Skip to main content

African Congress, Nyasaland (Fund Collection Prohibition)

Volume 498: debated on Wednesday 26 March 1952

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

10.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether his attention has been drawn to the action of three provincial commissioners in Nyasaland in prohibiting the Nyasaland African Congress from collecting funds to enable that organisation to send a deputation to this country; and whether he will take steps to lift this prohibition.

12.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps he proposes to take to remove the restrictions which are being placed by the Government of Nyasaland on the activities of the African Congress in their collection of funds for the purpose of sending representatives to this country.

18.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies why the raising of funds to enable Nyasaland representatives to travel to this country is being restricted or prevented by official action.

Several years ago some, but not all, native authorities in Nyasaland made orders prohibiting the collection of subscriptions from Africans in their areas without a permit signed by the provincial commissioner. Having regard to the numerous complaints and allegations which followed the collection of funds to pay for an African deputation to London in 1948, the Governor decided that provincial commissioners should not grant permits in the present instance. I see no reason to question the Governor's decision, especially since two of the three persons chosen by the Nyasaland African Protectorate Council to visit this country next month at my invitation in order to discuss the federation proposals are members of the African Congress.

I have in my hand the minutes of meetings between the Chief Secretary and the Nyasaland African Congress, and, arising from that, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is prepared to fulfil the pledge which was given by the late Chief Secretary that unofficial as well as official African organisations should be consulted; and whether, therefore, he will not place any obstacle in the way of a deputation coming to this country?

I am afraid I have nothing to add to the answer I have given. These are matters of administration, on which some care must be taken.

Would not the right hon. Gentleman consider what steps could be taken in order to make it possible for the African congresses to send their own representatives to this country to put their own case in their own way, apart from the official delegates?

I think the attitude of Her Majesty's Government is that the Nyasaland African Protectorate Council is the right and constitutional body to consult on these matters, and this was also the attitude of our predecessors. It so happens that, as I have said, two of the deputation are also members of the Congress.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that this is a most unimaginative and stupid action, which will have a very bad psychological effect? In view of that fact, and of the right hon. Gentleman's sincere desire to remove, if possible, any impediments towards the presentation of the case of Africans, would he not consider the matter more sympathetically?

I must make it quite clear that the Government are of the opinion that the spokesmen of African opinion in this case must be the Protectorate Council.

While agreeing with the Colonial Secretary that, on the scale of official consultations such as attendance at conferences, the right body is the African Protectorate Council in each of the two Territories, may I ask him whether he is aware that the African Congress in both Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia is a very influential political body, and that, when I was in the Territories last summer, I had meetings with the Congress, both in Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia?

May I ask him whether he does not realise that this ban on collections, which is virtually a ban upon the ability of the Congress to send delegates to this country, will have a very bad effect? May I ask him seriously to reconsider the matter, and since the congresses want to send delegates here, as they are entitled to do, whether we ought not to put any difficulties in their way?

I have said that this is a matter of administration into which I am willing to look. [Interruption.] Of course, it is a matter of administration, because very large malpractices arose over previous collections, and, naturally, care has to be taken to see that subscriptions are not made and afterwards used for purposes for which they were not intended. I am quite willing to look into the matter of administration again, provided it is quite clear that Her Majesty's Government think that these are the bodies with whom they ought to have official contact.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this collection was in fact abandoned a week after it started, because of the lack of response among Africans in Nyasaland?