Help he­roes’ fam­i­lies, MK pleads

Former com­bat­ants say role in fight­ing apartheid regime now for­got­ten

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - WARDA MEYER

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.

warda.meyer@inl.co.za

PIC­TURES: BRAN­DON VAN DER MESCHT

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.