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On massacres forgotten and remembered

Piet Swanepoel
23 October 2012

Piet Swanepoel says no doubt Marikana will eventually be blamed on the Afrikaners as well

OF MASSACRES AND HOW SOME ARE (not) REMEMBERED.

Mr. R.W. Johnson's article on Marikana, Sharpeville and the Pondo uprisings was very interesting and deserves to be read by anyone trying to make sense of events in Africa.

Like Johnson I also trace my involvement or interest in African political developments to Durban. Unfortunately we were not contemporaries there - I arrived in Durban in 1948 and was transferred to South West Africa in January 1961, whereas it seems that his involvement only started in 1960.

We were in different camps as well. He was a budding Marxist and I was a Special Branch detective. Our backgrounds also differed completely. He was English, (albeit our local branch of the species), whereas I was (still am) an Afrikaner.

We seem to have known the same people, for example the Arensteins, but when I came to know Rowley and Jacqueline they were living in a block of flats where there would have been no room for visiting Pondo chiefs.

Their neighbours, I remember, were Errol and Dorothy Shanley, both also listed communists like the Arensteins. What I heard only recently was that Ronnie Kasrils, our former Minister of Intelligence, and Jacqueline Arenstein, were cousins.

We also knew the same places. Like Lakhani Chambers, where the ANC had a small little office, sometimes unoccupied for weeks, whereas the Natal Indian Congress (NIC) offices in the same building were spacious with a big staff under M.P.Naicker, a very committed communist.

Some time in the early fifties I had been one of a small party of detectives, led by a visiting American intelligence officer, who entered Lakhani Hall late one night and planted a then state of the art bug in the ceiling..

Unfortunately the bug was never very effective because of the long distance to our wire recorder at the Smith Street Police station.

This article is about the massacres Mr. Johnson did not deal with, but his references to Durban in the sixties make me remember so many names which white people never knew, but to us in the Special Branch were household names.

Names like Albert John Luthuli, Massabalala Bonny Yengwa, Pitness Humphry Simelane and Wilson Zamindlela Conco. This latter fellow was a pain in the neck to me. He was the treasurer of the ANC in Natal. His father, Harry Conco, was a successful bus owner who operated a fleet of busses which passed Highflats in Southern Natal every day when I was stationed there in 1947.

Why, I asked myself, was my father a poor unschooled Boer, whose son had to start life as a labourer on the Railways, and this smart Aleck's father a rich businessman who could send his kid to varsity to become a doctor?

But enough of that. This is about the massacres you never talk about. First of all you need to know what I call a massacre. I take my cue from Funk and Wagnells which defines a massacre as the indiscriminate killing in numbers of the unresisting or defenceless.

Johnson, as to be expected, does not deal with the most terrible massacre in the history of South Africa. English-speaking people do not share with Afrikaners, the grief and pain at the remembrance of the murders of Piet Retief and his party of some hundred Voortrekkers and their non-white grooms at King Dingane's kraal on February 6th, 1838.

They had been invited into the kraal by the King and requested to leave their firearms with their horses, so they were absolutely defenceless when the King gave the order to have them killed.

The killing of Retief and his men was only the lesser part of the brutal murders of that week. Immediately after they had clubbed their victims to death, Dingane's impis were dispatched to attack the old men, women and children and servants who were waiting for Retief and his party's return.

41 Boer men, 56 Boer women, 185 Boer children and 200 Coloured and African servants were killed in the vicinity of where the town of Weenen (Weeping) stands today.

What saddens an Afrikaner like me is how a modern liberal English writer deals with the massacre I've described here. Anthony Sampson, in his Mandela - the authorized Biography, appears never to have heard of them.

Instead he writes "16 December was Dingane's day, which commemorated the Afrikaners' massacre of Zulus in 1838". It It is unbelievable, but the Battle of Blood River has now become an Afrikaner massacre of Zulus!

Thousands of well-armed Zulu warriors attacked a laager in which some 300 Afrikaners were determined to defend themselves. Their primitive front-loader rifles enabled them to fight off the Zulus but that now becomes a massacre!

Another series of events which have been described by some people as massacres took place in Durban in January 1949. These events, like the Weenen massacres, are not frequently mentioned any more, but being one of the few remaining witnesses to the first act in that drama, I think people might be interested in what I remember of it.

As I said, it was January 1949. I had just progressed from being a detective probationer to a fully fledged detective constable. I was not yet 21 years old so I could not be issued with a firearm. (In those years detectives were issued with .38 pistols). I was on the Theft from Motor cars squad, a small unit and had just completed a motor cycle with side-car course and been issued a licence to drive a Harley Davidson.

We, child detectives, were tutored by older hands and Zulu colleagues. We knew absolutely nothing about politics or race relations or Marxism. We lived as we'd grown up. Zulu colleagues told you stories of what was going on in their communities and you told them what white people were saying.

The big story on the Zulu side was that some wealthy Indian young men were taking advantage of young Zulu girls, getting them pregnant, but refusing to marry them or pay maintenance for the children.

Only a small number of such misdeeds had apparently been committed, but it was a nice juicy type of story. None of us regarded it as anything serious, until one morning the Zulu detectives insisted on seeing the chief of the CID. There was going to be something terribly serious happening near the Bus Centre at the Indian market, they reported.

A group of men were preventing bus drivers from departing from the centre, leaving thousands of African passengers stranded in the centre. Many of them were dock workers who depended on busses to take them to the docks in Point Road. And agitators were busy among the passengers. The talk was that the time had come to rid the country of the Indians.

There was not much the CID chief and the District Commandant could do. They verified the fact that all the busses arriving at the Bus Centre near the Indian market were prevented from departing and that thousands of people were consequently massing up in the Centre. For some reason which I never really understood they decided that all the detectives at the Smith Street Police station were to be deployed in the Indian business quarter to observe what was happening. We were loaded into a few Black Marias.

If I remember correctly, I was dropped in Leopold Street, which led off from the Bus Centre to Grey Street, the heart of the Indian business centre. I stood on the pavement feeling very lonely.

We were all instructed to take up positions about 50 yards apart. The street had become eerily quiet. All the Indian shopkeepers and their families had retreated to their flats above their shops which were all locked, but in those days, unprotected by burglar fencing.

From the Bus Centre, which was approximately 300 yards from where I was standing, roars could be heard and suddenly what I thought were a million people filled the street in a mad rush in my direction.

They screamed and ululated and I knew the end of the world had come. Most of them had wooden "kieries" and these they used to smash every shop window in their way. At this stage they were not looting the contents of the shop windows. They were content to destroy the windows and did not attempt to enter further into the shops.

They were clearly in a hurry to destroy the shop window of every one of the hundreds of Indian shops in the area. And in the next hour or two they did that. Not a singleshot was fired at them. It would have been suicidal to interfere with them.

The weird thing was that they never even threatened me or any of my colleagues as I later established. Many of them stopped next to me for a few seconds and advised me to arrange that the ships in the harbour were to be instructed to receive all the Indians in Natal to take them back to their Motherland!

In the days which followed the mood changed and the rioting became very serious. Many innocent Indian people were killed and their shops looted.

Policemen were flown in from the Rand to try and restore order and eventually even Marines from the Navy with machine guns were deployed. Curfews were enforced and people ignoring them were shot.

It was a sad time. For me the saddest part came afterwards. It was an article I read years later in an American magazine. The real cause of these tragedies, it claimed, were the policies of the Afrikaners who had taken over the country the year before! In Durban, at that time, there was not a single Afrikaner councilor.

I have no doubt that eventually Marikana will be blamed on us also.

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 responses to this article

yes it will be blamed on the afrikaners
after all they introduced apartheid which was a terrible thing indeed. probably almost as bad as the colonialism. but here we have people who cannot lead a country and they are the real cause of the nightmare that is now south africa

by vern on October 23 2012, 14:06
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The right way
Hold your head high old man, you did nothing wrong. Nothing these buffoons can do will erase the truth. Renaming streets and bull dusting history won't change their thieving ways. Fact is, their administration is bankrupt in more ways than one, why does . .more

by The Booi on October 23 2012, 14:42
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@ vern
Apartheid was introduced by the British, NOT ny the Afrikaners.. So was the mine hostels, migrant labour and concentration camps

by factfinder on October 23 2012, 15:22
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@ Charles

And you sir, are quite possibly the worst racist to blight these forums. Oh, and quite possibly the dumbest as well...

by Marc V on October 23 2012, 16:35
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Thanks
Fascinating recollections,

I had always heard that these riots were triggered by a Grey St. Indian shopowner "klapping" a little African shoplifter, but these may have been different riots as I have dim memories of Commercial Road, Pmb, traffic . .more

by Moor on October 23 2012, 17:58
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More please
Mr. Swanepoel,

More of your recollections please, if you would.

Other readers may google his autobiography, free to read on some blog, about 120 pages if I recall. Fascinating stuff which brings back memories of more simple . .more

by Moor on October 23 2012, 18:14
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YES! Julle Boertjies het dit gedoen!
Ja Piet S., you also saw the Boer Captain (very distinct image) ordering his "tdarkie roops" to fire those live rounds @ the miners on the 16th August (which was captured on global tv) and the helecopter pilots were also Boertjies (not to mention the . .more

by Dr Sel Cool on October 23 2012, 20:47
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?????
Who the the darkness is this dr Sel Cool?

by In Wonder on October 23 2012, 21:25
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Dr Selling Cool invented the "Cooley"
A "Cooley"is a cool drink drunk by cool Dr's

by Ozzie on October 23 2012, 22:56
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@dr sel cool
What are you ranting about?
'counter-revolutionery ANC government" 'controlled through the banks and JSE'
Wot?

by jelry on October 24 2012, 07:10
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piet the nazi that got away
Not so shame on you piet. Any boer who could not reach varsity, had only themselves to blame – maybe something wrong upstairs, lol. But the oppressive regime had many jobs reserved for poor whites, hey piet! Coupled to that, the right-wing socialist . .more

by child-survivor of many massacres on October 24 2012, 07:43
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@ Dr Sel Cool,
What I find amazing is that so few Boers could keep the whole African continent busy for so many decades, while Africa remain reliant on the bloody Boers, and still are. These Boers even kept the whole of the British Empire busy for 3 years a while ago. . .more

by "hACKER" on October 24 2012, 07:51
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Dr Sel Cool
Counter-Revolutionary ANC - I love it!

The ANC are slaves to European capital. The supposed vanguard - the SACP are firmly in Zuma's pocket, Zuma and Nzimande are thick as thieves (laughing at my own wit there).
Maybe the rise of the DSM . .more

by ClassWarTrotsky on October 24 2012, 09:50
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1949 recollections
I can recall at Santambank in the early 80's I had an excellent ex Umlazi detective doing my debt collections - Luthuli was his name - as well as two indians - Pillay + Narisamulu . In the general office banter , with to and fro chirps between Luthuli and . .more

by Green Room on October 24 2012, 10:31
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child-survivor of many massacres
Not sure I concur with your one sided puerile rants .

In Swanepoel's days , if your house was broken into , perps were caught , arrested and upon conviction jailed . Jails did not resemble the lottery and revolving doors , which they do today . .more

by Green Room on October 24 2012, 10:44
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Marikana will be blamed on us also
Yes Piet no doubt; apatheid killed those people in Marikana. Cyril Ramaphosa is just a scape G*** just to tanish his good name. Unfortunately, this is how we shift the blame in South Africa. We steal tax payers money, and the response is;"ït wasn't me, . .more

by SindiM on October 24 2012, 10:50
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@ by vern on October 23 2012, 14:06
>>"..yes it will be blamed on the afrikaners....after all they introduced apartheid which was a terrible thing indeed."

Fools do that - they do not know the history of British aggression from 1806 when a British fleet of 61 ships under command of . .more

by TheDrake on October 24 2012, 11:30
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@ Dr Sel Cool on October 23 2012, 20:47
>>"YES! Julle Boertjies het dit gedoen! Ja Piet S., you also saw the Boer Captain (very distinct image) ordering his "tdarkie roops" to fire those live rounds @ the miners on the 16th August (which was captured on global tv)..and the helecopter pilots . .more

by TheDrake on October 24 2012, 12:06
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Old SAS blog
Piet, if you get to read this, please mail me at my address.

by Grumbleguts on October 24 2012, 12:24
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Mr Swanepoel
Very selctive take Mr Swanepoel. But I must say and thank you for providing such an extract, albeit one sided.

Tell me something, was planting a bugging device in an ANC Hall the most brutal course of action you undertook in your time as a . .more

by Sumbodi on October 24 2012, 12:27
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Blame
Interesting bit of history

Always blaming someone or something
Blame the Zulu
The "Boers" had the white skin , the muzzle loaders , the horses , the bible
All the Zulu had was some inbred cunning.
How can you blame them if -- . .more

by Bibliophile on October 24 2012, 14:06
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The World According To The Left
Persons of the Left like Anthony Simpson, author of Mr Mandela's biography and the media and most of Hollywood (except for Clint Eastwood) have a DNA tendency to leave out facts that do not suit them. This sophistry is also evident in lefties like . .more

by Dr NO on October 24 2012, 14:23
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Twisted
@TheDrake
"On that day the hysterical British Colonial Government of Natal"

Natal had self-rule -- it was decidedly NOT British Colonial Government
In fact the whole Bambatha story led to a bit of a constitutional crisis
Read Daphne . .more

by Bibliophile on October 24 2012, 14:31
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Bisho
RW did not refer to this "massacre"
not has anyone else ?
WHO is going to pick up the blame for this one ?
Seeing as the Ciskei army was trained by some interesting people.

by Bibliophile on October 24 2012, 14:35
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Boer Bashers
@ All the Boer Bashers
Be VERY thankful you only got these guys
IF
So many policeman with automatic rifles firing at such close range could kill only a couple of people
then
Think about what the waffen SS would have done if they had . .more

by Bibliophile on October 24 2012, 14:40
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@ Bibliophile on October 24 2012, 14:31
>>"Natal had self-rule -- it was decidedly NOT British Colonial Government"

Getting technical is not going to soften the glaring truth.

Call it a hysterical self-rule English government with the British Crown as Head of State, if you . .more

by TheDrake on October 24 2012, 15:10
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@ Dr NO
And what, may I ask, led to the "savage murder" of those 10 policemen at Cato Manor?
Seeing as you are so against selective reporting.

by Sumbodi on October 24 2012, 15:50
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Impi Yamakhanda
@TheDrake

"3000 Zulus and 30 British troops perished that fateful day."

I would REALLY like to know what fateful day this was ?

Please supply detail


You could peruse

Captain Walter Bosman -- "The Natal . .more

by Bibliophile on October 24 2012, 17:41
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@all the commentators
Thank you folks. Some of you guys and girls are weird - some are sweet. I really cannot respond to you all. I've been reading Dr. Warwick's article which is the very next one in today's PoliticsWeb. I commented there, so do read that also. Goodnight.

by Piet Swanepoel on October 24 2012, 18:27
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@ Bibliophile on October 24 2012, 17:41
Bambata Rebellion.

>>"I would REALLY like to know what fateful day this was ? Please supply detail."

I said on October 24 2012, 11:30:

"One of the darkest days in SA history is 10 June 1906. On that day the hysterical British . .more

by TheDrake on October 24 2012, 18:36
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ON BOER/ AFRIKANER BASHING

RE:- by vern on October 23 2012, 14:06

Stop saying that the Afrikaners Introduced Apartheid to South Africa ok, because it was the British who did so in the 1800's already - I have the PROOFS to the effects too, which I had discovered in . .more

by Claudine Fourie-Grosvenor on October 24 2012, 19:07
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truth
Like Eisenhower said after Hitler. Document everything because someday people will insist this never happened.

by Gloria on October 24 2012, 22:37
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@Gloria
Great post. It is hard to believe it is happening in front of our very eyes all over again. Are we going Somalia or just Zimbabwe this year?

by Brother on October 25 2012, 10:33
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1949 Durban Race Riot
As much as you will not blame the whites to be a part of the attacks. Answer these questions. Why was it only after International pressure that the police reacted to stop it? Why was there plans by the then NP to send Indians back to indian? Why were . .more

by sagren on November 08 2012, 10:32
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