Orlando Community Centre Receives Blue Plaque

The City of Johannesburg and the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation erected a blue plaque at the Donaldson Orlando community Centre on 15th June, ahead of Youth Day on 16th June 2023 .  Flo Bird and Steve Groeneveld represented the JHF at the installation .

The blue plaque specifically remembers the significance of this centre in 1976 when the South African Students Movement gathered here on 13th June 1976 to elect an Action Committee to plan the March and its route for 16th June. Led by Tsietsi Mashinini, Seth Mazibuko, Sibongele Mthembu and Murphy Morobi, the protest was about the teaching at Soweto schools of Mathematics, History and Geography in Afrikaans and not using English as the medium of instruction. The 16th June went down in liberation history as the day Soweto exploded in an uprising that took South Africa in a new direction.

The Donaldson Orlando Community Centre, named and financed by the Donaldson Trust, has an important history in its own right too. Lieutenant Col. James Donaldson was the public-spirited man who as early as 1932 realized that the new planned town of Orlando would need a central facility and hall for community gatherings. As such, in 1936, he founded the Donaldson Trust for black social development and it was his goal to improve living conditions for black people. Donaldson was clearly a remarkable man as he reacted in a practical way to the downgrading of black peoples in the politics of the 1930s.

His support and funding of the Donaldson Community Centre in Orlando could be said to be the planting of a small seed that grew into a giant oak tree of collective protest and resistance. For more information, visit www.donaldsontrust.org.

The blue plaque now places the DOCC as a part of the June 16 Heritage Trail.

KA Munro – Blue Plaque Committee chair

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