“We decided to not be sitting ducks, and to get into our car and drive out with our two babies. For a long time, I could not talk about this. I ran back to our house to get boots. That saved us,” she recalls.
“We did not know that the defence forces were shooting people who came out to the road. Their intelligence was out of date. They wanted to kill ANC people and stop the Botswana government from giving ANC people refuge.”
Twelve people were murdered. The reaction to the raid was so negative that apartheid spy Craig Williamson planted stories in The Citizen and Sunday Times under the headline, Guns of Gaborone, displaying images of weapons he had sourced from his security branch colleague, Eugene Coetzee.
The Richers, like many in the ANC and MK, left Botswana and moved to Zimbabwe. The raid, says Laurentia, affected their youngest child the most as they lived in a state of fear and constant surveillance after learning they were on the SA Defence Force hit list.
Many women are still afraid to talk of their experiences in MK, and of the sexually exploitative practices that happened to some at the hands of senior ANC members.
In a master’s thesis about 10 MK women, submitted in 2009, Kongko Louis Makau found that the greatest challenge the Class of 1976 had to deal with after crossing the border, was “undoing the long-held perception that the military was exclusively a male domain where women had no place”.
Many of the young women had been treated as equals during the Soweto uprising.
As Mohale recalls: “I used to work with men most of the time. They treated me with respect. I was mostly in the office of Moses Mabhida and Joe Gqabi. I was treated like a sister.”
Makau found that once they arrived in the frontline states, “the women, in some instances, were not taken seriously by their male counterparts or were even undermined. And, worse at times, they were seen as a threat for becoming soldiers.
“The women, therefore, had to rely on other people, such as Chris Hani, to protect them from abuse and maltreatment in the camps.”
One woman, who shared accommodation with MK female recruits from the 1960s and 1970s in Zambia and Tanzania, said the ANC at the time was illprepared for women.
“They had to live together with men in the camps. Maybe sometimes a separate tent was all they might have been given. They did not get sanitary towels, so they improvised with grass or clothes. They were constantly in fear of being raped. So, to protect themselves they would get a boyfriend or sleep with someone in charge.”
She relates the tale of an MK woman, who was once the lover of a well-known MK commander. He took her on as his girlfriend in the late 1970s. “The commander dumped her when she fell pregnant, and she learnt very early on to use a knife and to wear clothes that made it difficult to be raped by comrades.”
Thenjiwe Mtintso told the TRC how, despite her own high MK position, a male comrade told her: “You