“South Africa Now” – [1986 – 1987]

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This alternative series of documentary reports on Apartheid South Africa produced during the “state of emergency” in 1986 & 1987 formed the basis for the alternative documentary series broadcast on PBS in the USA under the title “South Africa Now” . This series challenged the nature & content of mainstream network coverage of Apartheid South Africa by USA networks from 1987 to 1990.

Episodes 1, 2, 3 & 4 – June 1986 to July 1987:

Episode 1 – June 1986

“Police Brutality in Bophutatswana”
Duration: 12 minutes

Features the late Dr Fabian Ribeiro, treating brutalized youths at his surgery in the township of Mamelodi on January 29th 1986 and inter- viewed after the devastation of his home by military-type incendiary devices on March 12th 1986.

Interviews with Catholic Archbishop Daniel and attorney Peter Harris – testify further to the systematic campaign of intimidation waged by the South African security forces against the local population of Bophuthatswana from the end of 1985 to March 1986.

“The Death [ in police-custody ] of Petrus Nchabeleng”
Duration: 8 mins

United Democratic Front Northern Transvaal President, Petrus Nchabeleng, died in police detention on II April 1986. At the time of his detention, Petrus Nchabeleng was living in the remote Sekukuneland village of Apel, the region to which he had been banned
and banished by the South African government after serving an eight year political sentence on Robben Island.

This report includes an interview and sequence filmed with Mr Nchabeleng during his period of banishment in 1983.

The circumstances surrounding his death in police custody are investigated through interviews with Mr Nchabeleng’s wife,
son and Northern Transvaal Council of Churches field worker, Mr Robert Maningi.

“Consumer Boycotts”
Duration: 15 minutes

Focusing on the effectiveness of the consumer boycott in the Port Elizabeth region of the Eastern Cape this report. Looks at the strategy of consumer boycotts as a non-violent weapon for change in South Africa.

Features interviews with:
Jackie Mosamalo – Chairperson of the Pretoria Consumer Boycott Committee;
Jabu Ngwenya – Johannesburg Consumer Boycott Organiser;
Mkhuseli Jack – Chairman of the Port Elizabeth Consumer Boycott Committee;
Tony Gilson – Director of the Port Elizabeth Chamber Of Commerce;
Mrs Florence – a Port Elizabeth shop-owner.

Episode 2 – June 1986

“Whites Against Apartheid”
Duration: 18 Minutes

The “Alexandra massacre” of April 1986 results in the death of 21 members of the Alexandra township community; the majority of those killed are political activists murdered by “hit squads” – comprised of black and white balaclava-clad men, dressed in police-type uniforms and allegedly escorted by armoured police personnel carriers.

On May 17th – surrounded by a ring of security force might comprising some hundreds of riot police, troops, mounted cavalry and armoured vehicles – the community of Alexandra is finally granted permission by the South African authorities to bury eight of their dead.

In contrast to the aggressive – and predominantly white – profile of the South African security forces displayed on this occasion, a small handful of Whites from local organisations like the Black Sash, the churches, the United Democratic Front and some in their personal capacity attend the funeral to express their condolences and solidarity with the oppressed black community.

At this time, JODAC (Johannesburg Democratic Action Committee) – that component of the United Democratic Front concerned with white attitudes – launches a “call to whites campaign to raise consciousness and recruit whites into the democratic movement.

The ECC [End Conscription Campaign] launches its “Working for a Just Peace” campaign aimed at focusing white attention on the destructive role of SADF troops in the townships. At the predominantly white university of the Witwatersrand, student / security force confrontation flares as black and white students rally on campus to demonstrate for the release of Nelson Mandela.
Risking possible state reprisal, for the first time, prominent white businessmen from South Africa visit Lusaka to meet with the ANC.

This report – covering attempts by a minority of whites within South Africa to be meaningfully involved in the anti-apartheid struggle at this time – looks at the enduring role of the Black Sash [lonely symbol of white opposition to the injustices of apartheid and the initiation of the United Democratic front in August 1983.

Included are interviews with:
Clare Verbeek – Chairperson of the ECC;
Tony Bloom – Chairman of Premier Group Holdings;
Sheena Duncan – Past National President of the Black Sash;
Neil Morrison – Publicity Secretary of JODAC;
Anglican Archbishop-elect Desmond Tutu.

“Peoples’ Education for Peoples’ Power”
Duration: 10 minutes

Against the backdrop of an introductory outline of the history of resistance to Bantu education – since its implementation by the South African authorities in 1955 – aspects of an alternative “people’s education” program, as proposed for South Africa by the NECC. [National Education Crisis Committee], are discussed.

The report includes interviews with:
TRASCO [Transvaal Student Congress] student executive member – Mr Msindise Mbalo;
Soweto Secondary School teacher – Mr Johnny Sebone;
Mr Eric Molobe of the SPCC [ Soweto Parents Crisis Committee ].

Episode 3 – December 1986

“Calling for Pressure”
Duration: 21 minutes

Against a backdrop of the history of black dispossession, the origins of black disen-franchisement and the subsequent entrenchment of black rural poverty by apartheid legislation, a call for sanctions is made from within South Africa. Representatives of labour unions and peoples’ organisations express their views on “black suffering” within South Africa and the strategy of sanctions against South African status quo as the only remaining effective option for bringing about relative non-violent change in South Africa.

Features interviews with:
Professor Francis Wilson – Head of the school of Economics at the University of Cape Town & director of the Carnegie commission of enquiry into rural poverty in South Africa;
Ms Ina Periman – Executive director of Operation Hunger;
Mr Saths Cooper – Past-president of AZAPO;
Mr Murphy Morobe – Acting publicity secretary of the UDF;
Mr Piroshaw Camay – General secretary of the Cusa-Azactu federation.

“Children in Detention”
Duration: 13 minutes

A report on detentions in South Africa during the second state of emergency. Focusing on the detention of children over the Christmas period of 1986, the report looks at some of the implications for a society that finds it necessary to detain children on a mass scale.

Includes interviews with:
Gregory Cindi – a sixteen year old detainee;
Daphne Mashile – Advisor for the Detainees Parents Support Committee;
Ruth Zwi – Psychiatrist for the Detainees Counselling Service;
Gill de Vlieg – member of the “Free the Children” campaign.

Episode 4 – July 1987

“Behind ‘Black-on-Black’”
Duration: 31 minutes

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An investigative report into allegations of state involvement in promoting the so-named phenomenon of “black on black” violence in South Africa.

Includes an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the assassination of Dr Fabian Ribeiro and Mrs Florence Ribeiro in December 1986.

Contains interviews with:
Mr Mzonke Jack – Community worker with the Cape Town squatter communities;
Mr Mongezi – Nyanga Bush camp refugee;
Mr Matthew Walton – Attorney with the Legal Resources Centre;
Mr Nziwe – Nyanga Bush community spokesman;
Mr Philips – Portland Cement Camp Community spokesman;
Mr Madubele – KTC Camp community spokesman;
Prince James Mahlangu – KwaNdebele Royal Family;
Mr Desmond Mbuli – Comrades Leader;
Philemon – Mbokoto torture victim;
Michael – Mbokoto torture victim;
Abraham Zwane – self-confessed state vigilante;
Mrs Mabaso – victim;
Mr May Ledwaba – victim;
Mr Livingstone Mngadi – Uncle of murdered youth;
Mrs Louise Mngadi – Grandmother of murdered youth;
Mr Saths Cooper – psychologist & past-president AZAPO;
The late Dr Fabian Ribeiro – peoples’ doctor, Mamelodi;
Mr Chris Ribeiro – son of the late Dr Ribeiro

“UDF – Last Beleaguered Hope”
Duration: 15 minutes

With the looming state clamp-down on the united democratic front, this report comprises a retrospective look at political developments in South Africa since the formation of the UDF in August 1983.

Spelling out the UDF’s objectives and non-violent political role in challenging government neo-apartheid initiatives the report reflects on the diminishing options for peaceful opposition to apartheid should the South African government ban the already heavily beleaquered United Democratic Front.

Include interviews with:
Mr Azhar Cachalia – UDF National Treasurer;
Mr Murphy Morobe – Acting Publicity Secretary, UDF.