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The purple shall govern was an anti-Apartheid slogan. The phrase was an adaptation of placards reading "the people shall govern" during the Purple Rain Protest in Cape Town, South Africa in September 1989 after the protesters who directed a police water cannon away from themselves inadvertently coloured nearby landmarks with purple dye.


Purple water cannons

Attended by approximately 350 people of all races, the gathering of protesters and demonstrators were confronted by police brandishing a new water cannon that was filled with purple dye; this was in an attempt to stain the protesters for later identification and arrest.[1]

The protesters redirected the water cannon toward the local headquarters of the ruling National Party. The headquarters, along with the historic, white-painted Old Town House, overlooking Greenmarket Square, were doused with purple dye.[2]


The next day, a graffiti artist tagged the Old Town House with the phrase "The Purple Shall Govern," and a slogan was born.[1]

Buysile "Billy" Mandindi, a black artist who was caught in the ensuing melee and escaped, later created a lino cut etching which he entitled "Spirit of Freedom."

The protest — probably one of the last illegal activities before the African National Congress was unbanned in February 1990 — has been associated with Purple Rain, a popular song by Prince, as well as Purple Haze, a particular strain of cannabis.

The slogan was used as the title of a book, "The Purple shall govern: a South African A to Z of nonviolent action".[3]

See also


  1. ^ a b Leibenluft, Jacob (2008-06-12). "Purple Water Cannons: Why would the police spray protesters with colored water?". Slate. 
  2. ^ Michael Morris, John Linnegar (2004). Every Step of the Way: The Journey to Freedom in South Africa. South Africa: HSRC Press. p. 223. ISBN 0796920613. 
  3. ^ Dene Smuts, Shauna Westcott, Margaret Nash (1991). The Purple Shall Govern: a South African A to Z of Nonviolent Action. Oxford University Press, Centre for Intergroup Studies. 


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