“I Saw a Nightmare…”
Doing Violence to Memory: The Soweto Uprising, June 16, 1976
by Helena Pohlandt-McCormick
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Sam Mashaba

Sam Mashaba:
And, at first I shouted "we must not run away," because I knew that solidarity would spare them. But, some students started running away, and eventually I started running, also. And as I was running away, without necessarily seeing any policeman that was running after me, I heard a shot, sound of a gun, and when I looked back I saw that a white policeman was chasing after me and he had shot what I regarded to be a warning shot. Then I stood and surrendered, lifted up my hands and he came and he arrested me, handcuffed me, and then he said "we must go back to the road" where he had left the van. We went back. Along the way, as we were going through the bush area, as we were going back, I saw him stand still at a certain place, he looked around, and he, you know I thought he wanted to get a stick to beat me, but then he went, and he [unclear] and he picked up a bush knife. Came back with the bush knife and he said in Afrikaans, "dis joune," that's yours [laughs]. Then I said, no that's not mine. I knew I had not carried a bush knife. I should admit that were some students that had carried some bush knives and things of that sort from the school when we left. I, all the time, I regarded violence as not part of the struggle, and I wouldn't carry such a thing. So, we went black to the van where a black sergeant has been waiting for us, who started asking me the details of my names and all that, opening a docket for me, and when the Afrikaner policemen said "this is his bush knife," I objected. The [black sergeant] policeman said, "don't worry, I'm not going to write that this is yours." [He] talked in Venda. But when we got to the police station, and interrogation started, I realized that he had deceived me. He had written that I was holding a bush knife. [Sam Mashaba, 1993, emphasis added.]