Mpophomeni

In 1968 the South African government built in open field a township called Mpophomeni to relocate the black people living in the surroundings of Howick, a picturesque little town in the Natal Midlands.In 1985 the management of SARMCOL, a rubber factory, summarily dismissed a thousand workers, many of them Mpophomeni residents, after a strike. This plunged hundreds of families in poverty.In the late 1980s and early 1990s the township paid a heavy toll to the conflict opposing the liberation movement, supported by the majority of residents, and Inkatha, an apartheid-aligned Zulu political movement, dominant in the neighbouring villages.At least 120 people lost their lives.Peace was restored in 1993.

Today the older residents want this history to be remembered. A local organisation, Zulu Mpophomeni Tourism Experience (ZMTE), is working towards the establishment of an Eco-Museum in the Montrose farm, a late 19th century building expropriated by the apartheid government to create space for the township. Since 2005 the Sinomlando Centre is involved in this project. Its main role consists in training community residents in oral history methodology and a first group of interviews were conducted. In April 2010 ZMTE and Sinomlando signed a partnership agreement in terms of which part the former would receive part of a National Lottery grant to collect oral history testimonies on the history of the Mpophomeni. The grant was also used for the restoration of the Montrose farm. Subsequently more than 20 Mpophomeni residents or people associated with them were interviewed, three group interviews were conducted and a various exhibits were collected.In December 2011 two volumes of interviews, one in English and the other one in isiZulu, were presented to the community on the occasion of the pre-launch of the Mpophomeni Eco-Museum.

Bibliography

Philippe Denis, “The churches’ response in political violence during the last years of apartheid. The case of Mpophomeni in the Natal Midlands”, Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae; 39/1 (May 2013), pp. 13-34.