All the whites are to be killed: Jan/Feb 1914

All the whites are to be killed: Jan/Feb 1914

Please reference as: Liz Stanley (2017) ‘All the whites are to be killed’’/ and provide the paragraph number as appropriate when quoting.

1. Waiting

1.1 The meaning of the title of JM Coetzee’s famous novel Waiting for the Barbarians calls on something deeply resonant in a South African context. It signifies the fear of whites, expressed from around the 1830s onwards and still present even now, that the different nations and peoples homogenised as ‘black’ would combine across many differences so as to rise up and massacre them. From time to time, the rumour mill turned very fast and produced rapidly circulating versions of this. Guilty consciences? Probably few would have acknowledged such a thing, and would have expressed it rather as the uncivilised and ‘horde’ character of the black people concerned, with ‘them’ always needing to be held in check, by forcible means if necessary, or their savagery would know no bounds.

1.2 The passing on of rumours and mis/information at times reaches the proportions of what is often referred to as an ‘urban myth’ or legend. While the existence of such things is well-known, It is not often that the unfolding dynamics involved can be glimpsed. This is what is permitted by the traces to be explored here, which come from the diaries written by various members of the Forbes family.

1.3 The diary-entries discussed give witness to one such ‘rampant myth’ episode, with their contents pointing up some of the complexities involved in how rumour-spreading actually happens. They were written on a number of dates between 1 January and 2 February 1914, in each case by the owner and head of the Eastern Transvaal farm estate Athole, the widowed Kate Forbes (her husband David senior had died in 1907), with contents indicating verbal and written input from various other people. Transcripts of relevant entries are provided below in chronological order, preceding the discussion of them.

1.4 The backcloth concerns two series of events, separate at points, interwoven at others. One was the mine, railway and other workers strikes of later 1913 and early 1914, in which white miners (gold, coal) resisted employer demands over working hours and pay levels and also because of concerns about being supplanted by the use of lower-paid skilled black miners, with similar events occurring among railway workers too. A high level of violence occurred around these events, mainly because of the response of the Union government headed by Louis Botha and Jan Smuts, including by calling out British troops to fire on strikers, then setting up a South African Defence Force (in effect, a standing army). The strikes and the possibilities these raised for improved conditions were also keenly eyed by black workers and other unions were formed to represent their interests.

1.5 The other series of events concern the Boer Rebellion, usually dated as starting in October 1914. This was a widespread armed uprising of Boer people across the four provinces who had nursed grievances since the end of the South African War (1899-1902). In a direct sense it was sparked off by the decision of the South African government to support Britain in World War One, but it had much longer antecedents from well before this ‘official’ start-date. The Union government, though elected in 1910 with a resounding majority by the Boer/Afrikaner population, was seen by the so-called diehards among them as having betrayed its nationalistic roots because promoting a rapprochement between the two main white groups following the South African War. The treatment of white workers during the strikes of 1913/1914 was also bitterly resented. There was a lengthy period of rumour and speculation and also the continued marshalling of local commando forces, including around Ermelo and New Amsterdam, near where Athole was situated.

1.6 Many Forbes diary-entries over a long period comment on the increasing level of suspicion and hostility expressed by the local Boer population towards English-speakers, both before and then after the South African War. After 1910 and Union, diary-entries also comment on activity among the local commando, in issuing bullets and guns, carrying out exercises and similar kinds of military preparation.

1.7 The diary-entries for discussion include ‘ordinary life’ matters and also rumours concerning the possibility of an uprising of black people across southern Africa combining across the many disagreements and differences that existed in order to ‘kill all whites’. This sense of disturbance and unrest among people in farming areas followed the at points conflicting reports of events associated with the strIkes, and the varied responses from veld-cornets (lower-level quasi-military quasi-legal officials) in the area.

1.8 The whispers, gossip and passing on of mis/information among the farming population that occurred around the strikes produced a general sense of unsettlement and disturbance. This was probably what started off the rumour-mongering in the first place; then as the rumours spread, and as other rumours started about black people combining, these were joined and transformed from strikes and a possible uprising of white workers, to combination by ‘the natives’, to this feeding into the more general white fear of ‘them’, not just black industrial workers but more generally. ‘They’ were coming to kill ‘us’.

2. A combination among the natives: 1 January 1914

2.1 Transcript, Forbes Family A602

[1 January 1914]

The Kolwas had a dance only our own people at it.

In the afternoon there was a gale of wind the rain did not commence until nearly sundown it was a bad storm the wind being so high there was a very little small hail with it

Macnamara went to Amsterdam

Botsha brought the parcel from Panbuilt with the new pieces to repair the moing machines

When Jim went to Swazieland on Dec Kopolo came here and told Nellie that we were not to be frightened at what was going on at there meeting for directly they heard anything that Kowanie, Butebele Umslopie & himself would come and stay at the house until all dan was passed Nellie did not think much at the time now we hear that there was a combinnation among the natives to rise on Christmas eve and all the whites were to be killed but they could not mature their plans so it is put off for the present

Temp 74 – 60        Rain 0.84


2.2 The first four paragraphs of this entry are ‘ordinary diary-writing’ and concern usual kinds of activities and concerns, including a dance, the weather, a trip by one of the farm managers (Macnamara) and a parcel arriving with items to repair farm machinery. ‘Kolwas’ was a term used to describe Christianised people, that is, not just individuals who were Christians, but Christian communities. Jim was the youngest Forbes son who ran one of the family farms, Tolderia, and also acted as a farm manager for the main Athole Estate.

2.3 The last substantive paragraph concerns something that one of the long-term established senior farmworkers, Kopolo, had told the eldest Forbes daughter, Nellie. There had been a meeting, the Forbes were not to be frightened, a group of the male long-term workers would stay at the house until it was safe. Nellie ‘did not think much at the time’, presumably concluding it was rumour and/or exaggeration; but she then heard, implicitly from another source, that ‘the natives’ would combine and rise and ‘all the whites were to be killed’. Interestingly, the word danger was started but then crossed out, perhaps indicating some reservation about what had been said on the part of the diary-writer.

2.4 The entry then ends with ordinary though essential farm matters involving the recording of highs and lows in temperature and rainfall.

2.5 There is a ‘we’ referred to at two points, with ‘We were not…’ by implication referring to the Forbes, and with ‘now we hear’ perhaps referring to the Forbes or perhaps to the local white inhabitants more generally. There is also the interesting comment made that the killing was ‘put off for the present’ because ‘they could not mature their plans’, basically deferral for logistic reasons.

2.6 Another point worth noting is that this diary-entry is recorded without any overt comment or any suggested action or other response. This is perhaps related to the fact that farm diaries were a requirement and were semi-public documents recording information that might be required at different levels of government administration and for some legal purposes. It is also perhaps a marker of reservation that Kate Forbes as the writer might have had regarding the likelihood or accuracy of what Nellie had been told by various parties.

3. The Kafirs on this place were to be killed: 4 January 1914

3.1 Transcript, Forbes Family A602

[4 January 1914]

A wet morning cloudy all day no one went to Church

Jim left for his place he has taken “Waverley” and a horse (only broken to the ?nattie & to go into the stable) of mine to sell to the police

Jack Buchanan is taking up two horses to sell

Jim does not expect to return for 10 days perhaps more

There has been something among the Kafirs for they are restless

Mangaka told us that these meetings are not what people think but all the different tribes are writing to one another and they were all to rise on Christmas Eve or day the Kafirs on the farms were to kill all the owners & their families the Kafirs on this place were to be killed with the white people as they had not attended any meetings and had been here so long they would not kill us so they were all to be killed too No one tells them but they just heared bits and put it together we asked why they did not tell before they said they were not sure about it but had it really come to anything they would have been here to protect us

Temp 64 – 58


3.2 The overall structure of this diary-entry is the same as that of 1 January and also various of those that follow, and indeed many Forbes diary-entries in general. The opening paragraphs are ‘ordinary farm day’ activities and events. The next long paragraph contains the specific detail of the day, in this case regarding ‘it’, the ‘something’ that might or might not be about to happen; and the entry concludes by recording the temperature high and low and any rain.

3.3 The main paragraph of the entry comments that ‘There has been something among the Kaffirs’. This is because another of the long-term farmworkers Mangaka told ‘us’ (presumably, the Forbes family) that the meetings being held ‘are not what people think’, with what this was not specified although perhaps ‘combination’ in the trade union sense, but said to ‘really’ be them planning a general rising.

3.4 Two more points are worth noting. The first is that the workers living on white farms were being represented as the agents of the killings and if they would not do this then they too would be killed. And the second is that Mangaka and the others had ‘heard bits and put it together’, though ‘they were not sure of it’, suggesting that no one was quite sure of whether what was being said was likely or not. Indeed, more strongly, it is likely that both the black workers at Athole and the local white farmers would have taken strong preventative measures had they been convinced that what was being said was more than rumour and speculation.

4. To prevent the Kafiirs doing mischief: 10 January 1914

4.1 Transcript, Forbes Family A602

[10 January 1914]

It has been a cold cloudy day with occasional showers

Jack Buchanan & Jim came they have commandeered Jim to go to Johannesburg as there is a general railway strike all over the Union All the English people have been commandeered as they say the Strike has become serious the Kafirs working at the Coal mines at Witbank are out also all the miners there is a report that all the gold mines are on strike too the Defence force is called out to prevent the Kafirs doing mischeif  as the mines can only feed them for a short after the Kafirs are all to be escorted to their Kraals & homes The waggonette returned from Piet Reteif Mr Sparks says the police are all gone & the Defence force leaves today to guard the railway at Volksrust The Station Master at Piet Reteif thinks the railway strike will last a month having plenty of milk ect it won’t be so bad on a farm even if you can’t get supplies.

Temp 58 – 50


4.2 Jack Buchanan was mentioned in an earlier entry, and was a neighbour and family friend. He and Jim had been commandeered, although who this was by is not stated. However, it was connected with the railway strike and focused on Johannesburg. If ‘the English’ were indeed those being commandeered, this would have occurred because many of the white strikers were likely to be Afrikaner by background, so having bitter feelings about defeat in the South Africa War and related objections to using British forces in the stripe.

4.3 ‘As they say’ is then added – implying an awareness that this might or might not be so – that ‘the Kafirs’ in the coal and gold mines, predominantly migrant workers, were being kept in check by the Defence Force and would be escorted away. The station master at the local rail-station is also part of the ‘they say’ here, adding his view that the strike could last for a month. Again, there is no indication of whether the views repeated were viewed as plausible or not; the writing is rather flat and in a reporting style without much evaluative content.

5. Something serious among the natives… they write letters in English…: 12 January 1914

5.1 Transcript, Forbes Family A602

[12 January 1914]

Jack Buchanan left after breakfast

Macnamara digging up his potatoes

Sent a Kafir over to Amsterdam to Mr Taylor to hear the latest news of the Strike He writes there was to be a big meeting on Saturday to decide if there should be a general strike and if it was to be the strike to commence today the general strike means the mines bricklayers painters ect in fact every one is to strike but at midday they had not heard in Amsterdam what decision had been come to

The Kafirs on the Coal mines at Witbank were out on strike in fact the white miners & railways men have been trying to get all the coloured people & Kafirs to strike and about 2000 had come out

There has been no post since Thursday no trains running

Jim was told to come back but to remember he was on duty to protect the border and not to go to Swaziland

There is something serious among the natives too but it may take some time to get unity among them they write letters in English as the Basutus & Swazies do not know each others language but in schools they are all taught English so can write to the others although they could not speak to one another

There was a big black storm across the Umquimpice we got quite a gale of wind which blew the worst of the storm over we got a little hail

Temp 76 – 58   Rain 0.16


5.2 The comments in this diary-entry mainly result from the contents of a letter written by the magistrate Mr Taylor in Amsterdam, with one of the Forbes workers, not named, having been sent to bring back this communication. In it, he writes that there was a meeting to decide whether there would be a general strike but with the result not yet known, that black coal miners were also on strike, and that the white strikers wanted ‘all the coloured people & Kafirs to strike’ and some had.

5.3 In this and other entries there is repeated descriptive use of the words ‘Kafir’ and ‘Kafirs’ as markers of ethnicity. The penultimate paragraph then differentiates using the word ’too’ between the striking black miners referred to as ‘Kafirs’, and ‘the natives’ used generically of the wider populations of black people: ‘There is something serious among the natives too’. And in commenting about the lack of unity that existed between them, a rather odd spectacle is conjured up, of them writing letters to each other (in English) so as to communicate, organise and achieve combination.

6. All the native tribes are in it: 14 January 1914

6.1 Transcript, Forbes Family A602

[14 January 1914]

Did not send to Amsterdam to hear if there is any fresh news for they dont tell the English and all their orders are in Dutch. the Boers were to leave Amsterdam yesterday and were to patrol from Quimpice to Bells Kop there was another patrol from there to Umbeloose River and so on to the Komatie

Kafirs hoeing the mealies Mangaka working the “Little Jap” among the mealies after the Kafirs hoeing

^[Picanine gone home]^ Picanine gone home to hoe his mealies

Jim heard more about these Kafir meetings there is no doubt there is to be a rising against the whites who are all to be killed also the natives who are friendly to their masters for instance all our Kafirs are to be killed they attended no meetings and paid no money there is a levy of £1 per man which has been paid by most Kafirs as yet they have no date fixed but it might be any time the favourite time is Xmas as everyone knows that for all the whites keep it and no one can make a mistake this Xmas they were not ready all the native tribes are in it both in Natal, Free State, Cape Colony, Basutu ect ect

Temp 72 – 62


6.2 The previous diary-entry of 13 January among other things refers to two of the local veld-cornets issuing different instructions and a conflict with one of them, Bothma, who wanted to commandeer horses from the Forbes and was otherwise acting in an overly authoritarian way. This was in part because the Forbes were out of the loop regarding local power structures apart from the (appointed) magistracy, with these held by (elected) Boers/Afrikaners and whose activities and associated paperwork were conducted in Dutch. Relevant here are the orders mentioned in the first paragraph of this entry and the notice in the final paragraph, both in Dutch.

6.3  ‘Little Jap’ is the unfortunate name of a kind of combined harvester imported from the USA, named because doing various agricultural jobs which Japanese migrant workers had done by hand. ‘Picanine’ is the even more unfortunate name of one of the Athole workers. ‘Picaninny’ as a word for the very young black children who worked as servants was used fairly widely in the once-Rhodesias, although generally not in South Africa. This man as a child was presumably referred to by the generic and it had stuck as a personal name.

6.4 The fourth long paragraph concerns what Jim had ‘heard more about these meetings’. Without an originating source for it given, the comment is made that ‘there is no doubt that there will be an uprising against the whites and also the natives who are friendly to their masters’. Part of the ‘heard more’ is that a levy had to be paid for someone to be seen as part of the supposed uprising. A levy would be extremely odd regarding an uprising, but conventional regarding union membership,  although this consideration does not seem to have occurred and it is taken as part of ‘most Kafirs’ joining the planned uprising. This is described here in an encompassing way, as ‘nearly all the native tribes are in it’, followed by a list of areas across Southern Africa.

6.5 Again, there is no overt statement of whether what had been said or written was true or not, except for the ‘something serious’ comment.

7. There is no truth in the report: 15 January 1914

7.1 Transcript, Forbes Family A602

[15 January 1914]

Sent to Amsterdam for news there is an official notice so Mr Taylor write put up on the Court House

“Jany 14th Germiston at 10-30 plast night

Martial Law proclaimed. Regulation imposing death for unlawful use of explosives.  Trains service has been improved but on side lines unsatisfactory. Now 12. 000 Citizen Force & 8000 Police & special Constables. Gen Byers arrived Delegoa Bay proceding to Randt to take command”

Mrs Kopoy writes that there are 12,000 Citizen Force & 8000 policemen who are guarding the line the Govt have things in hand no one is allowed on the streets without a permit Cecil & Percy are at Germiston so is Bill Walker they left last Saturday for there

The post cart left this morning for Panbuilt the mail from Natal was to be there in a motor and the cart was expected back tonight Bothma got into trouble over the commandeering which he did on his or Thys Groblers authority

Mr Taylor says that no white man is allowed to leave the town but he heard nothing of the Kafirs being confined to ther farms

Mrs Kopoy say there is no truth in the report that Kafirs are giving trouble on the mines

Temp 78 – 56    Rain 0.28


7.2 This diary-entry begins with a direct quotation of a notice the magistrate had put on the Court House about martial law. It is followed by three pieces of repeated information, all in written communications, from Mrs Kopoy, Mr Taylor, then Mrs Kopoy again. Mrs Kopoy wrote from Amsterdam where the Kopoys lived, so what she wrote presumably came from one of the family members mentioned as being in Germiston (Johannesburg) in the first comment from her. The comment from Mr Taylor was presumably also in a letter and counters one of the disputed claims from veld-cornet Bothma in an earlier entry.

7.3 The third, also from Mrs Kopoy, undercuts various earlier repeated comments about unrest among black mine workers and is that ‘There is no truth in the report that the Kafirs are giving trouble on the mines’. However, this is repeated flatly and without comment, like everything else in the entry.

8. The Strike is practically over: 22 January 1914

8.1 Transcript, Forbes Family A602

[22 January 1914]

Macnamara came back early he said it was too late to return after the horse got back he put it in the Stable

Macnamara says Mr Shipley sent to the Director of Defence to ask about the commandeering and other things that Bothma is doing The answer he got was that there was no commandeering horses or anything but during Martial Law the Director of Defence could take anything he required but had to give an official receipt for the value Mr Shipley then sent to tell him how Bothma commander and when refused threatened to take them by force mentioning three horses were commandeered from Mrs Forbes & on Mr James Forbes refusing, he called a Mr Barrett to witness Mr Forbes had refuse to give the horses and he was going over with a force to seize the horses and Mr Forbes had told him to come & see what he would get if he brought a force to Athole

Kafirs working at the potatoes

The trains are running to Piet Reteif the mails are coming as usual

They arrested all the Strike leaders the miners have all gone back at least the most the Strike is practically over

Temp 74 – 62    Rain 0.34


8.2 The main long paragraph in this diary-entry consists of items passed on by the farm manager Macnamara, who had returned from a visit, and with these having been relayed to him by Mr Shipley. Shipley seems a person of some consequence in view of his actions and in particular that he had gone straight to the Director of the local Defence Force about the veld-cornet Bothma, although the specific detail of Shipley’s local standing is not provided here (he was the owner of a nearby hotel).

8.3 The entry concludes with something unexpected in view of prior diary-entries, that the strike leaders had been arrested, the miners had returned to work, and ‘the Strike is practically over’. Also unexpected is that this entry contains no comment about any possible uprising, with in fact nothing about this appearing until a week later, in the entry on 29 January.

9. Serious results may take place at any time: 29 January 1914

9.1 Transcript, Forbes Family A602

29 January 1914]

Set the Kafirs mending the paddock at the back of the house

Jack Buchanan called on his way to Amsterdam Mr Shipley is leaving and he is going to take th [ ings over he has sold the Hotel to a Mr Cornelius which he is very glad of

Jack talked of certain things which he thinks like us are serious and he said he would write to Dave and send it by Mr Shipley to post in Natal he is also sending a wire to Dave through Mr Main Delegoa Bay he says that it is better to send to Dave to come home as soon as possible for these Kafir meetings are more than is generally known and serious results may take place at any time

Temp 70 – 56


9.2 This diary-entry opens with ‘ordinary farm life’ comments about mending paddock fences and a visitor calling. These are continued, however, with the somewhat mysterious comment that the visitor, Jack Buchanan, talked to the Forbes about ‘certain things’ which they are agreed ‘are serious’. These are not specified in any way, but by implication are connected with the final part of this long sentence, that the Kafir meetings are about more than is realised and ‘serious results might take place at any time’. ‘Serious results’ here are, also by implication, connected with comments in earlier entries about a possible uprising. There is the sense that things are not being said here, are being treated as to be bracketed and alluded to, rather than commented on directly.

10. There is certainly something in all this talk about killing all the whites one day: 2 February 1914

10.1 Transcript, Forbes Family A602

[2 February 1914]

Dipped Pigotts hamels

Jim returned from Tolderia he got the sheep in Ermelo he says they are good rams

Mr Steyn said Piet Steyn had left very early for Ermelo as Fieldcornet Nel has wired that he had seen three impies of armed Swazies and they were coming to kill & raid all on the border all the white people on the farms are to be killed also all Kafirs that have not attended these Kafir meetings Mr Steyn said Major Pienaar & Thys Grobler had gone on Saturday to see about it & Steyn had gone in Ermelo as they might have to put a patrol on the border again

There is certainly something in all this talk about killing all the whites one day but at present they can’t get things in order to rise one day the letters are going through the post to the different chiefs the difficulty is to get a day all Kafirs know like Christmas so it may hang on until next Christmas

Temp 76 – 54


10.2 This final relevant diary-entry starts with brief summaries of ‘ordinary farm life’ activities, of dipping (as a disease preventative) castrated male sheep and buying some rams. The two substantive paragraphs following are concerned with more dramatic matters. The first is a report from a neighbour, Mr Steyn, that the local commando leader, another Steyn, had left for the Swaziland border where armed Swazis ‘were coming to kill & raid all on the border all the white people on the farms are to be killed also all Kafirs that have not attended there Kafir meetings’.

10.3 This is the same basic report as earlier in this series of entries, except that here it is expressed in the very specific terms that armed groups had been sighted ‘and were coming’. However, there is a certain distancing of the writer from the reports that was passed on. There is no sense that action of any kind is being taken as a result, and the comments that there is ‘certainly something in all this talk’, while ‘at present they can’t get things in order’, convey no urgency at all.

10.4 Relatedly, there is no return to the topic of any possible uprising in the diary-entries for November and December 1914. The moral panic and the mythical story-telling around it seems to have died a death along with the ending of the strike.

11. Combination

11.1 These diary-entries concern a topic that repeatedly returns over time among white people in South Africa. They show the unfolding of the phenomena usually (mis)called an ‘urban legend’, a kind of mythical story that breaks out in particular time-periods and rapidly circulates. Regarding this particular example, it can be summarised as ‘they are coming to get us’, and it is the concern or fear that the very much larger black population is combining and will behave with a violence not named as revenge on white people but instead is implied to be ‘what they are like if not held in check’. Thus ‘the Kafirs’ are restless, and the black miners will be ‘doing mischief’ if they are not fed and commandeered (eg. 4 and 10 January), as well the existence of a planned uprising and the appearance of armed impies on the borders.

11.2 Typically such mythical story-telling episodes are concerned with odd or otherwise disturbing things said to have really happened, although not to the teller, but to someone they know, or someone who a person they know knows (usually referred to as the ‘friend of a friend’ aspect).

11.3 In the first entries of 1 and 4 January, for instance, Kopolo told Nellie, and other people had told Kopolo something they had heard; they had heard bits and put them together. In that of 10 January, a number of people told and said things they had heard and passed them on, including Mr Sparks and the railway station master. This also included passing on things through letter-writing, with the entry of 15 January containing three such instances: the official notice, Mrs Kopoy’s letter, and Mr Taylor’s letter. And on 22 January, Macnamara said that Mr Shipley had requested information from the Director of Defence, and Mr Shipley then passed this back to Macnamara, who in turn passed it on to the Forbes.

11.4 Mr Shipley in fact provides the only example of someone going to ‘the horse’s mouth’ for information, for everyone else relies on what other people not directly involved tell them and they then pass this on.

11.5 Such mystical stories tend to occur and rapidly circulate when and where there are changing material and symbolic boundaries with consequent uncertainties and disturbances, and because of this they are often although not always plausible and have a cautionary aspect. The focus, characters and plot of the mystical story come from and are structured by the particular context. Clearly the strikes are central in this example, along with the unaccustomed character of the activities of organised labour, in particular with black workers being called upon to strike along with white and black labour organisations being on the rise.

11.6 In this 1914 ‘coming to kill the whites’ instance, the myth aspect is combined with the so-called ‘Chinese whisper’ phenomenon. This is when different people successively pass on a story or information over time, complexities are lost and other aspects are exaggerated, usually without awareness that they are making consequential changes on the part of the various tellers. Both aspects can be seen in the Forbes diary-entries that have been discussed.

11.7 There are various uses of generic terms for white people in these diary-entries as well as for black people. These are written un-selfconsciously, in the sense that the writer treats whites in generalised terms because it was whites in such generalised terms that were presumed to be the object of the possible uprising. This includes ‘all the whites’, ‘the white people’, ‘against the whites’, as well as the more diffused ‘the [white farm] owners and their families’.

11.8 Over the period from February to October, with it being October when the Rebellion ‘really’ started, many diary-entries mention increasing difficulties with local Boer neighbours and officials. When it ‘really’ started, both key events and local circumstances are written about. However, nothing about any issue regarding the black population is recorded or implied over this time. Specifically, it seems to have been combination, labour combination, that brought white concerns and fears to the surface. Combination? It can only be for one reason – us! a centre-of-the-world position.

11.9 For a present-day reader, perhaps the most curious aspect of the events touched on in these diary-entries is not that there were fears and worries about killings and uprisings, but that no one asked why this might happen and what to do about it. That is, why the black people concerned might want to do such things is taken-for-granted, and it seems to be embedded in ‘what they are like’ assumptions that are so ‘how it is’ that no one queries it; and nor, in this particular instance, do they ask why the Athole farmworkers are very different. Did the white populace really not think about such matters or talk about them only in covert ways as ‘certain things’? Did they really think ‘they’ were always murderous?

Last updated: 29 December 2017