Preferred Citation: Vail, Leroy, editor. The Creation of Tribalism in Southern Africa. London Berkeley:  Currey University of California Press,  1989.


The Creation of Tribalism in Southern Africa

Edited by Leroy Vail

Berkeley · Los Angeles · Oxford
© 1989 The Regents of the University of California

For Zwelakhe Sisulu

Preferred Citation: Vail, Leroy, editor. The Creation of Tribalism in Southern Africa. London Berkeley:  Currey University of California Press,  1989.

For Zwelakhe Sisulu



A conversation on a windy Malawian hillside in late 1969 planted the seed of this book in my mind. On holiday from the University of Malawi, I was then travelling in the Northern Region to do field research on the area's pre-colonial history. In the course of my work, I had met a primary school teacher in a village deep in the hills, many miles from the main road. He asked me how I liked Malawi. I replied that I liked it and thought it an interesting place. The teacher was not satisfied with such generalities, and he pressed me, asking me specifically if I enjoyed the Southern Region, where the University was located, as much as I did the Northern Region. I said that I found all parts of the country attractive.

It was clear that this answer both puzzled and frustrated him, and he then assured me that, as I continued my journey, I would soon recognize that the Northern Region was a better place than the south because its people were 'more civilized' and 'more progressive'. To clinch his argument, he pointed out that in the south 'people actually live in round houses, while we here in the North use square ones'! This proud claim of cultural superiority for the people of the Northern Region on the basis of the design of their houses called to mind the attitude of many of my students from the Northern Region. In 1968, the year of the Nigerian Civil War, many had predicted, with abundant optimism, that 'Northern Malawi is going to be the next Biafra'!

It was evident that despite the fact that Malawi had won its independence from Britain just four years earlier, its nationalist movement was already a spent ideological force. The official rhetoric in the government-controlled press and radio about 'building the nation' and the Malawi Congress Party's endless sloganeering for 'Unity, Loyalty, Obedience and Discipline' were belied by the fact that many Malawians who, according to the received wisdom of the times, should have known better, were ardent 'tribalists' with no love for the Party and its grandees or for its stated goals. Why had nationalism and nationalist unity evaporated so rapidly?

In retrospect, the answer seems quite straightforward. Nationalism, not only in Malawi, but in many other areas of Africa as well, had been a basically negative force, directed against colonialism, with little positive vision about the nature of the new society after colonialism's demise. Tribalism', that troubling enemy of the dominant party's programme of 'nation-building', had quickly come into the open after Malawi's independence. This was partly a result of the 'Cabinet Crisis' of late 1964, which fractured pre-Independence political alliances along fault lines of ethnic and regional identity, with a group of Chewa-speaking politicians from the Central Region ultimately gaining the political upper hand.


It was also partly the result of the Malawi Congress Party's actions against the strongly entrenched position within Malawian society of comparatively welleducated bureaucrats and civil servants from the Northern Region. This assault was broad in its scope, but it had been most strikingly symbolized for all Malawians by President Kamuzu Banda's decision in 1968 to remove the Tumbuka language—spoken by the great majority of the Northern Region's people—from its status as an official language of the country, banning it wholly from radio broadcasts and newspapers.

The fragmentation of Malawi along ethnic lines perplexed me personally. I had only recently come to Malawi from graduate school in the United States. There I had been taught that the notion of 'tribe' was little more than a racist term with a myriad of negative connotations, and its use in student essays brought quick professorial rebuke. I had also fully absorbed the view widely held in American Africanist circles that nationalism and 'nation-building' were irresistible forces destined to rout any lingering local parochialism and to bring benificent Progress to Africa. In Malawi, however, things were not going according to the American script. My students at the university never hesitated to identify themselves as members of a particular 'tribe', and they did so with obvious pride. Furthermore, 'tribalism' was growing rapidly, and it clearly was not about to dissolve before the solvents of 'modernization' or 'nation-building'. I became intrigued as to whence 'tribalism' derived its strength, and interested in exploring its roots.

If my conversation with the school teacher on that hillside in 1969 planted the seed of this book in my mind, the field research that I carried out over subsequent years caused it to germinate. When I arrived in Malawi in 1967, I was searching for a project upon which to work. A colleague at the university suggested that I study the 'Nkhamanga Empire', a large state said to have existed in northern Malawi prior to its destruction by militarized Ngoni refugees from South Africa in 1855–6. As I carried out my research, however, I discovered that this 'empire' had never actually existed.[1] It became clear that the supposed history of this 'empire' was actually the self-conscious creation of certain Tumbuka-speaking intellectuals at the turn of the twentieth century, the ideological product of political struggle and economic depression.[2]

As I explored the manner in which this vision of a glorious past had been constructed and deployed, I further discovered that the narrower Tumbuka 'tribalism', based on the carefully crafted version of local history that dated from the turn of the century, had been transformed in the 1930s into a broader, more powerful northern regionalism that rested on two pillars: the widespread acceptance of the importance of the Tumbuka language; and the assumption that, as northerners were better educated than other peoples of colonial Malawi, they deserved powerful positions in society acquired through merit. Once again, this was an ideological transformation that occurred at a time of political and economic struggle.

It became increasingly clear to me that the 'tribalism' of the late 1960s in Malawi was in large measure a reassertion of a well-established ethnic and regional consciousness dating from much earlier in the century. The claims for the 'superior culture' of his fellow northerners and the 'primitiveness' of other Malawian peoples made by the school teacher, as well as my students' infatuation with the local potential of the Biafran gambit, both reflected the power of an ethnic consciousness already in place at the time of independence from Britain, in 1964. The upsurge of 'tribalism' during the late 1960s was the ideological reflection of the political struggles that were then going on in Malawi, and its very strength was indicative of its deep historical roots.


It struck me that what had occurred in Malawi was likely to have occurred in other parts of southern Africa as well. If ethnic consciousness was a product of historical experience, then its creation and elaboration would be a proper subject of enquiry for historians. Moreover, it seemed important to understand the historical dynamics of the creation of ethnic consciousness because it seemed likely that the process would continue into the future and retain great political salience. It was with these ideas in mind that I decided to organize a conference to explore the issue. I had two goals for this conference.

First, I wanted a set of case studies that would deploy fresh empirical data illuminating the historical processes involved in the creation of specific examples of ethnic ideology. The widely-held assumption that 'tribalism' would soon disappear, coupled with the moral opprobrium associated with it as a topic of study, meant that. many academics had tended to shy away from it, apprehensive lest such studies undermine officially supported goals of national unity and 'nation-building' by succouring parochialism.[3] As a consequence, studies exploring the inception and growth of such ideological constructs in southern Africa were relatively rare. There was, then, a real need for detailed case studies based on original research that might illuminate the historical process involved.

Second, I felt that a comparative approach to the phenomenon might suggest reasons for the salience of ethnicity as an ideology for many peoples scattered over the whole southern African region. Too frequently, journalists and other commentators on African political life have tended to take 'tribalism' as given, useful in explaining political actions but itself not really requiring much explanation. I thought that by comparing case studies from a single region of Africa one might discover the reason for the specifically ethnic thrust of the fast-growing ideologies. To give a common basis for such comparison, therefore, I suggested to the participants in the conference that they should try to relate the ideological changes they were investigating to the nature of the political economy of the areas in which they were interested. In this way we could probe the possibility of linkages between political and socio-economic changes on the one hand and intellectual and cultural changes on the other.

By emphasizing the historicity of the process and by placing the case studies within a comparative framework, I hoped that ethnicity might, at least partially, be explained. The tautological argument that Africans acted 'tribalistically' because they were 'tribal' people would thus be replaced by an explanation with greater power. This explanation would be important not only for its own sake, but, more practically, because ethnicity remains a political reality in the region today and because the potential for ethnic conflict in a future black-ruled South Africa is something to be taken very seriously indeed. Should such occur, it will be highly disruptive—as ethnic conflict in Nigeria has been—because it will be occurring in the industrial, social and political centre of the entire region and would in all likelihood lead to its political destabilization.

The conference itself was held in April 1983 at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, under the auspices of the Carter G. Woodson Institute. Armstead Robinson, the Director of the Institute, was unfailing in his support. I must make


special note of the work done by the Institute's staff, especially Mary Rose, in ensuring that the conference took place smoothly and for aid in the subsequent editing of the volume.

I owe a great deal of gratitude for the conference's success to all the contributors to this volume, whose papers comprised the bulk of the work discussed at the conference itself and whose patience through an exceedingly long period of editing has been both monumental and deeply appreciated. Other participants who contributed to the conference's intellectual vitality were Hoyt Alverson, Colin Bundy, James Carragher, David Coplan, Jill Dias, Robert Edgar, Alexis Gardella, Stanley Greenberg, Halisi, Richard Hodder-Williams, Mary Rayner, and Richard Sigwalt.

Special mention must be made of two people without whose support this book would never have been brought to a conclusion. First, although Joseph Miller did not present a paper, he did virtually everything else he could to ensure that the conference took place and that it would be a success. Whenever I was depressed about organizational problems, I could count on him to convince me of its worth and that I should carry on. He served as my intellectual guide, sending me memos about obscure publications on ethnicity and freely giving me his own ideas on the topic. And at the conference itself, he shone both as a representative of the University of Virginia and as an acute commentator on several papers.

Second, although she has repeatedly reminded me of my statement, made in 1975, that I would never be crazy enough to organize a conference or edit a book, my wife Patricia has been unfailing in her substantive enthusiasm for both projects, giving free technical advice and warm emotional support with equal cheer. That the book is at last appearing is entirely to her credit and I, for one, thank her.


Notes on Contributors

Jeffrey Butler is Professor of History at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. He has written extensively on the history of South Africa and is currently preparing a monograph on the history of the Eastern Cape town of Cradock.

Hermann Giliomee is Professor of Politics at the University of Cape Town and has written widely on the history of the Afrikaans-speaking people of South Africa. His works include Ethnic Power Mobilized: Can South Africa Change? (1979), and he is currently editing, with André du Toit, a multi-volume study, Afrikaner Political Thought: Analysis and Documents .

Patrick Harries is Lecturer in History at the University of Cape Town and has written extensively on the history of southern Mozambique and northeastern South Africa. He is currently writing a study of the impact of the Swiss Mission on this area.

Ian Goldin , since completing his M.Sc. at the London School of Economics and D.Phil, at Oxford University, has worked as an economist. His work on the Western Cape arises out of an interest begun while studying at the University of Cape Town and later explored in his doctoral dissertation. His published work on the subject of class and race includes Making Race: The Politics and Economics of Coloured Identity in South Africa (London, 1987) and a number of articles.

Bogumil Jewsiewicki taught at the University of Zaire (Lumumbashi) from 1969 to 1976 and now teaches at the Université Laval in Quebec. He has published numerous works on the socioeconomic history of colonial Zaire and on the historiography of African studies. His present research includes work on collective memory and social identity.

Hugh Macmillan formerly taught at the University of Swaziland and is now Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Zambia. He has written about the history of Malawi, Swaziland and South Africa.

Shula Marks is Professor of History at the University of London and the Director of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University. A past editor of the Journal of African History and a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Southern African Studies, her own published work on South African history


includes Reluctant Rebellion (1971). She has edited three influential volumes on South African social and economic history.

Robert Papstein currently lectures in African history at the Free University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. He conducted field research among the Luvalespeaking peoples of the Upper Zambezi Valley between 1972 and 1974 and formerly lectured at the University of Zambia.

Jeanne Penvenne is Research Associate of the African Studies Center and an instructor in the Metropolitan College of Boston University. Her area of special interest is labour history.

Terence Ranger taught at the University College of Rhodesia and Nyasaland between 1956 and 1963 and then at the Universities of Dar es-Salaam and California at Los Angeles. He has written many books, including Dance and Society in Eastern Africa, 1890–1970 (1975) and Peasant Consciousness and Guerilla War in Zimbabwe. A Comparative Study (1985). He is now Professor of Race Relations and African Studies to the University of Oxford and is continuing his research on the history of Zimbabwe.

Allen F. Roberts is Associate Professor of African-American World Studies at the University of Iowa. He is interested in the ways people cope with social change and writes on symbolization and systems of thought, local-level political economy, technology transfer, and African art and material culture. He has also studied the social impact of solar energy technology applications in developing countries; curated an international exhibition of Tabwa art; and co-founded (with his wife, art historian Mary Kujawski) the African National Museums Program at the University of Michigan.

Brian Siegel teaches anthropology and race and ethnic relations to the Sociology Department of Furman University, Greenville, South Carolina. His interest in the Lamba and their history derives from his dissertation research for the University of Wisconsin-Madison on ethnic stereotypes and antagonisms to the rural Zambian Copperbelt.

Leroy Vail is Associate Professor of History at Harvard University and Director of its Program on South African Studies. He taught at the Universities of Malawi and Zambia between 1967 and 1979 and has written widely on the history, literature and linguistics of east central Africa. With Landeg White he has written Capitalism and Colonialism in Mozambique (1981) and is currently engaged on books discussing the political role of African songs and poetry and on the history of Central African spirit possession.

Landeg White is Director of the Centre for Southern African Studies at the University of York. He has taught at the Universities of the West Indies, Malawi, Zambia and Sierre Leone. He has published several books on literature, both on the West Indies and Africa, most recently Literature and Society in South Africa (1985). He has also written Magomero: Portrait of an African Village (1987) and, with Leroy Vail, Capitalism and Colonialism in Mozambique (1981).



Southern Africa



Bantustans in South Africa



The Eastern Transvaal, Swaziland and southern Mozambique



North-eastern Zimbabwe and the Mozambique border



The Tabwa area with surrounding ethnic groups



Swaziland and the Eastern Transvaal



The Upper Zambezi region of Zambia and the Central African Copperbelt



The Ciskei and surrounding area


Introduction: Ethnicity in Southern African History

Leroy Vail

Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing can ever be made.
Immanuel Kant


African political leaders, experiencing it as destructive to their ideals of national unity, denounce it passionately. Commentators on the Left, recognizing it as a block to the growth of appropriate class awareness, inveigh against it as a case of 'false consciousness'. Apologists for South African apartheid, welcoming it as an ally of continued white dominance, encourage it. Development theorists, perceiving it as a check to economic growth, deplore it. Journalists, judging it an adequate explanation for a myriad of otherwise puzzling events, deploy it mercilessly. Political scientists, intrigued by its continuing power, probe at it endlessly. If one disapproves of the phenomenon, 'it' is 'tribalism'; if one is less judgmental, 'it' is 'ethnicity'.

Ethnicity's emergence as a central concern for a wide range of students of African affairs is relatively recent, and its forceful intrusion upon the dominant nationalist paradigm of the 1950s and early 1960s was both unexpected and unwelcome.[1] At that time, it was accepted that Africans were organized naturally into 'tribes', but, as nationalist movements in Africa were then apparently enjoying great success, most observers believed that parochial ethnic loyalties were merely cultural ghosts lingering on into the present, weakened anomalies from a fast receding past. As such, they were destined to disappear in the face of the social, economic and political changes that were everywhere at work. People from all sectors of the political spectrum believed in this vision. For those on the Right and in the Centre, 'modernization' would do the job. Greater access to education, improved communications, and the shifting of people from the slumbering 'traditional' rural sector of the economy to the vibrant 'modern' industrial sector by the beneficent forces of economic growth guaranteed that ethnic loyalties would fade away. In their place would grow a new, nationoriented consciousness which would underpin progressive 'nation-building', especially if the new nation states could make good their promises of a better life for all their citizens. Africa would be a continent of new Switzerlands in which cultural divisions would be of little political importance.

For those on the Left, too, 'modernization' was the key, although it was viewed


from a somewhat different perspective. The break-down of 'traditional' societies by the forces of new, state-sponsored welfare socialism, with its expanded facilities in public education, medicine and agricultural programmes, would allow newly independent African states to 'skip a stage' in the evolution of their societies towards socialism and to enter directly into that blessed condition. In effect, socialism would then provide the material base for a pan-ethnic class consciousness that would transcend, if not negate, cultural differences. Africa would be a continent of new Yugoslavias.

The general paradigm of 'modernization', then, appealed to almost every political viewpoint. For almost every observer nationalism seemed progressive and laudable, while ethnicity—or, as it was usually termed, 'tribalism'—was retrogressive and divisive.

Ethnicity, however, failed to cooperate with its many would-be pall-bearers. It soon became clear that African nationalist movements, ideologically shaped by the basically negative sentiments of anti-colonialism and with little substantive philosophical content relevant to the day-to-day life of ordinary Africans living in post-colonial states, were simply unable to provide them with compelling intellectual, social, and political visions. Once the attainment of independence had made most of its anti-colonial message irrelevant, nationalist 'thought' was transformed into a gloss for the manipulation of the institutions of the new nation-states on behalf of the interests of the ruling political parties in a succession of one party states.[2] Much state activity was devoted to the pursuit of variously defined forms of 'economic development', but such development proved elusive and the much-desired economic Fruits of Independence generally failed to ripen. That growth which did occur, moreover, was usually to the benefit of the dominant political classes and possessed little popular appeal.

As a result of this quick reining in of nationalism's popular thrust within the bureaucratic structures of essentially artificial post-colonial states, ethnic or regional movements rooted in the colonial era had fresh life breathed into them and came to be seen as attractive alternatives to the dominant political parties with their demands for uncomplaining obedience from the governed. In effect, the revitalization of 'tribalism' was structured into the one-party system by the very fact of that system's existence. Ethnicity became the home of the opposition in states where class consciousness was largely undeveloped. Ethnic particularism has consequently continued to bedevil efforts to 'build nations' to the specifications of the ruling party for the past two decades or more. This hard political fact has called forth ever more systematic repression of dissent by those in control of the state, thus, in effect, strengthening the appeal of the ethnic alternative. Ethnicity's future, even in countries such as South Africa, where industrialization has proceeded further than anywhere else on the continent, seems secure because it is likely to provide an important focal point for whatever opposition to the dominant political classes that might exist.

With its power to divide people politically, then, and with its sturdy resistance to erosion by the ideological forces of national or class consciousness, ethnicity came to demand close—albeit it often very grudging—attention after decades of neglect. Its source and appeal needed reasonable explanations, and interpretations of it have ranged widely, reflecting its multidimensional nature.

The most prominent explanation—if only because of its widespread use—is the one that, despite the great frequency with which one encounters it in media coverage of Africa, is plainly the least satisfactory. In effect, this interpretation is a restatement of the old assumption that Africans are by nature 'tribal' people and that 'tribalism' is little more than an irrelevant anachronism, an atavistic residue


deriving from the distant past of rural Africa. It should have evaporated with the passage of time, but, inexplicably, something went wrong, and it continues to refuse to obey the laws of social and political change. It thus remains able to motivate Africans to frequent actions of conflict and violence. Ethnic consciousness is, in this view, a form of collective irrationality.

The problems with this interpretation are clear. First, it is always dangerous to assume that people consistently act out of mass irrationality. People tend to act rationally, and there is no reason on the face of it to accept that Africans are exceptions. Second, this argument is, in effect, also a tautology with no analytical power, arguing as it does that Africans act 'tribalistically' because they are naturally 'tribal'. Third, and most tellingly, empirical evidence shows clearly that ethnic consciousness is very much a new phenomenon, an ideological construct, usually of the twentieth century, and not an anachronistic cultural artifact from the past. As an offspring of the changes associated with so-called 'modernization', therefore, it is unlikely to be destroyed by the continuation of these same processes. For all these reasons, then, this interpretation must be discarded.

Other, more scholarly interpretations have been suggested to explain the origin and persistence of ethnicity in Africa. All these interpretations have two things in common. First, they derive mainly from the work of anthropologists, sociologists and, especially, political scientists, observers who have been primarily concerned with the situation in Africa at the time they actually studied it. This has meant that their interpretations have usually been concerned with ethnicity's role at the moment of observation and its potential for the future. As such, they usually give only brief attention to its history, presenting whatever history that might be uncovered as mere 'background' to ethnicity's contemporary role.

Second, all these interpretations are also marked by the fact that they have evolved out of the nationalist paradigm dominant from the 1950s into the 1970s. They implicitly accept a basically evolutionary view of human history. In this view, the future ought to be better than the past, and 'better' has been identified with improvements assumed to flow from an increase in political scale and the growth of national unity—in short, from 'nation-building'. As a consequence, most such analyses of ethnicity are concerned with the way it has traduced the promise of modernizing nationalism and are thus predisposed to negative judgments. Their emphasis, therefore, has been on ethnicity's role as a disrupter of the promising trends of secular nationalism that seemed to characterize African politics in the late 1950s and early 1960s and to promise a rosy future.

The intellectual range of these interpretations of ethnicity has been wide. One viewpoint encountered frequently—especially within Africa itself—is that ethnicity is primarily the result of a history of 'divide-and-rule' tactics which colonial governments cannily employed. European anthropologists connived at such policies by specifying 'tribes' culturally within the context of a uniquely colonial sociology, thereby giving the 'tribe' a real, but specious, identity. The element of truth in this explanation has made it superficially attractive, especially as the South African government today actively uses both approaches in its Bantustan policies and in its stress on the uniqueness of 'tribal' culture, patent efforts to promote political divisions among the country's African population.

Yet whatever its merits, it is an explanation clearly insufficient to explain the persistence of ethnic consciousness. This is so for several reasons. First, it fails to explain why, in a particular territory throughout which the colonial state employed roughly the same divide-and-rule policies, ethnic consciousness developed unevenly, strong among certain peoples but not among others, a situation common throughout Africa. Second, it tends to depict Africans as little


more than either collaborating dupes or naive and gullible people, beguiled by clever colonial administrators and untrustworthy anthropologists, a situation which empirical evidence fails to corroborate. Finally, it does not explain how, three decades after the departure of the colonialists, 'tribalism', or its close kin, 'regionalism', lives on as strongly as ever in independent African states, the governments of which have been actively trying to suppress it, and why in some places it is growing up for the first time. The clever blandishments of subtle European administrators are clearly insufficient to explain either the origins of ethnic consciousness or its continuing appeal today.

A second interpretation, especially prominent in the 1950s and early 1960s, arose from the study of urban sociology, especially in the mining areas of Central Africa.[3] Intellectually, it was linked to the Dual Economy model of 'modernization' theory, and it located its interpretation of the development of new ethnic consciousness in the experiences of rural people in industrial workplaces. As members of various cultural groups left their isolated rural areas and interacted with each other in industrial or urban locales, they formed stereotypes of themselves and others, and these stereotypes effectively highlighted and strengthened culturally defined distinctions amongst peoples. The tendency of employers to prefer certain ethnic groups for certain types of work and their conscious manipulation of ethnic differences to keep the workforce disunited resulted in competition between ethnic groups being built into the hierarchically structured workforce. In this view, ethnicity was a recent phenomenon of the modern urban workplace in which boundaries and distinctions between people had been built up. It was not a phenomenon of the rural areas, where people were assumed to live in accordance with prescriptive patterns derived from a 'traditional' past and where they were largely isolated from peoples of differing cultures. As such, some scholars, as well as most African politicians of the time, assumed that the but recently formed ethnic identities were still malleable and that they would prove susceptible to an easy transformation into a national identity through processes of political mobilization associated with 'nation-building', especially if the labour unions representing such workers could be coopted into the national political establishment.[4]

This interpretation is certainly valuable for its underscoring of the important point that ethnic stereotypes were indeed largely produced in work situations and in urban settings. Yet it too is unable to serve as a general explanation of ethnicity's origin or, especially, its persistence. First, by emphasizing the boundaries that the creation of ethnic stereotypes among urban Africans produced, which, in turn, created opposing notions of 'them' and 'us', it overlooks the more substantive intellectual content contributed by African intellectuals to the specification of concepts of ethnic self-identity within those boundaries. Positive views about one's history, the heroes of one's ethnic past, and the manifestations of one's culture, especially language, quite simply did not spring automatically from the work situation or the urban centre, yet they have all been central in defining ethnic identities and ethnic ideologies.

Second, by stressing the essentially non-rural nature of the growth of ethnic stereotypes, this interpretation implicitly accepts the notion that rural Africa was preserved in some sort of 'traditional' pickle, antithetically opposed to 'modern' industrial Africa and largely untouched by the forces of change associated with capitalist expansion and urbanization. Such a view of the existence of 'two Africas' with but insubstantial linkages between them has by now been convincingly discredited.[5] Quite simply, the rural areas of southern and central Africa did not remain unchanged in a brine of 'tradition', with meaningful change


restricted to areas of obvious economic growth. Historical change affected the rural areas as much as it did the industrial and urban areas. More to the point, empirical evidence abundantly demonstrates that it is to the rural areas that one must look for most of the intellectual content of ethnic ideologies as they developed during the twentieth century in response to such change.

A third interpretation of the growth of ethnicity is that it resulted from uneven development within African colonial territories.[6] Certain peoples were able to do comparatively well from the educational and employment opportunities that colonial capitalism presented unevenly, with aspirant petty bourgeois groups able to establish themselves in some areas but not in others. When it became clear that the colonial era was nearing its end, these petty bourgeois groups mobilized support along ethnic lines so that they would be in a position to maximize their opportunities for access to resources and power after independence. This situation led in turn to the continuation of specifically ethnic politics in many countries of Africa, resulting in a rash of coups d'état and civil wars as ethnic fragments of the national petty bourgeoisie competed for their own advantage. From this perspective, ethnicity tends to be seen instrumentally, as little more than an ideological mask employed by ambitious members of upwardly-aspiring groups as a way of papering over growing class divisions within their ethnic group so as to secure their own narrow interests through demagoguery and mystification. Ethnicity, then, when ordinary people embrace it, is the very epitome of 'false consciousness'.

Again, this interpretation, with its emphasis on the pivotal roles of influential petty bourgeois intellectuals functioning as culture brokers and on smart politicians craftily manipulating popular opinion, especially in the post-colonial period, has obvious elements of truth in it. It also goes far towards explaining why some cultural groups who have had such a 'modernizing' petty bourgeoisie within them are more 'tribal' than other groups within the same country who lack such a class. Yet, on its own, it too ultimately fails to explain ethnicity's appeal. This is so because it goes too far in depicting ordinary people as being credulous, blindly accepting the ethnic party line from their devious betters. It fails to explain why, today as in the colonial period, the ethnic message should find such resonance with ordinary people. Why, in short, have ordinary people chosen so often to support ethnic politicians rather than national politicians? What is in the ethnic message that is not in the nationalist message? One must once again guard against the assumption, necessary to this interpretation, that ordinary Africans act either irrationally or sentimentally.

Finally, deriving from a Durkheimian notion of the importance of the role of the 'community', or Gemeinschaft, there is the 'primordialist' interpretation of ethnicity, an interpretation which now appears to be in the ascendancy amongst many scholars.[7] Its attraction lies in its serious attempt to answer the crucial question as to why the ethnic message possesses such strong appeal. This interpretation seeks the explanation in the realm of psychology. Africans, it is argued, were badly affected by the disruptive socio-economic and political changes of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Pre-capitalist and pre-colonial hierarchies and elements of order in social life were undermined by the growth of capitalist relations and the impact of colonialism, thereby depriving people of social and psychological security. As a result, in a hostile world they have instead sought security through the invocation of a lost past of firm values as a way of recreating a life in which they can achieve emotional and, even, perhaps, physical safety. Ethnic identity provides a comforting sense of brotherhood in a world tending towards social atomization and rootlessness. Ethnic leaders


represent and embody the unity of the cultural group. In this view, ethnicity is a kind of romantic rejection of the present. Enduring rather as religious fundamentalism or faith healing do in western societies, it is a reaction to the sterility of modern positivism and has become something akin to a civil religion with great emotional appeal.

Once again, this argument is attractive, particularly as the ethnic message, once established amongst people, does appear to be a part of the natural order of the universe. It categorizes people in accordance with inevitable, largely unselfconscious ascription: people belong to tribe X because they are born in tribe X and are, regardless of personal choice, characterized by the cultural traits of tribe X. Thus one is a member of a 'tribe' not by choice, but by destiny, and one thus partakes of a set of 'proper' customs.

Yet there are three serious problems with this interpretation. First, the mere appeal of, or belief in, a generalized idyllic past and the presumed unity of the ethnic group seem insufficiently definite to explain the relevance to people in specific historical situations of the statements that comprise constructed ethnic ideologies. Why have vague cultural statements about language or a common history or a hero from the past succeeded in 'comforting' people or mobilizing them? Does ethnicity appeal because it is intrinsically 'primordial', or is it constructed as 'primordial' in its discourse to render it more generally appealing? What specific messages within the ethnic ideology actually appeal the most and to whom? And why? In short, the stress upon the 'primordial' aspect of ethnicity tends to overlook both the actual intellectual content of the message, which can vary from group to group, and its varying appeal among different members of the same ethnic group.

Second, by stressing the backward-looking, 'primordial' aspect of ethnicity, this interpretation fails to answer the central empirical question of how the most backward-looking ethnic ideologies, with their glorification of long-dead heroes and their delight in 'traditional values', have been able at the same time to contain within them a powerful acceptance of western education and skills and a willingness to 'change with the times'. The emphasis on the primordial past does not take into account ethnicity's forward-looking aspect which, as commentators have frequently observed, gives it a Janus-like appearance. This is so, I suggest, largely because the role of class actors in creating and shaping ethnic ideologies has been largely overlooked. It is the direct appeal of fresh ideas and institutions to certain new classes that appeared in twentieth century Africa that has been translated into the progressive face of ethnic identity. The psychological appeal of primordialism and the concern for specific present-day interests of specific classes perhaps seem unlikely bed-fellows, but they are real ones nonetheless and must be explained.

Third, and directly related to the first two problems, the emphasis upon a comforting past projects upon African people's ideas an unconvincing stasis. It is simply impossible to accept that Africans, living through some of the most rapid changes that any people have lived through in all human history, have attached themselves blindly, like so many limpets, to a vision of the past that has little relevance to the present and the future just because it is 'comfortable'. As an interpretation, the 'primordialist' explanation of ethnicity, on its own, is simply too ahistorical and non-specific to convince. In analyzing ethnicity's real appeal one must instead try to relate its actual assumptions about the past to the current historical reality of those accepting them.

One may easily conclude then that ethnicity, or 'tribalism', when analyzed abstractly, is Protean, with different appeals on different levels and in different situations. In this respect, it is quintessentially situational and multi-dimensional.


It is thus only common sense to accept that no one explanation suffices to 'explain' it wholly and in every instance. But it is plainly inadequate merely to accept that all interpretations have some elements of truth within them and then try to cobble them together into an intellectual construct comprising elements of each. I would suggest, rather, that moving the analysis of ethnicity beyond the more or less ahistorical stance of the currently dominant interpretations towards a more specifically historical interpretation will shed additional light on both its origin and its continuing appeal for the peoples of southern Africa.

A History

Thus far historians have not devoted much attention to the history of ethnicity and ethnic ideologies in southern Africa. This is somewhat puzzling, especially as many have been aware for some time that ethnicity is not a natural cultural residue but a consciously crafted ideological creation.[8] It is likely that the explanation for this relative neglect lies in the fact that historians were, like other scholars, caught up in the nationalist paradigm that dominated the entire range of African studies in the 1950s and 1960s. They thus saw studies of the growth of ethnic consciousness as parochial, misconceived, and largely irrelevant to their main concerns at that time: the recovery of Africa's pre-colonial past and the exploration of the growth of anti-colonial resistance and its flowering into progressive nationalism. In the optimistic nation-building mood of the time, studies of ethnicity were also extremely unpopular with African opinion-makers, embarrassing even to mention, and they exerted pressure against studies that might further divisiveness in the new nation states they thought they were 'building'. Thus, the history of ethnic identities largely remained to be written.

The essays in this volume attempt to remedy this situation by placing the study of ethnicity within the unfolding history of a set of societies which are genuinely comparable. This approach is an alternative to the usual one of attempting to analyze the phenomenon on its own, as a subject to be considered sui generis and in a grandly conceived comparative framework. Such abstraction risks removing ethnicity, at least partially, from concrete historical process and blurring specific local factors contributing towards its development and acceptance. The various studies in this volume, when taken together, suggest a basic model that helps us to understand the processes involved in the creation of ethnic ideologies—including those of non-blacks—and sheds some light on why they have had genuine appeal for ordinary people both during the colonial era and in the post-colonial period of national independence.

The area chosen as the setting for these case studies is southern Africa, a region extending from Cape Town to south central Zaire on a south-north axis, and from Namibia to Mozambique on a west-east axis, but with Angola largely excluded. Despite the cultural variety present in this extensive area, it has constituted a coherent regional unit over the past century or so. The event which served as the catalyst for the melding of diverse peoples into such a unit was the discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand in 1886. This initiated the building of Africa's single most potent economic force and attracted capital investment to other, less important focuses of investment, such as the copper mines of Zaire and Zambia, the farms and ranches of Zimbabwe, and the plantations of central Mozambique and southern Malawi. The links that were rapidly constructed to weld together the various territories of this region—and their societies—included ties of finance, trade, political influence, and, especially, migrant labour.

Yet the creation of such ties was necessarily differential, and great variation is


to be found from one area to another within the region. In some places, such as Lesotho, the Transkei, southern Mozambique, northern Malawi, and western Zambia, links with the Rand's mines were direct and obvious: large-scale and persistent male labour migrancy organized through the Witwatersrand Native Labour Association demonstrated clearly the dependence of these regions. In other places, such as the Zambian and Zairian Copperbelts, central Mozambique, and southern Malawi, local capitalist interests were able to dominate and the influence of the Rand was less obvious and less direct. In still other locales, such as parts of central Malawi, southern Zambia, and parts of Zaire and Swaziland, successful peasant production permitted local Africans to avoid both long-distance labour migrancy and working for local entrepreneurs. Nonetheless, the Rand's influence was everywhere present, if only as a model of labour relations and a distant, but powerful, economic presence. Although certainly uneven, the Rand's influence knitted the region's territories together.

As a consequence of the growth of capitalist relations of production both on the Rand itself in the 1890s and in other centres of capitalist endeavour that were established throughout the region shortly afterwards, the people of virtually all its societies experienced pervasive social, economic, and political change. The range of such change was broad, and many of the changes were clearly disadvantageous to the people affected. The capitalist enterprises of the region were all highly labour-intensive, requiring large and constant supplies of cheap African labour. To push Africans into the service of these enterprises, colonial governments imposed taxes, which in many areas could be paid only through men leaving their homes to participate in labour migrancy. These taxes were imposed during, or immediately after, a series of ecological disasters during the 1890s and the early 1900s that greatly weakened the fabric of local African societies. These disasters included drought, locusts and famine, but perhaps the key one was the great rinderpest epidemic of the mid-1890s, which killed livestock through the whole of southern Africa. Because livestock was widely reckoned as the embodiment of wealth, rinderpest's impact effectively constituted a gigantic mass bankruptcy for many societies. Moreover, as the exchange of cattle for women through the system of bridewealth (lobola ) payments was the principal way in which many of the region's societies regulated marriage and the establishment of new families, it became socially necessary to work for money, using it either to restock the herds or as a substitute for cattle in the making of bridewealth payments.

Later, widespread alienation of African land, the establishment of overcrowded 'native reserves', and the entrenchment of patterns of labour migrancy resulted in both impoverished villages and strained relationships within divided families. The labour demands of mines, plantations, and industries, coupled with governmental tax and land policies and the rising needs of people to purchase discretionary goods, pressed men out of the rural areas as workers, especially after the outbreak of World War I in 1914. It should be stressed that this process of rural transformation was not restricted to black Africans. The commercialization of agriculture in large areas of South Africa also undermined an Afrikaner society that had hitherto been characterized by paternalistic relations of clientage between Afrikaner grandees and poor Afrikaner tenants. This commercialization forced from the land white Afrikaners who had long had direct access to it. They moved into the growing cities of South Africa, where, because of their lack of education or marketable skills, they came to constitute a 'poor white' problem of startling dimensions.

What was common for all the region's peoples—blacks and whites alike—was


that many of them were gradually losing control over their lives as control over that most basic factor of production, the land, slipped from their grasp. No longer were rural communities—whether black or white—able to exist autonomously, beyond the reach of capitalism and colonial administration. At the same time that this rural transformation was occurring, the region's mixed-race groups, such as the 'Cape Coloureds' of South Africa and the Luso-Africans of Mozambique, were suffering an erosion of their positions. Earlier, through possession of language and other skills, they had enjoyed relatively secure social and economic positions as intermediaries between whites and blacks. After the 1890s, however, these positions were successfully challenged by poor Afrikaners in South Africa and immigrant Portuguese whites in Mozambique, both of which groups increasingly benefited from the support of racist state institutions. Thus they, like blacks and some white Afrikaners, were also caught in a process of declining control over their lives and destinies.

People of all these groups fought against the erosion of their positions. For many involved in this struggle land, and access to land, came to stand at the very centre of their consciousness, being fixed there not only at the beginning of the process of the undermining of rural autonomy, but also in succeeding decades. For white Afrikaners, land ownership was also important, kept alive as the ideal Afrikaner way of life even among the poor whites of the cities and towns.

For Africans, however, access to land remained a central issue for a more pressing reason. This was because, from the very start of the industrialization process, employers and government officials alike were determined to create a system in which unskilled workers would oscillate from the rural villages to work sites and then back to the villages and in which skilled positions would be held by whites. In this way, their wives and children would remain permanently behind in the rural areas, while the men would dwell in bachelor dormitories at the work sites for the duration of their contracts. Such a system had many advantages for both capitalist entrepreneurs and European administrators. For the employers it helped keep the working class fragmented and unorganized, and it allowed them to pay wages that were less than what would have had to be paid if the whole of a worker's family migrated and settled permanently as fully proletarianized people. For the officials it assured that there would be at least some money brought into the rural areas to help sustain village life there. In some cases, moreover, the migrant labour system also enabled governments to collect capitation fees for each worker recruited.

Migrant labour had less appeal for the workers themselves, but they had little choice in the matter. The need for money and the official pressures upon the men to work as migrants on contract, coupled with the establishment of effective recruiting agencies, resulted in the rapid institutionalization of the system of oscillating migrant labour as the standard mode of labour mobilization. But because the system was one in which workers were to move back and forth, even rural areas that were little more than unproductive rural slums necessarily remained of central concern for the migrants. On the one hand, they could not remain at home to supervise life in the village and oversee their wives and children. On the other hand, they could not abandon their rural homes. Laws prevented the relocation of families to work sites and strictly regulated the length of contracts a worker could assume. Thus, it was in the rural areas that the workers' long-term interests necessarily lay, for they would eventually return there when their working life was over. Even while absent for decades from the rural areas, then, the workers' concerns typically remained sharply focused on what was occurring at home. This situation could not but produce profound


apprehensions in the migrants, and the capitalist era for them was—and still is—truly an age of anxiety.

While the majority of people were affected adversely by the changes produced by industrialization and capital investment, not everyone suffered. Indeed, the establishment of capitalist enterprises and colonial administrations provided a range of opportunities that many whites and some Africans could seize. Certain people were able to respond to the growing markets for produce, becoming peasant producers or even small-scale farmers, while in South Africa Afrikaner agriculturalists on medium-sized and large farms prospered. Others, especially those able to gain an education or useful skills, were able to take up places in the social interstices that the changing economy opened up, becoming relatively well-rewarded teachers, ministers of religion, artisans, government clerks, or even small businessmen. In effect, then, the economic changes that followed on the establishment of the Rand's gold industry and the binding together of the far-flung areas of southern and central Africa into a regional economic unit were accompanied by a rapid and increasingly sharp differentiation of the region's peoples into more favoured and less favoured societies and of the societies themselves into more favoured and less favoured classes-in-the-making.

Such rapid social and economic change eroded earlier political relationships based on clientage both within and outside of lineages, social patterns, and religious beliefs, all of which had characterized societies during the nineteenth century. This erosion in turn opened the way for new forms of consciousness throughout the region. Worker consciousness amongst both whites and blacks appeared spasmodically in situations of localized stress on the work site. Evidence of such class solidarity was shown at times of rapid socio-economic change, appearing in such events as the Rand Rebellion of 1922, the strike of copper miners on the Zambian Copperbelt in 1935, and the African mineworkers' strike of 1946 on the Witwatersrand gold mines. But class consciousness remained exceptional for as long as the working class was weak and fragmented and difficult to infuse with a sense of community.

New types of popular religious consciousness also appeared in the form of mainline Christian churches as well as separatist churches such as Watch Tower and a myriad of Zionist sects, and these shaped their adherents' evolving new self-identities. And among the educated clerks, teachers, clerics, and businessmen who emerged in the black, 'coloured' and mixed race communities a petty bourgeois consciousness, with an acceptance of Victorian notions of respectability, progress and individual uplift through hard work, gained prominence.

It is crucial to the argument of this book that one of the most far-reaching and important of these new forms of consciousness was a new ethnic—or tribal—consciousness that could and did encapsulate other forms of consciousness. Ethnicity could coexist with other types of consciousness without apparent unease because it was cultural and hence based on involuntary ascription, not on personal choice. People were members of a particular ethnic group whether they liked it or not. It was simply a fact of existence. As such, ethnic identity could inhere in both petty bourgeois and worker, in both peasant farmer and striving politician.

A Model

The case studies in this volume suggest a model for the development of ethnic consciousness, or tribalism, in the southern African region. This model stresses the historical creation of such ideologies over time. It is also flexible, in that it can


be detected operating within different societies at different points in time from the late nineteenth century down to the present—and probably into the future—depending upon the impact of a range of variables. It has the advantage of incorporating many of the valuable insights of the various interpretations that have dominated the analysis of ethnicity up to now without being a mere combination of their best points. Finally, it has the additional attraction of suggesting concrete reasons why ethnic consciousness and its near relative, regionalism, were able to develop a special allure for the people of southern Africa during the colonial era. Within the historical perspective, one can begin to understand why it was so easily revitalized after independence, when one-party systems of government were established, and why it can still mobilize popular opinion today, albeit in new ways.

The creation of ethnicity as an ideological statement of popular appeal in the context of profound social, economic and political change in southern Africa was the result of the differential conjunction of various historical forces and phenomena. It is the very unevenness of their co-appearance and dynamic interaction that accounts for the unevenness of ethnic consciousness in the region. One may discern three such variables in the creation and implanting of the ethnic message. First, as was the case in the creation of such ideologies elsewhere, for example in nineteenth century European nationalism, it was essential to have a group of intellectuals involved in formulating it—a group of culture brokers. Second, there was the widespread use of African intermediaries to administer the subordinate peoples, a system usually summed up in the phrase 'indirect rule', and this served to define the boundaries and texture of the new ideologies. Third, ordinary people had a real need for so-called 'traditional values' at a time of rapid social change, thus opening the way for the wide acceptance of the new ideologies.

What emerges perhaps most clearly from these studies is the fact that intellectuals carefully crafted their ethnic ideologies in order to define the cultural characteristics of members of various ethnic groups. These intellectuals could be European missionaries, as the studies by Harries, Ranger, Vail and White, and Roberts make clear. Or, as Harries, Vail and White, Jewsiewicki and Papstein show, they could be European anthropologists and historians. And, in all cases in this volume, local intellectuals—whether Afrikaner, 'coloured' or African—were intimately involved in the process and, where it was possible, they were ready to work hand in hand with their European counterparts.

The role of missionaries was especially crucial in at least one—and sometimes all—of three ways, and it is evident that their influence upon the development of African history in the twentieth century has been far greater than they have been given credit for over the past two decades. First, missionaries themselves were often instrumental in providing the cultural symbols that could be organized into a cultural identity, especially a written language and a researched written history. Samuel Johnson long ago recognized that 'languages are the pedigree of nations', and missionaries accepted this dictum wholeheartedly. They had the skills to reduce hitherto unwritten languages to written forms, thereby delivering the pedigrees that the new 'tribes' required for acceptance. Again and again, in the chapters by Giliomee, Butler, Harries, Ranger, Vail and White, and Penvenne, to mention only some, language stands as the central item in the assemblage of a cultural package. Where these languages have been African languages, it was the missionaries who chose what the 'proper' form of the language would be, thus serving both to further unity and to produce divisions by establishing firm boundaries.[9]


In addition to creating written languages, missionaries were instrumental in creating cultural identities through their specification of 'custom' and 'tradition' and by writing 'tribal' histories, a process discussed in the chapters by Ranger, Vail and White, and Jewsiewicki. Once these elements of culture were in place and available to be used as the cultural base of a distinct new, ascriptive ethnic identity, it could replace older organizing principles that depended upon voluntary clientage and loyalty and which, as such, showed great plasticity. Thus firm, non-porous and relatively inelastic ethnic boundaries, many of which were highly arbitrary, came to be constructed and were then strengthened by the growth of stereotypes of 'the other', as the essays by Siegel and Papstein show.

Second, and of considerable practical importance, European missionaries, assuming that Africans properly belonged to 'tribes', incorporated into the curricula of their mission schools the lesson that the pupils had clear ethnic identities, backing up this lesson with studies of language and 'tribal custom' in the vernacular. The importance of such education is made clear in the chapters by Ranger, Vail and White, and Jewsiewicki. Thus, mission education socialized the young into accepting a tribal membership, and to be a member of a 'tribe' became 'modern' and fashionable through its close association with education.

Third, and finally, missionaries educated local Africans who then themselves served as the most important force in shaping the new ethnic ideologies. These people—usually men—were keenly aware of the forces that were pulling apart their societies and, with the examples of nationalism in Europe derived from their own mission education before them, they sought to craft similar local movements as a means of countering these problems. Despite their own western-style education, they realized that such a construct would best be understood and accepted if it were put in a cultural idiom easily accessible to the people. Thus, in formulating their new ideologies, they looked to the local area's past for possible raw material for their new intellectual bricolage.[10] Like their European predecessors during the initial stages of nineteenth century nationalism, they 'rediscovered' the 'true values' of their people and so defined the 'ethnic soul'. Their cultural strongbox was the 'customs' and 'traditions' of the people, identification with which they saw as giving an automatic, ascriptive cultural unity to 'their' people as they confronted the challenge of colonialism and the impact of industrialization. Virtually every study in this volume demonstrates the role of educated people as key actors in the creation of such ideology.

In those societies where missionaries did not work, or where they did work but did not introduce education along western lines, or where African intellectuals emerged only at a late period or not at all, the development of ethnic ideologies was either stalled or never occurred. The unevenness of education in southern Africa largely determined the unevenness of the development of ethnic consciousness, as is brought out in the essays by Vail and White, Macmillan, Siegel, and Papstein. In many locales it is only today, after the post-independence expansion of education and the emergence of local intellectuals, that the process of creating such ethnic ideologies and 'forging traditions' has emulated what happened earlier in other societies.

It was not sufficient, however, that there should be local intellectuals—white or black—interested in the recovery of the ethnic past. A second, more instrumental factor was also required, and this is explored most fully in the chapters by Harries, Vail and White, Marks, Jewsiewicki, and Papstein. All of southern Africa was under direct European administration of various types, and by the period after World War I, virtually all administrations were engaged in implementing systems of indirect rule, using African 'traditional' authorities as intermediaries between


the white administration and the ruled. Thus, if language in the form of written discourse was central in specifying the forms of culture, indirect rule provided the institutional framework for articulating these forms. Communication between the European administrators and subordinate Africans was distinctly tribal in its tone and content. Africans were talked to in terms deemed suitable, and these terms were ethnic. In the cases of the 'Cape Coloureds' and the Luso-Africans of Mozambique, and, to some extent, the Afrikaners, for whom the conventions of indirect rule were not suitable, they were simply denied representation, as the studies by Goldin, Penvenne, Giliomee and Butler indicate.

There were several reasons for the European policy of indirect rule. First, there was the realization that the use of so-called 'traditional' African leaders could be markedly less expensive than the employment of expensive European officials. Second, administrators assumed that Africans were naturally 'tribal' people. If the natural ethnic units could be strengthened, it would help ensure their continuation as discrete 'tribal' groups and prevent the emergence of 'detribalized' Africans of whom whites were deeply suspicious. This, in turn, would slow the emergence of any potentially dangerous territory-wide political consciousness that might develop. The remarks of a British War Office official in 1917 reflect these divide-and-rule tactics:

[The] spirit of nationality, or perhaps it would be more correct to say, of tribe, should be cultivated and nowhere can this be done with better chance of success than in British East Africa and Uganda, where there are numerous tribes ethnographically quite distinct from one another. It is suggested that in each ethnographically distinct district the schools should, as far as possible, form integral parts of the tribe and centres of folk-lore and tradition. . . .

. . . a method may also be found whereby the efforts of missionaries may also assist in the cultivation of national spirit. This it seems might be done by allowing only one denomination to work in each demographic area and by not allowing the same denomination to work in two adjacent areas.[11]

Third, by the end of World War I it was becoming increasingly evident that the chronic absence of men from rural societies was producing great social stresses. The administrators became convinced that the rural disintegration occurring before their eyes could be slowed, if not stopped, by the encouragement of 'traditional authorities' to use 'traditional sanctions' in exercising control over the rural areas to counter the forces of social decay.

This acceptance of indirect rule by European administrations obviously gave opportunities to African political authorities to augment their personal power. More importantly, I suggest, it gave opportunities to the intellectuals of the areas concerned—both European missionaries and African members of the educated petty bourgeoisie—to implement their ideological programmes through alliances with the newly recognized chiefs. This process is a theme of several essays in this volume, including those by Vail and White, Marks, Jewsiewicki and Papstein. In this way the cultural ideals contained in their new ideologies could be at least partially actualized in the day-to-day workings of African administrations under indirect rule. Ethnic identity, thus, came to be specified not only by the written histories, grammars, and accounts of 'traditional customs' produced by local culture brokers, but also—and in many respects, far more importantly—by the actual operation of the administrative mechanisms of indirect rule. This aspect of the development of ethnic identity was the consequence of the dynamic interaction of African initiative with the expectations of European administrators and forward-looking missionaries. It should be remembered, however, that the


subordinate peoples did not have a free hand in their work as they had to operate within the severe constraints imposed by racist administrators who were ever alert to check initiatives deemed either unseemly or dangerous, something brought out clearly in the chapters by Marks, Macmillan, Jewsiewicki and Siegel, among others.

The presence of intellectuals, the socialization of ethnic ideas through mission schools and through the actual operation of administrative systems under indirect rule to strengthen 'tribal' rule were, however, by themselves inadequate to produce a broad acceptance of an ethnic ideology. The ideology itself needed a raison d'être and an appeal, and it was this appeal that constitutes the third factor in our model of the growth of ethnicity in southern Africa.

The ideologies of nationalism have often been described as 'Janus-like'. They are in one aspect profoundly reactionary, looking backwards to a Golden Past: they concentrate upon its heroes, its historical successes, and its unsullied cultural purity, and are decked out with the mythic 'rediscovered' social values of that past. In Africa, the explicit association of such ethnic ideologies with chiefs and headmen whose position was often firmly rooted in the past was an additional factor in accentuating the backward-looking face of ethnicity. Yet these ideologies were also clearly products of the present, concerned with current conditions, and they typically exhibited a forward-looking concern for the future. Nationalism—and tribalism—have thus appeared uncertain and ambiguous to many observers.

Yet when one looks closely at the situation in southern Africa, one comes to realize that the ethnic message's backward-looking aspects and its forward-looking concerns have been in no way contradictory. The emphases on past values, 'rediscovered' traditions, and chiefly authority were truly conservative—that is, they were calculated to conserve a way of life that was in the process of being rapidly undermined by the forces of capitalism and colonialism. Forward-looking members of the petty bourgeoisie and migrant workers alike attempted to shore up their societies and their own positions in them by embracing ethnicity and accepting tribal identities.

As the chapters by Vail and White, Marks, and Jewsiewicki show, ethnicity appealed to the petty bourgeoisie because its forward-looking aspects ensured them a leadership role in the newly defined 'tribe' as the well-informed interpreters of 'tribal tradition'. Their position as allies of chiefs further legitimized their role, blunting consciousness of the class divisions that were then appearing in local societies. In this situation, it was generally accepted that they also had a duty to improve their own social and economic positions 'for the good of the tribe'.

Far more importantly, ethnicity appealed strongly to ordinary African men, not primarily because it gave them a sense of psychological comfort, as the primordialist interpretation argues, but because it aided them in bringing a measure of control to the difficult situations in which they found themselves in their day-to-day life. The word 'control' is crucial. It was the element of control embedded in tribal ideologies that especially appealed to migrant workers, removed from their land and families and working in far distant places. The new ideologies stressed the historical integrity of the tribe and its land and, especially, the sanctity of the family and its right to land.[12] Land stood at the very centre of ethnic ideologies.

The place of women was also a central issue dealt with in ethnic ideologies. In the early decades of the century bridewealth steadily inflated in value, and women thus represented a greater 'investment' by men in cattle or money. With most men absent as migrant labourers, women were also becoming more important to the day-to-day survival of the family through their work on the land. Yet such


valuable women naturally often sought to act independently, even to the extent of seeking divorces or leaving the rural areas illegally to move to industrial and urban areas. This produced acute conflict between the genders. Therefore an emphasis on the need to control women and a stress on the protection of the integrity of the family came to be intrinsic to both ethnic ideologies and the actual institutional practices of indirect rule. The studies by Vail and White, Marks, and Jewsiewicki show this with special clarity. Ethnicity's appeal was strongest for men, then, and the Tswana proverb to the effect that 'women have no tribe' had a real—if unintended—element of truth in it.

Ethnic ideologies helped to provide the control necessary to minimize migrants' natural anxieties about what occurred at home. In the system of indirect rule, the chiefs were of central importance. It was they, with their new official histories, their new censuses and lists, their new courts and records, all of which employed for the first time that most fundamentally powerful invention, writing, who were now able to exercise a greatly increased degree of surveillance over both women and land in the absence of the men. It was they who brought into daily practice those 'rediscovered traditions' which emphasized control in the name of 'custom'. The old dictum that 'all politics is local' was especially valid throughout southern Africa. African men and their lineages accepted that it was in their essential interest to support the new structures of chiefs, their courts, and their educated petty bourgeois spokesmen and agents. It was also for this reason that men, when returning at the end of their contracts from the mines or farms or plantations, gave chiefs the gifts that constituted one of their most important sources of income. The good chief was a proxy who protected the interests of the migrant workers and, for that, they were ready—if not eager—to reward him materially. In effect, the bureaucratized chief of the newly constituted 'tribe' had replaced the lineage head or independent patron of earlier times, and the old language of kinship came to be employed as metaphor to sustain and legitimize this new, obviously non-kinship relationship.[13]

It was for very real reasons of exercising at least a measure of control over land and women, thereby bringing at least a measure of peace to their minds, that African men welcomed the new ethnic ideologies which involved augmenting powers of chiefs in a situation of rapid social decay. Ethnicity, insofar as it was a mechanism of such control, may be interpreted, then, as a form of popular male resistance to the forces that were reshaping African lives throughout southern Africa. It was for this reason also that the appeal of ethnic ideologies was strongest amongst those who were migrant labourers. The ethnic identity that was rooted in the realities of the countryside was, rather incidentally, strengthened in the workplace, where migrants found themselves in the company of, and often in competition with, workers from other cultural groups, a situation which generated sets of largely negative ethnic stereotypes and is explored in the chapters by Jewsiewicki, Siegel and Papstein.

Men came to think of themselves as belonging to particular ethnic groups, then, not because they especially disliked their fellow workers, nor because being a member of the group made them feel good, but rather because the ethnic apparatus of the rural area—the chiefs, 'traditional' courts, petty bourgeois intellectuals, and the systematized 'traditional' values of the 'tribe' as embodied in the ethnic ideology—all worked to preserve the very substantial interests which these men had in their home areas. Without ethnicity—or tribalism—the migrants would have been less able to exercise the control that was necessary for them to assure the continuation of their positions in rural societies and their ultimate retirement in their home areas.


In those situations in which labour migrancy was not a pressing reality (the Afrikaners, the 'Cape Coloureds', the Luso-Africans of Mozambique and, to a lesser extent, contemporary Swaziland and Ciskei—see Giliomee, Butler, Goldin, Penvenne, Macmillan and Anonymous, respectively) or in areas from which men did not emigrate in large numbers, such as southern Zambia and central Malawi, the ethnic message has clearly had less popular appeal, reaching no further than the petty bourgeoisie in most cases. In the case of the Afrikaners effective class alliances between the bourgeois elements of society and the 'poor whites' were brought into being only in the 1940s and afterwards. In the case of the 'Cape Coloureds' and the Mozambican Luso-Africans—and possibly Swaziland and the Ciskei—the gaps between well-off and poor were too great to be easily overcome by appeals to ethnicity, as is suggested in the chapters by Goldin, Penvenne, Macmillan and Anonymous. In these situations, class identity—or at least class tension—has tended to overshadow ethnicity.

The Situation Today

For large areas of southern Africa, independence came in the 1960s and 1970s. But the condition which stretches basic economic, familial and welfare concerns between rural residence and work site endures down to the present. Migrant labour is still a dominant form of labour mobilization throughout the region, and the mental attitudes intrinsic to it continue. Even in situations where men have been permanently resident in the urban areas with their families for decades, these attitudes are widely found. This is so not because Africans are inherently rural people or are in close harmony with Nature, but because housing and living expenses are far lower in the rural areas than they are in urban areas. This lower cost of living serves as a constant reason for those dwelling in urban locales to keep the rural areas always in mind and to view their urban sojourn as only temporary.[14] Thus, because at the end of one's period of employment retirement benefits are usually given in the form of a single lump sum of money rather than in monthly payments, if they are given at all, a person—whether unskilled migrant or educated white collar worker—has little, choice but to return 'home' to live out the rest of his days, spending as little money as possible.

The preoccupation with one's connection to the land has been overwhelming, with virtually everyone either possessing a piece of land in actuality or desiring it in his or her fantasies. This continuing fixation on land, I suggest, has resulted from decades of the existence of an oscillating workforce that has only partially proletarianized workers and from the failure to establish the sort of welfare measures that would support a fully urbanized population after retirement. The concern for land as an ultimate fall-back means of survival is clearly an economic concern, then, and, in the circumstances, it is quite understandable. Even in South Africa, the most industrialized of all the countries of the region and one in which complete proletarianization on a substantial scale in secondary and tertiary industry has existed at least since the 1940s, lack of adequate welfare and retirement measures keeps alive deep concern about access to land. Thus the African National Congress still finds that to contend publicly that one of the fundamental roots of the political conflict between black and white in South Africa is the Native Land Act of 1913, and to talk about a land reform that would give dispossessed blacks renewed access to land, have great appeal to their constituency.

Added to this economic concern is the fact that the nation states that have appeared since the 1960s have suffered profoundly from economic weakness, a


weakness which has grown more serious with each passing year. Quite naturally, this has had a negative effect on the possibility of the creation of broad loyalty to the nation state itself. The nationalist message before and immediately after the end of colonialism was that the new dispensation would result in economic improvements and much increased welfare benefits. Unfortunately, this progress has not occurred, and instead the nation state's administrative structures have faltered and shrivelled.

There are thus further economic reasons why sentiments which would be described as 'nationalist' do not converge with citizenship in a new nation state, as it has come to be identified as at least the occasion, and sometimes as the cause, of a declining standard of living for the majority of people. People perhaps accept that they are citizens of the country in which they live, but this acceptance of civil status does not produce the same loyalty as does their ethnic identity. There has therefore been an increased concern with ethnic identities over the past two decades, and with it has come a great acceleration in the 'rediscovery' of culture for more and more ethnic groups, as the essay by Papstein explores in detail.

For economic reasons, therefore, as well as for reasons of psychological satisfaction, it seems clear that ethnic loyalties will continue in southern Africa for the foreseeable future. The exact forms of future ethnic identities are still cloudy, largely because conditions related to certain variables have changed since the development of ethnic consciousness in the colonial period, a process which has for the most part provided the model used in this volume. Education, for example, is now almost wholly under the control of the nation state, and, hence, will not be as easily employed to bring about acceptance of specific ethnic identities among children. In some countries—such as Malawi and Swaziland—the chiefs remain as influential figures in the rural areas. In others, such as Zambia, the chiefs remain, but most of their power has been taken from them. In yet others, such as Mozambique, chiefs have been abolished totally. Therefore it is likely that the symbols of ethnicity will vary from place to place and from country to country depending on the nature of local government and the way the state communicates with ordinary people.

Furthermore, the potential culture brokers are far more numerous now than sixty years ago, and they have been exposed to a far wider variety of thought, usually not associated with missions. This means that while the backward-looking aspects of future ethnic phenomena—concern for the glories of past history, culture heroes, the central importance of language, and the like—will remain pretty much the same as for examples in the past, the forward-looking aspect of the Janus of ethnicity has the potential of wide variation across the political spectrum. In contemporary Zambia, for example, a main focus of ethnic identity for the Bemba-speaking people who see themselves cut off from state power is the predominantly Bemba miners' union.

The unevenness of development that has marked southern Africa since 1886 shows no sign of ceasing now. Therefore it is likely that the content of the ethnic message itself will continue to vary from people to people, as the culture brokers craft messages that will resonate with their own clienteles. For the serious student of political history in the region, then, it will not be adequate to approach ethnicity, or 'tribalism', as if all examples were essentially the same. Concern with the content of the message will be of ever greater importance if we are to understand it.

Finally, as ethnicity and parochial loyalties within the borders of nation states are likely to continue, it is important to cease approaching them from the perspective of the nation state itself. Ignoring them as embarrassing


epiphenomena that should have long ago disappeared will do no good. Condemning them as 'reactionary' or 'divisive' will accomplish very little. Instead, granted that it is virtually certain that the nation states of southern Africa are going to continue as institutionalized governing states in tension with those whom they govern, it will be necessary for the region's politicians and scholars alike to work towards accommodating ethnicity within these nation states.[15] States like Lesotho and Botswana, where the nation state and ethnicity are largely coterminous, are exceptional. Multi-ethnic states like Mozambique and Zaire, Zambia and, most crucial of all, South Africa are typical. The western model of the nation state which sees it as identical with the cultural nation itself simply does not obtain in such situations and to insist upon its superior claims to legitimacy and loyalty is simply myopic. Instead, accepting that ethnicity does exist as a potent force, Africans will have to produce political solutions derived from African experience to solve African problems, and this is clearly of great importance in the evolving situation in South Africa, the political and economic centre of the region.

The Beginnings of Afrikaner Ethnic Consciousness, 1850–1915

Hermann Giliomee


Recent studies by Welsh, Giliomee, and O'Meara have investigated the political economy of Afrikaner ethnic nationalism and political mobilization in its 'secondary' phase of growth, starting in the 1930s and leading to the establishment of apartheid after the victory of the Nationalist Party in the election of 1948.[2] Yet far less is known of the economic and social bases of the political mobilization of Afrikaner ethnicity during the second half of the nineteenth century. Analyses of Afrikaner ethnic consciousness in this earlier period have generally been concerned with identifying its 'awakening' or its 'origin'. Particularly influential has been F.A. van Jaarsveld's study, The Awakening of Afrikaner Nationalism, 1868–1881, which concludes that it was British imperialist interventions, particularly the annexation of the Transvaal in 1877 and the subsequent revolt of 1880–1881, which triggered a nationalist response amongst Afrikaners all over South Africa.[3] Van Jaarsveld also argues that without this awakening, the Afrikaners in the Cape Colony would have been absorbed in the English stream and Dutch/Afrikaans would have disappeared as a local language.

This study will avoid both the 'awakening' and the 'origin' approaches in explaining the growth of Afrikaner nationalism up to 1915. As Ernest Gellner points out, the use of a concept such as 'awakening' comes close to accepting 'the nationalist ideologue's most misguided claim, namely that the "nations" are there, in the very nature of things, only waiting to be "awakened" (a favourite nationalist expression and image) from their regrettable slumber by the nationalist "awakener"'.[4] There is also a problem with the concept of 'origin'. In a different context, Marc Bloch remarked that in popular usage an origin tends to be regarded as a complete explanation.[5] In fact, there can never be a complete explanation as to why Afrikaner ethnic consciousness originated. At best, we can only begin to give a broad explanation of its slow and tortuous beginnings.

Both Van Jaarsveld and Rodney Davenport have stressed the cultural and political aspects of early manifestations of Afrikaner ethnic consciousness.[6] This essay will attempt to further the analysis, situating the development of nineteenth century Afrikaner ethnic consciousness within a socio-economic context as well as within a political and cultural framework. It should be emphasized, however, that this discussion of the development of Afrikaner ethnic consciousness does not assume that it was the organic antecedent of the 'secondary' phase of


full-blown Afrikaner ethnic consciousness that was formed in the twentieth century.

Ambiguous Identities Before 1850

The group that ultimately became known as the 'Afrikaners' was drawn from disparate elements, particularly people from Dutch, German and French background in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Genealogists also calculate a six to seven per cent contribution from 'non-Europeans'. By 1870 it was possible to identify a distinct group of people all of whom spoke Dutch, or a variant of it, had a common religion and maintained a fair degree of racial endogamy. Yet the development of a distinct Afrikaner ethnic consciousness which could be mobilized readily for political purposes was slow. In fact, the gradual and often tentative growth of Afrikaner cultural and political ethnic awareness was rooted firmly in historical changes that occurred after 1870. To understand the absence of an ethnic consciousness before 1870, one must explore the nature of the economy, the form of politics, and the kind of class and political cleavages in society.

Before 1850 membership in an Afrikaner ethnic community was seldom invoked as a political claim. In their dispute with the company government, the supporters of the Patriot Movement of the Western Cape, which arose between 1778 and 1784, made their claims in terms of their role as indispensable producers of trade goods and of their privileges as burghers. In their rebellion of 1795–96, the Graaff-Reinet burghers on the frontier depicted themselves as burghers and producers legally occupying loan farms and entitled to protection by the Company. The Voortrekkers did not see the Great Trek of 1835–38 as a positive expression of an Afrikaner political ethnicity but rather conceived of themselves as 'emigrants' and 'expatriates'.[7] Furthermore, there are no convincing historical grounds for the later, widely-held belief that they tended to consider themselves as a uniquely Chosen People who had a Covenant with God.[8]

Among the Dutch-Afrikaner[9] colonists who did not trek we also find little evidence of an ethnic consciousness being articulated or of ethnic strategies being pursued. During the 1830s a small group of Cape Town professionals tried to stimulate a sense of cultural identity based upon recognition of a shared language and history. They supported a periodical, Het Nederduitsch-Zuid-Afrikaansch Tijdschrift, a college for advanced education, the Zuid-Afrikaansche Athenaeum, and a society for the extension of arts and letters. These efforts did not succeed. The periodical folded in 1843, the society soon ceased to function, and the college became anglicized. The group of professionals was too small and the neighbouring farming population too apathetic to secure success.[10]

Even the name of the group remained highly ambiguous until the twentieth century. The term 'Afrikaner' was employed in different ways by various groups. In the early eighteenth century it was used for slaves or ex-slaves of African descent. From the late eighteenth century onwards the literature also records whites using the term. But this usage had a colonial (or regional) rather than an ethnic connotation. The Zuid-Afrikaan, the most widely read Dutch publication in 1830, defined Afrikaners as those 'whether English or Dutch who inhabited the land and were bound by duty and interest to further the well-being of their country'.[11] In subsequent decades the Zuid-Afrikaan proposed this identity as one which encompassed both Dutch and English-speakers and which would in the course of time replace the discrete Dutch and English identities of the settlers. This term and definition was found acceptable by non-jingoist English-speakers


who propagandized for the amalgamation of all groups of colonists in order to press colonial political and economic claims upon Britain. Depending on the political strategy, politicians used it in both an exclusive and inclusive sense. Some British imperialists appropriated it, but others spurned it because, in the words of the Cape Times, 'The name was originally applied to the half-bred offspring of slaves, and even in a word the mark of slavery is detestable.'[12] Indeed an official list of Cape Town prostitutes, taken in 1868, was headed by 'Africanders', meaning people of mixed descent.[13]

Apart from the ambiguous term 'Afrikaner' or 'Afrikander', there also existed the notion of a 'Boer' people. Dutch-Afrikaners generally acknowledged that they were of Boer descent, but it was usually the pastoral farmers in the interior who applied the term to themselves. Finally, there was the term 'Cape Dutch', but this was an English description rather than a self-concept. English-speakers tended to distinguish between the better educated and more 'civilized' Cape Dutch of the Western Cape or interior towns and the Boer people whom they considered ignorant, illiterate and almost beyond the pale.[14]

Although the Dutch-Afrikaners did possess by 1850 certain common cultural traits in the form of generally endogamous marriage patterns, membership of the Dutch Reformed or Lutheran churches, and a common language (or variants of it), it was difficult to find any self-conscious sense of ethnic unity among them. Indeed, from the 1850s the already existing cleavages within the group began to intensify which would make the putting together of an ethnic coalition for political purposes an extremely difficult task.

During the second half of the nineteenth century two interlinked forces impeded the development of such ethnic consciousness. First, there was the accelerated integration of the entire South African region into Western, and particularly British, capitalism. Second, the informal empire operated by Britain in the region constrained development of Afrikaner ethnic consciousness.[15] In South Africa, unlike Australia or Canada, Britain could not count on the weight of racial kinship to keep the colonists closely tied to the metropole. When the Cape Colony received Representative Government in 1853 fewer than a quarter of the white inhabitants were British. In the Transvaal and Orange Free State, which became independent republics in 1852 and 1854 respectively, there was only a small scattering of British merchants, professionals and prospectors. Consequently Britain used the stratagems of informal empire and economic control to prevent these states from moving out of the imperial orbit. From the Voortrekkers a promise was exacted to support free trade and accept British control over the coastal ports upon which they depended for essential supplies. Britain could thus relax formal political control over the two Voortrekker states secure in the anticipation that their economic dependence would achieve the same purpose.

British merchant capitalism soon assumed a dominant position in all the South African states. From the merchant houses based in the Cape Colony and, to a lesser extent, Natal, there poured forth a constant supply of indispensable articles such as wagons, firearms, gunpowder and lead. The latter were necessary for defence and also for hunting, an important activity in the frontier economy. The low population densities there, with only 15,000 to 20,000 whites in each republic, lack of capital, and weak transportation links ensured that hardly any industries developed before 1875, while the transition from subsistence to commercial farming was occurring at an extremely slow pace. The Free State was therefore soon hopelessly in debt to foreign creditors.

The British cultural imperialism that went hand in hand with informal empire


further hampered development of an explicit ethnic consciousness. The towns of the Free State and the Transvaal, where one would expect ethnic movements to start, were dominated by English or Jewish merchants who were hostile or indifferent to local nationalisms and who promoted English culture. In the Transvaal they established private schools which drew as many pupils as the state schools. Eager to master the language of commerce, the Dutch-Afrikaner children also preferred to attend the English section of the parallel-medium schools which the state established. Because of the greater availability of English-speaking teachers, four of the eight state-supported schools in the Transvaal used only English by 1876.[16] In the Free State the realities of merchant capitalism and cultural imperialism together similarly frustrated the development of an autonomous Dutch-Afrikaner cultural and political life. While English was accepted as the language of commerce and intellectual discourse in the town, it also penetrated the rural areas. The wealthiest farmers usually founded rural schools, and more often than not they chose English as the medium of instruction. Finally, virtually all the teachers and civil servants came from either the Netherlands or the Cape Colony. 'We are dependent on foreigners and are still ruled by foreigners', a member of the Volksraad remarked in 1873.[17]

Other stumbling blocks to a developed ethnic consciousness were internal class conflict in Dutch-Afrikaner society, decentralized power structures, and regional rivalries. Power in both the Free State and the Transvaal was effectively in the hands of the large landholders, sometimes called patriarchs, who established patron-client relationships with both their family dependants and bywoners, or landless Afrikaners. The Boer-bywoner relationship, and the spirit of paternalism which infused it, were full of contradictory tendencies. In a wider sense the poorest white could participate in the political process and claim equality with the rich, but on the farms the bywoners soon became subservient to the patriarchs. Moreover, the local field-cornets, who allocated land to newcomers, distributed African labour among the individual farmers and settled labour disputes, while they were chosen by all the burghers in a particular division, were invariably drawn from the ranks of, and beholden to, the larger landowners. Although there were exceptions, field-cornets generally favoured the larger farmers in performing their duties and this worked against a feeling of ethnic solidarity.[18]

Furthermore, there is evidence that commando service, which every burgher was expected to perform in the Transvaal and the Free State, tended to come down unevenly on the poor. This was because of the practice which permitted a man who had been called up for service to send someone in his place. Many rich farmers abstained from the commandos, sending bywoners or other poor whites as their substitutes. A reader's letter in a Free State paper distinguished between the meer gegoede ('well-off') and the minder gegoede ('less well-off') in the commandos, and this reader was backed up by another who stated flatly that the war against the Sotho between 1866 and 1868 was fought mainly by the poor burghers and their children.[19] In the Transvaal the situation was much the same. By the late nineteenth century, this division gave rise to serious class conflict. Of the roughly 5000 'Joiners'—men who supported the British in the Anglo-Boer War of 1899–1902—the vast majority were bywoners, some of whom were bitterly discontented because in the 1880s and 1890s they had to go on commando without pay to defend the property of landholders at a time when their own families were destitute. They clearly hoped that the British would offer them a better deal as a reward for their collaboration.[20]

Instead of the growth of a unifying ethnic consciousness, extreme individualism, self-aggrandizement, and even anarchy prevailed in the early years


of the Transvaal and Free State. The field-cornets often displayed great contempt for Pretoria and its representative in the district, the landdrost (magistrate). Landdrost A.F. du Toit once remarked that the field-cornets acted as if they were 'Emperors of the state'.[21] They identified primarily with their division, then with their region, and only in a nominal sense with the state or the ethnic group. Regionalism was a powerful force in the years 1850–1880.[22] During the late 1850s and early 1860s three regional factions—based on Lydenburg, Zoutpansberg and Potchefstroom—tried to establish their own separate sovereignties and on occasion clashed in military skirmishes.

By the end of the 1860s regional strife had subsided, but the state remained weak and religious schisms compounded the political divisions.[23] The Dutch Reformed (Hervormde ) Church (NHK), established in 1853, was the state church with a privileged position. Disputes over the singing of hymns led to the establishment in 1859 of the fundamentalist Reformed (Gereformeerde ) Church (colloquially known as the Dopper Church). By the 1870s the Doppers, among them Paul Kruger, had become known as a group imbued with an acute ethnic consciousness, strongly anti-British, and keen to develop a distinct political, economic and social life along their own lines.[24] Third, there was the Dutch Reformed (Nederduits Gereformeerde ) Church (DRC) which was initially small but had grown to ten congregations by 1870. It was doctrinally more orthodox in its doctrine than the Hervormdes, but it was politically in favour of close ties with the Cape Colony and some of its ministers promoted English cultural influence by establishing English-language seminaries.[25] The armed civil strife of the late 1850s and early 1860s had a definite religious dimension in that the feuding factions were largely divided along religious lines and exploited religious differences for political gain.[26]

In the Orange Free State the prospects for state building and fostering a community consciousness were not appreciably better than in the Transvaal. The state was even more dependent on British merchant capital. The Free State's leaders in its first decades often despaired of saving the state and its people. In 1858, for example, President Boshof said that it was doubtful that it could sustain itself because 'patriotic feelings' were still not general or strong enough, and he was instructed by the Volksraad to negotiate with the Cape Colony to form a federation.[27] Militarily weak, it faced a formidable enemy on its eastern flank, where the Sotho resisted white expansion. The Free State's war against Moshoeshoe plunged it still deeper into crisis, and its very survival was thrown into doubt.

Ultimately, however, this war was crucial in forging a stronger sense of national identity. War, as Anthony Smith remarks, stimulates a sense of community and territory and also helps to concentrate the facilities of physical coercion at the centre by undermining the status and power of regional leaders.[28] Moreover, war propaganda strengthens a sense of national identity. Yet as the Free State did not have an intellectual elite of its own, foreigners acted as the articulators of nationalist feelings.[29] As editor of one of the first journals, De Tijd, a Dutch immigrant, H.A.L. Hamelberg, set himself the task of 'cultivating a true citizenship atmosphere' by composing a folk song which soon became the republic's national anthem, sung by the burghers on commando. After the war the Volksraad thanked him for his efforts 'to cultivate a spirit of nationalism in our midst'.[30]

Although British rule in the Cape Colony had eliminated earlier frontier anarchy, the patriarchs in general and the field-cornets specifically still wielded considerable local power in large parts of the Colony as well as in the republics.


The introduction in 1853 of Representative Government in the Cape saw the replacement of the old ruling coalition which was comprised of top officials, a few large estate owners, and the great merchants. In its place came a commercial middle class—the progressive sheep and cattle ranchers, the village storekeepers and artisans, the accountants, attorneys, newspaper editors and professional men who ministered to local business.[31] Indeed, English-speakers almost completely dominated the world of commerce. The commercial life of South Africa rested on a structure of mercantile credit extending from London to its remote rural towns. Closely associated with partners and correspondents in Great Britain and Europe, the merchant houses of the Cape extended credit on a large scale to wool producers who were their customers in the Eastern Cape, the Transvaal and Orange Free State. Based on this wool trade, Port Elizabeth, with some 30 merchant houses, was the centre of South Africa's commercial world, having exports worth twice as much as those of Cape Town in 1870.

Yet, apart from some localized tensions between British and Dutch-Afrikaners centring on Grahamstown and Graaff-Reinet, there was little ethnic rivalry in the Cape Colony. The Dutch-Afrikaners did not covet the British commercial predominance while the English-speakers, except in the Eastern Cape, left farming to the Dutch-Afrikaners. The so-called Boers on their isolated farms impassively resented British rule and cultural imperialism, but the Cape Dutch in the interior's towns, acting as political and economic brokers, performed an important cushioning function. Neither the Boers nor the Cape Dutch resisted the dominant English role in politics. Although Dutch-Afrikaners accounted for roughly 70 per cent of the Cape's white population, the proportion of Dutch-Afrikaner representatives in parliament ranged from only 32 to 36 per cent between 1850 and 1870. On the constituency level great apathy reigned. In 1869 a canvasser found that nine-tenths of the young farmers under the age of 26 in his area had not troubled to register as voters. Jan Hofmeyr, who founded the first political interest group, remarked about this period that 'the Dutch were very apathetic as to their political privileges. Even if they registered and voted, they simply did so for their English shopkeeper or agent, or for someone recommended by them.'[32]

Parliamentary politics was largely played out within patron-client relationships manipulated by the merchants, the large landholders, and the influential Cape Dutch. They faced little opposition. Many of the constituencies were not even contested, with nearly half going unopposed, for example, in the 1869 election. Where there was a real contest, it was usually a small number of men with their family connections, colleagues and friends who mobilized a majority. There was no secret ballot and men of influence expected their tenants, clients, debtors, and other dependants to vote for them and had means for ensuring that they did so. With their prominent position as financial middlemen in the towns, the Cape Dutch were strategically placed to control the vote of the wealthy Boers in rural constituencies and deliver seats to merchants who were, as a group, over-represented in Parliament. The same patron-client relationship operated with respect to careers in the civil service, entry to which was regulated in most cases by the exertions of parents or patrons rather than by any system of merit and qualifications.[33]

The reason for this lack of political interest of the Dutch-Afrikaner farmers is simple: the colony's parliament hardly touched their daily lives. It had a limited ability to tax, and its greatest topic of discussion was the budget deficit and the need for retrenchment. There was indeed little room for ethnic politics in the colonial state during the 1850s, 1860s and early 1870s. The wealthier class of


Dutch-Afrikaner farmers in the Western Cape had no serious quarrel with the British connection or with the English-speaking political domination of the Cape. They unquestioningly accepted the need for British military protection of the colony. They hoped against hope that Britain would again grant preferential tariffs on Cape exports, eagerly enlisting English allies in their campaign for protective tariffs against imported wine and other products. Their chief mouthpiece, the Zuid-Afrikaan, wrote in 1857 that the colony was witnessing 'the gradual amalgamation of the Dutch and the English nationality which will, however, take many years'. In the meantime the colonists should promote the many interests they had in common, and 'the less we speak of nationality the better'.[34]

Early Stimulants of Afrikaner Ethnic Consciousness

Yet it became increasingly difficult to maintain such a phlegmatic posture. From the 1850s onwards, the Dutch-Afrikaners in the Cape faced a twin assault on their cultural and spiritual values in the forms of the so-called 'liberal tendency' and intensified British cultural imperialism. Springing from the eighteenth century Enlightenment in Europe, but only gathering force in the Cape from the 1850s, the liberal tendency stressed personal autonomy, personal self-sufficiency and personal sovereignty. Considering itself the antithesis of absolutism, it championed democracy and the separation of State and Church. It challenged the authority of the Scriptures, the Confessions, and the ruling ecclesiastical bodies. From the 1860s some young ministers in the DRC in the Cape started to preach a liberal theology which questioned some of the fundamental tenets of the Confessions. Two were deposed in 1864 on account of heterodox teaching but were restored by secular courts. In 1865 the liberal tendency scored a major breakthrough when instruction in the Christian religion was barred from the state schools which now became fully secularized. In 1875 a final separation between Church and State was effected with the triumph of the principle of voluntarism towards religion. Disestablishment ended the state's financial support for the DRC which by the mid-nineteenth century received some £7000 annually for paying salaries. The result was that each parish had to assume sole responsibility for providing for its minister's remuneration.[35]

Even more ominous was the growing challenge of British cultural imperialism. To protect its commercial and strategic interests in the Cape Colony, it seemed vital for Britain to reshape the white colonists in its own image. The Dutch-Afrikaners were, to use Robinson's terms, 'the ideal prefabricated collaborators' in helping to secure British power and influence.[36] Although a very large number of Dutch-Afrikaners were still in the subsistence sector and had little or no knowledge of English, the government in 1865 abolished Dutch as a medium of instruction in government schools and imposed English as the sole medium. This decision flowed from a recommendation by a commission of seven members, three of whom had Dutch names. They belonged to the relatively small number of 'Anglo-Afrikaners' in and around Cape Town who wanted English to become the sole official language and the colony to assume an English identity. By the 1860s it appeared as if their wish was gradually coming true—certainly as far as Cape Town and its immediate environs were concerned. Several observers reported that Dutch-Afrikaner youth in this area were becoming estranged from their language and customs. With a good command of English a prerequisite for a career in the civil service, law and commerce, there were powerful forces at work in favour of further anglicization. Even the most prestigious DRC congregation,


the 'Mother Church' in Cape Town, yielded to the demand for English services to be held in the Groote Kerk on some evenings. The Mother Church was preceded or followed in its example by several rural congregations. In effect, this legitimized the Anglo-Afrikaners' position.[37]

No one watched these developments with more concern than the Reverend G.W.A. van der Lingen of Paarl. Van der Lingen realized that what was happening at the Cape was a vital ideological battle between, on the one hand, the state and the liberal tendency, both of which emphasized rationalism and secularism, and, on the other, the authority of religion and the clergy. If they lost the battle, the church and its ministers would steadily find themselves losing control over their members and be confronted with dwindling support and status. Anthony Smith has acutely observed that in situations such as these neo-traditionalists not only strongly defend traditional values and dogma but also try to use political means to revive religious heritage, faith and authority. What they do, in short, is to turn their religious congregations into ethnic communities, as happened with the Jews.[38]

After his studies in the Netherlands, Van der Lingen became the leading force among those who rejected the call for freedom, civilization, enlightenment and progress. He was also in the forefront of the fight against liberal theology in the DRC. Deeply concerned by the rapid advance of English culture and the alien influences of the state schools, Van der Lingen established schools under the auspices of the church council which gave a prominent place to the teaching of Dutch and religious instruction. But he seemed to be waging a losing struggle and his influence did not extend much beyond Paarl and Stellenbosch where he served as chairman of the Theological Seminary council. Even in the seminary there was a distinct trend towards anglicization.[39]

By 1870 the traditional Dutch-Afrikaner world of subsistence farming and the sway of patriarchal local or regional leaders were slowly coming to an end. With the advent of commercial farming, the increased dependence on credit, and the development of an infrastructure of roads and markets a new kind of politics appeared. It assumed different forms in the two republics in the north on the one hand and in the Cape Colony on the other. In the Orange Free State and the Transvaal mobilization around the state began to develop which, over time, became the basis of local nationalisms. In the Cape Colony the Dutch-Afrikaners began to articulate ethnic sentiments and started to explore political strategies based on ethnic mobilization. By this I mean that an emotional attachment to a Dutch-Afrikaner group as a cultural group with shared beliefs about descent and history began to be channelled into a movement that made political claims on behalf of this group. Initially it was an amorphous type of ethnic consciousness, quite different from the radical twentieth century Afrikaner ethnic movement of the 1930s and 1940s which would insist on political supremacy and would define the group exclusively in terms of an elaborate ethnic ideology.

The context in which such a mobilization around the state and consequent local nationalism occurred in the Orange Free State was supplied, first, by the response to the British annexation of Basutoland (1868) and me Diamond Fields (1871), to which the young republic had expressed strong claims, and, second, by accelerated economic development which made much increased resources available to the state. The annexation of the Diamond Fields made the burghers feel that they had been wronged as an ethnic group by Britain and by English-speakers, who were seen as 'the other'. But as important was the growing prosperity brought by the discovery of diamonds and the rise of a market in Kimberley, a town which already by 1871 had a population of more than 40,000


whites and 20,000 Africans. This prosperity, which spilled over to the Free State, enabled the struggling republic to develop its institutions and infrastructure. It was able to set aside funds for commissioning a Dutchman, H.J. Hofstede, to write a history of the Free State. This book aimed to stir and 'uplift national feelings', by telling of the 'trials and tribulations' of the forefathers and the numerous grievances of the Afrikaners.[40] This was not so much 'the product of an awakening of a national feeling' as a deliberate attempt by the government to cultivate such a feeling for the sake of state building.[41] Yet, these efforts encountered considerable stumbling blocks. In the Volksraad merchants and professionals closely tied to British merchant capital were well represented. While Brand was President (1864–1888), they could promote a bi-cultural consciousness in which English was predominant as the language of commerce and intellectual discourse.

Nevertheless, with many burghers in a state of indebtedness, both local and ethnic sentiment could feed from the early days of the republic on a financial anti-imperialism which expressed itself in strong resentment against their main creditor, the Standard Bank. The bank sent large dividends abroad and was accused of charging excessive interest rates. Against it stood the local bank, the Bloemfontein Bank, which had several members of the Volksraad as shareholders. They had no qualms about spreading the word that the avaricious foreign bank would drive the Free State burghers over the Vaal River or into the sea. In 1865 the Volksraad expelled the Standard Bank from the Republic and in 1882 it rejected the Bank's petition to be readmitted. In a report to London the General Manager complained that 'while the President . . . is friendly, we cannot expect that he will exert himself in our favour and the [Volksraad] itself is at present extremely anti-English'.[42]

In the Transvaal the development of a local nationalism was less advanced than in the Free State. Subsistence farming linked only tenuously to the market continued to reinforce established networks of patron-client relationships, and extreme individualism was still scarcely diluted by the integrative effects of trade. The influence of regional leaders was too strong and the interests of the regions too diffuse for any national cohesion to develop. The Reverend F. Lion Cachet, head of one of the three Reformed Churches in the Transvaal, aptly remarked in 1872 that the Transvaal burghers were so divided 'that they appeared to be four or five nations instead of one nation'.[43]

Ironically, it was under T.F. Burgers, president from 1872 to 1877, that the greatest factionalism and disintegration occurred. More than any Dutch-Afrikaner leader of the time he advocated the unity of all 'Afrikaners whether by birth or adoption' across the political boundaries of South Africa, the teaching of a national history to counteract English cultural hegemony, and the development of a railway line to Delagoa Bay to lessen their dependence upon the Cape Colony.[44] Yet while Burgers propagandized on behalf of these ideas, his state was heavily indebted to foreign banks, particularly the Cape Commercial Bank, which granted low interest rates to obtain a political grip on the state. The parochial Transvaal burghers had little enthusiasm for allowing Cape Dutch-Afrikaners open competition for jobs in the Transvaal and refused to pay increased taxes for constructing a railway and waging a war against Africans. By the time the British agent, Theophilus Shepstone, arrived in the Transvaal in 1877 to annex the state, it was utterly bankrupt and politically paralysed by the divisions between the Kruger and the Burgers factions.[45]

In the Cape Colony political ethnic self-consciousness also began to develop. This occurred within the context of, first, the rapid economic expansion consequent upon the opening of the Diamond Fields in 1869; second, the


introduction in 1872 of Responsible Government which created a new arena for political contests; and, third, the growing concern, articulated by intellectuals and professionals, about a major economic and cultural crisis descending upon a large section of the Dutch-Afrikaners.

Even before accelerated economic development started around 1870, there had been a considerable improvement in communications. Cape Town's penny post was extended to the rest of the colony in the 1860s, telegraph cables were flung eastwards and northwards to beyond the colony's borders, and newspapers proliferated. By 1871 there were some 34 newspapers in the colony of which 24 were outside Cape Town. Most of them appeared twice a week with pages in both English and Dutch. While these innovations bound the Dutch-Afrikaners closer together, this was counterbalanced by the fact that more than 90 per cent of them still lived on the land, mostly on widely dispersed farms.

The economic boost which the Diamond Fields gave to the colony did not immediately destroy the isolation of subsistence farming. It did, however, make farmers in particular and Dutch-Afrikaners in general much more aware of new opportunities, existing constraints, and the uneven nature of economic growth. The two most important branches of agriculture in which Dutch-Afrikaners were engaged benefited little from the diamond boom. Wine production, the most important economic activity in the region and one dominated almost exclusively by Dutch-Afrikaners, faced exceedingly difficult times. A period of growth and prosperity had ended in 1861 when the British preferential tariff on Cape wines was abolished. Total wine exports plummeted from 319,146 gallons in 1863 to but 57,942 in 1875.[46] Wine surpluses increased annually, prices dropped, and by 1878 the economic position of the wine growers caused deep pessimism.[47] The wool farmers also gained little from the opening of the Diamond Fields. The value of wool exports had peaked at more than £3,000,000 in the early 1870s, but by 1885 it had dropped to less than half that in value.

Dutch-Afrikaners slowly moved into industry, but they found it difficult to compete with the more skilled English-speakers. During the 1870s and 1880s most of the wine distilleries established by Dutch-Afrikaners in the rural Western Cape went bankrupt. The Dutch-Afrikaners also entered in considerable numbers into the world of finance and property speculation which burst upon South Africa in the 1860s and 1870s, coming into competition with British interests. The state banking monopoly had ended by the middle of the nineteenth century, and in its place came district banks, of which there were 29 by 1862. Dutch-Afrikaners invested heavily in these banks and some became directors. In the early 1860s, however, strong London-based banks opened branches in South Africa. Soon there was a surfeit of investment capital chasing far too few sound investment opportunities. Many of the district banks went bankrupt as a result of incautious lending and overspeculation, and by 1882 there were only eight left. In contrast the Standard Bank's dividend rose steadily from 1865 to 1881, most of it being distributed overseas.[48]

Severe barriers also faced Dutch-Afrikaners who contemplated entering central and local government which by 1875 employed some 4500 people in the colony. Every candidate had to be fluent in English, the only official language, and the informal system of patronage was dominated by English-speakers who virtually monopolized the senior ranks. Against this general economic background, Dutch-Afrikaners began to agitate for protectionist policies to aid farmers, a national bank to counter the imperial banks, and equal status for the Dutch language. In general, English-speakers, with their base in commerce and industry and mostly unilingual, opposed these demands.


The introduction of Responsible Government in 1872 also stimulated ethnic mobilization as it created an arena in which effective contests for state patronage and revenue could take place. While there was little to contest in the 1850s and 1860s, the state's resources and capabilities were expanding rapidly by the 1870s. Between 1854 and 1874 the value of exports (including diamonds) increased eight times, that of imports three times, and revenue five times. While the government previously had been occupied with keeping expenditures down, its main concern in the 1870s and 1880s was to secure credit to develop the Diamond Fields, to construct railways and other public works, and to procure labour from the Transkeian territories. The Cape government worked hard to maintain a flow of credit, especially from London. To gain access to that credit and to benefit from state expenditure and patronage was vitally important for the fortunes of landowners, commercial farmers, local businessmen, commercial middlemen, and those active in the import-export sector.[49] It was along these avenues that the Cape Dutch-Afrikaner leader, Onze Jan Hofmeyr, would pursue his career.

Responsible Government also made possible an amendment of the Cape constitution. In the 1850s Dutch-Afrikaner leaders had supported the low, colour-blind franchise, hoping that it would counteract 'the fictitious inequality of wealth' which existed at the Cape. During the 1860s this hope gave way to disillusionment. 'Coloured' and black voters supported English merchants and traders rather than Dutch-Afrikaner candidates who represented farmers who generally paid low wages to their workers. This prompted Dutch-Afrikaner leaders to turn away from the non-racial democracy and increasingly resort to racist politics. After the introduction of Responsible Government, Hofmeyr and the Zuid-Afrikaan would more and more discuss the constitution in terms of 'Africaanderism' which meant a curtailment of the non-white franchise and the promotion of farming interests.[50]

Dutch-Afrikaner political mobilization was encouraged by the political decline of merchant hegemony and the incorporationist strategy of a Cape liberalism that was aimed especially at coloured artisans and progressive African peasants. The merchants were unable to consolidate their own class position largely because of a bitter conflict between the Cape Town and Port Elizabeth mercantile communities over railway extension and the improvement of harbour facilities. Neither group of merchants tried to establish a regional political base by attracting the support of farmers and professional men. Moreover, with the rise of Kimberley and the Witwatersrand, the Cape merchants lost their grip on the mainspring of the southern African regional economy.[51] Their political and ideological dominance receded as the Cape's English-speakers tied their fortunes to the gold-mining industry of the Transvaal based on low-paid African wage labour. Inevitably these changes undermined Cape liberalism, which was not posited on the incorporation of cheap African wage labour in the economy. The tide now clearly turned in the direction of a restrictive franchise and state intervention to meet the labour needs of farmers, a change which well suited Dutch-Afrikaner politicians.[52]

It was of course not inevitable that a colony-wide Dutch-Afrikaner political movement based on ethnic awareness would emerge. Another possibility was a farmers' party, but that went aground upon the antagonism between the English farmers and merchants in the Eastern Cape and the economically less-advanced Dutch-Afrikaner farmers in the East. That there emerged an Afrikaner party conforms to the general observation that in societies where class and ethnic ties tend to coincide rather than cross-cut, political entrepreneurs usually establish a


following by relying on emotive ethnic distinctions between 'us' and 'them'.[53] Senior English officials sensed that Responsible Government could mean the demise of the English ascendancy at the Cape. The Attorney General wrote to London in 1871 that the Boers, forming the majority of the white section in the constituencies, 'desire to keep Africa for themselves and keep down English interests and institutions'.[54]

In the framework of Cape politics, however, such sentiments had to be reinforced by a perception of a viable common culture before a specifically Dutch-Afrikaner political platform could be constructed. This brings us to the last dimension of the context in which a politically oriented ethnic consciousness developed, namely the apprehension among Dutch-Afrikaner professionals that a large section of their ethnic group faced both economic and cultural degeneration.

Accelerated economic development had greatly widened the class cleavages within Dutch-Afrikaner society. At the top were the large landholders and commercializing farmers and the Cape Dutch in the towns, who prospered as financial agents and auctioneers; then came a large number of middling farmers who managed to make ends meet; and finally, at the bottom, there were the small farmers and bywoners . From the 1870s on a large class of poor and often destitute small farmers began to form. They were unable and unwilling to do anything but farm—almost an underclass that in Marx's terms was 'passively rotting away'. Some of the most desperate of these small farmers began to migrate to the towns where they found casual employment, but others resorted to vagrancy, begging and crime. In towns all over South Africa, blacks and whites were working and living together and, in small but growing numbers, sleeping together.

This economic crisis was accompanied by a grave cultural crisis. At its apex, Dutch-Afrikaner society was losing some of its brightest minds through the steady process of anglicization. At its bottom there was the even greater threat of large numbers of the poor becoming proletarianized. The cultural crisis sprang from the economic crisis facing poor farmers. In the Eastern Cape many Afrikaner farmers could not afford to send their children to school because of the need for their labour. Some Boer farmers in 1875 even demanded a bonus for each child they sent to school to compensate for the loss of labour power that schooling meant.[55] The result was child illiteracy of alarming proportions. In the 1875 census it was estimated that only 43 per cent of children between the ages of five and fifteen in the Cape Colony could read and write, and for Dutch-Afrikaners it must have been considerably lower, assuming that English-speakers probably attained the level of their counterparts in Victoria and New Zealand, where it was about 60 per cent. It was true that almost everyone after the age of fifteen learned to read and write, but the level of these skills was in most cases extremely rudimentary. It was generally known that a large section of the Boers never read any books apart from the Bible.

By the 1870s this cultural degeneration was alarming government officials. In 1873 a series of anonymous articles appeared in the Cape Monthly Magazine, obviously the work of a well-informed person:

I would ask the ministers of religion, the promoters of education, and the responsible rulers of the Colony, if they are satisfied with things as they are?—if they realize the fact of the children of Dutch-speaking, European parentage growing up with less care bestowed upon them than upon the beasts of the field—without the ability to read or write even their mother tongue, without any instruction in the knowledge of a God that made them, having at their


command no language but a limited vocabulary of semi-Dutch, semi-Hottentot words, and those only concerning the wants or doings of themselves and the animals they tend?[56]

The author delivered a searing indictment of 'State-paid ministers' who were unconcerned about this situation and whose only visible activity was a Sunday sermon in the village church. He warned that if no remedy was found a growing criminal class would develop.

In 1867 diamonds were discovered, beginning a period of economic transformation of South Africa. The accelerated industrialization of South Africa in the wake of the mineral discoveries did not immediately transform people's self-conceptions. Invariably, collective memories persist in institutional forms when the social conditions which originally gave rise to them have evaporated. As long as they remained tied to the land, the Afrikaners retained a primary loyalty to their church and faith and to regional and other subgroupings rather than to a state or a pervasive culture. Nevertheless, a slow movement towards ethnic identification did begin, initially undertaken by ethnic culture brokers and then stimulated by catalytic political events, ultimately producing concrete expressions of a politically articulated ethnic consciousness. In the Western Cape a few clerics and teachers tried to deal with the cultural crisis of Dutch-Afrikaner semi-literacy and illiteracy; in the same region wine farmers mobilized against a tax that adversely affected their industry; and in the Transvaal near-subsistence farmers rose against the British annexation of their state.

The Culture Brokers of the Western Cape during the 1870s

It was in the Paarl-Wellington area that the first conscious attempts were made to develop a specific ethnic ideology for the Dutch-Afrikaners. The leading role was taken by two Dutch school teachers, A. Pannevis and C.P. Hoogenhout, who had settled in the area in the 1860s, and a Dutch Reformed Church minister, S.J. du Toit, the son of a Paarl wine grower. A complex set of concerns drove these men. In the first place, they were deeply disturbed by the way in which industrialization and the secularization of education were affecting Dutch-Afrikaner society. They wished to encapsulate Dutch-Afrikaners in their own institutions and culture so as to deflect alien influences. Second, they were motivated by a concern with the more general cultural crisis.

Ironically, the initial attempts at uplift were not directed at Dutch-Afrikaners. A part-time missionary, Pannevis was at first moved by the plight of the coloured population of the Western Cape whose educational opportunities were even poorer than those of the Dutch-Afrikaners. He was greatly concerned that thousands of them were unable to understand the Bible in either Dutch or English. In 1872 he made a plea in the Zuid-Afrikaan that for their sake the Bible be translated into Afrikaans, a language spoken by the vast majority of them.

Before Pannevis's plea, Afrikaans had been used in religious pamphlets and magazines directed at coloured Malays and Christians. Some 300 letters, mostly written by whites, had appeared in newspapers. However, whites used it as a dialect—or the 'lowest vernacular'—to amuse or to poke fun at the lower classes. 'Afrikaans' was a collective term denoting all the corrupted usages of Dutch in the colony. Pannevis, however, realized that Afrikaans was an excellent medium for making the Bible accessible and for providing education to poor and uneducated people. This proposal to render the Bible in Afrikaans for the coloureds was soon


de-emphasized, however, and from the mid-1870s Pannevis and Hoogenhout used all their efforts to persuade the Dutch-Afrikaners that Afrikaans was a language in its own right and that it was the true language of the white Dutch-Afrikaners.

It was Hoogenhout who saw the potential of Afrikaans as a basis of a cultural ethnic awareness to oppose English hegemony. Like Van der Lingen before him, Hoogenhout stressed the link between industrialization and anglicization, and condemned both. English was for him the language of corruption, bred at the billiard table and drinking den. The volk was being bastardized by the way in which English had completely usurped everything in the name of Progress. In his novel Catherina he wrote of the evil and corruption of the anglicized society of Cape Town and contrasted it with the worthiness of the patriarchal social relations typical of the rural Dutch-Afrikaners. In 1873 Hoogenhout appealed in the Zuid-Afrikaan for an Afrikaans translation of the Bible 'not only for brown people but also for many whites, because there are really many whites who do not understand half of the Dutch language'. He added that 'the Lord would not tolerate that the Bible should remain unintelligible to many poor people in South Africa'.[57]

Building on the work of the two Dutchmen, Du Toit declared war against British cultural hegemony, the secularization of education which undermined the traditional authorities, and the corrupting influence of industrialization. He devoted all his efforts towards making Afrikaans the cardinal ethnic symbol which encapsulated the history and the singularity of the Afrikaner people. In three newspaper articles published under the pseudonym 'A true Afrikaner', he argued that language expressed the character of a people (volk ) and that no nationality could be formed without its own language. Second, he argued that Afrikaans should be accepted as a language in its own right by the Afrikaners. Third, he criticized the process of anglicization taking place in parliament, courts, schools and churches, being particularly scathing about the DRC clergy who delivered sermons in English and who founded English-language educational institutions in the principal towns.[58]

In 1875 Du Toit, Hoogenhout and six others founded the Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners (Fellowship of True Afrikaners) (GRA) in Paarl. By the mid-1870s a strong section within the dominant class considered Dutch-Afrikaners and colonial English-speakers as all being joined into a nascent Afrikaner nation. The Volksblad, for instance, remarked in 1875: 'When we speak of "Afrikanders" we do not mean Dutch-speaking or English-speaking South Africans, but the people who have been and still are being moulded into that distinct nation.'[59] In contrast, the GRA employed the concept of the Afrikaner people to denote a distinct ethnic group within the population. It divided the Afrikaner people into three groups—those with English hearts, those with Dutch hearts and those with Afrikaner hearts, and only the latter were considered to be true Afrikaners. The GRA declared itself in favour of Afrikaans and resolved not to rest before it was recognized as the national (ethnic) language. To further this, it published a newspaper, The Patriot, a nationalist history, a grammar, and some school texts in Afrikaans. Their use of Afrikaans had several dimensions: it was a political language which embodied Afrikaner ethnic self-awareness and expressed opposition to imperial rule; it was an educational instrument which would uplift large numbers of backward children; and it was a vehicle for the dissemination of the Bible among large numbers of poor and ignorant brown and white people.

Yet this emphasis on the Afrikaans language embodying the singularity of the


Afrikaners obscured the fact that the great majority of coloureds—people of slave, European and Khoikhoi descent—also spoke Afrikaans and did so much less self-consciously. No attempt was made to embrace all Afrikaans-speakers as members of a new people participating in a developing nationalist movement. The class divisions between white and brown Afrikaans-speakers were too acute for this. Whites prided themselves on being a master or 'aristocratic' class. Even its poorest members considered themselves too superior to accept employment in someone else's service, to do manual labour, or to work as artisans. Dutch-Afrikaners generally treated brown Afrikaans-speakers as a class of servants still bearing the taint of slavery.

Growing segregation widened the gulf. A trend, starting in the 1830s, to segregate coloured members of the Dutch Reformed Church found expression in the establishment of separate coloured congregations and culminated in the founding of the Dutch Reformed Mission Church in 1881. Schools were segregated in 1893. No statutory residential segregation existed, but the great majority of coloured people lived together in the poorest sections of the towns. The main Afrikaner political movement did not formally exclude coloured members but did reject applications at branch level.

Thus Afrikaner ethnic consciousness from the beginning contained both a strong racist dimension and a considerable measure of self-delusion about the origins of both the ethnic group itself and the Afrikaans language. Despite the fact that a considerable proportion of marriages occurred across the colour line in the eighteenth century, The Patriot and Zuid Afrikaan spoke only of the ethnic group's white or European ancestry. In championing Afrikaans The Patriot was at pains to declare that Afrikaans was a pure Germanic language without 'Hottentot' words, and that the 'Hottentots had abandoned their language and adopted ours'. While there was still little direct economic competition between white and brown Afrikaans-speakers, this racially exclusive ethnic mobilization resulted in the increasing alienation of the coloureds.[60]

The Political Mobilization of Dutch Afrikaners after 1870

The second major development stimulating growing ethnic awareness was the rise of Dutch-Afrikaner farmers' associations (boeren vereenigingen ). During the 1870s several were formed in the northeastern and eastern part of the colony. Like their English counterparts, they began as agricultural organizations but soon began to speak out on political issues. The Albert Boeren Vereeniging, where The Patriot found an avid readership, particularly demanded the right to speak Dutch in parliament and proposed a colony-wide Afrikaner Bond based on common interests and loyalties. In 1878 the wine producers of the Western Cape were aroused by an excise bill which threatened to injure them further, and, in response, Onze Jan Hofmeyr established the Zuid Afrikaansche Boeren Beschermings Vereeniging (BBV). It was initially an organization of wine producers established to oppose the new bill, which soon was watered down. It was also a Western Cape political formation against a government dominated by English-speaking politicians of the Eastern Cape. Most importantly, it was an ethnic movement that championed Dutch-Afrikaner interests in matters as diverse as farmers' control over labour and Dutch language rights. To broaden his political base Hofmeyr defined the group as one which included 'patriotic' English-speakers. Brown Afrikaans-speakers were, however, hardly mentioned and were usually treated as a separate category.


The BBV scored a remarkable success in the 1878–79 elections, winning nine of the twenty-one upper house seats and a third of those of the lower house. Soon after the elections, however, enthusiasm dwindled. The BBV failed to attract more than a thousand members and barely extended outside the Western Cape. Efforts to link up with the eastern farmers' associations were not successful, and those associations themselves failed to form their own coordinating body. In 1880 Du Toit seized the initiative by founding the Afrikaner Bond, which aimed at coordinating the activities of the GRA, BBV and eastern boeren vereengingen and linking them with Dutch-Afrikaners in the Boer republics. The Bond's principles represented a compromise between Du Toit's exclusive and Hofmeyr's inclusive strategies. On the one hand, there was Du Toit's attack on speculators, foreign banks and traitors in parliament, criticism of the education of the Dutch-Afrikaners while 'millions of pounds' were spent on the education of the English, and complaints about the sacrifice of 'Africa's interests to England, or those of the Farmer to the Merchant'. On the other hand, the Bond's definition of the 'Afrikaner' was the one favoured by Hofmeyr: all those who recognized Africa as their fatherland and wanted to work together for the good of a united South Africa.[61]

In the Transvaal Dutch-Afrikaner ethnic awareness was politicized by the successful revolt in 1881 of the burghers against the British occupation of their state. As De Kiewiet aptly puts it: the unity of the Transvaal burghers when it finally came 'was not really proof of a slow cementing into consistency and durability of their opinions and practice, but a more rapid fusing in the heat of the clash with the British government'.[62] The resistance of the Transvaal burghers indeed became a remarkably vigorous ethnic mobilization. Mass meetings were held where large numbers of burghers camped out for several days to listen to speeches by the leaders. Petitions against the annexation were signed by between one half and two-thirds of a total population of some 8000 burghers. In this mobilization all political divisions were temporarily transcended. The annexation had, as Judge Kotze put it, 'given birth to a strong national feeling among the Boers; it had united them and all were now for the state'.[63]

After the war, the generals, using their new status as 'national leaders', appealed to the burghers to end the political and religious divisions. In Paul Kruger the Transvaal had a president who succeeded far better than Burgers had in becoming the focus of a Transvaal loyalty and in developing a sense of community. In his speeches and in several history books that appeared after the war a new basis for historical consciousness was propounded. This history was, as Van Jaarsveld notes, 'a tabulation of grievances and a story of clashes between Boer and Briton'. Its spirit was 'that of "wrong", "injustice" and "oppression"'. The Great Trek was interpreted as a 'sacred passion for freedom' and the Battle of Blood River, where the Voortrekkers in 1838 had won a major victory over the Zulu, began to occupy a central place in the historical mythology.[64] After the war the commemoration of this battle became a truly national festive occasion for the first time. The five-yearly festivals at Paardekraal were great events. In 1881 a crowd estimated at between 12,000 and 15,000 listened with rapt attention to the patriotic speeches of Kruger and others.

These three developments—the founding of the GRA and the so-called First Afrikaans Language Movement, the establishment of the BBV and Bond, and the Transvaal revolt—are often considered by historians as constituting the 'awakening' of Afrikaner nationalism, and there is indeed some evidence to support this view. The writings of The Patriot encouraged the Transvaal burghers to resist actively, and their successful revolt in turn boosted ethnic initiatives in


the Western Cape and elsewhere. The Patriot had struggled to survive with a circulation of only 500 in 1877, but after the war of 1880–81 it jumped to 3000. Du Toit himself thought that the glorious Boer victory at Majuba gave birth to the Afrikaner nation. In 1881 a pan-Afrikaner ethnic movement really seemed to have taken off. In many places in the Cape Colony and Free State Dutch-Afrikaners expressed their solidarity with the Transvaal burghers. They saw the revolt as a struggle which affected everyone of Dutch and French descent with 'a true Afrikaans' spirit. In Hofmeyr's words it filled the 'Afrikanders, otherwise grovelling in the mud of materialism, with a national glow of sympathy for the brothers across the Transvaal'.[65]

The Afrikaner Bond greatly benefited from this upsurge of ethnic emotions. At the end of 1880 it had only three branches, but after the revolt branches were founded in numerous places, particularly in the Eastern Cape, but also in the Orange Free State and Transvaal. In 1883 the BBV and Bond were merged after Hofmeyr outmanoeuvred the Du Toit faction, and the Bond emerged as the strongest bloc in the Cape Parliament, increasing the proportion of Dutch-Afrikaner representatives from approximately one-third in the years between 1854 and 1885 to just under one-half in the last sixteen years of the century. It easily secured formal approval for Dutch to be used in parliament, in the courts, and as medium of instruction in schools.

The Faltering of Ethnic Consciousness in the 1880s

Yet despite these early accomplishments, Afrikaner political ethnicity failed to sustain its momentum. Three forces worked against it: first, continuing British imperial hegemony; second, deepening class cleavages within the Dutch-Afrikaner group; and, third, intense inter-state rivalry between the Cape Colony and Transvaal. All of these contributed to an incoherent and inconsistent ideological conception of 'Afrikanerhood'.

The inhibiting force of British political hegemony was evident in the Cape Colony even at the time of the Transvaal protests and revolt. Despite their strong feelings of solidarity with the Transvaal burghers and resentment at British imperial arrogance, the Dutch-Afrikaners—particularly the Cape Dutch—were reluctant to engage in any kind of politics that challenged the dominant consensus. This consensus demanded an almost unqualified political loyalty to Britain and to the ideal of common nationhood for the two white population groups. While Hofmeyr and several branches of the BBV in 1880 protested against the annexation, only one branch received a Transvaal deputation seeking to rally the support of the Cape. The BBV in general acted in an uncoordinated and unconvincing way.[66]

After Britain granted a qualified independence to the Transvaal, Hofmeyr declared in parliament: 'The generosity of the terms had strengthened the loyalty of the Dutch in the Colony . . . [and] had given it a warmth and heartiness which it never had before.'[67] In the course of the 1880s Hofmeyr came to reject the Afrikaner Bond's call of Africa for the 'Afrikanders' and South African political unity under its own flag in favour of a political union under the British flag. President Brand of the Orange Free State also sought to maintain ties of the closest political and economic unity with the Cape Colony, and, by extension, with Great Britain, and to promote Dutch-Afrikaner and English unity. He thus strongly attacked Du Toit's Afrikaner Bond as destructive. Only Kruger in the Transvaal took an opposite approach. Even he, however, espoused a Transvaal nationalism whose point of departure was loyalty to the Transvaal state and which


was not based on an 'organic' Afrikaner unity.[68]

English cultural hegemony reinforced British political rule. Despite the formal recognition of Dutch, the English language maintained its dominant position in the Cape's schools, courts and parliament. In growing numbers, better educated Dutch-Afrikaners spoke English in public debates and used English for correspondence and even in their personal diaries. The situation was little different in the Free State. Its rural schools were usually started by wealthier farmers who set a premium on English as the language of commerce and intellectual discourse and who deliberately sought out English teachers. In the early 1880s a school inspector found that only a third of the schools he visited used Dutch as the sole medium of instruction. A cleric reported: 'I cannot neglect mentioning how much talking and writing in English has become prominent in the Free State, especially in the towns. Nowhere else did I have to speak so much English as there.'[69] Before the end of the nineteenth century public and social life in Bloemfontein was almost exclusively English.

A major problem in the Transvaal was illiteracy—in 1877 it was estimated that only 8 per cent of white children of school age were attending, as opposed to 50 per cent in the Cape Colony and 12 per cent in the Orange Free State. The opening of the goldfields in the 1880s brought with it deep cleavages in the community over the question of education along with fresh opportunities for capital accumulation. A group of Dutch-Afrikaners, often the products of English education in the Cape, demanded the inclusion of much more English in the syllabus. Against these 'progressives' stood President Kruger who made Dutch the medium of instruction and who was strongly supported by Dutch immigrant civil servants and school teachers and by the Dopper Church. S.J. du Toit, who had become head of Kruger's education department, sided with the 'progressives' against Kruger and his 'Hollanders' and was remarkably lax in enforcing the language ruling. When Dr Mansvelt, a Hollander, became Superintendent of Education in 1892, an attempt was made to enforce Dutch as the medium of instruction in all higher standards. This sparked an outcry from the 'progressives' who saw English as a prerequisite for their economic advancement as well as from the substantial English population of Johannesburg. Mansvelt was forced to back down, and the state continued to subsidize schools where Dutch was taught at least four hours a week.[70]

Possible ethnic solidarity was further undermined by the deepening class divisions within Dutch-Afrikaner society. In the Cape Colony there was in fact little in common between the well-educated Cape-Dutch, acting as financial middlemen in the towns, and the common, lowly Boers. In the competition between Hofmeyr's BBV and Du Toit's Bond there was a distinct class dimension. The BBV appealed to the upper or middle class in contrast with the more populist Bond which criticized the large sums expended on railway extension and attacked British banks and merchants as alien fortune-seekers.

While the BBV members spoke what passed as High Dutch or simplified Dutch, the GRA and Du Toit's Bond deliberately chose Afrikaans, regarded as the language of both coloured workers and the poor and ignorant class of Dutch-Afrikaner society. The BBV's mouthpiece, the Zuid-Afrikaan, haughtily commented that 'brandy and The Patriot have this in common: that they are enemies of civilization'.[71] It was a matter of surprise when it was discovered that The Patriot was read not only by bywoners but by 'civilized people' as well.[72] While the GRA busily tried to invent a national culture, the BBV's membership did not care much for culture and worried rather about their class interests. In 1878 a speaker at a Paarl dinner for parliamentarians expressed the hope that the


enthusiasm for a 'nationality' would lead to the establishment of brandy as a national drink and that the moment would soon arrive when there was a South African nation and a South African national drink.[73]

After Hofmeyr took over the Bond he toned down the nationalist strains. The Bond accorded a prominent rhetorical place in speeches to the lowly Boer farmer, but its true base was the town-based businessmen, rich landholders and commercial farmers. The leadership of Hofmeyr's movement was derived from such groups, and they increasingly looked to the state to further their interests, not least through the provision of public works. In towns they organized petitions for the building of courts, magistracies and local railways. The large flow of credit from London cemented the Bond's collaborating relationship with British imperialism.[74] The less affluent whites on the farms and in the towns shared little of this enthusiasm for development and modernization. In a town like Graaff-Reinet the poor, known as the 'backstreet people', at one stage refused to pay municipal rates. But over the longer run there was little the poor could do against the dominant position of the Bond and the commercial stranglehold of English-speakers. Du Toit's proposals for a national bank, boerewinkels (farmers' cooperative stores), and consumer boycotts all came to nothing.

In the Transvaal and Orange Free State the rapid commercialization of farming during the 1880s and 1890s created a growing gulf between landless and landed Dutch-Afrikaners. The large farmers accumulated wealth through their access to office and their ability to exploit large numbers of Africans living on their land. They successfully resisted demands from the 'levellers'—usually poor and middling farmers—that African labour be evenly distributed among the farmers. By the end of the century many farmers, having lost patience with bywoners desperately clinging to their status as whites, chose to have rent-paying or share-cropping Africans on their farms. That growing numbers of poor whites had little interest in ethnic appeals is shown in their large scale defection to British ranks in the Anglo-Boer War.

The final reason why Afrikaner ethnic consciousness did not develop as a political force transcending parochial territorial boundaries lay in the interstate rivalries of the 1880s. The root of the problem was the Cape's desperate search for revenue to meet its rapidly growing liabilities, attempting constantly to extend its trade and railway network beyond its northern boundaries. Despite the fact that the Bond was the strongest party in Parliament, it did little or nothing to ease the financial distress of the republics and more than once rejected requests that the inland states be allocated a share of the customs duties collected at the Cape ports. A recent study thus describes the Bond as blinkered, selfish and parochial in this respect.[75]

The discovery of gold confronted the Cape with the sudden prospect of becoming the 'poor relation' in South Africa. Kruger blocked the extension of the Cape railway system into the Rand, the new powerhouse of the South African economy, threw obstacles in the way of trade in agricultural products and made it as difficult for Cape Dutch-Afrikaners in the Transvaal to obtain citizenship as it was for other Uitlanders . At the same time, Hofmeyr and his Bond were increasingly acting as British imperial agents by supporting British-backed expansion which aimed at the encirclement and isolation of the Transvaal. In 1887, amid growing tensions over railway and trade policies, four Cape Town Bondsmen, including Hofmeyr, wrote to Kruger:

We must admit having noticed a cooling off of the warm feeling of attachment to the cause of our Transvaal brothers, that showed itself from 1877 to 1881.


We fear that unless events take another course, it will soon be almost impossible to obtain in the Cape Colony a similar expression of sympathy for you, as on that occasion . . . . [Once] a division arises between kinsfolk, one cannot foresee where it will end, and the Africander cause is far from being strong enough to be able to face division between Transvaal and Colonial sons of the soil.[76]

But division did grow. By 1890 Hofmeyr was so much under Rhodes's influence that he was willing to travel to Pretoria to tell Kruger that he could not unconditionally claim Swaziland.[77] Kruger thundered at him: 'You are a traitor, a traitor to the Africander cause.'[78] Yet, despite his objections to the Transvaal's stringent franchise qualifications for Uitlanders —particularly Cape-Afrikaner Uitlanders —Hofmeyr continued to profess his sympathy and affection for the Transvaal with the words 'blood is thicker than water'.[79] These and even Kruger's words certainly suggests an awareness of Afrikaners as members of a common ethnic community. However, for Kruger and Hofmeyr the basis of political action and the definition of the concept Afrikaner were quite different.

Indeed during the last quarter of the nineteenth century the very concept of 'Afrikaner' remained highly ambiguous. At the one end of the spectrum there was the GRA and The Patriot who defined the term in the ethnic sense of a people with a common descent and history. For Hofmeyr and the Zuid-Afrikaan, Afrikaners were a volk or a nation-in-being comprised of both Dutch-Afrikaners and English-speakers who were loyal to the Cape and believed in the need to maintain white supremacy against the Africans.[80] While James Rose Innes, a leading Cape liberal, did not consider himself an Afrikaner, which in his view was defined as people belonging to the oldest section of the white population and newcomers holding specific views on the Native Question, Cecil John Rhodes embraced the inclusive concept of Afrikanerhood.[81] Eagerly availing himself of the political base Hofmeyr's Bond offered him, he stated in 1890 that his government would be an 'Afrikander' one, and he indeed shared the Bond's views on labour and African policy.[82] Edmund Garrett, editor of the Cape Times, coined the phrase 'John Bull Afrikander' in asserting that Britain by 1890 was acting only in the interests of South Africa as a whole.[83] Finally, there was the conception of leading Transvaal burghers, such as F.G. Wolmarans and Schalker Burger who both served as chairman of the Volksraad. They defined the term Afrikaner in narrow, republican terms. Propagating a distinct Transvaal nationalism, Burger stated flatly that 'everyone from beyond the borders of the republic must be viewed as a stranger, no matter if he came from the Free State, the Colony, England or Holland, etc'.[84]

Despite these divisive forces, a degree of ethnic awareness and commitment had been attained by the 1880s. The catalytic forces that produced it did not fade away. Indeed they would intensify over the next twenty to thirty years. British imperial policy did become more conciliatory in the 1880s (leading to the waning of Hofmeyr's ethnic fervour), but the mid-1890s saw the emergence of an aggressive British imperialism which threatened to sweep aside Dutch-Afrikaner political and cultural autonomy. In the meantime the conflicts arising from the changing political economy increased as did the cultural struggle waged by people whose livelihoods depended on mastery of a foreign language. By the turn of the century Dutch-Afrikaners would, on a much broader level, see themselves as a distinct political group and would attempt to develop a separate culture—they had become Afrikaners. The task of extending and institutionalizing Afrikaner ethnicity differed in the Cape and the two republics. In the Transvaal and Orange


Free State the state preceded the nation, and political expressions of ethnic consciousness could accordingly feed on the idea of national self-determination in addition to responding to class needs. In the Cape Colony, however, it had to grow from a shared culture and common economic concerns.

The Institutionalization of Ethnic Consciousness in the Cape to 1915

It was in the Western Cape, and in particular the Stellenbosch/Paarl region, that the first viable Afrikaner ethnic movement took root and grew. For various reasons, Du Toit and the GRA in the 1870s did not appeal to the intellectual class of Dutch-Afrikaners. Du Toit was a controversial figure, disliked by the church hierarchy, and The Patriot's Afrikaans was considered too vulgar and banal to have any appeal. Nevertheless clergy and teachers in growing numbers recognized the need for an alternative culture. The modernizing colonial state was obliterating the old distinction between the public sphere and the private life of family and church, posing the threat not only of anglicization but also of undermining the authority of Dutch-Afrikaner clergy and teachers. What made the matter all the more pressing for the clergy was the state's decision in 1874 to disestablish the church. Ministers of religion could no longer look to it for their salaries but had to rely instead upon their parishes. It can hardly be a coincidence that from 1874 onwards the church took a greatly increased interest in the education of Dutch-Afrikaner children and in ethnic issues. Clergymen figured prominently in the establishment of BBV and Bond branches. And in the early 1880s the church was suddenly prominent in the agitation for the recognition of Dutch as an official language. In growing numbers ministers of religion and teachers rejected the inclusive definition of Afrikaner and asserted a close link between language and nationality.

In the 1870s and 1880s Hofmeyr had argued that Dutch was merely of instrumental value in educating the Dutch-Afrikaners to enable them to claim equal rights with English-speakers. Always sensitive to any movement in his constituency that might outflank him, Hofmeyr from the 1890s began to emphasize the close links between language and ethnic identity and argued that they were mutually dependent on one another. But Hofmeyr's bland ethnic formulations were already overtaken by a more radical ideology espoused by a new generation of relatively well-educated ministers of religion and teachers who were eager to invent and elaborate an ethnic culture. By the turn of the century they were taking a leading role all over South Africa in commemorations of the Battle of Blood River and the founding of debating societies. Both served to heighten ethnic consciousness on a grassroots level among the rural population.[85] In the Cape Colony the new movement would find its leader in Daniel François Malan, a DRC clergyman who returned to South Africa in 1905 after studying theology in the Netherlands and who was to become leader of the Nationalist Party in the 1930s. In the Netherlands Malan had watched Abraham Kuyper implementing the verzuiling (segmentation) of Dutch society along religious and class lines. Once back in South Africa, Malan spread the new gospel that religious, cultural and political separatism could be the only basis for cooperation between the Afrikaners and the English.

In isolation these clergymen and teachers could not achieve much. For their ethnic movement to acquire momentum it was necessary to link up with farmers, in particular men of some wealth, who also found ethnic identification both


materially and psychologically rewarding. Obvious candidates were the wine farmers who belonged to the 'best of families' and who were possessors of old wealth. There were two main reasons why the wine farmers of the Western Cape by the turn of the century were increasingly attracted to ethnic strategies, and not only in the economic field.

First, the structural relationship between the Dutch-speaking farmers and the English-speaking merchants virtually built an ethnic dimension into the political process. Before the BBV was formed in 1878 some wine farmers and wine merchants had been joined in a wine producers' association but it soon fell apart because of the conflict of interests: the merchants did not buy enough wine, which they considered inferior, and they failed to protest against the Excise Bill, which they did not see as a threat to them. Conflict within the wine industry continued in the decades before Union. Although there was generally a huge local wine surplus, the wine producers had to endure strong competition from wine and brandy imports which the merchants found more profitable to handle. Figures for retail sales of foreign spirits were 44 per cent of that of Cape wine and brandy in 1892, rising to 69 per cent in 1895 and over 80 per cent in 1897 before declining to 72 per cent in 1904.[86] In that year the Jameson government, known for its lack of sympathy for Dutch-Afrikaner causes and interests, imposed a tax on Cape brandy that was 67 per cent higher than the import tax on the foreign product.[87] Wheat farmers found it equally difficult to compete with cereals imported from Australia and the regions north of the Cape Colony.[88] The Bond constantly sought governmental protection for wine and other agricultural products. The desire for agricultural protection was one of the main reasons why the Dutch-Afrikaner farming population supported the Afrikaner Bond almost to a man in the last election before Unification.

Second, the farmers' financial situation prompted them to turn to local banks and trust companies. From the 1890s these local institutions began to attract a growing flow of funds from both the rich and the poor, the farmers and the professionals. As local sentiment turned into ethnic sentiment, these institutions facilitated the encapsulation of classes within the ethnic group and the accumulation of resources that was necessary before major ethnic projects could be launched. By the turn of the century an ethnic establishment comprised of some affluent farmers who were also shareholders or directors of local financial institutions, professional men, and leading figures in the DRC and the university college in Stellenbosch had emerged.

It is necessary to elaborate briefly. The British-backed Standard Bank, which started doing business in both Paarl and Stellenbosch by 1880, did not covet the average wine producer as a client. In general, wine farmers were heavily in debt as the bulk of the wine fetched prices not much higher than production costs. Increasingly farmers began to turn to local financial institutions. It is sometimes suggested in the literature that Afrikaners were manipulated by ethnic entrepreneurs into supporting ethnic enterprises. The Paarl Board of Executors, the Stellenbosch District Bank and other institutions, however, in fact offered real services. Because they were small and ran a risk of collapsing, they had to offer much better rates than the Standard Bank in order to compete. In the 1880s the District Bank was paying 5 to 5.5 or 6 per cent on fixed deposits and 2 per cent on current accounts, compared to the Standard which paid an average of 3. 5 per cent on fixed deposits and no interest on current accounts. In contrast to the Standard, the District Bank made no charge on country cheques and ledger fees. The same applied to credit. The branch manager of the Standard Bank had to apply the head office's well-tried general rules in extending credit. In general it preferred to


extend long-term credit to sound commercial and speculative enterprises. In this respect a district bank suited the farmers' needs much better. The farming operations of Stellenbosch and Paarl did not require long-term credit but short-term, seasonal credit based on the assumption that the harvest would cover production costs. This introduced the factor of risk, which the manager of a local bank could better assess than his Standard Bank counterpart.

All this worked to the disadvantage of the Standard Bank. On top of all this came the Jameson Raid of 1895–96 and the Anglo-Boer War which were not only major blows to Hofmeyr's political collaboration with imperial policies but also greatly strengthened financial anti-imperialism. The District Bank, which had weathered a serious crisis in the late 1880s, capitalized on this and on the economic boom which the colony enjoyed from 1895 to 1904. It was patronized by both large and small farmers, professionals, the university college and the town council. In 1904 the Standard Bank inspection report noted that the District Bank had the best of all the advance business and all farm mortgages. It described the directors of the bank as local magnates. In the 1880s, the Standard Bank had expected the imminent collapse of its local rival. By 1908, however, its own branch was running at a loss and District Bank showed a profit of £2400 for the first six months after writing off £4000 for bad debts. An inspection report blamed it on the bitter feelings towards the British and 'the few loyalists of their own nationality'. The report of 1909 was more explicit:

At the present time we can hardly hope to do much here, our rivals the Stellenbosch District Bank receiving a large measure of support from the local populace and institutions. The causes of this support appear to be largely in sentiment and the clannishness of the Afrikander under the lead of a few influential men. No doubt they often accept risks also which we ourselves would never care to take.[89]

This mobilization of financial assets along ethnic lines was accompanied by a large-scale cultural mobilization. The Anglo-Boer War, the disenfranchisement of the rebels from the Cape and the retrogressive post-war policy regarding language rights stung Dutch-Afrikaner politicians and intellectuals into action. In 1905 Hofmeyr delivered a major speech in Stellenbosch in which he attacked the neglect of Dutch in schools and among Dutch-Afrikaners. Language equality was a fiction, he declared. The younger generation of intellectuals vigorously sympathized with the call for equal language rights, but they no longer had any enthusiasm for Dutch. Even in the 1880s and 1890s there had been a growing belief among the clergy and teachers that to insist on Dutch as an educational instrument would mean writing off the large lower class of Dutch-Afrikaners who would never be able to master the language properly. They now believed that the answer lay in making Afrikaans a respectable spoken and written language by professionalizing it, by using simplified Dutch spelling rather than the ultra-phonetic spelling of the GRA, by creating a true literature rather than a collection of rhymes, and, in general, by shedding its image of being the language of the poor. In 1908 Malan stated: 'Raise the Afrikaans language to a written language, let it become the vehicle for our culture, our history, our national ideals, and you will also raise the people who speak it.'[90]

In founding the South African Academy for Arts and Sciences in 1909, the Dutch-Afrikaner leaders still compromised by promoting both Dutch and Afrikaans. But among students from Stellenbosch Afrikaans had already won the day and they would enthusiastically carry it forward as the ethnic language of a new people, 'the Afrikaners'. This new concept had still many bastions to


conquer, but the merger of culture and economic concerns had created a formidable force. A key figure in the new ethnic establishment was J.H. (Jannie) Marais. He had made a fortune on the Kimberley mines before returning to Stellenbosch in 1891 to take up farming just outside the town. After the war he became the largest shareholder of the Stellenbosch District Bank. Marais's financial backing provided a vital breakthrough for institutions that were to play an indispensable role in the development of Afrikaner ethnic consciousness in the Cape's political arena. One such institution was the University of Stellenbosch. After the establishment of the Union of South Africa in 1910, there was a strong move to establish a single, overarching teaching university in Cape Town. This would have posed a severe threat to both Stellenbosch's Victoria College, which was in danger of becoming merely a high school, and to Afrikaner ethnic aspirations. It would also have entailed a devastating blow to the town of Stellenbosch generally and to the District Bank in particular, as it was estimated that by 1915 £130,000 was spent in Stellenbosch by the various educational institutions as compared to the £60,000-£ 100,000 brought in by wine and brandy production. Local businessmen and leading figures in the Dutch Reformed Church and the University of Stellenbosch strongly protested against downgrading Victoria College. But the move to establish 'an authentic Dutch-Afrikaans university' in Stellenbosch only acquired real momentum after Marais (who died in 1915) bequeathed £100,000 to Victoria College.

Marais—and to a lesser extent the District Bank—also played a decisive role in the establishment of Nasionale Pers and its newspaper, Die Burger . The decision to start a publishing house and a nationalist newspaper was taken at the end of 1914 in the house of Hendrik Bergh, manager of the District Bank. Apart from Bergh, fifteen men were present—including four academics, two lawyers and Bruckner de Villiers, a businessman who also served as Marais's private secretary. The remainder were active or retired farmers. As far as can be ascertained the twelve Stellenbosch men were all clients of the District Bank. Unable to raise the £8000 required to start a newspaper, they approached Marais who took out 5000 one pound shares. Six months later the first issue of Die Burger appeared with D. F. Malan as editor.

There was no immediate swing in the Western Cape to the new National Party of James Barry Hertzog, founded in 1913. Farmers in this region had consolidated behind Hofmeyr's Afrikaner Bond which at Unification in 1910 was absorbed into the South African Party of Generals Smuts and Botha. As both this party and Hertzog's breakaway party based their programme of principles on that adopted by the Afrikaner Bond in 1889, the National Party initially failed to make headway in the Cape Province. But the rebellion in 1914–15 of dissident Afrikaner generals who objected to South Africa's participation in World War I and its suppression by the government prompted Marais to take a stand against the pro-Empire policy of the government and to support a newspaper which would give priority to the rights of 'eigen land en volk ', as he put it, and not to demands and wishes emanating from Johannesburg and elsewhere.[91]

The growing support for the National Party between 1915 and 1929, when it captured the Stellenbosch and Paarl seats, was complementary to the channelling of Afrikaner farming capital into Afrikaner institutions such as the Paarl Board of Executors and the Stellenbosch District Bank. They had been turned into vigorous enterprises by the 1920s. Political anti-imperialism thus had its parallel in financial anti-imperialism. At the same time the difficulties wine farmers experienced in marketing their wine made them increasingly inclined to support parties and schemes which favoured intervention on behalf of the farmers. In


1918, two years after the wine price had slumped to an average of £2 per leaguer, the Kooperatiewe Winjwbouwers Vereeniging van Zuid-Afrika (KWV), an overarching wine cooperative, was founded.[92] However, the KWV had only limited success until the promulgation of the Wine and Spirit Control Act of 1924 which prohibited the purchase of wine for distilling purposes without the permission of the KWV or below a price fixed by it. The fact that the tasks of marketing and distilling were now taken out of their hands freed the wine farmers from the necessity of incurring large capital expenses. On a far larger scale than before they could now invest their savings. A considerable share of this capital found its way to the District Bank and institutions like Sanlam and Santam which unambiguously projected themselves as specifically Afrikaner enterprises.[93]

These developments point to the socio-economic base of the 1929 Nationalist electoral victory in the 'wine seats' of Paarl and Stellenbosch. The active involvement of Stellenbosch and Paarl farmers in local financial institutions and ethnic projects laid the groundwork for the Cape Afrikaner economic and cultural advance during the 1920s and 1930s. This was the main support base of the 'purified' Afrikaner nationalist movement that was launched in 1933 under the leadership of D.F. Malan and other Cape Afrikaner nationalists and for the southern wing of that party.

Ethnic Revivals in the Free State and the Transvaal 1890–1915

In the Free State the sway of patriarchal leaders began to break down in the 1880s. The land had filled up much more evenly than in the Transvaal. There were few notables who could flaunt the authority of the central government as could occur north of the Vaal. A relatively modern state, free from anarchy and graft, was in place by 1890. With the opening of the gold fields in 1886 South Africa's economic point of gravity shifted towards the Transvaal. The Free State now began to move out of the Cape's economic orbit and directed itself politically and economically towards the Transvaal. The British imperial aggression against the Transvaal was seen by the Free State as an attack on its own autonomy, for which it was prepared to go to war in 1899.

However, even before the war there were signs of a more vigorous ethnic self-awareness being cultivated by an alliance of intellectuals and commercializing farmers. During the 1890s ethnic entrepreneurs saw the Free State as being under attack economically as well as politically. Unable to adapt to the market created by the gold fields, many subsistence farmers in the northern and eastern Free State sold out to English-speaking farmers who produced commercially for the market. M.T. Steyn, who became president in 1895, warned the Free State burghers that if this continued their sons would in due course become tenants on their fathers' land.[94] After the languid 1880s, during which the British had been generally conciliatory to the republics, politics seemed to come alive in the 1890s, as tension with the British increased. Debating societies and farmers' associations sprang up in many towns. In 1896 the OVS Boeren Beschermen (Orange Free State Farmers' Protection Society) presented itself to Steyn as the 'national party' and requested lower taxes and improved labour legislation. One of its offshoots was the Vrystaatse Jongelingsvereeniging (Free State Youth Society), which expressed the need for a journal that would expound an 'Afrikaner nationality . . . and would use no other language than Afrikaans or Dutch'. They wanted this nationality to be like a wall around them to protect them


against foreign intrusion.[95] In the build-up to war, Steyn, who had married an English-speaking woman and easily moved in the bi-cultural society of Bloemfontein, also began to fear the demise of his state and his people. He stressed the vital importance of language: "The language is the people and if we neglect our language we would have to expect the gradual atrophy of our national existence.'[96]

After the Anglo-Boer War, Hertzog would make ethnic politics the cornerstone of his Orangia Unie movement. In a colony where the great majority of the white population was Dutch/Afrikaans-speaking there was little need for a party devoted to reconciliation with the English on the model of the Cape's Afrikaner Bond. Reconciliation was in any case made extremely difficult by the devastation of the war and an aggressive post-war British administration which closed down Dutch private schools and compensated for this only by minimal concessions towards Dutch-medium education in the state schools. The sentiment expressed by many Free State English-speakers that they were Afrikaners—but not Boers—began to fade away. A politically active ethnic consciousness, with Hertzog as its champion, was thus intensified by the experiences of the war and the British assault on language and culture. Yet Hertzog did not develop a coherent ethnic ideology. Even after his breakaway from the South African Party in 1912 he used the term 'Afrikaner' both in its exclusive sense and in Hofmeyr's inclusive sense.[97] When and from whom he adopted his policy of the segregation of whites and blacks and of Afrikaner cultural separatism has not yet been properly investigated. But both in Stellenbosch and Potchefstroom intellectuals had been attracted to these ideas before Hertzog thought of breaking away. Hertzog himself remained an ambiguous leader, uniting people behind him on a basis of personal loyalty rather than through deeply shared convictions. This was true in 1913 when Hertzog led the Free State out of the South African Party and in 1933 when he merged his National Party with the pro-Empire South African Party of Smuts.

The development of Afrikaner ethnicity as a political force took a different course in the Transvaal. In the 1890s there was a growing commitment in the independent Transvaal to promote the Afrikaner and republican character of the state. There were, of course, political divisions among the burghers. On the one hand, there was the conservative faction of traditional Boers, headed by Kruger. On the other, there were the 'progressives' representing progressive commercial farmers and a new generation of better-educated professionals and civil servants, the most able and senior of whom came from the Cape.

To some extent, this division was once again between an exclusive and inclusive conception of nation and state building. Kruger and his followers put a low premium upon education and bitterly resented the use of English in schools as something which undermined the national culture. As a Transvaal nationalist, he was reluctant to enter any alliances that might possibly compromise the state. Even when, after the Jameson Raid, the Free State proposed closer unity between the two republics Kruger waited eight months to respond. The 'progressives', on the other hand, were more inclined than Kruger to regard 'patriotic' Uitlanders as potential burghers and Afrikaners. They were modernizers who attacked the nepotism, corruption, incompetence and maladministration under Kruger's patriarchal state and proposed thorough-going reforms. But they could be equally exclusivist, and this was especially evident in their attacks on the Dutchmen appointed by Kruger to senior positions in the civil service. It is notable that in their opposition to Kruger, the 'progressives' took care to distance themselves from the Uitlanders and presented themselves as acting in the best interests of local Afrikaner society.[98]


The Jameson Raid and the impending war produced a closing of political ranks and ended any chance of the 'progressives' toppling Kruger as president. Yet during the war the Transvaal leadership changed drastically. The older generation of patriarchs and incompetents yielded to a new class of leaders, much more efficient and successful agriculturally, professionally, and militarily than their predecessors. Identified with the pre-war opposition, they were recruited from wealthy landowners, such as Louis Botha, Schalk Burger and Koos de la Rey, and professional men, such as Jan Smuts, Christiaan Beyers and Louis Esselen. It was this new leadership who took charge of the politics of reconstruction after the war's end in 1902. Against the background of a devastated countryside and acute poverty, they saw their first task as building an ethnic political base in a situation where Dutch-Afrikaners formed half of the white population but only a third of the potential voters. The development of a politically articulated ethnic consciousness was greatly facilitated by the post-war policies of the British administration under Lord Milner. Instead of reconciliation, Milner deliberately used education to shape imperial citizens. Yet, despite this, he made no attempt to exploit in Britain's interest the class and ideological divisions among Dutch-Afrikaners by diverting government resources to the patronage of the bywoner class who had supported Britain in the war. The political expression of ethnic awareness was also fostered by the constitutions which Britain granted first to the self-governing Transvaal colony and then to the Union of South Africa. White manhood suffrage meant that it was in the interest of the Dutch-Afrikaner leaders to mobilize the bywoners behind them. And the exclusion of Africans from the franchise effectively ended the white landlord-African tenant and other cross-racial linkages that had grown up in the decade or so before the war.[99]

It was in such circumstances that the leaders, with the help of the various Dutch Reformed Churches, addressed the acute divisions between the bittereinders (generally the men who fought until the 'bitter end' of the war) on the one hand and the 'joiners' and 'hands-uppers' on the other. These divisions were sufficiently healed for Het Volk, a mass Dutch Afrikaner party, to be formed. It won the 1907 election handsomely, as well as the first election under Union before being absorbed by the South African Party in 1911. Selborne and Milner, the British administrators on the spot, clearly realized that this was not the manifestation of an organic ethnic unity but the work of cultural brokers who had constructed a set of alliances with an ethnic framework. In a report of 1905 Milner distinguished between the bulk of the Boer people and the 'political Boers, the Afrikander party' whose ideal was the doctrine of 'a separate Afrikander nation and State'. He concluded:

[T]he Afrikander doctrine emanates essentially from the towns and the nonagricultural middle class, and is 'pumped into' the country Boers . . . It is quite certain that, but for the influence of parsons, doctors, attorneys, law agents, journalists, and the more educated and town-frequenting of their own class, the country Boers as a body would not be irreconcilable.[100]

Declining support was now given to the tendency to define Afrikanerhood in inclusive terms. A knowledgeable observer noted in 1906 that the dictionary meaning of 'Africander' was still 'one born of white parents in South Africa'; however, he added, 'the Dutch have arrogated to themselves the title of Africanders which has come to have a political meaning'.[101] In his view the country had become an 'Africander land', the title of his book.


Revived Ethnic Mobilization After 1910

But Botha and Smuts as leaders of the Het Volk failed, in the end, to harness the support of this separatist political ethnic consciousness. Once in power, these leaders increasingly were drawn into the developing state-capital symbiosis. This symbiosis depended on industry providing an environment which ensured profits and attracted an expanding supply of finance capital from abroad. Locked into the international capitalist system, Botha and Smuts embarked on policies of reconciliation calculated to attract investors and political support from beyond their ethnic base. This meant dropping the popular anti-(British) capitalism plank of Het Volk and shelving the idea that the mines should solve the acute white unemployment problem by using unskilled whites in the place of blacks. It also entailed giving only lukewarm support to Dutch-Afrikaner cultural aspirations about which neither Botha nor Smuts cared very much.[102]

The period between 1905 and 1915 witnessed the emergence of the constituent parts of the subsequent nationalist alliance in the Transvaal. In the vanguard was the Afrikaner educated stratum, particularly ministers of religion, teachers and journalists. This stratum saw the danger of one large section of the volk lapsing into what Gustav Preller, one of their spokesmen, called 'an ignorant, uncaring proletariat while another part was leaning to English'.[103] Like their counterparts in the Western Cape, Preller and other intellectuals in the North believed English could be countered only by Afrikaans. But Afrikaans should be promoted as a professional, 'civilized', white man's language, with a proper body of literature. Occupationally these men were often insecure. As teachers, they faced a distinct trend towards anglicization in the schools; as clergy they were painfully aware of the loss of members of their congregations as a result of poverty and proletarianization; and as writers they saw the market being flooded by English newspapers and cheap English novels. This educated stratum had an overriding interest in creating Afrikaners who would refill Afrikaner churches, attend Afrikaner schools and buy Afrikaans books.[104]

This was a massive task. A prominent part was played by the Doppers of Potchefstroom. Deriving their theories from the Dutch neo-Calvinists, they built 'Christian National' schools and disseminated the message that the Afrikaners were a unique people whose strength lay in isolation with freedom to practise apartheid with respect to both the English and the Africans.[105] The Doppers, however, represented only one strand. The principal cultural entrepreneurs were the journalists and writers who, in newspapers and journals such as Die Brandwag and Die Huisgenoot, presented Afrikaner history as a heroic epic and tried to redefine almost every aspect of everyday life in Afrikaner terms. This message found a particular resonance among women and in the family context.[106]

When the National Party was founded in 1913, the educated stratum was the first of the disaffected groups that flocked to the banner of Hertzog. The intellectuals sought allies amongst the Dutch-Afrikaner workers but found that they were a difficult class to mobilize by ethnic appeals, which failed to meet their material demands for employment and relief. A recent study concludes that the workers were unwilling to try on 'the yoke of a nationalist dominated labour movement'.[107] The Dutch-Afrikaner workers only turned away from the English-dominated Labour Party after they had been shunned persistently by the formal trade union movement.

The poor farmers were another group that proved hard to mobilize. Botha and Smuts represented the gentry classes of farmers who just before and just after the war bought out large numbers of the poorer farmers and pushed many bywoners


off the land. Many small farmers became alienated from the rich landholders. One spoke in 1905 of 'these selfish, self-righteous blood-suckers. . . . Even our great generals who make such grand speeches, oppress the poor in private and enrich themselves from the impoverished'.[108] After the National Party was formed the rural poor gradually rallied behind its banner, particularly after the Rebellion of 1914–1915. The National Party's open identification with the rebels persuaded the poor that the party might challenge not only imperialism but also the entire capitalist order. The rural poor were equally attracted to the explicit racism of the National Party, believing that only a tough policy towards blacks would solve their acute labour problems. After a tour of the Transvaal rural districts in 1921, Smuts noted that 'the landless "by-woner " is very definitely attaching himself to the Nationalist cause'.[109] Accused by the exclusive nationalists of being traitors because of their pro-British stance during World War I, Botha and Smuts bitterly responded that those who accused them were 'hendsoppers' and 'joiners' in the Anglo-Boer War.

Building an Afrikaner ethnic consciousness that could assert itself as a decisive political force remained a long-term project requiring hard ideological work by politicians and cultural entrepreneurs. Before the day was won, class interests had to be redefined as ethnic interests and the invention and popularization of an Afrikaner national culture had to proceed much further. It is clear, however, that the Rebellion of 1914–15 was a crucial event which allowed the National Party to unite the anti-imperialist and anti-(British) capitalist strands in Dutch-Afrikaner history and present them as the main thrust of the new ethnic ideology.

It was also in the aftermath of the Rebellion that the most powerful of the churches, the DRC, really began to rally behind the ethnic movement and ideology. At a special conference of DRC clergy in 1915 the church did not censure the rebels (as the government would have wanted). Instead it accepted Malan's view that the church had a distinct calling with respect to the 'Dutch-speaking' population group and consequently had the duty to be 'national' and maintain 'national interests'. 1[110] Andrew Murray, champion of the once-dominant church tradition of Evangelism with its universalistic message, was deeply troubled, but he sensed that it was impossible to stem the nationalist tide.[111] In the general election held at the end of 1915 Hertzog's National Party made a net gain of 15 seats country-wide. The astute politician John X. Merriman noted gloomily that only the richer and older Afrikaners still supported Botha and Smuts.[112] An exclusively defined ethnic consciousness was passing them by as a political force.


This chapter has argued that the construction of an Afrikaner political ethnicity must be sought in broad economic and social processes and not merely in the realm of cultural innovations. At the heart of such economic and social changes lay the attempts first to define the group of Afrikaans-speakers exclusively and then mobilize them for political and economic goals. This process took different courses in the Western Cape and the Transvaal.

In the Stellenbosch-Paarl region of the Western Cape, with its history of a rigid slave system, political mobilization of the Afrikaners excluded coloured Afrikaans-speakers but initially attempted to incorporate non-jingoistic English-speaking whites. Conflicting political and economic interests together with imperialist aggression widened the gulf between Dutch-Afrikaners and English-speakers. For a complex of reasons Dutch-Afrikaner farmers were drawn


to local financial institutions which in time became ethnic institutions. By the turn of the twentieth century an Afrikaner ethnic establishment, comprised of farmers, teachers and professionals, had arisen who had the funds and the motivation to launch specifically ethnic projects such as the Nasionale Pers, the National Party, and the University of Stellenbosch. While Afrikaners and coloureds lived in close proximity to each other and while both spoke what was basically the same language, political and economic forces drove them apart. Indeed, to counter the anglicization of the upper class, the Afrikaans language was appropriated in the first two decades of the twentieth century as the ethnic language of which every Afrikaner should be proud. This stood in stark contrast to the late nineteenth century when in towns like Bloemfontein and Cape Town leading Dutch-Afrikaners shunned Afrikaans, spoke English in public and generally conducted their correspondence with other Dutch-Afrikaners in English, or, in some isolated cases, in High Dutch. J.H.H. de Waal, one of the main protagonists of Afrikaans, later remarked that by the turn of the century only the (coloured) Muslim community was loyal to Afrikaans in the Cape Town area. When Du Toit made an about-turn after the Jameson Raid and became a supporter of Rhodes, Afrikaans suffered a great setback for he had become identified with the language. At the end of the Anglo-Boer War, De Waal noted, 'Our language as a written medium was almost completely dead.'[113]

In the Transvaal and the Orange Free State the Anglo-Boer War shattered the political institutions on which local Afrikaner political ethnicity had been built. Ethnic entrepreneurs now had to assume the task of what a recent analysis has called 'building a nation from words'. The architects came from a fairly isolated educated stratum and had to invest hard ideological labour to persuade the lower class—workers and poor farmers—and also those of more affluent classes to see their political destiny in common Afrikaner terms. It was a task not yet completed by World War II, and perhaps only in the early 1960s when a republican form of government was in place and apartheid imposed on almost all levels of society was it achieved. Twenty years later, in the early 1980s, Afrikaner political unity was shattered. As happened a century ago, one group emphasizes Afrikaner political and cultural exclusivity while, perhaps, the majority is beginning to move hesitantly towards a self-concept in which ethnic claims are becoming subordinate to class identifications.

Afrikaner Women and the Creation of Ethnicity in a Small South African Town, 1902–1950

Jeffrey Butler

Oddly enough in South Africa the women have always exercised a great influence. I say 'oddly' because they are so utterly and entirely opposed to the modern view of 'women's rights'.

But from the time that these Dutch [i.e. Afrikaner] women accompanied their husbands on the Great Trek and stood loading the old flint locks in the laager [wagon circle] to withstand the Zulu rush; down to the time that they lashed the men out with their tongues to the almost hopeless struggle for their independence in 1881—and now that they have willingly made every sacrifice for their independence in this war, the Dutch woman has been a very real factor in influencing events.
John X. Merriman, 1900[1]


This chapter is entitled 'Afrikaner women and the creation of ethnicity . . . .' By ethnicity we do not mean only the existence of a community with a distinctive language and institutions, and, therefore, a history of its own. Afrikanerdom in that sense is almost as old as the settlement of Dutchmen in South Africa. We mean in addition a community conscious of its institutions and language, developing an historical record, aware of the existence of other communities in conflict with it and of the necessity of mobilizing itself in defence of its interests. Ethnicity in this sense is analogous to E.P. Thompson's notion of class—'when men . . . as a result of common experiences . . . feel and articulate the identity of their interests . . . as against other men whose interests are different from (and usually opposed to) theirs'.[2] That consciousness, as Thompson emphasized, is itself an historical product; it will, therefore, vary in intensity over time, and is by no means a necessary consequence of cultural difference, but the result of action by individuals and organizations that create and sustain it.

Most studies of ethnicity in South Africa have stressed the role of long-term political conflict between English and Afrikaners and, most especially, the impact of the Anglo-Boer War of 1899–1902. Granted the importance of this conflict, however, the construction of Afrikaner ethnic identity cannot be understood in terms of that conflict alone. John X. Merriman, a noted politician in the Cape Colony who frequently showed an acute sense of social process and a capacity to


foresee the consequences of current policies, was aware of the importance of women in the process. Writing during the Anglo-Boer War of 1899–1902, he drew attention to the complex division of authority between the sexes in Afrikaner society and to women as 'a very real factor' in spite of disenfranchisement and an apparent lack of interest in the contemporary struggle for 'women's rights'.

Power is affected by social as well as explicitly political factors. In a study of the Creoles in Sierra Leone, Abner Cohen has written: 'In all systems of stratification, women play a crucial part in the distribution and maintenance of power between groups. The higher the group is in the hierarchy, the more crucial that part tends to be.'[3] As members of the group at the top of a racial hierarchy, Afrikaner women had for long played a central role, as Merriman noted, even though they did not receive the vote until 1931. 'Afrikaner women . . .', wrote Sheila Patterson, 'despite their traditional assignment to the kitchen and the nursery, [are] far from disinterested in politics.'[4] There was, and is, substantial male dominance in many spheres of Afrikaner society, but on occasion Afrikaner women have shown independence from their menfolk on public issues. Acting outside the explicitly political realm, they frequently played an important part in defining Afrikaners as a self-conscious ethnic group in an urban environment and in meeting many of the needs of Afrikaner poor whites who had recently left the land.[5]

Furthermore, although it will not be possible to pursue the issue in detail, I shall suggest that they helped to raise ethnic awareness to such a level that being an Afrikaner became not merely a cultural identification, defined essentially by language spoken and church attended, but a political one as well. To be a 'ware Afrikaner', poorly translated as a 'true Afrikaner', was to have certain precise political loyalties. Thus women contributed greatly to the development of the 'second phase' of Afrikaner ethnic consciousness that occurred during the first half of this century and which contributed crucially to the victory of the National Party in 1948. By concentrating upon the role of women in forming Afrikaner ethnic consciousness, we shall, therefore, move towards an explanation of the social processes which aided the sustained political consolidation of Afrikanerdom, produced the victory of 1948, and which lasted until the founding of the Herstigte Nasionale Party in 1969.

In addition to emphasizing the role of women in these processes, we shall also be correcting a tendency to write South African history from the 'centre'. Social histories of small towns can tell us much about the history of Afrikaner communities that we now know only in outline because much of it is in an Afrikaans literature that English-speaking scholars have largely ignored.[6] What were the local processes by which an ethnic group was mobilized to overcome divisions of region, leadership, income, ownership, recent impoverishment and reluctant urbanization? The Afrikaner poor may have been a class in the sense that they shared landlessness, low income, and a consequent lack of control over their lives, but they became a class in E.P. Thompson's sense with an important qualification. 'Class,' wrote E.P. Thompson, 'happens when some men, as a result of common experiences (inherited or shared), feel and articulate the identity of their interests as between themselves, and as against other men whose interests are different from (and usually opposed to) theirs.'[7] In South Africa, their sense of common experience was inherited and shared in their recent humiliation at the hands of the British conqueror; the articulation of their interests had, or was given, an ethnic dimension. Thus class loyalties having their origins in 'productive relations',[8] which could and perhaps should have divided the ethnos, did not do


so. The evidence of genuine class conflict dividing Afrikaners from each other so that local organizations were linked to class specific divisions is sparse indeed. There is strong evidence that it was the work of Afrikaner women in particular which brought about this situation of blunted class antagonisms.

Towards a Unified Afrikaner Community

The election in 1948 of an exclusively Afrikaner government dedicated to advancing the interests of Afrikaners and to preserving 'white civilization' came about as a result of the changed loyalties of the Afrikaner dominated countryside. The senior members of the Afrikaner political class which has ruled South Africa since 1948 were raised in a rural, small-town world. This development of a racial and an ethnic political movement outside the major cities was shaped by two major forces, viz., a rural economic and social crisis which particularly affected Afrikaners, the whole complex phenomenon we include in the notion of 'poor whiteism'; and the response of Afrikaners to the conquest of their republics by Great Britain at the turn of the century. Poor whiteism was already well developed long before the outbreak of war in 1899, as the result of the increasing commercialization of agriculture and the incapacity of the South African countryside to support all who wished to farm on it with the wasteful methods of old.[9] The war, with its devastation of the countryside in the Orange Free State (OFS) and the Transvaal, and the impounding of horses in Cape Colony, exacerbated the impoverishment of many and gave thousands of poor Afrikaners additional reasons to resent a condition that they would have resented anyway. Many went to the nearest small town, but the capacity of those towns to absorb additional population was limited by the lack of industrialization, and so a major drift to the large towns accelerated from the turn of the century on.[10]

The war was not a process but a cataclysmic event, one of those phenomena which, in their impact, cut across divisions of class, region and sex, much like defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71 and the loss of Alsace-Lorraine left lasting bitterness at all levels of French society, something no politician could ignore.[11] In South Africa the war was even more significant because it united Afrikaners in the colonies—the Cape and Natal—with their brethren in the republics in a way that they had not been before 1899. In particular, one of the war's spectacular impacts was on the women of the republics, and the death of 26,000 women and children in concentration camps came to be seen by many Afrikaners as a literal Murder of the Innocents.[12]

The story of how Afrikaner leaders and followers, rich and poor, urban and rural, throughout South Africa reacted to the situation they found themselves in after 1902, to the fact of conquest, has not yet been told. The conquest of the republics affected all Afrikaners, including those in the Cape, and all were affected by the British attempt to follow the military victory by a cultural one, an attempt at cultural genocide. Lord Milner's attempt at wholesale anglicization was directed at Afrikaners in the OFS and Transvaal, but it affected Afrikaners throughout South Africa. The years 1902 to 1910 were crucial ones in which Afrikaner resentments began to be articulated, mitigating but not abolishing social divisions and leading, as we shall see, to the development of new institutions, new leaders, and an expanded role for women. Some of the developments in this period have recently been described in the context of the industrial Witwatersrand.[13] But for Afrikaners the important changes took place in small communities: the urbanization of Afrikaners in the large cities was only beginning in 1902.[14]


The South African War provoked a debate among Afrikaners as to how they should manage their relations with the other groups in South Africa. In particular, how was the recent past of only a section of the volk to be made that of the whole and to be used politically? Soon after the Union of the four colonies in 1910, there was a major political split and an organized Afrikaner ethnic movement was born, based on historic anti-British resentment, recently inflamed; a desire for the protection of language and church; the destruction of an English cultural ascendancy in South Africa; and an end to the patronage abroad of the imperial conqueror—a genuine Sinn Fein, 'our own', movement. In parliament the struggle was conducted in terms of language, symbolic constitutional issues such as the flag, anthem, and the British Commonwealth, and of more concrete issues like the handling of the problem of poor whiteism, the latter raising the possibility of articulated class division among Afrikaners. Locally, the raising of ethnic awareness was frequently indirect in such institutions as the church and local government, in both of which national political alignments were muted, and indeed explicitly abjured. But the muting of politics did not mean that the activity had no political effects. An important part of the political history of Afrikaners will be found in ethnic bodies such as the church, in which issues relating to cultural survival, welfare, and segregation—all sensitive politically—were constantly addressed.

The place of ethnic institutions in political history raises an important methodological issue. Some neo-Marxist scholars have recently studied Afrikanerdom in terms of its capital and class structure rather than the categories which Afrikaners themselves employed—language, church and party: to define Afrikanerdom in such terms, writes Dan O'Meara, is to perpetuate 'mythology'.[15] So he explains the desertion of the pro-British United Party between 1938 and 1948 by the farmers of the Transvaal—the crucial shift in 1948—in terms of the economic interests of the farmers in relation to labour and to markets.[16] But there are at least two types of historical writing involved here which are not mutually exclusive and may be reinforcing. An analysis of the capital structure of Transvaal agriculture may explain a great deal, but we require also analyses which will explain why it was the Afrikaner farmers, not all farmers, who deserted the United Party in 1948.[17] We need, therefore, histories which delineate behaviour in ethnic institutions, like the church and its related bodies, as well as in inter-ethnic economic bodies, like farmers' associations and marketing boards. The scene of our investigation will be Cradock, a small town in the Karoo region of the eastern Cape.

A Karoo Town with a Poor White Problem

In the 1920s Cradock was a town of intermediate size (14,870 total population), large enough, according to locals, to distinguish itself from 'real dorps' nearby, and to rank itself with Graaff Reinet (14,000) but smaller than Grahamstown (23, 000) and Queenstown (25, 500). Going north there were no larger towns before Kimberley (58,000) and Bloemfontein (79,100).[18] It was, and remained, a farming and minor railway centre.

The developments of the nineteenth century, especially a brief prosperity during the 'cotton famine' of the American civil war, led to the growth of a South African small town and district culture which has since partly disappeared. There was a minority of English farmers, 32 per cent by number, 35 per cent by value of holdings, tending to concentrate in the Fish River valley, some of them wealthy by local standards, experimenting with new crops and irrigation. These farmers often


had urban links, by marriage or involvement in local business, and the town was run by an oligarchy of English family firms and professional men. As most civil servants and railway artisans were still English-speaking in 1920, the town had a decidedly English cast and flavour, when measured by advertising, the proceedings and personnel of local government bodies, and the staffs of the two high schools and one training college. The one daily newspaper, The Midland News (1891), was in English, whereas the Dutch—later Afrikaans—De Middelandsche Afrikaander (1899) was only a weekly, which on the death of its editor in 1933 was taken over by its English competitor.[19]

This English ascendancy was not the result of the English being a majority of the population. According to the Voters' Roll of 1925, 320 out of 703 white male voters in town had English names (45 per cent), and the 1926 census on religious denominations for town and district put 72 per cent of the white population as belonging to the three Dutch Reformed churches.[20] In the nineteenth century, Cradock and its district had had its substantial Afrikaner families, some of them headed by notables who had served in the Cape parliament or played their part in the affairs of the Afrikaner Bond party before Union in 1910.[21] Members of such families frequently had a dorpshuis, a town house, to be used during shopping expeditions, for the education of children, but particularly for the long weekend which accompanied nachtmaal (holy communion) four times a year. These houses had another function: they could be taken over as retirement homes when fathers decided to give their sons their heads on the farm. But more important for the town, they gave these farmers a say in the affairs of town and district, creating a conservative, parsimonious constituency—the so-called 'nachtmaal vote'—when it came to expenditure on urban facilities. And retired farmers were an important source of members of local government bodies.

Not all Afrikaners in town and district were comfortable farmers or former farmers. There was a great deal of white poverty in the district but it is extremely difficult to devise a precise measure of it. In 1916, at the first conference on poor whites sponsored by the Dutch Reformed Church, held in Cradock, the Minister of Agriculture, H.C. van Heerden, Cradock's M.P., had made one of the early estimates of the scale of the problem nationally, arriving at a figure of 106,000 'abjectly poor' and 'less poor'.[22] The Carnegie Commission on the Poor White Problem in South Africa in 1932 regarded this figure as a serious underestimate, calculating that about 21 per cent of Afrikaners in 1931, about 220,000, could be regarded as poor white.[23] If we apply that proportion to the Afrikaans population of Cradock and its district we would have a poor white population of 927, or approximately 244 income earners.[24] Using the 1931 Voters' List, and looking for what the Carnegie Commission called 'lowliest occupations', we find in town and district that 112 Afrikaners registered themselves as labourers (93 of them living in town), 53 as foreman or opsigter (watchman); 5 as transport riders; 3 as gardeners and one each as general help, milkman and bywoner (sharecropper), a total of 176, 57 of them in the countryside.[25] Such a figure is extremely conservative, leaving out of account those who claimed to be farmers and no longer were—479 Afrikaners claimed to be farmers on the 277 farms held by Afrikaners.[26] Cradock appears to have had a poor white population in town and district of about 650, with roughly only 210 living in the countryside. The major rural exodus was already over in the Cradock district by 1931: the first leap to urban status, the shift to the nearest dorp, had already been made.

There were many reasons for poverty in the Cradock district. It is a Karoo area, a thirstland suitable for ranching only, especially if there is no irrigation. It lies between the 10" and 12" annual rainfall contours, one of a group of Midland


districts hard hit by frequent droughts.[27] Furthermore, it suffered after World War I, like the rest of the eastern Cape, from the collapse of ostrich farming, the rapid decline of horse breeding, and then during the depression from the fall in the prices of wool, its long-term staple, and lucerne (alfalfa).[28] It was not, however, in the condition of the very poorest districts along the Cape coast, or in the far northwest, but nevertheless it lost 9 per cent of its white population between 1911 and 1918, a period of severe drought.[29] It is difficult to arrive at the actual process of depopulation and urbanization, but in addition to drought, the Karoo was undergoing a major change in the extension of fencing which limited casual access to land, and reduced the demand for labour, white as well as black. Whites with limited resources had to leave the land; some were expelled. The Carnegie Commission collected information on 13 men in Cradock who had been 'independent stock farming tenants . . . nearly all' of whom had been given notice to quit between 1918 and 1923. Some became bywoners, eight migrated to town and of those 'only two or three succeeded in making a decent living'.[30] Such pressures were in addition to those 'usual' in a Karoo district, according to Macmillan, which generally had a small number of 'really progressive' farmers, a large number in 'reasonable comfort . . . but always also a considerable and even a large proportion very near the margin'.[31]

The population of town and district did not change steadily in one direction and at equal rates. Between 1921 and 1926 the white population of the town increased by 3.88 per cent, and the district by 7.61 per cent.[32] These figures can be compared with a 12.44 per cent increase in urban population and 7.51 per cent in the rural population of the Union. The low rate of urban growth suggests that many were using the town as a way station between country and urban living, staying in Cradock only briefly. Perhaps partly because of the construction of large irrigation works in the district from 1921 to 1926, partly because the bulk of bywoners had already left the land, Cradock was not listed as a heavy contributor to the Afrikaner population of Port Elizabeth, 182 miles to the south, as were the neighbouring districts identified by Grosskopf in 1932.[33]

It seems, therefore, that Cradock acquired most of its poor white population before the 1920s. As we shall see, white poverty had exercised the town's fathers for some time. The poor were dispersed throughout the town, most of them living in an area of mixed occupation and ownership on the borders of the 'location' where Africans and coloureds could rent but not own sites. It was into the mixed area that many poor whites moved, before they began to be rehoused in new subsidized and segregated public housing from 1939 onwards.

Local white poverty had been serious enough for long enough to lead to a distinction between fee-paying schools and poor schools. In 1864, a church school was established under one G.W.D. Wilson. It appears that the school was open to all whites, but soon 'a stigma became attached to [it] because it attracted chiefly the poorer element'.[34] In 1870, a group of farmers and local businessmen opened a secular school for boys, with Wilson as a teacher, and in 1875 a similar one for girls. Both schools were fee-paying and, therefore, excluded indigent children. But Wilson made the education of poor white children his life's work and later left the boys' school and opened one for indigent children.[35] In 1894 it gained a municipal subsidy on the condition that parents had 'both' to be 'entirely European.' In 1898 and 1902, coloured parents, and in 1903 one Asian parent, applied for entry for their children, but all were refused.[36] The school, named 'The Wilson School', continued as a school for poor whites paying no fees until 1938 when it was the scene of a dramatic 'sit in' organized by a faction of local Afrikaner nationalists.[37] In addition, a few Afrikaner notables took up the issue of


education of indigent children in the countryside by establishing two central farm schools and an agricultural school for boys in 1930, a set of policies which were part of the controversy over an attempt to get poor whites 'back to the land'.[38]

Afrikaner Women and Their Concerns After 1900

For Afrikaners the period after 1899 had been politically traumatic. Cradock was part of the Midlands, a zone that the British Army tried and failed to keep clear of commandos from 1900 on. Already in July, 1901, a rebel had been sentenced to death in the market square with all adult males required to be present.[39] In October, two (perhaps four) more rebels were sentenced in the square.[40] Next morning, these rebels were executed within earshot of the town. These issues were revived in 1907 when a memorial was erected in the local cemetery to those Afrikaners who had died 'in this district' during the war, including Cape rebels and men from the OFS and Transvaal.[41] In its attempt to keep a potentially rebellious district in order, the army had resorted to less drastic methods as well. In mid-1901, some 40 men and 41 women, most of them from Cradock and its district and described as 'undesirables', were sent to Port Alfred to live at their own expense until the war was over. The 'undesirables' were certainly unrepentant, had themselves photographed while in Port Alfred, men and women separately, and some of them returned to Cradock to play a vigorous role in the new institutions and debates of the future.[42]

The significance of the Anglo-Boer War for Afrikaner politics has usually been written about in terms of the subsequent loyalties of men and their relations with their leaders in that war.[43] We have long known, however, that at particular moments, Afrikaner women have had a major role in politics, as when they rejected their menfolk's acceptance of the British annexation of Natal in 1843.[44] Both John X. Merriman and Olive Schreiner believed that women had played a major role in the 'first war of independence' in 1881.[45] In the Anglo-Boer War itself many women in the Transvaal and Orange Free State were active—at least one served with a commando—but most took on the considerable responsibility of running farms in the absence of the men. There is little evidence that they were ever a force for surrender or accommodation, and much that they were a force for militancy.[46] British soldiers and policy-makers frequently commented on the behaviour of the women, and evoked the image of a 'Boer woman in [a] refugee camp who slaps her protruding belly and shouts "When all our men are gone, these little Khakis will fight you." '[47]

Afrikaner women in the republics were continuing a tradition of selfstandigheid —self-reliance—characteristic of women on the expanding frontiers of the nineteenth century.[48] They were soon joined politically by their sisters in Cape Colony. Farm burning had begun at least as early as March, 1900, and with the coming of Boer prisoners of war to Cape Town in large numbers, 'Dames Comites' ('Ladies' Committees') were set up throughout Cape Colony to make collections of cash and clothing on their behalf.[49] In October 1900 there was a meeting of women at Somerset East, only fifty miles from Cradock, and a much larger one—2000 - at Paarl in November.[50] At the latter meeting they heard a message of denunciation of farm burnings by Marie Koopmans de Wet, a grande dame from Cape Town who seems to have presided over a salon and been active in cultural affairs, particularly in promoting use of the Dutch and Afrikaans languages, and in politics.[51] These Cape women were identifying with Afrikaners elsewhere and a sense of having escaped farm burning probably increased their resentment and militancy. The shooting of rebels and the forced hearing of


sentences inevitably involved friends and relatives; perhaps many women attended the grisly proceedings in the Cradock market square with a grim determination to avenge.

At this stage, it is possible to make a brief comment on the probable class character of the women participating in these public activities as a result of the war. The Afrikaner community at the turn of the century was nowhere near as economically differentiated as it subsequently became: if one had subtracted rural occupations, the church, and the law from the total Afrikaans-speaking community, little would have remained. Within the group of rural origin, there was a distinction between the comfortably off and the struggling, and it was the former who must have had the leisure and the resources to travel to meetings, and the social and intellectual self-confidence to protest against government policies. From biographical literature we can identify a 'more than comfortable' leader like Mrs de Wet, but we have no material on the rank and file at large gatherings like that at Paarl in November, 1900. It seems highly unlikely, however, that many of them could have been described as 'poor white'.

Afrikaner Women Organize in Cradock

In the existing literature on South African history, the mobilization of Afrikaner ethnicity is written of at great length, but the crucial agents are invariably male—teachers, professors, ministers, politicians and, much later, businessmen and financiers. Indexes rarely have the entry 'women', even in sophisticated recent work.[52] Yet the material to be presented here suggests that women were crucially important in the creation of Afrikaner ethnic consciousness, crucial not merely in their roles as wives and mothers, but as initiators of organizations and performers in the public arena.

In such societies as South Africa, with its complex divisions of colour, religion, and language, women in dominant, and perhaps in subordinate, groups played an important role in policing boundaries which did not have to be legal ones to be effective.[53] Those boundaries were ones of culture as well as race. As internal class divisions would obviously pose a threat to the persistence of a cultural group largely defined by language, Afrikaner women were sensitive to such threats. Fortunately we have the records of one group of Afrikaner women in Cradock who organized themselves into the Afrikaanse Christelike Vrouwe Vereeniging (Afrikaans Christian Women's Association, or ACVV). We shall investigate their role in blunting such class divisions through their work, particularly in education and social welfare, concluding with a brief examination of their role as maintainers of racial and ethnic boundaries.

The organization of Afrikaner women in Cradock began as a result of concerns over farm burning in the republics and the prisoner of war camps in the Cape. On 13 March 1900, five months into the war, De Middelandsche Afrikaander published a letter from Elizabeth Jordaan urging the women of Cradock to form a committee. By July one had been formed.[54] Further meetings followed in Cradock to discuss the formation of an organization of women to take up a wider range of issues. On 20 November, four women issued a call in De Middelandsche Afrikaander to a general meeting on 1 December. Soon thereafter, in March 1901, the four women—Hannie Michau, Pollie Michau, Levina van Heerden and Emmie Venter—were sent as 'undesirables' to Port Alfred, to return soon after the signing of the peace treaty in May, 1902.[55] From the beginning of 1901, the name Afrikaander Vrouwen Vereeniging (Afrikaner Women's Association, or AVV) appears, and the organization apparently functioned successfully, helping


with war orphans and sending clothing to the Orange Free State and the Transvaal. The first president, Mrs Reyneke, wife of the dominee, died in July 1902, shortly after the execution of her brother. This local sadness, however, did not sustain the movement: with the end of the war, enthusiasm apparently began to wane.[56]

In November 1902, Elizabeth Jordaan wrote to Mrs Koopmans de Wet, asking for support for the establishment of a landwye (country-wide) organization of Afrikaner women. Mrs de Wet replied, supporting the idea and urging respect for domestic life and for age, a sense of honour in being an Afrikaner, an awareness of having a history like any other people, following the tradition of European nationalism, and anticipating much in Africa.[57] Above all, continuing with an interest in the Afrikaans language movement which she had shown all her adult life, she stressed that 'woman and girl must prize their language; if they always speak it to each other, then the men will do the same . . . English must be learnt and read, but not at the cost of our own dear language'.

The Cradock committee decided to publish this letter, and after meetings in Mrs de Wet's house in Cape Town, the rules of the Cradock AVV were adopted with few amendments for a colony-wide organization. In September 1904, the Zuid Afrikaansche Christelike Vrouwen Vereeniging (South African Christian Women's Association) was established, and in 1906 the annual congress was held in Cradock, after which the 'Zuid' was dropped and the modern form ACVV adopted.[58] There was a political issue here: 'South African' and 'Afrikaans' are hardly synonymous except to an ardent Afrikaner nationalist. Furthermore, Mrs de Wet objected to the conversion of a women's movement into an ethnic one: she wanted it open to all Christian women, including Roman Catholics, and withdrew when she failed to carry the point. There was also a religious issue because some members objected to adding 'Christelike,' preferring the earlier secular form.[59] Mrs de Wet's more inclusive, more strictly feminist, position parallels that taken earlier by J.H. Hofmeyr in his differences with such contemporaries as Paul Kruger in the Transvaal; for Hofmeyr it was not necessary to be an Afrikaner to be a South African.[60]

The ACVV, therefore, quickly became an ethnic and a Christian movement, closely committed to the Dutch Reformed Church, but not controlled by it. Something of its spirit can be felt in the words of Elizabeth Jordaan who rapidly became an important person in the provincial organization, and in 1930 completed a term as president. Addressing the 21st congress in 1930 in Cape Town, she echoed themes dear to Dr Malan and other Afrikaner nationalists from the founding of the National Party in 1914.[61]

We feel that we are together, because we belong together; and this feeling of belonging togetherness is in the final analysis the deepest foundation of our association. I trust that we shall never abandon that and that the ACVV, true to its motto, through love of Volk, Language and Church, will always be inflamed (aangevuur ) . . . . Our work is so wide, like the social, cultural and spiritual welfare of the Afrikaner wife and mother . . . . [We try] to mitigate distress, to help the sick and the weak . . . to care for abandoned children . . . to give lodgings and bring children to adequate care in schools. We help them with books. We nourish their love for what is their own. We guard over the interests of our language.[62]

In Cradock, the ACVV seems to have followed closely the spirit of Mrs de Wet's letter, concentrating heavily on religious, moral and cultural issues: in 1905 it sent £30 to support a teacher in Rhodesia; it offered prizes for 'Hollands' in


local high schools and sharply criticized the English-speaking principals in 1906 for not publicizing the prizes sufficiently; in 1907, in a resolution for Congress, it pressed for mother-tongue instruction; in 1910 it asked the school board to open schools at the beginning of term on a Tuesday, not a Monday, so that pupils would not have to travel on Sunday; in 1913, it complained to the municipality about 'mixed bathing'—a mixing of sexes, not races—and asked the principal of Rocklands, the girls' high school, for reports in both languages.[63]

The Social Concerns of the A C V V

From early on there was an enlargement of activity to include the social problems of poor whites, reducing the predominance of purely cultural issues. The shift was almost certainly a consequence of the accelerating depopulation of the countryside throughout South Africa and the increasing attention being given to it by the church. The Cape Dutch Reformed Church had established a 'labour colony' at Kakamas on the Orange River in 1897, and a Cape Select Committee on poor whites had reported in 1906.[64] Presumably the ACVV of the Cape took up these social issues partly because they were dramatized for Cradock members by the holding of the church's conference on poor whites there in 1916, at which W.M. Macmillan gave a paper and Dr Malan, a future Prime Minister, gave an address.[65] It was an appropriate platform for Malan. As a Nationalist he had stood for parliament in Cradock in 1915, but had been defeated. At the conference on poor whites the following year, however, he showed that he appreciated the political possibilities of the issue. From then on the theme of Afrikaner poverty and the great exodus was central to his activity as shown in his speech to another church congress in Bloemfontein in 1923, and his major speech on the Second Great Trek to the cities in 1938.[66]

The social issues relating to poor whites—poverty, housing, clothing, care of children—were ones that could be kept separate from those ostensibly dividing the political parties—constitutional symbolism, language, and relationship to Britain. There was locally a great deal of cooperation between English-speakers and Afrikaners in helping the poor. For example, Toc H, a veterans' group born in Flanders in 1916, its women's section (the 'Toc-Emmas') and the Boy Scouts, all overwhelmingly English-speaking, ran summer camps for poor white boys and girls in the 1930s.[67] It is important not to read later divisions into earlier periods. In 1910 the ACVV 'made up' the graves of the rebels, a touchy issue, and voted £10 for flowers to be placed on the graves each week; in 1914 it erected railings round the graves.[68] But in 1911 it presented an address of welcome to Louis Botha, the prime minister of the new Union (Afrikaners had not yet split publicly in politics), and in 1914 provided beskuit (rusks) for the Cradock Commando which had been called up for service in the Rebellion.[69] In 1923, the ACVV provided refreshments for the visit of the Governor-General and, in 1924, sent representatives to a local committee to plan the visit of the Prince of Wales.[70] Throughout its history up to 1939, and even beyond, the ACVV trod a careful, non-party, line between securing the interests of Afrikaners and identifying itself with the National Party: one could, in fact, be ethnic in orientation without being Nationalist in a party sense.

The ability to straddle the political fence can be seen in the personnel of the executive. There must be few organizations where there has been such continuity. The formidable Elizabeth Jordaan (1859–1950), who played such a role in founding the organization, was president from 1904–6, and then after terms by others of three and two years, she became president in 1911 and remained so for 33


years. She was much feared; even today, she is a woman one has to talk of with care. She joined Miss Minnie van Rensburg (1883–1955) who had been elected secretary in 1908 and remained in the post to 1950. Then in 1912 they were joined by Mrs J. J. van Rensburg, (1874–1947) a young widow who became vice-chairwoman and held that position to 1944, when she became chairwoman until 1947. As if this were not enough, the treasurer, Minnie van Deventer (1884–1974), joined the organization in 1911, gained office in 1920 and remained there until 1957. There was, therefore, effective continuity of personnel in the executive from 1911 to 1948.

There is evidence that the executive was non-partisan as well as long-serving. Mrs van Rensburg was a loyal Smuts supporter, i.e. not an Afrikaner nationalist but a believer in Anglo-Afrikaner 'conciliation', an important person locally, a town councillor, mayor from 1936 to 1938, and for long president of the Vroue Sendingsbond (Women's Missionary Association). And the ACVV's evenhandedness on social welfare issues can be seen in the admission from the early days of white English-speakers to its old people's home.[71]

The connections between the ACVV and the growing Afrikaner nationalist movement were nevertheless close, even if informal. In 1914, the rebellion produced yet another set of events about which Afrikaners could differ on the basis of their attitudes to the 'British connection', a polarizing agent which was a boon to the newly-created National Party. One of the immediate consequences nationally was the founding of Helpmekaar (Help together), an organization to pay the fines of those found guilty of rebellion, another example of Afrikaners in the Cape, few of whom rebelled, sympathizing with and aiding those to the north who had. Helpmekaar put out a lavishly illustrated book, giving the executives, with photographs, of each district. In the section on Cradock, we find some familiar faces: Mrs E. Venter and her husband, both 'undesirables' in 1901, Elizabeth Jordaan, A.J. de Kock (chairman), manager of the local Afrikaner multi-purpose shop, De Cradock Handels-Maatskapy, Mrs J.C. Reyneke, second wife of Cradock's dominee, and several other notables—all, except Mrs Reyneke, already active Nationalists.[72] After the fines were paid, Helpmekaar found it had money to spare and became in the 1920s an important source of funds for scholarships for Afrikaner children. But, however close the connection of individuals to organized Afrikaner nationalism, the ACW remained an organization devoted to Afrikaners generally: its motto became ' Vir Kerk, Volk en Taal ('For Church, People and Language'), and it worked steadily for maximum coordination with the activities of the state, especially after the establishment of the Department of Social Welfare in 1937.[73]

On the basis of this material on Cradock we can draw two preliminary conclusions. First, these women were, in Gramsci's terms, to a limited degree playing the role of 'organic' intellectuals, especially in creating a 'homogeneity and an awareness . . . in the social and political fields'.[74] They were defining cultural symbols, particularly in religion and language, both wrapped up in the powerful notion of the volk, protecting the community from loss by acculturation into other groups, and preserving an Afrikaner cultural base which could be defended in the political realm by the men. They were doing more than being wives and mothers—they were actively involved outside their homes, serving their community as they defined it.

Second, their relation to class interests may be more problematic, especially if we follow Gramsci in defining the organic intellectual as essentially giving a social group 'an awareness of its own function . . . in the economic field'.[75] The leadership in Cradock was undertaken by a group of women who paralleled in their social position those active in Cape Colony affairs at least from the


Anglo-Boer War onwards. The Cradock bestuur (executive) and those attending meetings seem to have been a reasonably comfortable, but not a wealthy, lot. Mrs Jordaan was the wife of a retired farmer, active in local politics; Mrs van Rensburg was the widow of a farmer who had gone into government service; the Misses van de Venter and van Rensburg were the daughters of farmers, and two active members were the wives respectively of a primary school teacher and an auctioneer. The ACVV in Cradock, therefore, was certainly not an organization of the poor in which the poor played an active role, however much the organization worked for their welfare. However, there is no evidence in its records of class antagonisms in the Afrikaner community, and it is difficult to define the specific class in whose interests these comfortably-off women of rural origin might have been acting.

Fortunately the minutes of the ACVV's bestuur from 1903 on have survived. A reading of them gives one an impression of an organization run with an iron hand—Elizabeth Jordaan's—and based on an extremely effective use of ad hoc committees. Little time seems to have been spent on gesellige (conversational) activities—discussing recipes, sewing, and domestic matters generally. The business of each meeting was some aspect of the cultural and material affairs of the volk .[76] If information was lacking, an ad hoc committee was appointed at once, to report back by the next meeting. The meetings themselves were arranged frequently on an ad hoc basis: in 1925, for example, there were four quarterly regular general meetings, three special general meetings, four regular bestuur meetings, and three special bestuur meetings. Attendance at these meetings was always small, but the important people were always there, and so the distinction between general and executive meetings was not of much significance. The practice of holding meetings on Saturdays had obvious advantages. The town had its own bestuur of eight members, the dorpsbestuur (town executive), and each of five wyke (church wards) in the district had a representative on the district bestuur . It was not difficult for town members to be in touch with each other, and by meeting on a Saturday, it was possible for the town members to communicate, even to hold brief meetings, with those wyk members who came into church on Sunday, a convenience especially valuable at nachtmaal, four times a year.

The ACVV did not believe in undertaking its errands of mercy unaided by the state. Throughout its proceedings there is an awareness of government subsidies, and continuous pressure on local authorities to act—its old ladies' home, hostels for indigent children, and commercial school were all subsidized. And because of its effective committee and reporting system, its executive members had a detailed knowledge of its beneficiaries such as is possible in small urban communities, an important resource when dealing with officials with Gladstonian ideas of economy. It was also efficient in raising money for its activities and for the church generally. It made itself responsible for the annual dankfees (thanksgiving) bazaar, a device for local money raising used by all white churches in Cradock. In addition, they became unofficial public caterers, taking on luncheons, teas, and dinners for the municipality, the divisional council, or for congresses, at times driving a hard bargain with the mayor, and generally realizing considerable profit, because frequently members would donate ingredients.[77] In doing this work for a fee, they seem to have had little competition from their Englishspeaking Methodist and Anglican counterparts who lacked the numerical and economic resources to do more than run their own annual bazaars and one picnic for their respective Sunday schools.[78]

Although the ACVV was, and remained, a women's organization, it made a good deal of use of the voluntary services of men. As we shall see, they frequently


differed with the men and by no means regularly deferred to them. In the old people's home which they opened in 1928, the treasurer was Elizabeth Jordaan's husband, and for years the books were audited by an Anglican English-speaker of impeccable Smutsite credentials, J.A. Cull, who had, however, married into the Nationalist branch of the Michau family.[79] Similarly in the girls' hostel, Cypressenhof (Cypress Court), run by the ACVV, the treasurer was Max de Kock, managing director of the Cradock Handels Maatskappy.[80] These men certainly did not control the organizations they assisted, however deferentially women appeared to behave; within this small-town bourgeois world, the free technical assistance by qualified men was always readily available.

Some sense of the flavour and content of proceedings can be gained from these two abbreviated entries in 1926:

10 July 1926. Saturday. Regular Bestuur . Ten blankets for boys' hostel. A few members said Mrs Barnard was sending her children out to beg. Mrs Hattingh and Miss Haarhoff to go and see her. Some think the Fourie family does not need so much help. . . . Resolved: to ask the Kerkraad (church council) to give £30 out of the Susan Schoeman Fund to Wilson School feeding.

31 July 1926. Saturday. Regular Bestuur . Fourie family need food. Husband denies he has TB and is careful about the risk of spreading it. Mrs Barnard denies begging. Says she's in a tiny room in backyard of Mrs van Heerden who promises to see Mr O'Connor (the building inspector).

These minutes show a Dickensian world of middle class charity, the enforcement of the distinction between the deserving and the undeserving poor by timely inquiry into whether so-and-so was behoeftig (needy) enough. It was also charity within a specifically ethnic context—the charity was directed towards the Afrikaner poor.[81] Such work to some extent bridged the social gulf between the comfortable and the needy within the volk, and if successful would surely rescue them from ontvolking (denationalization), at the hands of either the English, the coloured minority, or the black majority, or some alien ideology transcending ethnic and racial differences. Unfortunately for the historian, the legitimacy of the activity was taken for granted by these actors, so that there was no discussion of the merits of the policies of rescuing the Afrikaner poor. No factions appeared which can be correlated with class antagonism, and the charitable work seems to have gone far towards encapsulating such possible conflicts.

The quotations from the minutes show the organization's preoccupation with the problems of the Afrikaner poor, especially in the town, but not only there. It is well known that a great deal of the debate on poverty among South African whites was couched in terms of 'back to the land' policies, and much of the debate on education was determined by a belief that education would somehow be able to make opportunities in the countryside for landless whites.[82] The ACVV in Cradock, however, seems to have come early to the view that the Karoo countryside was no place for the children of the Afrikaner poor, particularly for its girls, and that Afrikaners faced an increasingly urban future, views which placed them in interesting opposition to their menfolk.

The history of 'back to the land' policies and their demise is a subject in itself. Afrikaners, men and women, were divided on the issue, though the debate was seldom clear, and it tended to cross party lines. Important English-speakers in mining, such as Percy Fitzpatrick and the influential Lionel Philips, became ardent proponents of agricultural development schemes for British settlers, partly because they saw a limited future for white labour in the mines and wished to


replace it with cheaper black labour, but partly also to increase the English-speaking population.[83] Among Afrikaners there were fanners, including Cradock's MP from 1924 to 1929, G.C. van Heerden, a Smutsite, who attacked the sheltered employment of poor whites on the railways, referring to the benefits of working on farms and using the familiar argument of the 'perks' available to the farm worker.[84] Presumably such men were also ambivalent about government subsidized irrigation settlements for poor whites such as those at Hartebeestpoort in the Transvaal and on the Orange River at Upington and elsewhere.

'Back to the land' was more a cry of anguish than the basis of a coherent set of policies. Nationalist politicians did not have a rurally based strategy: as early as 1916, Dr Malan spoke of the necessity of urbanization.[85] When the Nationalists came to power in 1924, they took the incipient protectionism and related industrialization of the Smuts government much further, and by expanding the use of 'civilized labour' in government departments and local bodies, created jobs off the land.[86] The Afrikaner farmers who opposed such policies locally do not seem to have faced the fact that they, as large farmers, were probably part of the problem. Eastern Cape agriculture had long been commercialized—it is virtually impossible to have a small subsistence holding in the Karoo. But it was the Cape wool farmers particularly who were contributing to the urban drift by fencing, by dispensing with the services of the bywoner, and by ending tenancies.[87] Their position, therefore, seems to have been based on a fear for future labour supply and, perhaps, on a traditional Afrikaner antipathy to cities as corrupting and alien places, rather than on a clearly thought out programme to support a larger white population in the countryside.

The A C V V and Afrikaner Education

Such a policy would have had educational implications. From before Union there had been attempts in the Cape to enforce the attendance of white children at school, and immediately after Union in 1910, a committee of the Cape Provincial Council inquired into the problem of attendance in the poverty-ridden northwest Cape where the population was highly dispersed.[88] In the Cape there were two approaches: one was to set up single-teacher day schools to meet the needs of a few farms, which had the advantage of limiting the demands on daily transport; the other was to develop 'central' schools outside of town, a device to keep children in the countryside, but to achieve some concentration of pupils—50 to 100—by building hostels where children were to receive some agricultural training and to work on the school farm in the afternoon, hopefully to supply the hostel with its vegetables and dairy products. Two such schools were established in the Cradock district, one twelve miles to the west at Kaalplaats founded in 1916, the other thirty miles to the east at Elandsdrif and founded in 1927. In addition, in 1930, at Marlow, six miles north of Cradock, an agricultural school for boys was founded, presumably to train the skilled labour, and particularly the foremen, for South Africa's white owned and managed farms. In all three cases, the cause had been advanced by Izak B. van Heerden, the owner of Kaalplaats, a farm of 3084 morgen (8000 acres), and member of a genuinely notable family which had been granted farms when two of their holdings at Cradock had been expropriated in 1812 to provide for the new town.[89]

A further device had been used—the urban hostel—to give children access to the even larger schools in the town. In Cradock were two Goeie Hoop (Good Hope) hostels, one, Toekoms (Future), for boys; another, at Cypressenhof, for


girls. These two hostels, extremely spartan institutions, made possible the attendance of boys and girls at the Wilson School where no fees were charged but education stopped at Standard 6 for boys, the end of primary school, and Standard 8 for girls. The boys' hostel was run by a committee of men from the Kerkraad (the all-male church council), and the girls' hostel by the ACVV, both of them subsidized by the Cape Education Department. In 1926 an inspector commented with some asperity on the contrast between the girls' hostel—excellently run—and the boys'. The crestfallen Kerkraad invited the ACVV to take the boys' hostel over, which they agreed to do.[90] But when the Elandsdrif central school opened in 1927, the Kerkraad, with the support of the School Board and the Cape Provincial Administration, appealed to the ACVV to close the boys' hostel down because they feared that there would not be enough boys. The ACVV bestuur refused: there were, they said rather tartly, enough poor whites to go round.[91]

Behind this debate was not only a difference about the nature of the future facing Afrikaners, i.e. an urban or a rural one. There was another, related to the preservation of jobs for whites. At first, Afrikaner men and women in this debate in Cradock looked to place whites in jobs already being done by blacks and coloureds. In the early 1920s, the ACVV had planned to open a school of domestic science for girls and later received some land from the Town Council for it.[92] Thus in 1926, Elizabeth Jordaan appealed to white employers to use Afrikaner girls as domestic servants, especially as nannies, in a straightforwardly racist appeal not to leave the raising of white children to blacks.[93] The whole 'civilized labour' policy carried within it an implied recognition that Africans were competitive with whites and involved the actual displacement of blacks in jobs they already held. In agriculture, this meant that the employment of whites on farms would at least be stabilized, perhaps even expanded, at the expense of blacks.

The women of the Cradock ACVV seem to have seen earlier than the men that education for an urban future in fields then largely held by English-speaking whites was the more realistic and sensible policy. Specifically, they realized that there was no future in South Africa for the white nanny, in town or country, except in the homes of the very wealthy. Whatever jobs were available in the countryside for young white males who were not in line to inherit a farm, there was virtually nothing available for young white women.[94] Young white men on farms were seldom placed in the ambiguous position which faced the white nanny in the farm kitchen. As one speaker protested at the ACVV Congress in Cradock, in April, 1926: '[white domestic servants] are treated on the same footing of equality and during the lunch hour are forced to have their lunch in the same room [as non-Europeans] or go into the street'.[95]

This muted conflict over education policy did not take place in a vacuum. The women of Cradock were members of a Cape-wide organization which was linked with the Afrikaner women's organizations in other provinces, and of the Vroue Nasionale Party (Women's National Party).[96] The Carnegie Commission in 1932 drew attention to the far greater mobility of young women than young men out of the rural areas, especially from the 1920s onwards; frequently it was daughters who preceded the males in the shift of a family to town.[97] Furthermore, the Commission noted the strong preference of young women for factory work over domestic service because of the shorter working week, and the greater freedom in leisure time.[98] From the mid-1920s, these married women in small towns showed an interest in, indeed anxiety over, the fate of young women in the cities, and became aware of the difficulty of finding work for the young women of rural


origin, who were not well qualified for nursing or for teaching, and who even lacked the skills for adequate housekeeping. By 1924 the ACVV had appointed its first full-time social worker and a leading member, M.E. Rothmann, was a member of the Carnegie Commission on the poor whites which reported in 1932.[99]

The new Nationalist government in 1924 faced major problems in education largely because of the impending breakdown of the system which left the financing of education to the provinces. To relieve them, the Union Department of Education, established in 1910 to look after education other than primary and secondary, had taken over technical and vocational education in 1923, and in 1925 expanded its role to include agricultural schools for boys.[100] The policies adopted by the Nationalist government provided for intervention by the central government in local communities through subsidies for 'technical' and 'vocational' education, which included shorthand, typing and bookkeeping—fields important for women. And it may have helped the cause in Cradock that in 1927 Dr S.F.N. Gie, Elizabeth Jordaan's son-in-law, became Secretary for Education.[101]

Coincidentally or not, in 1927 the Cradock ACVV turned its attention to the founding of a handelskool, a commercial school, initially offering evening classes to give those already in clerical work a chance to improve their qualifications in shorthand, typing and bookkeeping.[102] There is some evidence that some of the impetus for this school came from the fact that the only commercial education available in Cradock was at the Dominican convent for white girls: in December, 1928 the Cradock ACVV passed a resolution for its coming Congress drawing attention to the ' Roomse gevaar' ('the Roman danger').[103] The school opened in mid-1929 and by August it had 30 pupils, and 'full time day' as well as evening classes.[104]

In general then, the ACVV devoted its major energies to the future of poor Afrikaner youth, helping them to get to school in town, providing for commercial education and for some feeding of children at school. Presumably, in school feeding the ACVV had its eye particularly on the poor children at the Wilson School who were not in the ACVV hostels but who lived in Cradock, and were poorly fed.[105] The activities in relation to the children went further: the ACVV pressed for state medical assistance to the poor; arranged with Dr Stewart, a specialist in Port Elizabeth, for free eye testing; persuaded Gert Jordaan, Elizabeth's husband, to provide transport; and paid for the spectacles.[106] It is important to emphasize that all this work on behalf of the children was not done with an explicit and public ethnic objective. The fact that schools and school feeding were subsidized would have precluded that. But because of the structure of white poverty in Cradock and its district, the beneficiaries were almost entirely Afrikaans-speaking.

This is, then, the story of a group of bourgeois women, urban and rural, taking on some of the problems of poverty within their own ethnic group, reaching across the gulf separating the poor from the well-to-do, and adopting policies which in retrospect appear to have been appropriate to the ends they had in view. Those ends were not only the mitigation of the consequences of landlessness and poverty: the ACVV was concerned with the preservation of 'people, church and language', and their activities contributed to the heightened sense of ethnic awareness that at all levels of Afrikaner society was so crucial in the election of 1948. It was a maternalism that concentrated on their 'own', a concentration which necessarily implied attitudes to the 'others' in South Africa; it is to that broader context that we now turn.


Women and the Maintenance of Ethnic Boundaries

There were areas in the activity of Cradock women in which ethnic and racial issues were explicitly raised. In a society like South Africa, the definition and maintenance of racial and ethnic boundaries is a central activity; in South Africa it is a major preoccupation of the state. Unlike much of the recent revival of ethnicity in the United States and in Europe, it has not had its origins in subordinate groups;[107] South African boundary maintenance is undertaken by a racially and ethnically defined minority which since 1948 has attacked an earlier British ascendancy, gained control of the state, and further enshrined racial divisions in the law.

The use this dominant minority has made of its power has provoked sustained criticism and hostility, and, understandably, a tendency by outsiders to exaggerate the monolithic character of the dominant group.[108] This tendency takes the form of either underestimating the amount of debate and conflict within that group, even only among its men, and of assuming that women and men think alike on all questions, or that, if women think differently from men, they are invariably overruled. These are, however, not positions that can be assumed. Women and men play different roles in any society, particularly in the raising of children and consequently in the choice of marriage partners: 'Any ethnic confrontation touches family . . .', as William Foltz has written.[109] Even if the society is effectively dominated by men on most issues most of the time, women are likely to have their own views on many issues and to support agreed positions with greater, or with less, intensity than the men.[110] And, of course, agreement cannot be taken necessarily to imply subordination.

There are several areas where these differences can appear in South Africa. There are ethnic distinctions from groups like the English, Jews and Lebanese ('Syrians'), all defined in South Africa as 'white', and therefore sub-groups of the white 'race'. Many Afrikaner men, having fought in the Anglo-Boer War, returned with a veteran's often grudging but real respect for his enemy and were, therefore, prepared to listen to Afrikaner proponents of conciliation like Generals Botha and Smuts.[111] Many Afrikaner women came out of the war with a consuming bitterness and a suspicion that their men were possibly unreliable on ethnic issues. Thus we saw that Mrs Koopmans de Wet regarded men as not to be trusted to insist on using the language.[112] She probably feared that the men, respecting power after a military defeat, might become English-speakers through self-interest and the daily activity of a market place dominated by English-speakers.

Married women in ethnically divided capitalist societies were far more confined within their ethnic segment than were their men, especially in South Africa, where domestic service was almost entirely an occupation for Africans and coloureds (but not Asians) and consequently had a stigma attached to it. White women were, therefore, largely confined to the home and to the company of servants and children, and outside the home often to church-related bodies which in South Africa were all ethnic ones. But virtually all married women had to shop, for themselves as well as for their families, and so commerce became the one multi-ethnic white area that they could not avoid. Similarly, Afrikaner women bought their clothes or materials in shops run by English-speakers and in commerce were likely to be employed by them, using English as the language of trade and still of government, though this was changing rapidly in the 1920s. In industry they were employed by English-speakers, and if unionized were likely to be led by English-speaking trade unionists, in one noted case a Jewish one.[113] The


fact that Jews, prominent especially in small town commerce, were English-speaking in South Africa probably reinforced a growing anti-Semitism in the 1930s.

The resentment by Afrikaner women at the refusal of English-speaking shop assistants to talk to them in Afrikaans was part of a revolt against the English ascendancy, and their pressure for equal treatment of their language, enshrined in the South Africa Act of 1909 (South Africa's constitution) was more than a cry for bilingualism for its own sake. Understandably Afrikaner women saw the unilingual shop assistant and the unilingual civil servant as not merely arrogant and insulting but as barriers to their children in the future. It is possible that Afrikaner women were less willing than their men to acknowledge the current importance of English in commerce and the professions, and they may well have looked forward to a time when the dominance of Afrikaans was complete enough for bilingualism to become a synonym for the preference of Afrikaans over English, i.e. the replacement of one ascendancy by another.[114] Nationally, the fight for bilingualism outside the schools could be seen in frequent resolutions at the National Party conferences which continue to be submitted, although with declining frequency, to this day.[115] In Cradock from early on, the ACVV took stands on language issues in the schools and at the training college. As recently as 1978, a young Afrikaner woman, a member of the ACVV, complained vehemently of her treatment in a shop in Port Elizabeth, the regional 'capital'.[116]

It has already been stressed that the ACVV was careful to keep itself out of party politics. In the 1920s that distinction was probably easier to sustain than after 1948. In Cradock one of the major patrons of the school feeding scheme was Alfred Metcalf, the local grandee, a lawyer and supporter of good causes—the Afrikaaner poor, public health for Africans, support of the Anglican church, and university scholarships for girls as well as boys. Thus the ACVV was prepared to fight for language rights, but was careful to acknowledge handsomely the help it received from English-speakers in relation to white poverty.[117] But in one area, they showed that they believed that some whites were more equal than others, and in 1926 they adopted an explicitly anti-Jewish position, the more remarkable because it was in a religious, not an economic or political context, and because it seems to have caught Afrikaner men by surprise.

The relation of Afrikaners to Jews has always been complex, especially in small towns where Jews played a central part in marketing the farmer's product. Although Jews were no longer the traditional smouse, or itinerant traders, they were frequently speculators in stock, travelling around the district, making offers for small lots of stock, useful to a farmer temporarily out of cash.[118] In small towns they ran butcher shops, hotels, general dealerships and the shops catering to the poor, black and white alike. There were enough Jews in Cradock—148 according to the 1926 census—to support a synagogue whose foundation stone is dated 1928.[119] In 1927, apparently before it was ready, the Jews applied to the Kerkraad for use of the Dutch Reformed church zaal (hall), and the Kerkraad agreed. In what must have been a considerable surprise and embarrassment to the Kerkraad, the ACVV executive wrote to deplore the fact that the Raad had allowed the hall to be used by 'die Jode1 —the Jews.[120] This developing anti-Semitism among Afrikaner women was also taking place among men: the Carnegie Report on rural impoverishment by an Afrikaner, J.F.W. Grosskopf, has references to the 'cunning means' by which poor whites were exploited by shopkeepers in towns, especially by Jews whose 'influence . . . was often pernicious'.[121]

With relation to blacks and coloureds, there are few allusions in ACVV minutes to race attitudes: the preoccupation with poor whites excluded the black and


coloured poor, and no cases, such as a 'doubtful' application for entry to the Wilson School, appear. There is, however, abundant evidence that nationalist Afrikaner women in the 1920s were taking a militant line on segregation. Both major political parties had separate parties for their women, and the Vroue Nasionale Party met annually and debated resolutions on a wide range of subjects. In 1928 the Party called for the training of 'native' nurses and doctors to be segregated at any hospital; at their 1929 congress they took a hard line against the employment of white nurses to nurse African and coloured patients, especially males.[122] This sexual and racial issue involved a piece of irrationality on the part of an organization that was prepared to use the state to protect access to particular jobs in favour of its own ethnic group.

The Cradock ACVV did, however, express itself on the necessity of segregation. In the 1920s, it had been given some land by the municipal council as a site for a school for domestic science for girls, but the site was returned to the council, partly because the school project was abandoned in favour of an old people's home and a commercial school, but partly also because the site was too close to the African location.[123] In 1928 also, when the council was considering a subsidized housing scheme for poor whites, the ACVV showed that they regarded rehousing as a means to ensure racially homogeneous neighbourhoods.[124] In doing so, they were simply reflecting what was happening in one town after another—with the coming of the Afrikaner poor to town, demands began to be made for segregation in housing. This was a new demand to be added to those from white temperance advocates who wanted the segregation of coloureds from blacks: under South African law, coloureds had freer access to liquor than did blacks, and as Cradock's 'location' housed both groups, coloureds did a brisk trade as couriers.[125]

In schools these pressures were strong, particularly in the western Cape, where, in the 1920s and 1930s, the changing school populations in the Cape peninsula brought a series of controversial cases on the admission of coloured children to schools, and the attempted elaboration of distinction between 'fully coloured' and 'slightly coloured'.[126] There were two kinds of dispute: one where a coloured child was seeking admission to a school, as had happened in the Wilson School in 1898;[127] the other where parents objected to the presence of children already in school, as happened in the cases in the Cape peninsula cited above. In Cradock there is no record of the former type after 1906 and no record at all of cases of the latter. It might be, therefore, that the mechanisms of exclusion worked effectively enough in Cradock to avoid such cases by operating in such a way as to prevent the claim to entry formally being made, and, therefore, leaving no documentary record behind. This is basically an argument from silence and subject to all the weaknesses of such arguments.

We are dealing here with a society in which women were playing the role of culture brokers, incidentally creating an ethnic self-consciousness and policing a social boundary. One consequence of the intimate knowledge that these middle class members of the ACVV executive had of the Afrikaner poor was an ability to define the boundary between white and brown Afrikaners. Membership of the white church, regular attendance, and acceptance as behoeftig (needy) by the ACVV would have been sufficient to put any doubts as to racial status to rest. There is no way of knowing whether any judgments by the executive as to lack of need were really ones of racial categorization, but it is highly unlikely that the ACVV would have helped a multiracial household. It would be interesting, moreover, to find out if there was any correlation between aid from the ACVV and church attendance. What is clear is that there was no appeal against the


judgments of the ACVV bestuur, and there is no record in these minutes, or in the local press, of protests from the poor.

There is another area of social welfare in which the acknowledgement of racial boundaries became increasingly clear. As a result of the anxieties raised by the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918–1921, which was particularly severe on coloureds, anxieties exacerbated by a serious plague scare in 1926, white women began to organize in a Women's Civic Association (WCA), hoping to organize across ethnic boundaries. The major issue taken up by the WCA was public health, particularly for the location, the result partly of a fear that the black and coloured poor were a major source of diseases which recognized no racial boundaries. The initial meetings were bi-ethnic and the WCA proceeded to persuade the Town Council to subsidize a nurse, and Alfred Metcalf anonymously put up £300 to pay for the building of a dispensary in the location.[128]

Without a major public split, the WCA gradually became a body representing English-speaking middle class women. At first, the ACVV was sympathetic to the health project, but cooperation was never really achieved because the ACVV kept its attention on the Afrikaner poor.[129] The location nurse, who was originally to have served white, black, and coloured poor, became by 1927 one to serve blacks and coloureds only. At a meeting of the ACVV on 6 September 1930, a delegation from the WCA asked for help with the nurse's salary, but in December, the wife of the Nationalist mayor, Mrs Hattingh, reported that she had persuaded the WCA to withdraw the request.[130] The ACVV remained an ethnic organization preoccupied with the white poor, which in Cradock meant Afrikaner poor, moving the Town Council to establish a clinic for whites and later, in 1949, appointing a social worker of its own, an operation which continues to this day. According to a black informant, in about 1950 a deputation from the location appealed to the ACVV to take up some of the activities of the long defunct WCA and its successor, the Joint Council. The reply, he said, was: Africans should organize themselves and mobilize their resources as Afrikaners had done.[131]


The material in this essay shows a group of Afrikaner women organizing themselves to protect and enhance the institutions which were fundamental to the survival of the Afrikaners as a separate cultural group—church and language. The ACVV had as its raison d'être the perception of its middle class leadership of the multiple threats facing Afrikaners as a separate racial and ethnic group. Those threats were made dramatically manifest in the Anglo-Boer War, and they persisted. There was a racial threat insofar as it was feared that many Afrikaners, locked into chronic poverty, would become coloureds unless uplifted and protected by segregative devices, such as separate housing, adequate social work, free education, and public health: the Carnegie Commission acknowledged miscegenation between poor whites and coloureds and urged policies to counteract it.[132]

The second threat was an ethnic one, a threat on the white side of the racial divide, which persisted even if Africans, coloureds, and Asians were all kept in their place. Looking to the future, they seem to have said that the poor Afrikaner youth would have a future only if they were educated to take advantage of the opportunities in an urban economy, thereby competing effectively with English-speakers; and that they would remain Afrikaners culturally only if the battle for bilingualism—which came to mean a victory for Afrikaans—was fought and won. This applied particularly to young women for whom there was even less work than


for men in the countryside, then or now. In taking this view, the ACVV showed an acute strategic sense and an impressive degree of public spirit within an ethnic context which led them to put in a great deal of work for which they received no material reward.

The rewards which these women received were political and cultural. But the link to politics was indirect. They made Afrikaners their special care, and by playing such a public and such an important role in cultural affairs and in social welfare, they ensured that the poor were helped, and were seen to be helped, by an organization most of whose leading members were also highly visible and active Nationalists. There was no need for the ACVV as a body to take explicit public stances on political issues: the members could do that equally well in political parties. Their position was comparable to that of the Dutch Reformed Churches in the period after the Anglo-Boer War: domiaees gained great influence because of their activities on behalf of the poor.[133]

In these social welfare activities, the ACVV had no competition from their political opponents in the South African (later the United) Party. English-speakers had no large body of poor in their own communities: new English-speakers were relatively wealthy and had little interest in the Afrikaner poor, or even in local politics generally. English-speaking women were indeed interested in social welfare: there was the problem of policing drunkenness—drunkenness by coloureds and Africans in the streets—on which whites could easily agree. It was also a licensing matter as to whether a local authority should have the right to declare its area 'dry'. This was a burning issue for white Methodists and Baptists, most of whose women were active in the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), and to some Dutch Reformed Church members, but not to most Anglicans. There was, however, little political capital to be made from it among the white poor, urban and rural, English and Afrikaner.

What then was the role of the ACVV in politics? As an organization it had no role. But, as we have seen, the gaining of the franchise by white women in 1931 certainly did not initiate an active role by Afrikaner women in politics, as John X. Merriman's statement recognized.[134] Busy though they were in church matters, in the ACVV, and in the education of Afrikaner children, they were important in political organizations as well. They were always ready to put on suitably sober receptions to celebrate political victories, and National Party parliamentary candidates thanked them for their aid.[135] That aid was certainly more than simply providing tea; by the 1920s it was already clear that the local National Party was far more efficient in its attention to the voters' roll than its South African Party opponents. Much of the tedious clerical work required was probably done by women, leaving to the men the filing of applications for the vote with the magistrate and the challenging of names already on the roll in the registration court, public activity where male status would clearly be of value.[136] In addition, Cradock had its branch of the Vroue Nasionale Party, an active body which passed resolutions for annual congresses and raised local issues.[137] After they had been given the vote, the Vroue party disappeared, but the role of women was by no means diminished. One informant told me that when in 1938 the Malanite Gesuiwerde (purified) National Party candidate was defeated by a United Party man, a livid Elizabeth Jordaan castigated one unnamed male member of the party over the telephone, assuring him that 'We shall begin tomorrow at my house organizing for the next election.'[138] The National Party did win the seat in 1943, whether from Elizabeth's house or not is unclear, but the anecdote is wholly plausible.

In looking at the recent history of Afrikanerdom, scholars have frequently


commented on the mobilization of Afrikaners in the 1920s and 1930s, particularly through the exploitation of such historic events as the celebration of the Great Trek in 1938.[139] The idea of Afrikanerdom, as a touchstone by which to judge all sorts of public activity, became in a sense 'hegemonic' among Afrikaners, an overall means of judging whether a person was a ware Afrikaner, a 'true Afrikaner', or not.[140] Before the 1930s it was possible to be a good Afrikaner by being a good churchman and guarding the equal rights accorded to Afrikaans in the South Africa Act. As the mobilization of Afrikaners proceeded, the notion was extended in two directions: the patronage of Afrikaner business—with only moderate success[141] —and the support of the National Party where it was crucial in providing the narrow margin of victory in 1948.[142]

This use of 'hegemonic' differs from that of Gramsci, who coined it in relation to dominance by the state: modern states, he argued, had within them 'dominant groups' who elicited ' "spontaneous consent" caused by the prestige which the dominant group enjoys because of its position and function in the world of production'.[143] In South Africa the hegemony by 'spontaneous consent' was achieved only within the ethnos ; outside, its various forms of direct domination were used to achieve compliance from other whites as well as non-whites. Thus Afrikaner mobilization did not, as Greenberg writes, simply involve the inclusion of a wider range of class actors.[144] That inclusion took place only within Afrikanerdom and the 'spontaneous consent' was achieved with the object of cutting across class alignments which divided Afrikaners from each other. To what extent the successful creation of what can be called an 'ethnic envelope' was due to prestige derived by a set of actors from their 'position' in 'production', is another question altogether.

Yet the question of class alignments within Afrikanerdom cannot be so cavalierly pushed aside. As Van Onselen and Giliomee have shown, there was genuine class conflict among Afrikaners.[145] As early as 1913, however, Afrikaner trade unionists were already heeding the call of the volk rather than that of the working class on the mines.[146] Yet the middle class character of the ACVV in Cradock itself suggests the need for further inquiry. Why do certain individuals participate in public activity, what are the economic roots of such impressive public spirit, and why do comfortably-off families divide on political questions? So far, the Cradock material has not shown any class alignments, or publicly expressed resentments, based on the migration of poor whites from the countryside. Nor does it suggest that the Afrikaner members of the middle class saw the depressed poor whites in town as a threat in the sense that that they might join a self-conscious proletariat dedicated to overthrowing the bourgeois capitalist order. Rather, the evidence collected thus far suggests that they saw poor whites in characteristically South African terms, as a group on the way down to racial perdition, to miscegenation and therefore exclusion from the volk . That approach was adopted in the context of their bitterness at their conquest by Britain; in working for the opheffing (uplift) of poor whites, and for the integrity of church and language, they were meeting the racial and the ethnic, i. e. cultural, threats at the same time. More detailed work on the economic history of such communities may help us yet to explain better how and why these women combined present threats with shared experiences to preserve, in church and language, the living hand of the past.


Exclusion, Classification and Internal Colonialism: The Emergence of Ethnicity Among the Tsonga-Speakers of South Africa

Patrick Harries


This chapter deals with the formation of ethnicity amongst the Tsonga-speaking people of the northern and eastern Transvaal. It argues that the notion of a 'Tsonga' ethnic group as defined by anthropologists at the turn of the century is of little objective value for it was more a product of their social and intellectual environment than an objective reality. While Tsonga-speakers were often excluded, as foreign immigrants, from local society, ethnicity as an expression of group consciousness emerged only with the development of a local petty bourgeoisie. This class was literate in a missionary-constructed lingua franca, later to evolve into the Tsonga language, and was equipped with a social and economic vision that extended well beyond the boundaries of the scattered precapitalist political unit of the chiefdom. A Tsonga ethnic consciousness initially arose out of the conflict between the petty bourgeoisie as the representatives of a new form of production and the traditional chiefs, as well as from the new identity forged by Tsonga-speaking industrial workers. This consciousness grew on the base of a modern economic infrastructure, and it should not be seen as a residual or transitional political identity that will eventually be transformed, by the same process of modernization, into a broader national identity. The roots of Tsonga ethnicity are not to be found in the primordial values associated with the precapitalist political systems and forms of production that early anthropologists categorized and classified by 'tribe.'

I shall argue that the degree to which an ethnic identity is adopted is dependent on the various class interests engendered by the historical regional division of labour or centre-periphery form of internal capitalism that has developed in southern Africa.[1] People choose, adopt and emphasize cultural symbols that they believe to be signs of a shared historical Tsonga identity in order to benefit their class or regional interests.

Although whites had long employed popular stereotypes of the Tsonga-speaking population as a group, it was only in the 1950s-60s that the government actively intervened through its Bantustan policy to forge an ethnic alliance between chiefs and elements of the petty bourgeoisie and to impose a central homeland upon the disparate peoples who spoke Tsonga-related dialects.


A Tsonga identity has thus emerged as the product of a variety of forces. These include the European obsession with social classifications; a government policy that attempted to divide Africans along ethnic lines; and, as well, an awareness expressed by many Africans of the numerous benefits that accrued from the mobilization of people along ethnic lines. What must be questioned is the readiness with which historians have fused the two forms of ethnicity—early classificatory ethnicity and later politicized ethnicity—and have consequently extrapolated into preceding centuries the existence of ethnic groups, such as 'the Tsonga', imbued with a political and social unity that in reality only emerged in the twentieth century. Nor can Tsonga ethnicity be traced to an ethnos with the physiognomy of a soul. It is, rather, very much a human construct, a social product the fabrication of which over time is the subject of this essay.

The Migrations of Tsonga-speakers

In the early nineteenth century people who were later to be defined as Tsonga-speakers occupied the whole of Mozambique south of the Sabi river except for the enclaves of territory surrounding and immediately to the south of the town of Inhambane. For the major part of the century the chiefdoms to the north of Delagoa Bay fell under the hegemony of the Gaza Nguni; those to the west of the bay were heavily influenced by the Swazi; while the Zulu dominated the chiefdoms to the south of the bay. All three states incorporated, both politically and culturally, many of the people living on their borders who spoke language forms later to be classified as Tsonga.[2] These people, particularly traders and hunters from the areas around Inhambane and Lourenco Marques, had for many years operated in the high and lowveld areas to the west of the Lebombo mountains. Here their commercial skills, rites, customs and organization bound them together and, together with their foreignness, singled them out as a distinctly separate group.[3] But it was only in the second quarter of the nineteenth century that coastal peoples settled the area that was later to become the northern and eastern Transvaal in a purposeful way.

During the 1820s a number of Nguni refugee groups fleeing from the disturbances in Natal associated with the growth of the Zulu state passed through southern Mozambique. In the late 1830s one of these groups, led by Soshangane, took advantage of a decline in Zulu power following the battle of Blood River and reoccupied the fertile lower Limpopo. According to missionary historians who gathered evidence a half-century after the event, Soshangane's return to the south initiated a 'general exodus' of people living between the Nkomati and Limpopo rivers.[4] The refugees travelled along the trade routes flanking two rivers, the Olifants and Limpopo-Levubu, that passed through the thinly populated lowveld and gave access to the healthier, well-watered areas to the west.[5] The second major wave of immigrants entered the Transvaal as a result of the Gaza civil war and ecological upsets of 1858–62. Raids into the coastal and northern Delagoa Bay hinterland by the defeated heir to the Gaza throne and his Swazi allies continued into the 1870s, causing the movement of people into the Transvaal to continue unabated.[6] The flow of war refugees was continually augmented by people fleeing from natural upheavals such as drought, famine and smallpox.

These immigrants settled under virtually every chief living on the escarpment and eastern highveld. Although they often shifted their political allegiances, they were welcomed by chiefs to whom they paid tribute in labour and in goods. They were attached to homesteads as individuals or, as small groups under their own


headmen, were scattered throughout the veld, colonizing those areas where human and animal diseases, poor soils or lack of water had previously restricted settlement. Coming from a different ecological area, East Coast immigrants introduced new types of food such as fowls, cassava, certain kinds of groundnuts, various grain and potato strains and, especially, maize. These new foodstuffs, together with their techniques of preparation and cooking, served as cultural markers that defined these displaced people, in the eyes of the autochthonous population, as outsiders. Chiefs competed with each other to attract these East Coast immigrants by offering them security and access to a means of production.

Probably the best known of these chiefs was João Albasini who at one time controlled a following of more than 5000 refugees in the Spelonken hills at the foot of the Zoutpansberg. Albasini, in contrast to many chiefs, allowed his followers to retain their clan-names, material culture and leaders without discriminating against them as foreigners. They were also offered the possibility of rapid advancement in his service as hunters, traders and raiders-cum-tax-collectors. His followers were a cultural and political conglomeration of people from various coastal chiefdoms. They had few links with other refugees drawn from the same region and were often embroiled in conflicts with these people, as well as with local chiefs who had given them refuge. Albasini presided over a shifting population the size of which depended upon his fluctuating fortunes. At the height of his power in the early 1860s he attracted large numbers of Venda-speaking refugees from north of the Levubu as well as Tsonga-speakers drawn both from the coast and from other local chiefdoms.[7] As Albasini's power was destroyed by the decline of elephant hunting and slavery many of his followers deserted him for wealthier masters. Albasini, however, was merely one of many chiefs living in the Transvaal who gave asylum to large numbers of people uprooted from their homes east of the Lebombo mountains.

By the 1860s four small semi-independent clusters of East Coast refugees had begun to emerge in the Transvaal. The middle and lower Levubu river was largely settled by members of the Maluleke clan who were perennially under Gaza hegemony. The heterogeneous population in the Spelonken hills accepted the overlordship of Albasini and his chiefs. To the south the other major groups, consisting mainly of Baloyi and Nkuna clan members, lived in the Haernertsberg under various North Sotho-speaking chiefs. Smaller settlements, many of whose members were described as 'Hlangaan', developed to the south of the Olifants river around Pedi, immigrant Boer and Swazi communities.[8] The discovery of alluvial goldfields in this area in the 1870s attracted large numbers of coastal immigrants who settled as labour tenants on company lands surrounding the mining villages. The final major wave of East Coast refugees, consisting of several thousand Gaza Nguni, settled in the eastern and northern Transvaal in 1897 following their defeat in the second Luso-Gaza war. In the twentieth century the movement of Mozambicans into the Transvaal, drawn by better living conditions, continued unabated despite a legislative attempt in 1913 to restrict this immigration.[9]

By the early twentieth century East Coast immigrants were scattered throughout the northern and eastern Transvaal; many barriers divided them from each other and, although they tended to settle in low-lying areas and river valleys, no natural frontier separated them from their neighbours. Even where borders can be distinguished, immigrant communities were surrounded by wide belts of mixed settlement, and islands of linguistic minorities existed on both sides. In 1896 a northern Transvaal newspaper remarked of the immigrants from the East Coast that they were 'an admixture of refugees . . . they have no recognized king, but


subject themselves to the most wealthy, who assumes the leadership under the title of induna or headman'.[10] It is ironic that the geographically diffuse and politically amorphous form of settlement practised by these nineteenth century immigrants was also recognized by N.J. van Warmelo, the government ethnologist who was later to play a leading role in their definition and delimitation as a 'population group' with its own 'homeland'. In 1937 he wrote that

the Tsonga-speaking refugees came over the border [sic ] in small parties and settled down wherever they could. Very often they became the subjects of Sotho and Venda chiefs and, though the tendency to reassemble and live together was there, they usually failed to muster sufficient strength to form tribes of any importance.[11]

Even to use the term 'Tsonga-speaking' with reference to the nineteenth century is misleading as it invokes an erroneous linguistic unity. No single language linked the early East Coast refugees who were settled throughout the northern and eastern Transvaal. Instead, they spoke a rich variety of language forms that reflected their diverse geographical origins. The codification and categorization of Tsonga as a language was only undertaken at the end of the nineteenth century by missionaries who, trained to categorize and classify national groups and characteristics according to language, reified this linguistic category into an ethnic group—into a 'tribe'.

Missionaries and the Definition of the 'Tsonga Tribe'

During the nineteenth century a number of popular stereotypes were applied in a rough way to those people living in, or originating from, the region east of the Lebombos and north of Zululand. The term 'Tonga' entered the English language as a borrowing from the Zulu who used it in the nineteenth century to refer to all the conquered peoples of the coastal areas north of Zululand.[12] It was used in a similarly pejorative way by several chiefdoms in southern Mozambique, at least one of which was later to be classified as Tsonga-speaking.[13] There are two hypotheses as to how the Nguni arrived at the term 'Tonga'. The first is that a phonetic soundshift caused the Tsonga word /ronga/, which denotes 'easterners', to be pronounced /tonga/ in Zulu. The second is that the original inhabitants of the East Coast were called 'Tonga' before waves of Bantu-speaking immigrants entered the area some time before the sixteenth century.[14] Despite the imprecision with which the Zulu used the term, the Natal colonists adopted the word as a general term applied to those people living along the coast north of the Zulu border regardless of their actual linguistic or cultural affiliations. Because of the derogatory overtones with which the term was imbued, however, it was never used by the people to whom it was applied. It was only in the twentieth century that linguists expurgated the abusive connotations from the term, initially by introducing an aspirated /h/ and finally by adopting the term 'Tsonga'.[15]

The Portuguese at Lourenco Marques distinguished between intrusive Vatua or Nguni-speakers and the indigenous Landims, a practice that has led some historians to view the terms 'Tsonga' and 'Landim' as synonymous.[16] In the Transvaal, East Coast immigrants were given various general labels by the people with whom they came into contact, such as 'Knobnoses', given to them by Europeans because of the distinctive nasal cicatrization practised by some of the coastal peoples, and 'Gwambas', a term applied by indigenous Africans living in the Zoutpansberg and Spelonken hills. This label, initially derived from the name of a chief near Inhambane whose followers had traded in the northern Transvaal,


had evolved into a synonym for 'easterner'.[17] On the diamond and gold fields, 'East Coasters' were also called 'Shangaans', a term that, correctly used, should be applied to those people who adopted the material culture of the Gaza Nguni chief Soshangane. Thus, in present-day South Africa, only the descendants of the Gaza Nguni immigrants who entered the eastern Transvaal after the second Luso-Gaza war of 1897, are officially classified 'Shangaan' or Tshangana' and in this way distinguished from the descendants of earlier immigrants, the Tsonga, who were in most cases never under Gaza rule. Yet the word 'Shangaan' has become an all-embracing term used to refer to the Tsonga-speaking peoples of southeast Africa and, in a more general way, to all Mozambicans employed on the South African mines. It is obvious that during the nineteenth century these terms were used in a generic and popular way to embrace diverse peoples and chiefdoms with no common name and, as ethnographic terms, they are of very little value.

A far more scholarly attempt to delineate an ethnic group emerged at the end of the nineteenth century out of a heated debate within the Swiss mission over the linguistic relationship between their followers in the Transvaal Spelonken and those living on the East Coast.[18] When the Swiss missionaries arrived in the Spelonken in 1873 they agreed to restrict their activities to the area south of the Levubu river so as not to compete with the German missionaries who were already conversant with Pedi (North Sotho) to the far south and the Venda-based dialects north of the river. One of the first steps taken by the Swiss missionaries to ease their work was to reduce the various dialects spoken by the East Coast refugees amongst whom they lived to a single written language. This resulted in the publication in the 1880s and early 1890s of a language primer and several religious works in a lingua franca which the missionaries named 'Gwamba'. In compiling this language the missionaries had been strongly influenced by the northern Delagoa Bay dialect spoken by their assistants and by most of the immigrants in the Spelonken.[19] Consequently when missionaries were sent to evangelize the linguistically-related people living near Lourenco Marques they were greatly disadvantaged in their competition with local Wesleyan evangelists because of the foreignness of their northern dialect.

To avoid being viewed as foreigners from the north, or 'Karangas,' Henri A. Junod, one of the missionaries in the Lourenco Marques area, started to codify another local lingua franca which he called 'Ronga'. In 1894 Junod produced a basic Ronga reader and over the following three years he completed a grammar and collection of folktales and an extensive ethnographic work on what he then referred to as 'the Ronga people'.[20] It was this division of the 'Ronga', both linguistically and socially, from the 'Gwamba' in the Spelonken area that sparked off the debate within the Swiss mission over how to categorize the people among whom they worked.[21]

Henri Berthoud, who was the mission's leading expert in 'Gwamba' and who, as a major explorer, was familiar with many of the language variations of southeast Africa, argued from a pragmatic perspective that a single language with a common grammar and orthography would reduce the mission's printing costs. He also opposed the adoption of a further grammar and orthography as he feared, with good reason, that the creation of two written languages would divide the followers of the mission. Berthoud hoped that the written Gwamba language would unify, in much the same way as Jacobine French, High German, or Castilian had in Europe linked large numbers of people who shared, however distantly, a linguistic relationship. He argued that Junod's classification of the Ronga and other peoples was as arbitrary as the mission's earlier categorization of


Gwamba. He was particularly opposed to Junod's claims to 'scientific' criteria; terms like 'Ronga' meaning 'easterners', together with other linguistic sub-groups such as 'Djonga' ('southerners') and 'Nwalungu' ('northerners') were no more precise than the single term 'Gwamba'. Junod's terms were sometimes used as points of reference by outsiders wanting to identify the people of a specific geographical area or by rootless refugees wishing to establish a claim to an area of origin; they did not refer to bounded groups with a common social organization or material culture. As Berthoud stated, 'the Ronga do not form a specific tribe and their name is a geographical designation rather than an ethnographic or linguistic one.'[22] What defined 'Ronga' as a language was the coastal missionaries' desire for a local written language as a means of spreading the Gospel. The debate between Junod and Berthoud ended with the latter's premature death in 1904.

After spending several years in the Transvaal, Junod published in 1907 an Elementary Grammar of the Thonga/Shangaan Language, which marked the abandonment of the geographically and politically imprecise term 'Gwamba'. Berthoud's defeat was honourably recognized when the following year his supporters published his posthumous Shangaan Grammar. Within a few years distinct Ronga and Thonga/Shangaan (formerly 'Gwamba') written languages had been established on the basis of separate grammars and orthographies. Ronga came to dominate southern Mozambique and Thonga/Shangaan the northern Transvaal and central-southern Mozambique. Meanwhile, American missionaries working in the Inhambane area delineated a third related language which they named 'Tswa'. Despite the defeat of the movement calling for one written Tsonga dialect, the ideal of a single unifying language is still expressed in missionary circles.[23]

Junod and the other missionaries interpreted the African world through the prism of a specific intellectual system or structure of knowledge. This demanded a classification of the myriad of new details emerging as much from the invention of the microscope and telescope as from the discoveries of explorers. Without the orderly structuring of detail there could be no clarity and no understanding, a factor that was reflected as much in Junod's entomological studies as in his desire for social classification. Junod was particularly influenced by nineteenth century concepts of nationalism and the central role of language in the classification of national groups and characteristics. This is evident in his strong criticism of Dudley Kidd's The Essential Kaffir (London, 1904), which grouped all Africans together, failing to distinguish between them on linguistic or any other grounds. To Junod, Kidd's extreme generalizations, made on the basis of race alone, were both confusing and unscientific. Junod believed that to give a scientific basis to ethnographic observation required the creation of a taxonomy of languages and related social customs. This idea was derived from the work of contemporary European classicists who sought the roots of nationalism in their continent in the languages and social customs of the early European tribes.

Encouraged by evolutionism and by Sir James Frazer, the classicist-turned-anthropologist, Junod used the same schema to make sense of the complex and confusing African world into which he had plunged. But to make African societies fit the European pattern, he resorted to pseudo-history by hypothesizing that at some time in the distant past, migrants originating from different areas had imposed themselves on an earlier proto-Thonga people and had adopted their language. Working from this shaky and, at best, historically speculative premise, Junod saw language as the common thread holding together the Thonga as a 'tribe' or 'nation'. By 1905 he ascribed the 'recognition of the Thonga as a tribe' largely to the work of the Swiss mission.[24] Seven years later in his two-volume Life


of a South African Tribe, which he published in English in order to reach an influential audience, he divided the Thonga into the 'northern clans', who spoke Thonga/Shangaan, and the Mozambican Ronga who occupied the area south of the Nkomati river. Yet Junod had never been to the southern half of what he defined as the Ronga area nor had he visited the extensive Thonga/Shangaan area north of the Nkomati river or that of the 'Tswa' to the west and north of Inhambane. But because he automatically associated language with culture he unconsciously imbued all the people who spoke these two artificially defined languages with distinctive social customs and traits. His distinction between the Ronga and Thonga/Shangaan was not always clear and, consequently, many historians and others have conflated them into a single Tsonga ethnic group.

Junod's ethnic taxonomy was further reinforced by his interest in folklore, proverbs and folk songs. Contemporary folklorists were deeply involved in European nationalist movements, the roots of whose consciousness they sought, in opposition to the nationalism imposed from above by the philosophers of the Enlightenment, in the cultural expressions of those elements of the nation least influenced by cosmopolitan worldliness—the peasantry. Junod saw songs, tales and proverbs as an expression of the bounded consciousness of the Thonga and as a means of getting at what he referred to as 'the soul of the tribe' or the pure, original culture untouched by waves of immigration or foreign contact.[25] It was partly his interest in folklore and related particularistic cultures that drove him to oppose the pragmatic centralism of Henri Berthoud's desire to create a single, unifying Gwamba or Thonga/Shangaan language. Because of his positivist approach, Junod, unlike Berthoud, failed to see that his linguistic and related social divisions were human constructs that were in no way scientifically objective. Unlike microbes or river mouths, the Ronga and Thonga/Shangaan languages were not awaiting discovery; they were very much the invention of European scholars and, perhaps even more so, of their African assistants. The linguistic borders determined by the Europeans conformed to a certain preconception of what they expected to find. This is perhaps best illustrated by analyzing the discourse of Henri Berthoud's older brother, Paul, who in 1884 wrote with reference to the Gwamba that:

As a rule a large tribe has not as such, any proper and general name. But the tribe being divided into a certain number of clans, each one of those smaller communities goes by its proper name; wherefore it is incumbent on the foreigners, either black or white, to apply a generic name to all the people and clans which belong to the same tribe. The propriety then, of such a generic name, lies in its being related to the social character of the tribe, and in its being taken from the tribe's own language.[26]

This was very much the form of ethno-linguistic classification adopted by Junod, who wrote that 'there is no true national unity amongst the Thongas. They are hardly conscious that they form a definite nation, and therefore they possess no common name for it . . .' and that 'there is no feeling of national unity in the tribe as a whole; its unity consists only in a language and in certain customs which are common to all the clans'.[27]

Contemporary observers in the Transvaal accentuated, concretized and reinforced these forms of social classification on the basis of created linguistic distinctions when they noted that Tsonga-speaking immigrants as outsiders were often different from local people in the manner of their speech, clothing, house form and settlement pattern, as well as the food they ate and the way in which they


prepared it.[28] They were even described as being physically different from the people amongst whom they settled.[29] Yet these differences were generally symbols of exclusion rather than cohesion for they were differences often shared with many non-Tsonga speakers.

In fact, there was no 'pure' Tsonga culture that could be regarded as a uniform or static entity, for Tsonga-speaking immigrants in the Transvaal did not come from a common cultural pool. The material culture expressed by an individual was not static or 'traditional', nor was it bound by linguistic affiliations. The cultural markers exhibited by Tsonga-speakers such as diet, tools, clothing, custom and language were, moreover, marked by continual adaptations to changing social and environmental situations. The division of the people of southern Mozambique into various linguistic sub-groups was therefore totally arbitrary and nowhere did they present a common bounded and static linguistic entity.

East Coast traders, hunters and later waves of refugees who entered the Transvaal at different times and from different areas brought with them elements of various material cultures which were, because of their foreign origin, distinguishable from local cultures. But here again, these were factors of exclusion rather than cohesion and the line became blurred as Tsonga-speaking immigrants adapted themselves to their new surroundings. Long distance migrations demanded that fish- or beef-eaters who moved westwards into dry, riverless or tsetse-ridden areas of the Lowveld were obliged to adapt their diet and production strategies to the new environment. In an attempt to assimilate to local norms, some Tsonga-speaking immigrants attended initiation lodges run by host chiefdoms while others adopted local totems. Some continued to practise circumcision which on the East Coast had largely been abandoned by those chiefdoms dominated by Nguni-speakers. Their music was influenced to differing degrees by the Pedi and by people today classified as Venda, Lovedu, Chopi and Ndau, many of whose instruments they have adopted. Many Tsonga-speakers were incorporated, through the ideology of kinship, into host clans in the Transvaal, alongside whose members they constituted a single production unit. This process of individual assimilation was so advanced that it led one anthropologist to speculate that an entire Venda-speaking clan had its roots east of the Lebombos, while another believed that the Tsonga-speaking Baloyi clan had once spoken a Shona-based dialect. An ecologically symbiotic relationship also existed between Tsonga-speaking agriculturalists who colonized malarial and tsetse infested river valleys and plains and the cattle-keepers living above the valley.[30]

As long as male immigrants stressed their independence by clinging to foreign customs, especially those that were related to sexuality, such as puberty rites and marriage patterns, intermarriage with local people was generally precluded. As outsiders who practised 'barbarous' customs and spoke the local language badly, they were considered inferiors and classified as such by being labelled 'Tonga'. For immigrants to benefit fully from the patronage of members of the host clan they had to resort to fictive filiation and suffer the exploitation as junior members that this often implied. When immigrants arrived in a group under their own chief, however, their position was far stronger and they were more likely to maintain their distinctive material culture.

The cultural boundaries first defined and established by missionary anthropologists at the turn of the century have been extrapolated back into the past by historians who see 'the Tsonga' as a primeval ethnic group occupying a large part of south-east Africa. This static approach to the concept of ethnicity has led to a great deal of historical imprecision such as the extension of the


geographically limited observations of shipwrecked Portuguese mariners to embrace all 'the Tsonga' or to see 'the Tsonga' in nineteenth century Mozambique as being dominated by the Gaza Nguni.[31] The use by historians of generic terms such as 'Gwambas' and 'Knobnoses' is similarly imprecise.[32]

What lies at the base of this willingness to accept such classifications is the attempt by Europeans in the nineteenth century to order the African world in their own image. Because they were unable to break from their ideological heritage, Europeans implicitly believed their concept of ethnicity to be the natural order and not merely one convention amongst others used to make sense of the world. Caught within this mental structure, Europeans applied to Africans their own system of ethnic classification and accepted without question that Africans should use the same distinctions and concepts. Thus to Henri Berthoud, 'the Gwamba is to other tribes the same as the Jew is to European nations'.[33] In this way Berthoud rightly indicated the exclusion of the 'Gwamba' because of their foreign rites and customs but then imbued an extremely diverse and fragmented conglomeration of refugees with all the political and social rites and customs of Jewry. The missionaries used their European conceptual framework to classify the two groups in terms of extreme opposites; the difference between the Venda and Tsonga was synonymous with that between Germans and French or Spartans and Athenians. Consequently, when disputes arose between Tsonga and North Sotho or Venda-speaking chiefdoms, these were interpreted not as clashes between chiefdoms in the way that intra-Tsonga disputes were, but as 'race conflicts'.[34]

The African Mode of Self-Identification

In reality, however, the Africans conceptualized the structure and order of their world in an entirely different way. The basis of African political and social life was the chiefdom. This grouped together members of the same productive unit and was dominated by the members of one clan. Membership of the clan was expressed through the use of a common patronymic, or shibongo, through which an individual identified himself as a member of his clan leader's house. Outsiders who professed fealty to the clan leader or chief defined themselves as being 'from the land of their host clan while the latter's unifying ideology of agnatic descent provided for their gradual incorporation through the adoption of the clan patronymic. Junod referred to the chiefdom, or tiko, as 'the true national unit' in which political identity was rooted.[35]

Various symbols bound the members of the chiefdom together and distinguished one chiefdom from another. Foremost amongst these was the institution of chieftaincy, for the chief, as the believed direct descendant of the founding ancestors and as the senior member of the kin group, was the embodiment of clan unity and the centre of its corporate identity. He administered a form of justice that was entirely based on the moral community of the clan and the chiefdom, protected the army with his war medicines, interceded with the clan ancestors and generally regulated production strategies. The chief gave to his followers a sense of belonging and unity by using symbols of office that were believed to invest him with special powers and by organizing various rites that were limited to clan members, such as first fruit ceremonies and entry to the age regiments. The cohesion of the clan and the differences between clans were accentuated by marriage patterns which stressed clan endogamy, by the accreditation to each clan of a separate area of origin and migration and by particularities of dialect.


There were a number of popular controls over the succession to office of the chief. These consisted of various legal precedents which provided for the exclusion from the chieftainship of the eldest son of the chief's first wife. Thus the councillors could declare that for moral reasons he was unfit to rule; a son born of a junior wife, but still of royal blood, could be chosen; or the chieftainship could pass to the line of the regent, who was generally the eldest brother of the deceased chief. Consequently, the inheritance of the chieftainship was not automatic and ascribed; it was processual and was dependent upon the support of the councillors and army whose backing was, in turn, influenced by the power and popularity of the individual competitors for office. An unpopular chief was continually threatened by the segmentation of a part of his following.[36]

Tsonga-speaking chiefdoms in the Transvaal remained small and independent of one another and manifested no tendency to grow through conquest. But the roots of ethnic consciousness cutting across the divisions of clan and chiefdom may be discerned by the beginning of the twentieth century. Clan endogamy had broken down entirely in areas of the Transvaal like the Spelonken where large numbers of refugees had gathered.[37] Men were meeting and working on the mines and plantations as 'Shangaans' and 'Tongas' and literacy in Thonga/Shangaan, although limited to a small number of people, provided Christians and traders from different areas with a common means of communication. But the vast majority of the population remained illiterate and the individual's world remained largely a small personal one, limited to the chiefdom with whose members he or she shared symbols and rituals that gave meaning to their lives. Poor communications and a limited area of social and economic exchange further restricted the development of a political consciousness extending beyond the clan and chiefdom. What defined the Tsonga in the final instance were their neighbours. The Tsonga/Knobnoses/Gwamba/Shangaans, as their various neighbours called them, only took on or adopted an ethnic identity later in the twentieth century. This new identity emerged as a result of the politicization of the old classificatory ethnicity—a politicization that was the product of the new economic infrastructure introduced by capitalist development.

Africans and the Land

As the Afrikaner Transvaal state expanded to the northeast during the 1880s, its policies discouraged the formation of large scale chiefdoms by Tsonga-speaking immigrants. A common practice was for white farmers and missionaries to create petty chiefs from amongst the Africans living on their estates. Traditional chiefs tended to live scattered throughout the northern and eastern Transvaal beyond the borders of white-occupied farms.[38] When Albasini died in 1881, his chiefs were obliged to recognize the suzerainty of the Transvaal state by purchasing their titles from the local Native Commissioner. As chiefs who were unwilling to pay were promptly deposed, the Native Commissioner was soon elected over Albasini's son as chief of 'the Magwambas' living in the Spelonken.[39] This policy of segregating Tsonga-speaking chiefs from their Venda-speaking counterparts and of neutralizing the Albasinis as a unifying force was continued into the twentieth century.[40] In many ways, this official view was an extension of local mission policy which opposed the existence of powerful chiefs who could restrict Christian proselytizing.

More importantly, the missions had divided the population of the northern Transvaal along linguistic and geographical lines. Tsonga and Venda speakers were ministered to by, respectively, Swiss Presbyterian and German Lutheran


missionaries who recognized the Levubu as the border separating their parishes.[41] This division of mission work along linguistic lines left substantial numbers of Tsonga-speakers, living north of the Levubu, in the Venda constituency of the Lutherans while Venda-speakers living south of the river were considered to be in the Tsonga area of the Swiss mission. These geographic and linguistic divisions, initially introduced for pragmatic reasons, were later to become of great political importance as French and German-speaking missionaries sublimated their own nationalistic feelings into an attempt to protect 'their' African people. The Berlin mission was to become the de facto Venda church while the Swiss mission was even at one stage to change its name to that of the Tsonga Presbyterian Church. But just as mission and government interests were both opposed to the formation of large chiefdoms, Republican land policy also actively broke up and scattered existing chiefdoms.

The conditions under which Africans held land in the northern Transvaal changed markedly during the last two decades of the nineteenth century. In the 1870s most Tsonga-speakers lived beyond the reach of any white settlers and even in those districts where the latter owned farms, such as the Spelonken, Africans could live and grow crops almost wherever they wished, including on white-occupied land.[42] At the end of the 1870s some of the larger white landowners in the Spelonken shared their farms with several thousand Africans. By 1888 it was estimated that some 12, 500 East Coast immigrant families lived on ten white farms in the Spelonken.[43] It was only in the late 1880s that white settlers started to arrive in the northern Transvaal in appreciable numbers. These were largely landless bywoners who, in exchange for military service, were provided with small 'occupation farms'. But this movement into the northern Transvaal of small-scale, poorly-financed farmers was accompanied by what one missionary referred to as the 'Irish-style eviction' of white tenant farmers.[44] This was so because, as the Witwatersrand gold discoveries pushed up the price of land and drew Africans more deeply into the money economy, landowners started to turn off their estates bywoners who had been occupying large tracts of land and began to levy direct cash rents from the resident African population. Occupation farmers also exercised a tenuous hold over their newly surveyed farms as these were already densely settled and attempts to remove their African occupants were met with protracted resistance in the form of incendiarism, cattle-stabbing, settlement on fields ploughed by the white farmer, and the destruction of improvements to his farm.[45] It was these forms of resistance that forced the Republican government to create rural locations, or reserves, where chiefs could continue to exercise a certain degree of independence and thus maintain a hold over, and be responsible for, their followers.

Although locations were first envisioned in 1853, legislated for in 1876 and entrenched in the Pretoria Convention of 1881, it was only in 1892 that a 'Knobnose location' was delineated in recognition of services rendered to the state by Albasini's government auxiliaries. Despite its name, this reserve was settled by a conglomeration of Venda and Tsonga-speaking chiefs and commoners living in the Spelonken and, as the location was unhealthy and deficient in water, most people preferred to squat as tenants on surrounding white-owned farms. To the south, many Tsonga-speakers were included in Modjadji's location and in only one instance was a Tsonga-speaking chief, Muhlaba of the Nkuna, assigned his own location. This was a malarial stretch of land considered by the local native commissioner to be 'quite unsuitable for white people', and the Nkuna refused to give up their tenancy of the neighbouring Harmony Proprietary Company's farms.


Most Tsonga-speakers lived on land that had not been inspected or surveyed for private farms and hence was termed 'state land'. However, by the end of the nineteenth century, Africans were steadily drifting on to white-owned farms. This movement was encouraged by a discriminatory tax system which penalized Africans living in rural locations or on government land with heavy taxes relative to those living as tenants on white-owned land, while those in active service on white-occupied farms paid least.[46] The sale of state land also caused many Africans to settle on white-owned land. Many were drawn by the fertility and better access to markets of European-owned farms. This movement was facilitated by the large scale sale of occupation farms to land companies and local speculators. The undercapitalized, if not impoverished, occupation farmers were unable to raise capital because the terms of their tenancies precluded the mortgaging of their farms, and they typically lived in 'mud cabins that would disgrace a Connemara squatter or a Skye crofter'.[47] They were broken by the almost continual commando service demanded by a decade of wars mounted by Pretoria against the northern Transvaal chiefdoms. With their capital invested in livestock and without government aid, they were unable to withstand the effects of the extended drought and the rinderpest epizoötic of the mid-1890s. Many abandoned their lands and turned to transport-riding, hunting, woodcutting and salt-extraction, although even these traditional resorts of the poor had been made increasingly difficult by government concessions and regulations. In 1896 it was estimated that 29 out of the 30 white families in the Lowveld were starving and had been reduced to living off locusts and honey.[48] The slide of the white community of the northern Transvaal into impoverishment was to continue well into the twentieth century.

Absentee landlords, often mining companies prospecting for minerals, were only too willing to encourage the settlement on their lands of Africans who would undertake bush clearance and pay them rent and grazing fees. Many Africans preferred to live on land owned by the state or absentee landlords, where taxes were lower than in the reserves where, if they paid rent, it was in cash rather than labour and where existing forms of social control and production could be maintained. Others moved from chief to chief or farm to farm in an attempt to better their living conditions. This meant that white farmers had to compete for labour not only with each other and with land companies but also with chiefs living on state and private land and in the reserves. Because of this competition, the labour extracted by white farmers from their tenants could not exceed the combined monetary value of the rents and taxes paid by tenants living beyond the borders of white-occupied farms. Similarly, because of the private reserves that existed on estates owned by land speculators and the state, white farmers were obliged to reserve large parts of their farms for tenants who paid them rents in both labour and money.

The Republican anti-squatter laws of 1887 and 1895 were legislated in order to force African tenants off 'private reserves' so as to spread the labour more equitably and control competition between white farmers. But these laws had the opposite effect for they caused large numbers of Africans in the northeastern Transvaal to move into the Zoutpansberg mountains, which remained largely independent of white rule until 1898, or on to the malarial lands of the Lowveld. Until southern Mozambique was finally conquered by the Portuguese in 1897, Tsonga-speakers also showed a tendency to drift back to their kinsmen east of the Lebombos. All these areas were free of the anti-squatter laws, but, even more importantly, they were relatively inaccessible to tax collectors. The emigration of these loyal Africans deprived government officials of taxes and military allies,


constituted a loss of labour and rents to fanners and closed a healthy production market to white traders.[49] Hence the implementation of the anti-squatter laws, and even the extraction of taxes, was erratic.

Following the Anglo-Boer War, demands for the implementation of anti-squatter laws increased as the price of land soared and as the labour needs of wealthy white farmers rose with their transition from stock to arable farming. These farmers were opposed to the existence of government reserves which provided Africans with valuable farm land and which pushed up the cost of farm labour by providing Africans with an independent means of existence. At best, government and private reserves were viewed by white farmers as labour pools for mining capitalists. But the British administration in the Transvaal, in its support for mining capital, extended the reserves and made little attempt to evict 'squatters' who paid taxes and rents and who sold a considerable amount of both food and labour to the mines. By 1906 in the Spelonken alone there were over 40, 000 Africans living on land that was owned but not occupied by whites.[50]

In 1908 the first post-war Responsible Government, which represented wealthy farming interests, moved a year after its election to force African peasants into relationships of labour tenancy on white-occupied farms. A bill was tabled in the legislative assembly with the express purpose of removing up to 300,000 squatters throughout the Transvaal. According to the founder of the Swiss mission in the Spelonken this was 'the most tyrannical law that has ever existed in a Republican [sic ] country, a law that would dismember tribes and clans and disperse thousands of families'.[51] When the British High Commissioner, Lord Selborne, blocked the passage of the bill, however, the government replied by applying the old Republican anti-squatter laws. This resulted in many Africans in the northern Transvaal moving not on to white-occupied farms, but rather into the rural locations. Between 1908 and 1910 the number of Africans in northern Transvaal locations almost doubled from 52,500 to 101,700; those living on unsurveyed Crown land dropped from 109,000 to 90,000; and those on white-owned land, although still the majority, decreased from 175,800 to 168,000.[52] A common African reaction to the anti-squatter laws and the increasingly overcrowded locations was for families to club together and purchase land, initially held in 'trust' but after 1905 in freehold. Between 1910 and 1912 Africans in the northern Transvaal purchased more than 16,000 morgen of land worth over £15,000 and by 1913 they held a total of 71,500 morgen in freehold.[53]

The Natives Land Act of that year was a compromise between mining and landed capitalist interests. It promised on the one hand to extend the rural locations as labour reserves for the mines, while on the other hand it promised, first, to provide farmers with labour, by acting against rent tenancies and, second, to prohibit Africans from owning land outside areas 'scheduled' for their occupation. Land bought by a combination of more than six Africans had to be purchased on a tribal basis and held by the Minister of Native Affairs for the tribe concerned. In later years, the term 'tribe' became a synonym for African purchasers of land in scheduled areas; as one northern Transvaal attorney stated in 1930, 'a Tribe is a syndicate of ten to fifteen families which buys land and elects a chief and petty chief.[54] The Land Act also encouraged labour tenancy by proposing a graduated tax, in effect an annually increasing fine, on those landowners who accepted rents from Africans in cash or kind. But this section of the act could not be implemented until sufficient land had been released to cater for those rent paying 'squatters' who refused to become labour tenants. For two decades after the Land Act Africans were to retain a precarious hold on their land through the rent tenancy or 'Kaffir farming' system.


In purely economic terms it continued to pay Africans to remain independent producers on company or Crown lands. Here they intermittently paid rent and grazing fees, whereas under a labour tenancy relationship the family head or his sons were required to work for three months each year without pay.[55] Many white farmers automatically entered into rent paying tenancies with the residents on their farms for, as one northern Transvaal chief stated, 'when a white man buys a farm he finds trees, bushes and natives on that farm'.[56] A farmer who did not have the capital needed to exploit his land directly would rent out one section and reserve another part for his labour tenants. The persistence of 'Kaffir farming' in the northern Transvaal almost two decades after the passage of the Natives Land Act implies that labour tenancy agreements continued to favour African workers. If the latter felt that the terms of their tenancies were turning against them, they would frequently desert their employers by moving to rented land. They also exercised the more radical alternative of moving on to government land, reserves or mission farms, or of purchasing farms within scheduled areas.[57]

The preceding paragraphs have stressed that the geographical movement and dispersion of Tsonga-speakers in the Transvaal initiated by the early migrations were increased in the early decades of the twentieth century by the impact of capitalist development. Tsonga-speakers lived scattered throughout the northern and eastern Transvaal and they exhibited little ethnic consciousness, no desire to form centralized political units, and they made no claims to an historical homeland. In 1935 the government ethnologist explained that 'the Tsonga in the Transvaal are, with some exceptions, not organized into tribes at all, but represent a large formless population, the make-up of which almost defies analysis'.[58] Missionaries, farmers, the Native Affairs department and anthropologists all remarked on the mobility and progressive industry of Tsonga-speakers who lived in decentralized political communities with shallow historical roots and readily adhered to new customs and values.[59] Local people tended to regard the high achievement motivation of these coastal parvenus with a mixture of hostility and resentment, and Tsonga-speakers in the north-eastern Transvaal soon acquired a stereotype of being pushy and aggressive. At the same time, the undermining of the old forms of political consciousness and patronage centred around the chief allowed a greatly extended and more flexible sphere of social and economic exchange. Out of this fluid situation arose a new class of emergent petty bourgeois farmers who, equipped with vernacular literacy, were to lay the basis for the emergence of a Tsonga ethnic consciousness.

The Erosion of the African Position

As early as the turn of the century, it was noted that African producers in the northern Transvaal annually supplied Pietersburg and Pretoria with 'thousands of bags' of grain and that African maize production in the Zoutpansberg exceeded production in other areas of the Transvaal where Africans dominated the cereals market. The local newspapers frequently reported in the following vein:

The Kafirs grow enormous and increasing quantities of mealies [maize]; quantities so much in excess of their own requirements that the district supplies more of this indispensable article of food for native labourers on the Rand fields than any other part of South Africa.[60]

African production of cereals for the market was encouraged by both traders and the mines. Nor was the state willing to act against Africans who provided an important source of government revenue; in the years immediately following the


Anglo-Boer War the direct taxes paid by northern Transvaal Africans to the government more than quintupled to £140,000[61] It is clear that a relatively prosperous, if small, class of African farmers was emerging at the expense of their peers. Evidence for this lies in the purchase of land by individuals who themselves took on rent paying tenants. In 1911 there were 2000 'Shangaans' living on an African-owned farm in the eastern Transvaal and, five years later, there were some 10,500 Africans living on land held in freehold by Africans in the northern Transvaal.[62] Some of these farmers commanded an annual income of £500 and virtually all had adopted the plough which, together with draught oxen and wagons used for marketing purposes, required a considerable capital investment. Some market-orientated cattle farmers had herds of up to 300 head. Thus by 1930 a number of African farmers had emerged who were able to rent out land and annually market several hundred bags of grain as well as fairly substantial numbers of cattle.[63] In evidence given to the Natives Economic Commission of that year, it was stated that in the northern Transvaal over the previous forty years, ' . . . [African] marketed produce has increased. This increase is considerably greater than the increase in population.'[64] According to another witness, 'You will find to-day that [the Africans] have raised tens of thousands of bags of Kaffir corn purely for market purposes and the greater portion of that money which they get for their corn is to pay for land and to buy land.'[65] But the growth of this African petty bourgeoisie was abruptly truncated in the 1930s as the government intervened in the northern Transvaal to halt the growing poor white problem.

The destruction of northern Transvaal farms by the British during the Anglo-Boer War had pushed increasing numbers of already poor Afrikaans farmers into a marginal existence. In many instances landowners found it more profitable to enter into tenancy relationships with Africans rather than politically more powerful Afrikaner peasants or bywoners .[66] Although large numbers of whites lived in conditions of extreme poverty in the northern Transvaal, they received little sympathy from the government and, considered 'indolent, lazy and indigent', were treated as a social rather than an economic problem.[67] The government did however make available a large number of small farms on long lease and with the option of easy purchase in the poorly watered northern districts. But this merely compounded the problem, for by the early 1930s these uneconomic cattle farms had become desperately overgrazed and were occupied by large numbers of settlers subsisting largely on game and maize meal.[68] It was only in the 1930s, as Afrikaner nationalist politicians under the leadership of D.F. Malan sought to mobilize political support along ethnic lines through the building of new class alliances, that the central government took steps to solve the poor white problem in the rural northern Transvaal.

In the early 1930s, when depression and drought threatened to overwhelm the farming sector, the government supplied white farmers with cattle feed and financial aid. Similar aid was not extended to African farmers whose ability to market their grain crops was severely impaired by the high mortality amongst draught oxen and donkeys.[69] Most importantly, large-scale government-sponsored land settlement schemes were introduced to relieve the pressure on the overgrazed northern cattle farms. But the settlement of poor whites on over 36,000 morgen of irrigable land, particularly along the upper Levubu, required the removal of thousands of African tenant farmers.[70] At the same time tenancy relations started to turn against African squatters as the price of land climbed, from an average of 27s per morgen in 1918 to 34s in 1933 with the government paying as much as 180s for irrigable land on the upper Levubu in


price of land rose, white farmers decreased the amount of land available to tenants and limited their rights to graze livestock. Grass burning was restricted and fencing reduced a tenant's rights to commonage. Threatened by a re-emergence of anti-squatter legislation and by the effects of the Depression, speculators started to sell farms that, in many cases, were occupied by over 1000 African tenants. As the the number of 'private reserves' declined and farmers increasingly directly exploited their lands, the amount of labour they demanded increased, and by the the 1930s it was expected that a worker's wives and children would be included in any labour tenancy agreement. The transformation in the 1930s of a large part of the African peasantry into a landless proletariat was movingly captured by a mission-supported African newspaper published in the Spelonken whose editors remarked in 1932:

We are gradually being dispossessed of the land which we and our ancestors, from time immemorial, occupied. Daily we see big parties emigrating from their old homes (because the farmer has bought the farms and requires them to work) to places they might live in security and with freedom. But alas! such a place is nowhere! They may perhaps go to the locations but they will experience in the course of time that they are in no better position as the locations are congested and barren of vegetation.[71]

Three years later a similar editorial stated that:

Things are rapidly changing and many landowners [have come to] live on their farms where they earn their livelihood through farming. As a result many natives are now turned out from such land to give room to cattle crops, mealie lands and tree plantations.[72]

As wealthy farmers restricted the amount of land available to African tenants, the latter were obliged to spend more time in search of urban employment which made them and the whole labour tenancy system 'unreliable' in the eyes of the farmers. But most farmers could not afford to pay wages and were locked into the labour tenancy system; some 60 per cent of Highveld farmers were estimated to run Lowveld labour farms and even the Member of Parliament for the Zoutpansberg district maintained three 'squatter' farms. Thus when Chapter Four of the Natives Trust and Land Act of 1936 required farmers to pay a licence fee for each African tenant termed a squatter who performed less than six months' labour service annually, the Zoutpansberg Farmers Union demanded that the chapter be made nonapplicable to their district. If more than three months' labour service were demanded, it was estimated that 25,000 labour tenants would desert their farms.

The crisis of the 1930s showed that the chiefs had little power to protect their followers living outside the reserves, while within the reserves farming was becoming less viable because of the influx of people from the surrounding white farms. Chieftaincy as an institution had been eroded and people were looking for leadership to other political institutions, particularly those led by the rising petty bourgeoisie.

The Waning of Chiefly Power

In frontier areas like the Zoutpansberg, where the ratio of blacks to whites in the first decade of the twentieth century was estimated at 100:1 and where a police force of fifty had to cope with a population of over 300,000, chiefs had of necessity performed the role of paid civil servants.[73] They were obliged to help


collect taxes and supply labour for public works and farms and prevent what the government declared to be poaching, the destruction of state forests and the consumption of illicit liquor. Native Commissioners were unanimously opposed to the detribalization process as the chiefs 'were of great assistance in maintaining law and order'.[74] The War Office was particularly mindful that if the authority of the chiefs were to collapse it would be replaced by a wider and more unified political consciousness. As early as 1905 it warned that the breakdown of the chieftaincy system:

does not seem altogether desirable, for a general fusion of the hitherto antagonistic tribes would then be possible and this would constitute a far greater danger to the white community than is to be apprehended from any of the present tribes.[75]

This perspective dovetailed with that of ethnologists and evolutionist anthropologists such as Henri Junod who feared that urbanization and the loss of chiefly control would lead to the 'demoralization' and 'degeneration' (i.e. proletarianization) of the African population. Junod's work ossified Tsonga-speakers in a pristinely primitive tribal world. It was an unsophisticated and 'natural' world which needed to be protected by being kept apart.[76] Emerging from the same mould, the young liberal segregationist Edgar Brookes supported the creation of reserves in which Africans could 'develop along their own lines and under their own chiefs'.[77] At a time when 60 per cent of the African population lived as tenants on white farms or in the cities of South Africa, it was nonetheless commonly believed that Africans lived in 'traditional tribes'! This historically static view was perhaps best expressed in a handbook sponsored in 1934 by the South African inter-university committee for African Studies, Isaac Schapera's seminal collection, The Bantu Speaking Tribes of South Africa . Although this book claimed and probably achieved the status of 'a manual of South African ethnography', the introduction frankly stated that 'the greater part [92.5 per cent] of the book is devoted to an account of the Bantu as they were before affected by the intrusion of white civilization'. Like Schapera, Junod hoped that his work would influence native administrators to understand the exoticisms of tribal life.

At the ideological level the Native Affairs Department was strongly influenced by this strain of anthropology. Members of the Department established compilations of 'traditional laws' by drawing borders that were ethnically conceived around regularities of rite and custom. At the economic level they became increasingly aware of the need to conserve within the reserves the elements of non-capitalist society that bore a large part of the costs of the reproduction of the urban labour force. For, as capitalist development undermined and transformed 'squatting' and the old forms of production in the reserves, it also disintegrated the system of exploitation feeding the growth of industrial capitalism. To check this process, various laws were passed in the 1920s in an attempt to bolster the powers of the chiefs and preserve 'the tribes'.[78] In many cases, this amounted to creating chiefdoms where none had previously existed.

The 1936 Natives Trust and Land Act 'released' large areas of land in the northern Transvaal for African settlement. All 'scheduled' and 'released' land was henceforth to be purchased on a tribal basis and a Trust fund was established 'to acquire land for and on behalf of specific tribes in order to provide necessary extensions to the tribal locations'. People forced off white farms by the anti-squatter section of the act would be settled under chiefs in these areas. Chiefs


were also given the power to levy special taxes on their followers for the purchase of tribal land. They remained a central element in Native Administration: in 1938 the Native Affairs Commission recognized that

hereditary chiefs with their headmen are the instruments through which native administration works. Without their assistance it would be very much more difficult and very much more expensive to maintain the customary law and order and respect for authority which characterizes the Bantu rural population.[79]

But attempts to bolster the power of the chiefs were not merely aimed at strengthening the Native Affairs system; they were also, perhaps primarily, aimed at supporting the chiefs whose political power was increasingly threatened by the rising African petty bourgeoisie. As early as 1920, the year of the Witwatersrand mineworkers' strike, the Native Recruiting Corporation of the Chamber of Mines had expressed the fear that unless conditions on the mines were ameliorated,

the different tribes will become more and more in sympathy with one another, with a growing disregard of loyalty to their respective tribal chiefs and a fusion of common interests under the guidance of the educated classes of natives irrespective of tribe or place of origin will result.[80]

Land alienation, together with tenant and freehold forms of African land tenure had undermined the chiefs' major source of political power: their ability to control the distribution of land. Opposition from white farmers to the sale of land released by the 1936 act continued to deprive the chiefs of any real power. As the Native Affairs Commission complained in 1938, 'the authority of the chiefs and respect for tribal institutions is under continual attack owing to the landless condition of the head of the tribe. This . . . militates against the maintenance of that necessary tribal unity and control which it is the policy of the state to foster.' The popularity of the chiefs had also declined: much of the democratic element in chieftaincy as an institution had disappeared when the size of the chiefdom was petrified and chiefs became civil servants appointed by and responsible to the Native Affairs Department rather than to their own followers.

Liberals like Brookes and Schapera soon came to realize that the reserves only catered for a minority of the African population and that they were unable to perform their protective function; that chieftaincy as an institution had been transformed; and that the chiefs were no longer the sole political representatives of the African population. It was with Junod in mind that Brookes, having broken from his earlier segregationist thinking, wrote in 1934:

The influence of the old school which regarded the tribal Native as the only phenomenon of study, has been great. To those responsible for legislation and administration, it appears as the orthodox school, with the right to monopolize the term 'scientific. The glorification of tribalism and of all the customs that stand behind many of the provisions of the Native Administration Act of 1927 by which the chief has been made an important part of the administrative machinery . . . tends to assimilate all Natives to the position of tribal Natives in the Reserves. Others may be the majority but they are an embarrassing phenomenon . . . they do not live as the social anthropologists think they ought to live . . . do not think on the lines which the Native Affairs Department considers suitable for Natives. They obstinately refuse to develop on their own lines.[81]

A new school of social anthropology, sensitive to the question of social change, saw major transformations taking place in the ethnic consciousness of people


living in the northeastern Transvaal. In 1938 Eileen Krige reported that

peaceful conditions, closer contacts between members of different tribes in the service of the white man, subjection to a uniform system of European law and administration which calls forth similar responses among different tribes, all are tending towards gradual elimination of marked tribal differences and greater uniformity in tribal customs and conditions.[82]

The Consolidation of a Tsonga/Shangaan Ethnic Awareness

As the chiefs lost their power of protection and patronage, the chiefdom and clan declined as a focus of political consciousness. Within the clan new political institutions emerged that paralleled those of the chief. These included firmly hierarchical women's organizations associated with epidemic forms of spirit possession and politically structured competitive dance groups.[83] It was the rising petty bourgeoisie that benefited most from the undermining by capitalism of the old mode of production, from the tenancy and freehold land tenure systems, and from the breakdown of the powers of the backward-looking chiefs. As the chiefdom deteriorated as the centre of economic life and political identification, a new ethnic culture, engendered and encouraged by the petty bourgeoisie, started to play an increasingly integrative role in rural society.

The petty bourgeoisie emerged as an alternative source of political leadership to that of the chiefs through organizations such as the Native Vigilance Association. This political movement was formed in Pietersburg in the early twentieth century and campaigned for African rights through its newspaper, written in North Sotho, Tsonga and English, Leihlo lo Babatsho ('The Native Eye'). Many of the same issues, particularly regarding segregation and land alienation, were later taken up by the northern Transvaal branch of the African National Congress as well as by groups associated with the Communist Party and the northern Transvaal section of the Joint Council System. Many were also to find a political voice through membership of Mission and Ethiopianist churches. But while the petty bourgeoisie expressed itself on one level in national terms, at the regional level it began to foster and articulate an ethnic consciousness.

At the centre of this movement was the Swiss Mission which controlled Lemana college, the only senior educational institution for Africans in the northeastern Transvaal. The annual synod of the Swiss mission was also the only institution linking literate Tsonga-speakers throughout the Transvaal. The political ideology of the mission was strongly influenced by Henri Junod's concept of Tsonga-speakers as a 'tribe' and by the self-help schemes of Booker T. Washington, which had so many parallels with the successful Afrikaner nationalist movement.

The ethnic consciousness expressed by the Tsonga-speaking petty bourgeoisie tended to be a defensive reaction to the politicization of ethnicity. This may be traced to the actions of men like John Dube and Pixley Seme, who sought to mobilize rural support on an ethnic basis after having been ousted in 1917 from the leadership of the South African Native National Congress by the Rand-dominated Transvaalers. The assertiveness expressed by numerically larger and politically more centralized and confident ethnic groups such as the Swazi and Zulu surged forward in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Encouraged by white segregationists, this ethnic assertiveness found expression at all levels of African society and threatened to marginalize disparate and unorganized peoples such as


those considered to be 'Tsongas'. Ethnicity had to be mobilized to maintain the balance of power within the African nationalist movement. The rise of ethnic awareness also indicated a shift in the awareness of the petty bourgeoisie away from politics at the national level, with its more abstract concern for civil rights, towards local issues. These had become of crucial importance because of the extreme social and economic dislocation in the rural areas caused by proletarianization and betterment schemes. Tsonga-speakers also laboured under the very real fear, first expressed at the time of the land commissions, that, as immigrants into the northern Transvaal, they did not have a secure historical tenure to their land. They were subject to attacks such as that made by a Venda headman when addressing the Eastern Transvaal Natives' Land Commission in 1916:

You must take no notice of these Shangaans. They are no good. We are Bawendas here. These Shangaans came to the country. . . . You must remove the Shangaans. There will not be enough room [for us both]. Take the Shangaans away.[84]

Tsonga-speakers were not the product of a military tradition and had no paramount chief to represent their interests, factors which made them inferior to the more politically centralized ethnic groups in the eyes of many whites and blacks. Consequently, Tsonga-speakers were divided by the Native Affairs Department into administrative districts dominated by Venda or Northern Sotho chiefs, while within the black urban areas they were marginalized as a minority group. The reasons for the emergence amongst the petty bourgeoisie of a Tsonga ethnicity were well expressed by the mission-educated editors of the African newspaper in the Spelonken. In 1934 they gave three reasons for the existence of their newspaper:

We want to arise . . . nearly all our brothers have risen. The Zulus have their national paper, the Xosas have their own National paper . . . the different Bantu tribes are getting up. Our second aim is to create what we call the 'Shangaans National Pride'. Too often we hear of people, Shangaans included who, when amongst nations or tribes other than theirs, are afraid of calling themselves after their own tribe. Some even go to the length of changing their names for fear they will be laughed at. A third aim is to present Shangaan idioms and the language of today.[85]

The following year the editor urged 'The Shangaan nation . . . [to] learn to respect one of its own, otherwise we shall be no people. The world will laugh at us and everyone will do as he pleases with us.' In another editorial they significantly stressed that 'the increase of land-buyers among us means the increase of investment of wealth for our race'. It also meant an increasing independence of the chiefs and a bolstering of the economic power of the petty bourgeoisie.

Appeals by the petty bourgeoisie to an ethnicity that stretched well beyond the borders of the individual chiefdoms gave them a source of political power, at the regional level, that was not controlled by the chiefs. The rise of an ethnic consciousness also tended to obscure the class divisions accelerated by the economic crisis of the 1930s, for as the ability of the petty bourgeoisie to purchase land was restricted and their productive capacity undermined, they turned to rentier incomes and invested their profits in education. But although ethnicity tended to be the product of a petty bourgeoisie literate in Tsonga and equipped with a sufficiently wide social and economic horizon to be able to incorporate all Tsonga-speakers, it also had roots at a more popular level.


From the late 1850s 'amaTonga' and 'Shangaan' workers were recruited and travelled in batches, consisting of men from the same home areas, along recognized routes to areas of employment scattered throughout South Africa. By the late 1870s a form of nascent worker consciousness linked these Tsonga-speaking communities in much the same way as the 'tramping systems' of England or the tour de campagnonnage of France.[86] It was in the schools on and around the mines that many 'Shangaan' men first acquired a basic literacy in the Tsonga lingua franca of the Swiss mission. On the mines, 'Shangaans', because of the distance and the impoverished nature of the area from which they came, were prepared to do dangerous and heavy manual work and consequently took on the occupational stereotype of underground labour.[87] Working in ethnic teams at the rock face bred solidarity. Miners were housed in ethnically segregated rooms and barracks in the mine compounds and their representatives and policemen were appointed on an ethnic basis.[88] In a harsh and often hostile world, ethnicity took on some of the functions of the extended family. From the mining capitalists' perspective, the tribal structuring of the compounds cushioned the impact of industrialization by retaining the 'moral restraints and standards of tribal life'.[89] This allowed the mines to argue that tribal (migrant) workers were too unsophisticated to appreciate trade unions and, more importantly, caused working class consciousness to be divided along ethnic lines. As early as 1913, a government report considered that 'inter-tribal jealousies have always rendered it possible, in the last resort, to protect Europeans by utilizing one tribe against another', a view that is still today held by many mine employers.[90]

These divisions were compounded by the traditional desire of men from the same home area to work and be housed together. Thus Tsonga-speakers tended to gather on certain mines and the home friend network, with its sense of continuity for the migrant, has always been a centre of social activity.[91] Ethnic competition has been encouraged by the organization of recreational activities on the mines. From the initiation of tribal dancing, dance teams and their supporters were defined and separated along ethnic lines.[92] As many dance movements were brought from the home area, they were easily distinguishable from 'foreign' dance styles and further entrenched these differences by parodying and stereotyping their competitors. In this way, an ethnic identity has been concretized and, as a Chamber of Mines pamphlet stated in 1947, 'competition between the tribes is encouraged.'[93]

Ethnic competition was also fostered in various other ways, such as the installation of noticeboards which urge workers to vie with each other along ethnic lines over such issues as room and barrack cleanliness and absenteeism. Promotion has often been dependent on ethnic patronage. The competition between groups of workers on the mines was commonly expressed in songs such as:

Take off your [dancing costume] skins!
There is no relish left, you Shangaans!
It has been eaten by the Sotho and Xhosa,
And we will not get it.[94]

This emerging ethnicity had a contradictory effect on the development of a working class consciousness. While it divided and weakened the labour movement as a whole, ethnicity strengthened segments of the workforce. For without trade unions to represent their interests, workers often sought political and social solidarity in a shared ethnicity. As early as 1907, a Benevolent Society was formed by largely Tsonga-speaking East Coasters on the Witwatersrand to


help sick members, to provide burials, and to aid Christian proselytizing at home. Concomitantly, groups such as the African Union of Natives of Mozambique emerged on the mines with distinct political interests.[95] In the absence of broad working class organizations, workers often used ethnic ties to mobilize themselves in the interests of their class, and Shangaans as a group, often in concert with other ethnic groups, played a militant role in initiating boycotts, work stoppages and strikes. The contacts which the home group maintained with its area of origin also gave it the power to influence recruitment, which in turn pressured employers to adhere to contracts. Beyond the compounds the basis of an urban ethnicity was laid when home groups with strong rural links started to form burial societies and savings groups. The sense of ethnic community that emerged on the mines and in the urban areas was constantly funnelled into the rural areas by men returning home. These 'sons abroad' had developed an ethnic consciousness as a means of survival in an unfamiliar and competitive world and they spread their ideas and experiences into rural areas where people had little concept of the existence of a Tsonga or Shangaan 'people'. The emergence of this ethnic consciousness was the product of a complex interaction of forces; these were as much working class as they were petty bourgeois; as much urban as they were rural. It was also to become increasingly clear that ethnicity was as much an imposition of the central state, as it was a product of the people themselves.

The Role of the Apartheid System

In 1948 the Afrikaner National Party came to power with a policy aimed at transforming the reserves into African homelands. In numerous speeches, the new government's ministers stressed the central role of the chief and tribe in the implementation of apartheid in the rural areas. In a speech, typical of the period, the Minister of Native Affairs expressed his determination in 1950 to:

reclaim . . . and restore tribal life as far as possible by seeing to it that the chiefs and the whole tribal government adapt themselves to the exigencies of our times and thereby automatically regain the position of authority which they forfeited to a large extent through their backwardness . . . the natives of this country do not all belong to me same tribe or race. They have different languages and customs. We are of the opinion that the solidarity of the tribes should be preserved and that they should develop along the lines of their own national character and tradition. For that purpose we want to rehabilitate the deserving tribal chiefs as far as possible, and we would like to see their authority maintained over the members of their tribes. Suitable steps will be taken in this direction.[96]

The first step was the passage of the Bantu Authorities Act of 1951 which bolstered the power of the chiefs by modernizing and expanding their tax basis to include all the members of the tribal authority. This gave the chiefs a new element of patronage through their control of the tribal account and through their participation in the decisions of the Regional Authority. It was estimated at the time that the northern Transvaal reserves were carrying sixteen times too many cattle and five times too many people.[97] To provide the chiefs with the ability to distribute land and in an attempt to retain the productive base of the reserves, the government started to purchase released land. In concert with the extension of the reserves and the devolution of powers to the Bantu Authorities, a renewed assault was made on African tenants living on white farms, beyond the control of the chiefs in the 'homelands'.


An amendment to the Natives Trust and Land Act in the mid-1950s stipulated that only African families settled on white-owned land before the passage of the act in 1936 were entitled to stay on white farms. All Africans who had been registered after 1936 as 'squatters', working for less than four months annually, were deprived of their rights to stay outside the reserves. The graduated fees payable by farmers for registered 'squatters' were levied uniformly and increased annually. Tenant control boards, consisting of farmers and officials, which had been established under the 1936 Act in order to check 'squatting', started to determine and restrict the number of labour tenants required by individual farmers.[98] This caused many African tenants, who had formerly 'sold' their labour to the farmers for at least four months a year, to become permanent labourers. This transformation of the farm labour force from part-time to full-time workers made as many as two-thirds of the labour tenants on some farms 'redundant', and these were then 'repatriated' to their 'homelands' as were tenant families whose younger sons had fled to the more open urban labour market.

In 1957 chiefs living on white-owned farms were threatened with the forfeiture of their chieftaincies if they refused to accept resettlement in the reserves. Squatters were also rapidly expelled as their registration fees began to exceed the rents received by the farmer. Labour tenants suffered a similar, although more gradual fate for, as farmers mechanized their methods of production and transportation and increasingly used insecticides, the value of land occupied by tenants and their livestock rose while, in relative terms, the value of their labour declined. The 'natural' movement of tenants from white farms to the reserves, caused by the capitalization of agriculture, was turned into a flood in the early 1960s when labour tenancy was prohibited in the northern Transvaal. Small white farmers were badly affected by the dissolution of the labour tenancy system as it deprived them of their cheap, 'captive' labour force and in many cases obliged them to sell their farms to highly capitalized agro-businesses. The movement of Africans off the white farms that started in the 1930s and reached a peak in the late 1960s and early 1970s reversed a century-old tendency for Tsonga-speakers to disperse throughout the northern and eastern Transvaal. Of central importance was the influx control legislation that directed this efflux from the white farms away from the industrial centres and into impoverished 'homelands'. It was in these areas that ethnicity, particularly in the form of the population relocation brought about by ethnic consolidation, was to become a crucial issue in the 1970s.[99]

The Bantu Authorities Act of 1951 did not affect the ethnically heterogeneous nature of the population living in the northern Transvaal reserves. A Tsonga homeland was not envisaged and Tsonga-speaking Tribal Authorities were grouped administratively in Regional Authorities, dominated by Venda and North Sotho-speakers in, respectively, the northern and eastern Transvaal. The first move towards an ethnic segregation of the area came from a number of northern Tsonga-speaking chiefs who felt their Regional Authority was dominated by Venda-speaking chiefs. Their calls for a separate Tsonga-dominated Regional Authority and a separate commissioner-general were made at roughly the same time that the report of the Tomlinson Commission indicated a move towards segregation on ethnic rather than merely spatial lines.[100] But it was only in 1959 with the promulgation of the Bantu Self-government Act that Pretoria asserted that "The Bantu people of South Africa do not constitute a homogeneous people, but form separate national units on the basis of language and culture.' This act formally declared the 'Shangane/Tsonga' to constitute a 'national unit' and allowed the government to accede to the Tsonga chiefs' wishes


for a separate homeland. Four Regional Authorities dominated by Tsonga-speakers were then cut out of the old multi-ethnic regional authorities in the northern and eastern Transvaal and in November 1962 they combined to form the Matshangana Territorial Authority. Seven years later a Tsonga-Shangane commissioner-general was installed and a legislative assembly was opened at the newly-constructed capital at Giyani.

The segregation of the rural areas into ethnically-defined units was paralleled by similar movements in the urban areas. In Johannesburg, culturally mixed communities like Sophiatown were torn down and replaced by townships, like Soweto, that were built on an ethnic grid. The urban population living in rural towns like Louis Trichardt and Pietersburg was also shifted and rearranged according to the apartheid policy of 'ethnic consolidation'. At the same time, Bantu education and government-controlled Radio Bantu orientated people towards the 'traditional' forms of culture dominant in the rural areas. Thus apartheid blocked the process of social integration and cultural hybridization that had emerged as the economy required a geographically mobile African workforce. Under apartheid, the movement to the towns, both spiritual and material, was increasingly directed along ethnic conduits.

The government's new divide-and-rule policy, partly stemming from its own experience of the growth of Afrikaner ethnic consciousness, generated bitter ethnic conflicts over local resources, for in the early 1960s the northern Transvaal reserves remained crushingly overpopulated and overgrazed.[101] Starting with the break-up and distribution of the funds and powers of the old multi-ethnic Regional Authorities, ethnic bitterness reached a peak as politically arbitrary borders such as roads, railways and farm boundaries were defined in order to separate the different 'homelands.' This immediately created disadvantaged ethnic minorities on both sides of the border. It is the competition for resources that has compelled many people to adopt an ethnic consciousness. This competition takes place between ethnically differentiated people living under the same chief, between ethnic minorities and a Bantustan government or between the members of different Bantustans. These pressures, together with the use by the government of physical force, have obliged large numbers of people to join the flow of labour tenants and 'squatters' into resettlement camps or closer settlement villages in the homelands.

A year after the creation of the Mashangana Territorial Authority, government implementation of its policy of ethnic consolidation resulted in large-scale forced population removals in the Bushbuckridge area of the eastern Transvaal. At roughly the same time an ethnic border was drawn between the Tsonga and Venda 'homelands' that cut well south of the Levubu river and threatened with removal 40,000 Tsonga living north, and 10,000 Venda-speakers living south of the border.[102] For these people ethnicity became of central importance overnight as did the Territorial Authority in its role as defender of the Tsonga people. Venda-speakers living south of the historical Levubu border were no longer considered integrated neighbours. They were seen in historical terms as foreigners who, in the nineteenth century, had been given asylum by Tsonga chiefs and who consequently had no right to be placed over the heads of the 'indigenous' Tsonga-speakers. The people faced with removal were threatened with great hardships as most were to be settled in the hot, dry and infertile areas close to the Kruger National Park, far from labour and produce markets. Schools, churches, clinics, homes, irrigation works, dams, debushed arable land and various other forms of immovable property constructed out of tribal levies were to be handed over to Venda chiefs and their followers, many of whom were outsiders resettled


from distant farms and 'black spots'. In these ethnically consolidated Venda areas, Tsonga teachers and principals were replaced and Venda became the medium of instruction. Resistance to this resettlement scheme was widespread and resulted in increased hardship when large numbers of people were imprisoned for cutting thatching grass and for continuing to plough their fields. The position of the disadvantaged ethnic minorities was concisely expressed in a letter from one of the affected communities to the Minister of Bantu Affairs:

We will be allowed to stay if we accept Venda laws and allow Venda to be taught to our Shangaan school children. And all the money we are paying is going to the Venda Tribal Authority . . . how can we sell our Shangaan birthright to accept the authority of a Venda man who has been imposed on us from outside?[103]

The Mashangana Territorial Authority took up the defence of 'its' people by taking the boundary dispute to court, by challenging the dismissal of the Tsonga teachers, by calling for the installation of a separate Shangane/Tsonga Commissioner-General to protect their interests, and by asking for an impartial redelimitation commission on the grounds that the state ethnologist had close links with the Lutheran Church (ex Berlin Mission) in Vendaland. Although the removals did take place in the late 1960s, it was later felt that the stolid resistance of the chiefdoms, when combined with the backing of the Territorial Authority, was to a great extent responsible for the alleviated conditions of their removal.

In 1968 the government allocated land south of the Klein Letaba river to Vendaland, a move which 16 years later, according to a Gazankulu Bantustan government memo, continued to 'cause friction and poor relationship between the Shangaan and Venda . . . the situation is tense and violence may break out at any time'.[104] Despite this hostility the government continued to enforce ethnic identities on the African population through the passage in 1970 of the Bantu Homeland Citizenship Act. According to the Minister of Bantu Administration and Development, the object of this bill was to:

mature the slumbering national pride and in this way to develop the spiritual and cultural assets of that national milieu and to help develop a healthy self-respect and national pride.[105]

In 1973, the year that the Territorial Authority became the 'self-governing' Bantustan of Gazankulu, the delineation of one of its southern borders led to threats of war being made in the Giyani legislature against the Northern Sotho of the Lebowa Bantustan.[106] Further ethnic hostility arose over the allocation of the eastern Transvaal Shiluvane mission hospital to Gazankulu in mid-1981. This caused the chief minister of Lebowa to remove all Northern Sotho patients, nurses and hospital staff to nearby 'Sotho hospitals' and to ban the Tsonga Presbyterian Church (ex Swiss Mission), which he held responsible for the government action, from at least one area of Lebowa. Because of the ethnic bitterness generated by this affair, southern Tsonga-speakers in 1984 would rather spend the money and time involved in travelling an extra 60 kilometres to a Tsonga hospital' than face possible ill-treatment at the nearby 'Sotho hospital'.[107] In an area of the eastern Transvaal where the Tsonga-speaking Nkuna and Sotho-speaking Maake chiefdoms had lived in harmony for almost 150 years, ethnic antagonism was fanned by the forced removal of several thousand Sotho from land incorporated into Gazankulu. Those who refused to accept the rule of an imposed Tsonga chief or who used grazing or arable land or cut wood or grass in areas from which they had been removed were arrested by the Bantustan


authorities.[108] This simmering ethnic antagonism led to violent conflicts in mid-1985 between 'Tsongas' and 'Pedis' (North Sotho) in the southern Mhala and Ritavi districts.[109]

The unfinished demarcation and arbitrary nature of 'ethnic borders' continues to give rise to much inter-ethnic bitterness as ethnic solidarity has emerged as a vital element in the mobilization of people in defence of their property. This has inevitably lent a degree of legitimacy to the Bantustan government as the political embodiment and protector of the Tsonga people. Hudson Ntsanwisi, the chief minister of Gazankulu, excused Tsonga actions against the Pedi by qualifying Pretoria's border delimitation as 'throwing a bone to two starving dogs'. At the same time he threatened the possibility of bloodshed if the Venda, 'the central government's beloved children', occupied a long-established Swiss mission farm that, because of border delineations, had become an island of Tsonga-speakers in Vendaland. In a related speech he declared that, 'the ethnic fires kindled by the Republican government will spread until this continent [sic ] is destroyed irrevocably'.[110] Yet the Bantustan system with its 'homeland' governments is structurally the major instigator of ethnic feeling.

Gazankulu constitutes a geographically defined and poverty-stricken colony within the borders of South Africa. Influx control and resettlement schemes have caused a gross overcrowding; the average population density per square kilometre is 76 in Gazankulu and 17 in 'white' South Africa. As a result only about 6 per cent of the population can make a bare living from agriculture.[111] In 1982 there were at least twice as many Gazankulu citizens working as migrant labourers outside the Bantustan (over 40,000) as there were wage earners within its borders (21,000). Although Gazankulu's importance within the regional division of labour has increasingly become that of a dumping ground for surplus labour and a political alternative to African nationalism, it remains a directly exploited periphery within South Africa. The 1983 estimated per capita GNP of R121 (R3157 for South Africa as a whole) does not reflect the sharp regional differences within the Bantustan. In the heavily resettled northern district only 1.3 per cent of the population can live off agriculture while farming in central Gazankulu can theoretically support 10 per cent of the population. Thus in some areas the cost of feeding and reproducing the population is still partially met by agricultural production which consequently continues to subsidize low industrial wages. Women have also come to play an increasingly important role as wage earners who commute to neighbouring white farms. Perhaps more important in the continuing system of centre-periphery exploitation is the fact that the costs of social reproduction in the Bantustans are far lower than in the urban areas whose political importance, magnified by their closeness to the centres of economic power, demands adequate supplies of clean running water as well as transport, housing, medical, educational and other facilities. In the Bantustans much of the cost of providing these services falls on the members of the tribal authorities, a factor that tends to reinforce the underdevelopment of peripheral areas such as Gazankulu.[112]

One of the few legal ways in which Africans may oppose their regional exploitation is through political mobilization along ethnic lines. This was certainly a major reason behind Ntsanwisi's formation in 1981 of a political party named Ximoko which, modelled on Chief Gatsha Buthelezi's Zulu Inkatha organization in Natal, promotes 'worthy indigenous customs and traditions' and attempts to unite all Tsonga/Shangane against the land claims and imposition of 'independence' by Pretoria. The allied Gazankulu Women's Association wishes 'to revive what our ancestors were doing' and promotes games, cooking, dress,


music and dances that it defines as 'Tsonga/Shangane'.[113]

While much of Gazankulu has been reduced to the status of a proletarian dormitory for the industrial areas of South Africa, sections of the petty bourgeoisie have benefited from the Bantustan system for as Gazankulu citizens they are protected from 'foreign' entrepreneurial competition. The Bantustan government provides business loans and a wide spectrum of licences to its citizens. In 1983 it controlled over half of the jobs and, in the form of pensions, a further 45 per cent of all regular incomes generated within Gazankulu. It is common for members of the petty bourgeoisie to adopt and stress their Tsonga identity when competing for control of, or access to, those limited resources.

The chiefs are the other major local beneficiary of the Bantustan system and because of this they tend to stress factors, such as ethnicity, that link rather than divide the different chiefdoms. When Gazankulu became self-governing in 1973 the electoral system was structured so that of the 68 members of the legislative assembly, 42 were delegated by the Bantu authorities and hence, ultimately, by the chiefs. Of a five man cabinet, it was prescribed that not more than three and no fewer than two had to be chiefs.[114] The chiefs monthly income, paid directly by the Gazankulu government, is partially dependent on the number of his followers, from whom he draws a plethora of taxes. If he has sufficient subjects, a chief earning R2,400 a year will be appointed to a seat in the Giyani legislature at the annual salary (in 1985) of R12,400 which makes him eligible for ministerial positions remunerated at over R50,000 annually.[115] These salaries, in a poverty-stricken rural backwater, provide a strong encouragement for chiefs to accept resettled Tsonga-speaking people with whom the dominant clan and the tribal authority have no relationship other than that of a shared ethnicity. As the local organizers of Ximoko, the chiefs use ethnicity to bind their heterogeneous tribal authorities. Although they have lost to the petty bourgeoisie the final say in matters concerning labour bureaux, court cases and land allocation, the chiefs dispose of a good deal of patronage through their access to the tribal fund, which is the pool for the majority of local taxes. This gives them a firm control over virtually all local development projects from the siting of boreholes and water taps to the establishment of clinics and schools. Through their appeals to a common ethnic consciousness the chiefs and petty bourgeoisie are able to mask the sharp class and regional inequalities that have grown up within Gazankulu. At the same time ethnicity provides the petty bourgeoisie with indigenous 'traditions' and a degree of local authenticity that obfuscate its origins in, and total dependence upon, the system of exploitation controlled by the white minority government in Pretoria. As a form of social exclusivism dividing the African population, ethnicity creates an external enemy that, unlike Pretoria, which in 1985/6 provided well over 65 per cent of the Bantustan's budget, is not responsible for the monthly salaries of the Gazankulu bureaucracy.[116]

The debates of the Gazankulu legislative assembly are full of rhetoric aimed at the 'Tsonga nation' and the 'Tsonga people'; they rejoice when Tsonga-speakers 'come back home' and decry 'the loss' of Tsonga-speakers who refuse to move to Gazankulu. Conflicts that are in reality between Bantustans over access to resources are often portrayed as attacks on 'the Tsonga-Shangaan people'.[117] The creation of an historical basis for this ethnic consciousness has required some myth making. According to Ntsanwisi:

We are told that we must build a nation and we want to build ourselves. We want to unite the Shangaan-Tsonga tribes into one single cohesive unit from Komatipoort through to the Sabi river, Bushbuckridge, Letaba, right up to


Malamulele where we have many of our people. We have a common history, customs, language, religion, similar aspirations and a common way of life which will make it easier for us to develop a national spirit and character.[118]

Ntsanwisi has tried to foster ethnic unity in various ways. The myth of origin of an important local clan has been adopted as a 'traditional' symbol, linking all Tsonga-speakers in the Transvaal in the belief that they are descended from a pair of founding ancestors.[119] An ethnically-based nationalism is fostered by the Gazankulu radio service and newspaper, by symbols such as a national flag and administrative buildings, the continual codification of Tsonga-Shangaan law and particularly the education system. In the towns, an ethnicity has been encouraged by associations such as the Mashangana Urban Movement and the Tsonga Cultural Academy which have deep roots in the Bantustan.[120]

Tsonga-Shangaan ethnic nationalism within Gazankulu is spread at a more popular level by the clientalism of the petty bourgeoisie. The patronage dispensed by the old individual chiefs has been replaced by that of the tribal authority and Bantustan government which provide villagers with pensions, jobs and anything from a bus service to drought relief aid. This popular ethnicity is often expressed in the form of songs that praise 'Gazankulu' and 'the Gazas'. Songs and other forms of social expression can take on an extremely aggressive tone when sung by people who have been forcibly removed from their birthplaces by the citizens of neighbouring Bantustans. They will often use the derogatory term 'Vesha' when referring to outsiders like the Venda or Northern Sotho. Various songs proclaim that Tsonga women should not marry Venda or Sotho men, that the latter 'stink' or, accompanied by threatening dancing and gestures, call on the members of the chiefdom to 'kill them all, the Vendas'.[121] Most of these songs were composed during times of friction caused by the imposition of ethnic borders. But the animosity that they propagate lives as long as their popularity.

The sentiment of ethnic separation is reinforced when neighbouring people refer to Tsonga-speakers, not in a polite manner as 'Tsongas', but in a derogatory way as 'Tongas', 'Koapas' or Thokas'. In areas that have experienced a high degree of ethnic tension, people will claim that Tsonga-speakers have an offensive smell, that their cooking is unpleasant and their manner of dress obnoxious. It is of little relevance that these grounds of exclusion can, at best, be traced to localized brands of soap or fats or to regional forms of dress and cooking. What is important is that some people believe that Tsonga-speakers, as a group, dress, cook and even smell the same. Here the cultural factors of exclusion have become so extreme as to politicize the basic senses of smell, taste and sight. This change in the perception of reality both fuels, and is fuelled by, ethnic hostility.


This chapter has stressed that ethnicity has not grown out of the old values and symbols associated with the chiefdom or out of an inadequate modernization. The façade of traditionalism that is presented by the chiefs is interpreted by modernization theorists as an index of the degree to which primordial ethnicity has withstood the pressures of capitalist development. Ethnicity is viewed in residual or at best transitional terms: as a phenomenon that will disappear as the development of a modern economic infrastructure allows the dominant culture associated with capitalism to penetrate and transform provincial cultures. The Afrikaner National Party holds a more static pluralist view of South Africa as a land inhabited by different peoples, each with its own ethnos . These views of


ethnic identity as a natural order, as a remnant or atavistic manifestation of a historically concrete social unit, result at the ideological level in federal and Bantustan political policies.

Ethnicity is a central concept in South African politics. It is used by the South African government to divide the African population and by some Bantustan politicians, such as Ntsanwisi and Buthelezi, to mobilize opposition to homeland independence. Within the national liberation movement one wing calls for the denial and suppression of ethnic differences in the cause of national unity.[122] The other wing recognizes the power of ethnicity as an instrument for political mobilization at the regional level. The Freedom Charter which is adhered to by the major part of the national liberation movement, holds that:

While we do not encourage 'tribal pride'—in fact we denounce it—we are far from being indifferent to traditions, languages and cultures of individual ethnic groups; we do not propagate ethnic nihilism . . . our reality is a multi-ethnic society. We respect and strive to develop all local languages and cultures and this helps us to combat all forms of reactionary nationalism, chauvinism and ethno-centricity; it also helps us to improve inter-ethnic relations thus facilitating the drive towards national and social emancipation.[123]

I have argued that ethnicity should be seen in processual terms as the historical product of internal colonialism. But it has been stressed that ethnicity should not be seen in simple terms as the response, within one region, of a uniform class with identical interests to a situation of core-periphery exploitation and underdevelopment. Ethnicity has emerged out of the acceptance and propagation by various classes of cultural symbols that cut across class barriers and distinguish and unite people as 'Tsonga'. Ethnicity is thus a fluctuating, situational expression of group identity aimed at the achievement of specific political ends. The expression of an ethnic consciousness does not eradicate narrower loyalties to chief and clan; these can coexist with other feelings of class, national or religious consciousness. The individual will adopt, in response to a specific situation, any one of these identities for the purpose of group mobilization. Nor is ethnicity merely a product of Bantustan politics, and it is unlikely that the abandonment of apartheid and the Bantustan system will end the regional underdevelopment which, through the politicization of cultural differences, is one of the major causes of ethnic exclusivism.

Missionaries, Migrants and the Manyika: The Invention of Ethnicity in Zimbabwe

Terence Ranger

Introduction: Politics Through a Tribal Lens

Over the last twenty years there have been all too many conflicts in Zimbabwean African politics—conflicts between and within African parties and guerrilla movements, divisions between voters, strains within the cabinet and government of Zimbabwe. There have also arisen a number of schools of interpretation of such divisions. Some see them in terms of class conflict; others, however, see them in terms of ethnicity. They invoke not only the allegedly 'traditional' hostility between the 'Ndebele' and the 'Shona', but also an asserted conflict between Shona sub-ethnicities, the so-called 'Korekore', 'Zezuru', 'Karanga', 'Kalanga', and 'Manyika'.

Thus in March 1976 an international commission of inquiry, appointed by the Zambian government and composed of representatives from a dozen or so African states, reported on the murder of Herbert Chitepo, then National Chairman of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), in March 1975. The report found that Chitepo had not been killed by a Rhodesian agent. He had instead been a victim of the 'mutual hatred and suspicion among the tribal groups' within ZANU. The commission found 'abundant evidence of tribal and regional manifestations in ZANU'. In particular, it found that Chitepo's death was the climax of a struggle for power between the Manyika and the Karanga. The victorious Karanga, now supreme in the party's command, had eliminated the Manyika Chitepo.[1]

In May 1976 Ndabaningi Sithole, who was then struggling to regain the leadership of ZANU, endorsed these findings. In an open letter, calling on all Zimbabweans 'to do away with tribalism and regionalism', he analyzed the successive elections to ZANU's central committee in terms of tribal rivalry:

The main thesis of my letter is that ZANU as we had first formed it became constantly subject to a process of tribalization or regionalization so that it completely lost the nationalist perspective . . . When we formed ZANU in 1963 it was called the Zimbabwe National Union, but by 1974 and at the beginning of 1975 it had become in practice Zimbabwe African Tribal Union . . . If the death of Herbert Chitepo is to be associated with any 'ism', it cannot be directly or immediately with colonialism or capitalism, but rather with tribalism or regionalism . . . If it is to be associated with any race, it can


only be the African race . . . I want everyone to know that this tribalism did not originate from the people at home but from the people outside Zimbabwe. The Karanga, Zezuru, Korekore, Ndau, Ndebele, Kalanga and other tribes in Zimbabwe are solidly united and determined to become a nation.[2]

In March 1977, by which time Sithole had set up his own splinter ZANU group, he sought to carry this analysis into practice:

In appointing the central committee, I have been guided by definite objective criteria . . . [but] in the allocation of the various offices I have been guided by the principle of ethnic balance, in order that we may forestall any ethnic manipulation of any of our political structures. In ZANU we have had tragic experience resulting from ethnic imbalances in the central committee. The allocative principle of ethnic balance will be applied to the national executive committee, the central committee, the provincial committee, the district committee, the branch executive, the high command, the general staff, all committees and to any other organs of ZANU.[3]

Sithole appointed two Ndau, two Karanga, two Zezuru, two Ndebele, two Manyika and two Korekore to his executive. Political scientists also began to adopt this style of analysis. In 1979 Ndabaningi Sithole's brother, Masipula, published his Zimbabwe: Struggles Within the Struggle . With the aid of ethnic triangle diagrams, he argued that prior to 1971 ZANU's party leadership was shared between Zezuru, Karanga and Manyika, an arrangement that had prevented straightforward 'tribal' hostility:

Competition, whether perceived in personal, tribal or regional terms, was in three directions. An individual from the Manyika group could not only rely on regional/tribal support. . . . One had to appeal at least to one other tribal/regional grouping.

After 1971, however, 'the Zezuru group pulled out', and 'bi-polarity sharpened tribal/regional competition in the party'. A deadly struggle between the Manyika and Karanga developed.[4]

The analysis spread to British commentators. In July 1979, for example, Professor Claire Palley gave an ethnic interpretation of the recent Internal Settlement elections which had been won by the 'Manyika' Muzorewa:

If the tribal basis of [Muzorewa's] support is analyzed, it will be seen that by the time of the election, his party (the UANC) largely consisted of a coalition between the Manyika, Korekore and Zezuru tribes, totalling 43% of the population. The UANC received only about 40% of the total potential vote. There is here a remarkable tribal correlation. Since Mr Chikerema led Zezuru dissidents out of the bishop's party, much of the bishop's Zezuru support has been lost. The bishop is now left with basically 25% of the African population supporting him. The Ndebele speakers support Mr Nkomo . . . The Ndau and some Rozwi support the Rev. Sithole. The Karanga by and large support Mr Mugabe.[5]

The British press and others began to reproduce and refer to maps produced by the Southern Rhodesian government which purported to show the exact boundaries of these sub-ethnicities and the exact proportion of the country's African population which each contained. Such maps often carried beneath a note to the effect that 'the above divisions are based on historical fact'. Even the Minority Rights Group, a body highly critical of the Rhodesian government and


suspicious of its propaganda, devoted a page of its Inequalities in Zimbabwe, published in December 1979, to the 'tribal background', in which it informed its readers that the Korekore constitute 12 per cent, the Zezuru 18 per cent and the Karanga 22 per cent of the African population, and that tribal rivalry 'looks set to grow'.[6]

Analyses such as these raise two main questions in a historian's mind. The first question, to which I shall return briefly at the end of this essay, is whether they provide an accurate explanation for recent conflicts. The second question, to which most space will be devoted, is from where the idea of such entities as the 'Manyika', the 'Zezuru', and the rest has come. These entities certainly do not represent pre-colonial 'historical fact', nor can they in the present be properly described as 'tribes' or 'clans', no matter that both African and European commentators employ these terms. Yet they evidently have come to possess a subjective reality in the minds not only of commentators but of participants. How has this come to pass?

Ethnicity and History

Carolyn Hamilton and John Wright have recently urged that we seek the roots of twentieth century ethnic divisions in the pre-colonial past:

The processes by which rulers and ruled in a specific region of an emerging pre-capitalist state manipulated, or sought to manipulate, concepts of group identity in pursuit of what they perceived as their particular material interests. . . . Our argument that the emergence of pre-capitalist states in south-east Africa was grounded in the development of ethnic categorization would lead us to dispute the common view that (in the words of Colin Leys) '. . . modern tribalism is a creation of colonialism. It has little or nothing to do with pre-capitalist relations between tribes'. More likely, we would argue, is that modern 'tribalism' is a creation of the impact of colonialism on forms of ethnic consciousness whose roots lie deep in the pre-colonial past.[7]

However convincing this proposition may be for the Zulu state, it does not apply in the case of Zimbabwe.

David Beach's admirable history of the Shona-speaking peoples shows clearly that before 1890 there were two 'historical realities'. One was that all speakers of Shona possessed not only a language but also many other cultural traits in common. Scattered over a large area, in contrasting environments, and pulled in different directions by trading links and military alliances, however, these Shona-speakers were not conscious of a cultural identity, still less a political one. The second reality, and the one of which Shona-speakers were conscious, was the local chieftaincy group. These numerous groups were not and never had been clustered together in self-conscious ethnicities such as are today implied by the terms 'Manyika', 'Zezuru' and the rest. At times in the past, powerful states had emerged which had exacted tribute from chiefly groups in a system of over-rule. But these states had never pulled all their subjects together into self-conscious identities, nor had they manipulated concepts of group identity in a manner which left a lasting ethnic legacy. Between the Shona culture as a whole and the local chiefly group there existed no intermediate concept of ethnicity.

Beach does show, however, that the terms Korekore, Zezuru, Manyika and the rest did have a pre-colonial currency. Each arose in a different way and had different connotations and each was available to be pressed into distorting service by the classifiers of the twentieth century. Two of the terms had long significance,


two were topographical, one was a slang term invented by an enemy.

The terms which had a long recorded history were 'Karanga/Kalanga' and 'Manyika'. When the Portuguese came into contact with the Shona-speaking peoples in the sixteenth century, they recorded that the chiefly lineages which ruled over the commoners were known as 'Karanga'. They also reported the existence of a chiefly territory which was called 'Manyika'. European usage came to transform the significance of these terms. As we shall see, the Portuguese called a large region around the Manyika chieftaincy by the name of Manicaland, and the name was picked up by the British in the late nineteenth century. Most of the peoples of this region, however, did not think of themselves as related in any way to the Manyika chieftaincy. As for the term 'Karanga', it suffered a shift both of location and of meaning. The Portuguese had used it to refer to the ruling lineages of the northern and eastern Shona-speakers. The incoming British at the end of the nineteenth century picked up this 'historic' term to describe the first Shona-speakers they encountered, naming the total populations of the southwest area 'Kalanga' and those of the southern plateau 'Karanga'.

The terms which had a topographical connection were 'Korekore' and 'Zezuru'. Beach tells us that 'Korekore gradually appeared in the north. . . . It generally meant the people of the north and northwest.' He also tells us that 'by the middle of the eighteenth century the Portuguese were beginning to refer to the people around the head of the Mazoe Valley as "Zezuru". The term meant "people who live in a high area".  The two words were, then, the equivalent of 'northerner' and 'highlander' rather than ethnic or tribal categorizations. As for the term 'Ndau', it was a derogatory nick-name given to the peoples of the eastern frontier by the raiding Gaza Nguni of the mid-nineteenth century. Beach concludes by regretting the projection backwards into 'tradition' of what have become modern 'tribal' names since, as he says, 'most of these terms were originally used in a much more restricted sense'.[8]

In this way terms which certainly did not mean to convey the idea of ethnic homogeneity in pre-colonial times were picked up in the colonial period precisely to convey that idea. Even then they did not convey the idea very successfully to rigorous observers. Thus the anthropologist Hans Holleman, writing of a number of Shona chiefships, remarked:

All these are commonly regarded as belonging to the Zezuru cluster of the 'Shona' tribes, but it is doubtful if such a classification can be justified on ethnological grounds as no detailed comparative study has yet been attempted. From a native point of view this affiliation is meaningless, as it is not supported by any special ties of a political or other nature. Few, if any, have an intelligent conception of a 'Zezuru cluster' as distinct from, say, a Karanga or Manyika cluster.[9]

The terms have no 'traditional' validity, then, nor did they correspond to any clearly perceived twentieth century 'tribal' realities. The administrative units created by the colonial government were territorially defined districts which bore no intended nor actual relationship to 'tribal' or 'ethnic' identities. Later, when the Rhodesian government began to take the idea of 'tribal politics' more seriously, it demarcated and recognized literally hundreds of 'tribes', each under its own chief. Thus, there was no incentive for Africans to invent regional ethnicities in the hope of tapping the flow of administrative patronage.

And yet, despite all this, the terms have come to possess at least that degree of reality illustrated by this chapter's opening quotations. I believe that this has happened as a result of the agency of both 'unofficial' Europeans and of


'unofficial' Africans—of missionaries and their converts and of African labour migrants. Later, when these 'unofficials' had achieved a diffused sense of 'Manyikahood', 'Zezuruness' and so on, the concepts were belatedly taken up by 'officials' and by chiefs, by the administration and by the propaganda agencies of the Rhodesian regime. I shall illustrate this generalization through the presentation of a case study of twentieth century ethnicity in parts of eastern Zimbabwe. In particular, I shall examine the changing sense of self-identification in the old kingdom of Maungwe under Chief Makoni, an area in the twentieth century constituting the greater part of the Makoni administrative district. In the 1890s no one in Makoni thought of themselves as 'Manyika'; by the 1930s most of them had come to accept that they were members of a wide Manyika identity. I shall try now to explain how this happened.

Ethnicity, History and the Early Colonial Administration

Before I can turn to the task of tracing the growth of an extended Manyika identity in the twentieth century, however, I must deal with at least three other uses of the concept 'Manyika'. The first three of these I derive from Dr H.H.K. Bhila's Trade and Politics in a Shona Kingdom: The Manyika and their Portuguese and African Neighbours, 1575–1902 .[10] For Bhila the essential historical meaning of 'Manyika' is the territory and people of chief, or king, Mutasa. 'My research was focused on the area where the Mutasa dynasty has settled since the late seventeenth century', Bhila writes, and he shows this area on a map as a relatively small zone, north and northwest of modern Mutare, comparable in size to one of the later Rhodesian administrative districts and bounded by other African 'kingdoms' which were not in any sense parts of 'Manyika' so defined. Bordering Mutasa's kingdom to the west lay the kingdom of Maungwe under Makoni, which in the nineteenth century was Mutasa's main enemy and competitor for land, cattle, women and slaves. As Bhila explains, 'the boundaries of these kingdoms were often shifted following the vicissitudes of wars'; hence the best definition of traditional Manyika was political, rather than geographical. Manyika comprehended all those who at any one time ackowledged the authority of Mutasa—and nobody else.

A second use of the concept 'Manyika', however, was developed by the Portuguese and propagated by them especially in the later nineteenth century. Claiming that the then reigning Mutasa had made a 'voluntary submission' to them in 1876, they expanded the area of 'Manyika' on their maps to cover an enormous territory to which they laid claim. As Bhila writes:

On a Portuguese map of 1887 . . . its boundaries extended along the Zambezi from Shupanga to near Tete, then south-west along the Mazoe and south by the Sabi river valley to its junction with the Odzi river, then east along the Musapa and Buzi rivers to the mouth of the Pungwe. This enormous size of Manyika was evidently fixed by political and commercial considerations. The Mazoe river valley was included because of rumours of abundant alluvial gold. The Kingdom of Manyika over which the Manyika rulers . . . exercised authority . . . was a much smaller area.[11]

This greatly inflated Portuguese Manyika did include, among much else, the territory of Maungwe but, as a merely notional and paper definition, it did nothing to affect sense of identity. In other moments, moreover, the Portuguese treated the Makoni chiefs of Maungwe as independent sovereigns and made treaties with them.


A third use of the concept 'Manyika' was that made by the British as a counter to these Portuguese claims. In their attempt to gain control of 'the Pungwe River route, which was the main water way to and from Beira', the British South Africa Company imposed 'a treaty on Mutasa on 14 September 1890'. This treaty 'provided that no one could possess land in Manyika except with the consent of the BSA Company', and once it was signed, the Company invented its own 'Greater Manyika', the western boundaries of which lay deep inside Portuguese territory, though areas like Mazoe and Maungwe, to which the Company made quite differently based claims, were excluded.[12]

Once the Company's frontiers had been fixed by means of war and arbitration, there was no longer any need to inflate the power and territory of Mutasa; rather the reverse. The old kingdom of Manyika was broken up between the two administrative districts of Umtali and Inyanga; much of its land was alienated to white farmers; and the administration was very concerned to advance a minimalist definition of Manyika-hood. 'Umtassa's country and people are called Manyika', wrote the Native Commissioner, Umtali, in January 1904. "They do not speak the same dialect as the other Mashonas.'[13] The same desire to separate Mutasa off from neighbouring peoples can be seen in the early district reports from Umtali in which Native Commissioner Hulley spelt out that the three chiefs in the district, Mutasa, Maranke and Zimunya, were of quite distinct origins, even if there was a popular tendency to refer to his district as 'Manicaland'.

So far as the administrative district of Makoni was concerned, the Native Department was concerned to emphasize the distinction between its people and the Manyika. In 1910 there was a boundary dispute between the Native Commissioners of Makoni and Inyanga districts. The Native Commissioner, Inyanga, wrote to the Superintendent of Natives, Umtali, to explain why he was collecting tax from Africans on farms which lay just within the western border of Makoni district:

There are no Makoni (Shonga) natives on any of these farms. I have always acted on your suggestion—that is I have dealt with Manyikas only . . . [Let] the Native Commissioner Rusapi deal with Makoni natives and I with Manyika. . . . No dispute should arise.[14]

The matter was so decided and the Chief Native Commissioner determined that 'the N.C., Inyanga deal with all Manyika natives and the N.C., Rusapi with all the Makoni'.[15]

It is clear from this that the Native Department firmly separated the Ungwe of Makoni from the Manyika in a political sense. The separation was also insisted upon in the cultural sphere. Thus, in 1915 a debate arose within the Native Department about the significance of the term mayiaini in relation to Manyika marriage customs. Llewellyn Meredith, who had been Native Commissioner in both Melsetter and Makoni districts which today are held to fall within 'Manicaland' and whose inhabitants are included in the percentage of the population allocated to the 'Manyika', ventured to advance his opinion about 'Manica customs and language'. He was crushed by the scorn of the Manyika specialists. The Superintendent of Natives, Umtali, mocked Meredith's ' 18 years experience of Manyika customs gathered in other districts', and invoked the authority of Archdeacon Etheridge, the leading missionary expert on Mutasa's chiefdom. 'I do not of course know,' wrote Etheridge, 'what word may be used in Chindau, or Chirungwe, the dialects spoken in Melsetter and Rusape [Makoni] districts, but as regards Chimanyika there is no question at all.'[16]

In short, nothing in the pre-colonial history of eastern Zimbabwe had


predisposed the people of Makoni to think of themselves as 'Manyika', and the colonial administration—by means of its decisions on district boundaries and by its issuance of registration certificates which included an official allocation of 'tribal' status—actively told them that they were definitely not Manyika. Posselt's Survey of the Native Tribes of Southern Rhodesia, which was issued by the Government Printer, showed the Ungwe of Makoni as one of the sixteen 'separate tribes' of Southern Rhodesia, although his map of the 'Approximate Distribution of Tribes and Languages' showed them as part of the Zezuru language zone. Posselt's classifications were confused, but the one thing of which he was certain was that the people of Makoni were tribally, culturally and linguistically distinct from the people Mutasa's Manyika.[17]

At the beginning of the colonial period the people of Makoni themselves certainly also believed that they were distinct from the Manyika. The unity of the pre-colonial Ungwe had been, in fact, a unity of political allegiance rather than a unity of a shared ethnicity. Within the Ungwe area there lived not only the related chiefly dynasties of Makoni and Chipunza, but also headmen and their followers who were the acknowledged descendants of the original occupants of the land. During the nineteenth century, and no doubt long before, small groups from the north, east, and west entered the Ungwe area as hunters, specialists, refugees and adventurers and were allowed to settle there in return for their services as smiths, elephant-hunters, diviners, rain-callers or fighters. Many of these incomers were used by the Makoni chiefs in their wars with the Mutasas of Manyika and in hostility to Manyika they forged their new political identity.

Maurice Nyagumbo's unpublished account of the arrival in Maungwe of his grandfather, Nyagumbo from 'the Nyashanu country', who had fled with his two brothers as a political refugee, is very revealing of this process:

When the three brothers and their sister arrived in Makoni's country they settled in a cave. . . . Here they were found by Makoni soldiers who suspected them of being spies. They were taken to the chief, where they were kindly received . . . Chief Makoni had become a terror to all those who surrounded his chiefdom, especially the Wamanyika of chief Mutasa. . . . It was at this time that the Nyashanu brothers and their sister arrived in Makoni's country. The sister later became Makoni's wife; the brothers joined one of the regiments of the chief. After a few raids, Nyagumbo, the youngest of the Nyashanu brothers, proved to be an excellent fighter, and he was later promoted to lead his own regiment.

Nyagumbo's regiment had a special task to perform. This was to scout and waylay enemy soldiers. After a few years as a soldier, Nyagumbo became one of the main councillors of the chief and as a reward for his outstanding achievements in the raids, he was given a slave girl of the Wamanyika tribe as his wife. . . . At that time Mutasa of the Wamanyika prepared to attack Makoni with a large army. . . . Makoni had been informed of these preparations and since he had only a limited number of soldiers he decided to move his army to a fortified hill at Mhanda. Makoni had large stores of food for his army on the hill. . . . When Mutasa arrived with his unwieldy army he found the villages deserted. . . . Then very early in the morning, as the war-drum beat and the women ululated thunderously, Makoni's army descended to meet Mutasa's army. This historic battle started early in the morning and was fought throughout the day. . . . Makoni's army, although suffering heavy losses, inflicted even greater losses on the enemy. Mutasa fled with his few remaining soldiers. . . . This was known as Pakafa dende remukaka by the Wawunge people—the calabash containing milk was smashed—because both Mutasa


and Makoni lost their most important warriors. The two Nyashanu brothers who fought in the battle were both wounded but they survived.[18]

Memories of these wars remained vivid in the early twentieth century, reminding the people of Makoni of their distinction from the Manyika. In December 1902, Archdeacon Upcher, itinerating around kraal schools in Makoni, 'passed a wooded kopje, the scene of a massacre as horrible as that of Glencoe. M'tasa surrounded the village and set fire to the houses. . . . People do not like to pass that way by night as they hear, so they say, people talking'.[19] Ungwe women, captured by the Manyika during the wars, took the opportunity of the colonial 'pacification' to escape from their masters and to return home. When, in October 1898, the Anglican missionaries, Douglas and Vera Pelly, travelled to the farm of their Zulu catechist in Makoni, they tried to persuade Mutwa, widow of the martyred Bernard Mkezi, to come back with them to Umtali so that her little son could 'be brought up as a Christian for Bernard's sake'. Mutwa's response revealed all the local dislike of and sense of distance from the territory of the recent enemy—'She said that she did not want to come and live with us as she did not like the Manyika country.'[20] And yet, by the 1930s, very many people in Makoni were defining themselves as 'Manyika'. It is precisely in the context of the missions that we must begin to search for an explanation.

Language and Ethnicity: the American Methodist Episcopal Church

There has recently been a good deal of attention given to the importance of language in defining ethnicity—what Isabel Hofmeyr has called 'Building a nation from words'.[21] Increasing attention has also been given to the key role played by missionaries in specifying African languages.[22] Three mission churches dominated the Christian history of Makoni and Umtali districts—the Anglicans, the Trappist/Mariannhill Catholic fathers, and the American Methodist Episcopal Church (AMEC). All three developed a particular vested interest in these eastern territories. The Anglicans developed their main Southern Rhodesian intellectual and educational centre at St Augustine's near Umtali, and they had by far their greatest early evangelical successes in Umtali and Makoni districts. The American Methodists radiated out from their main station at Old Umtali: unlike the Anglicans they did not have missionary bases in any other parts of the country. Their first and deepest penetrations were in Umtali and Makoni districts where they, too, scored considerable evangelical success. Although Catholicism aspired to and increasingly achieved a territory-wide presence, the Trappist/Mariannhill mission represented an odd enclave in an otherwise Jesuit domain. The Mariannhill fathers operated out of their main mission at Triashill on the borders of Inyanga and Makoni, and, from there, they spread into Inyanga, Makoni and Umtali districts. Beyond these they could not go without invading the Jesuits' sphere of influence. It was not surprising, then, that all three of these churches came to develop a strong doctrine regarding alleged special qualities of the people of these eastern districts—of what they all came to regard as 'Manyikaland'.

This doctrine was founded intellectually on the language work of the three churches. Missionary language work was of central interest and importance, both to the missionaries and to the Africans among whom they worked. Oral communication and rhetorical skills generated amongst many Africans a great


linguistic enthusiasm as well as a fascination with linguistic variations and with linguistic techniques. The missionaries possessed the linguistic skills and tools to give the people what they were interested in and curious about. The missionaries, of course, began with the attempt to understand the spoken vernacular but it was their intention to develop a written form of the language as soon as they could.

The American Methodists made their linguistic assumptions explicit. They knew that they must acquire the vernacular and they knew that to do so they had to learn from their first converts. On the other hand, they believed that Africans were longing for something which only they could give—namely, the reduction of the language into writing, with a formal orthography and regular grammar. At first, they concentrated especially on giving God's word—'We never forget', wrote Helen Springer in 1905, 'that the primary object object of our work here is to give the native the Bible and enable him to read it.'[23] Soon, however, they broadened their ambition. 'We need literature—TRANSLATIONS—for these people,' wrote J.R. Gates in 1911, 'they cannot grow without it. They are dependent upon it as every other race has been dependent upon it.'[24] 'We ourselves have hundreds of devotional and other volumes on our shelves,' wrote H.I. James, 'while they have almost nothing.' 'The situation with us as far as vernacular literature is concerned is nothing short of appalling', added Gates. 'What a supply other peoples of the world have of national life, of literature, of history. . . . But all these are absent in Africa.'[25]

These ideas attained their most impassioned expression in 1918 with two articles in the AMEC journal, African Advance . Under the heading 'And He Said Unto Me Write', one of these described the linguistic and printing work at Old Umtali. 'What would the World be today without . . . books?' it asked, 'Without a written language?' In Africa,

without a history and a literature, or the knowledge of how to make them, the shadows of the primeval forest have deepened into darkness. . . . That there has never been a written language may in some measure explain why there are nearly a thousand different spoken languages and dialects. . . . The highway to constantly rising levels of human life and living is paved with good books. Africa must have books. . . . and educational literature in the vernacular.'[26]

From the beginning, then, American Methodist missionaries worked with their converts to create a written language. On the missionary side, the great pioneer was E. H. Greeley. 'My duties have been largely with the boys', he wrote in 1901, 'and it has been delightful to talk with them and to learn their languages, manners and customs.'[27] On the African side many of the first converts and pupils from the area around Umtali worked closely with Greeley as they progressed on their way towards becoming a Christian elite. They provided the vocabulary; Greeley provided the orthography and rules of grammar. 'I am learning grammar and helping Mr Greeley in translation work', wrote Mark Kanogoiwa in 1909. 'I teach the Chimanyika primer, the New Testament in Chimanyika also.'[28] Another African pioneer was Enoch Sanehwe, a product of Old Umtali School and a subject of Mutasa, through whom, wrote Greeley in 1910, 'much of our vernacular work has reached its present stage of perfection'.[29] Others of the founding generation of African Methodism who were deeply involved in language work were David Mandisodza, Joseph Nyamurowa, Paul Mariyanga and Jason Machiwanyika, all of whom were 'Manyika' in the narrowest sense.

Between them, these converts and the missionaries had created something new—a literary instrument which in various ways differed from speech; an instrument to which the mission-educated had unique and privileged access; an instrument


which African teachers and clergy went on to use to write the histories, moral fables and collections of literature which justified their claim to be the leaders of their people. Machiwanyika, for example, produced 'hundreds of pages of history and folklore . . . a volume of material concerning the kings and their wars, and the native customs and a number of hymns of merit. . . . No native I know', wrote Greeley on Machiwanyika's death in 1924, 'spent more of his spare time for the good of his people.'[30]

Moreover, this written language in which the mission elite came to have such a vested interest was innovative in another significant way. It created rather than merely reflected one specific dialect of Shona—Manyika. In pre-colonial Zimbabwe there did not exist bounded dialect zones within the overall Shona-speaking territory. Each village spoke the 'same' language as its neighbour, across the whole territory, but there was nevertheless gradual lexical and idiomatic change so that, by the time a man from the extreme western edge of the Shona-speaking area reached the extreme eastern edge, he encountered significant differences. Missionary linguists created discrete dialect zones by developing written languages centred upon a number of widely scattered bases. The American Methodists at Old Umtali, the Anglicans at St Augustine's and the Mariannhill fathers at Triashill together produced Manyika; the Jesuits at Chishawasha, near Salisbury, produced Zezuru; the Dutch Reformed Church at Morgenster produced Karanga. Differences were exaggerated, obscuring the actual gradualism and homogeneity of the real situation. And once these new forms had been codified, they then expanded out from these missionary centres by means of the mission out-school networks until specific dialect zones had been defined. As Clement Martyn Doke, missionary and noted linguist, put it in 1931 in his report on Shona language and dialect:

Owing to the way in which Missionary work (and hence language study and literary production) has been developed in districts isolated one from the other, and Missionary Societies working independently, four distinct dialects have been pushed into prominence, viz., Karanga in the 'Victoria Circle', Zezuru in the 'Salisbury Circle', Manyika in Manicaland, and Ndau in Melsetter District. . . . The difference between the dialects has been grossly exaggerated by these artificial means . . .

For the sake of argument, let us suppose England to be a heathen country. Four distinct Missionary Societies commence work, one among the Cockneys, one among the University class, one in Yorkshire, and one in Devonshire. Each produces a translation into the 'local' vernacular, each further uses a different orthography and some split up their words into their component parts. What an enormous difference there would be between the four literary efforts; they would not be mutually understood.[31]

It was not at all the original intention of the American Methodists to create a dialect. At first they thought they were reducing the language of all the 'Mashona' into written form. When Helen Springer produced the first vocabulary and handbook in 1906 she called the language 'chiKaranga' to emphasize its links with the recorded past of all the Shona. But inevitably the language work of the mission reflected the particular forms of the language spoken among the Manyika of Mutasa. Thus, wherever they worked in the American Methodist zone of influence, they produced Manyika. In 1909 Greeley was based at Mount Makomwe among the people of Chief Maranke, whom the Native Commissioner insisted was not Manyika. In his school, he had '10 sons of the King [Maranke] and all are praying. I am diligently seeking after every possible heir to the throne.


Greeley was hoping to indigenize and localize the gospel among a people who were quite distinct from the Manyika of Mutasa. 'A hundred boys and girls are reading the Gospels in their own tongue', he exulted, 'and going out to talk it and sing it and live it.' But the African teacher with whom he worked in Mount Makomwe and who helped 'in translation work' was Mark Kanogoiwa from Umtali.[32] In 1910 Greeley remarked that four out of the seven school boys who were going on to higher training at Old Umtali from his school in Maranke were themselves 'from Mutasa's kingdom . . . part of the fruit of our labours there'.[33] Indeed, the great majority of the 'Native Pastor Teachers. The Apostles to the Manyika People. The output of our Training School', whose group photograph was published in 1916, had been born in Mutasa's chiefdom. Hence, in its formative stages, the 'language of the American Methodists' was profoundly shaped by the experience and contribution of a particular group of converts.

Fairly soon the AMEC missionaries came to accept that what they had produced was 'chiManyika', the language of the 'Manyika nation'. Greeley, who had begun his work by finding 'the language so limited as to vocabulary and especially so in words expressing religious truth', ended by admiring and loving its richness:

The Lord has helped me to say some things in the native language which I have never said in English. . . . There are greater depths in Chimanyika than you dream and while in some ways it is inferior to our world conquering English there are wonderful possibilities in using a vernacular. . . . Even Paul Mariyanga, who has been doing little else for years than translating, is constantly discovering new words and new meanings for old ones.[34]

Armed with this new literary language and with instructional and devotional materials in Manyika, teachers and evangelists poured out into all the area of the American Methodist outreach. The AMEC paid no attention to colonial administrative boundaries. So far as they were concerned, their thriving stations in the Gandanzara, Chiduku and Headlands circuits, situated in the Makoni Reserve, the Chiduku Reserve and the white farmland areas of Makoni district respectively, were an integral part of their core territory and hence 'Manyika'. Converts in Makoni were offered the full American Methodist progressive package—plough production for the market and literacy in Manyika going hand in hand. A scene recorded in Gandanzara, which rapidly became the nucleus of American Methodist entrepreneurial endeavour in Makoni district, vividly illustrates the interconnections:

In November I carried a trunk full of books and some grain bags to the quarterly meeting at Gandanzara. When the announcement was made that books would be given in exchange for grain, the children scattered in every direction. Presently they returned, each laden with a basket of grain. . . . After the purchase little groups could be seen here and there about the village, the proud owner of a new Catechism asking questions and the other children chiming back the answers.[35]

In this way a Methodist Manyika 'language' entered Makoni as one of the marks of commitment to modernization. At the same time, boys were recruited out of Makoni district to be added to the elite of potential teachers and catechists being trained at Old Umtali. In 1910 Herbert Howard, propagandist for both plough and pen, toured Makoni to hold up 'to the boys there their need for such a training as Old Umtali affords, and of the need of our church for the best boys'.[36]


Reluctance to go to live in the feared 'Manyika country' was overcome: soon teachers and evangelists for Makoni constituted a second wave of AMEC 'progressives'. They married into the families of the Methodist leaders in Umtali district and were themselves posted to yet other areas of the AMEC's outreach. As they responded to the great popular clamour for literacy which raged through these eastern regions in the 1910s, such teachers did so through the medium of the literary Manyika which was their particular and prized possession. These men from Makoni had come to see themselves as among 'the Apostles to the Manyika People'.

Such a process of assimilation and incorporation could not go on forever. Over the years the hierarchies of status and authority among the African agents of the church hardened and it was no longer possible for the bright young men of a newly evangelized district to add themselves rapidly and easily to their ranks. So, when the established teachers and evangelists from Umtali and Makoni districts spread out into Mrewa and Mtoko, they encountered a new hostility and resentment from local converts. The differences perceptible between the Manyika texts from Old Umtali and the speech of Mrewa and Mtoko were magnified by this rivalry into specifically ethnic notions. Mrewa American Methodist converts sought to repudiate foreign 'Manyika' teachers and to obtain local 'Zezuru' ones. 'It has always been recognized that there has existed a strong and at times unfriendly feeling between the Africans in the Eastern sections of Southern Rhodesia and those of the Mrewa and Mtoko Areas', noted an AMEC memorandum. 'Although both sections speak different dialects of the same Chishona language, yet the language barrier has always been exaggerated as a reason for these feelings.'[37] Nevertheless, the idiom of the confrontations in Mrewa and Mtoko served to confirm and sharpen the sense of men from Makoni district as well as men from Umtali that they belonged to a superior Manyika culture.

Language and Ethnicity: the Anglican Church

The influence of the American Methodists alone would certainly not have sufficed to make most people in Makoni district come to think of themselves as 'Manyika'. The AMEC influence was most marked in those areas of Makoni district in which relatively large-scale production of maize for the market was possible—in the Gandanzara area of the Makoni Reserve, which had unimpeded access to the Umtali urban and mining market, or in those areas of the Chiduku Reserve which were close to the district centre at Rusape or to the railway line. It was much less felt among the peasant families who produced a small surplus for sale or among those who lived so far from markets or communications that they had virtually no opportunity to sell produce: families who between them were, of course, in the large majority.[38] I have argued elsewhere, however, that missionary influence did reach these other two groups; that Anglican influence was especially strong amongst the smaller surplus producers and Catholic influence especially effective in the subsistence production areas in the east of the Makoni district.[39]

Different though their spheres of influence—and their theologies—were from those of the American Methodists, one thing the Anglicans and Catholics did share with them. They were equally committed to language work and ultimately equally committed to the production of a specifically Manyika language. The Anglicans began with a rather delightful series of speculative assertions about language. Archdeacon Upcher concluded in 1893 that 'the Mashona have two languages, High Mashona and Low, they use the former while clapping their


hands'.[40] Douglas Pelly told his parents in July 1892 that he was 'learning the language rather quickly or rather 4 tongues, i.e. all the languages between Beira and Matabele, i.e. Shangaan, Mashuna, Makone and Matabele'; which suggests that at that time he was thinking of the eastern dialects in terms of Makoni's rather than of Mutasa's people.[41] But even as they speculated, and long before they had mastered the language, the Anglicans began linguistic work.

From the beginning Bishop Knight Bruce thought of the eastern districts as the natural site for the main base of Anglican missionary work amongst Rhodesian Africans. This was partly because they were the part of Southern Rhodesia closest to the sea and to international communications; partly because he had been impressed with the evangelical potential of the region. During the early 1890s the bishop pondered where best to establish this eastern headquarters. The two possibilities were Mutasa's country or Makoni's country. In May 1893 Pelly told his parents that he had been chosen 'to start the work at Umtasa's kraal' and to build a station 'which in time the Bishop wishes to be the big station of the diocese. I shall have lots of boys, cart, oxen, etc and everything I want and am to build dwelling houses, church, native hospital, etc and also to begin teaching there. . . . Fancy being chosen to build . . . the first church and station for natives in Manica.'[42] In January 1894 the bishop himself wrote from the Mission House, Umtali, that:

The House is being dedicated by our beginning the first methodical translation into Seshona of parts of the Bible, the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments and the Creed. Our party consists of our two leading Catechists—Frank and Bernard—who have been learning the language now for 2 1/2 years, Mr Walker, who has been studying it with Frank, and Kapuiya, a Headman's son, and myself. . . . Every word in the grammar and its pronunciation has to be passed by [Kapuiya] before it is allowed to exist. The peculiarities of grammar are extraordinary.[43]

Language work thus began for the Anglicans where it had begun for the American Methodists—in Umtali district. But Mutasa's kraal turned out to be hotly contested territory; rival parties formed there, one backing the Methodists, another the Anglicans, and a third under the chief himself seeking to repudiate both of them. Knight Bruce's successor began to think of Makoni's territory as a more attractive base. After Pelly's ordination he was posted to:

Maconi's, a Mission Station to the East of Salisbury, founded by my predecessor, and a very important centre which, I hope, will become a strong 'base of operations' for work throughout the district, and, in time, develop into a 'school of the prophets', with its influence radiating through the whole of Manicaland. . . . Much, I am sure, depends upon our having one strong centre of Native work to begin with, where two or three clergy can live in community, and associated with them a number of Catechists, who shall go forth to various stations around.

The bishop planned a hospital and industrial training centre at Makoni's:

I am not eager for a mere literary education of natives. . . . English manhood and womanhood had acquired its distinctive character and nobility long before School boards were dreamt of.[44]

Despite these strictures on literate education, Pelly's work at Lesapi Mission, Makoni, began with teaching and translation. In October 1895 he told his parents that some fifteen boys 'had learnt the catechism which I have been translating and


also could sing well some hymn tunes which Bernard has taught them. . . . I am going to translate for the singing at once.' A letter in December 1895 gives a vivid glimpse of the linguistic complexity of this little station, where Pelly, the Englishman, Frank, the Zulu, Bernard, the Mozambican, and Kapuya, the local convert, worked daily:

Frank comes to my hut and I give his Bible lesson. . . . Then I read and work and copy translation. . . . Frank meanwhile gardens and helps Kapuia to read S. Mark in Zulu. . . . At half past six Evensong with Kapuia present. The hymns, creed and Lord's Prayer and Advent Collect being in Chino [Pelly's name for Shona]. Then tea followed by school, the first half taught by Frank, while I taught Kapuia English and he taught me Chino.[45]

It is intriguing for a historian of Makoni district like myself to imagine what would have been the consequence of the development here, rather than at Umtali, of the major Anglican school and language centre. Perhaps the 'Anglican language' would have come to be called 'chiUngwe' rather than 'chiManyika'. This did not happen. Chief Makoni and most of his people came out in arms during the Chimurenga Rising of 1896, sacking the mission station, while Mutasa and his people maintained a somewhat ambiguous neutrality. Thus it was determined that Anglicanism's chief centre should be established in Umtali district.[46]

The cumbrous machinery of Anglican linguistics was now focused once more on Mutasa. In August 1896 the Zulu priest, H.M. M'tobi, wrote an account of his visit to Mutasa's kraal in which he revealed both his ignorance of the vernacular and of long-established chiefly linguistic ceremony:

I am only just beginning to learn the language of this country, for although I am a native, Mashonas speak quite a different language from any that I have ever heard. . . . I have visited [Mutasa] several times, and he has spoken with me through three interpreters, although I have always taken with me a young Mashona who fairly speaks Zulu, and through whom we might speak to each other. . . . He must have seen white people being interpreted for whenever they go to see him, and he must have thought it expressive of dignity to have so many interpreters. His plan is to sit among the councillors, and then speak very lowly to the one nearest him, which passes what has been said loudly to another and then this one passes it on to the young man I always take with me.[47]

But Mutasa and his people were to have the last linguistic laugh, as their speech became the model for the Anglican Manyika 'language'.

In March 1897 the decision was taken to set up the Anglican educational and missionary base at St Augustine's College, near Mutasa, whose prestige and the antiquity of whose line began to be built up in missionary reports. Bishop Gaul described him as 'His Majesty occupying the throne of the Monomotopo dynasty, dating certainly from King Solomon's time, 3000 years ago, and who knows how much longer'.[48]

The missionary brotherhood at St Augustine's set out to learn the local language from their first pupils. Ronald Alexander, writing in December 1898, described the chaotic state of collegiate language learning at that time. 'We want this place to be a college for natives to come from all parts of the country to learn to read and write', he noted. But at that time there was only one full-time pupil, a Mozambican, upon whom they were completely dependent linguistically, together 'with three or four little boys from a kraal close by', upon whom, in turn, the Mozambican depended for his Manyika vocabulary. 'Talking is rather a slow


business', confessed Alexander, 'as one of us speaks first in English, then John [a Zulu teacher] puts it into Zulu, and then our pupil . . . puts it into Chino.'[49] But less than two years later, in August 1900, Alexander was himself engaged in the business of translation: 'Mr M'tobi and I have been translating Collects today and have done several. We appeal to the boys for some doubtful word, and then a great and often heated argument takes place.'[50] By 1904 this method, so dependent upon local pupils, had achieved translations of 'all the most useful parts of the Prayer Book . . . together with St. Mark, St. Luke and St. John.'[51] As with the American Methodists, the missionaries contributed orthography and word-division; their pupils contributed vocabulary.

Meanwhile, Pelly's first catechumens in Makoni had been scattered by the Rising and only slowly came together again. Nevertheless, when the Anglican mission in Makoni reopened at its twin centres of Epiphany and St Faith's, its clergy, and particularly Edgar Lloyd, at once resumed translation work. What happened was that Etheridge at St Augustine's and Lloyd at St Faith's collectively produced an Anglican version of Manyika.[52] 'Our educational aims will not appear very high', wrote Lloyd in 1905. 'To enable our people to read and write in their own tongue, and to understand what they read, seems the only ideal practicable and perhaps desirable at this stage.'[53] So he and John Kapuya continued language work. 'After breakfast John Kapuya arrives', wrote Lloyd. "Thanks to the labours of the priest in charge of Penhalonga [St Augustine's] . . . we no longer lack so woefully translations in the vernacular. Yet there remains much to be done and our mornings are made busy in copying and correcting translations.'[54]

Gradually Anglican language work intensified and hardened into what was no longer called 'chiNo', but 'chiManyika'. Gradually, too, teachers from Makoni and Umtali came to play the same role as their peers were playing in American Methodist work. In 1914, for example, a committee appointed by the bishop at the Native Conference was hard at work at St Augustine's; it consisted of Etheridge and Buck of St Augustine's and Christelow from St Faith's:

When they meet, the discussion of points of grammar . . . is long and learned and often loud; till two vote one way and the third is silenced. . . . What a laborious work it is, and what an immense deal there is to do. . . . Cyril, the eldest of the three native teachers living here, is relied upon most of all, I think, in the translation work. And he is constantly to be found in the afternoons, sitting by the side of Mr Buck; who must first make sure that he really understands the English, and then must get the English turned into the Chimanyika.[55]

The mission press at St Augustine's had 'three great works on hand . . . the Provincial Catechism, which was originally translated at Rusape and published by them, and now has been entrusted to the St Augustine's Mission Press'; a shorter catechism; and a reader compiled by Buck. 'Rusape have a "Lives of the Saints" in hand.'[56]

Thus, the Makoni mission remained a major centre of the production of Manyika, ultimately producing a set of 'Rusape Readers', in which the history of Makoni district was presented in the new language. Moreover, as with American Methodist Manyika, but even more so, the teachers and catechists of Makoni and Umtali, who had come to possess this new language, found themselves carrying it into other regions of Southern Rhodesia. The material published at St Augustine's was used in Anglican churches and schools throughout the territory.[57] And as white missionaries and their African agents encountered rural populations in


other parts of the country, so they came to think of the Manyika language as one aspect of a superior Manyika ethnic culture.

Anglicanism in the east was buoyed up in the late 1900s and 1910s by a grass-roots demand for learning in the new language. In Makoni district schools and churches sprang up, often under the leadership of young men who themselves took the founding initiative, setting up their own Christian villages and only later being appointed as agents of the Anglican church. The area around Umtali clamoured for teachers 'due to the general desire for the New Learning'.[58] 'Here in Manicaland', wrote Canon Etheridge in 1909, 'it is no longer a question of the conversion of individuals—it is a question of the conversion of a district—practically of a people—the Manyika.'[59] But it was very different in other parts of Southern Rhodesia, and disillusioned missionaries contrasted these with 'Manicaland' in terms which assumed an identity between language, ethnicity and culture.

Thus S.J. Christelow, earlier based at St Faith's, Rusape, was posted to Selukwe in the Midlands. In December 1914 he drew the contrast between them:

My earlier labour . . . had been at St Faith's, Rusape, where I was privileged to see the wave of enthusiasm for teaching, etc, then passing over that part of the Diocese. . . . Here it seems that many years of hard work must precede the harvest. . . . Instead of about thirty schools as at Rusape, here I have only two in my care. Perhaps you wonder why such opposite conditions exist in our diocese. Geographical position seems to have much bearing on the answer—the Mashona in the north and the Matabele in the south. The Matabele has all along been less responsive to missionary work, whereas the Mashona has, after much labour, responded to an abnormal degree. Here at Selukwe, between the two tribes, we have the Wakaranga. . . . They are bi-linguists. The old men speak fluently both the language of the Mashona and the Matabele. Further, it would seem that in habits they conform more to the Matabele and are slow in embracing the Gospel.[60]

In the same year another missionary made the same contrast: 'The Wakaranya, as the people here are called, are not nearly so keen or enthusiastic as the Manica.'[61] 'It is clear', wrote Etheridge from Selukwe in 1916, 'that we must not expect quick results amongst these Makaranga folk; they differ in many ways from those with whom we have to deal in our larger stations. . . . Much more intent upon ploughing than learning, they need different treatment from our Manica people.'[62] Nor had the situation changed by 1920. 'The Wakaranga', wrote a missionary in that year, 'are very slowly turning to God and his Church; there is no enthusiasm as there is among the Manyika people.'[63]

In this way the Anglicans gave more and more reality to notional entities such as the 'Karanga' and the 'Manyika'. And wherever else they went in the territory, they longed for the network of mission stations which gave Anglicanism in 'Manyikaland' its almost 'national' character:

It is a weird country, is Matabeleland, dry—physically and spiritually . . . with a proud native race, that shows almost no desire for education, and almost less than no desire for our religion. . . . I want to show you a few contrasts in our work between this district and Manyikaland. Manyikaland appears to me to be a garden watered from above, and with springs and rivers of water rising within it. . . . There growth came from within by native initiative; here it must be organized, and fed, and fostered. We have here no large centre humming with life and devotion, to which the out-stations look for encouragement and


with pride as their birth-place. Thus here we have no esprit de corps, we are split into tiny parishes, and there is almost no inter-communication between stations, congregations or teachers. . . . Again up north there is practically a homogeneous people, and not more than three types of Missions at work. Here the tribes are mixed up, and every imaginable type of Christianity is at work.[64]

It was, indeed, this esprit de corps, this 'intercommunication between stations, congregations . . . [and] teachers', which brought the African Anglicans in Makoni, Umtali and Inyanga districts into one Manyika identity. Thus Maurice Nyagumbo, whose Nyashanu ancestors had been integrated into Makoni by means of a shared hostility to the Manyika, but who himself was a pupil at St Faith's, regards himself and his family as 'Manyika'. In 1934 the Anglican missionary B. H. Barnes illustrated the situation with reference to language and ethnicity by taking the examples of of the peoples of chief Makoni of the Ungwe and chief Zimunya of Jindwe:

In our Mashonaland there is no single race and language which is definitely representative of the whole area. There are, instead, a large number of small tribes or clans, and almost as many divergent dialects. Any individual will declare himself to be of this or that clan and a speaker of this or that dialect. None calls himself Mashona and there is at present none who will say that his speech is Shona. You will find that he speaks Ciungwe or Cijindwi and belongs to the the Ungwe or the Wajindwi. Either of these may claim to be Manyika and to speak CiManyika, but they know nothing of a Shona race or a Shona language. . . . In the various districts you will find that the lesser divisions are already able to recognize themselves as included under one or other of four or five principal groups, such as Karanga, Zezuru, Manyika, Ndau, Korekore. The process of unification has, in fact begun . . . [uniting] neighbouring sub-dialects under the main dialects.[65]

Language and Ethnicity: the Roman Catholic Church

The third main missionary influence in Makoni, Inyanga and Umtali was the Trappist/Mariannhill mission. This established itself at Triashill a good ten years after the introduction of American Methodism and Anglicanism and at a time when the main outlines of missionary Manyika had already been laid down. Nevertheless, it made its own peculiar contribution to the spread of Manyika identity, and this for three main reasons.

The first was that Triashill and its associated station of St Barbara's was not near Umtali, like St Augustine's and Old Umtali, but rather on the border between Makoni and Inyanga districts. As its out-stations spread out eastwards into Inyanga and westwards into Makoni, Triashill served to bring together its converts across what had been a military frontier between chiefs Makoni and Mutasa. Secondly, Triashill and St Barbara's were cut off from good communications and markets by a great range of hills. The people who lived on the mission farm and the areas around it were subsistence producers and labour exporters, very different from either the entrepreneurs of the American Methodist Gandanzara or the surplus-producing peasantry of Anglican Chiduku. The Mariannhill fathers and brothers had a good deal to do with the Manyika identity in Makoni becoming more than merely an elite self-identification. Thirdly, the Mariannhill missionaries were perhaps more self-consciously concerned to stress the past glories of the 'Manyika' and to foster a sense of local pride than were either the American Methodists or the Anglicans, perhaps


because they felt themselves constantly under the scrutiny of the disdainful and Zezuru-propagating Jesuits.

The main Triashill linguist was Fr. Mayr—a man 'so simple, so thoroughly earnest about all the work he undertook, so modest and unsparing of himself . . . a highly talented linguist, a thorough master of Zulu and Chimanyika languages'.[66] According to a later note prepared for the Jesuits by Fr. Withnell:

Father Mayr was given the work of preparing books in Shona for the new Mission. Fr. Mayr . . . said he wished to visit St Augustine's and asked me to accompany him. I was present with an attentive ear at the discussion which Fr. Mayr had; Canon Etheridge was the chief spokesman. Fr. Mayr seemed very keen on forming his native language on the prevailing St Augustine's language. What he seemed to insist upon was that the language of his projected books should not slavishly follow Chishawasha [i.e. the Zezuru literature of the main Jesuit centre], that in fact it should be different, as far as was seemly, from Chishawasha. With a smile between them the two learned linguists were at one on this point. . . . I know that prayers, as arranged by Fr. Mayr, differed much from those of Chishawasha. . . . So far as I have heard, these versions appeared without any approval. . . . The books were rushed through the press to supply a pressing need. . . . What struck me in their books was a determination of the Trappists to differ from Chishawasha language.[67]

Once Mayr's Manyika material was ready, the Triashill fathers wished to use it throughout Makoni district. They also ran a station at Monte Cassino in western Makoni, as far from Mutasa's Manyika as anywhere in the district. In August 1911 Fr. Fleischer wrote from Triashill to the Jesuit Apostolic Prefect asking permission to 'introduce the Chimanyika language spoken by the natives in and around Triashill at our mission of Monte Cassino. At present we make use of different catechisms on our two stations there, i. e., a Chiswina one at Monte Cassino and Chimanyika one at Triashill but in the future time we think that the catechism which Fr. Mayr compiled in Chimanyika for Triashill to take also for Monte Cassino . . . [to] make uniform our work for the black people.'[68]

This proposal to bring all Makoni district into the Manyika language zone triggered off a great language controversy between the Jesuits and the Mariannhill fathers and among the Jesuits themselves. Many Jesuits reacted with hostility to the Triashill proposals:

There is but one language in Mashonaland [wrote the Jesuit Fr. Bert in October 1911]. It may be called Chiswina around Salisbury, Chimanika near Inyanga, Shona, Shuna generally, Chikaranga . . . about Victoria, but the language is essentially the same. . . . There is and should be only one language for our Mashonaland stations. . . . I would boldly stand by the Chishawasha catechism. Not because it comes from Chishawasha—although the first or oldest . . . station might reasonably urge its claim on that score—not merely because it is the one actually 'in possession', but chiefly because it is the translation of the one followed in England.[69]

Fr. Withnell was also an advocate of the dominance of Zezuru. He hoped that 'the Salisbury [Chishawasha] dialect may be kept to; in my experience it is the most widely understood; just as in my experience, too, this dialect is richer and, as far as I can judge, more correct than others. . . . When I went to Chilimanzi. . . . I was agreeably surprised to find that Chishwasha had everything that Chilimanzi had, and more besides, Fr. Hornig had previously told me the same of Chimanyika.' 'I think that the central Rhodesian dialect ought to be


preserved', wrote Withnell again. 'I think it would be very unsafe to follow Chimanyika . . . with its wretchedly poor vocabulary.'[70]

As the controversy developed it extended beyond vocabulary into theology and desirability of missionary 'adaptation'. The Mariannhill fathers had followed St Augustine's and Old Umtali, for example, in translating 'God' as 'Mwari', while the Jesuits in Chishawasha used 'Jave'. The priests at Triashill chose Mwari after taking the advice of their teachers, drawn from both Inyanga and Makoni. The record of the teachers' discussions illustrates very well the compromises that were drawing them together within missionary Manyika:

Four of us said that 'in olden times the word Mwari was never used, it only came to us by the first missionaries of the Church of England. The old people always used the word 'Nyadenga' . . . the rest of the teachers said the word Mwari was always used in some districts and Nyadenga in others. . . . Then all of them agreed that the word Nyadenga mean only the owner of heaven, then Mwari should be the really name of God.[71]

Jesuit critics of Triashill objected precisely to such consultations and to the indigenous input into the formulation of Manyika. Old Fr. Richartz wrote in very different terms in describing the evolution of Chishawasha Zezuru:

We found that the heathen word Mwari had no definite meaning besides 'Rainmaker' and we were in this special important case like in general, very much impressed by the secrecy, want of clearness and straightforwardness with which all actions of the Natives were surrounded, especially everything that could be supposed to be in connection with 'religious' ideas as prayer, sacrifice, etc at occasions like child-birth, marriage, field work, war, etc, etc. Most of all was our teaching hampered by using existing words. . . . This very doubtful meaning of Mwari forced us to avoid this dangerous word and replace it with another word which surely meant the true God and fitted well in the native language (Chizezuru and Chikalanga), Yave.[72]

The persistent Withnell extended these criticisms to Triashill—and St Augustine's—usage in general, instancing the case of the translation of the word 'prophet':

You are perfectly right in coining the word 'anoprofeta' [he wrote to the Jesuit Fr. Johanny]. . . . You are simply applying the principle which has guided us all along in rendering ideas of the religious or supernatural order, for which Chizezuru could not possibly have an exact equivalent. The Trappists went on a different tack, and tried to pour the new wine of Christian ideas in the old, rotten skins of pagan words, creating confusion where there should have been unity.[73]

The critics drew a picture of sound Catholic usage everywhere else in Southern Rhodesia contrasting with an infernal alliance between Triashill and the 'sects' in the use of 'wretchedly poor' and 'rotten' Manyika.

There were no obstacles to the spread of Old Umtali Manyika out into Mrewa and Mtoko or to the spread of St Augustine's Manyika into almost the whole territory. Triashill's case was very different. Jesuit opposition prevented them from extending Manyika even to Monte Cassino and threw them very much on the defensive. Soon Jesuit opponents followed up this negative success. They persuaded the Jesuit Apostolic Prefect, Msgr. Brown, that the use of 'Mwari' was intolerable. In August 1923 Brown ordered that the word must be replaced everywhere by 'Jave' forthwith.[74] When the Triashill congregations continued to


use 'Mwari', Brown threatened to close down all Trappist/Mariannhill stations immediately.[75] As Brown later wrote:

Although our Jesuit Fathers had been in the territory for forty years and knew the native language well and had finally decided on the word to be used for God, the Mariannhill fathers without consultation with us began to use a word which although used by Protestantism had a very evil connotation. . . . I gave a formal order that Jave was to be used. In my next visit to Triashill, six months after my order had been given, I found no notice had been taken of my decision and that the objectionable word was still used. I then gave an order on the subject which had to be obeyed under pains of censure. This was obeyed.[76]

This prohibition was deeply resented by both the missionaries and the Triashill Christians and was seen as auguring a more general attack on Manyika. Together with disagreements over other questions of evangelical policy, the question led the Mariannhill fathers to approach Rome with a request that Manicaland be made a separate prefecture so that they could create their own Manicaland Christianity. When this failed, the Mariannhill superiors began negotiations with the Jesuits for an exchange of territory which would give the Manyika stations over to Jesuit control and give the Mariannhill fathers complete control over a mission area elsewhere. But the priests and brothers actually on the Manyika stations profoundly disliked abandoning them to the Jesuits, so that when Jesuit priests moved in to take over Triashill, St Barbara's, Monte Cassino and the rest of the Mariannhill stations in September 1929, they found the Mariannhill fathers still in definite possession and refusing to move.[77] In the end they did move out, leaving behind them an apprehensive and disgruntled 'Manyika' church to confront its new missionary masters.

No love was lost on either side. In March 1930 the Jesuit Jerome O'Hea wrote to Brown bewailing 'the dearth of teachers who are fit for the work. . . . The Manyikas want and seem to expect incessant propulsion a terga . They are an awfully slack crowd and they find good medicine in Fr. Schmitz who won't stand any nonsense and tells them often and clearly what he thinks.'[78]

Manyika Identity and the Migrant Labour Factor

I have argued above that the expansion of missionary Manyika into other areas, carried as it was by teachers and evangelists from Makoni and Umtali districts who enjoyed privileged access to it, went a long way to build a common sense of Manyika identity among them. But it was the Jesuit takeover of Triashill in 1929, with the accompanying introduction of the Chishawasha church and school books in the Zezuru dialect, that provoked by far the most articulate expression of a Christian sense of Manyika self-identity.

The Triashill teachers tried to defend their leadership of a Manyika church. 'Trouble is brewing among the teachers', wrote O'Hea in September 1930, 'as may be clearly seen from the set we have here doing their course. One or two have openly declared that they will never teach children from a Chizezuru book.' One of these teachers announced in class that if Msgr. Brown 'doesn't give us everything we want' and restore the Manyika church, he would 'give up the whole thing'. 'To my way of looking at it,' exploded O'Hea, 'they are treated FAR too softly. I wouldn't give that chap a chance of giving up—I'D FIRE HIM AT THE END OF MY BOOT. Close his school and give a jaw to the Christians who were any good around about it, letting them see that such bolshies brought nothing but trouble and unhappiness.'[79]


But the most active pan of the protest was taken by migrant labourers from the Triashill zone of influence. Very many men had taken their mission education with them to the towns of Southern Rhodesia and South Africa. Now they intervened in the crisis at home. "The boys of Jo-burg', wrote O'Hea, 'have sent unsigned letters to boys about here to stir up protests at the church on Sunday and to get the teachers on their side against the use of Chizezuru books in Manyikaland. "You are taking away our language . . . our King Mtasa . . . the religion of our forefathers" . . . all this high-sounding rot is being pumped out at various kraals.'[80] Triashill, wrote the Johannesburg migrants, 'belongs to us black people, not to the whites'. The Jesuits had come 'to spread divisions, because they have come like intruders to despise us, as we have made no agreement with them. . . . See how these Jesuits are stepping into our possessions and snatching them from us! We, the owners of these things, how are we being treated by them? We are being looked upon as nobodies.' The teachers were urged to write 'many and countless letters' to Fleischer, now bishop in Natal, 'for he knows Chimanyika', and through him their case would reach 'the Holy Father'. 'Announce this to all the people, assemble together at all times.'[81] Patrick Kwesha, the leader of the Johannesburg migrants, wrote to Brown himself to complain that people at Triashill 'are forbidden their own tongue and forced to use a tongue which we never knew nor our fathers'; that the Jesuits were closing down schools and were 'not the means of teaching us or serving us or raising us, but the means of destroying us and killing us.'[82]

Meanwhile, the economic depression was forcing many of the migrants back home. These men joined in the protest against the Jesuits:

There is a certain amount of trouble, of a Bolshi sort, brewing and coming to the surface among the Manyikas [wrote O'Hea]. . . . The Young Ethiopians, the ICU and a few local societies are talking a great deal of hot air in the Reserves. . . . Boys back from Capetown and Johannesburg are particularly active and it is really astonishing to hear the clear echoes of Moscow out here in the wilds. The missionaries, of course, are merely for the sake of drugging the blacks to make them the slaves of the whites. . . . A fairly good grasp of the theory and practice of 'class war' being in the hands of the black . . . it is easy to be understood how the slightest grievance is seized upon and ventilated to the full. One of these grievances is the language question.[83]

The combination of teachers, labour migrants, returned labour migrants and the general congregation confronted O'Hea with a populist Manyika movement, expressing itself both in Makoni and Inyanga. O'Hea called down curses on the whole idea of the Manyika identity:

Nothing but a rod of iron is any use for these people. . . . They are utterly blinded by the most foolish vanity. It is a poison that has its roots in history—they the most despised of the despised Mashona are given a chance at last, owing to the coming of the white man, and they now openly declare that they are the cream of the black race!!! Trouble that has its roots deep down in history is big trouble. As far as I can gather Bro. Aegidius fostered this idea, if he did not hold it himself, among them. . . . We had a great discussion the other day in the Makoni Reserve and there were a number of pagans present. . . . One fellow envisaged the rising of the kingdom of Mtasa, claiming independence.[84]

All this was the most spectacular manifestation of migrant 'Manyika' identity: after all, in addition to the Jesuit intervention, the Triashill missionaries had made


more contact with the zones of subsistence production and labour migration than had the Anglicans or the Methodists. Still, both these missions had also prepared young people to carry their skills of literacy into labour migration. Because of these skills, Anglican and Methodist migrants had access to much desired jobs in domestic service and in hotels. The churches kept in touch with them in ways which heightened their sense of Manyika identity. 'The little intercession paper printed here in their own tongue every quarter', wrote Buck from St Augustine's in September 1914, 'has reached a circulation of 2000 and goes to Manyika boys and girls as far away as Johannesburg and Kimberley.'[85] The American Methodists found in the mid-1930s that they were 'every year drawing from the Reserves hundreds of the best of the boys and girls, training them, and seeing most of them return not to their homes to enrich the life there, but to the town', going into 'cooking, waiting table, carrying messages or wheeling babies in the park'.[86]

So many Old Umtali pupils were to be found in Salisbury that the AMEC sent one of their ministers there to preach to them in Manyika. Rather than having to join 'Zezuru' Wesleyan Methodist congregations, 'to conduct our own evangelistic services, to sing our own hymns, to be free to develop in our own way, would make our preacher and our people rejoice'.[87]

An engaging and unusual insight into the network of the American Methodist Manyika migration is given in Katie Hendrick's little-known The Bend in the Road . Katie was a coloured woman, daughter of a Manyika labour migrant to Cape Town, Mandisodza. Mandisodza and his elder brother, John, both attended Old Umtali school. But:

In the dry dusty reserve near Umtali . . . the people went naked and struggled with the land to yield a mealie crop . . . Necessity forced on father and his people the first lesson in economics; to buy food . . . they had to have money. To get money they must go to work for the white man.

Brother John went to work as house-boy to a settler family in Rhodesia, whose service he left after sixteen years to return to Old Umtali and eventually to become an American Methodist minister based in Maranke. The younger brother had more wide-ranging ambitions: 'The many Manyika natives in Cape Town were earning more pounds than they had dreamed of in Mashonaland and they wrote home glowing reports. Father, like many of his contemporaries, became obsessed with the idea of reaching the Cape.' So he worked his way slowly south, taking hotel jobs in Salisbury, then jumping trains to reach South Africa: working for a time for a Constantia farmer and eventually getting a domestic service job in Cape Town by means of his contacts among the Manyika there. Some time in the late 1920s Katie was born to a 'Cape Coloured' woman with whom Mandisodza had established a liaison. Thereafter Katie's story is obsessed with the Manyika and with the idea that Manicaland should be her home. At eighteen years old she has an affair with a Manyika house-boy—'his high-sounding English I found irresistible . . . my weakness for English and Manicas got me into trouble'. Later she visits her uncle John at his mission in Maranke, feeling instantly at home. Uncle John gives her a letter of introduction to an American Methodist Manyika in Cape Town, Willie Marangha from Makoni district; she meets Willie; they marry; and the book ends with their return to Makoni in the early 1950s, where Willie begins a transport business and Katie learns to fit into 'Manyika' society.[88]

By no means all migrants from the eastern region were mission Christians, of course. But it was to the advantage of such migrants to attach themselves to the growing 'myth of the Manyika' in the towns of southern Africa, with their


irresistible 'high-sounding English'. In the urban and industrial ethnic hierarchy the 'Manyika' came to be thought of as 'natural' domestic servants. "The Wamanyika are in great demand as domestic servants', noted the Native Commissioner, Inyanga, in 1929, 'and they obtain good wages for this class of labour. . . . The wage for this unproductive labour is generally higher than for other productive work.'[89] Chief Native Commissioner Bullock gave official backing to the myth: 'These Wa Manyika . . . now supply the best houseboys to South Africa.'[90] During my field research in Makoni district I found that very many informants had worked as waiters in South Africa and retained photograph albums to prove it. They also retained memories of the 'Manyika' networks along which they were able to move from job to job and town to town.[91]

All this meant that the realities of the migrant labour market made an impact even on the most stubborn 'traditionalist' groups in Makoni district. Thus the Rozvi chief, Tandi, and his people were very reluctant to accept even a Makoni identity, let alone a Manyika one. They were concerned to argue that they had always been autonomous of Makoni, and they were regularly involved in schemes to re-establish the Rozvi paramountcy. But as chief Tandi and his councillors told me in 1981, they ceased to speak Rozvi and came to speak what they now call Manyika 'because we had to marry foreign women. And when our young men went to town they had to accept that they were Manyika.'[92]

Similarly, at one level of politics within Makoni district the old distinctions between 'Waungwe' and 'Wamanyika' retained their importance in the 1930s. Thus in 1936 there erupted a great controversy between chief Makoni and chiefs Mandeya and Mutasa. Makoni claimed that Chikumbu, a headman in Inyanga district, was his nephew and should be recognized as subordinate to him:

This matter is wholly inspired by head-of-kraal Chikumbu [wrote the Native Commissioner, Inyanga], who for some years, has been proselytising amongst the Va-Manyika in his vicinity. . . . All this people will contend they are Va-Hongwe if asked, although their names and dialect are of the Manyika.[93]

This micro-level campaign to change Manyika identity into an Ungwe one infuriated chief Mandeya, whose men assaulted headman Chikumbu and his supporters. It also ran quite counter, of course, to the irresistible pressures at the macro-level which were compelling all men from Makoni to define themselves as Manyika in the towns.

In September 1913, for example, a cluster of self-described 'Manyika workers' at the Argus Printing Company in Salisbury, which included men from both Umtali and Makoni, wrote in protest to the administration:

There are three of Manica girls here and they have no thing to do. They are not working. Their work is to commit all sorts of evil going from one man to another. We wish you could report it to Native Commissioner in Salisbury and have them sent back to Umtali; or sir if it please you send us a letter that we may carry it over to Native Commissioner in Salisbury. Also we wish if there is a law that shall never allow a Manica girl to come here and not let one of them ride the train from Umtali, or from any of the stations and sidings, such Odzi, Rusapi and etc save she that has her husband.[94]

In Salisbury boxing and other recreations were 'organized around a number of "tribal" clubs, comprising the WaKorekore, the MaBlantyre, the WaManyika on the some side, the WaZezuru and WaBudjga on the other'.[95] More radical groupings existed also. 'There are societies established in the following towns', wrote the Native Commissioner at Inyanga, in November 1930, 'Cape Town,


Bulawayo and Salisbury known as the Young Ethiopian Manica Society. The objects are political and many of the younger Natives of the district belong to one or other of the branches in the towns.'[96]

There was little point in maintaining a distinct Makoni or Ungwe identity in the towns, and little possibility of doing so. Certainly other African workers lumped everyone from Umtali, Makoni and Inyanga districts together. In Bulawayo, for example, 'Manyika' migrants had entered domestic service and other employment from the turn of the century. Their access to good jobs had caused them to be disliked by Ndebele workers. Thus the Superintendent of Natives, Bulawayo, explained the great 'faction fights' in Bulawayo in 1929 as 'an attempt to oust the Manyikas and the Natives of Victoria District, large numbers of whom are employed in the town, and because they are good servants, were preferred by employers at good wages. Also because these men attracted Matabele girls because they were in a position to do so financially.'[97] In 1930 rumours flew that there would be a renewal of fighting at Christmas time. It was rumoured that a meeting of Ndebele had agreed 'that the following tribes must be wiped out, or so terrorized that they would leave Bulawayo and the general labour field to the Ndebele, viz., Abanyika, Makorokori, Blantyre, Amabemba.'[98] Such reports made many migrant labourers from Makoni district flee Bulawayo and return home to avoid any such attack on the 'Manyika', an identity which had become for a time disadvantageous. But in rumour at least, 'a number of Manyikas are coming down from Salisbury at Christmas time to assist the members of their tribe in Bulawayo against the Matabele'. 'On the part of the Mashonas,' it was reported, 'the daring and defiant ones hail from Victoria and Umtali Circles who consider they are a match for the Matibili and are quite ready to meet them.'[99] It is clear, then, that by the 1930s the idea of an extended Manyika identity, which included the men of Makoni district, was very much alive, not only in 'Manicaland' itself, but throughout Southern Rhodesia.

It is also clear that for some men this 'Manyika' identity was not just a convenient reference group, but an ideal which sustained them during their migration. There was, for example, Patrick Kwesha, spokesman of the Manyika workers of Johannesburg in their protest against the Jesuits. Kwesha used 'to convert people in Johannesburg. . . . Many, many were baptized. These people were nearly all labour migrants from Manyikaland. There may have been some South Africans too but what he was really interested in was the Manyika.'[100] Kwesha's 'only wish which led my whole life', was to go back to Manyikaland and to set up an all-African missionary order there:

I wanted God to be fulfilled . . . and his great servants to rise up among them, and that some of them as apostles may swarm over the whole of Manyikaland, as the bees, and banishing all heathenism, protestantism and superstition, and establish a pure and holy kingdom of God and glory of Mary so that from that our God may be called God of Manyikaland as He was called God of Israel, and Our Lady be called Queen of Manyikaland as She is called queen of angels and saints.[101]

The Movement Towards a Shona Identity

It seems plain, then, that by the 1930s the Manyika identity was a reality in Makoni, Umtali, and Inyanga districts and in the migrant diaspora. It had arisen as a result of the operation of the main forces which transformed Makoni district under colonialism—participation in peasant agriculture, labour migration and


education. It had arisen as a result of the emergence of local entrepreneurial and church elites, but it also allowed for wider protest against the manifestly failing colonial political economy in the 1930s. Whites and especially missionaries had played a key role in the definition of the Manyika identity but in such a way that the idea was open for all sorts of use by Africans.

It is plain, too, that by the 1930s there was hardly any sense of a wider Shona identity. Commenting on the visit of the Prince of Wales in 1925, the Chief Native Commissioner contrasted the impact of his appearance before Ndebele and Shona chiefs respectively. To the Ndebele the event was 'a natural outcome of their unforgotten traditions of personal fealty', but 'to the disunited Mashona tribes a message of different import seemed to be conveyed. To them the occasion was charged with unity under one head as a fact which they have been slow to realize.'[102] But during the 1930s a number of forces, some African and some European, combined to work for the creation of a single Shona language and hence the sense of a single Shona identity.

On the African side, the main impulses came from men who found employment in government service and could be posted anywhere in the territory, and from young teachers and trainees for the ministry, who wanted to contest the prestige of the older generation of teachers and evangelists by mastering and controlling a new language of their own. On the European side the chief impulse arose out of the need to communicate effectively beyond the limits of one of the dialect provinces.

Benedict Anderson, in his brilliantly suggestive Imagined Communities, has discussed the interactions of language development and national feeling. 'Print-languages', he writes, 'laid the bases for national consciousness'. Yet my own data up to this point has been very different from his. In Anderson's case, what he calls 'print-capitalism' created large unified languages where there had been an oral multiplicity:

In pre-print Europe, and, of course, elsewhere in the world, the diversity of spoken languages, those languages that for their speakers were (and are) the warp and woof of their lives, was immense; so immense, indeed, that had print-capitalism sought to exploit each potential oral vernacular market, it would have remained a capitalism of petty proportions. But these varied idiolects were capable of being assembled . . . into print languages far fewer in number. . . . Nothing served to 'assemble' related vernaculars more than capitalism which, within the limits imposed by grammars and syntax created mechanically-reproduced print-languages, capable of dissemination throughout the market.[103]

In the case I have been describing, printing had actually broken up a common language into distinct and competitive dialects. Anderson tells us that at the root of ethnic nationalism in Europe lay the demotion of 'the old sacred languages—Latin, Greek and Hebrew', now forced 'to mingle on equal ontological footing with a motley plebeian crowd of vernacular rivals'. In the Southern Rhodesian case, the written or printed vernacular functioned in the first place as a sacred language in itself. The mission printing presses, constrained by lack of finance, were not true representatives of 'print-capitalism'. Initially, the various churches were more concerned to Christianize intensively in their own particular zones than to create a territory-wide market for missionary literature. It was the use of literacy by labour migrants which linked this process with the industrial political economy.

But after the 1930s Anderson's ideas of the direct impact of 'print-capitalism'


and of the secularizing character of language development become more and more relevant to Southern Rhodesia. First the state, and then capitalist enterprises began to wish to reach the widest possible market with vernacular publications and in these publications the printed vernacular was widely employed for the first time to communicate a whole variety of secular messages. Hence a drive towards 'Standard Shona' began.

Yet, of course, the mission churches themselves were also parties to this movement. As the Anglican and Catholic churches became more truly 'national', so they pressed for a language more generally useful. Take, for instance, the change that had come over the school at St Augustine's. As we have seen, this had begun with pupils drawn only from the 'Manyika' zone. By the 1930s the situation was very different. St Augustine's had become an elite school for boys from all over Southern Rhodesia:

Three languages are spoken in the Diocese, viz. Chishona in one or other of its dialects . . . Sindebele . . . and Sechuana. In addition to these we have boys in the school from Nyasaland and two different districts of Northern Rhodesia. Many educationalists nowadays stress the value of the teaching being given in the vernacular. This is entirely impossible in the higher of our standards in the schools at Penhalonga, owing to the varied linguistic groups from which the pupils are drawn, so English has perforce to be the medium of instruction . . . St Augustine's, Penhalonga, is the only Church school of its type between the Zambezi and the Limpopo, and between the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. The problem of race and language is also seen among the African clergy of the Diocese. Not only have we Mashona, Matabele and Bechuana, but we also have a Nyasaland native and a Mundao . . . yet they all get on amicably together, and with a little tact in placing them the language difficulty is overcome . . .

It must be recognized that in this part of Africa, at any rate, the difficulty of language does not arise from the difficulty of learning another speech, but from racial pride and tribal animosities; a centre where Africans of different races are collected may easily prove a place where faction fights break out. . . . It says much for the Christian character and influence of our Mission schools that these people who comparatively recently were members of tribes at war with one another are now amicably meeting together under the aegis of the Christian church.[104]

The solution for St Augustine's was to use English in teaching rather than to employ a 'Standard Shona'—and one must recognize that command of English had a great deal to do with the emergence of a nationalist elite. But it was also significant that Anglicanism had ceased to see its role as propagating Manyika. And many Anglican missionaries took a leading part in the movement towards unifying Shona that commenced in the 1930s. These developments coincided with the generalization of ethnic identification in the towns, and particularly in Bulawayo, where 'Ndebele/Shona' rivalries became established.

All these factors—the aspirations of a second-generation African elite, 'print-capitalism', the enlargement of urban ethnicities, and so on—meant that the movement towards a unified Shona language and a sense of wider Shona identity became irresistible. If in the 1930s no one in Makoni would have described themselves as 'Shona', by the late 1950s, when the nationalist movement came to the district, very many people thought in such terms. Yet if the movement was irresistible, this is not to say that it was not resisted. African vested interests in Manyika were strong and the new language policy was much resented.


Jeffrey Peires, in his account of the Lovedale Press, has shown the devastating impact upon the first generation of mission converts of the 'great orthographic upheaval which struck Africa in the 1930s' as a 'result of the work of the International Institute of African Languages and Cultures founded in 1926 . . . [which] sparked off a new quest for language standardization throughout the continent':

By comparison with other languages, which were severely mauled by ill considered attempts at dialectical unification, Xhosa was fortunate [writes Peires]. . . . Nevertheless, problems with regard to matters such as tone and aspiration had led to inconsistencies in spelling. . . . Far-reaching changes were adopted. . . . However satisfactory these new arrangements may have been from a purely linguistic standpoint, their social implications were disastrous. The manner in which the regulations were imposed awakened deep resentment among educated Africans. . . . The awesome effect of the 'New Orthography' was to turn every literate African into a functional illiterate.[105]

No one has yet done the research in Southern Rhodesia to determine whether the language changes of the 1930s constituted 'ill-considered attempts at dialectical unification'. But there is no doubt that the changes were deeply resented. There is plenty of evidence that both local missionaries and local African Christians clung to Manyika as best they could.

In March 1934, for example, a visitor from Triashill—even under its Jesuit dispensation—came to talk with Edgar Lloyd at St Faith's. Both men were 'dead keen to stop the objectionable "new language" stunt. . . . It is silly to force it, by printing all sorts of special papers in it, which the natives don't understand and want to read. The Diocesan Intercession forms, the Mothers' Union prayers, etc besides school things.'[106] American Methodists, whose influence remained focused in the eastern districts, not surprisingly, especially resisted language standardization. In 1940 their Commission of Worship and Music under Amos Kapenzi demanded that 'Choirs should make it their practice to sing Chimanyika.' And in 1947 one of the Old Umtali missionaries wrote to the Scripture Gift Mission, thanking them for sending illustrated lessons in standard 'Chi-Shona':

I find that our educated people can use them, but the common people, common because there are so many of them, cannot understand these lessons as written. The vocabulary is often beyond their understanding, beside the foreign spelling of words they might know. All our people consulted are as puzzled as I about what dialect they may be. They feel that it is highly seasoned with Sindebele, and must come from the extreme South or West border of Rhodesia. . . . Unfortunately, it is so far removed from the whole Eastern section in its composition that it is not understood by the peoples of this section. It is supposed to be Unified Shona, worked out by a committee from the different sections, but some were not called in for the committee meetings, and so these sections were not represented.

The missionary sent a text in Manyika, confident that it 'will meet the needs of a large section, not only of Southern Rhodesia but also of Portuguese East Africa.'[107] Thus the sense of loyalty to Manyika and to a Manyika identity continued underneath the rise of Shona cultural ethnic awareness and Zimbabwean political nationalism.



I have taken my discussion up to the late 1940s but I cannot leave this chapter without some attempt to connect up my story with the questions raised at the beginning. What were the connections between the development of the sense of a wider Manyika ethnicity and the assassination of Chitepo, the faction fights within ZANU, or the support given to Muzorewa in the 1979 elections? Did the surviving loyalty to a Manyika identity surface destructively in these ways?

There are various possible answers to this. One, which is certainly true, is that the ethnic component in nationalist disputes and in the voting support for Muzorewa has been greatly exaggerated. But other answers speak to what ethnic component does exist. Just as migrant labourers in the past found a principle of mutual assistance in dialect ethnicities, so exiled nationalists in the 1970s did begin to group together on the same basis. The regional politics of development and patronage of today's Zimbabwe also make these identities pertinent—no one doubts that Edgar Tekere, as Chairman of the Manicaland regional committee of ZANU/PF, speaks for 'Manyika' interests. But there is another dimension.

The developments that I have been describing were in no sense a monolithic process. A Manyika identity emerged, but it emerged as the distinct work of three different missionary churches, each appealing most to different areas and to different classes or proto-classes. The African groups interested in developing the Manyika identity were also distinct from each other, both in their experiences and their interests. Hence 'the Manyika' never existed as a bloc, entirely at the disposal of any leader or party. Indeed, it seems to me that where Manyika-hood did play a role in recent politics it was in this particular rather than general way.

Thus in December 1975 Joshua Nkomo's Zimbabwe Star attacked Muzorewa for 'appealing to the African of the Mushona tribe using him or her as a cover while in reality the group leadership is interested in . . . the Manyika tribe. . . . The death of Herbert Chitepo and Bishop Muzorewa's United Methodist Church are cleverly used as baits to woo the Vamanyika.'[108] It was not in fact true that Muzorewa cared little for the support of other groups, but it was true that in Manicaland his support was founded upon his control of the old American Methodist Manyika network. The stalwarts of the church, who had previously been unwilling to commit themselves to mass nationalism, came solidly behind a leader who had himself been brought up in Makoni district and whose family represented the quintessential ambitions of the Methodist entrepreneur.[109] As I have argued elsewhere, Muzorewa's essential support came from this particular strand in the 'Manyika' tradition.[110]

In February 1980 James MacManus of The Guardian brought out clearly the distinct strands in the 'Manyika vote':

There lies St Augustine's, the most famous mission school in the country, whose old boys, including the late nationalist leader, Herbert Chitepo, have risen to positions of influence in every sphere of African life in Rhodesia. The Anglican school has strong nationalist connections which . . . explains the loyalty among the staff and students to Robert Mugabe's party and army. . . . The arguments advanced at St Augustine's can easily be reversed at Old Umtali Mission a few miles away which counted Bishop Muzorewa among its old boys. Here one hears lurid tales of ZANLA activity.[111]

I have tried to show elsewhere that the Catholic strand of Manyika-hood played the most radical role of all during the guerrilla war.[112]

Nevertheless, though certainly not 'traditional' or 'natural' or monolithic, the


continued existence in this multi-layered way of the idea of an extended Manyika identity does offer, along with the continuance of the other sub-Shona ethnicities, a potential danger to the Zimbabwean state. During the war the Rhodesian regime belatedly picked up and exploited the notion of this 'traditional' ethnic division—hence the maps setting out their exact percentages. In January 1976 the Zimbabwe Star alleged that the Rhodesian Front had a secret plan. Operation Shaka. 'According to this document the first task of the R.F. is to divide the Ndebeles and Shonas by inciting tribalism and magnify their tribal differences. The second task is to divide the Shonas themselves and break them into the constituent clans—the Manyikas, Makaranga, Mazezuru, Makorekore, etc, etc, etc.'[113] The Zimbabwe Star feared 'good-for-nothing megalomaniac so-called leaders who cannot impress anybody and resort to tribalism as an instrument for manufacturing support'. It might be that strands in the Manyika identity could again be manipulated. For this reason it seems useful to set out, as this study has tried to do, how and why the notion of the extended Manyika identity arose in the first place; not indeed as the fruit of megalomaniac tribalism but as a very human and often constructive response to socio-economic change, a response however which now needs to be replaced by the development of other kinds of consciousness in a period of even sharper transformation and contradiction.

Tribalism in the Political History of Malawi[1]

Leroy Vail and Landeg White

So far as I am concerned, there is no Yao in this country; no Lomwe; no Sena; no Chewa; no Ngoni; no Nyakyusa; no Tonga; there are only 'Malawians'. That is all.
President Kamuzu Banda[2]

I am a Chewa.
President Kamuzu Banda[3]


Between 1964, when the government of newly independent Malawi was torn apart in the so-called Cabinet Crisis, and 1975, when the Secretary General of the Malawi Congress Party, Albert Nqumayo Muwalo, and the head of the police's Special Branch, Focus Gwede, were arrested for plotting to assassinate President H. Kamuzu Banda, a traumatic rearrangement of the Malawian political order occurred. The language in which the politics of this period was discussed increasingly drew upon a store of ethnic symbols and stereotypes. The restructuring of relationships of power that occurred was seen explicitly as a campaign against the Yao-speaking peoples of the southern part of the country and all the peoples of the Northern Region. These attacks were coupled with an affirmation of the special authenticity of the culture of the country's Chewa-speaking people. These events, accompanied by repeated purges of the Party's leadership and a steadily declining real income for Malawi's workers and peasants, were responsible for the destruction of sentiments of national unity which the campaign against the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland had inspired during the late 1950s and early 1960s and encouraged the fragmentation of the country along ethnically defined fault lines.[4]

Why political discourse should have been carried out in this way requires explanation, the more so as the thrust of Malawian anti-colonialism was seen in virtually all the substantial literature it generated as having tended teleologically towards ultimate independence and national unity.[5] From the earliest written 'tribal histories' and 'tribal associations', which were judged to have been manifestations of pride in African culture and hence as 'resistance' to colonial control, the jump to a fully nationalist perspective was assumed to be merely a matter of greater education and modernization, a process finally consummated by independence in 1964.


Yet in many ways earlier forms of parochial consciousness have proved more enduring. Tensions expressed in terms of ethnicity exist in Malawi, as they do elsewhere in the region, and they have assumed a potent reality, focusing attitudes and specifying actions. To understand why they possess such power, one must go beyond the older historiography, with its emphasis upon the nationalist dimension of resistance against colonialism and its stress on ultimate national unity. One must instead seek the varied origins of current ethnic and regional consciousness in the uneven nature of the country's colonial experience. Malawi is a particularly apt country for such an approach. Since 1921 it has been divided into Northern, Central and Southern Regions. These divisions have reflected not merely administrative convenience, but also different economic, social, and intellectual experiences dating from before the turn of this century. They thus provide a useful framework for a study of the manner in which ethnic politics has varied from area to area and from period to period.

Our hypothesis is that colonial authorities, for reasons of administrative convenience, imposed from above parameters of political debate that centred upon the assumed reality of the 'tribe' as a taxonomic unit and accepted the existence of local powers for chiefs and their advisers. A full-blown ethnic identity came into being, however, only when and where a group of African intellectuals were available to give specific cultural definition to the supposed 'tribe' and to communicate this vision through education. Because of the unevenness of the availability of education in the country, such crafting of ethnic identities and propagandizing for ethnic consciousnesses were themselves necessarily uneven.

An Ethnographic Mélange in the North

Signs of specifically ethnic thinking first appeared at the beginning of the twentieth century in Malawi's Northern Province, an isolated area far removed from the country's centres of production, trade, and industry, and characterized by great cultural fragmentation. In the far north of the province, there was a narrow band of culturally related peoples, stretching out from east to west: Ngonde, Sukwa, Ndali, Lambya, and Nyiha. Three other, substantially larger population groups were located south of this northernmost ribbon. First, there were the Tumbuka-speaking autochthones of the area, scattered widely and loosely organized under largely autonomous village headmen. Second, there were people who dwelt in a set of small chiefdoms along the shore of Lake Malawi and who spoke Lakeside Tonga, a language similar to Tumbuka in both grammar and lexicon. Finally, centred on the Kasitu river valley, there were the Ngoni under Chief Mbelwa, an amalgam of peoples of diverse cultural origins ruled by a small aristocracy.

These Ngoni derived from refugees who had fled from the wars sparked off by the creation of the Zulu empire in Natal during the 1820s. Their first leader was Zwangendaba.[6] Around 1855, under Zwangendaba's successor, Mbelwa, the group arrived amongst the Tumbuka, whom they conquered easily. The most prominent of the Tumbuka chiefs, Chikulamayembe VIII, was slain and his people captured.[7] The Ngoni invaders then settled, established large villages, and devastated the surrounding areas so as to create a defensive buffer zone of wilderness that only wild animals inhabited.[8] Large numbers of defeated Lakeside Tonga and Tumbuka were incorporated in the new villages, and the Ngoni made concerted attempts to suppress the captives' own culture. The old Tumbuka religious cult of the spirit Chikang'ombe died out, and earlobes were perforated in Ngoni fashion to serve as 'a sign of baptism from the Ngoni. . . . We could not


then desert them'.[9] Ngoni-pattrned patrilineality and an acceptance of bridewealth payable in cattle (lobola ) gradually replaced local Tumbuka matrilineal inheritance and uxorilocal brideservice practices, eroding many of the distinguishing characteristics of Tumbuka culture.

Despite these policies, the captives nonetheless retained a sense of self-awareness because of their subordination to the Ngoni ruling elite as bafo, 'slaves' or 'serfs'.[10] In the late 1870s, moreover, several groups of Tonga and Tumbuka captives escaped successfully from Ngoni rule. One of these groups, known as the Henga, settled amongst the culturally distinct Ngonde people at the northern end of Lake Malawi, where they dwell to this day, an island of Tumbuka language and culture in a sea of Ngonde people.[11] These rebellions eventually yielded an heroic tradition useful in the formulation of later ethnic consciousness.

In 1878, then, when the missionaries of the Scottish Presbyterian Livingstonia Mission established their first posts in northern Malawi, they encountered a Babel of linguistic confusion, the heritage of decades of movement by thousands of refugees and captives. In addition to the local languages of the region—Nyiha, Ndali, Lambya, Sukwa, Ngonde, Tumbuka, and Ngoni—the missionaries had to deal with Bisa, Bemba, Swahili, Senga, Nsenga, Sukuma, Fipa, and Nyanja, languages spoken by those whom the Ngoni had incorporated on their long anabasis through southern and eastern Africa.

For reasons of strategy and logistics, the first mission station was situated amongst the Lakeside Tonga, but, after a short time, it became apparent that Tonga, the local language of the first converts, was not feasible as a medium for further expansion of the Mission. The missionaries then decided to employ two languages: English, the language of 'high culture', and Nyanja, the language spoken on the southwest shore of Lake Malawi.[12] Nyanja was chosen for both preaching and teaching, partly because it was a lingua franca throughout large areas of East Central Africa and partly because there was already a substantial body of religious publications in Nyanja.[13] Nyanja was also the sole local language in the Protectorate's civil service examinations, and the missionaries hoped that it would become the lingua franca throughout the entire area of their work.[14] The very success of the Mission, however, soon made the use of Nyanja impossible.

The Seeds of Tumbuka Ethnic Identity

The reasons behind these successes lay in the Mission's profound attractions for different Tumbuka groups.[15] The Ngonde people at the northern end of Lake Malawi had suffered little from Ngoni incursions and had been saved by British intervention from serious disruption by late nineteenth-century slave raiders. They were thus able to maintain a coherent culture and economy, and visitors frequently described them as content to live their 'idyllic lives' uninterested in any change.[16] The Tumbuka-speaking Henga who lived in Ngonde territory were, however, despised and resented by the Ngonde both as refugees and as former allies of Swahili slavers. Their formal religion was largely dead, and they were both ready to experiment with a new one and eager for the sort of mission education that would enable them to become successful traders, clerks and teachers.[17] The Henga responded enthusiastically to the new educational opportunities, and in 1911 a Mission report distinguished clearly between the two local African groups:

The Henga are a keen, vigorous, progressive people, the great majority of the church members are from among them; their schools are well attended, the pupils alert, and the boys and girls in about equal numbers.


The [Ng]onde, on the other hand, are slow to move, extremely conservative, and suspicious of the new movements going on all around them.[18]

Through their embrace of an education which had a substantial English language component, the Henga were well on their way to developing an educated petty bourgeoisie with values shaped by Victorian missionary teaching and example.

For the Tumbuka under Ngoni domination the situation was somewhat more complex. In the 1880s and 1890s, the Ngoni leadership invited missionaries to live amongst them out of economic and political considerations.[19] At the same time, however, the Ngoni feared the corrosive impact of Christian teachings upon their military ethic. Rather than educate their own children, therefore, the Ngoni permitted the children of their Tumbuka slaves and serfs to attend the Mission's schools.[20] The subordinate Tumbuka were thus the earliest converts to Christianity in large numbers. For the Tumbuka, an added attraction of the Mission was that, from 1894 on, its main station at Kondowe was situated between the Ngonde to the north and the Ngoni to the south, in the very heart of empty territory then gradually being reoccupied by returning Tumbuka refugees. They thus saw the Mission as politically neutral.

The Mission's educational work was remarkable. In 1893 there were ten schools with 630 pupils. By 1901 there were 55 schools which had an average attendance of 2800 pupils. By 1904 one station alone maintained some 134 schools with over 9000 students.[21] As evidence of the Mission's educational impact, when Nyasaland's governor visited it in 1911, he was told that in 1910 the area's people had purchased 1200 lbs of writing paper and 30,000 envelopes from its shops.[22]

As the Tumbuka embraced western education, their language gained respectability. Because they had been the first to grasp the new educational opportunities, their language could no longer be seen as the language of slaves and serfs only. Rather, it was the language of a rapidly expanding group of educated people. Moreover, because it was the language of most of the Ngoni ruling elite's wives and concubines, it was the language which even Ngoni young people learned as they grew up. In this way it displaced Ngoni and the variety of other languages spoken by the original immigrants. The area became linguistically more homogeneous and by 1900 it was clear that Ngoni was a language of the past. By 1909 Tumbuka had also displaced other languages in the Mission's Ngonde area, becoming the medium of instruction in its primary schools.[23] It became clear to the Mission, therefore, that Tumbuka, not Nyanja, would best serve as its language for instruction and preaching, and the Bible and other religious writings were translated into it.[24] The sole exception to this policy of using Tumbuka in Mission work was amongst the Lakeside Tonga, where, to avoid alienating its earliest converts, the Mission continued to use the local language.

A further component was required, however, to give a political thrust to the shift in Tumbuka's local standing and to release the process of myth-making that would culminate in the forging of a new, specifically ethnic, ideology. The defeat of the old Tumbuka chiefly elite by the Ngoni opened the way for the creation of a new form of leadership, and the British provided the opportunity for its establishment. Throughout Nyasaland the British administration, which gradually established its authority in the country after 1890, sought African political leaders to assist it in tax-collecting and general administration. The Tumbuka already under the authority of Ngonde or Ngoni chiefs posed no problem to the British. But for those Tumbuka refugees who had settled north of the Ngoni, in areas without chiefs, it was necessary to establish a new structure of chiefly authority.


Two groups of local Africans were eager to influence the British in this process. First, in Nkhamanga, the area of the long defunct Chikulamayembe chiefdom, there was a broad desire to resuscitate that chieftainship. According to custom the revived office should have gone to a member of the lineage of the last of the chiefs, Majuma Gondwe. Village leaders, however, felt that they needed an educated chief to voice their complaints and wishes, for, as one put it, 'For an uneducated man to speak with Europeans was an impossible dream.' When the revival of the chieftainship was raised, therefore, they did not seek it for the heir of the Majuma line, but for Chilongozi Gondwe, an offspring of a collateral lineage.[25] This was an apt choice. Chilongozi Gondwe came from among the Henga people dwelling among the Ngonde and had attended the Livingstonia Mission's school. He had entered the colonial civil service as a policeman at Deep Bay, near the Mission headquarters at Kondowe.[26] Although Chilongozi was neither a 'common man' nor from the area of the chieftaincy itself, the people supported him because, as he was educated, 'they felt that he would understand Europeans better'.[27]

The second group seeking to influence the British was composed of articulate, educated Tumbuka teachers, clerics and clerks. They also supported the idea of a revived Chikulamayembe chieftainship held by Chilongozi Gondwe, one of their number. Aware through their studies at school of the potency of European nationalism and through their own personal experience of the strengths of the local Ngoni state, they recognized that political unity would also be useful to the Tumbuka in their dealings with the colonial administration. It seemed to them that the cultural symbols surrounding the revived chieftainship could be used to give ideological form to this political unity.[28] They also lobbied the British on Chilongozi Gondwe's behalf.

In 1907 the British bowed to such pressure and recognized Chilongozi as 'Chief Chikulamayembe IX'. A coronation ceremony was put together for the occasion and an embryonic ethnic ideology based on historical symbols was created, offering Tumbuka-speakers who had formerly identified themselves primarily by their membership in lineages and clans the potential of reformulating their identity into that of belonging to a wholly new ideological construct, the 'tribe'. The new chief and his educated supporters set about building an historical image for their new Tumbuka 'tribe'. A series of articles devoted to Tumbuka history appeared in the Mission's local newspaper, Makani, and elaborate celebrations were held annually to commemorate the anniversary of Chilongozi's appointment.[29] Saulos Nyirenda, a telegraph clerk educated at the Mission who was later to be considered the Tumbuka's 'Father of History', produced a lengthy political history in 1909. Related by marriage to the chief, he wrote with but one purpose: to glorify the history of the Chikulamayembe chieftainship and to denigrate the Ngoni for having 'spoiled our country'.[30] Another Mission graduate, Andrew Nkhonjera, apparently with the aim of convincing the British of the supreme importance of the Chikulamayembe chieftaincy in the history of all Tumbuka-speakers, produced a similar history.[31]

It was one thing for intellectuals to craft an ideological core of Tumbuka identity centring around the revived chieftainship. It was quite another to have the new identity widely accepted by Tumbuka-speakers and become a genuine ethnic consciousness. That it did can be explained, we suggest, by relating it to two important factors that affected the local situation after World War I. The first of these was the active intervention of the Livingstonia Mission in education and local politics, activities that encouraged people to think ethnically. The second was the profound change in the political economy of the Northern Province which prompted men to rely upon the chiefly elite to maintain order in the village while


they were far away, working as labour migrants in Southern Rhodesia or South Africa. This reliance bolstered chiefly authority and opened the way for a general acceptance of an identity and consciousness defined in terms of 'tribe'.

Ethnic Ideology and the Livingstonia Mission

Perhaps the best organized force working towards specifying the terms of the new Tumbuka identity and expanding it into a living consciousness was the Livingstonia Mission itself. Two of its missionaries had special significance in the process. The first was Thomas Cullen Young, a Scot who worked in the area between 1904 and 1931. The second was Edward Bote Manda, a Lakeside Tonga who was both a teacher and an ordained minister at the Mission headquarters. These two men, supported by the Mission's prestige and working amongst people whose respect for the printed word was immense, took up Saulos Nyirenda's earlier work and, as active culture brokers, propagated a myth based upon the alleged historical glories of the Chikulamayembe chieftainship.

Soon after his arrival, Young began studying the customs of the local people. He was in an area free from Ngonde and Ngoni political interference, and he was witness to the beginnings of the new formulation of Tumbuka history. For his historical research he depended largely on Nyirenda's history and on oral evidence gathered in Chief Chikulamayembe's area. His data was thus substantially biased towards the new chief's 'official' version of the past.[32] His principal thesis was the same as Nyirenda's: that in the pre-Ngoni period there had existed a large Tumbuka empire, founded by the first Chikulamayembe, Mlowoka, and sustained by his successors.[33] This empire, it was argued, included not only all speakers of the Tumbuka language, but also the Lakeside Tonga and the Ngonde peoples as well as some Chewa-speakers, extending from the Dwangwa river in the south to the Songwe river in the north, from the Luangwa valley in the west to the Lakeshore in the east, an area of some 20,000 square miles. The actual historical reality was, however, quite different. The original Chikulamayembe chieftainship had been territoriall' small, and there had been no such thing before the coming of the Ngoni as a unified empire, state, or 'tribe' encompassing the Tumbuka.[34]

This new version of a Golden Age of the Chikulamayembes provided a heady vision of the past to a people who had been scattered and oppressed by the Ngoni conquerors and who were discontented with the colonial reality. Young's books were widely available through the Mission's shops and, as English was central in the local school curriculum, they were widely read by the rising group of Tumbuka intellectuals, helping to shape their historical consciousness. Even more importantly, his history was utilized as the basis for pamphlets about local history that were published in Tumbuka for use in the area's many primary schools. In this way, then, the heroic accounts of Tumbuka history written by Saulos Nyirenda and Cullen Young passed into popular consciousness through the Mission's educational work.[35]

Edward Manda was at work at the same time. Manda was not of Tumbuka origin, having been born a Lakeside Tonga in an area under Ngoni hegemony, his father a captive of the Ngoni. He began his studies at the Mission in 1885. In 1905 he became a teacher, and in 1918 was ordained to the ministry, afterwards remaining at the Mission headquarters.[36] In theory, Manda might have become a kind of Saulos Nyirenda for the Lakeside Tonga, the culture broker for a distinctly Tonga ethnic consciousness. The parallels were striking. Like the Tumbuka, the Tonga were divided into a host of small chieftaincies. Like the Tumbuka, they had


known defeat and humiliation at the hands of the Ngoni. As with the Tumbuka, some of them had rebelled and migrated to form autonomous communities, and, like the Tumbuka, they had in Chief Mankhambira, who defeated an Ngoni attack in 1880, a figure around whom myths of past greatness could have accumulated. Finally, again like the Tumbuka, they had been among the Mission's earliest converts and possessed a substantial well-educated petty bourgeoisie who could serve as culture brokers.

Yet no comparable version of Tonga ethnic consciousness was formulated. Unlike the Tumbuka refugees for whom a chief had to be found to deal with the new British administration, the Tonga did not lack political institutions, and other Tonga chiefs, eager to retain their authority, were unwilling to submit to the claims of Mankhambira's successor to have jurisdiction over all Tonga-speakers. Furthermore, Lakeside Tonga was a language so similar to Tumbuka that it could not readily be used as a distinctive cultural symbol for an ideology of Tonga ethnic identity. Young Tonga intellectuals banded together in 1919 to form the West Nyasa Native Association, as their educated counterparts had done elsewhere in the Northern Province.[37] The Association's members were hostile to colonial injustice and oppression, and they, like their counterparts in other areas of the Northern Province, co-opted local chiefs as members to gain support from ordinary villagers. Of the three northern associations, however, the West Nyasa Native Association was the most detached from local ethnic issues, the most affected by intellectual influences from South Africa and the United States, and the most firmly committed to a generalized denunciation of colonialism in an idiom of Justice and Civilization.

Edward Manda held similar views regarding colonial injustice. While living amongst the Tumbuka he had joined the first African political association in Nyasaland. This was the North Nyasa Native Association, formed in 1912 by Tumbuka men educated at the Livingstonia Mission with the encouragement of Robert Laws, the Mission's head.[38] By 1925 Manda had become the Association's chairman. He had also become exceedingly unpopular with the British because of his unending protests. Although a firm believer in the Victorian virtues of Improvement and Uplift, he also felt that British cultural imperialism required the development of a rival 'traditional' mythology that would at the same time incorporate the values of the educated African petty bourgeoisie.[39] For him, the Chikulamayembe chieftainship was an obvious point of departure and, with all the ardour of a convert, he set about to bolster its status and power.

In this work, he enjoyed two real advantages. First, he was geographically well situated. As one official noted, the chiefs court was far from district headquarters at Karonga and

there is a tendency for things to fall into the hands of the Mission natives, particularly the Rev. Edward Manda at Livingstonia, who is of necessity a liaison between Chikulamayembe and the D.C. as he is in telegraphic and postal communication with Karonga.[40]

Second, his involvement occurred at an opportune time for the strengthening of specifically ethnic institutions, for his work intersected with structural changes in the local economy and reinforced the local role of chiefs.

Chiefly Powers and Social Control

From the turn of the century onwards, Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia, as the new British colonies came to be known, were linked to the emergent capitalist


economy of southern Africa and were especially oriented towards the gold mines of the Witwatersrand.[41] The transformation of the rural areas of Central Africa into satellites of South Africa was gradual, but it was real, eradicating distances and dissolving territorial boundaries. The solvent in this process was money. The British administration imposed an annual hut tax both to finance its operations and to press Africans into wage labour. The missionaries who operated the local school system required the payment of substantial school fees, and local people were ardent for education. Bridewealth, which eventually came to be payable in either money or cattle, constituted a third use for money. Finally, people needed money for their discretionary wants, such as clothing, salt, tools and similar items.

Because there was no way of earning money locally—no markets, no industries, no farms, no plantations—the men had no option but to walk to regional labour markets to earn, as migrant workers, the money they required. Initially, in the years before World War I, people worked out strategies to sustain village life. Certain men would go to the labour markets of the south to earn enough money for several of their fellows to survive upon, for example, and those left at home would attend to village agricultural requirements, going for their share of migrant labour later, when their fellows returned.[42]

Between 1912 and 1923, however, a succession of blows were dealt to such attempts to come to terms creatively with the necessity of labour migrancy. An outbreak of bovine pleuro-pneumonia in 1912 ended the trade in cattle which had become important in supplementing earnings from labour migrancy.[43] During World War I men were drafted to serve as porters in the British army for periods of up to three years and the resulting shortage of male labour adversely affected food production in the village gardens. The army also commandeered large amounts of food and many cattle from the people, and great burdens were placed upon the women remaining in the villages as they tried to produce enough food for their families and themselves. The war was followed by the great worldwide Spanish influenza pandemic of 1919 which killed thousands of Tumbuka and Ngoni. This in turn was followed by a heavy round of inflation, an outbreak of Bubonic plague, a doubling of the tax rate in 1920, and a severe famine in 1923.[44]

The impact of all these events resulted in an abrupt emigration of the male population from northern Nyasaland, with as many as 70 per cent of the men absent from home at any one time. This absence placed great strains upon village life in general and upon relations between men and women in particular. A crisis within the family resulted, with women whose husbands were absent bearing children conceived in adultery or deciding to seek divorce so as to remarry.[45] As a consequence, men sought to assert control over women through recourse to institutions of African 'customary' law. They undertook this strategy at an opportune moment.

During the 1920s, the British were especially eager to implement a system of formal Indirect Rule. Chiefs and headmen in all districts of Nyasaland already played a considerable part in the collection of taxes and in general administration: in 1912, the passage of the District Administration (Native) Ordinance (DANO) had provided for the appointment of Principal Headmen and subordinate village headmen to whom would be delegated minor responsibilities for the general conduct and welfare of village life and for keeping the district officer informed of births, deaths, crimes, disputes and disturbances, and immigration. The village headmen had the additional important duty of 'allocating village gardens and pasturage' under the officer's direction.[46]

In 1924 an amended version of DANO that strengthened the African role in controlling village society was passed. Principal Headmen and section councillors


were to administer 'sections' made up of 'village areas'. The delegated powers were substantial, with Principal Headmen in particular gaining power. They could hear cases referred to them by the village headmen and could charge a fee; they could officiate at weddings and grant or refuse divorces; they were responsible for tax collection which conferred advantages in the control of labour; they issued beer licences which brought a major industry engaged in by women under their jurisdiction; they controlled afforestation, which involved house building and much local industry; and they acquired for the first time clearly defined powers over village headmen, with profound consequences for the allocation of land. In 1929 a further amendment established courts at which the Principal Headmen could hear civil cases. All these provisions were consolidated and a system of Indirect Rule was formally established in 1933 with the promulgation of the Native Authorities and the Native Courts Ordinances.[47]

From the British point of view the advantages of Indirect Rule in cutting costs, saving work and dividing the Africans into competing communities were obvious. But there were advantages for certain Africans as well, and not only the chiefs, the 'Native Authorities', who were to assume the new powers. One group who benefited were migrant labourers. The British used local chiefs and headmen as adjudicators in marital disputes, and consequently 'traditional' chiefs came to be central in the concerns and calculations of ordinary men who were eager to preserve their interests at home while working outside Nyasaland.[48] In the context of the new political economy of migrant labour, then, chiefs had an enlarged role to play and men were willing—even eager—to accept chiefly authority and the historical mythology that legitimized it. Another group who could benefit were educated Africans, for they could count on being advisers of the chiefs. Given the powers ceded, however, the question of who actually secured the post of Native Authority was crucial, and, in the case of the Tumbuka, Edward Manda's intervention proved decisive.

Chilongozi Gondwe, Chief Chikulamayembe, had been in poor health for several years, allowing Manda's own influence to increase. In 1931 the old chief died. Although many elders initially supported the claims of Gogoti Gondwe, his appropriate successor in terms of 'custom', Manda persuaded them to accept John Gondwe, the son of the deceased chief and the Mission's candidate.[49] He had been educated at the Mission and, being only 26 years old in 1931, he fulfilled Manda's requirements for a young, pliable, educated chief.[50] A Tumbuka elder of the time, while acknowledging the appointment's irregularity, explained that when 'appointing John we knew that John had education, knew white men and modern affairs. It was because of this that we appointed John.'[51] Confirming the strong linkage between education and growing ethnic consciousness, the new chief introduced compulsory education for all children in his chiefdom, the first (and, to our knowledge, the only) Nyasaland chief to do so. Within six years, a district officer could comment that 'compulsory education in Chikulayembe's country has ceased to be an experiment and is becoming an accomplished fact'.[52]

Functioning both as a theocratic éminence grise and as a progressive, Manda enthusiastically manipulated the Past to bolster the public image of his chosen instrument, the Chikulamayembeship.[53] In 1932, he proposed that the new chief should rule over all 'Utumbuka', 'the Land of the Tumbuka'. Although this included territory never under past Chikulamayembes, Cullen Young's work was cited to justify the claim.[54] In the following year the Chikulamayembe and his supporters 'invaded' the neighbouring Mwafulilwa area to 'annex' it, earning an official reprimand.[55] Soon afterwards, the chief, aided by Manda, attempted covertly to establish a Tumbuka chiefdom in the heart of Ngoni country, near


Hora Mountain, where Tumbuka rebels had fought the Ngoni in 1879, seeking, as the District Commissioner explained, 'to make this a centre from which Tumbuka influence would spread and eliminate Angoni rule'.[56] The Tumbuka would then be able to live 'without the stigma of subservience to Angoni rule'.[57] These efforts failed, but they revived bitter anti-Ngoni feelings, especially amongst the partisans of Tumbuka lineages whose authority the Ngoni invasion of the mid-nineteenth century had extinguished.[58]

By the early 1930s, then, largely because of the Mission's educational work and Tumbuka men's willingness to accept increased chiefly authority, Tumbuka ethnic consciousness had become a reality, focusing attitudes, instilling pride, and helping to shape actions. The census of 1931 noted that there was a marked decline in the number of people identifying themselves as 'Ngoni', caused by

the tribal consciousness in the peoples amongst whom they live. In the days of their greatest power, it was politic and long afterwards fashionable . . . to claim membership in the all-powerful Ngoni tribe. . . . The indigenous tribes are no longer afraid or ashamed to call themselves by the proper names.[59]

Ngoni Ethnic Consciousness

The upsurge in ethnic pride in Nyasaland's Northern Province during the inter-war years also affected the Ngoni. In 1933 the British recognized Lazaro Jere as Native Authority for the area of Mbelwa's Ngoni and as Paramount Chief of the Ngoni, reviving a title which had been banned since 1915. Superficially, this triumph for Ngoni ethnic consciousness is difficult to distinguish from the Tumbuka version just to the north. An alliance of chiefs, African intellectuals and ordinary villagers, coinciding with British concern for the social health of villages affected by labour migrancy and moves towards Indirect Rule, had produced a political solution identical to the Chikulamayembeship in everything except the title itself. Like the Tumbuka, the Ngoni had their culture brokers—for the Reverend Edward Manda, the Reverends Charles Chinula and Yesaya Chibambo; for Thomas Cullen Young, the British anthropologist Margaret Read.[60] Behind such similarities, however, lay profound contrasts in meaning and causation.

For the Tumbuka building their ethnic self-awareness, the opposing 'they' were primarily the Ngoni. Tumbuka attitudes to the British as liberators and educators, oppressors and exploiters were necessarily ambiguous, and the specifically anti-colonial ingredient was a comparatively late addition to Tumbuka ethnic consciousness. For the Ngoni, however, the problems of ethnic awareness were at once far simpler, yet also more complex. On the one hand, the Ngoni enjoyed a reputation throughout southern Africa as effective soldiers and administrators. Like the British, they had come to Nyasaland as conquerors, and they had been able to maintain their independence until 1904, long after their neighbours had conceded sovereignty. In short, the Ngoni knew that they were a people with whom one had to reckon.

On the other hand, the final quarter century of Ngoni independence had been plagued with problems. Their heartland had been severely damaged by overgrazing, the destruction of forest cover, a declining water table, and falling soil fertility.[61] This damage was aggravated, first, by the extension of the pax Britannica which ended the annual raiding by which the Ngoni had supplemented their food supplies, restricting them to their exhausted heartland, and, second, by the devastation of their cattle herds by the rinderpest epizoötic of the


mid-1890s.[62] In 1903, famine finally pushed large numbers of people to move out into the depopulated lands around them, thereby violating an earlier agreement with the British. Urged on by the Scottish missionaries, the Ngoni accepted British sovereignty in September 1904, the governor agreeing that the Ngoni should retain their Paramount Chief and enjoy other freedoms denied to all the other peoples of Nyasaland. In the eyes of the Ngoni, their chief was equal in status to the local British district officer.[63]

It was the abrupt imposition of a heavy tax burden on an impoverished people in an impoverished land that is still most vividly remembered:

Taxes were the main problem. . . . A hut tax of 3 shillings was introduced in 1906. That year, the people paid the tax, but when taxes were demanded afresh in 1907, the people rebelled, saying 'Should we pay taxes a second time? No!! That cannot be so!! We invited in government, not repeated tax collection.' It was after the tax rebellion of 1907 that the government sent Reuben, Madondolo, and Pickford to bum the huts of those who refused to pay.

There was wailing . . . villages were burnt here in Embangweni, in Engalaweni, everywhere. The main complaint was about the system of taxation which was bad in those days. They arrested anyone who defaulted in the payment of their taxes. Those who defaulted were often subjected to ill-treatment. Even if they were girls, they were tied up with ropes and beaten with the sjambok . The people had to migrate to Harare [Southern Rhodesia]. There was no money in this country, so they had to walk all the way to Rhodesia.[64]

This testimony is revealing in two ways. First, it shows well over half a century after the event the intensity of Ngoni anger over the tax issue. For the Tumbuka, accustomed to paying tribute to the Ngoni or Ngonde chiefs, British taxation involved primarily—although by no means only—a shift of allegiance. For the Ngoni, by contrast, it meant the surrender of their sovereignty to a new conqueror, a humiliating sign of tributary status for a people who had migrated all over southern and central Africa to avoid just such a fate.

Second, the testimony records that although tax had to be paid in money, there was 'no money in this country'. Where the soil was exhausted, as in Ngoni country, and where there were no markets for food or cash crops, as was the situation everywhere in northern Nyasaland, and when an outbreak of bovine pleuro-pneumonia soon made it impossible for the people to sell cattle to raise money, the imposition of the tax brought to the Ngoni the demands of a political economy based on a general labour migrancy that had already affected the Tumbuka north of them.

On the material level the results of labour migrancy for the Ngoni were the same as for the Tumbuka, but for the Ngoni, accustomed to being rulers, they were more galling. The British found the discontented Ngoni difficult to control, unlike the Tumbuka, and, reflecting their administrative exasperation, the acting governor sourly observed in 1913 that nothing would 'benefit them or the country more than to shoot a few down, burn their villages, deport the so-called chiefs and confiscate their cattle'.[65] In July 1914, when the governor met with the Ngoni leaders, mutual recriminations filled the air. The governor asserted that the chiefs were encouraging 'their people to evade payment of hut tax, deceived the Resident when he applied to them for information and assistance', and did not merit their governmental subsidies. The Ngoni chiefs complained of the lack of markets in northern Nyasaland and the oppressive weight of taxation.[66]

Shortly afterwards the Ngoni hierarchy was dealt a traumatic blow. In 1915,


when a British official tried to raise men to serve in the much-feared Carrier Corps in the East African campaign of World War I, Paramount Chief Chimtunga forbade it.[67] For this, he was removed from office and banished to the Southern Province, and DANO was applied to Ngoni country for the first time, reducing the chiefs to little more than assistants to the District Commissioner for mobilizing labour and collecting taxes. In the 1970s people still recalled this shattering event in an ingoma song:


Inkosi Chimtunga Jere

Chief Chimtunga Jere

Bambeke egekeni

Has been publicly humiliated!

Inkosi yelizwe!

The chief of the land!

Sibabaze hee!!

We make it known!!

Sibabaze hee!!

We make it known!!

Elizwe liyoneke .

The land has been made rotten.

Sibabaze hee!!

We make it known!![68]

This blow to Ngoni self-respect was followed by the deaths of a great many of the Province's people in the war, in which they were forced to serve as porters.[69] The severe reverses of the post-war years followed.[70] The imposition of colonial control thus coincided with a rapid and general deterioration of conditions of living in the area, generating profound resentment. For the Ngoni, the 'they' in opposition were clearly the agents of the new colonial political economy.

In 1919 a group of Livingstonia-educated clerks, teachers and clergymen established the Mombera Native Association, modelled on 1912's North Nyasaland Native Association. Over the years, this association was dominated by the Reverend Charles Chinula, who, though of Tumbuka origin, came to be as ardent a protagonist for the Ngoni ruling elite and advocate of Ngoni history as Edward Manda was for the Tumbuka and their version.[71] Chinula was assisted in this work by the Reverend Yesaya Chibambo, also of the Mission, who in a speech of 1920 succinctly expressed the aims and attitudes of the new organization:

The country is now in a new era with a new life, new knowledge, new resolutions, new laws, new customs which can be learned through education: it would be foolish and ridiculous if people of the country dislike the civilization. The old life differs greatly from the present life, and it would be wise for the people of this country to aspire to have education, which alone leads to civilization.[72]

Significantly, however, the path to this progressive future was seen as passing through a celebration of the Past.[73] The Ngoni past was vivid and, when compared with the grim realities of ecological decay, labour migrancy, and the undermined authority of chiefs, it seemed indeed glorious. The migration from Natal, the deeds of Zwangendaba, the victories of Ngoni armies, Ngoni skill in state-building, their high level of culture—all these were celebrated and publicized by Yesaya Chibambo in his role as historian in the book Midauko: Makani gha waNgoai (History: The Deeds of the Ngoni ) (Livingstonia, n.d.), which was prepared specifically for use in the local Mission schools.[74] To talk of the Ngoni past was, then, to speak of real and continuing structures of power.

In dealing with the British Administration, however, the Ngoni chiefs found it useful to use a less traditional face. As the District Commissioner minuted in 1930:

My experience of the District Councils in the Northern Province is that the Chiefs are so tired of trying to get their grievances redressed that they turned to


the Native Associations in the hope that the latter, being more educated, would bring greater pressure to bear upon the Government.[75]

In practice, the Mombera Native Association had from its inception been fulfilling this role. Among its first campaigns, the Association took up the cause of the banished Chief, Chimtunga Jere, persuading the colonial authorities to permit his return home, even though he was allowed no political role. After Chimtunga's death, it championed the claims of his son, Lazaro Jere, a Mission-educated clerk employed in the Northern Rhodesian administration, to return to Nyasaland as 'Paramount', a title still outlawed.[76] Once Lazaro returned in 1924, a well orchestrated campaign to revive the Paramountcy itself began, resulting in popular excitement so great that the District Commissioner contemplated calling in troops to suppress the movement.[77]

The adoption of Indirect Rule, however, was approaching, and in 1928 the government recognized Lazaro Jere as Principal Headman. He immediately confirmed the Association's role in promoting his advancement by becoming its chairman.[78] Not surprisingly, the Association continued its campaign in terms appropriate to a specifically ethnic consciousness, fighting off an attempt in 1929 to transfer the northern fringe of Ngoni territory to Chikulamayembe, and in 1930 arguing once again that the 'desire to have a paramount chief in Mombera still rings in the hearts of the people, for the present policy of equalizing all the Principal Headmen is contrary to the law of the country'.[79] In 1933 the government yielded and recognized Lazaro Jere as the new Paramount, Mbelwa II. Like the Chikulamayembe, he immediately became expansionist. Within a year he succeeded in annexing part of the area of the neighbouring Chewa chief Kaluluma and unsuccessfully attempted to acquire the adjacent Northern Rhodesian Ngoni chiefdoms of Magodi and Pikamalaza.[80] In 1938, he petitioned the state that the entire area of Northern Rhodesia between the Nyasaland border and the Luangwa river be placed under his administration, but this manoeuvre also failed.[81]

In sum, then, by the early 1930s two strong ethnic ideologies had been created in northern Nyasaland. In the Tumbuka case, the strongest creative influence was the intellectual input of graduates of the Scottish Mission's schools; in the Ngoni case, the strongest influences were the still-living memories of past independence and prosperity. For both groups, however, it was the demands of the colonial political economy and, most especially, the fact of widespread labour migrancy that provided a firm underpinning to these culturally defined revivals. While men were in Southern Rhodesia or South Africa earning money as labour migrants, they thought it essential that their local interests in land, cattle, and, particularly, control over women and children should be protected. Indeed, in recognition of the roles of the chiefs in preserving social order in the villages, migrants customarily presented the chiefs with gifts on their return home. Financial considerations, therefore, reinforced the chiefs' natural desires to maintain social order in their areas.[82]

In essence, Tumbuka and Ngoni ethnic ideologies during the inter-war period were products of a dialogue between labour migrants who wanted social controls enforced and African intellectuals who sought to shape these controls so as to encourage what they saw as Progress for their people. Ethnic consciousness in the Northern Province was, then, a form of resistance to colonialism that asserted the validity of the African way of life and the African past through a stress on 'tradition' while still looking forward to a future of 'Progress' through western education and training.


Language Policy and the Creation of Northern Regionalism

During the 1930s the Northern Province's two major ethnic movements, with their ideological core of history and chiefly authority, partially coalesced into a regional movement that was defined by common interests and specified by a new concern, language. The issue that precipitated this change was the government's language policy. In 1918 one of the administration's junior officers resurrected the old idea that Nyanja should be made the official language of the country and taught in all its schools. As a proposal it made good sense, for Nyanja, or its dialectal variants, Mang'anja and Chewa, were spoken by a majority of the country's people. The governor, Sir George Smith, rejected the suggestion totally, however, pointing out that:

Though the spread of one dialect through the country would be advantageous . . . it would tend to merge the various tribes in the Protectorate at a greater rate than at present, and this I consider undesirable. One of the chief safeguards against any combined rising is the individualism of the various tribes, and with a small and scattered white population, this I think should be postponed.[83]

Divide-and-rule was to be British policy. In the north, the language that was granted official status was Tumbuka. Throughout the 1920s the Mission's presses confirmed the status of Tumbuka by pouring forth school texts in the Tumbuka language in editions of between 7000 and 10,000 copies.[84] For the Tumbuka themselves, it was a symbol of their reviving respectability and self-esteem. For the Ngoni, it was their adopted language within the context of a larger society of potentially competing languages.

In the late 1920s, the government's language policy shifted. Governor Sir Shenton Thomas was not haunted by visions of uprisings nor preoccupied with strategies of divide-and-rule. He was eager to streamline the colony's administration, and he argued that the adoption of a single official lingua franca would both help unite the country and save money.[85] Following Thomas's suggestion, the Advisory Committee on Education adopted a proposal that Nyanja 'be introduced as the medium of instruction not later than Class 4 in all Government and Assisted schools'.[86] To obtain state aid missions would be obliged to follow this policy.[87]

This decision distressed the Scottish missionaries of the north. On 15 July 1933 the Livingstonia Mission announced that it was 'unable to accept this ruling', attacking Nyanja on several grounds. First, it was educationally unsound and simply would not work. Second, it would inconvenience the Mission, which would have to find Nyanja teachers. Third, Nyanja was a bad choice because it was not a 'language of higher cultural and linguistic value'. Fourth, it was a politically unsound decision, because the people themselves opposed it.[88] Rather than introduce Nyanja into the north, therefore, the Mission would forgo governmental aid. The head of the Mission, W.P. Young, the brother of Cullen Young, put the argument in somewhat less reasoned terms:

Politically, it is an unfortunate moment to choose to attempt to turn back the pages of history. When the Livingstonia Mission began work the local people were under the domination of the Angoni. The Tumbuka . . . were a scattered and subject people, whose language was proscribed. Yet they clung to it as the symbol of their identity as a people . . . to them in a peculiar sense, their language is their life.[89]


The government had indeed chosen a peculiarly inappropriate moment to implement its decision. Indirect Rule had been introduced only recently in the north, and African leaders were quick to echo the Mission's objections. They argued that it was 'unfair to force a people to accept a language which they do not wish' and, tellingly, that 'people go to schools to learn their own vernacular books, after which they wish to learn English, which is more profitable'.[90] The language issue resulted in a merger of local Tumbuka and Ngoni ethnic consciousnesses into a new Northern regional coalition glued together by the fact that these groups now possessed a common language in a country of many languages. Thus, when a new governor, Sir Hubert Young, visited the north to convince the people that the new policy was in their best interests, fierce opposition greeted him. At a gathering of Ngoni leaders on 1 October 1933, Charles Chinula remonstrated that 'Chinyanja is not wanted in this Tumbuka-speaking area.' When Young travelled further north to speak with Tumbuka leaders, their spokesman told him that 'Tumbuka should be preserved for future generations just as seed for native produce, domestic and wild animals are preserved for them.'[91] In a minute of 19 October, Levi Mumba, the ranking Tumbuka-speaker in government service and the first African to sit on the influential Advisory Committee of Education, aligned himself with the anti-Nyanja forces, arguing that it was much too early to have a lingua franca in Nyasaland and that, if ever one were adopted, it should be English.[92]

The governor was stubborn, however, and drawing support from the Roman Catholic and Dutch Reformed Churches, both of which used Nyanja as their medium of instruction in the Central Province, he appealed to Whitehall for support. In the far north of the country Ngonde-speakers, resenting their long social subordination to Mission-educated Henga, joined in attacking Tumbuka, asserting that 'We Bangonde would like our children to learn Nyanja in schools and not Tumbuka.'[93] The Colonial Office initially agreed with the governor, commenting that the Livingstonia Mission must face facts and accept Nyanja. If they did not, their students' careers would be blighted because of their ignorance of the official language of the country and their consequent ineligibility for positions in the civil service.[94] Therefore, in 1935 Young's successor, Sir Harold Kittermaster, ordered the immediate implementation of the new language policy.

The Mission, however, refused to give up, carrying the fight for their educated graduates over the heads of Nyasaland's officials to London and succeeding in gaining the sympathy of key Whitehall officials.[95] As one noted:

It does seem to me a pity—to put it no more strongly—that because of this persistent pursuit of a policy about whose merits there is considerable dispute, Government should run the risk of alienating a Mission in Nyasaland which is doing wonderful work and which . . . is only too anxious to co-operate with Government wherever it can.[96]

The Mission was victorious. London instructed Kittermaster to hold another conference and to impose no policy against the Mission's wishes.[97] In mid-1936 this conference was held. The Mission's representative asserted that the mother tongue was the 'soul of the people' and that to impose Nyanja as a lingua franca would be tantamount to the suppression of Nyasaland's other languages. At this conference, Levi Mumba not only deprecated the whole idea of a lingua franca but went so far as to say that Nyanja should never be considered as a subject to be taught in schools, as its introduction 'would interfere with the mental development of the children'.[98] After World War II Tumbuka gained an additional victory when, in 1947, it, together with Nyanja, was made one of the


two official languages of the country, a position it held until 1968 despite the fact that it was spoken by only a very small fraction of the population.[99] The alliance of educated Africans and well-connected Scottish missionaries was a potent one, and it ensured that the bulk of African positions in the colonial civil service would be taken by Tumbuka-speaking northerners as rapidly as such positions opened up.

Chiefs, Planters, and Immigrants in the South

Conceivably, events in Nyasaland's Southern Province might well have followed a similar course. As in the north, the south had experienced, well before the British arrival, the invasion of other African peoples and the overthrow of established political systems. During the 1860s, Yao-speaking people from Mozambique had conquered the Shire Highlands, ruling as a group of competing warlords over the Mang'anja-speaking autochthones. The Shire valley was taken over by the Makololo porters of David Livingstone, who ruled from stockades along the riverbanks. The indigenous Mang'anja chiefs, including the Paramount Chief, Lundu, were killed and their people incorporated into the new Makololo chiefdoms.

When Scottish missionaries established the Blantyre Mission in 1876, they attracted their first converts from the defeated and enslaved Mang'anja. Mang'anja became the language of preaching and education, the language used in Biblical translation, and the first language of the country to have a scholarly dictionary. It is possible, then, to sketch out a hypothetical history in terms of which the Blantyre Mission might have become a focus of a resuscitated anti-Yao, anti-Makololo, pro-Mang'anja consciousness, campaigning for the restoration of Chief Lundu's Paramountcy, drawing into its service the administrative and political talents of such educated converts to Christianity as John Grey Kufa and John Chilembwe, and obtaining critical support from the local Scottish missionaries.

Yet events followed quite a different course. Local African leaders who opposed colonialism, perhaps influenced by the distinctly non-particularist, universalist message of such foreign missionaries as Joseph Booth and James Cheek, made no attempt to mobilize African cultural symbols or to formulate a view of the African past in their opposition to British colonialism. It was not, in fact, until after Malawi's independence in 1964 that political leaders appreciated the possibilities of the use of a crafted past as a mobilizer of political support, when President Banda added an historical dimension to the Chewa/Mang'anja ethnic political coalition he had built by reviving the defunct Lundu Paramountcy and crowning the new chief with a ceremonial pith helmet.

The political economy of the Southern Province was crucial in shaping its history in the twentieth century, and pivotal in shaping that political economy was the fact that land alienation to Europeans occurred in the nineteenth century, before the establishment of a British administration. Vast estates comprising almost one million acres were obtained by a handful of settlers and companies during the 1880s as part of their strategy to induce the British government to annex the Shire Highlands and adjacent riverine areas before the Portuguese could do so. One reason such land alienation was possible was that the bulk of the land 'purchased' from the chiefs was relatively unoccupied. In 1861, missionaries had found the Shire Highlands thickly populated with Mang'anja villages. Disruptions from Yao invasions, the expansion of the slave trade, and a disastrous famine in 1862 soon resulted, however, in an entirely different pattern of


settlement wherein the major chiefs ruled from heavily fortified stockades on mountain tops. The plains reverted to secondary forest and were by the 1880s thick with game. With minor exceptions, it was this largely unoccupied and uncultivated land which was alienated to Europeans in the 1880s. The planters were thus in a strong position to defend their interests against both government and missions after the British annexed the area in 1890, successfully insisting upon the de facto right to run their estates pretty much as they wanted, without governmental interference and without an unwanted mission presence. Most planters barred mission work on their estates, and, therefore, in the south no networks of mission schools located in the villages developed as they did in the north. In the Southern Province education remained a relatively rare phenomenon.

From the 1890s onwards, the issue that dominated the politics of southern Nyasaland centred on the nature of the terms on which Africans would be permitted access to the mostly empty lands held by the European planters or the Crown Land that still remained under Yao chiefs.[100] That this could become a central issue was because of the entry into Nyasaland from Mozambique of groups of 'Nguru' peoples seeking land. This immigration began in 1895 and continued for several decades. Some were slaves freed from the chiefs' stockades, while others were fleeing Portuguese tax and labour policies. They spoke various languages, including Lomwe, Mpotola, and Mihavani, but nothing called 'Nguru'.

When these migrations began, the area's European planters were struggling to find a suitable product for export, and their main problem was finding an adequate labour supply. Though a hut tax had been devised to solve this problem, it had proved inefficient. Even when local people could be induced to pay their tax in labour rather than in cash or kind, it generated only one month's work per man per year, allowing no time for the development of skills and producing a labour surplus in the dry season but virtually none during the rains, when the bulk of the agricultural work had to be done. Moreover, when people needed to earn money, they found it more advantageous to leave the country altogether to seek the higher pay available elsewhere in southern Africa. In the planters' view, Nyasaland's people had too many alternatives.

What made the new Nguru immigrants so valuable was their vulnerability. As immigrants, they lacked land. By accepting land in return for their labour, they could be turned into a captive workforce. Two groups took advantage of their vulnerability: the European planters and the established Yao chiefs and headmen dwelling on Crown Land. As the Nguru migrants crossed the border, the planters had vast tracts of empty land available for settlement which they offered to the newcomers under terms by which they exchanged land for labour—a system known as thangata . According to the legislation of 1904 which defined thangata, workers were to be provided with eight acres of land for settlement and cultivation, the 'rent' on this land being one month's labour per year in lieu of hut tax, plus one month's thangata labour paid at the current rate of tax. The real attractions of the system for the planters lay in its hidden advantages. A month's hut tax labour could be stretched to six or eight weeks simply by withholding a signature from the tax certificate. Thangata agreements were informal and verbal and not subject to government review. Most planters had little difficulty in extending the actual labour service to four or five months. And unlike hut tax or tax certificate labour, it could be demanded in the rainy season.[101] The Nguru were in no position to bargain. If they refused to work or if they attempted, as others did, to find work in South Africa or Southern Rhodesia, they lost their right to land in Nyasaland. The planters therefore encouraged the Nguru to settle. As


the governor commented a few years later, Nguru immigration had come 'most opportunely. It populated vacant spaces, it enhanced the Protectorate's revenue and most important of all it has provided a ready and permanent labour supply for the extension of European enterprise.'[102] This situation continued well into the 1920s.

The planters were not the sole beneficiaries of the migrations. Some Nguru also settled under the protection of chiefs and headmen on Crown Land. These chiefs and headmen were Yao-speakers established in the area since the 1860s. Once the British established an administration, people began to move down from Zomba, Chiradzulu and Mulanje mountains and reoccupied the abandoned plains, growing crops. Over the next fifteen years the whole of the Shire Highlands was repopulated.[103] To clear the land required labour, and it was the Nguru immigrants who supplied it. The chiefs and headmen gave them food in exchange for their clearing fresh land and growing cotton, the area's major cash crop. Their labour was also used to produce maize and vegetables for sale. On the whole, the British approved. Although there were accusations of slave-holding and slave-trading, the chiefs were successful in getting cotton and food production under way and were useful in supplying public works labour to the administration. The consensus was that although the Nguru were 'kept in a certain degree of mild subjection and occasionally perform a little menial labour for the protection of the chiefs under whom they serve, there is no serious interference with their rights and duties'. The chiefs who were to come into prominence in the colonial period were precisely those who attracted the largest numbers of settlers.[104]

The result of the welcoming of the Nguru by planters and chiefs so as to gain access to their labour was the establishment in the Southern Province of a population of great ethnic complexity, a mélange of diverse peoples and cultures. The Mang'anja and Nyanja peoples had been overlain with—and ultimately outnumbered by—Muslim Yao people in the mid-ninteenth century and by the Nguru immigrants from Mozambique in the early twentieth century. All these groups retained their own cultural practices, and the pattern of scattered settlement throughout the area undermined all possibility of defining geographically discrete ethnic areas.

Tribalism from Above: the Strengthening of the Yao Chiefs

Yet in 1915 an event occurred that was instrumental in imposing a clear, specifically ethnic interpretation upon the south's heterogeneous population, at least in the perceptions of its British rulers. This was the Chilembwe Rising, an upsurgence of popular discontent on certain plantations of the Chiradzulu district under the leadership of the Rev. John Chilembwe, head of the Providence Industrial Mission.[105] Chilembwe had been influenced by the non-particularist message of such missionaries as Booth and Cheek and then educated in America. He had adopted, as others of the Southern Province's educated petty bourgeoisie had, a universalistic Christian message as the ideological base for his opposition to colonialism.

The Chilembwe Rising was crucial in shaping later British attitudes towards Africans in two ways. First, it reinforced an already well developed colonial distrust of educated Africans in particular and of Protestant mission education in general.[106] Planters and administrators alike henceforth did all they could to


separate members of the anti-colonial petty bourgeoisie from possible popular village support against the planters' control over the local economy so as to avoid a repetition of the Chilembwe phenomenon.

Second, and related directly to this distrust, the Rising encouraged the British to impose Indirect Rule on the confusing tangle of African people in southern Nyasaland in an effort to check any possible disturbances by dissatisfied Africans through bolstering chiefly control. Indirect Rule was essentially conservative, employing its own concept of tradition and drawing its personnel from chiefs and headmen. For the British the more 'traditional' Africans were, the better, and they warmly embraced the most obviously conservative Africans in the area, Muslim Yao chiefs. In the Southern Province, then, a 'tribal order' was to be largely imposed from above rather than being shaped from below, as occurred in the Northern Province.[107]

As one reads official documents after 1915, it is difficult to avoid concluding that British officials who were pursuing control through divide-and-rule policies invoked ethnic categories that existed only in their own minds. The contrasts for them seemed to be between law and disorder, between the trustworthy Yao and the untrustworthy Nguru.[108] The insecure British administration's differentiation of Africans into 'good' Yao and 'bad' Nguru began in the immediate response to the Rising itself. The vast majority of those found guilty and sentenced to death or to long terms of imprisonment were members of Chilembwe's church, and the vast majority of these were Nguru. No declared Muslim was found guilty, although several Christian Yao were sentenced.[109] Because of the clear Nguru support of Chilembwe, it was obviously dangerous to be labelled an 'Nguru', and many immigrants therefore claimed that they were 'Yao'. It was also dangerous to be a Christian. 'We were arrested in our village by Yaos because we were Christians,' was a frequent remark in the testimony of those brought to interrogation.[110]

With this opportunity presented to them, the Yao chiefs and headmen speedily acted to protect and, if possible, improve their positions. In the week after the rising, the Yao chiefs and headmen of Chiradzulu presented themselves at the British administrator's office, assuring him that they did not support Chilembwe. They ingratiated themselves with him through gifts of flour and eggs and chickens, and he responded, finding that he enjoyed talking to them. He liked their Islamic robes, so different from the disturbing mimicry of the European suits worn by Chilembwe and many of his followers. Reassured and grateful, he wrote categorically that the Yao chiefs were all completely loyal. Two months later, his successor in Chiradzulu reported that the chiefs were being cooperative in providing road repair labour.

The British decided to seize the opportunity of the Yao chiefs' goodwill and to proceed, years in advance of anywhere else in the Southern Province, with the implementation of the DANO (1912) and with the appointment of Principal Headmen and village headmen to assume the duties laid down by the ordinance.[111] In their embrace of the Yao chiefs what the British were searching for some analogue to the English class system. The Principal Headmen were, after all, being incorporated into the colonial bureaucracy, some way down the ladder from the district commissioners, but nonetheless needing to display some of the same natural ability to govern.

The problem, given the masses of Africans all remarkably alike in their material poverty, was how to distinguish which ones were the natural gentlemen. With Christianity and mission education threatening to produce an African bourgeoisie hostile to colonialism, and yet with an official embrace of Islam a political


impossibility, the British were forced instead to formulate ethnic theories of African differentiation. Given the mixture of 'tribes' within a single area and the impossibility of finding distinctions between them, they postulated for the south a labour-specific hierarchy of 'tribes' that occupied the same land.

An official publication illustrative of the thought processes of British officials as they defined ethnic labels is S.S. Murray's A Handbook of Nyasaland (1922). Murray correctly comments on the vagueness of such terms as 'Nguru'. The Nguru are, he explains, a number of different peoples loosely allied in the Makua-Lomwe group but bearing separate designations (Atakwani, Akokola, etc.) that refer to different districts of origin in Mozambique. Similarly, with respect to the Yao, Murray comments that because of intermarriage which has robbed them of their 'finer features', the 'majority of the so-called Yaos' in the Shire Highlands 'have little claim to the name'. Yet this recognition of the obvious cultural heterogeneity of southern Nyasaland does not prevent him from detecting quite specific 'Nguru' and 'Yao' traits. The Nguru, he claims, 'are represented among the idle and criminal classes to a disproportionate extent'. The Yao, on the other hand, are 'intelligent and quick', making 'excellent servants' while 'as soldiers they have proved of inestimable value'. They also speak 'perhaps the finest of all Central African languages'. The Yao are seen as being more like Europeans than any other people of the Southern Province. They live in 'square houses' and cultivate habits of 'personal cleanliness'. It was felt that they understood a certain man-to-man equality of address. Unfortunately, and as if it were a by-product of their intelligence and fine features, the Yao are 'poor cultivators of the soil'.[112]

Before DANO could be implemented, however, 'villages' for Yao headmen to head had to be created from the ethnic soup. Complaints had noted that houses were 'scattered in twos and threes all about the place', making it difficult to collect taxes and to keep good order generally. The British ordered that houses be 'concentrated' into groups of no fewer than twenty. Many thousands of people had to be relocated, and it was impossible to join four adjacent settlements and appoint a headman without political trouble. Yet, despite such problems, this plan to form new villages was implemented.

The majority of those most directly affected by hut concentration were Nguru, for the power of the newly appointed Yao village headmen to allocate land put all immigrants firmly in their power. As Nguru immigrants continued to pour into the area during the 1920s and 1930s, they needed to secure a tax certificate, a document carrying a chief's name, as evidence of their legal residence in the country. This ensured continued advantages to the Yao chiefs and headmen from whom they had to request permission to settle. Chiefly control over land effectively made Nguru labour available to the Yao chiefs and headmen on akapolo ('slave') terms, just as it had been made available to the European planters through the thangata system. When, therefore. World War I created a demand for porters for the Carrier Corps, the newly installed Yao chiefs, in marked contrast to the Ngoni Paramount in the north, Chimtunga, responded with alacrity. From Chiradzulu district alone, 2300 porters had been despatched by the end of 1915, and, the chiefs being 'cooperative', 800 more were provided in January 1916.[113] Virtually all the 6000 porters supplied from the district during the war were Nguru.

This government-sponsored political differentiation between Yao chiefs and Nguru commoners also had a clear economic parallel. By April 1916, exactly one year after village consolidation had begun, tobacco was being cultivated as a cash crop. The new crop was fire-cured dark leaf tobacco. No reliable production


figures are available until the mid-1920s, but descriptions of the crop make it clear that this was a development of great importance to the country's economy. By 1930 tobacco grown and cured by Africans represented almost 75 per cent of Nyasaland's tobacco exports. It was the ethnically specified redistribution of power on the Shire Highlands which provided much of the opportunity for this expansion in production as chiefs could use Nguru labour to produce the crop in exchange for permission to settle.[114]

The fallout from the Chilembwe Rising, the demands of the war, and the desire for bureaucratic convenience had all made the Yao chiefs seem indispensable to the British. DANO proved its worth during World War I in suppressing opposition to colonialism, in keeping the supplies of labour flowing, in getting cash crops grown and taxes collected, and in reducing officialdom's bureaucratic burden. In the years after the war, therefore, official support for the political and economic authority of the Yao ruling elite continued to grow. And, as the alliance between the British administrators and the Yao elite deepened, the British came to see the Yao, their chosen instruments in Indirect Rule, as a people with a real history, in marked contrast to other local Africans, who had only customs and folklore. In 1919 Yohanna B. Abdallah's The Yaos was published in Zomba by the Government Printing Office in both Yao and English versions. Abdallah's aim was to 'write a book all about the customs of we Yaos, so that we remind ourselves whence we sprang and of our beginnings as a nation'.[115] It is significant that Abdallah was a priest of the Anglican Universities Mission to Central Africa, the first African to be so ordained in Nyasaland. Thus his book effectively made the point that some Yao were not Muslims: they were loyal members of the Church of England.

During the 1930s the contrasts between the Yao and Nguru 'tribes' were made in ever starker terms. In 1936, for example, a district officer produced an evolutionary account of Yao history that was even more useful to the British administration than Abdallah's had been. According to him, the Yao had their origins in Mozambique as family units, small matrilineal communities often living many miles apart. Because of threats from the Portuguese and Arabs of the East Coast, they coalesced into larger communities, living under chiefs who were responsible for organizing their security. The chief who led in war came from the largest of the various units that had amalgamated. Then there were coalitions of the larger groupings, the family units having thus evolved into the 'tribe' or the sub-sections of the 'tribe' under powerful chiefs. At this stage of development, which coincided with the migrations into Nyasaland, there were thus three levels of power among the Yao: the paramount chiefs, the subordinate chiefs, and the village lineage head. Although the paramount was basically a military figure, his position 'rested largely on his reputation for fairness'. No Yao paramount had the power of a Zulu or Ngoni chief: if the Zulu chief was like Caesar, the Yao paramount was more like an English prime minister! The Yao, then, were a tribe with a true history: they had evolved through the proper stages into something like a nation.

The Nguru, according to the official's investigations, had evolved in just the opposite direction. Originally united under the chieftaincy of Mwatunga, the tribe had disintegrated into family groups taking their names from their relationship to Mwatunga's respective wives. Thus the Nguru were no longer a 'tribal unit'. Even the name 'Anguru' as a term of unification was only a fiction, this discovery by a twist of colonial thinking being adduced as fresh proof of their intrinsic inferiority.[116]

This vision of the Nguru as inherently inferior beings was both a reflection of,


and rationalization for, their subordinate social position in the area's political economy. As such, it was reinforced as a result of changes in Nyasaland's economy in the Depression years. European planters and Yao chiefs alike had encouraged Nguru settlement for decades, and as a result of these policies there was a severe overpopulation of the Shire Highlands and a serious threat of soil erosion. In response to this situation, then, certain planters tried to evict what they now viewed as 'surplus' Nguru. While concerned about the ecological problem, the government opposed this plan because of the congestion that existed already on Crown Land and because the Nguru were living in such abiding poverty and insecurity that there was a likelihood that they might stage a bloody revolt if subjected to any further pressures.[117]

To many it was already clear that the only solution lay in the purchase by the government of the largely unused European-held estates, the abolition of the thangata system, and the general relief of congestion in the Shire Highlands by land settlement schemes. The public debate about the role of the Nguru became extraordinarily virulent. Spokesmen for planters who had begun to fear that they might be displaced by the very Nguru whom they had themselves settled on their land lashed out in letters to the Nyasaland Times . Why should Britons die, raged one, 'to make Nyasaland a safe boozing den for alien Nguru?' There was insufficient space in the newspaper, clamoured another, to show 'from the history of these people the steps by which they became in turn slave-trading gangsters, irregular soldiers, cringing-starving-unclothed refugees, and finally under a safe benign government: drunken, slothful and vicious'. The older colonial historiography had been turned on its head: all along it had been the Nguru who were the slave traders; they were 'candid bandits, their prey human flesh and blood, and having gorged like hyenas, they then returned to Manguru for the most part replete'.[118] The wheel of European opinion had come full circle: the former 'raw Anguru' who had been welcomed for decades as cheap workers were now cannibals!

While the government considered the question of post-war land reforms, a new ethnic initiative made its appearance. The reasoned African reply to the letters to the Nyasaland Times was coordinated by Charles W. Mlanga. Within two years Mlanga had become the first secretary general of the new Nyasaland African Congress, the first specifically nationalist movement in the country. One of its committee members was an educated Nguru, Lewis Bandawe. Bandawe, who was to serve the Lomwe in much the same way that Edward Manda had served the Tumbuka, had been born in Mozambique in 1887.[119] He was educated in the schools of the Blantyre Mission and in 1913 he returned to Mozambique to teach, remaining there until 1928. He worked as a teacher, acted as head of the local mission for long periods of time, and translated the New Testament into 'Lomwe'. On his return to Blantyre, he broke with the Blantyre Mission and became a clerk in the Judicial Department, eventually rising to the rank of deputy registrar.

With his long experience of both Nyasaland and Mozambique, Bandawe was ideally placed to become a spokesman for the despised Nguru peoples. He understood the goals of Indirect Rule and the room for manoeuvre they offered. He began to speak of 'a vast country' east of Lake Chirwa, extending from Yao country to the north to Sena territory to the south, from the Nyasaland border east to the Indian Ocean. It was a country populated by 'the mighty Lomwe tribe' and its 'sub-tribes', all of whom looked to the Namuli hills, the heartland of the Lomwe people, as their ancestral home. These were arguments the administration understood.

In 1943 Bandawe founded the Alomwe Tribal Representative Association, a


group which successfully petitioned the British administration to have the word 'Anguru' banned from all official government documents and replaced with the term 'Lomwe'. One of the tactics used in Bandawe's campaign for the rehabilitation of the image of the immigrants from Mozambique was, as elsewhere in Nyasaland, an appeal to History. Not all the 'Yao' chiefs who had invaded the Shire Highlands in the 1860s, it was claimed, were actually Yao—some, like Kawinga, had been Lomwe![120] In this way, then, the various disparate groups of refugees and immigrants from Mozambique had come to join the ranks of those of Nyasaland's peoples—like the Tumbuka, the Ngoni and the Yao—who were to be considered a 'tribe' in their own right, even though earlier stereotypes of their alleged inferiority were to remain powerful at least into the early 1980s.

In the Southern Province, then, the elaboration of ethnicity was underscored with appeals and justifications drawn from what, largely at European prompting, was said to be history. The British sought to develop and impose a tribal system useful to them within the structures of Indirect Rule, with loyal Yao chiefs ruling over docile Nguru workers to further the successes of the European plantation economy and to maintain order. The Yao chiefs collaborated with the British, but, in so doing, they were promoting their own personal and economic power rather than any broadly conceptualized notion of Yao unity or identity. The great majority of Yao-speakers remained Muslim and hence were hostile to the establishment of the sort of Christian schools which propagated the notions of Ngoni and Tumbuka identity in the north. Similarly, Bandawe's ideas failed to gain popular acceptance because of the lack of schools under Lomwe control.

Without schools to propagate notions of ethnic identity among the young at the village level, ethnic ideologies remained weak, largely restricted to the chiefly elite and their supporters and possessing little popular force. What existed in the south, then, was a highly stratified African society, with Yao chiefs and headmen ruling over a large population of unhappy Nguru—or 'Lomwe'—whom they held in thrall by control over the land. In this situation, those who had mission education and who sought an end to colonialism were unable—and perhaps unwilling—to mobilize any popular support for their movement among Mang'anja, Yao or Nguru/Lomwe peoples by evoking ethnic symbols.

Dissatisfactions in the Central Province

In Nyasaland's Central Province the situation regarding the development of ethnic identity was wholly different from that in either the Northern or Southern Provinces. In the pre-colonial period, its small scale uxorilocal villages without strongly centralized political structures had survived the political and economic disruptions of the nineteenth century in firm possession of ancestral lands. Only in two enclaves did the Ngoni establish their presence, and to a great extent local Chewa culture speedily overwhelmed Ngoni culture.

Up to the end of World War I it was also comparatively unaffected by colonial rule, suffering neither the large scale labour migrancy that typified the north nor the oppressiveness of a government-supported planter and chiefly elite which had characterized the south. Hut tax had been imposed, but it was not collected rigorously until 1915–16, and little land was alienated to Europeans because the area was too far from transport routes to interest planters. Village life was stable and the fertile soil of the Province ensured subsistence, making it possible for most of the people to meet colonial tax demands through producing crops for market.

Unlike the Northern and Southern Provinces, it" was also remarkably homogeneous culturally, with the Chewa language spoken throughout. The


Chewa were also distinguished by an institution of remarkable resilience and vitality, the nyau societies, which served to unite the people in times of social stress and acted as powerful curbs on the influence both of missions and chiefs or headmen.[121] Many Chewa desired Western education, but they had a well-founded fear that mission teachers would assail Chewa culture in the classroom and consequently hesitated to send their children to the mission schools.[122] All education, moreover, was controlled by French-speaking Roman Catholics and Afrikaans-speaking members of South Africa's Dutch Reformed Church, both committed to policies that de-emphasized the use of English because of a fear that its use would encourage labour migrancy. Furthermore, they stressed the duty of moral and intellectual passivity before a body of fixed doctrine and were either hostile to or uninterested in African history and culture.[123] Virtually no Chewa intellectuals emerged from this educational milieu to serve as culture brokers either for a progressive ethnic ideology along the lines of the north or a universalist nationalism like that explored by Chilembwe in the south.[124]

Yet despite the continued stability of the Chewa culture and way of life, a mounting resentment against colonialism developed in the inter-war years. This resentment centred on economic issues. In 1920 two planters seeking to expand tobacco production leased 2000 acres near Lilongwe. It was the start of a new industry which grew rapidly. The tobacco grown was the fire-cured dark leaf type which had been first grown in 1916 in the Southern Province, and it quickly attracted African peasant growers. Even in the mid-1930s, when the first tobacco rush was over, only some 30,000 acres had passed into European hands compared to the million acres held by planters in the south. There was no thangata system and, though labour could be tied to planters or buyers through a variety of devices, all labour was paid. Finally, there were no Nguru immigrants from Mozambique to be used by planters or by chiefs and headmen as captive tobacco growers. Principal Headmen who wished to have their tobacco grown cheaply had to resort to using tax defaulters. The tobacco boom in the Central Province was thus a very different affair from that of the south. There was plenty of fertile land available together with large supplies of firewood for curing the leaves, and there was a population experienced in the production of indigenous tobacco and eager to exploit the new opportunities. In 1924 an official observed that there was little likelihood of Africans turning to migrant labour as they now had 'a method of earning money without having to work for somebody else, which is just what the natives were longing for'.[125] As the Central Province was opened to road traffic, the number of African growers increased from 900 to over 33,000.

The very success of African peasant tobacco production, however, soon led to state intervention. The arrival in tobacco areas of buyers eager to purchase African grown tobacco shattered earlier monopsonistic marketing arrangements and resulted in a quick rise in producer prices. This annoyed government officials, who deeply distrusted African initiative. Listening to the complaints of the local white oligarchy, they determined that European interests should have first priority and that Africans should be 'encouraged' to work for whites: 'The education value to Natives who engage in this sort of work is great and for some time to come better results will on the whole be obtained from this work than by production by Natives working for themselves.'[126]

Starting from this clear racial and class bias against African endeavour, the officials began controlling what they had had no part in establishing. Asserting that open competition for tobacco was bad for the African growers, they explained state intervention by declaring that they were seeking a 'rationalized'


industry by establishing so-called 'stable' prices. In 1926 a Native Tobacco Board was set up, the work of which was financed by a special tax on African-produced tobacco.[127] The Board, on which major European planters were prominent members, was clearly intended to protect European interests from African competition, and the measures it employed were crudely straightforward.[128]

A slump in tobacco prices in the late 1920s brought further state intervention. During the Depression years a general consensus developed throughout European colonial empires that the way out of the Depression was to force up prices by cutting commodity production. In Nyasaland, African-produced tobacco was the main target, and efforts were quickly made to 'stabilize' the industry. Officials talked urgently of the 'moral development' of Africans as well as their material development and pontificated about the need to teach growers 'a sharp lesson now and then'.[129] It was a generally held official opinion that 'you cannot treat the native as if he were a responsible being'.[130] So zealous was the Board that it passed regulations permitting the uprooting of growing tobacco.[131]

The policy succeeded. In 1934 the District Commissioner at Dedza reported that the local industry was 'dying of discouragement and neglect', while the District Commissioner in Lilongwe observed about the African tobacco producer that:

one cannot help feeling that as a primary producer he has been the plaything of the rapacious middleman, and that the Native Tobacco Board has done remarkably little—beyond collecting an enormous revenue for itself—in the way of protecting him from these powerful interests.[132]

Prices dropped again in 1937, and African growers showed their dissatisfaction by burning tobacco in protest in near-riot conditions.[133]

Although complaints about governmental agricultural policies were also heard from Africans in the south, it was in the Central Province that such complaints were most clearly articulated. The Central Province (Universal) Native Association was founded in 1927 under the leadership of George Simeon Mwase, a Lakeside Tonga then trading at Lilongwe. The executive committee of the Association was composed for the most part of store owners and tobacco growers. Significantly, none of them were mission teachers, clerics, or government clerks. The Association, then, was far different from those elsewhere in the country. It was not preoccupied with employment opportunities for school-leavers literate in English, nor was it interested in promoting any sort of ethnic consciousness in support of limited local autonomy. They consciously saw themselves as 'universal', above 'tribe' and within the Chilembwe tradition, recapitulating matters which originally had been discussed at the Providence Industrial Mission. Significantly, Mwase became the first Malawian to write a full account of the Chilembwe Rising.[134] They exchanged visits with the other Native Associations so that the regional distinctions began to be blurred.

Yet it would be wrong to overemphasize the forward-looking, nationally oriented petty bourgeois element in the Association, for their concerns were local concerns. Fully three-quarters of the membership were tobacco growers, and it was the concerns of the small growers and small traders of the Central Province that dominated their meetings. Thus, for instance, the Association complained about the Credit Trade with Natives Ordinance, which made African debts unrecoverable at law. They attacked the Native Foodstuffs Ordinance, which forbade trade in foodstuffs between districts by Africans. They criticized the Forests Ordinance, which regulated access to firewood needed by tobacco growers for curing their product. And they attacked the Native Tobacco Board's policies.


The various ordinances of which they complained, and especially the restrictive pricing policies of the Native Tobacco Board, were real obstacles to the accumulation of capital by Africans. The Association in effect was representing men who were trying to break loose of the restraints of the local Chewa matrilineal system by accumulating capital through their control over new sources of wealth, especially tobacco. Government policies were frustrating this control and checking the growth of a new, rurally-based bourgeoisie.[135] Thus, in a region where there were over 33,000 tobacco growers, the Association was speaking for a substantial constituency best described as peasant producers. Apart from the absence of women from their constituency, it had claims to genuine mass support in the Central Province. Within a few years, continued unsatisfactory colonial agricultural policies gave this constituency a truly national dimension.

The Focusing of African Discontent

During the 1940s and 1950s, African discontent in the Northern Province over labour migrancy, in the Southern Province over the thangata system and Yao chiefly dominance, and in the Central Province over economic policies all came to be subsumed in a country-wide hostility to the state's agricultural policies. By the end of the 1930s, Nyasaland's agricultural experts had become convinced that there was an ecological crisis in the making. Problems of deforestation, soil erosion, and soil exhaustion loomed ever more prominent in official reports, holding out the prospect that Nyasaland might soon be unable to feed itself. There were various reasons for this problem, some national and some regional. The first was simply that population had increased to a point where in many parts of the country the carrying capacity of the soil had been exceeded.[136] The country was, in the context of east central Africa, a relatively hospitable territory, and at the beginning of the British occupation the population was already fairly dense. With increased security and improved medical facilities, especially in the form of anti-smallpox vaccine, the population grew. To it were added tens of thousands of immigrants from Mozambique. In 1945, the census reported an average population density of 56 persons per square mile, with as many as 310 persons in the most densely populated areas.[137]

The second reason was linked to the first and lay in the nature of the country's agricultural systems. Throughout the country, but especially in its northern half, with its dry Brachystegia woodland and relatively lower rainfall, successful subsistence cultivation depended on giving the land long periods of rest, often extending to twenty or thirty years. Without such respite, the humus quickly vanished under strong sun and leaching rains. Such systems were appropriate to the country's ecological demands, but they depended on the abundance of two things: land and labour. In the overpopulated areas, in particular in the Shire Highlands and the lower Shire Valley, there was no longer land available for such fallowing. As a consequence, the soils of most of the heavily populated districts began to decline in fertility. By contrast, in the north of the country, where land remained relatively plentiful, it was labour that was lacking. Labour migrancy had drained the region of its men since the 1890s, and the labour necessary to open fallow land for cultivation, thus ensuring that the land already under cultivation could return to fallow, was simply not available. Again, the soils of the region suffered from excessive use.[138]

A third reason for the crisis lay in the effects of the tobacco boom itself. Soil erosion and soil exhaustion were occurring both on African land and on the European estates, where, for example, tobacco was planted on ridges descending


hillsides so that unwanted rainwater could be quickly carried away![139] Tobacco also required wood for curing, and deforestation had become a serious problem over wide tobacco-growing areas. Districts like Chiradzulu, for example, which older settlers could remember as having been thick with trees, were beginning to look like semi-desert. Streams that had once been perennial now flowed only in the wet season. This deforestation, together with the opening up of tobacco nursery gardens on the banks of streams, furthered soil erosion.[140]

Finally, as causes had effects, so effects produced further causes. Land shortages and soil exhaustion, reinforced by the hostile pricing policies of the Native Tobacco Board, led to increased labour migrancy and a shift in its sources. Before World War II the Northern Province, with but 14 per cent of the country's population, contributed over 50 per cent of the total number of migrants.[141] On the other hand, only eight per cent of adult male migrants came from the four districts where Africans produced tobacco or cotton and the two districts where European plantations held the local population through ties of thangata or where they could produce maize or tobacco for sale on Crown Land.[142] By 1945 the situation was quite different, with only 28 per cent of total migrants now coming from the north. Thus the problems inherent in large scale migrancy came to new areas of the country.[143]

The significance of this shift lay not merely in the fact that more labour was being removed from the villages, however. Not all the migrants left the country. Some became visiting tenants on estates in the Central Province, while others took jobs on nearby tea plantations. These workers, together with the immigrants from Mozambique who continued to supply the bulk of the workforce, had to be fed. Buyers toured the villages to purchase maize, groundnuts, and cassava. There were also substantial populations in the towns who purchased their food, most of which was supplied by peasant growers. Thus, at a time of growing labour migrancy, land shortage, soil erosion and exhaustion, the people remaining in the villages were required not only to feed themselves but also to feed an increasing proportion of the local population which did not produce its own food.[144]

To the aggregation of these problems the government offered one major and several minor solutions. The minor solutions included the gradual purchase of unused estate land for resettlement and a legal requirement that the big tea and tobacco estates grow their own food for their workers. A 'yeoman farmers' programme was also created that involved special allocation of land, distribution of free seed, fertilizer and advice, and the payment of cash bonuses for work well done to a select few, a plan that was generally unpopular because of its perceived unfairness. And in the Central Province, where policies of the Native Tobacco Board had already alienated thousands, the government took yet another step against African producers. By the late 1940s many producers had begun to produce large quantities of maize for the market to earn the money they needed. The state reacted to this initiative as it had towards tobacco growing in the 1930s, especially after a severe famine in 1949 had underscored the fragility of the country's agricultural systems.[145] Because agricultural experts asserted that mono-cropping maize was injurious both to soil fertility and soil structure, the state intervened in the 1950s, reducing prices paid for maize, abolishing many marketing facilities for it, and even uprooting growing maize, all in the hope of forcing a reduction in maize production.[146] This further fuelled African discontent.

The government's major solution to the perceived ecological threat, energetically pursued throughout the country from the mid-1940s onwards, was that the villagers themselves should bring soil erosion under control by


constructing thousands of miles of contour ridges in their fields. Three facts about this decision are plain. First, it was clearly illogical to impose highly labour-intensive contour ridging in those parts of the country where the land's declining quality was caused by labour shortages. Second, it was equally misguided to expect peasant producers to take measures to increase their yields without a pricing policy to make the extra work worthwhile. Villagers well understood that land shortages were caused partially by land alienation, and they could see that the European estates were underutilized. They also were aware that the state's marketing regulations were requiring them to feed the towns and the labour compounds at prices lower than a free market would have secured.[147]

Third, and most important of all, it was over the issue of contour ridging that truly national politics finally came to Nyasaland. To the Africans, the fact that ridging was compulsory was another example of colonial brutality. To the administrators and agricultural experts, African resistance to ridging was another example of peasant conservatism and irrationality which had to be overcome with force if necessary. No other issue—not even the political question of the creation of the Federation of the Rhodesias and Nyasaland itself—generated such united mass protest at the village level as it became mixed with the political turmoil that surrounded the creation of the new Federation. This protest provided ample grounds for the Malawi Congress Party to mobilize an anti-colonial nationalism throughout the entire country, regardless of the presence or absence of local ethnic ideologies.[148]

Malawian Politics and the Rise of Chewa Ethnicity

In 1943, a group of anti-colonial intellectuals from the Southern and Northern Provinces formed the Nyasaland Educated African Council to press for concessions from the government that would open up avenues for African advancement. By 1944 the name had been changed to the Nyasaland African Congress, but the aims were still the same, with a great stress upon access to more education and the appropriate rewards for such education. Internal divisions and a lack of appeal at the village level, however, kept the Congress weak and ineffectual into the 1950s.[149]

In the 1950s the twin issues of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland and the colonial government's agricultural and soil conservation policies galvanized opposition to the state at all levels of Nyasaland's society and throughout the country. The result was the creation of a coalition of interests that revivified the moribund Nyasaland African Congress. After the return of Kamuzu Banda to the country in 1958 after a long absence overseas, organizational work aimed at exploiting village-level discontent was accelerated and marshalled widespread popular support—notably in the Central Province, hitherto outside the currents of African politics in Nyasaland. In 1960 the Congress changed its name to the Malawi Congress Party (MCP).

The coalition that comprised the MCP proved strong enough to undermine the Federation and win self-government in 1964. These were the aims of all its members and the extent of their vision. Yet Congress was nonetheless a coalition of widely differing interests. Although these interests were essentially economic in nature, through the limitations of Congress's own analyses they came to be expressed largely in terms of ethnicity and regionalism. For the Livingstonia-educated Tumbuka-speakers of the north, politics was still fundamentally about the possibilities of African advancement. The language campaigns of the 1930s had been fought to protect the interests of those Tumbuka-speakers educated in


Mission schools. The strongest objection of northern intellectuals to Federation was that it blocked promotions for which their education had prepared them. With independence, the key issue for these northerners would be the rapid Africanization of the bureaucracy, the hoped-for pay-off for all the years of educational investment.

In this desire they were supported by southerners—both Mang'anja and Yao—who had acquired their education largely at the Blantyre Mission and who also coveted positions in the civil service and in commerce. For the majority of people in the south, however, politics was about an end to the hated thangata system and access to land. By the 1940s, southerners were the most uniformly poor people in the country. Those living on the estates still paid rent in kind, while those on Crown Land were, years in advance of others in the country, being driven on to the labour market by the growing shortage of land. Politics in the south looked for the freedom to extend the villages on to empty estates and for the ability to enjoy whatever benefits cash-cropping might offer.

Politics in the Central Province, where mission education had had far less impact and Chewa cultural institutions had largely endured, were, by further contrast, essentially about agricultural policy. From the days of the tobacco boom of the 1920s and the confrontations with the state about pricing and buying policies for tobacco and maize in subsequent decades, spokesmen for the local Chewa-speakers had sought to secure for Africans all the opportunities of the European planter and the Asian trader. One of the most consistent claims of the new President of Malawi, Kamuzu Banda, himself a Chewa from the Central Province, was that Africans should be allowed to grow anything and to engage freely in business.

Immediately after independence in 1964, the underlying cleavages in the MCP coalition surfaced in the so-called 'Cabinet Crisis' that occurred at the end of the year, in which President Banda found himself challenged by a group of young, well-educated cabinet ministers from the Northern and Southern Regions. One of the central issues that provoked it was President Banda's unwillingness to improve civil servants' pay or to proceed with the Africanization of the bureaucracy that the politicians who represented the educated petty bourgeoisie from both the north and the south so deeply wanted.[150] As Rotburg has observed, the African civil servants were 'the group within Malawi that, compared to its own expectations, had benefited least by independence'.[151]

Although the Cabinet Crisis has usually been interpreted in terms of ideological or generational conflict, the regional and ethnic dimensions were clearly evident. Comments made in Parliament by Richard Chidzanja, an important Member of Parliament from the Central Region, illustrate this point nicely. He declared the support of the Chewa people for President Banda and then went on to complain that the educated young politicians from the north and south had long despised the Chewa and their culture and had denied them a fair share of what politics had been meant to achieve.[152] As the Crisis developed, none of the cabinet ministers who resigned or who were dismissed were Chewa. Chiefs from both the Northern and Southern Regions, however, were deposed, while three out of five district councils in the north and six out of ten in the south were dissolved. But no chief or district council was touched in the Central Region, where support for Banda was unwavering.[153]

Part of the reason why this pattern appeared lay in the history of the Congress Party itself and the way its political coalition was built up. Tensions within it, dating from as early as the 1940s and springing from the different regional perceptions of the main goals of the struggle against Federation, had acquired a


strong congruence with ethnic distinctions. One aspect encompassed the division between the Yao and Makololo chiefly elites and the subordinated Nguru/ Lomwe and Mang'anja peoples. In Chiradzulu district, to cite but one example, the 'anti-Federation' disturbances of July and August 1953 took the form of attacks on those Yao chiefs who had manoeuvred themselves into positions of power between 1915 and 1930. Meetings called by Congress supporters successfully demanded the removal of several Yao chiefs. The meetings ended in violence, and one chiefs house was burned down. The official enquiry, in true post-Chilembwe tradition, blamed 'immigrants from Mozambique' for the disturbance and pointed to Congress's involvement. Congress had consciously become the supporter of the oppressed Nguru/Lomwe in this ethnically defined local battle as part of its strategy to build an effective mass base.[154] Not surprisingly, the Nguru/Lomwe became among the firmest supporters of Congress, which demanded an end to thangata, transferring this loyalty to President Banda after the Cabinet Crisis. In the Census of 1966, therefore, after years in which many Nguru had passed themselves off as 'Yao', large numbers of them identified themselves as 'Chewa', cementing thereby their alliance with the victorious President Banda.[155] This strain of anti-chief, anti-Yao sentiment eventually encompassed such popular figures as Henry Chipembere, an educated Yao cabinet minister, at the time of the Cabinet Crisis.

Similarly, in the lower Shire area, President Banda, in his pursuit of a 'Chewa' political base for himself, was able to build on anti-Makololo sentiment that was present because Makololo chiefs had been prominent in enforcing contour ridging during the period of Federation. Reinstating Paramount Chief Lundu a century after the last Lundu had been dispossessed by the Makololo, Dr Banda made one his most blatantly ethnic speeches:

And I am happy that because of my harping on the fact that all the people here are, in fact, Chewa, not Mang'anja, the people themselves have realised and admitted the truth, this pleases me.

I am happy because this is why I have done this [resurrected the paramountcy], because the people themselves have recognised the truth, have admitted the truth they are, in fact, Achewa, although for the past one or two hundred years they have been calling themselves Anyanja or Amang'anja.[156]

By such alliance-building among people who had been subordinate to the Yao and Makololo political elites, President Banda was able to lump togther the various dialect groups of the Southern Region—Chipeta, Nyanja, Mag'anja, even 'Lomwe'—to produce a national population that was, at least on paper, more than 50 per cent 'Chewa'.[157]

The reasons why the Cabinet Crisis took on an anti-northern aspect were rather different, for northern leaders had long been at the very heart of the nationalist struggle and had supplied many of the movement's foremost intellectuals. The difficulty with the northerners lay in the conflict between their education and President Banda's vision of the nature of the future Malawi. As the planters' spokesman, R.S. Hynde, had expressed it to the commissioners enquiring into the Chilembwe Rising in 1915, 'This country is agricultural and there is no room for the highly educated native.'[158] If it seems excessive to suggest that President Banda, so far from being a reincarnated John Chilembwe, is closer to being a reincarnated Governor Sir George Smith, the fact nonetheless remains that the philosophy and the practice of government evolved by the British in response to the Chilembwe Rising show marked similarities to those espoused by President Banda himself.


Both the colonial rulers and the post-colonial ruler have assumed that paternalism—the landowner dealing with his peasants, the chief with his subjects, the master with his servants, the President with his people—constitutes the form of government best suited both to the economy and the general temperament of Malawians. President Banda, in the process of acquiring a plethora of plantations for himself, appropriated the planters' ideology as well.[159] Bizarrely, but entirely logically, President Banda made speeches boasting that the clinics and schools on his own estates were superior to those available from the state. In this situation, the aspirations of northern and southern intellectuals for African advancement on the basis of education and merit posed a double threat in 1964: the threat of a bureaucracy dominated by those who were not members of President Banda's own broadly defined 'Chewa' political base, and the threat of the evolution and entrenchment of an educated middle class that might challenge the personalized patron-client relationship of the President with 'his' people.

President Banda turned to patronage to cement ties with his loyal political base. The most profitable segment of the agricultural economy at independence was the European tea and tobacco estate sector. After independence, the state began acquiring European tobacco estates and reselling them to members of the petty bourgeoisie who had remained loyal to Banda. Necessary loans came from the state's agricultural marketing board, which in effect transferred capital obtained from the peasantry to the new bourgeoisie through its control of prices paid for peasant-produced commodities.[160] Furthermore, the Malawi Land Act of 1965 gave the President the power to grant private estates on leasehold over huge areas of the country, including even areas developed for peasant agriculture under the aegis of international agencies.[161] Through these two means, President Banda was able to consolidate his ties of patronage with his chosen political allies and, by retaining the power to revoke leases, could at the same time ensure that no independent bourgeoisie would emerge to challenge him.[162]

This dispensation of specific patronage to loyal followers was paralleled by the extension of general patronage to the most loyal area of the country, the Chewa-dominated Central Region. Many government institutions have been transferred from the Southern Region to the Central Region, most notably the capital itself. While the Central Region obtained only 11 per cent of development funds expended in 1967, it received 40 per cent by 1972–3.[163] Agricultural loans are largely restricted to farmers in the Central Region, and it was this area which marketed crops that provided fully 86 per cent of the surplus that the Farmers Marketing Board made in 1971–2.[164] Since the early 1970s governmental preference for investment in the fertile Central Region has been consistent.

President Banda, however, was himself sufficiently a culture broker to realize that something more was needed. In the aftermath of the Cabinet Crisis he moved swiftly to seek in Chewa institutions the basis of a new Chewa ethnic ideology which was to be projected on a national scale through state-controlled schools. This approach came naturally to Banda, who had been self-consciously a Chewa throughout his life. While studying in Chicago in the 1930s, he had been 'a very excellent informant' to Mark Hanna Watkins, the first grammarian of the language, and to this day Banda retains a fanatical devotion to the language and to what he conceives as its purity, ardently attempting to stop any adoptions from English into the language.[165] In addition to his abiding interest in Chewa language, Banda has long been interested in Chewa culture, and, with Cullen Young, he wrote Our African Way of Life in 1946.

As culture broker for the Chewa, Banda had a broader vision, however, than formulating an ideological statement for his ethnic group alone. He has instead


equated 'Malawian-ness' with Chewa-ness, and he has depicted the Chewa as the very soul of the country, often going as far as maintaining that many Yao and Lomwe people were actually Chewa people who did not realize it. During the years he was in Nyasaland after 1958 campaigning against the Federation, he frequently denounced signs of 'tribalism' in others, yet he also frequently emphasized that he was himself a Chewa.[166] In his speeches he has always been at pains to paint a picture of a glorious Chewa past. Using the alleged territorial extent of the ancient Maravi state of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, for example, he has frequently asserted publicly that large parts of eastern Zambia and northern Mozambique should be under his rule.[167]

In short, Banda emphasized uniquely Chewa cultural attributes, not some sort of secular Malawian 'nationalism', and in his preoccupation with language, history, and culture, he was very much a latter-day Chewa version of Edward Manda and Yesaya Chibambo, like him, graduates of the Livingstonia Mission. Long defunct chiefdoms were resurrected. 'Authentic' clan names were revived. The 'correct' form of the Chewa language—the dialect understood by Banda—was stressed and the paramilitary Young Pioneers, made up of failed school-leavers, drilled it by rote into the school-children of non-Chewa areas.[168] The Chewa nyau societies, and especially their dances, had been long despised by the educated as a symbol of Chewa backwardness in a modern world. After the nyau societies demonstrated their loyalty to President Banda in the Cabinet Crisis by actively intimidating his opponents with physical threats, they became perhaps the heart of what is depicted as a national culture, even though they are the hallmark of Chewa culture and only that.[169]

The transformation of the nyau from the sign of backwardness to the symbol of authenticity was achieved with the aid of expatriate Africanist scholars, analogues of the Tumbuka's Cullen Young and the Ngoni's Margaret Read. Matthew Schoffeleers and Ian Linden, in their work, found great favour among Chewa-speaking intellectuals.[170] Schoffeleers was especially important because of his depiction of nyau as not only being at the very centre of Chewa art and culture, but, even more importantly, at the very root of Chewa resistance to colonialism and western cultural imperialism. With his timely writings, Schoffeleers became the source of a usable past for the developing ideology of the present.

By the same token, work at the University of Malawi on the history of the Yao has been highly revisionistic, concerned with demolishing the myths of Yao nationhood established in the inter-war period and with providing a history in terms of which the Yao are shown to have been defeated, scattered and politically disunited peoples with but limited territorial claims. This work has also stressed that many 'Yao' and 'Lomwe' people really belong to the Chewa group.[171] The message from the late 1960s into the 1980s was clear: the Chewa people and Chewa culture was the core of modern Malawi by right of being most ancient and least compromised by colonialism, and Malawi culture would be considered synonymous with Chewa culture.

But it was not enough to dispense patronage to supporters and develop a new ideology of Chewa ethnicity. Government policies also attacked the vested interests of the northern petty bourgeoisie. Because of their long history of having access to an educational system far superior to that existing elsewhere in the country, northerners had come to be 'over-represented' in important positions at independence and in the expansionist years that followed. At the University of Malawi, the seedbed for new technocrats, a disproportionately high number of places went to northerners.[172] In the civil service in 1969, out of the 113 highest-level Malawian civil servants, the Northern Region, with but 12 per cent of the


population, held over 50 per cent of the places, while southerners comprised most of the rest.[173] The established influence of educated northerners and southerners had to be lessened directly.

The first, appropriately symbolic signal of this attack upon northern influence occurred in mid-1968, when Tumbuka, the symbol of northern regionalism since the early 1930s, was abolished as an official language and Chewa was made the sole national language. No longer could Tumbuka be used in the press or on the radio, a situation which resulted in bitter resentment throughout the Northern Region, a resentment made worse by Chewa-speakers' triumphal assertions that other peoples of the country were cultureless because 'they had no language'. Soon afterwards, the Parliamentary Secretary for Education announced that all school-children who failed their required examination in the now-required courses in Chewa would have to re-sit all their examinations.[174] Soon afterwards, the establishment of the Malawi Examinations Board to replace the Cambridge Overseas Examination was followed by a change in examination grading policy which required both northerners and southerners to obtain considerably higher grades in their school-leaving examinations than those in the Central Region if they were to qualify for places in the secondary schools. While economic opportunities were channelled to the people of the Central Region, then, school fees throughout the country were raised considerably, making access to education in the north and the south comparatively more difficult. The University of Malawi, the source of future bureaucrats and teachers, was systematically purged of its non-Chewa administrators and faculty in the early 1970s as part of an attempt to make it a secure seat for the elaboration of a Chewa ethos by loyal Chewa-speakers. Finally, to remove non-Chewa officers from the civil service, a mandatory retirement age of fifty was imposed and large numbers of northerners and southerners thereby retired. Non-Chewa-speaking northerners and southerners were also removed from other positions of authority through widespread and arbitrary detentions, especially between 1973 and 1976.[175]

Such measures are defended within Malawi as attempts to repair regional discrimination that occurred during the colonial period, through which northerners were given unfair advantages. The fact that they are equally directed against the south disproves this point. The south, as has been seen, and especially those parts most afflicted by the thangata system and by over-population, suffered equal or greater deprivation in colonial times. The official marketing bureaucracy followed pricing policies throughout the 1970s and early 1980s that were barely distinguishable from those of the former Native Tobacco Board and this fact, coupled with the curtailing of opportunities for raising capital through labour migrancy abroad, locked southerners firmly into continuing abject poverty. School fees are beyond the means of most villagers, and they have abandoned the belief in education as a route from poverty. The intensifying land shortage, to which the abolition of thangata produced only a temporary solution, is driving more and more young men to work as migrants on the estates and plantations of the Central and Northern Regions, often at rates of pay below the official minimum wage, and they are abandoning behind them their wives and children.[176] Others find a career in the army, which, as part of the alliance with Dr Banda, continues to be Lomwe-dominated.

The plain fact is that, however inappropriate their dream of solving Malawi's problems through control by an educated bureaucracy might have been, the general clamp-down on non-Chewa intellectuals in independent Malawi has been profoundly damaging. There has been no serious public discussion in President Banda's Malawi of the problems the country has encountered since independence:


the impact of the oil crisis; South Africa's policy of regional destabilization; the collapse of the country's economy in the late 1970s and its takeover by the International Monetary Fund; or the exceedingly high rate of population growth in a country of limited resources. The Cabinet Crisis, despite its central significance to Malawi's history and despite the fact that it occurred well over twenty years ago, remains a wholly embargoed topic. The names of those who contributed to the rise of Malawian nationalism in the 1950s can be mentioned only in secret. During the show trial of Orton and Vera Chirwa in 1984, when Vera Chirwa began her testimony with the statement, 'When I founded the Malawi Women's League . . .', a tremor of excitement ran through the spectators. The simplest historical fact has become subversive.

In this closed atmosphere, rumours of ethnic conspiracies abound. Such rumours serve as explanations for people who lack explanations: they arise when an intellectually closed society turns in on itself in search of scapegoats. The language of this discourse in rumour largely takes the form of crude ethnic stereotypes that derive from the colonial period's experience of uneven development. With meaningful analysis by Malawians of the problems that face Malawi remaining proscribed, there is the real danger that the ethnic explanations that are now current will be the only ones available for future discussion, a legacy of the past that will increase the likelihood of communal violence in the country at times of political transition.

History, Ethnicity and Change in the 'Christian Kingdom' of Southeastern Zaire

Allen F. Roberts

Identity, Conflict and History

A first and lasting impression when one consults ethnographic maps of southeastern Zaire is one of confusion. Different authors delimiting the 'tribes' at more or less the same time invariably report different findings.[1] Some of these names refer to regions, hence to the people inhabiting those regions. The 'Bena Marungu' are people living in the Marungu Massif, so named for its grassy moors. Conversely, the 'Gua', 'Rua' or 'Luba' are called that by neighbours they have intimidated ('Luba' may mean 'the ferocious ones'[2] ), and so the land the 'Gua' occupy is 'Ugua', using the Bantu nominal prefix for place. 'Bemba' are those speaking the Bemba language regardless of culture or history; 'Kalanga' means those who preceded current populations, and were hence prior in time or culture, regardless of any more particular identity. Sobriquets (or less affectionate names), perhaps told to explorers, seem to be the most common source of these 'tribal' terms. 'Hemba' are the 'ones to the east' of someone to the west;[3] Tabwa' are 'the ones easily tied up' by those wanting to take slaves without undue resistance;[4] 'Kunda' similarly are 'slaves', and they do not appreciate being called that;[5] 'Holoholo' (who have had a linguistic monograph written about their 'language') are people whose greeting, deemed to sound something like that to outsiders, was found comical.[6] Tumbwe' is the name of an hereditary chief of the Sanga clan (who appear on some maps as 'Bena Tanga', named after an early ancestor); his followers are 'Tumbwe' too. 'Kunda' are also called 'Kamanya', after an early primal ancestress; 'Lumbu' are also 'Ngoy', from an early chief, or 'Zimba' after an emblem or 'totem'.[7] Both of these latter identities are considered mikoa (clans) by local Africans. Lest we think that we have figured this out, Boone tells us that 'Lumbu' may be considered 'Kunda' or 'Luba', yet they appear on her map as distinct from these.[8]

Ethnic identity in southeastern Zaire is a matter of situational reckoning. Clyde Mitchell, writing of the greater region, has called for 'a phenomenological approach—from the actors' point [s] of view' when describing the 'different referents in different social situations', which Western observers have called 'tribes'.[9] These might be considered 'fuzzy sets', rather than the bounded, discrete entities often sought or imposed when considering inhabitants of a region such as this.[10] Clifford Geertz's description of the 'contextualized persons' of Morocco could apply here, where people have coped with diversity by 'distinguishing, with


elaborate precision, the contexts . . . within which men are separated by their dissimilitudes, and those . . . where, however warily and however conditionally, they are connected by them'. Importantly, such an identification system—for it is that, despite the apparent contradictions—provides only 'the most sketchy, outline implications concerning what men so named as a rule are like' and is a means of categorization which 'leads, paradoxically, to a hyperindividualism in public relationships, because by providing only a vacant sketch, and that shifting, of who the actors are . . . it leaves the rest, that is, almost everything, to be filled in by the process of interaction itself.'[11]

If these are the ways identity is determined, such people must have a different sense of history from that of Westerners. In the 1950s, Ian Cunnison wrote a book and several papers on the 'Luapula people', describing how they have come from lands and tribes around the southern end of Lake Mweru to settle in the Luapula River valley.[12] His use of the term 'people' is meant to reflect a common lifestyle and purpose of immigrants from a range of diverse backgrounds. Indeed, a new 'tribe' called 'Shila'—also a group drawn from many ethnic origins who settled along the shores of Lake Mweru to engage in fishing—has come into being in recent years, as export of fish to Copperbelt markets has become a lucrative pursuit. Among these 'Luapula people', or 'Shila', are many from northeast of Lake Mweru, who may call themselves 'Tabwa', as do those I have studied. Cunnison's ilyashi, which 'implies the affairs and cases of the past which make the present affairs what they are', will be detailed as the background for 'mulandu, which is a present affair or case'.[13] For these people, then, 'histories . . . are particular' and 'known well only to the groups which partook in the events enumerated. More accurately, a history is always and only the history of a group. . . . There is no coherent wider history.' As Cunnison notes, 'the facts for a universal history are there, but they are concentrated in the histories of the various groups, and only a few of these facts will have become diffused into current circulation; and of these, some people will pick up some, others will learn a different set'[14] —or, perhaps more appropriately, factions will compose and use a different set, according to goals of the moment.

At Lubanda on Lake Tanganyika, the site of my research, these same terms, liasi and mulandu, are used slightly differently from what Cunnison reports. Liasi is a conversational explanation, an extemporaneous exegesis without a coherent story form (a plot leading from a beginning to a climax and end). Mulandu (pl. milandu ) is an account given during litigation over land and other important rights. As Tabwa aphorism has it, a chief 'is his people' and is identified with particular lands as mwine kyalo .[15] A chief personifies a number of qualities and organizes contact with spirits of his ancestors and of the earth; through him, people 'are' the land they inhabit, and vice versa. As Cunnison found, so for Tabwa at Lubanda: 'the primary reason for histories is the justification of a claim for a piece of land'.[16]Milandu may also be presentations accompanying accusations of sorcery or some other grave affront, since to accuse implies a readiness to explain one's grievance from its origins. For Tabwa at Lubanda, like Luapula people, the basic elements of milandu are known to both sides of a dispute, but are arranged differently to reinforce the legitimacy of particular claims.

Conflict which surfaces as a dispute was often begun long before, and will just as often continue long after resolution of current difficulty. Milandu, too, are open-ended, although there may be discrete stories in a longer account; further incidents are added as they happen or become necessary in a given situation. In this they are like syntagmatic chains, with paradigms of stories within which there


are further paradigmatic sets allowing for the change of characters or other secondary elements to suit the needs of particular narrators in particular situations. Metaphors are important to this last process, since references to, say, animals or celestial phenomena in turn bring to mind a cosmology in which corresponding values, hence attitudes, are implied. Each character fitted into these slots may be more or less elaborated depending upon the point to be made in the particular narration.

Once such a basic structure is recognized, then, when the researcher obtains a given version, told on a particular occasion by a particular narrator to a particular audience, that has characters different from those of another version of the same basic story, one must determine why each version was told in order to understand the change in dramatis personae . In other words, such differences are a product of history, as an outside observer would see it, even as they are history to the narrator and his audience.[17]

Tabwa history, then, like that Cunnison found among the Luapula peoples, is particular, 'always and only the history of a group'.[18] It is worth noting that in other contexts Tabwa culture provides other opportunities for debate, and that ambiguity is part and parcel of Tabwa existence. Divination, for instance, is a principal process by which misfortune—the breach of expectation, a threat to order and existence—is assigned cause. Tabwa have a number of different sorts of divination, but the principle of each of them is the same: the diviner provides a parable (a dream, often elaborated while using an oracular device) and the supplicants must then imagine what content can and must fill such a 'pronominal structure', as Christopher Davis-Roberts calls it. 'To the family would fall the task of determining . . . how this pronominal structure, when inserted into their past might so alter it (or their sense of it) that present action could, in its turn, transform their future into what they would wish'. As she adds,

the possibility of finding truth in divination . . . makes us aware of the extent to which personal identity . . . and lineage group history are both things which do not exist as such. Instead, they are objects of knowledge which are 'worked on' (or, like painting, created) in a process of historization which recuperates in life as lived the features of social knowledge.[19]

History is active, then, changing and changed as vicissitudes compel men to decide which few paths among the many taken, and the more not taken, matter. Yet even as one constructs a reasonable explanation of the present from snatches of the past, and this history allows action to rectify social disharmony or imbalance of health for a happier future, when that future comes, further or different conflict or affliction may necessitate a restructuring of the same elements. There is nothing absolute about such a history, then, of an individual or the group within which he finds himself.

Despite this fluid situation, an overarching Tabwa ethnicity has arisen. Indeed, a universal history of the Tabwa was written by one of the very first individuals from the area to gain the skills and perspective of literacy. This, in turn, reflects an ontological shift, caused by and contributing to change in the local political economy.

Stefano Kaoze (c. 1885–1951) of the Marungu Massif was, in 1917, the first Congolese ordained a Catholic priest. He was also an ardent proponent of black consciousness and a patriot of his Sanga clan and a 'Tabwa' tribe; his ministry, writings and participation in a number of colonial councils made Kaoze, more than any other individual, 'father' of a growing Tabwa ethnic awareness. A recent hagiography, Stefano Kaoze: prêtre d'hier et d'aujourd'hui, has been prepared by


a team supervised by Monsignor Kimpinde, Bishop of Kilwa-Kasenga, Zaire.[20] Meant for a growing Catholic audience in Zaire, the book includes many passages from Kaoze's writings and interviews with the abbé's contemporaries and kinsmen organized to demonstrate Kaoze's 'message to our generation'. This goal is ably accomplished; in the process, history has been revised in some significant ways. Here follows something of Kaoze's life and times, the manner by which his own ethnic awareness began, and how he attempted, and in part failed, to convey this to his fellows. Tabwa people may have no universal history, and the concept of one may be alien to Tabwa perceptions of existence, but Kaoze sought to create one nonetheless. In so doing, he became a key actor in a drama pitting Catholic missionaries against colonial administrators, with the emergence of Tabwa ethnicity as one of its results.

Enclave of Order/ Seat of Dissent: a Christian Kingdom in Central Africa

Kaoze was born during the turbulent 1880s when the disruption from slaving southwest of Lake Tanganyika by Nyamwezi settlers, Zanzibari and other coastal people and their recruits from the Tanzanian interior, and ambitious Tabwa chiefs anxious to share in the plunder, was at its greatest. Nature seemed in revolt: people were beset by smallpox epidemics, epizoötics, plagues of locusts, famine; brilliant Sungrazer comets appeared 'importing change of Times and States'; and the landscape changed radically as the level of Lake Tanganyika suddenly plunged several metres when the Lukuga River burst through barriers to empty into the Congo/Zaire watershed.[21] Not the least of these great changes was occasioned by the arrival of Emile Storms of the International African Association (IAA) at Mpala in 1883.

While the stated aims of the IAA were to gain scientific knowledge of the Central African interior, to assist missionary and commercial travellers, and to join in the suppression of slavery, Storms had a second, secret directive from the IAA's patron, Leopold II, King of the Belgians. He was to establish a strong presence in the area and thus lend legitimacy to the king's eventual claim to the Congo Basin.[22] 'A clever diplomatist', Storms made blood pacts and signed treaties with local chiefs.[23] While he considered such accords 'the height of ridiculousness' unless tribute were paid to demonstrate that the chief had become his 'vassal',[24] the treaties were thereafter defined as 'concessions' used to divest local leaders of their sovereignty upon the creation of the Congo Free State in 1885.[25] Furthermore, Storms, feeling that 'all authority which is not based upon force is null and illusory',[26] pursued a 'game of wars and allegiances' which included the armed conquest of several important chiefs around Lubanda.[27]

As a compromise during the Conference of Berlin of 1884–5, Leopold ceded an IAA outpost on the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika to the Germans, and recalled Storms from Mpala. Both stations were to be ceded to the Missionaries of Africa, the 'White Fathers'.[28] Storms was enraged, and his pique was noticed in Belgium: the gazette Mouvement Géographique reported, tongue in cheek, that he had 'proclaimed his dictatorship over the country . . . under the title of "Emile the First, Emperor of Tanganyika" '. This caused official consternation and the editors hastily retracted their joke.[29] Nonetheless, Storms, self-proclaimed 'chief of chiefs', had begun an empire on the southwestern shore of Lake Tanganyika, the autonomy of which


would be contested for many years to come.[30]

Father Isaac Moinet by 1885 had already founded and overseen three Catholic mission stations along the western shore of Lake Tanganyika. His 'taste for authority' and knowledge of how and when to impose himself were capacities necessary to the task of occupying the void left by the 'chief of chiefs', Emile Storms. Moinet twitted the lieutenant, asking what name he should assume as successor to the 'throne' of 'His Majesty Emile the First, King of Tanganyika', and signing a letter to Storms, 'I. Moinet, Acting King of Mpala'.[31] Joking aside, however, Moinet and his associate, Father Auguste Moncet, had adopted with fervour the dream of Cardinal Lavigerie, founder of the White Fathers, to create a Christian Kingdom in the heart of Africa;[32] and they saw Storms's 'territory' as 'the nucleus of a power, of a Christian Kingdom' so desired.[33]

Catholics in Europe at that time were humiliated by their losses in the Papal Wars in Italy, pressed by aggressive Freemasonry and Liberal politics, and in France, reduced to 'émigrés de I'intérieur' of their own homeland. Lavigerie rallied their enthusiasm. 'Was it not possible that ground lost in Europe might be made good in Africa?'[34] In planning the evangelization of lands along Lake Tanganyika, the Cardinal posited three goals which reflected the 'very grave perils' menacing, indeed besieging, his world: to introduce Catholicism and thus block Protestant expansion into the Congo basin from outposts such as that of the London Missionary Society, on Lake Tanganyika since 1879;[35] to defy the 'Liberal Materialism' of the Freemasons, Socialists and Protestants 'conniving' within the ranks of the IAA; and to prevent the spread of Islam in the wake of slaving by Muslims from the East Coast or those in their employ.[36] The prelate developed these ideas in the late 1870s as he advocated the founding of new—and independent—Apostolic Vicariates with 'their own special resources', men, and 'especially their chiefs, whose presence alone will suffice to contain within appropriate limits the representatives' of the IAA.[37]

Lavigerie felt that proselytism was most effective when a strong central authority—a 'king' or 'paramount chief—could be converted to Christianity. Given the anarchy the Cardinal believed to reign in Central Africa, such a person, if trained and aided by European Christians in 'means of action, attack and defence unknown to other Blacks', could then 'rapidly dominate a considerable part of the African interior, and that day, Christianity will be established.'[38] For some time, Mutesa, Kabaka of Buganda, was considered a likely candidate, and Lavigerie's man, Leopold-Louis Joubert, prepared himself to become 'Minister of War to His Black Majesty, Mutesa'.[39] The Lunda Empire of the Mwata Yamvo was considered for a Third African Vicariate, but both projects were scrapped because of shifts in local politics.[40] Lavigerie had foreseen the difficulty of finding an apt choice among existing African leaders: 'it would not be impossible . . . for a brave and Christian European to fill this [responsibility].'[41] Two years after Storms's 'empire' was ceded to Lavigerie's White Fathers, the cardinal announced, with reference to the feisty ex-Papal Zouave he had proposed as Mutesa's 'war minister', that 'if Joubert wishes the title of King, we shall give it to him', and that Joubert's would be 'the crown of Marungu'.[42] 'Le saint Joubert', as Lavigerie also called him, soon became a hero of mythical proportions along the southwestern shore of Lake Tanganyika, and a fit successor to 'Emile the First, Emperor of Tanganyika'.[43]

Cession of Storms's outpost to the White Fathers was precipitated by recognition of the Congo Free State; there would never be formal, international recognition of the Christian Kingdom at Mpala. Catholic writers have explained the Kingdom as 'a competitive means for evangelization, rather than the end


result of political ambitions'.[44] Yet elsewhere in Central Africa, the missionary occasionally became 'temporal governor',[45] 'king without crown',[46] or even 'prophet, priest and king rolled into one—really a very big duck he, in his own private pond',[47] with powers 'absolute and unchecked';[48] and it can be argued that a de facto state existed at Mpala, well into the 1890s. The bounds of this state became synonymous with those of Tabwa ethnicity as it came to be recognized in the context of Belgian colonialism.

The criteria of sovereignty for a modern state vary,[49] but usually include defined borders which will be defended, often with a standing army; a monopoly on the use of force, a penal code and a system of courts for those seeking redress; a monetary system, markets and organized export/import; a system for indoctrination through an avowed ideology and state religion. 'Mpala Territory' had all these 'official' attributes, their underlying political structures, and more. Most importantly, the 'government' could and did intervene in every sphere of local activity, thus continually reaffirming the identity of the Territory as opposed to the rest of the Free State surrounding it. In terms of 'state cosmology', the confines of the Territory were inhabited by 'our people', while those outside dwelt in 'the Empire of the Demon'.[50] Entry to the closed system of the Fathers was only by a long and difficult process. 'Finding themselves excluded from . . . the most sacred of our mysteries, the catechumens better feel their state of inferiority vis-à-vis the Christians, and their desire to receive baptism becomes more vivid for this.'[51]

The limit of Joubert's direct authority appears to have been a radius of about three days' hiking from the mission at the mouth of the Lufuko. Beyond this, many others gave him their allegiance, from the Lake Mweru region in the southwest to beyond the Lukuga River in the north. To these he sent armed support in time of need, and to some even farther afield, powder and an invitation to move closer to him.[52] The Christian Kingdom could exist as a de facto colony or state because the missionaries constituted the only effective European presence along the western shores of the lake.[53] Whereas Joubert's powers were unrivalled by the Congo Free State for some time, they were severely tested on a number of occasions by slavers, local insurgents, and later, by mutinous Congolese soldiers. The Captain raised a force of loyalists and threatened counter-attack if tribute were not brought manifesting subservience to him. Some deferred, others resisted. Those most loyal to Joubert (like Storms before him) were typically of one clan, those rebellious, of another. Allies were rewarded, and tended to continue in the good graces of the various administrators through the following decades.[54] The Sanga, or 'Bushpig' clan of Stefano Kaoze was the one most often rebellious in the early years; this disallowed the favour of government recognition later on.

By the mid-1890s, Congo Free State agents were instructed to assert an effective presence in lands west of Lake Tanganyika. As they moved to incorporate the Christian Kingdom into the colony, they reduced 'King' Joubert to 'an ordinary member of the public' attached to the mission, who might see to 'petite police', but to nothing of greater consequence.[55] Terrorists and insurrectionists among Tabwa anxious to regain old powers or new in the nascent colonial structure, and sensing the confusion as to who truly reigned—missionaries or administrators—inspired great fear as they attacked and murdered scores in the Marungu. Many of those who had earlier been loyal tried to 'desert' the Fathers to seek security and advantage through new politicoeconomic opportunities near Free State outposts.[56] They soon discovered that the general lack of discipline among Free State troops and authorities, increased by the frenzy of the rubber boom, meant their treatment by soldiers or others outside


the missionary sphere could be excessively brutal. The White Fathers took full advantage of this as they retrenched, proving to loyalists that the Christian Kingdom was yet a vital haven.

Brief examples of the tenacity of those defining the Christian Kingdom through the first decades of this century are apposite here. Late in 1902, the Congo Free State Enclave of Moliro was founded, one of three military divisions in northeastern Katanga which would have its own fort and detachment of soldiers. The Chef de Poste requested a list of chiefs bringing supplies to or otherwise working for the mission at Baudouinville, that they not be subject to requisitions for the Moliro garrison. The Father Superior submitted a list, but Tabwa chief Kitendwe, deemed a 'mauvaise tête', or troublemaker, was denounced. The Free State officer thereupon sent soldiers to Kitendwe's to conscript one and all for a month's labour building the Moliro fort. Other chiefs of the Marungu Massif, who till then had resisted the priests' efforts at proselytism, were summoned to the mission and told by the Father Superior that, for all he cared, they could hie themselves to Moliro. The chiefs begged for protection from the soldiers, and the missionary set the following conditions: that all strife cease in the area; that the chiefs agree to build a chapelle-école— a chapel and school—in their villages; that they receive there the catechists trained and sent by the priests; that all attend religious instruction, chiefs and subjects alike; and that they remain loyal to the mission, continuing to bring foodstuffs against payment at an exchange determined by the Fathers. Any contravention of these rules would mean immediate denunciation to the Poste, and the resulting treatment they could expect would be that meted to Kitendwe and his people. The chiefs declared all these conditions acceptable and accepted.'[57]

The missionaries made their resistance to what they considered usurpation of their prerogatives by the colonial administration especially obvious in three domains. First, Joubert had rendered justice during the early years of the Kingdom; while the missionaries might oversee petty corrections (which they did, as when they punished orphans caught stealing, with periods of hard labour in chains), they were to forward more serious cases to the colonial authorities—a change to which they acceded with difficulty.[58] When a circuit judge visited in 1908, for instance, the mission scribe noted that

Our Christians prefer to bring their little affairs before their Father, than before this stranger who appears every two or three years. Better for them is a paternal punishment at the mission than the obligation to travel three or four weeks from the mission to court, to return, still without judgment.[59]

When two murder cases were brought to the missionaries' attention in January of the next year, the diary entry admits that such should be sent on to the court. Yet those involved, apparently plaintiffs as well as defendants, refused to go, since after an arduous journey their case might well be dismissed. Instead, the priests arranged that goods be given in indemnity to the aggrieved family, and all were sent home. The mission scribe's comment was that 'the result will be definitive, as they will take revenge themselves'.[60]

Second, the matter of money and taxes was another in which the White Fathers demonstrated their insularity. In July of 1911, the old pesas of the first phase of the Christian Kingdom were recalled, and new ones bearing a distinctive anchor and wording were struck at Baudouinville Mission. Labourers could choose payment in either colonial francs or mission pesas, although only the latter would be accepted at the mission store. In 1908, a government agent came to collect taxes. The priests' feeling was that the people were being sought only in the


heavily-populated villages located around their mission centres, as a matter of convenience to the collector. But might this not cause the same people, already demonstrably ready for flight, to 'desert' the mission? 'We civilize in a Christian manner; perhaps they [the tax collectors] have it in for us!' When, in May of the next year, a tax collector traversed the Marungu Massif, he allowed his men to pillage and burn five villages as punishment for their inhabitants' having fled before him. This act, for which he was later brought to justice, at once interpreted as an insult to lands considered within the mission territory, only served to strengthen the priests' position as separate from the 'encroaching' state.[61]

Finally, recruitment of labourers for the mining centres of southern Katanga was deemed yet another incursion into their private sphere. The Fathers contended that theirs was an agricultural preserve set aside by the central government, and so their people should not be enticed to leave for the cities. Central Tabwa did provide an extraordinary amount of produce for the World War I effort, and the resistance of the missionaries to labour recruiters eventually proved useful to the overall aims of the colony. In the years between the world wars, the priests at Mpala and Baudouinville missions, in particular, developed cash crops of wheat, potatoes and onions; cattle; and training in marketable skills such as carpentry, masonry and boatwrighting. Local people associated with the missions, profiting from these exceptional opportunities through the schools, seminaries and workshops of the White Fathers, gained a positive reputation throughout southern Zaire. Mission-trained 'Tabwa' moved solidly into the colonial economy, to the extent, for instance, that the majority of seminarians were enticed from the aspirations of ordination to join more lucrative commercial concerns. Being 'Tabwa'—being associated with the old 'Christian Kingdom' of Mpala—became eminently worthwhile.[62]

It is in this context of systematic centralization of authority by the priests that we may consider the formation of Tabwa ethnicity. Two major characters of Congolese colonial history, Monsignor Victor Roelens and his protégé Stefano Kaoze, stand out. Both contributed greatly to the perpetuation of the Christian Kingdom, but for divergent reasons.

Two Culture Brokers for a 'Tabwa' Identity

An important caravan of White Fathers reached Lake Tanganyika from Zanzibar in 1892. Father Victor Roelens was among its members. Ordained in 1884, Roelens assisted Cardinal Lavigerie in establishing a branch of the White Fathers in Belgium. He further seconded the cardinal in organizing the anti-slavery campaign through which Lavigerie would have significant impact upon early European colonialism in Africa. Often opinionated, frequently arrogant and always controversial, Roelens found favour with Lavigerie, who admired his audacity and pluck. Roelens, in turn, has been called the 'Flemish Lavigerie' in recognition of qualities shared.[63]

Roelens displayed his difficult character during the caravan trek; he allegedly reduced one brother to tears with his 'gross insults', and life in his company was described by a fellow traveller as 'real torment'.[64] Immediately upon arrival at Lake Tanganyika, Roelens began criticizing his fellow missionaries who had preceded him there, taking special glee in castigating the brothers of the mission, not even sparing his own superior, Monsignor Lechaptois. After only days along the lake, he wrote that he feared 'the Masonic government of the Congo' would 'one day pick a quarrel' with the priests, and rescind use of Mpala mission; he said that were he in the place of Monsignor Lechaptois, he would found a new mission


which would belong solely to the church.[65] Months later, Roelens would found just such a mission at what would be called Baudouinville (now Kirungu, adjacent to Moba); a year after his arrival in Central Africa, he was promoted to Apostolic Administrator for the Vicariate of Upper Congo, and in 1895, Roelens was nominated as Apostolic Vicar.[66]

Roelens, a 'man of action, of pragmatic character', acted with a firmness and tenacity 'which often made him authoritarian'. His decisions were without appeal, and he defended them obstinately. His judgments unfortunately often lacked nuance and hardly evolved. The portrait he drew of the black man, for example, is particularly negative, despite the frequent urging of Cardinal Lavigerie that his missionaries not judge Africans too severely. Because other prelates in Africa were significantly more generous in their appraisal of their black parishioners, one recent author is left to wonder if Roelens had read the Cardinal's letters, 'or did his obstinacy blind him to such points?'[67] With tragic irony, it would be Monsignor Roelens who would sponsor Stefano Kaoze's brilliant passage through seminary and his emergence as the first Congolese ordained a priest.

A number of accounts of Kaoze's childhood exist. In each he is objectified. One account varies from another in a manner consistent with the form of milandu : each is composed for a different audience in pursuit of different goals. According to one version, Kaoze's mother was accused of sorcery and deemed responsible for slavers' attacks on her village, and three of her brothers, a husband's brother and a daughter were executed at the full moon. Kaoze was captured by slavers soon after, but was liberated by Captain Joubert.[68] Another (and, as Kimpinde and his colleagues suggest, perhaps the source for accounts like the previous one)[69] tells of how 'a tyrant, the cruel Manda' (the Zimba clan chief who would be Kaoze's adversary in interclan rivalry for position in the colonial hierarchy of prerogative) attacked Kaoze's village as a refuge of those who refused him tribute. Kaoze's mother was accused by a diviner—'a true lackey of Satan'—of attracting Manda's attacks and those of coastal slavers thereafter, and her three brothers, father-in-law and daughter were murdered at her feet. Kaoze's parents fled with him to hide in mountain caves, barely survived a smallpox epidemic, and escaped from slavers. They met Monsignor Roelens at the new mission of Baudouinville/ Kirungu and, when Kaoze's mother died, Kaoze escaped from the mean uncle to whom he was sent (but not without further tribulations) to take shelter with the missionaries.[70]

The latest version is that Kaoze's great uncle (MoMoBr), who was of 'dour and jealous character', resented the popularity of his niece, Kaoze's mother; rather than endure his 'intrigues', the woman moved to the village of her brother, very near where the Kirungu mission would be founded shortly thereafter. When the priests opened a primary school in the area, Kaoze was an early student. This plausible account is appropriate today when stereotypes and ancient conflicts are to be forgotten, not exacerbated. Appended to it is an assertion by Kaoze's surviving kinsmen (men sufficiently young that they could not know what sort of character Kaoze's great uncle may have had) and by the authors that the dramatic events of earlier versions are incorrect; and a request that 'to be true to observed facts, we hope that these rectifications will be taken into consideration in future publications, especially at the beginning of this second century of our Evangelization'.[71] This is an honourable position, to be sure, but one based upon a Eurocentric perception of absolute history which overlooks the allegorical nature of even this last version (MoMoBr as 'bad guy'). The authors cite a once-removed statement by Kaoze himself to the effect that he knew nothing of these early years. The objectification of Kaoze in these accounts—the latest included—must be


seen as an element important to the man's personal development, to his intellectual motivation and achievement; to his detachment from peers in the countryside and from White Fathers who might be his colleagues but who were never his fellows; and to the meaning Kaoze, as one of the first local African intellectuals, continues to have for people of the area, Catholic and traditionalist alike, thirty years after his death.

However one reconstructs this past, the underlying message is that Kaoze's transition from village to mission was not easy for him or for his family; other stories of the resistance of his mother's brother to his continued schooling underscore the same point.[72] From passages cited by Kimpinde, it would seem that Kaoze himself sought separation and was attracted to the classroom as a context for an enquiring mind beyond that of other boys his age. His quickness with languages (Latin and Flemish, as well as Swahili and French), his capacity to grasp the abstractions of an alien philosophy taught at the seminary, and his growing sense—evidenced in his letters and manuscripts—of how to use such forms of thought for political goals, indicate his exceptional intellect.

The White Fathers' schools at Mpala and other missions southwest of Lake Tanganyika began as orphanages to accommodate purchased slaves and other youngsters like Kaoze, who were attracted in a variety of ways, including coercion. Their organization in early years 'resembled . . . more an agricultural colony than a school', although the orphanages soon became 'places for religious instruction and Christian education from which fervent and exemplary Catholics should emerge'.[73] 3 Shortly after his arrival, Victor Roelens proposed the founding of a school for catechists at Mpala, which opened in 1893. Because of his peculiarly negative view of Africans, Roelens, 'more than other vicars apostolic, felt that only a radical transformation [and separation] of the African from his milieu could lead him to become fully Christian'. Candidate catechists were selected among orphans, and after four to six years' instruction, the missionaries chose wives for them and sent them to settle in outlying villages.

By 1903, there were eight chapelles-écoles run by catechists around the Mpala mission, and another eight around that of Baudouinville. As the years passed, the catechists obtained a great deal of local-level political power, often at the expense of traditional chiefs. As Roger Heremans has written, 'in their desire to convert Africans to Catholicism, the Fathers assembled entire populations under their direction. They created "new tribes" ' in so doing.[74] In the mid-1890s, schools were opened at the missions where reading and writing in Swahili were taught; Roelens noted that such skills might 'open these intelligences a little and render them more apt to comprehend Christian verities. But the real advantage of the school is to submit the children to a serious surveillance, absolutely unkown in pagan families', in which 'children are brought up like little animals. . . . Their school is the circle of adults seated about a fire . . . [and] they learn everything, except truth and good.'[75]

Kaoze was among the earliest students and first catechists. His brilliance noticed, Kaoze was admitted when a Lower Seminary was begun at Mpala in 1899. By 1905 he was one of two continuing the course in Latin, and began studying theology and philosophy in an Upper Seminary. He was transferred to Moba/Kirungu when a sleeping-sickness epidemic struck Mpala, killing, among hundreds of others, Kaoze's only fellow student. Kaoze was the joy of his tutors, as he mastered even the most difficult subjects with ease.[76]

While Kaoze was at seminary, he was approached by a magistrate, A. Hoomaert, and asked to write a text that would be edited by Father Vermeersch, a Jesuit, concerning the 'psychology of Africans'. The goal was to prove the 'fundamental


equality existing among all human beings'. Kaoze's 'La psychologie des Bantu ' resulted.[77] To seek to demonstrate that Africans were the equals of Europeans implies that many thought they were not, and Kaoze painstakingly demonstrated the existence of imagination, memory, intelligence and other faculties among Africans, for his European readers. He wrote in French, a language to which only seminarians in their last years of training had access, which 'created a sensation in Europe at the time. It was the first time that one read a text entirely in French written by an African.'[78]

While Kaoze was developing his thesis proving the equality of Africans to Europeans, Victor Roelens, his bishop and mentor, was working on his own 'Psychology of our Blacks.'[79] Roelens's 'Psychology' was the very antithesis of Kaoze's, a racist diatribe in which he portrayed the African as 'an impulsive [being] who obeys, without great reflection, the dominant impression of the moment'; for whom 'intelligence and will intervene rarely in the habitual circumstances of his life'; whose intelligence 'atrophies under the influence of the press of passions'; and whose 'capital defect' is 'egotism—dominant sentiments: fear, self-interest'. While Roelens admitted that 'the mentality of Blacks is an enigma for us', he explained that this is because of the blacks' impulsiveness and other shortcomings.[80] Such profound ambivalence (to use the kindest word possible) must have marked Kaoze: even as the young man separated from his peers in personal and intellectual development, he as a black was denied basic humanity by the very authority figure who gave him shelter.

The objectification of Kaoze was not limited to stories of his childhood. He was ordained in 1917, at a time when Europeans in the Congo were feeling anxious about having given arms to Africans to fight the Great War and the 'revival of passions' that pillaging, killing and general excess of war might have engendered.[81] This was a time of increasing racial segregation in the Belgian Congo, and many Europeans there objected to admitting Congolese to higher education and the Church hierarchy, since the result would be that Africans might achieve a place on earth and in heaven superior to ordinary, bourgeois Europeans. In turn, this could be a 'seed of revolution' among the colonized, the more dangerous just after the war.[82] It is to the great credit of Victor Roelens that Kaoze's ordination was made an event none could overlook.

Fifty Europeans, including Governor Malfeyt, the Royal High Commissioner for the colony, attended Kaoze's ordination, along with a great many Congolese who, in the words of one, 'dared not think that Stefano Kaoze would be a priest exactly like those come from Europe'. The effect of Kaoze giving the benediction to European priests kneeling before him during the next day's mass can be imagined. As one missionary wrote, 'this day was for us one of the most wonderful of our lives and the crowning of our efforts, of all the suffering endured over the first years of Evangelization'.[83] Yet even as it might seem that, in ordination, Kaoze had gained equivalence with his white colleagues (and he certainly did to a degree unusual for the colony at that time), he would always be kept in 'his proper place'. He became superior of a new church, but one staffed entirely by Congolese clergy, and he was never superior to a white. The white priests remained in their own walled compounds.[84]

Kaoze began to travel with Monsignor Roelens, first to a meeting of all Superiors of Congolese missions (before Kaoze himself was one), then, in 1919, to Europe. A first stop was at Algiers, where a new headquarters of the White Fathers, 'Maison Carrée', had been established; then to Rome for the beatification of the Ugandan martyrs; then to Belgium where Kaoze was received by King Albert. Kaoze visited and preached at a number of schools and churches


there, in French and in Flemish; he sang several hymns of his own composition (he would become a renowned choir master) and then 'brought the house down' with 'Vlaamse Leeuw', the Flemish national anthem, and 'Zy zullen hem niet temmen', 'they [the Walloons] will never vanquish [the proud lion of Flanders] ,' to 'unending applause' in places like Ostende. In effect, Kaoze was 'very amused by our rivalries between Walloons and Flemish, but he understood the reason for certain difficulties, and said, "So, men are alike everywhere; Europeans put tribalism between them too."'[85]

Kaoze's own sense of ethnic identity, enhanced by racism in the Congo that made it painfully obvious that blacks were not equal to whites, was given a new dimension by a first-hand view of a Belgium riven by ethnic difference. Most importantly, Kaoze, by being in Brussels at the end of 1920, was on the periphery of the National Colonial Congress (to which it seems he was not invited); in that context he met Panda Farnana, president of the Union Congolaise, first Congolese to study agronomy in Belgium, and an outspoken defender of the rights of colonized blacks. Panda addressed the sessions and mentioned Kaoze as sharing his opinions on the oppression of Congolese. Kimpinde correctly notes that Kaoze's encounter with Panda and his trip to Europe more generally had the effect of 'opening his eyes', and it was soon thereafter that Kaoze began his political writings with the first universal history of the Tabwa.[86]

Elizabeth Colson has written cogently that 'contemporary African tribes . . . represent the emergence of self-conscious nationalistic movements comparable to those of Europe', and that 'the ideology of European nationalism was transferred to Africa' via 'the school man, the intellectual, who has been most eager to advance his own language and culture and who has seen himself as vulnerable to any advantages given to the language and culture of other groups within the country'.[87] By any measure, Kaoze was a brilliant man, whose intellect was fostered in the classroom in such a way that he could regard his own society and culture from the distance of abstraction. Kaoze was a man who knew divisions: among clans of the Marungu Massif where he grew up; between the missionaries of the de facto 'Christian Kingdom' and the colonial government; between blacks and whites in a segregated colony; between Catholics and Freemasons often engaged in vitriolic exchange (in which Roelens participated as a spokesman); between Walloons and Flemish, Belgians and Germans. Kaoze was not 'amused' by Belgian 'imperial ethnicity', he lived its consequences and put lessons learned to work as he began his career as historian and patriot of clan and 'tribe'.[88]

The first published works which delimited a distinct Tabwa ethnic identity were a grammar and a Tabwa-French dictionary; a lexicon with a few folktales in Tabwa was also prepared with the assistance of Kaoze, for use by missionaries.[89] These documents undoubtedly served as 'literary instruments' in a colonial context in which White Fathers wished to define their sphere of politico-economic interests vis-à-vis claims of missionaries of different denominations, or others who would infringe upon their 'sovereignty'.[90] Kaoze soon began a different task, by writing of Tabwa history and culture in French, a language only a handful of Tabwa could read. Kaoze's intended audience was not the Tabwa people, then: he would engage the colonizers in a debate vital to him, concerning Tabwa and, ultimately, his own identity.

The context for Kaoze's first historical writing is the following: White Fathers at Kirungu had brought with them a man from north of Lake Tanganyika who had been 'burgomaster' of the Christian village around their mission at Kibanga near the Ubwari Peninsula until the mission was closed and moved to Kirungu in 1893,


due to unending harassment by slavers and brigands. Fransisko Bulani, the man in question, was an able leader and was recognized chief of Baudouinville, the village about the new mission, in 1910 by a representative of the Comité Spécial du Katanga then governing the region. Bulani was the missionaries' puppet chief, and, as his powers grew, those of the local Zimba clan chief Manda, whose lands these had been previously, declined. A young colonial administrator named Gilson—a Freemason—took up Manda's cause against Bulani in an overt attack upon the missionaries themselves for, as he wrote, 'whoever speaks of Bulani, speaks of the missionaries'. Gilson rose in the ranks of colonial administration, but his strident approach toward White Fathers at Baudouinville did not abate; Gilson was quite possibly related to an important metropolitan family of Liberals of the same name, and his career was probably furthered by such kinsmen and favour shown for his position vis-CH:224>-vis missionaries in the Congo.[91]

In the early 1920s, colonial legislation was proposed by which the 'disaggregation of indigenous authority'—6095 'independent' chiefdoms existed in 1917—would be corrected through the 'guided evolution' of chiefdoms of 'true "royal-blooded" chiefs'. 'Great Chiefdoms' would be recognized where they 'still existed' or where it was 'possible to revive them'; such distinctions were left to the discretion of particular territorial administrators to determine. Thus, by 1922 Gilson could write that 'Manda is the chief clearly indicated' by such logic, and that 'the State has as . . . its imperious duty to protect and support this chief, for 'only Manda can re-establish the traditional unity of this region'.[92] Whatever the merits of Manda's case, he was being used as a pawn by Gilson to goad priests whom he despised.

Roelens and the White Fathers felt the implementation of this policy to be an assault upon their prerogatives, a fragmentation of the Christian Kingdom they still maintained, albeit in a less overt form than that of the late nineteenth century. The Monsignor responded with a letter of his own to the District Commissioner, to which he attached a document prepared for him by Kaoze.[93] Roelens stated that he was astonished that administrators did not seek information about local Africans from the missionaries among them, and then reiterated some of the disparaging remarks current in the Belgian press as penned by Liberals and Freemasons. In this particular case, he admitted that one might assume him to be against Manda, since Bulani, the mission chief, had been given lands once Manda's; but local people wanted 'nothing to do with Manda, who in their eyes is an intruder who has no right to be chief. Kaoze's account affirmed this position.

A 'tribe', according to Kaoze, is the group of people known by a chiefs name or by that of the land he occupies as the descendant of the first occupant of the lands.[94] The clan is the basic unit of social organization, and Tabwa' (as Kaoze identified himself in the title of his offering) are those who originated in LiTabwa, a land to the south. In this, Kaoze contradicts himself, since people of the Marungu Massif inhabited other named lands (in his own case, Kasenga), and yet called themselves Tabwa; what is more, Nsama of the Zimba clan was the chief of LiTabwa whom Kaoze himself recognized as such and would not be someone with whom Kaoze would identify, particularly in a document written in complaint about Zimba chief Manda's claims to legitimacy. Kaoze used elements of milandu (although in written rather than spoken, hence debated, form) as he recounted the myth of Kyomba, the first named human in Tabwa cosmogonic myth and archetypal father of his three wives, the first of whom was Bulanda, Kaoze's own clan genetrix. Manda's ancestress was Kyomba's third and last wife. If Kaoze's written history—that, after all, of the first Congolese ordained a priest—were


accepted as true, then once and for all Tabwa would have a universal history proving the seniority of Kaoze's own clan.

Kaoze's document may have served Roelens's purpose of countering Gilson, but it was not written for that reason. Kaoze was most interested in the local-level political arena, and the contest between his Sanga clan and chief Manda's Zimba clan for land rights, especially as these were beginning to be interpreted by colonial administrators. He was also interested in the Tabwa people among whom he preached as he moved from one mission of the White Fathers to another—that is, within the old Christian Kingdom. Kaoze would continue his writings, many of which are masterpieces of ethnography for one never trained in the discipline.

Near the end of his life, Kaoze's involvement in local and colonial politics intensified. His writings included general discussions of Tabwa culture, including a version of the 'Table d'enquête' sent out from Maison Carrée to White Fathers' posts, to gain a survey of ethnographic data on the peoples they served. He had become so involved in such subjects that he asked his bishop to relieve him of his duties as Superior of the Kala mission so that he could dedicate his time and energy to his ethnographic researches. This was in part as a preparation for his participation in colonial politics, for he was to be a member of the Commission for the Protection of Natives. He would also assist the Council of Government chaired by the Governor General, in 1946.[95] Here he represented Congolese in general, but Tabwa more particularly. Kaoze continued in another arena as dear to him: he pursued his contention that Manda of the Zimba clan was not the legitimate 'Grand Chef of lands, including those of the Marungu Massif, which he believed belonged to his own clan. One of his protégés in this was Kyando Polycarpe, who just after Independence would become a firebrand leader of opposition to Manda during days when all past authority was being questioned. Kyando and several of his henchmen would be murdered then, apparently by Manda, an event lost in the swirl of political strife and confusion of the moment, and never officially investigated.[96]

Kaoze was not without his detractors, especially late in life as he rose to local and colonial prominence. His political views were at variance with the official colonial position, and he was virulently attacked by one administrator in particular. Kaoze's madness during the last months of his life (1950–1) has been attributed to this by a contemporary, and one violent argument with the administrator seems to have sent Kaoze into a fit of depression accompanied by crushing headaches.[97] 1 would suggest that this tragedy was rooted more deeply.

Kaoze was rudely separated from his family and his peers, and learned a Western philosophy at the seminary which assisted him in stepping outside his culture to describe it as an ethnographer. A true intellectual, Kaoze would synthesize the ideas of his people and write them as general history and ethnography. In an important sense, he created the Tabwa as he did so. Kaoze was also objectified from infancy, set apart, made an avatar of change, a symbol to be taken in tow and shown about. In the process, he became a spokesman for Tabwa and Congolese more generally. Tabwa began calling him 'Mulopwe ', the Luba title for 'chief of the sacred fire, of the sacred blood'; he was as influential as such a chief, and yet at the same time he was separated from his people.[98] Through ordination, Kaoze was taken into the priesthood and could eat with whites, ride a bicycle and otherwise share in the trappings of power; but he was not white, and was not an equal to his white colleagues. This other Tabwa saw.

A psychohistorian might find it relevant that in the course of Kaoze's madness, after an initial incident late in 1949, he experienced a major schizophrenic episode on Easter Day, 1950, and died exactly one year later, on Easter Day,


1951.[99] It might be argued that his was a 'created demise', and that Kaoze internalized the intense irony, chastisement, and wrenching wounds of an iniquitous colonial existence, to use some Biblical terms, suffered by all Congolese. A parable told to me by the late Kizumina Kabulo captures Kaoze's dilemma, even in death.

Upon dying, Kaoze went upwards to heaven (biaguni ), and stood in line to pass through the Gates. To go to heaven, one must be called and possess a letter to gain entry.[100] The other priests with Kaoze, all Europeans, were admitted, leaving Kaoze to stand alone.

'Where is your letter?'

'I'm with the others.'

'No, they all have letters. You go down from here. You'll see a guardian down below there, and perhaps that is your path.'

Kaoze returned downward, to Kibawa's, the place of the Tabwa dead. Kibawa asked if Kaoze had not walked by the entrance to his cavern on his way to heaven. Kaoze admitted that he had, but he had then lacked the letter necessary to enter heaven. Kibawa shouted, 'Aha! Seize him! Tie him up!' Kaoze was taken into Kibawa's and bound in his own rosary, as if in chains.[101]

In the 1970s, people from Kalemie south into Zambia called themselves 'Tabwa' sometimes. Sanga clan members said Kaoze's history, written 'as a book', was 'true, as books are'. Manda and his Zimba said Kaoze's history was a lie, and the chief gave me a copy of his own written version of a Tabwa universal history, as 'proof. In it, the same archetypal father, Kyomba, appears as in Kaoze's history; yet for Manda, Kyomba's first wife (and not his third, as Kaoze would have it) is his clan's genetrix, Kabamba Mwenya, while Kaoze's Sanga ancestress, Bulanda, is Kyomba's third wife and not his first.[102] Accordingly, the Zimba and not the Sanga are senior, superior and legitimate rulers. The argument is not settled,[103] nor, according to Tabwa logic evidenced in history through the mulandu story form, can it be.


Finally, then, who are the Tabwa? In the 1880s and 1890s, people in southeastern Zaire were made aware of an identity separate from others surrounding them, as Storms of the IAA and Joubert and the White Fathers after him, using superior arms and tactics, created an enclave of order in trying times of slave-taking and pillage. During later colonial years the difference was underscored by missionary proselytism, usurpation of local economic and political prerogatives, early linguistic work, schools and training programmes, the active efforts of an energetic bishop to retain independence from the damning influences of Masonic administrators and the corruption of urban life, and the growing pride of association with Kaoze, the first Congolese priest. To be Tabwa could be profitable, when literate workers and skilled craftsmen were few. Tabwa rose in local commerce and ranks of government open to Africans, and during the independence and subsequent secession of Katanga, they assumed important leadership positions (e. g. Minister of Education in Tshombe's regime).

The feeling of separation from the rest of Zaire continues, but in significant ways has been inverted from one of superiority to stigmatization. President Mobutu, according to my informants, questions the loyalty of the Tabwa, as theirpast enthusiasm for the Katanga state makes them untrustworthy. Some Tabwa have changed their names from ones that make their ethnic identity obvious, to others that sound like those of more favoured groups, so as to find employment in


government. It is perhaps no coincidence, then, that in 1976 Mobutu virtually gave away their portion of Zaire, in the short-lived OTRAG Concession. The accord was rescinded, but no more obvious sign can be found of Mobutu's feeling that this portion of the country and its Tabwa inhabitants are different and dispensable.[104]

Patriotism, Patriarchy and Purity: Natal and the Politics of Zulu Ethnic Consciousness[1]

Shula Marks


On 5 August 1985, the violence which had already led to a State of Emergency in much of South Africa exploded in Natal, leaving more than seventy people dead and thousands injured and homeless in the course of a week and raising the spectre in some areas of a repetition of the anti-Indian riots of 1949.

In 1985 at least half the dead were shot by the police, and it would be foolish to see the disturbance in simple racial terms. Political differences between the newly formed United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Zulu cultural movement, Inkatha, and sheer economic deprivation which led to the looting of African as well as Indian traders, warn against any simple equation of the violence with racially motivated anti-Indian sentiment per se . Thus, according to the Weekly Mail :

an unprecedented wave of terror is sweeping the Durban townships of Umlazi and KwaMashu where hordes of armed warriors are purging the townships of United Democratic Front sympathisers. At least three people have been abducted and brutally killed by the 'impis' who roam the streets at night, forcing males to join them on their murder and destruction spree.[2]

Two weeks later there were further reports of people being killed in Lamontville, allegedly by members of Inkatha impis, while its leader, Chief Gatsha Buthelezi, denounced the African National Congress (ANC) for wanting 'a bloodbath' in South Africa and was hailed in the media as a peacemaker.[3] Three months later the unrest had still not subsided completely, for there was an even more disturbing attack on Mpondo workers in southern Natal, an attack promptly labelled 'faction fighting' by a press ever ready to identify any conflict amongst Africans as 'tribalism'.

The attacks on the Indians, the members of the UDF, and the Mpondo were widely believed to have been instigated by 'a few well-organized, tribal "impis"', some of them deliberately brought in from rural Natal as vigilante groups, allegedly to put an end to violence in the townships. They were widely associated with Chief Buthelezi's Inkatha, although some of Inkatha's own members have themselves suffered at their hands and its Central Committee appears unable to control them. There is also some evidence of collusion


between the vigilante groups and the security forces.[4] As Sutcliffe and Wellings point out,

the Inkatha leadership is caught in something of a Catch-22. . . . If Chief Buthelezi publicly and specifically condemns the actions of these impis he will clearly lose a substantial section of his support-base. At the same time, if he supports these groups he will be seen as condoning mob-violence. Given these options, Buthelezi has chosen simply to warn the leaders of these impis that they were acting without the support of the Inkatha central committee.[5]

Whether or not Inkatha has been directly implicated, these tragic events reveal starkly the reactionary and conservative repercussions of 'cultural' organizations which serve to glorify ethnic identity and heighten ethnic consciousness. While the violence has to be understood in the context of the gross overcrowding, high unemployment and intense poverty of Durban's urban 'locations' and shanty towns, the attacks on both political dissidents and minority groups also raise urgent questions about the apartheid state's manipulation of ethnic politics in South Africa, questions which can in part be addressed through an analysis of the role and nature of earlier cultural ethnicity in Natal in the years prior to the riots of 1949.

Ethnic Ideology in the Inter-war Years

The significance of Zulu ethnic associations and cultural nationalism in diffusing class-based organization and fracturing national movements is no new phenomenon. For much of the twentieth century, the tendency of Natal to 'take off' has been a feature of white as well as of black politics.[6] In the inter-war period, a profound factionalism characterized Natal political organization, with the co-existence there of two branches of the African National Congress, one belonging to the national organization, and the other a virtually autonomous Natal variant under the Rev. John Dube, who had previously been the President of the ANC. Similarly, the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union Yase Natal was one of the first of many fragments to break off from the national Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU), and from the outset its activities were distinguished by the strong infusion of Zulu ethnic consciousness.[7] In the 1920s the creation of the first Inkatha movement was explicitly seen as a counter to more radical tendencies and was envisaged by both the South African state and the black middle class as a counter to the ICU and to 'Bolshevik' propaganda in the countryside. It was also hoped that the Natal offshoot of the Natal Bantu Teachers' Organization, the Zulu Cultural Society, would play a similar conservative role in the 1930s and 1940s. More recently, the second Inkatha movement has been seen by many whites as the answer to more radical forms of politics, whether nationalist or more overtly class-based. Although there were no direct connections between these three organizations, their objectives were similar: the reconstruction of Zulu ethnic identity around symbols of the Zulu monarchy and its history. They also drew on the same constituency and had the same fragmenting effect on nation and class-based movements.

About six million strong, the Zulu are the single largest ethnic group in South Africa today, with relative linguistic and cultural homogeneity and a proud military past centring around the monarchy.[8] It would nonetheless be wrong to relate the pervasive cultural nationalism of Natal simply to the historical existence of the Zulu kingdom, the most powerful and cohesive state in southern Africa in the nineteenth century. Twentieth century ethnic consciousness is not an


unmediated transmission of innate and immutable past values and culture. Indeed, as Barrington Moore has reminded us:

Culture or tradition . . . is not something that exists outside of or independently of individual human beings living together in society. . . . The assumption of inertia, that cultural and social continuity do not require explanation, obliterates the fact that both have to be recreated anew in each generation, often with great pain and suffering. . . . To speak of cultural inertia is to overlook the concrete interests and privileges that are served by indoctrination, education and the entire complicated process of transmitting culture from one generation to the next.[9]

Using the building blocks of past history, language and 'custom', twentieth century ethnic consciousness has been the product of intense ideological labour by the black intelligentsia of Natal and the white ideologues of South Africa, designed to confront new and dangerous social conditions. The paradoxes in this situation are apparent when it is appreciated that it was the Christian African community—the amakholwa ('the converted')—many of whose forebears had fled the Zulu kingdom in the nineteenth century, who forged the cultural ethnic organizations in the twentieth. Thus, the first Inkatha movement was founded by Solomon kaDinizulu, the son and heir of the last Zulu king, in alliance with the Natal intelligentsia, so as to gain state recognition for the Zulu monarchy and to pay off its not inconsiderable debts. Despite the undisputed popular support which the Zulu royal house enjoyed in the 1920s, the origin of Inkatha in 1922–4 owed as much to the deliberate reconstruction by the Zulu royal family and the Natal intelligentsia of 'traditional' institutions as to any spontaneous reaction of the Zulu people.[10]

With the sharpening of class conflict and political militancy in Natal and Zululand in the 1920s, the Zulu royal family and the traditionalism that it represented constituted a bulwark against radical change—a bulwark as much for the African intelligentsia as for the white ideologues of segregation.[11] The heightened political militancy of Africans in the later 1920s, particularly in Durban and in rural Natal, led architects of segregation such as G. N. Heaton Nicholls to perceive clearly the utility of ethnic-based organizations in defusing class-based organizations and class consciousness.[12] As Nicholls put it, 'If we do not get back to communalism we will most certainly arrive very soon at communism.'[13] For Nicholls, as for many others, there was a direct connection between politics and 'racial purity'. Through 'Bantu communalism' and the bolstering of the position of the Zulu monarchy, Nicholls also hoped to foster 'Bantu race pride' and thus prevent that bogey of the white racist imagination, miscegenation.[14]

In 1937 the Zulu Cultural Society was founded by Albert Luthuli, later to become President of the ANC and a winner of the Nobel Prize.[15] In its origins, it shared Inkatha's objective of fighting for state recognition of the scion of the Zulu royal house as Paramount, and added to it a concern for the preservation of Zulu tradition and custom at a time when these seemed to be disintegrating in the face of the pressures of proletarianization and urbanization. With the Zulu Regent, Mshiyeni kaDinizulu, and the South African Minister of Native Affairs as patrons, the society was, par excellence, an instrument of the Zulu Christian intelligentsia. It is not accidental that it was Heaton Nicholls who persuaded the Native Affairs Department in Pretoria to finance the Zulu Society to the tune of £250 per annum. The funding was to last ten years. For his efforts, Charles Mpanza, the indefatigable first secretary of the Society, whose salary was paid by


the grant, enthusiastically—and shrewdly—described Nicholls as

a staunch friend of the Zulu Society—and why not keep him so!—between you and me, Sir, the gentleman is going up the ladder and may find his way to State Ministry koaamaaje —so it is not without reward to play 'good' with him . . . [16]

From the first, the Zulu Society also had strong links with the Native Affairs Department in Natal, and it received the warm support of H.C. Lugg, Natal's Commissioner for Native Affairs, a man who was also keenly aware of the glories of the Zulu past.

The Zulu ethnic movement, like segregation itself, can be seen as a response to the immense social dislocations which resulted from capitalist development in South Africa. As increasing numbers of people were pushed into the towns in search of work, social relations in the countryside were transformed and whole communities disrupted.[17] The cheap labour system and the racist ideology which accompanied South Africa's industrialization exacerbated the tensions. In the 1920s these forces produced a turbulent and, at times, radical response from Natal's migrant workers and peasants. Although the province had witnessed little of the immediate post-World War I upheavals manifested on the Rand, by the second half of the 1920s there had been a marked change, as the ICU, first organized in Durban by that fiery populist, Allison Wessels George Champion, spread dramatically through the Natal countryside. The expansion of wattle plantations and sheep farming in the Natal midlands in the 1920s led to the eviction of tens of thousands of labour tenants and the increased exploitation of many more. At the same time, the Christian African petty bourgeoisie were experiencing intensified economic hardships and racial discrimination particularly in the wake of the Labour-National Party victory of 1924 and the introduction of its 'civilized labour policy'. These pressures cut across classes, radicalized the African petty bourgeoisie, and brought about the coalescence of a middle-level Christian and educated leadership and the recently dispossessed around the symbols of Zulu ethnic consciousness.

In the countryside, mass militancy expressed in work stoppages, a demand for increased wages, and general 'insolence and insubordination', led to a backlash in which angry white farmers burnt down ICU offices and clamoured for state intervention against a movement which threatened rural stability. In Durban, the ICU organized beer boycotts which resulted in a white mob attack on ICU headquarters in 1929, while a demonstration organized by the Communist Party on 'Dingane's Day' the following year was fired on by the police who shot the leader, Johannes Nkosi.[18] Five years of militant action by Africans had gained little in an immediate sense and saw instead the passage of ever more draconian security measures, such as the 1927 Native Administration Act and the 1930 Riotous Assemblies (Amendment) Act.[19] The death of Nkosi and the banishment of Champion led to a lull in urban politics in the 1930s and 1940s, which was only broken by the violence of the 1949 Indian riots.

There were a variety of reasons for this apparent quiescence. The world Depression, drought between 1931 and 1936, and a malaria epidemic which raged in the early 1930s imposed their own constraints on political action. Many of the unemployed who had fuelled the working class militancy of the late 1920s in Durban were removed from the city as the Depression began to bite. In the rural areas, in 1933 sporadic violent protest against tax collectors and dipping schemes failed to lead to a revival of the rural political activism of the late 1920s. In part because of the urgency of the agrarian issue, and in part because of the role


of the Zulu Regent, Mshiyeni, in dampening down local opposition, Natal's conservative black leadership remained largely outside the bitter protest over Hertzog's bill to remove the African franchise in the Cape.[20] Instead, the Rev. John Dube, Natal's leading political figure, was closely involved in advocating Heaton Nicholls's land settlement and development schemes in these years. Promises that the reserves would be extended and developed locally seemed more important than African political rights in the Cape Province.[21] At the same time, the rivalry between Champion, who had returned to Durban in 1932, and Dube, and the divisions between the Natal Native Congress, the Natal African Congress and the ANC (Natal Branch), and similar divisions between independent fragments of the ICU all claiming the mantle of the parent organization, speak of a factionalism born of frustration.[22] None of these splinter groups seem to have had much of a constituency. Fighting each other, the members of the elite had little energy and less inclination to mobilize the wider constituency of the oppressed and underprivileged.

The co-optive strategies of both the local state and the central state as embodied both in the Durban municipality and the Chief Native Commissioner also had some success in diverting African energies into different channels. Thus the creation first of the Urban Native Advisory Board in Durban and then of forms of electoral politics through the establishment of the 'Native senators' and elections for the Native Representative Council under the Hertzog legislation seems to have absorbed a great deal of the political energies of the leading political figures.[23] In addition, a more sophisticated native administration attempted to set up its own collaborative machinery through meetings of chiefs and "prominent natives' in a bid to oust more radical leaders.[24] It is in this context and in the relative vacuum left by the disintegration of formal political activities that the formation of the Zulu Society as a cultural organization by the Natal Bantu Teachers' Association should be understood. It also opened up a new opportunity for the state and diverted energies away from more radical answers to the very real problems posed by increasing proletarianization and urbanization.

Social Disintegration and Changing Zulu Mores

That these problems had attained a degree of urgency in the 1930s and that the social dislocation was considerable there can be little doubt. In Natal, from the beginning of the twentieth century, white missionaries and administrators had deplored the disintegration of 'tribal discipline' as Africans were increasingly proletarianized and in contact with whites in town. As early as 1904, James Stuart, then Assistant Magistrate in Durban, and to become one of the foremost recorders of African oral tradition, outlined what he saw as a 'crisis' resulting from the 'multifarious commercial tendencies' which were acting to transform African 'ancient habits and customs, their beliefs and modes of being'.[25] As David Hemson puts it, 'Stuart projected the most radical pessimism.' He saw a direct relationship between insubordination in the towns and disruption in traditional social life and the rapid spread of venereal disease.[26] His response to the growth of individualism and lawlessness was simple: 'moderate corporal punishment' for the youth and a return to traditional mores in relation to women, whose 'universal immorality' was regarded as largely responsible for the current wave of lawlessness.[27]

In their concern with the loss of control, the views of patriarchal administrators echoed the complaints of African chiefs, headmen and homestead heads who maintained bitterly before the Natal Native Affairs Commission of 1906–7 that


our young people are getting out of hand, instead of recognizing and obeying their fathers and guardians they disobey and sometimes disown them. Sons, who should be working for the house [homestead], appropriate all their earnings to themselves, daughters flaunt their elders to their face, and, duty disowned, claim a right to go to towns or mission stations.[28]

Probably even more distressing for African men was the extent to which black women were a prey to the lusts of white men. Behind the racist terminology of the Commissioners lurks the intense pain of a people whose ruthless exploitation was not only economic, but also sexual.[29]

Drawing on their perceptions of the English industrial revolution and British problems of urban poverty, white observers sought to fend off the rapid transformation of Africans into a proletariat, and its concomitant class conflict, through an attempt to restore 'traditional values' and institutions. Stuart was obsessed with this necessity, and he devoted much of his life to shoring up what he saw as Zulu 'tradition'. His dedication to the recording of African oral history and to writing vernacular histories for use in African schools was part of this endeavour. M.S. Evans, a man who could fairly be described as 'a friend of the natives' with all the ambiguity that that phrase implies, put the issues with much force in 1916:

They [the Africans] are utterly unprepared for such a violent change as is implied in the transference of large numbers from their present environment to the industrial life of cities. Galling as it may be to the captain of industry to see thousands of more or less intelligent, exceptionally strong men and women all around and yet unavailable to him, the position would be made infinitely more difficult and embarrassing by any relief which could be given by breaking up their present life, and with it all standards of conduct and the all-wholesome restraints to which they are accustomed. Torn from the present controls and sanctions and plunged into the whirlpool of city and industrial life, without even the occasional return to sweeter and healthier conditions, makes one who knows them shudder for their future. And if our own race life is to remain pure and our ideals uncontaminated, equally for us would such a course be disastrous. At whatever sacrifice of possible economic developments, the remedy of the present difficulty is not by rapid, and what may be easy adjustment, but by more gradual means, at least as much of conservation as of transformation.[30]

By the mid-1930s, the increase in the African urban population was an even greater cause for alarm, especially as the rate of increase for African women was even faster than that for men, particularly in Durban. Between 1931 and 1936 the ferocious drought which ravaged Zululand and Natal pushed an increasing number of people from the land, while the recovery of South Africa's economy from the Depression and the rapid expansion of manufacturing industry in the second half of the 1930s brought an open-ended demand for additional labour. Thus, whereas in 1921 there were 46,000 men and just over 8400 African women in urban areas in Natal, by 1936 this had risen to 90,400 men and 37,600 women.[31] While the size of the increase was affected by the redrawing of Durban's municipal boundaries to take in the peri-urban areas in 1930, this was itself a reflection of the rapid growth in the population around the town and the social problems which were arising. The increase over the next decade was also as sharp: in 1946 there were 139,000 African men and 69,700 women in Natal's towns.[32] In addition, many Natal Africans had by this time settled permanently or temporarily on the Witwatersrand. In the face of the rapid social change and


manifest violence, poverty, and social dislocation in the towns which resulted, patriarchal fears amongst African men also intensified and it is not surprising that there were renewed demands for a return to the 'Zulu' way of life and for increased controls over women and youth.

The Selection and Assembling of an Ethnic Ideology

The complexities of the traditionalism which imbued the ethnic ideologues should not be underestimated, however. While proclaiming the virtues of their past and the wholesomeness of traditions, the 'new African' was too much a product of the mission station and western culture to give unreserved approval to an unconditional return to 'tribal' life. Moreover, precisely because restructured ethnicity was designed to forge an alliance between members of the Christian intelligentsia and landowners and the pre-colonial ruling class, it was never free of tension. The ideology was composed of disparate elements drawn from very different traditions: on the one hand, pre-colonial ideology focused around the Zulu king, as the symbol of the unity of the nation; on the other, the aspirations of Christian converts imbued with nineteenth century notions not only of progress and improvement but also of universalism, the possibilities of individual assimilation to western norms and a constitutional monarchy. Born of the contradiction between the promise of progress and the reality of conquest and exploitation, as Tom Nairn has suggested, the mobilization of nationalism or ethnic consciousness is everywhere both backward and forward looking. In the Third World, as 'newly awakened elites' have 'discovered that tranquil incorporation into the cosmopolitan technocracy was possible for only a few of them at a time', they were thrown on their own resources and sought to mobilize their societies for advance. This could, however, be done only in terms of

what was there; and the point of the dilemma was that there was nothing—none of the economic and political institutions of modernity now so needed.

All that there was was the people and peculiarities of the region: its inherited ethnos, speech, folklore, skin-colour and so on. . . . People are what [nationalism] has to go on: in the archetypal situation of the really poor or underdeveloped' territory, it may be more or less all that nationalists have going for them. For kindred reasons it has to function through highly rhetorical forms, through a sentimental culture sufficiently accessible to the lower strata now being called into battle. This is why a romantic culture quite remote from Enlightenment rationalism always went hand in hand with the spread of nationalism. The new middle-class intelligentsia of nationalism had to invite the masses into history; and the invitation card had to be written in a language they understood.[33]

This dilemma was well expressed by the Rev. John Dube before the Native Economic Commission in 1930. On being pressed by one of the Commissioners on whether he could 'reconcile the tribal system with progress', he replied:

Well, it is the only thing we have and I think that if it were properly regulated, it would be the best. The tribal system has many advantages and I cannot get away from it. It is under the tribal system that the land is hel[d] by our Natives and, if I want land, I cannot get away from it. If I want land, I must associate the occupation of the land with the tribal system.[34]

Yet his was no unconditional support for 'tradition' either, despite Dube's


adherence to the Zulu monarchy and his key role in the Zulu Society. As late as 1925 he categorically denounced the practice of lobola (bridewealth), which was by this time gaining acceptance by white missionaries and administrators as a protection for women:

The women who respond more quickly to the preaching of the Gospel are confronted with the difficulties of lobola . This custom is a great hindrance to the spread of the Gospel. So long as our women are looked upon as an asset of commercial value, so long will the progress of the Native be retarded. An unprejudiced diagnosis of the custom will show it is at the root of many things that hamper the progress of the Native people. . . . Why is it that Natives who have worked on the farms of Europeans since boyhood . . . so soon as they return to home revert to their old sluggish habits, saying I bought my wife to do all my work? Those who have learnt to cook for the best white families, when back in their homes do not even make an attempt to improve old time methods. All this can be traced to the evil of lobola .[35]

In a letter to J.S. Marwick, the key representative of Natal commercial farming interests in the Union parliament and, like Heaton Nicholls, an ardent opponent of the ICU, Dube put his position even more explicitly. After denouncing ICU leaders with their 'misleading and dangerous propaganda, their absurd promises, their international socialistic inclinations and communism', Dube argued that the victory of 'socialistic' doctrines

would mean the breaking down of parental control and restraint, tribal responsibility and our whole traditions,—the whole structure upon which our Bantu nation rests. . . . We have got to maintain . . . the sense of paternal and tribal responsibility by Bantu traditions with all its obligations of courage, honour, truth, loyalty and obedience for all we are worth. . . . Don't think for one moment that I am not progressive. I am anxious as any man could be for the development of my people, but on the right lines.[36]

The same ambiguities can be seen in the position of almost all the Zulu-speaking intelligentsia of this period. Thus, for all their preoccupation with the 'traditional', a call to the past was intended to bolster more mundane preoccupations. As small landowners and petty entrepreneurs, leading members of both Inkatha and the Zulu Society had a concern with rural 'development'. According to Nicholas Cope, the initial impulse behind the formation of Inkatha by the Northern Natal petty bourgeoisie was to enable them to cooperate with rural chiefs in the purchase and development of land: 'Inkatha was seen as a means through which commercial agriculture could be set underway on land purchased ostensibly by a "tribe"—non-tribal land-buying syndicates had been practically outlawed following the 1913 (Natives Land) Act.'[37] Albert Luthuli himself revived the Groutville Cane Growers' Association and founded the Natal and Zululand Bantu Cane Growers' Association, which were designed to foster the interests of the small-scale African sugar growers and negotiate on their behalf with millers. In 1942, when he stood for election to the Native Representative Council with Zulu Society support, his platform included a request to the government for 'more help . . . to the rural community in their farming operations'; the establishment of 'a Land Bank for Bantus'; improvements in the general status of chiefs and chiefs' courts; the acquisition of land by the government for Africans; local government or councils in 'advanced communities' such as Edendale; the extension of education in rural areas; and 'more civilized salaries for black teachers'.[38]


The Chairman of the Zulu Society, A.H. Ngidi, had far more ambitious economic schemes which he hoped the Zulu Society would promote. Perhaps influenced by the successes of the 1939 Afrikaner Volkskongres in mobilizing Afrikaner resources for the promotion of Afrikaner capital, by 1945 Ngidi was writing to the Secretary of the Society about vast commercial ventures and the rehabilitation of the reserves 'agriculturally, industrially, commercially, educationally and socially'. He argued that the Zulu should be persuaded to sell their cattle in order to accumulate capital to start stores 'and displace Indians and Europeans as exploiters of the people'—the irony was doubtless unintended![39] The language of economic ethnic mobilization is very explicit:

The feeling that we should extricate and help ourselves out of the present predicament of exclusive exploitation by cosmopolitan non-African South Africans and overseas white markets ought by now to instil us with a very strong sense of racial solidarity, loyalty and mutual confidence. . . . Our organisations must be principally NATIONAL. Basic Nationalism or Africanism. This is the dominant note in the National Orchestra of National Life. Other issues, religious, political, professional, vocational, agricultural, industrial, commercial, educational, economic and social must be dealt with under clear cut AFRICAN NATIONALISM.[40]

This self-conscious Africanism did not lead to any disengagement from the state, however. Ngidi had grandiose schemes for the reserves, premised on the reduction of African livestock, which should be preceded by the regulation and definition of all occupied land, and on the closer settlement of all reserves in Natal and Zululand, which he thought should include special zones for townships and be divided into a third for cultivation and two-thirds for commonage and houses.[41] As Mpanza remarked, apparently without sarcasm, Ngidi's ideas about cattle-culling were 'a wonderful means of our indirect cooperation with the present aims of the NAD'.[42] Mpanza himself saw no contradiction in his collaboration with the Native Affairs Department (NAD): as he saw it, it was important to cooperate with the 'Department of our Affairs (i.e. building up necessarily the relations with a department that stands between the Nation and the present-day recognised Government). . . . It is necessary to "Ride on a tamed elephant to hunt elephants."'[43]

The preparedness of Mpanza and the President to play along with the Native Affairs Department, especially during the war years, when Mpanza broadcast government propaganda in Zulu on the South African Broadcasting Corporation and, together with the Regent, Mshiyeni, encouraged African recruitment, led many of the more prominent African political figures in Natal to dissociate themselves from the organization.[44] There were differences, too, over the Society's readiness to accept the education of African children in the vernacular, although it was its support for the 'betterment of the reserves' which was the most sensitive issue for those with a finger on the popular political pulse. By 1946, Selby Msimang, Selby Ngcobo, A.W.G. Champion, and ultimately even Dube and Luthuli had all left the organization.[45] In that year Mpanza himself left to take up a position organizing railway workers on behalf of the Department of Harbours and Railways.[46]

At the same time, the 1940s saw the development of a far more powerful pan-South African nationalist feeling which was channelled into the revitalized ANC. Once the conservative Dube had been ousted from the presidency of the Natal branch, this became the natural focus for African political aspirations. The inter-war flirtation by the Natal elite with ethnic nationalism nonetheless left its


legacy, and it remained a powerful force at different levels in society, mediating perceptions of and responses to at times traumatic social change.

That this should have been the case was deeply rooted in the history, culture and ideology of Natal's intelligentsia. It was a history, culture and ideology full of contradictions as the African petty bourgeoisie tussled with the attractions of assimilation to the hegemonic European life-style and the impossibility of its achievement in South Africa's racially defined society. There were tensions between what was seen as valuable in African culture, recently discovered by the new science of anthropology, and their own self-definition as a respectable, Christian bourgeoisie. Nor was this a new phenomenon amongst the African Christian intelligentsia in the 1920s and 1930s.[47]

For all the tensions, however, it is clear that there were always more ties between the amakholwa in Natal and wider African society than the nineteenth century missionaries who were anxious to establish totally self-contained Christian communities would have liked. Tim Couzens, for example, shows the shift in the ideas of the Dhlomo brothers, H.I.E and R.R.R, both of them prominent writers and intellectuals who were educated in the traditions of mission Christianity at Edendale, Amanzimtoti and, in the case of Rolfes Dhlomo, at John Dube's Christian Ohlange. Rolfes Dhlomo was initially imbued with 'an earnest didactic' Christianity which condemned traditional culture and led to his writing An African Tragedy, the first novel in English by an African to be published. In typically anti-modernist fashion, and following much missionary preaching, it dealt with the evils of city life. His anti-modernism came, however, to be paralleled by an interest in the Zulu past.[48] 'Respectability' came to be joined with ethnic consciousness.[49] In 1928 Rolfes Dhlomo was writing in Ilanga lase Natal (28 December): 'Our folklore and historical records must be preserved from dying out, anything of racial pride, by means of a literature, otherwise these will be lost forever and our connection with the past forgotten."[50] He went on to write a series of historical novels about the heroes of the Zulu past—Shaka, Dingane, Mpande, and Cetshwayo.

It is in the Zulu Society that many of the ambiguities of this cultural nationalism were expressed. Albert Luthuli, then a teacher at Adams, the leading African high school in Natal, and President of the Natal Bantu Teachers' Association, who took the initiative in its establishment as an auxiliary of the Teachers' Association, described his motives many years later:

I believed then, as I do now, that an authentic, comprehensive South African culture will grow in its own way. This will not be determined by cultural societies, but they may influence it. It seemed to me that African teachers ought to play some part in its process.

We were thoroughly aware of the meeting of cultures, African and European, and of the disorganisation of both . . . as a result. We did not have the desire of the Nationalists that we should return to the primitive. But we did have an intense wish to preserve what is valuable in our heritage while discarding the inappropriate and outmoded. Our people were ill-equipped to withstand the impact of a twentieth century industrial society. Our task seemed to consist of relating the past coherently to the present and the future.[51]

An appendix to the Charter of the Society, published in 1939, captures the flavour of what was being sought, asserting that 'Not all customs are suitable in modern times, but instead of thoughtless elimination, there should be "the substitution of something better."' One of its enumerated principles saw the Divine Hand in the separate existence of the Zulu people:


55.) It is plain that responsible opinion is unanimously in favour of the Zulus being established always, retaining what is of good repute in the Heritage that was given them by the other Great Owner of Nations to distinguish the Zulus from other nations in giving them their individuality severally. Thus the Zulus may appear with their own traditional sacred anthem, not an anthem borrowed from other peoples.[52]

These were not, however, the only objectives of the Zulu Society. Perhaps influenced by Rolfes Dhlomo's plea and practice of nearly a decade earlier, a major task of the Society was the collecting of Zulu folklore and traditions for publication, that archetypal activity of the ethnically aware intelligentsia, and in this too, they appear to have received the support of the Chief Native Commissioner for Natal, H.C. Lugg, and his clerk, Carl Faye. Clearly, collecting folklore was far more acceptable an activity than political agitation.

An even more important objective of the Society, as in the case of the Inkatha of the late 1920s, was to gain state recognition of the Zulu monarchy. As the President of the Zulu Society, A.W. Dhlamini, put it. The pivot of the Z.S. is the Paramount Chieftainship of the Zulus.'[53] By 1939 they had so far succeeded that the government agreed to recognize the Regent as the Acting Paramount Chief of the Zulu, although the law made no provision for such a title and it had not been accorded by law to any chief in the Union, 'although it had become the practice in the Transkei for the Chiefs of Eastern and Western Pondoland to assume the title'.[54] For all the triumph of this moment, in the end it was probably its close involvement in the Zulu royal family politics, and especially the politics of the succession, which fatally weakened the Zulu Society in 1948, when the royal family began to back Cyprian as heir to Solomon kaDinizulu, and not Thandayipi, whom the Society had been grooming for the office.[55]

The patronage of Mshiyeni and the Zulu Society's support for him were seen as crucial to the Society's activities. By the second half of the 1930s the Regent had established himself as the key political figure in both Zululand and Natal, capable apparently of quelling 'faction fights', which the government had been unable to suppress for years, the 'kingmaker' both in relation to the elections of the white Senators, like Edgar Brookes, who represented African interests in Parliament, and in relation to elections to the Native Representative Council. No official occasion was complete without his attendance. He and fellow members of the Zulu royal family played a key role in settling the standards of Zulu 'custom' and 'etiquette' and were crucial to the state's policies of co-option and social control.[56]

Behind the talk of etiquette and tradition, however, was a very real concern with the disintegration of the fabric of Zulu life under the impact of proletarianization and urbanization during the 1930s. In particular, as the Charter of the Zulu Society makes clear, there was the fear that the 'departure from wholesome Zulu traditions' meant a lack of discipline in the home. Particularly 'alarming' was the loss of control over women, as 'mothers' of 'our leading men, chiefs and counsellors', and over the young, who 'by force of circumstances, leave their homes at an early age to work in towns and to attend schools'.[57] Only the monarchy, it was thought, could serve as a protection against these forces.

Neo-Traditionalism and the 'Proper' Conduct of Zulu Women

It was in the position of African women that the forces of conservatism found a natural focus. For the Natal state and 'traditional authorities' a common concern


to control the movements of women was a key feature of their 'alliance'. In the attempt to slow down the processes of African proletarianization, African women played a crucial role. For African men fears over the loss of control over women were deeply rooted in the role which women had played in precapitalist society as the producers of labour power both in their own right and as the bearers of children—future labour power. Jeff Guy has recently gone so far as to call this the 'law of motion' of precapitalist societies in southern Africa and to see the division between men and women as the 'class' cleavage in these societies.[58] Whatever the distortions resulting from nineteenth century colonial perceptions, it is clear that in precapitalist Zulu society women were firmly subordinated to the homestead head, whether father or husband. Subject to the authority of father or husband, in the home of her in-laws, a woman was expected to remain deferential and to use a special language of respect, the hlonipa language, as a sign of her subordination. According to R. Finlayson, in a sympathetic account of the hlonipa language amongst Xhosa women:

From the time that a woman enters her in-laws' home she may not pronounce words which have any syllable which is part of the names that occur among her husband's relatives. The hlonipa custom applies to the names of her father-in-law, mother-in-law, father-in-law's brothers and sisters and their wives and husbands and extending back as far as the great-grandfather. . . . The woman is expected to hlonipa throughout her life. She is not allowed to treat this custom lightly and is subjected to severe public shame should she ignore the rules laid down for her.[59]

Severe as these constraints were, they were further tightened by the codification of 'native law' in Natal in 1887, and its subsequent amendment. Although the Code 'originated in an avowed attempt to free women from the tyranny of patriarchal power', according to H.J. Simons, it imposed 'disabilities greater than those they endured in the old society'. By the 1930s, unless specifically exempted from the provisions of 'native law', they were regarded as perpetual minors, without legal status, and they had no independent right to own property and no access to cattle, the store of accumulated wealth and the symbol of power and prestige in Zulu society, other than that allocated to the 'house'.[60]

For James Stuart, even the provisions of the Natal Code were inadequate to control the growing 'immorality' amongst African women 'thanks to the introduction of European principles of civilization'. Like many an African patriarch, he deplored the fact that women now had some choice over their marriage partner and African males could no longer simply chastise their wives as they saw fit. 'Raising the lot of the African woman' had led in his view to the general disintegration of African society, the 'delinquency and insolence of the young', and to 'disrespect and lawlessness' in general.[61]

From the point of view of the state and capital in the first three decades of the century, there was an economic interest in keeping African women on the land and subject to the control of the homestead head, at least before manufacturing industry expanded on an unprecedented scale in the second half of the 1930s. In the first decades of the century, a double purpose was to be served by keeping African women on the land and out of the cities and towns: not only would the reproduction costs of the urban workforce be subsidized through the agricultural production in the rural reserves, a matter of much moment to the mining industry with its demand for vast supplies of cheap migrant labour, but through their continued control over women, chiefs and headmen would also control the return of the young men to the reserves and white farms which still needed their seasonal


labour. Their continued dependence on rural resources was thus ensured.[62] As the 1930–32 Native Economic Commission explained:

The policy of the Urban Areas Act is to discourage the permanent settlement of Natives in towns. As a Native who has a family with him in town is much more likely to become a permanent town-dweller than a single man, obstacles are placed in the way of women coming to the towns.[63]

Under the 1923 Urban Areas Act, amended in 1930, the Governor General or any local authority had the power to prevent any African woman from entering an urban area unless she had a certificate from an authorized officer. However, no such certificate was to be issued 'to any female Native who is a minor in law without the consent of her guardian'; as all African women who were not specifically exempted from African law were regarded as legal minors, this gave considerable leverage to patriarchal authority. Only those women who could produce satisfactory proof that their husbands or fathers had been resident and continuously employed in an urban area for a period of not less than two years were entitled to be in town.[64] The tightening up of the legislation governing the influx of women into town in 1930, in the midst of the Depression, was no coincidence, even though under the impact of the economic revival in the second half of the 1930s the law became far more sporadically enforced, a matter of considerable complaint at all meetings between African chiefs and the administration.

Yet in the face of rural poverty and increasing opportunities in the towns, the patriarchal controls became ever more fragile. In 1937, at a meeting of chiefs and 'other representative Natives' held at Eshowe, John Dube expressed the views of the assembled chiefs that the magistrates were 'too lenient in dealing with their womenfolk'. They asked 'that punishments might be more severe, as leniency leads to their demoralisation'. They appealed to the government to take even more 'drastic steps to prevent the migration of women to the towns'.[65] In 1939, on accepting a medal from the newly appointed Minister of Native Affairs, who was visiting Pietermaritzburg for the first time, Mshiyeni complained that the Zulu customs and traditions alluded to by the Minister were now being 'ignored in regard to the control of wives and daughters—fathers and husbands are helpless'.[66]

Sibusisiwe Violet Makhanya, the first Zulu woman to train as a social worker in the United States on a scholarship in the 1920s, remarked on the change in the position of women even in rural areas while giving evidence to the 1930–32 Native Economic Commission:

. . . there is a keen desire for independence in the women and a keen desire for ownership . . . . I know of cases in our district where, when the parents have died and the brothers have become heirs, the girls are not in any way provided for. I am thinking of one or two cases where the girls have actually left their homes and have gone to urban areas where they are working and providing for themselves, whereas in former times, 10 or 15 years ago, that would not have taken place, where the brother would have gone to the town and fetched the girls back to the kraal.

And today the girls would resist that kind of thing?—Yes, they would and when thinking of these things, one can say that the men are becoming powerless in that respect.

Now would you say that the change in the attitude of women is becoming general, it is becoming widespread?—Yes, it is becoming more and more so . . . .[67]


By 1936, Sibusisiwe Makhanya, a woman who had deliberately gone in the face of African convention in her decision not to marry and to pursue an independent career, had become an Adviser to the Zulu Society. Her career illuminates many of the themes included in this essay and it is worth dwelling on it at some length. The daughter of converts of the Congregationalist American Board, who nevertheless 'saw no incongruity in observing many of the old Zulu traditions', Sibusisiwe was born in 1894. Of prosperous peasant background, she was related to John Dube and was herself educated at the leading African schools of the American Board in Natal. Described as the 'outstanding Zulu woman of her generation', a 'living answer to the question, "Why missions?"', she seemed to epitomize the American 'adaptationist' model of education in Natal, although the reality was always more complex.[68] Even as a young woman Sibusisiwe—or as she was better known in mission circles of that time, Violet—had taken an interest in community affairs, and by the early 1920s she had started an organization called the Bantu Purity League, in order to improve the 'moral standards' of African girls. As Bertha Mkize put it subsequently, the League aimed 'to keep the girls pure in the right way'—at a time when the extent of premarital pregnancy, especially amongst Christian girls, was causing considerable alarm in black and white mission circles.[69]

Sibusisiwe's work both in the Bantu Purity League and in running a night school from her home in Umbumbulu led to her being awarded a scholarship to the United States of America, from whence she returned in 1930 as Natal's first black female social worker. In the United States she encountered the 'seeds of race consciousness' and was influenced by the sense of 'race pride' so much in evidence amongst black Americans in the inter-war period. It is clear from Sibusisiwe's somewhat 'turbulent' career in America that she was no mere accepter of white middle class values. Her concern with 'purity' arose out of her own and her class's deeply felt experience. Her race consciousness was equally part of that deep experience, transmuted in the 1930s into a Zulu ethnic cultural consciousness.[70]

Sibusisiwe's concern with the 'purity' of the 'Zulu race' was shared by many other anxious observers in the 1930s, and there were very material foundations for their fears. By the beginning of the twentieth century, changed patterns of child-rearing threw the burden of sex education on mothers rather than on grandmothers and the peer group as in the past: the result of mission abhorrence of female initiation ceremonies and the development of the nuclear family, especially among Christian Africans.[71] The migrant labour system which deprived villages of young men and put great pressures on the girls on their return exacerbated these problems at a time when safe forms of external sexual intercourse were either forgotten or frowned on by the church. At the same time, town, mission stations and colonial employment opened up opportunities to women who wished to escape unwelcome marriage partners and the constraints of a gerontocratic and patriarchal order. Both their potential independence and their vulnerability aroused a passionate response. In both town and countryside the rate of premarital pregnancy was high and the concern with adolescent purity intense. White colonial fears of miscegenation further fanned by the eugenicist ideas of the time articulated with the concerns of African men that their women were prey to men of other races and that they were losing control over 'their' women and youth.

These fears were heightened in the late 1930s when medical experts began once more to reveal the ravages of venereal disease in both town and countryside. Apparently unknown in African society before the mineral revolution, syphilis was revealingly known amongst the Zulu as isifo sabelungu ('the white man's


disease') or isifo sedolopi ('the town disease').[72] A number of surveys in the late 1930s showed a shocking state of affairs. Thus, in 1938–9, Kark and le Riche found the incidence of definitely positive Wasserman tests in an urban group was 23.6 per cent, while in all rural areas it was 23.28 per cent. Also in the late 1930s, Dr George Gale estimated that the rate of infection of Africans in Pietermaritzburg was 2620 per 100,000 as judged by the occurrence of early cases under treatment. As Kark pointed out in an important review article in 1949, the evidence indicated that there was not only 'a large mass of latent syphilis in the African populations, but also . . . a very high incidence of new infections each year. The process is taking place in highly urbanized areas, as well as in the more remote rural districts.'[73]

In 1939, concerned by the extent of the disease in his own Nongoma district, the Regent Mshiyeni headed his list of issues to be raised at the meeting of the Native Representative Council, to be held in Pretoria in November 1939, with a request to the government for hospitals and compulsory examinations for all families, 'for the sole purpose of protecting this country . . . from a dreadful town disease [the Zulu term for syphilis] which is threatening to destroy the whole country'.[74] Kark had no such belief in the utility of hospitals and the control over women as a treatment for the scourge. As he pointed out in 1949, syphilis was socially produced by the nature of South Africa's industrial revolution which had

profoundly disturbed the family stability and sexual mores of several million African people. Urbanization as a process is bound to disturb patterns of living which have been developed in a rural society, but urbanization in South Africa has taken a particularly disturbing direction as far as the African is concerned as it has developed mainly on the basis of migratory labour.

Not only had migrant labour led to 'instability and pathology in family relationships', it had also led to promiscuity in the countryside, which in turn led to 'an easy reception for the disease in the rural areas from the town'. He concluded that 'Without an understanding of the economic factors involved and [its] historical development . . . no treatment will save the spread of syphilis in South Africa . . . successful therapy requires the establishment of African and rural communities based on a stable family life . . . .'[75]

For all these concerns, given her independence of spirit (and the glamorous pictures of her, dressed as a 'Zulu princess' in New York!), it is nonetheless somewhat surprising to find Sibusisiwe Makhanya acting as the woman adviser to the Zulu Society, which asked three rhetorical question in its founding manifesto or Charter:

Where is the original Zulu dancing on festive occasions that is in some quarters forbidden and what has been substituted for it? What has been devised to ensure that the Home Discipline of Father and Mother may be permanently engraved in the minds and hearts of youth? And what substitute has been provided for the time-honoured custom of uguhlonipa etiquette which requires that a woman shall not utter the name of her husband or her male relatives?

The Charter continued:

39. Concerning such questions as we have asked, our people grieve. With regard to the abandonment of original Zulu dancing, it is to be observed that our youth do not now shrink from engaging in types of dancing that they copy from other races. It is said that these our people take whole nights capering man and woman glued together in pairs, cheek to cheek, jumping and jiggling in a manner that is most foreign and objectionable to us Zulus. On beholding


this, our elders and thinking people shed tears of woe—as they behold what in their judgment of decency is an abomination and a disgrace to the Zulus. One wonders what the Great Shaga [sic] would say were he to arise from his grave and see the degradation of descendants of his people engaging in obscene dancing.

40. There is a danger of a general collapse of the uguhlonipa etiquette of women and girls, which is leaning away from custom. Owing to a falling away of custom, women and girls are losing their wholesome respect which was to their credit and which their presence inspired in family life. This causes a slackening of the solidarity and sacredness of the whole Home Life of a man, which is to be found there before, and in this manner. Home Life is being desecrated and disintegrated and good manners abandoned.[76]

Both the language and the lament are familiar. The disruptive experience of modernity has since the beginning of the nineteenth century elicited similar responses from the intellectuals and ruling classes of Europe. There, too, 'nationalism and respectability jointly provided a reference point in an unsettling world, a piece of eternity which could be appropriated by those caught up in the vibrations of modernity'.[77] Yet for the African intelligentsia born of this very modernity, these processes of class formation and urbanization, the anguished cries against it and the lament for the past implied in the Charter of the Zulu Society and its diatribe against ballroom dancing were never unambiguous.

'Bantu Dancing' as a Focus for Ethnic Ambiguity

The same ambiguities which we have already noted in their reaction more widely to the contact between 'western' and African culture can be seen in the response of the African intelligentsia to the introduction by the Natal Department of Education of 'Bantu Dancing' into the syllabus for teacher training in 1948. The matter aroused immediate and passionate debate in the pages of the Natal Native Teachers' Journal . Its inclusion in the syllabus reflected the continued tradition in Natal of encouraging 'ethnic identification' as a mode of social control, and perhaps also the recognition of the growing popularity of ballroom dancing amongst Africans, an aspect of social life which was frowned on by the more puritanical, black and white alike. As S.T.J. Dladla remarked, 'Zulu dancing was loved by the people and should be improved and purified by educated Africans.' Echoing the Charter of the Zulu Society, he continued that it was European ballroom dancing that was 'really objectionable . . . for reasons well known to all'.[78]

His was very much a minority voice in the columns of the Journal however. While the editor clearly supported the departmental initiative, as did the Principal of Nuttal Training School at Indaleni, Mr Gibben, who actually implemented the new syllabus, the reaction of the majority of those Africans who wrote to the Journal on the matter was hostile.[79] The issue brought together concern over the sexuality of the young, the dangers of miscegenation, and above all fears of loss of respectability. As in nineteenth century Europe, 'respectability, particularly in sexual matters . . . played a fundamental role in defining the bourgeoisie as a class'.[80] It was not for nothing that Christian Africans were referred to by their non-Christian neighbours as Amarespectables . The majority condemned the idea of teaching Zulu dancing in school outright, even if they were more ambivalent about its role in Zulu society. As one Elliot E. Ntombela put it:

Indlamu or Primitive Bantu dancing is a mighty intruder in the hands of Educationists. The proper people and place for modernising this primitive art


are The Zulu Cultural Society (Ibandla lika Zulu) . . . even to the supporter of ladlamu himself Mr Gibbins, 'Indlamu or The Primitive Zulu Dance in its naked form is almost immoral' and as such it is quite contrary to the fast growing Cristian [sic] Education in our schools. . . . In other places where the Government has appointed Educated Chiefs, such Primitive Dancing has been exterminated, owing to the numerous immoral absurdities which cannot be tolerated . . . by the majority of true Christians. . . . Personally I do not see any spectacular aspect in Indlamu  . . . that would be an educational, physical, moral or musical incentive sufficient to out-class or equal the present drill taught in our schools or that would warrant the unnecessary task of trying to modernise the unchristian gestures and words of Iudlamu [sic] .[81]

Sidney Ngcongo was even more worried about its implications:

The dancing itself has nothing good in it except muscle development. If you have watched how they dress, and how they dance in that sort of attire you will agree with me that it should be forbidden in schools just as the present English dance is in many institutions. You might have noticed what sort of vulgar language some of the individuals use in praise of their parties in competitive programmes. They use it; and we cannot prevent them from doing it because it is a part of their game.

Another argument is this: parents who send their children to school, do so merely to change them from primitive to civilised. They want them to be Christianised, socialised and educated. They wish to see their children adopting civilised habits. There is no better sign of backwardness than to find the nation still doing what their forefathers did in the case of Africa. A European, passing by car through a proper native country and seeing a mob of Kaffirs with sticks and shields, there and then arrives at the right conclusion about them in his mind.

The joy that a civilised man gets when watching Zulus dance, is the same kind of joy he gets when looking at monkeys playing on the trees. He does not look at them to uplift their standards but to press them further down and merely to amuse himself. Just as he never thinks of improving the monkeys, so it is with the poor African dancing before him.[82]

The fear that they would be regarded as primitive, the desire to appear 'respectable', and sensitivity to racist stereotypes of African culture were dominant also in the words of K.G. Msimang:

 . . . the African people must be very careful not to keep on with customs and beliefs of ancestors which will make them a laughing stock. It is no secret that many people of the other nationalities like to see some of the dances because, as they say, they like to see a bunch of baboons performing, or because they want to see something 'wild' or 'primitive'. No matter to which race we belong, we must remember that all things are not necessarily good because they have come down to us from our ancestors. . . . Finally let us recognise that there is laxity in the matter of sex. On every hand our people are getting used to the idea that sexual experiences are not to be considered too evil, human nature being what it is.[83]

Despite his own social distance and patronizing attitude, Percy Ndhlovu put his finger on an aspect of the psychological colonization involved:

That there are those among educated and civilized Africans who have such an inferiority complex that they imagine their own fellow-men are looked upon as monkeys or baboons when they indulge in primitive dancing, is lamentable. The civilized and educated African should see no shame or disgrace in trying to


uplift his wild fellow-man, by selecting what is good and rejecting what is bad.

When these dances (now regarded as the 'worst') were in full swing, morals were far better than they are at present. . . .[84]

Amongst the few correspondents actually in support of Zulu dancing, M. Shabane set out the case of the cultural nationalists most succinctly:

Any civilized nation or race has its culture and art, including music. It has its own composers, expressing thoughts, feelings and traditions of that particular race or nation. In this no two nations or races can be exactly alike. . . . Unlike the European 'civilized' dance (jitter-bug etc.), the Ingoma Dance is wholesome and quite fitting to African customs and habits in that the Dancers perform, singly and never this 'clutching' of partners, which is quite foreign to the African way of living.[85]

Apart from their sensitivity to European taunts, however, and their need to distance themselves from the popular culture, the opponents of Indhlamu had a deeper and more legitimate objection. They recognized the danger that the encouragement of ethnic identity could have unfortunate and divisive consequences. Sidney Ngcongo maintained that the encouragement of 'warrior tunes' led to a 'fighting spirit' and the eruption of 'faction fights' amongst the youth. This was no figment of the middle-class imagination. 'Tribal wars', as he called them, were an ever-present reality in Natal and not dysfunctional to continued white domination. The deliberate manipulation of ethnic boundaries and chiefly authority by Natal administrators since the mid-nineteenth century had meant that from the end of that century onwards, tensions over land shortage in particular had been expressed in recurrent 'faction fights' both between different so-called tribes and within them between supporters of rival chiefly contenders. The Zulu 'warrior tradition', which glorified violence and battle was, moreover, particularly interwoven with ngoma dancing, based on the war dances (izigiyo ) performed by the regiments as a prelude to combat. Provisions of the Natal Code limiting attendance at gatherings arose from the frequency of the faction fights which followed ngoma dancing which accompanied them.[86]

In Durban, too, by the late 1920s, as Paul la Hausse has shown, ngoma dancing as a form of popular culture and entertainment was closely linked to warlike criminal gangs and to faction fighting, in this case perhaps sparked by competition over jobs. In 1929, C.F. Layman, the Manager of Durban's Native Affairs department, opposed ngoma dancing because the 'congregation of Natives armed with sticks, etc. in towns has almost invariably resulted in serious friction amongst the various towns'. The newly appointed Native Welfare Officer inaugurated a more co-optive strategy in 1933 when he allocated an open-air space for official ngoma dance competitions which were held 'under the careful scrutiny of the NWO, Chief Constable and Borough Police'. According to La Hausse, 'The control of this popular form of recreation served a number of purposes. It provided cheap popular recreation for workers and supplied an alternative to the patronage of shebeens [illicit drinking dens] over weekends, an activity which always carried with it the threat of labour disruption.' Furthermore, the holding of ngoma dance competitions encouraged divisions within Durban's popular classes. Although ngoma dancing in the 1930s continued to be accompanied by sporadic violence, by the late 1940s it had been sufficiently tamed to be contemplated for introduction into schools. At another level, however, the spirit of ethnic hostility which it encouraged was neither controlled nor controllable.[87]

While for much of the twentieth century much popular violence in Zululand/ Natal was expressed in inter-Zulu faction fights, as the intelligentsia forged a


pan-Zulu identity, the same spirit of 'tribalism' with its undercurrents of violence also came to be expressed against the non-Zulu in their midst. Thus, in Down Second Avenue, Zeke Mphahlele records:

I left Adams with a nagging feeling of a strong memory of tribalism that prevailed in Natal. . . . The province is a Zulu country and the bulk of the students at Adams had always been Zulus. They did not like non-Zulu boys and girls coming to the college. They regarded us as foreigners.[88]

Indeed, in the year after this debate flourished in the Natal Native Teachers' Journal, the Principal of Adams College was to ban a dance to commemorate a 'Tshaka Day' ceremony being celebrated by the Zulu Society on campus, for fear that it would inflame 'inter-tribal rivalry'. In the ensuing upheaval, he was forced to suspend some 175 of the male students—out of a total student body of less than 500. The principal was sensitive to the issue, for in June of that year he had expelled two Zulu students who had 'waylaid' and assaulted a Xhosa student, an incident he attributed to 'a little flare-up of intertribal tension'.[89]

A form of Zulu ethnic nationalism which was in part the legacy of the Zulu Society continued to plague even the activities of the ANC in Natal in the early 1950s: at the time, for example, of the Passive Resistance Campaign, it was difficult for the Natal leaders to achieve unanimity on the Natal contribution, because of, as Selby Msimang phrased it, 'the strong anti-Indian feeling in this province', while well into the 1950s African antagonism to Indian men who 'took' their women was intense.[90]

In the poverty-stricken townships around Durban, even more crowded and desperate in the post-war years, the tide of ethnic feeling was to overflow in the anti-Indian riots of 1949. I am not, of course, suggesting that the Zulu Society was in any way either wholly or directly responsible: that would be ludicrous. Its own glorification of a Zulu cultural identity was as much shaped by elements of popular consciousness coming from below as it was a shaping force in the making of that popular consciousness. Like Nairn's nationalists, the Natal intelligentsia used 'what was there'—as did the South African state. The perpetrators of 'ethnic' violence in 1949, as in the present, were, and are, not innocent bystanders or gullible dupes of the state and the intelligentsia. As La Hausse points out, 'in Durban the language of ethnic identity had frequently been interwoven with the language of class solidarity and African nationalism'.[91] Nor is this particularly exceptional: class consciousness takes a specifically cultural form. The problem for Africans in Zululand and Natal, however, was the ways in which a pre-colonial past provided military metaphors for mobilization.

The riots of 1949, like those of more recent date, to which the term 'tribal' has also been affixed, were the outcome of complex forces of which intense poverty and social dislocation were intrinsic. Nevertheless, the 'respectable' debate over the validity of traditional mores resonated with somewhat different pre-occupations at a popular level and legitimated actions which the petty bourgeoisie would be quick to condemn. The fact that the response to these problems has taken an 'ethnic' form is the result not simply of some kind of unchanging and archetypal 'tribalism'. That the responses to poverty and privilege tend to take a 'racial' or 'tribal' form has as much to do with the deliberate manipulation of ethnic rather than other forms of identity by the state and the particular road that the African intelligentsia and political leadership have travelled in Natal.

A comparison between the Natal Bantu Teachers' Association and the Zulu Society with the Cape African Teachers' Association (CATA) in the Eastern Cape is instructive: from being an essentially 'respectable and moderate body' in


the 1930s, by 1949 CATA was the leading element of the by now militant left-wing All Africa Convention. In the Transkei, according to Colin Bundy, teachers played a crucial role as a rural intelligentsia, providing a radical interpretation of the world and integrating peasant struggles against land rehabilitation and cattle-culling with resistance to the state's imposition of chiefs and 'Bantu Education'. The fusion of the more coherent ideology of the intelligentsia with the groundswell of popular discontent intensified Transkeian resistance to the state during the 1940s and 1950s and gave it a very different form to that experienced in Natal.[92] In Natal, to a very considerable extent—although there were, of course, exceptions and a certain radicalization there too—the construction of an ethnic 'answer' to the problems of urbanization and modernity—whether by the Zulu Society or Inkatha—hampered the growth of the kind of radical vision which could have combatted the chauvinism encouraged by the state and the anti-Indian polemic of Natal whites in 1949—or indeed contemporary 'tribal' violence.

Coloured Identity and Coloured Politics in the Western Cape Region of South Africa

Ian Goldin


At the heart of the Constitutional proposals which South African whites endorsed in 1983 lay an attempt to reconstitute a distinct 'Coloured' identity in South Africa.[1] The impending changes have fuelled an intense ideological and political conflict over the content of Coloured identity. This passionate debate cannot be divorced from the wider struggle being waged against the South African regime. Indeed, therein lies its particular historical significance. But the conflict over Coloured identity predates the current ideological and political war. For over a hundred years attempts have been made to foster and manipulate Coloured identity and to engineer socially a Coloured political alliance with the ruling white parties. A distinct Coloured identity, I shall show, is the outcome of a history of 'divide and rule' tactics. However, Coloured identity cannot simply be traced to attempts by the ruling class to promote a Coloured buffer group. In part, Coloured identity is the outcome of conflicts within the subordinate classes and of the resistance of sections of the colonized class to their further proletarianization. Coloured identity represents the peculiar historical resolution of a complex and contradictory set of events.

Bullets and Ballots

Attempts by the state and ruling class in South Africa to sponsor the development of a client Coloured class are not a recent phenomenon. They have their origin in the endeavours of the colonial administrations to deflect opposition based on mass resistance by the colonized people.

The indigenous people resisted the process of colonization in a variety of ways.[2] Some attempted to reconstitute an independent existence by migrating beyond the Cape's frontiers or by living as brigands outside the law.[3] The majority, however, were forced into wage labour.[4] Many, whom the settlers termed 'Hottentots', entered colonial service and some were found to be 'the most efficient troops for dealing with the Kaffirs'.[5]

Their loyalty to the colonial regime, however, could not be assumed.[6] In 1799 a rising of Khoi and Xhosa under Ndhalambi shattered the complacency of the first British administration (1795–1803). For, as Marais noted, 'if the rising spread to the western Hottentots and slaves the white man's hold on the colony would be


shaken to its foundations'.[7] The skilful intervention of the colonial administration served to deflect this challenge and to quieten the disaffected Khoi.[8] Under a growing rule of law the Khoi and other 'Hottentot' people were offered some protection in employment and civil society. These measures placed 'Hottentots' in a position which was relatively superior to that of the Bantu-speaking peoples. At the same time, Eric Walker has noted that the regulations in certain circumstances reduced the 'Hottentots' to the 'level of serfs at the disposal of local officials'.[9]

Khoi resistance had been deflected but the constant fear of further uprisings, Trapido has suggested, 'meant that the sense of unease among European settlers was sustained in the first half of the nineteenth century'.[10] In 1851 these fears were increased when 'Hottentots' in the Theopolis and Kat River districts allied themselves with the Tembu in a direct attack on the colony. The rebellion was defeated. Nevertheless, the clear extent of alienation strengthened the hand of those colonial administrators who favoured giving propertied 'Hottentots' a greater stake in the political system.[11] Prominent amongst those calling for the enfranchisement of such people was the Cape Attorney-General, William Porter. He noted:

I would rather meet the Hottentot at the hustings voting for his representative than meet the Hottentot in the wilds with a gun on his shoulder. . . . If these people have much physical force,—are armed, and—as you say—disaffected—is it not better to disarm them by letting them participate in the privileges of the constitution than by refusing them those long expected privileges to drive them into laager.[12]

The granting of self-rule to the Cape Colony in 1853 provided the opportunity for the implementation of such an incorporative strategy. A limited franchise for non-European males was introduced, embracing only the wealthier and more educated colonial subjects. This limited franchise served, with varying success, to incorporate the intellectual and petty-bourgeois non-Europeans who might otherwise, had they been excluded, have provided a vocal leadership for the organization of non-European resistance to the regime.[13] The historian William M. Macmillan commented that 'as a partial experiment the constitution of 1853 was abundantly justified' but that the 'very success of this experiment was won at the price of economic well-being'.[14] Though the constitution allowed 'the more fortunate individuals among them to rise to competence, the great mass of them were still a poor servant class'.[15]

By 1853 the colonial administration began to refer to growing numbers of the Cape Colony's population as 'Coloured'. In the main, the category referred to disenfranchised people of mixed race, freed slaves and Khoisan and 'Hottentots' who had not, following their colonization, been absorbed into the Xhosa or other Bantu-speaking groups or had not taken refuge outside the colony's frontiers. But, although a racial hierarchy was already an integral aspect of ruling class ideology, this had not yet crystallized in the exclusion of all Bantu-speaking people from the franchise. The period of Cape liberalism allowed people of African origin to participate in colonial politics. The principal criteria were related to class and a clear distinction was made between the minority of educated Bantu-speaking people and the vast majority of so-called 'blanket-Kafirs'.[16]

Until the turn of the century the term 'Coloured' commonly included all non-European people.[17] The official census of 1875 included in the category 'Coloured' all 'non-European' people, including 'Fingoes' and 'Kafir proper'.[18] The 1892 census maintained the same distinctions declaring that the Cape


population 'falls naturally into the two main classes, the European or White and Coloured'.[19] Private employers tended to perceive similar distinctions. So, for example, in 1890 A.R. McKenzie, the principal labour contractor in the Cape Town docks, referred to the fact that he employed 'principally Kaffirs; all our labourers are Coloured, and are of different nationalities and tribes'.[20] Clearly, in the latter half of the nineteenth century the term Coloured chiefly referred, in the discourse of the ruling class, to 'all non-European people'.

Yet, by 1904, this wide definition was no longer accepted. In the space of fifteen years the notion of Coloured was reconstituted. Increasingly the term came to denote an intermediate class of people distinct from the Bantu-speaking population. In marked contrast to the census of 1890, the Cape census of 1904 broke from previous practice and distinguished three 'clearly defined race groups in this colony: White, Bantu and Coloured'.[21] Included in the last category were 'all intermediate shades between the first two'.[22] A decisive shift in colonial discourse appears to have taken place in the years surrounding the Anglo-Boer War. In this period the reconstitution and identification of a distinct Coloured category was not reflected in state discourse only, nor associated only with changes within the colonial administration and ruling class. In a dialectical process, the crystallization of a Coloured identity reflected a shifting of ground within the subordinated society itself. This was reflected in the growth of separate Coloured political organizations and the creation of a distinct Coloured consciousness.

Specific notions of Coloured identity, I suggest, were forged in the white heat of the years surrounding the Anglo-Boer War. The reconstitution of Coloured identity into a form which approximates that which exists today is a relatively recent phenomenon which can be traced to those critical years. But from the outset the notion of a distinct Coloured identity was a focus of intense ideological and political struggle. The ambiguity and anxiety which is associated with the term was characteristic of Coloured identity from the outset. These tensions, if anything, have intensified over time.

The Critical Years (Circa 1890–1905)

It was no accident that the period which saw the evolution of a distinct Coloured identity was also one of capitalist crisis and a dramatic transformation of productive relations. The depression which had begun in the mid-1860s, precipitated by an international banking crisis, tore the fabric of Cape society and, as Bundy has noted, led to a 'marked increase in rural poverty' and high levels of unemployment in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.[23] The position of many unskilled work-seekers and labour tenants was further undermined by the recession of 1877–79. These cyclical recessions had a particularly marked impact on tenant farmers, many of whom by the 1880s had been forced to migrate to the towns in search of jobs.[24] There they joined the growing army of unemployed workers and refugees. By the turn of century it was recognized by a Cape Town clergyman that 'this is the city of the unemployed'.[25] According to another source, writing in 1899, The question of unemployed with us here at the Cape is well-nigh chronic.'[26] But any optimism about a new dawn would quickly have vanished at the beginning of the twentieth century: from 1905 to 1909 a depression, which according to the economic historian Schumann was 'one of the severest and undoubtedly the most prolonged South Africa has experienced during the past one hundred' years, devastated the Cape Colony.[27] Cape Town was hardest hit and the standard of living of the working class was undermined.[28]


The problems faced by the indigenous working class were compounded by the arrival in Cape Town of immigrants and refugees. The arrival between 1857 and 1863 of nearly ten thousand immigrants, many of whom were experienced in artisan and craft occupations, is likely to have led to increasing competition for scarce jobs within this class at the Cape.[29] Between 1873 and 1883 a further twenty thousand immigrants arrived: this no doubt compounded the situation, increasing the anxiety of indigenous workers and threatening the Cape Malay monopoly over many crafts.[30] Coming on top of the recessions of 1866 and 1877, these mass immigrations served to foster the development of an incipient protectionist and racial identity. The onset of the Anglo-Boer War of 1899–1902 led to a further deterioration as refugees streamed into Cape Town and began to compete for increasingly scarce jobs. With the demobilization of servicemen coinciding with the onset of the 1903–1909 recession, the situation became even more hopeless for many work-seekers.[31]

The arrival in the Cape of over five thousand 'Cape Boys' who had been deported from the South African Republic led to an increased awareness of Coloured identity in the Cape. From October 1899 the refugees were arriving in Cape Town 'by the hundreds'.[32] These exiles brought with them stories of ill-treatment and of the absence of civil rights for Coloureds in the interior republics. The refugees' concerns were shared by many Cape Coloureds who saw in the war a chance to extend the rule of British law to these republics. They also felt that loyalty shown by the non-European people in the Cape to the British cause would advance their case for full enfranchisement.[33]

The British had in fact made Coloured rights a feature of their war propaganda. Alfred Milner, the British High Commissioner in South Africa, presented discrimination against Coloureds as a justification for intervention in the interior.[34] Not surprisingly, Coloureds, according to Marais, 'gave the British cause their enthusiastic support though they took no part in the actual fighting in the field'.[35] It must have come as a bitter disappointment to the Coloureds, therefore, to discover with the end of hostilities that their position had not been improved and that they were in fact likely to be made worse off. Increasingly, Coloured men and women came to fear that with the proposed Union the practices of the interior republics would be extended to the Cape and that Coloured rights would be sacrificed in the process of reconciliation.[36]

Their anger was fuelled by the growing realization that Coloureds had played an important part in the British victory and had proved to be amongst its most loyal supporters. The case of the blacksmith, Abraham Essau, became a rallying point amongst the indignant Coloured artisan class.[37] Essau had been tortured to death by the Boers without revealing his clandestine network of Coloured artisans who were acting as spies for the British forces. Despite being drawn between two horses, Essau had refused to renounce his loyalty to the Crown. But, the Coloured artisans observed, the loyalty of the British administration to the Coloured artisans was less robust.[38] The end of the war left Coloured artisans and the Coloured petty bourgeoisie cynical towards the colonial administration and white political parties. Their continued support of white political parties and their reluctance to mobilize independently had failed to lead to their assimilation into the white polity. Coloureds had seen a continuous erosion of their political and civil rights, despite the promises and polemics of the white parties which sought the Coloured vote.[39]

White political parties had solicited the Coloured vote since 1853 through what Trapido has referred to as a combination of 'patronage, corruption and intimidation'.[40] Coloured voters had lent their support to a variety of white parties


and no lasting alliance of Coloured voters and white parties had been sustained in the latter half of the nineteenth century.[41] During this period the Coloured voters saw the continual erosion of their vote. The increases in the educational and franchise qualifications and other restrictions on the non-European franchise were primarily aimed at decreasing the representation of African voters.[42] However, Coloured voters were also discriminated against.[43]

Between 1865 and 1894 the incorporation of British Kaffraria and the Transkei territories as part of the Cape Colony made it increasingly difficult for Africans in the colony to qualify for the franchise.[44] The changes in the educational and other franchise qualifications in 1887 and 1892 were intended to reduce further the number of Africans on the voters' roll. These modifications, Trapido and F. Molteno have suggested, were not intended as a frontal attack on the Coloured franchise.[45] Nevertheless, the raising of the qualifications removed poor and illiterate Coloureds as well as 'raw Africans' from the vote. The likely effect was to raise the issue of Coloured identity as non-European people in the Cape attempted to avoid the system being imposed on Africans. The disenfranchisement of Africans, occurring synchronously with the immiseration of the African peasantry, increased the significance of the distinction between Africans and Coloureds. At the same time, the declining number of Africans eligible to vote in the Western Cape was associated with a recognition within white politics of the insignificance of the African vote and the relative importance of the Coloured vote.[46] From 1883, when the Afrikaner Bond was formed under the leadership of 'Onze' Jan Hofmeyr, Cape political parties had begun to compete for the Coloured vote. White parties cultivated notions of a distinct Coloured identity, offering Coloureds preferential treatment if they lent their support to white parties. Coloureds were led to believe that by disassociating themselves from the African population and by supporting white parties they would be spared the political and economic humiliation that Africans were suffering. For almost fifty years the allure of this prospect had inhibited the formation of a distinct Coloured political party.[47] But, as we shall note, the failure of white parties to honour their commitments in the years following the Anglo-Boer War culminated in the ultimate alienation of many Coloured intellectuals from white politics and the formation of specifically Coloured political organizations.

The primary constituency of the Coloured political organizations which emerged at the turn of the century was the artisan and skilled class of Coloureds. This class was fearful of further disenfranchisement and cynical about white politicians. It had also suffered from decades of economic stress. At the turn of the century the anxieties of this Coloured class were compounded by the increasingly discriminatory tactics of white trade unionists. In 1900 the white stonemasons' society instituted a closed shop excluding Coloureds and effectively preventing Coloured stonemasons from working on public buildings.[48] The following year the Plasterers' Union barred Coloured labour and forbade its members to work 'on a scaffold with a Coloured or a Malay under pain of a fine'.[49] By 1904 Coloured bricklayers were being discriminated against and John Tobin, a founder member of the first Coloured political organization, could accuse the Cape unions of being 'rotten with colour prejudice'.[50] Coloured craftsmen were excluded from many projects including those associated with the construction of the University of Cape Town campus. Furthermore anti-Coloured prejudice increasingly was articulated through industrial legislation.[51] By 1906 amendments to the Mines Act reserved many of the skilled, supervisory and managerial jobs for whites.[52] The effect of the colour prejudice initiated by white workers was to provoke, from within the working class, an assertion of a distinct Coloured identity. At this time


there were in the Cape approximately 1500 stonemasons, 1300 coach-drivers, 1500 clerks and 287 teachers who were classified as Coloured.[53] These artisans and petty bourgeoises came increasingly to rely on the strength of their own independent organization to prevent the further erosion of their position in Cape society.

The restrictions increasingly being placed on upward mobility and mis-cegenation further encouraged the development of a distinct Coloured identity. The cementing of social prejudices and, to a lesser extent, the effect of state intervention increasingly prevented skilled and petty bourgeois people of light skin complexion from 'passing for white'. Frederickson has suggested that by the late eighteenth century the increased preoccupation of the ruling class with racial exclusiveness was reflected in the establishment of a racial hierarchy.[54] In the Cape, Frederickson emphasizes, well into the twentieth century distinctions between whites and Coloureds were determined 'mainly by convention rather than by law'. This situation, he suggests, 'facilitated passing on a substantial scale'.[55] Despite the existence of a racial hierarchy, the effect, from the time of the Dutch East India Company, of a permeable colour line had been to siphon off much of the leadership of the colonized people. Light-skinned petty bourgeois and more skilled and educated members of the colonized class were able to gain admission to the ruling class in the Cape. In this way opposition to the political system was deflected. In the United States, by contrast, in the same situation, the mulatto elite, excluded by an inflexible racial boundary, provided an important source of leadership for resistance by the Afro-American population.[56]

The development of a distinct Coloured identity at the turn of the twentieth century was associated with the ossification of the colour line. The ability of light-skinned people to 'pass for white' by 1904 was greatly restricted. Prior to this time, Trapido has noted, 'Coloured men who prospered were able to gain readmission into the White population, and some soon became prominent in the Afrikaner middle class.'[57]

In his study of Passing for White Watson observed, furthermore, that 'those who rank below the artisan group seldom possess the characteristics necessary for successful passing'.[58] The brake placed on the passing process around about the turn of the century contributed to the development of a distinctly Coloured intellectual leadership. Africans had long since given up hope of assimilation with whites. Coloureds by the turn of the century were recognizing that their case for assimilation had not been furthered by their reluctance to assert a distinct Coloured identity or their hesitation to establish ethnic political organizations.[59]

Amongst the factors accounting for the restrictions placed upon 'passing for white' was the growing awareness within the colonial administration of the 'poor white problem'. Colin Bundy, in his study of 'poor Whites before poor Whiteism', argues that there took place in the Cape in the last two decades of the nineteenth century 'a major shift in ruling class perceptions of the nature of poverty'.[60] Shifts in the 'social prism' in late Victorian Britain were transmitted to South Africa.[61] In both Britain and South Africa the reorientation of the state was associated with attempts to deflect opposition from what Gareth Stedman-Jones has referred to as the 'dangerous classes'.[62]

By the 1890s the impoverishment of Coloured and white Afrikaners in the Cape had led to 'a very real blurring of ethnic identity among the poor'.[63] Reports that in the towns there were many poor whites who were 'compelled to live among the Coloured people and who are sinking, sinking, sinking into the social conditions of the snuff-and-butter Coloured population' captured the imagination of many whites.[64] In this process, according to Bundy, 'assumptions of [white]


ethnic solidarity replaced the older forms of ideological distance and hostility along class lines'.[65]

The metropolitan redefinition of poverty was associated with calls for greater state intervention to resolve the social problems of poverty. In the South African context this was translated into increasingly successful attempts to institute strict demarcations between whites and Coloureds. Throughout the 1890s in the principal Cape papers, the Cape Argus and the Cape Times, the ethnic identification of Coloureds as the dangerous elements of the impoverished class continued to fuel both the prejudices of the whites and the apprehensions of the Coloureds.[66] By January 1895 the Cape Argus had embarked on a crusade against Coloured crime which served as an attack on all Coloureds. The paper declared that there was 'a need for stringent regulations of the Coloured classes in Cape Town' as Coloureds were 'a danger to society'.[67] A barrage of similar reports served to increase the ethnic identification of whites and to increase the anxieties of Coloureds. In this process, older class distinctions were broken by new ethnic alliances. The tendency towards ethnic stereotyping was by 1890 reflected in the caricature of Coloureds as criminals and in the ethnic response of the local authorities to what Swanson has termed the 'sanitation syndrome'.[68]

In 1882 a smallpox epidemic had led to claims that 'the sooner the Malays are forced to reside in a separate district the better for all concerned' whilst an outbreak of enteric fever in 1887 had prompted the Dean of Cape Town to call for the establishment of a separate quarter for Coloured people.[69] In 1901 a plague epidemic was associated with similar attacks on the Coloured community.[70] The plague epidemic had led to a massive attack on Cape Town's poor. The full brunt of the epidemic and of the resulting health and housing ordinances was borne by Africans.[71] Although the plague was by no means confined to Africans, ethnic stereotyping was by 1901 reflected in the local authorities' specifically ethnic diagnosis of the epidemic. Africans were hounded out of Cape Town and into the Uitlugt township on the Cape Flats. Over 7000 Africans were forced to vacate premises in the inner city and to move to the prison-like compound. The establishment of a highly regulated African township was inspired by the experience of controlling labour on the diamond mines. Thus, for example, even before the plague of 1901, 'Matabele' Thompson called for an extension to the Peninsula of the system 'so easily managed' at Kimberley.[72] Drawing on his Kimberley experience Thompson advocated the establishment of a location with a barbed wire fence ten feet high into which would be forced 'all the natives within the area'. A curfew bell would sound at eight o'clock and 'every native abroad after the bell' would be arrested under a pass law.[73] The Cape Town Medical Officer supported Thompson's proposal, suggesting that Africans on the Peninsula be confined to a location, as was the practice in the Eastern and Northern Cape.[74] Such generalized attacks led to the assertion by many non-European people of a distinct Coloured identity. In this way many people were able to escape the brunt of the health and housing ordinances hurriedly invoked by the Cape Town City Council. Perhaps for the first time, non-European people came to assert a Coloured identity as a defence against further immiseration.

The mounting racial prejudices served to reduce the class identification of wealthier and intellectual Coloureds with their peers and associates in the white communities and to reinforce the anxiety of Coloured men and women. At the same time the increasing distinction drawn between Coloureds and Africans and the exemption of Coloureds from certain of the restrictions endured by Africans undermined possible black ethnic solidarity. For many Coloured men and women


there was simply too much to lose through identification with Africans.

The first response of Coloured intellectuals to the mounting racial prejudice was to attempt to solicit the support of the white political parties, the colonial administration and eventually the British government. By 1906, following an unsuccessful mission to England, it was clear that this strategy had failed. Coloured intellectuals and skilled men came increasingly to realize the futility of their participation in white politics.[75] More and more, Coloured intellectuals came to feel that only the collective organization of Coloureds would prevent the further erosion of Coloured rights in the Cape.

The Rear-guard

The mobilization of a separate Coloured ethnic identity at the turn of the century was at least in part a rear-guard defensive action by skilled and petty bourgeois people against their exclusion from the white society. It was an attempt to establish a springboard from which to launch a greater claim for inclusion within the ruling dispensation. At the same time the establishment of a distinct Coloured identity was a signal that the interests of certain skilled segments of the non-European population could best be advanced—or at least protected—by organizing in isolation from the African working class.

The South African Spectator, a newspaper established in December 1900 under the editorial guidance of F.Z. Peregrino, reflected these concerns. It aimed to increase 'race pride' and was 'exclusively in the interest of the Coloured people'.[76] In particular, it aimed to advance the cause of the Coloured petty bourgeoisie whose 'business and economic progress' Peregrino sought to promote through a boycott of white commerce.[77] Through his Coloured People's Vigilance Society, Peregrino set the stage for future generations of Coloured petty bourgeois politicians. In particular, his ambiguity regarding the identity of Coloureds has remained a hallmark of subsequent Coloured organizations. At times, Peregrino urged his constituents to regard themselves as 'Negro'. At the same time, his newspaper devoted much of its attention to the promotion of narrowly Coloured interests. The Coloured People's Vigilance Society restricted its membership to Coloureds on the grounds that it was 'expedient and to the interests of the Coloured people generally that the Coloured Afrikander people held their meetings separate to the native'.[78] The Coloured People's Vigilance Society was principally confined to mutual aid and temperance activities. The society brought together Coloured men and women and provided a breeding ground for a separate Coloured identity. In 1902 the development of this identity was expressed in the formation of the African Peoples' Organization (APO). Mr W. Collins, the president of the organization, told the assembled delegates at the founding conference: "This is the first time in history that we are meeting together to discuss our affairs.'[79] The foundation of the APO constituted a watershed in the development of a reconstituted Coloured identity, and exercised a decisive influence over the development of a distinct Coloured consciousness for half a century.

The principal concerns of the organization were the defence of the Coloured franchise and the extension of educational opportunities for Coloured youth.[80] It is no accident that teachers came to play a leading role in the APO and in subsequent Coloured organizations. Collins, the APO's founding President, saw in the extension of Coloured education the means to advance the participation of Coloureds in the ruling polity. At the turn of the century the education of Coloureds, like so many other matters affecting them, was coming under


increasing attack. The basic link between education and the franchise further increased the anxiety of the incipient Coloured organizations. These rallied around the issue of the extension of education for Coloureds to prevent the further disenfranchisement and deskilling of their communities. In 1899 the Superintendent General of Education, Sir Langham Dale, fuelled the fears of the Coloureds when he confirmed that the

first duty of the Government has been assumed to be to recognise the position of European colonists as holding the paramount influence, social and political, and to see that sons and daughters of the colonists should have at least such education as their peers in Europe enjoy, with such local modifications as will fit them to maintain their unquestioned superiority and supremacy in this land.[81]

The government's policy had meant that the education of Coloured children de facto was left to missionaries and other private benefactors. In 1883 the enrolment at mission schools was 38,000, of whom fewer than 6000 were white.[82] The restriction of Coloured children and teachers to the inferior mission schools of the Western Cape contributed to the forging of Coloured identity, as pupils and teachers came to recognize their common exclusion and mobilize to increase their claim on the state system. Fearful of a further squeezing of its main base, the relatively educated and skilled Coloured class, the APO from the outset campaigned for the improvement in the education and teaching of Coloured youth. The organization aimed to show the administration that 'an educated class of Coloured people' existed in Cape Town.[83]

The APO from the outset was engaged in a rear-guard action in which the organization's tactics were informed by the politics of survival rather than a long-term vision of Coloured identity. In this defensive process, Abdurahman, the leader of the APO from 1906, attempted to extract the maximum gain from the strategic concerns of the ruling class. In 1853 the threat of an alliance of Coloured and African men and women had forced the Crown partially to incorporate Coloured men. In the first half of the twentieth century Abdurahman was able to achieve considerable leverage by the skilful manipulation of similar fears. The manipulation of these strategic concerns provided a shifting foundation for the APO and in part accounts for the ambiguity of the APO and subsequent Coloured organizations. To increase its leverage, the APO sought to emphasize to the administration its common cause with the white polity. At the same time the identification of the APO with African sentiment was used to demonstrate to the regime the cost of alienating Coloured intellectuals.

It is no accident that the growth of the APO under Abdurahman occurred at a time when the strategic concerns of the administration were increasingly focusing on a policy of 'divide and rule' in which the non-European world would be fragmented into Coloured and African. Lord Selborne, the High Commissioner of South Africa during the formative stage of the development of separate Coloured organizations, between 1900 and 1910, warned that:

Our object should be to teach the Coloured people to give their loyalty to the White population. It seems to me sheer folly to classify them with the Natives, and by treating them as Natives to force them away from their natural allegiance to the Whites and making common cause with the Natives.[84]

Abdurahman was sensitive to the concerns of Selborne and capitalized on them to advance the Coloured cause. He criticized Lord Milner for allowing Coloureds to be treated like the 'barbarous Native' noting that 'although Natives are


excluded from the vote [in the Transvaal] the Coloured should not be'.[85] Abdurahman was consistent only in his commitment to the advance of the Coloured franchise. The threat of an alliance with Africans and a wider commitment to non-European unity (as reflected in the name African Peoples' Organization) was used by Abdurahman in order to extend his leverage in his campaign to further Coloured rights. In 1912 Abdurahman warned the regime that if it continued to alienate Coloured people 'there will one day arise a solid mass of Black and Coloured humanity whose demands will be irresistible'.[86] But, at the same time, Abdurahman consistently refused to open the membership of the APO to Africans. Abdurahman was instrumental in maintaining the APO as a specifically ethnic Coloured organization. Tautologically, he argued that the legitimacy of the exclusive Coloured identity of the organization rested on its existence as a racially exclusive organization. For, as Abdurahman told the 1910 Conference of the APO:

people of South Africa . . . it is my duty to deal with the rights and duties of the Coloured people of South Africa as distinguished from the Native races.[87]

The focus of the APO on the advance of an identity of Coloureds separate from that of Africans reflected the determination of the organization to secure for its more skilled and petty bourgeois constituents some political and economic benefit. Illiterate and impoverished Coloureds had no political muscle and were left out of the electoral arithmetic. The organization of this class of Coloureds was left chiefly to the socialists from the International Socialist League and other organizations.[88] From the turn of the century, meetings at the 'Stone' and other venues were the forum for the development of a working class identity which was in opposition to ethnic identities. At a time when ethnicity was crystallizing in the Western Cape, radicals kept alive an alternative tradition. They recruited Coloureds and Africans in the docks and elsewhere into non-ethnic organizations. Whereas many more skilled and petty bourgeois Coloureds rallied in support of the APO and favoured ethnic organization, unskilled men and women were not similarly motivated by a desire to challenge the increasing racial exclusiveness of white trade unionists. Neither were they as disenchanted with the process of disenfranchisement, for they had never had the vote and were not compelled to revise their political expectations at the turn of the century. Although many of the factors accounting for the rise of Coloured identity affected the working class, others were missing. Socialists were able to point to destitution as a condition that afflicted working class people of all races in their efforts to forge non-ethnic working class organizations.

Though evidence of their participation is fragmentary, there can be little doubt that Coloureds were active in the leadership and membership of a number of non-racial organizations. The Industrial Workers Union, formed in 1913, actively recruited Coloured as well as African and white dock workers. In 1919 the IWU gave way to the Industrial and Commercial Workers' Union. Prominent in its leadership were J.K. La Guma and J. Gomas, Coloured members of the Communist Party. Although eventually expelled by the increasingly Africanist union, La Guma, Gomas and others did bear witness to the fact that the APO was representative of only a section of the Coloured community.


Clearly, by 1910 a distinct Coloured identity had been established. This was reflected in the growth of the APO, an organization exclusively for Coloureds. In


the period 1890–1910 this identity was forged through the reconstitution of earlier notions of Coloured identity. The turn of the century was a critical period in the Western Cape during which the parameters of the conflict over Coloured identity were set. The increasingly intense ideological and political struggle which today characterizes and confuses class struggle in the Western Cape may usefully be traced to the constellation of circumstances associated with the reconstitution of Coloured identity within the period 1890–1910.

The Labour Party, since the demise of the APO, has continued to campaign for the advance of Coloured rights, using the tactics of discretionary collaboration perfected by Abdurahman. These have determined that the Labour Party has chosen the path of 'construstive engagement' with the regime in order to bring on reforms from within. Yet from the outset the existence of a separate Coloured identity was a source of conflict in the Western Cape. Prominent amongst those challenging the ethnic organizations were socialists committed to a non-racial society. And today a range of organizations committed to ending all collaboration with the regime have challenged the Labour Party's position. The 'left' opposition among blacks in the country as a whole has been divided into two main camps: those fighting for a non-racial society on a popular democratic platform and those who emphasize a popular unity of all disenfranchised people on a platform of black consciousness. Prominent within both these streams have been people officially classified as 'Coloureds', showing the continuing ambiguity that such a label entails.

'We are all Portuguese!' Challenging the Political Economy of Assimilation: Lourenco Marques, 1870–1933

Jeanne Penvenne

Cultural relations provide collective identities based on common ethnicity . . . language . . . religion . . . nationality, ascribing distinctive 'ways of life' and values to these shared characteristics . . . [Cultural relations] can be a medium of domination and subordination and consequently an area of struggle. . . . The meanings and identities provided by culture and ideology are 'lived' through social relationships which reinforce, modify or challenge practices which characterize relationships.[1]

Introduction and Perspective

Shared cultural identities are central in providing a criterion for determining whether, and how, people share access to decision making, to land, to control over labour, factors and instruments of production, to favours of all sorts, and indeed even whether, and how, people labour or allocate the product of their labour. People who think of themselves as comprising a 'we' hold notions of sharing which emerge from a multi-level, ever-changing kaleidoscope of meaning and identity. The notion of comprising a 'we' is as important at any single moment as it is difficult to nail down. What at one moment, on one level, is the consciousness of a sharing 'we' can, at another moment and on another level, split into a consciousness of 'we' and 'they', with notions of sharing altered accordingly.

This essay is concerned with one such situation. In the early decades of this century a group of educated black males in Lourenco Marques conducted a prolonged struggle against the realignment of their cultural frames of reference which occurred as the Portuguese colonial state sought to subordinate the majority black population of Mozambique to the evolving political and economic demands of the colonial capitalist system. Jockeying to share as 'we' and to exclude others as 'they' was an on-going process, ebbing and flowing at all levels of society as the economy contracted, expanded, or simply changed. What clearly emerges from an overview of this period is that hard times caused by a myriad of economic and political factors were paralleled by the redefinition of both individuals and groups into sharply narrower categories. Shared cultural characteristics were energetically deployed to reduce the sharing 'we' as


economic opportunities to share were reduced. With each crisis members of the black elite lost ground vis-à-vis the white community and experienced severe tensions among its own members. While the ultimate fate of nineteenth century educated Africans, compradores and culture brokers was commonly displacement and subordination, the timing and nature of the process varied considerably, as did perceptions of shared meanings and identities.[2]

This essay explores the experience of a generation of predominantly Catholic, mission-educated Africans and mulattoes who were associated with the Grêmio Africano, a social clique and political lobby founded between 1906 and 1908. It relates their struggle to participate in the colonial economy as unfettered Portuguese citizens, the class orientation of their struggle, and the often conflicting co-identities within the urban black elite as the political economy changed. The Grêmio's struggle emerges in the articles, editorials and correspondence published in their newspapers, O Africano (1908–1918) and 0 Brado Africano (after 1918), particularly in relation to their campaigns to oppose what they called 'laws of exception'. These laws included both legal and social constraints tied to racially determined categories of citizenship. The Grêmio's opposition to exceptional requirements for persons considered by the Portuguese colonial state to be indigenas ('natives') forced the issue of just who was to be considered an iodigena and who was not. Their challenge in turn prompted the formulation of yet another exceptional category: assimilado (culturally assimilated black or honorary non-native).

That the Grêmio identified these constraints and sought to undermine their legal promulgation or, failing that, to thwart their implementation is revealing at two general levels. First, it demonstrates a keen awareness that any and all forms of legal exclusion which coincided with racial distinctions compromised all black persons, even those of privileged status. From the outset, the thrust of the campaign was the unacceptability of race as a criterion for distinctions among citizens. The Grêmio's refrain 'We are all Portuguese!' asserted equality tempered with the assurance of loyalty.[3]

At a second level, the struggle sheds considerable light on conflicting co-identities within the black elite. Although as a group they remained unwilling to concede the basic premise from which racist relations of domination ultimately proceeded, individuals and sub-groups within the elite nevertheless manoeuvred to enhance their own interests in the narrowing arena, with some being able to present themselves as 'more Portuguese' than others.

The elite's campaign against laws of exception took different forms at different times. It originated in the first decade of the century in opposition to legislation designed to restrict the freedom of blacks to market their labour in Lourenco Marques. The campaign gained momentum as the state attempted to gain greater control over African activity between 1913 and 1919. It was subsequently blunted in the 1920s, when, for a number of reasons, some members of the black elite found it expedient to cooperate with the laws of exception. Competition with the rapidly growing urban white population to secure employment became more difficult as patronage linked to Portugal began to take precedence over local patronage—a process sharply intensified with the overthrow of the Republic in 1926. Politically inspired job protection and social welfare programmes intended for whites only which were developed by the state to alleviate the devastating economic consequences of the Depression exacerbated social tensions at all levels so that by 1933 educated blacks barely bothered to oppose the principle that a legal process should separate them from their citizenship. Divisions within the elite emerged in sharp relief, and unity within the mature elite and between the mature and


younger members crumbled under this burden.

Although the Grêmio framed its challenge in terms of common values and a 'way of life' entitling them to participate in the colonial economy on an equal footing with any other Portuguese, the challenge was replete from the start with contradictions based on gender, class and ethnicity. My purpose is to demonstrate neither that the elite was capable of mounting an intellectually impressive argument for unfettered citizenship—which it was—nor that the elite had so internalized the meanings and identities of the hegemonic Portuguese middle class culture and ideology that, despite its often brilliant manipulation of meanings and identities, it could not convincingly challenge colonial domination. Rather, I shall explore the changing economic and political relationships in the struggle to decide who would and who would not share and under what circumstances. Through such an investigation one may arrive at a more general understanding of cultural relations as a medium of domination and subordination. Why were idioms of cultural identity projected and manipulated by both dominant and dominated groups at different times to advance their conflicting postures? And what were the limits of such manipulation?

To avoid misunderstanding from the outset, I must summarize the basic perspectives which shape this essay. First, this is a study of male protagonists in the public sphere of the growing capitalist sector, based on their published thoughts, recapturable actions and socio-economic identities. Women most often emerged in Grêmio publications subsumed in terms of 'ours' and 'theirs'. The developing economics of assimilation revolved around a series of changing combinations of rights and obligations, inclusions and exclusions, tempered by varying degrees and types of privilege and harassment, but all assumed the subordinate position of women. As the parameters of the struggle took shape in the first quarter of the century, the status of women did not even merit explicit recognition in law. By 1927 when qualifications for 'non-native' status were tightened, the assumed subordination of women was made at least implicit: wives and children of those persons considered non-native would be considered non-natives if they lived in their husbands' or fathers' house (Dip. leg. 36, 12 November 1927). The ways in which women interacted in the rearrangement of the social basis for economic and political participation in the city in this period is therefore only indirectly considered here.

Second, the record of published thoughts and recapturable actions draws more heavily on some sections of the black elite than on others. By the early twentieth century the black elite of Lourenço Marques was made up of several intersecting and overlapping groups. Each group comprised families who generally intermarried, shared the same religion, spoke the same language, and looked to one another for social support. There was a slight tendency for male members of each group to be employed in similar sectors of the economy—a tendency which reflected religious and linguistic characteristics—but places of employment and public forums were usually the venues at which various elite groups interacted. There were two principal elite groupings, one Catholic-educated and Portuguese-speaking (the Grêmio group) and the other Protestant-educated and Rjonga-speaking, many of whom later came to comprise the membership of the Instituto Negrófilo.[4] Consideration of other groups here tends to reflect the intensity of their interaction with the Grêmio group. The men who originally came together in casual association in 1906 and then formed the Grêmio Africano in 1908 were from at least two groups. The majority were Catholic, Portuguese-speaking Afro-Europeans and Afro-Goans, but some of the most revered members—Estácio Dias for example—were Africans.[5]


Finally, in contrast with those who find a critical division in Portuguese colonial society between persons who came to be legally classified as indígenas and those who did not—thus emphasizing the gap between indígeaas on one hand and mulattoes and assimilados on the other—I argue, following the legislation which eventually fashioned such legal categories, that the line fell between 'all persons of the black [later Negro] race and descendants of the same' and all others.[6] I therefore use the term 'black' to refer in general to both mulattoes and Africans.

Southern Mozambique in the Late Nineteenth Century Regional Economy

Paradoxically, the area in which this self-consciously Portuguese-speaking black elite had grown up was one which had wavered in the margins of Portuguese consciousness and control for centuries. It was only in the last quarter of the nineteenth century that significant and sustained links between Lisbon and Lourenço Marques were established.[7] Before this, the town and its hinterland were oriented towards the Indian Ocean and southeastern African trade worlds, having only rare contact with Lisbon.[8] The flow of persons and goods in the town's economic hinterland usually proceeded oblivious to metropolitan interests—untaxed, unsanctioned and producing little revenue for chronically empty state coffers.

Smuggling was so pervasive in southern Mozambique that Portuguese officials hesitated to try to increase customs duties, fearing that higher duties would only drive all trade outside the customs house.[9] Lisbon was equally frustrated by its inability to sell Portuguese goods in the area because of competition from Indian Ocean traders. Lisbon began seriously to address the problem of controlling the trade of southern Mozambique only in the 1870s, at a time when the state's coffers were particularly empty and when the trade of Lourenço Marques was beginning to appear especially alluring. Reining in Mozambique's economy, however, proved difficult.

Portugal began trying to raise revenues by strengthening its economic links with its African colonies. It determined to encourage an increase in the volume of Mozambique's foreign trade, hoping that it would generate greater customs and handling revenues. In 1877 Portugal opened Mozambican commerce and shipping to all countries. Between 1877 and 1892 the value of legal foreign trade in Mozambique increased by 300 per cent.[10] Yet, while foreign trade grew, Portugal's own trading position remained weak. In 1885, for example, the bulk of Mozambique's trade was in British or British Indian hands, with Portugal controlling a mere 7 per cent of the total value.[11] At the same time, southern Mozambique was also rapidly being drawn into the developing regional economy based on the sugar plantations of Natal and, most importantly, the mineral deposits of the Transvaal.

In the early 1890s Portugal underwent a severe economic crisis that prompted the government to reassess its liberal colonial tariff policies. As a consequence, in 1892, it promulgated protectionist measures that established throughout most of Mozambique a wide-ranging set of import and export duties designed to raise revenue. Lourenço Marques district, however, was specifically exempted from the new duties lest they drive its commerce into adjacent British territory.[12] As a result of this exemption, the value of Mozambique's trade in foreign hands, dominated especially by the rapidly growing trade through the port of Lourenço Marques to and from the Transvaal, continued to grow unabated, increasing


another fivefold between 1892 and 1899.[13] In 1880, customs revenues from the District of Lourenço Marques amounted to 47,000 milreis, while in 1896 they contributed 600,000 milreis in revenues.[14]

It was this commercial vigour that set Lourenço Marques apart from other Mozambican ports. In central Mozambique's Zambezia area, for example, the new Portuguese tariff policies throttled a promising experiment in peasant agriculture, bringing about a drop in the value of exports between 1891 and 1901 of some 80 per cent.[15] In Inhambane, to the north of Lourenço Marques, where itinerant trade from the hinterland comprised the bulk of export commodities, trade similarly languished throughout the 1890s. By 1899 Inhambane's overseas trade was 30 per cent less valuable than it had been a decade earlier. Lourenço Marques, however, with its firm linkages to the Witwatersrand gold fields and its exemption from the new protectionist tariffs, enjoyed a trade boom.[16]

The movement of people also drew southern Mozambique into the wider regional economy. From the 1860s on, but increasingly from the 1870s and 1880s, Mozambican men sold their labour in the growing capitalist economy of South Africa and fuelled local trade with repatriated wages.[17] Clearly, the economy of Lourenço Marques had taken an important and decisive turn in the last three


Figure 9.1
Trade in late nineteenth century Mozambique. Total value import/export in milreis.


decades of the nineteenth century. If Portugal was to maximize its revenues from this new situation, it would have to develop initiatives quite different from the essentially mercantile tactics it was then applying in Angola. The new policies were to have a far-reaching impact upon the area's local elite.

The Origins of the Black Elite—Trade and Influence

During the late nineteenth century establishing control over southern Mozambique's population was as frustrating an endeavour for Lisbon as controlling the area's trade. Throughout the century Portuguese soldiers and civilians, whether deported, contracted, cashiered, or assigned to duty in Lourenço Marques, frequently followed the flow of trade goods and opportunities along routes to the interior.[18] The European population drain from Lourenço Marques was so marked that in 1875 the Governor General of Mozambique prohibited further deportations to the town since those condemned to serve there quickly disappeared into the interior.[19]

Pockets of Portuguese, naturalized Portuguese and Portuguese Indian itinerant backwoods traders (sertanejos ) lived their adult lives hunting and trading in the Lourenço Marques-Inhambane-Transvaal triangle during the mid-nineteenth century.[20] From at least mid-century, Portuguese, Dutch, Ronga and Englishs-peaking traders, many of whom became quite successful and politically influential, also carried out long-distance trading throughout this area.

Most of the Lourenço Marques black elite of the early twentieth century derived from this earlier trading community. Their grandparents had been variously boatmen, caravan leaders, traders on a large or small scale, and clan-leaders. The leading mulatto members of the Grêmio Africano came from this background.[21] The city's wealthiest black women were similarly related to early traders.[22] Their status was originally based on their control and influence over people and property. According to historian Alexandre Lobato:

The social organization of the period . . . was one of a manor type house managed by a housekeeper, a capable Negro or mulatto woman and common law wife. The housekeepers of Lourenço Marques . . . were the native wives of the whites . . . famous mulattoes, mestiço descendants of the founders, powerful people in Mafumo with influential family in Mozambique city. Some were of royal blood, traced to former white alliances in the African interior, and were therefore capable at mercantile diplomacy.[23]

The continuing prosperity of these families, however, depended upon ecological, economic and political conditions in the trading hinterland and upon the changing politics and shifting terms of trade at the coastal entrepôt. Personal relations between hunter-traders and local authorities that developed over many years were the basis for trust and trade. The results of such diplomacy were vulnerable to both political disruption and population movement. From the 1860s onwards Lourenço Marques's itinerant traders and hunters were increasingly hampered by deteriorating conditions for their trade both in the interior and at the coast.[24]

The Gaza civil war (1861–1863) was the first of a number of setbacks for the hunter-traders based in Lourenço Marques. It forced them to take sides and thus compromised their ability to trade with everyone. The spread of famine, smallpox and cattle disease in the war's aftermath 'shattered the economy of the northern and central Delagoa Bay [Lourenço Marques] hinterland', dislocating thousands of people and severely undermining the production and marketing of trade


commodities.[25] Even the large businesses of influential men suffered severely from the disruption.[26] Trade routes remained precarious into the late 1870s because of winter raids from the south by Swazi regiments taking advantage of the area's weakened and unstable political situation after the war.[27]

The Luso-Gaza wars of 1894–95 and 1897 forced remaining traders to take sides again. Traders who successfully rallied their African allies to Portugal's cause gained stature, while those who failed to do so lost face. Protestant missionaries, including highly esteemed local pastors, were suspected of sympathy with the Gaza elite and several were summarily deported. Portugal had long exploited existing inter-group hostilities in efforts to dominate the political economy of the region south of the Sabi river, but the patterns of loyalties struck during the hostilities of the 1890s continued to influence social relations amongst the area's peoples well into the twentieth century, partially because of the brutal impact of the war and the resulting socio-economic upheaval on the population.[28]

At the level of the international commodities market, conditions were also changing, and successful accommodation and anticipation were similarly important for local traders. In the last quarter of the century, as itinerant trade in ivory, skins and agricultural products became less profitable and more difficult for a number of reasons, the 'changing terms of trade made commoditization of labour power more profitable than commoditization of the product of labour'.[29] Labour recruitment, retail trade with returning miners, and the rental, sale or development of town properties to new or expanding businesses became increasingly lucrative alternatives to hunting, trading and porterage. The development of speculation in state concessions for services, industries and trade held similar promise.[30] While some potential alternative opportunities for the black elite developed as a result of Portugal's initiatives in the area south of the Sabi river, changing socio-economic conditions at both the local and international levels severely undermined the elite's position at the very time Portugal moved to strengthen its hold on the area.

Lisbon's interests lay in increasing the volume of trade in Mozambique and, if possible, increasing its participation in that trade. Its focuses, therefore, were the transit trade with the Transvaal and the circulation of migrant labour. Portugal was uninterested in the well established, but now weakened, itinerant trade. Aside from the burst of traffic accompanying the completion of the railway to the Transvaal in 1895, the realignment of economic interests between the local elite and the state was gradual. Hunter-traders, for example, were commonly involved in aspects of labour recruitment and brokerage long before the state harnessed and formalized labour recruitment.[31] The importance of retail trade with returning miners was similarly gradual in its growth. As early as 1866, the gold-based currency introduced to the country in the form of repatriated wages was acknowledged as an important factor in Lourenço Marques retail trade, and by the 1890s all administrative reports for the area emphasized the strong relationship betyween migrant savings and local retail trade.

From 1870 to 1900, then, Lourenço Marques changed from a quiet trading port exporting the various animal and vegetable products of its hinterland into a bustling commercial port increasingly involved in the interrelated and complementary movement of Mozambique's human resources and the Transvaal's mineral resources. Those people who prospered in the long distance and itinerant trade because of their ability to amass the necessary trade goods and porters, to negotiate safe and rapid passage, and to see to a profitable exchange of goods and services through their knowledge of local conditions were progressively displaced. State-sponsored modern transportation facilities rendered


their routes uncompetitive and redundant and the nature of trade goods changed, increasingly moving from local to alien control.[32]

These changes in the area's economic patterns set the stage for a struggle as to who would dominate the new opportunities being opened up by the rapid transformation of Lourenço Marques. In the long run, Portuguese metropolitan and foreign interests triumphed and the established trading elite declined.

Changing Demography and Social Relations

While acknowledging the often inaccurate and inadequate nature of most colonial statistics, the single statistic most likely to be valid is the number of Europeans censused in the port towns. The statistics for Lourenço Marques indicate that between 1861 and 1885 the town's European population averaged around a hundred, while between 1887 (with the arrival of the first boatload of white miners headed inland) and 1894 (the year before completion of the rail line to the Transvaal) the European population averaged just over seven hundred. From 1894 onwards the white population of the town increased steadily, more than trebling in the decade following the completion of the railway.[33]

The growth of the white Portuguese population was directly linked with Portugal's efforts to gain control over the revenues of the Lourenço Marques area. Encouraged both by the MacMahon Award of 1875, which confirmed Portugal's title to the area, and by reports of its potential as a gateway to the interior, Portugal moved to realize that potential. Its early public works initiatives of the late 1870s in Lourenço Marques were more significant as indications of Portugal's enlivened interest in the area than for what they actually accomplished. In the 1880s Portugal secured control over the lucrative transit trade to the Witwatersrand by the seizure and ultimate completion of the originally British-funded rail line from Lourenço Marques to the Transvaal.[34]

The defeat of the Gaza state in the 1890s enhanced Portugal's control over the increasingly important movement of migrant labour, thereby furthering its political and financial interests. Finally, state-initiated modernization of port facilities at Lourenço Marques at the turn of the century confirmed Lisbon's intention to develop the transit trade and the related phenomenon of labour brokerage as its principal interests in the area. Portugal's tactic was oriented towards licensing, taxing and brokering the existing movement of goods and persons, and it required investment of capital and labour to develop and maintain the necessary transportation facilities and bureaucracy to sustain such a process of accumulation.[35]

It was in conjunction with these investments that ever-larger groups of Portuguese immigrants arrived in Lourenço Marques as state-sponsored soldiers, civil servants or contracted labourers.[36] These Portuguese immigrants—the contracted railway workers and public works crews of the 1870s and 1880s and the police and soldiers of the 1890s—were recognized by twentieth century white Portuguese to be Portugal's pioneers. They were accorded the prestige of being the original 'we'. Ignored were the earlier traders and administrators with their mulatto progeny. Ignored also was the key role of local African people who had both supported and helped to extend Portuguese sovereignty in the area. These white pioneers, such as Roque de Aguiar, were revered in their old age regardless of their economic status. People like João Massabulana, who was acknowledged to have given important service to the Portuguese in the Luso-Gaza war, were treated quite differently. Massabulana died in 1925, allegedly owing his hut tax for that year, and his wives and young sons were seized for penal labour to work off the tax.[37]


To be considered truly Portuguese it was increasingly insufficient to accept and project Portuguese hegemony. As with Cape Coloureds in South Africa, black Mozambican elite members began to be nudged out of the privileges of domination despite their sharing language, Christianity, nationality and way of life with the white Portuguese. As competition grew between new immigrants and the local black elite over jobs, land, licences and concessions, race became an increasingly important differentiating criterion in the struggle to share.

This process was nowhere more startling than in the case of the decline in prestige and prosperity suffered by mulattoes from the 1860s down to the 1930s. In the 1860s and 1870s mulatto children of Portuguese were commonly censused at


Figure 9.2
White population in Lourenço Marques


birth as whites and acknowledged as sharing the whole of family privileges, property and responsibilities. They were the so-called brancos da terra, the local whites.[38] By the 1890s, however, that was no longer commonly the case. Mulatto babies were censused as such, and some adults whose birth certificates registered them as 'white' were redefined as mulatto.[39] Some mulatto children certainly continued to enjoy protection by white parents through formal adoption or informal patronage, but whites were increasingly unlikely to assume full responsibility for their mulatto children and ensure that they were fully entitled to share as family members.[40] Illegitimacy became increasingly identified with miscegenation. Illegitimacy was not simply a social stigma. It was an important impediment to the transfer of wealth and property from parent to child—in short, to the reproduction of privilege. While the mulatto elite of the early 1930s decried the stigma of illegitimacy, asserting that to be a mulatto did not necessarily mean one was a bastard, by 1940 if one was a bastard, one was quite likely to be a mulatto. Indeed, 96 per cent of all babies born in circumstances deemed illegitimate were mulattoes.[41]

The declining fortunes of local mulattoes, while most immediately linked to the competitive relationship emerging between local and immigrant whites, was also an aspect of a number of other interrelated processes. Portuguese whites and the black elite also competed for advantage with numerous foreigners. Up to the close of the nineteenth century the Portuguese had been but one of a number of foreign groups trading in Lourenço Marques, and they were not always numerically or influentially dominant.[42] From the opening of trade to all countries in 1877, the population of British Indian traders increased, and from the first gold strikes in the Transvaal the pace of foreign European immigration similarly quickened. In 1885 Portuguese comprised 55 per cent of the town's European population, but in 1887, with an influx of foreign miners, the Portuguese proportion temporarily dropped to but 12 per cent of the European group.[43] Large numbers of foreign businessmen sought out the town for its opportunities in land and concession speculation, retail sales, and service industries. Foreigners had entrenched themselves as an important business minority from at least the 1870s.[44] Competition for concessions, markets, licensing and employment in the promising but unstable town economy was strong, and Lourenço Marques took on the characteristics of a wide-open boom town. Groups and individuals pulled every string and explored every avenue in their efforts to secure a livelihood or skim off a fleeting profit. Portuguese immigrants hoped to exploit political sympathies to economic advantage, but there were severe limits on their control of the political economy.

There were certain sectors of the economy which the well-placed members of the Portuguese community simply did not have the capital, skills or business connections to develop successfully or to take over, and these passed into foreign hands. They included such key sectors as, first, the recruitment and processing of Mozambican migrants as labourers for South Africa and, second, retail sales to returned miners. The South Africa-based Witwatersrand Native Labour Association (WNLA) had been the largest, most consistent, best managed recruiting agency operating in the area south of the Sabi river, and in February 1906 the Portuguese granted it monopoly recruiting privileges.[45] The following year, with the town in deep recession, the local Portuguese community cast a covetous eye at WNLA's profit of almost £89,000 in 1906. They aggressively, but vainly, urged the state to transfer the WNLA monopoly to the Secretaria de Negócios Indígenas (Native Affairs Department) so that the jobs and profits could be made available to them.[46]


With regard to the retail sales sector, British Indians were seen as the main interlopers. They competed in trade at the port from at least the 1870s, but by the 1890s they dominated virtually all retail sales to returning miners in rural areas as well as dry goods sales in urban areas.[47] By 1901, for example, 96 per cent of dry goods retail licences in Lourenço Marques were held by Indians, 80 per cent of whom were British Indians. Licences for urban cantinas (combination bar, grocery and dry goods stores), which depended heavily upon sales of cheap Portuguese wines to draw customers for their usually uncompetitive dry goods, were more broadly held: Portuguese whites, 56 per cent; Chinese, 27 per cent; Portuguese Indians, 6 per cent; and British Indians, 3 per cent.[48] While the Portuguese proved unable to do much more than complain about the dominance of Indians in dry goods commerce, they lobbied increasingly successfully for cantina licences to be granted preferentially to white Portuguese.[49]

In sum, despite their open identification with and defence of the Portuguese state, the local black elite's power and prosperity in the regional economy suffered almost in direct proportion to the state's growing initiatives. At every turn they were displaced, either with or without state complicity. White railway and port workers oversaw the movement of transit goods instead of black caravan leaders, raftsmen, guides and porters. Portuguese administrators and soldiers took over direction of important recruitment and labour control functions. Some of the black elite eventually found work as labour recruiters or overseers within new companies, but they lost their independence as agents or middlemen and became simply employees in a managerial capacity. Competition between local blacks and immigrant whites was further exacerbated by the narrowing of the overall local field for economic activity because of the monopolization and near monopolization of key sectors of the economy by WNLA and British Indians. Political pressure from immigrants covetous of business and civil service positions held by blacks, a chronic shortage of cheap controlled black labour, and the ups and downs of the regional economy all bolstered the tendency to engineer the subordination of all black people within the rapidly changing capitalist economy. Portugal's self-proclaimed 'civilizing mission' comprised an important ideological aspect of this engineering process.

Portugal's Civilizing Mission: Engineering Inequality

When A.F. Nogueira published his study, A Raça Negra, in 1881 he hoped it would be 'useful to my country and to the poor race to which it is dedicated'.[50] He admonished Portugal to halt the violent and arbitrary plunder of its colonies' human and natural resources by soldiers, missionaries, merchants and administrators and advocated a more systematic approach toward using the colonies' critically important labour resources to place Portugal on a more competitive footing with its colonial neighbours in southern Africa.[51] Nogueira went on to point out that: 'Everyone knows that the whole matter of civilization in Africa comes down to a question of labour. There are a plethora of opportunities for enrichment and a shortage of workers to exploit those opportunities.'[52] Portugal would have to 'civilize' its population so that African labourers could be 'freed' to sell their labour in conditions which would enable Portugal and the Portuguese to enrich themselves:

The Negro is for us, due to the circumstances, the active instrument of labour, as the white is the necessary element for guidance and progress. The two races find themselves, therefore, in a situation where their interests combine perfectly, instead of mutual antagonism they must assist one another.[53]


Presaging the Portuguese corporativist ideology of the future, Nogueira thus neatly subsumed the whole concept of struggle and opposition between labour and capital. The attraction of his combination, however, would seem to depend upon one's position within his equation—whether or not one was doing the labouring or the getting rich.

Nogueira, a colonial liberal, was so anxious to affirm that Africans were not innately poor labourers—they should not be considered just so many 'buffalo' or 'dromedaries' necessary to grub Africa's wealth for their European masters, but rather recognized as individuals capable of being fine workers—that he failed to consider Africans beyond the level of 'instruments of labour'.[54] He did not pose the important question 'What if . . . ?' What if Africans aspired to directing rather than being directed, to getting rich themselves rather than enriching others? What then? Such a question would throw Nogueira's equation off its comfortable assumptions.

By the turn of the century, however, Portuguese policy makers had passed beyond confirming that Africans could and should labour for Europeans, to consider the ramifications of 'What if . . . ?' In his Royal Commissioner's Report of 1893, António Enes, while admitting that the abolition of slavery in 1875 had been a good thing, maintained that the legislation had been incomplete in that it had failed to convert the Africans into workers. To complete this long overdue task, he felt the government should legislate to compel people to work in the same fashion that governments in German East Africa, South Africa and Réunion had done, making their blacks 'submissive, sober and hardworking'. Enes warned that the state should quickly and firmly relegate Africans to the position of working for lower wages and in inferior conditions to those enjoyed by whites, both skilled and unskilled. Some literate Africans, he observed, were already making dangerous suggestions such as employing Europeans under African supervision.[55] A.A. Freire de Andrade, Governor General of Mozambique between 1906 and 1910, echoed Enes's concerns:

The education to offer the native ought to be above all intended to turn him into a useful labourer—and not to engender the false idea that he is equal to whites or has the same rights. . . . But how can one prevent the worker from becoming an employer, an engineer, a foreman or in a word, turning himself into a directing force instead of a directed force? Such results can only be prevented by a labour law, which improperly interpreted could easily be called slavery. And if we make the native an engineer, lawyer or boss of any kind of industry, where will they employ whites of equal skill? Will they be paid equal wages, and will they mix with their colleagues of different colour?[56]

White workers both anticipated and echoed such official sentiment throughout this period as they strove to make a living in Lourenço Marques. Testimony before the Junta Consultiva do Governo in April 1891 illustrated the keenness of whites to have the state extend the privileges and protections enjoyed by Portuguese capitalists in the city to Portuguese workers. In their efforts to achieve that end, proletarianized Portuguese workers stressed the mutual interests of the entire 'European colony' in successfully controlling blacks who were clearly not yet dependent upon the sale of their labour to survive and support their families:

In Europe the worker is in reality more dependent upon the capitalist than vice versa, but in Lourenço Marques . . . the Europeans . . . are dependent upon black labourers, who in their turn barely depend, or do not at all depend upon whites. . . . It is incumbent upon the government to defend the interests of the European colony which more and more become identified with the interests of the state.[57]


Local white bourgeoisies have generally been credited with initiating and sustaining efforts to organize white interests toward the generalized subjugation of black people. David Hemson, for example, acknowledges the importance of competition between black and white workers in neighbouring Durban, but locates the thrust for cooperation amongst all whites with the bourgeoisie:

The articulation of racism [in Durban] was closely meshed in the class consciousness of the local bourgeoisie, aware of the stratification in each racial group, but determined to submerge class antagonism within a cultural and racial order, not class against class, but civilization against barbarism, enlightenment against ignorance.[58]

A reading of the white working class press of the early twentieth century in Lourenço Marques, however, suggests that, for all the contradictions involved, white workers there took early and sustained measures to mesh their interests with those of the dominant white bourgeoisie. For all their strident, doctrinaire anarcho-socialism, they appeared, consciously and unconsciously, determined to benefit from pitting 'civilization' against 'barbarism' and 'enlightenment' against 'ignorance'. White labour leaders saw themselves as united with other white workers, generally considering them 'our labouring brothers', but in the same breath emphasizing their distance from 'filthy' Africans and 'indolent and unproductive Asians' who shared or aspired to share the same workplace.[59]

From Nogueira in 1881 to the socialist workers' organizations of the 1920s there was an important and sustained current which portrayed Africans, directly and indirectly, in smothering negatives: poor, enslaved and miserable, lazy and somehow innately dirty.[60] The current of negatives became a flood in times of scarcity when the question of precisely who would share in available resources took on greater importance. During the economic slump of 1907, for example, the white workers' press complained:

Here [in Lourenço Marques] any vagrant gets 500 reis per day for which he sings and dances the entire day and does nothing. In Portugal men earn 300 reis per day working dawn to dusk bending over a hoe. . . . Here a crude and stupid black who does nothing earns 500 reis per day with 11 to 1 off to eat and rest . . . hundreds of vagrants trip around the streets drunk, nearly nude, living by theft and eating off those who are employed. Here they don't have the guts to make these people work. . . . Lourenço Marques is being transformed into a kraal of filthy Negroes.[61]

This quotation reveals fundamental facts and attitudes which were basic to the engineering of inequality, illustrating some of the attitudes which shaped the internalized baseline from which people competed for scarce resources. White workers perceived few alternatives to the sale of their labour and expected that their wages would provide the minimal material basis to reproduce their working class lifestyle—including the purchase of essentials such as shoes and clothing. At this early date, however, most blacks clearly perceived a range of alternatives to wage labour and could still use their wages to provide more than what they considered the bare essentials.

It is hardly surprising that white workers felt threatened by competition from blacks. Blacks could be paid less than whites, it was asserted, not because whites were fully proletarianized and blacks were not, but because blacks were inferior workers and inferior people. The Fabrica Nacional de Tobacco took up this line in 1914 when it emphasized that while rough tobacco was sorted by trained African personnel, after the sorted tobacco was disinfected it was handled and prepared only by whites.[62] In 1922 the socialist workers' press complained that South African bread kneaded by whites earning one pound sterling per day sold for


4 pence, whereas in Lourenço Marques bread kneaded by 'filthy blacks' cost 6 pence.[63] Whites were not 'vagrants'. They were 'unemployed'. Unemployed blacks were 'vagrants'. Whites who were employed 'worked for their money', whereas blacks sang, danced, stole and lived off others. These were the kinds of stereotypes necessary to sustain a concept of differential exploitability in all its circularity: black people who were poor, enslaved, miserable and filthy could be paid less because 'their customs burden them with considerably fewer living expenses'.[64] It simply did not cost much to be poor, miserable and filthy.

The black elite's members were not above manipulating a similar argument in efforts to promote their interests in a world of shrinking opportunities. They claimed that contacts with Europeans had engendered in them 'different needs, different ambitions', and that unlike 'bush blacks' who 'lived in sloth', they held important jobs and aspired to even better ones.[65] They were not always able to extricate their fate from that of the poor and miserable, however. During the plague scare of 1907, for example, the shabby wood and zinc houses owned by blacks and Indians and rented to casual black labourers were summarily destroyed in the sweeping sanitation efforts despite the fact that the acknowledged source of the disease was the city's own public works barracks located at the opposite end of town.[66]

Acquiring, distributing and overseeing cheap unskilled black labour was already a principal concern for the colonial state and the local bourgeoisie by the 1890s, but the concern raised by Enes and Andrade, the 'What if . . . ?', became increasingly important during the South African War and the recession which followed quickly upon the heels of the post-war boom between 1900 and 1904. By 1907 to 1910 many of the Portuguese who had arrived in the boom years, with or without contracts, found themselves out of work. It is from this period of economic recession that the legislation and ideology of labour control began more clearly to reflect a two-pronged squeeze: pushing black males into ill-paid wage labour and keeping them out of attractive jobs coveted by whites.[67]

It was in the context of this recession that some members of the Lourenço Marques black elite formed the Grêmio Africano, took up matters of concern to their membership and to the black population as a whole, and issued a journalistic challenge to the new trends. That the ensuing struggle would encapsulate a maze of contradictions was evident from the outset: the Grêmio, having finally managed temporarily to fund a school to teach African children the Portuguese language as a first step toward the goal of unfettered citizenship, named their school after António Enes!

The engineering of inequality thus involved forcing some blacks to labour for their employer's profit so as to reap the benefits of 'civilization'. It also involved limiting the ability of educated and skilled blacks to reap the benefits of shared cultural characteristics by marketing their skills, products and property as full Portuguese citizens. Whereas the myth of equality, one of the 'civilizing mission's' stated goals, was developed to legitimize metropolitan colonial policy at many levels, the engineering of inequality was necessary to reproduce the relations of domination upon which colonial control and capitalist development increasingly came to depend. The black elite's demand for equality as Portuguese citizens struck at the heart of those relations. To square the elite's demand for equality, which was couched in the very terms of the state's ideology of equality, with employer demands for cheap and well controlled black labour, white workers' demands for privilege, and the Portuguese administration's fear that blacks with notions of equality would soon challenge white political domination, the myth of differential exploitability emerged piecemeal together with a body of legislation


which cumulatively sculpted the clearly subordinate cultural and legal categories of assimilado and indígena . The economics of assimilation were the mirror image of the economics of indigenization: domination articulated in terms of shared and non-shared cultural characteristics.

Challenging Assimilation: 'We are all Portuguese!'

In their study of plantation protest, Vail and White demonstrate how ideas for reinforcing, modifying and challenging practices which characterize social relations can be articulated in ritualized song and dance when those forms are understood by the participants to be the appropriate vehicle for such expressions.[68] The Lourenço Marques black elite of the turn of the century accepted the press and petitions to colonial administrators as their vehicles for such expressions, and they developed their press with a gift for allegory and mockery suggestive of the most effective ritualized song.[69] Their declamation, 'We are all Portuguese!', was often in that sense richly charged. In one breath it dared anyone to suggest that they were not the equal of any metropolitan middle class white and at the same time mocked Portugal with the contrast between the posture and reality of her much vaunted 'civilizing mission'.[70]

When the Grêmio published its first newspaper in 1908, the stage was set for struggle. Many whites were out of work, and hard times and heightened racism combined to make the crucial division in day-to-day relations between people one of race. The intensified struggle had a different impact at different levels, however, and such differences reflected the important divisions existing among 'those persons of the black race and descendants of the same'.

The challenge 'We are all Portuguese!' was itself situationally fluid, but it evoked an implicit order in the minds of the Portuguese-speaking, Catholic elite of the Grêmio, who were its principal proponents in this period. They perceived themselves as the natural leaders of the majority population, 'civilized people who are moral, principled and know how to civilize', and therefore deserving of recognition (and sometimes employment) as such.[71] At one level they asserted their identity as middle class Portuguese nationals and their conception of themselves as key figures in the extension of capitalist relations of production. At other levels they argued for the weight of shared cultural traits over different racial characteristics, thus stressing their own superior position vis-à-vis both working class, uneducated whites and educated blacks who were Muslims or did not speak Portuguese.

The Grêmio elite pointedly described white workers in the very terms whites frequently reserved for blacks: common, illiterate, filthy, and slothful. The mature elite was still sufficiently confident to allow much of the crude racism of the white press to slide off its back. They were not, after all, miserable, poor or filthy. They did not sing and dance at work, but rather dressed and lived for the most part like petty bourgeois Europeans. They no more identified with Portuguese peasant culture than did their Portuguese counterparts. They were just as appalled by the ill-clothed, frequently unwashed Portuguese immigrants who indiscriminately cursed, spat, and defecated in the town's streets as they were with similarly behaved Africans. They neither doubted nor sought to confirm their social distance from poor blacks or poor whites in this period.[72]

One must appreciate the class confidence of the black elite in these years to understand the extent of their subsequent disillusion. By the 1920s, as it became ever more clear that race, not class, was pivotal in colonial relations of domination and that that process would continue to erode the economic position of the


remaining black middle class, the elite increasingly faced up to the implications of the crude racism which they had formerly largely ignored. They could still maintain the distance necessary for effective mockery, however:

 . . . leave the native in a state of primitive ignorance so that the Negro only serves as manual labour under the yoke of a white man, illiterate though he may be, so that the white man can honestly issue his whip lashes if the black does not tip his hat or doesn't stand when [the white man] goes by. . . . All this would be tolerable if it were simply the case with bush country blacks, but Merciful Lord, this is spreading to the middle class![73]

Like their contemporary petty bourgeois counterparts throughout southern Africa, they portrayed themselves as the natural leaders of the majority who 'generally justif[ied] their authority by an ethic of service and by universalistic virtue of achievement by merit'.[74] They largely subscribed to free market values and the naïve belief in the role of the state as fair-minded 'referee'.[75] In keeping with their capitalist orientation, they condoned certain kinds of controls over all workers and in general advocated temperance, discipline and diligence at work.[76]

Their refrain 'We are all Portuguese!' reflected their identification with Vasco da Gama's idealized 'civilizing mission', and the Portuguese Republic's heralded 'Equality, Liberty and Fraternity'.[77] They thus rejected all notions of civilization which were rooted in white privilege and black servility. If 'civilization' meant that Africans be the pack horses, the rickshaw pullers and eternal slaves who were just literate enough to read the laws which raised their hut tax, they asserted, then surely savagery was preferable.[78] If whites alone were fit to hold colonial positions as full citizens, then what was all this nonsense about 'Equality' and 'Fraternity': 'What colour citizens did Portugal expect to find in her African empire after all, citizens côr de rosa ?'[79] By the 1920s, when the colonial administration began to pressure black children out of public schools to avoid 'mixing of different psyches', the elite's self-assurance had become strained and the Grêmio's response was angry:

Our youth will go to carry coal, rob and prostitute themselves. Throw them out of school, do away with passes and álvaras de assimilac'ão and simply brand them with an iron. Did someone say Portugal came to Africa to civilize?[80]

Despite their attack on Portuguese racism and hypocrisy, the Grêmio elite returned to the 'more Portuguese than thou' argument, particularly in hard times, in their struggle to rise to the mesa de funcionalismo (bureaucratic table)—to feed at the public trough as civil servants.[81] The Grêmio elite's self-promotion aggravated existing tensions within the black elite. Educated Muslim Makua, for example, competed with the local Christian elite for much-coveted positions as office workers at the port authority. Throughout this period both the white workers' press and the Grêmio's newspapers joined in periodically railing against allowing Makua to hold such positions. The Grêmio members felt those positions should be theirs as the 'most Portuguese' of the local elite. They ridiculed the Makua as 'vassals of the Sultan of Turkey, Abdul Hamid Khan', and alleged they 'roasted goats to Allah' and lived from the sale of drugs and the prostitution of their women.[82]

At each of these levels the Grêmio elite emphasized what they considered to be their own merits. They conceived of their status in a variety of terms but, clearly, cultural self-identification as Portuguese citizens was central to the manner in which they framed their assertions. It is difficult to judge the extent to which the elite's emphasis on a shared cultural and national identity was in part encouraged


by white workers tending to frame their demands for jobs and better treatment in similar terms.[83] It is evident that there were elements of manipulation for self-promotion and sincere internalization of sentiments involved throughout, but the proportions differed depending upon the writer and the period. As early as 1909, for example, Grêmio leaders realized that not only would the best educated, most privileged blacks in Mozambique be competing with better educated, better trained white immigrants, but that, all qualifications aside, whites would utilize patronage and political sympathies in seeking placement in better jobs, at higher wages, and with more social, economic and political privileges than 'people of colour'. José Albasini, an official forwarding agent, co-editor of O Africano, and one of the most prestigious Africans in the town, editorialized in 1909:

It is no longer by one's merits that a person's worth is judged, it is by one's colour. . . . What one needs in order to compete for a position today is to be white. . . . If you are coloured, live on a few crumbs of bread—the land is for the white man.[84]

Albasini's conception of the state as a fair-minded referee may have been shaken by increased racial discrimination in civil service hiring, but although such disillusionment fed a certain radicalization among the elite, in this period the elite never approached the insight that 'States were and are engines of oppression, not civilization.'[85] They were rather more likely to respond with a challenge to the state to live up to its claim to be guarantor of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. Albasini's positivism, basic moderation and loyalty to the state overshadowed his consistent criticism of forced labour and racial discrimination. He was lauded by colonial authorities as 'a fine guide for the native masses, very considerate and never allowing any compromises in the prestige enjoyed by those who governed the colony'.[86]

Not every writer in the O Africano stable could expect similar praise, and there were limits of official tolerance for criticism framed in assurances of loyalty. One of the great strengths of the Grêmio press when it was strong, however, was its ability to argue issues in terms which the Portuguese administration would find both powerful and awkward to suppress. Brado Africano's editorial of 14 October 1922, written during the period of the League of Nation's hearings inspired by the critical reports submitted in cooperation with the Anti-Slavery Society and the Human Rights League, took that tolerance near its limit:


Every now and then our English friends, from simple bad faith, challenge us with being slavers and other nasty things. We must say, in the service of truth, that slavery as such does not exist at least in the Province of Mozambique. The police unconstitutionally seize peaceful citizens on the pretext of not having a [labour registration] tag, and then rent us out to anyone needing labour. This . . . isn't slavery. We don't really know what it is, but . . . it isn't slavery. Local administrators order citizens to be seized and rented to white planters, and the crops of these poor blacks are lost because while they are away working for the whites their crops are neglected. Clearly this isn't slavery, just as it isn't slavery to imprison women on the pretext that their husbands owe their hut tax . . . etc, etc.

But foreigners, those who aren't familiar with our administrative processes, see these things which we have mentioned, and other things which we haven't mentioned, and they think of it as slavery. . . . Our Consul, Sr. Alpoim, was correct to protest forcefully what these foreigners are saying . . . but it is not enough to protest this, we must change our attitudes and treat the black dog (the nigger) like a human being—he is.[87]


In sum, the Grêmio elite mustered their conceptualization of shared cultural characteristics in a variety of situations and at a number of levels. They argued that it entitled them fully to share the privileges of citizenship; they used it as a shield behind which sharply to challenge political practice; and they used it as a wedge to promote themselves ahead of others. The acuteness and confidence of the Grêmio's campaign periodically wavered as individual writers felt disillusion temporarily engender despair, but despair and apathy did not emerge as sustained intellectual currents undermining the Grêmio elite until the 1930s. It was then that a sequence of events transformed a confident elite which sought non-racial patronage links with the dominant group in the hope of ensuring their prosperity and leadership role into an apathetic, disunited and profoundly disillusioned generation.

The Laws of Exception

Members of the black elite were not solely concerned with their own social position, at least initially. While many blacks in Lourenço Marques may have understood that each law of exception, each tendency to treat and perceive black people as inferior, contributed to a pattern of domination which would have an impact seemingly out of all proportion to the sum of its parts, their feelings were not recorded. Contributors to the Grêmio's newspapers, however, realized that, if such a pattern were allowed to proceed unchallenged, racist laws would soon appear colour-blind. The elite may not have suffered directly from increased oppression of common black labourers in Lourenço Marques in the period prior to World War I, but they nonetheless recognized that such practices nourished the ideological basis which could gradually combine with the growing demand for cheap controlled labour and efforts by Portuguese whites to stake out and protect profitable and privileged positions, to relegate all blacks to subordinate status. Such a process could proceed piecemeal, but crisis quickened its pace, as in the case, in 1907, of the plague's being used to justify the disposal of a considerable amount of black-owned property. The elite recognized that cardinal aspects of accumulating and reproducing capital, such as acquiring profitable and secure land tenure, access to employment, training, investment and business opportunities were all at stake. The ideological justification, which was argued largely in cultural concepts, and the formal and informal engineering of the subordinate categories of indígena and assimilado comprised a whole. The elite recognized the unity from the outset.

The labour demands of the maturing capitalist economy encouraged Portugal to turn away from simply commandeering labour towards a more systematic structural exploitation of labour along the lines pursued by other contemporary colonial powers. That process, however, necessitated that Portugal formulate appropriate legislation so as not to have it 'improperly interpreted' as slavery. Hay and Wright observe that the relationship between legislation and practice can be viewed from polar perspectives: 'On the one hand, law can be seen as a reflection of norms, customs, and rules through which society regulates itself; on the other hand, law may be viewed as directing social behaviour.'[88] Had Portugal instituted legislation which genuinely reflected the norms, customs and rules of its early twentieth century colonial society it would not have been internationally acceptable. Portugal was chronically embarrassed by the gap between internationally acceptable legislation and the continuing slave-like labour conditions existing in its colonies. In 1902, for example, the Governor of Lourenço Marques District asked the Governor General that the 'very old custom' of having town


police arrest local Africans for disobedience, disorderly conduct and drunkenness, for summary sentencing to prison labour on state and municipal works, be reflected in a proper law.[89]

The black elite attacked such attempts to give legislative legitimacy to contemporary abuses and efforts to mould future social conditions in such a way as to confirm and reproduce specifically racist forms of domination. While a great many challenges appeared in the pages of O Africano and O Brado Africano, protests against the abuse of black workers and against the laws which, by placing blacks in exceptional legal circumstances, invited such abuse were the most prominent. The abolition of black labour conscription (chibaro or shibalo ) and the end of all laws of exception were principal themes up to the mid-1930s.[90]

In the early twentieth century efforts to generate cheap controlled labour in Lourenço Marques consisted mostly of rounding up Africans who drank too much alcohol, wore too few clothes, or happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time—those snared through 'old customs'. The elite focused on the underlying processes illustrating their lucid perception of the developing modes of domination.[91] They identified the crucially important process of creating criminals: the state profited from the proliferation of cantinas selling cheap Portuguese wines to Africans through revenue from licensing, fees and fines paid by drunks and also from the steady supply of unpaid prison labourers arrested for drunken and disorderly conduct and then set to work on urban sanitation projects, construction and roadwork. Blacks were not trained or hired, but criminalized and thus forced to work in disadvantaged circumstances by a process which did not apply to whites. The facts that violence bred of alcohol abuse ravaged black neighbourhoods and that white drunks were not arrested, but escorted home to sober up, were pointedly noted as well.[92]

In 1904 the first attempt was made to mesh custom and aspirations regarding black labour in town in a proper law. The Regulamento de Serviçais e Trabalhadores Indígenas of 9 September 1904 was intended to organize the registration and identification of black domestics and day labourers in town through a pass system which would simultaneously facilitate tighter enforcement of municipal vagrancy statutes. This law posed the first direct legal threat to the mobility of black volunteer workers in town. As criminals, blacks were not only to be compelled to labour—'civilized' to their moral obligation to work as it were—but now even as volunteers they were to be forced to work in disadvantaged circumstances.[93]

The Regulamento's impact on the black working population as a whole was blunted, however, by its uneven and halting application. The town's rudimentary administrative and police forces were simply not yet equal to the task of enforcing the legislation except to seek to regularize the supply of day labour to the port.[94] While the law was important for its harassment of workers, keeping them insecure and vulnerable, by 1911 the town's principal employers were clamouring for more effective legislation.[95]

The black elite's press quickly recognized the Regulamento's important ancillary purpose. The revenues generated by the schedule of fees and fines were seen as necessary to finance extension of both the police and administrative forces which could then be used to implement firmer laws. The oppressed were being forced to pay their oppressor's salary and to contribute to the development of a more effective system of labour coercion.[96] The process was already under way with regard to municipal fines for drunkenness: between 1906 and 1909, for example, between 43 per cent and 53 per cent of the municipal police budget was funded by fines for drunkenness paid by Africans.[97] In the first years of its


implementation, the Regulamento had cost the state money, but by 1908 the police had become more interested in the law's potential for yielding revenue than in its utility in labour control. That year the Regulamento began to pay its own way. By 1909 it was generating a surplus.[98]O Africano correctly saw this and later control regulations as serving largely to finance the burgeoning state bureaucracy, referring to their implementation as the 'caça da quinhenta', the hunt for the fifty centavo registration fee.[99]

By the period between 1913 and 1917, however, discriminatory controls over labour and over social and professional mobility moved threateningly closer to the elite itself. Legislation promulgated in this period, while still not evenly or effectively implemented, no longer limited its scope to domestics and dock workers, but encompassed urban blacks as a whole. Individuals within the black elite were still commonly exempted from the principal constraints of the new legislation by virtue of their class status as property holders, merchants, civil servants, office and commercial employees, typesetters, headmen, and educated people, but they nonetheless had to be specifically exempted from the legislative constraints. They found themselves lumped with so-called 'natives' on the basis of their race, and therefore formally shared their status as an exceptional community. Through the exemption process the elite could secure a special badge, but they were nonetheless required to wear that badge.[100]

The new legislation brought about a subtle but important shift in emphasis, a shift which demonstrated the progressive weakening of the elite's position. The press continued to contest the basic premise of racist exception, but with the spread of discrimination at many levels and the enhanced bite of the new measures there was increasing practical concern with just who was an indígena, and therefore legally subject to the more rigorous controls, and who was not an indígena, and therefore legally eligible for the privileges of citizenship. At one level this shift signalled the beginning of the end: part of the basic premise was conceded or compromised in the shift of focus to within the designated exceptional community. It became more difficult for the black elite to identify with persons of like cultural orientation regardless of race. Whites, regardless of class, nationality, or cultural orientation had no need to concern themselves with the possibility of being incorporated into the exceptional community. Blacks, regardless of class or nationality, increasingly had to come to terms with discrimination in one way or another. The change forced the elite to turn its attention from broader concerns and thereby sabotaged their attempts to challenge changes in policy on the grounds of principle.

João Albasini and the Challenge to 'Assimilated' Status

In the midst of this still tentative restructuring of the legal arena, legislation creating a new and separate category of assimilado was promulgated. The state may have intended to buttress the tighter social controls by buying off the elite with a special privileged category similar to the former exempt status—a category separate from that of indãgena, but still a racially determined 'middle' category. Initially, the gambit failed.

Assimilado status was presented in terms of equality among all civilized men, and as a laurel to black achievement, but it elicited what was surely an unexpected response.[101] The elite, far from grasping the proffered distinction, rejected it as galling and humiliating. They were still sufficiently confident to challenge the idea


of a legal process through which they should demonstrate their educational, material and cultural merit so that in the end they could be considered the political and social equal of uneducated, poor, uncouth whites: 'Portugal sends us her unclean, illiterate criminals who live off rural African women. Must we assimilate to be their equal?'[102]

The challenge to assimilation mounted through the newspapers O Africano and Brado Africano was spearheaded by João dos Santos Albasini (1876–1922) who, with his brother José Francisco Albasini and Estácio Dias, was the driving force behind the Grêmio press. Albasini was a close personal friend of the Republican High Commissioner, Brito Camacho.[103] A mulatto with still powerful patronage ties to influential Portuguese Republicans, Albasini was clearly in a favourable position to mount a challenge with a minimum of personal risk or cost.[104] If Albasini had restricted the challenge to the question of equality among all so-called civilized men, his would have been a much less interesting story. Albasini was, however, a perceptive, complicated, and ultimately tragic character who took up the struggle at many levels. He perceived the increasing complexity of changing relations of domination, and infused his challenge with his own complex and passionate identities. Even within the limits of his short life, his challenge illustrated the kaleidoscope of issues, interests and factors at play.[105]

For Albasini the questions of non-racialism and of Portuguese national identity were of equal importance. He was as proud of his Mpfumo ancestors who had allied themselves with Portuguese initiatives in Lourenço Marques as he was of his Portuguese grandfather and namesake, Joáo Albasini. He saw no conflict in being both Portuguese and Mpfumo, in part because he felt white Portuguese and black Mpfumo to be peoples and races 'in no way inferior to others'.[106] He did recognize differential status in terms of education, however,' and seized upon equality of opportunity as the crux of any struggle, particularly emphasizing the importance of educational opportunities for African women.[107]

Within Albasini's complex range of identities he recognized and enjoyed different degrees of sharing and exchange. At one level, Portuguese intellectuals were ambivalent toward Albasini's role as a forceful thinker. He was the product of the best Catholic mission education available in Lourenço Marques, and was broadly self-educated. A member of the Conselho do Governó recalled in 1927 that Alabasini was 'a learned person of unquestionable merit'.[108] But, because he was black and not formally educated, his considerable intellectual accomplishments were often discounted and ridiculed by those with whom he felt he shared an intellectual tradition. He was caricatured in a Lourenço Marques almanack as the 'Doctor of Laws graduated from the University Chuabe-Dembe', and Governor Freire de Andrade, who publicly lauded many of Albasini's initiatives, privately dismissed him as 'a mulatto of no real education or credit'.[109]

After years of championing education in Portuguese under the guidance of Portuguese nationals, Albasini criticized aspects of Catholic mission education of African women, and the Catholic missionary editors who had purchased his paper O Africano took the opportunity to deride him saying, 'some Africans in their capulanas [wrapped cloth skirts] are more civilized than João Albasini with his pants and white shirt', suggesting a superficial sheen of Portuguese culture when Albasini was already an accomplished Portuguese writer.[110]

At another level, the city's poorest workers were equally ambivalent toward Albasini's role as champion of black labour. While Albasini basically opposed military or civilian labour conscription, he nonetheless held that able-bodied adult males should contract their labour for so-called public works and capitalist agriculture to build a more prosperous Mozambique for their children. The thrust



Joäo Albasini, 'Doctor of Laws graduated
from the University of Chuabe-Dembé'.
O Africano (Almanach), 1913


of his position was that if workers were treated with respect, properly housed and fed, and if upon completion of their contract they were transported quickly and safely home and fully paid, then conscription would be unnecessary. From 1913 until his death in 1922 Albasini, in his combined capacity as newspaper editor and head of so-called native services at the port and railway complex, drew attention to work conditions for railway labour, decried alcohol abuse among workers which he felt was encouraged by Portuguese cantinas, and advocated higher wages for port and railway casual and salaried personnel—the majority of the black labour force in those areas. Between 1918 and 1921 there were frequent strikes among casual and salaried workers at the port, while chibaro labour was relatively quiet. It remains unclear if Albasini played any role in keeping chibaro workers outside the mainstream of port worker action. Aside from his published support for worker demands, particularly the demands of salaried workers of whom he was one, the extent of Albasini's involvement with strikers is also uncertain.[111]

His paternalistic attitude toward chibaro labour, however, was reflected in their attitudes toward him. Chibaro workers remembered Albasini as the 'important' black man on the white horse telling people what to do and also as the man who earned a percentage by selling his brothers to the Portuguese.[112] The compound which formerly housed railway chibaro workers in Lourenço Marques was popularly known as 'Nwandzengele', Albasini's nickname in the Ronga language. Ironically, it is in some ways fitting, since Albasini supported compound housing. He felt such compounds offered better housing, board and treatment of workers than the contemporary arrangement of rented rooms in cantinas, temporary shelters and sheds, but he minimized the importance of the whole question of a person's choice to labour and live how and where he or she wanted.[113]

Albasini paid for his criticism of the system, despite his identification with it. He suffered ridicule, rejection and material loss. When O Africano was in the midst of a heated challenge to colonial maladministration, focusing on the beating to death of an African police auxiliary and simultaneously printing full coverage of strikes in the Transvaal and sympathetic coverage of the International Commercial Workers Union in South Africa, Albasini was fired from his post as official forwarding agent by the state and suspended from his position at the railway.[114] He subsequently regained both posts, but because he flatly refused to accept assimilado status, he was denied a whole range of salary bonuses reserved for tenured civil servants.[115]

Albasini saw no contradiction in his passion for Portuguese culture and his equally passionate rejection of the assimilation process. His insistence that study of the Portuguese language be central to all educational endeavours in part reflected his genuine conviction that literacy in Portuguese was a prerequisite skill in the quest for unfettered citizenship for blacks or whites. It was also part of an overall effort to convince the government of the Grêmio's potential role as its link with the majority population and as a tactic to gain government support for educational initiatives by playing upon government hostility toward Protestant mission education which relied on instruction in the vernacular. There was indeed an aspect of self-promotion.

As a strategy for acquiring government support for education, however, it was effective. Albasini was able to convince two important government officials, Freire de Andrade and Brito Camacho, to support (respectively) a training course for Portuguese language instruction and a school for literacy and technical training for African women.[116] This strategy also had important drawbacks, however, in that it both alienated the Protestant-educated elite leadership and


helped legitimate the government's harassment of Protestant mission endeavours. Albasini eventually recognized Protestant educational efforts as among the most effective and beneficial in the region.[117]

The Paralysis of Elite Black Opposition in the 1930s

Although the promulgation of assimilation legislation thus initially forged a revitalized return to basic issues among the black elite, it also was soon to reveal the growing weaknesses and divisions within it and lead ultimately to the collapse of the elite's opposition to assimilation. Changes in three key areas affecting their material condition increased tensions both within the black elite and between that elite and their white colleagues during the Republican era as a whole and, particularly, between 1913 and 1925. These were, first, changes in the availability of local patronage; second, changes in the availability and perceived usefulness of local education; and, third, changes in the economic position of the local elite's members.

Every important political change in the metropole brought in its wake 'an invasion of place-seekers' hoping to exploit metropolitan political sympathies and connections to secure a post in the colony's patronage-ridden civil service.[118] With the consequent decline in political patronage controlled by local figures went the protection and relative advantage enjoyed by their local black clients. Throughout the Republican era (1910–1926), demands for technical qualifications and inadequate patronage links increasingly stood between the black elite and a position or promotion in the civil service. Well before the strident nationalism and economic crises of the early Salazar era facilitated the implementation of explicit legal protection for white Portuguese workers and business people in the 1930s, Republican social programmes and the ascendance of metropolitan centred patronage networks protected the establishment and reproduction of white Portuguese privilege.

Immigrants from the metropole and people with family in the metropole (with whom they could board their children for schooling) also benefited from an increasingly important educational advantage. The anti-clericalism of the early Republican period undermined the position of local missionaries, many of whom had been important patrons for both the Protestant and Catholic elite. In 1913 the Republicans abolished mission schools, thus removing virtually all educational opportunities from the majority black population. The limited state-sponsored alternatives to mission schools were increasingly tailored to please the growing Portuguese population. Although Lourenço Marques was the centre for educational opportunities in the colony, by 1926 secondary education was still very limited. Liceu (secondary school) 5 de Outubro, opened in 1910, had matriculated only 16 mixed race students and none listed as African by 1926. As late as the 1940s the number of black Mozambicans with advanced degrees could be counted on the fingers of one hand.[119]

In the late 1920s education became an issue of direct concern to the editors of the Brado Africano . The press law of 3 September 1926 revised qualifications for the directors of colonial newspapers—directors had to hold a bachelor's degree and could not be public functionaries. Since no one in the Grêmio could now qualify to direct the newspaper, a series of sympathetic Portuguese assumed titular direction while Grêmio members continued as de facto directors. The law, enacted shortly after the coup which overthrew the Republic, had a dramatic impact on journalism in the colony as a whole, cutting the number of newspapers published from 97 to 42.[120] It was an early bellwether of the tighter and more


systematic controls to be implemented later by Salazar's young New State in the crisis atmosphere of the Depression.

The undermining of mission education and prestige, the increasing size and political influence of newly arrived white Portuguese settlers, and the consequent decline of local networks of patronage in the increasingly important civil service, all sharply curbed the advantages which members of the black elite had enjoyed. But there was also another factor working to change the elite's perception of their position in Mozambique. Mozambique used two currencies: a currency linked to the British pound sterling and a paper currency in escudos. Being paid in the currency linked to sterling was a privilege related to one's legal civil status. The Republican decision to enter World War I and its pattern of gross political and economic mismanagement in later years contributed to the effective halving of the value of the escudo against the pound between 1914 and 1917.[121] By 1924 the pound reached twenty-four times its 1914 value in escudos, and the escudo was still falling (see Graph 3).[122] It became crucially important, therefore, to receive one's salary in inflation-resistant and commercially acceptable gold-based currency rather than in rapidly depreciating escudo bank notes. In this situation blacks who resisted being classed as 'assimilated' risked being paid in escudos and seeing their wages swallowed up by the pace of inflation and the escudo's declining value. It was a heavy price, and not all members of the elite judged themselves to be in a position to carry on the challenge to assimilation.


Figure 9.3
Pound value in escudos—Lourenço Marques, 1914–1933

The state experienced resistance to assimilation legislation, but it also reaped the benefit of a further divided elite. Those Africans who ultimately judged the cost of resistance too high suffered the humiliation of applying for assimilation status—as application was seen to be a concession of weakness—and felt resentment towards those who were still in a position to ignore the law. Those who ignored the law, in turn, resented those whom they perceived as 'selling out' by


complying with the law. The mutual recriminations tended to highlight the surviving advantages enjoyed by some mulattoes over most Africans. Elite mulattoes still had some family ties in the white community among prominent people. The great majority of applications for assimilation under the law of 1917, and the slightly more strict successor laws dating from 1919, were filed by Africans, the not mulattoes. Assimilation records show that African Grêmio members petitioned for assimilation in this period, whereas the adult generation of the mulatto Grêmio members did not.[123] Some mulattoes quietly ignored the law and went about their business much as they had as informally exempted persons,

Significantly, the first important split among the Grêmio elite dates from this period. J. T. Chembene, Samson Chambala, Lindstrom Matite and Benjamin Moniz, mostly Protestants and all members of the Grêmio before this period, withdrew and began to publish a paper, entitled Dambu dja Africa, under the editorship of Chembene and Moniz. The paper, published largely in the Rjonga language, ceased publication in 1922. Chembene moved to South Africa, and Moniz and several others resumed their regular contributions to the Ronga, Shangaan and Zulu sections of the Grêmio newspapers. The rift did not disappear, however, and by the early 1930s many of the earlier splinter group were associated with the foundation of the Institute Negrófilo, later called the Centro Associativo dos Negros de Moçambique.[124]

Subsequent legislation, particularly dating from the early New State era, made be ignoring the law increasingly costly by firmly linking mobility and earning power to 'native' and 'non-native' civil status. Employment in certain categories, consideration for certain apprenticeships, the right to union membership and to family bonuses were all eventually determined by civil status. There was increasing incentive to accept the special badge of assimilation at the same time that qualifications for assimilation were being tightened.

The challenge to assimilation was lost in part as soon as the assimilation laws were promulgated in full and important sectors of the elite felt obliged to apply for their badge, the álvara de assimilação . The challenge faded still further with the untimely death of João Albasini in 1922. His colleagues Estácio Dias and José Albasini continued to pursue the issue of black civil rights with regard to labour abuses, particularly in the wake of the scandals occasioned in the mid-1920s when the Ross Report described labour conditions close to slavery in Angola and Mozambique, but the tenor of the debate changed qualitatively. The change was partly because the Grêmio's members considered the assimilation legislation promulgated between 1917 and 1922 to have been revoked by 1923–1924 'upon reconsideration of their effect and in view of the protests raised against them'. When similar, indeed more strenuous, assimilation legislation was proposed in 1927, they were once again aroused. They confronted the government council with a petition signed by 154 people insisting that the matter of assimilation be dropped once and for all.[125]

The serious and persistent cycle of inflation and the shocking dismantling of white port and railway workers' benefits with the bitter strike of 1925–1926, however, raised economic and social tensions within the city. The overthrow of the Portuguese Republic in 1928 and the rapid slide from recession to Depression between 1927 and 1933 ushered in a wave of alarming economic measures, from the replacement of thousands of casual workers at the port by chibaro gangs to the promulgation of racist hiring quotas to promote white Portuguese interests in the crush of widespread unemployment. The Grêmio continued its formal objections, increasingly in private petitions and correspondence rather than editorials, but its leadership became progressively fragmented and disillusioned. These were very


heavy straws to place on an already weakened camel's back.[126]

As the elite leadership's challenge flagged and racist domination took on increasingly painful aspects penetrating to all sectors of the elite, individuals and groups within the elite struggled within their diminishing arena of action to secure their own positions. Disunity amongst members reigned. Tensions in the 1920s emerged in part from personal animosities, but were greatly exacerbated by the impact of tying salary bonuses, the currency in which one was paid, and fringe benefits to one's legal civil status. By the 1930s, however, the full weight of hard times set people scrambling for their very jobs, homes, and futures.[127] The divisions wrought in those circumstances left permanent scars on that generation.[128] By the late 1930s the public self-confidence and ebullient challenges typical of the bright elite of the early Republican period had been replaced by a sickening servility. The challenge of claiming what was one's due as a Portuguese citizen had been replaced by unsolicited assurances of gratitude for minor concessions from an unpredictable patron state.[129]

The cumulative impact of the elite's few victories and its many compromises and defeats was that the generation coming of age in the mid-1930s was faced with a polar crystallization of white privilege and black subordination, of white solidarity and black disunity, which could scarcely have been imagined by the previous generation. The complex combination of factors, both within and beyond the elite's control, had moulded changes which meant that the elite, far from wedding itself to a burgeoning prosperity as full citizens, could only hope to be the most prosperous of the colony's increasingly oppressed and impoverished majority: 'men make their own history, but not under conditions of their choosing'.[130]

A Nation Divided? The Swazi in Swaziland and the Transvaal, 1865–1986

Hugh Macmillan

Introduction: The Swazi of South Africa

South Africa's intention of transferring to Swaziland the KaNgwane Bantustan and the Ingwavuma district became public knowledge in June 1982 when the KaNgwane Legislative Assembly was suddenly abolished and when the South African government took over the administration of the Ingwavuma district from the KwaZulu Bantustan. Legal action by the leaders of the KaNgwane and KwaZulu Bantustans, Enos Mabuza and Chief Gatsha Buthelezi, respectively, resulted in defeats for the South African government and a return to the status quo ante pending the results of a commission of enquiry which was established under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Rumpff.[1]

The mass of publicity following the publication of this proposal drew attention to the existence of a Swazi population in South Africa and to their relationship with the Swazi of Swaziland. The resident population of Swaziland itself was estimated in 1976 at 470,270 in an area of over 6000 square miles. According to the latest census figures, in 1980 there were 786,835 people described as 'Swazi' in South Africa, of whom about one third lived in the KaNgwane Bantustan. This consisted of two blocks of territory in the eastern Transvaal, one contiguous with Swaziland and one separated from it, with a combined area of about 1000 square miles. The de facto population of KaNgwane had increased from about 100,000 in 1970 to about 300,000 in 1982 as a consequence of the South African government's policy of forced relocation of black people from nominally 'white' areas. About 80 per cent of the population of the Bantustan was described as 'Swazi' and the remainder as 'Shangaan' (Tsonga), Zulu or Sotho. Some Swazi also lived under their own chiefs in the Lebowa Bantustan but the majority of those outside KaNgwane remained settled in the towns, on farms, and in so-called 'black spots' within 'white' South Africa. Many lived on the Witwatersrand, far removed from the influence of Swazi language and culture. Allowing for population increases, there must today be about 1,500,000 people described as Swazi, of whom about 55 per cent live in South Africa and about 45 per cent in Swaziland.[2]

My main purpose will be to examine the changing relationship between the Swazi of Swaziland and those of the Transvaal from the time of the demarcation of a border between them in the late nineteenth century until the present day. After a brief examination of the creation of a single Swazi identity by the ruling


group in the context of the expansion and consolidation of political power in the pre-colonial period, I shall try to trace the changing patterns of ethnic awareness, or at least ethnic assertion, in the two halves of the divided nation, and to relate this to changes in their political and material conditions.

Members of the Swazi ruling group in Swaziland had shown a reluctance to assert claims in the Transvaal following their subordination to colonial rule, but from about 1910 they began to demonstrate a greater awareness of the influence which they might achieve in South Africa as a whole through a more assertive approach. Further shifts in their position occurred in the 1930s, when they began to lay the basis of a new cultural nationalism; in the 1960s, when they were finally able to use ethnic mobilization to re-establish a position of real political power within Swaziland; and in the 1970s, when they began to see the possibility of realizing long fermenting irredentist claims in the eastern Transvaal.

Among the South African Swazi a renewal of ethnic awareness by the chiefs and their councillors can be traced from the early 1920s. While it has been argued that the Native Administration Act of 1927 heralded a new policy of 'retribalization', there is little evidence that the Swazi of the eastern Transvaal were much affected by it. Rather, efforts at retribalization were spontaneously generated within the Swazi community and were largely ignored by the South African state until the 1950s, when there was a shift at the centre from simple segregation towards the encouragement of specific ethnic formulations of political awareness. The attempt in the 1980s to 'reunite' the Swazi, who had been so long and so fundamentally separated, was doomed to failure. Political and economic developments in South Africa and Swaziland since World War II had acted to deepen the divide between the two halves of the Swazi nation. In Swaziland an exclusivist cultural nationalism has triumphed since independence in 1968, while in South Africa those who sought to mobilize the Swazi as a political force were confronted by formidable obstacles, in the shape not only of competing ethnicities but also of a broader based South African nationalism.

The Partition of the Swazi People

The pre-colonial Swazi state reached its greatest extent shortly before the death of King Mswati I in 1865. By this time, or soon thereafter, a distinct Swazi ethnic group, composed from Nguni, Sotho and Tsonga elements, had been created. The establishment of a tributary state under royal Dlamini leadership broke down the self-sufficiency of the homestead through the formation of nation-wide regiments in which young men from all the chieftaincies were brought together. The building of national rituals such as the ncwala, a first fruits ceremony and ritual of kingship, helped in the process of integration, as did dynastic marriages and the widespread establishment of royal villages under wives of the king with loyal indvunas . At the same time the composite nature of the kingdom was perpetuated and emphasized by the continued ranking of clans according to whether they came with, preceded, or arrived after the dominant Dlamini clan in the present Swazi area.[3]

A distinct Swazi language (siSwati) was first recorded in 1846 but regional dialectal differences persist until the present day, with Sotho influence discernible on the northern borders of the Swazi linguistic area in the Nelspruit and Lydenburg districts and Zulu influence strong in the southern part of Swaziland and the Piet Relief and Ermelo districts of the Transvaal. Standard Swati is based on the dialect spoken in the north central area of Swaziland itself, an area which includes the royal capitals of Lobamba and Lozita.[4] Many of what are regarded as


the most distinctive features of Swazi culture and political institutions—such as preferred cross-cousin marriage, the conciliar form of government, and the status and political role of the Queen Mother—have been attributed to Sotho influence.

The death of Mswati coincided with the first pressure of white settlers on the Swazi state, which had come to control the area between the Crocodile river in the north and the Pongola river in the south, and between the Lebombo mountains in the east and a boundary on the eastern highveld plateau in the west. The Transvaal Republic made various attempts to annex or establish a protectorate over Swaziland, but these were thwarted by the British who saw the Swazi as a useful barrier between the Boers and the sea. The present boundaries of Swaziland were first roughly demarcated in 1866, but they were more specifically defined by the British during their occupation of the Transvaal in 1880 and were included in the Conventions of Pretoria and London, in 1881 and 1884 respectively, which also guaranteed the independence of the kingdom.[5] In 1881 the Swazi accepted the southern and much of the western boundary line but objected to the line in the north and northwest which cut off from Swaziland three important royal villages: Mbhuleni in the modern Carolina district; Mjindini, near modern Barberton; and Mekemeke, northeast of Barberton.[6] The Swazi king, Mbandzeni, continued to dispute the border in this area until shortly before his death in 1889, and until that time the Swazi definition of 'Swaziland' extended beyond Barberton to the Crocodile river in the north and along the upper reaches of the Komati river in the west.[7]

From the mid-1860s onwards the Swazi on the eastern highveld, most of whom in fact lived in the middleveld valleys, such as the Komati, which intersected it, rather than on the cold highveld itself, came under increasing pressure. White settlers, many of whom were associated with the New Scotland scheme, at first sought Swazi labour and paid for it, but then by the mid-1870s began to demand tribute from people who lived on 'their' land. There was some resistance, but the people were gradually transformed into squatters paying rent in labour, kind, or cash. The population was increased by the labour demands of farmers who brought people in from Swaziland or elsewhere.[8] The attitude of farmers and officials on the highveld, where most farms by the end of the nineteenth century were occupied by the owners, was distinctly hostile to the preservation of chiefly authority and ethnic loyalties. Speaking of the Ermelo district in 1914, General Tobias Smuts told the Beaumont Commission with evident satisfaction: "There are no tribes there.'[9] The Native Commissioner for Carolina commented at the same time that the widow of Mswati at Mbhuleni lived on a private farm 'just as another squatter'.[10]

In the predominantly middle and lowveld district of Barberton to the north of Swaziland the pressure of white settlement began to be experienced with the gold rush of the mid-1880s, but the prevalence of malaria deterred owner occupation. The bulk of the land in this district and in the low-lying areas of the Piet Relief district remained until after World War I in the hands of the Crown or of land companies and thus effectively in 'native occupation'. Although there was some competition from highveld farmers who used these areas for winter grazing and as private labour reserves, many chiefs survived relatively undisturbed. They were able to retain influence in their areas through the performance of religious rituals, the settlement of disputes for small fees, and the retention of relatively large herds of cattle which enabled them to continue to make alliances through marriage, aided by the higher rates of lobolo (bridewealth) obtained for their daughters. In some cases they were able to command some tribute in labour or kind and continued to perform the chiefly duty of hospitality. The agent of the New


Scotland Land Company observed in 1917 of some low-lying farms in the Piet Retief district:

I do not know whether you know that all that ground is parcelled off among the chiefs living in that area. A native will not go into the area of a chief unless he gets that chief's permission to do so. The chiefs down there have more power over the natives than the white man does.[11]

By the early twentieth century a distinction had emerged, at least in the view of the officials of the Transvaal Native Affairs Department, between a predominantly highveld district such as Ermelo, where the population was regarded as 'detribalized' and 'unattached' to chiefs, and a middle and lowveld district such as Barberton, where two-thirds of the population was regarded as 'attached' to chiefs. In the latter district almost half of this population was living in an unsurveyed block of 500 square miles of Crown Land lying south of the Lomati river and adjacent to the borders of Mozambique and Swaziland.[12] A witness to the Transvaal Labour Commission of 1903 commented that only an experienced observer could tell apart the Swazi of Swaziland and the Swazi of this district, as 'really only an imaginary border' separated them. As late as 1935, Van Warmelo, who had been unable to discover any information in official records on the chiefs of Ermelo district, or to make any reliable estimate of the ethnic composition of the district, described the Swazi of the Barberton district as 'almost an integrating part [sic ] of the Swazi nation'.[13]

The official distinction between the 'detribalized' highveld and the 'tribal' middle and lowveld areas reflected as much as anything the division of the African labour force between the farms and the mines. Crown and company land was the major source of labour for the mines, while labour on the highveld was immobilized in the interests of the local farming community who continued to complain for many years about a labour shortage. Pressure from the mining companies induced the government in 1921–22 to purchase 20,000 morgen of land in the Piet Retief district which was to be held in communal tenure and was intended to relieve congestion on company farms and keep up the flow of labour to the mines.[14]

While it would be an oversimplification to equate the survival of chiefly authority with the maintenance of ethnic identity or consciousness, there was probably some correlation. Certainly chiefs were to be vital agents in the mobilization of ethnic power at a later date. That chiefs and 'tribal' institutions were repressed rather than eliminated is demonstrated by the fact that the government was able to rediscover chiefs, when it eventually wished to do so in the 1950s, even in districts such as Ermelo which had for many decades been officially 'detribalized'. While officials in the years immediately following the Anglo-Boer War showed little interest in either chiefs or ethnicity in the Ermelo and Carolina districts, the 1904 census did estimate, on uncertain criteria, the Swazi element as 55 per cent of the total. It found a significant minority of Swazi in the neighbouring districts of Piet Retief and Wakkerstroom, as well as in Standerton and Lydenburg. The largest proportion was found in the Barberton district, to the north of Swaziland, where about 63 per cent of the total population was said to be Swazi.[15]

The later 1880s brought a rush of concession hunters into Swaziland, and these 'bought' the land and its minerals several times over. As a result of a deal between Britain and the Transvaal, in 1895 the country became, much against the wishes of the Swazi themselves, a protectorate of the Transvaal. The convention of 1894 protected, on certain conditions, the rights of the Swazi king over his subjects, and


also included a non-disturbance clause which protected the rights of Swazi occupiers against the claims of concessionaires, whose titles had generally been recognized by a special court in 1890.[16] Following the Anglo-Boer War, the country was administered as a part of the Transvaal from 1902 to 1906, when it was saved from complete incorporation into the Transvaal by the impossibility of sorting out the tangle of disputed concessions before the transfer which was provided for in the Schedule to the Union of South Africa Act of 1909 could be effected.[17]

The discussions which preceded the land partition of the latter year provide classic material on questions of colonial social engineering. Drawing on evidence to the Lagden Commission and on the slightly earlier partition of Zululand, there was lengthy debate on the amount of land required to sustain the average family and on the advantages and disadvantages for government and settlers of a few large or many small reserves. The Zulu Rising of 1906 overshadowed the partition, and while this prompted the High Commissioner, Lord Selborne, to advocate caution, the settler leader and newspaper editor, Allister Miller, demanded the 'denationalization' of the Swazi as the only guarantee of settler security.[18] While Miller saw reserves as an impediment to progress, the Swazi leaders also opposed reserves because most of the country had been alienated through medium-term grazing leases which safeguarded rights of cultivation. These areas would eventually revert to the nation. The eventual compromise between the settler and official positions resulted in a three-way division of the country between the concessionaires, the Swazi, and the Crown. The Swazi were led to believe that the bulk of Crown Land would be available for their use, but in fact it was almost all sold off in later years to finance recurrent governmental expenditure.[19]

Almost half of the Swazi within colonial Swaziland were left outside the 32 scheduled reserves and were given until 1914 to decide whether to come to terms with their landlords as labour tenants or to move into the reserves. Care was taken in demarcating the reserves to inconvenience chiefs as little as possible and important graves were included in Swazi Nation areas. The partition was intended to satisfy the conflicting interests of settlers who sought labour tenants and of Witwatersrand mining interests, which owned concessions in Swaziland and sought labour migrants. Lord Selborne did not envisage that the reserves would become the home of all Swaziland's Swazi or that those who moved into them would be able to meet all their needs through agriculture. The partition would have failed in its objects if it had.[20]

The consequence of the partition was to bring about by 1914 in Swaziland a situation which was broadly similar to that in the Transvaal. Most of the highveld passed into the hands of white owner-occupier, though often seasonally absentee, farmers with labour tenants. Much of the middle and lowveld remained in effective Swazi occupation as reserves, Crown land and unoccupied farms. In so far as the Swazi of Swaziland had some land reserved specifically to them they were better off than their relatives in the Transvaal, but only marginally so. Chiefs in Swaziland whose people came to be divided between reserves and farms began to confront many of the difficulties of jurisdiction which had already affected their counterparts in the Transvaal.[21]

The Swazi Elite and the Changing Political Economy

After the death of King Mbandzeni in 1889 there appears to have been a long period during the minorities of his son, Bhunu, and his grandson, Sobhuza, when


the Swazi ruling elite took very little public interest in the Swazi of the Transvaal. Although there are occasional references in the speeches of councillors to the former extent of the Swazi kingdom and to the shifting of boundary beacons, there seems to have been an acceptance of the new boundaries as an indisputable fact of life.[22] In all the voluminous documentation relating to the Swazi deputations to England in 1894 and 1907, for instance, as well as in numerous other petitions, and the records of izindaba, there is hardly a reference to the Swazi of the Transvaal.

As late as 1913 a deputation from Swaziland, under the leadership of Prince Malunge, son of Queen Labotsibeni and uncle of the young Prince Sobhuza, visited Barberton to pay their respects to the High Commissioner, Lord Gladstone. They presented a long list of grievances but made no reference to the Swazi of the Transvaal.[23] But in the following year the manager of Moodie's Gold Mining and Exploration Company, on whose land the Mjindini royal village near Barberton stood, commented that the Swazi in the district 'still cling strongly to tribal ties and look, I believe, as much to Swaziland for guidance as to the Union Government'.[24]

There is ample evidence that the two other major royal villages at Mbhuleni and Mekemeke also maintained close contact with the royal house in Swaziland. There were also a number of other Swazi chieftaincies which kept up their links with Swaziland. The Shongwe chief, Matamu, on the northern border had in 1914 an induna and followers in Swaziland.[25] Mbudula, the chief of the Mahlalela, whose territory had been split three ways between the Transvaal, Swaziland and Mozambique, maintained homesteads in all three countries, though his headquarters was in the Transvaal. His clan acquired a reputation for independence, but he, when giving evidence to the Beaumont Commission in 1914, claimed: 'I am a Swazi.'[26] Hilda Kuper summarized the position in the mid-1930s as follows: '. . . outside the territory in the Barberton, Carolina and Piet Relief districts are large groups of loyal subjects who inform their king, Sobhuza, of any important events, occasionally send him tribute, receive emissaries from him and have him ratify the appointment of their local chiefs'.[27]

From about 1910, the Swazi Queen and council, after a lengthy period of introspection in which their entire attention appears to have been concentrated on the battle to avoid Swaziland's incorporation into the Transvaal and on resistance to the land partition, began to adopt a more extrovert position, seeing that advantages could be gained from participation in South Africa-wide political activity. As a result of the land partition and high taxation, the Swazi of Swaziland were becoming much more involved in labour migration to the Witwatersrand where they were lumped together with the South African Swazi as a single category.[28] Above all, the Schedule to the Union of South Africa Act, providing for the incorporation of the High Commission Territories, and the common knowledge that Swaziland was first on the list for transfer meant that the Swazi had nothing to lose, and possibly something to gain, from adopting a less parochial stance. They now saw threats to the interests of South African 'Natives' as equally a threat to themselves.

Queen Labotsibeni put the position very frankly in 1914 when she was reported as saying:

that as Swaziland would no doubt enter the Union at some future date she was in sympathy with any efforts tending towards the betterment of the conditions under which Union natives live, and for this reason her son Malunge had become a member of the Native Congress and her people had assisted in


contributions for the proposed delegation to England in connection with the Union Land Act.[29]

Queen Labotsibeni had earlier made contact with Pixley kalsaka Seme, who had recently returned as a lawyer from the United States and Britain. He drafted a petition for the Swazi council in 1912, and in the same year Queen Labotsibeni provided almost all the capital for Seme's paper, Abantu-Batho, which the Swazi royal family continued to support until its collapse in the late 1920s. It was founded in connection with the South African Natives' National Congress which held its first meeting in January 1912.[30]

The congress was seen by its founders, among whom Pixley Seme was a prime mover, as a response to Union. Its aim was to foster the unity of the 'natives' and to combat 'tribalism'. The South African 'tribes' were not, however, seen in themselves as an impediment to unity but as the building blocks from which unity could be constructed. The Paramount Chiefs of the major southern Africa 'tribes' were appointed as honorary presidents of the organization and were viewed not only as a potential source of financial support but also as a bridge between the growing African intelligentsia and the rural masses. The congress, which was conceived along parliamentary lines, was to have an Upper House of chiefs and a Lower House of commoners. The legitimacy of the chiefs as the 'natural' rulers of their people was assumed. Seme himself, who eventually married princesses of the Swazi and Zulu royal families, was a consistent champion both of chiefly authority and of 'race pride', by which he seems usually to have meant ethnic or 'tribal' loyalty.[31]

The primary interest of the Swazi Queen and council in the congress was undoubtedly in the campaign against the Land Act. They had embarked on a campaign to buy back concession land from its holders and therefore had a special interest in the restrictions on purchase which it imposed. The extension of the terms of the Act to Swaziland would bring an end to their schemes. Prince Malunge, together with Benjamin Nxumalo, the brother of the young Queen Mother Lomawa, and uncle of Sobhuza, played an active part in the early meetings of the congress, as did Josiah Vilakazi, secretary to Queen Labotsibeni. When Prince Malunge attended the special congress held in 1914 at Kimberley to protest against the Land Act, he was treated as the most distinguished delegate.[32]

The premature death of Prince Malunge in 1915, which was publicly mourned by congress leaders J.L. Dube, Pixley Seme and Sol Plaatje, did not end the assertion of a wider South African role by the Swazi royal house.[33] In 1916 Cleopas Kunene, one of the first editors of Abantu-Batho and a member of the Swazi deputation to England in 1894, organized an extravagant reception in Johannesburg for Prince Sobhuza who was on his way to school at Lovedale.[34] A few years later, in 1921, Sobhuza was to buy six stands and a house in Sophiatown which became a meeting place for the Swazi in Johannesburg.[35]

The first serious attempt at intervention by the Swazi Queen on behalf of the Transvaal Swazi came in 1918 in connection with the implementation of the section of the Land Act which provided for the creation of additional reserves. Queen Labotsibeni heard in January 1918 that the Eastern Transvaal Land Committee was seeking evidence and asked the Resident Commissioner in Swaziland to inform it that it was 'my wish as well as the wish of all the Swazi living in the Transvaal' that they be given 'a strip of land [from] the Barberton line right down to the Pongola river near Chief Sithambe'.[36] The High Commissioner, Lord Buxton, indicated that her views would be put to the committee, but if they were, they can have had little impact as there was no question of any highveld area in the


eastern Transvaal being set aside as reserve.[37]

Evidence was also given to the committee at Ermelo by a delegation of the South African Natives' National Congress, most of whom were Swazi, and described themselves as such, and one of whom, Joseph Hlubi, had close ties with the royal house. They expressed their desire to remain on the highveld, whether in reserves or not, and protested vigorously at the proposal contained in the Native Administration Bill to charge licence fees for squatters and labour tenants in a drive to reduce the highveld population to the status of full-time servants or to force them to move into lowveld reserves.[38] The committee made an impassioned plea for a gradualist approach. It stressed the need for development in new reserves and pointed out in prophetic language that: 'to transport Natives even from the exiguous conveniences of settled life in non-Native areas suddenly and in large masses to areas which they still have to prepare before they can exist in them would be dangerous in the extreme'.[39]

The Botha government withdrew the bill, as, faced with the conflicting claims for labour from highveld farmers and the mining companies, it was unable to get a majority for it. The same conflict ensured that the scheduling of reserves was indefinitely delayed.[40] Meanwhile in 1919 the Swazi Queen and council made one further attempt to intervene on behalf of their 'subjects' in the Transvaal. In a trenchant petition, presumably drafted by Seme and clearly influenced by the tone of Wilson's Fourteen Points, they demanded among other things the recognition of 'the independence of Swaziland with its own sovereign power' and the provision of land for the Swazi in the districts of Barberton, Carolina, Ermelo, Piet Relief, and Wakkerstroom. The petition referred for the first time to what would be a recurring theme: promises allegedly contained in the conventions of 1881 and 1884 that 'locations' would be established for the Swazi in the eastern Transvaal who were said to be living under a 'veiled form of slavery'.[41] The responses to this petition and to petitions in 1921 and 1922 which sought the recognition of Sobhuza as king of the Swazi on both sides of the border were negative.[42]

At about this time the continuing influence of Queen Labotsibeni over the Swazi of the eastern Transvaal was vividly demonstrated by the experience of a group of South African Natives' National Congress fund-raisers who visited the area in connection with the sending of a deputation to Europe. Swazi chiefs in the eastern Transvaal told them that nothing could be given without the consent of the Queen Regent. She told them that they could collect in the Transvaal but that all funds raised should be brought to her for allocation as she too was planning to send a deputation. When the President of the Congress, S.M. Makgato, sought to use official channels to claim the resulting £500, the Queen's Secretary informed the Resident Commissioner that the Swazi of the Transvaal had only agreed to contribute for the Swazi deputation.[43] When Sobhuza had his first ncwala in 1921, it was reported that many Swazi from outside Swaziland attended. Before he left on his long-planned deputation to London in 1922 he paid a visit to the Mjindini royal villages in the Transvaal at Barberton to say farewell and thank you.[44]

In the years following World War I, the position of the Swazi in the eastern Transvaal deteriorated seriously. Even before the war, pressure on squatters on the highveld had begun to increase as a result of the subdivision of farms and the increase of commercial farming. Chiefs with their retainers and often large herds of stock were especially vulnerable. Early in 1914 the Mbhuleni royal village had set off on the first of a long series of migrations. It was to move five times by 1949.[45] After the war similar pressures began increasingly to be felt in the Barberton


district as a result of the sale or lease of land to new settlers. These pressures resulted not only in frequent evictions, but also in a deterioration in the terms which squatters could obtain from the landlord. Many squatters were forced to become labour tenants, and many labour tenants had to become full-time servants at a minimal wage.[46]

These economic pressures were accompanied and intensified by a barrage of legislation intended to reduce the rural population to serfdom. The poll tax was doubled in 1925 and amendments to the pass laws in 1929 and 1930 increased the immobility of farm labour. The Native Service Contract Act which was finally passed in 1932, despite the opposition of the mining lobby, provided for the licensing of squatters and labour tenants, for the tying of whole families to labour service, for whipping in the case of breach of contract, and for summary eviction. The act, which could not be totally enforced, aimed to redistribute labour within the farming sector while the pass laws blocked lines of escape to the towns.[47]

Whites and Blacks Press for 'Retribalization'

Meanwhile the Native Administration Act of 1927 provided for the establishment of a separate legal system for the African population, for their government by proclamation of the Governor General, which meant the Native Affairs Department, and for the strengthening of the powers of chiefs in reserves over their people. The measure was opposed by the intelligentsia, who lost the possibility of exemption from customary law, and by the chiefs, who saw both that they were being reduced to the status of salaried government officials and that the creation of the Governor General as 'Supreme Chief' was 'a violation of [the] Bantu system of government'.[48] The act was widely seen as marking a shift in policy towards segregation and 'retribalization', even though it was welcomed by some radicals as a final blow against the legitimacy of chiefs and the 'tribal system', which Herbst, the Secretary of the Native Affairs Department, saw as 'the most efficient machinery of government in definitely native areas'.[49]

The case of Chief Mhola, of Mjindini, one of the three most important Swazi chiefs in the Transvaal, however, vividly demonstrated that the policy of 'retribalization' applied only to malleable chiefs in reserves, and not to independently minded chiefs who were squatters on white farms. It also demonstrated the reawakening of ethnic consciousness as a defensive strategy against proletarianization on the part of a rural elite and the strong official hostility towards such manifestations. Chief Mhola, who was a contemporary of Sobhuza and had been educated with him at the Swazi National School at Zombodze, was installed as chief in 1923. In the following year he was evicted, together with 37 other Swazi homesteads, from a farm which lay within the 'town lands' of Barberton. He sought the assistance of Sobhuza and his council who in 1925 asked the Swaziland administration to intercede through the High Commissioner on his behalf. They asked if he could be given space in a 'location' or on Crown Land.[50] The High Commissioner, Lord Athlone, who believed that the South African government had its eyes on the High Commission Territories as dumping grounds for 'surplus' population, took up the case. He felt that South Africa should make proper provision for its population within its own borders and may have feared that the eviction of prominent Swazi would lead to a flood of immigrants into Swaziland where congestion in Swazi Nation areas was already a problem.[51]

The response of Herbst clearly justified such fears. He indicated his preference that Mhola should remove himself to Swaziland as he had clearly shown in the past that


he considers he is resident in the Transvaal as a representative of the Paramount Chief of the Swazis rather than as a subject of the Government. His influence with the Swazis in the Barberton district has been such as to hamper smooth and efficient administration and his continued residence in this area is considered undesirable.[52]

Sobhuza and his council were equally insistent that Mhola and his people should not come into Swaziland. Sobhuza stated: 'He is in charge of all the Swazis there and if he does not look after them, they will become vagabonds.'[53] At a slightly later date Mhola's councillors repudiated with equal vehemence the suggestion that they could 'return' to Swaziland. They acknowledged that they were Swazi but stated that 'we do not regard Swaziland as our home, our home is here where we originated'.[54]

Herbst did hold out some prospect that reserves might be created in the district if Hertzog's draft Native Bills were passed, but he complained that Mhola had 'no special status' and that 'his affinity with the Swazi Chief confers no claim to consideration upon him . . . .' He pointed out that in terms of the Convention of 1894, 'the interests of the Swazi Chief were to be confined to the territory of Swaziland'.[55]

No reserves were in fact scheduled in the Barberton district for many years and Chief Mhola and his followers survived as labour tenants on farm land for at least thirty-five years. In remarkably lucid evidence to the Native Economic Commission in 1930 several of his councillors protested vigorously against the terms which they had to accept as labour tenants. Acknowledging that there were differences in wealth within the 'tribe', they demanded the creation of a reserve into which the most 'hard-pressed' could move. They made it clear that these would include the chief and the larger cattle owners who always found it difficult to maintain their herds as labour tenants.[56]

Living as close as they did to the town of Barberton, Mhola's councillors also displayed an acute awareness of the economic possibilities of the local urban area. They protested that they were treated in the urban area in the same way as 'other natives'.[57] This was presumably a reference to the influx of 'Shangaans', 'Nyasas' and others who less than twenty years later were said to acknowledge Mhola as chief and pay tax as his followers. They protested at their inability to buy plots or stands, or to engage in business within the urban area, as well as at indiscriminate arrests of people found drinking beer there.[58] They clearly believed that their historic claim to the area entitled them to privileged access to whatever commercial opportunities existed. There was a remarkable similarity between their urban demands and those of Swaziland's intelligentsia, which were articulated, as will be shown below, in the same year.

An alliance between the intelligentsia and the chiefs, as will be recalled, was one of the basic premises upon which the South African Natives' National Congress had been established. This was an alliance which, by the later 1920s, had been seriously eroded by a number of factors. These included the failure of congress either to reverse or to have fully implemented the terms of the Natives Land Act of 1913, and the increased rate of permanent African urbanization which followed the growth of secondary industry during World War I. Attendance by chiefs at the annual conferences of the ANC declined, as did their financial contributions to it, and special conventions of chiefs had to be called in 1927 and 1928 to obtain authoritative chiefly responses to Hertzog's Native Bills and the Native Administration Act.

At the same time the Industrial and Commercial Workers' Union (ICU) provided a mass-based alternative to the ANC and swept like a millenarian


movement through the eastern Transvaal and parts of Swaziland itself. Many Swazi chiefs, on both sides of the border, joined with thousands of their followers. Sobhuza's uncle, Norman Nxumalo, brother of Benjamin, was actively involved as an organizer in the Transvaal. This may have increased the acceptability of the union among Swazi chiefs who were drawn to it, as they had previously been drawn to the ANC, by the hope of regaining their land. The ICU could do nothing to satisfy the expectations which it had aroused, and by 1928 it was fading out of the eastern Transvaal as rapidly as it had appeared two years before.[59]

Following the collapse of the ICU, and in the face of the increasingly repressive policies of Hertzog and Oswald Pirow, who fought the 1929 election with the slogan of 'Swart Gevaar ' ('Black Peril'), there was a move within the ANC to restore the alliance with the chiefs. The proven ability of Swazi chiefs in the eastern Transvaal to deliver their followers to the ICU may have inspired Pixley Seme, Sobhuza's close associate and legal adviser, to advocate this strategy, though his motives were undoubtedly conservative. At the annual conference of the ANC, in April 1930, J.T. Gumede, who was sympathetic to the Soviet Union and who wished the ANC to adopt a more militant stand, was, after a dramatic call for the 'Native Republic', replaced by Seme. There is no evidence that Sobhuza actively canvassed on Seme's behalf, but he certainly was pleased with the result. A Swaziland branch of the ANC was established by Benjamin Nxumalo at Sobhuza's house in Sophiatown in the same year, and it is probably not fortuitous that Norman Nxumalo stands behind Seme in the 1930 ANC group photograph.[60]

A move in a similar direction was made by A.W.G. Champion, the leader of the ICU yase Natal, the foundation of which had been seen by Clements Kadalie as exploiting ethnic divisiveness. Champion, who had in 1929 scorned the government view that 'Natives' should be ruled through chiefs, and who had supported Gumede in the ANC election, was by August 1930 seeking to forge an alliance with Solomon kaDinizulu, the de facto Zulu paramount. The threat of such an alliance led to his banishment from Durban to Johannesburg where he made contact with, amongst others, Sobhuza.[61]

Seme, who had little in common with Champion, was also committed to the 'full restoration of the paramount chieftainship of the Royal House in order to revitalize all the Zulu native institutions [and so] re-establish the old esprit de corps of the Zulu nation'.[62] Seme presided over the ANC at a time when it was almost destroyed by internal dissension. He stated his own political philosophy clearly in 1932 when he answered those who accused him of 'culpable inertia'. He wished the ANC to return to its 'original constitution' by reviving the upper House of Chiefs where they could discuss 'the new problems which face them today, the problems of employment for their people, the problems of conserving national pride, customs and traditions'. He also called for the support of the younger intelligentsia while denouncing the 'common agitator who only wants to create strife and class hatred' as well as 'hatred between whites and blacks'. He deplored 'detribalization' and the fact that 'the Chiefs and their uneducated people are despised and forsaken by their educated tribesmen'. He called for a revival of 'Race Pride' and for a restoration in confidence between the educated and uneducated. He made it clear that he looked to ethnic mobilization as a counter to the disintegration caused by education, urbanization and proletarianization.[63]

Sobhuza II and Ethnic Mobilization

me signally failed to revive the ANC along these lines, but he did assist Sobhuza number of cultural initiatives which he undertook in Swaziland at the time.


Sobhuza's failure to have the land partition reversed through the deputation to London in 1923 and through the case against Allister Miller which the Privy Council finally rejected in 1926 prompted him to take a fresh interest in ethnic mobilization. By then Sobhuza was particularly concerned at the effects of labour migrancy on Swazi society, the decline in royal and chiefly authority, the growing division between educated and uneducated and between Christian and 'pagan', and by what he saw as the breakdown of discipline and morality among the youth. The Ballingers, who visited Swaziland in 1931, commented on the relative looseness of royal authority away from the royal capitals, while Sir Brian Marwick recalls the independence of the chiefs on the Lebombo in the mid-1920s and Sobhuza's efforts to 'tame' one of them through a dynastic marriage. From the late 1920s, therefore, Sobhuza and his council embarked upon a deliberate policy of reviving royal authority and central control.[64]

There was a superficial coincidence of interest between Sobhuza and white advocates of 'indirect rule', though their objectives were fundamentally different. Sobhuza and his council did not scruple to use the colonial authorities to bring to heel recalcitrant chiefs, but they were to fight a long and bitter battle to preserve their own independence and legitimacy. A new Resident Commissioner, T. Ainsworth Dickson, was transferred from Kenya to Swaziland in 1928, and he was expected to prepare the territory for some form of 'indirect rule'.[65] Among his first moves was to call upon Sobhuza to compile a 'Swazi National Constitution'. With the help of Seme and A.G. Marwick, who had served in Swaziland since 1903, Sobhuza produced a lengthy and elaborate memorandum entitled 'The Original Swazi Political Organization'. This outlined the positions of the King, the Queen Mother, the chiefs, and the councils, the general council, or Libhandla and the executive council, or Liqoqo . It was calculated to present Swazi procedure in the most favourable light, stressing as it did the customary checks on the arbitrary use of royal power.[66]

At the same time, Dickson prompted the establishment of the Swaziland Progressive Association which was intended to bring together members of the intelligentsia to discuss matters of common concern. He evidently hoped to break down the renowned conservatism of the Swazi National Council, either by introducing into it 'new men' from the rising intelligentsia or by establishing a more representative Native Advisory Council.[67] Sobhuza did not oppose this move, but he did fear that it could become a rival centre of influence to the Swazi National Council, and that it might fall into the hands of the non-Swazi Africans who predominated in the teaching and clerical professions. His fears were allayed by the election as first president of his uncle, Benjamin Nxumalo, the natural leader of the intelligentsia, a leading layman in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, a long-serving member of the Liqoqo and a former secretary to both Sobhuza and his grandmother. Furthermore, the constitution expressly subordinated the association to the Swazi National Council, and laid down that complaints should be channelled through it.[68] There was, as already noted, a close similarity between its first demands and those of Chief Mhola's councillors at Barberton. They called for the establishment of locations close to the towns of Mbabane and Bremersdorp (now Manzini) where stands could be bought; for the easing of restrictions on 'Native' access to retail trade; and of the controls on beer-drinking in urban areas. Although Swaziland was soon to be hit by the full force of the Depression, a number of educated members of the 'traditional' elite were attempting to establish themselves in retail trade at this time. Sobhu himself is alleged by one source to have dabbled in trade under the cover of st men. Only a handful of Swazi were able to obtain trading licences at this time,


however, and it was not until after the war that the Swazi National Council, itself, entered the commercial arena through the establishment of a pressure group, 'The Swazi Commercial Amadoda' (Amadoda = men).[69]

The simultaneous establishment of the Swazi National School at Matsapa was another initiative with which Sobhuza was more closely identified. This was intended to become 'a genuine national undertaking and cater for the cultural, social, and industrial development of the Swazi people'.[70] There was to be an academic stream leading to the matriculation class at Fort Hare University College, but it also had a strong emphasis on agricultural training. It was intended that the school should 'take advantage of the better elements in the traditional native code and culture', though an early visitor, Sir Alan Pim, saw considerable difficulty in the way of its doing this.[71]

In 1933 Sobhuza wrote a memorandum on 'Native Education' in which he criticized the education then being provided by the missions. His grounds were that:

(a) It causes the Swazi scholar to despise Swazi institutions and his indigenous culture;

(b) It causes him to become ill-fitted to his environment;

(c) It releases him from the wholesome restraints which the Swazi indigenous method of education inculcated, and does not set up any effective substitutes for them.

To counter the disintegration of rural life which had aroused concern in both Sobhuza and Seme, he proposed an extension of national schools and a revival of the regimental or age-grade system, the Ibutho .[72] His proposals unleashed a storm of protest from the missions and the settlers, from some of the 'native intelligentsia', and from Mr and Mrs Rheinallt Jones, who were then attempting to introduce the segregated Pathfinder and Wayfarer movements into Swaziland. Sobhuza had the active support of A.G. Marwick who believed that 'a modernized age-grade system more in vital touch with the conservative elements in native life' might protect the youth 'from the objectionable form of hooliganism known as Amalyaita' . Sobhuza was able to recruit the support of a number of anthropologists including Mrs Winifred Hoernlé, Isaac Schapera, and the young Hilda Beemer, later Mrs Kuper, as well as Bronislaw Malinowski, who accompanied her on her first venture into Swaziland in 1934.[73]

Although the old regimental system, involving not only military training but also tribute labour, was clearly moribund, Sobhuza and his council had begun in the early 1930s to exact fines from young men who married without permission. While some settlers feared that Sobhuza intended to use the regiments as a form of cheap labour, the missionaries were publicly concerned that Christian youth would be contaminated by 'pagan' sexual practices. A.G. Marwick felt that the battle was principally one for control over the educational process.[74]

The Ibutho was eventually established on a trial basis at the Swazi National School. The curriculum of training included 'Swazi history, custom, lore and law' as well as 'ceremonial'. Although the experiment continued for a number of years, it was ultimately a failure. There was a good deal of resistance among the pupils themselves, many of whom objected to the singing of the Swazi anthem, 'Inqaba kanqofula' and to attendance at the ncwala which had been revived after Sobhuza's installation in 1921.[75] Many of those who had passed through the regiment in the 1930s, however, later formed part of an educated conservative elite. The first indvuna of the Ibutho was Mfundza Sukati, who was to become the Deputy Prime Minister of Swaziland at independence, and the second indvuna


was J.S.M. Matsebula, who became Secretary to the King in 1967 and was the leading Swazi historian, publishing Izakhiwe ka Ngwane (in Zulu) in 1952, and A History of Swaziland in 1972. He was to play a leading part in the development of siSwati as a written language as the author of a series of primary school texts published in the early 1970s.[76]

Sobhuza also had some success in reviving the regimental system outside the schools. Reinforcement of the system came with its use for the recruitment of the Swazi contingent during World War II. The recruiting centres, or tinkhundla, were to be developed in the 1950s as the new, but allegedly 'traditional', basis of local government and in the 1970s for parliamentary elections. There was not much place for girls in the Ibutho, but in 1935 Sobhuza revived the umncwasho, a two year pledge of celibacy by adolescent girls with a reciprocal pledge in relation to them by all men.

Another area of initiative at this time lay in the compilation of nationally-oriented history. J.J. Nquku, a graduate of Edendale, said variously to have been of Mpondo or Zulu origin, was appointed in 1929 as the first supervisor of 'Native' schools. Sobhuza encouraged him to write a work of history which was published in Zulu as Amaqhawe ka Ngwane (Heroes of Swaziland) in 1939. Although he was himself an Anglican, Nquku played a leading part in the contemporary movement, in which Sobhuza was also interested, for the establishment of a Swazi National Church pulled together from a variety of Zionist sects. He was also one of the founders in 1934 of Izwi lamaSwazi, Swaziland's first vernacular language—at this date Zulu—newspaper. He continued to play a prominent part in public life, reviving in 1949 the Swaziland Progressive Association, which, in 1960, he was to transform into Swaziland's first political party. Only then were his non-Swazi origins turned against him, and he was effectively excluded from political life.[77]

It may be surprising that there was no effort made at this time to promote the Swazi language. With the arrival of Zulu-speaking 'Amakholwa' (Christian) evangelists and missionaries in Swaziland from the 1880s, Zulu had become the language of church and school. This was in spite of the marked difference in pronunciation, syntax, and vocabulary between it and Swati. The influence of Zulu was such that Queen Labotsibeni had to insist that Sobhuza was brought up to speak Swati as well as Zulu, which was his mother's tongue.[78]

Linguistic nationalism seems to have progressed no further in the 1930s than the adoption of Swati forms of surnames and, in some cases, the public use of Swati first names rather than Christian names. The apparent lack of interest in the promotion of Swati may be traced to the fact that Zulu influence within Swaziland's intelligentsia was strong. At a time when there were very few jobs for the educated in Swaziland itself, there were sound practical reasons for learning to read and write in the most widely used of southern African languages, Zulu.

There was, in fact, some official consideration in the early 1930s of the feasibility of producing literature in Swati, but it was concluded that because of the relatively small size of the Swazi population, it was improbable that a full range of school texts would ever be produced.[79] It was not until the publication of D. Ziervogel's A Grammar of Swazi in 1952 that official interest in the development of Swati was revived.[80] In the following year a committee was established under the chairmanship of A.G. Marwick 'to investigate the question of a Swazi Orthography and the introduction of Swazi as a written language'. This committee produced a draft orthography in 1956 but decided that there should be no change in the schools until written Swati had been further developed.[81]

It was not until the fresh upsurge of cultural nationalism in the 1960s that the


question of Swati as a medium of instruction in primary schools became a political issue. A national commission which sat from 1967–68 considered the question and proposed the introduction of Swati into the first three years of school from 1969. Ziervogel produced a revised version of his book in 1967 in collaboration with Enos Mabuza, an inspector of schools who was in 1977 to become the chief executive councillor of the KaNgwane Territorial Authority. He had established a Swati Language Committee in 1974 on which representatives from Swaziland sat as the first practical expression of cooperation between the two entities, and he supervised the introduction of Swati into KaNgwane's schools in 1978.[82]

Sobhuza II and the Swazi of South Africa

While there seems to have been little or no demand for the development of Swati in the 1930s, and while the impact of Sobhuza's other cultural initiatives on the Swazi outside Swaziland may have been limited, he did make a number of moves intended to involve the Swazi of South Africa. He established in 1931, at his house in Sophiatown, the Swazi National Royal Club, which was intended to provide a social centre for all Swazi on the Witwatersrand, regardless of origins, and to promote 'all aspects of Swazi welfare'. This club has had a long and active life and survives at Kwa Thema, Springs, but another scheme for a Swazi Labour Institute which would have been concerned with the recruitment and welfare of Swazi workers apparently came to nothing.[83]

The major initiative in which both Sobhuza and Seme were involved at this time was 'The Petition of the Swazi Tribes of the Eastern Transvaal to the Union Parliament', signed and dated by ten Swazi chiefs at the Ntfonjeni royal village in Swaziland on 25 March 1932. The petitioners requested reserves for their 'tribes' in the areas in which they currently lived in the districts of Barberton, Carolina and Ermelo. The printed version of the petition was prefaced by splendid photographs of Sobhuza and his mother taken during the visit of the Prince of Wales to Swaziland in 1925. According to Seme, these photographs were included 'only for sentimental reasons and to indicate the nationality of the humble Petitioners'. In a brief sketch of the history of the Swazi he pointed to some of the finer points of the 'Swazi constitution', such as the high respect paid to women, and staked an historical claim to territory as far north as the Sabi river.[84]

The Native Affairs Department took more than two years to reply to the petition, but the Native Trust and Land Act which was finally passed in 1936 did provide accommodation for four of the Barberton chiefs, all of whom had resided on or close to Crown Land in the lowveld. It was, however, to be many years before they received official recognition. This partial success prompted Seme to draft another petition in July 1936, which may never have been submitted, but which was intended to be signed by the same chiefs, and to make a special plea for land for the chiefs of Mbhuleni, Mjindini, and Mekemeke who remained on farm land.[85]

At this stage the question of the transfer of Swaziland to the Union came once again to the fore. The provision of at least some land for the Swazi on his northern border seems to have led Sobhuza to take a more positive interest in the possibility of incorporation as a means to the 'unification' of his people. Officials in Hertzog's entourage on a visit to Britain in 1937 planted the rumour that Sobhuza would be prepared to consider a deal which would 'formally bring under his allegiance the large number of Swazi hitherto outside the borders of Swaziland'.[86] A year or so later, Sobhuza held discussions in Swaziland with Douglas Smit,


Secretary for Native Affairs in the Union, which touched on the position of the Swazi in the Transvaal. He subsequently outlined in great detail the historical case for the creation of further reserves, making once again a special plea for the three royal villages. Smit maintained that Swaziland itself had always been regarded as the Swazi 'location' and stated quite frankly that: 'our difficulty is that the districts of Carolina and Ermelo are purely European and we have no scheduled Native Areas or released area there'.[87]

On the outbreak of World War II, Jan Smuts replaced Hertzog as Prime Minister of South Africa and decided, much to the annoyance of the British, to press for the immediate transfer of Swaziland. His emissary, Deneys Reitz, indicated that 'Sobhuza could be got round'. As inducements. Smuts was prepared to offer the 'purchase of land for the enlargement of Swazi reserves', as well as reconsideration of railway plans and a reduction in 'Native' taxation.[88] Apparently in connection with this deal, Sobhuza's lawyers sought the Governor General's consent for the purchase by the Swazi Nation of sixteen farms in the Barberton, Carolina and Ermelo districts, all but two of which were close to the borders of Swaziland. The farms included the land on which the three best known royal villages were established. Nothing came of the deal, but it is possible to see in it the germ of the later KaNgwane 'land deal' proposal.[89]

As late as 1947 the attitude of the Department of Native Affairs to Swazi chiefs of the royal house had changed very little from the time of the Mhola case over twenty years previously. James Maquba Nkosi, who had been installed as chief at Mbhuleni in 1931, and who maintained close contact with Sobhuza, was, not for the first time, under threat of eviction. The Secretary for Native Affairs complained that, though he was not recognized by the government as a chief, he was apparently related to Sobhuza and 'regarded as the Chief of the Umbhuleni section of the Swazis in the Eastern Transvaal'. As he had for over ten years declined to be resettled in the lowveld, and in view of 'Sobhuza's interest', the department wanted to know if it would be possible for him with his wives, followers, and stock (68 cattle and 72 goats) 'to remove to Swaziland'.[90] Sobhuza and his council were quite determined that he should remain where he was. He should not be expected to move into the lowveld, which was malarial and belonged to the Shongwe people. His removal from the district would leave 'the remaining natives in the area without a chief'. If the government could not provide a reserve in the Carolina district, it was preferable that he should move to another farm rather than to the lowveld or Swaziland. It was eventually reported that Chief Maquba had 'found asylum' on another farm. Sobhuza took the opportunity to protest that not a single Swazi chief in the Transvaal had been officially recognized.[91]

By the time that the Afrikaner Nationalist government came into power in 1948 there is, then, little evidence that the Swazi of the eastern Transvaal had been subjected to any policy of 'retribalization'. There is plenty of evidence that at least their chiefs wanted to be 'retribalized', but had managed to make very little headway in that direction. It may not be surprising that the chiefs on the highveld farms had made such little progress, but it is surprising that even the chiefs on Trust land in the Barberton district had failed to achieve recognition. There had, however, been one or two indications that the government was taking more interest in ethnicity. The Native Commissioner at Bushbuckridge had sought, on his own initiative, Sobhuza's advice in 1940 as to who should be regarded (not recognized) as the senior Swazi chief in the newly created Nsikazi reserve in the Nelspruit district.[92] The ethnological section within the Department of Native Affairs began in 1946 to collect information for a survey of The Tribes of


Barberton District which was published in 1949. A similar work on the Carolina district was not published until 1956, by which time the much-reviled Chief Maquba, though still not officially recognized, had become a' groot-kapitem' with numerous subordinate headmen and merited a fall page photograph.[93]

Though the Bantu Administration Act of 1951 provided the machinery, in the form of a three-tier system of Tribal, Regional, and Territorial Authorities, which was to be used in the political evolution of 'Bantustans', it was not until the publication of the Tomlinson Commission report in 1955 that a blueprint for the consolidation and development of the reserves along ethnic lines was produced. The commission saw Swaziland as the nucleus of a Bantustan which would include reserves on its borders in the eastern Transvaal and would have access to the sea through the Ingwavuma district. It was, therefore, the source of the later proposals for the consolidation of KaNgwane and for the proposed 'land deal' of 1982.[94]

Dr Hendrik Verwoerd in 1959 indicated that if Swaziland accepted South African 'guardianship', it would be able to incorporate the Swazi areas of the Transvaal to form a single 'black unit'.[95] Rumours circulating in Swaziland in 1963 suggested that Sobhuza and the Swazi National Council were preparing to make a deal with South Africa which would involve the cession of some land in the south of the country in exchange for territory to the north. These rumours were taken seriously enough to be strenuously denied.[96] Verwoerd seems to have reconciled himself somewhat reluctantly to the forthcoming independence of the High Commission Territories, but in 1966 the then Minister of Bantu Affairs repeated that South Africa would be prepared to cede territory to its neighbours to create ethnic units. He pointed to the illogicality of establishing an independent Swazi state within the borders of South Africa if Swaziland itself was about to become independent.[97]

Political Developments in Swaziland After World War II

The years after World War II saw dramatic changes in Swaziland. The development of forestry and of irrigated sugar and citrus production, as well as mining and the completion of the railway, transformed a stagnant economy. Opportunities for local employment were greatly increased and dependence upon labour migration to South Africa reduced. Labour was, in fact, drawn into Swaziland from Mozambique, Nyasaland and South Africa to meet the demands of the expanding economy. Political development was relatively slow. From 1939 until 1950 Sobhuza had been largely preoccupied with resistance to the government's schemes for indirect rule, realizing that the bureaucratization of the chiefs, including himself, would undermine their authority. He was largely successful in this campaign, ensuring that the appointment and dismissal of chiefs was kept out of government's hands and that they did not become salaried officials.[98]

When, in 1959, the colonial government, moving with the times, broached the question of constitutional development in Swaziland, Sobhuza and the Swazi National Council's executive committee—the Liqoqo —moved quickly to pre-empt the development of mass-based political parties. They proposed a deal with the conservative settlers under which each group would elect by its own 'traditional' methods an equal number to the new legislative body. Control over Swazi law and custom, as well as land and minerals, would be vested in the king and council.


Sobhuza's initiative prompted J.J. Nquku to form the Swaziland Progressive Party on the basis of the old Progressive Association. Nquku's party soon split and the majority of his following joined the Ngwane National Liberation Congress, which was founded and led by Dr Ambrose Zwane and Prince Dumisa Diamini, a nephew of the king. Both were closely associated with the 'traditional' hierarchy, as were Dr Alien Nxumalo, son of Benjamin Nxumalo, and Simon Sishayi Nxumalo, who emerged as the leaders of the Swaziland Democratic Party.[99] The Ngwane National Liberation Congress sought to acquire a mass base by involving itself with the widespread labour unrest which led to a crisis in 1963 and the calling in of British troops. The 'traditional' methods of labour representation through works indvunas, which had been developed in the Witwatersrand's mines from the 1920s and applied in Swaziland during the 1940s, had failed, and the Resident Commissioner, Brian Marwick, blamed both the Swazi National Council and the employers for their failure to heed warnings. The Swazi National Council blamed foreign labour and foreign agitators for the situation.[100]

Sobhuza was under strong pressure from the political parties and the colonial authorities to remain above politics and prepare himself for the position of constitutional monarch. He was, on the other hand, pressed by the Liqoqo and the settlers to venture into politics. Finally, after the rejection by the Libhandla, or general council, of his power-sharing scheme, he launched in 1964 the Imbokodvo National Movement as the political arm of the Swazi National Council.[101] Sobhuza's major tactic against the political parties was to label them as 'foreign', divisive and hostile to Swazi 'tradition', of which he was not only guardian but the unchallengeable interpreter. The fact that, with the exception of Nquku and the South African Swazi, MacDonald Maseko, who was prominent in the NNLC, all the leaders had impeccable Swazi credentials does not seem to have worked against this tactic. Sobhuza's major assets were the prestige he had acquired over 40 years of low-key resistance to colonial rule, the authority of the chiefs, and the foundations of cultural nationalism which he had himself begun to lay in the 1930s and continued to consolidate thereafter. He also enjoyed the support of substantial capitalist interests which saw in him and Swazi 'tradition' a bulwark against more radical forms of African nationalism.

His party won all the contested seats in the 1964 elections after which many of the political leaders, such as the two Nxumalos and Dumisa Diamini, threw in their lot with it rather than face prolonged exclusion from public life. They had in any case obtained only a derisory share of the vote, with the chiefs throwing their full weight, including alleged threats of banishment and dispossession, behind the Imbokodvo. The party was also helped by the constituency boundaries which favoured the rural areas and by the disenfranchisement of black, but not white, South Africans living in Swaziland.[102]

The independence of Swaziland was delayed until 1968 mainly because of the stubborn refusal of Sobhuza and the Swazi National Council to allow control over land and minerals to pass to the cabinet and parliament. They insisted that these should be vested in the king and council. This made possible the establishment of the Tibiyo takaNgwane Fund' to which royalties and dividends on joint ventures were to be paid. Under the control of members of the Swazi National Council, this fund was, after independence, to be a major backer of prestige projects, such as the national airline, but also provided capital through salaries, loans and other means for the embourgeoisement of a section of the traditional elite whose financial resources had always been slender. The fund was also used for substantial purchases of land, the market in which was brought under 'traditional' control by the Land Speculation Act of 1971. This measure greatly incensed


Sobhuza's capitalist backers, but they were satisfied with the hostility of his government towards trade unions and the attempt which was made to modernize the 'traditional' system of labour control through the king's representatives or Ndabazabantu .[103]

The Cultural Element in Swazi Politics

The rise of the Imbokodvo was accompanied by a fresh upsurge of cultural chauvinism. The Swati language was given official recognition in the independence constitution and was introduced into the schools in the following year.[104] There was a noticeable increase in popular participation in Swazi ceremonies such as the Ncwala . The churches discreetly dropped their opposition, and leading Swazi traditionalists, who were also members of mission churches, such as the first prime minister, Prince Makhosini, attended for the first time. Sobhuza's revived regiments played an overtly political role on at least one occasion, though he did decline to allow their use as auxiliary police in Mbabane in 1963.[105]

The most vivid expression of this cultural nationalism was a new ethnic exclusivism which was directed not so much against European settlers as against Mozambicans and black South Africans, who constituted a significant proportion of the labour force. An attempt by the colonial government to tighten controls on African immigration in 1959–60 had failed owing to the lack of cooperation from the Swazi National Council which resented interference with what it considered its own prerogatives.[106] After the post-Sharpeville influx of refugees and the labour unrest of 1963 there were frequent demands for action to be taken against foreign labour, though there was a fundamental difference of opinion between the Swazi National Council and the government as to who was a Swazi and who was not. The government believed that long residence in Swaziland qualified an 'African' to be regarded as Swazi, while the Council maintained that a person could only become a Swazi through ukukhonta —allegiance to a chief. They were determined to keep control over citizenship in their own hands and were able, after independence, to achieve this. Control over the process of ukukhonta gave the 'traditional' authorities a potent economic and political weapon, as well as a useful source of funds.[107]

The question of the status in Swaziland of the South African Swazi was a complex one. Sobhuza had as early as 1960, in the context of a colonial deportation ordinance, expressed concern that this could be used against Swazi people from South Africa. But as Swaziland approached independence there was popular resentment against immigrants from South Africa, sometimes known as 'paper Swazi', who were thought to be cashing in on claimed Swazi roots to the detriment of the Swazi of Swaziland. There is evidence that Sobhuza himself, and some of his ministers, such as Prince Bhekimpi, who was to become prime minister in 1983 and who, as chief at Nkaba royal village, had followers in the Transvaal, saw the South African Swazi as a special case, but the law made no exception for them.[108]

The case of Thomas Bhekindlela Ngwenya, however, which became a cause célèbre in 1972–3, demonstrated that at least some of the ruling group were prepared to put political expediency before any notion of an inclusive Swazi ethnicity. Ngwenya, as parliamentary candidate of the Ngwane National Liberation Congress, defeated the Imbokodvo candidate. Prince Mfanasibili, a nephew of the king, and was deported to South Africa. While it was never denied that Ngwenya was Swazi, he was alleged to have been born on the wrong side of the then unmarked border. After he had satisfied a court that he had indeed been


born within Swaziland, the hearing of citizenship cases was transferred from the courts to a hastily created tribunal, and he was again deported. After the tribunal was itself declared illegal, the independence constitution was suspended and parliament handed all power over to the king and council.[109] Among the laws promulgated after this was an exceptionally exclusive citizenship law which further entrenched ukukhonta as practically the only was of acquiring Swazi citizenship.[110] The case was probably the excuse for, rather than the cause of, the suspension of the constitution which the king and council had accepted under protest, but it did have the effect of hardening the distinction between the Swazi of Swaziland and the Swazi of South Africa, and increased the insecurity of people of marginal status. It was hardly surprising that Ngwenya was reported in 1982 to be campaigning in KaNgwane against the land deal.[111]

Ethnic Mobilization Falters Amongst South African Swazi

The development in Swaziland of an exclusive Swazi nationalism had no immediate counterpart in the eastern Transvaal, where ethnic mobilization in the context of Bantustan development had hardly started before 1968. In some ways economic developments in the eastern Transvaal had run parallel with those in Swaziland although the large-scale production of citrus, fruit and vegetables had been developed before World War II in the lowveld around Nelspruit and Barberton. After the war there was a rapid development of agriculture and forestry together with related industries. Developments on the highveld were not so spectacular, but by the 1960s mechanization and afforestation, together with natural population increase, were ending the area's chronic labour shortage and producing a 'surplus'. A major concern of the Tomlinson Commission had been the accommodation of people who were now seen as redundant on 'white' farms but of potential use to plantations and industry as migrant labourers. The Bantustan strategy was devised to provide both 'homes' and social control for such people while simultaneously splitting African nationalism into ethnic fragments.

The eastern highveld farms were in the 1950s an important area of rural support for the ANC under the leadership of the Ermelo-bom 'Lion of the East', Gert Sibande.[112] The banning of the ANC and Pan Africanist Congress in 1960 did not lead to an immediate channelling of political feeling into ethnically based organizations. The chiefs of the two reserves designated as Swazi were organized in 1959 and 1962 into the Nkomazi and Nsikazi Regional Authorities, but it was not until 1968 that the Swazi National Council of South Africa was established as a pressure group to mobilize the Swazi in the urban areas, 'black spots', and 'white' farms in support of 'separate development'. Its organizer was David Lukhele, a former Seventh Day Adventist evangelist and life insurance salesman, who was also the 'Swazi editor' of Africa South, a paper produced by Lloyd Ndaba, a former South African Information Department official, who promoted a number of ethnically based political parties in the 1960s.[113]

It was hardly a coincidence that this 'political party' was founded at a time when the systematic resettlement of people from neighbouring white areas into the Swazi reserves in the Barberton and Nelspruit districts was just beginning. 'Commuter' towns were established in the Nsikazi reserve for workers removed from the municipal townships of Nelspruit and White River. The removal of 'surplus' population from farms and 'black spots' was also beginning. There was


never any possibility of these areas being able to support a fraction of their population through agriculture. With a minimum of local employment, th