Academic journal article African Studies Review

Faction Fights, Student Protests, and Rebellion: The Politics of Beer-Drinks and Bad Food in the Transkei, South Africa, 1955-63

Academic journal article African Studies Review

Faction Fights, Student Protests, and Rebellion: The Politics of Beer-Drinks and Bad Food in the Transkei, South Africa, 1955-63

Article excerpt

Abstract:

This article examines two cases of conflict from the Transkei region of South Africa. In the first instance in 1955, young men caught up in a stick fight after drinking beer were arrested, tried, and convicted, and they received harsh sentences of six months of hard labor. In the second case in 1961, boys at an elite school in Umtata protested their poor food and lodging arrangements, set fire to the school library, and threatened to kill the headmaster. While they were convicted, their punishment of caning was considered a very light sentence. These two cases illuminate the emerging nature of youthful resistance to the inception of home rule that was later to give rise to the Bantustans, as well as the response by state officials seeking to cope with the enlarging rural opposition to the structures of apartheid. The paradox of the strikingly different sentences is examined and explained.

Résumé: Cet article examine deux cas de conflit dans la région Transkei en Afrique du Sud. Dans la première occurrence en 1955, des jeunes gens pris dans une bagarre à coups de bâtons après avoir bu de la bière ont été arrêtés, mis en procès, condamnés, et ils ont reçu des sentences dures de six mois de travaux forcés. Dans la deuxième occurrence en 1961, des garçons d'une école réservée à l'élite à Umtata, après avoir protesté contre leurs conditions de vie, ont mis le feu à la bibliothèque de l'école, et ont menacé de tuer le principal. Bien qu'ils aient été condamnés, leur sentence de cannage fut considérée comme très légère. Ces deux cas éclairent à la fois la nature émergente de la résistance des jeunes à la création de la "home rule" (qui engendra la création des Bantustans), et également la réponse des officiels de l'état tentant de faire face à l'opposition montante dans les campagnes contre les structures de l'apartheid. Le paradoxe entre la nature des deux sentences est examiné et expliqué.

In early January 1955, seventeen young men (all between the ages of 20 and 24) went on trial in the Cofimvaba district of the Transkei Territories-which was then a native reserve in the eastern part of the Cape Province of South Africa - for being members of an unlawful assembly This unlawful assembly had started as a beer-drink - an informal gathering to drink home-made sorghum beer - for which the headman had not issued a permit because he feared that it might turn violent with various factions fighting among themselves. The gathering ended when Chief Kaiser Matanzima, appointed to his position by the apartheid state, fired a gun into the air and dispersed the young men, who were later arrested at their parents' homes. At the subsequent trial, the white magistrate of the district found the young men guilty and sentenced each of them to six months of hard labor, a decision that was upheld on appeal.1

Six years later, in June 1961, about 210 students of St. John's College in Umtata, the capital of the Transkei, went on trial for holding an unlawful meeting and for public violence and arson. This was the outcome of a chain of events that had started as a verbal complaint to the principal and boarding master of the school about the quality of food served to students, as well as the poor lighting in the dormitories, lack of hot water in bathrooms, and fleas in the beds. Within four days this relatively low-level protest had turned into a major conflagration: the students issued a death threat to the boarding master and threw stones through his windows, and they set both the library and a college-owned truck on fire. The police and fire brigade responded, arrested the students, and extinguished the fires. In the context of broadening social unrest in the year following the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960, what had begun as an ordinary student protest had turned quickly into a much larger political moment in which African students contested the political futures mapped out for them by white apartheid planners and African homeland leaders. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.