Preferred Citation: Evans, Ivan. Bureaucracy and Race: Native Administration in South Africa. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1997 1997.


Bureaucracy and Race

Native Administration in South Africa

Ivan Evans

Berkeley · Los Angeles · London
© 1997 The Regents of the University of California

For Catherine

Preferred Citation: Evans, Ivan. Bureaucracy and Race: Native Administration in South Africa. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1997 1997.

For Catherine


This book examines the Department of Native Affairs (DNA) in the 1940s and 1950s, when the racial order known as segregation (1910–48) gave way to its sterner and more notorious successor, apartheid (1948–94). The central claim of this book is that one particular state institution, the Department of Native Affairs (also known as the Native Affairs Department), was crucial in transforming “the idea of apartheid” into a viable and durable project. The study presented in these pages therefore attaches a special importance to that special breed of state managers known as “Native administrators” in the forging of the apartheid state. A carryover from South Africa’s colonial nineteenth-century past, Native administrators languished in lowly obscurity in the segregation years, their enervated performance in the 1940s having much to do with the erosion of segregation. It was therefore entirely unexpected that Native administrators would acquire the dominant role they did in remaking South Africa in the 1950s. Nevertheless, this development transpired to be of defining importance to all South Africans—but to none more so than to the African majority over whom the department held sway. The conversion of the DNA from a vacillating liberal outpost into an arrogant apartheid fortress is the substantive concern of this book.

More conceptually, however, this book addresses two important themes. By focusing on the specific contribution of Native administrators, it sheds light on the overpowering role that state administration has played in modern South Africa. Interventionist administrative institutions were central to apartheid. Oddly, however, this central development has not received sustained attention until recently. This study claims that the hypertrophy of civil administration was the most distinctive feature of state formation in the 1950s, apartheid’s formative decade.

This argument has important ramifications for understanding the logic of authoritarian regimes. This book argues that the options of authoritarian regimes, including those of a state form as patently “illegitimate” as the apartheid behemoth, are not limited to violence and terror—a narrow perspective which has a lengthy record in the literature of South Africa. By focusing on the transformation of a specifically civilian apparatus, this study illustrates that administration was crucial to “normalizing” the coercion that underpinned racial domination and was surprisingly effective in conditioning the compliance of the African majority. The study does not, of course, diminish the importance of racial repression in South Africa. Rather, by focusing on two key developments in the 1950s—the racialization of urban space in the form of the “planned African location” and the conversion of African chiefs into administrative factotums of apartheid—this study demonstrates that coercion was systematically leached into issues of everyday administration. In this way, a complex bureaucratic web was created, ensnaring all South Africans in the blueprints and programs hatched by administrators in the DNA—but especially trapping Africans, the specific target of the department’s attentions.

This book has been long in the making. Accordingly it has been influenced by many colleagues and friends along the way. Among my colleagues at the University of California at San Diego, my thanks go to Gershon Shafir in particular for playing such an important and supportive role in the latter stages of completing the book. I would also like to thank Harvey Goldman, another colleague who took time off to read and reread the manuscript as it evolved. Special thanks go to Fred Cooper, who offered a marvelous critique of the manuscript in one of its earlier incarnations: without his sound advice and support, this would be a very different and much poorer book. I would like to thank David Laitin for his critical support, as well as an anonymous reviewer who provided valuable insight and advice, as did Aaron Cicourel. I would also like to thank Alan Jeeves for making available to me a difficult-to-obtain document concerning the Tomlinson Commission. Thanks, too, to Gavin Williams for his sharp comments. Various librarians in South Africa, Canada, and the United States have been priceless foot soldiers in the ceaseless quest for information which must have seemed (and often was) obscure and exotic. From the shores of California, I remain in their debt.

To my parents goes my deepest gratitude. My father will not read this book, but I am equally appreciative to both of them for the support they have given me over the years.

My greatest thanks and respect go to Catherine. Without her infinite patience and support, this project would still be no more than a fragment of virtual reality stuck in a hard drive. Matters would have been a good deal more easy without the rambunctious presence of Alexandre and Dylan, innocent victims who suffered through this book as much as anyone else. But I would not change a thing.

La Jolla, California


All-African Convention
Association of Administrators of Non-European Affairs
A. B. Xuma Papers
Afrikaanse Handelsinstituut
African National Congress
Association of Chambers of Commerce
Bantu Affairs Commission
Bantu Investment Corporation
Board of Trade and Industries
Central Archives Depot
Cape African Teachers’ Association
Carter Karis Collection
Central Labour Bureau
Chamber of Mines
Chief Magistrate of the Transkei
Chief Native Commissioner
Communist Party of South Africa
Central Reference Bureau
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research
Department of Bantu Affairs and Development
Department of Native Affairs
Director of Native Labour
Economic Farming Unit
Federasie van Afrikaanse Kultuurverenigings
Federated Chamber of Industries
House of Assembly Debates
Institute of Administrators of Non-European Affairs
Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union
Johannesburg City Council
Journal of Southern African Studies
Minister of Native Affairs
Member of Parliament
Native Affairs Commission
Native Affairs Department
National Building and Research Institute
Native Commissioner
Non-European Affairs Department
Native Economic Commission
Non-European Unity Movement
National Housing Office
National Housing and Planning Commission
Native Laws Commission
National Party
Native Resettlement Board
Native Representative Council
Naturellesake (Archives of the Department of Native Affairs)
Orange Free State
Pan-Africanist Congress
Public Service Commission
South African Agricultural Union
South African Bureau of Racial Affairs
South African Indian Congress
South African Institute of Race Relations
South African Journal of Economics
South African Native Affairs Commission
South African Native Trust
South African Party
South African Railways
Senate Debates
Social and Economic Planning Council
Secretary for Native Affairs
Transkeian Legislative Assembly
Transkeian Organised Bodies
Transkeian Territorial Authority
Transkeian Territories General Council
United Municipal Executive
United Party
United Transkeian Territories General Council
Western Areas Removal Scheme
Witwatersrand Native Labour Association

Ministers of Native Affairs, 1910–60

H. Burton 31 May 1910
J. B. M. Hertzog 25 June 1912
J. W. Sauer 20 December 1912
L. Botha 23 September 1913
J. C. Smuts 3 September 1919
J. B. M. Hertzog 30 June 1924
E. G. Jansen 19 June 1929
P. G. W. Grobler 30 March 1933
H. A. Fagan 3 June 1938
D. Reitz 6 September 1939
P. K. van der Byl 11 January 1943
E. G. Jansen 4 June 1948
H. F. Verwoerd 19 October 1950
M. C. de Wet Nel 3 September 1958[*]
W. A. Maree 3 September 1958[*]
In 1958 the Department was split into two departments, the Department of Bantu Administration and Development and the Department of Bantu Education.


Black South Africans are depressingly familiar with the phenomenon of administration. After 1948, virtually every aspect of their lives was subjected to the intrusive hands of clerks, bureaucrats, and administrators of one sort or another. Ideologues of apartheid “ethnos theory” presented race and ethnicity as static categories, each replete with a distinctive essence which the apartheid state would preserve. But the intersection of these categories with the restless dynamism of rapid capitalist growth persistently eroded this claim, precluding the possibility that the apartheid project could be placed on automatic pilot. Because it placed such a premium on systematic state interventions, the dreary burden of apartheid was that it had to be constantly administered: the feasibility of apartheid came to rest on the pervasive presence of the state in every facet of life. As this book shows, “Native administration” came to enjoy a special position within the ranks of the state’s administrative apparatuses in the 1950s.

No other institution in the 1950s was as alive or as responsive to this imperative as the Department of Native Affairs (DNA). A lowly and inchoate branch of the state in the segregation era, the DNA became central to the formulation and implementation of African policy in the 1950s. After 1948, the attack it launched on the administrative problems which it inherited from the 1940s yielded a number of pivotal, if always partial, bureaucratic breakthroughs. These accomplishments were not solely responsible for the establishment of the apartheid state; this was a busy time, and other state institutions were similarly at work. But it was the particular bureaucratic accomplishments of and contradictions in Native administration that would give substance to the vague electoral slogan of “apartheid” in 1948. To protect and expand the achievements of Native administrators in the 1950s, the state subsequently reoriented itself, evolving into an authoritarian structure controlled by a highly visible army of clerks, bureaucrats, and administrators. The central claim of this study, therefore, is that the hypertrophy of the apartheid state was foregrounded in the specific realm of Native administration in the 1950s, and that the rapid ascent of a new breed of authoritarian “Bantu administrators” [1] foreshadowed the growth of the state’s repressive apparatuses from the 1960s onward.

The guiding concern of this study is the conversion of the Department of Native Affairs from an ineffective and internally uncoordinated institution in the interwar years into a powerful “state within a state” in the 1950s. By the time the National Party (NP) assumed office in 1948, the notion that the DNA should be molded in the image of a “state within a state” had a long history. The phrase appears to have been first employed by the South African Native Affairs Commission (SANAC) of 1903, the commission appointed to recommend an African policy for the Union of South Africa. SANAC’s basic recommendation was that a policy of racial segregation would be best served if all responsibility for the management of African affairs were centralized within the Department of Native Affairs.[2] A series of segregationist “Native” laws were accordingly enacted in the 1920s and 1930s. These went a long way toward achieving their ends, but for a number of reasons failed to achieve SANAC’s goal of complete centralization. When the NP assumed office in 1948, its leaders argued that they had inherited an institution whose many loose ends departed from the intentions of the Union’s founding fathers. This was a specious claim, for the specific features of apartheid had little to do with the intentions of statemakers in 1910. Nevertheless, the DNA set about correcting matters, and within a few years, the rhetorical “state within a state” of the segregation years existed in substance. The process transformed South African society no less than it came to define the apartheid state itself.

In stark contrast to its sluggish performance in the interwar years, the DNA tackled the task of implementing apartheid with a zeal that, to its many critics, seemed indistinguishable from dangerous obsession. It amassed vast powers, generated ambitious blueprints, and undertook programs it drew up itself. A host of state resources were brought under its wing. Noncompliance, whether within the state or in the black townships, solicited the department’s censure and an increasingly authoritarian response. At the center of these changes was H. F. Verwoerd, Minister of Native Affairs (MNA) from 1950 to 1958, a man seemingly born to the business of transforming the DNA into a “state within a state” (and, later, the Union into the Republic long cherished by die Afrikaner volk). By the time Verwoerd moved on to become prime minister in 1958, the DNA had become responsible for crafting some of the most onerous of the many assaults launched against the liberties of Africans in the name of apartheid. Amongst its bureaucratic accomplishments were three institutions that are of particular importance to this study: the labor bureau system, a sprawling bureaucracy designed to allocate African workers across the economy by stringently controlling their mobility; the segregated “planned locations,” residential areas for working-class Africans in the urban areas; and lastly, the Bantustans, rural areas “reserved” for “occupation by Natives only.” This study examines the changes the DNA made in the administration of these three institutions in the context of the transition from segregation to apartheid. Its substantive focus, therefore, is on the role which administrators and administration played in the construction of the apartheid state.

Native Administration and the Making of the South African State

Any study of Native affairs in South Africa at the midpoint of this century is, unavoidably, a study of bureaucratic growth and its fusion with coercion—no strangers to those familiar with the literature on the South African state. Moreover, because it was central to the racial order, the area of Native affairs has been subjected to considerable study, so there is no dearth of material on the topic.[3] Indeed, precisely because of its central importance to the state, the subject of Native affairs invariably crops up in virtually all historical analyses of labor and the economy, health, the peasantry, resistance, public administration, housing, and so on. These provide fertile sources to draw on, sparing this study from plowing well-covered areas of South African historiography such as the establishment of the migrant labor system, the erosion of the black peasantry, the genesis of labor control policies, and the policies which governed the labor bureau system. Curiously, however, the specific subject of administration has not enjoyed the attention which its clearly deserves.

With some important exceptions, studies of Native affairs have generally focused on the rationalization of policy and the conflicts which informed the process. The focus on policy is particularly pronounced for analysis of the segregation years (1910–48). This is understandable, for the interwar years were indeed dominated by policy disputes over the “Native question.” Since these conflicts culminated in the attempt by General Albert Hertzog (founder and leader of the NP and Prime Minister from 1924–39) to lay the matter to rest with a “final solution” in the late 1920s, analyses of the segregation state inevitably concentrate on the general’s three “Native Bills.” Finally enacted as the Native Representation Act of 1936, the Native Land and Trust Act of the same year, and the Native Laws Amendment Act of 1937, this three-pronged “solution” provided the touchstone for debates over the rationalization of segregation policy in the 1920s and early 1930s. Thus, studies by Marian Lacey, C. M. Tatz, and Saul Dubow all shed light on the ideological controversies and material interests involved in the disputes.[4] In general, however, they do not dwell on questions of administration.

Saul Dubow’s study of racial segregation in the interwar years is exceptional in this regard. He devotes considerable attention to the administrative reorganization of the DNA, making it clear that internal developments within the state, like the class and political interests which other analysts have generally emphasized, also shaped the nature of segregation in the 1920s.[5] Still, Saul does not subject the administrative process to much analysis, and his analysis, in any case, extends only as far as the 1930s.

In contrast, Adam Ashforth’s sparkling analysis of select government commission reports dealing with “Native affairs” spans the twentieth century. But this insightful text essentially limits itself to deconstructing official discourse. Although the reports he examines are lucidly dissected in the context of the circumstances prevailing at the time each was published, Ashforth does not examine the issue of administration at all.[6] However, his analysis of key Native commission reports is so acute that, like Dubow’s book on the tribal foundations of segregation in Native policy, it has extensively influenced this study where it discusses matters of policy.

The literature on the administrative work of the apartheid state is much larger. But while various writers have produced a crop of studies that examine the specifically interventionist apparatus of the apartheid state, these have generally been confined to the labor control apparatus. Thus, recent full-length studies of the DNA—by Doug Hindson, S. Bekker and R. Humphries, Stanley Greenberg, and Deborah Posel—have all examined the nature and contradictions of the department’s control over African labor.[7] Despite different emphases, the collective contribution of these and other analyses of the department’s grip over the mobility and employment of Africans in the apartheid years is now so sturdy that further research into urban influx controls in the 1950s seems unnecessary.

Posel’s historical study of influx controls is of particular relevance to this book. Her detailed disaggregation of the DNA’s contradictory achievements in the urban labor market sheds enormous light on the many inconsistencies within the department. Her analysis therefore repudiates the notions that the National Party in 1948 was armed with a fully worked-out “grand plan” and that the state acted in concert in shaping the labor market.[8] Posel demonstrates that the DNA’s urban labor strategies evolved unevenly and were only partially successful, and that internal divisions, both within the state and among capitalists, preclude any easy generalizations about the operations of the labor bureau system. Posel’s book therefore impacts this study with particular force, obviating the need for detailed exegesis of the establishment and consequences of the labor bureau system. Thus, when the DNA’s role in the urban areas is discussed, this book confines itself largely to an examination of the ideological impact of labor controls on the state, stressing the corrupting impact which these controls had on the state generally. However, Posel’s analysis does not deal with the reorganization of administration in the reserves, the focus of the second half of this book.

This study departs from the tradition in South African historiography which views 1948, the year the NP came to power, as marking a decisive break with the past.[9] As David Yudelman concluded in his study of the relationship between state, capital, and white labor in the 1920s, continuity in government policies before and after J. C. Smuts’ South African Party (SAP) government was defeated by a coalition led by General J. B. M. Hertzog’s National Party in 1924 generally overshadowed the important differences between the two governments.[10] However, in applying a similar argument to 1948, it is not suggested here that the policy differences before and after 1948 were inconsequential.

This study stresses that a number of central themes which came to define apartheid were already extant in the 1930s and 1940s. It is true that these were contested even within the ranks of liberal segregationists. At the same time, the record of the United Party (UP) government (a liberal party which formed the government from 1939 until 1948) is characteristically inconsistent and contradictory immediately after the war, and there is no way to know whether Smuts would indeed have pressed on to liberalize segregation (as he had promised he would do in the 1948 election) or would have pandered all the more to an increasingly conservative and restless white electorate. In all three of the substantive issues examined in this study—changes in urban labor controls, the establishment of the “planned urban Native locations,” and the conversion of the reserves into Bantustans—significant continuities between segregation and apartheid are readily apparent. It is important, therefore, to keep 1948 in perspective.

At the same time, apartheid introduced changes never even contemplated by segregationists: the conversion of racial segregation into a biblically derived moral project; the splintering of Africans into “independent tribal states”; the disenfranchisement of “coloureds”; the categorical denial that Africans would ever qualify for citizenship; zealous attempts to enforce submission to a highly regimented state; and attempts to “perfect” racial segregation in every sphere. It is not argued that these changes are insignificant. Rather, precisely because a “grand plan” did not exist in 1948, these changes were spread out across the 1950s and introduced inconsistently thereafter. A policy that would later become a fundamental component of apartheid, the conversion of Bantustans into “independent Homelands,” was expressly repudiated throughout the decade before H. F. Verwoerd (contradicting his earlier repudiation) spuriously portrayed tribal sovereignty as an organic evolution of policy. If 1948 was clearly necessary to the reorganization of the state, it did not amount to a neat and fundamental cleavage in Native administration.

Indeed, it is tempting, but excessive, to argue that Native administration after 1948 was influenced less by a change in ideology within the state than by the sheer change in managerial style. By its very nature, the laissez-faire approach to public administration in the segregation era precluded the emergence of an H. F. Verwoerd in Native Affairs: the best that Smuts’ government could come up with was a D. L. Smit, a liberal who served as Secretary for Native Affairs from 1934 to 1944. Smit was an able administrator, indeed, and famously devoted to the department. But he was no Verwoerd. That apartheid required a Verwoerd is borne out by the lackluster performance of E. G. Jansen, the first MNA, appointed in 1948. Jansen did attempt to transform his department, but not even the assistance of his influential secretary and champion of ethnos theory, W. W. M. Eiselen, enabled him to hack through the institutional bottlenecks which plagued administration immediately after the war. Verwoerd’s appointment was thus crucial. Verwoerd was a persuasive ideologue and a martinet without peer—but above all he was a brilliant administrator. Prime Minister Avril Malan’s decision to appoint him as MNA in 1950 was fortuitous, coming as a surprise even to the ambitious Verwoerd (he had hoped for a portfolio in social work, education, or finances, all of which were much more prestigious than Native affairs). With regard to its impact on the state, however, this extemporaneous appointment may well have been as significant as any other factor in firming up a project which, three years after the Nationalists assumed power, appeared to be treading water. Claims about a decisive turning point in state policy therefore detract attention from the unevenness of the department’s successes in the 1950s.[11]

An aspect on which the literature on Native affairs has generally been silent concerns the “Afrikanerization” of the department. There is little doubt that the DNA was systematically staffed by Afrikaners at all levels, or (as chapter 3 indicates) that the process was sometimes unpleasant. To a surprising degree, however, the department abided by the rules of seniority. This meant that a “crusading political bureaucracy” [12] sworn to the ideal of apartheid had to deal with the liberal administrators it inherited from the 1940s. The department’s response to this problem made a strong contribution to the “state within a state” which emerged in the mid-1950s and directly influenced the manner in which urban administration, in particular, was reorganized.

Finally, the DNA’s relationship to coercion requires some comment. African opposition rapidly became generalized against the apartheid state as a whole. But it was also stoked by the heavy-handed approach which marked the department’s newfound dynamism, providing telling evidence of the extent to which the policy of apartheid had become fused with the department’s own trajectory in the 1950s. Thus, boycotts of public transport, rent strikes, opposition to mass removals to the new “planned Native locations,” pass-burning campaigns, and peasant opposition to the department’s intrusions in the reserve—the major themes in urban and rural opposition in the 1950s—were fueled by the DNA’s strenuous exertions in precisely these fields. The corpus of South African historiography unanimously (and by and large correctly) characterizes the department of the 1950s as autocratic and instinctively violent in approach. At the same time, two episodes examined in this study qualify the department’s uncomplicated association with naked coercion.

To begin with, the DNA’s response to African mobilization in the urban areas should be appraised in the light of two constraints: its narrow electoral victory and what it viewed as an imperative need to restore state control over Africans in the urban areas. To some degree, these constraints pulled the National Party government in different directions. If its penchant for kragdadigheid (brute force) were to be unsheathed too swiftly and violently, the new government feared, it might alienate liberal white voters unnerved by the dictatorial tendencies of the apartheid state, its far-reaching incursions into the economy, and the department’s autocratic dealings with Africans. Too generous a policy, on the other hand, might unravel state control over Africans even further. One way in which the department responded to this dilemma, Posel has argued, was to soften the impact of its labor control policies with a number of policy concessions and ad hoc adjustments.[13] However, its response was not confined to the pragmatic manipulation of labor control policies. It also acted more concretely by addressing some of the material conditions which animated urban mobilization.

One of the DNA’s most dramatic moves in the 1950s was its concerted attack on the enormous housing backlog for Africans: a nationwide shortage, in the region of 170,000 units, awaited the new government in 1948. Once Verwoerd became minister, Native administrators became deeply enmeshed in providing cheap, mass-produced housing, public utilities, and mass transport to the African working class. Thus, in this neglected episode of Native administration in the 1950s, even as it attacked the few civil and political liberties available to urban Africans, a highly authoritarian and overtly racist institution also set about exploring a number of “welfare” options. Although the authoritarian character and inadequate scale of the department’s housing schemes are not in doubt, this study shows that the focus on material issues in urban administration played a significant role in disorganizing urban African opposition. Without attempting to win the ideological support of urban Africans, the DNA extracted a limited but consequential degree of cooperation from volatile and desperately poor urban African communities. The department’s urban program was therefore double-edged: developments which did so much to consolidate urban African opposition also yielded strategically significant perforations which deflated the hopes raised by protests initiated by the African National Congress (ANC) in the 1950s.

Although it refused to cooperate with Africans in the urban areas, the department was, rather surprisingly, concerned about African opposition in the reserves in the first half of the 1950s. It was only after the chiefly elite Africans who dominated the “Transkeian parliament” (the United Transkeian Territories General Council or UTTGC, also known as the “Bunga”) requested in 1955 that the Bantustan policy should be implemented, forthwith and in its entirety, that the department was jolted into taking its own Bantu Authorities policy more seriously. Chiefs and headmen were therefore crucial to the termination of the paternalist system of “local government” that liberal administrators had set up over at least six decades in the Transkei. By voluntarily adding their signatures to the apartheid script, chiefs and headmen co-authored the transformation of the apartheid state, stamping out rural revolt in blood, with an alacrity foreign to the administrative ethos of the segregation years. The department’s shrewd manipulation of material issues in urban administration and the complicity of the rural African elite in enforcing the Bantustan model thus qualify the argument that the department merely imposed its administrative schemes with unremitting brutality.

Moreover, this study argues that the most striking aspect of the department’s relationship to coercion in the 1950s is to be sought not in its active response to opposition, but in the very character of “administration” itself. Furthermore, it argues that the arresting feature of apartheid Native administration was not its uncomplicated fusion with repression, but its dispersal into everyday life. This process was particularly pronounced in urban administration. Here, Native administrators in the 1950s did not take to wearing arms; nor did they displace the police in suppressing African opposition. Their legacy to South Africa was much more consequential and more durable.

The high point of this legacy was the planned urban location, an institution closely linked to two other innovations in the 1950s: the racialization of space and the incorporation of “modern methods of town planning” into urban administration. Prominent in every urban center and fundamental to the policing strategies of the apartheid state, the planned urban location embodied the department’s perception that spatial configurations were just as effective as—and considerably less costly than—the physical presence of the police in regulating the behavior of Africans in the urban areas. The planned urban location, in other words, sought to modernize and routinize the compliance of Africans, in part by getting Africans to condition their own compliance with the racial state.

Spatial segregation in the urban areas was an unquestioned article of faith from the moment of the NP’s electoral victory in 1948. But it was a broad and amorphous desideratum, little more than a statement of intent, for three years after that victory. Between 1950 and 1955, Native administrators finally gave the principle its distinctive content. A striking consequence of their efforts was the spatial separation of African residential quarters from the “white” urban areas. Just as they devoted considerable attention to the “rational siting of Native locations,” administrators also paid careful attention to the internal configuration of the planned location, drawing up blueprints based on the two primary considerations, cost efficiency and maximum control. Urban administrators contended that they were merely rationalizing a policy that their liberal predecessors had laid down in the Native (Urban Areas) Act of 1923. This was true, but only up to a point, for the specific form their new policies assumed would fundamentally transform the political topography of South Africa’s urban areas. The rationalization of urban space in the apartheid years, both inside and immediately beyond the African location, played a fundamental role in shaping the daily behavior of Africans, and urban opposition was henceforth sharply conditioned by the racialization of spatial boundaries in the 1950s.

The department’s spatial legacies in the urban areas strongly support David Harvey’s argument that “the ability to influence the production of space is an important means to augment social power” and that “those who control the intersection of time, space and money…fix certain basic rules of the social game.” [14] By the deliberate design of administrators and town planning experts, the planned location played a significant role in isolating and fragmenting communal struggles by ensuring that a supra-location political identity would not arise automatically or even easily from the “squeezing together of classes” in segregated African residential areas. In this institutional context, the oppressive weight of urban Native administration was rendered into the routine concerns of civil administration—collecting rents, supplying public utilities, and planning transport routes. These “administrative duties” were rooted in and therefore inseparable from the state’s concerted assault on the urban population. Moreover, because they were crucial to urban existence and, for the majority of Africans, difficult to circumvent, they increased popular alienation from the state. Thus, compliance with the authoritarian regime always took place “under protest”; the configuration of daily life ensnared Africans in a web of laws and civil administrative regulations which permeated the most private reaches of life. A central claim of this study is that African resistance, like the processes by which the authoritarian state in South Africa was forged, can only be fully understood in the light of “Native” policies which leached oppression into civil administration.

The Paternalist Model of Public Administration

Native administrators after 1948 were united by an overarching goal: to expunge the paternalist and gradualist ethos inherited from the segregationist years. This accomplishment set Native administration in South Africa apart from systems of racial segregation elsewhere in British colonial Africa. But prior to 1948, the style of Native administration in South Africa possessed much that was familiar in colonial administration in Africa. It helps, therefore, to describe briefly the object of the department’s animus in the 1950s.

It should be noted, however, that not all of Britain’s colonies in Africa sported an institution resembling a Department of Native Affairs. South Africa and “the Rhodesias” (the future Zambia and Rhodesia) were unique in devoting a full-blown ministry to Native affairs, since the numbers of whites in Britain’s other African territories were deemed sufficiently small to obviate the need for such an institution.[15] A perusal of Lord Hailey’s breathtaking synopsis, An African Survey (1957), indicates the significant variations in the approach to administration across British colonial Africa. These variations are not of concern here. They do, however, provide an important clue to why the department in South Africa in the 1950s bore such hostility toward the British approach to African “local government.” Although it was already a frayed anachronism by the time the Union was formed in 1910, the British approach to administration, developed in the course of nineteenth-century colonialism, had continued to inform the department’s self-image as a “friend of the Native” and its preference to avoid coercive interventions into African society.

Scholars are united in their depiction of Britain’s colonial presence as an essentially ad hoc and opportunistic affair. Notwithstanding its mastery of the enterprise, imperial Britain failed to generate blueprints or theories about colonial administration—this was not a deficiency, according to C. H. Sisson, but rather the central pillar of Britain’s “genius for government.” [16] Reasons for Britain’s lack of colonial blueprints vary. Sisson contends that the absence of a systematic approach to colonial administration merely reflected the absence of similar theories in Britain itself.[17] Others emphasize that Britain’s policy of colonial self-sufficiency would have dissolved formulaic or doctrinaire approaches to administration in any case.[18] Yet others argue that colonial administrators, far removed from the imperial motherland and vulnerably spread across sometimes sizable African territories, refrained from introducing changes which might have offended the subordinate population.[19] The import of all arguments concerning Native administration in British colonies, in any case, is that administration was essentially local in nature: colonial administrators frowned upon centralized controls from the Head Office, dispensed with extensive bureaucracy and paperwork, and were genuinely concerned, as far as the parameters of colonial domination reasonably permitted, not to disrupt the rhythm of indigenous communities. These tendencies culminated in the important role of “the man on the spot” in resolving local problems as efficiently, cheaply, and quietly as possible—and hence in the diversity of administration in colonies such as Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, and, within South Africa, between Natal and the Cape Province.

Far from being viewed as a defect, the absence of a distinctive approach to public administration was the subject of considerable pride among colonial administrators. The ability to serve the empire in this independent capacity was deemed essential to the high status attributed to colonial service, for the emphasis placed on “the man on the spot” meant that “the right man” had to be found for the job. As a result, colonial administrators were culled from the British population through an elaborate process of recruitment and socialization controlled by the Colonial Office itself. Neither social rank nor the results of competitive exams carried much independent weight in the selection of candidates for colonial service: the British upper class was known to have its fair share of “unsound men,” while academic prowess smacked too much of irrelevant and bookish theory. To sift out these undesirable qualities, the Colonial Office took direct charge of the selection, recruitment, and socialization of “the right public school and Oxbridge-men.” [20] The net effect of selective recruitment was what Bruce Berman describes as imperial Britain’s “prefectural” colonial machine: “a prefectural administration, staffed by an elite cadre of political officers acting as direct agents of the central government, and exercising diffuse and wide-ranging powers within the territorial subdivisions.” [21] The caliber and erudition of the British colonial service were accordingly high. This structure was specifically adapted to meet the rural conditions prevailing in the colonies. Without having to contend with the destabilizing consequences of rapid industrialization and urbanization—African working classes and African urbanism—the focus of British administrators was quintessentially rural. “Tribal custom” and peasant accumulation determined the bulk of their daily work, forming the prism through which the Victorian “civilizing ideal” was diffused. As late as the 1950s, urban administration in British colonial Africa remained a noticeably underdeveloped component of colonial administration, lagging behind the changes which had transformed the demography of African populations in the interwar years.[22]

Particularly relevant to this study is the emphasis which British administrators placed on the paternalist ideology of gradual change and “sympathetic contact” with indigenous Africans.[23] Although imperial faith in the policy of “civilizing” Africans was stronger in the first half of the nineteenth century, it continued to exert an important effect on the prefectural apparatus throughout the first half of the twentieth century. Nevertheless, by the turn of the century, the strength of the civilizing mission had weakened noticeably. Thereafter, the emphasis on the transformative potential of sympathetic contact was reformulated into an effort to preserve indigenous institutions as a first condition for the orderly induction of African “tribes” into “Western civilization” and “modern methods of government.” Colonial administration therefore straddled a double violence. In the first instance, the sheer subordination of indigenous African populations to a corps of Native administrators profoundly undermined the indigenous political institutions that paternalist policies in the twentieth century ostensibly sought to conserve. This meant that nowhere in the British empire was colonial rule expressed solely, or even predominantly, in the benign terms of benevolent paternalism. Colonialism was always contradictory and premised on a degree of violence which colonial administrators were reluctant to concede.

Secondly, when pressed, the gradualist concerns of colonial administration failed to generate the very “modern” institutions that black nationalist movements began to demand in the 1940s and 1950s.[24] Instead, colonial administrators responded to these demands by modifying the various “Native Councils” and “tribal government” structures they had established, essentially extending the authority of the various “Native” bodies to assist them in matters of local administration. Chiefs were central to these “local government” institutions. Berman, for example, emphasizes that from the outset of colonialism in Kenya, “administrators sought to transform conquest into orderly control through African subordinates willing to exercise delegated power” and that “the encouragement of African commodity production had as an important objective the provision of stable and ‘legitimate’ sources of income to accommodate these collaborators.” [25] As Anne Phillips, Beverley Gartrell, and others have argued, British colonialism in Africa carved out a key role for chiefs, viewing them as simultaneously pivotal in retarding the dissolution of “tribalism” and central to the attempts of administrators to modernize peasant production, partly to finance the administrative costs of the colonial apparatus and partly to service the needs of the imperial economy.[26]

The political crises in British colonies of the 1940s and 1950s effectively exposed the impossible task that confronted administrators wedded to the ideology of gradualism: balancing “tribal custom” against a civilizing mission that sought to incorporate Africans into the wage and commercial sectors of the colonial economy. Unwilling to concede the imminent demise of the Empire, resource-starved administrators responded to African mobilization by stepping up various “welfarist” rural solutions. However, projects designed to boost the productivity of the land or improve the quality of herds engaged colonial administrators even more directly in the subsistence activities of African peasants and politicized the administrative apparatuses of the colonial state. Thus, the tensions between preserving the subsistence sector and encouraging the modernization of the economy as a whole undermined the entire edifice of gradualist policies, setting the context in which African opposition would condense squarely against the colonial apparatus and demand its demise.[27]

Against the backdrop of Britain’s paternalist and gradualist colonial policies, three elements of administration stand out for their relevance to Native administration in South Africa: the unquestioned salience of rural administration; the almost religious faith which colonial cadres placed in the initiative and local autonomy of “the man on the spot”; and the incorporation of chiefs as subordinate factotums in the administrative apparatus of local government. These may be taken as forming the benchmark for analyzing the development of Native administration in South Africa and its reorganization in the 1940s and 1950s. For although state formation and economic modernization followed trajectories markedly dissimilar from developments in British colonial territories to the north, colonial patterns of domination remained prominent features of the sovereign state that white South Africans established in 1910.

Native Administration in South Africa: The Legacy of the Segregation Years

The DNA originated as a nineteenth-century colonial institution and conducted itself as one in the twentieth century.[28] Native administration in South Africa was accordingly bound up with the prolonged exclusion of Africans from citizenship and the establishment of a racially repressive labor market—the central features of racial domination in South Africa. As a result, the department was never able to conduct itself as a purely civil institution, its sheer persistence in the twentieth century serving as palpable evidence that its roots remained sunk in the material and symbolic culture of colonial despotism. The distinctive colonialist feature of the DNA was the centralized control it enjoyed over the African majority. From the moment that it was established in 1910, therefore, the department was central to what John Brewer has described as the “state’s project of internal colonialism.” [29]

Despite its central importance to internal colonialism, the department entered the twentieth century weak and unstable, barely capable of addressing the tasks facing it immediately after establishment of the Union. Moreover, an important constitutional compromise over Native affairs taxed the department’s ability to act boldly. Unable to agree on a basis for rationalizing the four African policies of the Cape, Natal, the Orange Free State (OFS), and the Transvaal, statemakers at the time of Union agreed to incorporate the various systems into the new state. The department’s debut was therefore marked by fractured policies and contrasting administrative approaches.[30] Only in Natal and the Cape Province was administration well elaborated, distinguished in both instances by a paternalism which conformed broadly to policies elsewhere in Britain’s colonies. In the Transvaal and the OFS, administration was skeletal at best and virtually synonymous with the military komandos charged with keeping the peace in the pre-Union era.

The reputation the department enjoyed for relative coherence in reserve administration therefore derived from just two sources: Natal and the Cape Province. Yet even this pairing was misleading, for by 1910 Natal’s “Shepstone tradition in Native Affairs” had gone into disarray after the death of its founder, Sir Theophilus Shepstone, in 1893.[31] In practice, therefore, administrators could lay justifiable claim to a definite system of administration only in the Cape Province.

Attempts to gird the department for the mounting tasks that segregation policy spelled out in the 1920s and 1930s generally failed. Despite the consolidation of the policy of territorial segregation (the Native Land Act of 1913 and the Native Land and Trust Act of 1936), the beginnings of an urban policy (the Native [Urban Areas] Act of 1923), and the extensive rationalization of the department itself (the Native Administration Act of 1927), the department continued to languish in obscurity.[32] Its lackluster and inconsistent performance became the object of widening anger among white and African populations alike. By the 1940s, the weaknesses of Native administration were centrally implicated in the administrative dissipation of the segregation state.

The department of the 1940s proved unable and unwilling to separate itself from the colonialist administrative creeds which had informed its origins. Its support for a more paternalist and noninterventionist approach to administration prompted it to favor the three characteristics which marked Native administration in British colonial Africa. First, the department retained its focus on rural administration, contending that “the proper home of the Department of Native Affairs is in the reserves.” [33] At a time of increasing African urbanization and an urban-based nationalism, the department looked to its colonial orientation and so failed to generate an adequate institutional response in urban administration.

Second, the department remained true to the nineteenth-century pattern which invested the Native Commissioner (NC) and magistrate with considerable latitude in resolving problems locally. This legacy was particularly evident in the reserves: here, Govan Mbeki would write, magistrates ruled over Africans in their districts like “little kings.” [34] Changing circumstances eroded this principle so that by the time the Union was formed in 1910, relations between magistrates and local Africans were already relatively impersonal and in an advanced state of bureaucratization.[35] Nevertheless, the insistence on the local autonomy of the magistrate continued to linger in the lore of rural administration and remained an article of faith among the department’s field officers.

To compound matters, the emphasis on local autonomy was not confined to rural administration, but was extended into the relatively new and growing field of urban administration in the 1920s and 1930s. The department contended that it alone possessed the competence and sympathetic sensibilities to govern the reserves. It therefore effectively abandoned its urban responsibilities to local authorities. Extending the principle that “the man on the spot” was best equipped to deal with local problems, the department further refrained from subordinating South Africa’s numerous local authorities to a centralized blueprint.

Third, as in colonial Africa, the department’s policies thrust chiefs into awkward dilemmas. There was, however, a crucial distinction between the dilemmas of chiefs in British Africa and those of chiefs in South Africa. Whereas British administrators frequently attempted to boost peasant production in order to promote colonial commerce and expand the administration’s sources of revenues, in the twentieth century the South African state resolutely destroyed the basis of peasant accumulation. “Native reserves” in South Africa were therefore stripped of any meaningful capacity to generate a wealthy class of peasant collaborators with pecuniary interests in the state. Recent scholars have pointed out that South Africa’s reserves were not established for the purpose of generating or entrapping a pool of cheap labor, as radical Marxist scholars contended in the 1970s and 1980s.[36] Contemporary scholars now concede that the motivations were more diffuse and considerably less calculating. As Dubow observes, the establishment and subsequent enlargement of the reserves in 1913 and 1936, respectively, stemmed from whites’ generalized fears about a large-scale demographic shift of Africans from the countryside to the urban areas, where the dangers of an African proletariat were already evident by the early 1920s. Thus, it was fears about losing social and political control of Africans in urban areas, rather than any clear-sighted strategy to generate continuous streams of landless peasants, that informed the policy of establishing reserves.[37]

Nevertheless, the reserves did indeed develop into “labor reservoirs” and became exporters of ultra-cheap migrant labor to South Africa’s capitalist economy. Subsistence production went into steep decline throughout the interwar years, and by 1940 agricultural output across the reserves already ranged along a continuum from inadequate to nonexistent (see chapter 7). In this context, the dilemmas of chiefs sprang not from conflicts over accumulation (as they often did, for example, in Kenya)[38] but from their political relationship to the administrative structure in the reserves.

The department’s policies in the interwar years were sources of frustration to chiefs. This was especially true in the Transkeian Territories, where the paternalist approach to administration and the administrative structure itself were more strongly developed than in the other reserves. Here, chiefs were formally excluded from the administrative machine and were subordinated to the “direct rule” of the magistrate. The omnipresence of white magistrates in an administrative structure that presided over the devastation of the Transkeian economy placed severe limits on the legitimation strategies available to the state. Thus, the most that the department was prepared to consider doing in the Transkei immediately after World War II was to widen marginally the range of African “local government” and (borrowing from the example of Native administrators in British Africa) to redouble its “Betterment projects” and land reclamation schemes. As a result, the African rural elite demanded to be released from the grip of the department and pressed the case for “autonomy” from the central state.

These three principles of administration—the primacy of rural concerns, the local horizons of administration, and the alienation of chiefs in the reserves—constituted the overarching framework in which paternalist Native administration developed in the segregation years and formed the legacy that liberals bequeathed to the National Party in 1948. Under Verwoerd, the department reorganized Native administration by reversing each principles.

First, urban administration was transformed into the hub of the department’s operations. Resources were marshaled and poured into the establishment of the labor bureau system and the resolution of the housing crisis. This change in emphasis galvanized the ranks of urban administrators, transforming these cadres from the bureaucratic Cinderellas they claimed to be in the 1940s into prominent managers of the apartheid state, keenly aware of their central role in apartheid’s birth.

Second, the department abolished all vestiges of decentralized administration. Internal changes made the new order clear in 1954, when the department was reorganized and fashioned into a highly centralized structure, comprised of a series of functionally specific subdivisions, new mid- to senior-level managerial positions to command the new structures, and lines of communication cybernetically connecting these modules. The lust for centralization also extended outward, impelling the department to commandeer aspects of administration that, for various reasons, had been parceled out to other state institutions. Even if its bid to wrest complete control of labor from local authorities was never fully realized and remained a persistent problem throughout the 1950s and 1960s, by the mid-1950s the department was a markedly more centralized and authoritarian institution.

In the reserves, finally, the department secured the cooperation of restless chiefs in engineering the demise of gradualist policies. The bifurcation of the state into African and white spheres in the segregation era was superseded in the apartheid years by the further fragmentation of African “affairs” into multiple “tribal sovereignties” scattered as Bantustans across the country. In what may be termed “the illusion of decentralization,” this move established the conditions for the department to transform the paternalist administrative structures in the Transkei into civil bureaucracies controlled by a new cadre of African administrators and politicians.

Conceptual Themes in This Study

This study of a vital bureaucracy in apartheid state administration is influenced by a general perspective which insists that the state is not an undifferentiated “black box”—a view which predominated in analyses of the South African state until fairly recently. It shows, instead, that states possess an internal architecture whose specific configuration is generally important to the conduct of state operations and sometimes even decisive to the success of state policies. This conceptual claim is made clear in the analysis of the relationship between the DNA and urban local authorities, the primary agencies involved in the administration of the state’s African policy. Part 1 of this study goes to some length to illustrate that urban African administration in the segregation era was significantly weakened by an ambiguous chain of command between these two levels of bureaucracy, enabling local authorities and the department to avoid final authority for the perilous condition of urban policy and the rising militancy in poorly regulated African residential areas. Conversely, it also shows that the clarification of the department’s superordinate position over local authorities was a crucial development in the apartheid era. The authoritarianism of apartheid was thus not limited to the general circumscription of Africans’ liberties after 1948; an essential development was the forging of an authoritarianism within the state itself which yielded greater sway to those apparatuses whose specific operations were more tightly connected to the business of suppressing and regulating Africans. The transformation of the department was therefore more than just central to the apartheid project: the department gave apartheid its particular institutional form.

Emphasizing the overtly repressive profile of the South African state, however, potentially obscures a development that is of some importance to the specific concerns of this study: the expansion of administrative law in African affairs after 1948. Applied to South Africa, the phrase “the banality of evil” (which Hannah Arendt used to describe the routinization of Nazism) seems inappropriate, perhaps even tasteless.[39] At the same time, any study concerned with the transition to apartheid must be struck by the routinization of oppression, chiefly by the rendering of “Native policy” into distinctly administrative concerns. The roots of the policy may be traced to the administrative regulations issued in accordance with the Urban Areas Act in 1924, but its implementation escalated significantly only after 1948. The rise of le droit administratif after 1948 affected intrastate relations in two important ways. First, administrative regulations were acted on much more frequently than they had been during the segregation era. Second, regulations were accompanied by restrictions that specifically prevented the courts from intervening, restraining judges in the apartheid era who were willing to read apartheid laws as liberally as possible. Changes wrought in the wake of these modifications were sometimes important in obscuring from public view the extent of incursions into the liberties of Africans and in subordinating local authorities to the dictates of the central state. Moreover, administrative regulations provided much greater scope for the department to fashion policies on the basis of experimentation, enabling officials quietly to scale back or even reverse prior decisions with a minimum of public discussion and parliamentary review. All too frequently, only inquiries made in parliament could indicate the extent of the department’s “policy of concessions.” The analog of administrative hypertrophy in Native affairs, therefore, was the diminution of the legislature and the judiciary.

Another point which has a direct and important bearing on the framing of this study is the issue of the state’s autonomy. All states, of course, have a vital stake in promoting economic growth. Still, it does not follow that the interests and priorities of state and capital are identical.[40] As Fred Block notes, the relationship between state and capital is variable and therefore dynamic: sometimes they approximate each other and may coincide, while on other occasions, or over other issues, the relationship may well be antagonistic. Furthermore, Poulantzian theories of the state remind us that dominant classes are not monolithic and are generally divided into class fractions that, because they possess different interests in the accumulation process, have conflicting expectations of the state. It is only under highly exceptional circumstances, therefore, that a state may be able to “represent” the collective interests of capital; the norm is that a state may come into conflict with some class fractions as it addresses the interests of others. Moreover, since the state itself is also divided into functionally specific institutions, it is just as likely that some apparatuses and some class fractions may develop similar interests not shared by their other apparatuses, introducing tensions in civil society directly into the state itself.

The claim that state structures possess interests which are unique to themselves is central to the approach adopted in this historical investigation of Native administration. But what does it mean to say that states possess distinct “institutional self-interests”?[41] There are two possible ways to answer this question. First, a “strong” thesis could be advanced to the effect that each state possesses distinctive interests—in guaranteeing law and order, providing the general infrastructure for economic development, protecting its sovereignty, participating in transnational state relations, or enforcing authoritarian blueprints devised by strategically located state managers[42] (usually associated with the military/security establishment)—which it pursues in defiance of powerful interest groups in society. Ellen Kay Trimberger’s comparative work on highly autonomous bureaucrats sketches out one such scenario. In each of the three contexts she examines, state managers destroyed the established agrarian elite and chartered alternative development strategies, claiming the authority to do so as part of their “patriotic” defense of the state against external threats. But, as Trimberger notes, instances of such a high degree of autonomy are infrequent.[43]

The “weaker” thesis, and the one adopted in this study, covers the more usual exercise of state power. In this conception, states exercise a considerable degree of autonomy, but not in circumstances of their own choosing. To begin with, the weaker thesis accepts that “state power is sui generis, and not reducible to class power.” [44] It frequently occurs that state managers and capitalists may simply disagree about the likelihood of potential dislocations or the relative costs of actual dislocations, and the views of state managers prevail. However, focusing on the leading role of state managers does not necessarily invest officials with extraordinary abilities or foresight. State managers have no assurance that policies will succeed or that they will not produce unanticipated, even counterproductive, consequences. As Stephen Krasner points out, the very process of bolstering state capacities frequently prompts state managers to redefine policy objectives.[45] In a stronger vein, Karl Polanyi argues that the autonomy of state managers is more than a matter of unintended consequence: the reproduction of state and society demands their autonomy. In scotching the notion of the noninterventionist “nightwatchman state,” Polanyi argues that “the anarchy of capitalist production” and capitalists’ relentless search for the highest profits, if not held in check by the state bureaucracy, would decimate the labor force and devastate the environment. Because capitalist states are structurally compelled to save capitalism continually from itself, state managers require a healthy dose of autonomy from dominant classes as a normal condition of their operations.[46] The weaker thesis insists that considerable leeway exists for state managers to transform society in distinct and consequential ways by exercising their administrative imagination and flexing their bureaucratic will.

However, a powerful systemic logic also encourages state managers to police their own autonomy and to seek a modus vivendi compatible with the bourgeoisie. An expanding economy, first of all, generates the fiscal resources that enable states to participate in a competitive international system. Because this system is composed of nation-states whose interests may at any point be brought into conflict by the search for profits and markets, the potential for conflict compels states to remain permanently ready for war by maintaining the costly institution that specializes in organized combat: the professional standing army. Domestically, economic growth also provides the resources to finance legitimating strategies and to combat the possibility that any group may develop into an internal “fifth column.” Just as dominant classes are dependent on the state to provide the general infrastructure of production and commerce, state managers in turn are hostage to capitalists’ control over the investment process. Inducements, persuasion, and cooperation are preferable to threatening and coercing capitalists. “Within particular historical circumstances,” Block notes, “state managers might pursue their self-interest in ways that violate both the existing political rules and the normal constraints of class relations.” But, he concludes, “not only have state managers been generally restrained from attacking the property rights of capitalists, but the exercise of state power has largely been used in ways that strengthen the capitalist accumulation process.” [47] In the end, accepting the interplay between sui generis autonomy and the system of constraints means that the autonomy of the state, if necessary (as Polanyi insists), is always contingent and variable. Thus it falls to empirical research to delineate the extent of state autonomy in any particular epoch.[48]

Another theme which informs this study is the issue of the state’s capacities, a theme emphasized in Theda Skocpol’s “state-centered” approach.[49] A state’s capacities are crucially conditioned by the resources at its disposal or, more aggressively, by the resources it is able to generate. The DNA in the 1950s is a singular study of contrast in this regard. One of the first tasks the new department set for itself was to boost its capacities for intervention in three ways. First, it improved its ability to undertake systematic and sustained interventions by ridding itself of discordant voices within Native administration. In great contrast to the department of the segregation era, it imposed a homogeneity of opinion among departmental officials that brooked no dissent, and as the ambit of Native affairs widened, it demanded a similar acquiescence from officials in related but institutionally distinct state agencies. Second, it found the means to displace the burden of financing its various schemes in the urban and rural areas away from the state and white voters and onto the shoulders of Africans themselves. In exchange for the “privilege,” thousands of urban Africans thus found themselves constructing houses at their own expense, while in the rural areas the new Tribal Authorities system permitted chiefs to extract and extort revenues from beleaguered peasants to pay for the “development” of the reserves. Third, the department attached a vital importance to the aggregation of “scientific” knowledge about Africans. Knowledge, Foucault reminds us, is power, and disciplinary technologies are rooted in power.[50] In the 1950s, Native administration was marked by an explosion of “scientific” empirical investigation into the lives of Africans in the urban and rural areas. These empirical forays guided the department’s plans to modify the labor market, construct houses, and devise plans for the development of the reserves—on all three scores, a notable departure from the department’s vague empirical approximations in the 1940s. Much of apartheid’s viability turned on these capacity-boosting exercises.

Organization of This Study

The book is divided into two parts. The first part deals with the transformation of urban administration; the second deals with administration in the reserves.

Chapter 1 provides a historical account of the nature and politicization of urban administration. A central goal is to explore the administrative consequences of the ambiguity arising from the overlap in authority between local authorities and the Department of Native Affairs.

Chapter 2 examines how the department was reorganized and Native affairs were centralized between 1948 and 1954. It traces the gradual “Afrikanerization” of the department and the surprising emergence of the Department of Native Affairs as an important stepping stone for ambitious politicians—in contrast to the segregation years, when an appointment in Native affairs held only slight prospects for mobility within the department and virtually none for senior political appointments in other branches of the state.

The next two chapters deal with different aspects of urban administration. An important consequence of the Afrikanerization of the department was the difficult position in which holdover liberal civil servants found themselves. Chapter 3 addresses this issue in relation to the labor bureau structure. Rather than reconstructing the establishment of the labor bureau system, the chapter focuses on the efflorescence of a bureaucratic culture, the corrosive impact of labor controls on the rule of law, and the dilemmas created for liberal administrators who sought to distance themselves from the labor control structure. Continuing the focus on the practical consequences of urban administration, chapter 4 details how the racialization of space and the fusion of science with administration yielded the distinctive features of the planned Native urban location.

Chapter 5 serves as an introduction to the historical background of administration in the reserves and focuses on what the Tomlinson Commission referred to as the “Commissioner complex in Transkeian administration”—that is, the central importance of magistrates in the administration of the Transkei. Chapter 6 examines the dilemmas created by thrusting the “Commissioner complex” onto chiefs in the segregation era.

Chapter 7 deals with the emergence of ethnos theory, the divisive impact of the reserves on Afrikaner unity, and the department’s fateful decision to reject economic development of the Transkei in favor of political autonomy. Chapter 8 examines the consequences of this decision. It shows that instead of achieving a viable synthesis of rational administration and tribal ideology, the department fomented precisely the kind of expanding local opposition that the Bantustan model was intended to prevent.

The conclusion discusses a number of conceptual points dealing with the state and black resistance in South Africa. It advances two major arguments. First, it argues that the civilian character of Native administration had important implications both for the consolidation of apartheid in the 1950s and for current analysis of the apartheid state. Second, without diminishing the repressive nature of the state in the 1950s, it illustrates that black opposition to apartheid cannot be adequately grasped outside of a more nuanced assessment of the legacies of Native administrators.


1. Africans were referred to as “Natives” prior to apartheid and as “Bantu” thereafter. For the sake of consistency, I will use “Native administration” to refer generally to the field of African administration. “Bantu” will be used only when it occurs in the original or when I wish to draw attention to the specifically ideological aspects of apartheid.

2. South African Native Affairs Commission (SANAC), Report of the SANAC, 1903–5, vols. 1–4 (Cape Town: Government Printer, 1905).

3. The classical works on the origins and nature of Native policy in South Africa are extensively discussed in S. Dubow, Racial Segregation and the Origins of Apartheid in South Africa, 1919–1936 (Oxford, 1989). Some of the classical sources include E. H. Brookes, The History of Native Policy in South Africa from 1830 to the Present Day (Cape Town, 1924), and, by the same author, The Political Future of South Africa (Pretoria, 1927), The Colour Problems of South Africa (Lovedale, 1934), and White Rule in South Africa, 1830–1910 (Pietermaritzburg, 1974); D. Welsh, The Roots of Segregation: Native Policy in Colonial Natal, 1854–1910 (Cape Town, 1973); E. A. Walker, The Frontier Tradition South Africa (Oxford, 1930); C. M. Tatz, Shadow and Substance in South Africa: A Study in Land and Franchise Problems Affecting Africans, 1910–1960 (Pietermaritzburg, 1962); M. Legassick “The Making of South African ‘Native Policy,’ 1903–1923” (seminar paper, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, London University, 1973); M. S. Evans, The Native Problem in Natal (Durban, 1906); and I. Schapera (ed.), Western Civilisation and the Natives of South Africa: Studies in Culture Contact (London, 1934).

4. Dubow, Racial Segregation; Marian Lacey, Working for Boroko: The Origins of a Coercive Labour System in South Africa (Johannesburg, 1981); Tatz, Shadow and Substance.

5. Dubow, Racial Segregation, especially chapter 3.

6. A. Ashforth, The Politics of Official Discourse in Twentieth Century South Africa (Oxford, 1992).

7. D. Hindson, Pass Controls and the Urban African Proletariat in South Africa (Johannesburg, 1987); S. Bekker and R. Humphries, From Control to Confusion: The Changing Role of Administration Boards in South Africa (Pietermaritzburg, 1985); S. Greenberg, Legitimating the Illegitimate: State, Markets and Resistance in South Africa (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1989); H. Giliomee and L. Schlemmer (eds.), Up Against the Fences: Passes and Privilege in South Africa (Cape Town and Johannesburg, 1980).

8. Walker also notes that “the apartheid policy was not a ready-made package when the Nationalists came to power.” C. Walker, Women and Resistance in South Africa (New York, 1982; reprint, 1991), 113.

9. T. R. H. Davenport, South Africa: A Modern History (London, 1977; reprint, Toronto and Buffalo, 1991).

10. D. Yudelman, The Emergence of Modern South Africa: State, Capital and the Incorporation of Organized Labor on the South African Goldfields, 1902–1939 (Connecticut, 1983), 11, 22–23, and 250–51.

11. Claims about “turning points” also bolster an instrumentalist conception of the state, casting the state as a repository of power that, once won through elections, can be used at the behest of the governing party. If a turning point has to be produced, then it is not 1948 but 1953 that has the stronger claim. The National Party came to power in 1948 on the slender strength of eight seats: “rarely can a country have embarked on a new course on the basis of so indecisive an electoral victory, nor one so little expected.” The additional nineteen seats won in the national elections held in 1953 and the party’s unexpected incursions into formerly “safe” United Party (UP) constituencies and geographic areas (including the important Witwatersrand conurbation) emboldened the new government to move more aggressively in implementing apartheid. K. Heard, General Elections in South Africa, 1943–1970 (London, 1974), 38. But my study, despite repeated reference to 1948, does not insist on identifying a fundamental rupture in Native administration.

12. Dubow, Racial Segregation, 179.

13. D. Posel, The Making of Apartheid (Oxford, 1991).

14. David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity (Cambridge, 1990), 226–27.

15. See Lord F. Hailey, An African Survey: A Study of Problems Rising in Africa South of the Sahara (London, 1957), 415, 440.

16. C. H. Sisson, The Spirit of British Administration and Some European Comparisons (New York, 1959).

17. Sisson, Spirit of British Administration, passim.

18. B. Gartrell, “The Ruling Ideas of a Ruling Elite: The British Colonial Officials in Uganda, 1944–52” (Ph.D. dissertation, City University of New York, 1979).

19. Anne Phillips, The Enigma of Colonialism (Bloomington, 1989).

20. B. Berman, Crisis and Control in Colonial Kenya: The Dialectics of Domination (London, Nairobi, and Athens, OH, 1990), 98.

21. Ibid., 73.

22. Ibid.; John Iliffe, A Modern History of Tanganyika (Cambridge, 1979).

23. See chapter 5 and Dubow, Racial Segregation, chapter 4.

24. B. Berman and J. Lonsdale, Unhappy Valley: Conflict in Kenya and Africa (London and Athens, OH, 1992), 194.

25. Berman, Crisis and Control, 208.

26. Phillips, Enigma of Colonialism; Gartrell, “Ruling Ideas of a Ruling Elite”; Berman, Crisis and Control, chapter 3, especially 104–15.

27. Berman and Lonsdale, Unhappy Valley, 208.

28. As South African liberal Leo Marquard argues, “We inherited our colonial administration from Britain.…Our colonial policy, on the other hand, we took from the Boer Republics.” Leo Marquard, “South Africa’s Colonial Policy,” South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR, 1957), 16. This view, which absolves British colonialism from the development of racial domination, has most recently been critiqued by Dubow, Racial Segregation, chapter 1.

29. John Brewer, Black and Blue: Policing in South Africa (Oxford, 1994), 11. For an application of the “internal colonialism” thesis to South Africa, see H. Wolpe, “The Theory of Internal Colonialism: The South African Case,” in I. Oxaal (ed.), Beyond the Sociology of Development (London, 1976).

30. With Natal and the two Afrikaner republics, the OFS and the Transvaal, unwilling to accept the nonracial franchise in the Cape Province, negotiators averted disaster by agreeing to preserve the various “Native policies” extant in each of the four colonies on the assumption that the matter would be resolved at a later time. See L. M. Thompson, The Unification of South Africa, 1910–1960 (Oxford, 1960).

31. E. H. Brookes and J. B. Macaulay, Civil Liberty in South Africa (Oxford, 1953), 13.

32. Dubow suggests that the DNA’s capacities were indeed increased by the 1927 Native Administration Act. M. M. S. Bell, however, argues that the “Native” legislation of the 1920s and 1930s “increased the responsibilities of the Native Affairs Department without substantially increasing either its personnel or its financial resources.” M. M. S. Bell, “The Politics of Administration: A Study of the Career of Dr. D. L. Smit with Special Reference to His Work in the Department of Native Affairs, 1934–1945” (master’s thesis, Rhodes University, 1980), 44.

33. “Material for Annual Report” (1936?) in Naturellesake (Archives of the Department of Native Affairs; hereafter, NTS), 1956 1 293/278.

34. G. Mbeki, The Peasants’ Revolt (London, 1964), 34.

35. W. Beinart and C. Bundy, Hidden Struggles in Rural South Africa: Politics and Popular Movements in the Transkei and Eastern Cape, 1890–1930 (London, 1987).

36. See H. Wolpe, “Capitalism and Cheap Labour Power in South Africa: From Segregation to Apartheid,” Economy and Society, 1/4 (1972); F. Johnstone, Class, Race and Gold: A Study of Class Relations and Racial Discrimination in South Africa (London, 1976); Lacey, Working for Boroko.

37. Dubow, Racial Segregation.

38. Berman, Crisis and Control, 208–12.

39. For a critical comparison of apartheid and the Nazi state, see H. Adam’s Modernizing Racial Domination: The Dynamics of South African Politics (Berkeley, 1971) and “South Africa’s Search for Legitimacy,” Telos, 59 (1984).

40. F. Block, Revising State Theory: Essays in Politics and Post-Industrialism (Philadelphia, 1987), 28. Also see F. Block, “Beyond Relative Autonomy: State Managers as Historical Subjects,” in R. Milliband and J. Saville (eds.), The Socialist Register (London, 1980); D. Held and J. Krieger, “Accumulation, Legitimation and the State: The Ideas of Claus Offe and Jürgen Habermas,” in D. Held (ed.), States and Societies (Oxford, 1983).

41. D. Held and J. Krieger, cited in Posel, Making of Apartheid, 20.

42. “State managers are those at the peak of the executive and legislative branches of state apparatuses.” Block, Revising State Theory, 201.

43. E. K. Trimberger, Revolution from Above: Military Bureaucrats and Development in Japan, Turkey, Egypt and Peru (New Brunswick, NJ, 1978). Also, Theda Skocpol, States and Social Revolution (Cambridge, 1979) may be read as a disquisition on the difficulties which state managers have in remaining highly autonomous from class actors.

44. Block, Revising State Theory, 84.

45. Stephen Krasner, Defending the National Interest (Princeton, 1978); also see Stephen Skorownek, Building A New American State: The Expansion of National Administrative Capacities (Cambridge, 1982).

46. Polanyi’s theory is discussed in Block, Revising State Theory, 31.

47. Block, Revising State Theory, 84–85.

48. Posel, Making of Apartheid, 20.

49. Theda Skocpol, “Bringing the State Back In: Strategies of Analysis in Current Research,” in P. B. Evans, D. Rueschmeyer, and T. Skocpol (eds.), Bringing the State Back In (New York, 1985); T. Skocpol and K. Finegold, “State Capacity and Economic Intervention in the Early New Deal,” Political Science Quarterly, 97 (1982), 255–78.

50. Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (London, 1977).

1. Ambivalent Intervention

Urban Administration in the Interwar Years

Urban administration in the segregation era was shaped by the liberal dislike of extensive government interventions into society. This pronounced ideological preference came under increasing strain, however, in the interwar years as segregation policy set the state on an increasingly interventionist course, placing pressure on the Department of Native Affairs to take a greater interest in the practical details of converting segregationist ideology into practical programs. The earliest stirrings of interventionist state administration are therefore to be located in this period. The department failed, however, to rise to the occasion, for three closely related reasons.

First, the first three decades after the Union was formed in 1910 were dominated by disputes over African policy. Matters of administration lagged behind the separate and combined attempts of the SAP and the NP, the two major political parties of the 1920s and 1930s, to reach agreement over the precise form of segregation. Furthermore, although success in reaching such a consensus culminated in the emergence of the “Fusion Government” (1932–39), a coalition of the two parties, a notable feature of African policy in the interwar years was its flexibility and ambiguity.[1] The policy accords of the 1920s and 1930s embodied a deep-seated tension. On the one hand, they rested on the assumption that the need for racial segregation would gradually wither away as the civilizing process supplanted all vestiges of “tribalism,” clearing the way for the extension of full citizenship rights to Africans. On the other hand, they presumed that until that point was reached, segregationist devices were essential to ensure that the civilizing process would be gradual and equitable to Africans and whites alike. Effective in forging an ideological consensus among whites with varying conceptions of “segregation,” these antithetical purposes promoted a palpable degree of confusion and inconsistency in matters of practical administration.

This ideological tension was strongly reflected within the DNA. Department officials shared the general white consensus that Africans in the urban areas should be subjected to some form of segregated administration. At the same time, many senior officials were not entirely at ease with policy developments in the 1920s and 1930s, due to their concern that vital aspects of segregation policy conflicted with the department’s mission to oversee the “civilization” of Africans. The liberal officials who controlled the department therefore either favored one tenet of African policy over the other or veered indecisively between the two tenets in the interwar years. One consequence of this ideological ambiguity was that individual advocates of segregation were free to emphasize either of the prongs leading to two antithetical futures. Thus, in sharp contrast to its regimentation in the apartheid era, the department in the segregationist era did not speak with one voice about the nature and direction of segregation policy.[2] It sometimes strongly endorsed the principle of African urbanization as an inevitable correlate of “the civilizing process” while, under the banner of protecting white interests, it subjected the process to increasingly stringent forms of control. Indeed, departmental ambivalence about much of the legislation proposed and enacted in the 1920s and 1930s illuminates its self-image as an instrument for promoting the welfare of Africans.[3]

The second reason for the lackluster response in urban administration stemmed from a basic uncertainty in its organization. While the Act of Union held the department responsible for the overall field of Native affairs, the Native (Urban Areas) Act of 1923 specifically held local authorities responsible for urban administration. In effect, responsibility for urban administration was dispersed across numerous urban centers, where each local authority was expected to execute policies formulated by the central state. This bifurcated arrangement in urban administration undermined attempts to standardize urban controls nationwide. Local authorities refused to cooperate with the department’s policy of unfunded mandates while the department, unwilling to limit the autonomy which local government had traditionally enjoyed, studiously avoided a more interventionist posture in urban administration.

Third, rounding off these weaknesses was the department’s absence of experience in urban administration. Before it arose as a distinct “field” in the 1930s—signaled by the establishment of an Urban Areas Branch within the department in 1935—urban administration played second fiddle to the department’s long experience in managing the reserves in a paternalist, rural-oriented approach which proved of little value to urban administration. In effect, African urbanization—a relatively recent phenomenon in the interwar years—caught the department off-balance. At ease with administration in the reserves, it was ill-equipped to take the lead in addressing the problems in urban administration. Accordingly, the department took the path of least resistance, leaving it to the initiative of local authorities to resolve the problems steadily multiplying on their many doorsteps. Despite three important developments—the passage of the Urban Areas Act in 1923, its significant strengthening in 1937, and the establishment of an Urban Areas Branch in 1935— the department did not generate a consistent “tradition” in urban administration. Although the signs of such a tradition did emerge among municipal Native administrators in the late 1930s and 1940s, these officials were united more by a sense of being neglected by the central state than by a distinct and concerted set of propositions about the goals of urban administration.

The noninterventionist compass which shaped the evolution of urban administration had important ramifications for the trajectory of the segregationist state. This was especially true in the 1940s, when concerted attempts were made to draw the department more into the regulation of the racially repressive labor market. The department’s self-conception as a paternal steward concerned with maintaining a “just balance between the races” was sorely tested by this development. Unwilling to renege on it what considered to be its responsibilities toward both whites and Africans, its response to the unfolding of the repressive labor market was ambivalent, marked by attempts to ameliorate the most onerous legislation while promoting what it considered to be in the best interests of Africans.

The significance of this ambivalence was its contribution to two developments which would be centrally implicated in the National Party’s electoral victory in 1948. First, the department’s dilatory response to urban administrative issues antagonized the white farming community, particularly those in the Transvaal and the Cape, where labor-hungry farmers were decisive in giving the NP a handful of slim majorities that played a crucial role in the party’s razor-thin victory in the general election of 1948.[4] Second, the department’s preference to avoid confrontations with local authorities, almost all of whom were generally indifferent to their duties in Native administration, stoked grassroots opposition in overcrowded and unsanitary urban locations, providing the material context for popular militancy to fuse with the development of an urban-based black nationalism. Together, agrarian anger and African working-class mobilization led to the unprecedented politicization of urban administration in the 1940s, placing municipal administrators at the forefront of state policy and facing the increasingly volatile mobilization of Africans in the urban areas.

Ambivalent Intervention: The DNA and the Labor Market

The impression conveyed by writers such as Lacey (1981) and Fred Hendricks (1991) that the Department of Native Affairs in the late 1920s and 1930s was systematically fashioned into a coercive institution for facilitating the “superexploitation” of Africans is only partly true.[5] The mood within the department was not entirely consonant with the state’s growing commitment to authoritarianism in the conduct of African affairs. For one thing, changes to the administrative structure of the department itself had not kept up with the flurry of legislation and administrative regulations. Apart from formally consolidating the minister’s authority—distinguishing its own judicial powers more clearly from those of the Department of Justice, which the department perceived to be its main rival within the state—and undertaking a number of minor administrative modifications, the DNA remained as understaffed, ineffective, and overshadowed by the Department of Justice as it had been prior to passage of the Native Administration Act.[6] When viewed as a distinct “field,” urban administration remained essentially an ad hoc affair in the segregation era.

A crucial upshot of the department’s ideological objection to extensive interventions in the economy was the destabilization of urban administration. This destabilization was a gradual development. It assumed importance when African urbanization increased markedly immediately after World War I, and reached its high point in the course of World War II, when African urbanization increased rapidly in response to the twin forces of rural immiseration and the urban demand for cheap African labor. Urban administration ascended steadily, if uncertainly, to the forefront of the department’s agenda. By the end of World War II, it was clear that urban issues had eclipsed the department’s emphasis on administration in the reserves. But the formal importance of urban issues was not matched by a concerted administrative response. Accordingly, urban Native administration—or rather, its chaotic condition—become a nemesis of the segregation state.

By the mid-1930s, a battery of legislation formally enjoined the department to play a leading role in the organization and management of the labor market. Three major pieces of legislation were of particular importance: the Native Labour Regulation Act of 1911, the Native Service Contract Act of 1932, and the Native (Urban Areas) Act of 1923.[7] In theory, these acts established a triadic structure that, had it worked, would have enabled the department to facilitate the supply of labor to each sector by ensuring that each had preferential access to a designated pool of African communities. In practice, as we see below, the department fell far short of this formal goal.

A simple snapshot of this formal model would yield the following picture: the Native Labour Regulation Act would have ensured that the mines drew their labor from the reserves; the Native Service Contract Act would have guaranteed white farmers access to the African communities within or close to the white rural areas; and the Urban Areas Act would have ensured that urban industrialists benefited from a carefully regulated flow of migrants from rural to urban areas as well as from a gradually increasing urban African population.

But this model was never fully established in the interwar years. Moreover, to the extent that attempts were made to cleave to this model, its fatal flaw was the intersection of two opposing developments: the state’s general preference for limited interventions in the economy and changes in the rural areas that drove rising numbers of Africans into the urban economy. The department responded to the latter development with characteristic ambivalence. Even as it explored more effective and more authoritarian measures for bringing the urbanization process under control, it refrained from imposing a coercive regime in the urban areas—principally because it did not wish to interfere with the traditional autonomy of local authorities, but also because it was in general support of African urbanization.

The DNA, Gold Mining, and White Agriculture

The Native Labour Regulation Act governed the employment and recruiting conditions in the mines and was therefore expressly designed to maintain the system of temporary male migration between the reserves and the mining areas. As its preamble stated, the central objective of the act was to “ensure [9]as far as possible a more equal division between conflicting industrial mining and agricultural interests in different parts of the Union.…” [8] The act therefore centralized controls relating to the migration of African mineworkers from the reserves, their accommodation in compound housing on the mining premises, and their return to the subsistence areas. It should be noted, however, that the actual process of recruiting workers and channeling them from the reserves to pass offices in the Transvaal (where a routine medical examination was undertaken and the service contract was registered) was left either to the industry’s private labor recruiting organizations or to private labor recruiters: these were not the department’s duties.[9]

The DNA was thus never directly involved in either the recruiting or the production process of gold mining. Instead, the Chamber of Mines developed its own recruiting apparatuses—the Witwatersrand Native Labour Association (WNLA) and the Native Recruiting Corporation—going to extraordinary lengths to assert its lockhold over its far-flung sources of labor.[10] The department’s role in the industry was confined to the placing of Welfare Officers on mining premises. These officers ensured that accommodation of workers conformed to guidelines and acted as links between black workers and the Director of Native Labour (DNL), the official who (under the terms of the Native Regulation Act of 1911) managed the Native Labour Department established within the DNA. Officials in the Native Labour Department also registered the service contracts of migrant workers.[11] Beyond such functions, however, the DNA’s involvement in the gold mining industry was minimal; its principal role was limited to what it described as “welfare functions.” [12] Because they coincided with and reinforced the department’s paternalist responsibilities for Africans, these tasks were generally taken seriously by the sizable number of men allocated to the Director of Native Labour (three Native Commissioners [NCs], an Assistant NC, three Inspectors of Native Labour, and ten “relatively senior officers in charge of pass offices”). The department derived evident pleasure from the observation that “Native workers had come to trust the Labour Officers who tended to their interests in the Union’s labor centers.” [13]

In sharp contrast to its well-elaborated and cordial relations with the mining industry, the department’s dealings with white farmers remained perfunctory and testy throughout the segregation years. The reasons for this lay in the organization of labor relations in the white countryside, and more particularly, in the central importance that the large majority of farmers attached to labor tenancy, a long-standing practice which the Native Service Contract Act sought to rationalize and protect.[14] The department was less than supportive of this arrangement in white agriculture for two reasons. First, it argued that labor tenancy was an “inefficient” economic practice. It therefore persistently pressured farmers to “stabilize” their labor force by converting to efficient mechanized production and wage labor as quickly as possible. Not surprisingly, the department’s praise was therefore reserved for the small number of more affluent farmers who, because they were better placed to take advantage of these costly innovations, enjoyed reputations as “progressive farmers” able to attract adequate labor by virtue of higher wages. Department officials were also uneasy with the physical abuse notoriously associated with labor tenancy, sometimes airing the view that labor tenancy was an inherently abusive institution (see below). Under these circumstances, it is not surprising that the Native Service Contract Act—which made labor tenancy the basis of capitalist agriculture and ensured that the cessation of the practice would be a conveniently gradual affair for the white farmer, drawn out over at least three decades after the act was passed in 1932—was shepherded through parliament by the Department of Justice and not by the DNA.

Ideologically impatient with the practice, the department took pains to distance itself from both the logic and the rigors of labor tenancy. It thus did little more than attempt to live up to the duties sketchily defined in the Native Service Contract Act. These were limited to the infrequent inspection of white farms and to the investigation of complaints by African farmworkers, whenever these arose.[15] As we see below, even when it did cooperate with farmers desperately searching for ways to retain their farm labor tenants other than by improving wages and working conditions, its interventions tended to be more critical than supportive and were frequently couched in a pontificating and accusatory style which incensed labor-hungry farmers.

The department’s different responses to the Native Labour Regulation Act and the Native Service Contract Act index its ambivalence about intervening in the economy. Sensitive about its paternalist obligations toward Africans, it distanced itself with notable vigor from the Native Service Contract Act, in particular. This anti-interventionist stance in white agriculture did not contradict the department’s long-standing cooperation with the mining industry. The department took the position that its role in the mining industry was essentially to protect Africans, and therefore not very dissimilar to the “Betterment programs” it embarked on in the 1930s to stem the movement of Africans to the urban areas by shoring up the subsistence economies (see chapter 8). Having no similar powers on white farms, and being opposed to the harsh controls on which farmers relied to discipline Africans on their farms, the department consistently contended that the solution to the farm labor shortage lay in the market. Labor tenancy, it announced to various agricultural unions, “should be done away with,…farm wages [should be] increased and market forces should be permitted to determine the employment preferences of Natives.” [16]

The DNA, Urban Industry, and Local Authorities

The Service Contract Act of 1932 and the Native Labour Regulation Act of 1911 were rural-based controls. In contrast, the Native (Urban Areas) Act was a measure for controlling Africans who were already in the urban areas or desired to enter these areas. Of the three pieces of legislation, therefore, only the Urban Areas Act addressed specifically urban questions of Native administration. However, if this crucial measure marked the genesis of urban administration as a distinct component of the department’s activities, it also made clear that the department would not interfere with the strong pattern of municipal autonomy inherited from the colonial era.[17] While it made the department formally responsible for formulating urban policy, the act entrusted all administrative functions to local authorities. As the act stood in 1923—prior, that is, to its repeated amendment over subsequent decades—urban policy hinged on three principles.

First, the act provided a legislative mooring to the argument that the presence of Africans in the urban areas should be limited strictly to their utility in the urban economy. As the infamous report of the Stallard Commission of 1921 expressed it, “the Native should only be allowed to enter urban areas, which are essentially the white man’s creation, when he is willing to enter and to minister to the needs of the white man, and should depart therefrom when he ceases so to minister.” [18] This approach gradually eclipsed the alternative “urban Native policy” championed by liberals drawn from the Cape, whose solutions favored converting Africans into a property-owning and politically moderate petty bourgeoisie in the urban areas.[19] In opposition to this strategy for managing a potentially volatile urban African population, the Stallard doctrine denied Africans any unconditional rights in the urban areas; regardless of their material security, good police record, or length of residence, all Africans would be no more than “temporary sojourners” in the urban areas. As a number of observers have noted, the steady ascendance of Stallardism over the classic liberalism of the Cape reflected the prevalence of certain class interests in urban African policy at the time the Urban Areas Act was passed. White workers supported any plans which obstructed Africans’ access to the urban labor market, fearful that the relative cheapness of African labor would undermine the “civilized labor policy” that enjoined employers to give preferential treatment to white workers. White commercial and real estate interests similarly viewed an expanding class of African property-owners as a threat and so supported Stallardism because it promised to preclude this outcome. Farmers also stood to benefit from the policy: by making it difficult for Africans to enter the urban areas, Stallardism reinforced the controls that farmers were demanding on the mobility of black workers in the rural areas.[20]

A second focus of the Urban Areas Act was the policy of residential segregation it instituted for all urban areas. Capturing white unease about “racial integration” in the urban areas, the Stallard Commission expressed its concern about blacks and white “living cheek by jowl” in squalid shantytowns, striking a particularly alarmist tone about the pervasiveness of the practice in the Johannesburg area, South Africa’s major industrial zone. Spurred by the outbreak of infectious epidemics in African residential quarters just after World War I, public authorities feared that the buildup of large, poor African communities in or close to urban centers would facilitate the spread of contagious diseases into the white communities. Residential segregation along racial lines was thus presented as a scientifically grounded defense against the spread of diseases, and a medical discourse about the transmission of disease from black to white bodies served as the idiom through which whites expressed their strong anxieties about racial propinquity in the Union’s urban areas.[21]

The report of the Stallard Commission proffered residential segregation as the antidote to “inevitable miscegenation,” but also as necessary to the strict administrative controls it recommended for monitoring the presence of Africans in the urban areas. The commission recommended that the housing market for Africans in the urban areas should be confined to the construction of townships owned and administered by local authorities, with “no Natives to be allowed to reside elsewhere.” This body blow to the liberal strategy of promoting an affluent class of moderate, property-owning Africans bolstered by the municipal franchise was incorporated into the Urban Areas Act.[22]

Third, giving substance to a recommendation of the Stallard Commission, the Urban Areas Act provided for the creation of a segregated municipal infrastructure for regulating urban African policy. The act provided for segregation in three specific areas. First, it made it obligatory for local authorities to record all funds used for administering townships under a separate Native Revenue Account into which all fines, rents, and profits from the sale of African beer had to be deposited. Surpluses generated under this account—derived almost exclusively through the sale of African beer, recorded under a subaccount known as the “Kaffir Beer Account”—could not be transferred to the city’s general account; however, the act did not prevent local authorities from supplementing the Native Revenue Account with funds drawn from the general revenue account. Second, to offset the municipal disenfranchisement of Africans, the act encouraged local authorities to establish a Native Location Advisory Board, which local authorities were to “consult” over specific areas of urban African policy. This political structure was intended to provide a limited forum to the small African petite bourgeoisie in the Union’s urban areas, a mark of recognition that might inoculate them against the alarming spread of militant rhetoric in the Union’s townships in the 1920s.[23]

The third component of administrative segregation at the municipal level was the act’s stipulation that each local authority should establish a “municipal Native Affairs Department” (NAD).[24] Run by a “Manager,” a municipal officer devoted exclusively to African affairs, who was assisted by a location superintendent who managed the day-to-day affairs of administration, the municipal NAD was intended to “promote expertise in urban Native administration, establish contact between urban Natives and the Town Council and serve as a link between local authorities and the Department of Native Affairs.” [25] This development signaled the importance attributed to the new field of urban administration in the early 1920s and the perception that the field required a degree of specialization and professionalization entirely foreign to administration in the colonial era. In practice, the establishment of NADs also isolated and marginalized African affairs from the “normal” concerns of white city councils—as is borne out by the indifferent attention and fiscal resources that local authorities reserved for African administration well into the 1940s. Known as Non-European Affairs Departments (NEADs) in areas where African, “coloured,” and Indian “affairs” were lumped together, these municipal departments were entrusted with an expanding volume of increasingly complex work in the 1930s and 1940s, while local authorities settled for a policy of benign neglect in African administration. Unsurprisingly, NAD personnel soon came to perceive themselves as “Cinderellas,” or “poor cousins of the state.” [26] Suspended between increasingly aggrieved African townships and, to quote Brian Porter (Johannesburg’s Town Clerk), the “mean and niggardly policies” of local authorities,[27] NADs were all but left to their own local devices while the DNA struggled to sharpen its competencies in urban administration. By the outbreak of World War II, however, NADs had developed into important mechanisms for managing African urbanization and for dealing with the labor requirements of urban employers.

Urban employers sounded two themes as the segregation years wore on. On the one hand, they relied on the more vulnerable and cheaper supplies of migrant labor to meet their needs for unskilled manual labor and to perform work that the more discriminating and educated urban population routinely rejected.[28] Their official discourse, however, harped on the virtues of the “free market” and the superior “efficiency” of “detribalised” urban labor. But, as liberal organizations frequently pointed out in the 1930s and 1940s, these were not discrete segments of the labor market: the sheer presence of large numbers of migrant labor inevitably exerted a downward pressure on the living standards and work ethic of the settled population. “Loyalty and discipline,” E. Burrows observed in a memorandum submitted as evidence to the Fagan Commission in 1948, “are qualities to be found only in a stable labor force.” After emphasizing the problems and constant costs of retraining, the loss of working time, and the complications that migrant labor raised “for the establishment of good relations based on mutual understanding,” Burrows concluded that “the low level of skill and the rapid job to job movement result in low output and low income. Low per capita output from African workers means an unnecessarily low national income. Moreover, low earnings are often reflected in poor housing and inadequate diet, and ultimately in reduced working efficiency.…[T]he situation tends to reproduce itself.” [29] Burrows’ discussion on aggregate effects suppresses the qualitative differences between settled and temporary labor as well as the effects of the latter on the living standards of the urban community. A memorandum submitted by the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) to the commission dealt at length with precisely this point:

[Urbanized Africans] are in competition with migrant laborers in the labor market, and since they are out-numbered by the latter, the customary rate of wages is determined by what the migrant laborer will make.…Since the Reserves reduce the necessity of making the income received by the migrant in the town adequate to support his family all the year round, a depressing effect on wages results. This depressing effect is felt most strongly among urbanized natives and incidentally, by landless migrants, who have none of the resources of their rural brothers, who draw wages on the same scale and have to support their families in the urban areas at high costs of living.…Thus, the urbanized natives have been forced below subsistence levels and even when working continuously, find that their earnings are not adequate to meet their expenses.[30]

A growing concern thus emerged in the 1930s and 1940s about ways to limit the impact of semi-proletarianized workers on the urban African community without restricting employers’ access to adequate volumes of migrant labor. The Urban Areas Act was directed toward this end. By the late 1930s, the act embodied four administrative mechanisms for controlling African access to the urban areas and for regulating Africans within the urban areas: the registration of labor (or “service”) contracts between employer and worker; the issuance of “workseekers’ permits,” which authorized Africans in the rural areas to enter an urban area; influx controls and powers to evict Africans from urban areas; and exemptions from the pass system, granted at the department’s discretion.[31]

Primary responsibility for administering the regulations issuing from the Urban Areas Act was vested in municipal officials—specifically, in officials in the municipal pass office, managers of the municipal NAD, and the Superintendent of Locations. A basic tension was therefore built into the structure of urban administration. The 1923 Urban Areas Act vested local authorities with powers to carry out policies with national implications. This arrangement raised the possibility not only that the responses of local authorities might differ, but also that the narrower concerns of local authorities might conflict with the department’s wider responsibilities for the functioning of the African labor market.

The Politicization of Urban Administration

Agriculture and the Labor Shortage

Even before the 1940s, a major deficiency in the state’s African policy had become apparent: whereas the solution was designed to regulate the competition for labor between the mining and agricultural sectors, manufacturing industry had firmly intruded into the labor market, displacing the mining sector as farmers’ greatest competitor for cheap African labor. A report of the Native Farm Labour Committee revealed the scale of the shift. In 1933, Basutoland had supplied 15,237 workers to agriculture and 25,803 to the mines. Two years later, 33,130 workseekers headed for the mines, while agriculture’s share had dwindled to a paltry 3,782.[32] What troubled farmers most, however, was the committee’s ominous conclusion: “The farms are now becoming what the Reserves used to be, sources of a labor supply. But whereas formerly it was the farms that drew from the Reserves, it is now the towns that draw from the farms.” [33]

The report concluded that the three-cornered competition for labor between farmers, industrialists, and miners effectively boiled down to a competition between farmers and miners on the one hand, and industry on the other. The mines, however, were not perturbed by the growing volume of workseekers heading for the urban areas: its unassailable dominance over the South African economy was buttressed by a well-developed labor-recruiting system within the reserves and throughout Southern Africa.[34] In contrast, white farmers suffered directly. Accordingly, except for districts close to rural African communities, virtually all farmers reported seasonal labor shortages throughout the 1930s.[35] In sometimes berating tones, meanwhile, the department justified its refusal to intercede on farmers’ behalf by stressing the importance of meeting industry’s labor requirements and by pointing out that low wages and poor working conditions in agriculture were the major reasons for the “desertion” of farmworkers.[36]

Farmers were in an invidious position. The rise in the value of land, the shrinkage in farm size, the necessity for more intensive cultivation in the absence of initial cash, declining agricultural prices, and burgeoning debts were compelling the majority of them to rely all the more on labor tenancy.[37] Many attempted to resolve these major problems by escalating the exploitation of their workers. Particularly in the Transvaal, farmers cut down on the grazing rights of labor tenants and required them to work the additional land released without raising cash wages correspondingly.[38] The imposition of “tribal” authority structures—such as using chiefs to recruit farm labor, reducing women to the legal status of minors, activating the “whipping clause” that permitted the farmer to thrash any member of the tenant household, and subjecting the entire tenant household to the rigid control of the farmer by defining the “labor unit” as all members in the household—were harsh measures that severely intensified the farmer’s domination over tenants.[39] At the same time, “tribal” controls also clashed with a system in which the household head had control over stock and grazing rights, leaving younger sons with little to gain materially over the course of time. The erosion of labor tenancy therefore projected bleak prospects for sons who would one day enter into their own service contracts. In this context, the higher wages and better conditions of urban employment became all the more attractive, and as farmers complained before the Native Farm Labour Committee, in letters to the department, and in agricultural journals, permanent “desertion” was the inevitable result.[40]

Complaints to the department generally solicited the response that desertion, although illegal, was also understandable. For example, an appeal to the department’s Land Section (in 1936) to coerce Africans residing on land owned by the South African Native Trust to enter into farm labor elicited the biting response from Smuts that “the appeal smacked too much of slavery to be accepted in a free country where every man is at liberty to sell his services in the highest market or to use them to the best advantage to himself.” [41] While a circular dispatched by D. L. Smit in 1936 instructed Native Commissioners to clamp down on “deserters” by withholding travel permits, it did so largely because “many of these Natives arrive in Johannesburg, Pretoria and elsewhere without passes or documents of any kind and in a destitute condition.…The result is that the work of our officers [in these urban areas] is greatly increased.” [42] Urban administrative problems, not those of farmers, were the primary concern.

The urban bias in administration prompted some farmers to devise their own means to retain labor without increasing wages. Farmers in the Northern Transvaal, it seems, initiated an experimental system of Native farm labor bureaus well before the Native Service Contract Act was passed.[43] A bureau consisted of farmers, Native Commissioners, and “native Councils”—that is, “chiefs and indunas [tribal supervisors] chosen by the different tribes in collaboration with the Native Affairs Department.” The main object of these bureaus was “to provide regular labor for farmers,” to combat recruiting agencies for the mines, and, as the Native Commissioner for Potchefstroom informed the Secretary for Native Affairs, “there is the further laudable object of absorbing all available ‘picanin’ labor and preventing as far as possible the drift of these youths to the larger centers.” [44] Since farmers proved hostile to negotiating with “chiefs and indunas,” the Native Services Contract Act extended this idea into a system of Native Farm Labour Advisory Boards, but eliminated African representation. These boards, however, did not develop into a “real live force,” as the Secretary for Native Affairs (SNA) had expected them to.[45] Because they lacked authority to restrict the labor tenants’ movements or to make their own decisions binding, and possibly because Native Commissioners persistently raised the issue of wages and working conditions, the boards were stillborn and did little to prevent the departure of rural Africans for the urban areas.

Existing side-by-side with the eroding system of labor tenancy and the “farm labour shortage” was the phenomenon of large communities of Africans “squatting” on the land of absentee landlords. African access to the land as autonomous subsistence producers incensed farmers. Precluded from owning land outside of the reserves, beleaguered African peasants clung tenaciously to the land, and their resistance delayed plans to subject them to employment on white farms. A 1939 departmental survey of Transvaal farm districts initiated by the Controller of Native Settlements revealed that the majority of farming districts were in favor of enforcement of Chapter IV of the Native Land and Trust Act, the provision that enabled the department to uproot “squatter peasants” and either disperse them across white farms or remove them to the reserves.[46] The department, however, was compelled to refrain for two reasons. The first was the lesson drawn from the “Lydenburg affair” of 1937–38, when, in response to farmers’ requests, the Lydenburg district was proclaimed under the terms of Chapter IV. Less than a year later, the proclamation was suspended in the wake of the violent response of squatters and their accelerated movement into adjacent areas not affected by the proclamation.[47] Smuts, however, declined to respond with anything that “smacked of an element of coercion.” [48]

Thus, the Service Contract Act and Chapter IV were unable to generate a satisfactory and regular supply of agricultural labor or to subject labor tenants adequately to farmers’ control. More than any other sector, therefore, farmers developed an abiding and obsessive concern with forms of identification that would easily distinguish farm laborers from the labor force in the urban areas. Correspondingly, the deliberate destruction of identification documents by farmworkers or their circulation among needy counterparts in the urban areas were simple but effective forms of resistance that jarred urban controls. The inefficiency of the process of bringing pass law violators to book “is designed to frustrate the farmer,” a correspondent to the Farmers Weekly complained in 1937.[49] The discovery of a “passless Native” in an urban area initiated a lengthy correspondence between the municipal Pass Officer and the Native Commissioner in the labor tenant’s declared district of origin. While the department determined the details of a particular case, the “passless Native” was allowed to seek and take up urban employment. The problem was that “in many cases the Native Commissioner of the home district intimates in his reply that the Native is required in that District to fulfill his contractual obligations. The Native, if found in the urban areas, is then sent for and warned to return to the farm, but if he fails to do so the department is powerless to take further action and it then lies with the farmer to initiate proceedings for a contravention of the Masters and Servants Laws and/or the Native Service Contract Act. . . .” [50] Farmers loathed this cumbersome procedure, which called for their continuous intervention in numerous individual cases. The resultant need to travel to town, where the Native Commissioner would hear the case, appeared to farmers to be “a sort of double penalty,” since urban employers already had “abundant labor.” For transfixed farmers, replies to the effect that “desertion could not be stopped by the mere introduction of a regulation” [51] conjured up the nightmare of permanent competition with urban industry for African labor. Matters came to a head in the World War II period when Native Commissioners were instructed by the SNA to relax the application of the pass laws.

Although the department was not completely without sympathy “in these times when food production is of such vital importance,” [52] its responses incensed rather than appeased farmers. A memorandum drawn up by W. J. G. Mears (SNA, 1944–49), then Under-Secretary for Native Affairs, outlined the ways in which the “Department has endeavored to be of assistance to farmers”: a list containing the addresses of known labor recruiters had been compiled; Native Commissioners had been instructed to help farmers “where possible”; farmers had been advised to improve wages and working conditions; “labor gangs” were to be made available to farmers “under conditions of work and remuneration prescribed by the Department,” and a “farm labor scheme” was to be put into operation soon. In short, the department was not prepared to move beyond “the stricter application of existing provisions,” as Piet van der Byl, Minister of Native Affairs, was instructed by Smuts to reply.[53]

The farms, therefore, continued to expel labor out of the rural areas for the rest of the 1930s. Desertion, the most effective form of resistance to the direct domination of the farmer, escalated in the 1940s, making the farms the single largest source of labor for the urban areas.[54] The act of desertion was relatively easy: as Smit observed, farmworkers could simply remain undetected in the urban areas, walk or catch a train to the nearest urban area, or, in some extreme cases (as the Cape Town City Council complained), even catch a boat from one port city to another.[55] Once in the urban area, deserters became enmeshed in the general confusion in urban administration in the 1930s and 1940s. It was relatively easy to slip between the many cracks in urban administration, find employment in the wartime conditions of high employment, and blend with the thousands of other “passless Natives” living in squatter camps, shantytowns, and overcrowded municipal locations.

Africans and Urban Administration

Despite growing concern that the unsanitary conditions prevailing in African residential areas posed threats to whites and that these conditions were fueling working-class opposition to the state, the department failed to devise an effective administrative infrastructure for absorbing Africans into the urban areas. Its policy of permitting local authorities “every latitude in the control of the Native population” essentially permitted local authorities to ignore their civic responsibilities toward the black working class.[56] Similarly, its disinclination to become actively involved in the urbanization process even after the passage of the Urban Areas Act undermined the emergence of a coherent administrative approach to the urbanization of Africans. Consequently, notwithstanding the introduction and repeated strengthening of the influx control and expulsion provisions of the Urban Areas Act between 1923 and 1945, urban administration remained unsynchronized and incapable of detecting or absorbing the streams of Africans who entered the increasingly squalid and febrile urban areas, either as migrant workers or as permanent settlers.

With thousands of Africans in the urban areas trapped between a rising cost of living and the absence of housing accommodation, the inadequate provision of social services in the urban areas became a focal point of resistance. Of the 816,456 Africans on the Witwatersrand in 1946, a mere 18.1 percent were housed in townships constructed by local authorities; the overwhelming majority lived either as squatters on vacant land or as lodgers (subtenants) in the houses of others.[57] The Manager of Johannesburg’s NEAD, L. Venables, estimated in 1946 that the city alone had a waiting list of 17,000 families requiring accommodation. Since at least 3,000 families entered the city every year, the Johannesburg City Council (JCC) was informed that it would have to construct 60,000 “family houses” over the next five years to clear up the immediate shortage, while thousands more would have to be built annually to cope with incoming families.[58] It was the housing shortage that African grievances clustered around in the 1940s: it generated waves of protest against the lack of adequate accommodation, high rental fees, and availability and cost of transport to and from the city center. Even before the war ended, the Union’s major urban areas—inevitably the Witwatersrand and Reef areas in particular—remained in a state of constant turmoil over issues basic to the reproduction of the black working class.

In August 1943, a bus boycott in Johannesburg’s Alexandra township indexed the scale of opposition to inroads in the already tenuous income of the township’s sixty thousand residents. Rather than submit to an increase in bus fares from 4d. to 5d., thousands of workers daily trudged the eighteen miles back and forth to the city center.[59] The success of this boycott carried over into a second bus boycott in November 1944, when, aided by the Alexandra branch of the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) and the Transvaal ANC, residents once again walked the distance, this time for seven weeks.[60] Struggles between African workers and the city council over transport continued well into the 1950s, marked by sporadic violence, deaths, and the large-scale involvement of location inhabitants dependent on cheap mass transport. Residential segregation and the siting of locations away from the city center made transport a central issue. Alexandra inhabitants, for example, spent three and a half hours per day commuting to and from the city center, facing an unpleasant transportation staff, courting danger in unsheltered terminals, and walking considerable distances to central terminals in the township and the city—all for a service that often consumed the second largest chunk of the weekly budget, after rent. Although transport protests were pervasive throughout the country, T. Lodge notes that there appears to have been a correlation between boycotts and locations in which freehold property rights existed for Africans: Sophiatown, Lady Selbourne, Alexandra, and Cato Manor all experienced bus boycotts during the 1940s and 1950s. These townships—older, more established, and accommodating more skilled workers and the petty bourgeoisie—possessed a class base whose “moral and physical resources” were directly threatened by the JCC’s plans to relocate them to the perimeter of the city, as well as by the pressure of newcomers searching for accommodation wherever they could find it.[61]

The resulting friction between established residents organized in civic associations such as Standowners, Tenants, and Subtenants Associations was sometimes of a high order, and competing claims for leadership or for official recognition were common. Alexandra alone appears to have sported, in addition to a number of social clubs, at least ten Standholders, Landlord, and Tenant Associations whose divergent interests—for example, in rent control—meant that disputes and quarrels between the various leaders of organizations and associations in Alexandra Township were rife, as the Secretary of the New Standholders Committee complained to the Minister of Native Affairs.[62]

The urban African community therefore was not homogeneous. Tensions existed, for example, between the established urban community and the incoming migrant population. More securely ensconced within the urban areas, the older sections of the urban population did not feature prominently in the more militant forms of opposition that emerged in the 1940s, limiting their involvement to high-profile but carefully organized events such as bus boycotts.[63] In contrast, the “squatting epidemic” of the 1940s chiefly involved the stratum of subtenants. Over the years, the de facto existence and continuing growth of this category had compelled many city councils to ignore location regulations that permitted only family members to occupy accommodations in their locations.[64] Regulations formally prohibited “persons who are not owners or occupiers of location property nor members of the families of such people” from residing in locations. As a rule, however, lodgers in municipal housing tended to be related to the tenant, in contrast to shantytowns, where the majority of tenants and subtenants were likely to be unrelated.[65]

Native Commissioners in the Witwatersrand identified subtenants—the “loafer-lodger type”—as the prime actors in the squatting movement.[66] This was not entirely inaccurate. More prone to periodic unemployment and more vulnerable to influx controls, subtenants played a role in meeting industry’s need for unskilled or casual migrant labor. They proved to be a militant category, attracted by the flamboyant and militant leaders who emerged in the shantytowns in the early 1940s. Apart from the eccentricities that characterized the personal styles of leaders such as A. Mohase, A. Ntoyi, and the doyen of the squatter leaders, James “Sofasonke” Mpanza, the squatter movements that erupted in Johannesburg, in particular, quickly displayed an insouciance and rudimentary organizational structure that alarmed administrators and held the police at bay. “Parallel administrations run by dangerous fanatics” had begun to emerge in the vacuum caused by “the breakdown of civil administration in Johannesburg’s shantytowns,” the Commissioner of Police urgently warned the Secretary of Native Affairs in 1944. He had, he noted, “squatter leader James Mpanza foremost in mind.” [67] In 1944, Mpanza orchestrated the first large-scale squatter movement, exiting from Newclare and Kliptown onto vacant land in Orlando. In return for an initial 2d. “entrance fee” and a weekly rental of 2.6d., the Sofasonke (“We Shall All Die Together”) Party permitted those willing to swear the obligatory oath of allegiance to Mpanza the privilege of erecting any form of shelter on an allotted stand. Several squatter leaders duplicated Mpanza’s innovative organizational structure of unlicensed trading, designating leaders and committees who appointed camp guards and provided crude sanitary conveniences, and levying charges on occupants for the maintenance of these services.[68]

It was not surprising that subtenants found such initiatives attractive. Subtenants were highly vulnerable to exorbitant rents and to summary eviction by registered tenants of municipal houses and homeowners in areas where freehold rights existed for Africans. Despairing that municipalities would ever clean up the horrendous conditions in squatter camps, let alone construct new housing that they could afford, subtenants were drawn by Mpanza’s successful confrontations with Johannesburg’s NEAD and the South African Police.[69] After squatters had seized partially completed and temporarily vacant housing in Pimville and Alexandra, C. Alport (Director of Native Labour) and Graham Ballenden (Manager, NEAD, Johannesburg) inspected Mpanza’s camp and reported to the city council that “Shantytown is an established fact”: 95 percent of the families resided in “extremely small, roughly made shelters constructed merely of poles and hessian.…The balance are made of mielie meal stalks and old pieces of tin.” Later, Mpanza threatened the outraged city council with the diversion of municipal water and the erection of windmills. More squatter camps developed, several of which originated as rival or splinter groups.[70] In 1947 a rent boycott emerged in Jabavu and in the Moroko Emergency Camp—established to relocate and centralize squatters from the various camps—leading to the killing of three policemen in the ensuing violence.[71]

Squatter camps began emerging in “peri-urban areas” (i.e., the outskirts of urban areas) throughout the country, where the Urban Areas Act did not apply. The Cape Town City Council’s confidence in the strategy of restricting entry into the municipal area by soliciting the intervention of the railways, who agreed not to issue tickets to travelers without prior proof of employment in the Cape Peninsula, evaporated as workseekers devised alternative routes.[72] The high profile of Johannesburg’s seventy thousand squatters and the burgeoning squalor of shanty settlements and locations filled beyond capacity publicized the breakdown in urban administration. By the late 1940s, local authorities in the industrial zones of the Transvaal had abandoned hope of gaining immediate control over the housing issue.

One consequence of grassroots volatility was the invidious position in which Native Advisory Boards found themselves. Advisory boards were vested with just two functions: to “consult” with city councils over location registrations and to elect a representative of the urban areas for each province to the Native Representative Council (NRC).[73] The nebulous status of advisory boards may be gauged from the failure of the 1924 (and subsequent) location regulations to elaborate on these two functions. With the support of the liberal establishment, who viewed advisory boards as a vehicle for nurturing the small class of African property holders and traders in the townships, the annual Location Advisory Boards Congress restricted itself to its tepid constitution, pleading with unwavering regularity for official municipal recognition of the “advice” and “recommendations” it proffered in accordance with regulations published under the Urban Areas Act. The establishment of alternative residential organizations reflected the general rejection of these bodies. With the support of the CPSA, Subtenants Associations developed strong antipathies toward advisory boards.[74] The Joint Council of Europeans and Africans, a liberal body with no interest in exaggerating the gulf between white city councils and Africans, informed W. J. G. Mears, the SNA, in 1946 that “it was no use blinking the fact that Advisory Boards do not command the respect and confidence of the African people.” [75] Embattled Native Commissioners fruitlessly attempted to subject Subtenants Associations and shantytown inhabitants to location regulations. Major F. Rodseth (Under-Secretary for Native Affairs) distributed a circular to NCs in the Witwatersrand area advising them to give their support discreetly to “the more reasonable ones who are open to discussion and…accept the authority of the NC.” [76]

Several boards, such as Johannesburg’s Joint Advisory Board (representing all boards in the city’s locations), appear to have adopted a more aggressive stance in their dealings with local authorities. In 1946 and 1947, in keeping with its decision to “exploit prevailing sympathies to representative structures,” the CPSA either actively supported Subtenants Associations in their electoral stands against board members or advocated boycotts of advisory board elections.[77] As early as 1939, the Joint Advisory Board had passed a resolution exhorting boards “to go ahead vigorously with the fight against the gross greed of local aggression” and defiantly asserting its refusal to “become a henchman for oppression.” [78] According to J. E. Mathewson (Manager, NAD, Benoni), who was a staunch protagonist of the advisory board system, participation in advisory board elections varied enormously, involving anywhere from 1½ to 70 percent in different localities. Johannesburg, according to the president of the SAIRR, appears to have averaged about 10 percent participation.[79]

In the postwar period, several advisory boards recognized the NRC’s decision to adjourn indefinitely, in reaction to the brutal quashing of the mineworkers’ strike, and the Orlando Advisory Board actually adjourned sine die itself.[80] At this time, the Johannesburg City Council had recently suffered a series of losses in court when the validity of location regulations had been contested. Gloomily assured of a hostile reaction from the Joint Advisory Board, it hung back from promulgating new regulations because “any amendments will, in turn, only become the object of further litigation.” But carelessly worded location regulations made it difficult to secure convictions for violations of proclamations prohibiting squatting and the “uncontrolled erection of shelter,” prompting the Johannesburg City Council to complain that “the Courts tended towards a sympathetic view” of the plight of squatters.[81] An official report cited two additional reasons for the lack of any concerted state response: the costly legal burden of proving that each individual squatter was guilty of a violation and the stolid refusal of local authorities to accept responsibility for the accommodation of even legally employed Africans.[82]

The radicalizing of the Union’s black residential areas was reflected in similar changes in national political organizations. A. B. Xuma’s election to the presidency of the ANC in 1940 marked the eclipse of that organization’s concerns, under Selope Seme, with the African chieftaincy and administration in the reserves. This development signaled the rise of an urban-based program of opposition spearheaded by the younger generation of urban intellectuals. Disillusioned with institutional protest and the failure of the anti-pass campaigns of 1944 and 1946, the ANC turned to a policy of “noncollaboration” with state institutions. Under the guidance of young intellectuals such as Anton Lembede, Nelson Mandela, and Oliver Tambo, the Congress Youth League, established in 1942 within the ANC, brought these tendencies to the forefront of national black politics and pressed for the rejection of segregation at all levels.[83] The NRC—the advisory body established as a “compensation” for the disenfranchisement of Africans in the Cape in 1936—also reflected the militant postwar mood: in 1945, it abandoned its focus on the African vote in the Cape and resolved instead to “concentrate on the legitimate needs and aspirations of the permanent rather than temporary urban Africans.” [84]

At a meeting which included the SNA, the Director of Native Labour, and the Commissioner of Police, L. I. Venables (Manager, Johannesburg NEAD) argued that the problems of urban administration, and principally the housing crisis, were deeply implicated in these developments: “Housing is the dominant need.…Communism is being eclipsed by a growing nationalism which in my view is a dominant influence in widening the gap between the Natives and the Europeans.…The movement is out of control today. They are recruiting men for a guerrilla army based on the plan of the Jews in Palestine. These youngsters are fanatical and don’t fear death.” [85] The Commissioner of Police amplified on the link between housing shortages and political unrest, claiming that squatter leaders were coercing homeless Africans into paying “as much as £6.10.0 for a lorry to transport their goods to the site and then they are required to pay £3 in advance for their supposed rights to the land.” He summarized developments: “I have thought over the question of leaders and who can be approached. Certain Natives [i.e., advisory boards] are supposed to be leaders but they are not backed up by the Natives themselves. Some have lost prestige and have been thrown out. There is a type of business leader growing up. Some of these have not been fiery enough and they have been rejected. The African Youth League is to my mind a very dangerous organization. It is imperative that the housing issue should be solved as soon as possible.” [86]

The role of the municipal Location Superintendent in the day-to-day administration of locations became a serious issue. Caught between the agility of their city councils and of the DNA in evading final responsibility for location administration and housing construction, superintendents were indeed in a difficult position. One superintendent was moved to complain, “Local authorities continually complain that they are ‘the Cinderellas of the State’, but we [Superintendents] are the real sacrificial lambs of urban administration.” [87] At the very bottom of the administrative hierarchy, superintendents were also at the forefront of the battles between Africans and the local state, and so they deeply resented the low status attached to their occupation. They invariably had no knowledge of the vernacular, possessed an unreliable grasp of legislation and the regulations that clothed them with extraordinary powers over location inhabitants, and battled constantly with the advisory boards whose meetings they chaired—to the displeasure of board members, who regularly requested that the superintendent should be replaced by a member of the town council.[88] Under the terms of regulations issued under the Urban Areas Act, location superintendents regulated the issuance of site, residential, tenant, subtenant, and visitor permits, which conferred the respective forms of legality to Africans in their locations. Such duties were inherently provocative and so inevitably pitted the superintendent against his “wards”:

In addition to the management of locations, the Superintendent may have to enforce regulations dealing with the registration of service contracts, the housing accommodation of Africans outside locations, municipal beer halls or the control of domestic brewing. Much of his work, therefore, consists of carrying out a national rather than a municipal policy, and one of his difficulties is that his functions as civil administrator are not easily distinguishable from his role of policeman and supervisor of restrictive legislation.[89]

Complaints against superintendents escalated during the war years as attempts to impose order in locations resulted in the technique of nighttime “pass raids” and imperious searches for evidence of illegal beer-brewing.[90]

Local Authorities and the DNA

Agrarian dissatisfaction and African opposition firmly focused national attention on the unsatisfactory state of urban administration. Sporadic at first, this attention became acute as the Union’s largest urban centers entered into a period of political turmoil, with the country’s urban African population doubling from 587,000 to an estimated 1,150,000 between 1921 and 1936.[91] By the mid-1930s, the Urban Areas Act had gravitated away from the social and medical anxieties that had informed its passage in 1923; thereafter, as its amendments in 1930 and 1937 made clear, urban administration was increasingly dominated by influx control concerns. But, despite manifest evidence that urban administration lagged far behind these legislative accomplishments, the department did little to address a central problem in the organization of urban administration: the ambiguous and overlapping concerns of the central and local agencies in the management of urban Native administration.[92]

Although local authorities were clearly subordinate to the Department of Native Affairs, in the 1930s and 1940s the department took the position that local authorities were primarily responsible for the administration of urban policy, while its own major focus was the administration of the reserves. Speaking in his capacity as Acting Minister of Native Affairs in 1937, Smuts informed a gathering of municipal officials that the problem of influx controls “was essentially an urban one and your locations concern you directly more closely than they concern the rest of the community.…” Furthermore, administration threw up “technical and practical difficulties which only municipal officers know about.…” [93] Local authorities cited a lengthy history of autonomy from the central state, but at the same time demanded greater assistance in the area of financing, especially to provide housing for their African populations. With the National Party pressing the case for white workers and white farmers—two crucial conservative constituencies who were demanding that African access to the urban areas should be choked off by firm administrative means—the department came under pressure to review its relationship with local authorities in the 1930s.[94] By 1937, it hesitantly reached the conclusion that effective control over Africans in the urban areas would be achieved only if local authorities “behaved more responsibly towards their Native populations” and “took advantage of the powers which the Urban Areas Act places at their disposal.” For the first time, talk about “compelling” local authorities to implement various components of the Urban Areas Act surfaced with increasing regularity, and such measures eventually featured prominently in the reforms advocated by the Fagan Commission.

But the Urban Areas Act was itself implicated in the department’s more critical perception of local authorities. The act harbored a host of provisions that complicated the “problem of controlling Natives in urban areas.” A major problem was the voluntary nature of Section 12. This provision required employers to register every contract entered into with an employee, to pay a registration fee, and to report the termination of the contract to the municipal pass office, which in turn forwarded the information to the local police. These provisions were designed to yield an accurate picture of employment levels and to keep track of individual workers in the urban areas. The ability to distinguish legal from illegal Africans therefore derived from the ability to register service contracts under the terms of Section 12. However, Section 12 came into effect only after a local authority had exercised its discretion to seek proclamation of the terms of the act. The voluntary nature of Section 12 thus became a major problem for the department in the 1940s. Most local authorities did not request to be “proclaimed” under the terms of Section 12. Local authorities agreed that Section 12 was indispensable to the “proper control of Natives in the Urban areas,” but protested that the provision saddled them with expensive administrative costs—buildings had to be purchased, constructed, or rented; administrative and clerical personnel had to be recruited; and the logic of influx controls meant that the size of the municipal police force had to be increased to ferret out the “idle and dissolute.” A further problem dissuaded a number of local authorities in the Witwatersrand from regulating the registration of contracts. Here, local authorities complained that the Urban Areas Act held them responsible for the administrative costs of registering service contracts while diverting the registration fees to the Provincial Authority.[95]

Moreover, virtually all local authorities refrained from exercising their rights to limit Africans’ entry into the urban areas. In 1937, a mere eleven had done so—again a consequence of the fact that influx control provisions were not mandatory, even after they were pointedly included in a 1930 amendment to remedy a major weakness in the parent act of 1923.[96] The original act did, however, authorize local authorities to expel Africans deemed to be “idle and dissolute.” Suspects detained under this section were brought before a magistrate, Native Commissioner, or Native Sub-Commissioner, who could then mete out one of two penalties: the African could be expelled to his rural residence, or he could be detained on a farm or labor colony for a period of up to two years. But the legal and financial burdens associated with proving that the accused was indeed “idle and dissolute” dissuaded local authorities from vigorous action.[97]

Regulations governing the issuance of workseekers’ permits were another problem. Incoming rural workseekers were required to apply for a workseeker’s permit allowing them to remain in an urban area for fourteen days; theoretically, this meant that migrant workers were subjected to greater controls in the labor market than were members of the settled population. At the same time, the permit could not be denied to any African who wished to enter an urban area. Thus, this provision prodded law enforcement authorities to police the validity of workseekers’ permits constantly, for this was the only way to detect the presence of “illegals” in the urban areas. But local authorities did not possess the administrative resources to undertake such a high volume of continual surveillance, so workseekers had “virtually unfettered access to the Union’s urban areas.…” [98] A further weakness of the act was that it concentrated on African males, leaving their families free to enter and remain in an urban area, whether or not the male secured employment.[99] Local authorities in the Cape Province were faced with an added problem: because the pass laws were held by the courts to be ultra vires there, the only way the department could dissuade Africans from departing the Cape’s reserves for the urban areas was, as D. L. Smit put it, to “spread propaganda amongst them.” [100]

Apart from these administrative problems, two further issues loomed large in the disarray of administration. One was the contentious nature of the Stallardist doctrine. Not all local authorities accepted the Stallardist contention that the urban areas were “essentially the white man’s creation”; they therefore exercised their rights not to seek proclamation of the terms of Section 12, principally for ideological reasons. J. Beet (Kimberley City Council)—who, like all the officials present at a 1937 conference between municipalities and the department, supported the view that greater state control over Africans in the urban areas was required—reacted viscerally to Smuts’ insistence that all “redundant labour” should be expelled to the reserves: “…[W]hat about the children? what about old people? Must they be cast out to die like a lot of dogs as has been suggested?” [101]

Disaffection with Stallardism, however, was by no means confined to the ranks of local authorities; the department itself was divided over the matter. Heaton Nicholls used his influential dual position as a member of parliament in Smuts’ SAP and chairman over the Native Affairs Commission (NAC) to champion Stallardism and tribalist policies at every opportunity and appears to have been the only senior Native affairs man willing to threaten local authorities for not complying with their statutory duties.[102] On the other hand, senior Native administration men such as Denys Reitz (Minister of Native Affairs, 1939–1943), Piet van der Byl (MNA, 1943–1948), D. L. Smit (Secretary of Native Affairs, 1934–1944), and W. G. Mears (SNA, 1944–1948) all expressed strong moral reservations about the pass laws they were duty-bound to uphold, and none of them appears ever to have come down in favor of the Stallardist position.[103]

Three senior department officials actually repudiated this doctrine in 1935. Appointed by Smuts to reexamine the recommendations of the Stallard Commission’s report, C. Mould Young (a member of the NAC, and formerly Chief Native Commissioner [CNC] in Natal), A. L. Barrett (CNC, Cape Province), and Fred Rodseth (then Inspector of Urban Locations) recorded their opinion that “we see no ground for the claim that the towns are an exclusive achievement and possession of the White man.” They therefore opposed policies that would secure “the wholesale eviction…of numbers of families who have been resident in the urban areas for generations.” [104] Contrary to the claims made by farmers and echoed by Smuts, unemployment levels among blacks were indeed low throughout the 1940s. In 1942 a departmental officer rejected claims about labor surpluses with the observation that “There is no influx of Natives along the Reef”—and even recommended that pass laws should be more leniently applied.[105] Other Native Commissioners reported that labor shortages existed in their districts and saw no reason to apply urban controls more forcefully. An NC in Johannesburg provided another reason for the lax application of the law: “Magistrates were reluctant to commit people to an institution because it was conducted like a prison. It was intended to be a labor colony but was actually conducted on prison lines. The NC had the power to commit an idle and dissolute person for a period of up to two years. If one visited the colony and saw how these people were disciplined, one felt that for merely being idle and dissolute it was not fair.” [106] This was a sympathetic administrative view that stands in graphic contrast to what was to come later.

However, Native affairs personnel were inconsistent in their liberal critique of the Stallardist doctrine, and the vacillations of recognized liberals such as D. L. Smit and General Smuts—not to mention the “tribalist” proselytizing of Heaton Nicholls—did much to perforate the liberal aura the department sought to maintain in the segregation era. That Smuts would ride shotgun for General Hertzog in the 1930s, advocating influx control provisions that Smuts admitted were specifically geared to meet farmers’ demands for greater urban controls on Africans,[107] comes as something of a surprise. But even more surprising is D. L. Smit’s own support of these measures, particularly in the teeth of opposition from a number of local authorities—all considerably less “liberal” than Smit—who were adamant that stricter influx controls were not needed. (In 1942, however, Smit decisively recovered his liberal keel by authoring a report recommending that the pass laws should be abolished.)[108] Also, the trenchant rejection of the Stallardist vision that J. Young and A. L. Barrett articulated in their 1935 report was compromised by the practical recommendations they proffered for increasing the ability of local authorities to compile information concerning “redundant Natives.” This information easily lent itself to justifications for limiting or evicting surplus labor from the urban areas, and would later be approvingly cited by Verwoerd on precisely these grounds.[109]

The second reason for the disarray in urban administration resided in the virtual absence of any empirical information about most issues of administration. Due to the chaotic housing situation, unregulated urbanization, and the burgeoning population of subtenants, estimates of urban populations tended to be unreliable, while the voluntary nature of Section 12 undermined the ability of urban officials to determine accurate local unemployment levels. Also, the inability of local authorities to congregate incoming workseekers in “reception depots” (as regulations required them to do) reflected the more or less complete lack of any centralized coordinating apparatus administered by either the local authority or the department. Whereas reception depots did exist in some areas, in the Transvaal they were “either highly inadequate or virtually non-existent,” according to a 1944 departmental memo whose very tone of uncertainty suggests the department’s hazy grasp of its own administrative institutions.[110] General Smuts justified his strong support for more effective influx controls by citing numbers almost certainly plucked from the air. His claim at the 1937 conference that the Witwatersrand area alone was being “menaced” by the “evil” of ninety-three thousand unemployed Africans was therefore met with open disbelief by representatives from local authorities across the Union. By the same token, the vague guesses that municipal delegates offered to prove that unemployment levels were low in their areas also underscored the absence of reliable data about the labor market.[111]

Given these weaknesses, it is not surprising that a departmental review of urban policy in 1934 judged the Urban Areas Act to be “practically toothless and highly uneven in practice” and held local authorities responsible for the “many weaknesses in urban administration.” But, hinting at the principal motivation behind calls for a more muscular urban machine, the memo also lamented the “consequent complaints which the Department receives from the Union’s farmers about Native farm workers who disappear in the urban areas.” [112] As D. L. Smit, General Smuts, and Heaton Nicholls made clear, political considerations—specifically, the obligation to honor the compromises reached over Hertzog’s “Native Bills”—and not the bogey of African urban unemployment lay behind the authoritarian modification of the Urban Areas Act in 1937.[113] Indeed, the new clauses governing influx and expulsion controls were so stringent that municipal administrators appeared genuinely puzzled and uneasy when departmental officials outlined the measure to them at the conference held in 1937.

Apart from significantly escalating the powers of local authorities to exercise these powers, the Amendment Act of 1937 is noteworthy for two other reasons. First, it placed an unprecedented emphasis on the importance of empirical data about Africans in the urban areas. The Amendment Act sought to overcome the pervasive statistical ignorance in urban administration: “if the Government has to step in and restrict the influx of Natives into towns, it must have facts to go by. . . .” [114] The act therefore provided for the taking of a municipal census and made it obligatory for local authorities to enumerate their African population once every two years and to submit census returns to the DNA. Another “statistical survey” provided for by the act was intended to yield information that could be used to deter workseekers from leaving the rural areas; this information would be made available to the labor exchanges established by the act. By first checking with the labor exchanges, “the Native who wishes to seek employment in towns…will be able to ascertain from the officer in charge of the bureau whether labour is required in particular centers and probably obviate the influx which is taking place to-day.” [115]

The other innovation introduced by the Amendment Act was that it pointedly reemphasized the department’s overall control over urban policy and its statutory dominance over local authorities. Pivotal sections of the Urban Areas Act—those dealing with the registration of service contracts, influx control, and residential segregation—were altered to vest discretionary power in the Minister of Native Affairs, authorizing him to make their application compulsory if particular municipalities proved recalcitrant. Section 18 increased the minister’s powers generally, empowering him to compel any local authority to enforce any section of the act. With the approval of the Native Affairs Commission, any section of the Urban Areas Act could be implemented by the DNA over the objections of a local authority and at the latter’s cost.[116] Much to the irritation of municipal officials, these powers were activated immediately. Brushing aside heated objections from municipal officials, Smit and Nicholls insisted that half the financial costs of taking the biannual census would be borne by local authorities whose African population numbered more than five thousand, and that the full amount would be paid for by those with smaller populations.[117]

Much as the 1927 Native Administration Act had done, the Amendment Act provided the department with the opportunity to expand and stake out its authority within the state. Whereas the Native Administration Act had strengthened the department’s profile in relation to its perennial competitor, the Department of Justice, the Amendment Act performed a similar service in bolstering the department’s authority over local authorities. The Amendment Act brought to urban administration a new discourse centering around technical information, centralization, and bureaucratic hierarchy. Formerly, important aspects of administration such as the need for influx controls had been portrayed variously as social, political, or economic necessities. These perspectives persisted throughout the segregation era, but in the wake of the Amendment Act, “influx controls” also surfaced more clearly in the department’s discourse as a problem of administration and technical management. The importance of empirical information, managerial control, and the internal cohesion of the overall machine thus detached themselves from the pristine fears that whites harbored about “racial mixture,” their medical anxieties about socially transmitted diseases, and their amorphous anxiety about “unregulated Natives” in the urban areas. While these latter considerations—the immediate motivations behind the Urban Areas Act in 1923—continued to produce reliable effects and so were faithfully trotted out at election time, urban administration in the 1930s became distanced from the dynamics of ideological debates, policy accords, and the deliberations of secretive parliamentary joint select committees. Administration was increasingly rendered into a bureaucratic realm ruled by Native administrators, who, in turn, were increasingly governed by the technicist considerations of “operations and methods.”

Drawn from the repertoire of administrative science and organizational theory, such developments abstract bureaucracy from the social relations in which it is embedded and are, one source notes, “crucial expressions of the development of the instrumental rationality of capitalist society.” [118] In organizational theory, the broader socioeconomic social context is taken as a given so that bureaucratic rationality appears removed from “the unstable variability of immediate interpersonal and class relations, marked by divergent interests and struggles.” [119] Because bureaucracies process “inputs” (information) into “outputs” (policy/administration), state bureaucrats also appear detached from the private interests of civil society, as servants only of “the public interest” that the state is seen to protect and embody. A striking example of this depoliticizing effect in South Africa is the debate over responsibility for the costs of the biannual municipal census provided for in the Amendment Act of 1937. The purpose of this census was to ground the exercise of controversial influx and expulsion provisions on a “scientific” empirical basis. In 1937, however, departmental and municipal officials bickered fiercely over which branch of the state would benefit most from the expulsion of Africans from the urban areas—for, in accordance with the philosophy of Native affairs, the costs of administration would be borne by whoever benefited most. With this fiscal sword hanging above them, even those officials who were uneasy about the escalation of influx control in the Amendment Act abandoned their moral protest to rally around the argument that “the taking of a census being a national benefit, the Government is respectfully asked to bear the cost thereof.…” [120] As Beet’s poignant plea (“What about the children?”) suggests, unless continually resisted, the effect of administrative discourse generally is to place the actions of administrators at a remove from the accumulation process, leaving it to the banality of routinization to depoliticize the technicist consequences of administration. In the administrative lexicon, administration therefore boils down to problems of “control” and “law and order”—or the “character” of “idle or dissolute” Africans. In sum, the administrative discourse that consolidated within the ranks of urban state cadres in the 1930s diminished the gravity of the assault on African liberties. It presented the rationalization of urban administration, not as the deeply political process it was, but as an administrative imperative on which the welfare of the Union as a whole depended.

The national conference held in 1937 between DNA and municipal officers to discuss the ramifications of the Amendment Act was a signal development in this process. With the basic parameters of segregation policy finally resolved and the disenfranchisement of Africans accomplished, the department was free to turn its attention to the nuts and bolts of practical administration. The 1937 conference of urban administrators, which was almost certainly the idea of the department’s new SNA, D. L. Smit,[121] is thus significant in two senses. First, it signified the supersession of the broad disputes around the “Native question” by an emerging consensus in the more narrowly defined field of urban administration. Furthermore, it prefigured the ascendance of a stratum of state cadres fully apprised of their distinctive and important function within the state and armed with a specific “language of legitimation” for dealing with the business of monitoring and controlling African urbanization.

If these two developments marked an important change in the character of urban administration, they were at the same time largely formal and embryonic in the late 1930s and 1940s. A cluster of events insured that they would not congeal into either a definite bureaucratic philosophy or a distinct administrative style in the segregation years. First, liberal Native affairs men themselves undoubtedly pulled back from the full implications of the Amendment Act. Having just rammed the Amendment Act down the throats of municipal officials in 1937, Smuts remained confident that the act would be implemented in a “milder and fairer form than most people think,” largely because the “Native Affairs Department is on the whole wiser than the legislators of this country.” [122] Second, the outbreak of World War II almost immediately confounded the authoritarian spirit embodied in the Amendment Act. Far from restricting Africans’ access to the urban areas, the department all but abandoned the pass system in practice—and even briefly suspended the pass laws in the Witwatersrand in 1942—in order to meet the wartime demand for African labor.[123] Third, the eruption of urban struggles in the 1940s, principally around the issues of housing, rents, and transports, severely jolted municipal administration, taxing NADs at a time when much of their personnel and fiscal resources were already absorbed by the war effort. Last, despite the passage of the Amendment Act, an array of legal loopholes pockmarked the Urban Areas Act, making it difficult for administrators, for example, to evict and prosecute participants in the squatter movements or to deal effectively with the phenomenon of illegal subtenants. Poorly drafted regulations therefore provided inadvertent legal protection to Africans, which (to the irritation of the Johannesburg City Council) the courts all too frequently upheld.[124] Thus, in 1945, municipal administrators in the Witwatersrand area were sufficiently frustrated with the vacillations in urban policy to reiterate verbatim a request made to the Urban Areas Branch in 1935 “that municipalities should know what the definite policy of the government is upon various matters such as segregation, land tenure, influx control, etc., in which respect the Urban Areas Act is inadequate.” [125]

The slippage of responsibility for urban administration would be sharply condemned by the Fagan Commission in 1948: “It is, therefore, a disturbing thought that in accordance with policy we have inherited from pre-Union days when the problem had not yet assumed this aspect…the regulation of the contacts is not in the hands of the central government, but in the hands of hundreds of municipalities.” Local authorities responded to the lacunae in policy and administration in two ways: they combined into regional associations and explored ways to rationalize and update urban Native policy independently of the department. At least two organizations were formed in the early 1940s (and it is likely that more were established, possibly as early as the mid-1930s). First off the mark were local authorities in the Cape Peninsula. Here, fourteen local authorities banded together in 1941 to form a “Coordinating Committee re Natives in the Cape Peninsula.” Although this committee aspired to do more, its principal concern was to synchronize efforts to combat the ease with which rural arrivals from the Transkei entered (many of them on the mbombela train) and settled on the outskirts of municipal areas. The major accomplishment of the coordinating committee was to press the South African Railways (SAR) successfully into refusing to issue tickets to Transkeian Africans who could not first provide proof of employment in the Western Cape. Although it remained dubious about the success of this tactic, the SAR later extended the policy to other parts of the country.[126]

Much more significant was the establishment of the Association of Administrators of Non-European Affairs (AANEA) in 1944 by Managers of NADs on the Witwatersrand, South Africa’s crucial industrial zone. There, the dense configuration of urban centers generated confusion about which local authority could be held responsible for the costs of implementing policy, especially the daunting expenses associated with the provision of housing and public utilities. Dominated by the Johannesburg NEAD, the AANEA developed into a counterweight to the imperialist tendencies of the central state, articulating the collective interest of local authorities in maintaining their relative autonomy, particularly from the DNA. It also afforded NADs on the Witwatersrand a regular forum to explore and compare solutions to the various administrative problems they encountered, giving strong impetus to the consolidation of urban administration as a technical, nonpolitical field managed by a peer group of bureaucrats. As the licensing of managers by the Minister of Native Affairs from 1937 onward confirmed, these bureaucrats were acknowledged to be experts on the problems of urban Native administration.[127] AANEA meetings in the 1940s focused on the lack of uniform regulations, the lowly status of municipal NADs, and the ineffectiveness of the department’s Urban Areas Branch.

But, perhaps inevitably, the AANEA also engaged the broad issue of the Union’s Native policy. Between 1945 and 1948 it responded to both African resistance and the lethargy of the Urban Areas Branch by exploring ideas that centered around greater state control over Africans in the urban areas. A letter (dated 12 June 1948) that Venables sent to the apartheid government’s first Minister of Native Affairs, E. G. Jansen, summarizes the extent of the AANEA’s concern with national policy—as well as its similarities to Verwoerd’s urban policies in the 1950s. On behalf of the AANEA, Venables requested the standardization of administration regulations, the “proper” planning and siting of locations, cheap mass transport between segregated locations and city centers, and the strengthening of influx and expulsion controls. In addition, the AANEA called for

the immediate establishment by the Union Government in Johannesburg of a national labor and information office to coordinate and publish information on the labor requirements and surpluses of rural and urban centers throughout the Union…[and] machinery…to authorize the direction of labor to places where employment is available.

Venables concluded that the rapid reorganization of urban administration along these lines was necessary to avoid “further squatter movements and possibly civil disorders on a larger scale.” [128] The AANEA’s reasoning communicates the tenor of the debate between local administrators. For managers of NADs, the virtual absence of a national urban policy had contributed to the numerous practical problems which had come home to roost on the municipal doorstep. Their response, therefore, was shaped by the immediate exigencies of local administration, where the impact of African resistance was most direct, dramatic, and jarring to the administrative machine.

Thus, although all municipalities supported segregation in some form, their calls for the central state to take a greater role in the final years of segregation had more to do with restoring immediate “law and order” than with grand solutions to “the Native problem.” They conceived state control over African urbanization not as a grand “strategy of domination” but as a bureaucratic problem in need of bureaucratic solutions: improved efficiency, coordinating the gathering and distribution of information, and clarifying the administrative hierarchy. But if a number of them sought ways to ameliorate the general impact of these laws on Africans, as W. J. P. Carr claims, they also ensured that the administrative system functioned smoothly: it was not the fundamental principle of racial segregation but the severity of the laws that disturbed them. In a move that crowned the steady ascendance of urban administration to the apex of state policy in the 1940s, the AANEA was superseded in 1950 by the establishment of the Institute of Administrators of Non-European Affairs (IANEA), a national body of Native administrators drawn from across the country, which would develop close relations with the department in the 1950s.


1. Dubow, Racial Segregation, passim.

2. Margaret Ballinger notes that this tendency was exacerbated by two other factors: Smuts’ penchant for appointing to the DNA people (such as General E. Conroy) who possessed “little apparent qualification” for the job and his odd decision to pair the reactionary Heaton Nicholls with the liberal E. H. Brookes (after he recanted his support for segregation) on the NAC. When Smuts obtained Parliament’s mandate to assist Britain in the war against Germany in 1939, leading to the demise of the Fusion Government, the SAP government had to work with an NAC on which two of the five members belonged to the opposition party led by General Hertzog. It is also difficult to reconcile J. H. Hofmeyr’s liberal tone with Smuts’ strong personal support for more draconian controls over African urbanization in the late 1930s. See M. Ballinger, From Union to Apartheid: A Trek to Isolation (Johannesburg, 1969). Also see, by R. F. Hoernlé, “Present-Day Trends in South African Race Relations,” Race Relations, 8/1 (1941), and South African Native Policy and the Liberal Spirit (Johannesburg, 1945).

3. S. Dubow, “‘Holding a Just Balance between White and Black’: The Native Affairs Department in South Africa, c. 1920–33,” Journal of Southern African Studies (JSAS), 12/2 (1986).

4. Of the 28 seats the Nationalists won with a slim majority of less than one thousand votes, 14 were in the farming areas of the Transvaal and the Cape. Heard, General Elections, 46.

5. F. Hendricks, The Pillars of Apartheid (Ph.D. dissertation, Uppsala, Stockholm, 1990).

6. The DNA’s newfound “prestige” may be overstated in Dubow’s Racial Segregation and the Origins of Apartheid. Bell suggests that the administrative changes of the late 1920s and 1930s barely altered the department’s profile within the state. M. M. S. Bell, “Politics of Administration,” 88. As Major M. Liefeldt (Chief Magistrate of the Transkei) informed his fellow CNCs in 1950, “…I cannot think of another Department which takes its orders as we do from other Departments—I am referring to [the Departments of] Justice and Lands.…” “Conference of Chief Native Commissioners,” 3 February 1950, in NTS 1812 1 138/276, Annexure.

7. It is emphasized that these acts defined largely formal orientations in the 1920s and 1930s. The practical significance of the linkages among these three pieces of legislation is amplified in Lacey’s account of the labor market in the interwar years. The discussion that follows draws extensively from D. Hindson, “The Pass System and the Formation of an Urban African Proletariat: A Critique of the Cheap Labour Thesis” (Ph.D. dissertation, Sussex University, 1983), chapters 2 and 3.

8. Cited in Hindson, Pass Controls, 84.

9. Only in the 1950s, however, was the Native Labour Regulation Act specifically amended to prevent mineworkers from remaining on in an urban area once their service contract had expired. Hindson, Pass Controls, 69.

10. The Witwatersrand Native Labour Association (WNLA) secured black labor throughout sub-Saharan Africa, while the Native Recruiting Corporation was established to recruit within the reserves and in the High Commission Territories (Basutoland, Swaziland, and Bechuanaland). Both of these apparatuses were monopsonies (i.e., they possessed a monopoly on labor in certain defined territories) and were established not only to regularize the procurement of vast amounts of labor, but also to suppress competition between mines for black labor, to disperse labor across individual mines, and to standardize working conditions across the industry. F. Wilson, Labour in the South African Gold Mines, 1911–1969 (Cambridge, 1972); J. Crush, A. Jeeves, and D. Yudelman, South Africa’s Labour Empire (Boulder, 1991).

11. H. Rogers, Native Administration in the Union of South Africa (Johannesburg, 1933), 208. The Director of Native Labour (DNL) also served as the Chief Native Commissioner (CNC) for the Witwatersrand; this arrangement was terminated only in the 1950s, when the positions were split.

12. These duties included “the general adoption of clean methods of recruiting, fair and careful consideration of legitimate grievances of Natives, greater attention to efficiency and the conservation of labor, improved status and responsibility of compound managers and of those in immediate control of Natives, vastly improved hospital provision with full-time medical officers on nearly all the mines, the substantial reduction of death rates from disease and accident, and greatly improved conditions of living for Natives in urban locations.” Rogers, Native Administration, 211.

13. Director of Native Labour (DNL) to Secretary for Native Affairs (SNA), 3 October 1944, in NTS 2239 1 477/280.

14. Unable to convert to mechanization and wage labor, most white farmers became dependent on a system that, for approximately half of the year, permitted them access to the unpaid labor of African communities resident on their farms. In exchange, the farmer permitted his labor tenants to cultivate a certain portion of the farm for their own subsistence; moreover, with the permission of the farmer, labor tenants could seek temporary work in the urban areas, after which they were required to return and continue their obligations to the white farmer. This basic arrangement addressed the penurious condition of most white farmers, affording the less well-off among them access to resident pools of cheap labor and providing farmers with a generous forty-year interregnum to wean themselves off labor tenancy, greatly easing the transition to fully capitalist production methods. See Lacey, Working for Boroko; Mike Morris, “The Development of Capitalism in South African Agriculture: Class Struggle in the Countryside,” Economy and Society, 5/3 (1976). The Urban Areas Act and the Native Land Act prohibited Africans from owning land in the urban areas, confining such rights to the reserves only.

15. Rogers, Native Administration, 87.

16. “Memorandum by Controller of Native Settlements,” April 15, 1939, NTS 8834 1 97/362.

17. B. Vosloo, B. Kotze, and W. Jeppe, Local Government in South Africa (Cape Town, 1974), 23.

18. Report of the Transvaal Local Government Commission, TP 1/1922, para. 42.

19. T. R. H. Davenport, “The Beginnings of Urban Segregation in South Africa: The Natives (Urban Areas) Act of 1923 and Its Background” (Occasional Paper 15, Institute for Social and Economic Research, Rhodes University, 1971), 17–19.

20. M. Burawoy, “State and Social Revolution in South Africa,” Kapitalistate, 9 (December 1981); Lacey, Working for Boroko; Davenport, “Beginnings of Urban Segregation.”

21. M. Swanson, “The Sanitation Syndrome: Bubonic Plague and Urban Native Policy in the Cape Colony, 1900–1909,” Journal of African History, 18 (1977), 387.

22. P. Rich, “Ministering to the White Man’s Needs: The Development of Urban Segregation in South Africa, 1913–1923,” African Studies, 37/2 (1978); T. R. H. Davenport, “African Townsmen? South African Natives (Urban Areas) Legislation through the Years,” African Affairs, 68/271 (1969).

23. Lacey, Working for Boroko. With the aid of a small grant secured from the DNA, representatives from the various advisory boards met annually from 1930 onward until they were replaced by Urban Bantu Councils in 1959.

24. To distinguish the two bodies I have adopted the following abbreviations in this study: “NAD” always refers to a municipal Native Affairs Department, while “DNA” always refers to the central Department of Native Affairs.

25. “Notes on Urban Areas Legislation,” in NTS 4447 3 418/313.

26. Gardener (Cape Town City Council), in “Notes on Conference between Municipalities and Native Affairs Department held at Pretoria on 28 and 29 September 1937, to Discuss the Provisions of the Native Laws Amendment Act (No. 46 of 1937),” Government Printers, UG 56 (1937), 17.

27. B. Porter (Town Clerk, Johannesburg City Council), newspaper clipping, n.d., in NTS 5372 1 51/3131K.

28. Posel, Making of Apartheid.

29. Native Laws Commission (NLC), Report, Government Printers, UG 26 (1948), 54.

30. Cited in Hindson, “Pass System,” 142.

31. For an extensive analysis and discussion of each of these provisions, as well as the contradictions between them, see Posel, Making of Apartheid.

32. Native Farm Labour Committee, Report, 1937–39 (Pretoria, Government Printer, 1939), 46.

33. Ibid.

34. Crush, Jeeves, and Yudelman, South Africa’s Labour Empire, chapter 1.

35. Morris, “Development of Capitalism,” 305.

36. W. J. G. Mears, “Farm Labour,” 24 April 1945, in NTS 2229 2 463/280, 69.

37. A. Cook, Akin to Slavery: Prison Labour in South Africa (London, 1982).

38. Morris, “Development of Capitalism,” 305; H. Bradford, A Taste of Freedom: The ICU in Rural South Africa (New Haven, 1990); Cook, Akin to Slavery, 39.

39. Lacey, Working for Boroko, 161.

40. Native Farm Labour Committee, Report, 1937–39, 23. Tribal control was thus loosened by the very system it was designed to serve. In 1936, D. L. Smit sent a circular to Native Commissioners warning them about “farm labourers who evade their contractual obligations” and the consequent appeals the department had to deal with. The circular captures the convergence of interests among a diverse number of groups with significant interests in the preservation of tribalism: “These representations emanate not only from farmers’ associations and individual farmers, but also from Native sources, chiefs, headmen and parents having complained that young natives of both sexes are leaving the locations and farms in growing numbers without their permission. In some cases these young Natives are not heard of again by their parents while in others they have returned home after a lengthy spell in some urban or industrial area where, through undesirable associates, they have acquired evil habits or have even drifted into crime.…” Circular letter from SNA to NCs and magistrates, 14 March 1936, in NTS 8834 1 97/362.

41. Smuts’ comments are appended to a “Memorandum” (drawn up by the Lands Section[?, 1936) in NTS 2229 2 463/280. At a time when the labor shortage was described by farmers in the Eastern Transvaal as “acute” and farmers were addressing numerous letters to the department complaining of “the problem of farm Natives remaining without permission in the towns,” the Director of Native Labour proposed that the Theron Company and the Native Recruiting Corporation be permitted to undertake recruiting operations for the mines in the area. See DNL to SNA, 17 June 1936, in NTS 2097 222/280.

42. Ibid.

43. N. W. Neethling, “A Farmers’ ‘Native Labour Bureau,’” clipping from Farmers Weekly, 3 September 1930, in NTS 2139 1 257/380.

44. Ibid.

45. Controller of Native Settlements to Minister of Native Affairs (MNA), memo, 15 April 1939, in NTS 8834 1 97/362.

46. Ibid.

47. SNA to DNL, 29 April 1939, in NTS 8834 1 97/362. Moreover, the incident had raised a fundamental problem. Squatters affected by Chapter IV had two options. They could either remain in the rural areas as labor tenants and have the number of days they worked for the farmowner compulsorily set at 180 days, or they could, under the terms of Section 38 of the Land and Trust Act, demand relocation to the reserves on the grounds that they had been “displaced” by the operations of Chapter IV. Although many labor tenants did perform 180 days of unpaid labor, the SNA noted that a statutory requirement would introduce an “element of coercion” into rural administration and that its “application would be looked upon with the greatest mistrust and suspicion by the Native population as a whole.” Requests for trust land, he continued, would “embarrass the Department” since the released areas were “already barely sufficient to relieve congestion in the existing scheduled native reserves and locations.” Smuts to Controller of Native Settlements, 29 May 1939, in NTS 8834 1 97/362.

48. Smuts to Controller of Native Settlements, 29 May 1939.

49. Clipping of letter to the Farmers Weekly is in NTS 2139 1 257/380.

50. Circular No. 1 of 1934, in NTS 8834 1 97/362.

51. “Notes of a Meeting between the DNA and Northern Transvaal Co-op Recruiting Company,” May 1944, in NTS 2204 2 234/280.

52. “Department Circular No. [? of 1944” in NTS 2252 1 848/293.

53. See “Memorandum for MNA” (signed W. J. G. Mears, n.d.) in NTS 22229 2 463/280, and a handwritten note by Smuts on this memo. Also see Prime Minister to SNA, 9 October 1945, in NTS 2229 2 463/280; D. L. Smit to DNL, 31 March 1941, in NTS 4479 2 513/313. The “farm labour scheme,” involving the diversion of pass offenders from the courts to farmers, was instituted in 1947 and rapidly descended into barbarity. It is discussed in chapter 4.

54. Native Farm Labour Committee, Report, 1937–39, 4.

55. Cape Town City Council, “Minute of the Mayor,” 1946, 8.

56. DNA, Report, Government Printers, UG 7 (1919), 3. African urbanization was officially investigated on a number of occasions between 1910 and 1923. These reports are summarized in Hindson, Pass Controls, 29–39.

57. E. Hellman, “Urban Areas,” in E. Hellman (ed.), Handbook on Race Relations in South Africa (London, 1949), 251–52.

58. L. Venables to CNC, 8 June 1948, in NTS 5732 1 51/313K.

59. E. Roux, Time Longer than Rope: A History of the Black Man’s Struggle for Freedom in South Africa (Madison, 1948; reprint, 1964), 274.

60. Ibid.

61. T. Lodge, “Political Mobilization during the 1950s: An East London Case Study,” in S. Marks and S. Trapido, The Politics of Race, Class and Nationalism in Twentieth Century South Africa (London, 1987), 318.

62. Secretary for the New Standholders Committee to MNA, 9 March 1945, in NTS 4238 8 80/313.

63. A. Cobley, Class and Consciousness: The Black Petty Bourgeoisie in South Africa. (New York, 1990), 169.

64. P. Wilkinson, “A Place to Live: The Resolution of the African Housing Crisis in Johannesburg, 1944–1954” (African Studies Seminar Paper, University of the Witwatersrand, July 1981), 12.

65. D. H. Reader, The Black Man’s Portion: History, Demography and Living Conditions in the Native Locations of East London Cape Province (Cape Town, 1961), 115; A. Stadler, The Political Economy of Modern South Africa (London, 1987).

66. Sunday Times, 22 April 1945, newspaper clipping in NTS 4238 8 80/313, 112

67. By this time, Mpanza had become well known to anyone who read Johannesburg’s newspapers. An ex-criminal convicted for murder in 1914, Mpanza emerged from prison a converted Christian and preacher and became a teacher in Pretoria before moving to Johannesburg. A. Callinicos, Gold and Workers: A Peoples’ History of South Africa, vol. 1 (Johannesburg, 1991).

68. B. Hirson, Yours for the Union: Class and Community Struggles in South Africa, 1930–1947 (Johannesburg, 1990).

69. See memo by Brian Porter (Johannesburg City Clerk) to DNL, 17 May 1947, in NTS 5372 1 51/3131K.

70. Taken from the Brian Porter memo cited in previous note.

71. Roux, Time Longer than Rope, 277.

72. In terms of War Measure No. 81 of 1943, the Railways Administration was authorized to refuse tickets; see memorandum “Influx of Natives into Urban Areas” 16 April 1946, in NTS 4479 3 513/313. Also see documents dated 1946 to 1947 in NTS 4479 3 513/313 for the optimism with which the DNA and the Cape Town City Council initially viewed the scheme.

73. These regulations are reprinted in Rogers, Native Administration, Appendix.

74. On one occasion, the Subtenants Association in Orlando sought the NC’s permission to “punish” a member of the advisory board. Accusing the board member (who, together with his colleagues, was contemptuously vilified by the association as “the sons of the Council”) of “betrayal,” the Subtenants Association was inclined to administer the “treatment given to German spies—he should be killed.” Recounted in a memo by K. Morgan, (NC, Johannesburg) to DNL, 17 May 1947, in 5372 1 51/313K.

75. Joint Council of Europeans and Africans to SNA, 1 June 1946, cited in “Representation of Non-Europeans in the Johannesburg City Council,” memo by Johannesburg NEAD, December 1946, in 5372 1 51/313(K).

76. Circular signed by F. Rodseth, 12 August 1947, in NTS 2246 1 603/280.

77. T. Lodge, Black Politics in South Africa since 1945 (London and New York, 1983).

78. Respectively, these clarion calls referred to the board’s opposition to the profits that municipalities gained from their monopoly on the production and sale of traditional beer and to the threatening powers that the superintendent exercised over advisory boards by virtue of his statutory position as chair of advisory board meetings. “Minutes of a Meeting of the Joint Advisory Board,” August 1939, in NTS 5732 1 51/313K.

79. J. E. Mathewson, “Policies and Practices of Native Participation in Municipal Government in Southern Africa” (Ph.D. dissertation, Potchefstroom University, 1958), 101; L. Reyburn, “The Urban African in Local Government: A Study in the Advisory Board System and Its Operation” (South African Institute of Race Relations, Fact Paper 9, 1960), 14.

80. Joint Council of Europeans and Africans to SNA, 1 June 1946.

81. Taken from memo by Brian Porter to DNL, 17 May 1947.

82. “Report of the Committee to Consider the Administration of Areas Which Are Becoming Urbanised But Which Are Not Under Local Government,” Government Printers, UG 8 (1940), 27.

83. Ibid.

84. Ibid.

85. “Minutes of a Meeting Held at the Office of the DNL,” Johannesburg, 17 February 1950, 2, in NTS 5310 7 51/313 E.

86. See comments of the Commissioner of Police in same folder cited above.

87. Cited by Smit in SNA to DNL, n.d., in NTS 4501 1 566/313.

88. Advisory boards complained that “whenever we bring up any complaint which in any way affects or casts a slur on the Location Superintendent then our remarks are not minuted and we are merely stultified in our efforts to get redress.” “Notes on Conference between Municipalities and Native Affairs Department,” 20. Also see L. Kuper, An African Bourgeoisie: Race, Class and Politics in South Africa (New Haven, 1965), chapter 11.

89. H. J. Simons, “Some Aspects of Urban Native Administration” (SAIRR, 1940), 105.

90. A. B. Xuma, “Evidence Given before the Commission Enquiring Johannesburg 1/3/50 into the Riots on [sic] Newlands, Krugersdorp and Randfoentein,” A. B. Xuma Papers, Box M, 1949–60.

91. “Notes on Conference between Municipalities and Native Affairs Department,” 2; Dubow, Racial Segregation, 124.

92. In terms of the Constitutions drawn up in 1910, local authorities occupied the third and lowest tier of government, below the central state and the provincial administration. Local authorities possessed no powers to override acts of parliament or provincial ordinances and served as subordinate agents to the provincial and central levels of government, while all capital programs undertaken by local authorities were controlled by the central state. Vosloo, Kotze, and Jeppe, 23. Also see chapter 6 for the department’s view of its specialized concentration on rural administration.

93. “Notes on Conference between Municipalities and Native Affairs Department,” 3 and 33.

94. Smuts prefaced his support for strengthened influx controls with the observation that “one of the greatest difficulties with which we have to deal in this country is the scarcity of farm labour at the same time that there is a surplus of native population, many of them unemployed, in the towns.” Ibid., 2.

95. Rodseth to DNL, 11 March 1945 in “Transfer of Registration Fees,” in NTS 1954 1 286/278/I.

96. See Smuts’ comments in “Notes on Conference between Municipalities and Native Affairs Department,” 3.

97. Memo by Brian Porter (Johannesburg City Clerk) to MNA, 21 June 1948, in 6282 7 51/313(P), 720.

98. L. Venables to SNA, 3 August 1946, in NTS 5372 1 51/3131K.

99. Posel, Making of Apartheid, 41.

100. Smit, in “Notes on Conference between Municipalities and Native Affairs Department,” 12.

101. Ibid.

102. Ballinger, From Union to Apartheid. Also see the Reports of the NAC in the 1930s, as well as Nicholls’ comments in “Notes on Conference between Municipalities and Native Affairs Department.”

103. Two MNAs recorded their strong reservations about the pass laws in their memoirs: see D. Reitz, No Outspan (London, 1943), 58; and P. K. van der Byl, Top Hat and Veldskoen (Cape Town, 1973). Bell notes that Smit’s liberal views on the pass laws became more evident once he stepped down as SNA and served as a Member of Parliament (MP) in the 1950s; see M. M. S. Bell, “Politics of Administration,” 84. Deeply attached to the Cape’s liberal tradition, Mears recorded his unease with the pass laws in his doctoral dissertation, “A Study of Native Administration in the Transkeian Territories” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of South Africa, 1947).

104. Report of the Departmental Committee Appointed to Enquire into and Report upon the Question of Residence of Natives in Urban Areas and Certain Proposed Amendments of the Native Urban Areas Act, No. 21 of 1923 (mimeo, 1935); this report is also referred to as the Young-Barrett Report. The second quote is taken from Dubow, Racial Segregation, 125. Rodseth served as Secretary to the Commission. That he was in accord with the opinions of Young and Barrett, however, is clear from NTS 5372 1 51/3131K. Also see Rodseth’s memoir, Ndabazabantu: The Life of a Native Affairs Administrator (Johannesburg, 1984), and Dubow, Racial Segregation, 208, fn. 147.

105. J. M. Brink (NC, Johannesburg), “Influx of Natives on the Reef,” in NTS 4606 1 209/313(3).

106. Ibid.

107. See “Notes on Conference between Municipalities and Native Affairs Department,” 2.

108. Interdepartmental Committee on the Social, Health and Economic Conditions for Urban Natives, Report, 1944.

109. See Verwoerd’s comments in House of Assembly Debates (hereafter, HAD), 77 (1952), col. 544.

110. Memo by D. L. Smit, 1944, in NTS 4606 1 209/313(3).

111. “Notes on Conference between Municipalities and Native Affairs Department,” 3.

112. “Urban Areas Act,” 1934, in NTS 4606 1 209/313(3).

113. The Amendment Act had a long history; its origins were located squarely in the spirit of the Stallard Commission’s report. It flowed directly from the pen of Colonel Stallard in the form of recommendations he submitted in 1930 to the Joint Select Committee appointed to reach a compromise between the SAP and the NP over Hertzog’s contentious three “Native Bills.” By 1937, the compromises had yielded two pieces of legislation—the Native Representation Act and the Native Land and Trust Act. As D. L. Smit reminded delegates at the 1937 conference, the Amendment Act was the third and last measure that finalized the compromises between the SAP and the NP. See comments by Smit, Smuts, and Nicholls in “Notes on Conference between Municipalities and Native Affairs Department,” 1–2; and Native Affairs Commission (NAC), Report, 1937–38, Government Printers, UG 54 (1939), 7–8. As part of the accords with Hertzog’s National Party, Smuts accepted the Amendment Act despite the fact that the Stallardist tone of the measure conflicted visibly with the support which he otherwise gave to liberal documents such as the report of the Native Economic Commission (NEC). Somewhat oddly, too, he sought the support of Heaton Nicholls, at best a lukewarm ally and generally a thorn in his side, to sell the 1937 act to skeptical municipal authorities. While Section 12 of the Urban Areas Act (providing for the registration of service contracts) was retained, a distinct and new Section 5 was added to gain greater control over African entrance into urban areas. This section provided penalties for introducing labor illegally into an urban area, controlled the employment of non-Union (i.e., “foreign”) labor in the urban areas and provided measures for expelling “to his home or last place of residence” any non-Union African found in the urban areas.

114. Smuts, in “Notes on Conference between Municipalities and Native Affairs Department,” 3.

115. Ibid., 27.

116. Reaffirming the internal hierarchy of state power in this manner cannot be attributed directly to the Young-Barrett Report. It was also consonant with the committee’s ambiguous observation that “limitations of human freedom of this magnitude appear to us to be in principle a matter of state as distinguished from municipal control,” suggesting that oppression was acceptable only if it bore the impress of parliamentary approval. The point that Young and Barrett had been concerned to make was that municipal policy should conform to guidelines set by the central government. See Report of Departmental Committee…[on] Residence of Natives in Urban Areas.… Heaton Nicholls was adamant on this point—hence his appeal to the conference delegates to “take a national view” of the act. See “Notes on Conference between Municipalities and Native Affairs Department,” 26.

117. “Notes on Conference between Municipalities and Native Affairs Department,” 26.

118. Berman, Crisis and Control, 33.

119. Ibid.; G. Therborn, What Does a Ruling Class Do When It Rules? (London, 1978), chapter 2.

120. “Notes on Conference between Municipalities and Native Affairs Department,” 25.

121. Bell, “Politics of Administration,” 34.

122. Cited in Dubow, Racial Segregation, 125.

123. Department of Native Affairs, Review of the Activities of the Department…, 1944–45, Government Printers, UG 1 (1945), 8.

124. See Memo by Brian Porter to DNL, 17 May 1947.

125. Springs Town Clerk [for AANEA] to SNA, 1 April 1935, in NTS 4461 1 456/313. Municipal interest in the distinction between rural and urban Africans is evident in the address that H. Junod, a leading anthropologist, gave before the Pretoria City Council on the subject. A copy of his address is in NTS 4461 1 458/313.

126. See General Manager, South African Railways and Harbours, to SNA, 8 July 1935, in NTS 1361 3 2027/170; and, for the Coordinating Committee re Natives in the Cape Peninsula, see “Control of Influx of Natives to Cape Western Districts” (1946), in NTS 4479 1 513/313.

127. Managers were licensed and given “the same measure of security accorded to Public Health officials…in recognition that they are often called upon to perform unpopular work.” “Notes on Conference between Municipalities and Native Affairs Department,” 20.

128. L. Venables to SNA, 8 June 1948, in NTS 5732 1 51 313K.

2. Reviving the Department of Native Affairs

I do not have the nagging doubt of ever wondering whether, perhaps, I am wrong.

According to C. H. Sisson, “The tensions and instabilities of a political regime [are] reflected in the administration.” [2] By this measure, the vacillations of the segregation state were powerfully reflected in urban Native administration in the 1940s. Administration in the interwar years was an unstable amalgam that juxtaposed the vestiges of gradualism against an emerging authoritarianism within African affairs. Gradualism had been imported from the British approach to public administration and was already a tottering practice well before the NP assumed office, with its relevance to South African circumstances rendered increasingly tenuous by the entrenchment of segregation policy. The authoritarian administrative ethos, on the other hand, was an organic expression of South Africa’s racial history. But it lacked an established institutional foundation, a consequence of the merely rudimentary nature of public administration in the nineteenth-century Boer republics.[3] The result of this amalgam of approaches in the 1930s and 1940s was not so much a qualitative transformation of the state, but rather a series of collisions and an uncertain bureaucratic climate in which liberal administrators explored the authoritarian temptation with a sense of civilized regret.

After 1948, and especially after H. F. Verwoerd assumed the position of Minister of Native Affairs (MNA) in 1950, the department concentrated its attention on the urban areas and launched a full-scale attack on what the new apartheid cadres viewed as liberals’ dangerously pusillanimous approach to managing Africans in the urban areas. It sought to extirpate all vestiges of gradualism and accommodationism with a series of racial programs that it devised itself and compelled other state agencies to implement. Placing a premium on immediate results, it initiated a frenzy of activity that galvanized urban cadres and not only transformed urban administration but defined the path that “apartheid”—then still a hazy electoral catchword—would take for the rest of the decade. As urban administration moved rapidly to the forefront of the apartheid agenda, magnetically aligning other state institutions around its own trajectory, the status of administrators ascended accordingly. Liberals were as much astonished by the dynamism of the new minister as they were suspicious and critical of the vast powers and resources he marshaled for his department in the 1950s: D. L. Smit warned parliament of “a Napoleon in Native Affairs who was trying to set up a great Black empire under his supreme dictatorship.” [4] Nevertheless, by the end of the decade even the firmest of Verwoerd’s opponents were conceding the practical success of his drive to bring “law and order” to the urban areas.

Studies of the state in South Africa were at one point dominated by a “black box” approach, which left the internal structure of the state essentially unexplored.[5] This defect has generally been redressed in the more recent generation of state-oriented studies. Nevertheless, while the internal complexity of the state has steadily been revealed by this latter approach, most studies remain preoccupied with the tensions between state institutions. Even those few studies that do go one step further and peer within institutions generally do not focus adequately on issues of personnel and the psychological influences that circulate within the state—concerns that “institutionalist” approaches have long demonstrated to be crucial to the functioning of bureaucracies.[6] This area remains a neglected dimension of South African historiography.

This chapter examines the rehabilitation of urban administration in the early 1950s, leaving it to the following two chapters to dissect the specific areas of labor controls and housing, the two primary concerns of urban officials. The focus of administrative reform centered, of course, around the hapless Urban Areas Branch. The first step was to upgrade the branch into a division, which was next divided into functionally specific subdivisions. In this way, the Gordian knot of urban issues inherited from the 1940s was disaggregated into clearly isolated and manageable subfields. These were then entrusted to designated senior urban officials, with the entire revamped structure falling under the personal command of Verwoerd. Ideological considerations for the first time became the determining consideration in making senior appointments, and liberal personnel in key positions were frequently pressured into retirement or out of the department altogether, to be replaced with trusted Afrikaner men hand-selected by the MNA—a man whose extraordinary control of even the most mundane administrative matters was so intense that he was virtually his own Secretary. Indeed, W. W. M. Eiselen, the influential Afrikaner intellectual who succeeded Mears as Secretary of Native Affairs in 1948, almost certainly played a negligible role in urban matters; a champion of ethnos theory, Eiselen would leave his imprint instead on the reserves.

These changes in the urban machine should be assessed in the light of Deborah Posel’s reminder that the NP government lacked a “grand design” and that urban African policy was shot through with inconsistencies, contradictions, and failures. At the same time, Posel’s disaggregation of urban policy in the 1950s potentially obscures the high level of deliberate planning and conscious scheming through which state cadres sought to reshape the state in the 1950s.[7] The arrogance that these officials brought to the state was at least as consequential as the partial nature of their successes or the ironies of their unintended consequences—areas well covered by Posel. Thus, although the department stood at the epicenter of the inconsistencies that she details, the reorganization of urban administration was informed by a pronounced faith in authoritarian managerial principles—central planning, internal coordination, and ideological conformity—which regimented state and society and extinguished the resignation with which earlier bureaucrats had assessed the inconsistencies of their actions. With Verwoerd in charge, inconsistencies called forth more laws, more regulation, and ultimately more of an authoritarian state. In light of the faith that the National Party immediately placed in grand designs, the claim that it did not possess one in 1948 loses some of the force that Posel accords it.

The Native Laws Commission and the Sauer Report

Any evaluation of the NP’s electoral victory in 1948 and the subsequent construction of the apartheid state necessarily begins with the reports of the Native Laws Commission and the Sauer Commission—the electoral statements of, respectively, Smuts’ United Party government and Dr. D. F. Malan’s National Party. These have been extensively analyzed in a number of sources, however, so that it is adequate to summarize only briefly their relevance for the specific question of administration.[8]

Report of the Native Laws (Fagan) Commission (1948)

Arguably the most liberal official document produced in the segregation era, the report of the Fagan Commission took off where Smuts’ dour lament that “segregation has fallen on evil days” left off. The report captured the liberal disillusionment with segregationist policies immediately after World War II by emphasizing two broad issues.[9] First, the report insisted that the differentiation of the urban African population into settled and migrant communities should be accepted and expressed in a benign policy that merely regulated but did not retard African urbanization. It rejected the policy of total territorial segregation as “utterly impractical” and brushed aside the allied view that “migratory labour should therefore be regarded as normal and the only desirable form of Native labour in the urban areas.” The report advocated an “elastic policy” of transitional segregation premised on a less rigid pass system, which would gradually be relaxed to a point where race would be eroded as an organizing principle in South Africa’s socioeconomic structure. “Labour stabilisation” in the urban areas therefore dominated the recommendations put forward in the report.

The second broad issue that undergirded the report’s recommendations was a call for the rationalization of urban administrative structures, principally through the establishment of a centralized system of labor bureaus. However, this structure would be implemented on a voluntary basis, since its function would be merely to “guide and regulate the labour stream,” not to “direct” labor across the economy. Nevertheless, the report noted that administrative arrangements could indeed be used to distinguish “the settled, well-known Native” from “other Natives” whose transience in urban areas made the evasion of law and authorities easier.[10] In the interests of efficiency, the report recommended that the central state—more specifically, either the Department of Labour or the DNA—should control the centralized pass system. The net emphasis on only a moderate degree of state intervention to balance the numbers of permanent and migrant workers in urban areas accorded well with the labor needs of industry and commerce in the urban areas. Since the report studiously excluded the mining industry from its recommendations, agriculture stood to lose most from the liberalization of the pass system.

Thus, the Fagan Commission report was in keeping with the liberal distrust of extensive state involvement in the economy, the creed vindicated in the war against fascism and communism. The tenor of the official view on the matter had actually been set by the influential report of the Industrial and Agricultural Labour Requirements (or van Eck) Commission. Arguing that the role of state planning should ideally be restricted to rationalizing the “highly compartmentalized” state bureaucracy to increase economic and administrative efficiency, the report specifically condemned what it called “directive” forms of state intervention in “totalitarian countries,” and in words that must have appalled farmers, it specifically rejected agrarian demands for stricter controls of African workers: “The most essential consideration in framing state measures should be that they must protect and build up the grazing and arable land.” [11] The Fagan Commission report—which Verwoerd relished in describing as the “political Bible of the United Party”—unequivocally identified itself with this position. Still, in the area of urban administration, the report provided fodder for Verwoerd’s strategy in the 1950s. According to the report, “it is, therefore, a disturbing thought that in accordance with a policy we have inherited from pre-Union days when the problem had not yet assumed this aspect…the regulation of the contacts in the towns is not in the hands of the central Government, but in the hands of the hundreds of municipalities. It is they who have to handle the explosive situations.” [12]

However, “explosive situations” within the United Party were generally dealt with by deciding to “leave it to the Oubaas [‘Old-master’, i.e., Smuts].” [13] But the Oubaas attached an overweening importance to the commission he had appointed in 1946 and so deferred all questions about Native affairs. The result was that the year-long investigation weakened Native administration even before its report was published. Smuts’ appointment of the Oxford-trained, ineffective Piet van der Byl to succeed Denys Reitz as MNA did not help matters. (D. L. Smit’s opinion was that the appointment harmed the department, to which he was intensely devoted.)[14] W. J. G. Mears, then Under- Secretary, had also replaced Smit as SNA in 1944; although Smit retained his interest in Native affairs by accepting Smuts’ nomination to the Native Affairs Commission (where he joined E. H. Brookes), a keen liberal voice was removed from administrative circles. Like Smit, Mears was also a “liberal” very much concerned with “uplifting” Africans, principally through education. But he lacked the drive for which Smit was noted, and his strengths, in any case, lay in administration of the reserves.[15] At a time when urban administration was resting on shaky institutional supports, confronting a volatile urban black population, and raising the anger of white farmers, political leadership within the department entered the doldrums and did nothing to reverse the government’s image as “a government of expediency…unable to formulate a long-term legislative programme.” [16] Instead of energizing the government, the Fagan Commission’s disavowal of state interventionism consolidated the UP’s reputation as “the party of ‘drift.’” [17]

Report of the Sauer Commission (1947)

In sharp contrast to the laissez-faire liberalism of the Fagan Commission report, the report of the Sauer Commission demanded a strong, interventionist state. The document sketched a comprehensive program of state intervention to reverse African urbanization, diminish the dependence of whites on African labor, and promote tribal self-government in the reserves. Its object was to achieve the “eventual ideal and goal” of “total apartheid between whites and Natives”; to this end, it advocated “the gradual extraction of Natives from industries in white areas, although it is recognised that this can only be achieved in the course of many years.” [18]

As Deborah Posel notes, an ideological tension undergirded this central objective. Imprecise temporal qualifications such as “the gradual extraction” or “for the foreseeable future” left it unclear exactly when the large-scale eviction of Africans from the urban areas would begin—or even whether the “ideal” would be accomplished at all. Posel argues that this uncertainty stemmed from a basic division within Afrikanerdom. Only too aware of their dependence on cheap African labor, Afrikaner businessmen “pragmatists” preferred to defer the “eventual ideal” to an indefinite future, whereas “purists,” spearheaded by the South African Bureau of Racial Affairs (SABRA), increasingly pressed not only for an acceleration in mass removals but (equally controversially) for the immediate and genuine development of the reserves to absorb the large numbers of Africans who would be deposited there permanently.[19]

Nevertheless, this unresolved ambivalence in the Sauer Commission report affected only the form of state intervention, not its central importance to the Afrikaner project. The central presupposition of the report was that the state would play a major interventionist role in society—and in urban Native administration, this role would be particularly massive. A major recommendation contained in the report, for example, involved the establishment of a nationwide system of labor bureaus: “The entire migration into and from the cities should be controlled by the state which will enlist the cooperation of municipal bodies. Migration into and from the Reserves shall likewise be strictly controlled. Surplus Natives in the urban areas should be returned to their original habitat in the country [i.e., white farming] areas or to the reserves. Natives from the country areas shall be admitted to the urban areas or towns only as temporary employees obliged to return to their homes after the expiration of their employment.” [20] The Sauer report provided an early clue to the global interventions that would emerge in the 1950s and the authoritarianism that would swamp Native affairs in particular. Nevertheless, the document was principally designed to detach as many of the Afrikaner flock from General Smuts’ liberal camp as possible, not to serve as a program for bringing apartheid to life.[21] Without a clear blueprint, the DNA did not immediately bestir itself. Apart from the passage of the Bantu Authorities Act in 1951, the department remained in limbo for three years after 1948. A number of constraints prevented it from moving decisively.

Immediately after 1948, the state did not possess the infrastructural capacity for the extensive interventions implicit in calls for the establishment of labor bureaus or for the extrication and separation of white, African, Indian, and coloured “population groups” authorized by the Group Areas Act of 1950. These apparatuses still needed to be built from the ground up. Furthermore, the implementation of apartheid necessarily meant that institutions inherited from the segregationist years would have to be transformed. As the department soon discovered, cooperation from institutions that had been molded and administered for decades by personnel whose sympathies now almost always lay with the official opposition could not be presumed to be automatic. Acrimonious territorial struggles between these two factions of the state emerged in the 1950s. Last, the National Party’s razor-thin electoral victory encouraged it to be more solicitous of its opponents’ views. For Verwoerd, in particular, the first duty was to keep the NP in power, and so he urged the Cabinet to compromise over certain issues.[22] The logic of the electoral cycle, therefore, had an important impact on the pace of change and the scale of bureaucratic coercion. But by the same token, the department’s success in bringing a measure of “order and stability” to the urban areas in the early 1950s played an important role in the government’s increased electoral support—first in 1953 and again in 1958—which, in turn, emboldened Verwoerd to move more aggressively in urban administration.[23]

Apartheid and Urban Administration

A striking change in Native administration in the 1950s was the central role the department played, both in giving substance to the slogan of “Apartheid” and in elaborating the key administrative structures on which the new government’s racial policies were built. Whereas authorial responsibility for African policy in the 1930s and 1940s had been diffuse and hotly contested even within the department, in the 1950s African policy flowed exclusively from a regimented Department of Native Affairs that brooked no internal dissent. Even more arresting is the vanguard role the department took on for the state as a whole. As the department’s new persona took shape, it shed the ambiance of moral qualm that had been central to the outlook of liberal officials.

The transformation of the department into an authoritarian leviathan took place against a backdrop of mounting chaos in administration and an escalating urban African population, as shown below.[24]

  African Population 1936 African Population 1947 Increase
Johannesburg only 229,122 386,221  68.6
Johannesburg/West Rand 589,973 832,383  44.4
Pretoria  45,312 102,000 124.4
Durban  65,944 110,995  68.2
Cape Peninsula  14,644  36,868 146.6

These problems illuminated the breakdown of labor controls in the rural areas, in particular, and highlighted the control that urban administration would exert in any program designed to restore stability to the labor market and a sense of general security to the white population. The department capitalized on these imperatives. With Verwoerd in charge, it developed a brusque managerial style and an unapologetic racial discourse that transformed bureaucratic coercion into a moral imperative, imparting a sense of confidence to a state form that, to its opponents, bore more than just a passing resemblance to the fascist and racist regimes defeated in World War II. This accomplishment was all the more impressive in light of the fact that the full ideological justification of the apartheid state emerged only at the end of the decade, when Verwoerd (by then Prime Minister) redefined the reserves as autonomous, self-governing Bantu “states,” or Bantustans. Prior to this development, the burden of constructing and illustrating the viability of apartheid was borne by urban administration. The first victim of these changes was the lingering and befuddled influence of liberal paternalism.

The Ideology of Urban Administration

The vacillations of urban policy characteristic of the segregation years were quickly extirpated in the early 1950s, and for the first time urban administration was subjected to a clear and consistent administrative ideology. This new ideology rested on four principles; even when it was compelled to renege on aspects of its urban policies, these principles were etched in stone and formed the benchmark by which officially sanctioned “deviations” would again be brought into line.

The first and most important principle was a nonnegotiable insistence on centralization. State officials in the segregation era were divided over the notion that the department should be converted into a “state within a state,” an argument first championed by the SANAC in 1903. Heaton Nicholls, naturally, led the pro-centralization faction, while an array of liberals, such as Ballinger and E. H. Brookes, with the firm support of the stellar group of liberals associated with the SAIRR, firmly resisted the policy, battling with particular vigor against the transferal of educational matters to the department.[25] Notwithstanding the centralist logic of the 1927 Native Administration Act, components of Native administration had been dispersed across a range of state institutions. The bifurcated nature of urban administration was perhaps the most important example, but it was not the only area in which the department’s control over administration was attenuated: education, health, social welfare measures, and the administration of justice had also been allocated to the respective departments either by the Act of Union in 1910 or by subsequent legislation.[26] A trained psychologist, Verwoerd approached social maladies as he would a disturbed patient: a well-regulated program of behavior modification, administered by a single authority, was essential for recovery. In an important speech at IANEA’s fifth annual conference in 1956, Verwoerd summarized the coherent program his department envisaged. What distinguished the apartheid era was the “consistent application of a comprehensive program.” The “new program of apartheid,” he argued, amounted to more than just “casual ideas touching an odd point here and there, but is a program extending its fingers deeply and affecting the circumstances in the lives of people seeking to make them happy, to obviate strife and bring in its wake peace and contentment.…[The] various directives are not just random ideas, but part of a comprehensive all-embracing program.…” The entire range of Native policy would be centralized in his department—no breaches in policy or administration were to be allowed, “whatever their specific, reasonable justification.” [27] Verwoerd looked upon the mingling of “European” and “Native” affairs with unmitigated disapproval and so rapidly moved to terminate it. The ideological crudity of baaskap (outright racial domination) was thus also expressed institutionally within the state, by the department’s assertion in no uncertain terms of its right to dominate the terrain of Bantu affairs. By 1954 the department was indeed a substantive, not just a rhetorical, “state within a state.”

One obstacle to the quest for centralized control was the judicial system. Here, too, Verwoerd’s response was characteristically brusque. His usual response was simply to argue that the constitution was on his side. In 1952, in the course of the debate over the government’s controversial proposal to remove an entrenched section of the constitution giving “Coloureds” the right to vote, he argued that the government was not obliged to accept rulings from the Appellate Division because “parliament is the highest body in the land.” In answering his own question, “who is the master of this country, the ruler of this country?” he drew a sharp distinction between “the rule of law” and “the rule of law courts” and pointed out that the courts had no statutory right to comment on legislation: “If there is not to be chaos and division in the government of a country, then there must be only one final authority.…That authority is the people through the franchise which it exercises.…The courts have nothing more to do than to accept and explain the laws.” [28] He routinely ensured that legislation was worded in ways that upheld the discretionary prerogatives of the Minister of Native Affairs and that expressly prohibited other authorities from encroaching on “Native affairs.” Verwoerd’s interpretation of the state’s internal hierarchy, was, of course, technically correct. Nevertheless, his insistence on sheer legalism, compounded by a well-deserved reputation for a heavy-handed approach to legal obstacles, appalled liberals, who took pride in the reputations they had established for not insisting on legislation that they had judged to be too onerous on Africans.[29]

A noteworthy aspect of this process was the relatively low level of conflict it occasioned within the state. The singular exception was the antagonism of local authorities, a thorn finally extracted from the department’s flesh in 1971 when municipal involvement in African administration was transferred completely to the department, bringing the process of centralization to a close. For the most part, by carefully selecting key state cadres on the grounds of their loyalty to apartheid, the department’s expansionist dynamism was permitted to continue apace, invariably with the approval of the Cabinet and consequently with the acquiescence of the affected departments.

The second principle of urban administration was a basic hostility to the market. Liberal officials had fretted less about the market than about their increasing forages into it. In essence, the department reversed its outlook on the “free market” in the 1950s. Expressing Afrikanerdom’s general suspicions about an institution that seemed deeply implicated in Afrikaners’ subordination to an economy owned and controlled by English-speaking capitalists, the department made a principled commitment to bring “free market forces” to heel. E. G. Jansen, an ex-MNA (1929–1933) who was again appointed to the position as the first MNA for the NP, made it clear in 1948 that the department suffered market dynamics badly: despite “the tremendous progress that has been made, I say this, that if industrialization means that the European population of our cities is to be engulfed by natives, then I am not prepared to go on with industrialization.” [30] Although such high-wire rhetoric would soon be curtailed, the department persisted in its essential view that the capitalist market posed imminent dangers to the racial and tribal boundaries the new regime sought to strengthen. This perspective was not entirely novel to the apartheid era; a distrust of unregulated markets had been a pervasive feature of Britain’s colonial policies throughout Africa.[31] However, the intensity of the new department’s suspicions and fears about an unregulated capitalist market qualitatively distinguished it from the essentially laissez-faire spirit of the interwar years, emboldening it to tackle local authorities with unprecedented aggression. Its anxieties about the market also drove it to target white employers in the urban areas, a category previously immune from administrative sanctions. The brunt of its anti-market philosophy fell, however, on Africans. Thus, in the 1950s, the department did not turn to the market as part of a political strategy for co-opting the settled urban African population. Instead, the few but important liberties that the small African petty bourgeoisie had enjoyed in the fields of housing and employment were expunged, and in 1959 the advisory boards were converted into tribal-based Urban Bantu Councils—in the new order, Africans could indulge in the benefits of full citizenship in the reserves. Nervous as much about “hidden hands” as about competing interests in Native administration, the department’s reflexive response in the 1950s was to subject the market to pervasive and centralized bureaucratic regulation.

Third, urban administration provided the institutional context in which a union between urban Native administration and “science” was consummated. At the time, the infusion of “the scientific method” into urban administration was a development that seemed to pass the department’s critics by. A stock liberal accusation was that the department’s policies were retrogressive, that they were “turning back the clock.” Valid insofar as it highlighted the degrading crudities of baaskap, this criticism failed to grasp that the arrogance of the state derived at least as much from a faith in its practical administrative capacities as from unquestioned racist creeds spawned in the Afrikaners’ frontier days. Credit for founding the practical transformation of urban administration on a “scientific basis” falls, without doubt, to Verwoerd. A trained psychologist and brilliant academic, in 1928 the twenty-six-year-old Verwoerd was appointed as a professor in Applied Psychology and Psignotekniek at the University of Stellenbosch. At that early stage, the future chief editor of Die Transvaler, MNA, and Prime Minister concluded that the “university, with its cloistered origins, its separation from daily life, could no longer play the same role in the modern world.” [32] Evidence of his faith in the activist potential of “science” soon emerged. In 1934, the liberal Cape Times thanked Verwoerd for authoring a “scientific” critique of the Cape Town Board of Aid, enabling the body to dispense charity on the basis of “a scientific method.” [33]

Written in 1934, the report was influenced by Verwoerd’s review of the New Deal then being implemented by the Roosevelt administration in the United States. What attracted Verwoerd’s attention was Roosevelt’s willingness to reshape the state extensively in pursuit of far-reaching goals defined by the state itself. Verwoerd’s chief criticism of “charitable enterprise” in Cape Town was that it “aimed at actual relief to the exclusion of the ultimate aims of real charity—rehabilitation and prevention.” Borrowing from the American model, he recommended that the disbursement of charity should be determined by the empirical results of “general social research.” Thereafter, “co-operation and co-ordination between all charitable enterprises…should be centralized, including a central information bureau not existing on a voluntary basis.” “Administrative reorganization” along these lines required a larger plan. “The fundamental point one can deduce from the US situation with regards to local co-ordination of public welfare bodies seems not to be administrative centralization in the city but, just as in co-ordination, in the state: the institution of some form of centralized supervision, planning and investigation.…” In a series of essays on the “poor white question”—published in Die Burger in 1932 and elaborated in his opening address to the 1934 Carnegie Conference, where the youthful Head of the Department of Social Work spelled out a “program of action” to eliminate “the Poor White Problem”—he made it clear that the state should be involved in the “scientific training” of social workers to deal with a problem that was largely Afrikaner in nature.[34]

Produced at an early stage of Verwoerd’s life (neglected by previous writers), these policy recommendations glint with themes that Verwoerd would later bring to Native affairs and afford direct evidence of his unswerving faith, as a civil servant, in the fusion of science, politics, and administration.[35] The linkages that he establishes in his earliest work between “scientific information,” centralized administrative reform, and the leading role of the state in resolving ethnic problems served as his basic model for reorganizing urban administration. This approach was as apparent in the design of the labor bureau system established in 1952 as it was in the assemblage of the state institutions he harnessed to solve the housing issue. As an administrator, Verwoerd’s view of science was entirely utilitarian; beyond that, he displayed no interest in knowledge as an ennobling commodity, as liberal officials generally did. In administration, Verwoerd’s deftness as a conceptual thinker was overshadowed by his bent as a practical organizer. He had, he informed his SNA, no patience for “nice ideas that don’t work in practice,” [36] and he was as dismissive of the Fagan Commission’s report on this score as he was of SABRA’s philosophical approach to political theory, mocking the latter’s intellectuals as the “theorising professors of Potchefstroom [University].” [37] As the discussion on the housing solution makes clear below, this shrunken and cravenly utilitarian view of science was central both to the immediate success of the housing solution and to the crushing austerity of the “scientifically planned locations” that emerged in the late 1950s.

State planners and “technical experts,” drawn from an array of state scientific bodies, devoted themselves in the 1950s to their areas of expertise—aware, of course, that their labors formed an element of a larger quest for thorough control over Africans in the urban areas. Some made their contribution happily, either because they supported apartheid policies or because they felt that the provision of housing was the morally proper thing to do; yet others—especially the corps of technical engineers, who distanced themselves from “the social side of things” [38]—perceived themselves as contributing little more than their specialist knowledge to overcome specific technical problems. But these technical feats did not take place in a vacuum. Instead, they contributed substantially to the state’s perception of itself as the organizer of social life in every sphere of African affairs. They also burnished the department’s specific claim that it was the only planning agent capable of inoculating “the European areas” against the threat that Africans posed to the urban areas, while protecting Africans from the avarice and materialist opportunism that flourished there. An important legacy of the scientific ethos in the first half of the 1950s, therefore, was the moral righteousness with which the department fused technical innovation and bureaucratic coercion “in the interests of the Bantu.”

The final principle of urban administration was the limitation of fiscal expenditures to an absolute minimum. Given the scale of the “crisis” inherited from the 1940s, setting urban administration on a sound footing translated into a staggering bill. Africans, of course, were too impoverished to provide a sizable source of funds; their poverty actually meant that any services established would have to be heavily subsidized. The department filtered the problem of funds through two other considerations. First, it was adamant that private white citizens would not subsidize urban administration. This would have antagonized urban white ratepayers (especially in the largest cities), who had generally voted en masse for the United Party in 1948—a constituency that the NP now hoped to win over.[39] Second, while it conceded that Africans were too poor to pay for the provision of services and amenities, the department was equally insistent that they should pay some portion of the costs for ideological reasons: apartheid taught Africans “how to take responsibility for themselves.…The government has moved away from the days of spoonfeeding the Native.” [40]

The department’s response to the problem of funds took two forms: in addition to loans secured from the treasury, it levied special taxes on employers and placed as much of the burden as it could on Africans themselves. Perhaps surprisingly, this turned out to be a successful strategy. Employers were initially hostile at being targeted for selective taxation, but gradually came to support the policy because the revenues generated were indeed spent exclusively on the provision of essential services to the African areas, contributing directing to the “stabilisation” of the urban population—an important goal to the urban business community. The department’s success in getting Africans to shoulder a portion of the costs involved in addressing the housing crisis is explored in chapter 6. The commitment to defray state expenditures for Africans was not limited to urban administration, but formed part of a larger strategy. Thus, the department balked at the high costs of developing the reserves when these were revealed to Verwoerd in 1954; similarly, when education was taken over by the department in 1954, the department not only drastically scaled back state expenditures on African education but actually levied a twenty-cent tax on urban Africans to defray the costs of constructing schools in the urban areas.[41]

Still, a surprising aspect of urban administration in the early 1950s was the lengths to which a department that was viscerally hostile to the urban population would go to distribute the allocation of these costs across the socioeconomic cleavages within that population. Although the impact on Africans was generally burdensome, the enterprise benefited one group in particular: the large category of lodgers and subtenants crammed sometimes eight to ten to a single room in a squalid shack. To this volatile but vulnerable category, unable to afford even subsidized rents in cheaply constructed houses, the department’s housing programs had the illusory appeal of a welfare program. In effect, the department extracted higher rents from the “economic” and “subeconomic” rental strata in order to offset the extensive subsidization of the large “sub-subeconomic class.” The moral bankruptcy of an income transferal policy that taxed the poor to subsidize the destitute while larding the affluent burghers with a host of racially exclusive protections said much about the changes introduced in the 1950s. Nevertheless, the department reaped a temporary but important strategic benefit: the poorest and poorest-housed stratum in the shantytowns, who had once been volatile, relocated with a minimum of opposition—and sometimes with an enthusiasm that embarrassed ANC organizers—to the new, barracks-like “planned locations” constructed in the mid-1950s at the behest of the department.

Moreover, the sheer effort that went into formulating such “solutions” to the problems of urban administration rallied the esprit de corps of urban administrators in a way that fiscal generosity perhaps could not have done. By vigilantly resisting anything that hinted at largesse toward the urban African population, Verwoerd avoided the sense of passive benevolence and its correlate, the moral guilt that he attributed to his “spoonfeeding” liberal predecessors in Native administration. Because the department’s budgetary limits precluded a host of easier solutions, the sheer technical difficulty of devising formulae and “affordable solutions” that accorded with the low consumption capacities of the African working class convinced urban officials that they were engaged in a sound moral project. These difficulties simultaneously enhanced the wizardry of “science” to the departmental mind and sensitized urban cadres to what they viewed as the selflessness of their labors. To arrive at the proper numbers, blueprints and experiments were drawn up and analyzed in the light of their consonance with official policy, the hallmarks of which were complete racial separation and low costs. Remarkably, therefore, the limitations that flowed from a policy of minimal expenditures had the effect of galvanizing the ranks of urban administrators. Liberal administrators fully shared the department’s concerns about heavy capital outlays—and indeed had been stymied by these very costs in the 1940s. Thus, the dwindling numbers of UP officials, both within the department and in the municipal NADs, were drawn by what the department exultantly touted as “economic breakthroughs” even as they distanced themselves from overall apartheid policies.[42]

By rigorously adhering to these four basic principles, within a few years after 1948 the department’s urban cadres developed a distinctive and forbidding bureaucratic style. The approach was developed against a backdrop of growing mobilization and militancy within the urban areas and a sense of urgency within the ranks of urban administrators, the men at the center of “explosive situations.” The mood of political urgency provided a cover behind which the department insulated its internal workings from interested parties in civil society and from other branches of the state, on the grounds that the mobilization of Africans in the urban areas could only be defused by resolving the grievances that animated protest. The immediacy of mobilization therefore contributed to the department’s bid for greater autonomy from the competing interests of various groups in civil society.

Personnel Changes

Between 1948 and 1954, the composition of the department’s senior personnel was altered to eliminate the residual influences of liberalism and to strengthen the minister’s grip over the department. The first Minister of Native Affairs, E. G. Jansen, had strong professional claims to the job, having held the position under Hertzog’s NP government in 1929, and so he could not be ignored. It almost immediately became clear to Prime Minister Malan’s first Cabinet that Jansen’s appointment was “unfortunate.” [43] Ben Schoeman notes, however, that Jansen was in a difficult position because the senior officials he inherited did not make matters easy for him. Without refusing to comply with instructions, they routinely declined to resolve even the smallest issue, on the pretext that they were unclear about the “government’s policy of apartheid,” and so sent all correspondence up to the minister. Jansen was therefore confronted each morning with a “mountain of files” on his desk and rapidly became swamped in administrative minutiae.[44] Holdover officials—almost certainly led by Fred Rodseth and C. J. N. Lever, the two most senior remnants of the old guard—were also credited with producing such a mild bill to strengthen the Urban Areas Act in 1949 that the Naturellesakegroep (the “Native affairs group” in Malan’s Cabinet) stepped in and drew up its own version. Again, however, Jansen’s senior officials watered the bill down to the point that it was “practically powerless.” [45]

But the major reason for Jansen’s downfall was his own conciliatory approach to urban policy. At a meeting with municipal representatives in 1949, Jansen committed the unpardonable sin of asking local authorities what the department’s urban policy should be; soon thereafter he sealed his fate when he proposed that the property rights of urban Africans should be not only preserved but extended. Jansen managed to evade a number of Cabinet caucus meetings where his performance was to be the subject of urgent attention. When he was finally collared, however, he did no more than to promise the Cabinet that he would reconsider these issues after the parliamentary session had ended—ostensibly to spare the young government from liberal attacks. Powerful forces quickly coalesced against Jansen. The Naturellesakegroep spearheaded the offensive. Leading figures of this pressure group—M. C. de Wet Nel, J. J. Serfontein, Avril Malan, P. W. Botha, Albert Hertzog, W. A. Maree, and Dr. Verwoerd, all prominent members of the Broederbond (the influential Afrikaner secret society) who were destined to occupy key positions in the civil service—drummed up support for Jansen’s removal as minister. An opportunity to shunt Jansen out of Native affairs presented itself in 1950, when Malan’s decision to reshuffle his Cabinet coincided with a vacancy in the governor-generalship. At Albert Hertzog’s suggestion, Jansen was made Governor-General, leaving it to Dr. Malan to appoint the new minister. Malan selected H. F. Verwoerd, much to the latter’s surprise.[46]

The least controversial and most insidious opportunities for transforming the department’s ideological constitution were provided by retirement, beginning with that of W. J. G. Mears, who retired as SNA in 1947 and was replaced by W. W. M. Eiselen. D. L. Smit criticized Eiselen’s appointment on the strength of his inexperience in Native administration. Ballinger complained that Eiselen was placed in the position “since it was felt necessary to have a Secretary for Native Affairs whose views were in accord with those of the governing party.” [47] Because this was hardly a damning point, Ballinger’s opposition to Eiselen was muted. Moreover, Eiselen’s appointment essentially duplicated a similar event in 1922 when the Cape liberal, E. Barrett, had been forced to retire from the position of SNA in favor of a sterner bureaucrat from Natal, Major J. F. Herbst.[48] The criticisms of his qualifications were also unfair, for Eiselen boasted a demonstrable interest in Native policy: he had published a critique of General Hertzog’s Native policy in 1929, had served as an inspector of Native schools, had participated on an educational Committee on Bantu Languages in 1942, was fluent in several African languages, and most importantly, had extolled the advantages that “Apartheid” had in store for African “tribal groups” in a number of essays published in the late 1940s.[49] Even if, as Rodseth notes, “from a civil servant’s point of view, he was not a candidate as he was not in the Service,” [50] Eiselen proved to be generally popular with his colleagues in the DNA—if only because he was “more approachable” than Verwoerd—and, according to one source, appears to have enjoyed the particular respect of African teachers precisely because the ethnos theory he infused into Native affairs ensured that African teachers would be granted greater authority over the running of schools.[51]

The department also benefited from a number of other retirements in the early 1950s. Among those “retired on superannuation” between 1950 and 1953 were Major D. G. Hartmann (CNC, Northern Areas); H. A. Melle (Deputy-Director of Native Agriculture) and his successor, H. H. Curson; J. J. Yates (Chief Magistrate, Transkei), K. D. Morgan (Principal Native Commissioner), and P. G. Caudwell (CNC, Witwatersrand, and DNL). Evidence suggests that the department abided by the rules of seniority in promoting officials into these positions; thus, all of the above were succeeded by seasoned men below them. Similarly, when they were established in 1952, the Central Labour Bureau was entrusted to A. J. Turton and the Central Reference Bureau to T. Ramsay, two senior NCs in the 1940s (Turton having joined the department in 1923 and Ramsay in 1919).[52]

But the department also maneuvered trusted men into key positions in questionable ways. If Eiselen’s own appointment appeared reasonable, it also occurred at the explicit expense of Major Fred Rodseth, then Under-Secretary for Administration. Rodseth had joined the department as a junior clerk to a magistrate in rural Natal in 1920, had been promoted to Inspector of Native Reserves, had ascended to the position of Senior Inspector of Native Locations, and in 1945 was made Under-Secretary for Administration, one of two under-secretaries established within the department in the 1930s.[53] Rodseth’s position as Under-Secretary for Administration was of general importance to the department, and fundamental to any plans to reorganize urban administration. In terms of its job description, “administration” covered personnel, labor, urban areas, the ethnology section, and the information made available to the public—a dense combination of functions destined to expand exponentially in the 1950s—and hence was a highly sensitive post. Upon Mears’ retirement, the Public Service Commission (PSC) recommended Rodseth’s promotion to the vacant position of Secretary of Native Affairs. The Cabinet objected strenuously, but the commission stood firm. Pressured by the Naturellesakegroep, E. G. Jansen lobbied for Eiselen, but also failed to prevail on the PSC. In such a circumstance, the Public Service Act permitted ministers to decline the recommendation made by the PSC with the approval of the Cabinet. The Cabinet then instructed Jansen to scout for alternative candidates within the senior echelons of the department. Unfamiliar with the department, Jansen somewhat insensitively delegated the task to Rodseth, who “looked beyond the affront and did my duty,” pointedly including his own name on the list he submitted to the Cabinet. When the Cabinet rejected the entire list, Dr. Malan appointed a Cabinet committee consisting of Jansen, Advocate C. R. “Blackie” Swart, and Paul Sauer. This time, the PSC buckled. Thus, Eiselen declined a professorship at the University of Pretoria and accepted the position of SNA in 1948.[54]

Rodseth’s rebuff was to continue, however. Having licked his wounds on a short vacation, he returned to hear that he had been reassigned to a Public Service Structure Committee, a new body with suspiciously “ill-defined functions” (Rodseth’s experience on the body would lead him to conclude that it was “a fraud”). While Rodseth was on this body, the position of Under-Secretary for Administration was permanently allocated to H. S. J. van Wyk, the past Assistant Director of Prisons—a jailer who “did not know the Native except as a criminal, spoke no Native language and had no acquaintance with the department.” [55] With his career in Native affairs abruptly halted, Rodseth suffered along in his nebulous position in the department until 1954, when, with the assistance of D. L. Smit (and assurances that the department would grant him full retirement benefits), he secured the position of Native Affairs Advisor to the Anglo American Corporation, a vacancy established by the death of J. D. Rheinallt Jones. After six uncomfortable years with his new Afrikaner colleagues in the DNA, “I felt,” he wrote, “like a bird freed from a cage.” [56]

The career of the department’s other under-secretary, C. J. N. Lever, was also pulled up short. Having joined the department in 1912 as a junior NC, Lever rose up through the ranks and in 1945 became the Under-Secretary for Development in charge of the reserves. In 1954 Eiselen informed him that Verwoerd intended to reshuffle a number of senior appointments and that Lever was expected to accept an effective demotion at full pay (£1,140 a year) to the position of Chief Magistrate for the Transkei. Verwoerd, the SNA informed him, had someone else in mind for his job. Rather than step down to the rank of officials who had answered to him, Lever tendered his resignation. Somewhat surprisingly, however, he was replaced by Charles Heald, a long-serving Native affairs official who had joined the department in 1920 and was a senior NC in the 1940s. Heald, who appears to have cooperated well with other urban administrators in the 1940s and once co-authored a report with L. Venables (Manager, Johannesburg) on Johannesburg’s squatter camps, duly became the Under-Secretary for Staff and Administration and appears to have served Verwoerd well, playing a particularly prominent role as the department’s contact with other institutions in the resolution of the housing crisis.[57]

Other evidence that liberals were forced out of Native affairs lies with the Native Affairs Commission. Established under the aegis of the Native Affairs Act of 1920, the NAC was intended to advise the government on proposed legislation throughout the Union.[58] To the Naturellesakegroep in the Cabinet, one of Jansen’s many shortcomings was that he had failed to dismiss D. L. Smit and E. H. Brookes, two leading liberals who sat on the NAC. Under intense pressure from Eiselen, Brookes and Smit eventually quit and were replaced by J. J. Serfontein (Prime Minister Verwoerd’s future Minister of Social Welfare) and S. Spies, a Nationalist senator. In the 1950s, the NAC unequivocally lost the independence it had enjoyed in the 1920s and 1940s (although even then it was not as independent as initially conceived). At the time it was established, the NAC had been viewed by the department as a superfluous body that would intrude into its domain.[59] In the 1950s, Verwoerd simply converted the body into an extension of government policy and personally handpicked its officials, radically changing its function in the process. The body was augmented by one member to cope with the increased functions necessitated by its greater involvement and specialization. Each member was allocated one of three fields: urban areas, administration in the reserves, or educational policy, leaving the chairman free to work closely with the Minister and Secretary of Native Affairs, roaming around the country to see that the various dimensions of apartheid were “in proper synchronization.” [60] NAC reports lauded the commission’s rescue from its previously neglected, purely advisory role.[61] Records indicate that NAC members functioned as the eyes and ears of the MNA on the veritable explosion of ad hoc committees and commissions appointed to gather information or to overcome obstacles. As Chair of the NAC and as the person in charge of policy in “European areas,” F. E. Mentz appears to have particularly played a watchdog role (at one time serving on no fewer than nine committees). M. C. de Wet Nel, J. J. Serfontein, and A. Malan—all Broederbonders and members of the Naturellesakegroep in the Cabinet—were appointed to the DNA.[62]

Because it was not able to divest itself immediately of all the senior liberal officials (and because it could not, of course, get rid of the liberal officials in municipal administration), the department had to tolerate potential weak links in the form of officials who supported the spirit of the Fagan Commission. Staff shortages were another problem. Throughout the 1950s, the department’s annual reports complained that the “shortage of staff is the most important single factor which hampers the activities of the department.” [63] Constant staff changes became a severe problem at a time when the department had committed itself to a full-scale revamping of urban administration. In the crucial Witwatersrand area, for example, only 47 of 142 Clerical Assistant positions were filled by permanent staff in 1951. Even as the labor bureau system created four hundred new positions that urgently needed to be filled in 1952 and 1953, in the Witwatersrand region “the number of recruits cannot keep pace with the number of resignations”; despite salary increases, “the commencing salaries offered by the Public Service are apparently not yet sufficiently attractive to ensure the recruitment of the full quota of candidates required.” [64] The department, it appears, fell victim to its success; as urban policy became more complex, a growing demand emerged in the private sector and in municipal administration for “experts” in Native affairs, and the department’s young recruits were continually skimmed off as soon as they had gained experience.[65] By 1953, the growth in vacancies outstripped the expansion of the department’s personnel. From 1947 to 1951, for example, the number of staff grew modestly from 3,479 to 3,914; in 1951, the department recorded 384 vacancies. In 1952–53, its personnel had risen to 4,053, with more than 400 new positions accounted for by the establishment of the labor bureau system; vacancies, however, had jumped to 549.[66] In addition, the department was disadvantaged by an arrangement with the Department of Justice that permitted officers who pursued legal studies to be excused from administrative duties “for long periods of time to enable them to devote…all their attention to their studies.” [67]

In combination, the persistence of a liberal presence and the sizable personnel shortages within the department may have injected some doubts about the department’s ability to act efficiently and coherently. Its reports for 1951–52 and 1952–53 noted that “a public Service Inspector with experience of the activities of the department has now been assigned permanently to the department” and that three “departmental inspectors” had also been appointed to “ensure regular inspections”; “inspectors” had also been dispatched to scrutinize the work of NCs and magistrates in the rural areas.[68] Past departmental officials, however, described these inspectors as “spies for the Minister.” [69] A new emphasis was indeed placed on nebulous new positions such as “Information Officer.” Thus, when the administrative grid was redrawn and the number of CNC areas increased from five to nine in 1954, each CNC was rather extravagantly allocated a “Senior Information Officer” whose duty was to “free the Chief Native Commissioners from time-consuming correspondence with the public and to liaise with the Minister”—in other words, almost certainly to patrol the CNC’s office.[70] Chris Prinsloo, described as one of the few senior officials in the department who were “vaguely sympathetic” to the new government in 1948, was promoted from senior NC to the department’s Chief Information Officer (he would later become Deputy Minister in the Department of Information and hold a position on the South African Broadcasting Corporation’s Bantu programming council).[71] Rodseth describes the ephemeral “Public Service Structure Committee” to which he was exiled as “obviously containing spies for the government”; another ex-official noted that surreptitious surveillance became the norm within the department, so that idle chatter among the department’s officers ceased in the 1950s, the fear of “spies” heavy in the air.[72] Somehow, speeches delivered by senior administrators even in small rural areas mysteriously worked their way back to the minister, who upbraided them for the smallest “deviation” from official policy.[73] W. J. P. Carr also records a revealing episode. Apprised of Carr’s plans to take advantage of an award from the U.S. State Department in September 1958 to study “racial affairs, public housing and Indian affairs in the United States,” Verwoerd instructed C. Heald to “warn me that anything I said or did in America would be scrutinised in the light of current official policy in South Africa.” [74]

By 1954, the department was indisputably a “state within a state.” A key step in this process was the transferal of “Bantu education” from provincial and missionary control to the department, and the consequent creation of a position known as the Director of Bantu Education. The takeover meant that the department, already strained to breaking point by its work in urban administration, was suddenly placed in charge of twenty-six thousand African teachers.[75] This arrangement proved too cumbersome, and in October 1958 an entirely separate Department of Bantu Education was formed, relieving the DNA of an immense administrative and political load. The splitting of education was hardly a cause for concern to Verwoerd: W. Maree, a former fellow member of the Naturellesakegroep in Malan’s Cabinet, was made Minister of Bantu Education. In 1954, responsibility for the administration of African affairs in South West Africa (formerly entrusted to the Governor-General) was centralized within the department; Verwoerd enlarged the NAC by one member to cope with this development, giving himself another chance to appoint a trusted aide to the body.[76] Responsibility for African social welfare, formerly undertaken by the Department of Social Welfare and other bodies, was also centralized within the department, so that it now disbursed the small payments granted to Africans by the Old Age Pensions Act, the Blind Persons Act, and the Disabilities Grant Act.[77] By 1954, the department had also successfully wrested control over the entire process of planning and constructing African townships, unclogging a series of bottlenecks within the state to enable the construction on a large scale of houses built according to strict designs and stipulations. Finally, the labor bureau system the DNA inaugurated in 1952 and 1953 invested it with vast powers and established the administrative machinery to control the mobility of Africans across the length and breadth of the country. The Native Commissioner Courts established under the Native Administration Act of 1927 rose to their full oppressive potential to cope with the vastly expanded labor control structure—and the rising numbers convicted for violating its governing laws and regulations. Whereas in the rural areas they continued to deal with a variety of different issues involving Africans, in the urban areas Native Commissioner Courts came to specialize exclusively in processing Africans charged under the pass laws, sparing the “normal courts of the land” from grinding to a halt in the effort to cope with the hundreds of thousands charged for various pass offenses.

Also in 1954, Rodseth’s crucial omnibus position, the Under-Secretary for Administration, was split into two. Bruce Young was promoted and made Under-Secretary for Native Areas, making him the third under-secretary alongside H. S. J. van Wyk (Under-Secretary for Staff and Administration) and Charles Heald (Under-Secretary for European Areas). Since the Director of Bantu Education enjoyed the same rank as an under-secretary, the SNA in effect had no fewer than four under-secretaries between 1954 and 1958.[78] But the department’s operations in each under-secretary’s field also mushroomed in the 1950s. Thus, although Rodseth’s former duties were separated and parceled out, the result was that each under-secretary still continued to preside over a fairly dense subfield. To prevent either of the two under-secretaries who dealt with urban matters from being swamped by the work of the entire labor bureau system, the structure was disaggregated into its “labour” and “information” components. The Central Reference Bureau (CRB) was assigned to “Staff and Administration” because the “compilation of a population register and the issuing of reference books… tailed activities in both European and Bantu areas.” [79] The Central Labour Bureau (CLB) also formally “entailed activities in both European and Bantu areas.” Nevertheless, responsibility for this structure was centralized in the office of the Under-Secretary for European Areas—a revealing indication of the urban bias built into the labor control structure. The modified system of labor controls added a number of new subheadings to the department’s urban administrative expenses. Thus, for 1960–61, the department spent a total of £440,750 on Reception Depots, the Bantu Reference Bureau, Bantu Work Colonies, and Bantu Juvenile Camps.[80]

The department’s budget grew significantly in the 1950s. In the ten-year period from 1936 to 1946, the department’s expenditures had increased from £570,158 to £3,087,000 (a cumulative increase of £2,516,842). In approximately the same interval from 1950 to 1960, expenditures increased by approximately £3,745,250, from £3,460,000 to £7,205,250.[81] Frequent changes in the department’s accounting methods and in recording its expenditures make it impossible to track the growth of salaries in the 1950s (and expenditures on urban administration were never distinguished as such). In 1960, a sum of £2,589,124 (40 percent of total expenditures) went to “Salaries, wages and allowances” (although “Allowances, gifts and rations to Chiefs and Headmen” should properly be considered under this heading as well). Another change in reporting methods makes it difficult to capture the growth in the size of the department’s personnel. In the mid-1950s, the department stopped using the five divisions it had formerly used (Administrative, Professional, Clerical, General Divisions, and “Posts not classified in the Public Service”) to record fluctuations in the “size of the establishment.” It then switched to distinguishing broadly between “officers” and “employees” and reported these in racial terms. For example, reports depicted the size of the department for 1961 and 1962 as follows:[82]

  1960 1962
White officers 2,157 2,345
Bantu officers   819 1,082
White employees   342   341
Bantu employees 1,829 1,907

The Urban Areas Section of the 1930s seems stunted in comparison with the Gothic complexity of urban administration in the 1950s. The branch was superseded by a complex structure that extricated the various components of the “crisis” in urban administration and established clear lines of communication up a vastly expanded bureaucratic chain of command. The resultant structure was top-heavy by any standard. Formerly equivalent to the position of CNC, the Director of Native Labour was upgraded to the equivalent of an Assistant to the Under-Secretary. Not only did the Under-Secretary for European Areas—already one of three (or four) under-secretaries who answered to the SNA—have two Assistant Secretaries himself, but the DNL in turn was assigned an Assistant Director! The Assistant Secretary for Urban Areas, meanwhile, relied on two Senior Urban Areas Commissioners to keep abreast of the explosive burst of energy ignited by the assault on the African housing crisis between 1950 and 1957, cleaving apart the responsibilities for planning and controlling African residential areas. This description imparts only a partial impression of the organizational behemoth established in urban administration. The following two chapters round off the picture by shedding light on the flurry of committees and temporary bodies set up to target specific problems as they arose.

The management of this complex ramifying structure was clearly daunting. Verwoerd, however, remained on top of the entire hydra-headed monster, both through the intelligence network he designed for this specific purpose and through the extraordinary degree of hands-on involvement he displayed, down to the smallest details of administration and policy.[83] He assumed personal charge over the department’s innovations and made it clear that the department would henceforth function according to a single blueprint that he controlled: as he informed parliament in 1956, “my Department does what I tell it to do.” [84] In sharp contrast to the accommodationist posture of every single MNA who preceded him, Verwoerd’s basic approach was to settle on a solution and then ensure that the department executed it without query or “deviations.” By the mid-1950s, his urban policies and his brook-no-nonsense managerial style began to yield their apartheid fruit: scores of labor bureaus were mushrooming across the urban and rural areas; influx controls were being implemented much more harshly; the essentials of a large-scale and affordable solution to the housing problem had been worked out; and residential segregation was being imposed so strictly that Africans first had to acquire the minister’s authorization to attend churches in white areas. Verwoerd, in essence, had come to define what apartheid meant in practice.

The reorganization of the department in 1954 set off a spate of accusations in the liberal press that the MNA was too powerful and his department too sprawling. After the department assumed responsibility for administration in South West Africa, the Cape Times noted that “soon there will be only about three million European and coloured people whose administration does not fall directly under the Minister of Native Affairs.” Later, it warned that South Africa was “soon going to have two Prime Ministers…with the Minister of Native Affairs the more powerful of the two because he has more real power over a much larger number of people.” [85] By the mid-1950s, Verwoerd was already gaining a reputation as the “architect of apartheid” and so became the chief target for liberals. At the same time, he also drew fire from SABRA’s intellectuals who began attacking him for not escalating the removal of Africans from “white” South Africa and for not developing the Bantustan economies.[86] Buffeted from all sides, but particularly stung by attacks from SABRA’s intellectuals, in 1957 Verwoerd offered to resign as minister on the grounds that apartheid policy had become “too closely identified with one man.” Instead, the Prime Minister, J. G. Strijdom—one of Verwoerd’s few personal friends—threw his full weight behind his controversial minister, declaring to parliament that “apartheid, as handled by Dr. Verwoerd, should be made an election issue.” [87]

The DNA and Local Authorities

Verwoerd’s frequent clashes in the 1950s with the Johannesburg City Council, the country’s powerful prima donna local authority, cast a large shadow over urban administration and suggested that the two rungs of the state were separated by fundamental differences.[88] A number of clearly “ideological” initiatives undertaken by the DNA strengthened this impression. For example, the Johannesburg City Council seized upon Eiselen’s instructions to demarcate “ethnic zones” in the African residential areas as evidence of the distance between the “backward-looking” policies of the Afrikaner government and the “progressive” goals of liberals. The Johannesburg City Council also dug in its heels over Verwoerd’s decision to eliminate all freehold rights for Africans in the “white” urban areas, and it attempted to discourage the department from evicting affluent Africans from their comfortable “European houses” to the “pillbox huts” that emerged in the 1950s.

This apparent clash of principles, however, was less fundamental than liberals have made it out to be.[89] Johannesburg had, after all, spearheaded the movement for greater controls on urban Africans, resisted African demands for freehold rights in general, and called repeatedly for more direction from the central state. Indeed, their generally shoddy attempts to reorganize administration in the 1940s placed local authorities on the defensive. Neither entirely opposed to nor quite accepting of the department’s urban policies, the larger and generally more “liberal” local authorities, such as those in Johannesburg and Cape Town, were placed in the awkward position of having to distinguish carefully the areas of overlapping agreement from the areas of disagreement with the department. The principal problem was that the UP differed with the NP only in the manner in which racial domination should be preserved, not in the principle itself. Verwoerd was keenly aware that local authorities were compromised both by their past and by the UP’s attempts to repudiate policies that election returns suggested were increasingly popular with white voters. He therefore frequently emphasized the areas of broad agreement between his department and local authorities and brushed aside the attempts of liberal administrators to diminish the full implications of the department’s policies on Africans in the urban areas.

The distance between liberal municipal administrators and the DNA narrowed, moreover, in the 1950s with the establishment of a national association of “Native administrators.” The establishment of such an association had first been raised in 1946 by the AANEA, in response to “the attitude of Non-Europeans, their hostility to constituted authority and their ready acceptance of propaganda that Government and local authorities will do nothing to improve their condition of life.…” [90] Initial negotiations indicate that the AANEA, dissatisfied with the lackluster performance of the Urban Areas Inspectorate, envisioned a largely educational role for the proposed institute “to publicize the work being done by local authorities.” [91] W. G. Mears, then SNA, after first ascertaining that the institute would not act as a “trades union,” then cautiously approved the formation of the organization, but refused departmental membership on the grounds that affiliation might one day “embarrass the Department.” [92] His concerns, however, were mostly misplaced. By the late 1950s, it was clear that the publicity function of the Institute of Administrators of Non-European Affairs (IANEA) had given way to Article F of the constitution drawn up by Dr. Language (Manager, NAD), whom the NP viewed as a strong apartheid presence in urban administration:

to cooperate with or assist any Legislature Government, Provincial, Municipal, Educational or other body by conducting research work and obtaining information relative to any aspect of Non-European Affairs and in general to do any such act as may assist in overcoming the problems confronting such bodies as the result of the presence of Non-Europeans in urban areas.[93]

As its history would demonstrate, IANEA’s nonaffiliation with any political party meant that it effectively became, if not a brain-tank, then at least a sounding board for the department’s administrative schemes. The annual conferences held by the institute indeed became an invaluable forum for thrashing out the “practical” problems of administration, providing “nonpolitical” recommendations to facilitate the implementation of government policy.

It is likely, too, that the supersession of the Transvaal-based AANEA by the nationally based IANEA diluted Johannesburg’s preponderant influence within municipal ranks and inflated the voice of smaller dorpe. While criticism of government policy continued, the most heated contests between the IANEA and the DNA centered around the IANEA’s insistent defense of municipal autonomy from the central state and from the DNA in particular. In contrast, debates about the morality of apartheid, evident in the initial years after the body was founded on 22 April 1952, became rare after 1960. Thereafter, IANEA displayed a noticeable disinclination to object to questions of policy.[94]

Departmental representation at the IANEA’s conferences always was at a high level—either the Minister or Secretary of Native Affairs or the Under-Secretary for European Areas attended the association’s annual congress. The institute’s “only concern,” Eiselen happily learned from W. J. P. Carr at IANEA’s annual congress in 1954, was “with achieving the best possible results.” [95] Despite continuing controversy over the gradual diminution of municipal autonomy in African administration, a reliably close working relationship between the two bodies emerged by the end of the 1950s. Eiselen acknowledged this cooperation in his opening address before the institute in 1957:

My Department has had occasion to refer various matters to your Council for consideration and I have at all times been favorably impressed by the replies received. [These replies] emanate from practical and responsible people who have deliberated and studied the relevant subject from all angles. Last year my Department again took you into its confidence when it explained the legislation which it then intended to introduce and invited your comments which were duly received and some of which were translated into the amending Acts passed during the last session of Parliament.[96]

This arrangement actually enjoyed a firmer basis than Eiselen’s comments suggest. According to K. D. Morgan (NC, Johannesburg), evidence that the IANEA “had been taken into the confidence of the Secretary for Native Affairs was demonstrated by the fact that all proposed Bills in connection with Native Affairs were now referred to this association for comment.” [97]

Having been all but abandoned to their own devices in the segregation era, officials in municipal Native affairs bureaucracies benefited directly from the hectic pace and sense of urgency that Verwoerd brought to urban administration. In sharp contrast to their low profile in the 1930s and 1940s, when they had wallowed in uncertainty and obscurity within the state structure, municipal administrators gained in confidence and prestige as urban administration emerged as the cornerstone of apartheid policy. Whether or not they agreed with government policy, their labors were central to a project on whose success the policy of apartheid turned. Urban administrators such as Ballenden, Venables, and Carr of Johannesburg’s NEAD had gained some public prominence in the segregation era. But the sporadic attention that the public had devoted to these men flared into life whenever Native administration had intruded on the minds of white citizenry in the form of a problem in need of administrative redress—particularly at a time when inadequate state resources severely hamstrung administrators. Hence was born the self-image of the municipal Native administrator as a beleaguered figure, valiantly and thanklessly tackling complex problems while surrounded on one side by whites demanding greater controls on “detribalised Natives,” and on the other by Africans laying stake to the same urban pie.

The hopes of urban administrators were clearly reflected in the round of congratulatory speeches at IANEA’s inaugural congress in 1952, as apartheid’s opponents and supporters alike rose to sound the death knell of the municipal administrator’s lowly orbit. J. D. Rheinallt Jones, representing the South African Institute of Race Relations, celebrated the “new and better appreciation of the responsibilities of [municipal] administrators” as well as their opportunity to “now give guidance to the country.” Neatly blending the self-interest and civic responsibility of Native administrators, A. Weich articulated SABRA’s view that those “city councils which did not bestow the same recognition on Non-European Departments that they gave to other departments could not expect their policies to improve race relations.” Professor Nic Olivier rounded off these testimonies with the assurance that Stellenbosch University, having long grasped that “the destiny of our [white] population rests on urban Native administration,” offered to promote the idea among his colleagues that the “duty” of the university was to assist by “placing research on a scientific basis.” [98]

The argument that urban Native administration had finally evolved into a “national” project that transcended party politics was made most strongly by J. E. Mathewson. Mathewson chastised his administrative colleagues for aligning themselves with either of the rival bodies, the SAIRR or the SABRA, and instead urged them all to join the ranks of urban experts in the non-partisan IANEA. According to Mathewson, the future of race relations in South Africa depended more on administration than on policy: “It is the method of approach and the objective manner in which policy is translated into action that bears a great influence in the shaping of future policy.” [99] He therefore encouraged IANEA members to lobby for an improvement in the status of municipal Native affairs departments, noting that these departments had been “elevated in most progressive centres to equal status with the other principal departments.” But as his list of “progressive centres” made clear, this was a rather mischievous appropriation of liberal language: Pretoria, Germiston, Bloemfontein, Benoni, Springs, Brakpan, Boksburg, Krugersdorp, Vereeniging, Vanderbijlpark, Alberton, Klerksdorp, Kroonstad, and Welkom would have featured low on any list drawn up the liberal establishment. Indeed, Mathewson singled out Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, East London, and Kimberley—generally viewed as liberal administrations—as “leading centres which…still relegate the Native Administration Department to a position of minor status.” [100] Liberal city councils were thus outflanked within the new order: hamstrung by a track record of inertia as well as by complicity in discriminatory racial policies in the 1930s and 1940s, their reluctance to support apartheid policies in the 1950s now marked them as obstructionists.

In the course of his address to the SAIRR, Mathewson also placed the newfound esteem of urban administration in historical perspective. He divided the evolution of administration into four phases. The period from 1910 to 1923, he argued, had been overshadowed by the view that Africans “were a necessary nuisance whose residence merely required supervision to ensure that they did not become a menace to the health of the European population.” Consequently, administration had been consigned to “junior officials of municipal health departments,” where the only requirement for the job was a health certificate. (Johannesburg’s NEAD had first been assigned, somewhat mysteriously, to the Parks and Estate Committee.) The second stage had been inaugurated by the Native (Urban Areas) Act of 1923. With the emphasis now on “ control, local authorities found it necessary to appoint men with some knowledge of law, and thus dawned the era when police experience was regarded as the most important qualification for officials managing native affairs.…Hence the number of personnel recruited from the police.” In the third stage (the 1930s), Mathewson continued, “there emerged a new concept of local government regarding natives and of the responsibilities of officials charged with administering the affairs of the Bantu. Public opinion has come to realize the dependence of the economy…on the Bantu and the consequent importance of ensuring that the conditions under which he lives are such as to enable him to be physically and mentally fit to do the work required of him.” The importance then attached to urban administration had been recognized “by the divorce of native administration from its position as a sub-department of the Town Clerk or Medical Officer of Health.” Because “tact, patience and an ability to handle any given delicate situation” were prime qualifications for the job, the “ experience of administering natives” had become the major qualification for the job in the stage when African administration had emerged as a distinct institutional field. The gradual supersession of sanitary codes, first by criminal law and then by practical experience, reflected the growing “maturity” of urban administration. But, Mathewson argued, there the professionalization of administration had stopped. What the third stage lacked was “that wider background which is acquired by academic training.” That stage had now been reached. In the fourth stage, therefore, the IANEA committed itself to “the improvement of the professional and technical knowledge of officials connected with Non-European administration.” [101]

With a long tradition of de facto autonomy from the central state, however, local authorities were reluctant to yield control over urban administration to the DNA. The department, on the other hand, made it clear that “virtually all aspects of urban policy depend on cooperation between the Department and local authorities” and that “local authorities were subordinate to the Native Affairs Department in all matters relating to Natives in the urban areas.” [102] While Jansen was MNA and the Urban Areas Section of the department retained its old personnel, larger local authorities tied to industry and commerce were assured of at least a sympathetic form of indirect representation within the department. Shorn of these personnel, the DNA entered into conflict with a number of the Union’s larger local authorities; its differences with the Johannesburg City Council were particularly well publicized in the press. With the constitution on his side, Verwoerd would not brook institutional objections to the state form that urban apartheid demanded. He lectured an assembly of municipal administrators in 1957 in an abrasive, pontificating style that incensed his opponents: “The task of the urban authority is to carry out the policy of the Country, not to create basic policy for itself or for the Country.…The interpretation of that policy is in the hands of the Native Administrator who is a municipal official. He has obligations to his employer, but he has certain statutory duties to fulfill and when he carries out his statutory duties he does so in his own discretion and is not subject to orders from anyone else.” [103] Local authorities and opposition members in parliament were astonished and outraged at first by Verwoerd’s indelicate approach. Later they would be either intimidated or flummoxed into silence by rambling speeches (sometimes three hours long) in which even the smallest point was dissected in excruciating detail and supported with a trademark mélange of ideological assertion and a selective recounting of municipal complicity in segregated administration.[104]

Traces of the new coercive approach to administration are reflected in the change in language. In the 1930s and 1940s, the department generally adhered to English, but responded in Afrikaans to all communications received in Afrikaans. This courtesy was frequently ignored in the 1950s, when Afrikaans became the principal medium of communication. While verbatim minutes of meetings were generally recorded in Afrikaans, only a brief synopsis was provided to capture the essential points of lengthy remarks given in English. Verwoerd also instructed department officials to switch from the conventional “Dear Sir” to the noncompromising “Greetings” when addressing Africans; “urbanised Natives” was similarly banished for the more anthropologically correct “detribalised Natives”; and shaking hands with Africans was officially proscribed. Similarly, the influence of the SAIRR on African affairs was ended, and Afrikaner intellectuals from SABRA were invited to help fashion and legitimize apartheid.

One consequence of the generally perilous condition of the UP’s African policy in the 1940s had been a political climate tinged with a sense of guilt and moral debate about the “treatment” of urban Africans. Smuts’ startling mea culpa in 1942 (“segregation has fallen on evil days”) had set the tone. Caught unawares, the professional civil servants in Native administration suddenly found that the moral ground on which their benevolent arguments stood had shifted, demoralizing the miffed Minister of Native Affairs, Piet van der Byl—who learned with understandable astonishment of Smuts’ pronouncement while on a lecture tour in London. Smuts’ trenchant and catchy line also gave indirect support to the increasingly aggressive African voices in the febrile townships and in organizations such as the Native Representative Council and a handful of advisory boards.[105] Since nothing was to come of Smuts’ extraordinary statement except the appointment of the Native Laws Commission, the usual air of uncertainty in Native policy was compounded by a number of disputes between local authorities whose local policies differed or whose interests in controlling African communities clashed.

Proud of what it considered a “highly successful” and “generous policy” toward Africans resident in Korsten township—the only urban township in the Union where influx controls were not in operation in the late 1940s—the Port Elizabeth Town Council publicly pilloried Johannesburg for its “bankrupt” housing programs for urban Africans, setting off a storm of protest and counteraccusation widely reported in the press.[106] In 1949, Johannesburg’s City Clerk resigned to protest the city’s “niggardly policies” toward Africans. Local authorities, however, were united in their attempts to shunt fiscal and moral responsibility onto the DNA. In sharp contrast to developments in the 1950s, the department in the 1940s did not take umbrage at the criticism leveled against it. Instead, senior municipal personnel, such as W. J. G. Mears, D. L. Smit, and Fred Rodseth, continued to enjoy cordial relations with the SAIRR, sharing the institute’s bottom-line interest in pressing for improvements in the living standards of urban African communities.[107] Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Ellen Hellman noted, the SAIRR “enjoyed easy access to Cabinet Ministers,” Jan Smuts having delivered his “evil days” speech from a SAIRR platform.[108] For its part, Johannesburg’s NEAD “maintained very close, almost daily, contact with” the SAIRR.[109]

The exclusive recruitment of trusted Afrikaners to senior positions within the department, ideological regimentation, the development of programmatic blueprints, and an aura of intimidation banished the argumentative tone of municipal discourse and curtailed the carping between local authorities. These strategies displaced from the discourse of urban administration, as from the state generally, the hesitancy and moral doubt that had deflated segregationist ideals in the 1940s. Moreover, a number of fast-moving, practical accomplishments between 1950 and 1955 enabled the department to build up a reputation for decisive and purposeful action, which Verwoerd used liberally to mock his critics. Verwoerd’s emphasis on “immediate practical results” and his “impatience with nice ideas that do not work in practice” were thus crucial to the moral consolidation of apartheid. These traits focused the attention and commitment of the department’s increasingly Afrikaner personnel and won the grudging respect of even his most ardent opponents.


1. Quoted in “The Man with the Apartheid Brain,” Contact, 20 September 1958, 7.

2. Sisson, Spirit of British Administration, 150.

3. See J. Dugard, Human Rights in South Africa (Princeton, 1978), 8.

4. Smit was responding to the transferal of the control of African education from the missionaries and the four provincial administrations to the DNA in 1954. Cited in C. J. Scheepers Strydom, Black and White Africans: A Factual Account of South African Race Policies in the Verwoerd Era (Cape Town, 1967), 42.

5. J. Lonsdale, “The State and Social Process in Africa,” African Studies Review, 24/2–3 (1981).

6. For a discussion of state-centered approaches to questions of personnel and the psychological dispositions of leading officials, see Skocpol, “Bringing the State Back In.”

7. Posel does concede that there was “clearly some method in the madness of Apartheid.” But this grudging concession is undermined somewhat by an argument that restricts the applicability of grand plans to “a few features of Apartheid which were systematically and unfalteringly pursued from 1948 to the late 1970s, such as the prohibition of interracial sex and marriage” (5). However, the list of consistent apartheid principles is both longer and more consequential than this passing reference to the regulation of sex and marriage suggests. In the time span Posel defines, there was a crushing consistency to trade union policy, educational matters, the steady derogation of the rule of law, and regulations affecting property ownership—broad and vital swaths of the apartheid experience that indeed are traceable to the fecund and secretive 1940s, when (as Moodie and Furlong, among others, have demonstrated) leading Afrikaner intellectuals consciously rendered “the idea of apartheid” into a number of utopian and authoritarian discourses. Thus, although Posel’s argument that the NP lacked a single, coherent grand plan is entirely convincing, this study also insists on the zealous predilection for grand plans within the general intellectual constituency that supported apartheid. T. Dunbar Moodie, The Rise of Afrikanerdom: Power, Apartheid and Afrikaner Civil Religion (Los Angeles, 1973); Patrick Furlong, Between Sword and Swastika (Middletown, 1991).

8. For more detailed discussion of these documents, see G. Carter, The Politics of Inequality: South Africa since 1948 (London, 1958); D. Hindson “The Pass System”; Posel, Making of Apartheid; and Ashforth, Politics of Official Discourse.

9. See Ashforth’s critique of the Native Laws Commission’s liberal credentials in Politics of Official Discourse, chapter 4.

10. Native Laws Commission, Report, para. 61.

11. Industrial and Agricultural Labour Requirements Commission, Third Interim Report, Government Printers, UG 40 (1941), 4, in NTS 9679 1 635/400.

12. Native Laws Commission, Report, para. 61.

13. A. Hepple, Verwoerd (Harmondsworth, 1967), 121; interview with Fred Rodseth, 1984. In Rodseth’s memoir Ndabazabantu, 124–25, he also clearly records the personal importance which Smuts attributed to the Fagan Commission.

14. M. M. S. Bell, “Politics of Administration,” 84.

15. Ibid.

16. Hepple, Verwoerd, 112. For an overview of liberals’ ideological confusion in the 1940s, see P. Rich, Hope and Despair: English-Speaking Intellectuals and South African Politics (London, 1993).

17. Ibid., 113.

18. Cited in Posel, Making of Apartheid, 58.

19. Ibid., 58–60; D. Posel, “The Meaning of Apartheid before 1948: Conflicts of Interests and Powers within the Afrikaner Nationalist Alliance,” Journal of Southern African Studies, 14/1 (1987).

20. Sauer Report, quoted in Hindson, Pass System, 124.

21. J. Serfontein, Brotherhood of Power: An Exposé of the Secret Afrikaner Broederbond, (Bloomington and London, 1978), 82–84.

22. Ibid., 84.

23. W. Beinart, Twentieth Century South Africa (London, 1995), chapter 6; Heard, General Elections in South Africa, 57.

24. DNA, Report, 1945–47, Government Printers, UG 14 (1948), 2.

25. See Dubow, Racial Segregation, and Ballinger, From Union to Apartheid, for liberal debates over the centralization of all African affairs within the DNA.

26. The DNA had no interest in retaining its responsibilities for health, so it handed this area over to the provincial authorities. In 1949–50, it spent £23,777 on African health services; in 1950–51, £6,000; and nothing the following year. See Government Printers, UG 30 (1953), 8, and UG 37 (1955), 11.

27. Cited in S. Greenberg, “Legitimation and Control: Ideological Struggle within the South African State” (paper presented at the Social Science Research Council Conference, New York, 8–12 September 1982), 5.

28. HAD 77 (1952), col. 1338.

29. Ballinger, From Union to Apartheid; Mathews, “The Native Laws Amendment Bill: What It Means to Europeans and Africans,” 1957, in A. B. Xuma Papers (hereafter, ABX) 570000, Box M (1949–60).

30. HAD (1948), col. 606.

31. Dubow, Racial Segregation; C. Summers, From Civilization to Segregation: Social Ideals and Social Control in Southern Rhodesia (Athens, OH, 1994).

32. Cited in E. Theron, H. F. Verwoerd as Welsynbeplanner, 1932–36 (Stellenbosch, 1970), 11.

33. Ibid., 22.

34. Ibid., 17

35. Ibid., 15 and 34–36.

36. Verwoerd’s comments are scribbled on a page inserted in NTS 4501 566/ 313, 24.

37. Quoted in Serfontein, Brotherhood of Power, 81.

38. National Building and Research Institute (NBRI) to W. C. Mocke, 2 September 1952, in NTS 4272 6 120/313.

39. Heard, General Elections, 67.

40. Verwoerd, in HAD (1955), col. 4797.

41. The Tomlinson Commission is dealt with in chapter 7. K. Hartshorne discusses the financing of urban Bantu education in Crisis and Challenge: Black Education, 1910–1990 (Cape Town, 1992), 36–39.

42. Interviews with Rodseth and Carr, 1984.

43. Information concerning Jansen’s unhappy three years as MNA is taken from B. M. Schoeman, Van Malan tot Verwoerd (Cape Town, 1973), chapter 3.

44. Ibid., 44.

45. Ibid., 45. This explanation sheds further light on Posel’s account of two stillborn measures, the 1949 Native Laws Amendment Bill and the 1949 Urban Areas Amendment Bill. The aim of the Native Laws Amendment Bill was to distribute African labor “rationally” across the urban and rural areas through a labor bureau system that would give preference to urban Africans before authorizing migrant labor into the cities. Posel attributes the demise of the Urban Areas Amendment Bill to the opposition the DNA encountered from advisory boards. Schoeman blames the department’s senior officials. Posel, Making of Apartheid, 92–98; Schoeman, Van Malan tot Verwoerd.

46. Verwoerd had expected to be given either Finances, Social Welfare, or Education. Schoeman, Van Malan tot Verwoerd, 47.

47. Ballinger, From Union to Apartheid, 207.

48. See Dubow, Racial Segregation, 83–86.

49. “Report of the Committee on Bantu Languages,” 1942, in Reel 11 of Carter-Karis Collection (hereafter, CKC), 2:AU1/1:62; Eiselen’s speeches are collated in J. Engelbrecht, Die Naturellevraagstauk e.a.: `n Bundel Referate deur Dr. WWM Eiselen (Pretoria, 1959).

50. Rodseth, Ndabazabantu, 128.

51. M. Brandel-Syrier, Reeftown Elite (London, 1971), 209–10.

52. Information about dates of appointment to the civil service are taken from the Public Service List, 1947 (Pretoria, 1948), 132–35.

53. Rodseth is unclear about various dates in his book, Ndabazabantu, on which this information is based; the details were confirmed in an interview with him in 1984.

54. Schoeman, Van Malan tot Verwoerd, 44–45; Rodseth, Ndabazabantu, 127–28.

55. Rodseth, Ndabazabantu, 129.

56. Ibid.

57. See L. Venables to MNA, 8 June 1948, in NTS 5732 1 51/31(K).

58. For a discussion of the origins of the NAC, see Dubow, Racial Segregation, 109–11.

59. Ibid., chapter 3.

60. Department of Bantu Affairs and Development (DBAD), Report, 1958–59, Government Printers, UG 51 (1960), 52.

61. Native Affairs Commission (NAC), Report, 1953–54, Government Printers, UG 58 (1954), 3.

62. Taken from Schoeman, Van Malan tot Verwoerd; P. K. van der Byl, Top Hat and Veldskoen (Cape Town, 1973); and Ballinger, From Union to Apartheid.

63. DNA, Report, 1950–51, Government Printers, UG 30 (1953), 7; DBAD, Report, 1960–62, RP 78 (1964), 17.

64. DNA, Report, 1951–52, Government Printers, UG 37 (1955), 9.

65. DNA, Report, 1950–51, 7.

66. DNA, Report, 1951–52, 8.

67. DBAD, Report, 1960–62, 21.

68. DNA, Report, 1950–51, 9, and Report, 1951–52, 8; W. Hammond-Tooke, Command or Consensus (Cape Town, 1975).

69. Rodseth, interview, 1984; anonymous interview with an ex-official of the DNA, 1984.

70. DNA, Report, 1954–57, Government Printers, UG 14 (1959), 3.

71. Schoeman, Van Malan tot Verwoerd, 44 and 226; DNA, Report, 1952–53, Government Printers, UG 48 (1955), 8.

72. Anonymous interview, 1984.

73. Rodseth, Ndabazabantu, 128, and interview with Rodseth, 1984.

74. W. Carr, Soweto: Its Creation, Life and Decline (Johannesburg, 1990), 60.

75. M. Horrell, Bantu Education to 1968 (Johannesburg, 1968), 86.

76. DNA, Report, 1954–57, 7–9.

77. See DBAD, Report, 1960–62, for a brief description of these duties.

78. Also a long-standing administrator within the department and formerly in charge of the department’s land section, Bruce Young appears to have fitted in well with the new personnel of the 1950s. In 1960, when Verwoerd thought it wise to dampen the enthusiasm with which chiefs and headmen greeted his announcement that the Transkei would be granted “self-government,” he entrusted the sensitive job to Young. Schoeman, Van Malan tot Verwoerd, 226–27.

79. DNA, Report, 1954–57, 5.

80. DBAD, Report, 1960–62, 17.

81. Figures taken from DNA, Report, 1947–48, Government Printers, UG 35 (1949), 15, and Report, 1950–51, 8; DBAD, Report, 1960–62, 17. The figures are approximate because the sums for 1960 have been reconverted from Rands back to pounds (South Africa converted to the Rand after the country withdrew from the British commonwealth).

82. Adapted from DBAD, Report, 1960–62, 17.

83. Rodseth, Ndabazabantu, 57.

84. Ballinger, From Union to Apartheid.

85. Quoted in Strydom, Black and White Africans, 46.

86. F. Barnard, Thirteen Years with Dr. H. F. Verwoerd (Johannesburg, 1967).

87. Cited in Strydom, Black and White Africans, 70.

88. See chapter 4.

89. For example, see Carr, Soweto.

90. AANEA (Transvaal) (sgd. Venables) to MNA, 12 October 1946, in NTS 4501 1 566/313, 65.

91. W. Carr in “Notes of the Conference between AANEA and the DNA,” 16 January 1947, in NTS 4501 1 566/313, 77.

92. Handwritten letter from D. L. Smit to W. J. G. Mears, n.d., in NTS 4501 1 566/313.

93. The constitution of the Institute of Administrations of Non-European Affairs (IANEA) is reproduced in a memorandum in NTS 4501 1 566/313, 160. Ben Schoeman writes that the Cabinet dispatched Dr. Language and Chris Prinsloo to stir up support for Jansen’s ouster among NP members of Parliament: Van Malan tot Verwoerd, 46.

94. In 1958, a controversy broke at IANEA’s annual conference when Rhodesian members of IANEA insisted on using the word “African” instead of “Native” or “Bantu.” I. P. Ferreira (Vereeniging, NAD) worried “whether the constant use of the term ‘African’ would not harm the Institute’s relationship with the Department of Native Affairs.” Contact, 18 October 1958, 4.

95. IANEA, Proceedings of the Third Annual Conference, 1954, 23.

96. IANEA, Proceedings of the Seventh Annual Conference, 1957, 12.

97. Cited in J. Mathewson, “Recent Developments in Urban Native Administration” (SAIRR, 1955), 11.

98. Quotations are taken from Mathewson, “Recent Developments,” 12–14.

99. Ibid., p.2.

100. Ibid., 6.

101. Ibid., 6.

102. H. F. Verwoerd, “Local Authorities and the State,” in Verwoerd Speaks, 1948–1966, ed. A. N. Pelzer (Johannesburg, 1976).

103. “Opening Address,” in IANEA, Proceedings of the Fifth Annual Conference, 1956, 108.

104. Barnard, Thirteen Years with Verwoerd, 12.

105. van der Byl, Top Hat and Veldskoen.

106. See South African Builder, October 1951, 13–14.

107. E. Hellman, “Fifty Years of the South African Institute of Race Relations,” in E. Hellman and H. Lever (eds.), Conflict and Progress: Fifty Years of Race Relations in South Africa (Johannesburg, 1979), 13–14; Ballinger, From Union to Apartheid, 248. Even as Smuts sought to stiffen the spine of urban administration in the late 1930s by escalating influx controls, he continued to hold the four white Native representatives in parliament in high regard, contributing to the “immense disproportion between their number and the impact they made on parliamentary discussion.” R. de Villiers’ “South African Politics: The Rising Tide of Colour,” in E. Hellman and H. Lever (eds.), Conflict and Progress, 37.

108. Hellman, “Fifty Years of the SAIRR,” 13.

109. Carr, Soweto, 180.

3. Corrupting the State

Urban Labor Controls


The formation of the labor bureau system was pivotal to the transformation of urban administration. Municipal officials in the 1940s had unanimously supported the Fagan Commission’s recommendation that the state should establish a centralized system of labor bureaus. But they also supported the commission’s insistence that the system should operate on a voluntary basis, functioning rather like a network of labor exchanges, so that urban administrators would not exert undue control over the labor market. The version that the department unveiled in 1952 departed radically from this basic premise. Within a few years, the department was fully immersed in administering a system that derogated the autonomy of local authorities, subjected Africans to authoritarian controls, and implicated its officials in practices that routinized brutality. Far from eliciting disapproval from government leaders, the department’s approach to the labor market received official sanction and protection. Liberal administrators therefore found themselves implicated in a system that violated the central premises of the paternalist approach to urban controls.

E. H. Brookes claimed that the department in the segregation era had frequently been motivated by benevolent ideals but persistently undermined by the generally poor quality of its administrative personnel.[1] Liberals’ focus on matters of policy therefore had the effect of magnifying the benevolent tenor of Native administration in the segregation era. Conversely, the surge of administration to the forefront of the department’s concerns and its disavowal of paternalism in favor of overtly racist creeds propelled the department’s increasingly Afrikaner officials to the forefront of an authoritarian state. Within Native administration, a fateful fusion of state power and the Afrikanerization of the NC corps took place. This trend, however, is difficult, if not impossible, to document. A perusal of the Public Service List from 1947 to 1954, which provides complete listings of all civil servants in the various departments of the state, provides no help in tracing the Afrikanerization of the department. Although the list does break down the department’s personnel on the basis of grade and rank, Afrikaner names already heavily dominated listings for 1947 and 1948, making it difficult to see any marked changes. However, Rodseth’s claim that the department “pulled in many more Afrikaners at the rank of NC” is undoubtedly correct.[2] Strongly supported by the new government, the powers of administrative officials expanded commensurately as urban labor controls developed into the spine of the apartheid state in the 1950s. By the end of the decade, the broad powers of Native Commissioners to prosecute and sentence Africans snared by the pass laws, frequently through illegal means, enjoyed the open support of the police, the Department of Justice, and the growing number of Afrikaner judges.

The labor bureau system did not corrupt the apartheid state by itself; the developments that molded the totalitarian tendencies of the apartheid state and the lust for grand designs within regime-supporting circles were too diverse to be reduced to the changes that Verwoerd brought to Native affairs. Nevertheless, so central was it to the logic of apartheid that the labor bureau system quickly moved beyond its original concerns—to limit Africans’ access to the urban areas and to “canalise” labor “efficiently” across the economy. Within a few years, it transformed a predominantly civil department into a powerful and oppressive apparatus. Africans were exposed to an authoritarian and unapologetic bureaucratic culture in which they were portrayed as little more than “labour units” to be moved about and incarcerated virtually at will.

This chapter examines the impact of the labor bureau system on the state. It does not provide a detailed account of the effects of the system on the labor market, because a rich literature has recently come into being on this topic.[3] Instead, two discussions are presented to illustrate the corrosive impact of the labor bureau system on the state. The first examines how local authorities responded to a system that deliberately targeted their long-standing autonomy in regulating labor conditions within their areas of jurisdiction. It argues that even urban administrators who opposed or actively resisted the model were sucked into its systemic logic. The second deals with the police and the courts, the two vital branches of the state that imposed the sanctions on which apartheid labor controls were vitally dependent. The courts presented few problems: by virtue of the Native Commissioner Courts that the department controlled, “the state within a state” was virtually its own judicial system. In turn, the South African police had never been noted for an impartial approach to their duties or for a high level of professionalism, even in the segregation era.[4] In the 1950s, South Africa’s law enforcement agencies were given a virtual carte blanche to transform labor controls into a generalized mechanism of terror. By the late 1950s, the civil concerns of urban Bantu administration were tightly integrated with the state’s repressive operations.

Outline of the Labor Bureau System

Provision for setting up a labor bureau system was established by the Native Laws Amendment Act of 1952. The labor bureau system was organized into three tiers: a Central Labour Bureau, a Regional Labour Bureau, and, at its broad base, numerous district and local labor bureaus. The Central Labour Bureau directed the operation of the whole system from its headquarters in Pretoria. Regional bureaus were entrusted with the tasks of coordinating labor flows between rural and urban localities and supervising the bureaus within the nine CNC administrative zones. A local labor bureau was located in each municipal area, while district labor bureaus were located in the rural districts of the Union, both in the white rural areas and in the reserves. A cybernetic chain linked the model together, with the top tier directing and controlling operations at the lower level.[5]

District and local labor bureaus were expected to coordinate their activities in order to subject the circulation of labor into, within, and out of their areas to vigilant control. At the same time, Regional Employment Commissioners supervised the work of the bureaus and, after consulting with the CNCs in which their regions fell, were empowered to be the final arbiters for the interpretation of information concerning the labor market and for the implementation of the department’s policies. Municipal officials were particularly affected by this arrangement because it formally precluded them from influencing the decisions to remove or admit Africans to the urban areas. From the moment the labor bureau regulations were promulgated in 1952, local authorities strenuously objected to their subordinate position within the bureaucratic model. These regulations not only insisted on the subordination of local authorities to the Regional Employment Commissioner, but also gave Native Commissioners in district bureaus the final say in determining whether or not migrant workers could be accepted into the urban areas. Much of the subsequent conflict between local authorities and the department over the labor bureau system centered around these administrative provisions.

Together with the Director of Native Labour, CNCs met regularly throughout the year to coordinate their activities and to assemble a composite picture of the labor market as a whole.[6] By the nature of the department’s hydra-headed policies in the urban areas, these meetings were generally not limited to discussions about the labor bureau system alone, except on those occasions when meetings were called to discuss the recommendations of specific subcommittees. Instead, meetings generally focused on the integration of labor bureaus with other aspects of the department’s ongoing interests: housing policy, the acquisition and reclassification of land in terms of the Group Areas Act, the reorganization of the reserves, and plans to combat political opposition. These topics were all interwoven in these meetings, and officials who specialized in these respective concerns were invariably present to point out loopholes and to make recommendations regarding labor conditions in their administrative areas.[7] Documentary evidence of this “integrated approach” provides firm evidence of the sympathetic support that the department’s labor bureau plans received from other state agencies, strengthening the impression that the state’s urban African policy in the 1950s was all cut from the same cloth—in contrast to the episodic and checkered patterns of urban administration in the 1940s.

This vision of a “planned” labor market depended, of course, on reliable information about prevailing labor market conditions. However, gestures toward this end in the segregationist era provided neither precedent nor institutions on which apartheid administrators could elaborate. The task of linking the stabilization and circulation of African workers within and across the nine administrative zones to empirical data about the Union’s labor market therefore fell to the newly established Central Labour Bureau (CLB). A specialized institution for assembling this data was not established, however; instead, raw data about labor conditions were obtained from local bureaus in the form of aggregate figures on a fortnightly and monthly basis.[8] This information was intended to yield a snapshot of the labor market at any particular moment. By reviewing the sequence of figures, one could obtain an indication of the flow of labor into and out of individual districts. In theory, from a sequence of these “snapshots” in a particular zone would emerge accurate updates concerning surpluses and shortages of labor, enabling officials in the CLB to compile a dynamic composite picture of labor circulation on a national basis.

The centralization of information was also reflected in the Reference Books, which superseded the various “pass” documents that Africans had to carry. Provision for the extension of Reference Books was made with the passage of the Native (Abolition of Passes and Co-ordination of Documents) Act of 1952. It consolidated fingerprints, information about the bearer’s residency rights in the urban areas, tribal affiliation, employment history, tax payments, and any infractions of urban labor control laws and regulations.

In contrast to the CLB, the Central Reference Bureau (CRB), established in 1953 in the office of the Under-Secretary for Staff and Administration, performed the more global task of rationalizing and centralizing information on all African individuals. As Ramsay, the first Director of the CRB, phrased it, “the Reference Bureau is, after all, a reference bureau as well as virtually the Bureau of Census and Statistics for Natives. It should at least control vital statistics and know the number as well as the whereabouts of all adult members of the Native population as required in terms of Section 10(2) of the Population Registration Act, 1950.” [9] In 1955, a Departmental Committee to Investigate the Mechanization of the Central Labour Bureau was instructed to investigate the cost-effectiveness of a number of mechanization schemes. It came out in favor of using punched cards, “the most up to date method,” on which data on African individuals were stored. For the cost of £5,870 12s.1d., Ramsay could boast that this would “become one of the largest mechanization schemes in the world” and that his bureau would soon possess the “world’s largest finger-print collection.” [10] Thus, the labor bureau system also provided invaluable detective functions for the police, centralizing evidence that could be used to prove that violators swept up in the pass dragnets were “idle or disorderly.” A memorandum on the “idle or disorderly” clause and the consequences that awaited Africans who “maliciously destroyed their fingerprint records” explained: “All compulsory endorsements made and refused, entries [into an urban area] and warnings issued are notified to the SA Criminal Bureau and are noted on the criminal records of the Native concerned. In practice,” it continued, “three or four of such endorsements on a Native’s record have been taken to indicate a perverted preference on the part of the Native to live without the law and therefore to be disorderly.” [11] When armed opposition emerged from the underground after the ANC and the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC) abandoned the pattern of orchestrated “defiance campaigns” in the 1950s, information generated by the documentation of labor was to fuse with the intelligence gathered by the security establishment in the 1960s.

Compromising the State

The expanding powers of Native administration officials and the bureaucratic culture they established in the 1950s were foregrounded in a clutch of laws—principally the Group Areas Act of 1950, the Suppression of Communism Act of 1950, the Criminal Laws Amendment Act of 1953, the Native Labour (Settlement of Disputes) Act of 1953, the Public Safety Act of 1953, and the Riotous Assemblies and Suppression of Communism Amendment Act of 1954—that scaled back the tenuous liberties of blacks in the early 1950s and boosted the state’s powers to impose its racial designs onto society.[12] The labor bureau system complemented the authoritarian political culture these laws established by providing the administrative framework for terrorizing African civil society.

As Greenberg, Hindson, and Posel have demonstrated, the system worked far from perfectly from the beginning. Measured against the formal intentions of the department, it proved to be self-subverting on a number of grounds and exacerbated many of the problems it was intended to eliminate.[13] But, because the department resolutely stuck to it, the logic and irrationalities of the department’s grip on the labor market compelled a host of different actors—various categories of civil servants, employers, and Africans—to adjust their different responses in relation to the labor bureau system. Thus, even when they functioned poorly, labor bureaus remained an “absent presence” in the life of state and society. Whether their cooperation was unwilling and coerced, as in the case of some local authorities, or unbridled, as became the norm with most police, state cadres came under the coercive sway of the system’s logic. In any case, so pervasive and, as we see below, insidious was its functioning that the labor bureau system could not simply be ignored: to ignore it was to “subvert” it. Nor could one simply submit to its dictates: to comply with it was to become ensnared in the tentacles of the apartheid state.

An important development in the field of urban administration was the proliferation of administrative regulations, a process then well under way in most advanced democracies but increasingly prevalent in South Africa from the mid-1920s onward.[14] In general, opponents of administrative law view the field as an insidious attack on the legislative branch, empowering unelected administrators to exercise potentially vast powers with little accountability either within or outside the state.[15] In contrast, supporters of administrative law contend that legislatures are incapable of controlling the complex and highly specialized bureaucracies that comprise the modern state; in this view, the modern state would not be able to function without administrative regulations and the devolution of authority to minor officials.[16] Unsurprisingly, the DNA embraced the latter perspective. As government critics in and outside parliament repeatedly pointed out, African legislation invariably bestowed enormous discretionary powers on the MNA, who in turn ensured that administrative regulations vested minor officials with unprecedented powers over Africans.[17]

By its very nature, however, administrative law also enables civil servants to adapt and even reverse policies without running the gauntlet of divisive public scrutiny. Formal policy may therefore be substantially altered in this way. For this reason, the thicket of regulations and circular instructions that emerged in Native administration in the 1950s have recently come under the increasing scrutiny of scholars, for it is here—perhaps even more than in the broad sweep of legislation enacted in parliament—that important trends in urban administration may frequently be found.[18] Even as they vilified “liberalism” and depicted urban employers as selfishly profiteering from chaotic labor surpluses in the urban labor market, urban officials, in the course of their attempts to reduce the urban population, quietly concocted a modus operandi at the level of administration that sometimes avoided debilitating changes in the urban economy at the expense of official government policy.[19] The distinction between legislation and administrative law is therefore particularly important for assessing the labor bureau system.

As recent scholarship has illustrated, the labor bureau system remained incapable of subordinating the market economy to bureaucratic dictate. Rather than destabilize the various interests in the organization of the urban labor market, the department quietly scaled back significant aspects of its interventionist blueprints to the point that it frequently engaged in practices that the formal model sought to eliminate.[20] By systematically conferring legality on violations of policy, labor bureau officials in the 1950s played the pivotal role of sanctioning practical agreements between private parties in the labor market. The result was that in many instances, administrative regulations effectively sabotaged the official rationale for having established the labor bureau system in the first place. As it became clear that the practical administration of the system would not shut off labor supplies to the urban areas, anxiety levels within the business community decreased noticeably as the fifties wore on. By forging a series of practical compromises around material interests, many of them ad hoc and contradictory, the department did much to consolidate “the material bases of consent” [21] within the broad white population. Perhaps more so than any other apparatus at the time, the DNA provided the state with the context in which discursive appeals to whites would register with growing success, as indicated by the National Party’s increasing electoral majorities from 1953 onward.

Local Authorities

Municipal officials immediately made it clear that they strongly opposed their marginalization within the new structure of labor controls. Verwoerd did not, however, go to any lengths to win the support of liberal urban administrators. Hence, meetings in the spirit of the conference that had taken place between department and municipal officials in 1937, with Smuts himself presiding, did not occur. At that meeting, called to deliberate the important implications of the 1937 Native Laws Amendment Act, Smuts had been careful to offset the powers that the act vested in the MNA (to compel authorities to exercise influx and other controls) with arguments that, characteristically, perpetuated the liberal preference for moral suasion and undermined the threat of compulsion from the central state. The air of open debate and heated defiance from municipal administrators that had marked that meeting did not resurface in the 1950s. Verwoerd’s response was to lay down the law to local authorities and to activate the powers that he enjoyed over them. The mechanism for integrating the work of urban officials was thus almost entirely bureaucratic and authoritarian, its logic predicated on the assumption that the discretionary prerogatives that administrators had formerly enjoyed posed a danger to the entire labor control apparatus, and therefore to the apartheid state itself.

The only evidence of a more conciliatory tone occurs in the department’s dealings with its own senior officials. In the early 1950s, a number of meetings of CNCs were devoted to the new labor control system; in these meetings, the logic of the system was laboriously dissected and examined for loopholes and inconsistencies. Judging from the recorded minutes, inquiries from the CNCs at the conferences held in 1952 and 1953 appear entirely technical; the information they sought reflected no qualms about the labor bureau concept generally or opposition to stepped-up influx control in particular. Records show, for example, no special interest in the tension between the preferential treatment reserved for “detribalised Bantu” and the “government’s policy that the Bantus in the European areas will be encouraged to remain in their own tribal areas.” [22] Nor were any serious questions asked about how Africans “endorsed out” of the urban areas would fare in the Bantustans’ depleted economies. Much as Smuts had looked to the Fagan Commission to deflect questions about immediate administration, Eiselen and Verwoerd halted speculation about the consequences of expulsion procedures on the grounds that the “socio-economic conditions” of the Bantustans were still under investigation.[23] Despite repeated reminders that the labor bureau system was “part and parcel of a larger picture,” administrators were encouraged to accept the structure as an internally closed system divorced from broader issues of policy. Not even the CNCs, senior cadres whose duties included the administration of the Bantustans within their areas of jurisdiction, inquired deeply into the rural (or moral) implications of a system that promised to throw thousands of pass law violators from the urban areas into the poverty-stricken countryside. Such complacency and cooperation stand in contrast to the quarrelsome conference of 1937. Then, administrators had attacked Smuts’ confirmation that the state’s new policy was to expel all “redundant labour” to the reserves. It was Smuts’ explanation— “That is why the reserves have been enlarged”—that had solicited the anguished query from the municipal ranks: “[W]hat about the children? what about old people? Must they be cast out to die like a lot of dogs as has been suggested?” [24] This spirit of municipal querulousness was extirpated as the 1950s wore on.

Unsurprisingly, recollections by liberal officials such as Carr and Rodseth all converge around the central themes of the internal homogeneity and bureaucratic intolerance that stamped the department in the 1950s. The department did, of course, work hard to publicize the labor bureaus to a wide array of interested parties. While Verwoerd, Eiselen, and a number of other senior officers all presented addresses to representatives of local authorities, the United Municipal Executive (UME), and business associations, the only Africans who were “consulted,” it appears, were those sitting on the United Transkeian Territories General Council (UTTGC)—several years after the labor bureau system had been established—and the Location Advisory Boards Congress. Verwoerd’s position was that his department was not obliged to “consult with” Africans, since they were merely “guest workers” in South Africa.[25]

One of the earliest analyses of the internal workings of the labor bureau system was produced by the UME in April 1954. At a meeting between the heads of the Urban Areas, Labour Bureau, General, and Reference Book sections of the department, it was decided to invite the UME to establish a Liaison Committee to “advise and consult” with the department over details of the labor bureau system.[26] Taking the invitation in good faith, the UME appointed a committee that responded with an eight-page memorandum that broadly endorsed the need for a labor bureau system but also raised serious questions about the structure and functioning of the system. Within a year, the Secretary of the Liaison Committee complained that “the existence of this Committee has perhaps been overlooked in the past year,” after which it appears to have been dropped completely.[27]

According to the document, the source of the problems in the operation of the labor bureau system could be reduced to just one aspect of administration: the virtual elimination of local labor bureaus from effective influence over the implementation of influx controls. The department, the memo remonstrated, failed to recognize that local and district bureaus had “distinct functions” and that a major occupation of municipal administrators was to perform “employment services.” As such, regulations that gave district bureaus “over-riding powers over Local Labour Bureaux” in assessing the urban labor market when only the latter “knows best what labour is required in its area” gave rise to four fundamental problems.

First, “the rigid implementation of labor bureau regulations” failed to achieve their stated goal of bringing migrant workers under the control of state officials. Workseekers in the rural areas had learned quickly that it was not always easy to obtain permission from NCs to enter and reside in the urban areas due to the new set of regulations that governed their geographical mobility. Rather than accept work on a white farm from the district bureau, workseekers preferred “to run the risk” of violating influx control measures by searching for unskilled work in the urban centers. Second, the memorandum argued, the strict implementation of influx controls had exacerbated income differentials between urbanized Africans and migrant workers. Wages had increased in the building industry from the “normal” wage of £2.10.0 to £2.17.6 because of the “difficulty that employers in the industry were experiencing in finding unskilled migrant workers.”

The third issue raised was that the policy of removing discretion from local labor bureaus to correlate the demand and supply for labor resulted in “serious defects” in the statistical returns compiled by the bureau. This was a mild description of what was really an extensive exercise in deception designed to paint the illusory picture of an apparatus sufficiently attuned to the vagaries of the labor market to assign workseekers accurately to particular positions in the class structure. The memorandum provided two examples of such statistical deceptions. First, it showed that workseekers registering in rural areas were “placed” simply by assigning them, not to a particular employer, but to an industry. Once authorized to enter the town and take up employment in a particular industry, workseekers invariably scouted around for better employment and were able to evade arrest because their documents were in order. In practice, therefore, large numbers of “placed workers” were actually workseekers. Consequently, the monthly return compiled by the CRB became “valueless” because “it is based on the principle that placements deducted from workseekers will reflect a surplus or shortage in the category of the labor concerned.” [28]

This type of deception was dwarfed by a greater inaccuracy deliberately recorded in statistical returns. The thrust of the 1952 Native Laws Amendment Act and of labor bureau regulations, we have seen, was to coordinate the working of influx and efflux controls—that is, workseekers would be permitted to exit from rural areas and enter urban areas only if district bureaus were first satisfied that employment was available in particular urban areas. Workseekers who complied with this requirement could then be legitimately chalked up as “placements” made by the bureau. In practice, the DNA’s boasts about its capacity to effect such finely tuned calibrations were highly suspect. The ruse employed was simple: bureaus registered workseekers after they entered the urban areas. Instead of expelling undocumented workseekers who presented themselves for registration, local labor bureaus were inclined to retain them by legalizing them post facto. Thus, workseeker permits and the service contracts of illegal entrants were registered simultaneously, instead of consecutively, as required by regulations.

Once recorded as “placements” in this manner, those service contracts registered by dint of official deception became indistinguishable from those registered procedurally. These practices, repeatedly referred to in departmental documents as “concessions against policy,” arose from “sheer necessity,” according to R. L. Wezel, the Witwatersrand Regional Employment Commissioner: “It is self-evident that had a decision not been taken to relax the strict compliance with sub-regulation 9(8) and General Circular No. 61 of 1953, the labor bureaux functioning in my regional area would not have been able to meet to a considerable extent the demands for Native labour…with the inevitable result that severe criticism would have been levelled against the Native Labour Bureau system.” [29] Such practices, however, became permanently ingrained in the functioning of the labor control bureaucracy.

The fourth criticism raised in the UME’s memo involved the long-standing dispute over the definition of a “labour surplus.” The department’s ability to control the labor market presupposed that three administrative categories basic to the revised labor control system could be clearly distinguished from one another: “Surplus Labour,” “Labour Demands,” and “Unfilled Vacancies.” But, the memorandum pointed out, administrative officers failed to categorize Africans in the urban areas accurately under these three headings. Labor bureau officials were therefore confronted with an apparent anomaly. According to monthly returns, the high figures recorded under “Demand” and “Vacancies” coexisted with high “Surpluses” of labor. Convinced that the urban labor market was already saturated, officials in the regional and district bureaus were inclined to resolve the conundrum by emphasizing “Surplus Labour” and therefore interpreted influx control regulations more narrowly. Equally important to local bureaus was their sensitivity to matching labor with appropriate employment. As the memorandum summarized it, “there may be a surplus but it does not necessarily follow that employer and employee want each other”; one official interviewed by Stanley Greenberg would later concede that employer and worker were matched in “a kind of blind date.” [30]

Recent analyses of the labor bureau system confirm the basic accuracy of these criticisms.[31] These outcomes cannot be dismissed as the system’s teething problems. Not only did they become entrenched in the practical operations of the system; they were firmly rooted in the contradictory character of urban policy in the 1950s.[32] The department was torn between its desire to impose a stringent influx control policy on Africans in the urban areas and its pragmatic realization that urban employers of all stripes, including the nascent Afrikaner enterprises that the government was bent on nurturing, were heavily dependent on the extensive utilization of cheap African labor. In trying to balance these two antagonistic principles, the department concocted an inconsistent administrative regimen. On the one hand, it routinely departed from the regulations that governed the labor bureau system, repeatedly describing its own “deviations” as “concessions against policy”; on the other hand, it imposed a firm bureaucratic grip on the labor market.

There were two major “concessions” that it extended to urban employers. First, instead of rigidly linking the rights of Africans to remain for longer than seventy-two hours in an urban area to their legal employment in that area, it formulated a Section 10 clause that significantly widened the conditions under which Africans could legally gain entry into and reside within the urban areas. Under the terms of Section 10 (1) of the Native Laws Amendment Act of 1952, Africans could only remain in an urban area for longer than seventy-two hours if one of the four following conditions was met:

a) he was born and permanently resides in such area; or

b) he has worked continuously in such area for one employer for a period of not less than ten years or has lawfully remained continuously in such area for a period of not less than fifteen years and has not during either period been convicted of any offense in respect of which he has been sentenced to imprisonment without the option of a fine for a period of more than seven days or with the option of a fine for a period of more than one month; or

c) such native is the wife, unmarried daughter or son under the age at which he could become liable for payment of general tax under the Native Taxation and Development Act, 1925 (Act No. 41 of 1928), of any native mentioned in paragraph (a) or (b) of this sub- section and ordinarily resides with that native; or

d) permission so to remain has been granted to him by a person designated for the purpose of that urban local authority.[33]

In addition to these legal reasons for exempting Africans from the “seventy-two hour clause,” the department even went so far as to allow “a certain plussage” of unemployed workers to remain in the urban area to cater to the vicissitudes of the employment process and to offset the likelihood that labor shortages might drive up urban wage levels. Furthermore, Verwoerd made it clear that the department would not arbitrarily impede the entry of migrant workseekers into the urban areas if a “reasonable demand for this type of worker exists,” and he reassured urban employers that “the test is always the urban demand for labour.” [34] To urban employers anxious about the ideological rhetoric of the NP in the late 1940s, these pragmatic concessions were welcomed with relief. For example, speaking on behalf of the SAIRR, L. Rau observed in 1955 that “influx control has as yet had no detrimental effect on the African’s ability to secure employment in the cities. The demand for Native labour is being fully met.…” [35]

Apart from this series of official concessions, it is more than likely that corruption played an important role in undermining the official logic of the labor control bureaucracy. With urban employers eager to employ “tribal” labor and African workers desperate to secure official authorization to be in an urban area, the willingness of labor bureau officials—and the police with whom they routinely cooperated—to engage in practices outside of usual procedure undoubtedly encouraged some degree of corruption in the form of bribery. For a small sum, poorly paid officials were in a position to solve the problems of all parties, not least those of the bureaucracy itself—for every registered contract imparted the impression of administrative control. In July 1959, for example, a policeman was found guilty and sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment for “selling” a Reference Book for twenty-five pounds to one Mbulelo Botile in Cape Town.[36] In December 1958, journalists learned that “If you have enough money and the right contacts you can usually obtain any ‘pass’ or permit that you need.” [37] Native Commissioners in Benoni were found to be extensively involved in these practices, routinely charging between one and three pounds for virtually any of the “rights” that entitled Africans to work and reside in the urban area; it was even possible to buy authorization to work in one area while residing in another, thereby circumventing a problem that plagued employers (not least the postal service) and taxed the administrative meetings devoted to this problem in the 1950s.[38]

Despite their opposition to their subordinate position within the labor bureau system, local authorities did not find themselves in open conflict with it; instead, the flexible application of the system provided grounds for their cooperation. Moreover, because they had no interest in permitting the build-up of large pools of unemployed labor in their areas, local authorities looked to the structure to hold the numbers down.

At the same time, the department had no intention of relinquishing its control over African urbanization or individual Africans in the urban areas. Its decision to tolerate certain levels of urban unemployment and to allow employers to recruit new migrant labor should therefore be assessed in the light of three other aspects of its urban policy. These were designed to subordinate the urban labor market to strict bureaucratic control.[39]

First, a central feature of urban policy in the 1950s was the department’s commitment to “freeze” African urbanization at levels current immediately after 1948. Africans who did not qualify to reside in an urban area under the terms of clauses (a), (b), or (c) of Section 10 (1) would henceforth only be permitted urban entry as migrant workers, entitled only to (d) rights. The second element of urban policy, extending influx controls to women, was closely related to the goal of freezing the size of the urban population. Hence, African women were denied independent rights to enter and reside in urban areas. Section 10 laid down that they could do so only if they were already legally employed or could prove that they were legally married to a male who qualified to be in the area. Furthermore, to subject women to greater control, the department began for the first time issuing passes to women. Third, the department appropriated an “urban labour preference” policy, which had been strongly endorsed by the AANEA immediately after World War II and which liberal administrators such L. Venables, W. J. P. Carr, and F. Rodseth continued to champion throughout the 1950s. This policy positioned the settled population ahead of migrant workers in the urban labor and housing markets. The practical implication of the urban labor preference policy was that the demand for labor would be met first by extending job opportunities to members of the settled urban population; permission to requisition fresh intakes of migrant labor would be granted only if, in the department’s estimate, urban unemployment had ceased to be a problem.

In sum, then, in the 1950s the department extended two significant concessions to urban employers, by agreeing to tolerate certain levels of urban unemployment and by permitting employers to recruit migrant labor. On the other hand, it also moved to impose bureaucratic controls on the market to freeze the urban population: controlling women and settling for an urban labor preference policy. But these goals clearly pulled in different directions, as Posel has demonstrated. Section 10 (1), for example, provided significant leeway for the urban population to increase on perfectly legal grounds. By agreeing to introduce clauses (b) and (c) alongside (a), Verwoerd allowed a large number of Africans to reside legally in the urban areas—whether or not they were unemployed. Even if unemployed, Africans who qualified in terms of these clauses were spared from having to register as workseekers at the local labor bureau. This meant that there was no way for the department to estimate urban unemployment levels accurately in order to enforce the urban labor preference policy. Legally unemployed Africans could therefore legally contribute to the very unemployment problems that the labor bureau system was intended to eliminate.[40]

Accordingly, the practical contradictions of the labor bureau system frequently exacerbated many of the problems the department intended to eliminate through the “rational canalisation” and “stabilisation” of labor: urban unemployment persisted, migrant labor continued to gain entry to the urban areas, urban employers continued to complain about shortages of semi-skilled and skilled African labor, and the urban population continued to increase.

But, if the department did not construct a “rationally planned” labor market that subordinated the market economy to centralized planners, it did forge an administered one in which the preferences of employers and municipal officials were generally permitted to influence the labor control bureaucracy.[41] Although the process was not always predictable, throughout the 1950s municipal officials in local bureaus invariably were in a position to convince their departmental counterparts in district bureaus to accede to urban employers’ requests for additional migrant labor.[42] According to Carr, dealings with the district officials were frequently unpleasant and combative —but, in the end, also usually gratifying to Johannesburg’s NEAD. With the department charting a policy of “concessions” (of the sort indicated above by the Witwatersrand Regional Employment Commissioner) and given to ad hoc adjustments to cope with specific circumstances in different areas, district officials had ample incentive to follow suit.

Beginning with Greenberg’s depiction of apartheid as an internally inchoate state form, the collective impact of recent scholarship on the labor bureau system has steadily destroyed the structure’s reputation for omnipotence and doctrinaire imperiousness, showing that the very attempt to function flexibly yielded contradictory outcomes. Greenberg argues that these contradictions culminated in the immobilisme in which the state became mired in the 1980s.[43] In the 1950s, however, these contradictions were central to the department’s ability to coordinate the respective interests of urban employers and municipal and departmental administrators. Senior liberal administrators such as Carr and Rodseth do not stress this achievement, preferring to lay emphasis on the antagonistic nature of their dealings with Verwoerd’s department.

It may be safely assumed that a self-selecting dynamic came into play in the wake of the internal ideological changes in the 1950s, dissuading government critics from seeking positions in urban Bantu administration. The department, after all, was responsible for formulating policies that remained relentlessly authoritarian even when urban policy promised to provide, in Verwoerd’s words, “guarantees, stability and security” to the urban African community,[44] and the department appeared gratuitously coercive when it moved to ram its blueprints into place. Strongly supported by the liberal media, the Johannesburg and Cape Town city councils attacked the department for the sweeping powers it was amassing. D. L. Smit captured the unease among liberals when he described Verwoerd in 1953 as “a Napoleon in Native Affairs who was trying to set up a great Black empire under his supreme dictatorship.” [45]

But these developments should be also be placed in context. The sense that urban administration was dividing down the middle, with liberals poised against upstart apartheid ideologues in administration, was greatly exaggerated by the compulsory opposition that the Westminster constitutional model imposed on government and official opposition. From their vantage point as members of parliament in the 1950s, two liberals in Native affairs, Margaret Ballinger and D. L. Smit, arrived at precisely this conclusion and grew increasingly distressed that the distance between the two parties was actually narrowing over the “Native question.” [46] Verwoerd therefore took particular pleasure in pinioning former senior administrators such as D. L. Smit and Piet van der Byl. (Margaret Ballinger was too closely associated with “Natives” to deserve the Minister’s serious attention.) Zeroing in on the “middle ground” that the Fagan Commission had championed, he either ridiculed them for failing to repudiate the principle of racial domination or portrayed them as unabashed “assimilationists.” [47] These rhetorical clashes, however, distract attention from the degree of cooperation within the ranks of urban administrators.

For this reason, the recollections of David Grinker, an urban administrator in the 1950s and 1960s, are instructive. Grinker provides a glimpse of the attitude of those urban personnel who, on the one hand, were neither committed liberals cut in the mold of men such as D. L. Smit, W. J. G. Mears, Fred Rodseth, and W. J. P. Carr, or, on the other hand, staunch supporters of apartheid. Grinker’s assessments of the changes introduced in the 1950s and 1960s are arguably representative of a large number of urban officials—and possibly also of the rising numbers of white voters who handed the NP a string of increasingly large electoral victories in the same period. In his book (a highly personalized recollection of his years of service as an Assistant Bantu Affairs Officer, an assistant District Officer, and then an officer in the Witwatersrand Administration Board), Grinker describes “the different approach to administration of the [two] white language groups”:

The English regarded themselves as working for the community, within a framework of laws provided for this purpose. The Afrikaner worked for the state. The state and its interests came first, and, in most cases, the Afrikaans officials made no effort to bend the letter of the law.…The Afrikaner always seeks authority for everything from higher up the administrative ladder. The Englishman tends to manage by exception—only certain very specific decisions are referred upstairs.…[48]

Grinker records his distance from apartheid policies and his admiration of municipal leaders such as W. J. P. Carr (who admonished Grinker for remaining in urban administration after the department displaced local authorities from all matters involving Africans in 1971). He also clearly conveys his objection to the insensitivity that the NP government’s approach to urban administration encouraged toward Johannesburg’s African population. At the same time, a strong theme that emerges from Grinker’s rambling account is the equanimity of his approach to administration. The antagonism and frequent skirmishes between the Johannesburg City Council, along with the personnel of its NEAD, and Verwoerd in the 1950s suggest a climate of irreconcilable differences between the two. This view was strongly promoted by the liberal media and Verwoerd’s critics in parliament. There is little doubt, however, that politics drove much of that criticism, as Verwoerd frequently complained. Grinker’s account therefore provides an alternative perspective to the rhetorical confrontations in parliament. For this minor administrator, low down on the chain of command, ideological battles were not the first consideration; getting the job done was the stuff of daily work.

Thus, the outstanding feature of Grinker’s narrative is his acceptance of “administration” as a “career,” the source of a decent occupation with the promise of promotion and upward mobility. He describes himself as belonging to a “not insignificant number of officials [in Diepmeadow] who are both dedicated and enlightened.” [49] At the time he first joined Johannesburg’s “Municipal Service” in 1965, Grinker confesses, he was ignorant of and indifferent toward Africans. But he warmed to his job as well as to a number of African officials he worked with. His best attempts to introduce a professionalism into black local government foundered, he laments, on the rocks of maladministration among his African colleagues and misguided interventions from ideologically driven Afrikaners above. Grinker’s depoliticized views of urban administration seem essential to his ability to reconcile himself to the heavily centralized, top-down, “racialist” [50] approach to administration favored by the “Afrikanerized” department in the 1960s. At the same time, the bureaucratic culture that overtook urban administration from the 1950s onward ensured that such criticism would be held firmly in check.

Grinker’s reflections on his years as urban administrator are remarkable for another reason: the complete silence he maintains about the labor control apparatus, the pivot of policy and administration in the 1960s. But Grinker’s silence on this issue is not unusual; W. J. P. Carr himself maintains a similar silence on the subject in Soweto: Its Creation, Life and Decline, his own account of his years as head of Johannesburg’s NEAD. His narrative spans the crucial years from 1952, when the labor bureau system was introduced, until 1969, just two years before the department finally made good on its threat to relieve local authorities of all responsibilities for African administration. As the head Native administrator of South Africa’s premier city, Carr’s liberal politics were well known, and he became embroiled in a number of the Johannesburg City Council’s disputes with Verwoerd over the latter’s brusque policies toward the settled urban African population. His stolid and widely publicized criticism of Eiselen’s instructions to introduce “ethnic zoning” in locations also earned him the wrath of the department in 1957. He was, he writes, convinced that “one of the basic flaws in the pass laws was the fact that all Africans were regarded as being in the same circumstances, with no differential treatment for the individual regardless of whether he was an educated professional man or a labourer.” In response to the Sharpeville episode, he authored a memorandum suggesting how the pass laws could be relaxed. The document was submitted to the Chambers of Commerce and Industry, which then offered Carr’s recommendations to the government under its own auspices; so bad were relations between the JCC and the government that the document would otherwise have been “rejected out of hand.” [51] But despite such evidence of active disagreement with the apartheid regime, Carr remained preeminently an administrator, a liberal who took great pride in the dual role he played in maintaining law and order in the African areas while promoting the process of “civilisation” among Africans.

More forcefully than Grinker, Carr associates himself with Africans’ intense opposition to influx control policies, concluding that it was “little wonder that every African leader, advisory board member and writer complained ceaselessly about the hardships inseparable from the pass laws.” [52] Yet, writing four decades later, Carr remains unable to denounce unequivocally the need for a labor control apparatus. The reasons restate the awkward position in which liberal administrators found themselves once the system—the backbone of apartheid—was established. The system, Carr writes, was necessary:

From the [local] authorities’ point of view, there had to be some control over entry, employment and housing, lest all facilities be swamped by the thousands who would do anything to circumvent the pass laws. There were not enough jobs or houses, too many children to be accommodated in schools, and not enough money to provide all the amenities that were required. It was a situation in which there could not be any winners, only losers.[53]

Verwoerd would hardly have disagreed. Thus, Carr accounts for Johannesburg’s brushes with Verwoerd’s department by emphasizing the clashes over certain specific aspects of the latter’s housing solutions—but not its will, which he admired—and the controversial policy of ethnic zoning—an exaggerated “ideological” initiative that not even the department appears to have taken seriously in subsequent years.[54]

The focus of administration, after all, is the practical. Thus, Carr’s 1960 recommendations also rested on the point that “some restriction on the movement of Africans was necessary”: “…the total abolition of the pass laws, influx control, and all restrictive legislation, as demanded by the PAC and ANC, could not be supported because of the threat this would pose to the white community.” [55] This basic “threat” to the white population formed the irreducible point of convergence around which every single municipal administrator rallied, regardless of ideological proclivities.

Liberals were particularly aware that the centrifugal logic of the labor bureau system corroded their political principles. But these were also the men who knew from firsthand experience the consequences of administrative disorder. Thus, according to another liberal administrator, E. A. E. Haveman (Manager, Durban NAD), the transcendent principle was not race but “order.” In 1952, Haveman informed the South African Institute of Town Clerks that “local authorities are concerned (in practice at any rate) not about the pros and cons of a black proletariat taking the place of the migrant peasant, but about the possibility that the black proletariat will grow too rapidly—or, to put it more concretely, about the fact that it has grown so rapidly that the local authority cannot cope with its housing and other needs.” [56] Haveman reconciled himself to the labor bureau system by airily dismissing the official goals of the structure: “Influx control, though ostensibly a mechanism for regulating labour supplies, is more usually resorted to as a means of reducing or slowing down the demand for housing.” [57] To prove that race was not the driving concern of liberal urban administration, Haveman described the municipality as a “vast closed shop,” “an enormous trade union,” and a “city state”—institutions that are justified in devoting their resources to accredited members only. As proof, Haveman cited the “poor white” phenomenon: “…[W]hen the civilised labour policy and the depression jointly produced an influx of poor Europeans into urban areas, some municipalities protested vigorously and would certainly have controlled the influx had they found it possible to do so.” Civil order, not racial segregation, was the urban Native administrator’s primary concern.

The department’s “flexible application” of influx controls in the early 1950s therefore established the context in which liberal administrators felt justified in subordinating labor controls to an administrative discourse about the need to maintain local stability and “sound housing policy.” Like S. Bourquin (Durban NAD), many liberal administrators may have believed that “the Bantu are being over-administered.” [58] But, like Bourquin, all gave precedence to the immediate administrative tasks at hand—and so maneuvered themselves into repeatedly prefacing administrative observations with language such as “I am not concerned with the ethics of the situation but am merely stating a fact” (which is how Bourquin qualified his remark that “the same salary that secures a junior European clerk will attract the cream of Bantu officials”).[59] Liberal administrators therefore reconciled themselves to the strict influx controls promulgated in 1952 (but not, as we have seen, to the official logic of the labor bureau system as a whole).

From the other end, conservative administrators imbued the labor bureau system with the most benign potential. Amongst these cadres, a standard claim was that the “rational canalisation” and “stabilisation” of labor worked to the benefit of all parties, especially African workers.[60] F. W. C. Buitendag (Manager, NEAD, Germiston) may well have provided the first “scientific evidence” for this claim.[61] Four years before the labor bureau system was implemented in 1953, Germiston’s NEAD had independently gone ahead to evaluate the likely benefits of the system. The results obtained were central to the faith that Eiselen was to place in the labor bureau’s ability to “place the utilisation of Native labour on a scientific basis,” culminating in his declaration of the Western Cape as a “Coloured labour preference area.” [62]

Buitendag’s evaluation began with “an exhaustive survey” of Germiston’s African population, which numbered 35,000 in 1948. Results showed that 60 percent of the labor force originated from the reserves and white rural areas. Because “no machinery existed for the guidance of prospective African workers,” rural workers spent an average of 20 days searching for each job they found, compared with 10 for urbanized workers. High labor turnovers meant that, on average, African workers were employed for “a bare 150 paid working days per year,” and several industrial firms reported annual labor turnovers of 200 and 400 percent. This meant that the “total labour force was only 60% effective,” leading Buitendag to conclude, “In theory, therefore, if a 100% efficiency of the application of the labour force could be achieved, a vast reserve of nearly 10,000 workers could be freed for other employment.” [63] Buitendag’s experimental solution to the problem centered around obtaining daily updates about unemployment conditions from a municipal Labour Liaison Officer appointed by the NEAD, streamlining the registration of workseekers’ permits (in part by dispatching “mobile offices” to African peri-urban areas), and constructing a “modern out-patients clinic as an adjunct to the labour Bureau, and the appointment of a full-time medical officer assisted by qualified male and female nurses.” Within four months, “workers arriving in the area at eight o’clock in the morning, after having complied with every possible requirement of the law in regard to entry, medical examination and registration, were actually placed in full-time employment by 10 o’clock in the morning of the same day.” By 1952, labor turnover had decreased an average of 85 percent, and since 60 percent of the labor force were migrants, “the figure must be regarded as very reasonable.”

Tests to match workseekers with employers also yielded similarly pleasing results. Buitendag discovered that labor bureau officers, once apprised that migrants held strong “group preferences” to work and reside with Africans from similar rural backgrounds, could rapidly correlate batches of workseekers with certain occupations. Aptitude tests were then conducted to ensure that “the worker’s inherent ability, his technical, mental and physical attributes were…being related to the work to which he was being assigned.” Armed with such “scientific evidence,” conservative administrators such as Buitendag portrayed labor bureaus as benevolent institutions because they were “efficient.”

Anxious about losing complete control over urban administration, liberal administrators continued to support stepped-up influx controls, while their more conservative counterparts divined benevolence in the bureaucratic structure established in 1953. In matters of urban administration, all roads returned to Rome: unable to leave African urbanization unchecked, all administrators without exception continued to rely on some form of control structure to do the indispensable business of monitoring and expelling Africans. The persistence of a labor control apparatus was therefore an uncontested assumption within municipal circles. Liberal administrators such as Carr viewed it as highly significant that their particular vision was distinguished by a core set of stipulations: the system should be uncoupled from the extensive use of force; workers should not be compelled to accept only those positions offered by labor bureaus; the rights of urban employers to have adequate access to different kinds of labor should not be impinged on; and finally, municipal officials should play a prominent role in determining how the system worked.[64]

However, local authorities were also positively attracted to certain key aspects of the department’s urban policy in the 1950s. The areas of mutual concern to the two rungs of the state centered around the emergence of the two principles adopted by the department in the 1950s: the department’s commitment to policies that gave preferential treatment to the urban African population and its pursuit of the “stabilisation” of labor. Administrators had called for similar steps in the 1940s. The AANEA had repeatedly accepted a motion in 1945, in 1946, and again in 1947 to the effect that the national system of labor bureaus it championed should protect urban Africans from the competitive pressure of migrant workers. According to the AANEA, the state should

accept as a cardinal principle of policy that:

—the urbanized Native be protected by local authorities refusing the entry of rural Natives into towns where there isunemployment among urbanized Natives, and by giving preference in employment to urbanized Natives resident in any Reef town.[65]

This view was accepted by the department in the 1950s. In Verwoerd’s version, it was “self-evident to any normal, sober, Christian person” that

the man who was in the city for the shortest period, the man who has the least experience, the man who is the least useful as a worker—that is to say, the newest recruit in the field of labour—must be the first to be put out if there is unemployment. Such people must not lie about and cause such an overflow that there is constant circulating unemployment. That is not in the best interests of the permanent members of the community.[66]

As both of these quotes suggest, the importance attached to the “stabilisation” of African labor was sufficiently established within state discourse in the 1950s to barely warrant the detailed sort of exegesis devoted to it in the 1930s and 1940s.[67] These two “liberal” arguments concerning the “stabilisation of labour” and an urban labor preference policy were broadly accepted by the department in the 1950s.[68] But the extent of agreement between municipal administrators and the department was not limited to a few commonly held ideas about narrow aspects of policy. They also occurred at the level of administration.

For example, it was universally accepted within the state and in industrial circles that the “stabilisation of stabilisation” would yield an increase in the productivity of labor. The department could therefore argue that compelling industrialists to work with a limited pool of workers dovetailed with the best interests of the state and economy: as Buitendag’s findings had shown, the administrative and fiscal problems of control would be decreased while labor productivity would increase. The department’s demand that employers should “make maximum and optimal use of the labour already available in the urban areas” was therefore pegged onto the long-standing complaint that, in relation to countries such as the U.S., Britain, Canada, and Australia, productivity rates in South Africa were artificially depressed as a consequence of South Africa’s vast supplies of cheap African labor.[69] Citing “certain aptitude tests undertaken on an experimental basis by some labour bureaux,” Eiselen drew on Buitendag’s “scientific findings” to justify the “Coloured labour preference policy” he formulated for the Western Cape:

Superficially it would appear that one hundred thousand Native workers in the Western Province cannot be spared. What at first sight appears correct may, however, be wrong in actuality. It is no secret that labour, both Native and Coloured, is used in a wasteful manner. In certain towns where aptitude tests are carried out in the labour bureaux, the turnover of workers has become so much smaller and their efficiency has increased so much, that is has become possible to maintain the same production with a much smaller labour force.[70]

By “developing to its fullest potential a smaller but more productive labour force,” economic modernization would simultaneously reduce the high rate of labor turnover in South African industry and depress the growth rate of the urban African population.[71] Liberals strongly supported both of these outcomes. Because they shared this modernizing impulse, all that local authorities could do was to object to the manner in which the department sought to stabilize labor, a tack that blurred their differences with apartheid urban policies.

Controlling women afforded another area of broad agreement between municipal and departmental officials. The department had never attempted to issue passes to women in the interwar years, and thereafter it had limited itself to requiring women to seek the permission of NCs in the rural areas before departing from the urban areas.[72] Municipal administrators in the segregation era had displayed an increasingly keen appreciation that controlling urbanization meant controlling the movement of women. Speaking at a 1941 conference attended by members of the Johannesburg and Reef municipalities, the Medical Officer of Health for Roodepoort-Maraisburg complained that “women came in and resided in Johannesburg for as long as they liked as visitors and nobody knew where they were or who employed them.” [73] Noting that “there was a strong feeling [among Africans] against making women carry passes,” the mayor of Roodepoort-Maraisburg recommended that this political problem could be circumvented “by making them carry badges.” [74] Attempting to tighten its control over the movement of women, in the 1940s the Johannesburg NEAD responded to applications for housing with a form letter advising applicants to “bring with you your marriage certificate, Service Contract and Tax Receipt.” [75] The concern with bringing women under administrative control escalated in the 1950s, culminating in the extension of Reference Books to women in the late 1950s. But this concern was also expressed in less malignant forms. Thus, part of Verwoerd’s strategy for gaining control over African urbanization involved shoring up the urban African family by “having the patriarchal family introduced again.” [76] And to “gain a better idea about the marital status of Native women,” an NC suggested in 1952 that all Africans should be required to “register their union” at the local NC’s office.[77] Liberals who had researched the breakdown of the African family in the urban areas in the segregation years would have applauded these recommendations.[78]

If local authorities approached the labor bureau system with varying degrees of enthusiasm, none rejected the system on principle. The effect was to undercut severely the paternalist claims of liberal administrators such as W. J. P. Carr, Fred Rodseth, and E. A. E. Haveman. These men reassured themselves that, had they had their druthers, the system they would have installed would have been markedly less coercive and much more supportive of the settled African population. In practice, however, all they could do was cooperate with their statutory superiors. At the same time, the labor bureau system enabled local authorities to deflect criticism onto the Department of Native Affairs even as municipal officials continued to thwart Africans from entering their areas. In December 1958 and January 1959, for example, municipal officials in Johannesburg alone refused entry to a total of 2,352 Africans.[79] On the strength of these numbers, approximately fifteen thousand Africans must have been debarred in 1959 from entering Johannesburg —a figure that does not include expulsions out of the city.

Moreover, the operations of local labor bureaus cannot be divorced from parallel developments in the white rural areas. As the following discussion illustrates, the linkage between urban and rural controls provides a graphic glimpse of the corrupting effect that the labor bureau system had on the state as a whole.

Labour Bureaus, the Police, and the Courts

Throughout the segregation years, the department’s refusal to become directly involved in recruiting for any sector (with the partial exception of the mines—see chapter 2) remained anchored in the sort of paternalist arguments that Sir Godfrey Lagden had advanced in 1901. According to Lagden, it was “both in the interests of justice and business, undesirable for magistrates or other officers of the Government to be employed to recruit labour. The labourers should feel certain that, in case of dispute or grievance, they always have an impartial forum to appeal to. If a magistrate becomes a recruiting agent, his individuality is prejudiced.…” [80] At the time they were penned, these sentiments were intended to distance the department from the labor requirements of the gold-mining industry, but they also accurately capture the department’s subsequent response to all employers. In the 1950s, the department repudiated this policy by bending urban influx controls to meet the specific labor demands of farmers.

Archival documents bear ample testimony to the increasing desperation and anger of farmers throughout the 1940s. In this period, individual farmers, regional agricultural unions, and various farmers’ cooperative societies bombarded the department with a blizzard of recommendations designed to increase and retain their African labor force—all without improving wages and working conditions. Between 1944 and 1947, for example, the department received numerous requests for the following sorts of interventions: more “reception depots” to intercept and detain foreign Africans entering the northern Transvaal; “labour gangs supervised by European foremen”; the establishment of rural schools to dissuade African youth and families from heading for the urban areas; schemes to limit Africans’ right to board trains headed for the urban areas (including the conversion of railway conductors into “Special Constables”); and requests to criminalize the act of accepting cash advances without turning up to work for the farmer concerned.[81] Within agricultural circles, the South African Agricultural Union (SAAU) was the strongest voice calling for the rationalization of wage labor, the cessation of practices such as labor tenancy and migration, and the rapid transition to mechanized production; at the same time, even this coalition of “progressive farmers” proposed that these developments should be shielded behind departmental efforts to “stabilise” labor coercively by establishing an administrative wall between urban and rural areas.[82] By 1948, the department’s standard riposte to all these requests was that farmers should look to the market and “make farm labour more competitive by bringing wages up to mark.” [83]

By 1948, no substantial administrative stratagems had emerged to address the relentless complaints about farm labor shortages. Instead, the disorder in urban administration after the war made it easier for farmworkers to slip in and “disappear” into the urban economy. The labor bureau system and the escalation of influx controls signaled that the department’s relations with the agrarian community changed in 1948.

The basic division within commercial agriculture—between “progressive farmers,” who had made the transition to mechanized production undertaken with a smaller labor force of semi-skilled workers, and farmers who continued to rely on droves of unskilled workers, labor tenants, and their families—had not disappeared by the 1950s. Although this was by no means a rigid distinction, in general labor tenancy remained more firmly entrenched in arable than pastoral farming. The latter sported significantly higher levels of mechanization and productivity and, consequently, a greater reliance on semi-skilled African workers. In contrast, farmers who specialized in crops and who had not progressed far in acquiring machinery such as tractors and combine harvesters distanced themselves from calls to rationalize agricultural production at short notice; instead, they remained heavily dependent on labor tenants and large supplies of unskilled seasonal labor. The modified urban controls of the 1950s fed into these two broad tendencies in different ways.

First, new efflux and documentary controls made it much more difficult for farmworkers to depart a white farm: not only did the farmer’s permission to do so have to be recorded on the Reference Book, but the stamped approval of the rural Native Affairs Commissioner also had to be secured. For the first time, efflux controls of this nature became effective in trapping Africans in the rural areas, and they mainly account for the “stabilisation” of farm labor in the 1950s.[84] This development redounded to the particular benefit of “progressive” farmers. Considerable evidence suggests, however, that these controls were not entirely effective in meeting the demand for stable semi-skilled African farmworkers. African farm wages rose significantly in the early 1950s, and Africans opposed the Reference Book by migrating out of rural areas. Nevertheless, research at the time confirmed that large numbers of Africans submitted to farm labor only because they were indeed immobilized by the new controls.[85]

The other function of the labor bureau system was to meet farmers’ high demands for casual, unskilled seasonal labor by “directing” unemployed workers in the towns and cities to rural white farmers. The numbers involved in this scheme were sizable, but paled in comparison with other administrative schemes (discussed below) devised by the Department of Prisons to meet the supply for unskilled farm labor. Nevertheless, the category of Africans “directed” by the labor bureau system cannot be entirely separated from the schemes administered by the Department of Prisons, precisely because a large bulk of the convicts daily delivered to the country’s prisons were victims of the multiplying laws and regulations that constituted the “pass system.”

As late as 1954, E. A. E. Haveman described municipal authorities as discrete “city states,” implying that the specific concerns of urban administration —influx control, social welfare, housing construction, and so on—were not only spatially separated but also qualitatively distinct from the concerns of rural administration. He was, in a word, wrong. If urban administrators seemed detached from developments in the rural areas, dealing only with the urban consequences of decisions taken in the remote hinterland, this was an illusion sustained by administrative myopia. In the 1950s labor bureau regulations knitted urban and rural administration together, ensnaring all officials in a system bent on alleviating the “farm labour shortage.” Nothing reveals the systemic interconnections within the broad field of Bantu administration quite as clearly as the fusion between urban administration and the various forms of forced schemes hatched in the 1950s to bolster farmers’ demand for cheap labor.

The practice of making convict labor available to white farmers may be traced as far back as 1889 (and probably much earlier) in the Cape colony.[86] In 1934, an administrative arrangement reached between the Department of Prisons and agricultural unions extended the policy on a countrywide basis; the 6d. that the farmer paid per worker went not to the convicts but to the Department of Prisons. The Department of Native Affairs was not involved in this program. Nevertheless, the system automatically compromised the department for three reasons: it was applied only to nonwhites, it involved transgressors of “petty crimes,” and it was limited to short-term offenders, sentenced to serve less than three months in jail.[87] By virtue of its formal control over the various pass laws and regulations, this was an area in which the department’s profile was automatically high. In the 1930s, for example, urban areas regulations authorized magistrates to sentence Africans caught in violation of the “idle and disorderly” clause to up to two years. In practice, J. M. Brink (NC, Johannesburg) observed, the majority of sentences were considerably shorter; many of them ranged “between two and three months.” [88]

The first and only instance in which the department appears to have officially relaxed its paternalist posture in relation to convict labor in the segregation years occurred in 1947. In collaboration with the Department of Prisons, it established “an inter-departmental scheme for the employment of petty offenders” to divert convict labor to farmers in the Bethal area (in the eastern Transvaal). Pass offenders from the urban areas were delivered by policemen to white farmers with or without the consent of the prisoner for a period equal to the length of the sentence, usually set at three months, and so were automatically deprived of the right to have three-quarters of their sentence remitted. The scheme was brought to light by the investigative journalism of Ruth First; soon thereafter, the Lansdowne Commission on prison conditions excoriated the system and demanded its immediate termination.[89] Apprised of the scheme, General Smuts (muttering “What will the world think of us?”) summoned a high-level meeting at his house consisting of Fred Rodseth, J. M. Brink, the Minister of Justice, the Commissioner of Police, and the local magistrate in Bethal, and, commanding the last to set aside his illness, secured the end of the system in short order.[90] However, the scheme was revived almost immediately after the general election of 1948, setting the stage for the legalized atrocities for which the Bethal area would subsequently became infamous.

Farmers in the Bethal district were long known to have subjected laborers procured under the terms of this system to inhumane treatment, thereby gaining the fearsome reputation that fueled the “labour shortage” in the Bethal area:

Farmers clothed prison workers in discarded [maize] sacks. Disused, or specially built, sheds were used for housing where they were crammed together with little ventilation, no water and no toilets. They were locked in at night and from the end of the working day on Saturday until sun-up on Monday. They slept on sacking, hay or the bare floor. They were given no eating utensils and food was thrown on sacking or on the floor, or poured into their cupped hand. At work, they were at the double all the time and if they did not move fast enough they were thrashed or set upon by dogs. Physical beating was frequent and often brutal enough to result in permanent injury or death, although few of these cases reached the courts.[91]

Improvements to the system in the 1950s were limited to increasing the payment to 9d., making the money payable to the prisoner, and formally requiring the consent of the prisoner—whose very condition and subordination to officials in charge of the prison labor scheme ensured, of course, that consent was always “voluntarily” given. Unsurprisingly, reports suggested that conditions worsened considerably in the 1950s: to the above litany were added fresh revelations about outright starvation, compelling prisoners to dig for potatoes with their bare hands, and mutilation of the feet to prevent prisoners from escaping.[92] As the liberal journal South African Outlook observed, “So long as the bad system prevails there will be an automatic and constant pressure toward the mischievous practice of keeping the gaols full…of short-term or first offenders.” [93]

An impression of the state’s commitment to extending prison labor to white farmers is given by the rising numbers of African “participants” in the “9d.-a-day-scheme”: from 40,500 in 1952, to 100,000 in 1964, to just under 200,000 in 1957–58.[94] To accommodate these escalating numbers, convict labor was rationalized in 1959. Farmers were encouraged by the Department of Prisons to establish Farmers’ Prison Co-operative Societies, which would pool contributions to construct private jails on white farms. Again, the prisoners carted off by farmers were short-term “petty offenders”—the euphemism for the rising number of men trapped by the pass system.[95] In 1959, Victor Verster, the Director of Prisons (who gave his name to an infamous prison with which political prisoners in the 1970s and 1980s would become well-acquainted) boasted that “the Department of Prisons has become the focal point for the farmer, from the Limpopo to the Cape. They all want labour from us, but we cannot supply it, but we are doing every thing in our power to meet the emergency.” [96]

Africans forced into the 9d.-a-day-scheme were drawn from the general pool of convicts under the charge of the Department of Prisons. To this category, the DNA’s labor bureau system added a specifically urban source of ultra-cheap labor: under the department’s policy of “labour canalisation,” Africans detained for violations of the Urban Areas Act were channeled to the white farming areas. Although the numbers were not as great as those generated by the 9d.-a-day-scheme, they were nevertheless considerable, growing from under 30,000 in 1952 to approximately 88,000 in 1957.[97]

Africans dispatched to white farmers by the operations of the labor bureaus were described by the department as having being “placed,” a designation that strengthened the illusion that labor bureaus allocated labor efficiently. However, so onerous were working conditions on most white farms—especially the poorly capitalized ones, where the demand for cheap, unskilled labor was greatest—that many Africans routinely declined the option of being “placed,” preferring to be “endorsed out” of the urban areas instead. In 1958, of the 710 Africans to whom the Johannesburg Municipal Labour Bureaus refused to issue workseekers’ permits, only 232 accepted work in the farming areas.[98] Moreover, since the number of “placed” workers continually exceeded the numbers who remained in the rural areas, it is more than likely that conditions in white agriculture encouraged high desertion rates for those brave souls who preferred to run the gauntlet of being detected without a properly filled-out Reference Book than to suffer further dehumanization on the white farm.[99]

As the figures cited above indicate, the labor bureau system in the 1950s sucked municipal administrators into its orbit: in implementing influx controls to stave off what Carr described as the “threat to the white population,” liberal administrators became complicit in creating exactly the human fodder that farmers rapidly came to view as “their” labor. But the perniciousness of Bantu administration did not lie in its secondary effects. Its true register is to be located at the source—that is, within the department itself. The physical degradation and danger to which it now routinely exposed African pass offenders afford sufficient evidence of the gulf that separated it from the sentiments articulated by Sir Godfrey Lagden at the time of Union and reiterated by department officials thereafter. Yet, even more revealing than such blatant collusion with brutal farmers was the manner in which “pass offenders” were obtained.

Liberal activist Patrick Duncan traces the department’s direct complicity in the brutal exploitation of farm labor to a circular dispatched by Eiselen in 1954. In this circular, Eiselen authorized municipal officials and Native Commissioner Courts to “induce unemployed Natives roaming about the streets in various urban areas to accept employment outside such areas”; according to the Secretary for Native Affairs, the scheme would save money on daily arrests and prosecutions of Africans for “contraventions of a purely technical nature.” Within months, Duncan writes,

Squads of police, not in uniform, but armed, would round up Africans in the streets, and ask for their passes…and would tap their pistols as credentials. Anyone without a pass would be arrested, put in a pick-up van and taken to cells.…Under the threat of prosecution, the police and magistrates would offer them work.…The men were told that if they signed these contracts, for three and six months, they would not be prosecuted. Many thousands signed, or merely joined queues of men who understood nothing except that they were being driven on to [trucks] to avoid prison.

Other writers eventually revealed that children under the age of sixteen (the age at which the Reference Book had to be carried and produced on demand) and even Africans whose books were perfectly in order were swept up in police pass raids. By the end of the decade, the department no longer sought to comply with the protocols of civilian administration, as the labor bureau system was altered to meet the insatiable demand for forced labor. The illegality in which the enterprise was steeped, Duncan notes, “degraded the police from being law enforcement officers into kidnappers and blackbirders.” [100]

To redouble the point that the department would not be deflected from Eiselen’s goal, Native Commissioners Courts rose to their full oppressive potential. Initiated by the Native Administration Act of 1927, Bantu Commissioner Courts became the Satanic mills of apartheid, swallowing up hundreds of thousands of Africans in any given year and disgorging them either into jails or onto white farms. The essential contribution of these segregated “instruments of domination” to the reproduction of the state in the 1950s was that they enabled prosecutions for pass law violations rapidly to treble and quadruple without straining the “normal courts of the land.” [101] Where magistrates and Native Commissioners had once balked at consigning pass law offenders to the mercy of farmers and “labour colonies,” Bantu Commissioners broached the task with quotidian equanimity, permitting only the lunch hour and tea break to punctuate the dreary business of criminalizing one out of every four Africans for what even the state described as “technical offences.” [102] Numerous observers, including Eiselen himself, remarked that convictions under these laws were so commonplace that they effectively lost their stigma and hence their deterrent value.[103] An editorial article in Contact (“South Africa’s non-racial fortnightly”) concisely captured Africans’ attitude toward the pass system by citing a declaration by Henry David Thoreau, the liberal Northerner who had opposed slavery in the United States: “Under a government which unjustly imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is in prison.” [104]

Thus, the crystallization of forced labor schemes in the second half of the twentieth century linked together the respective concerns of urban municipal administrators, department officials in the rural areas, the penal system, and the administrative legal institution known as the Bantu Commissioner Courts. Also, because the systemic logic of the new control structure depended on the actual discovery of pass offenders, the contributions of law enforcement officers must be added to the above state cadres. As Patrick Duncan observed, the emergence of the labor bureau system exerted a formative influence on the nature of apartheid policing in the early 1950s. Duncan’s observation that the department’s “canalisation” schemes “degraded” the police referred only to the South African Police. But the impact of the labor bureau system on law enforcement went considerably beyond this corrupting trend. By the mid-1950s, the enforcement of labor control laws and regulations involved a much wider range of law enforcement agents. In 1956, the description of the “authorised officers” who could demand the Reference Book was extended to cover virtually all grades of “European” municipal officials, “receivers of Native tax and inspectors of Native labour”; in 1955, NAD municipal police were given broad powers to demand the Book and unfettered powers to search and arrest “illegals” within municipal locations.[105]

The most profound impact of the labor bureau system on policing, however, was that it served as a powerful stimulus in directing police work away from civil policing and detective functions and vastly escalated what the literature of policing describes as “colonial policing,” an approach distinguished less by impartial service to the law than by the will to enforce prevailing government policies—in short, “political policing.” [106] The colonial approach to policing was, of course, a constituent element of policing from the outset of the Union. But the trend escalated significantly after 1948; thereafter, the “greatest change…occurred in the policing of race relations.” This change was reflected in three areas of policing: the surveillance and suppression of political mobilization in the 1950s, the policing of crime in black areas, and “the enforcement of administrative regulations which controlled the boundaries between the races.” [107] A sharp escalation in the crime and prosecution rate was recorded in the 1950s: the figure rose from 74.2 per thousand head of population for the period 1927–45 until it stood at 99 per thousand in 1959.[108] Brewer attributes the increase to the explosion of administrative regulations and the unwillingness of the police to be lenient in enforcing these. “Native” regulations accounted for a sizable proportion of these administrative regulations: in 1952, Verwoerd informed parliament that 950 clerks were needed just to issue the labor control forms, while many more were required to process them.[109]

The “seventy-two-hour” clause (i.e., the Section 10 clause) formed the spine of the logic that impelled a host of law enforcement agencies to patrol the black residential areas and specifically the mobility of African individuals. Amendments to the Urban Areas Act in the 1950s left intact the right of any African (who had departed the rural areas with official permission) to remain in an urban area for seventy-two hours without having to register as a workseeker at the local labor bureau. This meant that the only way to detect Africans without the seventy-two-hour exemption was to demand the document from every African—a cumbersome and hopeless process. Moreover, Africans who lost their Reference Books or had them stolen were entitled to report the matter to the local bureau or Native Commissioner, initiating a lengthy period before a duplicate would be issued (for the cost of one pound). So many Books were “lost” from 1953 to 1954 alone that in 1954 the department made it a criminal act to destroy either the Book or the thumbprint it contained.[110] Furthermore, the welter of detail recorded in the Reference Book (tax payments? employer’s monthly signature up-to-date? permission from the farmer granted? authorization from the Native Affairs Commissioner secured? official or forged Book?) clearly prevented the police from examining each category carefully.

Under these conditions, police simply positioned themselves at points where Africans congregated and conducted mass arrests. The doors of police (kwela) vans would be opened and batches of Africans would be whisked off to prison. After a night, a weekend, or even several weeks in jail,[111] the African would be brought before the Bantu Commissioner. Here he would produce the Book—sometimes in perfect legal order.[112] If a “technical offense” had been committed, including the possibility that the accused had simply been “cheeky” toward the police, he would be jailed or given the option of farm labor.

To police the department’s seventy-two-hour clause, two strategies were available to the state. The first, increasing the number of police, was attempted but foundered on the rocks of the policemen’s low starting salary.[113] The second, pursued from 1950 onward, was to inundate the white areas with police. Thus, whites were given extensive protection by the police, while the black residential areas were massively underpoliced, leaving the locations and squatter camps vulnerable to the predatory gangs and criminality that flourished amid high levels of urban poverty. The most serious categories of crime in the black areas—murder, gangland slayings, rape, extortion—lost out to the chilling bark of the police “Waar is jou pass?” (Where is your pass?). The trend after the 1950s was for policemen to saturate the “white areas” and stalk the locations at the dead of night, smashing down doors in search of illegal alcohol and gaps in the clutch of authorizations recorded in the Book, and so generating the continuous streams of offenders required to meet farmers’ demand for labor.

In sharp contrast to Smuts’ personal intervention in 1947 to terminate the “farm labour scheme,” the integration of civil administration in the urban areas with the overt repression and degradation of African labor enjoyed the full support of key colleagues in government. One of these was C. R. “Blackie” Swart, the Minister of Justice, who in 1952 described farm jails as “my own particular baby.” [114] Under Swart, the one department that could have curtailed the operations of the labor control bureaucracy, as well as the daily pronouncements of Bantu Commissioner Courts,[115] instead rushed into complicity with developments in urban Bantu administration. When liberal legal activist Joel Carlson brought actions of habeas corpus to the courts to extract “petty offenders” from the grip of the various farm labor schemes in the late 1950s, Swart committed the state to defend and pay the legal costs of indicted farmers.[116] Swart actively promoted corporal punishment in jails and expressly authorized its extension to farm jails. He raised no objections when Verwoerd introduced and secured the Native (Prohibition of Interdicts) Act of 1956, which excluded “any court of law” from interfering with the removal orders issued to Africans anywhere in the country. This act was used extensively in 1957 and 1958 to tie the hands of judges who ruled against the department’s right to serve summary eviction notices and expulsion orders to Africans in the urban areas.[117]

Urban Bantu Administration and the Apartheid State

Despite the developments discussed above, it is important not to overstate the extent of the state’s internal unity in the 1950s. The labor bureau system remained internally contradictory: local authorities competed against one another and resisted the diminution of their powers by the Minister of Native Affairs, and the courts frequently ruled against the government in a wide swath of areas dealing with “race relations” and administrative despotism. The government’s reflexive response in closing loopholes in apartheid legislation with a blur of revised regulations, amendments, and new legislation failed to synchronize the constituent elements of the state throughout the 1950s and beyond. However, as long as a minimum degree of submission and compliance can be extracted from society, authoritarian regimes do not have to fetishize perfection and linear consistency as holy grails within the state, since the very existence of institutional discord affords evidence of a regime’s “democratic” character.[118]

Developments in urban labor control should be assessed in the light of the claim that the subduction of paternalist sentiment in the 1950s was an inconsistent affair. The labor bureau system did not deliver Africans into the hands of an all-powerful state. Its crucial function, instead, was to forge the practical regimens around which three further achievements became organized. First, the sheer inconsistencies and “concessions against policy” on which the system came to rest were central to the department’s ability to offset its blatant partiality toward farmers with a relatively generous response to the urban demand for labor. The labor bureau system, in other words, acted as a hegemon that staked out the terms in which liberal employers cooperated because they, too, benefited from the overall functioning of the system. Their opposition was compromised both because all local authorities were committed to the principle of influx control and because of the “flexibility” with which potentially draconian measures were administered.

Second, the labor bureau system established a logic that key state institutions were drawn into defending. In particular, the police and the courts rallied around the system. The unstinting support of these two institutions enabled the “state within a state” to pluck Africans from street and bed, expose them to peremptory inquisitions in Bantu Commissioner Courts, and secure their distribution as virtual slave labor to thuggish white farmers. The entire process was all but obscured from public view.

Third, the least tangible but perhaps most significant legacy of the labor bureau system was that the authoritarian bureaucratic culture it established paved the way—both within the state and among the voting public—for the repressive apparatuses that dominated the late 1960s. One year after the Sharpeville incident, the government proclaimed, “The minister of justice…and the minister of defence…have announced that the South African Police and the Defence Force will be reorganized on similar lines so that they can provide a single fast striking force to crush any uprising regarded as a threat to the security of the state.” [119] The labor bureau system presaged this development by acclimatizing state cadres and white South Africans to a bureaucratic culture that viewed Africans as an internal threat.


1. Noted in M. M. S. Bell, “Politics of Administration,” 23.

2. Rodseth interview, 1984. See also Public Service List, 1947–51 (Pretoria: Government Printers).

3. See Greenberg, Legitimating the Illegitimate; Posel, Making of Apartheid; and Hindson, Pass Controls.

4. Brewer, Black and Blue, 56.

5. Numerous archival sources detail the organizational structure and official logic of the labor bureau system. However, these sources do not shed much more light than can be obtained from secondary sources such as Posel, Making of Apartheid, and Hindson, Pass Controls. Note, however, that district labor bureaus were not established in the reserves in the 1950s. See Greenberg, Legitimating the Illegitimate,: 77.

6. Rather than the numerous individual files on which these impressions are based, the folders consulted are listed: NTS 2191 2 289/280(8); NTS 2193 3 289/280(10); NTS 2001 1 3/280(10); NTS 2466 1 116/292; NTS 4499 6 554/313, and NTS 5619 1 854/313(5).

7. For example, see “Conference of Chief Native Commissioners,” 3 February 1950, in NTS 1812 1 138/276, Annexure.

8. Samples of the labor requisition forms are deposited in a series of folders: for example, see NTS 2157 1 289/280(2).

9. “Mechanization of the Central Reference Bureau,” part 4 of NTS 1677 1 358/275, 125.

10. Ibid.

11. “Memorandum on the Giving of Warning under Section 29 of Act No. 25 of 1945 and the Destruction of Finger Prints of Those to Whom They Are Given,” n.d., file 2/9/12/5 in NTS 1677 1 358/275.

12. For a summary of these and other apartheid measures enacted in the 1950s, see M. Horrell, Legislation and Race Relations (Natal, 1971) .

13. Greenberg, Legitimating the Illegitimate; Hindson, Pass Controls; and Posel, Making of Apartheid.

14. Yudelman suggests that the growth of administrative law in South Africa was boosted by the 1925 Mines and Works Act, which bestowed wide discretionary powers on the Minister of Labour to establish administrative procedures for regulating organized white labor. Yudelman, Emergence of Modern South Africa, chapter 2. More plausibly, perhaps, Brookes and Macaulay suggest that administrative law expanded on the back of the welfare measures developed for dealing with the “poor white problem.” See Brookes and Macaulay, Civil Liberty in South Africa, 7. This latter view accords with similar explanations for the growth of administrative law in liberal welfare states. See G. Esping-Andersen, The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism (Princeton, 1985), passim, and W. Fesler and D. F. Kettl, The Politics of the Administrative Process (Chatham, NJ, 1991), 3

15. L. Baxter, Administrative Law (Cape Town, 1984), 4. For example, Max Weber, fearing the potential for administrative authorities to usurp democratic political institutions, recommended that parliament should be rescued from its likely status as “a talking shop” by attracting the best minds into politics. W. Mommsen, The Political and Social Theory of Max Weber (Cambridge, 1989), 47. Also see E. O. Wright, Class, Crisis and the State (London, 1979), chapter 4.

16. Ibid.

17. Dr. A. B. Xuma, “The Native Laws Amendment Bill: What It Means to Europeans and Africans,” 1957, in ABX 570000, Box M (1949–60); P. K. van der Byl, in HAD (1952), col. 7854.

18. Hindson and Posel, for example, have also identified administrative regulations as crucial sources of practical policies which shaped urban administration both by straitjacketing the department’s operations and by conferring a certain degree of flexibility, which enabled urban administrators to deal with problems as they arose. See Posel, Making of Apartheid, and Hindson, Pass System.

19. Posel Making of Apartheid, passim.

20. Ibid.

21. A. Przeworski, “The Material Bases of Consent: Economics and Politics in a Capitalist Hegemonic System,” in M. Zeitlin (ed.), Political Power and Social Theory, vol. 1 (New York, 1979).

22. Eiselen, in “Conference of Chief Native Commissioners”, 3 February 1950.

23. Ibid.

24. See note 20 in chapter 2.

25. Moreover, Verwoerd strongly disapproved of the advisory boards, viewing them as a “mistake” that destroyed Africans’ “ethnic spirit” and encouraged urban Africans to develop “warped ideas” about black nationalism. He did, brief the Location Advisory Board Congress of the proposed labor bureau system, but, as he informed parliament in 1952, “Frankly, I must tell you that the congress was not in general agreement with us.…In a memorandum they stated clearly that they only want to have discussions on the clear understanding that they do disagree with the basic principles underlying the Urban Areas Consolidated Bill [i.e., the future Native Laws Amendment Act].” See HAD, 1952, cols. 545, 607 and 731. “Why,” he demanded in response to an inquiry from Margaret Ballinger in parliament, “should I consult such people?” In Ballinger, From Union to Apartheid, 336.

26. “Meeting between Liaison Committee and the DNA in Connection with the Administration of Native Labour Bureaux Regulations and Registration Regulations,” 21 April 1953, in NTS 4581 1 515/313(1). The discussion that follows is based on this document.

27. Secretary of the Liaison Committee to the DNL, 1 November 1954, in NTS 4581 1 515/313(1).

28. Less important but still consequential was the failure of employers to inform the local bureau that a workseeker had been employed. After thirty days, such a workseeker would be recorded as “disappeared,” giving rise to the possibility that “there are as many ‘disappeared’ Natives as [there are] workseekers.” Since “disappeared” workers were counted as part of the surplus population, instead of part of the registered workforce, regional bureau officials concluded that the surplus population had indeed increased and so used misleading baselines to strengthen the application of influx controls. Influx controls therefore threatened to “bring order to the urban economy at the cost of cutting off the source of labour.” Ibid., 6.

29. Regional Employment Commissioner for the Witwatersrand [R. C. Wentzel], Monthly Report, August 1954, in NTS 2157 1 289/290(2), 4.

30. Greenberg, Legitimating the Illegitimate, 69.

31. Although this point was not specifically included in the memorandum drawn up by the Liaison Committee, it could be noted here that in the late 1950s, urban employers also complained that labor bureau regulations exacerbated the problems they were designed to solve. An important defect in the logic of controls was the department’s policy of restricting the mobility of Africans to prescribed areas. Because the exemption that protected Africans from expulsion was effective only in a designated urban area, Africans in areas where unemployment existed were prevented from seeking employment in an areas where labor shortages were reported. Hindson, Pass System; Posel, Making of Apartheid, 131–32.

32. Posel, Making of Apartheid.

33. Cited in Posel, Making of Apartheid, 83.

34. Ibid., 87.

35. L. Rau, “Comments on Aspects of Government Policy” (SAIRR, 1955), 3.

36. Contact, 11 July 1959, 4

37. Contact, 27 December 1958.

38. AANEA, Report of Sub-Committee, “Registration of Service Contracts of Natives Employed by the Same Employer in More than One Proclaimed Area,” 21 October 1949, in NTS 4518 3 586/313.

39. This discussion is based on Posel, Making of Apartheid, passim.

40. Exemptions gained through marriage were another corrosive influence on plans to limit African urbanization. Section 10 (1)(c) permitted rural women to reside in an urban area through marriage to a male blessed with (a) or (b) rights. In the long run, this meant that household formation would increase, instead of remaining stable, let alone declining; accordingly, housing policy would have to be expanded to keep pace with a legally growing population. Posel, Making of Apartheid.

41. Ibid.

42. See comments by E. A. E. Haveman, “The Principles Underlying Urban Native Administration,” Race Relations Journal 20/1 (October–December 1953), 6.

43. Greenberg, Legitimating the Illegitimate, 75.

44. Quoted in Posel, Making of Apartheid.

45. Cited in Strydom, Black and White Africans, 43

46. M. M. S. Bell, “Politics of Administration,” 114; Ballinger, From Union to Apartheid, 148.

47. See Senate Debates (hereafter, SD), 1954, col. 1848.

48. D. Grinker, Inside Soweto (Johannesburg, 1986), 3–4.

49. Ibid., 28.

50. Ibid.

51. Carr, Soweto, 115. Also see Johannesburg City Council, “Report of the Commission Appointed by the City Council of Johannesburg to Enquire into the Causes and Circumstances of the Riots Which Took Place in the Vicinity of Dube Hostel in the South-Western Townships over the Week-end 14th–15th September, 1957” [Centlivres Commission], March–April 1958.

52. Ibid.

53. Ibid.

54. G. H. Pirie, “Ethno-linguistic Zoning in South African Black Townships”, Area 16/4 (1988).

55. Carr, Soweto, 116–17.

56. Haveman, “Principles Underlying Urban Native Administration,” 6.

57. Ibid., 9.

58. S. Bourquin, “The Task of the Public Official with Regard to Race Relations in South Africa,” Journal of African Affairs, 9/4 (July 1958), 217.

59. Ibid.

60. W. W. M. Eiselen, “The Native in the Western Cape,” Journal of Racial Affairs, 6/3 (1955); C. Prinsloo, “Die opleiding van Amptenare in Naturelle-Administrasie,” Journal of Racial Affairs, 2/2 (1951); F. W. C. Buitendag, “The Organisation of Labour Bureaux by Local Authorities,” Race Relations Journal, 20/1 (1953), 7.

61. Buitendag, “Organisation of Labour Bureaux,” 7. Also see C. Prinsloo, “Bantoehuise vir die Bantoe,” Journal of Racial Affairs, 1/3 (1950).

62. Eiselen, “The Native in the Western Cape.”

63. Buitendag, “Organisation of Labour Bureaux,” 7.

64. Carr, Soweto.

65. See AANEA (Transvaal) (sgd. Venables) to MNA, 12 October 1946, in NTS 4501 1 566/313.

66. HAD (1952), col. 1310. My emphasis.

67. See Professor E. Burrow’s testimony before the Native Laws Commission, UG 66 (1948), 54.

68. A twofold weakness was therefore built into the urban labor preference policy in the 1950s. By agreeing to introduce (b) and (c) alongside (a), Verwoerd allowed a large number of Africans to reside legally in the urban areas, whether or not they were unemployed. Even if they were unemployed, Africans who qualified in terms of these clauses were spared from having to register as workseekers at the local labor bureau—one of the perks they derived from the urban labor preference policy. Being exempt, their employment status could not be tracked by local labor bureau officials; in turn, this meant that there was no way in which the department could accurately gauge the actual extent of unemployment among the settled urban population. Unemployed Africans could thus legally contribute toward the very unemployment problem which the labor bureau system had been established partially to eliminate. This also weakened the department’s ability to eliminate surpluses and shortages of labor by “canalising” unemployed African to the farming areas. Unemployed labor which should have been diverted to white farmers could instead remain legally in the urban areas, shielded there by the department’s own policies. Collectively, such conditions established the basis on which the urban African population could legally increase. Posel, Making of Apartheid, 91–115.

69. R. Horwitz, The Political Economy of South Africa (London, 1967), 88.

70. Eiselen, “The Native in the Western Cape,” 14. Also see his articles “The Demand for and the Supply of Bantu Labour,” Bantu, 5 (1958), and “Rationalizing South Africa’s Native Labour,” Manufacturer, 1/1 (October 1950), 54–55.

71. Eiselen, “Rationalizing Native Labour,” 54–55.

72. C. Walker, Women’s Resistance in South Africa, 116.

73. “Minutes of Meeting of Representatives of Johannesburg and Reef Municipalities,” 12 June 1941, NTS 4479 2 513/313, 9.

74. Ibid. A growing consensus among municipal and departmental administrators appears to have taken root from the 1930s onward that “foreign” women were “the chief culprits behind urban vice and moral decay [in the urban areas],” contributing to the widely documented dissolution of marriage in the urban population. In the Witwatersrand area, women from Basutoland were singled out as the “worst type” because they dominated the trade in prostitution and illegally brewed beer; in the Eastern Transvaal, the accusing finger pointed to women from Mozambique. See same folder.

75. Ibid.

76. Verwoerd, quoted in Posel, Making of Apartheid, 81. Posel notes that the department did coerce many women into carrying passes in the 1950s. Due to popular opposition, however, officials implemented the scheme more systematically only in the 1960s.

77. Cited in L. Longmore, The Dispossessed: A Study of the Sex-Life of Bantu Women in Urban Areas In and Around Johannesburg (London, 1959), 59. Administrative devices such as these sought to ascertain the legal rights of women to be in an urban area. But the department also moved to intercept women in the rural areas by making it virtually impossible for them to gain admission to an urban area. Accordingly, modifications to Section 10 of the Urban Areas Act in 1952 required women in the rural areas to prove that they were either legally employed in an urban area or married to an African with Section 10 rights before they would be permitted to depart the rural areas. C. Walker, Women’s Resistance in South Africa, 120.

78. Longmore, The Dispossessed, 156.

79. B. Turok, “The African on the Farm,” Africa South, 4/1 (October–December 1959), 29.

80. South African Native Races Committee, The South African Natives: Their Progress and Present Condition (London, 1909), 47.

81. For example, see correspondence between the DNA and various farming organizations in the following folders: NTS 1981 4 19/279; NTS 2235 7 469/280; NTS 2139 1 260/280; NTS 2096 10 222/280; and NTS 2204 2 334/280.

82. See South African Agricultural Union (SAAU) to MNA, “Native Farm Labour,” March 1944, NTS 2229 1 463/280.

83. DNL to SNA, 17 June 1936; “Memorandum by Controller of Native Settlements,” 15 April 1939. Farmers could not rely on the cooperation of the South African Police, either. To retain their workers, it appears that farmers in Natal and the Transvaal (like most, if not all, farmers) illegally permitted Africans to brew and sell “Kaffir Beer” as well as to “consume and sell European liquor on their premises.” Farmers strongly resented the consequent police action and requested to be notified in advance of any raids. Instead, the Commissioner of Police warned the SAAU in 1946 that “the permission of a farm owner was not necessary and a farm owner attempting to obstruct the Police in the course of their duty would commit an offence.” See correspondence between the Commissioner of Police and the Secretary of the SAAU, 9 March 1946, in NTS 229 2 463/280.

84. Posel, Making of Apartheid, 139; M. Roberts, African Farm Labour: Some Conclusions and Reflections (Johannesburg, 1959), 123–24.

85. B. Turok, “The African on the Farm,” 31; Posel, Making of Apartheid, 139.

86. R. First, “Bethal Case-book,” Africa South, 2/3 (1958).

87. Ibid.

88. Brink, in “Influx of Natives on the Reef,” 47.

89. First, “Bethal Case-book”; Turok, “The African on the Farm,” 31.

90. Rodseth, Ndabazabantu, 62–63.

91. T. Marcus, Modernising Super-Exploitation: Restructuring South African Agriculture (London, 1989), 57.

92. Marcus, Modernising Super-Exploitation, 72.

93. Quoted in F. Wilson and D. Perrot (eds.), Outlook on a Century: South Africa 1870–1970 (Lovedale, 1973), 458.

94. Marcus, Modernising Super-Exploitation, 71.

95. P. Duncan, South Africa’s Rule of Violence (London, 1964), 107–8.

96. Cited in R. Ainsley, Masters and Serfs: Farm Labour in South Africa (London, 1977), 22.

97. Posel, Making of Apartheid, 178.

98. Roberts, African Farm Labour, cited in Posel, Making of Apartheid, 138–39.

99. Posel, Making of Apartheid, 139.

100. P. Duncan, South Africa’s Rule of Violence, 111–12; C. Lucas, “The Cost to Law and Order,” Africa South, 2/4 (1958).

101. A. Sachs, “The Instruments of Domination in South Africa,” in L. Thompson and J. Butler (eds.), Change in Contemporary South Africa (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1975), 231; Dugard, Human Rights and the Legal Order, 75–77.

102. Mary Benson captured the banality of the process after a spending a day in a Bantu Commissioners Courts in “The Badge of Slavery” (Johannesburg, 1960).

103. Eiselen, cited in Posel, Making of Apartheid, 138.

104. Contact, 5 April 1960, 4.

105. M. Horrell, A Survey of Race Relations, 1959–60 (Johannesburg, 1961), 53; Brewer, Black and Blue, 207.

106. See Brewer, Black and Blue; B. van Niekerk, “The Police in the Apartheid Society,” in Randall (ed.), Law, Justice and Society (Johannesburg, 1972); and H. Bloom, “The South African Police: Laws and Powers,” Africa South, 2/2 (1958).

107. Brewer, Black and Blue, 195.

108. Ibid., 196.

109. H. J. Simons, “Passes and Police,” Africa South, 1/1 (1956); also cited in Brewer, 199.

110. Horrell, Legislation and Race Relations, 37.

111. S. Duncan, “The Plight of the Urban African,” Topical Talks, SAIRR (March 1970), 5.

112. Benson, “The Badge of Slavery,” 4.

113. Brewer, Black and Blue, 196.

114. P. Duncan, South Africa’s Rule of Violence, 108.

115. Africans convicted for certain offenses in Bantu Commissioner Courts could appeal their sentences in the “normal courts.” Section 29 of the Urban Areas Act, which controlled conviction under the “idle or disorderly” clause, was subject to judicial review. Dugard, Human Rights and the Legal Order, 77.

116. P. Duncan, South Africa’s Rule of Violence, 113.

117. Horrell, Legislation and Race Relations, 24. Also see N. M. MacArthur, “Apartheid, the Courts and the Legal Profession,” and C. Kinghorn, “Apartheid and Administrative Bodies,” both in SPRO-CAS, Law, Justice and Society (Cape Town, 1972).

118. J. Linz, “Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes,” in F. Greenstein and N. Polsby (eds.), Handbook of Political Science, vol. 3 (Reading, Penn., 1975); also see H. Adam, “South Africa’s Search for Legitimacy.” Telos, 59, 1984.

119. South African Digest, 17 March 1961, 137.

4. The “Properly Planned Location”

The labor bureau system transformed the DNA into the white knight of the apartheid state; more than any other single development in the early 1950s, it transformed the state itself. At the same time, developments in the area of “urban Native housing” were no less important to the apartheid state in the 1950s. But housing was something different.

Questions about housing Africans were inextricably implicated in the security of hearth and home in the white residential areas, so that the housing issue played on chords that the labor bureau system could not. The angst most whites felt at the sight of large numbers of Africans “wandering about” in the urban areas gave way to a more palpable dread when the black bodies circulating in the streets threatened to settle down a stone’s throw away from white suburbia. As much as any other member of the NP government, Verwoerd sensed that the liberal opposition was vulnerable on this issue. Unswervingly confident that he had the majority of white support behind him, he fused whites’ general antagonism to African residential propinquity with his department’s specific solutions to the housing crisis. Singling out the housing issue as “the most important problem facing the Department of Native Affairs,” [1] Verwoerd converted the alarming public spectacle of febrile locations into an advantage for his party. This dramatization was based on sound political instinct: while liberals might oppose the draconian sweep of the labor bureau system, few whites were prepared to countenance the prospect of squalid locations spreading amoeba-like in their direction. Thus, whereas the labor bureau system transformed the state by beefing up its interventionist apparatuses, the department’s housing solution was designed to reshape society.

The department’s attack on the housing crisis was informed by an encompassing vision that transcended the immediacy of the residential chaos; in the words of W. C. Mocke, the Senior Urban Areas Commissioner, the department’s goal was to “provide a permanent solution to the Native housing question by planning for the future.” [2] This long-term perspective ensured that the department’s solution would profoundly shape the nature of urban space. Central to this solution was the development, between 1950 and 1955, of a rigid set of guidelines for the planning of “Native residential areas” and for the actual construction of houses. Developed principally to address the residential congestion in the Witwatersrand area, these blueprints were applied systematically to all urban areas and shaped the achievements that comprised the housing solution. Many of these accomplishments were genuinely impressive. At the same time, they were almost entirely technical in nature. Their most obvious consequence was the monotonous and soul-destroying regularity they brought to the urban landscape: endless rows of identical, hut-like housing units; sparse and centrally located lighting; unpaved roads that generally met at 90-degree intersections and ran arrow-straight through the township with only an occasional bend to relieve the tedious monotony; great distances separating locations from the “white” towns; and strategically planned access roads leading to and from the location. Soulless and regimented, these austere locations were abundant testimony to the state’s predominant interest in controlling the reproduction of Africans in easily monitored zones within the urban areas at minimum cost. An outgrowth of the state’s fear that “even small variations from the department’s standard [housing] designs multiply costs significantly,” [3] the pervasive regularity of the new locations also accentuated the state’s homogenizing view of urban Africans as “an unattached mass of Bantu individuals”—or “rootless évolués, ” in Eiselen’s sneering characterization.[4] Central to this view was the belief among administrators that manifestations of class differences between “detribalised Natives” were relatively unimportant, or at least were not sufficiently developed to be accommodated in the expensive area of housing construction.

This chapter examines in some detail how the DNA set about bringing its vision of order to the urban areas. It shows that far from simply “turning back the clock,” as liberal critics contended, the department’s attack on the problem was shaped by a number of assumptions concerning “modern town planning.” These principles, however, were subordinated to imperatives that were unabashedly technicist and racist, and they were shaped by specific bureaucratic interests in monitoring Africans with the maximum convenience and at the lowest possible cost to the state. Technicist considerations such as these not only shaped the drab internal configuration of the “planned location” and systematically racialized South Africa’s urban space, but also inevitably ensured that Africans would be denied the opportunity to forge an organic urbanism that united home, work, and the city. Africans’ experience with the city was henceforth defined by a manufactured and systematic fragmentation that carved the city up into racial zones, decisively severed the home from the workplace, and then reconnected them with the sutures of strategically designed public transport systems.

Manufactured fragmentation in all urban areas thus established a powerful correlation between race and space across South Africa’s urban areas. An important result was the sturdy connection between the manufactured fragmentation of urban areas and the “automatic consent” of Africans. Spatial configurations henceforth channeled the everyday life of Africans into reliably predictable behavior, depoliticizing to an extraordinary degree the multiple steps that led Africans out of the location, disgorged them in carefully planned centers in the white zones of the city, and finally returned them back to their segregated working-class communities in the location. A battery of legislation designed to deter socialization across the racial line was enacted in the early 1950s, powerfully complementing the alienation that arose “automatically” from the sheer organization of urban space. Carving up urban space was thus a fundamental rather than contingent aspect of apartheid, and it was in the manipulation of space that urban Native administrators would leave their specific and most enduring legacy. Over time, the spatial legacies of the housing solution proved to be more durable than the apparatuses of labor control: long after the latter sputtered to an inchoate stop in the early 1980s, spatial legacies still continue to stoke the class, race, and ethnic divisions entrenched in the 1950s, so that they now form the touchstone of debates about South Africa’s “democratization.” The correlations between race and space remain, therefore, the most prominent legacy of apartheid’s urban Native administrators.

But, after the spate of housing construction ended in the late 1950s, South Africans were left to ponder a crucial question: did stringently centralizing Africans in densely populated locations facilitate state control, or would black nationalism flourish amid the austerity and class-leveling barrenness of the department’s brainchild, the “properly planned location”? The manufactured fragmentation of the city thus stands as a contradictory monument to the power of administrators to shape the urban habitat of Africans. Just as the fragmentation of the city injected a strong dose of irrationality into the ordering of urban life, the systematic integration of racialized space into a larger grid of racial controls also normalized the potential schizoid tendencies of the city and its inhabitants. This normalization created an irresistible tendency for the spatial schizophrenia of the urban areas to be taken for granted. Spatial arrangements thus produced two effects. First, they diminished the need for state cadres to activate continually the means of coercion—but only because coercion was built into apartheid’s reorganized space: coercion in the urban areas was always constant but not always direct. Second, the highly coercive constraints that regulated Africans both within and outside the location created a permanent tension, charging the state with the expectation that the location would generate collective opposition to the visible hand of the state. At the same time, that hand being formidable, Africans also crafted lives and communities within the confines of the repressive location. Thus, in South Africa’s urban habitus—a “durably installed generative principle of regulated improvisations” [5]—agency and constraint developed a distinctive embrace, infusing space with the potential simultaneously to inflame and to subdue the millions of Africans corralled within “planned locations” across the Union.

The Housing Crisis Resolved

Housing policies were important to the National Party government, providing tangible evidence of the department’s promise to provide the “guarantees, stability and security” that Verwoerd had promised to the settled urban population. Housing was also directly related to the department’s intention to freeze the size of the urban population. By ensuring that only Africans legally permitted to be in the urban areas would have access to accommodation, the department would be able to identify “illegals” and expel them from the urban areas, either back to the reserves or to the white rural areas.[6] After the department had constructed a certain number of houses, no more would be built to accommodate any increase in the size of the urban population; instead, additional housing would be pursued only in the Bantustans. According to the Commissioner of Police, establishing a link between “control and housing” was also a vital means for undercutting the social bases of African resistance, “especially radicals in the Youth League.” [7]

Although the two issues were closely related, it should be noted that the housing question drew the department into an administrative dynamic that was distinctly different from that instituted by the labor bureau system. Labor bureaus were established to control the circulation of labor in two ways: by improving documentary controls and by enlarging the authority of officials to monitor the movement and employment of Africans. While there were disputes between the department and local authorities over the purchase or leasing of buildings that were to be taken over for use by local labor bureau officers, and while land was indeed purchased by the central state to establish the Central Bureau in downtown Pretoria, the primary legacy of the labor bureau system was not spatial. Ultimately, the success of the labor control system depended on monitoring Africans’ mobility across space: hence the centrality of documentary controls.

In contrast, the housing issue bore directly on the sedentary “consumption of space” [8] over extended periods of time. This difference is of central importance to understanding the department’s housing policy of the 1950s. Monitoring functions were, of course, important components of this policy. Nevertheless, the dynamics involved in controlling mobile individuals are crucially distinct from the surveillance of a large population fixed in space, whose material and emotional needs have to be reckoned into control measures. Labor allocation and housing policies differ in another important way. Changes in labor allocation policies are readily undertaken, involving little more than the issuing of new directives to officials lower down the bureaucratic chain. In contrast, the remodification of urban space to effect, or modify, the state’s racial policies—whether by reclassifying, by appropriating, or by developing land—ran up against the banal fact that, over time, immovable property becomes entrenched in space and becomes inseparably implicated in the distribution of power in a given area. As David Harvey notes, “the spatial rationalization of production, circulation, and consumption at one point in time may not be suited to the further accumulation of capital at a later point in time.” [9]

By 1948, the idea of resolving the African housing shortage by reducing the costs of houses had had a long but fruitless career.[10] A welter of entrenched interests surrounded the issue. Max Gluckman, Minister of Health in the 1940s, lamely contended from the opposition benches in 1951 that Smuts’ government had been stymied by a crippling shortage of building materials induced by wartime conditions as well as by preparations for the 1948 general election.[11] The problems ran much deeper than that, however. Apart from the absence of a coherent overarching urban policy throughout the 1940s, the UP government failed to resolve a number of factors that contributed to the high costs involved in constructing a house for an African family.

The disinclination of local authorities to sustain any form of financial loss was just one of the issues that the UP preferred to leave untouched. Another was the high standards with which houses were built. With the exception of the planned township of Orlando, which the Johannesburg City Council built according to “lower standards” in 1931–32 with loans from the Department of Health,[12] the standards employed in the construction of houses for whites and coloureds were essentially the same. Although they appreciated the “underlying principle of equality,” liberal organizations in the late 1940s were moved by the “chaos building up in the Union’s urban centers” to recommend that standards for African houses should be “relaxed” in order to bring costs down.[13] On the other hand, perhaps with the featureless terrain and monotonous “pillbox” houses of Orlando in mind, the Fagan Commission had denounced such a solution on the grounds that it would impede the stabilization of a proud, property-owning African middle class.[14] Moreover, until Verwoerd became MNA, senior administrators in the department’s Urban Areas section continued to lay emphasis on the need for “decent” housing. Commissioned to summarize existing research on the provision of mass housing for Africans, Fred Rodseth co-authored a paper that identified and prioritized “four objects which all good housing should achieve,” as follows:

In the first place, housing should ensure the maintenance of the health of the occupants; secondly, the type of housing and environment pro-vided should be socially valid and should be designed in a manner which will discourage social malpractices [illicit activity to supplement income]; thirdly, permanence, with a minimum of maintenance, should be assured…; and fourthly, the housing should be sufficiently economical to ensure that the greatest possible number of occupants can be housed without subsidy.…Good housing and good environment will help to create a spirit of self-help amongst the occupants and this will be accompanied by an ambition to improve the community.[15]

The authors echoed the Fagan Commission’s criticism of the situation in which “the teacher, the clerk, the trader are all compelled to live in houses designed to satisfy the tastes and the needs of the day laborer.”

Yet another factor pushing up building costs was the use of expensive white labor to build houses in African residential areas. Since bricklaying was classified as a skilled occupation, white workers staunchly resisted suggestions that cheaper African workers should be trained to take their place. Moving gingerly in this direction, Smuts’ government used the Housing (Emergency Powers) Act of 1945 to establish the Central Organization for Technical Training, where Africans were trained on an experimental basis as bricklayers, plasterers, painters, and carpenters.[16] Although this initiative enabled Africans to perform skilled building work, it left intact the ability of skilled white workers to use their representation on the Apprenticeship Board and Committees to prevent Africans from receiving on-the-job training in skilled positions.[17]

The high cost of land posed another problem. In the Reef area, where the housing crisis was greatest, municipalities complained that they were hampered by the Gold Law Transvaal Act of 1908 and by the ownership by mining companies of huge swaths of nearby land. The cost of land purchased at high market prices was inevitably passed onto the African community in the form of unreasonably high rents. To remedy the situation in which “landowners hold municipalities and even the State virtually to ransom,” the Social and Economic Planning Council (SEPC) recommended that the state should be invested with powers to expropriate and purchase land at reasonable rates of compensation.[18] The influence of the mining industry prevailed, however, and the recommendation was without consequence. A sturdy array of interests and obstacles were therefore fused together to produce the high cost of constructing houses for Africans.

Verwoerd’s solutions reversed the order of the four priorities identified by Rodseth and his colleagues. As W. C. Mocke informed CNCs, “It is preferable to house all natives legitimately employed in the urban areas in austere-type houses than to house an elite group under well-nigh perfect conditions.” [19] The insistence on an economic solution to the housing crisis meant that the success of the entire program turned on lowering the costs of housing: if rents or the purchasing costs of houses were too high, then the disabling disputes involving white ratepayers, urban employers, and the central and local levels of the state would persist. At the same time, political volatility in the black residential areas encouraged caution, and the department was well aware that mass mobilization in the urban areas was propelled in no small measure by the immediate issues of rents, housing, and transport.

A way would have to be found to subordinate the disparate interests among whites to their common interests in “social segregation,” and thus to circumvent, and perhaps even co-opt, the popular struggles of blacks. The agenda seemed tailor-made for Verwoerd’s outlook: the key, he contended from the outset, lay in “proper organization and planning.” [20] At the heart of the quest lay his argument that the centralization of resources enhanced the efficiency not only of planning and fiscal expenditure but also of discipline: to the ex-psychologist, if the rules were made clear, there could be no excuse for noncooperation. The only solution, therefore, was for “the Native Affairs Department to take the lead” and “to point the way forward.” This was a decisive move. Within the decade, the spine of the housing backlog was broken. By 1960, the relatively loose pattern of racial zoning of the segregation era gave way to the systematic racialization of urban space. Forced removals in terms of the Prevention of Illegal Squatting Act and the Group Areas Act after 1950 consolidated this racial regimentation. The department’s solution was distinguished by five developments, each of which is discussed below.

Rationalizing Responsibility for African Housing

Verwoerd’s strategy was to combine responsibility for overseeing the cost and the production of housing within the DNA and to ensure that the final product conformed to a new version of “regional and local planning.” As Eiselen observed, “When both planning and execution would be undertaken by the department itself, the rate of progress could be speeded up considerably.” [21] The first step was to establish a Housing Section within the Urban Areas Section of the DNA to coordinate work with the National Housing and Planning Commission (NHPC), which had replaced the ineffective Central Housing Board in 1944. Initially, the idea was for the department’s Housing Section and the NHPC to act “jointly and concurrently and not, as in the past, separately and successively.” [22] In 1948, the composition of the NHPC was changed, and a number of Broederbonders were appointed to senior positions, ensuring that the body would cooperate fully with the department. Buoyed by the support of municipal Native administrators—who, it appeared, would rather be accountable to the DNA than to the Provincial Auditor—and the cooperation of a government that backed him to the hilt, it was a relatively easy matter for Verwoerd to all but displace the NHPC and to assume principal control over the decision-making process. Mocke, the Senior Urban Areas Commissioner, picked up an idea advanced at IANEA’s conference in 1954 that the three-way involvement of the DNA, local authorities, and the NHPC was “cumbersome” and led to duplication and delays. In a memorandum to Eiselen, Mocke suggested that the powers of the NHPC should be fused with those of the DNA since “only the Department viewed housing more from the Bantu’s point of view,” adding that “sole control” would be “simple if a few key men” were transferred from the NHPC to form a Directorate of Bantu Housing within the Urban Areas Branch of the department. A delighted Verwoerd responded that the proposal “contained a very important principle” and elaborated on the plan: the NHPC should be restricted to housing matters for whites, coloureds, and Indians, leaving African housing to the DNA.[23] Thus the Joint Native Housing Commission was established, composed of representatives from the NHPC and the DNA. In practice, the field was taken over completely by the department.

Control over African residential matters fell into the DNA’s domain by informal arrangements as well. The Group Areas Act of 1950, for example, provided the Minister of the Interior with powers to zone residential areas for the four “population groups” defined in the Population Registration Act of 1950 and to impose residential segregation. The Land Tenure Advisory Board (die Grondbesitberaad), which was attached to the Department of the Interior and was responsible for racial zoning, soon encountered objections from several city councils opposed to racial zoning. Much to Verwoerd’s irritation, the board’s inclination was to obtain the cooperation of municipal authorities first, before drawing up plans to segregate the urban areas. His impatience with the board’s sensitivity toward liberal city councils resulted in a brief exchange of hostile correspondence between the two, ending in the board’s invitation to the DNA to “take the initiative” whenever African housing was affected. This arrangement resolved the blurred distinction between the Land Tenure Advisory Board’s powers to segregate “non-European” residential areas and the DNA’s powers to demarcate African locations.[24]

Unknown in the segregation era, bureaucratic threats were also effective means of enforcing policy. The Cape Town City Council, for example, was compelled into taking the “measured decision…not to actively oppose the implementation of the Act” when, at Verwoerd’s instigation, the NHPC threatened to withhold financial assistance for housing construction. Verwoerd prevented the eastward expansion of the Langa location and, over the objections of the Cape Town City Council, issued what the mayor described as a “dictate” that new land was to be purchased by the council immediately south of the Nyanga location to ensure that the area sprawled away from the central city area.[25] Advocate G. F. De Vos Hugo, Chairman of the Land Tenure Advisory Board, conceded that the Group Areas Act served as a backup measure available to the Minister of Native Affairs: “it is an accepted principle that the powers of the Group Areas Act will be employed in connection with natives only if and when it is necessary to enable the Native Affairs Department to do something which cannot be done under the laws pertaining to natives or which can be accomplished more effectively or expeditiously under the Group Areas Act.” [26] Control over evictions from “black spots” in the white rural areas was easier. Here, the Land Section of the department enjoyed uncontested responsibility for the accommodation and removal of Africans. This meant that “the Land Section is actually the Group Areas Section of the Department,” the DNA’s report for 1954–57 noted.[27]

These institutional changes cleared the way for the department to act without the encumbrance of shared authority. By eliminating divergent interest groups and paring down those responsible for African housing to a small number of hand-selected colleagues, Verwoerd’s policy of providing accommodation to the smallest number of Africans at the lowest possible cost encouraged a highly technicist conception of the planning process. All of the senior administrators from 1950 onward and most, although not all, of the technical “experts” drawn together into government entities such as the National Building and Research Institute (NBRI), established in 1946, held shared assumptions about the right of the state to plan the urban location down to the smallest detail and to subordinate the location as a whole to efficient, centralized control.

However, a number of the architects, social researchers, and town planners appointed to the housing effort were liberals who hoped that they could ameliorate officialdom’s obsession with austerity and regularity in the design of locations. At least two architects who served on the NBRI’s influential Building Research Committee from 1950 to1955, P. H. Connell and R. Kantorowich, had been socialist radicals in the 1930s, having contributed to a Marxist “collective thesis” on African housing that excoriated South Africa’s “ruling classes” for, among other things, the “enserfdom of the Native proletariat.” [28] Even as they assisted the departmental effort, architects and town planners such as D. Archibald, A. J. Cutten, and D. M. Calderwood consciously sought to foster the same modernizing spirit that had brought sanitary conditions and mass housing to cities in Europe in the late 1800s; they published articles and theses proposing housing that differed markedly from the barracks-like quarters that emerged in Soweto in the second half of the 1950s. Several of the city planners and architects who cooperated with the department’s housing programs in the early 1950s paid homage to this European tradition, occasionally citing the work of European modernists such as Le Corbusier, the founder of the influential CIAM (Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne), and (even more incongruously) the concept of the “garden city” that Ebenezer Howard had promoted in British town planning at the turn of the century.[29] These public musings were not permitted, however, to influence the department’s technicist approach in the early 1950s. The corollary of centralized control, therefore, was the marginalization of discordant voices that failed to support the department’s plans.

The fervor for centralization carried over into the actual design and planning of the urban location. One of the most arresting aspects of the planning process was the extraordinary attention that administrators and planners devoted to every aspect of the location’s physical structure. In contrast, social issues related to actually living within the location were clearly of secondary importance. Whereas a frenzy of data-gathering preceded the establishment of locations, little more than pious speculation about the leisure and other social “needs” of the location’s inhabitants informed the department’s grasp of what life would be like within the spatial parameters of the location. Without exception, apartheid Native administrators conceived of the location as a totalizing institution, an instrument that facilitated control over the Africans encapsulated within its borders. To a large degree, this approach stemmed directly from the department’s determination to “locate, within reason, all Native locations as far as possible from the European areas.” [30] Spatial distance therefore accentuated the distinctiveness of the location, instituting a fundamental divide that sharply confined black and white zones to specific regions in an urban area. Regulations governing the establishment of townships carefully ensured that the future growth of locations would not diminish this spatial chasm by requiring planners to reserve “a hinterland radiating away from the non-Bantu areas” for this purpose.[31]

More than simple spatial separation, however, it was the deliberate commitment of planners to anticipate all the needs of the location that accounted for the totalized character of the location in the apartheid era. In the absence of a viable market for African housing, administrators, technicians, and town planners ruled supreme. Various experts explored ways to mass-produce prefabricated walls, window sills, bricks, streetlights, fences, gables, plumbing, and electrical outlets—and then determined with statistical precision a labor process by which the housing units could be assembled as efficiently and cheaply as possible. Since the eventual goal was “not to just build houses, but an entire location,” planners were admonished that “the provision of all essential amenities in Native residential areas is most important if the area is to function properly.” [32] In the absence of a genuine housing market for communities too impoverished to purchase expensive building materials, these perspectives contributed powerfully to the state’s perception of itself as the organizer of social life in every sphere. It also burnished the department’s specific claim that it was the only planning agent capable of inoculating “the European areas” against the threat posed by African urban residential areas without jeopardizing whites’ access to cheap labor. A remarkable aspect of the attack on the housing issue, therefore, was the moral righteousness with which the department fused technical innovation with bureaucratic coercion “in the interests of the Natives.”

With the nature of the location determined by its purpose—to contain a sedentary labor force in inexpensive and easily monitored accommodation—form ineluctably followed function. By placing the multiple technical steps involved in urban town planning under the control of its Housing Division, the department ensured that austerity measures also promoted the surveillance of the completed location. First, Verwoerd insisted that access to the location should be strictly controlled. Mathewson summarized “the ideal” as follows:

From the point of view of control there should be only one main access road to a native township.…A separate access road should enter the nearest opening of the native township. The link road between the European area and the native township should traverse the shortest distance between the two areas and be so located that it will be used principally by persons wishing to proceed to and from the native township only. Where a separate road is constructed to serve a railway station it would be advisable to plan in such a way that its use will be confined almost exclusively to native traffic.[33]

Embedded in such plans is the clear understanding that a combination of planning and geography could be quite effective in structuring daily routines, simplifying the task of continuous surveillance to some degree. For this reason, Urban Areas Commissioners came out strongly in favor of a “centralized approach to the siting of administrative buildings.” They recommended that local authorities should avoid “decentralization,” a policy favored by L. I. Venables (NEAD, Johannesburg), partly because it entailed employing more than one Location Superintendent per location, but also because it meant that administrative personnel would be dispersed across the location. In contrast, the advantage of locating all administrative buildings in one centralized site was that “any person entering the area must of necessity proceed to the civic centre where provision has been made for the following buildings: Administrative Offices, Post Office, Police Station, [Native Commissioners] Courts, Clinic, Beer Hall, Shops, Town Hall, Cinema and Commercial Banks.” [34]

A second stipulation issued by Verwoerd was designed to maximize the isolation of the location from the white areas. To facilitate the control of African residential areas, a 1954 regulation required all local authorities to encircle locations with “buffer strips…irrespective of the topography of the land.” [35] Regulations prohibited the erection of any form of building in the buffer strips and required that they should either be kept clear or planted with trees “to act as a screen.” Later referred to as “undeveloped boundary belts” (perhaps sensitive to his London audience, Calderwood once described the buffer zone as “a generous park strip completely surrounding the town”), these areas met Verwoerd’s exact specifications:

a) a buffer strip of 500 yards between the built-up area of the location and town or any residential area of any racial group other than the Native group;

b) a buffer of 200 yards between the built-up area of the location and all other boundaries—except where a National road forms the boundary in which case a buffer strip of 500 yards wide is required or in the case of a Provincial main road, 300 yards. Along all other roads a buffer strip of 200 yards wide is required.[36]

More to the point, planners at the time referred to them as “machine-gun belts.” [37] This was the only area in which Verwoerd was prepared to tolerate, and actually demand, the wasteful use of resources. Buffer strips, for example, accounted for no less than 23.7 percent of the 1243 morgen set aside for the establishment of Daveyton township.[38]

The net effect of such a centralized and technocratic planning approach was that it distinguished African residential areas not only from the white parts of an urban area, but also from other “nonwhite” residential areas established for coloureds and Indians, stigmatizing the location as fundamentally alien and dangerous. The sheer designation of an area as a “Native area” automatically required the gendarmerie to interpose itself between the location and the rest of the urban area. To a much more systematic degree than before, therefore, the logic of urban law enforcement was geared to defend racialized space as an unvarnished principle in itself. Whereas the “sanitary syndrome” had loomed large in earlier justifications of residential segregation, the department dispensed with such rationalizations from the 1950s onward, merely asserting that “social segregation” was government policy.

A Self-Financing Approach to the Establishment of Townships

High costs had given rise to the housing shortage; reducing these costs therefore formed the department’s main attack on the urban housing crisis. One study of Orlando, an African housing scheme close to Johannesburg built in 1944, revealed that it had cost £472 to build each house. Although they were provided on “a reduced scale when compare to those services supplied to European residential areas,” essential services were provided to each house for an additional £379, bringing the total cost of a house to approximately £800[39]—an untenable basis for resolving the housing shortage on a mass scale. African impoverishment lay at the heart of the housing problem: by some accounts, almost 60 percent of Africans in the Johannesburg metropolitan area fell within the “subeconomic” category, meaning that a majority of renters would require subsidization in some form, and only a minuscule minority would ever be in a position to purchase their own homes.[40] Like local authorities and employers, Verwoerd opposed subsidization. But he was convinced that Africans were able to afford nonsubsidized (i.e., “economic”) housing: the key to a self-financing approach to African housing lay in reducing the costs of housing. This goal consumed by far the greatest proportion of the energy and resources marshaled at the behest of the department between 1950 and 1955.

Very little of what emerged in this period was new, however. Contrary to official claims,[41] the brilliance of the department’s response lay, not in the technical discoveries it made in the early 1950s, but in the manner in which existing knowledge and administrative resources were combined: managerial competence, not brilliant innovation, distinguished the department’s attack on the housing problem. Virtually all of the elements that comprised the eventual solution were familiar to administrators in the 1940s. But these lay in scattered form across the urban areas and lacked the coherence that was necessary to broach the housing crisis on a national basis. With all local authorities fearful of the losses they were expected to incur even when they made use of housing funds from the state in the 1930s and 1940s, the cost of housing remained the single most important obstacle to a concerted national African housing policy. To resolve the issue of costs was therefore to resolve the housing issue as a whole.

The problem in devising solutions lay in the fact that high costs were not concentrated in one or two factors but dispersed across every aspect involved in the planning, design, and construction of townships. After extensive research into the cost structure of African housing, A. L. Glen, Senior Research Officer of the NBRI, concluded, “Since no element costs more than 41% of the prime cost of a dwelling, it is obvious that costs cannot be radically reduced by reducing the cost of any single element.” [42] D. M. Calderwood went even further, observing that “the method of achieving cost reductions is not necessarily found in revolutionary new building techniques or new materials, although these can contribute greatly, but rather in the careful inspection and control of each small expenditure making up the whole cost.” [43] To reduce costs, the entire approach to African housing had to be reconfigured from scratch.

The first step was to devise a financial formula that local authorities would find attractive. Segregationist governments had pursued inconsistent policies with regard to this issue.[44] The Housing Act of 1920, recognizing that private enterprise had refrained from entering the area of African housing because no profits were to be gained there, and tacitly conceding the indifference of local authorities, authorized the Minister of Health to make funds available for this purpose. Housing loans, however, were extended at the “economic” rate of 3¼ percent interest, well above what Africans could afford, and so were barely used. Unwilling to bear the losses that subsidization of African housing would incur, local authorities—with the important exception of those in Springs and Bloemfontein—made little use of the available subeconomic loans. By 1942, of the £15,000,000 that the Department of Health had made available for the purpose, only £6,333,000 had been spent on housing for Africans. As late as 1945, not even Cape Town had used these loans for its African population, 70 percent of whom lived in squatter camps within and around the city.[45] Resigning in protest against “the mean and niggardly policy” of the Johannesburg City Council, J. Young, Senior Welfare Officer of the municipal Non-European Affairs Department, observed in 1950 that the council’s housing program for the preceding two years “consisted entirely of a description of what was done for the non-Europeans before 1948.” [46] Between 1936 and 1949, local authorities across the Union lost a paltry £565,000 under the various subsidy schemes for Africans, in comparison with the £1,400,000 borne by the central government.[47]

Yet even when they did participate in the subeconomic housing program, local authorities incurred very few losses to themselves. By charging deficits to the city council’s segregated Native Revenue Account, the burden was shifted back onto Africans in virtually every urban area.[48] An odious principle darkened this practice even further, for profits from the sale of Kaffir Beer accounted for a large part of the Native Revenue Account. This meant that in consuming beer produced and distributed under the system of a municipal monopoly—the system prevailing in most urban areas—Africans not only defrayed the losses borne by white city councils but actually created capital assets for the councils in the process. Between 1936 and 1945, for example, funds totaling £434,653 from the Native Revenue Account were used to cover the Johannesburg City Council’s losses on African housing, while redemption and renewal funds amounted to £608,518. This meant that “assets now belonging to the municipality exceed the total amount of accumulated deficits for a generation.” [49] Between 1914 and 1937, the Johannesburg City Council’s policy was to debit all losses sustained in Native administration to the general rate fund. These losses declined steadily once the City Council became involved in manufacturing and selling beer in municipally run establishments. In 1957, Johannesburg’s Native Beer Account sported profits of £525,101: generated in a single year, this sum exceeded the entire cumulative loss (£301,012) that the general rate fund had sustained between 1914 and 1937.

The reason why a municipal monopoly system became universal across the country is underscored in the “Five Year Master Plan” drawn up for Daveyton Location in Benoni. From a deficit of £3,526 in 1955–56 (the result of capital expenditures on the construction of “a very large and up-to-date Brewery and Malting Plant”), surpluses were projected to increase steadily to just under £70,000 four years later.[50] Although moneys collected under the Native Services Levy Act—which authorized local authorities to tax employers in order to provide essential municipal services to urban locations—exceeded profits from the sale of beer, Mathewson noted that “the Beer Account forms an extremely important part in the economics” of local urban authorities.[51]

An important reason for the high cost of rents resided in what was meant by “rent.” Like whites, Africans paid a rent that included three components: maintenance charges for the renewal and repair of aging housing units; charges for essential services such as sanitation, electricity, water, roads, administration, and medical services; and interest and redemption charges on the loan.[52] As a number of observers and commissions, including the managers of the NAD, pointed out in the 1940s, the problem lay in the unfair assumption of local authorities that, despite their general penury, Africans were liable for interest and redemption charges.[53] The result was reflected in the high cost of “economic” rentals as well as in the impossibly expensive purchasing price of houses constructed at “economic” rates. A report by Miriam Janisch in 1944 observed that out of an average monthly income of £5.6.8, Africans in the Johannesburg area paid £1 on rent and only £2.14.8 on food. The latter amount, Dr. F. W. Fox (South African Institute of Medical Research) calculated, amounted to approximately half the cost of a suggested minimum diet, which would cost £4.15.3 per month. With 86.8 percent of the urban African population earning less than the Poverty Datum Line of £8, both the Smit Committee (an interdepartmental review committee headed by D. L. Smit) and the Bus Services Commission could illustrate that Africans residing in municipal locations routinely sacrificed adequate food in order to pay a rent that accounted for at least 20 percent of monthly income.[54] Still, location residents were by no means the worst off. A combination of inadequate municipal housing and their dislike of greater state controls in the location ensured that the majority of Africans actually resided outside urban locations—in Johannesburg, the figure was estimated at 71 percent.[55] In these “non-controlled areas,” rents were astronomical by any yardstick, varying anywhere from 73 to 100 percent higher than rents in municipal locations.[56] The result was that, after deducting the cost of transport to and from their places of employment in the white city, Africans almost uniformly paid a rent that exceeded the “international accepted basis that rental should…not exceed 20% of income.” [57]

The formula that the department settled on in 1950 was designed to eliminate losses on economic houses completely, while providing a generous incentive to local authorities to deal with the subeconomic group: for every £100 it borrowed for the latter purpose, a local authority would repay only £80 over a span of four decades.[58] At the same time, Verwoerd authorized the department’s Housing Section to examine “any way in which the provision of Native housing could be placed on a sound economic footing” based on three principles: the greatest possible number of Africans should be made to pay economic rentals; losses on subeconomic housing would be reduced to the “barest minimum”; and subsidization would be extended only to Africans who were legally qualified to be in the urban areas under Section 10(1) (a), (b), and (c). Migrant workers with (d) exemptions were to be housed in single-sex hostels, while the operation of the labor bureau system would ensure that “illegals” would be either “canalised” to the farming areas or directed to the reserves. After discussing this strategy, a conference of urban officials in September 1951 resolved to “recommend to the Department that the fullest use be made of Native Trust Land for closer settlement purposes to cater properly for the squatter who has no right to claim accommodation in an urban area; and that further, when no Native Trust Land is available, the rural local authority concerned should itself establish an emergency camp.” [59] To expedite this process, in 1957 Verwoerd secured an amendment to the Native Trust and Land Act releasing the department from the obligation to first provide land in a rural area before expelling “squatters” under the terms of the Prevention of Illegal Squatting Act of 1951. The Urban Areas Division was thereafter divested of any responsibility for the “squatters” it evicted to the reserves, passing the problem onto the Lands Section in charge of developing the Bantustans.

The department’s decision to cull the numbers of Africans eligible for subsidization placed a premium on information about the African population. With some surprise, the department discovered that while some information, such as about Section 10 rights, was readily ascertainable, little was known about more specific data dealing with household income, family size, or family budgets. While the results of several sociological studies undertaken in the 1940s were well known, these studies were reported in aggregate terms that covered entire metropolitan areas.[60] Aggregate data of this nature posed something of a problem, for the department “was not building houses for abstract populations…but had to take into consideration the actual financial ability of Native families, as well as their specific needs.” [61] A crucial step, therefore, was to ascertain the financial and social condition of the Africans who were to be removed to the “properly planned Native residential areas.”

Although it rapidly lost much of the salience attached to it in the early 1950s, the need for detailed knowledge about specific African communities introduced a new tenor into the department’s approach to housing. Between 1948 and 1950, the housing issue had been depicted in essentially quantitative terms that portrayed the immensity of the backlog, the number of Africans to be removed, and the projected costs involved. As the department’s plans took shape, however, these statistical concerns began to share center stage with what Fred Rodseth, in an article he co-authored with colleagues from the National Housing Office and the NBRI, described as “the human dimension of the problem.” [62] This somewhat more sensitive approach never became a dominant theme in the bureaucratic effort to resolve the housing issue and was much more prevalent at the local level, where municipal administrators were generally more alert to the “human dimension” of their programs. The importance of this theme, however, was that—temporarily at least—it diluted the department’s tendency to view Africans in the urban areas as a conglomerate mass of “rootless évolués, ” differentiated only by whether they were present in the urban areas legally or illegally. This blunt differentiation slowly gave ground as knowledge about the subjects about whom plans, architectural blueprints, and cost projections were being drawn up shed light on the socioeconomic categories within the urban population.[63] Moreover, statistical forays into the private lives of urban Africans in the early 1950s did not cease once the housing issue had been tamed. They were superseded by detailed market research on the consumption patterns and consumer preferences of urban Africans from approximately 1960 onward.[64] The stabilization of the urban African population and the dispersal of families into tens of thousands of individual mass-produced houses extended the market for mass-produced commodities as South Africa made the transition to monopoly capitalism from the late 1950s onward.

Placing “Native housing on an economic basis” therefore required the “scientific” categorization of Africans. Prior to the 1950s, it was widely believed within departmental and municipal circles that “a sizeable number of urban Natives are capable of paying for their accommodation at the economic rate,” but no empirical research appears to have been undertaken on this point.[65] In 1950 the department urged local authorities to undertake “socioeconomic surveys” of their respective African populations, recommending that information about family size, number of offspring, number of aged dependents, ethnicity, and religion be ascertained alongside the important issues of individual and household income. “All these important details,” J. E. Mathewson, the manager responsible for the survey in Benoni, observed, “should be carefully gathered by means of a socioeconomic survey and the facts gleaned therefrom tabulated to reveal a true picture of the need that must be satisfied to achieve the best results.” [66] The Johannesburg NEAD was one of the first to comply, in 1950. The next year a comprehensive survey was undertaken in Springs and Benoni, followed by a succession of local surveys in different urban areas.[67]

A standing trilateral Committee on Socio-Economic Surveys for Native Housing Research, composed of DNA, NHPC, and NBRI personnel, was appointed and charged with coordinating social research in different parts of the Union, beginning with the Witwatersrand area. One of the first of these research surveys was conducted in Springs in 1951 by H. J. J. van Beinum, Assistant Research Officer in the Architectural Division of the NBRI. The NBRI, a subdepartment of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), had been established in 1946 to investigate ways to provide cheap mass housing for all South Africans, regardless of race. The results of van Beinum’s report were particularly influential in shaping the department’s response in the early 1950s. Van Beinum’s survey was based on an analysis of 319 of the 4,000 families in Payneville Location. The study was guided by the general proposition that “before a family can afford to pay rent, it must have an income sufficient to provide its members with those necessities of life essential to the maintenance of minimum standards of health and decency.” [68] Based on his results, van Beinum allocated African families into one of three categories: an economic group capable of paying full rents; a subeconomic group in need of some degree of state assistance; and a sub-subeconomic group unable to afford any form of rent. The economic group accounted for 40.4 percent of the sample; the subeconomic group, 12.9 percent; and the sub-subeconomic group, 46.7 percent.[69]

From his position at the NBRI, van Beinum seems to have sensed the ends to which his report could conceivably be put. The report firmly concluded that the state should cater to the three different housing categories by constructing three different types of houses. Van Beinum warned that “economic houses may have to include more than the barest necessities in order to attract inhabitants” and concluded that “it is incorrect to treat any housing scheme as being for one economic class only, when the social survey of the future inhabitants indicates three economic classes.” His last warning was explicit: “If planning is dictated only by social and economic pressures and is unrelated to the fundamentals of the problem [low wages], the results may well be social malpractices, malnutrition, spread of disease and finally, social disintegration of the urban Native community.” [70]

Verwoerd was undeterred by the fact that the largest category was unable to pay any rent at all. Instead, van Beinum’s “scientific findings” were received like stone tablets brought down from the celestial heights of Science. What was important for Verwoerd was that 40 percent of urban African families could absorb a nonsubsidized rent. Moreover, he insisted that van Beinum’s report “confirmed a very important principle” and quoted its reassuring logic: “ By reducing the cost of the house,…[i]n other words, by reducing rent, some families of the sub-economic group will be brought into the economic class.[71] Even if this solution did not affect the bulk of families caught in the grips of the sub-subeconomic condition, which van Beinum thought precluded them from paying any form of rent no matter how formulas were manipulated or houses were built, Verwoerd was optimistic that “a majority of Natives in the urban areas could now be made to pay economic rentals.” [72] Verwoerd seized upon this three-pronged disaggregation of urban African families as vindication of his belief that an economic solution was possible. More than any other socioeconomic survey conducted in the early 1950s, van Beinum’s report was widely circulated among administrators and extensively quoted in their publications.[73] His conclusions about the three groups eventually came to serve as a common reference point for the extraordinary burst of “scientific research” that erupted from 1952 onward.

Enlisting the Services of “Science”

With success hinging on the fundamental principle of reducing the cost of construction and planning locations efficiently, Verwoerd turned to the one body of experts capable of integrating and rationalizing diverse fields of specialist knowledge bearing on the issue of costs and scientific planning. These were the technical scientists employed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), established by Smuts’ government in anticipation of “post-War planning and development.” More specifically, responsibility for the technical aspects of housing were handed over to its housing department, the NBRI. One of the NBRI’s first steps was to appoint a subcommittee that, in 1949, produced nine booklets whose omnibus title—Interim Reports of the Research Committee on Minimum Standards of Accommodation—echoed directly Le Corbusier’s writings on “minimum standards of accommodation.” [74] In these volumes, the social and health requirements of buildings were laid down, as well as definitions of the minimum space and the standard of amenities to be provided in the proposed townships.

The relationship between “the technical sciences” and urban Native administration was consummated on the basis of these reports. The reports were first “re-examined in great detail” by a Joint Committee of the NHPC, the DNA, and the NBRI, then “modified” and later published as “Minimum Standards of Accommodation for the Housing of Non-Europeans in South Africa.” [75] They represented, as Rodseth (then in the DNA) and colleagues in the National Housing Office and the NBRI wrote, “the agreed opinion of these three bodies as the minimum standards required to ensure the health, decency and well-being of the occupants.” [76] In practice, these minimum standards were actually interpreted to be the maximum standards “beyond which no dwellings should be erected.”

Using these minimum standards as guideposts, an explosion of research began in 1950. The results were compiled and published by the NBRI in 1954 as Costs of Urban Bantu Housing, a 285-page report crammed with dozens of graphs, tables, figures, and formulas. In both its conceptual and its practical dimensions, the publication signaled the high point of a genuinely impressive display of the “scientific process” at work in the short period between 1950 and 1954. Thereafter, its work on African housing done, the NBRI maintained its focus on low-cost housing, but this time directed the redeeming hand of Science toward salvaging the dwindling remnants of the “poor white problem.” [77]

The research was divided into five fields, and each field was undertaken by a subcommittee charged with a clearly defined brief drawn up by the parent Committee on the Costs of Building Urban Bantu Houses. The omnibus terms of reference instructed each subcommittee to set about its work “with a view to reducing costs.” Each of the five subcommittees was instructed to deal with one of the following elements: the technical elements in urban housing; the efficiency of labor; the efficiency of materials used; overheads and profits involved in urban African housing; and lastly, “unorthodox methods of constructing urban Bantu houses.” To save time, all research was conducted simultaneously. Because research tests took place by actually constructing houses, the research was spread over a number of different urban areas where the cooperation of local authorities and, more importantly, scarce building materials were available in sufficient and continuous supply. Variations in the conditions existing in different localities posed a potentially significant problem in such a research design, placing a premium on the need to standardize materials, and hence results, as much as possible.

This was the ideological impetus behind the emergence of the infamous and monotonous row-housing projects embarked on in the 1950s. Involving tens of thousands of houses, these programs were constructed almost entirely of units that conformed to one of two blueprints falling under what the NBRI’s engineers referred to as “standard type NE 51.” (“NE” stood for “Non-European,” and “51” for the year of design, which was followed by a slash and the model number.)[78] Of the eight blueprints that appear to have been drawn up, the NE 51/9 and NE 51/6 models were the only freestanding designs, and so suited the NBRI’s strategy of rapid piecemeal work on specific tasks unhindered by the varying work rhythms of separate teams of workers. The NBRI’s mammoth report on Native housing notes that, largely because all research produced such pleasing rewards using the NE 51/9 model—which it described as “a workable basis by which family life and health may be safeguarded”—the trend “has been for local authorities to adopt these plans for their urban Bantu housing schemes rather attempt to produce new plans of their own.” [79]

Some of these studies were wholly devoted to technical information—for example, about the relative virtues of different types of concrete supports, gable ends, ventilation devices, and so on—and are of no interest here. Instead, a short examination of two reports, those dealing with the costs of labor and materials, respectively, will convey the intensity of the embrace between science and Native administration. At the time the research commenced, labor and materials accounted for approximately 38 percent and 62 percent, respectively, of the total cost of a house.[80]

To study labor efficiency, the subcommittee turned to Taylorist “scientific” techniques to examine how “labour productivity could be radically increased by breaking down each labour process into component motions and organizing fragmented work tasks according to rigorous standards of time and motion study.” [81] By subjecting the labor process of housing construction—especially the various components involved in brickwork—to intensive research, it was reported that labor costs could be reduced by no more than 10–15 percent; similar small savings possibilities were reported in the area of materials. Still, new approaches to the use of labor and materials could potentially reduce the costs of African housing by up to 30 percent.

The study on labor costs began with an assessment of the factors that affected the peak performance of labor. It showed that, other than the general tendency for workers to “warm up” to their tasks in the morning and to “wind down” in the late afternoons, sporadic shortages of building supplies and finances were the most important factors impeding the maximum performance of labor. These shortages produced ripple effects that adversely affected the cost of labor and building materials and also pushed up overhead costs; local authorities were therefore tempted to scale back on their orders, which in turn made inroads into the profit margins of construction companies. In addition to these problems, building industries are as a rule vulnerable to climatic variations that leave capital idle for extended periods of time.[82] To obtain “maximum labour efficiency,” the report recommended that the impact of such wasteful factors could be diminished by better planning and by concentrating resources on one building project at a time, to ensure continuity and predictability. Analyzing the efficiency of labor, however, was the more important goal of the report, and comparing the efficiency of African to white builders its principal focus.

The efficiency of white labor was computed retrospectively, using data on one thousand houses built by skilled white workers at Sharpeville between 1949 and 1951. By breaking the working day down into four categories, it was possible to isolate “idle time,” “time lost to late starts,” “non-productive time” and “actual working time.” After determining that brickwork accounted for 70 percent of the skilled labor used in constructing a house, brickwork was itself disaggregated into six components: spreading mortar, laying bricks, bringing into line, cutting bricks, stringing line, measuring, plumbing/leveling, and joining bricks. With the most costly component of the total labor process thus fragmented, it became possible to compare the efficiency of African versus white workers in terms of each component.

In the midst of the subcommittee’s labors, the Native Building Workers Act of 1951 was passed, permitting Africans to be trained as builders and making it compulsory for building in defined African areas to be carried out by African workers. Expediency and principle were combined in this act. While the act preserved the building trade as a protected domain for white workers, cheap semi-skilled and unskilled African workers were made available to resolve the housing shortage in narrowly defined occupations in designated urban areas only. Verwoerd was therefore able to kill two birds with one stone. For although the act pitted Verwoerd against white craft workers in the building industry, who feared that relaxing the “colour bar” in the building trade would breach the protected position of white workers, Africans were permitted to perform “European” jobs, for the most part, only in African residential areas. Thus, while bold enough to take on and subordinate the power of organized white workers to the state’s larger goals, Verwoerd remained sensitive to the interests of the white working class. Moreover, the act also demonstrated the principle that apartheid “trained the Bantu to be of service to their own communities.” By 1960, approximately three thousand African building workers had been trained for skilled jobs in the industry.[83]

As the subcommittee on labor discovered, however, the savings from this qualified dilution of the power of organized white builders were slim. Although white labor accounted for 38 percent of the total cost of a house, only 25 percent of this figure represented skilled labor; the remaining 13 percent represented the work of unskilled Africans who assisted the white craft workers. Hence, savings deriving from the use of African workers could only affect the 25 percent actually accounted for by skilled white labor.[84] Still, in 1951 Verwoerd had accepted Mocke’s recommendation that the department should ensure that at least thirty-five thousand houses per year would be constructed for the next ten years, and this economy of scale dictated that even small savings might eventually translate into considerable savings down the road.

The immensity of the anticipated housing program allowed for only a small margin of error. Concerned about the reliability of its findings, the NBRI attempted to ensure that the African workers randomly selected from the urban labor pool were indeed representative of Africans generally. It therefore requested the National Personnel Research Institute, a research body also located within the CSIR, to administer aptitude tests to African workers in the building trade and to compare these with tests of African workers in the gold-mining industry. Fortunately, results showed that the former “were of a much higher calibre.” But this raised the danger that “the average Native building worker is drawn from the group with higher intelligence and ability…and may not be representative of the urban Bantu population.” [85] Still, when the final work of white and African builders was contrasted, Africans were shown to be only 77 percent as efficient as white workers. The picture brightened again, however, when performance was compared piecemeal in terms of the six components comprising skilled brickwork. Variation was small in four of these components; with regard to “bringing into line” and “the plumbing element,” however, the performance of Africans dropped to 63 and 38 percent, respectively. Because these two elements accounted for 25 percent of the African builders’ work, it was recommended that training procedures should be adjusted accordingly:

…if a method could be evolved whereby the skilled worker concentrated on these difficult tasks and the less skilled, and consequently the lower paid workers, were employed in the other work, considerable reductions in labour costs could be made[;] this would be brought about by a decrease in the number of skilled workers required and by an increase in the output of the lesser skilled workers who would now only be employed on work which they could perform efficiently. Such a method, if it could employ inexperienced workers and train them on the job for the work they would be required to perform, would go far in relieving the shortage of trained labour and would save on labour costs.[86]

But the Native Building Workers Act, which now made such an approach legally possible by allowing Africans to perform skilled work, also posed a problem because it permitted African workers to be trained on a craft basis only. “The provision of Native housing being a mass production problem,” the subcommittee recommended that the act should be amended to enable African builders to be trained on “an operative basis,” with “each worker being taught only one operation so that he quickly becomes proficient in that operation.” [87] An important advantage was that the training of larger numbers of “operators” would accelerate the pool of “accredited Native builders.”

To test these propositions, forty-eight experimental NE 51/9 houses were constructed using three groups of African workers: craftsmen, whose labor accounted for 10 percent of the total brickwork on a house; workers with some on-the-job experience, who were responsible for 20 percent of the brickwork; and randomly selected workers with no experience, who were responsible for 70 percent of the time spent on brickwork.[88] The actual construction of the house was broken down into six main tasks that were performed in close succession “to act as a stimulant to production.” No two groups worked on the same house at the same time, meaning that a large number of houses were under construction at any one time. Results showed that after sixteen days, inexperienced workers increased their performance from 400 to over 900 bricks per day, then dropped to an average of 800. Based on its results, the subcommittee reported that “operators” could displace craft workers with a total savings of 24 percent on the skilled labor bill.

In the end, however, the report concluded that all of these innovations would contribute only marginally, if importantly, to the lowering of costs: labor costs could be reduced from 38 percent to 25 percent if African “operators” were used extensively. In any case, it concluded that whatever the racial and skill composition of the labor force, the key to keeping costs down remained “forward planning” to eliminate “idle time.” Ensuring an uninterrupted supply of funds and building materials was the single most important element in maximizing the efficiency of labor and keeping costs down.[89]

Similar detailed research was undertaken in each of the other four research areas. Literally dozens of statistical tables and graphic representations were produced and analyzed, incorporating issues that varied from the highly technical to the most general, such as topographic and climatic conditions. The subcommittee charged with examining the cost of building materials also strongly asserted the need for timely planning, warning that a solution to the African housing crisis “can only be approached on a national basis with the full assistance and co-operation of all parties concerned including the manufacturers and producers, retailers, local authorities and government agencies.” [90] Suppliers of building materials were quite happy to escalate production, especially if they were given sufficient notice; but they resisted suggestions that materials should be made available at the reduced rates that applied to public works and insisted on the market rates involved in bulk buying.[91] The subcommittee on overheads and profits agreed: “the profit motive in private contracting can serve as a powerful incentive to the improvement of efficiency and consequent lowering of the cost of building urban Bantu houses.” Like the other reports, it argued that, more than any other factors, forward planning and uninterrupted work were the principal means by which housing costs could be reduced.[92]

The subcommittee on building materials reached an important conclusion from its survey of the availability of materials. It showed that even if “conventional building procedures” were used to construct the target figure of 350,000 houses, the country’s production of the more common building materials would have to be increased by up to 20 percent. However, in reviewing South Africa’s capacity for mass production, it also noted,

Many of the industries concerned have considerable elasticity in their production, and output can be expanded appreciably if a demand exists.…It is the considered opinion of the Sub-committee that the whole programme of 35,000 houses per annum will require a general increase of only 10 per cent in the production of all major materials. If the programme is carefully planned, however, and it is known well in advance how and when the materials will be required, the existing production potential of the Unions should be easily able to provide the necessary materials.

Noting that 35,000 stoves per annum would be required for the next ten years, the subcommittee reported without comment that “One large manufacturer [was] prepared to supply the required number.” Much as Le Corbusier did, the subcommittee staked its faith in “Repetition and Mass-production” to produce high-quality standardized goods at low cost, and it provided evidence, which the Department of Native Affairs found convincing, that South Africa possessed the capacity to mass-produce such durable goods at high and sustained volumes.[93]

This intensive research proved fruitful. Experiments showed that in combination, these innovations—the use of African “operators organized on a task system to achieve mass-production,” cheaper building materials, less rigorous standards, and standardized NE 51/9 and NE 51/6 blueprints—could dramatically lower building costs if building programs were not interrupted by shortages of capital and building materials. The high building costs of the 1940s had yielded what Verwoerd described as “extravagant” houses that cost between £500 and £800. By 1953, building costs had been halved, enabling the department to construct “austere houses” that cost as little as £240.[94] Mathewson informed administrators in 1955 that “a three-roomed house plus a kitchen and a bathroom with a shower [i.e., the NE 51/9 house] is being constructed of brick by my department [NAD, Benoni] at a cost of £209, and by a private contractor using ‘no-fines’ concrete construction at £215.” [95] Summing up, Mocke observed that reducing the cost of any one element of the building process “had not been the most critical factor”; instead, the reduction was made possible by the department’s guarantee that work would be undertaken on a large scale with a minimum of disruption caused by shortages of funds and building materials.[96]

The Site-and-Service Scheme and “Split Rents”

With the complex issue of housing costs resolved to its satisfaction, the final step in placing African housing on an economic basis was to define what constituted an economic rental. The matter was far from straightforward. A relatively minor problem was that the department and local authorities differed on how to define the income limits of the economic, subeconomic, and sub-subeconomic groups. Spearheaded by the Johannesburg City Council, the larger local authorities took a sympathetic view and attempted to lower the cutoff points, enabling larger numbers of African families to be classified as subeconomic and sub-subeconomic and therefore eligible for state subsidization. Verwoerd predictably dismissed their recommendation on the grounds that it “would undermine all the work that has been done” in lowering housing costs. Circular 1516 of 1954, issued by Eiselen, eventually specified the monthly income limits as follows: families earning £15 or more fell into the economic group; those earning between £12 and £15 were classified as subeconomic, and sub-subeconomic families earned less than £12. The circular came into immediate effect, so that Africans who were residing in areas built with subeconomic funds in the 1940s and who had been classified as subeconomic in terms a of a more generous formula were obliged to begin paying higher rentals; and if their income had risen above £15, not only were such tenants now liable to pay economic rental fees, but they also had to vacate the subeconomic house and apply for an economic unit once nearby “planned locations” were completed. Local authorities were also instructed to assume that all tenants living in subeconomic houses fell into the economic category, placing the onus on the tenant to prove within three months that their income entitled them to a subeconomic rental. Only “destitute, aged and infirm Natives who cannot work” were exempted from these provisions.[97]

But these changes could not address a central problem: even if the department did succeed in building its target of 35,000 houses per year, it would still take at least ten years to clear up the Union’s existing population of squatters and subtenant families.[98] An immediate solution was therefore needed to impose control over the country’s sprawling African residential areas. As the NHPC candidly observed in 1952, the need to attack the problem of overcrowding and shantytowns derived its urgency from the mounting pace of opposition in the urban areas. It argued that the solution lay in “home-ownership schemes” that “are easier to administer and less costly than letting.” Moreover, “from the national point of view, home ownership is a stabilizing influence and one of the main bastions against Communism and other social ills.” [99] Thus, even as “scientific solutions” to the housing issue were under way, in 1952 Verwoerd announced that “in order to gain immediate control over the overpopulated Native areas such as Sophiatown and Alexandria and also the numerous squatter camps around the Witwatersrand and Pretoria,” a “site-and-service scheme” would be implemented immediately.[100] The scheme also served as a filtering device for sorting out the numbers eligible for housing. As Carr noted, “no one really knew how many African families were living in the squatter camps to be cleared, and by allocating a site to a family, it could be established exactly how many families had to be provided with permanent housing when a particular site and service area was fully occupied.” [101]

Departmental officials presented the site-and-service scheme as Verwoerd’s greatest contribution to urban administration.[102] However, the rudiments of the system had actually been developed in the 1940s in Bloemfontein, “from where,” Eiselen (the trained anthropologist) explained to industrialists in 1950, “it has recently come to the Reef in the neo-primitive form of the shack settlements of Moroko and elsewhere.” [103] The basic idea of the site-and-service scheme was to permit “certain approved Natives” legally resident in the urban areas to erect shacks (“unconventional housing structures”) according to their own means. With the DNA’s approval, local authorities established and surveyed locations into residential lots. Using tools either rented or bought at discount from local authorities, Africans who qualified in terms of the amendment to Section 10 (1) were permitted to erect any form of shelter to the rear of a small (40 x 70 feet) plot, leaving the rest of the plot clear for the construction of “proper houses.” On weekends and in their spare time, participants in the site-and-service scheme would first construct one room and gradually add on rooms as personal resources permitted; the finished project frequently conformed to the NE 51/9 or NE 51/6 model. Technical information was supplied by the department in the form of a simplified and illustrated booklet, “suitable for Native use,” in which the various steps for building and enlarging houses according to the accepted minimum standards were detailed.[104] Essential services—a water reticulation system, garbage and sewer removals, and unpaved roads—would be provided by the local authority concerned. Expenditures on such services were high, and savings in this area were imperative if mass housing was to be made available at affordable costs. At Verwoerd’s suggestion, therefore, costs were reduced by locating water outlets and toilet facilities at a rear corner of one stand, to supply these services also to the three other contiguous plots, “in keeping with the communal spirit of tribalism.”

The site-and-service scheme met with heated opposition in parliament. UP members contended that, far from resolving the “shack crisis,” the department was “actually establishing more Moroko’s [i.e., squalid locations] on grander scale.” [105] Verwoerd’s critics were to be disappointed, however. In 1954, in the Johannesburg area alone, 35,000 site-and-service plots were demarcated. Owner-constructed shacks sprang up almost immediately. Some 1,421 houses were built in 1954; 3,021 in 1955; 14,000 in 1956; and 11,074 between June 1957 and June 1958.[106] Between 1954 and 1965, a total of 45,174 houses were built. Ellen Hellman, staunch pillar of the liberal establishment and no admirer of apartheid in any guise, observed in 1967, “Many of us at the time viewed the Scheme with misgivings, fearing the emergence of new slums with the temporary shacks becoming permanent. It is a pleasure to record that these fears proved to be unfounded.…Today 68 shacks remain.” [107]

It was noted above that “rent” in the segregation era was actually a composite sum that included charges for essential services such as sanitation, electricity, water, and road maintenance. These charges remained high. M. Nel (Senior Urban Areas Inspector) observed that “Houses for Natives did not cost very much but the cost of services in proportion to the cost of the house was ridiculous.” [108] This proportion was especially unbalanced after the cost of a house had been reduced to £240. To illuminate its success in having lowered the “pure rent” component, in the 1950s the department moved to “split” the composite monthly rent into two categories: “rent” and “other service charges.” Even if the “other service charges” remained constant, the monthly rental would still be lowered—and the department wanted it known that the decline in rents originated from its success in reducing the costs of construction.[109] But L. Venables (Manager, NEAD, Johannesburg) raised strenuous objections to the “splitting” of rent. Venables noted that “rents” and “services” would be recorded separately on the resident’s monthly account, so that any subsequent attempt to raise “service” charges to cover the costs of new construction or improved services in the location would be “seized upon immediately by Native politicians in Johannesburg as a lever to attack the authorities.” The inevitable consequence, according to Venables, would be a cessation of improvements in the location and hence “the retarding of the standard of living from a social point of view.” Venables also predicted “difficulties of collection” on the grounds that residents would “tender the basic rental and refuse to pay the services charge.” Splitting rents also posed another problem: because service charges would be averaged out across a location, the “sub-economic man would be required to pay the same for services as his better-off neighbours.” [110] The department’s primary interest, however, was in lowering rents so as to reduce the costs of subsidization. It therefore pressed ahead, leaving it to local authorities to contend with the legitimation problems that Venables foresaw.

The department’s commitment to establishing African residential areas on a self-financing basis also raised the question of how the initial costs of providing public utilities and other infrastructure would be paid for. Verwoerd and Eiselen accepted the argument that since Africans were being segregated “at the insistence of the European,” it would be “morally questionable” to hold Africans responsible for the enormous costs involved in supplying essential services to areas that were far removed from the established electrical, water, and transport facilities that serviced the “white” towns.[111] Again, the technical sciences proved invaluable. It was found, for example, that the use of plastic material reduced the cost of electrical supply by up to 15 percent; straight roads greatly reduced the high costs of underground water reticulation systems; lower grading standards enabled waterborne drainage systems to work satisfactorily; and laying sewers still along the “mid-block boundary” turned out to be “effective and economically advantageous.” [112] These sorts of technical innovations played an important role in minimizing state expenditures on townships. As technical issues, they were addressed silently and without controversy within a small circle of scientific experts, town planners, and administrators.

The Native Beer Account provided another source of funds for defraying the cost of providing essential services. Prior to 1952, funds from the Native Beer Account could be used only for “social welfare” purposes. This restriction was lifted in 1952 when Verwoerd authorized local authorities to divert up to two-thirds of beer profits “for virtually any purpose in Native townships.” Municipal managers welcomed the change, “as a considerable amount can thus be expended on such very essential but non-productive projects as the construction of subsidiary roads, storm water drainage and the provision of sewerage.…” [113]

The department’s other and more important strategy was to target employers. Whereas the UP government had equivocated over the role of employers in resolving the housing situation of an urban labor force patently unable to improve its own living standards, upon taking office E. G. Jansen immediately announced that employers, “who are really responsible for the natives being in the urban areas,” should foot part of the bill.[114] Employers, predictably, disagreed, dredging up the Fagan Commission’s contention that housing was a “national problem” and hence “a matter for the State.” [115] In response to Jansen’s declaration of intent, the Federated Chamber of Industries (FCI) defended its refusal to subsidize African housing:

The sole function of industry is to create wealth. The manufacturer’s first duty to society…is production for profit.…It seems necessary to restate these simple economic facts, for it is fashionable nowadays to think of the modern business corporation as a social rather than an economic institution.…Community social services, no matter how they may influence the well-being of those who work in industry, are a responsibility of that community as a whole and should not enter into factory production costs.

And to preempt any retort that economic rents required economic wages, it added, “There can of course be no justification for an arbitrary elevation of Native wages in any sphere; reward for equivalent output can be the only satisfactory objective.…” [116]

The Native Services Levy Act of 1952 brought the matter to a head. In terms of this act, which took effect on 1 January 1953 in all urban areas with a population of more than twenty thousand Africans, employers of African workers were required to pay a weekly levy of 2s.6d. to the local authority “in respect of every six days worked by an adult male Native in his employ.” The only categories exempted were employers of domestic servants and employers who housed their workers for free in accommodations approved by the department. Money deriving from the levy were paid into the Native Services Levy Fund, forming a new subsection of the local authority’s Native Revenue Account. The 1952 act expressly stipulated that the fund could be used exclusively for the provision of water, sanitation, lighting, and road services to and within African residential areas. In the five largest areas, the act permitted local authorities to divert 6d. from each weekly contribution of 2s.6d. to the Secretary of Transport, who was authorized to establish a Transport Fund “for the subsidization of Native transport services.”

Verwoerd’s solution to the housing problem was attractive to industrialists because it dovetailed neatly with the low wage system without holding manufacturing industry mainly responsible for subsidizing rents, as the UP government had attempted, and because the anticipated spurt in housing construction was particularly promising for the building industry. Moreover, the National Federation of Building Trade Employers profited directly from the Native Building Workers Act of 1951 and the subsequent amendments that gradually widened the profile of lower-paid skilled and semi-skilled African workers in the industry.[117] Under Verwoerd, the new DNA had at last discovered the means toward a goal that the FCI had always supported: narrowing the margin of the subeconomic loss on Native housing down to the irreducible minimum. Curiously, despite its earlier rebuff of similar plans by Jansen to establish a levy fund, by the end of 1951—before the Services Levy Act was passed—the Manufacturer began publishing the industry’s support for Verwoerd’s aggressive housing policy. The answer to this sudden turnabout may have something to do with a meeting between representatives of industry and Verwoerd sometime in 1951. In August of 1951, the journal announced that the minister had appointed an ad hoc committee to allay industrialists’ fears that the proposed development of the reserves would confront urban industry with “a form of Japanese competition”;[118] this announcement suggests that Verwoerd had decided against industrial development in the reserves well before the Tomlinson Commission submitted its report on the matter in 1954. Moreover, the Native Building Workers Act was particularly pleasing to the industry: notwithstanding government protestations to the contrary, the act strengthened the prospects of permanent urbanization and foretold “a greater buying power which will enable [Africans]…to become a market for the products of European industry.” [119] Manufacturing industry therefore supported Verwoerd’s innovations in the provision of housing.

These measures finally terminated the thirty-year debate over the role of urban capital in the provision of accommodations for the urban work force. The size of the levy was no doubt an important ingredient of this success: sufficiently small to entice employers into abandoning the argument that they were the target of selective taxation, the levy could also generate sizable revenues capable of addressing the housing and transport issues. Between 1952 and 1958, £13,167,025 was collected under the terms of the Services Levy Act in forty-two areas. Three hundred and four projects were provided from this sum at a total cost of £11,331,011, while transport services were subsidized by £1,464,819 from the Transport Fund. In Daveyton, Mathewson anticipated collecting no less than £850,000 between 1955 and 1959, facilitating the construction of a “double railway line…to the outskirts of Daveyton and a spur provided to a point within the township so situated that any resident will be within walking distance of the township.” [120] Without Transport Funds, the department concluded in 1959, “it would not have been possible to place urban administration countrywide on a proper and sound footing.” [121]

“Integrated Regional Planning”

Chapter 3 observed that in the 1940s managers of municipal Native Affairs Departments, unable to cope with local problems arising out of rapid African urbanization, had acquired a keen interest in “regional planning.” This gathering interest served as a precursor to the department’s approach to the construction of locations from 1955 onward. At a meeting of Reef municipal officers in 1941, representatives of smaller towns—already anxious about the growing number of Africans within their boundaries—set aside their fear of domination by the Johannesburg City Council and acquiesced to the recommendation of Graham Ballenden, Manager of Johannesburg’s NEAD, that Reef authorities should coalesce behind a “co-operative effort on the lines of the Rand Water Board.” [122] The tone behind the new interest in regional planning may be gauged by a suggestion made by the representative for Boksburg that the proposed body (AANEA) “might ask the Government to give consideration to the establishment of Native areas within 40–50 miles from the Witwatersrand.” [123] As squatter camps erupted close to the city center and white residential areas, administrators increasingly conceived of urban space as a racial polarity, with whites and Africans congregating at opposite ends of the spatial spectrum. In the dense and sprawling Witwatersrand conurbation, therefore, a racial perspective saturated the gathering interest in regional planning, a principle that was also central to Le Corbusier’s terse view on the matter (and therefore approvingly cited by officials of the NBRI): “The city must be studied within the whole of its region of influences. A regional plan will replace the simple municipal plan. The limit of the agglomeration will be expressed in terms of the radius of its economic action.” [124]

A major impetus to the interest in regional planning in the Reef area was the recognition that industrial and urban expansion in metropolitan areas made it difficult for one local authority to establish new locations or extend existing ones without impinging on the plans of contiguous municipalities. Another closely related issue concerned a long-standing dispute between contiguous municipalities over responsibility for Africans who worked in one district but lived in another.[125] Against this background, “integrated regional planning” in the 1940s came to mean the strategic siting of locations to serve more than one municipal area. This approach to the racialization of urban space meant that the patchwork of locations across the Reef would be replaced by a smaller number of large locations.

The idea was strongly promoted by the Johannesburg NEAD in the early 1940s and gradually gained favor with nearby local authorities on the Reef. In support of this approach, the mayor of Roodepoort-Maraisburg “asked the Conference if it would not pay local authorities far better to join in the scheme that the Johannesburg Municipality had initiated of a native freehold township away from the Reef but accessible by railway on two lines, than to have natives living in their areas.” [126] Even influential liberals found the suggestion attractive. Rheinallt Jones, a stalwart of the SAIRR but present at the conference in his capacity as one of the Native representatives elected to the Senate, argued that a regional approach redounded to the benefit of Africans: “It would be of very great advantage to Natives if they could feel that the whole of the Reef could be considered as one [administrative] area, and for a married Native, for instance, to know that in order to get a job and keep his family going it would not be necessary for him to vacate his house.” [127]

Verwoerd immediately supported the regional approach formulated by segregationist administrators. In 1952, he argued that,

as a first principle, it must be laid down that in every town and particularly in every industrial area, a potentially comprehensive location site, virtually a Native group area for their occupation must be found. It will have to be large enough to house the whole of the Native working population, so that periurban squatting, the overcrowding of Native residential areas and unlawful lodging in backyards may be stopped.[128]

The entire process of identifying suitable residential areas, clearing “black spots” and overcrowded areas in the urban areas, planning the layout of the township, and providing the essential services that would serve the “planned location” was referred to as “integrated regional planning.” Integrated regional planning had two interrelated goals. The first and most immediate was “to house as many people in as short a time as possible without undermining the government’s policy of separate development.” [129] The second goal echoed the preference of administrators in the 1940s for large, strategically sited locations but now also incorporated the entirely novel policy of “ethnic zoning” within locations. It envisaged the establishment of “one or two large Bantu residential areas located at appropriate distances from the European urban area and subdivided into a number of locations which, as far as possible, should be internally zoned according to the different ethnic groups within the Bantu population.” [130] The principal goal of integrated planning, therefore, was to establish strategically sited giant locations designed to service the labor needs of the entire metropolitan area, instead of establishing a number of smaller locations linked to different parts of the metropolis: “It is of great importance that locations should be established in the right places, properly planned on a regional basis, and wherever possible there should not be more than one in any neighbourhood.” [131] All other considerations—whether the land was flat, well-drained, undulating, or composed of expansive soil; proximity to electrical and water mains; the possibility of laying railway tracks or widening existing roads to absorb increased bus traffic; and so on—were subordinated to this cardinal principle of the integrated approach.[132]

Squatter movements in the 1940s had galvanized administrators’ discussions about the “proper siting” of locations.[133] The debate frequently hinged around the proximity of locations to white residential areas. Closely tied to this debate, however, was the issue of equipping locations with adequate commercial outlets. There were two contending views. One was associated with the Fagan Commission’s liberal proposition that Africans formed “a permanent part” of the Union’s urban areas. Advocates of this view, such as A. J. Cutten, proposed to establish “sub-suburbs within walking distance of the European townships which [Africans] are to serve…capable of integration therein only in respect of the provision of services.” In this view, segregated African residential areas should be located fairly close to the white urban area principally to reduce the heavy costs of extending essential services to these areas. A further reason for locating African residential areas close to the city was that it reduced the time and money spent on transport.[134] But the short distance also meant that Africans would shop in the white central areas, so that profits would not be diverted to African traders in locations.

The other view appears to have been promoted by the department itself immediately after 1948. This view held that held that Africans should be insulated in distant “satellite townships” from which inhabitants would emerge only to work in the white towns. In this conception, locations would contain within their spatial boundaries all necessary recreational, social, and economic outlets to minimize the need for Africans to enter the white areas. A crucial possibility, therefore, was that Africans would be permitted some measure of property rights in locations that would lie within “the European areas.” Surprisingly, Eiselen outlined this argument in a speech in 1952. He described “the right to invest one’s earnings in fixed or permanent property” as a “fundamental right” and “the exercise of this right [as] basic to the development of stable, respectable, responsible communities.” Expanding on E. G. Jansen’s decision to permit Africans to own private property in the locations, Eiselen continued, “There is the question whether the locations should not be planned as a series of self-contained community units to encourage easier control. I would regard that as a step in the right direction.” [135]

Verwoerd determined otherwise. His solution borrowed selectively from both positions. Rejecting the liberal support for spatial proximity of white and black residential areas, he instructed the Urban Areas Branch to ensure that “Native locations are located at appropriate distances from the White areas.” [136] But he also rejected the propositions that Africans should be entitled to own immovable property in perpetuity and that locations should be commercially self-sufficient, on the grounds that such policies would undermine commerce in the white urban areas. Upon learning from the Afrikaanse Handelsinstituut (AHI) that “organized Afrikaner commerce” was opposed to the prospect of the competition posed by African petty trading in the townships, Verwoerd sympathetically invited the body to consult with him further on the matter.[137] But he was equally insistent that the policy of “separate development” precluded whites from trading within “Native areas,” just as the policy prevented Africans from trading within the white areas. Verwoerd’s solution stood midway between the positions of the liberals and of the “total segregationists.” African traders were allowed to pursue small-scale retail operations in buildings that they would rent from local authorities; state control over trading rights would ensure that these did not develop into “large commercial enterprises that would conflict with European-owned businesses.” Once they had accumulated adequate trading skills and small amounts of capital in the urban areas, African traders would be “returned to the Native reserves where [they] will enjoy a monopoly in commerce” as soon as “the formation of towns through closer settlement in the [reserves]” was under way.[138] This solution enabled him to situate “planned Native residential areas” far away from the European areas “and still give adequate protection to White businesses in White areas.” [139]

The Federated Chamber of Industries responded with alarm to a new direction in the “rational planning” of locations that was part of the Native Labour and Accommodation Bill introduced in Parliament in 1953. The bill reinforced the MNA’s powers to veto the siting of locations on a number of grounds and, in a new provision, enabled him to veto the establishment of industrial enterprises “unless the minister first certifies that sufficient accommodation for the Natives to be employed thereon will be available.” Once fixed, the number of workers could not be increased without the minister’s approval. The major intention of the Bill was to compel industry to “decentralize”—to locate industry as close to the reserve borders as possible, so that a commuter labor system could be established as an alternative to the migrant labor system. This provision alarmed industrialists, for now “regional planning meant planning the siting of industry, not locations.” Outraged, the Board of Trade and Industries (BTI) attacked the new approach as an attack on “the free market” and an inversion of the principle that “industrial development…ultimately justifies, demands and pays for housing, and not the reverse.” [140] The DNA retreated from the provision, but did not abandon the concept.[141]

Regional Planning in Action: Clearing Johannesburg’s Western Areas

The clearance of Johannesburg’s “black spots” and shantytowns from 1955 onward condensed all the major elements of “integrated regional urban planning,” alerting the country to the zeal with which the department sought to reshape society.[142] “Regional planning in action,” as Verwoerd referred to developments in the Johannesburg area, illuminated two themes that would become important components of state formation in the apartheid era: the de facto subordination of local authorities to the department and the department’s manipulation of material lures to fragment black unity.

Somewhat to its own surprise, the Johannesburg City Council became embroiled in a series of increasingly acrimonious disputes with the DNA over the direction of African housing policy. The culmination of these skirmishes in the 1950s was the Johannesburg City Council’s formal subordination to an imperious administrative body known as the Native Resettlement Board (NRB), called into existence in 1954 for the express purpose of securing Johannesburg’s capitulation to the department’s urban policies. South Africa’s legal system, it should be noted here, evolved out of the English tradition, in which the administration is subject to the jurisdiction of ordinary courts of law. In contrast, courts play a minor role in the French system, leaving the field almost entirely in the hands of purely administrative officials. Like the growth in the powers of administrative officials in the labor bureau system, the appropriation of far-ranging powers by the NRB, a purely administrative body, illustrates the degree to which Native administration in the apartheid years came to resemble the French approach to le droit administratif—without, of course, the republican culture that checks the bureaucratic appetite of the French state.[143]

The Johannesburg City Council had long sought to relocate Africans living in Sophiatown, Martindale, and the Western Native Township.[144] In announcing similar intentions, Verwoerd made it clear that the impending removal of the Western Areas would be part and parcel of a larger attack on loose patterns of residential segregation: together with the fifty-seven thousand souls in the Western Areas, all other “black spots” in the city, unauthorized servants’ quarters in the backyards of white homes, and “locations in the sky” (Africans accommodated on the top stories of buildings) were to be emptied. Africans who qualified in terms of Section 10 would be relocated to newly built “planned locations”; “illegals” would be either dispatched to the reserves or “directed” by labor bureaus to the white farming areas.[145]

Invited to participate in the Western Areas Removal Scheme (WARS), in 1953 the Johannesburg City Council established an ad hoc committee to serve as liaison with the department. According to Carr (who, as manager of the NEAD, played a prominent role in the process), “All went well until the actual details came under discussion.” Cooperative relations eventually broke down over “three basic points of principle” on which the ad hoc committee insisted: the removals should take place on a voluntary basis; the worst off should be removed first; and the small handful of Africans who enjoyed freehold title to their stands should be given the same right in Meadowlands, the area to which Africans were to be removed.[146] With the chair of the NRB, W. H. L. Heckroodt (an ex-manager of the South African Railways and Harbours), and Verwoerd immovable on each score, an impasse was reached.

In demanding the right either to determine how the removal scheme would be effected or to be relieved of all responsibility for the project, the Johannesburg City Council presented itself as the champion of two principles. It contended, first, that it was defending the historic and constitutional autonomy of the local state from the central state—a theme familiar to municipal officials. In contrast, the council’s second claim, that it was aggressively defending the interests of Africans against a predatory central state, was entirely novel. Neatly reversing the historical record, the council recast its defense of municipal autonomy as a defense of urban Africans.[147] Verwoerd, however, derisively dismissed the council’s attempt to interpose itself between his department and Africans as “an attempt to occupy the moral high ground.” [148] Citing copiously from the parliamentary record, Verwoerd and Mentz argued in parliament that the council had not raised any of the three issues when it had sought to remove Africans from the Western Areas in the 1940s. Repeatedly emphasizing that the council had not intended to “substitute ownership with ownership” (removing Africans’ existing ownership rights in the European areas only to restore them in the locations), Verwoerd moved to end his department’s well-publicized conflict with the recalcitrant city council.[149]

Verwoerd began his offensive with the Native Resettlement Bill in 1954. Under the terms of the bill, the government was empowered to displace uncooperative local authorities with a Native Resettlement Board, which could take over virtually all functions with regard to urban African administration. Rattled by this drastic prospect, the Johannesburg City Council reluctantly agreed to cooperate with the removal scheme on the grounds that its participation in the scheme might alleviate some of the harshness involved in the removals. For the first time since the 1937 Amendment Act made it possible, the central government invoked the Urban Areas Act to displace a local authority from discharging its statutory duties in African administration.

Under the terms of the Native Resettlement Act of 1954, a statutory Native Resettlement Board was constituted “to provide for the removal of Natives from any area in the magisterial district of Johannesburg or any adjoining magisterial district and their resettlement elsewhere.…” The board was roundly attacked in parliament for the wide powers of compulsion it exercised over the Johannesburg City Council: it could expropriate municipal property, extract services from affected local authorities, “sell, let or hypothecate” council land, authorize the construction or destruction of buildings, enter into contracts to facilitate removals, and plan the geographical siting of locations. Moreover, it could charge any or all of the costs involved to the local authority. A series of proclamations between 1954 and 1958 constituted the Native Resettlement Board as a local authority and empowered it to exercise influx controls, establish local labor bureaus, control black political associations, administer locations, and engage in virtually any activity generally associated with local authorities; if these functions were undertaken with due care to procedure, the courts were barred from intervening in the workings of the board.[150]

No precedent in the history of local and central state relations existed to soften the Johannesburg City Council’s public and ignominious defeat. Verwoerd drove the point home. Having already transferred wide swaths of the council’s powers to the Native Resettlement Board, he instructed F. E. Mentz, Chairman of the Bantu Affairs Commission, to “represent me personally on the Board” and to be on the lookout for “non-cooperation” from the Johannesburg City Council.[151] Incensed by the council’s determination to publicize its disagreements with Verwoerd in “English newspapers,” in 1957 Verwoerd mounted an offensive against the council “to ensure that cooperation is less influenced by factors of political expediency.” [152] Without consulting or even informing the council, he appointed the Witwatersrand Native Areas Planning Committee, chaired again by the ubiquitous Mentz, to plan for the eventual relocation of Sophiatown, Martindale, Newclare, and Pageview inhabitants.

Guided by the general concern that “European areas should not be in the position of a nut between the nutcrackers of two native areas,” the Mentz Committee divided the Witwatersrand into five regions (Far West Rand, West Rand, Johannesburg Area, East Rand, and the Vereeniging Area) and proceeded to lay out areas for African locations. For the Johannesburg Area, the committee proposed that “the native residential areas will be concentrated to the south-west of the city where the Council already owns 6,181 acres of land estimated to be sufficient for a possible total population of approximately 288,930 Natives and to the west of which the Committee considers is adequate vacant land to serve as a hinterland for future expansion.” These recommendations were accepted by Verwoerd later that year.[153] Thus began the huge residential conurbation to the southwest of Johannesburg’s city center that would become known as Soweto (an acronym culled from “South Western Townships”).[154]

Housing and Organized African Opposition

The department’s housing solution exposed a significant weakness in the ANC’s organizational strategies in the 1950s. The passage of the Native Resettlement Act in June 1954 served notice, both to the Johannesburg City Council and to the inhabitants of the Western Areas, that Verwoerd attached a high priority to removing blacks immediately from Johannesburg’s city center. Around that time, the ANC’s “Resist Apartheid Campaign” had lost steam. Galvanized by the Resettlement Act, the ANC mounted a nationwide campaign against the planned removals, warning blacks across the country that they would be targeted next if the state succeeded in destroying the black communities in the Western Areas: the Western Areas, exhorted ANC president Albert Luthuli, should be made the “Waterloo of Apartheid.” [155] The removals began in January 1955, setting off a frenzy of reaction from ANC organizers in Johannesburg, under the banners “WE SHALL NOT MOVE!” and “No Collaboration.” According to Dr. Y. M. Dadoo, president of the South African Indian Congress (SAIC), these slogans were intended to galvanize “passive resistance” in the affected areas. Other than proclaiming these inflexible tactics, however, the ANC failed to give practical direction to blacks targeted for removal. For its part, the state opened its campaign with a ban on public gatherings in and around Johannesburg, and in a surprise move that caught the ANC off-guard, suddenly advanced the date on which removals were to begin by two days.[156]

Before dawn on 9 February 1955, eighty-six army vehicles flanked by at least 1500 soldiers armed with rifles and stun guns removed 150 families from Sophiatown to Meadowlands. By October, 1800 families (approximately 8000 individuals) were ensconced in 2100 houses in Meadowlands; by December 1957, the number had increased to more than 7000 families (33,000 individuals). By the end of 1959, only 82 families remained in Sophiatown. In total, some 60,000 Africans were removed from the Western Areas and displaced into today’s Soweto.[157] Notwithstanding extensive coverage in the anti-apartheid press and considerable mobilization by ANC activists in the affected areas, the clearance schemes met with very little organized resistance. Considerable evidence reveals the extent to which inhabitants of Sophiatown were intimidated, coerced, and sometimes brutalized into cooperating with officials from the department and police.[158]

At the same time, a variety of sources were surprised to detect an undeniable alacrity among many Africans forcibly removed to Meadowlands. Publicly embarrassed by photographs of Africans herded on trucks who were smiling and brandishing brooms, garbage cans, and dustpans given to them by the department “ to wish them well on their new beginnings,” [159] the ANC scrambled to give an account of itself. In assessing the broad importance of the clearance scheme for state formation in the 1950s, two important strategies emerge: the scheme’s ability to split Africans along class lines and its divisive impact on relations between Africans and coloureds.

J. B. Marks, already a veteran ANC organizer in the 1950s who was active in opposition to the destruction of Sophiatown, argued that the fundamental reason for the failure of the ANC’s campaign lay in the differential impact that the removal program had on two “classes” within the African population: an elite comprised of homeowners and landlords, on the one hand, and the sea of tenants, subtenants, and squatters on the other.

The ANC’s clarion call “We shall not move!” addressed the immediate concerns of the former, who had much to lose from the destruction of their property rights in the Western Areas, but ignored the much larger category of propertyless subtenants and squatters.[160] For the majority of tenants and subtenants, Verwoerd’s clearance scheme was not without a silver lining, for it meant an end to the immediate squalor and high rents that prevailed in the slum areas. For this class, the site-and-service scheme placed even home ownership within their grasp. Because it implied a potentially significant increase in the material fortunes of tenants and subtenants, the site-and-service scheme came as a windfall to many and was therefore able to subvert communal opposition to removal.

While leaders such as Dr. Dadoo continued to proclaim that “the forced removals were no victory for Verwoerd,” [161] Marks conceded that at least some of Verwoerd’s scheme had in fact addressed the “deep-seated need of many of the worse-off slum dwellers for a decent home.” Marks concluded, and the National Executive Committee of the ANC concurred later that year, that the ANC had failed to anticipate the divergent responses of different strata within the urban community to the practical implications of apartheid.[162] But, snatching chestnuts from the fire, Marks also boasted that popular opposition had significantly modified the site-and-service scheme and had extracted “major concessions” from the department. Instead of providing only site-and-service locations, “Meadowlands now has brick houses, is one of the few African townships to have water-borne sewerage and individual water-taps to the houses, and boasts a fine new school.” [163]

By the mid-1950s, the department’s authoritarian bent was a focal concern of African politics. At the same time, the three developments briefly discussed above suggest that the department had more than just brute force in its armory. The department’s ability to disrupt popular unity with material ploys was little more than a crude attempt to manufacture division. Yet, as Marks argued, the crudity of the exercise should not detract from the important strategic victory it handed the state. Verwoerd, then also heavily involved in using “tribal disputes” to foment chaos within the reserves (see chapter 8), knew only too well that internal discord redounded to the state’s advantage. Setting the poorest stratum of urban Africans against the small middle class and reserving an “elite” residential area for the most affluent families were complementary dimensions of the same intention: deploying mechanisms other than simple force to structure the politics and practical compliance of Africans.

Marks’ boast also ignored the ambiguous consequence of extracting small material victories from the apartheid state. In the same breath as they underscore the state’s manifest inability to win the consent of Africans, material victories in obtaining improved housing also illustrate the extent to which the state successfully transformed outright rejections of apartheid into limited victories that were not confined to the material realm but also had a potentially vitiating impact on later resistance.

Moreover, the divisive impact of the removal scheme was not limited to Africans. One of its most pernicious goals was to use the removal of Africans from Newclare as a pretext to inflame relations between Africans and coloureds in the Johannesburg area. Unlike Sophiatown, which was ensconced in the middle of a “European area,” the NP government considered Newclare a “coloureds only” area, and the department accordingly ensured that evicted Africans could be replaced only by coloureds.[164] Newclare had housed a stable, if impoverished, community of coloureds, Indians, and Africans for a lengthy period prior to the 1950s. In a context in which the housing shortage for coloureds was almost as dire as that for Africans, the removals effectively undid a good deal of the multicultural camaraderie that had characterized Newclare. As Africans were evicted, coloured families moved in immediately. While African neighbors continued to inhabit crumbling row-houses, the new residents set about gentrifying dilapidated structures and knocking down lean-to rooms in their backyards—sometimes without serving adequate notice to African families inside. By 1959, reports indicated that many coloureds refused to continue accommodating Africans on their premises, describing them as “dirty,” “not decent,” and so on. Coloureds were known to report Africans to the Native Resettlement Board and police, and most reported that they “did not want to live next to Africans.” [165]

The invention and mass replication of the planned location embody a number of themes central to the consolidation of apartheid in the 1950s. First, the process illustrates the importance of dynamism within the state. This is not to deny that the planned location was an extraordinarily oppressive institution or that it fueled contradictions in apartheid policy. The sheer provision of urban African housing, after all, conflicted with the original apartheid vision of a South Africa without Africans. Moreover, housing and labor controls were mismatched in crucial respects: so crucial was housing to Africans that many preferred to remain in areas of high unemployment rather than take up employment in municipal areas where jobs were available. Housing policy therefore contributed to the very irrationality in the labor market that the revamped administrative structure was intended to eliminate.[166] The planned location also produced unintended consequences. One long-term consequence, for example, was that the sheer density of the urban location promoted African nationalism and facilitated urban mobilization against the state.[167]

The point that this chapter has emphasized, however, is that the location also provided an occasion for state cadres to coalesce energetically around an issue with broad appeal to all administrators, including liberals who otherwise rejected the authoritarian and racist principles of the DNA. The dynamism of urban administrators in the first half of the 1950s, furthermore, should be understood in the context of the modernist perspective in which administrators viewed the provision of cheap mass housing. This perspective imbued administrators with a sense of administrative competency and ethical rectitude despite the oppressive institutions they established.

Second, space has important implications for our understanding of state repression in the apartheid years. The systematic racialization of space did not obviate the need for high levels of repression. Instead, the principal consequence of this policy was that the racialization of space yielded a significant overlap between the pursuit of everyday concerns within African civil society and the active reproduction of apartheid. It was thus possible in this context for Africans to object to a state form in principle while routinely cooperating with its practical regimens. In the following decades, the forcible separation of coloureds, Indians, and Africans and their spatial parceling became a routinized feature of all urban areas. The point, then, is not that urban administration could dispense with high levels of repression, but that “repression” was built into the organization of civil society itself in ways that institutionalized “compliance without consent.” [168]

Third, the planned location unambiguously placed the state in the position of generalized landlord over all Africans in the urban areas. The elimination of property rights for Africans undermined the already tenuous distinction between public and private spheres in Native administration. Private property has played a crucial role in the history of capitalist states by anchoring a class of burghers within the economy and government of evolving urban centers. This role was merely embryonic in African affairs in the segregation years. Nevertheless, education and capital had once enabled petty bourgeois Africans to secure exemptions from influx controls (although they still had to produce the exemptions on demand) and to own property. In the 1950s, the planned location stripped private property of its capacity to provide a degree of protection for the African urban elite. Alongside the powers of surveillance and intimidation that accrued to the state by virtue of its status as the universal landlord of Africans, the absence of property and political rights for Africans authorized a growing assortment of officials to invade the domiciles of Africans in the urban areas with impunity. Posel argues that urban Africans were less vulnerable than rural Africans to bureaucratic surveillance within the labor market; however, they were equally prone to such arbitrary and invasive policing tactics as the pass raid. Thus, when the locations erupted in 1976, a new generation of Africans confronted the South African state, not only by attacking the immediate accoutrements of urban administration, but also by dashing the state’s hopes that the extension of property-ownership rights to urban blacks would destroy broad African opposition to the apartheid regime.


1. National Housing and Planning Commission (NHPC) and National Housing Office, Joint Annual Report, 1954–55, Government Printers, UG 49 (1956), 9.

2. W. C. Mocke to NHPC, “The Construction of Urban Native Housing,” 1950, in NTS 5732 1 51/313(K). Also see W. C. Mocke, “Bantu Housing with Special Reference to Site-and-Service,” Bantu (June 1956).

3. Ibid.

4. W. M. M. Eiselen, “Harmonious Multi-Community Development,” Optima (1959).

5. Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice, trans. R. Nice (Cambridge, 1977), 94–95.

6. W. W. M. Eiselen, in “Minutes of Meeting of the NAD and Administrators of the Non-European Affairs Departments,” in NTS 4518 4 586/313.

7. “Minutes of Meeting between Sub-Committee of AANEA and Representatives of the DNA,” 2 April 1951, in NTS 4651 1 120/313 (16), Annexure 4.

8. M. Castells, The City and the Grassroots: A Cross-Cultural Theory of Urban Social Movements (Berkeley, 1983), 44.

9. Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity, chapter 14.

10. See South African Institute of Race Relations, “Urban Administration” (SAIRR, Johannesburg, 1940); E. Burrows, “Social Security and the National Income,” (SAIRR, Johannesburg, 1944).

11. HAD (1952), col. 7777.

12. P. H. Connell, C. Irvine-Smith, K. Jonas, R. Kantorowich, and F. J. Wepener, Native Housing: A Collective Thesis (Johannesburg, 1939), 102.

13. E. Kahn, “Reformation of Native Urban Areas Laws,” Race Relations, 14/2 (1947), 6–7. I have been unable to determine what the costs of constructing houses in Orlando were.

14. NLC, Report, 29.

15. F. Rodseth, F. van Heerden, and J. E. Jennings, “Native Housing Research in South Africa,” National Building and Research Institute (NBRI), Bulletin, 6 (June 1951), 7.

16. O. Crankshaw, “Apartheid and Economic Growth: Craft Unions, Capital and the State in the South African Building Industry, 1945–1975,” Journal of Southern African Studies, 16/3 (September 1990), 507; E. Hellman (ed.), Handbook on Race Relations in South Africa (London, 1949), 250–51.

17. In addition, because white craft unions were represented on the Industrial Council, the body on which representatives of capital and labor sat to determine rates of pay and the definitions of artisanal and unskilled labor, white workers were able to prevent building contractors from employing cheaper nonwhite labor. Crankshaw, “Apartheid and Economic Growth.”

18. SAIRR, “Urban Administration”; Kahn, “Reformation of Native Urban Areas Laws 10”; Social and Economic Planning Council, Regional and Town Planning, Report No. 5, Government Printers, UG 34 (1944), 27–29;

19. Mocke to NHPC, “Construction of Urban Native Housing.”

20. H. F. Verwoerd, “Local Authorities and the State”; “Minutes of Meeting between IANEA and the DNA,” 1952, NTS 4518 4 586/313.

21. W. W. M. Eiselen, “Planning Native Urban Areas,” NTS 3810 1 2670/308.

22. DNA, Report, 1952–53, 23.

23. Mocke to SNA, 5 November 1954, in NTS 4652 1 120/313 (16), 105–9. Verwoerd’s response is scribbled in Mocke’s letter.

24. H. F. Verwoerd to Sekretaris van die Grondbesitberaad, 14 April 1951, in NTS 4518 4 586/313.

25. Cape Town City Council, “Minute of the Mayor,” 1954, 17.

26. G. F. De Vos Hugo, “Opening Address,” in “Group Areas and Residential Separation” (papers read at the Third Annual Conference of the SABRA, 1952), 22.

27. DNA, Report, 1954–57, 14. “Native areas” could not be proclaimed under the terms of the Group Areas Act because Africans were not permitted to own land in urban areas. See “Conference of Urban Areas Commissioners,” 24 September 1951, in NTS 385/313(1).

28. Connell et al., Native Housing, 102. In their collective thesis, Connell et al. came out strongly in favor of Le Corbusier’s preference for flats, or apartment housing, over single-story row housing. See Connell et al., 72–87, and Le Corbusier, The City of Tomorrow and Its Planning, trans. F. Etchells (London, 1929), 34. Gilbert Balkema deals only fleetingly with the impact of Marxist ideas on architecture at the University of Witwatersrand in the 1930s. See his Martienssen and the International Style: The Modern Movement in South African Architecture (Cape Town, 1975), 283–84.

29. A. J. Cutten, “The Planning of a Native Township,” (unpublished essay, 1951; a copy of this essay is located in the South African Library, Cape Town, South Africa); D. M. Calderwood, Native Housing in South Africa (Johannesburg, 1953); and Connell et al., Native Housing. The link between Le Corbusier and South African architects and planners is discussed in D. Pinnock, “Ideology and Urban Planning: Blueprints of a Garrison City,” in W. James and M. Simon (eds.), The Angry Divide: Social and Economic History of the Western Cape (Cape Town, 1989); Balkema, Martienssen and the International Style, 36–44.

30. “Memorandum by Peri-Urban Areas Health Board to Witwatersrand Housing and Planning Committee” (1952?) in NTS 4601 7 934/313(2).

31. H. F. Verwoerd, “Local Authorities and the State,” 13.

32. Mathewson, Establishment of an Urban Bantu Township, 32.

33. Ibid., 29.

34. Ibid., 33.

35. “Guidelines for the Planning of Native Urban Areas,” in NTS 4271 6 120/313.

36. Ibid.

37. Cited in Pinnock, “Ideology and Urban Planning,” 159. D. M. Calderwood’s speech in London was published as “An Approach to Low Cost Urban Native Housing in South Africa,” Town Planning Review, 24/4 (1954), 4.

38. This waste affected local authorities only minimally: because land was purchased with a thirty-year loan from the state, “interest and redemption in respect of the buffer portions normally amount to threepence per tenant per month.” Mathewson, Establishment of An Urban Bantu Township, 26.

39. Reported in Calderwood, Native Housing in South Africa, 47.

40. H. J. J. van Beinum, “A Study of the Socioeconomic Status of Native Families in the Payneville Location, Springs,” in NBRI, Bulletin, 4 (June 1952).

41. For example, see Verwoerd’s address on “Local Authorities and the State.”

42. Glenn, A. L., “The Costs of Native Housing—Present-Day Costs of Brick Houses at Vereeniging,” NBRI, Bulletin, 7 (December 1951), 13.

43. Calderwood, “Approach to Low Cost Urban Native Housing,” 17.

44. The following is taken from Kahn, “Reformation of Native Urban Areas Laws,” 6–7.

45. When provision was eventually made for “subeconomic” loans in 1934, calculated at 3 percent interest, these loans were reserved exclusively for the construction of subsidized housing for whites and coloureds only, despite the color-blind intentions of the Housing Act. Only when subeconomic funds were reduced to ¾ percent in 1936 did local authorities agree to accept the compulsory losses they were obliged to bear under the scheme. For a discussion of how interest rates encouraged local authorities to cooperate with the department in the 1950s, see Kahn, “Reformation of Native Urban Areas Laws,” 6–7.

46. “Niggardly Policy of the City Council,” newspaper clipping from the Star, 28 May 1950, in NTS 4518 4 586/313.

47. Hailey, African Survey, 570. To make matter worse, the NHPC resolved in 1947 that losses on African subeconomic housing would be limited to no more than thirty pounds per house. NHPC, Annual Report, 1946, Government Printers, UG 67 (1948), 15.

48. Union of South Africa, Interdepartmental Committee on the Social, Health and Economic Conditions for Urban Natives, Report (Government Printers, 1942–43), para. 170. Because this committee was headed by D. L. Smit, it was known as the Smit Committee (and will be cited hereafter under that name). Also see R. Randall, “Some Reflections on the Financial Policies of Certain Municipalities Towards the Natives within Their Boundaries,” South African Journal of Economics, 7/2 (1939).

49. Kahn, “Reformation of Native Urban Areas Laws,” 8.

50. From 1924 until 1954, revenues from the Kaffir Beer Account could only be spent on the construction of houses in urban locations. In 1954, Verwoerd granted permission to local authorities to use Native Revenue Account funds “for any purpose in Native townships, whilst only one-third may only be used on expenditures of a welfare nature,” thereby enabling Kaffir Beer Account funds to be used for any aspect of urban administration. J. E. Mathewson, “Recent Developments in Urban Native Administration” (paper delivered at the Annual General Meeting of the SAIRR, January 1955), 46–47.

51. Ibid., 47.

52. Kahn, “Reformation of Native Urban Areas Laws,” 9.

53. Ibid.; Smit Committee, para. 135; “Report of the Non-European Bus Services Commission, ” Government Printers, UG 31 (1944), pt. IV. Connell et al. record the criticisms of Graham Ballenden (Manager of Johannesburg’s NAD in the 1930s) in Native Housing, 107. Also see R. Philips, The Bantu in the City: A Study of Cultural Adjustment on the Witwatersrand (Lovedale, 1938), 93.

54. Figures quoted in Kahn, “Reformation of Native Urban Areas Laws,” 9.

55. “Report of Non-European Bus Services Commission,” para. 222.

56. Kahn, “Reformation of Native Urban Areas Laws,” 9.

57. “Native Housing: Determination of (1) Income Limits for Natives in Occupation of Sub-economic Dwellings and (2) of the Corresponding Rentals. Introduction of a Sliding Scale of Sub-economic Rentals,” DNA Circular 120/313 (22), 28 July 1954, in NTS 5473 3 51/313H; NHPC, Consolidated Circular 1 of 1952, in NTS 4661 2 120/313 (23).

58. Verwoerd, in HAD 77 (1952), col. 2344–46. Interest on economic loans was increased from 3½ to 4½ percent, repayable over thirty years. Subeconomic loans, however, were made available at the rate of ¾ percent, repayable over forty years. The idea originated from one F. J. Opperman, an official in the Urban Areas Branch. In a covering memo, Charles Heald, head of the branch, commented on Opperman’s suggestions: “Thus on the figures given by Mr. Opperman for £5,000,000 we would get 28500 houses instead of 12833 and 150,000 would cost £26,750,000 instead of £59,407,387.” C. Heald to SNA, “Proposals by Mr. F. J. Opperman for Solving the Financial Burden of Native Housing,” 2 May 1950, in NTS 4661 2 120/313(23).

59. “Conference of Chief Native Commissioners,” 3 February 1951, in NTS 1812 1 138/276 Annexure.

60. Calderwood, “Approach to Low Cost Urban Native Housing,” 5.

61. “Native Housing: Determination of (1) Income Limits for Natives.…”

62. Rodseth, van Heerden, and Jennings, “Native Housing Research in South Africa,” 15.

63. D. M. Calderwood described the motivations behind the “sociological research” conducted in the Springs area as follows: “We wanted to know whether [the population] was healthy or not, whether a family or just a disintegrated mass, with males predominating. We got the information from the survey and immediately found that it was a healthy population, with a good solid base of young people and a small head of elderly people.” “Conference of the Urban Areas Section,” 24 September 1951, in NTS 4518 385/313(1).

64. In the early 1960s, a spate of research into the “Income and Expenditure Patterns of Urban Bantu Households” emerged, probing for detailed data about the commodities on which urban Africans spent their money. For example, see C. de Coning, “Income and Expenditure Patterns of Urban Bantu Households: Pretoria Survey,” Bureau of Market Research, Report, 3 (1963).

65. Witwatersrand Regional Advisory Council for Non-European Housing, Joint Technical Sub-Committee, Report, 7 January 1954, in NTS 4269 1 120/313. Also see report by P. J. Bowling in same folder.

66. Mathewson, Establishment of an Urban Bantu Township, 10.

67. See City of Johannesburg, Non-European Affairs Department (NEAD), “Survey of Western Areas of Johannesburg,” (1950); van Beinum, “Study of the Socioeconomic Status of Native Families”; Mathewson, Establishment of an Urban Bantu Township, 10–11; “The 1953 Report of the Socio-Economic Survey at Pimville Location, Springs, Undertaken to Collect Necessary Data for the Design of the New Native Township of Kwa-Thema,” cited in Wilkinson, “A Place to Live.”

68. To estimate “The Ability to Pay Rent,” van Beinum broke the household budget down into six items: food, clothing, fuel (including lighting and cleaning materials), transport, tax, and rent. See van Beinum, “Study of the Socio-economic Status of Native Families.”

69. Ibid.

70. Ibid.

71. Verwoerd to Secretary of NHPC, 3 November 1952, in NTS 4269 1 120/313(H).

72. Witwatersrand Regional Advisory Council, Joint Technical Sub-Committee, Report, 7 January 1954, in NTS 4269 1 120/313. Also see the report by P. J. Bowling in the same folder.

73. See, for example, Calderwood, “Approach to Low Cost Urban Native Housing,” 5–6.

74. National Building and Research Institute (NBRI), Interim Reports of the Research Committee on Minimum Standards of Accommodation, Series DS 1–9 (Pretoria, 1949). For Le Corbusier’s exposition and defense of “minimum standards,” see J. Holston, The Modernist City: An Anthropological Critique of Brasilia (Chicago, 1889), chapter 2.

75. Rodseth, van Heerden, and Jennings, “Native Housing Research in South Africa,” 8. “Minimum Standards of Accommodation for the Housing of Non-Europeans in South Africa” was published as an article by D. M. Calderwood and P. H. Connell in NBRI, Bulletin, 8 (June 1952). The link between “science” and the DNA’s housing solutions is also noted in Wilkinson, “A Place to Live.”

76. Rodseth, van Heerden, and Jennings, “Native Housing Research in South Africa,” 8.

77. See S. Parnell, “Public Housing as a Device for White Residential Segregation in Johannesburg, 1934–1953,” Urban Geography, 9/6 (November-December 1988).

78. A total of eight blueprints appear to have been drawn up, only two of which (NE 51/9 and NE 51/6) became widely used, at least in the 1950s and 1960s. See figures in G. Mills, “Space and Power in South Africa: The Township as a Mechanism of Control,” Ekistics, 334 (1989), 67.

79. NBRI, “Report of the Committee on the Costs of Building Urban Bantu Houses,” chapter 1 of Costs of Urban Bantu Housing (Pretoria, 1954), 2.

80. NBRI, “Report of the Committee on the Efficiency of Labour in Urban Bantu Housing” (127) and “Report of the Committee on the Materials in Urban Bantu Housing” (172), published as chapters 3 and 4, respectively, in Costs of Urban Bantu Housing.

81. Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity, 125.

82. Crankshaw, “Apartheid and Economic Growth,” 504–5.

83. “Bantu Housing,” Bantu, 1960, 13. In addition, an amendment to the act in 1955 permitted Africans to be employed by owner-builders, on business premises and for alterations (driveways, garden walls, etc.) on private residences. See Crankshaw, “Apartheid and Economic Growth,” 508.

84. The report suggested that the experimental houses constructed by African workers trained to perform skilled building work in the late 1940s may even have elevated costs because of “the inefficient organization of labour.” NBRI, “Report of the Committee on the Efficiency of Labour in Urban Bantu Housing,” 133.

85. Ibid., 133.

86. Ibid., 136.

87. Ibid., 137. The act was duly amended in 1955.

88. The results were published in two studies by in A. L. Glenn: “Time Studies of Labour Employed on the Building of Urban Bantu Houses Using Native Building Workers on a Craft Basis,” NBRI, Bulletin, 11 (December 1953) and “Time Studies of Labour Employed on the Building of Urban Bantu Houses Using Native Building Workers on an Operative Basis,” NBRI, Bulletin, 12 (June 1954).

89. Glenn, “Time Studies of Labour…on an Operative Basis.”

90. NBRI, “Report of Committee on the Materials Used,” 192.

91. Ibid., 191.

92. NBRI, “Report of Sub-committee on Overheads and Profits,” 214–15.

93. NBRI, “Report of Sub-committee on the Materials Used,” 170–72.

94. P. R. B. Lewis, “A City within a City: The Creation of Soweto,” in E. Hellman (ed.), Soweto: Johannesburg’s African City (Johannesburg, 1971); “Compensation to Natives Compelled to Leave Houses on Account of Planning,” NTS 3810 1 2670/308.

95. J. E. Mathewson, “Recent Developments in Urban Native Administration,” 56. An article in Bantu noted that the department based its calculations on the assumption that a single house cost “approximately £200.” “Farewell to Slums,” Bantu, 1955, 4.

96. Mocke to Secretary of NHPC, 1 August 1955, in NTS 5473 2 351/313(H).

97. “Native Housing: Determination of (1) Income Limits for Natives.….”

98. W. C. Mocke, “The Existing Provision and Estimated Requirements of Housing for the Urban Bantu,” South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Bulletin, 10 (1951).

99. NHPC, Consolidated Circular 1 of 1952.

100. “Site and Service Clearance Scheme,” n.d., in NTS 2466 1 116/292.

101. Carr, Soweto, 50.

102. Bantu Affairs Commission, Report, 1960, Government Printers, UG 36 (1961), 11.

103. Notes of an “Address” by Eiselen, n.d., in NTS 244 66 1 116/292.

104. See B. Spence, “Build Your Own House: The Owner-Builder Guide,” Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR, Pretoria, 1953).

105. HAD (1952), col. 7779

106. E. Hellman, “Soweto—Johannesburg’s African City” (address given to the Natal region of the SAIRR, 1967), 3.

107. Ibid.

108. “Minutes of Meeting between Sub-committee of AANEA and Representatives of the DNA,” 2 April 1951, in NTS 4651 1 120/313(15).

109. “Minutes of the Sixth Meeting of the Joint Housing Commission, 16 April 1951,” and “Minutes of Meeting between Sub-Committee of AANEA and Representatives of the DNA,” 2 April 1951, in NTS 4651 1 120/313(15), Annexure 4.

110. Venables, in “Minutes of Meeting between Sub-committee of AANEA and Representatives of the DNA,” 2 April 1951.

111. Ibid.: see the comments of Mocke, Turton, and Yates.

112. Mathewson, Establishment of An Urban Bantu Township, 29.

113. Mathewson, “Recent Developments in Urban Native Administration,” 47.

114. Quoted in Wilkinson, “Providing Adequate Shelter,” 74–75.

115. Ibid.

116. Respectively, these quotations are from Manufacturer, January 1951, 7, and August 1951, 25.

117. Crankshaw, “Apartheid and Economic Growth,” 510.

118. Manufacturer, August 1951, 20. In recognition of Japan’s growing importance to South Africa as a trading partner, the Minister of the Interior informed parliament that the handful of Japanese officials in South Africa would be treated as whites. See G. G. Lawrie, “South Africa’s World Position,” The Journal of Modern African Studies, 2/1 (March 1964), 53.

119. Manufacturer, August 1951, 25.

120. Federated Chamber of Industries (FCI), “Housing of Natives,” 25 April 1959, in NTS 4272 6 120/313; Mathewson, “Recent Developments in Urban Native Administration,” 46.

121. DNA, Report, 1954–57, 39.

122. The AANEA emerged from this response to African urbanization in the Reef area. As P. G. Caudwell (DNA) noted, however, a precedent had already been set in 1940 when Cape Town and other local authorities in the Western Cape established the “Coordinating Committee re the Influx of Natives” to broach African urbanization at a regional level. See “Minutes of Meeting of Representatives of Johannesburg and Reef Municipalities,” 12 June 1941, 4–5.

123. Graham Ballenden (Manager, NEAD, Johannesburg), having raised this prospect, moved to soften its racial crudity by recommending that Africans be permitted to hold freehold title in the envisaged locations. Ibid.

124. Le Corbusier, The Athens Charter, trans. A. Eardley (New York, 1973), 99; Cutten, “Planning of a Native Township.”

125. Discussions about this issue are found in NTS 4518 3 586/313. See, for example, AANEA, “Registration of Service Contracts on Natives Employed by the Same Employer in More than One Proclaimed Area,” 21 October 1949, in this folder.

126. “Minutes of Meeting of Representatives of Johannesburg and Reef Municipalities,” 6.

127. Ibid.

128. Verwoerd, cited in H. Kenney, Architect of Apartheid: Verwoerd, An Appraisal (Johannesburg, 1968), 129.

129. Verwoerd in Witwatersrand Regional Advisory Council for Non-European Housing, Joint Technical Sub-Committee, Report, 7 January 1954.

130. Memorandum on “An Integrated Approach to the Regional Planning of Urban Bantu Locations” (1957?), in NTS 4601 7 934/313(1). Also see Muriel Horrell, Non-European Policies in the Union and the Measure of Their Success (Johannesburg, 1976), 33.

131. “An Integrated Approach to Regional Planning.”

132. See diagrams in G. H. Pirie and D. Hart, “The Transformation of Johannesburg’s Black Western Areas,” Journal of Urban History, 11/4 (August 1985), 389.

133. “Meeting between Municipal Native Administrators and the Urban Areas Branch,” August 1946, in NTS 1954 1 286/278/1.

134. Cutten, “Planning of a Native Township.”

135. Manufacturer, October 1952, 12.

136. Mathewson, Establishment of a Bantu Township, 54.

137. L. Reyburn, “African Traders: Their Position and Problems in Johannesburg’s South Western Townships,” SAIRR, Fact Paper 6 (1960), 18.

138. Ibid., 17–19.

139. In Reyburn, “African Traders,” 18.

140. T. Bell, Industrial Decentralisation in South Africa (Cape Town, 1968), 88. The department’s plans were also discussed in Manufacturer, November 1954.

141. In 1967, the Physical Planning Act attempted to encourage industry to locate outside the existing industrial conurbations in the Transvaal and Cape provinces by controlling the numbers of Africans an employer could take on. Under the terms of the act, firms that intended to locate or expand in these industrial areas could employ 2.5 Africans for every white employee. K. Gottschalk, “Industrial Decentralisation, Jobs and Wages,” South African Labour Bulletin, 3/5 (1977); S. Greenberg, Race and State in Capitalist Development (New Haven, 1980), 47.

142. These themes are only briefly discussed here. For more information on the clashes between the DNA and the JCC, see Carr, Soweto; for further information on the clearance of the Western Areas in Johannesburg, see G. Pirie and D. Hart, “Transformation of Johannesburg’s Black Western Areas.”

143. Baxter, Administrative Law, 25–27.

144. See Verwoerd’s summary of these attempts in SD, 1954, col. 1841–50.

145. See documents in “Western Areas Clearance Scheme, 1951–1956,” NTS 2466 1 116/292.

146. Carr, Soweto, 87.

147. Apparently impressed by the JCC’s standoff with Verwoerd, Dr. A. B. Xuma rallied to the council’s defense. See Dr. A. B. Xuma, “The Native Laws Amendment Bill,” 1957.

148. SD (1954), col. 1848.

149. Verwoerd, HAD (1952), cols. 2335–42, and Mentz, HAD (1952), cols. 2346–48.

150. Hellman, Handbook on Race Relations, 39.

151. Contact, 11 August 1955.

152. “Report of the General Purposes Committee of the Johannesburg City Council,” 22 September 1957, in NTS 2466 1 116/292, 128–29.

153. Taken from “Memorandum by Peri-Urban Areas Health Board to the Witwatersrand Housing and Planning Committee.” Again, however, these proposals were less pathbreaking than they appear. The Johannesburg City Council had long before earmarked the southwestern areas around Orlando township as the area to which Africans would be diverted and relocated and does not appear to have explored any other alternative, despite some of the more imaginative and exploratory plans that town planners and council members had occasionally floated for public discussion. See “Housing (A Fiery Protagonist of Houses for Natives),” South African Builder, September 1951, 13–14, and “Housing (Another Enthusiast Pleads for Homes for Natives and Others),” South African Builder, October 1951, 13–14.

154. The peculiar saga by which Soweto got its name (and in which W. J. P. Carr figured prominently) is narrated in G. H. Pirie, “Letters, Words, Worlds: The Naming of Soweto,” African Studies 43/1 (1984).

155. “We Shall Not Move!” (pamphlet issued by the South African Congress of Democrats, the ANC, and the South African Indian Council, 1955), in CKC, Reel 4B 2:DA26:84/1; also cited in Pirie and Hart, “Transformation of Johannesburg’s Black Western Areas,” 399.

156. T. Huddleston, Naught for Your Comfort (London, 1956), 114.

157. Taken from Pirie and Hart, “Transformation of Johannesburg’s Black Western Areas,” 404–5.

158. Contact magazine published numerous articles in which Africans told of being assaulted by policemen, being arrested without reason, and having their Section 10 rights summarily invalidated for “failing to comply with proper instructions.” See Contact, 18 August 1955, 31 May 1958, and 4 January 1959.

159. “A New Beginning in Meadowlands” and “Johannesburg Is Building 50 Houses a Day for Its Natives,” article clippings from Personality (n.d.), in NTS 2466 1 116/292.

160. Ibid.

161. “Forced Removals Were No Victory for Verwoerd,” New Age (17 December 1955); a copy is in CKC 2:Z13/39.

162. “Report of the NEC [National Executive Committee of the ANC],” in T. Karis and G. Carter, From Protest to Challenge: Documents in South African Politics, 1882–1964 (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1977), 234–35.

163. Ibid. Marks also pointed out that African property owners were least likely to submit to the austere regimens of the new “properly planned location.” One of Verwoerd’s biographers claims that he relayed this point to C. W. Prinsloo, the department’s Information Officer (and later Deputy Director of Information), who in turn immediately telexed a message to Verwoerd in Cape Town. “Within two hours came back the message that the Minister had set aside a substantial area [Dube] at Meadowlands for larger plots of ground where natives who so wished could build larger homes of any design they liked, and further, if the ground proved to be not sufficient for the demand, a further area would be set aside.” W. A. Bellwood, Whither the Transkei (Cape Town, 1964), 95–96.

164. This discussion is based on an article by J. Joseph in Contact, 12 January 1959.

165. Ibid.

166. See Posel, Making of Apartheid, 197.

167. This argument is critically examined in the Conclusion to this book.

168. Adam and Moodley, South Africa without Apartheid (Berkeley, 1985), 87.

5. Ideology and Administration in the Transkei


W. J. G. Mears’ declaration in 1941 reflects the general outlook among Native administrators: “because the reserves are the natural home of the Natives, they are the natural home of Native Administration.” Official documents echoed the secretary’s sentiments: “a Native Affairs Department which did not control the reserves would have no reason to exist.” [1] The department’s sole control over the reserves was the most notable feature of government in these areas. As the direct representatives of the central state in the reserves, magistrates were uniquely placed to attract the ire of subsistence society, placing them at the forefront of the tensions between the state and Africans in “local government” structures, as well as targets of the simmering discontent in peasant society. It was, however, one of the department’s accomplishments in the first half of this century that it was able to maintain a fairly ambiguous profile in the reserves—although it did so with increasing difficulty in the 1930s and 1940s.

On the one hand, state policy condensed all the authority of the central state in the local Native Commissioners, bestowing them with considerable power to demand the submission of Africans in the reserves. On the other hand, the department also viewed itself, and was perceived by an appreciable number of Africans in the reserves, as safeguarding their interests in a rapidly transforming world. To some degree, as this and the following chapter make clear, the very nature of administration in the reserves facilitated this perception. Thus, an ex-official of the DNA observed in an interview that magistrates “would not recognise themselves as ‘oppressive agents of the state.’” Although magistrates were indeed “alert to the sentiments of whites,” they did not view themselves as “the instruments of whites” and certainly not as “instruments for procuring labour.” [2]

Administrative Ideology in the Reserves

Measuring Native affairs in South Africa against Britain’s vaunted colonial service and its highly developed ideology of benevolent paternalism, South African liberal Leo Marquard laments that “there is not much romance about the Department of Native Affairs in South Africa.” [3] Particularly true of the coercive regimens that underscored urban administration from its outset in the 1920s, the remark also has considerable bearing on administration in the reserves. In South Africa, changing conditions corroded the claims of paternalism and drew the department into closer cooperation with the repressive labor economy that unfolded in the 1920s and 1930s. In this context, paternalist claims about “easing the Native’s transition from barbarism to civilisation” rang increasingly hollow, stimulating ever more criticism from Africans in the reserves as the 1930s and 1940s wore on. At the same time, the structure established in the Transkei was indeed the faded remnant of an administrative approach developed by British colonial administrators in the nineteenth century. Because this structure was relatively well elaborated by the time the Union of South Africa was formed in 1910—whereas urban administration was almost entirely a twentieth-century invention—some of the creeds thrown up in the colonial era continued to inform the department’s approach to governing the reserves. Thus, if Native administration in the Transkei lagged far behind the well-elaborated principles and practices that characterized the imperial presence in British colonial Africa, to the department at least, it also stood in more flattering relief against the background of developments in the urban areas.[4]

Because South Africa experienced industrialization sooner and faster than any other domain in Africa, the force of ideas rooted in Britain’s preindustrial past weakened earlier here than elsewhere; nevertheless, the nineteenth-century “spirit of British administration” did influence the genesis and structure of administration in the Transkei, and its echoes were still discernible in the first half of the twentieth century.[5] An antirationalist streak, for example, was a prominent feature of the department’s administrative ethos in the reserves. “Operations and Methods” might be necessary and viable in the more ordered field of urban administration, where they became increasingly discussed from the late 1930s onward—although mostly by overwhelmed municipal, not departmental, officials. But in the rural areas, it was strongly felt that prescriptive procedures interfered with the importance placed on discretion, experience, and “using one’s wits.” This approach emphasized the salience and internal complexity of specific local events, but frequently at the cost of a wider and deeper picture. Many magistrates in the Transkei, for example, accumulated a detailed knowledge about their respective districts, but throughout the segregation era also remained curiously blind to the underlying complexity of fundamental social processes. Myopic assessments could thus flow from sound empirical detail. A good example of this phenomenon was the magisterial understanding of the causes underlying the decline of the reserves. Magistrates insistently returned to the themes of overstocking and “inefficient farming methods” as the primary causes of rural misery. In contrast, Africans in the reserves presented a much more compelling explanation, one that statistics would later support: the finite size of the reserves, they contended, was the principal cause of agricultural involution.[6]

Magistrates also looked askance at the “endless paperwork” [7] that began to impinge on their duties after the Native Administration Act of 1927 standardized administration, providing codified guidelines for the hearing and recording of court proceedings and for the prosecution of pass offenses. Yet even earlier, no less a personage than John X. Merriman, Prime Minister of the Cape (although never formally a part of the Native affairs bureaucracy), and therefore an official presumably concerned with efficient administration, contended sympathetically in a letter in 1910, “At present too much of their [magistrates’] time is taken up in court matters—irritating petty details[—]and none is left for what ought to be the paramount objects of a Magistrate’s acquaintance with his district.” [8] W. J. G. Mears, SNA in the 1940s, argued in his doctoral dissertation, “A Study in Native Administration: The Transkeian Territories” (1947), that “officers of the right kind gain the respect and confidence, and even the affection of the people, and become guide, philosopher and friend, not only to Chiefs but to the masses of the people.…Without these qualities they will be merely bureaucrats, and while perhaps, functioning efficiently in their duties, they will fail in their paramount task.” [9] This palpable distaste for scholastic, “bureaucratic” training and preference for the generalist’s approach of accumulating knowledge widely through “personal contact” were articles of administrative faith. In his reply to Merriman’s letter, for example, C. M. T. Stanford reviewed changes occurring in the administrative vanguard and commiserated from the heart:

The question of ‘personal contact’ is one that weighs somewhat heavily upon me in regard to both Magistrates and to members of their staffs—the future administrators of the country. The Magistrate of the former type generally began his service with a working acquaintance of the Natives and their language, and developed it by daily contact with Chiefs and people. The pressure of circumstances is such that recruits of a later day, sometimes with little or no knowledge of the people or their language, have much less opportunity than of old for attaining such knowledge before attaining magisterial rank, and tend to look upon their position as mainly that of tax-gatherer, judge and correspondent of departments.[10]

The elements that went into “the personal touch in administration” in the Transkei were occasionally even conceived in mystical imagery, perhaps because more substantive evidence was so sorely lacking. According to Mears, “These imponderables, which though light as silk are strong as steel, create a feeling of confidence which enables a district officer to lead Natives along the difficult path of advancement toward the goal of local government.” [11]

Native administrators in South Africa were also reluctant to embark on changes that might disrupt the traditional institutions of colonized populations. Although change was held to be a feature of all the societies that spanned the continuum between “civilisation” and “barbarism,” it was strongly felt that change should be introduced gradually and tactfully, in a manner that did not interfere with the “organic” basis of “tribal society.” This vision was sufficiently broad, however, to spark off a debate about exactly how indigenous institutions were to be conserved, and even whether they should be conserved at all. Administrative officials in South Africa developed contrasting responses. In colonial Natal, the Shepstone system of “indirect rule” through chiefs had sought to strengthen the chieftaincy and “customary law” in order to effect three interrelated imperatives: controlling the military capacity of Zulu chiefdoms, which was definitively destroyed only in 1905; involving chiefs in facilitating the supply of cheap labor to white farmers and the mines; and—in what some have argued was the primary motivation for Natal’s indirect rule policies—defraying the costs of administration by transforming chiefs and headmen into administrative functionaries.[12] In contrast, administrators in the Cape remained steadfastly loyal to the “Transkeian tradition,” which shunted chiefs aside in favor of “direct rule” through magistrates. Despite the differences in approach to the chieftaincy in Natal and the Transkei, the common thread to administration in the two regions was the mutual emphasis that administrators placed on minimizing changes to the traditional institutions of colonized populations.

Both in Natal and in the Cape, therefore, administrators tended to avoid intervening directly in subsistence societies. This preference could be sustained only at the cost of an obvious blindness about the inherently coercive nature of the colonial presence. However, administrators viewed their usurpation of chiefly powers (supposedly terminating internecine “tribal wars” between Africans) and the controls they imposed on African societies as parameters that did not constitute coercive invasions in themselves, but rather established the terrain in which the paternalist work of administrators could transpire. Thus, even in the Transkei, where measures such as the Glen Grey Act fundamentally altered such vital matters as access to land and marginalized chiefs while absorbing headmen and chiefs into the bureaucracy of “local government,” local administrators held their labors to be consonant with the spirit of gradualism.[13] The anti-interventionist posture reinforced the virtual absence of any detailed program for governing these territories—an outgrowth of the British administrators’ distaste for blueprints. But if administrators felt constrained to mold their responses according to local sensibilities, the injunction to do so “in the interests of the Natives” could also be invoked to legitimate the antecedent and more fundamental right of administrators to modify local institutions. Avoiding direct interventions in African society also reinforced administrators’ self-conception as standing above the fray of politics. But in the dynamic framework of the modern state, Native affairs were intimately connected to competitive party politics and the naked self-interest of capitalist market relations. In the 1920s, General Hertzog took recourse to this argument as justification for uniformly removing Native affairs from the arena of white politics.[14] In addition to the fear that African voters might decide outcomes in one or two tightly contested elections, fears about the “alien influences” of nationalist organizations, trade unions, and Communists loomed large in administrators’ anxieties about African politics among Africans.[15]

Dubow has elaborated the influence of paternalist ideology on the outlook of Native administration in the interwar years. The department, Dubow notes, generally frowned upon frequent staff transfers on the grounds that these interrupted the “personal touch” in relations between magistrates and local Africans. This was especially true for the Transkei, where some magistrates continued to breathe life into the Brownlee tradition by entering into Native administration as a family vocation. Here, a special premium was placed on stability and continuity in administration. Thus, when the department was restructured in the 1920s, senior Transkeian officials characterized recommendations made by the Public Service Commission as rash and ill-advised measures that not only interrupted the unique and successful system existing in the Transkei—a system that they argued deserved protection on these grounds alone—but also raised the prospect of African insurrection.[16] The organizing commitments of these senior officials, Dubow summarizes, were reflected in their “idealisation of gradualism, accommodationism and consultation” with the Cape’s African communities. E. Barrett, SNA in the early 1920s, defined the ideal department as consisting of “a body of carefully selected and trained officers, of high character, knowing the people, speaking the language, acquainted with their needs and shortcomings, in sympathy with their legitimate aspirations and thus best able to hold a just balance between white and black. With all its shortcomings, and floundering along through the mud, this is the ideal to which the Native Affairs Department aspires. This is our star.” [17] Yet even as Barrett proffered this vision, the ideals of the Cape tradition were under attack, both from the gathering support within liberal circles for the Natal tradition of maintaining “tribalism” and from within the department itself. Barrett’s ouster from his position as SNA in 1923 marked the end of the Cape’s dominance within the Department of Native Affairs and the emergence of a concerted effort to beef up the department, chiefly by rationalizing the four disparate systems inherited from the pre-Union era and by embossing the standardized outcome with “tribalist” policies molded on the model developed in Natal.[18]

From the latter half of the 1920s onward, Native administration was marked by a growing emphasis on centralization, bureaucratization, and consistency, prompting Cape officials to rally around their cherished local autonomy and to complain about the new “mania for conformity.” [19] The high-water mark of this gradual shift away from the laissez-faire approach to administration was the Native Administration Act of 1927. A watershed event in the course of Native administration, this crucial piece of legislation brought to the field the uniformity that the Act of Union had promised in 1910. For, in preserving the different systems of administration established in the four territories incorporated as provinces, the Act of Union had left undecided the basis on which segregation policy would be rationalized. Since the Afrikaner republics possessed nothing of substance that could serve as a model for consolidating Native affairs across the Union, the choice in effect was between the Cape’s gradualist, direct rule approach and Natal’s system of shoring up the power of chiefs through indirect rule. More than any other single measure, the Native Administration Act answered the question unequivocally.

Firmly trouncing the gradualist policies that had dominated Native affairs since unification, the act leaned heavily in the direction of Natal’s tribalist model. It styled the MNA the “Supreme Chief of all Natives” throughout the Union, except in the Cape Province; it permitted the minister to devolve his vast powers to any administrative official; it recognized “Native law and custom” as the legal medium for resolving disputes in which the “interests of Native predominated”; it decreed that lobola (African bride-wealth) was consistent with the principles of natural justice; and it instituted a segregated system of Native Commissioner Courts across the country. Collectively, the effect of these provisions was to bring Africans under tighter state control by “retribalising” them; as critics pointed out at the time, the uniform application of the act meant that all Africans were all subjected to a tribalist juggernaut.[20] However, the outstanding and most controversial feature of the act was the right that it bestowed on the “Supreme Chief” to rule over all Africans by the simple device of issuing proclamations.

Despite the controversy it occasioned at the time, rule by proclamation was by no means an invention of the 1920s. The practice had long been accepted as an important aspect of administration, both in Natal and in the Transkeian territories; the only difference was that in Natal the governor-general was required to lay the proclamations before parliament two weeks before the edict came into effect. However, the system of rule by proclamation sanctioned in 1927 was inseparable from the Native Administration Act’s unabashedly tribalist policies and the conformity that it now demanded of the department’s field officers. For this reason, Dubow writes, administrative cadres in the Transkeian territories objected to the Native Administration Act, accusing it of hobbling the civilizing mission by ignoring the cultural gradations that distinguished “raw Natives” from their “detribalised” brethren further up the scale of civilization. They also argued that the measure was potentially inflammatory: applied in the Transkei, it was likely to disrupt administrative tradition and confuse Africans who had grown accustomed to the marginal role that chiefs played in administration.[21]

At the same time, the objections of Cape liberals were tempered by a feature of the Native Administration Act that Cape administrators found irresistible: the measure elevated the status of Native affairs within the state and strengthened the authority of the department’s field officers. Despite ideological misgivings about the direction that the act plotted for Native administration, administrators also welcomed the act on the grounds that it went a long way toward clarifying and strengthening the department’s powers, particularly in relation to the Department of Justice. The DNA after 1927 struck a more imposing figure within the ranks of the state’s institutions. It possessed a coherent policy, it enjoyed rights to exercise judicial functions in areas where the interests of Africans predominated, and its specific field of expertise was at last acknowledged to be central to the state—sufficient grounds, Dubow contends, for the department to champion a crucial piece of legislation that vitiated a good deal of the paternalist glory in which the “Transkeian system” had long basked. The result was that administration in the Cape thereafter displayed dual ideological tendencies, vacillating between continuing support for paternalist policies and grudging respect for the persistence of tribalism in their districts.[22]

A tribalist measure par excellence, the Native Administration Act also introduced a modernizing tenor to the discourse of Native affairs. In place of the Cape’s diffuse and personalized style of administration, which dominated the department after unification, the 1927 act promoted a new discourse centered around greater efficiency, centralization, and internal coordination. To some degree, this new discourse was a response to the specific duties that the segregationist policy of the 1920s and 1930s expected the department to discharge.

In the wake of the Urban Areas Act, for example, urban policy enjoined the department to cooperate with local authorities in exercising greater controls over Africans in the urban areas. Although it was championed by the Department of Justice, not the DNA, the Service Contract Act similarly required the department to regulate the movement of Africans in the white rural areas and to participate with farmers on Native Labour Control Boards designed to stimulate and retain labor supplies in the white farming areas. The state’s land acquisition policy also involved the department in identifying and acquiring new land, in order to make good on the promise—contained in the 1913 Land Act and ratified by the 1936 Native Land and Trust Act—to increase the size of the reserves. Furthermore, even before the Native Economic Commission (NEC) delivered its report in 1932 and the second Land Act was passed in 1936, the department had made some effort to address the depletion of the reserve economies and was therefore apprised of the immense scale necessary for effective “development programs.” [23] The passage of the Native Administration Act was tacit acknowledgment of this growing complexity of Native affairs.

But the act also sought to stake out the department’s claim for greater salience and recognition within the state for reasons of bureaucratic chauvinism. Unhappy with the looming presence of the Department of Justice, in whose shadows the department felt it too often labored, senior personnel in the DNA saw opportunity in the wide powers lodged in the Native Administration Act. The act recognized and extended the department’s stake in the administration of justice by establishing Native Commissioners Courts. It also empowered the “Supreme Chief” to declare pass areas, amalgamate or dissolve whole “tribes,” banish Africans, and impose a variety of discretionary sanctions on Africans suspected of disturbing the peace through criminal or political acts. Not only did it authorize the department to do all this simply by issuing a proclamation, but it also pointedly prevented “the normal courts of the land” from countermanding “any utterance…of the Supreme Chief.”

The arguments that magistrates adduced to defend Native administration in the Cape’s reserves greatly overstated the extent to which the paternalist model inherited from the late 1800s remained intact. This model, in fact, was already in advanced decay by the time of Union and would be further eroded in the two decades after 1910. The prefectural model, in which high-ranking British officials administered penurious colonies, effectively came to an end in the 1800s for two reasons. The first was the pressure that a voraciously labor-hungry mining industry exerted on state administrators to organize predictable supplies of cheap labor. As the economic center of gravity shifted away from the mercantile and agrarian interests based in the Cape and toward the bustling Witwatersrand, the civilizing mission weakened rapidly and ceded ground to more authoritarian and overtly racist policies, which envisioned stricter controls on Africans across the country.[24]

Another reason for the steep decline of Cape gradualism, Leo Marquard has argued, was the Act of Union itself. In an essay that anticipated the “internal colonialism thesis,” Marquard argued that the act did not end colonialism in South Africa; instead, it merely “raised the status of the European colonists to that of rulers, while it left four-fifths of the population in the condition of colonial subjects”; the result was that African “colonial subjects became colonial subjects of the former European colonists.” [25] The spirit of Native administration suffered in this process. Already a “diminishing asset” prior to 1910, Cape liberalism declined sharply thereafter. As long as Native administration in nineteenth-century South Africa had drawn its officials from Britain’s upper classes, Marquard notes, “that system persisted under its own momentum. But cut off from the country which had nourished the traditions of the colonial service, those traditions languished. The newly-constituted colonial power had, thenceforth, to depend for the staffing of its colonial service on her own recruits. South African colonial administration remained tied to a conservative colonial public opinion and was little influenced by the great and invigorating changes that came over European colonial policy and administration in the 20th century.” [26] By 1910, Natal’s famous system of administration, established by the “The Queen’s Diplomatic Agent” in South Africa, Sir Theophilus Shepstone, was already in disarray, a process that had begun virtually with Shepstone’s death in 1893.[27] Between 1910 and 1924, all SNAs were drawn from the liberal Cape tradition, an unbroken record that propped up the tottering pillars of gradualism even as the country, released from accountability to the British Crown by the Act of Union, looked inward both for the issues that would shape the state and for the men who would staff it. After 1924, the growing number of officials in the department drawn from Natal introduced a sterner and more racially exclusive approach to Native policy.[28]

Rapid industrialization centered around labor-starved extractive industries therefore profoundly altered the trajectory of colonial discourse in Southern Africa at the turn of the century. Elsewhere in Britain’s colonies in Africa, the commitment to “economic self-sufficiency” for each colony supported the paternalist goals of the prefectural administrative systems. Intended to hold down imperial spending on a far-flung empire, the policy of economic self-sufficiency left colonial officers perennially short of adequate resources and compelled administrators to take a strong interest in revenues generated locally.[29] In a number of colonies, therefore, administrators attempted to boost African peasant production and facilitated the incorporation of African entrepreneurs into the machinery and ideology of colonial commerce. Although they would later give clear priority to the plantations established by British settler farmers, ideology and administration in places such as Kenya and Uganda remained strongly marked by this early commitment to peasant production; in Kenya, Berman observes, the fortunes of the colonial bureaucracy “were hitched to the oxcart of peasant accumulation.” [30]

These tendencies were severely truncated by the explosion of industrialization sparked by the discovery of diamonds and gold in South Africa. Instead of promoting African subsistence production, official policy rapidly came to view autonomous peasant production as a threat to a cheap labor market and sought to limit Africans’ access to land.[31] Still, it is important to stress that white control over land was merely formal in many parts of South Africa at the turn of the century and that, in practice, much land actually remained in the hands of African occupiers. In the Transvaal and OFS, Afrikaners were hampered by internecine squabbling and a tendency to fission that, together with the limits that their own subsistence mode imposed on their military capacities, prevented them from imposing the desired degree of control over the land.[32] It overstates the case only a little to suggest that the reality of the settler experience in the Boer republics was marked by a sort of “concordat of existence” [33] that tacitly acknowledged that the state still had only rudimentary capacities to control or destroy resilient African structures. The result was that African institutions persisted with varying degrees of tenacity in different parts of colonial South Africa; Africans’ “ability to subsist was for a considerable period not dramatically altered, and their involvement in the exchange economy was largely discretionary.” [34] In the Transvaal, for example, de facto control of the land by local African communities sometimes remained practically undisturbed by the imposition of white control in the colonial era, survived the Anglo-Boer War, and continued to be a problem for labor-hungry employers for decades after unification in 1910, despite the attack launched against the African peasantry by the 1913 Land Act.[35] But Africans’ access to the land was dealt a lethal blow in many parts of the OFS, where the expulsion clauses embodied in the Land Act were activated immediately.[36]

The establishment of a coherent system of formal administration in the Transkei in the last quarter of the nineteenth century was belied by the persistence of African communities. Because they continued to have some access to land, many Africans were able to evade participation in the white-controlled economic market or, more frequently, were able to limit their participation in the wage economy to what they viewed as necessary for increasing their subsistence production.[37]

This pattern of Africans’ limited, self-regulated participation in the wage sector for the specific purposes of boosting subsistence production was pervasive in British colonies in Africa well into the 1950s.[38] To varying degrees, the practice was generally supported by Britain’s colonial bureaucracies, whose fiscal fortunes were crucially linked to the scale of commerce within the African population. They provided the context in which paternalist policies were expressed as administrative attempts to improve the educational, agricultural, and commercial competencies of the colonized.[39] Such administrative support appears to have been significant in Ghana. After disastrous attempts to develop a capitalist economy in Ghana with the aid of imported European capital, exasperated colonial administrators (in a characteristic display of the essentially whimsical nature of Britain’s colonial ideology) “affirmed the centrality of commodity production, and downgraded capitalist enterprise to a subsidiary role.” This, Anne Phillips writes, meant that “the expansion of agriculture was to rely on the African peasantry.…” [40] Sir Charles Arden-Clarke, former Governor-General of the Gold Coast (Ghana) and a seasoned colonial administrator in Nigeria, observed, “The economy of West Africa is squarely based on African peasant production.…Agriculture is everywhere the major industry, and the European rôle has always been that of buyer and shipper, not producer.” [41] In Kenya and Ghana, therefore, official tolerance for the right of Africans to dominate the agricultural sector meant that Africans were able to manipulate resources centered around the land and to become leading actors in the colonial economy.

Such patterns find little reflection in South African history. In striking contrast to British colonialism in colonies such as Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, and Nigeria, Native administration in South Africa participated in the concerted destruction of African subsistence production in favor of capital-intensive growth in the white agrarian sector. The early and rapid development of capitalist relations and the almost immediate involvement of the state in the proletarianization of Africans proved to be the forces that tore at the “concordat of existence” that had characterized relations between colonizer and colonized in many parts of South Africa. From the outset, Native administration directly implicated the state, not only in the regulation of African workers, but also in the details of their proletarianization. This meant that, unlike elsewhere in British colonial Africa, the calculus by which the state sought to derive legitimacy among Africans could not be based on extensive African accumulation. Whereas “legitimacy and accumulation were mutually reinforcing to some degree” in colonial Kenya and very much so in Ghana,[42] the anti-accumulation orientation of Native administration in South Africa severely narrowed the range of legitimation strategies open to the racial state.

In addition to persistent demands for cheap labor from the mines and the agrarian sector, independent African producers at the turn of the century presented whites with two further problems. First, a sizable population of African peasants (in the region of two and half million souls in the 1920s)[43] presented a potential source of economic competition to white farmers, who, with the help of aid from the state-owned Land Bank, were in various stages of converting to capitalist production. Rapid industrialization demanded a commensurate acceleration in agricultural productivity. African producers were not to be the sources of that agricultural output. On the contrary, the demand for accelerated productivity in agriculture was the swan-song of African peasant production in South Africa, not because Africans were the “inefficient farmers” that officials reputed them to be, but because the state was used to decimate the indigenous peasantry.[44] By setting aside a fixed area of land for the reserves, whites eliminated forever any threat of a resurgent African peasantry flourishing amid the comprehensive “desertification” of the Union’s “Native areas.”

Second, an unregulated landowning peasantry scrambled the rationale for associating citizenship rights with certain forms of land-ownership patterns. The report of the SANAC in 1905 argued that it was unacceptable for Africans to occupy land randomly and recommended that Africans should be confined to reserves, describing these in apocryphal terms as “the ancestral land held by their forefathers.” [45] In recommending that land should be held in communal tenure, vested in perpetuity in the position of the tribal chief, the SANAC legitimated a system of “differential sovereignty” that linked race to land. In this scheme, the disenfranchisement of Africans could be justified by opposing the accoutrements of the modern bourgeois state to the system of tribal government in the reserves.[46]

By the time the Native Administration Act was passed in 1927, the material conditions on which nineteenth-century paternalism had rested were in decline, weakened by the destabilizing consequences of rapid industrialization, immiseration in the reserves, and the department’s own looming presence.[47] Local government machinery in the Transkei, either held over from the late nineteenth century or established in the segregation era (discussed below), preserved the paternalist control of magistrates over rural Africans. At the same time, the bureaucratic logic which the Native Administration Act embodied also signaled an important change in magisterial dealings with Africans. Fueled by the introduction of “motorised transport” into the reserves, the bureaucratization of administration in the twentieth century diminished the emphasis placed on “the personal touch in administration.” The consequent declining need for “magistrates to forge delicate and personal links with key individuals in their districts” [48] was a process far advanced by the time the Native Administration Act was passed.

Attempts to reverse the erosion of the reserve economies exposed the tottering bases on which paternalist rule rested. The telltale signs of ecological involution in the reserves are extensively documented in South African historiography and do not require detailed recounting here. Suffice it to say that a battery of indices record the process of rural immiseration. Once an exporter of agricultural products to the Union’s fledgling urban centers, by 1930 the Transkei was importing an increasing volume of its basic foodstuffs. Since the wages of mineworkers increased only fractionally in the interwar period, residents became increasingly reliant on the white traders scattered throughout the Transkei.[49] Despite the difficulty in documenting economic cleavages in the reserves in the first half of the twentieth century, Bundy observes that the level of stock ownership in the Cape’s reserves was already highly skewed as early as the 1890s, at which time “by far the largest portion [of Transkeians]…own very little stock.” [50] The pattern of sheep ownership was even more distorted: according to Fox and Back, in 1936 almost 80 percent of the households owned no sheep at all and (in what the authors discovered to be an average picture) in one location three out of one thousand owners of stock accounted for seventy percent of the sheep and fifty percent of the cattle.[51] A survey undertaken by the department to determine the extent of landlessness in the Transkei in 1950 reflected that 73,927 households were landless, and 165,573 owned no stock.[52] As numerous studies and the Tomlinson Commission report illustrated, the inevitable result was labor migrancy.

Well before the NEC published its stark findings in 1932, the signs that the Transkei’s economic distress stemmed from more than the occasional bout of drought or livestock disease were well-known to administrators. By 1926, the Transkeian Territories General Council (TTGC) found itself more or less permanently involved in relief work among African peasants. These efforts, it should be noted, mirrored similar work being undertaken by Hertzog’s government to attack the “poor white problem” congealing in the Union’s festering urban areas: 1932 saw the publication of not only the report of the NEC, but also the findings of the Carnegie Commission on the “poor white problem.” [53] But the structure of the racial state meant that the two problems, otherwise similar in etiology and consequence, would be addressed in radically different ways, with Africans unable to divert the attention and resources of the state to the hardships that attended their proletarianization.[54] If this was true for the urban areas, it was doubly so for the reserves. In 1933, for example, a scant £5,000 was spent by the TTGC on “relief work,” while the government occasionally distributed small quantities of maize and rations to Africans in the most destitute districts. “The year 1933 was one of dearth and hardship almost unprecedented in the history of the Territories,” J. T. Kenyon observed; a plague of locusts in 1935 and the severe drought of 1935–36 both extended the duration of the hardship and deepened the ecological crisis of the Transkei. In 1936–37, the amount the TTGC spent on relief work escalated to £38,778, of which the central government contributed £16,250.[55] Well before apartheid ideologues gave the phrase currency, the Social and Economic Planning Council reviewed the increasing expenditures on the reserves and in 1943 concluded that the department was “a welfare department”: “Apart from the minimum requirements of maintaining peace and order…it has made serious efforts to improve Native agriculture and to encourage markets…[and] it has taken a growing interest in social welfare projects in these areas.” [56]

“Social welfare” programs did not develop much further than these paltry efforts, however. In the 1930s and 1940s, parliament remained skeptical about extending social welfare provisions to Africans on the grounds that “the traditional African feeling of the family and the tribe, under which all shared what they had with one another…would be undermined by public assistance.” [57] By the time the department began to take its development plans more seriously, in the mid-1930s, paternalism’s ties to the “assimilationist” policies of the Cape were already badly frayed. The department’s development plans snapped them completely. Whereas paternalism policies had hinted vaguely at some future integrated state, plans to rehabilitate the reserves were mounted under the umbrella of tribalism and driven by the rising intensity of segregationism. Development programs did not, therefore, attempt to “civilise” Africans by boosting agricultural production and commercial exchange, as similar programs sought to do in British colonies. In South Africa, the development of the reserves fueled segregation.

Native Commissioners and “Tribal Administration”

Magistrates were the foot soldiers of administration in the reserves. The Transkeian territories were divided into twenty-seven districts, each of which was under the control of a Magistrate, “whose duty and interest it has been to keep the well-being of the Natives in the forefront of his administrative horizons.” [58] (Although the Native Administration Act of 1927 styled all district officers “Native Commissioners,” the appellation “ Magistrate” remained in use in the Transkei, partly because of the weight of tradition, but largely because only in the Transkei did the department’s officers also serve as the Department of Justice for whites in their districts. In keeping with convention, therefore, I will use the term “Magistrates” to refer to the department’s field officers in the Transkei and “Native Commissioners” for their counterparts in the other reserves.) In each district, consisting on average of thirty to forty locations that housed from 20,000 to 120,000 souls, a “white-occupied village forming the seat of the magistracy and the trading centre of the area” marked the locus of official power.[59] The Magistrate was the pivot of administration. Among his multifarious duties were collecting taxes, supervising welfare payments, encouraging primary education, controlling the agricultural work of the department, administering justice, and settling an array of disputes that ranged from the most personal matters to contestations over land rights so finely textured that they “would have taxed even Solomon the Wise.” [60]

The imprecision of “sound and proper administration” in the paternalist approach meant that considerable weight attached to the department’s field officers. And in general, the magisterial corps in the Transkei did indeed enjoy a good reputation as able administrators. Many of them were the sons of magistrates who had pioneered the Transkeian administrative system and had absorbed the ethos and “feel for the job” from a young age. For those officers not given to the job by temperament, it was expected that they should acquire and maintain a certain “sense of duty.” [61]

That these principles were not entirely out of keeping with the temper of the times may be gauged from the minuscule presence of police within the Transkei: in 1924, it required a mere 242 white policemen, assisted by 176 African constables, to keep the peace among one million people in an area stretching over sixteen thousand square miles.[62] In his evidence before the SANAC, M. W. Liefeldt, a seasoned magistrate in the Transkei, boasted that he required just eight policemen to monitor a district of forty thousand people.[63] But Beinart and Bundy caution that such rosy official assessments may be misleading; they support the observation of a military officer attached to the Mobile Squadron that “the successful government of the Transkei was always dependent on the presence of military force.” [64] Still, the sheer presence of repressive law enforcement agencies needs to be distinguished from their continuous activation. This point is particularly relevant for understanding the nature of administration in the Transkei. For, as we see below, despite the formal derogation of “tribal authorities,” administration significantly blurred the distinction between overt policing and the self-regulation of peasant society through traditional leaders and legal systems that continued to exercise some degree of control within the reserves.

In contrast to the tapestry of local variation in African custom and the weight accorded to personal authority in the reserves, magistrates also projected the uniformity of the modern rational state. Because magistrates were highly visible summations of state power, their ubiquity across the Transkeian territories strengthened a common identification among Africans even as colonial policy sought to preserve local nuances. To some degree, these two orientations meant that magistrates must have experienced some tension as they strove to implement Union policy without detriment to the local particularisms through which they were committed to working.[65] However, this tension between centralization and local autonomy did not become a significant administrative issue throughout the segregationist era; nor does it surface as a political issue in the department’s records for the 1950s.

In this respect, the role of the department’s field officers may be sharply contrasted to the more complex and contradictory role of their counterparts in colonial Kenya, where District Officers were subject to much greater strain from the various levels of the colonial administration. Unlike in South Africa, the same District Officer dealt with both settler and African affairs in Kenya. This arrangement promoted the perception that Kenyan colonial administration was a zero-sum game in which settlers either benefited from Africans’ losses or lost at their gain, a perception strengthened by the colonial administration’s fiscal reliance on African commerce as well as by a highly developed perception of its civilizing mission. Settlers therefore continually accused the administration of a bias toward Africans, and administrative officers did indeed attempt to combat the virulent avarice of the average Kenyan settler.[66] South Africa’s status as a sovereign state cast in the Westminster model meant that conflicts over Native administration were fought in parliament and the courts, sparing administrators from direct, acrimonious encounters with the white public.

Cleaved off from institutional white politics, magistrates in South Africa were spared the direct wrath of whites who viewed “concessions” to Africans as threats to their racial privileges and material interests. In addition, segregationist legislation was largely preoccupied with devising, not enforcing, a standardized African policy that, in any case, was broadly supported by the white population. The resultant model of “trusteeship” introduced little that disturbed the considerable autonomy and power of magistrates, sparing the segregationist state the dislocations and administrative sabotage that might otherwise have resulted. Indeed, left more or less alone in their districts, magistrates in the Transkei seemed impressed more by the continuities in segregationist policies than by the changes emanating from the political arena. While the debate over tribalism did percolate down to field officers, not even the gradual turn among liberals in favor of “tribal government” occasioned much acrimony among magistrates in the Transkei. While it did provoke some dissent, tribalism remained a matter about which officials held contrasting views without either angering senior personnel or spilling over into public furor—a frequent outcome in Kenya.[67]

Generalists in all matters, magistrates were officially required to be experts only in the area of law, and had to pass a law exam upon application for the post. Under the terms of the Native Administration Act of 1927, magistrates administered a bifurcated legal system. The norm was to use African law as far as possible. Cases involving only Africans were tried in terms of the tribal law “which is in operation at the place where the defendant or respondent resides [provided that] such Native law shall not be opposed to the principles of public policy or natural justice.” [68] Cases involving only whites were resolved in terms of Western law; disputes involving blacks and whites were held in terms of Western law if the magistrate deemed this to be appropriate. Attached as they were to the principle that good administration required flexible discretion, Transkeian administrators were generally opposed to the Natal practice of codifying customary law, which placed them at odds with chiefs, who repeatedly lobbied the administration for powers to exercise civil law in their districts.[69]

In 1921, the TTGC requested the appointment of a commission to explore this possibility. Upon consultation with the Chief Magistrate of the Transkei (CMT), the government refused, contending that “there are objections to the crystallisation of primitive and occasionally discrepant customs which may be expected to lose much of their inherent value as the people progress.…Native law is customary, and it would be incongruous with its essence to deprive it of its elasticity as lex non scripta.[70] The department’s virtual monopoly over judicial issues within “Native areas” was viewed as a happy contrast to the arrangement outside these areas, where the department’s judicial powers inevitably brought it into conflict with the Department of Justice. Well into the 1950s, records chronicle the department’s determined attempts to wrest judicial matters from the Department of Justice wherever Africans constituted the majority of a population in the “prescribed” (i.e., white) areas.[71]

The most striking aspect of administrative policy was the department’s right to rule by proclamation. The spatial separation of the reserves from “white South Africa” thus found an important complement in the judicial sphere. By subjecting Africans to forms of state power that whites would never have tolerated, departmental policy both reflected and reinforced a series of white prejudices that ranged from a belief in the gulf separating white and black “cultures” to the assumption that the department’s benevolent work in the reserves required this extraordinary arrangement. The combination of judicial and administrative powers meant that the magistrate became the implementer and judge of far-reaching measures whose precise content, in keeping with the anti-rationalist administrative spirit inherited from the colonial era, were deliberately ill-defined. “Fiefdom” [72] is an apt description in this context, for it captures the formal (state) power of magistrates as well as their informal omnipotence in resolving disputes in accordance with ambiguous terms such as “tradition,” “custom,” and “sound judgment.” However, an ex-employee of the department cautions that not too much should be made of the great powers that inhered in the right to rule by proclamation.[73] Although conceding that it was “inherently anti-democratic” and a distortion of the pristine powers of the African Supreme Chief in precolonial Natal, Rodseth also observed that edictal administration was not used “capriciously” or in ways that departed significantly from the department’s standard prerogative to impose policies that Africans neither devised nor approved.[74] Leo Marquard even argued that rule by proclamation actually worked to the benefit of Africans: “On paper, the system of administration…looks considerably more dangerous than it is in practice; in a country like South Africa, where parliament represents the European population, the removal from the sphere of parliamentary discussion of the details of Native administration has decided advantages in that it enables the officials of the department to mitigate some of the legislative evils by administrative action.” [75]

These perspectives reflect the general administrative approach to the department’s extraordinary powers in the reserves. In this view, the right to rule by proclamation appeared to be little more than an administrative convenience that skirted time-consuming parliamentary debates and the uncertainties of judicial decisions.[76] There is perhaps a simple truth to this claim. The proliferation of discriminatory parliamentary legislation could undoubtedly have been accelerated in the field of Native affairs. Parliament could then have bestowed wide discretionary powers on magistrates, and the rights of the courts to intervene could also have been restricted, enabling magistrates to govern the reserves much as rule by proclamation did. But the parliamentary route was cumbersome and unpredictable; it also conflicted with whites’ growing preference for institutional segregation. Moreover, to its supporters rule by proclamation was by no means unique to Native administration in South Africa. To the contrary, the system was a familiar institution in a number of British possessions, where it was known as an “Order in Council.” [77] However, the differentia specifica of the institution in South Africa was its racially discriminatory nature. Here, rule by proclamation transcended issues of administrative efficiency. Because it was taken as evidence of the cultural incompatibility between the races, the practice was crucial to the policy of differential sovereignty. Rule by proclamation also did wonders for the status of the lowly magistrate sequestered in the “Native areas.” This minor civil administrator was judge, jury, and father figure, and his word, quite literally, became the law. The first proclamations issued under the terms of the 1927 act were specifically political. Proclamation 252 of 1928 was used to prohibit meetings of a political nature in the three northern provinces; Proclamation 165 of 1932 enabled Native Commissioners in Natal to summarily arrest and detain any African deemed to be a danger to the peace. Both were sweeping measures that were not even discussed in parliament.[78] Thus in contrast to the sanguine assessment cited above, Lord Hailey concluded in the 1950s that the overriding legacy of practices such as rule by proclamation was to harden the impression that prevailing differences between whites and Africans were reasons for permanent segregation.[79]

In addition to administrative and judicial functions, the magistrate played a distinctly symbolic role that was of some importance in the reproduction of the racial hierarchy. The twenty-six prefects dispersed across the rolling hills and valleys of the Transkei physically evidenced white conquest over African space, for as Benedict Anderson argues, “In the modern conception, state sovereignty is fully, flatly, and evenly operative over each square centimeter of a legally demarcated territory.” [80] By the time the Union was formed in 1910, the sheer presence of these men, together with a small number of administrative assistants, was doing what it had taken imperial forces more than a century to accomplish. Scattered across a fairly remote territory, men encouraged by tradition not to employ the full range of coercive options at their disposal were nevertheless careful not to appear “weak.” Equally strong taboos ensured that magistrates maintained a definite distance from Africans in their districts, reminding them not to confuse good administration with familiar relations. Behavior between a magistrate and Africans was regulated by a series of customary rituals that reinforced the racial hierarchy: Africans were expected to bare their heads, clasp both hands when receiving an object from the magistrate, refrain from criticizing his actions or decisions, and generally behave in ways that made it clear that the superordinate position of the magistrate overarched the most minor affair or the most friendly relations. Averse to both coercion and codified law, administrators relied on such rituals to freeze the racial hierarchy in place. Deference, they contended, was rooted in the “natural respect which the Native has for authority.” [81] Chiefs, headmen, and “School” (educated) Africans were not exempt from these expectations. Transgressions of the expected behavioral codes sometimes led to a “dressing-down” in public or to stern rebukes from white officials in institutions such as the NRC and the Bunga. Under no circumstances would magistrates tolerate anything that even hinted of a physical challenge, and threats to the safety of the magistrate were not tolerated; as the Indian scholar A. Nandy observes, “the culture of colonialism presumes a particular style of managing dissent.” [82] Magistrates could also, of course, summon the small detachment of policemen usually situated close to his office, or they could even rely on the “Mobile Squadron, ready at a moment’s notice to deal with serious faction fights.” [83]

Transkeian administrative officials rarely missed an opportunity to emphasize the region’s peaceful character and took particular pleasure in enlightening the many visitors from overseas who made it a point to see firsthand the famous system of “Native administration” in the continent’s most industrialized country. In a typical speech delivered before “delegates elected by the branches of the Empire Parliamentary Association in the Parliaments of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand,” Lt. Col. E. H. W. Muller (Secretary and Treasurer of the TTGC) put forward the official view that it was largely due to the “cordial relations” between magistrates and chiefs that “Europeans in these Territories have less reason to be nervous about life and property than they would be if they were living in any of the large cities of the world.” [84] Such views no doubt romanticized the real nature of administration. Nevertheless, they possessed sufficient substance for this peasant society to be genuinely perturbed and puzzled by the sudden swing to bureaucratic coercion under the apartheid regime. For, with Verwoerd as MNA, the department made it clear from 1955 onward that it demanded not only deference but complete submission as the basis of cooperation.

The prefectural responsibilities of magistrates went further than maintaining law and order in their districts. Many of their duties were inseparable from their role in facilitating the extension of capitalist relations into the countryside. By virtue of their formal control over the means of subsistence in the reserves, magistrates were unavoidably implicated in the creation and regulation of the labor market and played a central role in the proletarianization of peasants. Chiefly by ensuring that land was occupied according to strict land tenure regulations in areas scarred by increasing shortages of land, magistrates became directly responsible for diverting the landless to South Africa’s labor-hungry urban centers. In addition, by cooperating with the Labour Officers employed under the 1911 Native Labour Regulation Act, they worked closely with the gold-mining industry to ensure that Africans entering into mining employment worked and were accommodated under tolerable conditions before returning to their districts in the reserves, where taxes had to be paid.

The routine duties of the magistrate in the segregation era, then, encouraged the efflux of migrant workers out of the reserves and into the capitalist economy. Accordingly, magistrates were fully cognizant that their routine duties were embedded in the “nationalisation” of South Africa’s economy, a process that rendered artificial any attempt to isolate the dynamics of peasant society from the world of wages and production for profit. As the report of the NEC made clear, administrators recognized that the work of the magistrate transpired within the framework of a single national economy, so that urban and rural administration could not be cleanly separated from each other.[85] Moreover, the firm appreciation of the link between urban and rural administration was reflected in the growing interest of urban administrators in using efflux controls in the rural areas to diminish the regulatory problems in the urban areas. But if the notion of a single economy was irreproachable for most magistrates, it was also a somewhat cerebral and abstract conception, viable only in some far-off and dimly conceived future. The practical labors and local horizons of the magisterial corps reinforced the notion of a sharp and qualitative disjuncture between “modern” and “backward” sectors. In opposition to the Fagan Commission’s view that blacks and whites in South Africa were part of “one big machine,” [86] a “dual economy” model was unquestionably dominant among administrators in the reserves. It was standard fare for magistrates to contrast the modern rationality of the “civilised” areas with the “superstition” and “irrationality” of African peasants, to portray the migrant’s encounter with the city as fraught with potent and bewildering dangers, and to insist on the irreconcilability of the different value systems governing modern and “primitive” economies. Although they appreciated that people and commodities circulated within a single economic system, magistrates were also more likely to portray the process as an “encounter” between discrete systems of logic or to conceive of urban-derived habits as malevolent and foreign intrusions in tribal areas. Many magistrates believed that the assimilation of antithetical cultural and economic logic was severely impeded by a deep-seated, even “innate” “conservatism” among Africans in the reserves.[87]

These “national” and “tribal” perspectives were not wholly discrete; it was a matter of emphasis rather than of absolute opposites. There was, nevertheless, a cognitive dissonance between what, by the early 1930s, may be thought of as the department’s official view and the conventional wisdom prevailing among field officers at the bottom of the administrative hierarchy. Officially, departmental policy in the 1930s and 1940s accepted the existence of a single national economy. At the lowest rungs of the administrative structure in the reserves, however, administrators emphasized the clash between the tribal weltanschauung and the modern world of precision and instrumental rationality based on impersonal market exchange. Although it was assumed that the former would eventually yield to the ineluctable power of modernity, the absence of any clear time schedule encouraged magistrates to persist in the belief that “trusteeship” was unavoidable and necessary for the foreseeable future. The practical compass of the magistrate therefore contrasted somewhat with the blurred “forward-looking vision” of segregationist politicians. Scholars have usually focused on the official view, citing speeches by Smuts and Hofmeyr and the Fagan Commission’s report as evidence of the willingness among liberals to contemplate a timely denouement to segregation policies. This bias toward official texts and the speeches of prominent politicians neglects the dominant vision lower down the bureaucratic echelon in the reserves. The “tribal” vision remained strong at this level, configuring the trajectory of administration in the reserves throughout the 1940s without check. Indeed, the administrative corps in the reserves was ill-equipped to pursue any other direction. Men marinated in the assumptions of white paternalism and instinctively convinced of the “tribal backwardness” of the Africans around them would have been at a loss to plot the way forward to a unitary nation-state. Even as they continued to marginalize the chieftaincy, for them the notion of “tribe” was at once broader and more fundamental than any other political or administrative doctrine.

Magistrates and Africans in the Transkei

Paternalism certainly presumed that Africans were to be ruled over. Nevertheless, magisterial rule was also more than just a coercive administrative net overlaid on the reserves. If administration gave the magistrate extensive say over the lives of reserve dwellers, administrators pointed out with pride that Africans also had “a voice in their own affairs” in the segregated institutions that, officials believed, softened the Africans’ induction into the modern present.[88] “Local government” institutions set in place in the reserves after the turn of the century thus sought to graft colonial onto traditional authority structures. The two institutions consolidated in the first half of this century to buttress direct rule through magistrates were the council system and the Native Representative Council. Administrators entertained high hopes for these two institutions, despite the different orientations they embodied.

Of the various channels of representation available to Africans, the Native Representative Council was viewed by Africans and whites alike as the most important forum for expressing “opinion” and “sentiment.” This body was the only institutional vehicle for Africans to consider and debate issues that affected them on a national basis. The NRC was composed of twelve black members elected through a system of communal and indirect elections, six departmental officials, and four black members nominated by the department. (In addition, the Native Representation Act also permitted Africans to send four white Native Representatives to parliament in a complex system of elections based on tribal association.) As a mark of the NRC’s importance, the Secretary for Native Affairs presided as chair over the council’s annual meetings, held in Umtata. The NRC’s powers were purely deliberative, however, and discussion was confined to those matters that affected Africans. What, precisely, constituted “Native issues” thus became the subject of acrimonious debate between the SNA and Africans, who repeatedly resisted attempts to isolate African politics from broader national debates. In the course of its active life-span, from 1936 to 1946, the NRC was to mirror the divisions within the ranks of Africans: radicals, moderates, members of the urban elite, and rural chiefs all sat together in the annual sessions held in Umtata.

It is therefore possible to find in the NRC’s published reports some of the most scathing and penetrating analyses of segregation, juxtaposed to the acquiescence and deep-seated conservatism of illiterate chiefs. Perhaps anticipating problems from an institution that could potentially consolidate African politics on a national basis, the select committee appointed to establish a representative body to compensate Africans in the Cape Province for stripping them of their voting rights set in place a deliberately complex voting process that undermined the weight of urban voters and inflated the role of tribal chiefs. In keeping with this spirit, Africans removed from the common voters’ roll in the Cape Province were not placed on a separate roll for NRC elections, as they had requested in an attempt to preserve their individual voting rights, but on a “communal” (i.e., tribal) voters’ roll.[89] The NRC was regarded within official circles as an important institution. At the same time, the body’s overt political stance, a phenomenon among Africans that Native administrators viewed with instinctive distrust, was compromised in the eyes of Africans because of its awkward origins in 1936 as a morally questionable compensation for disenfranchising Africans. In any case, the NRC never came to enjoy wide support among Africans, despite elections held in 1937, 1942, and 1948.[90]

In contrast, the council system established in the Transkei enjoyed both the regard of administrators and the cooperation of Africans in the Transkei. The council system, which formed the basis of local government in the Transkeian territories, is perhaps best viewed as a parallel but subordinate institution to magisterial authority. First advanced by the Cape Native Laws and Customs Commission of 1883—the body that piloted the strategy of subordinating the chieftaincy to magisterial rule—the idea of establishing a limited system of local government in the reserves was crystallized in the Glen Grey Act of 1894. As many have noted, the preeminent goal of the act was to function as a labor-procuring device, by virtue of the quit-rent tenure arrangements that it introduced.[91] But the Glen Grey Act sought to do more than just “civilise” Africans by the sweat of the brow. It also claimed to “ease the transition from barbarism” by “introducing natives to the complexities of modern government.” [92] The “local government” system it established consisted of a two-tiered arrangement of district councils and location boards. Location boards were subsidiary bodies intended to control individual locations; they consisted of three members elected by location inhabitants and approved by the magistrate. These boards constituted only a minor aspect of the administrative system, as their chief function was to keep magistrates in touch with issues relating to land usage.[93] District councils, which were higher bodies, were responsible for the administration of local affairs throughout the district. Eact district council was composed of twelve members, of whom six were nominated by the magistrate and six were elected by Africans, subject to the magistrate’s approval.

Proclamation 32 of 1894 first introduced the Glen Grey system to four districts in the Transkei (Butterworth, Idutya, Mqamakwe, and Tsomo), with alterations that tightened the department’s grip over District Councillors. The selection of the councillors, who were reduced from twelve to six, became entirely a function of administrative functionaries, with four elected by headmen and two by the governor-general (in effect, by the local magistrate.) District councils met on a quarterly basis, providing councillors with the opportunity to address the areas of jurisdiction conferred on them: road maintenance, cattle dipping, tree planting, combating soil erosion, eradicating noxious weeds, and imposing local levies to finance local administration. Revenues were derived from quit-rent on land and from a local tax of ten shillings levied on every hut occupied by persons who did not pay the quit-rent.[94]

In 1931, the Transkei and Pondoland councils were amalgamated to form the United Transkeian Territories General Council (UTTGC), known as the Bunga (“discussion”). The resolutions passed by district councils were channeled to the Transkei General Council. Although the Bunga’s purview was widened to empower it to discuss and pass resolutions on any issue bearing on the economic and social conditions of Africans in the Union, its recommendations remained purely advisory. Still, the Bunga’s work was fairly sizable: it dealt with an annual budget of £300,000, and expenditures amounted to a sizable £7,176,266 between 1932 and 1947, in which time it established three agricultural schools, a sheep farm, and three experimental farms, and employed 174 agricultural demonstrators.[95] Lord Hailey observes, however, that these achievements undermined the very goals of self-government that Union policy ostensibly sought to promote in the reserves. The dominance of magistrates over district council meetings, their powers to override council resolutions, and the fact that the councils’ revenues derived from a state-imposed general tax and not from decisions taken freely by the councils all militated against the “progressive intentions” of state policy.[96]

He might have said the same about the right of magistrates to review and veto the resolutions formulated by the Bunga. The 108-person membership of the UTTGC was composed as follows: the CMT, presiding as Chair over the Bunga; twenty-six Magistrates; three Paramount Chiefs ex officio (from Thembuland and Eastern and Western Pondoland); and three representatives sent up from each district council. The local magistrate chaired the district council’s quarterly meetings. This composition yielded a ratio of whites to Africans of 27:81 and a ratio of elected representatives to administrative officials of 78:30. The clear numerical majority of elected Africans was circumscribed, however, by the powers that direct rule lodged in the Transkei’s magistrates. In 1943, it was recorded that out of 101 resolutions passed by the Bunga in the preceding three years, the Official Conference of white magistrates had supported 67, not supported 23, and forwarded 11 without comment; furthermore, the government had rejected 30 out of the 67 resolutions supported by the Official Conference, meaning that more than half the Bunga’s resolutions eventually foundered on either magisterial or ministerial disapproval.[97]

Just as the dominance of magistrates curtailed the power of the African elite over local affairs, regulations also ensured that the power of ordinary peasants was undermined by the disproportionate voice of the rural elite within the council system. A convoluted method of indirect “election” ensured that chiefs and headmen were likely to predominate within the district councils. From 1932 onward, “ratepayers” (i.e., landholders) in each electoral ward convened to elect three representatives once every three years; thereafter, these representatives would meet to elect four from among their ranks to join two government nominees on the district council. Three representatives would then be elected by the district council (subject to the magistrate’s nominal approval) to serve on the Bunga.

The class character of District Councillors in the mid-1950s reflects the elitist results. According to Hammond-Tooke, of the 138 men serving as District Councillors in 1955, 105 (76 percent) were either chiefs or headmen, only 60 of whom were elected. “Of the rest,” he continues, “what might be considered professional men (teachers, clerks and agricultural demonstrators) numbered only twelve (9 percent) of the total.” If “professionals” were overwhelmed by their more affluent and influential compatriots, they at least enjoyed a small measure of representation, which was denied to the Transkei’s poorest inhabitants. The exclusion of migrant workers and the landless from direct access to local government institutions is reflected in the Recess Committee appointed to consider the integration of the Bunga and the Bantu Authorities systems: of the 89 committee members, 63 (71 percent) were either chiefs or headmen, and the next largest category was 6 “peasant farmers.”

Two themes emerge from this overview of administration in the Transkei: the department’s continued, if hazy, commitment to evolutionary gradualism and the subordination of chiefs to magistrates and headmen. Despite growing evidence that the NRC and the Bunga were increasingly impatient with the “temporary” nature of segregation, no substantive initiative emerged from within the state to deal with the administration of the reserves. The result was that the department’s growing interest in “rational administration” was focused almost completely on urban administration. With the publication of the report of the Fagan Commission, Smuts’ government at least possessed a blueprint of some kind for broaching urban administration. The reserves, in contrast, were barely mentioned in the commission’s report, providing evidence of the extent to which the DNA’s claimed expertise in the management of rural populations had been badly eroded by the demographic and industrial developments of the interwar years. Moreover, while urban cadres groped for ways to rationalize administration, the magisterial ranks in the reserves displayed no such initiative. A sense of marking time pervaded the immediate postwar years. By the end of the war, African leaders had reassessed their grudging decision to accept “temporary” institutions such as the NRC and the indefinite limbo in which the Bunga was suspended. The trajectories of these two bodies, however, were to diverge sharply.

In its ninth annual session, held in 1946, the NRC signaled its break with evolutionary gradualism when it unequivocally embraced the militant demands of the ANC and identified with working-class mobilization in the urban areas; the council made these developments clear by adjourning indefinitely in August 1946.[98] The Bunga, however, refrained from such combative confrontations with the state. Instead, after venting its impatience with the paternalist model touted by the DNA, the Bunga actively sought to bend apartheid policy to its own interests. Before addressing (in the next chapter) the complicated steps leading to the Bunga’s murky alliance with the Bantustan model, it is important to accentuate the clarity of the NRC’s unambiguous repudiation of the racial state in the late 1940s.

In the speech that effectively shut down the NRC in 1946, Dr. J. S. Moroka, member of the NRC and later president-general of the ANC, pointedly refused to rank-order yet again the elements of Africans’ opposition to segregation. The gravamen of the fiery critique he presented on 15 August 1946 was that racial segregation was unacceptable in its entirety. It should be noted that the decision to adjourn indefinitely was not an impromptu response to the brutal quashing of the strike staged by African mineworkers on 4 August 1946 (in defiance of laws that expressly outlawed strikes by African workers), as has been claimed.[99] It stemmed, instead, from a carefully arranged accord reached between the NRC and A. B. Xuma, then President-General of the ANC and chair of the Anti-Pass Committee. At the request of Xuma, the NRC agreed to terminate its session unilaterally unless Smuts’ government agreed to abolish all pass laws, recognize African trade unions, and repeal the MNA’s authority to banish Africans without trial.[100] Thus, the NRC’s decision to suspend its 1946 session vividly conveyed the limits of the body’s patience while also, by the same stroke, emphasizing the leading role of the ANC in molding African politics.

Given its resolve to secure nothing less than the termination of segregation, the NRC’s unilateral adjournment was a foregone conclusion. Still, the department’s paternalist response to the increasingly angry tones emanating from the NRC immediately after World War II fueled the body’s outrage, especially given the tense climate set by the killing and whipping of striking mineworkers. The outbreak of the African mineworkers’ strike coincided with Smuts’ participation in a United Nations conference in Paris. Because the SNA, W. J. G. Mears, was preoccupied by the strike and because the MNA, P. K. van der Byl, was unpopular with the NRC, it was left to a relatively junior official, Under-Secretary Fred Rodseth, to deal with the crisis brewing in the NRC. Rodseth was summoned to serve as chair of the NRC on the very morning that the body assembled in Pretoria; according to one source, he was “completely unaware of the contents of the agenda.” [101] In his opening address before the council, Rodseth said nothing about the strike, a matter of burning importance to the council, and furthermore he was not in a position to comment on the matter when pressed. Thus, Rodseth unexpectedly presided over the furious broadsides against Smuts’ government that culminated in the NRC’s decision to adjourn indefinitely.

Two subsequent developments illuminate the chasm that separated the NRC from Smuts’ government. The first was the haughty paternalist rebuke that Hofmeyr, serving as Acting Prime Minister in Smuts’ absence, handed down to council members on 20 November. Peremptorily brushing aside Hofmeyr’s liberal defense of segregation policy and his lecture on the value of patience, the NRC responded with a demand for direct and unrestricted African representation at all levels of the state.[102] Smuts delivered the second insult in person when he attempted to bridge the impasse between the NRC and his government in May 1947. While he agreed to “extend the system of Native representation,” his proposals (which he tactlessly described as “a bone for the Council to chew on”) actually marked a return to suggestions that Hertzog had tabled before parliament in 1928. Smuts informed the NRC that the body would be expanded to fifty members, as Hertzog had recommended, and merely proposed to withdraw the six white Native affairs officials and abolish the four nominated members, so that all fifty members would be elected by Africans. In addition, the council’s advisory powers would be widened. Again, the NRC used Smuts’ proposals as an opportunity to reject segregation in its entirety.[103] The ensuing stalemate between the NRC and the prime minister became irrelevant when the NP unexpectedly won the general election of May 1948 and Verwoerd decided to abolish the NRC altogether, bringing the council’s unhappy life to a definitive end.

The NRC therefore brazenly initiated steps that culminated in what it viewed as its own honorable demise. In contrast, the Bunga refrained from emulating the NRC’s combative skirmishes with the state and almost instinctively distanced itself from working-class struggles in the country’s urban areas. Still, as the next chapter illustrates, this conservative and eminently rural body did challenge the administrative constraints that governed its workings and limited its horizons. Frustrated by the department’s sketchy plans for the Transkei’s political future and placed in an increasingly invidious position with peasant farmers increasingly opposed to the department’s unpopular interventions into the subsistence economy, the headmen and chiefs who monopolized the body responded by demanding a greater role for themselves in the administration of the Transkei. However, their rumblings of discontent remained a largely departmental affair in the late 1940s—testimony not of their unimportance to the administrative machine in the Transkei but of their marginal position in the configuration of South African politics.

Curiously, the virtually simultaneous disappearance of the two antagonists, the NRC and Smuts’ liberal government, unexpectedly set the stage for the Bunga to gravitate to the forefront of the DNA’s attention in the 1950s. The Bunga’s journey from rural obscurity to the center of the apartheid stage was marked by a complicated series of steps that suggest a considerable degree of voluntary cooperation from the rural elite. Chiefs and headmen were intrigued by promises from Eiselen and Verwoerd that their subordinate position to the Transkei’s ubiquitous magistrates would be terminated. Some of their cooperation was unwitting, as subsequent chapters illustrate, and many chiefs and headmen either disdained Verwoerd’s administrative structure from the outset or soon came to regret their collaboration with a civil bureaucracy that rapidly became identified with communal fission and violent bloodletting. In sum, however, the elevation and bureaucratic modernization of the Bunga became the means by which the DNA aggressively imposed its authority over the country’s largest labor reserve and altered the very meaning of apartheid with the active cooperation of chiefs and headmen.


1. Social and Economic Planning Council, The Native Reserves and Their Place in the Economy of South Africa, Report No. 9, Government Printers, UG 32 (1946), 62; Mears, “A Study of Native Administration in the Transkeian Territories” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of South Africa), 138.

2. Anonymous, interview, June 1982, Johannesburg; the phrase “oppressive agents of the state” was couched in a question I asked. Not even the department’s close cooperation with the gold-mining industry dimmed this self-perception. A report submitted to the department in 1903 by W. T. Brownlee, Magistrate in the Butterworth district, shows that the department was aware that labor recruiters for the mines frequently took recourse to devious stratagems such as the infamous “advance system” for attracting young males into mining employment, and that complaints about “thrashings,” poor food, and lower-than-expected wages were rife among migrants. See DNA, Cape of Good Hope, “Reports of Delegates Together with Correspondence Relating to Visit of Native Representatives from the Cape Colony and the Transkeian Territories to Johannesburg to Enquire into the Conditions of Labour and the Treatment Accorded to Native Labourers Employed on the Rand Mines,” G 4 (1904). Partly for these reasons, the position of Director of Native Labour was established in 1911 to oversee the welfare of migrant workers on mining premises.

3. Marquard, “South Africa’s Colonial Policy,” 15.

4. The discussion of paternalism in British colonial administration relies on Berman, Crisis and Control, chapter 3, especially 104–15. It also draws on Dubow, Racial Segregation, chapter 3; Phillips, Enigma of Colonialism; Ashforth, Politics of Official Discourse; Gartrell, Ruling Ideas of a Ruling Elite; Sisson, Spirit of British Administration; and B. Hamilton, Yesterday’s Rulers: The Making of the British Colonial Service (Syracuse, 1963).

5. The emphasis on the local initiative of magistrates in colonial South Africa, as elsewhere in the British colonial world, owed its genesis in some measure to the virtual absence of a systematic colonial policy in the imperial capital. J. Kent, The Internationalization of Colonialism: Britain, France and Black Africa, 1939–1956 (Oxford, 1992), 6. “In politics, as in religion,” a student of colonial administration notes, “the British are Protestant. Institutional tolerance is the corollary of a disbelief in universals.…” E. W. Evans, “Principles and Methods of Administration in the British Colonial Empire,” in Principles and Methods of Colonial Administration: The Colston Papers (London, 1950), 11. In 1930, after reviewing the pattern of racial legislation in South Africa in the aftermath of the mineral revolution, two prominent liberals concluded, “It is mainly of a haphazard character, appealing to the vacillating emotions of the more ignorant sections of the electorate, and is correspondingly devoid of statesmanlike vision.” Even the much-admired administrative system in the Transkei had produced only one “far-sighted” measure (the Glen Grey Act—see below), “but this was an exception to the rule that was adopted in the rest of South Africa.…” E. H. Brookes and H. Frankel, “Problems of Economic Inequality: The Poor White and the Native,” in E. H. Brookes (ed.), Coming of Age: Studies on South African Citizenship and Politics (Cape Town, 1930), 146–47.

6. On this particular issue, magistrates and the gold-mining industry shared a similar understanding of dynamics in the reserves. According to A. W. Gemmill, chief labor official of the Chamber of Mines, “there was plenty of land in the reserves if it was properly looked after.” A. W. Gemmill, cited in A. B. Xuma “Memorandum for Submission to the Native Laws Commission Enquiry by Dr. AB Xuma, President-General of the ANC” (1948?), in 2: XX2: 24/3 in Reel 18A of CKC.

7. A. G. McLoughlin, “The Transkeian System of Native Administration” (Master’s thesis, Rhodes University, 1936), 24; Hammond-Tooke, Command or Consensus, 138.

8. Cited in Mears, “A Study of Native Administration,” 418.

9. Ibid.

10. Ibid., 418–19. Even W. J. Carr, Johannesburg’s chief urban administrator in the 1950s, decried the drift toward “specialisation”: “I have seen examples over many years of an administrator who is fluent in a particular language, who is thoroughly rooted in one particular ethnological background of the tribe not making as good an administrator as a man with more general experience and more general knowledge.…” Johannesburg City Council, “Report of the Commission Appointed…to Enquire into the Causes and Circumstances of the Riots… [Centlivres Commission],” 70–71.

11. Mears, “Study in Native Administration,” 421.

12. Brookes and Macaulay, Civil Liberty in South Africa, 33.

13. This theme is explored in the next chapter.

14. Lacey, Working for Boroko.

15. “Agenda: Conference of Chief Native Commissioners,” 3 February 1950, in NTS 1812 1 138/276. The department solicited all the cooperation it could obtain from the police and chiefs to monitor the elections held in the reserves to elect Africans to the NRC and the four white representatives to parliament. Candidates complained that they were harassed by uncooperative chiefs, followed by detectives in urban and rural areas alike, and denied the right to address rural constituencies by magistrates. Roux, Time Longer than Rope, 199; H. J. Simons and R. Simons, Class and Colour in South Africa, 1850–1950 (Baltimore, 1969). The first elections held in 1937 revealed that African teachers—the most literate and progressive Africans in the rural areas, where illiteracy was the norm—were active in explaining the intricacies of the voting system and exerted considerable influence over rural voters. The department therefore altered the rules, empowering the local NC to appoint the chair of each rural electoral committee to ensure that a man trusted by the department would assume responsibility for explaining the voting system. M. Roth, “Domination by Consent: Elections under the Representation of Natives Act, 1937–1948,” in Tom Lodge (ed.), Resistance and Ideology in Settler Societies, Southern African Studies no. 4 (Johannesburg, 1985), 149; J. Hyslop, “Teachers’ Resistance in African Education,” in M. Nkomo (ed.), Pedagogy of Domination: Towards a Democratic Education in South Africa (Trenton, 1990), 105.

16. Dubow, Racial Segregation, 83.

17. Ibid., 84.

18. Ibid., chapter 4.

19. Ibid.

20. Ibid., 98.

21. Ibid., chapter 4.

22. See comments of Major Liefeldt, in “Conference of Chief Native Commissioners,” 3 February 1950, in NTS 1812 1 138/276 Annexure, 39. The department’s ambivalent position is discussed in Dubow, Racial Segregation, chapter 4.

23. Native Economic Commission, Report, Government Printers, UG 22 (1932).

24. M. Burawoy, “State and Social Revolution in South Africa,” Kapitalistate, 9 (Dec. 1981).

25. Marquard, “South Africa’s Colonial Policy,” 6.

26. Ibid., 14.

27. Brookes, The History of Native Policy in South Africa from 1830 to the Present Day (Cape Town, 1924).

28. Dubow, Racial Segregation.

29. Phillips, Enigma of Colonialism, 11–14.

30. Berman, Crisis and Control in Colonial Kenya.

31. C. Bundy, The Rise and Fall of the South African Peasantry (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1979).

32. J. Krikler, Revolution from Above, Revolution from Below: The Agrarian Transvaal at the Turn of the Century (New York, 1993), chapter 1. Also see L. M. Thompson, “Cooperation and Conflict: The High Veld,” in M. Wilson and L. M. Thompson (eds.), The Oxford History of South Africa, vol. 1 (Oxford, 1972), 424.

33. Berman, Crisis and Control, 95.

34. Bundy, Rise and Fall, 199.

35. Krikler, Revolution from Above, 38.

36. In the OFS, however, the immediate activation of expulsion measures set thousands of African peasants adrift, dispossessed of their land and vulnerable to white farmers hungry for labor tenants. This disaster is movingly portrayed in S. Plaatje, Native Life in South Africa, before the European War and since the Boer Rebellion (London, 1916).

37. Beinart and Bundy emphasize that many members of the “middle peasantry” voluntarily participated in the wage economy, not because of their proletarianization and immiseration, but in order to secure cash to reinvest and expand their peasant holdings. Beinart and Bundy, Hidden Struggles, 16. Also see F. Cooper, “Peasants, Capitalists and Historians: A Review Article,” JSAS, 7/2 (1981).

38. Crush, Jeeves, and Yudelman, South Africa’s Labour Empire, 26; P. Harries, Labour Migration from Mozambique to South Africa (Ph.D. dissertation, University of London, 1983); F. Cooper, “Africa and the World Economy,” African Studies Review, 24 (1981).

39. See Iliffe, Modern History of Tanganyika.

40. Phillips, Enigma of Colonialism, 156.

41. Sir Charles Arden-Clarke, “The Changing Rôle of White Leadership in Tropical Africa,” Optima (December 1960), 180.

42. Berman, Crisis and Control, 41–42; Phillips, Enigma of Colonialism, passim.

43. Lacey, Working for Boroko, 47.

44. Chapter 2 outlined the compromises reached among whites over ways to weaken Africans’ access to land. After 1932, African peasants would be either converted into wage workers for “progressive” white farmers or set adrift to search for security as labor tenants on the land of poorer white farmers, eventually to be expelled to the reserves. Likewise, labor tenants would be gradually converted into wage labor and, once rendered “superfluous” by mechanization, removed from the white rural areas altogether.

45. Cited in Ashforth, Politics of Official Discourse, 36.

46. Ibid., chapter 1.

47. Considerable information concerning the material retardation and “underdevelopment” of the reserve economies in the mid-1900s already exists and will not be recounted here. See H. Wolpe, “Capitalism and Cheap Labour-Power”; T. Moll, “No Blade of Grass: Rural Production and State Intervention in the Transkei, 1925–55” (BA thesis, University of Cape Town, 1983); F. Hendricks, “The Pillars of Apartheid: Land Tenure, Rural Planning and the Chieftaincy” (Ph.D. dissertation, Uppsala, Stockholm, 1990). The most widely discussed source, however, remains the report of the Tomlinson Commission: Summary of the Report of the Commission for the Socio-economic Development of Bantu Areas within the Union of South Africa, Government Printers, UG 61 (1955). (Hereafter, this will be cited as the Tomlinson Commission Report.)

48. Beinart and Bundy, Hidden Struggles, 10.

49. Witwatersrand Mine Natives’ Wages Commission, Report, Government Printers, UG 21 (1944).

50. Bundy, Rise and Fall, 84.

51. F. W. Fox and D. Back, A Preliminary Survey of the Agricultural and Nutritional Problems of the Ciskei and Transkei Territories (Johannesburg, 1938). Also see F. W. Fox, “Diet and Life in South Africa,” South African Medical Journal, 11 January 1936; and R. M. Packard, White Plague, Black Labor: Tuberculosis and the Political Economy of Health and Disease in South Africa (Berkeley, 1989), especially chapter 4.

52. “Estimate of Rural Villages: Statistical Data,” 1950, in NTS 8333 1 24/350.

53. J. W. F. Grosskopf (ed.), The Poor White Problem in South Africa: Report of the Carnegie Commission, 5 vols. (Stellenbosch, 1932).

54. By the mid-1940s, the problem of desperate poverty among whites was on the wane. See J. Iliffe, The African Poor (Cambridge, 1982), 118.

55. Information taken from J. T. Kenyon, An Address on the General Council Administrative System of the Transkeian Territories (Umtata, 1932), 100–102.

56. Social and Economic Planning Council, Native Reserves and Their Place in the Economy, 62.

57. Ballinger, From Union to Apartheid, 112.

58. Kenyon, Address on the General Council Administrative System, 12.

59. Hammond-Tooke, Command or Consensus, 16.

60. Rodseth, interview. For a description of the powers of the magistrate, see Rogers, Native Administration, 261–63.

61. Hammond-Tooke, Command or Consensus, 94–95.

62. See Kenyon, Address on the General Council Administrative System, 19, for 1932 figures. Also see Lt. Col. E. H. W. Muller, “Address on the Administration of the Transkeian Territories” (n.p., September 1924), 11.

63. In Beinart and Bundy, Hidden Struggles, 209.

64. Ibid., 208.

65. Dubow argues that the tension was a prominent feature of policy debates in the 1920s. Dubow, Racial Segregation, chapter 4. However, it does not appear to have had a significant impact on administration.

66. Berman, Crisis and Control, 97.

67. Ibid.

68. Rogers, Native Administration, 24.

69. Requests from chiefs for greater legal powers are recorded in “Conference of Chief Native Commissioners,” 3 February 1950, 72–77.

70. Quoted in Kenyon, Address on the General Council Administrative System, 15.

71. See, for example, Major Hartmann’s chronicle of the department’s dispute with the Department of Justice in “Conference of Chief Native Commissioners,” 3 February 1950, 25.

72. Mbeki, Peasants’ Revolt, 28.

73. Interview with ex-official of the department who wishes to remain anonymous, Johannesburg, 1984. Rule through proclamation was a long-standing tradition in the Transkei, differing from the Natal model only in that the latter bypassed parliament completely; in the Transkei, proclamations had to be submitted to parliament fourteen days before taking effect. In practice, the difference was likely to have been small, notwithstanding Lacey’s overblown contention. Contrary to Lacey’s claims, the powers of the “Supreme Chief” could easily have been extended into the Transkei, and probably without any constitutional implications getting in the way (a fundamental claim around which much of her book hinges). Verwoerd informed parliament in 1956 that these same powers could be extended through the Annexation Acts of the nineteenth century. However, when pressed by Margaret Ballinger, he conceded that this was unlikely because the acts did not distinguish between Africans and whites. See Ballinger, From Union to Apartheid, 203.

74. Interview with Rodseth, 1984.

75. John Burger, The Black Man’s Burden (London, 1943), 56.

76. Rogers, Native Administration, 34.

77. Hailey, African Survey, 432.

78. Ibid., 433.

79. Ibid., 156.

80. B. Anderson, Imagined Communities (Verso Books, 1988), 77.

81. Comments by Major Brink, “Conference of Chief Native Commissioners,” 3 April 1953, in NTS 1812 1 138/276, 77.

82. A. Nandy, The Intimate Enemy: Loss and the Recovery of Self (Bombay, 1983), 3. For anecdotal evidence of the various means used to buttress the status of magistrates, see Hammond-Tooke, Command or Consensus, 46–47, and Beinart and Bundy, Hidden Struggles, 86–88.

83. Muller, “Address on Administration of Transkeian Territories,” 5.

84. Ibid., 12.

85. NEC, Report, UG 22 (1932).

86. Native Laws Commission, Report, UG 26 (1948).

87. See “Naturellefamilies Sonder Grond of Vee: Uitstreksels uit Diensbriewe van Naturellekommissarisse,” 17 August 1951, in NTS 8333 1 24 (350), and “Notule van Samesprekings gehou Tussen die Sekretaris van Naturellesake en die Ses Hoofnaturellesakekommissariss,” 17 November 1954, NTS 1740 2.

88. Rogers, Native Administration, 78.

89. Placing all Africans on a communal voters’ roll had the important advantage of circumventing the link between the franchise question and land-ownership. Since a communal voting system sidestepped the issue of land-ownership, the way was clear to rationalize tribalist policy on a nationwide basis. See Lacey, Working for Boroko, 64.

90. For an analysis of these elections, see Roth, “Domination by Consent,” 145–67.

91. See Lacey, Working for Boroko, chapter 2; Hendricks, “Pillars of Apartheid,” 124; R. Southall, South Africa’s Transkei: The Political Economy of an ‘Independent’ Bantustan (New York, 1983), 57.

92. Rogers, Native Administration, 58.

93. Hailey, African Survey, 422.

94. Hammond-Tooke, Command or Consensus, 91–92.

95. Hailey, African Survey, 426. An observation by John Burger provides a counterweight to Lord Hailey’s positive assessments. The Bunga’s annual revenue, Burger notes, “amounts to little more than half the amount spent by the Union government on the one item ‘Printing and Stationery’, or—perhaps a more apt comparison—to about a quarter of the amount spent annually on prisons and reformatories”; furthermore, “there is of course, this difference: that the inmates of the prisons and reformatories do not have to pay for their own services.” Black Man’s Burden, 58.

96. Hailey, African Survey, 429.

97. Hammond-Tooke, Command or Consensus, 103.

98. NRC, “Minutes of Proceedings,” 14–15 August 1946, in Reel 10 of CKC 2:AK5/2:32/17. Reliable accounts of the NRC’s demise may be found in T. R. H. Davenport, South Africa, 309–11; and Tatz, Shadow and Substance, 113–19.

99. The argument that the NRC’s decision to adjourn indefinitely was an impromptu response to the brutal suppression of the mineworkers’ strike is made by D. O’Meara, “The 1946 African Mine Workers’ Strike and the Political Economy of South Africa,” in M. Murray (ed.), South African Capitalism and Black Political Opposition (Cambridge, 1982). Dr. J. S. Moroka made it clear in his speech that the NRC objected to all aspects of segregation, and not just the state’s violent quashing of the strike. Moroka’s speech concluded with a forceful repudiation of “the reactionary character of Union Native Policy…in all its ramifications” and blasted “the Government’s post-war continuation of a policy of Fascism” as “the antithesis and negation of the letter and spirit of the Atlantic Charter and the United Nations Charter.” NRC, “[Resolution by the] Native Representative Council,” 15 August 1946, in Reel 10 of CKC 2:AK5/3:33/4.

100. Davenport, South Africa, 310.

101. Tatz, Shadow and Substance, 115. This account is taken from Davenport, South Africa, 310–11.

102. NRC, “Resolution of the Natives Representative Council re Acting Prime Minister’s speech,” 15 August 1946, in Reel 10 of CKC 2:AK5/3:33/6.

103. Davenport, South Africa, 310–11; NRC, “Minutes of Proceedings,” 4 January 1949, in Reel 10 of CKC 2:AK5/2:32:20.

6. The Bastardization of Authority

Administration and Civil Society in the Transkei


The administrative structure of direct rule in the Transkei raised an important question: where exactly was the line between state and civil society in the Transkei? Were chiefs and headmen part of the state or part of civil society? As many have noted, a general problem associated with the concept of civil society is its notoriously vague meaning and consequently its slippery differentiation from the state.[1] More relevant to this chapter, however, is the tendency to associate the phenomenon of a civil society with “Western” society. The main reason for this identification is that political and economic (i.e., market) structures are more clearly differentiated from one another in capitalist societies, establishing the conditions for autonomous individuals and communities to establish voluntary associations interposed between them and the state.[2]

In subsistence societies, of course, the political and the economic are considerably less differentiated. Nevertheless, it is crucial to note that they are generally not collapsed into each other, and that regulatory checks exist to curb the arbitrary abuse of power, control the distribution of scarce resources, and protect the right of commoners to influence the affairs of the community. The blurring of the political and the economic in a subsistence society, therefore, should not obscure the significant extent to which the two are differentiated, permitting civil structures to exert substantive control over the political realm. In South Africa, the imposition of Native administration structures on the reserves did much to confound these characteristics. To clarify the nature of administration in the Transkei, it is necessary to devote some attention to the consequences of direct rule in the Transkei and to focus on the role of chiefs, a category whose salience arises from their location in the interface between the power of the central state and the will of peasant society.

Much of the literature on direct rule in the Transkei assumes that the system did indeed achieve its intended effect in displacing the chieftaincy. While it is certainly true that the chieftaincy had all but collapsed in a number of districts, to varying degrees the institution persisted in most parts of the Transkei. In practice, therefore, administration in the Transkei departed considerably from the formal rhetoric of the “Transkeian tradition,” with chiefs (in the many areas where they continued to exist) and headmen playing important and frequently ambiguous roles in the day-to-day affairs of local government.

This chapter therefore examines the nature of the chieftaincy in the light of the Transkeian system of administration. It argues that, far from having been weakened to the point of generalized dissolution, in many areas the chieftaincy survived the decades-long attempt to undermine it. The persistence of the chieftaincy, moreover, stemmed in part from the very nature of direct rule. A contradictory policy that formally sought to marginalize chiefs, direct rule also, paradoxically, afforded chiefs with a degree of inadvertent protection, which enabled the chieftaincy to endure and even to weather the mounting opposition and unrest in the Transkei. By no means dispatched to oblivion in accordance with the direct rule model, chiefs and headmen were deeply affected by the ecological and political transformation of the Transkei: ecological decay threatened the material privileges to which they laid claim, while peasant “unrest” illuminated their ambiguous relationship to both civil society and the local magistrate, the representative of the central state.

Complicating their predicament was the department’s plan to salvage the Transkeian economy. Just as the department’s plans in the urban areas drew it into direct conflict with Africans there, development projects in the reserves antagonized the mass of African peasants. In negotiating the uncomfortable space between a magisterial corps increasingly resolved to intervene in the fundamentals of subsistence production and peasants’ hostility to the enterprise, chiefs and headmen displayed an understandable preference to be firmly associated with neither. Instead, suspended between increasingly interventionist magistrates and combative constituencies, they explored self-aggrandizing alternatives that dovetailed fatefully with the apartheid critique of “trusteeship.”

State, Civil Society, and Chiefs in the Reserves

The popular white view concerning the political nature of traditional African societies was shaped by the “Shaka fallacy” and powerfully reinforced by authoritarian tribalist measures such as the Native Administration Act. In this perspective, traditional chiefs ruled despotically over cowering subjects. But, as experienced administrators knew, mechanisms in traditional Bantu-speaking societies held leaders accountable to society and protected the rights of commoners to participate in and enjoy the benefits of voluntary associations. They also knew that the consensual basis of decision making ensured that the voice of commoners was heard, even if (as is also the case in representative democracies) this voice was delegated and exercised through recognized leaders. N. J. van Warmelo, the department’s Chief Ethnologist, would later have occasion to point out to Eiselen that chiefs exercised legislative, executive, and judicial authority in consultation with councillors, and that the chief who abused his powers was not likely to be accepted by either councillors or commoners.[3] Headmen and chiefs did possess administrative powers in the precolonial era, but even in this area their discretionary powers were narrowly circumscribed. Hammond-Tooke concludes that, at least in Pondoland, their administrative powers were essentially political in nature: “[Administration] was not usually by fiat of chief or headman but resulted from the consensus of the male adult members of the tribe or ward, in other words between members of a group functioning, at least temporarily, as equals.” [4] An unquestioned perspective within the ranks of the white citizenry, the Shaka fallacy conceals the extent to which politics and political power were subject to the rule of (customary) law and actually encouraged individuals (usually males) to debate among themselves, criticize their leaders, and discuss courses of action. A public sphere was an important dimension of pre-annexation African society.

Jürgen Habermas and others have observed that a public sphere is always conditioned by the premodern structures from which it emerges.[5] In this light, the oral culture of Bantu politics and the right of (male) commoners to hold their leaders to public account in procedures sanctioned by (customary) law suggest the extent to which Africans were attuned to Western conceptions of a public sphere and liberal democracy. When administrators and visiting dignitaries expressed surprise at the eloquence and exemplary parliamentary performances they witnessed in the Bunga and the NRC, they were paying homage less to the fruits of missionary education than to the venerable tradition of public speechmaking in Bantu society. Here, anyway, tradition and modernity blended well. Segregation policy did not create a public sphere for Africans; indeed, the public sphere of the pre-annexation era was actually constricted by subsequent distortions of tribal government, particularly those that invested the white “Supreme Chief” and his administrative corps with authoritarian powers never possessed by African chiefs, and by a host of restrictions on the deliberations of the Bunga, a formal body that excluded the voice of commoners.

In addition to possessing a monitored and quite clearly demarcated political sphere, chiefdoms also sported institutions that were outside the direct control of the state. Despite the formal omnipotence of the local magistrate, layers of society lay beyond his immediate control, affording nodes where Africans regulated their daily lives through institutions that predated the colonial period. Although they did not possess market-based classes, which some argue are necessary features of an autonomous civil society,[6] other self-regulating institutions and associations did exist. Kinship structures formed the most basic institutions in which individuals regulated their affairs and developed loyalties without direct political surveillance or mandated obligation. Family, household, lineage, and clan were strong bases of identification reinforced by ancestor cults and the practice of witchcraft. Civil associations, which could be located at different points on the continuum between voluntary and obligatory, were formed on the basis of mutual interests that cut across kin relations and spatial boundaries within the chiefdom: hospitality groups (izithebe) and neighborhood associations organized the distribution of beer and meat at feasts; work parties (amalima) pooled the oxen and implements of neighbors and plowed, hoed, and reaped the fields in rotation; and wood-gathering parties (izitshongo) of girls from nearby households gathered wood together.[7]

Such institutions might indeed be voluntary, but in a redistributive peasant economy, cooperation always implied the mutual exchange of services or goods—if not immediately, then later. Identification with the neighborhood was sufficiently strong, as these examples might suggest, for neighborliness (umbumwelwane) to be considered more important than kin. The latter, dispersed across a location or chiefdom, could not render the practical and sometimes urgent assistance that neighbors could.[8] By the 1930s, the average location in the Transkei might also have sprouted a variety of other associations—Christian churches, schools, sports clubs, producer cooperatives, associations of teachers, migrant labor groupings—and was often marked by stratification based on access to land and livestock ownership. As the hegemonic basis of the preadministration social order receded further into the past, peasant society became more complex, with differentiations tending to emerge (or sometimes to merge) along multiple axes. Transkeian society was, by the 1930s, a far cry from the days when it was described as “culturally homogeneous.” [9]

The increasing structural and cultural complexity of the reserves severely undercut the paternalist approach to administration. Already undermined by the formalization of relations between magistrates and the rural elite through the procedural formulas that governed the workings of the Bunga, paternalist claims were weakened further by processes that exposed Africans to the alternative ideologies and interest-based organizations gaining ground in the urban areas, which returning migrants brought back with them to their districts. Magistrates responded to these developments inconsistently. As long as Africans who acquired literacy and cash and forsook “tribalism” refrained from disturbing the local peace, they were happy to conceive of these developments as proof of the “civilising mission” at work. Conversely, they were as likely to revert to the image of the city as a corrupting den when signs of defiance arose in their districts, prompting them to lament the “wasting away of tribal controls” and to warn against the “influence of nationalist-minded organisations.” [10]

Rural opposition mounted on the backs of two developments in the 1930s. First, Africans in the Cape were galvanized by the events leading up to the Native Representation Act of 1936, which expelled Africans in the Cape from the common voters’ roll and established the NRC. Organized efforts to resist disenfranchisement dominated African institutional politics in this decade, injecting a sour note into the NRC immediately upon its establishment; similarly, speeches in the Bunga make it clear that the rural elite placed a premium on this single issue, virtually to the exclusion of all others. Thus, if Africans in the NRC and the Bunga acquiesced to the 1936 act, they did so because they had no recourse, and their repeated criticisms and politely phrased protestations set a sometimes edgy mood of veiled combat with their white magisterial overseers.[11] But rural opposition was also fueled at the grass roots by the department’s rehabilitation and “Betterment” programs. Although well-intended, these efforts underscored that, even in the Transkei, the administration’s espousal of a noninterventionist creed was in gradual retreat in response to the danger confronting the state, a danger clearly expressed in the report of the NEC as “the townward drift of Natives.” In drawing up plans to mount a more concerted offense against the ecological deterioration of the reserves, the department began to intervene more systematically and deeply into the prerogatives of subsistence farming. It discovered that far from embracing its “progressive” labors, peasants were increasingly resentful and suspicious.

These developments did not only impact magistrates, the principal administrative agents in the Transkei. Although they were formally excluded from the administrative system, chiefs were also substantially affected. Yet one of the most striking features of administration in the Transkei is the department’s lack of interest in the role and fate of chiefs. This apparent indifference was of course, the consequence of direct rule policies. Although direct rule downplayed the importance of chiefs, this by no means meant that magistrates dispensed with the institution entirely. Because they were well apprised of the extent to which the chieftaincy continued to be acknowledged by many Africans in their districts, magistrates were not indifferent to chiefs. But because chiefs were not formally incorporated into the administrative structure, neither did they subject the chieftaincy to close scrutiny.

Lloyd Fallers has usefully divided research on the chieftaincy into the “official” and “anthropological” approaches. Official literature (exemplified by the work of Lord Hailey) “looks at the chief as he ought to be, or as the District Officer hopes he will be tomorrow.” In contrast, the anthropological approach “looks at the chief as he was yesterday.” [12] In South Africa, the strengthening of racial segregation swamped the future-oriented official perspective. As there were no plans to hand over the reins of self-government to Africans at any point in the foreseeable future, the anthropological perspective dominated Native administration in the reserves. The result was a deafening silence about the modern chieftaincy in the official Native administration literature in South Africa.

Apart from the obligatory contrast between the role of chiefs before and after direct rule, and the obvious distinction drawn between chiefs in the Transkei and in South Africa’s other reserves where indirect rule prevailed, hardly any systematic investigation into the contradictions besieging the chieftaincy appears to have been made (or, at least, filed away). As the Bunga’s repeated appeals for clarity about the chiefs’ administrative roles make clear (see below), the department remained vague about the precise administrative roles of chiefs in the segregation era, viewing the absence of specific doctrines about the chieftaincy as evidence of its “flexible” approach to policy.[13] It was also completely befuddled about even the general contours of the post-trusteeship era, let alone about the specific role that chiefs were to play in it. The “Regulations prescribing the duties, powers and privileges of Chiefs and Headmen” drawn up in 1928 are fastidiously peremptory, outlining duties to the department’s field officers that insist on the subordinate position of the African elite and the support they were expected to give chiefs in maintaining local stability.[14] Virtually all the research into the chieftaincy involved the history of tribes in the pre-administration period. There is no evidence that the department ever subjected the chieftaincy prevailing in the 1930s and 1940s to intensive study, either for academic interests or for any future administrative plans.

The impression that the department never fully appreciated the extent of the chiefs’ dilemma in the Transkei is strengthened by the ethnological research it sponsored. After some haggling over the salary scale, in 1934 the department appointed Dr. N. J. van Warmelo, an anthropologist, to head its Ethnology Section. Van Warmelo’s academic orientation and the numerous tribal ethnographies he subsequently either authored or promoted might have had something to do with the department’s apparent indifference to the structural tensions on which the chieftaincy had come to rest; in any case his anthropological approach did nothing to jolt it. Van Warmelo’s long tenure within the department (in which he served until the late 1970s) and the research into “tribal history” that he promoted require some comment.

For the three decades that he headed the Ethnology Section, van Warmelo’s research and publications faithfully adhered to the functionalist approach to anthropology. The classical anthropological approach described by Fallers was molded by the functionalist tradition founded by Emile Durkheim, A. R. Radcliffe-Brown, Meyer Fortes, and E. E. Evans-Pritchard.[15] The central claim of this tradition is that different value systems and institutions respond to dislocating change by becoming reintegrated in the attempt to sustain the organic basis of the social order. Van Warmelo’s functionalist perspective and backward-looking temporal concerns thus dovetailed with the administrative ethos that encouraged scattered magistrates to “go it alone” and to “learn through direct experience” about the people whom they ruled. The former strategy yielded little information about the current complexity of the chieftaincy. The latter had two consequences.

First, because they were deprived of a composite picture of the chieftaincy, magistrates acquired a pronounced tendency to assess the moral “character” and psychological “temperament” (two favorite descriptions) of individual chiefs. Second, magistrates were inclined to conceive of chiefs as “tribal” subjects, divorced from the structural strains of the positions they occupied. The net result was that officials possessed much personal information about individuals chiefs that was undoubtedly useful from the administrative viewpoint, but they displayed a poor grasp of the many horns on which the chieftaincy was suspended.

Instead, the imagery that administrators used to discuss the dilemmas of chiefs reflected the theoretical concerns of the functionalist paradigm. Like this paradigm, administrators were concerned with the overarching question of stability through gradual change, conceiving “social equilibrium” as the outcome of well-integrated and complementary institutions. For them, the complexities of the modern chieftaincy constituted prima facie sufficient proof of “the clash of cultures.” Their daily experience convinced them of the persistent strength but also the eventual dissolution of African tradition. Hence, administrators were confident that the purging of devices such as the Bunga was necessary to leach out the detritus of African “tribalism,” clearing the ground for “modern” institutions to take firm and organic root. The functionalist idiom of clashing cultures does not mean that administrators were unaware of the great extent to which “Western” and African orientations had already interpenetrated: on this point, the NEC and Native Laws Commission (NLC) reports were quite clear, as any number of paragraphs in both documents illustrate. But administrative personnel generally had a poor grasp of the process, as is reflected in their recourse to binary opposites to describe phenomena, such as “backward” versus “modern” economies or “primitive” versus “progressive” chiefs. In reality, the intercalary position marked the confluence of a variety of forces. These influences combined in different ways in different chiefs depending on the flux of circumstances in a particular area. The result was that “incompatible values and beliefs [were] widely held by members of the same social system.” [16] This conceptualization differs from the inclination—=ually discernible both in the discourse of the functionalist approach and in the language of administrators—to juxtapose cultures before determining their congruency.

Research suggests that many of the problems confronting chiefs (like those of commoners) were shaped by the simultaneity of diverse forces. Furthermore, these forces were sometimes mediated by factors that were uniquely local. Apart from the constant dilemmas of their position and the moral proclivities that magistrates claimed distinguished “good” from “bad” chiefs, a variety of forces were important in shaping the texture of local politics to which chiefs responded and of which they were also part. As Hammond-Tooke shows, it made a great difference whether a chief or headman was literate, whether he was Christian, and whether he was universally acknowledged on consensual grounds among his people. Other factors that influenced a chief or headman included the history of his chiefdom’s response to white conquest; the proportion of “Red” and “School” groups among his people; the proportion of men engaged in migrant labor; the consequent degree to which the area was exposed to outside influences; the amount of conflict between young and old; whether Betterment programs had been attempted in his area; the character of the local magistrate; the extent to which migrants disassociated permanently from their rural base and settled in the urban areas; and even the kinds of work experience migrants brought home to the reserves.[17] The dynamism behind these factors was obviously complicated. It involved structures rooted in the precolonial past that coexisted with newly established ones, old conflicts that had become infused into newer conflicts, and the insistent pressure of competition for land and other resources. This list suggests that the responses of chiefs and headmen might vary considerably depending on the permutations among these elements in his region. The Transkeian administrative preference for avoiding rapid change wherever local traditions remained strong and the reliance on the individual location as the irreducible building block of administration, together with the considerable discretion local magistrates exercised when dealing with processes in their particular districts, all had the effect of upholding these differences in the circumstances of chiefs. Thus, at their annual meetings, when officials from the Transkeian administration compared notes, they cautioned that measures that worked well in one district in the Transkei might not be accepted even in adjacent ones.[18]

But Fallers also observed that “the patchwork of diverse and conflicting elements” confronting African authority figures meant that the same person frequently held “two incompatible systems of beliefs and values,” in which case tensions remained unreconciled even within individual chiefs.[19] The example that he provides—derived from structural-functional theory and elaborated in Hammond-Tooke’s own exposition of the headman’s dilemma in the Transkei—is the clash between “particularism” and “functional diffuseness.” Both Fallers and Hammond-Tooke illustrate that customary norms, which required headmen to place kin relations first, and administrative procedures, which required headmen to deal impartially with all matters, continually pulled chiefs and headmen in conflicting directions. Magistrates and NCs from the other reserves complained incessantly about inconsistent behavior. Problems arising from “favouritism”—that is, the consequence of the clash between particularism and functional diffuseness—are only part of the record. At the annual meeting of CNCs in 1950, for example, J. Yates, Chief Magistrate of the Transkei, recounted the experience of one of his magistrates. The latter had attempted to introduce a clinic into his district, but was shocked to discover that the chief, whom he had long known to be a “progressive, educated chap who abhors liquor,” opposed the plan on the grounds that it would threaten the witch doctors and herbalists on whom he and his people depended for medical help.[20] On the other hand, magistrates sometimes benefited from apparent inconsistencies, as chiefs who commanded the respect of their people in areas where traditionalism was still strong appear to have persuaded commoners to accept the department’s “progressive” development plans.[21] Anecdotes of this nature abound in official records and were also, of course, stock-in-trade for the paternalist memoirs that officials would later write.[22]

In contrast to administrators in a number of British colonies in the interwar period, Native administrators in the Transkei did not seek to harness chiefs to the difficult project of legitimizing their interventions and their presence in the “Native areas.” [23] Instead, administrative faith was implausibly placed in the integrity of “the man on the spot” and his ability to maintain the acquiescence, if not the actual support, of the local African population. Despite their residence in African districts, magistrates were sometimes in poor shape to legitimize their invasions into subsistence production in the 1930s and 1940s; by the late 1930s they were frequently calling on the South African Police to investigate the “criminal destruction of development works.” [24]

To administrators, development projects were imperative if the Transkei was to be saved: in the trade-off between immediate sacrifice and future gain, they were confident that “the benefits of more scientific agricultural methods will eventually make themselves clear.” [25] As the supportive sentiments expressed in the Bunga illustrate, some Africans shared this perception. But large numbers of peasants were less than convinced. The immediate consequence of development plans was frequently inconvenience. “Development” also seemed indistinguishable from further impoverishment: culling cattle and fencing land off to boost its future fertility had drastic implications for commoners, who complained that their rights as peasant farmers were being usurped and that their ability to survive the immediate fact of poverty was threatened. In 1950, for example, Yates recounted to fellow CNCs the retort of an African aggrieved at the department’s development plans: “the land will be better for my children…but, meanwhile, a dead cow gives no milk.” [26]

Cheap Labor and “Betterment” Programs

In Southern Africa, official plans to rehabilitate the reserve economies dovetailed with the elaboration of segregationist ideologies.[27] Marxists have long held that this development in South Africa sprang from attempts by state and capital to perpetuate the system of semi-proletarianized labor. Dubow, however, argues that the primary considerations were not economic but political: the state, he contends, sought to reverse the deterioration of the reserves because it perceived them as “a social and political threat, rather than in terms of the relationship between migrant labour and capitalist accumulation.” He cites Lord Hailey’s (1938) comment to the effect that opinion in South Africa “now tends to lay emphasis on the existence of the reserves in the policy of social segregation, rather than on the influence it may exert on the supply of labour.” He adduces work by a number of others who emphasize that migrant labor was neither invented by the gold mines nor perpetuated by the state at the behest of mining industry; instead, research into two different regions of Southern Africa illustrates that migrancy was “conditioned by the structure of kinship relations and the manner in which chiefs and homestead heads utilized the system to defend their ‘traditional’ authority.” [28] This perspective refutes a central claim of the cheap labor thesis, which portrays the reserves as the strategic creation of the Chamber of Mines and its attempts to guarantee the cheapness of African migrant labor.

However, disagreements about the originating motivations for establishing the reserves have only a marginal impact on the assessment of the daily work of magistrates in the Transkei. By the 1930s the duties of magistrates were inseparably bound up with enforcing regulations that did indeed generate and routinize labor migrancy in the Transkei, such as managing access to and use of land and ensuring that Africans paid their taxes. Whatever their ideological proclivities and however much they may have been committed to the “genuine development of the Native areas,” magistrates were deeply embroiled in the proletarianization of peasants and the reproduction of labor migrancy.

Communal tenure was the dominant form of regulating access to the land throughout the reserves.[29] Communal tenure negates the institution of private land-ownership, although not the practice of individual land use, since under this system land is inalienable, being vested in perpetuity in the chieftaincy. The critical feature of communal tenure was the set of regulations governing access to and continued occupation of land. To begin with, the one-man, one-lot system applied in all circumstances: “No man who already had an allocation may be given another, no matter what the size of his first may be.” Second, the failure to pay the annual general tax of ten shillings led to the forfeiture and reallocation of land. Third, males were permitted to work away from their land for a maximum of one year; thereafter, the permission of the district magistrate had to be secured. In either circumstance, land rights were retained only if the male’s family remained on the land. Single women, unless they could demonstrate “justifiable family obligations,” were ineligible to apply for land and usually could only retain access through marriage, while married males always received preferential access to land. Lastly, land could be reallocated by the magistrate if it was not being used productively, and, according to Macmillan, numerous titles were withdrawn for this reason.[30]

These regulations, the administration of which formed a considerable portion of a magistrate’s daily duties, were a fundamental part of the cheap labor system. A study conducted between 1947 and 1951 in the Keiskammahoek area clearly showed that of the various land occupation schemes, communal tenure produced the lowest rates of family migration. Landlessness, it was found, was lowest with communal tenure and highest with individual tenure.[31] A 1952 study discovered that of all the landless, the landless from communal tenure displayed the most regular pattern of migrancy: 87 percent of this category migrated regularly, as opposed to 69.1 and 37.8 percent associated with freehold and quit-rent tenure, respectively. The system, moreover, was designed to reproduce the “sex-selective nature of migration”: of the 569,000 temporary absentees in 1951, only 66,000 were women.[32]

Still, reserve policy was not driven by labor concerns alone; had this been the case, administrators would no doubt have reconciled themselves to the epochal transformations eating away at peasant society and releasing labor into the wage economy. Instead, the contradictory process of balancing the generation of migrant labor against the need to conserve the fabric of subsistence society in the reserves imposed a more complex logic on administration. Even as they actively managed forces that drove peasants out of the reserves, administrators busied themselves with the increasingly urgent business of “saving the reserves,” a phrase properly understood as administrative shorthand for “saving the reserves from Natives.” For, notwithstanding the sympathy that most administrators had for Africans in the Transkei, it was widely believed that “bad farming practices” and “the naturally conservative traits” of African peasants were the major causes of Transkeian poverty.[33] Attempts to arrest and reverse the decline of the reserves brought the issue of the chiefs and headmen to the forefront of administration.

By the late 1940s, the department had accepted the widespread perception that nothing less than an extensive reorganization of the material basis of the reserves was critical for any revised African policy. It had been a slow process of realization. By the time D. L. Smit unveiled his department’s plans for “A New Era of Reclamation” before the Ciskeian General Council in 1945, the department had been engaged for more than a decade in attempts to address the problem by raising agricultural output, stimulating small-scale accumulation through rural fairs, and improving the physical conditions of the reserves. The annual report of the department for 1944–45, for example, reported that 27,048 cattle valued at £242,044 had been sold at auction sales organized by the department. But this figure still amounted to less than 1 percent of the total number of cattle in the reserves.[34] Such attempts dealt merely with the symptoms of underdevelopment, underscored by the department’s conviction that overstocking and not land shortage, as Bunga members argued, was the primary root of the problem. Accordingly, the Native Agricultural Section, which the department had established in 1929, remained an ineffective limb, notwithstanding its further subdivision into an Engineering Section in 1934 and the meticulous chronicling of its labors in the department’s annual reports and propaganda brochures. These efforts were labeled Reclamation Schemes in the 1930s, but reflected a shallow understanding of the NEC’s descriptions of the reserves by focusing almost exclusively on attempts to arrest soil erosion.

A move to overcome these narrow horizons was made with Proclamation 31 of 1939 (Livestock Control and Improvement), which introduced the so-called Betterment Program. Betterment was intended to complement the reclamation schemes by introducing more efficient agricultural practices (such as rotational grazing); fencing off grazing land; improving the quality of stock; and containing their numbers by periodic culling, regular dipping, holding department-sponsored cattle sales, and so on. Evidence suggests that these early efforts were essentially desultory. They were not preceded by intensive study or implemented in accordance with a larger plan, other than arresting the most visible signs of decay in particular districts; instead, it was left to the initiative of the local magistrate to determine how the process would take place. Although some magistrates did pursue rehabilitation schemes, occasionally using their own personal resources to obtain improved seed or the odd bag of cement, the consequences appear to have been minimal.[35] In Natal, Albert Luthuli, then still Chief of the Umvoti Mission Reserve, observed that the department in the 1920s was initially only “patchily supportive” of such activities and that the department had instructed officers “not to concern themselves particularly with [Africans] who produced commercial crops.” [36]

In the mid-1930s, officials in the Transkei appear to have enjoyed a definite degree of support and cooperation from peasant society, and by 1945 no fewer than 127 locations in the Transkei and Ciskei had voluntarily accepted Betterment projects (whereas all land acquired by the South African Native Trust, established under the terms of the 1936 Native Land and Trust Act to deal with squatters displaced from the white farming districts, automatically came under the proclamation). Limited as it was, this support is still surprising, for peasants had had some experience of such activities as early as the 1890s, soon after the Glen Grey Act was enacted. Then, they were firmly opposed to having their cattle dipped and culled, and they took particular umbrage at the taxes introduced to underwrite the costs of the council system:

We were told that the Bunga would be beneficial to us, but we considered this and find that we cannot afford to pay for the Bunga.…We did not accept the Bunga. If it has been accepted it was by the Chiefs.…We told our headman Ntebe that we refused to dip and that he must represent the matter to the magistrate.…The people who say they welcome dipping are hypocrites. We all object to dipping.[37]

In the 1890s, peasants had opposed not only the new taxes introduced under the aegis of the Glen Grey Act and the state’s usurpation of their control over land and cattle matters, but also the authoritarian manner in which these were undertaken.[38] At various times, chiefs, headmen, and magistrates were all accused of arrogance and insensitivity and of violating the colonial government’s promises to avoid coercion in favor of consensual cooperation with peasant society (issues that also dominated rural protest in the 1950s). Hence, in addition to developing strategies to delay, avoid, or sabotage the attempts of the colonial state to intervene in the subsistence economy, peasants also sought to circumvent their chiefs and headmen by attempting to influence policy through deputations sent directly to local magistrates and to the Chief Magistrate of the Transkei. Beinart and Bundy record that peasants once collected the enormous sum of five hundred pounds to engage first white and then black legal assistance to roll back policies that struck at the heart of peasants’ control over the subsistence economy in the decade after unification in 1910.[39] Even at this early juncture, one theme emerges clearly: a gulf had begun to open up between peasants, on one side, and chiefs and headmen, on the other.

The relatively quiescent acceptance of Betterment projects in the 1940s almost certainly had much to do with the intervention of World War II, which brought the department’s activities to a complete standstill in the reserves as resources and administrative personnel were diverted to the war effort. After the war, reports of an “uncooperative attitude” detected by indignant magistrates among Africans in their districts between 1939 and 1945 were replaced by more serious complaints about the smashing of fences and beacons, threats made against officers of the agricultural and engineering sections, and the destruction of dipping tanks.[40] As the department began to escalate its salvage efforts, chiefs and headmen were thrust into increasingly invidious positions as popular ire, on the one side, and departmental resolve, on the other, both increased as the 1940s drew to a close.

From the outset, however, the department took pains to co-opt chiefs and headmen. When the Transkei Planning Committee was formed in May 1945 to plan the development of locations on a piecemeal basis, it was decided to add to the permanent committee staff (comprising four technical officers and the magistrate) the services of a prominent location inhabitant—usually the headman. The Planning Committee warmly attributed its initial successes to this linkage: “The appointment of the headmen of the location as a member of the Committee was a wise step and has assured the whole-hearted cooperation of the people who have agreed to the limitation of their stock to the carrying capacity of the veld, to the regrouping of their allotments and residential sites and to other far-reaching measures.” [41] The eight to ten thousand pounds it would cost to plan and develop each location, a severe shortage of trained personnel, and the active resistance of locations to these attempts appear to have rendered the Planning Committee virtually defunct by the early 1950s.[42] Poor coordination of efforts within various sections was a source of continuous debate and problems. Attempts to cull cattle in one location, for example, ensured that stock was moved onto the land of adjacent locations and exacerbated disputes over the boundaries of grazing lands. Blurred communication channels between the Head Office in Pretoria, the Chief Magistrate, the local Magistrate, and the local Planning Committee sometimes led to acrimony; the agricultural and engineering sections, for example, quarreled repeatedly over which party had primary responsibility for planning the department’s development work in individual locations.[43] Technical staff appointed to the Planning Committees were imported from the urban areas, bringing with them a style that rode roughshod over the complexities of local politics.

A memorandum submitted in 1951 by the Chief Agricultural Officer of the Transkei summarized the administrative obstacles that obstructed development plans: there were shortages of agricultural, engineering, and surveying staff; a dire shortage of equipment; active resistance from peasants who felt excluded from development programs; and delays in receiving requisitioned equipment, which had to be transported from King Williams Town, a considerable distance from field staff in the Transkei.[44] Smit had hoped to complete the rehabilitation schemes in just over a decade; in 1956, C. B. Young (Under-Secretary, Bantu Areas) reviewed the progress to date before the Bunga and concluded that “the methods that were employed were so slow that the work would only be completed in about 200 to 300 years’ time.” [45]

Peasant resistance, low budgets, and poor administrative work certainly contributed to the desultory and minimal signs of progress. But the department had discovered an even greater obstacle in its efforts to strengthen the subsistence basis of peasant producers, one that could not be resolved either by improving administration or by increasing resources: what should be done with the growing number of persons without any prospect of ever obtaining land? Already in 1932, 10 percent of households in the Transkei possessed no land at all, and the figure was expected to increase quickly.[46] This, in the opinion of the Tomlinson Commission, was “the greatest problem confronting Native affairs today.” [47] Smit had conceded the problem ten years before, in 1945, when he had frankly informed the Ciskeian General Council that even if all the released land was actually purchased, “there would never be enough land to enable every Native in the reserves to become a full-time peasant farmer.” [48] This assumption underlay the plans he revealed before the council in 1945.

The essence of Smit’s proposal to the Ciskeian General Council was that the “surplus population” should be clearly distinguished and “catered for within the Transkei itself” in one of three types of “native villages.” [49] Peri-urban villages would be located as close as possible to the Transkei’s borders with white South Africa and would house commuter migrants and their families. In contrast, other villages would cater for workers employed within the Transkei. Industrial villages would cater to workers who returned nightly to their homes, while rural villages would accommodate workers employed in “more distant centres [within the Transkei] and who returned home periodically.” Peri-urban villages added little new to existing practices. In a number of areas, a commuter labor force of the sort contemplated by Smit had already come into existence; the idea was simply to promote the practice by incorporating it into policy.[50] The novelty of Smit’s 1945 speech lay in the sedentary labor force he envisaged within the reserves. For this category, jobs would have to be created within the Transkei, along with adequate wages to sustain fully proletarianized workers. It was therefore necessary, Smit concluded, to address the prospect of increasing landlessness by industrializing the Transkei.

Three years earlier, the Social and Economic Planning Council had prepared the groundwork for Smit’s idea. In its report on “The Native Reserves and their Place in the Economy of the Union of South Africa,” the council had faulted the department’s reserve policies for laying “more immediate stress…on villages to serve as labour reservoirs rather than Native towns to serve the Natives in their own areas.” [51] Within the state, there was clear evidence that the reserves were being viewed in a new, more important light. Smit’s proposal was the first official attempt to address the substance of the criticism leveled against his department.

Smit’s suggestion that capitalism was to be encouraged in the reserves marked a historic departure from the policy accepted ever since the Native Land Act had been passed in 1913. The secretary’s speech was characteristically vague about details and completely silent about the sources of the enormous revenues that would be necessary. Still, his vision was sweeping in its potential implications, for it meant introducing the sort of dynamics that gradualist policies in the Transkei had always sought to dampen. The concept of autonomous households no longer dependent on access to land, for example, departed wholly from the organicist conception of African society, dispensed with the power of chiefs and headmen, and complicated the task of securing the communal controls on which paternalist administration relied. Whereas the department had long sought to stimulate small-scale enterprises among peasants by encouraging rural fairs and the sale of products such as wattle, Smit’s speech contemplated a radical departure from such middling practices and envisaged the establishment of labor-intensive industries and factories in the Transkei. Through “closer settlement”—squeezing the landless together into rural villages and towns—land would be released for agricultural purposes.

Here, Smit’s speech formally endorsed an idea that had been floating within administrative circles for some time. In the wake of the sobering report of the NEC in 1932, magistrates had looked for ways to improve subsistence production and had reassessed the integration of migrant labor and agricultural production. Many of them came to espouse an unflattering view of the “migrant half-time farmer,” contending that the migrant labor system robbed peasants of their agricultural skills and undermined their full commitment to making maximum use of the soil: “The migrant labour ‘squatter’ is today responsible for the misuse of a great portion of the land, which is to him a squatting place and which he is both incapable and undesirous of putting to proper use.” [52] Since the 1930s, therefore, magistrates had talked about the need to stop “cultivating semi-farmers” in favor of “a class of efficient farmers” capable of reversing the decline in agricultural production: “the Native has proved himself a rotten farmer, but not a bad industrial worker.” [53] This new discourse envisaged a strict division between a reduced but highly productive stratum of “professional farmers” and a large pool of fully proletarianized workers entirely disconnected from the land. The logical implications of these plans crystallized in Smit’s proposal to establish the three types of “villages” to cater to landless workers.

Attempts to restructure the reserves in the segregationist era were poorly orchestrated, dimly conceived, and, due in part to the “suspension of non-essential services” during World War II, half-hearted at best. As urban administrators searched for solutions to their urban problems in the late 1940s, attention shifted inevitably to the interdependent relationship between urban and rural controls. If Africans “could be stopped at the source—in the farming areas and in the Native reserves—many of the problems which our municipal administrations face would be greatly reduced.” [54] The corollary of giving preference to the settled population of Africans in the urban labor market, therefore, was a policy that absorbed large numbers of migrants “at the source.” This strategy was also advanced by the AANEA in 1947.[55] Thus a meeting of minds across the rural/urban divide in administration took place immediately after the war, so that the shift in favor of stoking the reserve economies existed well before the National Party assumed office in 1948.

It might be assumed that plans conceived on the scale sketched by Smit in 1945 would place great weight on the state’s promise to make good on statutory provisions to increase the size of the reserves. On this score, the 1913 and 1936 Land Acts were explicit: the “released areas” defined in 1913 needed to be increased by a further 7,250 million morgen of land.[56] A stroke of a pen toward this end could bring immediate relief to the besieged Transkeian economy. But as the new mantras about “efficient farming,” “soil reclamation,” and “stock improvement” took hold, the department sidestepped the terms of Hertzog’s land policy. In 1936 Hertzog had pledged on his own good name that the additional land would be purchased. Fighting off demands from Dr. Malan’s “purified Nationalists” to halt the process of “giving” land to Africans, Hertzog insisted before parliament in 1936 that the issue transcended the written word: “moral responsibility” was at stake. Moreover, if the land was not available, “it will mean that another generation other than the present generation will have to do justice which is denied today.” But at the same time, he declined to set aside money immediately for the purpose. Reserving the full sum of money (£10 million) in a lump sum, he argued, violated “the sound principle of economic policy that only funds required for expenditure during the current year should be voted by Parliament.” [57] Without earmarked money, the policy could not be written in stone and became vulnerable to attack.[58]

The subsequent slow pace of land acquisition and the UP’s suspension of the program during World War II ensured that plans to fulfill the 1936 promises fell short of the mark. Of the seven and a half million morgen of land promised in 1936, a mere 2,242,076 morgen had materialized by 1954.[59] Five years earlier, the NAC had baldly stated what many had suspected lay behind the open-ended denouement to the 1936 resolution: “…the chance of purchasing the quota land allotted under the [Native Trust and Land] Act…is so slender as to be meaningless.” [60] Reserve land purchased in the Cape, already compromised by the excision of some of the best land for use by white farmers, was manifestly insufficient and incapable of alleviating population pressure. According to the Tomlinson Commission, by the mid-1950s, 873,311 morgen still had to be acquired in the released areas to fulfill even the quota determined in 1913. Already widely condemned as inadequate for the needs of African peasants in 1936, the existing acreage had come under greater strain in the interim. The department’s failure to pursue this matter aggressively in the 1940s detracted seriously from the plans to restructure the reserves along the lines sketched out in Smit’s speech in 1945. Strikingly airy in its absence of details, the speech was received coolly by the Ciskeian General Council in January 1945; later that year, however, the Bunga formally endorsed the scheme.[61]

In contrast to the impetuous speed at which policy unfolded in the late 1950s, the pace of the department in the 1940s seems decidedly enervated. Hoisted on the petards of its anachronistic vision, under the hands of men such as D. L. Smit and W. J. G. Mears the department could do little more than gingerly entertain the idea that “free market forces” and “the profit motive” should be carefully introduced into the reserves, there to act as a “civilising leaven” to transform the tribal organism from within—slowly, predictably, and safely. In reality, changes within African society had begun to outstrip the department’s own capacity to adjust. A method of containing dynamism, paternalism had ensured that it was the department that would begin to ossify, its vision blunted by outmoded policies and narrowed by the anxieties of a white electorate—particularly the interests of white farmers, who firmly resisted any attempt to use land in their areas for the purpose of enlarging the reserves.[62] The department’s faith in direct rule in the Transkei did not waver as the changes unleashed by gold-inspired industrialization transformed the conditions that had existed when white officials first assumed the powers of chiefs.

Chiefs, Headman, and the Administrative Dilemma

The tribal temptation loomed large in the thinking of liberals in the interwar period. The segregationist warhorse from Natal, Heaton Nicholls, was especially zealous in using his position on the NAC to press for the extension of Natal’s tribalist system throughout the Union.[63] However, there is little evidence that administrators in the Transkei shared Nicholls’ viewpoint. Instead, Transkeian administrators remained faithful to the Brownlee legacy, leaving it to their counterparts in the other three provinces to make the preservation of tribalism the centerpiece of policy. Gartrell’s assessment of British policy in colonial Uganda seems equally apposite to the Transkeian territories in the interwar period: “ Realpolitik, ” she notes, “ is contrary to the British public school. The British did not sit around, like White House staff members, plotting the best ways of spreading disunity and thus discomfiting their enemies.” [64]

Throughout the segregation period, officials in the Transkei remained stolidly committed to direct rule despite evidence of growing dissatisfaction among Africans in the territories. It is not surprising that chiefs in particular began to look with misgiving upon a system that prided itself on their lateral displacement and ambiguous treatment. G. Carter, T. Karis, and N. Stultz note that chiefs generally responded to their changing circumstances with some degree of equanimity until the late 1930s.[65] By 1939, however, chiefly discontent was becoming pronounced, fueled without doubt by the department’s first concerted attempts to salvage the Transkeian economy. At this time, chiefs were still adjusting to the NRC and the reconstituted Bunga and hoped that these transitional institutions would soon pave the way toward full citizenship within South Africa. Visibly caught in the historic pincers of what Max Gluckman labels the “intercalary” position[66]—the interface between two contrasting forms of authority—chiefs struggled to integrate the popular will of their people with the official instructions of the Native affairs bureaucracy.

Magistrates were convinced that opposition could be overcome if chiefs threw their weight behind the department’s schemes. In the Transkei, however, the effects of peasant opposition were not limited to chiefs only: if anything, it was not chiefs but headmen who were most directly impacted by the politicization of peasant society. Direct rule relieved chiefs of direct responsibility for unpopular administrative measures, transferring the burdens of the intercalary position to the headmen who served as the official interlocutors between magistrates and commoners. Still, chiefs were not completely irrelevant to administration. In most districts in the Transkei, it was standard practice for magistrates to strike up cordial relations with chiefs and to rely on them to disseminate information and to legitimize administrative measures.[67] In practice, therefore, the distinction between royal chiefs and headmen, who were commoners, was sometimes a subtle one, although only headmen possessed official authority. This is clear in the “Regulations Prescribing the Duties, Powers and Privileges of Headmen.” [68] If this ambiguity was a source of complaint, for chiefs it also worked to their advantage. The administrative elevation of headmen over chiefs served to protect the position of chiefs, diminishing the extent to which commoners identified them with unpopular measures.

The structure of administration in the Transkei, therefore, was characterized by a number of paradoxical nooks and crannies that stemmed from the policy of direct rule. These twists sometimes vitiated administrative policy. For example, direct rule ostensibly aimed at whittling away at the chieftaincy; in practice, it provided shelter in the form of the headman, under whom the chieftaincy could legitimately take refuge from the inclemencies of rural politics. Furthermore, by not abolishing the chieftaincy and using it instead for administrative and political expediencies, direct rule was almost certain to make only lukewarm allies of men who were resigned to the promissory notes of segregation’s rhetoric, but who encountered only the endless limbo of trusteeship. The preservation of customary law is another case in point. All chiefs were stripped of their powers to hear criminal cases, and only a handful were entitled to hear civil cases; these powers were surrendered to the magistrates. However, all chiefs were permitted to hold moots, consensus-based courts to which villagers could turn if they preferred to avoid the more formal and unfamiliar magistrate’s court. If this provision breathed life into the authority of chiefs, it simultaneously emphasized their essentially dispensable role by permitting participants to have the same case re-heard before the magistrate. Here the case would be held de novo, without reference to the deliberations of the moot, and this time the magistrate’s judgment was final.[69] Also, the migrant labor system encouraged chiefs to ensure that migrants returned home because the chief’s monthly stipend was pegged to the number of taxpayers in his district; on the other hand, the removal of young males from the daily influence of chiefs and other traditional influences weakened the authority of chiefs.

Headmen encountered similar contradictions. On the one hand, they received the favor of the department by being singled out for their positions and were entrusted with important duties that augmented their status in society. For this, however, they had to serve as a front-line phalanx of vulnerable foot soldiers interposed between peasants and the local magistrate, for duties such as tax collection and turning down applications for land were calculated to breed distrust and resentment among villagers. Entrusted with the all-important matter of land affairs, they were in a position to amass land and livestock for themselves and could insist on “gifts” in exchange for performing routine administrative duties.[70] Gift exchange was a traditional and familiar expression of gratitude within peasant society, but headmen became notorious for insisting on small sums of money or the odd chicken, or even goats or sheep, in times of increasing landlessness and general distress in the reserves.[71] The position of headman was thus much more conflictual than that of chiefs; both, however, were placed in the position of extracting rewards from a system fraught with unpleasant, even dangerous, moments.

Direct rule rewarded the chiefs it degraded and discomfited the headmen it exalted. In the absence of an exhaustive reconstruction of politics, location by location, across each of the Transkei’s twenty-six districts, it is difficult to extract simple generalities from this state of affairs.[72] For just as evidence exists to show that many chiefs were aggrieved at their comedown in the world and used opportunities to advance the welfare of their people, other evidence shows that chiefs were quick to squander their income on conspicuous and vainglorious consumption, plundering communal money to purchase liquor (a frequent complaint by magistrates) or expensive motor vehicles (despite the generally poor condition of roads in the Transkei). Similarly, many— perhaps most—headmen abused their positions, responding in suspiciously erratic fashion to requests for land, for access to the magistrate, and for the resolution of disputes among commoners, while insisting on “gifts” before performing routine duties. But Hammond-Tooke’s study also shows that the contrary case was sometimes true: many headmen earned the respect and cooperation of their people.[73]

Thus, it is not always easy to disentangle the relative impact of chiefs and headmen on the administrative system. This difficulty is compounded by a certain informality to the relationships between chief, headman, and magistrate. In the formal model, chiefs possessed hereditary but no administrative authority. Yet, despite their marginalization within the administrative hierarchy, they drew a monthly salary from the department. Headmen, in contrast, were commoners appointed to the position by the department on the recommendation of the magistrate. Headmen thus received a monthly salary in recognition of their status as employees of the department, but possessed no hereditary authority. Practice, however, departed from this formal model in two significant ways. First, magistrates frequently relied on good relations with chiefs to exercise control and to implement administrative instructions. Chiefs generally cooperated unless the matter was controversial or unpopular, in which case they sometimes were in a position to insist that administrative responsibilities be passed to headmen. There were good grounds, therefore, for commoners sometimes to emphasize the administrative role of chiefs, lumping them together with headmen and magistrates. Second, it was possible for headmen, in effect, to acquire hereditary status. Although a headman was an administrative factotum appointed on the basis of leadership qualities, evidence suggests that there was a tendency for the position to be passed down from father to son and to become all but hereditary in some—but not all—areas. In the Tsolo district, for example, virtually all of the twenty-four headmen in the district were sons of the previous headmen.[74] A certain ambiguity therefore characterized the bureaucratic machine in the Transkei: (hereditary) chiefs were vicariously drawn into administrative affairs while (commoner) headmen, as well as their households and scions, looked to their administrative positions to perpetuate their wealth and privilege.

Hammond-Tooke illustrates that three other African authorities also played crucial roles in the administration of locations, although they did so in an unofficial capacity. Homestead heads enjoyed undisputed control over all household members, whether actual family members or not. Lineage heads played mostly ceremonial roles; they knitted together all households within the lineage group and orchestrated ritual animal sacrifice to the shades (ancestors). Sub-headmen were responsible for affairs in the particular neighborhood in which they lived within the location, and they met frequently with the headmen to discuss a wide array of issues of concern to individual households. They gained copious, subtle, and sometimes intimate intelligence about the minutiae of location life that could be put to good use in their administrative duties or in forging consensual settlements in the moots, where they played important roles. As such, they were indispensable gatherers of knowledge for magistrates, more effective than the handful of African constables attached to the magistrates.[75]

These observations point to an important aspect of the headman’s position. Although paid a pitifully small stipend, the headman was strategically placed to appropriate small amounts of capital in the form of bribes. Headmen could also garner the best lands for themselves, enabling them to keep their heads above water as subsistence society went into steep decline about them. Headmen were therefore an incipient class, distinguished from the mass of peasant producers around them by virtue of their income from the civil service. In practice, the administrative system also eroded the official conception of direct rule as a mechanism for undermining and destroying chiefs. While chiefs were indeed marginalized within the bureaucratic chain of command, in many areas their influence and authority persisted—both despite and because of direct rule—while in others it waned, occasionally to the point of extinction.

Complicating the task of “fixing” the position of chiefs and headmen was their continuing role in the everyday life of civil society in the reserves, making it difficult for commoners to dispense with them completely or for very long, even in areas undergoing rapid change. Not only did custom decree that chiefs and headmen played central roles in a host of functions in society, but many cultural adaptations had to concede the strategic role they occupied. Migrants returning with cash might well be able to relinquish “Red” customs, but still had to approach the chief and headman for land. Magistrates, as Charles Hooper notes, also preferred that individual Africans deal with them through the office of the headman.[76] In his pioneering study on “Red” and “School” ideologies, Philip Mayer emphasized “the continuum in actual behaviour on social and ritual occasions” between the two groups in the 1940s and 1950s. Thus, even in areas where the chieftaincy was fast on the wane, the positions of chief and headman were supported either by the role they played in facilitating transactions or by their “integration into ritual.” [77] And even in contexts where they were losing their symbolic and cultural importance, they sometimes persisted, unevenly suspended above the social milieu of commoners but below the bureaucratic world embodied in the magistrate and headman.

The principle of legitimate domination in the reserves was thus convoluted and ambiguous: only the superordinate position of the magistrate was absolutely clear and uncontested. Direct rule policies inherited from the late nineteenth century pushed the chieftaincy to the administrative sideline, but preserved its ceremonial dimension. In effect, the administrative system imparted (to borrow R. Schechner’s imagery) a “braided” quality[78] to the ceremonial and administrative dimensions of the authority of chiefs and headmen: although distinct, the two tended to overlap and reemerge, alternately taking precedence over each other as circumstances permitted. There was another aspect to this phenomenon. Not only did headmen sometimes wield power once reserved to chiefs, while chiefs sometimes functioned as magistrates’ assistants; each seemed allied to the state on some occasions and to peasant society on others. The result was the emergence of what may be called a “double-braided” pattern that sometimes pitted chiefs and headmen against each other and frequently aligned both of them against the state. This complex pattern militates against easy generalizations about either the relationship of chiefs and headmen to the administrative machine or their impact on peasant society.

In short, the simultaneous bureaucratization and marginalization of the chieftaincy structured the politics of the rural elite, while the progression of events encouraged them to fret over their waning fortunes with increasing dissatisfaction. Chiefs had the Bunga and NRC at their disposal to air these grievances and gauge the depth of feelings among their peers about the policy of trusteeship. As Sally Vance pointed out in 1963, only the question of the franchise in the Cape was discussed more frequently than the difficult position of chiefs in the Bunga.[79] It is not difficult to understand why, since Africans within the Cape’s reserves were the target of Hertzog’s policy of reducing all Africans to a common political status. After Hertzog made clear his intention to abolish the African vote, a growing proportion of speeches in the Bunga dealt with the need to defend the vote, and in 1926, the Bunga barely avoided the extravagant folly of unanimously resolving to surrender all further claims to representation in parliament on the condition that the African vote in the Cape Province be left untouched.[80] Speeches defending the vote frequently thanked Queen Victoria for this “gift of civilisation” and blamed Hertzog’s Afrikaner constituency for seeking its demise.[81] Once the vote was removed in 1936, however, the tone of debate within the Bunga turned more critical and acerbic, and widened in scope to include events of national importance.

The ambiguous perception of chiefs and headmen sprang not so much from their personal ideologies and proclivities—although their dispositions clearly influenced how their people perceived and categorized them—but from the fact that they did indeed embody both the coercive powers of the state and the consensual authority that once held tribal civil society together. Thus, they belonged simultaneously to the state and to civil society. Because chiefs and headmen experienced their problem partly as one of categorization, they sought to augment their powers in order to diminish the ambiguity inherent to their position. The dynamism behind this move, however, arose from their embattled and contested links with civil society in the Transkei. The advent of educated commoners, migrants who departed without the chief’s permission and returned without the headman’s knowledge, Christians who forsook ancestral rituals, and civic bodies such as the Transkeian Traders Association or the Cape African Teachers Association all pointed to the opening up of civil society to alternative power centers. Perhaps more ominously, national political organizations such as the Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union (ICU, in the 1920s and 1930s), the All-African Convention (AAC), the ANC, the Communist Party, and the Non-European Unity Movement (NEUM) were increasingly being discussed in the reserves. These alternate sources of power either mediated the relationship between chief and tribe or corroded it. Only rarely did the interests of the rural elite coincide with these new sociopolitical eruptions, and usually not for long. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, for example, the ANC and AAC adopted a policy of participating in the NRC along with chiefs. Alongside the analytical erudition of articulate men such as Z. K. Mathews and the militant Paul Mosaka (both of whom were elected to the NRC in 1943), it is not surprising that cries about “disrespect” and “humiliations” suffered at the hands of commoners went up among conservative and illiterate chiefs.[82]

“Blocked Ascendance”: Chiefs

In his unflattering theory of intellectuals, Alvin Gouldner depicts intellectuals as power-seeking historical actors. Because they lack the power of the major social classes, Gouldner argues, intellectuals cannot assert their own interests as a self-contained class. Their reproduction as a class therefore depends on their ability to form strategic alliances with the leading historical actors of the day; this imperative becomes particularly urgent when their further ascension becomes “blocked” by changing political configurations in state and society. Accordingly, intellectuals are fated to hop, flea-like, onto any passing historical agent able to unclog the path that best serves their mobility and special interests.[83] The analogy is well suited to the growing frustration of Transkeian chiefs in the 1940s and their attachment to the apartheid state in 1955. Chiefs embraced apartheid principally on strategic, not ideological, grounds. They saw in the promises of “Separate Development” the means to overcome their “blocked ascendance,” the limbo in which segregation policy imprisoned them.

In the interwar period, the Bunga continued to act as the organ of the disenfranchised. Councillors passed annual resolutions requesting that the African vote be restored in the Cape and that Africans be given direct representation in parliament. An incremental shift in language also indicates that the regional concerns of the Bunga were giving way to issues of national importance. The outbreak of World War II played an important role in this process. Councillors passed resolutions in 1940 staunchly supporting Smuts’ alliance with Britain against Germany, but also made it clear that they expected to be rewarded with liberal reforms for this display of loyalty. In 1945, the Bunga cleverly couched its requests for African political representation in the language of “equal civil rights,” on the grounds that the request was in keeping with “the declared aims of Allied nations,” echoing the Bill of Rights that the ANC drew up that same year to demand the abolition of all racial legislation.[84] A year later, councillors in the Bunga angrily condemned the United Party government for crushing the strike by African mineworkers. They also recorded their bitter disappointment at the refusal of Smuts and Hofmeyr, Acting Prime Minister during the war, to consider reinstating political rights for Africans;[85] in 1947 the Bunga supported the decision of the NRC to adjourn indefinitely because the government had failed to consult with the latter body before formulating its response to the strike on the gold mines the year before.[86]

The NRC of the 1940s also underwent a change once Africans who had volunteered to serve as noncombatants in the four “Native Battalions” dispatched to the European battlegrounds returned to the reserves, having witnessed white slaughter white in defense of “freedom” and the “right of the nations to self-determination.” Galled at the sight of white ex-soldiers receiving land, special industrial training, and preferential employment in compensation for their loyalty, African ex-volunteers, like their coloured counterparts in the Cape Town area, turned bitter as struggles for equal pensions and some form of state assistance brought little fruit. Their aggressive rejection of racial domination was reflected in the more brazen candidates elected to the NRC in 1942, establishing an angry mood that influenced the Bunga immediately after the war.[87] This trajectory suggests that the Bunga was caught up in the accelerating pace of events emanating from global conflicts as well as from class struggles in the Union’s urban areas, and that the forces eating away at the traditional authority of the chiefs were also detribalizing the political vision of chiefs. This argument has been advanced by Carter, Karis, and Stultz.[88]

But this was only partly true. Indeed, it may be argued that the Bunga’s dogged defense of the Cape African vote was less a concern for expanding the political rights of all Africans than the response of an elite defending its imperiled privileges: African voters in the Cape Province had amounted to only 15,786 in 1929 before Hertzog succeeded in paring them down to a mere 10,776 in 1933 (respectively, 7½ percent and just over 3 percent of the total voting population).[89]

The more accurate measure of the Bunga’s politics is given by two phenomena: the Bunga’s frosty attitude toward the ANC and its heated defense of the chiefs’ traditional authority. These were actually two sides of the same conservative coin. Chiefs interpreted signs of support for national organizations not sanctioned by government policy as threats to their own prestige, already under heavy strain as a result of direct rule policies, the migrant labor system, and the growing problem of landlessness. Despite the conservative, petition-based politics of the ANC in the interwar years, members in the Bunga were generally suspicious of the body from the mid-1920s onward; they claimed, for example, that ANC organizers in the Transkei “pretended that they were the voice of the people whereas they were only there for their own benefit and for the benefit of nobody else.” [90] Motions were passed requesting magistrates to clamp down on “strange meetings,” and the congress was singled out for “making irresponsible statements,” for behaving impolitely toward the British crown, and for contributing to the problems of discipline in households in the reserves. [91] However much chiefs and headmen shared the ANC’s goal of abolishing segregation, they found themselves directly at odds with the organization, particularly after the ANC’s dynamic Youth Wing called for organized mass opposition in the Union’s urban centers.

Neither did the Bunga ever fully support the NRC. In general, it gave support to the NRC as a possible source of influence on white authorities. In the 1940s, however, discussion in the Bunga centered around anxieties that the presence of commoners and headmen on the NRC compromised the status of chiefs. The ambivalent attitude toward the NRC also stemmed from the Bunga’s refusal to accept the NRC as adequate compensation for the loss of the franchise.[92] Even as it supported one or two specific resolutions passed in the “Native parliament,” the Bunga also sought to have the Native Representation Act amended to exclude headmen from sitting alongside chiefs. To a much greater degree than the “political” NRC, the Bunga remained deeply attached to the politics of gradualism and the philosophy of reciprocal respect between magistrate and council. More than ordinary peasants, who were located at some remove from extensive contact with whites, chiefs were caught in the “culture of colonialism in which the ruled are constantly tempted to fight their rulers within the psychological limits set by the latter.” [93] Thus, it was not only because they were dependent on the department’s monthly stipend that chiefs and headmen were reluctant to throw their weight behind the confrontational tactics emerging in the urban areas or to side openly with peasant opposition to Betterment schemes.

Most chiefs and headmen were also nostalgic for the days when they commanded respect in accordance with traditional precepts of good government. Even a “progressive” autodidact such as Headman Enoch Mamba, who criticized tribalism and endorsed African nationalist discourse, took great pride in the prestige that the headmanship bestowed on him.[94] In the 1940s, the rural African elite went no further than taking action ex post facto as events shook the political landscape; thus, they passed earnest and indignant resolutions while young militants in the urban areas plotted aggressive campaigns to bring segregation to its knees. The twenty-sixth of November, 1946—the day the NRC adjourned sine die—may not have been “the turning point in South African history” that Alan Paton so badly misjudged it to be.[95] What does seem clear, however, is that the Bunga’s 1947 denunciation of the brutal quashing of the African mineworkers’ strike at the order of General Smuts the previous year marked the limits of the Bunga’s flirtation with a more aggressive posture. Events in the 1950s would show that for the Bunga it signaled, not a turning point, but a power-hungry and nostalgic turning back to a faded status.

Some chiefs and headmen in the Bunga may have been genuinely concerned with national issues. But in the end it was rural affairs that lay closest to their hearts. One theme that assumed gradual importance in the Bunga was the sense of arrested prestige among chiefs and dissatisfaction with their ambiguous administrative position. Specific appeals for clarification of their status were made in 1913, 1916, 1917, 1921, and 1927. Throughout these appeals, however, “little distinction was made either by Whites or Africans between traditional chiefs and government-appointed headmen.” [96] After 1930, debate began to focus more squarely on the administrative role of chiefs. In that year, councillors carried a motion requesting powers for chiefs to hear civil and criminal cases. Such a request may have hinted at insubordination, for in 1931 Councillor W. D. Cingo “respectfully” prefaced his request that chiefs should be schooled in the administrative system with the disclaimer that this was in no way meant to challenge the authority of the magistrate.[97] Thereafter, interest in the status of chiefs assumed greater importance in speeches, and motions passed in the 1930s seem designed to augment the power of chiefs in a number of ways. After discussing the issue, the Bunga concluded in 1936 that chiefs were administratively distinct from headmen and constables on the grounds that, unlike the latter, chiefs could not be pensioned off.[98] In subsequent sessions, chiefs requested prior jurisdiction over land matters before headmen referred cases to the magistrate; they also requested greater authority to control the movement of people in their districts, as well as for authority to decide on all civil cases that involved customary law.[99] Each of these requests would indeed have scaled back the centrality of magistrates—but they would also have more sharply distinguished chiefs from headmen.

The basic grievance of chiefs was that they were undercut by magistrates and rendered obsolescent by headmen in the vital areas of judicial authority and land matters. Chiefs had complained about their effective displacement by headmen as early as 1903, noting that

…the people cannot go to the chief to settle any land matters no matter how small it is. In the appointment of sub-chiefs and headmen he has no say.…If the magistrate likes he can consult, but he is under no obligation to consult him.…In effect the chief seems to have no power even although [sic] they are recognised. The sub-chiefs and the headmen who happen to have a say in land matters generally want to go their own way.[100]

It is clear from any number of speeches and motions in the Bunga in the 1930s and 1940s that chiefs believed that the powers they coveted, suitably adapted to the contemporary conditions of the Transkei, should be returned to them in keeping with the “civilising ideal” embodied in segregation policy. Councillor Dana contended that such a policy should not be conceived as a challenge to the segregationist state, and that it would only enable Africans to “conduct affairs in accordance with our customs.” [101] Others made repeated reference to the fact that chiefs in the protectorates enjoyed substantial powers to hear civil and criminal cases “although they were not more enlightened than Chiefs in the Union.” [102]

In 1941 and 1942 a Select Committee on the Privileges of Chiefs and Headmen took up these issues and submitted its report to the Bunga’s Standing Committee on Post-War Reconstruction. E. Clark, the white chair of the committee, forwarded the by now standard and fruitless three-pronged plea—more authority for chiefs, a clarification of the status of chiefs and headmen, and increased stipends for both—to J. J. Yates (Chief Magistrate of the Transkei). In his cover letter, Clark noted that “the European members of the Committee…are not associated with the Committee’s resolutions in any way.” Nevertheless, with surprising sympathy he also recorded the view of the two white officials on the committee “as to the urgent desirability of something being done to ameliorate the now very long-standing complaints in regard to salary scales of Chiefs and Headmen,” ending on a cautionary note:

Four out of the ten recommendations of the ‘privileges’ Committee bear on this matter, which is a clear indication of its importance in the eyes of the Council, and the insistence of the Committee on the question of fees or presents suggests that those concerned are giving up hope, after so many disappointments during recent years, of substantial relief being forthcoming by any means.[103]

In the Bunga in 1944, speeches by Councillors Sakwe, Bam, Ndaba, Mlandu, and Qamata in support of the three requests trod a fine line between pleading and begging, but were noteworthy in two important respects. First, they were essentially indistinguishable from the arguments that Verwoerd and Eiselen used to justify the Bantustan system in the early 1950s. Councillor Qamata lamented that “you hear remarks made by young men returning from labour centres that they do not like Chiefs and Headmen who remain in the locations wasting time.…All we ask is that our Chiefs and headmen should be enabled to control the tribes and the leaders of the people.” Councillor Bam worried that

…if the chieftainship should fall down the Native race would be ruined. Where there are no Chiefs there is confusion and struggling…no harmony, loyalty or discipline. But because there are still chiefs, Magistrates have no difficulty in carrying out their administration.…Chiefs are doing a great deal of work in the locations, settling the disputes and keeping the people satisfied.…

Councillor Ddaba added that he “was very satisfied with our own laws,” echoing J. Moshesh’s claim that “Native people are perfectly satisfied that they have black laws and customs to which they like to adhere.” [104] Chiefs also attempted to establish chiefs’ courts to supplement the moots organized by headmen. They proposed that the latter should deal mostly with minor civil cases, leaving criminal and more serious civil cases to the chiefs’ courts.

The second significant aspect of the debate in the Bunga in the 1940s involved the issue of “tribal monies.” According to Sakwe, the reason for the council’s request that commoners should be made to pay a ten-shilling fee to have their cases brought before a chief’s court, whereas moots run by headmen would remain free, was that chiefs wanted to “avoid conflict between the Chiefs’ and Headmen’s Courts.” [105] J. Moshesh provided another reason. Ever since the tribute that had formerly enabled chiefs to engage in reciprocal exchange relations had been replaced with an inadequate monthly stipend, chiefs had been unable to pay the councillors who advised them in their decisions: hence the need for what he described as a “tariff of fees.” [106] The administrative logic in J. Moshesh’s argument is important. As we shall see in the following chapter, van Warmelo and other seasoned officials in the department viewed it as imperative that Bantu authorities should be crafted around revenue-generating schemes, for precisely the same reasons advanced by Bunga members—suggesting that Verwoerd and other policy planners were au fait with the burning importance that chiefs attached to this matter.

Verwoerd once remarked (and Eiselen confirmed) that he had prepared himself for his ministerial duties by reading and studying widely for six months the history and background of Native administration, and so he was without doubt familiar with the published proceedings of the Bunga.[107] In any case it is inconceivable that he was ignorant about another aspect of the Bunga’s deliberations in 1944. In the same letter to Yates in which he expressed sympathy for the “privileges of Chiefs,” Clark also recorded the Select Committee’s support for a motion passed in the Bunga. Described by Yates as “the most important resolution in the Bunga’s history,” the motion read:

…as a post-war reconstruction measure this Council requests the Government declare the Transkeian Territories a Union Province or State with sovereign rights in the administration of government and its affairs and people.[108]

Intriguingly, the motion was moved by Councillor Qamata, from Emigrant Thembuland, “possibly,” Carter, Karis, and Stultz speculate, “with the knowledge and approval of Kaizer Mantazima, future Chief Minister of the Transkei.” [109] In the archival records, the two motions—one requesting that the privileges of chiefs and headmen be increased, and the other that the Transkei be declared a separate province—sit cheek by jowl on Clark’s one-page letter to Yates.[110] Visually compacted in this manner, the overwhelming impression that Verwoerd’s later plans all but existed as early as 1944 is tinged by the fact that these two critical strands of the Bantu authorities system were formulated by Africans.

Clark’s own comments to Yates, however, suggest that Bunga members intended the motion to be little more than an attempt to compel Smuts to give substance to his throwaway confession that “segregation has fallen on evil days.” According to Clark, the Bunga

…adhered to Councillor Qamata’s motion, merely qualifying it by saying that had it not been for the colour bar legislation, the motion would not have been necessary. After the meeting, in conversation with me, Councillor Qamata himself made it clear that he at least regarded the motion merely as a statement of an ideal to which the African people looked forward, as something toward which policy should be directed and whereby ultimately the African people would acquire sole control of the administration of the Territories. He quite appreciated the impracticality of any steps being taken to give effect to the motion at present.[111]

Clark’s comments, however, do not resolve two tantalizing questions that, in retrospect, are of some importance: Was the motion a tactical move or a statement of principle? Were Bunga members referring to increased autonomy or complete sovereignty?

These questions were not systematically addressed at the time, and different speeches recorded in the verbatim minutes of the Bunga for 1944 seem to say different things. Nevertheless, here was palpable evidence to apartheid’s “Supreme Chief of the Native Tribes” that the rural Transkeian elite might actually support his government’s pro-tribalist politics. For the rural elite, the great virtue of the National Party’s policies for the reserves was its promise to eliminate the tension between the ceremonial and administrative dimensions of the chieftaincy by guaranteeing to increase both in an administrative framework dominated by chiefs. There was, therefore, an elective affinity between the arguments of Verwoerd and the interests of the Transkeian elite. The department’s support of “alien institutions” such as the NRC and the Bunga in the segregation era, Verwoerd and chiefs agreed, had “belittled” chiefs, “the natural leaders” in African society. Verwoerd was thus able to draw on any number of speeches made in the Bunga to prove that chiefs were keen to play a bigger role in Transkeian government. While headmen would continue to play important administrative and political roles, Verwoerd and officials in the department made it clear that chiefs were central to the proposed Bantustan system. This seductive argument prodded the Bunga into voluntarily accepting the Bantu Authorities system in 1955 (see next chapter).

But what Verwoerd’s assumptions ignored is that the dilemmas of the intercalary position had also left their ambiguous marks on chiefs. Many of the speeches and resolutions made in the Bunga were clearly contradictory: for example, councillors reaffirmed their faith in trusteeship even as they demanded the franchise for all Africans, and they did so after<$> they had moved to have the Transkei declared a sovereign state.[112] As Lloyd Fallers notes, few chiefs throughout Africa were able to respond to the encounter with colonialism in straightforward ways because their own subordination could not be detached from the larger contradictory processes that transformed the symbolic and material fabric of Africans’ everyday life.[113] Thus, chiefs, commoners, and magistrates attempted to impose competing meanings on a shared reality, and the chieftaincy itself was a prime candidate for such symbolic contestation.

Magistrates in the Transkei tended to view the chieftaincy as important to the extent that chiefs promoted administrative aims; beyond that, they held chiefs to be dispensable to segregation’s larger civilizing project. But when Betterment schemes began to provoke popular peasant opposition, administrators reverted to romantic and mythical conceptions of the all-powerful chief, magnifying the ceremonial capacity of the chief in the hope that this “representative of his tribe” would persuade peasants to accept the department’s well-intended salvaging efforts. Just as rural unrest encouraged magistrates to inflate the ceremonial dimensions of the chieftaincy, the same events tended to confirm peasants’ suspicions that pro-Betterment chiefs were now no more than servants of the state; the greatest anger was reserved for those chiefs who accepted the department’s projects without adequate consultation with their people. Such chiefs symbolized the coercive content of administration and, to the popular mind of the peasantry, implicated the chieftaincy in attempts to subordinate the subsistence economies to the racial and profit-driven interests of the state.

However, differences over the symbolic content of the chieftaincy are not captured by simple polarities such as “good” versus “bad” chiefs, just as they are not captured by the tendency among magistrates to categorize chiefs as either “progressive” or “backward” depending on whether they had accepted Christianity and/or Betterment programs. The intercalary position of chiefs meant that they were subject to much greater historical and structural tensions than these evaluations suggest. Thus, Fallers’ comment about “the patchwork character of the chief’s social milieu” in British central Africa is equally relevant to chiefs buffeted by the inconsistencies of modernity in South Africa:

[The chieftaincy] appears to be a collection of bits and pieces taken at random from widely different social systems. Modern African society as a whole frequently gives this impression, but in the case of the chief the effect is heightened because his role is so often the meeting point, the point of articulation, between the various elements of the patchwork.[114]

“Caught in the hinges of history,” [115] chiefs could neither ignore nor embrace either the “tribal” or the “modern” world without courting antagonism either from administrators or from peasant society.

Unremarkable among commoners, the failure of elite African interlocutors to respond with linear consistency to their contradictory responsibilities was magnified and almost naturally invited suspicion. Bunga members, after all, infused their subservience with an air of righteous indignation, and magistrates knew that they were not privy to the unguarded opinion of Africans. The magisterial corps felt that they could never be entirely assured of loyalty in their African subordinates. There was constant anxiety that “the progressive type” of chief might revert back, as it were, to the call of the wild—just as magistrates, with Betterment on their minds, hoped that conservative chiefs would put their traditional authority to progressive ends.[116] Peasant society harbored analogous doubts, half expecting that their leaders would slink toward treachery if the price were right.

James Scott would not be surprised at magistrates’ suspicions that the headmen and chiefs with whom they were in frequent contact did not always disclose their true feelings. Scott argues that in situations of domination, the oppressed quickly come to learn the value of alternating between “public” and “hidden scripts.” In public, they adopt the demeanor they are expected to assume according to the well-understood cues of the official script, only because they know that their best interests are served by genuflecting before the gods in the oppressor’s pantheon. Precise parliamentary diction, salutations to the British crown, conceding the “backwardness” of Africans, acknowledging the benefits and difficulties of the civilizing mission—these, for Scott, are the “weapons of the weak,” conciliatory moral gestures that advance strategic interests.[117] Councillor Qamata, for example, concluded his motion requesting territorial sovereignty for the Transkei with uncharacteristic candor: “It is not always true when we affirm our love toward the Union government, and we say we like our Government. We say these things because we hope the Government will be persuaded and take us into its confidence.” [118]

A weakness of Scott’s position, however, is that it neglects the effects that the role-playing of subordinate actors has on third parties, in this case the mass of the Transkeian peasantry. Scott assumes that the subordinate group shares a monolithic understanding of the public script. If this is ever true elsewhere, it certainly was not the case in the Transkei, where public opinion was becoming more discontinuous as society became more differentiated, plunging the consensual model of traditional politics into further disarray. The intercalary position required multiple scripts in such a context.

It was against a background of accelerating cultural, political, and economic diversity that the Transkei’s African civil servants, themselves internally divided, undertook what was perhaps their first comprehensive self-review. African civil servants seemed to have sensed the need to consolidate their own interests in the face of growing complexity, to avoid being drowned in the indifference or contempt of growing segments of peasant society. The first step, in the late 1930s and 1940s, was to distinguish their elite status more sharply from the mass of peasants battling rural poverty. For chiefs, however, it was also necessary to recover the symbolic and material capital that direct rule had forced them to surrender, in some cases to headmen.

The UP’s apparent softening on the racial question in the 1940s may well have fueled the rural elite’s search for a specific corporate identity. As MNA P. K. van der Byl ruefully notes in his memoirs, Smuts’ statement that “segregation has fallen on evil days” was extemporaneous.[119] But coming at a time when many liberals and liberal organizations were publicly questioning the very concept of “civilisation,” Smuts’ pithy statement was understandably received with exuberant expectation in African political circles; it seems to have galvanized chiefs into pressing their distinctive interests more vigorously in an attempt to jockey themselves into better positions before the promised “new deal” was to be unveiled.[120] It hastened the process by which African civil servants in the Transkei acquired a consciousness of their distinctive position and interests within the class structure. No longer were they to be just a stratum of civil servants passively receiving their monthly stipends or pensions from a state overseeing their slow progress to “civilisation”; instead, as Qamata said in support of his motion requesting sovereignty for the Transkei, “we look forward to the day when we will be able to take charge of managing the affairs of the Transkeian Territories.” [121]

Attempting to alleviate the strain of their position, the rural elite identified their collective relationship to administration as their differentia specifica from ordinary peasants, aware that the conjoining of their traditional authority with the administrative machine strengthened their grip on the Transkei’s political economy. They also sought greater clarity about the differences within their own ranks—between policemen, headmen, and chiefs and also about the important question of increased stipends for life versus retirement with an increased pension—with an impressive attention to detail. The Transkeian African elite had been “granted a share of, not a share in power.” [122] Now, suspecting that a new dawn was about to break, chiefs and headmen sought to address their “blocked ascendance” by tapping into their strategic administrative position.

Within the Bunga, concern for the African franchise was superseded by inquiries about the statutory role of chiefs and headmen in the post-segregation era. These were not the most pressing issues in the lives of ordinary peasants. Where chiefs and headmen saw ambiguity in their current position and opportunity in their future, many ordinary peasants saw straightforward avarice and suspected skullduggery. In the words of one commoner, chiefs and headmen were “in the pockets of the white man, because what have they done for us?” [123]

As Chief Albert Luthuli’s biography attests, however, some chiefs reveled in their ability to combine their “natural” position of leadership with overtly political roles in opposition to the racial state. Dissatisfied with their ruling chief, the five thousand residents of Groutville, Natal, elected Albert Luthuli from a list of four applicants to be chief in 1936. In 1945, Luthuli, a devout Catholic, joined the Natal ANC “not out of the desire to take necessary political action but out of loyalty to its leader, Dr. Dube,” and in 1951 he was elected Provincial President of the ANC in Natal.[124] Within a year, his active involvement in the ANC’s passive resistance campaign brought him face to face with Eiselen, who ordered him to choose between the chieftaincy and the ANC on the grounds that the 1927 Native Administration Act prohibited chiefs from participating in politics. Seeing “no cause to resign from either,” Luthuli was then deprived of the chieftaincy by administrative order. He refused to apologize or reapply for the position, but observed that “the Government should define more precisely and make more widely known the status, functions and privileges of chiefs.” He delivered his speech in 1952, one year after the Bantu Authorities Act was set in place. As such, his public speech signals the end of an era in which chiefs were permitted to conceive of themselves as anything other than government servants:

My view has been, and still is, that a chief is primarily a servant of his people. He is the voice of his people. He is the voice of his people in local affairs. Unlike a Native Commissioner, he is part and parcel of the Tribe, and not a local agent of the Government. Within the bounds of loyalty it is conceivable that he may vote and press the claims of his people even if they should be unpalatable to the Government of the day. He may use all legitimate modern techniques to get these demands satisfied. It is inconceivable how chiefs could effectively serve the wider and common interest of their own tribe without cooperating with other leaders of the people, both the natural leaders (chiefs) and leaders elected democratically by the people themselves.[125]

Within a few years, the imposition of Bantu Authorities and, in short order, the eruption of peasant society effectively brought this ambiguity to an end.


1. P. Anderson, “The Antinomies of Antonio Gramsci,” New Left Review, 100 (November 1976–January 1977).

2. See E. Meiksins Wood, “The Separation of the Political and the Economic,” New Left Review, 127 (1981), 69; D. Keane, “Introduction,” in D. Keane (ed.), Civil Society and the State: New European Perspectives (New York, 1989).

3. N. J. van Warmelo, “Memorandum on Extension of Self-Government among the Native People,” October 1948, entered as Annexure C in NTS 1812 1 138/276. The view of the chief as despot was criticized much earlier. As early as 1884, a member of the Cape parliament warned colleagues to “remember that the origin of individual tenure was always robbery of common rights” and that “the Secretary for Native Affairs had the mistaken idea that all native property belonged to the chiefs, who could hand it over to the Government.” Cape of Good Hope, Despatches and Other Papers Relating to the Transkeian Territories, G 59 (1884), 26. This chapter leans heavily on the account of administration and government in the Transkei in Hammond-Tooke, Command or Consensus, passim.

4. Hammond-Tooke, Command or Consensus, 49–50 and 72; W. Hammond-Tooke, “Chieftainship in Transkeian Political Development,” Journal of Modern African Studies, 2/4 (1964).

5. J. Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society, trans. T. Burgher and F. Lawrence (Cambridge, 1989); D. Strand, “‘Civil Society’ and the ‘Public Sphere’ in Modern China: A Perspective on Popular Movements in Beijing, 1919–1989” (Asian/Pacific Studies Institute, Duke University, Durham, NC, 1990), 2–5. J. Esherick and J. Wasserstrom elaborate on Habermas’ observation in the context of China. They cite the virtual absence of an “oral culture” and the traditional Chinese reliance on ritual to uphold the social order as major reasons for the suspicion with which the Chinese viewed leaders who rose up as individuals to make combative speeches in public forums. Here, past patterns of deference and a Confucian culture tilted toward conformity, and acquiescence slowed down the emergence of a public sphere, which, when it did begin to consolidate in the twentieth century, could do so only in traditional and familiar repertoires (such as ritually petitioning the powers that be). J. Esherick and J. Wasserstrom, “Acting Out Democracy: Political Theatre in Modern China,” in J. Wasserstrom and E. Perry (eds.), Popular Protest and Political Culture in Modern China (Boulder, 1992), 26–49.

6. Discussed in V. Perez-Díaz, The Return of Civil Society: The Emergence of Democratic Spain (Cambridge and London, 1993), chapter 2, especially 56–57. Also see J. Keane, “Introduction.”

7. Hammond-Tooke, Command or Consensus, 52. Descriptions of the social life of Transkeian chiefdoms may be found in a number of sources. See M. Hunter, Reaction to Conquest: Effects of Contact with Europeans on the Pondo of South Africa (Oxford, 1936), and L. Mqotsi, “The Cultural Survey,” in National Union of South African Students, “Transkei Survey,” NUSAS Research Journal (1951). A copy may be found in CKC 28:VN:185.

8. Hammond-Tooke, Command or Consensus, 112–115.

9. L. Mqotsi, “Cultural Survey”; Z. K. Mathews, “The Tribal System in the Reserves,” in Reel 18 of CKC 2:XM66:77/9.

10. Circular letter from SNA to NCs and Magistrates, 14 March 1936.

11. This impression is culled from a review of the United Transkeian Territories General Council, Proceedings, 1935–1945. Also see G. Carter, T. Karis, and N. Stultz, South Africa’s Transkei: Domestic Colonialism (Evanston, IL, 1967).

12. L. Fallers, “The Predicament of the Modern African Chief,” American Anthropologist, 57 (1955), 291–92.

13. See “Conference of Chief Native Commissioners” for 1950 and 1951 in NTS, 1812 1A and 1812 1 138/278/Annexure, respectively.

14. The regulations are reprinted in Rogers, Native Administration, Appendix.

15. Discussed in Dubow, Racial Segregation, 35–37.

16. Fallers, “Predicament of the Modern African Chief,” 297.

17. Hammond-Tooke, Command or Consensus, chapter 2. Also see W. Beinart, “Worker Consciousness, Ethnic Particularism and Nationalism: The Experiences of a South African Migrant,” in S. Marks and S. Trapido (eds.), The Politics of Race, Class and Nationalism in Twentieth Century South Africa (London, 1987), 306–7.

18. See comments by Major Liefeldt and J. J. Yates in “Agenda: Conference of Chief Native Commissioners,” 3 February 1950.

19. Fallers, “Predicament of the Modern African Chief,” 302–3.

20. “Conference of Chief Native Commissioners,” 3 February 1950. A brilliant account of how chiefs in colonial Ghana responded to their intercalary position by forging a pragmatic synthesis of colonial and precolonial ideologies is provided in R. Rathbone, Murder and Politics in Colonial Ghana (Princeton, 1992).

21. It was departmental policy to “first seek the co-operation of the Natives.” Only after 1950 did CNCs reject this strategy for a more coercive approach. As Major Liefeldt asserted in 1950, “It seems to me that if we are going to wait for the co-operation of the Native people we are fighting a losing battle.…” “Conference of Chief Native Commissioners,” 3 February 1950, 35.

22. See Fred Rodseth’s Ndabazabantu and his “The Native: From Magic to Industry,” Optima 5/2 (1955).

23. Berman and Lonsdale, Unhappy Valley.

24. Major Liefeldt, in “Conference of Chief Native Commissioners,” 3 February 1950.

25. C. J. N. Lever (Under-Secretary, Development), in “Conference of Chief Native Commissioners”, 28 November 1950, NTS 1812 1A 138/276, 9.

26. “Conference of Chief Native Commissioners,” 3 March 1950, in NTS 1812 2 138/276, 30.

27. Summers, From Civilisation to Segregation, passim; Dubow, Racial Segregation, 69.

28. Dubow, Racial Segregation, 69 and 54. See also W. Beinart, Migrant Labour in South Africa’s Mining Economy: The Struggle for the Gold Mines’ Labour Supply 1890–1920 (Kingston and Johannesburg, 1985); P. Harries, “Kinship, Ideology and the Nature of Pre-Colonial Migration: Labour Migration from the Delagoa Bay Hinterland to South Africa, Up to 1895,” in S. Marks and R. Rathbone (eds.), Industrialisation and Social Change in South Africa: African Class Formation, Culture and Consciousness, 1870–1930 (London and New York, 1983).

29. Under the quit-rent system, individuals were permitted to rent, but never to own, land from the DNA. This enabled individual access to land, but without the security of tenure offered by C. J. Rhodes’ original scheme. Trust tenure, on the other hand, was a slightly modified form of communal tenure that the DNA instituted in 1936, when the South African Native Trust (SANT) was established under the terms of the Native Land and Trust Act, partly to deal with squatters displaced from the white farming districts. Trust tenure differed from communal tenure only in that authority to control access to land in the released areas was vested directly in the SANT, a departmentally controlled fiduciary body, rather than in chiefs and headmen.

30. W. M. Macmillan, Complex South Africa: An Economic Footnote to History (London, 1930), 189.

31. This finding about the association between lower rates of landlessness and communal tenure should be read cautiously, however, since “one effect of surveying and granting individual tenure is to make visible the shortage of land,” whereas communal tenure suppressed the number of landless villagers. For this reason, a magistrate could observe in the 1930s that “only in the surveyed districts is there today a distinct class of landless natives—a by owner class.…” Cited in A. G. McLoughlin, “The Transkeian System of Native Administration” (MA thesis, Rhodes University, 1936), 38.

32. D. H. Houghton, Life in the Ciskei: A Summary of the Findings of the Keiskammahoek Rural Survey, 1947–51 (Johannesburg, 1955).

33. See comments of Rodseth and Lever, “Conference of Chief Native Commissioners,” 28 November 1950, 10–13; Moll, “No Blade of Grass,” 44.

34. E. Roux, “Land and Agriculture in the Reserves,” in E. Hellman (ed.), Handbook on Race Relations (Cape Town, 1949), 183.

35. Interview with Rodseth, 1984.

36. Albert Luthuli, Let My People Go (New York, 1962; reprint, 1975), 68.

37. Cited in Beinart and Bundy, Hidden Struggles, 199.

38. Ibid., 177.

39. Ibid., 200.

40. DNA, Report, 1953–54, Government Printers, UG 53 (1956), 14.

41. DNA, Report, 1947–48, 30.

42. The desultory progress may be gauged from the skimpy Agricultural Reports in NTS 1675 1. For the assessments of CNCs in their different areas, see “Conference of Chief Native Commissioners” for 1950 and 1952, in NTS, 1812 2 138/276 and 1812 1 138/276, respectively.

43. Major Liefeldt described these conflicts as “serious.” “Conference of Chief Native Commissioners,” 3 February 1950, in NTS 1812 2 138/276, 58; also see Hendricks, “Pillars of Apartheid.”

44. “Memorandum to the Planning Commission on the Socio-Economic Development in the Native Areas” (1951), cited and discussed in Hendricks, “Pillars of Apartheid,” 110.

45. “Proceedings of the UTTGC,” 17 April 1956, 23.

46. NEC, Report, 21.

47. Tomlinson Commission Report.

48. DNA, Report, 1948–49, Government Printers, UG 51 (1950), 12.

49. D. L. Smit, “A New Deal,” in DNA, Report, 1945–47.

50. Tomlinson Commission Report.

51. Social and Economic Planning Council, Native Reserves and Their Place in the Economy, 49.

52. Tomlinson Commission Report, xvii.

53. A. Turton (Urban Affairs Section), in “Minutes of a Meeting of the Urban Areas Section,” 24 September 1951, in NTS 4579 385/313(1), 55.

54. Ibid.

55. AANEA (Transvaal) (sgd. Venables) to MNA, 12 October 1946, in NTS 4501 1 566/313, 64.

56. Tomlinson Commission Report, 13.

57. HAD (1936), col. 2741.

58. HAD (1936), col. 2736. Almost immediately, as Tatz observes, Smuts’ UP attempted to dilute the terms of the land-purchasing policy. The UP eventually suffered a split in its ranks over the issue in 1959, when a “liberal faction” broke away to form the Progressive Party, a party ironically committed to purchasing the promised land—as Hertzog, the “conservative,” had insisted should be done. Tatz, Shadow and Substance, 201.

59. Tomlinson Commission Report.

60. Cited in Tomlinson Commission Report, 113.

61. Minutes of Proceedings, UTTGC, 24 April 1945.

62. J. Lazar, “Verwoerd versus the ‘Visionaries’: The South African Bureau of Racial Affairs (SABRA) and Apartheid, 1948–1962,” in P. Bonner, P. Delius, and D. Posel (eds.), Apartheid’s Genesis (Johannesburg, 1993), 377.

63. Ballinger, From Union to Apartheid, 208; Rich, Hope and Despair, 187.

64. Gartrell, “Ruling Ideas of a Ruling Elite,” 315.

65. Carter, Karis, and Stultz, South Africa’s Transkei, 54.

66. See M. Gluckman, “Inter-Hierarchical Roles: Professional and Party Politics in the Tribal Areas in South and Central Africa,” in M. Swartz (ed.), Local-Level Politics (Chicago, 1968), and, by the same author, “The Tribal Areas in South and Central Africa,” in L. Kuper and M. G. Smith (eds.), Pluralism in Africa (Los Angeles, 1969).

67. Major Liefeldt observed that in districts where the chieftaincy was not strong, the department encouraged magistrates to employ “educated Natives” to assist chiefs. “Conference of Chief Native Commissioners,” 3 February 1950, in NTS 1812 1 138/276, 68.

68. Rogers, Native Administration, Appendix A.

69. Hammond-Tooke, Command or Consensus, 105. Although customary law was not codified in the Transkei, provision was made for criminal cases of a minor nature to be heard in the magistrate’s court based on “The Transkeian Territories Penal Code.” This code, drawn up by the Commission on Native Laws and Customs of 1883, was based on the Criminal Code of India and “adapted to local conditions and requirements.” F. Brownlee, The Transkeian Native Territories: Historical Records (1923; reprint, Westport CT, 1970), vii.

70. F. Rodseth, in “Conference of CNCs,” 3 February 1950, in NTS 1812 1 138/276.

71. Ibid.

72. Moll, “No Blade of Grass,” 33.

73. Hammond-Tooke, Command or Consensus, 54; C. Hooper, Brief Authority (Johannesburg, 1989), 96.

74. Hammond-Tooke, Command or Consensus, 124.

75. Ibid., 113–18.

76. M. C. O’Connell, “Zesibe Reds, Rascals and Gentlemen at Home and at Work,” in P. Mayer (ed.), Black Villagers in Industrial Society: Anthropological Perspectives on Labour Migration in South Africa (Cape Town and Oxford, 1980), 27; Hooper, Brief Authority.

77. P. Mayer, “The Origin and Decline of Two Rural Resistance Ideologies,” in P. Mayer (ed.), Black Villagers in Industrial Society: Anthropological Perspectives on Labour Migration in South Africa (Oxford, 1980), 27. See also P. Mayer and I. Mayer, Townsmen or Tribesmen? Conservatism and the Process of Urbanisation (Oxford, 1961).

78. R. Schechner “From Ritual to Theater and Back,” in R. Schechner and M. Schuman (eds.), Ritual, Play and Performance (New York, 1976), 198.

79. See Sally Vance’s appraisal of the chieftaincy in S. Vance, “Attitudes towards Chieftainship: TTGC 1913–63,” October 1963, in Reel 18 of CKC, 28:BT8:96/2. Also see S. Vance, “The Franchise and Local Government,” October 1963, in Reel 18 of CKC, 28:BUl:44/2.

80. Ibid.

81. TTGC, Proceedings, 1926, 91. Also, see remarks by Muller, “Address on Administration of Transkeian Territories,” 12.

82. Roux, Time Longer than Rope; Roth, “Domination by Consent”; NRC, Proceedings, 1944.

83. A. Gouldner, The Future of Intellectuals and the Rise of the New Class (New York, 1979).

84. UTTGC, Proceedings, 1945, 100–101; Rich, Hope and Despair, 191.

85. UTTGC, Proceedings, 1946, 54.

86. UTTGC, Proceedings, 1947, 52–53.

87. S. Horwitz, “The Non-European War Record in South Africa,” in Hellman, Handbook on Race Relations, 539; Roth, “Domination by Consent.”

88. Carter, Karis, and Stultz, South Africa’s Transkei, 107.

89. Lacey, Working for Boroko, 74.

90. Councilor Moshesh, speaking in 1926, quoted in Carter, Karis, and Stultz, South Africa’s Transkei, 102.

91. See UTTGC, Proceedings, 1939, 33.

92. UTTGC, Proceedings, 1945, 99–103.

93. Nandy, Intimate Enemy, 3.

94. For the story of Mamba’s career, see chapter 2 of Beinart and Bundy, Hidden Struggles.

95. A. Paton, Hofmeyr (Cape Town, 1964), 440.

96. Carter, Karis, and Stultz, South Africa’s Transkei, 104–5.

97. UTTGC, Proceedings, 1931, 182.

98. UTTGC, Proceedings, 1936, 209–11; Carter, Karis, and Stultz, South Africa’s Transkei, 106.

99. UTTGC, Proceedings, 1935, 133–38.

100. Evidence given by Lockington Bam, Secretary to Chief Poto, before SANAC, quoted in Hendricks, Pillars of Apartheid, 50.

101. G. Dana, in UTTGC, Proceedings, 1943, 102.

102. “Speech by Councillor Sakwe.” Clipping attached to a letter sent by the Chair of the UTTGC’s Standing Committee on Post-War Reconstruction, 5 October 1944, in NTS 9679 3 635/400, 27–8.

103. Chairman of Committee to Chief Magistrate, Umtata, 5 October 1944, in NTS 9679 3 635/400, 27.

104. Quotes are taken from Carter, Karis, and Stultz, South Africa’s Transkei, 74.

105. Clipping in NTS 9679 3 635/400, 25.

106. Ibid.

107. Kenney, Architect of Apartheid, 48.

108. Cited in Chairman of Committee to Chief Magistrate, Umtata, 5 October 1944, 27, and also in Carter, Karis, and Stultz, South Africa’s Transkei, 108.

109. Carter, Karis, and Stultz, South Africa’s Transkei, 109.

110. Chairman of Committee to Chief Magistrate, Umtata, 5 October 1944, 26.

111. Ibid., 27; emphasis added. The use of the word “African” by Bunga members was rare and is odd in this context.

112. UTTGC, Proceedings, 1944 and 1945.

113. Fallers, “Predicament of the Modern African Chief.” Also see J. Comaroff and J. Comaroff, Of Revelation and Revolution (Chicago, 1991).

114. Fallers, “Predicament of the Modern African Chief,” 290. Also see L. Fallers, Bantu Bureaucracy: A Century of Political Evolution among the Basoga of Uganda (Chicago, 1965), chapter 9; L. P. Mair, “African Chiefs Today,” Journal of Racial Affairs, 10/1 (October 1958).

115. Nandy, Intimate Enemy, 3.

116. According to a forty-year veteran magistrate in the Transkei, “without European stimulus, the Native would soon fall back.” A. L. Barrett, “The Character of the Native in South Africa,” Optima 3/3 (September 1953), 10.

117. J. Scott, Weapons of the Weak (New Haven, 1985).

118. Cited in Carter, Karis, and Stultz, South Africa’s Transkei, 108.

119. van der Beyl, Top Hat and Veldskoen, 94.

120. Ibid., 145; Rich, Hope and Despair, 167.

121. UTTGC, Proceedings, 1944, 23.

122. Lonsdale, “The Moral Economy of the Mau Mau: The Problem,” chapter 11 in Berman and Lonsdale, Unhappy Valley, 289.

123. Cited in M. Mzimba, “Handwritten Account of Political Activities and the 1963 Elections in the Transkei,” in CKC 28:YT4:92/2.

124. M. Benson, Chief Albert Lutuli of South Africa (Oxford, 1963), 13.

125. A. Luthuli, Portrait of a Chief: Luthuli Speaks (Berlin, 1965), 10.

7. From Native Administration to Bantu Administration


Administrators in the segregation era had looked to Lord F. Lugard’s exegesis on “trusteeship” as the broad justifying authority for the extraordinary measures deemed necessary for the management of the reserves and their populations.[1] Lord Lugard fell out of favor in 1948. The very large fly in Lugard’s ointment was the implicit promise of an eventual “assimilation” of black and white. Supporters of apartheid were fundamentally united in rejecting this specter. However, discord broke out over the specific role the reserves were to play in moving South Africa toward the apartheid nirvana of “harmonious multi-community development.”

Intellectuals and cultural entrepreneurs associated with SABRA—including W. W. M. Eiselen, at least until 1950—looked to the reserves as the moral fountainhead of apartheid practices: everything would fall into place once the reserves were rapidly pulled back from the brink of ecological disaster and converted into modern, viable economies capable of stanching the flow of workseekers into the white vaderland. But, for the constituency of apartheid pragmatists, this was another specter, one that impinged directly on the bottom line of key Afrikaner groups: urban businessmen, white workers, and farmers. The key event that would illuminate the lines of division over reserve policy was the publication of the report of the Tomlinson Commission in 1955—apartheid’s explicit and detailed refutation of Lord Lugard’s “trusteeship” thesis. At the time the commission was assembled in November 1949, it was simply assumed that the report would give substance to the two broad, interrelated points contained in the Sauer Commission report: that the reserves should be developed politically in keeping with the “tribal” character of their populations and economically in order to retain Africans. Instead, the Tomlinson Commission report—arguably the most remarked-on commission report in the apartheid era—marked an early turning point in the quest for Afrikaner unity, infusing the apartheid project with the seeds of a self-reflecting angst about the morality of practical apartheid.

The Department of Native Affairs, under whose auspices the Tomlinson Commission report had been commissioned, stood in the crosshairs of the debate between purists and pragmatists in the 1950s. Its response to the report sought to adjudicate the conflicting interests in and perceptions of the reserves and was, in consequence, a logically unstable amalgam of the two positions. The consequences of this fateful response are examined in the next chapter and again, more broadly, in the concluding chapter. This chapter accentuates the ideological transformation that shaped administration in the reserves in the 1950s and details the importance of the report published in 1955.

Ethnos Theory, Volkekunde, and Bantu Administration

John Sharp has described the racial ideology that rapidly suffused the state during and after the 1950s as an anthropological variant of “ethnos theory.” [2] Although it served as a binding ideological glue that informed “Bantu administration” generally, ethnos theory was not crucial to urban administration. It was limited to a number of specific innovations, such as the ethnic zoning of locations, the supersession of advisory boards by ethnically based Urban Bantu Councils, and the introduction of “mother-tongue” instruction into “Bantu” schools. In the reserves, however, ethnos theory was the very stuff of Bantu administration, and Volkekunde (anthropology) its academic champion.

Ethnos theory grew out of the impact of two intellectual sources on a handful of young Afrikaner students in Europe in the first of half of the twentieth century. From Abraham Kuyper, a professor of theology at the Free University of Amsterdam, these students extracted (and significantly distorted) his argument concerning “sovereignty in one’s own sphere.” [3] In his own writings, Kuyper’s conception of “sovereignty in one’s own sphere” broadly resembles the institutions that comprise civil society. Describing these institutions variously as “natural,” “original,” and “organic” spheres, Kuyper invests them with a high degree of autonomy from the state: “the State may never become an octopus, which stifles the whole of life…and thus it has to honor and maintain every form of life which grows independently in its own sacred autonomy.” [4] Thus, he argued:

In many different directions we see therefore that sovereignty in one’s own sphere asserts itself—:

  1. In the social sphere, by personal superiority.
  2. In the corporative sphere of universities, guilds, associations, etc.
  3. In the domestic sphere of the family and of married life, and
  4. In communal autonomy.

In all these four spheres the State-government cannot impose its laws, but must reverence the innate law of life. God rules in these spheres, just as supremely and sovereignly through his chosen virtuosi, as He exercises dominion in the spheres of the State itself, through his chosen magistrates.[5]

No doubt intriguing to Kuyper’s Afrikaner neophytes in the 1920s and 1930s were his meditations on the “problem of differentiation amongst the species.” In a lecture that directly confronted Darwin’s theory of the relationship between natural selection and ecological diversity, Kuyper rejected the “survival of the fittest” theory in favor of Calvin’s theory of “predestination.” Whereas Darwin ascribed the abundance of species and the hierarchical arrangement among different life forms to “a blind selection stirring in unconscious cells,” Calvin attributed these to the master plan preordained by God. Species did not “select” their positions in the natural hierarchy through competitive struggles; they were “elected” to their stations by a divine Will. Justifying the providential hierarchy that placed some species above others, Kuyper wrote, “To put it concretely, if you were a plant, you would rather be rose than mushroom; if insect, butterfly rather than spider;…and, again, being man,…of the Aryan race rather than Hottentot or Kaffir.” [6] Nevertheless, all nations possessed an intrinsic integrity: “For God created the nations. They exist for Him. They are His own. And therefore all these nations, and in them all humanity must exist for His glory and consequently after His ordinances.” [7]

Kuyper’s arguments were modified by ethnos theorists such as Eiselen and Nico Diederichs in two crucial ways. First, Kuyper’s four “sovereign spheres” were reduced to a single historical imperative, die volke. In a world populated by numerous volke, each volk possessed a categorical right to autonomy.[8] Because each volk was a “natural sphere” created by God, a divine mandate obliged the state to preserve the diversity and integrity of all volke in South Africa. Second, these “sovereign spheres,” already collapsed into the notion of die volk, were subordinated to the state. Writing in 1936, Nico Diederichs deduced, “Only in the nation as the most total, most inclusive human community can man realize himself fully. The nation is the fulfillment of the individual life.…To work for the realization of the national calling is to work for the realization of God’s plan. Service to the nation is therefore part of my service to God.” [9] Such a view owed more to Nazi Germany than it did to Kuyper’s framework. Indeed, in his foreword to Diederichs’ book, Piet Meyer acknowledged the primacy of Nazi influences when he converted the phrase “sovereignty in each sphere” into “totalitarianism in each sphere.” [10]

Onto this seminal framework was grafted a Fichtean structure that Afrikaner students picked up, and again distorted, at universities in Germany. The kernel of the lesson they learned from the theories of such ardent German nationalists as Johann Herder, Friederich Schleiermacher, and most importantly Johann Fichte was the contention that the destiny of every people was bound by nation, volk, and language, and that the life of the individual was wholly subordinate to that of the nation.[11] Fichte’s language proved to be a fountainhead for apartheid ideology. Fichte wrote, for example, that “Only when each people, left to itself, develops and forms itself in accordance with its own peculiar quality, and only when in every people each individual develops himself in accordance with that quality—then, and only then, does the manifestation of divinity appear in its true mirror as it ought to be.…” [12] These were the basic lessons that Afrikaners such as Geoff Cronjé, Verwoerd, Piet Meyer, and Nico Diederichs brought home and reworked into the first comprehensive statement of apartheid’s political philosophy.[13]

Between 1935 and 1944, Broederbonders such as Piet Meyer, Verwoerd, Geoff Cronjé, Henning Klopper, and other dominant members of the Dutch Reformed Church met almost nightly, fashioning a policy that synthesized Fichtean-Kuyperian philosophy with the historical circumstances in which the Afrikaner volk continued to struggle toward its destiny. The first results were captured in ’n Tuiste vir die Nageslag (A Home for Posterity, 1945), which Geoff Cronjé published in 1945. As a doctoral student in Germany in the 1930s, Cronjé had absorbed the virulent creed of Blut und Boden (blood and soil) championed by the Nazi state. These sentiments—particularly the belief that whites were both culturally and biologically superior to blacks—saturated his book and underscored the Fichtean rationales he advanced for demanding a “national home” for Afrikaners. Cronjé argued that the leaky customary and legal pattern of segregation developed over almost three centuries in South Africa was incapable of fulfilling the divine task of preserving the purity of different races, and of Afrikaners in particular. Nothing short of complete racial separation in all walks of life, he argued, could spare the various cultural groups from “miscegenation and racial conflict,” the “core of South Africa’s racial problems.” [14] Having themselves done battle with the “unscrupulous imperialist-capitalist system,” Afrikaners were particularly well qualified to “show the way in which the native must be led in his own interests and with a view to his own development.” [15] Suddenly, a halo was hung above the head of even the most minor official in “Bantu administration.” Transforming the business of oppression into God’s pastoral work, ethnos theory remade the image of the lowly Native Commissioner, elevating him into a selfless foot soldier in the crusade to “develop progressive Bantu communities.”

It has frequently been observed that these ideas were developed in response to the broad-based nationalism championed by the ANC as it sloughed off the old regimen of polite pleas and cooperation with liberal white bodies.[16] Yet, well before Cronjé’s book consolidated the essentials of apartheid ideology, a slightly different strain, that took the Afrikaner’s civilizing mission somewhat less cynically, can be traced in the writing of W. W. M. Eiselen. Like many of his colleagues in the Broederbond, Eiselen had also studied in Germany, but perhaps because he had done so in the 1920s, before Nazism’s noxious creeds had congealed in the German academic establishment, the virulent racism that saturates the work of men such as Piet Meyer and Nico Diederichs is not evident in his own work. From the outset, Eiselen’s principal concern was to identify and preserve the cultural patrimony of African ethnic groups. From the 1920s until he retired from Bantu affairs in 1959, Eiselen held that the mission to distinguish and protect the “soul” of the Afrikaner volk could be morally justified only if Africans were accorded the same opportunity as whites.

Sharp suggests that it is more than likely that Eiselen was influenced by the German anthropologist W. E. Mühlmann, whose own views on ethnos theory had been influenced by the Russian anthropologist S. M. Shirokogoroff.[17] According to Shirokogoroff, the term “ethnos” described the process that “ethnical units” experienced in the course of their history. The process could have many possible outcomes, and Shirokogoroff argued that one possibility was that ethnical units might stabilize and develop a strong group consciousness. According to Shirokogoroff, “…such a crystallization may occur in groups.…Yet such a crystallized state is not always observed and in some groups it rarely occurs, as for instance, in groups based upon religious or economic differentiation. This is a process which only may result in the formation of ethnical units, and the process I have called ethnos.” [18] Shirokogoroff’s own formulation thus permitted historical variation in the process of ethnos formation, but was undermined by the sharp juxtaposition of “ethnic” to “religious” and “economic” groups. Eiselen adapted Shirokogoroff’s theory in two critical ways. First, he posited language-based groups as the principal actors in history, subordinating all other qualities to ethnicity. Second, he did not interpret “ethnos” to be an historical process, as Shirokogoroff did, but ascribed it to the group itself, an entity whose essential characteristics were fixed in time and space and could therefore be taken for granted.[19] This modification significantly narrowed the intellectual distance that separated Eiselen from the group of Afrikaners consciously crafting an ideology that would give Afrikaners control over the state. Still, Eiselen’s anthropological interest in preserving African cultures distinguishes him somewhat from this group, for whom apartheid was preeminently a divide-and-rule strategy. Indeed, Eiselen was perhaps the most liberal NP ideologue within the apartheid state in the 1950s.

Before his appointment as SNA, Eiselen had been a lecturer in Bantu languages at Stellenbosch University, Chief Inspector of Native Education in the Transvaal, and Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pretoria. His association with E. G. Jansen was not a dynamic one. Jansen and Eiselen were not aggressive men,[20] and it was only after Broederbonders in the Naturellesakegroep succeeded in getting Jansen kicked upstairs and replaced by Verwoerd that Eiselen’s contribution to policy would become clear. If it fell to Verwoerd to render African policy feasible in practice, it was almost certainly Eiselen who formulated the moral rationale that guided the project in its early years. His track record in this area was established and well known. For years, Eiselen had been insisting that segregation was morally suspect. As early as 1929, for example, he had argued that Hertzog’s solution lacked anything “positive” for the various ethnic groups that comprised the African population because it concentrated simply on drawing a racial line between white and black. Hertzog’s “Native policy” had therefore encouraged an oppositional black nationalism that would ultimately overwhelm whites. In contrast, Eiselen proposed that African “cultures” deserved to be treated with the respect that any ethnic group anywhere in the world deserved. The common denominator in this panhistorical view of ethnicity was what he called “the will of the people.” This will was congealed in language:

…there is one factor, and that the most important factor, which I have not yet mentioned. That is the will of a people to stand on guard [handhaaf], to remain immortal as a people. If such a will exists, then it can only operate through the medium of a unique ethnic language. From the history of the Boer people we learn how a people can retain its identity despite insuperable difficulties and economic disadvantages.…Because we refuse as government and People to recognize Bantu culture, because we measure the native with the measure of European culture and on that basis classify them as raw or civilized…[segregationist policies] were, albeit unconsciously, apostles of assimilation.[21]

In contrast, Eiselen advocated a “positive” approach to the question of ethnic relations. He played a leading role in popularizing the use of the more anthropologically acceptable term “Bantu” in place of “Native” within the discourse of state officials.

Eiselen had sought to influence the Union’s African educational policy well before he was appointed to the civil service in the apartheid era. In 1942, for example, he sat on the Committee on Bantu Languages in his capacity as Inspector of Native Education and because of his “specialised knowledge of the Bantu languages and of the educational requirements of the Bantu.” [22] The committee had been assembled to explore the possibility of making African languages available to African students at a higher grade. Eiselen’s expert knowledge of African languages is readily apparent throughout the committee’s report. The committee resoundingly rejected the argument “prevalent in certain quarters” that several African languages were so similar that the added expense of devising different syllabi could not be justified. The report tartly observed that if it was systematically observed, this argument would preclude “examinations given in Portuguese or Hebrew…and other languages foreign to the country.” Exclusion of indigenous languages was “not merely a deplorable illogicality, but a hardship so grievous as to amount to a positive injustice.” In a section redolent with Eiselen’s specialist training, the report contended that “The differences between the four South African Bantu language groups are profound—comparable at least to those pertaining to the Anglic, the Low German, the High German and the Scandinavian branches of the Gothonic group, and possible even to those between the Gothonic, the Romance, the Keltic and the Slavic groups in the Indo-European family.” [23] Later, Eiselen himself championed the idea, raised in the committee’s report in 1942, that all South Africans should be required to study an African language as a third official language to “improve race relations.” The major reason, however, for compelling Africans in particular to learn their own “mother tongue” was rooted in ethnos theory. The Committee on Bantu Languages had encountered opposition among whites to the idea of introducing African languages into academic curricula on two standard grounds: fears about “the multiplicity of Bantu languages” and “white opposition to a third official language.” Eiselen’s paternalist response to these objections was shaped by his sincere anthropological faith in cultural relativism and his belief that showing genuine respect for African languages also had implications for the humanity of the herrenvolk: “From our side, we can do much to encourage these Peoples in their struggle for cultural existence if we try to understand and respect their language and culture.” [24]

For Eiselen, the virtues of racial domination were of secondary importance to the Afrikaner’s more noble mission of preserving ethnic diversity among Africans. At the very end of his career in the public service in 1964, he was still arguing that the Afrikaner’s “task in South Africa is not the solution of a race problem but the creation of different ethnic groups [Volksgroepe].[25] It was Eiselen, too, who sensitized state planners to the possibility that development plans in the reserves could be significantly accelerated, enabling the reserves to retain Africans and to absorb those whom influx controls would eject from the urban areas. This he did with a backhanded compliment that scotched “the commonplace assumption [among liberal segregationists] that Natives will require centuries of contact with western civilisation before attaining intellectual parity with Europeans.…” [26] The point, as Ashforth observes, was not that individual Africans were incapable of readily “progressing” along Western lines, but that the progress of individuals should not occur at the expense of “tribal cohesion.” [27]

The close cooperation between Verwoerd and Eiselen in the 1950s concealed this important ideological difference between them: for Verwoerd, the racial question was unquestionably supreme, and racial domination the prime object of state policy. The racial view that would soon become apartheid orthodoxy was widespread in European thought in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and not much weight was attached to the importance of tribal variation. As John Sharp observes, “…although it was recognised that Africans in South Africa belonged to several different ‘tribes,’ it was often argued that these were (relatively recent) offshoots from a single group with uniform racial and cultural characteristics,” so that “a great deal of scholarly effort…went into the speculative reconstruction of the common origins of the African population.” [28] Under Eiselen and Verwoerd, attention shifted decisively to the distinctions between ethnic groups, although for somewhat different reasons.

Although they differed significantly from segregation ideology, apartheid strategies for redesigning the reserves also elaborated on themes that had been basic to the paternalist model. Like the conservative ideology out of which benevolent paternalism was fashioned, apartheid philosophy in the 1940s and 1950s was resolutely opposed to the conception that society was composed of a collection of free-floating individuals. In keeping with conservative philosophy, apartheid ideology conceived of the individuals as members of groups intermediate between the individual and the state. Described, for example by Edmund Burke and other English conservatives, as “estates,” “interests,” and “classes,” these mediating communities were projected as bulwarks against the anarchy that rampant individualism, unhinged from its communal moorings by laissez-faire capitalism, threatened to unleash on society. For, “above all, conservatives feared rootlessness, the destruction of the restraining tradition, weakening of intermediate groups, the release of social control: they feared the mob.” [29]

Apartheid ideologues, apprehensive of individualism to a much greater degree than were their liberal predecessors in the state, consigned all individuals to the intimate, moderating influence of smaller ethnic groups. Whereas liberals embraced individualism among whites while expressing strong reservations about its influence among Africans, Afrikaner intellectuals displayed a general suspicion about individualism—certainly among Africans, but also as a matter of philosophical principle. The Fundamental Principles of Calvinist Political Science, issued by the Council of the Nederduits Gerformeerde Kerk in 1951, for example, expressly rejected the liberal claim that “the sovereign individual with its own interests is the highest good.” Thus, in the view of the council, the aggregate sentiment of individuals could not determine the policies of the state, described in its Fundamental Principles as “God’s authority-structure” on earth: in the liberal state, “franchise is pure vanity of sovereignty, rebellion against God.” [30]

At the same time, apartheid ideology placed a premium on humanitarian concern for those considered less fortunate. For Eiselen, at least, genuine respect and goodwill toward African tribes were essential components of the Afrikaner hegemony to which he and his colleagues in SABRA were committed. In an oblique criticism of Verwoerd’s response to the Tomlinson Commission’s ambitious development plan for the reserves, SABRA member Dr. C. H. Badenhorst exhorted the three Afrikaner churches to support the “maximum development” of both the political and “spiritual” missions of apartheid: “one does not ask: ‘How much will it cost?’” [31] Verwoerd’s conviction in this principle was undoubtedly of a lower caliber than Eiselen’s. From the outset of their collaboration in Native affairs in 1950s, Verwoerd’s steely approach to practical administration overshadowed Eiselen’s idealism. Eiselen appears to have grown jaded as the Bantu Authorities system became identified with violence and coercion—a consequence, he suggested in 1972, of the state’s decision to place autonomy for the reserves ahead of their economic development.[32] The minister, however, remained unswervingly convinced that such events were little more than teething troubles or the handiwork of malevolent “agitators,” unwittingly aided and abetted by Afrikaner dissidents in SABRA—that is, that they did not detract from the essential correctness of the apartheid project itself. In Verwoerd’s hands, ethnos theory quickly drifted far from the moral moorings to which Eiselen hoped to anchor it. By the mid-1950s, it had become little more than an artifice to fracture black nationalism.

Ethnos Theory and Bantu Administration

Prior to the 1950s, ethnos theory simply posited an immutable distinction between “cultural groups” without detailing what the final destination of “Separate Development” was to be. At no point before 1959 did it suggest that the Bantu Authorities structure would culminate in African sovereignty in independent states. In an article published as late as 1959, Eiselen specifically repudiated such a prospect;[33] once he had reconciled himself to the prospect of independence, Verwoerd would in turn repudiate Eiselen’s article. In parliament, Verwoerd dismissed the idea as the handiwork of the opposition’s “mischievous propaganda.” In any case, with white farmers steadfastly resisting the extension of the reserves (a policy that “purified” Nationalists had castigated as “giving the country to the Natives” in 1934),[34] it would have been folly to advance the idea of sovereignty in enlarged reserves at a time when the government’s electoral support appeared slim and still tenuous. Verwoerd himself was crystal-clear on this point when, in an address to parliament in 1956, he specifically rejected the idea that the Bantu Authorities system presaged a movement toward independence for the reserves.[35] Thus, despite the fanfare and ideological hyperbole in which it was couched, ethnos theory initially bore no constitutional implications for South Africa. For its part, the Bantu Authorities Act of 1951—the first legislative crystallization of ethnos theory in Native administration—amounted to little more than a change in the style of administration in the reserves.

Nevertheless, the Bantu Authorities Act swung the administration in a very different direction, and departmental officials were required to view themselves in a transformed light. For one thing, reserve policy was now based on centralized control—in itself, a significant departure from the rather idiosyncratic style that had predominated in the segregation era. Consolidated in the Bantu Authorities model, ethnos theory demanded that the state should play a central and interventionist role, educating Africans in the moral sentiments of their past to better equip them for their segregated future. Merely repelling the forces ranged against tribalism was not enough: Africans would “have to play their part [by] learning to love their culture and by becoming reacquainted with their traditions.” [36] In particular, magistrates were told in official circulars that it was up to them to educate Africans in patriotism, civic virtue, and collective loyalty. According to the new discourse, peasant society had crumbled ignominiously in the aftermath of contact with capitalist modernity, and the liberal state had been complicit in the consequent “demoralisation of essentially tribal peoples.” [37] Only the bureaucratic stratum of apartheid administrators could restore and protect a sense of community, not only in the reserves, but everywhere in the Union—wherever “detribalized Natives” had become separated from their “true” and “authentic” tribal roots. A circular surreptitiously shown to a researcher instructed magistrates “that since the success of the policy of the government is dependent on the goodwill of the chiefs, it is a Commissioner’s duty to exercise extreme patience and tolerance with the chiefs and headmen and failure to do this would be regarded as dereliction of duty on their part.” [38] In the segregation era, administrators in the reserves had never viewed themselves as playing central roles in the pass system. In contrast, magistrates were now kept abreast of the regulations that governed district labor bureaus, in particular, and as early as 1952 were instructed to grant Africans permission to leave their rural domiciles only if the applicants had a “bona fide reason to be in the urban areas.” [39]

Some officials from the old segregationist school suffered these administrative changes badly. As chapter 3 showed, senior officials such as D. L. Smit, E. H. Brookes, and Fred Rodseth were forced out of the DNA to make way for Broederbonders such as M. C. de Wet Nel, J. J. Serfontein, A. Malan, and H. F. Verwoerd. Segregationist administrators in the reserves had been content to preside over their districts like stewards, tut-tutting about the erosion of tribal societies, but indecisive about actively intervening in the political and economic structures that were tottering and falling about them. The aggressively interventionist brief now handed to administrators in the reserves thus ran against the grain of a revered administrative “tradition,” proud of roots that stretched back more than a century. Hammond-Tooke observes that in the 1950s some magistrates in the Transkei attempted to alleviate the weight of coercive measures as best they could. Another source notes that, in the Northern Transvaal, the “agonizing position into which the Government policy put these unfortunate men led to the resignation of at least six Native Commissioners” and that “one of them had a serious nervous breakdown which ultimately led him to suicide.” [40]

The second difference in the way departmental officials viewed themselves is somewhat less obvious but of greater importance: the administrative bureaucracies established for Africans were almost immediately targeted as strategic positions into which ethnos theorists and sympathizers were placed. The entire “Native group” in Malan’s Cabinet, for example, was placed in senior administrative positions within the department. The reorganization of the department, first to take over African education in 1954 and again in 1959 when a new, full-fledged Department of Bantu Education was established, provided further opportunities to place men hand-selected by the Broederbond to hold state policy together. The Afrikanerization of the African affairs bureaucracies continued rapidly in the 1950s, as the labor bureau system expanded and created openings in urban and rural areas. This pattern, in which the civil service was not so much Afrikanerized as Broederbonderized, was duplicated throughout the state, including in the coloured and Indian bureaucracies that emerged in the early 1960s, and was undertaken expressly to dampen internal conflicts and maximize the coherence of state actions. The intellectual warriors of ethnos theory quickly came to control the commanding heights of the state’s bureaucracies. Volkekundiges (anthropologists) also gave ethnos theory a foothold in the four Afrikaner universities and “provided undergraduates with a packaged formula which would fit many of them for service in the bureaucracy of apartheid, particularly in those government departments whose officials depend directly on the continuation of Verwoerdian apartheid for jobs and promotion.…” [41] Finally, the crop of segregated “tribal” universities that emerged after the Extension of University Education Act of 1959 provided important occupational opportunities that enabled Volkekundiges to set about “colonizing the consciousness” of thousands of young Africans, who, upon graduating, were themselves destined to take over the Bantustan civil service and tribal universities.[42]

Conflicts over Reserve Policy

Much as Smuts’ government had waited for the Fagan Commission to deliver its report, a sense of anticipation hung about the commission appointed in 1949 to undertake a detailed and comprehensive investigation of the reserves.[43] It was clear to anybody inside or outside government that the “development of the Native areas” would be a central theme in apartheid’s future. However, uncertainty existed within Afrikanerdom about the nature and scale of “development” and consequently about the role that the future reserves would play in the political and economic life of white South Africa. Since these issues were central to the Tomlinson Commission, there was an expectation that they would be laid to rest when the commission completed its work. Instead, the report that F. R. Tomlinson submitted to the department in 1954 became a lightning rod for criticism across the political spectrum, exposing ideological tensions between Afrikaner constituencies wedded to different notions of apartheid and alerting the state to the scale of resources necessary to develop the reserves.

The central issue at stake in the debate over the role of the reserves was the extent of the state’s commitment to “total apartheid.” Two interrelated questions loomed large. The first stemmed from the scale of development envisaged in the reserves: would adequate economic opportunities be created in the reserves to justify the exclusion of Africans from the urban areas? The second dealt with the extent of suzerainty that Dr. Malan’s government was prepared to concede to the reserves: did the reference in the Sauer Report of 1947 to establishing ethnic “national homes” in the reserves envisage enhanced powers of local government, or, more drastically, did it raise the prospect of genuine independence?

Consistent with their demands for the speedy elimination of the migrant labor system, purists assumed that the economic development of the reserves should be sufficiently substantial to obviate any need for Africans to enter the “European areas” in search of adequate employment. For purist intellectuals in SABRA, the point was both logically clear and morally correct: terminating the migrant labor system and reversing African urbanization meant supporting genuine development in the reserves.[44] The second question was placed on the agenda in 1956, when Professor J. L. Sadie, a SABRA member, was urged by M. C. de Wet Nel, then still Deputy Minister for Native Affairs, not to raise the matter as planned at a conference called to discuss the report of the Tomlinson Commission.[45]

Purists found support in an unexpected quarter. For entirely different reasons, the Chamber of Mines (CM) was in broad agreement with proposals to stimulate development in the reserves. This support was not exactly ardent and was diluted by a number of qualifications that undermined the salience the CM attached to its prescriptions for stimulating the reserve economies. Nevertheless, this support marks an important rebuttal of the cheap labor thesis, which has simply assumed that the gold-mining industry remained implacably opposed to the development of the reserves throughout the twentieth century.[46] Given the consistency with which this argument has been held and its importance to Marxist accounts of South African history, some emphasis on an alternative reading of the Chamber of Mine’s reserve policy in the 1950s seems warranted.

About the time that the Tomlinson Commission took up its four-year project, the gold-mining industry was confronted with a significant constriction of its labor supplies: in 1951, the industry claimed a shortfall of approximately 60,000 African workers, and it expected the figure to escalate to 130,000 by 1956.[47] At the same time, the discovery of new gold-bearing reefs in the OFS breathed renewed vigor into an industry dedicated to the pursuit of what was widely believed to be a “wasting asset” that would soon be depleted. Instead, increased labor supplies became necessary precisely as labor sources came to seem unreliable. It was against this background that the Gold Producer’s Committee authorized a delegation led by A. W. Gemmill to articulate the industry’s interests in reserve policy before the Tomlinson Commission. Members of the commission were clearly expecting that Gemmill’s remarks would center around the need to extend the migrant labor system. But, reversing a principle that had seemed inviolate since the early 1900s, the Chamber of Mines spokesmen surprised the members of the Tomlinson Commission by actually advocating a policy of economic development in the reserves. At the same time, their evidence before the commission makes it clear that the CM’s position was not entirely consonant with the recommendations of the apartheid purists. Whereas purists favored both agricultural and industrial development, the Chamber of Mines favored a policy that gave primacy to agricultural development, viewing a modicum of industrial development as a gradual derivative of modernized agriculture. Moreover, the CM made it clear that it would support industrialization in the reserves only if all projects were undertaken from beginning to end by private capital; it therefore struck preemptive blows against “artificial interference” in the form of state subsidies, the creation of public works programs by state corporations “along the lines of the Tennessee Valley Authority,” or “the direction of labour” to promote the “decentralisation” of industry as a way of keeping Africans out of the established “white” urban areas. With an equanimity that clearly surprised members on the Tomlinson Commission, the Chamber of Mines therefore reasoned that “if, as a first phase, a policy of agricultural development is accepted and pursued actively, there will naturally follow in the course of time the establishment and development of villages and industries to cater for the needs and to provide the services required by stabilised agricultural communities.” [48] Like his colleagues on the Commission, F. R. Tomlinson expressed surprise at the Chamber of Mines’ support for development in the reserves. It is worth quoting the exchange between Tomlinson and Gemmill. Gemmill makes it clear that, while not opposed in principle to the industrialization of the reserves, the chamber remained perennially vigilant about processes that would disrupt its access to migrant labor. The pivot of Gemmill’s position was the primacy of agricultural development:

The Chairman:

In other words, you visualise the development of small scale industries narrowly attached to soil products?

Mr. Gemmill:


The Chairman:

[Would you accept plans to] Improve and then develop, say, a second ISCOR [Iron and Steel Corporation]?

Mr. Gemmill:

…If, of course, you had a large mining deposit which had to be worked, that is a different thing, but other wise it is a process of growth, and not building a skyscraper.…You start for instance with dairy cows and then have milk. Then you have a creamery and processes, and in the same way industries have grown up in European areas: the creamery and the cheese factory and so on. Some others could be tanneries; for example, boot manufacturing.

Gemmill then proceeded to explain why the chamber so sharply distinguished agricultural development from “advanced industry.” Industrialization, whether in the white urban areas or within the reserves, tended to dissuade Africans permanently from entering into mine labor. In contrast, agricultural development within a context of land shortage would boost living standards within the reserves without constricting the supply of labor. Gemmill’s clarification went to the heart of the matter:

…it means that within the peasantry there would still be the young man, say from eighteen to twenty-five, the sons of the farmers. We consider they would still be able to migrate to work and would in turn bring back in the way of deferred pay and money—bring back that assistance, and would assist in purchasing farming implements and so forth. We would have the balance of the community; the young man, the man we want could still migrate and then return.[49]

Thus, the Chamber of Mines endorsed development plans that would carve the African population in the reserves into two basic pools: a small number of “efficient farmers” and a vast rural proletariat, which the CM estimated would amount to 25 and 75 percent, respectively, of the reserve population. Members of the commission clearly anticipated that the chamber would lay claim to this latter rural proletariat. But, again to the commission’s puzzlement, Gemmill’s testimony made it clear that the mines were content to draw their migrant workers almost exclusively from the class of “efficient farmers,” on the assumption that “after completing several contracts on the mines, [the migrant worker] would, in due course, settle down at home as a married man, as a useful member in a farming community,” thereby perpetuating the migrant labor system in the future. The other 75 percent, Gemmill concluded, would be employed as migrant workers in manufacturing industry and, somewhat miraculously, in the sea of creameries, tanneries, and small bootmaking enterprises that would flourish despite the absence of active state support.[50] These qualifications would clearly have dampened the industrialization of the reserves. Yet it is clear that the CM was prepared to support qualified plans to stimulate the revitalization of the reserves.

Ranged against proposals to develop the reserves were the vested interests of pragmatists in retaining access to migrant labor. The AHI feared that extensive development of the reserves would cut off the source of cheap labor; for its part, the South African Agricultural Union had no interest in plans to convert Africans peasants into a flourishing class of market competitors. For different reasons, therefore, these two bodies distanced themselves from the zeal with which zealous Afrikaner intellectuals pressed for the reconstitution of the reserves. The AHI, for example, very cautiously tolerated the idea of developing the reserves, but only after first obtaining Verwoerd’s word that the reserves “would not be developed to the point that they became competitors with industry in the European areas”;[51] its support, therefore, was conditional on only limited development of the reserves.

With regard to the SAAU, Posel notes that agrarian capital did not share the AHI’s interests in migrant labor. Instead, it favored the “stabilisation” of labor as a means of simultaneously consolidating its labor supplies and facilitating the transition to more productive farming methods.[52] Despite its 1944 recommendation that Smuts’ government should “stabilise” the labor market, in part by promoting agriculture in the reserves, the SAAU’s interests in suppressing market competition from African farmers prevented the body from supporting calls for the extensive development of agriculture in the reserves. The same pragmatic logic that had subverted urban policy thus exercised a similar influence on reserve policy, compelling the state to cut back on plans to disconnect the reserves thoroughly from white South Africa.

White labor also developed a hostility to the government’s early attempts to entice industry into relocating to industrial zones along the border of the reserves, chiefly by relaxing minimum wage regulations. The goals of this program were twofold: to reverse the concentration of South African industry in a small number of industrial centers and to freeze the size of the urban population by employing African workers who commuted back and forth across the border on a daily basis.[53] In 1958, however, the leader of the Garment Workers’ Union requested that the government prohibit clothing factories in Natal and the OFS from participating in the “border development” program: two thousand white workers in the Transvaal had been badly impacted by the program, raising fears about white workers again “walking the street, hungry and out of work”; the complaint was repeated that same year by a junket of MPs.[54] Although border industries were located on the “white” side of the border, the implications of development within the reserves would have been the same for white labor.

Meanwhile, around the time that the Tomlinson Commission’s report was published, intellectuals within SABRA pressed the government to step up development plans in the reserves, raised the prospect of granting sovereignty to the ethnic “national units,” and continued to argue for the expulsion of Africans from “white” South Africa.[55] Caught in the crossfire, the department became the crucial state institution for mediating the beginnings of the ensuing broedertwis (strife between brothers). The National Party had served notice of the importance it attached to the reserves in its election manifesto on “Colour Policy,” which promised that “a body of experts will be established for the judicious use of the land in the Native areas.” [56] Based on an interview with the chair of the eventual commission, F. R. Tomlinson, Ashforth suggests that the actual impetus behind the formation of the commission appears to have come from Strijdom, who floated the idea to E. G. Jansen and Prime Minister Malan one year after the 1948 election.[57] However, according to B. M. Schoeman, E. G. Jansen, the MNA, failed to appreciate the linchpin role that the reserves were intended to play in the 1950s, so that were it not for the newly appointed SNA, W. W. M. Eiselen, reserve policy would have languished in the three years immediately after the National Party assumed office.[58] In any case, Jansen’s appointment of the commission to undertake a comprehensive investigation of the reserves initially pleased the Naturellesakegroep in the Cabinet. But confidence in the minister proved short-lived as holdover personnel from Smuts’ government successfully slowed down policy changes (chapter 2). Once Jansen was kicked upstairs to the status of Governor-General, H. F. Verwoerd took the reins in Native Affairs. Thus, when the mammoth Report of the Commission for the Socio-Economic Development of the Bantu Areas within the Union of South Africa—that is, the Tomlinson Commission report—was delivered to the Minister of Native Affairs after five years of genuinely hard and impressive scholarly research, the seventeen hefty volumes were placed on Verwoerd’s desk. The report was actually submitted late in 1954, but was only made public the following year, in summarized form.

The Tomlinson Commission and Bantu Authorities

The terms of reference that defined the parameters of the commission’s investigation were simultaneously broad and prescriptive, providing an early indication of the breadth of purpose and zeal animating the social engineers of the new regime. The commission was authorized to “conduct an exhaustive inquiry into and report on a comprehensive scheme for the rehabilitation of the Native areas with a view to developing within them a social structure in keeping with the culture of the Natives and based on effective socio-economic planning.” The full-time, heavily Afrikaner membership of the commission was suggestive of the new government. F. R. Tomlinson himself had recently taken up a senior position as Professor of Agricultural Economics at the University of Stellenbosch, where he and Verwoerd had come to know—and, according to Tomlinson, intensely dislike—each other when both were junior lecturers.[59] Three other academics, all Afrikaners, were also appointed to the commission. M. C. de Wet Nel, leader of the Naturellesakegroep, Chris Prinsloo of the Urban Affairs Section, and C. B. Young, Under-Secretary for the Native Areas, represented the department. Two Afrikaners represented white farming interests. The commission also drew on the expertise of research specialists in economics, demography, labor matters, and agricultural-environmental practices. Determined to uncover the full complexity of administration and civic life in the reserves, the commission amassed a wealth of information about Africans, their eroding “tribal past,” and their adaptation to the market economy in the white areas, and it considered ways to combat “undesirable changes” by resuscitating the various “tribal economies.”

The far-ranging deliberations of the Tomlinson Commission report may be reduced to three primary policies that the commission regarded as interdependent: (1) the separation of farmers from nonfarmers, (2) a land rehabilitation policy, and (3) the industrialization of the reserves. These were standard concerns in plans for the reserves in the segregation era. But three further points distinguished the Tomlinson Commission report from previous proposals: the vital importance that the report attached to the quantitative measurement of classes, detailed proposals that made increased agricultural productivity dependent on the large-scale removal of “inefficient” peasants from the land, and lastly, the conviction that all plans affecting the reserves should promote tribalism in general and the Bantu Authorities model in particular.

First, the commission approached the task of separating farmers from nonfarmers by calculating the minimum income from agriculture that would be capable of sustaining a farming household. The commission self-consciously sought to assemble a mass of statistical information to bolster its cause. As the report noted, the absence of reliable data on the reserves was a source of long-standing official complaint; in 1943 the report of the Social and Economic Planning Council on the reserves had gone so far as to plead for the establishment of a research institute to obtain “fundamental scientific knowledge on which to base wise land use so as to ensure that the productivity of the land will be increased and maintained” because “we will not know how to do it until we find out; we cannot find out until we investigate.…” [60] Tomlinson’s commission flung itself into the statistical breach, emerging with impressively precise data.

Based on a survey of 111 peasants who made a living from farming alone, the commission concluded that “£56 p.a. is large enough to attract a Bantu to full-time farming in mixed farming and pastoral areas, and to bind him permanently to the land.” It therefore adopted £60 per annum as the minimum gross income for the farming population and based its entire project on this figure, tersely commenting that “the Bantu will have to raise his income of £60 to higher levels—by his own efforts.” Recourse to the 1951 census revealed that a staggering 49 percent of the population in the reserves—approximately 1.8 million people—would have to be moved off the land in order to accommodate the selected farming population, designated as “economic farming units” (EFUs) in the report. For the Transkei, between 34 percent and 77 percent of the population would have to be relocated.[61]

Relocation was tied to an acceleration in the implementation of Betterment schemes. Verwoerd had already anticipated this recommendation in a policy speech before the Senate in 1954 when he announced a new three-step policy of “Stabilisation, Reclamation and Rehabilitation.” [62] Peasant resistance was continuing to leave its mark on the department’s work. In the new policy, culling and fencing were to be temporarily shelved in favor of first “stabilising” the deterioration of the soil in as large an area as possible, followed by the surveying of land into residential, arable, and grazing lands. Culling and fencing would be introduced at this stage, by which time, it was hoped, education on the value of rehabilitation would elicit the cooperation of location members. Reclamation schemes would be similar in purpose to the previous rehabilitation policy: to restore land to its maximum potential. Once ecological deterioration had been “stabilised” and land once destroyed had been “reclaimed” for agricultural use, then the “rehabilitation” of land could finally take place, yielding the rural nirvana envisaged in the report of the Tomlinson Commission: thousands of “economic” farmers resident on 52-morgen lots, possessing a maximum of 8 cattle, 9 sheep, and 11 goats, each producing an anticipated 18.7 bags of grain, which, the commission computed with deadly accuracy, would “leave a surplus of 3 bags” to be used as the farmer saw fit. In order to “bring the profit motive…into play more strongly than before,” the commission strongly insisted, and was indeed adamant, that individual tenure should be introduced to replace all other forms of tenure. Moreover, families were entitled to purchase more than one EFU (although warnings were issued against the possible emergence of “land barons”), but could retain their title deeds only if the land was worked to the magistrate’s satisfaction. It was recommended that all reserve land should be brought under Proclamation 116 of 1949, which increased the magistrates’ powers to override chiefs and headmen unilaterally in order to implement the department’s schemes. The report recommended that £37 million should be set aside for soil reclamation, afforestation, and general agricultural development; £31 million for the establishment of industries; £8 million for roads and railways; £5 million for electrification schemes; £12 million for urban development; and £11 million for education.

The separation of “true farmers” from proletarianized workers resident in villages was to be a gradual process. Planning Committees in the Transkei (known as Ad Hoc Committees in the other reserves) would determine how many EFUs could be laid out in a particular location and would allocate land on a pro rata basis to “bona fide farmers” who had held land before. In practice, it appears that land was frequently allocated as a fraction of an EFU (say, one-sixth, one-third, or one-half of an EFU), thus strengthening the gradations separating the poorest producers from the wealthiest—who could, moreover, purchase more land—and rendering the former prone to eventual relocation.[63] “By a process of gradual elimination,” the SNA informed the Chief Magistrate in the Transkei, some of “the landholders would lose their rights which would then be acquired by the others who would then have full economic units.” [64]

The third aspect of the commission’s plans, the industrialization of the reserves, was intended to “absorb” those who were already landless and those soon to be dispossessed of their land. The report did not specify what the total costs of the industrialization scheme would be, but stressed the need for gradual change in order to avoid “a sudden, rapid and almost revolutionary shift to industry.” It called for a sum of £30 million for the first ten years to initiate a program of secondary and tertiary development capable of generating fifty thousand jobs per annum. A revised educational policy geared to the “techniques of a progressive economy” would be necessary to generate the skills required in an industrializing society. Since a “Bantu educational system” had already been proposed by the Native Education Commission chaired by Eiselen, it was left to the Tomlinson Commission to heartily endorse the policy of tribal education.[65] But, in a rare descent to reality, the commission also recognized that the complete absence of start-up capital meant that the provision of jobs and education would be meaningless unless industries were actually established. Hence, it argued that “European capital” should be welcomed in the reserves, and that a proposed Bantu Development Corporation should be established under the aegis of the DNA to nurture a class of African businessmen. The department was eminently qualified to undertake the work of reorganizing the reserves: “it appears that the only logical course is to concentrate within one department as many functions pertaining to the reserves as are practical, in other words, to proceed with the conception of a ‘state within a state.’…” [66]

In sum, the program called for state intervention to create, within three decades, an economy and a class structure in the reserves that were typical of industrialized states. A contemporary critique described the report as “a form of whistling in the dark”: “It is no matter that not even the whole of the Union has yet attained such occupational diversity and industrial specialisation, nor that this is a picture of a Union consisting eventually of two Canadas—when so far there is not even one.” [67] The White Paper, which set out the government’s response, deflated Professor Tomlinson’s grandiose vision with just two blows: it rejected extensive industrialization and vetoed private ownership of land. In May 1956, Verwoerd informed parliament that the commission’s estimate of £104,486,000 would be reduced to “at most £36.6 million.” [68] The motivations for and consequences of this decision were made crystal clear in the reasons advanced for vetoing, in its entirety, the £30 million required for industrial development, the second largest item in the commission’s estimates:

For secondary and tertiary development £30,000,000 has been calculated. That is the amount which is really intended for the development of white industries in the Native areas with State assistance. That can help kill the White industries now existing in the White areas.…I think it would be catastrophic for the present development of South Africa to establish subsidised White industries in Native areas in competition with the existing White industries. Therefore that £30,000,000 falls away.[69]

The government also would not permit individual tenure, which the commission had viewed as indispensable to the successful reconstitution of the reserve economies, to erode the practice of communal land ownership: “individual tenure would undermine the whole tribal structure. The entire order and cohesion of the tribe…is bound up with the fact that the community is a communal unit.…” [70] Hopes for significant agricultural development were therefore effectively doomed.

No state policy emerged to match even remotely the scale of class restructuring called for by the commission. When the department began its policy of relocation in the 1960s, those most affected were not the inhabitants of the reserves, but Africans in the prescribed white areas: labor tenants set adrift by the mechanization of white agriculture, segments of the unemployed population in the urban areas, and Africans in so-called “black spots,” derisive shorthand for the remnants of an African peasantry “squatting” on unoccupied white farms or on African-owned land still surviving in the midst of the prescribed white rural areas. C. Simkins concludes that these removals largely account for the explosive growth of the reserves’ population between 1955 and 1969. In this period, population density increased from 60 to 100 persons per square mile, yielding a growth rate of 5.38 percent accountable for neither by immigration nor by natural increase.[71]

Thus, in rebutting the central tenets of the Tomlinson Commission’s report, Verwoerd made it clear that SABRA’s morally shaped views would not be permitted to influence state policy. At a congress called in June 1956 by SABRA, the Federasie van Afrikaanse Kultuurverenigings (FAK), and the Afrikaner churches to discuss “the future of the Bantu in South Africa,” none of the purists directly attacked Verwoerd’s White Paper for eviscerating genuine development in the reserves (perhaps in deference to a letter that Verwoerd sent to SABRA appealing for “the leaders of Sabra and of the churches” not to serve as the “catspaw [of] the official Opposition”).[72] In his address to the Kongres, Professor J. L. Sadie responded to Verwoerd’s refusal to involve private capital in the development of the reserves with the observation that foreign capitalists had invested “hundreds of millions of pounds in the Union and [have] established their own enterprises, even allowing their own people to emigrate for this reason, but it does not mean that the Union no longer belongs to South Africans.” [73] SABRA’s in-house publication made the “altruistic” case for genuine development in the reserves; this approach was sharply distinguished from what the chair of SABRA described as the “egotistical” motivations of those whites who “want separation…all right, but not at the cost of their own comfort and advantage or the abandonment of so-called cheap labour in the factory or the farm.” [74] Articles in the journal pointed out that, in combination, Verwoerd’s decisions to disallow the participation of private capital in the development of the reserves and to reduce the sum of £104,486,000 million to just £30 million would ensure the failure of industrialization projects.[75]

That Verwoerd would dismiss these criticisms could be guessed from the behavior of the two departmental officers who had served on the commission. C. B. Young and I. Prinsloo had neither objected to nor offered any comment on the report’s recommendation that “European capital” should play a central role in development plans. Only after F. R. Tomlinson submitted the report to Verwoerd would they break the commission’s consensus, coming out in support of Verwoerd’s alternative plan to use funds to establish an Industrial Development Corporation to oversee the £3 million that he was prepared to set aside as start-up capital. Later, M. C. de Wet Nel, then chair of the Native Affairs Commission (and Verwoerd’s successor as MNA in 1957), also reversed his earlier support for private funds in the development of the reserves to march in tune with the minister’s position. As Verwoerd had once informed parliament, “My department advocates what I advocate.” [76] A Bantu Investment Corporation was duly established in 1959. Explaining why only £500,000 was allocated to this body to begin the process of industrializing the reserves, Verwoerd adduced Gemmill’s argument before the Tomlinson Commission: “the Bantu must start on a small scale.…He must start on the basis of self-help.” [77]

The department pressed on with its plans to “stabilise” and “rehabilitate” the reserves. This meant that the Bantu Authorities system, and the chiefs who controlled the juggernaut, became fused with an economic development program destined to fail. Chiefs were again denied any prospect of putting their traditional authority to “progressive” ends by associating themselves with an expanding regional economy. Again, therefore, their relationship to the DNA would be overwhelmingly political.

The reorganization of administration to grant Africans greater administrative authority thus coincided with a change in the historic function of the reserves. Ensconced in embattled tribal authorities, the African rural elite struggled to impose a stable mode of domination over Africans who had no viable economic prospects in the reserves but were now also hindered by administrative action from entering the urban labor market. After the 1950s, the subsistence capacities of the reserves would plummet ineluctably to the point of nonexistence. Henceforth, their chief function would be to contain and discipline the reserve army of African labor: those Africans prevented by law from departing for the urban areas, the “idle or disorderly” evicted from the urban areas, and the “excess labour” skimmed off the white farming areas. Virtually by itself, therefore, Verwoerd’s evisceration of the Tomlinson Commission’s central recommendations hinging around industrial development and land tenure reforms also gutted the Bantu Authorities project.


1. Lord F. Lugard, The Dual Mandate (Edinburgh, 1922). Lord Lugard bequeathed the term “trusteeship” to describe the two-pronged task which the civilizing mission set for itself: to enrich European powers while “uplifting” Africans. Lugard therefore presented trusteeship as a transitional stage for Africans. See Dubow, Racial Segregation, chapter 2.

2. J. Sharp, “The Roots of Volkekunde,Journal of Southern African Studies, 7/2 (April 1981).

3. Moodie, Rise of Afrikanerdom, 179.

4. A. Kuyper,Calvinism: Six Stone Foundation Lectures (Grand Rapids, MI, 1943), 96–97.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid., 196

7. A. Sparks, The Mind of South Africa (London, 1990), 156–57.

8. Sharp, “Roots of Volkekunde, ” 31.

9. N. Diederichs, quoted in Furlong, Between Crown and Swastika, 92. Diederichs’ views were set forth in N. Diederichs, Nasionalisme as Lewingsbeskouing en Sy Verhouding tot Internationalisme (Bloemfontein, 1936).

10. Furlong, Between Crown and Swastika, 92 and 95.

11. Ibid., 88–90.

12. Sparks, Mind of South Africa, 165.

13. Ibid., 167.

14. In Furlong, Between Crown and Swastika, . 226.

15. Cited in Sparks, Mind of South Africa, 178.

16. Even P. K. van der Byl, ex-MNA, in the 1940s criticized the policy of “separating the Natives into small racial or ethnic groups and to prevent them from grouping on a national or natural basis.” HAD (1951), col. 9822.

17. Sharp, “The Roots of Volkekunde, ” 34.

18. Ibid.

19. Eiselen’s speeches are collated in J. Engelbrecht, Die Naturellevraagstauk e.a.: `n Bundel Referate deur Dr. WWM Eiselen (Pretoria, 1959).

20. In an interview in 1984, Fred Rodseth said that Eiselen got on well with all of the (mostly English-speaking) senior administrators, despite “obvious ideological difficulties.” He described Eiselen as “kindly” and “pleasant,” in contrast to Verwoerd, who was “rigid,” “couldn’t stand a difference of opinion,” and was “always on the lookout for anything that benefited the urban black.”

21. Cited in Moodie, Rise of Afrikanerdom, 54.

22. Committee on Bantu Languages, Report, in CKC, Reel 11, 2:AU1/1:62, 3.

23. Ibid., 4.

24. In Moodie, Rise of Afrikanerdom, 281–82.

25. Quoted in ibid., 275.

26. Quoted in Ashforth, Politics of Official Discourse, 151.

27. Ibid., 166.

28. J. Sharp, “Introduction: Constructing Social Reality,” in E. Boonzaaier and J. Sharp (eds.), South African Keywords: The Uses and Abuses of Political Concepts (Cape Town, 1988), 7.

29. Gartrell, “Ruling Ideas of a Ruling Elite,” 132.

30. Quoted in Carter, Politics of Inequality, 273–74.

31. C. H. Badenhorst, “Die Ontwikkleing van die Bantoe op Goddienstige en Maatskaplike Gebied: Soos Uit die Oogpunt van die Drie Afrikaanse Kerke Gesien,” in H. B. Thom (ed.), Volkskongres Oor die Toekoms van die Bantoe (Stellenbosch, 1956), 135.

32. Davenport, South Africa, 267.

33. Eiselen, “Harmonious Multi-Community Development.”

34. Cited in Tatz, Shadow and Substance, 84. For evidence of farmers’ hostility to land-acquisition programs, see the Tomlinson Commission Report, 113.

35. HAD (1956), col. 5518.

36. “Conference of Chief Native Commissioners,” 3 February 1950.

37. Verwoerd, in HAD (1950), col. 9510.

38. The circular is discussed in a document entitled “Comparative African Government and Law II: An Evaluation of Self-Government in the Transkei” (no date or author) in 28: YT 4: 92/14, in Reel 18 of CKC.

39. “Consolidated Standing Circular Instructions,” in NTS 1855 3 23/278, 3477.

40. Hooper, Brief Authority, 188.

41. Sharp, “Roots of Volkekunde, ” 31.

42. See I. Evans, “The Racial Question and Intellectual Production in South Africa,” Perspectives in Education 11/2 (1990); E. B. Nzimande, “‘The Corporate Guerrillas’: Class Formation and the African Corporate Petty Bourgeoisie in Post-1973 South Africa” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Natal, Durban, 1991), 106–10.

43. In contrast to the hearty reception which Smuts’ government gave to the Fagan Commission, Verwoerd damned the report of the Tomlinson Commission with faint praise and treated Professor Tomlinson somewhat boorishly in November of 1955, when Tomlinson delivered his report. Ashforth’s description of the report as little more than “a state ideological exercise” designed to win votes by going through the motions required to convince a still skeptical electorate that “Apartheid” possessed substance misses the mark. In reality, the report of the Tomlinson Commission is an example of one of those unfortunate acts, rare in the apartheid years but frequent in the ideologically flexible segregation era, of personnel not wholly attuned to the driving rhythms of the bureaucratic ensemble.

44. Carter notes, however, that this thesis “did not spring full-blown from Sabra” and that no less a liberal than R. F. Hoernlé “had made a tentative consideration of the idea.…” Carter, Politics of Inequality, 266.

45. J. Lazar, “Verwoerd versus the ‘Visionaries’: The South African Bureau of Racial Affairs (SABRA) and Apartheid, 1948–1962,” in P. Bonner, P. Delius, and D. Posel (eds.), Apartheid’s Genesis (Johannesburg, 1993), 383–84. Sadie did, however, briefly refer to the prospect in his address to the conference, arguing that the “possible danger of independent Bantu states [selfstandige Bantoestate] ” posed less of a risk than not carrying out the commission’s recommendation. J. L. Sadie, “Die Benodighede En Implikasies van die Ontwikkelingsprogram,” in H. B. Thom (ed.), Volkskongres Oor die Toekoms van die Bantoe (Stellenbosch, 1956), 86.

46. Wolpe, “Capitalism and Cheap Labour-Power”; Lacey, Working for Boroko.

47. These comments are based on the Commission on the Socio-Economic Development of the Native Areas within the Union of South Africa, “Record of Evidence,” Annexure B, 20 May 1952, 2. I obtained a copy of this document from Alan Jeeves, Queens University. The original is located in the archives of the University of South Africa, Pretoria.

48. Commission on the Socio-Economic Development of the Native Areas…, 614.

49. Ibid., 635; my emphasis.

50. Ibid.

51. Manufacturer, February 1956, 13.

52. Posel, Making of Apartheid, 56.

53. DNA, Report, 1954–57; DBAD, Report, 1960–62.

54. Cited in Lazar, “Verwoerd versus the ‘Visionaries,’” 377.

55. Ibid.

56. “The National Party’s Colour Policy,” 3, quoted in Ashforth, Politics of Official Discourse, 150.

57. Ashforth, Politics of Official Discourse, 150. In contrast, Lazar, also on the basis of information from F. R. Tomlinson, credits the idea to M. C. de Wet Nel, who succeeded Verwoerd as MNA in 1958. “Verwoerd versus the ‘Visionaries,’” 373.

58. Schoeman, Van Malan tot Verwoerd, 47.

59. See Schoeman, Van Malan tot Verwoerd, chapter 15, for details of Tomlinson’s claim that Verwoerd disliked him.

60. Social and Economic Planning Council, Native Reserves and Their Place in the Economy, 49.

61. DNA, Report, 1949–50, Government Printers, UG 61 (1951), 113.

62. Verwoerd, SD, 20 June 1965.

63. J. Yawitch, Betterment: The Myth of Homeland Agriculture (Johannesburg, 1981), 34.

64. SNA, cited in Moll, “No Blade of Grass,” 125.

65. Tomlinson Commission Report, 168.

66. DNA, Report, 1949–50, 116.

67. S. H. Frankel, “Illusion and Reality in Africa,” Optima (1957), 204.

68. HAD (1956), col. 5509.

69. Ibid., col. 5510.

70. Government White Paper on Tomlinson Report, 1956, WPF 56, 4.

71. C. Simkins, “Agricultural Production in the Reserves of South Africa,” JSAS 7/2 (April 1981), 271

72. Cited in Barnard, Thirteen Years with Verwoerd, 45. Prof. H. B. Thom, chair of the Volkskongres, thanked the Creator for the Afrikaner consensus over “great principles”—but also for the opportunity for “honest, upright difference of opinion.” H. B. Thom, “Inleidende Woorde,” in H. B. Thom (ed.), Volkskongres Oor die Toekoms van die Bantoe (Stellenbosch, 1956), 2.

73. Sadie, “Die Benodighede En Implikasies,” 67.

74. Cited in Lazar, “Verwoerd versus the ‘Visionaries,’” 370.

75. Taken from Lazar, “Verwoerd versus the ‘Visionaries,’” 377. Also see the responses of F. R. Tomlinson (“Die Voorgestelde en Implikasies van die Ontwikkelingsprogram”), J. H. Moolman (“Basiese Kenmerke van die Bantoegebiede”), and J. L. Sadie (“Die Benodighede Enimplikasies van die Ontwikkelingsprogram”), all in H. B. Thom (ed.), Volkskongres Oor die Toekoms van die Bantoe (Stellenbosch, 1956).

76. Taken from Ballinger, From Union to Apartheid, 326–27.

77. Cited in Ballinger, From Union to Apartheid, 329.

8. The Vulgarization of Authority and Rural Revolt

The Transkei, 1955–60

To renovate the cities first you have to reorganize the countryside.

It had taken decades for relations between the department and peasant society to fray and for administrative paternalism in the reserves to wear thin, with sporadic acts of sabotage emerging in some regions of the Transkei. It would take less than a decade for the reserves to explode in unprecedented violence against the department’s Bantu Authorities system, with the most spectacular and disruptive outbursts concentrated in the latter half of the 1950s—that is, after the Bantu Authorities system went into effect. Stoked in one way or another by the department’s policies, the violence of the 1950s yielded two closely related outcomes, which in turn radically transformed the nature of the department’s presence in the Transkei: self-government was extended to the reserves in 1959, and the rural elite’s ambiguous links with peasant society were resolved by statutorily making chiefs and headmen responsible for the management of the Transkei. The lingering remnants and pretensions of the prefectural system of administration in the Transkei were thus brought to a decisive end. Free to extricate itself from the volatile territory, the department remade itself in the image of British decolonizers who, extruded by similar processes of peasant opposition, were in the throes of facilitating the transition to independence in British colonial Africa under the terms of the agreement reached between imperial Britain and black nationalists at Lancaster House in 1960.

The DNA’s decision to grant sovereignty to the Transkei is intriguing. The decision was not determined directly by peasant opposition; it was not part of any coherent blueprint formulated by the department or by ideologues in any other branch of the state, either prior to or during the 1950s; and it was not championed by any sector of the economy. Instead, the policy emerged contradictorily, in response to conjunctural developments between 1955 and 1960. The Bunga’s sudden and unexpected embrace of the Bantu Authorities system, which caught the department off-guard in 1955, was one such development. Another was the long-awaited report of the Tomlinson Commission, which brought home to the state the full magnitude of the cost involved in industrializing the reserves. Opposition to the new regime was another crucial determinant. Escalating opposition to apartheid policies in the urban areas had begun to attract unfavorable international attention, while rural struggles belied the department’s claim that the Bantu Authorities enjoyed the consensual support of peasant society. From the early 1950s onward, moreover, the possibility of “greater powers of self-government” as a prelude to eventual “independence” in British colonial Africa had surfaced tentatively in the discourse in Britain’s Colonial Office, if only to counter demands by black nationalists, who were demanding immediate autonomy from Britain.[2] This development accentuated the National Party’s turn in the opposite direction. Trouble, meanwhile, was brewing within Afrikanerdom. Pressed by SABRA’s intellectuals to move swiftly in modernizing and granting independence to the reserves, Verwoerd disagreed on both issues and so stood at the epicenter of the gathering broedertwis: a schism within Afrikanerdom seemed in the offing.[3]

Yet the task of developing the reserves to stem the urban-bound streams of workseekers from the reserves was central to the DNA’s plans to rationalize the African labor market. Increasing the size of the reserves in accordance with the promise specified in the Native Land and Trust Act of 1936 was a necessary step in this direction. But just as the Beaumont Commission of 1916 had discovered, farmers in the 1950s remained hostile to the idea of excising “white” land to augment the reserves: in 1950, Chief Native Commissioners agreed that agrarian opposition was the single most important obstacle to the department’s land acquisition program.[4] At the same time, Britain continued to respect the preference of Africans in Bechuanaland, Swaziland, and Basutoland not to be absorbed into the Union of South Africa, foreclosing the tantalizing prospect of increasing the size of the “Bantu areas” from 13½ to 45 percent of South Africa’s land surface simply by acquiring these three territories. Conceding a point pursued by Hertzog between 1924 and 1932 and by Strijdom in the mid-1950s, Verwoerd abandoned all constitutional interests in the three High Commission Territories and agreed to support Britain’s plans to grant them independence—while refusing to do so with South Africa’s own reserves.[5]

“I am always fascinated,” Neal Ascherson quips, “when people talk about the ‘forging of nations’. Most nations are forgeries.…” [6] In a similar vein, Benedict Anderson observes that nations invariably claim or construct a “foundational myth” that invents a common history for the “imagined communities” that constitute the modern nation-state.[7] In South Africa, Vail and others have detailed the difficulty and sometimes comical proportions of state attempts to “invent tradition” from the 1950s onward. These studies reinforce the recent tendency to theorize nationalism and state formation “through the idiom of artifice—inventing, crafting, imagining.” But, Rob Nixon notes, the danger is that such metaphors “distract us from the institutional solidity of their effects.” [8] Were they not so tragic, and did they not have such long-term impact on Africans in the reserves, the pathetic ceremonies in which chief after chief was invested with authority—or divested of it if they dared to oppose the new regime—might well have been risible in a country making the transition to monopoly capitalism.

Like their urban counterparts, officials in the reserves in the early 1950s also complained about the vagueness of “apartheid,” nettled at the “embarrassing situation” they found themselves in for not being able to explain to Africans in their district what the new system had in store for them.[9] Although a new post, Under-Secretary of Development, was created as early as 1949 to streamline the agricultural, engineering, and lands sections of the department, specific expositions and detailed instructions were slow in coming. Matters were not made any easier by the fact that the Bantu Authorities Act met with divided opinion among magistrates in the Transkei, where the “Transkeian tradition” was built around circumventing and diminishing the authority of chiefs. Minutes of departmental meetings convey genuine concern over how Africans would adapt to the new changes, particularly in the Transkei, the historical home of benevolent paternalism.[10] Major Brink, the Director of Native Labour, ever concerned about the potential for disruptive opposition, worried in 1950 that proposals to “resuscitate tribalism” might be misconstrued “as an admission of failure of the present system.” [11]

Confronted by polite impatience at the annual meeting of CNCs in February 1950, when a “Request for a clear exposition of the government’s policy of Apartheid” was placed on the agenda, Eiselen begged off, noting that the Tomlinson Commission was under way and that the new minister would soon make a statement clarifying the goals of the new policy.[12] There is a passing similarity here to the expectations the UP had lodged in its own Fagan Commission. Just as the UP virtually froze policy in the crucial years between 1946 and 1948, the NP seemed prepared to move slowly in the reserves on the assumption that the Tomlinson Commission should first submit its report.

On first sight, the passage of the Bantu Authorities Act in 1951, against stiff opposition in parliament, would go against such a reading of the dynamics within Malan’s government. The act suggests that the new government did indeed possess an aggressive plan for reorganizing the reserves from the outset. The Bantu Authorities Act, however, was more suggestive than deep: it certainly did not serve notice of the great changes that were to emerge at the end of the 1950s. Appalling as the tribal authorities system it envisaged was to most Africans, the act merely drew on general ideas, especially those proclaiming the tribal heterogeneity of the African population, which had circulated in vague form among Afrikaner academics in the 1940s. The act, in short, was not a harbinger of the “independent Homelands” concept.[13] Just how hazy plans for the reserves were may be gauged from claims by NP parliamentary members in 1950 that the government did not attach any urgency to consolidating the reserves, and that Africans “belonging to the same tribe” but living on different patches of noncontiguous “Native lands” would not be relocated.[14] Later that year, Dr. L. I. Coertze, the NP’s expert on constitutional matters, explained that “it makes no difference where a member of [an] ethnic group finds himself.…It has nothing at all to do with borders.…He can be governed wherever he is,” to which M. C. de Wet Nel added that the important point was that “Bantu national units” were consolidated “from the psychological point of view,” and that territorial matters were of marginal importance.[15]

The framework laid down by the Bantu Authorities Act was unclear and skeletal, much to the irritation of officials in the Transkei, who were especially insistent that the act ignored the social concordat that magistrates and peasants had developed over the years. At least some magistrates were hostile to the “regimentation” they perceived in the new system, complaining to the Chief Magistrate of the Transkei that “affairs that were conducted on lines familiar in one district were foreign to other districts.” [16]

The Bantu Authorities Act violated the central theme that dominated institutional African protest in the reserves: the exclusion of Africans from direct participation in the central government. On the other hand, chiefs and headmen found themselves in agreement with Verwoerd’s pronouncement that “trusteeship had run its course and there is no more room for expansion”; it proved surprisingly easy, therefore, for Verwoerd to secure the cooperation of the rural elite on the grounds of his promise that “the time had come for Africans to gain self-determination through self-government in the Bantu areas.” [17] The ultimate goals of “positive apartheid” and the African rural elite differed greatly, but common cause was found in the denunciation of “trusteeship” policy.

Enthusiasm for the chief-dominated system was low in the Transkei when it was first introduced. Chief Kaizer Mantazima, already distinguished by strong pro-apartheid leanings as early as 1950, was one of a just a few rural African leaders who expressed any positive interest in the Bantu Authorities scheme as it existed before 1955. With an attitude unusual for a chief, Mantazima virulently despised the hypocritical culture at the core of segregationist paternalism; by his own admission, he was “staunchly anti-English” throughout the segregation period. Born during World War I, he supported Germany in World War II. He was insistent that “the inferior position which the Africans occupy in this country is not the fault of the present government, but of all the governments from South African union to the present.” [18] While most Africans before 1955 were skeptical of apartheid policy, Mantazima stood out for his favorable opinion of Verwoerd’s general philosophy and of the latter’s specific plans to elevate chiefs in the Transkei. Hinting ominously at things to come, in the 1940s he apparently made liberal use of the Native Administration Act of 1927 to harass and banish those whom he perceived as political opponents.[19]

Meanwhile, pamphlets and speeches in the urban areas vilified the Bantu Authorities system, warning chiefs not to accept responsibilities that would “oppress the African.” Chiefs in the Bunga only sniffed briefly at the act when it was placed before them in 1952 and declined to accept it after discussion in 1953. In 1955, however, the Bunga resolved to accept the Bantu Authorities Act. This decision emerged from a curious episode. Having examined the text of the Bantu Authorities Act in its 1952 and 1953 sessions, the Bunga was decidedly unimpressed: the system, they concluded, “continued the old policy of not giving Africans real authority.” [20] Then, in April 1954, Eiselen alarmed the Bunga with a speech on the “Coordination of Bantu Education and Bantu Development,” in which he detailed how the Bunga would be affected by plans to centralize education within the Department of Native Affairs as well as by plans to increase African taxation to meet the rapidly rising costs of mass education.[21] The Bunga elected a four-man delegation to travel from Umtata to the Minister of Native Affairs in Pretoria to protest these plans. In Pretoria, however, Verwoerd showed no interest in issues to do with education; instead, to the consternation of the delegation, he insistently urged them to consider the benefits promised in the Bantu Authorities Act. The four men returned to the Transkei, where, at government expense, they were immediately ferried around from district to district, relaying to chiefs and headmen Verwoerd’s promises of “self-determination,” control over an enlarged budget, and greater powers for chiefs. In a manner it was never able to explain fully and somewhat to their discomfort, the delegation dispatched to Pretoria for educational consultations found itself promoting the very act that the Bunga had categorically rejected two years earlier. Although they later claimed that they were merely “passing on” what Verwoerd had said to them, in effect “the spadework for the government had already been done by the deputation sent on that other mission to Pretoria.” At a special session of the Bunga in November 1955, the issue was rushed through at breakneck speed. According to Councillor Moshesh, “we took our pencils and were told to delete such and such a thing on such and such a page,” and before the gravity of the decision was clear to all, the Recess Committee drew up a motion declaring that the Bunga would agree to phase itself out in favor of the tribal-based structure detailed in the Bantu Authorities Act. At its next full session in 1955, the Bunga accepted the resolution and so took the decisive step in bringing trusteeship to a close.[22]

By agreeing to vote itself out of existence in favor of the Bantu Authorities system, the Bunga resolved a major administrative problem: how to introduce the changes with a minimum of disruption and coercion in the reserves. For by 1955, the department’s exasperation had begun to yield to an insistence by several senior officers that tribal authorities should be imposed regardless of African opinion or whether the “tribe” was in favor, so that the work of salvaging the reserves could be accelerated.[23] As early as 1950, Major Brink, Director of Native Labour, had disapproved of Eiselen’s insistence on the voluntary cooperation of Africans in the Transkei, acidly asking “Is there really any need for this consultation which will be farce?” [24] It is more than probable, therefore, that in giving its voluntary cooperation, the Bunga unwittingly tilted the balance within the department against Eiselen’s more cautious approach, clearing the way for the more impatient and authoritarian officials chafing at the bit within senior circles. Instead of introducing tribal authorities only in cooperative districts in the Transkei, the department was now authorized to install the Bantu Authorities system in its entirety. In a bastardized mimicry of tribal government in preconquest society, when chiefs owed allegiance to the Paramount Chief, the act introduced a pyramidical structure composed of three levels, with each level controlled by chiefs and headmen: a single Transkeian Territorial Authority to replace the Bunga, with a Paramount Chief instead of the (white) Chief Magistrate; several Regional Authorities (which, in the Transkei only, would have a subordinate layer of DistrictCouncils to maintain continuity with the council system); and lastly, numerous TribalAuthorities that would form the base of the entire edifice.

Under the terms of the new model, Tribal Authorities superseded the districts as the basic units of administration and allegedly reverted to the boundaries of chiefdoms that had formerly constituted the different “tribal units.” The twenty-six District Authorities were formed by bringing together various Tribal Authorities in the district. Since it was recognized that chiefs in preconquest time governed with the guidance of elder councillors, the Tribal Authority (TA) included a number of Councillors, whose function it was to advise the chief in those areas of administration with which the TA was entrusted, such as the maintenance of location roads, rehabilitation measures, the control of “noxious weeds,” and the general maintenance of law and order in the reserves. Judicial powers were gradually bestowed on several chiefs, while all chiefs were entrusted with land allocation functions, subject to the assent of the magistrate.

The next level was formed by aggregating the District Authorities into nine Regional Authorities, of which some, but not all, bore a relation to the former chiefdom clusters. In this way the “Xhosa districts” of Kentani, Willowvale, and Idutya were amalgamated into the Gcaleka Region; Eastern and Western Pondoland were retained and converted into the Quakeni and Nyanda Regions, respectively; and the Sotho-speaking chiefdoms were fused to form the Maluti Authority. Regional Authorities automatically consisted of all recognized chiefs as well as a number of men nominated from the district level. The highest level, the Transkeian Territorial Authority, included all Regional Councillors, who selected one from among their ranks to the Chair of the Territorial Authority, subject to the approval of the State President of the Union. Wherever questions of hereditary succession arose or when no chiefs were extant to accept the mantle proffered them, the Ethnology Section of the department devoted itself to investigating the royal pedigree of claimants to the position. In this way, the number of chiefs “recognized” by the department increased from 30 to 64 between 1955 and 1963.[25] Still, as events were to dramatize, the department lacked a clear set of foundational myths for the various “cultural groups” it intended to nurture. Anxious that the entire Bantu Authorities scheme would be exposed as little more than a divide-and-rule strategy, the department pressed on, establishing institutions first and, wherever necessary, inventing history later. Departmental officials proudly touted the new model as a return to the past. Although this model received the support of a small but growing number of chiefs and headmen, leaders such as Z. K. Mathews, Govan Mbeki, Ivy Tabata, and others could easily illustrate that it flew in the face of the historical record.[26]

Nevertheless, evidence suggests that between 1955 and 1957, a number of districts did indeed cautiously submit to the new system. The generalized disillusionment that soon followed was captured in a legal document drawn up in 1958 in response to the specific crisis in Thembuland, where the popular Paramount Chief Sabata Dalindyebo was facing a concerted challenge from the relatively minor and unpopular, but passionately pro-government, Chief Kaizer Mantazima. According to the memorandum,

The implementation of the Bantu Authorities Act in Tembuland has fallen far below expectations and has strengthened the hand of those who have always opposed it as a fraud, a divide-and-rule measure for the purpose of exploitation. So, far from strengthening the position of the Paramount chief of the Tembus, and preserving the unity of the Tembu tribe, the Bantu Authorities Act in operation has proved to be a source of weakness and disunity. It is primarily for this reason that…the Bantu Authorities Act, and not only its implications, [has] been roundly condemned and rejected.[27]

Between 1951 and 1955, rural opposition had been sporadic even when it had been intense. After 1956, the department’s attempt to entrench the entire Bantu Authorities system fused together grievances that burst forth across the twenty-six districts in the Transkei. At the same time, it cleaved districts apart into a large majority virulently opposed to Bantu Authorities and small coteries clustered around pro–Bantu Authorities chiefs, who could rely on the armed assistance of the state.[28] Three major objections fueled popular opposition in the Transkei: the process by which the Bantu Authorities were implemented; the compounding of Bantu Authorities with the department’s development plans; and, lastly, the extension of passes to women in the rural areas.

First, as the memorandum cited above confirms, the Bantu Authorities system was met from the outset with principled opposition by a sizable segment of the Transkeian population; also, events in the late 1950s confirmed that not all chiefs and headmen were prepare to cooperate. However, wherever the Bantu Authorities system was implemented with the initial cooperation of Africans themselves, two problems invariably arose. The most frequently cited objection was that chiefs and headmen had accepted the new system without adequately consulting their people—sometimes without any consultation at all. Commoners therefore found themselves caught up in a multitude of duties to which they had not specifically consented. In the other common situation, commoners accepted the system in good faith, and only discovered later that they had all but lost control over their chiefs and headmen.

At a meeting of chiefs called by Kaizer Mantazima to discuss the crisis enveloping Tribal Authorities in the Xalanga district, Chief M. R. Mrwetyana expostulated: “What is happening is a great confusion. In the Native Commissioners office people agreed on the formation of Bantu Authorities. All but one Authority have been elected. People [now] maintain that they cannot hang themselves. Messrs Ramsay and Pierce came to explain this to the people. But people were so disobedient, recalcitrant and rowdy that they did not wish to give the Chief Magistrate and Mr. Pierce a hearing. They cannot hang themselves.” [29] The majority of chiefs who accepted the new system either quickly activated or abused their new privileges—a distinction that was often lost on commoners, for whom, as the van Heerden Commission was informed, the whole Bantu Authorities scheme was proof “that the government had found new ways to make us poorer.” [30] Some chiefs had recommended that the new scheme should be accepted, optimistically hoping that “limiting conditions…embodied in phrases such as ‘with due regard’ to Native law and custom and ‘after consultation’” would enable them to use the Tribal Authority system for the collective good of their people.[31] Paramount Chief Sabata Dalindyebo was one such chief. Dalindyebo’s rivalry with Mantazima for leadership over the Thembu people predated the 1950s.[32] After 1955, with Mantazima crisscrossing the Transkei urging acceptance of Bantu Authorities, the rivalry escalated rapidly and plunged Thembuland into a virtual civil war, in which Dalindyebo gradually emerged as an opponent of the new policy, and Mantazima as its foremost champion.

The process by which the new system was implemented was also irreparably damaged by the department’s newfound interventionist role, reflected in the brazen support it gave to pliant or cooperative leaders and in the alacrity with which it abandoned customary procedures wherever magistrates suspected recalcitrance. The praise and support that T. Ramsay, Chief Magistrate of the Transkei, lavished on Mantazima in defiance of popular support for Dalindyebo suggests that at least some of the DNA’s actions were designed to foment ill-will. Splitting Thembuland into two regions in order to accommodate Mantazima’s claims to authority in districts that had historically fallen under the Paramount Chief’s domain was certain to incite dispute.[33] In an unprecedented move, Ramsay followed up with a letter that expressly withdrew Dalindyebo’s right to appoint Councillors to Tribal Authorities, while extending Mantazima’s authority to do so, even in chiefdoms over which Mantazima had previously possessed no control. This, as the Xalanga Tribal Authority protested, “places our paramount Chief in a position of a man who own[s] sheep, but is told not to go to the sheep kraal because he is great and meanwhile the sheep are kraaled with the jackal.” [34] Summarizing the reasons why his people had initially welcomed Bantu Authorities only to have their hopes dashed, one chief singled out the department’s tactic of nominating men to leadership roles without even consulting the relevant chief: “We do not know how these people have been elected heads of the [Tribal] Authorities. That is why the people are now apparently showing opposition to the Bantu Authorities Act.” [35] Appointed to investigate the escalating tension and violence in the Transkei, the van Heerden Commission conceded the substance of such complaints. Standing in pelting rain in October 1960, J. A. B. van Heerden informed eight thousand Pondo on horse and five thousand on foot that “when the tribal authorities were formed…the old customs of the tribes who resided at Bizana were not observed in every respect,” and noted that even when “there was consultation…mistakes were made when the members of the tribal authorities were nominated.” [36] The coming of Bantu Authorities thus magnified and politicized long-standing rivalries over the chieftaincy; similarly, in areas where the chieftaincy had simply ceased to exist, the department’s insistence that a chief had to be produced after one or two “tribal meetings” sowed discord and violence over an issue that had long ceased to be of importance to Africans in a district.

Highly damaging to the department’s name in Thembuland was the active encouragement it gave to the thuggish behavior of Mantazima’s supporters in assaulting opponents, destroying property, and violently breaking up public meetings. In a sworn deposition, the headman of the Ncora location in the St. Marks district testified to the active collusion between Mantazima, the local magistrate, and the police. Not pleased with the results of a public meeting at which the anti-Mantazima faction defeated Mantazima supporters by 71 to 35 votes, the magistrate instructed the headman, Mitchel Damane, to hold another assembly. According to Damane, “on 27th November 1956, to my amazement Chief Kaizer Mantazima arrived in my location with more than 200 horsemen armed with sticks and other weapons…[obviously looking for a fight.…” Although they were not authorized to be present, Mantazima’s “contingent also attended the meeting and rode their horses provokingly and dangerously into the midst of the assembly and a fight at that stage was narrowly averted.” Neither the police, who stood by idly as events unfolded, nor the magistrate responded to Damane’s appeals for help.[37] Instead, Ramsay laid down the line: “As headmen now come under tribal authorities, Headman Damane would be wise to obey and cooperate with chief Mantazima who is the head of the tribal authority and a responsible man who will not victimise Damane for the past opposition to Chief Mantazima. You should support Chief Mantazima’s authority.” [38] Events such as these undermined commoners’ faith in the new order taking root in their areas. It also emboldened rural leaders who were not in principle opposed to Bantu Authorities to question the department’s propriety in interfering with the internal issues of a chiefdom. Under these circumstances, the distinction between public and private scripts dissolved to reveal bitter and—for the first time in the reserves—overtly confrontational and dismissive sentiments about the department’s senior representatives: “We are aware of the fact that the chief Magistrate and Mr Pierce have posed to know much about us natives. Nevertheless, we submit that they cannot know us as much as they think they do. They cannot know us unless and until they have stayed with us at our beer drinks and at our kraals—sitting side by side with us, or until they have slept side by side with us. Their little knowledge about us is dangerous.…” [39]

If the manner in which Bantu Authorities were established was almost certain to breed opposition, rehabilitation measures categorically sealed the case against the government for virtually all commoners in the Transkei. Because departmental officials were less than honest on this score, it was only after the Bunga had accepted Bantu Authorities that it became clear that Tribal Authorities would be entrusted with stabilization and rehabilitation measures.[40] Pressured by a delegation of highly agitated chiefs to clarify the situation in December 1957, Mantazima emulated his administrative superiors and denied any connection between Bantu Authorities and development plans. The conflation, he claimed, was due to “agitators” in the AAC and the ANC; claiming to have “fought several intellectual battles” with “these agent provocateurs,” Mantazima reassured the patently skeptical and agitated chiefs “that the Bantu Authorities is not rehabilitation.” [41]

Evidence, however, said otherwise. The report of the van Heerden Commission records numerous claims by peasants that, wherever Tribal Authorities were established after 1951, the tell-tale signs of development policies soon followed. Villages were commanded to move in order to “stabilise” the land; the movement of animal herds was curtailed to limit the spread of disease; ominous plans to enumerate animals were begun as a precursor to culling; local taxes and levies were imposed to pay for improvement schemes; beacons were placed by agricultural demonstrators and engineers that appeared to cordon off land targeted for various improvement schemes; and in what appears to have been an unusual development, villagers were dragooned into participating in “voluntary” development activities such as road-grading and the building of communal dams.[42] The events leading up to the banishment of four of Dalindyebo’s ablest supporters by Mantazima in March 1958—an event that plunged the Thembuland region into ceaseless turmoil thereafter—were triggered by an order issued by Mantazima instructing the residents in three locations in the St. Marks district to relocate to clear the way for the introduction of stabilization measures. R. S. Canca, a prominent leader who worked closely with the ANC’s Govan Mbeki in the Transkei, observed that “In opposing these removals the residents stated that they had not asked for stabilisation nor had they been consulted about the matter,” noting that this was a common refrain throughout the Transkei.[43] The summary approach to chiefs who refused to enforce these measures is captured in the imperious tones of a letter that Ramsay sent to Acting Paramount Chief Hlatikulu Mtirara: “If I receive any further letters from you criticizing my actions, I shall have to cancel your appointment as regent.” [44] And to a different chief, the flimsy grounds on which noncooperative chiefs could be brought down by the Chief Magistrate were made equally clear: “If you fail to attend the meeting at Bambana,” Ramsay wrote before proceeding to make good on his threat to depose Chief Zwelinqaba Gwebindlala, “…you will also be prosecuted.” [45] In combination, the imposition of Bantu Authorities and their integration with development policies were sufficient to plunge the new administrative model into a series of abortive local crises and engulf it in wide-scale opposition.

In this volatile context, the association of Bantu Authorities with the pass system constituted a third major weakness, which delegitimized the department’s reserve policy, diluted the distinction between urban and rural politics, and galvanized opposition in the reserves. The report of the van Heerden Commission summarized numerous objections against the labor bureau regulations. In the past, one witness testified, it had been a simple matter to secure the magistrate’s permission to depart for and take up employment in the urban area. “But today, since the introduction of the reference book, a man goes to the Magistrate…[who] gives him the necessary permission and endorses his reference book and puts his office stamp on the book. He gets work, but is told to come back to get permission. He gets his permission alright, but it costs him more money to return to his place of work in fares.” Africans had also discovered that official claims that the Reference Book “authorises the holder to travel freely about the country” were false. Not only did they have “to pay money to acquire the books,” but

It was not true that the book gave them permission to move about freely. They were now restricted to their own areas. The holder of a reference book had to proceed to the Labour Centres and when he arrived there he was referred back to the local Bantu Affairs Commissioner, who in turn asked the workseeker for a letter from his prospective employer.…They wanted their old ‘Freedom Pass’ back again. They had been able to travel freely about with it. They had not had to incur the expense which they now experienced with a reference book. If he had money, why should he look for work?…Even their womenfolk now had been issued with an unseemly book.[46]

The department’s attempt to consolidate efflux controls around the extension of passes to women, in particular, propelled opposition into open rebellion in many parts of the reserves. The extension of Reference Books to Africans in the reserves naturally meant that women, who had previously been exempt from having to carry passes, would be the central targets of the roving “mobile units” dispatched by the department to dispense the document that was as crucial to the functioning of the labor bureau system as it was odious to Africans.

It should be noted that chiefs generally did not disassociate themselves from labor migrancy, correctly—if sometimes regretfully—regarding the periodic departure for the white areas as necessary for the maintenance of peasant society. Throughout its existence, the Bunga had frequently deplored the pass system and had been fully aware that controls on geographic mobility were inseparably linked to low wages, which in turn were linked to the racially structured labor market (or “job colour bars,” as Bunga members usually termed it). However, many chiefs had also expressed repeated concern about the loss of control over migrants who became au fait with the relative freedoms and independence of urban life. The gradual dissolution of family bonds and the introduction of political attitudes gleaned from urban hotbeds in the 1940s and 1950s were also sources of concern about the migrant’s ability to evade controls in both the urban and rural areas.[47]

It was in the light of such complaints about the “evil effects” of labor migrancy that chiefs in the Bunga found themselves in support of the labor bureau system when the apparatus was explained to them in 1952 and 1953. Attempting to influence the workings of the labor bureau system instead of opposing it, between 1952 and 1955 Bunga members twice requested to be integrated with district labor bureaus, which were the rural manifestations of the nationwide system of labor control (renamed “tribal labour bureaux” in the 1960s).[48] These efforts suggest that the Bunga generally viewed the bureaus as employment agencies and underemphasized their primary role as apparatuses of influx control. This error is perhaps understandable, since official explanations before the Bunga indeed emphasized that labor bureaus were designed to assist bewildered migrants in the teeming urban areas, sparing them alike from the cunning schemes of labor recruiters in the rural areas and the seductions to lawlessness and immorality in the urban areas—issues, that is, close to the hearts of chiefs and headmen in the Bunga. But councillors pressing for inclusion in the workings of the labor bureau system in the Transkeian Legislative Assembly were gently turned aside by the CMT, J. J. Yates, when the issue resurfaced in 1958. Yates ruled out the possibility of “integration” on the grounds that the volume of work would prove unmanageable, particularly since “Tribal Authorities do not have telephones.” Councillors were then cajoled into accepting Yates’ alternative motion, which “envisaged that the tribal authorities could help a tremendous lot by taking over some of the duties of labour bureaux without taking their place.” [49] The cooperation of chiefs in the rural work of labor bureaus had been a central objective of the department since 1950, when, at a conference of Chief Native Commissioners, Major Brink (Director of Native Labour) showed that rehabilitation measures had simultaneously improved the department’s control over Africans’ movements in the reserves wherever such measures had been implemented. In Brink’s vision, improved documentary controls, labor bureaus, and rehabilitation measures formed a seamless whole in the department’s quest to efficiently “canalise” labor from rural to urban areas; for this reason, as a seasoned official he was impatient with the emphasis that Eiselen, a newcomer to the department, placed on the need to consult chiefs and coax them into voluntary cooperation with Bantu Authorities.[50]

It is not surprising, of course, that women played a central role in rural opposition to the extension of passes. The extraction of males from the reserves through the migrant labor system meant that women constituted a clear numerical majority; in its 1953–54 annual report, the department calculated that of the 2,073,356 “small farmers” in the reserves, no fewer than two-thirds (1,528, 617) were women.[51] In former times, the arduous work entailed in subsistence production had been dispersed across the total population; the migration of men now meant that women performed a greater volume of all kinds of manual work. In addition to their childbearing and household duties, women were “burdened with a de facto authority not sanctioned by society.” [52] Caught between the pincers of deepening poverty and the increasing coercion of the Bantu Authorities system, women rose to the forefront of rural resistance.

Nevertheless, their response was not without some irony. Fearful that their circumstances would take a turn for the worse under the new tribal regimen, women also had an important stake in upholding the existing social order then under siege from the department’s development plans in the 1950s.[53] Women had reason to be particularly distrustful because schemes that fiddled with traditional land-use patterns also “threatened women’s already tenuous access to land.” [54] Yawitch has shown that the demarcation of EFUs in accordance with Betterment and stabilization schemes did indeed limit women’s independent access to land in the Transkei and even eliminated it in certain areas.[55] Attempting to stave off a more burdensome future, women were pressured by circumstances to act “in defence of an eroded way of life.” [56] Apart from outright objection to carrying a pass, women also felt degraded by the very experience of applying for one. An unmistakable air of criminality attached to the “application process.” Removed as most of these women were from the chicaneries of the urban world and the ease with which quotidian survival there could lead to a criminal record, they were nonetheless required to submit a complete set of prints consisting of fingers, thumbs, edges, palms, and heels of both hands.[57] A common complaint was that the Reference Book Unit degraded women by instructing them to remove their headscarves before having their identification photo taken. The experience served, however, as a call to arms. The politicizing effect is captured in a memorable witticism of one African woman: facing the camera bereft of headgear, she recalls, “the light got to our brains. We woke up and saw the light. And women have been demonstrating ever since.” [58]

Thus, the defensive posture of women’s struggles against state intrusions into the political economy of the reserves, now cloaked under the Bantu Authorities system, was not synonymous with a defense of “tradition” or an endorsement of their prevailing subordination. In mobilizing against an ominous future, women necessarily worked with the material and cultural resources at hand. Accordingly, the strategic repertoires they developed in opposing departmental officers and African functionaries in the Bantu Authorities system involved inventive manipulations of tradition and bold assertions of their evolving identities. Women were therefore as likely to confound African males as they were to frustrate administrative officials.

For example, while African men supported women in their opposition to carrying passes, the men were simultaneously perturbed by what, for most, was the novel sight of their women, armed with sticks and brimming with vitriol, attacking men and women who were identified with the new regime, and willingly disrupting their domestic duties by risking imprisonment. An alarmed migrant, freshly returned from Johannesburg to investigate rumors of “fighting and disturbances” in his village, captured male unease and African hostility against the new pass system: “We are not used to these things, seeing our women carrying sticks and fighting one another.” [59] Magistrates and NCs also discovered that women could be wily in their manipulation of official authority, ably subjecting officials to public humiliation by exaggeratedly conforming to official instructions. “In a district where I could not even change the time of service, or modify the method of collecting church monies without lengthy explanation,” Charles Hooper notes, departmental officials had their work cut out for them in explaining to women unshakably suspicious of the Reference Book why they now had to carry the newfangled document.[60] It is instructive to recount briefly one of many similar episodes involving women that rattled the administrative corps in the reserves.[61]

Explanations and blandishments (generally ludicrous) having failed, the Native Commissioner attempting to issue Reference Books to women in Zeerust decided to reassert his tarnished authority by resorting to mass arrests. He compiled a list of approximately two dozen women known to have burned their Reference Books and instructed them to present themselves the following day for detention, letting it be known that he would hire transport to ferry them to the Zeerust jail. The following day, he was astonished to find 233 women patiently waiting for him, each happy to admit to her own guilt in burning her Reference Book. An administrative quandary immediately arose: “He had either to arrest a score of women, hidden in the multitude and unknown to him except for names—a hazardous undertaking; or he had to arrest no women—a sorry come down; or he had to arrest the lot—a practical impossibility.” Hiring more transport—leading him to fret over whether he would be held personally accountable for the extemporaneous transport costs—the official arrested and transported all the women to Zeerust. Here, he belatedly realized that the quarters were hopelessly inadequate to hold the throng of singing women—or accommodate their bodily needs. With mayhem threatening, he resolved to release them, after a stern lecture.

The women, however, stayed put. They were quite willing to return to their village, they explained to the exasperated official, but “ baas, where are the buses?” This fresh dilemma was resolved by permitting the women to spend the night in and around the jail. Meanwhile, the official arranged for additional buses to transport the women back to Gopane, but not until after he had informed them of the date on which their trial would be held. On the appointed day, police reinforcement, lawyers, and a large crowd gathered at the Zeerust court—but not a single woman turned up. With the court assembled, frantic inquiries were made. There was, it turned out, a “misunderstanding”: the women were respectfully assembled at the original place where they had been arrested—in Gopane. Again, railway buses were hurriedly chartered, but this time, bus drivers were instructed to charge each passenger a five-and-twopence fee to cover cost. But the women refused to pay. There was some mistake: their baas had “invited” them to trial, and he surely would not expect them to pay for their transport. The empty buses returned to Zeerust. With the court waiting, the official himself made his way to Gopane, where he was cheerfully met by a throng of women twice the size of the group he had previously arrested: out of respect for the official, they said, they also wanted to admit their guilt. What was more, there were more guilty women in the village, and, with the help of the baas they would happily ferret these out. Hours passed before the swelling crowd agreed that all the guilty were present. They were now ready to march to Zeerust—were it not so late in the day. They sat down to rest; the sergeant gave up, the case collapsed, and the debacle came to a close.

This episode is a good example of the distinction, first made by anthropologists, between ritual and political theater.[62] As the hapless official above learned, the two are distinctive genres of action, although the boundary between them may not always be very clear. Loosely defined, ritual performs the function of “bringing order to a community, reaffirming the distinctions between and the bonds connecting its individual members, and generally giving a shared sense of how to behave collectively in a wide range of circumstances.” [63] By freezing social relations between groups or individuals, the mutual observance of ritual upholds the social distribution of power and status. But, because they are repositories of power differentials, ritual processes may also be suffused with subversive intent. For the duration of the process, therefore, subverted rituals may give voice to subordinates, transforming punctilious decorum into acidic comment, which—as in the incidents above—may even approximate insubordination. At the point of “orthopraxis”—the point, that is, when ritual ceases to be mere ritual[64]—political theater emerges. Ritual is thus more than the functionalist device that Durkheim conceived it to be in The Elementary Forms of Religious Life.[65] Instead, its liminal nature, on which its convertibility into political theater depends, means that ritual may become an important means of temporarily debilitating the status quo. Thus, the studious conformity of the women of Gopane, in both diction and behavior, ensured that they violated no instructions; yet the distinct air of public mockery hung about their zealous cooperation. But opportunities for mocking the administrative structure in the reserves through political theater were both infrequent and not effective for very long. Peasants, as Scott argues, articulate their grievances “off-stage,” according to a “private script”; “on-stage” they follow the “public script,” cooperating with the assumptions that inform the authorities who rule over the inarticulate rural masses.[66]

Women quickly learned that acceptance of the Reference Book rendered them virtually powerless. In the Zeerust area of the Northern Transvaal, white farmers falsely elevated the age of twelve- and thirteen-year-old Africans girls to sixteen, the age at which all Africans were legally obliged to carry the new pass. Farmers, having seized the books freshly issued to African women resident on their farms, were able virtually to enslave African women, for not only were women unable to move about without their books, but, in terms of the Native Service Contract Act of 1932, they were also required to render free labor to the farmers by virtue of the fact that they belonged to the households of male labor tenants.[67] Tales of these and other woes quickly circulated to women in the reserves, providing them with evidence—although none was really needed—when refusing to cooperate with the local magistrate and police. Although their reputation for increasingly rough tactics spread quickly, the department’s Reference Book Units and the feared Mobile Columns that whisked soldiers about in the reserves encountered uncooperative and increasingly militant women in all the reserves. Men, too, were incensed at attempts to issue passes to women, and in a number of instances migrant laborers in the urban areas hastily organized a mass return to their home districts upon hearing that the Reference Book Unit had begun to harry women there.[68]

Although the Bantu Authorities structure was well elaborated only in the Transkei, thanks to the prior existence of the District Council system and the almost automatic conversion of the Bunga into a Territorial Legislative Assembly, the message was clear throughout the Union’s reserves: coercion was central to the structure’s modus vivendi. In an episode that condenses the central grievances against the Bantu Authorities, Hooper describes the fate of a chief who accepted both Bantu Authorities and rehabilitation measures without consulting his people, and facilitated the extension of Reference Books in his area of jurisdiction to boot. Women played a central role in the ensuing frenzy of rage and vengeance against such treachery. The wife of the chief (who, hoping to set an example, had stepped forward to accept her Reference Book) was brutally assaulted, a headman was murdered, and the chief was compelled to flee for his life—only to return with an escort of police who set about “restoring order” with arrests, beatings, deaths, and deportations, setting off further cycles of violence and factional disputes that allowed the police to cow the district with a pall of terror.[69]

Allowing for some variation in the repertoires of chiefs in accepting or dodging Bantu Authorities, of commoners who undermined state authority with varying degrees of ingenuity and courage, of magistrates who enforced the new order with variable dedication, and of police who alternated intimidation with killings, a general pattern of coercion, violence, retribution, and civil chaos emerged across the reserves. Particularly disturbing to the department’s officials in the rural areas was the potential for urban and rural politics to coalesce, imparting a “national” character to events spatially confined to recondite “tribal” areas. This anxiety prompted officials to maintain a continual vigil for the work of “outside agitators,” a phrase calculated to raise suspicions about anybody not of a particular “tribe”; given the disputes over divided loyalties that emerged in the wake of the administrative “splitting” and “fusion” of chiefdoms, the phrase no doubt was intended to fragment regional unity. It was also intended to alert chiefs, many of whom were illiterate and only poorly educated, to the dangers that outside influences posed to their locality-bound authority, welding them closer to official structures that protected the subdivision of the Transkei into chiefdoms. The principal target of the ominous phrase, however, were the nationally oriented organizations led by “detribalised urban-based agitators.” [70] Officials and cooperative chiefs maintained a ceaseless vigil for evidence of meddling, by the ANC in particular, and were not averse to ascribing any sign of opposition to the expansive category of “Communists”; for good measure, Mantazima added “liberals” to this already vaguely defined den of opponents. However untrue these allegations were, they created a superheated atmosphere that strengthened the department’s drive to seal off disparate tribal areas from the subversive effects of national dynamics. In such an atmosphere, administrative logic could sink to ludicrous, but also ominous, depths. In 1960 M. C. de Wet Nel, Minister of the renamed Department of Bantu Administration and Development, astonished colleagues in parliament with an unsubstantiated announcement that the revolt of peasants in Pondoland was the work of “Communists” who had landed on the Transkeian coast from Russian submarines.[71]

However, the fear that national organizations such as the ANC would become the driving force of opposition was largely the outgrowth of official anxiety. Resistance in the Transkei tended to follow along fissures and solidarities that were mostly local in nature. However much they were perceived as emanating from the central directives of policymakers and state planners —and the evidence recorded before the van Heerden Commission makes it clear that many Africans possessed a thorough grasp of the systemic qualities of the innovations—the changes that were introduced into the reserves were interpreted and dealt with in the context of local histories and local dynamics. Generalized resistance to the new order in the reserves was thus not instantaneous; nor, particularly in the initial stages, was it uniform in its tenacity and duration. In some districts, Africans remained unalterably opposed to Bantu Authorities. In others, initial cooperation, whether wary or optimistic, evaporated and gave way to unanimous opposition; in yet others, popular opinion divided over the merits of resistance against a powerful oppressor. And, if the department’s own annual reports of the late 1950s and early 1960s are to be believed, some districts accepted and, for whatever reasons, stuck to the Bantu Authorities system.[72]

By the simple process of addition, however, the numerous local civil wars tearing at different communities yielded a picture that suggested, incontrovertibly, that Bantu Authorities were being imposed, not “implemented”; and Africans throughout the reserves were fully aware that this was the case. If records suggest a picture of locally bounded resistance in the 1950s, therefore, it is equally true that by the end of the decade the ability of officials to confine opposition to local geographies was coming to an end. By 1958, administrators, commoners, and chiefs were referring to the influence in the Transkei of the AAC, the NEUM, and the ANC—organizations with national aspirations in mind. Within the Transkei itself, the substitution of the Transkeian Legislative Assembly for the Bunga, as part of the plan toward “self-government” for the Transkeian region, had the unintended effect of imparting a wider regional focus to oppositional politics.

Closely linked to the ANC, R. S. Canca, General Secretary of the Transkeian Organised Bodies (TOB), observed in 1958 that “For some years now the genuine organisations of the People of the Transkei, the TOB and the CATA [Cape African Teachers’ Association], have been refused permission to call meetings precisely because the authorities prefer to listen to the hypocritical cooings of its headmen rather than to the genuine voice of the people,” and he concluded with a call “to all (democratic) democrats in South Africa” to condemn the imposition of the Bantu Authorities in the Transkei.[73] And, in the aftermath of the Sharpeville massacre in 1960, the ANC’s turn to armed rebellion, and the emergence of Poqo—a frankly insurrectionist and anti-white movement—in the Western Cape, magistrates themselves magnified the profile of these organizations by regularly depicting them in vivid imagery (such as “ravenous snakes desiring to swallow the people up”),[74] which, they hoped, conformed to the idiom of African folklore. By then, some chiefs who had distanced themselves from the Bantu Authorities in particular and from apartheid in general had assumed much greater national profiles. The refusal of Chief Sabata Dalindyebo to approve the first elections held in the Transkei in 1963 and his rivalry with Mantazima, for example, were widely reported and discussed in the nation’s newspapers, and Dalindyebo came to serve as a sort of symbol of noncollaborating chiefs.[75] The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Albert Luthuli in 1960 catapulted chiefly opposition to the state into the international arena.

The department had hoped to “tribalise” politics in local areas through the Bantu Authorities model. The forcible imposition of the model, however, ensured that rural politics became local rather than tribal, alerting Africans in dispersed localities to the common themes coursing throughout the Transkei. The imposition of Bantu Authorities therefore had the unintended consequence of widening the scope of political vision within the Transkei.

Chapter 4 observed that in the wake of the Amendment Act of 1952 (establishing the labor bureau system), the department had begun to assume powers that urban areas usually identified with the bureaucracies of the police and the jail. Paralleling this development, in the reserves the boundaries between the DNA and the South African Police became more fluid in response to the peasant struggles of the late 1950s. The tenor of this change was set with Act 42 of 1956, which for the first time extended the powers of “the Supreme Chief” not only to the Transkei, where their operation had been expressly suspended by the Native Administration Act of 1927, but over “all Natives in any part of the Union.” Thus, staggering powers that cloaked the Supreme Chief were immediately assumed by lowly NCs and magistrates. To quote virtually at random from this extraordinary legislation, Section 5 (1) announced that “The supreme chief, the Minister of Native Affairs, the Secretary of Native Affairs, the Chief Native Commissioner, Native Commissioners” were authorized to compel “Chief and Natives…to render obedience, assistance, and active cooperation in the execution of any reasonable order.” From this declaration flowed powers that can only be described as totalitarian: disregard for any order “shall be deemed to be disregard or defiance of the Supreme Chief” and therefore an offense; any officer of the department could arrest and “summarily punish the offender by a fine not exceeding ten pounds or by imprisonment for a period not exceeding two months”; if, in the discretion of any departmental official, “any Native is dangerous to the public peace, if left at large, he may by proclamation authorise the summary arrest and detention of such Native…,” and so on. Section 10 (1) expressly placed any act of “utterance” against decisions by the Supreme Chief above the law, and Section 10 (2) ensured that “No interdict or other legal process” could call into question any “administrative act or order of any officer acting as the representative or deputy of the Supreme Chief.…”

Emergency regulations issued under the terms of Proclamation R400 clothed department officials with wide discretionary powers in identifying and dealing with suspects. This proclamation also conferred wide powers on chiefs to maintain law and order, to banish offenders, and to appropriate their immovable property. These powers amplified those provided by the Native Administration Act of 1927, and made magistrates indistinguishable from the police forces brought in to quell the revolt in Pondoland. A contemporary description of the department’s activities in the Zeerust district (West Transvaal) illustrates how the conflation of administrative and judicial powers simplified the business of repression. Here, Native Commissioner Carl Richter not only forcibly introduced the Tribal Authorities, deposed the local chief for his noncooperation, and arrested women who had burnt their passes, but tried and sentenced all offenders to £50 or six months’ hard labor.[76]

In January 1961, Verwoerd informed parliament that conflicting reports from NCs and magistrates about “unrest,” “disturbances,” and “agitation” in their areas had undermined the department’s work. To remedy the situation, he had approved the appointment of a Commissioner-General who alone would be authorized to issue public statements about the events in the reserves.[77] The omnipotence of administrative officials meant that their capricious and vindictive behavior would go uncontested, with officers perfectly safe in assuming that their conduct would be resoundingly supported by senior officers within the department, in the highly unlikely event that their behavior was ever investigated. Native Commissioners could resort to administrative blackmail whenever they were unable to intimidate Africans into cooperation—by, for example, withholding services unless Reference Books were first produced: pensions could be withheld, marriages among “School” Africans could not be registered, and mail and money remitted from the urban areas could not be obtained without the new pass. In some villages, such ploys were successful in breaking the opposition of rural Africans. But the probable effect of such administrative coercion was to muddy the waters even further, confirming the suspicions of more and more villagers that the extension of passes to women, the capricious behavior of influx control officers in local labor bureaus, the culling of cattle, and the poisoned relations between Africans and administrative personnel were all deeply entwined, and that these localized events had a wider significance.

By the very nature of the role that the countryside played in relation to the urban economy, the department’s repeated mantra about subversive “outside influences” rang hollow. For in contrast to the administrative image of tribal villagers uncontaminated by urban influences and political ideologies, the state-supported system of migrant labor was undoubtedly the single most important conduit that diminished the spatial chasm between town and village and facilitated the transmission of ideas between the two poles. Upon hearing about the threat to African women in the form of the Mobile Units issuing passes under the protection of armored vehicles, for example, migrant workers promptly hired buses and returned to their villages to deal with the new menace. Or, reversing the dynamic, Africans in villages hired lawyers from the cities to stave off the rash of imprisonments and crippling fines that erupted as peasant society attempted to resist the many tentacles of the Bantu Authorities system rather than acquiesce to the removal of a popular chief or accept the new pass in lieu of a fine. Unable to curtail the movement of migrant workers, officials and chiefs in the reserves were notified in 1956 to keep a greater vigil on the movements of “strangers, illegal meetings in your location; illegal distribution of undesirable literature and the unauthorized entry of persons into your location.…” [78] This perspective entrenched the belief among departmental officials that the nationalist aspirations of organizations such as the ANC were inherently subversive. For coded into apartheid ideology was the message that such organizations were patently anti-constitutional, simply because they conflicted with the foundational myth that the structure and destiny of the state, like the identity of each and every individual in it, were unalterably ethnic: that, in M. C. de Wet Nel’s pithy summation, “every Bantu belongs to a state.” [79] Committed to this conception of the state and civil society, Malan and Verwoerd’s governments emboldened administrative officials to put the worst possible interpretation on any act of defiance—even on the mere expression of dissent. In this superheated administrative atmosphere, officials were prone to see the hand of the ANC in rural opposition to the Bantu Authorities system, and urban-bred subversion in every destroyed dipping tank.

In reality, the ANC intervened only sporadically in the Transkei—and only late in the 1950s at that. Despite the broad support it enjoyed among migrants, the movement never became an organizational force in the reserves, playing second fiddle to the organizations that grew out of peasant society. It is significant that the thirty Pondo sentenced to death in the latter half of 1960 were sentenced for the murder of pro–Bantu Authorities chiefs,[80] for the chieftaincy was the very visible pivot on which virtually all the violence turned in the late 1950s. Apartheid administrators looked upon chiefs in mythical terms, regarding them as the people’s only accredited and popular representatives. Yet, when popular discontent swept the reserves, the chief’s hut was among the first to be razed.

With justice in both the “Western” and the “Bantu” structures effectively foreclosed to them, Africans in some areas of the Transkei sought to transcend rebellion by establishing alternative administrative structures that by-passed the official Bantu Authorities model. A popular movement known as Ikongo (Congress) arose, which expressly excluded chiefs and headmen from participation at all levels, including the leadership cadre known as Intaba (the Hill).[81] In opposition to the “bush courts” held by chiefs, Ikongo’s “peoples’ courts” dealt with cases brought forward by peasants, including disputes over land use and requests to separate grazing land from residen