'Bongolethu Three' still revered by community 35 years later
The three teenagers, Fezile Hanse, 14, Andile Majola, 13, and Patrick Madikane, 14, later became known as the Bongolethu Three.
During the round-robin sitting of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearing held in Oudtshoorn, police testified that they had acted in self-defence after a crowd attacked the township house that they were guarding.
One policeman testified that one of the youths had sprinkled petrol on to the carpet of the house and that another had matches on him. T o stop him from striking the match, the policemen in charge shot the boy. The other two were shot in the process of fighting the crowd which had gathered outside the house.
However, the TRC resolved that the killing of the Bongolethu Three at Bongolethu, Oudtshoorn, amounted to an “ambush” carried out on children and youth.
The commission found that the adoption of Trojan Horse ambush tactics by the security forces to be entirely inappropriate for dealing with civilian unrest. The ambush tactic was used to lure civilians deliberately into situations which then resulted in fatalities and injuries.
As a former political activist coming from the township of Bongolethu, this incident is still vividly perched in my mind. It was an incident that we adopted as our June 16 moment for the youth of Bongolethu.
After that incident, which became known as the Bongolethu Three incident, our townships of Bongolethu and Bridgeton remained in a state of revolt and political upheaval until the end of the year, and what followed the next year were detentions, while some of us were subjected to various charges until beyond 1987.
Our township later resembled a military zone and a police training college as they patrolled in nyalas and army trucks. All this time, many of our local leadership had no choice but to remain in hiding.
One of our local leaders, Mzukisi Mooi, who witnessed the ambush of the three youths, was also a Saamstaan newspaper journalist who was later charged for having provided a different version to that of the police on this killing.
Thirty-five years later, Bongolethu in Oudtshoorn still remembers the three youths who were killed. I still remember the day when we laid them to rest. The events of that day are still deeply etched in my memory. The funeral was held under a heavy police and army presence.
Our local leadership could not attend as they feared arrest.
That incident was to shape our township and the entire Oudtshoorn into a resilient and united community that showed united strength in pushing apartheid and its structures out of our townships.
* Makhaya Manie is a former youth activist from Oudtshoorn.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
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