The KwaMuhle Museum in Durban’s CBD tells the story of the history of the building as well as the history of apartheid South Africa – the museum building was once the headquarters of the infamous Native Administration Department. While the inside of the museum features a number of exhibitions centred around the Durban System, the courtyard also contributes to the story through a number of artworks.
A community mural completed in 1998 depicts the African male workers’ experiences of the Municipal Native Affairs Department. A series of men stand in a queue, presumably waiting for their passbooks, with the dompas forming the background of the mural. Overlain is another image that tells a lesser well known part of the apartheid story – the general tax that black Africans paid.
While the mural shows the image of £1, in January 1959, the basic general tax that black men had to pay increased to one pound and fifteen shillings. The Natives Taxation and Development Act, Act No 38 of 1958 was viewed as inequitable by the ANC for a number of reasons:
- According to the new rates African men with an income of under £140 had to pay a greater percentage of their earnings in general tax than men of any other racial group. The effect of this was such that Africans who fell into the lower income groups paid more tax than white people earning the same income
- Africans became liable to pay tax at the age of 18, while members of other race groups only paid personal tax when they reached the age of 21
- The new scheme not only increased taxes, but also took no account of taxes which were only paid by black Africans: black people had to pay a ‘local tax’ of ten shillings per year, as well as educational levies, dipping fees, grazing fees, dog taxes, and pass and compound fees
- Africans were imprisoned for non-payment of taxes, while there was no criminal sanction for other race groups. In 1955, 177,890 Africans were arrested and brought before the courts for failing to pay tax