April the 14th 2013 marks the 20th anniversary of my first bang bang, the day I was first shot at. Literally. By the police.
I was a young aspiring freelance photojournalist, studying at the Cape Technikon on a part time basis at the time. Somebody told me there was trouble in town so I grabbed my camera bag and ran to find it. I had one roll of black and white film.
Anti-apartheid activist, leader of the South African Communist Party and Chief of Staff of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC), Chris Hani had been murdered four days before and there was a demonstration march to the City of Cape Town. He was assassinated on 10 April 1993 outside his home in Dawn Park, a racially mixed suburb of Boksburg, during a turbulent time in South Africa. Nelson Mandela had been released from prison and was negotiating a peaceful transfer of power from the Afrikaner Nationalist government to the ANC. The nation was preparing for civil war.
Chris Hani was shot in the head and back as he stepped out of his car by Polish far-right anti-communist immigrant Janusz Waluś. Waluś fled the scene, but was arrested soon afterwards after Hani’s neighbour, a white Afrikaner woman, called the police. Clive Derby-Lewis, a senior South African Conservative Party M.P. and Shadow Minister for Economic Affairs at the time, who had lent Waluś his pistol, was also arrested for complicity in Hani’s murder.
The demonstrators chanted “No peace! War! War!” as they moved through the city.
The police and the military created a cordon around the entire city once the marchers arrived, tightening it, block by block, moving the demonstrators towards the Grand Parade in front of the city hall. Some of the protestors started rioting, setting fire to cars and looting shops. The public fled for their lives.
As a photojournalist it’s sometimes as though you have diplomatic immunity from rioters. I moved amongst them, capturing moments, shocked by what I was seeing. The rioters beat people who refused to join them, hurling abuse at those who ran away. A group of rioters came down a one way into oncoming traffic. A terrified man jumped out of his BMW and ran into the closest shop, the staff closing the security gate behind him just in time. The rioters jumped all over his car, smashing it to pieces, then threw rocks through the shop window. I moved on and bumped into a colleague, a freelance photojournalist for the Argus newspaper, pumped with adrenaline. We agreed to meet at the studio we shared in Jamieson street once it was over.
The police and the military continued to tighten the cordon until they moved everyone onto the Grand Parade and opened fire. I was on the parade, close to a wall of one of the stalls when I heard a strange noise behind me. I turned and saw chips of plaster flying off the wall. With a sickening sensation I realised they were shooting at me with live ammunition. People were screaming and running in every direction. I tucked my camera under my arm and ran, crashing into hysterical people, bouncing off them, desperately looking for cover in the chaos.
Once the shooting subsided I went back into the area to look around. I was out of film but needed to see for myself. I heard a commotion towards the station and ran towards it to see two big policemen beating a man lying on the ground with sjamboks. The man was screaming, shielding his face with his arms, bleeding profusely. They saw me and shouted, another policeman running towards me. I ran for my life. The image of that beating haunts me to this day. The ferociousness and brutality of it deeply disturbing.
Later that afternoon I met my colleague at our studio. He told me that of the six photojournalists covering the riots, three had been wounded, luckily none of them killed. Difficult to get accurate stats, it was officially released that seven people were killed with hundreds injured. I doubt the accuracy of this.
I sold eight of my pictures to a newspaper representative from Germany. As a student it left me feeling elated. My first international sale. I hope they made a difference.
The following year, on the 27th April 1994, South Africa held it’s first non-racial democratic elections, that the ANC, under the leadership of Madiba (Nelson Mandela) won. For the following twenty years I was told by ‘the government by the people, for the people’ that as a white male I’m not wanted in the work place, despite the Freedom Charter we fought for. Black Economic Empowerment, government policy, dictates that white males are the last on the list for employment. Instead of ending BEE after twenty years as promised, President Zuma announced that it would be implemented more aggressively, as in his opinion, there had not been sufficient reform. Whilst I understood the necessity for this, I felt betrayed by the liberation movement. We were promised a ‘rainbow nation’, in which no-one would be discriminated against based on gender, race or religion. Racism is racism, whether white on black or black on white.
I think back to the day at the parade, wondering what happened to that amazing document, the Freedom Charter, that we believed in so strongly, that so many people of all races died for during the struggle against apartheid. The foundation document that lead to one of the most advanced constitutions in the world, that the current government promised to the people, in order to be voted into power. That they walked away from so many years ago, turning their backs on their people in favour of self enrichment.
Perhaps they need to be reminded by the people, for the people.
The People Shall Govern!
Every man and woman shall have the right to vote for and to stand as a candidate for all bodies which make laws;
All people shall be entitled to take part in the administration of the country;
The rights of the people shall be the same, regardless of race, colour or sex;
All bodies of minority rule, advisory boards, councils and authorities shall be replaced by democratic organs of self-government.
All National Groups Shall Have Equal Rights!
There shall be equal status in the bodies of state, in the courts and in the schools for all national groups and races;
All people shall have equal right to use their own languages, and to develop their own folk culture and customs;
All national groups shall be protected by law against insults to their race and national pride;
The preaching and practice of national, race or colour discrimination and contempt shall be a punishable crime;
All apartheid laws and practices shall be set aside.
The People Shall Share In The Country’s Wealth!
The national wealth of our country, the heritage of all South Africans, shall be restored to the people;
The mineral wealth beneath the soil, the banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole;
All other industry and trade shall be controlled to assist the well-being of the people;
All people shall have equal rights to trade where they choose, to manufacture and to enter all trades, crafts and professions.
The Land Shall Be Shared Among Those Who Work It!
Restrictions of land ownership on a racial basis shall be ended, and all the land redivided amongst those who work it, to banish famine and land hunger;
The state shall help the peasants with implements, seed, tractors and dams to save the soil and assist the tillers;
Freedom of movement shall be guaranteed to all who work on the land;
All shall have the right to occupy land wherever they choose;
People shall not be robbed of their cattle, and forced labour and farm prisons shall be abolished.
All Shall Be Equal Before The Law!
No one shall be imprisoned, deported or restricted without a fair trial;
No one shall be condemned by the order of any Government official;
The courts shall be representative of all the people;
Imprisonment shall be only for serious crimes against the people, and shall aim at re-education, not vengeance;
The police force and army shall be open to all on an equal basis and shall be the helpers and protectors of the people;
All laws which discriminate on grounds of race, colour or belief shall be repealed.
All Shall Enjoy Equal Human Rights!
The law shall guarantee to all their right to speak, to organise, to meet together, to publish, to preach, to worship and to educate their children;
The privacy of the house from police raids shall be protected by law;
All shall be free to travel without restriction from countryside to town, from province to province, and from South Africa abroad;
Pass Laws, permits and all other laws restricting these freedoms shall be abolished.
There Shall Be Work And Security!
All who work shall be free to form trade unions, to elect their officers and to make wage agreements with their employers;
The state shall recognise the right and duty of all to work, and to draw full unemployment benefits;
Men and women of all races shall receive equal pay for equal work;
There shall be a forty-hour working week, a national minimum wage, paid annual leave, and sick leave for all workers, and maternity leave on full pay for all working mothers;
Miners, domestic workers, farm workers and civil servants shall have the same rights as all others who work;
Child labour, compound labour, the tot system and contract labour shall be abolished.
The Doors Of Learning And Of Culture Shall Be Opened!
The government shall discover, develop and encourage national talent for the enhancement of our cultural life;
All the cultural treasures of mankind shall be open to all, by free exchange of books, ideas and contact with other lands;
The aim of education shall be to teach the youth to love their people and their culture, to honour human brotherhood, liberty and peace;
Education shall be free, compulsory, universal and equal for all children;
Higher education and technical training shall be opened to all by means of state allowances and scholarships awarded on the basis of merit;
Adult illiteracy shall be ended by a mass state education plan;
Teachers shall have all the rights of other citizens;
The colour bar in cultural life, in sport and in education shall be abolished.
There Shall Be Houses, Security And Comfort!
All people shall have the right to live where they choose, to be decently housed, and to bring up their families in comfort and security;
Unused housing space to be made available to the people;
Rent and prices shall be lowered, food plentiful and no one shall go hungry;
A preventive health scheme shall be run by the state;
Free medical care and hospitalisation shall be provided for all, with special care for mothers and young children;
Slums shall be demolished, and new suburbs built where all have transport, roads, lighting, playing fields, creches and social centres;
The aged, the orphans, the disabled and the sick shall be cared for by the state;
Rest, leisure and recreation shall be the right of all;
Fenced locations and ghettoes shall be abolished, and laws which break up families shall be repealed.
There Shall Be Peace And Friendship!
South Africa shall be a fully independent state, which respects the rights and sovereignty of all nations;
South Africa shall strive to maintain world peace and the settlement of all international disputes by negotiation-not war;
Peace and friendship amongst all our people shall be secured by upholding the equal rights, opportunities and status of all;
The people of the protectorates-Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland-shall be free to decide for themselves their own future;
The right of all the peoples of Africa to independence and self-government shall be recognized and shall be the basis of close co-operation.
Let all who love their people and their country now say, as we say here:
‘THESE FREEDOMS WE WILL FIGHT FOR, SIDE BY SIDE, THROUGHOUT OUR LIVES, UNTIL WE HAVE WON OUR LIBERTY.’
Adopted at the Congress of the People, Kliptown, South Africa, on 26 June 1955