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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Process: Madibane High School

Date: 08 August 2006
Route Guide: Ali Hlongwane (Curator HPMM)
Documenter: Ismail Farouk

On the 8th of August 2006, Ali Hlongwane and I set off to retrace the route taken by students from Madibane High School in Diepkloof. The street layout of Diepkloof differs from the rest of Soweto. Most roads form crescents and there is an absence of street name signage. As mentioned before most major roads are named ‘Immink’, which adds to the confusion when trying to navigate the suburb.

Madibane High School Start

Figure: Madibane High School Route Starting Point

After much difficulty, Ali and I located the spot on the eastern boundary of the school on Ramosi Street, where the small gate exit was located in 1976. Today the small gate is no longer in use and the school has been fenced off. This is where students began their march on June 16 1976 from Madibane high School. Ramosi Street forms a crescent and we followed the road in a northerly direction and then in an easterly direction before coming to a T-junction.

We turned left into Patrick Street and right into the major Immink Road and proceeded south towards the intersection of Immink Road and Eben Cuyler Street. We crossed the intersection and stopped outside the sports grounds to our left. This is where students from Madibane High School joined the group from Junior Secondary School. Their intention was to march to Orlando stadium but news of the killing of Hector Pieterson filtered through and the intended march did not take place. Instead students became angry and set off on a rampage destroying all government administration buildings.

Diepkloof Sports Grounds

Figure: The meeting spot - Diepkloof Sports Grounds

One of the buildings which was targeted was a WRAB beer hall which was located on the intersection of Eben Cuyler Street and Immink Road. The beer hall was looted and gutted by students on June 16. The looting was followed by drinking and partying, signaling that the next few days were destined to be spent at home.

WRAB Beer Hall Diepkloof

Figure: The WRAB Beer Hall Site - Diepkloof

A bit further down Eben Cuyler Street, Ali pointed out the “Blackjacks” offices. “Blackjacks” were police who enforced influx control. Today, the offices have been reduced to rubble. New social facilities are being developed on the site.

Blackjacks Influx Control - Remainig Rubble

Figure: Rubble from the original Blackjacks offices

Diepkloof remained as one of most active townships in 1976 where running battles between police and students continued for some time later. For the rest of the year, all schools were closed, with no further learning taking place.

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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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