The Department of Bantu Education mandated that Afrikaans be taught in black townships. The school boards which were categorized across ethnic divides vehemently objected to this legislation but their loud cries fell on deaf ears in 1975.

Afrikaans was used as a medium of instruction in Science, Maths, and Geography for the Standard Six in Higher Primary School and Junior Secondary School Form one to Form three. The High Schools were not affected. At the beginning of 1976 School calendar was a nightmare for teachers, students and parents. Both teachers and parents were helpless when it comes to this draconian law.

Phefeni Junior Secondary School was the first to boycott Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in February, and it was soon joined by other Primary Schools, including Bhele Primary School and Emthonjeni Higher Primary School, which was led by the learned Mr Washington”Styles” Mposula. He was the Chairman of Mighty Orlando Pirates FC when he was tragically killed by accident in 1976. He was replaced by Mr Ndlovu, the father of the first 16 June 1976 victim Hastings Ndlovu, even though distorted history narratives state that Hector Peterson was the “first victim.”

Rev Drake Tshekeng, Chairman of the BCM-Black Consciousness Movement, Rev Drake Tshekeng of Orlando St Mary’s Anglican Church, Bra Jackie Selebe, and another stalwart and charming gentleman paid a visit to my home at 1 Mooki Street in Orlando. They were paying a visit to my younger brother, Ndoda Washington Gwejobovu “Eeun” Tshabalala (17), a student politician and Form Three JC (Junior Certificate) student. Before being admitted to High School, he had to pass JC with a First Class pass, which was not easy to obtain.

The Soweto schools were closed from 16 June 1976. I was idling with some of my friends. After their meeting, the naughty gentleman approached us and said something very profound; “young gentlemen it is meet that you get educated”.I heard the word “meat”, and I was just curious how it related to education, so I looked it up in the encyclopedia, and it defined meet. The significance of what it meant impressed me” right and proper”.After a few weeks, I was reading The Rand Daily Mail and saw a picture of the naughty gentleman who was introduced to us as uXhamela this time his name was Steve Biko in December 1976.

On 9 September 1977, Friday morning, my brother Ndoda Washington Tshabalala went to Diepkloof Junior Sec School to meet with his classmates. Schools were under police and Special Branch surveillance from 1976 to 1979. The white police arrived at the school and pursued my brother and his classmates. They ran into the nearest houses, but the street pointed the house to the police. The white policemen went to the house and kicked down the door. Others managed to escape, but the police were focused on Ndoda. They brutally assaulted him and then executed him.

My mother learned of this death on 10am Saturday from Radio Zulu “about man who was shot in Diepkloof” her motherly instinct told her this is my son they are talking about. The police established an impromptu police at my house from 10 September 1977. The white police would just bust into the house and start family members and mourners.On September 18, 1977, my brother Ndoda Tshabalala was laid to rest at Orlando St Marys Anglican Church in Mooki Street, the first Anglican Church in Soweto founded by Father Trevor Huddleston in the 1930s.

The reason his funeral service wasn’t held in the Methodist Church, which also happens to be our family’s church, was precisely because Rev. Motsamai from the Methodist Church was just a simple coward, afraid to associate with politics. Rev. Drake Tshenkeng from the Anglican Church presided at my brother’s funeral service.Father Tshenkeng reacted angrily to the presence of the Special Branch members inside the church, but they did not leave; instead, they confiscated films from photographers and destroyed them. At the time, journalists were also known as reporters and photographers. Even the Special Branch members were inside the church.

There were four Putco buses transporting students and neighbours who were in mourning. At the gate to the Avalon cemetery, white police officers told my older brother to stop driving. One of the white officers threatened to shoot my brother, but my brother said, “Go ahead anyway, you’ve already killed my kid brother.” The trigger-happy white policeman then allowed my brother to drive on the cemetery grounds.

The number of police officers increased significantly inside the Avalon cemetery. Following the funeral, four Putco buses full of mourners were led to the Protea Police Station, where some of them were eventually released and forced to walk the approximate 13 km to Orlando. The entire incident left the family in a bad state, and some members of the community decided to shun us because they thought it was dangerous to be associated with the family of a political activist. Some were imprisoned without charge, and others haven’t been seen since that fateful day.It was sad and heartbreaking to see senior government officials who were Special Branch members living a high life at the expense of their victims, such as Captain Snyman of the infamous green car Chevrolet 3800, who murdered the youth of Soweto with impunity.

Steve Bantu Biko uXhamela! uNonkwindla! uZondi! died a few a days after my brother.Le.ts not forget!

Feature from:

Vuka Tshabalala

Founder CEO James Mpanza Legacy Foundation Trust.

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