Ellen Hellman, Rooiyard: A Sociological Study of an Urban Native Slum Yard , Rhodes-Livingstone Papers No. 13, Oxford University Press: 1948


pp. 1-4



TWO FACTORS influenced me in my choice of Rooiyard as the subject of my investigation: the accessibility of Rooiyard; and its large size, which is above the average and gave promise of providing contacts with a larger number of families than would have been possible in a smaller yard. Rooiyard has no special distinguishing marks and it bears a reputation neither more nor less unenviable than the other yards which I visited.

In March 1933, I descended upon Rooiyard, armed with a large box of penny-line chocolates and a note book. The former found favour far more rapidly than the latter, and it was not till after a month that I could openly take notes in the yard. The material for this report was gathered during a period of one year's investigation. I continued working in Rooiyard, with occasional weekly absences, till April 1st, 1934. During December, January and February I discontinued daily visits to the yard, but for the rest of the time I spent practically every morning, with the exception of Sunday mornings, there. At the commencement of my work I spent both mornings and afternoons in the yard, but soon confined my work, in the main, to mornings. I found the morning best because then the women are generally in or about their rooms. In addition, there are far fewer beer-customers in the mornings and, as was proved to me time and again, my presence in a room while beer was being sold was not welcome. It had a disquieting effect on customers and put a restraint upon them not conducive to the carefree purchase of beer. My visits over the week-end were infrequent and I only paid one night visit. Initially I was discouraged by the earnest warnings of the police and health inspector against visiting the yard during these hours of most active beer-selling. Although it would be an exaggeration to speak of danger-actual or potential-to the investigator at night or over the week ends, the drunken disorder of the yard and the definite hostility to my presence at these times did discourage me. At night, especially, in the gloomy alleyways in which the swaying and stumbling forms of drunken Natives were dimly discernible, I felt compelled to agree that Rooiyard is a difficult place for a fieldworker.

The material I have been able to collect is by no means as complete as I would have wished it to be, as the difficulties which I encountered in my attempts to disarm suspicion were great; First and foremost comes the fact that the Rooiyard population is, technically, a criminal class. This is an unavoidable result of their illegal beer-brewing activities. This continuous conflict with the authorities has made the Natives in the yard, especially the women, who are responsible for the making and selling of beer, very suspicious of all Europeans. They are on their guard against the plain-clothes Native detectives. In every European, unless he comes to sell them goods or proves that he is a missionary, they see a potential police agent. I expended considerable pains and no little eloquence in my attempts to explain the nature of my work. Some women were, after a while, inclined to regard my presence as inoffensive and, in a few cases, even to regard me a friend. But apart from the open hostility which I was in some cases unable to overcome, the general attitude was one of amused indifference, every now and then changing into resentment and antagonism. The men, perhaps owing to their more intimate contact with Europeans in the course of their employment, were less hostile. But as they were generally absent from the yard, I did not have occasion to interview them to any considerable extent. Perhaps that is the explanation of their apparently greater tolerance and understanding. Occasionally too, a husband would step in and put an end to the friendship which his wife was entering into with me. I was never really accepted in Rooiyard. The increased frequency of beer-raids, the blame for which was ascribed to me, would suddenly rob me of the advantages I had already gained and the struggle would begin all over again. The shifting nature of the yard populace was also a hindrance. Several times I succeeded in gaining the confidence of an informant only to find that she was about to leave the yard owing to arrears rent, a desire to return home to the country or for the purpose of taking up employment. The language medium presented no difficulties as most of the women spoke either English or Afrikaans. For my work with women who knew no European language, I used as interpreter an able Manyika informant who was well versed in Manyika, Zulu and Sotho.

Two Europeans, the landlord and the lessee of the shop, who, I had expected, would prove my. natural allies, placed many obstacles in my way. The lessee of the shop, who suspected me of informing against her on account of her contravention of the Shop Hours Ordinance, inflamed Native public opinion against me. The landlord, who was deeply resentful of my presence and who would have been only too glad to avail himself of any legal means of forbidding me access to the yard, assured the Natives that I was urging the municipality to close down the yard. After the first notices of eviction (which were not put into force) were served on the Native inhabitants of the yard, thirty families left. The landlord reproached and harangued me vehemently, threatening to sue me for the loss of rent incurred by the departure of these families. The Natives were silent witnesses to this undignified dispute, which did not help to raise my prestige or establish my bona fides.

I commenced without a definite method of work. First, I endeavoured to establish friendly contacts by informal chats; In this way I started obtaining routine information as to tribal identity, the number of residents in the room, etc. In. April, I first started training informants to keep a budget of daily expenditure; and by means of the discussion of expenses I obtained data concerning economic life and beer-brewing. By the time the budgets were well under way, I found it possible to distinguish between the Natives who were likely to develop into good informants and those who were not. Hence, after collecting the initial statistical information from all, or as many as possible, of the Rooiyard Natives, I confined myself more exclusively to working with these potentially good informants. They were practically all women. Only one man, a Manyika herbalist and diviner, developed into a very useful informant. This man was psycho-analysed by Dr. W. Sachs who has generously placed his data at my disposal. I wish gratefully to acknowledge this additional source of information.

I commenced working on the major crises of life with my more trustworthy informants. This was not a rigid mode of procedure, but provided a starting point which, in many cases, proved very useful. And at this point one great difficulty arose. The real object of my study was culture contact and change. How was I to determine the changes which had occurred in a Native culture as a result of European contact influences when I did not know the original Native culture? How was I to determine the direction of culture change? Dr. Hunter, when she commenced working in Auckland among a refugee Fingo and Xhosa community under a petty headman, found that a knowledge of the original culture of these Natives was essential for an understanding of their present culture. She found that a functional study of any particular institution was not enough; it had, to become really intelligible, to be supplemented by a historical study. She then proceeded to study four different areas, all subject to different contact influences. But all four areas had a common background. I had no basis of comparison in my work. I was confronted with a heterogeneous conglomeration of Natives, differing both in tribal background and in the extent to which they had assimilated European culture. Although the cultures of the two main South African Bantu clusters, the Sotho-Chwana and the Zulu-Xhosa, bear a close resemblance to each other in basic features, there are many variations which are of importance. In addition, recent historical events have brought about changes. The rise of despotic chiefs in the nineteenth century, as under Moshoeshoe, served to integrate different tribal groups and remnants of such groups with the result that a composite culture emerged. Under Tshaka, circumcision was abolished and numerous new rules, an outcome of his militaristic regime, were promulgated. The coming of the missionary has affected different tribes in different ways. The chief of the BaKxatla baxa Kxafela adopted Christianity, with the result that Christianity is now the officially recognised religion of the tribe. Among the Swazi, on the other hand, Christianity has not been adopted by the people en masse and the original tribal religion still functions. Knowledge of such differences in tribal background is necessary for an understanding of the changes which more intensified contact influences in an urban area have brought about. There is also a difference in the contact influences to which different Natives have been subject. Some have been domestic servants intimately absorbed into the structure of a European household; Some have recently arrived from a Reserve; the men perform unskilled labour in a factory, where contact with Europeans is at a minimum, and their wives live in Rooiyard, but incompletely adjusted to urban life.

I have not been able to take all these differences into account. I have described institutions as they exist and function in Rooiyard. In Some cases these descriptions amount to nothing more than a long account of individual differences. In the accounts of sacrifices, or what might possibly be sacrifices, there is some confusion. They consist, as Dr. Hunter found in Auckland, of a mixture of partially fused elements which can only be understood in terms of the parent cultures. Occasionally informants threw a little light on this parent culture which illuminated their own attitudes and reactions. But, for the greater part, the parent culture is an unknown X in this thesis. I am convinced that many Natives are themselves confused and bewildered by the compromises which have resulted from the contact of two cultures, especially in the sphere of religion. Where indications of culture change are given I usually refer only to those fundamentals common to all South African Bantu cultures.




pp. 5-11


ALTHOUGH for reasons of misguided economy a Native Census was not undertaken in 1931 and consequently complete statistics for the Native population of South Africa are entirely lacking, the available evidence points to a marked increase in the urbanisation of the Natives. The Census 9f 1921 revealed that the urban Native male population had increased by 7 per cent and, what is more significant, that the urban Native female population had increased by 50 per cent over a period of ten years. Since 1921 only isolated censuses of a number of urban centres have been taken, and a table of the censuses of nine such centres, published in the report of the Native Economic Commission, shows a considerable increase in each of these centres. The table reflects a rate of increase far exceeding that of the European population which is also shown as becoming increasingly urbanised. Statistics referring to the Native female population in fifteen urban centres show a great increase since 1921. Formerly the drive to town was more exclusively confined to the men. It is now becoming more frequent for a man td settle his wife in the town where he earns his livelihood. In these cases, where both husband and wife become adjusted to and influenced by new conditions, the process of assimilation is hastened and may possibly lead to a more permanent urbanisation.

The reason for this admitted influx of Natives from the reserves to urban areas is recognised by the Native Economic Commission to lie 'in the undeveloped state of those Reserves' and in fact that the Native 'must have money for urgent needs'. The Natives of Rooiyard had similar reasons for their original exodus from their Reserves to Johannes burg. Land shortage due to over-crowding, food shortage due to drought, lack of money to pay taxes, and finally the desire for money wherewith to satisfy needs newly acquired through contact with a higher civilisation, were the reasons which were primarily instrumental in forcing the Natives of Rooiyard into a town. The economic pressure was such that continued rural existence, at least on the part of the male head of the family, became impossible.

Mr. Lucas, referring to the influx of Natives into towns, states in his Addendum to the Native Economic Commission Report that "it is not high wages or glittering attractions that take them there". But the evidence obtained from the Natives of Rooiyard does not wholly bear out this contention. The older generation, the parents of maturing children, came to work in Johannesburg because there was no other way for them to provide for their needs. But many of the younger unattached men and women left their low-wage employment in the country with an exaggerated conception of the high wages to be earned in Johannesburg, and many came to Johannesburg to experience for themselves the diver sions which that city is reputed to offer. Residence in an urban area offers these younger Natives release from parental control and from what attenuated tribal discipline still survives, and the possibility of earning money where with to buy those things after which they all hanker: clothes, good food and furniture. There is a decided allure about a large city which conjures up glamorous pictures in the imagination of the Natives in a remote kraal. These Natives, despite the numerous disappoint ments which fall to their lot when actually resident in town, definitely grow, to prefer urban to rural life. As a girl of sixteen wrote:

The town is better than the farm. Here we eat bread and drink tea. At the farm no money to buy these things. At the farm you can sit with, one dress for six months without changing because we have no money to buy another One. In town sometimes you put on your nice dress and go out for a walk. At the farm Sundays it is quiet--no cars. They never see the motor-car there. We wear different clothes here. On the farm they don't wear dress like ourselves in town. They don't know what is a shoe. They never see shoes in their life. And for hats they use the top of stockings.

Whereas the older people dwell with loving reminiscence on the joys of their former rural life, this attitude of contempt for their backward rural kinspeople is commonly encounteamongthe younger urban Natives and especially among those who have spent their earlier years in an urban area. In all likelihood, these young Natives will eventually form a permanent and stable urban population entirely dissociated from a rural background. Many of them---the potential citizens of a town--have been reared in a slum 'yard'. Such 'yards' represent for many Natives their first,, and perhaps only urban experience of a home. Their impressions of Johannesburg, should they return to the Reserves, will be coloured by this environment Should they remain permanently in Johannesburg, even though they change their residence, the influence of their earlier environment will inevitably remain with them. In addition to forming the social setting for the Natives there resident, these yards, the centres of the illicit beer-brewing trade, are also a favoured meeting place of a great number of other Natives during their leisure hours...

...Rooiyard is typical of the many yards which exist in those suburbs of Johannesburg where Natives are still allowed to reside. Rooiyard, during the twelve months preceding its final demolition, led a very precarious existence. When I commenced working there in March 1933, Rooiyard was already on the "insanitary list" and its unhealthy living conditions were causing grave concern to the municipal health authorities. Rumours of the impending closure of the yard were already then current among the residents and my sudden appearance in the yard lent added weight to these vague rumours. In the middle of September of that year, notices of eviction were served on the Native inhabitants of the yard, giving them notice to leave by December 1st. On November 28th, when a meeting of the Native Affairs Committee of the City Council was held, an indefinite extension was granted to the owner of Rooiyard. Some thirty Native families had left Rooiyard by this time but the other residents, only too thankful for this unexpected respite, gladly stayed on; and the owner of the shop, who lets the rooms, was besieged with demands for the vacant rooms. In the meantirne, through the offices of an energetic and active health inspector, but recently transferred to Doomfontein, a charge of having on his premises "dirty wall surfaces, filthy cdnditions... and broken window panes" was brought against the owner. According to the Rand Daily Mail, Mr. Fraser, the magistrate, in fining the owner £10, said, "that he was sorry that this was the maximum allowed. He wished he could impose a larger one. (The owner) had neglected to remedy these defects after having been told to, do so by the health inspector." After this case, the owner effected a few minor improvements: he built cement garbage bins in place of the former tins, he had some of the rooms whitewashed and he built a cor rugated iron screen to divide the yard in two. But he did not carry out the instructions given him: to fumigate the rooms, cement the yard floor, and build new lavatories and washing rooms. In February 1934, a demolition order wasgranted and the Native inhabitants were given notices, ordering them to vacate their rooms and remove to Orlando location by April 1st. Suhsequent to that date, all the rooms, except the twenty-nine brick rooms, were pulled down. Cape Coloureds and Indians now occupy the brick rooms and the rest of the yard stands are at the moment, derelict. Rooiyard is therefore no longer in existence. But, except for a difference in localiity and variations in layout and construction, a description of Rooiyard is equally applicable to any other similar yard in Johannesburg.



Rooiyard, situated in New Doornfontein, consists of five stands, Num bers 489-493, with a total extent of 1,183 square yards...

...Rooiyard consists of 107 rooms and a shop which serves a kind of concession store to the yard. As a result of the large number of rooms which are built in this confined space, a state of extreme congestion prevails. The yard is roughly triangular in shape. 57 rooms are built on the boundary and face the inside of the yard, and 15 rooms, 9 on one side and 6 on the other side of the triangle, face the street. In the centre of the yard there is a double line of 35 rooms, built back-to-back and facing the rooms which skirt the yard, thus dividing the yard into two sections with rooms on both sides and alleyways, about fifteen to twnety feet in width, in the centre...The yard has a narrow entrance. Flanking the entrance, inside the yard, stand two cement garbage-bins which serve all the residents. The occupants are served by 6 latrines, 3 for men and 3 for women, the children shun them, as is amply testified by the condition of the alleyways inside the yard and of the pavements surrounding it. There is a 'washing-room' adjoining the lavatories, which consists of four corrugated iron walls, a cement floor and two water-taps, one or other of which is never in working order. This single tap serves all the residents of the yard and owing to the inevitable congestion, a long queue of women waiting to fill their paraffin tins with water for domestic purposes is a common sight.

The 15 outer rooms and 14 of the inner rooms are built of brick and have cement floors...the remainder of the rooms being rickety constructions ofcorrugated iron and thin, wooden planks. The brick rooms vary in size from 10 by 11 feet to 11 by 12 feet. The partitioning walls, about 10 feet in height, do not reach the roof which, at its apex, is about 15 feet high. The other rooms vary in size from 8 by 11 feet to 11 feet square, with a height of 8 to 10 feet. The flooring boards are, in the majority of these seventy-eight rooms, rotten. Some rooms have no flooring at all and the bare earth forms the floor. The doors of the rooms are badly fitted and have no proper locks, being fastened from the outside by a padlock and from the inside by a bent nail or rough contraption of wire. Each room is fitted with two windows, but as one window often gives access to an adjoining room, it is usually covered with a plate of tin. Cross-ventilation is not possible in the 63 rooms which are built back-to-back. In summer the rooms are unbearably hot and in winter the cold winds which enter through the gaps and holes in the walls necessitate the constant burning of large coal braziers, introducing an element of danger and rendering the atmosphere extremely unhealthy. Very few of the roofs are rainproof. Many of the window panes are broken, but as the breaking of windows of vacant rooms is a favourite diversion of the children of Rooiyard, the owner cannot be entirely blamed. The level of the floor is, in a number of rooms, below the level of the yard and in wet weather the rainwater flows into the rooms carrying with it the debris from the yard. The discomfort of the occupants under these miserable conditions requires very little emphasis. Altogether the rooms are in a state of shocking neglect. The owner does not en deavour to keep them in good repair, and the tenants, as is only natural, show an apathetic indifference to the condition of their rooms. Complaints, they have learnt by experience, are futile. The beer-drinks and danceswhich take place in the rooms are not conducive to keeping them in good order. If flooring boards give way under the strain of particularly vigorous--or drunken--dancing, the tenants, simply shrug their shoulders and repair the damage as best they can, often merely covering the hole in the floor with a piece of sacking.

The alleyways, in the yard and the pavement on to which the outer rooms face are cluttered with an important part of the essential possessions of Rooiyard Natives. Here stand the motley tins, ranging from one-gallon oil tins to large petrol drums, which are used for the prepara tion and storage of beer. The cooking braziers are placed outside the rooms in the yard as the smallness of the rooms, which have to serve the needs of the whole family, does not permit of cooking operations being performed inside. Large packing cases used for firewood occupy much of the available space outside each room. In these lanes tins are sunk for the purpose of fermenting and storing beer. The police, during their raids, frequently find these underground stores and demolish the tins, but as ownership of the tins cannot be proved, and proof of ownership or possession is necessary to secure a conviction, this method of storage is the safest and hence is practically invariably employed, As each brewer has her own "hole", the alleyways are literally subterranean cellars. The repeated requests of the health inspector that the yard be cemented have remained unheeded and after rains its surface presents the appearance of a quagmire. In dry weather it is usually littered with an assortment of refuse and debris. Six Sotho women have each constructed a lapa (courtyard) of clay and cow-dung in front of their rooms and these little courtyards form oases of cleanliness and order in the midst of the general litter of the yard...The Natives know that they should throw all refuse into the cement bins at the entrance of the yard. But when they see the refuse bins constantly overflowing and the desultory efforts made to keep the yard clean, it is small wonder that they themselves display no vital interest. They are fully aware of the insecurity of their tenure in Rooiyard and have not come to regard the place as their "home". It is merely, owing to the force of circumstances, their temporary refuge. Candles provide the sole means of illumination. At night it is difficult to conceive that Rooiyard, dark and eerie and lit only by the fitful gleam of candles and the glowing coals in the braziers, is situated in the midst of a large and reputedly progressive city.

The interiors of the greater number of the rooms present a striking contrast to the unsavoury disorderliness of the yard. Although the ceilings are often covered with cobwebs, the floors are well scrubbed and the belongings of the family tidily arranged. That this cleanliness is achieved only by the tireless expenditure of energy and labour is con clusively proved by the constant preoccupation of the Rooiyard woman with her washing, scrubbing, polishing and dusting. It is no mean feat on the part of the Native woman to keep the small and congested abode of her family in such good order, for the Rooiyard environment does not offer any stimulus towards greater effort.

The fittings of the rooms reveal the eagerness with which the material culture of Western civilisation is being adopted. Every stage of transition is exemplified in the rooms of Rooiyard, from the paucity of fumiture of the new arrival from the kraal to the comparative opulence of the fittings of the Native who has had several years of urban residence. There are only three rooms which do not boast a bed--invariably the first purchase--and the three families in these rooms are all recent immigrants from rural areas. All the remaining rooms in Rooiyard are furnished with at least one bed, which is always raised on bricks so that the space under the bed may be utilised for the storage of the boxes and trunks containing the possessions of the family. Curtains, usually of cheap chintz, are always hung in front of the bed so that the parents, who occupy the bed, may be ensured some measure of privacy from the prying eyes of their children, who sleep on the floor. Rough, backless benches for the accommodation of beer-customers are necessary accessories to every household. The, possession of furniture is one of the few criteria of social status in Rooiyard, and the gradual entry of a family into the realms of prosperity synchro nises with its gradual acquisition of new articles of furniture. When a family moves to another room in town or when a family goes home to the country, the furniture, a visible proof of progress, is taken with it.

One of the best furnished rooms contains a bed costing £1, a sideboard costing £13, lOs., a table and four chairs costing £9, and a gramophone costing £8., 15s. The walls are tastefully papered with wallpaper instead of being plastered with old newspaper posters as is commonly the case. Linoleum, a much coveted article in Rooiyard, covers the floor. The voluminous curtains in front of the bed and the windows are of silk. Numerous framed pictures, chiefly of film stars, adorn the walls. A rough wooden table accommodates the paraffin cooker and domestic utensils. This table and the inevitable benches are the only articles of Native manufacture in the room.

Not many of the rooms are as completely furnished as this one, some Na tives using packing-cases as substitutes for the articles cited above. In other rooms a couch serves the purpose of chairs. One woman is the proud possessor of a second-hand organ which is, however, more valuable as an economic than a cultural asset as its melodious strains serve to attract beer-customers to this room. Two families have purchased pianos, but as the owners are dependent on casual friends to play them, they are manifestly concessions to a desire for enhancing personal prestige and do not fulfil any practical function.

There is very little evidence of the survival of Bantu material culture in Roolyard. With the exception of a few recently arrived Shangaan women who still wear their tribal costume, consisting of voluminous double pleated skirts of print lavishly adorned with beads, clothing and personal adorn ments are predominantly European. The young girls prefer lipstick and powder to the facial tattooed lines of the older women. Even the time-honoured inibeleko (cradle-skin in which children are -carried on back) is giving way to the blanket. Saucepans, pots and pans, and, above all, the ubiquitous tins ,'have ousted domestic utensils of Native manufac ture. The facilities for the purchase of ready-prepared mealie meal and and ready-stamped mealies have rendered the wooden pestle and mortar and winnowing basket nearly obsolete. Some few women still possess these articles and occasionally use them for the more economical pre paration of food for a "party". That this absorption of European material culture is not a transient and fluctuating, but a cumulative and permanent process, is not to be doubted. Native handicrafts are dying out in the country. In urban areas the art is considered superfluous. The children do not become acquainted with the utensils of Native manufacture, nor would they know how to handle them. The persistent endeavours of the Native to absorb European material culture are limited only by his poverty. He aspires to possess the amenities which the invading culture has to offer him and a great part of his labour is conditioned by this desire. It is only his utter poverty that restricts and hinders him and gives rise to the malapropisms of culture contact as exemplified by the picture of half-naked children huddling together for warmth under a piano. At present the Native is eagerly grasping whatever lies within his economic reach, but the next step will be the sifting of essential from inessential.



pp. 17-21


The Natives resident in Rooiyard are not blind to the unsatisfactory features of their environment. They complain bitterly of the high rents which they rightly maintain are out of all proportion to the value received. They revolt against the filth and congestion of their surroudings. They inveigh against the appalling state of the sanitary arrangements. But despite its obvious disadvantages, there is an incessant demand for accomodtion in Rooiyard...

...'Skokiaan yard', the popular designation for yards of which Rooiyard is an example, indicates their nature. They are the centres, par excellence, of the beer-trade. The central postion of Rooiyard and its accessiblity to the potential beer-customers is one of the two most important reasons for the stubborn determination of the Natives to find accomodation in yards. 'What about my business?' is the counter query to questions concerning their unwillingness to leave Rooiyard and move to the locations...Rooiyard depends greatly on the domestic servant class both male and female, as the 'prosperous' section of the Native populace, for the sale of its beer. For them Doornfontein is more accessible than are the locations which lie on the outskirts of Johannesburg, from 5 to 10 miles from the centre of the city. Despite the fact that many location brewers sell their beer at half the price demanded at Rooiyard, the competition from the locations does not seriously interfere with the sale of beer in Doornfontein. the Native who slips out without a 'special' or the Native who has to return home in an inebriated condition after a convivial beer drink is well aware that the shorter the distance he has to travel the more he minimises the danger of meeting a policeman on his beat...The fifteen outer brick rooms in Rooiyard are sought after, as much on account of that fact that their position, facing the street, attracts much of the casual beer custom, as on account of their superior brick and cement construction. As an offset against this advantage of attracting casual custom is the consideration that beer-brewers occupying these rooms are continually subject to sudden police raise, whereas the Natives living in the yard can protect themselves to a certain extent by a series of alarms. The central position of Rooiyard, in addition to encouraging beer-custom, confers one other direct benefit. It is near to the area where the majority of Natives are employed and hence transport expenses are greatly reduced or altogether obviated. Orlando, the new location to which the Natives are as far as possible being transferred, is ten miles from the centre of Johannesburg. The train fare..is a great drain on meagre Native income.

The distaste of Rooiyard Natives for the locations is extreme. They abhor the ncessity, which they realise is inevitable, of moving to the locations. The fact that I commenced my work in Rooiyard at the same time as vague rumours of the closing of the yard were beginning to spread gave rise to the firm belief that I had come there for the express purpose of 'breaking' the yard, and sending them to Orlando. This belief, which received confirmation when the first notices of eviction were servied, tremendously increased the hostility against me. The aversion to the locations springs from many considerations, among the chief of which are the fear that the beer-trade will decrese, dislike of living inside a fence and being subject to location regulations, and the knowledge that transport expenditure will be greatly increased. While the distance from town militates against beer-custom, it also increases the obstacles which a woman has to surmount in the pursuance of a legitimate occupation. Part-time domestic service, during the intervals of which a woman could return to the yard and attend to her children, becomes an impossibility when living in a location. Washing 'jobs' are also impracticable...some Natives have an exaggerated conception of the severity of police supervision there [the locations]; others maintain that the locations are "too rough" and claim that there is no controlling authority at all...The women, espeically, have a great aversion to isolation from the centre of town and its attractions. For the unmarried woman location docimile is quite out of the question, as only a woman who can produce the pass of her husband can obtain accomodation. Some single women overcome this obstacle by entering into some working arrangement for conveninece with a male acquaintance. But not all women are in a position to do this or know how to set about evading the regulations.


p. 27-28

Apart from food, every morsel of which has to be bought and paid for under urban conditions, there are many other expenses which do not occur under tribal conditions. Coal, wood and paraffin make considerable inroads on income. Tobacco and cigarettes are tending to become a vital necessity, comparable with food, to many Native men and, to a lesser extent, some Native women. The young urban-reared girls are fast developing the habit of excessive smoking. Clothing, especially for working men and school-going children, must maintain a standard of decency and Natives are coming, more and more, to compete with each other in the variety and fashion of their clothing. Young girls make, what amount to, unreasonable demands upon their parents in their desire for fine clothing and, where their parents find it impossible to give them the money they require to gratify their wishes, they turn to lovers for such monies. Beer tins, which are often destroyed by the police during the course of their raids, are a constant drain on resources. School and church fees, life insurance and burial society premiums, irregularly paid though they are, are all additional avenues of expenditure.

Native women are demanding sewing machines as an ordinary household requisite. Native men are very desirious of obtaining bicycles which, in the absnece of adequate transport facilities, are a necessity rather than a luxury. Gramophones are keenly desired and are one of the means, so rare under urban conditions, of affording the family healthy relaxation and recreation. The following limited census of thirty-three families in Rooiyard shows that:

9 families owned a bicycle and a sewing machine, 7 families owned a bicycle only, 5 families owned a sewing machine only, 3 families owned a sewing machine and a gramaphone, 1 family owned a bicycle and a gramaphone, 8 families owned none of the above three articles.

European furniture, such as beds, tables, cupboards, pianos, as indicated in the previous section, are beginning to be a criterion of social status and are also a necessity for some measure of comfort in the cramped conditions under which the Natives of Rooiyard live.

Purchases of this nature are made possible by means of the hire purchase system. The Natives are paid weekly and consequently rarely have accumulated a sum of money large enough to effect cash payment for an expensive article. Hence most pruchases are made 'by time' as is the current expression in Rooiyard. Payments are usually effected at the rate of £1 per month and it is unusual for Natives to commit themselves to payments for more than one article at a time...Natives are considerably handicapped by the fact that they receive their wages weekly in small amounts, although once this system has been inaugurated, it is difficult to see how it can be altered.


pp. 39-40

In every discussion with Rooiyard women their anxiety regarding their business--and by business, beer-selling is understood--and their dependence on it were revealed. In the statements that 'beer is kafir-tea' and that they 'eat from beer', two Native women informants expressed concisely and tersely the two motives which make the illicit beer-industry such an integral portion of their lives. In other words, beer must be made for two reasons. The one is to satisfy the demands of the male head of the family and to add to his comfort and well-being, and the other is to supplement his earnings which do not cover the necessary expenditure of a family living in an urban centre.

It is the duty of a wife to make beer for her husband. He requires it for his recreation and refreshment after his labours. A good wife would not like her husband to be placed in the position of having to buy his beer from other women. There are very few men who, in order to protect their wives from the constanct danger of arrest to which they expose themselves by the brewing of beer, will forego the pleasure of having their beer in their own homes where they can entertain their friends. Beer must also be offered when a birthday or wedding is celebrated, when mother and child emerge for the first time after the ten days' seclusion following childbirth, and at the conclusion of a girl's puberty seclusion. But even these meetings have been commercialised and the beer is indirectly paid for by a collection which is made from those present. Many domestic conflicts are occasioned by the desire of a man to give his friends beer mahala (free of charge), while his wife demands his friends, who often form the nucleus of her beer-custom, should pay for their drinks. The woman but recently arrived from the kraal, which in Rooiyard synonymous withthe woman who has not yet commenced selling beer, is nevertheless expected to make beer for the entertainment of her husband. As soon as she becomes adjusted to urban conditions, overcoming her fear of the police and learning from her neighbours what methods to adopt in evading them, the first phase of making beer for her husband is succeeded by the permanent and more important stage of making beer for a livelihood.

A woman who does not participate in the beer-business is a 'bad wife'. Men have complained bitterly that their wives, pleading ill health as an excuse, refuse to brew beer. Beer-making, arduous in the extreme, demands the expenditure of considerable energy. The chief labour is involved in cleaning the tin, which is buried several feet below the level of the ground, in digging up the opening every time beer is put in or taken out, and in firmly plastering down the earth again so that the police may not notice any unevenness in the ground. The work demands rapidity and alertness, having to be performed in the intervals between police inspections. Yet it is not uncommon for a pregnant woman to continue her beer-brewing till the day before her confinement.


p. 43-44

The brewing and selling of beer has given rise to the only kind of organisation observed in Rooiyard. Commercialised beer-brewing has given rise to an institution known as the 'stockfair', which can be roughly defined as a mutual benefit society. Stockfair is primarily a woman's society, although men have infrequently tried to adopt it. The stockfair has two functions: to assist in disposing of any surplus beer which has remained unsold during the week-end, and to act as a kind of savings society. To this end a number of women form a stockfair, which meets every Monday from 12 noon to 1:30 pm, each week in the room of a different member, who becomes the 'owner' of the stock fair for that morning. Each woman brings a stipulated amount to the owner of the stockfair. Formerly 10s. was the amount of the weekly subscription, but now, owing to bad times, 5s or 2s 6d is the more usual amount. Visitors, who pay an entrance fee of sixpence are eagerly welcomed to the stockfair. The owner of the stockfair provides beer for the members and for the visitors. Members can drink as much as they desire, and visitors receive twice as much as they would receive for sixpence at any other time. As some women, though they do not drink beer, are nevertheles desirous of attending a stockfair, attracted by its sociability, lemonade and cadke are provided for them.

p. 45

The illicit beer-trade has also been instrumental in giving rise to a more organised form of recreation in the form of dances and concerts, the primary purpose of which is to attract customers and to promote beer-sales. On Saturday nights dances and concerts were arranged in Rooiyard, often in as many as six or eight different rooms. Till November 1933, this form of entertainment flourished; but when complaints of disturbance reached the authorities in increasing numbers, the owner of Rooiyard prohibited the continuance of this form of entertainment by making the convenors subject to twenty-four hours' notice. Before this ban was enforced dances were popular and profitable. The samll room was divested of all furniture with the exception of some benches ranged along the wall. A band, usually consisting of four or six guitar players was engaged for about 7s 6d per night. Beer was brewed, food was prepared and at 6 pm on Saturday the dance commenced to continue for a full twelve hours. An entrance fee of 6d for men and 3d for women was charged. European dancing was most commonly the rule, although in some instances, especially when a woman had not the necessary money to engage a band, Native dancing took place, the women sitting round the room clapping, the men singing and dancing. These dances were extremely popular. men sometimes brought their own partners. Often men and women came separately and acquaintance soon ripened in the convivial atmosphere. Beer-sales were brisk. In addition stews, roast chicken, cigarettes, tea and lemonade were sold. The profit on such an evening's entertainment amounted to not less than £1 and often £2. The men attending such a dance were usually of the tribes of the organiser and her husband. The women, on the other hand, represented a far more varied assortment of tribes...

...Apart from the more elaborately organised dances and concerts, smaller 'parties' are often the means of raising ready cash. The essential difference between an organised dance and a more informal party consists in the fact that a dance is a public function to which absolute strangers are welcome, whereas a party is a private function to which guests, who are all friends or relatives of the organiser, are sepcially invited.

p. 47

The illegality of their occupation makes the Natives cautious not only of Europeans but also of their own people, for it is well realised that jealous neighbors can lay information against the successful brewer with a flourishing beer-trade. The prosperous brewer is continually subject to the fear that some less successful competitor will thakatha her and cause her to lose her beer-custom. This attitude of caution, suspicion and hostility is imparted to their children, the adults of the next generation. As an example of conditioned reflex may be mentioned in the case of a six months' old child who was still being suckled when his mother was convicted for beer-brewing. As she lacked the means to pay the fine, she went to prison for four weeks with her child. Since that time, the child, now two years of age, will not suffer his father, who is a police boy, to caress him or in any way approachhim unless he has first discarded his official uniform.


p. 88

Individualism, as has been repeatedly emphasised, is one of the most outstanding features of Rooiyard life, and distinguishes the Rooiyard from the tribal Native. Each family fends for itself and is not greatly concerned with other families who happen to be living in the same yard. There is no central authority which, through the formation of common bonds of loyalty, could serve as an integrating agency. Scandal, which is rife, testifies to a passing interest in neighbours. Social intercourse between the inhabitants of Rooiyard bears the stamp of utilitarianism and casualness. The men, owing to their absence from the yard during the day, are even less integrated than the women. But even among the women, who come into contact with each other during the day's routine, the bonds of friendship have no strength or permanence. Temporary friendships, born of common residence and proximity, do exist, but are more frequent between women of the same tribe. This is due more to the facility of intercourse consequent upon speaking the same language, than to a sense of tribal solidarity.Unless the language barrier is an obstacle, neighbours usually do become friends. The utilitarianism of such friendship bonds as do exist manifests itself in the help which women extend to each other in their beer-brewing activities, in borrwoing very small sums of money or foodstuffs from each other, and in occasionally peforming small services for each other. But the contacts thus formed are so fleeting that a family will depart from Rooiyard without informing its erstwhile friends either of the day of its departure or its new address. When Rooiyard was demolished, many families went to live in Orlando location. I found there that any two Rooiyard families who found themselves living next to or close to each other suddenly developed a live friendship, while other families, who had in Rooiyard been extremely friendly, had lost interest in each other when they found themselves living in different parts of the location.

p. 91

Despite the numerous activities, both domestic and economic, of the women of Rooiyard, they have many hours of leisure. These they spend largely in sitting in the sun and gossping. Some women spend much of their time drinking beer, and a few brandy, but this does not apply to the majority. Occasionally they pay visits to relatives living in other yards or in the locations. Some of the more properous women have made Saturday morning shopping expedition to the bazaars a regular weekly feature. At one time soap-making, undertaken by a few women to effect an economy, spread throughout Rooiyard, and the women all took to soap-making as a leisure-time activity. The economic saving became to many women a secondary consideration, and soap-making became an exciting game. But after a month the excitement died down and only a few women continued making their soap regularly. At another time, embroidery become nothing less than a 'craze', to use schoolgirl jargon. All the women of Rooiyard suddenly commenced making calico table centres, which they scalloped in coloured embroidery cottons. Neighbours taught each other how to design scallops and how to embroider. The women vied with each other in the originality of their designs. During leisure hours whole groups of women could be seen sitting in the sun, busily working on their table centres.

The ways in which the men spend their evenings and week-ends differ greatly. To some, drinking is the sole means of recreation and they spend all their time drinking beer and liquor and conversing with their wives' or other women's customers. Among the hardened drinkers may be numbered most of the gamblers. There are two men in Rooiyard who are professional gamblers, solely dependent on gambling for their livelihood. They attract to their rooms any of the otehr Rooiyard men who have little diversion during their leisure hours. Other men are moderate beer-drinkers, peaceful and content to spend their time in their rooms with they families. Among this group may be numbered about five better educated Natives who buy the evening paper regularly and devote their leisure time to reading it. One man is a choir conductor and spends much of his time training his choir. Another man was an enthusiastic dancer and, until he lost his employment and could no longer afford this expensive type of recreation, spent many evenings at Inchacape Hall or at other cheaper dance halls where he practised for competitions with his dance partner.

p. 93

Apart from beer-drinking, there is no one recreation which appeals to or lies within the financial reach of all the inhabitants of Rooiyard. A few prosperous couples occasionally attended a cinema. A few went to the Bantu Sports Ground in winter to watch rugby matches. Sometimes a troupe of Zulu dancers would perform in the yard on Sunday afternoons, and many of the Rooiyard Natives would pay their sixpence to watch the entertainment...

...There are very few 'high lights' in the life of Rooiyard as a community. A stabbing affray causes intense but shortlived excitement....The news that Tschekedi has been deposed was obtained from the newspapers by the small reading public and aroused fleeting interest. The true account was so embellished in subsequent conversations that it lost all semblance to reality and the Natives soon ignored the whole incident.

Prince George's visit in March 1934 created considerable excitement. Some Natives refused to go to the Bantu Sports Ground, where an opportunity was given to the Native populace of Johannesburg to meet the Prince, as they would not by their presence tactitly signify their approval of the white man's regime. Practically all the women and some of the men were loath to miss the spectacle. They came back from the meeting in varying states of satisfaction or dissatisfaction. Those who were able to see Prince George clearly--and these were a very limited number as fifty thousand Natives rallied to the meeting-place--were tremendously impressed by the Prince, and especially by the way in which he acknowledged the plaudits of the assembled crowd. 'He waved to us just like we were white people,' exclaimed one happy matrons. The others, who had not been able to press forward to the front ranks, had one further complaint to add to their list of grievances.


pp. 104-105

In Rooiyard there is a constant demand for the services of the inyanga and his medicines. He fulfils the functions of both lawyer and doctor for in addition to remedial medicines he gives much practical advice to his patients. The inyanga fulfils one other important function. He maintains the connection between the urban Native and his tribal religion, and, when an urban Native has lost contact with his ancestral spirits, he re-establishes this contact, making his patient aware of the continued existence and influence of his ancestral spirits.

Some Natives, without waiting for any preliminary divination, immediately name their difficulty, whether it be illness, loss of employment or unprofitable beer business, for which the inyanga has been summoned and ask him to provde them with remedial medicines. But the majority of the Natives of Rooiyard, on their first introduction to a doctor, expect him by means of his divining bones and tables himself to divine the reason for which he has been summoned.

In an urban area like Johannesburg, there are many untrained, fake herbalists who eagerly grasp the opportunity which doctoring offers for earning a good livelihood. The urban Native is well aware that many an inyanga is an opportunist and imposter. The inaugural divination serves both as a test of the inyanga and as a general stock-taking of the affairs of the patient. In the same way as a European doctor checks over a new patient and does not confine himself to the isolated symptoms of which the patient complains so the inyanga , in the course of his divination, effects a general examination for the patient. Just as the European doctor keeps a card record for future reference, so the Native inyanga keeps a mental record of his general examination and need not repeat this process on subsequent visits. And it is during the course of his divination that he renews his patient's consciousness of the influence of his ancestral spirits. One or other of them has been offended by neglect. The inyanga advises his patient to offer a sacrifice to this outraged spirit on his return to his home or, if possible, in his room in Rooiyard. Further, in prescribing his medicines, the inyanga advises a patient to invoke his ancestral spirits so that the medicines may prove effective. An inyanga taught a Zulu woman the following invocation which she incanted every morning before burning the medicine which was to increase her beer-custom: 'Grandparents, grandfather, King George, all chiefs, mother, aunties, Solomon Dinizulu, help me! I am poor!' I was even told of a well-known Sotho inyanga in Pietersburg who specialises in giving back to urban Natives the amadlozi whom they have lost during a lengthy period of urban residence. Religion an dmagic are not two isolated and independent systems. They overlap to a certain extent and reinforce each other.