CityPress - - News - Heard was ed­i­tor of the Cape Times from 1971 to 1987 * A City Coun­cil news­let­ter, seek­ing com­ments or rep­re­sen­ta­tions, gives June 30 as the dead­line. Email yours to: nam­ing@capetown.gov.za; or via SMS on 31046; or fax on 086 201 2975. You can also post th

Man­dela, Oliver Tambo, Wal­ter Sisulu, Robert Sobukwe, He­len Suz­man, FW de Klerk, Imam Ab­dul­lah Haron, Jakes Ger­wel and my close friend, the banned, brave Rev­erend Theo Kotze. They helped our nascent na­tion­hood in their dif­fer­ent ways, and it is al­ways a real plea­sure to drive on such re­named roads – as it is to rus­tle our ban­knotes with Madiba half-smil­ing up at us.

I have even man­aged, on my road trav­els, to over­come a long political re­serve about De Klerk, who, af­ter all, bravely pulled the free­dom trig­ger in 1990. He alone sur­vives of those listed above.

Re­nam­ing De Waal Drive – named af­ter the first ad­min­is­tra­tor of the Cape – is ar­guably un­fin­ished busi­ness. How­ever wor­thy he might have been, that name has reached its ex­piry date. Some­thing apt can be found to re­mem­ber the early ad­min­is­tra­tor, who at least per­sisted in hav­ing Chap­man’s Peak Drive built in spite of the many scep­tics.

Put sim­ply, De Waal Drive was owned by Philip Kgosana and his horde of sup­port­ers for a coura­geous day. They res­o­lutely marched on Cape Town to de­mand ele­men­tary jus­tice. The Cape Times black Chev, with a pho­tog­ra­pher and my­self in it, ac­com­pa­nied him in the lead all the way. It was one of the big­gest sto­ries I cov­ered in my life.

He could have used the oc­ca­sion, as he con­fided to me at din­ner just over a year ago, to say to the 30 000: “Kill the wiz­ards.” He had no such in­ten­tion; nor did they. And it would have been a gain, not a loss for his cause, and for so many lives. Our his­tory has been luck­ier than that of some na­tions, and we hope it stays that way.

Re­mark­ably, Kgosana se­cured the prom­ise of a meet­ing with then min­is­ter of jus­tice Frans Eras­mus – only if he got the crowd to dis­perse and then re­turned later in the day with a small group of sup­port­ers. He did this, with a lone po­lice van solemnly pre­ced­ing the crowd on the way home to Langa.

Kgosana then re­turned to Cale­don Square, no doubt ex­pect­ing an un­usual par­ley for South Africa, but this did not take place. The group was sim­ply ar­rested.

The treach­ery co­in­cided with the procla­ma­tion of a state of emergency, and the coun­try en­dured an un­fold­ing gen­er­a­tion of sus­pi­cion, guer­rilla war­fare and blood­shed be­fore the mid-1990s, when that dark­ness fi­nally ended.

En­ter the good cop who nearly did the deal, but was be­trayed.

Colonel IPS Terblanche was in charge of the Cale­don Square po­lice that fate­ful day. He parleyed with Philip and promised that, if the crowd dis­persed, there would be a meet­ing with Eras­mus. Some­thing un­known, he had al­ready de­fied the min­is­ter, who had or­dered him to shoot. In­stead, I am told by his proud fam­ily, he fell to his knees in­side Cale­don Square and prayed. He sought peace.

Terblanche, a sea­soned po­lice­man who had seen strife, strictly for­bade his forces from leav­ing the in­side of the po­lice HQ. He walked out, un­armed, with a few se­nior col­leagues and spoke to Kgosana “as one gen­tle­man to an­other”.

I was within me­tres and heard this, and also heard him give the crit­i­cal as­sur­ance, which was then re­layed to the crowd by Philip over the po­lice mega­phone.

Later, while the gov­ern­ment was try­ing to wrig­gle and deny the as­sur­ance – which it turned into a “re­quest” – when chal­lenged in Par­lia­ment by sharp-wit­ted Harry Lawrence, a Pro­gres­sive MP, fel­low jour­nal­ist Peter Younghus­band and I were jolted into ac­tion. We made a state­ment to the ef­fect that the as­sur­ance was given, and in due course handed this in to the Diemont commission of in­quiry into the Langa events of that pe­riod.

As if to show guilt, the gov­ern­ment had hastily ar­ranged, soon af­ter the ar­rests, for the sec­re­tary of jus­tice to “in­ter­view” the in­car­cer­ated Kgosana in the po­lice cells, which was a mean­ing­less joke.

This is an ob­ject les­son for any politi­cian dar­ing to treat the pub­lic and media as dolts.

The fun­da­men­tal im­por­tance of this tale is that it speaks to the cur­rent need for peace­ful, dis­ci­plined protest and for ne­go­ti­a­tion, with one’s word kept on both sides. These are causes that both Kgosana and Terblanche up­held, and the Hen­drik Ver­wo­erd gov­ern­ment be­trayed.

I am con­vinced that the ac­tions of these two men, as sug­gested in my commission state­ment and in my book The Cape of Storms, “avoided blood­shed that day”.

Re­nam­ing De Waal Drive af­ter Kgosana would be a vis­i­ble pub­lic act and un­der­line the serendip­i­ties and ironies of his­tory as so many peo­ple, from pres­i­dents to peas­ants, pass there on the way to the city and back daily.

Such re­nam­ing is not re­motely a party political act, which I hope the mi­nor­ity par­ties will ap­pre­ci­ate in the City Coun­cil. It is the recog­ni­tion of in­cred­i­bly pre­scient courage and for­bear­ance, of such value to our fu­ture now. Any who may struggle to pro­nounce “Kgosana” will soon get used to it.

While we are about it, it would be ap­pro­pri­ate to re­name Cale­don Square af­ter the de­cent cop, Terry Terblanche, who was de­nied pro­mo­tion for years for dis­re­gard­ing un­just min­is­te­rial or­ders.

Hav­ing been a witness, I deeply ad­mire both these South Africans, now gone. I hope the broad com­mu­nity will share this, at least at a hu­man level, and ac­tively sup­port the Coun­cil ini­tia­tive*.

This can help us as a nation while we edge our way – as we can all hope in our hearts – to hap­pier, so­cially just suc­cess in our some­times still chal­lenged coun­try.

The march was, said Joseph Le­lyveld of the New York Times, the hour when “the Bastille might have been stormed in South Africa and wasn’t”.

What­ever the Coun­cil de­cides, two brave men stand in our his­tory as bea­cons to what we were and what we could yet be.


HIS­TORIC Po­lice on De Waal Drive in Cape Town ride along the route taken by Philip Kgosana and 30 000 march­ing protesters to Cale­don Square

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