Claudia tells story of 1976 in Katlehong

Claudia Mutlanyana (52)

She said she was only 10-years-old when the incident happened.

“The sad part is that when our government talks about celebrating the incidents of 1976, they only talk about what happened in Orlando and Soweto, and not about what happened in Katlehong,” said Mutlanyana.

She said a lot happened in Katlehong.

“Female learners were raped while male learners and teachers were killed – all in the name of fighting against Bantu Education.

“I was in the classroom (Grade Two) with classmates when a gang stoned our classroom. Some of my classmates hid behind our class teacher. My twin brother and I hid under the desks. We looked from under the desks when the gang dragged our teacher and some of the young female learners outside. The female learners, who were as young as seven and eight, were raped by the gang, while the boys who were almost the same age as the girls, were burnt to death because of petrol bombs and burning tyres,” Mutlanyana told Kathorus MAIL.

She said the cause of the attack on their classroom was the system of government education at the time.

“We were told to choose between learning in Afrikaans or English. Those who created chaos were those who had a problem with learning in English. I think they were spies who were working for the apartheid government because those learners and teachers, who were against learning and teaching in Afrikaans, were killed or tortured,” said Mutlanyane.

She said she was lucky not to be raped at the time.

“I was still lying under the desk in a pool of my own urine, shocked and in fear when one of my teachers whose name I can’t remember, came to take me and my brother out of the classroom. As we were walking out of the class, we were jumping the burning bodies of the school children. The teacher saw that I was in shock and asked me where I was staying because he wanted to take me home. I told him we were staying on William Strauss’s Farm. Strauss was a former mayor of Ekurhuleni which was formerly known as the East Rand. The city was under the leadership of the National Party by that time. When I arrived home, we had problems staying on the farm because some of the political leaders were using our home as a hiding place and so Strauss chased us away,” said Mutlanyana.

She said that is when she learnt that (as an orphan) her mother stayed in Lesotho. “So my brother and I had to go our separate ways. My grandmother took me to a hiding place in Lesotho because the political environment in South Africa at the time was tough. I had to stay there until I was fifteen and then I had to come back. When I came back, my cousin told me that my brother had passed away. He died of the shot wound that he sustained during one of the protests against Bantu Education. My cousin said my brother went into hiding with the shot wound that never healed. The bullet poisoned his body and as a result, he died,” said Mutlanyana.

He said he feels sad that the pain they went through in Katlehong is not recognised by the government. “They are only talking about Soweto and Orlando as if nothing happened in their township.”

Currently, Mutlanyana is a resident of Villa Lisa.

  AUTHOR
Aaron Damane

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