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   Chapter 5 LAW AND JUSTICE IN THE TRANSVAAL.[9]

Boer Politics By Yves Guyot Characters: 5956

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


1.-Contempt of Justice.

I stated at the close of my last article that I did not think that Dr. Kuyper had even made mention of Articles 7 and 14 of the Convention of 1884. I find that I was mistaken. He has said a few words about the latter, to draw from it the inference that it did not give the right of franchise to Uitlanders. He is right.

But Articles 7 and 14 guarantee to all white men, civil rights, the protection of their persons and property, the right to enter into trade, and equality of taxation. How did the Boers construe the application of these conditions of the Convention of 1884? As early as 1885 Mr. Gladstone found himself obliged to send Sir Charles Warren to prevent the Boers from invading Bechuanaland. Mr. Krüger had already attacked Mafeking, and annexed the territory. The Boers retreated, but brutally murdered a man named Bethell who had been wounded by them.

That same year, the case of Mr. James Donaldson came before the House of Commons. He held property in Lydenburg. He had been ordered by two Boers (one of whom was in the habit of boasting that he had shot an unarmed Englishman since the beginning of the war, and had fired on several others) to abstain from collecting hut taxes on his own farm. On his refusal he was attacked by them; three other Boers joined them, and he was left in such a condition that he was thought to be dead.

Upon the representations of the English Government the aggressors were condemned to pay a fine; but the Government of Pretoria remitted it!

An Indian, a British subject and man of education far superior to that of the greater part of the Boers, while following a bridle path trespassed on the farm property of a member of the Volksraad, named Meyer. He was arrested, and accused of intent to steal. Sent before the owner's brother, who was a "field cornet" (district judge), he was condemned, with each of the Hottentot servants accompanying him, to receive twenty-five lashes, and to pay a fine. Rachmann protested, declared that the field cornet was exceeding his authority, intimated an appeal, and offered bail of £40; notwithstanding, he received the twenty-five lashes. George Meyer, the field cornet, knew perfectly well that he was exceeding his authority, but thought it too good a joke to desist. The Court, presided over by Mr. Jorissen, condemned him to pay damages to Rachmann. This was reimbursed to Meyer by the Government, and, despite the judgment of the Court, the President said he was in the right, and that he would protect him.

This is the way in which Mr. Krüger understands justice towards Europeans and European subjects; let us see how he understands it with regard to natives.

A Kaffir, named April, having worked several years on a farm, asked for his salary as agreed in cattle and a pass. The farmer refused him the cattle, and wanted to force him, his wives, and children, to continue working for him. The Kaffir appealed to the field cornet Prinslo

o, who treated him as an unruly slave. The Court condemned Prinsloo for abuse of power. Some days later the President announced that he had reimbursed Prinsloo his expenses and damages, remarking: "Notwithstanding the judgment of the Court, we consider Prinsloo to have been in the right."

2.-Confusion of Powers.

The Volksraad confuses legislative and judicial functions. Should a judgment displease it, it arrogates to itself the right to annul it. Nor is there any more respect shown by the Volksraad for contracts, and, on one occasion, it solemnly accorded to the Government the right to annul clauses which had ceased to be satisfactory. It is unnecessary to add that the principle of the non-retrospectiveness of laws is altogether unknown to it.

In the Dom case the Volksraad passed a resolution disabling the aggrieved individual from taking action against the Government.

Early in the year 1897, the Government appointed for a given day, the allocation of the Witfontein farm in "claims" (mine concessions of 150 by 400 feet). At the last moment it was announced that the claims would be decided by lottery; several persons having made known that they intended to sue the Government for their claims already pegged out, a measure was passed by the Volksraad declaring all such actions null and void.

A Mr. Brown, an American, took proceedings. The President of the High Court, Mr. Kotzé, pronounced that this law was unconstitutional, and gave judgment in favor of Brown, but left the amount of damages to be determined later after hearing further evidence.

Upon this, Mr. Krüger introduced a law known as Law I. of 1897, which empowered him to exact assurances from the judges that they would respect all resolutions of the Volksraad, without testing whether they were in accord or contradiction with the Constitution; and in the event of the President not being satisfied with the replies of the judges, it further empowered him to dismiss them summarily. The judges protested in a body that they would not submit to such treatment. The High Court was suspended and all legal business adjourned.

Sir Henry de Villiers, Chief Justice of Cape Colony, came to Pretoria to endeavour to avert the crisis. Mr. Krüger promised to refrain from enforcing Law I. of 1897, and to introduce a new law. The judges resumed their functions.

In February, 1898, a year later, President Krüger had not introduced a new law; President Kotzé wrote to Krüger reminding him of his promise. Mr. Krüger at once applied to him Law I. of 1897, and dismissed him.

Kotzé was replaced by Mr. Gregorowski, who, at the time the law was passed had solemnly protested that no honourable man could continue to act as a judge in the Transvaal until the law was repealed.

Now what does Dr. Kuyper think of the Volksraad's mode of legislation, and of the manner in which Mr. Krüger, that man "of intelligence and superior morality," interprets respect for justice?

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