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Solomon Plaatje

TODAY IN KIMBERLEY’S HISTORY 19 APRIL

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UPDATED: 19/04/2017

19 April 1913, Sol Plaatje’s newspaper becomes Tsala ea Batho.

DID YOU KNOW

Solomon Plaatje became a watchdog of the government, and was fierce in his criticism where he believed it to be necessary. He continued his editorial battles with The Friend in Bloemfontein, which he called “The Foe”, and even added quotation marks around the Free in Orange “Free” State – as he believed the Africans in that former Boer republic were anything but.

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Vere Stent

Times were still tough financially and many months mere survival was a struggle, although for the first two years the newspaper circulation was in the thousands and advertising was consistent. He was a part-time insurance agent, but for the majority of the time, he made small amounts through contributions to the Pretoria News, the Diamond Fields Advertiser and other newspapers.

The Editor of the Pretoria News, and one-time war correspondent and friend during the Mafeking siege, Vere Stent, introduced Plaatje to his newspaper readers in September 1910:

“Mr. Plaatje has acted as interpreter for many distinguished visitors to South Africa, and holds autograph letters from the Duke of Connaught, Mr. Chamberlain, and other notabilities. He visited Mr. Abraham Fischer quite lately and obtained from him a promise to introduce a Bill into Parliament ameliorating the position of the Natives of the Orange River Colony, who are debarred by law from receiving titles to landed property. Mr. Plaatje’s articles on native affairs have been marked by the robust common sense and moderation so characteristic of Mr. Booker Washington…He is no agitator or firebrand, no stirrer-up of bad feeling between black and white. He accepts the position which the Natives occupy to-day in the body politic as the natural result of their lack of education and civilization. He is devoted to his own people, and notes with ever-increasing regret the lack of understanding and knowledge of those people, which is so palpable in the vast majority of the letters and leading articles written on the native question. As an educated Native with liberal ideas he rather resents the power and authority of the uneducated native chiefs who govern by virtue of their birth alone, and he writes and speaks for an entirely new school of native thought. The opinion of such a man ought to carry weight when native affairs are being discussed. We have fallen into the habit of discussing and legislating for the Native without ever stopping for one moment to consider what the Native himself thinks. No one but a fool will deny the importance of knowing what the Native thinks before we legislate for him. It is in the hope of enlightening an otherwise barren controversy that we shall publish from time to time Mr. Plaatje’s letters, commending them always to the more thoughtful and practical of our readers.”

19 April 1913, Sol Plaatje’s newspaper becomes Tsala ea Batho.

DID YOU KNOW

Sol Plaatje‘s major concern at this time was in politics and in combating the government through his skill as a writer. Unfortunately, his own business was not as successful as it could have been. His problems in combining editorial content and financial control continued and the last issue of Tsala ea Becoana was on 8 June 1912. Earlier that year, the signs were ominous:

“We apologize to our readers for the delay of printing in our last issue. Our editor was sick and by the time he was ready for printing he was delayed by a Government announcement that was sent in quickly. There was a form that went into the printing machine and caused an eruption, as if it was possessed by demons that ruled the publishing room of white people.

We still remind our readers sometimes a beautiful thing can be ruined by people, like people who do not make payments in time. They are like agents that when they do get paid in time then they will hold on to the money and not make payment while the publishers are demanding their money. We will keep the readers informed as how the case unfolds, we have observed that some people see it fit to pay the white man while a Motswana goes unpaid, so if the Motswana is not paid how will a Motswana pay the white man.”

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

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