Book Review: Now You Know How Mapetla Died


ISBN: 9780624091875

Epub ISBN: 9780624091882

Publisher: Tafelberg

Date Released: March 2022

Price (incl. VAT): R 290.00

Format: Soft cover, 208pp

The story of a Black Consciousness Martyr by Zikhona Valela

Mapetla Mohapi was a leading member of the Black Consciousness Movement, and the first to die in detention in 1976. Police produced a ‘suicide note’. The note was later confirmed by a British expert as a forgery. Since then, his wife Nohle has worked tirelessly for justice. 

Zikhona Valela traces the politics of the time, the convergence of biographies that led to the brutal and tragic death of Mapetla Mohapi, and the effects on Nohle and the Mohapi family. 

A shocking and necessary book. 


Zikhona Valela’s campaign against erasure

By: Sindi-Leigh McBride

31 May 2022


The historian’s debut book documents Black Consciousness leader Mapetla Mohapi’s remarkable life and death in detention, and his widow Nohle Mohapi-Mbetshu’s fight for justice.

‘Now You Know How Mapetla Died’ — The poignant and enduring story of Struggle activist Mohapi

Zikhona Valela’s convergence of biographies not only focuses on the life and tragic death of Mapetla Mohapi and his wife’s fight for justice but also highlights the pain and torment suffered by the families of murdered Struggle activists during the apartheid regime, who continue to live without closure.

By Karabo Mafolo 

02 May 2022

Daily Maverick

Book Review: ‘Now You Know How Mapetla Died’


Honouring our anti-apartheid and liberation struggle heroes should be part of the country’s  DNA, says historian, researcher and author Zikhona Valela, who recently published Now You Know How Mapetla Died: The Story of a Black Consciousness Martyr.

In 1976 Mapetla Mohapi was the first Black Consciousness leader to be killed in detention. His comrade, Steve Biko, tried to get justice for him, but then he too was killed. Mapetla’s widow, Nohle Mohapi-Mbetshu, has been fighting for truth and justice ever since. She was the first to testify at the TRC, yet justice still eludes the family.

After his death, Thenjiwe Mtintso, a colleague of Mapetla, who was arrested in the same month, was tortured by an officer she believes was involved in his murder. But Judge Smalberger of the Eastern Cape Division later deemed her account of how his death was demonstrated to her by the apartheid police invalid, and her evidence too was invalidated.

The title of this book is based on what the officer said to her as a threat. In this book, Zikhona Valela battles the erasure of this remarkable story, weaving together the words of comrades and family, mapping new understandings of the Black Consciousness Movement and of our shared history.


Zikhona Valela is an historian. She has contributed writing for various publications including New Frame, The Johannesburg Review of Books and the Mail & Guardian. She holds a Master of Arts in History from Rhodes University. This is her first book. She lives in Johannesburg.

‘Now you know how Mapetla died: The story of a Black Consciousness martyr’ is published by Tafelberg, an imprint of NB Publishers 

To Purchase the Book:

Order of Luthuli in Silver

Mapetla Mohapi (1947 – 1976)

The Order of Luthuli in Silver

Mapetla Mohapi (1947 – 1976) Awarded for:
Dedicating his life to the struggle for a democratic, free and non-racial South Africa.

Profile of Mapetla Mohapi

Mapetla Mohapi was born in the rural village of Jozanashoek, Sterkspruit in the former Transkei on 2 September 1947. He studied at the University of the North (Turfloop), where he graduated with a degree in Social Work in the early 1970s.

While studying at Turfloop, he was drawn to the philosophy of Black Consciousness, and became active in the South African Students Organisation (SASO). After students at several Black universities held pro-Frelimo rallies in October 1974 to celebrate the independence of Mozambique, Mohapi, together with several other leaders of SASO and the Black People’s Convention, was detained. He was released in April 1975 without charge.

Three months after he was elected the permanent Secretary of SASO and while serving as an administrator of a trust that took care of ex-political prisoners and their families, he was banned under the Suppression of Communism Act and confined to the areas of King William’s Town and Zwelitsha. A month after the start of the 1976 Soweto uprising, in a swoop of Black Consciousness activists, Mapetla was again detained without charge on 16 July.

Twenty days later, on 5 August 1976, Mohapi died in police custody.

Upon his death, police produced a “suicide note”, claiming he had committed suicide in his cell. An inquest held later did not make a finding on the suicide claim – the note was confirmed by a leading British handwriting expert as forgery Ð but found that no one could be held responsible for Mohapi’s death.

Mohapi gave his life in the struggle against Apartheid and for the liberation of his people. His untimely death at the hands of the Apartheid regime robbed South Africa of a great leader and hero.

1 Comment. Leave new

  • pinapi peter mashiane
    January 3, 2024 3:28 pm

    the brutes of apartheid,the callous barbarians shed so much blood to sustain a false ideology.they are all dead too


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