"Ungadinwa Nangomso - don't get tired tomorrow" : a history of the Black Sash advice office in Cape Town 1968 to 1980

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This thesis is a historical case study of the Athlone Advice of the Black Sash of South Africa between the years 1958 and 1980.The organisation known Johannesburg in 1955 as the Black with the initial Sash was established aim of protecting the Constitution of South Africa Tram amendments which were perceived as a threat to the democratic parliamentary process. In 1958, the Black Sash, which had a membership limited to white South African women voters, was challenged by a group of women Tram its Western Cape Region who wished to transform the aims and objectives of the organisation. Under the leadership of these women, the organisation initiated contact with Africans in Cape Town and supported the anti-pass law campaigns Tram 1957 to 1960. The new dynamic thus engendered led to the opening of the Athlone Advice office, where Black Sash volunteers assisted Africans with the many problems and difficulties encountered by the implementation of apartheid ideology and legislation. This Advice office was the model Tor Black Sash Advice offices opened in eight urban centres in South Africa during the 1960's. From 1958 to c.1988, the Black Sash was transformed into an organisation aimed at furthering a culture of human rights in South Africa. By 1990, it had become internationally regarded for the role it had played, and was continuing to play, in the upholding of democratic ideals in South Africa. One of the themes I examine in this thesis is the role which the Advice offices had in the transformation of the Black Sash. Until c.1990, very little was known about the Black Sash or its membership and the two published works which covered aspects of its development were out of print. Even less was known about the Advice offices. Apart Tram monthly and annual reports sent to members and a small number of supporters, and occasional case histories published in the press, the history, substance and human dimensions of the Advice offices remained obscure. The present work is designed to illuminate a small part of that history. This thesis is intended as a case study of the pioneer Advice office established in Cape Town in 1958. The study takes a chronological form, the chapters covering five year periods Tram c.1957 to c.1980. The history of the Advice office has been placed within the context of the wider history of the Black Sash and South Africa. I attempt to assess the nature of the interaction between the Athlone Advice office and its parent organisation; the African population of Cape Town; officials in local and state government agencies ; the law courts; the general public employers, commerce and industry ; human and civil rights groups other womens' organisations ; the government and the international community. I have examined the extent to which the ideology and methodology of the Athlone Advice office reflected the changing liberal, philanthropic ethic and how the Advice office responded to notions of charity and welfare. I have also examined its response to nationalist ideology, in the form of Afrikaner and African nationalism. This thesis was not intended as a study in gender relations, but I have included comment on the role played by the women who volunteered at the Advice office.

Bibliography: pages 185-190.