From Plough to Entrepreneurship
248 Pages
Gain access to the library to view online
Learn more

From Plough to Entrepreneurship


Gain access to the library to view online
Learn more
248 Pages


From Plough to Entrepreneurship is motivated largely by the fact that Africans were deprived of economic and political autonomy by white government in South Africa. This marginalisation lies in the complex and interconnected processes of displacement and dispossession by which Africans were first dispossessed of their own land; then deprived of independent productive opportunities. The increasing scarcity of land as scarce commodity and African land ownership in Evaton, best explains the history of African local economic independence. For the local residents, land possession in Evaton provided a space where a moral economy that fostered racial pride and solidarity was forged. This richly sourced monograph develops the logical explanation that sticks together all forces that constrained Africans to give up labour to an industrial economy in Evaton. It provides the reader and student of racialised inequalities in South Africa with an understanding steeped in historical ethnography on how local Africans struggled for economic independence, and how whatever independence their struggles yielded, changed over time in Evaton.



Published by
Published 24 August 2020
Reads 0
EAN13 9789956551552
Language English
Document size 2 MB

Legal information: rental price per page 0.0062€. This information is given for information only in accordance with current legislation.


of displacement and dispossession by which Africans were first dispossessed of their
From Plough to Entrepreneurship A History of African Entrepreneurs in Evaton 1905-1960s
Vusumuzi R. Kumalo
From Plough to Entrepreneurship: A History of African Entrepreneurs in Evaton 1905-1960s Vusumuzi R. Kumalo L a ng a a R esea rch & P u blishing CIG Mankon, Bamenda
Publisher:LangaaRPCIG Langaa Research & Publishing Common Initiative Group P.O. Box 902 Mankon Bamenda North West Region Cameroon Distributed in and outside N. America by African Books Collective
ISBN-10: 9956-551-53-8
ISBN-13: 978-9956-551-53-8
©Vusumuzi R. Kumalo 2020
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, mechanical or electronic, including photocopying and recording, or be stored in any information storage or retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher
Table of Contents Preface................................................................v Introduction .......................................................vii
Chapter 1 Introduction .......................................................1
Chapter 2 The origins and character
of Evaton ............................................................65
Chapter 3 Subsistence farming and
economic independence.....................................127 Chapter 4 Transition from unregulated to regulated trade ...............................................205
Bibliography .......................................................209
Preface In a sense,From Plough to Entrepreneurshipis inspired by the work of South African historians who have contributed significantly to the transformation of South African history well beyond a liberal and conservative approach. During my pupillage at the University of the Witwatersrand, I benefitted greatly from exposure to the work of several historians whose interests have impinged on mine. One of the historians who inspired me was Timothy Keegan and his work on rural transformation in the Highveld. To disentangle the work of Keegan from this volume is impossible. What can be said with certainty is that Keegan’s work provided the basis of this book. For his publication, oral testimonies constituted the prime source of information. During his research, Keegan spent valuable time interviewing African sharecroppers and independent farmers who could not be traced in government records. His main concern was on rural race relations and the historical dynamics of sharecropping enterprises in the Highveld. He conducted interviews on the sharecropper struggle for economic independence during the culmination of the proletarianisation process that took place after mineral discovery in South Africa in the nineteenth century. The larger proportion of families that Keegan interviewed later settled in Evaton, where they bought properties on an unprecedented scale from 1905 onwards. As prosperous farmers displaced from white owned farms, the sharecroppers obtained small-holding plots in the freehold township of Evaton with the aim of re-establishing themselves as farmers, thereby sustaining their economic independence in an urban environment. After reading Keegan’s work, I followed up on sharecropper’s families that he interviewed and traced their family histories in Evaton. My aim was to trace whether these families managed to maintain their economic
independence or not. My findings, presented in this volume, reveal that the larger proportion of these families altered their economic activities from plough to entrepreneurship. In Evaton they opened shops, butcheries, funeral parlours and other economic enterprises that serviced the people of the township. This project could not have been carried out without the advice of numerous friends, academics and the people of Evaton that I interviewed, some of whom have passed away. It would be an indulgence to even try to enumerate them here. There are, however, few who should be mentioned. The Kekane brothers, Maisela and Tladi Kekane, the late Dwight Seremi, Alf Kumalo, Mr Qupe, to name a few. I should also like to thank the publisher for publishing this book.
Introduction Evaton is one of the oldest remaining freehold locations in South Africa yet its history is less well-known compared to locations and townships that were established after it. The history of Evaton can be better understood within the broader context of economic and rural transformation that took place from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. This was a period that witnessed crucial developments that included industrialisation, the growth of urbanisation, the influx of 1 Africans who serviced the towns and manufacturing industries, as well as the movement of sharecroppers and labour tenants from white farms. For the Union government, all these historical dynamics created a new problem of control. This crisis was addressed by creating policies that aimed at controlling African people in urban areas, and isolating them by consigning them to urban locations. These locations were designed to be labour reserves that secured a supply of cheap labour for white businesses. In these residential spaces, opportunities for personal advancement and financial independence through trade were limited. Local white authorities in many cases denied Africans property rights and tightly monitored the access of African people to these locations. Evaton was distinct from most other African settlements. One aspect that made it unique was its status as a freehold township. This status makes it a rarity, like freehold areas of Johannesburg such as Sophiatown and Alexandra. The other areas mentioned were, however, really part of the greater Johannesburg urban area. Despite the formal status of both Alexandra and Sophiatown as being outside the municipal boundary, these freehold settlements were labour reserves with, by the 1930s, a high population of wage labourers. Evaton, some miles distant from Johannesburg, was not. Officially some of
these freehold localities were labelled as slums. The chief justification for labelling them as such was based on their over-crowdedness, poverty, and blighted physical appearance. Unlike Evaton, which was sparsely populated, Sophiatown suffered from an ‘insalubrious environment [that] was marked by gutters, 2 uncollected garbage …inadequate filthy lavatories, and stench.’ What distinguished Evaton from these areas was its economic history, self-sufficiency, demography, and geographical location. ‘Evaton is one of the most orderly places I know of in the Transvaal,’ said Sol Plaatjie, testifying to the 3 Native Economic Commission. Physically, the area had big yards which enabled residents to be relatively successful subsistence farmers for the first three decades of its development in the twentieth century. Subsistence farming allowed local residents to refrain from working for white industrialists. Another important aspect that made Evaton stand out was the presence of the Wilberforce Institute, the only African controlled school in the Transvaal. The main purpose of the Institute was to produce self-reliant citizens. In its motto ‘African advancement’,Wilberforce stressed the importance of providing students with industrial training as well as academic skills. The school was under the control of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which African Americans established in the United States and attracted a group of educated Africans to settle in the area. Even after the collapse of subsistence farming, the area provided opportunities for entrepreneurial growth and opportunities for Africans. These opportunities included enterprises such as grave digging and ambulance operations. In the freehold areas of Johannesburg, these services were under the control of the Johannesburg City Council. Due to its relative autonomy and opportunities, Evaton attracted Africans with means to buy properties and set uphomes there.These Africans saw Evaton as an area where they could advance their social and
economic life in an urban environment.Depending on individual interest, Evaton’s freehold status and autonomy provided room for Africans who aspired to advance themselves in different spheres of life such as religion, the economy and education. The area also provided a refuge to Africans who sought to evade municipal control. Evaton was established in 1905 and is situated thirteen miles from Vereeniging and twenty-eight miles from Johannesburg. As a thinly populated semi-agricultural centre in the Vaal, Evaton attracted displaced sharecroppers that were squeezed off 4 the land around the Highveld as well as educated Africans mostly from the Reef. There were also a few independent farmers from Natal and someOorlamspeople of (indigenous Southern Africa familiar, as a result of long contact, with the customs, standards, and language of the Dutch colonists) families who came from theZuid Afrikaanse Republiek and Orange Free State. Similar social, political, and economic forces caused these groups to move to Evaton. The urban educated group was deprived of the right to land ownership elsewhere where they could build schools and churches. They also suffered under pass laws that restricted their movements. Sharecroppers and a small number ofOorlamswere displaced after the Anglo-Boer War (South African War) of 1899-1902, which together with technological developments forced them to seek land where they could continue with their farming enterprises. Independent farmers that enjoyed the privilege of owning land in colonial Natal were attracted by the freehold status of the area and the large stands that were available. For these groups, access to land and the right to land ownership contributed to their economic prosperity and educational and spiritual advancement as well as the right to use both physical and social resources. Some liquidated their livestock and assets and invested in entrepreneurial activities. Evaton was, therefore, salient and central to African economic independence and advancement.