The Pondoland Revolts

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Pondo tribesmen gather on an airfield near Bizana (Photo: Drum Photographer © Baileys African History Archives)

Sunday, 20 March 1960

The Pondoland revolt in the Eastern Cape refered to the action taken by iKongo to reject tribal authorities and self-government of Transkei, initiated by the Bantu Authorities Act of 1951. During a protest gathering in the district of Bizana, Saul Mabude, a tribal authority, was called to explain the Act to the people. His refusal to address the group angered the people to such an extent that they destroyed his house and livestock. The police were called in and a number of people were hurt in the chaos or arrested. Following the Bizana protests, several such incidences occurred thereafter.

As a result of this revolt, meetings were banned. People responded by organising secretly on mountain ridges and formed a movement known as Intaba (Mountain). Spies and loyalists to the tribal authorities informed on these activities. The violent treatment of informers created tension between the activists and the local people.

On the 6th of June police helicopters dropped teargas on a gathering on Ngquza Hill. This was followed with open fire on the crowd and eleven people were killed. Police presence in the area was increased and a commission of inquiry was appointed, made up of Bantu Administration officials.

The commission was clearly biased and its findings were rejected. People intensified their struggle. Taxes were not paid and white traders were boycotted. The return of a political activist, Anderson Ganyile, a member of the African National Congress Youth League further strengthened the local leadership.

As the struggles in the Transkei spiralled, the government declared a state of emergency in November 1960. Thousands of people were detained without being charged or tried. Between August and October 1961, 30 Pondo people were sentenced to death for their participation in the revolt.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) heard details of these events and decided that the remains of the twenty-three men that had been executed in Pretoria and buried in a Mamelodi cemetery, were to be exhumed and returned to Pondoland for reburial. This was done following the provisions outlined by the National Heritage Resources Act of 1999 for the handling of remains of victims of conflict connected with the liberation struggle.

References:
• emory,"Rural Cosmopolitanism and Peasant Insurgency: The Pondoland Revolt, South Africa (1958--1963)", from Emory University, [online], Available at emory.edu [Accessed: 14 March 2014]
• SAHA, "Pondoland revolt", from South African History Archive, [online], Available at sabctrc.saha.org.za [Accessed: 14 March 2014]

Last updated : 15-Mar-2017

This article was produced for South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011