South African History Today – April 6

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As the sun paints the South African sky on April 6, the whispers of the past echo in the air. Like many threads woven into the nation’s vibrant tapestry, this date holds stories waiting to be unearthed. We embark on a journey of exploration, delving into the triumphs, tragedies, and turning points that mark April 6 in South Africa’s history.

april 6

1994: Rwandan and Burundian presidents J Habyarimana and C Ntayamira are killed in an air crash

On April 6, 1994, an extraordinary event in the history of the African continent took place in Kigali, Rwanda, when two presidents from two countries were assassinated. Juvenal Habyarimana of Rwanda and his Burundian counterpart, Cyprian Ntayamira, were among 10 people in an aircraft many people believe was brought down by rocket fire. Habyarimana and Ntayamira were returning from a meeting of east and central African leaders in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, at which they discussed ways to end the ethnic violence in Burundi and Rwanda. The incident worsened an already bleak political situation. From 1890 to 1962, Rwanda and Burundi were part of one nation, Ruanda-Urundi. Following the crash, the Mutsinzi Commission of Inquiry was established in 2007 by the Rwandan government to investigate the incident. In its report, the commissioners resolved not to reveal the identities of the perpetrators.

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1991: The reburial of Flora

On April 6, 1991, the reburial of a slave named Flora took place at Vergelegen Wine Estate, Somerset West. This came about after the discovery of her remains in October 1990, when University of Cape Town (UCT) archaeologists unearthed the site of the Slave Lodge at Vergelegen.The remains were unearthed from a wooden box possibly made from yellow wood, and the thirty-six iron nails that were recovered ranged in length from 18 to 105 mm. The archaeologists had discovered fine pieces of bone in the box, and through scientific testing, they were able to conclude that the remains found were those of a female aged between 50-59 years old. They were also able to decipher from her diet and dental records that she was from a tropical area, therefore indicating that she came to Vergelegen as a slave. For the reburial, a new coffin was made, flower arrangements were delivered, and food was prepared for the day.

1951: Archaeologist Robert Broom dies

Archaeologist Dr. Robert Broom died at the age of 84. In 1947, he discovered ‘Mrs Ples’, the 2 million-year-old skull that is believed to be a distinct relative of humankind.

1916: Ashby Peter Solomzi Mda is born

Ashby Peter (A.P.) Solomzi Mda was a prominent political activist, teacher, and lawyer. He co-founded the African National Youth League and presented the Programme of Action at the ANC’s Cape Provincial Conference in 1949. Mda later joined the Pan Africanist Congress after breaking away from the ANC. He entered politics by attending the All-African Convention in 1936.

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1874: Gerhardus Cornelis Oosthuizen buys a section of land, later declared part of the Witwatersrand gold reef

In 1874, Gerhardus Cornelis Oosthuizen bought a farm in Langlaagte for £100. Gold was discovered on the property, and it was incorporated into a group of nine farms, declared “public gold diggings.”. Johannesburg was formed, known as “Egoli” or “Place of Gold.”. The Witwatersrand area became a source of mineral wealth for South Africa, settling a large sum of state debt and making South Africa the largest provider of minerals in the world for over a century.

1814: Lord Charles Somerset arrives in the Cape as Governor

Lord Charles Somerset was the Governor of the Cape Colony from 1814 to 1826. He aimed to improve the colony’s and its inhabitants’ conditions. He launched the South African public library in 1818 and mediated between Xhosa chiefs and English settlers in the Eastern Cape. He purchased a farm, Somerset Farm, which was closed before the end of his term due to charges laid against him by local farmers. Lord Charles Somerset died on February 20, 1831.

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