Daniel Francois Malan (born 22 May 1874 – died 7 Feb 1959) commonly known as DF Malan. So who was DF Malan? He was the Prime Minister of South Africa from 1948 to 1954 and seen by many to be the champion of Afrikaner nationalism. His National Party Government came to power on the program of apartheid and began the comprehensive implementation of this policy, why you ask am I telling you this, well I find it ironic that the information for this Blog came from a black gent who worked as a policeman in the heady days of apartheid and as a policeman was responsible for ensuring the unjust laws against his very people were implemented as well as being policed, the fact that he prefers to be known as Malan is also to me very paradoxical.
Researching information for a book on Clarens that includes a chapter on Kgubestwana. I was asked to speak to a gent called Malan who works for the local municipality. Malan, as already mentioned was a policeman in Clarens from 1972-1976 and then a detective for 24 years after that. On his retirement from the Police force he joined the municipality in Clarens. Talking to Malan was very interesting as well as an eye opener as to how black people lived in the days of apartheid. Now I was brought up with the Nationalist Party in power, cadets, shooting practices, “red under very bed” indoctrination and did I mingle with blacks “no” not unless they worked for the family as a maid or garden boy, did I care that they lived in sub standard houses or in poverty “no” to be honest I didn’t, did I prosper more for being a white in SA? “I suppose I did” but I also worked hard for what I have.
“But you had a head start” I was told not to long ago by a black resident of Clarens and while I tried to argue that I didn’t, his argument actually made sense, “however I digress” Malan explained to me some of the laws that were in force at the peak of Apartheid, that I was not aware of or just did not give a damn about.
So how hard was it as a black person or a family living in Clarens during those days, well Clarens was not as bad as in the cities, but civil liberties were still heavily restricted and policed even in such a small village that in the mid 70’s probably had no more than 100 white residents and a maximum of 70 houses in the Kgubestwana Township. To be fair to Malan many of the laws were policed by the Bethlehem Municipal police rather than the four (two white two black) Clarens police force. The men had access to one landrover and the station only being open from 7.30am - 4.30pm daily. “so what happened if there was a problem after 4.30 pm” I asked – Malan explained “in those days if we had 20 cases a month it was like a crime wave, cases included major crimes like riding a bicycle at night without a light. There was always one of the white policemen on standby and if he was needed then the telephone exchange would contact him and if serious enough he would take the one vehicle and collect his partners to respond to the call”.
People had to carry a dompas (literally translated a dumb pass), the dompas was documentation given to blacks to prove that they had been given permission to live or work in parts of white South Africa and to be found without it on your person meant arrest and probable jail time.
During the 70’s there was a strict curfew in place and as an African you had to be of the streets by 9pm unlike Bethlehem that had a siren to advise that the curfew was in force, Clarens black residents were aware that it was unlawful to be on the streets in the village after 9 and if caught would be arrested, so no siren was necessary. The task of keeping the street “white by night” was the duty of the Municipal police that were based in Bethlehem but had Clarens as part of their jurisdiction. Malan also explained that a black person could be summarily arrested for the following reasons
· Not having a job (yep if you did not have a job you would be arrested taken to court and fined “how would you pay the fine”?)
· Leaving his job without employers permission
· Not having your “dompas”
· Not having a permit for someone to be sleeping I your house
Its perhaps this point that I thought was perhaps one of the harshest laws, Malan explained that if you had a house in Kgubestwana you had a permit with your name, your wife’s name and any children, if your brother or sister also had a house in the township but decide to sleep over at your house , you had to get permission from the police, if not and the municipal police raided the house at 3am in the morning (which they often did) and found that person there, they would be arrested, even though they also lived I a house in the township “just not that house”
Kgubetswana in the 70’s and early 80’s did not have the number of Shebeens like there are today (some 9 in the different townships today) in fact homebrewed beer was what was sold (illegally in most cases). If you had a celebration that needed beer, you would have to get permission from the police to brew for that occasion, and no more than 20 litres, anything over 20 litres and you were arrested.
Travel to and from Bethlehem a mere 35 kms away was also a problem for many black residents with the bus being the only link with Bethlehem. The bus left Clarens at 6am in the morning and returned from Bethlehem at 2pm, in the mid 70’s the bus fare was 46 cents per person one way. Like the rest of the country the bus was also segregated with a small section at the front portioned of for the white passengers. I was told that at certain times of the year, such as Christmas the bus was very busy and even if there were no whites on the bus no black person was permitted to sit on the seats reserved for white and the bus would have to make a double trip to cater for all the Kgubetswana residents.
This Blog is just a small taste of what life was like as a black resident in Clarens as well as the country as a whole and I am sure there are many of you reading this that are young enough not to have grown up during the 60’s to mid 80’s like some of us older folk, to be honest if I had of been subject to the laws that were in force in those days there is a very good chance that many of us may have also protested and even taken up arms against the government of the day.