No. 80, July 2018


Book reviews


The 80th issue of New Contree not only points to major trends currently influencing the South African political landscape (trends like land, the country’s colonial legacy and how to cleverly manage, and perhaps overcome the many complexities in a democratic acceptable way), but also how some other parts in Southern Africa have struggled with issues like education and the politicisation of health.

Despite seemingly frustrating historiographical silences on education in colonial time, Swaziland Hamilton Simelane in Colonial administrators, indigenous leaders, and missionaries: Contesting the education of the Swazi child, 1921-1939 provides insight into the nature of the relations between indigenous rulers, the British as colonial administrators and the missionaries in early 20th century Swaziland. Simelane points out that the indigenous monarchical leadership not merely accepted colonial administrative education for the Swazi children. The impression of contesting power play between the administration and the indigenous leaders in order to gain or maintain control, is pointed out. It seems that originally more empathy from various external resorts on the side of the indigenous leadership’s ideas for education via king Sobhuza’s (leading since 1921 to 1935) temporarily allowed for laming Western education in some schools in Swaziland. The failure of the Sobuza approach allowed Western education to proceed, without contestation, in the education of Swazi children.

From a slightly different angle Roy Jankielsohn of the Free State legislature and André Duvenhage as political experts pull their efforts together in Expectations and the issue of land in South Africa – the historical origins and current debate to debate this currently contentious political issue of land. They review the country’s history of dispossession, displacement and deprivation during the pre-colonial, colonial and apartheid era. The importance and value of historically contextualising discussions on land are pointed out. These authors strongly feel that (and discuss why) ideological divisions between the NDR and the NDP/NGP within the ruling African National Congress-run (ANC) government hamper progress towards achieving the land redistribution objectives outlined in these development plans and programmes. As a result, it is felt the necessary emphasis on sustainability of redistributed land for increased food security has fallen victim to this ideological tug-of-war, which has the potential to further instil social societal conflict in future.

Politicisation also does feature in other shapes and sizes, thus Clement Masakure. In The politicisation of health in Zimbabwe: The case of the cholera epidemic, August 2008-March 2009, Masakure views the diversity of contemporary political party narratives in Zimbabwe, as well as external views, on the cholera epidemic during the aftermath of the disputed June 2008 presidential runoff. The impression gained by Masakure from all the verbal political tossing seems to have been to score more politically on ruling party or oppositional side than a seemingly concern over the cholera matter itself. Yet, the 2008 cholera outbreak is interestingly viewed as “another incident that played its fair part in driving political transformation in Zimbabwe”.

The book reviews in the New Contree 80th issue also cover issues of land, colonial time histories and post-colonial education frustrations. They are Martin Legassick’s, Hidden Histories of Gordonia, land dispossession and resistance in the Northern Cape, 1800-1990; Anne Heffernan and Noor Nieftagodien with some other writers on Students must rise; youth struggle in South Africa before and beyond Soweto ’76; Hans Heese’s, Amsterdam tot Zeeland: Slawestand tot Middelstand? ’n Stellenbosse slawegeskiedenis, 1679- 1834 and then also Margaretha Schäfer’s compiled reports on Dors geles oor die Dorsland and on the iconic writer and historian PJ van der Merwe, in Meer oor PJ van der Merwe.

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