Picture Archive: South Africa, 1930s

Twenty years after the UN dropped its sanctions on South Africa, a look at apartheid's effects on the Zulu.

A Zulu tribesman pulls his employer in a pedicab in Durban, South Africa.


During the famed chief Shaka Zulu's reign, European settlement began in 1824 in what is now Durban, South Africa. A century later, Zulus began to filter into the coastal city, drawn by steady work.

But the influx wasn't welcome.

In 1953, the ruling Dutch set aside a separate area for the Zulu people—called KwaZulu—as part of the apartheid system. In 1981, KwaZulu was forced to become independent. The Zulu living in Durban and other cities were made to relocate there and to renounce their South African citizenship—and the rights that went with it. Jobs were all but nonexistent in KwaZulu, so many Zulu men filtered back to urban areas as migrant workers.

Decades of protest preceded and followed.

Though apartheid was officially abolished in 1991, the United Nations didn't drop its sanctions on South Africa until October 8, 1993—20 years ago last week—and the country didn't hold its first multiracial election until 1994. Nelson Mandela won.

In the months following that vote, Durban became known as the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality. Today, Zulus make up about 24 percent of South Africa's 48 million people, and Durban claims one of the largest urban concentrations of Zulus.

This photo was never published, but another image of this Zulu and several fellow pedicab drivers in Durban ran in special staff correspondent Melville Chater's April 1931 National Geographic story "Under the South African Union." Others photographed included a snake park guard, sugar-cube makers, a fire walker, and a human pincushion.

"Horn-crowned like Isis," wrote Chater of the drivers, "his legs whitewashed, his person amazingly bedecked, he and his jaunty vehicle make limousines seem drab."