4 Disability in KwaZulu-Natal


This chapter will try to picture the macrocultural and microcultural setting of disability within KwaZulu-Natal. In this context historical as well as present developments have to be reviewed. The broader cultural system that surrounds Zulu-culture will be described in the first part of this chapter whereas the second part deals with the effects of marginalization and here in particular with the situation of women and people with disabilities. This is necessary to make the reader understand the double burden that women with disability have to carry.

4.1 An overview of KwaZulu-Natal

4.1.1 An introduction to South Africa and KwaZulu-Natal

KwaZulu-Natal is situated in the South East of South Africa21. With its tropical climate, sandy beaches, berg getaway and game reserves as well as its rich cultural heritage, through the Zulu Kingdom, it is a very popular tourist attraction. Fertile land and the two biggest harbours in Southern Africa give KwaZulu-Natal the perfect setting for a flourishing economy. Despite this it is one of South Africa’s poorest provinces with a high rate of social conflict and a significant gap between rich and poor. Much of this contrast is a result of South Africa’s historical background.

Early History


Archaeological evidence suggests that the area around Pinetown, near Durban, had been settled by San or Bushman over 100 000 years ago, which Kaplan (1990) believes to have lived in the area until the 1800s. They are believed to have retreated from the Zulus into the Drakensberg, where Bushman paintings tell the story of those conflicts (Omer-Cooper, 1994). They were finally ‘wiped out’ in Natal by European settlers.

The first Europeans to land on South Africa’s coast were led by the Portuguese sailor Bartholomew Diaz in 1492. Five years later his fellow countryman Vasco da Gama sailed around Africa on his way to India. He reached what is today known as Durban on Christmas Day 1497 and named it “Rio de Natal”, Christmas River (Omer-Cooper, 1994). It was not until 1652 that the Europeans and in this case the Dutch realised the strategic and economic importance of the Cape and established a colony. With the rapid development of the port at the Cape the need for labour increased. Firstly, slaves and politically banned people were imported from Indonesia (Java and Sumatra), but soon Dutch settlers arrived and immigrants from all over Europe followed. Because the demand for agricultural land, especially pastures, grew continuously, the settlement steadily spread from Table Bay towards the North and East. The indigenous people the Khoikhoi, also called the Hottentots, were forced to recede, although they strongly resisted the expansion of Cape settlers (Omer-Cooper, 1994).

In 1795 British ships landed at the Cape and annexed the colony to the United Kingdom (1994). With this they laid the foundation for century lasting conflicts between the Boers22 and British. From the beginning of the 18th century the Cape settlers expanded their territory more and more towards the East. Around the area of the Fish river, which is today in the Eastern Cape, the then-so-called Boers encounter the Xhosas, who stood up ferociously against the European settlers (Omer-Cooper, 1994). The central government at the Cape was neither willing nor able to give the Boers efficient military protection. Absolutely incomprehensible to the conservative Boer communities was the approach of the British colonial government towards indigenous inhabitants of the colony, who were held as slaves on most of the white farms. From 1833 the slave trade was declared illegal and the “Emancipation Act” demanded that white masters set their slaves free against payment of a small compensation from the state. The Boers felt that the British policy destroyed their traditional social order which was based on racial separation and would undermine white predominance, which they saw as God’s own will. In resistance to the Cape policies the Boers or Voortrekkers organised therefore what is historically called “the Great Trek”, which started in 1835 (Omer-Cooper, 1994). The Great Trek was an organised migration of Boers with their wagons to discover new land and to establish their own republics. The areas settled by these Voortrekkers are the provinces today called Gauteng, Orange Free State and KwaZulu-Natal.


A Boer excursion under the leadership of Piet Retief headed for Natal to gain land for settling and grazing. For this purpose they had to negotiate with the Zulu king Dingane. The negotiations ended with the agreement that the Boers could settle in central Natal. However when the delegates under Piet Retief prepared to leave, Dingane, who was suspicious of the new settlers, ordered his people to kill Retief and his colleagues (MacMillan, 1963). Then the Zulu warriors fell upon the rest of the Voortrekkers who had made camp at the foot of the Drakensberg to wait for the return of their leaders. About 500 men women and children were killed and most of their cattle stolen. With their newly elected leader, Andrew Pretorius, the Boers successfully consolidated in the aftermath and prepared for a retaliatory strike against the Zulu king. On the 16th of December 1838 the Zulus were completely defeated at the famous “Battle of Blood River” (Omer-Cooper, 1994). This enabled the foundation of a short-lived Boer Republic in Natal, with Pietermaritzburg as its capital. By 1842, British troops occupied Port Natal, today’s Durban, and annexed the hinterland as a Crown Colony (Omer-Cooper, 1994). The Voortrekkers retreated behind the Drakensberg.

The British had their very own encounter with the vicious warrior “tribe” of the AmaZulus. Records written by one of Natal’s first European settlers, Sir Francis Fynn, named tribes like the Amatuli and the Amanganga as tribes settling in the greater eThekweni area (Steward and Malcolm, 1986). The Amaganga, who had fled from Shaka´s warriors were said to have sought refuge in the eThekweni area. At the time, through incredible atrocities and cruelties the infamous Zulu king, Shaka Zulu, gained control over a number of clans and united these clans under the Zulu name (Webb and Wright, 1987). He expanded his territory systematically. Shaka´s warriors raided villages and burnt them down. The chiefs were tortured and forced into allegiance. At the beginning of the 19th century, Shaka had created the most powerful kingdom in the whole of Southern Africa. Eventually Shaka was assassinated by his (already mentioned) half brother Dingane in 1828, who in the aftermath succeeded him as well. For KwaZulu-Natal an irreversible process of restructuring came to an end with Shaka´s death. Thousands of people had become refugees. Fights between European settlers, refugees and sub-tribes broke out everywhere (see Blood River) and all these disturbances led to regroupings. At the end of this period the small, widespread, chief led clans had disappeared and were replaced by bigger communities under the Zulu-kingdom on the one side and the European settlers on the other side (Webb and Wright, 1987).

In 1879, the British laid claim to the whole of Zululand and gave king Cetshwayo a practically unacceptable ultimatum. In the resulting Anglo-Zulu War, the British initially suffered a high number of casualties. The battle of Isandluwana Mountain, on the 22nd of January 1879, was a particular disaster for the British, when the Zulu warriors overran the British army camp (Webb and Wright, 1987). Within a few hours almost 2000 British soldiers were killed (Omer-Cooper, 1994). At first this victory shocked the petrified British. England however decided to send more troops and the war ended in victory for the British in 1879 and Zululand was annexed by Natal. Two decades later the British would also defeat the Boers in the Anglo-Boer war (1899-1902) and with this annex the whole of South Africa as a British colony (Omer-Cooper, 1994).


After the Anglo-Boer War an increasingly large number of Africans withdrew their labour from European farmers in Natal. Zulu people found work outside Natal in the mines around Witwatersrand, which was more lucrative and attractive. By 1905 the situation became serious and in order to increase African labour in Natal, the government instituted a one pound poll tax on all males in Zululand (Omer-Cooper, 1994). This increased the financial burden of Zulu families who were already battling to overcome the effects of the Rinderpest from 1895-96 (Leclerc - Madlala, 1999), which killed almost 90% of their cattle. Several Zulu chiefs refused to pay this tax and the Natal authorities sent out the police to collect the tax. A rebellion was led by Bambatha kaMancinza but despite initial success the tide turned against the rebel forces who were finally defeated in June 1906 at Mome, George. Between 3000 and 4000 Zulus and a couple of policemen were killed during the rebellion. In addition to that over 7000 Zulus were gaoled and 4000 sentenced to flogging. It is estimated that before the rebellion about 59% of Zulus were working in the mines but by 1909 it was 80% (Omer-Cooper, 1994). Men worked for a couple of months in the mines and then returned for short periods to their families. The migrant labour system had been introduced to Natal and with this the African family structure destroyed. Labour from India was shipped in, to compensate for the shortfall on the sugar farms.

The Bambatha rebellion however remained in the Zulu consciousness and was never forgotten. Political leaders of the new South Africa, like Jacob Zuma, account the beginning of their political consciousness to their childhood when their grandparents would tell them the stories about the Bambatha revolt (Sunday Tribune 25.11.2007).

The African way of life was further infiltrated by the Christian religion that European settlers brought with them. One of the first mission stations in KwaZulu-Natal was erected in 1895 in the Mariannhill area near Durban (Bryant, 1929). The conversion to Catholicism was rapid in the area. Other mission stations followed quickly. Missionaries usually planed to construct communities wherein the converted Zulus could settle and live “free of traditional restraints and tribal pressure” (Schimlek, 1953). For this purpose some churches even built proper villages around their mission stations in which only converted Africans were allowed to live. African custom was, for these missionaries, regarded as the key obstacle preventing Africans from converting to and maintaining a Christian way of life. In this sense they wanted to convert the Zulu villagers not only to Christianity but also to a farming life-style and monogamy (Leclerc - Madlala, 1999). Missionaries were also a driving force of formalising education, bringing schools to rural and underprivileged areas and installing a basic health and welfare system from which people with disabilities could profit as well. They would be a driving force of immunisation programmes and with this prevent disability and early child death to a certain extent. They however were also a driving force that undermined traditional knowledge with particular reference to herbal products and divine custom.


Another big influence on the African way of life was the progression of racial separations. Racial policies were introduced from 1910 through a group of laws that further restricted the rights of the black majority (e.g. 1913 Native Land Act). This later became institutionalised with the apartheid government in 1948 (Omer-Cooper, 1994). Laws like the Group Areas Act (1951) would restrict where people could live and socialise. The majority of South Africans, who happened to be Africans, had to live in less than 13% of the country’s land (Mandela, 1994). Marriage between races was forbidden (Prohibition of Mixed Marriage Act 1949). Africans had to carry a passport, also known as the dompass, that restricted them to certain areas. One of the most tragic results of the apartheid policies were forced removals where it was usually African people who had to resettle in homelands allocated for them. These homelands were usually small, under-resourced and far away from work. People had to live with uncertainty as they did not know if and when they would be removed. As people were unable to plan for their future they lost the motivation to look after their homes and communities deteriorated (Leclerc - Madlala, 1999). Some communities however managed to fight forced removal only to be disturbed by violence and civil unrest particularly in the 1980s.

Passive resistance (Mandela, 1994) was organised right from the beginning and had its roots within the ANC and Gandhi’s philosophy of peaceful resistance also known as soul-force or ´Satyagraha´. This however changed after the Sharpeville massacre in 1960, where the police recklessly fired on a group of peaceful demonstrators and bystanders (Omer-Cooper, 1994). This was the dawn of the armed struggle (Mandela, 1994). In this time the black consciousness movement under its founder Albert Luthuli grew as well (Omer-Cooper, 1994). This was a countermovement in which African people were called upon to be proud of their own culture and heritage rather than trying to be like Europeans. This movement has influenced black consciousness until today. The effects however of forced removal, the migrant worker system and an underprivileged education had already affected the African family and its way of life for many decades to come. Today KwaZulu-Natal is one of 11 provinces in the new South Africa. The main population still consists of Zulu-speaking people. Indians and Whites make up a small percentage in the province. The population density is high as well as the unemployment rate. After the political system in South Africa changed from apartheid to democracy, heavy fights emerged between opposition parties (ANC23 and Inkhata). This added to the province’s long history of violence and social conflict.

Recent developments


After the majority of white people expressed their will to change in a referendum in 1992 South Africa saw its first free elections in 1994. Nelson Mandela, as the president of the ANC, became South Africa’s first post-apartheid president. Since then, South Africa has had to undergo a difficult period of transformation in the attempt to overcome inequalities and to give previously disadvantaged people a fair chance. The country had to invest heavily in infrastructure, housing and basic services, which is not an easy task with a limited amount of resources. Economically South Africa has developed in a variety of ways. While certain areas like the cloth industry struggle, other areas like the film industry and the property market have seen an enormous boom in the recent years. Particularly the latter is a blessing and a curse for South Africa at the same time. As property prices go up houses in the upmarket areas (for instance along the coast line) become unaffordable for South Africans, but at the same time South Africa gains foreign currency from overseas buyers, which it urgently requires. The result of these developments is that the gap between rich and poor has increased over time and the Gini-coefficient24 of South Africa with 0,77 has risen and is now one of the worst in the world (StatsSA, 2006). Within South Africa the province of KwaZulu-Natal has the biggest poverty gap and with this the biggest division between rich and poor (see table 4.1). This situation causes social conflict.

Another indicator of inequality in South Africa is the difference between the GNI (Gross National Income per capita) and the HDI (Human Development Index). While the World Bank using the GNI is classifying South Africa as a upper middle income country the HDI has dropped in the last ten years to 0,695 (Du Toit, 2002) which brings South Africa in line with other developing countries like Indonesia. This difference is caused be unequal distribution of wealth, the population growth overtaking the economic growth as well as the results of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Like most other African countries South Africa is faced with a relatively high population growth (StatsSA, 2006). In addition to this the country is experiencing a tremendous amount of human traffic in terms of emigration and immigration. Unfortunately for the country’s prospects this human traffic is imbalanced, as many professional people are leaving the country for better means and refugees, particularly from Zimbabwe and illegal immigrants from Mozambique and Nigeria are filtering into the system (Du Toit, 2002). This is an indicator as to the extent to which the country has become an exporter of skilled labour and a refuge for Africans of other nationalities during the last few years.

Table 4 1 Poverty indicators by province (HSRC, 2004 )


No. of poor persons (mi l lion)

% of population in po v erty

Poverty gap (R billion)

Share of poverty gap

Eastern Cape





Free State

























North West





Northern Cape





Western Cape





South Africa






A high population growth coupled with a loss of skills would be detrimental to any country and places enormous pressure on government finance in terms of the provision of social services. The impact of HIV/AIDS on the democratic structure of South Africa has already become evident (see appendix 7). Life expectancy at birth has already dropped tremendously and is estimated to drop to 42 between 2010 and 2015 (Du Toit, 2002). KwaZulu-Natal has, out of all the South African provinces, already the lowest life expectancy with 49 years in 2006 (StatsSA, 2006). In relation to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, stands the high prevalence rate of TB and drug resistant TB forms. TB is a particular problem in KwaZulu-Natal, because as a coastal province the humidity is much higher than in the rest of the country. This paired with a high HIV prevalence rate and poor health services provides a deadly cocktail. You will therefore not meet one person in KwaZulu-Natal that is not, to some extent, affected by HIV/AIDS or TB. Everybody knows someone in their family or labour force who is suffering from the effects.

As mentioned above South Africa had and has a notoriously violent colonial and recent history. An estimate of 20 000 people died as a consequence of political violence in the apartheid years between 1984 to 1994 (Wood, 2005) and even more people were injured or disabled for life. The country’s complex political history of tribalism, colonialism, industrialisation, apartheid and struggle against suppression has produced the conditions for violence of multiple forms to flourish. The extent to which both political repression and inter-personal violence have become pervasive aspects of everyday life, is being reflected in the daily newspapers in South Africa in which you find reports of crime every single day.25 A dramatic legacy has also been left by the country’s militarisation during the armed struggle against apartheid. Today townships and some rural areas are flooded with cheap, illegal firearms that are being used in cash-in-transit heists, hijackings or robberies, which in return cause death and disability in the country. Leading crime researchers like Antony Altbeker from the Institute of Security Studies in Cape Town, identifies “bad policy choices and government’s failure to deal ruthlessly with criminals” (The Mercury, 12.07.2007) as responsible for fostering a culture of crime in South Africa. Altbeker explained that the wrong crime strategies were chosen based on the notion that prevention was better than cure and “that the police could be employed as armed social workers”. In his analysis he points out that many of the decision makers today had suffered at the hands of the apartheid police and have therefore an “instinctive disliking for coercive law enforcement” and, I would like to add, an identity crisis of having to be on the other side of reinforcing the law. This however backfired allowing a violent culture to take hold and crime rates to explode in South Africa.

It took South African politicians a long time to recognise crime as a major problem in the country. Denial theories were even mixed with race issues as many white South Africans are able to leave the country in search of a safer place to live. The Minister of Safety and Security, Charles Ngakula even stated, in 2006, that there is no real crime problem and that anyone who does not like it “should leave the country” (wikipedia). In general it is believed that he was referring mainly to the white population as the ones who “can leave”. White people are still sometimes pictured as the old enemy and their leaving did not seem to matter much. The Minister however had not assessed the situation of his ´black brothers and sisters´ who suffer even more from the crime in South Africa and often do not have the option to emigrate, therefore there was a substantial outcry to his statement. The identity crisis of South African leaders, who sometimes do not want to face reality and take over responsibility for crime became apparent. Only recently in the light of the 2007 ANC election and in the aftermath of the murder of Lucky Dube,26 the South African president Mbeki and the then deputy president of the ANC Jacob Zuma, have recognised crime to be of political importance and have promised to do something about the situation. Whether or not these are just empty election promises or if change will really occur remains to be seen in the future. To summarise is to say that South Africa and especially KwaZulu-Natal is faced with tremendous development barriers as there is a high population growth, lack of skilled workers, high rate of unemployment, high HIV prevalence rates and high crime statistics. This background has to be kept in mind while reading this thesis. To give the reader even further understanding, the African struggle for identity shall be discussed in the next subchapter. This is necessary to make the reader understand the present context of disability in KwaZulu-Natal.

4.1.2 Cultural Heritage – Finding One’s Identity


In Africa in traditional times, the extended family wasn’t just a thing, it was a very efficient organization whose purpose was to bring up children according to the ideals of the tribe. But, with the coming of Western Civilisation, if you wish to call it that, changes of an extremely destructive nature took place. In the modern town-ship no longer is the extended family allowed to live together. For example, only a certain number of people are allowed to live in a four room house. So whether he likes it or not, a man or a woman has to discard other members of his or her family and thus be without the important members of this beautiful organization which should assist him or her in the bringing up of children. Thus the extended family has been destroyed.(Mutwa, 2003)

Zulu people have an almost a legendary place in the history of KwaZulu-Natal. Their rise to power and hegemony more than 200 years ago under the leadership of Shaka Zulu has influenced history up until the present day. Zulu speaking people, especially, identify themselves with this military and political genius, who brought inter-tribal wars and unity to their ancestor’s homes (Webb and Wright, 1987). Shaka Zulu is in this context often glorified for his military leadership and his crimes against humanity are ignored.



During the South African colonial and apartheid period, indigenous history was regarded as pagan, their leaders as barbaric and therefore historically not relevant. Today attempts have been taken to remember the Zulus as they once were, a proud, fierce and recklessly brave warrior nation who stood their ground in the face of a colonial power. Battles like Isandluwana 1789, where the Zulus defeated the British, and rebellions like the one from Bambatha in 1906, a revolt against the poll tax, are being celebrated in the new South Africa. However there is also a great resentment about the final annexation of Zululand into Natal in 1880 and the following suppression under the Colonial and later Apartheid government. The fast modernisation and intense political suppression has influenced the way of life of every Zulu speaking person. Christianity, Indian migration, the technical revolution, ´Western´ values, knowledge and culture have forever changed KwaZulu-Natal and the Zulu way of living, but this has not meant abandonment of all traditional ideas and values. In particular the basic patterns of family structure and neighbourhood relations have not yet totally changed and need therefore to be discussed.

Zulu speaking people belong to a Bantu group called Nguni (Omer-Cooper, 1994). The Nguni came down from central Africa into the area that is today KwaZulu-Natal and Transkei. According to archaeological evidence the eThekweni (area around Durban) region had been settled many thousands of years before by the ancestors of the San or Bushmen and later the Hottentots (1999). As already explained they are believed to have lived in the area up until the early 1800s (Kaplan, 1990) when they were expelled from their land by the stronger Nguni tribes that had arrived from the North. The San’s last refuge in KZN was the Drakensberg and there the new European settlers finally pushed them out (Irwin et al., 1980). The northern Nguni mixed with the Hottentots. From this cultural mix the Zulus have got the Click sounds in their language (Schapera, 1946). The San and Hottentots had been hunter-gatherers and nomads whereas the Nguni tribes were farmers. They sustained their life through subsistence farming (preserved for women) and cattle-keeping (preserved for men) (Bryant, 1929).


In KwaZulu-Natal hardly any Tribe was fortunate enough to be left undisturbed in the early 1820´s during Shaka’s regime (Webb and Wright, 1987). According to Sir Francis Fynn (Steward and Malcolm, 1986), who was one of the first European settlers, internal conflicts and systematic attacks by the warriors of the Zulu King Shaka, led to the demise of many tribes and so also of those ones living in the eThekweni area. Shaka Zulu, who is also called “the Black Napoleon”, united these tribes under his leadership and formed with this the “Zulu Nation”. In this nation different clans (isibongo – surname) are united. People who have Zulu surnames can be identified as having had an ancestor who belonged to such a clan. Examples of such names are Zondi, Zulu, Zungu, Ndlovu, Sibiya, Hadebe and many more. Some clans have developed sub-strains of names. A Hadebe for instance can also be called a Mthikhulu or Bhungane. To call someone by his sub-strain name is regarded as showing special respect for and interest in this person.

Feature 4 1 Traditional social system of Zulu speaking people

Clan members can belong to different Chiefdoms (isizwe), or all be a member of the same Chiefdom. A chief would be responsible for guiding the people of his Tribe according to Zulu custom and to report back to the king. He would be supported by the headman and counsellors in his villages (see feature 4.1).


While one can inherit the position of a King or a Chief through one’s bloodline, a headman is chosen by the Chief and approved by the people. A headman usually deals with tribal affairs. In the modern South Africa he is the traditional equivalent of the democratically elected magistrate, who is more responsible for service delivery and jurisdiction (Interview 6). However in a difficult tribal affair the headman would report to the chief, who often comes in, only periodically, from far away. He would then be expected to judge those cases. Clans are divided into lineages27. A lineage is formed of people, who can trace descent to a common agnatic ancestor.Each lineage is divided into subgroups, who trace their descent down to a common paternal grandfather. This is the most important group in the linage and know by most Zulu-speaking people. Lineage membership is determined through belonging to a homestead head (Ngubane, 1977). This would be a married man, whose father and grandfathers are now deceased (see feature 4.2). A homestead may be composed of a man, his wives, children, and mother and could even include his brothers and their families if they have not yet moved out.

Lineage members have religious and social obligations to each other. In the case of death, special rituals have to be followed, especially for the homestead head. These rituals relieve the deceased’s spirit into the lines of the ancestors. Zulu lineage is patriarchal and daughters become members of the new family as soon as the ´lobola´, the African bridal money, has been paid. They then become members of their husband’s family.

In the old days and in very traditional families, lineage members of one subgroup will distinguish themselves from other groups by referring to their group as “Siwuzalo olidla ndawonye” - “the lineage members who eat with each other or who one sacrifices with”. Ancestors are referred to as “Suwuzalo esingasadlelani nalo” - “the lineage members one does no longer eat with” (Ngubane, 1977). The former can be approached through sacrifices to help family members for different purposes and their worship is therefore very important.


Feature 4 2 Lineage group

Zulu lineages are usually very shallow and most people remember their ancestors’ names only up to their grandfathers. These are also the ancestors that will be worshipped after their death and held responsible for misfortune. Their influence can protect people or expose them to danger. If an abnormality occurs or if there is a disability in the family, then they could be held responsible for not protecting their own kind. They are also believed to watch their offspring’s way of life and to either approve or disapprove of it. It is also said that they are especially interested in keeping African custom alive and expect their kind to follow traditional rituals like paying lobola, introducing new family members and to relieve the deceased through sacrifices and so on. The prospect of losing the ancestors protection therefore puts substantial pressure on people to follow these traditions.

In the new South Africa it happens more and more often that young people turn away either partly or fully from their traditional way of life. Misfortune can then be explained through this ignorance. In recent years traditional leaders, some academics and political leaders have tried to strengthen African custom and put pressure on the re-evaluation of indigenous knowledge and its way of life. This has achieved much good for the recognition of indigenous knowledge. The term tradition however is also often contorted to propagate certain people’s points of view. Over time, a wide collection of so-called traditions have emerged. For example on the one hand King Goodwill Zwelithini proclaims virginity testing as an old Zulu tradition and Homosexuality as “UnZulu” (The Daily News 12.09.2005). The Zulu Shaman Credo Mutwa claims on the other hand, that men and women in traditional Zulu society were equal and the imagination of female inferiority is a “Victorian notion” brought by Western Civilisation (Mutwa, 2003). In my opinion these so-called traditions are contradicting each other. The “free” virginity testing of teenage girls which is aimed at controlling their sexual activity and the equality of the sexes can hardly claim to belong to the same idea. In fact, neither of them can satisfactorily prove that their claims are truly traditional. The confusion about traditions is mainly a result of the ignorance fostered by the colonial and apartheid period in South Africa, that regarded traditional African life as pagan, inferior and not worthy of attention. Credo Mutwa argues, and not without reason, that the modern way of life has brought destruction to the African family and its spirituality. He sees this destruction as the source of all evil. (Mutwa, 2003). It is hard to know today, what life was truly like 200 years ago, because we can only base our knowledge either on books written mainly from a European perspective, or on verbal “hand over”, African fairy tales and the dreams of spiritual healers. Especially in topics related to gender and sexuality it is difficult to argue what the real tradition was. Africans however long for this answer as they search for a common African identity and consciousness. This leaves enough space for creativity but also for misinterpretation and misguidance of their cultural heritage. One should rather argue that the African culture and the culture of the first settlers went into hybridisation and that some parts of African life have been reformed by western culture (Geertz, 1983). In this process some cultural doctrines were given up while others were reformed and reinforced. The latter was probably the case in regards to gender relations and this shall therefore be one of the main themes to be discussed in the next chapter.

4.2 Marginalized groups

4.2.1 Gender Relations – The Second Class


As a woman you are expected firstly to respect your husband and the other people, especially the male. Male person, it doesn’t matter if it is your husband or your father or whoever as long as it is a father in the community … When you come in you greet other people and you know. You always have to have your face down. That shows the respect, that you respect older people. And it is not because you like to do it. You just do it. And you don’t look at them in the eyes. … And you also have to work hard. Waking up early as a woman as early as maybe four o’clock in the morning, sweeping the garden or whatever, preparing tea, preparing the hot water for the rest of the family. So it is not easy. But because you have to, sometimes you are not even enjoying, but because you have to do it, you just do it. It is only now that things are changing a little bit, because people are more … especially people who are educated. So it is now, that you don’t have to do everything for the rest of the family. Otherwise the respect, you still have to respect everyone. (Interview 2, mother)

Credo Mutwa claims, in his book “Zulu Shaman”, that in the traditional Zulu society women were not believed to be inferior to men (Mutwa, 2003). This is however very difficult to believe, but also difficult to dispute as we have no written material about the Zulu way of life before the influence of “the Europeans”. Africans often claim that anthropological writings by early pioneers of the field are full of “western” ignorance and do not understand the African way. So the only acceptable record that reflects the ancient African way of thinking about women seems to be African fairy tales and stories. The traditional Zulu stories, as told by Credo Mutwa, are full of suppression of woman especially in a sexual sense. For instance, in the Zulu creation story the first goddess Ninhavanhu-Ma is created from warm ashes and given to Sima-Kade, the Tree of Life, whom she despises. He holds the goddess caught in his “arms” and fertilises her many times. Even though the great goddess is admired for her creational power, it seems to be acceptable that she was forced to bear Sima-Kades offspring’s against her will. One could also interpret this as a forced marriage followed by forced sexual intercourse, hardly what could be considered as gender equality, particularly not from a historical point of ´western´ emancipation, which created the awareness and vocabulary for gender equality.


However true or untrue Mutwa´s claims are about the past, the notion of women’s inferiority is well alive in KwaZulu-Natal today28. Within this the “traditional sexual script” (O´Sullivan et al., 2006), in which the man is the initiator and aggressor of sexual interactions and the woman is socialized to be passive sexually and accept or refuse men’s sexual advances, is still deeply embedded in KZN. Observers of the historical context note that the gender roles have become even more, rather then less, restrictive with time (Marks, 2002). This conservative backlash is a result of decades of family destruction during the Victorian and Colonial era, the exposure to violence and abuse as well as the quick social change in which the younger population is perceived as uncontrollable and in need of discipline.

Under the cover of tradition, Zulu women are expected to obey their men. People often refer, here, to the word ‘respect’. The notion of respect is quite male orientated. This means, usually, that the household head, who has to be a man, makes decisions. A man is seen as the family provider and usually served by his family in their home. Traditional women, who are respectful, are expected to keep their eyes down and speak little. A participant explained it to me in the following way: Referring to his wife, he said that she respects him because she always accepts his decisions and does not start to argue even if a decision turns out later to be wrong (Interview 9). Many men seem to aspire to having a woman that shows them respect in this way. In this context, Leclerc-Madlala (1999) explains that the biggest compliment a Zulu woman can get is that “she hardly speaks”. The desire to have an easily manageable woman seems to lead to dubious relationships. One participant shared with me a story of a man who hoped to be with a deaf woman, because she would not argue. He believed this would be the perfect wife (Interview 1).

Women in very conservative families have to show their respect with the “Hlomipha” tradition (Schapera, 1946). In this case, women are not allowed to pronounce the names of the respected male members of their family and are required to use an alternative descriptive term, otherwise she would be very disrespectful. Women usually have to obey their husbands family customs as they are financially dependent on their husband. Traditionally a man also marries a woman from a far away village and brings her into his family. This puts women in a weak position. Leclerc-Madlala (1999) presses the point that this is the very reason why women have a marginal and subordinate position and gives them a somewhat suspicious appearance.


In opposition to the previous case, one young interview partner had her very own interpretation of the word respect. She interpreted respect as the readiness to use condoms when one wants to have sexual intercourse (Interview 8). This was a very interesting answer and shows that some people start to change their minds about the way they interact with each other and transfer these conclusions into their private lives. This answer was however an exception and gender inequality and sexual dependency is rather the rule than the exception. As was found in the literature, some of my interview partners stated that it was very difficult for them to make sexual decisions. Their husbands or boyfriends decided when it was time for sex and if they would use protection or not. A fact that was also reported by many researchers in the field (Preston-Whyte, 1996;Dladla et al., 2001;Harrison et al., 2001;Leclerc-Madlala, 2002).

Women in KwaZulu-Natal are responsible for the family. Most of the time they do all the housework and look after the children (Cross, 2001). They fetch water from far away, are the first to get up in the morning and the last to go to bed. Even if they are the main provider for their families they are still expected to do all the housework (Interview 6). They are very seldom supported by their husbands as housework is seen as woman’s work and it is embarrassing for a man to be involved in it. The modern compromise is that the man will secretly help behind closed doors. Men are then in a strange dilemma as they develop different private and public faces. As soon as visitors are in the house he will put on his macho face and try to pretend that he can “control his woman”. It is interesting that all my female interview partners were very critical and upset about the chauvinistic type of society they live in, while men had various views. Sometimes women were so frustrated that they refused to have a husband or permanent partner at all. They prefer to live on their own, even if that means that they have to provide for their children by themselves. The second type of woman, I experienced as very powerful, confident and amazingly aware of their situation. These were usually woman that had, at least, a small income of their own.

Interestingly, a number of interview partners described Zulu-marriage, rather as a financial arrangement, than as a matter of love (Interview 1). Dlala (2001) found a similar notion in his analysis about women who are involved with migrant workers. In this study, it was found that women also enjoyed having casual partners on the side. Their affairs would open extra income streams and they could also enjoy “romance29” that they did not have with their husband or regular partner.


The cultural background of Zulu speaking people is influenced by the religious and cultural themes of the European migrants that settled in KwaZulu-Natal. The influence of Christianity has not helped liberating Africa’s women either and seems rather to have had the opposite effect. While we know that African women, almost 200 years ago, wore next to nothing, traditional women today, have to cover their shoulders, knees and their hair. Without this they are not allowed into a kraal30. This is however, in strong contrast to the traditional dancing and celebratory performances where young women and girls dance almost naked in front of the king. The reason for the existence of two completely different types of dressing codes, which morally clash with each other but still have a parallel existence in the same society, remains a mystery and cannot be analysed in depth in this thesis. It is however very likely that the covered dressing code was brought in by Christian missionaries and that it was alien to Zulu culture before the “European influence”. In the hybridisation of the two cultures some Christian values seem to have strengthened traditional stereotypes and in this case reinforced the suppression of women, who were now deprived of their natural and proud way of dealing with their bodies and had to develop shame and shyness towards nudity.

At the same time the new settlers introduced the concept of landownership, which was only allocated to men. This again robbed the African woman of her economic basis and reinforced suppression. The notion that a woman belongs to her husband and that the husband is the head of the household is a very Christian concept but also conforms to the deeper, culturally imbedded imagination, of a woman’s inferiority.

Some Zulu traditions are very stubborn and immune to outside influence. ´Lobola´ is one such example. Traditionally a man has to pay ´lobola´ to his parents-in-law, before he gets married. Even though the lobola is part of a ritual that connects the woman with her new family, it is also a symbol of possession. Most participants explained that they would have to pay this bridal money, so as to refund the woman’s family for the loss of an important worker. One cannot suppress the impression here, that women are unconsciously handled like objects which are passed on and have to be paid for. Because the man has paid a substantial amount of money for his wife, he can expect her to work hard and bear him many children. Women used to build up their status in society with the amount of children they would bear (Schapera, 1946) and still do.


In addition to this a man will not so easily divorce himself from a woman, he has ´bought´. Interestingly, most Zulu speaking people confronted with this interpretation about ´lobola´, would argue against it and say that African custom is being misinterpreted. For instance, one of my participants said that he and his wife manage the house equally. When I asked him who does the housework and looks after the children it was his wife only (Interview 17). Neither of them were working, but this did not mean that the husband would help in the house. The male perception that a woman has to ´look after her husband´ is very persistent and even affects woman in higher positions, like for instance a principal of a school. A study that was presented at a PhD seminar that I visited at the University of KZN in 2006, showed how difficult it was for these women principals to fulfil their double role. Even though they would come home late, their husbands would sit watching TV or reading the paper and would still expect their wives to start cooking for them while they relaxed.

Historically, political decision making has been left to men. They hold all major positions such as that of chief and headman and only men participate in the political gatherings of traditional villages. Often the traditional handling of family affairs clashes with the constitutional rights of women, which brings traditional leaders in dispute with their democratically elected counterparts. This is one of the biggest challenges that faces the new government, whose intention is to balance the power of traditional leaders with that of government officials. The South African government is well aware of the fact that there is far too little progress when it comes to women issues and that women are still the main target of crime, abuse and unemployment. President Thabo Mbeki himself identified this as a “failure, where we see the fruits of our liberation have not reached many of our women” (The Mercury 10.08.2006). In other words, even though South Africa has gone through a great transformation, women are still regarded as second class and are being ´left in the rain´. Disability in this context adds another disadvantaging dimension.

4.2.2 Disabilities - People in the Periphery


Okay due to lack of education and all these other things that I mentioned before it all plays a big role in one not being employed. When one person thinks I am a punishment that person will never employ me in a company. I won’t be able to get work and if one person thinks that I cannot see a bus when it is coming along that means I am always going to be coming late to work so that person won’t really employ me. Also on all these other health issues like if they think a person with albinism is bad luck so if they employ them in their company they won’t have any income coming. Lack of respect for them also results in them not being employed…. On education because of the problems that we face at school that makes you not be able to finish school and then obviously you won’t be able to go to the technicon or university where you are going to finish and have a decent job for yourself. That is the basic thing. (Interview 17, man with cerebral palsy )

The disadvantaging and excluding consequences of disability are a phenomenon that has been well described around the world. People with disability find it generally more difficult to access basic support structures like health services, transport and education (DPSA, 2001;Dederich, 2007). As a result they are more likely to be illiterate, lack education, live in poor health, be unemployed and suffer from poverty. Especially, in a country like South Africa, where so many issues emerge at the same time, the needs of disabled people can easily be forgotten. As a result people with disability become a marginalized group, whose issues seem to be only of minor importance.

In the 1980s, the Disability Right Movement was formed as a countermovement in South Africa. The foundation for this movement was laid in 1981 with the advent to the United Nations International Year of Disabled Persons (IYDP). South Africa’s government at the time, chose not to recognise this year and disabled activists came together to discuss their marginalisation and oppression (DPSA, 2001). One of the outcomes of that meeting, was the realisation that the strongest “handicap” for people with disabilities was the view society had on them, as well as the weakening of people with disabilities as a larger group through medical orientated divisions in disability groups. Black people with disabilities were, in addition to that, facing a double stigmatisation of being black and disabled and organised themselves therefore in a broader organisation DPSA (Disabled People South Africa), which had close links to the liberation struggle. DPSA was formally constituted in 1984 and originated from local self help groups. One of such self-help groups was the Self Help Association of Paraplegics in Soweto, better known as SHAP. Its founding member Friday Mavuso, was the first disabled person that sued the then Minister of Police for his injuries. This resulted in him becoming an almost cult figure in the townships and an inspiration to people with disabilities in South Africa (DPSA, 2001).


His story is however the story of many South Africans, who were severely injured in encounters with police or in unsafe work placements. Many disabilities that are seen today have resulted from this. It did however, have a positive effect on people with disabilities. Similar to developments during and after WWI in Europe, disability became a broader phenomenon during the struggle years. As more people were affected by disabilities, than would otherwise have been the case, it was easier for the disability movement to claim their rights and make their issues heard in the new South Africa. Historically grown organisations like DPSA refuse the medical model of disability and advocate the social one wherever they can. Educated and organised people with disability in South Africa are therefore very aware of the social causes of disability. In their negotiations with the ANC in the 1990s the disability movement and here particularly DPSA, ensured that people with disabilities could finally speak for themselves and represent themselves in parliament. Inclusion, full participation and disability as a cross area issue, became the key areas of advocacy. It is therefore not surprising that policies like the White Paper31 are very progressive on disability and inclusion issues and that disabled people are becoming members of parliament. The participation, as members of parliament through DPSA members, seems however to be bound on a membership of the ANC (DPSA, 2001). This makes the independence of structures like the one of DPSA somewhat questionable. Another unfortunate reality is that even though policies and intentions are very progressive, implementation has been very slow and hindered by lack of resources and education of staff (e.g. teachers, nurses, administrators). The progressive outline of policies has therefore not as yet reached its intention.

In their document, Statistics South Africa (2006) reported that a total of 2 255 982 persons had some kind of disability that prevented them from full participation in life activities. This number constituted 5% of the total population (44 819 778) approached during the research. The African population was reported as having the highest number of disabled people (1 854 376 or 5,2% out of a total of 35 416 166), followed by white (191 693 or 4,5%), coloured (168 678 or 4,2%) and Indian (41 235 or 3,7%) people as the table below shows. Statistics South Africa explains these percentage differences with the “variety of socio-economic and demographic factors, as well as unique social cultural perceptions and inhibitions with regard to reporting on disability. There are sectors that experience discrimination and exclusion more acutely than others.



African women with disabilities bear a larger burden of discrimination and exclusion compared to men and tend to have a higher rate of disability than the latter. This is primarily explained with women's higher average longevity. Another explanation could also be, that women in general have less access to resources which might result in higher prevalence rates on disability. The percentage of females affected was slightly higher than for males in the African and white population groups and slightly lower in the coloured and Indian/Asian population groups, as shown in table 4.2.

Disability in women is also seen as reinforcing traditional stereotypes of women being dependent, passive and needy (Seymour, 1998). Women with disabilities are facing a double stigmatisation and are therefore:


This applies to KwaZulu-Natal especially, as the gender gap in the province is high. As can be seen in the table underneath, this imbalance shows itself in the statistics for KZN. While other provinces have a relatively equal distribution of disability between men and women, in KZN there are significantly more women than men affected.

Table 4.3 gives the number of disabled persons by province. It shows that KwaZulu-Natal had the highest number (470 588) while the Northern Cape had the lowest number (46 973). In terms of prevalence, Free State had the highest percentage (6,8%), while KwaZulu-Natal proceeds at the national average.


Conducting quantitative research for Disabled People South Africa (DPSA) Philpott (2005) explored living conditions of disabled people in KwaZulu-Natal, which to my knowledge is the only study available on this type of data in KZN. Most participants in Philpott’s study had a family income of less than 1190 Rand, which is probably accurate as a large amount of them access social grants (780 Rand). However there was still a substantial group of people with disability that had no income or an income that was less than that of the social grant, which means that not all people have, as yet, access to this grant. Assessing people in rural areas, her data showed that only 46% had access to electricity, 64% to tap water, 29% had access to a pit latrine and 16% to a flushing toilet. These conditions make life for disabled people very difficult and also limit the use of modern devices that could be used to assist them. This may also be a reason why the community workers, whom I interviewed, frequently mentioned the hygiene problems that they encounter with disabled people in rural areas. In these areas they are often left to themselves, have no opportunity to access water to wash themselves and lack an assistant who can help them.

For people with physical disabilities even the most basic things like going to the toilet can become a major problem, for instance, when the doors are not wide enough for a wheelchair. A participant, being a community care worker, told me about a woman he recently visited and who was left entirely to herself. She never left the room and the smell inside must have been horrendous. Due to the condition of the room and herself, nobody was prepared to help her. In another case, an occupational therapist who worked in a rural area told me a similar story about a young man. He smelled so strongly and the situation was so embarrassing for his younger brother, the latter wanted his brother to be taken away to a care centre or at least believed that a separate room should have been built for him. Another participant explained proudly how clean he was and that even the nurses in the hospital would talk about this, because they had stigmatised people with disability as “dirty” and “smelly” and where astonished to see him being so “smart”.

In Philpott’s study, 78% of people with disabilities had access to public transport, but 27% of them stated that they had a problem accessing the road between their home and a public road. On the contrary, most participants in my study claimed that people with disabilities still had problems with accessing public transport (see appendix 16). The main problems that they seem to encounter are the impatient attitudes of able bodied people as well as the disability unfriendly design of transport vehicles. Access was a general problem that was reflected in most of my interviews. In a workshop I attended in August 2005, it was explained that people with disability had a major problem in accessing health services. While the local clinics, run by nurses, were better accessible, the transport to the hospitals was a major barrier. The transport problem is often a result of financial issues. Some people with disabilities have to have an assistant and therefore they have to pay the fee for two people. The trip to the hospital then becomes even more unaffordable. The district hospitals are however the only places that distribute assistance devices like hearing aids, wheelchairs and walking sticks. On top of this it is also possible for a person to have to travel to the hospital several times, because the hospital runs out of medication or the particular assistance device the person needs. Assistance devices like hearing aids or prostheses seem to be a general problem and also expensive. As one participant explained, he had been able to acquire a cheap prosthesis while he was in hospital after having lost one leg in a car accident. Now, after a couple of years, this artificial limb was falling apart and because he was not in hospital anymore he had no access to the subsidised limbs. On his own he could not afford a new one (Interview 25).


Other community services are also difficult to access for people with disability, because they do not cater for the special needs of these people and expect them to be able to wait in long queues and do not have interpreters or Braille available. Therefore some people do not manage to apply for an ID or for a subsidised house. One participant, for instance, told me that this was the very reason why he had to still live with his parents as he did not manage to line up at the registrar for the cheap housing (Interview 25).

The main people who could help to solve this contradiction seem to be community and CBR32 workers. They have the local knowledge and are able to identify and support people in their homes. This is however only possible if they are at least supported with material. A participant explained to me that he has people who would like to help people with disabilities and HIV/AIDS in their homes. Unfortunately they battle to assist them with basic material, like gloves and bandages (Interview 22). So the problem lies, once again, with their financial constraints.

An interesting point in Philpott’s study was that the most frequently identified problems were the lack of knowledge about rehabilitation (76 %), followed by knowledge about human rights (60 %), unemployment (60 %) and poverty (59 %). This order might also be a result of the type of questions asked. Most participants in the Philpott study might not have known what rehabilitation means and might therefore have identified this field as a problem. On the contrary my interviews showed very diverse results regarding people’s awareness of disability and with this mirrored very different theories about disability. Even though I mainly used my ranking exercise as a tool to guide my participants through the interviews, it also reflected the interpretation process of disability (see appendix 16). After having studied the problem orientated ranking of my participants, a pattern began to emerge out of the data. Most professional people included in the study thought that access, poverty and sexual abuse were the biggest problems for people with disability. The male participants with disability often chose employment, attitude and respect and access as their main barriers. Women identified sexuality and abuse as the biggest problem followed by access problems and a lack of respect from their able bodied peers. These answers clearly reflect the different life experiences people in different positions have and how this influences their Subjective Theories concerning the phenomenon of disability. While the practical problems like access and poverty seem to dominantly impress professional people, humiliating factors influence people with disability more and are attributed with greater meaning. The different perceptions in accordance with gender, are also indicators for the different expectations with which women and men see themselves confronted. Men seem to experience their disability mainly as a loss in status as they find it difficult to fulfil their traditional role of the family provider and therefore lose respect in the community. Women on the other hand do not experience this pressure as much, but feel even more vulnerable through their disability than they would be as just a woman. Sexual abuse and a lack of access is therefore their dominant worry. This should be kept in mind in any project that aims at improving the lives of people with disability.


One such area where the attitude and excluding culture of able bodied people becomes most evident is sexual partnerships. People with disability very seldom have permanent partnerships and experience immense frustration in their sexual lives. The frustrations with sexual relationships are of a very different nature for women and men with disability. While a man with a disability finds it more difficult to find a permanent partner a woman with disability is, as previously described, very vulnerable to sexual abuse.

In her report, Philpott (2005) states that only 16 % of the participants were married or involved in any form of long term relationships. She questions, whether those low numbers are caused by the prejudice that disabled people are incapable of intimate relationships, or rather by their exclusion from society and the difficulty in meeting suitable partners. Dube (2004), who himself has a physical disability, also acknowledges these two factors as relevant. He also goes on to explain that physically disabled people have special difficulty exploring their sexuality, because often they need the assistance of other people, a requirement that is very difficult to fulfil in a society that has sexuality still covered under a big taboo. As a result of these factors my interview partners usually blamed the general negative attitude towards people with disability as the main excluding factor (Interview 2, 9, 22). Therefore partnerships might emerge within the “disabled community” itself.

Disability in KZN is often generalised. For instance the physically or sensorally disabled person is expected to have a mental defect, ignored and not taken seriously in discussions. Usually the assistant is addressed. People who know little about the impacts of disability conclude from one stimuli the abilities of the whole person. For example as Ngidi describes, his teachers did not know that his albino condition also affected his eyesight. He was placed in the back of the classroom and as a result experienced learning difficulties and was then labelled as being stupid and lazy (Ngidi, 2005).


People with disabilities are often pushed into the receiver role, a fact that one participant strongly criticised. Being treated as “helpless” and “cursed”, they learn to accept the fact that they are not able to do anything and have to rely on other people and social grants (Interview 7). As adults, this leads to a lack of initiative and confidence. In this way, people with disability seem to be groomed into becoming receivers rather then independent people. The receiver role is however not necessarily the easy way out, as people become very dependent on other people. They become dependent on their families and their assistants. They also become dependent on the good will of other people like those who organise their social grants. One of my participants had to leave her family to access her social grant, that was otherwise being used for the family and not for her. Another person could not access her social grant because she did not have the money to bribe the municipality worker into processing her application. The problem of bribing was also mentioned in a provincial meeting by the DPSA. Here a participant from Zululand explained that they even had problems with the doctors, who have to sign the form for the disability grant. One particular doctor charged an extra 150 Rand to fill out the form, something he was being paid for by the state. Besides the criminal element, one also needs to acknowledge that 150 Rand is a large amount of money for a disabled person who can only hope to get a maximum of 760 Rand a month from a social grant.

Another excluding factor for people with disabilities is the mystification of abnormalities33 and the following chain of reactions. One example for this is the phenomenon of albinism. It always amazed me that some people in KwaZulu-Natal believed that people with the albino condition do not die, that they just disappear. Others were hiding them in their houses and another group of people would run to the other side of the street when they saw a person with the condition (Interview 1, 2, 16). Some people quoted that they have only very recently started to see people with albino condition, a fact that is probably caused by the habit of hiding these people at home. The first conclusion one could jump to is the fact that these people are hidden at home to protect them from the sun and that indigenous knowledge even though it was not scientifically founded did make sense for this particular person.

Only after exploring, very deeply, the hidden meanings that are attached to the abnormality of albinism and their interrelationships did I begin to understand the cause of these habits. While in the Xhosa tradition albino condition is regarded as a bad omen, in the Zulu tradition it means good luck. If albino conditions are interpreted as being a bad omen, people with this condition will find it difficult to apply for a job, be successful in business or find a partner. This superstition can go so far, that a person will change the side of street he or she walks on so as to escape this bad omen. If, on the contrary, the condition is interpreted as good luck, then the person’s family will become very protective if not overprotective. The latter is especially relevant in the context of witchcraft, which is still embedded in the cultural context of KwaZulu-Natal. The possibility that someone could try to access “the albino luck” has caused people to be very suspicious. One is afraid that a child with albino condition could be abducted. If a person with the condition dies people fear that someone could come and take parts of the corpse to create a magical ´umuthi´. In an attempt to make this impossible, people with albino conditions are buried secretly (Interview 16). As a result the myth has evolved that they do not die and just disappear. For people with albino conditions this has very serious consequences. They find it difficult to operate in their communities and are, even though it might be for different reasons, excluded from various parts of social life. They might find themselves unemployed, be hidden at home or excluded from public places. They might also find it very difficult to find a permanent partner. This becomes especially relevant as people with albino condition seem to be used as sexual objects. Because of the obvious stimuli, some people develop an interest to explore them sexually. Sexual relationships are then started just to see how it is with a “white person” rather than having any serious intentions. This curiosity makes it very difficult for people with albino conditions to find stable partnerships and this causes frustration. Even though people show interest in their condition, the reasons behind it are often of a superstitious nature and do not contribute to a change from their position in the periphery.

4.3  Conclusions


This chapter attempted to explain to the reader the historic and current background of disability in South Africa and particularly in KwaZulu-Natal. Macroculturally disability issues in this part of the world have to be analysed from a historical point of view that emphasises that disability is only one of many issues the country is trying to overcome. As a young democracy South Africa is still a country that is looking for its African identity and position in the world. This struggle seems to sometimes distract political attention away from problems such as crime, HIV/AIDS and disability. The latter however often has its origin in political and social violence or through the marginalisation of disadvantaged groups of the population.

On a microcultural level women with disability experience a double burden and black women with disability need to be considered as particularly disadvantaged. One could speak of triple disadvantage. To live in a rural area could even add a fourth dimension. Women are suppressed into inferior positions. Having a disability makes them into a persona non grata. A woman with a learning disability might be accepted as a second wife, but ´lobola´ will be less or not be paid for her. A woman with a physical disability might find it almost impossible to marry. However if she finds a partner, negotiations for an equal relationship and safer sex practice might be even more difficult for her than it is for women in KwaZulu-Natal in general. Their lives seem to be dominated by the exponential function of finding a cultural identity as a Zulu-speaking person, a woman and a person with disability. All of which are a challenge in themselves.

Clearly this chapter shows that accessibility and service delivery still needs to improve substantially, so that living conditions for people with disability will improve. The statistics, as shown in Philpott’s study need to be carefully analysed so as to understand the immense impact it has on people’s lives. A disability taxi, for instance, could perhaps be a potential solution, so that people with disability could at least have access to hospitals and home affairs offices.


One must however also acknowledge that physical access and service delivery will only change a small portion of the excluding factors that people with disability experience. The notion about people with disabilities being “unclean” or “stupid” and seen as “cursed by god” and unsuitable for a partnership, influences the social life of the person. These notions about people with disabilities shall be analysed and discussed in the next chapter.

Fußnoten und Endnoten

21  The Appendix includes two maps of the study area.

22  A cultural group of Europeans that descended from the Dutch. The are also commonly called Afrikaners.

23  ANC – African National Congress

24  The Gini-coefficient is a co-efficient that describes a countries distribution of wealth. In this context 0 is regarded as complete equal distribution while 1 is the complete opposite. South Africa’s Gini-coefficient of 0.60 is very high compared to other countries (Gillespie, Suneetha, & Greener 2007, p. 11).

25  I have been reading the newspaper every day for the last 3 years and cannot recall a single day without a crime report in the paper.

26  Lucky Dube was one of South Africans most popular artists and musicians with international records. He was shot in October 2007 in an attempted hijacking at his home in front of his son. His fate is the fate of many South Africans and recently also visitors to the country. The murder of Lucky Dube, who was a prominent figure and fellow man, has made clear the fact that the rainbow nation of South Africa is facing major problems at the moment and that this can no longer be ignored.

27  Lineage is in Zulu ´umndeni´ or ´uzalo´, which comes from ´zala´ to bear or with other words to be of common birth.

28  The imagination that women are inferior to men is still embedded in all main cultures in KwaZulu-Natal be it of European, African or Indian background. A shocking discovery I made while speaking to some High School boys in a single sex school in Durban. The class was culturally mixed, but many of the boys believed in stereotypes like: “women are inferior to men”, “a woman that wears a short skirt is asking for it” (It meaning sex) and so on. I also encountered these stereotypes on many occasions while speaking to adults. I even recall a group of college students laughing at the prospect of having a female president of the country.

29  “Romance” is the local way of expressing “being in love”, which is carefully differentiated from “making love” or having a sexual relationship

30  A kraal is a traditional Zulu village or homestead

31  The White Paper is a government document about policies and in this thesis I refer predominantly to the section on inclusive education and disability.

32  CBR – Community Based Rehabilitation a concept were local people assist people with disability. CBR workers are organized within DPSA (Disabled People South Africa), who also introduced the internationally successful programme in SA.

33  This will be further explored in chapter 5.

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