Fighting the magwaza – together

Umbulwane is a small farm near Ladysmith in Natal. Until 1980 Joseph Mkwanazi lived there with his family. They were a poor family.

Joseph didn’t own any land. But the rent was low. They kept some cows and chickens. And Joseph had a job in Ladysmith. The farm was not far from town. So Joseph walked to work everyday.

Life was hard. But the family lived peacefully – until June 1980. In that month white men in trucks arrived at Umbulwane. They painted numbers on the doors of all the houses. Then they left.

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People know the numbers on the door mean trouble

The people of Umbulwane were worried. They knew the numbers were trouble. And they were right. Five months later the white men came back. They came with six vans full of police and guns. And they also came with a bulldozer – the machine that people call “Magwaza”.

On that day Joseph Mkwanazi was at work. So he didn’t see the Magwaza smash h is house down.

“They did not give us a word of warning,” says Mr Mkwanazi. “My wife was outside collecting fire­ wood. Our three year old baby was inside. They took her outside and she ran away.

“I came home and found my house broken down. All my tools were broken. They left me with only one room. Then they came back later to break down everything.”

Joseph Mkwanazi was not the only one who lost his horne. On that day the government knocked down the houses of many people at Umbulwane.

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Shacks and tin toilets – the kind of place people are moved to

In 1978 they did the same at another farm nearby. This farm is called Steencoalspruit. They also broke down houses and moved people from their land.

The people from Umbulwane and Steencoalspruit are’ -not the only people who have suffered. Since 1963, the government has pushed over 323 thousand people off the land. They said the people were living in “black spots” – and so they sent them off to the homelands. When the people did not want to move, they sent bulldozers and police.

Now they want to move even more people. Today over 100 thousand people are still living in “black spots” in the Ladysmith area. Their families have lived for over 100 years at places like Matiwaneskop, Driefontein, Ndonyane, Jononoskop, Umbulwane, Balderskraal and Steen­coalspruit.

At most of these places the numbers are already painted on the houses. The people are waiting for the Magwaza to come.

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Members of the new organisation

But they will not move easily. In March 1984 the leaders from all these areas had a meeting. They got together to talk about ways to fight back.

They decided to start a new organi­zation. In the organization the people will fight together to stay on their land. For the first time people from all the “black spots” In the Ladysmith area are standing together in their struggle.

Learn and Teach spoke to people from the new organization. They explained why the new organization is so important.

“First everyone must stand together,” said one person. “The landowners and the tenants must stand together. The government likes landowners and tenants to fight each other. This is the government’s biggest weapon when they move people.

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“Our ancestors are buried here – we will not move”

For this reason we want tenants and landowners to fight together in one organization.”

“All the black spots must join the organization to fight for their land,” said another person. “It is easy for the government to move people one by one. But if we stand together they will be in for a surprise.”

“The government has got a big whip,” says Chief Zikalala. He is the leader of the people from Driefontein. “But before they beat us they must hit hard. We will fight with all our strength. Our people will die before they move.”

Another kind of love

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Gay activist Simon Nkoli

About one in every ten people in South Africa is gay. In other words, three and a half million South Africans prefer to make love with someone of their own sex. Even though there are so many gay people, they still suffer much oppression…

THE telephone rings. Simon Nkoli answers. “Hello, Gay and Lesbian Organisation of the Witwatersrand.

Can I help you?”

The person on the other side speaks. He tells Simon that he is sixteen years old and he thinks he is gay. “I don’t know what to do. I feel so alone. I feel that I’m the only one who is gay.”

Simon tells the youth not to worry — he is not the only one, because he is speaking to Simon, who is also gay! Simon promises to send the youth a membership form and invites him to come to the next meeting of GLOW.

In another part of Johannesburg, at the magistrate’s court, a 40 year-old man is found guilty of having sex with a man of 18. The law says that if one of the men is under 19 years, he is committing a crime. The 40 year-old man is worried that he will get fired from his job, because in the eyes of the courts, he is a criminal.” In Soweto, a young girl has tried to kill herself. She was afraid to tell her parents that she loves women, not men. These are just a few examples of the troubles that gay people experience.

JUST THE SAME
Learn and Teach spoke to Simon Nkoli, who is a founder member of GLOW. Simon is also a political activist who was one of the accused in the famous Delmas treason trial. We began by asking him what it means to be gay.

“A gay person is someone who is attracted to another person of the same sex,” he said. “Part of that attraction is sexual. This does not mean that a gay man does not like women or that a gay woman does not like men — I have many women friends.”

Unfortunately, many straight people cannot understand gay love. They cannot understand that a man can love another man, or a woman can love another woman. Some straight people tease gay people. There are cases where gay people have been assaulted — just because of their sexual preference.

FINDING A “CURE”
It is especially hard for parents to accept that their child is gay. Simon remembers when he told his parents that he was gay: “They thought I was bewitched. They sent me to prophets, to traditional healers, to western psychologists. They all tried to “cure” me, but of course, there is no cure, because being gay is not a sickness.”

But many gay people suffer terribly because other people think they are not “normal”. Simon says that he knows many young people who hate themselves because they are told that they are “sick”. Some people cannot cope with the pain and they land up in a mental hospital or commit suicide.

“There is so much pressure on men and women to get married and have children,” he said. “People ask you all the time: ‘When are you going to settle down?’ You don’t know how to answer. You don’t want to hurt those who love you, but you know that if you get married, your life will be a big lie. But many gay people do get married and then they cheat on their husbands and wives.”

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Johannesburg, 12 October 1990. SA’s first “Gay Pride” march

NO CRIME
The law in South Africa also makes life hard for gay people — especially gay men. There are two laws in South Africa about sex between two men. One law says that sex between two men is a crime, even if they both want to have sex. This law is almost never enforced, but it is still an ugly threat.

Another law says that it is a criminal offence for a gay person — a man or a woman — to have homosexual sex with someone who is younger than 19. Gay activists say that these laws are unfair. A heterosexual person can have sex legally at the age of 16. Why do gay people have to wait until they are 19?

For gay people, the thought of being charged in court and given a criminal record is terrifying. They can be fired from their jobs. Their story may be written in the newspapers. Gay activists say that what goes on in the bedrooms of two adult people who agree to have sex is a private matter and should be legal.

There are other laws that are unfair to gay people. Gays are not allowed to get married. A gay couple are not allowed to adopt children, even if they have a long relationship and can give the child a good home. Gay couples are also denied benefits such as insurance and pensions. All this causes great sadness and anger to gay people.

GOD MADE US ALL
Until recently, there was no help from the church either because the church also saw gay people as “abnormal” and “sinful”. Today, the official attitude of the Catholic, Anglican and Dutch Reform Church is that it’s okay to be gay, but you must not have sex.

Many gay Christians are not happy with the church’s attitude. One gay minister, Heinrich Pretorius from Pretoria, recently resigned from the Dutch Reform church, saying that he couldn’t preach in a church that sees homosexual love as a sin.

Some gay Christians have formed organisations where they can pray together and help each other. One such organisation is the Gay Community Centre, which has branches all over the country and is non-denominational and non-racial.

Learn and Teach spoke to the leader of one of the GCC’s branches, who asked us not to give her name. “I would like the church to accept committed gay relationships. By “committed” I mean serious loving relationships. Many gay couples have long relationships, just like a marriage. They make promises and vows to each other. I believe that the church should accept these relationships, including the sexual part,” she said.

The GCC leader does not believe that the church should accept gay marriage, however. “Marriage is for having children,” she said. She also said that the church should not accept promiscuous sex — like ‘one night stands.’ “The church doesn’t accept promiscuity in straight people, so it shouldn’t with gays. But it should apply the same values and standards to all relationships.”

She ended by saying: “God made all people — gays and non-gays. We are born as we are. So if God allowed us to be born as we are, God loves us all.”

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Simon Nkoli with GLOW’s banner

A SLOW STRUGGLE
On October 12 this year, a “Gay Pride” march was held in Johannesburg. It was the first ever gay march in South Africa. In overseas countries, gays have been having gay marches and fighting for gay rights for many years. We asked Simon why South African gays have been so slow in taking up the fight.

“There are many reasons,” he said. “Firstly, there is the political situation. For many years, we have only been able to concentrate on one thing — freedom from political oppression. So other struggles — such as gay rights, women’s issues, the environment and so on — have taken second place.

“Secondly, black and white gay people never met because of apartheid laws like the Group Areas Act and the Immorality Act. So there was no unity. Today, many gay organisations are non-racial and are struggling for gay rights together.”

We asked Simon what gay rights and demands are. In reply, he gave us GLOW’S manifesto which demands among other things:

• that parliament changes the law so that two adult gays who agree to have sex together can no longer be prosecuted
• that the law gives long-standing gay relationships the same benefits that heterosexual couples get, like pensions and insurance
• that political organisations adopt a Bill of Rights to protect gay people from discrimination
• that the liberation movement includes gay liberation as part of its struggle for freedom from all oppression
• that religious traditions accept their gay members without conditions
• that newspapers, television and the radio show gay people in a good light
• that employers give gay people the same chances as straight people

“As a non-racial organisation fighting for democracy in our country, GLOW encourages its members to join anti-apartheid organisations so that we also make a contribution to the struggle. We have been silent for too long and it’s time that society learnt that gay people are also human,” Simon said.

“We want people to know that a gay relationship is just as beautiful and wonderful as the relationship between a man and a woman and that we deserve the same respect as any other person. It is not just the laws of the country and the attitude of the church that must change. It is especially important that the attitudes of people change,” he ended.

If you’ve ever thought badly about gays or made a cruel joke, now is the time to think again about your behaviour.

Those of us who are struggling for a new South Africa — a South Africa that is free from oppression and where everyone can live in peace — must make a special effort to think about the suffering of a people who are also oppressed — and to help them find acceptance by society and our courts of law. Let it not be said of us that we ourselves have oppressed!

There are many words to describe people who are attracted to the same sex as themselves. In our story, we have mostly used the word “gay”, which can refer to both men and women. Here are some others: The word “homosexual” comes from Latin, and means love of one man for another. The word “lesbian” comes from the Greek island Lesbos where the poetess Sappho, who loved women, used to live. The word lesbian can only be used to talk about gay women, not men. The word “heterosexual” is used to talk about sex between a man and a woman. Gay people talk about heterosexual people as “straight”.

Unity in struggle

Early one Sunday morning, two months ago, while most of you were in dreamland, we crawled out of bed and made our way to Mathopestad, in the western Transvaal.

Women from many different places were meeting in Mathopestad. The women were meeting because they are all fighting a struggle that is one and the same. They are fighting this struggle with the help of TRAC — the Transvaal Rural Action Committee.

When we got to Mathopestad, we joined everybody for a meeting in the graveyard. The proud women of Mathopestad wanted to show their visitors the new fence around the graveyard. The fence was the first thing the women built after they won their struggle for Mathopestad to stay in South Africa — and not to become part of Bophuthatswana.

After the fence-opening meeting, the women of Mathopestad gave us a huge, wonderful, tasty lunch. After lunch, we licked our lips, took out our pens and paper, and spoke to some of the women who were gathered in Mathopestad.

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Women from Bloedfontein at the meeting in Mathopestad

Mama Lydia Kompe from TRAC told us: “We brought the women together to build unity. All the women have the same kind of problems. For example, the women from Brits and Huhudi are fighting against forced removal. The people of Matjakeneng, Braklaagte and Bloedfontein are fighting because they don’t want their areas to become part of the ‘homelands.’

“Some of the women who are here have already won their struggle — like the women from Driefontein, Kwa-Ngema and Mathopestad. We wanted these people to tell the others about their struggles and to give them support and hope.”

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A woman from Brits with a T-shirt that says it all

Ellen Khoza and Johanna Tele from Brits said: “We came to this meeting to talk about our problems as women. Since Friday night we have talked about many things. We talked about removals and self-help projects. We want to make and sell things so that we can use the money to help de­tainees in our area.

“At this meeting we saw that we are not the only ones who are suffering. We learnt from this meeting that if women are united, then there is nothing to stop us. To the women in Brits, we say: “If we are not united then the government will send us to Letlhabile.”

And another group of women from Driefontein in the Eastern Transvaal said: “We have won our fight against the removals in Driefontein. We came to this meeting to help other women who are still having problems. We want them to know that women can fight their own struggle and win. After the death of Mr Mkhize in Driefontein, women took over the fight and won. The only weapon we used was unity.

“We are going to tell the other women in Driefontein about women who are still suffering in other places. At this meeting some women told us about their problems. For example, most of the women say they do not have food for their children. We told them what we do in Driefontein to help ourselves. We plant things and sell them. We work together and support one another. And this way we are strong, very strong.”

Dorah Sechogo from Huhudi said: ‘ ‘We came here as women from Huhudi to tell other women about our problems and so other women from other places can help us. Our children are killed by the vigilantes and we have been evicted from our houses. We are now living in the Roman Catholic church in Huhudi. The administration board wants to move us to a place called Pudimore. But we are all united and we will soon overcome our problems.”

A woman from Braklaagte near Zeerust said: “We came here because the government in Bophuthatswana wants to give us a new chief who says that Braklaagte belongs to Bophuthatswana. But we don’t want this new chief. We don’t want to be under Bophuthatswana because the government of Bophuthatswana doesn’t talk straight.

“We have learned a lot from other women at this meeting. We have learned that we must be united and strong. We also heard how other women have helped themselves by starting self-help projects. We must now do the same.”

A woman from Mogopa near Ventersdorp said: “In 1984 big white lorries from Bophuthatstwana came to Mogopa one night. They packed us and moved us without saying any­thing. Now we are waiting to go back home. We know that we must hang on and stand up like soldiers.

“At the meeting here we have heard about the suffering of our sisters in other areas. When we heard their stories, the tears were running from the eyes of every woman. It is not nice to be pushed out of your home.”

“Yes, there was much crying,” said Mama Lydia Kompe. “But then the crying stopped because we know that tears won’t take away the problems. We must have action. I think this meet­ing was important because every woman agreed that she must work hand in hand with other women. We must start working together in com­mittees and organizations — and then we must join hands with our husbands and children.”

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The old and the young at the meeting in Mathopestad

“WE, THE WOMEN SAY…….”
We, the women of Mathopestad, Huhudi, Brits, Braklaagte, Bloedfontein, Matjakeneng, Mogopa, Rooigrond, Driefontein and Kwa-Ngema, gathered here at Mathopestad on 22 November 1986 say:

We demand an end to all forced removals
Our sisters from Brits are under daily threats from the bulldozers. Let them stay where they are in peace. Oukasie has been their home for over half a century. They have a right to remain. We believe that all communities under threat of removal have a right to remain.

We demand an end to the stealing of our citizenship
Many of us, especially those from Bloedfontein, Braklaagte and Mat­jakeneng are in danger of losing our citizenship to Bophuthatswana. We are South Africans, we refuse to give up our citizenship. Mangope is a stranger to all of us. We want him to leave us and our land alone. We have seen the suffering of people in Bophuthatswana. We do not want to live in fear in that terrible place.

We demand help for all victims of forced removals
We wept when we heard the terrible stories of how our sisters in Mogo­pa and Rooigrond have suffered. They have suffered the pain of forced removal. They were forced to leave their peaceful homes. Now they are so very poor, living as refugees and squatters. Let them go home now! Let them rebuild their homes and their lives. We demand the same for all victims of forced removal all over our country.

We demand an end to detentions and for the police and vigilantes to leave us in peace
Some of us have been detained, others have had our children taken from us by the police. In Huhudi and Brits we have been attacked by the vigilantes. People have been killed and homes destroyed. We demand that we mothers be left to live in peace with our children. We want this, not only for ourselves, but for all South Africans.

Lastly, some of us from Driefontein, Kwa-Ngema and Mathopestad say that we have won our struggles. Yet, this does not mean that we can now sit back. We cannot live in peace until all communities, all over the country, are free from removal, free from losing their citizenship, free from detention, and free from the attacks of vigilantes.

We women pledge ourselves to stand together in unity with our commu­nities and other communities who are struggling against forced removals and other evils. We will organize all of our women to do the same. In this way we believe we will move nearer to a free and equal South Africa.

Anger in the Vaal

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“They picked up dead bodies in Sharpeville every day this week. They picked up dead schoolchildren, dead mothers and fathers, dead community councillors. By the end of the week they had found 30 bodies – but residents said there were more.”

That’s how one newspaper wrote about the anger and the pain in Sharpeville at the beginning of September. And it wasn’t only Sharpeville. It was the same in Evaton, Sebokeng, Boipatong and Bophelong.

Nobody knows how many people died and how many were injured. But people say Sebokeng hospital was full. And many more people lay hurt in their homes. They were too scared to go to hospital. They said the police were waiting there to arrest them.

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Police in the Vaal

It all began when the Lekoa town council sent letters to people saying the rent was going up. Very few people voted for this council. And very few people have money to pay more rent.

The people met in a church in Sharpeville to talk about ways to fight the rent increase. The people chose a special rent committee to talk for them.

At a meeting on the first Sunday in September, two thousand people met at the church. They decided to call for a stay-away from work and from school the next day. They would then march to the council offices· to complain about the new rent. They decided to have a peaceful march.

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Sharpeville 1984

But it didn’t work out that way. Some people say that the people lost their tempers when they went to a councillor’s house. They wanted him to join them in the march – and he started shooting at them. Some people say the trouble started because the police were everywhere – and that never helps anything. Others say that the people had just had enough.

“Many people have no jobs and the cost of living goes up every day,” says one person from the Vaal. “Rents, permits and transport go up. Then there are water and electricity bills. And then sales tax went up. And just last month H.P. charges went up. And after all this, wages stay the same.

“And then we have many people losing jobs, mostly in the steeI and chemical factories. And then we must talk about the terrible housing shortage. People live squashed up like animals – and they don’t have much chance of getting a bigger or better house.

“But most of all the people have had . enough of greedy councillors. These councillors eat and eat – and then they just wipe their mouths clean. They own most of the shops and businesses in the township. And they are always trying to get more.

“The people hate the councillors because they are greedy. But they hate them more for doing things without talking to the people first. They just tell the people what to do ­ and nobody chose them in the first place.”

Three councillors were killed and their houses and businesses were burnt down. But the people also burnt and looted other shops and homes. Why?

“The newspapers say that the people went for Indian shops:’ says another person. “But this isn’t true. Nearly every shop was looted and burnt down. The dry-cleaning shop full of clothes belonging to African people was burnt down. I lost my jacket in the fire. I think people looted shops because they were hungry – a hungry stomach knows no law.”

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Some leaders were not happy about some of the things that people did.

One leader said that at times ‘tsotsis’ took over. Quite a few people were stabbed when people fought over goods in the shops.

Rent was the main… reason for the anger. But most people say it’s more than rent. It’s more than the hated councillors. It’s more than the shortage of houses and jobs. It’s all of these things.· It’s the way the government treats black people in this country. Until the government throws away all of apartheid, they will have anger and hatred – just like we saw in the Vaal.

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A councillor’s house in Sharpeville

PORT ALFRED A SMALL LIGHT IN THE DARK

Sleepy Port Alfred wakes up

Sleepy Port Alfred wakes up

Everywhere we go, we hear the name Port Alfred — Port Alfred here, Port Alfred there. “What is so exciting about Port Alfred?” we asked ourselves.

The people at Learn and Teach don’t like to miss news. So when we heard that the chairman of the Port Alfred Residents’ Civic Organisation (PARCO), Gugile Nkwinti, was coming to Jo’burg, we rushed to meet him. And Gugile told us the story of Port Alfred.

GUGILE GOES TO PORT ALFRED

Gugile first moved to Inkwenkwezi, the township outside Port Alfred, in 1976. He was very shocked. The houses were falling down. And the people were very poor. But people only came together for church and rugby.

Gugile helped where he could. He started a soccer club and a drama club for young people. They kept all the money from the drama club. They used it to help students with school fees.

HEADACHES AT NONZAMO HIGH SCHOOL

At the beginning of 1984 the students at Nonzamo High School in Inkwenkwezi started to boycott classes. The parents started the Nonzamo Students Guardians’ Association. They tried to solve the problems at Nonzamo. But the police came. Children were beaten and then a young boy was killed. People were very angry. They wanted the boy’s funeral to be on Saturday.

Everyone wanted to go to the funeral — but the funeral was banned. The police said the funeral must be on Friday.

 NO-ONE IS FORGOTTEN

No one went to work that day. Many people were fired. People needed their jobs back. So they came together to fight for their jobs. That was the beginning of the Port Alfred Workers Union. No one in Inkwenkwezi was forgotten when people started to organise. Many pensioners were having big problems with their pensions. Some people went to a meeting about pensions in Grahamstown.

At that meeting people learnt that they were not getting the right money. So, when they came back to Port Alfred, the pensioners started their own organisation — the Port Alfred Pensioners Association. And soon all the old people got the money that was owed to them.

THE COMMUNITY COUNCIL RESIGNS

 People also spoke to the Community Council in Inkwenkwezi. They told the councillors that they were working for the government — and not the community. They said that no-one liked the Community Councils because they were part of Apartheid.

When the councillors resigned, people were very happy. They asked them to join the new organisations. Today one of the councillors is the general secretary of the Port Alfred Workers Union.

THE BEERHALL BOYCOTT

When the youth congress, PAYCO, started in Port Alfred, they asked people to boycott the beer-hall. They said it was the smartest building in a township where all the houses were falling down. And the beer-hall owner made lots of money but he did not help people in Inkwenkwezi.

In May the police arrested Gugile and two other men. The police said they were frightening the beer-hall owner — they were trying to make him close his business.

Gugile Nkwinti — chairman of the Port Alfred Residents' Civic Organisation.

Gugile Nkwinti — chairman of the Port Alfred Residents’ Civic Organisation.

THE EMERGENCY COMES TO PORT ALFRED

Gugile and his friends did not spend long in jail. But on 1 June, Gugile was back in jail again. This time he was detained under the emergency laws. Gugile says, “It was a bad time in Port Alfred. People went mad. Someone was necklaced. People cut the telephone lines. They dug trenches in the streets to keep out the hippo’s and the casspirs.”

People also started to boycott white shops. Their demand was simple — they wanted their leaders out of jail. In jail, a warrant officer told Gugile to stop the trouble. Guguile told him, ‘Get the hippo’s out of the township.’ “And” says Gugile, “We have not seen a hippo since then.”

Gugile was also set free. Three hours after he went home, a white businessman, Mr Sparg, came to his house. He asked Gugile to call off the boycott. Gugile tried to tell him that he could not call off the boycott — he only came out of jail that day.

Later Gugile went to a funeral. People at the funeral wanted to talk about the boycott. They were suffering because the shops in the township were so expensive. People agreed to stop boycotting — but only Mr Sparg’s shop.

A VISIT FROM THE POLICE

A few days later, the police came to Guguile’s house while he was out. When Gugile and his wife heard about their visit, they were worried — was Gugile going to jail again? But Gugile got a big surprise. The police brought a message for him. The magistrate wanted to see Gugile the next day at nine o’clock. The magistrate told Gugile that the businessmen of Port Alfred wanted to have a meeting. They wanted to talk about the boycott.

 INKWENKWEZI TALKS OUT

Gugile went home with the news. Quickly a mass meeting was organised. More than six thousand people came. They drew up a list of what they wanted. This is what the list said.

  • The Administration Board must get out of Inkwenkwezi
  • The Development Board must buy the beerhall and give it to the community to use
  • They wanted a new school
  • No more separate doors for blacks and whites at the shops
  • Unpaid rent must be forgotten
  • Troops must get out of the township
  • There must be one town council chosen by the people of Inkwenkwezi and Port Alfred.

 PORT ALFRED ANSWERS

People were chosen to meet the businessmen. They gave the businessmen the list. The businessmen studied the list for half an hour. Then they came back. The businessmen said they would help where they could. They said the signs on the shop doors would go. They would get the beer-hall for the Inkwenkwezi people to use. They said they would try to make more jobs for people and they would try to change the way whites treated blacks in Port Alfred.

The businessmen said they would speak to the government about a new school and the unpaid rent. But most important, they agreed that Port Alfred need one town council for everyone. And until then there was one town council, the town council of Port Alfred was going to help run the township. They want to build more houses and some factories there. And so the boycott was lifted.

 NEW COMMITTEES FOR INKWENKWEZI

In Inkwenkwezi people got ready to run the township themselves. Today there is a street committee in every street. Five streets make up an area and every area has an area committee. People in the street choose the street committee but the area committees are chosen by the central committee. If there is a problem, people go to their street committee. The chairperson of the street committee calls a meeting for everyone in the street. The street meeting decides who must settle the problem.

If it is a family problem, the area committee tries to settle it. Gugile says, “Family problems often need understanding that young people do not have. There are only older people on the area committees.”

CATCHING THEM YOUNG

The beer-hall is now the centre of the community. The owner now rents the beer-hall to the community for R40 per month. Everyone pays 20c a month for the rent and electricity.

 The Port Alfred Residents Civic Organisation use the beer-hall for a creche and a pre-primary school there. “This is real people’s education,” says Gugile. “You must catch children when they are young. But we also want to use the beer-hall for an advice and resource centre.”

EVERYONE IS BUSY

But it is not only the people in the township who are busy. The businessmen of Port Alfred sent people to speak to the Administration Board. They want to buy some land near Inkwenkwezi. They want to build more houses and some factories there. The businessmen went to the Small Business Development Corporation to get money for these factories. They sent people to the DET and now a new school is being built. They asked the Group Areas Board to make the shopping area of Port Alfred a place where anyone can have a shop — no matter what colour they are.

Both the people of Inkwenkwezi and the businessmen of Port Alfred know that they have put one foot on a new road. But they do not know where that road will take them. They hope it will be to something new, something good for everyone. Gugile said one thing he wants everyone to hear. He said, “South Africa is a very dangerous place. To live in South Africa today, it does not help to be brave. People must learn to be wise —as wise as snakes. When we march to freedom, we want to march with as many people as we can.” •

“Breaking the wire” – The struggle for freedom in Namibia

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005Katatura is a small township five miles away from Windhoek – the capital city of Namibia. Like most townships, it is a dull place with sand roads and matchbox houses.

But on Wednesday 29 February this year, the place came alive. The streets were full of people. They danced on the street corners. Every­ one sang, laughed and hugged each other.

Police in soldier uniforms stood on the side of the roads. But this did not stop the excitement. Cries of “Toivo, Toivo” and “Swapo will win”, filled the air. And the bright red, green and blue colours of Swapo were everywhere.

And the rain came – a long, wet rain. It was the first good rain in many weeks. Maybe the gods were also happy that day.

A sixty year old man with no hair, a grey beard and shining eyes was coming home. He was home again after 16 years in a far away place called Robben Island. His name Toivo Herman ja Toivo, the founder of SWAPO and the father of the Namibian people’s struggle for freedom.

The Germans tried to kill all the Herero people. Some of the Herero lived. They looked like this.

The Germans tried to kill all the Herero people. Some of the Herero lived. They looked like this.

THE GROCERY SHOP

Toivo’s story really begins In 1958. I n that year he was working in a grocery shop in Cape Town. Like most men from Namibia, he was a contract worker. He was trying to make a living for his family who lived in Ovamboland, the rural area of northern Namibia.

In Cape Town Toivo got interested in politics. He met people from the ANC and the Communist Party ­ organizations that were fighting to change things in South Africa. And he met other contract workers from Namibia – men like Andreas Shipanga, Emil Appalus, Solomon Mifima and Jacob Kuhangua.

These men met together in a small barbershop in Cape Town. They talked about the history of their country and the problems of the Namibian people.

“LET US DIE FIGHTING”

When they met, they spoke about strangers ruling their people. They spoke about the Germans who first came to their country. The German rulers were very cruel. They took the people’s land and forced the men to work on white farms and mines.

Then after the First World War, the South Africans took over the country. For a while the Namibian people were happy. The cruel Germans were gone. But the people of Namibia were not happy for long. Toivo and his friends spoke about the new rulers from South Africa. They said the new rulers were just as bad as the Germans.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005Toivo and his friends remembered how people before them fought against the Germans and the South Africans. In 1893 and 1904 the Herero people from the south of Namibia took up arms. The Herero’s wanted to chase out the German strangers and get back their stolen land. Maherero the chief of the Herero people asked other people in Namibia to join in the fight. “Let us die fighting,” he said to the people of Namibia.

Toivo spoke about how these people were crushed by the German armies. The Germans wanted to kill all the Herero people. After the war only eight thousand out of 80 thousand Herero people were still alive.

Then In 1922 the Bondelswart people fought against the new South African rulers. The South Africans had already taken the land of these people. So the Bondelswarts lived by keeping a few cattle and hunting for food.

But the South African farmers did not like this. They wanted the Bondelswarts to work on white farms nearby. So they forced the Bondelswart people to pay a heavy tax. The people refused and also took up arms.

They too were crushed by the South African soldiers. The government even sent aircraft to bomb the village of these people. One hundred Bondeslwart people were killed.

“ODALATE” – THE WIRE

Toivo and his friends also spoke about contract labour in Namibia. They spoke about how they were forced to find jobs in Namibia. They could not choose the jobs they wanted. The people at the labour office checked workers to see how fit they were – just like cattle. Then they chose a job for them to do.

The workers had to sign a paper contract. The contract said all workers must stay in the job for 12 or 18 months.

Contract workers could not choose their jobs. They could not talk about their wages. And they could not leave the job before their contract was over. If workers were cheeky or if they broke their contract, they were beaten and jailed by the police.

Workers knew the contract kept them in chains. That’s why they called contracts “Odalate” – the wire.

But Namibian workers didn’t take their contracts without fighting. They went on strike many times because the contracts were so unfair.

In 1948 two thousand mineworkers went on strike. And In 1952 and 1953, thousands of workers at fish factories stopped work. They wanted an end to the contracts.

Toivo and the other men from Namibia spoke about the “wire” for a long time. They all agreed that the Germans and the South Africans were in Namibia for one reason – to get rich.

The country IS full of good farm land. The sea is full of fish. And diamonds, copper and coal lie under the soil. Toivo said that the whites were using contracts to force the people to work on farms and mines for very low wages. The rulers were using the labour of the people to rob the country.

Workers in a fish factory.

Workers in a fish factory.

The men knew that contracts were the biggest cause of suffering in Namibia. And they new that the fight against the “wire” must go on.

THE BARBERSHOP

So one day in 1957, Toivo and his friends got together again in the barbershop in Cape Town. They decided to start a new organization. They wanted to end the contracts and fight for the rights of the Namibian people.

Most contract workers came from Ovamboland in the north. So they called the organization the Ovambo­ Land People’s Organization (OPO).

The leaders of OPO sent men back into Namibia. These men held meetings and told people about the new organization. The new organization grew very quickly.

One of the new leaders inside Namibia was a young railway worker called Sam Nujoma – the leader of Swapo today. He went around to the workers compounds. He told workers to join the OPO. “We must work together,” he said. “You, me, all of us – we must fight for our freedom together.”

Soon the new organization had thousands of members in compounds and locations all over Namibia.

In the meantime, Toivo was still in South Africa. He was busy collecting stories from contract workers about their suffering under the “wire”.

Contract workers were taken to their jobs in cattle cars.

Contract workers were taken to their jobs in cattle cars.

He sent these stories on a tape to people overseas – so that the” world could hear of Namibia’s pain.

When the police heard about this, they arrested Toivo. They sent him back to Ovamboland. But Toivo did not stop working for his people. He held many meetings and asked people to join the OPO.

BLOOD IN THE NIGHT

Toivo knew that the Ovambo people were not the only people fighting for freedom in Namibia. So he and the other OPO leaders had talks with the leaders of the Herero and other groups of people in Namibia – like the Nama. They remembered the early struggles of these people. The OPO knew that it must fight for the freedom of all the people of Namibia.

Then one night something happened that made the OPO leaders want· their freedom more than ever. In Windhoek most people lived in the ‘Old Location’ where they owned land. The government wanted to move these people to a dry and dusty location called Katatura.

Katatura was five miles from town ­ just like in South Africa.

The people refused to move.The police arrived with trucks and guns. Suddenly they began to shoot ­ and that night more than 11 people were killed.

Toivo and the OPO leaders were angry and bitter. They began to think about their struggle. In April 1960 the OPO changed its name. The new name was SWAPO – the South West African People’s Organization. And the new organization decided to use guns to free their country. They wanted the people of Namibia to rule their own country.

INTO THE BUSH

So like the Herero before them SWAPO decided to take up arms. Thousands of young men left their homes to join the S’WAPO soldiers. They went into the bush to learn how to fight.

But Toivo was worried. He knew the South African army was strong. He was scared that many of his people would die.

“1 did not agree that people should go . into the bush,” said Toivo in a court a few years later. “But I could not refuse to help them when I knew they were hungry. I was not, and I could not remain a spectator in the struggle of my people for their freedom.”

In 1966 SWAPO attacked an army camp in the north of Namibia. The South African government was very angry. Toivo and other SWAPO leaders were arrested. Many SWAPO soldiers were also arrested. They were all put in jail.

Later they were taken to court in South Africa. In 1968 the judge sent Toivo and many others to jail on Robben Island.

THE STRUGGLE GOES ON

But this did not end the struggle. While Toivo sat in jail SWAPO was still alive. Sam Nujoma became the new leader. And one thousand miles from Robben lsland SWAPO soldiers still fought for freedom in Namibia.

Workers also kept up the fight against their contracts. In 1972 nearly 20 thousand workers went on strike for three months. The workers wanted an end to all their contracts.

For 16 years Robben Island was Toivo’s home. And in all this time SWAPO got stronger. So when Toivo came home he knew he could say – “The struggle goes on.”