Heritage Value Site 6, Victor Nkabinde, sentenced to 20 years on Robben Island, this is an extract in Passport to Soweto, linking John Mahapa, HVS2:
The youth were very aware of the signing of the Freedom Charter in 1955, the woman’s anti-Pass protest in 1956, with this in the back of their minds, they worked at the Drum, rolling and reading the magazines.
Saturday, November 1, 1958,
The ANC (Transvaal Province) Conference, held at Orlando Communal Hall, Soweto, will be remembered for the anger that threatened violence.
The Freedom Charter, or rather the Kliptown Charter as it was known in 1959, was heatedly discussed, and he famously said;
“We should think of cooperation with other races, when we have come into our own”.
Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe asked what had happened to the 1949 Nation Building Programme. He could not get answers.
Instead, word leaked that a truckload of weapons was on its way to the conference venue. The Africanists were to be dealt with physically.
Led by Sobukwe, the Africanists withdrew from the conference on November 1, 1958.
I feel a few twinges of discomfort, yet the way they describe their young lives, their introduction to the Africanist struggle, their joining the PAC on April 6, 1959, impresses me, makes me think back to when I was 19 years-old, but I keep those thoughts to myself.
Their first campaign that they are tasked with, is the ‘Status Campaign’, and I listen to the instructions by the PAC executive to the youth, I listen to them describing their hurt, their need to achieve the status of human, being called by their name, not the diminutive, boy or girl, not John or Mary, but treated with the respect that a human deserves.
I was guilty of this concept behaviour that did not treat my black brothers and sisters as humans, that used the diminutive.
After the anti-pass campaign, March 21, 1960, John, who protested at the Orlando Police Station, is sentenced to 3 years, they refuse to pay the fine. Then Sobukwe decides that they can’t waste their time in prison, and funds are obtained from outside South Africa to pat their fines and they are released.
When released, they have a meeting in Orlando East, where the leaders call for volunteers to be trained in Tanzania, suddenly they realise that they were now faced with the ‘real thing’, not one of the boys raised their hand, journalist Sofie Tema raised her hand and taunted them, then a few hands followed.
John volunteers for Military training in 1960, I am enthralled by his movements in and out of the Country, then, when arriving back in Johannesburg he is convicted and sentenced to Robben Island for seven years, in 1963.
Victor, receives explosive training in Lesotho, he is also arrested in 1963, sentenced for 20 years, and he serves every day of the 20 years on Robben Island.
Following 13 years of interaction in the Townships, the uMlungu walks into the 1955 to 1963 heritage of the PAC members, members who served many years on Robben Island, thanks to the fear that the Security Police had for the PAC.
I am welcomed into their family homes, and I ask myself, ‘just how did this happen’?
Few people in our country, have the level of dignity and respect that these families have, if they have achieved any freedom, it is the freedom of their humanity.
I leave their homes, if any animosity existed in these homes, it was only the animosity that I had for myself , while listening to these dignified men.
Yet as we talk, as we greet, hug one another, smile, it is these gentlemen, and their family, a wife who waited twenty years, that have provided me, another stage of my healing.
Suddenly, the visit to John Mahapa, allows the pieces of the puzzle to fall into place, no longer is this guide just a “Passport to Soweto”, it has become a “Passport to Our Heritage”.