kwela-kwela, noun

Also khwela-khwela.
In the Nguni languages, khwela climb on or in, mount (see sense 1, quotation 1960); but see also quotation 1990.
In urban (especially township) English:
1. A police van; transferred sense, any similar vehicle used for law-enforcement; nylon; pick-up; pick-van. Also attributive. See also mellow yellow.
1957 in Karis & Carter From Protest to Challenge (1977) III. 404If a woman is found without the book or if all the papers inside are not in order, she will be pushed into the Kwela-Kwela and taken to gaol.
1960 C. Hooper Brief Authority 209Because of the appearance of their perspex panels they were soon known as ‘Nylons’; or they were referred to by the city name of ‘kwela-kwela’ — an imitation of the police herding prisoners aboard with shouts of ‘Kwela! get on!’
1962 W.S. Manqupu in Star 22 Feb. 14The lorry used as a pick-up van is called the ‘Khwela-Khwela,’ as the police call out ‘Khwela, bo, khwela!’ (‘Ride, man, ride!’) after making an arrest.
1963 B. Modisane Blame Me on Hist. (1986) 35I saw my mother insulted, sworn at and bundled into the kwela-kwela, the police wagon.
1967 Post 23 July 15Over 20 women were rounded up by Municipal ‘Kwela-kwela’ trucks at dawn on Thursday.
1976 Drum 15 May 6The accused sang freedom songs when the kwela-kwela drove off and Black Power salute fists shot from the ventilation holes of the kwela-kwela sieve.
1977 J. Sikakane Window on Soweto 27Should some people get caught in an area we would hear voices of wailing children as women and men were escorted into the kwela-kwela vans with all the confiscated booze.
1979 M. Matshoba Call Me Not a Man 21The large kwela-kwela swayed down Mohale Street at breakneck speed...The driver of the kwela-kwela, the only uniformed constable among the group, clanged the door shut.
1981 Voice 29 July 2The policemen dragged me into the waiting kwelakwela and locked me in there together with other Blacks.
1984 City Press 29 Apr. 1It’s the taxi kwela-kwela! Soweto taxi ‘tsotsis’ are in for a shock — the Witwatersrand Taxi association has introduced a squad-car to check on them!
1986 S. Sepamla Third Generation 153Those prisoners and awaiting-trialists downstairs in the cells waiting for the kwela-kwelas to remove them to the cells all around Johannesburg and Benoni.
1990 G. Slovo Ties of Blood 160He had been pushed into an overcrowded kwela-kwela and the first thing he noticed was the stench of fear.
1990 New African 11 June 13Kwela-kwela is a name that was given to the notorious pick-up police vans. Juveniles gambling at street corners would, at the first approach of kwela-kwela, take out their penny-whistles and begin to play music until the danger of being arrested was over.
2. Especially in the Eastern Cape: taxi sense 1. Also attributive.
[1960 C. Hooper Brief Authority 265The new parish vehicle — a miniature bus seating eleven passengers which, from the day of its arrival..was known as kwela-kwela ya Modimo, God’s Pick-up van.]
1985 I. Macdonald Informant, GrahamstownThere’s no doubt at all that the Kwela drivers are exploiting their fares.
1987 E. Prov. Herald 16 June 1I had just begun walking when I saw the kwela kwela (pirate taxi) come straight at us. I didn’t even hear brakes.
1988 A. Jacot-Guillarmod Informant, GrahamstownThe Kombi taxis which run all over the town have a new name, besides their old one of ‘kwela-kwela’.
1991 Informant, GrahamstownKwela-kwela. Black taxis. We went to..Port Elizabeth by kwela-kwela...White employers take their employees to the Kwela-Kwela taxi rank when they work late.
1991 N. Goddard Informant, Port ElizabethKwela-Kwela. Name given to taxis that ply to and from the townships/homelands in the Eastern Cape.
A police van; transferred sense, any similar vehicle used for law-enforcement; nylon; pick-up; pick-van. Also attributive.
Especially in the Eastern Cape: taxi1. Also attributive.
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