Throwback Thursday – Durban’s West Street
The Durban CBD boasts a well-planned grid of city streets, many of which have now been renamed to honour struggle heroes.
West Street is no different – originally named after Martin West, a British born man who worked for the Dutch East India Company. He served in Bombay and was the Resident Magistrate in Grahamstown before becoming the first Lieutenant-Governor and the first civilian administrator of the recently annexed territory of Natal in 1845, still a dependency of the Cape. Suffering from ill-health he retired from the Natal governorship in 1849 and died that year.
In recent years West Street was renamed Dr Pixley Kaseme Str after Pixley ka Isaka Seme, A struggle hero who was born in 1881 at the Inanda mission. At a young age Reverend S. C. Pixley an interest in him, and arranged for him to be educated in the USA. He went on to complete a BA Degree in Columbia and his law degree in Oxford before returning to South Africa on the eve of the creation of the Union of South Africa in 1910.
He started the African newspaper, Abantu-Batho, and served as legal counsel for the Swazi Regent in a dispute with the British government, and is widely considered the founder of the South African Native National Congress (SANNC), the precursor of the ANC. In the elective SANNC Congress of 1930 he was elected to the position of President General, a position he held until 1936.
For much of the 1940s he worked as an attorney with offices in downtown Johannesburg, and during this time he became Anton Lembede’s mentor. Seme died in 1951 at the age of 70.
Seme’s memorable speech at Columbia University in 1906 earned him the Order of Luthuli in Gold posthumously in 2006, conferred by then president Thabo Mbeki.