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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Process: Junior Secondary School Route

Date: 10 August 2006
Route Guide: Ali Hlongwane (Curator HPMM)
Documenter: Ismail Farouk

On the 10th of August 2006, Ali Hlongwane and I set off to retrace the Junior Secondary School route in Diepkloof. Junior Secondary School has been renamed to Bopasenatla High School and is located on Sono Street in Diepkloof. Sono Street exists on an east-west axis and was difficult to identify, mainly because of the absence street signs. Ali spent his childhood years in Diepkloof and has an intimate knowledge of the many passageways and unnamed roads which characterise the area. His knowledge and memory of the area was invaluable as we struggled to find appropriate street names. Our map of the Diepkloof area was highly inaccurate and still bears coded reference numbers as street names. To add to our confusion, Diepkloof has many streets and roads with the same name. Most roads are called ‘Immink’.

Junior Secondary School
Figure: Junior Secondary School

After documenting the current schoolyard, Ali pointed out an adjacent vacant lot which was the site of WRAB offices in 1976. The WRAB offices were destroyed in the aftermath of Hector Pieterson’s killing. The land has remained undeveloped ever since.

We began by crossing Sono Street and walked in a northerly direction towards Mbila Street which forms a crescent. At the northern end of Mbila Street we proceeded through a pedestrian passageway which connects with Dlanga Street which also happens to form a crescent. We continued on our northerly trajectory through a second pedestrian passageway. The environmental conditions through both the passageways were very poor. The area was characterised by illegal dumping along the edges.

Diepkloof Passageway
Figure: The first passageway

At the northern end of the second passageway, we stopped near a dusty soccer field. From here we could clearly see Vulazamazibuko Higher Primary School just ahead. This is where Ali went to School in 1976. He commented on how he still remembers seeing large crowds of students emerging from the passageway which we had just walked through on their way to meet students from Madibane High School. This is where Ali joined the march.

Dusty Football
Figure: Dusty Football Field

On the northern boundary of Vulamazibuko Higher Primary School, on Tsekuhle Street, Ali pointed out the house of the Zulu shaman, Credo Mutwa. Credo Mutwa’s house was destroyed during the uprisings for comments he made regarding the negative nature of the uprisings. After a brief pause, we continued north on Immink Street. We stopped at the intersection of Immink and Eteza Streets, where Ali pointed out his childhood home to me.

Ali Childhood Home
Figure: Ali Hlongwane's Childhood Home

Ali commented on how drastically the environment has changed over thirty years. Further down Eteza Street, new larger residences have been built. One such residence, on the corner of Eteza and Umhanga Streets was a former WRAB office which was also attacked and destroyed during the uprisings. At the end of Eteza Street we paused and looked at the park and offices ahead. The offices ahead were WRAB administration buildings which were burnt and destroyed. Today, the former WRAB site is home to municipal rental offices. The park which surrounds the municipal offices exists in a poor, overgrown state. Ali commented that the park has been recently upgraded but a lack of management has led to its current poor condition.

Overgrown Park Diepkloof
Figure: Overgrown Park Diepkloof

We turned right up Immink Road and continued in a Northerly direction on our final part of our journey towards the sports grounds near Eben Cuyler Street. Here students joined the group from Madibane High School but instead of marching to Orlando Stadium as intended, news of Hector Pieterson’s death filtered through the ranks and the intended peaceful march turned to anger as students attacked buildings associated with the apartheid regime.

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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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