Peek into lives of Struggle heroes on our streets

Published Jun 20, 2012


Tshepo Tshabalala

THIS is the second and last in a two-part series looking at the people after whom some Tshwane streets were recently renamed.

l (Skinner) Nana Sita:

Anti-apartheid activist member of Transvaal Indian Congress.

Nana Sita was born in India in 1898 and came to SA in 1913.

Sita became a member of the executives of the Transvaal Indian Congress and the Transvaal Passive Resistance Council.

She led a large batch of “United Nations Day volunteers” – Indians, Africans and coloured people – from the Transvaal in October 1946 and was sentenced to 30 days’ hard labour.

In June 1952, the ANC and the SA Indian Congress jointly launched the “Campaign of Defiance against Unjust Laws” in which more than 8 000 people of all races were to court imprisonment.

In 1962, Hercules, the section of Pretoria in which Sita lived, was declared a “white area” under the Group Areas Act.

She defied the order and was taken to court on December 10 – the UN Human Rights Day.

She died on December 23 1969, aged 71.

l (DF Malan) Es’kia Mphahlele:

An author of two autobiographies, more than 30 short stories, two verse plays and a fair number of poems, Mphahlele was born on December 17, 1919, in Marabastad, Pretoria.

He received a BA degree in 1949, followed in 1956 by a BA Honours degree and in 1957 by an MA degree (with distinction) from Unisa.

In 1968, he received his doctorate from the University of Denver in the US, but was banned from teaching because of his opposition to a recommended system of education for Africans.

The ANC requested that he represent it at the first Pan-African conference on African soil hosted by Ghana in 1959.

In a career spanning 60 years, Mphahlele received many international awards and was nominated for a Nobel Prize in literature.

In 1998 then president Nelson Mandela awarded him the Order of the Southern Cross.

He died in 2008.

l (Queen Wilhelmina) Florence Ribeiro:

Born on November 3, 1933, community worker Florence Barbara Ribeiro was the fourth of five children.

She was influenced by Robert Sobukwe in the 1960s, who had married her sister, Veronica.

In the 1980s she attended the World Women’s Conference in central Africa. Ribeiro was a pillar of strength in the Mamelodi community. With her husband she collected extensive evidence of the atrocities committed by the apartheid government. They sheltered victims of apartheid and helped people who were wanted by the government.

Because of their activities Fabian and Barbara Ribeiro were high on the hit list of their adversaries. After having survived several attempts on their lives in 1985 and 1986, the couple were gunned down in the courtyard of their home on December 1, 1986.

l (Esselen) Robert Sobukwe:

Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe was born on December 5, 1924.

His study of native administration at Fort Hare aroused his interest in politics.

Sobukwe joined the ANC Youth League in 1948, becoming national secretary in December of the following year.

His scepticism towards the multi-racial path taken by the ANC made him instrumental in initiating an Africanist breakaway organisation – the PAC, in 1958.

At the PAC’s inaugural congress in Orlando in 1959, Sobukwe was unanimously elected the party’s first president.

On March 16, 1960, Sobukwe wrote to the commissioner of police, Major General Rademeyer, stating that the PAC would be holding a five-day, non-violent campaign against pass laws, starting on March 21.

When an estimated group of 5 000 marchers reached Sharpeville police station, the police opened fire, killing 69 people and injuring 180 in what became known as the Sharpeville Massacre.

Sobukwe fell ill shortly after opening a law practice in the mid-1970s.

He died from lung complications in 1978.

l (Vermeulen) Madiba:

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on July 18, 1918, in Mvezo, a village near Mthatha, Transkei. Madiba is his clan name.

He prominently led the ANC’s 1952 Defiance Campaign.

In 1961 Mandela became leader of the ANC’s armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, which he co-founded.

On August 5, 1962, he was arrested after living on the run for 17 months.

While Mandela was imprisoned, police arrested prominent ANC leaders on July 11, 1963, at Liliesleaf Farm, Rivonia. He was charged alongside them.

All but one were found guilty, but escaped the gallows. They were sentenced to life imprisonment on June 12, 1964.

Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island for 18 of his 27 years in prison.

He was released on February 11, 1990.

In 1991, the ANC held its first national conference after its unbanning and elected Mandela as president of the organisation.

In SA’s first multi-racial presidential elections held on April 27, 1994, the ANC won and Mandela was inaugurated on May 10, 1994 as the country’s first black president.

l (Schubart) Sophie de Bruyn:

Sophia de Bruyn was born in 1938. She worked at a textile factory, alongside people including Raymond Mhlaba, Vuyisile Mini and Govan Mbeki, rising to become an executive member of the Textile Workers Union in Port Elizabeth.

She became a founding member of the SA Congress of Trade Unions – the predecessor of Cosatu.

In 1955, De Bruyn was appointed as a full-time organiser of the Coloured People’s Congress.

She was at the same time at the forefront of the Congress Of the People in Kliptown, and led the Women’s March to the Union Buildings in 1956.

l (Potgieter) Kgosi Mampuru:

Sekhukhune was King of the Marota people (commonly called Bapedi) who originated from the Bakgatla of the Western Transvaal.

He was an illegitimate ruler, who forced his half-brother and legitimate heir, Mampuru, to flee from the kingdom.

On the night of August 13, 1882, Sekhukhune was murdered by Mampuru.

Fearing arrest, Mampuru fled and sought refuge first with Chief Marishane (Masemola) and later with Nyabela, king of the Ndebeles.

The Pretoria Afrikaners asked Nyabela to surrender Mampuru for trial on a charge of murder.

Nyabela refused.

War broke out between Nyabela and the Boers and raged for nine months.

Ultimately Nyabela surrendered and gave up Mampuru.

Marishane, Nyabela and Mampuru were tried in the Pretoria Supreme Court.

On January 23, 1884, Marishane was sentenced to seven years imprisonment.

Nyabela was sentenced to death (later commuted to life imprisonment) on September 22, 1883.

Mampuru was sentenced to death for murder and rebellion and hanged in Pretoria on November 22, 1883.

l (Walker) Justice Mahomed:

Ismail Mahomed was born in Pretoria on July 5, 1931.

He completed a BA degree at Wits University in 1953 and a BA Honours with distinction in political science in 1954.

He completed his LLB in 1957.

He built an extensive litigation practice and in 1974 became the first black person in the country’s history to take silk.

In 1979 he was appointed a judge of the Appeal Court in Swaziland and in 1982 was made a judge of appeal in Lesotho.

He later became the chief justice of Namibia and president of the Lesotho Court of Appeal.

He co-chaired the Convention for a Democratic SA talks.

In 1991, after the unbanning of the ANC, he became the first black person in SA history to be made a permanent judge of the Supreme Court.

Mahomed was appointed to the Constitutional Court in 1995 and elevated to chief justice in 1998, a position he held until his death in 2000.

l (Duncan) Jan Shoba:

Jan Shoba was a commander in the Azanian People’s Liberation Army (Apla), the underground military wing of the PAC.

Apla was formed in the 1960s, after the banning of the PAC and other political organisations including the ANC and the SACP.

Shoba was arrested and imprisoned on Robben Island.

He was assassinated at his Atteridgeville home in 1992.

l (General Louis Botha) January Masilela:

January Masilela was secretary of the Department of Defence.

He was born in 1955 and served as deputy secretary-general of the ANC.

He left the country in 1975 for Zambia where he joined MK.

That enlisting was the start of a long chapter of military training: first in Libya for his basic military course, then in the former Soviet Union where he spent about two years doing a senior course.

Between 1982 and 1984 he studied and received a senior diploma in social science.

Masilela died in a car accident in Bronkhorstspruit on August 24, 2008.

l (Prinsloo) Sisulu:

In recognition of the contribution of the Sisulu family.

“Mother of the Nation”, political activist, nurse and one of the most important leaders of the anti-apartheid resistance, Albertina Sisulu was born on October 21, 1918.

She was the only woman present at the first conference of the ANC Youth League.

In 1948 she joined the ANC Women’s League and in the 1950s began to assume a leadership role – both in the ANC and in the Federation of SA Women.

She was one of the organisers of the historic anti-pass Women’s March in 1956.

In 1983 she was elected co-president of the United Democratic Front.

In 1994 Albertina started serving in the first democratically elected Parliament.

She died on June 2 last year at her Linden home in Joburg, aged 92.

l Walter Sisulu joined the ANC in 1940 at the age of 28.

He and Albertina met in 1941 and were married in 1944.

Walter, with William Nkomo and Lionel Majombozi were responsible for mobilising others to establish a youth wing of the ANC.

The Sisulu children continued the political activism of their parents. Their eldest son, Max, was detained at the age of 17 and went into exile after his father had been arrested in Rivonia in 1963.

Zwelake was involved with the publication of New Nation, which was placed under restriction on several occasions.

He was also detained without trial for two years.

Lindiwe is Minister of Public Service and Administration.

Walter was deputy president of the ANC until ill health forced him to retire from active politics in 1994.

He died on May 5, 2003, a few days before his 91st birthday.

l (Proes) Johannes Ramokhoase:

Johannes Slo Ramokhoase was born in Old Eersterus before residents were moved to Mamelodi.

He had a BA, majoring in English and psychology, and went on to complete an Honours degree in English.

An ANC councillor, Ramokhoase was also the headmaster of Mamelodi High School.

At age 44, he beat Freedom Front councillor Wikus Theron to become the first black mayor of Pretoria in 1995, after the National Party did not put up a candidate.

He played an instrumental role in fusing the old City Council of Pretoria with the local municipalities of Mamelodi, Atteridgeville and other surrounding areas.

l (Leah Mangope) Peter Magano:

Peter Magano was a member of the ANC and the Pretoria regional action committee established in early 1955.

He became one of the first volunteers to join Umkhonto we Sizwe and later spent 17 years with Mandela on Robben Island.

He was the special adviser on traditional affairs to the then North West premier, Popo Molefe.

He died at the age of 75 in 2002 after a car accident.

l Information was gathered mainly from, independent documents and websites.

Related Topics: