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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 591

Paragraph Numbers 218 to 226

Volume 3

Chapter 6

Subsection 32

The Soweto Committee of Ten

218 After the collapse of the Soweto UBC, the Soweto Committee of Ten was formed to run the affairs of the area. It also called itself the Soweto Local Authority Interim Committee and was headed by Dr Nthato Motlana.

219 Formed at a meeting in The World’s offices in June 1977, the Committee had the backing of a range of organisations including SASO, BPC, the Union of Black Journalists, the Black Women’s Federation, black community programs and several church, social and welfare organisations. It included many of the key figures in Soweto at the time, including social worker Ms Ellen Khuzwayo and the headmaster of Morris Isaacson School, Mr Lekgau Mathabathe. According to Mr Percy Qoboza, editor of The World and a driving force behind the Committee’s formation:

For the first time, blacks in Soweto have taken the initiative in establishing their brand of leadership outside the institutions of government, which have failed dismally in the past three decades.

220 The Committee of Ten drew up a blueprint for Soweto which envisaged a Soweto City Council with powers and structures similar to those of the white city councils. It intended to present this to the people of Soweto at a public meeting on 31 July 1977, but the meeting was banned and a number of the Committee’s members were detained in terms of the Internal Security Act. In October 1977, the Committee of Ten was banned.

221 The Committee had effectively functioned for one month. However, according to former UBC councillor, Mr Mosala, it went underground and continued to organise in accordance with the M-Plan developed by the ANC in the 1960s.

222 By 1979, the Soweto Committee of Ten had transformed itself into the Soweto Civic Association. Later it played an important role in trying to establish an alternative ‘people’s authority’ in the township during the 1980s.

223 Not only did the 1976 protest revitalise external opposition to apartheid, it also provided an important impetus to the creation of a number of internal organisations. The SSRC, which grew out of the SASM, was established at the beginning of August 1976, six weeks after 16 June. Its first president, Mr Tsietsi Mashinini, was a senior SASM office-bearer. The SSRC consisted of representatives of most of the secondary and high schools in Soweto.

224 The student organisers had also matured politically and now unequivocally located their battle against Bantu Education within a broader struggle against apartheid. It was believed that the apartheid system was about to crumble and that the campaign against Afrikaans and the apartheid system as a whole could be won.

Sabotage campaigns

225 The students who left South Africa after the 1976 Soweto protests provided the personpower for a renewed campaign of sabotage and guerrilla warfare in the early 1980s. Between October 1976 and May 1981, there were 112 MK attacks and explosions – part of an ‘armed propaganda’ campaign initiated by the ANC during this period. Many of the initial attacks focused on targets of strategic or economic importance such as the oil refinery at Sasolburg in June 1980, power stations in the eastern Transvaal in July 1981 and the Voortrekkerhoogte military base in August 1981. In 1980, there were bombings in Soweto as part of a campaign against rent increases. In August 1981, a bomb exploded in a shopping centre in Pretoria during working hours, days before an announcement by Mr Oliver Tambo, president of the ANC, that MK would now attack “officials of apartheid”. The bomb was seen as a reprisal for the recent murder in Salisbury of ANC representative Joe Gqabi (see above).23

226 MK campaigns during this period aimed to avoid civilian casualties. However, both the Goch Street shooting in 1977 and the Silverton bank siege in 1980 involved MK members who panicked, resulting in the deaths of civilians caught in the crossfire.

23 Tom Lodge (1983), p 340.
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