Dennis Pather
Dennis Pather

A shame to neglect our liberation heroes

By Dennis Pather Tongue In Cheek Time of article published Jan 19, 2020

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Think Cape Town and most people instinctively visualise a cloud-capped Table Mountain.

The same goes for Kimberley and the Big Hole, Joburg and Sandton Square and Pretoria and the Union Buildings.

With Durban, it’s a no-brainer - the majestic Moses Mabhida stadium, of course, which dominates the city skyline from any direction.

When Durbanites head for a big soccer game or a music festival at the popular landmark, they normally tell their friends: “I’m off to Mabhida”.

Yet, how many of them know about the man and why the city’s most iconic building bears his name?

It would take far too long to delve into the detail of this humble servant of the people, but history recalls the story of the former “herd boy” who, after a distinguished career as a trade unionist and leader in both the ANC and the SACP, skipped the country in 1960 to fight a war to liberate his people from oppression.

After more than two decades in exile, during which he rose in the ANC’s armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, he suffered a stroke and died in 1986 in Maputo.

Life for exiles like Mabhida during the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s was a lonely and challenging experience.

While they were prepared to make many sacrifices to fulfil their mission, they expected their comrades back home to play their role by ensuring the families they left behind were looked after.

But, alas, in many cases, that never happened.

I had to suppress a lump in my throat when reading a recent newspaper report in which Mabhida’s daughter and only surviving child, Thuthukile, recounts how many local leaders of the liberation Struggle abandoned the family while her father was busy fighting a war in exile.

She talks fondly, yet sadly, of how former president Jacob Zuma used to visit the Mabhida home regularly for many years, but stopped after her mother Simangele Mabhida died in 2009.

She said the family would love to see Zuma visiting them again.

What distressed me most was her recollection of the “shameful” conditions the family were forced to endure during the years her father was in exile.

It was perhaps divine providence that Dr Zweli Mkhize, a member of the ANC’s NEC, happened to drop in to visit the family and was shocked and ashamed to see the deplorable conditions in the Mabhida family’s mud house.

“Zweli visited the family one day only to find my partially blind mother mending the house with mud to close the holes. He felt ashamed and started looking for sponsors,” Thithukile told the journalist.

It was only then that things started to happen. Mkhize linked up with businessman Mzi Khumalo, who arranged for the building of a proper brick home for the family in Imbali, Pietermaritzburg.

Well, all’s well that ends well, at least for one family.

But what about all the other forgotten liberation fighters out there, forced to eke out a living on their meagre government’s pensions?

Surely they deserve better.

* The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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