Segregation and Apartheid in Twentieth-Century South Africa

By William Beinart; Saul Dubow | Go to book overview

10

DISPLACED URBANIZATION:

South Africa’s rural slums *

Colin Murray

Colin Murray, a British anthropologist, has done extensive research on rural social conditions in the Orange Free State/Lesotho region. When he wrote this article in 1987, South Africa was experiencing a state of heightened social crisis and seeming political deadlock. On the one hand, apartheid was manifestly beginning to unravel in the face of massive popular resistance and unsustainable internal contradictions. On the other hand, the imposition of a draconian State of Emergency in June 1986 suggested that the apartheid state was determined to resist loss of power with all the means at its disposal. Murray begins by drawing attention to the repeal of the pass laws in 1986 and their replacement by an inchoate strategy of ‘orderly urbanization’. In the light of this confusion over the government’s intentions, Murray draws attention to the phenomenon of ‘displaced urbanization’, a phrase that neatly captures the contradictory effects of apartheid policies in respect to continued white reliance on African labour within the context of the development of notionally independent African ‘Bantustans’. In his case study examination of two rural population concentrations in the Orange Free State and the Transvaal, Murray demonstrates how African urbanization has been diverted from the white cities, leading to the rapid creation of massive rural slums in the countryside. Of the economically active inhabitants of these ghettoes, most spend a great deal of time and money commuting daily to jobs in the white metropolitan areas; but the majority of the population are unemployed and live a marginal existence, having been evicted from white farms and cities on the grounds that they are surplus to economic requirements. Murray’s article powerfully captures the endemic confusions and contradictions characteristic of late apartheid. And, in the case of KwaNdebele, he highlights the volatile politics of popular resistance

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