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  • Making Freedom: Apartheid, Squatter Politics, and the Struggle for Home by Anne-Maria Makhulu
  • Joyce M. Chadya
Making Freedom: Apartheid, Squatter Politics, and the Struggle for Home by, Anne-Maria Makhulu. Durham, Duke University Press, 2015. xxiii, 228 pp. $84.95 US (cloth), $23.95 US (paper).

Nowhere did apartheid's race-riven landscape and state and local government inclusions and exclusions manifest themselves more than in the urban centres of South Africa, and among the Black urban poor and vulnerable — the periphery of the periphery. In her book, Making Freedom: [End Page 579] Apartheid, Squatter Politics, and the Struggle for Home, Anne-Maria Makhulu examines such exclusions by focusing on the disenfranchised and denationalized Black people who were not welcome in apartheid cities and who defied apartheid urbanism and the attendant influx control measures that targeted Black South Africans. Focusing on Cape Town's Crossroads squatter settlement from its origins in 1975 to the post-1994 period, the book is a testimony to the existence of struggles within a struggle. While the larger struggles against the institution of apartheid — the struggle for democracy — was taking place on the national and international stage, Makhulu informs us, there were other more localized struggles — like the squatter struggles — that were taking place in South Africa.

The first chapter maps out the migration experiences of Blacks from the Ciskei and Transkei Bantustans stressing that at the core of Xhosa migration to the Cape flats was the need to recreate Xhosa homes by reuniting families and enabling intimacy between couples forced to live apart by colonial/apartheid-induced labour migrancy that witnessed millions of men leave their wives and children in derelict Bantustans while they sought wage employment in the apartheid economy. It was not surprising, given the gender-skewed labour hiring policies that were in favour of male labour and the worsening deterioration of Bantustan life, that from the 1970s, women and children — largely conceived as the ultimate Bantustan dwellers immobilized by apartheid policies — began to leave Bantustans to converge and "make home" or "black domesticity" in squatter settlements regardless of whether they came looking for employment in their own right or as abandoned women looking for their husbands. Once they had established themselves in a non-prescribed space at Crossroads so began the cat and mouse game with squatters engaging in flight whenever authorities showed up or simply "staying put"/"inhabitation" (28). In the process the squatters created a "fragile" but permanent living space. The establishment of Crossroads, while illegal, was a successful defiance against apartheid urban influx control. Beyond Cape Town, such settlements became the norm on the outskirts of many South African cities.

In chapter two, "Counterinsurgency," Makhulu chronicles the state's efforts to regulate urbanization against the insurgent Black squatters. On their part, squatters defiantly built their homes. The layout and structures that emerged were, according to Makhulu, "hybrid zones" (68) that could be described neither as urban nor rural. They "demanded latrines, refuse removal, and drinking water, giving shape to a material reality in the camps; a form of undeniable presence through infrastructure" (64), and they built schools. That hybridization also meant the re-surfacing of head-men who had reconstituted themselves into the urban patriarchy that controlled and monitored access to land and settling minor disputes — in fact becoming "mayors" of Crossroads (69). Squatters at Crossroads physically [End Page 580] and legally resisted eviction, which forced the state to declare Crossroads an emergency camp as well as provide amenities. It was the small "daily, hourly victories in the bid for stands and shacks, land and lots" (92) that provided squatters and those who had relocated from hostels and townships a home away from the apartheid prescribed Bantustan home.

Chapter three examines the decade before 1994 hence the title "Transitions." By the early 1990s it was obvious, even to the apartheid government, that apartheid was no longer sustainable. States of emergencies, detentions, banishments, and other forms of suppression could not hold the tide against the anti-apartheid movement anymore. It was no surprise, therefore, that urban influx control was rolled back in 1986. The surge into the cities was immediate: Crossroads already had 100,000 people...


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