«STRUCTURE AND EXPERIENCE IN THE MAKING OFAPARTHEID 6-10 February 1990 AUTHOR: Iain Edwards and Tim Nuttall TITLE: Seizing the moment : the January ...»
60. L. Kuper, H. Watts and R. Davies, Durban: a study in racial ecology (London:
Jonathan Cape, 1958), p.31.
61. University of Natal, Durban Housing Survey, p.303; G. Maasdorp and A.S.B.
Humphreys, From Shantytown to Township: an economic study of African poverty in a South African city (Cape Town, Juta, 1975), p.15.
62. Edwards, 'Mkhumbane', p.57.
63. Edwards, 'Mkhumbane', Chapter 3.
17 contain the shantytowns within specified areas. Municipal officials became increasingly concerned that people would set up shacks on state and municipal land, as was happening on the Rand. Municipal officials thus increasingly turned a blind eye to shack settlement in Indian-owned Mkhumbane. The city council refused to invest in the infrastructure of these supposedly 'temporary' residential areas. From 1944 onwards officials embarked on a strategy of legally forcing shack landowners, the majority of whom were Indians, to provide tapped water and pit latrines for their tenants. From 1947 the municipality began to fine recalcitrant landowners, starting a boiling pot of displaced squatters, evicted by Indian landlords, and staying one step ahead of police and corporation harassment."
A constant refrain of the municipality during the late 1940s was that the African squatting 'problem', especially that at Cato Manor, could only be resolved if Durban was granted land at Umlazi for a huge new township. This argument had first been articulated by Natal's provincial administration during the war years: the haphazard control of squatter settlements and property relations in Durban needed replacing with a post-war blueprint of racial zoning and regional planning." The threat of the shantytowns had to be destroyed through physical removal to areas of formally controlled housing. The city was to be divided up into broad zones of white, African and Indian settlement.
This post-war commitment to bold regional planning by the local and provincial authorities was inspired not only by the African shantytowns but by white ratepayers' anti-Indian agitation and a desire to increase the rateable value of land in central Durban. During the early 1940s there had been considerable white mobilization against supposed Indian 'penetration' of the lower reaches of Svhite' Berea. The Smuts government brought the central state into the fray with the 1946 Indian Land Tenure Act, which gave the regional zoning proposals legislative force. In conjunction with the Land Act the Indian Representation Act of the same year sought to woo and co-opt moderate Indian leaders at a time when local and national Indian politics was being radicalized by the Anti-Segregation Council (ASC). The moderate, merchant-based interests had regrouped into the Hatal Indian Organization after being ousted from the leadership of the Natal Indian Congress in 1945. The 1946 legislation offered the NIO leadership a say in the administration of the zoning proposals, and dangled the carrot of Indian communal representation in parliament.66 Designated 'Indian' legislation, the 1946 statutes had far-reaching implications for Africans in Durban, both in their practical implementation and in their ambivalent political consequences. The Cato Manor district and other African shack areas were zoned for Indian residence: Indians owned the land so Indians must live there in future.
But even the municipally-owned Chesterville township, only completed the year before,
64. NA 3/DBN 4/1/3/1504, 290P, 1: Durban City Council memo to Broome Commission 1947, p.7/5-7/9; for details of stepped up police liquor and pass raids see Natal Daily News. 25 June 1948 and Natal Mercury. 30 June 1948; Riots Commission 1949, evidence, pp.140-141.
65. Ninth Interim Report of the Post-War Works and Reconstruction Commission.
66. M. Palmer, The History of Indians in Natal (Cape Town, O.U.P., 1957), pp.131was zoned 'Indian'. The Indian Land Tenure Act did not say it, but the message from the various levels of state was clear: Africans were to be removed from the immediate city on a mass scale and relocated faraway, probably at Umlazi. This axe hung over Africans of all classes: the wealthy few who had bough: small sites in greater Cato Manor, the new African shacklords who had sprung up as intermediaries between landowners and tenants, the newly secure occupants of Chesterville township, the thousands of squatters who were struggling to make 'Mkhumbane our home'. In the long-term thousands of city hostel residents were also threatened by the authorities' talk of Svhitening' the city centre and beachfront.
The squatters' populism was in part a direct response to these various developments in state policy. The state's attempts to contain and ultimately remove African squatter settlements grew from the squatters' militant assertiveness, geographically so close to the centre of white power in the city. As with other aspects of black politics in Durban during the late 1940s there was a fluid and volatile mix of tactics and targets, of shortterm imperatives and long-term goals.
The protest over squatter evictions in the Haviland Road area in 1947 provides an example of how, under certain kinds of leadership, white authority was targeted.
Accompanied by ANC Youth League, Communist Party and Civil Rights League activists, a non-racial deputation, consisting mostly of women, marched through central Durban to the Native Administration offices.67 The marchers vowed to resist eviction until alternative municipal housing was provided. Dissatisfied with the reception it received, the deputation marched to the city hall gardens, declaring its intent to squat there until demands were met. The protesters dispersed when told they would be allowed to rebuild their demolished shacks at Haviland Road.68 The Haviland Road evictees identified municipal policy as the source of their oppression, and through their protest action won a victory. But this kind of politics was the exception rather than the rule. The Natal African Tenants and Peasants Association, which operated in the shantytowns during the late 1940s, also targeted the municipality, but was weakly organized, and concentrated on taking up individual squatter complaints in para-legal fashion. Durban did not see the growth of large-scale squatter movements, defiantly occupying vacant municipal land, as occurred on the Rand during the 1940s.* Struggles by Durban's African squatters were more localized and informal. In most cases not the municipality but more immediate targets of resistance and struggle were identified: the new sub-class of African rackrenters, and Indian landowners.
Relationships among Africans living in the Mkhumbane shack settlements were based around highly complex ownership and tenancy arrangements. An individual shack cluster was often owned by a number of people, both Indian and African. Some of the African part-owners lived in this cluster, others not. Both owners and tenants sub-let rooms. By the late 1940s a process of differentiation had emerged between tenants and those now known as shacklords. As the shack clusters spread in the Mkhumbane area
67. Ilanga. 20 September 1947; Natal Mercury. 12 and 13 September 1947.
68. Edwards, 'Mkhumbane', pp.72-74.
69. A.W. Stadler, 'Birds in the Cornfields: Squatter Movements in Johannesburg, 1944-1947', in B. Bozzoli (ed.), Labour. Townships and Protest (Johannesburg, Ravan, 1979), pp. 19-48.
19 there was considerable pressure on land and material resources, provoking increased conflict among the shack dwellers. Shacklords, the more established and wealthy of whom became the self-styled 'mayors of Mkhumbane', formed 'civilian guards'.™ These were composed of lumpenproletarians and employed shack residents who fell under the shacklord's patronage. The guards, identical to those at the call of shebeen queens, maintained the territorial power of the shacklord. This power grew from the overt use of force and the provision of sites, services and protection. In the socially turbulent world of the squatter camps shacklords' leadership tended to be autocratic and fractious, the basis for sectarian conflict between competing shacklords and their followers.71 Social pressures within the shantytowns made the need to obtain more land ever more pressing. Both shacklords and tenants aspired to own whole shacks; part-ownership was invidious and hardly remunerative. Indian landowners and rackrenters were easily identifiable obstacles to the drive for more property. African material interests in the shacklands found common ground with those of the more established African elite who had long sought to advance their interests through segregationist rhetoric and antiIndianism. 'African' areas 'belonged' to Africans, and should be an exclusive preserve for 'African' accumulation. There were linkages between parochial squatter politics, 'New Africa' and central aspects of city-wide proletarian politics.
Municipal and state policy during the later 1940s had a crucial impact on anti-Indianism in African society. The municipality's legal campaigns against Indian landowners, and especially the 1946 legislation, thrust Indians into the no-man's-land between squatters and the authorities. Aspirant African landowners expressed their material interests, and stood to gain political mileage, by attacking specifically 'Indian' interests. African political and clerical leaders popularised the view that the 1946 Acts divided the city between whites and Indians, and cast Africans out.72 Here were the classic tactics of moulding ethnicity and building parochial nationalism. Both Africans and Indians were being crafted into distinct 'communities'. The state's policies of racial zoning enhanced the ideological homogenization of 'Africans', 'Indians' and Svhites'. In a very real sense, to Africans whose class positions ranged from those of aspirant landowners to lumpen squatters, Indians generally seemed to be favoured by the 1946 legislation: they had been 'given' Cato Manor and some form of franchise. The mass of Durban's Africans developed at least some material interest in anti-Indianism. It was common for African intellectuals at the time to talk of 'the African' and 'the Indian', and it was highly likely that similar racial concepts held increasing sway amongst ordinary Africans. Ethnic and racial social labels were reinforced by the exclusivity of many religious and cultural Indian practices.73 Ironically the radicalized NIC's spirited resistance against the 1946 legislation further enhanced a view of Indians as a distinct community with distinct
70. Edwards, 'Mkhumbane', pp.74-80.
71. For a useful comparative study, see P. Bonner, The Politics of Black Squatter Movements on the Rand, 1944-1952', paper given to the South African Historical Society conference, January 1988.
72. Riots Commission 1949, evidence, pp. 224-242.
73. These points need further research. For an example of limited social interaction,
even within the same household, see A. Sitas, 'Accommodation and resistance:
industrial discipline, mass production and conflict in a rubber manufacturing plant', unpublished paper, Sociology Department, University of Natal, Durban, 1986, pp.11-16.
During the late 1940s various forces interacted to foster and generalize anti-Indianism amongst Africans: the daily experiences of Africans as squatters, consumers and commuters; the tenor of African political rhetoric; and the state's differential policies towards Indians and Africans. But the impact of state policy was more complex than so far suggested.
The state's crucial intervention through the 1946 legislation was followed by indecision over implementation. Key Native Affairs officials in Pretoria dug their heels in against the urbanisation of the Umlazi Mission Reserve. Conflicting interests within the state and local bureaucracies had not been resolved by 1949: the future of Cato Manor and other Indian-zoned areas hung in the balance. If this was one indication that the state was not siding wholly with Indians against Africans, continuing white anti-Indianism in the city was another. During 1947-48 white politicians in Durban, including the mayor and parliamentarians, publically called for large-scale and compulsory expulsion of Indians to India. Amidst threats of violence Indians were branded as 'foreigners' who should be given 'Boats not Votes'." Anti-Indianism reached new heights with the general election victory of the Nationalists in 1948. The weak reformism of Smuts's 1946 Indian Representation Act was swept aside. Afrikaner nationalists had been engaged in a boycott movement of Indian stores on the Transvaal platteland during the late 1940s.
Nationalist cabinet ministers used the public platform to denounce Indians as 'aliens' without rights and without a future in South Africa."
The Nationalists nevertheless retained the 1946 zoning proposals. These developments combined to produce a combustible consciousness amongst Durban's Africans who saw themselves excluded from a city 'divided' between whites and Indians. But Indians as a group were increasingly vulnerable politically. African politics in this period was sufficiently volatile to incorporate these disparate and apparently contradictory viewpoints. Here was a melting pot of ideas from which Africans could draw for particular purposes. Establishment politicians such as the Natal ANC president, George Champion, continued to fire broadsides against the narrow target of Indian traders, landowners and bus operators who frustrated their ambitions." In the shantytowns, squatters and shacklords took advantage of state indecision and Indian vulnerability to take the law into their own hands against Indian landowners. Squatters refused to heed eviction notices, and settled illegally on 'Indian' land.77 Local ANC Youth Leaguer, Jordan Ngubane, suggested that normally 'arrogant' Indians should swallow their political pride and join as junior partners an African-led mass resistance movement.
Ngubane observed that the Indian-only Passive Resistance campaigns against the 1946 'Ghetto Act' were bound to fail unless they gained African backing.™ This was an acute observation of trends within Indian politics. In taking over control of the NIC, radical
74. NA 3/DBN 4/1/3/1580, 323B, 2: NIO memo to Riots Commission, 11 March 1949; Riots Commission 1949, evidence, pp.194-196; Guardian 13 May 1948.
75. NA 3/DBN 4/1/3/1580, 323B, 2: South African Indian Organization to Prime Minister, 10 November 1948.