Original Research

Memories and testimonies of passbooks, permits and platkeps in apartheid-era Batho, Mangaung

Derek Du Bruyn
New Contree | Vol 91 | a254 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/nc.v91i0.254 | © 2024 Derek du Bruyn | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 August 2023 | Published: 19 March 2024

About the author(s)

Derek Du Bruyn, Department of History, National Museum, Bloemfontein and Research Fellow, Department of History, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa


he memories and testimonies of black people who were on the receiving end of racial discrimination provide important evidence of their lived experiences during the apartheid era (1948–1994). They ‘revisit’ apartheid South Africa because of recurring memories of traumatic experiences. Sadly, they relive the painful incidents emotionally when such memories are triggered. The National Museum in Bloemfontein has interviewed more than 150 Batho residents about their experiences of Batho’s apartheid past, specifically their experiences of racist municipal laws and regulations. Although discriminatory municipal policies are rooted in the racial sentiments of Bloemfontein’s colonial (1846–1910) and segregationist (1910–1948) periods, they are also based on national legislation, notably the Natives (Urban Areas) Act of 1923. Direct quotes from interviews allow interviewees to speak for themselves. The interviewees’ testimonies of their experiences have generated information about, among others, the carrying of passbooks; visits to the pass office; maltreatment by municipal police (platkeps); being arrested for not having a passbook; spending time in police cells for committing loaferskap (idleness) or for housing an overnight guest without a lodger’s permit; being victims of violent house raids; and being harassed by the night curfew siren. Because most interviewees’ parents and grandparents were subjected to similar discriminatory laws and regulations, traumatic experiences are a multi-generational phenomenon.

Contribution: The oral history methodology was used to reconstruct aspects of Batho’s apartheid history. By tapping into people’s memories and testimonies, this article aims to present a history from ‘below’ of Mangaung’s oldest existing township and, thereby, contribute to local historiography.


Batho; apartheid; memories; testimonies; influx control; passbooks; permits; platkeps; curfew

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions


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