Birds in the cornfield: Squatter movements in Johannesburg, 1944-1947

Stadler, Alfred William
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The Government is beaten, because even the Government of England could not stop the people from squatting. The Government was like a man who has a cornfield which is invaded by birds. He chases the birds from one part of the field and they alight in another part of the field We squatters are the birds'. The Government sends its policemen to chase us away and we move off and occupy another spot. We shall see whether it is the farmer or the birds who get tired first (1). Thus spoke Oriel Monongoaha, one of the leaders of the Pimville squatters. The tenor and tone of his words suggests that while the squatter movements were in the first instance a protest by blacks in Johannesburg against the serious shortage of housing which developed during a period of rapid urbanisation, they assumed the proportions of open rebellion, mounted on a scale unprecedented in any urban area in South Africa. The squatter movements were remarkable, not only for the numbers involved(a), their duration, and their successes, but above all because their structure and organisation flowed out of an instinctual understanding of the contradictions developing in the South African political economy.
African Studies Seminar series. Paper presented April 1978
Squatters. South Africa. Johannesburg, Squatter settlements. South Africa. Johannesburg