poisoned a whole people, had but now remounted to her face and
The room was empty. A great despairing breath came up from the
boulevard and swelled the curtain.
"A BERLIN! A BERLIN! A BERLIN!"
Native Life in South Africa, Before and Since
the European War and the Boer Rebellion
"Native Life in South Africa" is one of the most remarkable books on Africa, by one of the continent's most remarkable writers. It was written as a work of impassioned political propaganda, exposing the plight of black South Africans under the whites-only government of newly unified South Africa. It focuses on the effects of the 1913 Natives' Land Act which introduced a uniform system of land segregation between the races. It resulted, as Plaatje shows, in the immediate expulsion of blacks, as "squatters", from their ancestral lands in the Orange Free State now declared "white". But Native Life succeeds in being much more than a work of propaganda. It is a vital social document which captures the spirit of an age and shows the effects of rural segregation on the everyday life of people.
Solomon Tshekeisho Plaatje was born in 1878 in the lands of the Tswana-speaking people, south of Mafeking. His origins were ordinary enough. What was remarkable was the aptitude he showed for education and learning after a few years schooling under the tuition of a remarkable liberal German Lutheran missionary, the Rev. Ludorf. At the age of sixteen Plaatje (using the Dutch nickname of his grandfather as a surname) joined the Post Office as a mail-carrier in Kimberley, the diamond city in the north of Cape Colony. He subsequently passed the highest clerical examination in the colony, beating every white candidate in both Dutch and typing.