THE WAUCHOPES - Generational Activism by Natalia Sifuba


This book tells the story of the Wauchopes, a Xhosa family who rose to prominence in  the late 18th and early 19th centuries through the exploits of their patriarch, the Reverend Isaac Williams Dyobha Wauchope. Although this talented and restless man died heroically when serving as chaplain the troopship SS Mendi sank in 1917 after a collision off the Isle of Wight, taking more than 600 black South African troops to their deaths, it Is his life and work prior to his military service with which this book is concerned. 

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Isaac Wauchope, often described as ‘a man who straddled two worlds’, had made a name for himself as a political activist, challenging and engaging the early 20th century Cape colonialists as they steadily eroded the rights of the Xhosa people and appropriated their land. His heroic actions would pave the path of political activism for many Wauchope generations.

His descendant, Joyce Kalaote, was a political activist, a struggle heroine, and one of the towering BCM figures during the 1970s against the system of apartheid. A nurse by profession, she thrust herself into civic struggles, and as an active community member rallied brave women to close ranks in support and in defence of the 16 June 1976 students following the outbreak of nationwide uprisings. But she was not alone; her entire family were political activists.

Her nephew, George Mpapa Wauchope, was described as a soldier of justice and, after having enrolled at the University of Fort Hare in 1970, joined the South African Students

Organisation (SASO). Fort Hare sharpened his political interest, and this is where this remarkable figure emerged with an unwavering desire to take on the system on its

illegitimate rule over the black majority. Being a prominent exponent of the philosophy of Black Consciousness, his extraordinary activism became the family’s catalyst and the entire Wauchope family became involved in the struggle for national liberation.

The book contains a fascinating collection of material – photographs, documents, and newspaper cuttings – arranged to illustrate Joyce’s life and family. To be able to see the people and places involved in the events brings Joyce to life in a way that the written word alone struggles to accomplish.

About the author:

Natalia Sifuba was born in Soweto in 1963. At age 15 she fled South Africa in the wake of the Soweto uprisings and joined the liberation struggle, sojourning in various countries across the globe. She is the second daughter of Joyce Kalaote (nee Wauchope) who is the main subject of this family history and sixth descendant of the Reverend Isaac Williams Dyobha Wauchope. It was after the sudden death of her mother that Natalia began the writing of this book which serves as a tribute to Joyce and to ‘all the unsung heroes of our revolution in the fight for justice and a free South Africa’.

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