South Africa's township revolts have generated much excellent research on the central role played by rebellious, urban youth. This article explores a parallel set of intergenerational conflicts that opened up in the marginal rural districts of the Natal Midlands, which were exacerbated by apartheid's forced removals of labour tenants from commercial farming districts to crowded ‘Native Reserves’ in the 1970s. At this time of deepening poverty, elders worried about the rising incidence of juvenile petty crime, particularly amongst the teenagers who increasingly took itinerant, seasonal labour on the commercial farms. Some of these young migrants, unable to find steady factory work at a time of mounting unemployment, also played a leading role in the illicit, sometimes criminal networks of South Africa's growing popular economy. Finally, I show how some of these youths were mobilized by Inkatha during the war against the African National Congress in Johannesburg – often to the revulsion of older men who abhorred their socially harmful, thuggish violence, which spiralled uncontrollably along migrant routes. Thus the political violence was often known as the udlame: a brutal savagery that destroys households, communities and society.