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10— A Nation Divided? The Swazi in Swaziland and the Transvaal, 1865–1986
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Ethnic Mobilization Falters Amongst South African Swazi

The development in Swaziland of an exclusive Swazi nationalism had no immediate counterpart in the eastern Transvaal, where ethnic mobilization in the context of Bantustan development had hardly started before 1968. In some ways economic developments in the eastern Transvaal had run parallel with those in Swaziland although the large-scale production of citrus, fruit and vegetables had been developed before World War II in the lowveld around Nelspruit and Barberton. After the war there was a rapid development of agriculture and forestry together with related industries. Developments on the highveld were not so spectacular, but by the 1960s mechanization and afforestation, together with natural population increase, were ending the area's chronic labour shortage and producing a 'surplus'. A major concern of the Tomlinson Commission had been the accommodation of people who were now seen as redundant on 'white' farms but of potential use to plantations and industry as migrant labourers. The Bantustan strategy was devised to provide both 'homes' and social control for such people while simultaneously splitting African nationalism into ethnic fragments.

The eastern highveld farms were in the 1950s an important area of rural support for the ANC under the leadership of the Ermelo-bom 'Lion of the East', Gert Sibande.[112] The banning of the ANC and Pan Africanist Congress in 1960 did not lead to an immediate channelling of political feeling into ethnically based organizations. The chiefs of the two reserves designated as Swazi were organized in 1959 and 1962 into the Nkomazi and Nsikazi Regional Authorities, but it was not until 1968 that the Swazi National Council of South Africa was established as a pressure group to mobilize the Swazi in the urban areas, 'black spots', and 'white' farms in support of 'separate development'. Its organizer was David Lukhele, a former Seventh Day Adventist evangelist and life insurance salesman, who was also the 'Swazi editor' of Africa South, a paper produced by Lloyd Ndaba, a former South African Information Department official, who promoted a number of ethnically based political parties in the 1960s.[113]

It was hardly a coincidence that this 'political party' was founded at a time when the systematic resettlement of people from neighbouring white areas into the Swazi reserves in the Barberton and Nelspruit districts was just beginning. 'Commuter' towns were established in the Nsikazi reserve for workers removed from the municipal townships of Nelspruit and White River. The removal of 'surplus' population from farms and 'black spots' was also beginning. There was


never any possibility of these areas being able to support a fraction of their population through agriculture. With a minimum of local employment, the choice for most people was between commuting, labour migration, or starvation. The proclaimed towns were soon surrounded by large squatter settlements and health conditions rapidly deteriorated. The Nsikazi reserve was to be the epicentre of the serious cholera outbreak which hit the eastern Transvaal in 1980.[114]

A number of problems delayed the development of a Swazi Bantustan. One was the fact that the majority of Swazi chiefs, including the most important Dlamini ones, were still living on 'white' farms or in 'black spots'. So long as they remained there they could not be officially recognized and a Swazi Territorial Authority could not be established. The government was faced with the problem of providing them with a reserve while adhering to its commitment not to add a single hectare of land to the provisions of the 1936 Land Act. A further problem was that the government itself appeared uncertain as to whether a Swazi Bantustan was desirable or whether the South African Swazi could be unloaded on Swaziland without one. It was soon found that the Swazi leadership in South Africa was divided on the issue of their future relations with Swaziland.

As late as November 1970 the South African government evidently hoped that it could avoid the necessity of finding additional reserve land in the eastern Transvaal, and the inevitable conflict with white farming interests which that would entail, by purchasing freehold land for the resettlement of its Swazi within the borders of Swaziland. It is not clear whether this proposal had the support of the Swaziland government, but it was in any case rejected by the South African Swazi National Council. In 1971 a Swazi Interim Committee composed of representatives of the Swazi National Council and two Swazi Regional Authorities was established. This was intended to pressure the government to complete the consolidation of the Bantustan and to pave the way for the establishment of a Territorial Authority.[115]

There was never, of course, any question of the Swazi Bantustan being consolidated in such a way as to match the actual distribution of Swazi people on the ground. The 1972 proposals envisaged the concentration of the Swazi in a single block of territory along the northern and northwestern borders of Swaziland. This would clearly facilitate a deal with Swaziland in the future, but it involved the excision of the Nsikazi reserve, with the exception of the planned towns which would remain as dormitories for Nelspruit and White River. The Pongola reserve, to the south of Swaziland, which was regarded as Swazi but which had not been constituted as a Regional Authority, was also be to excised.[116]

The proposals naturally incensed the Nsikazi chiefs and their people who were threatened with removal after 50 years or more of residence. Even the government-sponsored BENSO organization, which was concerned with the economic development of the Bantustans, was alarmed at proposals which involved the removal from the Swazi Bantustan of the only area in which there was any infrastructure at all. For the government the proposals had the merit of providing for the first time land on the highveld into which the 'surplus' population could be removed. They must also have been made in the knowledge that King Sobhuza had little interest in the outlying Nsikazi reserve where the population, although predominantly Swati-speaking, included many people of Sotho, Tsonga and Zulu origin.[117]

These proposals had the effect of exacerbating the tensions which already existed within the Swazi National Council and the Interim Committee between those who advocated Bantustan development and opposed a land deal with Swaziland, on the one hand, and the supporters of such a deal on the other hand.


While the Swazi National Council claimed branches all over the central and eastern Transvaal and involved all the Swazi chiefs in white areas, it is impossible to judge to what extent it represented Swazi opinion. Many of those who were nominally Swazi no doubt rejected ethnic politics entirely, but it is evident that within these organizations majority opinion was opposed to any deal with Swaziland. The lesson of the Ngwenya affair was not lost on the South African Swazi. David Lukhele was at this stage particularly critical of what he saw as the domination of the Dlamini clan in Swaziland and of the banning of all political parties which accompanied the suspension of the constitution in 1973. Lukhele did not totally rule out the possibility of amalgamation with Swaziland but maintained that this should happen, if at all, after direct negotiations between a self-governing Bantustan and Swaziland, and not as a result of a deal concluded by the South African government. Swazi National Council literature was also critical of the 'interference' by Swaziland in the affairs of the South African Swazi.[118]

An example of such interference came with the appointment in late 1972 of Dr Lancelot Gama as King Sobhuza's personal representative, or Indvuna General, in South Africa. Dr Gama, a medical practitioner in Springs, was a leader of the Swazi National Royal Club which was apparently at loggerheads with the Swazi National Council in South Africa. By the end of 1973 Dr Gama had established a rival 'Swazi Nation of the Republic', which had the support of a number of Swazi National Council branches and of three chiefs, including Chief Johannes Mkolishi Dlamini, the son and heir of James Maquba Nkosi, of Mbhuleni, who was regarded as the senior Swazi chief in South Africa.[119] Chief Mkolishi was still technically a squatter on a farm near Badplaas. It was only in 1975 that he received the official recognition which had eluded his father for so long. He then became chief of the Eerstehoek resettlement camp in the new Regional authority of Mswati, which had been established for the three senior Dlamini chiefs in the newly acquired lands along the Swaziland border.[120]

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