Home Politics The Peasants Are Rising Again Years On

The Peasants Are Rising Again Years On

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The peasants, clued to their TV for 90 suffocating minutes, in disgust and angry, watched Jacob Zuma delivering his dramatic SONA last night where ministers who earn 10,000 times above their menial wages, were fighting to justify why they ruined the economy and had to cut the budget on their useless travel abroad and domestically. They are simply rejecting the current government, even if slowly but surely. You can hear the “Zuma must go” echoing from the distance, in the farms, slums and hunting fields.

South African peasants have a long history of resistance to oppression. They know what it is to be crushed by the bourgeoisie propaganda system, armed forces of the whites, to be imprisoned without trial, banished to desolate parts of the country, and banned from normal social contact. Between 1946 and 1962 uprisings have been provoked in former Witzieshoek ( as well called Phuthaditjhaba), on the border of former Basutoland (Lesotho); in Marico, just south of what was called Bechuanaland (Botswana); in Sekhukhuneland , in the North-West of Transvaal (Limpopo); in Zululand (KZN), on the South Coast; and throughout the Transkei (Eastern Cape), especially in Pondoland (Near Eastern Cape coastal area), saw massive coordinated uprising of the peasants against the oppressive regime.

1. In Phuthaditjhaba (Free State), disturbances’ resulted in 14 Africans shot dead, and two policemen killed, 25 November 1950. Many Africans were arrested and imprisoned. The leaders, including old Chief Paulus Mopeli, were deported and banished from his home for 14 long years. The government introduced a law which said all farmers should cut the sizes of their land for farming and their lives stocks. These stock farmers refused to cull their cattle, and they cut the fences enclosing their grazing ground. They petitioned the Minister in 1947 to appoint a commission that would inquire into their grievances. When the government eventually appointed a commission in November 1950, it was too late to avoid bloodshed. It was war everywhere.

2. In Marico (Ngaka Modidi Molema municipality), in 1957, a major peasant revolt broke out against the extension of pass laws to women. The aparheid government had introduced a new weapon in the Bantu Authorities Act, which the people had dubbed ‘Uzifozonke — ‘cure all ills’. Dr Verwoerd, then Minister of Native Affairs, fell victim to his own propaganda that if the Chiefs accepted apartheid the people would too. The laws where harsh on men and women, who work in the cities on slave wages. People filled with disgust and feeling of betrayals by their chiefs flared up incidences of violence, first in one village, then in another. Many meetings were held by the people in rural areas, where these meetings of more than ten were declared illegal. The government took under its protection the submissive Chiefs, whose bodyguards began a reign of terror against any tribesmen or woman who opposed them. When the bodyguards met with popular resistance the police force stepped in to reinforce them with rifle and sjambok. In 1957, 16 women and men were arrested, tortured and 8 died in custody.

3. In Sekhukhune land (Limpopo), the former Transvaal today Greater Sekhukhune, once again the opposition of the Bantu Authorities flared into open resistance, when the government banished the Chief Moroamoche and some of his leading councillors, the whole region went into flames. The trouble began when a tribal meeting, pressed by the government to accept Bantu Authorities and Bantu Education, rejected both these facets of government policy in May 1956. Several leading men of the tribe were exiled, and then the Commissioner arrived with police at the tribal headquarters to depose Chief Moroamoche himself. The Chief won an appeal against his suspension in March 1958, but he was deported, nevertheless, to the Transkei. A retired policeman was appointed to act in his place, but the new Chief was rejected by the mass of the tribe, who refused to pay any taxes until Moroamoche was restored. Riots broke out in several villages and a mobile police force seized control of the area. More than 200 were arrested in one incident alone. A grisly trial led to 11 death sentences, among them a woman chieftainess, but the sentences were later commuted to life imprisonment. Here are the names of the eleven: Madinoge Morwamoele (the chieftainess), John Makopole Kgolane, Jack Mogase Mariri, Johannes Machele Ngwako, Iaas Marweshe Mabinane, James Kgologi Mahlagaume, James Monompane Motubatse, Frans Morewane Tswaledi, Jim Kgoro Makgoleng, Sebilo Mahiako, Jim Makalapeng Morewane. Some of those who where arrested as organisers but not on this list never returned home until today. They are still missing.

4. In what was called Zululand (KZN), the Bantustan octopus stretched its tentacles in other directions too. In Zululand the government seemed to be meeting with less organized opposition as it thrust the main Chief — Cyprian Dinizulu — forward to give the impression that the glory and splendour that once characterized the Zulu was being restored. Yet opposition immediately developed in those areas where the government started implementing aspects of its Bantustan policy. In inTokazi, for instance, popular opposition to land ‘rehabilitation’ was so strong that a clash occurred between most of the peasants and the few who were accepting land under the new government measures. The police were rushed in, and a number of people were arrested and sentenced to death after hut burnings and disorders in the area. In Zululand, as everywhere else, the trouble centred around the administration of land. Chief Cyprian Dinizulu had accepted the betterment scheme, and in consequence a whole community of the Tokazi location in the district of Nongoma was ordered to move to a new area. When the people refused to leave their old homes, the government retaliated by denying them the right to plough their arable allotments, as though to say: ‘If you do not do as we tell you, we shall see to it that you do not eat’. Those who accepted the betterment scheme clashed with those who refused. Violence erupted everywhere, people against people, families against families, and the government deployed forces to arrest those who refused and many never return home until today.

In Transkei, Lusikisiki, Pondoland and everywhere, so similar violent confrontations with the oppressive system occurred – with lists of many people who ended up arrested, tortured and banished to their homes. Many were arrested at night and unnoticed, others died violently fighting back but many never had be home ever after. They remain missing until today.

The struggle has always been the peasants against the oppression, for their land and freedom. Oppression, either by a white or black regime, the resistance by the peasants would live on.