Allan Jackson - April 2006
in Durban once attracted attention from around the world because
it was where rioting broke out in 1959 in protest against
the city's beerhalls and the looming prospect of mass forced
removals in which the residents would be uprooted from their
homes in terms of the notorious Group Areas Act, and resettled
was granted to George Christopher Cato in 1865, perhaps as
a reward for his years of community service and for the fact
that, in 1854, he had become Durban's first Mayor. The land
was sub-divided in the early 1900s and leased to Indian market
gardeners, many of whom were either former indentured labourers,
who had come to South Africa to work on the sugar plantations,
or their descendents.
Africans started moving into the area in the late 1920s and
renting land from the market gardeners so that, by 1932 when
Cato Manor was incorporated into the Borough of Durban, over
500 shacks had been built on the land. Tensions between the
new settlers and the authorities ran high from the start and
for a reason which I, at least, found very surprising.
was beer and, in particular, the bitter dispute about who
had the right to brew and sell the low-alcohol sorghum beer,
or utshwala, which was such an important part of black culture.
Towards the end of the 19th century growing numbers of black
people moved into Durban and did not have the time or space
to brew their own beer.
stepped in to fill the gap and there was soon a thriving industry
including some large-scale brewing operations but a lot of
the beer was brewed by women, who earned their livings by
bringing it in to town and selling it to the thirsty populace.
in Durban were keen to have black people around town for their
labour but they were concerned that the relatively small white
community would be overwhelmed if uncontrolled black urbanisation
was allowed. They therefore introduced what became known as
the Durban System, which sought to control the influx of black
people by requiring them to have permits to be in town.
System would have cost ratepayers a lot of money but the authorities
worked out a way to make it self-financing. They were the
instigators behind the passing of the Native Beer Act of 1908,
in terms of which municipalities in Natal were given the sole
right to brew and sell beer within their boundaries.
municipality soon began to brew its own beer and sell it through
a network of beerhalls, which it established. The first municipal
beerhall opened in 1909 and soon the system was reaping huge
profits. Nothing was to be allowed to threaten this situation
and every effort was made to stamp out the illegal brewing
and sale of beer through regular police raids.
numbers of people lost the means to earn their livings through
this policy and, even if they did not stop brewing beer, there
was always the risk of a raid. This and the fact that beer
in beerhalls was expensive, led to great bitterness and outbreaks
of violence, including one in 1929 in which a number of people
grew in leaps and bounds during World War II when there was
a boom in Durban's economy and a vastly increased demand for
labour. By the end of the war there were probably 30000 squatters
in the area and, during the 1949 riots, Indian landlords and
traders were replaced by black traders and shack lords, who
included Esau Makatini, J Shange and Isaac Zwane.
economy was vibrant and self-employed people pursued their
trades freely, which they were prevented from doing in town
by the Jobs Reservation Act. In the background, however, the
dispute over the brewing and sale of beer simmered away and
the municipal beerhall in Cato Manor was the focus of much
ill feeling, particularly among the women who felt that it
was stealing their livelihoods.
brewing still went on, of course, and children on watch would
shout "meleko, meleko, meleko" (milk, milk,
milk) whenever the police appeared. This explains something
that I had never understood, which was why milk was always
referred to in our home as "imoto yama phoyisa"
(police car). Janet Ngcobo, our domestic, had a hard time
feeding me my cereal and milk and she would yell "meleko,
meleko, imoto yama phoyisa" and plunge the spoon into
were running high in Cato Manor at the end of the 1950s because
the government had passed the Group Areas Act, in terms of
which the residents were to be moved and resettled in townships,
particularly in Kwamashu. Many knew they would not qualify
for residence in a township and would be repatriated to their
place of origin in the country. Adding to tensions was the
fact that rents in the townships would be double what the
residents were paying in Cato Manor.
about that and the beerhalls came to a head on 17 June 1959,
when women, who had gathered outside the Cato Manor beerhall,
forced their way inside, beating the men drinking there and
wrecking the place. Rioting continued the next day and beerhalls
in other parts of town were attacked. One group led by Florence
Mkhize and Dorothy Nyembe attacked a beerhall, where Florence
dunked her underwear in a vat of beer while Dorothy urinated
died and seventy nine were injured during the riots but things
did calm down a bit after that. The resistance to the forced
removals continued and reached a climax on 23 January 1960,
when nine policemen were butchered by a mob in Cato Manor.
was so horrifying that it took the heart out of the resistance
to the forced removals, which gathered pace, with the last
shack in Cato Manor being demolished on 31 August 1964. There
is also a suggestion that the killings were one of the factors
leading to the Sharpeville Massacre on 21 March 1960, when
police opened fire on a crowd of protesters, killing 69 and
were done under the control of Sighart (S.B.) Bourquin who
was Director of Bantu Administration in Durban and who, even
though he supported the moves, wrote to the City Council on
23 June 1959 to say that something had to be done to improve
the lot of workers in Durban so that they could afford the
rents in Kwamashu. He pointed out that none of the City Council's
own staff, if married, and few of those working for the South
African Railways and Harbours could afford the rents.
was eerily quiet and deserted after 1964 and that's how I
knew it in the early 1980s, when I attended a shooting club
in the area; only an occasional plant-overgrown ruin hinted
that it was once a thriving residential area. In the last
few years, Cato Manor has again become the focus of a lot
interest from around the country, and the world, but, this
time, it is being studied as a model of how urban development
should be done.
has a prime location only seven kilometres from Durban's CBD,
with easy access to the harbour and major roads. The location
was so good that people began to settle in the area again
and the Cato Manor Development Association (CDMA) was formed
in the 1980s by academics and other role players, to act as
a delivery vehicle for much-needed infrastructure projects.
its closure in 2003, the CDMA was responsible for the delivery
of a number of projects with the help of finance from the
European Union. These included primary schools, a clinic,
a market and innovative multi-purpose centres at Cato Crest
and Wiggins, incorporating a community hall, library, and
primary and high schools. The Cato Manor Area Based Management
(ABM) Programme was instituted later the same year by the
eThekwini Municipality to carry on with overseeing the development
of the area.
Area Programme Manager Mhlengi Gumede, the ABM is involved
with all aspects of the development of Cato Manor including
community safety and security, economic development and job
creation, and liaison between service providers and the community.
An ongoing project is to stimulate business investment, particularly
in the Booth Road area, and another is an Entrepreneurial
Support Centre (ESC) which acts as an incubator for new businesses.
hoped to begin work soon on a major Interactive Cultural Centre
incorporating an interpretative centre, a theatre, and venues
for cultural and craft activities. The ABM concept has proved
so successful that it is regularly visited by researchers
from around South Africa and abroad, and the Ethekwini Municipality
has started three more ABMs to serve other areas.