Over the past few months while looking into home front aspects in Africa around World War One, I couldn’t help but notice that town planning in the pre-war days revolved around segregation for health reasons.
Instead of finding ways to accommodate different cultural practices in one space, it was felt better to separate them. The issue became one of containment – and then finance. Despite concerns about infection spreading, funding improvements was an issue. The long term impact of improving sanitation and thereby the health and economic potential was ignored with significant consequences when plague and small pox broke out, and then the 1918 flu.
Towns I’ve read about include some in the Eastern Cape and Johannesburg in the pre-1920s and Nairobi. While it might be more understandable in territories such as British East Africa, I find it difficult to comprehend how the South African territories having experienced the consequences of the 1901/2 war (and not just the camps) did not realise the wider implications of restricting health initiatives. But then, Nairobi was a new town in a British controlled territory as well… and given the coverage of the camps and hygiene issues in Britain during the 1899-1902 war, one (I) would have thought they’d learnt their lesson.
Similarly, looking at the early division in the Presbyterian church in South Africa, the divide came about due to meeting different needs: those who had prior knowledge of the Bible required more analytical type sermons than those who were still new to the contents.
I can’t help but wonder, whether, if our ancestors had been bold enough to find a common ground working and living together, our situation today would be any different. Are we any further along the journey to considering collaborative solutions? I’m not so sure when I see all the separate groups calling for equality and inclusion. We have some indications that it can be done: the countries which have united or federated (South Africa, USA, Australia, EU), the UPCSA (Uniting Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa), and SADC?. It’s not been easy journeys for any of them but if it’s been done at such a macro-level, can we do the same at more micro-levels? Seeing the consequences of decisions made to separate 100 years ago because it was easier, makes me think it’s worth the risk to find some common ground and struggle through the growing pains of creating something new.
Sana Aiyar – Indians in Kenya
Alan Cobley – On the shoulders of giants: The black petty bourgeoisie in politics and society in South Africa, 1924-1948
Jack Dalziel on the early history of the Presbyterian history in South Africa and various other sources (forthcoming publication)
Heyman Mandlakayise Zituta, The spatial planning of racial residential segregation in King William’s Town 1826-1991 amongst others
Norman Parsons Jewell – On call in Africa in war and peace, 1910-1932