Traffic was brought to a halt in Rockville, Soweto, on Saturday September 19 when City of Johannesburg and Gauteng Provincial Government leaders arrived at the home of ANC stalwart and former newspaper editor Richard Victor Selope Thema to unveil a plaque in his honour.
This formed part of the City’s quest to preserve Johannesburg’s history and heritage. In keeping with Johannesburg’s Smart City vision, the blue heritage plaque has a barcode through which smartphone users can access Thema’s biographical information.
Speaking to Thema’s family, Johannesburg Member of the Mayoral Committee for Community Development Councillor Chris Vondo, who was representing Executive Mayor Cllr Parks Tau, said the plaque formed part of the City’s plan to revive township spaces and honour struggle icons. The unveiling was also attended by Gauteng Premier David Makhura.
“It’s important to familiarise ourselves with our history in order to deepen our understanding of today’s society,” MMC Vondo said.
Blue plaques are dotted around the city. They are circular in shape, mark heritage sites and document the City’s history.
“Transforming our heritage landscape forms part of nation building, national healing and recapturing of our lost history,” MMC Vondo said.
On August 24 the City unveiled a new monument in Beyers Naude Square to “pay tribute to women as drivers of social and political change”.
It has also renamed streets in downtown Joburg after leaders of the 1956 women’s march and restored Chancellor House, where Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo ran a legal practice. The entourage later proceeded to Westpark Cemetery to unveil Thema’s tombstone. Thema was founding editor of Bantu World, the forerunner of The World and Sowetan.
He was among leaders who laid the foundation for the establishment of one of the ANC. Born in 1886 at GaMamabolo in Limpopo, Thema was a member of the Methodist Church and a superintendent at the Bantu Men’s Social Club, where the ANC Youth League was formed. He died in 1955.