Fed up with ANC, some ’Upington 26’ trialists want their faces removed from monument
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More survivors of the 14 trialists who were sentenced to death row for the crowd killing of a municipal police officer Lucas “Jetta” Sethwala in Paballelo in 1985, will be removing their faces from the historical monument that was erected in their honour, on Friday, July 2.
The faces of the trialists are adorned on the monument, where one of the faces was blocked out and painted with black paint on Monday.
There are only 13 remaining of the original “Upington 26” who were imprisoned.
Fourteen of the accused were sentenced to death.
They were later released after their sentences were overturned on appeal in 1991 following an international outcry.
Ex-political prisoner Zonga Mokgatla on Tuesday stated that he was the last of the accused to be released from death row.
“The ANC has failed the struggle heroes, our efforts were in vain. One by one we are dying without being recognised for our role in the fight for freedom. Our families and children have also been left destitute, without jobs or a source of income.”
He indicated that he had decided to be the first trialist to remove his face from the monument on Monday.
“On Friday more trialists will do the same.”
Mokgatla said that while some of the trialists had benefited from high ranking jobs in government, many received no assistance following their release from prison.
“We suffered while in prison but our agony has been prolonged after our release from the claws of death 25 years ago, where we continue to suffer. We were willing to die for the organisation and yet we have been forgotten and shunned by the ANC. Before we were sentenced, some ANC leaders drove past our homes in luxury vehicles, saying it was our time to go to jail, so that they could eat the gravy.”
He added that his only compensation was a menial job to clean the parks at Dawid Kruiper Municipality.
“I was told to pick up papers and rocks and if I was not happy with this arrangement, I was free to go. I am supposed to retire in the next two years but I will not even have a decent pension to live off. My children are unemployed and other trialists have passed away while their children were never offered jobs.”
ANC provincial secretary Deshi Ngxanga on Monday said the historical site that reflected the struggles of the people of Paballelo and Upington against racial domination and oppression, was defaced.
“On November 13 1985, almost 3 000 people gathered on a soccer field in Paballelo to discuss community grievances. The reaction of the police was savage attacks and tear gassing of unarmed and defenceless people.”
He indicated that they had footage of someone who had painted a face on the monument.
“I am not sure if the paint can be removed. We do not want to speculate on the reasons for the defacing of the monument.”
He did not wish to resolve the matter “through the media” and stated that a team of provincial executive committee (PEC) members would be sent to investigate and compile a comprehensive report.
“The PEC appeals to the community to treasure and appreciate the monument as part of our collective legacy.”