rooidoek, noun

Plurals:
rooidoeke /ˈrɔɪdʊkə/.
Origin:
AfrikaansShow more Afrikaans, rooi red + doek (head-)scarf, cloth.
Especially in the townships of Johannesburg and surrounding areas: one of a band of (armed) men from a migrant workers' hostel, using for identification a red cloth attached to a weapon, or worn on the head, neck, or arm. Usually in the plural, used collectively. See also hostel sense 1 a, vigilante. Cf. witdoek.
1990 Weekly Mail 14 Sept. 1United Nations secretary general Perez de Cuellar has expressed serious concern about the role of security force members in the Reef violence as reports of collaboration between white men and Inkatha rooidoeke mounted this week...Similar reports were received from Vosloorus township, where residents said police troop carriers had dropped off rooidoeke in the township when it was attacked on Tuesday night.
1990 Hogarth in Sunday Times 16 Dec. 20He appeared on a public platform this week with Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi to address an audience of armed men wearing red headbands. The sight of the two men together before the rooidoeke has been taken in the townships of the Transvaal as final, irrefutable proof of collusion between Inkatha and the police.
1991 L. Kaunda in Natal Witness 28 Mar. (Echo) 1Inkatha has also been accused of unleashing ‘rooidoeke’ (Reef hostel dwellers) on Reef township residents, which Inkatha has denied.
1991 Sunday Times 21 July 1Did the police protect the ‘impis’ that attacked ANC supporters? Did the Casspirs guard the ‘rooidoeke’?
one of a band of (armed) men from a migrant workers' hostel, using for identification a red cloth attached to a weapon, or worn on the head, neck, or arm. Usually in the plural, used collectively.

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