Author: Sandra Swart


This essay discusses the role of horses in war through the lens of their mortality in the South African War (1899-1902). This conflict was the biggest and most modern of the numerous precolonial and colonial wars that raged across the southern African subcontinent in the late nineteenth century. Aside from the human cost, the theater of war carried a heavy environmental toll, with the scorched-earth policy shattering the rural economy. The environmental charge extended to animals. Both sides relied on mounted troops, and the casualties suffered by these animals were on a massive scale. This is widely regarded as proportionally the most devastating waste of horseflesh in military history up until that time. This paper looks at the material context of—and reasons for—equine casualties and discusses the cultural dimension of equine mortality and how combatants on both sides were affected by this intimate loss.

In: Society & Animals
In: Nature Conservation in Southern Africa
In: The Horse as Cultural Icon
In: Canis Africanis
A Dog History of Southern Africa
This suite of essays is a first for historical writing about southern Africa: they recover an animal’s ubiquitous, yet hidden presence in human history. The authors have used the dog as a way “to think about human society”. The dog is the connecting thread binding these essays, which each reveals a different part of the complex social history of southern Africa.
The essays range widely from concerns over disease, bestiality, and social degradation through greyhound gambling, to anxieties over social status reflected through breed classifications, to social rebellion through resistance to the dog tax imposed by colonial authorities. With its focus on dogs in human history, this project is part of what has been termed the ‘animal turn’ in the social sciences, which investigates the spaces which animals inhabit in human society and the way in which animal and human lives interconnect.

This article explores the role of the ‘diaspora fleet’ in Harare’s urban commuter system. Imported vehicles in the form of haulage trucks and commuter buses were one of the popular and visible forms of diasporic investment over Zimbabwe’s difficult decade spanning from 2000 to about 2010. The article argues that this diaspora fleet occupies a significant place in the history of commuting in Harare. Diasporic investment introduced a cocktail of European vehicles that quickly became ramshackle and ended up discarded in scrap heaps around the city. These imports and the businesses based on them destroyed the self-regulatory framework existing in the commuting business. This disruption was facilitated by the retreat or undermining of the state and city council regulatory instruments, which in turn created a role for middlemen, who manoeuvred to perpetuate a new and chaotic system known as ‘mshika-shika [faster-faster]’, based on a culture of irresponsible competitive gambling. This chaotic system remains in place today to the chagrin of city council planners and traffic police. Its origins, we argue, lie in the cultures and practices introduced by the diasporan vehicle fleet.

In: African Diaspora
In: Canis Africanis