Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Uprisings in Diepkloof

Steve Lebelo was a student from Madibane High School in Diepkloof. His life and future in the liberation struggle was shaped by the killing of his older brother Abe Lebelo who was killed on the 4th of August 1976. Following his death, Steve Lebelo decided to take on the liberation struggle as a personal goal (Brink and Malungane 2001).

According to Lebelo, Diepkloof is steeped in the history of resistance going back to the 1940s and 50s, long before the location was established. The community resettled in Diepkloof in the second half of 50s and early 60s came from a tradition of resistance to Apartheid. The first group of families resettled in Diepkloof was drawn from the legendary Sophiatown, the freehold township held up as a model of resistance to white rule in South Africa (Lebelo 2006).

Lebelo’s testimony claims that Diepkloof was as prepared for the revolt as were Naledi, White City and Orlando West. Madibane High School in Diepkloof was represented in the meeting that decided on the march and established the Soweto Students’ Representative Council (SSRC). At Madibane High School students were notified of the march as early 14th June 1976.

"From the morning assembly on 16 June 1976, Madibane High School students did not march into their classrooms. Instead, they headed to the centre of the township, having been joined by students from nearby Namedi Junior Secondary School. Both groups of students marched along Immink Drive towards the Diepkloof Sports Grounds. Here they were scheduled to meet with students from Bopa Senatla Junior Secondary School, and together march down Masopha Street towards Orlando Stadium .

By the time the marching students reached the sports ground area, they had been joined by hundreds in the township. News of developments in Orlando West reached Diepkloof even before students could start the march down Masopha Street to Orlando Stadium. Because Diepkloof had Council police headquarters located next to the sports ground where students converged, they responded quickly to the threat, dismissing students with teargas.

As the crowds scattered, mayhem followed. Students and unemployed youth returned and started attacking the nearby beer hall. The beer hall was gutted by fire within an hour and crowds from the township looted it. The next building to be attacked was the Council Offices in Zone 1, but by the time the students reached the offices, all white personnel had been evacuated. This followed the murder of Dr. Edelstein in White City earlier in the morning. By midday, students and unemployed youth were making their way home with large quantities of liquor looted from the beer hall. What followed was drinking and festivities, signaling that the next few days were destined to be spent at home."

Extract from submission by Steve Lebelo (2006).

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