Retracing anti-pass laws march in Langa

(This article was published in the Weekend Argus, a weekly newspaper in the Western Cape province, South Africa, on March 13 2016.)

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Hopeful that volunteers will join in, Philip Kgosana plans to relive the day he led 30,000 people from Langa in a march against apartheid’s segregationist pass laws 56 years ago.

Kgosana turns 80 this year and will travel from Pretoria to re-enact the day on March 30 1960 when as a 23-year-old he was catapulted into a political leadership role.

Back then Kgosana was the Cape’s regional secretary for the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), which fought against apartheid alongside a host of other political movements and civil society groups.

“The main purpose of my visit to Cape Town is to commemorate the 56th anniversary of the historic 30,000 strong anti-pass march into the city. I was privileged to lead (the march) from Langa into (central) Cape Town on that day,” says Kgosana.

“I intend to replay the march and walk the same route on the morning of March 30, right up to Cape Town. I’m inviting any volunteers who would be interested to march along with me.”

Kgosana says he will also travel to Tulbagh during his visit to Cape Town to “attend a function there in honour of my high school history teacher who will be celebrating his 90th birthday”.

Kgosana was born in Limpopo, the son of a Dutch Reformed Church minister, and later moved to the Western Cape to study commerce. He subsequently abandoned his studies to pursue politics.

Kgosana’s political activism led to his arrest after he was identified as the spokesman for the 30,000 people who showed their dissatisfaction with inhibitive Pass Laws.

Police arrested Kgosana despite promising him a meeting with government officials if he persuaded the crowd to disperse.

The South African History Online archive informs that “instead of honouring their promise, police arrested him later the same day”.

Kgosana was “tried for incitement with other PAC leaders” but “fled South Africa while on bail in late 1960 and later resumed his university studies in Ethiopia”.

On March 21 2010, the City of Cape Town installed a memorial on Langa’s Washington Square to mark the 50th anniversary of the PAC-led march.

The PAC had called on black South Africans to leave their pass books at home. These books were used to control their movement, much like a passport, between different parts of the country.


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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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