The Rand Revolt breaks out

Strikers manning the roadblock

Wednesday, 28 December 1921

The end of World War I was followed by a global depression that affected South Africa as well. Soon after the war, in 1918 and 1919, Black workers across economic sectors went on strike. In 1921 White workers, mainly in the coal and gold mines, went on strike. The reasons for the strike were a reduction of wages and the preference for cheaper Black Labour. This led to an increase in the employment of Black workers in positions previously held by white miners at reduced pay.

With strong organisational links to the newly formed South African Communist Party (SACP) under the leadership of W. H. Andrews and the South African Labour Party white miners went on strike on 28 December 1921. The strike became particularly intense in February 1922. At the time the government was led by General J. C. Smut's South African Party (SAP). The Government reacted to the strike with force, leaving 200 people dead, including many policemen and more 1000 injured. As the rebels had held a number of locations that had become their strongholds, government troops invaded these, and in some cases, used bombs to suppress the revolt. This was the case in Fordsburg south of Johannesburg, an area that had become a stronghold of the labour movement behind the strike.

One of the long term consequences of the strike was increased unpopularity of the Smuts government. As the strike occurred on the eve of the general election of 1923, it became of the causes of the defeat of the Smuts government in that election. There is no doubt that the strike led to the growth of support for the Labour Party under the leadership of Colonel Creswell, which was considered an ally of the Labour Movement and General J. B. M. Hertzog's National Party, which enjoyed a great deal of support among the poor whites, particularly the Afrikaner. In the subsequent elections a Pact government of the Labour Party and the National Party came into office, lasting until the next election in 1929. 

• Giliomee, H and Mbenga, B. (2007) New History of South Africa. (Cape Town) pp 245-6
• Rand Rebellion, [online] Available at [Accessed: 27 November 2013]
•  Callinicos, L. (1981) Gold and Workers 1896-1924 (Johannesburg) pp 1 & â†‘

Last updated : 17-Dec-2015

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