Groutville

Some ten kilometres to the south of KwaDukuza, cushioned among the sugar cane hills is Groutville, a peri-urban settlement. Groutville was formerly a mission reserve administered by a Chief elected by the Christian community (AbaseMakholweni). Groutville was previously known as the Umvoti Mission Reserve, until it was renamed Groutville after the first missionary from the American Board of Commissioners, Reverend Aldin Grout.

Aldin Grout and his wife Charlotte arrived in KwaZulu-Natal in 1836, and after failing to make substantial progress in deep Zululand, Grout and his wife settled near the Umvoti River. As Groutville was a mission reserve, the church played an important role in the administration of African affairs, but was not immune to colonial administration. There was a resident magistrate and Groutville fell within the broader Stanger Magisterial District.

Most of the early residents of Groutville became sugar cane planters or peasant farmers. When Grout was still a missionary at Umvoti he introduced a system of “individual land ownership”, which encouraged people to cultivate and till the land. Due to the success of farming in the area there was the establishment of the sugar mill to support aspiring African farmers.

Moreover, unknown to many people, Groutville also has the distinction of having been the birth-place of one of South Africa’s literary pioneers, the poet and author, B. W. Vilakazi. Groutville currently has a primary school that is named after him, Vilakazi Primary School.

Groutville represented a microcosm of the greater context and the complexities affecting all South Africans of colour. There was a lack of arable land, mass restrictions and rampant migrant labour due to lack of other employment opportunities available in the area. All the hardships that people experienced in Groutville influenced Luthuli to look at the broader context of South Africa, where he realized that the plight of the African was a National problem, not only confined to the people of Groutville.