The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

Selby Msimang

Henry Selby Msimang was one of the great South Africans of the twentieth century. Born in 1886 in Edendale, Pietermaritzburg, he was a founding member, interpreter and assistant to the Secretary General of the African National Congress in 1912, a president of the pioneering Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU) in the 1920s and 1930s, General Secretary of the All African Convention (AAC) in the 1930s, a member of the Natives Representative Council and provincial secretary of the Natal ANC in the 1940s and early 1950s, a prominent member of the Liberal Party in the 1950s and 1960s, and thereafter a founder and executive member of the Inkatha Yenkululeko Yesizwe in the 1970s. Such a long and diverse political career would make any person noteworthy, but Msimang was also an intellectual figure of remarkable talent – a prolific author and writer, journalist and public debater – and a man, who despite great trials and tribulations, did not compromise his principles and fundamental values, his commitment to the struggle for freedom, justice and human rights.

In short, the book deals with the universal subject of political decision-making and the complicated journey of individuals within political formations within the struggles for political liberation, human rights and social justice.

Product information

Format : 237mm x 156mm (Soft Cover)
Pages : 328
ISBN 13 : 978-1-9282-4625-1
Publish Year : April 2019
Rights : World Rights



1. Introduction

2. The early years of African nationalism, 1886–1916

3. Community activist and workers’ leader, 1917–1921

4. The politics of race, class and gender in Johannesburg, 1922–1936

5. ‘Native Representation’, 1936–1951

6. African economic emancipation

7. Relations between Africans and Indians in Natal

8. The ANC’s Programme of Action, 1949–1952

9. The Liberal Party, 1953–1968

10. Inkatha, 1972–1982

11. Conclusion


Sibongiseni is the Chief Executive Officer of the South African State Theatre. He is the former CEO of the Robben Island Museum World Heritage Site, a position he occupied from November 2010 – October 2015. Between 2004 and 2010 he was the CEO of the Market Theatre Foundation in Johannesburg and also Chief Director: Cultural Affairs at the Gauteng Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation.

Sibongiseni was born in 1971 in Impendle, in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, where he attended primary school. He did his secondary and tertiary education in Pietermaritzburg. He obtained his Master of Arts degree in History from the University of Natal (now University of KwaZulu-Natal) and his dissertation was on Mass Mobilisation and Resistance in Pietermaritzburg, with particular focus to the 1950s and 1980s. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) from the University of the Witwatersrand, which he obtained in 2015. The topic of his doctoral thesis is a political biography of Henry Selby Msimang, 1886 to 1982.

His first job was in the heritage sector. He worked as a researcher at the Natal Museum from 1997-1999. He moved on to work as a researcher (and later Acting Director) at the Local History Museums (Durban) from 1999 to 2002. He was appointed Director of the Voortrekker and Ncome Museums in July 2002 with the responsibility of turning it around and transform them so as to enable them meet the challenges of the 21st century. In August 2004 he was appointed CEO of the Market Theatre Foundation.

Sibongiseni has been a member of various arts, culture, heritage and history associations such as the South African Historical Society (SAHS); the South African Museums Association (SAMA); the KwaZulu-Natal Oral History Association (KZNOHA) as well as the International Society for the Performing Arts (ISPA). He was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Tatham Art Gallery from 2002 to 2004. He served two terms as a member of the Council of KwaZulu-Natal Museum from 2005 to 2011. In 2007 he was elected to the Executive Committee of the Theatre Managements of South Africa (TMSA) and was elected its chairperson in 2009. In 2012 he was appointed a member of the Board of Cape Town Tourism for a one year term. During 2016 and 2017 be was a member of the judging panel for the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS).

He has published articles in local and international historical and heritage journals, and has also contributed chapters in books. In addition to his passion for the governance of the arts or “the art of governance” as it relates to heritage and performing arts institutions, he is a historian with particular interest in South Africa’s twentieth century socio-economic and political history, oral history, biographical studies, heritage and the transformation of traditional governance structures.

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