Mano Murugan of the Verulam Historical Society points out where African businessmen 
sold traditional beer in the late 19th century. The society is calling on the descendants 
of Africans living in Verulam to share their stories to help them document the town’s 
history. Duncan Guy
There are some gaps in Verulam’s documented history.

The heritage society of the town, north of Durban, has chronicled the story of whites and Indians, but not as many African stories, and is calling on this community to come forward with their stories to complete the picture.

“Zulu people have a long history in Verulam. We need their descendants to come forward and give information about them. We need to show people about their importance in Verulam,” said Mano Murugan of the Verulam Historical Society.

“I am sure some of the descendants are living in Verulam and surrounding districts.”

“Some were business people, others were farmers, especially in the Grangetown area, said Murugan.

John Umfan Musulu and John Dambuza both once traded “utyala” beer in the main road - at 69 Wicks Street, which is now the Adams Centre - Musulu for 13 years from 1883 and Dambuza in 1891.

Others on record as licensed traders in the town are Alpheus Kuluse, James Ngcobo, Thomas Ntazi, William Cele, G Mhlongo, Ndaba Jele Mfeka, Sicewelete Ngangwane, William Ntuli, Philemon Mangele, Daisy Tembe and Jeremiah Sibisi.

Africans on record as having been farmers are John Madhala, Lloyd Goba and Richard Dhlamini in Grangetown; Henry Robert Mzimba in Cotton lands and Mordecai Tango and Joel Erskine Goba on leased land.

There is further mention in the heritage society’s documents of a Mr M J Mfeka, who ran a thriving business at the Town Board’s Native Eating House, and who attempted to hold a traditional Zulu dance one Saturday on the premises.

“But the Board, at its meeting on October 12, 1931, opposed the idea because it was “not prepared to permit such a function as dress of raw natives does not comply with the township’s by-laws”.

Further records are that in 1931 the Town Board and the local police” kept a close watch on a black man called William Mapumulu, who had made several attempts to call a meeting of his own people in the town”.

Mapumulu, “a known communist who was allegedly trying to incite the people because of the miserable wages and working conditions of the black people employed by the Board and the white inhabitants”, the documents read.

Meanwhile, Murugan said the society was also busy compiling the history of the Verulam suburb, Trenance Park.

“I would be grateful if any descendants of the Sykes family can come forward to reminisce about the old days spent on Trenance Sugar Estate,” he said.

The estate was founded by Richard Acutt, who arrived in Natal in 1859, and was named after the place he came from in Cornwall, in the UK.

William “Witty” Sykes bought it from Acutt and renamed it Sykes Farm.

Indentured Indian labourers referred to the farm as “Syke Kottery”.

Murugan can be contacted at 0731025274.