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Special Report
Transcripts for Section 5 of Episode 84

30:45Welcome back. The Truth Commission has the task of investigating gross human rights violations in our past. Some of these violations happened to communities and are hard to investigate as individual human rights violations, like the forced removal of black people who lived in areas where the National Party government did not want them to be. One such a place was Sophiatown in Johannesburg.Full Transcript
31:09The name Sophiatown has become much more than a symbol of the forced removal of black people by the apartheid government. It was a magic moment in the history of the people of South Africa, a moment holding the promise of what South Africa could have been.Full Transcript
31:36People used to dance and we used to sit here – my mother was very strict, I couldn’t cross the road – I just had to sit there at the stoep and watch. Sometimes I used to feel scared because when they danced, they just went on their … jumped on their tummies like this with nothing on their bodies and that.Full Transcript
31:53Sophiatown was truly a melting pot, a place where musicians, artists, writers and gangsters combined to create an excitement that is still remembered with nostalgia. People lived as if they were free in a time that white capital and Afrikaner nationalism gathered forces to formalize a most restrictive ideology. Sophiatown was the embryo of an exciting South Africa, culturally and politically, and that is exactly why it had to be destroyed. Because it threatened the designs of racial separation and white Calvinist superiority.Full Transcript
32:30I was the first black urban experience which expressed itself. // There was a huge in surge of an urban folk who were establishing, I think, a kind of an urban folklore. Your writers of the time, your journalists, your shakers and movers of the place.Full Transcript
32:58Sophiatown happened almost by accident. The owner of the farm Waterval, one H Tobianski planned a private lease hold township for low income white people. He named the area after his wife, Sophia, but he failed to attract white buyers to the area. It became a place where black people could buy land and they did, alongside Chinese, coloureds and Indians. As white South Africans rallied to bring the National Party into power in 1948 black South Africans were creating the first truly non-racial society in the country.Full Transcript
33:38Sophiatown was representative of freedom, to live with whoever was your neighbour. // It was too much of a threat. In February 1955 trucks rolled into Sophiatown, loaded its inhabitants and moved them to a place called Meadowlands.Full Transcript
34:05The shocking images of Sophiatown, people just being uprooted and carted away much against their will and quite hopelessly struggling against this thing, the machine of the National Party Government at the time was just simply too strong.Full Transcript
34:29Sophiatown was razed to the ground as if to erase the memory of what could have been and in its place came ‘Triomf’, ‘triumph,’ victory. The sterile suburban streets that emerged were indeed seen as a triumph for white rule. The spirit of Sophiatown was broken, its people dispersed. But in the life of a nation 40 years is not that long and last year Triomf became Sophiatown again as South Africans starting regaining their dignity. One cannot help but wonder what would our society have looked like today had the magic of Sophiatown had not been destroyed. Full Transcript
35:08It was a fluent kind of living, vibrant community and I think longing for the kind of freedom that hopefully we’re getting into now, that’s what made it such a magical place and I think it will always hold a place in the imaginations of the people that lived through it and maybe those who didn’t. As we can say it is an original. Full Transcript
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