The Ambiguities of Dependence: John L. Dube of Natal

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Shula Marks


Journal of Southern African Studies, Volume 1, Issue 2, p.162-180 (1975)



John L. Dube, Natal


From the age of Bambatha to that of Buthelezi, some of the most dramatic
grassroots resistance to white rule in 20th century South Africa has come from
Natal as has some of the most ambiguous patterns of leadership. In Natal the contradictions between theory and practice, between the exploitation, expropriation
and political suppression of Africans on the one hand, and the ideology of separate
development, paternalism and trusteeship on the other, have probably been more
blatant than in any other part of South African the first half of the twentieth century. A colony which probably experienced the most concentrated missionary effort in Africa, Natal has also been the scene, for more than a hundred years, of the most sophisticated attempts to rule through 'traditional authorities'. Despite the unification of South African colonies in 1910, the divergent policies which set the framework for colonial rule in each, and the differing economic structures and ways of thought which resulted from the impact of specific administrators, settlers and missionaries on local societies, did not disappear overnight. Thus, although many of the African national leaders in the twentieth century has come from Natal, there has also been a strong tendency on the part of many of these same leaders to hive off and run their own show in the province, where a somewhat
different political context set the limits within which they operated, amassed influence and acquired power...