The Rand Revolt strikers' stronghold at Fordsburg Square falls to the government

Rand Revolt strikers.Rand Revolt strikers.

Date: 15 March, 1922

The Rand Rebellion of 1922 was an armed uprising, also referred to as the Rand Revolt or Red Revolt, which occurred during a period of economic depression following World War I. After the war, mining companies were faced with rising costs, and a fall in the price of gold.

A general strike was organized by white trade unions in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1922. This was in response to intensified exploitation of the miners, and a decision by gold-mining industry leaders to replace many white workers with black workers. The strike began in January 1922, and became an open rebellion against the state. Subsequently, the workers took over the cities of Benoni and Brakpan, and the Johannesburg suburbs of Fordsburg and Jeppe. The young Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) took an active part in the uprising.

On 15 March 1992, the South African government's artillery bombarded the strikers' stronghold at Fordsburg Square, and in the afternoon, it fell to the government. Before committing suicide in the building, the two communist leaders of the strike, Fisher and Spendiff, left a joint note: 'We died for what we believed in - the Cause'.

Samuel Alfred (Taffy) Long, heralded by subsequent labour histories as one of South Africa's greatest working-class martyrs, was arrested after the defeat of Fordsburg. He was charged with murder, and later with high treason and the possession of loot.

From 15 to 19 March 1922, government troops cleared the areas of snipers and conducted house-to-house searches of premises belonging to the 'Reds' (Communists). Several arrests were made. On March 16 1922, the Union Defense Headquarters issued a press statement that the revolt had been a socialist revolution organized by Bolshevists, international socialists and communists. The end of the revolt was declared from midnight on 18 March 1922.

References

  • Wallis, F. (2000). Nuusdagboek: feite en fratse oor 1000 jaar, Kaapstad: Human & Rousseau
  • SAHO, The Rand Revolt, from South African History Online, [online], Available at sahistory.org.za [Accessed: 11 March 2009]
  • Verwey, E.J. (ed) (1995). New Dictionary of South African Biography, v.1, Pretoria: HSRC.