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Historia

On-line version ISSN 2309-8392
Print version ISSN 0018-229X

Abstract

JANSEN VAN RENSBURG, N.S. (Fanie). A struggle for tenure by the "servant class" of Potchefstroom: A study in structural violence. Historia [online]. 2013, vol.58, n.2, pp.70-90. ISSN 2309-8392.

The "servant class" of Potchefstroom intermittently struggled for some measure of security of the right of occupation and the use of urban land. They first relied entirely on the favour of their masters, then seemingly acquired long-term tenure in a native location. However, they were eventually consigned to the mass category of "urban natives" without tenure, initially under British rule after 1903. When accompanying their white masters on their trek from the Eastern Cape, they were never considered citizens of the republic that was to be constituted in the interior or as having any claim to land in town. Thus they lived with their masters on their burgerreg erwe (civil right stands) until 1888, when a native location was created for them, availing them with some basis for claiming security of tenure in an alternative system. However, partly because their claims of security of tenure were contentious when the location was planned and then established, a legal battle ensued between location residents and the local white authority after the South African War. This clash necessitated the appointment of the Feetham Commission in 1905 and the Armstrong Commission in 1907. These two commissions established certain limited and temporary benefits for location residents in Potchefstroom, partly based on their claims as very early residents of the town. This article covers an early and significant instance of the resistance of the "servant class" in southern Africa to the overarching, harsh social and legal structure in which the legitimacy of their tenure of urban land was ruled out.

Keywords : Potchefstroom; native location; urban land struggle; township; tenure; Feetham Commission; Armstrong Commission; Transvaal Republic.

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