The Un-making of the Group Areas Act: Local Resistance and Commercial Power in the Small Town of Mokopane

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In his seminal work on the rise of Afrikaner nationalism, Dan O‘Meara considers the curtailment of Indian traders to be a key component of the Afrikaner nationalist movement during the 1940s; a sentiment that was channelled through the bureaucratic machinery of the Group Areas Board (GAB) under apartheid. But this depiction of Indian traders as a vulnerable group at the whim of Afrikaner nationalist political ambitions ignores the numerous instances of resistance to the dictates of the GAB. Despite their political vulnerability throughout the twentieth century, Indian traders in the Transvaal amassed an economic power that allowed them some leeway against its monolithic power. This was particularly the case in the latter years of apartheid when the National Party (NP) grew attuned to commercial interests and relaxed its attitude towards racial segregation. This article considers the enduring and precarious hold of Indian traders in the central business district of the small town of Mokopane, formerly Potgietersrus, in the Limpopo province of South Africa. The town presents one instance where the realities of the local economy pushed back against the dictates of the GAB in the latter years of apartheid and succeeded.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)568-582
Number of pages15
JournalSouth African Historical Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Afrikaner nationalism
  • forced removals
  • Group Areas Board
  • local resistance
  • social history

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History


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