Title: Transcripts of interviews conducted by Gwendolen M. Carter, 1972-1985
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00095707/00006
 Material Information
Title: Transcripts of interviews conducted by Gwendolen M. Carter, 1972-1985
Physical Description: Archival
Language: English
Creator: Carter, Gwendolen M.
Copyright Date: 1972
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00095707
Volume ID: VID00006
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Full Text

N, L4

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.
In 1976
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

page 2

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
most who-working
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


page 3

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
0o for
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
su -00

Page 4

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

page 5

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

page 6

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

Page 7

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
to UWC.
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

page 8

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
was such
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
Langa so
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

page 9

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

Page 10

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,

page 11

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,
more say*
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.

page 12

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-
regarded as
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

page 13

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.

page 14

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

page 15

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.

Page 16

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
for the
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

page 17

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-
in flight
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
find him
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,

etc., etc.

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
an taonistic
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

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