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(page 10)
The Turning Tide
The convergence of increasing solidarity and organisation amongst political activists, created a powerful platform for coordinated grassroots action by the mid-1980s.

The prolonged depression meant that rates of unemployment were rising, especially in the 16-25 age group, and the backlog of official housing provision was rising from a figure of 46,000 homes to be built in 1980. The economic conditions fuelled a sense of desperation and rebellion, especially among the youth.

As the government tried to pacify growing resistance through superficial reforms and heavy-handed repression, so it appeared vulnerable. The declaration of the State of Emergency in 1985 was seen as a last resort and evidence that apartheid was on the ropes.

Richard Rive's novel 'Emergency Continued' noted the change in tenor from protest to violent revolt, as he describes parents assisting their children in raising barricades across roads.

In coloured areas, incidence of revolt reached a very high intensity after the 'Trojan Horse' incident in Athlone. Ten security force members hid inside large metal crates on the back of a truck, and when stones were thrown as they drove down Thornton road, they opened fire, killing three youths between the ages of 11 and 21.

The two years following the 1986 National State of Emergency brought tight control over the media, the recruitment of township policemen ('kitskonstabels') and sponsorship of conservative vigilantes. Nonetheless, the effects of international pressure, a dwindling economy and the government's lack of legitimacy meant that a critical point had been reached in national politics.

Historians argue that the impasse between government forces and their opponents was the very reason why a negotiated settlement became possible. Although government gave no hint of it, secret talks were underway with the ANC, and Mandela was being prepared for freedom, with secret trips around the city including a stroll along the beach at Sea Point.

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Heritage Sections
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History · Society
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In this period of Cape History:



Petty Apartheid



The Silent Years

Influx Controls

1976 Uprising

Post '76 Reform


Turning Tide

Mass Action

Bibliography & Contacts


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