Resistance at Mogopa

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A case of rural resistance during the apartheid era.

Mogopa is a village near Ventersdorp that has been occupied by the baKwena ba Mogopa from the time of the 1913 Land Act in South Africa. In 1982 it was annouced to an astonished gathering of villagers that they had to move to a place called Pachsdraai as the village was deemed to be 'black spot' situated in a white agricultural district. It emerged that theirheadman, Jacob More, a former policeman who had assumed control of the baKwena in 1978, had colluded in the government's plans to remove them. More had been accused by many of the community at Mogopa for alleged corruption and an authoritarian style of leadership.

In June 1982 a few of the residents began to pack up and leave for Pachsdraai but most refused to budge. The government placed presure on these remaining families to move by cutting off services such as water and transport to Ventersdorp, the nearest point for shopping and other services and provisions. The local native commisioner also threathened to bulldoze down their houses. In the meanwhile Jacob More had been given a former white-owned farm to live on in return for having supported the state in its plans for the Mogopa removal. With the assistance of the Black Sash the lawyers acting for the resisting elements gained a guarantee from the minister of co-operation and development that no destruction of houses would occur. It was a short-lived triumph, for a few weeks later the government, using different legislation, ordered the removal of the remaining residents by December 1982.

The community resolved not to move and, after futher futile negotiations with the minister, a stay of execution order also failed. The Black Sash gave considerable publicity to the Mogopa issue, and the lone Progressive Party member of Parliament, Helen Suzman, who happened to be in New York during these weeks, approached Dr Chester Crocker, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, for his intervention. Others, such as(then) Bishop Desmond Tutu, also gave support to the Mogopa residents by holding, with other clergymer, an all night prayer vigil. Pik Botha, the South African foreign affairs minister, was trying to present the 'soft' face of apartheid during these years and the impending removal of Mogopa was bad publicity for this cause as it was given wide media coverage.  He tried to prevent the media coverage by refusing entry to journalists. The deadline for the removal of the village came and went and the resistance of the baKwena paid off-they were allowed to stay in their long-term home. However, with no schools or services, a significant number of the residents did opt to try their chances at Pachsdraai.  (See also Mogopa)

The government offered the community an alternative piece of land near Ondersterpoort, close to Sun City, and in February 1984 the government sent in bulldozers to smash the homes of the baKwena and force them to pack up for Ondersterpoort. A few residents went to live at Bethanie where the main section of the chiefdom resided. In 1985 a number of the Mogopa youth returned to Mogopa to bury thier dead and clean up . In 1994 the new government gave the people an additional piece of land and a long process of rebuilding the Mogopa ensued.


South Africa's North-West province: A Guide to its History and Heritage. © 2017

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