Bringing struggle history to the people

Khayelitsha's first museum was launched last weekend, almost 20 years to the day the liberation parties were unbanned.

The museum, named The Boardroom and based in Khayelitsha's Mandela Park, is filled with historic books and posters not only from the ANC and UDF but also the PAC, Azapo and the Mandela Park Anti-Eviction Campaign - which had its own heyday in 2001.

Housed in a room made of wood and iron, The Boardroom is a far cry from the multimillion rand Iziko Museum in the centre of Cape Town.

Speaking at a function attended by about 200 people, the museum's founders, Max Ntanyana, Fonky Qoboza and Phumeza Dyibana, say they started the project without any funding after realising that most locals had never visited a museum in their lives.

"We started this because museums in Cape Town are only for tourists," said Qoboza, who is about to embark on a series of lectures about the history of the struggle to high school SRCs in the township.

Ntanyana says The Boardroom staff would also like to encourage history teachers to give pupils assignments about the struggle, which they can then work on in the museum.

The Robben Island Museum and the University of the Western Cape's Mayibuye Centre have also donated books and historical posters.

"We aim to share information that is not known by the community, like the sad stories of ex-political prisoners. We can't afford to go to Robben Island. Even when you go there you only hear about Mandela and not about those who also spent many years there. They also contributed and played a major role," said Ntanyana.

The founders also plan to host social events as a "way of getting young people interested in their history instead of in the violent gang life currently plaguing Mandela Park".

Sechaba Moahloli, who spent 18 years on Robben Island and now lives in Mandela Park, had harsh words for the way government treats political prisoners. He did not expect much from the new Department of Military Veterans.

"The government has always betrayed ex-political prisoners. They have made many promises that have never materialised. The Boardroom is going to reclaim the identity of the people around here.

"Nobody can (afford to) go to Robben Island. It is so expensive that people don't get to know their history. At least now history has been brought to the people," he said.

Young poet Xolani Duma said he hoped the new museum would attract young people.

"We were not there when our parents struggled against apartheid," Duma said. "The Boardroom is the right place for young people to learn about the struggle. We need to educate them."