Remembering the Wynberg 7

Members of the Wynberg 7 received a Recognition of Contribution Award from the Wynberg East Civic Association for the student activism, struggle and sacrifice in the fight against Apartheid. From left to right: Ridwan Wagiet, Julian Stubbs, Wayne Jordaan, Rabia Damon, Igshaan Amlay and Ebrahim Abrahams. Picture: Janice Matthews

Unwittingly, a community is shaped by the stories of the people and the space they occupy.

The Wynberg East Civic Association sought to remember those that have left an indelible mark on the suburb at its Wynberg Rewind event held at Muhammadeyah Primary School on Saturday September 10.

A retelling of stories like that of Nagar Kooverjee, an immigrant that left India in search of greener pastures. On his journey he stumbled upon an empty shop on 33 Park Road which became Babu’s Footwear, a 100-year-old stronghold in Wynberg’s commerce history.

And the story of a one-bedroom house that opened its doors to 11 students – now, 93 years later, Muhammadeyah Primary is one of the oldest Muslim schools in South Africa. These and other stories shared on the day were recorded for an oral history project aimed for archival purposes.

Dr Helen Robinson, an author and historian, says the link between people and places is one of the most interesting parts of history.

“We study history and we know all sorts of things from it but heritage is something quite different. It depends on history but when you are looking at heritage, you are looking at more than events. You are looking at history with emotional input and you are looking at history which is tied indefinitely to people. And people are tied to places,” she said.

One of the stories that made a mark on the social fabric of the community is that of the Wynberg 7.

Ebrahim Abrahams, WECA’s vice chairperson said, “Not many people know about the Wynberg 7. These people were on the forefront of making sure that Wynberg was one the map and that South Africa changed. And it happened on the corner of Park and Baxter roads.”

The seven pupils were arrested during a student protest in Wynberg in 1985. Igshaan Amlay, Venetia de Klerk, Dee Dicks, Shoukie Enous, Wayne Jordaan, Naasir Masoet and Julian Stubbs, aged between 14 and 18, were charged and convicted of public violence. They served between one and three years in Pollsmoor Prison.

Mr Amlay, Mr Stubbs and Mr Jordaan recollected the events that lead to their arrest.

“We had been congregating first at Wynberg High then planned to move from there to Wittebome High, certainly that was my path. On the way we stopped at the Pandy’s house. We were caught up in the events that happened on the day. The people that were marching in the area started burning some tyres. We all just happened to be in that space at that same time. I was on the stoop and kept an eye on what was happening in the street because Casspirs were going up and down, a few petrol bombs had been thrown in the street,” said Mr Stubbs.

“Then it was kinda quiet, cars were not driving past anymore. It seemed streets had been shut off but we didn’t know that at the time, there were no cars coming by. I guess that was the security police’s plan. They prevented anyone else coming down the roads. And eventually a couple of Casspirs came up Park Road, a couple of vans from Baxter Road. And everyone scattered when that happened.”

Mr Jordaan describes a scene of 30 to 40 students clamouring to hide inside one room in the Pandy house.

“They got us to get out of the house and they just happened to grab the first 10 people that got out of the house. And that was our fate sealed. We were taken into two vans that were standing outside and the others managed to get away,” Mr Stubbs said

The three members praised Wynberg for the support they had given them at the time. Mr Stubbs said after they were arrested residents rushed to their aid to get numbers to contact their families.

“Just coming back to Wynberg,” Mr Stubbs said, “Our send off was from Wynberg. We left from Shoukie’s house and there was a long convoy of cars and school buses escorting us through. That showed us support from Wynberg, the community was certain we went with well wishes.”

The Wynberg 7 lost their sentence appeal at the Supreme Court in May 1987 and started their sentence at Pollsmoor on Monday June 8.

Mr Amlay says he has no regrets and would do it again. “There are many others like the Wynberg 7. People should acknowledge the struggle that we fought and I think that’s important because it gives youth an opportunity to stand up for what is right. Especially at a school level they must be taught what the youth went through, just as an acknowledgement. So that the future generations can never forget what happened and that it must never happen again.”

Dr Helen Robinson, author and historian, discussed part of her doctoral thesis on the history of Wynberg at the Wynberg Rewind event that was held at Muhammadeyah Primary School on Saturday, September 10. Picture: Janice Matthews