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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Freedom Fighters Betrayed By Own Liberation Movements!!!

(In this article, Simphiwe Sesanti, former reporter of the Eastern Province Herald, shows how the ANC, AZAPO, and the PAC, have neglected their own members languishing in jail. These assertions are based on the interviews he had with the MK, AZANLA and APLA cadres in question, held at St Albans Prison, and their family members.) 

The liberation struggle in South Africa, and its aftermath, reminds one to two books read sometime ago, one entitled MY SON, MY SON, O ABSOLOM, MY SON whose author I cannot remember and THE HARVEST OF THORNS by the Zimbabwean writer, Shimmer Chinodya. In the first book, one Irish character, observed that his compatriots were united against the British because of their hatred for the latter, not because of love for one another. It sounded as if it was a black South African observing this country's case. One's experiences, both inside the country and exile, have taught one these painful realities. One's constant visits to St Albans Prison, in Port Elizabeth, where one met Apla, Azanla and Mk cadres, left this impression, that for these cadres, serving long terms for fighting against apartheid, the result has been, as Chinodya puts it, "A harvest of thorns".

Let us start with Phila Dolo, 28, the Apla cadre, whose name recently made headlines after owning up for the Eikenhof shootings in which a white woman and two children were killed. Phila has stated that he would reveal no more until five conditions are met, these being:(1) the release of all political prisoners, including three ANC Youth League members, Siphiwe Bholo, Boy Ndweni and Sipho Gavin who were "falsely arrested and convicted for something they did not do", (2) that FW de Klerk testify for the Northcrest massacre in which a PAC members' children were killed, (3) that the TRC gives its definition of truth, (4) that TRC judges be investigated "for their racial bias", and (5) that he first presents the case for which he is convicted. Rightly, the families of the three are calling for their release, and wrongly, they are still being held, and there were reports that their case is to be re-opened. Wonder why! These men are innocent, and have no business being in prison - finish and klaar!

What makes the likes of Phila, sentenced on December 9, 1994, angry, is the fact that three years after we voted a democratic government, cadres are still in prison for fighting against apartheid dictatorship - harvest of thorns. What hurts them is the fact that those who shouted VIVA APLA, his own comrades in Uitenhage, do not visit him, and he's only 20 km away. All they do, when asked, is to give lame excuses or issuing press statements about how the PAC or its youth and student structures, Azanyu and Paso are about to launch a campaign for the release of all liberation movements' cadres, a campaign that never gets off the ground. How Japhta "the blood tiger" Masemola, must be turning in his grave, seeing those who claim to be walking in his footsteps being "paper tigers". And not that they can't afford! The money they spend on fun is nothing compared to the R15 taxi to and from St Albans. And Phila is not alone. There is Rider Bhani, 27, and Silimela Ngesi, 29, both from Uitenhage and Apla cadres, sentenced to 58 years, on September 26, '94 and 69 years, on October 20, '95, respectively, who suffer the same pain as Phila.

Their stay in prison, claims Rider, is made no easier by Johan Barnard, St Albans' Maximum Section Head and Inspector Peet Stander, who have allegedly told Rider and Silimela that Apla cadres "cannot live a right life because we are killers", and that "Mandela can say nothing because he is their voorman (forman)" and that "democracy exists only in name". The two pointed out that they are kept in their cells for 24 hours a day, with both wooden and iron-bars doors locked. They also pointed out that as far as the warders were concerned, freedom fighter were still regarded as "terrorists" - the word that was used by the apartheid regime in reference to the fighters. But they have no shoulder to cry on because their friends are very busy with their own lives. Now that the "settlers" are not there to be hated, nothing seems to be binding us, and the book, MY SON, MY SON, O ABSOLOM, MY SON, comes back to mind.

It needs to be stated loud and clear that the Uitenhage's PAC members, in particular, owe Phila, Silimela and Rider a lot. These youths have cleansed their otherwise denigrated image. From the late 80s to 1990, Ama-Afrika, as PAC members referred to themselves, while the organisation was still banned, were known throughout the country - with the assistance of the press - as "vigilantes" and pawns of the apartheid regime. It took the courage of these young men, against senior members' advice, to prove the opposite, by taking risks in crossing the borders out of the country and coming back to talk to the white regime in the only language the y understood - the gun. And now, Ama-Afrika, proudly point out to the legacy of these fighters as proof that they were not what they were accused of being. Like the African American author, Nathan Mc Call entitled his book, IT MAKES ME WANNA HOLLIER! Yet, equally moving and inspiring is the fact that these young men's spirits are not broken - they are bold as ever!

Meanwhile, Inspector Peet Stander has denied giving Apla cadres tough time, saying that all prisoners are given the same treatment. This contradicts Robert Wagner's (a prison warder) acknowledgement that he was, at the time of our interview, specifically assigned to watch over Apla's cadres, Rider and Silimela. Stander is the same man, whom St Albans prisoners wanted removed from his position, last year, failing which the prisoners threatened to make the jail ungovernable for Stander's alleged involvement in "mysterious" deaths between 1989 and 1994, among other things (THREAT TO MAKE JAIL UNGOVERNABLE - EASTERN PROVINCE HERALD - 03/10/96). Stander had even then denied the allegations. Attempts to get hold of Johan Barnard, have drawn nil.

Then there's the case of Uitenhage's former Mk cadre, Sizwe Makhuleni, sentenced in July, last year, to two life sentences plus 18 years for killing three policemen and taking their arms in the late 8os. Makhuleni was arrested in 1989, but after he got bail he fled the country to Tanzania where he received military training. He came back in 1994 after, he says, Joe Modise and Cyril Ramaphosa assured him and others that they would not be prosecuted. On arrival, he served in the National Peace Keeping Force and later was intergrated into SANDF. That is when, says Makhuleni, his problems started. He protested against senior members of the army who issued him with forms bearing "SADF" instead of "SANDF", a factor which led him to eventually resigning from the force. When he returned home he heard the police were looking for him, and believing that he would not be arrested as Ramaphosa and Modise had allegedly promised, he went to the police station. Since that day, late in 1994, Sizwe has been in police custody. Towards the end of his long trial, my bosses at the Herald newspaper allowed me to go cover the case, and just as I suspected, the ANC was neglecting its own. "The (ANC) people looking after Sizwe have now distanced themselves and I am struggling alone trying to secure representation for SizweI am doing this absolutely on my own with no assistance from any organisation", said Mrs Lulama Jobo, Makhuleni's mother, in an interview with the Herald last year, trying hard to hold back tears. (MOTHER CLAIMS ANC DUMPED HER SON - E.P. HERALD - 26/07/96) When asked, the ANC's Tsitsikama regional chairman, Nceba Madlavu, pleaded ignorance about Makhuleni's case, a case that had been in the newspapers and broadcast in the air for almost two years!

My fear at the time was that the white judge presiding over the case was criminalising a political case, and that Sizwe would be convicted as such. Fortunately, the ANC's chairman turned up on the sentence day, and condemned the cadre's sentence, saying "the reasons that prompted Sizwe to commit the crimes were political. It is ironic that the judge, in convicting Sizwe, said he was considering the interests of society. At the time, Sizwe's acts were meant to defend to society that was suffering under the apartheid regime. Sizwe had no criminal record before his arrest. He gave up his youth, life and studies to fight for the freedom of the oppressed. He deserves amnesty", said Mr Madlavu. At last the ANC had claimed its own, and we felt relieved and confident that Sizwe would be granted amnesty by the Truth and Reconciliation Commision. How wrong we were! Just a day before the cut of f date (May 10, 1994), the TRC wrote Sizwe a letter, received six days later, signed by the TRC's Robert Brink, informing him of his application's rejection. In a telephone interview with Brink, a few days ago, he said the reason was that Sizwe's case was considered to be "non political". To be noted is that Sizwe wasn't given a hearing, the response came only a year after Sizwe's application, and written just a day before the cut off date. The shattered Sizwe would like to know what happened to Modise and Ramaphosa's assurances? But nobody is there to answer him. His comrades, just like before, disappeared after condemning the sentence. Besides this journalist, it is only Sizwe's family who visit him. I can hear Sizwe's mother crying MY SON, MY SON, O SIZWE, MY SON.

The Azanian People's Organisation is no different. Uitenhage's Nkwenkwe Madela, an Azanla cadre, sentenced to 20 years in 1994 for sabotage, suffered the same negligence in the hands of his comrades. This was despite the fact that Nkwenkwe was, before his arrest, Azapo's regional chairman and had served thirteen years (1977 - 90) on Robben Island for sabotage. Seeing this lack of appreciation on the part of Azapo, I interviewed his wife, Nomsingati Madela, for the Herald. "The government must release my husband. It is painful raising a child alonesome Azapo members who promised to help me simply do not turn upIt truth and reconciliation is to mean anything, let our husbands and sons who were fighting for freedom be released", said Mrs Madela. (RELEASE MADELA, PLEADS WIFE OF BOMBER - EP HERALD - 03/09/96) Azapo was not happy with that article, accusing me of embarrassing them, as if the article was a thumbsuck! For the record, both Azapo's Eastern Cape regional secretary, Mzwamadoda Kondile and New Brighton's Political Commissar, Winkie Mnnqabisa, admitted that "there was some negligence of the comrade".

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