THE SELECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI > Vol. II - SATYAGRAHA IN SOUTH AFRICA > Geography
01. Geography
Africa is one of the biggest continents in the world. India is said to be not a country but a continent, but considering area alone, four or five Indians could be carved out of Africa. Africa is a peninsula like India; South Africa is thus mainly surrounded by the sea. There is a general impression that Africa is the hottest part of the earth, and in a sense this is true. The equator passes through the middle of Africa, and people in India cannot have any idea of the heat in countries situated along this line. The heat which we feel in the extreme south of India gives us some nation of it. But in South Africa there is nothing of that kind, as it is far away from the equator. The climate of many parts is so healthy and temperate that Europeans can settle there ins comfort, while it is nearly impossible for them to settle is India. Moreover, there are lands of great elevation in South Africa like Tibet or Kashmir, but these do not attain a height of ten to fourteen thousand feet as in Tibet. Consequently, the climate is dry and cold enough to be endured, and some places in South Africa are highly recommended as sanatoria for consumptives. One of these is Johannesburg the golden city of South Africa. Only fifty years ago, the site on which it now stands was desolate and covered with dry grass. But when gold mines were discovered, houses began to be built one after another as if by magic, and today there are many handsome and substantial buildings. The wealthy people of the place have got trees from the more fertile tracts of South Africa and from Europe, paying as much as a guinea for a tree, and have planted them there. A traveler ignorant of this previous history would imagine that these trees had been there for all time.
I do not propose to describe all the parts of South Africa, but will confine myself only to those which are connected with our subject – mattersubject-matter. One part of South Africa is under the Portuguese, and the rest under the British. The territory under the Portuguese is called Delagoa Bay, and this is the first South African port for steamers from India. As we proceed further south, we come to Natal, the first British Colony. Its chief sea – port sea-port is called Port Natal, but we know it as Durban, under which name it is generally known all over South Africa. Durban is the largest city in Natal. The capital is Pietermaritzburg, situated inland at a distance of about sixty miles from Durban and at a height of about two thousand feet above sea – levelsea-level. The climate of Durban is somewhat like that of Bombay, although rather colder. If we proceed further inland beyond Natal we reach the Transvaal, whose mines supply the world with the largest amount of gold. Some years ago diamond mines were also discovered in one of which was the world’s largest diamond. The Cullinan, so called after the name of the proprietor of the mine, weighed over 3,000 carats, or over 1? lb. avoirdupois, while the Kohinoor now weighs about 100 carats and the Orloff, one of the Russian crown jewels, about 200 carats.
But though Johannesburg is the centre of the goldmining industry and has diamond mines in the neighbourhood, it is not the official capital of the Transvaal. The capital is Pretoria, at a distance of about thirty – six thirty-six miles from Johannesburg. In Pretoria one chiefly finds officials and politicians and the population drawn by them. It is therefore a comparatively quiet place, while Johannesburg is full of bustle. As a visitor from a quiet village, or for thate matter of that a small town in India, to Bombay, would be confounded with the din and roar of the city, even so would a visitor from Pretoria be affected with Johannesburg. It would be no exaggeration to say that the citizens of Johannesburg do not walk but seem as if they run. No one has the leisure to look at anyone else, and everyone is apparently engrossed in thinking how to amass the maximum wealth in the minimum of time! If lLeaving the Transvaal we travel further inland towards the west, we come to Orange Free State or Orangia. Its capital is Bloemfontein, a very quiet and small town. There are no mines in Orangia like those in the Transvaal. A few hours’ railway journey from here takes us to the boundary of the Cape Colony, the biggest of all the South African colonies. It capital, which is also its largest sea-port, is known as Cape Town and is situated on the Cape of Good Hope, so called by King John of Portugal, as after its discovery he hoped his people would be able to find a new and easier way of reaching India, the supreme object of the maritime expeditions of that age.
Over and above these four principal British colonies, there are several territories under British ‘protection’, inhabited by races which had migrated there before the appearance of Europeans on the scene.
The chief industry of South Africa is agriculture and for this it is pre – eminently pre-eminently fitted. Some parts of it are delightful and fertile. The principal grain is maize, which is grown without much labour and forms the staple food of the Negro inhabitants of South Africa. Wheat also is grown in some parts. South Africa is famous for its fruits. Natal Cultivates many varieties of excellent bananas, and pineapples, and that too in such abundance that they are available to the poorest of the poor. In Natal as well as other colonies, oranges, peaches and apricots grow in such plenty that thousands get them in the country for the labour of gathering them. The cCape cColony is the land of grapes and plums. Hardly any other place grows such fine grapes, and during the season they can nbe had so cheap that even a poor man can have his fill. It is impossible that there should be no mangoes in places inhabited by Indians. Indians planted mango trees in South Africa and consequently mangoes also are available in considerable quantities. Some varieties of these can certainly complete with the best mangoes of Bombay. Vegetables also are extensively grown in that fertile country, and it may be said that almost all the vegetables of India are grown there by Indians with a palate for home delicacies.
Cattle also are bred in considerable numbers. Cows and oxen are better built and stronger than in India. I have been ashamed, and my heart has often bled, to find many cows and oxen in India, which claims to protect, the cow as emaciated as the people themselves. Although I have moved about over all parts of South Africa with open eyes, I do not remember to have seen a single emaciated cow or bull.
Not only has nature showered her often other gifts upon this country, but she has not been stingy in beautifying it with a fine landscape.
The scenery of Durban is considered very beautiful, but that of Cape Town surpasses it. Cape Town is situated at the foot of the tTable Mountain which is neither too high nor too low. A gifted lady who dotes on South Africa says in her poem about this mountain that no other gave her such a sense of the Unique. There may be exaggeration in this. I think there is. But one of her points struck me as true. She says the Table Mountain stands in the position of a friend to the citizens of Cape Town. Not being too high, it does not inspire awe. People are not compelled to worship it from far, but build their houses upon it and live there. And as it is just on the seashore, the sea always washes its foot with its dear waters. Young and old, men and women, fearlessly move about the whole mountain, which resounds every day with the voices of thousands. Its tall trees and flowers of fine fragrance and variegated hues impart such a charm to the mountain that one can never see too much of it, or move too much about it.
South Africa cannot boast of such mighty rivers as the Ganga or the Indus. The few that are there are comparatively small. The water of rivers cannot reach many places. No canals can be taken to the highlands. And how can there be canals in the absence of large rivers? Wherever there is a deficiency of surface water in South Africa, artesian wells are sunk, and water needed for irrigating fields is pumped up by windmills and steam – enginessteam-engines. Agriculture receives much encouragement from Government. Government sends out agricultural experts to advise the cultivators, maintains model farms where experiments are carried on for their benefit, provides them with good cattle and seed, bores artesian wells for them at very little cost and permits them to repay this amount by installments. Similarly, Government erects barbed wire fences to protect their fields.
As South Africa is to the south, and India to the north, of the equator, climatic conditions there are just the reverse of what they are here. The seasons occur in a reverse order. For example, while we have summer here, South Africa is passing through winter. Rainfall is uncertain and capricious. It may occur any time. The average annual rainfall rarely exceeds twenty inches.