1881 The Transvaal or the South African Republic regains independence from Britain under the government of Paul Kruger. 1886 Discovery of gold 1896 Development of deep-level mining 1899 The South African War (The Anglo-Boer War) 1902 End of the war and the establishment of British rule in Johannesburg. 1905Kilpspruit was founded. Kilpspruit is a section of land 13 Kilometers from Johannesburg. No African was permitted to live in Johannesburg except for domestic servants. Kilpspruit was located in the center of modern-day Soweto. Time Line
1919 About 105,000 Africans lived in Joburg. Over 50,000 worked and lived at the mines; 30,000 worked as domestic servants; 4,000 lived in settlements like Klipspruit; and 17,000 lived in slums. 1923 Native Urban Areas Act was passed, expelling Africans from the slums without offering any housing in other areas. 1931 The African township of Orlando was built in the heart of the modern-day Soweto, away from white urban areas. Africans were forced out of the slums. Time Line
1934 James SofasonkeMpanza arrived in Orlando in 1934 after being forced out of his home when Johannesburg was declared a white area only. He was soon elected to the advisory board. (The advisory board brought issues to the Johannesburg City Council.) He began his work trying to secure housing for tens of thousands of homeless families without any success. Time Line
1944 April 20, 1944, Mpanza moved hundreds of people to a vacant lot to start a shantytown for those who had nothing. This was the beginning of what would become Soweto. It started with 500 families and 250 shacks, and grew by an average of 300 a day. At its early peak, it registered 4,000 shacks. James Mpanza oversaw the squatter camp, even as more shantytowns began to spring up around Orlando. He employed 28 policemen. He set up his own courts. He saw to the day to day needs of the people. Time Line
“I am a messenger sent by God. The Municipality has taken on itself the duty of providing us with houses. But it has not carried out that duty. There are no houses for us. We can no longer wait for them to put a roof over our heads. I am taking possession of the authority’s vacant land and I am building shacks for the people who have no houses.” —James SofasonkeMpanza, 1943
“Mpanza was a brilliant man. He realized that the growing list of people who did not have houses was becoming quite alarming and people just had to be accommodated. He made frequent calls to the City Council of Johannesburg, asking the authorities to help people get houses. Unfortunately, he spoke to deaf ears.” —Clement Twala
“We moved out with our blankets and our children on the back. Our husbands were not there. We were only women and babies and children. When we got there, there were no houses. Everyone was drawing their own room, everyone was digging. And in the evening, when our husbands came back from work, they asked the owners of the house, “Where are our wives?” and the owners said, “She has gone and built a house for herself.” —Violet Khanyeza, March 20, 1944
WWII (1941-1945) led to massive expansion of manufacturing jobs available to blacks. These jobs paid better than mining jobs. Pass laws were relaxed to allow workers to move freely to and from work. After World War II, Joburg’s black population soared past 500,000. The waiting list for houses in Orlando increased from 143 to 16,000. World War II
(1923): Pass laws in South Africa were designed to segregate the population and limit the movements of non-whites. Introduced in South Africa in 1923, the laws were designed to control movement of black Africans in urban areas. Outside designated "homelands,” black South Africans had to carry passbooks at all times, documentation proving they were authorized to live or move in “white" South Africa. 1948: After World War II, there was a great influx of Africans from rural to urban areas. When Apartheid became the official governmental structure of South Africa in 1948, pass laws became brutally enforced under the rationale that they would protect whites from “natives.” What was a Pass Law?
Passbook Overturning pass laws were at the center of Soweto’s political resistance. Hundreds of people were arrested, convicted and sentenced to hard labor, simply because they did not have pass books in their possession when they were stopped by police and security officers.
1950s: In the 1950’s the government tried to paint Soweto as a place of opportunity. In truth, regulations kept individual enterprise from happening. The most profitable businesses were herbalism and funeral undertaking, making disease and death the largest industries in Soweto. Ethnic zoning also took place at this time. Houses were allocated according to ethnic group. Shops could only be purchased in your ethnic area. Children had to attend schools within ethnic boundaries. Apartheid (1948-1994)
1952:The African National Congress(ANC), a political party representing black interests, begins a Campaign for Defiance of Unjust Laws as a protest against apartheid. Nelson Mandela is one of its leaders. 1959: William Carr, chair of non-European affairs, initiated the naming of Soweto. He called for a competition to give a collective name to townships dotted around the Southwest region of Johannesburg. Among the names suggested to the City Council was KwaMpanza, meaning Mpanza's place, invoking the name of Mpanza and his role in bringing the plight of Orlando tenants to the attention of the City Council. The City Council settled for the acronym SOWETO (South West Townships). Apartheid (1948-1994)
1960: In the town of Sharpeville, 67 Africans are killed while protesting Apartheid. 1960: The African National Congress was banned and laws were introduced by the apartheid government to prohibit political activity among blacks, even non-violent activity. In response to these changes, the political groups turned to armed struggles. 1962: Mandela is arrested for plotting against the government. Though he stays active politically, he will spend 27 years in prison. 1964-1976: Between 1964 and 1976, black political resistance had been crushed. Blacks feared arrest and torture under the apartheid regime. This inactive time in political resistance allowed black urban culture to form. People of many different ethnic and cultural backgrounds came together, their anguish expressed in song and art. Apartheid (1948-1994)
June 16, 1976 Soweto Student Uprising of 1976 Soweto
On the morning of June 16, 1976, thousands of black students walked from their schools to Orlando Stadium for a rally to protest against a recently passed law that Afrikaans would be the language of instruction in all South African schools. Many students who later participated in the protest arrived at school that morning without prior knowledge of the protest, yet agreed to become involved. The protest was intended to be peaceful and had been carefully planned by the Soweto Students’ Representative Council (SSRC). Why an uprising?
“There was one teacher by the name of Mr. Modisane. He was teaching Afrikaans, History and Mathematics [in Afrikaans], so we told him that we didn’t understand this language; couldn’t he explain in English? He said, “No.” So, I mean. . . . We couldn’t understand. Just imagine from March until—I think it was in May, we were still blank on those subjects.” Jon-Jon Mkhonza, explaining why the students wanted to demonstrate
“What was interesting was that students had a pact that parents should not be involved. They should not even be told about what was going to happen on the 16th. It was actually surprising to find that we all went home and kept quiet.” —Comments made by SibongileMkhobela, a student leader and activitist, who was present at the organizational meeting with 400 students on June 13.
Teachers in Soweto also supported the march after the Action Committee emphasized good discipline and peaceful action. TsietsiMashininini led students from Morris Isaacson High School to join up with others who walked from Naledi High School. The students began the march only to find out that police had barricaded the road along their intended route. The leader of the action committee asked the crowd not to provoke the police and the march continued on another route, eventually ending up near Orlando High School.
“The plan was that the signal time for us to start acting and moving was the singing of Nkosisikelel’ iAfrika in place of the usual Lord’s Prayer in the morning assembly. When the principal at one school tried to stop his students, they said to him, “We have a duty to do.” And then they marched out.” —Murphy Morobe, about the planned protest
The crowd of between 3,000 and 10,000 students made their way towards the area of the school. Students sang and wove placards with slogans such as, "Down with Afrikaans", "Viva Azania," and "If we must do Afrikaans, Vorster must do Zulu.” The March
“The police told us to disperse. But we refused, saying that, ‘No, we are not going to intimidate anybody, we are not going to loot, we are not going to do anything wrong. We are just going to march and demonstrate and sing then go back home.’ They again said that we must disperse.” —Jon-Jon Mkhonza, about police intervention just prior to the police dogs being released.
According to the testimony of Colonel Kleingeld, the police officer who fired the first shot, some of the children started throwing stones as soon as they spotted the police patrol, while others continued to march peacefully. Police attempted to calm the crowd verbally, or to disperse the students using dogs and tear gas. These methods had no effect. One of the police dogs was caught, set alight and beaten to death. When police saw they were surrounded by the students, they fired shots into the crowd, and pandemonium broke out. Demonstrations Turn Deadly
The first person to be shot was Hastings Ndlovu, followed by 12-year-old Hector Pieterson. The photograph taken of his body became a symbol of police brutality. The rioting continued and 23 people, including two white people, died on the first day in Soweto. Among them was Dr. Melville Edelstein who had devoted his life to social welfare among the black population. He was stoned to death by the mob and left with a sign around his neck proclaiming, “Beware Afrikaaners.” The First Casualty
“It was during this battle that journalists reported seeing a policeman draw his revolver and, without warning, fire directly into the crowd. Seconds later, several other policemen opened fire. That is when Hector Pieterson was shot. He was crossing between the students and the police, trying to go home, and the police were shooting by then. So they shot Hector Pieterson.” —SibongileMkhobela
This is the famous photograph, taken by Sam Nzima. Mbuyisa is carrying the lifeless body of Hector Pieterson, with his sister Antoinette Sitholerunning alongside. This image shocked the world, symbolizing the horrors of apartheid. It galvanizedthe world’s attention to end the regime.
Another though lesser known photograph survives of Mbuyisa still holding the body of Hector Pieterson, trying to load it into the car withMbuyisa’s sisterin great anguish on the ground.
Mbuyisa feared for his life from the police. He fled Soweto and was last seen in Zimbabwe in 1978. Family and friends have not seen or heard from him since.
“Police took up positions on the hill above the school and started shooting teargas. All hell broke loose. . . .” —Murphy Monroe “Students began to panic as they were dazed and blinded by teargas. Students were scattered, running up and down . . . coming back, running . . . coming back. It was some kind of game because they were running away, coming back, taking stones, throwing them at the police. . . . It was chaos. Whenever the police shot teargas, we jumped the wall to the churchyard.” —SibongileMkhobela Pandemonium
“When you see your friends being shot at for just walking in the street, it does something to you. And therefore, you would look around; what are the alternatives? Do I become like my mother, forever under the yoke of apartheid? The alternative was for me to not be like my mom, great as she was, but to go and fight. ” —ThandiModise, on Soweto Uprising
Violence escalated as the students panicked; bottle stores and beer halls were targeted as many believed that alcohol was used by the government to control black people. The violence abated by nightfall. Police vans and armored vehicles patrolled the streets throughout the night. Emergency clinics were swamped with injured and bloody children. It is not known how many injured children sustained bullet wounds because doctors refused to collect such details for fear that police would target the families of such children. In many cases bullet wounds were indicated on hospital records as abscesses. Violence
Emotions ran high after the massacre on June 16. Hostility between students and the police was intense, with officers shooting at random and more people joining the protesters. The township youth had been frustrated and angry for a long time. These riots gave them an outlet. The 1,500 heavily armed police officers deployed to Soweto on June 17 carried weapons including automatic rifles, stun guns, and carbines. They drove around in armored vehicles with helicopters monitoring the area from the sky. The South African Army was on standby as a tactical measure to show military force. Crowd control methods used by South African police at the time included mainly dispersement techniques, and many of the officers shot indiscriminately, killing many people. June 17, 1976
The accounts of how many people died vary from 200 to 600, with Reuters news agency currently reporting there were “more than 500” fatalities in the 1976 riots. The original government figure claimed only 23 students were killed. The number of wounded was estimated to be over a thousand men, women, and children. Casualties
Museum to commemorate a life never forgotten.(Taking pictures inside the museum is forbidden.) Hector Pieterson
Antoinette Sithole, Hector Pieterson's sister, is a receptionist at themuseum.
(Then Senator) BarackObama with Antoinette Sithole in 2006, on the 30th anniversary of the Uprising.
The youth played a key role in the liberation struggle. The class of 1976 bravely took to the streets and overturned the long held notion within the liberation movement that the working class was the essential force in challenging the apartheid regime. The 1976 revolt brought together significant forces and changed the face of South African history by challenging the apartheid regime. Although it took the parents and the workers in and around Soweto sometime to buy into the idea of the demonstrations by students, they finally did and gave them their utmost support in ensuring that the uprising's goals were achieved. To this day, the 1976 Uprising is known as the beginning of the struggle to end apartheid. A democratic election in 1994 inaugurated a new form of government in South Africa, though the ramifications of apartheid are still felt in every corner of this beautiful country. Summary
“It has been said that the path through Africa runs through Soweto; that Soweto is a microcosm, or the soul of South Africa; that Soweto is a shining example of neglect and exploitation: that Soweto means many things to many people.” from Louis Rive, “The Significance of Soweto,” address given at the annual meeting of the National Development and Management Foundation, Johannesburg, November 1980.
Much of the text for this presentation is drawn from Philip Bonner and Lauren Segal’s Soweto: A History, based on the video documentary “Soweto: A History,” Cape Town: Maskew Miller Longman Ltd., 1998. Credits
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