Thapelo Mokoatsi and Phindile Xaba

The Alice Times and other small publications of its ilk were a collective of small publications in the Cape Colony carrying out a colonial mission hidden in social content only meant for its white readers.

Alice Times is one of a collective of small, localized publications that were all situated in the Cape Colony of the time whose content appeared to be sunshine reporting only concentrating on social issues such as obituaries, funeral services and marriage announcements yet its political disposition was evident in the manner news was covered, it carried a colonial subjectivity.

This 4-pager, Alice Times published and edited by William Dewey, in 1878 was quite dramatic in its birth announcements, as well as death notices, making colonial lives more important than those of indigenous people.

In a letter addressed to a Marielle from Debbie Nelson published in South-Africa-Eastern-Cape-L Archives site, the newspaper is described as a “very creditable journal and circulates widely’. Dewey was known to have been a media proprietor who also ran the Seymour and Peddie Gazette, in the Cape Colony.

Reporting on colonial lives

SAD OCCURRENCE – It is with deep regret we record today a sad affliction which has befell Mr. and Mrs. D. MUNRO, of Napier Park, near Alice. It appears that on Tuesday afternoon last, Annie Agnes, aged about 21 months, the youngest child of Mr MUNRO, was playing near the house, the mother being close by. Mrs. MUNRO went into the house to get a drink for the child. She soon discovered that the child had fell into a large tank – which was partly open. Upon seeing the child in the water Mrs. MUNRO jumped in. There was about 3 or feet of water in the tank. A European came to the rescue and got both mother and child out; but the child was discovered to be either dead or dying! Dr. NANGLE was sent for, but the child was beyond medical treatment. – Alice Times, Tuesday April 30, 1889.

BIRTH at Queenstown on April 28th the wife of Edward LOGAN of twins – boy and girl. – Alice Times, Friday May 3, 1889.

DIED, at Queenstown, Monday 22nd April, 1889, Margaret Marie, infant daughter of George BERTRAM, aged ten months. – Alice Times, Tuesday April 30, 1889.

Reporting on Africans

In September 1898, the African Presbyterian Church (APC)was formed through a breakaway from the United Free Church of Scotland (UFC) mission in Lovedale. The founder, the Reverend Mzimba drew off two thirds of the congregation, or about 1000 people. His church grew rapidly, to claim 6 500 members and 20 000 adherents, by 1903. The local white community was profoundly shocked by this unexpected event. James Stewart, Rector of Lovedale, warned that “the Dwane- Mzimba movement might be described, not unjustly or inaccurately, in one word, “Anti-White or Anti-European”. The Alice Times immediately attacked the new church which was taken to be part of a new ‘movement’ with deep-seated racial motivations:

These missions are at present passing through an ordeal for which the Race Movement referred to in former articles cannot be free from blame. It is helping to fan the present rage for race exclusiveness of a people as yet quite incompetent of managing their own affairs without the sympathetic help and nurture of their white friends.

The reasons for the secession were more complex than the Alice Times correspondent admitted. Mzimba had travelled to Scotland, in 1892 for the Jubilee Assembly of the UFC, where he collected “considerable sums of money” for church work, yet their reportage was thin on facts, only intent on minimizing the impact this African led revolution had in denting missionary objectives.