The Hurutshe in the Marico district of the Transvaal, 1848-1914

Doctoral Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The Hurutshe are a Tswana-speaking chiefdom who lived in the vicinity of the Marico (Madikwe) river on the South African Highveld and emerged as an identifiable community with a distinct political structure about 350 years ago. They enjoyed periods of political and economic dominance in the mid-to late seventeenth century and again in the late eighteenth century. Following the economic and political disruptions attendant upon European commercial activities and the growth of more centralised and powerful African states in South Africa, they were propelled from their homeland in 1822-23. They returned only in 1848 to face the difficulties of Trekker overlordship. After a decade of political and economic pressures the general patterns of precolonial life were restored in their new reserve. A re-integrated Hurutshe social order provided the basis for agricultural innovation and expansion. The encroaching colonial order and the merchant and industrial economy inexorably drew them in to closer relations with these systems, and into direct involvement in the contest between Boer and Britain for control of the South African hinterland. Consequently the nature of reserve life changed as men, women and chiefs extended or took up new occupations and activities which cut across or restructured previous social, political and economic relationships. After the South African War new challenges and opportunities presented themselves as a consequence of the qualitatively different nature of British colonial rule and the increased economic scope afforded to rural African producers. Thus a combination of factors - a favourable environment, a cohesive society and the lack of competitive white agriculture - provided the basis for economic stability and even accumulation among certain categories of Hurutshe producers until well into the twentieth century. Hurutshe society was not untouched however, for subsequent events near the middle of the century were to reveal the depth of social distinctions and antagonisms that undoubtedly had their roots in the earlier years of their history.

Bibliography: pages 284-297.