Mathews Mabelane (1954 – 1977)
On February 15 1977, Matthews Mojo Mabelane, fell from the tenth floor of John Vorster Square, landing on a vehicle parked below. There is still a great deal of mystery surrounding his death, with many believing it was foul play. However, the security police, bureaucratic as ever, submitted a detailed report that claimed he had fallen from a ledge outside Room 1008 on the tenth floor in an attempt to escape.
Also look at images of the documents the security police prepared for the inquest into Matthews Mabelane’s death, which demonstrate the extraordinary measures they took to convince the magistrate of the accidental nature of Mabelane’s death:
Inquest: ACT 58 OF 1959
Held at JOHANNESBURG in the district of JOHANNESBURG by W.P. DORMEHL esquire, Magistrate for the said district with [blank] as assessor(s) on the 14 day of April 1977, into the circumstances attending the death of the person mentioned below.
Findings in terms of section 16 of the Act:
(a) Identity of the deceased person: Mathews Mabelane, Bantu Male, 22 years, unknown
(b) Date of death: 15.2.77
(c) Cause or likely cause of death: MULTIPLE INJURIES – Sustained by the deceased while questioned by police jumping through a window and walking along a ledge on the outside of the building at the 10th floor loosing his balance and falling to the ground below – Accidental.
(d) Whether the death was brought about by any act or omission involving or amounting to an offence on the part of any person: NO
– Report of death of Matthews Mabelane, April 14, 1977, South African Police Archives
Mapetla Mohapi (1947 – 1976)
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.
Haron, Abdullah Imam (1924 – 1969)
(20th person to die in police detention)
Imam Haron Foundation
Abdullah Haron was born on the 8th February 1924 in Newlands-Claremont, one of Cape Town’s areas located in the southern suburbs; an area which is presently one of the very prosperous commercial centres in Cape Town. He was the youngest in a family of five and still an infant when his mother, Asa Martin, passed away. Since his father, Amarien, was not able to care for him, the latter’s childless sister, Maryam, reared him. This aunt’s stern, strict and firm-handedness had an influence upon the Abdullah Haron during his teens. She supported him to pursue his studies until the time he got married to Galiema Sadan on the 15th of March in 1950.
During his early years he schooled at Talfalah Primary School (est.1912) and completed Grade 6, and for 2 years pursued ‘Islamic studies’ in Mecca; here he was tutored by the famous Shaykh ‘Abdurahman al-‘Alawi al-Maliki (d.1986). Upon his return he continued his studies under Shaykh ‘Abdullah Taha Gamieldien (d.1946) and Shaykh Ismail Ganief (d.1958); these three shaykhs had an indelible impact upon the Imam’s ideas and activities. Shaykh Ismail Ganief was, however, the one who encouraged him to participate fully in community activities, particularly in the social welfare sector. He thus extended his services to the poor and the needy, and also began to teach.
The Imam was, moreover, also influenced by other internal and external factors. Internally whilst doing his part-time studies under Shaykh Ismail and teaching at a local Muslim school, he befriended individuals who prepared themselves for the building trade and teaching professions; they came from the Fakier, Sadan, Hattas, Galant and Ganief families. Quite a few of them frequented the intellectual gatherings of the Teacher’s League of South Africa and the Non-European Unity Movement, and, in turn, shared these ideas with him. The Imam was thus attracted to their views, and, in the process, became more aware of his community’s socio-political circumstances. Externally he was influenced by the ideas of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and other Arab-Indian movements. He purchased their books and extracted the relevant articles for circulation purposes; in this manner the internal and external forces impacted upon and shaped his ideas.
When he was officially appointed in 1955 as Imam of Al-Jamia Mosque in Stegman Road (Claremont) many of his ideas were implemented. At Al-Jamia he created discussion groups, initiated adult – male and female – classes, innovated alternatives for the coon carnival, introduced brief talks about various issues pertaining to Islam after prayers during the month of fasting, allowed women to participate in the mosques’ executive activities etcetera. He, along with his close circle of friends such as Abu Bakr Fakier, Ismail Saban, Sait Galant, Sedick Galant, Karriem Sadan, Abu Bakr Hattas, Rashaad Saban, and others, established the progressive Claremont Muslim Youth Association in 1958; the CMYA went on to publish a monthly bulletin, the Islamic Mirror, in 1959. And during that same year the Imam, Mr Abdul Kays, Mr Gulzar Khan, Mr M Mukaddam, Mr Abdul-Rashied Sayyid and Mr Zubayr Sayyid decided to establish a monthly newspaper, the Muslim News (1960-1986). He was appointed its editor and used the opportunity to make the paper as representative as possible and covered cultural, religious, and political issues. The newspaper played a very functional role in that it kept the Muslims informed about Islamic issues taking place in the Cape, other parts of South Africa, and in the Muslim heartlands.
During the early 1960s the Imam and the CMYA invited various prominent individuals of diverse backgrounds to address them on various topics; individuals such as Zac de Beer of the Progressive Party, Ray Alexander of the Food and Canning Union, and Mrs Eulalie Stott of the Black Sash addressed them on relevant aspects of their organizations. These ideas gave the Imam and CMYA member’s clearer perspectives of how others think, and how they need to respond to the contemporary developments. And since these exchanges helped them to formulate their own ideas about Islam and society, it prompted them to circulate the well-known Call of Islam anti-apartheid pamphlet in 1961. In addition to listening to the various viewpoints, they also maintained close contact with a number of activists such as Alex le Guma, Albie Sacks (CPSA members), Prof. Raymond “Bill” Hoffenberg (former Professor of Medicine at UCT), and Robert Sobukwe (PAC leader).
The Imam’s ideas were however not only channelled through the Muslim News, but also via the Friday sermons and public lectures during the late 1950s and 1960s. It was in these sermons and lectures that he critically commented upon the different, barbaric racial laws. When the famous 1960 PAC-led march got underway in Cape Town, the Imam delivered a significant Friday sermon emphasising the concept of human brotherhood in Islam, and the Muslims’ role during that time; he urged them to support the Africans who were worst within this racist system. The Imam, at this point in his life, had been in close contact with the Africans from Langa, Guguletu, and Nyanga to show his social, moral and financial support. It is because of his respect for and his humane treatment of his fellow oppressed that they and their children affectionately called himmfundisi(priest).
At a meeting on the 7th May 1961 at the Cape Town drill hall, the Imam in an emotionally-charged speech described the Group Areas Acts as “inhuman, barbaric and un-Islamic” and added that “these laws were a complete negation on the fundamental principles of Islam… (they are) designed to cripple us educationally, politically and economically… We cannot accept (this type) of enslavement.” When the Sabotage Bill was tabled in parliament, he and many others reacted very emotionally to it. He stated that this Bill “… seeks to close all loopholes in the Government’s regimentation of the lives of the people. Our motherland has been a big prison house with just a few loopholes to breathe through. Now that it is cemented, a granite wall is to be built around our motherland to suffocate us, so that the world does not hear our cry. Our country is unique…. Under the Suppression of Communism Act, it suppresses anti-Communists – like the Duncans and Luthulis – and yet it is not satisfied. The monster of racialism is vicious. … How much can we bear, I ask you! Has tolerance not a limit?” In this manner he pro-actively attacked the apartheid laws.
During the 1960s the Imam developed strong ties with individuals such as Barney Desai, a former member of the Coloured People’s Congress, who had by then gone into exile and became a member of the PAC. It was through the latter’s links that the Imam gave his assistance to the PAC and helped the families of those that were killed or imprisoned. Although he was not a member as some may argue or wish to believe, he clearly supported the activities of the PAC as well as that of the African National Congress. By the mid-60s when the Group Areas Act was cruelly enforced, the Imam was amongst the 1,000s who were affected by it. In 1965 the Imam and his family had to move from the house – where all three of his children (Shamila, Muhammed & Fatima) were born – Jefferson Road, Lansdowne to Repulse Road, Athlone. The Imam was in a fortunate position at that time in that he was working as a sales representative for Wilson Rowntrees (the British sweet company), and was therefore financially independent and in the position to build himself a new house. He built it opposite the City and Suburban Rugby Stadium where he eventually played a crucial cementing role in Muslim-Christian relations.
In 1968 he undertook a journey to Mecca; the main objective was to review his relationship with PAC and to sort out his eldest daughter’s study programme at one of London’s educational institutions. On this journey he met the Saudi Arabian Minister of Education, Hasan ‘Abdullah ‘Ali Shaykh, to discuss matters of educational interest and he also had the opportunity of meeting King Faysal (d. 1972). After his brief stay in Riyadh he left for Cairo where he spent a few days reacquainting himself with PAC members and also attending a conference where he represented the Muslim travel agents. During this time he also addressed a conference of Muslim groups/organizations, which was attended by the PAC and ANC. Before reaching London where he was to meet up with Canon Collins and Barney Desai, he stopped over in Holland where he met the Director of the International University Exchange Fund, Lars Gunner Erickson.
Before he returned home, he was warned that the Security Branch was on his heels and that the situation was getting too dangerous for him; he was advised to emigrate. He was in a quandary because his father was old and frail, and was not over enthusiastic to move to another country. As fate would have it, the Canadian Embassy seemed to have rejected his application. By then, he realized that it was too late because the Security Branch had been slowly building up a dossier of information regarding his clandestine activities. On the morning of the 28th May 1969 the Imam was summoned by the notorious Security Branch to come to Caledon Square; he was then accompanied by one of its brutal officers, Spyker van Wyk; this coincided with the 12th of Rabi’al-Awwal/28th of May, which was the day when the community was preparing to commemorate the birth of their Prophet Muhammad. He was detained under Section 6 of Act 83 of 1967, referred to as the Terrorism Act. The Imam was held incommunicado for four months (123 days) without having been given the opportunity to see his wife and children. That day marked the end of all the activities he had undertaken with such great zeal and enthusiasm since he had assumed the responsibility of Imam.
Mrs Catherine Taylor of the United Party, after having met members of his congregation, raised the Imam’s detention under the 180 days Act on the 10th and 13th June 1969 in parliament. She received a reply from the Minister of Police, Mr Muller that ‘it was not in the public interest’ to know why the Imam was detained. Despite these efforts, the Security Branch tortured and eventually murdered him on the 27 September 1969; they averred that the Imam had ‘fallen down the stair-case!’ Subsequent to his tragic death, the family requested for an inquest where it was admitted that he was badly injured. As a consequence, the family sued the Minister of Police who eventually paid them anex gratiapayment of R5, 000.00! Even though the Imam’s death did not have an immediate impact on the Muslim community that he represented, it was the student generation of 1976 that realised that the religious-political role the Imam played and thus used him as their symbol of liberation.
Nicodemus Kgoathe; Solomon Modipane, and Jacob Monakgotla (1969)
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT MR NICODEMUS KGOATHE DIED IN POLICE CUSTODY ON 4 FEBRUARY 1969 AFTER HAVING BEEN ASSAULTED BY MEMBERS OF THE SAP SECURITY BRANCH NAMELY, WARRANT OFFICER FA SMITH, WARRANT OFFICER JM VENTER AND DETECTIVE SERGEANT A DE MEYER.
THE COMMISSION FINDS FURTHER THAT THE FAILURE OF THE MAGISTRATE TO FIND THE POLICE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE TORTURE AND SUBSEQUENT DEATH OF NICODEMUS KGAOTHE CREATED A CLIMATE AND CULTURE OF IMPUNITY THAT DIRECTLY CONTRIBUTED TO THE COMMISSION OF FURTHER GROSS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS BY THE SAP.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT SOLOMON MODIPANE WAS ARRESTED ON 25 FEBRUARY 1969 AND DIED THREE DAYS LATER IN HOSPITAL. THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT HIS TREATMENT WHILST IN CUSTODY OF THE POLICE RESULTED IN INJURIES WHICH CAUSED HIS DEATH. THE COMMISSION FINDS THE SAP RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS DEATH. THE COMMISSION FINDS THE MINISTER OF POLICE AND THE COMMISSIONER OF POLICE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE COMMISSION OF GROSS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT JACOB MONNAKGOTLA, A MEMBER OF THE BAKUBUNG TRIBE, DIED IN POLICE CUSTODY THE NIGHT BEFORE HE WAS TO APPEAR IN COURT. THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT, IN ALL PROBABILITY, JACOB MONNAKGOTLA WAS TORTURED AND SEVERELY ILL TREATED WHICH RESULTED IN HIS DEATH. THE COMMISSION FINDS THE POLICE AND THE COMMISSIONER OF POLICE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE COMMISSION OF GROSS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT THE FORMER STATE’S HOMELANDS POLICY OF DEVELOPING ETHNICALLY-DIVIDED RESERVES SERVED THE INTERESTS OF PROTECTING AND PRESERVING THE RIGHTS OF THE WHITE MINORITY. THE COMMISSION FINDS FURTHER THAT THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THIS POLICY OF ETHNIC FRAGMENTATION AND FORCED REMOVALS LED DIRECTLY TO THE COMMISSION OF GROSS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS. FURTHERMORE, THE FORMER STATE’S POLICY OF IMPOSING BANTU AUTHORITIES AND CHIEFS WAS A CENTRAL PART OF THE GOVERNMENT’S HOMELANDS POLICY. PAID BY THE GOVERNMENT OF THE DAY, THE CHIEFS EFFECTIVELY BECAME AN EXTENSION OF THE FORMER STATE’S MECHANISM OF CONTROL IN THE HOMELANDS.
Chief Luthuli, Albert (1898 – 1967)
Chief Albert Luthulibecame the first African to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent stance in the fight for liberation. He travelled to Oslo, Norway in December 1961 – an epic and ground-breaking event to receive his prize for the year 1960.
Chief Albert John Mvumbi Luthuli, Africa’s first Nobel Peace Prize Laureate in 1960, was President-General of theAfrican National Congress(ANC) from December 1952 until his death in 1967. Chief Luthuli was the most widely known and respected African leader of his era. A latecomer to politics, the Chief was 54 when he assumed the leadership of the ANC. Over the course of his political career his approach became increasingly militant. Yet, there is still no consensus about whether he approved of the ANC’s transition from a peaceful organisation into one committed to armed struggle.
Luthuli was born in 1898 near Bulawayo in a Seventh Day Adventist mission. His father died when he was an infant, and when he was 10 years old his mother sent him to the family’s traditional home atGroutvillemission station in Natal. Luthuli then lived for a period in the household of his uncle, Martin Luthuli, who was at that time the elected Chief of the Christian Zulus inhabiting Umvoti Mission Reserve around Groutville.
On completing a teaching course at Edendale near Pietermaritzburg, Luthuli took up the running of a small primary school in the Natal uplands. Becoming seriously conscious of his religion for the first time, he was confirmed in the Methodist Church and became a lay preacher. The language of the Bible and Christian principles profoundly affected his political style and beliefs for the rest of his life.
In 1920 he received a government bursary to attend a higher teachers’ training course at Adams College, and subsequently joined the training college staff, teaching alongsideZ.K. Mathews, who was then the head of Adams College High School. At this stage Adams College was reputed to be one of the best schools in southern and central Africa. Luthuli was offered a scholarship to study at the University College of Fort hare but declined it. He opted to stay as a teacher hoping that the £10 monthly salary would help provide for his aging mother. He appears to have had fond memories of Adams College, once commenting that it “was a world of its own”¦ one in which we were too busy with our profession to pay more than passing attention to what happened elsewhere”.
Despite their almost privileged and insular lifestyles, some students at the College struggled to make ends meet. Anton Lembede, who was to become founder of the ANC Youth League, is known to have worn shabby clothing. The “Amakholwa”, considered the “middle class” of the time, found life difficult. Teachers’ salaries were low and few other professions were open to black people at the time. Luthuli showed empathy with working people’s concerns, joining the Natal Native Teachers Union, and in 1928 was elected its secretary. He accrued valuable political experience by organising boycotts and acting as a negotiator with white authorities.
The American Board Mission’s support of the idea of “muscular Christianity” and the value of a “healthy mind in a healthy body” provided an ideal environment for the meeting of western and indigenous cultures. Football was the school’s most popular sport and as a young faculty member, Luthuli became secretary and supervisor of Adams College Football team, Shooting Stars. By his own admission, Luthuli was not a sport enthusiast, except for an occasional game of tennis.
The American Board Mission had established other football teams, including Ocean Swallows of Umbumbulu (established in the 1880s), Natal Cannons of Inanda (1890s), and Bush Bucks of Ifafa (1902). This institutional support and promotion of sport is consistent with, and lies at the heart of, Victorian England’s rational recreation movement.
Luthuli’s success in popularising sports as a vehicle for good living can be seen in how the idea spread throughout Natal and the Transvaal. Many former Adams students went on to become players and officials in football leagues and clubs in the two provinces. The Witwatersrand District Native Football Association was founded by the “mabalanes”, or Zulu-speaking clerks. Structured along ethnic lines, these clubs were encouraged by mine management, who saw in them the potential “to keep Natives wholesomely amused”. Membership to the clubs not only occupied their leisure time and emphasised their elite status but also promoted an ethos of loyalty to the mine.
Luthuli and the Mabalanes expressed a “profound cultural ambivalence” about their identity, which straddled traditionalist and modern experiences. It was while Luthuli was steeped in this hybrid world of Western values and traces of traditionalist existence that he was called upon to become chief in his ancestral village of Groutville. Initially, he resisted the appeal by village elders to take up the chieftaincy. Succumbing to pressure from the elders of his tribe, Luthuli agreed in 1935 to accept the chieftaincy of Groutville reserve, and returned home to become an administrator of tribal affairs. For 17 years he immersed himself in the local problems of his people, adjudicating and mediating local quarrels, and organising African cane growers to guard their own interests.
In the early years of his chieftaincy, Luthuli became immersed in the struggles of the cane growers in his chiefdom. At this stage the South African Cane Growers Association, established in August 1927, dominated the production and marketing of sugar cane. Various other associations were established to represent the interests of African, Coloured and Indian sugar cane growers. It is possible that Luthuli became involved with African cane growers, defending their interests. During this period in South African history, the process of land dispossession was largely piecemeal, with Africans resisting total expropriation by finding creative ways of securing access to land. However, by the middle of the 1940s, many African growers had been marginalised, and the government had turned on Indian growers.
TheAsiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Act, 1946 (Act No. 28 of 1946)was a legislative measure adopted by the government in an attempt to reduce Indian growers to wage labour. The ANC, theTransvaal Indian Congressand theNatal Indian Congressresisted the new measure. In what became known as the “three doctors Pact”Dr. AB Xuma, President of the ANC,Dr. GM Naicker, President of the Natal Indian Congress, andDr. YM Dadoo, President of the Transvaal Indian Congress, signed a joint declaration of cooperation on March 9, 1947 in a bid to mobilise support for a campaign aimed at resisting these measures.
Through minor clashes with white authority Luthuli had his first direct experience with African political predicaments. Travel outside South Africa also widened his perspective during this period; in 1938 he was a delegate at an international missionary conference in India, and in 1948 he spent nine months on a church-sponsored tour of the United States.
At this stage Luthuli was being gradually eased into a political involvement transcending his role as a chief. Sensing that the ANC in Natal was moribund, and aware of the leadership vacuum created by the illness and the death ofJohn L Dubein 1946, Luthuli became actively involved in strengthening the organisation. Beginning his career in national politics, Luthuli defeated Selby Msimang in a by-election for a successor to Dube on the Natives’ Representative Council (NRC). Luthuli was returned unopposed to the semi-defunct council in 1948. With the backing of the Natal ANC Youth League and Jordan Ngubane in Inkundla ya Bantu, he advanced another step onto the national stage in early 1951 by narrowly defeatingAWG Championto become the Natal provincial president of the ANC.
His public support for the1952 Defiance Campaignbrought him finally into direct conflict with the South African government, and after refusing to resign from the ANC, he was dismissed from his post as chief in November 1952.
During the Defiance Campaign Chief Luthuli was actively involved in soliciting and recruiting volunteers. He was particularly active on the East Rand where, along with Oliver Tambo, he addressed numerous meetings on different occasions. He made numerous trips to the East Rand during the campaign, visiting Katlehong, Tokoza and Tsakane outside Brakpan. The Defiance Campaign in these townships coincided with numerous popular protests such as bus boycotts, squatter movements and industrial strikes. These interactions brought him into contact with leading trade unionists in the region, and helped raise his profile as a potential national leader.
In response to his removal as chief of Grouville, Luthuli issued “The Road to Freedom is via the Cross“, perhaps the most famous statement of his principles a belief in non-violence: a conviction that apartheid degrades all who are party to it, and an optimism that whites would sooner or later be compelled to change heart and accept a shared society. The notoriety gained by his dismissal, his eloquence, his unimpeachable character, and his demonstrated loyalty to the ANC all made Chief Luthuli a natural candidate to succeed ANC PresidentJames Moroka, who at his trial during the Defiance Campaign tried to dissociate himself from the other defendants.
At the annual conference of December 1952, Chief Luthuli was elected ANC president-general by a large majority. Bans, imposed in early 1953 and renewed in the following year, prevented him from giving direction in the day-to-day activities of Congress, but as a country-bred “man of the people” combining the most inspiring qualities of Christian and traditional leadership, he became a powerful symbol for an organisation struggling to rally mass support. He was re-elected president-general in 1955 and in 1958. Although bans confined him to his rural home throughout his presidency, he nevertheless was able to write statements and speeches for presentation at ANC conferences, and occasionally circumstances permitted him to attend conferences personally.
In December 1956 he was included in the treason arrests, but was released with 60 others in late 1957 after the pre-trial examination. He was subsequently called as a witness for the defence and was testifying in Pretoria on the day of theSharpeville shooting in 1960. He enjoyed a period of relative freedom between his release at the end of 1957 and May 1959, when a new ban confined him to the Lower Tugela district for five years.
During this lapse in restrictions, he made a number of highly publicised speeches to whites and mixed audiences, climaxed by a tour of the Western Cape. His polished speeches and balanced appeals for reason in race relations earned him the praise of many whites. Reactions were not all sympathetic. At one meeting in Pretoria he was assaulted and knocked off the platform by a group of young Afrikaners.
Almost from the beginning of his presidency, Chief Luthuli was confronted by critics warning that he was allowing himself to become a tool of the ANC’s left wing. Due to the circumstances of his restrictions, he was unable to closely supervise the activities and movements of other ANC leaders, but he was realistically aware of the problems and hardly the native figure that some critics said he was. His reply was always to defend the right of people of all ideological persuasions to play their part in the struggle for African equality and to support the multiracial Congress Alliance as the foundation of a future integrated society. In ideological terms, he personally expressed a preference for socialism of the type espoused by the British Labour Party.
Until recently, it was widely assumed that Chief Luthuli launched the armed struggle upon his return to South Africa after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. It has since become apparent that he was ambivalent in his support for the transition to armed struggle. According to Scott Couper, it is because of his “domestic and international prominence and impeccable moral character that liberation struggle icons, political parties and politicians justify, in part, their past actions and their contemporary relevance upon a contrived historical memory”. Couper argues that Chief Luthuli did not support the initiation of violence in December 1961 because “his political career proved to be “bound by faith.
Suliman Babla Saloojee (1931 – 1964)
(4th person to die in police detention)
Babla was born on 5 February 1931 in the small town of Belfast in the then eastern Transvaal (now Mpumalanga). Like many young children of that time he was compelled to leave home in order to gain a basic education.
Babla was a well-known figure in TIC and TIYC circles. During the 1950s, he was a member of the Picasso Club, along with Ahmed Kathrada, Mosie Moolla, Abdulhay Jassat and Farid Adam, which spent many nights painting political slogans and putting up posters. He also participated in the major campaigns of the day such as the Defiance Campaign.
Although he worked as a legal clerk, he often presented himself as a qualified lawyer when his comrades were in trouble with the police. He was able to quickly trace the whereabouts of detainees, arrange legal assistance and arrange for essential provisions.
He was known to have assisted in smuggling a number of people out of the country. He assisted his close friends Abdulhay and Mosie in successfully leaving the country despite a massive manhunt for the two escaped detainees.
Babla was detained on the night of his engagement to Rookie Adam in 1961. In February 1964 he was served with a banning order. On 6 July 1964 Babla, along with Ahmed Essop “Quarter” Khota, was arrested and taken to Marshall Square. His wife, Rookie who he married on 1 July 1962, recalls that the last time she saw him he had a bandage on his head. When she tried to inquire as to what happened the visit was cut short.
It is widely believed that on 9 September 1964 he was severely tortured, killed and thrown out of the seventh floor window. (a height of 20m) of Gray’s Building, the Special Branch headquarters in Johannesburg. He was the fourth person to die in police custody. The inquest found that the cause of death was unknown, but to this day the suspicion lingers that he was murdered. He was 32 years old.
The most emotive and heartfelt tribute to Babla was written by his close friend Ahmed Kathrada:
Suliman Saloojee, my dearest friend Babla, was dead, killed by the police. This most gentle of men, this inveterate prankster, my comrade and source of strength, had been picked up under the ninety-day detention law, brutally interrogated and tortured to death – by the sadistic Rooi Rus Swanepoel – then flung from a window on the seventh floor of Gray’s Building, Johannesburg headquarters of the security police, on Wednesday 9 September 1964.
Not surprisingly, the so-called inquest accepted the police version that Babla had committed suicide by jumping to his death. I have never doubted, however, that he died under interrogation, and that his body was then thrown out of the window… The magistrate found that ‘nothing in the evidence suggested that Saloojee had been assaulted or that methods of interrogating him were in any way irregular. He found that no one was to blame for his death. (Kathrada 2004: 207)
When comrades and friends of Suliman “Babla” Saloojee remember him, they usually reminisce about his humour, daring and cheeky insouciance towards the apartheid authorities; and their voices strain with a longing and sadness for a dearly missed comrade.
President Zuma posthumously awarded the National Order of Luthuli to Babla’s wife, Aunty Rookaya Saloojee on the 28th April 2016.
Summary: Suliman “Babla” Saloojee died at Marshall Square Police Station on 9th September 1964. He was in police custody for 65 days and the official / alleged cause of death was suicide, jumping from the 7th floor.
Looksmart Khulile Ngudle: (1922 – 1963)
(1st person to die in police detention)
He was born on the 22nd of May 1922 in the KwaZali village in Alice, Eastern Cape. He attended the local Falconer High School until Standard Six when he migrated to Johannesburg to work at the Crown Mines. Attending a traditional circumcision ceremony upon his return to his home village, Looksmart met his future wife, Beauty. He then located to Cape Town seeking employment and succeeded acquiring enough money for paying lobola and marrying Beauty. Settling down in the Eastern Cape and having six children to support, Looksmart again returned to Cape Town in order to support his family financially.
During the 1940s and 1950s, Looksmart witnessed the demolition of Black-owned homes in Kensington paving way for a White suburb. Joining the ranks of the African National Congress (ANC) through Archie Sibeko, Looksmart’s main responsibilities were to fundraise for ANC members who were jailed or seeking legal assistance. He did this creatively by staging concerts and performances by choirs in the townships. In order to support his family, Looksmart was a cobbler and sold Leftist Newspapers such as Fighting Talk and New Age. (Similar to what Timol did in the 1960s).
After the banning of the ANC in 1960, Looksmart was a member of the Regional Executive Committee in the Western Cape and also responsible for organising underground structures. In 1961, Looksmart joined the ANC’s military wing, Umkontho we Sizwe (MK) and accompanied by Dennis Goldberg started a training camp in Mamre where they trained MK recruits.
In May 1963, the apartheid regime served Looksmart with banning orders resulting in him no longer participating in political activities. He was confined to the Wynberg Magisterial District in Cape Town. The police raid on Liliesleaf Farm on 11 July 1963 forced Looksmart into hiding. Despite this, he continued conducting his underground activities. Looksmart assisted in logistical arrangements for twenty ANC comrades who were leaving the country for political training abroad. The group was arrested near the Botswana border. During interrogation, one of the arrested members confessed and provided the police with Looksmart’s last known address.
Operating underground, Looksmart never stayed longer than a few days at any one address. However, during one occasion, he had fallen gravely ill and was detained by the Security Police at the address provided to them.
On 19th August 1963, Looksmart was arrested under the 90-day detention law. He was badly tortured while detained at Caledon Square Police Station in Cape Town. Looksmart was brought to Pretoria Central Prison around the 23th and 24th August 1963. (The mode of transport from Cape Town to Pretoria is unknown).
Rivonia treason trialist Govan Mbeki testified at the TRC Hearings that he had seen Ngudle during their daily half-hour exercise period at the Pretoria prison on 3 September 1963. “Looksmart came from behind and said he was going to drop a note for me and then he walked ahead of me… I saw him drop the note. When I got to where it fell I knelt down and hid it,” he said. When Mbeki got to his cell he read the note, which said he was being tortured and that his whole back was full of sores and weals.
During their exercise period the following day, Ngudle was called out by the guards.” The following morning before breakfast… a voice came from under the cell door to say they have killed Looksmart Ngudle,” Mbeki said. Mbeki, who worked with Ngudle in the Western Cape region, did not know who had spoken to him, but “I presume it was one of the common law prisoners who acted as monitors in jail”.
The police reported that on the 5th September 1963, Looksmart Ngudle had committed suicide and that he had hung himself from his pajama pants. He was amongst the first person to have died in police detention. Looksmart was certainly not the last as many more were to follow.
Ruth First writes that a policeman came to see Looksmart’s mother, Maria Ngudle on the 15th September 1963. (She lived with Looksmart’s wife, Beauty and her mother). Maria was told for the first time that her son was arrested and that he had died in detention. She was unsuccessful in requesting the assistance of an African attorney in Middeldrift in Transkei as he was also detained under the ninety-day detention law. Maria proceeded further afield to Alice and it was on the 20th September when she received a rail warrant to travel to Pretoria.
After visiting three prisons in Pretoria looking for Looksmart’s clothes and body, Maria was sent to a tall building. It was here where a stranger informed her that people get killed at this building and that she must leave. She immediately returned to the Eastern Cape.
Ruth First provides additional details on the legal activities unfolding in the background. Johannesburg attorney Joel Carlson made telephone calls to the prisons department and police who were both evasive. No one appeared to know where Looksmart was buried. All enquiries were escalated to higher levels. During one telephonic conversation, a senior prisons department spokesman dropped his guard, “Do me a favour,” he said, “go to the security branch.”
Beauty’s brother, Zithobile, paid for her and her infant baby to travel to Guguletu, Cape Town. Upon her arrival, the security police visited Beauty and took her to the police station where she was told to accompany a security branch officer and his wife to Pretoria. Arriving in Pretoria, Beauty and her baby slept in a police linen room where she was given a bucket of water to bathe her baby.
A date was finally fixed for an inquest. Suddenly it was postponed for eight days. More suddenly it was brought forward ten days and the attorney was given forty eight – hours’ notice that the matter was proceeding earlier “on instructions of a higher authority”.
Advocate George Lowen had been briefed: “The deceased in this case was a ninety-day detainee. A man in good health who was found dead in his cell. News of his dead aroused widespread unease because there is a curtain of silence hanging over those people detained…The news was given to his family ten days after his death…The mother was given a rail warrant to attend the funeral of her son in Pretoria…When she got there she was told the body had already been buried…The burial had taken place on 16 September after the body had been kept for at least ten days…but then was buried suddenly in spite of the of the rail warrant to the mother….’Why had the inquest been delayed, then rushed to court? There had been no time to gather witnesses or medical advisers, no time to take proper instructions. ’We don’t know if this was murder or suicide. It is very strange that so much darkness is hanging over the whole affair.”
The plea for a postponement was granted. In the intervening ten days, two things happened according to Ruth.
“Firstly, the security Branch detectives arrived unannounced at Middeldrift. They put Beauty into the car and drove her towards Pretoria. As they drove, Beauty was given a statement that she had to sign. It stated that Beauty, Looksmart’s wife, had no desire to be legally represented. When the court assembled, the prosecutor queried the locus standi of the instructing attorney as he held the statement with Beauty’s signature on it. The attorney held an affidavit in his hands of Looksmart’s brother, Washington, who stated that he did not want to be represented by the attorney. The prosecutor conceded to the request.
Secondly, two days prior to the resumption of the inquest, Johannesburg’s evening newspaper published news that Looksmart Solwandle Ngudle had been banned under the suppression of the Communism Act. The government gazette announcement was dated 25th October 1963. However, the ban had been served on Looksmart on the 19th August 1963, the day had been detained”.
Communists and non-communists had been banned under the Suppression of the Communism Act. This included activists such as Albert Luthuli, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Joe Slovo, Dr Dadoo, Bunting, Alex La Guma, Lilian Ngoyi, Ronald Seagal, Patrick Duncan, Helen Joseph, Dr Jack Simmons and several other hundred South Africans. This meant that they could be arrested if they participated in any political activities or if they attended any gathering. No statement made by them on any topic could be quoted or published.
In Looksmart’s inquest, Council remarked that anything stated by the deceased or any other individual who was banned could be quoted. Regrettably, this resulted in them withdrawing form proceedings. The only circumstantial evidence that could be led to Looksmart’s death would be the testimonies of banned persons and fellow prisoners of the deceased. The question that arises is that how such testimony could be produced in court if there was fear that prosecutions would follow.
The Minister of Justice, Vorster, responded by claiming that the withdrawal of the lawyers had been due to political reasons. After lengthy arguments, Vorster agreed that the publication of statements by banned persons could be used in the inquest proceedings provided that they were not used as a political forum.
A detainee by the name of J.T who was arrested in the same Elsies River house as Looksmart and had also been held in Cape Town, later driven to Pretoria states, “Looksmart looked all right when I saw him but when he arrived at Laingsburg to get petrol, Looksmart told me his body was sore. He said that he had beaten by the police that morning at Caloden Square police Station.”
In Pretoria, they had been separated from Looksmart, but on the following day they had met again to have their fingerprints taken and “Looksmart appeared to be in good health.”
Five days later, J.T was taken into a room for questioning. He adds, “I saw Looksmart leaning against the wall next to the door that I went through. We did not speak to one another. Looksmart did not seem himself. He looked paralysed. His head was bent forward and his hands clasped together. I did not notice any bruises on his faces. I did not notice whether his clothes were bloodstained. He looked worried. When I came out of the room after approximately one and half-hours, Looksmart was no longer there. I never saw Looksmart again.”
Another detainee who had seen Looksmart was L.M who stated, “I saw Looksmart with six Security Branch officers, five White and one African. They were standing next to me. I could see and hear it all. One Security Branch Officer was from Cape Town. The first thing I heard him saying was: “If you talk you will be allowed to go.” He, Looksmart, was looking down. He looked as if he did not know which one to answer. They were all asking him questions. The Security Branch officer from Cape Town one said, “You must tell us the truth or else tomorrow you will be here again and if you don’t tell us the truth we will kill you.” He was speaking in English. Looksmart did not answer. He never said a word. The Security Branch officer from Cape Town pulled his beard and said, “You must tell the truth.” They pulled his head up and down. Looksmart had been looking down. When his beard was pulled he moved back a bit but said nothing. Then the Cape Town one said, “Go and think it over and we see you tomorrow.” We were taken out together and I asked Looksmart in Xhosa what was wrong. He said, “These people say they will kill me tomorrow “…in the car I made a sign to him saying, “Did you make a statement?” He shook his head indicating “no.” I gave Looksmart cigarettes without the Security Branch man seeing. He said, “Man I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.” He seemed very worried about tomorrow.
Advocate Vernon Berrange was representing Looksmart’s family when the inquest proceedings resumed. Berrange had a statement of Isaac Tlale, who was handcuffed next to Looksmart during his torture. It was Tlale who first made damning revelations of torture that he had endured during his ninety-day detention period. The British Observer carried this story on 3rd November 1963. The claims were rejected by the Commissioner of Prisons as “utter nonsense” and General J.M Keevy, Commissioner of Police referred to them as “a lot of bunkum.”
State witnesses that were cross-examined by Berrange during the inquest proceedings included Detective Sergeant Ferreira, Detective Strumpher and Major Frederick van Niekerk. It was established that detainees were generally taken for questioning to Pretoria Central Police Station. There were fourteen members of the Security Branch who were working on the questioning of suspects. The day before Looksmart’s death Strumpher had handed the prisoner over to Detective Sergeant Ferreira. It was Ferreira who had originally arrested Looksmart and had seized from his hide out African National Congress booklet, a type writer, rubber gloves, chemicals and plastic bags.
The court proceedings were chaotic with lawyers doing all the talking. Beauty was denied an opportunity speak during the court proceedings. None of the witnesses were allowed to testify at the court case.
The Special Branch and the District Surgeon claimed Looksmart committed suicide, but his family insisted he had been tortured and murdered. And, as if to confirm this, four days after his death the government banned Ngudle, so that anything he said or wrote while alive could not be quoted. This was tantamount to an admission that his words would have contradicted the lies of the police.
At the TRC Hearings on 22nd April 1996, Looksmart’s son, Siyanda Howard who was six years old, recalled how the grownup’s screamed when the news was broken about his father’s death. Growing up, his mother reminded him that the inquest found that no one was responsible and that his father had hanged himself.
If the trauma of losing a loved one was not enough, as Beauty was attending the court case in Pretoria, police continued harassing her mother-in-law. This resulted in her running away from home and cutting her foot, hospitalising her. Upon her return, security branch officers would visit Beauty enquiring about how she was surviving with her children. The cruel and inhumane behaviour of the police is despicable.
Ruth Frist pays tribute to Looksmart in her book stating that he was called Looksmart because that was the impression he had given: resilient, resourceful, and optimistic. She adds that he had been one of the live- wires of the African National Congress, his associates were convinced that he was the political organiser that no hardship could subdue.
On 1st March 2007, 44 years after his death, Looksmart Ngudle’s body was exhumed by the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) missing person’s task team led by Madeleine Fullard.
Summary: Looksmart Khulile Ngudle died at the Compol Police Building on 05th September 1963. He was in police custody for 17 days and the official / alleged cause of death was by hanging.
Dr Hoosen Haffejee (1950 – 1977)
Hoosen Mia Haffejee was born on 6 November 1950. Haffejee grew up in Pietermaritzburg and completed his primary schooling at St. Paul’s School and Marion School. He finished his secondary schooling at Woodlands where he matriculated in 1965. In 1966, he relocated to India to undertake his tertiary education. Haffejee enrolled for inter-science at the Bhavan’s College in Bombay and thereafter went Nagpur to study Dentistry.
While in India, Haffejee participated in sporting activities representing his university in hockey. Perhaps more importantly, he was elected as the President of the Student Representative Council. Before returning to South Africa in 1976 he travelled to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey and London. Securing employment after his return to prove to be difficult so heopted for an internship at Durban’s King George V Hospital.
His political affiliation is unclear but according to his older brother Yusuf Haffejee, he was politically active whilst he was in school and played an instrumental role in organising a number of student protests in Northdale. It seems Haffejee continued his political activism on his return from India and thus he was under police surveillance. On the morning of 3rd of August 1977 he was arrested by the Special Branch under the Terrorism Act on suspicion of being a trained saboteur and of plotting to overthrow the state. The police found him in possession of “subversive documents” advocating a revolution to establish a Socialist People’s Republic. He was dead within twenty hours of his arrest.
The 26-year-old dentist was found hanging from his trousers from a grille door at Durban’s Brighton Beach police station on 3 August 1977. An inquest into his death ensued. Captain James Taylor and Captain P.L. du Toit, the two Security Branch policemen, who made the arrest and interrogated Haffejee denied that they had tortured him during interrogation. The pathologist reported that the death was consistent with hanging. Yet, the report also stated that Haffejee sustained multiple injuries and that approximately sixty wounds covered his body – on his back, knees, arms and head.Dr WCooper, Harry Pitman and Ismail Mahomed represented the Haffejee family. Ghota Motala helped Ismail Mahomed, future chief justice of South Africa, to prepare for the case. On the 15 March 1978, Mr Blunden, the inquest magistrate concluded that Haffejee died of suicide by hanging and that the injuries were unconnected and collateral to his death. Blunden claimed that:
“…submissions that other injuries found on the dentist’s body were due to third degree methods, were pure speculation unsupported by evidence.”
However, Dr. Haffejee’s death was symptomatic of the brutality employed by the security police during Apartheid. His tragic death devastated his family whilst at the same time raising their political consciousness. In a letter to the Natal Witness, penned in 1978, Haffajee’s mother wrote:
“I think the time has arrived for us, the blacks, to pray that God will open a door to protect our destiny from the cruel injustice of the South African Security Police. I hope our prayers are answered before it’s too late for us all. As a grieving mother I cannot forget this terrible ordeal. My heart will always cry for my son.”
For more than 40 years siblings Sarah and Ismail Haffejee have sought answers as to how their brother Hoosen had died.
Puzzled why police had initially arrested and tortured Hoosen, who had never confirmed having an allegiance to any political party, the family moved his body to Pietermaritzburg.
They found it odd that Hoosen had been found in a seated position, against the cell’s grille, with his pants wrapped tightly around his neck. His body was also found with numerous bruises and injuries.
“It is virtually impossible to hang from that position,” Ismail suggested.
The family commissioned Dr David Hobson Biggs to perform a post mortem. In his report, Biggs wrote: “I left the examination with many questions I could not answer.
“I observed that death had been caused by a tight constricting band around the neck. It appeared to be death by suffocation rather than a sudden arterial blockage.”
Biggs also found strange incisions and removal of pieces of skin from Haffejee’s body.
In the 1990s, Dr Haffejee’s death in detention came before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Evidence before the Commission suggested that Haffajee in all probability died as a result of torture. Former Security Branch policeman Mohun Deva Gopal gave evidence before the Commission and informed them that he was present whilst Haffejee was interrogated, assaulted and tortured. Gopal maintained that Captain Taylor initiated the assault. Haffejee was stripped naked, Captain Taylor then proceeded to slap and punch him when he refused to divulge any information. Captain Du Toit joined in later and the assault became more vicious lasting many hours.
Haffejee was steadfast in his silence. The perpetrators then prepared their stories that Du Toit instructed them to say that Haffejee had tried to escape and in so doing, had hit his body on the car. Captain James Taylor was subpoenaed to appear before the TRC but denied all allegations of assault and continued to maintain that, at the time of his death, Haffejee was in the custody of members of the uniformed branch. Taylor did not apply for amnesty in this regard.
Biko, Bantu Steve (1946 – 1977)
(46th person to have died in police detention)
Bantu Stephen Biko was born in Tylden on the 18th December 1946, the third child of the late Matthew Mzingaye and Alice Nokuzola “Mamcethe” Biko. He attended primary school in King William’s Town and secondary school at Marianhill, a missionary school situated in a town of the same name in KwaZulu-Natal.
Steve Biko went on to register for a degree in medicine at the Black Section of the Medical School of the University of Natal in 1966. Very early in his academic program Biko showed an expansive search for knowledge that far exceeded the realm of the medical profession, ending up as one of the most prominent student leaders.
In 1968, Biko and his colleagues founded the South African Students’ Organisation (SASO). He was elected the first President of the organization at its inaugural congress held at Turfloop in 1969. This organization was borne out of the frustrations Black students encountered within the liberal and multi-racial National Union of South African Students (NUSAS).
In the eyes of Biko and his colleagues, NUSAS showed signs of an organization unwilling to adopt radical policy positions and comfortable with playing safe politics. The questions that triggered the formation of SASO became known as the ‘best able debate’ are white liberals best able to define the texture and tempo of resistance? SASO was founded, therefore, as a call to Black students to refrain from being spectators in a game in which they should be participants. Maintaining working relationships with other student organizations, SASO’s primary engagement was to address the inferiority complex that was the mainstay of passiveness within the ranks of Black students.
It was not long before it became the most formidable political force spreading to campuses across the country and beyond. After serving as the organization’s President Biko was elected Publications Director for SASO where he wrote prolifically under the pseudonym, Frank Talk.
With the seed of Black Consciousness having been sown outside of student campuses, Biko and his colleagues argued for a broader based black political organization in the country. Opinion was canvassed and finally, in July 1972, the Black People’s Convention (BPC) was founded and inaugurated in December of the same year.
Inspired by Biko’s growing legacy the youth of the country at high school level mobilized themselves in a movement that became known as the South African Students’ Movement (SASM). This movement played a pivotal role in 1976 Soweto Uprising, which accelerated the course of the liberation struggle. The National Association of Youth Organizations was also formed in order to cater for the youth more generally.
Biko was instrumental in the development and formation of a core SASO project – the Black Workers’ Project (BWP), which was co-sponsored by the Black Community Programs (BCP) for which Biko worked at the time.
The BCP addressed the problems of Black workers whose unions were not yet recognized by the law. After being expelled from Medical School in 1972, Biko joined the BCP at their Durban offices. The BCP engaged in a number of community-based projects and published a yearly journal called the Black Review, which provided an analysis of political trends in the country.
In March of 1973 Biko was banned and restricted to King Williams’ Town. There he set up a BCP office and served as Branch Executive. It was not long before his banning order was amended to restrict him from any association with the BCP.
Despite his banning, the office that he established did well, managing amongst other achievements to build the Zanempilo Clinic and a crèche, both of which were very popular with the people. As an example of his resolve and indestructible black pride, Biko was also instrumental in the founding of the Zimele Trust Fund in 1975, which was set to assist political prisoners and their families. This he achieved in spite of the inconveniences and restrictions placed on him by his own banning order. He continued his work, setting up the Ginsberg Trust to assist black students. In January 1997 the BCP unanimously elected Biko Honorary President in recognition of his momentous contribution to the liberation struggle.
In his short but remarkable life, Biko was frequently harassed and detained under the country’s notorious security legislation. This interrogation culminated in his arrest, together with his colleague and comrade Peter Cyril Jones, at a Police roadblock outside of King William’s Town on the 18th August 1977.
Biko and Jones were tortured at the headquarters of the Security Division housed in what was then known as the Sanlam building in Port Elizabeth. It was during this period that Biko sustained massive brain haemorrhage.
On the 11th of September 1977 Biko was transported to Pretoria central prison – a twelve-hour journey, naked, without medical escort, in the back of a police Land Rover. Biko died on the floor of an empty cell in Pretoria Central Prison on the 12th of September. It was in this way that South Africa was robbed of one of its foremost political thinkers.
Biko became officially the 46th victim of torture and death under the State Security Laws. His death helped highlight the brutality of South African security laws to the international community and the general plight of South Africans. It led directly to the decision by Western countries to support the UN Security Council vote to ban arms sales to South Africa (Resolution 418 of 4 November 1977).
In remembering Biko and drawing lessons from his legacy, a number of issues arise. First, because of their violent nature, the circumstances surrounding his death tend to be the predominant context within which he is remembered. Yet, it was in life that Biko made the most profound contribution to the liberation of South Africa.
Secondly, although Biko is often regarded as the father of Black Consciousness, his political contribution extends well beyond black society and its consciousness. By abandoning politics of comfort, Biko challenged liberal white society to revisit its own consciousness. In this way, he contributed significantly to white consciousness and thus to ploughing the ingredients of mutual respect and non-racialism.
Third, by placing emphasis on the individual as well as the collective, his legacy was far reaching in highlighting the inextricable link between history and biography between the struggles of society and the role of the individual.
Lastly, Biko died at the tender age of thirty. Despite this, his legacy continues to stand the test of intellectual inquiry, as South Africa continues to define itself as a nation. Particularly because of his young age, the substantive qualities of Biko’s legacy speak to the responsibility facing youth as custodians of our democracy, perhaps more so than with any other of the founders of our democracy.
Almost as many years later, his legacy continues to stand the test of intellectual inquiry, as South Africa continues to define itself as a nation. Particularly because of his young age, the substantive qualities of Biko’s legacy speak to the responsibility facing youth as custodians of our democracy, perhaps more so than with any other of the founders of our democracy.
Before he died, Bantu Stephen Biko wrote these words:
“We have set out on a quest for true humanity and somewhere in the distance we can see the glittering prize. Let us march forth drawing strength from our common plight and brotherhood. In time we shall be in a position to bestow uponAfricathe greatest gift possible, a more human face”,
Summary: Steven Bantu Biko was held in Port Elizabeth and died in Pretoria on 12 September 1977. He was in custody for 24 days and the official / alleged cause of death was brain injury during scuffle with police.
Joe Nzingo Gqabi (1928 – 1981)
Extract from Speech by Oliver Tambo at the funeral of Joe Gqabi (ANC Website)
9 August 1981, Harare
Joe Gqabi entered the struggle in his early youth. He was 20 years old when the Nationalist Party came into power in South Africa. It was the beginning of a new phase in the struggle for liberation in South Africa – the phase of fierce opposition to the racist regime whose apartheid policy was an offensive in its own right.
In 1949 the ANC committed itself to a programme of militant struggle involving civil disobedience and strikes… non-collaboration. The response of our entire people was to rise and challenge this new expression of colonial domination.
In 1950 Joe Gqabi found himself a member of the ANC and the Youth League of the ANC. He entered political life, therefore, at a time when the African giant was awakening, making ready to tear asunder the bonds of colonialism which still bound it. He has matured in that struggle.
During these past 30 years which have seen great transformations in Africa and elsewhere, which have seen the decolonisation of the continent up to the point where we have only two countries to be liberated, Namibia and South Africa, aside from the problem of Western Sahara – in that time, Joe Gqabi has been no onlooker. He was not standing on the touchline.
He moved among the youth – an organiser of the Youth League. He moved among the workers. He was himself a building worker and he started and established a building workers` union. That trade union subsequently joined SACTU when SACTU was formed. He has continued throughout to maintain the closest relations with the trade union movement.
Then Joe Gqabi entered the ranks of the intelligentsia as a journalist and throughout the hectic 50s which all of us will remember, he was reporting for New Age.
That decade of the 50s saw the intensification of the apartheid system. The brutalities of that system began to unfold. They spread themselves from urban cities to the countryside. And Joe Gqabi was there, telling the truth about what was happening. In the process he was educating the masses on their tasks in that situation and helping to unite them in struggle. He loved his job, which took him to those places where people were suffering most, to the things that were unknown.
Joe Gqabi took himself to the life of the peasants. In 1960 the resistance to the bantustan system resulted in an uprising, a revolt among peasants in the Transkei. It is generally known as the Pondo Revolt. Joe Gqabi was sent to that area and worked with the peasants in their struggle – and it was an armed struggle of its own kind. He remained there until the enemy had completely crushed the resistance, understandably.
But all this was giving him an insight into the nature of the South African situation and building him up as a leader and activist of the revolution.
By virtue of his calibre as a militant, Comrade Joe Gqabi was selected as one of the first four of our cadres to be sent abroad for military training. He was the youngest of them. These four went to China and on their return to South Africa in 1962, Joe immediately resumed political activity, now as a member of Umkhonto we Sizwe. He carried out several sabotage operations.
In 1963 he was arrested in what was then Southern Rhodesia with the group of 28 who were going out for military training. Deported to South Africa he was sentenced and ultimately had to serve 12 years on Robben Island.
This brought him up to 1975 when he completed his sentence. Back in Soweto he was again involved in underground organisation and with the struggle. There was never a fault in his activities. He was in Soweto when the massacres occurred, followed by the Soweto Uprisings, and because of his involvement, in December 1976 he was arrested and was one of the 12 ANC cadres who stood trial in Pretoria during 1977, charged under the Terrorism Act. Because Joe was skilful in his underground operations the regime could prove no offence against him and he was discharged. Subsequently, he escaped into Botswana and from there continued organisation inside South Africa.
Joe Gqabi was capable of making friends across political and ideological barriers, across colour lines. He communicated with ease and effortlessly with generations: young and old. That is why in the Pretoria trial one of the accused was 67 years old, another 20. That is why he was the most effective organiser of the youth – understood them and they understood him.
Joe leaves a record in our struggle which will be surpassed by few. He was certainly a seasoned political leader of outstanding ability.
To say that the enemy has struck us a blow is to tell the truth. He is a positive loss because he was the type of leader who knew how to follow. He was the type of operative who yielded results. He was a leader who in his sector produced results. And it is a test of leadership to be able to produce intended results. Joe Gqabi passed this test with great distinction.
His assassination, however, is not an isolated act. It is, as the enemy himself says, part of a total offensive against the leaders of the ANC, against the liberation movement in all its contingents in South Africa… a bid to destroy all! It is part of a campaign of terrorisation in this whole region; a refusal to acknowledge the independence of African countries; an attempt to defeat that independence. It is part of a struggle for the survival of racism and colonialism in Africa. It is part of an imperialist offensive. Therefore, there will be more Joe Gqabis to bury. There will be more Chimoios, more Kassingas, more Sowetos.
There is nothing bright about the immediate future, because the enemy is not yet about to collapse. But that does not mean anything to Africa. We have not reached this stage of Africa`s struggle in a mere 20 or 30 years. We have been fighting in one way or another from the very beginning of colonial domination, for hundreds of years. We have reached this point: we are near the end – we know it! Therefore come massacres, come Nyazoias, come Sowetos, come Ashdowns, the struggle for the total liberation of Africa continues. We of course in this process have been constant victims of violence. We die in our thousands. In the end we win the war. In South Africa we have died in thousands. The enemy can hardly complain that he has lost thousands.
Indeed, our courageous youth have been blasting the innocent pylons, silent power stations. In return they are dragged to the steps leading up to the gallows. In return you have Matola. But it cannot be like that always. Today, over the heroic corpse of Joe Gqabi, I want to declare on behalf of the ANC that it was Matola yesterday, it is Ashddown in Salisbury today, but tomorrow it will be Pretoria.
We would therefore appeal to the people assembled here, to the people of this country, to the countries represented here, to the world community to be prepared for a situation in which the enemy will be crossing the borders to try to exact surrender and submission from independent Africa.
We stand here, Comrade Prime Minister, while a parliament is meeting in Cape Town, a parliament of a few; while its army is sitting in Angola, occupying African territory after perpetrating untold atrocities. We are here while the people of Namibia are bleeding their way to their independence. This in a way is only the beginning and will be with us for some time, unless the international community and Africa in particular, refuse to sit side by side with racist troops on African independent soil.
The future is bright. The end is glorious; it is peaceful. But the intervening period is dark, bitter and finds its glory in the act of struggle. Joe Gqabi is part of this glory because his life has been exclusively one of struggle for his people, for Africa, for mankind!
His body was exhumed in 2004 and brought toSouth Africafor reburial in Aliwal North. He is survived by his wife Aurelia and two sons, Jomo and Nkululeko.
Dr Neil Aggett (1953 – 1982)
(51st person to have died in police detention)
Neil Hudson Aggett was born in Nanyuki, Kenya on 6 October 1953, the first-born child of Aubrey and Joy Aggett. He began his schooling in Kenya, and when his parents moved to South Africa in the 1960s he attended Kingswood College in Grahamstown (1964-1970) where he won numerous awards and certificates. In 1971 he enrolled at the University of Cape Town to study medicine. He completed his medical degree in 1976.
As a doctor, Aggett was exposed to the hardships and poverty-related diseases of workers. He worked mainly in overcrowded Black hospitals in Umtata, Eastern Cape and Tembisa, Transvaal (now Gauteng). While working at Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, Johannesburg, Transvaal, Aggett won the trust and respect of both staff and patients alike by his enthusiasm towards his job. In an attempt to understand his patients and make communication easier between him and those he treated, he learned Zulu.
It was at Baragwanath that Aggett became involved in the trade union movement. He championed worker rights through his involvement with the Transvaal Brach of the African Food and Canning Workers’ Union (AFCWU), gaining unionist trust, and was appointed organiser. Aggett worked fulltime without pay, taking additional weekend night shifts at the hospital to support himself. He would also use his own money to help the workers’ cause, such as transport union officials to factories where they organised.
One of Aggett’s first tasks was to help successfully organise Fatti’s and Moni’s (a food company) workers in the Transvaal at a time when the company’s workers in Bellville,Cape Townhad been dismissed for choosing to be represented by the union rather than the company’s own liaison committee. A strike and international boycott of the company ensued.
In 1981 he took an active part in the ‘Langa summit’ that brought together trade unions divided by their attitude to aligning themselves with openly political and community struggles. He was entrusted with setting up a Transvaal solidarity committee to further moves to unity. His aim was to see trade unions united in a mass democratic movement mobilising for the health and prosperity of workers.
Aggett became a target of harassment by the Security Branch of the South African Police and the state labelled him a communist. In late 1981, Aggett was detained for his role in labour organisation. He was taken to Pretoria Central Prison and later transferred to John Vorster Square (a police station) inJohannesburg.
He died in detention on 5 February 1982, allegedly by hanging himself with a scarf. He became the 51st person to die in detention and the first White person to die under these circumstances.
In 1982 an inquest into the death of Aggett was launched. On 21 December 1982, the forty-four day inquest into the death in detention of the Aggett was concluded. The presiding magistrate Pieter Kotze concluded that no one was to blame for his death. This was despite evidence presented by the Aggett family lawyers showing ‘similar fact’ of torture from other detainees.
The AFCWU issued a call for all workers to down tools for half an hour on 11 February 1982. In a display of unity that included manyFederation of South African Trade Unions(FOSATU) members as well as Food and Canning workers, some 90, 000 trade unionists across the country responded. His funeral on 13 February 1982 was filmed and it was estimated that up to 15 000 people attended. The presence of police did not stop mourners from reaffirming their struggle for which Aggett died, by singing revolutionary songs.
After the collapse of Apartheid in 1994, the case of Aggett came before theTruth and Reconciliation Commission(TRC). The ‘no -one to blame’ verdict was overturned by the TRC. Major Arthur Benoni Cronwright and Lieutenant Stephen Whitehead were held directly responsible by the TRC for ‘for the mental and physical condition of Dr Aggett which led him to take his own life’.
Summary: Dr Neil Aggett died at John Vorster Square on 17th September 1981. He was in custody for 70 days and the official / alleged cause of death was suicide by hanging.
Nokuthula Simelane (1960 – 1983)
Nokuthula Orela Simelane was born in 1960 in Mzinoni Township near Bethal inMpumalanga. She was the first of two daughters (Nokuthula and Thembisile) of Ernestinah and Matthew Simelane. She graduated on 15 October 1983 from the University of Swaziland with a Bachelor in Administration (B.Admin) degree in Social Sciences majoring in Public Administration and had already secured employment for herself before her untimely ‘disappearance’.
Whilst studying at the University of Swaziland she joineduMKhonto we Sizwe (MK)as a courier server and became an activist in Swaziland for theAfrican National Congress (ANC). Her parents suspected that she was working on underground work for the ANC when correspondence was delivered at her uncle’s place inSwaziland. Concurrent with that, were regular and random visits to her uncle’s place by the Special Branch questioning Nokuthula’s whereabouts and linkage with the ANC.
It is also important to note that Simelane was the cousin ofBarney Molokoane, an ANC operative who was part of the unit responsible for theSASOL 1 and 2 bombingsand died after the1985 Sasolburgh in a shoot out with the police. Simelane was instrumental in arranging accommodation for Barney to stay with her family in Mzinoni when his unit was in South Africa to fulfil their underground missions.
Just before her graduation, Simelane ‘disappeared’ in 1983 while on an ANC mission to South Africa from Swaziland. She travelled to South Africa under the pretext of going to buy her graduation attire at that time.
She was called to a meeting on September 10, 1983, arranged in the underground parking of theCarlton Centrein CentralJohannesburg. She was to meet an undercover Special Branch police officer whose real name was Norman Khoza but commonly known as ‘Scotch’. By this time, Scotch had infiltrated MK and was sent on a mission to kidnap Nokuthula.
Simelane was arrested and transported to Norwood where she was tortured and forced to reveal the nature of her relationship with the ANC, including the work she was doing for the ANC and key figures of ANC operatives in Swaziland. She was later moved to a farm believed to be in Vlakplaas in the Northern district of theNorth West Provincewhere she was tortured by numerous police operatives until she died.
In 1985, after 2 years of tireously searching for her or her remains, her family approached the media in search of their daughter. The family sent her pictures to newspapers and she was identified by a policeman who kept guard of Nokuthula at Vlakplaas Police Station. The policeman pointed out that the last time he saw Simelane, she was in a poor state as she had been brutally assaulted and as a result she became ill. Her ‘missing case’ was re-opened under the Investigating Officer, Neville Toms. The case was investigated exhaustively; however, nothing came out of the case as Nokuthula’s remains were not found.
After the fall of Apartheid, theTruth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)was instituted as a way of bridging the divide between the oppressiveNational Partyrace and the democratic South Africa. The Simelane family filed her case with the TRC in the hope of resolving her case. Five white men applied for amnesty relating to Nokuthula’s abduction, torture and disappearance, Wellem Hellem Johannes Coetzee, Anton Pretorius, Mong, Williams and Ross. In the TRC a former commander of the Soweto Intelligence Unit (SIU), Wellem ‘Timol’ Coetzee, the man responsible for the disappearance and death of Nokuthula, stated that Nokuthula was alive when he last saw her, the unit had turned her into a spy and redeployed her back to Swaziland.
Coetzee’s argument was countered by his colleague, Veyi who confessed that she was tortured and brutally murdered and was buried around theRustenburgarea. The TRC ruled against Coetzee’s amnesty with regards to torture but was granted amnesty for Nokuthula’s abduction. The TRC further awarded amnesty to the other four men (Pretorius, Mong, Williams and Ross) for torturing her. Thus far, no one has come forth and taken responsibility for her disappearance, neither the ANC nor former apartheid security forces.
Since her death, Nokuthula Simelane’s life has been memorialised in various forms. On November 28, 2009, a life-size statue of Nokuthula was erected and unveiled in Bethal by the Mpumalanga Government to honour her legacy and contribution towards the liberation struggle. The memorial also includes a plaque inscribed with a poem produced by her family. The statue memorialising Simelane has, however, been subject to not only vandalism but also theft. In 2006, ‘Betrayal’, a documentary film on the life and disappearance of Simelane was released and broadcast on television. Directed by Mark Kaplan, the film gives an account of Simelane’s family’s grief, their pursuit of her whereabouts and the truth about her abduction, torture and death. To varying degrees, the film not only provides a biographical account of Nokuthula Simelane, but also of the various role-players in her life and death. Simelane has also been honoured in a painting called ‘Ode to Nokuthula’ by Christa Myburgh. The painting depicts her in a white dress and footware in her hands. Futhemore, in January 2019, the African National Congress Women’s League Young Women’s Desk (ANCWL YWD) launched the Nokuthula Simelane brigade, a volunteer brigade for the then upcoming general elections.
A principled and popular school teacher whose organisational abilities made him a thorn in the flesh of Apartheid generals.
A school teacher and radical youth leader who, with Matthew, created a major headache for the regime.
A railway worker and unionist who was fired unfairly and helped lead the youth movement.
A school friend of Matthew, and activist in his own right, came along that fateful night to catch up on old times?
Late on the winter night of 27 June 1985, South African security forces set up a roadblock to intercept a car near the city of Port Elizabeth. Two of the four anti-Apartheid activists in the car had been secretly targeted for assassination.
Matthew Goniwe was a popular teacher in Cradock, and also a revolutionary. Fort Calata, another teacher and activist was also on the hit list. Sparrow Mkonto, a railway union activist, and Sicelo Mhlauli, a visiting headmaster and childhood friend, were also in the car. They were never seen alive again.
The police abducted the four and murdered them in cold blood. Their burnt bodies were found later near the Port Elizabeth suburb of Bluewater Bay. The murders are one of Apartheid’s murkiest episodes.
Matthew death was a turning point in the struggle. On the day of the funeral of the Cradock Four, President PW Botha declared a State of Emergency. It was the beginning of the end. Within five years, Nelson Mandela would walk free and lead the country to liberty.
“The death of these gallant freedom fighters marked a turning point in the history of our Struggle. No longer could the regime govern in the old way. They were the true heroes of the struggle.” Nelson Mandela
Last Updated on 10 February 2014
Olof Palme (1927 – 1986)
A fierce critic of authoritarian regimes globally, including the racist apartheid regime in South Africa, was murdered by an assailant on the streets of Stockholm on 28 February 1986. South African agents are rumoured to be involved in his murder.
Date of Death 28February1986,Sveavägen/Tunnelgatan, Norrmalm, Stockholm, Stockholms län, Sweden(assassination by gunshot)
Birth Name Sven Olof Joachim Palme
Mini Bio (1)
Palme came from an upper class family in Stockholm. While studying at the college of Stockholm he got involved in student politics and got the opportunity to travel through post-war Europe in 1949. He became president of Sweden’s United Student Unions in 1952. When prime ministerTage Erlanderneeded a secretary in 1953 he appointed Palme. Palme had an impressive work capacity and also joined the Young Social Democrat’s council in 1955. In 1958 he became member of the Parliament, and during this time he was in favor of a Swedish nuclear bomb. He kept the job as Erlander’s secretary until 1963 when he was appointed cabinet minister. He made USA furious when he joined a demonstration against the Vietnam War together with North Vietnam’s ambassador to Moscow. In 1969 he became leader of his party and prime minister. His starring inI Am Curious (Yellow)(1967) led to calls for his resignation because ofLena Nymantaking a bath in the nude. The recession during the 1970s and the debate about nuclear power stations made it anything but an envious position to lead the country and the Social Democrats lost the election in 1976. As leader of the opposition, Palme increased his international work: trying to solve the Iran-Iraq war and nuclear disarmament in Europe. He became prime minister again in 1982, having to make cutbacks in the public finances and trying to downplay the trade union’s demands for collective ownership of private companies. He was murdered while walking home from a movie theater with his wife, having seenBröderna Mozart(1986). Although having been in politics for more than 30 years, and dominating it for 15 years, his memory has almost disappeared from the public consciousness.
– IMDb Mini Biography By:Mattias Thuresson
Peter Nchabaleng: (1928 – 1986)
(63rd person to have died in police detention)
Peter Mampogoane Nchabeleng was born on 03 March 1928, at Apel in Sekhukhuneland in the then Northern Transvaal. He was the President of United Democratic Front (UDF) Northern Transvaal.
In the 1950s, Nchabeleng was the Pretoria regional secretary of the ANC and an executive member of the office workers union – an affiliate of the South African Congress of Trade Unions (Sactu) – and Sebatakgomo, a peasant resistance movement which resisted the imposition of Bantu Authorities in Sekhukhuneland.
He also worked as an interpreter for lawyer, the late Joe Slovo, who defended many accused in the Sekhukhuneland revolts that followed. In 1962, Nchabeleng was charged for furthering the aims of a banned organisation – the ANC – and for sabotage.
He was sentenced to eight years imprisonment on Robben Island.
After his imprisonment, his family was deported from Atteridgeville in Pretoria to Apel in Sekhukhuneland.
On his release from Robben Island, he was also banished to Sekhukhuneland and banned. According to his daughter Pinky, when he was brought to Apel from Robben Island, the security police told him “here (Apel) nobody will listen to you” – referring to his political views and activities.
He was arrested again in 1974 and given a three year suspended sentence by the Pretoria Supreme Court for contravening his banning order.
In 1977, he was charged with harbouring and recruiting people for military training, along with Joe Gqabi.
He stood trial in the famous Pretoria 12 terrorism trial with the former Minister of Human Settlements, Tokyo Sexwale, Bafana Mohlamonyane, Naledi Tsiki, Nelson Diale, Martin Ramokgadi and his son Elleck, among others.
In 1978, he was acquitted together with Gqabi but his son Elleck was found guilty and sentenced to six years imprisonment on Robben Island.
Gqabi was later killed while an ANC chief representative in Zimbabwe in 1981.
After being acquitted in 1978, Nchabeleng’s banning order was renewed for five years.
In 1982, an attempt on his life aborted when he detected a letter bomb addressed to him at his Apel home. After this incident, he indicated to the leadership of the then banned ANC that his life was in danger and it was now time for him to go into exile.
He was advised against this move as the ANC saw him playing an important role inside the country at the time.
After his banning order expired in 1984, he became a member of the UDF Northern Transvaal co coordinating committee and in February 1986, he was elected the first president of the Northern Transvaal region of the UDF. Nchabeleng was also a member of the Sekhukhuneland parent’s crisis committee, which spearheaded a campaign for Lebowa MPs from the area to resign from the Bantustan Legislative Assembly as apartheid regime’s quislings.
After his election as the UDF Northern Transvaal president, he was tasked with the formation of different community and youth structures in the region – working closely with youth leaders such as Peter Mokaba, France Mohlala, Ephraim Mogale – the first president of the Congress of South African Students (Cosas) and his son, Elleck.
On 11 April 1986, while on his way home from a UDF meeting in Mankweng, Turfloop, Nchabeleng was told that police were looking for him. He continued his journey arguing that if police were looking for him, they would find him at home. When he arrived, Lebowa police detained him.
A veteran congress activist and a charismatic political dynamo, he passed away on 11 April 1986 at the Schoonoordt police station – 13 hours after he was detained by the Lebowa police. His passing sparked protests and condemnation throughout the country and abroad.
His passing also sparked a consumer boycott of white towns in the Northern Transvaal.
After his passing, his body was hidden from his family by the police until it was found in a government morgue in Groblersdal.
Nine members of the Lebowa police’s Mankweng riot squad were found by the inquest magistrate to be responsible for his passing.
Summary: Peter Nchabeleng died in Lebowa on the 11th April 1986. He was in custody for 1 day and the official / alleged cause of death was police assault.
Mxolisi ‘Dicky” Jacob (1986)
226 Mr Mxolisi Jacobs [CT04205], an active member of the youth organisation in Upington, was detained on 15 June 1986 during a wider pre-June 16 security crackdown under the state of emergency. The prison authorities stated that he was found hanged in his prison cell on 22 October 1986, after 129 days in detention. “Fellow detainees said that Jacobs had been strong and in good spirits when they last saw him seven hours before his death. His aunt said that she could not accept the circumstances of his death.”22At the court case, prison warders apparently gave conflicting evidence. The official cause of death was found to be suicide by hanging.
Caiphus Nyoka (1987)
Three youths who were metres away from Daveyton student leader Caiphus Nyoka when he was shot dead this week have charged that shortly after the killing a white policeman wrote “999 Lemba Street – Caiphus Nyoka executed – Hands of Death” on a police station blackboard.
The former executive member of the Transvaal Students Congress was killed in the early hours of Monday morning, the youths said, after shots were fired in the back room of his parents’ house. The three youths are part-time matric student Exodus Gugulethu Nyakane, 21, of Wattville; and Excellent Mthembu, 18; and Elson Mnyakeni, 20, who attend Bonginhlanhla secondary school in Kwandebele. They had come to Daveyton to attend a funeral.
Their accommodation at the Nyoka house had been arranged by the family of the deceased.
The three toldWeekly Mailthat four white members of the SA Police arrived at the Nyoka home early Monday morning in the company of black council policemen. The youths said police kicked open the door of the room they were sharing with Caiphus. The white policemen entered the room, brandishing torches, asking which one was Nyoka. Nyoka identified himself.
According to the youths, police then ordered them to leave the room immediately. Once outside, close to the room, they were told to lie face down on the ground. Clad only in their underpants, the three obeyed. They said they “more than two shots” being fired in the room in which Nyoka had remained behind with the policemen. The police then threw their clothes out of the room, they said, ordering them to dress quickly. They said two of them were handcuffed to each other and all three were escorted at gunpoint to a white 10-seater Toyota “Zola Budd” outside the house.
The three said they were driven to Daveyton police station in the company of white and black policemen. They said they were taken to an office in an outbuilding behind the main police station building. Fifteen minutes later, they said, they saw a white policeman write on the green black- board. When he finished, he told the three to read what he had written: “999 Lemba Street – Caiphus Nyoka executed – Hands of Death”.
The three described the policeman as being “of small build, dressed in jeans, a navy lumber jacket and a balaclava, folded up above his eyes. Caiphus’ father, Abednigo Moses Nyoka, 54, confirmed much of the youths’ story this week. He said police arrived at the house at about 2.30 am on Monday; that he heard them knocking violently at the door of the bedroom and then heard the door being kicked. He said he next heard one of the policemen shouting,”Kaptein, hier is by” (Here he is, Captain). The police then came to the main house and knocked at the front door, he said, while another knocked at the kitchen door.
“As I opened the kitchen door, a white policeman, dressed in uniform, pointed a rifle at me,” he said. The policeman entered the house and looked around in all rooms, he said, then “woke my younger son up, Titus, and told him to lie down.” He said he went to Caiphus’ bedroom and found his three young guests lying face down on the ground. “Just as one of the boys was beginning to explain what had happened, I was ordered back to the house,” he said. “A white policeman returned to the main house and asked us to come out and identify the three youths,” he said.
“As my daughter, Magdeline, 20, and I were walking out of the house, the policeman said only one of us should come out.” “Magdeline then went outside to identify the three,” he added. He said he saw the police taking the three away to a white kombi.
At about 4.30am, he said, a white mortuary vehicle arrived. Four council police pulled a stretcher from the vehicle, he said, and took it to the back room. “A short while later they returned with the naked body of my son, lying face up,” he said.
WhenWeekly Mailvisited the Nyoka home this week there were two bullet shells in the room and clothes relatives said were worn by Caiphus the night of his death were also there. According to Lt Olivier of the SA Police press liaison division, the matter is under investigation and so the SAP cannot comment on the allegations made by the three youths and the father of the deceased. “Should the four have any complaints against the police, they are free to submit such complaints to the nearest police station,” he said.
Earlier this week, the SAP confirmed the death “during follow-up operations, after the arrest of two suspects who were found carrying a number of mini-limpet mines and hand grenades of foreign origin”.
This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail.
Coline Williams (1967 – 1989) and Robert Waterwitch (1969 – 1989)
Athlone Bomb pair (1989):
Four limpet mine attacks in the Peninsula were planned for the evening of Sunday 23 July 1989 as part of an anti-election bombing campaign by MK. Magistrate’s courts were targeted as they were to be used for election nominations the following day. Mines exploded at a police station in Mitchells Plain and at the Somerset West magistrate’s court. At the Bellville magistrate’s court security forces intervened to prevent the blast. The fourth mine, intended for the Athlone magistrate’s court, detonated behind public toilets opposite the court. The bodies of MK operatives and youth activists Ms Coline Williams (22) and Mr Robert Waterwitch of the Ashley Kriel unit were found at the scene.
Subsequent inquests found that they had died as the result of an explosion. While initial impressions suggested that the operation had simply gone awry, a number of questions have remained concerning the circumstances of their deaths. Suspicions existed that the explosives had been ‘zero timed’ for immediate detonation.
229 The Commission was unable to make a conclusive finding in this matter. However, the Commission obtained evidence that security forces had agents in or very close to the unit concerned. This fact raises questions regarding the operation and the deaths of the two operatives.
230 Firstly, the Commission finds that youth activist Mr Geoffrey Brown was an informant for the National Intelligence Service (NIS). Brown, who was also involved in Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) political structures, was a close friend of Robert Waterwitch and met with him virtually on a daily basis. Brown was handled by National Intelligence Service (NIS) member Johan Hattingh and, under the guise of writing political analysis pieces, received large sums of money. Brown received his last grading one month before the incident. He claims he was an unwitting agent; Mr Hattingh’s testimony concurs with this.
231 The day after the fatal explosion, Brown was involved in removing weapons and explosives from Waterwitch’s home. These were not handed over to the Ashley Kriel detachment but rather to persons uninvolved with military structures and others outside of their discipline. These weapons are still not accounted for although it is known that the AK-47 taken from the Waterwitch house was used by a Mitchells Plain activist who was part of an unofficial ‘security detail’ for President Mandela when he visited Mitchell’s Plain.
232 Secondly, Commission investigations have established that the unit was infiltrated by Military Intelligence. One Aristedes Spannelis of the Directorate of Covert Collections (DCC) tasked by SADF Western Province Command has confirmed that he was the handler of a source (one Shane Oliver alias Perry alias Ian) inside the Ashley Kriel detachment and that information received from this source was passed on to the security police. Through Oliver it may have been possible for the security forces to gain access to the group’s weaponry or logistics and conduct surveillance on its membership. The possibility of rigging explosives cannot be discounted. It is notable that at least two other explosive devices used in the simultaneous raid did not go off or were defused by bomb experts. Ms Venessa Rhoda November, who met with Coline Williams immediately before embarking on their respective operations, and Mr Shamiel Isaacs were compelled to abandon their attempted laying of a limpet mine at the Heideveld rent office when the device appeared faulty.
233 In the case of Shane Oliver it is known that on one occasion security forces substituted a limpet mine for one filled with clay, in a ‘credibility operation’ for Oliver without endangering him. Instances of security force tampering with MK weaponry have been established in several cases, in particular altering the timing devices in order to eliminate the operative.
234 Further, it is noted that certain of Williams’s personal effects were returned to the family completely undamaged by the explosion. One post mortem report could not conclude with absolute certainty that the victims were alive at the time of the explosion. Lastly, Williams stated on the day of her death that she believed she was being followed.
Dulcie September (1988)
Dulcie Evonne September, the second eldest daughter of Jakobus and Susan September was born in 1935 and grew up in Gleemore, a section of Athlone (a suburb in Cape Town). It was here that she developed her social conscience and political commitment to the struggle for national liberation, democracy and social justice.
September began her primary schooling at Klipfontein Methodist Mission, near Cape Town’s International Airport. Later, among the first group of pupils to attend Athlone High School, her political consciousness was raised by a number of her teachers who were active in civic and political organisations. Halfway through Standard Eight (Grade Ten), her father decided to put an end to her formal schooling. However, September persevered and attended evening classes, and at the end of 1952 passed her Standard Eight exams.
In 1954, she enrolled at the Wesley Training School*(see note) in Salt River to pursue a career in teaching, and completed her Teacher’s Diploma in 1955. September began her teaching career, first at City Mission School in Maitland, then at Bridgetown East Primary School in Athlone in 1956- armed with a dream to inspire children to succeed in life.
In September’s first year of teaching, Elizabeth van der Heyden (a close friend), recruited her as member of the newly established Cape Peninsula Students’ Union (CPSU), an affiliate of the Unity Movement of South Africa. The CPSU aimed at overcoming racial divisions and forging unity and solidarity among students of different cultural backgrounds.
In 1957, she joined the Cape Peninsula Students’ Union, an affiliate of the Unity Movement of South Africa. During the 1950’s education had become one of the principal terrains of struggle, due to the imposition of Bantu Education, as it stood to debase higher education and professions, by submitting them to the ideology of apartheid.
It was at the CPSU that she first met people such as Dr Kenneth Abrahams, his fiancée, Ottilia Shimming,Neville Alexander, Marcus Solomon and Fikile Bam. In 1963 some of these people were to feature prominently in a major political trial.
Soon after this, September became a member of the Athlone branch of the Teacher’s League of South Africa (TLSA). Later, September joined the African Peoples Democratic Union of Southern Africa (APDUSA) which was established in 1960. Unhappiness at the TLSA led September to forgo her membership, opting to work with APDUSA, who she thought had the potential of becoming a mass-based organization- one that would be able to politically educate the oppressed.
September was elected to APDUSA’s finance committee. Due to internal strife, APDUSA was divided into two groupings. At the beginning of 1962 Kenneth Abrahams and Neville Alexander were suspended from APDUSA, but Ursula Wolhuter, September and others still looked to Abrahams and Alexander for inspiration and direction, and sought to effect reconciliation between the warring factions. Consequently, they formed an unofficial body of APDUSA, in Athlone, known as the Caucus. The Caucus met regularly to resolve the political and organisational problems they encountered in APDUSA, and the question of the armed struggle and sabotage activities reported in the newspapers formed the basis of their discussion.
She eventually parted ways with her political mentors in the Unity Movement, as she believed in action rather than endless debates and discussions about national and international politics. TheSharpeville massacre, and the consequent political crisis that gripped the country, had awakened a militant attitude among the people.
September then aligned herself with young militants around Dr. Neville Alexander. Together with Abrahams, Alexander, Fikile Bam, Andreas Shipinga, Marcus Solomon, Xenophon Pitt and others, they formed a study group of nine members in July 1962, known as the Yu Chi Chan Club (YCCC). Yu Chi Chan is the Chinese name for guerrilla warfare, which Mao Tse-Tung used. Therefore membership requirements, the aims and objectives of the paramilitary YCCC were revealed from the outset.
The YCCC however, disbanded at the end of 1962, only to be replaced by the National Liberation Front (NLF). The NLF which was officially launched in January 1963.
While engaged in the activities of the NLF, September’s home was raided in the early hours of the morning of 12 July 1963, following this, security police raided Neville Alexander’s home where NLF literature was found. September was arrested and detained without trial at Roeland Street Prison on 7 October 1963.
Together with nine others she was charged under the Criminal Procedure Act, with the principal charge one of‘a conspiracy to commit acts of sabotage, and incite acts of politically motivated violence’.
After almost six months of court proceedings, judgement was delivered on 15 April 1964. September was sentenced to five years imprisonment, during which time she endured severe physical and psychological abuse.
After discovering that September and her fellow prisoners (Elizabeth van der Heyden, Doris van der Heyden [Elizabeth’s younger sister]and Dorothy Alexander) were exerting strong political influence over illiterate women prisoners, the authorities decided to move them from the Cape to Kroonstad, which was reserved exclusively for political prisoners. During her first year in prison, September set out to complete her senior certificate.
Despite their appeal for release, in March 1965 the Appeal Court in Bloemfontein dismissed an application by the NLF members against their sentence.
In April 1969, Doris van Heerden, Dorothy Alexander and September were released from prison. On her release, the Pretoria regime controlled September’s activities in terms of a five year banning order, which prohibited her from engaging in political activity and from practising her profession. September then went to live with her sister in Paarl.
With her incarceration over, Doctor Robert George offered September a position as a receptionist at his Athlone surgery. The daily travelling between Paarl and Athlone was demanding on her health and she was forced to seek lodgings in Athlone. Promptly at six o’ clock everyday she had to rush off from the surgery to report to the local police station.
In 1973, as her banning order drew to a close, September applied for a permanent departure permit. She had secured a position at Madeley College of Education in London, England. She left South Africa on 19 December 1973, and arrived in England eighteen days later.
In Britain, she soon established new friendships with exiles from Cape Town, the majority of whom were African National Congress (ANC) members- most notably Alex and Blanche la Guma and Reginald and Hettie September. These exiles would meet quite often to discuss the political future of South Africa, and gradually September moved towards embracing ANC politics.
September joined the activities of the Anti-Apartheid Movement in London, and was in the frontline of numerous political rallies and demonstrations at South Africa House on Trafalgar Square. Later she resigned her position as a teacher and joined the full time staff of the International Defence and Aid Fund for Southern Africa in London.
In 1976 she joined the full time staff of theAfrican National Congress(ANC) where she worked in the ANC Women’s League, quickly winning recognition for her commitment to women’s’ issues. She made it her mission to welcome and encourage new exiles who arrived in London from South Africa.
In 1979,The International Year of the Child (IYC), September was elected as chairperson of the IYC Committee of the ANC Women’s Section in London. Other members who served on the Committee with her were Ilva McKay, Tessa Wolpe, Hilda Bernstein and Eleanor Kasrils.
This Committee decided to research and compile a booklet to inform the international community of the plight of children under apartheid. September worked diligently and the booklet was published on 16 June, in commemoration of Soweto Day.
During June 1979, the United Nations (UN) Unit against Apartheid together with the NGO sub-committee passed a resolution to hold a seminar onChildren under Apartheidin Paris, France. At the Paris seminar, September reported on the plight of black children under apartheid.
In May 1980, the UN Special Committee against Apartheid, the Women’s’ International Democratic Federation (WIDF), the Secretariatof the world Conference of the UN Decade for Women and UNESCO organised a seminar onWomen and Apartheidin Helsinki, Finland. The seminar was part of the efforts of the international community to do away with apartheid. The Women’s’ Section of the ANC was represented by September, Florence Mophosho, Lindiwe Mabuza (ANC chief representative in Stockholm), and Mankekolo Mahlangu from Lusaka. The ANC delegates were privileged to address the opening session of the seminar.
Again in 1980, the ANC Women’s Section in London proposed September’s name for a seminar in Montreal, Canada arguing that “for continuity with Helsinki and for preparation of papers she was the most suitable”.
At the beginning of October, she went to Arusha, Tanzania, for a seminar of the International Labour Organisation- along with Eleanor Kasrils. Here, September assisted in the preparation of papers dealing with the social and economic consequences of discrimination against women in Namibia and South Africa.
In 1981 she was called to work full-time at the ANC headquarters in Lusaka, in the Regional Preparatory Committee (RPC). At its first meeting September was elected chairperson of the RPC. The main mission of the RPC for that year was the organisation of two conferences of the ANC Women’s Section to be held at Kabwe, Zambia in August and in Luanda, Angola in September. Both conferences were to commemorate the 25th anniversary of South Africa’s Women’s Day.
Mittah Seperepere and September were elected to represent the ANC Women’s Section at the World Congress of Women for Equality, National Independence and Peace to be held in Prague, Czechoslovakia in October, 1981. Mittah and September were elected to serve on a special committee to discuss problems of women and children in emergency situations. They then stayed on for another two days to attend the WIDF Bureau meeting.
At the end of 1983 September was appointed ANC Chief Representative in France, Switzerland and Luxembourg. Coupled with her new appointment, September underwent a short course in military training in the Soviet Union.
In France, September impressed upon the two main groupings, Association Française d’Amitié et de Solidarité avec les peuples d’Afrique (AFASA) and Recontre Nationale Contre l’Apartheid (RNCA) to work together despite their ideological differences.
As Chief Representative, one of her main duties was to rally support inside France, Switzerland and Luxembourg for disinvestment and full economic sanctions against the South African government, as France provided a substantial proportion of South Africa’s military aircraft and naval aircraft.
On 11 October 1985,Alex la Guma, the ANC Chief Representative to Cuba passed away. September went to Havana to support Blanche la Guma. Here she visited the Isle of Youth and also gained first-hand experience of the Cuban way of life.
Back in France, September actively supported the Communist and Socialist Parties in the forthcoming national elections.
In June 1986 September was instrumental in organising an international conference against South Africa. In his opening address, Oliver Tambo, the President of the ANC, spoke of the moral obligations of France to impose sanctions against South Africa. However, Tambo’s words carried little weight. Less than five months after the Paris Conference, France, along with the United States of America, Germany, Israel and the United Kingdom voted against an oil embargo against SA at the UN.
Between October 1986 and September 1987 September was deeply involved with what became known as the Albertini Affair, which dominated the diplomatic relationship between France and South Africa. Pierre Andre Albertini was employed as a lecturer in French at the University of Fort Hare, as part of the French Government’s exchange programme. Albertini became politically active, and the SA government imprisoned him for his collaboration with the ANC. September, in consultation with the anti-apartheid movements, petitioned French President Mitterrand not to accept the credentials of South Africa’s new ambassador to France, Hennie Geldenhuys before Albertini had been released from his Ciskei prison and allowed to return home. The Albertini case continued to embarrass the South African and French governments.
By 1987, it became evident that September had succeeded in putting together an effective anti-apartheid lobby- her strong pro-sanctions and disinvestment campaign in particular- not only in France but also in Switzerland and Luxembourg. September had succeeded in forging strong links with anti-apartheid pressure groups and left wing politicians in all three countries. Her mission had become a serious threat to not only to the South African regime, but also to Europe’s notorious and unscrupulous arms dealers.
The mid-1980s saw an increased aggression in South African military actions against ANC external missions. She was certain that her office was under surveillance and her telephone bugged, and that unknown agents had gained access to her office. Following two failed attacks on her colleague, Godfrey Motsepe in Belgium, September approached the French police for protection (After her death, the French Minister of Police disputed claims that September was refused protection).
After the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960, September planned a mass demonstration in front of the South African Embassy in Paris after the death sentencing of six activists. Despite world-wide protest demonstrations to save the lives of theSharpeville Six, they were hanged.
At this time, the ANC leadership in London decided to recall September and transfer her to safety, however, September refused to abandon her mission.
On 29 March 1988, September was assassinated outside the ANC’s Paris office. She was shot five times from behind with a 22 calibre silenced rifle, as she was opening the ANC office after collecting the mail. She was 53 at the time of her assassination.
Several hundred protesters demonstrated in front of the South African Embassy, and clashed with the French police. Several members of the Young French Communist Party were arrested.
In reaction to the assassination, Georges Marchais of the French Communist Party criticised the French Government for its pro-South African policy and spoke of French ‘complicity’ in her murder. Alain Guerin in L’Humanite (31 March 1988) reported in great detail on the operation of a special death squad in Europe.
Twenty thousand mourners paid their last respects to September in a mass funeral. September was the first woman, ANC member, and high ranked diplomat to fall on foreign soil.
Dulcie September’s murder generated much speculation around whether she was the victim of hitmen hired by South Africa’s apartheid regime, possibly with the complicity of the French secret service. After apartheid’s ruin in 1992, it is alleged that former security police officer Eugene de Kock told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) that a French mercenary, Jean-Paul Guerrier, had been involved in September’s murder. Nonetheless, officially, no assassin was found and the case remained on the shelf for 10 years, which marked the end of the window period for it to be re-opened. It was hence irretrievably closed after this lapse of time.
A French government commission, under Judge Le Chanu-Forkel, concluded that no sufficient evident was found to take suspects into custody. The Truth and Reconciliation committee also failed to solve September’s murder.
A square in Paris is named after Dulcie September, and was officially inaugurated on 31 March 1998 (ten years after her death). The plate, in the format of Paris’ street names, reads (in French):”Dulcie September Square: Representative of the African National Congress: Assassinated in Paris on 29 March 1988″.
*Note: Some sources say the name of the teachers training college that September attended was Battswood, not Wesley.
It is reported that Dulcie was investigating trafficking of weapons between apartheid South Africa and France at the time of her death. Apartheid agents linked to the BOSS’s Z Squad are fingered for “arranging” her death.
Yusuf Akhalwaya and Prakash Napier (1989) By Jameel Chand
One individual may die for an idea; but that idea will, after his death, incarnate itself in a thousand lives. That is how the wheel of evolution moves on and the ideas and dreams of one generation are bequeathed to the next.Subhash Chandra Bose
These were words of Subash Chandra Bose, perhaps one of India’s greatest revolutionary figures. These words bear testimony to work that both Yusuf and Prakash committed themselves to in the fight for our liberation. The idea that these revolutionaries sacrificed their lives was that one day we will be living is a South African free from oppression and discrimination. The fact that people in their millions have taken to the ballot box at each election is a manifestation of their victory.
Too often have the stories of revolutionary heroes like Prakash and Yusuf remain untold. Our own history in a democratic South Africa is sparse of the real life legends that were born through our struggle for Freedom. We must recall the lives of leaders like Prakash and Yusuf, not because we mourn their loss but because we celebrate their triumph. And as we celebrate today the generations that follow can recall with pride and patriotism how our freedom was won. Both Prakash and Yusuf were truly sons of our soil. Their blood did nourish the tree of our liberation. But they were more than revolutionaries; there was a husband, father, son and brother in each of them. But their selfless commitment to our freedom took precedent over all other emotion and need. Their commitment was to a greater collective cause that outstripped their own individual needs, wants and desires.
The Ahmed Timol unit was formed in 1986. Prakash Napier was the Commander of the unit while Jameel Chand was the Political Commissar. Yusuf Akhalwaya was recruited into the unit in 1987. In a space of less than three years the Ahmed Timol unit carried out over 40 acts of sabotage. An average of almost two per month, making it one of the most active Umkhonto We Sizwe units at the time and perhaps in MK’s history as well.
The unit’s battlefield was the Old Transvaal and in particular the so called Indian Areas in Transvaal. Carrying out more than two attacks a month from 1987 to 1989 it soonbecame clear that a more appropriate name had to be found for the unit. The Ahmed Timol Unit spent hour upon hour talking politics, military tactics and how to find the balance between the two. We were wary that all our targets had to be politically motivated and that our attacks would spark confidence and revolutionary fervour amongst the struggle masses.
The unit was also highly trained with both Jameel and Prakash training in Angola for several months. Prakash went on to spend 6 months in the Soviet Union to enhance his training in 1988.
 “One Hundred and Seventeen Days – DEAD MAN BANNED”
 Men of Dynamite – Pen Portraits of MK Pioneers
 Drs. Muhammed Haron, Department of Theology & Religious StudiesUniversity of Botswana, August 2005.