Eastern Cape

Contact Person Mrs Anne Peltason
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Email anniepie@telkomsa.net

Although the main project of the Eastern Cape branch is the National English Olympiad writing competition (click here for more information), the branch is also involved in the Phakamani Creative Writing Project in the province.



6 August 1923 – 5th September 2017

 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just,  whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.    

                                                                                                                                                 Philippians 4:8 KJV


These words capture the life of our friend Margaret Geldenhuys who passed gently from this world in the early hours of Tuesday 5th September. She was one who was pure of heart, and one who thought only of those things which were lovely and of good report. We will remember her as a special person who contributed much to the good of those around her in her own quiet way.

Margaret Gough graduated with a Masters Degree in Psychology from Rhodes University in 1945, but was noticed by  Guy Butler who invited her to join the English Department. Here her reputation for unfailing excellence,  sharp wit, and penetrating insight was well-known. Margaret Gough was high-minded.  She despised intellectual kitsch, and would toss a delicate, but withering glance in the direction of ideas she believed were undeserving of consideration.

She was a woman who noticed things. Her poetry is remarkable for its incisiveness. She was able to take a simple theme of a bird visiting her garden and look at it in such a way that the ills of the human condition would be thrown into sharp relief.  She saw, and gently commented upon injustice and her commentary is at the same time kindly and critical. “My poetry comes from things that speak to me – anything from politics to art” she said upon one occasion to a Journalist when her delightful anthology Across the Light was first published.  Two poems from this anthology appear in the 2018 English Olympiad Anthology, We will Remember Them.

I quote here from the eulogy delivered by Mrs Natalie Stear, long-standing friend and colleague, at Margaret’s remembrance service held at The Hill Presbyterian Church in Port Elizabeth on 16th September. Natalie spoke with warm enthusiasm about a life well-lived:

“I came to know Margaret in the early 1980s when Ida asked her to do a locum at Collegiate, where I was also a teacher.  At the breaks we both discussed the English prescribed works we were teaching and I came to admire her insight and intellect.  I soon understood how much more there was to this seemingly unassuming woman.  Thus began an enduring friendship.

“Margaret was active in the Writers’ Club, the Shakespearean Saturday afternoons which she organised at first with Ida Bell and then conducted on her own, the South African Council for English Education (SACEE) and in other cultural activities, such as attending plays at the Little Theatre with me when I was one of the judges.  Most of my colleagues in the English-teaching world consulted her when they were preparing to teach an intricate poem or a Shakespearean play, as I did.  Her insight was profound and her understanding of the human condition startlingly perceptive.  She and I had many in-depth discussions over a glass or two of wine in the evenings.  When she no longer felt comfortable about driving her car at night, I would go to her – sometimes two or three times a week; thus she was part of my on-going understanding and emotional intelligence.”

She is survived by her daughter, Paula, herself a notable academic, artist and firebrand who graduated from Rhodes University in the sixties, and  Giordano and Daniel, both successful young men in their fields, both devoted, caring grandsons who, with their families, held Margaret in the highest regard.  The profound and palpable affection emanating from Giordano’s eulogy could be felt by those gathered to bid her farewell. Many, like Malcolm Haxley and Malvern van Wyk Smith, came from Grahamstown in the pouring rain. Malcolm read a poem of Margaret’s, The Rest is Silence, an except of which provides a fitting conclusion:

Eventually I came to accept that it really is final

and to relinquish the belief that here, this side of the divide

there is any chance at all at righting a misunderstanding

Expiating an error finding the peace that comes with forgiveness

So, as always you were right –

the rest is silence


 Anne Peltason, October 2017


The Star Schools

English classes are held every Saturday morning. The project is aimed at developing the maths and science of selected township pupils. English is included, as it is the medium of instruction.

College of Speech and Drama Teachers

An annual donation is made by the branch to the College of Speech and Drama teachers to help sponsor their public speaking competitions. In addition the branch sponsors the High Schools’ P ublic Speaking competition which is also run by the speech teachers in conjunction with Toast Masters.

The college representative has said that without SACEE’s sponsorship the school competitions would have to come to an end in Port Elizabeth.


NMMU Tutors’ Workshops

The branch continues to fund a Tutors’ workshop for graduate students run by Dr Di Ayliff at NMMU. These students, who tutor undergraduate students in small groups, have little knowledge of the communication skills needed. The tutors are taught how to help the undergraduate first-years with their grammar and expression. They are also given tuition on leadership and teaching skills as well as taught how to try to improve the students’ English.

Other sponsorships by the Eastern Cape

Matric Herald
Sponsorship for supplying this pubication to two township schools was resumed in 2011. The Herald generously started to supply many schools with enough copies of the newspaper’s Tuesday edition for each Matric to receive his/her own copy. Mzi did report that some of the township schools were not receiving copies and this has now been taken up with the Herald.

Dumani library
Dumani school is a hard working Motherwell school and the branch have sponsored books for their library for several years. This sponsorship will continue.

Speech Teachers’ competition
The full high schools’ public speaking competition is sponsored by the Eastern Cape branch. This full festival will now only take place every second year. However, the teachers will run mini festivals at their indididual schools during the intervening years.

English Olympiad (FAL)
In 2014 the branch increased its sponsorship of the Top 20 winners and added a further R6000 for disbursement to the top 3 FAL Olympiad winners. In 2015 the branch voted to set aside R30,000 to be disbursed at the discretion of the FAL examiner – to be effective from 2016. It was envisaged that up to 5 awards of R6,000 each would be made

Update on Mzi Mahola 2015

Last year the ‘Lushington’ project fell away. Mr Mahola found his family commitments too great to venture far. However, the Eastern Cape branch sponsored 12 candidates from Solomon Mhlanga, remunerating Mrs Bulelwa Jack and two school girls from Riebeek College for mounting workshops.

Mzi is the resident Eastern Cape SACEE poet. He has recently brought out a new poetry collection and is in the process of publishing a novel.

Reports from Mzi Mahola on his
workshops in Lushington

A project which was funded by the
Eastern Cape branch of SACEE.

Extracts from Mza Mahola’s report dated 25 April 2012

” I made two visits to Mziwemfundo Junior Secondary School; one on 13 March and the second on 11 April…………

………On the morning of my second visit. I spent some time with the drama teacher discussing the play which she was going to direct after we had made auditions for actors. The theme of the play is viruousity. It focuses on the principle of sowing and reaping, and it inculcates moral regeneration in our fast degenerating societies.

After discussing our characters the drama teacher informed me about a particular boy who has had a very rough life. The boy grew up with his mother in Grahamstown. He had abandoned school and joined a gang of delinquents dealing with drugs. They robbed and killed a Somalian shopkeeper. The boy was convicted of murder because he had pulled the trigger and he was sent to serve his sentence in an institution for delinquent juveniles. Upon his release, his mother decided to change his environment. She sent him to Lushington to be with his unemployed father. The boy is now doing his best to mend his ways and be somebody in life. He is older than other boys and is motivating them to keep away from drugs and not to waste their chances in life. Teachers are helping him with food so that he can enjoy school because there is nothing at home.

We both agreed to try him in the role of the main character, the villain, because the play has that character. He was called and I sat down with him and explained why he was needed in the play. He was eager to take part. I explained to him the type of character that I wanted. He showed interest and I auditioned him. He impressed me and so I gave him the script. …..”

Mzi Mahola’s report dated 29 July 2010

I made two visits to the Lushington schools this year.

In February I contacted the Nkonkobe Department of Education concerning the planned dates of my visits. They promised to send observers. I found their interest encouraging because I had often asked for their support without success. I invited them for the 17th of March when I would be visiting the Junior Secondary School, Mziwemfundo.

The first lessons, on ecological systems, took place at Mzomhle Primary on the 16th of March. There was tremendous interest because the lessons were well structured. I used charts instead of staffed models of animal specimens which would have been more ideal. The Bayworld Librarian helped me with animal photos which I developed into charts.

I was supposed to have spent three days on this visit. Due to departmental issues all educators were asked to report at the Department office on the 17th. The remaining lessons were, therefore, deferred for the 13th of April.

Two observers from the Department attended the lessons on the 13th. They stayed for the whole duration and their presence and positive evaluation were encouraging. It was even more reassuring when they expressed their wish to have the lessons extended to other schools as well. But we will find out about this later, when I approach them for support.

The World Cup has come and gone and learners and educators have tight schedules to make up for lost hours. I do not think it will be wise to make another visit this year.

There is a new 8-page tabloid in the Metro; it is called Central News and is published by Ms. Nyameka Madikizela. It first appeared in July. SACEE is again mentioned for its wonderful support of the rural schools project.

Extract from an earlier report 2009

There was concern amongst educators about the shortage of reading material for students. I encouraged them to persevere as often things turn up at the right time. When I left them I had no idea that on the next visit I would be coming back with an answer to their problem.

My second visit in September was even more fulfilling because, not only was I coming for a workshop for learners, I was also delivering books donated by Alexander Road High School as well as from other concerned individuals.

During the workshop a message was given to me that more children had started writing poetry after my last visit. The recognition given to one of their friends when she had read to the group, had motivated them. I have now compiled a booklet of some of these poems. I am looking forward to arranging more workshops with these children. Their commitment and enthusiasm is rewarding and encouraging.