South African History – March 16


South Africa has a rich and diverse history that can be traced back to ancient times. March 16 stands as another thread woven into this remarkable tapestry. Let us explore the layers of South African history, delving into the past and unravelling the narratives that left their mark on this extraordinary land.

March 16

2017: Zwelethu Mthethwa found guilty of murder

The Western Cape High Court convicted internationally renowned South African artist Zwelethu Mthethwa of murdering 23-year-old sex worker Nokuphila Kumalo in Woodstock, Cape Town, on April 13, 2013. Mthethwa was sentenced with dolus eventualis by Judge Patricia Goliath because he knew his act would kill, yet he persisted. During the court case, which staggered on through a series of delays since 2014, Mthethwa refused to take the stand to testify in his own defence, remaining silent. Judge Goliath referred to CCTV footage as “direct evidence” connecting Mthethwa’s car parked near the crime scene, which he exited “walking purposefully” and “executed his mission”. Goliath continued her verdict by invoking the act of Mthethwa kicking and stomping Kumalo to death, during which Kumalo had demonstrated “no resistance” and thus that “the accused could have terminated the attack at any time”. The artist’s credit card records provided proof that he had spent over R2600 on alcohol at a tavern in Gugulethu earlier that evening. Mthethwa, who was represented by the Jack Shainman Gallery in New York, was denied his R100,000 bail application and sent to Pollsmoor Prison.

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1959: Tito Mboweni, is born in Tzaneen

Tito Mboweni was born on March 16, 1959, in Tzaneen, Limpopo. He joined the ANC while in exile in Lesotho and later obtained a Master’s Degree in Development Economics from the University of East Anglia. Mboweni served as Minister of Labour and later as Governor of the Reserve Bank. He is currently the chairman of AngloGold Ashanti.

1956: The Riotous Assemblies Act Commences

The Riotous Assemblies Act no 17 of 1956, prohibiting any outside gathering that the minister of justice saw as a threat to public peace, commenced. It included banishment as a form of punishment. It allowed the government to ban any newspaper or any other “documentary information” that would cause hostility between Black and White people, but also punished actions that could bring the two racial groups together. It was a clear case of suppressing freedom of speech and assembly, as both of these rights would disrupt the repressive system being enforced by the government. It was repealed in part by Internal Security Act No 74 of 1982.

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1892: James Sebe Moroka is born

Dr James Sebe Moroka, medical doctor, landowner and politician who was elected president-general of the African National Congress (ANC) from 1949 to 1952, was born in Thaba Nchu, Orange Free State. He was a great grandson of Chief Moroka I of the Barolong Boo Moroka at Thaba Nchu. Today one of the municipalities on the Mpumalanga highveld is named after him.

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1561: The first missionary in Southern Africa, Gonçalo da Silveira, is murdered

Gonçalo da Silveira was a Jesuit Priest born and educated in Portugal. He was a missionary in India, acting as provincial superior for the Jesuits, before he began his work in southern Africa. He first arrived at Sofala (Mozambique) in 1560, and proceeded to Otongwe near Cape Corrientes. During his stay of seven weeks in Cape Corrientes, he instructed and baptized the Makaranga chief, Gamba, and about 450 people of his kraal. Towards the end of the year, he began his expedition up the Zambezi River to the capital of the Monomotapa. This appears to have been the N’Pande kraal, close to the M’Zingesi River, a southern tributary of the Zambezi. He arrived in Monomotapa on 26 December 1560, and remained there until his death. During this period he baptized the chief and a large number of his subjects. However, at the same time, Arabs from Mozambique had begun to defame the missionary – a plot instigated by one of their priests. Due to this slander, da Silveira was strangled to death in his hut, by order of the chief, on 16 March 1561. The expedition sent to avenge da Silveira never reached its destination, and his apostolate came to an abrupt end due to the lack of missionaries available to carry on his work.


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