Help heroes’ families, MK pleads
Former combatants say role in fighting apartheid regime now forgotten
UMKHONTO we Sizwe veterans have urged the government to support MK fighters and the families of fallen heroes who died fighting against the apartheid regime.
Marking their 50th anniversary in Gugulethu yesterday, MK veterans spent the day cleaning the graves of their fallen comrades before marching through the streets of the township.
Several ex-combatants said South Africa had forgotten the crucial role they played in overthrowing the former government.
MK veteran Chippa Soko, 45, from Khayelitsha, said only a select few of his comrades had been looked after since MK suspended its operations, while the majority were destitute and poverty stricken. Soko said these were people who had said: “Here am I today, I’m ready to die for our freedom.”
Many veterans were desperately in need of counselling, schooling and skills development.
Many had been “thrown into the defence force” after liberation, but did not want to be soldiers.
“It was not their ambition to be soldiers, they were men with a cause – to overthrow a government. When they succeeded, they wanted to live out their own dreams. Instead they were forced into the army, which many later left. Now they are dying penniless, homeless and lonely drunkards.”
Soko’s sentiments were echoed by several high-profile ANC members who attended the celebrations.
Addressing the veterans at a community hall in Gugulethu, Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale said the country could learn from MK veterans’ self-discipline and their respect for leadership and country.
ANC national executive committee member Tony Yengeni said the country was failing MK veterans, and this was a travesty of justice.
“South Africa today is what it is because of the blood spilled by numerous Umkhonto we Sizwe cadres.”
He said part of the celebrations in Gugulethu were for young people to understand the role MK soldiers played.
“These men sacrificed their youth, their education and their lives to free a nation and they deserve to be given the basics to survive.”
Among those who paid “the ultimate price” in the fight to liberate South Africa were the Gugulethu Seven who were shot dead by police on March 3, 1986.
Yesterday their relatives welcomed the initiative honouring their memory.
Cynthia Ngewu, the mother of Christopher Piet, one of the seven, said her son’s birthday was December 16, making yesterday an even more special occasion.
Reuben Mxinwa, whose brother was one of the seven, said it was important that the youth of today understood and respected those who fought for freedom.
“We need to tell the new generation that they had heroes who lived in Gugulethu, brave men who, like my brother, who fought for the rights of others.”
MK suspended all operations in August 1990, and its forces were integrated into the SANDF in 1994.
FALLEN HEROES: The ANC’S armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) marked its 50th anniversary in Gugulethu by cleaning the graves of fallen comrades who died fighting the apartheid regime.
BITTER: Chippa Soko says only a few were looked after.