Railway transportation has influenced many aspects of communities that have come in contact with the infrastructure and the space that surrounds it. In broad terms, it is undeniable that railways have played a significant role in shaping the political, economic, cultural and social configuration of the people in South Africa from mid-nineteenth century to early twentieth century and beyond. The introduction of this mechanised mode of transportation catalysed western modernisation and industrialisation during the peak of the mineral revolution following the boom of the Kimberley and the Witwatersrand mining industries. Railway diplomacy was crucial in negotiating boundaries between the Cape Colony and the South African Republic and this process was largely facilitated and mediated via capital invested from European banks. The influence of modern capital in the emergence of this permanent infrastructure has skewed the bias of the archive towards a historical consciousness that mutes the narrative of the subaltern. This study intentionally occupies itself with examining the gaps and silences that exist of the encounters between black people and the railways. Railway transportation did more than just modernise the South African economy, it has also greatly influenced the ‘modernisation’ of the cultural and social identities of the people. One of the ways in which this modernity is realised is through mobility, displacement and settlement of black rural and urban Africans. Despite the efforts of the SAR&H to separate national political imperatives from the business operations and administration of the industry, it seemed this approach was applicable insofar as European/white lives were concerned. The inconsistencies are demonstrable through the casting of a blind eye to the ineffective economic model of low-fare African township train services. Tembisa is used as a case study in chapter four to explore the intersections of spatial planning and township railways during apartheid; a space imagined based on a railway line constructed during colonial South Africa. An important component of this research is also the histories of railway development in South Africa as a passage into pluri-versal modernity which places emphasis on the untold histories of the people who experienced the “underside” of modernity.
Dissertation (MSocSci)--University of Pretoria, 2018.