When you’ve taken over a country and are imposing arbitrary taxes on its unfortunate native population, do you have the right to bombard them from airplanes if they refuse to pay? Who knew there was a controversy?
Flurry in League on Hottentot Revolt Over Dog Tax; Natives Killed by Bombs
by Edwin L. James.
Geneva, . — On the rostrom of the League of Nations Assembly the first delegate from Haiti came to the defense of his colored brethren in Southwest Africa and tonight around the polyglot dinner tables of Geneva the discussion on whether a country holding a mandate under the League has a right to drop airplane bombs upon the Hottentot inhabitants of mandated territory when they refuse to pay a dog tax, drives into the shade even the talk about “Bob” Cecil’s effort to make the naughty world behave.
The Bondels live down on the Fish River in what was a German colony before the world was made safe for democracy. The territory was mandated to the British Empire in general and South Africa in particular.
Just the other day the South African delegation reported that there had been an uprising, and said they would put a report about it in the League library. Almost every one forgot it until Delegate Bellegarde of Haiti, after a speech praising the League and surprising his hearers by unfashionably nice words about the United States, called attention of the Assembly to the “so-called punitive expedition against the Bondels, Hottentots, who are under the protection of the League of Nations.”
“Taxes were levied on the dogs which guard the herds of these poor people,” he continued, “that is the manner in which civilization first manifests itself among these savages. As the tax was very heavy the Bondels who would have had to sell their flocks to pay, refused to pay it. Then, without there being any act of rebellion, they were attacked with all the weapons of modern war, machine guns, cannon and airplanes.
“These natives, almost disarmed, were massacred and inasmuch as bombs cast from the air cannot chose [sic] their victims, women and children were killed in great numbers.”
After the Assembly adjourned there was a general rush to the library to see the report. The Bondels were described as a quarrelsome people by nature. It was recounted that some years back the Germans chased out Jake Christian and Abe Morris, native leaders, who in went back and were permitted to stay. Jake wanted to be chief and the tribe wanted him but the mandate administrator named Tim Beukes and backed him up.
Then in the dog tax was levied at the rate of one pound sterling on one dog and a graded scale up to ten pounds on five dogs. The official reason given was that the natives used dogs to hunt and would not work. It seems the natives tried to some extent to raise the money to pay the taxes but found so much difficulty that they refused to pay.
In fighting at the end of and the beginning of , eighty or a hundred natives, including some women and children, were killed and Jake was put to flight. The report admits that airplane bombs were used.
The official record contains the sad story of a donkey which, after serving as a motor power for Jake’s lines of communications, was killed and eaten.
Unfortunately for Jake’s political prospects, there seems to be little chance of the mandate being taken from Great Britain, but the dog tax has been reduced 50 per cent.
If you’re curious, google “Bondelswarts Rebellion” for more about this event. I like how the article is frank about how the tax was instituted less as a revenue-raising measure and more as an attempt to make the Bondels less self-sufficient and more reliant on hiring themselves out as laborers to European colonists.