Report from P.[atrick] J. L[ittle]. dated Capetown 14. 4. 1921. Arrived Sunday 10th.
(1) The ground had been well prepared by Irish Republican Association started six months before. Irish population 10,000, out of total white population of 1,250,000. Natives and half breeds number 10,000,000. There are about 50,000 Catholics.
The I.R. Association run a fortnightly journal, The Republic, circulation 2300 increasing by 50 a fortnight. There are thirteen branches of the association which held its first annual meeting in the Bloemfontein in February. Total membership is probably 1000. The principles of the Association are: -
(1) Not to be entangled in S.A. politics. (2) Declaration of allegiance to the idea of an Irish Republic. (3) Only those of Irish birth or descent are eligible. The members all act as citizens of South Africa.
Johannesburg 1000 miles from Capetown, the biggest Irish centre. I have arrived just in time to attend meeting of central council there on 19th., to discuss sending a deputation to Smuts prior to his departure for England. I have decided to describe myself as the accredited emissary of Eamon de Valera, a description which gives weight and gives no technical excuses for hostile action.
The English speaking community is not interested. Part of it intensely anti Irish and anti Catholic. A public meeting in Kimberley, e.g., would result in the wrecking of Irish people's houses.
The Dutchmen are with us through hatred of England but they are Calvinistic, very ignorant and prejudiced against Catholics. The Nationalists would like to use the Irish as a stick to beat Smuts with. The Dutch papers accept anything favouring us. The English papers are entirely jingo. The Cape Times would not accept even an advt. about the Association.
No reason why I should stay here more than three months. There is no serious work to be done and expenses are enormous owing to the immense distances. I think you should limit my stay here to three months and cable me if I am to go on to South America.
[...] Smuts gets to London the work here will grow less important. We will have a public campaign for the month before he goes.
Irish hope for very little from Smuts. He says he is sympathetic but I have turned my back on republicanism in my own country. How can I support it in Ireland? Reputation of being 'slim'.
Report from J.K.L.1 dated Johannesburg 20. 4. 1921.
Attended on the 17th. Conference of branches - 20 represented. Excellent under the circumstances. Three sub committees appointed (1) for trade (2) organisation (3) to draft memo and arrange deputation to Smuts.
I am arranging series of Public Meetings in this district during coming month. We are of opinion a resolution in Parliament would be lost as it would be made a Party Question.
The deputation to Smuts will not be a public one so as lest we arouse Unionist activities to make his work in London difficult. We will, later, arrange a monster petition if possible. It would be signed by 80 per cent of the Dutch.
Even if deputation and petition fail there will be good effects as the Nationalist Party would use failure of Smuts to settle our question.
My advice re funds is to be followed. (1) to raise enough for their own organisation. (2) To organise a fund for home. I am not clear that a loan would be possible.
Some funds have been raised for White Cross. I advised delay till you name some safe person through whom money may be transmitted. I thought it not safe to allow it to go to those publicly named. We shall also require name and address of recipient for home funds later.
People expect little from Smuts. Many smile at the idea of his doing anything. Hope lies in the chance that his political interests are not involved and would be best served by his bringing off an arrangement.
The memo will put our attitude strongly but will leave room for freedom of action if some formula such as the Dail will not stand between the people and their right to give a decision on a bona fide proposition. I shall send on memo when complete.
The Dutch farmers would raise a ship load of maize for the relief of distress. They give no money but will give in kind.