The Erosion of the African Position

The Erosion of the African Position during the period 1902 to 1930.

*As early as the turn of the century, it was noted that African producers in the northern Transvaal annually supplied Pietersburg and Pretoria with ‘thousands of bags’ of grain and that African maize production in the Zoutpansberg exceeded production in other areas of the Transvaal where Africans dominated the cereals market. The local newspapers frequently reported in the following vein:

*The Kafirs grow enormous and increasing quantities of mealies [maize]; quantities so much in excess of their own requirements that the district supplies more of this indispensable article of food for native labourers on the Rand fields than any other part of South Africa.

*African production of cereals for the market was encouraged by both traders and the mines. Nor was the state willing to act against Africans who provided an important source of government revenue; in the years immediately following the Anglo-Boer War the direct taxes paid by northern Transvaal Africans to the government more than quintupled to £140,000

*It is clear that a relatively prosperous, if small, class of African farmers was emerging at the expense of their peers. Evidence for this lies in the purchase of land by individuals who themselves took on rent-paying tenants. In 1911 there were 2000 ‘Shangaans’ living on an African-owned farm in the eastern Transvaal and, five years later, there were some 10,500 Africans living on land held in freehold by Africans in the northern Transvaal. Some of these farmers commanded an annual income of £500 and virtually all had adopted the plough which, together with draught oxen and wagons used for marketing purposes, required a considerable capital investment. Some market-orientated cattle farmers had herds of up to 300 head. Thus by 1930 a number of African farmers had emerged who were able to rent out land and annually market several hundred bags of grain as well as fairly substantial numbers of cattle. 

Consider the Verdict

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