Wednesday, October 6, 2010

More serious stuff

In an earlier posting I mentioned the need, while reporting under apartheid State of Emergency restrictions, to be proactive. I have found another drawing in my stash which happens to be on a telex print-out. This is one of several which again contain snippets referring to the tense times in which we were involved.

I kept this for the drawing, but it is in fact a copy of a telex from a government department in reply to my request for data on the 1988 municipal elections in black townships. Everyone knew that a UDF-led boycott had rendered the poll a farce, and I suspect I put questions to the officials concerning the percentage poll, which would have been abysmally low. Here they were obviously playing for time.

Here I did a drawing on a print-out from the wires of a Sapa story about Cabinet minister Chris Heunis planning to address a by-election meeting, around 1987, in the Newton Park constituency. The Nats' Sakkie Louw ended up defeating a friend from my youth, Isak Smuts, now a prominent Grahamstown advocate.

Another key player at the time was Louis Koch, whose name can be seen bottom left. He was in charge of administering the PE black townships under apartheid.

A disgruntled self-portrait, but not surprisingly, since the page is shared with the name, Le Grange. Louis, the former police minister, was a feared man. They renamed the revamped Mount Road Police Station after him. I remember they installed high-tech, super-secure sliding gates at the complex, only for the new gates, shortly afterwards, to claim their first victim, who was crushed to death by them.

Turn this landscape on its side, and you'll read snippets about beach apartheid, which was a key campaign in the late-1980s, as pressure grew for them to be opened to all.

This trophy basking in the desert sun was the reason I kept the page. But behind were some names to conjure with.

Howard Varney was one of a group of young lawyers who arrived in PE in the late 1980s and helped spur change. John Gomomo was a key trade unionist, based at VW in Uitenhage.

Gomomo and Varney's names appears here again, along with that of Cate. Here surname eludes, but she worked for a time with the Black Sash's detention monitoring committee. She would keep me up-to-date with who was being detained and I would attempt to get the authorities to confirm the detentions, in so doing keeping the issue in the public eye.

As noted earlier, lawyers started getting pretty active in the late-1980s. The Legal Resources Centre had long been a powerful organisation, but they were followed by Lawyers for Human Rights, who did sterling work, too.

Some of those lawyers, and other young white professionals, formed the PE Action Committee (Peac), which in a sense spoke for progressive whites in the city, though of course it was a non-racial body, apparently affiliated to the UDF.

This reference to a Peac meeting also includes the name Goosen. Glen Goosen was a key Peac member and as an ANC member in the early 1990s, led the negotiations for a single, non-racial local authority.

Another force for change was the Progressive Federal Party (later the Democratic Party and then the Democratic Alliance).

PK Botha was a gentlemanly town clerk in the 1980s and 1990s. He accompanied an Idasa-initiated trip by ANC, DP and Nat councillors to Russia in the early 1990s, soon after the collapse of communism. Note also the word, Mossgas, which was launched around the late 1980s and is now nearing the end of its natural life as gas supplies are due to expire in 2013.

Andrew Gibbon was a progressive housing director for the PEM. He now serves as a DA councillor.

The PE Publicity Association was generally deemed ineffectual, although under one or two directors it did well. Now called Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism, it still battles to do justice to what the city has to offer.

Another drawing incorporating part of the publicity association masthead.

Though quasi-government, the SBDC also helped promote change by assisting all races establish small businesses, often in large "hives of industry", which, if I recall correctly, were non-racial.

And watching all this activity was this crazy character.

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