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’.


With his face in the dust and a bullet in his back

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005On a cold winter evening nine years ago, the people of Jabulani in Soweto heard a loud bang. “I wonder what that was?” somebody maybe asked. “Sounds like a gun,” somebody maybe answered. And then a few seconds later, the people forgot all about it.

It was a gun. And a man lay with his face in the dust and a bullet in his back. His name was Friday Mavuso.

On that cold evening, Friday Mavuso began his long, brave fight. He fought for his health. He fought for his good name. And above all, he fought for the other crippled people of this world.

Friday Mavuso told us his story. He laughed a lot. And sometimes he looked a little sad. But he kept his head straight and high – all the time.

“I will start the story a few days before I was shot,” says Friday. “It was a Tuesday and I was on my way home from work. I then met a taxi driver friend of mine. His car was stuck. He said the battery was flat.

“I took him home with me and lent him my battery. He promised to bring back the battery the next day. But he didn’t. When I came home from work on the Thursday, I still did not find my battery. I was now very angry.

“I decided to wait outside my house for my friend. You see, I live on a main road and all the taxis pass my house. I waited and waited. My friend did not come.

“Then I saw his girlfriend. Her name was Lucy. She told me that my friend was coming to fetch her at a shebeen later on. ‘Come with me: she said. ‘We’ll go to the shebeen and wait together.”

And so Lucy and Friday went to the shebeen. And they waited together. The one waited for her love. And the other waited for his battery.

Friday Mavuso did not go to shebeens often. He was not a big “phuza”, but soon he was having good time. The beer was smooth and warm on that cold evening.

Friday the goalkeeper.

Friday the goalkeeper.

The people in the shebeen were very friendly. They all knew Friday Mavuso. He was a good sportsman. He kept goal for the Mbanya Swallows. And when he was not keeping goal, you could find him at a boxing or a karate club.

“I sat with Lucy and another woman:’ says Friday. “Next thing, Lucy and the other woman had an argument. Then Lucy threw her beer at the woman. But she got me instead. My shirt was wet with beer.

“I took Lucy and her friend to the kitchen. I wanted to make peace. Just then this other guy came into the kitchen. Before Lucy threw the beer, he was sitting with five other guys in the sitting room. I only knew one of them. He was a mechanic by the name of Tuli.

“So this guy came into the kitchen. He said the beer also wet his shirt. But he was talking nonsense. The beer did not wet his shirt. I tried to speak to him. But he did not listen. Then he threw a punch at me. I ducked and he missed. He tried again – and missed once more.

“Now it was my turn. I threw three quick punches – a left, a right and a left again. That guy didn’t even see my punches. It was lights out for him.

“Then his friends joined the fight ­ maybe because they felt an injury to one is an injury to all. They all rushed at me together. I fought back – and they dropped like flies.

“Now I decided to leave in a hurry. But some of the guys followed me. Just outside the gate one of the guys tripped me. I lost a shoe – but I didn’t stop. I ran down the road as fast as I could.

“I ran past a big white rock on the pavement. I decided to have a rest. So I sat on the rock. I looked down at my feet. ‘I must go back and find my shoe: I said to myself. And that was my big mistake. I should not have gone back for the shoe. That shoe cost me my legs. All for one stupid, damn shoe!

“I went back to the shebeen. But it was dark now. So I found a piece of newspaper and lit it; Then I heard this loud bang. And I felt this terrible pain in my back – just like a snakebite.

“I lay there on my stomach. I felt sick and weak. And then I saw all these legs standing around me. And then they started to kick me all over. I had a bullet in my back. But that wasn’t enough. They broke two of my ribs as well.

“I lifted my head. And I looked into the mouth of a gun. I knew the gun. It was a .38 special – just like the cops use. And then I knew the cops had shot me.

“I jumped up like a hurt animal. Then this big foot pushed my head down to the ground. And then I heard one of them shout, ‘Sebonego, Sebonego finish this dog.’

“So this cop pulled out his gun again and pointed it at me. ‘That’s it! I’m finished now: I remember saying to myself.

“I lay there waiting. And then I knew I had one small chance left; And I took that chance. I fell on my back and rolled my head – just like I was dead.

“I lay there. I didn’t say a word. I was scared to breathe. People came and went. I lay there for a long, long time.

“I was shot at about seven in the evening. And the ambulance only came at one in the morning. I lay on that dusty pavement for six hours with a bullet in my back.

“Can you believe it? The ambulance did not go straight to the hospital,” says Friday with a big laugh. “They first went to fetch a pregnant woman who was heavy with a child.

“And so there was. In the ambulance with a pregnant woman and a policeman. Then the woman started screaming. Her baby was coming. The policeman also started to scream. I laughed at him. ‘What are you scared of?’, I asked him. He looked at me in anger. He didn’t say anything.

“I woke up in hospital the next morning. And the first thing I saw was three policemen. They were guarding me – like I was a dangerous criminal. But I wasn’t going anywhere. I couldn’t walk.

“Then the police charged me. They said I was a thief. They said I robbed a man – that mechanic guy who was sitting in the shebeen that night. They said I was carrying a knife. Can you believe it? Me carrying a knife? I have never carried a knife in my life. I didn’t need to. I knew about boxing and I knew about karate. I knew how to look after myself.

“The police asked me to make a statement. I told them I must first see a lawyer. ‘You are a cheeky bastard: they said to me. I did not care. I went back to sleep.

“My family got a lawyer for me. I told the lawyer the full story. The lawyer said the magistrate was coming to the hospital. I shook my head. ‘No ways: I said. ‘I want a real case in a real court. I don’t want a cover up.’ I did not trust the police. When they frame you, it sticks.

“I did not change my mind. And so they took me to a real court in my wheelchair. But they took no chances. They took me In an ambulance with another ambulance and two police cars following behind.”.

“The magistrate found me not guilty. The mechanic Tuli said I was not the guy who robbed him. And the cops got their story mixed up. One cop said one thing. And the other cop said another thing.

“And so my name was clean again. I was not a thief. I did not go around stealing watches and jackets. I did not walk around with a knife in my pocket.

“Then I went back to the hospital. I stayed there for four years. I suffered a lot. But my wife Brenda and my two children Sibusiso and Nonhlanhla suffered even more. Nonhlanhla was born a week after I was shot. Brenda worked hard to feed the children. She stood by me all the way.

“While I was In hospital, I thought about two things. Firstly, I wanted the police to pay for what they did. And secondly, I thought about the people who were suffering with me in hospital.

“I saw these people leave hospital. And I saw them come back to hospital. You know, these people were happier in hospital. They felt bad when they went home. They came back to the hospital because they didn’t want to worry their families.

“I found a lawyer to help me with my case against the police. But four years passed and nothing happened. When my bank book was finished, the lawyer said I must drop the case.

“I was angry – really angry. That lawyer took my money and said goodbye. Then I heard about this organization that helps people with the law. It’s called the Legal Aid Bureau. I wrote to them and they got me another lawyer. We carried on with the case against the police.

“In the meantime, I was thinking of ways to help the crippled people with me in the hospital. When the nurses had a film show to make money, I said I also wanted a film show. The hospital people got angry with me. But I never gave up. I made a few rands whenever I could. It all helped.”

Nine years later, Friday Mavuso won his case against the police. They paid him 74 thousand rand. He bought a house and a special van for himself ­- a van that crippled people can drive. He put the rest of the money away for his children’s education. “I want them to be lawyers so they can help people,” says Friday with a proud smile.

And today Friday is president of an organization that helps crippled and disabled people. “The organization is called SHAP,” says Friday. “SHAP stands for Self Help Association for Paraplegics. We believe in helping ourselves. We have come together to work together. We are disabled ­ but we are still able.”

Friday outside the SHAP centre.

Friday outside the SHAP centre.

You can now find Friday Mavuso in the big new SHAP building in Mofolo Park. His dream to help crippled and disabled people has come true. They now have a building of their own. At this building disabled people can learn useful jobs and they can play all kinds of sport.

And it all started in a hospital bed – by a man who only nine years ago, was lying with his face in the dust and a bullet in his back.

If you would like to get in touch with SHAP, here is their address:

P.O. Box 303 ORLANDO 1804
Tel: (011) 949 – 1832

The last ride

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005Early one morning last month, they found a dead man at the Village Main Station in Johannesburg. His name was Simon Khamanga.

Some thugs got Simon the night before. They got him while he waited for the train to take him home. The gang stabbed him many times.

Simon Khamanga died all by himself. Nobody was around to help him. His death was a lonely death.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005But Simon was not alone when he went to the grave. He was a man with many friends. For Simon was a member of the Johannesburg Scooter Drivers’ Association (JSDA). The JSDA is a trade union for scooter and motor – bike drivers. And the guys in this union stand together. When one of the members dies, that member does not have a lonely funeral.

After all the union’s slogan is: “An injury to one is an injury to all”.

All the members heard about Simon’s death. When they heard they went to talk to their bosses. They told their bosses they wanted their bikes for the funeral. They said they wanted to give their friend his last ride.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005They met at the Kliptown football field on the Sunday morning. They began to arrive at 11 o’clock. They came in two’s and three’s. Drivers who had no bikes, came on the back of their friend’s bikes. Some drivers also brought their girlfriends along.

Soon the field was like a sea of different colours. The clean silver of the exhaust pipes shone with the bright red, yellow, black and white helmets of the drivers. Many of the guys came with black leather jackets and dark sunglasses. And most of them stuck the sign of the union on the back of their bikes.

The union organizer moved around the field. He collected money from the drivers. He took their money and wrote receipts. The drivers gave over R800 to help with Simon’s funeral.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005At 12 o’clock, about 150 bikes were parked on the field. The organizer told them to make two long lines. Then suddenly they all started up. The small bikes buzzed. And the big bikes roared.

They drove off. They made their way to the Catholic Church in Pimville ­ where Simon’s body lay waiting.

At the church, they parked their bikes in two long rows. They went quietly into the church. They sat with Simon’s famiIy. They sang and prayed for their dead friend.

Two of the union leaders spoke in the church. They prayed for the soul of Simon Khamanga. And they told the drivers they must always stand together. They told them they were strong when they stand together.

The driver’s agreed with their leaders. “An injury to one is an injury to all,” they shouted.

Six members of the union stood up. They put on their crash helmets. And they carried the coffin out of the church. They put the coffin into the big black funeral car outside.

All the drivers went back to their bikes. They started up again. And they drove off slowly. They led the big, black car to the Avalon Cemetery in Soweto.

At the graveside, the members of the union stood together with the Khamanga family. And they prayed again. The coffin was slowly dropped into the grave. Some of the drivers picked up spades. They filled their friend’s grave with the thick, red soil.

Afterwards they went to Simon’s house in Pimville. They all had some­ thing to eat. And they remembered their dead friend from the union.

The members of the union were sad that day. But they went home with one happy thought. Each man knew that when he has problems, his friends will be around to help.

After the funeral Learn and Teach spoke to the organizer of the JSDA. He told us about the union.

“We are not like an ordinary trade union,” he said. “Most unions help workers when they are alive and well. We help our members when they are working and when they are dead.”

“Scooter drivers have many problems at work,” he said. “Wages are very low. Some drivers get under R60 a week. The union is fighting for a better wage.

“Scooter drivers also have a dangerous job. How many times have you seen a scooter driver lying half dead in the road? Often the bosses do not give us boots, gloves and rain suits. The bikes are also often not safe. The union fights to make this job safer.

Created by Readiris, Copyright IRIS 2005“We also lose our jobs very easily. Sometimes a driver has an accident. He goes to hospital for three weeks. He comes out of hospital and he has no job. His boss has got another driver.

“And sometimes the drivers don’t get their compensation money. Workers get this money from the government when they get sick or have an accident at work. The union helps scooter drivers with all these problems.”

The Union has now got over 400 members in Johannesburg. They also now organize scooter drivers in Germiston and Randfontein. The JSDA organizer believes over 12,000 scooter drivers work on the Wit­watersrand. He says the union needs many more members to get strong.

Are you a scooter driver? Do you want to join the union? You can write or go to the JSDA at:

Room 203,
Chancellor House;
25 Fox Street;

Tel: (011) 838-2377

The father of Soweto: The story of James Sofasonke Mpanza



Most people in Soweto remember James “Sofasonke” Mpanza. Streets are named after him. A highway is named after him. People call him the “Father of Soweto”. Now read the story of James “Sofasonke” Mpanza.

James “Sofasonke” Mpanza was born on the 15th May 1889 in Georgedale, Natal. Mpanza had two sisters. His father died when he was only five years old. Mpanza’s mother was a domestic worker. She worked hard. She needed money to feed the children. And she needed money for  school fees.

Mpanza played with white children near his school in Pietermaritzburg. He learnt to speak English well. Later Mpanza went to Adams College near Amanzimtoti. Mpanza played for the school soccer team. They called the team the “Shooting Stars”.

The soccer fans liked Mpanza. They called him “Man 0′ Men”. But women loved Mpanza most of all. They called him the “Coy Coy Man”. They screamed “Coy Coy” when he got the ball .

In 1907 Mpanza left school. His mother did not have enough money for school fees. Mpanza got a job in a lawyer’s office.

Mpanza soon got into trouble. He stole some money from his employer. The employer caught him. Mpanza was his own lawyer in court. He lost the case. The magistrate sent him to jail for a year.

In jail, Mpanza met an old friend. They had an evil idea. They decided to steal money from Indian shopkeepers after they left jail. They decided to kill the shopkeepers and burn the shops. If they did this, they thought the police would not catch them.

But they were wrong. The police did catch them. The police caught them after they killed the first shopkeeper. The court sentenced them both to death.

Mpanza was worried. He wrote to the King of England. He said he was not guilty. Mpanza waited for six months for an answer. The answer came. The King said Mpanza and his friend must live. But they must both stay in jail for life.

Mpanza was lucky. In 1925 the Prince of Wales visited South Africa. Many prisoners were let free. Other prisoners were let free soon afterwards. In 1927 Mpanza was a free man.

Mpanza knew the Indian people were angry with him. He was scared. He left Natal and went to live in Pretoria. He lived in Pretoria for a while. In 1930 he moved to Bertrams, Johannesburg. He was a teacher at the African Gaza School. At the school he met a  woman called Julia. He married her nine years later.

Mpanza did not live in Bertrams for long. In 1931 the Johannesburg City Council started to build Orlando. Orlando was the first township in Soweto. In 1934 the Council moved people from Bertrams and Doornfontein. The Council moved the people to Orlando. Mpanza was one of these people.

The City Council moved many people to Orlando. But they did not build enough houses for all the people. Mpanza was angry. He decided to fight for more houses. He became a member of the Orlando Advisory Board. He also started the Sofasonke Party to fight for

In 1938 the City Council moved more people. They moved the people from Prospect Township in Johannesburg. The housing problem got worse.

The Second World War started the next year. Many people came to find jobs in Egoli. Jobs were easy to find. But now the City Council stopped building houses altogether.

The City Council used all their money and cement for the war. Mpanza did his best to get houses for the people. He wrote letters to the City Council. He wrote letters to the government. And he wrote letters to the newspapers. But nobody listened to him.

Mpanza decided to do something. He called a big meeting one night. Five hundred families met outside his house.



The next morning, Mpanza got onto his big, white horse. He led the people into the veld.

The people built a big squatter camp. They made houses out of sacks and wood. They called the camp “Masekeng” (the place of sacks). Some people called the camp Sofasonke Village or Shanty Town.

The people built their houses close together for safety. Guards looked after the camp when people went to work. Mpanza had a small room called “The Office”. If people had problems, they went to “The Office” for help.

The people bought food and coal together. It was cheaper this way. The people shared everything and worked together. They sang a song “Mzulu, Mxhosa, Msuthu hlanganani” (Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho must all stand together).

Soon 20 000 people lived in Masekeng. The people loved Mpanza. But the City Council did not like him. The Council asked the government to send Mpanza to Natal.

Mpanza outside his Orlando East home in the early 1960's

Mpanza outside his Orlando East home in the early 1960’s

Mpanza fought many court cases to stay in Orlando. Then he won a big court case in Bloemfontein. The court let him stay in Orlando. The people gave Mpanza a big party. They sang “Siliwinile icala eBloemfontein” (we have won the case in Bloemfontein).

The people stayed in Masakeng. Later the Council built shelters for the people. The people lived in the shelters while they waited for houses. Some people waited for 15 years until they got a house.

Mpanza was a member of the Orlando Advisory Board for a long time. But in the 1950’s, the Advisory Board got weaker. The City Council made the rents higher. And the Advisory Board cou Id not keep the rents down. People stopped believing in the Advisory Board.

In 1961 the government decided to start Urban Bantu Councils (UBC) for the townships. Mpanza wanted a UBC for Soweto. Many people were angry with him. They said a UBC was no better than an Advisory Board. And they thought the Advisory Boards were useless.

The UBC in Soweto started in 1968. Mpanza wanted to be Soweto’s first mayor. But the UBC did not choose him. Mpanza was unhappy.

The funeral of James "Sofasonke" Mpanza

The funeral of James “Sofasonke” Mpanza

In 1970 Mpanza got sick. He died the same year. The people gave him the biggest funeral In the history of Soweto. The funeral march passed through many townships on the way from Orlando to Doornkop Cemetery. Thousands of people went to say goodbye to the “Father of Soweto”.

“Guga mzimba sala ntliziyo”

(The body is old, but the heart is still young)

img12William “King Force” Silgee is 74 years old. He lives in a small house in Dube, Soweto. He lives a quiet life with his wife Irene. But life was not always quiet for “King Force”. In the 1940’s, the townships jumped and jived to his music. He was the leader of the Jazz Maniacs after “Zulu Boy” Cele died.

The Jazz Maniacs were a big band. Sixteen people played in the band. The people in the townships loved the Jazz Maniacs. The Jazz Maniacs played music that touched the hearts of the people.

Last month, “King Force” and his saxophone came alive again. He played in Gaborone, Botswana. He played with Dollar Brand, Hugh Masekela and lots of other musicians.

“I really enjoyed myself” says “King Force”. “Hugh Masekela, Dollar Brand and the other guys were young when the Jazz Maniacs played. But they have learnt a lot. Now they are better than we were. They are better because they live in America. Many bands play in America. So the competition is tough. Musicians need competition.”

“King Force” says people like Masekela, Gwangwa and Dollar Brand still play South African music. “They live overseas but they still play our kind of music. South African music is in their hearts. They keep it there”.

“King Force” has played music for most of his life. He was born in Vrededorp in 1918. When “King Force” was still a baby, his family moved to City and Suburban. They lived in a small house in Anderson Street. In those days black people still lived in Johannesburg.

His father was a preacher. His mother was a teacher. His mother and father loved music. They both sang in the church choir. They sent “King Force” to piano lessons when he was 10 years old.

“My parents told me to go to piano lessons,” says “King Force”. “I did not enjoy piano lessons. But today I’m glad I went to lessons. These lessons taught me a lot about music.”

“King Force” went to the Albert Street School. When he was twelve years old, his father died. His mother had no money for the rent. The family moved to Doorn­fontein. His mother did piece-work. She washed clothes for white people in Yeoville and Kensington.

The Silgee family had little money. But “King Force” did not leave school. He helped his mother with the washing. “King Force” and his friends made carts out of old boxes. They fetched and delivered washing in these carts. Sometimes young “King Force” and his friends raced their carts. They raced down Harrow Road.

“King Force” finished standard 6 at Albert Street School. Then he went to Adams Training College in Natal. He stayed there for 3 years.

“King Force” finished standard 9. Then he came back to Doornfontein. Johannes­burg was alive with music at that time. Piano players and jazz bands played allover the place. The saxophone was popular.

“King Force” got a job. He was a clerk in a warehouse. The work was boring. He began to learn the saxophone. He soon played the saxophone very well.

"King Force" (left) playing in Port Elizabeth in 1956

“King Force” (left) playing in Port Elizabeth in 1956

One day in 1935 the municipality came in trucks to Doornfontein. They moved the people to Orlando. “King Force” and his family went to live in Orlando.

There were many halls in Orlando. The people went to the halls for concerts and dances. “King Force” loved the music and dancing at the halls.

“My favourite band was the Jazz Maniacs,” says” King Force”. “They played hot music. “Zulu Boy” Cele was the leader then. When they rested at concerts, I some­ times jumped on the stage and played the saxophone. The band soon knew me well. In 1936 the band asked me to join them.”

In 1939 “King Force” married his first wife. The band got more popular. In the Second World War, the band played for soldiers. Young Wilson Silgee became “King of the Forces”. People began to call him “King Force”.

In 1944 “Zulu Boy” Cele died. The Jazz Maniacs asked “King Force” to be the new leader. “King Force” was still a clerk in the day. At night he played music until 4 o’clock in the morning.

"King Force" (left) with 2 other members of the Jazz Maniacs

“King Force” (left) with 2 other members of the Jazz Maniacs

“We didn’t sleep much in those days” says “King Force”. “Life was fast, man. Sometimes we played two concerts on one night. Then we went to work the next day. We rushed all the time. But we were young then. We enjoyed life.”

The band traveled allover the country. People from allover South Africa loved them. In 1945 they went to Port Elizabeth. In Port Elizabeth “King Force” met a woman called Irene. When the band went home, Irene followed him. She lived in Johannesburg with her sister. A few years later “King Force” left his first wife. He married Irene and they moved to Dube.

In the 1950s, the people in the band started fighting with each other. The Jazz Maniacs split up. But “King Force” did not stop playing music. He started a smaller band. He called the band “King Force and his Forces”. They played mbaqanga music. People liked them. They sold many records. “King Force” made records until the late 1960s.

img16“King Force” does not play his saxophone much these days. He is getting old. His lungs are weak. But he does not forget. “1 often think about the old days” says “King Force”. “Sometimes I cry when I look at the photographs. I say to myself “Guga mzimba, sala ntliziyo” (The body is old, but the heart is still young.)”

In Gaborone last month the great old “King Force” was young again. And the people still loved him. They will always love him. They will never forget the man who played music that touched their hearts