Film-maker’s search for Dulcie September connections

A group portrait which is one of the collective images, a letter, and document about Dulcie September which is exhibited in the Western Cape Archives and Records ServiceS, in Roeland Street, Cape Town.

Documentary film-maker Enver Samuel is searching for anyone who knew anti-apartheid hero Dulcie September as a young woman and teacher in the 1960s.

Mr Samuel is working on a new film that asks “Why Dulcie?” to commemorate the 30th anniversary of her assassination.

The film had its start in a chance meeting on Freedom Day, 2017, in Bern, Switzerland, where Mr Samuel was attending the Visions du Reel Film Festival.

During the Freedom Day celebration at the South African Embassy, he struck up a conversation with Randolf Arendse who is Dulcie September’s brother-in-law and who had seen Mr Samuel’s award winning documentary about Ahmed Timol, Indians Can’t Fly.

By the end of the evening, Mr Samuel had agreed to make a film about Ms September with the blessing of her family.

The film explores her story, starting with veteran investigative journalist Evelyn Groenink who has doggedly tried to piece together why Ms September – ANC representative for Luxembourg, Switzerland and France at the time – was assassinated in the heart of Paris on March 29, 1988, as she unlocked the ANC’s offices.

She was shot five times with a .22 calibre silenced rifle.

The film explores why this principled cadre and former school teacher was murdered. Who were the killers and what was their motivation?

Ms September’s work in Paris included the everyday lobbying of an ANC representative, but her personal handwritten notes reveal that she had gone far beyond these duties and was secretly investigating the clandestine arms trade between France and the South Africa apartheid regime.

Thirty years on and no one has been charged with her murder.

The French investigation into her death was closed after 10 years and the Truth and Reconciliation Committee findings were inconclusive.

“Dulcie’s life is a reminder to current day South Africa that the purpose of all the sacrifices and struggles of the past were not in vain and that a fair and decent South Africa is still a possibility,” said Mr Samuel.

“Her story needs to be told, it’s a story that will inspire those who strive for democracy and social justice and highlight the role of a selfless unsung heroine.”

An important part of Ms September’s story is that she was born in 1935 in Gleemore, Athlone, and did her primary schooling at Klipfontein Methodist Mission.

She was among the first group of pupils to attend Athlone High School.

Her political consciousness was raised by a number of her teachers who were active in civic and political organisations.

Halfway through Standard Eight her father decided to end her formal schooling but she attended evening classes, and at the end of 1952 passed her Standard Eight exams.

In 1954, she enrolled at the Wesley Training School in Salt River and completed her Teacher’s Diploma in 1955.

She first taught at City Mission School in Maitland, then at Bridgetown East Primary School in Athlone.

Her involvement in anti-apartheid resistance resulted in Ms September being arrested in 1963 under the Criminal Procedure Act, with the principal charge one of “a conspiracy to commit acts of sabotage, and incite acts of politically motivated violence”.

By 1964 Ms September was sentenced to five years imprisonment, during which time she endured severe physical and psychological abuse.

After her release, the Pretoria regime controlled Ms September’s activities with a five-year banning order and she went to live with her sister in Paarl until she was offered a receptionist position by Dr Robert George in Athlone.

She would work a full day and then reported to the police station every night at 6pm.

In 1973 Ms September applied for an exit permit to leave for England and arrived in London in January 1974.

She would never return to South Africa again.

Anyone interested in sharing their memories of Ms September or who may have photographs of the Athlone community in the 1950s and 60s can contact Enver Samuel on ems@eject.co.za

The film currently has a crowd funding appeal https://gofundmesa.co.za/why-dulce-goal-r100-000/andfurther updates on the progress of the film can be found on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Why-Dulcie-978261145632344/ and Twitter https://twitter.com/DulcieWhy