The two sides of the Kliptown coin

When it comes to tourist attractions in Kliptown, tourists most often visit the popular historical sites. However, there are other places of historical significance that are not on the usual tourist route and are located in the squatter camps. 

Town, town, are you going to town?” taxi drivers hoot their Siyaya horns enthusiastically, ceaselessly, loudly enough to rupture your eardrum. “One town” says a taxi driver with his scraggy arm hanging out of the window, he moves his index finger and points up trying to get a passenger to fill up his raggedy taxi. Welcome to Kliptown.

Kliptown is vibrant and enveloped by the spirit of hustling. South of the Walter Sisulu Square, people walk through the meticulously paved square of dedication, some selling, others buying, while others are standing and gazing at the surroundings looking uncertain, with facial expressions of despair.

NOT DONKEY WORK: A donkey is a cheap mode of transport for vendors.

Today, the centre of the township has been declared a heritage site and is known as the Walter Sisulu Square or Square of Dedication, a R375-million, architect-designed area that commemorates the place where on June 26, 1955 more than 3 000 people from different ethnic and religious organisations assembled to adopt the Freedom Charter.

The square attracts busloads of tourists.

There is the other side of this township, one that is out of the limelight and off the beaten track for tourists, yet carries iconic stories and a history of what the township once was.

Kliptown is one of oldest districts in Soweto and was established in 1903. It is referred to by its inhabitants as the first rainbow nation, as it was originally a home of Indians, Coloured, Blacks, and Chinese.

In spite of the rich history and heritage, and standing as the home of the Freedom Charter, Kliptown is steeped in pervasive poverty, unemployment and violence.

The San Souci Bioscope

One old building that resonates with the history of Kliptown is the San Souci Bioscope. Hollow and unsteady walls and dusty cracked floors are the only remains of what was once a centre of entertainment.

The bioscope is situated in the west of Kliptown, 15 minutes walking distance from the Walter Sisulu Square.

“During the holidays there was nothing to be done in the townships, the only place for entertainment and to watch movies was Kliptown, San Souci Bioscope,” says Carl Tarr, a 61-year-old who lives three houses away from the bioscope, and use to frequent the bioscope when it was still operating.

Established in the 1950s, the bioscope quickly became a meeting spot for people in Kliptown and surrounding areas. “At that time there was no Eldorado park, there was no Soweto.

There was only Kliptown, Chiawelo, Pimville and Dlamini. These were the people who attended the bioscope,” Tarr explains.

The interior design of the bioscope was made up of three sections, the costly section was the gallery section for the ‘big guys’, then the ground floor, consisting of wooden benches and ordinary cinema chairs.

This small bioscope became the center of trade, hustlers using the spot to sell food, and also a space for concerts and music festivals. “You will find five queues, and the fee was 25 cents.

You will find that other people are gentlemen and ladies and wait at the queue,” he laughs vigorously. “There was a lady who used to sell pies. The best way to treat a lady was to buy her cool drink and that round red cake,” he continues.

“The bioscope was a mix masala, there were old madalas from Pimville, gamblers and gangsters.”

ENTERTAIMENT ZONE: The remains of the first bioscope in Kliptown. 

Tarr describes the bioscope as a vibrant and sprightly space. “On Sundays we used to have a session, bands from Soweto use to come play here, and we jaiva. Young girls and young men will dress up. At that time it was those pants with the big bottom, they called them bell-bottom, everybody was wearing an afro, and you must have your afro in round, because you get a price. An afro that is in a perfect form wins.”

During the booming of this business, the apartheid regime was penetrating all angles of South Africa. The bioscope became vicinity for political awareness. “Before every session starts there was political speeches, that’s how people from Kliptown and Pimville integrated,” says Tarr as he makes elaborate hand gestures. “But most people were not tuned into what was going on, even people who come to sing [at the concerts and music festivals].”

Tarr takes out his patterned handkerchief and wipes off beads of sweat on his forehead. “One day the police came, the special force, the mlungus. They couldn’t find anything because the people just mingled with others and walked out in different exists.

That’s why you got searched when you go in, because there are others who worked for the police and will snitch on those who inform the people about political intolerance in the country.”

The late Ahmed Ballim who bought the bioscope from San Souci in 1960 sat down with European researcher and author, Benoit Allanic in 2000 and reflected on the period when the bioscope was running at a loss.

“People didn’t want to watch romantic movies,” says Ballim. Professor at the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Yunus Ballim who is the son of the late Ahmed Ballim describes San Souci Bioscope as a central gathering point, a source of entertainment and a form of political education.

“My father and Hassan [his friend] took over [the bioscope] in 1960. I got more of my education in the cinema than I got in school,” says the professor with a broad smile on his face.

“Three or four times a week, we go to town to fetch the films, and return them on Thursday,” he continues. “The cinema was like a rite of passage, before you grow up you have to go the cinema first.”

In the same interview with Benoit Allanic, the late Ahmed Ballim reflects on a sad Monday when he found the bioscope damaged and vandalised.

“They wanted steel. There were about 300 corrugated iron sheets, they took them and build shacks. They took the asbestos. They took all the windows. They took the seats. It should be presented as a war zone.”

With tuned down voice and long face, Tarr expresses his disappointment with the lack of response from the government to bring to life this lifeless building. “We pleaded with the government to turn the building into a library or a research centre.”

Mandela’s hide out

HIDE AND SEEK: The Lollan house was a hidding spot for Madiba during apartheid.

A few houses away from the bioscope is another landmark. Constructed with face brick, patched with cement to prevent it from falling, and dead grass lining around the house.

The two bedroom house belongs to Augusta Lollan, the mother of a well-respected political activist and the Secretary of the South African Coloured People’s Organisation in 1953, Stanley Lollan.

According to Stanley Lollan’s late brother, Oom Poto, Lollan was a close friend of Nelson Mandela, and provided his friend a hideaway from the police force during Apartheid.

Lollan passed away 33 years ago, however, his brother the late Oom Poto sat down with Benoit Allanic on April 2000 to reflect on the days when Nelson Mandela used to hide in their house and hold secret meetings.

“Mandela was a great friend of my brother. He started [hiding in the house] in 1947 until they were arrested. They went to jail, they were arrested for treason. They were on trial in 1962. It must have been in the early ‘50s when they were arrested for high treason.

The great grandchild of Augusta Lollan, Beryl Bullock who is in her late 30s says she still remembers the stories she was told about how Mandela use to hide in the house that she lives in.

The great grandchild of Augusta Lollan, Beryl Bullock who is in her late 30s says she still remembers the stories she was told about how Mandela use to hide in the house that she lives in.

“When I was young, kids use to ask me to show them where Mandela used to hide,” she says. She welcomes me inside the house, as I sit on a hardwood chair that is upholstered in leather, I was immediately intrigued by the old furnisher that stores the memories of this historical house.

“He used to hide over there,” Lock says as she points underneath a single bed in the bedroom facing the kitchen.

PRAISE AND WORSHIP: The Charlotte Maxeke Memorial Church brings hope to the community since it was established.

In 1998, Nelson Mandela visited a 96-year-old Augusta Lollan at Eldorado Park where Lollan was staying before she passed away. In a scene captured by AP Archive, Mandela refers to Lollan as his comrade.

“It’s an honour for me to stand beside comrade Lollan, because she was my comrade in those worst days before prison and I’m happy to be here today with her.” says Mandela wrapping his arm around Lollan’s hunched shoulders.

The Lollan house is not a tourism attraction because it is home for Lollan’s great grandchildren.

The African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church

Another historic landmark is a church situated at First Street of Kliptown’s poorest community called ‘Dark City’. Surrounded by a collection of rusty cramped corrugated iron frames, and garnished with scattered pieces of plastics, cans and used diapers, the church remains a place of hope for the poor community.

Charlotte Maxeke, one of South Africa’s first black female graduates and activist, is linked to the history of the church. She is the founder of the church and played a pivotal role in multiracial movements and protests.

Today the church is known as Maxeke Memorial Church. It was an essential space during the apartheid regime, and used by political leaders as a meeting place.

Reverend Blom who delivers Sunday sermons at the church says “Maxeke was a member of the Methodist Episcopal in America. The church honoured her by naming it after her. I also know that Political leader held their meetings here [at the church].” he says.

Some people believe that the Freedom Charter was signed at the AME Church. A Kliptown community leader and the CEO of Greater Kliptown Development Forum, Gene Duiker says “The freedom charter was not signed at the church. The delegates did not sign the Freedom Charter, they adopted it by show of hands,” he says as he slowly grabs the bottle of Castle Milk Stout and pours into a facsimile of a Gleincairn whisky glass, sitting at the local tavern.

The new museum

PRESERVING HISTORY: Kliptown residents still gather outside the closed museum.

Opened in 2003, Oom Bolo’s Museum is a significant building that preserves the historical and artistic items and household pieces that represent the old Kliptown.

The museum is situated at Beacon Road, and was founded by a cultural and art activist, the late David Meyers, who is famously known by the community as Oom Bolo. In the 90s the building was a butcher shop, and was later transformed into a museum.

“The museum was created to continue to give people a connection with the old lifestyle.

“[It was created] so that people could relate to how others lived back then,” says Duiker whose photographs and household items are in the museum. Cyil Jantjies, a friend of Meyers says “He [Meyers] was interested in Kliptown. He wanted to preserve the memory and culture of Kliptown.”

Meyers passed away last year, and the museum has been closed since then. “The museum is closed because of family feud.

The mother of Meyers’s late girlfriend wants to take charge. The previous owner of the building also wants to claim back the place,” Jantjies says.

Meyers’s son-in-law, Glen Crawford says the museum was always full of people. “The museum was always full. The stoep [at Meyers’s house] use to be full of people every day.”

Despite Kliptown’s well-known historical significance and high-cost constructed square, the community sees no beneficial effects.

“Kliptown is a historical place, yet people still live in shacks or what they call ‘informal settlement’ a new fancy name. People don’t even benefit from that square. Where is the running water? Where is electricity? Where are the sewage pipes?” Duiker asks with a forced smile.

FEATURED IMAGE: Kliptown’s closed museum. Photo: Tebadi Mmotla.


Private security offers temporary solution to Noswal Hall’s woes

WITS UNIVERSITY deployed private security outside Noswal Hall residence on September 27 in response to safety complaints raised by students in April.

The residents told Wits Vuvuzela in April that they felt like they were under siege and subjected to constant sexual bullying, the alleged selling and abuse of drugs, gambling, littering and noise pollution. The house committee requested the university to fence the residence as a solution.

Wits Chief Operating Officer, Fana Sibanyoni told Wits Vuvuzela that the university has no intentions to fence the residence because it is not allowed in terms of municipality by-laws.

The new private security company has stopped people from sitting on the benches outside.

Rosebank College student, Karabo Kubheka, said that being denied access to sit on the benches outside the residence is unfair. “It is a public area. They are public benches, they are for the public and for everyone to use. It’s not fair for them [Wits] to deny us that right,” he said.

A Noswal Hall resident who preferred not to be named told Wits Vuvuzela that it is great that Wits has deployed private security, however it is frustrating that they [residents] are also not allowed to stand outside the residence. “We pay fees to occupy the space, why are we not allowed to sit outside,” she said.

Sibanyoni said that the deployment of security outside the residence is a temporary solution subject to Rosebank College and the City of Johannesburg fulfilling their jurisdictional duties. Although Noswal is Wits property the benches are on the pavement are the municipality’s property and they are a popular spot for Rosebank College students.   He added the temporary solution has been effective as the safety complaints have decreased.

Vice-chairperson of Noswal Hall Lekaota Mokoena said that the temporary security solution is effective. “The crowd is not there anymore,” he said.

He added that they were told by the university that the deployment of security outside the residence is illegal. “They wanted to remove them [security]. We said no, let the city come here and tell us that what we are doing is illegal, and give us an alternative solution,” he said.

Mokoena added that they are worried about whether Wits will keep up with the costs of the security because it is expensive. He added that the house committee still wants to fence the residence.


Wits Vuvuzela, Noswal Hall residents subjected to ‘spanking’ and worse, April 7.

Witsie’s shine at global summit

TWO WITS students represented South Africa at the annual One Young World Summit hosted in Bogotá, Colombia last week.

The annual summit brings together young talented leaders from 196 countries from global and national companies, NGOs and universities to debate, share and formulate innovative solutions to global issues.

photo: Provided

THE WITS EDGE: Tefo Mokhine and Nkululeko Tselane at the One Young World Summit.                                                       Photo: Provided

Third year mining engineering student, Tefo Mokhine, and fourth year law student, Nkululeko Tselane, were selected based on their leadership qualities, entrepreneurship skills, civic engagement and the work they have done in their communities.

Mokhine told Wits Vuvuzela that he was the only one who represented a student business club from South Africa called the Young African Global Entrepreneurs Club (YAGEC). The business club was created last year by a Wits student, Diketso Phokungwane. “Representing YAGEC was an honour for me, our aim is to expand our network of entrepreneurs from across Africa and the world,” Mokhine said.

Mokhine was a delegate speaker and shared the stage with former Public Protector Advocate Thuli Mandonsela and the CEO of Emergent Telecom Ventures, Mahommed Amersi. “It was a really humbling and great learning curve, having to address 1 300 people is not a small feat at all. I learned a lot about the experience and happenings of many other countries. I feel empowered and more learned now,” said Mokhine.

Tselane told Wits vuvuzela that the experience was eye opening. “I did not know the problems that people in Tunisia and Tanzania face. Engaging with African’s experiencing different problems was eye opening,” he said

Phokungwane said that Mokhine representing the club internationally is a first major step. “Having that world stage and being the only business club to do so from South Africa presents a huge stepping stone form us,” Phokungwane said.


RELATED ARTICLES: One Young leader at a time, September, 2016.

Finding the light at the end of the tunnel

Last week, I started thinking about the challenges and emotions I experienced at the beginning of the year. Without a doubt, this year goes down as the most stressful and trying in my entire existence. I have learned one lesson in the process: the invisibility of a light at the end of the tunnel does not necessarily mean that things will not get better.

I remember being filled with so much elation at the end of last year when I received the news that I had been admitted to study journalism honours. I was ready to embark on my newest academic adventure. My joy was soon overshadowed by the anxiety of not knowing how I was going to finance my studies. I had no money for registration, never mind my tuition and accommodation fees.

When the day of registration came, and Wits offered debt agreements for students who couldn’t pay registration fees there and then, I was left with no choice but to sign on that dotted line.  As I was signing, I was at peace with the fact that I was not alone in this battle, that there were other students facing the same problem.

When classes began a few weeks later, I found it difficult to enjoy the course that I had always wanted to do. At the back of my mind toiled the fear of being financially excluded from this prestigious institution.

The funding opportunities at my disposal and for which I had applied, returned with a negative response, if any at all. With several attempts at calling to enquire about my applications, some failed to explain why they were unable to fund my studies.

As the months went by, my experience was one of tremendous defeat. The pain felt more like a punishment. I suffered dreadful unhealthy thoughts, fear and worry. I found myself continually questioning the worthiness of proceeding with my studies. Returning to Limpopo seemed to be a much better option than enduring the strife.

I realised that I was lacking coping mechanisms and that it was difficult to perform well academically when I was distressed.

I have seen a number of students across the country taking out their frustrations about their funding struggles on social media. I also came across various articles that revealed student financial burden as the predominant source of depression. All of this made me realise that I was not alone and that there were other students who were swimming in the same pool of frustration.

Thankfully my darling mother, MaMmotla, dispelled my doubts and induced a sense of optimism in me. She would tell me, that it was going to be okay and that I should persevere and that something would come up. With that little encouragement, I was able to gather myself and weather the storms that lay ahead.

The beginning to the end of my financial stresses came two months ago, when I was awarded a full bursary. The burden I had been carrying around for so long lifted off my shoulders. It meant that I would now be able to focus on my academics and finish this year on a high note. I am now able to invest and immerse myself in the course a little more than I did, and focus on enjoying every moment of what is left of my honours year.

As clichéd as it may sound, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Things may not go according to your envisioned plans, but it is important never to cease searching for opportunities and definitely never to throw in the towel.



Student fired for being ‘tired of white people’

A WITS UNIVERSITY student was fired and blacklisted by one of South Africa’s largest advertising and marketing agencies, after a group of people complained about comments she had made on Twitter about South Africa’s racial history.

Second-year drama student, Ulemu Moyo, was fired by The Creative Council, a promotions company with which she had signed a contract on September 21, to do promotional gigs, including promoting the new Samsung Note 8.

Moyo wrote on Twitter on September 25, that, “It will always be a race issue as long as our forefathers’ cries remain in the soil of a country that was built on exploitation of black people.” She continued that, “And little by little, through the cracks in our country, privilege and injustice will seep through. If the foundation is shaky so is the house.”

The 19-year-old told Wits Vuvuzela that she received a barrage of hostile comments from people who disagreed with her comments. “I started having comments in my mentions from a lot of troll accounts saying stuff like ‘You are malnourished’, ‘Stop smoking ARVs’… a lot of rude comments,” she said.

Moyo later responded to the comments and tweeted that, “I’m really. Really. Really tired of white people”. Moyo said that after that tweet, one of the people who trolled her tagged Samsung Mobile in the tweet.

Samsung Mobile South Africa released a statement on Twitter on September 26, condemning Moyo’s comments. In the statement the company wrote that, “Samsung South Africa would like to express that it had no past or current affiliation with Moyo as an official ambassador.” The company added that, “Integrity, co-prosperity and diversity are the cornerstones of our generation and we do not tolerate any form of discrimination.”


The 19-year-old said that she contacted the promotions company and informed them about her tweets and the hostile reaction she had received. “I went to the offices the following day to talk about the matter. One thing they asked is ‘Why did you tweet that you hate white people?’ I never said I hated white people, I said I am tired of white people. It is not equivalent to hate,” Moyo said.

Moyo said that The Creative Council told her that she had placed the agency in jeopardy with Samsung who is their client. “They said ‘We have to cancel you from our books.’ I said OK, I understand. I never expected them to keep me. They told me I will never work for them,” said Moyo.

She added that she is not blaming the promotions company for firing her. “Samsung [is] their client, I can’t blame them.”

Facilitator at Creative Council, Sarah Ann Digue, told Wits Vuvuzela that the company had conducted an internal investigation, and had decided to blacklist Moyo. “She will not be working at any of our campaigns,” she said.

Digue said that the company is aware that Moyo did not say that she hated white people. “We are aware of that. It still does not make the statement better.”

RELATED ARTICLES: Wits Vuvuzela, Racism, is it getting under our skin?, mARCH 17, 2016.





Pilot programme for women empowerment


TWO FEMALE Wits University students aim to empower and inspire young women through their pilot programme, the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa’s (Bwasa) Student Chapter Programme, which was launched earlier this year with over 160 members.

Inspire and empower: Boikhutso Mokoto and Itumeleng Makgato commit to empower young women across university spaces.

Boikhutso Mokoto and Itumeleng Makgato, who are both doing their third year in Bachelor of Commerce, identified the gap between the programmes that Bwasa offered and its empowerment structure. From there, they established the student chapter in order to help empower young women from high school throughout university and into the work place.

The organisation devised training programmes, one being a mentorship programme, where students get mentorship from experienced members in similar industries.  There are also panel discussion between stakeholders and students, and a leadership programme designed to help young women who aspire to hold positions in student governance.

Makgato told Wits Vuvuzela that the organisation is trying to empower more women into positions of leadership around campuses.

“We are trying to make sure that first year students coming to university are more prepared. Graduates have more opportunities for employment and they are better prepared for the work place and know how to navigate and set personal goals,” she said.

Makgato said the organisation also empowers entrepreneurs. “We are trying to make sure that entrepreneurs get access to funding, mentors and a market for them to sell and distribute their products and services.”

The 22-year-old said they have an entrepreneurship fund.  “We are going to fund students for any ideas that they have, that are good and are solving the problems that students have and are based on campus.”

Mokoto told Wits Vuvuzela that they are taking the empowerment message and spreading it to the varsity space and to young women. She added that they are currently running a programme called Fast Track to Success.

“It is a work place readiness programme which address the issues of CV write up and cover page skills, interview skills, personal branding for the business space, and how to navigate the business space.”

Mokoto said they are in the process of launching the organisation in six other universities next year.

Third year Information Systems student, Kuhle Siyo told Wits Vuvuzela that she benefited from the panel discussions. “It has been helpful in that aspect to talk to people that are already in that position for when you get there,” Siyo said.

Related Articles:

Wits Vuvuzela, March 2016, Scribbles and Nibbles: For students by students