Durban – As part of the Durban Book Fair this weekend, local architect Len Rosenberg will release his latest book The Buildings of the ‘Durban System’: The Architecture of Social Control, which tells the fascinating and appalling story of the city’s monopoly on the brewing of African traditional beer.
Rosenberg, the recently retired head of campus planning at the Durban University of Technology, has written a number of books on the city’s architectural and social history. They include one on Currie’s Fountain, A City Within a City, which looks at the Warwick Avenue Triangle and his PhD on forced removals from Durban’s inner city areas.
“I’m now enjoying writing books and looking at topics of interest,” he said.
“In my research, I came across this thing that was actually called the Durban system. It was a system of controlling the African people in the city by preventing them brewing their own traditional beer or utshwala. The city wanted to control what it perceived as drunkenness on the streets and the noise of shebeens popping up all over town.”
The Natal government passed a law in 1908 giving municipalities the monopoly on brewing traditional beer, and Durban’s main brewery was set up next to the KwaMuhle Museum in 1913. From this stemmed a series of municipal beer halls which were the only places African people could drink beer.