Abridged history of Steadville

Steadville is a township in Ladysmith/Emnambithi. Being the inquisitive person that I am; I therefore saw it fit to research more about the history of my birthplace.  So often when conducting research on Steadville; one only gets information on the violence from the early 1990s to the early 2000s. Fortunately, the violence is not what makes Steadville.

In no way am I going to tell the very rich history of Steadville without talking about the violence that has cost so many lives. Agreeably, that would be an injustice and a great fallacy; however, it will not be the focal point of my research project.

The heritage, the schools, the soccer (Steadville X20 comes to mind; Mbijo comes to mind – may his young soul rest in peace).

This research project on Steadville will create quite a number of job opportunities; and of course I will need sponsors to realise this. As a qualified researcher who’s also had great experience in the field of heritage; I am willing and able to share my experience and knowledge. I will need a camera crew, interviewers, people who will transcribe and collectors of artifacts for the museum. The museum will be used as a way to tell the story of Steadville; through pictures and other artifacts. I understand that there is a spot where the canteen used to be – a young man was stoned to death for a crime he didn’t commit. In his honour and other fallen heroes, a memorial stone may be erected there.

This project will give a thorough history of Steadville through oral history. This will give the “ordinary” person an opportunity to tell their story. No outsiders; just us, telling the world who we are, where we come from, how far we’ve come, our mistakes, and how we plan to rectify all that. This research will tell you about:

–          The first location – Ilokishi elibomvu – Rooi;

–          Who moved to Steadville first? Why?

–          Umbulwane?

–          Steadville and apartheid;

–          The people who put Steadville on the map;

–          Get the “ordinary” people – grassroots level, to tell their story;

–          Student organisations;

–          Protests;

–          Violence;

–          Sports – tennis, soccer, basketball, etc.

–          Developments;

–          Possible heritage sites – memorial area; Emnambithi Primary;

–          And finally the documentary.

So often when you ask people about where they come from, their heritage, who they are; you almost get an immediate dismissal. I’ve decided that this is due to the lack of knowledge on the subject matter; which in turn causes major frustration.

According to a brief history sited on Wikipedia; Steadville owes its name to the Stead family, particularly Frederick Stead. It is believed that this was due to his involvement in the Bantu Affairs as the Principal Clerk to the Native Commissioner. This was confirmed by an old lady; Ms BI Ndlovu whom I intimately like to call my library, my archive. Recently shattered by the news of her passing; she has been such a great help to me. May her beautiful soul rest in peace. I dedicate this project in her honour. So eloquent, so soft-spoken, so informed and yet so humble; how grateful I am to have met her. She spoke of the sports in Steadville; the women’s anti-pass march in Ladysmith; the fact that Nelson Mandela spent a night in Steadville on his way to Durban while he was underground; the activities of the ANC at the time as well as Dr Achmad Sader (Indian Medical Dr who played a big role in politics during apartheid); and most importantly, the role of her father, Chief John Ndlovu. I am mentioning all these facts as sweeping statements for now in order for the reader to get an idea of the kind of history that still needs to be told. I am also hoping to grab your attention and excite your curiosity so that word can be spread and more people, subsequently become involved in this project.

In an interview held with NA Dlamini; she spoke of the buildings at Rooi, basically where everything was back in the day. Where you see the mortuary today – Sizabantu – popularly known as KwaMajola – and the nurses’ home, there used to be houses; and the area was called KwaMfishane. Although she didn’t tell me about this person, one can already tell that he must have been well-known. She was born and bred there. The houses were built for migrant labourers who worked kwaLoliwe – now known as Transnet (light-bulb moment – our question about why people moved to Steadville is answered). Where we have izitende today, that used to be grazing land for the people of Rooi. There is also an area that used to be called Ezintandaneni – loosely translated – orphanage. Elda Buthelezi confirmed that a white lady whom they intimately called Nkosazana  used to stay in the area. This lady lived with her kids, owned cattle and grew peaches and grapes. It is not clear when and why she left Rooi – this may have been due to the segregation laws passed –  but soon after she left, black people occupied the area, particularly Eric Mnguni, who was a Ballroom and Latin American Dance instructor. It is however not clear why it was given such a name, although from the name, one can deduce that orphans may have resided in the area.The big shack has since been demolished by the Municipality.

So it is safe to say that we first had Umbulwane (which according to reasearch, did not form part of Steadville). There is however proof that people from Umbulwane moved to Steadville. There have been recent discoveries that most clans that lived in Umbulwane were the Majola, Khanyile and Nthsangase. Rooi can thus be seen as the first location of Steadville, then New Look, eJabavu, White City and then Subsidy (although there have been many strikes about this order – interviewees have confirmed this as truth); the other areas in Steadville are more recent. This research will also look into whether there were class divisions according to who stayed in which section or it was simply due to developments of the time. According to Ms TQ Myeza, most people who stayed in White City were teachers, policemen, nurses, clerks and security guards. There is also evidence that the houses in the area had running water, and were the first ones to get toilets and showers in their yards.

I have been speaking about my Steadville project for months now; this was aimed at ensuring people that I am still working on the project; despite the many challenges I face. This is but a gist of all that I have done. I have managed to interview about four teachers on the establishments of the schools; i.e. EmnambithI Primary and Nikela Lower Primary School. My earliest gratitude to Mrs M Mbatha, Ms T Cele, Ms SS Ndlovu and Ms TQ Myeza for allowing me to interview them at such short notice.  Noting that Emnambithi Primary was the first school in the area, it will be befitting to declare it a heritage site. Log books, pictures, minutes of meetings, etc. have given me so much information. Actually, I have more information on Nikela than any other place in Steadville. I will accept any pictures, newspaper clips, minutes, pamphlets, etc.  from whoever is interested. I give you my word – all will be safe; and we will tell the history of our birthplace; even if it is the last thing I do on this earth.

Please note that I have recently heard that there are people doing a documentary on the violence in Steadville; I am not involved in that project.Image


11 responses to “Abridged history of Steadville

  1. wow…..profound…..I would like to be of great assistance in this research project during December vacation. God Bless ur beautiful and caring soul 🙂

  2. Gazilami you will get all the support you need on this project. it is high time that we pride our self about our originality and there is no any other better way to do it without knowing our historical background. this will enable all of us to shape our future destination. Steadville indeed has got rich untold history.

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