The Sad Vandalism of Heritage and Memory of Temba

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Ntate Mogase and his wife at Kudube Restaurant

Black History Month Series:

If Steve Bantu Biko and Abram Onkgopotse Tiro were to return to Temba today, like they did when the Black People`s Convention (BPC) was launched 43 years ago on 8 February 1973 at the St Peters Seminary (next to Jubilee Mall), they will both be saddened by the desecration and destruction of this heritage site (St Peters) which has fallen into structural decay at the hands of an army of Nyaope addicts after the University of Pretoria handed the property to the City of Tshwane some three years ago.

Onkgopotse Tiro and Steve Biko

It is common historical knowledge that Onkgopotse Tiro was killed a year later after the BPC Launch on 8 February 1973 on 1 February 1974 through a parcel bomb while in exile in Botswana. Whilst Steve Biko was tortured to death at the hands of the South African Police on 12 September 1977 at the Pretoria Central Prison.
The destruction of a heritage site such as St Peters Seminary, is symbolic of the onslaught of our collective heritage and the defacing of memory that has become a trend in Temba – an act that has stripped the community of its root identity and a gradual decline into what Temba has become in recent years.

St Peters Seminar Chapel

If the late Ntate Setshedi – a well renowned business man, educationist and philanthropist – was to return to his place in Leboneng (now popularly known as “Ko-Setshedi”, he would turn in his grave to see how his “name and legacy” has been desecrated into a place of excessive drinking, drugs and sex. A place that stands for everything that “he was not”, and only describable with a string of synonyms like: debauchery, dissoluteness, degeneracy, vice, lechery, immorality, decadence, perversion, hedonism.

And yet in his lifetime he used both his knowledge and wealth to uplift his community together with a string of other black business men like bo Ntate Mabena, Mantsane, Malebye, Tlhabane, Ntate Sebokedi and Mphafudi through education and empowerment. His legacy was to emancipate, liberate, unyoke, unfetter, unshackle his community from the chains of ignorance and poverty to enlightenment and wealth.

Grace and William Sebokedi

Like the iconic St Peters Seminary Chapel (see picture below) which was founded in 1964, the memory of Ntate Setshedi has been trampled to a state of amnesia, forgotten like its current clients would typically do after a night of heavy drinking – forgetting every memory of the yesteryears of our collective memory and heritage.

What is wrong with us the people of Temba? To have such a short and crooked memory of who we really are? With the tendency to destroy not only our past, but also our future generations by allowing them into a life of debauchery and decadence at an early stage?

When you drive through the Temba Square with its own circle of heritage stores owned by the early settlers, what do you see? Kudube Restaurant which was owned by Ntate Mogase now a busy “drinking hole” that was once so unbearable that it caused the Lutheran Church to close for a short stint. Mahlangu`s Temba Butchery reduced to Chisanyama whilst Dandy`s Store next door – like many others – have been taken over by the Pakistans. And Bra Howard Motau`s fruit, veggies and dairy store has lost its historical footprints.

And all the indigenous memory (and property`s) which were black and community-owned have now fallen into structural decay.

Afrispot – the first black owned shopping mall – which was owned by Habakuk Shikwane, has lost its former glory. The black family owned Temba Dry Cleaners (which was behind the Badiri Factories) lies in ruins like the stature of Ozymandias. Defacing the memory of the “old man with hair in his ears”, Ntate Matjila from our heritage landscape.

The Tswelopele Bottle Store which was first owned by Bra Sy Mogotsi and later by the late Dr Kgwele (from Tembisa) has been flattened to extinction. What remains of it (besides the red and white tented church), is the memory of the many great concerts and cabarets on Friday and Saturday evenings that were hosted by the owners, exclusively for over 21`s.

Mr Tom Mushi, ran a successful business in Temba before the Bophuthatswana Government built the Checkers Shopping Centre in front of his business.

Before the Bop Government erected the Checkers Complex on the doorstep of their flourishing general dealer and Refilwe Restaurant, the Mushi family owned the first black restaurant in Temba.

Alongside the restuarant, Mr Sentle owned the first movie house called Kudu Cinema, whose only competition was Ntate Ratlhagane who used the local community school and church halls to play the latest movies that he used to hire from the old Royal and Orient Theatres in Marabastad.

It is this movies that took away the kids from taverns (not that they would have been allowed access) and a place where many, would have experienced their “first kiss of innocence”, as this black little bodies huddled together to enrich their imagination (and see faraway places), through the black and white screenings of Roy Rogers cowboy movies or Bruce Lee kung-fu movies.

Yes, all the taverns had a common code of good business practice of honor: never to allow any under-age drinking on their premises: From Oom Beentjie, Bra Tot, Daphney, Bizzah, Mikie and Club Channel, only adults of a drinking age were allowed. But off-course, it doesn’t mean that the curious teenagers did not experience with alcohol (and seldom cannabis) but prayed never to get caught to be punished with corporal punishment from your parents, teachers or principal.

What was common among the early black business of the years gone by: from the 1940`s to the 1980`s was their deep connection, identity and solidarity with the Temba community. They did not only use their wealth to feed and educate their own families, but also contributed their wealth to the development of churches and schools, and to alleviate poverty and educate the community. Even the simplest vendor families like the late Mme Legodi (popularly known as “custy”), Mama Dodo and Ntate Mamarege fed so many kids at the schools that they did business from. They too, were kindhearted philanthropists too.

And to think that all these great women and men – except for Ntate Mogotsi – are gone and forgotten. Just like in that great English poem “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” by Thomas Grey, their memory and heritage is reduced to an old faded funeral obituary or to some scripted “eulogy” on their aging tombstone or a mere grave number on their resting tomb.

Their former places of business have been usurped either by local or foreign hands, whose motive is only to do a “Bushiri” on the community: to do selfish business for personal gain at the expense of this proud community whose origins were founded on the wings of hope and prosperity.

Through this article, we pay homage to their memory.