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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 418

Paragraph Numbers 99 to 106

Volume 3

Chapter 5

Subsection 16

■ 1983–1989


99 The UDF was launched both nationally and in the western Cape region in 1983. Its immediate task was the campaign against the forthcoming Tricameral Parliament elections and the community council elections scheduled for 1984. Political campaigns also focused on the newly formed informal settlement at KTC. The state’s response to the development of this new squatter camp led to multiple arrests, shack demolitions, deportations to the homelands and other repressive actions. In the Crossroads informal settlement, a split within the Crossroads committee in 1983 resulted in open conflict that left at least seven people dead.

100 The political revolt unfolding in the rest of the country reached the western Cape in 1985. The first six months of 1985 saw extensive unrest in the rural areas of the southern Cape, Karoo, Boland and the northern Cape, while the urban Peninsula remained fairly calm until the second half of the year. The Peninsula’s large-scale popular revolt in August to December was accompanied by extensive public unrest-related killings and injuries. The Cape province is said to have accounted for 52 per cent of all fatalities in 1985 7 .

101 Political activity and conflict in the Peninsula was shaped particularly by two demographic features. Firstly, there was a high level of coloured militancy and participation in public as well as underground resistance activities. The semiundergound youth structure known as the Bonteheuwel Military Wing (BMW) is a particular manifestation of this.

102 Secondly, informal settlements in and around Cape Town’s formal black townships became conflict ‘hot spots’ accounting for around 120 deaths in the period 1985 to 1989. The extreme violence of 1986 related to the conflicts between the ‘witdoeke’ and the ‘comrades’ and created enduring political divisions within the informal settlements.

103 The repeated conflicts of the squatter areas of Cape Town sprang from the extreme controls imposed on Africans in the western Cape. State policy towards urban blacks in the Cape was shaped by the policy that the western Cape should be kept as the home of whites and coloureds only. The Coloured Labour Preference Policy (CLPP) established what was called the ‘Eiselen line’. Only if coloured labour was not available could Africans work in the area between this point and Cape Town.

104 This repression created a sharp divide between Africans living legally and permanently in Cape Town and the ‘illegals’ who lived a precarious life of migrancy or concealed residence in the hostels and squatter camps. These policies were ruthlessly policed and caused many of the conflicts that tore communities apart, resulting in deadly outbursts of violence.

105 With some notable exceptions, the high levels of open street confrontation seen in 1985–86 generally subsided during 1986. The countrywide state of emergency imposed in June 1986 led to large-scale detentions in both rural and urban areas. Violations in 1987 and 1988 related largely to the activities of the ‘special constables’, detentions and torture, killings of underground operatives, and the ongoing skirmishes between pro- and anti-government squatter leaders.

106 The resurgence of popular protest in 1989 associated with the Defiance Campaign, in which the Cape played a leading role, was matched by a rise in violations, peaking with the killings and injuries around the ‘whites-only’ election of September 1989.

7 SAIRR quoted in The Star, 15/1/86
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