Last Thursday, October 12, on what would have been activist Philip Kgosana’s 81st birthday, Mayor Patricia de Lille officially renamed De Waal Drive to Phillip Kgosana Drive.
In March 1960, it was along De Waal Drive that the struggle hero led thousands of people in a peaceful march from Langa to Parliament to protest against the demeaning apartheid pass laws.
“Mr Kgosana was only 23 years old at the time, marching at the front, leading the protests against the pass laws along De Waal Drive and Roeland Street. The protesters demanded a meeting with the then Minister of Justice FC Erasmus.
“A state of emergency had been declared, however, and Kgosana and other leaders were persuaded to accompany police chiefs to the police station down the road to meet Erasmus on condition that the crowd disperse. Kgosana asked the protesters to go home.
“The meeting with Erasmus never happened, and Kgosana was arrested and held in solitary confinement for 21 days in Roeland Street jail.
He had been charged with incitement to public violence, breaking the pass laws and marching to Cape Town without the apartheid government’s permission,” said the chairperson of the City’s Naming and Nomination Committee, Brett Herron.
“It is only befitting that we consider renaming De Waal Drive after this remarkable man who faced the apartheid forces at such a young age and contributed in changing the lives of people the world over as an employee of the United Nations.”
Mr Kgosana passed away April 19 this year. The proposal to rename De Waal Drive to Phillip Kgosana Drive was put forward by former Cape Times editor Tony Heard, who believed that Mr Kgosana should be honoured for his role in avoiding bloodshed on that day. “If it were not for the exemplary leadership in the interests of peace shown by Kgosana, and the prescient and conciliatory attitude of Colonel (Ignatius) Terblanche, I believe police shooting would have broken out, with incalculable consequences for Cape Town and all South Africa,” said Mr Heard.
After a public participation process earlier this year, the City’s naming committee accepted the name change.
Recently roads have been named after Helen Suzman, Robert Sobukwe, Professor Jakes Gerwel and Nelson Mandela.
“This is to recognise the role that they played in bringing us to where we are today,” said Ms De Lille. “Renaming is a critical part of redress, as it allows us to remember our past and honour the heroes who made great sacrifices and laid the foundation to help us build a new future that fosters reconciliation.”