Resistance at Mathopestad

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Case of Rural Resistance during years of apartheid.

Mathopestad or Boons is historically the rural village occupied by members of the baKubung ba Ratheo from the late nineteenth century. In 1968, in anticipation of the formation of the Bophuthatswana homeland, it was earmarked for the removal of the residents to a site near Ledig inside the borders of the bantustan. It was an example of what was a 'black spot' in an area designated for white habitation in a fertile part of the former western Transvaal. The baKubung had made a good living at Mathopestad, growing enough agricultural produce and selling the rest on the market.

The villagers resisted this by all means at their disposal. The acting kgosi, John Matope, wrote to the New York Times in March  1983 saying that 'the truth is that if we were white we would not be forced to move..the truth also is that we like it at Mathopestad and we do not want to move'.  To highlight their plight, they developed a strategy that led to a highly publicised visit by Senator Edward Kennedy, brother of former President of the United States, J. F. Kennedy, in January 1985. Kennedy called the forced removal odMathopestad' cruel and inhman' and met with Pik Botha, the South Africn minister of foreign affairs, to tell hm so. Botha answered Kennedy's accusations by saying that the villagers were being moved 'for medical and hygenic' reasons.  


The state's tactics were to intervene in the internal affairs of the people essentially in order to to divide them. Cyprian Mathope who had been kgosi from 1936 to 1977 refused to co-operate with the plans of the apartheid state, but his son, Arthur, was more willing to follow government plans for Mathopestad. In 1985 the baKubung were under the authority of Solomon Mathope, Arthur's uncle, but the native commissioner attempted to foist Arthur as kgosi on the members of the village. Possibly due to the publicity given to the planned removal by the Kennedy visit, the Mathopestad residents were not removed, one of only a handful of succesful bids to resist removals during the apatheid era. (See also Mathopestad)


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

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