Citizenship in Colonial South Africa, 1953-1909

Beaurel Visser, University of Fort Hare

Citizenship and the status attached to being a citizen continue to bare importance because it provides a sense of belonging, a shared identity, and a relationship that extends beyond living in a region. However, the concept of South African citizenship has rarely been the subject of academic investigation. Whenever the term ‘South Africa’ was used, or when referring to the concept of being ‘South African’ during the latter part of the 19th century, it was as an expression of aspiration, a demand for citizenship rights, or an attempt to advance certain forms of political or ethnic affiliation. These claims are observed in the names of newspapers such as De Zuid Afrikaan, and the South African Commercial Advertiser, political organizations such as the South African Native National Congress (SANNC), the South African League, mass meetings such as the 1909 South African Native Convention, political parties such as Botha’s South African Party, and even in the renaming of the Transvaal to the South African Republic. Historiography that refers to aspects of South African citizenship during the late 19th century primarily focuses on either African nationalism or Afrikaner nationalism. However, African and Afrikaner nationalisms had different scales, and belief systems and their goals were irreconcilable. Alongside these differences, were significant similarities, some of which includes the support they drew from farming and religious organizations; they were shaped by the political experiences of their respective constituencies; and used journalism as an important tool. My paper aims to explore how citizenship had been expressed, experienced, and understood throughout South Africa during the late 19th century. Through the exploration of factors such as political participation, the ability to own land, access to education and occupation, my paper offers a perspective on a core component of society, that has not had much academic attention in the past.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 38. Enforcing Boundaries of Belonging in the (Post)Colonial State