Africans in Cape Town : state policy and popular resistance, 1936-73

Doctoral Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This local history focusses on Cape Town's black African population, the development 'Native' (later 'Bantu') policy, as well as the escalating organised resistance which arose in response. The study relies as far as possible on archival sources to disaggregate these themes. On this basis, it provides a detailed analysis of the evolution of policy with regard to influx control, squatter control and residential segregation in the local context. Escalating resistance is discussed in a similarly-nuanced focussing particularly on mounting tensions between the pragmatic 'united frontists' of the Communist Party and the progressive wing of the local ANC, and 'principled' political opponents to the left and the right. Considerable continuity in 'Native Policy' is revealed over what used to be seen as the great divide of 1948, when segregation was supposed suddenly to have given way to something qualitatively different named apartheid. The regionally-specific policy of 'Coloured Labour Preference' is shown to have been, in practice, nothing but empty rhetoric employed in a failed attempt to justify a cruel policy aimed at safeguarding the racial exclusivity of the franchise, while at the same time providing cheap and tractable labour. The thesis calls into question a common assumption that class-concepts best explain changing patterns of resistance in the urban areas of South Africa. Ideological and strategic tensions, irreducible to class-differences are shown to have played a significant role in retarding the struggle for national liberation.