Tuesday, August 21, 2007

PAC Led Positive Action Campaign Route from Mofolo

Date: 08 August 2006
Route Guide: John Mahapa (PAC member)
Facilitator: Ali Hlongwane (Curator HPMM)
Documenter: Ismail Farouk
Observer: Milos Sajin

John Mahapa is a member of the PAC. On the 21 March 1960, Mahapa began his march against the pass laws of the Union of South Africa. His march started outside the house of the general secretary of the PAC, Potlako K. Leballo in Mofolo and ended at the Orlando Police Station where he asked to be arrested for failing to carry a pass book.

Mahapa explained, “Congress of December 1959 resolved a date for an anti-pass campaign to begin in February 1960. On the 21 March all African males who were pass carrying needed to leave their passes at home and surrender themselves to the nearest police Station”. This action was taken in order to bring the economy to a standstill as the labour force would be behind bars.

On the 8th of August 2006, John Mahapa, Ali Hlongwane, Milos Sajin and I retraced Mahapa’s route through Soweto. The beginning point for our route was the former home of the PAC Secretary General, Mr. P.K. Leballo near Mofolo Park. Forty-six years later, the landscape of Soweto has changed much. Most houses have been upgraded and don’t bear any resemblance to the original township houses. These factors made the identification of P.K. Leballo’s house somewhat difficult but we eventually found the house, number 1144 on Nhlapo Street. This is where the Mofolo group started early on March 21, 1960.

Looking for the House

Figure : John Mahapa looking for P.K Leballo's house

John Mahapa outside PK Leballo's House

Figure: John Mahapa with current resident of house number 1144 Nhlapo Street Mofolo, the former house of the PAC Secretary General Mr. P.K. Leballo

According to Mahapa, a group of twenty people started outside 1144 Nhalpo Street in Mofolo. The group began their march at 06h00am. They marched up Mncube Street. At the corner, near Maponya Stores, they joined another group from Dube before proceeding down Mahalafele Street and then down Kumalo Street, across the Klipspruit River before turning left into Mooki Street where they waited under the shade of a bluegum tree outside the Orlando Police Station.

John Mahapa PAC

Figure: John Mahapa standing across the Orlando Police Station. Forty-six years ago, this is where PAC members waited to be arrested, under the shade of a bluegum tree.

blue gum tree 1960

Figure: John Mahapa shares a picture of the (uprooted) blue gum tree

PAC members waited all morning to be arrested and soon became hungry. By lunch time group thinned out to eat and according to Mahapa, this is when 72 members were arrested. When the remaining group returned, the police station gates were closed. Mahapa jokingly related how he planned to go to the movies later that afternoon failing detention. He wanted to watch the classic movie, Bridge on The River Kwai, starring William Holden. Mahapa was arrested, however, and was taken to magistrate court and punished with 10 lashes instead.

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