The Land Bought, The Land Never Sold

This se­ries fea­tures Dr Tlou Se­tumu’s works on our own his­tory, her­itage and cul­ture. This week we fea­ture an ex­cerpt from The Land Bought, The Land Never Sold

African Times - - African History - Dr. Tlou Se­tumu is Au­thor and Re­searcher of His­tory, Her­itage and Cul­ture. His books in­clude: Bi­ogra­phies of Bra Ike Maphoto, TT Cholo and Max Mo­japelo; His Story is His­tory; The Land Bought, the Land Never Sold; Ideas with no Space; Foot­steps of Our Ance

AF­TER the South Africa’s white au­thor­i­ties had con­fis­cated land from blacks, and af­ter sur­vey­ing and de­mar­cat­ing that land into farm units, those units were then granted to white in­di­vid­u­als, farm­ers and com­pa­nies who then be­gan to sell some of those farms back to blacks from the early 1900s. The whites found them­selves own­ing mas­sive tracts of land – thanks to the dis­pos­ses­sion of that land from blacks – and sell­ing some of the land by the new white landown­ers be­came a new phe­nom­e­non. Black com­mu­ni­ties who were now land­less, were forced to be the buy­ers of land from the new white own­ers who were freely granted the land which was con­fis­cated from the same blacks. As al­ready pointed out, the con­fis­ca­tion and dis­pos­ses­sion of land from blacks were em­pha­sised and le­galised by the pass­ing of leg­is­la­tion such as the 1913 Na­tives Land Act and the 1936 Na­tive Trust and Land Act by the white-only gov­ern­ments.

As a re­sult of that sit­u­a­tion, nu­mer­ous blacks got to­gether to form co­op­er­a­tives which they used as ve­hi­cles to pur­chase land. In the Mak­gabeng area, the white landown­ers who had ac­quired land gratis made avail­able large tracts of land for the pur­chase by blacks. Ac­cord­ing to one in­for­mant in the Mak­gabeng area, Mo­fo­toloko Mashilo of Ga Monye­bodi vil­lage, other farms which were put on sale be­longed to the gov­ern­ment (con­fis­cated from blacks ear­lier) and they were made avail­able for pur­chase by blacks be­cause of the gov­ern­ment ex­penses in­curred as a re­sult of the 1939 -1945 World War II. The gov­ern­ment sold land which it owned in or­der to fund its in­volve­ment in that war. Most all the pur­chases of farms in the Mak­gabeng area were made dur­ing the 1940s, i.e. around the time of the Sec­ond World War.

Another in­ter­est­ing point to note is that the ma­jor­ity of blacks pur­chas­ing farms was from the east to the west, into the Mak­gabeng area. The avail­abil­ity of land which was on sale in the Mak­gabeng area led to the in­flux of buy­ers from the eastern ar­eas, par­tic­u­larly from Bot­lokwa, Mo­letji, Ga Mam­abolo, Ga Moth­iba and Ga Dik­gale. Another ele­ment in the ex­o­dus of those eastern com­mu­ni­ties was that they were rel­a­tively lit­er­ate and had been ex­posed to Chris­tian­ity.

By the 1940s, the foun­da­tion of the con­trol of blacks on land had been solidly laid by the 1913 Na­tives Land Act, the 1927 Na­tive Ad­min­is­tra­tion Act and the 1936 Na­tives Land and Trust Act. All the pur­chases of farms were strictly done ac­cord­ing to the pro­vi­sions of those acts, to­gether with other laws and reg­u­la­tions which gov­erned the lives of blacks. While the 1913 Act made pro­vi­sion for the pur­chase, leas­ing, oc­cu­pa­tion and own­er­ship of land by blacks and “other per­sons”; the 1927 Act pro­vided for “the bet­ter con­trol and man­age­ment of black af­fairs”; whereas the 1936 Act pro­vided for the es­tab­lish­ment of the South African Na­tive Trust and to make fur­ther pro­vi­sion as to the ac­qui­si­tion and oc­cu­pa­tion of land by blacks and “other per­sons”.

The pieces of leg­is­la­tion men­tioned above, did not al­low in­di­vid­ual landown­er­ship by blacks, and as a re­sult, blacks were forced to club to­gether and form them­selves into “tribes” or “tribal en­ti­ties” be­fore pur­chas­ing land. The whites who came to own con­fis­cated land reaped huge amounts of money be­cause most of the farms were sold for stag­ger­ing fig­ures of over thou­sands of pounds, the prices which were very high by the mon­e­tary stan­dards of the 1940s.

Be­sides those blacks who ac­tively ad­vo­cated and led the move­ment of the pur­chase of farms, there were those who fol­lowed and joined the pi­o­neer­ing lead­ers of that phe­nom­e­non. That sec­tion of fol­low­ers was con­vinced by the per­sua­sive views of those who led the pur­chases, and they suc­cumbed and joined in. The ma­jor­ity of those peo­ple were not lit­er­ate and they looked upon the pi­o­neers of the pur­chas­ing move­ment with con­fi­dence, and were con­vinced that the pur­chase of farms was the cor­rect route to take. Those peo­ple were also mostly non-Chris­tians, but nev­er­the­less, they still be­lieved that their lit­er­ate, Chris­tian fel­lows were lead­ing them into the right di­rec­tion. On the other hand, there were those who ve­he­mently op­posed to the buy­ing of land, ar­gu­ing that they could not buy their own land from white who found them there. Such peo­ple were ba­si­cally chal­leng­ing the core of the colo­nial project, and as such they were ruth­lessly dealt with by the white au­thor­i­ties.

With the blacks who ad­vo­cated for the pur­chase of land sup­ported by au­thor­i­ties gain­ing the up­per hand over those who re­sisted, the stage was then set for the process of pur­chas­ing to roll on. Those who led the process con­tacted the landown­ers and ne­go­ti­a­tions com­menced and deals were struck. In the Mak­gabeng area, blacks who were in favour of the pur­chase of land formed them­selves into syn­di­cates such as the Mat­lonkana Ramoroka Com­pany and the Talana Matlou Com­pany. On the part of the landown­ers, the farms in the Mak­gabeng were un­der the Blaauw­berg Agency of the Transvaal Landown­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion, which was in the early 1940s rep­re­sented by Roland Har­ri­son, who was known to the lo­cal blacks as Ra­makokoko.

Ac­cord­ing to Sec­tion 1 of the 1927 Na­tive Ad­min­is­tra­tion Act, the Gov­er­nor Gen­eral was the “Supreme Chief of all na­tives in the Union”. Sec­tion 7 of the Act de­clared that the Gov­er­nor Gen­eral “may recog­nise or ap­point any per­son a chief of a na­tive tribe and may make reg­u­la­tions pre­scrib­ing the du­ties, pow­ers, priv­i­leges and con­di­tions of ser­vice of chiefs so recog­nised or ap­pointed, and of head­men, act­ing chiefs and act­ing head­men ap­pointed un­der sub­sec­tion (8). The Gov­er­nor Gen­eral may de­pose any chief so recog­nised or ap­pointed”. Ac­cord­ing to Sec­tion 5(a) black poli­ties could be con­sti­tuted, ad­justed or re­moved by the Gov­er­nor Gen­eral. Those pro­vi­sions re­sulted in another ma­jor re­quire­ment be­fore the pur­chase of a farm was ap­proved by the min­is­ter: that blacks should be con­sti­tuted into “tribes” or “tribal en­ti­ties” un­der “recog­nised chiefs” be­fore their ap­pli­ca­tions for the pur­chase of farms could be ap­proved. This is a fur­ther man­i­fes­ta­tion of an im­posed form of iden­tity cre­ation in which the state uses its power to im­pose its val­ues upon com­mu­ni­ties.

The con­sti­tu­tion of farm pur­chasers into “tribes” and “tribal en­ti­ties” re­sulted in the cre­ation of new iden­ti­ties. In the Mak­gabeng area, peo­ple who came from dif­fer­ent poli­ties in ar­eas such as Ga Mam­abolo, Ga Dik­gale, Bot­lokwa and Mo­letji, found those who were born in the Mak­gabeng area, came to­gether in or­der to buy var­i­ous farms. Al­most each and ev­ery farm in the Mak­gabeng area was pur­chased by peo­ple of dif­fer­ent ori­gins as they were re­quired by law to form them­selves into “tribes” or “tribal en­ti­ties.” For in­stance, of the 93 blacks who came to­gether to pur­chase the two farms, Early Dawn and Mill­stream in 1945, 71 were the lo­cal Bakone of Mak­gabeng, 6 were Ba­hananwa, 9 were the Bak­wena from Mo­letji, 4 were “Molima”, 1 each from Bot­lokwa, Sen­thu­mule and Ga Mphahlele. In another ex­am­ple, of the 47 blacks who pur­chased the farm Nan-Parella in 1946, 43 were the Bakone, 2 were the Bak­wena, 1 was a Mot­lokwa and another 1 a Lete­bele.

Al­though those pur­chasers in each of the Mak­gabeng farms were from dif­fer­ent back­grounds, the laws re­quired them to regis­ter un­der one tribal name and a recog­nised kgoši. The re­sult was that the orig­i­nal iden­ti­ties of most pur­chasers had to take a back seat as the iden­ti­ties of the ma­jor­ity buy­ers be­came salient. At the same time, the pur­chasers had to recog­nise the author­ity of the kgoši un­der whose ju­ris­dic­tion the farm was bought. The lat­ter re­quire­ment later brought ten­sions within bought farms which were struggling to es­tab­lish their new iden­ti­ties as ho­moge­nous com­mu­nal vil­lages.

The fol­low­ing are few ex­am­ples in which co-pur­chasers from dif­fer­ent back­grounds formed them­selves into “tribes” and “tribal en­ti­ties” un­der recog­nised magoši or head­men in or­der to buy farms in Mak­gabeng:

1. Early Dawn-Mill­stream buy­ers formed them­selves into the Bakone “tribe” un­der Kgoši Mat­lala.

2. Kirsten­spruit (Sadu) pur­chasers formed them­selves into the Bakone “tribe” un­der Kgoši Mat­lala.

3. Nan-Parella pur­chasers formed them­selves into the Bakone “tribe” un­der Kgoši Mat­lala.

4. Norma B pur­chasers formed them­selves into the Bat­lokwa “tribe” un­der Kgoši Machaka.

5. Old Langsyne pur­chasers formed them­selves into the Ba­hananwa “tribe” un­der Kgoši Male­bogo.

6. Ri­et­ter­house (Moku­muru) pur­chasers formed them­selves into the Moth­iba “tribe” un­der Kgoši Moth­iba.

Those joint pur­chases of farms by dif­fer­ent peo­ple also re­sulted in the spon­ta­neous re-cre­ation of com­mu­nal iden­ti­ties which had been ear­lier dis­rupted by the an­nex­a­tion of black lands by the whites through dif­fer­ent laws, such as the 1913 Na­tives Land Act. As a re­sult of the the­o­ret­i­cal no­tion of “shared ex­pe­ri­ence”, those land pur­chasers from dif­fer­ent back­grounds found them­selves faced with com­mon ex­pe­ri­ences, and that fur­ther shaped their com­mon iden­tity. That kind of com­mu­nal iden­tity was fur­ther en­trenched as the farm buy­ers stayed to­gether over a longer pe­riod – even though in the first place, they had been forced to buy the land from the whites; the whites who did not buy that land; the whites who did not even bring that land with them from Europe in the ships they came with.

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