by Philip Bonner
Based on numerous life-history interviews with residents and previously unexamined archive sources, the book portrays in vivid detail the daily struggles and tribulations of the people of Alexandra with a significant focus on the rich history of political resistance, in which political organisations and civic movements from 1912 to the present.
Alexandra: A History is a social and political history of one of South Africa’s oldest townships. It begins with the founding of Alexandra as a freehold township in 1912 and traces its growth as a centre of black working-class life through the early years before the Nationalist government, through the struggles of the apartheid era and into the present day. Declared as a location for ‘natives and coloureds’, Alexandra became home to a diverse population where stand owners, tenants, squatters, hostel-dwellers, workers and migrants from every corner of the country converged to make a new life for themselves near the economic hub of Johannesburg. The stories of ordinary people are at the core of the township’s history. Based on numerous life-history interviews with residents and previously unexamined archive sources, the book portrays in vivid detail the daily struggles and tribulations of the people of Alexandra. A significant focus is the rich history of political resistance, in which political organisations and civic movements organised bus boycotts, anti-removal and anti-pass campaigns, and mobilised for housing and a better life for the township’s residents. But the book also tells the stories of daily life, of the making of urban cultures and of the infamous Spoilers and Msomi gangs. Over weekends Alexandra came alive as soccer matches, church services and shebeens vie for the attention of residents. Alexandra: A History highlights the social complexities of the township, which at times caused tension between different segments of the population. Above all else, despite a long history of hardship and adversity, the community spirit of the people of Alexandra, expressed in a fiercely loyal love of their township home, has repeatedly triumphed and endured.