Comment

THE State of Emergency has finally been lifted — except in Natal of course.

It is our view that it was not necessary for the government to impose the State of Emergency in the first place. It is sad that the National Party — of which FW de Klerk has long been a member — took five years to realise and accept this.

In these long years — since July 1985 when the emergency regulations were first introduced — thousands of people, including children, were detained without trial; our organisations and hundreds of people were banned and restricted; many were killed and some disappeared without trace.

Also, many newspapers and journalists were harassed and some were even banned. Like other media organisations, we at Learn and Teach Publications were raided, our publications were seized — and were not returned to us! In many cases, we were not able to report events and valuable information to our readers.

In spite of all these problems we continued to publish. And it was thanks to our sellers that our publications were able to reach our readers. Learn and Teach sellers ran great risks when selling the magazine — many had their magazines taken away by the police and some were even arrested. But they never gave up!

We welcome the lifting of the State of Emergency and the release of some prisoners. These are the results of our struggles and pressure on the government. Our determination and courage never failed us — we waged successful campaigns and defied apartheid laws. We also unbanned ourselves and our organisations. The sacrifices we made paid off. Therefore it is a victory for us.

But, it is a victory with a heavy price: Our comrades went on long and painful hunger strikes lasting many days in their efforts to make sure that they were released from detention and that the State of Emergency was lifted. Many of the scars of those hunger strikes and many months in detention have not yet healed. And, therefore, credit for the lifting of the state of the emergency should go — not to de Klerk — but to the people.

We believe, however, that the lifting of the State of Emergency is a step forward. It contributes towards a climate suitable for the holding of negotiations. But the ball remains in the government’s court to take more steps and bolder steps so that the negotiation process can start. The government should stop dragging its feet. As the ANC says, piecemeal and partial solutions are no answer.

Like many other people, we call on the government to lift the remaining emergency regulations in Natal and, above all, to fully meet all the demands in the Harare Declaration.

It is our view that it is not difficult to do so.
Now is the time. FW de Klerk must act, and act decisively!

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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.

Why the students are angry

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Students on the march in Pretoria

Thousands of students all over South Africa are staying away from school. They are unhappy about many things. Learn and Teach spoke to Lulu Johnson, president of the Congress of South African Students. We asked what is happening in the schools today.

Learn and Teach: Lulu, can you please tell us why so many students are staying away from school?

Lulu Johnson: There are two main reasons. Firstly, as you know, thousands of students didn’t go to school because they wanted to show their anger at last month’s elections – the elections for the new Indian and “coloured” parliaments. And secondly, the students are unhappy about many things at the schools.

Learn and Teach: Can you tell us why the students are unhappy at the schools?

Lulu Johnson: Well, the main reason is that students want SRCs at the school. They don’t like the system of prefects. Another problem is the way teachers beat students. Students want teachers to follow the rules – they must not give a student more than four strokes. And they must not do this in front of the class – they must do it in front of the principal. Many women students complain that men teachers give them problems. If the women don’t show some love to these teachers, the teachers often punish them.

Another very big problem is the high failure rate. In January, half the students failed matric. How can half the students fail matric? And then we hear stories about DET losing students examination papers. We hear stories about somebody failing – and then three months later, that person passes. There is funny business going on in DET.

And then we have the whole question of age limits. The government made this law in 1982. Students can’t do standard six if they are over 16 years old. They can’t do standard eight if they are over 18 years old. And they can’t do standard 10 if they are over 20 years old. Students feel this law is very unfair. Many students lost time in the troubles of 1976 and 1980. And many students come from poor families. These students need to work before they come to school.

Students are also unhappy about subjects and grades. Students can’t freely choose subjects and grades. If they force a student to do standard grade, that student will never get into university.

Students are also unhappy about the soldier-teachers in some schools. The army sends these soldiers to the schools. Some of these soldiers teach in uniform – and some of them even put their guns on the table in front of them. But let me say that the students don’t hate all these soldier-teachers. There are a few who care for the students.

Learn and Teach: Lulu, you spoke about SRCs earlier on. Why do students want SRCs instead of prefects?

Lulu Johnson: Students never know what is happening in their schools. And they never know what will happen. For example, sud­denly teachers will tell students who play sport to pay R1 for transport. Or they will ask money for polish for the floor. Or they will say students can’t leave the school at break. Students are always told what to do – nobody ever asks them what they think.

Prefects don’t help or talk for the students. Prefects in our schools just work for the administration. The principal will talk to the students through the prefects. The prefects are like a shield for the principal and the teachers: If we had SRCs the students can tell the principal and teachers what they think – and then they can also tell the students what they think also through the SRCs. The SRCs will be like a bridge between us.

Learn and Teach: We often hear people say. “There are people on the outside who make trouble in the schools.” Is there any truth in this?

Lulu Johnson: That is a really false thing to say. I can only say that DET officials are the ones who often make the trouble. When there is a problem, the officials or the principal just call the police. And then we all know what happens.

Learn and Teach: What about parents and teachers – how do the students feel about them?

Lulu Johnson: We don’t see any difference between teachers and parents. Teachers are also parents. We believe that teachers and parents must support us. They must help us in our struggle ­ just like they did in 1953 when Bantu Education first started. I just want to say that these days some parents and teachers don’t help us as much as they can. I think they must try to help us more. We are all in this together. We will be like cripples without each other. I believe parents can really help us. If all parents were behind us DET would listen much more – and the police would not always be so hard on us. The police always think twice when they see our parents are behind us.

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The cream of the country – looking for an education to believe in

Learn and Teach: What is the answer to all these problems?

Lulu Johnson: We students will only be happy when “Bantu Education” is gone altogether. We want equal and free education under the same department for all the children of this country. And we want an education we can believe in. You know, students are the cream of this country. And right now they don’t believe in their education. But I think Bantu Education will only go when apartheid goes – and when all the people of this country are free.

The law that failed

The whole world saw just how much the people in the Vaal hated the councillors. Three were killed and most of them lost their houses and businesses. Many are still in hiding.

People say they hate the councillors because they are “greedy sharks” ­ and because they are “puppets” of the government.

I n the last election, very few people voted for the councillors. For example 33 thousand adult people live in Evaton – and only 535 voted.

What does all this mean? It means that the government’s system of town councils in the township is a failure. And so it also means that the govern­ ment’s new law, The Black Local Authorities Act, is also a failure. Learn and Teach had a look at this new law:

The government passed The Black Local Authorities Act last year. The government called this a new deal. They said Africans will have a bigger say in the running of the townships. But this deal was not so new – the old community councillors didn’t get more powers. They only got more work to do. .

The old community councils are no more. We now have “town and village” councils. The old community councils did things like collecting rent and chasing “squatters” out of backyard shacks.

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A shop burns and people help themselves

 

Under the new law, the councils must do things that the administration boards always did – like managing the sewerage, electricity and water.

So the councils have more to do BUT THEY DON’T HAVE MORE MONEY TO DO IT WITH. All the money must come from the people in the townships. The government will not use taxes they get from the rich people and companies for the townships.

A few months ago one newspaper wrote: “For many years the government has starved the townships of money. The rule is simple: Africans must pay for their own houses and services. I f they can’t afford it, they must go and live in the homelands.”

The same paper wrote: “It is the ‘workers and their families in the townships who will have to pay for the councils. Workers, who can now hardly pay for rent, transport and food, will have to pay more for everything.

“Even if the councils push up rents, service charges, electricity levies, liquor prices and dog taxes, they will still not solve their many problems. They will try by squeezing the workers for more and more.

“That’s why the Lekoa town council had to put up rents – and that’s why the people were so angry.

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The government says the councils will give people more say in the running of their townships. They say townships will have more power over their own affairs.

But this is not true. The councils won’t have much power. Look at what the government minister can do to the councils:

· He can set up or close down councils…

· He can give the councils extra powers or take them away.
· If nobody votes in the town council elections, then he can just put anybody into the council.
· If he doesn’t like the work of a council, then he can tell the council what to do. Or the govern­ment can do the work of the council.

Many people say the government doesn’t really want to give people a say in the way their townships run.

They say the government wants the councils to do all the dirty work in the townships – like charging more for rents. Then the people will blame the councils for all the problems in the townships – and not the government itself.

“People can see what the government is trying to do”, says a man from the Vaal Civic Association. “We can see that the government is using the councils to make us pay for things in our townships. We even pay the salaries of the councillors. So who can blame the people for their anger?”

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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

On 16th June 1976

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Students said, “No Afrikaans”

On the 16th June ten years ago people went home at the end of the day, as always. But when they turned on their radios and opened their newspapers, they knew South Africa would never be the same again. The extra late edition of the World newspaper said,

4 DEAD, 11 HURT AS KIDS RIOT

At least four people are said to be dead and 14 hurt in Soweto today. Police clashed with some 10 000 school kids who marched through the streets of the township. They were protesting against being taught some subjects in Afrikaans.
One of the dead is a student, the other is an old man, who died from a stray bullet.
A policeman was also said to be dead and a white motorist was stabbed to death. His car was stoned and set on fire. In Phefeni a police car was stoned and set on fire. But the driver escaped unhurt.
Among the people hurt were two students – one was shot in the leg and the other has a bullet wound in the back.
Police and school kids clashed near Belle Higher Primary School, Orlando West.
About 300 policemen fired hundreds of rounds into the air as they tried to stop the riots. Kids threw stones at the police.
Police also shot at more than 1000 pupils from Naledi west of Soweto. The Naledi pupils were marching to join the other rioting pupils.
Many of the 50 police cars which raced to the scene of the riot had their windscreens broken by the angry students.

This story was written by Sophie Tema and the photographs were taken by Sam Nzima. These photographs were used all over the world.

Sam Nzima talks about what they saw. “We were covering the great march by students from Naledi High to Morris Isaacson High, then to Orlando West High. It was just an ordinary, peaceful march. Then the police arrived.

“They told the children to stop. The students started singing ‘Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika’. We were in the middle of the crowd.

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Students after a meeting at Regina Mundi

Then a white policeman ordered his men to fire, and all hell broke loose. Many students surrounded the police, others ran to a nearby hill and started throwing stones at the police.

“We ran to our car. During the shooting I saw a young man and a young woman running towards the car. They were carrying a student who was bleeding badly. I took a lot of pictures.

“They asked for help. We rushed him in our car to a clinic, but the student was already dead.

“Then we went on to the newspaper office. We were shaking. But we had to write the story and print the pictures.”

The death of the student, Hector Petersen, shocked South Africa and the world. But it started a new chapter in the history of South Africa. The unrest didn’t stop on June 16th.
Between June 1976 and February 1977, 700 people died. 4 000 people were hurt. 6 000 people were arrested. And people think that 4 000 students left South Africa to join the African National Congress.

STUDENTS TALK

PETRUS – A FORM 2 STUDENT AT MADIBANE HIGH IN 1976
“A week before 16th June, the principal told us that we had to learn in Afrikaans. We felt angry because we did not understand Afrikaans well. How could we learn in Afrikaans? We had meetings at school. Then we decided to come together with other schools. All the students agreed – no Afrikaans.

“On the 15th June we went from school to school, telling students to join the march the next day. On the 16th we never went to classes. We went to meet the Morris Isaacson students. But they had to pass the Meadowlands Police Station and we had to pass the Orlando Police Station.

“We never met. The police stopped the students from ‘deep Soweto’. The Diepkloof students split up in Orlando East. Taxi drivers told us that the police had stopped the other students.

“The next day we went to school, but we had no lessons. We got a message from the other Diepkloof schools to meet them. So we marched again.Some people wanted to attack bottle stores on the way. Students felt that liquor was killing our people.

“But then some students said we must meet with the students from other schools. Together we must decide what to attack. So we marched to Orlando. On the way we stoned WRAB offices. The police came. Some people ran away but others were caught.

“I was caught. I can’t tell you what I felt. I did not know what the police would do to us. They put us into a land rover and took us to a bigger van. That van smelt of liquor. They packed us like sardines. We had to lie down, then they made others lie on top of us. Some people were wounded.

“At about midday they took us to the Orlando Police Station. In the charge office, they took our names and addresses. Most people gave wrong names. Then they said we must li~ flat. They walked on top of us for about 2 – 3 hours.

“Then they took us to another room. They hit us with batons. When people wanted to go to the toilet, they were told to wee into their hands and not to mess the floor.

“Luckily the following morning some policemen felt sorry for the little kids who were with us. These kids were betweeen 9 and 14 years old. The police told us to take them home. When we got out, some people could not see and others could walk properly. We could not help those who were badly hurt to get home.

“My parents were very happy to see me. I went back to school but I was a new person. Before I was a child but after my arrest, I felt like an old person. I began to know what was happening around the country. And I knew what I wanted and what I did not want as a human being.”

PHINDI MAVUSO – 1976 VICTIM
“In 1976, I was 14 years old. I was doing Form 2 at Kwa-Mahlobo in Zone 10, Meadowlands.

“One day during the riots, I heard one of my friends was detained. Soon after that I heard that he had died in prison.His name was Jacob Mashabane. His funeral was on the 24th of October.

“My friends and I wanted to go to the funeral. People at the funeral were singing freedom songs. When we reached the graveyard at Doornkop, the police were waiting outside. One policeman spoke in Afrikaans. I did not understand what he said. I think he said we must go home. But people went on with their singing.

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Running from some Teargas

“The policemen fired teargas. We started running in all directions. Then the policemen started shooting. As I was running I felt a pain in my right leg. But I did not stop until I found a place to hide under some trees.

“When I opened my eyes, I was in hospital. The doctors said they had to cut off my leg. I stayed in hospital for six months. Then I was well enough to go home.

“I could not find a place in a school. When they heard I was shot at a funeral, they all said their schools were full. But I wrote my matric – I did three subjects in 1979 and three subjects in 1980. Now I am working at the Self Help Association for Paraplegics (SHAP).

“It is very difficult to say if South Africa has changed in the last ten years. I think that people, the youth, have lost their patience. It seems they get angrier everyday. For me the last ten years have been difficult. And I cannot say what is going to happen in the future, really.

ANTOINETTE THANDI PIETERSON – SISTER OF HECTOR PIETERSON
“In 1976 I was a Form 2 student at Thesele Secondary School in White City. On 16th June, I was at Orlando West with the other students. When the shooting started, I hid in the trees.

“At about 11o’clock I came out of the trees and saw, Hector, my younger brother. Hector was twelve at this time. He was at Itheteng Higher Primary School. It was the first time I saw him that day.

“I called him over and told him to stay with me. Soon I saw he was no longer standing where I told him to stand. Three minutes later I heard a shot. I ducked down together with other people.

“I saw about four or five boys carrying a person. I recognised Hector’s shoes. I pushed people aside, telling them that the person was my brother. A boy in overalls took Hector and ran to some nearby cars. I followed him.

“The boy in overalls told the driver of one of the cars that Hector was finished. But the woman there said we must take Hector to the clinic. So I got in the car with Hector and the boy in overalls.

“At Phefeni clinic, two doctors looked at Hector. Then they called me to them. They told me Hector was dead. They asked for the name and address of my family.

“I stayed at the clinic for two hours. Then two teachers came to fetch me. They said they would take me home. When I got home only my grandmother was there. They told her about Hector’s death. Then I went with my brother, Vuse to Meadowlands where we found my mother. We told her what happened to Hector.

“Later the police told me that Hector killed one of their dogs.”

A TEACHER TALKS
CURTIS NKONDO – then principal of Lamula Jubilee Junior Secondary School.
“I knew about the march a week beforeJune 16th.” said Curtis. “Teachers were very angry about Afrikaans. Many of them did not know Afrikaans well enough to use it to teach. And we felt that Afrikaans would make studying even more difficult for the students.

“On the 16th June, I went to the school board offices in Dube. I passed the students on the way. They were already in Orlando. Then I went over a bridge. On the other side of the bridge I saw the police.

“When I heard the news that night, I could not believe that the police shot at the kids.

“I wanted to stop teaching before the march – but I did not want to leave my students. The inspectors were worrying me because we refused to use Afrikaans at our school.

“So I did not care if I was fired. Lamula became the place where the SSRC – the Soweto Students Representative Council- met. I spoke to them about Afrikaans and Bantu education. I once went to a student meeting in the veld near Naledi. No-one knew that I was a principal – they would have been very surprised if they did know.

“It was very difficult to teach for the rest of 1976. Some days the children came, some days there were no children. Sometimes the police came to the school. Many of our students were detained and many left the country.

“The teachers did not know what to do. They started to leave teaching, one by one. When we saw this happening,” says Curtis, “we knew we must do something. So in August 1977 we had a big teachers meeting at the Methodist Church in White City.

The meeting made a list of demands:
No Afrikaans
Bantu education out
No more school committees
Better wages and working conditions

“The teachers chose ‘The Committee of Six’. I was one of them. We spoke to lawyers. We wanted to know what would happen if all the teachers walked out.

“The teachers met again a month later. Over five hundred teachers decided to leave.”

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The police, waiting

Learn and Teach asked the UDF and AZAPO how they think South Africa has changed in the last ten years.

MURPHY MOROBE – PUBLICITY SECRETARY FOR THE UNITED DEMOCRATIC FRONT (UDF)
“In 19761 was a member of the South African Students Movement and the Soweto Students Representative Council (SSRC) – the people who led the schools in 1976 and 1977. At that time we believed that we must free the minds of black people.

“We thought we were the first people to fight the government. We did not know about the Defiance Campaign and the school boycotts in the 1950’s. We wanted ‘freedom quickly, overnight. But we learnt many things in 1976.

“We learnt that we must be united to be strong. And to be united, people must join organisations. In those days students were the leaders. When we wanted people to stay away from work, we gave out pamphlets. We hoped people would read the pamphlets and listen to them.

“We made one big mistake. We never spoke to the people in the hostels. This led to very bad fights between the township people and the hostel people. But now we try to work with everyone.

“Today there are many strong trade unions in Cosatu. Now the students are no longer the leaders – the parents are! But I think the students of 1976 helped to make the unions strong.

“The government has changed. The army and the police are stronger than in 1976. But the Nationalist Party is having problems. The whites are fighting amongst themselves. The groups fighting apartheid are stronger than before. And the UDF is now one of the strongest groups.

“I believe it does not help to say when we will be free. We must work now. But we do not think that this government. will last. People must come together to end apartheid soon. People must join organisations and help to make their organisations strong.”

SATHS COOPER – CHAIRPERSON OF AZAPO
“When the students started to boycott classes in Soweto, I was in court, on trial. The government charged many people who belonged to the South African Students’ Organisation. We did not know what was happening.

“Then one day some students came to court. They told us what they were doing in Soweto. Later the court said we were guilty and we went to Robben Island.

“I think that 1976 brought people together again. People were worried about their children. So they joined groups like the (B.RA.) Black Parents Association. People like Nthato Motlana, Winnie Mandela and Zephania Mothuping all worked together. But they all had different political ideas. “In 1976 ‘black consciousness’ organisations were strong. They all believed that black people must fight the government on their own. But in September 1977, our leader, Steve Biko was killed.

“And in October the government banned all the ‘black consciousness’ organisations like the South African Students’ Organisation, the Black People’s Convention. If our organisations were not banned, we would be stronger today.

“I also think that the young people then, knew what they were doing. They used to talk to people before a stay-away – not like today. They did not make people eat soap powder or drink oil. There were thugs in 1976. But they used to loot shops – they did not worry people like today.

“Today people are killing each other in the name of the struggle. We will lose what we have won if people do not stop fighting. People say, ‘If people are going to fight like this when you take over, then we cannot support you.’ We must stop these killings and work together.’

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Worried parents came together

We want to thank everyone who helped us with this story, especially ‘The Sowetan’ and ‘The Indicator’.

OUKASIE, YES! LETLHABILE NO!

Untitled0-30Just outside Brits, near Pretoria, you will find Oukasie. The houses of Ouksaie suit the name – they are old and rusty. But they are homes to the people who live there. And the people of Oukasie are fighting for the right to live there.

The story of Oukasie started in 1935. The government built a few tin shacks for the people who worked at Brits. Since that time the government has not built another house there.

So people built their own houses. And people who did not have money to build houses, built shacks on other people’s plots.

When you go to Oukasie today, you will still think it is 1935. There are no tarred roads. There are no drains for water. There is no electricity and no street lights. And people still use bucket toilets.

What more can we say than, 'If you're tired of Oukasie, you're tired of life'?

What more can we say than, ‘If you’re tired of Oukasie, you’re tired of life’?

LETLHABILE – A LIVING GRAVEYARD?

25 kilometres away the government has built Letlhabile – a new township. LetlHabile has about 175 houses. Each house costs about R4 000.

People who do not have money to buy a house, can get a site. Each site has a tent, a tap and a flush toilet. If you get a site there, you must build a house within two years.

There are no halls or churches in Letlhabile. But there is a graveyard. The graveyard was built before anyone moved there. In fact, 500 graves were dug before there was one person living in Letlhabile.

The government says they did their duty. They gave the people of Oukasie a new place to live. Then, last year, the government said Oukasie was no longer a ‘black township’. And everyone living there must move.

FIGHTING TOGETHER

But the people of Oukasie did not want to move to Letlhabile. So they came together. They knew if they wanted to stay in Oukasie, they must be united. So they started the Brits Action Committee (BAC).

People in Oukasie were lucky. Many people living there, knew about organising. Many of them belonged to trade unions like NAAWU (National Automobile and Allied Workers Union) and MAWU (Metal and Allied workers Union). But they also asked people from the Transvaal Rural Action Committe (TRAC) to help them.

The Administration Board in Brits said everyone must move. And they refused to give anyone a house or a site. But the Brits Action Committee fought against this.

MOSHE WINS A HOUSE

In May last year, BAC helped Moshe Mahlaela to take the Administration Board to court. Moshe wanted a house in Oukasie. But the Administration Board said no.

Moshe won his case. But the house that the Administration Board gave him only had one room and no windows. But still, to Moshe, it was a house. And to the people of Oukasie, it was a victory.

SAMSON’S STRUGGLE

Samson Nembahe was the next person to ask for a place. He wanted a site to build a house. “I went to the Administration offices,” Samson said. “But the man at the offices said that all the people in Oukasie were moving to Lethlabile.

“So I went to talk to BAC. One person from BAC came with me to see the superintendent. When we got there, the superintendent changed his story. This time he said he would give me a site. He said I must just tell him where I want it.

“I did not hear from him. So I went to see him again and again. First he said an engineer must check the site. Next he wanted the stand number. Then he wanted to see the plans of my house. Then he asked for my lodger’s permit and my rent receipts.

“But, in the end, with the help of BAC, I won. And the people of Oukasie are helping me to build my house. They know that I am not working so I do not have money. But they are pleased that I won the right to build.”

WORKERS JOIN IN THE FIGHT

BAC did not just help people to fight for houses in Oukasie. They used their trade unions to get their bosses to help them. They told their bosses to ask the government not to move them to Letlhabile. They asked Firestone to stop building a creche in Letlhabile. They said they must rather build the creche in Oukasie.

The bosses in Brits tried to speak to the government – but they had no success. They made a public statement against the forced removal of the people of Brits. They also said they would give money to make Oukasie a better place to live in.

OUKASIE – A SLUM!

Learn and Teach spoke to Marshall Buys – the chairperson of BAC. We asked Marshall why the government wants the people of Oukasie to move.

“The government says that there is not enough land in Oukasie,” Marshall told us. “So Oukasie cannot get any bigger than it is right now. They also say that the Oukasie is a ‘slum’. They said it will cost too much money to make Oukasie a better place.

“But we do not think what the government says is true. Just next to the location there is a big farm. If the government wanted to buy it, they could use that land for Oukasie.

“Some parts of the Oukasie do look like a ‘slum’. But whose fault is that? If the government used the money they spent on Letlhabile, Oukasie would not look like a slum.”

TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT

“But we think the government wants to move the Oukasie because it is very near a white township called Elandsrand. And Letlabile is very near Bophuthatswana. We think that maybe the government plans to give Letlabile to Bophuthatswana. If the government does this, then all the people who belong to trade unions in Brits will have big problems. Bophuthatswana does not allow trade unions from South Africa to work in Bophuthatswana.

HELPING OURSELVES

We asked Marshall what is happening in Brits now. Marshall said, “The government can say what it likes. We will not move. Right now people in Oukasie are very busy. We are cleaning our township.

“We want to show the government that if they cannot help us, then we will help ourselves. The people of Oukasie are very strong. They built a school and they are fixing the roads.”

‘GA GO NA MO RE YANG’

Maybe the T-shirts will help the government to hear what the people of Oukasie say

Maybe the T-shirts will help the government to hear what the people of Oukasie say

Everywhere you look in Brits, you see people wearing T-shirts that say, “Ga go mo re yang, re dula go na mo” (We are not going anywhere, we are here to stay).

The message on the T-shirt is loud and clear. Maybe the T-shirts will help the government to hear what the people of Oukasie say.