•  THE DATE: TUESDAY 8th JULY 2014
  •  VENUE: KwaMUHLE MUSEUM Bram Fischer Road [Ordnance Road] Durban.
  •  TIME: Meeting commences at 17h30; Refreshments will be served from 16h45.
  •  PARKING: Off Bram Fischer/Ordnance road [next to the Museum]; security person is present.
  • FEATURE: MARY de HAAS is our Speaker in July; her topic ‘‘TWENTY YEARS OF HUMAN OF HUMAN RIGHTS: ARE WE PROGRESSING OR REGRESSING?” Mary de Haas is a retired academic, formerly Programme Director in Social Anthropology at the University of Natal (as it was then), and currently an honorary research fellow in the School of Law at UKZN.


Kevan Mardon spoke on Transport in Durban and some of the ‘firsts’ for the City. Starting with an explanation of what EThekwini means, freely translated, ‘the Shape of the Bay’ he went on to tell of the first recorded transport service in 1860; started by Mr Dare from the Royal Hotel to Pietermaritzburg. A horse drawn stagecoach called Perseverance it took a day to reach Pmb.

Later that year the first [in SA] steam train arrived in Pine Street from the Point, while the first horse-drawn coach system was introduced by the Dale Brothers [1870] from the City to Musgrave& also to the top of Berea Road. It was March 1880 when Durban Tramways Company ran the first [4] double-decker horse-drawn trams; in 1891 the first – in SA – tramline was laid and in 1902 the first electric tram was introduced. When electric trolley buses were introduced in 1935 they were known as ‘Silent Death’ which had nothing to do with the overturning [first in the world!!] trolleybus in 1941! Trolley buses ceased operating in 1968. The buses were sold in 2003 and since then various buses have been introduced – and ceased operating! In 2007 the ‘People Mover’ was introduced.


Please note that the address for our own website is ‘’


Explore other parts of Durban with Prof Franco Frescuro on the 13th July 2014. Meet at the Old Courthouse Museum verandah at 10 on Sunday morning [13th]; the walk will take about two hours and the cost – for Society funds – will be R20 per person


The opening naval battle of the First World War took place not in the North Sea but in Central Africa in August 1914. Facing each other across Lake Nyasa (now Lake Malawi) were British East Africa (Malawi) and German East Africa (Tanzania). Their navies each had one gunboat. The German SS Hermann von Wissmann was named after the explorer and anti-slaver. Like her British counterpart, she was built in Europe and shipped in pieces to East Africa and up the Zambezi River. From there the sections were carried by porters to Fort Johnston at the south end of the lake, where it was reconstructed. In 1893 the hull of the von Wissmann was towed by a British gunboat up the lake to the German port of New Landeburg for fitting out. The larger HMS Gwendolen was a steamship and for over a decade Commander Rhoades and Kapitan Berndt patrolled the lake for slavers and met on each other’s ships. On August 4th, 1914 the British Governor of Central Africa received a telegram that war had been declared between Britain and Germany. A cable was sent to the District Commissioner, in the northern lakeside province of Karonga. The nearest British troops, the King’s African Rifles (KAR), were over 400 miles south and the only route to Karonga was via the lake. On water they risked attack by the von Wissmann, which, unlike the Gwendolen, had electric spotlights and a gun turret. The Gwendolen was fitted with a six-pounder Hotchkiss, which had never been used and nobody knew how to fire it. Jock, a Scottish shop assistant in Fort Johnston, was enlisted, after he bragged that he had been a volunteer seaman-gunner. On the evening of August 13th the Gwendolen set off to cross the lake, having heard that the von Wissmann was pulled up on a slipway in the German harbour of Sphinxhaven. As the Gwendolen sailed into Sphinxhaven bay the white-hulled von Wissmann came into view, hauled up on the beach. Rhoades ordered Jock to open fire; a few shells landed way beyond their target, then finally Jock landed a direct hit on the von Wissmann. At that moment a small boat containing a stout European clad in vest and shorts started rowing towards them from the beach. Rhoades ordered ‘Cease Fire’. Its furious occupant rose to his feet and shook both fists above his head. ‘Gott for damn, Rhoades, vos you drunk?’ he exclaimed. ‘Afraid not old chap,’ called Rhoades. ‘Our countries are at war. Best thing you can do is surrender.’ That afternoon Rhoades sent a coded telegram: ‘Wissmann taken completely by surprise.’ The following day British newspapers reported ‘Naval Victory on Lake Nyasa.’[with acknowledgements to Janie Hampton who is a social historian].

Mary de Haas’ talk should be riveting; she is known as a violence monitor but is probably better described as a researcher and human rights defender. See you on the 8th?

Naureen Craig
23rd June 2014


Newsletter July 2014