chapter  8

"Black Ivory": The Indenture System and Slavery in Zoutpansberg, 1848–1869 1

WithJan C.A. Boeyens

In Zoutpansberg, the northernmost district of the Transvaal, or Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek, the indenture system often graded into a form of slavery, in particular with regard to the manner in which young children classed as inboekelinge were obtained, traded, and controlled. The indenture system that was sanctioned in the Transvaal until the late nineteenth century originated in the Cape colony. Though promulgated ostensibly to provide for the care of African orphans, the Apprentice Act facilitated the procurement of labor, which was its underlying purpose. In the Transvaal, the Voortrekkers frequently experienced labor shortages, and their attempts to force African groups to supply labor to the burghers often met with resistance. The period 1848 to 1869 covers the first, fully-fledged white settlement phase in Zoutpansberg, located on the northern frontier of the Transvaal. Unlike the eastern Transvaal, the Zoutpansberg had no dominant African group with whom whites could ally for mutual benefit.