Abstract: Entrepreneur, Social Capital, and the Survival of Poor Whites on the Witwatersrand, 1930-2000: The Case of Burgers Brothers Clothing Enterprise

Grietjie Verhoef


The economic downturn of the 1930s was compounded by a severe drought, agricultural diseases, and growing impoverishment among whites in South Africa. Urbanization was the first survival strategy. The Burgers family started a clothing outlet targeting poor whites and specifically Afrikaners on the Witwatersrand. This paper will use social capital theory to explore the establishment of networks in the business community to facilitate the survival of their enterprise among competition from Indian traders and Jewish clothing enterprises. The family business skillfully aligned itself with the Afrikaners' cultural and political network during the war period to become a preferred provider of regular working-class clothing and school wear to working-class people in Johannesburg. The paper will explore the development of managerial strategies by this family enterprise during the postwar era of contesting nationalism, racial and language divisions in South Africa.