A history of the practice of ukuthwala in the Natal/ KwaZulu-Natal region up to 1994.

11 December 2014

The practice of ukuthwala has of late regularly been in the news. This has spawned debates between traditionalists and modernists on various aspects related to the practice. In this article we have tracked the reported history of ukuthwala in the Natal/Kwazulu-Natal, region up to the end of White rule in 1994. The purpose of the article was to understand the historical unfolding of the practice up to the arrival of black majority rule. The concepts of ukuthwala intombi and ukuthwala ngenkani as polar opposites in the practice were used as the conceptual framework for this study. The evidence for this study comprised of both archival evidence and secondary literature. This was read against the grain to gain an understanding of not only how the practice evolved but also on how it was reported. It was found that ukuthwala only appeared in the archives when equated to abduction while the predominantly White authored secondary sources presented it, for the most part, as violent free procedures in the lead-up to marriage. The reality is that ukuthwala up to 1994 were not done in a single one-dimensional manner but were, like any other cultural custom, not practiced in one agreed upon manner. This forms the root of the post-1995 legal debates related to the practice.