Member of ANC, MK and PEBCO, Robben Island prisoner, General Secretary of PEBCO, member of UDF, one of the ‘PEBCO Three’
Lives of Courage
Sipho Samuel Charles Hashewas born in Middledrift, Ngcabasa Village (Eastern Cape) in 1934. He relocated to Port Elizabeth in the 1950s. During this period he became a member of the African National Congress (ANC) and Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) in the 1950s and 1960s. When the ANC was banned in 1961, he became an underground operative until he was arrested in 1962 for his political activities and charged with sabotage. Subsequently, he was sentenced to ten years imprisonment in Robben Island.
Hashe was released in October 1973 and, immediately, placed under house arrest for five years with strict conditions barring him from being in the company of more than three people at a time and restricting him to Kwazakhele Township in Port Elizabeth. It became extremely difficult for him to continue to work, however that did not deter him from continuing with his underground political work as opportunities arose.
While under house arrest, Hashe displayed a strong passion for youth activism and played a behind-the-scenes in inspiring students. For instance, he worked underground with students during the 1976 and 1977 school uprising through his daughter Mandisa, who was a member of the student body. His daughter and nephew Mkhululi would organize meetings at his house for political guidance. During this period, most students were following the leadership of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM). After the banning of political organization, progressive newspapers and student organizations in 1977, Hashe continued to convene secret political classes to educate students about the Freedom Charter and the policy of non-racialism. According to his daughter, Hashe was opposed to the racial or Africanist undertones of the time because of his belief in the non-racial ideology of the ANC.
As the the security police were extremely hostile towards any form of student activism, Hashe’s daughter, nephew and other students were forced to flee into exile. Hashe arranged that they leave the country and advised them to join the ranks of ANC and its military wing, MK.
After his banning order was lifted, working with ANC/MK underground structures, together with other political activists, they established legal political structures aimed at opposing the apartheid regime in every way possible. Together with leaders such as Edgar Ngoyi, Ernest Malgas and Henry Fazzie , they revived the Port Elizabeth Black Civic Organisation (PEBCO), in October 1979.
When his banning order was lifted, Hashe was elected as the fourth General Secretary of PEBCO serving with alongside Champion Galela, Qaqawuli Godolozi, Jackson Mdongwe, Mangaliso Ngxokwana and Xola Makapela. It was under the collective leadership of PEBCO together with progressive trade unions that they rendered the Eastern Cape in general and Port Elizabeth in particular ungovernable.
Among the key resistance activities they organized was the three day stay away known as the Black weekend which enjoyed massive support from the community. They demanded better housing and paying rents they could afford, better living conditions, better working conditions and wages, transport, education, schools, medical care and the abolishment of the bucket system.
Soon after that they organized a consumer boycott which crippled the economy badly and the regime panicked and resorted to desperate measures. Following the March 1985 stay away in Port Elizabeth, Hashe’s home was petrol bombed and severely destroyed.
A few weeks later on 8 May 1985, Hashe was abducted along with Qaqawuli Godolozi and Champion Galela known as the PEBCO Three, were kidnapped at the Port Elizabeth Airport in 1985 by Apartheid-era security police. His family reported him missing and they were told that maybe he went to exile. They searched for him without any success. Two days later, the security police accused his wife of hiding a terrorist and attacked his house. His son was assaulted and his wife was arrested and detainedunder the state of emergency.
After the collapse of apartheid, during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) process in 1997 Herman Barend du Plessis, Johannes Martin van Zyl, Gideon Nieuwoudt and Gerhardus Johannes Lotz applied for amnesty for murder of the PEBCO Three. Details of what happened to Hashe and his comrades emerged. The former security claimed that the three leaders were killed because they posed a danger to the state through their involvement in the underground operation of the ANC in Port Elizabeth.
According to the version given to the TRC by the security policemen who abducted the activists, after were kidnapping them, they were taken to Fort Chalmers, an abandoned police post near Cradock in the Eastern Cape. There they were drugged, shot, their bodies burned on a diesel-soaked pyre and the ashes dumped in the nearby Fish River. After 23 years their remains were discovered in Post Chalmers Farm in Cradock and excavated by the National Prosecuting Authority's (NPA) missing person’s task team. The remains of the Hashe and his comrades were finally buried at Zwide Cemetery in Port Elizabeth.
Only two of the eight policemen, former head of the security force in Port Elizabeth Harold Snyman and Kimani Peter Mogoai, an askari (a member of the liberation movement who changed sides to work for the apartheid state), received amnesty for their role in death of the PEBCO Three. The TRC said it had refused amnesty to Van Zyl, Nieuwoudt and Lotz for in the PEBCO Three case because they had failed to make full disclosure.
Du Plessis was refused amnesty for ordering the kidnapping and murder of the three deceased and for conspiring to murder them. Another security police officer, Gerhardus Cornelius Beeslaar, was refused amnesty for kidnapping and assaulting Hashe. Amnesty was also refused to Johannes Koole for the kidnapping of the PEBCO Three and the assault on Hashe and Godolozi. In addition, the widows of the victims had opposed the amnesty applications, saying there had not been full disclosure.
• Truth And Reconciliation Commission, (1996), Human Rights Violations, , Elisabeth Hashe, Case: EC0003/96 - East London, [online], Available at http://www.justice.gov.za/trc/hrvtrans/hrvel1/hashe.htm [Accessed on 26 August 2011]
• Maclennan B, (2008) Bone fragments may hold clues to Pebco Three from the Mail & Guardian, [online], Available at www.mg.co.za [Accessed on 29 August 2011]
• SAPA, (2007), Pebco Three: Bodies may have been found from Independent Online News, [online], Available at www.iol.co.za [Accessed on 29 August 2011]