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Boer Politics By Yves Guyot Characters: 7451

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

1.-Legal and Judicial System of the Transvaal.

In the Transvaal, law is an instrument made use of either to favor or oppress the individual, according to circumstances. If necessary it is made retrospective. To provide for the case of judges refusing to apply such laws, Law I. of 1897 has been passed, which compels them to swear obedience to the President and gives him the right to dismiss summarily such as prove insubordinate or lukewarm. The President of the High Court, Mr. Kotzé, fell under the action of this law, in February, 1898.

Before that law, the President annulled any judgments that displeased him and caused the fines or damages inflicted upon the delinquents to be paid out of the public Treasury.

Such is judicial and legal rule in the Transvaal; and there are European lawyers of the opinion that the Uitlanders must be the most contemptible and lowest set of adventurers for not being satisfied with it! Dr. Kuyper declares that "the factitious discontent existed only among the English"; and adds with contempt, "Let us look into the Edgar, Lombaard, and Amphitheatre cases-mere police affairs."

Well; let us consider Mr. Krüger's interpretation of the duties of the police.

2.-The Police.

The chief of the departments of justice and police is called the State Attorney.

In 1895, when Mr. Esselen was promoted to the post, he stipulated that he should have full liberty of action. As chief detective officer he appointed an officer belonging to the Cape Administration, Mr. Andrew Trimble, who entered upon his duties with vigour and determination. The gold thieves and receivers and the illicit canteen keepers who supplied the natives with liquor were up in arms at once and appealed to President Krüger. They represented Trimble as having served in the English Army, and as being in receipt of a pension from the Cape Government, further stating that his appointment was an insult to the Boers, who had been thus judged unworthy to provide from among themselves a Head of Police. Mr. Esselen, who stood his ground, was dismissed and replaced by a Hollander, Dr. Coster. Mr. Trimble, chief of the detective force, was replaced by a man who had previously been dismissed, and has since been dismissed again.

As it was useless to depend upon the police for the arrest of thieves, the directors and officials of the City and Suburban Gold Mining Company took upon themselves the risks and dangers of police work. They caught two notorious characters, known thieves, with gold in their possession. The thieves openly boasted that nothing would be done to them; the next day, one was allowed to escape, the other, a notorious criminal, was condemned to six months' imprisonment. Mr. Krüger regarded this penalty as excessive, remitted three-fourths of the sentence, and had him discharged unconditionally.

The police of Johannesburg, a town almost entirely inhabited by English, do not speak English-an excellent method of ensuring order! They are chosen from among the worst types of Boers, some of whom are the descendants of English deserters and Kaffir women; whence comes the fact that some bear English names. The policeman Jones, who killed Edgar, is a case in point.

The murder of Edgar was a small matter in the same way as the Dreyfus case was a small matter; only when a case of this nature arises, it reveals a condition of things so grave that it excites widespread feeling at once.

Edgar was an English workman, a boilermaker, who had been a long time in Johannesburg; a well-conducted man and generally respected. He was going home, one Sunday night in 1898, when three drunken men insulted and set upon him. He knocked one of them down. The other two calle

d the police. Edgar, meanwhile, entered his own house. Four policemen broke open his door, and the instant Edgar came out into the passage, Policeman Jones shot him dead with a revolver. "A mere police row," says Dr. Kuyper.

Jones was arrested next morning, but straightway released upon a bail of £200. The money was not even paid in, but carried over to be deducted monthly from the future salaries of other members of the Johannesburg police force.

Feeling was strong among the other English workmen, many of whom knew Edgar; and this feeling was intensified by the subsequent parody of justice.

3.-An Ingenious Collusion.

The State Attorney, Mr. Smuts, informed the Acting British Agent, Mr. Fraser, that it would be better to bring a charge against Policeman Jones, for "culpable homicide" than for murder, but that he considered the chance of his conviction by a Boer jury to be very small. The word "culpable," says Webster (English Dictionary) is "applied to acts which have not the gravity of crime." In this instance, it made Jones' action excusable on the grounds that Edgar struck him with a stick, at the moment of his entering the house.

A journalist, Mr. J.S. Dunn, Editor of The Critic, commented upon the action of Dr. Krause, the First Public Prosecutor. Dr. Krause took criminal action against Mr. Dunn for libel, and, before proceeding with the murder trial, appeared as witness in his own case, and swore that he did not consider that Jones had been guilty of murder; he not only made this statement on oath, but called the Second Public Prosecutor who gave similar evidence. Nor was this all. He brought forward the accused himself, as witness to state that the First Public Prosecutor was right in not committing him for murder!

When this ghastly farce had been performed, which is much on a footing with the examination of Esterhazy by Pellieux, the murderer was free to present himself confidently before a Boer jury. Not only was he acquitted, but the presiding judge, Kock, who had claimed a judgeship as a "son of the soil," in pronouncing judgment added this little speech: "I hope that this verdict will show the police how to do their duty." This amiable conclusion did not seem very re-assuring to the Uitlanders.

At the same time Mr. Krüger suppressed two newspapers, The Critic and The Star. (See Blue Book C. 9, 345.)

4.-The Lombaard Case.

Dr. Kuyper states that Edgar was in the wrong, that Jones acted within his rights, that the Public Prosecutor and the jury fulfilled their duty. As for Lombaard, "he too," Dr. Kuyper tells us, "was a Johannesburg policeman, and like Jones a little rough in his mode of action".... "He committed no outrage; the sole reproach attaching to him was that he conducted his search at night, and without a special warrant." And Dr. Kuyper is very contemptuous of any who may be disposed to question such proceedings.

The truth is, that Lombaard, at the head of sixteen or eighteen police, had taken upon himself, without warrant, to enter the houses of coloured British subjects, men and women, to demand their passes; to send them to prison whether right or wrong; to ill-treat and flog them. A mere trifle; scarce worth talking about; they were only people of colour, and Dr. Kuyper has told us his ideas on that subject.

The Edgar case was the origin of the petition of the 21,000 Uitlanders to the English Government, to ask the protection it had undertaken to extend to them under the Convention of 1884.

The facts which I have given in Le Siècle of the 29th March, and those I now give here, are sufficient to prove that under Mr. Krüger's Government, police, justice and law do not exist in the Transvaal.

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