Zamdela Township: The explosion of confrontational politics, early 1980s to 1990

  • Tshepo Moloi University of the Free State, South Africa
Keywords: Zamdela, Sasolburg, SASOL, Azanian People's Organisation (AZAPO), Azanian Student Movement (AZASM), Congress of South African Students (COSAS), Black Local Authorities, Councillors, Swart plaaslike bestuur, Raadslede


Zamdela Township, established by SASOL in 1954, was a typical company township and politically tranquil for a number of decades after its establishment. This situation, however, changed in the 1980s. Just like other townships across the country, Zamdela was on “fire” by the mid-1980s. The residents of the township were aggrieved by hiking of rent, lack of service delivery and perceived corruption by the local councillors, established through the regime’s reforms from the mid-1970s through to the 1980s. In expressing their discontent and anger, they attacked the councillors and denied them space to work freely. Unlike other townships, such as Alexandra, confrontational politics in Zamdela were ignited and spearheaded by secondary school students and out-of-school youth - and not by adults. Undoubtedly, the bombing of SASOL and NATREF plants by members of uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the military wing of the African National Congress, left a lasting impact on the young people in the township. In this article, it will be argued that the role played by the Azanian People’s Organisation (AZAPO) and its student wing, the Azanian Student Movement (AZASM), and later the United Democratic Front-affiliated Congress of South African Students (COSAS) really galvanised the students and youth in the township to challenge the apartheid regime in general and the local authorities in particular.


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