Prisoners in their own homes

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Detained, bombed and restricted – but Joyce Mabudafhasi remains as firm as always

As the doors of South Africa’s prisons open to release the detainees, other doors bang shut. Most detainees — and many others who are fighting for peace and justice in the land — are slapped with restriction orders that make them prisoners in their own homes. The restricted people are not allowed out of their front doors from sunset until sunrise. Some have to stay indoors for even longer— in some cases, up to 20 hours out of every 24.

Family and friends become prison guards — making sure that their loved ones go to the police station every day to report.

Those with restrictions cannot work where they choose. They cannot attend meetings or any other political gatherings. They aren’t allowed out of the “magisterial district” that they are restricted to.

Many cannot speak to the newspapers.

Almost 1000 people are restricted at this time. Joyce Mabudafhasi is one of the people who has been restricted. Her story — and the others mentioned in this article — highlights the hard- ships of people who the government has cruelly chosen to silence in this way.

AS FIRM AS ALWAYS
Joyce Mabudafhasi is no stranger to the violence of apartheid. She was detained for the first time in 1976. Since then, she has been detained time and again. She has been beaten at protest meetings and badly injured in a grenade attack on her house. But through it all, Joyce has remained firm. She is as committed to the struggle as she has always been.

The daughter of a nurse and a church minister, Joyce was born in a village called Shiluvane near Tzaneen in the Northern Transvaal in 1943. After training to become a teacher, she got married.

When the family moved to Mankweng near Pietersburg, Joyce got a job in the library of the University of the North (Turfloop). She was the first black woman to be employed at the university.

After the Northern Transvaal UDF was launched in 1985, Joyce was elected General Secretary. Joyce’s work with the UDF meant that she had to travel all over the Northern Transvaal helping to organise people in this part of the country.

At the same time, Joyce was a member of other anti-apartheid organisations. As a member of the Detainees Support Committee (DESCOM), she helped the families of detained people. With the National Education Crisis Committee (NECC), she worked to solve the problems in the schools. And as an organiser for the Federation of Transvaal Women (FEDTRAW), she fought for women’s rights.

All the while, Joyce was very active in university politics at Turfloop. Those were very busy times for Joyce but she was full of energy and committment.

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Restricted activists,  Devyet Monakedi and Elleck Nchabeleng, hitching the long way to report to the police station in Schoonoord

“NOT THE DYING TYPE”
Joyce’s work made her a target. In April 1985, she was detained and questioned by the police three times in one day after taking part in a picket in the conservative town of Pietersburg. The picket was to protest against PW Botha’s visit to the Zionist Christian Church (ZCC) at Boyne outside Pietersburg and to call for the release of all political prisoners.

Three months later, Joyce was at a meeting in a church when the police attacked. She was so badly injured that she had to take three months off work. Later the same year, there was a big consumer boycott in the Northern Transvaal. Joyce was accused of organising the boycott and was detained again, together with her friend, Joyce Mashamba.

After she was released, she began to get some very unwelcome visits — from the police. They came to search her house almost every week. Even the family’s Christmas gatherings were disturbed by that well-known knock on the door.

In April 1986, as the family lay sleeping, a hand grenade was thrown into Joyce’s house. Joyce was seriously injured and was rushed to hospital.

Even as she lay in a hospital bed, the police continued to visit her. But Joyce was still her old self. She told the police that she was “not the dying type” and that they did not scare her. Instead, they made her more angry and more determined to continue with her work.

The grenade attack was the start of many operations for Joyce. Doctors had to remove the shrapnel and glass from her body, and even from her eyes. This time, Joyce was off work for another six months. The day before she was going to start work again, she was detained under the emergency regulations.

ALONE IN A CELL
Joyce’s detention started with five months alone in a cell at Pietersburg police station. Then she was taken to Nylstroom Prison where she again met her old friend, Joyce Mashamba. After a year, they were both transferred to Pietersburg Prison.

At the prison, Joyce found herself in good company — her friends Joyce Mashamba, Priscilla Mokaba and Maris-Stella Mabitje, who also worked at Turfloop, were also there.

On New Year’s Eve of 1988, the women decided enough was enough — they were sick and tired of being detained without trial and of being cut off from their families and community. They decided to go on a hunger strike.

The women were taken from the prison and separated, and Joyce was sent all alone to Louis Trichardt Prison, where she continued her hunger strike. Joyce lost 10 kilograms in three weeks and her kidneys began to fail. But she refused to eat until she was finally released at the end of January — with restrictions.

When Joyce arrived home for the first time in two and a half years, she found a cold and lonely house. Joyce’s four children were staying in other parts of the country and Joyce’s restrictions did not allow her to travel to see them.

Joyce’s restrictions also prevent her from being with more than ten people at one time. She must report at the police station twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. She cannot leave her home between 6pm and 6am. She cannot leave the magisterial district of Mankweng without written permission from the Minister of Law and Order.

Joyce cannot take part in the activities of many organisations or go to any meetings. And she is not allowed to enter any educational institution — which means that she cannot go back to her job at Turfloop.

UNDER HOUSE ARREST
We wanted to ask Joyce about her life under these cruel restrictions. But we could not — Joyce is not allowed to talk to the press. So we spoke to some of her friends instead.

Maris-Stella said: “If Joyce wants to go shopping or anything else, she has to apply in writing 14 days before. It is the same thing if she has to go to Johannesburg to see her lawyers or doctors.

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Baby Amandia with her restricted mother Lorraine Mokgosi. Amandia has never seen her father, activist Stanza Bopape, who is “missing”

“Because Joyce cannot work, she has no money. Sometimes, a friend will give her a bag of mielie-meal or another friend will give her R20. Out of this, she must try to keep the home running as well as look after her sick mother. And as a mother herself, it is painful for Joyce that she is not able to support her children.”

But perhaps the most frightening thing for Joyce is being under house arrest at night. “Joyce worries all the time that there may be another bomb attack on the house,” says Joyce’s mother, who suffered a stroke when Joyce was in detention. “And I worry that Joyce will forget to report or that she will not come back. Even if s’he goes to the shop, I think maybe they have taken her away again.”

Joyce’s mother has good reason to worry about the safety of her daughter. There have already been attacks on people under restrictions. Patrick Stali, a youth activist, was attacked in Uitenhage, but escaped alive. Others were not so lucky. Activist Chris Ntuli was murdered in Natal as he was hiking to the police station to report.

Joyce lives with this fear every day — but she knows she is not the only one. Her friends, Maris-Stella, Priscilla Mokaba and Joyce Mashamba, have also been restricted. Joyce Mashamba has been given permission to live in Johannesburg with her husband. This is the first time since 1976 that they have been able to live together.

Maris-Stella suffers from ill-health and has to get permission to go to medical specialists in Johannesburg. She received no medical care while indetention. Priscilla Mokaba has been restricted perhaps for no other reason than because she is the mother of Peter Mokaba — president of the South African Youth Congress (SAYCO).

FRIEND OR ENEMY?
Elleck Nchabeleng, the son of murdered Northern Transvaal UDF president, Peter Nchabeleng, and Joyce Mabudafhasi’s nephew, is also restricted.

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Restricted Raymond Suttner

Every day, Elleck must travel 54 km each way from his village of Apel in Sekhukhuneland to report to the nearest police station in Schoonoord. He has no transport or job, so every day he hitch-hikes. Even when he can afford a taxi, it costs R10 a day and there are very few taxis in the village. When he hitch-hikes, he has no idea whether the people who stop for him on the road will be friends or enemies. Elleck lives in fear for his life. “The idea of history repeating itself is very frightening for the whole family,” says Elleck. “My father was murdered by the Lebowa police in 1986, at the very same police station in Schoonoord where I have to go every day. In fact, this happened on the very same night that my aunt Joyce Mabudafhasi’s house was bombed.

“Even if there was employment in this rural area, I could not have a job because of the time it takes me to go to the police station every day.”

If Elleck wants to go to Pietersburg or Johannesburg to apply for a job, he must phone the police there. Often, the phones do not work in the village and he has to wait for days to get through on the telephone to ask for permission.

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Restricted but smiling – Priscilla Mokaba

THE MANY OTHERS
Elleck Nchabeleng’s friend and comrade, Dewet Manakedi, a member of the Sekhukhuneland Youth Organisation and of DESCOM, is also restricted. Dewet has to report to the same police station as Elleck in Schoonoord, 35 kilometres from his home.

Dewet worries about being attacked by vigilantes — in 1986, vigilantes burnt his family’s home to the ground. A few months ago, his parents moved to Sebokeng in the Vaal Triangle, but because of his restriction orders, Dewet cannot live with them.

Godfrey Moleko, who lives near Potgietersrus, has to report to the nearest police station, 65 km away, twice a day. This would cost him R420 per week in taxi fare. So Godfrey has had to leave his family and move to a village closer to the police station, so that he can report on time. Rapu Molekane is a SAYCO executive member. Since his release from detention, Rapu has also been restricted. He is underhouse arrest from 2 pm until 7am the next day. During the time that he is allowed to go out, he must report to the police station.

Rapu lives in a four-roomed house with his wife and nine family members. His wife, Patience, says: “We worry about any attack that might be made on our house — like when our house was petrol bombed in 1985. Any sound like a car or a knock sends the whole family into a panic.”

Octavius Magunda is a Tembisa Youth Congress member. Octavius is only allowed out for four hours a day, between 10am and 2pm. He has to report to the police station twice during that time.

Lorraine Mokgosi, a member of the Southern Transvaal Youth Congress and women’s activist, is the fiancee of ‘missing’ activist Stanza Bopape. Lorraine has been forced to move from house to house, because some of the houses where she has been staying have been attacked by vigilantes. And now she may be charged for breaking her restrictions for taking her baby to a traditional healer without permission.

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The restricted general secretary of the South African Youth Congress (SAYCO) Rapu Molekane and his wife, Patience

These are just some of the stories of just some of the restricted people. Every person who has been served with a restriction order — like Thabo Makunyane, Raymond Suttner, Cassel Mathale, Joubert Tshabalala, Louis Mnguni, Zwelakhe Sisulu, Amon Msane, Albert Tleane, Archie Gumede, Chris Ngcobo, Eric Molobi, Albertina Sisulu, Ignatius Jacobs, Donsie Khumalo, Mike Seloane, Sandy Lebese, Blessing Mphela — to name a few — have their own story of pain and hardship.

Through restrictions, the government has tried to silence these brave and committed people. Perhaps it believes that by doing this, the people’s desire for a free and democratic South Africa will go away. But history will surely prove them wrong. The people will not forget about the people under restrictions — or the ideals they are fighting for.

NEW WORDS
picket — when a group of people stand together outside a place and protest about something, or try to stop other people from doing something, it is called a picket
institution — institutions are big organisations or places, like the church, universities, schools and banks
the press — newspapers and magazines are called the press, and the journalists who write for them are called members of the press
medical specialists — doctors who are experts in one kind of medicine, for example the liver or the heart, are called medical specialists

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Comment

THE State of Emergency has finally been lifted — except in Natal of course.

It is our view that it was not necessary for the government to impose the State of Emergency in the first place. It is sad that the National Party — of which FW de Klerk has long been a member — took five years to realise and accept this.

In these long years — since July 1985 when the emergency regulations were first introduced — thousands of people, including children, were detained without trial; our organisations and hundreds of people were banned and restricted; many were killed and some disappeared without trace.

Also, many newspapers and journalists were harassed and some were even banned. Like other media organisations, we at Learn and Teach Publications were raided, our publications were seized — and were not returned to us! In many cases, we were not able to report events and valuable information to our readers.

In spite of all these problems we continued to publish. And it was thanks to our sellers that our publications were able to reach our readers. Learn and Teach sellers ran great risks when selling the magazine — many had their magazines taken away by the police and some were even arrested. But they never gave up!

We welcome the lifting of the State of Emergency and the release of some prisoners. These are the results of our struggles and pressure on the government. Our determination and courage never failed us — we waged successful campaigns and defied apartheid laws. We also unbanned ourselves and our organisations. The sacrifices we made paid off. Therefore it is a victory for us.

But, it is a victory with a heavy price: Our comrades went on long and painful hunger strikes lasting many days in their efforts to make sure that they were released from detention and that the State of Emergency was lifted. Many of the scars of those hunger strikes and many months in detention have not yet healed. And, therefore, credit for the lifting of the state of the emergency should go — not to de Klerk — but to the people.

We believe, however, that the lifting of the State of Emergency is a step forward. It contributes towards a climate suitable for the holding of negotiations. But the ball remains in the government’s court to take more steps and bolder steps so that the negotiation process can start. The government should stop dragging its feet. As the ANC says, piecemeal and partial solutions are no answer.

Like many other people, we call on the government to lift the remaining emergency regulations in Natal and, above all, to fully meet all the demands in the Harare Declaration.

It is our view that it is not difficult to do so.
Now is the time. FW de Klerk must act, and act decisively!

The ghost of Delmas

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Thabiso Ratsomo, accused No. 22 in the Delmas Treason Trial

The final chapter of the Delmas Treason trial — the longest political trial in the history of South Africa —« came to an end in December 1989 when five of the accused were released from Robben island prison, in this article Thabiso Ratsomo, one of the Delmas 22, shares some thoughts and memories of the trial with us.

It is 15 months now since I was found not guilty and discharged in the Delmas Treason trial. Even though many months have passed, it is not easy to forget the 442 days I spent as one of the accused in the trial.

Before I share my thoughts with you, I want to say that the story of the Delmas Trial is just one of many stories that can be told by people who have been on trial in one of apartheid’s courts.

Many thousands of freedom-loving South Africans have suffered because of their ideals. Many have been sent to jail and many have died. We know who some of these people are, but there are many others whose names have never ever been published in the news­papers. Only when the full history of the struggle is written will we know the sacrifices that our people have made in the struggle for liberation.

DETENTION AND TRIAL
In April 1985 I was detained in my room at Rhodes University. Some weeks later, on 11 June, I appeared with 21 other comrades in a packed courtroom at the Magistrate’s court in Pretoria. We were charged with treason, terrorism, subversion, murder and furthering the aims of the ANC.

In court an army of black policemen in “riot control” uniform used force to separate us from our relatives and supporters who we had not seen for many months.

Exactly seven months after our first appearance in court, we pleaded not guilty in front of Judge Van Dijkhorst and his two assessors, Mr. Krugel and Dr. Joubert in the small farming town of Delmas, 70 kilometres east of Johannesburg. The trial that followed came to be known as the “Delmas Treason Trial”.

From the start of the trial, we were aware that this was a political case and that we had to conduct our defence on that basis. We knew that it was not only us 22 on trial but our organisations and all people who stood for freedom and democracy in our country as well.

Throughout the trial we were conscious that a war of ideas was being fought. On the one hand were those ideas that defended apartheid, oppression and racism. On the other hand were those which called for non-racialism, equality, freedom and democracy for all the people of South Africa. The courtroom was the battleground.

THE UDF BLAMED
The state’s claim was that the executive committees of the UDF and its member organisations had an unlawful secret agreement — a con­spiracy — with the ANC to overthrow the government by violent means.

In the Vaal area, the Vaal Civic Associ­ation (VCA) — a member organisation of the UDF — was blamed for the violence that swept the area in 1984. Most of the 22 accused, including myself, came from the Vaal and were members of the VCA.

When the Lekoa (Vaal) Town Council increased the rent and service charges in August 1984, the VCA called protest meetings. On 3 September, the VCA led the residents on a protest march to the council offices. But the marchers never reached the offices. The police shot at them — without giving any warning. After this, violence swept the area. Within days, it spread across the whole country.

The UDF and its member organisations were blamed for the ‘unrest’ in which councillors, policemen and government property were attacked. The state alleged that the UDF’s criticisms of government policy was the cause of this violence.

The documents used by the state to prove its case were the UDF Declaration, minutes of the UDF regional and national executive committee meetings, and videos and tape recordings of mass meetings of the UDF and its member organisations such as the VCA.

We were questioned at length about why the UDF had ANC leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu as its patrons. The state also asked why many UDF executive committee mem­bers were people who were in jail for ANC or Umkhonto we Sizwe activities.

A SIMPLE ANSWER
Our answer to the charges against us was a simple one. The UDF was a coming together of many non-violent organisations and was formed in order to oppose the New Constitution and the Black Local Authorities. We were a legal organisation and we operated openly.

We said the UDF recognised the important role played by the ANC and its leaders in the struggle. So when the UDF was formed it saw fit to make these leaders its patrons.

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August 1987: advocates, attorneys, accused and families keeping the bond strong

We were lucky to have a powerful and committed defense team. Even though the trial was long and called for a lot of work, nothing was too much for them. They worked until late at night, and often our attorneys had to go to the townships to find our comrades and to get information.

During the trial, I developed a great admiration for advocates Arthur Chaskalson SC, George Bizos SC, Karel Tip, Gilbert Marcus and Zac Yacoob for their patience and dedication. We got to know each more closely and as a result a strong bond between us and the lawyers developed. In many ways this good relationship made the defence strong.

We were not impressed at all with the state advocates. We felt that their arguments were often emotional and called for sympathy from the judge. I must say without any fear that they, were no match for the most junior of our defence team members.

However, Judge Van Dijkhorst did not find it difficult to accept some of those emotional arguments. Soon, we began to ask ourselves if Judge Van Dijkhorst was taking sides in this case. He seemed to favour the state. Seventeen months later we started to believe that we may have been right.

DISMISSING THE ASSESSOR
On 9 March 1987 one of the accused, Petrus Mokoena, was asked by the prosecutor about the UDFs Million Signature Campaign. This campaign was launched in 1984 to protest against the Tricameral parliament and the Black Local Authorities. During lunch time Dr Joubert told the judge that he also signed the petition.

On the morning of 10 March the judge shocked us all — he dismissed Joubert. The judge said that because Joubert signed the petition, he would not be able to decide fairly if we were guilty or not.

We challenged the judge. Our lawyers brought three applications as a result of the dismissal. They argued that the judge used the law incorrectly to dismiss Joubert and that he did so without asking us our opinion.

We said both the judge and Krugel were biased against us and that they seemed to favour the state. Krugel was a member of the Afrikaner Broeder-bond. This organisation was known to have influenced past policies of the government. We said Krugel’s judgement could not be fair to us.

We asked that the case be stopped. Judge Van Dijkhorst was not impressed by our arguments and we lost the applications. This was a heavy blow to us. But we were able to fight on, mainly because we gave each other strength and support. We were also organised.

WITH ONE STEP
I remember comrade “Terror” Lekota — UDF publicity secretary — saying to us at the beginning of the trial: “Comrades, we must organise our­selves so that we can move together with one step.”

We chose a cell chairman, a treasurer, a timekeeper and a committee for dealing with prison officials at Modderbee Prison where we were kept. We also arranged ourselves into groups of three for cleaning the cell and for preparing meals.

During our free time we played games. Soccer was the favourite day sport, but in the evenings we played monopoly, cards, dominoes and snooker. It still amazes me that the 22 of us could share one ‘cell’ — a small hospital ward at Modderbee prison — with very few problems.

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The 22 accused in the courtyard at Delmas in April 1986

There was never a day that went by without us thinking what would happen to our families and loved ones if we got the death penalty or a long sentence. We worried about who would support them. Often, we wished that the trial would end for once and for all so that we could know where we stood. But time seemed to drag and the tensions and anxieties increased.

THE ‘DELMAS BUS’
These were difficult times. But the support we got from our people and organisations such as the South African Council of Churches (SACC) helped us more than I can say. We knew that our organisations and our people were behind us and they would never dump us at the time when we needed them most.

I will never forget the grannies and grandfathers who came to give us support every Tuesday and Thursday.

They never once missed the Delmas Bus in the three years we were on trial. Most were pensioners from the Anglican’s Cyprian church in Sharpeville — the church of Reverend Moselane, one of the accused.

They never got tired of waking up in the early hours of the morning and making it through the cold winter wind. They were a real source of inspiration and in the absence of relatives — who were often at work or simply could not attend the trial regularly — they filled the gap.

WEDDING OF THE YEAR
There were also some happy moments during the trial. Like the wedding of the year!’

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Bride Makgauta and bridegroom Lazarus More are congratulated by Archbishop Tutu and Terry Waite. The priest next to them was Rev. Moselane

None of us will forget the afternoon of 20 June 1986 when one of the trialists, Lazarus More, got married in the same courtroom we appeared in at Delmas. “Terror” and Oupa Hlomuka were the two best men! I remember that the night before the wedding “Terror” and Oupa spent hours shaving their.faces. They looked much younger the following day!

Many people came to Delmas for this special event. The late Bishop Simeon Nkoane of the Anglican Church conducted the service, helped by Reverend Moselane.

Bishop Tutu came to the wedding together with Mr. Terry Waite who was sent to South Africa by the head of the Anglican Church in Britain. (Mr. Waite disappeared while in Beirut, Lebanon in January 1987 and has not been seen since. He went there to try and promote peace in the area).

The wedding was a joyous occasion, but we couldn’t help wondering what life would be like for the new bride if Lazarus was given a long sentence. Again, we wished for a speedy end to the trial.

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Three former accused – Simon Vilakazi, Gcina Malindi and Thabiso – sharing a joke outside the courtroom at Delmas in 1987

BURYING THE GHOST
Finally, after three long years — on 18 November 1988— I was found not guilty and discharged. In all, 11 of us were found not guilty. The other 11 comrades were found guilty and sentenced.

In December 1988 Popo Molefe, United Democratic Front (UDF) national general secretary, Patrick “Terror” Lekota, UDF publicity secretary, Moss Chikane, former UDF Transvaal regional secretary and Tom Manthata, former secretary of the Soweto Civic Associa­tion, were sentenced to prison for periods of between six and twelve years.

Gcina Malindi, a youth and civic leader in the Vaal and six other members of the VCA were found guilty of terrorism. All were given five years each. Gcina went to jail with the other four. The other six got suspended sentences.

One year later, in December 1989, the Appeal Court buried the Delmas trial ghost when five judges threw out all the convictions and sentences and released the five comrades. The Court found that the judge had dismissed Joubert without first giving us an opportunity to express our opinion. Judge Van Dijkhorst may not have been impressed by our lawyers’ arguments, but the Appeal Court judges were!

In the judgement, Chief Justice Corbett said: “In general… the judge in a criminal court should not make rulings or give direction in regard to the trial affecting the interests of the parties without giving them the opportunity to be heard.”

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Moss Chikane, “Terror” Lekota and Tom Manthata – still in prison clothes – are welcomed home by UDF President Albertina Sisulu (centre) and relatives and friends

The five comrades came home on 15 December after spending one year on Robben Island. When they got off the plane at Jan Smuts airport, they were greeted by hundreds of supporters who gave them a big welcome home. The case was finally over!

Despite the hardship suffered in those long years, I have no regrets. I am proud to have been put on trial for the noble ideals of freedom and democracy. I believe that the work of the UDF and its member organisations has contributed to the changes in South Africa that we see now. Today I feel more confident than ever before that we will see “FREEDOM IN OUR LIFETIME!”

NEW WORDS
ideal — an idea that seems so perfect that you try to achieve it
conscious — aware
patrons — an important person honoured by an organisation
assessor — when there is a chance of the death sentence, two assessors must help the judge listen to the case
attorney — a lawyer who cannot defend an accused person in the Supreme Court
advocate — a lawyer who can defend accused people in court. Judges are chosen from among the advocates

“I stand before you…”

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Comrade Mandela addressing the people in Cape Town on the day of his release

Hundreds of thousands of people waited to see and be addressed by Comrade Nelson Mandela outside the City Hall in Cape Town on the day he was released. It was a long, hot wait, but it was a privilege to be there.

The mood among parts of the crowd is beginning to turn sour in the heat.
Posters all over Cape Town had advertised that Comrade Nelson Mandela would address the people at three o’ clock. Hundreds of thousands of people watch that time come and go. Organizers promise he will come.

The square across from the city hall is jam-packed with people. Everywhere, ANC flags and banners. Anywhere there is space to get some height — on traffic lights, a statue, roof tops — people have climbed up. The branch of a tree on which youths have been perched like birds snaps and comes crashing down, injuring some of them.

By the time we arrive, the crowd in front of the podium where Comrade Mandela is to speak is so thick that it will be impossible for his car to get there. Some are fainting in the crush and need medical attention.

As time drags, people get restless. Suddenly, trouble. A group of youths begin smashing shop windows and help themselves to bottles of drink. The riot police appear, and blaze the youths with birdshot. People dive to the ground for cover.

Fearful of being trampled underfoot, we run with the human tide towards the edge of the square. We later learn one person was shot dead. Dozens of others are hurt.

The sirens of ambulances can be heard above the noise, as they inch their way through the masses.

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Part of the huge crowd that gathered outside the City Hall in Cape Town to greet Mandela

Still no sign of Comrade Mandela. There are no announcements explaining why. People say the sound system has died.

It is already just about dark when shouts of “There they are!” and “Viva! Mandela!” fill the air.

Comrade Mandela, his wife Winnie and others arrive in three or four cars. Instantly, hundreds of people surround them. They simply leave the vehicles in the middle of the street and make a dash for the side door, followed by a mass of chanting, happy bodies.

Word that the Comrade Leader has arrived blows across the square within seconds, as if driven by the strong Cape wind. At the far end of the square, people immediately begin pressing towards the podium.

The threat of violence has gone, and tension gives way to joy and expectation. Comrades Mandela and Sisulu appear on the balcony, together with the other leaders. The moment everyone has spent so much time waiting for has come. The crowd roars.

Comrade Sisulu calls for silence. Comrade Mandela, under the glare of yellow television lights, begins his first public speech in 27 years.

Above him, a huge ANC flag flutters. In front of him, a SACP flag. His strong voice carries over the square.

“I stand here before you not as a prophet,” he says, “but as a humble servant of you the people.”

What beautiful words, after all those years separated from his people. We are not ashamed to admit that there are tears in our eyes.

Comrade Mandela’s speech is hard-hitting and fresh — in true Mandela style. He calls for the intensification of the struggle against apartheid on all fronts, including the armed struggle.

He talks of fallen comrades, of the great suffering caused by apartheid, of freedom, and of justice. He ends by repeating the words from his historic speech from the dock in the Rivonia Trial in 1964:

“I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Comrade Winnie Mandela takes over and leads the huge crowd in the singing of the anthem, Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrica. The melody fills the air, her voice rising out strong and steady.

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Suddenly it’s all over. Thousands of men, women and children begin leaving. Their departure is orderly, disciplined and happy. It has been a day whose importance is beyond words in the long struggle against racist oppression. An ugly chapter in the history of both South Africa and humankind has been closed.

Down Table Mountain, a strong wind sweeps into the city, as if nature herself is trying to lend a hand in blowing away the great injustice that has gripped our country for so long.

Comment

Over the last six months we have seen political changes that were unthinkable a year ago. In October last year Comrade Walter Sisulu and six other high-ranking ANC leaders were released. In February the ANC, the SACP and the PAC were unbanned, and Comrade Nelson Mandela was released. All these events are bound to change the face of South African politics. Our country will surely never be the same again!

We at Learn and Teach Publications, liUntitled0-4ke millions of other people, have for a long time demanded the unbanning of the ANC, the release of Comrade Mandela and all other political prisoners, the return of our brothers and sisters in exile and the removal of troops from the townships. Therefore, we welcome what Mr De Klerk has done so far.

We are, however, disappointed that not all that we hoped for — and have been struggling for — has yet been achieved. The State of Emergency has not been lifted altogether, not all political prisoners have been released and the position of the exiles is still not clear.

In other words, we echo the call on Mr De Klerk to meet all the conditions laid down in the Harare Declaration if he is really serious about a negotiated settlement and a peaceful future.

We have every right to celebrate the victories of the past few months. They are great victories indeed. But it would be a mistake to think that freedom is around the corner.

It was the long and heroic struggle of the people that pushed Mr De Klerk to do what he did. We must continue to push.

The unbanning of the ANC and the release of Comrade Mandela poses great challenges for us.

We must not rest, we must work harder than before, we must strengthen our organisations, build new ones where they did not exist.

We must organise more people into our ranks, win more and more people to our side and tirelessly inform and educate our people about the fact that the road to freedom is still long and victory has to be worked for, very hard.

To repeat the words of Comrade Mandela after his release: “Now is the time to intensify the struggle on all fronts. To relax our efforts now would be a mistake which generations to come will not be able to forgive…It is only through disciplined mass action that our victory can be assured.”

The life of a fighter

img31She lives by herself in a small, tidy house in Johannesburg. She is 77 years old. She has  suffered from cancer. She has suffered a heart attack. Now her eyesight is getting bad. And  er leg gives her trouble. But her spirit is strong. She fights on.

The fighter is Helen Joseph – the old lady of politics in South Africa.

The government banned her for 16 years. She spent nine years under house arrest. Today she is still a “Iisted” person. So we can’t tell you what she says.

People throw rocks through her window. They fire buIlets at her house. They phone her and swear at her. They once placed a bomb at her gate.

She has suffered for a long, long time. But she never complains. She still laughs. And her eyes still shine. She will never give up.

Helen Joseph came to South Africa in 1931. She came here from India. She was on her way home to England.

She came to South Africa to visit a friend in Durban. She only wanted to stay for a year. But she never left. She made South Africa her home.

Helen Joseph got married in 1932. She lived in Durban. When the war started in 1939, she got a job with the air force. She was an information officer.

After the war she got a job as a social worker. She worked in Fordsburg, Johannesburg. In 1950 she went to work with the “coloured” people in the Cape Flats. In the Cape she saw how the people suffered.

In 1952, something happened that changed Helen Joseph’s life. This was the year of the Defiance Campaign. Thousands of people decided not to obey unfair laws. 8 000 people were arrested. Helen Joseph thought those people were brave. She decided to go into politics. She wanted to work for a better South Africa.

Other white people felt the same way as Helen Joseph. In 1953 Helen Joseph and some white people started an orqanization. They called the organization the Congress of Democrats. This organization wanted equal rights for all people in South Africa.

In 1954, Helen Joseph helped start the Federation of South African Women. She worked with people like Fatima Meer, Ray Alexander and Lillian Ngoyi. They wanted all women in South Africa to stand together.

img32In June the next year, 3 000 people met in Kliptown. The meeting was called the Congress of the People. Helen Joseph was there. At the meeting the people wrote the Freedom Charter. The Freedom Charter is a list of things the people want.

When Helen Joseph spoke at the meeting, 300 policemen arrived. But Helen Joseph did not move. She finished her speech.

On the 9th August 1956, Helen Joseph marched with 20 000 women to Pretoria. They marched because the government said black women must carry passes. They marched to the government building. They wanted to speak to the Prime Minister. But he did not come out to speak to the women. The women stood outside for a long time. They did not move.

Later in the year Helen Joseph and 155 other people were arrested. They were charged in court. The court case was called the Treason Trial. The court case only finished in March 1962. The court found nobody guilty.

In 1957 Helen Joseph was banned for the first time. The banning order said she could not leave Johannesburg. And she couId not speak at meetings.

This banning ended in 1962. The next day, Helen Joseph left on a 7 000 mile journey around South Africa. She went to visit people in far away places – people the government sent to far away places.

Under house arrest, she stayed home from 6 o’clock in the evening until 6 o’clock in the morning. She stayed home on weekends and public holidays. She was only allowed one visitor – a doctor.

House arrest was a lonely time for Helen Joseph. But her friends did not forget about her. They wrote her letters. They phoned her. And at Christmas time, they stood outside her
house and sang Christmas songs.

In 1971 the government stopped her house arrest when she went for a cancer operation. In 1980 the government banned her again for 2 years. Her banning order ended in June this year.

Since June Helen Joseph has spoken at many meetings. She wiII not keep quiet quiet. She will keep fighting for a better South Africa.

Save the Sharpeville Six

Untitled0-3On Monday, the 3rd of September, 1984, the townships in the Vaal blew up. People were angry about the new, high rents the Lekoa Town Council said they must pay.

People in Evaton, Sebokeng and Sharpeville all marched to the Council offices. But people never reached the offices. Police arrived and shot teargas and rubber bullets at the marchers. People ran in all directions.

By the end of that week, thirty one people were dead. Four of the dead were councillors. Shops and buses were burnt and stoned. More than R30 million rand’s worth of damage was done.

GUILTY!

Nearly a year later eight people went to court, charged with the murder of Jacob Dlamini – a councillor from Sharpeville who was killed during the march.

On the 13th December, 1985, the judge said Reginald Sefatsa, Reid Mokoena, Oupa Diniso, Theresa Ramashamola, Duma Khumalo and Francis Mokhesi were guilty of murder. They were sentenced to death.

Motseki Mokubung and Gideon Mokone, who were also charged were found guilty of public violence and ‘subversion’. The judge said they must both go to jail for eight years.

THE FIGHT GOES ON

Since this time, the Sharpeville Six, as people call them, have spent more than a year in ‘death row.’ But people have not forgotten them. And the fight to save their lives goes on. Someone from the Vaal Information Service told Learn and Teach why people are fighting against their sentences.

“We feel that these people are not guilty. If you want to say that anyone is guilty of the murder, then everyone who lives in Sharpeville is guilty.”

Councillor Dlamini's house after his death

Councillor Dlamini’s house after his death

“On the 3rd of September, 1984, the march started off peacefully. And when people went past Mr Dlamini’s house, they did not want to hurt him. They wanted to ask him to join the march. But when Mr Dlamini took out his gun and started shooting, people were very frightened and angry.”

“We feel that the Sharpeville Six were sentenced to death, not because they were guilty, but because the government wanted to use them as a lesson. They want to scare people to stop fighting against apartheid.”

“We worked hard, telling people what was happening with the court case. We held house meetings. Now everyone is waiting to see what will happen. The lawyers hope that the appeal will be heard in the Appeal Court later this year.”

In the meantime, there is one thing in the minds of the people in Sharpeville.

Everyone is saying, “Save the Sharpeville Six”
THE SHARPEVILLE SIX – by their families

Susan Diniso, Mma Sefatsa, Mme MaMokoena, Mamamchedi Ramashamola and Betty Khumalo - waiting for their loved ones who are in 'death row'.

Susan Diniso, Mma Sefatsa, Mme MaMokoena, Mamamchedi Ramashamola and Betty Khumalo – waiting for their loved ones who are in ‘death row’

MMA SEFATSA – wife of Reginald, Accused No. 1

Reginald and I were married in 1980. We have a two year old child. When Reginald was arrested, he was not working. But he tried to make ends meet by selling apples at the station.

I remember when the police came to arrest him. We were woken up early in the morning. They told my husband that they wanted Dlamini’s gun. When he said he did not have it, they slapped him and took him away.

I did not know what to do. So I went to the Vaal Information Service and they helped me to find a lawyer. I was in court the day the judge gave the sentence. I could not believe it when I heard that Reginald was charged with murder.

When I saw Reginald afterwards, all I said was that he must not worry – he must know that I’ll always be with him. And that I know that he is not guilty.

I am struggling to make ends meet now. The SACC and the Red Cross are helping us. But it is still difficult.

I know that Reginald is not guilty. And I am hoping that they will win the appeal. Reginald is also full of hope.

MME MAMOKOENA – mother of Reid, Accused No. 2

My son, Malebo Reid Mokoena, was detained in the morning of 9th November, 1984. The police arrived and told Reid to dress. They told the rest of us to stay inside.

Reid was working at Tralco Engineering when he was arrested. The saddest thing is that when he was arrested, we were talking to the family of his girlfriend. His girlfriend was pregnant and they wanted to get married.

After the police took Reid away, we looked for him everywhere but we could not find him. So we gave up. Then the police told us to go to Vereenging police station. Reid was there. He looked very happy. But I was very worried because Reid has never been in jail before. People were very kind to us. They helped us with transport and they helped us to find lawyers for him.

My son was always very good to me. He was a very friendly person. His friends called him ‘Ja Baas’ because he always shouted ‘Ja.’ But at home we called him ‘Bobo’ because he looked like a baby.

Reid’s girlfriend had her baby. We call him Thabang and he is a year old now. We took him to see his father once. But we do not take him anymore because the people at the prison say no children are allowed.

I could not go to the trial everyday but his girlfriend went. When Reid’s girlfriend told me the judge said they were guilty, all I said was, ‘Why did you tell me that?’ That day I thought I would die.

I know that Reid is not guilty. And I pray to God and our ancestors that they will win their appeal.

I want to thank all the people who helped us. I wish them the best. I hope that their organisations grow and get strong.

SUSAN DINISO – wife of Oupa, Accused No. 3

Oupa was born in Sharpeville. He is the oldest of seven children. When he finished school, he went to work for Stewarts and Lloyd. He worked there for eight years.

I met Oupa when we were at school. We got married in 1982. We have two children, Lindiwe, who is three and Thembile, who is eight years old.

Oupa is not interested in politics. His main interest was golf and his children – he loved the children very much.

The police came on 9th of November 1984. They said they wanted to ask him some questions about a gun. Oupa gave them the gun but they still took him away.

I went to the court case nearly every day. I did not believe it when the judge said they were guilty.

Now I visit Oupa three times a week. He is in prison in Pretoria. Oupa is strong. He is sure that they will win their appeal.

We are struggling at home – I do not work. And the children are always asking, “Mama, where is our father?’ But I never lose hope that one day Oupa will be at home with us.

MAMACHEDI RAMASHAMOLA – sister to Theresa, Accused no. 4

Theresa finished Standard Five at the Catholic primary school, here in Sharpeville. When Theresa was arrested, she was working as a waitress at a burger bar.

I was not at home when the police came to get Theresa. I was visiting in Lesotho. When I came home, I found my mother in a very bad way. She used to cry all the time. Now she tries to keep calm.

We miss Theresa very much at home. She was always a very happy person. She brought much laughter to our house. I think about her all the time.

I visit Theresa most of the time. It is very difficult for my mother to go as she is working. She can only go when she has time off.

People must give us support so that Theresa gets free.

BETTY KHUMALO – wife of Duma, Accused No. 7

Duma was busy studying at the Sebokeng Teachers Training College when he was arrested. I was staying with my parents at the time. His brother came to tell me. It was very painful. I just could not believe it, especially when I heard they were charged with murder.

I had to take time off work to go to the court case. Even now, if I want to see him, I must take time off.

In the beginning I missed Duma very much. He is a very jolly somebody. But now I am used to Duma not being around.

After Duma was arrested, there was a big tragedy in the family. His younger brother was stabbed to death.

Now I am living with his father because there is no-one to look after him. I am looking forward to the day that Duma will be back at home with us.

Ntate Mokgesi - "Francis was a good son to me"

Ntate Mokgesi – “Francis was a good son to me”

NTATE MOKGESI – father of Francis, Accused No. 8

Francis, or Don, as his friends called him, was brought up to be a good Catholic boy. He went to the Catholic school in Sharpeville and then to Saint Theresa’s in Herschel. He was working at the O.K. Bazaars.

Francis’s great love in life was football. He was a professional football player. He played for the Vaal Professionals. Francis has always been a very good son to me. He was a happy person – not short-tempered at all. He treated me with respect and he helped me with money. Now that Francis is in jail, we all live off my pension.

We miss Francis at home. His wife and his child are living with me now. It is very hard for them.

When I heard that the judge said that Francis was guilty, I nearly died of shock. It is a sign that God is great that I am still alive today.

I don’t like to visit Francis in prison. When I go there, the tears just run down my cheeks – I cannot stop them. And I know my tears make Francis feel sad too. So it is better that I do not go.

As a Christian, I feel that I must take things as they come. And my faith in God keeps me going. But my greatest wish is that Francis will come home before I die.

What more can we say except that we stand with Reginald, Reid, Oupa, Theresa, Duma and Francis. And we wish their families strength to face the difficult time ahead – waiting for their loved ones at home.