A walk through history

Philip Balie, Rondebosch East

With the easing of the lockdown measures to level 4 during our battle with the Covid-19 pandemic, I have resumed my regular early morning walks in the Rondebosch East surrounds.

It is fantastic to see so many “new” people also walking: old and young, some people with toddlers in strollers, children on bicycles, people of all races and religions, male and female, and some with their dogs.

In order to gain a renewed historical perspective, one of the walks I have revisited is to the struggle sites against apartheid in the Crawford/Athlone area, namely:

The house on Church Street, Athlone, where a young and heroic Anton Fransch in 1989 battled the combined apartheid security forces in “The Battle of Athlone” for more than eight hours before he was killed.

The Coline Williams and Robbie Waterwitch Memorial on Lower Klipfontein Road opposite the Athlone Magistrate’s Court where these young activists were killed in 1989 when a device exploded.

The house in Oasis Road, Hazendal where a young Ashley Kriel, an activist from Bonteheuwel, was ambushed – shot in the back and killed in 1987 by apartheid era security police officers.

The Trojan Horse Memorial, on the corners of Thornton and Massey roads, where apartheid security forces hidden among wooden crates on a railway truck indiscriminately opened fire on innocent demonstrators, killing Michael Miranda, 11; Shaun Magmoed, 15; and Jonathan Claasen, 21, and wounding 13 other children and two adults.

Kromboom Road Memorial Park, on the corners of Kromboom and Jan Smuts roads, where struggle stalwarts and local heroes, among others, Dullah Omar (the first post-apartheid Justice Minister); Dulcie September (assassinated in Paris); Huxley Joshua (struggle lawyer); Taliep Petersen (musician); Nazeema Gool Ebrahim (community activist) and others are honoured.

Kromboom Road itself, where, in 1989, struggle leaders such as Allan Boesak, Jan de Waal, Desmond Tutu and other marchers were violently prevented from marching to Pollsmoor in their demands for the release of political prisoners and detainees. They were beaten, bloodied and detained for their legitimate demands.

For people who wish to take up this cycling, running or walking challenge or part thereof, plenty of safe parking space is available at Woolworths or Spar on Kromboom Road or at the Athlone police station, on the corners of Klipfontein and Jan Smuts roads.

It may remind us of the patience, resilience and strength needed during tough times. The Covid-19 pandemic is such a time.

When we are distressed by the racist posts on social media or the intentional spread of disinformation, let us remember our heroes of courage. Such a soul searching, historical, physical and mental exercise could just be another stepping stone to unite our beautiful city and country; it could also define our lives well beyond the Covid 19 pandemic.

Keep on walking, running and cycling. We could one day soon do another historic journey from Pollsmoor to Robben Island to Drakenstein in honour of one of the great leaders of the 20th century.