When I ran the Bracelet Program, I didn't know that Lizo had a wife and daughter. I came across that information just this week in South Africa. It mentioned that the wife, Pina Ncata, lived in Gugulethu, a township outside of Cape Town, but that was in 1989. Yesterday, I decided to Google "Pina Ncata" and I found several articles about her selling newspapers in the basement of the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront Mall in Cape Town. It also said she is there 7 days a week, all day. As I am in Cape Town, I decided to try and find her. But what would I say? Wouldn't it seem odd to her? How would she react? The Waterfront Mall is an enormous place; would I even be able to find her? I decided I had to at least try. After visiting Jetty #1 (the original disembarkation point to go to Robben Island - that's another whole tory), I entered the V & A Mall. I knew I had to go downstairs to the very bottom of the Mall, near an exist to the parking garage. There are several exists to parking garages, but I thought I would start at one end of the mall and work my way to the other end. As I headed down the final set of escalators, I saw a woman sitting on the ledge right next to the exit selling papers and magazines. Could this be her? At the first place I tried? I walked up to her and asked if she was Pina Ncata. She smiled and said, "Yes". I introduced myself and tried to explain how I knew her name and why I wanted to talk with her. I looked directly at her and said, "You were Lizo Ngqungwana's wife." She looked at me with disbelief because Lizo was killed in a car accident about 16 years ago. I was getting choked up and overcome with emotion because I couldn't believe that I actually found her. She said, "Don't make me cry." I fought back the tears and explained about the bracelet program and that I wanted to put the documents and materials from the program online so that the former prisoners and this part of history would never be forgotten. I didn't have a bracelet with Lizo's name on it, but I gave her one with Raymond Mhlaba's name, and the Information Booklet from the program. We talked a long time. It was a little difficult to understand her because she was in a terrible car accident in 1990 and was in a coma for 2 1/2 months. When she finally came out of the coma, she couldn't walk or speak. Although she can now, her speech is still effected and it is difficult to understand her. But we found a way to communicate. She even was able to reach her daughter by phone and I had a chance to speak with her. Pina Ncata has a powerful spirit and is a beautiful person. She has survived so much tragedy in her life; her husband being sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island, her having permanent brain damage from the accident, Lizo dying ironically from a car accident only 7 or 8 years after he was released, the death of her son, etc. Incredibly, she remains positive and greets everyone with a smile and a "Thank you for being you." I am truly blessed to have had the opportunity to meet Pina Ncata.
I had the extreme honor to be present at the "Evening with Ya Toivo" on Thursday, August 21st, in Windhoek, Namibia. This was one of many events that have been organized around Namibia to celebrate this icon's birthday (which actually was on August 22nd), culminating in the major event on September 13th. For those of you who don't know, Toivo ya Toivo is the "Nelson Mandela" of Namibia. The event Thursday was wonderful There were about 200 people there, and the program was held outside in Parliament Gardens. Mac Maharaj (official spokesperson for the President of South Africa) was the "keynote speaker" so to say, and he was absolutely incredible. A close second was when ya Toivo, Maharaj, and Helao Shityuwete (all former Robben Island prisoners) were on stage together reflecting on their experience in prison; it was hilarious and informative at the same time. That evening made the whole trip worthwhile, but then I was doubly honored to have Ya Toivo and his wife Vicky come to the guesthouse where I am staying and VISIT ME before I fly to Cape Town tomorrow. WOW!!! The picture is from that visit.e to edit.
I am so excited to let you know that the Political Prisoners of South Africa Documentation Project has entered a new phase; it is now a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non‐profit arts service organization!! This means that contributions to the Documentation Project, via Fractured Atlas, are tax deductible. There is more information below and on our sponsored project page about how one can make a contribution.
As you may know, the Political Prisoners of South Africa Documentation Project involves collecting, archiving, and sharing materials from the Bracelet Program.
· Collecting – Although we have substantial information already, there are gaps. While we have biographical information about most prisoners before they were sentenced, we don’t have updates in terms of what happened to them after they were released. This material must be gathered.
· Archiving – Relevant archives (online and physical) must be identified and agreements must be established regarding the use the materials.
· Sharing – The Documentation Project will share materials in a variety of ways; online, in archives, via book form, in exhibits, and via a collaborative participatory mural project. The Mural Project is perhaps the most ambitious initiative. It involves collaborative learning and participatory creative expression in three cities/countries; Cape Town, South Africa, Windhoek, Namibia, and Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. The target group for this initiative is youth, and will involve mural artists, educators, community youth groups, university students, and other resource people in each country.
All of these wonderful activities take resources! We need your support to make these goals a reality. Your contribution is truly essential at this juncture. Won’t you consider making a tax-deductible contribution? Please click on our "Donate" button for more information.