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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Unrest and Rioting among Africans



..Introductory remarks

There has been great unrest since the end of 1959 in Bizana, and Lusikisiki, the three eastern districts of Pondoland, ^bordering on Natal. This unrest spread later to certain other i districts of the Transkei.

Press reports were discouraged by the authorities. Reporters |cbuld not be debarred from visiting the small "White" towns in the nor from travelling along the main roads, but were not granted i-j>ermits to enter the African Reserves, and were refused permission to meet the Paramount Chief. The newly-appointed Commissioner-' Genera] for the Transkei is reported to have said on 21 September I960, "It is quite clear that some newspapers have embarked on J systematic campaign of creating suspicion with regard to events ia the Bantu homelands, and every opportunity is seized to discredit the Bantu authorities in the eyes of the Bantu as well as the White people". He is said to have refused to see a party of journalists, and to have stated that news would be released only through his office and solely to the S.A. Press Association.

(») Star report, 2 December 1959.

A departmental committee was appointed to enquire into the causes of the disturbances, with special reference to the observance of Pondo law and custom in connection with the establishment o( tribal authorities, the fixing of their boundaries, the appointment of members, the proper functioning of these bodies, and such other matters as appeared to be necessary. The chairman was the Chief Bantu Affairs Commissioner for the Ciskei. The findings of this committee are summarized later in this Survey.

The disturbances

The first reported incident took place on 16 February 1960," when it was stated that two White constables went to an area neat the town of Bizana to investigate an allegation that Africans had; ploughed up land in a betterment scheme that had been reserved! for other purposes. Their vehicle was attacked by about twenty men brandishing assegais and sticks, but they made good their escape. Although the incident was in no way directed against While trader as a precaution several White families in the area went to the town for the night.

Information about the next incident was given by the Primej Minister in the Assembly on 22 March.'3' On the 19th of that;] month two tribal councillors were taken to hospital in Bizana after an angry mob had assaulted them and burned down their huts! Rumours spread that the crowd planned to attack the hospital in order to murder the councillors, and also to storm the gaol to try to release a man who had been arrested in connection with the assault. Numbers of White traders from outlying areas brought the! families to Bizana for safety, on the nights of the 19th and 20t| fifteen women with their children sought refuge in the hospital where a guard was posted, and the town was patrolled at night According to Press reports'4' a crowd of about 500 African! gathered on the main road : the Prime Minister said that they canx!, no nearer than eight miles from the town and the rumoured attacl did not eventuate.

(!) Rand Dally Mall. 22 September 1960.

(2) Star, 17 February.

(3) Hansard 10 cote. 3848-9. (i) Star. 21 March.

It was alleged, he continued, that the chief of Tzekclo Location near Bizana intended enlisting (he help of men of the Maci tribe i at Harding in demonstrating at a meeting of chiefs and tribal

Authorities that was planned for 23 March. The Chief Bantu Affairs Commissioner, accompanied by police in saraccns, entered the location to investigate. At first only a few women and children could be seen, but when the party had penetrated deep into the location the women uttered loud war cries and the Africans began emerging and collecting in large armed groups. The Commissioner addressed several groups in turn and heard their complaints: opposition was expressed to the Bantu authorities system, and it was said that the tribal authorities wanted to deprive the people of their land. He offered to explain the working of the system if a meeting was arranged. The groups dispersed when ordered to do so.

Policemen who later gave evidence in court are reported to have said that between 20 March and 23 June, 27 kraals were ; iburned down. On 2 May a police party was forced to open fire on a mob that had set fire to the hut of a headman in the Bizana district.

Further disturbances took place on 22 May. It is reported'11' that the kraal of Chief Cele, near Bizana, was set alight, and that £: when the mob failed to obey an order to disperse the police opened |-fire, one African being killed and three wounded. On the same after-'OOon a crowd numbering more than a hundred is said to have [.-attacked the kraal of Councillor Dana, a member of the Territorial f Authority, in the Lusikisiki district. He faced them with a shotgun I while neighbours went for help. When the police arrived Councillor i Dana had been injured and two Africans were found dead with Shotgun wounds. The crowd had left, on its way setting fire to five kraals about three miles away. Three more kraals were burned <furing the next week.(7)

According to Press reports,'*' squads of heavily armed police patrolled the affected districts, employing a helicopter to search for v people who had been involved in the disturbances.

A serious clash between tribesmen and the police took place on 6 June in a valley adjoining Ngquza Hill, between Bizana and jlusikisiki. It was reported'"' that Africans from a score of kraals e (net there to discuss complaints against their chiefs: estimates of their numbers varied from between four and five hundred to several (housand. Two aircraft and a helicopter dropped tear gas and smoke tlbmbs on the crowd, and police vehicles approached from two directions, one party apparently descending from the hill. The Africans raised a white flag. The police alleged that shots were fired I at them - but a Press report states that later, when under cross-; examination during a court case, a police sergeant agreed it was possible that the firing had come from the second party of police.:, At all events the police then opened fire, pursuing the tribesmen who, fled into the bush.
(') Rand Dally Mail, 12 August, and Star. 9 September. ,. <.f> Rand Daily Mail. 25 May.

(') Ibid. 12 August and Sunday Tlma. 12 June. (8) Daily News, 1 June.

-' (») Rand Daily Mail and Mercury, 9 June, Sunday Times and Similar Tribune.
12 June, Contact, 2 July. Daily News, 14 June.

In an official statement issued on 9 June the Minister of Justice1'
said that six Africans had been shot dead. At the subsequent inquest!
a constable reported that according to fresh evidence the number',
was eleven, but it was stated that Pondos who claimed to have been;'
at the scene put the number as high as thirty. Thirteen wounded)
persons were admitted to the Holy Cross Mission Hospital, and H-
was believed that other wounded remained either in their kraals',
or in hiding amongst the hills. Twenty-one arrests were made, two «
Africans subsequently being acquitted and the rest found guilty of-1
"fighting". The dead were buried in shallow graves at the scene of:
the meeting: an order for their exhumation for post-mortems was"
granted at the inquest.

After this clash, police patrolling was intensified, the Chief." Bantu Affairs Commissioner flew to Pretoria for consultations and, on return, held a series of meetings to enable the people to air their' grievances.

Hut-burning continued. The headman of Mtentu location near.: Umtala is said to have been burned to death in his hut, a woman who had been with him dying in hospital. It was reported that! another sub-headman in Amadibe location was burned to deathr on 21 June, two more kraals in the Amankwe location were set on;, (ire and two women stabbed on 25 June, a man murdered and four: more huts set alight in the Pumlo location near Lusikisiki on 6. September, and motorists on the main road stoned on 16 September.;;

Tribesmen in the Bizana district refused to fill in returns when1, the official census was taken early in September.

Mr. Enoch Mbhele, a Pondo from Bizana, left South Africa, secrctly during September with the intention of placing a memorandum before the United Nations.

Towards the end of September the chairman of the Port St. Johns District Authority, who was also a member of the Territorial Authority, is reported(10) to have been murdered in the Majola/, location while engaged in conducting a census enumeration. AbouU 200 of his followers then stormed the section of the location from-' where the attackers svere believed to have come, and burned dowm; some 50 huts.

0") Star, 27 September 1960.

V Grievances voiced by the people

The whole situation naturally gave cause for considerable s concern, and at first it was uncertain whether the findings of the ^ committee of enquiry would be published. Miss Mary Draper, the . Institute's Natal Regional Organizer, thus visited such areas of ,V- Pondoland as were open to the public, submitting a report00 on her tentative conclusions about the reasons for the unrest. Similar .reports by others were published in various journals and newspapers.

It was stated in Contact(>2) that an "Anti-Bantu Authorities

Committee" in Pondoland, which had women's brigades too, had

', been organizing the tribesmen. Pondos throughout the Union had been banding themselves into groups and committees to lend support and to raise money for the campaign.

According to Miss Draper (and other sources, where this is stated) the main causes of the unrest tentatively appear to be ..four-fold.

1. Recent actions by the Paramount Chief, Botha Sigcau, had caused an old dispute to flare up again. Botha was the eldest recognised son of his father, but according to Pondo custom was not eligible to succeed him to the Paramountcy. The second son, Mandlonke, was appointed. He committed sucide in 1937. Tribesmen ex peeled that the third son, Nelson, would then be selected, but instead the then government appointed Botha. Aided by substantial contribut-. lions from the tribesmen Nelson unsuccessfully contested this decision in the courts. This matter is still a cause for resentment. Botha's life was threatened on several occasions during 1960: from time to time he had to flee temporarily from the Great Place at Qaukcni.(IJ)

2. Secondly, the appointment and actions of certain chiefs, sub-chiefs, councillors and headmen have been resented. Botha Sigcau is said to have overlooked persons opposed to his rule when appointments were made. According to a Press report'"' of a statement by the Chief Bantu Affairs Commissioner for the Transkei, the appointment of some members of some Bantu authorities was made without consultation with the people. Under

. cross-examination at the trial of certain Africans accused of arson, a police sergeant is reported*"' to have said that before (he introduction of Bantu authorities decisions were made by the tribesmen, and not only by the inditnas as was the case subsequently.

(11) RR 152/60.

(12) Issue of 10 September.

(") Information partly obtained from an article In Drum, Scpl. 19(30.

(H) Rand Daily Mail, 15 June.

(13) Ibid. 12 August.

Miss Draper writes, "I met with numerous allegations that bribery and corruption are rife amongst certain chiefs and headmen, and that gifts in cash or in kind are expected in return for favours. Members of the Bantu authorities have been given increased administrative powers, including judicial powers, but (he people feel that only those who can afford to pay receive justice".

3. Increased taxation and the imposition of levies and other charges were also referred to as contributory factors in the unrest. Apart from the general and local taxes payable, a general levy on African taxpayers of 10/- a year has been in force in the Transkei since 1955.

4. Opposition to betterment schemes appears to be one of the main causes of dissatisfaction. Such schemes are not compulsory, but tribal authorities may accept them on behalf of their people. Miss'
Draper mentioned repeated criticism that, instead of explaining to the tribesmen the advantages of these schemes, certain chiefs'
and headmen had merely announced that they were to be under-:
taken.. <

She reports that, although the actual work has not proceeded ' far in Eastern Pondoland, more than half the land in the area falling ) under Bolha Sigcau's Qaukcni Regional Authority (Bizana, Flag-" staff, Lusikisiki, Tabankulu and Mount Ayliff districts) has been ! declared a betterment area. Some parts are being replanned and ' divided into arable, grazing and residential areas. The extensive growing of New Zealand hemp (phormiiun tenax) is proposed in a sparsely-populated area of 30,000 morgen in the Lambasi location near Lusikisiki, which was set aside as a traditional grazing ground during the rule of a previous Paramount Chief.

"In rehabilitating or stabilising rural locations", Miss Draper writes, "the authorities are faced with the problem that there is insufficient arable land that can be re-apportioned to the population in economically-sized plots for agricultural purposes. For this reason, the landless section of the community is to be re-housed in rural villages . . . Africans who are required to move their homes under betterment schemes receive only a small token sum as recompense ... One agricultural officer... explained that as dwellings were in the main very primitive and constructed of mud and thatch available locally, financial loss was not great. 1 mentioned a case of a man in the Matatiele district who had spent about £200 on building a house from cement blocks and who had received only about £30. He admitted that there were a few instances of this sort; but they were in a minority, and such persons had to make sacrifices' for the general good . . .

"Several Africans I talked to expressed the opinion that the' people arc convinced that the members of the Bantu authorities had no real powers, 'but were merely tools by which the Government imposed its will on the people' . . .

"It is probably true to say that governments anywhere in the world who have attempted to introduce widespread agrarian reforms have met with little co-operation from the people most directly affected, the peasant class, who arc by tradition averse to anything that spells change. In the Union, the Government policy of appointing its own nominees to Bantu authorities to assist in implementing reforms is making the work immeasurably more difficult . . . When unpopular laws are administered by unpopular leaders the difficulties are multiplied . , .

"Whatever the operative factors, there seems little doubt that the word 'betterment' is among the worst swear words in the Pondo's vocabulary".

Intimidation was undoubtedly occurring. Chiefs and councillors who were attempting to implement Government policies went in fear of their lives. Miss Draper was told, she said, "(hat if tribesmen called a meeting or staged a demonstration against Bantu authorities it was dangerous not to attend, as it might be thought that one supported the system, and one therefore ran the risk of one's kraal being burnt clown".

Findings of the Departmental Committee of Enquiry

A meeting of tribesmen was called at Bizana on 11 October to hear the findings of the Departmental Committee of Enquiry announced by its chairman. It was reported that no members of the police were present at the meeting, but that a strong force was standing by at the police station.

According to Press reports,0"' the chairman said that numbers of the people's complaints were justified; but instead of bringing these to the notice of the Government through local magistrates or the Chief Magistrate at Umlata, they had wasted money in employing attorneys and had held secret meetings. Law-abiding people had been threatened, told that if they did not attend the meetings their huts would be burned, and ordered to contribute money, being fi"«vl £5 if they refused. Many huts had been burned and £20,000 damage caused.

The people had been seriously misled. They were told that the Government was against them, whereas all the time the Government was anxious to govern the various tribes according to their own laws and through their own chiefs and councillors.

Dealing with various complaints, first, that the people were not properly consulted about the Bantu authorities system and that

(|<S) Star, 11 October nnd Rand Daily Mail, 12 October.

it had been forced on them, the committee found that the system was fully explained to the chiefs and headmen and many of the people. When the tribal authorities were formed, however, the old customs of the tribes who resided at Bizana were not observed in all respects. The people of Bizana had every right to resent this.

On Ihc complaint that the Paramount Chief of Eastern Pondo-land did not consult the people when nominating members of tribal authorities, it was found that there was consultation, but mistakes were made later when members of tribal authorities were nominated. These mistakes were not deliberate, nor were they made by the Paramount Chief. The membership of tribal authorities was too small. Some locations had no representation and others had insufficient. The laws and customs of the tribes concerned should have been observed, and they should have been given an opportunity to say whom they wanted on the Bantu authorities.

The complaint that headmen who were not heads of tribal authorities should not try cases was justified, and the committee recommended that this matter be put right.

A number of grievances, however, could not be attributed to Banlu authorities. One of these was the rehabilitation scheme, the fear of which was unfounded. The Government never undertook rehabilitation, stock reduction, fencing, control of ploughing, etc., unless the people asked for these measures.

Increased taxation and stock rates, the health rate and increases in Ihc general levy were necessary because of increased expenses.

As far as reference books and labour bureaux complaints were concerned, the committee found that hardships were sometimes experienced, but these were due to non-compliance with the law. The many advantages of these books had not been fully explained.

On Banlu education, the finding was that the syllabuses were better now than they had been before and that (he education was ; not inferior.

Complaints about dipping regulations had been referred by the Committee to the Veterinary Department for investigation.

Mr. V. M. P. Lcibbrandt, Chief Magistrate and Bantu Affairs Commissioner of the Transkei, then addressed the tribesmen. Those complaints about boundaries between different authorities and the appointment of members of tribal authorities which the commission had found to be justified would be rectified as soon as possible, after consultation with the people, he said.

A similar meeting of tribesmen was called at Flagstaff on 12 October, the findings of the departmental committee being heard without comment. But at a third meeting held at Lusikisiki on the following day, after listening to the findings a spokesman for the local Pondo said that they still did not want the Banlu authorities system, they did not want their chiefs and headmen because these had not been appointed according to tribal custom, and they would like the Government to relax a ban recently placed on Mr. R. I. Arenstcin, a Durban lawyer who had been representing them in certain legal cases, but had recently been prohibited from attending gatherings or leaving the Durban magisterial district.'"' This ban was subsequently lifted for Ihc purpose only of enabling Mr. Arcn-stein to continue his defence of certain tribesmen accused of arson.

Shortly afterwards, on 25 October, it was reported1"0 that a meeting of about 6.000 Pondo at Imzizi Hill near Bizana rejected the committee's findings and decided to refuse to pay taxes as a sign of their opposition to the Bantu authorities system. A deputation of headmen was appointed to convey the feelings of the meeting to the Bantu Affairs Commissioner at Bizana, and to slate that if there was any official victimization of the tribesmen as a result of the decision, the people of Eastern Pondoland would adopt an attitude of total non-co-operation with officials. A boycott of stores run by Whites in Bizana was also decided upon.


According to a report by the editor of Contact,^ resentment of the Bantu authorities system is building up also in Tcmbuland in the central Transkei. In this area, too, journalists have been warned that they may not leave the While towns or main roads without a permit.

A hut in the Engcobo district belonging to a headman, Spalding Matyilc, in which census returns for part of the area were temporarily housed, was burned on 10 September. About two days later at Baziya, near Umtata. Ihc hut of another pro-Government chief, Absolom Ycngwa, was set on lire when he and his wife and child were asleep inside. As the woman tried to escape she and the child were slightly wounded by gun-fire. Mr. Yengwa then began shooting at the attackers and drove them away. There was a serious clash at Mqanduli, south of Umlata, on 16 September between supporters and opponents of Bantu authorities, eleven people being killed.

On 24 October, three prominent Tcmbus, Jackson B. Nkosiyane, Bangilizwe M. Joyi and Twalimfenc A. G. Joyi, applied for a court order directing the Minister of Bantu Administration and Development to furnish particulars of banishment orders served on them in 1958, or failing compliance, for an order setting aside the

(I'). Rand Daily Mail report. 14 October 1960.

(18). Star, 25 October 1960.

(19). Issue of 24 September 1960.

deportations. They had been sent to Voorspocd, Sockmckaar; Loui| Trichardt; and the farm Wesselsvlei in the Kuruman district respec^, lively. Mr. B. M. Joyi said in court that he was earning onlf, £4 10s. a month at Louis Trichardt, and out of that had to pay tot-his food and clothing. It was impossible for him to support family.'' The court dismissed these applications with costs.


It was reported in a subsequent issue of Contact^ that the opposition to the Bantu authorities and rehabilitation schemes was also spreading to Gcalekaland, the home of the true Xhosa tribe!' A meeting of about 500 tribesmen called by the Willowvale magiVj trate informed him of their rejection of these schemes. There was'j widespread distrust of the newly-appointed Paramount, Zwelidumile^ Bungeni Sigcawa.


There is also dissatisfaction among the Tsonga people of insq
Northern Transvaal in regard to the Bantu Authorities system. The i
Field Officer of the Institute of Race Relations, Mr. J. C. M. Mbata,'-
visited the area during September 1960, and reported (RR. 177/60}^
that there is a considerable intermingling of Tsonga, Venda and
Sotho people in this area. Until recently there was peaceful existence. But the Tsonga now complain that Venda chiefs havej boen appointed in predominantly Tsonga areas and arc being givefli very considerable authority. The people no longer have the say iifJ
their own affairs that is customary according to the traditional tribal : system..

One of the four regional authorities in the Northern Transvaaii is composed entirely of Tsonga chiefs; but the Tsonga are in the^i minority on the other three, and feel that their affairs are neglected;] by these regional authorities. Certain Venda practices are being;? forced on them. One Tsonga school board has been dissolved and:j its powers transferred to a predominantly Venda regional authority!} The change-over in another case was not complete at the time ofe'jj the visit. All of this has caused much resentment, and assaults onjf chiefs and reprisals have been reported.

On 28 August, at a meeting called to discuss the formation of;, a territorial authority, the Tsonga spokesman requested the Govern^s ment to establish a separate Bantu authorities system for his group.y3 At the time of writing no solution to this dispute had been found:'J the three groups had been asked to appoint committees to discuss; \ (he matter with Bantu Affairs Commissioners.

(») Ranil Daily Mail. 25 October 1960. («) 22 October 1960.




The rioting that took place in Sekhukhuncland during May '8 after large sections of the Ba-Pcdi tribe had opposed the Bantu ftOthoritics system was described in an earlier edition of this


. During the disturbances there was a dispute at Madibong ^between pro- and anti-Government factions. John Kgolanc had I made sub-chief there, but the majority of the people considered |)&Bt his ex-wife should have been appointed. Finally he and his Ibody-guard were murdered, sixteen Africans later being sentenced f to death in consequence. The sentence was set aside by the Appeal port, which referred the case back to the Transvaal Supreme urt for further evidence on certain points. After hearing fresh dence, the court again imposed the death sentence. Once more he accused appealed, and on this occasion the convictions and Dtences were set aside in two cases but upheld in (he remaining OUftccn cases.

Those who had been convicted and various organizations, ng them the Institute of Race Relations, urged the Govcrnor-neral to exercise his prerogative of mercy. In its petition the Stitute said, "A study of the background and the sequence of ats which gave rise to public violence do reveal acts which, while ; constituting provocation in the legal sense, nevertheless, in the situation in Sekhukhuneland, all provoked local feelings of $entment, bitterness and a sense of outrage."

The Governor-General commuted all the sentences to life Ijprisonment.

There is still great unrest in Sekhukhuncland, and widespread pppsition to the Government's policies and to the methods used '.pro-Government chiefs in carrying them out. It was reported'"' , at a recent meeting the Ba-Pcdi decided upon a campaign of I defiance; to refuse to pay taxes or rent for Trust land, to defy ultural planning schemes that impose restrictions on the area id which can be cultivated, and to refuse to cull cattle.


An account was given in our last Survey1"* of a disturbance at occurred at Mabieskraal, to the north of Ruslenburg in the svaal, after a section of the people had demonstrated against e'.authority of an acting chief who had been appointed by the ernment following the banishment of the chief, Jeremiah Mabic.

(«) 1957-58. case 72.

(") Sunday Times. 23 October 19CO.

(«) Pose 129.

There is obviously still unrest. Proclamation No. 24 of 19(8
dated 26 February, slated that because of disunity, the Batlhafc tribe at Mabieskraal was unable to adopt resolutions rcgard|
tribal contracts and liabilities. The Minister of Bantu Administrate and Development was, therefore, empowered to approve any cdi tracts or liabilities entered into or incurred by the chief if.|
was satisfied that they were in the interests of the tribe. T^
arrangement was to be in force for a year, the period to be extendjj if necessary.



During the afternoon of 24 January 1960 a raiding party eight While and 18 African policemen went to Cato Manor search for illicit liquor. Numerous arrests were made, and when number of prisoners had mounted to 32 it was decided that tl of the policemen should take them lo the police station while others continued the raid.. y

II is slated that an African constable accidentally trod on; J

woman's foot. Although apologies were made the woman followd the police, shouting at them. A large crowd very quickly collects and began sloning the police, who opened fire with their serv&

revolvers before being forced to retreat. Fifteen sought refuge iri'ijj small bungalow, which was besieged by angry Africans armed w sticks, stones and pangas. The Africans eventually broke in. Fo

While and five African policemen were murdered in the bungalo or as they attempted to escape, the remaining White constable ai three African policemen were seriously injured, and two Afrid constables received minor injuries. The body of one African civilia with a bullet wound in the chest, was found later.

A second detachment of police that had come to investi] reports of (rouble was prevenlcd from reaching the scene by n blocks, and was also attacked. Members sent a radio mes: asking urgently for re-inforcements: by the time these arrived crowds had dispersed.(23)

Strong bodies of police raided Cato Manor and held 271 Africans for questioning. Many of Ihese were released after quei tioning or during the course of the preparatory investigalion, ' of them finally being committed for trial. Ten of these were releasi later, one died, 27 were charged with murder and the rest wii public violence. The Minister of Justice imposed a four wee' ban on public meetings in the township.

(25) Information given by Minister of Justice. Assembly 25 January. 1960. H«n 2 cols. 300-1. and evidence led at the subsequent trial.

The Leader of the Opposition in Parliament pressed for the TJOintment of a judicial commission of enquiry to investigate the reasons for the series of disturbances at Cato Manor. The lister of Justice replied'26' that the Government considered this essary, but had decided to appoint a committee consisting of or members of the Departments of Justice, Police and Bantu ninistration lo enquire into the events of 24 January, to rccom-nd what steps should be taken to prevent their repetition, and in fejeral to try to ensure greater safety for the police. After the Ort had been received the Government would decide whether "not to publish it, the Minister said.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to theThis resource is hosted by the site.