Sunday, 13 January 2008


These briefly are the facts as largely ignored by The Sowetan.

I took a leading part in the Alexandra Bus Boycott of 1957 first as Publicity Secretary and then as the Secretary of the Organising Committee. This Bus Boycott was successful in that the Bus Company, PUTCO, lowered the fares to the previous fares viz. a penny fare for a penny ticket on a long term basis, so that the people could travel at a price they could afford. It was not led by the African National Congress although in the article and other media interviews in November the implication is that ANC activists were also in effect the successful leaders of the Boycott. Azikwelwa was a spontaneous action of the people.

I myself belonged to a political organisation, The Movement for a Democracy of Content, which also organised politically in England, Germany and the USA. We worked with people from other organisations in the Boycott but above all we listened to the people and their wishes. Although the ANC was represented in the organising committee they were not the leaders of the boycott as such.

In the article, the Reporter did not separate the Defiance Campaign from the Alexandra Bus Boycott (Azikwelwa) which started on 7th January 1957, The Defiance Campaign was an ANC Campaign. W hen the Defiance Campaign of 1952 was launched I had, after my expulsion from Khaiso Secondary School for political reasons, joined the Society of Young Africa (SOYA) of the Unity Movement which characterised the Defiance Campaign as a misdirection of people, an analysis with which I agreed and still do today.

Azikwelwa was a spontaneous movement of the masses and no organisation could be said to be dominant in it, the ANC included. Effective leadership took command of the hour.

Before that the people had been following the Standholders and Tenants Association which took PUTCO to Court. PUTCO was not abolished in 1945 as is written in the article but was actually formed at that time.

The Potato Boycott was an ANC action which continued before and after Azikwelwa.

Despite the arduous task of walking to and from the town for several months – a distance of eleven miles each way – only one person died in jail.

The gentlemen mentioned in the article, Simon Noge and Arthur Magerman, who apparently gave the information for the article, were introduced to the Alexandra Peoples Transport Action Committee (APTAC) by myself. Each member of the organisations involved introduced three members to the Committee. I introduced them as they were in the Movement for a Democracy of Content with me.

For the purpose of clarity and correction I also sent Mr Nare of The Sowetan my book: Lessons of Azikwelwa which, despite typographical errors, gives a clear picture of what took place. Consulting this would have made it difficult for Mr Nare to make the mistakes mentioned above.

The report of my death was premature.

My name is Daniel Mokonyane and I am very much alive and living in London. But my death was reported in an article on Azikwelwa, the Bus Boycott of 1957 in Alexandra Township, in a South African daily newspaper, The Sowetan, on 16th October 2007 and in spite of all my efforts it took a long time for a rather feeble retraction to be printed which included uncorrected mistakes.

It seemed that the paper could write anything it liked about me because of the 6,000 miles which separate us. Both the original article and the retraction which was never sent to me, although I still hope The Sowetan will write to me directly, can be found on-line on The Sowetan website.

Simon Nare in the article entitled: ‘Our Terms, Our Wheels’ ignored the information freely available to him on the internet and from family and friends and when I saw the article, myself! The Sowetan’s attitude raises issues of press freedom and integrity and the ways in which history can be reported; it was only when I contacted the Press Ombudsman that the rather inaccurate retraction was made on December 4th 2007.

I came to England as a South African political refugee in 1960. Since then I have studied and taught Law as well as writing on South Africa. Until 2002 I was a Senior Lecturer in Law at Middlesex University in North London specialising in Jurisprudence. Unfortunately I became ill with kidney failure and now have to dialyse three times a week.