Cold Case: Revisiting Dulcie September

Drama | Biography • Running Time: 60 mins
Conceived and performed by Denise Newman | Directed by Basil Appollis | Written by Sylvia Vollenhoven and Basil Appollis

As recent as May 2012 a Cape Times article about the assassinated ANC activist, Dulcie September, is still headlined: “Who Killed Dulcie September”?

Twenty Six years after the assassination no-one has taken responsibility for her death and speculation today is as rife as it was then. Did the five bullets to her head come from a French mercenary? Was it the South African death squads operating in Paris? Or as Aziz Pahad (former deputy minister of foreign affairs) said in a 2011 documentary that Dulcie was shot because of her knowledge of nuclear military trade between South Africa and France.

Our research journey reveals an ordinary fun loving Cape Flats young woman with a love for dancing on week-ends. A vivacious energy that belies the bravery and courage she showed during the trial that eventually sentenced her to five years in prison for a “conspiracy to commit acts of sabotage, and incite acts of politically motivated violence” After serving her five year sentence, she was slapped with a further five years banning order which prohibited her from practicing her profession and political activity. Today, fellow members of the African People’s Democratic Union of Southern Africa (APDUSA) are still in awe of Dulcie’s unwavering loyalty displayed during their prolonged court hearing in 1963. Her comrades in London and Paris fondly remember her insistence of an “Afrikaans, fish & chips Friday” that became a ritual in her Paris home. Jacqueline Derens, head of the anti apartheid movement in Paris remembers a no-nonsense, straight talking “soldier” whose determination for liberation and equality could not be swayed. 

Says Jacqueline : “Dulcie served in Paris for a few short years but her achievements during that time speaks volumes” 

The play traces Dulcie from her early days as a defiant teenager determined to become a teacher when her father abruptly ends her formal schooling. As a young teacher she joins several political organizations that had a vision of educating the oppressed and overcoming racial divisions and forging unity and solidarity among students of different cultural backgrounds. However, Dulcie soon departed from organizations who engaged with endless debates and aligned herself with militants who believed in doing rather than talking.

In the archives the thousands of pages of my story lie boxed obediently.
But occasionally the boxes that have become me, Dulcie September, stir themselves.
Ruffled by old questions, new answers and the persistent breeze of guilt.
I’ve never liked mystery much but stories that go round in circles eventually lose the dignity of reason and remain trapped in enigma.

Standard Bank Ovation Award 2014
Adelaide Tambo Humanitarian Award 2014

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