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.

It’s now over three years since the beginning of… the Delmas treason trial

The 22 men who were first charged in the Delmas Treason Trial. Three have been released.

The 22 men who were first charged in the Delmas Treason Trial. Three have been released.

The ‘Palace of Justice’ in Pretoria has a special place in the history of South Africa. It was in this building that Nelson Mandela and his comrades were sentenced to life in prison for
plotting to overthrow the government of this country.

Now, 24 years later, 19 men are on trial in the very same courtroom. They too are being charged with plotting to overthrow the government. If they are found guilty, they too could be sentenced to life in prison — or maybe even death.

The trial in Pretoria is known as the ‘Delmas Treason Trial’ — because it was in the small eastern Transvaal town of Delmas that the trial began nearly three years ago. The trial, one of the longest in this country’s history, was moved to Pretoria in August last year.

When the trial began in June 1985, 22 men stood in the dock. But in November 1986 the judge said three of the 22 were innocent and he set them free.

“WE ARE NOT GUILTY!”

The other 19 are still facing charges of treason, subversion, murder, terrorism, and furthering the aims of the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party.

Most of those on trial are members of the United Democratic Front and its member organisations. One is a member of the Azanian People’s Organization, and one is a member of Azanian Youth Unity.

Most of the accused come from townships in the Vaal Triangle. Many of them were members of the Vaal Civic Association (VCA).

The accused have told the court that the VCA was started in October 1983 to fight for better living conditions for the people of Sharpeville, Sebokeng, Boipatong, Evaton and Bophelong. It was one of the 17 organisations banned by the government in February this year.

When the Lekoa (Vaal) Town council increased the rent and service charges in August 1984, the VCA called protest meetings. On 3 September, it led the residents on a march to the council offices. But the marchers never reached the offices. The police shot at them. People say they gave no warning.

The 19 accused are being charged for the troubles that began in the Vaal on 3 September. They are also being charged for the ‘unrest’ that afterwards spread through other parts of the country.

At the beginning of the trial, all the accused pleaded not guilty to the charges. They said that it was true that they fought against apartheid and injustice. But they say that at all times they used peaceful methods and that their organisations worked legally and openly.

THREE YEARS OF HARDSHIP

Police in the Vaal in September 1984.

Police in the Vaal in September 1984.

All the accused have suffered greatly in the past three years. The three UDF leaders, Popo Molefe, Patrick ‘Terror’ Lekota and Moses ‘Moss’ Chikane are still in jail. They have been behind bars since April 1985. They have asked for bail five times — but each time the judge has refused.

Molefe was arrested a month after his wife gave birth to a daughter. Lekota and Chikane’s wives gave birth after their husbands were already charged.

The other 16 are out on bail — but they are not allowed to go home. Most of them live by themselves in Johannesburg. Most days they travel to court in Pretoria — and when they do not have to go to court, they must report to a police station twice a day.

The families of the accused have also suffered. Besides living without husbands and sons, they have also lost the breadwinners in their families.

But all the hardships of the past three years have not broken the spirit of the19 accused. They greet all the visitors who come to the trial with smiles and warm handshakes. They even crack a joke or two. They are very grateful when people come to the trial to show their support.

And support is what the 19 need. They are fighting a mighty battle to prove that they are innocent.

“A HOSTILE JUDGE”

Many policemen, councillors and informers from all over the country have given evidence against the accused.The prosecution has used minutes from meetings and thousands of other documents and pamphlets in its case.

In March 1987 the judge, Justice van Dijkhorst, ‘fired ‘one of the assessors in the case. (When there is a chance of the death sentence, two assessors must help the judge listen to the case). The judge dismissed the assessor, Dr Willem Joubert, after finding out that he had supported the UDF Million Signature Campaign in 1983.

The lawyers for the accused said the judge had made a mistake in law when he dismissed Joubert.They said he should stop the case.

The accused also said that the judge and the other assessor, Mr Krugel, were ‘hostile’ towards them. They felt that when the judge and Krugel questioned witnesses, they often helped the prosecution.

The accused also said that they were unhappy with the assessor, Krugel. He was a member of the Broederbond, a powerful Afrikaner organisation that believes in apartheid. How could they get a fair trial from such a man, they asked.

The accused said the judge and the assessor should step down. After four days of argument, the judge decided that he and Krugel would not step down — and that the trial should go on.

“THE TRIAL IS IMPORTANT”

The brave Helen Joseph shares the joy with the three who were released.

The brave Helen Joseph shares the joy with the three who were released.

The 19 know that it is not only their own innocence that they must prove. Another 911 people are also named in the charge sheet. Some of these are well known people like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Rev Frank Chikane and Dr Beyers Naude. There are also 50 youth, women, worker and community organisations named.

If the 19 accused are found guilty of treason, then all the other people and organisations named may also be charged with treason.

As one of the accused says: “What happens in this trial is important for everybody in the struggle. It is a challenge to those peaceful methods that people have been using to unite people against apartheid.”

NO STONE UNTURNED

At the trial Learn and Teach asked many of the accused the same question: “The trial has taken so long and you have all suffered very much. Don’t you wish the trial was over already?”

“Yes,” they answered. “We want to know what our future is.”

But at the same time, they said they want to leave no stone unturned to show that they are not guilty — no matter how long it takes.

Such is the courage of the accused in the Delmas Treason Trial. It is a great pity that such people are not free to help build a better country for all who live in it.

By keeping these men stuck in a courtroom for so long, the government is not only silencing the voice of the accused. It is silencing the voice of the people. It is making all those who want to see the end of apartheid look like criminals!

THE 19 MEN ON TRIAL

POPO SIMON MOLEFE (36) is the national general secretary of the United Democratic Front (UDF).
PATRICK ‘TERROR’ LEKOTA (39) is the national publicity secretary of the UDF.
MOSES (MOSS) MABOKELA CHIKANE (39) was the UDF’s Transvaal secretary and he worked at the Community Resource and Information Centre in Johannesburg.
PATRICK MABUYA BALEKA (28) was an insurance salesman and a member of Azanian Youth Unity (Azanyu).
REVEREND TEBOGO GEOFFREY MOSELANE (41) is an Anglican priest from Sharpeville.
OUPA JOHN HLOMUKA (34) was an insurance salesman and a member of the Azanian People’s Organisation.
GCINUMUZI PETRUS MALINDI (28) of Sebokeng was the leader of the Evaton Baptist Church’s Youth Committee.
MORAKE PETRUS MOKOENA (49) owns a cafe in Evaton called vWest End Restaurant’ and was secretary of the Evaton Ratepayers’ Association.
TSIETSI DAVID MPHUTHI (50) was a branch vice chairman of the VCA and sold wood and poultry for a living.
NAPHTALI MBUTI NKOPANE (42) worked for a furniture store in Vereeniging and was a branch chairman of the VCA.
TEBELLO EPHRAIM RAMAKGULA (37) is an electrician from Sebokeng and was a branch treasurer of the VCA.
BAVUMILE HERBERT VILAKAZI (32) worked for the Urban Training Project in the Vaal Triangle and was a member of the VCA executive.
SEKWATI JOHN MOKOENA (35) was secretary of the Boipatong Residents’ Committee.
SIMON TSEKO NKOLI (28) of Sebokeng worked for the Institute of Race Relations.
PELAMOTSE JERRY THLOPANE (29), a part time salesman from Sebokeng.
SERAME JACOB HLANYANE (39) is an electrician from Sebokeng and was a branch treasurer of the VCA.
THOMAS MADIKWE MANTHATA (48) was a field worker for the South African Council of Churches and a member of the Soweto Civic Association.
HLABENG SAM MATLOLE (63) worked for a dry cleaning factory and was a branch treasurer of the VCA.
THABISO ANDREW RATSOMO (30) of Sebokeng was studying journalism at Rhodes University where he was the president of the Black Students’ Movement. He was a treasurer of the VCA before he went to university.

NEW WORDS
palace — a big building or home — like a king’s house.
the accused — people who are charged in court
dock — where the accused sit in court
innocence — not guilty
grateful — happy and thankful
documents — important papers
informer — ‘impimpi’
prosecution — the people who try to prove you guilty in court
hostile — not friendly, not on your side