AWG Champion and township politics in Durban in the 1960s and 1970s
Tabata, Wonga Fundile
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This article will consider the often contradictory role of Arthur Wessels George Champion (AWG) Champion, former leader of the Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union (ICU) in the African National Congress (ANC), as a local politician serving on statutory Urban Bantu Councils. Champion was an elected member of the Ningizimu Urban Bantu Council from 1968 to 1975. He was still applying the political strategy of the 1930s and early 1950s where statutory Native Advisory Boards were used throughout the country by African leaders as platforms to fight for daily needs in the locations/ townships. The 1960s was however a period of strict apartheid when the National Party-led government also tightened its control over local government through the establishment of Bantu Administration Boards to administer African residential areas and control Urban Bantu Councils. The policy of “separate development” (apartheid) also stressed ethnicity as it linked all Africans with homelands. From 1970 up to his death in 1975, Champion advocated links between the Zulus in Durban and the statutory KwaZulu Traditional Authority in the Zulu “homeland” under its Chief Executive Officer and later Chief Minister, Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi, Champion stressed Zulu unity and the use of statutory bodies as counterweight against policies of apartheid (“separate development”). This made him a controversial figure in the ranks of the government as represented by local officials of the Port Natal Bantu Administration Board, black independent trade unions, the Residents’ Associations sympathetic to the African National Congress and the “underground” ANC in Durban. Champion worked very hard to represent his constituency as a councillor in the Urban Bantu Council system but failed to use statutory bodies to oppose apartheid and achieve equality and human dignity for his people. The powerful apartheid state had tightened its control over black political activity during the 1960s and 1970s.