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'Not a single white person should be allowed to go under': Swartgevaar and the origins of South Africa's welfare state, 1924-1929

Year: 2007
Author: Seekings, Jeremy
Unit: SSU
Journal: Journal of African History
Volume: 48
Pages: 375-394
DOI: 10.1017/S0021853707002836
Abstract:

The origins of South Africa's distinctive welfare state lay in the late 1920s, not in the 1930s as has generally been suggested, and long predated the quite different turn to social welfare in late colonial Africa. For the National Party and Labour Party – partners in the coalition Pact Government of 1924–9 – non-contributory old-age pensions were a crucial pillar in the 'civilized labour' policies designed to lift 'poor whites' out of poverty and re-establish a clear racial hierarchy. Welfare reform was thus, in significant part, a response to the swartgevaar or menace of black physical, occupational and social mobility. African political elites, although distracted by other reforms at the time, were quick thereafter to protest at their exclusion from the nascent welfare system.

KEY WORDS: South Africa, apartheid, social, state.


Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0021853707002836
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