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Authority record

Zebediela Citrus Estate

  • Corporate body

"Zebediela" derives from a corruption of the name given to Mamukebe, an Ndebele chief, whose diplomatic skills in the mid-19th century Northern Transvaal earned him the appellation "Mabediela" - the one who pacifies

In the Sekukuni War of 1852 waged by the South African Republic against the Pedi, Zebediela supplied a contingent of four hundred auxiliaries in addition to furnishing supplies of corn and cattle. In return for this show of loyalty, Zebediela's clan were exempted from taxation for a while, and in 1885, a location was beaconed off by the Z.A.R. for them.

In 1917 a massive tract of land adjacent to Zebediela's location was purchased by African Realty Trust, a company incarnate as I. W. Schlesinger; Schlesinger (1871-1949): financier, entrepreneur, founder of what was to become the South African Censorship Board, one-time employer of A. W. G. Champion and a benefactor of the University of the Witwatersrand. Originally from the Bowery in New York, Schlesinger came to South Africa in 1902 as an extremely successful Insurance broker.

The following year he launched the African Realty Trust and with the proceeds of land sales in Orange Grove, Killarney, Parkhurst. and Marlboro, he established the African Life Assurance Society in 1904. By 1905 he had bought out J. B. Robinson's South African Bank, developing it into the Colonial Banking and Trust Company to which in 1911 was added the African Guarantee and Indemnity Company. With a base secure in banking, property and finance, Schlesinger began to diversify his business interests. In the entertainment field, he set up African Consolidated Theatres and African Film Productions Limited, the latter producing the weekly 'African Mirror' - the world's second oldest newsreel. The South African Broadcasting Corporation itself derives from a chain of radio stations sponsored by Schlesinger in the mid-1920s. Afamal, to name another Schlesinger enterprise, claimed for many year's to he the largest advertising agency outside Britain and the U.S.A.

One of Schlesinger's more ambitious schemes was the establishment of Zebediela Citrus Estate. Purchased in 1917, development of the estate began immediately with bush-clearing projects, dam building and soil preparation; the first trees were planted in 1918 and within a decade, nine square miles of orange trees had been planted, the fruit of which was already entering the export market.

Schlesinger's agents were mandated to invite investors locally and overseas to finance the scheme by purchasing 5-acre stands and leaving the company to take responsibility and a commission for producing the crop. Various marketing techniques were used, with U U. Robins-Browne, Schlesinger's man in Singapore, apparently appealing to the colonial mentality in his claim that 'The native of South Africa is a very fine specimen of a servant., being, big, healthy and strong. They cost about: ú3 per month. '

The three thousand black workers at Zebediela were, however, paid considerably less. In 1879 the Native Commissioner for the district reported that '[Zebediela's] people are rich and well-to-do - as none of his young men will work elsewhere than at the 'Diamond fields' - where they 'earn high wages'.

However, by the early twentieth century, much had changed. The diamond fields were no longer such an attractive option, and the Estate's management reported that the supply of labour on the estate was plentiful, and prepared to accept a wage of roughly 25/- per month, excluding provisions. In the 1930s however, the South African economy moved from a period of depression to one of rapid development, with the demand and competition for labour increasing accordingly as migrants sought: the more favourable labour markets of the Witwatersrand. The shortage of labour at Zebediela became acute.

The management of Zebediela was now obliged to recruit labour further afield through the established recruiting agencies operating from Messina, the Mozambican border, and across the Limpopo. Thus from the mid-1930s, the bulk of Zebediela's labour was drawn from Nyasaland, Portuguese East Africa and Northern Rhodesia. This provided no long term solution to the labour shortage, as desertion rates were high; in the opinion of A. R. van Blerk, Estate Secretary, 'The northern native, after his rough trek through the African jungle, could not settle to steady rural routine and was an easy prey to the lures of the not too scrupulous operators in the labour racket of some 30, 000 extra-Union Africans recruited, at the rate of 2300 n year over 1: 1 years, only 40% remained to serve their contracted time'. (3)

This high rate of desertion was, however, not an unreasonable response to the onerous work, low wages and poor living conditions which obtained at the estate. Indeed, a managerial report recorded the opinion of a Department of Native Affairs Representative in the late 1930s who 'condemned our old compounds as uncomfortable, insanitary and likely to become a disgrace if ever we had a serious outbreak of disease. Against this it was agreed that the raw native labourer is naturally dirty and prefers the squalor of a wattle and daub hut to a brick and iron-roofed building'.

Fortunately this attitude did not persist. In the 1940s, much effort was expended in devising living conditions compatible with labour stabilisation and economic rationality. Particularly valuable was the input of P. J. Quin, Director of the estate from 1936 to 1965, an outspoken opponent of 'the de-Africanising of the African', and a person highly regarded by the Nationalist government. On the basis of the findings of Quin's sociological study of the Bapedi, the accommodation and diet of Black workers on the estate were improved considerably.

It has been argued that Zebediela constituted something of a prototype for rural industry in South Africa. Indeed, its receptivity to industrial and mechanical advances - facilitated by the immense financial strength of the Schlesinger Organisation - was exceptional.

For many years the estate relied on white female seasonal labour, employed as packers and graders during the annual packing season; drawn largely from the local community these women, aged between 16 and 45, were accommodated within the benevolent confines of a hostel in which the virtues of thrift, propriety and Christianity were encouraged. It is interesting to note that recruiting officers of the Union Defence Force during the Second World War were advised that their cause was unlikely to be met with enthusiasm at Zebediela, as over 80% of the women did not support the government's stance vis-à-vis the war.

In the mid 1950s, economic rationality dictated that a transition be made from white to black seasonal female labour, a development which contradicted earlier racist assertions that black women were incompetent in that capacity. Nonetheless, the transition coincided with a major survey of labour relations and arrangements conducted by a consultancy, Bedaux Company of Africa, which resulted in the adoption of a sophisticated labour programme based on the principles of Taylorism.

Letaba Estates was an enterprise similar to Zebediela, although run on a smaller scale. Originally intended a settlement scheme for ex-servicemen after World War I, the incidence of malaria and snakes and the estate's general isolation apparently dissuaded immigrants from settling there permanently. Schlesinger's involvement in the estate in this period, the 1920s, is unclear; the estate was laid out by United Fruit and Citrus Farms Ltd, a company owned by the Investment Corporation of Africa Ltd, after the former owners, Messrs Judas and Gluckman, had incurred large debts with the Colonial Bank. Letaba Estates came under overt Schlesinger control in March 1931.

An adjacent farm, Beaconsfield, was purchased from the owners of Valencia Estates, the Foy family, in 1939.

In 1953 ownership of Letaba was transferred from Letaba Estates Ltd, to another Schlesinger holding company, the African Irrigated Land Company Ltd (AILCO). Established in 1923, AILCO had been concerned with managing Kendrew Estate, a somewhat unsuccessful venture in the Graaff-Reinet district, where irrigation problems effectively prevented the proposed citrus cultivation scheme from succeeding.

In 1967, Consolidated Citrus Estates (CCE) took over the management of Letaba and Zebediela from AILCO and African Realty Trust (ART) respectively, with the effect of concentrating all citrus production under one company. Valencia Estates, adjacent to Letaba, joined the fold in 1965.

CCE had, meanwhile, been running a citrus estate at Muden, in Natal, since 1957. This enterprise had been founded in 1917 as Golden Valley Citrus Estates; for various reasons, primarily recurrent labour shortages and its situation in the Midlands' hail belt, the farm was not a financial success and thus in 1944 Golden Valley went into voluntary liquidation.

Muden was then bought by the Pan African Land Company, a Schlesinger subsidiary which managed the farm until it was taken over by African Canning and Packing Company (ACPC) in about 1950.

ACPC, a Port Elizabeth-based canning factory (and the major shareholder in AILCO) dated back to 1921 when it was established to service Schlesinger's interests in several large pineapple plantations near Grahamstown at Langholm Estates - another ART project.

Subsequent developments within the Schlesinger Organisation are barely alluded to. It seems that ART sold out to African Consolidated Investment Corporation, a body closely allied to the two major property holding companies Townsview Investments (Pty) Ltd, and SOREC - Schlesinger Organisation Real Estate Corporation.

One body which remains enigmatic is the Native Farmers Association of Africa. Formed in 1912 by one of the founders of the African National Congress, Pixley ka Isaka Seme, the company was originally floated to enable Africans to buy land before the passage of the Native Land Act of 1913. Within months the company ran into financial difficulties, and was obliged to accept a partnership with Schlesinger, an arrangement which was to benefit Schlesinger greatly.

It was this Association which purchased, amongst others, the farms Daggakraal and Driefontein which later became the object of the Nationalist government's resettlement policy.

During the 1960s, Schlesinger's insurance arm, African Eagle and Guarantee Life, expanded rapidly; presumably it was this fact which attracted the attentions of the Anglo American Corporation. In 1974 Rand Selection, a subsidiary of Anglo American, bought John Schlesinger's controlling share in the Schlesinger Organisation. Included in the deal were such money spinners as Western Bank (later trading as Wesbank, a Barclays Bank enterprise) and Soroc and Townsview, later amalgamated with Amaprop.

Little remains of the Schlesinger Empire in South Africa today. Mandy Morons, Chief Executive of Schlesingers from the mid 1960s, resigned in favour of Gavin Relly in 1975 to concentrate on the development of Schlesinger European Investments, a new comglomerate based in London. At the last count, Rand Selection had a stake of 40% in SEI; by now, it is probably considerably more (sic).

Nb. Schematic Diagram of "Schlesinger Organisation" is not included in this published copy


1 Rangoon Gazette, 11 May 1927

2 S. N. I

3 Farmers Weekly, 1 June 1958

4 A. R. Van Blerk, 'Labour Report', 1953


J A (Jac) Joel joined the 3rd Pretoria (Sunnyside) Scout Troop in Pretoria, South Africa in 1923, and subsequently served as ASM, SM, and GSM in that Group. He was appointed as Assistant Divisional Commissioner of the new Northern Transvaal Division in 1955, and served as Divisional Commissioner from 1962 to 1972.

Jac Joel, an architect by profession, was a keen philatelist, and assembled a comprehensive collection of Scout Stamps, which was near to complete when he donated it to the Northern Transvaal Area of the Boy Scouts of South Africa in 1989. The Area maintained the collection by subscribing to new Scout Stamp issues for a number of years, but terminated this in 1996 when it became clear that many countries were printing stamps with Scouting themes purely for commercial reasons.


Glenda Webster was married to David Webster from 25 January 1969 until 5 December 1988. They both grew up in Luanshya in Zambia, attending the same class at Luanshya Primary School in 1957. They met again in 1964 as first year students when David was at the University of the Witwatersrand and Glenda at Rhodes University. David joined Glenda at Rhodes the following year where they both completed their studies, Glenda a B Com with UED and David a BA Honours in Social Anthropology.

After they got married in 1969 they went to Mozambique where David embarked on fieldwork for his PhD, living for a year amongst the vaChopi in the chiefdom of Sammuson Mcumbi. This would prove a watershed moment in both their lives.

They returned to East London, South Africa where David worked as a sub-editor on the Daily Dispatch, and Glenda as a clerk. In 1971 they moved to Cape Town and then Johannesburg. David obtained a post as junior lecturer in the Wits Anthropology Department, while Glenda worked as a high school teacher. In 1973 she started working as a course writer for the then Barclays Bank (now FNB). This was to start her professional career in two fields: writing and editing for publication, and writing training for young professionals. This was followed by a move into journalism with Management Magazine and the Financial Mail in 1975. In the same year David was awarded his PhD, supervised by Professor David Hammond-Tooke, from Rhodes University.

June 1976 proved another watershed moment for the Webster’s. The Soweto uprising happened at a time when David was about to leave on his first sabbatical year at Manchester University in England. He spent two years in Manchester while Glenda had to return home not being able to find work. After David’s return in 1978 they moved into the Crown Mines community of ‘the white left’. This would prove a third watershed moment for it was during this time that several people were detained and incarcerated without trial, many of which they knew personally. They both became involved in detainee support work.

David Webster became one of the founder members of the Detainees’ Parents’ Support Committee (DPSC). A founder member of the Detainee Support Committee (DESCOM), Glenda Webster joined the Black Sash in 1983 and was appointed magazine editor at the start of the first State of Emergency in May 1985. She remained editor until the Black Sash National Committee moved to Cape Town at the end of 1986. During that time she worked at SACHED Trust as a course writer. David Webster was assassinated on 1 May 1989 outside his home in Troyeville, Johannesburg.

Regarding her tribute to David as a "defender of legality and due process" Glenda Webster says:

“From my experience I believe that David’s involvement in the DPSC gave him a role in struggle against apartheid that was most meaningful to him. It suited his values and his personality. After he was killed I received many letters of consolation. One came from Prof Etienne Mureinik who was the Dean of the Law School at Wits University where I was working as tutor at the time. He described David as a "fearless defender of legality and due process". In my opinion, it was the best and most meaningful attribute I had received about David.”

Glenda Webster’s essay “David Webster: A fearless defence of legality and due process?” seeks to explore the validity of Prof Mureinik’s perception of David’s contribution.

This introduction is based on information provided by the donor.

ANC - African National Congress

BLA - Black Local Authorities Act 102 of 1983

CCB - Civil Cooperation Bureau

DA - Democratic Alliance

DESCOM - Detainees' Support Committee

DPSC - Detainees' Parents' Support Committee

GLA - General Laws Amendment Act 62 of 1966

JMC - Joint Management Council

JSC - Judicial Services Commission

PFP - Progressive Federal Party

SADF - South African Defence Force

TRC - Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa

UDF - United Democratic Front


The weekly newspaper "Advance" was the successor to the newspaper "Guardian" and was published under this name from November 1952 to October 1954.

Brian Bunting, who became managing editor of the "Guardian" in September 1948, had changed the name of the newspaper from "Guardian" to "Clarion" between May to August 1952, after which it was named "Advance". In October 1954 the name was changed again to "New Age", and from December 1962 to March 1963, after the banning of "New Age" the newspaper was published as "Spark". The final edition of "Spark" appeared on the 28 March 1963, after the banning of its editor and other people like Sonia Bunting, Rica Hodgson, Wolfie Kodesh, Ruth First and Fred Carneson, amongst many others.


The all-white South African Football Association, later known as Football Association of South Africa (FASA), was formed in 1892. SAFA was admitted to the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) in 1952. Later in 1956 SAFA changed its name to FASA, deleting the race exclusion clause from its Constitution. That and FASA's affiliation with the South African Bantu Football Association (SABFA) in 1958 would allow FIFA to officially recognise FASA as the sole governing body of soccer in South Africa. But in 1960 the Confederation of African Football (CAF) expels South Africa, which was followed by FIFA's suspension of FASA in 1964. The FIFA Congress in Montreal in 1976 finally decided on the total expulsion of FASA, after South Africa had already been expelled from the Olympic movement in 1970.

FASA together with other National Football bodies in South Africa unified in 1991 to become the South African Football Association (SAFA), allowing South Africa to join FIFA and international soccer again in 1992.


William Matlala is a freelance photographer specializing in Labour and Trade Union activities, who has served the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) in his capacity as photographer particularly in the 1990s.

He was born and grow up in the Dithabaneng village in Mphahlele district Northern province (Limpopo). After leaving school he went to seek employment in Johannesburg. He found himself in Germiston on the East Rand where he worked in Trimpack, a food company. He started as a general worker and later trained as a machine operator. In Trimpack he joined the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) and was elected shop steward as well as chairman of the shop steward committee.

Whilst working in Trimpack he became interested in photography and started corresponding with the African School of Photography in Pretoria, where he obtained a Diploma. Initially he took photographs of colleagues at work and at their home with their families, and became fully involved in community activities particularly after the company closed in 1988. He then underwent more training in the field of photography through the Department of Manpower and later at the Market theather photo workshop and the South African Union of Journalists.

He built a large photographic archive throughout the 1990s, mainly of his own photographs but also of other South African photographers like Anna Zieminski, Cedric Nunn, Santu Mofokeng, Paul Weinberg, Morice Smithers and Abdul Shariff. His photographs focus on workers at their workplace, union activities and gatherings, community work and social issues. It covers political event during the time of transition from Apartheid to a democratic South Africa. The collection also includes a large section on personalities from various spheres ranging from trade unions, politics, art and business.


Jan Hendrik Hofmeyr was born in Cape Town on 20 March 1894, the younger son of Andries Brink Hofmeyr (1851-1897) and his second wife Deborah Catherina Boyers. His father was business manager of the newspaper Ons Land, Secretary of the Afrikaner Bond and a cousin of J.H. 'Onze Jan' Hofmeyr. His mother, a member of an old Stellenbosch family, was a strong imperious character, who had an important influence on her younger son.

Hofmeyr was a brilliant student, with an intellect bordering on genius. He matriculated, aged twelve, at the South African College School in 1906, first in the school and third in the Cape Colony. In 1909 he obtained a B.A. with first-class honours at the South African College, winning the university gold medal for literature and a Rhodes scholarship. Before going to Balliol College, Oxford, in 1913, he took a Science B.A. and a first-class Classics M.A. His career was equally brilliant at Oxford where he gained a double first in classical honour moderations in 1914 and literae humaniores in 1916. In this year he returned to South Africa, lecturing in classics at the South African College and, in December, being appointed Professor of Classics at the South African School of Mines and Technology, Johannesburg, later the University of the Witwatersrand. This was the start of an illustrious career at 'Wits' where he became principal in 1919, vice-chancellor (then an honorary post) in 1926 and chancellor in 1938.

Hofmeyr left the academic world in 1924 to become Administrator of the Transvaal, thus marking the beginning of his political career. He was a successful administrator, attracting the notice of men such as J.B.M. Hertzog and J.C. Smuts. In 1929 he won a by-election at Johannesburg North and helped to play a considerable part in welding the National and South African. Parties into the United Party. He became Minister of Education, the Interior and Public Health in 1933. His liberal attitude towards Blacks, Coloureds and Indians embarrassed the United Party, despite which he remained in the cabinet, changing his portfolio to Labour and Mines in 1936, until 1938 when he resigned over the appointment of A.P.J. Fourie to the senate as a member specially qualified to speak for the Blacks. He resigned from the United Party caucus in 1939 over the Asiatics (Transvaal Land and Trading) Bill but remained in parliament as an independent United Party supporter.

The outbreak of war led to his returning to the cabinet as Minister of Finance and Education and during the war years he worked unstintingly for the war effort, shouldering much of the burden when Smuts was overseas and he was acting prime minister. It was felt by many that his liberalism cost the United Party the election in 1948, although Hofmeyr himself retained his seat.

Many honours were bestowed on him. In 1945 he was awarded a D.C.L. by Oxford University and was sworn in as a privy councillor; in 1946 he was made an honorary fellow of Balliol and an honorary bencher of Gray's Inn. He was a brilliant administrator, an indefatigable worker and a liberal thinker but essentially a simple man who enjoyed boys' camps and cricket. His early death (on 3 December 1948) was a tragedy for South Africa.


Dictionary of South African Biography, Vol. II, p.309

A. Paton. South African tragedy: the life and times of Jan Hofmeyr (New York, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1965)

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