TripAdvisor Review Taste of Africa Soweto and other, Cedric & Nettie de la Harpe, consider that our Soweto Tour, or rather visit, is #1, and through this, they have driven Radical Economic Transformation in the tourism sector since 2004.
As South Africa’s political buzzword is Radical Economic Transformation, we will drive our guests to review their experiences, allowing our guests to participate directly in the process.
Please review, even if your visit was ten years back.
Cedric & Nettie de la Harpe
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Mbube Son of Nelson Mandela’s Soweto ‘father’, Chief Jonginthaba
From 2005 to 2010, Mbube Mdingi, eldest son of Chief Jonginthaba Mdingi, and I, shared a strange ‘street relationship’. In the early years of our Soweto activities, I was in Soweto every day, and at some stage during the day, our paths would cross. I loved interacting with him, a strange serious man, who was probably living in circumstances that did not allow him to take me home with him.
So, the bulk of our time together, was spent in either his maroon Kombi, or my blue Kombi.
Mbube Mdingi, is part of Passport to Soweto, through his father Chief Jonginthaba Mdingi’s heritage, and link to the ‘Royal House of the Gcaleka’.
Mbube, a MK activist, while we were interaction, told me that he was imprisoned on Robben Island early in 1970s, released in 1975, carrying specific instructions from Nelson Mandela, to infiltrate the Soweto youth and start to politicise them.
His brother Vuyo, on two occasions told me that he was on Robben Island, after June 16, 1976, I ignored his comments, so sure that Mbube had given me an accurate story, once I discover the PAC Robben Island prisoners, I find that Vuyo was correct, Mbube was imprisoned on Robben Island from November 25, 1977 to September 29, 1978 following his involvement when moving the youth into exile.
Chief Jonginthaba Mdingi, and Nelson Mandela;
I was introduced to house 1807 in 2005 by Mbube Mdingi, and the initial attraction was the fact that ‘Nelson and Winnie Mandela, had their wedding celebrations in this house in 1958’, as a result of the tribal family links that they had to Chief Jonginthaba.
Whether this claim is valid or not, was at this stage in 2005, not sufficient to develop a tourist interest route that would compete with the Orlando West route, so this house remained just an interest when passing by. Whether in Alexandra or Kliptown, I will be introduced to properties where the locals claim Nelson Mandela participated in some sort of activity, or was accommodated while on the run.
When I started to research the Mdingi Family for the ‘Passport to Soweto’, one of the persons of interest was Herbert Mdingi, thanks to the street and school name, and presto, thanks to the Walter & Albertina Sisulu, ‘In our Lifetime’ book, I discover a link to Chief Hintsa, right here in the home of Chief Jonginthaba.
The Mdingi family, importantly are descendants of the Royal House of the Gcaleka, and deserving of a place in the Passport to Soweto.
The family link to the Royal House of the Gcaleka, excited me, in 2013 I researched South Africa’s history, and having discovered a close link between the shooting of Chief Hintsa, May 12, 1835;
The sort of official version of Chief Hintsa’s death, is that he had been accused of having stolen 25 000 head of cattle, he was asked to return the Cattle, and then decided to flee, when in flight, he was shot, shot in the back of the head, and his ears chopped off, his head removed.
And the emancipation of the Mfengu tribe, by Reverend Ayliff, May 14, 1835, two days apart, and no more than sixty miles away, I question how Chief Hintsa, a powerful leader, a tactician, would have gone into discussion without been tricked, and the chief would never have put his life in danger, to save a few head of cattle.
In my opinion, he became aware of the threat that the Mfengu as an allied force with the English, would have on the future of the amaGcaleka, and he was therefore a threat to the English colonisation plans.
I cover the murder of the great Chief Hintsa, in my book, Consider the Verdict, where I link the murder to the emancipation of the Mfengu tribe, by Reverend Ayliff, once again, my personal version.
Mbube Son of Nelson Mandela’s Soweto ‘father’, Chief Jonginthaba
Is Mbube Mdingi’s claim that Nelson & Winnie’s wedding celebration took place at Chief Jonginthaba’s home correct?
For years I have accepted this, but as we publish Passport to Soweto, I need to seek an answer to this question, and refer back to Long Walk to Freedom.
1: The naming of Nelson Mandela’s daughters:
The Mdingi family are proud of the fact that their father, Chief Jonginthaba Mdingi, thanks to his position in the family, named Nelson Mandela’s two daughters, yet, according to the Long Walk to Freedom, this involvement is reflected as follows:
My relative, Chief Mdingi, suggested the name Zenani, which means “What have you brought to the world?” — a poetic name that embodies a challenge, suggesting that one must contribute something to society. It is a name one does not simply possess, but has to live up to.
The entry in the Long Walk to Freedom surprises me, Nelson Mandela has, according to the family, always used Chief Mdingi’s ‘Praise name’, Chief Jonginthaba, yet in the Long walk to Freedom, this respect does not take place.
Let me first present my understanding of ‘Praise Name’.
Nelson Mandela, as a young man, lived under the guardianship of Chief David Jonginthaba, and his heritage is well documented about him, and his cousin Justice, the son of Chief Jonginthaba, running away from arranged marriages by the Chief.
When Mbube Mdingi, the eldest son of the Tshawe Mdingi Chief Jonginthaba, first introduced me to this property in 2005, he explained to me that Chief Jonginthaba Mdingi, in relation to Nelson Mandela, was the traditional senior, being from the Royal House, when Nelson Mandela married Winnie in 1958, they had a wedding day lunch reception, at this, his elders home.
What I need to get my mind around, is my confusion of clan names, when a Chief or elder, is known by his ‘praise name’. Jonginthaba, in the Chief Mdingi position, is his ‘praise name’, and his clan name is Tshawe, this clan represents the ruling house among the Xhosa, including Chief Hintsa and his descendants.
Rohilhlahala Nelson Mandela, of the Madiba clan, was given his praise name, Dalibungha, ‘Founder of the Bungha’, ‘the Traditional ruling House of the Transkei’. Many elders would only know Nelson Mandela as Rohilhlahala, or Dalibungha,
Elders and Traditionalists attach greater respect and importance to this name, and when greeting or celebrating him, used the praise name, ‘Aaah Dalibungha’, and when the use of this praise name takes place, all participants in the event, will stand and call out the praise name, ‘Aaah Dalibungha’.
According to the letters that Mbube passed on to me, letters written to Mbube while he was on Robben Island, Nelson Mandela, even while talking to the Mdingi family, would refer to their father, Chief Mdingi, by his Praise Name, Chief Jonginthaba.
In the following letter, the family link that Mbube had to Nelson Mandela, is reflected, should be dated Nov 25, 1977;
Mtshana, I was very happy to hear that you were on the Island, and especially to receive your warm and encouraging role in which you told me about Chief Jonginthaba and your mum. However you said very little about the family, Sobuza, his brothers and your sister. She was a beautiful young lady and must now be at University, or already married. A few years back, I heard that Sobuza was married to Nobuntu and should like you to confirm it when you reply. I also hope that Bazindlovu’s family is keeping well and that his children were able to go to school.
Ishawe and I were excited when we saw you through the window as you lined up for X-ray, just outside our cells. Ishawe literally dragged me from the court-yard and we were sorry that you did not see us. Your build, height and face, reminded us of your father, but we hope to see you one day. In the hospital I saw your name written on the board and the old saying is that prevention is better than cure. Exercise regularly and you will feel the difference. Inqubela has carried the picture of Humahtshona twice. The first one disappeared about 7 years ago, and the second one is a current one.
In Johannesburg he had progress we views and hope than even as ruling chief, he is just as militant. I am sure that you know that you are not the first of Phalos descendants to be sent to this island. Maqoma was deported to this island twice. Perhaps it will give you much encouragement and hope to know that you are also helping to preserve that family tradition. I hope you are getting visits. I last saw Chief Jonginthaba when he visited me at the Fort in 1962. He looked well and impressive as usual. I was happy to get Kgathos message and hope that the years will run very quickly for you. What is the name of your wife and what was her maiden surname?
My fondest regards to you and all Comrades. Malume. Amandla.
This letter would have been written in 1978.
(Mtshana translated in ‘Nephew’)
Zindzi visited Chief Jonginthaba, at Bara Hospital where he is lying ill with diabetes. She found him cheerful & he even joked about the fact that he is on his way to his ancestors. Zindzi thinks his condition is not so bad and expects him to return home soon. We know how strong and courage the Chief is & we are also hopeful that he will be alright. We wish him a speedy recovery, & look forward to news from home confirming that he is on his feet again. Meantime keep strong and relax. We trust that you are receiving visits and letters. Fondest regard to all the comrades and the family. Amandla! Malume.
2: The claimed Wedding Celebration at Chief Mdingi:
This is possibly the most challenging concept that, based on my limited understanding of African Culture, I give my reason for why the Wedding Celebration would have taken place and Chief Jonginthaba’s home, as Traditional Elder.
The following extracts from Long Walk to Freedom, does not include this family connection, during the Soweto celebrations after the wedding in Bizana.
The wedding took place on June 14, 1958. I applied for a relaxation of my banning orders and was given six days’ leave of absence from Johannesburg. I also arranged for lobola, the traditional brideprice, to be paid to Winnie’s father.
The wedding party left Johannesburg very early on the morning of June 12, and we arrived in Bizana late that afternoon. My first stop, as always when one was banned, was the police station to report that I had arrived. At dusk, we then went to the bride’s place, Mbongweni, as was customary.
….. The entire executive of the ANC had been invited, but bans limited their attendance. Among those who came were Duma Nokwe, Lilian Ngoyi, Dr. James Njongwe, Dr. Wilson Conco, and Victor Tyamzashe.
After the ceremony, a piece of the wedding cake was wrapped up for the bride to bring to the groom’s ancestral home for the second part of the wedding. But it was never to be, for my leave of absence was up and we had to return to Johannesburg. Winnie carefully stored the cake in anticipation of that day. At our house, number 8115 Orlando West, a large party of friends and family were there to welcome us back. A sheep had been slaughtered and there was a feast in our honor.
I placed the extracts as per the Long Walk to Freedom, purely for the reader to understand that I have given consideration to whether Mbube’s claim has merit or not.
The only area that I bring into debate is the last two sentences.
At our house, number 8115 Orlando West, a large party of friends and family were there to welcome us back. A sheep had been slaughtered and there was a feast in our honor.
During my schooling in African Culture, in many Townships and Rural Villages, I have attended many celebrations, witnessed many celebrations, here we are looking at the period 1958, and my schooling takes place after 2004, but the celebration at 8115 Orlando West, brings into questioning my schooling.
My observations is that the Elder Family Home, is where the celebration always takes place, or, were things different in 1958.
In my limited opinion, either the home of Chief Jonginthaba Mdingi, or the home of Walter Sisulu, would, as elders to Nelson Mandela, have been the home where the elders and family would have prepared for the celebration.
It is unusual for these families to have taken the celebration into the home of the newly weds, particularly, not during the times that bans were in place on most of the ANC members.
I am further of the opinion that, if Walter Sisulu was the senior elder, in 1958, preference would have been given to the Mdingi home, in order to avoid attention from the Security Forces.
I trust that this support of the Mbube claim, will encourage interest to visit with the community.
Thus, in my opinion, Mbube’s claim that he witnessed the celebration in 1958, I give credence to.
The Passport holder will find great interest in uncovering what version they believe has credence.
In 2005, when Mbube introduced me to this house, he never introduced himself as the elder son of Chief Jonginthaba, was he embarrassed at the lack of respect and support from Nelson Mandela and the ANC, as related to this relationship.
Possibly he was avoiding the question that I would have asked: “Why has Nelson Mandela never visited your family since being released?”
He needs not have concerned himself, my research only finds Mrs Lollan as having been visited, even the Dada family of Kliptown, was not visited.
In general, if your heritage did not feature in the ‘Long Walk to Freedom’, the system kept you out of the Nelson Mandela interaction after release, almost as if it was the manual that decided who should be recognised.
In this narrative, I use artistic license, to allow you to receive the message directly from the Father of Soweto.
On May 15, 2005, we celebrated the birth date of Sofasonke, with the back-yard theatre production that follows, imagine you are sitting in a shebeen / backyard theatre, sitting among a group of locals, listening to the spirit of Mpanza talking to the patron, his followers, his audience:
Cedric de la Harpe.
Sofasonke – the Father of Soweto
Featuring the Spirit of Sofasonke:
“I arrived in Orlando East, from my posh back-yard accommodation, in Bertrams, early in 1934. Not too many people were accommodated in Orlando East at this stage, the council had built nearly three thousand houses, only walls to roof height, they would only completed them when they had some-one who was prepared to rent the house. People were afraid to come and live out here. It was far away from everything. This area was like a jungle, many gum trees, planted for the mines requirements.”
“When they started building on Mooki Street, they would only chop down a few rows of trees. This jungle remained right on the edge of those houses that were built. It was only when they started to clear more of the jungle that people felt comfortable to come and live here. Only when you agreed to rent a house, did they complete the house. Even in those days the whites would not complete the house if it was not occupied, they believed that the Blacks would steal everything. Across at Skomplaas though, there were thousands of people who may have sourced building material from here, they were desperate, having been forced off their farms from 1913.”
“The one important part of my brief teaching career, was that one of my students soon became my wife, Julia, so well loved by all in Soweto. Today, I can admit that Julia, much younger than me, was in-fact the power behind this man. She was a true leader of the community.”
“When I came to Orlando, there were three types of houses. The two-room semi-detached houses, they were the cheapest, 9/6d, the two-room house, 1/5/6d, and the three-roomed house, 1/10/6d. I could only afford the cheapest one, two-room semi at 9/6d, but it did have a large property, house 957 Orlando East.
“I learnt most of my law, as a clerk, to a firm of attorneys in Natal. I was a popular young man, and the woman, loved me, the woman began to notice me in primary school, but it was not until I was in college that I started to appreciate them. I played soccer for Shooting Stars, and my fans, mostly girls, used to call me the ‘Coy Coy man’, and shout ‘Coy Coy’ when ever I had the ball.”
“I started as a legal clerk in January 1908; this new job gave me prestige. I felt like a chief, a Zulu chief, fearing neither man nor God.”
“Soon I was getting confident in my knowledge of the law. It was corrupting me. And my growing commitments made me less and less able to live within my income.”
“I suppose I must go back to where my problems with the law all started, 1909, I hope I am not going to bore you today, I was going to concentrate on the history of Soweto, but when these children say they do not know about their Father’s life, early life in Soweto, we need to spend a little time talking about it. Forgive me.”
“In 1909, I had a girlfriend, Martha Bhengu, the most beautiful girl I have ever known. I was just twenty, and much in love. Then she jilted me, for an African cop, in the district. Was I mad? Yes me; James Sofasonke Mpanza, a five pound a month, legal clerk, and so I fondly thought, I should be above the police, how could she?”
“I could not take the snub, and went after her, and assaulted her, and forced her to love me all over again.”
“Yes today I will accept I was wrong. Martha worked for the ‘clerk of the court’, and reported me; in due course I was summoned to appear in court. On the day I appeared, I strutted into the dock without briefing council. The magistrate jailed me for a month without the option of a fine.”
“I was furious, straightway lodged an appeal, and the Supreme Court reduced the sentence to a one-pound fine. I was very satisfied with myself. Dangerously; satisfied with myself.”
“This probably caused me to start embezzling money from Stevens. I was found out, but Mr. Stevens was a reasonable man and he let me off, hushed the matter up, and let me stay. At this stage I had many women, I was swanky and proud, my morals were corroded and I continued.”
“You young man,” pointing to a young white visitor of 40 odd, “you look surprised; bet you never believed, that a young black man, could have lived a lavish life-style in 1909.”
“I had already left the firm, having pocketed some money and believing that I would get away with it, when my other frauds were discovered by Mrs. Stevens in 1913. Mrs. Stevens was not as kind as her dear old husband, she called the police, and I was duly charged.”
“I soon appeared before the then Native High Court, but because I was exempted under Law 28, 1865, which placed me under the Common Law of the then Colony of Natal, I successfully took exception to the jurisdiction of this court. My trial was transferred to the Supreme Court, and I got twelve months, with hard labour, thanks to me defending myself.”
“The next nine months changed my life. I met hardened criminals for the first time.”
“One of the problems you have, when you first go into jail, is that you realise that you have lost all you have, your job, your future, and your family. You meet these hardened criminals, I met an old friend of mine, Dick, from back home, as we say, ‘my home boy’, he was a hardened criminal. I was arrogant, had Dick’s support, and we together, with his intent, and my legal knowledge, we discussed and developed a master plan. It was sweetly simple, and utterly ghoulish. We would simply eliminate Indian shopkeepers, and take their money. With my small carefully gathered knowledge of the law, I improved on the plan, provided we destroyed all the evidence …. with fire, we could never be convicted. We openly plotted at length, with other more seasoned prisoners.”
“With World War 1 breaking out in 1914, we were given a three month remission. When I came out Dick was waiting outside for me. Over a few nips of brandy we discussed our plan, in all its gory details. We were about to murder our first store-keeper, Adam, a store-keeper in Georgedale.”
The patrons fall silent in around you in shebeen, no more talking. They all sense what is about to take place. Mpanza moves his crate away from the patrons, no longer wishing to share the details with them. He now starts to talk away from the visitors, in a very quite voice. Is he getting to the end of the story?
“On the appointed day, Dick and I, again indulge in the brandy, lots of it to give us courage. It was Friday, August 1, 11 days after my release. We struck in the evening.”
“Three days later the police raided our home, and arrested me on suspicion of murder and arson. My Mother’s shock; was great, and I never forgot the pain, that I put her through.”
“Most of the evidence against us was circumstantial. Some of it given by a passers-by, who had seen us in the neighbourhood. The most damaging evidence, was given by the former prison mates, that we were going to target Indian traders, and burn all the evidence, especially the fact that we had targeted one Indian Trader in particular. It was this evidence that influenced the verdict.”
“Guilty, sentenced to death, to be hung by the neck till you die.”
“I started to wait for the hangman to do his job.’
Sofasonke goes to the toilet, leaving us all in silence. I notice him buying a nip of bandy in the far corner, he has a few sips from the bottle, and returns after ten minutes.
He breaks into a broad smile, the drama around his arrest and sentence forgotten, he takes us back to his days in Soweto.
“During 1932 to 1934, three thousand five hundred houses were built in Orlando East .
“In 1935, there were fifteen thousand black people living in Orlando East”
“During 1935, the ‘system’ established an ‘Urban Bantu Advisory Council’, initially consisting of four elected Councillors; the name of this Council, over the years varied, but performed the same functions. I formed the ‘Sofasonke Party’, for you whites, ‘Sofasonke’ translated is ‘We will all die together’. This party was officially registered in 1943.”
The group of shebeen patrons start chanting ‘Sofasonke, Sofasonke’,
Mpanza indicates that they should quieten down so that he may continue, it only took one slight wave of the hand and order was restored.
“My followers found great strength in this name, and I had no problem with getting the majority of the votes, even though our party only contested one of the seats.”
“The fact that I obtained the majority vote; permitted me to act as the ‘Mayor’, the leader of the Advisory Board.”
“The people, started calling me ‘Sofasonke’, after my party, few people even today, know that my dear mother gave me that name at birth. She must have known, that I would be a leader, and that I would need a name that inspired a following.”
“I neglected to put any other party members up for election to the Advisory Board, and remained a single representative of my party.”
“The Sofasonke Party concentrated on addressing the civic interests of its members, and community. Housing, service delivery, employment, schooling, sport, crime”.
“I was an important link between my community, and the Council. I love sport; I love music, and the arts. I ensure that these aspects were given attention in the schools.”
“You youngsters; will have met a number of old residents who tell you that ‘Sofasonke’ arranged their family house for them.”
“If you wanted a house, you go to the Sofasonke house no, 957, where I had an office, you tell me who you are, and that you need a house. When I have finished the paper work, I will get onto my horse and go see the township manager.”
“Then one day, I will come to fetch your father and mother, and take you to the house. I will be on my horse, riding slowly while the family followed. When we all reach the house, I will take the key, unlock the door, and present the family with their house.”
Sofasonke proudly goes through the motions of getting off his horse, walking up to the door, fitting the key, turning the key, opening the door and standing back to allow the family to enter.
“This is your house; you must never leave this house, because one-day, the Council will have to give you this house. I always stressed this important advice to my followers.”
“This advise that I gave all my followers, is the reason why I remained in house 957 Phiela Street, Orlando East, even after many moved to the new Orlando West in 1946.
“With the advent of the Second World War, 1939 for the South Africans, due to the conflict that the British had with the Germans in Africa, industry started to develop at a rapid pace. Recruitment agencies; travelled the length and breath of Southern Africa, and the local British Protectorates, and recruited black people of various genders, regions and ethnic groups, into Johannesburg. The number of houses in Orlando East; through the building of additional houses in Orlando East, prior to the war, had increased to 5800. Although the Council records only show fifty thousand people, in Orlando East in the 1940s, our party knew that it had increased to one hundred thousand by 1943.”
“Imagine what it was like in 1943, one hundred thousand people from all areas of Southern Africa, living on five thousand properties sharing five thousand bucket toilets, and limited water facilities?”
“In the 1940s, I was fighting a lone battle, to stop the City Council from making the backyard dwellings illegal, and to build more homes. The only place we had to live, was here, but they did not want the proliferation of shacks. We were a Township and the official accommodation for the Johannesburg Council, owned by the Council, this was the only legal place for all of us to stay.”
“In 1943, the Sofasonke party had decided it was time to act, and that we should attach municipal land, and build our shacks. In the September of 1943 we started to build hessian shacks on the community hall property, we still waited patiently for another six months, and eventually, on the 20th March 1944, we moved.
Having declared myself their ‘Moses’, mounted on my horse ‘Brown Sugar’, I shouted, ‘I am leading you to the land of Canaan, the Promised Land’ and the four thousand families, that had slept in and outside my yard the previous nights, from my house to the communal hall, followed as we crossed the river onto vacant municipal land, and established the ‘Sofasonke Independent State’.”
“I collected 1/6d per month, from each family for the rental of the property and the Hessian sacking that I provided. In addition to this, I levied a tax on the coal, and bread delivered into my independent State; I issued trading licences in my state, an aspect that was much appreciated by my followers, due to the strict control that existed in the official township.”
“I also provided my own police force, civil and criminal courts, where I appeared as the Chief Prosecutor, Judge, Juror, and Executor. I maintained this control, till I was no longer physically able to punish the offenders. Those people that I punished will remember me, maybe not very fondly, but hopefully they will give me credit for what I did for our community.”
“I collected the money, and banked it in the name of the ‘Sofasonke Townships’.”
“Soon after we established this independent state, I was called by the manager of the Non-European Affairs Department to discuss the ‘Masekeng’, sacking-shack-development, and my committee and supporters followed on foot, by car, and all sorts of transport. When the Council faced this group, and saw their mood, they compromised, and authorised me to continue managing the ‘Masekeng’ shack development.”
“This victory was only temporary, and Orlando’s then superintendent, Colonel Armitage, arrived some eleven months later, with his police, and marched on the shacks, it was a very cold morning, armed with soup and bread, to encourage my followers to return to Orlando East.”
“I was not present, away on business at 80 Albert Street, but my wife Julia soon reacted. Julia and her good friend and associate, Albertina Sisulu, this was a year before she married Walter, went to confront the Colonel. Few of you people realise that this was probably the start of the woman’s display of power in our struggle. These were both very powerful woman. They walked up to the Colonel, surrounded by the local police, smug looks on their faces. Julia and Albertina, shouted at the Colonel that they did not want his food, they wanted houses.”
“My followers then describe, how the two women, pushed and kicked the pots of soup over, trampled the bread, in defiance. The followers went wild, for the first time the people of Orlando stood up to the system. The Police attacked, the people retaliated, rocks were thrown, chaos broke loose, two people died, one a coal merchant, Khoza, died in the clash.”
“A large number of people were arrested, some fifteen hundred, I had been in town that morning, and arrived home to find my wife Julia, who had recently had our baby, and my brother had been arrested. On arriving home and hearing the news, I knelt down and prayed; while I was praying, I was arrested, and we were all charged for trespassing, public violence and incitement. My baby caught pneumonia that first night in the cells, and died. It took two months, and cost us seven hundred pounds, before we were acquitted.”
“Following this victory, my supporters grew boisterous, demanding action. The system responded, by serving me with a deportation order to leave for Ixopo, in Natal, within three days. My lawyers believed that the Council had the better of me this time, but I never give up. I studied the case records and found a case that proved that a ‘Native’ exempted under Law 28, of the Colony of Natal, was not a ‘Native’ at law. I believed that it would apply to me, and my lawyers responded with great enthusiasm. From the Magistrates court, through the Supreme Court, and then the Appellate Division, the case dragged on for a year.”
“During this period, the Sofasonke supporters held me in some sort of reverence, flooding me with presents, and money.”
“The clash with the police, the defiant kicking over of the soup, and trampling of the bread, however had the desired effect, the feelings of the people, the utterly primitive conditions, under which the people lived, the unsanitary conditions, the disease and squalor in the camp, could not escape the official eye, or nostril, any longer.”
“Yes; it needed the system to get close to us, to realise just what conditions we were like that we were staying in. Just how difficult our lives were. From their offices in Johannesburg, these problems were miles away.”
“This is what I wanted, the authorities had to sit up and take notice. In 1945 the authorities built ‘shanty town’, consisting of four shelters, one thousand rooms per shelter, four thousand rooms, built out of cinder blocks, loosely packed and covered with corrugated roofing. The production of the cinder blocks took place at the Orlando East power-station, before it was ever commissioned, and this also provided some employment, for our members, making the bricks and building the shelters.”
“I considered this development a major achievement; as much my followers may consider Orlando East, the ‘Cradle of the Township Development’, I personally believed that this victory, and the building of the ‘Shanty Town’, marked the birth of what would come.”
“I eventually succeeded in overturning my deportation order a year later in 1946, at a cost of one thousand four hundred pounds. The day before I received the news, I had already been forced on a train, headed for Ixopo, Natal. The news of our victory, spread throughout the township and shack areas, and on my way home the next day, I was met by the entire community, celebrating for me. My wife Julia wept for joy, four animals were slaughtered, and the women cooked all day. There were celebrations, feasting, drinking and dancing, in the Streets of Orlando; such celebration will not be seen for many years to come.
The Sofasonke followers in the shebeen stand and start dancing, while they sing Sofasonke Party songs. Before long the entire shebeen has joined in.
Sofasonke sits down and a small wave brings order to the shebeen again.
“After my release from jail, I was involved with a woman who I did not marry, because she did not accept my religious principles. I had four sons with her, the first one, I named Savuosonke, ‘we will all be resurrected’.”
“In 1939 I married my wife Julia, and we had four daughters.”
“In 1946, the City Council decided to start building Orlando West, yes, on my piece of land, my independent state, the state that I owned in 1944.”
“The day will come when I will submit a land-claim for compensation.”
“When they first started making houses in Orlando West available, the City Council, introduced the fact that you needed to prove that you were a ‘shack dweller’, before you could qualify for a Council house.”
“The stipulation that they needed to prove that they were shack dwellers, to qualify for a house, stimulated me and my followers, to start to erect more shacks, we decided that we would force the Council to provide houses for the shack dwellers. Many, many, shack dwellers.”
“In 1946, Orlando West is built; the houses were slightly bigger than our Orlando East homes. A little bigger; and more expensive too.”
“Typical of the Colonial influence in this country, believe me this stupid colonial influence will always exist in this country, the Council stipulated that you needed to prove that you were a shack dweller, before you qualified for a house. You needed to prove that you were a shack dweller before you qualified to rent a house, the most expensive houses in Orlando, from the Council. Stupid; yes, very stupid, stupid whites, very Colonial whites.”
“Fortunately they had this Advisory Board that I headed, and we were able to find a solution to the problem. We arranged for those residents of Orlando East, who had stable employment, to take up residency in Orlando West, and those shack dwellers, who qualified for houses, were allocated the cheaper houses in Orlando East.”
Mpanza takes another toilet and brandy nip break, and then, collects a crate and moves into the far corner, away from all the shebeen patrons, talking with less authority, almost quiet, causing the patrons to move closer.
“I had overcome my conscience, I did not feel guilty, I suppressed my guilt, under the belief that I was legally not guilty. My defence was that they only had circumstantial evidence, I had not been seen at the crime scene,” Mpanza opens the scene, and the gathering feels the impact, of listening to a person, talking from the death-cell.
“Following an appeal, my appeal, appeal after appeal, till the ‘Queens Court’, granted the reprieves, Dick was the first to be reprieved, and then my sentence, was commuted to life.”
Mpanza walks as if trapped in a small cell, deep in thought, his eyes show fear, anger.
“When I was given the news of my reprieve, I went mad, shouting that I wished to be hung, right then and there.” Mpanza, jumps around the shebeen, shouting, shaking, crazy.
Looking directly at the old Mother, for the first time for some time, he expresses his feelings;
“For the first time in my life I was afraid, afraid of the torture, the torture through eternal imprisonment. I never believed that I would be locked up. I was afraid. I wished to escape from this permanent hole. I wished to escape, through death.” Mpanza’s voice is raised, the shebeen audience feel with Mpanza, in his death cell, his now permanent cell.
Mpanza sits down on another seat, the gathering is quiet, Mpanza is on his own, once again in ‘solitary confinement’.
“During the next four years, I was moved from prison to prison. Durban Central, Point Jail, where I nearly killed a warder, who wished to discipline me for smoking; my first cigarette for a year, then Toitspan Prison, Kimberley, assaulted another supervisor, De Beers Prison, and then the Cinderella Prison, Boksburg, where I had my vision.”
Mpanza moves to the edge of the stage, and lies down on what resembles a prison blanket, turns to face the audience, and quietly continues, in the husk voice, of an ill man, a man with a sore throat.
“One night I had an attack of flu, as I lay in my cell, I saw a vision on the wall.”
Mpanza stares and points towards the wall / side entrance to the stage. He remains quite for awhile, staring, and the audience start focussing on where he is pointing. Suddenly a person dressed like a priest, ghostly white chalked face appears.
Mpanza continues quietly, almost in fear, “It was Chaplin Baker; he told me I should be re-baptised in remorse, and cleanse myself of my sins. The very next day, I started feeling better, I started reading my bible every day, all day, praying, begging God for forgiveness of my sins.”
Mpanza now stands proud; he is now the preacher that he had become in a very short period.
“I began preaching to the other prisoners, encouraging them to repent. They responded; and in their cells they took turns to pray for thirty minutes, every night. They started from the lights out bell, and then every thirty minutes, when the warders called ‘all is well’, they woke the next prisoner, and he would continue, praying, through the night, till sunrise.”
One by one the cell mates on the stage; take turns to chant quietly in pray, as Mpanza relates his experiences.
“It was three years after my vision, that Chaplin Baker baptised me, at this time I became convinced, that infant baptism, was against the scriptures. During my prison period, I wrote a book on my religious beliefs.”
Long silent moments as Mpanza quietly reflects on his past
“My faith was strong now; I committed never to tempt God again. I started baptising many of the prisoners that I had converted, using Baker’s bath.”
“This could not last, and very soon a priest complained, and I was moved to Pretoria Central.”
“During the visit of the Prince of Wales in 1925, prison sentences were reduced, and my sentence was reduced, I was due to be released on parole, in 1927.”
“My conscience was starting to torture me; no longer was I able to suppress it; it was as if someone alive was talking to me, reminding me continually: ‘James Sofasonke Mpanza, you are a murderer’.”
“I was afraid to leave jail, while my conscience was still torturing me. I fasted secretly, asking God, to send me a sign, that I was forgiven.”
“On the seventh day of fasting, the prison cook knocked on my cell window, and told me that a boiler attendant Sam, was insisting on seeing me.”
An big elderly man enters from the side dressed in a boiler suit.
“I left my cell to meet him, and found this big man, dressed in a boiler suit, crying, tears flowing, he seemed afraid. I had never seen this man, before.’
Mpanza turns towards the tearful man that has joined him on the stage.
The elderly Sam, tears flowing, held out a hand, visibly shaking, to Mpanza, they held hands for long silent moments, staring into each others eyes.
“Are you James Mpanza?” asks Sam.
Mpanza continued staring into Sam’s eyes, transfixed, by this strange man that he had never met before.
He tried to answer, but no words would come out of his mouth. After long silent moments, he manages a slight nod of his head, in answer.
“James Mpanza, God commands me; to tell you that all your sins have been forgiven.”
Mpanza is afraid, he continues to hold Sam’s hand, turns his face away from him, and looks up towards the sky in panic; the sky is clear, blue, and peaceful.
Mpanza looks back into Sam’s eyes, and then they both kneel down, to pray together.
A long minute passes, while both Mpanza and Sam pray to God, praising God and thanking God.
After an hour’s prayer, Mpanza says Amen loudly; and starts to rise; still holding Sam’s hand.
Mpanza feels that Sam is not responding to him rising and looks back at Sam.
Sam turns his face towards Mpanza, gazes into his eyes, then; he looks up into the sky, smiles, and slowly, quietly, collapses, and dies, falling slowly into a pile, at Mpanza’s feet.
Mpanza is quite, there is not a sound in the back-yard, as the audience and the players, come to terms with Mpanza’s experience.
Mpanza sits down; all the jail participants sit silently, with bowed heads, to afraid to interrupt the quietness. The dear mother stares ahead, not looking at anything, I watch her, not too sure just how she is receiving this message that Mpanza had received.
“I wept for the first time in my life.”
Having completed his presentation with these words, Mpanza is heard leaving the shebeen, the clip clop of the horses hooves, slowly disappearing.
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During the writing of ‘Consider the Verdict’, I become of the opinion, that Nelson Mandela had let the African people down, allowing the exclusion of his people, from the Economy and the Land to continue.
I asked, “Was he conned, or was he a collaborator?”
Following this question that I asked myself, my mind never stops receiving Nelson Mandela input, why was his family and friends excluded from Nelson Mandela’s life after release, this exclusion becomes a topic of the guide book ‘Passport to Soweto’, extracts included in the Chapter, “Was Nelson Mandela’s mind, manipulated?”
Off the interaction with the Orlando East community, where both ANC and PAC elders are involved, I am taken through the period 1940 to 1960, exposed to political history that I had not touched on before, history that explains the ANC split in 1958.
PAC Veteran and member when PAC was founded, John Mahapa, arrested with Robert Sobukwe on March 21, 1960, has greatly contributed towards my Africanist mindset development, born in 1940, still a child in 1955, my friend that moved from Boy Scout to Freedom Fighter overnight, thanks to the Drum Magazine.
To my surprise, many young Township boys belonged to Scout Groups in the Townships. Twice a year, during their school holidays, they were required to perform ‘Bob a Job’ doing work in their communities, earning a ‘Bob’, which was added to their Scout Troop coffers.
While still a student at an Orlando East Primary School, one of the community leaders, Job Rathebe, offered the Boy Scouts an opportunity to earn money for themselves. Friday afternoons, Saturdays, and on occasions Sunday mornings, they worked at the Drum Magazine, rolling and packing Drum magazines for distribution.
Early struggle by the South African black people, was driven by the educated groups, the Fort Hare students, the academics, the lawyers, the teachers, the journalists, the doctors, who brought together their friends and families as momentum built.
The Orlando East Secondary School youth, were bubbling with energy as they awakened to the Freedom movements in other parts of Africa, from living in a situation where freedom was not thought about, freedom not considered, almost impossible, they were becoming enlightened, they were the youth that ignited the fight for freedom, a fight that has been hidden from our heritage.
The Drum magazine, reading while rolling, while packing, brought them exposure to the African countries fight for freedom, the youth moved towards achieving dignity and freedom;
The “dangerous explosion” among the Kikuyu that he had predicted in 1930 erupted as the Mau Mau rebellion of 1952, which was directed against the presence of European settlers in Kenya and their ownership of land. On October 21, 1952, Kenyatta was arrested on charges of having directed the Mau Mau movement.
On his return to Tanganyika, Nyerere was forced by the colonial authorities to make a choice between his political activities and his teaching. He was reported as saying that he was a schoolmaster by choice and a politician by accident. Working to bring a number of different nationalist factions into one grouping he achieved this in 1954 with the formation of TANU (the Tanganyika African National Union).
Kwame Nkrumah – Ghana
He formed in June 1949 the new Convention Peoples’ Party (CPP), a mass-based party that was committed to a program of immediate self-government. In January 1950, Nkrumah initiated a campaign of “positive action,” involving nonviolent protests, strikes, and noncooperation with the British colonial authorities.
After his release, he helped found the Mouvement National Congolais (MNC) party on 5 October 1958, quickly becoming the organization’s leader.
This group of youth, as scholars self-politicised by 1955, while they worked at the Drum, rolling and reading the magazines, seeking Dignity and Freedom.
In the late 1950s, Drum Magazine develops the youth as self-politicised Africanist, but in a few years time, the Sharpeville Massacre is not covered by Drum Magazine, even though they had two eye-witnesses on the ground.
Jim Bailey, the owner of Drum, did not approve the publication of any reports of the Sharpeville massacre, his Father, Sir Abe Bailey, a diamond tycoon, the family and business links to the economy, in my opinion, influenced this decision.
Today, as John and I discuss Drum’s failure to contribute to the Africanist struggle, failure to remove white rule when it should have been removed, John laments,
“I must stop my songs of praise for the Drum Magazine.”
Soweto self-guided visit a Passport to Soweto, is part of Cedric & Nettie’s commitment to Radical Economic Transformation that they have been involved with since 2004.
This guide-book, allows the local and international visitor to safely visit Soweto, Orlando East and Orlando West, lunch at the Nancefield Hostel for the slightly more adventurist, for between R 120 and R 240 per person, for the full day.
The guide-book prepares you with local knowledge that you would require, allowing you to make the decisions on how you will spend the day, and the freedom, to move through the day, at your leisure.
The Passport to Soweto, is your opportunity to economically empower, the previously disadvantaged community, leaving a green footprint behind.
Visitors who have purchased the Passport to Soweto, by quoting your reference number in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, will receive advice and assistance from Cedric as you plan your day.
Soweto tour success comes to Taste of Africa guides.
Nettie and I have driven the Passport to Soweto initiative since March 2017, a radical change in what the visitor to Soweto would experience, the must do museums no longer.
We have learnt daily, as we drive the hidden South African history, the history that resides in many of the Township elders.
Change is difficult for all of us to accept, and our guides are no different, on many a day, the guide carried instruction to visit one of the Heritage Value Site, the participant waited, we contributed, but always an excuse why they never reached the site.
Yesterday we had two Italian groups in Soweto, 14 sleeping overnight, 16 arriving in the morning, and Cedric was booked to host a Swedish family of 3.
Logistically, the guides were unable to avoid my directions.
The energy in and outside of Heritage Value Site 3, bubbles for 3 hours.
When the dust has settled, I text guide Stanley to enquire, and his report confirms our belief with regard to the direction we are going:
Hi Stanley, how did the visitors react to the Mahapa visit?
That’s what they want. Thank you Ced to introduce such a wonderful tour to our visitors.
I don’t really know what to say about what you are doing to our visitors, cause this is an amazing experience to them.
Could we ask for a better stamp of approval?
Cedric and Nettie de la Harpe
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Soweto our hidden history, the 1955 youth groups, moving from Boy Scout to Freedom Fighters by the time they were 19 years old, a must do visit.
Passport to Soweto free book today, excited about what you read? then buy the book, and enjoy your Soweto tour, not a tour, a full-day visit for an additional cost of R 300 per person, become a partner in the Economic Development of the Township:
The Passport to Soweto enters the final stage of drafting and editing, and we are ready to release a .pdf book to read for free off this webpage link.
We do this for a few reasons;
1: It allows the potential visitor access to understanding the various Heritage value Sites, giving insight into the experience the visitor will have.
2: The readers input will allow us to take some of the focus off the ‘why’, and bring the magic of the Heritage Value Sites to the fore.
3: It will assist other Township Communities and Rural Villages, to have insight into the Economic Transformation plans that we have put in place in Orlando East, and we presently have in development process, Alexandra Township, Kliptown, Meadowlands, & Diepkloof.
4: The release of the link, will sell our initiative, and allow the pioneering perspective ‘investors’, to communicate any of their interests / concerns, before buying their Passport to Soweto, which allows access to the Heritage Value Sites.
Soweto tour rather visit on Spring Day, a special event if you are going to be visiting Soweto on September 1, this is the first of special experience visits that Taste of Africa offered through the Passport to SowetoResponsible Tourism initiative.
Passport to Soweto, a guide that gives direction to using the Integrated Public Transport system, the Gautrain and Rea Vaya bus, and gives guidance and direction, including all the Heritage Value sites, bringing you the magic of Africa, while, everything you pay, goes directly to the community.
Spring Day is a magic fun day, one that should not be missed:
Your day will be filled with visits to Heritage Value Sites, details of the various sites are slowly filling the Passport to Soweto blog, allowing you the option to watch the blog grow, and ask any questions.
On Spring Day, Nettie and Cedric will be enjoying the day with the visitor.
For international visitors, you may either buy your Passport to Soweto through Createspace; or alternatively, Buy from our Store; in which case we will despatch a .pdf version to you, and your Passport to Soweto will be delivered to your Johannesburg accommodation, or await you in Soweto.
We guarantee that this will be the highlight of your visit to South Africa.
Cedric and Nettie de la Harpe
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Soweto tour from Sandton R 300 per person sharing, departing Gautrain Sandton.
Yes it is possible to do day trips to Soweto, from Sandton, for just R 300, from Melville, for just R 240.
With a “Passport to Soweto” to guide you, Johannesburg and Soweto’s new safe integrated transport system makes this budget price day trip possible.
Read the free pdf of Passport to Soweto link, buy your copy, and it will be waiting for you in Soweto.
Your cost of Gautrain Travel from Sandton to Park Station is approx R 30, your cost of travel from Park Station to Soweto, using the Rea Vaya, is approx R 15. From Sandton, return R 90, from Melville, return R 30.
See the Gautrain and Rea Vaya links for your introduction to cheap integrated travel in Johannesburg and Soweto.
The Gautrain is system is safe, you can buy a one way ticket, Sandton to Park Station, approx R 30, or, consider buying a Gold Card, and load money on the Card, allowing you to use the Gautrain Bus system, to access sites in Johannesburg.
When arriving from Sandton, as you leave the Turnstile, turn sharp right, and move towards the escalator and stairs, at the top of the escalator, before the exit, turn sharp right, and right again, and leave the station at the exit, towards the Gautrain Busses, head slightly left towards the traffic lights, at the traffic light, you enter the Rea Vaya bus station.
Rea Vaya allows the commuter to buy a one-way ticket, approx R 15, from the Rea Vaya bus stations, for those who wish to board a bus, off the ‘truck routes’, you would need to buy a Smart Card to travel (R25), these cards are often only bought at the Rissik Street / Park Station bus station.
If arriving from the Gautrain link, you may consider buying the card, loading one cash onto it, which will allow you to use the card for extra trips, on the sub-routes that operate in Soweto.
Board the T3 bus, travelling from the South to North, from the CBD, travelling from left to right, towards the entry to the Rea Vaya station, this route passes through the Melville area, if boarding in Park Station.
You are heading for the SAPS Rea Vaya bus station.
Taste of Africa, dedicated to open the hidden history of Soweto in the interest of the local community, will assist you to achieve this Real Price.
Guides will be made available if required, please enquire.