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10— A Nation Divided? The Swazi in Swaziland and the Transvaal, 1865–1986
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Sobhuza II and the Swazi of South Africa

While there seems to have been little or no demand for the development of Swati in the 1930s, and while the impact of Sobhuza's other cultural initiatives on the Swazi outside Swaziland may have been limited, he did make a number of moves intended to involve the Swazi of South Africa. He established in 1931, at his house in Sophiatown, the Swazi National Royal Club, which was intended to provide a social centre for all Swazi on the Witwatersrand, regardless of origins, and to promote 'all aspects of Swazi welfare'. This club has had a long and active life and survives at Kwa Thema, Springs, but another scheme for a Swazi Labour Institute which would have been concerned with the recruitment and welfare of Swazi workers apparently came to nothing.[83]

The major initiative in which both Sobhuza and Seme were involved at this time was 'The Petition of the Swazi Tribes of the Eastern Transvaal to the Union Parliament', signed and dated by ten Swazi chiefs at the Ntfonjeni royal village in Swaziland on 25 March 1932. The petitioners requested reserves for their 'tribes' in the areas in which they currently lived in the districts of Barberton, Carolina and Ermelo. The printed version of the petition was prefaced by splendid photographs of Sobhuza and his mother taken during the visit of the Prince of Wales to Swaziland in 1925. According to Seme, these photographs were included 'only for sentimental reasons and to indicate the nationality of the humble Petitioners'. In a brief sketch of the history of the Swazi he pointed to some of the finer points of the 'Swazi constitution', such as the high respect paid to women, and staked an historical claim to territory as far north as the Sabi river.[84]

The Native Affairs Department took more than two years to reply to the petition, but the Native Trust and Land Act which was finally passed in 1936 did provide accommodation for four of the Barberton chiefs, all of whom had resided on or close to Crown Land in the lowveld. It was, however, to be many years before they received official recognition. This partial success prompted Seme to draft another petition in July 1936, which may never have been submitted, but which was intended to be signed by the same chiefs, and to make a special plea for land for the chiefs of Mbhuleni, Mjindini, and Mekemeke who remained on farm land.[85]

At this stage the question of the transfer of Swaziland to the Union came once again to the fore. The provision of at least some land for the Swazi on his northern border seems to have led Sobhuza to take a more positive interest in the possibility of incorporation as a means to the 'unification' of his people. Officials in Hertzog's entourage on a visit to Britain in 1937 planted the rumour that Sobhuza would be prepared to consider a deal which would 'formally bring under his allegiance the large number of Swazi hitherto outside the borders of Swaziland'.[86] A year or so later, Sobhuza held discussions in Swaziland with Douglas Smit,


Secretary for Native Affairs in the Union, which touched on the position of the Swazi in the Transvaal. He subsequently outlined in great detail the historical case for the creation of further reserves, making once again a special plea for the three royal villages. Smit maintained that Swaziland itself had always been regarded as the Swazi 'location' and stated quite frankly that: 'our difficulty is that the districts of Carolina and Ermelo are purely European and we have no scheduled Native Areas or released area there'.[87]

On the outbreak of World War II, Jan Smuts replaced Hertzog as Prime Minister of South Africa and decided, much to the annoyance of the British, to press for the immediate transfer of Swaziland. His emissary, Deneys Reitz, indicated that 'Sobhuza could be got round'. As inducements. Smuts was prepared to offer the 'purchase of land for the enlargement of Swazi reserves', as well as reconsideration of railway plans and a reduction in 'Native' taxation.[88] Apparently in connection with this deal, Sobhuza's lawyers sought the Governor General's consent for the purchase by the Swazi Nation of sixteen farms in the Barberton, Carolina and Ermelo districts, all but two of which were close to the borders of Swaziland. The farms included the land on which the three best known royal villages were established. Nothing came of the deal, but it is possible to see in it the germ of the later KaNgwane 'land deal' proposal.[89]

As late as 1947 the attitude of the Department of Native Affairs to Swazi chiefs of the royal house had changed very little from the time of the Mhola case over twenty years previously. James Maquba Nkosi, who had been installed as chief at Mbhuleni in 1931, and who maintained close contact with Sobhuza, was, not for the first time, under threat of eviction. The Secretary for Native Affairs complained that, though he was not recognized by the government as a chief, he was apparently related to Sobhuza and 'regarded as the Chief of the Umbhuleni section of the Swazis in the Eastern Transvaal'. As he had for over ten years declined to be resettled in the lowveld, and in view of 'Sobhuza's interest', the department wanted to know if it would be possible for him with his wives, followers, and stock (68 cattle and 72 goats) 'to remove to Swaziland'.[90] Sobhuza and his council were quite determined that he should remain where he was. He should not be expected to move into the lowveld, which was malarial and belonged to the Shongwe people. His removal from the district would leave 'the remaining natives in the area without a chief'. If the government could not provide a reserve in the Carolina district, it was preferable that he should move to another farm rather than to the lowveld or Swaziland. It was eventually reported that Chief Maquba had 'found asylum' on another farm. Sobhuza took the opportunity to protest that not a single Swazi chief in the Transvaal had been officially recognized.[91]

By the time that the Afrikaner Nationalist government came into power in 1948 there is, then, little evidence that the Swazi of the eastern Transvaal had been subjected to any policy of 'retribalization'. There is plenty of evidence that at least their chiefs wanted to be 'retribalized', but had managed to make very little headway in that direction. It may not be surprising that the chiefs on the highveld farms had made such little progress, but it is surprising that even the chiefs on Trust land in the Barberton district had failed to achieve recognition. There had, however, been one or two indications that the government was taking more interest in ethnicity. The Native Commissioner at Bushbuckridge had sought, on his own initiative, Sobhuza's advice in 1940 as to who should be regarded (not recognized) as the senior Swazi chief in the newly created Nsikazi reserve in the Nelspruit district.[92] The ethnological section within the Department of Native Affairs began in 1946 to collect information for a survey of The Tribes of


Barberton District which was published in 1949. A similar work on the Carolina district was not published until 1956, by which time the much-reviled Chief Maquba, though still not officially recognized, had become a' groot-kapitem' with numerous subordinate headmen and merited a fall page photograph.[93]

Though the Bantu Administration Act of 1951 provided the machinery, in the form of a three-tier system of Tribal, Regional, and Territorial Authorities, which was to be used in the political evolution of 'Bantustans', it was not until the publication of the Tomlinson Commission report in 1955 that a blueprint for the consolidation and development of the reserves along ethnic lines was produced. The commission saw Swaziland as the nucleus of a Bantustan which would include reserves on its borders in the eastern Transvaal and would have access to the sea through the Ingwavuma district. It was, therefore, the source of the later proposals for the consolidation of KaNgwane and for the proposed 'land deal' of 1982.[94]

Dr Hendrik Verwoerd in 1959 indicated that if Swaziland accepted South African 'guardianship', it would be able to incorporate the Swazi areas of the Transvaal to form a single 'black unit'.[95] Rumours circulating in Swaziland in 1963 suggested that Sobhuza and the Swazi National Council were preparing to make a deal with South Africa which would involve the cession of some land in the south of the country in exchange for territory to the north. These rumours were taken seriously enough to be strenuously denied.[96] Verwoerd seems to have reconciled himself somewhat reluctantly to the forthcoming independence of the High Commission Territories, but in 1966 the then Minister of Bantu Affairs repeated that South Africa would be prepared to cede territory to its neighbours to create ethnic units. He pointed to the illogicality of establishing an independent Swazi state within the borders of South Africa if Swaziland itself was about to become independent.[97]

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10— A Nation Divided? The Swazi in Swaziland and the Transvaal, 1865–1986
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