Steadville… Looking back into history

Published on the Ladysmith Gazette on 6 November 2014, p. 6

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. Agreeably, it would be a fallacy and a major distortion of history to speak of Steadville without making mention of the violence which took so many lives, however, this article aims to renown the good of that place and remind society of what seems to be forgotten.

With media reports painting the rather distasteful side of the area, I can understand how difficult it can be to even believe that anything good may come of the area. So often when you ask people about where they come from, their heritage, who they are; you almost get an immediate dismissal. This may be due to the lack of knowledge on the subject matter; which in turn causes major frustration.

Let us reverse time a bit; as it seems people have even forgotten about the days of Steadville X20. You mention such to any person from that area and without a doubt, will be met with a graceful smile; which is short-lived due to the remorse from the fact that this only remains a memory. Those boys were our pride and joy.

It also baffles me that Emnambithi Primary School still hasn’t been declared a heritage site. Apart from its rich architect; that school is responsible for so many renowned persons in the area. Historically, the first school in Steadville, that in itself should make us proud as those walls have stood the test of time, have managed to see itself through the violence of the area; and surely if those gates had an opportunity to speak, they would reveal slathers of stories left untold. This is our heritage and should thus be preserved.

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 the late, Ms. BI Ndlovu who knew the history of Steadville like the back of her hand. Information on the women’s march, the first dwellers of Steadville, the first clinic, sports, Nelson Mandela’s stay on his way to Durban while he was underground, the activities of the ANC during apartheid, Dr Achmad Sader (Indian Medical doctor, a leading member of the Natal Indian Congress and an heir to Gandhi’s legacy of active organisation in this area in the late 19th century) and most importantly, the role of her father, Chief Ndlovu; all came from this woman. Amongst the many people who should be celebrated in Ladysmith, she is one of them.

Not so long ago, we used to flood the Steadville hall to watch Imbumba. How they brought together our community, human words cannot describe. I can assure you, if these young people would make a comeback, many people would certainly support them. Growing up, we wanted to be a part of that production, and held those people at such high esteem. Ncosi Mazibuko did such a wonderful job, and it doesn’t have to end there.

The Steadville hall, which unfortunately at some instances was hailed with gun shots, certainly has seen the good of Steadville. Ballroom dancing was seen as a sport for the elite, but the youth of Steadville defied the odds. These young people brought back trophies every time they competed outside. A force to be reckoned with. Where are they now?

Basically, there is so much to be celebrated about the area, and in that instance, we can continue with some of these activities, or perhaps bring them to life. Youth dialogues can be created where we share ideas about how we empower each other. We can’t only look back to what was, when we have the power to make things happen now. Steadville, isn’t all violence. Let’s profile, celebrate and support our very own.


Ntando PZ Mbatha


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