to certain conditions in South African public life, the conception suggested itself to them: that were it possible to obtain complete control of the political machinery in any African State (notably of the Cape Colony), and could they hold the reins of Government in their own hands, their power for increasing their wealth, for resisting taxation upon those industries of which they possessed monopolies, and for ex- extending page: 38 tending their commercial exploitations into adjoining territories, would be immeasurably increased.

This conception has been seized and carried out.

The means of its accomplishment in the Cape Colony has been through the complete control gained by the Monopolists over the only group in South Africa whom they could hope to guide, and whom, in view of their extra-colonial plans, it was necessary to keep pacified and well in hand.

It is this command of the political machinery of the country by the Monopolist, owing to his union with one page: 39 section, which constitutes the real disease from which the Cape Colony is suffering. It is this which lies at the back of our Retrogressive Movement.

For the Monopolist Party, determined to obtain control of the political machinery, could only do so by purchasing the co-operation of some truly South African body. The more shrewd and modern section of South Africans—professional men, merchants, go-ahead newspaper-reading farmers—are, very many of them, unpurchasable; and those who are not would demand a high price in concessions local and personal, and even then could page: 40 not be blindly led. Our working population being mainly native, and very slightly enfranchised, is not at the present day, and will not be for a long time to come, a party powerful enough to make its support a strength to any leader. Then there remained for the Speculatist and Monopolist Party but one body to whom it could turn with any hope that it would place it in power. This body was the Retrogressive Element in the Bond Party. It was purchased, not by the outlay of capital, nor by offers of place and power to its members, but, much more cheaply for the Monopolist, by the simple page: 41 expedient of offering to support those Retrogressive measures which without his aid could never have found a place on our Colonial Statute-book.

The Kafir's back and the poor man's enhanced outlay on the necessaries of life pay the Monopolist's bribe.

On the other hand, the Retrogressive Element, once enabled to pass such measures as lay nearest its heart by the cooperation of the Monopolist with his skill and intelligence, is willing to give him a perfectly free hand, and support him in all measures which do not touch its Retrogressive instincts. We thus have the page: 42 Retrogressive Party supporting the Monopolist in carrying out measures in which he has no interest or concern, and the Monopolist assisting the Retrogressive Party in setting upon the Statute-book measures which are repugnant to his own common sense and shrewd modern outlook. Taking advantage of that childlike simplicity which is at once the weakness and the greatest charm of the Boer, he leads him whither he would and also whither he would not.

It is from this unnatural marriage that are born those evils under which the Colony groans to-day. It is a marriage which must end in rupture page: 43 when the Retrogressive Party discover how, instead of a union of affection, they have been led into one of convenience, and that the bridegroom is quite ready to forsake his bride when she has nothing more to give him.

Nevertheless, to-day it is this coalition which is unpicking the progressive enactments of the past, which is enabling the Monopolist Party to carry out unhampered its financial depredations here and in the Northern Territories. It is this coalition which, by giving political power to enormously wealthy individuals, is corroding our public life, till the principle that every page: 44 man has his price and can be squared, if you can only find his figure, is becoming an established dogma.

Worse than any of those retrogressive measures which the Bondsman, in simplicity and sincerity, desires to see enacted are those measures which he allows others to take, who are neither simple nor sincere.