The Durban Bantu Social Centre was originally opened in Victoria Street on 21 October 1933, and later moved to this site in Beatrice Street (renamed Charlotte Maxeke Street) near the popular American Board Congregational Church. The centre opened after a period of massive black urbanisation. The Durban Municipality established a structure to control African people in the city, built on revenue generated from the municipal beer monopoly. Profits from beerhalls funded the Municipal Native Affairs Department, which was founded in 1916. Before 1933 the only places for African people to socialise were in hostels, beerhalls, the Industrial Commercial Workers’ Union Club and in a handful of churches. In order to keep African men occupied and under “suitable control” when not at work, city officials decided to establish the Durban Bantu Social Centre. It was meant to be a social, educational, recreational and entertainment venue for Africans – a place where according to its founding aims “… worthy character may be encouraged and developed. Bantu men may spend leisure time instead of roaming the streets”. Contrary to the hopes of its white founders, the centre was used by an educated black African elite to interact with working-class people and it became a platform for political meetings, giving impetus to the political objectives of the educated black political elite. In this way the Durban Bantu Social Centre played a vital role in political developments that occurred in Durban and KwaZulu-Natal for several decades. The YMCA later took over the Centre.
U-Beatrice Street YMCA
Isikhungo i-Durban Bantu Social Centre savulwa okokuqala ku-Victoria Street mhla ka 21 kuMfufu ka 1933, sabe sesithuthela kule ndawo eku-Beatrice Stree (osubizwa ngo-Charlotte Maxeke Street) bude buduze neSonto elaziwayo i-American Board Congregational Church. Lesi sikhungo savulwa ngesikhathi kwanda ukuthutheleka kwabantu abamnyama edolobheni.
UMasipala waseThekwini waqala uhlelo lokulawula abantu abamnyama edolobheni, olwalakhiwe ngezimali ezazitholakala ezinkanjini zikatshwala zikamasipala. Inzuzo eyayiqhamuka kulezi zinkambu zotshwala zaxhasa iHhovisi likaMasipala lakwaNdabazabantu, elasungulwa ngo 1916. Ngemuva kuka 1933 izindawo abantu abangama-Afrika ababevumeleke ukuzisebenzisa amahositela, izinkambu zotshwala, nezindawo zabasebenzi basezimbonini kanjalo namasonto.
Ukuze kugcinwe amadoda angama-Afrika kukhona akwenzayo futhi “elawulekile” uma engekho emsebenzini, izikhulu zedolobha zanquma ukwakha i-Durban Bantu Social Centre. Kwakuhloswe ukuba ibe yindawo yokuhlanganela, yokufunda, yobumnandi neyokuzithokozisa yabantu abangama-Afrika – indawo lapho ngokwezinhloso zokusungulwa kwayo “… kungakhiwa khona abantu abawusizo. Lapho amadoda esintu engakwazi ukuchitha khona isikhathi sawo sokuphumula ukunokwehla enyuka ezitaladini”.
Ngeshwa akuhambanga njengokuthanda kwabasunguli abamhlophe bale ndawo, lesi sikhungo sasetshenziswa yidlanzana lezifundiswa zebala elimnyama ukuxhumana nabasebenzi kwagcina sekuyinkundla yemihlangano yezombusazwe, kusatshalaliswa izinhloso zezombusazwe zedlanzana labamnyama elase lifundile. Ngaleyo ndlela-ke, i-Durban Bantu Social Centre yadlala indima enkulu ezinhlelweni zezombusazwe ezaziqhubeka eThekwini naKwaZulu-Natali amashumi eminyaka. I-YMCA iyona eyabe isithatha lesi sikhungo.