The common saying that those who sacrificed for our freedom must fittingly be called freedom fighters instead of terrorists or rebels becomes much more profound when they also happen to be family. This was brought home to me on 25th January when my maternal cousin Thandeka Beyers sent us an SMS: “Good day family. May I share this special day with you. On 25 January 1980, my father along with his 2 cadres/comrades/childhood friends were killed. They were later to be known as the ‘Silverton 3’ (Silverton Siege). There are many unsung heroes whose legacy should never die”.
Despite being born in exile – in Morogoro, Tanzania – I was completely unaware of the Silverton 3, not to mention that one of them was a relative. Thandeka’s message also brought home the number of unsung heroes of our liberation struggle. Until her message the only family Freedom Fighter was my paternal uncle, Montgomery Michael Lenepa Moloi (1959-1986). His nom de guerre was Kopano Leabua, part of the Alldays 6, also known as the Eendvogeplan killings, of 10 July 1986. He was executed by Apartheid’s security branch in Limpopo.
As a result of Thandeka’s message, I then decided to seek more details about the ‘Silverton Siege’, for personal (family) and professional (social science) reasons. This is what happened on that day according to several sources including articles, books, ANC papers and the Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) reports. This ordeal began shortly before 1pm and lasted until 7pm. Apparently three ‘terrorists/rebels’ tried to rob Volkskas Bank in Silverton, Pretoria. They apprehended 25 white people as hostages until their demands were met.
The seems to be much controversy about facts related to the demands in question. Mindful of the latter skepticism, I opt to rely upon Professor Thula Simpson’s thoroughly researched text, entitled Umkhonto We Sizwe: The ANC’s Armed Struggle (2016). From the latter text, it is leant that from the three alleged bank robbers, it was guerilla Fanie Mafoko, who acted as the spokesperson of the trio and the person who dictated their demands to hostage Phoebe Chatwind.
The guerilla ” tells her to write that they are from the ANC. Then he tells her to say that they want (James Daniel) Mange, that they want to be allowed to depart to Angola with Mange. Chatwind writes ‘Mange’. She then writes ‘Pietermaritzburg 12’ after the man ( Mafoko) tells her to add this. Then ‘Remember Solomon Mahlangu’…The guerilla then tells Chatwind to write down the Freedom Charter’s demands” …Chatwind is sent out …hands the note containing the demands to Captain (Christiaan) de Swardt…The guerilla …asks (de Swardt) for cigarettes for the hostages…At 6.30pm (Mafoko) issues a demand to be given the brown bag containing hand grenades and magazines that was left outside the bank when he and his colleagues stormed the building” (Simpson, 2016: 259). Shortly thereafter de Swardt, led the fatal charge by the police. The five lives lost, comprised of all the three ‘terrorists/rebels’ and two hostages, Cindy Anderson and Annetjie de Klerk.