A Programme for Africa
The success 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 asked Gandhiji.
"The 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 01 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 more."
A Non-white United Front?
Of late 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."
Rev. Tema: "What sort of relations would you favour between these two races?"
Gandhiji: "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."
Rev. Tema: "Should we adopt violence or non-violence as a means for our deliverance?"
Gandhiji: "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."
"Your 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."
"It is quite a good and sound idea," replied Gandhiji.
Rev. Tema: "Do you think Christianity can bring salvation to Africa?"
Gandhiji: "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."
Rev. Tema 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?"
"The 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."