Making Freedom: Apartheid, Squatter Politics, and the Struggle for Home.

Author:Larson, Zeb
Position:AFRICA - Book review
 
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Makhulu, Anne-Maria. Making Freedom: Apartheid, Squatter Politics, and the Struggle for Home. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015.

Anne-Maria Makhulu examines an important issue about resistance and oppression by examining the question of housing for black South Africans. While other histories of apartheid in South Africa have focused on the liberation movements, Makhulu focuses on an understudied aspect of the anti-apartheid movement: resistance to apartheid housing policies. Her case study focuses on Cape Town, which, despite being considered a fairly liberal city during the apartheid era, had its influx and housing controls more stringently enforced than elsewhere in the country (xvi). In doing so, Makhulu is able to shine light on resistance at the ordinary, daily level in South Africa. As black South Africans tried to live near cities to escape rural poverty and be closer to job opportunities, they adapted to the challenges they faced and directly attacked a cornerstone of apartheid.

Makhulu, associate professor of cultural anthropology and African and African American studies at Duke University, examines an area near Cape Town known as Cape Flats, which became home to a number of informal settlements such as Crossroads and Gugulethu. The Eastern Cape, home to the impoverished Transkei and Ciskei Bantustans, sent a steady stream of migrants to the Cape Flats in search of wage labor, but these migrants were effectively shut out of housing by the Group Areas Act (27). In defiance of the law, squatters, initially men, built their own housing in order to secure continued access to work and normal home lives. Over time, whole families began settling in these areas, establishing informal government and "headmen" to oversee the settlements (68). These organizations resisted deportations in court and eventually forced the government to provide basic infrastructure to pacify the settlement dwellers (63).

Making Freedom: Apartheid, Squatter Politics, and the Struggle for Home, an adaptation of her PhD dissertation, is a somewhat misleading title since Makhulu extends her discussion of housing politics in South Africa past the era of apartheid up to the present. The ANC and other liberation groups continually focused on a message of access to housing since 1955, but as of 2015 an estimated two to three million units of housing are still needed for homeless black South Africans (159). Much of what has been constructed has been inadequate even...

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