Rolfes Reginald Raymond Dhlomo (1906-1971) was born near Pietermaritzburg and was the brother of renowned KwaZulu-Natal poet H.I.E. Dhlomo. He worked as a mine clerk in Johannesburg and as a freelance journalist becoming, in 1932, assistant editor of the Bantu World and, in 1943, editor of Ilanga lase Natal. Most of his creative work is in Zulu and consists of historical novels of nineteenth-century Zulu leaders: U-Dingane (1936), U-Shaka (1937), U-Mpande (1938), U-Cetshwayo (1952) and UDinizulu (1968). He wrote a novella An African Tragedy (1928), the first piece of English prose fiction by a black South African to appear in book form and presenting a sombre picture of life in the black urban slums. Under several pseudonyms including 'Rollie Reggie', 'The Randite' and 'Pessimist', he regularly sketched moral tales of life in the mining compounds for Stephen Black's magazine The Sjambok (1929-1931) - a selection is to be found in English in Africa (March 1975). In 1946 he returned to the conflict between rural and city ways in the Zulu-language Indlela Yabani ('The Evil One'), a narrative depicting the dilemmas of an African in the locations of Johannesburg.
In 2015, Dhlomo (together with HIE Dhlomo) was awarded a "Literary Posthumous Award" at the 2015 South African Literary Awards (SALAs).
(Adapted from the Companion to South African Literature - Adey, Beeton and Chapman, 1986)
from 'Evils of Town Life' in An African Tragedy(1928)
Two reasons made Robert Zulu leave teaching at Siam Village School. The first was that he wanted to get married to Miss Jane Nhlauzeko as soon as possible. But as Jane's father had asked for a silly huge sum of money and other gifts for Ilobolo Robert felt that he could not raise this sum quick enough while teaching - teachers' salaries being anything but lucrative at that time. So he made up his mind to leave teaching, and go to Johannesburg to look for work. He felt sure that there he could make more money in more ways than one, and that quickly too. The second reason was that he thought, as most foolish young people think now-a-days, that town life is better in every way than country life; and that for a young, educated man to die having not seen and enjoyed town life was a deplorable tragedy. These excuses made Robert deaf to all the efforts of his parents and friends to dissuade him from going to that most unreliable city of Johannesburg. His final decision therefore, to go to Johannesburg at all hazards, was a blow to his people, who had thought highly of him, as a young Christian teacher in the Mission. This blow was felt even more strongly by his future parents-in-law. But as Robert pointed out to his father-in-law that, unless he reduced his Ilobolo, there was no alternative open to him but that of going to Johannesburg to try and raise money quickly, his father-in-law did not argue any further. He wanted money for his daughter. He had said : " What business has Robert to ask my daughter's hand in marriage if he has no money to pay for her?" This is unfortunately the parrot-cry of many Christian fathers, the costly mistake which, in many cases, results in poor, and financially stranded homes, or driving the young lovers to the terrible alternative of a "Special License," or running away from their homes with disastrous results all too-well known. Robert Zulu had been in Johannesburg for about two years as our story begins. During this time, he had been engaged in all sorts of nefarious activities in pursuit of get-me-rich quick methods. But all these activities, instead of getting him rich only plunged him deeper and deeper in vice and evils.
1928. An African tragedy: A Novel in English by a Zulu Writer. Alice, Eastern Cape: Lovedale Press. 1935. Izikhali zanamuhla. Pietermaritzburg: Shuter and Shooter. 1936. UDingane kaSenzangakhona. Pietermaritzburg: Shuter and Shooter. 1937. UShaka. Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe Publishers. 1938. U Mpande ka Senangakhona. Pietermaritzburg: Shuter and Shooter. 1938. (n.d.) UNomalanga kaNdengezi. Pietermaritzburg: Shuter and Shooter. 1946. Indlela yababi. Pietermaritzburg: Shuter and Shooter. 1952. UCetshwayo. Pietermaritzburg: Shuter and Shooter. 1977. Izwi nesithunzi. Durban: KwaZulu Booksellers. 1996. Selected Short Stories. Grahamstown: Rhodes University.