Moederland: Nine Daughters of South Africa by Cato Pedder - review by Gillian Slovo

Gillian Slovo

Apartheid in the Family

Moederland: Nine Daughters of South Africa


John Murray 368pp £22

In my primary school in South Africa, history was taught by rote and through dates that catalogued the stages of the white capture of the country. First up was 1652, when Jan van Riebeeck landed at the Cape. Next was 1691, when Simon van der Stel was proclaimed governor of Cape Colony. The next two landmark dates were 1835, the year Afrikaners embarked on the Great Trek away from British rule, and 1838, when Voortrekker leader Piet Retief was killed by the Zulu prince Dingane. 

There were two other important dates I learned: 1913, when the Natives Land Act restricted Africans to 7 per cent of the land, and 1948, when apartheid was enshrined in law. The details of these, however, were given to me at home since an account of the stealing of the land or even mention of the word ‘apartheid’ would have been forbidden in my whites-only school. 

Reading Moederland, many of these can be dated back to me. The author, Cato Pedder, is a great-granddaughter of Jan Smuts, who served twice as South African prime minister and whose lineage dates back to 1652. That’s where Pedder starts this book, which is part memoir, part account of

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