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The way we lived. 41. (Part 4) My time at a Revolutionary High School – Livingstone 1964.

Updated: May 30, 2023

Notable events in 1964.
June 1964 Rivonia Trial ends; Mandela, Mbeki, Sisulu, Goldberg, Kathrada, Mhlaba, Mlangeni, and Motsoaledi sentenced to life imprisonment. (Yes, to the surprise of many, they escaped the gallows!).
April 1964 LHS teachers Neville Alexander,and Lesley van der Heyden convicted of conspiracy to commit sabotage. Neville spent ten years on Robben Island, Lesley was there for five. The other eight members of their group included the two van der Heyden sisters and Dulcie September, infamously assassinated in Paris by a South African police death squad shooting in 1988.

Part of the 1994 matric class with Messrs Arendse, Dudley and Wessels (arrowed) around the school pond.

I experienced much nervous excitement as my final year at school unfolded. Where was I heading? My Dad had groomed me to be the family lawyer. Abe, my older brother, was in his final year in Medicine. My father joked about how the youngest would be the undertaker. In this way, I could defend Abe if he was sued for medical negligence/incompetence, and Rustum would bury the deceased. Eventually, I chose Medicine, thanks to Abe. Rustum became a marine fitter and turner.
Mr van der Heyden and Mr Alexander’s trial continued and both ended up on Robben Island as indicated in my last post.
Despite his banning order, my father was still hard at work with APDUSA.
I continued my life as before. I was not the most exemplary head prefect LHS ever had as my bunking continued, and, in the process, I became a reasonably accomplished swimmer at Clovelly pool. I even had the audacity to skip school on the day I delivered the speech at the morning assembly, when I emphasised the need for diligence as a student. Cycling out of the school grounds during the lunch break was a sure giveaway, with a couple of students pointing wildly at me. Yes, audacious or dumb comes to mind, maybe both!
On another occasion, my Dad publicly caned my co-soccer players and me when he lined us up in front of the school in front of his classroom (number 13) before school started. He singled me out as the first recipient to receive three of the best. Everyone agreed that he caned me the hardest! So, no favours there from a father whom I had to address as “Mr Fataar” at school. (Did other teachers’ kids do the same? Russell Dudley, what about you?) And our collective crime? Our class teacher, Alie, had warned us not to play tennis ball soccer on the grass in front of the western side of the area surrounded by classrooms. We preferred it there to playing on the tarred netball court on the eastern side. Being winter, the condensation on the ground and sand made for a messy set of shoes at the school’s beginning. See, I said Alie was strict! It seems the grassed area has now also been tarred.
Interhouse sports became an annual reality. To my surprise, my Dad took part in the teacher’s sack race on the day – over 50 metres? Not to my surprise, he came last after coming to grief after about ten metres. Here he is lined up at the start with Mr Samuels. Do they still have a teacher’s event of some sort?

I was the school inter-house male victor ludorum with gold in shot put, discus and long jump. Other winners are lined up with me in the photograph. Lorna Davids, to my left, was in my class. Go Red House!
Sadly, the realities of South African oppression impacted our family like no other event during my time at LHS. In late 1964, Dad was obviously under pressure when he took the family on an unexpected car trip to Durban. The younger Rustum and I knew nought of what was happening; my mother must have known. We knew about the police VW Beetle parked nearby to monitor the family home. There was also a strong suspicion that our phone calls were recorded for several years.
The trip’s highlight was seeing Howick falls and visiting the Durban Indian market, where I bought a big knife in a sheath without my parent’s knowledge. (I still like knives and now own an Okapi and a Kudu – both credited with more stabbing deaths than any other knife in RSA. So, pasop vir my!)
On our return, Alie Fataar was interviewed at Caledon Square police HQ by the infamous Spyker van Wyk, implicated in the death of Imam Haron in 1969. Released after several hours of questioning, Dad arrived home in time to join Abe’s small celebratory party following his graduation earlier that day, which Alie could not attend. Early the next morning, Dad left on foot. I had never before seen him leave home via the back, let alone climb over our fence with a strand of barbed wire on top. I did not believe him capable of doing it.
Later that day, Spyker and his team knocked at the front door looking for Alie. My mother did not let them enter the house, and after a few minutes of heated discussion, she slammed the door in Spyker’s face after telling him to go to Hell! Fortunately for her and us, they did not force their way into the house.
As a family, we lived on tenterhooks for several weeks, not knowing where Dad was. In March 1965, after weeks in hiding in Johannesburg, Alie Fataar went into political exile with a late-night crossing into Botswana, where he spent the next two years. Later, he moved to Zambia to join his exiled APDUSA colleagues, IB Tabatha and Jane Gool, before moving to Zimbabwe many years later. Close to his death in 2014, he told me how going into exile was the worst moment of his life when he discussed it with my mother.
This is the cover photo of Alie’s Life story by Yunus Omar, which deals mainly with his life as a highly politicised and committed teacher. Dad proudly wears the Zambian tie presented to him by KK – President Kenneth Kaunda – for his services to Zambian education. His work in Zimbabwe was also highly praised.
Dr Omar tells of Dad’s reason for fleeing based on Mahatma Gandhi’s comment – “If the ruling class put you in their prison, you are socially and politically dead.” Alie’s passion for teaching continued; he described his period of exile as the apex of his career in education.
Dad rarely spoke about his work as a freedom fighter, so it’s still a bit of a mystery to me. However, Dr Omar sees Alie’s role as a “central, life-organising identity of the teacher as the supreme public intellectual under conditions of resistance in education and the broader socio-political-economic framework in South Africa.”
Like many teachers of English, Dad mentioned to me one day how he wanted to write a book. He never did, but Yunus Omar has done Alie Fataar proud with the life story he wrote for his Ph D. I am deeply grateful for his work outlining my Dad’s life. He added more flesh to the life of a man I much respected as a teacher and for his steadfast political beliefs.
I’d like to think Alie would be proud of the trilogy I’ve written – In the Shadow of Table Mountain, Cape Town – covering the period from the Sharpeville massacres in 1960 to the first democratic election in 1994. The work awaits a publisher, so come on, Dad, find me one!

The graph above covers much of LHS’s existence. My 1960-1964 era marked the start of a 34-year student-led revolution. Violent deaths blew out after 1976 from police orchestrated attacks, peaking in 1993/4 in the build-up to the first democratic elections. The figures sadly reflect how police-related deaths exceeded criminal deaths during the troubled years of insurrection – think Sharpeville and Soweto in 1960 and 1976 massacres; around 40 Uitenhage funeral deaths when national cemeteries became police killing fields, Trojan Horse and Guguletu 7 massacres of 1985; the Fires of Crossroads and TRC in 1986; police death squads in Koevoet, Vlakplaas, and the Balaclava Gangs over the decades; and more, many, many more.
My 1960-1964 era at LHS was certainly character-forming. It was set in a significant period of the early violence inflicted upon the oppressed by an extremist, fascist government hell-bent on racial superiority. The supremacist National Party set in motion White Power like none other before; it took Steve Biko’s Black Power Movement to bring it down. In no small way, our teachers helped shape the mindset of many of the youth of the Black Consciousness Movement.
Now I look forward to reading the timeline experiences of other Stones. Let our collective memories allow Livingstone to continue to advance, as it always has done through thick and thin.
Amandla ngawethu! Mayibuye iAfrika.
(A similar version of this post can be found at the Livingstone High School Alumni Association Facebook website.)

1 Comment

Sep 27, 2023

Well written

We have so many unpleasant memories of the cruelty of apartheid

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