Research Articles (History)

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    Hunger and power : politics, food (in)security and the development of small grains in Zimbabwe, 2000-2010
    (The Historical Association of South Africa, 2022-05-01) Kauma, Bryan; Swart, Sandra
    White maize sadza is the most eaten food in Zimbabwe. Yet, over the decade of the 2000s, its consumption was threatened by drought and consequent acute food shortages. Small grains - sorghum and millet - offered a panacea to looming starvation and civil unrest. Yet, as we argue in this article, its access became rooted increasingly within political contestations between the ruling ZANU PF government, the budding opposition party and ordinary citizens. Using the story of small grains -sorghum and millet - between 2000 and 2010, we trace how food (in)security took a political form, stirring a pot of sometimes violent clashes between political and social contenders. We argue that through 'political grain', various political and social elites were able to amass wealth and power for themselves and grab control of sociopolitical discourse on food security during the crisis years. As the state imposed a series of seemingly well-intentioned and sometimes even widely welcomed food initiatives such as Operation Maguta and BACOSSI, these food security measures were often ad hoc, temporary and - as we argue - actually had an adverse long-term impact on local grain production and food availability. The government worked through key parastatals like the Grain Marketing Board and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to allocate resources and food support to ruling party loyalists. In this period, the ZANU PF regime was concerned primarily with holding on to its waning political power and avenues for personal wealth accumulation at the expense of food security in the country. This paper demonstrates how an anthropogenically-induced 'hunger' effectively prolonged ZANU PF's control of society - but we also show how 'small people' fought back against President Robert Mugabe's 'big men' by embracing the growing and eating of traditional 'small grains'.
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    Between drought and deluge : a history of water provision to Beaufort West, ca. 1858-1955
    (NWU, 2020) Visser, Wessel
    Beaufort West was the first rural town in South Africa to receive municipal status as early as 1837. Situated in the arid interior of the country, the town has struggled with water provision and sufficient water supplies since its inception to the present day. In addition, the town is flanked by two rivers, which, in times of high rainfall or cloudbursts in the catchment areas, have caused severe flood damage since earliest times. Therefore, throughout its history Beaufort West has been trapped periodically between drought and deluge. The municipal council was challenged in its efforts to provide water to the needs of its growing population. Two outstanding events in this regard were the extension of the colonial railways to the town in 1880 and the outbreak of the South African War in 1899. In this article the quest for water to Beaufort West’s inhabitants is investigated since ca. 1858 until the completion of the Gamka Dam (1955) in the Nieuweveld Mountains some kilometres from Beaufort West. Besides the extraction of potable water from springs, weirs, boreholes, water mains, dams and reservoirs, the paper also highlights state involvement and the collision of national with local interests in the water procurement process. Although the centenary publication of WGH Vivier and S Vivier in 1969 on Beaufort West highlighted some aspects of the town’s water infrastructure developments, this study focuses in more detail on its water vulnerability especially in time of drought and the constant search for adequate alternative water sources.
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    Short-lived tolerance. An euphoria of the 1938 Voortrekker Centenary as in the editorials of a local newspaper : the George & Knysna Herald
    (NWU, 2019) Maritz, Loraine
    There have been many studies on the Voortrekker Centenary of 1938 and the unforeseen consequences it had, including the subsequent surge of Afrikaner nationalism and political developments. As the wagons moved across South Africa, the processions infused Afrikaners with pride in their heroic past. Afrikaner nationalism, the ideology that focused on protecting Afrikaner culture, the striving to regain an independent republic and, importantly, affirmation that they were God’s chosen people, were rekindled. The event also generated a widespread sense of connection. It was not only Afrikaners who were swept up in the euphoria of the celebrations, but also many non-Afrikaners were emotionally affected by the event. This article narrows the focus down to George, a small town in the Western Cape Province, where Charles Sayers, the editor of the local newspaper, the George & Knysna Herald, a firm supporter of the United Party and a fierce critic of the Reunited National Party, seems to have been swept up for a short period by the fever of the celebrations. A year later, in 1939, when war broke out in Europe, Sayers loyally approved of the United Party’s decision to support the war effort in Europe on the side of the Allies and became harshly critical of Hertzog and those Afrikaners nationalists who refused to join a war on Britain’s side. With the George & Knysna Herald as the primary source, this article attempts to determine what led the editor to undergo such an about-turn in his political views in 1938 and to be temporarily supportive of the celebrations that embodied the spirit of Afrikaner nationalism.
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    Precarious freedom : manumission in eighteenth-century Colombo
    (Oxford University Press, 2020-09-04) Ekama, Kate
    In the historiography of slave-owning societies, manumission has been a contentious topic. Based on the assumption that manumission rates and the level of cruelty in a slave-owning society were closely related, historians have used research on manumission to rank slave societies based on a scale from “mild” to “harsh.” More recent research on manumission has eschewed this problematic approach, instead probing gradations of freedom. This article aims to contribute to our understanding of manumission and slavery by questioning how the formal, legal process of manumission altered the lived experience of individuals. Examining legal sources that shed light on the complexities of manumission in eighteenth-century Colombo, it considers the social strategies employed to achieve and defend free status. The records show that manumission did not sever the master-slave relationship: obligations and relations of debt continued to bind the formerly enslaved to former slave-owning families. Studying court records involving individuals responding to the possibilities and limitations of manumission, this study shows that freed status was precarious and, like bondage, was not an unalterable state.
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    Reclaiming school athletics in Cape Town’s underclass, 1933–1955
    (Historical Association of South Africa, 2022-05-01) Cleophas, Francois Johannes
    This article endeavours to make a significant contribution to the broadening of local school athletics history in Cape Town. By focusing on certain historical documents, the article explores the state and scope of athletics in black schools in Cape Town prior to 1956, a largely under-researched field in South African sport history. It does so by identifying prominent administrators, outstanding athletes, and participating schools. Many of these histories have disappeared or have been erased from public consciousness. The article shows how organised school athletics in Cape Town’s oppressed communities have been shaped by a myriad of teachers, politicians, and sport administrators of varying political and social backgrounds. It also provides details of the Trafalgar High School’s Wiener’s Day competitions. Next, a history of the Central School Sports Union and its offshoots is unpacked. Finally, the early years of the Western Province School Sports Board are overviewed. The article concludes by suggesting why it is important to reclaim this particular history.