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- ItemThe Mfecane: Beginning the inquest(1988-09-12) Wright, John; Cobbing, JulianIn 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.
- Item"If we can't call it the mfecane, then what can we call it?": Moving the debate forward(1994-08-29) Wright, JohnThe 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.
- ItemSupport or control: The children of the Garment Workers' Union, 1939-1948(1985-03) Witz, LeslieVarious 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).
- ItemPolitical 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.
- ItemA Review of the second Carnegie Commission of enquiry into poverty in South Africa(1985-07-29) Wilson, FrancisWhat 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.