UKZN Hosts Virtual Dr Killie Campbell Lecture
UKZN in collaboration with the Campbell Collection hosted the annual Dr Killie Campbell Lecture, which focused on the January 1960 uMkhumbane police killings.
Sources for the discussion included reports from UmAfrika and ILanga Lase Natali newspapers, which are archived in the Killie Campbell Africana Library.
UKZN’s Portfolio Head for Special Collections Dr Roshini Pather said: ‘Dr Killie Campbell believed records should be collected and maintained, dealing with every aspect of our nation and that all records should be available to every earnest student seeking knowledge.’
Pather outlined how Campbell had donated her valuable collection of books, photographs, journals, newspapers and paintings to the then University of Natal which has since been administered by the Killie Campbell Africana Library.
A lecturer in the History department of UKZN’s School of Social Sciences, Mr Mphumeleli Ngidi, said: ‘On the 24 January 1960 nine South African policemen were killed by an angry mob in Cato Manor, popularly known as Mkhumbane, while on a routine raid for illicit liquor. The area had a multiracial population of Africans, Indians and Coloureds who had migrated from rural villages in order to be closer to work in Durban.
‘The incident highlighted several grievances by local residents including their resistance to the apartheid government’s forced removals under the Group Areas Act.’
Cato Manor, founded in 1845 and named after the first Mayor of Durban Dr George Cato, was officially proclaimed a White area in 1958 in terms of the Group Areas Act No 41 of 1950. This resulted in a large number of people being removed and, similar to what happened in areas such as Sophiatown in Johannesburg and District Six in Cape Town, apartheid authorities were determined to disperse the multi-racial community of Cato Manor in order to maintain the racial divide.
‘Although there were different accounts of what had triggered the police attacks on that day the most popular version remains that a policeman, Constable Mchitheni Biyela, had stepped on a woman’s toe. Court proceedings identified the woman as Beatrice Mokoena,’ Ngidi said.
From reports published in the isiZulu newspapers UmAfrika and ILanga Lase Natali it is estimated that about 500 community members ambushed and brutally killed five Black and four White policemen.
The Government declared a State of Emergency in Mkhumbane with gatherings prohibited for four weeks - the exceptions being funerals or gatherings which had obtained an official permit, according to reports in UmAfrika.
‘Twenty-nine suspects were tried between 1 August and 2 December 1960 and 10 were sentenced to death. They appealed and one received a lesser sentence while the remainder, known as the Cato Manor 9, were hanged on 5 September 1961. Their families were not allowed to bury them,’ Ngidi added.
Earlier this year, the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Mr Ronald Lamola, handed over the exhumed remains of the Cato Manor 9 - buried by the Apartheid government in different parts of Pretoria - to their families.
The Cato Manor police killings were a prelude to the Sharpeville Massacre, still commemorated annually as Human Rights Day on 21 March.
The Cato Manor police killings led to accelerated forced removals of Indian people to the Phoenix area and African people to KwaMashu and uMlazi townships in April 1960.
No White people have occupied the land since 1964, leaving Cato Manor a predominately Black area.
Head of the Special Collections section at the Killie Campbell Africana Library Mr Senzo Mkhize thanked the panellists and organisers of the event.
Words: Hlengiwe Khwela