Rape – the crime against women

untitled0-8“A few months ago, I was on my way home to Soweto. When I got on the train, I saw a group of men standing together, in the corner. I did not take any notice of them — till I heard a woman crying.

“I stood up to see what was happening. The cry came from the corner. I saw that these men were raping a woman, right there, on the train. I opened my mouth to say something. But the woman next to me grabbed my arm and pulled me down.

“Then she whispered to me, ‘If you say anything, they will go for you too. It is better to pretend that you see and hear nothing.’ When I looked around, I saw that everyone else on the train was doing just that.

“I got off at the very next station to find help for that woman. But as the train pulled out of the station, I knew that I could do nothing. But I will never forget that woman’s cry, as long as I live.”

Women are raped everyday — in fact, 400 women in South Africa get raped everyday. People think it is only young women who get raped. But babies as young as six months old and women of 90 years old get raped. Every woman lives with the fear of rape all her life.


In South Africa the law says that rape is when a man forces his penis into a woman’s vagina when she doesn’t want to have sex. But women think the law does not say enough. The law must change.

The law must say it is also rape when a man forces his penis into the mouth or the anus of a woman. Or when a husband forces his wife to have sex when she doesn’t want to.


People think that men rape because they cannot stop themselves when they want sex. But rape has nothing to do with sex — rape is about power and fear.

Someone told us this story: “I have a friend who rapes. Once I asked him why he did this. He said that he started to work on the mines when he was very young. He was raped by another man. In the end he became this man’s ‘girlfriend’. Now he is used to men. He is frightened of women because he does not know them. So, to have sex with women, he does it by force.”

“I think rape also shows how men think of women. If men see women as less important than themselves, then they think they can rape women. They don’t worry about how women feel. Often when men feel weak, they rape women. Then they feel better. I also think that when a group of men rape a woman, they are just trying to show off to their friends.

“People think that rape happens in dark streets, by strangers. But most men rape women that they know, and many women are raped in their homes. Women are victims because they are weaker than men.”


If a man tries to rape you, you must decide what is best — to fight back and try to get away, or to keep still. Only you can decide this.

Good ways to protect yourself are to kick a man in his groin very hard, so that he cannot walk. If you stick your fingers into his eyes, he will not be able to see. Even spraying a deodorant spray into his eyes will help you.


Many women do not want to report rape to the police. But it is good to report rape for the following reasons:

1. You can get a legal abortion —that is, doctors will stop your pregnancy if you report your rape.
2. Maybe you will feel safer if you know your rapist is in jail.
3. It makes people know what a big problem rape is.
4. It makes other women safer.

But there are also problems in reporting rape. Women find it hard to tell people about their rape time and time again. If you report rape, this is what you must do:

• You must go to the police straight after it happens. Do not wash or change your clothes — the police will want them for evidence.
• You must tell the polrce the whole story when you make your statement. You can tell the police you want to make your statement in a private room or to the Station Commander.
• The District Surgeon will examine you — he will try to find sperm in your vagina to prove you were raped. If you were hurt, the district surgeon does not treat you — you must go to hospital for treatment.
• When they find the rapist, you must point him out for the police. They make men stand in a line. Then you must show them which man raped you. You must touch him.
• If there is a court case, you go to court as a state witness. The court case is often a long time after the rape. You have to tell the whole story again to the court.


If you are raped, you can get an abortion. But you must ask for an abortion. If you are pregnant from your rape, you must go and get an affidavit — a signed statement — from the police, to say that you were raped.

Then you take your papers to the local magistrate. The magistrate decides if you can have one. If he say you can have an abortion, he gives you a certificate. You must take the certificate to the hospital. The doctors will do an abortion.

If you did not report your rape, you can still get an abortion, but it is difficult. You must tell the police why you didn’t report it. Then the police decide if they will give you a letter for the magistrate.


Very often women feel very bad after they are raped. Women do not like to talk about rape because sex is a private thing. Also some people blame women. They say, “Well, she asked for it.”

Now organisations have started to help women who are raped. They are called Rape Crisis. Rape Crisis helps people to talk about their rape. Talking helps women to feel better. It also helps to stop being afraid of men.

These organisations help women to report rape. They will go to the police station with you. And they will help you with the court case.


Rape Crisis say that often when women report rape, they are treated as if they are to blame for the rape. They say this is wrong. Raped women must be treated like people who report assault — that is, when someone hits you.

They also want police women to work with women who are raped. They say when a woman has just been raped, she cannot talk freely to a man.

Rape Crisis also says that women must be checked by women doctors. And they say the doctor must not just check the woman, — they must treat her if she was hurt. She must get drugs for’vuilsiek’ orV.D. And she must be treated so that she does not get pregnant.


Rape Crisis says the rape laws must be changed. They say rape is not a special crime — it is the same as assault. If anyone hits you, they are breaking the law. It doesn’t matter what you say to them. Rape Crisis says it is the same with rape. It doesn’t matter how you dress, or what you say, no-one must rape you.

The big problem with rape is that if a man is found guilty of rape, he can hang. Because of this, judges must be very sure that a man is guilty. So they ask the raped woman many questions.

Women have said that in court, they felt they were questioned as if they did something bad — and not like someone did something bad to them. They were asked all about their sex lives. Rape Crisis says women must not be asked about their sex lives. And raped women’s names must be kept secret.


If you are raped, or if you want to help women who are raped, phone these numbers. If rape is a big problem in your community, maybe you can start a Rape Crisis centre in your area.

All these numbers are for messages. You must phone and leave a message. Then the person on duty will phone you back.


The story of the Ladysmith Black Mambazo


t is ten o’clock in the morning. Clermont, just outside Durban, is quiet. Most people have gone to work. But some people are singing softly. They sing so beautifully they can make you cry. It is practice time for Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

Everyday at ten, Black Mambazo get together, in the garage of their leader, Joseph Tshabalala. They sing and dance to keep their rhythm. The children know when it is practice time. They are there too, singing and dancing — and dreaming that one day they will sing and be famous like their heroes.


Joseph Tshabalala, leader of Black Mambazo, learnt to sing from his father. “I used to sit on my father’s lap, and listen to him sing.” says Joseph. “And when we went to bed, my father used to sing us to sleep. Singing was always part of my life.”

Joseph left his home, Ladysmith, 15 years ago. He went to work in Durban as a “spannerboy” at a building firm. “I joined a singing group called the Highlanders.” says Joseph/The Highlanders were not a bad group. But they had one problem — drink.

“They used to drink too much. When they were drunk, they came late for concerts. But when they weren’t drunk, they didn’t sing well. This made me lose a lot of sleep.


“Then one night I had a dream. In my dream, an old lady, my father’s mother, spoke to me. She said, ‘I can see that you are having problems with this group of yours. Don’t worry, go and see your cousins, Albert and Milton Mazibuko. They will help you.”

The very next day Joseph went to the Mazibuko’s home. He told Albert and Milton’s father about his dream. He said, “Uncle, give me your two boys. I will teach them to sing with me. And the old man said, “Very good, my son. Your brothers are bored. They are drinking beer and doing naughty things. Talk to them.”


Black Mambazo on the road


“We started there and then,” said Joseph. “We sang the first song I ever wrote. That song also came from a dream. In my dream I saw little children singing beautifully.

“I caught the tune but I could not catch the words. They were singing in a strange language. I used the tune and I made up words. I called it Nomathemba. It was the name of a girl I loved at the time. This song took us a long time to learn. But once we knew it, it was our favourite.


On that first day Joseph sang with the Mazibuko’s. They were just three. The next day Headman, Joseph’s brother joined them.

Joseph left the Highlanders. And the two families — the Mazibuko’s and the Tshabalala’s, became the Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Today the group has 10 singers.

Joseph says, “We sing to make people happy. We sing about everything, about love, amabutho, imbongi, God and many other things.


“When we sing at concerts, we all wear the same clothes,” says Albert Mazibuko. “We all dance together when we sing. Our dance is called ‘Cothoza mfana’. It means ‘Walk proud, boy’.

“Joseph writes all our songs and I show everyone how to dance. Our music is called ‘Mbube’ or ‘scatamiya’ music. ‘Mbube’ music started long ago. ‘Mbube’ groups only use their voices. We never use guitars or pianos. So our voices must sound very beautiful.


Today everyone knows Ladysmith Black Mambazo. But Joseph says the first time they sang together, people laughed — until they heard them sing. “It was Christmas time.” Joseph remembers. “We went to Ladysmith. When we got there, people said, ‘Shame, Mr Tshabalala, you are singing with new people. Now you are singing with such small boys.’ But when my ‘small boys’ started to sing, people could not believe how well they sang.”


Black Mambazo give their fans all they have


“We used to sing in lots of competitions at that time. We won them all. People loved us. Everyone used to ask us to make records. But we thought we would make records when we were old. We thought that if we made a record, we would lose our voices.

“In the end my cousin arranged for us to go to Radio Bantu. We went but we were very afraid. We spoke to Mr Thusini and another woman, Doctor Haskisson. They made us sing many songs for them. But they were not happy. We were singing other peoples’ songs, not our own.

“Then we sang ‘Nomathemba’. They both liked it very much. So we sang more of our own songs. Soon afterwards we made our first album “Amabutho”. And the next year we went on our first tour around South Africa.”


Since that time Ladysmith Black Mambazo have made 23 albums — all of them great hits. And they have been all over the world. They have just come back from America now.

Black Mambazo sing most of their songs in Zulu. But because people love them all over the world, they now sing in other languages. They have made some songs in German, Sotho and English. And who can forget their famous English song “Hello my baby, Hello my shokolate”?


All this fame has not changed them at all. They are still simple people, like you and me. Joseph spends a lot of time with his children. “My son has his own group.” says Joseph. “They call themselves ‘White Mambazo’. They say we must look out for them. One day they will be more famous than Black Mambazo.”


Ladysmith Black Mambazo have started a fan club. So, if you want to write and tell them that you love their music, you can write to…

A mother for many


Zora Mehlomakulu of the General Workers Union

Thandisizwe Mehlomakulu is play­ing on the floor. His mother, Zora Mehlomakulu, is sitting at her desk. The office around her is not very tidy and her scarf is slipping off. Zora’s eyes are sleepy while she talks.

Many workers in Cape Town think of Zora as a mother. And the bosses know that they must be careful when Zora Mehlomakulu is around. Zora is an organiser for the General Workers Union.

Zora is not only a mother to the workers. Zora has two children of her own, Nosizwe and Thandisizwe. Learn and Teach spoke to Zora. We asked Zora if she found work in the union hard, especially as a mother and a woman.

“I don’t think that I have found work­ing as a woman in the union difficult,” said Zora.” But when I started in the unions, I had big problems. I was only twenty years old.

“I had problems at home. My father did not want me to work in the unions. He thought that politics was a no-chance business. He wanted me to be a teacher, not a union organiser.

“When the people first asked me to join the union, I did not even know if there was an office. I thought that maybe they met in the veld. I only knew the name of the union — the Commercial and Distributive Work­ers Union.

“I got a big surprise. The union had an office. It was in Queen Victoria Street, in Cape Town.

“The workers wanted the women in the union to wear two-piece suits and high-heeled shoes. They said we must look smart and respectable. I am not a smart and respectable per­son. I found dressing like this very uncomfortable.

“The biggest problem was my age. The workers thought that I was too young. I had to work extra hard and be extra careful to win their trust. I also had to behave like a leader. I could not do what other young people did, especially in those days.

“It was a bad time for the unions. The union belonged to Sactu. Many peo­ple in Sactu were arrested .Soon all the Sactu unions were working as one. There were not enough people to do the work.”

In 1964 Sactu decided that they couldn’t work in the open any more. Many Sactu people left the country and many were in jail. And some, like Zora Mehlomakulu, quietly waited for the workers to rise again.

In 1971 many of the old trade unionists came together. They talked about starting a new union. Zora tells us about it.

“We decided to start an advice office and not a union. The Minister of Labour was hard on unions at that time because the workers were still weak. The government wanted committees for the workers — not unions.

“When the Western Province Workers Advice Office started, we had nothing. We even borrowed a desk and a chair. Times were hard. The workers were scared. They thought unions led to trouble. The bosses were hard too. They used to throw us out — or call the police.


Zora with her son, Thandisizwe

“In the meantime, I was married to my husband, Frank. Poor Frank soon got used to me going out at night to meetings. The workers used to come to our house at any time with their problems. Sometimes we held meet­ings at the house.

“But Frank has always been under­standing. Without Frank we would live in a big mess and we would never eat properly. When I work late, Frank looks after the children. Frank only gets cross sometimes — when I am away too much.

“I looked after the children during the day. Now they are at school. People used to think that it was difficult with the children at work, but it wasn’t. In fact, when we first started to organise, the children made things easier.

“When Nosizwe, my first born, was three months old, we were busy organising in the docks. Now, you know that you are not allowed to give out leaflets in the docks. So I used to put Nosizwe on my back. Then I tucked all the leaflets into her blanket.

“No-one at the gate ever looked at me until one terrible day. Just as I got to the gates, Nosizwe started to scream. She shook all the blankets. The leaflets flew all over the place.

“The men at the gate came to see what these pamphlets were all about. They were very shocked. Those men thought I was an old woman, coming to do cleaning jobs. They refused to let me through the gates that day. And afterwards I was extra careful at the docks.

“The children always made it easier to get into factories. Even after Thandisizwe was born, I used to take him with me. I would go to factories with him on my back. At the gates, I used to say: ‘My husband works here and I have come with the sick child.’

“The foreman would show me where to go. Then I would choose any ‘husband’ to be Thandisizwe’s father. I would talk my business with that man, saying that there was a meeting or this and that. And then the foreman would show me out.

“Once I was caught at the Dorman Long factory. I went in, as always, looking for my ‘husband’. I went to a room at the back. Then I started a meeting. Suddenly I noticed all the workers looking very hard behind me. I could see in their faces that they wanted to tell me something.

“The boss had got in quietly while I was talking. But he did not under­stand me because I was talking in Xhosa. So I said in English: “Not everyone has paid for the hats I knitted. I want my money now”

“But the boss knew that I was lying. Someone was waiting for me out­side. She had told the boss I was looking for my cousin. So he threw me out.

“Later when we had more members at Dorman Long, we had a meeting with the bosses. I had long forgotten how they threw me out. But when that boss saw me, he got angry again. He made the union say that we were sorry for telling lies.


Zora Mehlomakulu does not work in the tidiest office in the world but who would dare to tell her?

“Things are very different in the union and at home now. My children have grown. They are both at school — except Thandisizwe. He still likes to come to the union and not go to school. Sometimes he creeps into the taxi behind me. When I see him, it is too late to stop the taxi. That is why he is here today.

“The union, like the children, has also grown. We don’t have to lie to get into factories anymore. We don’t have to go and look for workers to join the union anymore. So many workers come to us now. The union is strong, like the children.

The one that got away

1986/04_L&T Cover

The one that got away

– a snippet of Learn and Teach, an adult literacy magazine
(Learn and Teach 4, 1986)

Hassen Lorgat

13 June 2016

Three decades ago, a small team of a radical adult literacy magazine was putting the finishing touches to their latest edition, Learn and Teach magazine number 4, 1986. On its cover was the iconic photo by Sam Nzima of the first reported fatal incidents of 16 June 1976, the injured and dying Hector Pieterson in the arms of Mbuyisa Makhuba, and running anxiously alongside, Antoinette Sithole.

Commemorating a decade since ‘76 was too much for the apartheid state to tolerate. No sooner had the magazine been published than it was banned.

Continue reading

On 16th June 1976


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,


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.


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.


“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.”

“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.


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.

“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.”

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.”


The police, waiting

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

“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.”

“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.’


Worried parents came together

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


Untitled0-8Ten years ago if you wanted to find the best bargains and the cheapest shops in Jo’burg, there was only place to go — Fietas. But today there is no Fietas, only Pageview, where Fietas used to be.

The government said Fietas must be for whites only. So many people had to leave. All the Africans went to Soweto, the ‘coloureds’ went to Eldo’s and all the Indians went to Lenz. And while people were busy moving out, the bulldozers moved in, knocking down the old houses and shops.

Learn and Teach went to Lenasia to visit Mrs Naidoo. Mrs Naidoo lived in Fietas for most of her life. She told us about the good old days.


“When I first left Fietas, I used to cry all the time.” says Mrs Naidoo. “I went to town every-day because I was so lonely. In Fietas there were always people around. We knew everyone. Here in Lenz, people are boarders in their own homes. People pay rent but their houses are not homes. People do not spend any time at home. Everybody goes to work early and comes back late.”


Then Mrs Naidoo started to talk about life in Fietas. “In Fietas life was beautiful,” says Mrs Naidoo. “Everybody was for everybody. No matter who you were, or what you were, no matter what colour you were, everybody cared for each other.

“For women Fietas was especially good. There were no creches or things like that. So all the women helped each other. The women were there, at home all day. Lots of the women worked, but they worked at home, doing dressmaking and things like that.

“My husband wouldn’t look after the children. No, he wouldn’t do that. He would say, “Take your ‘parcel’ with you or get somebody to look after them. I can’t look after children.” So you went to your friends.


“I had a friend next door who really helped me a lot. We were like sisters. All our babies were delivered at home with a midwife or a nurse. We used to help each other. When she gave birth, I helped. I cooked for her, and looked after the kids. And when I was sick, she used to come and cook for me.

“If my friend went to see a film, she would say, ‘You must go and see that film, it’s very nice. You go and I will look after the children.’ If my friend cooked something special, she always sent some to me and I did the same.


Feitas — the houses were old, the taps leaked — but it was home


“Our biggest problem in Fietas was space. The houses were very small, two bedrooms and a kitchen. But I think that brought people together. If you were having a party, or a feast, then everyone helped.

“People with big houses let you store your things in their house. Or, if you had a visitor, they let your visitor sleep at their house.

“There was no place for the children to play — we had no gardens. So the children played in the street. There was always hopscotch drawn on the road and skipping ropes tied across the street.

“But you knew the children were safe. The streets were very narrow — only one car could go down. So people drove very slowly. Also the children were always nearby. It was easy to keep an eye on them.


“When you needed something, the shops were right there — you just sent the children, your own child or your neighbour’s child. And if you did not have cash, you bought ‘on the book.’

“We all kept books. When the kids went to the shop, the shopkeeper wrote down what you bought. At the end of the week, or at the end of the month, you took your book to the shop. The shop-keeper added up how much you owed and you paid him. “We also bought food every day, but now the shops are so far away you must buy for a week, or for the month.


“People had different customs. Some people were Moslems, others were Hindu. At the end of the Moslem fast, everyone waited in the streets, watching for the new moon. When the children saw the moon, they used to run down the streets, shouting. Then we all knew that we could eat.

“In October it was the Hindu Diwali. The night before Diwali people lit little lamps with camphor oil in them. The whole of Fietas smelt of camphor and excitement. And on Diwali night, there were wonderful fireworks. The whole sky was full of light from the fireworks.


“We were not without problems in Fietas. The landlords were rich from the rent we paid while we lived from hand-to-mouth. The rents were high for such small houses. We had no electricity and water in the houses.

“Sometimes four families shared a yard. You all shared a tap and the toilet too. Often there were fights about cleaning. When I got angry, I used to say, “Yissus, we have to clean other people’s shit here also.” Then people would get shy and do the work.


“But even with the bad times, I felt very hurt about leaving Fietas. It was my home. It was the place I wanted to be. When we left, I knew I was leaving my home behind. This Lenz is not home.

“Now when I go to the clinic, I meet people from Coronation who lived in Fietas. When we talk, I say that I am away from home. There can never be another Fietas, no matter where you go. Everyone I meet says that. Before, in Fietas, we were part of the community, but here in Lenz we are people on our own.

” Life has changed. I’ m not the same person I was in Fietas. In Fietas I used to get along with everyone. Here in Lenz you don’t even see your neighbours. Everybody is for themselves here.

“Even the other people who moved to Lenz from Fietas are different now. People are scared. In Fietas you always left your door open. But here everyone locks their doors, even if they are in the backyard.

“When I see the people next door, it’s hello and finished. You can’t think of your neighbour when you can’t even think of yourself. “I hardly ever see my old friends from Fietas. They are all living in different places. My old neighbour lives in Actonville, in Benoni. Sometimes we visit each other at weekends.


“I don’t think that the government understands what they are doing. They sit and say this place must be white, this place must be black or indian or whatever — like they are playing a game of chess.

“But they don’t know how it feels to lose your home and your friends. They don’t know how it feels to move with the help of bulldozers.”


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 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.


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 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.


 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.


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.


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 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.


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.


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.


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.”


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.”


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.” •