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Women in South African Politics

Solomon T. Plaatje was born in 1876 and was one of the founding members of South Africa’s current ruling party, the African National Congress. He was a politician, intellectual, journalist and author of the seminal Native Life in South Africa. He was also a writer of fiction. His first and only novel, Mhudi, was written in 1920 and published a decade later. Despite being the first novel by a Black South African in English, it had little impact on the literary landscape of the country at the time. However, over the past century, the novel has garnered great interest from scholars. One notable aspect of the novel is that it centres a woman as its protagonist – the Mhudi of the title – and her role in resistance. Her proactive, adventurous, quick-witted character has led a number of scholars to consider the novel from a feminist perspective. In fact, it has been described as “ahead of its time” for its portrayal of women in an era when women had few rights, and Black women almost none.