Vusumzi (Vusi) Linda Make

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Biographical information

Synopsis:

Banished person, Civil Rights Activist, member of the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League, active in the Evaton bus boycotts in 1955 and an accused in the 1956 Treason Trial. Make was also a Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) representative in Cair

First name: 
Vusumzi (Vusi)
Last name: 
Make
Date of birth: 
1931
Location of birth: 
Boksburg, Gauteng (then Transvaal), South Africa
Date of death: 
15 April 2006
Location of death: 
Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa
Position Held:

Chairman (1979 - 1981)

Vusimuzi Linda Make was born in Boksburg in 1931, the son of a priest, and later moved to Evaton.

When Make was still a student in high school, he joined the ANC Youth League. He was elected as secretary for the Evaton People’s Transport Council, and together with Joe Molefi, the chairman, they organised protests against bus fare increases. These protests took the form of bus boycotts in Evaton and Vereeniging in July 1955, and were organised by the ANC. 

In July 1955, the Evaton Passenger Service (Pty) Ltd., a passenger service between Evaton Township, Vereeniging District, Transvaal [now Gauteng] and Johannesburg, Transvaal [Gauteng] increased its bus fares

A bus boycott was organised and the struggle against the bus-fare increase was very successful.  An  agreement was reached to reverse the fare increase.  Even then, many people refused to use the buses because they were incensed at the role played by the bus company in the township. 

The boycotts took on a violent nature, as bus owners and the police had organised the Russians (a group of gangsters) to attack the boycotters. The boycotters were therefore forced to defend themselves against the violence, and several lives were lost. However, the Russians were not charged.

In late 1956, when the boycott was still strong, banishment orders were issued for Make, Joseph Molefi and four others.  Make was described as a ringleader and an African National Congress (ANC) member who was “violently opposed to the government.”  He was reported to have also ”taken a leading part in the boycotting of schools and was one of the leaders primarily responsible for the bus boycott.”  It was claimed that  while “irresponsible acts” of “brutal assaults, arson, deliberate lawlessness, and murder” inEvaton Township occurred, prosecutions on major charges kept failing because witnesses were murdered, or they disappeared for fear of their lives.  The fear was that the various measures to deal with the ”lawlessness” would fail if the ringleaders were not banished.  

Make,  was banished to “Malonga Flats on the western side of the mountain near Mutale Drift in the district of Sibasa” in the Northern Transvaal [now Tshivhase, Limpopo Province].

Make, and several others, including Mahomed “Bob” Asmal, Abie Nhlapo and Joe Molefi, were charged with treason in the Evaton trial. The leader of the Russian gang, Ralekeke, was used as a Crown witness in the 1956 Treason Trial, and informed the court that the ANC was a violent organisation.

On 5 December 1956, Make, Joe Molefi, Solly Nathie and Bob Asmal were re-arrested for treason.  Make was the youngest accused in the Treason Trial, along with Nelson Mandela.

During the Treason Trial court adjournment in June 1957, Make, Joe Molefi, Solly Nathie and Bob Asmal appeared in the Supreme Court on reduced charges of public violence. Judge Kuyper found them not guilty, and discharged them.

In January 1958, charges were withdrawn against Make in the Treason Trial, and immediately, on 20 January 1958, he was summonsed to the Native Commissioner’s Office at Evaton.

This summons banished him to the remote area of Sibasa in the Northern Transvaal.  However, sometime, in late 1958 he escaped from Sibasa, and undertook a horrendous journey through Africa. 

Make then became the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) representative, and assistant head of the South African United Front (SAUF), in Cairo after the 1960 Sharpeville massacre. As a member of the SAUF delegation (a PAC, SAIC and ANC alliance), Make made a joint statement to the UN in October 1961. 

Make was elected Chairman of the PAC in 1978. However, when Nyathi Phokela was released from Robben Island prison, and reunited with PAC leaders in Tanzania in 1980, Make handed over the leadership to him.

Make was married to American writer and poet Maya Angelou from 1960-1963, during his time in Cairo. Make also held the position of lecturer at the University of Liberia in Monrovia, Liberia from 1968 to 1974, and was a member of the American Committee on Africa.

Make’s banishment order was withdrawn on 16 August 1967.

He died at the HF Verwoerd hospital in Pretoria on 15 April 2006 at the age of 75, allegedly due to injuries he sustained in a previous car accident.


References:
• Naidoo, P. (2006) 156 Hands that built South Africa. Published by the author. p. 91 ”“ 93
•  Sapa (2006) “Former PAC leader Vusi Make dies in Pretoria”. Mail and Guardian [online] Available at: mg.co.za [Accessed 17 March 2009]
•  Vusumzi Make [online] Available at: wikipedia.org [Accessed 17 March 2009]
•  Contribution by Professor S. Badat, Rhodes University, 2012.  From the book, Forgotten People - Political Banishment under Apartheid by Professor S. Badat

Last updated : 23-Jan-2013

This article was produced for South African History Online on 17-Feb-2011