«STRUCTURE AND EXPERIENCE IN THE MAKING OFAPARTHEID 6-10 February 1990 AUTHOR: Iain Edwards and Tim Nuttall TITLE: Seizing the moment : the January ...»
Indian buses were boycotted at Booth Road, the main Cato Manor terminus. African commuters used the emergency municipal buses, or packed into African-driven cars and small lorries which flourished as pirate taxis.1" Buses were also boycotted elsewhere. The Point dock workers insisted they would never use Indian buses again, and savings funds were started at the Bell Street hostel and elsewhere for residents to buy their own buses."8 There was a partial boycott on the Lamont route.'" Initially the bus boycott was a spontaneous consequence of the riots. By the end of February it had fizzled out, except at Booth Road where Indian buses were only carrying around 25% of their pre-riot traffic.'™ Here small groups of khaki-clad pickets, organized by taxi operators and aspirant bus owners, policed the boycott.121 The pickets used violence but this alone could not have ensured their success. The commuters who booed the Indian buses when they arrived at the terminus, or stoned them along the route, provided a groundswell of support.122 The temporary municipal bus certificates for Booth Road were due to expire at the end of February, leaving only Indian buses running on the route. As the end of the month approached, rumours circulated that
116. NA 3/DBN 4/1/3/1579,323B, 1: Secretary, Cato Manor Ratepayers Association to TC, 9 February 1949, and NAD Manager's Report, 22 February 1949; Natal Mercury. 24 February 1949; NA 3/DBN 4/1/3/1579,323B, 1: Assistant Licensing Officer to TC, 15 February 1949.
117. Initially the municipality laid on 210 special buses, to clear the central city of crowds as quickly as possible. The Indian bus owners challenged the legality of this, and by the end of February there were 30 municipal buses on the Booth Road route. Torr, 'Lamont', 155; Natal Mercury. 21 January 1949, 22 February 1949; NA 3/DBN 4/1/3/1579,323B, 1: Liaison Officer report, 24 February 1949;
Sunday Tribune. 20 February 1949; Ilanga. 28 January 1949.
118. Riots Commission 1949, evidence, p.346; NA 3/DBN 4/1/3/1582, 323B, 4: Z.
Phungula to TC, 17 February 1949.
119. NA 3/DBN 4/1/3/1580, 323B, 2: Native Locations Combined Advisory Board minutes, 8 March 1949.
120. Details in this paragraph are from NA 3/DBN 4/1/3/1580, 323B, 2: Durban transportation board hearing, 25 February 1949.
121. Guardian 3 February 1949.
122. NA 3/DBN 4/1/3/1581, 323B, 3: H.G. Stone's memo to mayor, 30 May 1949.
30 Africans would rise up against Indians again and destroy all Indian buses. These rumours spread like wild fire, driving over 500 Indians to seek safety in refugee camps, and signalling the continuing receptiveness of ordinary people to the spirit of the riots.121 Increased police patrols and the last minute renewal of the municipal bus certificates deflated the rumours, however, and the weekend was quiet.
Conservatives in the Durban ANC and Native Advisory Board agreed to set up a joint council with the Natal Indian Congress to 'promote mutual understanding'.1" With the other hand they used the riots to increase their bargaining power with the municipality, seeking specifically to advance the interests of an aspirant commercial middle class through segregation policies which excluded Indian interests from 'Native' areas.121 Unlike the less 'established' squatter leaders, who made similar demands but needed the backing of popular agitation to be heard by the authorities, the Advisory Board politicians already had influence with officials.126 They were supported by the NAD manager, E Havemann, who saw the political advantages of the controlled growth of larger scale African entrepreneurs.1" He was hostile to the uncontrolled petty trading at Booth Road, but initiated basic market facilities at Lamont and Chesterville, set up a wholesale trade for supplying African retailers, and supported African trade licences for Cato Manor and elsewhere. These initiatives yielded increased fees for Native Administration coffers, and enabled the riots to be remembered as an 'act of God' which launched a more prosperous African trading class.128 The Native Administration Department invited the Zulu paramount chief to address hostel and shack dwellers, a move designed to invoke respect for the municipal authorities and warn against further rioting.129 The major short-term concern of the municipality, however, was not political co-option and control but financing and managing the refugee camps and emergency buses.130 It was left to the police to consolidate the state's counter-attack against the rioters. All public meetings were banned until mid February. At least 100 Africans were charged with public violence and given to hard labour sentences. Liquor raids were stepped up; police searched widely for looted goods and prosecuted pirate taxis and illegal street traders."1 Armoured cars continued to patrol the city, and military units remained on standby. On numerous occasions the police dispersed African crowds which gathered outside Indian refugee
123. Natal Mercury. 24-26 February 1949; NA 3/DBN 4/1/3/1579, 323B, 1: Liaison Officer report, 24 February 1949 and 1 March 1949.
124. Karis and Carter, Protest, p.287.
125. NA 3/DBN 4/1/3/1580,323B, 2: S Ngcobo to TC, 4 March 1949; Natal Mercury.
17 January 1949.
126. Natal Mercury. 21 January 1949.
127. NA 3/DBN 4/1/3/1581, 323B, 3: Native Administration manager's report to Native Administration Committee, 16 June 1949.
128. UNISA, Champion papers, AAS1, Box 1, 2.2.1 and 2.2.2. A W G Champion
interview by M W Swanson, 1 January 1973; NA 3/DBN 4/1/3/1580, 323B, 2:
Native Administration manager to TC, 28 March 1949; L. Kuper, Bourgeoisie.
129. Natal Mercury. 26 February 1949; Ilanga. 22 January 1949 and 5 March 1949.
130. NA 3/DBN 4/1/3/1579, 323B, 1: Town Clerk's diary, 30 January 1949.
131. Natal Mercury. 26 January 1949 and 19 February 1949; Ilanga. 12 February 1949.
31 camps or threatened to stone Indian buses.1" Any African crowd was seen to embody further rioting; the police called for the relocation of central city beer halls and bus depots, and insisted that emergency municipal buses should continue to run on the Booth Road route to minimise volatile commuter crowds.133 Between February and May there were four incidents of African-Indian scuffles in the centre of town, one of which disrupted the whole of the Warwick Avenue market area. The role of the police was far from unambiguous in these clashes."4 During April 1949 the aftermath of the riots took a new turn with plans for a general strike of African workers. The architect was the Dock Workers Union leader, Zulu Phungula. Aiming to direct the popular energy of the riots against capital, Phungula proposed a general strike to secure wage demands of one pound five shillings per day or thirty two pounds ten shillings per month.133 These amounted to increases of around 500%, a radical challenge to Durban's ultra-low African wage levels.
The Point dock workers were well known for their militancy. They were heirs to a long tradition of strike action; they had been prominent in the 1948 beer hall boycott and the January riots. Soon after the riots Dock Workers Union was renamed the Natal Zulu National Workers Union (NZNWU) and a large public meeting was held.136 This gathering was dispersed by the police and heavy patrols traversed the Point area. Under the shadow of this police action, the NZNWU launched an intriguing campaign which linked general strike plans to a co-operative scheme to buy buses. A widely distributed pamphlet called on all 'Zulu workers' to strike indefinitely on May Day 1949. Strikers were urged to gather at the Point, to boycott the beer halls and municipal buses, to 'divorce themselves from everything European', and to bring their money for the bus company. Native Administration officials believed that the workers were 'not sufficiently well organised' for a widescale strike. The police nevertheless arrested Phungula on 30 April, and heavily armed convoys of police roamed the city during the weekend. During 2-3 May an estimated 800 dock workers struck work; they were joined by pockets of workers in firms around the harbour. The strike was weakened, however, by poor organisation and over-reliance on Phungula's leadership, by the aggressive police presence, and by employer threats of prosecution or offers of concessions. By the third day it had fizzled out. The authorities nevertheless regarded the strike agitation as
132. Natal Mercury. 19 January 1949,31 January 1949,21 February 1949; NA 3/DBN 4/1/3/1579, 323B, 1: Liaison officer report, 8 February 1949; NA 3/DBN 4/1/3/1580, 323B, 2: Liaison officer report, 6 March 1949.
133. NA 3/DBN 4/1/3/1579, 323B, 1: Deputy Town,Clerk to Registrar, Natal Supreme Court, 25 January 1949; NA 3/DBN 4/1/3/1580, 323B, 2: Durban transportation board hearing, 25 February 1949, and South African Police to TC, 12 March 1949 and 17 March 1949.
134. Guardian 24 February 1949, 3 March 1949, 17 April 1949, and 19 May 1949.
135. The following account is based on D. Hemson, 'Class consciousness and migrant workers: dock workers of Durban', PhD, University of Warwick, 1979;
correspondence in Central Archives Depot (CAD), NTS 2222, 416/280, 2; CAD Industrial Legislation Commission K18, 34, NK3, file 37, evidence of Zulu Phungula, Durban, 21 April 1949, paras. 2950-2964; Guardian. 5 and 12 May 1949; Ilanga. 7 May 1949.
136. Phungula claimed that 20 000 attended, including workers 'from across the Umgeni'. Evidence has not been found to support this.
32 sufficiently threatening to re-banish Phungula from Durban, this time for ten years.
If the local state had been able to find the head of the strike and chop it off, this task was far more difficult in Booth Road where there was little explicit organisation. The bus boycott dragged on into the second half of 1949. Employers in industry and commerce began to complain that the continuing disruption of Cato Manor commuter traffic was affecting work attendance and productivity of African employees. The boycott had been seen by some members of the Durban Corporation as a useful pretext for introducing a municipal monopoly or utility company to run black bus transport.137 However when the central government refused to subsidise losses on the emergency buses these schemes were dropped. In May 1949 the National Transport Commission ruled that the emergency buses be withdrawn, and eleven certificates be given to African operators. Established African business interests, linked to the Native Advisory Board, jumped at this opportunity, excluding the more marginal squatter entrepreneurs, such as those gathered around the Zulu Hlanganani Association. The first African buses began running in July 1949.°" In the meantime the resilience of the illegal traders, pirate taxi drivers and bus boycotters had forced the police to take drastic action. In May 1949 the police tried to shut down street trading and illegal taxi transport at Booth Road.
This provoked widespread stoning of Indian buses, and running battles between police and residents in the area, with the police using 'frequent shows of armed force'.13* During the second half of 1949 the municipality grappled with longer-term policy responses to the riots. A common reaction of Durban's white citizens to the riots was that there were 'too many Natives' in the city. In December 1949 the city council instructed the Native Administration Department to tighten influx controls drastically.1" The focus of municipal concern during late 1949 was the future of Cato Manor."1 Apart from questions of health and housing control, Cato Manor was - as the riots and their aftermath had graphically shown - a volatile political threat to the rulers of the city. The municipality was at odds with itself over Cato Manor; some argued that all shack residents should be forcibly removed, while others proposed controlled site and service schemes on expropriated land in the district. The future of Cato Manor was to be a major policy issue during the 1950s.
137. Natal Provincial Administration, Report... Durban Passenger Transport (1946) (hereafter Scott/Baldwin report), pp. 2-3, 47-50; NA 3/DBN 4/1/3/1579, 323B, 1: E. Havemann to TC, 18 February 1949; NA 3/DBN 4/1/3/1581, 323B, 3:
Deputy Town Clerk to Chair, Electricity Committee, 19 May 1949.
138. NA 3/DBN 4/1/3/1579, 323B, 1: Secretary for Transport to TC, 28 February 1949; NA 3/DBN 4/1/3/1582, 323B, 4: TC to Secretary for Transport, 7 July 1949; NA 3/DBN 4/1/3/1581, 323B, 3: Electricity Committee minutes, 27 May 1949; Natal Mercury. 2 July 1949.
139. NA 3/DBN 4/1/3/1582,323B, 4: Secretary, Cato Manor Ratepayers Association to Mayor, 11 July 1949; Ilanga. 21 May 1949; Natal Daily News. 12 May 1949;
NA 3/DBN 4/1/3/1581,323B, 3: Mayor's telegram to Prime minister's secretary, 17 May 1949, and H.G. Stone's memo to mayor, 7 June 1949.
140. See correspondence in NA 3/DBN 4/1/3/1694, 467, 6.
141. I. Edwards, "The Durban City Council, M'Kumbane and the Cato Manor Emergency Camp, 1949-1952', in Natal 1909-1961 (University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg: Department of Historical and Political Studies, 1983).
33 The 'liberation' of Mkhumbane created enormous dilemmas for alliance politics. The shack dwellers wanted to keep the land. This view was supported and explained by
Congress Youth League journalist H I E Dhlomo:
The African mass-man agrees with the authorities that the races should be separated. Cato Manor is a predominantly African area these days.
The mass-man argues that here the Africans should live by himself and cater for his own interests...Let Indians and Europeans confine themselves to their own areas.' "2 But the issue was not so clearcut. In order to tap into squatter militancy the restructured ANC under Luthuli recognized the need to articulate grassroots demands. This meant supporting a call for taking land away from Indians. This was one of the major constraints on alliance politics in Natal. The Cato Manor branch of the NIC resisted all calls for expropriation of their land. The Durban NIC argued that Africans should be given land in Umlazi and areas north of the city."3 The ANC never fully confronted this dilemma.