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    The Mfecane: Beginning the inquest
    (1988-09-12) Wright, John; Cobbing, Julian
    In this paper I elaborate on the argument that 'the mfecane' is a pivotal component of a 'liberal', settler, apartheid-skeletal form a new analysis. The main assertion of mfecane propaganda is that a 'Zulu-centric' revolution produced an extensive depopulation which explains in historiographical sequence: the flight of peoples into the 'liberation' of the European economy, the land division of 1913, and, since the 1950s, the configuration of the Bantustans. In reply, it is shown that the sub-continental destabilisations and transformations within black societies sprang from the synchronous and converging impact of European penetration at Delagoa Bay, the Cape, north of the Orange, and Natal. In order to disguise what had occurred the whites erased themselves from their own impact, and retrospectively inserted Shaka and other victims of the process as initiators in situations where they were absent. The chronology is lengthened far beyond the (in this context) irrelevant reign of the Zulu monarch. Particular attention is paid to the sequences of this extended chronology and to the cross-interactions between the sectors of the white advance. It is not the intention to minimise change internal to black societies, but rather to make a call for this to be researched in its proper context. The huge gaps in our knowledge revealed by this approach ensure that this task is a formidable one.
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    "If we can't call it the mfecane, then what can we call it?": Moving the debate forward
    (1994-08-29) Wright, John
    The mfecane as fetish: In the last six years a major controversy has blown up among historians of southern Africa about the historical reality or otherwise of the phenomenon commonly known as the mfecane (1). Since it was first popularized by John Omer-Cooper in his book The Zulu Aftermath, published in 1966,(2) the term has become widely used as a designation for the wars and migrations which took place among African communities across much of the eastern half of southern Africa in the 1820s and 1830s. For more than a century before Omer-Cooper wrote, these upheavals had been labelled by writers as 'the wars of Shaka' or 'the Zulu wars'; today the view remains deeply entrenched among historians and public alike that the conflicts of the period were touched off by the explosive expansion of the Zulu kingdom under Shaka. In a chain reaction of violence, so the story of the mfecane goes, warring groups carried death and destruction from the Zululand region southwards into Natal and the eastern Cape, westward onto the highveld, and northwards to the Limpopo river and beyond. The violence came to an end only when most of the communities which had managed to survive the supposed chaos of the times had been amalgamated into a number of large defensive states under powerful kings.
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    Support or control: The children of the Garment Workers' Union, 1939-1948
    (1985-03) Witz, Leslie
    Various historians have pointed out that during the first three decades of the twentieth century both capital and the state incorporated white wage earners in South Africa into institutionalised structures (1). The white workers lost all their militancy, developed a racist hierarchical division of labour, became entrapped in the hegemony of bourgeois politics and their trade unions slipped into the morass of bureaucracy. White workers, however, were not simply trapped by the state and capital. Incorporation was a process which took over twenty years or more to accomplish and was determined by specific conditions facing white workers and trade unions, in particular on the Witwatersrand, during this period. White workers rather eased themselves into a trap, lowered the gate, bolted it and threw away the key (2). There is one group of white workers which, it is maintained, managed to resist this incorporation: the clothing workers on the Witwatersrand in the 1930s and 40s. These workers were Afrikaner women who were active members of the Garment Workers' Union (GWU), a trade union which, it is claimed, under the leadership of Solly Sachs (its general secretary from 1928 to 1952), displayed a high degree of militancy, established internal democratic structures, assumed an independent political role and firmly committed itself to non-racialism (3). Perhaps the most important claim made on behalf of the union is the last for it has been used to justify many a theoretical position in the South African political arena. Solly Sachs himself used it to criticise the Communist Party's almost exclusive concern with black workers (4). Basil Davidson, writing in the New Statesman in 1950, wrote that the nonracialism in the Garment Workers' Union represented the hope that Afrikaners would forego their racialism and that black and white could co-operate in a future free South Africa (5). More recently Fine, de Clercq and Innes used the GWU's commitment to non-racialism as an example of how workers need not simply become incorporated into racial structures if trade unions registered under government sponsored legislation (6). All these assertions are based on an unquestioning acceptance of the Garment Workers' Union's official version of its stance towards black workers in the industry. The GWU always maintained that it welcomed blacks into its organisation, supported their struggles and through this assistance black workers acquired substantial benefits such as higher wages and shorter working hours (7). This paper will attempt to examine this rendition critically, looking particularly at the period 1939 to 1948, a time when black workers started entering the clothing industry on the Witwatersrand in significant numbers. However, we must first briefly survey the period 1929 to 1938 for in those years the roots of the GWU's policies towards black workers in the clothing industry were implanted (8).
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    Political parties in Botswana: Some observations
    (1973-02) Wiseman, John A.
    Perhaps I could begin by stressing the tentative nature of the paper which I shall be presenting to this seminar. In the main this is due to the inadequacy of source material, relating to Botswana, available in Britain. The country is small (in terms of population) and poor, a situation which does not encourage the generation of much in the way of primary material, especially outside the governmental sector. With one or two exceptions the secondary material concerning Botswana seems to be based on the promise that the most important factor concerning the country is its relationship with the rest of Southern Africa. Thus it is regarded as a rather small pawn in the wider struggle with usually little more than a cursory glance at its internal politics. I am at the moment planning a trip to Botswana for the purposes of field work later in the year, but for the present I acknowledge that there are serious gaps in the paper I shall put before you. In most cases I shall attempt to point to the omissions myself. In spite of this I believe that the paper may be of interest, not only to those few who have a particular interest in Botswana, but to the much wider number who accept that the study of new states is of vital relevance to our understanding of politics. This account rejects the notion of any "single explanation" of the party system in Botswana: it rejects single variable determinism or even dominancy as a core explanatory factor. Thus it regards as simplistic any attempt to use one variable (e.g. tribe, class, region etc.) as a sensible method of understanding the nature of political parties or their interactions, analytically positioned as "party system". What is more, this account argues that the same method cannot be used to explain all the parties, even after allowance has been made for different content variables.
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    A Review of the second Carnegie Commission of enquiry into poverty in South Africa
    (1985-07-29) Wilson, Francis
    What follows is the barest outline of some of the major issues emerging from the Second Carnegie Inquiry into Poverty and Development. I intend to flesh out these bones in the seminar in the hope of provoking critical discussion. This seminar will focus on poverty and the processes of impoverishment in Southern Africa, and on the second Carnegie Inquiry, which has been going on over the past five years. Background, and introduction: Purpose of the Inquiry is not just to document poverty, but to engage in policy-oriented research: research to assist the society to develop strategies to move away from poverty.
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    The rise of Afrikanerdom as an immanent critique of Marx's Theory of Social Class
    (1975-08) Moodie, Dunbar
    For Marx, social classes are groups which arise in the course of the division of labour. Based on developments in the forces of production, class formation leads to inevitable conflict, as a result of which one class comes to dominate all others. Class is thus an identifiable historical actuality; an objective phenomenon, rooted in the relations of production. This is what Marx calls "class-in-itself". However precise its actuality in the relations of production, however, the reality of a class-in-itself is obscured by false consciousness. It must achieve true consciousness to become a "class-for-itself".
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    An evaluation of the IMF mission document on economic policies for a new South Africa
    (1992-08-03) Zarenda, Harry
    In January 1992, an IMF occasional paper entitled "Economic Policies for a New South Africa " (IMF 1992) was issued. As stated in the Preface, the study was intended as a contribution to the debate regarding the appropriate economic policies to be pursued in a new South Africa, The authors of the study have drawn heavily on the work of the IMF 1991 Article IV Consultation Mission to South Africa, but insist that the opinions expressed in the paper are their own, rather than those of the South African authorities or of the IMF. Nevertheless, the central message is in total conformity with the broad economic philosophy of the Fund. The purpose of this paper is to criticize the policy emphasis and major conclusions of the IMF occasional paper and, by so doing, to add a new perspective to the dialogue concerning an economic policy agenda for South Africa's transition to democracy.
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    Strike action and self-help associations: Protest and culture of African workers after World War I, Zimbabwe
    (1987-08-26) Yoshikuni, Tsuneo
    The years immediately following the armistice of the First World War witnessed the rapid growth of labour movements throughout the world. In sub-Saharan Africa, despite the region's relative weakness of capitalist penetration, the period was punctuated by stirrings of industrial discontent among African workers, apart from a contemporary spate of strikes by European workers in settler-dominated southern Africa. The places affected ranged from Freetown to Cape Town, from Lagos to Lourenco Marques, from Nairobi to Johannesburg and many other industrial centres. Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, was no exception. In the period from 1918 to 1921 African workers are known to have mounted several work stoppages in major towns, railways, mines, etc. throughout the colony. None of these disputes was more than a 'skirmish', lasting only a short while, but together they constituted a militant strike movement or movements. The first part of this essay is an attempt to describe this upsurge of labour protest. The protest on such a scale was perhaps the earliest of its kind in the colony's history and much of it has so far remained in obscurity; as such, it deserves to be accounted in detail. The image of the African worker that can be obtained from the first part is, insofar as its concern is restricted to the protest scenes, inescapably a very much simplified and abridged one: he is to be depicted as a man rationally and milltantly responding to economic realities of an industrial society. In order to probe more deeply into the character of the African worker, the labour protest of 1918-21 needs to be placed on a wider historical canvass. For this purpose, the second part of this essay addresses itself to a case study of the Tonga or Zambesi municipal workers in Salisbury (Harare) who staged a strike in August 1919. Its emphasis is upon penetrating the interior of the world which African migrants created in the face of everyday problems—a world, made of intimate human ties, where people found natural and effective forms of self-protection and self-assertion in the industrial situation.
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    Women and squatting: A Winterfeld case study
    (1979-05-21) Yawitch, Joanne
    This paper is an examination of the political economy of Black women in South Africa in terms of a case-study of women in Winterveld. As such it deals with three issues, each of which is vast. These are: (1) Women; (2) Winterveld; (3) The nature of the South African economy at present. Given the confines of a paper such as this it is obviously impossible to deal with all three in full detail. There is thus much in the analysis that will only be referred to in passing and much that is implicit in it will hopefully be explained during discussion.
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    Politics, ideology, and the invention of the 'Nguni'
    (1983-06-14) Wright, John
    The word 'Nguni' is today commonly used by academics as a collective term for the black peoples who historically have inhabited the eastern regions of southern Africa from Swaziland through Zululand, Natal, the Transkei and the Ciskei to the eastern Cape. These peoples are conventionally distinguished by language and culture from the Thonga peoples of the coastlands further to the north, and the Sotho peoples of the interior plateau to the west and north-west. Use of Nguni in this extended sense is now so well entrenched in the literature on southern African ethnography, linguistics, and history as probably to make the term irremovable, but, from a historical perspective, it is important to note that it is only within the last half-century that this usage has become current. Previously, the peoples now designated as Nguni had been variously labelled as Zulu, or Xhosa, or Kaffirs, or Zulu-Kaffirs, while Nguni itself had been a non-literary term used by the black peoples of south-east Africa in a number of more restricted senses. Nowhere among these peoples was Nguni used in a generic sense. The purpose of this paper is to trace the historical process by which the modern literary usage of Nguni became established. It is divided into three parts. In the first, the various historically known meanings of Nguni are identified. In the second, an explanation is suggested as to why specifically one of these meanings was appropriated by academics from the 1930s onward. In the third, an explanation is put forward as to how and why this particular meaning had developed in the first place.
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    Political mythology and the making of Natal's Mfecane
    (1988-09) Wright, John
    Over the last twenty years or so the concept of the mfecane has come to be deeply rooted as a notion round which much of the history of southern Africa in the first half of the 19th century is written. As generally used, the term refers to a series of wars and migrations which are supposed to have been sparked off by the emergence of the Zulu kingdom In the late 1810s, and then to have swirled across most of the eastern half of the sub-continent. In the view of many historians, these upheavals were the direct cause of the profound changes in the political map of southern Africa which took place in the 1820s and 1830s, changes which in turn were of the greatest significance in shaping the nature of black-white interaction in southern Africa for the rest of the century (1). In a series of so far unpublished papers written since 1983, Julian Cobbing has formulated a radical and sweeping critique of the notion that the mfecane actually happened (2). While not denying that the history of African societies in the earlier 19th century was marked by numerous violent conflicts, he rejects the particular significance which white writers since at least the mid-19th century have attached to them. He empasizes that they were a continuation of conflicts which had begun long before the 1810s, conflicts whose primary cause was not the expansion of the Zulu kingdom but the onslaught which Dutch and British settlers and imperialists at the Cape and, to a lesser extent, Portuguese slavers at Delagoa bay were making on neighbouring African societies in their unrelenting attempts to seize control of land and labour-power. The upheavals of the times had not one but several epicentres.
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    Auxilary instruments of labor: The homogenization of diversity in the discourse of ethnicity
    (1993-05-03) Wilmsen, Edwin N.
    In the creation of an image of national unity successful political states employ their power of cultural hegemony to facilitate the continual renewal of forms of involuntary ascription, such as ethnicity, that can coexist with a national consciousness without apparent contradiction precisely because they are cultural, that is ascribed, and therefore appear both natural and national from the perspective of individuals. Continued tacit acceptance of imposed ethnic terms for current political discourse (e.g., in Eastern Europe, Islamic Asia, southern Africa, USA minorities) reaffirms the established status of these terms as the most readily available avenue for collective self-identification and action. "So long as social practice continues to be pursued as if ethnicity did hold the key to the structures of inequality, the protectionism of the dominant and the responses of the dominated alike serve to reproduce an ethnically ordered world" (Comaroff 1987:xxx). It is particularly important to stress this at a time' when a philosophy of primordial ethnicity is being widely reasserted as a form of neo-racism to justify new or continued suppression of dispossessed ethnic groups. In this paper, I will analyze processes of ethnicization, identity construction, and class formation in Botswana. In ethnicity and tribalism are conflated (e.g., Vail 1989). But tribes, as Vail's authors make abundently clear, are a product of colonial engagement; they are essentially administrative constructs. On the other hand, ethnicity as a central logic emerged out of conflicts engendered in competition for favored positions among these tribal constructs. The emergent ethnicities were formulated out of an amalgam of preexisting indigenous and inserted colonial partitive ideologies. A dominant class - in colonial Africa, this was often an ascendent 'tribal' aristocracy - defined and determined the terms of subordinate class competition which is the seedbed of ethnicizing processes.
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    Transforming labour tenants: A critique of the Land Reform (Labour Tenants) Act of 1996
    (1996-09-30) Williams, Gavin
    In 1996, Parliament approved the Land Reform (Labour Tenants) Act of 1996 despite vocal opposition to some of its key provisions from the Natal and South African white agricultural unions (1). The objectives of the Act are twofold: To provide for security of tenure of labour tenants and those persons occupying or using land as a result of their association with labour tenants; and to provide for the acquisition of land and rights in land by labour tenants;... It sought to protect the rights of labour tenants to existing rural livelihoods and to create new ways for them to acquire land for smallholder farming. Labour tenancy contracts embody a range of obligations and expectations, implicit as well as explicit, on the part of the owner of the land, their tenants and the members of the tenants' families on whom the burden of providing labour has often fallen. Contracts vary in their terms from farm to farm, and from district to district, and have changed significantly over time. Labour tenancy arrangements have different meanings for the parties involved. What for the farmer is a way to secure a supply of labour is for the tenant a means of acquiring land and keeping cattle. Attempts to transform labour tenants into wage workers, or to restrict their access to grazing or the number of cattle they may keep, have been a repeated source of bitter contention. The rights of landowners to use their property as they choose and to decide who may have access to it, and on what terms, conflict with the claims of workers, tenants, and their families to a place to live and to land to grow crops and graze animals.
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    Straddling realities: The urban foundation and social change in contemporary South Africa
    (1982-05) Wilkinson, Peter
    Until perhaps as recently as a year ago, it would have been tempting to construct a 'radical' critique of the Urban Foundation (UF) around the apparent compatibility of the organization's programme with the objectives of the 'Total Strategy' formulated by the government of P.W. Botha. Indeed, elements of such an analysis remain central to the argument that will be advanced here. But since the events of the past year have exposed the deep-seated antipathy of an important section of the government's electoral base towards any attempt at 'meaningful reform', the inadequacy of a critique which simply continues to assert the UF's complicity in 'Total Strategy' must be confronted. After the recent much-heralded 'report back' conference between Botha and leading businessmen fizzled out inconclusively in Cape Town, it would be merely naive to attempt to maintain the notion of an unpvoblematic partnership of 'state' and 'capital' in a joint project aimed at co-opting the black 'middle classes' under the guise of implementing an essentially hollow reform strategy. What I shall be trying to do in this article, therefore, is to shift the analysis of the UFVs role in contemporary South Africa beyond the terms of this now somewhat unproductive polemic. I propose to approach the problem in two stages. In the first place, I want to locate the UF within the framework of the present (November 1981) conjuncture in South Africa by tracing, briefly and somewhat schematically, certain developments bearing on the role of the Foundation during the nearly five years that have elapsed since it was initially set up in December 1976. Secondly, I shall argue that these developments have left the UF in a position in which it is poised between the reality in which it first took shape and the reality of the present, and I shall explore some of the dimensions of the critical strategic choice with which I believe it is now faced. Throughout, in order to keep the length of this article within acceptable limits and to avoid unnecessary references to matters that have received extensive coverage in the press, I will assume a degree of broad familiarity on the part of readers with the more general aims and activities of the UF.
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    A place to live : The resolution of the African housing crisis in Johannesburg, 1944-1954
    (1981-07-27) Wilkinson, Peter
    In March 1944, the African township of Orlando near Johannesburg witnessed the first of a wave of squatter movements which was to sweep across the Witwatersrand during the next three or four years. The movements were, for the most part, a desperate response to the apparent inability or reluctance of the authorities to tackle the massive backlog in housing provision which had developed, in the major industrial centres as African workers and their families flooded in to meet the expanding labour demand brought about by the wartime economic boom. Although South Africa had already experienced phases of rapid urbanization during earlier periods (notably the First World War), the magnitude of the problem which now confronted the state's housing apparatus was unprecedented and soon took on the dimensions of a full-blown crisis as decisive action to remedy the situation failed to materialize. By the beginning of 1955, however, not quite eleven years after the squatters had first thrust themselves into the official consciousness, an editorial in Bantu - the periodical published by the Department of Native Affairs to disseminate its 'viewpoint' amongst the African population - could claim: The solution of the Bantu housing problem has now reached a stage which we can call the end of the beginning. Improved houses are being completed every day. During the next ten years hundreds of thousands of Bantu will be properly housed for the first time (2). This paper is an attempt to move towards an explanation of how this 'solution' of the 'Bantu housing problem' was finally achieved and, more specifically, of how the foundations of what we now know as Soweto came to be laid. It focuses on the resolution of certain strategic issues linked to the provision of African housing and on the establishment of the particular legislative and institutional framework within which the concrete practices that were to generate the form of the 'modern' township were brought into play. In coming to terms with the mass of detailed and often confusing empirical material on which the paper is based, I have tried to avoid the danger of remaining trapped at the level of merely descriptive narrative by explicitly situating the evolution of African housing policy within the political and economic context on which, I would argue, it was always predicated. In this respect, I have found what I consider to be a useful point of entry into the labyrinth of 'facts' in Manuel Castells' conceptualisation of 'urban planning' as the theoretical field of state intervention in the 'urban', where the latter "refers not only to a spatial form, but expresses the social organization of the processes of reproduction".
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    Cars out of place : Vampires, technology, and labor in East and Central Africa
    (1993-08-16) White, Luise
    This essay is about things that never happened. The African vampires discussed here are not the undead, but men and occasionally women specifically employed--as firemen in East Africa and game rangers in Central Africa--to capture Africans and extract their blood. Such vampires were said to exist throughout much of East and Central Africa; they were a specifically colonial phenomena and were first noted in the late 'teens and early 1920s. In the colonial versions of these stories, most vampires were black men supervised on the job by white men, but in postcolonial versions who works for whom has become unclear. Although it seems plausible that these stories originated in botched medical procedures done in too great haste during World War I, establishing their source does not account for their meaning thirty years later, or their power, or the passion with which they were retold and withheld. Stories in which colonial employees drained Africans of their blood may reveal more than the vivid imagination of their narrators; they disclose the concerns and anxieties of people at a specific time and place.
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    Stay-aways and the black working class since the second World War : The evaluation of a strategy
    (1979-04) Webster, E.C.
    There is a widespread belief, among some who hope for change in South Africa, that if only all Blacks withdrew their labour, the whole structure of South Africa would collapse. It is a subject which has received little academic attention. It is my intention in this paper to examine this notion in three parts.. In Part I a brief history of stay-aways between 1950 and 1961 will be given. In Part II its reemergence in Soweto will be examined. In Part III the limitations of the stay-away as a tactic of working-class action will be discussed and contrasted with the more wide-spread plantbased action of the 1970s. (This is not meant to imply that limitations do not exist in plant-based action.) The Namibian general strike of 1971-2 is excluded from this analysis as its relative degree of "success" demonstrates the uniqueness of that situation - viz. the existence of a reasonably self-sufficient rural base to which striking workers could withdraw. Yet even in Namibia workers could ultimately, says Moorsom, not escape the major contradiction in their strategy "that although access to peasant resources considerably expanded their power to prolong resistance, they could no longer, as a matter of inescapable necessity, opt out of wage-labour indefinitely - the platform of the strike committee embodied a tacit acknowledgement of the irrevocable necessity of wage-labour."
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    Capitalists, peasants and land in Africa: A comparative perspective
    (1991-08) Williams, Gavin
    The paper compares the development of various forms of capitalist and peasant agriculture and state policies towards them in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania during the coloniao and post-colonial periods. At first sight, our four African examples appear to exemplify distinct patterns of historical transformation: one capitalist (South Africa) and two peasant, one (Nigeria) in a 'capitalist' and one (Tanzania) in a 'socialist' context, and an anmalous fourth version, combining capitalist and peasant forms. However, wage labour and family labour are found in agricultural production in all the countries studied, and labour-, share- and rent tenancies are important in several. These different forms of labour are combined in single enterprises, both on capitalist and peasant farms, and in the strategies adopted by individuals and households to provide for their needs. Similarly, governments of very different political persuasions have often adopted similar policies to control, regulate and 'develop' rural people. Our four examples do not display clearly divergent directions, but they are also not obviously converging on some common destination. In particular, they are not all undergoing the passage from peasant to capitalist, or even to socialist, agriculture. In some cases, the direction of change may be quite the reverse.
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    From Tram Shed to Assembly Hall: Solomon Plaatje, De Beers, and the Lyndhurst Road Native Institute in Kimberley, 1918-1919
    (1977-11) Willan, Brian
    Little scholarly attention has been devoted to an analysis of the historical evolution of class differentiation amongst Africans in twentieth century South Africa, or to the ideological forms that accompanied this. Such work as has been done in related fields has been concerned not so much to investigate such connections as to trace the "rise of nationalism", a term that in fact provides the title for Peter Walshe's history of the African National Congress, in itself indicative of the extent to which it forms part of that genre of writing inspired by Africa's "independence decade", many of whose assumptions it shares (2). In Walshe's book, the extent to which "nationalism" expressed fundamentally class-based aspirations and attitudes has been obscured. More direct expressions of class interest (which did not necessarily assume a "nationalist" guise) have been neglected; and African political though: and action is - as a consequence of an uncritical acceptance of the stated aims of organizations like the ANC - characterized as "unrealistic", "naive", "inappropriate" and, in terms of these stated aims, as having "failed". The ideological element - taking ideology as constituting a set of beliefs and ideas that serve to explain or rationalize the interests of particular groups or classes as the general interest - is largely absent from the analysis.
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    Kimberley's closed compounds: a model for Southern African compounds
    (1982-09-13) Turrell, Rob
    While it is by now conventional wisdom that the compound 'provided the framework for the total exploitation of ... black workers', (1) it has often been assumed by historians that the late nineteenth century closed compounds at Kimberley provided a superior material and social environment to their imitators on the Rand and in Southern Rhodesia (2). This assumption has been based on diamond mine owners' claims to have created an attractive social microcosm in their compounds, in which African workers were forced to spend their non-working lives for the duration of a contract. Moreover, the mine owners argued that it was these model social welfare compounds that compensated for a worker's loss of freedom. And it was a measure of the validity of their claim, they continued, that the mines never went short of labour and thus did not need to resort to labour recruitment, (3). This view of model diamond compounds in the 1880s and 1890s is a mine owner's myth. In the areas of accommodation, diet and health care, early Kimberley compounds were not markedly superior to the standards found in early Rand and Southern Rhodesian compounds. Van Onselen has compared conditions in these latter two mining regions and shown that, of the two, Rhodesian compounds were worse.