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The Wages of Migrancy: Homestead Dynamics, Income Earning, and Colonial Law in Zululand, South Africa

Carton, Benedict

African studies -- Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group -- Volume: 73 3; (pages 365-386) -- 2014

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  • Title:
    The Wages of Migrancy: Homestead Dynamics, Income Earning, and Colonial Law in Zululand, South Africa
  • Author: Carton, Benedict
  • Found In: African studies. Volume 73:Number 3(2014); 20140902; 365-386
  • Journal Title: African studies
  • Subjects: African languages; Ethnology; Indigenous peoples; Languages; LCSH: African languages; LCSH: Ethnology; LCSH: Indigenous peoples; LCSH: Languages; Dewey: 305.800968
  • Rights: Licensed
  • Publication Details: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group
  • Abstract:

    This article examines a court case in colonial South Africa at the turn of the 20th century. The plaintiff, Ugudhla, was a newly-wed residing in his paternal homestead. He wrangled with the defendant, his polygamous father, chief Matshana kaMondisa, over lineage property and marital prospects. Ugudhla, a migrant labourer from Nkandla, Zululand, felt entitled to decide family matters because his wages from the Transvaal mines had helped the household of his mother to pay government taxes and buy needed provisions during great scarcity. Ugudhla had acquired his wealth in the burgeoning mineral revolution. His income symbolised a different route to traditional power for men who valued wage earning as both a necessity and a choice in the nascent industrial era. The family tensions arising from migrancy caused disruption, including legal contests initiated by migrants who petitioned their magistrate to ‘emancipate’ them from their father's control. As upsetting as these court cases were they did not deter motivated members of a homestead from obtaining employment that buoyed domestic security and, crucially, enhanced personal options to fulfil their dream of ukwakha umuzi, building one's own homestead. Fuelled by discretionary spending, this ‘monetised’ dream had alienated Matshana from Ugudhla. Indeed, their rift would reveal how assertive migrants drew on opportunities of custom, capitalism and colonialism to pursue a life of accumulation and mobility that extended beyond mere survival.


  • Identifier: Journal ISSN: 0002-0184
  • Publication Date: 2014
  • Physical Description: Electronic
  • Shelfmark(s): 0734.000000
  • UIN: ETOCvdc_100037974461.0x000001

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