Jabavu, John Tengo
King Williams Town
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MSS. Brit. Emp. S. 18 / C139-14
Native Opinion Office
King William’s Town
6 August 1887
Dear Mr Chesson,
This is to inform you that, a committee representing the natives of this colony, has cabled Sir H. Holland, notifying an appeal to the Queen against the disfranchisement bill. There has as yet been no reply from the Secretary of State, but preparations for sending a deputation to London, and for getting signatures for a petition. The draft petition I shall forward to you next mail. I propose to forward it also to the leading London newspapers and to the Manchester Guardian. Opinion here can only be influenced by a movement in England.
We are indebted to Mr McArthur MP for the question he put in the House of Commons. Sir H Holland’s reply we consider as a mere expression of the opinion of the authorities of Cape Town. As to that portion of it that refers to the ‘tribal system’ as to which the APS expressed an opinion that such natives should not be entitled to a vote, I may say that there is now no tribal system in the Colony where the act is to be enforced. All the natives in the Cape Colony no matter on what system of land tenure are ruled by the Cape Government, not through their chiefs (which I understand to the be system meant by the tribal system) but directly by the ministry responsible to Parliament. Therefore these people have a right to have a say in the management of their affairs. Believe me these natives are treated as all other inhabitants of the Colony are treated by the government with the exception that in their case they are still groaning under disabling laws which however they were hoping in time to remove in a constitutional manner. Being deprived of representation they can’t hope to do this peaceably and I shudder to think of the future when the safety valve of native representation is jammed. When the petition comes, as also the deputation we hope to make these things plain to our English friends.
With best wishes, yours with kind regards, very truly,
J. Tengo Jabavu