Alan Paton appears at Maropeng

The “Long March to Freedom” Exhibition is being relocated from the Fountains Gardens to Maropeng.  There are probably not many people alive whose grandparent is represented in the exhibition. I believe that I am the only person who, in addition to being an immediate descendant of one of the heroic figures in “The Long March to Freedom”, also works for the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site.  (The Official Visitor Centre of the site comprises of Maropeng and Sterkfontein).

The facial likeness of my grandfather is a good one, although he has been given a body which is about 20cm taller than his real height, so instead of being noticeably shorter than me at around 1.65m, his statue depicts a man of about 1.85m, which makes him taller than me, and somewhat more athletic looking than he actually was.

Besides this, the attention to detail is impressive.  For example, the detail of the missing index finger on his left hand is faithfully captured in the sculpture.  He lost the finger after one of the boys from the Diepkloof Reformatory (where he was once the principal) bit his hand reportedly in retaliation for Alan Paton giving the boy a beating.  Some of the inmates of Diepkloof Reformatory remembered Alan Paton as a harsh disciplinarian, whilst others remembered him as “the man who pulled up the barbed wire and planted geraniums”.   Of course this is long before I was born, so I cannot comment on whose memories were the more accurate.

The Alan Paton I knew in real life often wore the stern and serious expression which is well captured in the sculpture by Rosamund O’Connor.  Yet he was also fond of jokes, so when he received his monthly National Geographic and saw that it had a picture of a chimpanzee on the cover, he showed it to me, saying “Look, Anty, you are on the front cover of National Geographic!” to which I replied “No, grandad, that is not me, that is you.”  Unimpressed by my insolence, he went on to try the same line on my brother, Nic. To my delight my brother (without prompting or consultation) also said “No, grandad, that is you!” And I believe we had a point, because his facial expressions, particularly those of his mouth, were indeed often slightly simian.  Whether his lips were puckered, pouted or tightly closed as though sucking a lemon, he had the ability to present an unmistakable resemblance to some kind of ape, a theme which led to much banter and mythology in the Paton family.

Although Alan Paton was a conservative Christian in many ways, he was a firm follower of Darwin’s theory of evolution, and he displayed an impressive grasp of its general principals.  In fact, he was a science teacher and had no tertiary education in literature or the arts, which may take many people by surprise. He was had a broad interest in natural history and I believe he was (more than any other single individual) instrumental in developing my particular interest in birds.  Indeed, his two famous novels have birds which form important motifs in the narrative. In Cry the Beloved Country there is regular reference to the titihoya, known in English as the Black-winged Lapwing.  The “forlorn crying” of this bird may represent nostalgia for the innocence that may once have existed in rural areas, or may represent the Ixopo area, which is the heartland of this near threatened endemic bird and home to both the Jarvis and the Kumalo families.  In Too Late the Phalarope the phalarope plays a critical symbolic role.  This bird is usually seen off shore, but which occasionally ventures to inland dams and wetlands, where it is a rare and sought after species amongst birders.  The protagonist of the book and his father are united by the arrival of such a bird, but unfortunately their reconciliation is transitory and soon, like the bird, is seen no more.

Alan Paton was also influential in my developing a love for traveling, word games, card games and the rather eccentric game of croquet.  Croquet is a very mean game in which the best avenue to success is destroying the planned moves of your opponents. Bishop Ambrose Reeves, of whom Alan Paton was the biographer, reputedly called out on the croquet field “That’s the way! Bash them up! There’s the good Christian spirit!”  The dry wit and irony displayed by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu was not unprecedented amongst the historical clergical leadership of the Anglican Church. In his visit to the Maropeng, Tutu declared controversially the he considered that the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site “should be considered a sacred place!”

The arrival of the Alan Paton statue amidst the esteemed gathering of heroes in “The Long March to Freedom” at Maropeng is a special thrill for me.  Now, not only are my most ancient ancestors represented at Maropeng, but one of my most recent ancestors now appears there too. I have a real sense that Maropeng is the home of my ancestors to a degree that is remarkable, profound and complete.

Join the Long March to Freedom Art Walk

Last January I visited the Long March to Freedom National Heritage Monument in Fountains Valley, Pretoria. I was enchanted by this glorious phalanx of 100 bronze South African freedom fighters, all marching in the same direction.

But the Long March to Freedom was hidden in Fountains Valley. No one would ever come upon it without actively looking.

A year later, the monument has moved to a much better location at Maropeng in the Cradle of Humankind. Maropeng is one of Gauteng province’s top tourist attractions, and the Long March to Freedom is prominently placed right at the entrance. Now thousands of people will get to see the monument every month, which is exactly the attention it deserves.

I took a trip out to Maropeng a couple of weeks ago. Not all the sculptures had been moved yet, but there were enough. The army of heroes marched across the open grassland, on this site where humankind was born, in their quest for freedom.

The Long March to Freedom Art Walk

Maropeng is about an hour north of central Joburg and I encourage everyone to get out there ASAP to see the Long March to Freedom. (Right now the sculptures are scheduled to stay there for six months but hopefully that period will be extended.) In the meantime, I’m organizing a little Long March to Freedom art walk in Joburg.

There are more than 40 sculptors involved in the Long March to Freedom project. One of them, Nkhensani Rihlampfu, is a friend of mine and has his studio at No. One Eloff Street in downtown Jozi.

On Friday, 8 February, I’m organizing a visit to Nkhensani’s studio at 10:00 a.m. Nkhensani will talk a bit about his art and his participation in the Long March to Freedom project. Then we’ll take a five-minute walk to the Workhorse Bronze Foundry, where many of the Long March to Freedom sculptures were cast.

I visited the Foundry briefly a couple of years ago. It’s a beautiful place to take photos and learn about the bronze casting process.

(Sorry this walk has to be on a weekday — I know it’s not convenient for the nine-to-fivers among you. But the Foundry is closed on weekends.)

The art walk will be limited to 15 participants. To sign up, please send a message through my Contact Me page. (No social media comments or direct messages, please.) I’ll take the first 15 responders.

Also, there will be a contest for the best Instagram photo of the day and the winner gets an Instax mini 9 camera.

2017: THE YEAR OF OLIVER REGINALD TAMBO!

A great giant who strode the globe like a colossus has fallen. The gentle voice whose measure voice of reason shook the throne of tyrants has been silenced. Oliver lived because he had surrendered his very being to the people. Nelson Mandela at Oliver Tambos’ funeral, 1993.

Today marks the last day of the Year of OR Tambo. 2017 marked the centenary celebration of Oliver Reginald Tambo, the longest serving president of the African National Congress who steered the anti-Apartheid struggle through thirty years of exile. He was also a Lawyer, Co-founder of the ANC Youth League, Secretary General and Deputy President of the ANC and Head of the ANC’s Mission in Exile.

Born on the 27th of October 1917, it has for long been a tradition to celebrate his legacy on the day of his birth. Just short of a year ago, in recognition of October as ‘Oliver Tambo Month’, President Jacob Zuma called on the ANC to “use the next 12 months leading to [his] centenary… to draw the best lessons from his life and to understand his rare qualities.” As a result, the year 2017 was declared the year of Oliver Tambo, a call to remember and give the deserved recognition to this hero who sacrificed three decades of his life for the freedom of South Africa.

OR Tambo at the forefront of the Long March To Freedom at Fountains Valley Resort.

After the banning of the ANC in 1960, Tambo was sent abroad by the organisation to lead the military resistance and seek support for the struggle against apartheid.  As acting president from 1967 to 1969 and president from 1969- 1991, he managed the growing number of ANC exiles and the uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) military camps (the armed wing of the ANC).

While abroad, he also raised funds for the organisation and set up ANC offices in different countries. Tambo explained the struggle against apartheid to the world, mobilising support for the struggle like had never been done before in the history of the organisation. As a result, he got a lot of support from both Eastern and Western Europe even though the two regions had opposing ideas. He was able to keep the ANC together and ensure that it remained a formidable force on the political arena even though he was in exile for most of his time as president. After the unbanning of the ANC in 1990, Tambo and his family returned to a soon to be free South Africa.

His dedication to the struggle and hard work eventually led to Tambos’ health deteriorating, he refused to take time to rest in spite of suffering from bouts of illness. He sadly died in 1993, a year before democracy finally came in South Africa.

Communities across South Africa are celebrating the year of O.R Tambo. As part of the celebrations of Oliver Tambo’s centenary, the South African Reserve Bank, along with South African Mint and the Oliver & Adelaide Tambo Foundation launched the Oliver Tambo centenary coins. On the 27th of October 2017, former president Thabo Mbeki will also be delivering the OR Tambo memorial lecture at the University of the Witwatersrand in honour of his priceless contribution to the struggle for freedom.

The Oliver Tambo International Airport unveiled a 2.5 metre statue of O.R Tambo on the 19th of October 2017 in honour of the struggle icon. A sculpture of Oliver Tambo also stands at the forefront of The Long March To Freedom procession at Fountains Valley in Pretoria alongside stalwarts, Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu. This indeed is a befitting and timely tribute to such a giant in the struggle for freedom.

 

 

 

A Researcher Reflects

About a year ago I was fortunate to start my career as a part-time researcher for the National Heritage Monument’s (NHM) Long March to Freedom Project.

Not knowing what to expect from my position in this new and exciting project, I started off quite shy and reserved.  This soon changed as my colleagues gave me the confidence to research unique yet challenging subjects. Even though my Masters research helped me to improve my researching skills, I did find that the NHM project helped me to explore other avenues of South African struggle history. As a part-time researcher, my colleagues and I were given the responsibility of taking control of the project’s social media platforms and creating blog posts that were related to the struggle icons we researched. One blog post that I enjoyed writing was the history of Imvo Zabantsundu (‘The Native Opinion of South Africa’), which was the first black owned newspaper in South Africa. I found the history of this newspaper extremely fascinating as it inspired many Africans to take pride in their culture at a time when the colour of your skin defined how you would live your life in the apartheid era. It was through researching the impact of this newspaper that it broadened my understanding of this historical period, which in turn helped me to position my Masters research differently.

Since the project provided diverse yet interesting subjects, I found that there was never a dull moment. We were given tasks that always kept us busy. We were even fortunate in attending this year’s ANC policy conference, where the Long March To Freedom procession was displayed outside. Just seeing how visitors responded to the bronze figures made me value the project more.

Although challenging at times I found that my time here has been rewarding as I believe that it helped me to gain experience in a more professional and demanding work environment. Today I thank NHM for allowing me to be part of their team!

 

The Legacy of Adam Kok III

Today marks 142 years since Adam Kok III passed away.*

Adam Kok III was the great-grandson of Adam Kok I. He was the chief of the Kok clan of the Griquas and ruled the eastern Griqua at Philippolis from 1837 until the early 1860s, when he and his people trekked across the Drakensberg to found a new state in what became known as Griqualand East. After more than a decade of independence there, the Griquas suddenly found themselves taken under British control in 1874. Although he retained a measure of power, he never regained full control of the Griquas.

Adam Kok III was a well-loved Griqua leader who defended his dynasty against colonial encroachment in the central western regions of South Africa. No early descriptions of Kok III exist but after 1860 he was described as a kindly, astute, rather melancholic old man who was always courteous, with a particular fondness for children.

Kok III died tragically in an accident in his carriage while on his way from Kokstad to Umzimkulu, signalling the end, for some, of the greatest of the many Kok chiefs.

The measure of his success was that the Griqua state did not collapse earlier. His subjects also viewed this as a great achievement: At his funeral, his cousin and colleague, Adam ‘Eta’, spoke as follows:

“We have laid in the grave a man you all knew and loved. He is the last of his race. After him there will be no coloured king or chief in Colonial South Africa. Of Kaffir tribes, there may still be chiefs: of coloured chiefs he is the last. Take a good look into that grave. You will never look into the grave of another chief of our race. Do you realize that our nationality lies buried there? The deceased was the friend of you all. Did you ever hear of Adam Kok making an enemy? Political enemies he had, unfortunately more than his share: private enemies he had none. He had his faults—we all have; but you will hear me out, he was generous to a fault—too indulgent and gentle and yielding for a chief. There lie the remains of the one South African chief who never lifted arms nor fired a shot at a British soldier, though sometimes provoked beyond human endurance. There is not a single man here who has not received favours at his hand. If you are ever tempted to forget him, turn to the titles of your properties and see there his familiar sign manual. I have yielded to the temptation to add this much to what the minister has said because I am his near relative, and he honoured me with his confidence and occasionally delegated to me his authority…Let all questions of politics rest. Let us go home and mourn in secret and in silence, and prepare for the funeral services.”

*The date of his death has also been recorded as the 31 December 1875.

References:

http://www.nhmsa.co.za/sculpture.html?tag=chief_adam_kok_iii

Christoper C. Saunders. Black Leaders in Southern African History. Heinemann Educational. 1979.

Helen Joseph

Today marks 25 years since Helen Joseph passed away on the 25th of December 2017.

An anti-Apartheid activist of note, Helen Joseph was arrested on a charge of high treason in December 1956, banned in 1957. She was the first person to be placed under house arrest, a sign that she was a real threat to the Apartheid regime.  Her last banning order was lifted when she was in her 80th year. Joseph played key roles in the Congress of Democrats, Federation of South African Woman, UDF and the ANC throughout her political career.

Born Helen Beatrice May Fennell in Sussex, England, in 1905, she graduated from King’s College, University of London in 1927 and taught for three years in India, then came to South Africa in 1931 where she met and married Billie Joseph.

The 9th August 1956 was one of the most important moments of her illustrious political career, when, with the FEDSAW leaders, she spear headed a march of 20,000 women to Pretoria’s Union Buildings to protest against the pass laws. August 8 has, since then, been commemorated as South African Women’s Day.

Joseph wrote three books: If This Be Treason; Tomorrow’s Sun, in which she documented her 8,000 mile search for people banished to remote regions; and her autobiography, Side by Side. Helen showed that what a dictatorial and corrupt regime fears most is not force and firing power, but the witness of people of dignity and integrity.

She had no natural children, but took into her care, as her own, the children of those who were sent to prison or into exile: Nelson and Winnie Mandela’s Zinzi and Zenani; Bram and Molly Fischer’s Ilsa; Eli and Violet Wienberg’s Sheila.

In the early 1960s Helen started a tradition of remembering all those in exile, in prison and those that have died in the struggle, every Christmas day at noon. Even during the years of house arrest and bans, this commemoration continued. It is therefore quite strange and sad that she died on one of her favorite days.

References

Helen Joseph (April 8, 1905 – December 25, 1992).’  http://overcomingapartheid.msu.edu/people.php?id=65-251-71

http://www.apartheidmuseum.org/they-fought-freedom-helen-joseph

 

The Banning of South African Newspapers

On 23 December 1980 four black South African newspapers were banned.

The four black newspapers, the Post Transvaal, Saturday Post, Sunday Post and the Sowetan, were banned on a technicality on the same day that the eight week strike of black journalists ended.

These newspapers were considered to be a threat to the apartheid government as these newspapers discussed the atrocities of the apartheid regime and started reflecting their opinions against apartheid and its policies. This resulted in the newspapers becoming increasingly popular amongst the black South Africans, as it reflected the lives and views of black people under the hardships of apartheid.

Due to the newspapers’ impact on the lives of various anti-apartheid groups, Justice Coetzee, who presided at the Rand Supreme Court refused to lift the banning order on the four newspapers on 29 December 1980. In addition to that, the security police served the president and vice-president of the Black journalists’ trade union Media Workers of South Africa with three-year banning orders. A storm of protest erupted, even from the strongly pro-government Afrikaans press.

The banning of these newspapers and magazines was just one example of how the media had to cope with increasing numbers of laws affecting press freedom.

Interested in the impact of black-owned newspapers during the apartheid era? Read:

Imvo Zabantsundu: A brief history

References:

https://www.nelsonmandela.org/omalley/index.php/site/q/03lv01538/04lv01539/05lv01573/06lv01574.htm

http://wiredspace.wits.ac.za/bitstream/handle/10539/2165/RadebeJL_Chapter%203.pdf?sequence=6

http://bit.ly/2nsvrYP

Happy birthday Steve Biko!

  Steve Biko  was born on the 18th of December 1946 in Tarkastad in the Eastern Province (now Eastern Cape) on 18 December 1946, the third child of Mzingaye Biko and Nokuzola Macethe Duna.

A radical opponent of the Apartheid regime, his death was a blow to the anti-Apartheid movement as he had become the voice of the anti-Apartheid movement in the 1960s when the African National Congress and the Pan-Africanist Congress had been banned.

In August 1977 Biko was arrested together with his associate Peter Jones for being outside his district after hours and because the police had ”reason to believe” he was distributing inflammatory pamphlets. Biko had also violated his banning order as he had travelled to Cape Town from the Eastern Cape, his home area. They were arrested under Section 6 of the 1967 Terrorism Act that allowed indefinite detention without trial for the purposes of interrogation in solitary confinement. He was held, naked and with little food, in a Port Elizabeth police station from August 19 to September 6 1977.

Sometime before the morning of September 7, he suffered a head injury that would eventually be cited as the cause of his death five days later. Bikos’ was the 45th known death connected with detention by the security police since 1963.

Steve Biko at the Long March To Freedom in Fountains Valley Pretoria

In February 1999, Steve Biko’s family welcomed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s decision not to grant amnesty to the policemen involved in the death of Biko. The committee dismissed the application by the four former Port Elizabeth security policemen for amnesty for Biko’s death in custody. The TRC committee found that the policemen, did not qualify for amnesty because their actions in Biko’s death could not be associated with a political objective. The committee was also not satisfied that the men made a full disclosure of the facts.

The panel also officially declared the next of kin of Mr Biko as victims (of gross human rights violations) in relation to his killing and therefore entitled to appropriate reparation.   The committee concluded that the attack on Biko appeared to have been actuated by ill-will or spite towards him. However in 2008, AZAPO (Azanian Peoples Organisation) accused the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of not doing enough to uncover the truth behind Biko’s death. The organisation believes South Africa set a bad example to the world by not bringing perpetrators to book.

On the 40th anniversary of his death in September 2017, there were renewed calls for the inquest to be re-opened in the light of the Ahmed Timol Inquest of July 2017 which was seen by some as a precedent that needed to be followed.

References

  1. Hoffenberg. ‘The Steve Biko Inquest.’ The British Medical Journal . Vol. 1, No. 6105 (Jan. 14, 1978)

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/amnesty-application-may-reopen-steve-biko-inquest-1.28305

http://archive.spectator.co.uk/article/17th-december-1977/10/bikos-strange-inquest

http://www.nytimes.com/1985/09/12/arts/tv-review-the-biko-inquest-on-showtime.html

http://www.justice.gov.za/trc/media%5C1999%5C9902/s990217d.htm

 

 

 

The 1949 ANC Programme of Action

Today marks exactly 68 years since the ANC adopted the Programme of Action.

In 1943, during World War II, young members of the ANC, critical of what they considered the passivity of the ANC, formed their own organization, the Congress Youth League (CYL). Overcoming the opposition of ANC president Alfred Xuma, the CYL succeeded in 1949 in electing James Moroka to the presidency, seating three CYL members (Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, and Nelson Mandela ) on the party’s national executive body, and in persuading the congress formally to adopt the Program of Action. The Youth League put pressure on the ANC leadership to adopt the Programme which included mass resistance tactics such as boycotts, strikes, civil disobedience and non-co-operation. It also stressed the need to organize African Workers into unions.

Anton Lembede. Founding President of the ANC Youth League.

This was to be a more radical approach to resistance, as they shunned the traditional moderate stance of ANC leaders like Xuma who believed in appealing to the conscience and common sense of the oppressive regime. This shift was especially necessary after 1948 when the National Party (NP) was voted into power by the white electorate and began implementing strict apartheid measures. The Programme of Action laid the foundation for a new era of active resistance in the form of the Defiance Campaign of 1952, anti-pass campaigns and acts of civil disobedience.

References

‘African National Congress Youth League.’ (ANCYL) https://www.nelsonmandela.org/omalley/index.php/site/q/03lv03445/04lv03446/05lv03450.htm

‘The Congress Youth League and the Programme of Action.’ http://www.country-data.com/cgi-bin/query/r-12098.html

http://www.ancyl.org.za/docs/political/2009/The%20revolutionising%20history%20of%20the%20ANCYLs.pdf

 

 

 

The Africans’ Claim

On the 16th of December 1943, the Africans’ Claim was presented at the annual ANC Conference in Bloemfontein.

Africans’ Claims in South Africa is the title of a document drawn up by a committee of 28 members and sympathizers of the African National Congress (ANC) and on 16 December 1943 unanimously accepted at the ANC’s annual Conference. It was created in response to the Atlantic Charter passed two years earlier, in which former President of the United States Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill set out the objectives of the Allies during the Second World War and their ideas of the world order after its end formulated. The central points of Africans’ claims were the demands for universal suffrage and for an end to racial segregation in South Africa. This document charted the path to racial equality in South Africa that they hoped would follow the conclusion of the Second World War.

Alfred Bitini Xuma, who became President of the ANC in 1940, inherited an organization in disarray and set out to rebuild the ANC against great opposition. Under his leadership, the ANC constitution was revised and the organization became more efficient and centralized, thus attracting a wider following. Xuma was central to the adoption of the Africans’ Claims document at a time when the ANC was increasingly becoming politicized and there were increasing calls for a departure from petitions and conciliatory methods. The conclusion of the document read;

In short, we demand the repeal of any and all laws as well as the
abandonment of any policy and all practices that discriminate against the
African in any way whatsoever on the basis of race, creed or colour in the Union
of South Africa.

The full text of the document can be found on the ANC website.

References

‘Africans` Claims in South Africa.’ http://www.anc.org.za/content/africans-claims-south-africa

‘Dr. Alfred Bitini (A.B.) Xuma (1893 – 1962).’ http://overcomingapartheid.msu.edu/people.php?id=65-251-13F