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Celebrating 100 years of Alex Print E-mail
23 May 2012

It has been a turbulent 10 decades for Alex. The township that survived apartheid looks back on a hundred years, and turns to face the future.

FOLLOWING decades of adversity and years of uncertainty, struggle and triumph, Alexandra shines as it rises to celebrate its centenary.

MMC Ruby mathang dances with centenarian Selina Njaknjaka MpisiMMC Ruby Mathang dances with centenarian Selina Njakanjaka MpisiThis significant suburb, in Joburg’s northeast, has been home to many, both notable leaders and ordinary citizens, and has borne the brunt of many a struggle. At the official launch of “Celebrating 100 Years of Alexandra” on 22 May at the Altrec Stadium, crowds gathered to reflect on its rich history and mark this historic milestone.

The large gathering was treated to a light-hearted, yet intense dramatisation of the highs and lows of life in Alex. The township’s history was carefully retold.

Among those in the audience were Obed Bapela, the deputy minister in the presidency; Constance Bapela, Joburg’s council Speaker; soccer legend Brian Baloyi; Ruby Mathang, the member of the mayoral committee for development planning and urban management; and others, including many residents.

On behalf of the township’s organisations, Obed Bapela said: “I take this opportunity to congratulate Alex and its people on achieving this great feat of 100 years. 2012 is a great year for all of us and it is that time in the life of Alex when we should all rally to a need to begin to confront our common challenges together as people of Alex.

“Alexandra, as the only black township that successfully resisted the apartheid forced removals and continued to protect freehold rights by blacks despite the 1913 Land Act that disposed many of our people, is marking its 100 years in existence.”

Liberation struggle
Council speaker Conny Bapela is a former Alex residentCouncil speaker Conny Bapela is a former Alex residentIt prided itself as the theatre of the national liberation struggle and as a fertile ground and home for the upbringing and development of seasoned struggle heroes and heroines, he added.

People who either came from, or spent time in Alex range from AB Xuma, who was president of the ANC from 1940 to 1949 and worked at the Alex Health Committee as the health inspector; to former president Nelson Mandela; Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe; the late Moses Kotane, the general secretary of the South African Communist Party; the late Thomas Nkobi, the former treasurer-general of the ANC; the late Joe Nhlanhla, the former minister of intelligence; and many other notable revolutionaries.

The township also made its mark with celebrated musicians, such as Zacks Nkosi, Ntemi Piliso, Hugh Masekela and others, as well as top sports administrators like Irvin Khosa, Brian Baloyi, Maimane Phiri and others.

“We urge all the people of Alexandra to begin to see the celebrations of 100 years as an opportunity to begin to work for the next 100 years that will see us overcome the current situation we find ourselves in,” Bapela said. “Despite the many challenges we face, Alex has so much to offer and it has achieved so much under almost impossible, trying and adverse conditions.”

Alex Renewal Project
Alex life is re-enacted on stageAlex life is re-enacted on stageThe presidential Alex Renewal Project had already found homes for many families and to some extent had improved conditions. The City’s mayoral committee member for housing and developmental planning was looking into these issues with Alex organisations, Bapela pointed out.

“We pride ourselves with a rich history of the liberation struggle; musical, cultural and sporting giants; churches that have contributed to the development and growth of education; and many others who kept the local economy vibrant and emerged as business celebrities,” he said.

“We need to project and exhibit the rich legacy and heritage and the people behind it for the world to take notice and accord commensurate recognition and respect.”

The Alexandra Centenary and Heritage Association (ACHA), together with the Greater Alexandra Development Forum and Greater Alexandra Chamber of Commerce and Industries have already laid wreaths at the two graveyards in Alex to pay their respects and to observe the contributions made by the area’s heroes and heroines.

Upcoming events
Many other events were planned for the centenary celebrations. Bapela encouraged the people of Alex, schools, churches, sporting clubs and associations, business organisations, stokvels, societies, women and youth groups, and others to celebrate this historic milestone.

Former Bafana Bafana player Brian Baloyi at the celebrationsFormer Bafana Bafana player Brian Baloyi at the celebrationsOn 25 May, a cleansing ceremony would take place at the East Bank Hall in Jukskei Park. Bapela explained that this was “in recognition of traditional rituals and rites to lay to rest many spirits that were lost due to a number of massacres and internecine violence that was instigated by the apartheid regime”.

“We also recognise that Alex was inhabited by the BaTswana, BaPedi, Basotho, AmaZulu, AmaXhosa, BaVhenda, AmaSwati, AmaNdebele, Coloureds, Indians and Chinese people for a very long time in harmony,” he explained. “The apartheid Group Areas Act worked very hard to separate us but the bond is still strong.”

The cleansing ceremony would be dedicated to all the groups, which would slaughter cows and sheep in their own traditional way by their own representatives. Thereafter, traditional healers would perform a cleansing ritual. Then, on 26 May, there would be feast for all in Alex at the East Bank Hall.

The ACHA has raised funds towards programmes to mark this centenary. It has embraced projects such as the Alex history documentary project, driven by Uhuru Productions and based on the book Alexandra – A History; One Square Mile, a 100-minute dramatisation of the history of Alex; the Alex June 16 / 18 Trail; the Alex Six Days War memorial, which includes the erection of tombstones for victims of the 1986 six-day war and of those who lost their lives in 1976.

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