Fallen hero Anton Fransch honoured
IT was one of the most “heroic deaths” Basil Snayer witnessed in the armed struggle – when Umkhonto we Sizwe commander Anton Fransch was engaged in a seven-hour gun battle with apartheid armed forces.
Fransch, 20, was eventually killed when a hand grenade lobbed into the room in which he sought refuge in Church Street, Athlone, exploded.
Recalling the early hours of November 17, 1989, neighbour Snayer told a group gathered to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Fransch’s death yesterday that he had been trapped in a little back room surrounded by a ”battalion” of soldiers and apartheid security officers.
The SANDF and the police had been sent to kill Fransch for his opposition to the apartheid regime. Snayer and his children listened to the sound of gunfire that went on for hours and declarations that Fransch would die that day.
“These are the things a youngster, 20 years old, had to face for yours and my freedom today. A youngster who had decided to leave this country for proper military training to come back and fight for the liberation of this country,” Snayer said.
“It was the most heroic death. It was the bravest fight that I know of in the struggle. I believe there were one or two others who fought alone against an army of people. He fought here from 12.45 to 08.45 in the morning when, finally, they couldn’t beat him with anything of their gunfire, but with a hand grenade that was thrown and blew him up.”
Snayer said it was up to those who were alive today to continue fighting against a different racism, apartheid structures, drugs and corruption.
Snayer, who is the uncle of anti-apartheid activist Robert Waterwitch, retold the story in front of the property on which Fransch was killed.
Fransch’s older brother Marc said at the time of his death, the 20-year-old’s family had not been aware that he had returned to the country. Marc said he had last seen him two years before his death when he skipped the country.
He thanked those who attended the commemoration – including ANC members and his brother’s comrades – held in front of the Memorial Square in Kromboom Park, but had harsh words for those in positions of power. It seemed his brother’s fight in the armed struggle was “in vain”.
“Show me one minister here. They drive around in their fancy cars, no time for the fallen heroes. How would we be able to get a hold on the Western Cape? Through their doing, we lost the battle for the Western Cape.”
Fransch’s son, Nathan Asher, who was two years old when the activist was killed, said although he never met his father, he was continuing the legacy of trying to better the country. He is involved in a programme to rehabilitate former drug addicts and reform former gangsters.