Petrus Linda Jabane (Lion of Chiawelo)

Posted by Abongile on

Biographical information


Member of the ANC, MK, was killed in combat engaging South African Security Forces, recipient of the National Order for Bravery 

First name: 
Last name: 
Jabane (Lion of Chiawelo)
Date of birth: 
6 January 1957
Location of birth: 
Soweto, Transvaal (now Gauteng)
Date of death: 
November 1980

Petrus Linda Jabane (Lion of Chiawelo) was born in 1958 in Soweto, Transvaal (now Gauteng). After his father's death, his mother could only afford to keep him at school until Standard five (Grade Seven), after which he worked to help support the family. He was actively involved in the 1976 Soweto student’s uprising, even though by then he was no longer a student. In 1977, together with several other youths from Soweto, he left the country to join the ranks of uMkhonto weSizwe (MK). He received military and political training at Novo Katenga in Angola.

Jabane became a member of the Moncada Detachment of MK. The detachment was named in appreciation of the contribution made by the government and the people of Cuba to the liberation struggle of progressive forces of the world in general and South Africa in particular. It was named in honour of the first military operation by Cuban freedom fighters against the regime of Fulgencio Batista. The operation took place on 26 July 1953, Fidel Castro led the liberation army’s first military operation in which 100 men and women attacked the Moncada army barracks near Santiago de Cuba. Though the operation led to the arrest of Castro and others, as well as the torture and killing of many more, it laid the foundation for the final overthrow of the Batista regime.

In January 1980, Jabane came back into the country to join what was known as the G5 Unit of the Transvaal Urban Machinery of MK, using the code name Gordon Dikebu. The unit was based in Soweto, Johannesburg, Transvaal (now Gauteng), living in dugouts around mine dumps on the out skirts of Meadowlands, Johannesburg. This is the first MK unit that carried out attacks on police stations throughout Soweto in the late 1970s and 1980s.

By this time the unit, which had within its ranks hardened guerrilla fighters like Anthony “Bobby” Tsotsobe and others, had a specific task of carrying out attacks on police institutions that terrorised the communities and activists. Jabane and Tsotsobe were part of the unit that carried out one of MK’s most daring operations; an attack on Booysens Police Station, in which an RPG7 rocket launcher, also known as a “Bazooka”, was used for the first time on South African soil. One of the unit’s other operations was the attack on Uncle Tom’s Hall in Orlando West, Soweto which housed the areas rental offices. At that time a rent boycott by Soweto residents was underway and the attack was carried out in support of that campaign. Municipal records were destroyed and the municipality’s efforts to trace rent defaulters were stymied. This unit alleviated the fear and sense of terror that the police inflicted upon the residents.

The unit was forced to abandon their hideout when a member was killed in a shoot out with the police in Meadowlands. They split up and went to live in different houses across Soweto. It was after one of them was arrested that Jabane’s hideout in Tshiawelo, Soweto was exposed. On the morning of 21 November 1980, the Apartheid security forces surrounded Jabane’s Tshiawelo hideout and called through a loud-hailer for him to surrender.

Jabane chose to rather take them on and fought defiantly to the end. The huge contingent of security forces that had assembled were forced to keep their a respectful distance anddistance and some were seen to be hit and falling during the fierce exchange of fire. Neighbours, who witnessed the fight from their unlit houses, described Jabane, as having fought like a lion, hence he earned the name “The Lion of Tshiawelo” posthumously.

Jabane finally died in a grenade explosion- as he was determined not to be taken alive. What emerged from his combat unit, after his death, was that they called him “ikomanisi” because of his dedication and determination. Even former president of the African National Congress (ANC), Oliver Reginald Tambo praised Jabane’s heroic act and called him “The Lion of Tshiawelo”. Like all freedom fighters that were killed by agents of the Apartheid regime, his body was not released to his family to give him a decent burial. His body was finally released in 2003, 23 years after his death to be buried in a dignified manner by his family and the ANC.

In 2003 the South African Government bestowed The National Order of Mendi for Bravery, in Gold, posthumously, on Petrus Linda Jabane for bravery and valour in the face of overwhelming odds and for sacrificing his life in the cause a non-racial, non-sexist, just and democratic South Africa.

• Email from O.Badsha dated 21 April 2014
• The Presidency. Petros Linda Jabane (1958 ”“ 1980) . Available at: online. Accessed on 14 May 2014.
• Sechaba. (1982). December 16, Our Heroes Day from Sechaba online. Available at Accessed on 14 May 2014. 

Last updated : 20-May-2014

This article was produced for South African History Online on 16-May-2014