Sol Plaatje’s last speech in Kimberley
Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje’s last public meeting in Kimberley was on Tuesday 24 May 1932 when he spoke in the Abantu-Batho Hall in the then No 2 Location, Galeshewe.
Shortly thereafter he travelled to Johannesburg to make arrangements for the publication of some of his writings, but fell ill with a bout of influenza from which he would eventually succumb. He had not been strong since recovering from the Spanish Flu epidemic that swept South Africa and the world in 1918, and while staying with family in Pimville, caught the ‘flu yet again which soon turned fatally to pneumonia.
As a matter of interest, the Abantu-Batho Hall was opened on Wednesday 22 July 1931, and cost some £3000. A post office and café was provided for within the hall. The Hall is 70 feet by forty feet, and was also used for film shows. Perhaps most importantly, Sol Plaatje made a speech on the day the hall was opened.
DID YOU KNOW
1932. Solomon Plaatje (pictured) was getting older, he was prone to illness easily after the 1918 Spanish ‘Flu had weakened him. He had been away from South Africa for a long time in the previous decade and he had lost touch with the next generation of urbanised, industrialised Africans. His political influence too, had waned. Always a teetotaller, he emphasised the need for moral regeneration, and in the late 1920s devoted much of his time to temperance work, fighting against alcohol with the Independent Order of True Templars.
He also devoted time to the preservation of Setswana literature and had started a Setswana dictionary. Sadly, funding to publish his works had been a problem his entire life, but in 1930 his novel Mhudi was finally published in London; having been completed a decade earlier. Other than his Siege of Mafeking diary, Mhudi would be his best known literary work, being the first novel published in English by a black South African.
His many writings, published in various newspapers around the country, never stopped. It was basically his only ready source of income. Despite many attempts in reviving his newspaper, they had all failed to materialise. The majority of his reports published in other newspapers however, concerned the well-being of the Africans, struggling to survive under the Land Act of 1913 and subsequent gazetted Native Bills.
Plaatje did attend the Native Conference held in Pretoria in December 1930, but had little to say in this the first such conference since 1926. Another conference attended was in January 1931, that of the Independent Order of True Templars in Johannesburg. On a personal level it was more fruitful as a regular newsletter, Our Heritage, was started in June 1931 with Plaatje being the editor, or joint editor, but folded after only five issues. He was then offered the editorship of a new newspaper, Bantu World, but declined the offer, the first issue being published in April 1932.
Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje had less than a year to live.
His last major journey, to an international exhibition in the Belgian Congo, was in the winter of 1931, spending several weeks there and some time in Bulawayo on his way back to Kimberley. He also travelled to Aliwal North as well as to Cape Town during 1932, returning to Kimberley from the Cape in May. His last public speech was on 24 May at the Abantu-Batho Hall in No 2 Location (now part of greater Galeshewe).