Confining the powers of amakhosi to ‘easily manageable’ bounded territories: The solution to the ‘Native Question’ in Natal

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Seminar Date
August 12, 2009
In this paper I contextualise the Ward System within the broader context of ‘segregation’ policies advocated in colonial Natal from the moment ‘locations’ were established. The introduction of wards, in the manner and form they were designed, signalled the beginning of a new era: the ‘tribal’ fractionalisation of Africans in already ‘racially’ excluded locations. Polities were confined to segregated territories with clearly marked boundaries. In the impoverished locations, the African population proved a useful source of cheap labour for the emerging capitalist settler economy. Borrowing from the ‘roots of segregation’ argument, I have tried, using archival material and drawing on studies by others, to construct a narrative which makes a connection between the scheme—later introduced in magisterial divisions throughout the Colony in various forms—and the ‘separate development’ legislative framework, relating to land occupation and purchases, and the rule over the African majority of successive South African governments in the period after 1910. In pre-colonial times, ubukhosi was founded on the basis of loyalty to a ‘person’, inkosi, who was believed to be ruling on behalf of izithutha1, and not ‘terrestrial space.’ With some adjustments, this was still the practice six decades into colonialism. What would be the practicalities of ‘bounded territories’ on societies with such foundations? These measures were implemented during a period of great strife amongst African societies, especially those subjected to ‘Native Law’ and the jurisdiction of amakhosi. Amongst others, events of a political and economic nature, which intensified in the last three decades of colonialism, undermined the homestead based livelihood. These developments, necessitating greater ‘stability’ and ‘control’, have been incorporated into the narrative. I admit, in the early 1900s there were numerous legislative measures undertaken not relating to just African/European relations. However, the paper, for now, has been restricted to just these two groups. I would welcome suggestions on how the paper could be broadened within the paradigm of the argument advanced.
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