At half past two, early in the morning of Thursday, November 22nd, 1962, 250 men carrying axes, pangas and various self-made weapons left the Mbekweni location and marched on Paarl, a small town in South Africa's Western Cape. On the outskirts of the city the marchers formed two groups, one destined for the prison where the intention was to release prisoners, the other to make an attack on the police station. Before the marchers reached Paarl's boundaries, the police received warning of their approach from a bus driver. Police patrols set out and one of these encountered the marchers In Paarl's Main Street. Having lost the advantage of surprise, the marchers in Main Street began to throw stones at cars, shop windows, and any police vans which they came across on their way to the police station. The police at the station were armed with Sten guns and rifles in anticipation of the attack. At ten minutes past four between seventy-five and a hundred men advanced on the station throwing stones. When the attackers came within twenty-five yards of the station the police opened fire killing two. The marchers then broke into smaller groups and several were arrested or shot during their retreat. Some of the men who had taken part in the assault on Paarl police station met up in Loop Street with the group that was marching on the prison. These men regrouped and embarked on an attack of the inhabitants of Loop Street, breaking into houses and assaulting people in the street. A seventeen year old girl and a young man were killed and four other people wounded. According to police evidence, five insurgents were killed and fourteen wounded. By five o'clock, the Paarl uprising was over; police reinforcements had arrived from Cape Town and the men from Mbekweni were in full retreat.
This paper has two purposes. One is to provide an analysis of the causes of the Paarl disturbance. In the literature on black South African opposition movements, the events in Paarl are scarcely mentioned. This is at least partly because the participants were not politically very sophisticated or articulate; they are consequently difficult to write about. The neglect of the events in Paarl can also be attributed to a bias in much of the relevant scholarship: the emphasis of historical studies has been on black ideological response and has tended to focus on the most fluent articulants of black aspirations.