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3— Exclusion, Classification and Internal Colonialism: The Emergence of Ethnicity Among the Tsonga-Speakers of South Africa
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The Erosion of the African Position

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

Three years later a similar editorial stated that:

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

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

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

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