Black Mountain: Land, Class, and Power in the Eastern Orange Free State, 1880s to 1980s

Black Mountain: Land, Class, and Power in the Eastern Orange Free State, 1880s to 1980s

Black Mountain: Land, Class, and Power in the Eastern Orange Free State, 1880s to 1980s

Black Mountain: Land, Class, and Power in the Eastern Orange Free State, 1880s to 1980s

Synopsis

This is a remarkable chronicle of the struggles of many people - black and white - whose lives have been rooted in one district of the South African highveld over the last hundred years. Thaba Nchu (Black Mountain) was the territory of an independent African chiefdom until it ws annexed by the Orange Free State republic in 1884. By 1977, one-third had emegred as part of 'independent' Bophutswana with consequent 'inter-ethnic' antagonisms. As a result, on and adjoining piece of bare veld, there had developed the largest slum in South Africa, Botshabelo - a massive concentraion of poverty and unemployment. The sorties told by the inhabitants of the slum in 1980 led to this book. Detailed archival evidence and contemporary oral history illuminate all the important themes of the political economy of the rural highveld of South Africa from the mineral revolution of the late nineteenth century to the erosion of apartheid in the late twentieth century.

Excerpt

The work that went into this book began by accident in March 1980 in an obscure rural slum in South Africa. For me, the project resembled the assembly of a vast and complex jigsaw without a preview of the final picture. The pieces of the jigsaw were gathered, slowly and haphazardly, over a period of more than ten years. Even as I write this preface, the last item to go to the publisher, I still pursue odd pieces, loose ends. In this sense, of course, the work will never be completed. Many people helped me to find the pieces or to discern their place in an emerging pattern. I should like to thank them here.

Above all, I am indebted to those whom I encountered in Onverwacht in 1980 and who committed their indignation and resilience and humour and parts of their life stories, unwittingly sometimes, to my field diaries. Together, their stories led me to ask the questions which ultimately shaped this book. I am also indebted to many other people, in Thaba Nchu and elsewhere, whose experience and goodwill gave me raw material. The endnotes for each chapter specifically attribute much of this material and also identify the other sources, published and unpublished, that I have used. Other debts should be explicitly acknowledged here.

Many people gave me hospitality and help of various kinds. In Thaba Nchu itself, I have to thank particularly Raphael Mothe and Peter Brislin and other priests of the Catholic mission; Walter Gill and his family, of the Methodist church; and Lawrence and Dorothy Hall, of the Presbyterian church. Throughout the 1980s, Eunice Sebotha gave me sharp and seasoned guidance to the intricate affairs of the Barolong elite. Sam Bairstow's generous bar gave me access to the hardly less intricate affairs of the English-speaking farming families south of Tweespruit. David Ambrose, in Lesotho, gave me the benefit of his unrivalled knowledge of sources for the region, ranging from old newspapers to modern maps. He and Sumitra Talukdar were also warm hosts on several occasions, as were John and Judy Gay of the Transformation Resource Centre in Maseru. For their hospitality, friendship and assistance, I want to thank Joan and Tony McGregor, outside Johannesburg; and Connie and Mollie Anderson, outside Bloemfontein. John and Pam Parr, near Thaba Phatshwa, introduced me to the 'Coloured' village there and also kindly put me up. John and Jill Moffett, on their farm near Gumtree (eastern Orange Free State), helped me with my enquiries on the Newberry family; and David Boddam-Whetham, of Cathcart (eastern Cape), whom I never met, wrote at length with his reminiscences of three generations of that family.

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