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Sustainable Cities Research Project 2004

Durban in the 1960’s

Student: James Mardall

Student #: 202520037

• Discover how people experienced Durban at different periods of its History.

• Data should be collected to build a detailed picture of Durban in the 1960’s.
• Can include sections on:
o Durban’s economy (Industry, Business, Agriculture, Places of Work).
o Boundaries of Durban at the time.
o Infrastructure and Transport at the time.
o Recreation at the time.
o Neighborhoods at the time.
o Shopping at the time.
o Crime.
o CBD.

Find out peoples experience of the city, compare their views of Durban? How
did people experience the city? Similarly or differently?

Data Collection:
Must do two interviews with people who experienced life in Durban in the
1960’s Include newspaper articles, Photographs, Maps, Reports. Minimum of
two secondary sources i.e. books, journals.

I hereby certify that this essay was in no way copied from any other sources
and is entirely my own.


South Africa, Durban in the 1960’s, the people and the place

Table of Contents

Compiled in 2004, the following paper is primarily an interview driven re-

collective work about Durban in the 1960’s. My thanks go to Ricky, Thandi and
Ian for their kind co-operation and valuable time.
The paper is divided into sections as follows:

• Overview of Durban and focus of paper……...Page 1
Background & History
• South Africa, Durban and the 1960’s……………Page 2
• An explanation of Apartheid:………………………..Page 5
Socially………………………………………………………Page 6
Politically……………………………………………………Page 7
Economically……………………………………………..Page 8
• The Interview process…………………………………….Page 9
• The questions asked……………………………………….Page 9
• The Interviewees introduced………………………….Page 10
• Collated Findings of the Interviews……………….Page 11 - 25
• A closing discussion of findings………………………Page 25
• Photographs and Figures………………………………..Page 26
• Copies of the Interviews………………………………….Page 26
• List of References…………………………………………….Page 27

South Africa, Durban in the 1960’s, the people and the place


Fig 1: Map of Durban’s location

Durban (Port Natal) was officiously
named by its British colonizers in
1835, after the then Governor of
the Cape, Sir Benjamin D’Urban. It
was and still is, an important Port
City on the East Coast of South
Africa, situated between the
Drakensberg Mountain range to the
West and the warm Indian Ocean to
the East (See Fig 1). Since its
colonization, much of the
recognizable landscape has
changed; Socially, Developmentally
and Topographically. 10/

The Human period History of Durban, is a colourful tapestry of; bushman rock
paintings (?-1800’s), the oral recollections of the Zulus (?-1835), Colonial
records (1835 -1948), Indian Immigrants (1860 – Present), the National Party
(NP) and the Apartheid policies (1948-1994) and the Multiracial/Multiparty
Democracy (1994-Present).

This paper is primarily concerned with the central Durban area during the
1960’s. A period characterized by intense socio-political activity between, on
one side, the N.P. government of the day and on the other, the African
National Congress (A.N.C.), Natal Indian Congress (N.I.C.) and various other
anti apartheid movements.

In the 1960’s, the segregationist social policies of Apartheid implemented by
the N.P. government became manifest in Durban’s Social and Spatial
Landscape. Colour became the main determinant of how one related to one’s
sense of relation to place. This is as a result of the way in which people were
spatially located and restricted due to the implementation of Apartheid policies,
like the Group Areas act of 1957. (McCarthy, 1990) (See Fig 2) (Although
many of the original African township areas had already been established by
1948 under the previous dispensation (See appendix 2 – Thandi Interview)).

Using a comparative literature review of both popular and academic records

and an interview process with three people who lived in Durban in the 1960’s
(See appendices 1,2,3), this paper seeks to examine and unpack this period in
Durban’s history.

Background & History of Durban

Much of Durban’s architecture reflects the impact of the modernist Victorian

planning by the original British colonists i.e. the old Town Hall, Court House
and Churches (See pictures - Fig 3). Also evident are the influence of Indian
culture i.e. the Grey Street Mosque and various Hindu and Tamil places of
worship. And later during the N.P. government’s rule, the post-modernist
influences as represented by the various government offices in the Fort Road

Durban’s wide Central Business District (C.B.D) streets are the result of a
planning process started in 1839 (the original plans allowed for a 30 meter
width to facilitate, a 16 span ox wagon u-turn). Durban’s industrial expansion
has predominantly been associated with the ocean boundary near the Point
and Harbour areas stretching in later times through to the Durban South Basin.
(Holford, 1968)

From an initial 15 residents in 1835 (Wrinch-Schulz, 1973), Durban’s

magisterial population quickly grew to just over a million people by 1966

(McCarthy, 1990). This population were settled in residential sites along lines
radiating outward from the Harbour area, although in some areas restricted by
topographical relief i.e. The Bluff. (Holford, 1966). These settlement patterns
were strongly determined by the N.P. Apartheid policies and to obtain a clearer
understanding of why, a brief discussion follows.


It is difficult to pin apartheid down to any one specific idea or legislature, the
best way to understand apartheid is to evaluate it holistically and study the
scope of its effects. J.G.Strijdom the Transvaal leader of the N.P. said on the
14 July 1947 during pre-election campaigning (The N.P. won in 1948). “The
only alternative is the N.P. policy of separation and apartheid in the sense that
the natives must stay in their own territories and should come to the cities
only temporarily as workers.” (Bunting,1964)

The dictionary of contemporary politics of South Africa defines apartheid as

follows: “Apartheid is a word of Afrikaans derivation which means ‘apart-ness’
or separation. It refers to South Africa’s policy of ‘racial’ separation we
enshrined in the laws of the country since the National Party came to power in
1948.” (Williams & Hackland, 1988)

Sometimes called ‘separate development’ in an effort to try and put a positive

spin on a negatively perceived policy, apartheid achieved worldwide notoriety
due to several key pieces of legislation from 1948 - 1980 namely:

• The Group Areas Act (G.A.A.) - Divided the country into specific race
group areas. This act attempted to prevent interracial contact through spatial
separation / zonation.
• The Separate Amenities Act - Reserved certain public amenities for
specific race groups.
• The Pass Laws - South African’s, specifically ‘natives’ or ‘blacks’ were
forced to carry pass books (Dompas) at all times under threat of detention.

Only those found to have a legitimate reason to be out of their ‘area’ would not
be harassed by police.
• Curfew – People classified as black were not allowed in non-black areas
from 7pm to sunup.
• Separate Voters Rolls - In an attempt at ‘fairness’ and legitimization, a
tri-cameral parliament was set up with no real political power. (The N.P. made
sure it was window dressing and no more).
• Homelands Policy – an attempt by H.F.Verwoerd to split ‘Africans’ into
ethnic communities with distinct geographical localities to which they would be

These laws and controls impacted on South African society on three distinct
levels, social, political and economic. These concepts will be expanded on in
the next three sections.


Socially, apartheid created distinct identifiable groups out of the cross section
of South Africans. G.A.A. Committees were set up to relocate people area by
area, town by town, city by city, so that contact between all people of colour
would be minimized. Forced removals and re-housing further highlighted racial
segmentation with for example only, 10% of Durban’s whites as opposed to
more than 60 % of non-whites being, ‘re-housed’ (McCarthy, 1990).

The social effects of white domination or apartheid were to create a separation

of society through spatial distancing or delineation through group areas. South
Africa’s society remains to this day the way apartheid created it, equally
socially and spatially segmented. As cited in The Divided city, “Group areas
manufactured an inward group oriented consciousness which, in turn, is one
basis for race based political mobilisation and inter-group conflict.” (McCarthy,

The separate amenities act meant that even recreational activities would be
undertaken at separate venues, further lessening the chance of social contact.
It also meant that facilities had to be provided for each colour group, such as
parks or beaches, further influencing the city spatial form.


As new models in geography puts it, under the apartheid policy, “The four
race groups (Black, White, Coloured and Asian (Indian)), with various tribal
subdivisions, are political constructions with the force of law.” (Peet, 1989)

The idea of apartheid was to deny political representation to people of colour.

To this aim; four independent states and six homelands (See Fig 4) were
created within South Africa’s borders. (None of these territories were ever
recognized by anyone but the apartheid government). It was hoped that most
‘Africans’ would eventually leave the cities and settle in the homelands, if not
there was always forceful coercion. City zones were therefore oriented, so as
to allow easy access to these areas by ‘Africans’. A tri-cameral parliament was
also instituted which necessitated triplication of the city’s beurocratic

Fig 4: South Africa’s Independent Homelands during Apartheid

Source: David M. Smith,

"Introduction," The Apartheid City
and Beyond: Urbanization and
Social Change in South Africa, ed.
David M. Smith (London:
Routledge, 1992), 3.


In the economic sphere, I believe apartheid had the greatest impact of all on
spatial development. Apartheid set out to maintain two key ideals, “To
maintain the economic and political supremacy of the whites” (Peet, 1989).
And to secure a plentiful, poorly educated, unsophisticated, therefore cheap
supply of labour, to feed the unskilled labour demand that existed for example
around the harbour and in the industrial areas of Durban.

“From the first, labour regulation was a major task of the state, … industry
and mines depended on the state for development, policing and everyday
running of their migratory labour system … they [the state] have underwritten
profitable production” (Peet, 1989)

Evidence of ‘Africans’ as a commodity abound in the spatial form of South

Africa, from micro, to macro scales. For example the Farm and Compound,
Mine and hostel, Harbour and Hostel, Town and segregated location, city and
segregated township, country and scattered ethnic homelands. These people
segmenting policies, which fueled the S.A. labour market, were integral to
apartheid policy after 1948. “After 1948 they [apartheid labour policies], were
extended by the National Party government far beyond the gold mines to
South Africa as a whole, becoming the lynchpin of the apartheid state” (Peet,

These apartheid structures (See Fig 5), have created very specific patterns of
segmentation in Durban and it is the social perception of these structures,
which will be discussed through the responses to the interviews mentioned in
the introduction, the methodology of which will be discussed next.


In order to derive a highly simplified account of the social perception of Durban

in the 1960’s an interview process was undergone which attempted to gauge
the perceptions of a sample group comprised of three interviewees. In order to
get a more comprehensive social understanding of the 1960’s in Durban a
much larger sample group would be necessary.

Interviewees were asked a number of open ended qualitative questions about

their living experiences in the 1960’s in Durban (See attached Appendices 1, 2,
3). This does however introduce a level of subjectivity to the recollections and
perceptions of them, and the reader should be cautioned in this regard.

The Interviewee’s chosen were all individuals in their sixties who would have
been around the age of twenty and lived in Durban during the 1960’s. This was
done in order to find individuals who would have had a more adult and broader
understanding of the city at the time. They were also specifically chosen as
representative of Indian, African and White communities.

The questions primarily focused on answering the following questions:

Where did the interviewee live in Durban.
• What was the interviewee’s overall memory of 1960’s Durban.
• Was life the same for everyone in the 1960’s.
• What was the interviewee’s high point of the 1960’s.
• What was the interviewee’s low point of the 1960’s.
• The interviewees Occupation, and Location thereof & a discussion on
• What was the general Standard of Life in the 1960’s.
• Was the interviewee’s spatial access restricted in any way.
• The interviewee’s thoughts about the spatial layout of Durban.
• The interviewee’s method of commuting.
• The interviewees Recreational Activities and location thereof.
• A description of the interviewee’s neighbourhood.

• The location of the interviewees shopping purchases.
• The interviewee’s perception of crime.
• Whether the interviewee thought Durban was better or worse now.
• General Comments by the Interviewees.

Interviewees were made aware that the study was about Durban specifically,
and were encouraged to openly discuss issues of politics and race. This was
done in order to make the interviewees more comfortable with the discussion,
but may have biased their responses in this regard.

Interviewees were made aware that the information was to be used in this
paper for the University of Kwazulu Natal and were not asked for specific
contact details (although these can be supplied on request). The discussion
that follows is a summary of the combined responses of all the interviewees
(Transcriptions of which are available in the Appendices).

The Interviewees

1) Ricky Subroyen is a 61 year old Indian male of Hindu descent who was
born in Durban. Ricky lived in the Durban CBD, in an area called Greyville,
in a primarily Indian Block of Flats, from 1952 – 1974. He now lives in
Gauteng on the East Rand and although retired works with orphaned

2) Thandi Memela is a 65 year old African woman of Zulu descent who was
born in Lamontville in 1939 (Built by the British Government in 1938) and
went to school there. Thandi currently lives in Chesterville (moved there 1962
due to the Native Administration Policies) and works at the Cato Manor Area
Based Management Programme.

3) Ian Mardall is a 62 year old White male of British descent who was born in
the United Kingdom. He immigrated to South Africa in 1968 and spent part of

1969 in Durban. Ian lived in various parts of the Durban CBD, From March to
July of 1969 (Lonsdale Hotel (four stars at the time), Durban North, Corner of
Windermere and Innes Roads and a new block of flats (at the time) behind the
Ocean View Ice Rink). Ian currently lives in Ballito and although retired after
working for Rothmans Tobacco for 34 years, now owns and runs a pizzeria.

Their memory of 1960’s Durban.

Ricky primarily offers an Indian perspective of Durban in the 1960’s; he recalls

the arrival of passengers from the Indian Ports of Karachi and Kampala on
ocean liners. The passengers were roughly split 50/50 between what he called
settlers and visitors. Like Ian he remembers the freedom to walk anywhere in
Durban with safety and confidence at any time of the day and night, they both
ascribe this to the lack of crime. Both Ian and Ricky recall the nightlife and the
harbour as busy, exciting and positive areas.

For Thandi, Durban in the 1960’s epitomized the height of the struggle against
Apartheid. Both she and her firstborn child were very nearly killed by stray
bullets that entered her home during a period of civil unrest in the Chesterville
Township where she lived. For Thandi it was a time of conscientisation, when
people were actively promoting the values of the African National Congress
(ANC), in the township areas particularly. She recalls the March 21st Sharpville
riots as an “alarm bell for the country”, soldiers actively and indiscriminately
targeted the youth. It was a time when many young African activists were
living in exile, either self imposed or enforced by the government of the day.

As an outsider, recently having arrived in South Africa (2 months previously),

Ian offers a unique (albeit 44 years later) visitors perspective to Durban. His
memory primarily revolves around the availability of accommodation and the
lack thereof in Durban. Added to this is the impression that Durban was a neat,
clean and well run city comparable to any he had visited in Europe at the time.
Durban beaches were recalled as being ‘huge and wide’ not like today (2004).
Ian also recalls that although there seemed to be very good control of what

went on in town there weren’t an excessive number of policemen. He also
remarked that you could walk freely to and around the Indian Market, Warwick
Triangle and even Point Road even late at night, (though it reminded him of
Soho in London at the time).

Was life the same for everyone in the 1960’s.

Even though Ricky experienced what he called ‘freedom’ in Durban, he was

quick to point out that in the 1960’s, democracy was considered a privilege,
not a right. Even though Indians had more ‘freedom’ then Africans he recalls
many restrictions such as whites and Indians not being able to live in the same
places. By comparison he noted that the 1950’s were in this respect vastly
different. He noted that a pervasive sense of uncertainty seemed common to
Indians due to the restrictions of Apartheid.

Thandi’s answer to this question seems to sum up the impact of Apartheid, “It
depended on who you were and where you came from.” She talks of secret
meetings dominated by Africans, Indians and Coloureds with a small
percentage of whites (mostly academics from the then University of Natal
Durban (U.N.D) – (changed to University of Kwazulu Natal (UKZN) in 2004).
Some Africans who were as she put it “down and out” relied on food parcels
provided by Indian and White families. Thandi recalls an ‘us versus them’
sentiment with regard to the N.P. government in the 1960’s. She ascribed the
1948 Indian – African race riots as an attempt by the government to create
dissention and to divide them. But she remembers that by the 1960’s the
communities were again united in a common cause, the anti-apartheid

Ian didn’t really give the question of equality much thought at the time, he had
recently arrived from the U.K., and for him it was a new country. He
remembers being an avid reader of newspapers but cannot recall much
regarding race and race issues in the media during his stay in Durban in the
1960’s. For Ian the big news of the time was the Unilateral Declaration of

Independence (U.D.I) and Ian Smith up in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Durban
for him seemed a very British kind of place. He remarked that there seemed to
be more people of colour in business than back in the U.K. Regarding
Apartheid Ian had the following to say, “I was a salesman, I didn’t get involved
in politics, although I listened to what other people had to say.”

What was the interviewee’s high point of the 1960’s.

For Ricky, walking downtown with ease (without fear of crime) and the feeling
of freedom wherever you went i.e. the harbour, the point etc, was considered
the epitome of 1960’s Durban.

Thandi is proud to assert that during the 1960’s she saved a lot of people’s
lives. Helping the youth who would have otherwise been tortured and killed,
cross the borders into Mozambique and Swaziland and enter into exile. A time
of great sadness but also a high point in terms of surviving to continue the
struggle, and defeating the government by evading capture.

Ian recalls Durban as having a very hot climate, coming from the U.K. it was
for him a rare pleasure. Although he recalls having to wear a three piece suit
to work, so he really felt the heat. He remembers driving up to the (Natal)
Midlands for business and seeing snow only a few hours after leaving the heat
of Durban, a wonderful experience. The fact that Neil Armstrong landed on the
moon in late 1969 in a technological triumph is a strong memory for him. As
an avid cyclist being able to ride around Durban and meeting new people also
stands out as a high light. 1969 was the year the opening of The Wheel
shopping complex promised to change the way Durban would look in the
future. Especially around the northern Harbour area (and finally 40 odd years
later we have Shaka’s Island). For Ian, eventually finding a flat, although he
had to go to the estate agent with the previous tenants to ensure that he got
it, was the strongest of the high points of Durban for him.

What was the interviewee’s low point of the 1960’s.

For Ricky the 1960’s presented a challenge in the form of transport around the
CBD, public transport was non-existent at night, so the freedom to travel was
restricted to walking distances.

For Thandi the fact that Afrikaans was introduced as the sole medium of
education during the 1960’s was a particularly difficult issue. The divide and
rule philosophy of the government of the day meant for her that Africans were
treated worse than animals, although she added that it could have been worse
it could have become genocide.

For Ian, the low point was getting transferred to Johannesburg at the end of
1969 by the company he worked for.

The interviewees Occupation, and Location thereof, & a discussion on


Ricky was a teacher at the Claire Estate Indian Primary School, he taught
Grade 1 – Standard 6 pupils at an this English Medium school. All the pupils he
taught were born in South Africa and from the Claire Estate area (as per
Apartheid regulations, they were restricted to attending the school in their
area). Interestingly, he remembers Religious Instruction being relevant to the
predominant faith, i.e. Muslims read Koran, Hindus read Baghavad Gita, in a
lesson occurring once a week. He credits this to the fact that there was a
separate department of education for Indian Schools (as there were for
African, Coloured and White Schools).

Thandi went to Pretoria early on in the 1960’s to train as a nurse in the HF

Verwoerd Hospital (named so after his first assassination attempt). Upon her
return to Durban she worked for a General Practitioner Dr H.P. Singh as a
Nurse, she later worked for Dr Patterson a psychiatrist. Her last employment in

the 1960’s was after she got a mandate to do Union work and entered the
Ellerines Group (a furniture outlet) as a supervisor. While there she used her
position to make contact with people. She was still very involved in the
struggle and working hard to raise political awareness. She was later to flee
the country to Mozambique after being shot in an attempted arrest, where she
remained for some time.

Ian was a traveling salesman for Rothmans Tobacco Company (R.T.C.),

working with the Courtleigh and Ransom brands of cigarettes. The slogan was,
“Courtleigh, for the man who smokes and loves it”. As a consequence of his
occupation he traveled extensively around Durban and the Country. The office
was located in a business area, and he worked with people of colour, mainly
Indians but some black salesmen too. However he was to remark that
salesmen were assigned to the areas relevant to their colour (i.e. a White
would not do sales calls in an African Township). The R.T.C. offices in Durban
were located at the bottom end of Umbilo road where it splits near Berea road
in the CBD (close to where the N3 on/off ramp is now).


On the topic of Tertiary Education Ricky pointed out that there were two
Universities in Durban; U.N.D for Whites and Coloureds and Salisbury Island
University S.I.U. for Indians (which would later become the University of
Durban Westville). Salisbury Island was located in the Harbour on an old naval
property, he had to catch a ferry every day to get there while he was studying.
He thinks it was located there because there were no facilities or space in the
Durban CBD. Most of the educators at the S.I.U. were White and Indian
professors from overseas i.e. United Kingdom, India, Zambia and Rhodesia.
The S.I.U. offered a broad Subject choice but had no Law Faculty and only 20
top students per year were accepted into the medical Faculty. According to
Ricky, no bursaries or scholarships were available to students at S.I.U.
As a result, most students were from very rich Gujarati families (the Gujarati’s
owned Jewellery and Tailor shops in the CBD, along Grey and Prince Edward

Streets). Black Students, he said had to go to Fort Hare in the Transkei as
there were no places for them to study in Durban.

Thandi also mentioned that there were only two Universities in Durban Area,
Salisbury Island and Howard College (U.N.D). She mentioned that there was
no Law faculty available to people of Colour in the Durban area, in fact the only
Law faculty available to people of colour in S.A. during the 1960’s, was at the
University of Fort Hare in the Transkei.

What was the general Standard of Life in the 1960’s.

Ricky was adamant that things were 80% better, than they are today. When
asked why, he described it as being a time when there were no vendors on
crowded dirty pavements like today (2004). There were no self imposed
restrictions due to fear of crime when it came to movement in the city.
He also felt that it was due to good availability and low cost of a larger variety
of foods and goods.

Thandi lived in a working class area (Chesterville Township), although she feels
that many of the people there could easily have been classified as middle
class. There seemed to have been no class structure, everybody was willing to
help one another out (“not like today” she remarked). The people in the area
were joined in a very close Knit community. Most of the youth (like her) just
wanted to get educated so that they could fend for their families. And although
some families were down and out, neighbours were always willing to help them

As a Bachelor in Durban Ian felt that he had a quite good standard of life, He
earned a decent salary, and could afford to indulge on eating out etc. The
South African economy in general was according to him, pretty good (one of
the reasons he immigrated to South Africa), there was no inflation, very low
taxes and things (goods) were quite reasonable compared to the U.K. (“not

like today” he mentioned). Overall, people (Whites) had money for

Was the interviewee’s spatial access restricted in any way.

Ricky found it strange that although everyone swam in the same ocean, they
had to do it from different beaches, beaches were segregated according to
colour, i.e. White, Black, Indian and coloured. There was also no access to
whites only clubs, pubs, movies, toilets and taxi’s for people of colour (most
taxis in the 60’s i.e. eagle cabs were for whites only). During the day and at
the end of the 1960’s, Indians used mainly privately owned Indian only buses
which were sometimes shared by Blacks.

Thandi remembers a Curfew for Africans, starting precisely at 19h00 till Sunup,
if you worked as a maid in a White suburb, you were stuck there in your room
at night. Some White families would help out by giving them (their ‘maids’ and
‘garden boys’) lifts to the train stations if they left late. Africans had to carry
permits all the time (10.1.A Permits for those working in town). Thandi pointed
out that when you first arrived in the city you had to find work before the
police got to you, otherwise they deported you back to a homeland. She said
that to get a permit you had to have an I.D. Book, an address in Durban and a
white family had to go and apply for a permit for you.

Ian’s simple answer was – No. He used to go to Black (once to Umlazi) and
Indian townships, like Tongaat & Verulam. Admittedly he said that he didn’t
spend very much time in African townships at all and had very little idea of
what went on in an African Township. According to him it was only when he
went into Zululand especially to the small countryside towns that he became
conscious of the levels of racism that existed in South Africa. Mostly this was
perceived during conversations, when white people that he spoke to used
racist language he had never heard before (such as Kaffir). He reiterated the
point that he could not and still does not understand the concept or the
purpose of racism.

The interviewee’s thoughts about the spatial layout of Durban.

For Ricky Durban represented the Ideal City, with a sense of open space and
freedom and easy access to all destinations he needed to go to.

For Thandi, Durban represented a wonderful place that she didn’t get to spend
very much time visiting. Her recollections about space were much more
comprehensive with respect to Chesterville Township, which she called small
but comfortable. She didn’t get to see much of the city, because she used to
catch the train to town in the mornings, go to Warwick Ave and Grey Street,
and then catch the train straight home to beat the curfew.

Ian thought it was odd, that Traffic Lights were called Robots and that
Roundabouts were called circles. He said that when he first arrived in Durban
he thought it was a ‘nice souped’ up city, to expand he said that the
infrastructure and layout of Durban seemed very European. He said he used to
count the ships waiting to come into the harbour, sometimes 20 – 30 a day
were anchored offshore. Durban seemed to him to be a busy commercial,
Import and Export hub. Point road seemed to be like Soho then, a ‘bad news’
area although many people still went there to party.

The interviewee’s method of commuting.

Ricky used Buses, Indian Taxi’s (private vehicles) and Ricksha’s to get around,
but mostly went everywhere on foot (he lived in the CBD). To visit friends
outside Durban, he used to use buses and private vehicles (luxury) if a group
of friends or family were going the same way.

For Thandi, the majority of commuting was done by train. Later (the late
1960’s) Indian Buses (Private not Municipal) were used as a mode of transport
By Africans and Indians alike.

Ian had access to a marked (branded) company car, though there were rules
about not being allowed to wear casual clothes when using them in a private
capacity, so he used to cycle or walk around (also lived close to the CBD).

The interviewees Recreational Activities and location thereof.

Ricky and his friends and family went to the Movies and Clubs in the evenings
and to the Indian Beaches and family Picnics in Durban as well as Umhlanga,
Tongaat, Amanzimtoti and Port Shepstone. According to him the further from
Durban one went the more freedom from Apartheid was achieved. Social and
semi professional soccer matches in town in local clubs and on fields in Indian
parks were also a popular form of recreation in the 1960’s. He also mentioned
that they would go on harbour cruises on the still popular Sarie Marais.

Thandi told the interviewer that lots of sports and recreational activities
happened in Chesterville Township, like Football, Boxing, Tennis, Dancing and
especially Singing. Most of these activities took place in the halls and open
spaces in the Township.

Ian used to go to North Beach (whites only) (it was a status thing) it was
posher than South beach (also whites only). He said that all the trendy
youngsters used to go there to socialize. He also used to go to drinking spots,
i.e. Smuggies on point road, they used to have cabarets and strip shows
(although they were supposed to be illegal). There were no safety issues when
he used to go out, even to Point Road, he remarked that it seems very
different now

A description of the interviewee’s neighbourhood.

Even between Indians, Ricky’s sister pointed out, that a sort of apartheid in
terms of Caste system and Religion was practiced to some degree. The main

difference occurred due to exclusively dogmatic religious beliefs i.e. Tamil
consorted with Tamil, Muslim with Muslim and Hindu with Hindu etc. Ricky
pointed out that Muslims were always a very tight group and not easy to
infiltrate (his word). Religion was considered to be a very sensitive issue,
which is noticeable in the way that spaces of worship were spatially separated,
Grey Street - Muslim Mosques, Prince Edward Street – Hindu Ashrams, Umgeni
Road – Tamil Temple. Ricky also mentioned that the Indian community spatial
layout, roughly concurred with their religious preferences. However within each
community there existed a very strong sense of cohesion, like an extended
family, everybody knew one another and there was No animosity.

Thandi explained that Chesterville (built by the British – 1948), had good but
small formal houses, tarred roads, electricity and limited infrastructure.
Although initially a bucket system was used, they got water borne sewerage
soon after they moved there. According to her, the community was eager to
grow, eager to share and interested in one another.

When Ian stayed at the Lonsdale Hotel there were many young people like him
waiting for accommodation or in a process of transition. The CBD for him
seemed to consist of mostly middle class people and immigrants from various
European backgrounds. He pointed out that people he met, seemed to live in
areas they were comfortable with (i.e. with the same sorts of people his
example - flat living is very different to living in a house, you meet all sorts of
people and some people don’t like it).

The location of the interviewees shopping purchases (1960’s).

Ricky was quick to iterate that there were no problems there, the Indian
market was open 7 days a week from early to late (he added that now it’s a
black invasion and very different). He said that Grey Street in the 1960’s was
exciting and cheap, with anything you could want, “we never turned left into
West Street, it was where the Whites used to shop”. On the whole he seemed
to think that there was less choice now (2004), He pointed out that back then

there were different meats, groceries, vegetables and clothing basically lots of
everything. When he was first went shopping with his father in the 1950’s, 10
shillings (before South Africa switched to Rands and Cents in 1961) bought a
return Ricksha ride to Grey Street and filled two big shopping bags for the

Thandi used to go to the Warwick Avenue, English and Indian Markets (Now
Early Morning Market) she thinks the renaming is ridiculous and ignores our
heritage. She used to travel into town by train with her father. With 1 pound
they could buy groceries for a week – Meat, Vegetables, Fruit and still buy
Flowers for her mother. She recalls good Indian shops in Grey Street and
Prince Edward Street that stocked everything they would need. She also
pointed out that the dream for the middle class Africans was to shop in places
like the Hub and Stuttafords.

Ian, being what he described as a typical bachelor did most of his shopping at
the local café or O.K. bazaars (it was different back then kind of like Spar
today). He told the interviewer that there was nothing like a Pick and Pay back
then. Most of the cafes he shopped at had Greek owners but they seemed
much cleaner and cheaper and kept longer hours than they do today (2004).

The interviewee’s perception of crime in the 1960’s.

Ricky’s perception is that there has been a 500% increase in crime since then
(60’s). (He provided an anecdote about car being broken into in Morningside
outside his sisters flat a few days before). Ricky recalls that he and his friends
could walk anywhere in the city late at night, i.e. Grey Street, they could walk
some girls home from the clubs and walk back home again with no problem.
He made the interesting comment that he felt crime had started when
Apartheid finished in the 1990’s. When he asked why he felt this, he said it
was because blacks had a curfew, and were kept out of the city after 8pm, if

they were found in the CBD at night, they were picked up by the police (They
used to come in the Black Mariah – Police van of the 1960’s)

Thandi’s experience of crime was that Yes, crime was there, but the
community (of Chesterville) were interested and took care of it, if the crime
wasn’t too bad. If the crime was a bad one, then they would call the police in.
She also said that the justice system then, did actually work (not like today).
She felt that the police were hypocritical when it came to crime, because
sometimes if the violence was black on black, the police would turn a blind

Ian remarked that, “We weren’t even conscious of it, could’ve been because
there was no media coverage of it back then, but it didn’t seem to differ much
from Britain”. He further qualified his comment by adding that there didn’t
seem to be violent crime, or if there was he never heard of it happening.

Whether the interviewee thought Durban was better or worse now.

Ricky was adamant that economic conditions were better in the 60’s, and that
he had had more buying power then, then he does now. He repeated his
earlier statement that consumers had less choice now compared to then. He
also said, “Money had more value then, a man with a five pound note was a

Thandi remarked that, “at one time I thought it was better, but I think the
fabric needs to be revamped so Durban can be put back on the map”. She
went on to say that she felt Durban is the best city in the country. She praised
the mayor Obed Mlaba for doing his best to make this place the best. With
respect to the recent news that South Africa will be hosting the 2010 Soccer
World Cup. She remarked that the world cup will be great for South Africa, but
it needs to be worked on (equitably) in order to strengthen the unity we want.

Ian felt that Durban was much worse off now than he remembered it to be in
the 60’s. He put this down to the fact that Durban hasn’t managed to attract
big businesses. When asked why, he said that Durban was always a holiday
town and cheap for tourists, it seemed that they (the Authorities) concentrated
mainly on tourists and the Port back then. Even so, the kinds of development
that they were talking about back in the 1960’s only seem to be happening
now (2004), with the renovation of the harbour area and the Point.

He mentioned how Durban was considered the last outpost of the British
Empire and had had good, clean beaches unlike now (2004). He explained how
Umhlanga was just starting to develop then, but was very up market. Glen Anil
Estate Agents (there is an area named after them in Durban North) were
selling property in the sugar cane fields for very high prices.

He said that Sugar Cane and Farming was extensive back then, so Durban
seemed to be concentrating more on agriculture than manufacturing and
services. He ascribed the downfall of the sugar industry to the fact that the
N.P. government had also controlled the prices artificially through boards,
which he felt was unsustainable economically. They also placed more emphasis
on the railways which were much bigger then too, most goods went by rail, not
like today (by road).

General Comments by the Interviewees.

Back in the early 1960’s, Ricky was part of the N.I.C (Natal Indian Congress).
He became interested in politics in school as a member of the debating team,
him and his classmates always chose political topics. Ricky told the interviewer
about the time his school beat the Durban Girls High debating team. The topic
was, “What would you do if you were in Exile”. The nature of the debate was
contentious enough that it made the local newspaper.

Ricky and his friends used to get inspirational political literature from Kenya
and Uganda, these were used to initiate an anti Apartheid movement.

He was politically active and used to go to secret meetings held at constantly
changing venues i.e. Wills Road, Grey Street and Greyville etc. He provided
anecdotal advice about how to avoid getting arrested by the police in the
1960’s. The N.I.C. gatherings would be held at birthday parties and private
porn movie shows, when and if the police burst in they would be able to claim
they were either having fun or up to no good. Invariably the movies would be
confiscated and the police would disappear along with them.

He told the interviewer about the time he was caught and locked up for the
weekend with his seven ‘Charlies’ for spraying ‘down with Ver…(woerd)’ (he
never got to finish) on the Greyville racecourse tunnel walls. He remembers
how the ‘cops’ seemed to treat them with a ‘sort of respect’ because they were
‘political prisoners’. He recalls how the ‘Seven Twits’ who got caught were
threatened by the magistrate with incarceration in South Africa’s Alcatraz
(Robben Island). He was told to forget about politics because, ‘this country is
run by us’. After being released Ricky was constantly monitored and harassed
by the police, therefore he burnt all his literature and got out of political

Thandi got used to the idea of defiance due to resistance around the Group
Areas Act. According to her many Africans were used to living in the Yards of
Indian Families and didn’t want to move.

She pointed out that during the 1980’s, “Durban was on fire with the struggle”.
Her middle son was killed in the “cressida 4” incident in 1986, She would later
testify at the (Truth and Reconciliation) TRC Hearings regarding his death.
Where she refused to pardon his killers because, they couldn’t face her with
the truth of their actions. She was in exile at the time after being shot, and
had to sneak back into Durban to identify the body, before fleeing again so she
couldn’t see him being buried.

Her Eldest son was kicked out of the U.N.D Engineering Faculty during the late
1980’s, for being an activist and refusing to tell the police where she was. She

told the interviewer, “I know the cell, I know Interrogation”, also that the
special branch continually harassed her and her family. She tells a story about
once seeing Adriaan Vlok on a shopping mall escalator, and how she had to be
restrained from grabbing him. For Thandi, “The suffering brought out the
animal Instinct”.

Ian was aware of passes and had heard of group areas, but wasn’t aware of
the curfew at the time (the 1960’s). He speculated that Indians in Natal had
always owned great chunks of Durban and the surrounds through white
nominee owners (a way of circumventing group areas)

He mentioned that Rembrandt was unique in that it actively sought to partner

with Indian wholesalers and shop owners. Added to that, Anton Rupert and B.J
Vorster used to argue about the fact that Rembrandt would pay salaries
according to worth and ability and not colour. However, black salesmen had to
be educated about their salaries, otherwise they would quickly run into trouble.


It became evident for the interviewer that many of the recollections and
memories of the 1960’s were related to the living conditions of the person
being interviewed. And seemed to depend on the background of the individual
being interviewed, their colour, socio-economic conditions and spatial location.

This being the case it is not possible to extrapolate from a sample group
consisting of three individuals to generalize about the wider conditions people
would have experienced in the 1960’s. However, by looking at the policies
implemented through the Apartheid process and hearing the recollections of
those being interviewed. A case can be made for the fact that a very different
result would have arisen from interviews conducted in a Durban without

Perhaps Ricky, Thandi and Ian could have met and become acquaintances
rather than seeming to exist in their own perception of a Durban divided by
boundaries of colour.




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