From the book: Freedom In Our Life Time by Anton Muziwakhe Lembede

1. A. M. LEMBEDE, "The Importance of Agriculture," Iso Lomuzi,Vol. IV, no. 1 (October 1934), 16-17.

An incentive which has urged me to write this article is the tendency which is prevalent among my fellow-students and other people of underestimating the value of agriculture.

Agriculture is of primordial significance in the progress of a nation. No man can accurately trace the origin of agriculture because when man was created, God, the Great Agriculturalist had already planted a garden. So, the first work that was given by God to man was agricultural work.

Some educated people disparage manual labour; they say it is too inferior for them; they appreciate "white collar-work." Such people are rather destructive than constructive to a nation's progress. They do not do this because they have bottomless knowledge but because ignorance has got the upper hand of them.

A man may gain the highest university degrees and diplomas but he is not better than a well-trained and industrious farmer or carpenter. A leader in agriculture, carpentry, etc; is just as good as a leader in politics, science, education and arts.

Most of our people are not yet trained in agriculture, with the result that instead of preserving and using the soil properly, they aggravate the situation by reducing it to a useless state for agricultural activities. They always complain of the Government not giving them enough land for fields. But an Indian farmer gets rich and prosperous on one acre of land whereas an African farmer does not get this prosperity on ten or more acres of land. Why is that? This is the question for our intelligentsia to answer.

Town people with their industries, are dependent on farmers for supplies and for patronage. Failure of agriculture in a land can occasion incalculable catastrophe. Agriculture is the back-bone of a nation's life.

Therefore, I appeal to all African students who have an opportunity to enjoy agricultural lectures in institutions and other centres to apply the knowledge they have acquired after they leave school. The conception of despising manual labour should be deprecated. Remember how Booker T. Washington advocated manual training.”Š1”‰He was a leader indeed.

The damage done to the soil by our ignorant farmers, who are counted in millions, is inestimable. It not only brings misery, hunger, and poverty to them, but it also reduces the soil to a hopeless and helpless state for further occupation.

2. A. M. LEMBEDE, "What Do We Understand By Economics?", Iso Lomuzi, Vol. IV, no. I (October 1934), 2.0 - 21. 

BY ECONOMICS we understand the science which investigates the manner in which nations or communities and their individual members get food, clothing, shelter, and whatever else is desirable or necessary for maintenance and improvement of the conditions of life, (such as the organisation of the community or nation ”” its history, customs, laws and many other factors which make life profitable.) Economic activities, therefore, consist in how the above-mentioned necessaries of life are dealt with.

What do we understand by religion?

By religion, we understand such manifestations of feeling, thought and action in regard to God as are held to conduce to the welfare of the community or to that of individuals considered as members of the community. It is an obligation by which a man is bound to God. Religious activities, therefore, mean how the people try to procure this religious atmosphere. This country is predominated by the Christian religion; therefore I shall base my discussion on Christian principles and ideals. I need to mention here that economic activities are largely relevant to the material side of our lives whilst religious activities are largely relevant to the spiritual side.

Economic conditions in Bantu rural communities:

Clothing is indecent where the primitive style of dressing obtains. Those who use European styles always imitate the Europeans in all unbecoming styles and thus waste money. Food is poor and unhygienic. Starvation always prevails.

Recreations are disregarded or unknown except singing. Natives are lazy and ignorant of working methods. Their methods of agriculture are absurdly awkward. Therefore, poverty is not uncommon. Laws of health are unknown or despised, and, as a result, the death rate is high. It should not surprise to hear that many rural Natives still regard education as something that is spoiling or demoralising. The ethical side of the community is always good on account of good laws. As for customs, some are good and others are bad or useless. Poverty which is brought about by the mentioned factors, drives many Natives from country to town.

How should I work to harmonize the religious and the economic activities?

Many Natives believe that in order to be a Christian, a man must wear gorgeous clothes. One day I asked one man who was simply and neatly dressed why he did not go to church. He answered that he had no good clothes. Therefore, to remedy this situation I would teach the people that Jesus does not want clothes but hearts of men. I would teach them to dress simply and neatly and thus save money from buying gorgeous clothes.

The man depends on food in order that he may achieve the work given to him by God on earth. The value of food does not depend on sweetness or taste but on the proteins and carbohydrates which the food contains. It is useless to buy costly kinds of food which have no food value. Therefore, I would instruct the people of the community to use the common kinds of food (which have proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins) correctly; foods like milk, mealies, eggs and so forth.

Who can go to church or pray when he is sick? Recreations help to make us healthy and also save money which might have been spent on doctors. Is it not the aim of our Christian religion to create a good moral atmosphere and esprit de corps in communities? Recreations help to bring that about by making people come together and play together. They also thwart evil by making the people busy at their leisure time.

Our rural communities suffer greatly from poverty because Native people are lazy to work. They are also ignorant of working methods. Instead of using the soil they leave their communities and go to seek work among Europeans where they get very small wages. God says, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread." He wants industrious people. He chose Gideon to lead the Israelites. He found him threshing corn. Elisha was called when he was ploughing; David was called when he was out with his father's flocks; Peter and Andrew were called when they were fishing, and so with many other cases. Therefore the people should be taught "the dignity of labour" and "how to labour." If one man can enable the community to be industrious one will be deserving the honour from all South Africans and from God.

Death stalks through the Natives' homes smiting down those they hold most dear. Booker T. Washington, realizing the importance of health, set aside some Sundays for health sermons instead of Gospel sermons. Why do not we do the same? Was it not the aim of Christ to heal? Therefore some Sundays or parts of Sundays should be set aside for lectures on laws of health. I would also visit the homes to see if the laws of health are applied, and give further demonstrations. God intended us to develop to high perfection in our lives. The factor which helps us to reach that perfection is education. It is from educational sources that we have trains, aeroplanes, electricity, more appreciation of God's power, abolition of slavery, and many other things. Therefore, I would tell the people of the community about the importance of education and urge them to send their children to school. It will not be hard to send children to school if the people are industrious.

Such customs as Ilobolo”Š2”‰should be preserved because they are not against our religious principles. Ilobolo, for instance, confirms the marriage so that divorce is not easily possible. But, polygamy should be done away with, because in these days a man cannot afford to support many members of the family and the result will be distress and misery.

In order to impress these factors upon the minds of the people I would preach about them in chapels (where people come together). I would get texts from the Bible which bear upon these factors (as I have already quoted some). I would also visit homes of the people, and be an example of what I say. If my teachings can be carried out scrupulously I am sure the Native of to-morrow would differ from the Native of to-day and yesterday. His economical, ethical and political situation would change as a result of the HARMONIZATION OF ECONOMICAL AND RELIGIOUS ACTIVITIES.

Our communities are also menaced by liquor. In this case I would emphasize the harm that beer has on the body, and how it brings about poverty and many crimes. Although I would not be able to make the people abstain from beer totally I would influence them to drink moderately.

3. A. M. LEMBEDE, "Language Study And The Bantu Student," Iso Lomuzi, IV, no. x (June 1935), 9-10.

OF ALL the sciences, one I like best is Anthropology ”” the study of the antiquity of man and his development from savagedom to a high standard of civilisation. This science deals with many human institutions for example, growth of languages, religion, customs and so forth. I am particularly interested in the study of languages. I write this article because students have approached me, asking how I manage to learn foreign languages so easily. I have been a student here for three years and in that period I have learnt four foreign languages ”” Afrikaans, Sesutho [sic], Xosa [sic] and now I am studying Latin.

The study of languages has a social value in that it helps one to live well with fellow-men who do not speak one's language. No man can deny that 50% of racial hatred in the world, arises because people speak different languages.

The economic value of studying languages is that a linguist can be employed where a non-linguist would not be employed. Another value of language study is that the literature of the language studied is accessible.

The Bantu languages are still in their infancy, they are controlled by white people.”Š3”‰It speaks for itself, therefore, that we want educated Bantu men who have studied various Bantu languages, and who will be authorities on them.

As to the method of studying a new language, experts differ. Some say that a person should begin by reading the simplest reading book in that language in order to increase his vocabulary and then tackle Grammar; others say that a person should first tackle Grammar and then take up a simple reading book.

In my own experience of studying languages, however, I have found that the best way is to apply both methods at the same time.

The periods of studying must be regular, at least thirty minutes a day. Speak the language as much as you can. Read as many books as you can written in the language studied.

If I get a Grammar book, a simple reading book and a dictionary, I can study any language, provided the medium of learning is a language I know. It is not easy, it is a struggle, but "nothing is given to mortals without toil."”Š4

I am still anxious to learn five more languages ”” French, German, Shangaan, Sishona and Swahili.

4. A. M. LEMBEDE, "'n Nouc Ontkoming [A Narrow Escape]," Iso Lomuzi, III, no.  i (October 1933), 14.

ALMAL WAT in die noordelike deel van Natal woon, weet wat hael, reen, en donderstorms is.

0ns het naby Maritzburg in die buurte van Izingomankuluberg gewoon. Een dag ”” dit was 'n lieflike somermore ”” was die hemel onbewolk en die son het opgekom met sy ['n] pragtige helder lig. My werk was om die beeste op te pas. Smorens het ek hulle na die weiveld toe gedryf en saans weer huis-toe gebring.

Een agtermiddag voordat ek die beeste huis-toe gebring het, het wit wolke gevolg deur pikswartes aan die westelike horison te voorskyn gekom. Toe ek met die beeste by die huis kom was die hele hemel bewolk, en 'n mens kon die weerlig sien en die donder in die verte hoor. Dit het ook nie lank geduur nie voor die storm losgebars het. Die weerligte [weerlig] het geblits en die donderslae was gruwelik.

0ns kinders het nog buite op die werf gespeel, maar my vader het ons laat inkom om stil in die huis te bly. Geen vyf minute was verby die of die storm tref ons huis. Daar die son reeds onder was, kon 'n mens niks buite sien nie behalwe as die weerlig alles vir 'n oomblik heider te voorskyn laat kom. Ons het van vrees gebewe, en ons kon sien dat my vader bekommerd was, want tiy het op en af gestap. Ons huis, wat deur borne omring was, het op'n krans gestaan. So sterk was die wind dat die bome verbreek [gebreek] is.

Skielik het ek die huis se balk hoor kraak en toe stort die huis op ons in. Die dak is weggewaai en die mure het op ons geval. Hoe ek uitgekom het, weet ek nie. Ek vind my vader toe reeds besig om die ander onder die puin te probeer uitsleep. Ek het bitterUk gehuil, maar vader se: "Moenie huil nie; alles sal regkom." Moeder en drie kinders was nog toe onder die omgevalle muur. Nog steeds het dit gedonder, gehael en gereen, en bale bome het plat op die grond gele.

Na tien minute het my vader daarin geslaag om my moeder en twee van die kinders uit te kry, maar my broertjie van ses jaar was nerens te kry nie. Ons het gesoek en na hom geroep, maar tevergeefs. Na 'n lang ruk, egter, kry vader hom gelukkig, maar ons het gedink hy was dood. Tot ons vreugde vind ons hy is net bewusteloos. Spoedig het hy sy bewussyn terug gekry.

Dis 'n pikdonker nag. Ons huis le in puin. Waarnatoe nou? Ons het aangesukkel na 'n kraal in die buurte. Dit het maar swaar gegaan, want my broertjie het 'n groot wond aan sy kop opgedoen, my moeder se been het seer gekry, en ek het my arm verstuit. Tog het ons eindelik ons bestemming bereik. Die storm was toe ook al verby en die mense het ons met die grootste vriendelikheid ontvang en ons bejammer; ook het hulle vir ons droe klere gegee aangesien ons s'n papnat was. By hulle, so hoor ons toe, het die weer drie beeste en vyf skape in die kraal doodgeslaan net voor ons aankoms.

Na die donderstorm verby was, het die wolke verdwyn, en die pragtige blou hemel met sy flikkerende sterre en helderskynende maan het te voorskyn gekom. Die skaduwees van die berge het te lieflik gelyk in die heider maanlig, terwyl paddas en kriekies hulle danklied laat hoor. Maar waar was ons huis?

Die volgende more is ons na ons huis om te sien watter skade die storm aangerig het. Ons dag dat ons beeste almal nood [dood] was, maar hulle het daar heelhuids van afgekom. Hulle het gebulk van blydskap om ons te sien, en ek het hulle veld toe geja.

Elke aand nadat ek die beeste in die kraal by ons vernielde huis geja het, moes ek hulle laat staam [staan] en na die naburige kraal gaan. Hier is die liedjie, wat ek dan vir hulle sing:

O, beeste van my vader 

Moenie treurig wees nie.

God het ons van juUe geskei

Maar wat deur Horn gedoen is, is heeltemal goed. 

Eendag sal ons weer bymekaar kom.

Moenie droewig wees nie.

Daarop het 'n bul met deurdringende gebulk geantwoord. Ons het in daardie kraal vir tien dae gebly. My vader het 'n nuwe huis naby die oue gebou, en toe dit klaar was, kon ons weer naby ons beeste gaan woon. Die gewonde kind was toe al gesond, en ook ek en moeder is [het] herstel van ons kwetsure [kwetse]. Is dit nie n noue ontkoming waarvoor ons die Heer nooit genoeg dankbaar kan wees nie!


Everyone who lives in the northern part of Natal knows what hail, rain, and thunderstorms are. We used to live near Maritzburg in the neighborhood of the Izingomankulu mountains. One day ”” it was a lovely summer day ”” the sky was clear and the sun was shining bright. My duty was to look after cattle. I drove them to the veld (grazing land) every morning and brought them home in the evening.

One afternoon, before I could bring the cattle home, I saw the white clouds followed closely by dark clouds on the western horizon. By the time I got home the whole sky was covered in clouds, and one could see the lightning and the thunder in the distance. It was not too long before the storm exploded. There was lightning and the thunder was roaring.

Some of us siblings were still playing outside in the yard but my father called us in and asked us to remain silent. Hardly five minutes had passed when the storm hit our house. The sun was completely covered by the clouds, one could see nothing except when the lightning struck and for a moment there was bright light. We were shaking with fear and we could see our father was worried because he kept pacing up and down. Our house, which was surrounded by trees was built on rocks. So strong was the wind, it broke these trees. Suddenly I heard the rafters of the house cracking and the house collapsed on us.

The roof was blown away and the walls fell on us. How I got out, I still do not know. I found my father already busy trying to remove another one from the ruins. I cried bitterly but my father said, "Do not cry, everything will be fine." My mother and three other children were still trapped under the ruins. It still continued to thunder and to rain and many trees fell flat on the ground.

After about ten minutes my father succeeded in removing my mother and two of my siblings, but my six year old brother was no-where to be found. We looked for him, called his name out aloud but to no avail. After a long time, actually, father luckily found him, but we were all thinking that he was dead. To our surprise, he had only lost consciousness. He quickly regained his consciousness.

It was a very dark night. Our house lay in ruins. Where to now.'' We all huddled in a homestead in the neighborhood. It was very difficult, because my brother had a big wound on his head, my mother had injuries on her leg and I had sprained my arm. At least we had reached our destination. The storm was over and the people received us with great warmth and friendliness and they took pity on us; they also gave us clean and dry clothes as ours were wet. We also heard from them that the storm killed three cattle and five sheep from one village before our arrival.

After the storm had passed, the clouds cleared and the beautiful blue sky was filled with twinkling stars, a full moon came into view. The shadows of the mountain looked beautiful against the moonlight, while the frogs and crickets croaked their thankful prayers. But, where was our house?

The following morning, we went to our house to see what damage the storm had inflicted on us. We thought that all our cattle were dead but they had emerged unscathed by this whole experience. They bellowed and mooed from excitement when they saw us, and I drove them to the veld.

Every night after putting the cattle away in the kraal near our destroyed house, I would have to leave them and go to the nearby kraal where we were accommodated. Here is a poem, that I would recite for them.

Oh, cattle of my father 

Please do not be sad.

God has separated us from you

But what has been done by Him.

Is absolutely correct.

One day we shall come together.

Please do not be sad.

Thereafter a bull would bellow with a piercing moo as if in reply. We stayed at the new kraal for ten days. Father built a new house near the old one, and when it was finished we could live closer to our cattle again. The most wonderful thing was that we recovered from our injuries. Was this not a narrow escape for which we will always be grateful to God!

5. A. M. LEMBEDE, "Trees and Their Value to Human Beings," Native Teachers' Journal, XVIII, no. 3 (April1939)

ON EMBARKING Upon a subject of such importance one needs to be more highly qualified than I am in order that it may receive its due stress.

Trees provide food for human beings, as well as shade and shelter for animals and birds. They are also of great economic importance in supplying timber for building and furniture and in modern times for woodpulp from which paper is made.

It is not, however, from the material standpoint but from their decorative effect, which provides beautiful scenery and breaks the monotony of barren stretches of land, that we want to consider trees. There is a good deal more that could be said about the importance of trees, but for my purpose it is unnecessary to probe any deeper for mere geographical purposes.

When we walk about among beautiful trees with flowers perfuming the sky, we realise that it is our duty to acknowledge with thanks the inheritance bequeathed to us by Nature.

We, as teachers and Agricultural demonstrators, should explain to our Native people the necessity for trees on their lands and at their homes, and thus prevent their indiscriminate destruction.

Let us encourage children to plant trees. During fruit time boys steal a great deal. They even rob the European farmers of their fruit. The habit of theft in this way develops and this is one of many unheeded tendencies which spoil the morals of our children. If they had plenty of fruit at their homes they would have no desire to steal.

One feels ashamed to come across a teacher's cottage without a single tree or flower, or with some poor specimens of fruit trees, inferior in type and variety.

My fellow teachers let us prove ourselves as true leaders of our nation by our example. We should have our homes surrounded with varieties of fruit trees of a standard type. Flowers and ornamental trees should beautify our homes.

Firstly by our example and then by precept we can improve the present conditions prevailing amongst Natives, of considering trees as something to be hewn down for fire wood, and the lack of appreciation of fruit trees as assets to the homes, should be our concern.

Unless we are able to exemplify in a practical way the benefits derived from education, our illiterate brothers and sisters and the rank and file, will easily talk us out and we shall ever confirm our diminished prestige as at present, (submitted from Maria Ratschitz Mission, P.O. Waschba.