DOCUMENT 37. “Black Power--Students Forced to Leave Meeting.” Article in Dome (University of Natal), March 27, 1969

DOCUMENT 37. "Black Power--Students Forced to Leave Meeting." Article in Dome (University of Natal), March 27, 1969

Four students of UND [University of Natal-Durban] walked out of a student body meeting at Alan Taylor residence last Thursday. The tension had been apparent from the moment they entered the Students' Common Room.

The students, Halton Cheadle (NUSAS Local Chairman), Dave Hemson, Jennifer Brown and Veronica Vorster were greeted at the door by a 'Hello Baas, Hello Missus!' Instead of standing at the back of the room, the students took a seat, but their presence evidently caused great suspicion.

The meeting began without further antagonism, but during the discussion of SASO (South African Students' Organization) queries were increasingly made about the 'foreigners', 'strangers' or 'intruders' at the meeting.

'This meeting is called to discuss the formation of SASO, which is a non-white body, and yet we have intruders here. Who invited them?', asked one student.

Mr. Mokono again repeated his ironical 'Baas' in reference to the white students and laughed. He was immediately called to order by the Chairman, SRC President, Ben Ngubane, who had arrived by this time.

Mr. Ngubane demanded that Mokono leave the meeting, which he refused to do. Mr. Ngubane then insisted he had no rights at the meeting, and that he could not participate further.

Many African students reacted vehemently to the ruling, and disruptions continued to rock the meeting.

'Mr. Chairman, Point of Order.'

"Yes.'

'You are out of order!' (General laughter and further objections). After a lengthy discussion of the duty of the President to introduce the Visitors, the white students were allowed to introduce themselves. "Will all Caucasians stand up?' asked Mr. Ngubane. This they did and introduced themselves and were listened to in silence. A tape-recorder was discovered at the back of the hall. Despite the fact that a woman student claimed the tape-recorder back, it was placed on the table, and the chairman said he would confiscate any tape.

This still did not satisfy the African students who mainly stood at the back of the hall. One student linked the presence of the tape-recorder and the white students, and mentioned the Security Branch.

'Let's go; we have to go.' The whites left amongst sporadic clapping. The students were invited to have tea at one student's room, and stayed as the tension lapsed.

CHEADLE: 'I felt we should have stayed and countered the objections raised by our presence, and confront their racialism. I think that the tension at the meeting is a result of the emergence of a new black consciousness.'

HEMSON: 'We had to leave the meeting, as it was obvious discussion could not continue if we stayed. It was a very frustrating experience to be discussed as a stranger and foreigner, and not to be able to reply. The atmosphere of nihilism and rage directed at us as symbols of white oppression, was explicable but misplaced.'

VERONICA VORSTER: 'As one of the UND students at the UND Student Body Meeting, I was shocked by the hostility of the students, many of whom I consider as friends. There were loud objections to the presence of members of the 'Special Branch' [security police].'


References:
• Karis, T.G & Gerhart, G. M (eds)(1997). From Protest to Challenge: A Documentary history of African politics in South Africa, 1882-1990, Volume 5: Nadir and Resurgence,1964-1979, Pretoria: Unisa.

Support South African History Online

Donate and Make African History Matter

South African History Online is a non profit organisation. We depend on public support to build our website into the most comprehensive educational resource and encyclopaedia on African history.

Your support will help us to build and maintain partnerships with educational institutions in order to strengthen teaching, research and free access to our content.



Donate.