Black South Africans under apartheid

01A_(2)-1.pngIn the late 1800s, at the behest of mine-owners eager to maximize profits by minimizing labour costs, the government imposed special taxes and other measures to drive young Black men off their farms and into mine work. Migrant youths seeking mine-work in Witwatersrand, ca 1900.

01B_(1)-1.pngMine officials inspect the soles of Black miners’ feet for cuts in the soles to prevent them from smuggling diamonds out to supplement their wages—a tenth of white wages. 

01C_(1)-1.pngDispossessed family, HexRiver, ca. 1900-1922.

01E-1.pngNewly-arrived migrants seeking mine work in Johannesburg, “City of Gold”, in 1946.

01D_(1)-1.pngThe Land Act of 1913 prohibited Blacks (67% of the population) from owning or renting land or homes anywhere except in the designated Black “reserves”, about 7% of the national territory.

01F-1.pngCompanies obliged Black miners to live in mine-compounds. The harsh living conditions and heavy labour killed 1 in 10 Black mine-workers annually.

02A_-_Alternative-1.pngThe passbook: a passport to un-freedom:  In 1948, the National Party swept into power, promising to ensure white domination and resist pressure  to allow Black people to vote.  It passed draconian laws to implement apartheid: separation of the races. The tool for enforcing apartheid was the passbook. It recorded one’s racial classification, and stipulated the employer for whom one was permitted to work, where one could live and whether one had been granted an exception to curfew restrictions. Black people were legally required to produce their passbook on demand by any white person, even a child. Ending the pass system was a constant demand of the anti-apartheid movement.

03A_(2)-1.pngForced relocation – the “removals”:  In 1955 the government began forcibly relocating everyone in the mixed-race neighbourhood of Sophiatown, considered too close to Johannesburg’s all-white suburbs. Sophiatown had been the vibrant centre of Black politics, jazz and blues. Many Black residents had owned homes there since the late 1800s. Over the course of eight years, 54000 Blacks, 8000 “Coloureds”, 3000 Indians and 686 Chinese were forcibly relocated to single-race neighbourhoods. Sophiatown was razed, and a whites-only neighbourhood called Triomf (“Triumph” in Afrikaans) was constructed on its rubble.

04A_(2)-1.pngRural poverty and lack of other opportunities forced many Black South African women to seek work as domestic servants in the cities. However, to work or live in a city without special authorization to do so noted in one’s passbook violated the pass laws. In the photo above, a domestic worker is being arrested for an alleged pass violation.

06A_(2)-1.pngBurning passbooks was a concrete way to defy apartheid and the various forms of dispossession it represented. This photo, taken by “struggle” photographer Eli Weinberg, was taken in 1952.

07A_(2)-1.pngThe Freedom Charter.  Arguably the most important document of the anti-apartheid movement, the Freedom Charter was drafted in 1955 at a mass meeting in Kliptown, Johannesburg. It articulated key demands: labour rights, human rights, land reform and extension of full citizenship rights to Blacks. The police broke up the meeting on the second day, and charged 156 key activists with High Treason. In the photo above “Freedom Volunteers” demonstrate in Kliptown. The demands articulated on their placards would remain constant ones throughout the apartheid years: an end to the pass laws and all other laws restricting where Black people could live, work and be; equal pay; an end to “removals” (i.e. forced relocations); and educational equality.

05A_(2)-1.pngIn 1956, 156 anti-apartheid activists were charged with high treason for advocating the Freedom Charter. They were acquitted after a four-year trial. Many of the “Trialists” would continue to play key roles in the anti-apartheid struggle and the various forms of dispossession it imposed. Some paid a high price for their commitment.  African National Congress (ANC) leaders Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and many others would spend decades in prison. Ruth First was jailed, forced into exile and eventually assassinated by parcel-bomb in 1982. The number of “Trialists” was so large that had they assembled for a group photo, it would have constituted an illegal gathering. So photographer Eli Weinberg photographed them separately, and created this composite photo.

08A_(2)-1.pngRepression triggers increased militancy - The Sharpeville massacre (March 21, 1960)- Police open fire on a large anti-pass demonstration. Some protesters, believing police are only firing blanks, smile as they flee.

08B_(1)-1.pngThe bodies of some of the 69 victims. The massacre shocked the resistance movement. Demonstrations erupted across the country. Shortly thereafter the government banned both the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), which had organized the demonstration, and the African National Congress (ANC), the country's largest Black national political organization. It also declared a state of emergency. In December 1961, the ANC, convinced that peaceful protest alone would not end apartheid, authorized the formation of an armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), MK, which would embark on a campaign of sabotage of state institutions.

08C_(1)-1.pngThe Soweto uprising (June 16, 1976) -  20,000 Black high-school students of Soweto, a large Black township near Johannesburg, peacefully protest the imposition of Afrikaans as the instruction language for half their subjects. Minutes later, police began shooting.

08D_-_June_16_1976_018-1.pngHigh-schooler Mbuyisa Makhubo (18) carries the dying Hector Pieterson (12), with Hector’s sister Antoinette alongside. Students and their families, outraged by the shootings, riot for 10 days in Soweto. Official death toll: 174 Blacks, 2 Whites; Wounded: 1,222 Blacks and 6 Whites. Arrests: 1,298; many detainees spent months in jail and were tortured.  Photographer Sam Nzima was hounded from city to city for years by police and forced to abandon a promising photography career.

09A_(2)-1.pngIn the 70s, to deflect criticism of its refusal to allow Blacks the vote and other citizenship rights, the government established 10 “Bantustans” on 13 percent of South African territory—one for each major Black language group—and declared them “nations.” All Black South Africans were made citizens of one of these “homeland” countries, regardless of where they had been born or now lived or worked. In all, 3.5 million Black people were forcibly relocated — according to the UN, the largest forced  movement of people in peacetime history.

09B_(1)-1.pngA woman protesting in Johannesburg on International Women’s Day, 1984.

09C_(1)-1.pngA farmworker evicted from a farm in the area stands outside tents given to the evicted in compensation for their homes, near Weenan, KwaZuluNatal, November 1988.

09F-1.pngPeople in KwaNdebele (one of the "reserves") in the bus line-up at 2:45 a.m. in Mathysloop. Many were embarking on the first leg of a daily hours-long journey in order to arrive at work by 7 am in Pretoria, where they were not allowed to live during the apartheid era.

09G-1.pngFamilies forcibly removed under apartheid segregation laws from "Black spots"— areas inhabited by Black people that were deemed too close to areas inhabited by whites—eke out a living in tin shacks far from their homes. August 1982.

08D_-_June_16_1976_018-1.pngResidents of Cornfields, KwaZuluNatal, protest against the proposed removal from their ancestral land. November 1988.  

09E_(1)-1.pngEzakehni, a "resettlement" village in the KwaZulu "homeland", Natal.

10A_(1)-1.pngLate on the winter night of 27 June 1985, security forces set up a roadblock to intercept a car near the city of Port Elizabeth. Two of the four anti-apartheid activists in the car had been secretly targeted for assassination. Matthew Goniwe, a popular teacher and gifted political organizer in Cradock, and FortCalata, another teacher, were on the hit list. Sparrow Mkonto, a railway union activist, and Sicelo Mhlauli, a visiting headmaster and Goniwe’s childhood friend, were also in the car. The police abducted all four and murdered them; their stabbed, mutilated and burnt bodies were found shortly after. Thousands attended their mass funeral July 20 in Cradock (above). The crowds were electrified when, for the first time in decades, huge banners of the ANC and the South African Communist Party—both banned organizations—were unfurled. President PW Botha declared a State of Emergency. In the 1980s, given that almost all other mass gatherings were illegal, the funerals of murdered activists became occasions for anti-apartheid activists to express their determination to end apartheid and the various forms of dispossession that it enabled.

11A_-_mss_barricades_used_01-1.pngJuly 1985: A Duduza township resident lies dead while members of a special police squad break for a smoke after an all-night “clean-up.” Photographer Themba Nkosi took the photo undetected through a window across the street.  Duduza was one of the townships most active in the anti-apartheid struggle, with militant consumer, bus, rent and school boycotts between 1983 and 1987. A state of emergency was imposed in July 1985 and the army sent in. The death squads usually wore balaclavas (woolen hooded face covers) to make it impossible for witnesses to later identify the killers. In this photo, the man with his back to the camera still has his balaclava down. Police killed hundreds in this period.

12A_(3)-1.pngJuly 1985: A lone woman protests as soldiers occupy Soweto. Women were key organizers of opposition to the army’s occupation of the townships. For example, in a township near Durban, women nightly patrolled the streets to protect families from security forces and vigilante harassment.  Leaders like Albertina Sisulu, Frances Baard and Dorothy Nyembe organized effective resistance against the occupation, despite the risks and the restrictions imposed on them.

13C_(1)-1.pngMrs Mazibuko holds up the bloodstained shirt of her son Flint, fatally shot in the back by the apartheid regime’s police as he ran away from them in Tembisa township, Transvaal, in June 1985. According to government statistics, 381 people were killed in “unrest” incidents between September 1984 and April 1985, three-quarters of them as a direct result of police action.  

13B_(1)-1.pngFifteen-year-old Lawrence Matjee, with casts on both arms, following his detention and brutal beating by Security Police. The photo was taken at Khotso House, the headquarters of the South African Council of Churches, October 25, 1985.  

13A_(2)-1.png1987. A mother mourns the death of her two sons, killed by an Inkatha gang in Mphophomeni, a  “resettlement” area near Pietermartizburg, Natal. Inkatha was a conservative Zulu nationalist party encouraged (and armed) by the apartheid regime to undermine the ANC.

14C_(1)-1.pngAlthough Nelson Mandela’s release February 2 1990 was momentous, the transition to democracy was extraordinarily fitful - Arrested demonstrators are driven away from the Supreme Court, Johannesburg, July 22, 1992.

14F_(1)-1.pngSeptember 13, 1990. PholaPark. Bodies of ANC victims of political violence between ANC and Inkatha lie where they were slain in night fighting.

14D-1.pngJune 18, 1992. A woman grieves over the body of her brother, slain by Inkatha in the night massacre of Boipatong, which triggered the ANC’s indefinite withdrawal from peace negotiations.

14B_(1)-1.pngAugust 23, 1990. ANC supporters protest police collaboration with Inkatha violence, Kagiso, East Rand.

14E_(1)-1.pngMillions of South Africans protest the April 1993 assassination of Chris Hani, the extremely popular leader of the South African Communist Party, by right-wing extremists.  

15A-1.pngIn January 1994, the government restored and extended citizenship and political rights to all South Africans, setting the framework for the first democratic elections, scheduled for April. - February 11, 1994. Famed political prisoner Nelson Mandela revisits his cell in RobbenIsland prison, where he was incarcerated for over two decades, on the fourth anniversary of his release from jail.

15C-1.pngApril 27, 1994. Kwazulu, Natal. Black South Africans queue to cast the first vote of their lives in the country's first non-racial, democratic elections.