It’s already been four years since De Waal Drive was renamed after activist and freedom fighter Philip Kgosana. While many still refer to the road by its old name, the story of Philip Kgosana and his connection to this stretch around the mountain is an incredibly important and overlooked part of the city’s history.
Philip Ata Kgosana was born in Makapanstad in the northern Transvaal, now Limpopo. He moved to Cape Town in 1958 to study at the University of Cape Town (UCT). He became involved in the political organisation the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) eventually rising to the position of regional secretary of the Western Cape, according to South African History Online.
At the age of 23, he became regional chairman and on March 30 1960, led 30,000 people in an anti-pass laws march into the city centre along part of the road now named after him, to Caledon Square police headquarters (now Cape Town Central Police Station).
19 November 2019 we protest on Philip Kgosana Drive. Nine days after the Sharpeville massacre, Philip Kgosana lead 30 000 from Langa into Cape Town to protest against apartheid South Africa’s racist pass laws. We commemorate the route. #RightToProtest#WeProtest#PeoplesPower pic.twitter.com/02rg5OkBBr
— SJC (@sjcoalition) November 11, 2019
— Matthew Blackman (@BlackmansReview) April 22, 2017
De Waal Drive in CPT renamed after former PAC Regional Secretary, Philip Kgosana. He would have been celebrating his 81st birthday today pic.twitter.com/1LHMk4gVPN
— Sphiwe Hobasi (@MrCow_man) October 12, 2017
These protesters were met by police who were unsure how to deal with the crowd and rising tensions. Kgosana negotiated with them, assuring them he would make the crowd disperse if he was guaranteed a meeting with the Minister of Justice. This act ensured the safety of protesters and is considered a key historical moment in the fight against Apartheid.
The Apartheid government and police didn’t hold up their side of the bargain, arresting Kgosana and other PAC leaders. He fled the country while on bail, into exile in Ethiopia.
Kgosana died in 2017 at the age of 80. A year before his death, he managed to retrace his steps along the 12km route in 2016. Starting in Langa with a small group he walked to Cape Town in remembrance of his original march and to protest the poor job the ANC has done in helping those in poverty.