In May 1980 the Town City and Divisional Council of the Greater Cape Flats and neighboring areas informed residents, largely blacks and Indians, that their rents would increase in June. Government-supported apartheid had previously forced people of color to move from Cape Town to suburbs in the Cape Flats. The announced rent increase in the Cape Flats was unaffordable to the residents of the area, who were already burdened by unemployment, low wages, and an economic recession. The increased costs would force people of color in Cape Flats even farther from their previous homes.
In 1957, the Public Utility Transport Corporation (PUTCO) in South Africa raised the bus fare from 4d to 5d for commuters in Johannesburg. This was equivalent to 2 pennies or 1 shilling (15c) more that the South Africans would need to pay a week.
However, 80 percent of Johannesburg Africans lived under the poverty line, and so the raise was far more than the Africans could afford. The black South Africans in Alexandra grew tired of the behavior and exploitation of the PUTCO and of their own meager wages.