Pretoria the Segregated city

Ga-rankuwa was developed in accordance with the Physical Planning Act of 1967 which hoped to divert industrial development away from the city centres to the border areas of the homelands. This would not only serve the purpose of attracting workers directly from the homelands and providing cheap labour to the factories but would also divert the labour flow away from the city, thereby reducing labour migrancy.  

Situated 34 km north-west of Pretoria, Ga-rankuwa formed part of the Tswana homeland. The area provided housing for the Black labourers and their families and was meant to service the industrial area of Rosslyn, 10km away. Apart from the state-built houses, Black people were permitted to buy plots and build their own houses. It was estimated that the township would eventually accommodate a population of 120 000 people.

Stands were also set aside for the building of churches, shops, parks, a swimming pool and a sports field.  A modern hospital was also erected in the township.

Political Mobilisation: 1970s-1980s

The built environment was at the root of political conflict in the PWV area townships. This includes roads, railways, factories, offices, parks and pavements, schools, sewage systems and most importantly, housing. The built environment was not only a key feature in the welfare of township residents but also a symbol of both the failures and perceived duties of the state. Conflict over the built environment emphasized the need for township residents to secure control over the decision making process and to claim extra township resources. Both of these needs have apparently led to more overtly political demands.

Therefore, township residents’ struggles to reclaim the township in terms of use-values has entailed chronic conflict with the state over the economic relationship with the built environment. Township residents’ discontent with the built environment prompted different forms of resistance, such as squatting or mounting rent arrears and populism by some candidates for local government elections.

From 1977 to 1983, mobilisation developed as residents’ perception of local councillors changed. During active political protest in 1984, organisational and direct action emerged, which transformed mobilisation.

Before 1984, most of the political mobilisation did not concern the built environment and most local activity was concerned with national issues within organisational structures like Inkatha, AZAPO and the UDF, amongst others. In most of these cases, the national organisations were often credited with a considerably more important role they played in practice, and the nature of local mobilisation was often hidden behind the rhetoric and appearance of national political protest.

When community councillors were first introduced in 1978, they enjoyed some legitimacy. However, this legitimacy was eroded when councillors failed to convert their election promises. Residents grew increasingly discontent with the councillors, and allegations of corruption and mismanagement became rife. This prompted resistance, not only because it destroyed the image of responsible leadership but because the councillors were combining corruption with illegitimate actions over the built environment. Shacks were cleared and rent defaulters harassed. Rents were increased with the justification that it was to finance township development, while such development rarely materialised.

This conflict over the built environment, and the growing crises in many township high schools, shaped emerging patterns of mobilisation as participants interacted.

During 1983, there were isolated protests in individual schools over educational grievances. In Atteridgeville, simmering discontent crystallised over the Christmas vacation over the alleged irregularities in exam marking and the readmission of students. However, school authorities ignored representation by the local COSAS, and by January 1984 students at Saulridge High began the Transvaal’s first sustained class boycott. Further demands were taken up and intermittent class boycotts spread to the other six high schools in the township by the end of February.

The initial protests concerned purely educational grievances and students only boycotted when other channels of communication were ignored. Protests were peaceful, and usually took place outside the schools. This reflected the growing level of resistance in the township as a whole. In November and December 1983, the failure of the councillors and discontent over the built environment led to the formation of the Saulsville- Atteridgeville Youth Organisation (SAYO) and the Atteridgeville-Saulsville Residents Organisation (ASRO) to oppose election of a town council.

Students became aware that the schools were not isolated from wider issues. The Atteridgeville school protests took an unexpected turn by the unprovoked killing of a student on school premises by police in February 1984. Parents were drawn into the dispute by their outrage at the killing. The suspension of student leaders in April intensified boycotts, which caused the DET to temporarily close schools in late April, and completely so in mid-May. School or class boycotts continued for the rest of the year as a result of rising police harassment and the DET’s refusal to meet key demands. The Town Council failed to make any significant attempt to solve the educational crises or restrain the police. This led to the growing support for ASRO and for the discontent with the councillors.

The pattern of events in Atteridgeville was repeated elsewhere, and students were radicalised and drawn into wider township issues.

The announcement of rent increases throughout the PWV area in May, June and July brought rent and education issues together. In Atteridgeville, residents called for the councillors to resign, while ASRO sought legal assistance to oppose the increases. In August, increased service charges were proposed but these were abandoned in September due to pressure from residents and ASRO. Escalating conflict in the Vaal and East Rand, the school boycotts, and the petrol bombing of the mayor’s house in August contributed to this decision.

Faced with opposition in the townships, many councillors across the PWV area resigned. Levels of political mobilisation rose throughout these areas during late 1984 and these were sustained and generalised during 1985 and early 1986, with resistance to rent and consumer boycotts erupting on occasion into virtual civil war. In July 1985, the first State of Emergency was declared which indicated the geographical scope of the protests.

Behind this generalisation and entrenchment of resistance was radicalisation and convergence of political cultures. Educational issues, rent grievances, evictions, councils and repression were not seen as unconnected issues. Rent and evictions concerned both moral and political relations and were also economic problems. Educational grievances took on an importance outside of the disputes about who should make key decisions. Heightened repression, as a political response to discontent, tied all these issues together and explicit political content developed in the moral economy and political culture of township residents.

The legitimacy of the local state diminished and the townships became polarised between support of the local state and the mass of more discontent residents. People now demanded resignation of councillors and withdrawal of troops from the townships. As mobilisation grew, it came to constitute a ‘movement’ through the convergence and radicalisation of residents’ demands. This resulted in emerging active stayaways, which came from the union leaders and other regional political organisers.

Young people played a leading role in mobilisation which very soon became violent. Women were also an active group in these protests and one such group, the Zakheni Women’s Club, played a central role in mobilising residents during 1984. It was women who constituted the core of a march to the Council offices in November 1985 to protest against high rent, the restrictions of funerals and the presence of troops in the townships. During this march, security forces dispersed the peaceful protestors, killing 13 in what became known as the Mamelodi massacre. The outrage over this incident generated solidarity behind Mamelodi’s second consumer boycott.

These boycotts continued during the 1980’s, and brought to the surface the frustration and anger of Black South Africans towards their inferior position which not only occurred in Pretoria, but in other townships around the country.

Forced Removals