From the book: Le Rona Re Batho (An account of the 1982 Maseru Massacre) by Phyllis Naidoo, South Africa, 1992

In the accounts that follow no one was killed. They were told to me at the time and I place them before you to help you understand and judge for yourself. You have read the accounts in the media and in the SADF publication. You have listened to the radio. You have watched your TV sets.

Just read my version of the events of that horrible night which is fixed in the minds of so many South Africans, Basothos and so many children who continue to suffer the trauma and maybe even in the minds of a few soldiers responsible for that night's mindless slaughter.

In a block of 6 rooms, the Ondalas, a family of South African exiles lived in three rooms. The other three rooms housed the Jafetas, the Basotho you met them earlier.

The father, Miamli Ondala, an ANC member, was a motor mechanic and we referred all our motor problems to him. His wife was Nomathamsanqa. They had 3 children - Manyano a 15-year-old boy, Nomfumeko a 14-year-old girl and Zolisa an 11-year-old girl.

If my memory serves me well, they have had either one or two children since the raid. Therapeutic, to be sure. Miamli was away in Maputo during the raid. Mother and three children were at home. Manyano slept alone in the room at the end of the block. The kitchen cum - living room was in the middle while mother and two girls slept in the last room, closest to the Jafeta's.

With Pa not at home they had retired early. About 1am they heard shots and explosions. Mother and girls got off the bed and hid in a corner.

Mrs. Ondala recalls:

"Our windows were broken and a torch was shone into our room. The boers said; 'there's nobody here' it was so hot, that we slept on the blanket. So it appeared that no one had slept on the bed. I heard a boer say,' kick the door down.' They tried but failed. The shooting went on for a long time, and we could not move. I heard the helicopter and motor vehicles. When the helicopter landed in front of our home, we were trembling. My girls were choking back their sobs. We left the corner when we heard our comrades calling out to Manyano at 5 am. I went out and saw the bodies of my neighbours and their 4 year old son shot in his head in his cot. On Sunday we had been guests at his 4th birthday party. Their books were all over the floor and the door was blown out. They killed our dog Vorster (favourite dog name) who was on a leash, but Matanzima, another pet dog was alive and well."

Manyano tells his story as follows:

" I had gone to sleep on top of the blankets as it was very hot. On hearing the shooting I crawled under the bed. A boer said there was no one in the room and left but a Black, comrade turned traitor, said, "No, they are inside and broke down his door and entered. His torchlight did not pick me up. I heard Sesotho being spoken Johannesburg style. I heard Xhosa as well. In fact it was a Xhosa speaking fellow who shouted out after the first explosion," You ANC people come out, if you don't', we will shoot you." There were lots of boers, but only a few Whites were giving the commands. I stayed under the bed until my comrades called out to me."

Ondala was an ANC member who had spent time on Robben Island and was well known to the country's intelligence and yet their Basotho neighbours had been mistakenly killed.

The Ondala' s were lucky, their-last suppers are in the future.

If you were after "TERRORISTS" (people) why did you destroy Chris Hani' s home? The old, disabled night watchman told you no one was in that house. But you carried on bombing as if you were possessed. You attempted to blow up this home on a previous occasion and failed. Does this explain your anger? Angry at your first failure you wanted to ensure success now?

The house was being repaired and Limpho was living in a flat in town. I mentioned your diligence at her new flat. Why did you come to their erstwhile home? Did you think other ANC members occupied it? Were you asked to destroy our homes as well? If you were out to stop terrorists why destroy Basotho homes?

Chris's home that was

You frightened the hell out of comrades who had rented a home nearby. The bombing blew open their door. Two comrades managed to run out and shelter away from your murderous path.

The two remaining comrades were caught up with comforting a little pup which they had acquired earlier. They were on all fours crawling in the room. Every time an explosion was visited on Chris's home, the little pup, still unnamed, whined and wet the floor. My comrade's knees were wet with puppy urine.

The devastation to the Sexwale home, I will let Nomaqabi a 9 year old tell you that story in her words and her drawings.

Nomaqabi Sokupa - born 22/12/1972

The last account of the raid was of our SASHA:

1. When you sent a parcel bomb to Lesotho to Father John Osmers, it was opened in my hut and you are aware of what it did. You missed my pup, Sasha. We seemed to be stuck with pups by this name. It was the name that Sahdhan, my son, gave to his little brother. Exile parted me from my sons. My daughter Suks and I kept the boys alive, with their names for our dogs.

When I left for treatment to Hungary, we left Sasha with Chris Hani who had offered to take care of him for us. When I returned we went to see Sasha who had been so excellently nurtured that he looked like a fat calf. Chris informed me that he had been castrated in my absence, hence his obesity. Sasha wanted to come with us but sadly I could not have him. Chris in the meantime had become very attached to him and begged to keep him.

Sasha I on 5/7/1979

When Suks returned from school in Swaziland, she was informed that Sasha had been renamed and castrated. She was silent.

Much later, Chris visited with Limpho, who was pregnant with her last baby and looked as if she was due to pop at any time. If I live to be a 100, I shall not forget the embarrassment that Suks put us all through. She asked Chris in a temper,

"Why did you castrate my Sasha? Why did you not castrate yourself."

Dead silence for a moment and then much laughter but Suks was too upset to laugh despite Chris's arms around her. It was possibly Chris's shortest visit. Happily they have managed to continue a good relationship since.

2. When Chris's home was bombed the first time, about 1980, it was Sasha that gave the alarm and saved the lives of the Hani family.

3. With the 9 December 1982 raid, it was Sasha's third bomb; he ran off with the first explosion and could not be found.

Sasha has to cope with three bombings-too many. So you traumatised our dog too, not to mention the night-watch-man we found cowering under a tree near Chris's home.

Discussing the raid in its columns, big business's mouthpiece, the Financial Mail, a glossy weekly journal on 21 December 1982 said,

"With the ANC it must be interest of all who live in the region, a matter of no quarter given". THEY MUST BE HUNTED DOWN AND ELIMINATED and our neighbours can never say they have not been warned".

Whose government is this?

The military apparatus that moved into Maseru in 1982, not only had the moral support of big business, but the hardware came from its factory floor and warehouses. Free enterprise supported the SADF action. This firepower went to Angola, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Mozambique, Swaziland, Bot­swana and Maseru not to mention its use at home, South Africa, of teargas, birdshots, bullets, bombs etc. Total strategy kept them in profitable free enterprise. The ending of the cold war was cold comfort to them.

The King, the Prime Minister and many foreign diplomats, the United Nations Community in Lesotho and 35,000 Basuto attended the funeral and told in no uncertain terms their abhorrence at this dastardly deed.

One of our proudest moments was the presence of our then President, Oliver Tambo at the funeral. Newspapers in South Africa charged that if he came, he would be murdered by the SADF. President Samora Machel, I learnt later, was not happy for OR to attend the funeral and at first refused his plane. But when he found that OR was bent on coming, he gave in unhappily. What OR's presence did for us, who remained, for those who lost loved ones and those visitors from home who came to bury friends and family (Zola Nqini's brother was detained at the border and not allowed to his funeral) for our wonderful Basotho hosts, no pen could adequately describe.

Your courageous and exemplary leadership has sustained us along the difficult path of the struggle.

Thank you OR.

ANC graves in 1991


Following the raid into Lesotho, the regime set into motion a process of disinformation in Maseru. The General's announcement to the world media was the first shot. It did not end there.

Messages were left at public places in Maseru to call Captain X - all Afrikaner names, (eg. Message to Mr. Mduli to call Captain van Zyl in Welkom). These circulated widely. Those names targeted were under considerable strain to explain these public calls.

Letters were sent to any number of comrades saying how much their help was appreciated and that payment of a consid­erable sum was in a bank in SA.

Threatening telephone calls were made to numerous com­rades and Basothos. Daily calls to us said, ONS SAL JOU KRY...ugly language. When we answered, and asked if his wife knew the kind of work he did. The telephone went dead.

It was an awful time. Perhaps the most difficult time in our political life. All methods to destroy us physically and mentally were canvassed.

On numerous occasions we had to ask comrades if they joined the struggle because of the personnel who comprised our leadership. The Freedom Charter came to our rescue again and again. The senseless murder of loved ones and the need to avenge their deaths at first was paramount.

WE MUST KILL EVERY WHITE MALE BOER CHILD FOR HE IS A POTENTIAL SADF, comrades argued. That was the worst aspect of the massacre. You negated our political life and released such murderous responses. We argued endlessly into the night, seated in our cars.

You released into our ranks so much antagonism. Comrades wanted to go into the country and kill any white, like your Strydom, the best product of apartheid. They wanted to do likewise.

"We have no need for your politics. Aunt Phyl. We must kill. The boers must be taught a lesson. We should not be the only ones to cry.

They must cry for their children too."

We fought back with variations of the following:

"Do you want to behave like a boer? How do you avenge the death of a comrade? By killing 10 boers. What are you saying?

One Zola Nqini ==10 boers. NEVER.

Don't let the boers make boers of us. Yes, we must avenge their deaths. How? How to avenge their deaths is the question? To continue our struggle for a democratic South Africa. They would have died in vain if we give up the struggle and become common murderers. If we are in the struggle to change that murderous regime to a more humane society, there is no better example than the lives of our fallen comrades. Their lives have been lived with distinction and we have to follow their exam­ple. If we do this we shall give their lives meaning. We shall avenge their deaths."

Oh! How difficult this was.

So while you disinformed and we suffered some casualties, we came out stronger in our commitment to the struggle for peace, justice and democracy.

23 December 1982 ANC march in Maseru - Where is the success you claim

The massacre in Lesotho not only reached the families and comrades in the country. It also reached Death Row in Pretoria Maximum Security. Our Comrades awaiting execution on that fateful morning were:




In a playful, sometimes solemn letter, and in language intended to bamboozle their jailers, and they succeeded, they said: