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Thursday, August 23, 2007

PAC led 1960 Poisitve Action Campaign Route from Orlando East

Date: 17 July 2007
Route Guide: John Gaanakgomo (PAC member)
Documenter: Ismail Farouk
Facilitator: Ali Hlongwane, (curator HPMM)
Observers: John Mahapa and Babak Fakhamzadeh

John Gaanakgomo was the first Chairman of the PAC in Orlando East. His political career began in the ANC Youth league but because of ideological differences with the organisation, he along with other members of similar thought, broke away from the ANC to form the PAC. Gaanakgomo elaborates, " We deviated from the ANC because of the issues around land and Africaness. The Freedom Charter states, “The People Shall Govern”. But who are the People? Africa is for Africans!" It was because of the contrary issue of Africanism that the PAC was formed at the Orland East Community Center in 1959.

2 johns

John Mahapa (left) and John Gaanakgoro standing outside the Orlando East Community Center

On the morning of 21 March 1960. Members of the PAC were strategically positioned on street corners in Orlando East to intercept men walking to the train station on they way to work. Passing men were encouraged not to go to work but rather to hand themselves over for arrest.

John Gaanakgomo's Position

John Gaanakgomo waited here on the 21st March 1960. He targeted all males on their way to work asking them to present themselves for arrest at the police station.

Gaanakgomo was positioned near Mlamlankunzi Station which is located in close proximately to the Orlando Police Station. He remembers addressing men asking them to proceed to the Police Station. He received mixed reactions to his request, "Some men were surprised, others thought we were mad for our actions. Some joined willingly. Others were forced to."

As the PAC members walked towards the police station on Mooki Street they sang their songs and were greeted by students from Orlando High School. Some students joined the march.
The idea was to flood the jails as a protest action against reference books.

As they neared the police station, the men were warned about special police who were deployed to disrupt the march. So the marching men dispersed and took back roads to avoid special police. Soon they reached the Orlando Police Station where the waiting men assembled under the shade of a blue gum tree.

orlando police station

Outside the Orlando Police Station

Gaanakgomo remembers waiting outside for most of the day. More men arrived in drips and drabs. Eventually, the police arrested the core members of the organization only. But Gaanakgomo and his group insisted on being arrested with their leaders and so a short while later all of the waiting men were arrested. John Gaanakgomo was detained for several months later.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

PAC led 1960 Poisitve Action Campaign Route from Dube

Date: 08 August 2006
Route Guide: Raselepe Nthaledi (PAC member)
Documenter: Ismail Farouk
Facilitator: Ali Hlongwane, (curator HPMM)

On the 8th August 2006, Raselepe Nthaledi, Ali Hlongwane, and I retraced the 1960 Positive Action Campaign route through Soweto from Nthaledi’s house in Dube Soweto. Nthaledi was called upon early on March 21, 1960 by his comrade and then treasurer of the PAC, Jerry Leeuw, who lived down the road on the corner of Wycliff and Butshingi Streets.

Jerry Leeu's House

Figure: Jerry Leeuw’s home on the corner of Wycliff and Butshingi Streets.

Together, Leeuw and Raselepe walked up Tshabangu Street, turned left into Modiba Street and then right into Chalker Street and immediately right again into Merapelo Street. A little further on, they made a small detour to collect an old man who lived on Thabo Street. The old man was not feeling well and did not want to march so the two men continued to collect Mr. Nkula who lived closed by on Tsekedi Street before heading up the road to wait for other groups to arrive at Maponya Stores.

Maponya Stores

Figure 57: The bus stop near Maponya Stores where PAC members waited on route to Orlando Police Station.

Mr Nthaledi’s group joined other groups outside Maponya Stores and continued further on Pela Street past the HPMM on their way down towards the Klipspruit River. They crossed over and turned left into Mooki Street and walked up to the end point of the march at Orlando Police Station. A little while later he was arrested and detained for incitement.

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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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Robert Sobukwe and the PAC Positive Action Campaign against the Pass Laws Act of 1952.

Figure: Benjamin Pogrund & Robert Sobukwe (

On March 18th 1960, Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, the leader of the PAC announced at a press conference that the PAC would launch the first phase of its ‘programme’ for the liberation of South Africa on Monday, March 21, 1960. The target of this campaign would be the pass laws. A door-to-door campaign was reinforced with a call on all pass-carrying African men to leave their passes at home, march to the police stations nearest them and demand to be arrested for refusing to carry a pass (

In the build-up to 21 March, the PAC President, wrote to the Police Commissioner in Cape Town asking him to instruct his men not to allow themselves to be provoked into violence:

“Sir: My organization, the Pan-African Congress, will be starting a sustained, disciplined, non-violent campaign against the pass laws on Monday, 21 March 1960. I have given strict instructions, not only to members of my organization but to the African people in general, that they should not allow themselves to be provoked into violent action by anyone. It is unfortunately true that many white policemen, brought up in the racist hothouse of South Africa, regard themselves as champions of white supremacy, and not as law officers. In the African they see the enemy, a threat, not to “law and order” but to their privileges as whites.

I, therefore, appeal to you to instruct your men not to give impossible demands to my people…”

- Extract from Robert Sobukwe’s letter to SAP, Major-General C.I. Rademeyer (Pogrund 1990:123).

Early in the morning of Monday, 21 March 1960, Robert Sobukwe left his house with six of his colleagues. They walked down the street towards the main tarred road. Here, they turned right towards the grocery store owned by Tshabalala. They were met by 10 – 15 men and after a while the group set off up the hill towards Dube Station and turned right to head for Orlando Police Station about 4.5 km away. An hour later, they reached the police station. There were scores of protestors already at the police station when Sobukwe’s group got there. (Pogrund 1990)

By 08h20am, Sobukwe, Leballo and others walked through the gates of Orlando Police station and requested to be arrested for not carrying any passes. In the charge office Captain J.J de Wet Steyn was a bit annoyed at being disturbed and asked Sobukwe and the others to wait outside the police station. He later came outside and warned the crowd not to make a noise or he would “take steps” (Pogrund 1990:131).

And so the PAC men spent the first half of the morning waiting across the road under the shade of a bluegum tree. It was during this period that Sobukwe learnt that police had opened fire at Bophelong and he was visibly upset. Pogrund, decided to drive to Vereeniging to see what was happening. (Pogrund 1990)

By 11:20am a policeman came outside and called out the names of the PAC leadership. Sobukwe, Leballo and the other core members were placed under arrest for ‘incitement’. The police asked the remaining members to leave, but the PAC members insisted that they wanted to be with their leaders, so the police arrested the remaining group.

Later that afternoon police opened fire on people in Sharpville. The precise number of deaths is uncertain, and has been variously stated as 67, 69 or 71 (Pogrund 1990). 186 people were injured, 40 women and 8 children. 75% of victims were shot in the back whilst three policemen were slightly injured by stones. (Pogrund 1990)

During the day, information of the Sharpville massacre reached Sobukwe. He was extremely disturbed by the news but urged his comrades to remain calm. Sobukwe and his colleagues were sentenced to three years under 'incitement laws', but before his term of imprisonment ended on Robben Island, the government introduced an amendment to the law enabling them to keep Sobukwe and others in indefinite detention. (


1. Historical Papers, Wits University,
2. Pogrund, P. (1990): How Can Man Die Better: The Life of Robert Sobukwe, Houghton Mifflin, South Africa.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Soweto and the Defiance Campaign

The name Soweto is an acronym for the south-western townships of Johannesburg. The name Soweto was adopted in 1963 after a special committee held a naming competition for the township where hundreds of entries were submitted. Five suggestions were recommended, Soweto, Sawesko, Swestown, Phaphama Villages and Partheid Townships. The name Soweto was already in use before the special committee officially announced that is had been selected (Mandy 1982).

Soweto is a symbol of South Africa’s policy of apartheid, which refused to accept the mixing of races. Urban black people were relegated to a city with two cinemas, two banks and no supermarket. This was to the advantage of white businessmen as blacks were forced shop in Johannesburg CBD.

There were many oppressive laws and measures aimed at repressing black people. The repressive laws laid the foundation for the mass-based defiance campaign intent on liberation. The defiance campaign received support from all sectors of society. This changed perceptions of some members of the ANC with regards to Africanism. Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu began to have second thoughts about Africanism and embraced multiculturalism. This was reaffirmed by the Freedom Charter, which was adopted in 1955 in Kliptown, Soweto, to represent the demands of a disenfranchised black community. It was this issue, multiculturalism that led to the breakaway by Zeph Mothopeng and Robert Sobukwe and the forming of the Pan African Congress (PAC) in 1959 (Mashabela 1984).

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