producers decided to fight: the upshot of the whole matter was a letter
addressed by the members of the proposed commission of inquiry to the
Minister of Mines dated 16 May, which was read to the Assembly on 26
May, to the effect that
view of the attitude taken up by the associated companies through their
counsel ... on the 3rd instant, it seems to us as commissioners futile
to proceed with our work as far as getting any evidence directly from
these companies is concerned. This is likely to detract from any report
the commission may make, and we therefore desire to place our
resignation at the disposal of the Governor General.
letter was signed by all three commissioners and the resignations were
accepted. In reply to questions, the Minister added, 'as to the
intention of the Government appointing another commission, all I can
say is that the matter is at present still under consideration' and 'in
appointing any commissioners in future [the Government] will follow its
own dictates and will not be dictated to by any interests'.
The idea of a round table conference was also abandoned. On 12 May the Minister wrote to Sir Robert Kotze to the effect that
have carefully considered your proposal for a conference on the lines
set out by you, and as I intimated to you I was prepared to agree to
the suggestion in principle if it were formally made to me by the De
Beers and associated companies.
have, however, now intimated to me that the companies are not prepared
to agree to the proposed conference except on the clear understanding
that the commission will be dissolved. In other words, you make it a
condition that the commission should be withdrawn, or, at any rate,
that the Government should undertake to do so before you will take part
in any such conference.
I regret to have to inform you that the Government is not prepared to consider the proposal subject to that condition.20
the bridges between the industry and the Government were, for die
moment, down. Yet the situation was steadily deteriorating and
be compelled attend and would do so under protest but we and associated
companies could not be compelled. Effect would be that all of us could
legitimately claim that our attitude in the interests of justice was
consistent throughout and that we had never recognized and will never
recognize such commission or its findings. This would, we believe,
completely defeat possible Government contention outlined above and be
far preferable to voluntary submission to commission with the grave
results such voluntary submission may bring in its train.. . . Counsel
wish us to say their attitude is not due to any fear as to weakness of
our case on the merits because they consider it strong. They also add
that even if their view of the law is wrong and we can be compelled
attend we should still refuse to attend unless compelled by law to do
so. . . .'
20 At a previous conversation between Sir Robert and the Minister, the temporary suspension of the work of the commission had been under discussion.