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APARTHEID-police video footage of rallies and political gatherings at the Jabulani Amphitheatre will go a long way in helping to preserve the famed venue as a heritage site.
This is the view of activist and former professional boxer Richard Tugwane, who claims there is a 59-page document about police shenanigans at the venue which was submitted to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in 1996, but was never afforded a hearing.
Tugwane, 52, who lived at the venue for years, occupying the broadcast room, said he once stumbled upon security police installing listening devices and video cameras to monitor rallies in the late 1980s and early ’90s.
The former Transvaal junior welterweight hopeful said when he enquired what they were doing – after he realised they had eaten his cheese from the fridge – the security police had tried to entice him to work as an informer and made him an offer of R10 000 a month, a firearm, a car and a house, which he rejected.
Tugwane is angry that he was never given a chance to tell his story to the TRC, and suspects this was a ploy to allow the security police to get away with murder. He argues that the failure of the TRC to attend to the Jabulani Amphitheatre case could distort the history of the venue.
Reminiscing about his life at the venue, which was built in 1952, Tugwane said many MK operatives, like ANC lawyer Bheki Mlangeni who was killed with an exploding Walkman device, used the amphitheatre as their hideout.
“A large number of MK operatives who skipped the country in the late 1970s and early ’80s were harboured here.” Tugwane’s story is one of the many which the Jabulani Heritage Project – announced by Joburg mayor Parks Tau on May 28 – seeks to collate.
The project aims to preserve the amphitheatre’s original structure and integrate it with the newly opened state-of-the-art Soweto Theatre, just shouting distance away.
R10 million has been allocated to upgrade it and there are plans for a media hub and art library as part of an extended cultural precinct.
Built by the West Rand Administration Board as a venue for hosting cultural and sporting events, the amphitheatre was one of the few leisure facilities in Soweto during the apartheid years and a place of political significance. It was one of only a few state structures spared during the June 16, 1976, uprisings.
With a seating capacity of 15 000, the venue has hosted several jazz and music festivals, including foreign acts like The Staple Singers and crooner Dobie Gray. Because of its close proximity to the Jabulani Hostel, the venue also became popular for hosting maskandi as well as isicathamiya traditional music.
In 1985, an ecstatic crowd gathered to hear Nelson Mandela’s daughter, Zindzi, read out a letter written by her father and smuggled out of prison.
Those with stories to share about the Jabulani Amphitheatre are urged to send them to firstname.lastname@example.org