Apartheid History

“The cemetery is the ghost of Roodepoort West. It is the last vision of the vibrant African location that once stood where the suburban houses now stand. Like a ghost, the cemetery continues to haunt the people, now living miles away in Dobsonville, who remember its past." - Michelle Hay. 

For reasons that I have never fully understood, between about 1968 and 1972, the Wits campus underwent a period where posters of all colours and sizes proliferated, advertising everything from Rag Ball to intervarsity rugby, from Nusas teach-ins to visiting lecturers, and from Fresher’s Reception to rock and roll festivals. Every now and again the apartheid thugs that ran the country would provoke a rash of political posters, and the SRC elections were always an active time for poster artists.

In May 2018 Robyn Keet, our picture library manager at the time, teamed up with the PhotoZA Gallery in Rosebank Mall, Johannesburg, to create an exhibition of photography that covered the apartheid period in South Africa from the 1950s to the 1980s. DocuFest Africa: The Exhibition, showcased at times rare and unusual images of life in South Africa taken by leading photographers at the height of apartheid. Curated by Reney Warrington, the Exhibition was drawn from collections represented by Africa Media Online.

In the early 1960s the Apartheid Government declared Pageview a white suburb (using the Groups Areas Act) and a decade later the bulldozers began their work. Residents were removed to Lenasia while many traders took up space at the Oriental Plaza. It was during this time that Franco Frescura set out to document some of the spaces, places and people of the area. Below are a few photos from 1973 that may interest readers. No captions have been added. If you recognise a person or building please post a comment below the article.

 

The Soweto Theatre is a landmark structure built in an area with a powerful history. In the article below, Johannesburg enthusiast and well-known journalist Lucille Davie unpacks the details behind the theatre's design and construction. She also reveals the significance of the Jabulani Amphitheatre next door. The article was originally published on the City of Johannesburg's website on 12 June 2012. Click here to view more of Davie's work.

In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie recounts the fascinating story behind Nelson Mandela's capture near Howick in the early 1960s. The piece was originally published on the Brand South Africa website on 2 July 2013. Click here to view more of Davie's writing.

Nelson Mandela’s head rises dramatically from the ground on a small plot outside the village of Howick in KwaZulu-Natal. His face is sculpted in 50 thin steel columns, marking the spot where he was arrested in 1962.

Dube is the name of a popular township in Soweto, but on a larger scale Dube is a well-known Nguni surname. However, in nature the name belongs to an animal, e-dube – a lovely, cheeky one with bold black and white stripes, the zebra. Here follows an exploration of the story of the Dube Township, Soweto’s own zebra. It is bound to reveal a few secrets and highlights how the Dube history differs from that of other Soweto townships. There are however, also similarities and a common apartheid and struggle past.

In the article below, well-known journalist Lucille Davie explores the rich social history of the Bantu Men's Social Centre and Dorkay House in downtown Johannesburg. Both buildings have received blue plaques since her article was first published on the City of Joburg's website on 2 November 2006. Click here to view more of Davie's work.

In 2014, a blue plaque was unveiled on Adam Asvat's Pageview home. Lucille Davie, one of Joburg's legendary journalists was there and compiled the following report (originally published in the Saturday Star on 3 May 2014) . Click here to view more of Davie's work.

They tore up the roads. They cut off the water and electricity. They made sand mounds on the sports field so that the community couldn’t play soccer or cricket any more. 

Below are notes prepared by the heritage team from the City of Johannesburg for a speech delivered at the unveiling ceremony of a blue plaque for Juliwe Cemetery during Heritage Month 2017. The speech was read out by Mr Kepi Madumo, Executive Director for Community Development, on behalf of the MMC. The notes tell the story of the forced removals of the African community from Roodepoort West to Dobsonville and the fight to save the cemetery from destruction.

We South Africans live in a polyglot society, which under our Constitution, has 11 official languages that “must enjoy parity of esteem and must be treated equitably”. Mother tongues range from Afrikaans to IsiZulu, from isiXhosa to Setswana, however to stop us being a modern Tower of Babel we largely use one language to communicate between each other and that is English. In doing so we are reflecting a world wide trend. In today’s world English has become the “Lingua Franca” replacing French as the language of diplomacy and German in the field of science.

In June 1954, a new building was completed at 80 Albert Street to the east of the Johannesburg CBD (just south of the Barclays / ABSA precinct today). It was designed as the head office of Johannesburg’s Non-European Affairs Department (JNEAD) and became the nerve centre for controlling the lives of black people in Johannesburg for over three decades. Despite having great cultural significance, the building’s controversial and complex history remains relatively unknown outside heritage circles.

 

The 50th floor of the Carlton Centre was once known as the Carlton Panorama. It opened in the early 1970s as a whites-only facility in a vastly different context to the one in which it was planned. Tough economic times replaced the boom of the 1950s and 1960s and the apartheid regime was coming under increasing pressure - internally and externally - to implement reforms.

The following article, adapted from James Ball's 2012 masters dissertation, looks at the practical compromise made by the apartheid government and the Johannesburg City Council not to 'relocate' black communities living in Pimville in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It is a bit heavy in places but a fascinating read nonetheless.

In the mid to late 1950s the United Party controlled Johannesburg City Council (JCC) and the Nationalist Government were thrown into crisis when a white man was murdered outside the Mai-Mai Beerhall to the east of the City. Patrick Lewis, the Chariman of the Council’s Non-European Affairs Committee, provided the following description of the incident:

Friday 16 October 2015 was a very special day in the history of Tiger Kloof. We opened of the Old Tigers' Hall (which use to be a girls dining hall before apartheid's Bantu Education Act closed the school). The renovated building is dedicated to the memory of all the Old Tigers who attended the institution from 1904 until it was closed in 1962. The building had been derelict for 52 years until last year, when a grant from the Anglo American Chairman's Fund enabled renovation of the old school's girls dining hall.

A visit to the bustling Oriental Plaza today hides the dark history of its apartheid origins. Opening in 1971, it was the result of a compromise between the Johannesburg City Council and the Department of Community Development over the future of Indian Traders in Pageview. In the article below Nigel Mandy highlights the many tragedies of the flawed ideology behind the relocation of traders to the Plaza.

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