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On-line version ISSN 2309-8392
Print version ISSN 0018-229X


WHELAN, Debbie. eMatsheni: The central beer hall as social and municipal infrastructure in twentieth century Pietermaritzburg. Historia [online]. 2015, vol.60, n.1, pp.75-91. ISSN 2309-8392.

Southern African cities have quietly developed by plugging new civic infrastructure that supported their operations into the urban environment, often with ad hoc decisions eliciting public outcry. Occasionally, legislative imperatives led to active protest, particularly the implementation of early versions of Group Area legislation. In the early twentieth century, the Pietermaritzburg corporation was torn between the need to accommodate Africans within the city for labour purposes and simultaneously, the need to follow legislations which restricted exactly this. Accommodating labour was the key component of the Durban System allowing for the control of African beer consumption while providing vital municipal revenue. The requisite buildings thus formed a vital part of city infrastructure. The original central beer hall was located close to the city hall and other important centres of civic society. It was marked for closure in the early 1930s, and reconstructed in a part of the city populated largely by mixed race and Indian people who protested vociferously at its development. This article discusses the public consultation process and the formation of the beer hall as a core of African-centred development on the periphery of the city. It concludes by commenting on the structures in contemporary Pietermaritzburg and their potential for future, meaningful development.

Keywords : beer halls; municipal buildings; Durban System; Pietermaritzburg.

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