Identity politics and being a Free Stater during the South African War (1899-1902): A micro-history of the inhabitants of the greater Drakensberg region
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The South African War was also a conflict about identity. Prior to the conflict, English-speakers with strong Natal ties as Orange Free State (OFS) subjects, resided in Harrismith, while Afrikaners resided along the foothills of the Drakensberg on the Natal side, but migrated seasonally with livestock to the Free State. This led to a transitional existence where identity politics transcended the transitional border of the Drakensberg. The identity politics as it existed, whereby residents along both sides of the Drakensberg thought of themselves as “Free Staters” by dint of culture, blood and association, economics, state of mind or legally, were seriously disrupted by the outbreak of the South African War. The self-gradation in terms of identity politics, whereby it was constructed rationally and contextually were, as the war progressed, systematically replaced by one imposed in the region by, first, the OFS and, once they were pushed out of Natal, by the Empire and the Colony of Natal. This had serious consequences for the identity politics as practiced along the Drakensberg. In this micro-history the identity politics of the inhabitants of the greater Drakensberg region are analysed, determining how it was impacted on by the South African War.