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Anne Heffernan May 4, 2020
Limpopo’s Legacy, Student Politics and Democracy in South Africa
James Currey 2019
's new book Limpopo’s Legacy, Student Politics and Democracy in South Africa
(James Currey, 2019) a thoroughly researched account of the Black Consciousness Movement, student activism, and politics in South Africa from the 1960s to the present. Heffernan focuses specifically on black student activism at the University of the North at Turfloop, a rural university in the Northern Transvaal, the modern-day Limpopo province. She compellingly argues that rural uprisings shaped politics nationally as contestations between university students, administrators, and apartheid officials escalated. Heffernan importantly demonstrates that these confrontations and the bureaucratic responses to them assisted the diffusion of radical politics nation-wide, especially in the years leading up to the Soweto Uprisings of 1976.
Heffernan’s biographical sketches of William Kgware, Abram Tiro, Julius Malema, Peter Mokaba, and others outline the political legacies and imprints that residents, students, and activists from Limpopo had and continue to have on post-apartheid politics. In extending her investigation to include student and youth politics after Soweto, Heffernan explores how politics in the Northern Transvaal remained central to national contestations between Black Consciousness and ANC-aligned youth groups throughout the 1980s. Heffernan’s unwavering focus on Limpopo reframes our understanding of national politics and student activists’ central role in shaping them. Limpopo’s Legacy is a foundational text that provides the historical context for understanding contemporary student movements and electoral politics in South Africa today.
Amanda Joyce Hall is a Ph.D. Candidate in History and African American Studies at Yale University. She is writing an international history on the global movement against South African apartheid during the 1970s and 1980s. She tweets from @amandajoycehall
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