The dispersal of the regiments: Radical African opposition in Durban, 1930

La Hausse, Paul
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During the afternoon of 17 June 1929, 6 000 African workers abandoned their barracks, backyard dwellings, rented rooms and kias, and made their way through the streets of Durban towards the Industrial and Commercial Workers' Union (ICU) Hall in Prince Edward Street. The more noticeable amongst the ranks of stickwielding workers included the barefoot dock workers, domestic servants in redtrimmed calico uniforms and ricksha-pullers displaying colourful tunics. The less noticeable comprised the majority - the labouring poor of the port town. The immediate reason for this mass mobilisation was the 'siege', by 600 white 'vigilantes', of the ICU Hall. Having beaten one African to death with pickhandles, the vigilantes comprising the 'well-educated', 'the elderly' and a 'large hooligan element1 attempted to storm the Hall. They mistakenly believed that two white 'traitors' - Communist Town Councillor S.M. Pettersen and A.F. Batty, an ICU organiser - were ensconced inside. When the "relief column" of workers finally reached the Hall they were greeted by 2 000 whites and 360 policemen. The violent clashes which followed left 120 injured and 8 dead. The riots of June 1929 in Durban occupy a brief moment within a wider process of sustained urban militancy. This popular opposition was an expression of both a particularly repressive and exploitative system of urban control and impoverishment in Natal's countryside during a period of economic depression spanning the years 1928 to 1933.
African Studies Seminar series. Paper presented March 1986
Riots. South Africa. Durban