Women of the lib­er­a­tion, tell us your brave sto­ries

CityPress - - Voices - SIMPHIWE SE­SANTI voices@city­press.co.za

Two books by char­ac­ters on ei­ther side of the apartheid line re­count their ver­sions of history in ways that dis­miss and up­lift the place of fight­ers – in par­tic­u­lar women – in the strug­gle for lib­er­a­tion.

For­mer apartheid-era Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Ser­vice boss Niël Barnard’s book, Se­cret Revo­lu­tion: Mem­oirs Of A Spy Boss, is fas­ci­nat­ing. This is chiefly be­cause it shows how traitors in the strug­gle for lib­er­a­tion rein­scribed history with their own truth, em­bold­en­ing them to pour scorn on our coura­geous strug­gles.

Barnard cel­e­brates the late Nel­son Man­dela’s “ad­mis­sion” that the “ANC did not have the mil­i­tary might to over­throw the South African gov­ern­ment” and that Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) was at the time not “do­ing so well” mil­i­tar­ily. Barnard de­clares that a “myth that the ANC tried to keep in­tact is that, thanks to the ac­tions of its mil­i­tary wing ... it de­feated the South African gov­ern­ment mil­i­tar­ily”. Dis­mis­sive as ever, Barnard states that this is “pure non­sense”.

“Plant­ing bombs in a Wimpy or land mines on a de­serted farm road, or open­ing fire, as [Aza­nian Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army] mem­bers did, with AK-47s on a church con­gre­ga­tion and then run­ning away, can­not be seen as mil­i­tary con­quests.”

This is big talk com­ing from a civil ser­vant whose gov­ern­ment killed the sleep­ing twins of the Pan African­ist Congress’ Sigqibo Mpen­dulo, whose po­lice force shot at a preg­nant woman in Sharpeville in 1960, and whose regime gunned down 13-year-old Hec­tor Pi­eter­son in 1976.

But the cadres of the lib­er­a­tion move­ment are be­gin­ning to tell their side of the story – and set­ting the record straight. This is cru­cial to up­hold­ing the legacy of our brave fight­ers.

Vusi Pikoli and Mandy Wiener’s My Sec­ond Ini­ti­a­tion: The Memoir Of Vusi Pikoli does just this. It in­cludes the cap­ti­vat­ing story of Sizwe Kondile’s mother, Char­ity. Here is a woman – whose son gave up his life for the lib­er­a­tion strug­gle – hear­ing how the re­mains of her son were burnt for nine hours by the Se­cu­rity Branch. Kondile’s death was a vic­tory for his mother be­cause he died with his in­tegrity in­tact. The se­cu­rity po­lice, with the aid of their spies in the ANC, spread the ru­mour that Kondile had turned spy. But the truth fi­nally came out, and Kondile’s mother had the last say be­fore the Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion.

“The Kondile fam­ily would be the last peo­ple to turn traitors, be­cause even the state pres­i­dent him­self, Pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela, and the late Mr Oliver Tambo were once shel­tered un­der her roof in Port El­iz­a­beth.”

Then there is the case of another shero (not hero­ine) MK cadre, Nokuthula Sime­lane, who was ab­ducted by apartheid agents. For five weeks, on a daily ba­sis, it is said that she was bru­tally tor­tured, un­til she valiantly em­braced death. Just as in the case of Kondile, the ab­duc­tors also claimed that she sold out to be­come their spy. But Sime­lane’s spirit ap­par­ently haunted one of those present, which com­pelled him to con­fess that, un­til her last breath, she had con­tin­ued to hold high the flag of the lib­er­a­tion strug­gle.

Another MK cadre, Phila Nd­wandwe, met the same fate when she was shot dead by apartheid agents – in a kneel­ing po­si­tion af­ter she was kept naked for 10 days by her tor­tur­ers. Even in a state of pain and hu­mil­i­a­tion, she re­mained res­o­lute. So when we hear the likes of Barnard speak­ing care­lessly about the cadres of the lib­er­a­tion move­ment, we can­not stand by when they feign brav­ery.

African moth­ers gave birth to daugh­ters and sons who – armed to the min­i­mum – con­fronted the mil­i­tary might of apartheid, which was armed to the max­i­mum. We salute them. Se­santi is as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor at the Nel­son Man­dela Metropoli­tan

Univer­sity’s depart­ment of jour­nal­ism, media and phi­los­o­phy

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