Domination by consent: Elections under the Representation of Natives Act, 1937-1948

Roth, Mirjana
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The elections which were held under the Representation of Natives Act in 1937, 1942 and 1948 warrant examination for two reasons. Firstly, because they were the only elections ever held in South Africa on a national level in which blacks took part. And secondly, because the holding of free elections in a country which denied the electorate many of the other basic freedoms such as freedom of movement, of speech and of assembly was an anomaly in itself and ought to be examined for this reason alone. The first of these elections was held in 1937. The electorate were the male black tax payer over the age of eighteen who, by an elaborate voting system, were to elect their representatives to the three institutions where they could make their wishes known to the government. The Cape voters, who had been removed from the common roll, could now elect three white representatives to the House of Assembly. The whole of the black electorate could vote for the four senators, as they could for the members of the newly formed third body, the Natives Representative Council. Twelve of the sixteen black members of that Council could be elected (four were nominated by the government). The Council's purpose was to consider and to comment on all new legislation on black affairs before it was tabled in either the House of Assembly or the Senate. The main emphasis of this paper will be on the elections to the Natives Representative Council (N.R.C.), because it was this aspect of the Representation of Natives Act which the Africans themselves emphasised, both in their newspapers and in their political organisations.
African Studies Seminar series. Paper presented 22 August 1983
Elections. South Africa