The National Question in Post 1994 South Africa. A discussion paper in preparation for the ANC`s 50th National Conference by Z. Pallo Jordan

"The danger begins only when they make a virtue of necessity and want

to freeze into a complete theoretical system all the tactics forced upon them

by these fatal circumstances,...."

Rosa Luxemburg wrote in 1918 about the Bolsheviks. Could that admonition not

also be directed at the South African national liberation movement (NLM) and the


Comrade President Mandela has often remarked that we should not behave as if

we are dealing with an enemy whom we defeated on the battle field. Implicit in

this warning is that the enemy is still strong and might well have un-exhausted

reserves of power and energy that he could marshall against us.

What remains unsaid, but should be read between the lines, is that the

elections of April 1994 entailed a degree of compromise, some concessions and

postponements, many of which took account of the enemy`s real strength and

untapped power. Others were made to draw to our side of the conflict vacillating

class elements and strata who might otherwise have reinforced the ranks of an as

a yet undefeated enemy. Yet others were made to widen the fissures and cracks

within the enemy`s own ranks and to buy time that would enable us to consolidate

the gains made. There were also compromises forced upon us because we could

ill-afford to jeopardise the larger prize - majority rule - in pursuance of a

few uncertainties.

It is in this context that I want to locate the national question in the post

April 1994 period, focussing specifically on the issues of uprooting the

institutions of Colonialism of a Special Type (CST), Ethnicity and Culture and

Affirmative Action.

Some Comparative Comments.

1997 marks the 50th anniversary of Indian Independence, it will also be the

48th Anniversary of China`s Liberation on 1 October. These two anniversaries and

the movements associated with them probably were the central influences on the

post World War II process of decolonization.

In many respects the two movements are contemporary and their victories are

just two years apart. Yet they are referred to very differently by both

protagonists and antagonists. We speak of the "Struggle for Indian

Independence", but we speak of the "Chinese Revolution". Is there

any significance in how we refer to the two movements? Does our expression point

up a fundamental difference between the two?

The attainment of Indian Independence was of great political, social,

psychological and symbolic importance to all the peoples in the colonies. India

was the world`s largest colony. It was probably the richest British colony -

fondly referred to as the "Jewel in the Crown" in the literature of

imperial nostalgia. The independence of India in 1947 was the first decisive

triumph of the liberation movements in the colonies and semi-colonies.

Independent India was also the very first country to place the issue of racial

oppression in South Africa on the agenda of the newly founded United Nations

Organisation. As such it had a very direct bearing on the struggle of our own

people. For the other colonies it represented the implicit guarantee of colonial

freedom. It gave a very positive impetus to the irresistible drive towards

colonial freedom that unfolded during the 1950s and 1960s.

Yet, the emancipation of India came in a form that was far less than the

movement for independence had fought for. The country was partitioned along

religious lines. The creation of Pakistan was a totally arbitrary act of

colonial despotism because there was no precedent of such an entity - a Muslim

state - in pre-colonial India. That act built into India`s hard won independence

a virtually permanent source of tension. A cancer, so to speak.

The liberation of China came about by a very different route. An armed

struggle, characterised by two revolutionary Civil Wars, briefly interrupted by

a War of Resistance to Japanese imperialism, culminated in the routing of the

Goumindang`s armies and the armed seizure of power by the Communist Party at the

head of a successful peasant`s revolt.

Yet the "un-finished character" of Indian independence, is echoed

also in the liberation of China. With the support and assistance of the US,

Taiwan seceded under Guomindang rule; the British were allowed to remain in Hong

Kong until July 1997; and the Portuguese are still in Macao .

Despite their un-finished character, both these movements were nonetheless

victories. And the significance of their achievements is not diminished by the

concessions that had to be accepted or that were foisted upon them.

Virtually all the liberation movements that attained victory after 1947,

including our own, have been forced to make compromises at the point of victory.

National liberation has rarely come in the form that the movement sought.

Consequently, the terrain on which the triumphant movement has to manoeuvre

after victory is not necessarily all of its own choosing or making.

Anniversaries are important as marking a climax, the crucial nodal point in

time - the people finally assuming power. But, while we might focus on a single

day, a single event, or happenings - revolutions are not a moment, they are

processes. Processes in which there are nodal moments - like 27 April 1994 - but

they are a continuum. Our own national democratic revolution is no different.

April 27 1994 will remain a very significant day in South African history, but

in reality it merely marks a high point in a continuing process.In that ongoing

process there will be moments of rapid advance, but there will also be the need,

sometimes, to retreat. Retreating does not mean conceding defeat, it is most

often a tactical manoeuvre undertaken to put off till a more opportune time,

action one would have preferred to take in the present.

What I am suggesting therefore is that national liberation movements have, in

many cases, been compelled to postpone aspects of their programme and policy in

the light of an intractable tactical conjuncture. The retreat, in other words,

is undertaken in order to prepare for a more coherent and better planned


It is important that we boldly acknowledge and accept that the movement has

had to seek compromises and make concessions to the old order so that we could

attain the important beach-head of majority rule in 1994. A victory that was

further consolidated with the signing into law of the constitution in December


How Did We Understand Apartheid?

Since 1969 Morogoro Conference the ANC has held the view that the

contradiction between the colonised Black majority (Africans, Coloureds and

Indians) and the White oppressor state is the most visible and dominant

contradiction within apartheid ruled South Africa.It has further argued that

this contradiction could not be solved by the colonial state "reforming

itself out of existence", and consequently, only struggle to overthrow the

system of colonial domination would lead to the resolution of this

contradiction. Moreover, it was our view that since the colonial state and the

colonised people could not be spatially separated, there was no possibility of

the two co-existing - as is the case in classic colonialism where the colonial

power packs off its staff and goes home, leaving the former colony to fend for

itself. In the South African context, this necessarily meant that the struggle

would have to result in the destruction of the apartheid state.

The ANC always regarded apartheid as much more than mere racial

discrimination, though of course racial discrimination was central to its

practice. We regarded apartheid as a multi-faceted and comprehensive system of

institutionalised racial oppression with the following characteristics:

It was a system of White minority rule in which the Black majority were

staturorily excluded from the political process. Political power, except for

some marginal delegated powers, was explicitly the monopoly of the White

minority. The indigenous people were ruled as a conquered and colonised


It was based on the conquest and dispossession of the indigenous people of

their land and its wealth. This dispossession was itself institutionalised

in formal legislation. The watershed law was the 1913 Natives Land Act in

terms of which 13 per cent of the land area of the country was set aside as

"Native Reserves" and Africans were excluded from land ownership,

save by special licence, in the remaining 87% of the country. Consequently,

access to the decisive sectors of productive land was racially determined to

the advantage of the Whites.

The dominant White minority enjoyed an undisguised monopoly over economic

power - the land, mines, industry and commerce - which was racially

apportioned to its advantage. As a result the propertied classes were

virtually exclusively White, while Blacks, on the whole, owned little or no


It was a system of labour coercion in which a multiplicity of

extra-economic devices had been deployed with the specific purpose of

compelling the indigenous people to make themselves readily available as a

source of cheap labour power.

In order to function, the system had required a highly repressive state

machinery, which was directed against the conquered people whom the

apartheid rulers regarded as a rightless mass to be held down by force of


All of this was rationalsed on the basis of the racial superiority of the

Whites. Apartheid was however also a racial hierarchy, graded on the basis of

skin colour, resulting in a high degree of differentiation among the oppressed

in terms of job opportunities, access to certain types of training, the exercise

of property rights, etc. At the core of the system of national oppression was

the conquest and domination of the African majority who were the most exploited

and oppressed.

National oppression thus found expression in the palpable form of a number of

economic, social and developmental indicators - such as poverty and

underdevelopment, the low levels of literacy and numeracy among the oppressed

communities, their low access to clean water, the non-availability of

electricity, their low food consumption, their invariably low incomes, the poor

state of their health, the low levels of skills, the generally unsafe

environment in which these communities lived, etc. Thus the uprooting of

national oppression required, amongst other things, the correction of precisely

these conditions. In the view of our movement the content of freedom and

democracy would be the radical transformation of South African society so as to

create an expanding floor of economic and social rights for the oppressed

majority. The changes that we felt would bring about this transformation were

set out in our Programme, the Freedom Charter. Though it is not a programme for

socialism, the Freedom Charter envisaged the seizure of economic assets in the

land, the mines and monopoly industry as essential to the transformation of

South Africa.

How Do We Understand April 1994?

It would not be unreasonable to characterise 27 April 1994 as the

commencement of a new phase of South Africa`s national democratic revolution.

The democratic elections ushered in political democracy, enabling the people of

this country for the first time to put in office a government of their choice.

But the political democracy that came into being was one based on a host of

preceding institutional arrangements.

Firstly it was parliamentary democracy, on the British model, which

prescribes that the executive be constituted by the party that held the majority

of seats in parliament. Secondly, there were the terms agreed at Kempton Park,

that parties that polled more than five percent of the total poll could enter

into a coalition of national unity.

However, political democracy also placed in the hands of the democratic

government, led by the ANC, levers of power which could be used to address the

most immediate and pressing social and economic needs of the oppressed

communities. The RDP was an attempt to reconcile our vision of transformation

with what was immediately attainable in practice. The RDP has been further

refined through the government`s GEAR strategy, which is aimed at

operationalising the RDP in the context of the global environment within which

South Africa has to live. But parliamentary democracy means that the ANC has now

entered the era of electoral politics.And winning a working majority in the

legislative chamber at local, provincial and national levels determines whether

or not we will be given the mandate to govern.Electoral politics requires that

we package our policies and tasks in a platform that can muster the votes needed

to win at the polls.

Without the mandate of the electorate, the movement will not have the

authority to put in place the programmes that can bring nearer the attainment of

our strategic goals.[i]

Our message of a "Better Life for All" in 1994 , was a bid to

encapsulate the long term and immediate objectives of the movement in a catchy

and memorable phrase. True to itself and its traditions, the ANC also addressed

itself to the entire nation, rather than a section of it. In spite of this the

election results demonstrated that we garnered support mainly from the African

people, sections of the Coloured and Indian middle classes and a tiny fraction

of Whites. In KwaZulu- Natal a sizeable portion of the African rural population

supported the IFP, as did sections of the White and Indian professional classes.

The overwhelming majority of Coloured and Indian working classes voted for the

National Party. Whites went overwhelmingly for the NP; a sizeable fraction of

the Afrikaners voted FF, while the remainder, a tiny fraction totalling 2% of

the electorate, voted DP.

The policy positions the ANC put forward could not be faulted by any of its

opponents. Some even sought to mimic them! But the election results indicated

that in many instances it was identification with particular parties and fear of

others, rather than political platforms per se that persuaded voters how to cast

their votes. Race, ethnicity, gender and class were very evidently salient

factors in voter choice.

The National Question in Context.

As conventionally understood in South Africa, as elsewhere, the National

Question concerns the oppression of one or a number of other people/s by a

dominant colonial power. Consequently, the right to self-determination or to

national freedom/independence does not apply to the dominant group, but is

applied exclusively to the oppressed or dominated group. [Thus it would have

been absurd for Britain to have characterised the decolonisation of India as an

act of British self-determination.] International law, as it evolved after World

War II, including a number UN Security Council resolutions on South Africa,

further underwrote this interpretation of the right to self-determination.

International law, convention and established tradition does not recognise any

right to self-determination by an oppressor group or nation. This is a right

that can be claimed exclusively by the oppressed!

What then is the relevance of this to South Africa today?

Among the tactical options the ANC was compelled to consider was that of

accommodating the demand for a Volks chamber on the part of the White ultra-

Right. I submit that it would be utterly wrong to interpret this as some form of

recognition of the right to self-determination on the part of the Afrikaners.

Firstly this would violate every precept of international law as it has

evolved since 1945, and would also run counter to the ANC`s own conception of

self- determination.

How then do we view our acceptance of the Volks chamber?

The example of the Volks chamber serves to highlight a concession that is

most glaringly inconsistent with both the democratic foundations of the South

African constitution and the tradition to which the ANC has always adhered.

There are a number of others, perhaps less jarring, which had to be made at the

time as a means of smoothing the transition. It is however of paramount

importance that we assess whether these were temporary arrangements which should

not be allowed to congeal into a status quo or were regarded as options that

could become permanent. I would like to discuss some of these concessions, as

well as their tactical significance in relation to how we view ethnicity, the

issue of culture, affirmative action and the emergence of a black capitalist


It has become impolitic in South Africa to speak of tribalism. Firstly,

because this is an expression that has been used by racists and other enemies of

the African people as a means of stigmatising Africans as peculiarly prone to

"tribalism". Secondly, many have argued that what are usually referred

as "tribes" in the African context, in Europe would be called nations,

or at least nationalities. "Tribe" by this account is yet one other

example of derogatory language applicable exclusively to Africans as a way of

belittling us. Thirdly, the term "tribalism" is itself highly

politically charged and consequently adds more heat than light to an argument.

We have developed a preference for "ethnicity" as a consequence.

The South Africa that was finally brought under White control and domination

at the end of the Anglo-Boer War had formerly been divided amongst at least nine

different African political communities. In the south east there had been the

kingdoms of the Xhosa, sub-divided into a number of principalities (or

paramountcies as the colonialists preferred to call them); in the north east the

Zulu Kingdom; the Tsonga kingdom; and the Venda Kingdom. On the highveld were

the baPedi kingdom, the Tswana and southern Sotho Kingdoms. In addition to these

there were the independent Coloured principalities of the Gri(qua) and

Nama(qua), under the leadership of Kapteins (Chiefs) At the Berlin conference of

1884 the colonial powers of Europe had shared Africa out amongst themselves. In

many instances the newly established colonial borders divided these kingdoms, as

was the case with the Swazi kingdom, whose people lived on either side of the

borders, the southern Sotho, the Tsonga and many of the Tswana.

Conquest, accompanied by the growth of agrarian capitalism and later mining,

had set in train a number of socio-economic processes that continue to unfold

till this very day. The colonial authorities regarded all Africans, irrespective

of their affiliation or origin, as a conquered and subject people. A handful

could, by the grace of the colonial regime, buy their way out of their helot

status by acquiring property of a certain value, or by practising a profession

or by engaging in a trade that earned a certain income. These were the

"exempted Natives", who in the Cape and Natal were allowed to vote and

were not required to carry passes. Large numbers of Africans, formerly outside

the modern economy, were drawn into it first on the mines, then in the

developing urban areas.

Most importantly, conquest had drawn African, Coloured, White and the most

recent immigrant population, the Indians , into a common society in which the

capitalist economy, dominated by the Randlords of British descent was

pre-eminent.The Africans` shared status as colonised people conspired with the

economic evolution of the country to create the material conditions for the

birth to a national consciousness. This emergent national consciousness was

articulated first by the African intelligentsia - clergymen, professionals - in

the first decade of this century.

Before and immediately after the Anglo-Boer war, the Colonial authorities in

London, had mitigated the worst excesses of the settler White minority in South

Africa. Indeed Britain had entered the war proclaiming as one of her aims the

amelioration of the condition of Africans in the two Boer Republics. Because of

this Black intellectuals and political leaders had come to regard the British

government, and those South African Whites who identified with the imperial

power, as protectors, patrons and allies. Britain promptly betrayed these

undertakings once the Boers had been defeated and sought instead an

accommodation with her former enemies to "keep the darkies in their

place." The 1905 Native Affairs Commission sealed the British imperial

state`s betrayal of the hopes of all Blacks by confirming their colonial status

in no uncertain terms. National consciousness emerged as a response to conquest

and the shedding of past illusions about the imperial state.

The main agencies for the socialisation of Africans into modern life were the

mines and factories, churches, schools, formal and informal orgainsations, and

as literacy grew, the press and other media. All of the latter were controlled

by the Black intelligentsia. Acculturation thus unfolded largely as a process

guided by them and on their terms. This accounts for the extra-ordinary

ideological hegemony of this stratum over modern African communities despite its

puny numbers. The values and mores of this intelligentsia were quintessentially

the product of transition from pre-colonial to colonial society. In the urban

areas new opportunities arose for mixing with Africans and other Blacks from

diverse social,ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious backgrounds. In the

towns education, training, skill, wealth and other achievements were the measure

of status rather than lineage and descent. New points of contact based on

economic, social and political activity in this new environment assisted in

forging new identities. The jettisoning of some inherited values, the retention

of others and the embracing of new ones, made for a more variegated cultural

surroundings which offered more opportunities for the energetic, the creative

and talented.

At the same time the homogenising effect of urbanisation on the whole society

expanded the area of shared values among Africans, Coloureds, Indians and Whites

as members of a common society. The Black - African, Coloured and Indian -

leadership that grew within these circumstances accepted the modern world

because they recognised its liberatory potential in opening up new vistas for

themselves and their people. They were modernists.[ii]

Thus by the time the Act of Union was passed in 1909, Africans drawn from

varying ethnic stocks belonged to the same church, worked at the same jobs,

played the same games, read the same newspapers, belonged to the same sports

clubs and shared the same political ideals. Thus one person could be of Zulu

birth, be a member of the Congregational Church, work as a clerk on the mines,

be a star soccer player, a reader of The Star, and a member of the Native Voters

Association, like his neighbour who was Venda, Xhosa, Tswana, Sotho, etc. Such

urban Africans shared many of these affiliations with Whites, Coloureds and


The modernist African intelligentsia consequently evolved an inclusive vision

of South Africa, embodied in Rev. Z. R Mahabane`s invocation of: "The

common fatherhood of God, and the brotherhood of man". From its inception

African nationalism in South Africa eschewed ethnicity, racism and tribal

particularism in favour of a non-racial national agenda expressed in the

preamble of the Freedom Charter as "South Africa belongs to all who live in


This process of homogenisation grew apace with time, picking up speed

particularly during and after World War II when millions of Africans from the

rural areas were called forth to man industry. As the members of this urbanising

African community restructured and reconstituted their identities to take

account of the new roles that living and working in a modern economy imposes on

them, so too have the significance of particular language communities and ethnic

backgrounds assumed diminished importance in the manner in which they conduct

their lives.

The concept of a common society was also embraced by the left-wing of the

then pre-dominantly White labour movement, organised as the South African

Communist Party, in 1924. A handful of White liberals within the dominant

capitalist classes began to see it as the inevitable result of the changes

wrought by World War II. White liberalism made its last ambivalent attempt to

force this recognition on the rest of White South Africa through the 1946 Fagan

Commission on Native Laws. Otherwise the majority of White South Africans

rejected the notion of a single society, and insisted on excluding Blacks from

common citizenship.

Colonialism of a Special Type (CST) carried within it two contradictory

tendencies - the one, segregationist ; the other, its counter-vailing trend, an

integrating impulse. Capitalist development in a colonial setting co-opted the

numerous existing instruments of coercion, including racism, and created others

of its own for purposes of capital accumulation. Victorian racist ideology,

merged with that of the ex-Boer Republics, was the chief instrument of the

emergent capitalist classes. The empirical facts of institutionalised racial

discrimination, arranged in the hierarchical manner already referred to, have

acted upon the consciousness of South Africans to the same or a greater degree

than the objective socio-economic forces. The society at large, including the

economic institutions themselves, have been the objects of forces and political

currents generated within the dominant racist order.

The Segregationist Forces.

The principal counter-vailing tendencies to integration were the economic

interest of the dominant White capitalist classes - in mining and agriculture -

and the sectional interests of the Afrikaner petty bourgeoisie.

Like any other dominant class, the White oligarchy in mining and commercial

agriculture sought to limit access to their economic and social status. Law,

inherited custom and the mores of British colonialism in Africa were used to

deny Africans access to various forms of productive property. This was first

applied in the mines, but was incrementally extended to commercial agriculture,

then to various trades and professions,then to a number of commercial

activities, culminating in "Stallardism", that excluded Africans from

the urban areas except when "ministering to the needs of the Whites".

By the 1920s all Whites, including the recently landed immigrant and even the

beggar, were defined as members of an exclusive community, collectively endowed

with certain rights and prerogatives solely on account of their race.

Racial domination - in its various guises of "white supremacy with

justice" a la Smuts` United Party, or the "apartheid" of

the National Party - was also the means of domination employed in the pursuance

of particular class interests. By legislative fiat and administrative measures,

the White autocracy steadily destroyed the property-owning classes among Blacks.

Beginning with the Natives Land Act of 1913, these measures were followed up by

the Natives Land and Trust Act of 1935, the Asiatic Land Tenure Act of 1946, The

Group Areas Act of 1951, the Bantu Authorities Act of the same year and a host

of others that bankrupted the Black property-owning classes by restricting their

rights to own property and engage in commerce. Policies such as the White labour

policy instituted by the Nat- Labour Pact government after 1924, then further

elaborated in the Job Reservation Act of 1954 also made certain forms of skilled

work the exclusive preserve of Whites. State policy thus created a racial

hierarchy graded by skin colour, with Whites at the top and Africans at the


An intricate dialectic of race and class was thus devised, resulting in a

class stratification coinciding in large measure with a racial hierarchy, so

that in general terms the overwhelming majority of Blacks were propertyless

working people, while the propertied classes were virtually lily White. The

ANC`s policy thrust of tilting in favour of the working class and its mass

organisations is grounded in this reality. Historical expreience is also the

basis of the alliance with the Communist Party and COSATU.

These racial exclusions were institutionalised in the 1909 Act of Union, then

by extension differentially applied to the other Blacks. Indians, as a

numerically weak minority of recent immigrants, were the easiest victims.

Coloureds, the majority of whom were the descendants of propertyless servants

and former bonded persons, were to witness steady encroachments on their rights

well into the 1970s.

The second powerful reinforcement of racism came from the sectional interests

of the Afrikaner petty bourgeoisie and intelligentsia. British victory in the

Anglo- Boer War destroyed Afrikaner independence and threatened to plunge the

Afrikaner people into a cosmopolitan, industrialising society dominated by

British monopoly capital. The impoverished Afrikaner ex-farmer of the early

1900s, like his African and Coloured counterparts, entered the job market as the

least skilled and least acculturated to urban life. All three these groups of

former peasants now had to re-invent and restructure their identities as new

persons living in a common society. From the perspective of the Afrikaner petty

bourgeois intelligentsia - whose domain was the Dutch reformed churches and its

educational institutions - this process held out the prospect of the urbanising

Afrikaner community drifting away from the church, the "volk" and

other institutions dominated by themselves.

Consequently, the bearers of Afrikaner nationalist ideology were the small

property owners and related strata amongst the Afrikaners, whose livelihood

depended on the preservation and elevation of that community`s distinct

language, the preservation of its churches and exclusive schools, as well as

other institutions. They manipulated the totems and symbols of the Afrikaner`s

recent past - defeat in war, the destruction of their republics, suffering at

the hands of the British occupation forces, etc - to cocoon their community

against the influences of the cosmopolitan environment. An ethnic nationalism,

which alleviated the pain of the Afrikaner working people`s alienation, but

could not redress their political and economic subordination was the result.

Afrikaner ethnic nationalism defined an ethnic "home" for a people who

had been rudely torn from their pre-industrial life by war and bankruptcy and

placed them under the ideological domination of the Afrikaner propertied classes

who thenceforth employed ethnic mobilisation as the means to carve out a niche

for themselves in South Africa`s developing capitalist economy.

The Afrikaner nationalists found ready helpers among the right wing of the

White labour movement, led by the South African Labour Party. An electoral pact

between the two in 1924, defeated Smuts` South African Party and began an

inexorable reinforcement of racism through law. The White labourites hoped to

promote the claims of White workers to certain rights by an appeal to their

status as Whites in a colonial society. White labourism`s alliance with the

racists was sealed at the expense of the Black people in general, but the Black

working class in particular.As the majority of White workers embraced racism, so

too did they drift away from the Labour Party which virtually disappeared from

White South African politics by the outbreak of World War II. This led to the

coalescence of a racial bloc - Whites as a dominant racial group - led by the

capitalist classes, who projected the particular interests of the White

propertied classes as the general interest of all Whites.

The third, but no less important countervailing trend was White racist state

policy. Once institutionalised, racial domination and its twin, racism infected

every pore of society. The compound labour system, originally designed to give

mining employers greater control over their work force, was extended to

virtually every section of African workers. After the Report of the Stallard

Commission in 1923, Africans were arbitrarily defined as aliens in all the urban

areas of the country. They were residentially segregated to improve control over

their movements and residential segregation quickly became the norm in urban

areas outside a few areas of the Cape, Natal and some freehold locations in


The Evolution of So-Called African Customary Law.

But the chief institutional plank of segregatory politics came as a response

to an emergent, inclusive African nationalism as expressed in the phenomenal

growth of the ICU during the 1920s. The formulation of "Native policy"

in the Nat-Labour Pact government of 1924 was in the hands of so-called

"experts" from Natal, schooled in the Shepstonian policies of divide

and rule.

Dismayed at the ability of the urban blacks (mainly African and Coloured) to

master the organisational skills appropriate to their environment these experts

hit on the notion: "Bantu communalism rather than Bantu Communism" as

a riposte. This was translated into the Native Laws Amendment Act of 1927 - the

earliest attempt to create a comprehensive legal framework for racial oppression

- which statutorily changed all African chiefs into servants of the state and

elevated the Governor-General to the status of "Supreme Chief of all

Natives" (in much the same fashion as the king of Britain was Emperor of

India.) All Africans, irrespective of their preference, would henceforth be

assigned to a "tribe" and placed under the authority of chief or

headman to whom they would be obliged to pay allegiance. The chiefs and headmen

were given extra-ordinary powers of coercion over their "subjects".

They were granted power to administer the distribution of land,

"tribal" justice, and the system of labour recruitment and control.

Thus a parallel legal and administrative regime, applying exclusively to

Africans, was established. Its impact was, and continues to be, particularly

severe on African women whose rights are radically curtailed in terms of what

purports to be "African customary law". A key component of the

"triple oppression of African women" were the institutions of

so-called "customary law", which reduced them to the status of legal

minors, constricting even further the very limited rights African women could

claim under apartheid.

These measures were touted as the promotion of "traditional" forms

of African government and the recognition of "traditional" African

leaders, whom the racist state saw and treated as a counterweight to the modern

political leadership offered by the intelligentsia and the urban labour


There was, however, little or nothing that was traditional about these

"traditional authorities" created and installed by the White minority

government. No nineteenth century African king or prince would have recognised

himself in the tinpot autocrats invented by the 1927 Act.

The institutional incorporation of "traditional" leaders was a

thorough corruption of pre-colonial legal traditions and merely an extension of

racial domination by proxy. As system of indirect rule favoured by colonial

powers everywhere. Its purpose was creating a caste of relatively privileged

Africans who would thus acquire a direct material interest in the preservation

of the institutions of racial domination at the expense of their own people. The

fact that some of these cooptees could trace descent from the pre-colonial heads

of kingdoms and other notables was purely incidental. The White minority state

repeatedly demonstrated its low regard for such niceties by the arbitrary

deposition of legitimate chiefs and the elevation of lesser figures in a lineage

purely on the basis of their attitude towards the racist state.

Because their livelihoods depended on it, these "traditional"

authorities acquired an interest in fostering an ethnic consciousness by

wielding the totems, symbols and other paraphernalia of a particular

"culture" or practises that differentiated their subjects from those

of other chiefs. Language and "customs" proved useful foils in such an

exercise. The power of "traditional" authority was augmented with the

active connivance of the mining industry who agreed to recognise

"tribal" affiliation in the housing of their labourers in the

compounds. This device was eagerly seized upon by other employers of migrant

workers who readily recognised it as a cheap means of extending further control

over their workforce.

Thus was "bantu communalism" harnessed to combat, not only

communism, but more importantly, an inclusive, progressive African nationalism.

The revival of African ethnicity thus had little to do with nostalgia for past

greatness on the part of the Africans. It was even less the articulation of a

"psychological urge" (as the theorists of ethnicity claim) to cohere

as members of a unique ethnic community. It clearly was a deliberate act of

state policy to subvert the struggle for equality and freedom on the part of the

African people.

After 1927 the African chiefs and other notables, who had been accorded a

special status as an "upper House" in the ANC, with some outstanding

exceptions, withdrew from the national liberation movement. By 1936 the House of

Chiefs had fallen to disuse. It was finally abolished under A.B. Xuma`s

Presidency in 1943.

Verwoerd and the Rise of the Ethnic Entrepreneur.

The NP`s victory at the polls in 1948 marked the political defeat of those

amongst the Whites who had accepted a common society. The White electorate

effectively turned its back on liberalism in 48 offering it only the

extra-parliamentary route to attain its goals. African Nationalists, Communists,

liberals and other democrats collectively would thenceforth have to devise new

strategies to realize a common society.

Though the White minority regime had assigned "bantu communalism" a

distinct role in the strategy of domination, it vacillated in its use of the

chiefs as an instrument of power. It was only under the post-1948 NP regime that

Verwoerd set out quite deliberately and more consistently to sponsor the

"traditional leaders" as the state`s front forces of repression in the

rural areas set aside for African occupation and as a rival centre of political

authority to the national liberation movement .

Verwoerd`s method differed from that of previous White pro-consuls over the

"bantus" in that he invested both money and personnel in raising the

stature of the "traditional" authorities to transform them into the

central players in a chain of political patronage, presided over by Pretoria.

The "traditional authorities" would be the vital transmission point

for such patronage. By this device Verwoerd hoped to endow the "traditional

leaders" with a greater degree of authority by disbursing tangible material

rewards to them, which they in turn could dispense to helpers, supporters and


Verwoerd theorised his strategy in terms of apartheid ideology, arguing that

South Africa was not a common society. An historical accident had resulted in

the artificial forcing together of members of a number of discrete nations.

Thirteen of these were the "bantu nations", the others were the

Afrikaners, the Brits, the Coloureds and Namas, and the Asians. By his account,

each of these "nations" was striving for independence, which apartheid

was designed to facilitate, by creating the space for each to "develop

along its own lines."

The first step the regime took in this direction was the Bantu Authorities

Act of 1951, which further inflated the powers of "traditional

leaders", but simultaneously increased the apartheid state`s control over

them as well. All through the 1950s into the early 1960s, peasants resistance to

the impositions of the racist regime, converged with the resistance of specific

chiefs and lineages to the corruption of African tradition as they understood

it. The upshot was the peasant uprisings in Witzieshoek (Qwaqwa), Sekhukhune

(Lebowa), Rustenburg and Zeerust. The exception to this pattern was the revolt

of the Transkei peasants in 1960 to 1961, which was directed against both the

newly installed "Bantu authorities" and their paymasters in Pretoria.

That revolt was inevitably led by commoners who identified with the modern

liberation movement and whose assemblies adopted the Freedom Charter as their


In the wake of African independence and the rural uprisings of the 1950s and

early 60s, the apartheid regime took its strategy still further. Still under the

guidance of Verwoerd, by then elevated to the post of Prime Minister in

recognition of his services, the "Bantu Self-government Act" was

passed in 1961, ostensibly as the first step to granting independence to the

developing "bantu nations". The 13 percent of the land area of South

Africa set aside as "Native Reserves" in 1913 was now redefined as

"Bantu homelands" where, Verwoerd proclaimed, all African political

aspirations would have to be realised. By definition all African claims in the

rest of the country were thus illegitimate and intrinsically seditious.

The act was however an extremely cynical political sleight of hand designed

to delegate further repressive powers of control to the "traditional

leaders" and to enmesh them even more thoroughly in the enforcement of

apartheid. To make the package more attractive to those who would go along with

it, the means of political patronage were greatly augmented as were the

arbitrary powers "traditional authorities" were granted over their

subjects. Verwoerd`s pro-consuls assiduously revived long forgotten

chieftaincies and scoured even urban townships to uncover individuals with some

tenuous link to an obscure lineage in order to give substance to this new policy

thrust. Once found, such non-entities were encouraged to stake their claims and

were duly crowned as"headmen", "chiefs", or "paramount

chiefs" by the "supreme chief of the Natives". The

"traditional leaders" were encouraged to become ethnic entrepreneurs,

who could acquire the status of "royalty" and enrich themselves

provided they were prepared to do the bidding of the apartheid regime. To lend

some dignity to this deceitful exercise, the regime also assisted its appointees

to constitute what were purported to be modern political parties, but were in

fact machines for the dispensing of patronage. The Chief of the Buthelezi clan

in KwaZulu proved to be the most adept at using the instruments of the

"homeland" system in constructing a political machine and an effective

system of patronage.

At the same time the draconian powers that the 1927 Act had vested in the

"supreme chief of the Natives" were wielded with a new vigour to

depose those who proved unwilling to cooperate; to exile and deport those who

were defiant; as well as to elevate the most willing collaborators. Thus, for

example, Chief Kaiser Matanzima, from a relatively junior lineage among the

Tembu, was raised to the same status as his cousin, King Sabata Dalindyebo. And

at the other extreme, Chief Moroamocha of the baPedi, who refused till his dying

day to cooperate with the apartheid state, was deposed and condemned to internal


Ethnicity, specifically that associated with the "homelands" and

"bantustan" politics, quite clearly has nothing to do with

"blood", "the ancestors, "the soil" and other

attributes which ethnicists invariably invoke. It does however have everything

to do with White racist policies to thwart the aspirations of our people for

freedom, democracy and equality.

The National Question in Post Apartheid South Africa.

The sub-heading elicits the question: Is there a national question in post

Apartheid South Africa? The easy answer is: not in the form in which it is

conventionally understood! Racism is no longer institutionalised; all South

Africans now have the franchise; racial restrictions on property rights and on

access to the professions, trades, forms of work have been abolished; the

instruments of labour coercion have been done away with; and a democratic

constitution has put an end to legal repression.

Yet no one can pretend that South Africans share a common patriotism and a

common vision of the future of their society. Ours is still a highly racialised

society and, since the 1970s, racism has been amplified with a sharpening of

ethnic attitudes.

Both racism - attitudinal as well as institutional - and ethnicity are

functions of the development of South African capitalism in a colonial milieu.

Ethnicity, we have demonstrated, was artificially fostered by the Afrikaner

nationalist intellectuals and the White minority state. In the one instance as

an instrument of ideological domination over the Afrikaner working people; and

in the other, to create an opposing centre of authority to the political

leadership coming from the modernist intelligentsia and the labour movement.

Though rooted in these material realities, both forms of ethnicity have

produced resonances within the society, and often for very similar reasons.[iii]

Less stable and consequently more erratic, is the ethnic consciousness

presently found among the Coloured and Indian communities. As Black national

minorities both these communities suffered under the apartheid regime, though

the extent was marginally better than that endured by Africans. What is peculiar

about both is that neither is an assertive identity of "selfhood". In

the case of both communities there is a dependent identification with their

former White masters who are now regarded, at best, as "the devil we

know", and at worst, as a bulwark against a perceived "black

peril" - the African majority - which supposedly will take away their jobs,

housing and welfare opportunities.

The driving force behind this ethnic` consciousness is competition with

fellow Blacks over scarce resources. The perception of Africans as a clear and

present threat is reinforced by a powerful mood of contingency - a fear of

change - which would much prefer the known world to remain as it is, rather than

risk the uncertainties of change. To the sections of these communities who

embraced this outlook, the NP represented the continuity they craved. The

electoral behaviour of Coloured and Indian working people is unlikely to change

until visible delivery on the part of the democratic government demonstrates

that there could be sufficient resources for all the disadvantaged.

Affirmative Action, Corrective Measures and the Freedom Charter.

This paper proceeds from the premise that the ANC had to make a number of

distasteful concessions to the old order in order to secure the beach-head of

majority rule in 1994. These were made with the implicit understanding that the

main thrust of movement policy would be to consolidate that beach-head and

employ it to lay the foundations of a truly democratic society.

We have further argued that the economic unification of the country spawned a

number of centripetal forces which have conspired to create a common South

African society. However, the productive relations structured and determined by

CST, reproduced a racial hierarchy which was institutionalised and has

engendered equally centrifugal forces reinforced by the racial and ethnic

divisions sponsored by the apartheid state.

Our third premise is that the national liberation movement, with the ANC at

its head, has been the most consistent advocate of an inclusive South African

nationhood rooted in the universalist, liberatory outlook of modernity and the

realities and imperatives of South Africans of all races sharing a common

territory. Arising from these, I would contend that issues of democracy, non-

racialism and national liberation, on the one hand, and those of racial

oppression and ethnicity, on the other hand, come together in acute fashion. And

that the attitude one adopts to these two sets of issues defines distinct


The ANC has always held that democracy, national liberation and non-racialism

are inseparable. But, we have equally forcefully said that for democracy to

advance national liberation it must entail the empowerment of the oppressed and

most exploited - the Africans, Coloureds and Indians. The institutional form

this democracy assumes therefore is of crucial importance to us. The Freedom

Charter remains the seminal statement of our movement`s vision. Empowerment as

laid down in it envisages the radical restructuring of key aspects of the

economy so as to destroy the material basis of the White racist power structure.

It is this context that I want to pose the issues of Affirmative Action and

Corrective Action.

No serious person, even from among our opponents, could pretend that South

Africa today is not a country of far greater opportunity than it was ten years

ago. The opening up of new opportunities for many who never had a chance to

pursue their own ambitions, aims and individual aspirations before has created

an environment conducive to the emergence of a class of Black capitalists, a

stratum of very senior Black managers and business executives, a stratum of

senior Black civil servants and bureaucrats, a stratum of Black professionals,

as well as a Black lower middle class. And, Sandile Dikeni`s tastes

notwithstanding, there is nothing wrong with this.

After all the struggle for democracy was also a struggle to create

opportunities for men and women of colour to rise as high as their talents can

take them. Obviously the ANC cannot bar Blacks from becoming and being

capitalists, any more than it could debar them from becoming lawyers, doctors,

accountants, engineers, skilled workers,etc.The high visibility of these strata

should not deceive us. In absolute terms they number far, far fewer than their

equivalents among Whites.

The vast majority of Blacks, however, remain workers and other working


The movement adopted as policy the conscious and deliberate de-racialisation

of South Africa by undertaking a host of measures, among which are affirmative

action, to ensure that the results of decades of systematic discrimination and

denial of job opportunities are reversed. In other words, the purpose of

affirmative action is to create circumstances in which affirmative action will

no longer be necessary.

The practical implementation of these policies, outside the public sector,

has however been problematic. In both the Western Cape and KZN, the impression

has quite deliberately been fostered that affirmative action entails the laying

off of Coloured and Indian workers or denying opportunity to Coloured and Indian

workers to create opportunities for Africans. The mischievous intent of these

practices is obvious and it has already produced handsome returns for the NP in

both constituencies.

Racial and ethnic flashpoints over what are seen as diminishing job

opportunities are thus being created to compound the existing tensions

encouraged by the racial hierarchy in jobs and skills of the past.

The questions we have to pose are, do we see it as one of our tasks, among

others, to legislate and lay down strict guidelines for the implementation of

this aspect of policy? Should such guidelines apply to all categories of jobs or

only to certain ones? Would the most effective means of implementation require

the setting of targets by government and the private sector? To what extent

should government hold the public sector corporations to account for their

implementation of affirmative action?

Beyond the sphere of employment, systematic exclusion from opportunity and

property rights has also left a legacy of unrepresentativity in every sector of

the economy. Captains of industry in South Africa are invariably White males.

The same category of persons dominate the boardrooms of every major corporation

in mining, industry, banking and commerce. Commercial farming is virtually by

definition the preserve of Whites.

In the de-racialisation of society, is the fostering and encouragement of

these emergent Black middle classes one of the ANC tasks ? And, if we say it is

not, what will be the consequences of that choice? [because like it or not,

these classes and strata are emerging and will evolve.] If the ANC does not

relate to them other political forces will. Who will those forces be? With what

consequences? What will/should the content of our engagement with these emergent

middle classes be ?

The ANC itself is a multi-class movement, yet it would be correct to say that

historically our`s is a movement that has received far greater support from

certain classes than from others. Since the 1940s, it is specifically the

African working class of town and country who have been the movement`s main base

of support. Historically the movement has employed the classic weapon of working

class struggle - the general strike - as its principal method of peaceful

struggle. Because of the relative weight of the working class and other working

people among the oppressed the ANC has also tilted unambigiously in favour of

their cause and aspirations.

But we insist that the multi-class bloc constituted under the leadership of

the ANC is essential for the transformation process. I would suggest that this

implies that the ANC`s engagement with the emergent Black bourgeoisie should

involve the elaboration of certain standards of conduct and a business ethic

that will speed the realization of the postponed goals` of the national

liberation movement. In the immediate timeframe this must include job creation,

the fostering of skills development, the empowerment of women, the strengthening

of the popular organs of civil society, and active involvement in the fight to

end poverty.

The ANC must also encourage this Black bourgeoisie to cultivate within their

own enterprises and in those where they hold executive positions, the creative

management of the conflict potential in industrial relations. In other words,

the ANC must influence the Black bourgeoisie to assume certain RDP related

responsibilities and to give the lead to the business community with respect to

responsible corporate behaviour.

Since 1994 the multi-class character ANC itself has of course changed.

Whereas in the past there were no captains of industry in the leading organs of

the ANC; today an NEC member heads one of the largest conglomerates trading on

the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. This corporation, moreover, employs thousands

of other ANC members as well as ANC supporters! Prior to 1994 Transnet,one of

the biggest state-owned corporations which employs thousands of ANC supporters

and members organised in SARHWU, was headed by one Johan Maree. Today its MD is

a member of the NEC.

We will neither handle the tensions this new situation can give rise to by

denial nor by a blind insistence that there is no conflict potential between the

director of a corporation and the workers employed by it.

The Struggles Within the Struggle.

Proceeding from what we have said before, it is clear that the movement`s own

non-racialism and non-ethnic ethos is not merely a matter of high moral

principle. The endurance and sustenance of these norms which many today take for

granted, has not been unproblematic. The ever present racism in South African

society and the ethnic and tribal segmentation encouraged by the White minority

state were powerful currents against which our movement has had to contend.

The movement itself has consequently been the site of intense

politico-ideological struggles around the issues of ethnicity, race, class and

gender. During the 1930s, for example, a conservative section of the ANC`s

founding fathers led a campaign to expel Communists from the movement and to

move it closer to the liberal fraction of the White establishment. At around the

same time Dr John L. Dube, led the bulk of the ANC branches of Natal out of the

mother body to set up his own regional organisation in opposition to the ANC.[iv]

It was only in 1948 that Chief Luthuli and others were able to win back the

ground lost to Dube branch by branch, until they could compel re-affiliation of

the province.

At the height of the struggles of the 1950s a group of dissidents, led by

Potlako Leballo, tried to manipulate the justifiable anger of Africans against

their oppressors on an "Africanist" platform, a large component of

which was also opposition to Communism. The majority of ANC members resisted

these siren songs despite the evident emotional appeal of the

"Africanist" slogans. The dissidents walked out of the ANC to

constitute themselves as the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) in 1959.

There have been repeated attempts through the years by others to whip up

residual ethnic loyalties and sectional inclinations as a means of mobilising

support around platforms of dubious credibility. To the credit of the ANC`s

membership, none of these attempts have been successful.

Which raises the question: Is the ANC leaving those of our people who

identify ethnically to the political wolves of ethnic entrepreneurship by

continuing to discourage ethnicity and favouring an inclusive nationalism?

Perhaps that question is best answered by posing others. What honour would

accrue to the ANC if it were to compete with the PAC on the issue of

"Africanism"? Or better yet, can the ANC ever hope to outdo the IFP in

the promotion of a Zulu ethnicity and chauvinism? And, if it did try to compete

on such terrain, what price would the movement have to pay in order to do so?

And, what price will it have to pay for having done so? A third question: Would

the ANC profit by trying to pander to the baser instincts of the Coloured and

Indian working people?

It`s proper that we remind ourselves of our strategic goal - creating a

democratic, non-racial, non-sexist society. The radical transformation of the

quality of life of the Black majority is central to these objectives. Putting an

end to poverty, hunger, insecurity, and economic exploitation should therefore

be at the top of the ANC`s agenda.

To the ANC, democracy, non-racialism and non-sexism do not mean that every

five years Tony Leon and his African domestic worker can stand on the same que

in Houghton to vote. They mean creating the conditions in which that domestic

worker`s daughter, has a fair chance of competing equally with Tony Leon`s son,

  • for a place at the best schools in South Africa,
  • for a chance to play the same sports, on sporting facilities of the same
  • quality,
  • to have access to the best cultural amenities,
  • to compete with him for a place at Wits,
  • to become a lawyer (or doctor, etc) if she so wishes,
  • and to move in next door to Leon (or even Harry Oppenheimer for that
  • matter), if that is what she wants.

The ANC`s vision of empowerment of the mass of our people requires a highly

critical attitude towards ethnicity and sectional claims. This does not imply

insensitivity to the sense of grievance felt by many African communities and

language groups about the relegation and corruption of their languages and

cultural practices. I would however argue that the redress of these does not

require recognition of special ethnic claims or the politicisation of the issue

of language. More specifically,with regard to the claims of the pro-apartheid

Afrikaners and Afrikaans speakers, the democratic traditions offering

constitutional and other special protection to ethnic and linguistic minorities

were designed to secure the rights of oppressed groups whose rights would

otherwise be threatened by dominant oppressor groups. Latter-day attempts to

appeal to the authority of that tradition as a means of sheltering the

privileges of racist and oppressive minorities do violence to that tradition and

are patently fraudulent.

Towards Solutions.

Solving the national question requires that in the first instance we pose the

correct questions and not buy into the mythology and metaphysics of ideologists.

As in all instances, the national question in South Africa is undergirded by the

material realities the development of capitalism in a colonial setting and the

institutions created to sustain those productive relations.

To return to Rosa Luxemburg, we cannot hope to address these problems by

uncritically embracing some of the temporary expedients the movement had to

adopt in the context of a negotiated settlement.

With the exception of the most backward and fanatical racists, the Afrikaner

petty bourgeois intellectuals have forsaken ethno-nationalism, hoping to

constitute a multi-racial coalition of conservative forces to oppose the

national liberation movement in the hustings. They can be expected to continue

engaging in a modified form of ethnic mobilisation around the issue of the

Afrikaans language for the resonances it can produce among sections of the

Coloured population, but most realize that such a policy thrust will prove

unattractive to the majority of voters.

Ethnic mobilization and entrepreneurship, in various its guises - including

that of federalism - however still poses a serious problem and represents the

gravest single threat of destabilization and subversion in our new democracy.

The tap root of ethnicity and political adventures based on it, are apartheid

and the artificial revival of so-called "traditional" institutions

undertaken first in the 1920s then pursued with fanatical zest by Verwoerd and

his acolytes after 1948. The so- called "traditional leaders" all

have, to one degree or another, acquired an interest in these institutions. In

addition to power and prestige, these institutions have become a lucrative

source of income and patronage. Their propensity to reproduce new generations of

ethnic entrepreneurs cannot be under estimated.

A possible solution could be the dis-establishment of so-called

"traditional" leaders, which would include their being allowed to

retain their ceremonial titles and roles, but they should enjoy no state powers

by virtue of these titles. The stipends they presently enjoy from government

could also be phased out over time. Such a step would necessarily also require

the reduction of the house of traditional leaders to a purely ceremonial one and

its eventual elimination as an institution of state. Recognition of a

"traditional" leader should become a voluntary matter, with persons

voluntarily agreeing to pay allegiance, tribute or any other dues that the

office "traditionally" entitled its holder to claim.

"Traditional" leaders should be relieved of various powers - such

distribution of land - that they still retain, despite the democratic

constitution. Their judicial powers should also be subjected to rigorous review

to ensure that all South Africans, especially Africans, are completely equal

before the law. The time frames for such reforms can be negotiated, but the need

for change has to be accepted in principle.

The democratic breakthrough of 1994 has created conditions which enable the

ANC and its allies to steadily eradicate the material base of racism in our

society. Measures that address the capacity of ethnicists to reproduce ethnicity

will greatly assist in undermining its appeal among certain sections of the

population. It can be expected that the NP will try to employ a modified form of

the "black peril" to mobilise electoral support amongst a segment of

the Coloured, Indian and White population, but that too will loose its appeal as

the democratic government`s reforms make it plain that there is sufficient

wealth to address the quality of life problems of all working people.

If we accept that the racialisation of South African politics was rooted in

specific historical and material conditions, there is no reason why radical

transformation of those conditions cannot result in an end to racism and provide

a solution to the national question. This will probably require the ANC to

pursue de-racialisation with the same determination and tenacity as the racists

pursued racism and division.This must be done as a matter of conscious policy.

We should give no quarter to any form of racial discrmination in schooling,

employment, housing and recreation; and must positively reinforce all efforts at

de-racialisation. This will not prevent a person who places some value in being

identified as Venda /Sotho/Tswana /Zulu/ Xhosa, etc from doing so, but it will

not require another, who sets no store by that, being compelled to do so. It

does however require us to reject the insistence of ethnicists and racists that

ethnic origin or race defines an individual`s identity or should take precedence

over everything else in defining it.

Acknowledging the un-finished character of our national democratic revolution

is not to detract from the significance of the gains our movement has made. It

should rather spur us to press even harder for the commencement of the next

phase of an unfolding democratic revolution. Now more than ever the slogan of

the day should be "A lutta continua" - the struggle continues!

Z. Pallo Jordan.

Cape Town.

August 1997.


[i] Parties and movements pursuing a

programme of transformation have been tempted to do any and everything they

think necessary to stay in office.The Social Democratic parties in the west have

often done so. But if one weighs the price of losing - as we did here in the

Western Cape - one can see why parties find this route irresistible.

[ii] The Poll Tax Rebellion of 1906 was the

last military attempt to resist the integrative pressures of South Africa`s

evolving capitalism. In spite of the undoubted courage of the rebels, theirs was

a forlorn cause which had little hope of success not only because of the

disparity in arms.The classic proportions of the tragedy are symbolised by two

figures central to the uprising. On the one hand was S`gananda, an old man in

his 90s who had started out as a shield carrier in Shaka`s armies whose lifetime

spanned the years of glory of the Zulu kingdom and those of its decline; on the

other was Cakijana kaGezindaka, a commoner who had lived and worked in the

cities, who served as Bambada`s lieutenant but who had in fact been recruited as

an informer. Unlike the wars of the previous century, the Poll Tax Rebellion was

an instance of secondary resistance - i.e an uprising by a colonised people,

mobilised in terms of traditional values and employing traditional methods to

resist the effects , rather than the threat, of colonialism. The revolt thus had

elements of a modern peasant uprising as well. The prominent role assigned to

Cakijana, a commoner (his treachery notwithstanding), in the rebellion also was

a portent of the future.

[iii] I would submit that it is no accident

that the ethnic chauvinism of the IFP has far greater appeal in the most

impoverished parts of rural KZN, while its appeal in the urban townships of KZN

is at best shaky.

[iv] Natal seceded from the ICU as well

during the years of the ICU`s decline. A.W.G. Champion, one of Kadalie`s

deputies of many years standing, led the Natal branches out of the ICU when he

could not have his way. The ICU of Natal survived into the mid-1930s, long after

the national body had faded into a memory. Champion also played a leading role

in the ANC of Natal.

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