In Bantu Authorities: Apartheid's System of Race and Ethnicity, Veronica Ehrenreich-Risner provides the first holistic study of the Bantu Authorities (BA) system that implemented rural apartheid. The system extended segregation by including ethnos theory to establish underfunded “self-governing” homelands to curb the expense of “native” administration yet retain control of the cheap labor upon which white capital depended. Based on over sixty interviews with Zulus and former commissioners, and archival research, Bantu Authorities proves the primary objective of the system was to protect white capital, with white racial purity secondary. Ehrenreich-Risner argues that the system disrupted the Brownlee tradition of guardianship for commissioners and the tradition of reciprocity for ubukhosi. Bantu Authorities ends by examining the lingering consequences of rural apartheid and asks what rural Africans have gained with majority rule when they remain bound to BA structures.
Veronica Ehrenreich-Risner is lecturer in the History Department at California State University, Sacramento, and a 2019 Silas Palmer Fellow at The Hoover Institute at Stanford University.
Part I: Acceptance
Prologue: Implementation of Bantu Authorities
Chapter 1: The Strained Relationship between amaZulu and the Department
Chapter 2: The Case of inkosi Lindelihle Mzimela and the Commissioners
Part II: Consolidation
Chapter 3: Financing the Homelands
Chapter 4: Removals: Ngesikhathi Sobandlululo (During Apartheid)
Part III: Devolution
Chapter 5: Devolution to the Homelands
Chapter 6: The Buthelezi Factor
Part IV: Transition
Conclusion: Transition to Democracy
Epilogue: Convention for a Democratic South Africa I & II (CODESA)
Building on the seminal work of such key historians and theorists of South African apartheid rule as Heribert Adam, Hermann Giliomee and Ivan Evans, Dr. Veronica Ehrenreich-Risner’s Bantu Authorities: Apartheid's System of Race and Ethnicity delves deeply into the ways in which the white-supremacist state sought to manufacture consent for its pernicious system of race-based exploitation of Africans. Ehrenreich-Risner’s keen appreciation for the people of KwaZulu -Zulu, British and Afrikaner alike, is evident in her vibrant narrative. Her dedication to a sensitive but professionally objective approach to the subject is clear in both her excellent academic background and her insights into the nuances of local culture and politics. Focused on a micro-study of the Mtunzini District in rural KwaZulu, the work is based on extensive field-work and oral interviews in rural KwaZulu, the book has relevance for a much broader understanding of South African history and politics.
In the same tradition as Colin Bundy, William Beinart and Mahmood Mamdani, Ehrenreich-Risner pays close attention to the crucial rural dimension of the emergent apartheid system. Importantly, she points to the critical role traditional authority played in shoring up and legitimizing white supremacist state rule and she argues effectively that the theatre of consent-making by leaders in South Africa was the lynchpin for the tragic longevity of the apartheid system.
Ehrenreich-Risner takes the reader into the hearts and minds of rural Africans struggling to cope with the imposition of state fiats for Bantu Authorities in a context increasingly burdened with poverty and related health crises. In so doing, she makes significant points about the ways ‘tradition’, and the colonial category of ‘tribe’ were reconfigured. More importantly, she lays bare the pernicious effects of the state’s ultimately hollow attempts to manufacture consent for the implementation of the Bantu Authorities system dire economic consequences. Following from Evans, she, moreover, poses an interesting question that has arisen in colonial contexts elsewhere, as to whether accommodations to historic political cultures and adaptations to indirect rule yielded systems that delayed confrontations and so enabled the elite to cling to power for longer. Her narrative is well-written, lively and brings out the unique voices of Zulu chiefs and other key rural figures who lived and worked within the strictures of the Bantu Authorities system. It moreover captures the subtle but nonetheless important ambiguities of African dependence on the state by an elite that was compelled to cooperate and it enhances our understanding of the politics of Zulu identity.
As the ANC political leadership in South Africa continues to grapple with the thorny issue of traditionalist popular politics, Ehrenreich-Risner’s book will no doubt be a key resource for understanding the history behind resilient Zulu nationalism and the challenge it poses for the state. This is, therefore, an important work for anyone interested in gaining a better understanding of the current state of South African politics and the key rural dimensions of its historical development. It also adds to our broader understanding of the nature of the state in historical perspective and how elites in power, including co-opted classes, vainly seek legitimacy from the past.
Using a huge range of hard-to-find oral and archival sources, Veronica Ehrenreich-Risner provides a convincing account of how a system of colonial administration devised in the nineteenth century evolved to serve the needs of changing regimes in the twentieth century and, amazingly, post-apartheid, democratic South Africa. Future historians will find it a mine of invaluable information.
[V]ery salient discussions…. Bantu Authorities should be very useful for college students at all levels as well as researchers and the general reader.
4/22/22, Scottish Centre for Global History Podcast: The author was interviewed about the book in this podcast episode.