Babanango Valey

Babanango is located about 58 km north-west of Melmoth in the KwaZulu-Natal Province. Initially the town was part of land granted to White farmers, in 1885, for their support of King Dinuzulu who succeeded his father Chief Cetshwayo as King of the Zulu nation in 1884, upon his death. The town was founded in 1904 and takes its name from the geographic features nearby, notably the stream and the mountain.

 The initiation of betterment planning

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The betterment planning programme was initiated by the Department of Bantu Affairs through Proclamation 31 of 1939 and regulated by Proclamation R 169 of 1967 with effective from the 1930s onwards as the major form of rural development planning in an attempt to regulate these areas and control land usage particularly those on trust land in accordance with the Land Act of 1936. This programme was implemented in the former homelands and other so-called black areas. Conversely the concept was implemented against the wishes of people.

In this intervening time, a vast number of people lost their stock which was their only source of wealth, subsequent to the application of the Stock Limitation Act (1950) introduced by the state under the pretext of land betterment. The Act thus paved the way for the forced removal or slaughter of cattle belonging to African people in the reserves. In terms of the Act, the number of livestock was limited and stock owners (individual or families) paid a small grazing fee annually. This consisted of restrictions on ploughing, prohibitions on cutting trees and the culling of cattle.

Betterment type controls were placed over the agricultural land- in an attempt to prevent overgrazing. Betterment type controls refer to the schemes that were used to regulate homelands under the pretext of improving the areas.

Designated areas were divided into distinct land use zones and forced people to move into demarcated residential land, arable land and land suitable for grazing by allocating them accordingly. Ultimately people were relocated from their scattered homesteads to new concentrated betterment villages.

Aftermath of betterment planning and the inevitable removals

More than any other type of apartheid dispossession, betterment resulted in mass removals, of particularly the underprivileged who resided in rural areas. Moreover, some of the evictees were considered to be squatters, because an individual farmer wanted to take over their land. In addition Babanango evictees were old, disabled or unsatisfactory workers whom the farmers considered ineffectual hence they were driven off the land.

Babanango experienced a massive number of farm workers’ or tenants’ evictions predominantly in the 1950s and early 1960s. As a result, the following relocation sites were established to resettle them - Mpungamhlophe, Hlungulwana and Emakhosini. These evictions were part of an early phase in mechanised rationalisation of land-use and labour in the Babanango district, involving some of the more progressive ‘farmers ‘ who were making the changeover to a fulltime and smaller labour force. Early evictees who inhabited these relocation sites namely, Mpumamhlophe, Hlungwana and Emakhosini, in the 1950s were at an advantage because during the latter removals the occupants were allowed to bring the livestock along and they were allocated to suitable land for grazing purposes.

During the later phase of farm removals, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, there were few households that were officially relocated. 

Cash tenancy, whereby people had to pay rent to the farmer, was also under attack.  Consequently, what emerged was labour tenancy, a system of near slavery without legal sanction.

• Peter E. Raper, New Dictionary of South African Place Names, p.18
•  The Surplus People Project Reports, Forced Removals In South Africa,  Natal, Vol.4, January 1983,  pp.46-47
•  Border Rural Committee (BRC), ‘What was betterment?’ [online], Available at [Accessed: 05 July 2013]
• Kok Pieter & Gelderblom Derik (1994) Urbanisation South Africa’s Challenge, (Human Sciences Research Council) , Vol.2 : Planning,  p.210
• Weideman M (2004), A History of Dispossession[online], Available at
• O’ Malley The Heart of Hope, 1950 Stock Limitation Act,[online], Available at [Accessed: 09 July 2013]

Last updated : 13-Sep-2013

This article was produced for South African History Online on 12-Sep-2013