Museum seeks photos of local activist DCO Matiwane

2011-06-21 00:00

A MUSEUM devoted to the life and work of David Cecil Oxford “DCO” Matiwane will be opening soon in Willowfountain and the curators are appealing for photographs of Matiwane.

“He was known for his one-man protests in the centre of Pietermaritzburg and we do not have a photograph of any of these protest actions,” says Gillian Scott-Berning.

“He was known for standing in the centre of Pietermaritzburg with political pamphlets attached to his tattered suit or for carrying a wattle cross all the way from his home in Willowfountain to stand silently in the centre of the city. We would dearly like to incorporate an image into the museum displays; hence our appeal to anyone who may be able to assist us.”

Matiwane was born in Edendale in 1918. His grandfather, Noziwana ka Soqaya Matiwane, was among the first Christian converts of the Reverend James Allison. Matiwane trained as a school teacher at St Francis College in Mariannhill. He taught with the late ANC leader Harry Gwala in Howick.

Both were members of the Communist Party, a political association frowned upon by the authorities, and they soon found themselves dismissed from the teaching profession.

Matiwane held various other jobs, and was a court interpreter in the Pietermaritzburg Supreme Court and worked for the Department of Native Affairs.

He was fired from the department for organising a milk boycott in Estcourt. He went on to work as a clerk for legal firm Drummond and Company in Estcourt and started studying law.

His studies were disrupted when he was imprisoned during the state of emergency in 1960 and was never able to complete his degree.

This did not prevent him from representing himself on the numerous occasions when he was hauled before the courts to face charges under a plethora of apartheid laws. He won most of his cases or succeeded in having the charges withdrawn.

On June 16, 1980, he staged a one-man protest at the old Supreme Court gardens (opposite the city hall) to mark the fourth anniversary of the Soweto uprising. Later he and ministers from the Lay Ecumenical Centre staged a protest against political repression.

They were arrested and charged, but the charges were withdrawn.

In the late 1960s until the time of his death in 1982 he lived at Willowfountain in the house which will become a museum in his honour.

If you have any photographs, documents, news cuttings or recollections, call Gillian Scott-Berning at 031 207 8247 or e-mail

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