Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/485

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South Africa

The House of Assembly consists (as originally constituted) of 121 members, elected by single-membered constituencies, each constituency containing as nearly as possible the same number of voters. Of these members the Cape Province returns 51, the Transvaal 36, and Natal and Orange Free State 17 each. As population increases the total number of members may be raised to 150. The seats allotted to each province are determined by its number of European male adults as ascertained by a quinquennial census, the quota for a constituency being obtained by dividing the total number of such adults in the Union as ascertained at the 1904 census by the number of members at the establishment of the Union. The commission charged with the delimitation of constituencies is permitted to vary the quota as much as 15% either way. Members of the House of Assembly must, like senators, be British subjects of European descent, they must be qualified to be registered as voters and have lived for live years within the Union. A general election must take place every five years, and all polls must be taken on the same day. There must be a session of parliament every year, so arranged that twelve months shall not elapse between the last day of one session and the first sitting of the next session.

The qualifications of parliamentary voters are those which existed in the several colonies at the establishment of the Union, save that “no member of His Majesty's regular forces on full pay” can be registered as a voter. As the franchise laws in the several colonies differed the qualifications of voters in the provinces differ also. In the Transvaal and Orange Free State provinces the franchise is restricted to white adult male British subjects. In neither province is there any property qualification, but a six months' residence before registration is required. In Natal (q.v.) there is a low property qualification. In that province coloured persons are not by name debarred from the franchise, but they are in practice excluded. In the Cape province, where there is also a low property qualification, no colour bar exists and there are a large number of Kaffir voters (see Cape Colony: Constitution). Parliament may alter the qualifications for the vote, but no law which would deprive coloured persons in the Cape province of the franchise can be effective “unless the bill be passed by both houses of parliament sitting together and at the third reading be agreed to by not less than two-thirds of the total number of members of both houses.”

Save as subject, ultimately, to the British parliament the Union parliament is a sovereign body. The provinces have no original authority, possessing only such powers as are delegated to them by the parliament. In certain cases the governor-general must reserve the royal assent to bills, e.g. any bill abolishing the coloured vote in the Cape province. The king is given the power to disallow any law within a year of it having received the assent of the governor-general.

With regard to bills the two houses are not in a position of equality. Bills appropriating revenue or moneys, or imposing taxation, must originate in the House of Assembly and may not be amended by the Senate. If a bill passed by the Assembly has been twice rejected by the Senate, provision is made for a joint sitting of both houses, when members vote and decide upon the measure concerned as one body. In the case of a money bill rejected by the Senate a joint sitting to decide its fate may be held in the same session in which the Senate has failed to pass the bill. Every minister of state may sit and speak in either house, but can vote only in the house of which he is a member. Re-election is not necessary on the appointment of a member as a minister of state. Members of parliament are paid £400 a year, £3 being deducted from this allowance for every day's absence during the session.

A Supreme Court of Judicature for South Africa was created at the establishment of the Union. The former Supreme, High and The Judicature.Circuit Courts of the several colonies then became provincial and local divisions of the Supreme Court of South Africa, which consists of two divisions, namely the Supreme Court and the Appellate Division. Appeals from the decisions of the provincial and local divisions of the court and from those of the High Court of southern Rhodesia, must be made to the appellate division of the Supreme Court. Unless special leave of the privy council be obtained there can be no appeal from the decisions of the Appellate Division, save in admiralty cases. This restriction of the power of appeal to the privy council is much greater than are the restrictions upon appeals from the Commonwealth of Australia, where appeals to the privy council lie by right from the several state Supreme Courts. The difference arises from the fact that the Commonwealth is a federation of states; whereas the Union of South Africa is but one state with but one Supreme Court. One result of this unification of the courts of South Africa is that any provincial or local division of the Supreme Court in which an action is begun can order its transference to another division if that course be deemed more convenient. Moreover the judgments of each provincial division can be registered and enforced in any other division. The administration of justice throughout the Union is vested in a minister of state who has all the powers of the attorney-generals of the several colonies at the time of the Union, save that power as to the prosecution of crimes is vested in each province in an official appointed by the governor-general in council and styled the attorney-general of the province.

Among the general provisions of the constitution the most important is that both the English and Dutch languages are official languages of the Union and are treated on a footing of equality; General Provisions.all records of parliament, and all notices of general public importance or interest issued by the government of the Union must be in both languages. (Persons in the public service at the establishment of the Union cannot, however, be dispensed with because of lack of knowledge of either English or Dutch.) Other general provisions enact free trade throughout the Union, but the customs and excise leviable under the laws existing in any of the colonies at the establishment of Union remain in force unless parliament otherwise provides. All persons who had been naturalized in any of the colonies are naturalized throughout the Union. All rights and obligations under conventions and agreements which were binding on any of the colonies have devolved upon the Union.

The harbours of Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London and Durban are state owned, as are also nearly all the railways in the Union. All revenues derived from these services are paid into a separate fund. The administration of the railways, ports and harbours is entrusted to a board of not more than three commissioners (appointed by the governor-general in council) presided over by a minister of state. Each commissioner holds office for five years and may be reappointed. The board is directed to administer its service on business principles, due regard being had to agricultural and industrial development, &c., within the Union. So far as may be the total earnings are not to be more than are sufficient to meet necessary outlays.

Provincial Administration.—While the Union parliament has full power to make laws for the whole of the Union, to provincial councils have been delegated the immediate control of affairs relating solely to the provinces. The subjects delegated to the councils include direct taxation within the provinces for local revenue purposes, the borrowing of money (on the sole credit of the provinces) with the consent of the ministry; agriculture (within the limits defined by parliament) and municipal institutions, divisional councils, and other local institutions. The control of elementary education was also guaranteed to the provincial councils up to 1915, and thereafter until parliament otherwise provides.

The councils consist of not fewer than 25 members and not more than the number of members returned by the province to the House of Assembly. Each councillor represents a separate constituency, these constituencies, as far as possible, to be the same as the parliamentary constituencies. (In the Cape and Transvaal provinces they were the same in 1910; Natal and Orange Free State returning only 17 members to the House of Assembly, the parliamentary constituencies have been rearranged.) The qualifications for electors are the same as for parliament, and any person qualified to vote is qualified to be a member of the council. As in the Cape province coloured persons are qualified to vote, they are thus also qualified to be members of the provincial council. Any member of the provincial council who becomes a member of either House of Parliament thereupon ceases to be a member of such provincial council. Each provincial council continues for three years from the date of its first meeting and is not subject to dissolution save by effiuxion of time.

The executive power in each province is invested in an officer appointed by the government and styled provincial administrator. He holds office for five years. The administrator is assisted by an executive committee of four persons elected from among its own members, or otherwise, by the provincial council on the proportional representation principle. The administrator and any other member of the executive committee, not being a member of the council, has the right to take part in the proceedings of the council, but has not the right to vote. The provincial councils have not the right to make laws, but ordinances, which must receive the assent of the governor-general in council before becoming valid.  ((F. R. C.)) 


The history of South Africa is, almost entirely, that of its colonization by European races, of their conflicts with, and influence over, its native inhabitants, and of the struggle for supremacy between the British and Dutch settlers. The little that is known concerning the doings of the natives before the appearance of the white man belongs to the domain of ethnology rather than of history. When the Portuguese first reached the southern part of Africa there was but one place in it where a civilized race held sway. This was at Sofala, the most southerly post of the East African Arabs. From that port the Arabs traded for ivory, slaves and (principally) gold with Bantu peoples of the far interior—the Rhodesia of to-day. These natives, whose earliest existing buildings may go back to the time of the Norman Conquest, were in a higher state of