60th Anniversary of Sophiatown Forced Removals Marked

60th Anniversary of Sophiatown Forced Removals Marked

Hundreds of Johannesburg residents turned up at the Trevor Huddleston Memorial Centre in Sophiatown to march to the nearby Extreme Park on Saturday October 24 to mark the 60th anniversary of the 1955 forced removals.

It was a symbolic starting point as the centre is housed in Dr AB Xuma’s old property, the only one left untouched when apartheid police arrived to raze the township to the ground 60 years ago.

Dr Xuma was ANC president between 1940 and 1949.

Further down the road, in Ray Street, still standing is Christ the King Anglican Church, where struggle activist Father Trevor Huddleston preached the gospel and campaigned against the evil system of apartheid. He died in 1998 and his ashes were buried in the church grounds.

Sophiatown was a lively, cosmopolitan suburb boosting renowned jazz players, writers and artists. This came to a painful end when the apartheid government relocated the township’s 65 000 residents and renamed it Triomf, Afrikaans for triumph. The area has since been renamed Sophiatown.

A lot more people had been expected to attend the event but the organisers – Christo Morolong and Pearl Forbes of Tiffany’s Foundation – said there had been “a few challenges”.

The Die Afrikaans Volk Musiek group, and Zulu and Tswana dancers entertained the crowd.

City of Johannesburg councillors Cathy Seaforth and Monty Maphike were among those who attended the event.

“It’s significant that the organisers chose this park,” said Councillor Maphike. “This was an important meeting place for residents of Sophiatown.”

Morolong thanked City, Gauteng Provincial Government and Kofifi Foundation officials for their support.

“This is part of our social cohesion programme,” Morolong said.