Co-opting Durban’s Black African Urban Dwellers: the establishment of the Durban Bantu Social Centre

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Seminar Date
November 25, 2009
The Durban Bantu Social Centre played a pivotal role in the integration of the black African intelligentsia and Durban’s black African urban labour from the rural areas. The integration and interface of the aforementioned groups harmonized social relations, diffused class tensions and fostered a much needed unity against the colonial state and, later, apartheid state. According to Ntongela Masilela “the Social Centres were intended equally and simultaneously to control and yet enlighten the African imagination by the powers that be. This is the paradoxical nature of modernity: oppress while at the same time and unintentionally provide the intellectual and political means for overcoming that oppression. The genius of H.I.E Dhlomo, R.R.R Dhlomo, Jordan Ngubane, B.W. Vilakazi, Charlotte Manye Maxeke, Bertha Mkhize, Selope Thema, Ruben Caluza and many others was to quickly unravel this great enigma and thereby completely confound the oppressors, who still talked about “Natives” and “Kafirs” while these New African intellectuals were inventing African Nationalism and New African modernity in order to overthrow oppression. The victory of 1994 emanates directly from the bowels of these Social Centres. When H.I.E Dhlomo listened to a portion of B.W. Vilakazi’s doctoral dissertation which Vilakazi read at the Durban Bantu Social Centre, he must have known or it dawn on him that oppression was going to be defeated much quicker”.
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