Apartheid History

In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie sits down with the epic storyteller, Chris van Wyk. The piece was originally published on the City of Joburg's website on 4 August 2004. Chris van Wyk passed away on 3 October 2014.

Writer and poet Chris van Wyk says he loves to skinder - “I skinder more than most women.” And that skinder or gossip accounts for a large part of his success as a writer.

We South Africans are renowned for being sports fanatics and none more so than our rugby supporters, so we are looking ahead, with relish, to next year’s series between the Springboks and the Lions (2021 version). For those of you who are not Rugby Union aficionados, the Springboks are the national rugby team of South Africa and the Lions are a touring rugby team comprising players from the four home unions of the British Isles, namely England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

There is a story of a riot with much blood in the early history of the Dube Township in Soweto. It happened 11 months after the Dube hostel opened its doors on 1 October 1956. The Dube Hostel was the first government hostel in Soweto (then called the South Western Townships).

 

Having graduated with the double Bachelor's degree MB Bch in 1959 after 6 years of study, I was now a brand-new Doctor.

The Medical training program at the time called for 2 more years of practical work under supervision, in a teaching hospital of one's choice before being officially qualified to practice. This was a bit like an Apprenticeship but called an Internship. Ironically we were not called Interns but Housemen or House Surgeons.

“The cemetery is the ghost of Roodepoort West. It is the last vision of the vibrant African location that once stood where the suburban houses now stand. Like a ghost, the cemetery continues to haunt the people, now living miles away in Dobsonville, who remember its past." - Michelle Hay. 

For reasons that I have never fully understood, between about 1968 and 1972, the Wits campus underwent a period where posters of all colours and sizes proliferated, advertising everything from Rag Ball to intervarsity rugby, from Nusas teach-ins to visiting lecturers, and from Fresher’s Reception to rock and roll festivals. Every now and again the apartheid thugs that ran the country would provoke a rash of political posters, and the SRC elections were always an active time for poster artists.

In May 2018 Robyn Keet, our picture library manager at the time, teamed up with the PhotoZA Gallery in Rosebank Mall, Johannesburg, to create an exhibition of photography that covered the apartheid period in South Africa from the 1950s to the 1980s. DocuFest Africa: The Exhibition, showcased at times rare and unusual images of life in South Africa taken by leading photographers at the height of apartheid. Curated by Reney Warrington, the Exhibition was drawn from collections represented by Africa Media Online.

In the early 1960s the Apartheid Government declared Pageview a white suburb (using the Groups Areas Act) and a decade later the bulldozers began their work. Residents were removed to Lenasia while many traders took up space at the Oriental Plaza. It was during this time that Franco Frescura set out to document some of the spaces, places and people of the area. Below are a few photos from 1973 that may interest readers. No captions have been added. If you recognise a person or building please post a comment below the article.

 

The Soweto Theatre is a landmark structure built in an area with a powerful history. In the article below, Johannesburg enthusiast and well-known journalist Lucille Davie unpacks the details behind the theatre's design and construction. She also reveals the significance of the Jabulani Amphitheatre next door. The article was originally published on the City of Johannesburg's website on 12 June 2012. Click here to view more of Davie's work.

In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie recounts the fascinating story behind Nelson Mandela's capture near Howick in the early 1960s. The piece was originally published on the Brand South Africa website on 2 July 2013. Click here to view more of Davie's writing.

Nelson Mandela’s head rises dramatically from the ground on a small plot outside the village of Howick in KwaZulu-Natal. His face is sculpted in 50 thin steel columns, marking the spot where he was arrested in 1962.

Dube is the name of a popular township in Soweto, but on a larger scale Dube is a well-known Nguni surname. However, in nature the name belongs to an animal, e-dube – a lovely, cheeky one with bold black and white stripes, the zebra. Here follows an exploration of the story of the Dube Township, Soweto’s own zebra. It is bound to reveal a few secrets and highlights how the Dube history differs from that of other Soweto townships. There are however, also similarities and a common apartheid and struggle past.

In the article below, well-known journalist Lucille Davie explores the rich social history of the Bantu Men's Social Centre and Dorkay House in downtown Johannesburg. Both buildings have received blue plaques since her article was first published on the City of Joburg's website on 2 November 2006. Click here to view more of Davie's work.

In 2014, a blue plaque was unveiled on Adam Asvat's Pageview home. Lucille Davie, one of Joburg's legendary journalists was there and compiled the following report (originally published in the Saturday Star on 3 May 2014) . Click here to view more of Davie's work.

They tore up the roads. They cut off the water and electricity. They made sand mounds on the sports field so that the community couldn’t play soccer or cricket any more. 

Below are notes prepared by the heritage team from the City of Johannesburg for a speech delivered at the unveiling ceremony of a blue plaque for Juliwe Cemetery during Heritage Month 2017. The speech was read out by Mr Kepi Madumo, Executive Director for Community Development, on behalf of the MMC. The notes tell the story of the forced removals of the African community from Roodepoort West to Dobsonville and the fight to save the cemetery from destruction.

We South Africans live in a polyglot society, which under our Constitution, has 11 official languages that “must enjoy parity of esteem and must be treated equitably”. Mother tongues range from Afrikaans to IsiZulu, from isiXhosa to Setswana, however to stop us being a modern Tower of Babel we largely use one language to communicate between each other and that is English. In doing so we are reflecting a world wide trend. In today’s world English has become the “Lingua Franca” replacing French as the language of diplomacy and German in the field of science.

In June 1954, a new building was completed at 80 Albert Street to the east of the Johannesburg CBD (just south of the Barclays / ABSA precinct today). It was designed as the head office of Johannesburg’s Non-European Affairs Department (JNEAD) and became the nerve centre for controlling the lives of black people in Johannesburg for over three decades. Despite having great cultural significance, the building’s controversial and complex history remains relatively unknown outside heritage circles.

 

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