Olive Peace Landman

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Biographical information

Olive Peace Landman circa 1995

Synopsis:

Schoolteacher, anti-apartheid activist, wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.

First name: 
Olive
Middle name: 
Peace
Last name: 
Landman
Date of birth: 
5 August 1919, Knysna
Location of birth: 
Knysna

Beginnings

Olive Peace Rosenberg was born in Knysna on 5 August 1919, the eldest daughter of Hendrika Jacoba Pieterse and Ellis Lawrence Rosenberg. Hendrika and Ellis were teachers, having trained at Emgwali and Lovedale respectively.

The spelling ‘Emgwali’ no longer appears on maps, but it is likely that this is the same as Mgwali that is still near the Mgwali river, and corresponds to the description for the location of the location of the United Presbyterian Church’s Teacher Training School for Girls in Emgwali near Dohne in Stutterheim district, Eastern Cape. This school was run by the Glasgow Ladies’ Society for Female Education. Hendrika may have been taught by both Miss Dunsmore who was at Emgwali in 1910, and Miss Janet MacGregor (L.L.A.) who was the Lady Superintendent of Lovedale Girl's School from 1904 to 1906 before going on to become the principal of Emgwali Institution from 1907 to 1939.

Olive remembers with great pride her maternal-great grandfather, Ryk Booi Pieterse, a Xhosa Pramberg herder “rich in cattle”. However, he was forced to move to Carnarvon in 1855 without compensation for the loss of his wheat crop[i] . Her paternal grandmother (Ellen Joel Rosenberg said her mother Annie van Vuuren, was a nurse from the ‘first families at Bethelsdorp’, who married Afrika Joel, a wagonmaker from Murraysburg. Olive attended the Rhenish Mission school in Worcester and later boarded with Steven Reagon’s sisters while attending Trafalgar High School in Cape Town.

Olive moved in left wing radical intellectual circles: Minnie Gool – Frederichs’ family were neighbours, Marcina Gool was a friend and Gadija Gool coached her in Latin. Peter Abrahams was a friend and Olive helped Eddie Roux to collate his Mayibuye readers.

While she attended the University of Cape Town, Olive was the first treasurer of the New Era Fellowship, but had to step back in 1939 to nurse her mother during a terminal illness and to look after her siblings after the death of her mother.

In 1941 Olive attended Fort Hare where she completed her teaching training. During this time Olive took part in a strike led by Oliver Tambo. Her close friends at that time included Renee Moerhane, Olivia Bikitsha and Elsa Matthews[ii] . Olive taught briefly at the School of Industry and then at Livingstone High, Cape Town, in 1944. After being informed about a forthcoming vacancy by Eric Ertnzen, a teacher and friend from Cape Town who was active in the TLSA and FIOSA, Olive landed a teaching post at Paterson High School, Port Elizabeth in 1945. She later taught at South End High, leaving there in 1964.

Olive joined the Teachers League of South Africa as soon as she qualified as a teacher. While attending a Spartacus Club social after a TLSA conference, she was introduced to Frank Landman by her cousin’s husband, Ofie Salie. They would meet again later.

As a member of the TLSA, Olive was present at the 1943 TLSA conference when radicals pushed the TLSA to align with the Non-European Unity Movement against Apartheid. She herself supported the Ten Point Programme and was a member of the Anti-CAD.

In 1945, Olive boarded with Harry Jephtha in Dowerville. Jephtha was an influential leader in the Teachers League of SA and the PE New Era Fellowship. During this time Olive and Frank’s paths crossed again, this time at a movement social (‘bop hop’). After this second meeting, friendship grew into romance and the couple eventually married in 1946.Subsequent to the marriage Olive continued her membership of the TLSA, however, in 1961 she resigned over its failure to support the National Convention Movement to which she belonged. As activists, police raids became a way of life and the Landman family home was one among many around the country to be raided by the police either at dawn[iii] or on other occasions at night during between May and October1961. Often Olive would be alone at home with her children when these raids occurred. Acting on tip-offs, Olive would bury leaflets herself or arrange for them to be hidden before the raids. During raids, Olive and her teenage daughter would keep a close eye on the detectives to make sure that they did not plant any incriminating material during the search. Olive once berated the ‘Coloured’ detective (Fritz) for his betrayal.

After her husband, Frank, was banned under the Suppression of Communism Act, in October 1961[iv] , Olive spoke at gatherings in the Eastern Cape working with Norman Bromberger and others, including the SA Committee for Higher Education, in Johannesburg. Olive also spoke on ‘Educational Disabilities’ at the Federation of South African Women’s conference[v] in September 1961. After Lily Diedricks warned Olive that she was being followed, and fearing the hardship her arrest would spell for the family, Olive withdrew from activism. She, however, continued to write for the Evening Post under the nom de plume (G.A Latea)[vi] . After being warned that she and/or her husband would suffer when the ‘Coloured Affairs Department’ took over ‘Coloured’ Education in 1964, while at the same time preparing for the Group Areas Act to force them to move from Fairview, she and Frank agreed that he should resign his post in September 1963 to secure his pension. Olive supported the family while Frank looked in vain for work. When Frank was prevented from taking up a new post in Uitenhage because of his banning order he tried to take up his old, still vacant, post at South End High, however, this opportunity was refused. To this end Frank and Olive conceded that the family had no option but to take up the Special Branch’s suggestion that they ‘trap’ [leave the country]. The exit permit issued in Olive’s name on 7thJanuary 1964 also included her three children. She was informed that the permit was valid for 6 months following which, if she and her family were still in the country, they would be imprisoned[vii] .

In exile from 28 February 1964 -

Soon after arriving in London, Olive began to teach. By 1965, she had joined the SA Coloured Peoples’ Congress London Committee (CPC, London) and co-hosted meetings at her home[viii] , reporting to the authority of the leadership in Cape Town[ix] and Tanzania. Olive supported the ANC, helping with fundraising and propaganda. Reg September arranged for her to be an ANC delegate at an international women’s conference in Moscow. Olive recalls that she shared a room with Mrs Alfred Nzo[x] and provided a detailed report to Alfred Kgogong among others.

In the summer of 1965, the Landman family planned to go to Zambia where Olive intended teaching with Frank. However, the trip did not go ahead because of a rift that occurred in October 1965, when Barney Desai, walked out of a meeting of the London Committee of the SACPC, followed by Kenneth Jordaan, Benny Bunsee and Ebrahim Desai. Desai’s reason for leaving was to protest against the presence of some people including Olive herself [see Frank Landman’s profile]. 

Olive continued to support the ANC after the demise of the London Committee of the SACPC, contributing to papers Frank wrote. In 1970, alongside Ruth First and Ethel de Keyser among others, Olive became a member of a Schools Campaign[xi] intended to produce teaching aids on apartheid for use in high schools. Olive then joined her husband in Zambia to teach first at Lundazi and then at Mongo High School where she was Head of English from January 1972 until 1976. On her return to London in July 1976 Olive retired.

In 1990 with the unbanning of the ANC Olive and Frank assumed their banning orders were revoked and they immediately travelled to South Africa for a visit. On Olive’s arrival she discovered that her name was still on the ‘black list’, however the Reverend Allan Hendrickse intervened on her behalf. Sadly, after Frank’s arrival in South Africa, he died of a heart attack in his home town in March 1990.[xii] Olive has returned to South Africa several times since, however, she continues to live in London to be near her three children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Legacy

The legacy of Olive Peace Landman continues in the post-apartheid era and she is commemorated particularly, but not only, at the South End Museum in Port Elizabeth. Former students remember her as a good teacher who inspired them to aim high and who instilled within them a love of literature. Olive herself continues to keep the legacy of her late husband alive as a trustee of The Frank A. Landman Educational Trust,[xiii]   which was established to support TVET students in Port Elizabeth.

Endnotes

[i] Anderson, E (1987) A History of the Xhosa of the Northern Cape, 1795 – 1879, UCT Communications no 12, p 99.

[ii] Photograph shows the women graduates.

[iii] New Age May 11 1961, p 3: Dr M Pather, Messrs Dennis Brutus and Frank Landman and Erasmus, members of the PE National Convention Movement Planning Committee. Police and Special Branch also swooped at vantage points on African townships and raided the homes of Mrs Frances Baard, Mr and Mrs Matomela, Caleb Mayikiso, Ray Mhlaba, Govan Mbeki, Mazizi Mancoko and many others’.

[iv] Banning order dated 9th October 1961; reported in the Evening Post October 17th1961; October 20th; October; 21st; see Apartheid Era File # 707.

[v] New Age September 14th “Women Show the Way”.

[vi] See letter to Paddy.

[vii] Exit Permit .

[viii] Landman papers.

[ix] See FAL/3/1965, FAL/18/1965 Statement by the London Committee of the CPC (SA) (nd). The South African Situation text of a speech at a meeting in the House of Commons by Barney Desai President, SA CPC, 18/ 2/ 1965; FAL /19/1965 account of a meeting of London CPC 9/10/1965; FAL /20/1966 Resolution adopted by National Committee, Dec 1965 received in London Jan 1966 re Barney Desai and Cardiff Marney; See also, Adrianna Lissoni PhD (2008); Desai was a leader in PAC until his death (see obit. on Ace Mgxashe by Bennie Bunsee, 24 7 2013).

[x] Alfred Nzo longest serving ANC Secretary-General from 1969, in exile from 1963.http://www.sahistory.org.za/people/alfred-baphetuxolo-nzo accessed 16the February 2014.

[xi] Minutes of a meeting 24 November 1970.

[xii] Report in Evening Post, 1990.

[xiii] Charity number 1007929.

Last updated : 19-Jan-2017

This article was produced for South African History Online on 17-Jan-2017