Three days before the massacre on Monday 6 December 1982, a baby was born, a girl, LE RONA RE BATHO to Limakatso at Queen Elizabeth 2 Hospital at 12.45 am. Later, on Monday, mother and child were discharged and they returned home. Le Rona Re Batho means = we are also people. This name was decided before she was born by her parents; father Zakes (a member of the ANC) and her Mosotho mother Limakatso. A message other birth was sent to Zakes and he arrived at 10.00 am on Wednesday the 8th to see his daughter.
He spent the entire day with Le Rona and Limakatso and left after supper promising to return on the 9th with some of the baby's needs.
On 9 December, when Limakatso heard continued bombings after midnight, she feared for her ANC husband. ANC homes had been attacked previously. She again sent her sister to check on Zakes. The sister returned at 8 am saying Zakes had been murdered. One day in her life was too little, too soon, to impress on Le Rona the identity of her father.
Here Le Rona, this a little that I gleaned of your Dad. His proper name is Liqwa Graham Mdlankomo and he was born on the 6 August 1956 in the Eastern Cape. I was told he was one of five brothers. Another brother was already in exile when he arrived in Lesotho in 1978. He went to school up to Form 2 when financial reasons put paid to his school days.
He worked in a pottery factory and helped to educate his brothers and he continued to study by correspondence. Do you know what Dad earned in 1973, when he was 17 years? - R18.00 per week.
He was fired from this job for insubordination. (Look up the meaning in your dictionary)
He joined the South African Student's Movement (SASM) in 1975 and was its first Deputy Chairperson. He was loved by the membership for his articulate speeches matched with deeds. You will learn that speech is easy. But to match words with action is rare. His friend telling me this, had tears in his eyes. In 1976 he was elected Chairperson. Some Dad, you had little girl.
When you study the history of our country you will know that during the year 1976, student trials in Durban and Johannesburg were in progress. The SASO trial went on in Pretoria. Some Ngoye University students were on trial in Durban. Joseph Mdluli was murdered in police protective custody on 19 March 1976. William Tshwane was killed in detention on the 25 June 1976. Harry Gwala and 9 other ANC members were on trial in Pietermaritzburg for ANC and MK activities, remember was only 20, lady.
The uprising of our students was triggered in Soweto and spread countrywide. Your father was targeted. He managed to escape police scrutiny for a while but was eventually in March 1977. By August 1978 he had been detained 5 times ranging from 2 weeks to 10 months.
Duly advised by his student organisation to leave the country, he sought political asylum on 18 August 1978 in Lesotho. Let me tell you something that few will tell you about unless they have been exiled.
The day anyone is parted from home is the date they will never forget. It is very, very painful to be parted from home.
When you grow older this will make more sense to you. Uncle George was an ANC cadre and a member of M.K. M.K were in the then Rhodesia now Zimbabwe coming home to South Africa. Both the Rhodesian army and the South African Police tried to make sure they did not come back. Separated from his comrades he was picked up, beaten out of his mind and put on trial with others. He was sentenced to death. But due to an international campaign, his sentence was commuted and he spent from 1969 to 1980 in prison in Rhodesia. With independence in 1980, Zimbabwe was born and Rhodesia was buried and the cadres were released. He stayed on in Zimbabwe where I met him in 1984. He told me this story and when I questioned him about when he was arrested, when was he sentenced to death etc, he could not remember, but when I asked when he had left home, he remembered the day, the date the month and the year.
I hope you never have to go into exile.
On his arrival in Lesotho, your Dad Joined the ANC. I took down his biography and the details of his contribution to the struggle in the country, and his understanding of the Freedom Charter. Zakes was terrific.'
A neighbour heard your Dad call out as he was dying,
"NDIFELA ABANTU BAKUTHI"
I am dying for my people.
"NDIFELA ISIZWE SAKUTHI"
I am dying for my nation.
He died with Khanyile, Muntu and Walk Tall on the 9 December 1982.I hope you will like your name when you grow up. Indeed, your father was telling the boers listen you chaps, WE ARE ALSO PEOPLE, as indeed we are.
You, walk tall and proud in your father's memory, little one.
GENE; GUGUSHE JASONI GENE (29)
One of my proud associations is with Gene. I think his surname was Gugushe but I learnt that on his death. He was Gene to me in life and will remain so in death.
The Lesotho Government banned anyone from taking phoÂtographs of the bombed homes and those massacred in the raid. Together with a German expatriate we got into the mortuary, bamboozled the officer in charge, and took most of the photoÂgraphs that feature in this account. Ajulo Rok, a lovely Kenyan took most of the others.
The Maseru mortuary was intended for 20 bodies. The raid produced 42. There were some bodies already there, awaiting burial on the weekend. There were other bodies that had come since the raid. They were thrown on the floor and some on the shelves. It was grossly overcrowded in the circumstances and there was an awful stench. Bodies lay one on top of another on the floor. But some were placed on the shelves, separate the mass on the floor.
One such was Gene. The contempt that he held his murderers in was in that face on the shelf. I think this photo captures that accurately. The blue shirt was the one I saw him in previous day. He was a stickler for polished shoes, razor creases on his pants and very pleasant and well-ironed shirts. I was never told about any girlfriends or boozing, He was prompt and on time for meetings, a rare occurrence in our ranks. When he was Chairperson in our rotating chair, he close the meeting by not saying I close the meeting, but used his right hand to indicate turning the key to close a door. The meeting was closed.
About four of us were discussing the leaflet we were producing for 16 December 1982. It was his turn to the read that he had prepared. I had arrived late from works anxious to start preparing the evening meal. I listened through the hatch. His last lines probably went like this... WE DIP OUR REVOLUTIONARY BANNERS TO OUR FALLEN COMRADES . So saying he lifted his hand. We all said excellent.
He said," Aunt Phyl, you have been busy cooking; you did not hear a word that I had written. You always find fault. You want the meeting closed early that's why you say, ten out of ten".
I argued that I had heard it all. "OK, then read again, I requested. He did, and again we all clapped saying it was excellent piece of work.
All ANC members were ordered to be home early, I was told it was 6 pm that night. Cuba House says their curfew started at 7.30pm. Whether they were having me on or because some comrades lived some distance from my home we shall never know, now. They left by the front door. I went to the back and turned on the hose to water my cabbage patch. I called out to Sasha 11, our pet mongrel and guard dog to come in.
Gene and another comrade were walking across the golf course to Kingsway, a short cut. They thought I had called out to them and came running up to my fence to enquire. I can see Gene now in his blue shirt asking what I had wanted.
"It's this silly dog I called out for. Please run along quickly, you guys. If you are caught getting home late, I'll be in trouble."
I saw them running across the golf course disappearing into the trees.
LOOK THY LAST ON ALL THINGS BEAUTIFUL.
How could I have known that it would be the last time I would see Gene. Later that night, it was the helicopters that came to rest on the same golf course. Gene lived in the flat vacated by Chris Hani.
I heard from comrades that in the switch he had acquired Chris's Hani chairs. They envied him his new acquisitions.
The rule that I assumed we all lived by is, know as much as you need to know. Our kidnapping into SOUTH AFRICA was always a serious threat. Mbali in Lesotho, and Cleopas Ndlovu with Joseph Nduli in Swaziland had all been kidnapped. The need to know rule," ensured that I learnt more about comrades after their deaths than during their lifetimes. I did not know their names. They all had a vast range of peculiar names. I knew that. In Harare, I met a comrade who had been in Hospital with me in Budapest. I said, Hullo Pedro. He rushed over to me and taking me aside he said. Aunt Phyl, I am Jo here. (or whatever) What happened to Pedro? Oh, that was for Hungary.
So here am I not knowing the proper names of my dearest comrade and he was only 27 years old.
The night watchman that pointed out Chris Hani's flat most probably pointed out this one in which Gene lived on the third floor. Earlier, Chris's house in Qoaling had been bombed and a trial of the alleged perpetrator was in progress in the Lesotho Courts. I think the Hani family moved following the bombing of their Qoaling home. The 3rd floor was probably difficult on the two little Hani children and Chris moved to the second floor.
You will recall that this was the block in which Matumo
Ralebitso, a Mosotho breathed her last. Both Gene and Matumo were killed on the same side of the block of Kuena.
Kuena Rats has three floors. The ground floor housed the vehicles. All three floors were built on top of this open 'garage'
A friend visiting at the flats that night told me this story.
"At about 1.15am, on 9 December 1982, after an explosion, tenants were ordered to lie down on their stomachs on the floor of their individual flats. They wanted no peeping toms. (Witnesses)
After this injunction, machine-guns roared, followed by explosions and gunshots. When there was a lull, my informant peered through her mesh curtains and saw a White man painted Black (His pink lips not blackened enough gave him away) standing next to Limpho Hani's car, a VW. A black coming around the building said, "I shot her boss."
Shooting seemed to go on upstairs for some time, A rain coated White, painted black said, "I am coming to help Mike" as he went to the VW. He took something out of his pocket and threw it into the car, setting it alight. He thereafter ran up the stairs. After much sustained shooting upstairs, all three were later on their way out, when their attention was drawn to painful groans at the side of the flats. It was Gene. Matumo was already murdered. More shooting followed endlessly. Then there was an absolute silence punctuated by the burning crackle of the car. All of us were too stunned to move.
With daybreak and the arrival of the PMU, they found a dead man and a woman on the far side of the flat. So much firepower for two people.
At 6am when we went around we found sheets tied together from the third floor window, swaying in the slight breeze, at the bottom was a pool of blood and many cartridges. Gene must have jumped and broken his leg and must have been groaning in pain when the three SADF found him. His body in the mortuary was peppered with many open bullet wounds. Comrades who bathed him later said his body had more than 30 bullet wounds.
The Gene I knew would not lift his hand to hurt anyone. His pen did that.
I attach in his own writing his article headed "Area Defence Strategy." You make your own judgment on my Gene.
We, all of us, Black and White, products of this heinous, filthy ideology of apartheid, given its authority by a Christian church, are to varying degrees tainted by its brush. Our Christian churches that preach a gospel of "Love thy neighbour as thy self", find their history in this country wanting in dealing with the Black neighbour, in varying degrees.
The ANC, a motley collection of South Africans nurtured in the pigsty of apartheid, is bound by the Freedom Charter. The Charter sets us a monumental task e.g. South Africa belongs to all who live in it, BLACK AND WHITE. Conquerers and Conquered. Blacks who have been under the jackboot of apartÂheid have great difficulty with this.
Having tea with two comrades who had returned from Angola and who had been nurtured in a Black Consciousness milieu, they said, "Here we went to Angola hating the guts of white people, and whom did we first meet in the camps - Ronnie Kasrils."(a white South African)
So in this organisation you could have an ANC member, who is a drunk, or who relegates his wife to feudal conditions, nay abuses her. You don't expect an ANC migrant labourer to behave fondly to his annual two-week wife and children in the same way as a family living together and enjoying some family life. ANC members are visited by all the ills that the violence of apartheid wreaks on us, not least of which is their criminalising effect. All members of the ANC carry in varying degrees our baggage of apartheid's garbage.
Gene's baggage of filth was small. Very few of us could match him in his membership of the movement.
My boy, too, had his last supper that night without any premonition of death.
DAVID - Defence and Aid list above mentions MOIMA AND MARY RARETHA. How and where the latter two were killed, I have to confess that I do not know. David I do know. He was a bubbling child with endless energy. Some wonderful parents nurtured that child. He laughed and told how he had been kicked in detention by the boers. He showed us the torture marks on his body as if they were trophies. He laughed so heartily and had a great store of jokes. He would give me a running stomach with his descriptions. You knocked out that laughter when you bombed his door. He tried to escape through the window of his room, but one of you chaps caught him in the act and put a bullet through his head and peppered his fallen body.
Whatever supper he had, you made sure, was his last.
ZOLA NQINI (47), MZWANELE FAZZIE, JOBO TITUS AND DR. NGIPE BANTWINI.
This house was opposite the embassy of the United States of America. In fact Zola's bedroom window curtained with heavy tartan material was across a single lane from the embassy -within spitting distance. The, then Registrar of the High Court lived there and I recall a visit to his family on the birth of their first son, Lehana.
It was a normal three bedroom prefabricated house, a relic of colonial times. For some reason the entrance to the front of the house was not used and one entered by the kitchen door. On the path leading to the kitchen was what must have been the "servants quarters", consisting of two rooms, loo and shower room. A garden with fruit trees surrounded the home.
I visited when a sweetpea hedge was in bloom and the pink of the peach trees dominated the flora there. Wordsworth's daffodils could not hold a candle to these sweetpeas.
Homes were few in the ANC community. Zola's home was one of the few. Zola was employed at CARE (a US Aid organisation) until a week before the raid when his appointÂment as Chief Representative of the ANC in Lesotho was confirmed.
The outhouse was occupied by Trinity, Bust and their laughter Ngobisile, born on 5 September 1982. Visitors to the new baby were arriving non-stop since her birth. Ngobisile's parents being ex-Fort Harians attracted exiled students in droves. There certainly was food here for hungry comrades. A chronic condition with our youth. There was running water and a place to do one's laundry. There was a shower for those not blessed with bath-roomed homes. There was home talk here throughout the day.
No one, but exiles know the meaning of that. When someone new arrived it soon got around from what area they had come. Comrades would gravitate there. Maybe news from home their own home? As I say only exiles know the meaning of this. Comrades returning to South Africa as guerillas were mostly apprehended going to visit their homes, contrary to orders. The court records will confirm this. We all missed HOME with poignance. The British sent their boer prisoners of war at the turn of the century to India and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) to punish them further, with the distance from home.
Zola's home situated near the American Embassy was described as a base. What revolutionary movement would site their arsenal near an American Embassy? If the truth were told, not a single gun, AK or otherwise was found here.
A lone copy of Lenin's book on the National Question fluttered on the bloody floor at Sam that morning, with Judy Kimble' s name inscribed on it. The only lethal weapon possibly would have been an axe used to chop wood to start a fire in the fireplace in the lounge.
The media description of Zola Nqini was that his alias was Bra Z. Any Black journalist or worker on any of the papers would have told the writer that BRA is slang for BROTHER. He was brother to all. It was a term of endearment. He was very dear to all of us in Maseru.
Why would Zola have need of an alias? The security police and the regime's prisons knew him. He served 6 years for membership of the ANC. His fingerprints would be availÂable at the touch of a computer keyboard. Subsequently, he refused to give evidence for the State in the Eastern Cape and was further incarcerated for 6 months. Only on release from prison in 1978 did he leave South Africa for Lesotho.
The gate by which you entered the house was never locked. Even if it were, anyone, thief or friend could have jumped over it. The three windows of the outbuildings nor those of the house were burglar guarded. This prefabricated house did not have even the most elementary form security, a dog.
Bra Z was born in the Eastern Cape in 1935. He was married to Noxolo and they had four children, Kokela, Yondela, Onjama and Buhle, the youngest about 2 years old in 1982. Noxolo had a job in a bank in Umtata. It was decided that until she could get suitable employment in Lesotho, she and the children would remain there.
Bra Z was no criminal. He served a six-year sentence on Robben Island, then, home to our illustrious political leaderÂship. If he were an ordinary criminal he would have served two thirds of his sentence. Only political prisoners serve their sentence without remission. That release date is equally known to family and the Security Police for both turn up at prison, one to welcome their loved one and the other to impose restriction or banishment orders.
Few political prisoners on release escaped the further punÂishment of the State, which has never been satisfied with its own court's punishment.
On his release from Robben Island in 1970, he was banished to Illinge similar in fame to "The Last Graves at Dimbaza. "When Kaizer Matanzima, then head of the homeland of Transkei, announced" Whoever wants to be a South African must leave Transkei // Bra Z went to Mdantsane. He worked for the Housing Council until his arrest in 1977. He, together with Milner Ntsangane refused to give evidence for the State and betray their comrades on trial and was sentenced to six months imprisonment. Again he served that sentence to the day and on release left for Lesotho. Unlike Judas of the Last Supper fame, he refused to betray his comrades in that trial. He was punished.
Bra Z was a graduate of the University of Fort Hare with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He knew what he was about.
He could have chosen to serve apartheid and have a measure of comfort but he joined the ANC during its period of legality and suffered all the rigours that the apartheid state inflicted on him when the ANC was banned.
CARE, an American Aid organisation had employed him since 1979 until 1982 just before his murder. He went overseas on CARE business. So why did our intelligence not ask the Americans about Bra Z?
All of us, when we think of the inevitable, our death, would like it to come with due warning so that we are prepared for it.
I wish for a heart attack that will finish me off immediately. Certainly the lack of medical facilities for the poor leaves me no alternative but an instant death wish.
My mother, bless her Christian soul, would check our vests and underpants daily when we left for school. At night after a scrub she checked that we slept in clean pyjamas. Her rationale apart from cleanliness is godliness, possibly was that if we died in an accident or in our sleep, those finding us would be impressed with our clean clothes. But for Bra Z, how quickly and anonymously death came.
His shirts and pants were placed over a chair and he slept in his underpants. The bed and the floor were covered in blood. Oh! So much blood. What a bloody mess you were, my brother!
Welcoming Titus, Fazzie, and Bantwini, a party was held in this home. Titus had arrived a day before seeking asylum.
Fazzie and Dr Bantwini and his girl friend had come to see the new baby, Ngobisile. A wonderful dinner was had by all but four were eating their last not knowing that a few hours later their massacre awaited them.
Dr Ngipe Bantwini slept on the floor of the lounge with his friend. He was listening to music on his tape recorder, having arrived with a passport through the Maseru border post.
He was employed at Edendale Hospital. A government institution with all the security checks that accompany all appointments. Remember when Dr Masla Pather was released from Robben Island, Government hospitals were instructed not to employ him.
When the 'successful' raid, was announced by the General early on that fateful Thursday morning, there was jubilation among White doctors in the staff room, at Edendale Hospital. They were proud of the success of the SADF. By tea time it became known that in that 'victorious' raid one of their colÂleagues had been murdered. They knew him. By no stretch of the imagination could the Doctor be described 'a terrorist'. They had to think, not easy for those nurtured on apartheid's largesse.
It would have cost the state more than R100, 000 to train Dr Bantwini. But aside from their investments and aside from the desperate shortage of Black doctors, there would also have been the huge investment of the family. The few Black families that have managed to put their children through college in South Africa had to work and deprive themselves almost beyond endurance. Those of you who took his life, not only stole his money and his tape recorder you took an immeasurÂable amount from his family. You shot him in the mouth, as he protested your presence.
He was not a member of the ANC. He came to visit his friend, an ANC member, who had her first baby and for this he was killed. Is this guilt by association? If not, how is terrorism measured? And pray, who is the terrorist?
Mzwanele Fazzie was visiting Ngobisile. Does not the birth of a child mean anything in your society? His passport was in your hands earlier when he came through the border? He came to visit a new baby and was killed in his sleep for this?
Jobo Titus arrived in Maseru on 8 December; his first dinner was also his Last Supper in exile. Jobo was nick named TERÂROR. You knew him. He was at Robben Island for eighteen years. 18 X 365 days, enough time to get to know someone. You had his fingerprints. Every information on him is in your computer!
Jobo told you in no uncertain terms that he abhorred apartÂheid. You punished him for 18 years. Your leaders tell us that we have no respect for divergent views. Your history is written in intolerance of any view other than the racist stupidity of apartheid.
What acts of terrorism could Jobo have planned for the Christmas period? He was not paid to uphold his belief in the Freedom Charter! He did it out of love for our country. He wanted a non-racial democracy which your leaders since 2 February 1990 have claimed as their own preserve. You killed my compatriot, Jobo, who knew so much about it. You killed him for it. Do you really know what it means? Can we ever trust you ever again?
In this home that was Bra Z's, the outbuildings were occupied by Trinity, Busi a 7-year-old nephew of Trinity and baby Ngobisile,
Her name means, "to help conquer." Yes conquer the evil of apartheid, of course. Nomaqabi also lived there but was visitÂing another home for the night. She will tell her story of what you did to her sleep that night.
Trinity was in the shower when he heard 'boer' voices.
He hurriedly got to his wife and child and they got under the bed. The first room door was blasted down. You found their crying little nephew. You blasted the second door and picked up the bed and shot Trinity in the shoulder. He must have thought he was done for and cried out 'Oh! My baby'.
In this instance, General, your officers obeyed orders. They did not kill women and children. Strange, but true.
In fact, Busi was asked to move to the end of the mattress with the baby, while your men got ready to finish off Trinity. Luck that rare commodity was with us. Duly instructed by a black-painted, pink-lipped officer standing at the door, to kill the terrorist, the Black officer cocked his gun ready to fire but nothing happened. Trinity, not waiting for the next chamber in this game of roulette, got up and pushing the Black against his white counterpart sped out of the room. Whether they fell in the process no one knows, but Trinity escaped.
Early the next morning when I met Busi she was under the belief that Trinity had been killed. She sat there numbed by the explosions not being able to move to go to the help of their crying nephew who joined her much later shivering and trembling. When dawn came, she looked for the doctor's girlfriend but found the four dead bodies. She called out to both the friend and her husband, to no avail. She gave them up for dead.
Much later in the day she heard that her husband was safe in hospital and so too the friend of Dr Bantwini. So, two women and two children were not killed. General. Yes, thank you.
ALFRED MARWANQANA, MZUKISI MARWANQANA, THANDISWA MARWANQANA, PHAKAMILE MPONGOSHE (50) the refugee list says MAVIMBELA SYDNEY.
It was only with Syd's death that we came to know that Sydney Mavimbela was in fact Phakamile Mpongoshe. He was Syd to all of us. Dear, gentle Syd.
In this house, you will remember a Mosotho was also killed. Florence had come to visit hearing that a new refugee family had arrived from South Africa.
One was Alfred Marwanqana who was incarcerated from 1965 on Robben Island. Nellie, his wife, had to care for their three children - Pumeza, a girl of 5, Thandiswa a girl of 3 and Mzukisi, a boy of a year.
During these 15 years, Nellie was employed by Mrs. P, an Afrikaner at a wage of R20.00 per month. She had to take care of her children on this wage. Years later, she had help from England and the Dependants Conference.
However she was not able to visit Alfred, as she could not get leave long enough to visit and return to work. She was also afraid that if she told her madam that her husband was on the Island she would be fired instantly. With three children to care for, rent to be paid, she dare not take that chance. When she did send Alfred money for his needs, there was very little left for the needs of her family.
On Alfred's release in 1980, a fourth child Phumelane was born. She had to do what millions of Black mothers do in this country - leave the children to take care of themselves. This is how, she explains, that Thandiswa became pregnant at 17. Thandiswa had two children, Monde and Yolande.
Alfred was born in 1932 and was murdered in 1982 when he was 50 years old. Half his life, 15 years of which was spent on Robben Island, was given to the struggle for democracy in our country. On his release he was also banished to Illinge. Nellie could not join him as his job at the Waterworks paid R16.00 per month. They kept in touch by post.
Since 1980, Alfred was detained on five occasions. It was these detentions that forced Alfred into exile in Lesotho. He came a few days ahead of his family. It was the children's schooling that kept Nellie in South Africa till December. When the schools closed for the Christmas vacation they left to join Alfred in Lesotho.
Nellie, Pumeza, Thandiswa, Monde, Yolande, Mzukisi and Phumelane armed with Transkeian passports arrived in Maseru on the 4 December 1982 and stayed at the Hilton Hotel. It was late and Alfred could not be found. Syd located them early on Sunday, paid the bill and took them to his home.
Sunday, the 5 December was the first day that the whole family was together.
"FOR FOUR WHOLE DAYS THEY LIVED AS A FAMILY", sobbed Nellie whom we found on the morning of the 9th sitting on the side of the road with Yolande (10 months) on her lap. 4 days on a double bed slept Alfred and Nellie with Pumeza, Monde and Phumelane on a mattress on the floor in the same room. In the living room, Mzukisi Thandiswa, Florence and baby Yolande had gone to sleep on a couch and mattresses on the floor. With the front door bombed out, Nellie heard her daughter Thandiswa scream out, "Please mother keep my child safely."
She heard shots in the front rooms and her door was kicked open. Alfred and Nellie jumped to the floor. They ordered women and children out of the room. Nellie, Pumeza, Monde and Phumelane crawled out of the room into the adjoining bathroom. Nellie thinks that had they not crawled out on all fours, Pumeza might have been killed too.
With every explosion the children screamed. She covered their mouths. Throughout all the deafening explosions, Yolande screamed non-stop. Her voice was growing ribbon thin. Nellie could not go to her grandchild. But Nellie says while she cried she knew Yolande was alive. The boers were searching for books and money. When Nellie thought that all was quiet she attempted to leave the bathroom but as she opened the door she saw a boer searching in Syd's room. This boer probably stole the SACTU money kept in Syd's room. She went back to the bathroom to wait.
When she was sure the boers had left she went to the living room and picked up Yolande and went to find Alfred. He was cold and huddled in a corner. She covered him with a blanket. Pumeza screamed to her mother and she went out to find her seventeen-year-old son, Mzukisi dying. She put his bloody head to her bosom, comforting him while he breathed his last. Should any mother be called upon to perform this travesty?
She found Syd dead on his bed and Florence on the floor. She looked for Thandiswa, her daughter, the mother of Monde and Yolande, but could not find her. She assumed that she had jumped through the window and escaped.
Nellie left the children with the neighbours and went lookÂing for Thandiswa. She called out loudly in the event that she was hiding in terror in the bushes. But answer came there none.
She returned to the house and searched again. Under Syd's clothes behind the door she found her stone cold daughter. When the bodies were removed she was found with Mzukisi's head on her lap, sobbing quietly.
In three hours her family had diminished by three. Her husband, her son and her daughter.
Little did she think that the celebratory supper that she prepared for the entire household and their visitors would be the last for Syd, Alfred, Florence, Mzukisi and Thandiswa?
Syd had visited me, hearing that my dog Sasha 11 had had puppies. He pleaded with me to let him take a pup. Some pups had already been given away. Sasha was a very small dog and I told Syd that she slept in the house with me. He pleaded he would take great care of the pup.
"She will bark when the boers come," he said. Did he?
He too called his pup, Vorster. Why, such ugly and contraÂdictory names were given to our dogs, I am not sure. My son, too, named his pigs on the farm in Lusaka Tshongella' after the fat racist men who usurped power in our country.
Vorster, Syd's dog, was not in his kennel and despite enquiries I was unable to ascertain what had happened to Vorster.
Syd was detained on 4 March 1963. After a 'trial' and sentence of five years he went to Robben Island.
His Appeal, subsequently, was upheld, he was released after two and a half years of his sentence and returned to Port Elizabeth with banning orders, relegating him a dependant on the family's already strained resources.
Jobs for ex-Robben Islanders were most difficult. I have a wealth of those stories. One comrade released found employment at a large furniture store. He was sweeping the pavement in front of the store with his boss talking to a customer at the entrance one morning. A friend spotting him came over and greeted him loudly and exuberantly asking when he had returned from the Island. He was fired on the spot.
THE FREEDOM CHARTER
WE, THE PEOPLE OF SOUTH AFRICA, DECLARE, FOR ALL OUR COUNTRY AND THE WORLD TO KNOW:
That South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of the people.
That our people have been robbed of their birthright to land, liberty and peace by a form of government founded on injustice and inequality; That our country will never be prosperous or free until all our people live in brotherhood, enjoying equal rights and opportunities; That only a democratic state, based on the will of the people, can secure to all their birthright without distinction of colour, race, sex or belief; And therefore, we the people of South Africa, black and white, together equals, countrymen and brothers adopt this FREEDOM CHARTER.
And we pledge ourselves to strive together, sparing nothing of our strength and courage, until the democratic changes there set out have been won.
- 1. THE PEOPLE SHALL GOVERN
- 2. ALL NATIONAL GROUPS SHALL HAVE EQUAL RIGHTS
- 3. THE PEOLPE SHALL SHARE IN THE COUNTRY'S WEALTH
- 4. THE LAND SHALL BE SHARED AMONGST THOSE WHO WORK IT
- 5. ALL PEOPLE SHALL BE EQUAL BEFORE THE LAW
- 6. ALL ENJOY EQUAL HUMAN RIGHTS
- 7. THERE SHALL BE WORK AND SECURITY
- 8. THE DOORS OF LEARNING AND OF CULTURE SHALL BE OPENED
- 9. THERE SHALL BE HOUSES, SECURITY AND COMFOR
- 10. THERE SHALL BE PEACE AND FRIENDSHIP
LET ALL THOSE WHO LOVE THEIR PEOPLE AND THEIR COUNTRY NOW SAY, AS WE SAY HERE: "THESE FREEDOMS WE WILL FIGHT FOR, SIDE BY SIDE, THROUGHOUT OUR LIVES, UNTIL WE HAVE WON OUR LIBERTY".
I can see him now, in a fit of laughter telling me of the incident. Mostly it was the Special Branch who visited ex prisoners at places of employment. If the visit was discovered and you did not explain the true identity of your 'visitors', you lied at your peril. Mostly you were fired when the SB's inÂformed your employers of your identity. Pathetically few, employers said they were not interested in the political beliefs of their employees, only the quality of their work.
So much, again, for the South African business sector's claim to have opposed apartheid.
Syd chose exile, not for its safety or comfort. It was never comfortable nor safe. His death tells that audibly. He worked for Sactu in exile. He was Sactu's representative in Lesotho. He was always available to assist if anyone was hurt by the system. He was a seasoned campaigner with great humanity. He had no illusions about the racist enemy who had shown no underÂstanding for his political beliefs namely 'that South Africa belonged to all who lived in it.'
Some members of the ruling Nationalist party were Nazi ideologues and were incarcerated during World War II. Unlike the racist rulers who determined the state of our country who made Blacks carry dompasses, told people where to live, whom to marry, whom to sleep with, decided who slept in the veld, what work workers could do, what wages they could earn and entered the workplace to kill striking workers etc etc. Syd believed in the Freedom Charter and was murdered for that belief. His family can be justly proud of him as indeed all democrats are of his selfless life.
Those who came to murder him at midnight and filled his body with, oh so, many bullets, did not know what a gentle man he was. Hate, had no part in his life. How concerned he was when anyone was ill. How gently he scooped up the pup, Vorster, to take him home. He had a twinkle in his eye and was so happy when we accidentally met in town.
I wish, you could have spoken to him. You would not have touched a hair on his head. You blotted out that twinkle and with it a loving man. Your blighted, accursed racism has blinded you so much, and now these murderous acts cannot be undone.
In our country where a white skin is heaped with abundant privilege, those Whites at the bottom end of the ladder (mostly Afrikaners) find themselves as policemen and women, prison warders, court orderlies etc. In power, since 1948, the Nationalist party with venom has practised affirmative action.
Not much skill mental or otherwise is required to hold a bunch of keys or in keeping prisoners behind bars. The racist indoctrination of the police, the SADF and the prison service is well documented for those who wish to know.
On Robben Island, new warders, programmed to deal with the 'ogres' incarcerated there, came in screaming and bullying to deal with the 'terrorists'. Their racist attitudes could not be sustained on Robben Island. For here they had to deal in the main with committed non-racists. Our members had to impleÂment the Freedom Charter despite their gross personal abuse, (sometimes their deaths) at the hands of the police in detention or the prison warders thereafter. Warders at Robben Island soon were behaving circumspectly. Some even were being taught and educated by ANC members. Today, many a warder, policeman owes his degrees, to the example and help some of our members. Naturally, this trend threatened the establishment and warders were ordered to stay on Robben Island for not more than 2 or 3 months.
Some warders came to Robben Island as hard-core racists and left with some intelligence and much humanity. Their poverty, despite their own racist government in power, was only slightly different from those incarcerated.
Only recently they were the 'poor white' problem and now elevated to the lower echelons of white privilege, they found Nelson a better Afrikaans linguist than themselves. Why, wasn't Jimmy Kruger, dreaded Minister of Police (or such name this department wore at the time) on a visit to the Island shocked in dealing with Oom Nel's request for Opperman's poems?
This then is broadly the quality of the ANC. Naturally not being superhumans, it peaks and wanes in some.
Syd was the ANC's best ambassador. His sense of justice, his warm humanity and his total commitment to the struggle for democracy were for us humbling experiences.
Yes, my compatriots, you stopped him digesting his last supper and you put out a very bright candle.
GAZI: JACKSON TROM was the proper name that I learnt of a week after his death. I remember Mr. Brian Bishop, (later killed in an accident with Molly Blackburn), who phoned me soon after the massacre and asked for the names of the murdered. I could not give him their names, as I knew them.
We had to put proper names to the deceased if families at home were not to be cruelly misled. Records, I was informed, were kept in Angola and communication was slow and it was best published from Lusaka. Brian kept asking me if Jackson Trom was killed as Jackson's brothers were asking. At the time I did not know. I promised Brian we were working as fast as we could. Hell, I hope you understood our dilemma, Brian.
I shall call him Gazi, for that's how I knew and loved him. Gazi was born in the Transkei in 1932 - not much formal education. His English was mostly non-existent. Overcrowded, desperately poor Transkei, the labour reserve of White South Africa before, confirmed after its new Homeland status, was the birthplace of Gazi. Apartheid ensured his lack of education. The poverty of the Homeland sent him to Cape Town in search of work. The Cape Town docks usually employed Transkeians. While the wage was essential to life and limb to Gazi and others, he asked why, like Bishop Don Helder Camara who asked why people were poor and paid for this quest with his life. That fate awaited Gazi too. Gazi asked why he endured this quality of life? Why, despite hard work, he earned so miserably and took care of his family in the Transkei so pathetically. Why his family was kept away from him for months. Why, he asked.
He found the answer in the ANC and soon became its avid supporter. He joined the Communist Party and was an energetic SACTU member; giving these organisations his after work hours.
In 1963, like many South African democrats, he too was detained together with Looksmart Ngudle whose death in police custody on 5 September 1963,16 days after his arrest, shocked the whole country. The hearing found it was SUICIDE BY HANGING!
Gazi and Looksmart although detained in isolation, had contact when both travelled to Pretoria.
The inquest that followed Looksmart's death was marked by the lack of evidence of any other than those in whose custody he was held. It was a terrifying time. Ruth First documents this horror so painfully in her book - 117 days. Witnesses were terrified to give evidence. The cost was very great. But Gazi came forward to say that Looksmart had changed from a physically fit man to one " looking paralysed, not seeming himself." It was courage unknown in those times.
Thank you, Gazi, for your life - for your indomitable courÂage. This inquest was the first opportunity for the world to look into the torture tactics inflicted on those detained in police custody.
Gazi's indomitable courage helped to publicise this unlawÂful brutality. The police had indemnity protection, defended by state paid counsel, and secure jobs and pensions. Gazi's only support was the truth of his evidence.
In 1964 he was charged with membership etc of a Banned Organisation - the ANC. After sentence he was incarcerated in Victor Verster and then on Robben Island. On his release in 1970 he was banished to Lady Frere.
In 1971 he met Albertina and they married and have four children - Fezeka born on 10 December 1972 (Yes, Human Rights Day), Namfanelo, a girl born on 4 March 1975, Nomalungisa a girl born on 30 August 1977 and Mbeko a boy (at last) born in exile in Maseru on the 20 November 1981.
Albertina recalls, "If someone is from Robben Island, the Transkei Government will not give them work. They must rot at home." However, despite this constraint, Gazi trained as a builder first building his own home and later taking on other contracts. He was detained on several occasions and released without charges being preferred against him. He went underÂground on 4 June 1977.
What does that mean Albertina, I questioned.
"Like NELSON MANDELA who avoided arrest in 1960 and did not stay at home, Gazi did the same."
Gazi and others were eventually advised to leave home (South Africa) and arrived in Maseru in September 1980. She joined him later.
Albertina continues "We were helped by friends in England who sent us money and second hand clothing regularly. I am not sure that they know that Gazi is dead. (I assured her that they would have learnt of Gazi's death from the anti apartheid movement in Britain) My home is locked up in the Transkei and I will only return to it when South Africa is free.
When we arrived we stayed in Upper Thamae in a two-roomed house. We moved to Qoaling to a bigger home and the girls had a room for themselves too. Gazi dealt with the BUYING AND DISTRIBUTION OF FOOD FOR THE ANC."
At midnight on that fateful night or soon thereafter we were awakened by the door being blown in. I looked out of the window and saw my home surrounded. They entered the house shining their torches and when they saw Gazi they said, NANCI LE NJA - which translated reads - here is this dog
Two boers, their faces blackened, both with red mouths one with a sideburn, talked in Afrikaans. They pushed Gazi outÂside. He was in his underpants. It was a warm night and too hot to get into pyjamas. We all wore the barest of clothing.
I asked why Gazi did not rush for his gun? She replied, that Gazi was not armed. There were no guns in my house, only food for the ANC.
While they searched through the kitchen, Mbeko cried out for his father. "Shut up or I will kill you too," The boers admonished him.
They took more than R40,000.00 from the mealie meal bag where Gazi kept the money. We were ordered in Afrikaans to lie down on the floor. 'You, you lie down here or we shall shoot you'.
"My Afrikaans is not good, but I understood". I held onto my three children while they searched and kicked food all over the kitchen. They stole our passports, our food and our money. When I realised the house was burning, I picked up my children and ran out.
As we ran we saw Gazi. My children and I saw their father with his underpants removed being tortured by several SADF."
Albertina said he was being kicked and questioned in Xhosa, WENZANI = what are you doing here, again and again. Perhaps these were Transkeians soldiers, she hazards. They knew Gazi.
What is the difference, between the SADF and the Transkei soldiers, I asked. "No difference, "she replied. "Gazi lay still as he was kicked and booted like a football. We ran to our neighbours, with Mbeko screaming for his father.
Some very kind Basotho neighbours sheltered us, while the boers bombed our home. There were about 20 explosions. The whole place lit up with every explosion. I saw helicopters with bright lights circling the house.
When the noise had subsided, and I could no longer hear the screaming boers, I went out to look for Gazi. He was in the same spot where we saw him being tortured. He was cold and naked. I covered him with my blanket. His eyes were opened and I tried to close it. I was so afraid of the gaping holes in Gazi's dead body. I was never afraid of Gazi in life. I stayed with him until his body was removed at 1pm.
He was always teasing the children and me. He was a good father and a wonderful husband. He never raised his voice to his children or his comrades. I did that. He loved them all but the baby Mbeko who looked like him was his treasure. Gazi will never die for me. Mbeko looks like his father so he will always be with me.
Gazi always told me he was a soldier fighting against apartheid. I cannot cry for Gazi. A soldier's wife does not cry."
Under the heading, THE WHOLE TRUTH, Paratus, January 1983, a SADF publication, Gazi murder was described as follows:
HE DIED IN SPECTACULAR FASHION WHEN HE SOUGHT REFUGE IN A ROOM IN HIS HOUSE, AFTER FIRING AT THE SADF TEAM ATTACKING HIS HIDEOUT.
I leave both accounts for your judgment.
Just one question, General. Did your men account for the money they took from us? If you received this money did you account for it and to whom? Can we have sight of your accounting?
I cannot tell you what Gazi meant to me. When I say Wenzani to anyone, Gazi walks with me.
When Gazi heard that my mother VIOLET had died at home in 1981, he spent a whole afternoon listening to my pain. He understood so acutely the pain of not being with family at such a tragic time.
When I told him that Jimmy and Joan Stewart had arranged a service for my Mum, he said that I should go despite my own quarrel with the Catholic Church's refusal to bury my late brother in 1948.
For weeks afterwards, he would pop into my office to check on me. Thank you Gazi, my friend, my brother and my Comrade. Ten years later and my eyes are filled with tears, and I must pause awhile.
Hamba Kahle Mfowethu.