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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Politics and Violence in the 'Russian Zone': Conflict in Newclare South, 1950-57
Author:Kynoch, GaryISNI
Periodical:The Journal of African History
Geographic term:South Africa
organized crime
Politics and Government
Urbanization and Migration
Law, Human Rights and Violence
History and Exploration
Labor and Employment
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/183436
Abstract:This article deals with the migrant Sotho gangs known as Marashea or Russians, in particular the eight-year period in the 1950s when they were the single most dominant force in the freehold area of Newclare (known by Basotho as Siteketekeng), a township on the western fringes of Johannesburg, South Africa. With the collusion of the South African Police (SAP), the Russian gangs emerged victorious from a series of battles with various opponents and effectively annexed the southern portion of Newclare. They functioned as an alternative form of government until Africans were expelled from the township as part of the Western Areas Removal Scheme at the end of the decade. The article explores the manner in which the Russians established and maintained supremacy over Newclare South and assesses the legacy of their reign over the area that came to be known as the 'Russian zone'. It shows that the Russians relied heavily on battleground proficiency to rout their enemies, but also demonstrated a sophisticated understanding of governmental political concerns and proved adept at negotiating the maze of official urban structures which affected their interests. Additionally, commandeering the support of local residents and gaining the allegiance of mineworkers from neighbouring compounds were crucial elements in the Russians' campaigns. Their success stemmed from the adoption of a strategy designed to serve their needs in an urban environment in which the white-ruled State wielded ultimate power, but where their immediate antagonists were fellow black residents. The Newclare conflicts reveal two contradictory elements of power politics in the apartheid-era townships: firstly, the importance of police collusion with 'conservative' black groups; secondly, the limits of the government's authority in day-to-day life in the township. Notes, ref., sum.