Cymdeithas Hanes Resolfen History Society

A web log for the Resolven History Society which publishes articles and stories related to Resolven and the immediate surroundings.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


The editor has noticed that the number of comments has dried up in recent weeks, despite the traffic on the site remaining steady. If you have placed a comment on the site and it has not appeared and know our personal contact details could you let us know.



Update: Many thanks to Richard Hopkins, who has solved the problem. Keep the comments coming, we seem to have new readers in Ukraine - esbima.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Battle Against Apartheid

April Meeting: The history of Apartheid.

It was gratifying to see the new temporary base of the Society at the Community Centre full for the Noel Thomas Memorial Lecture, given by Neath MP, Mr Peter Hain. Mr Trefor Jones opened the meeting, by stating that Mr Hain needed to introduction, since he had been a Resolven resident for many years.
Mr Hain, thanked the Society for the invitation to come to give the Noel Thomas lecture and stated his admiration for the work done by the History Society over many years. He began, by referring to his parents, both now residents of the Vale of Neath and their personal struggle against the apartheid regime, which had led to their deportation from South Africa in 1966. He stated that they were both born in South Africa but were of British ancestry.
The origins of Apartheid, which became an official policy in 1948, could be found in the imperial history of the country. The two major colonisers, the Dutch East India Company on the Cape and later the British around Johannesburg had one objective which was the subjugation of the native peoples and the exploitation of the riches of the country. Afrikaans, itself which Mr Hain described as closest to Flemish of the modern European languages, had also caused a “lager” mentality among the Boers. This led to the Great Trek in the mid nineteenth century as they attempted to preserve their own culture against the infiltration of English culture. Indeed, it was his empathy for the  insecurity of the Boers that Nelson Mandela was later to use most successfully in building the nascent “Rainbow nation” in the 1990s. The expansion and exploitation of the country led to the Zulu wars with the native population in the 1870s and the two Boer wars in the later stages of the nineteenth century. The introduction of concentration camps during this period by the British, caused the deaths of thousands of women and children, and hardened the opinion of the Afrikaner. The role of the non-white population was always seen as subservient throughout this period,with both education and basic skills denied to them.
Following the general election of 1948, the National Party achieved a majority which gave the Boers the chance to formally introduce a system of apartheid, though segregation had long been a feature even under British rule. Mr Hain noted, that it was not only an apartheid between white and black but also of the mixed race Cape “coloureds” and Asians. The adjective “Orwellian”, was used during the talk and this was particularly appropriate in the case of the children born to ostensibly white parents who could be of genetically mixed race. In some cases, members of families would be segregated from each other as teenagers. By now, everything was segregated, including sport, leisure, the workplace and even skilled blacks were forced to give up their employment to whites.
The origins of the African National Congress lay in the early twentieth century, but it was not banned until the 1950s by the National government, as were other parties in opposition to the regime. The only party which was allowed to campaign against it were the largely white Liberal party of which the Hain family became members. Opposition was not looked at kindly, and the opposition of his parents which started with distributing leaflets, ended in banning orders, loss of employment and raids by the secret service in the middle of the night. The subject of a banning order could only communicate with one other person at a time, and a ludicrous situation arose when both Mr and Mrs Hain had banning orders at the same time and had to be given special dispensation to speak to each other in the company of the family.
Mr Hain then turned his attention to the twenty seven year incarceration of Nelson Mandela on Roben Island and the forces that were slowly defeating apartheid. He put this down to three factors. Firstly, the international sports boycott, which affected the sports mad South African public. Secondly, economic sanctions were increasingly being applied, especially as the number of black politicians was increasing in the House of Representatives in the USA. Thirdly, internal strife in the 1980s was putting increasing pressure on the regime and a civil war was possible. By then, secret negotiations were taking place with Nelson Mandela who had himself recognised that reconciliation was the only way forward and that the whites would have to play a part in any settlement.
Mr Hain concluded his talk by taking questions from the large audience. He was asked why he appeared a little disappointed with the way things had progressed in South Africa since the ending of the apartheid regime. He answered, that he realised that economic progress had been slow and early expectations had been euphoric. However, he was wary of the fact that corruption was rife in public life and more importantly that the role of education had not been pushed in any great degree. The great skills gap, despite large public expenditure, had been hackneyed by poor teaching of black children and the apathy shown by the teachers and unions. South Africa languishes at the bottom of the international league standards for education.
Former close neighbour, Mr Phylip Jones thanked Mr Hain for his memorable talk.

Next month’s speaker will be Mr Tony Waters on Monday May 12th, who will speak on the 1904 revival and show his television programme on the religious revival.

Update: Many thanks to Peter for donating the profit on the books that were sold on the night to the Society.