This paper reviews Keyan Tomaselli's "Overcoming the Group Areas Act: Social Movements in Westville, South Africa" [www.und.ac.za/ccms/projects/westpref.htm]1. It suggests that theoretical insights derived from Tomaselli's oeuvre can be used as a basis to construct a multi-cultural city in Post-Apartheid South Africa.
Tomaselli's study is unique in so far it documents the only case in South Africa where 'whites' initiated sustained opposition to, and mobilization against, the Group Areas Act, the legislation which gave geographical expression to the spatial and territorial separation of the so-called different races2 in the country (cf. Ch1, p1. See Appendix B for "Contents"). The socio-political arena of the conflict between enlightened whites and a racially oppressive Apartheid State emerged in Westville, a residential area in the Durban Functional Region, Natal, South Africa. This quite exceptional drama began when whites, in 1988, supported South Africans of Indian descent who had begun to move into the officially white area of Westville. This movement became known as the Westville Residential Support Group [WRSG] (See Appendix C). This study documents the story of this organization by focusing on a number of overlapping questions/themes, viz:
- How did the state generate pro-apartheid information-the form and substance of arguments in favour of the status quo, ie. racially exclusive areas and the 'demonization' of any opposition to its varied forms of racial engineering not merely in social space but in all facets of life;
- How did the people interpret state-driven information vis-a-vis group areas- the reading/comprehension and understanding of official information as opposed to counter-information provided by WRSG and related groups;
- How to educate whites on their rights to receive negative information (from WRSG) as well as 'positive' (from the state) information on the effects of the Act (original emphasis) - open-ended, flexible communication with all people whether in favour or against change with regard to specific socio-economic political processes, and how to arrive at socially tenable and pedagogically sound assumptions, conclusions and planning practices;
- How to explain that the Act was racist and discriminatory, and a liability for the future development of the economy-the didactic and practical means to conscientize (ie. making people aware) that certain social practices are inherently unfair and how to proceed, in equitable terms, to arrive at planning practices that are both viable and sustainable; and
- How to prepare whites in Westville for the inevitable racial and cultural mixing that was to come? This, according to the author, was the most important question.
The preceding questions/themes suggest that the WRSG was not merely reactive but also pro-active in terms of its programmatic intervention, which, largely was that of providing support (both in terms of legal advice and moral succour) to those families who, according to the Act, were not supposed to be inhabitants of Westville (cf. eg. Ch2, p5).
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