Wa’thint’abafazi, wa’thint’imboko. The famous warning travels to us from the shouts of the 20000 women who marched on the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Thursday August 9 1956 to protest against the proposed extension of the pass laws to black women. The protest was, at the time, an extraordinary achievement of defiance. The state made several attempts to block black women’s access to public transport and to disrupt organisation of the march.
To refuse to carry a pass is to refuse to have your body owned, tracked, labelled and deployed to the advantage of an economic and political system that recognises you simply as (at best) a unit of labour. If it was possible in 1956 to organise against those who sought to label and deploy the body, it is possible now.