Tembisa formed part of the locations established in the pre-1950s to accommodate the influx of black people from rural areas to the cities in search of employment.
Tembisa was established on a farm purchased to accommodate black people, primarily to make way for an industrial area but also in line with the government's segregationist policies.
When foreign investment increased following the state of emergency declaration, employment opportunities rose. Blacks were obliged to find employment or face possible arrest.
In between settling down in the new township and eking out a living, the residents of Tembisa found ways of entertaining themselves. Football, stokvel and church services thrived.
When the Black Consciousness Movement gained momentum across SA, Tembisa had its own activists who began to disseminate Black Consciousness principles in the township.
After the 1976 student uprisings, grievances relating to matters of, inter alia, housing, transport and crime arose. This led to the formation of civic structures to address the situation.
Secondary and high school students were at the forefront of the liberation struggle in the mid-1980s, initially against the education system but ultimately against the apartheid regime.
When prominent leaders and activists of liberation movements were either exiled or imprisoned, 'underground operatives' became a useful tool in carrying forward the work of liberation movements.
Women formed a significant part of the liberation struggle, primarily because of civic grievances but also because their children and husbands were involved. Tembisa had its own female activists.
As an activist working under Afrapix, Gille entered Tembisa through a local activist, Greg Thulare, and began to capture the political and social landscape of Tembisa under trying circumstances.
As political resistance heightened in the mid-1980s, the government responded with brutal force, killing activists. Funerals of victims became a rallying point for mass mobilization.
After former president F.W. de Klerk lifted the ban on political parties and political prisoners, movements like the ANC formed branches across SA, Tembisa also had these. Negotiations to end apartheid began.