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P.M.C. Croeser (Chairman) Dr C.E. Merrett S.N. Roberts Ms P.A. Stabbins Mrs S.S. Wallis

P.C.G. McKenzie (Secretary) Miss J. Farrer (Honorary Curator of the Special Collections)

EDITORIAL COMMITTEE OF NATALIA T.B. Frost (Editor) Dr W.H. Bizley M.H. Comrie P.M.C. Croeser J.M. Deane Professor W.R. Guest Professor E.R. Jenkins Professor A. Koopman P.C.G. McKenzie (Secretary) Mrs S.P.M. Spencer M.H. Steele MP Dr S. Vietzen

Natalia 38 (2008) Copyright © Natal Society Foundation 2010


Journal of The Natal Society

No. 38 (December 2008)

Published by Natal Society Foundation Trust P.O. Box 11093, Dorpspruit 3206, South Africa

SA ISSN 0085-3674

Cover illustration

The Fabian Window at Beatrice Webb House, Leith Hill, Surrey

The large figures are, left to right, Edward Pease, Sidney Webb and George Bernard Shaw. The kneeling figures, members of the Fabian Executive Committee, are, left to right, H.G. Wells, Charles Charrington, Aylmer Maude, G. Sterling Taylor, Lawson Dodd, Mrs Pember Reeves, Mary Hankinson, Miss Mabel Atkinson, Mrs Boyd Dawson and Caroline Townshend. The books represent Shaw’s plays and Fabian publications. The window was commissioned by Shaw in 1910. The photograph originates from the late John Parker, former Secretary of the Fabian Society and a British MP. The link with Natal is through Mabel Atkinson who, as Mabel Palmer, lived in Durban from 1921 until her death in 1958, and through Bernard Shaw who visited Natal in 1935. In 1979 John Parker wrote, ‘Miss Atkinson appears as one of the figures in the famous stained glass window designed by Bernard Shaw & carried out by Caroline Townshend about 1910. It showed the world being forged by Shaw & Webb & fired by Pease (The Sec. Fab.Soc.) with the motto “Remould it nearer to the Heart’s desire” & the Fabian coat of arms as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Members of the E.C. kneel below … led by H.G. Wells, cocking a snook at Shaw & Webb…. Unfortunately the window has recently been stolen from Beatrice Webb House near Dorking (a conference house). Interpol seek it.’ (John Parker, House of Commons to Sylvia Vietzen, 15 February 1979.)

Page design by M.J. Marwick Printed by Intrepid Printers (Pty) Ltd Pietermaritzburg


WITH this issue Natalia is approaching the end of its fourth decade of publication. It has been generously funded throughout by the Natal Society Foundation, but that covers only the costs of production. Beyond that nobody, neither contributors nor members of the editorial committee, is or has ever been in it for material gain, CVs or anything else. We have tried to maintain a quality journal for the sheer appreciation of what is valuable, good and precious in our KwaZulu-Natal heritage. Such altruistic endeavour must be rare in an increasingly materialistic age. Our unpublished piece/reprint slot this year is filled by a reprint of an account by Eliza Whigham Feilden (originally published in 1887) of a great flood of 1856 which inflicted huge damage on pioneer settlers along the Umgeni River. A feature of this year’s issue is the amount of material contributed by members of the editorial board. Of this, Dr Sylvia Vietzen has provided a scholarly article on the visit of the Irish man of let- ters and playwright George Bernard Shaw and his wife to Natal in 1935, while Dr Bill Bizley in his article ‘A Horse, A Singer and A Prince — two busy months in the life of Pietermaritzburg’ has focused on the year 1925 and copies of the newspapers of the day to provide an intriguing insight into topics which commanded public interest. The other two articles come from Dr Kalpana Hiralal and Dr Paul Thompson on Indian Merchant Families of Natal and Bhambatha’s Family Tree respectively. Other contributions from the editorial committee are Professor Adrian Koopman’s substantial note which takes a quirky look at 19th century by-laws, further notes provided by board members John Deane, Shelagh Spencer and Pat McKenzie, and four obituaries written by the editor. Of these deaths recorded, perhaps the greatest loss to Natalia was the death of Michael Daly, for many years a member and chairman of the Natal Society Council and latterly the chairman of the Natal Society Foundation. He was the journal’s most ardent supporter and his passing is a sad blow. Mobbs Moberly, too, had a long associa- tion with Natalia as a former member of the editorial committee and compiler of the Notes and Queries section. Professor Colin Gardner has contributed a fine obituary on Professor Denys Schreiner, a former vice-principal of the Pietermaritzburg campus of the University of Natal and a pillar of liberalism in this province.

We regret the absence of a review of Jeff Guy’s latest book, but the reviewer (in the United States) who had undertaken the task let us down after keeping us on a string for over a year. Other overseas writers proved more reliable. The distinguished historian Shula Marks has kind things to say about Julie Parle’s unusual study of mental illness in Natal while John Laband reviews the new translation from the French of the Anglo-Zulu War observations of the French journalist Paul Deléage. We trust our readers will find such book reviews and the listing of new publications, a task undertaken meticulously every year by Shelagh Spencer, of interest.


Ruined by a flood

Ruined by a flood


Ruined by a flood — a disastrous flooding of the Mngeni River

in 1856

(Reprinted from My African Home; or Bush Life in Natal (1852–7) by Eliza Whigham Feilden. London, 1887.)


This extract about Natal’s 1856 Flood 1 is compiled from the letters and diaries of Eliza Whigham Feilden (1810–1888), originally published in 1887 2 . She was the daughter of James Kennedy of Knocknalling, Kirkcudbrightshire, and married John Leyland Feilden in 1851 in England. He was the youngest son of Sir William Feilden of Feniscowles Hall, near Blackburn, Lancashire, a wealthy cotton manufacturer and one-time MP for Blackburn. Leyland, as he was known, arrived in Natal as a Byrne emigrant in May 1850. However, in the same month, his father died and once the news had reached Natal he returned to England (date unknown, but he was certainly there by early 1851). He and Eliza arrived in Natal on 4 May 1852 and took up residence in Durban.

Feilden’s main purpose in coming to the Colony in the first place had been to promote cotton-planting and export. The Natal Times reported on 9 June that he had taken over the landing, shipping and customs agency of one John Newton, and in the following October it was announced that he had also purchased George Christopher Cato’s busi- ness as landing and shipping agent. In the meantime he was also developing his farm Feniscowles 3 ‘on the Berea’. On 19 June 1852 a notarial agreement was made whereby Alexander Smith (1818 – 1893) and his family would work for the Feildens, Alexander as ‘general superintendent’ of Feniscowles, his wife Charlotte as housekeeper, and the children as cotton-pickers. At the same time Feilden & Co. 4 advertised they would receive cotton for ginning and packing for export, and would shortly offer facilities for the cultivation and shipment

of cotton on a large scale, while in November the firm announced it would also pack

wool and pay cash for same. November was also the month that Leyland and Eliza moved to Feniscowles. Cotton proved unsuccessful in Natal, one of the reasons being that the bolls did not mature at one time, leading to harvesting problems. By early1853 Feilden’s emphasis had changed to sugar 5 . He purchased leases of lots on Milner Bros’ Springfield on the Durban side of the Umgeni River, and by October 1854 had 60 acres under cane. The

Natalia 38 (2008), Shelagh Spencer pp. 1 – 7

Natalia 38 (2008)

Copyright © Natal Society Foundation 2010


Ruined by a flood

first auction of Natal-made sugar (eight tons) took place on Durban’s Market Square

on 23 June 1855. This was manufactured from Feilden’s cane. In October 1855 Feilden and six other Springfield tenants entered into an agreement with Milner Bros and their partner J.B. Miller, whereby the latter two would assign them the abandoned leases of three other tenants, and that their own leases would be extended

for a further five years. It was also agreed that the mill, the machinery and the rest of

the farm (making 1 223 acres in all) would be leased to the seven for 13 ½ years from 15 November 1855, and that for the ‘improved’ running of the mill they be enabled to obtain better machinery, etc., by raising a loan of £1 000 for two years on the security of Springfield. The Milners and Miller engaged to mortgage the farm for that amount. Feilden was able to write in January 1856 that his Springfield plantation ‘was in beau- tiful order; 130 acres of cane in different stages of growth’. He wrote to his mother in March that he expected to crush between 50 and 60 acres this season (about 100 tons of sugar) and with the ruling price being £50 he should get £5 000. He remarked that it looked well on paper, but he feared it was ‘too good to be realised’. Disaster struck in April, when about 690mm (27 inches) of rain fell in the Durban area in three days (14th – 16th). About eight months later, in a letter home, Eliza wrote that she was worried about

Springfield (i.e. what had come to be known as the Springfield Sugar Co.) — it was

‘too large for its means to carry on’. The flood was the main reason because the crops

destroyed had been counted on to pay their expenses. Despite this, in April Leyland concluded a 10-year lease on four more Springfield lots (88 acres). At about this time Eliza wrote, ‘The sugar estate looks well this year, as if it would redeem itself’. However, by the end of July the decision had been made to visit England. At this stage it was uncertain whether they would return or not. When recording this, Eliza wrote that the Springfield shareholders had ‘voted’ that Feilden ‘had been hardly dealt

with’, and wished to give him a ton of sugar to sell in London. He declined, ‘but the offer comforted him’. On 3 August Feilden gave his power of attorney to A.W. Evans to dispose of his farms Feniscowles, Zee Koe Vallei and Richmond. On the following day the Feildens sailed for England. Milner Bros sued for the balance of rent owing on Springfield from the Springfield Sugar Co. in December 1858 and demanded that the partners return possession of the farm. The case was not defended. In February 1860 Evans assigned Leyland’s lease and his interest in the co-partnership to George Potter 6 , and on 11 April the lease between the Milners and Miller and the Springfield Sugar Co. was cancelled, and redrawn in

favour of Potter. The Feildens never returned to the Colony. Besides their flood losses, another fac- tor in their decision was the Natal Government’s offering settlers farms quit-rent 7 in 1857 – 1858, which led to the serious depreciation in the value of Feilden’s landed property. Feilden, a man with wealthy connections, but young and inexperienced, arrived in

the Colony, ‘ready for the plucking’. From the first he was taken advantage of by the

unscrupulous. Mrs Feilden wrote soon after they had landed that one of their first tasks

was to examine the state of their affairs, left in the hands of agents. ‘A nest of confusion, fraud, and neglect came to light’. She confessed that she did not know which proved

Ruined by a flood


Ruined by a flood The Feilden house was in what is now Stellawood Cemetery worse, ‘the

The Feilden house was in what is now Stellawood Cemetery

worse, ‘the men who got us into trouble, or those who pretended to get us out. Between them we were half ruined’. An example of the wily business practice he was subject to can be found in Henry Milner’s 8 machinations. Feilden estimated his 1855 cane could produce £1 100 or more. However, his agreement with the Milners stipulated that Henry

receive one third of the processed sugar and all the molasses. Consequently Milner made

sugar out of a small proportion of the crop, which yielded only £480, and rendered the

rest into syrup, which he then reboiled, making it into what he called ‘molasses sugar’, clearing an extra £600, with Feilden receiving, after transport costs, only about £300, instead of more than £700.

In her December 1856 – January 1857 letter Mrs Feilden stated that the flood had ‘proved…more disastrous…than we first counted upon. It has completely upset us, and

will bring us near to beggary…for not alone the hand of God has been laid heavily upon us, but also the hands of unprincipled worldly men’. A person of great energy, Feilden possibly over-extended himself. Nearly a year after

the flood Eliza reported to her mother that Leyland was looking ‘haggard and careworn’,

owing perhaps to his having ‘too many irons to attend to at once’. This is unsurprising,

what with superintending two farms, one at the very southern extremes of the Durban

borough (i.e. the Umbilo river) and the other at the town’s northern boundary (the Umgeni

river), the affairs of the Springfield Sugar Co., his landing-agency and the oversight of

both his and his brother Montague’s farms at Richmond. Sources dating to 1882 and 1886 show Burwash in Sussex as the Feilden residence.

After Eliza’s death, Leyland remarried in 1894. He was living at Newent in Glouces-

tershire in 1910, and died there five years later.

Feniscowles remained in the Feilden family until 1930. Feniscowles Road (which Feilden had created as a shorter route into Durban than the original access track) and Feilden Drive, skirting the cemetery, are reminders of the Feildens.


Ruined by a flood


  • 1. For more on this flood see the article by Pam Barnes in Natalia 14, 1984 pp. 33 – 41.

  • 2. Reprinted in Durban in 1973 by T.W. Griggs.

  • 3. Part of Sea View, bordering Durban’s Townlands, the boundary running along the top of the Berea ridge. Today it is the suburb of Carrington Heights, while a portion of it is in Stellawood Cemetery (the Durban Corporation having purchased part to extend the cemetery).The Feilden house was in what is now the cemetery.

  • 4. Presumably comprising Leyland and his elder brother Montague Joseph, whose Natal connections predated Leyland’s emigration, but who does not appear ever to have come to the Colony.

  • 5. Sugar was one of his crops on Feniscowles. Alexander Smith had planted their first cane at the end of 1850 or early 1851. That it flourished led to Feildens importing 3 000 canes from Mauritius to acclimatise and then sell. However, it was found that the settlers were too poor to buy them.

  • 6. A partner in the Springfield Sugar Co.

  • 7. For a small rate per acre, paid annually for 30 years, by which time the land would become freehold.

  • 8. One of the three Milner brothers.


April 17th, 1856. A fearful flood has half-ruined the sugar planter on the coast. One week ago, gentlemen were riding over the plantations to see if the canes could really be so

fine as represented, and all returned with great hopes for the progress of the colony. We

were rejoicing in the tons of sugar our canes were to produce in a very few weeks. All looked fair and beautiful and after so much toil and outlay, it seemed only reasonable to

begin to count on the profits. Alas for our hopes! The river Umgeni rose so rapidly and

so high that the whole country in its neighbourhood became a lake. Twenty or thirty feet of water covered many of the plantations. I am told that several islands, one above 100

yards long, floated over my husband’s sugar canes. My husband and brother rode over to Springfield to see the wreck of last year’s hopes, when on the point of realisation. Each

got a fall by the horse’s legs sinking in holes, the ground giving way under their feet. Neither were hurt, and today, the waters having subsided, they wish me to accompany

them to see all the wonders of the flood at Springfield. I was soon equipped for the ride, and a ruinous sight we went to see. We had steep,

slippery bits of road to go down or up, and I felt my brows knitted a good deal as I held

my hand pretty firm on the bridle to be ready to hold the horse up in some of the worst steps. As we arrived in sight of Springfield Flat, we stopped to overlook. The flood had

greatly gone down, and most of our cane was there, leaning over its roots, weighted down by the water and sand that had been washed over it. A man came up to us and told us that Spearman’s 1 cane, below ours, was all washed away, with another man’s stock and half of his oat forage. Poor men, I felt very sorry. One cane of Spearman’s

was washed uphill into Mrs Smith’s 2 garden. This has been given for me to eat at my leisure at home; it is a remarkably fine cane, very heavy and large. When Smith was going to bed the first night of the rain, he said to his wife, ‘I don’t feel quite easy about that horse of Mr Feilden’s, I think I’ll go and bring it up to the

house-stable tonight.’ He did so and in the morning the river was above the roof of the poor animal’s shed, and a barrel of tar had been washed away. The horse was saved. The Flat for some days was a lake, and then it sank to a swamp, with the course of the great river tracked in water through its midst. After looking for a little, we rode on, but presently had to dismount, and lead our horses down to Smith’s house, which has only suffered from damp. Here we had some

Ruined by a flood


tea and bread and butter, and then it was decided to go across the upper bank or fields

to the mill. This was the worst of our ride; neither I nor the mare liked it through the

wet, boggy grass. The mill looked a wreck; I do not wonder at the first, exaggerated

reports. The facts were bad enough, for the water had got inside and had loosened the

great sugar pans from their place, and everything had been floating.

We were told that an elephant had been carried down the stream, bellowing all the

way; ducks, fowls and pumpkins were all afloat. Mr Beningfield had lost 100 cattle; the Umgeni rose from sixty to seventy feet. The four great sugar pans — all united, I

think — while floating could be moved by the touch of a Caffre’s hand; when I saw

them they were moving one with a pulley and six or eight men, without the aid of water. Most fortunately there was no sugar in the mill. Poor Smith was very dull about it. This cane had been his pride; he planted and watched it as if it were his own. May so good a servant be long preserved to us. We returned home by a cross-cut over the grass, and

found it as good as the longer road for the time. There were deep ruts and holes in the

new road made by the soldiers, which quite spoiled it. The effects of this sad flood were greater and worse than we at all anticipated, and finally drove us out of Natal. This most unfortunate storm was nearly as destructive

further inland. We heard later on that, on Captain Stephenson’s 3 farm, the hailstones were as large as pigeon’s eggs, and that they killed 240 sheep running on Mr. De Koc’s [sic] farm. This gentleman with his wife dined with us a few days after the flood; he then knew nothing of his own misfortune, the swollen rivers having made it impossible to cross them. One family, to escape being drowned in their house, climbed into the loft

under the roof, and lived there upon beans and Indian corn for two or three days till their signals were seen by a gentleman 4 , who made a raft and brought them all away. Some weeks later (June 8th) my husband sent the following account of the flood in

a letter to England:

‘This flood has been a sad disaster; the mortality among cattle and horses has nearly

ruined us all; I have only about thirty-three oxen left out of all my cattle and have lost

four horses. My loss by the flood alone is estimated at ₤2 000, which, coming upon

other losses, has crippled and disheartened me.

‘Could you have witnessed the flood sweeping over all our magnificent cane-fields,

you would almost have despaired; but it was a grand sight. The whole vale of the Um-

geni was one sheet of water, rushing on to the sea in an impetuous torrent, carrying everything before it in its headlong course. Trees, houses, islands and an enormous hippopotamus were borne along within a few feet of the mill, in which the water rose nine feet, destroying the work of many days, breaking down the batteries and turning the inside of the place into a complete wreck, sweeping off 300 loads of fuel, imple- ments, carts, wagons, cattle and everything within its reach. The water rose from sixty

to seventy feet and was truly a magnificent sight, though a sad one. Durban had a very

narrow escape from being washed into the ocean. Fortunately the sandbar at the mouth of the river burst, and in one hour the water sank four feet. ‘We had nearly got all things in readiness to commence crushing in May; I should have had about 120 tons of sugar for market by Christmas. You may imagine my feelings, when so much depended on my sugar crop; that gone, and I was ruined. At one time

I did not expect to see a cane left. The first report I heard was in Durban, that the mill


Ruined by a flood

was washed away and all the cane carried out to sea. The back beach was a wonderful sight, covered with the carcasses of oxen, bucks, poultry, etc. etc.

‘I rode out at once to Springfield with my brother-in-law. 5 We pulled up our horses on the summit of the hill to look upon the magnificent scene below us, and were so struck

with its grandeur that it was not till I came close to the mill, and saw the sad devastation,

that I thought about my own and others’ loss. One side of the mill was swept out, a wagon that was secured to a tree had lost its sides, and a large iron sugar pan was lying there. In the distance a few tops of green sugar-cane just appeared above the surface of the highest ground of the Flat. Islands of some hundred yards were carried away. In about a fortnight the water had gone down so far as to enable a few of the most venturesome of the men to go on the Flat, wading far above the knees in mud. ‘One poor fellow had every bit of his cane washed off, except a few roots so buried in sand as to be useless. Almost all of my cane that would have been crushed this season

was laid flat, some quite washed away, some buried; while almost all the young cane has

been wonderfully improved by a deposit of rich mud being left a foot deep. So much for

good coming out of evil. The cane in places soon began to recover, and a few showers

helped to wash a portion of the mud and sand off it. I may save forty or fifty tons.

‘We commenced at once to repair damages, and all put their shoulders to the wheel.

I have got one set of batteries finished, and the other nearly so. We started the mill last

Monday, and yesterday brought twenty-six bags of sugar to market — two tons — a

portion of which sold for 34s. a cwt.’

This flood has made our house builder and joiner fear that their payment will not be forthcoming, and they have consequently been very troublesome, and I must name one trait in our dear old neighbour, Mrs Bowen. 6 When I went to call on her after the disas- trous flood, she said to me in an apologetic manner, as I was leaving, ‘I dare say there

will be heavy demands on Mr Feilden, and small tradesmen will all be sending in their bills at once, fearing his ruin; now I have £20 in the house, more than I want, and it is

quite at his service.’ I thanked her, but declined the money, and she said, ‘Well, I know how people press on the unfortunate, and it is here if you find you want it.’ Had the flood happened a little sooner we should probably not have built our new

kitchen; meantime, it is an incalculable addition to our comfort, to mine in particular, and I wonder how we have managed so long without it; but except on stormy days we did not think much about the discomfort of cooking under the sky, or in the iron shed without a chimney. Now my new kitchen, with its scullery beside it, and my storeroom opposite, is the admiration of all who see it. The ample chimney draws well, and dur-

ing the winter months we do not find it too hot to take our meals at its large table; thus

we keep it as a sort of parlour-kitchen, and have all the dirty work done in the scullery or further away still. I have got my china and glass cupboard and linen chest from the

house in the bay, which we had no room for before, and look quite snug.

My brother’s room above is the most comfortable-looking of any we have; he often takes his visitors to it, and keeps it in clean and beautiful order. I wish my husband was half as particular; he is only particular in wishing each article put in its usual place so

that he may find it easily. Our two nephews 7 have begun housekeeping for themselves in Gudgeon’s 8 cottage,

which they have made quite habitable for Natal. Daniel can make bread as well as I

can, and as they are not yet engaged with any business, their housekeeping and garden

Ruined by a flood


occupy nearly all their time. I see the smoke rising cheerfully three or four times a day.

They are making the little garden quite neat; already their beans are starting into life,

and they have a fair promise of pineapples for next season. When they want any assistance out of my kitchen they come to borrow, sometimes a pan, or a dish, or anything else. They were pleasant, amiable young men and gave but little trouble in our house. Still, with having to do so much with my own hands, I was glad when they began to do for themselves, for two extra in a house like ours must cause more work to the cook; I had to devote my time exclusively to housework, which would have been too much for my feet and head if longer continued, but no visitors could have been more accommodating or unpretending, and I was sorry to let them go. It was their own proposition. When on their tour lately to see the country, and choose their further course, they walked twelve miles daily.


  • 1. George Spearman, a fellow member of the Springfield Sugar Co.

  • 2. Mrs Alexander Smith. The Smiths were resident at Springfield at this time.

  • 3. Capt. David Stephenson, ex 51st Regiment. His farm Sweet Home was in the present Eston area.

  • 4. Samuel Beningfield, a Durban auctioneer and a pioneer coffee planter.

  • 5. Feilden’s brother-in-law was Andrew Brown Kennedy, sugar planter of Sea Cow Lake on the north bank of the Umgeni river.

  • 6. Mrs Melesina Bowen was the Feildens’ elderly neighbour at Kefentrenfa (which consisted of three of the Durban Borough’s Umbilo lots, totalling roughly 38 acres). These lots extended from today’s Prospect Road to the Umbilo river. Kefentrenfa lay approximately between present Harrietwood and Stanley/ Birkenhead Roads, which branch off from Prospect Road. It is necessary to give this precise location because in Glenmore, the suburb adjoining Carrington Heights in the north-east, there are Bowen Avenue and Melesina Road. Apparently at the time of their naming, it was known that Mrs Bowen had lived somewhere in the area. Only in recent years has the site of Kefentrenfa been correctly identified.

  • 7. Daniel Faber Whittaker (1829 – 1893) and Edward Leyland Whittaker (c.1834 – 1 November 1857? Durban) were the sons of Rev. John William Whittaker, DD, Vicar of Blackburn, Lancashire, and his wife Mary Haughton Feilden, J.L. Feilden’s sister. They came to Natal in 1850 and then went to Australia (1851 – 1856). There are still descendants of Daniel in KwaZulu-Natal.

  • 8. John Gudgeon, the servant who had come with them from England. An alcoholic, the Feildens put up with his frequent desertions until mid-1855, when Feilden decided to send him back to England. However, he forestalled this by taking passage to Cape Town in July 1855 as cook on the Cleopatra.

Fabian Connections: Bernard Shaw in Natal, 1935


Fabian Connections: Bernard Shaw in Natal, 1935

Fabian Connections:

Bernard Shaw in Natal, 1935

It could be argued, from the vantage point of KwaZulu-Natal in 2008, that the arrival of George Bernard Shaw 1 on the shores of Natal in 1935 was an event of little consequence. It could also be argued that the interest which greeted Shaw’s visit was of the kind which might greet Salman Rushdie, Bob Geldof, Steven Spielberg or perhaps Oprah

Winfrey should they be visiting our province today. Public figures in the arts whose

talent has drawn them into a mission to find the good society and espouse a cause aimed

at improving the human condition are inevitably bold and challenging, argumentative,

often arrogant, not always polite, and never far from controversy. They invariably attract considerable attention. For his time Bernard Shaw was such a person. In order to

give perspective to Shaw’s month-long stay in Natal it is worth recalling, briefly, some

features of his multi-faceted career and reputation which made him one of the most widely recognised personalities in the world of the early twentieth century. Shaw himself claimed to be the ‘victim’ of many reputations. He described his ‘bread- winning profession’ as that of playwright and, indeed, it was as ‘the distinguished British dramatist’ that he was regularly introduced while he was in Natal. But he was also a

professional journalist and critic of the fine arts in music, literature and the theatre. He

claimed to be an economist and a biologist and, by religion, a ‘Creative-Evolutionist’. As his career developed, he would promote himself at various times as an Ibsenite, and a Shelleyan atheist. He was a Fabian socialist and, with the passage of time, his claim

to being a Marxist gained increasing intensity. People were left in no doubt that he was a vegetarian, a non-smoker, a non-tea-drinking teetotaller and a very successful vestry- man in St Pancras. Nothing if not self-centred, he rejoiced in being a funny man and a dangerous man and ‘Heaven knows what else besides’. Quite appropriately he is said

to have described himself as ‘

not altogether what is called an orthodox man’. 2

... Others, too, had opinions on Shaw. Among his contemporaries, Winston Churchill overcame his initial antipathy to him for his critical attitude to the army, and, writing in the late 1920s, summed him up thus, ‘Saint, sage, and clown; venerable, profound, and irrepressible, Bernard Shaw receives, if not the salutes, at least the hand-clappings

Natalia 38 (2008), Sylvia Vietzen pp. 8 – 26

Natalia 38 (2008)

Copyright © Natal Society Foundation 2010

Fabian Connections: Bernard Shaw in Natal, 1935


of a generation which honours him as another link in the humanities of peoples, and as the greatest living master of letters in the English-speaking world.’ 3 Conversely, the historian, A.J.P. Taylor, in a piece for the Observer on 22 July 1956 marking the centenary of Shaw’s birth, was scathing on every score: yet he added a note declaring, ‘Perhaps this essay is a little ungrateful in view of the pleasure and intellectual stimulus I derived from Shaw’s writing. Even if he had nothing to say, he said it incomparably well.’ 4 The Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges claimed that while some of Shaw’s

early writing and much in the prefaces to his plays would lose their interest, Shaw had the ability, unique among authors, to create characters superior to himself. Borges wrote, ‘I believe that from us cannot emerge creatures more lucid or more noble than our best


Lavinia, Blanco Posnet, Keegan, Shotover, Richard Dudgeon and, above

.... all, Julius Caesar, surpass any character imagined by the art of our time.’ Yet Borges regarded the public ‘G.B.S.’ as represented by his witticisms and newspaper columns as ephemeral. 5 Assessments of Shaw never stopped coming. For his ninetieth birthday in 1946 a whole book of tributes from well-known people was published. 6 In a review of it John Betjeman wrote of Shaw,

He can see the Victorian conventions he flouted alone, now flouted by the majority. The Socialism he advocated is now in the ascendant. His plays are performed

all over the world. The adjective ‘Shavian’ is in the dictionary

He is one of the

.... last giants of English literature still alive and I cannot but think he feels lonely.

He who started a lonely revolutionary lives now a lonely victor. 7

On a more personal level Shaw’s friend and fellow writer, conversationalist and con- troversialist, G. K. Chesterton noted, ‘Many people say that they agree with Bernard Shaw or that they do not understand him. I am the only person who understands him,

and I do not agree with him’. 8 Even before his death in 1950 more had been written about Shaw than any other modern writer. And in the next 30 years there appeared, in six languages, over 130 full-length books on him. The performance of Shaw’s plays has gone in and out of fashion over the years and been limited by copyright conditions, but it has by no means ceased. The programme for the Fifth Annual Shaw Festival at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario for July 2008 includes academic papers, talks from ac- tors and directors and performances of Mrs Warren’s Profession and Getting Married. The International Shaw Society has a wide range of meetings and conferences on top- ics such as ‘Feminism Revisits Shaw’, ‘Shaw’s Contemporaries’ and ‘Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion’. And for good measure, the BBC has released Shaw’s broadcasts on CD and these can be purchased from the British Library Press. 9 Shaw’s celebrity status as a writer of some 50 plays would have been widely acknowl-

edged in 1935. Less understood generally, though probably more significant to his stay

in Natal, was his Fabian background. The Fabian Society was founded in London in

1884 with a view to infiltrating British society with socialism. Named after the Roman

general Fabius Maximus — known for his strategy of delaying the main thrust of his attack against Hannibal until the right moment — the early Fabians believed in the ‘permeation’ of institutions by socialist ideas based on a factual study of every facet of society. The ‘inevitability of gradualness’ was the philosophy of those who spread the word. They were committed to reform rather than revolution, to ideas and rational

argument rather than outbursts of anger. Their influence was to be carried into fields as

diverse as local government, literature, academia and the colonies. The Fabian ethos was


Fabian Connections: Bernard Shaw in Natal, 1935

Fabian Connections: Bernard Shaw in Natal, 1935 In the style of the 1930s, the newspaper caption

In the style of the 1930s, the newspaper caption to this photo- graph reads, ‘Mrs George Bernard Shaw photographed as she left the Llangibby Castle on her arrival in Durban yesterday morning with her famous husband. With Mrs Shaw is Mr E.H.

Lawrence of Durban, Headmaster of Mansfield Road School.’ (The Natal Mercury, 29 April 1935)

essentially intellectual. It absorbed scientists of the Darwinian model, artist-thinkers like William Morris, compassionate men and women who believed that only the state could relieve the ills of society, students of Karl Marx who believed only revo- lution would relieve the hardships of the working classes, new-found trade unionists and dissidents of a variety of traditions. Seen by some as London-based, middle class and a

little stuffy, it nevertheless formed a rich reservoir of talent for the emerging socialism out of which was to grow the Labour

movement of Edwardian times and, more specifically, the Labour Party, founded in

1900. Foremost among those driving it were Bernard Shaw, Sidney and Beatrice Webb, Graham Wallas, H.G. Wells and, in a later generation, R.H. Tawney, Leonard Woolf and G.D.H. and Margaret Cole. It followed that, sooner or later, the colonies would become home to a sprinkling of Fabians, and Natal was no exception. On Sunday morning, 28 April 1935, Bernard Shaw and his wife Charlotte arrived in Durban on the Llangibby Castle. Shaw was immediately bombarded by members of the press and was reported to be ‘as provocative as usual’. He was asked if he would address the Rotary Club luncheon meeting in Durban on Tuesday. He declined saying that Rotary was a good idea when it started — the banding together of professional and commercial men to insist on professional status — but had since become a luncheon club. Asked whether he would say anything about British drama, Shaw replied, ‘No, certainly not. It is the one thing I know nothing about.’ He did however concede that there were ‘good fish in the sea’ to keep dramatic writing going such as Sean O’Casey. He divulged the name of the play and preface he had written while on the voyage to Natal: it was The Millionairess and was about a ‘female Cecil Rhodes’. There was no politics in it, but money, which was another form of politics. The play departed from the Shaw tradition in that the speeches were not as long as usual and the preface was short. Turning to Africa, he criticised people for saying that the problem was between white and black. He believed the issue was much more complicated than that. On the world scene he declared Russia to be the bulwark of the world’s peace against Japan and to some extent against Germany. After some general observations on how the Brit- ish prime minister Ramsay MacDonald should handle the rise of Hitler, and some brief answers to various other questions, the interview closed. 10 This was a gentle opening gambit compared to what some Natalians might have been expecting. Many would have listened to Shaw’s broadcast talk at the conclusion of his

Fabian Connections: Bernard Shaw in Natal, 1935


visit to Cape Town in 1932. Having enjoyed a month of Cape hospitality and friend- ship, mountains and sunshine, bathing and motoring, fruit orchards and vineyards, he stunned his listeners by launching into an attack on the faults and foibles of privileged white South African society. He spoke of the capital invested in ‘splendid hotels, golf

links, polo grounds


’ and of ‘unproductive plutocrats’ who at the least sign of trouble

‘would collect their money and sail away’. He spoke of their dependence on the labour of others ‘not of my own colour’ and said he felt as if he was in the worst kind of ‘Slave State’. He went on in similar fashion in a broadcast which was carried by 1 500 miles of telephone wire from Cape Town to Durban, Bloemfontein, Johannesburg and Pretoria simultaneously. White South Africans were angry and there was strong reaction in the press. However unpalatable it may have been, Shaw’s parting shot to Cape Town, and introduction to Natal where he was heading, contained discomforting truths to those who regarded themselves as admirers of his fame in the world of theatre. He and Charlotte, accompanied by Commander Newton, left Cape Town the next morning. They motored along the Garden Route towards Port Elizabeth where they were to board a ship for Durban after which they would sail back home up Africa’s east coast. The story is well known. Shaw was driving, negotiated the mountainous road successfully, reached a smooth section, ‘let the car rip’, hit a bump and charged

through a bank and five strands of barbed wire into a ditch. Charlotte was injured. They reached Knysna, booked in at the Royal Hotel and stayed for five weeks. While Charlotte recovered Shaw wrote his novella, The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God. On 18 March they flew back to Cape Town on a chartered Union Air- ways Junkers, the first passengers to make the three-hour journey by air. They boarded the Warwick Castle and sailed home, seen off by a large crowd. That concluded Shaw’s first attempt to visit Natal. 11

He did, however, indicate the possibility of returning to South Africa to learn more at first hand about the ‘white, poor white and native questions’ and it was to Natal that he and Charlotte came three years later, this time through the Red Sea and down the east coast of Africa to Durban. There was a new tone to this trip as evidenced in his fairly low-key press interview on his arrival, referred to already. In his seventy-ninth year, he made it clear that he had retired from public speaking and was looking forward to a holiday. Furthermore, he was deeper into his pro-Russia phase; on the voyage he had studied the proofs of Soviet Communism: A New Civilization? by Sidney and Beatrice Webb. This gave added impetus to his own resolve to make his travels in the 1930s something of a mission for Communism to all parts of the world. How would this affect his time in Natal? Would he seek and find opportunities to meet members of all com- munities to learn more about them? Would he listen to them? Certainly he was to meet some old friends, among them some prominent Fabians. Mabel Palmer, for example, (See p.15 below) in a letter to her sister in England, just two days after the Shaws’ ar- rival, wrote, ‘Bernard Shaw is in Durban & I am going to lunch with them to-morrow; it will be very pleasant to see them again.’ 12 In the month ahead the people of Natal would find out which Bernard Shaw they would meet. The Shaws stayed at the Marine Hotel in Durban and spent the first day after their

arrival as any tourists would. Shaw went out to the bank and Charlotte to the hairdresser, after which they were driven round to see something of Durban before lunch. In the

afternoon they were taken on a drive to Umhlanga Rocks and almost to the Valley of a


Fabian Connections: Bernard Shaw in Natal, 1935

Thousand Hills by the headmaster of Mansfield Road School Mr E. H. Lawrence and

Mrs Lawrence. Shaw’s insistence that they were in Durban for a rest was taken seriously; callers at the hotel were told they were out all day, and The Natal Mercury reported that their movements were ‘shrouded in an air of mystery’. There was speculation as to whether Shaw would relent and attend the Rotary meeting the following day, especially as the speaker Mr Norman Tiptaft, a visiting Rotarian from Birmingham, was a friend who had worked with Shaw in the Fabian Society and might even tempt him to speak.

Shaw did attend and did speak. His first comment was that there were no women at the

luncheon. Did it suggest that there were no businesswomen in South Africa? In fact there were, and nothing prevents men from ‘babbling’ and wasting time on speeches as effectively as the presence of a ‘practical businesswoman’. He admitted being in

a difficult position because instead of being able to withdraw a ‘disparaging remark’

which he had ‘rashly made’, he needed to go further by saying, ‘Your business is not

to be good charitable men, but as employers of labour to organise the business of this


I want to wake you up and draw your attention to your own affairs’. When

.... it was suggested that Shaw might become so enthused by being at the meeting that he

would feel Rotary to be the legitimate successor to the Fabian Society and would put in his application at the London club, he ‘threw his head back and laughed silently.’ 13 That same evening Shaw gave an informal broadcast talk from his hotel on land- marks in English literature and their relation to current events. He discussed Walter Scott, Thackeray and Dickens. He said that it was not fully realised that Dickens in

Little Dorrit had forecast the decay of the parliamentary system. ‘The whole business of Parliament when anything is to be done is to find out how not to do it’, Dickens had

said. This accorded with Shaw’s own view, as Durban would hear frequently in the next

few weeks. He declared Dickens to be a political landmark justified by recent history

in the form of rising dictators like Hitler and Mussolini. He discussed the effect of Karl Marx’s writings on the contemporary social outlook, and the revolutionary effect on the theatre of Ibsen’s works. 14 On Sunday, 5 May, a week after his arrival, Shaw was a guest of honour at the Indian sports held at Durban’s Battery Beach in celebration of King George V’s Silver Jubilee.

Two of the other guests were the Masked Marvel and Ali Bey, the Turkish wrestler who the next day would challenge the winner of the match between the Masked Marvel and ‘Whiskers’ Blake. It was reported that Shaw, accompanied by Charlotte, took a great interest in the sports and made a short speech. The Natal Witness report continued:

But the younger generation — and there were some hundreds of them — took more interest in the masked wrestler than they did in the playwright. Indian and European children crowded around the Masked Marvel to get a glimpse of him, but they did not seem interested in Mr Shaw. Mr Shaw was asked to sign an autograph. He made an expressive gesture and declined.

Had Shaw missed a cue? The Masked Marvel, on the other hand, signed willingly and in a few moments there were queues of children and adults with scraps of paper, backs of cigarette cards and old pieces of wrapping paper waiting for autographs in such numbers that the running tracks had to be cleared before the sports could continue. At the conclusion, as the police were escorting him to his car, the Marvel was again mobbed by autograph seekers and photographers. Not so Mr Shaw, who, as the author of the novel Cashel Byron’s Profession, which examined the morality of prize-fighting

Fabian Connections: Bernard Shaw in Natal, 1935


You have all heard your parents speak of Mr Bernard Shaw. He is a very great
You have all heard your parents speak of
Mr Bernard Shaw. He is a very great writer
— probably as great as Shakespeare or some
of the famous Greek dramatists, and his plays
are known and acted in many countries. He
not only writes plays but does many other
interesting things, and he is well known for
his original opinions. He is on a visit to South
Africa with Mrs Shaw, and recently spent two
days in Maritzburg. Despite his greatness, he
is very fond of children, and always has time
to talk to them. And children all seem to like
him and go straight to him without shyness. In
this photograph he is seen with a little girl and
boy who live in Maritzburg.
This piece was obviously written by Sidney
Potter, editor of The Natal Witness, whose
children they were. (The Natal Witness, 18
May 1935)

and betting on the outcome, did at least speak to the wrestler. The day had been very different from the evening before when the Jubilee celebrations had taken the form of

fireworks, dancing and dining at the Marine Hotel. Among the guests, ‘Mr and Mrs Bernard Shaw were hosts to Mr and Mrs A.C.D. Williams’. 15 The Shaws spent Tuesday and Wednesday of the following week in Pietermaritzburg. Friends drove them from Durban and, though they stayed at the Imperial Hotel, it was Sidney Barnett Potter, the editor of The Natal Witness who hosted them and showed them

around. Potter was a World War I veteran, a Fabian socialist, a friend of Bernard Shaw, and had invited him to the city. 16 The result was generous press coverage of Shaw’s visit. After lunch at the Imperial Hotel with Mr and Mrs Potter, on Tuesday afternoon they went to World’s View and had tea at the Country Club where Shaw signed the visitors’ book. In the evening they dined privately and the following morning drove to Howick where Shaw indulged his camera enthusiasm at the Howick Falls. They drove on to Mooi River and were able to see the snow which had fallen on the Drakensberg and caused the much-discussed fall in temperature. Later they drove round Maritzburg’s Botanic Gardens and admired the autumn foliage. They particularly appreciated the views from the upper parts of the Sweetwaters road. Shaw also visited the Natal Museum and talked

much about tsetse fly and nagana problems.

Shaw’s conversation during the visit ranged across various topics. He spoke amus-

ingly about a number of men of letters and statesmen as well as British pioneers of the

Socialist and Trade Union movements. He spoke of the early pamphleteering days of the

Fabian Society, mentioning especially the parts played by Sidney and Beatrice Webb. He told some amusing stories interspersed with criticisms of World War I. He did not discuss South African politics beyond mentioning his liking for General Hertzog and General Smuts. His view of the ‘native question’ was that many of the ‘natives’ were more gentlemanly and civilised than many of the Europeans, and that speaking of orga-


Fabian Connections: Bernard Shaw in Natal, 1935

nising the ‘natives’ within a specific framework savoured of impertinence. When near

Weenen and reminded of the Battle of Blood River, Shaw’s reply was typical: ‘No need to abolish Dingaan’s Day. Let the Zulus keep Isandhlwana as an annual celebration.’ What seemed to be much on his mind was Soviet Russia and his admiration of its form of political, social and economic organisation. This was to be a recurring theme in Natal. Aside from several smart quips Shaw seems to have been unusually genial:

Despite his 78 years Mr Shaw is still erect and tall, his eye clear, his complexion fresh and his mind keen and alert. He no longer pretends to sustain the pose of a publicity seeker; on the contrary, he was very grateful for the absence of limelight in Maritzburg. Nor does the brusque and devastating Shaw of public legend find any support in his private personality. Though his range of intellectual penetration is still marked, he was unpretentious and considerate, qualities which expressed themselves with singular attractiveness in his treatment of small children and (perhaps an even better guide) their friendly reaction towards him.

Mrs Shaw, in turn, persisted in remaining in the background. ‘

a woman of much

... intelligence and culture with clear-cut ideas which do not always accord with those of

“G.B.S.”, as she always calls him

she handles her tall and wayward husband with

... little apparent effort and almost unnoticeably — but always effectively’, the report

concludes. 17 Potter was not going to miss the opportunity of using Shaw’s visit to publicise some of the issues about which Maritzburg citizens were protesting at the time. In an edito- rial entitled ‘Pursued by Civilisation’ the following Saturday, he wrote at length of the unsightly effects of commerce and industry on the beauty of the city and its surround- ings. Shaw was said to have winced when he saw the large advertisement hoarding

which had been placed at the entrance overlooking Griffin’s Hill, blighting the view

for visitors from the coast whom the city was so keen to attract. With similar effects, there was a large poultry farm visible on entering the city from the Howick side down Town Hill. Potter continued:

But Maritzburg has better things than that to show and by the time he had glanced down Commercial Road and Church Street, seen the now famous poultry farm, admired our wealth of corrugated iron, feasted his eyes on the sylvan setting of the Railway workshops, and wondered how long it would be before the quarry off Victoria Road changes Town Hill into Town Flats, he regarded the advertisement hoarding with positive relief and gratification.

He quoted Shaw as saying, with reference to the ravages of dynamite and mechanical scoops in the Malvern Hills in England, ‘Commerce, like faith, can move mountains’. The punch line to Potter’s editorial was that those responsible for the quarries and hoardings and wireless masts and ‘all the other appendages of civilisation’ were careful to live elsewhere. ‘That, as Mr. Shaw said is “Fine”— for them.’ 18 To the present-day reader of The Witness this interchange is recognisable and fasci- nating. Here were two Fabians demonstrating the contradictions for which the move- ment was frequently criticised. On the one hand they showed a distinctly middle class,

intellectual view of ‘civilisation’, which appeared to be trying to hold on to the finer

things of life. On the other hand, they appeared to be distancing themselves from the unattractive realities of commercial and industrial progress. Certainly they showed the expected disdain for the bosses. But there was no mention in the report of the working classes whose well-being was presumably an area of concern to professed Fabian social-

Fabian Connections: Bernard Shaw in Natal, 1935


ists. Shaw’s detractors were often critical of him on this score. A.J.P. Taylor credited him with being a hard-working socialist but described his socialism as ‘off-stage’, springing from intellectual arrogance rather than sympathy. He went so far as accusing Shaw of despising, even fearing, the working classes and of bringing them into his plays as comic relief. 19 This is a harsh judgment not always supported in Shaw commentary as a whole. However, it should be noted, in the interests of perspective, that the Fabian movement was not always regarded as a strong, mainstream force in the progress of socialism, and the Fabians, including Shaw, were not partial to the working classes. Theirs was rather a socialism of the ‘comparatively well-to-do’ and, by working to ease the plight of the working classes by gradual permeation, and thus postponing radical reaction, the Fabians are actually seen by some as counterproductive to the interests of the marginalised masses. 20 Shaw, while known to mistrust the political capacity of the common man, nevertheless had a lifelong concern for the alleviation of poverty. On a less serious note before leaving the Pietermaritzburg scene, was how Shaw was

mistaken for G.B.S. on his first day in the city. At his own request his visit was kept as

quiet as possible. Shaw was looking for the Museum when a well-known Maritzburg

man, seeing a familiar figure with a flowing white beard and bright blue eyes walked

up and said, ‘If you are not very careful you will be mistaken for Bernard Shaw.’ ‘But I am Bernard Shaw’, he replied. Shaw’s stroll in the afternoon was more successful. Though the streets were crowded he walked through the gardens in front of the Market apparently unnoticed. 21 Back in Durban the Shaws continued their varied programme. During their stay they dined and lunched widely, called on the mayor, visited the homes of the wealthy on the Berea, saw the library, museum and art gallery, visited the Jewish Club and attended

symphony concerts and a lecture at the Library Group. Shaw ‘visited the less vaunted

parts of

town that lurk behind Grey Street’, listened to Edward Roux preaching com-

... munism, discussed the Grey Shirt movement with its Natal leader and much else. ‘He has made friends among all races and all classes, and has extended consideration and courtesy to all’, wrote Maurice Webb, yet another partisan reporter. 22 However many people Shaw knew and met in Durban, it was Mabel Palmer he would have known best. She claimed to be, probably, the only person in South Africa who had known and worked with Bernard Shaw in his capacity as a social reformer. Mabel

Atkinson, as she was then, joined the Fabian Society in 1897 while an undergraduate at

Glasgow University. After post-graduate study at the London School of Economics from

1900 to 1902, a scholarship from Mrs Charlotte Shaw took her to Bryn Mawr College,

Pennsylvania, for a year. Her first real acquaintance with Shaw was at the first Fabian

Summer School in 1907 held in an old house in Llanbedr in north Wales. Shaw was well on his way to being recognised as an important dramatist so Fabians at the school were delighted to hear that the Shaws had taken a house nearby and would attend. She recalled how he gave them impromptu talks, swam and walked with them and photographed them at every opportunity. Subsequently Mabel served on the Executive of the Fabian Society in London from 1908 to 1916 and during that time met Shaw almost every week on various committees. Here she experienced his steady devotion to a political cause. She took considerable pleasure in relating to her Durban friends how she, when chairing a committee, had, on occasion, to tell Shaw he was out of order and he stopped talking immediately. She described Shaw as an excellent committee man who attended meetings


Fabian Connections: Bernard Shaw in Natal, 1935

regularly. She took every opportunity in Durban to dispel the myth that he was a ‘buffoon’ and could not be taken seri- ously. She insisted that ‘Shaw will put a truth in the lightest and most humor- ous way, but throughout he is faithful to the truth’. 23 She testified to Shaw’s important influence behind the scenes,

as, for example, in working towards the covenant of the League of Nations, a process in which the Webbs, Gilbert Murray, Leonard Woolf and, indeed, Mabel Palmer herself and others were also involved. As a founder member of the Fabian Women’s Group in 1908 she also worked closely with Mrs Shaw and, as a result of research done in that group, published a Fabian Pamphlet entitled

Fabian Connections: Bernard Shaw in Natal, 1935 regularly. She took every opportunity in Durban to dispel

Postcard written by Bernard Shaw to Mabel

Atkinson after the first Fabian Summer

School in Llanbedr, Wales in 1907

The Economic Foundations of the Women’s Movement in June 1914. From this rich environment Mabel Palmer settled in Durban in 1921. She took a post as organiser of the Workers’ Educational Association based at the Durban Technical College and then became a foundation staff member of the emerging Durban branch

of the Natal University College. With all the might of her stunning intellectual power,

persistent personality and Fabian intensity, she immediately engaged in activities aimed at advancing the cause of the underprivileged. She became involved in the Joint Council movement founded in the 1920s to encourage dialogue between blacks and whites. In 1929 she joined the South African Institute of Race Relations. Gradually she became recognised as knowledgeable about the social and economic conditions of the black

people and a notable factor in their efforts towards racial justice. In doing so she made

good use of her influential Fabian friends in England, including Bernard Shaw.

There is, for example, her involvement in the 1920s with the black trade union movement, the Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union of Africa. With the Brit- ish writer Winifred Holtby, who had toured South Africa for three months in 1926,

Mabel Palmer facilitated contacts between the ICU and the labour and trade union movements in England. During a visit to England in 1926 Mabel discussed the ICU

with her socialist friends, Sidney Webb, Bernard Shaw, H.N. Brailsford and Arthur Creech Jones. She set up arrangements for the visit to England in 1927 of Clements

Kadalie, the national president of the ICU, during which he met key persons, travelled widely, attended a conference in Geneva and observed the workings of the trade unions. Through the columns of The New Leader, of which Brailsford was the editor, Winifred

Holtby and Mabel organised donations of books to be sent to the ICU in South Africa.

In an extensive correspondence Mabel tried unsuccessfully to persuade Creech Jones

to take up the position of adviser to the ICU, a position subsequently filled by William Ballinger. The third member of the female ‘triumvirate’, as it came to be called, was the writer Ethelreda Lewis who pursued the cause in the Johannesburg arena. 24 In fact, it is questionable whether this white philanthropic intervention did Kadalie or the ICU a

Fabian Connections: Bernard Shaw in Natal, 1935


favour. One questions to what extent these well-intentioned people were in touch with grassroots black opinion. And in Kadalie’s absence administrative procedures became

lax, finances ran out and factions developed in the ICU. Chief among these was the

rivalry between Kadalie and his deputy, a Zulu leader of considerable political influence,

A.W.G. Champion. Champion’s main constituency was Natal — the strongest branch

of the ICU numerically and financially — which, in 1928, proceeded to break away and

become the Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union yase Natal with Champion in control. This sounded the death knell of the ICU of South Africa.

Champion, described by the communist academic Edward Roux as ‘



slow-moving, slightly obese, an indifferent speaker but a competent organiser’ was not slow in asserting his leadership. 25 With considerable popular support he challenged the Durban municipality’s system of administering its black workers. He and the ICU

were blamed for complicity in the black unrest in Durban in1928, focusing on the beer monopoly system, and the full-scale riots and strikes which took place in June 1929. In short, Champion was banned from Natal on 24 September 1930 by means of Oswald Pirow’s Riotous Assemblies (Amendment) Act (No. 19). In 1934 General Smuts al- lowed Champion to return to Durban where he proceeded to rebuild his career in local affairs and African national politics, and where he believed he had many white friends who understood him. While he was in Durban Bernard Shaw called on Champion at the African Workers’ Club. He told Shaw the story of his exile and presented him with a Zulu walking stick. Shaw responded with a letter dated 17 May 1935 from which the following is an extract:

Bad as things are here, they can easily be paralleled [sic] or outdone by events in Europe. Your exile was pretty hard; but you can claim as your companion in misfortune no less a person than Albert Einstein, the greatest white man in the

world. ...

I am glad to have had the privilege of meeting you personally, and wish

you all success in organising your countrymen and making them conscious of the resources they have within themselves to assimilate all that appears so formidable in white civilization. 26

This statement is as much an insight into Shaw as it is a message to Champion. Discreet but direct: Shaw reassured Champion and drew attention to the power which the black people possessed to achieve what, in their ambiguous situation, they had been led to believe lay within the greater power of the white people. With subtlety he reminded Champion that he was part of the wider world of the 1930s. Nevertheless, there was a detachment in Shaw’s response. Clearly, he could deliver his message and

walk away from Champion’s world. Not so Mabel Palmer whose working relationship with Champion had been severely bruised in 1930. In the course of a letter asking for

early documents of the ICU which she felt should be preserved for future historians,

with a distinct lack of subtlety she went on to comment on his administrative inexperi-

ence and unwillingness to clear his name from ‘financial slackness with trust funds’

which had led to his exclusion from the Joint Council in Durban. Champion’s reply

came promptly:

Why do you want to heap an insult on my injury. I do not care to be a member of the Joint Council in Durban, nor do I care to win the favour of those friends of yours



You should always try and respect my feelings, Mrs Palmer, whether

you are a European and I, a Native


I simply cannot tell what is your ulterior


Fabian Connections: Bernard Shaw in Natal, 1935

motive in writing me this disturbing letter. I do not think that a man can write me such a letter. Women sometimes do things that men cannot understand ....


This was a loaded reply which, had he read it five years earlier, would have given Bernard Shaw food for thought. He would have known Mabel Palmer to be imperious but, in his quest to ‘learn more’ about the ‘white, the poor white and native questions’ in South Africa, and as a noted supporter of women’s rights, he would probably have been challenged by Champion’s remarks. He would no doubt have had a quotable answer but should nevertheless have been left pondering the intricacies of racial and gender dynamics in Africa. Bernard Shaw was a great talker. Despite his statement on arrival in Durban that there would be no speeches, he appears to have found it irresistible to hold willing or unwilling listeners spellbound. He was brought to the Durban Technical College by his escort, A.C.D. Williams. He arrived at 9.30 a.m. and the head of the institution, Dr Humphrey Jones, found him ‘very fascinating, very straight with no side’. Shaw agreed to give them ten minutes but stayed until 1.00 p.m. He told the students tales of his ‘guttersnipe’ years in Dublin and exhorted them to work hard. He agreed to talk to the staff but told Jones, ‘no women’. So he spoke to about a dozen men. Shaw was ever unpredictable. 28 Even more telling is the recollection by Dr Jack Cowden of an occasion when he

was a part-time student at the Natal University College in Durban in the1930s. In the University of Natal journal, Focus, Dr Cowden, a medical doctor, wrote in 1995:

Completion of necessary professional examinations saw us savour the

... humanities via the BA. My two years with Bernard Notcutt and Mabel Palmer

in the realms of Political Science, Psychology and English were the happiest studies of my life.

And Mabel Palmer, a great intellectual lady, reminds me that in 1935 she brought

Bernard Shaw to campus

He accepted her invitation to meet a cross-section

.... of the Durban community and hear their views. There were students there, lecturers, and others of all races. But the great Bernard Shaw was not interested in our views. He spent nearly two hours telling us of his tour to Russia with the Astors, and how great Socialism was. We were impressed by his greatness as an intellectual giant and a playwright, yet in retrospect his love-affair with Stalin and Litvinov took place when a million kulaks were being liquidated for their belief in free enterprise. 29

Yet again one questions whether Shaw was really wanting to ‘learn more’ or whether

he simply wanted to tell. He had already puzzled his large audience when he spoke for one and three quarter hours along the same lines in the Cape Town City Hall on behalf

of the Fabians on his first visit to South Africa. He thought it was a ‘stupendous lecture on Russia’ but Leon Hugo, a professor of English at the University of South Africa felt

‘Shaw failed himself and his audience’. He went on too long and confused his listeners who actually wondered if he was the one who was confused. 30 So Dr Cowden was not alone in feeling let down. 31 In fact, many people, not least his contemporaries, wondered why Bernard Shaw became so enamoured with Stalin. Beatrice Webb challenged him on his return from his nine-day pilgrimage to Russia in 1931 about reported Soviet atrocities. Shaw’s reply — which was his standard reply — was that they were ‘manifestations of a backward country with a barbarous history’. 32 In a recent study of Stalin the modern British writer

Fabian Connections: Bernard Shaw in Natal, 1935


Martin Amis reveals the full scale of Stalin’s atrocities and describes H.G. Wells, Shaw

and the Webbs as the ‘


century’s four most extravagant dupes of the USSR’. ‘Shaw’,

he writes, ‘after some banquet diplomacy, declared the Russian people uncommonly

well-fed at a time when perhaps 11 million citizens were in the process of dying of starvation’. 33 For Shaw, communism as he saw it in Russia was the culmination of his life’s work

of preaching socialism, and Sidney and Beatrice Webb were his first converts. He felt he

had found a country which had established socialism, made it a political system, thrown out private property and abandoned capitalism. He embraced it with religious fervour and a corresponding suspension of disbelief. In one of his famous paradoxes he declared, ‘The Russian Revolution was pure Fabianism’. 34 He admitted his impression was based on instinct, so when the Webbs were going to see Russia for themselves, he encouraged Sidney Webb to do a survey and base their conclusions on facts, in true Fabian style. Hence the Webbs’ tome, Soviet Communism: A New Civilization? the proofs of which Shaw read on his voyage to Natal. He is known to have attended a Communist Party meeting in Durban addressed by Edward Roux and by H.A. Naidoo whom Roux had introduced to the Party in the early 1930s. Naidoo recognised Shaw in the audience and welcomed their ‘distinguished visitor’, inviting him to say a few words. Shaw replied, surprisingly, ‘Tonight I’ve come to listen to you, so just carry on’. 35 Perhaps it should be noted that Shaw started out as a revolutionary. He declared himself to have been completely converted by reading Marx’s Das Kapital, ‘the turning point in my career’, during his self-education in the British Museum Reading Room, ‘my daily resort’. It was there, too, that he met Eleanor Marx, Karl Marx’s fourth daughter, with whom he became increasingly friendly. 36 Shaw admitted that he joined the Fabian Society in his early lonely London days because he knew he would meet people of his own kind there. While some moderates view Shaw’s and the Webbs’ obsession with Russia in their

latter years as mere senility, Margaret Cole, historian of the Fabian Society, wrote of the Webbs and Shaw, ‘Their hearts were in Russia and Russia alone.’ 37 Lenin declared Shaw to be Left of the Fabians politically, and one is reminded of Lenin’s often-quoted description of him as ‘a good man fallen among Fabians’. It was in 1935 that Mabel Palmer was hard at work trying to persuade the Natal Uni- versity College to admit black students. The University Council’s eventual agreement

that, starting in 1936, black students could pursue a selected number of the university’s courses on condition that the classes were conducted separately and off the campus, and Mabel Palmer’s involvement for twenty years as organiser of the ‘Non-European Section’, as it was called, can be followed elsewhere. 38 In the meantime she had been tutoring black part-time students, predominantly African and Indian teachers, in her own sitting room since 1932. It was these students and some of her close friends whom she invited to a tea party at her home at 24 Clair Avenue, Manor Gardens to meet Bernard Shaw. He had various theme tunes during his stay in Durban, another of which was soon aired on this occasion. In no time the students were enlisting his support for their campaign for the parliamentary vote on an equal footing with whites. The issue was a live one as the Smuts-Hertzog government had published a bill which would end the association of black and white South Africans on the common voters’ roll in the Cape and replace it with a separate African voters’ roll by which they would be able to vote for three white members of parliament to represent their interests. Shaw took the

ground from under their feet by meeting their pleas with the reply, ‘Who wants to go


Fabian Connections: Bernard Shaw in Natal, 1935

into Parliament anyway? What good will it ever do anybody?’ Florence Macdonald, Mabel Palmer’s great friend and collaborator in the black university classes, summed it up thus: ‘They could not understand what he meant, but he talked all afternoon. It was

a lovely, lovely afternoon.’ 39 Recounting the occasion later Shaw claimed to have told them, ‘Don’t try to defend the vote for natives. It is quite worthless. What you have to do is to move an amendment to the Bill abolishing the white vote as well.’ Mabel’s guests were surprised, to say the least. Shaw’s contradictions were many, but his long-standing resistance to parliamentary democracy through universal suffrage was one that was

especially difficult to reconcile with his commitment to equality. It rested on his belief

that government should be in the hands of competent and informed people who should completely restructure society and oversee the systematic and even-handed implemen- tation of socialism. Furthermore, Shaw believed the vote could be counterproductive. Never a supporter of the suffragette movement, he had written in 1928:

The belief in the magic of the vote was so fervent that I could not be forgiven for warning the suffragettes that votes for women would probably mean their self- exclusion from Parliament, and that what was needed was a constitutional law that all public authorities should have a representative proportion of women on them, votes or no votes. 40

In similar vein, the Natal activist, lawyer and politician Ismail Meer — who was a student in Mabel Palmer’s classes in the early 1940s — wrote of an incident between Shaw and the Swedish-Indian activist, Palme Dutt. Dutt was a recognised interpreter of

Marxism/Leninism and founder of the India League in London. When Dutt was standing for parliament in Britain Shaw wrote to say he would vote for him knowing full well that he would lose, because intelligent people like him did not stand a chance. Perhaps Shaw should be credited with some degree of prophecy. Had he lived in the present day, his reservations about the vote could very well have been confirmed. 41 Ismail Meer attended a meeting addressed by Shaw at the Gandhi library in Durban. It was there that he offered miscegenation as a solution to South Africa’s race issue. 42 This is the topic most associated with Shaw by those South Africans today who know

anything about him. It formed a significant part of his pronouncements in Cape Town

and assumed concrete form in his novella written in Knysna, The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God. In it Shaw’s creative mind runs through various recognisable colonial themes, most notably the damaging effect of the missionaries on black identity, and he ends up with his much-quoted image of the ‘coffee-coloured’ South African of the future. Furthermore, while he was in Durban he heard the pro-Nazi Minister of Transport and Defence Oswald Pirow make an appeal to immigrants to keep up the white population. Shaw concluded that interbreeding of the races was the answer to what seemed like a drop in the white birth rate. When he returned to England he declared himself an ‘advocate of intermarriage between the white and black inhabitants’ of South Africa. This brought Shaw considerable notoriety in newspapers around the world. The South African press reported that it was regarded as a bad joke in Britain and as blasphemy in Germany. Shaw did not relent. All his life he kept to the view that

South Africa’s ‘ghetto legislation’ was comparable to the persecution of the Jews by Nazi Germany. 43 Pauline Podbrey observed the negative effects of his pronouncements during his Natal visit. She wrote:

Fabian Connections: Bernard Shaw in Natal, 1935


During his visit to South Africa Shaw earned the opprobrium of the whites by declaring that South Africa’s problems would be solved by intermarriage between the races, by the dreaded word miscegenation. After that he was shunned by the white population and maligned by the press. He spent most of his time in Durban strolling around the Indian area of Grey Street.

However, it should be noted that Podbrey could have been over-sensitive to the issue.

She was soon to marry H. A. Naidoo, the Indian speaker at the communist meeting

Shaw attended, and was experiencing the difficulties attached to mixed marriages in

South Africa. Her observations might well have been close to the truth but she could

also have been overlooking Shaw’s pure interest in ‘exploring the less vaunted parts of

our town that lurk behind Grey Street’ as reported in the press. The Shaws were also

reported as having ‘


been everywhere and seen everybody as far as their time and

strength allowed.’ 44 It is probably true to say that Shaw received most of his media publicity while he was in Natal from those associated in some way with his Fabian connection. Among these was Maurice Webb. It was Webb who interviewed him in the radio talk on books, broadcast from Durban throughout South Africa. It was Webb who published the valedictory article which appeared in The Natal Witness on the Shaws’ departure from Natal. And it was Webb who entertained the Shaws in front of a log fire one afternoon when Durban was hit by pouring rain and howling wind and who later published their conversation in The Outspan under the heading ‘By the Fireside with George Bernard Shaw’. Because of his role, tangentially, within the Fabian dynamic of Durban, a little more needs to be said of Maurice Webb. Of lower middle class origins and self-educated, Webb

was first and foremost a Quaker but, in his early years in England, he was also exposed to influential Fabians — in night schools, in the Workers’ Educational Association and

elsewhere. He emigrated to Durban in 1921, the same year as Mabel Palmer. He took up

a post at Braby’s directory publishing firm in Durban and launched into a whole range of

activities aimed at the betterment of the less privileged classes of society. His approach has been described by one historian as ‘social welfare liberalism’. 45 He aspired to a

Fabian intellectualism and served in most of the same fields as Mabel Palmer. In some

cases they worked together as, for example, in the Workers’ Educational Association, Adult Education, Bantu Child Welfare, and Joint Council movements. In particular, Webb

was on the Council of the Natal University College so in all her negotiations regarding

the ‘Non-European Classes’, Mabel worked through him and often sacrificed the credit

to him. He was also chairman of the Council of Adams College where Mabel held the

July vacation schools for her students. They did not like each other. Mabel did not fully

trust Webb as she felt he was a committee man and a talker rather than a worker. Webb found Mabel overbearing in her indefatigable persistence, as did a number of people, and he was jealous of her intellectual prowess and the honorary doctorate which the

University of South Africa awarded her in 1947 in acknowledgement of her work in race

relations and education. He claimed acquaintance with Bernard Shaw in London but did not come anywhere near the association with Shaw that Mabel had. Mabel, too, was a writer of journal and newspaper articles, including ones on broadcasting, and she also

gave radio talks on Durban’s A Programme. With no firm evidence available, it can be

surmised that she would have been a trifle peeved that Webb dominated the interviews

with Shaw. On the other hand, she was content to accept the male dominance of the


Fabian Connections: Bernard Shaw in Natal, 1935

day if it achieved the goals for which she was working, and she would have wanted the best for Bernard Shaw. 46 In this media publicity many of the familiar themes were aired. Webb wrote of Shaw’s ‘talking’ which he described as very good, ranging over the stage and actors and ac- tresses, music and musicians, politics and painters and writers, motor cars, and countries and people and causes. When asked how they liked Durban, Mrs Shaw was profuse in her praise, but Shaw sneaked in his gibe that ‘the pervading laziness in the air’ would cause him ‘moral degeneration’ and he would do no work if he stayed on. With regard to queries that Shaw was funny but not sincere, Webb wrote, ‘Bernard Shaw is sincere and funny which is the secret of his power. The fact is that behind all his wilfulness and paradoxes there is a fundamental sincerity and simplicity’. Shaw’s belief that war ‘is the great destroyer’and the enemy of the artist, is set against his belief that to get rid of war, those who believe in it should be allowed to get on and shoot each other off. Perhaps one needs to remember that Shaw’s paradoxes are meant to proclaim a truth with a bang. There was room for another gibe. Shaw told how he asked a young woman if she had come to South Africa from England. She replied that she was from Durban. ‘Ah’, he said, ‘then you are a native.’ Shaw waxed strong in these interviews on his aversion to parliament: ‘Scrap Parliament. The modern world needs a system of government that gives the people a voice, not an ineffective vote, and gives the execu- tive the necessary power to make and carry out decisions.’ While in Durban Shaw, it is reported, ‘has given and taken hard knocks on what now appears to be his favourite topic — the decline of Parliament and the Russian experiment’ but apparently he enjoyed the controversy. Webb’s articles contained much praise, wit and incidental chatter, but perhaps his most telling summing up of Shaw’s current message was this:

Bernard Shaw, the Fabian, and Socialist propagandist, looks back on the enthusiasms and hopes of the earlier part of the century and sees them frustrated by war, dissipated by Parliament. His Socialism and Fabianism have survived, and it is in the experiments of modern Russia that his hopes are centred. Many logs have to be added to the fire before G.B.S. tires of talking of his favourite topic, Russia. 47

Shaw’s intent becomes clearer when it is remembered that during his travels, he spent part of his time on the ship every day writing letters and preparing his press interviews. Mabel Palmer, for her part, continued to promote Shaw at every opportunity, but on a different level. Her presentations were based on knowledge, not reportage. In her personal papers are scripts of public talks, articles, broadcast talks and lectures on Shaw, all with a didactic purpose. Of particular interest are her short handwritten notes, on

yellow writing pad paper, of a lecture she gave to her black students entitled ‘G. B. S.

Special ref, to Man & Superman’. Although she told them that ‘


it must be difficult for

non-E-students — indeed for all S. African students — to understand him’, she spared

them nothing. She analysed the characters, gave page references for reading, gave details

of Shaw’s life and his political thinking and activity, spoke of the developments at the time — the ‘new’ women, the ‘new’ theology and the ‘New Theatre’ in which Shaw

was a major influence. She developed Shaw’s theory of ‘Life Force’, linking it with

the theory of evolution and explaining that unless ‘man’ was always working towards something higher than himself, humanity was doomed. 48 In a manuscript attached to a broadcast talk given in 1949, Mabel explained Shaw’s rejection of what she called

Fabian Connections: Bernard Shaw in Natal, 1935


‘Marxianism’ in their Fabian Society days, thus influencing the direction of socialism

in England and the British Labour Party away from Marxist economic theory. His obsession with Communist Russia when he visited Natal must have at least puzzled her. She referred, too, to the help Shaw gave her personally in stirring up opinion on the position of women and the treatment of the suffragettes, of which she was one, and ‘in doing so had some effect on the history of S. Africa’. 49 Another elegantly-written, comprehensive article was entitled ‘G.B.S.’, written to mark Shaw’s death in 1950. It

was requested by Ismail Meer for publication in Indian Views. It begins, ‘It is amazing what a blank the death of Bernard Shaw leaves. It is fifteen years since I saw him ...

but one felt he was always there, almost like a great natural force making for wisdom & righteousness. Why did he loom so large in the public eye?’ 50 One might ask whether the people of Natal would have identified with this last state- ment. Shaw’s visit to Natal in 1935 was but a small episode in his long and many-sided life and it could be said that it was but a small episode in the long and complex history of the Natal and Zulu region. When Shaw’s visit is mentioned today, a memory or a story is quite often ready at hand. Here is an example from someone whose father-in- law ‘remembered Shaw’s visit to Durban before the War very well’:

He remembered that GBS was staying at the Royal Hotel and a waiter asked him whether he would like a whisky. GBS replied by asking the waiter what that thing suspended in a glass of water was. It was an avocado pear pip. GBS then suggested to the waiter that he replace the water with whisky which the waiter declined to do ‘because then it won’t grow’. ‘Precisely!’ replied GBS. ‘That’s why I won’t have a whisky ’ ....


These memories are invariably on the level of Shaw’s idiosyncrasies and witticisms, or on his rather provocative pronouncements on miscegenation. A worthwhile assess- ment of his impact on Natal or Natal’s impact on him is hindered by the absence or inaccessibilty of sources. What, for example, might be contained in the Shaws’ letters from Natal to Lady Astor? Or what other details might emerge if more sources were discovered in Natal? One communication that has been unearthed, dated ‘Durban 18 May 1935’, was to Gilbert Murray in Oxford and it revolved around Shaw’s own English agenda. He sent Murray a cutting from The Natal Witness of 15 May 1935 of his article entitled, ‘Bernard Shaw on the Jubilee: The King in Relation to Art and Drama: Why Lawrence of Arabia, Wells, Chesterton (and Shaw) are Without Titles: Royal Preference For Football’. The opening question is, ‘Would it be indiscreet, Mr Shaw, to allude to the fact that though you have talked on many things since your arrival in Durban, you have said not one word about the Jubilee?’ This is a lengthy, in-depth, argumentative ‘interview with himself’ written and copyrighted by Shaw. It is rich in facts about his contribution to drama but is largely self-serving and self-congratulatory, using a contra- dictory method of disparaging King George V for his attitude to the arts, then defending him. On the subject of no title having come his way Shaw wrote:

As for myself I am a Red Marxist Communist of 50 years’ standing, a persistent friend of the Russian Revolution and the Soviet State and the prophet of a modern religion which would make short work of the Thirty-nine Articles. And the King to confer on me the Order of the Garter — and I should consider anything less an insult — and he will reply: ‘Am I the defender of the faith or not?’


Fabian Connections: Bernard Shaw in Natal, 1935

The article would have been of interest to a section of the empire-loving component of Natal’s population but it had more meaning for Shaw and Murray. He appended a cyni- cal note to Murray suggesting that Mrs Murray should receive nothing but a dukedom, then ended by saying, ‘Still, it’s a real difficulty. We expect to be back in the middle of June. G.B.S.’ 52 On the whole it seems safe to say that Shaw’s Fabian connections were pleased with

his visit and a fair cross section of Natalians recognised that a famous figure had been in

their midst. The Shaws themselves appear to have had a restful and entertaining holiday ending with perhaps the most interesting of their experiences. On their last Monday they were the guests of Mr and Mrs Denis Shepstone who took them to Maphumulo where Shaw joined in a Zulu war dance. He sang with the warriors and even attempted

a step or two. He was very interested in the music and informed the chief that one of the songs had obviously given Wagner the inspiration for the Flying Dutchman. Shaw made a brief speech telling the entertainers what a fine race of people they were and

what pleasure their music had given him. The chief thanked him and hoped that he and Mrs Shaw had many photographs to take home with them. Two days later, on 22 May

1935, the Shaws left Durban on the fast train for Cape Town where they were to join the Winchester Castle for their return to England. 53 It would be presumptuous in the extreme to attempt a definitive article on Bernard

Shaw on the basis of his short visit to Natal in 1935. So long was his life and so vast

his output, and so extensive the Shaw discourse, that one can but explore the subject

and attempt to trace ideas, influences, opinions, associations and connections. The

question remains, ‘Has Shaw anything to say to KwaZulu-Natal today?’ Many people who have never read a Shaw play, like to quote Shaw: in speeches, in introductions to

guest speakers, in votes of thanks or in ‘reflections for the day’ in newspapers. They

feel they know him by reputation. More salutary is to look afresh at his writing and to

discover that, despite the long period it covers, there is a timelessness about the kernel of Shaw’s deepest thinking. Winston Churchill took his children to a performance of Major Barbara in the late 1920s. The world had undergone profound and sweeping changes and a complete reshaping of opinion since Churchill had seen the play twenty years before. Yet, wrote Churchill,

in Major Barbara there was not a character requiring to be re-drawn, not a

... sentence nor a suggestion that was out of date. My children were astounded to learn that this play, the very acme of modernity, was written more than five years before they were born. 54

Of more lasting value than his visit to Natal in 1935 would be a refreshed reading of Major Barbara, especially the preface. In G. K. Chesterton’s words, ‘The ultimate epigram of Major Barbara can be put thus. People say that poverty is no crime; Shaw

says that poverty is a crime; that it is a crime to endure it, a crime to be content with it,

that it is the mother of all crimes of brutality, corruption, and fear

The point of this

.... particular drama is that even the noblest enthusiasm of the girl who becomes a Salvation Army officer fails under the brute money power of her father who is a modern capital- ist.’ 55 In a world beset by anxieties generated by industrialisation, capitalism, money, brutality, religion and, above all, poverty, Shaw’s message in this work continues to be modern, not least in South Africa and, indeed, in KwaZulu-Natal.


Fabian Connections: Bernard Shaw in Natal, 1935



  • 1 Shaw disliked the name George and dropped it professionally when he moved from his native Dublin to London in 1876. See Michael Holroyd, Bernard Shaw, Vol. 1 1856–1898: The Search for Love (Penguin, 1988), p. 25.

  • 2 Michael Holroyd ed., The Genius of Shaw: A symposium (Hodder & Stoughton, 1979), Introduction, p.

  • 3 Winston S. Churchill, ‘George Bernard Shaw’ in Great Contemporaries (Fontana, 1959), p. 51.

  • 4 A.J.P. Taylor, ‘Shaw: The Court Jester’ in From the Boer War to the Cold War: Essays on Twentieth Century Europe (Penguin, 1996), p. 61.

  • 5 Jorge Luis Borges, ‘A Note on (towards) Bernard Shaw’ in Labyrinths (Penguin, 1970), pp. 249 – 50.

  • 6 S. Winston, ed., G.B.S. 90 (Hutchinson, 1946)

  • 7 John Betjeman, Coming Home: an anthology of prose 1920 – 1977, ed. Candida Lycett Green (Vintage, 1998), p. 198.

  • 8 G. K. Chesterton, George Bernard Shaw (House of Stratus, 2001), p. iii. (First published 1910)

  • 9 This is an example of what is available on the Internet.

    • 10 The Natal Witness, 29 April 1935. Also The Natal Mercury, 29 April 1935.

    • 11 See Holroyd, Bernard Shaw, Vol. 3 1918 – 1950: The Lure of Fantasy, (Penguin, 1993), pp. 271 – 284 for the details of the Shaws’ Cape visit from 11 January to 19 March 1932.

    • 12 Campbell Collections, Mabel Palmer Papers, KCM 16732, Mabel Palmer to Mildred Atkinson, 30 April

    • 13 The Natal Mercury, 29 and 30 April and 1 May 1935.

    • 14 The Natal Mercury, 1 May 1935.

    • 15 The Natal Witness, 7 May 1935. Williams was involved in taking Shaw to various places on behalf of Durban Publicity.

    • 16 Simon Haw, Bearing Witness: The Natal Witness 1846 – 1996 (The Natal Witness, 1996), p.197, pp. 207 – 8.

    • 17 The Natal Witness, 10 May 1935.

    • 18 The Natal Witness, 11 May 1935. Griffin’s Hill is usually associated with Estcourt, but it would appear that the name was also given to the hill rising towards Ridge Road on entering Pietermaritzburg from Durban. At one time the Griffins owned substantial properties there. The poultry farm on entering the city from the Howick side would have been L.T. Forsyth’s Granton where Granton Mews is today. (Information from Shelagh Spencer, Pietermaritzburg.)

    • 19 A.J.P, Taylor, ‘Shaw: The Court Jester’, pp. 62 – 3.

    • 20 E. J. Hobsbawm, Labouring Men: Studies in the History of Labour (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1964), p. 259. The chapter, ‘The Fabians Reconsidered’ is helpful in understanding the place of the early Fabians in the developing socialist movement in Britain.

    • 21 The Natal Mercury, 8 May 1935, from the City Correspondent.

    • 22 Maurice Webb in The Natal Witness, 24 May 1935.

    • 23 Mabel Palmer Papers, KCM 17325, ‘G.B. Shaw as I knew him’, broadcast talk by Mabel Palmer on Durban ‘A’ Programme, Sunday, 31 July 1949.

    • 24 Kingston-upon-Hull Central Library, Winifred Holtby Papers, correspondence passim. For a full study of the ICU see P.L. Wickins, The Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union of Africa, (Oxford University Press, 1978).

    • 25 Edward Roux, Time Longer than Rope: The Black Man’s Struggle for Freedom in South Africa (University of Wisconsin Press, 1964), p.177. (First published 1948)

    • 26 Quoted in M.W. Swanson ed., The Views of Mahlathi: writings of A.W.G. Champion a black South African (University of Natal Press and Killie Campbell Africana Library, 1982), p. 41.

    • 27 University of South Africa, Champion Papers, Mabel Palmer to Champion, 13 February 1930 and Champion to Mabel Palmer, 17 February 1930.

    • 28 Personal interview, Dr Humphrey Jones, Durban North, 7 August 1979.

    • 29 Focus, Vol. 7, No. 1, undated, p. 3. The reference is to Maxim Litvinov, Foreign Commissar to the Soviet Union, who accompanied Shaw and his party during much of their Russian visit.

    • 30 See Holroyd, Bernard Shaw, Vol. 3, p. 273.

    • 31 Personal interview, Mrs Nancy Gardiner, Hilton, 2 February 2006. (Dr Cowden’s sister)

    • 32 Holroyd, Bernard Shaw, Vol. 3, p. 249.

    • 33 Martin Amis, Koba the Dread (Vintage, 2002), p. 21n. Perhaps it should be noted that support of communist Russia was not uncommon among intellectuals in the 1930s and 40s. There were the notorious


Fabian Connections: Bernard Shaw in Natal, 1935

Cambridge spies — Guy Burgess, Anthony Blunt, Kim Philby and Donald Maclean — for example. Even the distinguished historian Eric Hobsbawm, in his recent autobiography, argues that the full extent of Stalin’s tyranny was not known to British communists until the revelations of 1956, thus justifying his own continued membership of the party. See Eric Hobsbawm, Interesting Times: A Twentieth-Century Life (Abacus, 2002), pp. 197 – 209.

  • 34 Quoted in Holroyd, Bernard Shaw, Vol. 3, p. 251.

  • 35 In Pauline Podbrey, White Girl in Search of the Party (Hadeda Books, 1993), p. 28.

  • 36 Yvonne Kapp, Eleanor Marx, Vol. I 1855 – 1883 (Virago, 1979), p. 192.

  • 37 Margaret Cole, The Story of Fabian Socialism (London, 1961), p. 252.

  • 38 See Sylvia Vietzen, ‘Mabel Palmer and Black Higher Education in Natal c1936 – 1942’ in Journal of Natal and Zulu History, Vol. VI, 1983, pp. 98 – 114.

  • 39 Personal interviews, Mrs Florence Macdonald, Sea View, Durban, 8 November 1977 and 5 August

  • 40 Bernard Shaw, The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism & Fascism (Penguin, 1982), p. 481. (First published 1928)

  • 41 Ismail Meer, A Fortunate Man (Zebra Press, 2002), p. 56.

  • 42 Ibid.

  • 43 See Holroyd, Bernard Shaw, Vol. 3, pp. 283 – 4.

  • 44 Podbrey, White Girl in Search of a Party, p. 28 and The Natal Witness, 24 May 1935.

  • 45 See Barry White, ‘Maurice Webb: A Case Study in Social Welfare Liberalism in Natal, 1926 – 1953’ in Journal of Natal and Zulu History, Vol. XV, 1994/5, pp. 1 – 16.

  • 46 Webb’s tendency to infiltrate intellectual circles had caused his clash with Roy Campbell. Campbell resigned the editorship of the two-year-old literary journal Voorslag in 1926 because he felt Webb as publisher was intruding on his role as editor. He raged at the owner, ‘You yourself confided in me in the beginning that we must take care not to let Voorslag develop Webbed feet. Now you want it to have a Webbed ’ head


He went on to lampoon Webb, among others, in his poem The Wayzgoose:

A Socialist thou art in thought and act, And yet thy business flourishes intact:

A Boss in trade, thou art securely placed, And only art a Bolshevik in taste:

To kill a sheep, too tender is thy heart, Yet wilt thou massacre a work of art. See Peter Alexander, Roy Campbell: A Critical Biography (David Philip, 1982), pp. 48 – 55 and 71 – 2.

  • 47 Campbell Collections, Maurice Webb Papers, KCM 22306, The Outspan, 14 June 1935, ‘At the Fireside with George Bernard Shaw’ and The Natal Witness, 24 May 1935, ‘Bernard Shaw Leaves South Africa: Impressions of a Distinguished and Charming Visitor’.

  • 48 Mabel Palmer Papers, manuscript stapled to KCM 17323, undated. The yellow writing pad paper would date it around 1936 or soon after as she used this stationery to submit records in the early days of the black classes.

  • 49 Mabel Palmer Papers, carbon copy of manuscript attached to KCM 17325, 31 July 1949.

  • 50 Mabel Palmer Papers, KCM 17324 attached to letter, Mabel Palmer to Mr Meer, 7 November 1950.

  • 51 Told by Dr André le Roux of Cape Town, formerly of Natal. The Shaws stayed at the Marine Hotel at the start of their visit to Durban. Reference to the Royal Hotel could be a trick of memory, or it could suggest they stayed there later, or that perhaps Shaw was visiting there.

  • 52 Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS Gilbert Murray 167, f. 130.

  • 53 The Idler in ‘Down Our Lane’, The Natal Mercury, 22 May 1935.

  • 54 Churchill, Great Contemporaries, p. 44. Major Barbara was written in 1905.

  • 55 Chesterton, George Bernard Shaw, pp. 72 – 3.

Indian Family Businesses in Natal, 1870 – 1950

Indian Family Businesses in Natal, 1870 – 1950


Indian Family Businesses in Natal, 1870 – 1950

The arrival of ‘passenger Indians’ in Natal from the 1870s onwards heralded a new era in colonial history. They arrived to serve the economic needs of the indentured labourers and laid the foundations of the Indian commercial class in the colony. However, their growth and prosperity in commercial enterprise produced anti-Indian sentiments that culminated in a series of laws that aimed at restricting their economic, political and residential rights in South Africa. This paper traces their early arrival and settlement and examines some of the challenges Indian family businesses encountered during the period 1870-1950.

Passenger or Free Indians The arrival and settlement of indentured Indians in Natal inevitably paved way for ‘free’ or ‘passenger’ Indians to Natal, who largely came to serve the economic needs of the Indian labourers. They came as free Indians, under normal immigration laws and were subjects of the British Empire. They paid their own passage and were therefore described by the colonists as ‘passenger Indians’. Unlike their indentured compatriots they were not bound by any contractual labour conditions and were initially free to settle and trade in the colony. Like indentured Indians, they were motivated by both ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors and the prospect of a better life prompted their migration to the colony. The free or passenger Indians who immigrated to Natal in the mid-1870s were in the main Gujarati-speaking Hindus and Muslims from the west coast of India. This group of Indians, to a very large extent, pioneered Indian trading activity in Natal. They mi- grated mainly from the province of Kathiawad, and its surrounding coastal districts and villages, for example, Surat, Kutch, Porbander, Jamnaggar, Rander and Kholvad. 1 The Gujarati-speaking Muslims in Natal comprised two groups, mainly the Memons and Khojas. Both groups were converts from Hinduism and were disciples of Abdullah, an Arab missionary. In India the Memons were highly concentrated around Bombay, and its surrounding districts of Kholvad and Kathor. A few also migrated from Kathiawar, particularly from the districts of Kolaba and Ranavav. 2 Memons were not only active in Natal but were economically active in Mauritius, East Africa and the Far East. Promi- nent Memon traders in Natal were Abbobaker Amod, Abdoola Hajee Adam Jhaveri and Moosa Hajee Cassim. 3 In Natal Muslim migrants who originated from Surat were referred to as ‘Surti Bohras’. Prominent amongst them were the Lockhat Brothers, the Paruks and the Motalas. They established business ventures not only in KwaZulu-Natal but nationally and internationally.

Natalia 38 (2008), Kalpana Hiralal pp. 27 – 37

Natalia 38 (2008)

Copyright © Natal Society Foundation 2010


Indian Family Businesses in Natal, 1870 – 1950

The Gujarati Hindus amongst the passenger Indians migrated to Natal at the turn

of the century. Like their Muslim counterparts they shared a common language and place of origin but differed in religion. Migrants who came from the District of Surat and its nearby villages such as Bardoli, Navasari and Broach were often referred to as ‘Surtees’. They consisted of different caste groups and in many cases this determined the type of occupation they engaged in. For example the Sonis (goldsmiths) migrated from Porander, Rajkot and Jamnagar. The Dhobis (laundrymen), and the Mochis (shoe- makers) originated from Kholvad, Kathor and Navasari. Many after immigrating to Natal continued in their respective occupations. For example, Makan Naran, a dhobi (laundryman), arrived in Natal at the end of the nineteenth century from Surat. Because of the uneasy socio-economic conditions in India, he migrated to Natal. On arrival he

engaged in the laundry business, collecting and carrying bundles of laundry to ‘finish’

at streams and rivers on the outskirts of Durban. He later established his laundry busi- ness at 181 Gale Street. 4 Other Gujarati immigrants, such as Mohanlal Kanjee Lodhia and Mohanlal Valjee, who were goldsmiths in India, continued with their trade in Natal. For example, the latter emigrated in 1905 and immediately began hawking fruit and vegetables. Later he rented a two-bedroomed house in Umgeni Road and used this as a workshop for his jewellery business. Another Gujarati-speaking Hindu, Bhana Parso- tham, arrived in 1888 from Surat. He settled in Durban and established an eating-house

for African labourers and adjacent to this he built a clothing store. He is also credited

with establishing the first Indian confectionery store, which sold a variety of Indian delicacies. He was extremely successful and by 1913 was a regular advertiser in The Colonial Indian News and the Indian Opinion, two popular Indian newspapers serving the Indian community in South Africa. 5

Settlement of Indian Traders

Indian traders were often also referred to ‘Arab traders’, largely because the Muslims

amongst them were in the majority and they often dressed in their traditional attire,

which though not the same, nevertheless suggested flowing Arab robes. The trading

community were mainly concentrated in Natal due to the large presence of indentured Indian labourers and the improved transport and communication systems. Indian traders established trading stores along the coast and the interior. They settled in the magisterial districts of Inanda, Umlazi and Alexandra, and also moved towards the interior and settled in Umkomanzi, Umgeni and Umvoti. Others moved even further inland to Ladysmith and the coal mining districts of Dundee, Newcastle and Ladysmith. Most of them were petty traders, concentrating mainly on selling Indian groceries and African goods. Durban and Pietermaritzburg also provided strong and lucrative markets for Indian traders who settled there. Durban’s development and importance as a centre of trade is described by Swanson as follows:

White Natal at the turn of this [20th] century was a close-knit commercial and agricultural society of some 90 000 people whose major development had come with the rise of commerce through the great harbour at Durban; serving the mineral boom at Kimberley and the Witwatersrand. Urban growth was dramatic from the 1870s onwards. Durban’s population and trade doubled each decade in contrast to half that rate for Natal as a whole. By the 1890s the port city alone contained nearly a third of the colony’s white inhabitants and had acquired the

Indian Family Businesses in Natal, 1870 – 1950


In Durban the presence of indentured and ex-indentured Indians led to many Indian traders opening shops in the city centre. Several Indian ‘locations’ could be found at the

west end of West Street, the northern part of Field Street and the boundary of the Western Vlei. 7 The business directory of the Natal Almanac and Yearly Register and the voters’ roll for the Borough of Durban between 1885 and 1908 provide valuable information on the occupation and residential addresses of Indian traders. The voters’ list shows that the early traders initially settled and traded in West Street but later moved to Grey and Field streets and Commercial Road. This was largely due to the fact that the Durban

municipality wanted to restrict Indian trading to a specific area, to eliminate competition

with white traders. Nevertheless, the lists consist of both traders of passenger origin as

well as ex-indentured Indians who engaged in trade. The first ‘Arab’ trader to establish

a shop in West Street was Aboobaker Amod. Between 1885 and 1886 the voters’ list for the Borough of Durban listed 33 traders, 12 of whom were ‘Arabs’, eight of them trading in West Street. Between 1887 and 1888 there were 48 traders, 19 ‘Arabs’ and 14 residing in West Street. In 1894, 86 traders were listed, of whom 74 were ‘Arabs’ and 39 of whom traded in West Street. Indian traders also rented and owned other valuable property in West Street which indicated that they were plying a fairly prosperous trade. Earlier, for example between 1885 and 1886, only one Indian trader owned property in West Street, namely Aboobaker Amod. Others soon followed. Moosa Hajee Cassim, a wealthy merchant and shipowner, rented premises in West Street between 1885 and 1891. However, by 1905 he became the sole owner of his premises at 456 West Street. 8 Thus by the beginning of the twentieth century Indian traders or ‘Arab’ stores had become a regular feature of Durban’s economic landscape. A visitor described the shops along the north side of West Street in 1902 – 1903:

They are mostly clothing shops, or fruiterers kept by Indians all neat and clean…. They have also spread east of Grey Street and there is one shop where Indian curios are sold, on the south side of the street. The other shops are kept by white people with ‘ladies’ and ‘gentlemen’ to serve……One meets only respectable Indians in the streets, generally Bombay men, who are evidently traders, as distinct

from the coolies who mostly come from Madras, but a few from Calcutta. 9

Internal Organisation and Pattern of Trade

Indian trade in Natal can be characterised into three distinct categories: the established

merchants, petty traders and hawkers. Collectively they formed the Indian commercial

class. As merchants, petty traders and hawkers, their skills were reflected in their ability

to diversify, integrate and specialise in their respective trades. This was clearly reflected

in the trading patterns of the more established merchants who constantly embarked on new economic ventures. Apart from retailing and wholesaling, many took to real estate, shipping, importing and manufacturing. In addition, the structural organisation and

patterns of trade are a clear reflection of the nature of Indian businesses: strong kinship

ties and frugal mode of living. 10

The pioneer traders were often representatives of major international companies who wanted to expand their business enterprises to Natal. Others (a small minority) who

had sufficient capital opened up shops immediately or entered into partnerships with

a relative or friend from the same village and often belonging to the same religion. A study of 28 Indian business partnerships formed between 1884-1900, shows that 17


Indian Family Businesses in Natal, 1870 – 1950

belonged to Indians of ‘passenger’ origin, namely Gujarati-speaking Muslims. In some instances partnerships were formed temporarily, often one partner later leaving the firm to establish a business of his own. Petty traders formed the core of the Indian commercial class in Natal. They generally arrived in the Colony when they were between the ages of 17 and 25, and served apprenticeships with an established firm for a few years, until they had saved enough capital to set up their own shops. Well-established traders who offered apprenticeships to prospective traders were Aboobaker Amod, Amod Bayat and Parsi Rustomjee. Caste and kinship ties played an important role in the employment and early organisation of Indian businesses. Top priority was always given to family members and friends who shared the same caste affiliation and village origin. The more established merchants were able to recruit skilled artisans under a contract system. In most cases contracts offered the individual medical, travelling and boarding benefits. The wages paid to employees often ranged from 30 shillings to £15 a month. White traders often complained about Indian business practices. For example, George L. Russell, a draper in Ladysmith, stated in 1905 that his business suffered due to strong Arab competition. He claimed that Arabs ‘imported’ assistants from India and paid them between £3 and £4 a month. He added that ‘juniors’ from India were paid 30 shillings per month while white traders were paying their assistants between £14 to £20 a month. 11 Indian merchants were also criticised for the ‘primitive method of bookkeeping’ of their business transactions. Books were drawn in either Gujarati and Urdu, the former predominating. The petty storekeeper was in the habit of keeping a cash book and a daily book to record transactions, while the larger merchants kept an invoice and a stock

book. Books were drawn once a week or once a fortnight. The owner of the store usually dictated to the accountant what entries to make, especially if the latter was a non-Indian

and who was not fluent in the Gujarati language. Colonial traders often accused Indian

traders of resorting to illegal trading methods because of their non-compliance with proper bookkeeping methods. Subsequently, the Natal Government passed the General Dealers’ Licensing Act, which made it compulsory for all traders to keep their accounts in the English language. This placed severe restrictions on the petty Indian traders, who

were not fluent in English and could not always hire a competent bookkeeper who was.

Consequently, a considerable number of them were refused trade licences because of their inability to keep books in the approved way. 12

While the petty traders formed the core of the Indian commercial class, the more estab- lished merchants were a tiny minority, often described as an élite group. They engaged

not only in retailing and wholesaling of Indian and African goods but also diversified

their trade by investing in real estate, shipping and by importing, as stated above. Those

who headed the list of major importers were Dada Abdoolla and Co., Jalbhoy Sorabjee Bros, Moosa Hajee Cassim, Dada Osman and Aboobaker Amod. These merchants were representatives of major international companies which regularly supplied them with Indian groceries. For example, Ajum Goolam Hoosen and Co., a firm based in Mau- ritius, exported dholl, ghee, dates and haberdashery to their agent Aboobaker Amod fairly regularly after 1880. Moosa Hajee Cassim, another merchant, made regular trips abroad sourcing Indian goods. 13 Importing Indian goods was essential, as many of these items could not be manufac- tured in Natal. Besides, these merchants knew precisely the preferences and customs of

Indian Family Businesses in Natal, 1870 – 1950


the Indian people and used this knowledge effectively in their trading ventures in Natal. A witness stated at the Wragg Commission in 1885-87:

Their friends and partners in India can watch the market and purchase at the

moment of greatest profit and advantage, they know the ways and habits of Indian immigrants and choose their stock by the aid of such knowledge…. 14

The chief articles imported were dholl, ghee, rice, spices and other Indian condiments

referred to as ‘coolie stores’ in the list of general imports. 15 Besides being major import- ers of goods, Indian merchants also took the role of money-lenders or ‘local bankers’. In 1908 an advertisement appeared in the Indian Opinion to the effect that loans were available against bonds, title deeds and other available securities. In East Africa, Indian merchants played a similar role by assisting European explorers in their expeditions, on occasion contracting to forward additional supplies of provisions and trade goods into the interior. 16 Indian merchants also advanced money to family members and friends. Most often these loans were made to assist relatives or friends to set up their businesses. They were often extended on the basis of trust, with no legally binding documents. Failure to repay the debt often meant exclusion from the trade and credit network. The vast majority of Indian traders were general dealers, but a few specialised in certain types of trade. For example, the Gujarati-speaking Muslims — in particular those who originated from Bombay and Surat — specialised in Indian fabrics and clothing. Amongst them were Hoodamals, E. Aboobaker & Bros and M.C. Camroodeen & Co. For example, Hoodamal was a Mooltani silk merchant trading at 476 West Street. He stocked a large variety of Indian curios and fancy goods such as cashmere shawls, Chi-

nese and Maltese silks, amongst other items. Aboobaker and Camroodeen dealt chiefly in the imported ladies’ and children’s clothing, namely hats, boots and underskirts. Oth- ers specialised in tobacco. For example, S.P. Mahomed & Co., Ebrahim Camroodeen and M.Sohner Peerum were tobacconists. They sold a variety of cigars, cheroots and perfumes. A few, such as N.M.A Karrim, O.N Mahomed & Co., and Suliman Essop, specialised in hardware and timber. 17 Indian merchants, in particular the more established traders, also took to commercial advertising to promote and market their wares. As early as 1883, established merchants such as Dada Abdoolla & Co; Parsee Rustomjee and Aboobaker Amod, made their ap- pearances in the Natal Almanac and Yearly Register. Others followed in 1890: Hajee Mahomed, Hajee Dada, Ismail Mamojee & Co. The circulation of local Indian news- papers at the beginning of the twentieth century, such as Indian Opinion, Al Islam, The Colonial Indian News and the African Chronicle, provided Indian merchants with an opportunity to advertise. Readership was mainly confined to local Indians as many of these newspapers appeared in the vernacular languages. Advertising in the early years was generally conservative, with adverts appearing in Gujarati and English, and at times Urdu. They simply stated the name and address of the company, and the type of goods for sale. Advertising space bought by petty traders was often no larger than the size of a match-box, but more established merchants placed larger, bolder adverts, and at times also printed the logo of their company as well as a picture of their premises. 18

Competition and Conflict 1890–1914

The monopolisation of both the retail and African trade by Indian traders in the 1880s unleashed a wave of anti-Indian sentiment in Natal. It culminated in the passing of racial


Indian Family Businesses in Natal, 1870 – 1950

legislation which aimed at curtailing the economic and political freedom of Indians in the province. This was possible once Natal had attained Responsible Government in 1893. (This was a stage of colonial development where the British Government granted a very large measure of self-government to the white inhabitants of the colony.) Several of the leading and pioneer Indian merchants viewed the constitutional change in Natal with great fear and anxiety. They were convinced that the Colony’s government, now under the almost unfettered control of the white colonists, would place their trading rights and vested interests in jeopardy. In 1891 the Durban Indian Committee under

the chairmanship of Hajee Dada was formed. The aim of the committee was to protect the economic interests of the Indian merchants. The committee petitioned the Colonial

Office and officials in India, arguing that responsible government in Natal ‘would

do us incalculable harm’. 19 During the first parliamentary session under responsible government, legislation was passed that was to affect Indian commercial interests. In 1894, Act 22, Powers of the Municipal Corporations Bill was introduced to empower town councils to regulate sanitary conditions in Natal’s boroughs. Indian shops and residences came under severe scrutiny for being ‘unwholesome’ and ‘unsanitary’. During a debate on the bill held 3 May 1894 Sir John Robinson, Premier of Natal stated:

It is notorious that the only parts of Durban that can be considered as being in an unwholesome or unsanitary condition are those parts which are more particularly

occupied by Asiatic residents. 20

However, in many ways Act 22 was used as a means of refusing trade licences to Indians on alleged sanitary grounds. This practice was later reinforced with the in- troduction of Act 18, the General Dealers’ Licences Amendment Law of 1897. This stipulated that local bodies such as the town councils or town boards would appoint an

officer to issue licences to wholesale and retail dealers in the boroughs and townships. The licensing officer was bound to refuse to grant or renew a licence if the premises

concerned did not comply with sanitary regulations and if the applicant was unable to

fulfil the condition of the Insolvency Law no. 47 of 1887, which required account books

to be kept in English. In addition, there was no right of appeal to any court of justice,

if the licence was refused. The denial of the right of appeal was considered by Indian traders as an affront to their rights as British citizens. Even Natal’s prime minister Harry

Escombe, one of the chief architects of this Act, found it difficult to justify this aspect

of the legislation:

It would not be possible to pass this Bill without appearing to take away a part of

the liberty of the subject, because the subject now had a right to a licence as a matter of course, and if this Bill were passed into Law, the subject would no longer

have the right. He would only have that right if the licensing authority thought fit

to grant it. This Bill interferes with the course of Law, because the Bill would be

defeated in its objects if the Courts had jurisdiction. 21

L.E. Neame, writing on the Act in 1907 in Asiatic Danger in the Colonies states:

Outwardly it carefully avoids class legislation, for in theory it applies equally to Europeans and Asiatics. But in practice it operates against the Indian storekeepers. No white man is refused a licence….in Durban; the Act had been admittedly utilised in order to prevent Indian merchants opening shops in the principal streets. The licensing officer is the servant body [sic] of white storekeepers. He knows their

Indian Family Businesses in Natal, 1870 – 1950


views and whatever his personal opinion may be, he can hardly be expected to

sacrifice his appointment by opposing those who employ him. As a protective

measure to the white trader, the Act is valuable. From the standpoint of expediency

the system may find supporters; in reality it is simply class legislation. 22

The licensing law placed severe restrictions on Indian trade. Loss of a licence made it

very difficult for a storekeeper to sell his business because there was no guarantee that

the purchaser would be successful in acquiring a licence. Sometimes retail licences were granted for a limited period only in order to enable the applicant to sell off his goods. The plight of the Indian traders in Natal became so acute that the Indian government threatened to put a stop to the provision of indentured labour. Despite the threat Natal premier Albert Hime stated in 1903 that ‘Arab traders’ posed a mortal danger to Natal which ‘can never be a matter of indifference to a European population enjoying rights of Responsible Government.’ 23 In the same year, the Natal government passed the Im- migration Restriction Bill which was aimed at the Indian trading class.

In the late 1880s and early 1890s there was an influx of passenger Indians into the

Colony which to some extent alarmed the white colonists. In the course of six months from July 1896 to January 1897, 1 964 passenger Indians arrived. Between July 1894 and December 1895 4 432 indentured Indians arrived. Colonial agitation against these developments reached a climax with the anti-Indian demonstration of December 1896-January 1897 at the Durban dock area known as the Point. Gandhi was returning

Indian Family Businesses in Natal, 1870 – 1950 views and whatever his personal opinion may be,

Anti-Indian demonstration at the docks, Durban 1896. Many white colonists were concerned about continued Indian immigration and a demonstration was organised

in order to stop further immigrants landing. Tempers flared and Harry Escombe, then

a member of the cabinet who became prime minister the following year, mounted a pile of wood to address the crowd. Although the demonstrators eventually dispersed peacefully, M.K. Gandhi was subsequently assaulted as he made his way into town.


Indian Family Businesses in Natal, 1870 – 1950

to Natal after a controversial trip to India. While in India, he had published a pamphlet titled The Grievances of British Indians in South Africa: An Appeal to the Indian Public. Gandhi detailed the discriminatory policies of the Natal Government and the hardships of British Indians residing in the colony. When he attempted to disembark at the Point, together with other Indian passengers, he was met with resistance from colonists. The Point demonstration highlighted the growing hostility between the colonists and the free Indian population. 24 Thus the Immigration Restriction Bill was an attempt to allay the colonists’ concern about the ‘Asiatic invasion’. The Bill required immigrants to have £25 and knowledge of a European language in its written form. The Bill to some extent hindered the development and expansion of Indian commerce because the language

test made it difficult for Indian merchants to recruit assistants from India, as the latter were fluent only in Gujarati and had no knowledge of English. In addition the trading

class made regular trips to India to connect with family and friends, but on their return they were forced to apply for domicile certificates. 25 The position of the Indian trader deteriorated after 1905. In the post Anglo-Boer War period an economic recession hit Natal which coincided with an anti-Indian outburst. The battle cry was ‘Down with the Indian trader’. Public meetings were held throughout the colony calling for the more rigid application of the Licensing Act. In Pietermaritzburg,

the Chamber of Commerce called upon the licensing officer to refuse all new licences

and transfers. The most vociferous opponents of Indian trade were the numerous petty white traders who came into direct competition and were united in their agitation. Yet for a large section of the population, in particular indentured Indians and African labour-

ers, the Indian trader with his low prices and variety of goods, in times of economic recession provided relief. In 1908 the Natal government introduced legislation aimed

at fixing trade licences for 10 years, after which no licences would be granted. This was

to affect primarily Indian traders. Fortunately for the Indian community the legislation was not approved by the British Colonial Office. 26 In 1910 the colonies of the Cape of Good Hope and Natal, and the former Boer re- publics the Orange Free State and the Transvaal entered into a political Union, and fresh restrictions on Indian immigration and trade were to continue in the post-Union period. In 1913 the Union government passed the third Immigration Bill, aimed at restricting the Indian trading class. An immigrant could be excluded if he could not read and write in a European language. Domicile rights were lost after three years, only immigrants having domicile had the right of appeal to the Courts. The Indian trading community objected to the bill. Many recruited friends and rela- tives to work as clerks, managers and supervisors in their shops, and the majority of their assistants were not fluent in English. The Indian community protested by engag- ing in a massive passive resistance strike, which received widespread publicity in both India and London. The strike culminated in the passing of the Indian Relief Act in 1914. While this provided temporary relief, in that one wife and minor children of domiciled Indians

were given residential status, the language test was still enforced. 27 However, by 1914 the outbreak of the First World War did much to push the ‘Indian question’ aside. Nevertheless, anti-Indian sentiment was still strong and the position of Indian traders deteriorated further.

Indian Family Businesses in Natal, 1870 – 1950


1914 – 1950

During the First World War the Indian trading community of Natal assisted eagerly in the war effort. Both the established merchants and the petty traders contributed

generously to war funds and made regular donations of food and clothing. The war

inevitably created economic boom conditions with the influx of foreign troops and the

rise in food prices. However, it also created a climate for unscrupulous Indian traders to monopolise basic food items, and rice in particular. They often became targets of petty white traders whose resentment unleashed another wave of anti-Indian feeling in the post-war period. This led to the appointment of the Asiatic Enquiry Commission of 1921, the find- ings and recommendations of which are important in that they dispelled the myth of

the ‘Asiatic menace’. It argued that low standards were a matter of class and not race,

and that Indian traders though they did undersell white traders benefited the consumer. However, despite these comments and findings, the Commission recommended vol- untary segregation. The Nationalist and Labour parties’ ‘Pact’ government which came to power in 1924 sought to act on that recommendation. It viewed the Indian community as ‘aliens’ and a threat to white economic interests, and sought to restrict the entry of Indians into South Africa and to impose further trading and residential restrictions on domiciled and South African born Indians. It did this by introducing the Class Areas and Areas Reservation and Immigration and Restriction (Further Provision) Bills of 1924 and 1925 respectively. If enacted they would have legislated compulsory segregation of the races. 28 Because in the post-Union period many established Indian traders had diversified their business activities to include shipping, real estate and manufacturing, such legislation would have been critical to Indian vested interests as it would have allowed Indians to lease and purchase immovable property only in demarcated areas. In addition, Indian traders were constantly at loggerheads with licensing officers who sought to restrict the issuing of new retail licences. Several crucial cases brought before the Natal Supreme Court bear testimony to this fact. However, the intervention of the Indian Government in 1927 prevented the bills from being enacted, much to the relief of the Indian com- munity. 29 The issue of compulsory segregation, however, resurfaced in the 1930s and 1940s. This was a response to the ‘penetration’ of Indians into predominantly white areas that was supposedly taking place throughout Natal. When a few wealthy Indian merchants acquired or occupied property in such areas, whites denounced this and raised concerns over ‘Indian penetration’. In response, the government appointed the Broome Commission (under Mr Justice F.N.Broome). Its finding was that acquisition of property was based not on race but economic need. The more established Indian merchants were seeking alternative forms of investment, and purchase of immovable property was an important one. It affected only a small group of Indians as the vast majority of the Indian commercial class were petty traders and were not in a position to invest in property. A temporary solution was achieved in 1944, after a negotiated agreement whereby the more established Indian merchants showed a pragmatic willingness to accept some form of voluntary segregation, as long as their vested interests were not affected. 30


Indian Family Businesses in Natal, 1870 – 1950


The arrival of the passenger Indians to Natal from the 1870s onwards laid the foundations

of the Indian commercial class. They played an important role in developing and expanding Natal’s commercial network. The pioneer merchants not only laid the

foundation of Indian commercial expansion and diversification, but also challenged

the colonial economic system based on racial prejudice. The post-Union period was challenging, as the war had created new economic and social conditions. In their endeavours to survive, many succeeded while others sought alternative employment. Their position did not improve after 1948, as the Nationalist government adopted the apartheid policy, which further entrenched separation of the races. The Group Areas Act of 1950 was to create innumerable problems for Indian family businesses in the years that followed. Events in South Africa since 1950, and their effect on Indian South Africans in general and on Indian businesspeople in particular, form another important topic, but one which is beyond the scope of the present article.



  • 1 S.Bhana and J.B.Brain, Setting Down Roots — Indian Migrants to South Africa 1860 – 1911 (Johannesburg, Witwatersrand University Press), 1990. p.37.

  • 2 R.S Rungta, Rise of Business Corporations in India 1851 – 1900 (Cambridge University Press, 1970), p.164.

  • 3 M.Swan, Gandhi — The South African Experience (Johannesburg, Ravan Press, 1985), p.3.

  • 4 University of Kwazulu-Natal (Westville Campus) (hereafter cited as UKZN), Makan Collection, 1237/16.

  • 5 Indian Opinion 10 December 1903, vol. 28; The Colonial Indian News, 28 June 1904, no. 8.

  • 6 M.W.Swanson, ‘The Durban System: Root of Urban Apartheid in Colonial Natal’, African Studies 35 (3 – 4), 1976, p.161.

  • 7 Swanson, ibid. p.418.

  • 8 Natal Government Gazette, 25 August 1885, XXXVII(2125), p.777; Natal Almanac and Yearly Register (henceforth NAYR), 1900, p.247. Statistics were compiled from the voters’ lists in the Government Gazette for the Borough of Durban between 1885 and 1908.

  • 9 C.H.Wyley, ‘The Natal Dealers’ Licences Act of 1897 and the Conflict between Indian and White Capital in the Borough of Durban’ (BA Hons., University of Natal, 1986). p 13. Unpublished thesis.

    • 10 The South African Indian Who’s Who and Commercial Directory, 1936 – 1937, vol. I, pp.371 – 8; D.P.Ghai and Y.P.Ghai, ‘Asians in East Africa : Problems and Prospects’, Journal of Modern African Studies, 3(1), 1965, p.37; K.Hiralal, ‘The Natal Indian Trader — A Struggle for Survival 1875 – 1910’. MA, University of Durban-Westville, 1991). p.262. Unpublished thesis.

    • 11 K. Hiralal, ibid., pp.265—72; J.S.Mangat, A History of Asians in East Africa c. 1886 to 1945 (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1969), p.15; Pietermaritzburg Archives Repository, (hereafter cited as PAR), LU 78A, 1901: Port Shepstone minute papers 3/2/9; PAR, Natal Parliamentary Papers (NPP) 413, s.c. no. 4,

    • 12 UKZN (Westville Campus), Thaker Collection, 1107/324; PAR, Weenen Magistrate’s Records: Licensing Board Application[s] Note Book 1898 – 1904, B1/1.

    • 13 A.C.Kalla: ‘The Gujarati merchants in Mauritius. 1850 – 1900’, Journal of Mauritian Studies, 2(1), 1987, p.54; K. Hiralal, ‘The Natal Indian Trader’, p. 269; Who’s Who, 1936 – 1937, vol. I, p.131.

    • 14 Y.A.Meer et al, Documents of Indentured Labour, Natal 1851 – 1917 (Durban, Institute of Black Research, 1980), p.391.

    • 15 The Colonial Indian News, 28 June 1901, no. 8.

    • 16 J.S. Mangat, Asians in East Africa, p.11; Indian Opinion, 22 February 1908.

    • 17 K. Hiralal , ‘The Natal Indian Trader’ , p.289; Al Islam, 1907; Indian Opinion, 1906; NAYR, 1902; Indian Opinion, 1905.

Indian Family Businesses in Natal, 1870 – 1950


  • 18 NAYR, 1883; Indian Opinion, 1908; African Chronicle, 1908; The Colonial Indian News, 1901; K. Hiralal , ‘The Natal Indian Trader’, pp.292 – 295.

  • 19 M. Swan, Gandhi — The South African Experience, pp.41 – 3

  • 20 Duncan Leslie Du Bois, ‘Sir John Robinson, The Mercury and the Indian Question in Natal 1860 – 1897’. (MA, University of Natal, 1989). p.180. Unpublished thesis. Debates of the Legislative Assembly of the Colony of Natal, vol. XXII, 1894, p.83. Unpublished thesis.

  • 21 M.Gandhi, The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi. Vols. I – XV. (Delhi, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, 1958 – 59), pp.334 – 5. (hereafter cited as CWMG).

  • 22 H.S.L.Pollak, The Indians of South Africa: Helots within the Empire and how they are treated (Madras, G.A. Nateson, 1909), pp.8 – 9.

  • 23 R.A.Huttenback, Gandhi in South Africa: British Imperialism and the Indian Question 1860 – 1914 (Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1971), p.227; PAR, LU78A, 1901. Port Shepstone minute papers 3/2/9.

  • 24 K.Hiralal, ‘The Natal Indian Trader’, p.342; CWMG, vol II, pp.271 – 7, vol. II, p.3.

  • 25 PAR, CSO, vol. 1500 no. 73/1897; M.Gandhi, Satyagraha in South Africa (Ahmedbad, Navajivan Publishing House, 1928), pp.54 – 5; PAR, CSO, vol. 1522 no. 4799/1899, vol. 1537 no. 7897/1897, vol. 1801 no. 9272/1905; Immigration Restriction Department, vol. 63, 746/1906, vol. 84, 792/1910.

  • 26 PAR, CSO, ‘Petition by Natal Indians Regarding their Position Under Closer Union’; vol. 1878 no. 5595/1909; Indian Opinion, 9 November 1907; K.Hiralal, ‘Indian Family Businesses in the Natal Economy 1890 – 1950’ (PhD, University of Natal, 2000), pp.207 – 11. Unpublished thesis.

  • 27 Indian Opinion 8 July 1914; M. Swan, Gandhi — The South African experience, p.210; Richard D.Keiser, ‘The South African Indians’ Challenge to the Union and Imperial Governments, 1910 – 1919’, South African Historical Journal, 13, 1981, p.83.

  • 28 Minutes of Evidence taken before the Select Committee on Areas Reservation and Immigration and Registration (Further Provision) Bill, 3 March 1926, pp.16 – 17; Hindi, 4 September 1925, 11 September 1925, 16 October 1925.

  • 29 K. Hiralal, ‘Indian Family Businesses in the Natal Economy’, pp.204 – 10; Mesthrie, ‘From Sastri to Deshmukh’, p.312; Indian Views, 18 February, 1938.

  • 30 Report of the Indian Penetration Commission, 1941, pp.63 – 4; Indian Views, 17 January 1941; K. Hiralal, ‘Indian Family Businesses in the Natal Economy’ p.211.

A Horse, a Singer and a Prince


A Horse, a Singer and a Prince

A Horse, a Singer and a Prince — two busy months in the life of Pietermaritzburg

The intersection, in the life of a single city, of three very different characters, each come

and gone in a matter of days, can spotlight the culture and milieu of that city — in this

case, Pietermaritzburg — which the official record might miss. Of the trio of characters

here recalled, one might say that the city was in a fair state of titillation well before the

scheduled visits of the singer and of the prince, but that the horse only achieved fame in retrospect. In 2008, however, it is probably more widely known that a horse once won the Comrades Marathon than that Natal produced a singer who became something of a by-word in the twenties and thirties, the era of Ivor Novello. On April 7th 1925 The Natal Witness announced the imminent arrival in Natal of its girl-made-good, the mezzo-soprano Garda Hall. The paper cites the recent comment of one London critic that, ‘for sympathy and warmth, I prefer her to Galli Curci’. (In 1925, Amelita Galli-Curci was the diva par excellence — the leading exponent of Italian coloratura, so this was no faint praise!) Accolades like this cast in a most unexpected light the former pupil of Girls’ Collegiate who had left Pietermaritzburg only five years

before with the reputation (as became evident, when the school searched its records) of being consistently ejected from singing classes for singing out of tune. It must be admitted, of course, that if quantity of newsprint was anything to go by, Miss Hall’s home-coming was quite overshadowed by the scheduled visit of the heir to the British throne, Edward, Prince of Wales. When it became known that it would be in Maritzburg and Maritzburg alone that Edward would open an agricultural show on his tour, local excitement knew no bounds. Extraordinary claims were voiced and counter-voiced — that the prince was a beef-farmer with a preference for shorthorns,

that he was a dog-lover with a fixation on Welsh Terriers. One correspondent declared that it would be ‘a definite and graceful act of loyalty’ to refrain from shaking the royal

Natalia 38 (2008), Bill Bizley pp. 38 – 48

Natalia 38 (2008)

Copyright © Natal Society Foundation 2010

A Horse, a Singer and a Prince


hand, so as to save further strain on ‘one who does

not spare himself

(In fact, when Edward arrived in

... Cape Town after long tours of Canada and Nigeria,

he was often seen to use his left hand in greeting.) A vulgar statistician promptly informed the Witness that, though the prince might indeed have performed a thousand handshakes at a single ceremony, President

Coolidge had recently shaken hands with 1,869 people

in 45 minutes, at the rate of 49 a minute.

Nevertheless, for all this swelling royalist ardour, there was a discernible tremor of excitement when the

Maritzburg public learned, on April 14th, that Garda

Hall had arrived by mailship, and was staying with her parents at Seecliffe, Winklespruit, prior to giving her first concert in Durban. That event duly took place, and was greeted by the leading Durban critic with the

announcement that ‘her voice and artistry far exceeded anything that I had been led to expect’.

A Horse, a Singer and a Prince hand, so as to save further strain on ‘one

‘South Africa’s best singer and ‘Maritzburg’s very own’, said the Natal Witness of this portrait of Garda Hall, then in her mid-twenties.

Came April 22nd 1925 and Garda Hall’s homecoming to the city in which she had grown up and received her first music lessons. Curiosity was intense. In the words of the paper: ‘those who remember the girl who left five years ago to seek training and

fame in London will be able to judge for themselves as to the beauty of the voice that has found so much commendation amongst the London critics’ — critics who are usually ‘sparing in their praises and free with their criticism’.

A composite portrait begins to emerge in the run-up to the concert. Says one columnist:

‘The question of Miss Hall’s birth place might well be called a “Tale of Two Cities”,

for although she was born in Durban she came to Maritzburg when she was seven and lived in the city, receiving her education at the Girls’ Collegiate School, and her first lessons at the hands of local masters.’ (I suspect that, in 1925, even the most zealous mistresses would be called ‘masters’.) She departed, in her own words ‘a very poor

mezzo soprano’, some five years ago. Apparently it was after only a year or two at the Royal Academy that her reputation began to spread. ‘She has since then recorded suc- cess after success, until now when her services are in such demand that she has been,

prior to her trip out here, singing at five or six concerts a week ’ ...

Maritzburg was ready for a gala occasion, and a gala occasion it certainly got. On the

morning paper’s front page, usually given to imperial and international news, a headline

read ‘Remarkable scenes at the Town Hall’. A hall that was designed for 1 200 brimmed

with 1 500 for the concert. Every seat was taken, the organ steps were crowded, and many had to stand. Bouquets were literally showered on the singer. She gave Maritzburg,

said the paper, ‘the greatest treat it has had for years.’ Next day came the more sober write-up by the regular columnist. Even he was pressed to say that he had never ‘expected to see such a remarkable gathering. Leaders of society, music lovers, school girls, the man in the street who rarely goes to concerts in these days of the cinema — all were there, awaiting the appearance of the young

Maritzburg girl who has made good in London and has added to the laurels gained by

South Africans in the world’s metropolis.’ Miss Hall launched the concert straight off


A Horse, a Singer and a Prince

with an aria from Rigoletto, leaving the local critic ‘marvelling at the tremendous work she must have done to attain the wonderful ease of production which characterises her singing.’ This critic (he signed himself ‘Jongleur’) certainly revelled in the occasion. Noting that Miss Hall had, ‘besides an exceptional voice, a most attractive and winsome personality’ he added that the silence after her last note was not merely the negative of sound, it was a ‘positive entity’!

The little Maritzburg orchestra was roundly appreciated by singer and audience alike, but, at the end of the concert, accompanied by piano only, she treated the audience to some

lighter numbers. Amongst these were some of the songs that she went on to record with

His Master’s Voice in 1926 — pieces that are somewhat dated, now, but still retrievable from the HMV archives. 1 One has to say that, with the swishing background of 1920s’ 78s, the result can hardly be called the ‘negative of sound’! The voice that emerges,

however, has remarkable clarity and brightness, and the singing is as much a tribute to

Miss Hall’s elocution teacher as to anyone more musical. She brought the Maritzburg evening to a close with ‘Poor Wandering One’ from The Pirates of Penzance.

Another Natalian who had recently created a stir over in London was the 42-year-old athlete and long-distance runner Arthur Newton, sometime Michaelhouse schoolmaster and then a farmer at Harding. Newton did not in fact run the very first Comrades of 1921, but his pre-eminence in the following years was so striking that he is today often

cited as the ‘father’ of the Comrades. After setting a new record for the up run in 1924, he travelled to England to test his prowess in the famous 52-mile London to Brighton

roadrace. This certainly gave the Natal farmer a world stage. Not only did he set a new

record for that event, but a new world-time for a distance of 50 miles, namely 5hrs, 53

mins and 43 secs. In those days the Comrades marathon was run on an ordinary working day in the last

week of May, in this case the Monday before Empire Day. Needless to say the local

readership, aware that it now had an international celebrity in its midst, speculated at length how Newton would fare in this, his fourth Comrades. ‘Will Newton run on Mon-

day?’ asked the headline on the Athletics page. Apparently he had developed a serious

muscular strain in one leg, and would spend Sunday deciding whether he could start with the runners on Monday. His drill was to run, typically, 20 miles a day, or about 500 a month. This last month, however, he had only run 116 miles, and had shortly beforehand

given up (said the agitated reporter) after merely two miles. We must remember that,

in 1925, the Comrades race was itself only four years old, and all the present-day hype

about the ‘Comrades’ spirit’ was not yet part of the vernacular. Nevertheless Newton

gave a hint of it when he declared that he would run even if he were not in 100% form.

‘I should of course be beaten by several of the competitors but I am quite capable of enjoying the joke with the best of them.’ Came Monday morning, and mounting speculation as to what Newton would do. Early-morning trams were laid on to get supporters to the starting point. The fame of the race was already such that a large crowd (including, says the Witness, a large female contingent) huddled at the intersection of Church Street and Commercial Road to hear Mayor Sanders call out ‘go’ on the last stroke of six.

A Horse, a Singer and a Prince


Off went the runners, Arthur Newton included. In 1925 there was no problem of the ‘bunching’ of the field — there were only twenty starters! The onlookers were beginning

to disperse when, three minutes later, an extraordinary apparition advanced on the starting line. 67-year-old Mr George Cookman Robinson, farmer of Middlefield near Rietvlei, arrived atop a thoroughbred hunter, which he had appositely named Why Not. There had been no press forewarning of this variation, so it was hardly fair of the Mercury to report that: ‘There appeared to be very little interest in this phase of the contest and

the major portion of the crowd did not wait to see the horse start.’ What the Witness said was that the rider came past the Town Hall ‘in the half light of dawn’ on a chestnut horse. ‘The horse was very fresh and excited and was trying to make a faster pace than

the rider wanted.’ Farmer Robinson (a descendant, by the way, of the first editor of the Natal Mercury, George Edgecombe Robinson) had apparently been provoked by the claim that ‘Newton would kill a horse’. He had decided to give Why Not some train- ing sessions on his farm in the previous months. (It is not recorded whether Why Not was so called before he was chosen for this historic mission.) Mr Robinson’s unusual

entry in the field had the support of the Comrades’ organiser, Mr. Vic Clapham, whose

stipulation was simply that the horse should start after the runners so as not to increase

the bunching. In 2008 we should not be patronising about the times that were achieved in the Comrades of those days. In 1925 the road from Maritzburg to Durban was almost com- pletely untarred — to the extent that Newton, at one point, ‘couldn’t see 20 feet in any direction on account of the dust’. In those days, too, the hour-by-hour state of the race could only be gauged by faint messages from party-line telephones that were strung

along the route. First reports indicated that the horse had covered the first 22 miles in two hours and was well ahead of the runners. From Drummond came the news not only

that the horse was ahead of leader Harry Phillips, but that Phillips himself was a mile

ahead of Newton. With time in hand at Drummond, Why Not’s owner gave the horse a

good rub-down and permitted a bottle of stout to be added to its water. ‘This,’ said the

spectators, ‘must have been of very fine quality, judging from the animal’s performance ’



(In the light of modern Athletics, I wonder whether Why Not would have

passed a drugs test.)

As it turned out, Why Not came into Durban a good 80 minutes before Newton. It

would not have been known, at that point, that the human runner was running his fast-

est Comrades ever, setting a record that was not surpassed for another 12 years. The singular eruption of Mr Robinson on his horse in the streets of Durban was too early to cause a stir. ‘There was no applause for the valiant horse’ says the Mercury, for the Durban crowd was not yet even lining up for the runners. In fact, if one sizes up the

newsprint that was spent on the occasion, it seems the equine victory might well have

been forgotten if Newton himself had not made a feature of it. Newton came in at 6 hrs

24 mins — 31 minutes better than his ‘down’ record of two years earlier, and 40 minutes ahead of the lagging Harry Phillips. (One must again recall the condition of the road in

those days — only eight runners came in in under nine hours.)

The Durban crowd may not have been ready for Why Not, but they certainly were

ready for Arthur Newton. Even the workmen busy building the new Stuttafords in West Street stopped their labours to cheer him through. Says the Mercury: ‘there was little doubt amongst the spectators that they were watching the world’s greatest long-distance


A Horse, a Singer and a Prince

A Horse, a Singer and a Prince Why Not looks as breezy as ever posing next

Why Not looks as breezy as ever posing next to his owner, George Cookman Robinson, and (far right) the man he beat on the 1925 down run, the famous Arthur Newton. The Esplanade statue of Dick King provides an appropriate backdrop.

runner.’ On reaching the finishing line Newton made what today would be the thoroughly

incorrect gesture of asking for a pipe. When no pipe was available he settled for a cigar.

What was particularly gracious about this modest hero was that he then sought out Mr Robinson and his fresh-as-a-daisy horse, in order to shake the rider’s hand. The photo- graph that survives is a family treasure; in the local press there was no photograph at

all. It must have been taken next day, with a much recovered Arthur Newton in a suit,

a stern Mr Robinson in his jodhpurs and riding boots, and Why Not looking as fresh as a bottle of stout might have made him. The photograph, you notice, has been taken,

appropriately, in front of the statue of Natal’s epic horse-ride hero, Dick King.

Three other amazing things about Arthur Newton in 1925: in June he and a Mr Hen- riksen pushed a heavy wood-and-brass government measuring wheel all the way from

the Maritzburg Town Hall to the Durban Town Hall to establish the exact distance of the

Comrades race: 54 miles and 670 yards. Then in August Newton settled any doubts as to his world-class status by running solo to Durban, beating his own Comrades’ record

with a time of 6 hrs and 14 mins, and setting, along the way, three new world records for 30, 40 and 50 mile distances. But the strangest item in the Newton story comes out in a letter to the Witness that he wrote shortly thereafter. It transpired that Newton had an ulterior motive in drawing public attention to himself, and one that had nothing to do with long-distance running. He wanted to protest against the injustice he believed

A Horse, a Singer and a Prince


he was suffering having his farmlands near Harding expropriated by the state. For all the lustre of his name he did not win this particular battle, and he left Natal that year to settle in Bulawayo.

But now the likes of Arthur Newton and Garda Hall rapidly took back-page status as the city prepared to entertain Edward, Prince of Wales. One must remember that the readers of the Witness were now living under the Nationalist Party/Labour Party Pact government of General Hertzog. Their ‘birthright’ confidence in the power and ambience

of Empire was considerably under strain. General Hertzog was diplomatic enough to

send a telegram to HMS Hood as it steamed down the west coast, assuring the prince of South Africa’s warmest welcome. (If we talk of the ‘ambience of empire’ here, it is indicated, for example, in the Witness’s casual mention that Maritzburg’s Show Week would see the opening, at Scott’s Theatre, of a show then playing in London’s West End, ‘Clothes and the Woman’, starring Iris Hoey. The ambience of 1925 can be sampled in various Witnesses and Mercurys for these months. Glancing through the fashion pages one finds endless attention to the latest feminine styles, complete with instructions how to

‘bob’ one’s hair with that familiar 1920s curl forwards at both sides of the chin. (Readers

were not concerned, apparently, with the news that, at the University of Vienna, some ‘bobbed’ female students were thrown off campus, because the look was a ‘Jewish’

invention.) On the motor-car pages one is quite astonished at the range of cars that were

then locally available — not just Fords and Austins but the Paige-Jewett, the Bean, the Oakland, the Durant, the Rugby, the 8-cylinder Hupmobile, the Italian Ansaldo, the Willys-Knight, the Maxwell and so on. (Studebaker boasted that their ‘Duplex’ could

be converted from an open to a closed saloon in 30 seconds, simply by raising a hood.)

The cheapest car was the Gray at £235 — this in an era when the cheapest voyage to

England from Durban cost £30. (A BSA bicycle cost ten guineas — £10 10s, so the

boat-fare was about three times the cost of a standard bicycle.)

In 1925 the technological breakthrough that unified the imperial audience was not

the petrol engine but radio — the ‘wireless’ as it was referred to for decades to come.

Such being the state of technology, the Witness’s readers had every hope that they would hear Edward’s first words when he stepped ashore at Cape Town on April 30th. Next day’s paper of May 1st shows huge crowds gathered outside the Witness offices in Longmarket Street, all poised for a technological breakthrough. The prince’s voice was

to be relayed by telephone all the way from Cape Town to Durban, and from that point radioed up to Pietermaritzburg. One imagines someone holding a telephone receiver

near the dais where HRH stood, and then a long succession of manual exchanges all the way to Natal, bringing the long-awaited voice to its patriotic audience. The Witness had no hesitation in calling it ‘the world’s longest telephone relay’, and crowds gathered in

such proportion that Longmarket Street had to be closed to vehicular traffic. Alas! — the prince’s voice, in its local rendering, was all but inaudible, and one had to rely more on good faith to hear him than on radio technology. However, on May 5th

a letter to the paper informed Maritzburg that if the crowd had only moved to Burger

Street, two blocks away, it would have got much better reception! That’s how critical ‘tuning’ was in those days — a different result from street to street. What Burger Street’s


A Horse, a Singer and a Prince

superior reception revealed, however, was a hitch in the ‘world’s longest telephone

relay’, and that of a very human variety. Said the Burger Street correspondent:

Everybody was on the tip-toe of expectation. First came the Mayor of Cape Town’s speech, delivered like a parson at a grave-side, and which must have reduced the prince to tears. And then the Durban broadcaster intervened to say that in a minute or two we would hear the prince speak. ‘Will it be a tenor voice? It’s not likely to be a bass. He is a little man, probably a boyish baritone. Will he have the Eton drawl?’

And then, at the height of expectation, what should happen but that a conversation

started up between two remote telephone exchanges, one male, the other female. ‘When

are you coming up?’ ‘Oh, I’m going away on Tuesday


‘Really! Wish I was going


To the great frustration of the gathered audience this went on for some minutes, until

somebody at last plugged in the correct connection, and the loyal subjects got to hear

the final words of the prince’s speech. Fortunately, their effect was reassuring. Says our Burger Street radio-phile: ‘We heard sufficient to decide that the timbre of the voice

is a good, strong, incisive baritone, not a throaty tenor and with nothing boyish about



As for the humble technician who had inserted the wrong plug: ‘Personally, I feel

that ordinary murder would be much too light a punishment ’ ... Through the month of May the Witness readership was far too busy following the prince’s marathon through the Union of South Africa to celebrate the horse’s marathon

of the same month. What became evident, during this royal progress, was that the dip-

lomatic prince wooed the Afrikaans section of the country as much as the English, and

made an unexpectedly large impression on the black population, which often turned

up in numbers larger than any white contingent in order to see him. At Umtata 30,000

Xhosas turned out, and a Witness leader, a little anxious about Edward’s preference for casual lounge suits, advised that the opportunity should not be lost for ‘the immense impression made on the native mind by the appearance of the prince and his staff in

the full panoply of war’. At Bethlehem, on his way down to Natal, he noticed a ‘native’

‘tin whistle’ band gathered on the platform, and asked them to play to him. The ensu-

ing cacophony obliterated the fact that this was a rendering of ‘God Save the King’, so

no-one stood to attention.

Eventually Edward reached Natal. He was lionised in Durban (as witness the famous incident when, introduced to the pupils of Durban Ladies’ College, he said, ‘But these

aren’t ladies, they’re just young girls’, upon which the school promptly changed its

name to the Durban Girls’ College). Soon the special train took him to Eshowe, capi- tal of Zululand. Quite a literature could be amassed about this particular visit. Fifty thousand Zulus assembled there for the dance of a lifetime, and there was a sort of

running ambiguity as to whether it was Edward, Prince of Wales, or Solomon, King of the Zulus, who was actually the drawcard. In 1925 Solomon owned four cars, each one

driven by a white chauffeur. At Eshowe he arrived in a blue open saloon with leopard-

skin seats — grander than anything the sugar barons produced for the prince! Letters criss-crossed after the Eshowe visit, some blaming the whites for exceptional rudeness

during the praise-oratory of the Zulus, and others complaining of Solomon’s taunting disposition, almost flicking a whisk directly at the prince. Incidentally, railway aficionados will be interested to learn that we nearly lost the Im- perial heir as the royal train coiled down the hills from Eshowe to the coast. Apparently

A Horse, a Singer and a Prince


the bogey of the second-to-last coach became derailed. Fortunately the train was moving so sedately that it could rapidly be halted. The whole entourage thereupon trans-shipped to the pilot train ahead. That evening the prince calmed all nerves by having a ‘smokers’ concert’ on the train, making available his own ukelele for the festivity.

Meanwhile the question as to what to do with the prince when he arrived in Maritzburg

was raising considerable controversy. A letter of 19th May, written by no less a personality than one of the city’s top physicians, Dr Oddin-Taylor, expressed shock and

dismay at the discovery that there was a plan afoot to send Edward down Commercial

Road to open the Royal Show in a ricksha. Dr Oddin-Taylor found the idea quite intolerable:‘One can hardly imagine anything which could be more likely to create an

extremely bad impression amongst the natives than that they should see their future king

being treated in this facetious manner


He was supported next day by Mr Roy Hathorn

who said it was like ‘the unthinkable idea of the King being asked to ride a bicycle in

a State procession.’ The Witness confirmed that the ricksha proposal, so far from being dropped, had received official sanction, and had been submitted to the prince. It transpired that the applicant was the Students’ Representative Council of Natal

University College. They were much impressed by the fact that the University of Cape Town Rag committee had put the prince on an ox-wagon for his triumphal ride into Cape Town — a festivity which he seemed to enjoy. The Witness was assured that ‘the “rag” ’ would not have ‘the boisterous elements usual on such occasions’, and would simply be a procession of decorated rickshas. The hauling of the princely ricksha would be deputed to the most picturesque ricksha-man of the day, rather unfortunately named

‘Whisky’. (Another version was that the students themselves would do the pulling.

It seems that the word ‘students’ had the same effect then as it has today. One reader

growled: ‘If such a thing is attempted, I hope doctors will line the route


’) For all

those first reactions, the SRC’s idea seemed to be well on the way to success. On May 25th a letter from the prince’s entourage announced that he had agreed to the ‘rag’ on Thursday the 11th. This gave the Natal Witness excellent opportunity to encourage a major debate. On May 26th a column appeared: ‘What the Public Thinks’.

What surprises us all these years later is the class feeling that was evident in this

debate. Says one correspondent, referring back to Messrs. Oddin-Taylor and Hathorn,

‘Both letters savour too much of the Victoria Club


prince is not out here on a

I feel the

... state procession. He has had enough of the stiff-back business at home


ricksha ride will have more lasting and more pleasing recollections for him than a ride in anyone’s motor car.’ In the same vein there was a colourful pronouncement from

G. Scott-Riddell of Howick.

Our dear old ‘Maritzburg still contains some specimens of the now happily

obsolete and small-minded person, the snob, for none but a snob could possibly

see anything undignified or unseemly in the picturesque ricksha, pulled by a

picturesque and not unworthy member of a very fine race


A well got-up ricksha

puller is as pretty and interesting a character as the world holds, and to be drawn

by human hands surely is a greater tribute than a merely mechanical or common- or-garden motor car ...


A Horse, a Singer and a Prince

So the ideological battle raged until as late as June 6th, only a few days before the prince’s arrival. On that day, however, the Rag Committee wrote to the paper to say that ‘an unfortunate contretemps has arisen’ and ‘permission has been refused the students

to “process” in the streets


have no alternative but to abandon the project.’ (One

... suspects that if Edward, Prince of Wales, had arrived at the Maritzburg Showgrounds in a ricksha, the city would have earned a little more glory in the immortality stakes ) ... Edward’s subsequent biography has tended to sour the memory even of his success- ful years as the travelling servant of the Empire. There was no doubt that, in terms of immediate report, Natal simply glowed in proximity to the prince. It seems he was per- fectly aware of the diplomacy that 1925 demanded. For instance, he said in his speech when he arrived: ‘Here in Maritzburg you have the proud traditions of those splendid Voortrekkers whose tracks I have been following very closely ever since I left Cape Town.’ He had (he said) been in Natal for just over a week and could hardly ask us to accept him here as a Natalian so soon, but the hospitality he had received encouraged him to believe that, at any rate, he was no stranger amongst us. (Cheers). He said he was under handicap and had to get many of his impression of this marvellous country from the train, but one week in Natal such as he had experienced — and he had travelled through the glorious scenery of the Drakensberg and through the gorgeous country be-

tween Durban and Maritzburg — had been enough for him to realise why this Province

was called the Garden Colony ...

On the public dais he seemed to touch just the right note. Even when he got to the

Show on Thursday the 11th, he realised that his job was to import the imperial perspec- tive. Natal farmers were part of a nation — ‘especially when the animals exhibited come

from all parts of the Union, and are representative of some of the finest herds and flocks

in the country


But the nation itself was part of a larger whole. The markets opened to

them by the Empire must lead to no complacency: ‘The development of the unpopulated spaces of this vast land demands that the most up-to-date machinery and methods should be used, if you are to compete successfully with farmers in other countries ’ ...

It was often remarked during the 1925 visit that the demeanour of the prince was a

slightly sad one. In uniform he did not cut an upright dashing figure, but took on the slightly bowed form of the humble servant. Like many 1920s personalities, a double- edge was discernible between a jazz-age love of life after a horrific war, but, on the other hand, an appreciation of the sacrifice that had made this good life possible. So

when Edward doffed his endless set of uniforms, he became a very focused polo-player,

and, for the female faction of his vast audience, a lounge-suited glamour-boy (slightly assisted by built-up shoes). To quote the gossip columns, he was ‘an exceptionally versatile dancer with a variety of steps. He is said to have a preference for the “toddle”,

a step he probably picked up in America ’ ...

On the Wednesday evening of Show Week, Pietermaritzburg hosted no fewer than three dances on the same evening — the Administrator’s official Grand Ball at the Town

Hall, the Railways and Harbours Ball at the Masonic Hall, and a Regimental Ball at

the Sons of England Hall. Edward was guest of honour at the first, but — to the delight

of the town — he called in on all three, and danced with partners that (says the paper) ‘he himself selected’. The Witness had a field day collecting various women’s com- ments: ‘He’s a darling’; ‘Every look is a thrill’. Perhaps Maritzburg did not field quite the feminine devotion of the Durban schoolgirl whose glove he had kissed, and who

A Horse, a Singer and a Prince


thereafter allowed her friends to queue up and kiss it for days afterwards


The Oddfel-

lows’ ball was the least formal, and it was reported that he mingled with the dancers and

‘thoroughly enjoyed his 40 minute stay’. During one of the dances ‘it was noticed that

the prince was singing with great gusto “It ain’t gonna rain no more” , and he especially

complimented the orchestra, and asked for each member to be presented

... But the thrill of being suddenly singled out by Prince Charming occurred at the

Administrator’s ball. Here one Zoë Rawlinson, a secretarial assistant in the town, was moving from partner A to partner B between dances. Suddenly there was a touch on

her arm, and there was the heir apparent asking her for the next dance. (Needless to

say, partner B didn’t stand a chance.) She said to reporters next day that ‘they had three

dances during which he made her feel completely at ease with his excellent dancing and relaxed chatter. He danced a number of original steps I had never danced before.’

One notices that Edward was, again and again, capable of putting a company at ease. After the various dances he would stroll out to the corridors, smoking and smiling

while he smoked. Whilst dancing with Miss Rawlinson, he went over to the band and

asked for ‘Show me the way to go Home’ (a ‘loaded’ request?) which he was fond of

dancing to. The mythology that subsequently grew up around Edward’s visit certainly had some

less flattering reports but, while it was on, Maritzburg revelled in it. Even as the prince

left the town a signalman at the Maritzburg North signal cabin called out to him as the train slowly passed ‘You must be glad, sir, it is all over.’ ‘No’, said the prince with

a beaming smile, ‘I am rather sorry’. ‘O, no, you can’t be


‘Yes, I am very sorry’,

said the prince. And with that the train steamed off to Merrivale, where he won favour

with a huge crowd of Howick schoolchildren by getting their headmaster to agree to a half-holiday.

Meanwhile Maritzburg, with hardly time to draw breath, knew that in the midst of these

imperial excitements, Garda Hall would be giving her second and final concert at the end of Show Week. So there was ‘Clothes and the Woman’ from the London West End at Scott’s Theatre, there was the itinerant prince calling in at various civic balls, there was

Boswell’s Circus, doing its regular showtime routine, and there was also the travelling piano impresario Mark Hambourg — a sort of Liberace of his day — all vying for public attention. But meanwhile there was Garda Hall. It was not only in her home province that she had been garnering rave reviews. The Rand Daily Mail for June 11th reported:

‘Miss Hall’s voice is sheer allurement of timbre, and in clarity and flexibility is one of the most remarkable heard in a local concert hall for many years. Big arias like Delibes’

‘Bell Song’ and Verdi’s A fors a lui held every vocal distinction

... A strange notice appeared in the Witness for June 9th saying that Garda Hall would love to meet old friends in country districts with a view to giving ‘private renditions’. Interested parties should contact JE Hall of Hall’s Motor Works. 2

That she could yet again fill the Town Hall at the end of this momentous week is no small testimony. As columnist ‘Jongleur’ reported, ‘In spite of all the other festivities

of the week, and the consequent state of exhaustion prevalent amongst most people, the

Town Hall seating capacity was filled to the uttermost


From ‘Jongleur’, however, we


A Horse, a Singer and a Prince

get the first suggestion that, though the ‘charming presence and manner’ is still there, and

that the ‘beautiful lilting phrases’ in her Verdi are ‘pure joy to listen to’, Maritzburg’s golden girl might peak a little earlier than her sunny career promised. This comes out

in his report on the Delibes ‘Bell Song’: ‘one felt that, owing to the cold weather, the

artist did not produce this with as great a success as she is wont


He goes on:

It seems a hard-hearted thing to say, but one could almost wish some sorrow to befall the artist, that she may be able to sound the depths of life and so gain that sympathetic timbre which is all that is needful to make her a really great singer. The gifts are there, but the experience of life has not yet come to her. It would be foolish to press the hand of fate, so at present we may revel in the joyous youth of her singing ...

So the cold June wind was not the real problem — or was it in fact a touch of ice in Miss Garda Hall’s voice that was her real talent? She ended the concert with the minor

ditty, ‘Soft-footed Snow’ by Signidi Lei, ‘


a gem of music’, says ‘Jongleur’, ‘glistening

with the coldness of snow and ice. It suited Miss Hall’s voice to perfection

... Garda Hall returned to London to be taken up by His Master Voice, and to become a top soprano, very much in demand on the oratorio circuit. How she teamed up with Webster Booth for Coronation concerts at the accession of — not Edward VIII but George VI — belongs to another story. But Jongleur of The Natal Witness was eventually proved correct. A few recorded ditties in the HMV archives give evidence of a delight- fully fresh but essentially light voice, and Garda Hall’s career was soon to be narrowed

by the huge events of 1939 – 1945, when it was the lot of the singer to be the public entertainer rather than the rising star. On the Webster Booth website (expertly maintained

by the Johannesburg musician Jean Collen) one learns that Garda Hall did survive the war, and is last mentioned in a Musicians’ Who’s Who gardening at her London flat in the late forties. At least the Collegiate schoolgirl accrued enough in her concert life to live in comfort, even if she never quite displaced Amelita Galli-Curci.



  • 1. The author is particularly grateful to André de Swart for his research in the London EMI studios, and the transcription on to CD of three of these ditties.

  • 2. In 2005, the family of the present AG Hall group, seem not to be connected with the Hall that I, as a schoolboy cyclist, would have associated with Halls Cycle Works, the predecessor to Jowett’s Cycles. So what connection Garda Hall had to JE Hall of Hall’s Motor Works I cannot trace.

Bhambatha’s Family Tree

Bhambatha’s Family Tree


Bhambatha’s Family Tree:

Oral Evidence, New And Old

The Importance of Bhambatha kaMancinza

Reinstatement and a new history Bhambatha kaMancinza, previously well known in KwaZulu-Natal as the leader of a rebellion against colonial rule, has now become officially a figure of importance in South Africa’s heritage. On Sunday, June 11, 2006, a large crowd assembled near Greytown, in the Province of KwaZulu-Natal, for a half-day’s celebration entitled ‘Saluting our heroes: reinstat- ing Inkosi Bhambatha’, the culminating event of a series which had begun in April and collectively called the Bhambatha Centenary Commemoration. The president of the Republic of South Africa, the premier of the Province of KwaZulu-Natal, the king of the Zulu nation, and other public notables were there. The president, Thabo Mbeki, laid a special wreath at the Bhambatha monument, near Ambush Rock at Mpanza. The celebration then moved to the Mpanza Sports Field, where the important personages spoke briefly. The minister of communications then presented a commemorative postage stamp and the premier, Sibusiso Ndebele, and the king of the Zulu nation, Goodwill Zwelithini, handed over the certificate of reinstatement of the inkosi which the Natal colonial government had deposed in 1906. The keynote address by the president fol- lowed, and the celebration ended with a luncheon and musical entertainment. 1 A week later a Youth Day rally, also near Greytown, carried forward the Bhambatha theme. 2 In September the president awarded Bhambatha the Order of Mendi for Bravery in Gold, ‘for bravery in leading a rebellion against the repressive laws of the colonialist government and for laying down his life for the cause of justice.’ 3 Meanwhile, the provincial premier’s office and department of education gave promi- nence to Bhambatha and others in the rebellion in a series of newspaper supplements aimed at schoolchildren. 4 The premier’s office also employed a popular playwright for the staging of 1906 Bhambada — The Freedom Fighter, a musical which ran for ten days in the provincial capital, Pietermaritzburg. 5 Two other musicals without government financial backing had shorter runs in the port city, Durban. 6

Natalia 38 (2008), P.S. Thompson pp. 49– 68

Natalia 38 (2008)

Copyright © Natal Society Foundation 2010


Bhambatha’s Family Tree

Subsequently the schools history series was published by the local university press as Remembering the Rebellion. 7 The centenary elicited only one other book, published without fanfare and without official recognition, Freedom Sown in Blood: Memories of the Impi Yamakhanda: An Indigenous Knowledge Systems Perspective. 8

The Indigenous Knowledge Systems perspective of the new history Freedom Sown in Blood was the product of three years’ field work by a research team of the University of KwaZulu-Natal among the Ngome section of the Zondi clan at Mpanza. Professor Yonah Seleti, an historian with the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Campbell Collections, obtained a grant of R400 000 from the National Research Foundation for an Indigenous Knowledge Systems project, ‘Commemoration of the Bhambada uprising of 1906: a research agenda and a quest for an indigenous knowledge system framework.’ 9 The book was edited by Seleti and fellow academics Thenjiwe Magwaza and Mpilo Pearl Sithole. The latter, with Nelson Zondi, grandnephew of Bhambatha, wrote a chapter, ‘Genealogies of the Royal AmaZondi of Ngome’. 10 There is much of interest in this unique book, which contains nine chapters, four of them on methodology and interpretation, two on artifacts, two on women, and one on genealogy; however, there is no chapter which narrates the experience of the abase- Ngome in the rebellion, an omission which the editors never explain. The book is closely tied to the government-sponsored Indigenous Knowledge Systems programme in arts and sciences. 11 Professor Seleti lays great stress on the Indigenous Knowledge Systems framework in the first chapter of the book, 12 and the book is strong on their ostensive methods and interpretation. It is not a history book. It tells us nothing about the causes and course of the rebellion at Mpanza and little that makes sense about the effects of the rebellion. There is little narration by the local people. Dr Magwaza mentions that seventy-six people were interviewed, thirty-four of them intensively. The stories of the seventeen men about the rebellion 13 — who presumably were quite willing to talk, 14 one of them apparently quite knowledgeably 15 — are not given at all in the text. A handful of stories from the twenty-one 16 women are used, but they are practically useless for historical purposes. While much that is positive has been done to promote the recovery, preservation and even amplification of Indigenous Knowledge Systems in the past few years, 17 there is a problem between previously recorded history and indigenous knowledge qua oral history. Oral history is most useful with respect to recent events, especially in the case of living memories. Oral history of a time beyond the reach of living memory, when it is consolidated and repeated for a relatively long period, becomes oral tradition. Yet consolidation and repetition do not make it immutable. Collective memory can be

fickle. What seems to be fixed in the communal mind can change according to political or religious imperatives. The main story is twisted and the erosion of details makes it simpler. 18 This seems to be the case with much that happened in the traumatic rebellion or uprising of 1906. The purpose of the present article is to compare earlier and more recent statements about the descent and family of the rebel inkosi, in order to establish which are probably

correct. It will necessarily reflect on the practice of oral history, as linked in this case to

IKS. Examples of the defectiveness of memory will become obvious.

Bhambatha’s Family Tree


Fixing the ‘royal’ genealogy Let us now turn to inkosi Bhambatha and his family tree, and focusing on the third chapter of Freedom Sown in Blood, entitled ‘Genealogies of the Royal AmaZondi of Ngome.’ A Cambridge-educated anthropologist, 19 Mpilo Pearl Sithole, and a grand- nephew of Bhambatha and whilom regent of the Ngome people, 20 Nelson Zondi, combine their knowledge and expertise to fix the succession and describe the family of the new national hero. This is the first time that Bhambatha’s genealogy has been

the subject of a separate study and an attempt has been made to delineate his ancestry. Considering the prominence which Bhambatha now enjoys, this achievement is both noteworthy and praiseworthy. Zondi’s role is of great importance. He and Sithole state: ‘[O]ur indigenous perspec- tive-sensitive approach involves writing with “indigenous people” the people at the heart of the story. In this chapter we occasionally highlight the voice of Nelson Zondi, a royal

Zondi of Ngome. This happens in sections where specific recollections or experiences


recounted. . . .

Otherwise this chapter constitutes a joint project, in terms of mutual

interpretation, planned layout and focus.’ 21 Zondi himself states: ‘Being a descendant of Funizwe, Bhambada’s brother, I, Nelson Zondi, know the core genealogy of amakhosi of amaZondi backwards, from the current inkosi to Zacela. My knowledge derives from the fact that Funizwe, my grandfather, brother of Bhambada, was inkosi from the 23rd

of February 1907 to 1950 The political dynamics of the Zondi, that were partly a result of the Bhambada-led Impi Yamakhanda, were such that the genealogy, particularly that of the royal house, was well known.’ 22 According to the official IKS policy ‘[t]raditional leaders are the formal custodians

of the customary values of the communities, which are historically and constitutionally entrusted to them. The existence of traditional leadership in the development process of

IK is therefore significant. In fact, no IKS development strategy will work if indigenous and local communities and their leaders are not directly and actively involved.’ 23 It would seem, by his own profession, that, apart from the present inkosi and perhaps a few (un- named) others, Nelson Zondi pretty much fills the rôle of the traditional leadership. He

will speak and he does speak with authority on the genealogy. It seems unlikely anything in the chapter could have passed muster without his approval, and this is particularly so in the case of lineage and succession. In other words, he functions as the group or collective memory. If so, then the Ngome collective memory is subsumed in what V. R. Yow calls official memory. 24 But is the genealogy presented in the project’s book actually correct? The information contained in their chapter is at variance with information recorded earlier, in colonial documents and a few books which have appeared based on contem- porary research. Let us now turn to them.


Documents and the orality of yesteryear Information on the subject of Bhambatha’s lineage and family was collected separately and independently by Father Arthur Bryant, Magema Fuze, and James Stuart almost a hundred years ago. Fuze’s first appeared in 1922, and has been recently translated as The Black People and Whence They Came: A Zulu View (Pietermaritzburg, University


Bhambatha’s Family Tree

of Natal Press, and Durban, Killie Campbell Africana Library, 1979). Bryant’s was

published in Olden Times in Zululand and Natal (London, Longmans Green, 1926). Stuart’s remained in manuscript until published in The James Stuart Archive of Recorded Oral Evidence Relating to the History of the Zulu and Neighbouring Peoples

(Pietermaritzburg, University of Natal Press, 1976 ongoing). None of the works pays particular attention to Bhambatha, although Stuart has much to say about him in A History of the Zulu Rebellion 1906 (London, Macmillan, 1913), presumably based on knowledge from his acquaintance with Bhambatha’s brother Funizwe and other members of the abaseNgome in 1906. 25 In addition to the above there is information on the abaseNgome in the colonial government reports on chiefs and chiefdoms published in 1853. 26 More information is found in the colonial records, housed in the Pietermaritzburg Archives Repository; however, these references are very scattered among the records groups of the Secretary

for Native Affairs and the Colonial Secretary’s Office, and, in so far as they pertain

to the trial of Dinuzulu, of the Attorney General’s Office and the Registrars of the Supreme Court. 27

A comparison of the two sets of sources Let us consider these documents, published and unpublished, in comparison with what Sithole and Zondi have recorded. The object is to note where the two source sets disagree, and then to try to explain why. In so doing I shall follow the sequence of the Sithole-Zondi chapter, referring to the chapter subheadings ‘Zondi Amakhosi in History’, ‘The House of Sondaba amongst other Segments’, ‘Mancinza Consolidates Sondaba’s Legacy’, and ‘Bhambada: The Fighter for the Zondi and Nguni Legacy’. I shall not deal with the Ngome succession after Bhambatha. As far as possible I shall use the terms and spellings of the chapter. There are two notable and noticeable exceptions: the use of Bhambatha instead of Bhambada, which latter name, it is suggested in the book’s glossary, is ahistorical, 28 and the avoidance of the ‘royal’ in describing the Ngome ruling house. 29

‘Zondi Amakhosi in History’ and ‘The House of Sondaba amongst other Segments’


Sithole and Zondi give the Zondi succession — Zondi NoNdaba Gagashe Luqa Nhlabushile Zacela Nomagaga Magenge Sondaba Jangeni (= Mancinza) (mother MaMyeza) Magwababa (mother MaMyeza) Bhambada (mother MaPhakade) 1904 – 1906 Funizwe (mother MaPhakade) 1907 – 1950

Bhambatha’s Family Tree


After Nhlabushile the amaZondi divided into four groups, of which Zacela’s lived at Ngcengeni at Nathi. Subsequently the senior house of the Zondi — it is not stated, but presumably it is Zacela’s house — moved to Mkhabela, leaving the junior house under the induna Phungula at Nathi. When amaBomvu began to move into the Nathi area, the induna Vaphi reported it to the royal houses of Zondi and Sondaba, and Sondaba returned to Nathi, apparently with his own people and some of the other house, while the rest of the senior house went to KwaMachibisa (which they named Nadi) at Pieter- maritzburg, Sondaba did not stay long at Nathi, but moved KwaMhlamvunkulu. 31 The junior house of Mashobane remained at Nathi and ‘eventually became incorporated under the political patronage of amaBomvu.’ 32 Sondaba established his major homestead eNdabuko at KwaNhlamvunkulu. It is at eNdabuko that ‘the amaZondi of Ngome begin their separate historical journey’, for, it is implied, Jangeni was born there. 33 Also mentioned at this stage is a Zondi tradition

that the third wife of an inkosi often was lobola’d by the isizwe, and for that reason bore the heir. 34 The published accounts reflect a different procession. Fuze states, in The Black People (1922), that the Ngome was the Zondi junior house, following the Nadi and Mphumuza clans. 35 His line of descent is — Dlaba Magenge Jangeni Mancinza Bambada Bryant suggests, in Olden Times in Zululand and Natal, that the Zondi and Nxamalala peoples were Sotho immigrants, who settled in proximity in the Nadi and Thukela river valleys. The abakwaZondi were also called the abaseNadi, under Nomagaga, [the son] of Ntsele. Both clans were subjugated by Shaka. Subsequently the Zondi clan broke up. A portion of it went to Zululand. Another portion allied with the abaseNxamalala. Yet another became the abakwaMpumuza,


who lived at the confluence of the Mpofana and Mpanza rivers. The amaNxamalala fled from Dingane, and some lodged at Zwartkop, near the future Pietermaritzburg,

but the majority were overtaken and brought back. The Zondi remnant, under Jangeni, son of Maqenge, had their land taken by white ‘farmers’. There is an implication that they have may moved away then, but whither they might have gone is not mentioned. About this time a sub-clan of the abakwaMpumuza, called the abakwaMadlala, moved to near Table Mountain. Sondaba is mentioned only as the son and heir of Siguqa of the amaNxamalala — but then it is suggested they might be one and the same person, who was given to Shaka as a hostage and died on campaign without leaving an heir. 37 Stuart interviewed Mqaikana kaYenge, of the amaMpumuza, in 1916, when he was about eighty-five years old. He tells how the Nadi and several other peoples origi- nally were Dlamini people from Swaziland, who migrated to Natal, and at ‘the tree of Dhlamini’, in a forest on a ridge near KwaPakwe, 38 they broke into different groups to go and settle the country around. The Nadi people became known as the Zondi for having done a wrong in disliking a certain girl. Their first inkosi was Bihla — but later on in the interview he says Luqa. In any event the amaZondi seem to have divided into


Bhambatha’s Family Tree

three separate branches — Nadi, Ngome, and Mpumuza — before the Shakan troubles. The Nxamalala (or Zuma) clan were their neighbours. 39 Mqaikana is more interested in the careers of the amaMpumuza and the amaNxamalala than that of the abaseNgome. He does not mention the latter even by name and gives no more than the lineage of their leaders —


Nomatshumi Magenge Jangeni Mancinza Bambata Funizwe Mqaikana does not say if Nomatshumi was next in the line after Bihla/Luqa. He also places Nomagaga with the abaseNadi and Sondaba with amaNxamalala. 41 The archival records provide no information on persons and events before the time of Jangeni. It will come as no surprise to scholars familiar with legendary and mythical family trees that obscure sources disagree among themselves. Bryant’s and Fuze’s sources are not known, but presumably were similar to Stuart’s, and they belong to the same period. There are a few matching names between Mqaikana and Sithole-Zondi, while the cor- respondence of movements of people between Bryant and Sithole-Zondi is tenuous. Probably none of the sources is correct, certainly not in toto, but elements common to all suggest some degree of factual basis.

‘Mancinza Consolidates Sondaba’s Legacy’ Sithole and Zondi state: ‘It is important to note that Jangeni became popularly known as Mancinza through his praise names; this has confused some writers who thought that Mancinza and Jangeni were two distinct invidivuals.’ 42 Jangeni lived at eNdabuko. He had four wives, and ‘gradually he established indepen- dent houses for them’ at or named Mhlabutho, Sikhaleni, KwaGade, and Mzinto. The wives were known as MaMzila, MaDlamini, and MaPhakade. MaPhakade, daughter of the Chunu inkosi Phakade, was the third wife, lobola’d by the people, and so would bear the heir. She died and her place was taken by another of the same inkosi’s daughters. MaMzila bore (at least) one son, Nomatshumi, as did MaDlamini, Mazwi. The first MaPhakade bore two sons, Bhambada and Funizwe, and three daughters, Thenjiwe, Nonkasa, and Kiki. The second MaPhakade bore Mpabanga. 43 Magwababa succeeded his brother Jangeni. 44 ‘Magwababa was appointed to the throne by colonial officials, who made the brief period of Bhambada’s reign question- able as they wished to impose [a? the?] colonial seal of legitimacy to Magwababa’s succession.’ 45 There is now a sharp divergence between the two source sets. The 1853 government reports state that Jangene, Iangene or Unjangene was a petty chief of the Engome tribe at Table Mountain, acting for the chief Ngoza, who had twelve tribes under him, scattered over a wide area east of Pietermaritzburg. Jangeni claimed to be an hereditary chief, but the government did not recognise him as such. 46 Bhambatha himself stated in 1895 and again in 1902 that Jangeni and his people moved

Bhambatha’s Family Tree


to the Loza-Mpanza area when Dr. Kelly was the resident magistrate of Umvoti, 47 i.e. between March 6, 1853 and February 20, 1856. 48 Bhambatha also stated that Jangeni was his grandfather and Sobhuza was his fa- ther. 49 Mancinza was the son of Jangeni by Mahlati. 50 He was also called Sobhuza. 51 Other sons of Jangeni were Sotshangana, Zikwazi and Magwababa. 52 His homestead was called eMhlabatweni. 53 Mancinza married four times, 54 and his youngest wife was MaPhakade, daughter of the Chunu chief. 55 According to Stuart, she was the principal wife, and by custom the tribe was called upon to contribute towards her lobolo; how- ever, the tribe objected to their chief taking a Chunu wife and refused to provide for lobolo. Mancinza was determined to marry her, and provided the forty head of cattle from his own herd. A few months after the wedding she accused his three other wives of wanting to kill her, left his homestead to live in a Chunu one, where Bhambatha was born. MaPhakade insisted on a homestead of her own, and got it. Mancinza’s other wives complained that Mancinza gave too much attention to MaPhakade, and the old homestead was wrecked. 56 MaPhakade bore Mancinza two sons, Bhambatha and Funizwe, just under two years apart, and three daughters, Nonkasa (who may have been older than they), Kiki and Tengiwe. 57 Mpabanga and Nomatshumi were half brothers. 58 Nonkasa married one Falazi, who lived near the Nhlazatshe, in Zululand. 59 Kiki married Koti, a Bomvu, in 1902. 60 There are reports that other sisters, whether full or half sisters is not stated, were married to the amakhosi Matshana kaMondisa (Sithole) and Silwana (Chunu). 61 Bhambatha was born circa 1865. 62 His father died in 1883, 63 and his uncles Zikwazi (1883–1884) 64 and Magwababa (1884 – 1890) 65 acted as regents for Bhambatha, who was appointed chief on June 6, 1890. 66 It should be remembered that the above compression of information from colonial sources does not represent a single, discrete corpus of documents. The data are extracted from a fairly wide range of documents, whose spread attests rather than detracts from their probable veracity. All manner of persons, including Bhambatha himself, are giv- ing evidence, and that on his antecedents is incidental to the subject of the declaration, deposition, memorandum or report. The person giving evidence has no reason to lie about it and the person taking the evidence has no reason to twist it into a lie.

‘Bhambada: The Fighter for the Zondi-Nguni Legacy’ Sithole and Zondi state: ‘All oral sources point out that Bhambada kaMancinza went through his youth and early married life without noteworthy troubles — politically and otherwise.’ 67 The outline of succession shows that Bhambatha was inkosi for only two years (1904 – 1906). 68 They say nothing further about his career here, although in another chapter Sithole deals with it at some length. 69 Nor do they speak of his demise, except to say that he ‘disappeared in 1906’, 70 but again, the matter is referred to elsewhere in the book. 71 Sithole and Zondi also state that Bhambatha had four wives — MaMvanyana, MaKhuz- wayo, MaSithole, and MaZuma. MaMvanyana bore him two sons, Ndabayakhe and Sizungu. MaKhuzwayo bore him two also, Nkani and Gosa. MaSithole bore a son, Cijo, and a daughter, Neleni. MaZuma, who was ‘popularly known as Manqukuthu amongst


Bhambatha’s Family Tree

the Royal Zondi of Ngome’ (and in the written records as Siyekiwe), bore him two sons, Bulawayo/Nwelezabelungu and Mehlomnyama, and a daughter, Libalele. 72 MaSithole was the third wife, and it was assumed that her son Cijo would succeed Bhambatha. 73 Then Bhambatha made it known that his favourite wife MaZuma was the one who would produce the heir (Bulawayo), which ‘caused a few perplexities and was seen as unfair in certain circles. It led to some dissatisfaction within the royal amaZondi and led to MaSithole and her children leaving the homestead towards an unknown gloomy future.’ 74

‘Our research revealed that nothing is recorded about the views of Bhambada’s mother, of his sisters, of his wives or of his daughters, on how they saw Bhambada and interpreted the 1906 political series of incidents that cost them and their whole clan so dearly.’ 75 Again there are remarkable discrepancies between the source sets.

There is a great deal in the official records about Bhambatha’s disorderly conduct as

a chief. 76 Stuart also has more to say about Bhambatha’s tempestuous career 77 — and marriages —


‘He rapidly squandered the property his father had left and, like his father, ran counter to the wishes of the tribe in selecting his principal wife. The elders were in favour of his promoting a particular woman, and opposed to his own choice, on the ground that the woman was a twin. He ignored their wishes and, after one of his wives (there were four in all), had committed adultery and been expelled, whilst another had deserted, he erected a solitary hut for the principal one — calling it Emkontweni (the place of the assegai) thereby following once more the irregular example set by his father.’

More information on Bhambatha’s family comes from the statements made by Siyekiwe/MaZuma herself and two of his children by MaMqayana, made before and during the trial of Dinuzulu, and is eked out with bits and pieces from other contem- porary sources. According to these unpublished sources, Bhambatha had four wives — MaMqayana, his first wife (whether in point of time or prominence is not clear), MaGogotshwane, MaMbalungeni, and MaSikonyana. 79 They are sometimes referred to by their (unmar- ried) names — Nontelelezi, Nomadhlozi, Nomakulu, and Siyekiwe 80 — the first being the same as MaMqayana 81 and the last as MaSikonyana, 82 also called Manqukutu, 83 of the Zuma clan, 84 who is variously described as Bhambatha’s youngest, 85 favourite, 86 and principal 87 wife. Bhambatha married her about the time of the rinderpest. 88 The names of MaSikonyana’s children — two of them — are not given, presumably because they were not with her at eMkontweni or afterwards, when the crucial events of the rebel- lion (which primarily interested officials taking statements) took place. They lived at eMkontweni a while and then were sent to Sikonyana’s homestead. 89 Bhambatha sent the children of MaMqayana to be MaSikonyana’s companions at eMkontweni. 90 They were the girl Kolekile (Bhambatha’s eldest child, 91 born circa 1883/4 92 or circa 1889 93 ), and the boys Ndabayakhe (born 1887 94 or circa 1892 95 ) and Nonkobotshe (born circa 1896). 96 The two other lobola’d wives remained at the eMnyembezini homestead. 97 MaMbalungeni was an aunt of Zungu, inkosi of the local abaThembu. 98 She was not fully lobola’d, and therefore returned to her father’s homestead, 99 but she bore Bham- batha an (illegitimate) son, Citsho (or Ncitsho), 100 who was acting as a herd boy when

Bhambatha’s Family Tree


he was killed in 1904. 101 Zungu and one of his wives were charged with murder, but in an official enquiry the charge could not be proved. 102 As with the documentation of his antecedents, so with Bhambatha’s family. There is

no reason the persons giving evidence should lie. The officials who recorded it were

curious about the family relationships, but they did not — could not — have turned the evidence to any political use.

Irreconcilability of old and new

The reader is thus presented with two sets of sources which diverge in their information

on Bhambatha’s family and forebears. Section by section the two source sets have been examined in detail. The divergence and contradictions between them must now be considered and explained.

The reader will have noted that both sets of sources reflect oral history. IKS lays great

store by it. Seleti, comments: ‘While the colonial archives are important as a knowledge base for researching the past, the project recognises the significance for this study of the landscape of oral archives and memories.’ 103 Yet indebtedness to oral sources is also

implicit in the published works of Bryant and Fuze, and is explicit in the case of Stuart. The statements in the colonial documents can also count as oral history. Moreover they are contemporary, or at least they are closer to the time referred to, which those of the Ngome project’s informants are not.

There is sufficient information on the methods and procedures of the Ngome project and the community generally, also in the specific cases which are the subjects of spe- cific chapters, but not, unfortunately, in the chapter on genealogy. The chapter has no bibliography and no notes, although some information on sources is contained in the text. The reader has no inkling of how Sithole and Zondi acquired and sorted data. It is worthwhile in connexion with this lack to repeat Zondi’s assertion of his authority:

‘Being a descendant of Funizwe, Bhambada’s brother, I, Nelson Zondi, know the core genealogy of amakhosi of amaZondi backwards, from the current inkosi to Zacela. My knowledge derives from the fact that Funizwe, my grandfather, brother of Bhambada, was inkosi from the 23rd of February 1907 to 1950 The political dynamics of the Zondi, that were partly a result of the ‘Bhambada-led Impi Yamakhanda, were such that the genealogy, particularly that of the royal house, was well known.’ 104 As mentioned earlier 105 , Zondi’s version of the genealogy is the official memory. In so

far as the reader can tell, it is the admissible collective memory. One would like to hope that some of the anecdotal information with regard to persons and places within living memory reflects a sharing of popular memory, but there is no proof of it. The only other sources cited, presumably for the early period, are praise names, presumably furnished by the clan praise singer, Nyoni Ndlovu 106 . Of course, he is official, too. The statements of the two source sets on the identity of Jangeni-Mancinza cannot be reconciled, nor consequently can the details concerning their wives be reconciled. Sithole-Zondi’s statement that Jangeni and Mancinza were the same man is incorrect.

The published information is sufficient to separate Jangeni from Mancinza-Sobhuza.

Some time during the last century the Ngome people apparently obscured the distinction.

Why? Also incorrect are the Zondi informants’ elevation of Magwababa to inkosi (and the confusing explanation) and dating of Bhambatha’s accession. Perhaps they reflect an


Bhambatha’s Family Tree

attempt by the partisans of Bhambatha to shift the blame for the many unhappy events preceding the rebellion onto Magwababa. How did these errors arise? Oral historians are familiar with the phenomenon of factual error being psychological truth for their informants, 107 and in the Ngome time of troubles there would seem to be ample scope for the repression of memory and the development of false memory. 108 There can be little doubt that the 1906 rebellion or uprising and its suppression were traumatic events for the abaseNgome. Sithole suggests elsewhere how this may have affected her reluctant women informants; 109 but there is no effort to analyze the possible impact of this trauma in this instance. Sithole and Zondi also state that a succession ‘controversy’ between Bhambatha’s and Funizwe’s sons in the early 1950s had a profound effect on the community, but they do not say how it might have affected the collective memory. 110 It is also strange that the clan inyanga would not talk to the project team at all. 111 It is not surprising then that there is no mention of any counter memory. 112 Nor is it surprising that the Ngome informants should be ignorant of the details of Bhambatha’s complicated marital relations. These might well have been contentious, too, considering what Nelson Zondi tells of us the tension between Bhambatha’s and Funizwe’s descendants over the succession. 113 That there were — and are? — disputing factions is plain. 114 It seems clear from the book that any hostile criticism of Bambatha and his followers in the rebellion would have been and has been silenced. 115 Informa- tion such as existed with MaSikonyana and Kolekile and others earlier seem to have been forgotten — or, given the circumstances, suppressed? — by the Ngome informants, more probably by their informants earlier on. The married names of Bhambatha’s wives are totally different in the two source sets. The respective accounts of the unfortunate Cijo/Citsho do not so much contradict as miss each other. Kolekile and Nonkobotshe are omitted from the Sithole-Zondi genealogy altogether. The net result of the comparison between the two source sets is to raise serious doubts about the accuracy of the Ngome project’s oral history of Jangeni’s progeny and the Ngome succession in the period circa 1850 – 1906.


Which evidence is correct? There are several reasons for preferring the version of the colonial documents to that of Ngome project. I shall discuss the two sets of sources then in turn. First, the colonial documents and the books, also referred to here as the old oral evidence. It has already been stated, but needs to be reiterated, that the colonial docu- mentation does not consist of a comprehensive, coherent corpus of statements focused on some political end. The relevant documents were produced over a period of about fifty years, and the most significant ones were produced between 1896 and 1908. They concerned succession and inheritance, land claims and litigation, and latterly the inves- tigation and trial of Dinuzulu, and were intended to establish or clarify matters of fact. Colonial officials may have made mistakes, but usually they were careful not to, and it is unlikely that they did so. Whatever the feelings or duties of the officials record- ing the evidence, they had no obvious motive to distort or to falsify information about Bhambatha’s family and forebears. Indeed, much of the information provided comes

Bhambatha’s Family Tree


from Bhambatha himself, his brother Funizwe and his uncle Magwababa, and his wife Siyekiwe and children Kolekile and Ndabayakhe. Whatever their resentments, these would not have been served by lying about his background. Unless one believes that colonial officials as a class are untrustworthy and their informants as a rule are dissem- bling, there is no reason for the reader to suspect them of falsehood. 116 The same may be said of the books, which contain the information on the early lineage of the Ngome ruling house. In this case they are often dealing with legend and myth, and they cannot pretend to be much more accurate than their inaccurate informants. Second, the project version, the new oral evidence. There is nothing analytical about it, so the reader does not know if and how individual or plural accounts were composed to make the single given one. It is incumbent on oral historians, as it is on all professional historians, to analyze the evidence, to weigh the probabilities of truth, and to apprise their readers of their judgement. They cannot treat oral sources in isolation. This means consulting written sources, i.e. pertinent publications and, if possible, documents. 117 Although members of the Ngome project evidently were familiar with interviewing techniques and made some probing inquiries, none of them seems to have been a trained oral historian. There is little analysis evident in the genealogical presentation. Granted the authors were concerned for the sensitivities of their informants, they could still have pointed out at least the salient mistakes of their informants, rather than just pass them on, as though they were correct. 118 It is scarcely conceivable that Dr. Sithole would not have applied the rigour of critical method, had she been allowed to do so. She was acquainted with the published works (and therefore, secondhand, with some of the documents), which she refers to in another chapter. 119 But in respect of the royal genealogy, knowledge seems to have been the preserve of the clan’s elite. Nelson Zondi knows; he does not have to reflect. One may suspect that Dr Sithole could not have made headway against him in any circumstances, given the dynamics of the project. One may suspect that if she had tried, she would have jeopardised the project, which, of course, could not be allowed to happen.

IKS and ‘alternative’ history IKS places high value on oral evidence for its instrumentality in the decolonization of the indigenous mind. It is therefore part of a political agenda. The official policy stresses, as has been noted earlier, that traditional leadership is indispensable, but does that mean it should prevail even when it is liable to be mistaken? In the Ngome project, it appears that traditional leadership — represented by Nelson Zondi — has imposed an official version of the genealogy, and the official memory is given ipso facto as true one. Yet IKS does not claim a privilege against truth. There is nothing in the IKS policy which suggests that rigorous critical method is not to be used, though admittedly, in a case such as this, it might be hard to apply. But is objective truth, even as an ideal, a desideratum? According to Sithole and Zondi it is not really their concern —


‘We have been used to looking at history from the point of view of documents

written by white archivists and historians who reflected the attitudes and concerns

of the colonial authorities. This chapter has outlined an alternative history, handed down through the oral traditions of people who had to sustain their pride through resilience.’


Bhambatha’s Family Tree

Thus the alternative history is a function of identity and resistance. But is the alternative history accurate? The published and archival documents alto- gether give a plausible account of persons and events. Indeed, Bhambatha himself is one of the witnesses to it. The alternative history, the oral history of the Ngome project, gives a different account, rendered implausible for having been sealed off from comparison with the written one. Now that the project’s work has been published — has become ‘written history’ — it is susceptible to the critical methods applied to the written word. Thus this article.



Books BOSMAN, WALTER. 1907. The Natal Rebellion. London, Longmans Green, and Cape Town, Juta. BRYANT, ARTHUR T. 1926. Olden Times in Zululand and Natal. London, Longmans Green. MAGWAZA, THENJIWE; SELETI, YONAH; & SITHOLE, MPILO PEARL (editors). 2006. Freedom Sown in Blood: Memories of the Impi Yamakhanda: An Indigenous Knowledge Systems Perspective.

Thohoyandou, Ditlou FUZE, MAGEMA. 1922/1979. The Black People and Whence They Came: A Zulu View. Edited by A. T. Cope and translated by H. C. Lugg from the 1922 Zulu edition. Pietermaritzburg, University of Natal Press, and Durban, Killie Campbell Africana Library. GUY, JEFF. 2006. Remembering the Rebellion: The Zulu Uprising of 1906. Pietermaritzburg, University of KwaZulu-Natal Press. SELDEN, ANTHONY & PAPPWORTH, JOANNA. 1983. By Word of Mouth: ‘Élite’ oral history. London, Methuen. SLIM, HUGO & THOMPSON, PAUL [1983] Listening for a Change: Oral Testimony and Development. London, Paros.

STUART, J. 1913. A History of the Zulu Rebellion 1906

. . . .

London, Macmillan.

STUART, JAMES. 1976 ongoing. The James Stuart Archive of Recorded Oral Evidence Relating to the History of the Zulu and Neighbouring Peoples. Edited by Colin deB. Webb and J. B. Wright. 5 vols. Pietermaritzburg, University of Natal Press. THOMPSON, PAUL. 1978. The Voice of the Past: Oral History. Oxford, University Press. THOMPSON, P. S. 2005. ‘Bambatha after Mome: Dead or Alive,’ Historia, 50, 1, pp. 23 – 48. THOMPSON, P. S. 2004. Bambatha at Mpanza: The Making of a Rebel. Pietermaritzburg, the author. YOW, VALERIE RALEIGH. 2005. Recording Oral History: A Guide for the Humanities and Social Sciences. 2nd edition. Walnut Creek, Calif., Alta Mira Press.

Colonial Records (Pietermaritzburg Archives Repository)

Attorney General’s Office Volumes 1/7/51 – 81: Zulu Rebellion. Blue Book of the Colony of Natal. 1854 and 1857. [Pietermaritzburg, Government Printer, 1855 and 1858] Colonial Secretary’s Office, Archives of the Various files.

Proceedings and Report of the Commission appointed to inquire into the past and present state of the Kafirs

. . . The Natal Government Gazette. Supplements March 8 and 22, 1853.

in the District of Natal

1852 – 1853. [Natal, Government Printer, 1853.]

Registrars of the Supreme Court Volumes III/3/1 – 30: Special Court: Zulu Rebellion

Secretary for Native Affairs Various files.

Current Government Publications KwaZulu-Natal. Provincial Government. Saluting our heroes and celebrating our rich heritage in KwaZulu- Natal 2006: Bhambatha Centenary Commemoration 1906. Pietermaritzburg, [Office of the Premier]


South Africa. Republic. Department of Arts and Culture and KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government. Age of Hope: Through Struggle to Freedom: Saluting Our Heroes: Reinstating Inkosi Bhambatha. Pietermaritzburg, [Office of the Premier] 2006. South Africa. Republic. Department of Science and Technology. Indigenous Knowledge Systems. [2004].

Newspapers (see notes for specific citations)

Bhambatha’s Family Tree


Greytown Gazette, 1905 – 1906. The Mercury. Durban. 2006 – 2007. The Natal Mercury. Durban. 1906. The Sowetan. Johannesburg, 2006. The Witness. Pietermaritzburg. 2006.


  • 1 See Republic of South Africa, Department of Arts and Culture, and KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government, Age of Hope: Through Struggle to Freedom: Saluting our Heroes: Reinstating Inkosi Bhambatha, for the Programme 11 June 2006; and, for the planned series of events, Saluting our heroes and celebrating a rich heritage in KwaZulu-Natal 2006: Public Launch[,] Bhambatha Centenary Commemoration [8 April 2006]. Something of the historic importance may be gleaned from Sibonelo Msomi, ‘Mbeki hails “great hero Bhambatha”,’ in The Witness, June 12, 2006; but most of the press reports concern current party politics, e.g. Canaan Mdletshe and Sapa, ‘Mbeki, Zuma show unity,’ in The Sowetan, June 12, 2006.

  • 2 See the advertisement in The Witness, June 15, 2006: ‘KwaZulu-Natal celebrating Youth Heroism and activity 2006. 100 years of Bhambatha Poll Tax Uprising;’ and Sibonelo Msomi, ‘Comrades, hands off June 16,’ ibid., June 19, 2006.

  • 3 Sue Segar, ‘Mbeki honours KwaZulu-Natal’s greatest with National Orders,’ ibid., September 27,

  • 4 See the premier’s statement, ‘An event to remember,’ and Stephen Coan, ‘Premier launches Bhambatha Rebellion centenary year,’ both in ibid., March 16, 2006. There were twelve instalments, appearing in Ilanga, UmAfrika and The Witness.

  • 5 See ‘Edutainment at the Winston [Churchill] theatre,’ and Nhlanhla Mkhulisi, ‘When drama, dance obscure the facts,’ in The Witness, November 16 and December 2, 2006, respectively; and Sipho Khumalo, ‘Premier’s office spent R7m on Bhambatha play,’ in The Mercury, February 23, 2007.

  • 6 See Billy Suter, ‘War, song and dance,’ in The Mercury, November 10, 2006. The plays were Wars of Resistance — Bhambatha KaMancinza and Maluju Zulu.

  • 7 Jeff Guy, Remembering the Rebellion: The Zulu Uprising of 1906. Pietermaritzburg, University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2006.

  • 8 Published by Ditlou Publishers, Thohoyondou, in 2006.

  • 9 www.nrf.ac.za/publications/regofgrants: NRF focus area programmes grants, p. 40.

    • 10 Chapter 3, pp. 27 – 39. Hereafter the book will be cited without its title, in contradistinction to other works cited.

    • 11 According to the South African government’s department of science and technology’s Indigenous Knowledge Systems Policy statement, adopted in 2004 (cited hereafter as IKS): ‘Indigenous knowledge (IK) is generally used synonymously with traditional and local knowledge to differentiate the knowledge developed by and within distinctive indigenous communities from the international knowledge system generated through universities, government research centres and private industry, sometimes incorrectly called the Western knowledge system.’ (p. 10) The deputy minister states: ‘The underlying fact is that indigenous knowledge has always been and continues to be the primary factor in the survival and welfare of the majority of South Africans.’ (p. 4) More pertinent in this case: ‘Mechanisms should be put in place to retrieve and preserve oral forms of IK to contribute to national archive material. This will be done in consultation with the Oral History Project and the National Archives.’ (p. 34)

    • 12 Profesor Seleti states: ‘The project to commemorate the Bhambada uprising of 1906 has been pursued within the emerging paradigm of IKS Analytical Framework. [It] afforded researchers an opportunity to interrogate the politics and domination of knowledge production by western based theoretical frameworks.’ (p. 10) ‘One of the outcomes of the project was to provide an analytical framework based on full recognition of indigenous systems of knowing and knowledge preservation and dissemination.’ (p. 12) ‘By researching alternative approaches to knowledge production, this project has contributed to the framing of an indigenous knowledge analytical framework.’ (p. 11)

    • 13 p. 20.

    • 14 pp. viii –ix.

    • 15 p. 97. See also p. 93.

    • 16 pp. 9 and 20. On women see chapters 6 and 7.

    • 17 Consider, for example, the publication Indilinga: African Journal of Indigenous Knowledge Systems (2002 ongoing).


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  • 18 See Paul Thompson, The Voice of the Past: Oral History (Oxford, University Press, 1978), chapter 4, ‘Evidence,’ and Valerie Raleigh Yow, Recording Oral History: A Guide for the Humanities and Social Sciences (2 nd edition; Walnut Creek, Calif., Alta Mira Press, 2005), chapter 2, ‘History and Memory,’ passim.

  • 19 p. v.

  • 20 pp. vii and 28.

  • 21 p. 28. Cf. p. 143.

  • 22 p. 28.

  • 23 IKS, p. 19.

  • 24 See Yow, Recording Oral History, pp. 36 and 54.

  • 25 In late April 1906 Captain Stuart, Natal Field Artillery, rode from Greytown to the Nkandhla magistracy, in Zululand. He was accompanied by Funizwe, the Greytown court induna Kafula, and three others for the purpose of identifying Bhambatha, then engaged in the Nkandhla Division, in the event he was killed or captured. Thereafter Stuart served as Intelligence Officer with Colonel Mackay’s column of militia operating in Zululand and Natal. See the reports of the Umvoti Field Force and of Mackay’s column in the records of the Colonial Secretary’s Office, volume 2599, confidential minute 147 of 1906, and The Natal Mercury, April 25, 1906, ‘The Native Trouble.’

  • 26 See above.

  • 27 The records groups are cited hereafter as SNA, CSO, AGO, and RSC, respectively.

  • 28 ‘Bhambada [:] this is our chosen spelling for the hero of the 1906 Zulu Uprising. The choice is based on the prevalent use among his descendants, the amaZondi of Ngome and by the play on words in his Izibongo praises, which describe him as ubhambada (“he strikes viciously”) his enemies with a knobkerrie, in comparison to others who only fight with walking sticks. The other most common spelling is Bhambatha (from the verb ukubhambatha) which means a mother’s soothing action for her baby. This evidently has no meaning for our hero, known for his strong character and violent outbursts. A Zulu name is meant to describe the person, and a mother was traditionally believed to receive it from the family ancestors, interested to describe the destiny of the child from birth. Other spellings, found in the quoted sources, are Bambata and Bhambata.’ (p. xii) See also the comments on pp. 115–116 and 154–155. The team and/or their informants are in effect saying that they use the name ‘Bhambada’ because they like it better than the generally accepted (since 2001) name ‘Bhambatha’. It is quite singular that they should overthrow the name preferred by the ancestors and MaPhakade and to which Bhambatha himself responded apparently without demur. The definition of ‘bambata’ given in the Colenso Zulu dictionary of 1905 is to ‘pat with the hand, as a horse or a dog’. The Doke-Vilakazi dictionaries (1948–1990) define ‘bambatha’ as to ‘pat with the hand (as a child or dog)’ and to ‘slap on the back’; and the Dent-Nyembezi dictionary has for ‘bhambada’ and ‘bhambatha’, which are evidently interchangeable, to ‘pat; slap on the back; press down hair’. There is nothing about striking viciously. The committee organising the centenary celebrations use the spelling ‘Bhambatha’. (And yet Bryant, Fuze, R. R. Dhlomo, and Elliot Zondi have used the d.) In citing names in the earlier sources I have tried to keep to the historic spellings as much as possible, in conformity with the documents of the period. I am mindful that this will be of assistance to scholars, especially foreign ones, who may not be familiar with the changes in Zulu orthography over the years.

  • 29 Bhambatha and his immediate predecessors were not kings (see p. 6), and the use of ‘royal’ by Sithole and Zondi to describe the house of Jangeni in this instance would seem to reflect either a mistranslation or a misunderstanding of the English term — or perhaps some pretension on the part of the present inkosi.

  • 30 This is a consolidation of the lists on pp. 27 and 30. See also the photograph of the list on the Bhambatha monument on p. 42.

  • 31 pp. 30 – 31.

  • 32 p. 31.

  • 33 pp. 31 – 33.

  • 34 p. 32. The Zondi peregrinations in and around Nathi seem to have resulted in a relocation from the middle Nadi river valley to the upper Loza river valley. It would be helpful if the book had a map showing the places mentioned in the text.

  • 35 Magema M. Fuze, The Black People and Whence They Came: A Zulu View (translated by H. C. Lugg and edited by A. T. Cope from the original; Pietermaritzburg, University of Natal Press, and Durban, Killie Campbell Africana Library, 1979), p. 110.

  • 36 Ibid.

  • 37 Bryant, Olden Times., pp. 520 – 523.

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  • 38 Stuart’s informant Sende kaHlunguhlungu states that the tree was at oPisweni. James Stuart Archive (hereafter cited as JSA), V, 281.

  • 39 JSA, V, 1, 3 – 4, 12, 22. Cf. the completely different Zondi genealogy, ascribed to Nomgamulana, V, 12. Incidental information is also found in III, 6 and 12 (Mbokodo), and V, 281 (Sende) and 342 and 344 (Singcofela).

  • 40 Ibid., V, 2, 4, 12.

  • 41 See ibid., V, 1, 12 and 17, 22, respectively.

  • 42 p. 32.

  • 43 p. 33.

  • 44 p. 27.

  • 45 p. 29.

  • 46 See the ‘Statement, shewing the Names of Chiefs, whether hereditary of otherwise, their places of residence, the estimated number of their people, & the amount collected

. . .

in payment of their taxes

for the year 1851, by the Magistrate of the Inanda Location ….’, in the Supplement to The Natal Government Gazette, March 8, 1853; the evidence of the Magistrate in the Second Supplement, of the same date, and of the Magistrate of the Umvoti Location in the Supplement of March 22, 1853; and also the Proceedings and Report of the Commission appointed to inquire into the past and present

state of the Kafirs in the District of Natal

. . .

18521853, pp. 32 and 35. Also, see SNA I/1/319:

853/1905, statement of Swaimana, chief of the Amagcumisa, April 17, 1905.

  • 47 SNA I/1/210: 1353/1895, Memorandum of the Under Secretary for Native Affairs, November 4, 1895. CSO 1714: 7764/1902, Petition of Bambata to the Supreme Chief, October 4, 1902.

  • 48 See the Blue Books for the Colony of Natal, 1854, p. 172, and 1857 [n.p.]

  • 49 See Petition (n. 15) and SNA I/1/210: 1353/1895, Magistrate Krantzkop to Secretary for Native Affairs, December 2, 1895. Also, on Jangeni being his grandfather, see Memorandum (n. 15) and SNA I/1/296: 2278/1902, Memorandum of Interview with Bambata et al., by the Under Secretary for Native Affairs, August 25, 1902; and on Mancinza/Sobhuza being his father, SNA I/1/134: 1422/1890, Statement by Chief Bambata of Zondi or Engome tribe, November 20, 1890.

  • 50 SNA I/1/196: 1647/1894, Magistrate Umvoti to Secretary for Native Affairs, December 27, 1894: deposition of Nyaniso; evidence of Mahlati and Nyaniso.

  • 51 See n. 18.

  • 52 These are the ones who have been found mentioned in the official records, e.g. SNA I/1/66: 760/1883, Magistrate Umvoti to Secretary for Native Affairs, October 30, 1883 and December 5, 1884; and I/1/84: 894/1884, Secretary for Native Affairs to Magistrate Ixopo, November 27, 1884.

  • 53 AGO I/7/67: deposition of Siyekiwe, December 23, 1907. RSC III/3/2, pp. 292 -293: evidence of Siyekiwe.

  • 54 An inference from Stuart, Zulu Rebellion, p. 157.

  • 55 Ibid., which states she was Mancinza’s principal wife; but she is referred to as the chief wife in the correspondence of the Magistrate Umvoti (November 11, 1884) and Secretary for Native Affairs (December 5, 1884) in SNA I/1/66: 760/1883.

  • 56 Stuart, Zulu Rebellion, p. 157.

  • 57 AGO I/7/67: declaration of Siyekiwe, July 17. 1907. See also SNA I/4/19: C289/1907, declaration of Funizwe, December 13, 1907.

  • 58 SNA I/1/338: 841/1906, Memorandum of Interview between the Minister of Native Affairs and the Under Secretary for Native Affairs with Magwababa, Funizwe and 19 others, March 16, 1906. AGO I/7/68: Resume of statement made by Cakijana at Krantzkop on the 20 th May 1908. Cf. SNA I/6/28: MJ C164/1906, evidence of Duluka

  • 59 AGO I/7/61: declaration of Siyikiwe, July 17, 1907; and I/1/67: deposition of Siyekiwe, December 23, 1907. SNA I/1/356: 3860/1906, Commissioner for Native Affairs to Under Secretary for Native Affairs, November 29, 1906, and Magistrate Vryheid to Under Secretary for Native Affairs, December 21, 1906.

  • 60 SNA I/1/296: 2278/1902, Statement of Bambatha, August 22, 1902.

  • 61 Memorandum (n. 27) and SNA I/4/16: C146/1906, Magistrate Greytown to Minister of Native Affairs, April 5, 1906.

  • 62 Stuart, Zulu Rebellion, p. 158.

  • 63 SNA I/1/66: 760/1883, Magistrate Umvoti to Secretary for Native Affairs, October 30, 1883. Cf. Stuart, Zulu Rebellion, p. 158; and Walter Bosman, The Natal Rebellion (London, Longmans, Green, and Cape Town, Juta, 1907), p. 18.

  • 64 SNA I/1/66: 760/1883, Magistrate Umvoti to Secretary for Native Affairs, October 30, 1883, and February 9 and November 11, 1884, and Under Secretary to Magistrate, February 9, 1884.

  • 65 Ibid., Magistrate Umvoti to Secretary for Native Affairs, November 11 and December 5, 1884, and May 28, 1890.


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  • 66 Ibid., Secretary for Native Affairs to Magistrate Umvoti, June 8, 1890; and I/1/333: 78/1906, letter of the Supreme Chief deposing Bambata, February 23, 1906.

  • 67 p. 34.

  • 68 p. 27.

  • 69 See pp. 152 - 154.

  • 70 p. 34; but cf. p. 43.

  • 71 See pp. x, 6, 120, 151 - 152. There is a prevailing belief that Bhambatha was not killed at the battle of Mome on June 10, 1906, but uncertainty surrounds his later career. The team, if not all the informants, believe he fled to Mozambique. Cf. p. S. Thompson, ‘Bambatha after Mome: Dead or Alive?’ Historia, 50, 1 (May 2005), pp. 23 – 48. The question of Bhambatha’s whereabouts also touches on the authenticity of the photograph on the cover of the book. When and where was the original made? The caption states: ‘This is a picture of early Zondis with Inkosi Bhambada in the middle of the front row. It is originally from the Illustrated London News of 16 June 1906, published during the Uprising. Although there is controversy over whether this is indeed Inkosi Bhambada, the present heir inkosi Mbongeleni Zondi has the picture displayed proudly in his house and confirms his forefather’s identity.’ The photograph is also reproduced in Guy, Remembering the Rebellion, pp. 64-65, with the comment (p. 65): ‘Inkosi Bhambatha kaMancinza Zondi, a photograph taken sometime before the rebellion, but revived, decorated and sensationalized in 1906.’ The head of this Bhambada/Bhambatha has been used as the logogram for the Bhambatha Centenary Commemoration and on the commemorative postage stamp. The photograph is probably a press fabrication. There is no evidence otherwise of its being taken during the rebellion. If the photograph were taken before, then presumably it would have been as readily available in Natal as in England. There would have been no need for Stuart and Funizwe to go to Zululand to identify Bhambatha (see n. 3) or for uncertainty whether or not it was Bhambatha’s head that was cut off purposes of identification after Mome.

  • 72 p. 34.

  • 73 p. 34.

  • 74 p. 34.

  • 75 p. 112. See also comments and Siyekiwe and other wives on pp. 120 and 154.

    • 765 See p. S. Thompson, Bambatha at Mpanza: The Making of a Rebel (Pietermaritzburg, the author, 2004), Chapters 1 and 2, especially the notes.

      • 77 Stuart, Zulu Rebellion, pp. 158 – 159 (and cf. Bosman, Natal Rebellion, p. 19.)

      • 78 Ibid., p. 158.

      • 79 AGO I/7/67: statement of Ndabayake, December 23, 1907.

      • 80 AGO I/7/67: deposition of Siyekiwe, December 23, 1907.

      • 81 AGO I/7/67: statement of Ndabayake, December 23, 1907.

      • 82 AGO I/7/67: declaration of Siyekiwe, July 17, 1907.

      • 83 SNA I/1/256: 3860/1906: Magistrate Umvoti to Under Secretary for Native Affairs, January 30,

      • 84 RSC III/3/2, p. 347: evidence of Kolekile.

      • 85 SNA I/4/19: C289/1906, declaration of Funizwe, December 13, 1907. RSC III/3/2, p. 288: evidence of Siyekiwe.

      • 86 AGO I/7/67: declaration of Kolekile, December 24, 1907. RSC III/3/2, p. 338: evidence of Kolekile.

      • 87 Stuart, Zulu Rebellion, p. 158. According to Siyekiwe (AGO I/1/61: deposition, July 17, 1907, and I/7/67: deposition, December 23, 1907) Bhambatha did not appoint a chief wife.

      • 88 RSC III/3/2, p. 289: evidence of Siyekewe.

      • 89 AGO I/7/61: deposition of Kolekile, July 15, 1907. RSC III/3/2. p. 238: evidence of Siyekiwe.

      • 90 AGO I/7/61: deposition of Kolekile, July 15, 1907.

      • 91 SNA I/4/19: C289/1907, declaration of Funizwe, December 13, 1907.

      • 92 Ibid. AGO I/7/67: statement of Ndabayake, December 23, 1907.

      • 93 SNA I/1/356: 3860/1906, Magistrate Umvoti to Under Secretary for Native Affairs, January 30,

      • 94 SNA I/4/19: C289/1906, declaration of Funizwe, December 13, 1907.

      • 95 SNA I/1/356: 3860/1906, Magistrate Umvoti to Under Secretary for Native Affairs, January 30,

      • 96 Ibid.

      • 97 AGO I/7/67: declaration of Kolekile, December 24, 1907.

      • 98 SNA I/1/324: 1912/1905, Magistrate Umvoti to Under Secretary for Native Affairs, November 1,

      • 99 Ibid. AGO I/7/67: statement of Ndabayake, December 23, 1907.

        • 100 SNA I/1/324: 1912/1905, Magistrate Umvoti to Under Secretary for Native Affairs, November 1,

        • 101 Ibid. Greytown Gazette, October 7, 1905: ‘A Chief Charged: With Wilful Murder.’

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  • 102 Greytown Gazette, October 14, 1905: ‘Week by Week.’

  • 103 p. 8.

  • 104 Ibid.

  • 105 See supra, p. 5.

  • 106 See pp. 30 and 32, and cf. pp. 27, 28, 30, 34 and 38.

  • 107 Yow, Recording Oral History, pp. 22 and 58.

  • 108 Ibid., pp. 45–49.

  • 109 pp. 113 and 116; also cf. p. 138. Also, see Thompson, Voice of the Past, p. 110, and Yow, Recording Oral History, p.p. 45–46.

  • 110 pp. 29–30.

  • 111 p. 77.

  • 112 See Yow, Recording Oral History, p. 54.

  • 113 See and cf. pp. 28 and 35.

  • 114 See and cf. pp. 29, 34, and 38–39. For the period of Bambatha’s chieftaincy see SNA I/1/196: 1487/1896, Magistrate Umvoti to Secretary for Native Affairs, September 15, 1896; I/1/228: 1496/1896, C. Tatham to Under Secretary for Native Affairs, September 3, 1896, and the Under Secretary’s memorandum, September 9, 1896; I/6/27: MJ C163/1906, p. 98: evidence of Umfulatelwa, and MJ C194/1906: p. 53, evidence of Magwababa; also Greytown Gazette