Polokwane the Segregated city
Table of contents:
The Apartheid City
The National Party, in coalition with the Afrikaner Party, won the 1948 election, and DF Malan was made prime minister. The NP began passing laws that would provide the architecture for the apartheid system: the Population Registration Act, the Group Areas Act, amongst others.
Pietersburg’s MP, Tom Naude of the NP, won the seat with a majority of 1835 votes. After serving in local politics for 30 years, he was appointed to Malan’s cabinet in 1950, given the portfolio for Post and Telegraphs. His brother Dap Naude served as mayor in 1947/8 and 48/9, and again in 1951. Later he was elected President of the Transvaal Municipal Society.
It would be incorrect to say that race relations in the segregation period were benign, but in the 1940s, Louis Changouin reports, Indians and Whites still played cricket together. Until 1950 the Indians and Coloureds could live in the town next door to Whites. But now a process of unscrambling the races began. The Group Areas Act of 1950 determined that separate residential areas be created to effect a rigorous separation.
A location was set aside for Blacks, who now fell under the local council as defined by the Bantu Consolidation Act. The City Council also set up a special department for Non-White affairs, passing various new statutes and implementing the pass laws. The council began to build 200 sub-economic houses for blacks and initiated a scheme for people to be able to build their own houses.
A curfew from 9pm to 4am, under Proclamation No 67 of 1931, now tightened the restrictions on the movement of Black people in the town.
The Farmers’ Union chairman AZ McComb, after their congress in the Pig and Whistle Hotel on 8 August 1948 declared: “We have given up so much land for Native occupation we are determined not to give another inch.” The Nationalist movement extended its hegemony over South Africa. The year 1949 saw celebrations by Afrikaners to mark the completion of the Voortrekker Monument. The sale of the Zoutpansberg Review to Unievolkspers saw the paper become a National Party mouthpiece.
Several years later, in 1952, a festival commemorated the 300th anniversary of Van Riebeeck’s arrival at the Cape. The year also marked the 50th anniversary of Pietersburg’s transformation into a municipality, and celebrations included the official opening of the SABC’s new broadcast facility in Pietersburg.
Dap Naude, the brother of Tom Naude, served as the head of the City Council, and was made the president of the Society of Municipal Managers – the first Pietersburg official to serve in this capacity – and he was also appointed as chairman of the Commission of Inquiry into Matters of Concern in the Transvaal.
During Dap Naude’s term as mayor, Pietersburg received various prominent international visitors, including Dutch royal Prince Bernard.
An Israeli military hero, Brigadier Yigal Alon, also visited Pietersburg, in June 1956. He was the commander of the Israeli army during the war in the Middle East. Alon and his troops ejected the Arabs from the Negev Desert, and he became known in his country as the Liberator of the Negev.
A delegation of ministers and army and air force chiefs visited Pietersburg to inspect the airport, as part of a plan to convert the facility into a military airport.
Helen Suzman, representative of Houghton for the United Party, also paid a visit to Pietersburg late in 1956. Following the publication of the report of the Tomlinson Commission in 1955, the areas northwest and south of Pietersburg were declared homelands for the North Sotho. Known after 1962 as Lebowa, the Department of Bantu Administration set up an office in Pietersburg, as the main the administrative centre for the homeland.
On 11 October 1956, WWB Eiselen, held a meeting with 13 Black leaders and chiefs to discuss the possibility of establishing a college for Black students after the government bought the farm Turfloop, east of Pietersburg. In 1959 the state proclaimed that two universities would be established for Blacks, and one each for Coloureds and Indians. The University of the North opened its doors on 1 August 1959, with professor EF Potgieter as the first rector. The NG Kerk established a school of theology in the same year, and a branch was established at Turfloop.
Marabastad was renamed Eerstegoud in 1956, based on an historical inaccuracy, since gold was first found on the farm Eersteling, and the name change proved to be unpopular with the older generation.
During 1956 there was a flood after 308mm of rain fell in 24 hours. Drought lasted five to seven years around this time.
The mayor of the town in 1959, ASD Erasmus, the son of Commandant ASD Erasmus, was the first mayor to have been born in Pietersburg.
The 1958 election held on 16 April saw Tom Naude retain his seat with a majoriy of 2804 votes. The death of Prime Minister JG Strijdom in September of the same year saw HF Verwoerd acceding to the position.
Pietersburg’s head of the provincial Council, Piet Hugo, was appointed to head the Senate. FJ Niemand was chosen to replace him in the council.
Pietersburg saw its first female mayor installed in 1959, ME (Lien) Grimm. Together with Tom Naude, Grimm received British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan when he visited the town, after he made his famous “Winds of Change” speech in parliament in Cape Town. MacMillan also visited the University of the North.
The Marais Commission presented its report in 1960, and Ordinance 40 of 1960 spelt out the new regulations regarding the functions of city councils.
The White population in 1961 now exceeded 11000, and there were 8000 motor vehicles registered in the town.
In March 1960 Tom Naude retired from active politics, and in January 1961 he became the head of the Senate after becoming a senator in December 1960.
On 5 October 1960 the white electorate voted in a referendum to decide whether South Africa should remain a part of the Commonwealth or become a republic. The Republicans won, with 850 458 voting for the motion, and 775 878 against. In Pieterburg 6925 voted for Republican status (89%) and 2349 against.
The Rapportryers of Pietersburg, a cultural organisation, were active in these years, but it was the Junior Rapportryers who made history when they had a Black guest speaker at their function in 1965. Sociologist DE Mabudafhasi, of the University of the North, delivered a lecture on cultural differences between Whites and Blacks, and received the longest ovation ever in the history of the organisation’s functions. Organised by Burger Lategan, the function made headlines in the local papers.
The general election of 1966 saw the National Party secure its largest victory yet. It garnered 120 of 170 seats, and Dupel Erasmus became the MP for Pietersburg. Danie Hough became the youngest leader of the Provincial government.
On 6 September 1966 Dr Verwoerd was murdered, and Minister of Justice BJ Vorster was chosen to become the new Prime Minister. State President CR Swart resigned in 1967 and TR Donges was made State President. Tom Naude became Acting State President when Donges died in May 1967, serving until JJ Fouche became the new State President on 10 April 1968. Naude was awarded a doctorate from the University of Pretoria in March 1967.
Tom Naude’s death in 1969, on Republic Day (31 May) shocked Pietersburg. A state funeral followed on 4 June, the largest funeral in the town. SA Air Force planes flew in formation and military bands marched in street processions.
On 26 November 1969, Major JP Brits of the air force crashed his Sabre airplane into a veld when he began having engine trouble. A street in Annadale was later renamed after him.
When Ian Smith declared UDI (a unilateral declaration of independence) in 1967 Pietersburg felt some of the effects: many people left Rhodesia and made their way to South Africa. West of Pietersburg, Botswana was granted independence.
The University of the North, a full-fledged university in 1970, began to see radical student activity when the Black Consciousness Movement was born in its student hostel.
In the 1970 general election the NP was returned to power but with a reduced majority. Dupel Erasmus held his seat in parliament, as did Daan Hough in the Provincial parliament. New sports clubs came into being, and volleyball, karate, judo and other sports were thriving.
Pietersburg, according to Changuoin, was bursting at the seams. In the 14 years from 1960, the population doubled. Whites now numbered 22000 while the population of Indians and Coloureds stood at 3000.
In 1973 a Committee was established to represent Indians. They first convened on 28 February 1973, with Essa as chairman.
The 1974 general election saw the NP secure its largest victory yet. Dupel Erasmus kept his seat, but he was later replaced by right-winger Willie Snyman.
Danie Hough served as mayor in 1974, and he was succeeded by Burger “Tjol” Lategan the next year. Lategan established a Junior Council to educate local White youth about the intricacies of council politics.
State President Nico Diederichs, who had succeeded Jim Fouche, visited Pietersburg in 1975, making a speech at the Chamber of Commerce, which celebrated its 80th anniversary.
Late in 1975 South Africans watched as the first ever TV broadcast was made, and for some weeks the streets of Pietersburg were silent from 7pm to 9pm.
Growth and the Development of Infrastructure during the Apartheid Period
The National Party’s accession to power saw a general attempt to accelerate the modernisation of the town that had been underway since the turn of the century. The town grew in population, size and resources. Modern infrastructure was put in place and modernist buildings began to emerge, as well as civic and civil institutions that brought the town into the 20th century.
Several developments reflect the growth of the town and its population. In about 10 years from 1945-1955 the White population doubled to 8000 of a total of 20500 residents. In 1955 the birth rate exceeded 1000 for the first time: 672 Blacks, 341 Whites, 33 Indians and 16 Coloureds were born. With a death rate of 250 for the same year (190 Blacks, 49 Whites, six Indians and five Coloureds) a net gain of about 750 people a year meant that the population was growing at an unprecedented rate.
In December 1946 land surveyor Manaschewitz laid out 396 residential plots northeast of the town as Ext 4, later renamed Moregloed. In March 1948 Manaschewitz laid out another 67 plots for Ext 3.
In 1950 the Council upgraded the library, used exclusively by Whites, and which had always been privately funded. Started by Phyllis Edlin in 1905, it now fell under the Transvaal Provincial Library Services.
In the mid-1950s, Pietersburg had two cinemas, one each for English and Afrikaans speakers. The Pietersburg Theatre Group staged Bonaventure, a huge success in the town.
The new offices of the Provincial Administration were opened by the head of the Provincial Council, Piet Hugo. A new hospital opened in 1960, with a laboratory run by the SA Institute of Medical Research. The local branch became the headquarters of the Institute for the Northern Transvaal, and was headed by a medic who grew up in Pietersburg, Dr Alberts, who also headed the blood bank.
An old age home was established in 1958, organised by the Rotary Club, which collected funds for the project. The Department of Community Development matched Rotary’s donation, putting up half the cost.
Insurance giant Sanlam put up a five-storey building on the corner of Landdros Mare and Grobler streets, establishing its North Transvaal headquarters.
A new post office was erected in Landdros Mare street, and Tom Naude presided over the opening ceremony. The Transvaal Landbou Unie merged with the Waterberg Landbou.
The swimming pool in Church Square was closed in 1961 and a new Olympic sized pool was built in Voortrekker Park. A new set of tennis courts was put up.
Six new extensions sprang up in the 1960s; Industria, Annadale, Laboria, Futura and Ladine. Capricorn came into being in 1965, and Eduan Park in 1967, the name being Naude spelt backwards.
A new building was erected for the Department of Non-White Affairs, and a new Civic Centre, which cost the taxpayer R334 484, became the occasion for celebrations when it was opened on 2 November 1963. The new State President, CR Swart, was the guest of honour, while the MP for Pietersburg, Piet Niemand presided over the affair.
The Department of Bantu Administration and Development in 1963 set aside land to establish a Black township, Moletse, in order to resettle the people of New Pietersburg.
A Scottish society, active for many years, formed the Pietersburg and District Caledonian Society in June 1963.
The new public library was opened in Grobler Street in November 1969, built at a cost of R211000. A new fire station went up, at a cost of R166500.
Federale Volksbelgings bought land and put up a hotel complex that later became the Holiday Inn.
In 1966 Pietersburg installed the first 130 parking meters on Landdros Mare Street.
New extensions arose especially towards the east of the town. Welgelegen emerged near Eduan Park, developed by property developers Nasionale Bouvereeniging (Saambou Nasionaal), and was proclaimed in 1972. The next year another suburb emerged next to Welgelegen, named Bendor. In 1973 Penina Park emerged, and was named after a little town in Portugal. In 1974 Flora Park, Fauna Park and Sterpark emerged, the largest extension to be added to the town, with land set aside for six schools, and 24 parks.
West of the town Ivydale and Sterkloop emerged, proclaimed in 1976. Welgelen Extension 4 was developed in 1978.
An industrial area provided jobs for 850 Whites and 5400 Blacks. A manufacturer of buses also operated in the 1970s. A silicon producer provided jobs for 600 people.
The Indians in the town were moved to a Group Area in 1967. Called Nirvana, it was proclaimed in November 1973. It included land set aside for 346 houses, two schools, two parks, 20 business premises, and one mosque.
The road north was extended in 1974, going to Rutenga, in then, Rhodesia.
There was a sharp rise in deaths from motor car accidents. During 1975 there were 550 accidents, with a death toll of 111.
Pietersburg’s post office was the largest in the Northern Transvaal, and 7000 telephones were connected to the exchange in 1976.
The SABC built a new modern studio in the mid-70s, and radio stations began to cater for the Northern Sotho, Venda and Tsonga people of the area.
A water shortage became increasingly apparent. In 1952 Pietersburg used more than 1 million kl of water for the first time. A new dam began to be built in 1956, at a cost of about £800 000. It was completed in 1958 and opened by Minister of Water Affairs Paul Sauer, with Minister Tom Naude also present. The dam was named after Dap Naude, the brother of Tom Naude, who had also taken an active part in local politics.