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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Conflicting Views of 'Coloured' People in the South African Liquor Bill Debate of 1928
Author:Martens, Jeremy C.
Year:2001
Periodical:Canadian Journal of African Studies
Volume:35
Issue:2
Pages:313-338
Language:English
Geographic term:South Africa
Subjects:racism
Coloureds
alcohol policy
Law, Human Rights and Violence
Ethnic and Race Relations
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Politics and Government
Link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/486116
Abstract:In late January 1928, members of the South African House of Assembly began discussing the provisions of a draft liquor Bill that proposed to draw disparate pre-Union legislation under the umbrella of a single Act. The Bill dealt with all aspects of the control and consumption of liquor. In spite of this broad scope, however, relatively minor measures dealing with the supply of liquor to coloured people presented serious obstacles in the Bill's snail-like passage through parliament. These clauses proposed, first, to prohibit coloured persons from buying off-licence alcohol, in addition to giving the Minister of Justice discretionary power to impose liquor restrictions on coloureds and Africans. Second, they proposed restrictions for the 'tot' system - the practice whereby Western Cape farmers administered daily portions of alcohol to their (largely) coloured workforce. The recommendations provoked an intense discussion on the nature of the 'coloured character', within the Members of Parliament (MPs) in favour of prohibition pitting their view of 'colouredness' against that of the 'moderates'. These conflicting sentiments turned on whether or not coloureds, as a 'race', were innately prone to intemperance. Prohibitionists argued passionately that the coloured population, 'owing to its standard of development', was an easy prey to alcohol's temptations. This article analyses the manner in which South African MPs' ideas about alcohol intersected with their notions of race during the 1928 Liquor Bill debate and, in so doing, illustrates the way in which prevailing historical context informed and shaped MPs' understanding of coloured 'racial characteristics'. Furthermore, the article examines to what extent the language and conclusions of racial science were employed during the debate to lend credibility to these opposing arguments. It concludes by suggesting that although it is probable that the popular racial ideas held by white MPs were sustained in part by scientific racism, it is difficult to establish a direct link between theoretical and practical racism. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in French.
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