In the 1950s it was in pursuit of the “bantu authorities” and “rehabilitation” programmes, as the homeland authorities and Pretoria called them. In post-apartheid SA, it is packaged as the pursuit of “investment” and “development”. And so, it seems, the right of refusal is something the rural black poor are not allowed. Not then and, seemingly, not now. In his book The Peasants' Revolt, Govan Mbeki recounted an instance where local people told their chief, Botha Sigcau, to publicly declare whether he was “the head of the Pondo tribe or the boot-licker of Verwoerd”. Mbeki also spoke of the response of the state apparatus to this “direct democracy”. “Africans from a score of kraals had met there to discuss their complaints. Two aircraft and a helicopter dropped tear gas and smoke bombs on the crowd, and police vehicles approached from two directions.” Writing more than 50 years later, Lulamile Feni of the Daily Dispatch painted an eerily similar image, describing a chaotic meeting in ...

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