“Class D coloureds”: The establishment of Noordgesig, 1939-1948
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Noordgesig Township is situated on the edge of Soweto, bordering the better known Orlando Township. This article pieces together the history of the township and its residents from the late 1930s to the beginning of the apartheid government in 1948. This is the first academic study of Noordgesig, and the first to include the township in the historical analysis of Soweto. The article is a contribution to the under-researched history of coloured townships in the Johannesburg area. It explores the heterogeneous categories of class and race that influenced government policies and propelled some urban township dwellers into a vaguely defined group termed “Class D coloureds”: those classified as “near native”, “families of mixed race as cannot be classified as either coloured or native” or “racially mixed coloureds” were considered for housing in Noordgesig and regarded as “Class D coloureds”. Furthermore, the article highlights the various class, race and skin colour distinctions used at the time the township was established to decide who could reside there. This complex politics of identification was further complicated by the then current idea that coloureds should not live close to blacks. This notion of racial proximity as a factor governing the relationship between the coloured inhabitants of Noordgesig and the black township residents of Orlando was put to the test with the construction of the township. In the article it is argued that these spurious distinctions based on class, race and skin colour were used to justify the placement of Noordgesig next to Orlando, which had lasting implications for both the state and residents. It is further contended that the perceived differences between the types of coloured people housed in Noordgesig influenced the creation of a unique identity experience among so-called “Class D coloureds” which problematises the grand narrative of coloured identity based largely on experiences from the Cape region.