Sarah Baartman District anti-Apartheid heroes honoured in Somerset East
The Somerset East Museum, in Somerset East, in the Blue Crane Route Local Municipality, last Friday unveiled an exhibition in celebration of the lives and contributions made by four struggle heroes born in the Sarah Baartman District towards creating a democratic South Africa.
Not even the sweltering heat could dampen the mood and excitement of those who attended the exhibition launch. Delegates included Blue Crane Route Local Municipality Mayor, Marjorie Scott, who officially unveiled a newly renovated section of the Museum, which now honours academic and anti-Apartheid activist, Professor Jakes Gerwel; former teacher turned Reverend, Frederick Hufkie; activist Dr Water Rubusana and another anti-Apartheid stalwart, Dr Norman Ngcipe.
“Before today, and after speaking to a number of residents, we noticed that very few people were visiting the museum as it mainly portrayed white culture,” museum head, Siyasanga Taho, told Sarah Baartman News.
“While various structures have been named after these icons, many people still don’t have the exact information as to who they are. Therefore, and as part of the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture’s transformation project, it was decided to setup this exhibition to ensure equal representation of all cultures.”
Born in Somerset East in 1946, Gerwel obtained a BA degree from the University of the Western Cape in 1968, where after he served at various institutions in the province as a teacher. He was elected to the position of rector at the university in 1984 and vice-chancellor three years later, a position he kept until 1994.
Chosen to serve as Director General in the Office of later former President Nelson Mandela between 1994 and 1999, Gerwel held a number of other high ranking educational positions in the Western Cape and continued lecturing until his death at the age of 66 in December 2012.
Described as a man dedicated to his religion, Rubusana played a key part in the county’s history with the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War. A graduate from Lovedale Colleague in the early 1870’s, Rubusana studied theology not long after, becoming one of the most respected in the early part of the 1900’s.
A keen interest in politics led to him becoming the first African selected as a member of the Cape Provincial Council in 1912. He would continue serving in politics before dying at the age of 78 in 1936.
Having spent most of his early life in Somerset East, Ngcipe fulfilled his lifelong dream of practising in the medical field by obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in medicine at the University of Natal’s Wentworth campus in 1981, before commencing his internship at Edenvale Hospital in Pietermaritzburg one year later.
An underground anti-apartheid activist from a young age, Ngcipe and 40 other colleges were killed by the then South African National Defence Force (SANDF) in December 1982, following a raid on a building in the capital of Lesotho, Maseru.
Known as a teacher, churchgoer and staunch opponent of Apartheid, Hufkie started his career as a science and language teacher in 1941, before going on to serve as headmaster of schools in Somerset East and Graaff-Reinet from 1944 to 1977.
A keen sporting enthusiast, Hufkie was elected vice-president of the non-racial South African Rugby Union (SARU) from 1966 to 1981, before declining re-election to further his studies in theology at Rhodes University. He eventually passed away in 2001 - two years after his wife.
Addressing the media, family representatives, municipal officials and residents at the Somerset East Community Hall after the unveiling, Provincial Department Head of Sport, Arts and Culture, Mzolisi Matutu, said the exhibition plays a critical role in celebrating the lives of those previously not recognised.
“The history of black South Africans has remained under wraps for a long time. With this exhibition in Somerset East, visitors will be able to learn about their history and remember those who fought against oppression,” Matutu said.
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