Athlone High School hosted the screening of the Dulcie September documentary, Murder in Paris, on the eve of Youth Day last week.
Ms September’s story is the subject of the two-part documentary, which was screened on the SABC in March.
She was the ANC’s chief representative in France, Switzerland and Luxembourg, and was shot five times in the face on March 29 1988 in Paris at the age of 52.
Now, 33 years later, there is much speculation that Ms September was killed because of her investigations into arms trading.
Ms September lived with her family in Denchworth Road, Belgravia Estate. She attended Klipfontein Methodist Mission School, Central Primary School in Athlone and was one of the first pupils at Athlone High School.
She later qualified as a teacher at Battswood Teacher Training College in Wynberg and taught Grade 1 and 2 classes at Bridgetown Primary School in Athlone.
She was a member of the Cape Peninsula Students’ Union (CPSU), the Athlone branch of the Teacher’s League of South Africa (TLSA) and the African People’s Democratic Union of Southern Africa (Apdusa).
Ms September joined a study group called the Yu Chi Chan Club, named after the Chinese term for guerilla warfare. When the club was disbanded, it was replaced by the National Liberation Front (NLF), founded by Dr Neville Alexander.
It was while a member of the NLF that Ms September was arrested on October 7 1963 and detained without trial. Along with nine others, Ms September faced charges relating to conspiracy to commit acts of sabotage and incite acts of politically motivated violence. She was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment on April 15 1964.
After serving her jail sentence, during which she suffered severe physical and mental abuse, Ms September still faced a five-year banning order which placed her under house arrest and she was not able to take part in political activity or work as a teacher.
Frustrated, Ms September applied for an exit permit, and left for England on December 19 1973, never to return home.
It was while in London that she joined the ANC and worked tirelessly in the anti-apartheid movement, contributing to numerous organisations and campaigns.
She returned to the continent to work at the ANC’s headquarters in Lusaka, Zambia, in 1981 and was appointed to her final post in Paris in 1983. Her murder has never been solved.
Enver Samuel, the director of the documentary, said lawyers acting on behalf of Dulcie September’s family would approach a French court in December to have the murder case reopened, and he wanted the public to watch the film and sign a petition calling on the French government to give the case urgent attention.
“It was important not to leave the documentary at the SABC but to bring it to our schools and communities to let the film have it’s own life,” he said. “The more people who watch it, the more will be able to assist in the court case year end.”
A member of Athlone High School’s student representative council, Siyanda Mvumla, said that the documentary inspired the youth to be active in the fight for quality education.
“Dulcie September is part of our history, and it is important for us to learn about it,” he said.
The school’s principal, Vincent Hendricks, said it was important for pupils to stand together in the fight for quality education.
“The class of 1976 showed a social justice for a better education. For children, it’s about name brands and phones, but, for me, it’s about richness of the mind. Dulcie fought courageously and didn’t give up. There is a long way to go for quality education – fight for it, but don’t commit education suicide,” he said.
Betty van der Heyden, who was imprisoned with Ms September, said the youth should have the same passion that Ms September had had in fighting for justice in the education system.
“Dulcie never gave up,” she said. “Even in prison when we were starved for breakfast, lunch, and supper, she never complained. She always completed what she started and investigated what she thought didn’t make sense. In my time, there were four girls in my class and two classes of boys because parents did not send their daughters for an education only their sons. Now, there is no stopping girls.”
Michael Arendse, Dulcie September’s nephew, said the family had had to find a way to live with her death.
“The question that youth should ask themselves is what will your contribution be?” he said.