03 August 2012

EDUCATORS' WORKSHOP - Between life and death: stories from John Vorster Square

Cover of Between Life and Death: Stories from John Vorster Square

SAHA will be running a one-day workshop for educators on using the SAHA 'Between life and death: stories from John Vorster Square' DVD  and user guide to teach apartheid history. The workshops will take place from 8:30am - 2:30pm on Saturday 8 September 2012 at Constitution Hill.

John Vorster Square was officially opened on 23 August 1968, during the height of racial segregation and political oppression in apartheid South Africa. Between 1968 and 1997, the austere blue, cement building in downtown Johannesburg became the site of innumerable human rights violations, involving interrogations, innumerable counts of torture, and the death of eight detainees.

The ninth and tenth floors of the prison gained particular infamy, in that it was not possible to take the lift that far up. Once prisoners reached the ninth floor, they were walked up the final flight of stairs to the dreaded quarters of the Security Branch. Here, many opponents of apartheid were held without trial for days, weeks and months, with no sense of when they would be released.

Political prisoners held in John Vorster Square were detained without trial. The South African state had introduced this measure in 1963, which enabled police to hold detainees for up to ninety days with no contact with family, doctors or legal representation. By 1965, this was extended to one hundred and eighty days, and in 1967, allowance for indefinite detention was made through Section Six of the Terrorism Act. In September 1997, John Vorster Square was renamed Johannesburg Central Prison, and the bust of John Vorster was removed, carrying with it the legacy of apartheid-era police brutality.

Between Life and Death: stories from John Vorster Square

Commissioned by SAHA as part of the Sunday Times Heritage Project and filmed by Craig Matthews of Doxa Productions, the DVD features interviews with former detainees and security police as well as photographs, press clippings, drawing and other archival materials.

SAHA, in conjunction with Shikaya, has been developing a user guide to accompany the DVD, linking interviews, documents and posters from the DVD to the curriculum, thus enabling educators to use the DVD and guide to teach key aspects of apartheid history.

The development of the 'Between life and death' user guide and the hosting of this educators' workshop was made possible through the generous funding of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.

As space is limited to 50 educators per workshop, please RSVP to confirm attendance by Friday 31 August 2012. Please send your name, school, district, contact number and / or email address to:

Email: info@saha.org.za

Phone: 011 717 1941