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Half a loaf of bread: A political life of Povundla

Institute of Commonwealth Studies
  • History
  • Politics


HALF A LOAF OR NO BREAD: A POLITICAL LIFE OF P 0 VUNDLA [l] David Goodhew Philip Qipu Vundla was prominent as a political leader on the Rand from the early 1940s until his death in 1972. He was based in the Western Areas of Johannesburg until the area was declared a "black spot" and the inhabitants removed, and thereafter in Soweto. To a remarkable degree he married concern for local issues to national politics. Thus he remained as an Advisory Board member at Western Native Township (WNT) from 1942 to 1962 whilst being involved in campaigns of the Communist Party, various trade unions and the ANC, becoming a member of the national executive of the latter from 1952 to 1955. During campaigning against Bantu Education he was felt to have opposed the ANC's policy and was expelled from the organisation. Thereafter Vundla was only active in local politics. This paper will attempt firstly to discuss the link between class and the radical leaders of the district, of whom Vundla was one of the most significant. Secondly it will attempt to shed light on a key political leader of the 1940s and 1950s [2] and relate him to the politics of the Western Areas during these turbulent years. Several influential studies of political leadership in black South African politics have pointed to the way in which class guides the actions of such leaders to a c~nsiderable extent. Leaders are shown to have come mostly from the small group who were traders, artisans, teachers and clerks. Whether characterised as petty bourgeois or lower middle class, they endorsed common cultural values: notably education ,Christianity and "law and order". Their position between labour and capital was reflected in political attitudes which "identified upwards" or "identified downwards". [3] This approach illuminates much but leaves fkther questions unanswered. Why did leaders so often come from such a narrow stratum? What common cultural ties were there between leaders and led? When leaders identified downwards

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