I’m not sure this footage is particularly rare…but, anyway…
Perhaps it might be best to watch the footage now before you read the rest of this post.
Click on the link: Joburg & Cape Town 1973
The year is 1973, the year I matriculated from Loreto Convent Sea Point, Cape Town and turned 17 on Christmas Eve.
There is nothing out of the ordinary in this footage of not much more than routine daily activities, too oddly familiar at times. How many dads (it was always the fathers) filmed these sorts of quite pointless, unedited scenes of the mundane on their prized cine cameras?
And yet, this particular footage of ‘ordinary’ South Africa contains hundreds of people, hundreds of lives, so many parents, grandparents and great-grandparents of today’s young South Africans. Just one of many normal days – routine, seemingly harmonious and peaceful.
This was a mere 3 years before 16 June 1976.
And just 3 years after The Bantu Homelands Citizenship Act forced all black South Africans to become citizens of artificially created ‘homelands’.
This list of just a few of the momentous events that had already taken place in South Africa a few years earlier stands in shocking contrast to the footage:
- Fatima Meer had been banned for planning a mass rally with Steve Biko.
- Winnie Mandela had been placed under house arrest.
- Thabo Mbeki had been sent to the Soviet Union for political training.
- The Prime Minister had announced that all Coloured people would be removed from the common voters’ roll.
- The Bantu Homelands Citizenship Bill had been passed, whereby every African was issued with a certificate of citizenship of their respective ‘homeland’.
- The National Party manifesto had reaffirmed its belief in separate development programmes for the white, black, Coloured and Indian population.
- South Africa had been banned from competing in the Davis Cup.
- The Herstigte Nasionale Party had published its manifesto describing its aim of a society dominated by Christian national concepts and Afrikaans as the only official language.
- The United Nations Special Committee on Apartheid had urged a boycott of all South African racist sporting organisations and supported an African proposal to exclude the Republic from both the Munich Olympics and the Olympic Movement itself.
- The Progressive Party (via Helen Suzman) had won one, lone seat in Parliament with 51,760 votes cast.
- The International Olympic Committee had expelled South Africa from the International Olympic Movement.
- The Minister of Justice had announced that the Attorney-General of the Transvaal would prosecute thirty of the 357 people arrested in Johannesburg after an illegal march in protest against the continued detention of the twenty-two Africans held under the Terrorism Act.
- The seventh ‘homeland’ had been inaugurated with the installation of Chief Gatsha Buthelezi as Chief Executive Officer of the Zululand Territorial Authority.
- The first General Students’ Council of South African Students’ Organisation (SASO) had been convened. SASO had become identified with a well-articulated ideology of Black Consciousness.
- The Prime Minister had announced in the House of Assembly that South African scientists had succeeded in developing a new process for uranium enrichment, and were building a pilot plant for this process.
- The United Nations Security Council had condemned all violations of its embargo against South Africa. Resolution 281 had subsequently been passed calling on all states to strengthen the arms embargo. It had been adopted by twelve votes to none against, France, Great Britain and the United States abstaining.
Now might be a good time to watch the footage again. Here’s the link again: Joburg & Cape Town 1973
This time, did you note that, aside from the recent jarring addition of some arbitrary music at the beginning, the rest of the film is silent? We didn’t yet have simultaneous recording of sound for home-made film. There were no gimmicks, no zooming, no close-ups, and very little post-editing. Just long, single takes, usually standing still, with subjects moving towards or away from the camera, unsteady panning, and moving strangers disturbingly tracked by the lens as they moved past the photographer’s standpoint.
And all in utter silence.
In a time of great noise, posturing, anger, oppression, violence.
An utterly surreal silence.