From the book: The Diary of Maria Tholo by Carol Hermer
Maria's Diary, Sunday, August 29
Things are hotting up again. We haven't seen much happening here but now the coloured students have joined the struggle so all the papers are full of riot news especially from Bonteheuwel.
We had a notice asking all parents of children at Intshinga to attend a meeting with the school committee last Thursday because A they didn't want another Soweto on their hands. They were too late for that. They'd already got a Soweto. We went to the meeting anyway. It was quite exciting.
Just as we arrived three men walked in, each one holding a sheet of paper. Someone whispered that they belonged to Community Service, 1two are chairmen and the third, a Mr. H. - I know him because he goes to our church - is their secretary. There was a bit of a rustle as they walked in and the school chairman, Mr. Mayaba, said, 'We would like all people who are not parents of children at this school to please leave the room because this is a domestic matter.'
Quiet. No movement. Mr. Mayaba repeated, 'People who do not have children at this school are to please leave this place.' One auntie slipped out but I those three-stayed put. Mr. Mayaba tried once more. 'I don't want to call people by name, but I am going to do it because you are holding us up.'
Finally one of the Community Service men stood up. 'Mr. Mayaba,' he said, 'we are the ones who called together all the school chairmen. I don't see why we cannot be at this meeting.
We just want to help you with it.'
Mr. Mayaba answered: 'Mr. B., let's not have arguments and statements. Would you please leave the room because it is a domestic matter. I don't care what you think or what was said at that other meeting: but this is a meeting that concerns Intshinga school and nothing else.'
'What do the parents and the rest of the committee think?' asked Mr. B., trying to go over the head of the chairman.
Mr. Mayaba was quick. 'I haven't opened the meeting yet. And I would like to have it with the people that I called to be here. You didn't get a notice to come to this meeting so please don't waste our time.'
The hall was beginning to get restless. There were calls of 'Get out!' and 'What is this nonsense?'
Eventually the three did have to leave. Mr. Mayaba apologised to those present saying, 'I have my reasons,' and everybody chorused, 'We understand,' and finally the meeting opened.
The main subject was that no matter what happened, we must ask the children to come back to school, and we parents must personally bring our children on the Monday because otherwise there would now be a third week without any classes.
One of the teachers objected. 'It's all very well for you to tell us to ask the children to come to school but what are we going to do when, as happens all the time, a group of high school children comes along and beats the Form Ones and the Standard Fives out of school? We can't lock the gates because that doesn't stop anyone from coming into the grounds. They are young. They can climb over the fence. And we're afraid that if we force them out we'll have our school burned down.' 2
Some of the parents weren't happy with this. They felt the children should be at school anyway even if there was no teaching going on. Mainly they were angry with the teachers. One parent said, 'Since when are teachers told by children what to do? Why can't you do your job as always?'
One teacher got up. 'I didn't want to speak because it might jeopardise my job, but I'll tell you what happens. The other day I went into class to start Social Studies and as I picked up the chalk one of the children asked me to please write down the word "American" and when I'd done that to define the word. I said something like "a person who belongs in America, who was born in America..."
"Define the word 'African'," he said. I used a similar definition. Then they all shouted, "By the way, are Americans only white or are Negroes also Americans?"
"Everybody is American," I answered.
"Good. Now define the word 'African' again."
'I said again, "An African is someone who is born in Africa . .." They stopped me.
"Careful. Don't tell us things that you don't mean. What is African?"
"Well. Here an African is usually taken to mean a black person."
"Right. Now you are clever," they chorused. "Now what about the whites that are born here, because after all some of them came here in 1652 so many must have been born here by now. Shouldn't we have a lot of white Africans by now?"
"Now in America, first preference is given to Americans, in jobs, everything, just like in your home village if you are a Chawe first preference is given to Amachawe, 3not so?"
"Yes," I answered.
"So, why is it different here? Why, if we are all Africans, when some immigrant from Portugal, who has been thrown out of Angola, comes in, why is it that he gets all the rights that you can't have being born here, because of the colour of your skin? Why is it that he gets first preference in getting a job, he gets citizenship and we can't even be citizens in our own country? Teacher, if you can't answer those questions you are not fit to be a teacher, so leave the blackboard."
'Now please parents, can you answer those questions for me, because if the children come back to school, I have to have those answers ready.'
There was quite an uproar but we are still going to try and get the children to go back. Fortunately Nomsa is not really affected as she's only in Standard 3 and they have been left alone.
Those children have become very cheeky. One of today's visitors was Miss M. She passed an old man on his way to church, all prepared with his Bible tucked under his arm. Two girls walked by going in the opposite direction. She heard one call out, 'Uncle, where are you going?'
'To church, my children,' he answered.
'Oh, but you can't do that, Uncle. You are crowding God. God is too preoccupied with us to be where you are going'.
The man answered. 'No, my children. God is in three parts.' 'Of course he is. One part is in Angola, I don't know where the other part is, but the third is right here in Cape Town. There is no part of him in the churches. He is where we are gathering.' And off they went to their meeting clutching their own Bibles.
Yesterday, after church, we went to Christopher Gobile's funeral. The family belongs to one of these spiritual churches. 4The minister is one of the township headmen. In fact, I hadn't known he was a minister though he is called umfundisi5in the office. He's at Luyolo 6and they've been joking that the reason there wasn't so much damage at the Section 3 rent office was because it was so well covered by a minister. That's the only place where the windows were hit but it wasn't burned down.
We didn't go to the wake because Father has been very ill, but we went along to the service. It was held in a private house because they don't have a church building. They were very proud because the head minister of the church had come down from Durban for the funeral. No one who was not on the programme was allowed to speak.
There weren't restrictions with numbers. The students rallied around even though Christopher was not a schoolboy. As long as it is a youth who is buried they are there. As soon as they arrived they made their presence felt by surging forward in their uniforms and chanting their songs. But they were quite a well-behaved mob and the minister just stuck to his programme because after all he is working for the administration.
All he spoke about was the importance of religion and death. The funny thing was that because the head minister is Zulu they had to resort to speaking a Zulu-like dialect and this is something for Xhosas, because they are very racist. They look down upon other people. I suppose this is everywhere, because Zulus also look down and Swazis are the worst. Swazis and Zulus have a way of saying 'Umuntu phe?' meaning 'Are you a person?' as if, if you are not Swazi or Zulu, you are not a person. It's the same as the Boers thinking only whites are people.
This church had one funny custom. The family of the dead person must sing for him. I mean, honestly, that is asking too much when you are deeply in sorrow, to sing that person's favourite song over his box. All the brothers and sisters and cousins stood up. Only the mother stayed quiet. I thought they were very brave. These religions can sometimes be very demanding.
At the graveyard it was the usual thing - singing of these freedom songs. It frightens you. You're scared the police will come because you are not supposed to sing freedom songs. But you find yourself joining in because even if they have changed the words you still know the tune.
Tuesday, August 31
There was great excitement here this morning. The coloured youth all came to Guguletu, I suppose to show solidarity with us blacks. We were only involved later but I heard about the beginning from Nomalusi. She was doing the washing in her yard and noticed an unusual number of boys playing ball along NY 108. They usually play near the church by the shops but this time there were groups of them all the way down the road to the police-station.
There were others just standing watching the bridge. She was wondering what these kids were up to and so she kept on looking. They went on playing, playing, when suddenly one of the kids shouted, 'There they come. Let's go.' And right away they abandoned the ball.
Then everyone was running towards the lane behind the church that cuts across to the other side of the street. Nomalusi thought they must be going to Intshinga because it is on that side. She heard someone say, 'Hey, Amaushu - the coloureds. Come, let's meet them.' After that it was just confusion and the next thing -teargas. Everybody was running up and down and all of a sudden a young coloured boy jumped over the fence into her yard.
I was first aware of things when Shelley, who was on watch, came running inside shouting, 'Hey, everybody is running. There's teargas.' We went outside to look but didn't see too much. We were just going back inside when we saw a group of youths, you couldn't tell whether they were coloured or African but they were wearing a uniform we're not used to.
One minute later and two coloured youths came charging into our yard, ran to the back and scaled that fence as if it was only two feet high instead of that huge thing. We were worried the police might follow those two into the school and upset the children, but somehow they didn't see it.
A bunch of youths had come in a lorry which dropped them by the school in Section 3. Others had come from Heideveld station and those that came along Klipfontein Road were turned back by the police.
They weren't armed or anything. They had no specific purpose, just to be a nuisance to the police. They were all over the place. When they were chased they didn't go back, just spread further into the township. It was all to annoy the riot police. If the police could run on foot they'd have done better. With vans they had to go round the block and missed their target all the time.
This afternoon Mrs. M. 7popped in. We swopped news. Their parents' meeting at Langa High had decided that parents would bring their own children to re-register for school. Yesterday was the big re-registration day so one by one the children were brought in. One father, bold man that he was, thought he would help the teachers get things going. So when his son was finished signing up in the principal's office he waited to see him into class. Instead, the boy walked into the grounds. The father followed saying, 'Go to your class.'
'Do you know where my class is?' answered the boy. 'Of course I don't know. Go to your class.' The boy just carried on out of the gate with his father shouting after him, 'Come back. Come back.' The son decided he didn't need a scene so he stopped but this wasn't enough for the father. He looked around at all the children hanging around the gate and shouted at all of them, 'Hey, you children. You all go to your classes. Why are you loitering around here?'
The boy spoke up. 'Daddy, I am your child. These are not. Only I belong to you so you can bully me around but not the rest. Take me into class.'
The father looked around and decided that he'd better get out. He didn't know where to take his son, who was eyeing him with a different eye here among his friends. So he quickly left the school with his tail between his legs.
Meantime, the children continued milling around, unsure of whether to go to classes or not. The principal finished with the registration and leaving his office noticed that the teachers were also standing around.
'Why are you still walking around? Get to your classes,' he said, only to be told there was no one in class. 'Maybe if you go and start teaching the others will come in,' suggested one of the teachers.
The principal walked boldly to his class and rang the bell. Nobody came. Mrs. M. went to her class where about six girls were gathered. 'Where are the rest?' she asked nervously. 'Won't you please go and fetch them?' One of the girls went off. A short time later she returned with the answer, 'They say come and fetch them yourself.'
Just like that. Mrs. M. thought to herself, 'That means trouble.' Acting as if she was about to go and fetch the children she slipped out of class - and into the staff room. She wasn't alone. Most of the other teachers were there too. Unfortunately for one, he had decided to teach however few came to class, so he wrote 'Biology' on the blackboard and started filling it with his lesson - the development of the embryo, talking all the while.
It didn't take long for him to realise that no one was taking the least notice of what he was saying. Other boys, not in his class, poked their heads through the door to see what was happening but he felt he couldn't stop. Finally the blackboard was practically full and he was feeling very silly so he made some excuse about forgetting something and he too took refuge in the staffroom.
Langa High is the meeting place for the students of other schools, not only those in Langa. They picked it because the principal is not quick to call the police. So this morning, Mrs. M. says, while all the teachers were in the staffroom and the students were meeting in the grounds, she looked through the window and saw a large group from one of the other schools arriving.
From what she learned later it seems that three boys went into | the principal's office and asked him for the book in which he had j done the re-registration.
'Oh, do you boys want to register? Where are your parents?'
'No sir. We are not here to register. We want the book and it is better that you give it to us than we take it from you.'
So what could he do. He gave them the book and they went into the office and had a meeting. Some others found the unÂfortunate Biology teacher.
'We believe you held a class here yesterday.'
'Well, the principal said we must,' he stammered.
Back to the principal, Biology teacher in tow. 'Sir, we believe that you told this man he should teach yesterday. Did we not tell you politely that we are not going to classes until we have our grievances taken notice of? '
'Well boys, we had a committee meeting and your parents' wishes are that school should continue.' 'Who is your committee?'
The principal was forced to give the name and address of the chairman and each of the committee members. A short while later Mrs. M. saw a car draw up and out stepped the chairman of the school committee. Usually he arrives with a great air of importance but this day he was bowed like a dog with his ears hanging, flanked by the boys who had confronted the principal.
Outside the office the students set up an impromptu hall. Some chairs and desks were brought out and the principal and chairman were seated there. The teachers were called to take part in this meeting.
One of the boys addressed himself to the chairman. 'Look old roan, we want you to stay out of this. You can't stop what you didn't start, especially when you don't know what it is. So mind your own business. For the last 65 years you people have been doing a lot of talking and you have been given promises and promises and promises. We don't want any talk. We want action. The time is long past for talking and listening.
'And we'll tell you another thing. It will not be long before you adults will be marching with us. You will understand our point but it will take time. We have great respect for our principal here and our teachers and we have sifted through and found that we have not got informers here at Langa High, unlike some of the other schools. We know all the informers. We don't blame them. They are like a dog who jumps and swallows a bone instead of chewing it. So now please go home and sela amanzi(cool it) 8and leave it to us. Don't hold meetings about us, because you don't know why and how this whole thing started.'
The meeting dispersed and as the children were filing out, one girl came up to Mrs. M. and handed her a book to take to the principal. Mrs. M. recognised it as the book used to re-register the pupils, but instead of a list of names there were only blank pages. All the relevant pages had been torn out.
Things are not going to cool down too quickly. Fortunately Nomsa's class is back in school though they are not having lessons, but to make up for that, Father is back in hospital so that means visiting every day through all this tension.
Friday, September 3
Things have got a lot worse. In fact the whole of Cape Town is in chaos. On Wednesday the students from the townships went to the centre of town to hold a protest march. Thank heavens it was peaceful. We didn't know a thing about it until they were home again. I hear they had had a meeting earlier and planned it for the next day but then someone stood up to say, 'No, some of you have got big chests. You talk to your parents. They are like whistles. They go around talking, talking. So let's go now.'
That's just what they did. Which is why it was so late in the afternoon and maybe that's why the police left them alone. But that was just the beginning. Yesterday the coloured students did the same thing but this time the police stepped in. I learned all about that but let me finish with Guguletu yesterday first. I had my first experience of stonethrowing.
It was my turn to be on watch. I quite enjoy sitting outside when it's nice weather. If not, we just walk around to make sure things are quiet. It was during the children's lunch that the stone-throwing started. Most of the participants were quite young, about 12 to 15. They weren't the abafana. 9They had stationed themÂselves in little groups all along 108. I don't know why nobody stopped them. They could have.
The first target was a white man's car. It was a Ford, a white Ford. This man must have known there was stonethrowing in the township and was doing it for a dare because he knew he could get away. He came speeding in so that anything in his way would be knocked down. And he didn't go straight, he went zig-zag, all the way. He had his seatbelt on, I suppose to make sure he stayed in the car.
They tried to aim but they just couldn't hit him. He was prepared. He went zig-zag through till NY 112 and he was out. It was about time for Nomsa's school to come out and she had to cross 108, so I thought I'd better go and meet her and steer her through carefully.
Sure enough just as I met her a huge lorry came along. It was a really long thing. I think it must be used for carrying bricks or something heavy, but it wasn't full at the time. There was just the driver and some African men standing on the back. As it passed us I saw this group of boys, about eight or ten of them, suddenly leap out of a yard. Now the lorry driver must have been very good, as l will show later. He thought the road was clear, when all of a sudden they aimed.
The first brick bounced on the roof of the lorry. Down went the men at the back - just flat. The driver must have almost lost control because the van left the road. There were three or four children from Nomsa's school, walking on the side of the road. How he missed them I don't know. That's why I say he must have been a good driver. Everybody was screaming but somehow they were safe. The driver put that great big thing back on the road but it careened off again.
Now just about there lives an old man, Mr. Mayot, and he loves to put his chair in his front yard and watch things happening around him. He's over eighty and really slow with his movement. I was terribly afraid for him but somehow he also was safe.
Our school is definitely in the wrong place. In the beginning it was exciting but with this sort of thing you can be in trouble. I mean, that lorry could have come right into our place. I don't know where the police were. I suppose with all the troubles everyÂwhere they can't spare men for this.
Then today was the end. I'd arranged to meet someone outside the Post Office in the centre of town. Of course this was planned before the marches started in the city but I couldn't get hold of her so I thought I had better go. The bus came very slowly into town. As it reached where Castle Street joins Hanover Street - it's quite a big intersection - we could see a cloud hanging low like a fog. It was the teargas. And the Post Office was right in the centre of it.
You know, I would have turned back if I hadn't known Sandra was waiting somewhere in the middle. Everybody was advising, 'Try this way,' or some other way to avoid Castle Street. Darling Street was full of people running. Someone said to me, 'This is a very dangerous street. Rather go around, and work yourself back towards the Post Office.'
I tried that. First I went-up Buitenkant Street and then along the one that flanks the Revenue office. There are toilets near there so I thought I'd go in there and then cross to the OK Bazaars when I came out. The toilet attendant had deserted her post but there was one woman inside - a coloured woman full of blood, busy cleaning herself. I asked her what had happened and she said it was from the batons of the police. They had been hitting anyone they met. 'You know these stupid gamats,' 10she said. 'ulle kan hardloop maar ek kan nie. 11They taunt the police and then they run and the police come and hit whoever's left in front of them. They don't want to see black people in a group.'
I walked out, meaning to run into the OK, but the door was closed. Fortunately, as I came past someone shouted 'Quick, get in,' and the door opened. The shops were keeping a doorman on guard and as anyone came running they'd open up and shut it again. It wasn't one of the boys, 12it was a white man who was waiting at the door for people to come in. So it was safer to run to the shops because they were ready to protect you. They could see we blacks were being flogged.
I went out again at the Plein Street entrance on my way to the Post Office, peering along ahead. It was clear now, but in the middle of the road there was a police roadblock - traffic police and others. As I walked to the entrance of the Post Office on the Parliament Street side I saw a group of youths going towards the roadblock. I thought I'd wait and watch what happened. EveryÂbody was standing and watching. The youths were wearing school uniforms.
A whole lot of coloured boys with uniforms but no books. You could see they had been running. They were still panting for breath. But they were going towards those police. Youths are really something. They had nothing in their hands but they were going for them. Just to taunt them.
It wasn't the traffic police and the others they were gunning for, it was the riot squad. What was happening was that the riot squad would clear the street with teargas then drive around in their van, and by the time they came back the crowd would have reformed. They were hailing, 'No crowds allowed. Disperse. You are given three minutes.' Now you can imagine a street packed with people having to disperse in three minutes. Well, they didn't even give us a minute to disperse. The next thing they had jumped out of the van and charged. So this is why women, everybody, got beaten up. All around me were people running towards the entrance of the Post Office. I thought to myself, 'No. I'm not running or I might end up like that bleeding woman.' I walked slowly into the Post Office, meaning to hide in the nearest telephone booth. Right behind me was a coloured youth. He came charging past me, past the liftman and into the lift. A riot policeman followed right behind him and he managed to get in two quick blows before the lift doors closed and the boy was gone. The policeman then turned to the liftman and very politely apologised for having pushed him aside in the chase.
At first you heard a lot of noise but then the Post Office doors were banged closed. I was so scared. All I could think of was that I was shut in there with the police. There was an elderly coloured woman sitting at one of those desks where you write letters. I went to sit there too. I thought perhaps if I sat I'd be safe. One of the youths, panting for breath again, ran up and sat down between us. This woman turned to him and said, 'Ja, my kind, 13what school do you go to?' The boy answered, 'Alexander Sinton.' 'Why are you not at school?' she asked.
I could see that this boy was looking at her cheekily, but she went on, 'Ja, julle kom pla mense hier in die dorp, come and make nuisances of yourselves. What do you think you're doing?' This boy just gave her a dirty look and walked off.
I thought she was quite daring. One is quite scared to open one's mouth to a youth in the townships. You just have to accept what they are doing. 14But you know what old people are like. They want to continue moving in their usual way. Father can never see the logic of all this. He is always saying, 'All they need is a good hiding to get them back to school. In my day when I was a teacher I knew how to deal with children.'
All he ever wants to do is bash people. He's a real Boer. Mathandwe 15says he must be their descendant, he's so light-skinned. He is really impressed by the way the police are beating them apart. Not me. Especially when it's me that might be bashed.
Anyway, finally I found Sandra. She hadn't been able to drive in because of the roadblocks. Gus had to fetch me later because the buses have been stopped again.
Saturday, September 4
One couldn't go into the toilets at church this morning. They were still full of teargas from Langa High next door. What happened there yesterday was a massacre. That's the only way I can describe it,
I was just getting over my experiences in town yesterday evening when Mrs. T. who lives down the road came in here, distraught. Her daughter, Connie, had been involved. I went to see her and she looks too terrible. Her face is puffed with pain. The doctors removed 158 pellets from her bottom and the X-ray shows there are still about one hundred more. She can't lie on her side, only on her tummy. They say she won't be able to walk for weeks.
She said they were all sitting around the school grounds because it was lunchtime. I mentioned that all the students had been meeting at Langa High. Since September 1 when they went on that march to town, the police had been patrolling outside and around the railway station to see that it didn't happen again.
Some of the students had gone to the shop to get something for lunch and the police told them to go back to their school. They listened because they thought it was just a precaution.
Next thing there were six vans surrounding the school yard. As soon as the school was surrounded, the police got out, each one armed with a stick or baton and they charged. Connie was sitting in a group on a grass verge, eating her lunch. She says it was mad. All of a sudden they were being charged by a bunch of riot police.
She can't remember very much about what happened. She thinks they must have got up and run because all the pellets hit her in the back. Then one of the policemen grabbed her and threw her over the wall. She can't remember how she got to hospital.
The whole township is talking about it. When the children rushed from the playground, some of them ran to the staffroom because there were teachers there. The teachers locked the door, but the police threw five teargas cylinders in after them. When they didn't open the door, the police kicked it down and rushed in with their batons. They hit teachers, children, the lot.
Other children tried to jump over the wall and run into the houses along Jungle Walk. Each house that sheltered a student had its windows broken and teargas thrown in. And then the police went in and hit anyone they saw. Connie says one of the students, who was in the hospital with her, told her that as the police were hitting they were chanting, 'Say White Power!'
We visited Father in hospital after church. In the same ward there is a poor man who was caught in the massacre. He was coming from Langa administration offices where he works. He came riding along on his bicycle just at the wrong time. His whole chest is as if he had been pricked by a fork. His face has been hit all over. Some pellets even got into his eyes. When he talks about it he just starts to cry. ' And to think I was on duty and had such a thing happen to me .' He's only about 29. Everyone can only speak about the brutality of the police.
These two weeks saw riots and unrest break out again all over the country. In Cape Town violence spread right into the city centre, for the first time bringing the white population face to face with the reality of the situation.
August 23 heralded the start of three weeks of widespread disorder in the 'coloured' townships and suburbs. Bonteheuwel, one of the oldest townships and populated largely by families resettled from the city's white areas, was the focus of the first wave. Demonstrating pupils from Bonteheuwel High School were dispersed by teargas and police batons.
The next day all three Bonteheuwel schools were out marching and during the clash with police, a 15-year-old schoolboy was shot. He died 11 day slater. 16
In Guguletu, though Maria did not see it, a crowd of several hundred pupils began to stone cars and buses. Police moved in with batons, teargas and shotgun fire to disperse them. Bus serÂvices were once again suspended.
On August 27 the same story was repeated. After a quiet weekend, Monday was the deadline for 'coloured' schools all over the area to come out in protest. There were marches, arson atÂtempts, statements of grievances and generally more tension. The following day, as Maria reported, the attempted march to Guguletu took place.
Meanwhile, in Johannesburg, a black stay away started, with worker absenteeism ranging from 50 to 100 percent. A particularly nasty wave of violence between migrants and townspeople in Soweto erupted. Zulu migrant workers, ignoring the strike call, returned to find their hostel on fire. They went on the rampage, attacking pupils and townspeople generally. There were at least six deaths, and many houses were set alight.
Chief Gatsha Buthelezi, chief minister of the Kwazulu homeÂland, claimed after visiting the area that migrants were primed with marijuana, that the police had not done what they could to prevent the violence and that they may even have encouraged it.
Minister of Police, Kruger, warned that Chief Buthelezi's allegations were so serious that newspapers should verify the facts through the Cillie Commission before publishing them.
Senator Brian Bamford of the opposition Progressive Reform Party interviewed 16 housewives from the devastated area at the request of Mr. Percy Qoboza, editor of the World newspaper. 17They all reported seeing policemen at the head of migrant columns that attacked them and stated that the police, instead of taking steps to control the situation, encouraged the migrants with stateÂments such as, 'Let them taste what Black Power is like.' 18
Back in Cape Town, September 1 saw further escalation with demonstrations and stonethrowing in Athlone and fires at another two schools. Police used batons and teargas and five people were shot, including 11-year-old Sandra Peters, who was shot in the head on her way to buy bread. An emergency operation was delayed for 24 hours because her mother could not sign the form giving her permission, having been arrested for allegedly kicking a policeman when enquiring about Sandra's whereabouts. She had heard rumours of her daughter's accident. Sandra died.
The march of black school children to the centre of the city was peaceful and the police did not interfere. The 'coloured' school children who attempted to repeat it the next day were not so lucky.
At least 1000 children marched through the city chanting, 'Keep moving. No violence.' Police wielding batons chased them and anyone else in the way up Adderley Street. Blankets of tear-gas over the centre of the city forced shops and offices to close early and stopped traffic.
Petrol bombs were found on the campus of the University of the Western Cape. Incidents of stonethrowing, arson and looting occurred in the black townships. The 'coloured' township of Hanover Park was victim of a particularly bad outbreak. The municipal rent office was set on fire and rampaging crowds stoned cars and smashed windows. At least one person was killed.
In Athlone, the windows of a shop were smashed after police had commandeered it - against the owner's wishes - to fire on rioters. In all, 400 people were arrested and two shot dead.
Sixteen people appeared in court on charges arising out of the first wave of unrest. Two men arrested in connection with a fire at Guguletu bottlestore on the night of August 11 were charged with sabotage - the minimum sentence 5 years. Others were charged with arson, theft, housebreaking and public violence.
Prime Minister Vorster left Johannesburg for Zurich to meet Henry Kissinger, hoping to settle the Rhodesian question. He maintained his silence on South Africa's internal problems. Equally insensitive, the Wheat Control Board announced an increase of 25 percent in the cost of bread.
Police action did not deter the city demonstrators who were back the next day, despite watches at stations and bus terminals to keep them away. The city was sealed off to traffic, and police used birdshot as well as teargas to disperse the crowds of demonstrators and thousands of curious onlookers. Many passers-by collapsed when police fired teargas into the underground Strand Street concourse.
This was also a day of concerted police action against individual schools. We have read the story of Langa High. Police entered the grounds of Alexander Sinton High and baton-charged pupils into the classrooms. A teacher was hit in the face by a baton, windows were broken and teargas fired into classrooms.
At Trafalgar High, teargas was fired into school grounds. DemonÂstrating crowds were dispersed in Claremont, Maitland, Retreat, Crawford, District 6 and Parow.
In Crawford, 14-year-old Paul Meyer was shot at a distance of eight paces. Police say he was picked out as a ringleader. His father maintained he was watching from behind a pole, and laid a charge against the state.
A 15-year-old boy was killed in Constitution Street in the city. In all, police reported one boy killed, six people injured by bullets and six by birdshot. 20 others were treated and discharged. There were many unofficial reports of pupils and bystanders gashed and bleeding from baton wounds. 100 extra police were flown from the Rand to the Cape.
The weekend September 4/5 was comparatively quiet although arson and stoning attacks continued in Bishop Lavis and Hanover Park. The weekly symphony concert and charity street collection were cancelled.
The major weekend event was the rugby test between the All Blacks and the Springboks at Newlands, Cape. Hundreds of police were on duty at the rugby grounds in anticipation of trouble at an event where, traditionally, non-white spectators support foreign teams. The All Blacks were aware of the riot-torn environment. Two of them had been caught in the downtown teargas whilst signing autographs. There were no incidents at the match. The Springboks won.
The choking of Adderley Street brought home the truth about the riots to white South Africa. This was no longer something taking place in a remote black township or on the pages of a newspaper.
'Change. That's the message that the "white" heart of Cape Town must have read with tears in its eyes,' said the lead story of Extra Rapport, the black-orientated section of the Nationalist Sunday paper.
The Administrator of the Cape, a Nationalist, announced that he would ask the Prime Minister to meet with 'coloured' leaders. The Prime Minister agreed to attend to the matter on his return from Zurich. The Minister of Coloured Relations also asked for a meeting with 'coloured' leaders.
Many whites, seeing police in action for the first time, were shocked at their methods of riot control and the indiscriminate use of batons against bystanders and unarmed pupils. Police, on their side, complained that bystanders were seriously hindering them. The issue of police brutality became a major point of discussion. We will return to it in the next chapter.
Community Service was an elected group of township people who supposedly provided liaison between the residents and the administration. Few residents were even aware of when the election took place. In their eyes Community Service people were self-appointed, and acted as informers on township activities. They did not want them present at any occasion which they would prefer not to be reported to the administration.
In fact no black schools were burned down during the first unrest in Cape Town. After the main wave of disturbances was over, there were several arson attacks on schools.
A clan name. Each village is populated predominantly by members of a specific clan, a unilineal descent group, whose members trace their descent from a common male ancestor, although they can no longer pinpoint that ancestor.
There are over 5000 independent black churches, all professing to be Christian, but varying in degree from the Ethiopian-type, which practise a similar religion to the parent church but have no organizational ties with it, to the Zionist type, which incorporate certain traditional beliefs into their religion. For a full discussion see Bengt Sundkler, Bantu Prophets in South Africa and Martin West, Bishops and Prophets in a Black City.
Teacher (Xhosa) - but usually used as a term of respect for ministers and senior teachers, similar to 'Sir'.
One of the four community centres that serve the black townships.
Mrs. M. was a teacher at Langa High who had been helpful in organising Maria's school.
Means literally 'drink water.'
Older boys who, traditionally, would have been circumcised but not yet married (Xhosa). In the city, circumcision is often delayed but the term would refer to boys in the age group 16 - 22.
Slang term for young Moslem boys (Afrikaans).
'They can run but I can't.' (Afrikaans)
In his evidence to the Cillie Commission in November, Mr. Reginald Tomlinson, a sub-editor of the Cape Times stated: 'Cordoning off the streets, setting off teargas and the presence of riot vans seemed to aggravate the situation, as it drew curious onlookers who became angry when teargas was thrown or when police struck at people with their batons.'
'Baton charges were directed at black onlookers. Whites were avoided. It occurred to me that blacks who were just standing and looking would be bitter because whites who were doing the same thing were left alone.' Argus, November 19.
'Yes, my child.'(Afrikaans)
Maria has touched on this several times. It is important to emphasise how vital respect for age is in African society. Traditionally youths would not ever speak first, they had to be spoken to. They could not look at an older person when addressing him but had to keep their eyes fixed on the ground. An older person was a potential ancestor and even in the urban Christian communities ancestors were respected, although no longer believed to be all-powerful in their influence over their descendants. The respect for age had diminished in the urban environment but the behaviour of the young people during the riots was considered revolutionary in a society where a young person's opinion was rarely listened to.
Mathandwe, also called Rebecca, was Maria's younger sister.
The boy killed was Christopher Truter, who was by all accounts a byÂstander. Yet the inquest held no one to blame for his death. (Cape Times, January 22, 1977.)
Mr. Qoboza was subsequently detained, and a year later he was one of the victims of the October 19 crackdown when several prominent persons and organisations, including his newspaper, were banned.
The events in Soweto bore close parallels to the situation that would occur between migrants and townsmen in Nyanga at Christmas time. The root cause of the problems was the latent tensions between the two groups, but investigations of the Christmas violence showed riot police playing an aggravating role.