How did we give power to people who poisoned, burnt & threw our ashes in rivers?

By Pinky Khoabane

solomon-mahlangu Solomon Mahlangu


As the African National Congress continues to reflect on the events of August 3 2016 and its outcomes, it must deal with the painful question of what it is about us as Blacks and Africans in particular, that we have so swiftly forgotten from where we have come and just as importantly, why it is that the cadre that has gone into office has not governed despite the overwhelming mandate given to them by the people of this country.

What is it about us that in 22 years into democracy we would give over power to people who not so long ago were oppressors and were beneficiaries of the colonial and apartheid political and economic systems and to this day continue to benefit from these grotesque systems?

Why would the citizens of eBhayi hand-over power to oppressors? Let’s just for a moment forget about the farm workers who were literally slaves on the farm of current mayor, Athol Trollip and talk about the history of killing activists in that province while Trollip did nothing but benefit from a system that structurally and physically persecuted and prosecuted us for nothing else but having a darker shade of skin.

siphiwo-mthimkhulu Siphiwo Mthimkhulu

Why have we forgotten Siphiwo Mthimkhulu and Topsy Madaka? Mthimkulu was a youth activist in Zakehele township near Port Elizabeth. He joined the South African Students Movement in 1977 and was arrested two years later for possession of banned literature. He was 19 years old when he first went into prison. 1981 was to be a year in which this young activist’s life took a turn for the worse and his life, a year later. South Africa was celebrating twenty years of being a Republic and the ANC needed to thwart the celebrations. Mthimkulu was tasked with distributing the pamphlets explaining the 3-day stay away. The young activist had always been a target of apartheid’s security police and he was finally tracked down, shot and detained for five months. In that time he, like most activists, endured the most grotesque human rights violations. He was poisoned and tortured but he pushed the apartheid government too far when he sued. A year later he disappeared with a colleague, Madaka. A Truth and Reconcilliation Amnesty application by Gideon Nieuwoudt, Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, Gerrit Erasmus and Hermanus du Plessis revealed what happened to the two young men. According to their information, on 14 April 1982, Mthimkhulu and Madaka were lured to an abandoned police station called Post Chalmers, near Cradock. They were then drugged with coffee laced with sleeping tablets. Once they had passed out, they were shot, their bodies burned for six hours through the night.

Six hours they burnt these children. The next morning, their ashes were thrown into the Fish River. The TRC was happy that this was a full disclosure and granted these evil men amnesty. And so they walk among us freely.

How do we forget these two children? How do we forget these evil men and the system for which they served and the people including the now Democratic Alliance (DA) that helped this evil system? What is it about us that we can accept this level of evil?


Have we forgotten the Port Elizabeth Black Civil Organisaton (PEBCO) three? Sipho Hashe, Qaqawuli Godolozi and Champion Galela brutally killed by Vlakplaas security police. The same unit that killed Mthimkulu and Madaka and many others. Their bodies were burnt and thrown into the Fish River.

steve-biko Steve Biko

How do we forget Steve Biko and give eBhayi to the oppressor? His life, unlike that of Mthimkulu and the PEBCO three is well documented. What is it about us and our memory that we forget and hand-over power to the people who denied us dignity and killed us in this most horrendous manner when we fought against it.

The ANC must ask itself what it is that made the people of Tshwane hand-over power to people who condoned the killing of Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu. Ironically, the same people, Economic Freedom Front (EFF), who handed power to the oppressor tried to annex Mahlangu’s role in the liberation of South Africa. According to SA History: “Solomon Mahlangu was tried from the 7th of November 1977 to the 1st of March 1978, for charges associated with the attacks in Goch Street in June 1977. He was therefore charged with two counts of murder and several charges under the Terrorism Act. Mahlangu pleaded not guilty to the charges. His council stated that he entered South Africa in June 1977 as part of a group of ten, bringing arms, ammunition, explosives and ANC pamphlets into the country.

“The judge accepted that Motloung was responsible for the actual killings, but since he had been so brutally beaten during the course of his capture, he had suffered severe brain damage and was unfit to stand trial. However, as common purpose had been formed, Mahlangu was therefore found guilty on two counts of murder and three charges under the Terrorism Act. He was sentenced to death by hanging on 2 March 1978”.

The people of Tshwane, despite the issues they may have had with the ANC, don’t remember what their oppressors did to Mahlangu and to them by extension? The EFF will gladly steal Mahlangus’ activist credentials but will not account for deceiving him by giving away liberation to the people that hung him.

We must dig deep within ourselves as Blacks and ask how it is that a township so steeped in the history of oppression, indignity, injustice and activism gave away its freedom to Herman Mashaba, a man who has no political history but whose fame comes purely from the erasure of blackness. This is a man that burnt our scalps so that we could look white. He has now come out and joined a white neo-liberal party and is the mayor of Johannesburg.

We must ask what it is about us that we can give-away our liberation, our freedom to one with so deep a history of self hatred and that of his race.

We must ask ourselves what it is about us that we can give power to the oppressor no matter what skin it’s dressed in.

It is painfully sad that a report by a BEE Commission comprised of Black people who knew and had suffered under apartheid was eventually watered down to the crumbs that have in the 22 years fallen off the white-man’s table to Blacks. BEE became WEE (White Economic Empowerment).

We must then ask what kind of Black man and woman is in the ANC government to which Blacks have given a mandate to change the lives of of Blacks, who appoints white consultants to change the work of the disadvantaged Blacks who work on these commissions?

The ANC government has adopted legislation that works against Blacks and we must ask why? The Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act (PPPFA) gives 90% weight to price and 10% to issues of previously disadvantaged people. How is Pinky ever going to beat Piet with 350 years of advantage? This effectively allows whites to continue to dominate as suppliers of government tenders. In fact, whites despite their arrogance which is propped-up by neo-liberal media continue to be the majority beneficiaries of government tenders.

What is it about us, that despite the education we have had even outside the borders of this country, continue to pander to whites, white capitalists and assist in protecting white supremacy?

The ANC is faced with many problems which include addressing the issue of the cadre that sees the organisation as a means to a better life for themselves, arrogance by the branch leadership and an organisation that has only itself to blame for its woes.

But more than anything else, it needs more than ever, to begin to adopt the teachings of Steve Biko. What we need in this country is for a resuscitation of Black Consciousness. Until we believe in Black Excellence, Black Pride and Black Unity, we will put in office fly-by-night house negroes like Herman Mashaba who will return us to an era for which our ancestors fought so gravely against.







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  1. Wow, Wow!! Haven’t read such truth in a long time. Having lived during that painful and dark era, brought tears to my eyes. I was reminded of my childhood play mate, Paris Molefi Malatjie, especially when I meet the sister. Don’t believe that Herman Mashaba knows that he is taking his legacy away, as he was murdered at John Vorster Square. The answer is simple, we failed to support our government.

  2. We have since lost focus, new leaders who still share the common purpose need to come to the fore,the current ones have been in the forefront for some time and this has dulled their minds. Now new ones must emerge who will take all of us forward, not only the chosen few. We are still landless, singondingasithebeni.

  3. Criticism of the organization has made it loose focus on mandate and try to please someone they cannot please.
    We cannot at anytime forget who we are.

  4. I really don’t know what is wrong with us.we use to sing the holy spirit must come down and Africa must be saved. It’s time to sing that song again.

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