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.



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

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





The Day of Reconciliation

Today we celebrate Reconciliation Day and the history behind the holiday.

The Day of Reconciliationalso previously called the Day of the Vow, the Day of the Covenant, or Dingane’s Day, is a public holiday observed in South Africa on December 16.

Initially, this holiday commemorated the  victory of the Voortrekkers over the Zulus at the Battle of Blood River in 1838 . Prior to the battle, the Voortrekkers had taken a vow that, if they succeeded in defeating the Zulus, they would build a church and observe the day as a religious holiday. This observance was recognised as Dingane’s Day, which was named after the Zulu King, King Dingane and was later established as a public holiday in 1910.

In 1952 the National Party passed the Public Holidays Act, which changed Dingane’s Day to the Day of the Covenant and officially declared the day a religious holiday. In 1980 the holiday was changed to the Day of the Vow. This public holiday prohibited activities such as sports events and theatre performances from performing on this religious day.

This public holiday became increasingly significant in 1961, when the African National Congress’ (ANC) military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (“Spear of the Nation”) was formed.

After the first democratic elected government was established in South Africa in 1994, the holiday was officially renamed the Day of Reconciliation. This public holiday gained more attention when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that examined apartheid human rights abuses, started their investigation in a ceremony on 16 December 1995.

The 16 December is celebrated as a public holiday so that South Africans can foster a sense of national unity and racial harmony.






The Symbolism behind Abdullah Abdurahman’s Bronze Figure

Today marks 145 years since Dr Abdullah Abdurahman was born.

To honour this doctor, President of the African People’s Organization, Life-long member of the Cape Town City Council and the Cape Provincial Council, we would like to share the symbolism of each of the objects displayed on his #LongMarchToFreedom bronze figure.

The Cross Pin on the Jacket Lapel refers to the Order for Meritorious Service where he was awarded posthumously by the President for his work “against racial oppression”.

The Tie Clip in the form of a key with three loops represents a South African Police Handcuff Key to symbolise his oppression. The key is further depicted in the #LongMarchToFreedom bronze sculpture of his daughter, Cissie Gool.

The various Coins as substitutes for buttons is symbolic of his capitalist occupations, especially in contrast with Cissie Gool’s socialist inclined ideology. The only button not substituted has the serpent and sword insignia which alludes to his medical qualification.

The 5 Pens and Pencils in his pocket reflects the 5 learning institutions and schools he established for Coloured persons.

The Miniature Toy Lion in the time piece pocket refers to a toy used to entertain children as a paediatrician and general practitioner.


The Nobel Peace Prize Award:

Today we remember those who received the Nobel Peace Prize Award during the struggle.

On 10 December 1961, president of the then banned African National Congress (ANC), Albert Luthuli was awarded the 1960 Nobel Peace Prize for his role as the leader of ten million Africans in the non-violent struggle against apartheid. Due to the apartheid government restricting his movements, Luthuli was only granted special permission in 1961 to attend the award ceremony in Oslo, Norway.

He was the first African and individual outside of Europe and the Americas to been awarded this prestigious accolade in Oslo, Norway. His famous statement “the road to freedom is via the cross” clearly depicts his dedication to freedom and his aversion to violence.

The 10 December became quite a remarkable date for South Africa, as Nelson Mandela and Frederik Willem de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize exactly two years after Luthuli received his. Mandela and de Klerk were honoured with the prize due to “their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa.”

To learn more about Albert Luthuli, Nelson Mandela and Frederik de Klerk receiving the Nobel Peace Prize visit:






“The Nobel Peace Prize 1960”. Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 4 Dec 2017. http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1960/


“The Nobel Peace Prize 1993”. Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 3 Dec 2017. http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1993/




Mandela’s move to Victor Verster Prison

On 7 December 1988 Nelson Mandela was transferred to Victor Verster Prison in Paarl. He was there for 14 months in a cottage until he was released from prison on 11 February 1990. 

Struggle icon and former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, was quietly transported from a clinic outside Cape Town to a house on a prison farm in Paarl. He was placed at the prison because it was close to doctors and hospitals as it was during this time that he was recovering from Tuberculosis. The house where Mandela stayed was previously used for house officers but was refurbished once the struggle icon moved in.

Mandela’s transfer was the first step in what appears to be a Government strategy to move him to less austere accommodations rather than free him outright. The government, who charged Mandela with a life sentence on charges of conspiracy to overthrow the government and sabotage, vetoed suggestions to free him completely. They believed that by freeing him that it would result in a wave of demonstrations on his behalf and would inevitably lead to possible violence.

Reports by the authorities on Mandela’s move to Victor Verster Prison prompted repeated rumors that he would be released soon. The government who initiated the transfer hoped that this move would be taken as a conciliatory gesture, which in turn, increased the rumours that Mandela would be released soon. Although this move did allow certain privileges for the struggle hero, Winnie Mandela refused the unlimited visiting hours the Government had offered her. She was quoted as saying she would adhere to the 40-minute period she has been allowed, because she still considered him a political prisoner.

As seen in the New York Times article dated 8 December 1988, Mandela’s lawyer at the time, Mr. Ismail Ayob reported that:

”I spoke with Mrs. Mandela,” Mr. Ayoub reported. ”Her reply was that Mr. Mandela still remained a prisoner of the South African Government and that the concession made today to him personally is clearly a response to the domestic and international pressure for his release.”

Although this move to Victor Verster Prison helped to facilitate a transition to freedom, Mandela was only released after living at the prison for 14 months.




The Sobukwe Clause:

Today marks 93 years since President of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) was born.

Sobukwe was a man of exceptional capabilities who inspired radical black thought. Due to his influence in the struggle the apartheid government enacted the “Sobukwe clause”, a statute which at face value seemed to grant broadly applicable powers, but was specifically intended to authorise the arbitrary extension of Sobukwe’s imprisonment.

This Clause which was also seen as the 1963 General Laws Amendment Act No 37 “strengthened the 1962 [GENERAL LAWS AMENDMENT] ACT … by further defining political crimes” (Riley 1991: 82). For instance, Section 5 made a capital crime out of “receiving training that could further the objects of communism or advocating abroad economic or social change in South Africa by violent means through the aid of a foreign government or institution where the accused is a resident or former resident of South Africa” (Dugard 1978: 125t). It made provisions for imposing “sentences ranging from a minimum of five years’ imprisonment to death for anyone leaving the country to learn sabotage techniques, for advocating the forcible overthrow of the government or for urging the forcible inter-venti on in domestic South African affairs by an outside power, including the UN” (Riley 1991: 82).

The 1963 act also included certain provisions for an indefinite detention. The clause was also known as the “Sobukwe Clause” since it was specifically aimed at keeping the PAC leader Robert Sobukwe in jail (as also later admitted by the government). Thus after a three-year sentence, he “was actually detained for a further six years on the annual decision of the Parliament”.

Part of the reason for the drastic measures taken to prevent Sobukwe from speaking and protesting was that his ideologies of freeing the African mind were far too revolutionary for the apartheid government. This act was later superseded by the INTERNAL SECURITY ACT of 1976.

To learn more about this iconic struggle hero you can read:

  • How Can Man Die Better: The Life Of Robert Sobukwe by Benjamin Pogrund

You can also watch:

  • Sobukwe: A Great Soul (Movie)




The Political Thinking of Robert Sobukwe and the PAC:

Today we commemorate struggle and intellectual leader, Robert Sobukwe who was born on 5 December 1924. We discuss his political thinking as part of his contribution to the struggle.

Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe was a popular Africanist leader and thinker who fought for the political emancipation of Africa.

Sobukwe rose to national prominence when he broke away from the African National Congress (ANC) in 1959 to form the more radical Pan Africanist Congress (PAC). This breakaway group experienced many difficulties with the views of their former political party, the ANC. The newly formed PAC believed that the membership of the Youth League was open to all who “lived like and with blacks”. They felt that the ANC was incapable of promoting black liberation, because of its large number of white members. Essentially they believed that the majority of white members within the ANC had diluted the traditional Black Nationalist position of the ANC. The PAC wanted black South Africans to be in control of their own liberation struggle, without the influence of white liberals, including communists.

The PAC believed that it was the historic task of the black working class and its organisations to mobilize the urban and rural poor so that, along with the radical groups of the middle class, they could bring an end to oppression and exploitation by the white ruling class. During this struggle one national culture, underpinned by socialist values, would emerge.

Keeping these views in mind Sobukwe thus promoted African Nationalism (later called Black Consciousness) and pushed for his Pan-African vision of ‘a government of the Africans, by the Africans, for the Africans’. This can be seen in his speech delivered at the first annual meeting of the newly formed PAC:

“We aim, politically, at government of the Africans by the Africans, for the Africans, with everybody who owes his only loyalty to Afrika and who is prepared to accept the democratic rule of an African majority being regarded as African … Socially we aim at the full development of the human personality and a ruthless uprooting and outlawing of all forms or manifestations of the racial myth” (Sobukwe, 1959/2014: 480).

Sobukwe’s philosophy of African nationalism was essentially a basis for the complete unity of the African people. It was also the basis for the achievement of national freedom for the African people as a step towards a well-developed democratic order in South Africa. Sobukwe and the PAC believed that anti-racism and anti-imperialism, non-cooperation with the oppressors and their political instruments, independent working-class organisations, and opposition to alliances with ruling-class parties would result in the successful execution of the national liberation struggle.

Sobukwe was an icon of African Nationalism and used African Nationalism as the means to emancipate Africans completely. He wanted to liberate them from political oppression, social degradation and economic exploitation.






Delport, Terblanche. ‘Asazi ukuthi iyozala nkomoni1: Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe’s historical imagination of the future’. PINS, 2016, 50, 35 – 52, http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/2309-8708/2016/n50a3

The International Day for the Abolition of Slavery

Today we recognise the existing issue of slavery all over the world and remember those that played a pivotal role in the eradication of slavery in the Cape.

The International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, which is recognised on the 2nd December of every year, recalls the date of the adoption, by the General Assembly, of the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and the Exploitation of Others (resolution 317 (IV) of 2 December 1949).

This day focuses on the eradication of contemporary forms of slavery, such as trafficking in persons, sexual exploitation, the worst forms of child labour, forced marriage, and the forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflict. Today, 21 million women, men and children are trapped in slavery all over the world.

Although this day is centred on contemporary forms of eradicating slavery we should also remember those who played a vital role in the abolition of slavery in the Cape during the 17th and 18th century.

Louis van Mauritius, a Cape slave and later a slave rebellion leader, grew up in the brutal world of slavery. Originally from Mauritius, he had been transported to the Cape when he was a young boy. While in his early 20s, he was owned by the proprietor of a wine store on the foreshore where he socialised with diverse populations of sailors and soldiers from throughout the Atlantic and Indian Ocean worlds. It was through these encounters that he heard of the momentous events taking place in this era of revolutions and war, which included the slave uprising in Haiti.

Hearing about the struggles for freedom in Ireland, France and Haiti, van Mauritius was inspired to lead over 300 slaves and Khoena (Khoi) servants in a march on Cape Town to demand their freedom. He disguised himself as a Spanish sea captain and was able, with fellow leaders, to convince farmers to release their slaves into the hands of the ‘military’ party.

His rebellion was swiftly crushed as the Cape Governor was aware of the revolt and ordered military forces to lie in wait for the rebels at Salt River. The participants were trapped and quickly scattered in the face of superior forces. The rebellion was over in two days.

The marchers were pursued, captured, interned, interrogated and 51 were put on trial. Four of the five leaders, including Louis van Mauritius, were sentenced to hang.

Even though the slave rebellion was unsuccessful and resulted in the demise of van Mauritius the slave world did transform in the years that followed. In the subsequent years more and more Cape slaves demanded rights within the colony rather than running away. Although slavery at the Cape continued until 1834, the actions of distant abolitionists was eventually to bring chattel slavery to an end in the 1830s.

The Slavery Abolition Bill passed by the British parliament in 1833 was enforced. To make them fit for freedom, the emancipated slaves were compelled to serve their previous masters as apprentices for four years.

About 39,000 slaves were freed on December 1st 1838, Emancipation Day, when slave apprenticeships were finally terminated.