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RURAL DEVELOPMENT, ROYAL HISTORY, AND THE STRUGGLE FOR AUTHORITY IN EARLY APARTHEID ZULULAND (1951–4)

  • ASHLEY PARCELLS (a1)

Abstract

From 1951, apartheid officials sought to implement soil rehabilitation programs in Nongoma, the home district of Zulu Paramount Chief Cyprian Bhekuzulu. This article argues that these programs brought to the surface fundamental questions about political authority in South Africa's hinterland during the first years of apartheid. These questions arose from ambiguities within native policy immediately after the passage of the 1951 Bantu Authorities Act: while the power of chiefs during the colonial and segregationist era in Zululand had been tied to their control of native reserve land, in Nongoma, these development interventions threatened that prerogative at the very moment apartheid policy sought to strengthen ‘tribal’ governance. In response, the Zulu royal family in Nongoma called on treaties with the British from the conquest era, colonial law, and the very language of apartheid to reassert chiefly control over land, and more importantly, to negotiate this new apartheid political order.

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Research for this article was supported by a Social Science Research Council Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship and Emory University's Laney Graduate School and Department of History. Clifton Crais, Kristin Mann, Pamela Scully, members of Emory University's Institute of African Studies seminar, two anonymous reviewers, and the editors of The Journal of African History provided feedback on drafts of this article.

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1 For a broader theoretical discussion of this phenomenon across Africa, see Berry, S., ‘Hegemony on a shoestring: indirect rule and access to agricultural land’, Africa, 62 (1992), 327–55. For an account of similar processes that occurred earlier in Natal, see Ngonyama, P., ‘Bounding chiefly authority in colonial natal’, in Healy-Clancy, M. and Hickel, J. (eds.), Ekhaya: The Politics of Home in KwaZulu-Natal (Pietermaritzburg, 2014), 83106.

2 Benton, L., Law and Colonial Cultures Legal Regimes in World History, 1400–1900 (Cambridge, 2002); Owensby, B., Empire of Law and Indian Justice in Colonial Mexico (Stanford, 2008); Medrano, E. R., Mexico's Indigenous Communities Their Lands and Histories, 1500–2010 (Boulder, CO, 2010); Belmessous, S. (ed.), Native Claims: Indigenous Law against Empire, 1500–1920 (Oxford, 2012).

3 Yannakakis, Y., ‘Witnesses, spatial practices, and a land dispute in colonial Oaxaca’, Americas, 65:2 (2008), 161–92.

4 Baber, J., ‘Law, land, and legal rhetoric in colonial new Spain: a look at the changing rhetoric of indigenous Americans in the sixteenth century’, in Belmessous, (ed.), Native Claims, 107–28.

5 Johnson, M., The Land Is Our History: Indigeneity, Law, and the Settler State (Oxford, 2016).

6 Beinart, W., ‘Soil erosion, conservationism and ideas about development: a southern African exploration, 1900–1960’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 11:1 (1 Oct. 1984); Beinart, W., The Rise of Conservation in South Africa: Settlers, Livestock, and the Environment 1770–1950 (Oxford, 2003), 332–66.

7 Iliffe, J., A Modern History of Tanganyika (Cambridge, 1979); Feierman, S., Peasant Intellectuals Anthropology and History in Tanzania (Madison, WI, 1990); Alexander, J., The Unsettled Land: State-Making & the Politics of Land in Zimbabwe, 1893–2003 (Athens, OH, 2007).

8 McAllister, P. A., ‘The impact of relocation in a Transkei “betterment”’, in Cross, C. and Haines, R. J. (eds.), Towards Freehold?: Options for Land Development in South Africa's Black Rural Areas (Cape Town, 1988), 112–21; De Wet, C. J., Moving Together, Drifting Apart: Betterment Planning and Villagisation in a South African Homeland (Johannesburg, 1995); Mager, A. K., Gender and the Making of a South African Bantustan: A Social History of the Ciskei, 1945–1959 (Portsmouth, 1999), 7287.

9 Yawitch, J., ‘Betterment as state policy in South Africa’, in Cross, and Haines, (eds.), Towards Freehold, 101–11; Hendricks, F. T., ‘Loose planning and rapid resettlement: the politics of conservation and control in Transkei, South Africa, 1950–1970’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 15:2 (1989), 306–25; Hendricks, F. T., The Pillars of Apartheid: Land Tenure, Rural Planning, and the Chieftancy (Stockholm, 1990).

10 MacKinnon, A. S., ‘Negotiating the practice of the state: reclamation, resistance, and “betterment in the Zululand reserves”’, in Crais, C. (ed.), The Culture of Power in Southern Africa: Essays on State Formation and the Political Imagination (Portsmouth, 2003), 6590; Lekgoathi, S. P., ‘From homeboy networks to broader ethnic affiliations: migrants from Zebediela and shifting identities on the Rand, 1930s–1970s’, African Studies, 73:3 (2014), 432–54; Kelly, J. E., ‘Bantu authorities and betterment in natal: the ambiguous responses of chiefs and regents, 1955–1970’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 41:2 (2015), 273–97.

11 This was the case in much of the scholarship in the Transvaal. See Zondi, S., ‘Peasant struggles of the 1950s: gaMatlala and Zeerust’, in Magubane, B., South African Democracy Education Trust (ed.), The Road to Democracy in South Africa: 1960–1970 (Cape Town, 2004), 147–76; Delius, P., A Lion amongst Cattle: Reconstruction and Resistance in the Northern Transvaal (Oxford, 1997), 5175; for more on betterment on trust land in the Natal midlands, see Kelly, ‘Bantu authorities’, 292–96.

12 Eldredge, E. A., The Creation of the Zulu Kingdom, 1815–1828: War, Shaka, and the Consolidation of Power (New York, 2014), 233.

13 Ibid. 231–4.

14 For evidence of this in the Cape Colony, see Crais, C., The Politics of Evil: Magic, State Power, and Political Imagination in South Africa (New York, 2002), 1827.

15 Guy, J., The Destruction of the Zulu Kingdom: The Civil War in Zululand, 1879–1884 (London, 1979), 59.

16 Laband, J., Rope of Sand: The Rise and Fall of the Zulu Kingdom in the Nineteenth Century (Johannesburg, 1995), 425–6.

17 Ibid. 428–31.

18 Pietermaritzburg Archives Repository, Pietermaritzburg (PAR) Colonial Secretary (CSO) 2709, Proclamation No. 37 of 1897, ‘To provide for the annexation to the colony of Natal of the territory of Zululand’.

19 Laband, Rope of Sand, 434–6.

20 PAR SNA 1/9/7, Zululand Lands Delimitation Commissioner, ‘Brief sketch of the Zulu history during the last century and a half’, 1902–04.

21 PAR CSO 2844, ‘Fourth interim report of the Zululand Lands Delimitation Commission’, 12 Sept. 1903.

22 PAR Secretary for Native Affairs (SNA) 1/6/18, ‘1891 Natal Native Code’, ch. vii: ‘Land tenure’.

23 Ibid. ch. v: ‘District headmen’.

24 Ibid. ch. vii: ‘Land tenure’.

25 Cross has argued that effectively, allocated land was held in perpetuity. See Cross, C. R., ‘Land reform and the black rural economy in South Africa’, in Cross, and Haines, (ed.), Towards Freehold, 17.

26 PAR SNA 1/6/18, ‘1891 Natal Native Code’, ch. vii: ‘Land tenure’.

27 South African Native Affairs Commission, 1903–1905 (Cape Times, 1905), 302.

28 PAR 1/NGA 3/3/3/1, N1/15/4, C. N. C. Circular of No. 7 of 1840, ‘No. 123/1931 (Amendments to 1/1/39 incorporated): Regulations for the administration of native locations and reserves in the Natal province’, 13 Apr. 1940.

29 Ibid.

30 Ibid.

31 Ibid.

32 PAR Chief Native Commissioner (CNC) 109A 94/9, Notes of a proceeding of native commissioners’ conference held in Durban on 15, 16, and 17 Nov. 1933.

33 Ibid.

34 PAR SNA 2/2/5, Chief Native Commissioner, Natal, to Secretary, Natal Natives Land Committee, 3 Feb. 1918.

35 PAR SNA 2/2/5. Chief Native Commissioner, Natal, to Secretary, Natal Natives Land Committee, 9 Apr. 1918.

36 MacKinnon, A., ‘Chiefly authority, leapfrogging headmen and the political economy of Zululand, South Africa, ca. 1930–1950’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 27:3 (2001), 570.

37 M. D. Hay, ‘South Africa's land reform in historical perspective: land settlement and agriculture in Mopani district, Limpopo, nineteenth century to 2015’ (unpublished PhD thesis, University of the Witwatersrand, 2015), 33–73.

38 Cope, N., To Bind the Nation: Solomon KaDinuzulu and Zulu Nationalism: 1913–1933 (Pietermaritzburg, 1993), 78.

39 Moguerane, K., ‘Black landlords, their tenants, and the Natives Land Act of 1913’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 42:2 (2016), 243–66.

40 Cross, C. and Haines, R. J., ‘An historical overview of land policy and tenure in South Africa's black areas’, in Cross, and Haines, (eds.), Towards Freehold, 75–6.

41 A. S. MacKinnon, ‘The impact of European land deliminations and expropriations on Zululand, 1880–1920’ (unpublished MA thesis, University of Natal, 1990), 150.

42 Most of the land opened to white settlement in Zululand in the early twentieth century was in productive agricultural areas, such as the coastal belt and flatter open land in southern Natal. In such areas, tenancy was much more common. See MacKinnon, ‘The impact of European land deliminations’, 146–66.

43 See Hay, South Africa's Land Reform; Cokwana, M. M., ‘A closer look at tenure in the Ciskei’, in Cross, and Haines, (eds.), Towards Freehold, 305–14.

44 Delius, A Lion amongst Cattle; Zondi, ‘Peasant struggles’.

45 Delius, A Lion amongst Cattle, 55.

46 Ibid. 55–62, 76–8.

47 Ibid. 69–71.

48 For more on the history of the hamba kahle strategy, see Cope, To Bind the Nation; A. K. Buverud, ‘The king and the honeybirds: Cyprian Bhekuzulu kaSolomon, Zulu nationalism and the implementation of the Bantu authorities system in Zululand, 1948–1957’ (unpublished PhD thesis, University of Oslo, 2007); in discussions of African elites caught between the state and African populations, both scholars drew on Marks, S., The Ambiguities of Dependence in South Africa: Class, Nationalism, and the State in Twentieth-Century Natal (Baltimore, 1986).

49 Buverd, ‘The king and the honeybirds’, 49, 55, 63.

50 ‘Bill seeks to abolish N.R.C’, Natal Witness (Pietermaritzburg), 7 June 1951.

51 Beinart, The Rise of Conservation in South Africa, 340.

52 Donga is a word of Afrikaans origin used to describe a large gully created over time as heavy rainfall erodes the soil.

53 Beinart, ‘Soil erosion, conservationism and ideas about development’, 75–8.

54 National Archives of South Africa, Pretoria (SAB) Bantoe-Administrasie en-Ontwikkeling (BAO) 20/627, H128/1467, R. Ashton, Native Commissioner, Nongoma to M. D. C. Liefeldt, Chief Native Commissioner, Pietermaritzburg, 7 Feb. 1951.

55 Ibid.

56 Roughly 226,810 hectares or 480,145 acres.

57 SAB BAO 20/627, 128/1467, Native Commissioner, Nongoma to Chief Native Commissioner, Pietermaritzburg, 7 Feb. 1951.

58 SAB BAO 20/627, H128/1467, W. W. M. Eiselen, Secretary for Native Affairs to H. F. Verwoerd, Minister of Native Affairs, 10 Apr. 1951.

59 SAB BAO 20/627, H128/1467, R. Ashton, Native Commissioner, Nongoma to M. D. C. Liefeldt, Chief Native Commissioner, Natal, 1 Aug. 1951.

60 SAB BAO 20/627, H128/1467, R. Ashton, Native Commissioner, Nongoma to M. D. C. Liefeldt, Chief Native Commissioner, Natal, 23 May 1951.

61 Beinart, ‘Soil erosion, conservationism and ideas about development’, 59.

62 SAB BAO 20/627, H128/1467, R. Ashton, Native Commissioner, Nongoma to M. D. C. Liefeldt, Chief Native Commissioner, Natal, 1 Aug. 1951.

63 Ibid.

64 SAB BAO 20/627, H128/1467, M. D. C. Liefeldt, Chief Native Commissioner, Natal to W. W. M. Eiselen, Secretary for Native Affairs, 22 Aug. 1951.

65 Ibid.

66 For examples, see Delius, A Lion amongst Cattle; Zondi, ‘Peasant struggles’.

67 Hendricks, ‘Loose planning and rapid resettlement’, 340.

68 Ibid.

69 ‘Eiselen to see Zulu Chiefs’, Natal Witness, 11 Dec. 1951.

70 ‘Effective tribal rule possible: Eiselen’, Natal Witness, 14 Dec. 1951.

71 Ibid.

72 SAB Naturellesake (NTS) 249 78/53 (2), W. W. M. Eiselen, Secretary for Native Affairs to M. D. C. Liefeldt, Chief Native Commissioner, Natal, 11 Jan. 1952.

73 Ulundi Archives Repository (UAR) Nongoma Magistrate and Commissioner 27, N1/1/3/9, M. L. C. Liefeldt, Chief Native Commissioner, Natal to W. W. M. Eiselen, Secretary for Native Affairs, 26 Sept. 1952.

74 Ibid.

75 SAB BAO 20/627, H128/1467, R. Ashton, Native Commissioner, Nongoma to M. D. C. Liefeldt, Chief Native Commissioner, Pietermaritzburg, 22 Jan. 1952.

76 SAB BAO 20/627, H128/1467, R. Ashton, Native Commissioner, Nongoma to M. D. C. Liefeldt, Chief Native Commissioner, Natal, 11 Mar. 1952.

77 Ibid.

78 SAB BAO 20/627, H128/1467, Native Commissioner, Nongoma to Chief Native Commissioner, Natal, 11 Mar. 1952.

79 SAB BAO 20/627, H128/1467, R. Ashton, Native Commissioner, Nongoma to M. D. C. Liefeldt, Chief Native Commissioner, Natal, 11 Mar. 1952.

80 Ibid. 21 Apr. 1952.

81 SAB BAO 20/627, H128/1467, Direkteur van Naturelle Landbou to Ondersekretaris (Ontwikkeling), 7 Oct. 1952.

82 SAB BAO 20/627, H128/1467, R. Ashton, Native Commissioner, Nongoma to M. D. C. Liefeldt, Chief Native Commissioner, Natal, 19 Sept. 1952.

83 SAB BAO 20/627, H128/1467, R. Ashton, Native Commissioner, Nongoma to M. D. C. Liefeldt, Chief Native Commissioner, Natal, 10 Nov. 1952.

84 SAB BAO 20/627, H128/1467, Mr J. P. Cowan, Acting Chief Native Commissioner, ‘Notes of interview granted to Paramount Chief Cyprian Bhekuzulu and party on 28 Nov. 1952’.

85 SAB BAO 20/627, H128/1467, R. Ashton, Native Commissioner, Nongoma to M. D. C. Liefeldt, Chief Native Commissioner, Natal, 10 Nov. 1952.

86 Ibid.

87 SAB BAO 20/627, H128/1467, Mr J. P. Cowan, Acting Chief Native Commissioner, ‘Notes of interview granted to Paramount Chief Cyprian Bhekuzulu and party on 28 November, 1952’.

88 An emergent historiographical issue is how colonized people often call upon treaties and past agreements in legal arguments in ways they understand them, rather than by the terms written and enforced by the colonizing power. During the 1970s and 1980s, for example, indigenous activists and lawyers from Canada and New Zealand emphasized principles of treaty interpretation to ‘legitimate the oral traditions and communal interpretations of historical agreements made by indigenous peoples’. See Johnson, The Land is our History, 8.

89 SAB BAO 20/627, H128/1467, Mr J. P. Cowan, Acting Chief Native Commissioner ‘Notes of interview granted to Paramount Chief Cyprian Bhekuzulu and party on 28 Nov. 1952’.

90 Ibid.

91 Ibid.

92 Ibid.

93 SAB BAO 20/627, H128/1467, J. P. Cowan, Acting Chief Native Commissioner, Pietermaritzburg to W. M. M. Eiselen, Secretary for Native Affairs, 15 Dec. 1952.

94 Ibid.

95 SAB BAO 20/627, H128/1467, W. W. M. Eiselen, Secretary for Native Affairs to the Chief Native Commissioner, Pietermaritzburg, 12 Jan. 1953.

96 SAB BAO 20/627, H128/1467, Meeting at the office of R. Ashton at his office in Nongoma, 4 June 1953.

97 Ibid.

98 Ibid.

99 SAB BAO 20/627, H128/1467, R. Ashton, Native Commissioner, Nongoma, to M. D. C. Liefeldt, Chief Native Commissioner, 7 Aug. 1953.

100 Ibid.

101 SAB BAO 20/627, H128/1467, M. D. C. Liefeldt, Chief Native Commissioner, Chief Native Commissioner, Natal to W. W. M. Eiselen, Secretary for Native Affairs, Pretoria, 8 July 1953.

102 SAB BAO 20/627 H128/1467, M. L. C. Liefeldt, Chief Native Commissioner, Natal to R. Ashton, Native Commissioner, Nongoma, 25 Mar. 1954.

103 SAB BAO 20/627, H128/1467, R. Ashton, Native Commissioner, Nongoma to M. D. C. Liefelfdt, Chief Native Commissioner, Natal, 15 Apr. 1954.

104 Ibid.

105 Ibid.

106 SAB BAO 20/627, H128/1467, W. M. M. Eiselen, Secretary for Native Affairs to M. L. C. Liefeldt, Natal, 3 July 1954.

107 SAB BAO 20/627, 128/1467, G. T. Ackron, Native Commissioner, Nongoma to M. L. C. Liefeldt, Chief Native Commissioner Natal, 5 Oct. 1954.

108 Ibid.

109 Ibid.

110 SAB BAO 20/627, H128/1467, M. L. C. Liefeldt, Chief Native Commissioner Natal to Secretary for Native Affairs, Pretoria, 14 Oct. 1954.

Research for this article was supported by a Social Science Research Council Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship and Emory University's Laney Graduate School and Department of History. Clifton Crais, Kristin Mann, Pamela Scully, members of Emory University's Institute of African Studies seminar, two anonymous reviewers, and the editors of The Journal of African History provided feedback on drafts of this article.

Keywords

RURAL DEVELOPMENT, ROYAL HISTORY, AND THE STRUGGLE FOR AUTHORITY IN EARLY APARTHEID ZULULAND (1951–4)

  • ASHLEY PARCELLS (a1)

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