In 1948, on this day in South Africa, the Government of Field Marshal Jan Christian Smuts (pictured) was returned following victory at a third successive general election.1
Bitter Fruit in the fifth provinceHis opponent Daniel Francois Malan's defeated National Party had campaigned for the prohibition of mixed marriages, for the banning of black trade unions and for stricter enforcement of job reservation. Instead voters chose Smut's policy of encouraging immigration from europeans - who were either weary of post-war Europe, or attracted by their war-time service in Southern Africa. And the rapid arrival of europeans would mean that inside of twenty years, the ratio of whites to all other races in South Africa would narrow to just 2:1.
The victory of Smuts' United Party was directly attributable to another long-term strategy of the General's. Because in the 1922 referendum, Smuts had convinced Rhodesia elected to join the Union of South Africa instead of establishing their own "responsible government". And those votes would prove crucial in the 1948 election.
One of Smut's successors as Prime Minister, Ian Smith2 would later note that "In 1922 the choice was put to the Rhodesian people through a referendum. Due to the personal intervention of General Jan Smuts, then Prime Minister of South Africa, who visited the country and addressed meetings, using his great wisdom and personal charm in an effort to convince Rhodesians to opt for joining the Union, Rhodesians voted by a majority of 2:1 to become the fifth province of the Union of South Africa .. The practical and economic benefits of joining the Union, obvious at that time, materialised and even exceeded predictions. With the advantages of being part of a larger and more diversified economy, access to transport and harbour facilities, eliminiation of customs and trade barriers, retaining Commonwealth preferences - because South Africa was part of the British Empire - things could only improve".
And yet Southern Africa's commercial success would bear bitter fruit. Identifying the Union of South Africa as a vulnerable citadel of capitalism, the Soviet Union and Cuba would pump immense resources into the South African Communist Party in order to overturn white majority rule. In his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom, President Nelson Mandela conceded "There will always be those who say that the Communists were using us. But who is to say that we were not using them?".3