Revolt on the Rand, 1922

This 1922 photograph shows the South African government attempting to reassert control in Johannesburg after declaring martial law. World gold prices had plummeted and the mine-owners, threatened with disaster, decided to replace semi-skilled white workers with cheap black labour. The whites went on strike, rioted and attacked native workers. When mediation failed, Smuts, the Prime Minister, declared martial law. In the battles that followed, 153 people were killed. Smuts's opponents accused him of resorting to platskiet politiek the policy of shooting the opposition down. This event confirmed the racial tensions that existed in South Africa and which would continue to play such a vital role in the years ahead.



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by Stephen Luscombe