Professor Carter asked me to talk about since I told her I lived here in
1976 and she asked me to talk about that because it needs to be recorded and
what she wanted was a firsthand account of my experiences really, so I guess
what she wants me to do is to talk about the 1976 events in Cape Town which
is where my experience is confined to.
I was born in Cape Town and I've lived there all my life./ I was a
second year undergraduate student at the University of the Western Cape
which is the coloured ethnic institution. I graduated from We a Cape
and that was in February 1979 and I came here in September to do my Master's
in June. a
Degree and now I am going back/ My first language is Afrikns since I came up
through the public schools, public college schools. Essentially I am the
product of a mixed family, & mixed marriage so to say. I think my father is
classified as Indian and my mother is classified as coloured. Some members
of the family, some of my brothers and sisters are classified as Indian and
some are classified as coloured. I am classified as coloured which means I
have to go to the coloured/institution. All of the children have been to the
coloure schools anyway; since in Cape Town there hasn't been an Indian school
up till something like two years back .They established the first Indian
primary school and high school/ in the two Indian areas in Cape Town.
***Question) Legislation against intermarriage does not apply to coloured
and Indian marriages, does it?
No, it doesn't, essentially only to white/black marriages. An African
and, say, a coloured can marry, but there are tremendous odds against that
because of the residential laws. If a coloured wife had to marry an African
person I 3tmeans they would have to live in an African area and the limitations
in terms of privileges are obvious and if he dies she is immediately evicted
from her house which means she might have to find housing in the coloured area
which would be difficult since she does not have a husband and you know they
it would be very difficult
need a male head of the family. And in the face of the tremendous housing
shortage in the Cape Town area for blacks.
So I've been through hig~chool and I went to the university partially
on my own account. I escaped the obvious pattern that faces- I come from a
working-class family. I am the only one which has been to the University and
I escaped the obvious working-class pattern of leaving school at a very early
age and going into the factories, etc. etc. YEM I went to the University.
XK4~gUMR ify political background extends essentially from my father who
was involved in the 1950's and 1960's with the ANC and the PAC. My concrete
political activities derive essentially from in the 1970's. In 1973 when I
was in high school the black copiousness movement emerged. I was very much
a part of the black consciousness movement andin 197 of course \:what is now
known as the Soweto Riots of which I was also a part.* I essentially
developed with the movement and the movement is now a much more coherent
movement of not only black nationalism but embodying the socialist alternate
as espoused by the African Nationalist Congress. So internally I have
developed with the movement.
***Question) You had no connection through yourofamily or anything with the
non-European unity movement .ifn that tradition, coloured
were very active.
I'm not sure to what extent my father was involved with ..
He was a member of th' African Coloured People's Organization and he certainly
spoke often about the Unity movement, but I have no idea to what extent he
was involved with it. It is difficult to say. At this point... the Tnity
movement has essentially always been a confined intellectual organization
and it has still remained as such. It never had much of an impact on society
that I have come to know, you know like in the 1970's, so that to that extent
my contact with them is extremely limited.
*** Question) Why don't we talk about 1976 and your experiences and whatever.
Tell us about that.
Ok, now in my second year...well, like I said I have been involved in the
black corciousness movement so in 1976 I was in my second year at the University
of Western Cape and, of course, the 16th of June/the first Soweto School
boycott. It started a little before that, but it is the MUXaMEK day
for 1976. It is when the whole of Soweto went on strike against the school
system ot Bantu education. And that was when,I thinkon the 18th of June
the University closed for the June vacations and when we came back, at that
point we did have a student representative council. ow the student repre-
sentative council has had a long history of struggle against the adminis-
tration, the University administration, and people are always debating on
whether to have an assocaticor not have a one. In 1976 there
was an SRC isn't
yMSDgSS, at this point there Ia~XKXLiM one. There was a student's
representative council who was dominated by members of the theological
school (Western CapdJniversity). They called a mass meeting and decided
gbgg@dgpjg;1 to protest in symapthy with what was happening in Soweto. They
decided 1X at firsloycottx)be one week to get clarification on the whole
black coniiousness movement. The University neutralized the stand by
recommendation of Erila Theron who is the Chancellor ofStellenboschiiv.
Not the Chancellor, she is the Chancellor for Western Cape University and
she is a professor in social work at Stellenbosch They decided to)iag-
su spend classes for one week for students to clarify their position in terms of
black politics. What the students-did was to use that week essentially to
(the people, essentially the younger people which meaning us, first and second)
ear students)/ to become acquainted. with the history of the black movement
and to become acquainted with essentially what the black consciousness movement
meant because there were a lot of people who were ill informed due to the
extremeltringent conditions that any black movement operates under. So that
a lot of people really didn't know exactly what the black movement embodied.
Then they got various speakers in. It was only black speakers who had
various views on various black student organizations andSA. Also
various black acedemics like Jack Gerwel who is now.professor of theDept. of Afrikaans.
at Western Cape. (Note: he has been arrested 29/3/80
***Question) Didn't Buthelezispeak?
No, no, no. It was totally entirely--Buthelezi spoke at the 1973
black consciousness meetings. By 1976 they were totally opposed to Buthelezi
We had these meetings and discussions and work study sessions, etc. At the end
of the week the students had to decide whether they were going to go back to the
classes or whether they would continue to boycott. The students decided that
they were going to continue to boycott. They gathered on University campus
everyday, so to say and at that point the
Rector essentially tried to keep the University open which essentially provided
the base for people to organize because it was the central place where all the
students could meet. Now the majority of the students live in the various parts
of Cape Town and so it is a commut ing student :-JmmunitD that anything that
happens in the community impacts upon the University. and visa versa. The
students go I back into their community and what happens at the University
affects the community. The students decided that they were going to continue
to boycott and that they had to form some organizational framework with which
to impact on the community. And this was the basis for the organization that
came back to the University everyday to organize for the day and t.aadm
from there mobilize all the various activities. One of the first things they
started was a self-rule kind of organization framework where every person who
lives in a particular area had to form part of the cell for that
particular area and we decided collectively on the various kinds of activities
that would be launched in each community. Like how to link up all the community,
how to contact all the various members of the community. We would come back to
the University every morning and essentially in the afternoons go into the
community and operate from there.
There were a number of things that happened at the University. One of the
things, well there were a series of arson attempts at the University. Officially
the Student's Representative Council disassociated theri from the arson attempts
but it is known that these attempts were made by students, some members of the
student/ One of the buildings that was totally burned down was one of the
administration buildings in which one of the members of the staff is a lecturer
in Economics whostmaster's thesis was burned up. The police came on campus after
the first demonstration. Demonstrations on the campus were not happening in
isolation to demonstrations in the community so that they came on campus and at
first the rector/ had asked them to leave the campus and later they took
over the campus and he had no authority whatsoever Dr. V.A.Ross
***Question) The Director Dr. van der Ross?
Dr. van der Rose right, and they came on campus at various places and
there were various clashes with police, etc. etc. There was a united students
front forward which was the link-up of the various high schools and colleges
with the University. At one point in time there was a demonstration by
Bellv'3!?a-Technical College very close to the University, it is adjacent to the
U university, andBellville Secendary Sc'aio'l had decided to boycott their classes,
something like 2 weeks after the University. They came marching down the street,
(at U C)
while everybody/was in a mass meeting deciding on strategy, what to do next
because we essentially worked from day to day deciding upon strategy. Students
totally abandoned the meeting and joined in the demonstrations in the street.
That caused for the first violent clash with the police. What the students
essentially did was to march on the street and what flowed from that.
It is a main street that bypasses the University, a very big street, and they
started k cars with white flags or something and the riot squad came and
it was a major clash with the police in which they only used teargas and sort
of baton charged the students. The students ran in chaos back in the
University. The police pursued and a lot of people were hurt obviously, a lot
of bloodshed. Various students suffered from concussion.
Everyday we used to go back to the University and start from there. What we
did in the community and here this is essentially from my own experience.
What we did in the community was t~ ad the group of students. The first
thing we had to dowas to do fund raising for the various student, which we
anticipated trials that would take place, for legal defense for the students.
There were massive arrests during the whole period of 1976. So one of the
things we did was fund raising. The other thing was providing the organizational
framework for pamphlets to be distributed all through the peninsula. This other
thing was to link up with the various community organizations and to explain
everything that was happening so that they were well informed and to gain community
support for whatever we did. Which we did get.
In a situation of economic recession, the unemployment rate was very high,
I live in the community which was the hardest hit by the riots and demonstrations
cl Tiervlei in Parow Municipal area (close to Bellville)
Ravensmead revis callezIhe first community demonstrations in which the
community participated, the people were poor and mostly unemployed
and thosceenployed in the informal sector (Shebeens.: selling fruit and
vegetables (mostly illegal) and stuff like that,
lZ~ib coloured demonstrations
The F was in Bonteheuwel which is a community, it is a working class
community ridden with social problems, and it spread to,(well, the very
first community was Longa, Nyanga & Guguletu community, )and then of
course spread to Manenberg. It spread to Ravensmead in which it was
most intense and most prolonged. It was of course utter chees. No car could
go through the community. You know, a white driven car couldn't go through the
community. All the roads were blocked. There were tires that were pulled into
the roads and burned and there were big stones that were hurled at the cars and
a number of cars abandoned in the streets. Sort of destroyed/to say by stoning.
Let me back track for a moment. ***Question*** Did any of this overflow
into the white areas themselves?
Right. It did. One of the first things, when the first demonstration
started, as I mentioned with the Belltille Tech students, UWC students joining
Rellville Tech students in stoning cars there were something like 17 people
arrested and they were to be tried in the local Bellville court, municipal
court, which is in the white area, of Bellville and that is/ a white
business area. The whole University marched on the streets to sit in and
provide so called moral support for those students who were to be tried. We were
beaten up, well that was the first sort of encroachment into the white area.
There was utter panic amongst the white people in that area and the police couldn't
cope. Obviously the court was jammed with people. Students stretched/ half
a mile outside the courts in long lines. I was right inside of the courts.
We were beaten out of the court, down the corridors to outside and were beaten
back/ The whole mass of sympathizers were beaten back to the University from
where they came ******Question) ******** What did the police use? Batons, n.ij &
clubs. So that was the first big fight that the white community got into. It
in Cape Town down Adderly Street.
was really terrible. The other one was,/ There was a tremendous network of
communications that spanned the whole peninsula, essentially provided by the
students like I said who lived in the community,. this whole student
organization / that just a simple word that was spread that the
students were to march in the heart of Cape Town which would have
tremendous impact. So the coloured communities which are situated on the
edges of Cape Town, everybody just got on the trains and the busses and went
to Cape Town where they gathered and marched down / ..- Street and the
Parade. At that point in time I was not in APderlyStreet. I did not
go along with them. Essentially Western Cape provided
the nucleus of the organizations for the whole peninsula. The official strategy
was not to concentrate all of the demonstrations and political activity in one
area. The official strategy was to divide the police forces and riot squad in
various places so that people were constantly running by car between say
western Cape and Ravensmead and Manenburg and Langa, as far as
they could because since ) is/confined you couldn't get into the area but to
keep in touch with what is happening so that ifa demonstration ssmmdL starts
in Bonteheuwel and the riot squad would be called to cope with Bonteheuwel
at a later point in the day we would start another one in Pallville
and there were never enough forces really to cope with the situation so called
One of the things that is very characteristic is that at first no coloured
people were shot. They only shot Africans Later because it became so severe
and so widespread they started shooting coloured people too, but they never shot
were batons & korgias
coloured students. The only things they used/ because I assume they did not want
to alienate the coloured middle class because essentially -there is a big portion
of cud~i. hat comes from the coloured middle class. Essentially all they used
was tear gas and baton charges. They were armed with F N rifles. The police
took total control of the campus. There were attempts for the classes to be
continued, but the students 3i .n p'A +4Am guur own little riot squad would
go around the whole University, (and it is a very small University mostly
centralized,)would go around the whole University and disrupt classes. Often
a few clauses had to be held with the police you know kind of protecting the
class. But the black staff at the university refused to lecture under those
conditions. They also put out a press statement aligning themselves with the
cause of the students. Ind there is a white staff association which has a
history of being a white racist exclusive association. After 1976 they opened
their doors to black staff and ne of the black staff has joined the white
association. They have disassociated themselves from the student movement and
this::was early on when w.e had the week of sort of work/study, the work/study
week which was illegal. *******Question)********** This was the white
staff that disassociated/?emselight and the black staff association sort of
allied themselves with the students. \ So in the week of discussion we drew
upon the members of the black staff association like Jaes.s GawTAl anIk~y van aer
****** Let me ask you a couple of questions about the internal workings of the
movement. You talk about the strategy that was established and was there then
a core group, a kind of council that directed the activities? Could you tell us
anything about that?
First what started it off was the student representative council./ Very soon
they realized--- The student Representative council never slept at their homes.
We all lived there, all members of the core group slept--well I hardly slept for
two months--slept at the various places to keep on the move, essentially running
from the police. But very soon we realized that those members are not going to
last for long so what we did was to establish a number of shadow SRC's, shadow
committees. We then withdrew the SRC officially and proceeded to establish-all
we needed was someone to chair the meeting-proceeded to have different chair persons
for the mass meetings--somebody to convey the strategy for the day or whatever.
Also there was a very informal core group of people who essentially wery well
established in the black consciousness movement, various members of SASO
also members of the Black People's Convention came into the
University, so there wk i informal core of people. They essentially/iRM ed
strategy, informed various members who were part of the SRC, or the members who
formed the shadow committee. So that there was a constant moving of people. And
one day we would ask somebody to chair the meeting and convey the strategy which
was planned to the students awmbtk say go out into the community, we need funds-
to do fund raising, and they would establish the contacts with the community leaders.
It is important to convey what is happening amongst the students to the community.
So somebody needed to go into the community and maybe address a public meeting
th~n By 4 AM or very early in the morning, that person would be arrested so that
you know a new person/needed to be/S~cai on for a sacrifice.
******Question****** Is there anything special about the background of the
leaders, that is would you describe them as predominately from the middle class
or were they predominately working class, or were they pretty much
a cross section?
A cross section. I am working class and some of the others I know are
working class and some of the others are middle class. The University of
the Western Cape because it is for coloured:students from the whole of the
country, there was a strong input of members tho came from the Johannesburg
area with a few members coming from Durban and a few of us who come from Cape
Town. The University essentially is a cross section and there is a strong section
of people who come from the working class and essentially study on scholarships.
Usually a scholarship is available, of course the teaching scholarship which is
given by the government. I have the same scholarship
C*olenired Affairs teaching bursary,
So that is as far as the core group goes.
***** Question)******** What about the demands, the specific demands that were
being generated by the movement during this period?
OK, the first demand was sent to the University -Administration. The writing
of the statement was to sack the white staff, the white racist staff, and other
demands were essentially relating to improvements in the educational system,
allowing a SRO I One of the important things was that they wanted to open the
University, incother wbrds a nonracial university for members of---well, first
and foremost to allow African members to enter the University and secondly the
underlying principle would be that it would be a nonradcial university. Other
things were that students wanted greater freedom politically of impacting on
the community and finally they touched upon abolition of the apartid system.
*******Question******* Was there any cooperation received openly or surrepti-
tiously from white student groups, rSAS r -groups of students at the
University of Cape Town?
The history of the black consciousness movement in the way it developed
well, the way it was implemented which is different from its philosophy, is that
it has essentially become an anti-white black movement. Because of that movement
white people were rejected, in fact if any black person had any white friends or
any contact with any white person it was seriously questioned and it was
politically strategic not to have any white friends. So that the NUSAS
and the University of Cape Town as well as the University of Witwastersrand
as those are
toseacxx rQooo( the two liberal universities, were essentially isolated. They
had a protest march in which they marched down the streets in Mowbray
which is close to the university and there were 76 students in all that were arrested.
This did not illicit a lot of sympathy from the black students at all since
at the end of 197C was anti-white. They were seen to be just jumping on the
bandwagon. There has never been--since the split of SASO from NUSAS there has never
been any cooperation between white student organizations and black student organi-
zations. In fact NUSAS wa/ very suspicious even up to today, so that
was essentially all. They did and still do support the black movement, but there
is very little cooperation.
********Question******* How would you describe the ideology of the leadership--
It would be nationalist in a sense, but not in the sense that ---One of the things
that interests me about South African nationalism in comparison with black national-
ism in the United States is that because of the need to create unity among culturally
diverse groups it would appear that culture, as such, would not be the unifying
element. Would the common factor be "non-white" in white supremicist society?
The history of black political opposition is essentially being non-racial
If one looks at the establishment of the African Nationalist Congress, its relation-
ship to the South African Communist Party which has essentially since its inception
been predominately white, so that the history of black political opposition,
( since 1900, 1902, 1912 )
It is not as culturally diverse as----well, part of the cultural diversity is
perpetrated by the system, which essentially is divide and ruaL
but because of the complete proletarianization of say
African labor they have become urbanized, they have become western, and have
embodied a lot of these cultural traits and the coloured and Indians are also
westernized to a large extent, so that that is a common cultural factor. Also
as you said, the common impression of experience or the predominate black/white
character that the situation has taken on has caused this unification and the
increasing polarization between black and white. There is also economic integration
which is an important aspect, what I mean by economic integration is that these
races meet on the level of the economy, on the shop floor. The largely working
class coloureds and Africanswork together in the factories and that causes a
common experience which is then expressed in the political arena.
**********Question****** The government hasn't made serious attempts, say to use
job reservation, to buy, in otheords to give coloureds certain advantages
which would then tend to create resentment among the Africans. Has this been
a factor in the situation?
Absolutely. The most serious/where it would be a factor is in Cape Town
since Capeown has always been a coloured preferential area, 80% of the coloureds
are in Cape Town so it has always been a coloured preferencial area. It has
caused tremendous problems in terms of pprxexxdesm dma a cross identification.
The official policy is that if you have an African and a coloured, the coloured
is to be given the job first. The conditions of influx control /; much more
stringently applied in Cape Town on the Africans because of this coloured pre-
ference policy (because of unemployment)and the coloured is supposed to be getting
the job. It is amazing but: it hasn't worked. It hasn't worked as 1973 and 1976
and 1980 proved. There are other/Fine~ t factors that facilitate the unification.
By this I don't want to deny that there are divi. i rr'.. / are ... coloured people
who do not identify with African people, there are African people who reject
coloured people. The first thing that was said when the first people were shot
in demonstrations in Ldnga, is why don't they shoot the coloured students. We
it they d
started/and they started to feel safe and / got shot. Our children get shot and
they don't get shot.1 But it was not something that seriously harper the
movement in terms of reunification of coloured, Indians and Africans in Cape Town.
The other thing that might have been more seriously hampering was the residential
segregation and the transportation. It is still difficult for me to go into an
African area because I need a permit. What the strategy is is to have Africans
come to coloureftownships, and it has always been the policy. When everybody
decided to march in Cape Town for instance, it was much more difficult for the
African students to get into Cape Town so that the first demonstration in the
heart of Capetown which shocked the whole white community was predominately
coloured. The second one had much greater African participation.
***********Question**** What was the sequence of the events which led to the
Would you like me to go through major events from the start? Yes. Ok
The second of August was the day on which the University of Western Cape
reopened and that was after the 16th of June and theewere continuing
demonstrations and riots in Soweto. Also the __-'_'l University in Westville
boycotted in sympathy with Sowetox. So this issue was raised again. So that was
the first week. In that week it was decided that we would also hold for one day
a demonstration (a peaceful demonstration, the movement started out very
peacefully.) So what students did was to stand in front of the University premises
which borders on this major street and a lot of traffic passes by since Belville
is a northern suburb of Cape Town and itsmajor industrial area. The students made
placards and were standing in the streets during this peaceful demonstration
singing sort of liberation songs and whatever. The police were called and
&_tas tudenti on the univesiLtycampus.j
they were sort of on the opposite side of the street 7Fher-asa of abus--
being shouted by subversives. The students sort of challenged the police and
a few loose stones were then thrown at the police and they baton charged the
streets and broke up the demonstration.
The following day, the administration building as I daid was burned and
the sSudExkK SRC officially disassociated themselves from that event
On that Friday when the students had decided to go back, they gave this memorandum
to the Rector of the University, which entailed having/open University, sacking
the white staff which made the statement against the students and with
which the University administration obviously couldn't deal
ON the Monday they decided to have a fullscale boycott of classes.
In the meantime, there were arson attempts at various schools in the
peninsula. From the Monday onwards the students came on the campus and the
cops came. They disrupted classes obviously which necessitated the white members
of the University cal'i n the cops which left upon the rectors orders.
On the llth of August the African townships what one could call"started
burning", in other words, there were mass demonstrations. The police intervened.
People were shot and buildings were burned, etc, etc. That was the time when
police arrested those 17 students.
The first time the students went into the white community of Bellville
was on the 16th of August. According to the newspaper reports there were something
like many thousands of students.
And on the 21st August, BonteheuwwTich is a working class coloured community
and as I said riddled with social problems, the school in Bontehenwel
boycotted. The parents and the people in the community, those who were unemployed
and those who are employed joined the students
and they hao mass demonstrations in Athlone .Again the police intervened
and essentially one can summarize that by saying the total situation was almost
total anarchy, you know with stones being thrown and cops beating people and
people being shot. People went on a total rampage in the community. And then
in my sol~mmsty living area, Ravensmead which is a coloured community
in Bellville the same thing happened. By then the students were firmly
(established in the community working closely with various community members.
She parents, especially of the black middle class, were extremely enraged
at the polices treatment of the students. The university students are fairly well
respected in the community yith the educational system as it is there are not
that many people going to the University. This really caused a tremendous
outrage .1i all sections of the black community.
By the end of August the whole community was sort of "in flames". There
were riots, demonstrations even in the primary schools. The cops hadetheir
hands full and tried to cope with demonstrations which they couldn't do very
suddessfully. And the principals appealed to the cops to keep off the school
premises which they couldn't do since all the schools were used as launching
bases really and there were more arson attempts at the University of Western
In Athlone which is also a major industrial area, there were also
major unrests and a lot of businesskere burned down. In Athlone
you know,/first time, a lot of coloured people were shot and wounded. The day
that the students/in the heart of Cape Town was on the second of September.
There were a lot of curious onlookers, including whites u pon seeing all of
these students coming from the station'and the bus depot which were very near
each other, descending upon the main street. The police immediately broke up
this meeting with teargas and baton charges. A lot of innocent people were
bashed up and a lot of innocent people were arrested/ r'Tereere a lot of
random arrests right throughout the period. At that stage the police found a
lot of petrol bombs right throughout the peninsula and proceeded to arrest
a lot of people.
Now in early September, the rioting in the various areas, the African,
coloured, and Indian areas, and even flowing over into white areas became-
extremely violent and the cops stopped using only tear gas and baton charges
and proceeded to shoot people. What they did use, and this I know from the
coloured community, was birdshot, what we call buckshot, which sprays various
pieces. Many of my close friends were shot.
With the emergency situation, no more than 2 people could walk together
because more than 2 people constituted an illegal gathering and a lot of
of political opposition
people were shot. In the situation/where you have the children
opposing the police, stoning the police, you also have the unemployed people
being involved, even housewives being involved, there were a number of children
that were always on the forefront and these kids were shot without any hesitation
by the police. In fact, in often cases, because I was involved, I was essentially
among the people stoning, and very many children under the age of 5 were shot
by the police. People ran obviously when police began to shoot. Many people
ran into a medical surgery which happens to be I house doctor and a lot of people
also went there to be treated after being shot. The police went into the surgery
and the doctor said do you have the right to be on my premises, would you leaver
the wholly bloody mess
They just beat him down to the ground. Eventually they left/and the nurses who
were inside barricaded the door, so the people who were inside were protected.
In the meantime the rioting was extremely violent because there was still
heavy stoning of cars, burnings, there were hardly any buildings that had windows
intact. There was already a very sound organizational framework spanning the
whole of the peninsula, but they then proceeded to establish a formal United
Students Fund. The rioting also spread to the greater area of Cape Town, which
wou~ff be Paar __ and Worcester and Stellenbosch
In the meantime, the white people --- there was a total paranoia. This I
heard from a white lecturer:who is in sociology who has been expelled from
the University because of an alleged involvement with the students in 1976.
She was at Western Cape. She gave full accounts of the total panic and fear
that spread through the white community. What the white community did do was
to start mobilizing vigilante groups. They had an informal comando system,
white people essentially, deriving from the 1960's, and. they formed these
vigilante groups. I rmemeber that when I used walk, to do shopping, because
most people shop in the white areas because that is where the groceries are,
for instance, cheaper. Also I have to pass a white area to get to the train
station to take the train anyway and I remember in walking through the white
area that you were constantly threatened by white people. There was a lot of
harassment of blacks by white people. Now all the whites in the area essentially
were armed, I mean whites, women are stilllbeing taught to shoot and stuff like
that. There was a lot of harassment essentially because they are armed and you
are not, you are sort of hunted like a dog and you have to keep on walking. A
lot of people were also shot by these white commandos, vigilante groups. They
essentially patrolled the white schools because there were attempts to set
alighg6iite schools. They patrolled white schools in white areas so it again
became difficult to go into white areas.
By that time which is middlesof September, the police had taken total control
of the campus. There were essentially no classes being run. Cops came on
campus and there were a lot of cat and mouse games between cops and students.
Saey Students would stone the cops, and these were essentially morning activities
because in the afternoon we would go out into the community and do the work, or
at night. The students used to stone the cops and then the cops would baton
charge the students and bash in on those students, armed with FT rifles, upon
which the students would retreat, a few were arrested and then the students
would stall and then later the students would start stoning the cops again and
it was this kind of recurring game that was going on that's not very pleasant,
gut at that stage the cops ordered the Rector to send the students home. It
was really a very touching experience because after numerous attempts to stone
the cops and then cops beating up students and students scattering in all
directions, eventually they could do it no more. There were so many students
that were arrested and so many were beaten up and so many students became
hysterical and had crumbled emotionally, etc., etc., so that the last spirit
was almost sort of beaten out of them. Those students who were left, and I was
among them, sang We Shall Overcome. It was really a very touching experience.
All in all I think 1976 was a very traumatic experience for me simply you are
a part of a political mobilization which essentially leads to people being
killed, especially children being killed, and that's kind of very hard.
*****Question***** Do you have any notion of about how many people were
killed---I'm sure there are more official figures, but what was the sort of
I think in the paper it mentioned something like 365 killed, something
like 1 thousand and some hundred people got injured during the riots and the
mass arrests of course went into the thousands.
In the meantime they also closed the high schools and reopened them and it
still didn't stop. On the 15 and 16 of September a major event happened. What
we did was throughout the time distribute pamphlets throughout the community
explaining what is happening and why it is happening, essentially giving a
simplified analysis of the apartheid system and why the students think that we
should be taking action against that system. On the 15th and 16th the students
called out a national strike, a national work boycott, and the students proceeded
to bar various transportation centers from which the workers had to go to get
to their jobs and to disuade workers,and also using force, to disuade workers
from going to work. In essence, most of the people stayed away from work on
those three days, What had happened in the African townships in the meantime
is that the liquor outlets as you know are controlled in the African townships
by the Bantu administration, /the students started burning liquor outlets.
Also they started burning down shebeens which they thought was the
roots of all the problems.
Toward the beginning of October and right throughout October there were
various funerals for riot victims, people who had gotten killed during the riot,
and these funerals turned out to be absolute mass raljieSwhere people/
often broke out into riots and demonstrations. Often the last speech made
for the person who died was a political speech and cops obviously had to appear
on the scene. (a funeral normally was attended by thousands of
people and often it ended up in rioting and more police intervention.)
Teachers at the various high schools were arrested, also at the University,
and the teachers were beaten up--those who tried to protect their students.
Often when students had a demonstration outside of their school, even in the
school premises, having placards, etc., the cops would baton charge. Students
would be running in wild panic into the classrooms and my friend's brother
who was a teacher at one of the African high school tried to close the door.
The cops broke the window and shot teargas into the classroom causing absolute
pandemonium. He tried to keep the door closed and they broke down the door.
They beat up the teacher, they dragged him out of the classroom, out onto the
school premises (the school yard) and they proceeded to beat him up and they
kicked him in the stomach and put him into the van.
Another teacher protested when the students were protesting in Bnteheawel
The cops shot the students and the teaclprotested at them shooting a defense-
less child. The child was shot/while he was like turning and running-and
again they beat up the teacher and arrested him. In general one can imagine the
impact it had on the whole community. There were essentially mass arrests of
When it happened at the University of the Western Cape, Jakes Gerwe], who
is nocwprofessor in Afrikaans ~.bthelads is very popular because he was
essentially the one who started all the black consciousness movement in the
Western Cape with Adam Small, who was the coloured poet. Jakes
was arrested in his office when the cops came on the campus and they arrested
him and they abused him and they dragged him out of the office and said in a
a very condescending manner, let the students see how great their HtSot" .,
which is short for Hottentot which is very derogatory term,"let them see
what the _Ebtnot professor looks like and dragged him through the
street of the University and arrested him. He was later released.
They also arrested somebody / nobody could understand. They arrested
the sports administrator)who is such a mild, moderate man. He has a lot of
student contact because he is the sports administrator he's the one that
handles the finances for all the student organizations. They arrested him and
nobody could really understand it. But at that point in time the paranoia was
running so high due to the infiltration of informers and the mass arrests that
the people were saying that this is the strategy to legitimize him so that-he
people, you know, would be sympathetic towards him and speak out to him, and
that he could therefore relay this to the police. With the passage of the
internal security Act, there was such tremendous paranoia spread amongst students,
also because of the mass arrests, and nobody could trust their very closest
friend. I mean I was being questioned by my closest friend thinking every. time,
I looked at my closest friend I/wonder and obviously ever 1ime they looked at
me they would wonder, but nonetheless we continued mobilizing with these
difficulties. Also one of the greatest vehicle of th whole movement is SASO
which also was essentially established on campuses
and is essentially a student organization and/no community contact except in
so far as the students get into the community. But the black people's convention
having various community organizations, by 1976 there was an emphasis on
community work rather than dn individual case work, approaching social work.
The community had been organizing :. themselves into self help campaigns which
had tremendous political ramifications because for the first time the community
started asserting their rights which were within the limits of public law.)
The black people's convention(and BPC)and these various community work organizations
also provided a tremendous organizational base. And these were the people
essentially we contacted since they had a mobilizing base. I essentially
appeared on public platform twice, which I realize was a fundamental mistake?.
But in the lack of anybody wanting to get onto a public platform it is sometimes
necessary for people to be called on to get onto a public platform..2One time
was where I reported back from a work/study session to the mass of students and
the other one was in the community where it was necessary for the community in
the early stages of the University boycott to try and understand why we are
boycotting and exactly what has been happening because the press started picking
up reports and there were a lot of distorted reports. There were also a lot of
distorted reports being given by black members of the community who supported
the status quo, who think the students are being anarchic, they are stupid, etc.
So I essentially contacted the president of the community council in Ravensmead
and with a lot of cunning proceeded to tell him that since he has (he is also
the chairman of the -te _pai'rs association) and he is the one person who
has the biggest mobilizing base in Raven amead He is also a member of
the Labor Party. We told him that it was necessary for us to link up with
them and that it was necessary for us to relay to the community exactly what
was happening. I took a very nonviolent stand and a very peaceful mobilizing
stand. He allowed us to do that and I essentially relayed a pamphlet that was
prepared by the students to the people explaining why things happened and /t will
happen, what the students intend to do, etc., etc. And by the various students
in their various communities doing that eventually it also provided a lot of
community support for the students.lo I believe by hindsight/was two
fundamental errors I made, but because of the necessity I had at that stage
to do it.
*****Question******* Let me just ask, why do you think they were
errors? Did you get yourself banned or arrested ?
very well have been.
No, I did not, but I-coMslssentially for 2 months I didn't sleep, I never
slept at home. None of us slept at home, we were always on the run. One of
the things, my hair was essentially long too. One of the things I also did to
go undetected was to cut my hair very short so that I could continue zymak
with/activities. But essentially once you get into public platform it is very
sure that you will be arrested. Now a lot of people who did get into public
platforms, our disruption squad on campus for instance had a--the leading member
head of the
was a member of SASO and he was the/disruption squad and the police were looking
for him all over the show, and they couldn't/because he was always on the run.
]p was always on campus, but the student comnurity protected their core very
effectively. They could never get hold of him. Towards the end of the student
demonstration they got hold of him in a bar, they trapped him in a bar, somebody
sort of ff the lid on him kind of, and the cops were absolutely jubilant,
they were screaming and clapping hands, eventually they got hold of him. What I
was trying to say was that once you get onto, once members of the core who get
onto public platform, you will be removed. I was just lucky that I was not
removed. When things quieted down I went back to the University to continue
my studies. I had essentially been a good student which is almost half a contri-
diction because most of the members who were seriously involved often neglected
their educational aspects of thei4, you know it was very difficult for people
to see me as being that involved, as being good at my schoolwork, also being
quiet-spoken and just sort of being there. There are obviously many people
who were in the same position that I am, just going to school, etc., etc.
This happened throughout October, throughout November. School kids were
shot, Children, One of the interesting things is that when the children were
shot by the police and they were taken to the hospital, parents were not given
access to their children. The children were under close police surveillance,
nobody could come in there except a nurse or a doctor, so they were under
guard.And a lot of children were imprisoned. Apparently there is a law that
states that children should be released [.Gthout bailyvp4 but can either be
placed under authority of their parents or placed in a sessi~m correctional
center, but this didn't happen. By early November a lot of parents were
totally hysterical about their missing children. There were so many children
that were missing that the police coulditt account for because essentially what
they did was to arrest people and leave them in jail. There were no trials
whatsoever. They arrested my friend because he was involved in ---he wasn't
involved essentially in 1976, he is now studying in Wisconsin, he wasn't involved
in 1976 on a large scale since he had by then decided that he was going to con-
tinue his education in the US, so he decided not to become involved in 1976, but
because he was involved in 1973(he was Adam Small's right-hand man) they arrested
him without even any direct reason for 1976.
There's another interesting thing. There was a professor in mathematics,
the most highly qualified person in mathematics in the wholQ of SA, he has had
various degrees from Oxford and various other places, he's also had a tremendous
amount of experience. He was appointed at Western Cape, they did not want to
give him permanent tenure. The probation period for any lecturer at Western Cape
is only one year on which the Dean, both the head of the dept. and dean of the
faculty, recommends the person. Now the Dean of the Natural Sciences faculty is
Chief Breederbond@d he is the chief target of the attack of the students. He
was the main guy who made the statement against the students. He refused to
appoint this man (Professor Mohammad) because this man was in direct
conflict with him all the time. One of the serious problems/that he wanted
a bigger amount of mathematics journals, he also said that the math journals
that they had subscribed to wasn't the kind of main am stuff that he wanted.
And he was constantly battliAg with him.
Prof. Mohammad immediately identified with the students, of course. When
the police were on the campus, various members of the white staff msa collaborated
with the police, they were armed. In a lot of cases the students abused them n
and they actually drew their guns on// although they did not shoot them. There
were members of the white staff who walked around with walkie talkies and reported
to police, etc., etc., At one stage that was the day that the students were
beaten up, the way I said, you know, they were totally broken and that was the
day when they sang We Shall Overcome and the University was closed down for the
day. Prof. Mohammad questioned one of the white staff members, a really racist
white staff member, he asked him:if you are a staff member of the University
how come you are functioning in the capacity of security police. This white
staff member swore at him and he's a very emotional man, and he attacked this
white staff member. You know, he beat him with his fists and the man is about
twice as big as he is. Then the students just turned into the whole thing, the
students were just ready to attack all white staff members and cops included at
that stage. Professorvander Ross the president, was there and he just
managed to step in and stop the situation. But as a whole the student body
surged forward to attack and Prof. Mohanmad was arrested. He was put in the
same cell as my friend who was arrested, the one who was only involved in 1973
and not in 1976. He became to frustrated with being cooped up with about five
other people in this tiny cell that he smashed his fist through the tiny window.
He almost cut both his wrists. He then was kicked out by the University.
The last I heard was that the University of Witertersrand offered him a position.
*****Question****** I was just going to say, I met Dr. Van der Ross
from SA also who came here and he must have been in an extraordinarily difficult
position? How did he function? How did he come out of it all?
He came out very bad. One of the things that I think that all students
should be greatful for is that the man attempted to keep the University open.
If the students did not have central mobilizing Ie, it would have been very
difficult to mobilize. The important thing was that we could come together
there everyday, report back to the mass of students what was happening in each
little community and plan strategy for the day, go back to the communities,
As soon as the demonstrations spread to the wholr community, the police
came on campus, totally abused the Rector, which the students thought was good
for him anyway because he was a sell-qutlThey abused the Rector, they overran
his author.tyr, they took over authority and he did not have much of a say. His
image before that was not very good because any man who steps into that position
would have a bad image. Also he is a very moderate leader in the black community
generally, especially in the coloured community. So the students didn't have
that much faith in him. His image throughout the whole period of the demonstra-
tions of 1976 suffered tremendously. The students were very suspicious.
establish an SRC.
1977 we again attempted to-I--- I was one of the persons who realized the
importance of the University as a mobilizing base having been there
in 1976, that's why I went back there. In 1977 we attempted to get an SRC
because I was one of the persona who realized that it is necessary to have an
organizational base If you have no SRC you have no power to call together
the students for anything. But the mass of the students was so suspicious
towards the man that they refused to have anything to do with that adminis-
Since 1977 he has done his best to try and get a SRC. The students up to
now have refused to have a SRC because they feel that/functioning powers are
extremely limited and they have extreme/distrust for both
the rector and the University administration.
******Question******** The strike that is now going on---among public
schools---does that include the University of Western Cape?
Oh, yes, certainly. You know how it started, of course, the coloured
school in Man eaberg Little Flo wer High School had a student meeting
expressing their grievances with the school system. Three white teachers
attended the meeting and were dismissed by the administration so the students
went on strike. That spread to the rest of the high schools in the Cape
peninsula and immediately spread to all the colleges and university. They have
now established again a united student front which consists of 80 people,
representatives from all the different schools. On the third of May (this past
Saturday) the students were to decide to go back to school, so I don't know what
the latest information on that is. It was started by coloured schools and spread
to all African schools and Indian Schools and is now a national boycott.
*****Question******* This has not, as far as I can tell, been attended by
the same kind of violence. In other words, this has been essentially withdrawal,
you simply stay at home. There've been no mass demonstrations?
Oh, yes, there have been. My friend came on the 3rd, came to Washington,
he is from Cape Town, a lecturer in Sociology at the University, he said that it
has also been arrested 29/5/80
is less violent than 1976, but it is/ e serious. The regime doesn't know
what to do with it. As in 1976, various community organizations sprang up
and the people are again supporting the students. They have told the students
that if they decide to go back to the schools, then the community would continue
the struggle. So they have widespread community support, they again have an
organizational framework. They have been having mass demonstrations. There was
one in Cape Town, one in Johannesburg and in Durban and the police again disbanded
these meetings by shooting teargas and baton charges. There was one rally at which
there were at least 5000 people together. The committee of 80 students gets
together in various places in the community. My friend said that they have much
greater control over,student population than we had in 1976, essentially because
the situation was so violent it was difficult to keep control. Because it is
less violent now, they have firm control over'the high school students.
*******Quest******Qest****** But there hasn't been----I'm basing these questions
on very fragmentary newspaper report s-----I haven't read anything of community
involvement in "disruptive" or violent activities such as did occur in 1976. Is
that impression correct?
It is correct in so far as I have the most up to date information, which I
got on Saturday from my friend in Washington. There is no widespread neS .
There are demonstrations, there are mass rallies, there are various organizations
which are mobilizing students to have their mass rallies. They do have their
work-study sessions. They do have their planning meetings, etc., etc. But there
is no widespread rioting taking place.
One of the big factors which came out in the Cgo3s Commission was the
role of the police as an a j agent as/a catalyst in a lot of these riots.
Often the police, you know, abused students---from my own experience they
abused students, which called for the very kind of action, the antagonism against
the police, the attacks on the police, which then again led to violence by the
police. So that could be a factor
******Question***** The police, in other words, have become a little more
sophisticated? when it comes to riot control.
I hope so. I don't know to what extent baton charges and teargas. The
interesting thing about teargas being shot at people, people become wise, they
catch the teargas cannisters and throw it back at the cops so that at a later
stage it is necessary for the cops to wear masks. Also when the police charge
with dogs what the--especially the unemployed element in the community----often
did was to take and---in one case that I specifically know of one guy asked for
one of the children's school blazers and wrapped it around his arm and baited
the dog. The dogs are trained to catch your arm or leg, if you are running,
and he did that and pushed his arm at the dog, it caught the arm and yet the
school blazer was wrapped around his arm and he had a knife and he stabbed the
dog. There were various things like that.
There is in general a lot of sand in the coloured community, there are not
that many 1hd roads, what kids would do when the teargas cannister is shot and
it falls on the ground is to immediately smother it in sand. So that there were
a number of things that kids: did to counteract the police.
Essentially in the peninsula, the 1976 riots went on right through 1977.
At the end of 1976 I went back to do my final exams and in 1977 I was then in my
third year again a major thing happened. The police attempted to demolish the
squatter camps. There is a squatter camp which is acent to the University.
The CRC building, to top it all, is right next to the
and then right next to that is the squatter camp called Mibell They
eventually did demolish it. One of the problems was at that stage the University
of Western Cape didn't have a SRC, but what the students did was to spontaneously
march down the roads. There were then various community organizations involved
in the squatter camps, providing relief service because, the houses being
demolished, down goes the furniture and everything with it, children are being
lost, therewere women giving birth in the squatter camps, there were people that
died while the camp was being demolished. So what we essentially did was to
(i.e. the students)
provide relief services. They/did not want the relief services. It was a
question of priorities. What do you do? All the students marched down there
and confronted police and the houses are being demolished anyway, or do you
attempt to relieve the suffering of people because in the squatter camps there
are no facilities----the facilities that there are have been provided by the
people, like their own sanitation systems, for carrying water
to their houses, etc. There are no shops, for instance. While the father is
at work the mother cannot leave the house, let alone leave the children, and her
little belongings so that the people would starve because they did not have
access to shops. So that we provided relief services, so that was our/piority.
And that was constantly threatened. I remember at one point people did not
demolish their houses themselves, it was demolished by the bulldozers. At one
point they were demolishing houses next to the relief tent and we ran out to help
the women carry out some of her furniture out of the house so that they could
demolish the house, and the cops wouldn't let us do that. In fact the cop came
up to me and threatened me out right with arrest. He said if you don't stop
this right this minute then I am going to arrest you.
I obviously/reSrel k into the relief tent because
they were threatening to demolish the relief tent anytime, constantly to
keep us in line. But what happened was that when I ran to help carry out some
of the furniture, there was a man still sleeping on the bed, it was probably a- gv
working the night shift, we had to wake him up and he carried some of the
things out. One thing I will never forget, is they have these primus stoves
it burns on parafin, on the stove was a pot which essentially had only some
pieces of meat and potatoes boiling in the pot, which can be regarded even by
working class/aE avey meager sort of meal, they were living in sand, there was
no floor just sand, and the bulldozers started pushing this little tin structure
from the side of the kitchen and I went running out with a chair and some other
stuff, I remember under my arm, and that pot of food as I as turned around as
the bulldozer pushed the wall of the kitchen, the pot of food fell out on the
floor into the sand. And that is something I will never forget, I mean that was
their meal. It was a big family and it was a small pot of food that was cooking
and that was their meal for the night and it toppled over into the sand and then
the cop came up and said to me and said if you h-Q
you will get arrested, so they bulldozed it with furniture and all. W A lot
of doctors attempted to help us with providing relief services. We mobilized
various organizations to provide food, etc. and we got the doctors also to
provide medical services within the camp. A few children were born and a few
people died in the same squatter camp and eventually they did demolish it.
Anyway, since people backed some of those who went back, church organizations,
even white church organizations, took people onto their premises, so there was
squatting in churches. The few people who did go back got on the train and got
off at the next convenient stop on you know, the train back to the homeland,
at night when the males came back they found a lot of children were lost and
their house gone, their wives gone, whatever, pandemonium.
What happened to me in 1976 was a very traumatic affair. I essentially
underwent personality disintegration and I became a total robot to the point
that I continued my political activities and to the point that I was totally
dispasionate about children getting shot, I mean I stood and .iewwm q
watched children being shot around me by police and it didn't touch me one bit.
I think that is essentially the only way one could survive and the only way one
could, you know, continue to mobilize. In 1977 also there was the demolition of
the squatter camps.
You're working throughout the day and also through the night and you sort of
become like a robot, you become so tired that you really don't even feel these
things anymore. Dogs are running, people are bringing pupps to the tent and
saying som ebod pppy is lost and nobody has really got time for dogs because
there are people who need help. When you are in that situation, right in the
crisis, I mean you stop really thinking on humanitariagrounds. There are so
many important things like people, children, being lost, brought to 0-the relief
tent, who knows where the parents are or what has happened
End of tape