03 July 2014

Collection of the month: The Tembisa Community History Project collection (AL3288)

As a tribute to Tembisa struggle stalwart Reverend Phineas Mapheto who died on 17 June 2014, our focus this month is on the Tembisa Community History Project collection. Reverend Mapheto made a significant contribution to this project through his participation in an oral history interview and the donation of digitised copies of photographs from the Mapheto family albums which are now archived in SAHA collection AL3288.

Reverend Mapheto as a young man. Photographer and date unknown. Archived as SAHA collection AL3288_D2.2.53Reverend Mapheto and comrades at a political rally in Tembisa in the 1980s. Photographer unknown. Archived as SAHA collection AL3288_D2.2.09Reverend Mapheto and Nelson Mandela shaking hands, photographer and date unknown. Archived as SAHA collection AL3288_2.2.08

Born in 1926 in Polokwane, Reverend Makgale Phineas Mapheto played an active role in the liberation struggle as member of the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party (SACP). When the ANC and SACP were banned he joined the Liberal Party of South Africa. A founder member of the South African Council of Churches (SACC), he also served in the SACC committee responsible for visiting and supporting families of political detainees.

However, it is for the influential role he played and the contributions he made to the community of Tembisa that he will especially be remembered. Tembisa, a large township situated north of Kempton Park on the East Rand experienced its share of political turmoilFlint Mazibuko's gravesite, Tembisa. Photographer: Gille de Vlieg. Archived as SAHA collection AL3274_C26.4 and violence during the 1980s. A leading figure in the township’s fight against apartheid, Reverend Mapheto was on the forefront of political activity in the community. He presided in most of the political funerals which became a familiar sight in Tembisa as a result of the political violence. Both his sons, Andrew and Thabo, now deceased, went into exile to join the ANC armed wing Umkhonto Wesizwe. Today one of the main roads leading to Tembisa is named after Andrew Mapheto.

In its aim to capture lost and neglected histories, the Tembisa Community History Project – an oral history and archival project on Tembisa, was conducted by SAHA in 2010 and 2011. The materials produced and collected during the project are contained in the archival collection and consist of audio interviews, transcripts, photographs and project documentation.

Drawing on the rich materials in the collection, a physical and online exhibition entitled ‘Entering Tembisa: an oral and photographic exploration' have been developed by SAHA. The exhibitions bring together a diverse range of life stories of community members with rich historical images by Gille de Vlieg and artefacts from the archives to create an evocative telling of the previously neglected history in Tembisa.

See inventory for the Tembisa Community History Project collection (AL3288)

See inventory for the Gille de Vlieg Photographic collection (AL3274)