Write down all that you see of present happenings – Rev. 1:19
Nine months after my arrival in South Africa, John Knoetze, Chief Director of the Sebokeng Development Board, informed me as we sat in his plush second floor office: “You don’t tell us what to do in our country and we won’t tell you what to do in your country” – a reference to the troubles in Northern Ireland. It was on 6 November 1970 that this memorable counsel was delivered with calm, thin-lipped deliberation – more the thoughts of a man than an administrator, I felt – and it was offered in the wake of the deportation of Father Peter Shanahan, my predecessor in Evaton township.
Not many years later, Knoetze received favourable government recognition as a thorough, efficient administrator in the black areas south of Johannesburg.
He had effectively “pacified” the townships after the Sharpeville killings in 1960 by overseeing the construction of Sebokeng during the 70s. This township was seen as a model of black housing development, containment and, crucially, contentment.
Thus, understandably, the cumbersome relocation of communities to Sebokeng tended to have a palliative effect on the political aspirations of these communities. But by the early 80s the young people of the new Sebokeng and neighbouring townships were resurrecting old political questions. And there were no political agony aunts to offer solutions. The uprising of Soweto in 1976 and the Black Consciousness Movement were for them the Good News of change. In late 1984, the townships of Bophelong, Boipatong, Sharpeville, Sebokeng and Evaton imploded, and exploded, with far-reaching consequences for South Africa. The country’s apartheid structure began to shudder at its foundations, a shuddering and faltering that led to its demise in a smoke-filled shower of historical debris.
This is an important book, one that has great relevance for the future of our country at a time when moral leadership is so sorely needed.
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond M. Tutu
An eloquent and precise narrative of what happend in the townships of the Vaal triangle in the 1980's.
(The late) Professor Colin Gardner