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A FELLOW marcher fell on top of former MK soldier Fumanekile Tete to protect him from the oncoming bullets, saving Tete’s life but sacrificing his own, during the Bhisho massacre.
On Friday morning, the 20th anniversary of the massacre – on September 7, 1992 – Tete was part of a group of uniformed military veterans from Umkhonto We Sizwe, the ANC’s former armed military wing, who attended the commemoration ceremony.
Tete was among a 60-strong and two-platoon former MK contingent who joined about 2 000 other people at the ceremony, held at the Bhisho Stadium, next to the massacre site, which has since been transformed into a monument and park in honour of the 28 marchers and a soldier who lost their lives that day.
To this day, the 45-year-old Tete does not know the identity of the marcher who sacrificed his life to let him live, unharmed. ”He’s one of the people we are commemorating today,” said Tete, who travelled from East London for the event.
Recalling that day, survivor Tete – who joined MK as a schoolboy in Mdantsane – said: “I looked up and saw a helicopter taking off, leaning slightly towards us. Then the shooting started. Someone fell on top of me and I’m forever grateful because he saved my life.”
In similar scenes, ANC leaders of the march, including the late Communist Party leader Chris Hani, and Cyril Ramaphosa, were mobbed by people who fell on top of them to protect them.
On Friday Tete got the chance to meet two of his heroes, ANC NEC member and former Arts and Culture minister Pallo Jordan, and ANC veteran and former Defence Minister Ronnie Kasrils. The two leaders noticed the group of uniformed MK veterans at a wreath-laying ceremony. They hugged, shook hands and danced.
Shortly afterwards, Tete and his contingent danced and sang as they jogged to the stadium – where the crowd cheered wildly as the former soldiers entered.
Another MK veteran
, Nathi Bukani, 46, said he had been in a camp in Uganda when the massacre happened. “There was anger in the camp,” he said. “Negotiations had already started.”
Bukani said it was important
that the former liberation soldiers – “the army of the people” – did not forget the victims.