Three Zulu songs from Johannesburg about the notorious Pass Laws of the Apartheid era. All Africans were required to carry a special pass, permitting them to be in the city.

I

Take a visit to Johannesburg:
You will see big crowds
Of people imprisoned for Special Pass.
Forward…Onward…to Marshall Square! (1)
‘Produce your Special Pass!’
It was a sad sight to see our people like that,
Caught for Special Pass.

II

There comes the big van.
All over the country
They call it the Pick-up Van. (2)
There is the Pick-up,
There, there is the big van.
‘Where’s your pass?
Where’s your tax?’

III

Take off your hat! (3)
What is your home name?
Who is your father?
Who is your chief?
Where do you pay your tax?
What river do you drink?

We mourn for our country.

from Oral Poetry from Africa (1984)
compiled by Jack Mapanje and Landeg White,
Longman


Footnotes

  1. Marshall Square is where the Magistrate’s Court is.
  2. The Pick-Up Van is the police van.
  3. This scene describes any Pass Office, where workers could queue for days on end before they were subjected to the kind of questions quoted in the song.