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Statue of Sol Plaatje at the Civic Centre


2 July 1878, The colonial force defeated by Luka Jantje’s men at the battle of Kho.
2 July 1907, Winners of the SA Foursomes (Handicap) in the Ladies’ Golf Championships at Port Elizabeth were Miss Freislich (Kimberley) and Mrs Overbach (PE).
2 July 1910, Sol Plaatje publishes Tsala ea Becoana for the first time.
(Pictured is the statue of Sol Plaatje at the Civic Centre).

Sol Plaatje and his Kimberley newspaper

Sol Plaatje arrived in Kimberley from Mafeking (now Mahikeng) by June 1910 to start a new chapter of his life. He was 34 years old, independent, in the prime of his life, and he had learnt much. He had survived a difficult siege in Mafeking, and coped with the guerilla warfare that followed and devastated the country. He had worked hard with the government without due reward and promotion, and had started his own newspaper. That it had ultimately failed and closed down was because of the poor economy of the country (and the region) coupled to Plaatje either failing to understand or grasp business economics. After all, he was a journalist and economics was and is not a strong point with many writers. Literacy too, was low among the target market, and that meant low readership, and low readership means little advertising content. So on both counts where income was necessary, sales of the paper and advertising, it was not at all good.


Tsala ea Becoana – First Issue

His family too had expanded and he needed a steady source of income, and where better to get it than to start again in Kimberley among the people he knew, and where the diamond mines, most of the time, were doing reasonably well although at that particular time were in recession. There was still a sense of economic well-being in the diamond town and it would have appeared that Kimberley was the place to be. The town was also in the centre of the country with ready and easy access to and with the rest of the Union of South Africa. Despite the fact that Mafeking had been close to Johannesburg, the continual travelling from an outpost in the far north west of the country to wherever he wished to go, was a financial burden that would definitely be made easier by living and working in Kimberley. In Kimberley too was an educated class of Black African, with more scope for not only personal gain and satisfaction in various fields, but also to expand his burgeoning interest in politics. Friends and family, compared to Mafeking, were numerous in Kimberley.

The Union of South Africa was born on 31 May 1910, and the first issue of Tsala ea Becoana (The Friend of the Bechuana) was a few weeks later in Kimberley on 18 June 1910. Plaatje had his newspaper premises on the corner of Brett and Shannon Streets in the Malay Camp. He had the backing of several well-known Black African personalities around the country, and initially the newspaper was printed in Kingwilliamstown by Jabavu and Company, registered as the proprietors. Some time later the newspaper (and Plaatje) was assisted by a syndicate of members based mostly in Thaba ‘Nchu.

PT-Tsala_ea_Becoana-1910Tsala ea Becoana for that first two to three years concentrated on local news relevant to the “Batswana”, and also in coping and coming to terms with the new political set-up of the country. Like most other African newspapers it would represent Black African interests and influence opinion. For the editor Plaatje it necessitated an amount of travel, especially to Bloemfontein, Pretoria and to Cape Town. All three centres were easy to reach by train, the rail link between Kimberley and Bloemfontein having opened in 1908. Plaatje knew most of the white politicians through his links with white liberals, some more intimately than others, and had numerous meetings with high ranking government officials as well as with cabinet ministers.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

Aeon Computer Kimberley

About Steve Lunderstedt


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