chapter  4
18 Pages

Johnson Malcomess Mgabela: The Strategist

ByVáclav Havel, Jan K. Coetzee, Lynda Gilfillan, Otakar Hulec

For me, life has always been a struggle for survival. My first few years on the farm in the Kwalera district is only a vague imprint in my memory. I was still small when my father came to East London to look for work. I was the only child and we settled in the Tsolo Location on the East Bank. Reading the history of the Border Region you will find that East London was the city where most incidents involving the pass laws took place. Many people from the rural areas came here and they were all expected to get passes even when they were only sleeping in the Location. At first we didn’t have to pay a levy for this permit but we had to carry the permit with us. Later people coming to the Location from elsewhere had to pay—even just to sleep there for a short period. If you wanted to work, you had to have a pass. My first memories of living in the city coincide with this issue of obtaining and carrying a pass. The pass determined life for us. In 1944, when I was working in the harbor, I was already carrying a pass. Without it you couldn’t work, you couldn’t walk in the streets, you couldn’t relax. So I grew up amidst this frantic scuffle for a pass. It was part of everyday life and almost accepted as normal.