“Anginayo ngisho indibilishi!” (I don’t have a penny!) The gender politics of “Native Welfare” in Durban, 1930-1939.

Presented by Marijke du Toit

Date: 
Monday, 28 October, 2013 - 15:00

This paper examines how the Durban Bantu Child Welfare Society (DBCWS) came to be established as part of a wider context of burgeoning public activities by African women in Durban, particularly from the 1930s. I consider kholwa women’s interaction with the local state and also with white liberal segregationists who were participating in a national turn towards the establishment of ‘Non-European’ child welfare societies in South Africa. Durban’s African elite and particularly mission-educated women also vocally opposed the Durban Town Council’s efforts to enforce and to extend urban segregation. The DBCWS began its work in this context of fierce opposition to the promulgation of new pass law regulations aimed at controlling African women’s movements into Durban and that sought to stipulate application for certificates of exemption as the only alternative to a stringent process of seeking permission for every visit to the city. In inter-war Durban ‘Native Welfare’ first referred to control of African male leisure time and focused primarily on migrant labourers. By the end of the 1930s the DBCWS worked with officials of the DTC and with the Durban Children’s Court reluctant and limited concession by state officials to the fast-growing number of urban-based African families and to the fact of African poverty. At the same time functionaries of the NAD (at the level of the municipality, in the office of Durban’s Native Commissioner and the Union Department in Pretoria) continued to enforce the rule of segregation. Isabel Sililo of the DBCWS articulated pointed criticism of race-inflected state social welfare policies that denied rightful care to “Bantu children as future citizens” of South Africa.

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