red location museum

a worldclass museum bridging the past towards the future 

irvin pieterse - forgotten faces

"I was born in Fairview and as a child I was part of the forced removals under the Group Areas Act. My family had to move from Fairview to Arcadia where I spent most of my youthful years. Almost the whole area, except for maybe a few shops, was relocated to the Salt Lake area and the buildings in Fairview were just destroyed.

I grew up in a "grey area" then. Ag, you know an area where there were some African families, some Indian families and some so called Coloured families.

My sister then used to work in the super-market. One of the first supermarkets, she used to bring the newspaper in the evening. I think I was in Std 2... then I would read the newspaper and I began to find out about the different education systems, the representations of the government and what was going on in the country. This all linked together and made me try and seek an alternative to my condition... the situation... It allowed me to grow and develop a vision to ultimately work towards change within our community and our country.

In 1978 I was recruited to a political organisation, called �Young Christian Workers� it was organising people under the banner of the Catholic Church. In 1980 I met people like Derek Swart and Michael Coetzee. They introduced me to the congress view to developing people


After 1982 I left Port Elizabeth to go and study further in Cape Town at the University of the Western Cape (UWC). I pursued a degree in social work which I never completed. During my time in Cape Town I became part of the Student Representative council. I also played a role in youth development in Cape Town as a part of the Belhar Youth Congress in Cape Town. Through these positions I became a part of the planning for the launch of the United Democratic Front (UDF). After 1984 I spent 2 years working as a volunteer for the Student Representative Council for the UWC. In 1985 because of the skills I had learnt while at UWC I was summonsed to come down to the Eastern Cape.

That was the period after the killings of the Cradock 4. From that point I became a full time media officer for the UDF here in the Eastern Cape.

In 1987 I was responsible for seeing that the youth and the students had safe houses to stay in. It was very difficult for the students then to pursue their academic year without being influenced negatively by the state. They would hunt students and go to their houses, threaten them, �If you don�t stop your participation we will kill you!�. Because of this most of the students spent those last 3 years not even attending classes and we were busy trying to organise alternatives to the regime. At the time they were torturing people to get information from them. We had to ensure that they wouldn�t get caught because there was a lot of sensitive information and if they got that information they could use it to repress us even further.

One night between 3 and 4 in the morning I was caught trying to organise a safe house for some students. Then they took me to St Albans and held me for 6 months. While I was held I developed psychiatric problems that still trouble me today. We are all freedom loving and moving from a sort of free environment into a totally repressive environment where you have to be in a cell all day and you have no access to reading matter... you begin to have lots of thoughts, anything could happen to you and you begin to imagine it... The idea of the repressive nature of the state had a severe impact on my mental health.

The last 2 months of my detention coincided with the start the negotiations regarding the democratic movement in this country. This did in some part ensure that we would not be killed and tortured. There was a small light at the end of the tunnel... There was a hope that we would soon be released.

The release of Nelson Mandela was something good, but the school of thought that I came from said that we needed to take charge of our own lives.

From 1990 till 2005 I was not working.I was trying to pursue a role on the branch executive of the ANC. I was also a member of the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) and the South African Communist Party. I played this role until 2005 when I was recruited by the chairperson of the Bethelsdorp

Development Trust.

We believe that political organisations and political parties cannot fulfill the role of ultimately helping towards the development of the individual and the community. We need to play an active role in rebuilding the morale and dignity of our people and restore the imbalances brought about by apartheid such as the material disenfranchisement. We in the Bethelsdorp Development Trust need to play that role in ultimately ensuring that we plan execute and ensure the delivery of services and offer programs within the community towards the upliftment of our community.

I am the beneficiary and community relations officer of the Bethelsdorp Development Trust. We have a youth council, a woman's organisation and an organisation for people living with a disability. I am responsible for these groups to have constitutions, AGM's, annual programmes and annual budgets. I also need to ensure that they role out their particular programs for their communities."

forgotten faces


Ama Africa   Group of black township dwellers which opposed the UDF and was supported by the police

Amabutho   Controversial groups of armed youths within the townships

Black Sash   A women?s group dedicated to protesting Apartheid

Broederbond   A society that was created in 1918 to further the interests of Afrikaners in South Africa

Cadre   A member of the ANC underground

Caspir    A large armoured vehicle that the SADF used

Cradock   A Karoo town that became a focal point during the struggle

Dompas Identity document that all black South African?s were forced to carry

Group Areas Board   A structure within the Apartheid government responsible for the areas in which people lived

Hippo   A large armoured vehicle that the SADF used

Homeland   Areas where people of certain ethnic groups were forced to live

Kwanobuhle   Township in Uitenhage

Kwazakhele   Township in Port Elizabeth

Langa   Township in Uitenhage

Northern Areas   The area where the Apartheid government forced the coloured community to live

Port Elizabeth Anti Removals Committee   The group responsible for challenging any attempts at the group removal of residents of areas in Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage

Progressive Trade Union   A trade union not allied to the state, and thus able to work against it

Red Location Action Committee   The civic organisation responsible for the improvement and protection of the Red Location

Shebeen   An unlicensed bar within the townships

St Albans   A large prison on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth

Toyi-Toyi   A form of dance that became synonymous with protest in South Africa

Tricameral Parliament   South African parliament from 1984-1994 which gave Indian and Coloured people marginal representation but excluded the black population

Tsotsi   Slang for a thug

Umkhonto we Sizwe   The armed wing of the ANC

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