Segregation and Apartheid in Twentieth-Century South Africa

By William Beinart; Saul Dubow | Go to book overview

4

NATAL, THE ZULU ROYAL FAMILY AND THE IDEOLOGY OF SEGREGATION

Shula Marks

Shula Marks initially trained as a historian in South Africa but emigrated to Britain and established a thriving centre of southern African studies at the University of London in the 1970s and 1980s. Working in the context of the rapidly developing subdiscipline of African History, for which the School of Oriental and African Studies was an important centre, she and her students emphasized African initiatives in the making of South African society to a greater degree than the neo-Marxist analysts of capital and the state. She notes that the establishment of African reserves and the survival of African chieftaincy as central elements of segregation originated not in the Boer republics, but in Natal, the most British of colonies. The Natal or Shepstonian system devolved substantial local control to African chiefs who were seen as the best guarantors of a stable social order, a forerunner of the practice of indirect rule developed elsewhere in colonial Africa. Although the Zulu kings were initially exiled and lesser chiefs appointed to control the area, Marks argues that the colonial authorities became increasingly concerned about ‘detribalization’ in Natal and Zululand. By the 1920s, the king—whose supporters were ambitious for him—came to be viewed by segregationists not as a threat, but as a possible bulwark of communalism in the face of growing popular protest in town and countryside. The Zulu-speaking Christian élite, formerly hostile to the royal family, now began to give the monarchy political support. This reflected the fact that their attempts to gain equal rights within a common society were being thwarted by the rise of segregationist sentiment among whites and they sought instead to secure political influence by working through the chieftaincy. Marks therefore suggests that the Zulu monarchy was revived largely because the segregationist state afforded it

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