Donald Molteno: ‘Dilinzintaba – He who removes mountains’ — a biography by David Scher


Donald Molteno, Professor of Public Law, University of Cape Town, mid 1960s

Donald Molteno: ‘Dilizintaba — He who removes mountains is the only biography of Donald Molteno. It was published by the South African Institute of Race Relations and the Donald Molteno Memorial Committee in 1979, just seven years after his death at the age of sixty-four. The author, David Scher, had been a post-graduate student at the University of Cape Town. He had written a thesis for his MA degree in History entitled ‘The Career of Donald B. Molteno’. The book was based on this thesis, duly revised for publication. David Scher went on to become an academic and, as of 2013, was teaching at the University of Western Cape. He has very kindly given permission for the digitisation of his book and its appearance on this Molteno Family website. I would like to express my unreserved gratitude to David for making this possible.

It is worth drawing attention to the striking sub-title of the biography. The phrase in Xhosa, ‘Dilinzintaba’, sums up the herculean task confronting the three ‘Native Representatives’ – which is what the legislation called the three Members of Parliament elected by African voters in the Cape Province after 1936. Donald and his colleagues confronted an all-white Parliament and Government that, as the 20th Century rolled on, became more and more racist, segregationist and biased against Black South Africans. Trying to mitigate, let alone reverse, this tide in South African history was indeed like making a whole mountain in front of one vanish. Much as Donald’s constituents admired his efforts, and appreciated what help he could give in individual cases, in the end both they and he recognised that completely different strategies were required if the country was ever to realize a non-racial future.

Robert Molteno
The late Donald Molteno’s second son
November 2013.

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