In the year, 2000, four young oral historians interviewed fourteen women who participated in the 1956 March. Here are extracts from three interviews
(Q: Indicates interviewer's question)
Interview One: Dorothy Masenya (DM)
(Interviewed in English)
Q: What motivated you to, finally, say “I'm taking the government with its horns? I'm facing the bull with its horns?” What motivated you to take part in the March itself?
DM: Well I felt as an African woman I should to do something. I'm Black when I feel to be. What will I have done for the nation, yes?
Q: So you felt you were concerned?
DM: I was very concerned, directly, because this would come down even with our descendants.
Q: How did the women get to Pretoria?
DM: Yes, we all converged, other people from other centres, Johannesburg. They were coming by trains and thing like that Springs, East Rand and things like that”¦ In fact old people; older people were given lifts by the patronage from Johannesburg and other countries. But we were a big force. Also from Lady Selbourne. We had a very big force to join the others. We met somewhere in town there ”¦ Did we meet at Boom Street? Boom and Andries but not very far from the hospital there that.
Q: Can you just give us briefly what was the mood? How did you feel?
DM: (laughter) We because now, really, we had never carried passes. We were all enthusiastic to get there and see this Boer bass and tell him that we are not going to carry those things. So there were the ladies oh Mrs Moodley, Helen, Lilian Ngoyi, oh they were very many I remember ”¦.oh ja Bertha Mashaba,”¦ Amina Cachalia. Yes she was young lady”¦.We had so many things to talk about really. As I say, in fact we wanted to see whether were these were we gong to be arrested, or where would they find a prison to fill up this entire mob. You see that was the big idea o a bona [you see] if they arrest one we all walk in and no turning back. We are all just there for ”¦.So instead, really they gave us a way out. Nobody was arrested on that day.
Interview Two: Caroline Motsoaledi (CM)
(Interviewed in Northern Sotho and translated into English)
Q: Can you explain a little bit about the March, how it was organized, how did you organize the women, where did you get transport money to Pretoria?
CM: We use to convene meetings now and then at Mzimhlophe. Many people organized at their own branches. We were using trains for transport, to Pretoria. We walked to the Union Building we sat in the garden. Our leaders went inside the building to submit memorandum to Strijdom but they did not find him. There was no one to receive and read the memorandum. Our leaders called us into the courtyard.
Interview Three: Magdalene Matshadi Tsoane (MT) and Rahaba Mahlakedi Moeketsi (RM)
(Interviewed together in Northern Sotho and translated into English)
Q: How did you feel as you were mixed according to race?
RM: I can say I was happy to work with different people but the people I have enjoyed most were the Indians. I have many friends in India. People like Amina Cachalia were there.
MT: We also worked very closely with people like Lilian Ngoyi and many more. During the march we were together with Ma-Moeketsi and others. I was always with Ma-Moeketsi.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the South African Federation of Women?
RM: I am the one who was the member of that organization. I was working with many white women in this organization. We use to attend meetings in Johannesburg.
Q: Were you not afraid for your children during the 1956 March?
RM: No, we had our children on our backs during the March. Many women had their children with them during the March. Some were carrying the white children with them, those who were working for whites.
Q: Tell us about the songs you sung.
MT: We were singing the song, which says 'Verwoerd, the black people will kill you and we do not want Bantu Education'("Verwoerd, batho ba bantsho ba tlo go bolaya and gape ga re batle Bantu Education). And the song was saying: 'If you strike a woman, you strike a rock'('Wathint'aBafazi, waThint'iMbokodo')
Q: Can you sing one song for us?
RM and MT: Yes it goes like this [Singing] "Forward we go to Pretoria, Forward we go to Pretoria".(Yona ere: "Pele re aya Pretoria, pele re aya Pretoria".)