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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 565
Paragraph Numbers 149 to 162
149 Education was not the only source of dissatisfaction among township residents participating in the June uprising. Developments in policy for the administration of black areas were met with growing opposition in black townships.
150 In terms of the Bantu Affairs Administration Act of 1971, the government removed townships in the ‘white’ or urban areas from the control of local authorities and placed them under the control of twenty-two Bantu Affairs Administration Boards, covering all parts of the country outside of the homelands. These boards fell under the Department of Bantu Administration and Development.
151 In 1973, Soweto was removed from the control of the Johannesburg City Council and placed under the authority of the WRAB. This had a profound effect on the lives of the township’s residents and was to prove an ongoing source of dissatisfaction, which broke out into overt conflict in the wake of the march on 16 June.
152 The conflict was sparked primarily by a government directive that the Administration Boards were to become self-financing. In the past, Soweto (excluding Meadowlands and Diepkloof, which had always been self-financing) had received money from the Johannesburg rates fund which had included a subsidy for sub-economic housing. This meant that the rent and service charges of Soweto residents were kept reasonably low. During the last year in which it was responsible for Soweto, the Johannesburg City Council had subsidised it to an effective amount of R2 million.
153 The WRAB, however, had few sources of income besides the residents of Soweto themselves. The only other major source of income, inherited from the Johannesburg City Council, was the profitable ‘European liquor’ and ‘Bantu beer’ operations. However, 80 per cent of the profits from the sale of this liquor went into the ‘development’ of the Bantustans. Thus both WRAB buildings and beer halls became targets for attack during the 1976 uprising.
154 By the end of its first year, the WRAB’s budget showed a deficit of R3.4 million, part of which it sought to meet by increasing rents. There was an immediate outcry from the residents of Soweto, who were already disturbed at the deterioration of public services in the township. WRAB officials appeared to remain ignorant of the growing dissatisfaction of Soweto residents.
155 In May 1976, WRAB chairperson Manie Mulder told the Rand Daily Mail that “the broad masses of Soweto are perfectly content, perfectly happy … Black–white relationships at present are as healthy as can be.”
156 Until 1976, Soweto had been governed by the Urban Bantu Council (UBC), created in terms of the Urban Bantu Council Act in 1961. The Act provided for the formation of ethnic or linguistic councils which were essentially intended to integrate urban blacks into the homeland system and limit their political rights in the townships to those of temporary sojourners. What little popular legitimacy the council may have had at its formation was steadily eroded as its inefficacy became evident to township residents.
157 The Commission heard that, in the weeks leading up to the 16 June protests, members of the UBC became increasingly concerned about the growing crisis in education. At the 14 June meeting of the UBC, Councillor Leonard Mosala warned that enforcing Afrikaans in schools could result in another Sharpville. Speaking of the children, he said:
They won’t take anything we say because they think we have neglected them. We have failed to help them in their struggle for change in schools. They are now angry and prepared to fight and we are afraid the situation may become chaotic at any time.
158 Mr Mosala testified at the Commission’s Soweto Day hearings and described the efforts made by the UBC, after a variety of other community organisations had failed, to negotiate with the government on the problem of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction. Council members believed that they would be received more favourably because they were a legislated body, but they were reportedly treated with “contempt” by the regional director of education, Mr Ackerman, who told the council members to confine themselves to their statutory duties.
159 The UBC was in an ambiguous position with respect to the imminent crisis. While some of the council members were mobilised into action and were keenly in touch with the mood of the students, the UBC as an institution was entirely discredited. By June 1976, it was widely referred to by Soweto residents as the “Useless Boys’ Club”. Prior to the June march, students had called on the UBC councillors to resign, and the buildings of the UBC in Soweto were the first to be attacked during the protests.
160 Mr Mosala told the Commission:
We had established an opposition against the wheel of the government. We had taken a specific position to use the UBC as a platform to articulate the political, not only the civic problems of the community that sent us in there, but also the political aspirations of black people in the country as a whole. We were called to 80 Albert Street before Dr Koornhof on two occasions and [told] that we must stop abusing the UBC for political purposes. We had refused, we had told Dr Koornhof we did not represent the government, but we represented the people that had sent us there and if this is what they wanted us to say, we would continue to say it until he closed the thing. Manny Mulder threatened us with arrest and, ultimately, we ended up in jail.
161 As the police moved into Soweto, Mosala and other members of the UBC tried to negotiate with the Minister of Police, Mr Jimmy Kruger, to withdraw his forces. Later Mosala worked with the leadership of the SSRC to dismantle the UBC. He became a member of the Committee of Ten (see below) and was detained with a number of other activists in 1977. However, it is clear that not all UBC councillors shared Mosala’s understanding of the conflict, and a number refused to resign despite mounting community pressure.
162 The death knell for the UBC was an attempt by the WRAB to impose a rent increase on 1 May 1977. It emerged that the UBC had been informed several months earlier about the proposed rent increases and had made no attempt to oppose them. Led by Mr Daniel Montsisi, the students organised a successful campaign against the proposed rent increase. The WRAB officially suspended the Soweto UBC on 29 June 1977, following demands by the SSRC for the councillors’ resignations.