The local trading store in Vaalbank, Eastern Cape, the village I come from, had a faded sign that was visible as you went into the store proper. It indicated that some “Mr Brown” had once owned the store.

While whites had a virtual monopoly on the rural trade by geographic area and race in some peri-urban areas, there were some well-to-do Africans who formally undertook this retail trade from the late 19th century in rural villages...

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