Cape Town - The family of slain Umkhonto we Sizwe operative Anton Fransch say the sacrifices made by him have far too easily been forgotten.
Fransch died during an epic seven-hour gun battle with security police during the turbulent 1980s.
Described as a martyr, Fransch’s brave stand against police was remembered by a small group of family, friends and members of the ANC, who gathered at Kromboom Park in Athlone on Monday, 25 years after the event.
Fransch, 20, kept a squadron of police and soldiers at bay for more than seven hours in Church Street, Athlone, on November 17, 1989, but was eventually killed in a hand-grenade explosion.
Fransch’s eldest brother, Marc, remembers the day as if it were yesterday.
“That morning a newspaper phoned me to tell me that Anton was dead. The memory is as painful today as it was back then. But we as a family always remember,” he said.
An outspoken Fransch questioned where the cabinet ministers were, adding that his “brother fought this battle in vain”.
“They drive around in their fancy cars and they have no time for the fallen heroes.”
Also still haunted by Anton’s memory is his close friend and fellow MK soldier, Mohamed “Gori” November.
Gori described Fransch as a “brave comrade” who would not hesitate to lay down his life.
“Anton was a hero because of the way he fought that battle and the way he allowed the police to first take the family to safety, who lived in the house where he rented.”
Gori said Fransch was the only MK guerilla in the Western Cape who had managed to hold back the special and security forces for such a long period of time.
“He was 20 years old but he had to take on the responsibility of a man at a very young age. He became a man long before he completed being a boy.”
Gori said they were a fortunate generation because they lived and grew up among a generation of heroes.
Nathan Asher, Fransch’s son, who runs a church-based rehabilitation centre said his father’s legacy lives on in him.
“The battle we face today is not economic or political, it is spiritual,” he said.
Adding that he had never had the opportunity to know his father, he committed to ensuring his father’s legacy survived.
Basil Snayer, who lived next door to the house where Fransch died, remembers clearly how the police shouted: “Kom uit jou vark, vandag is jy vrek,” (Come out you pig, today you’re dead).
“It was a most heroic and brave fight. From quarter to one to quarter to eight… In the end his flesh was stuck to the walls.”
Activist Mario Wanza said there was a time when the ANC and the UDF were united.
“Now they are divided… We have forgotten what these heroes fought for… It is time to unite and walk together again. We must return to the values we had in the past. Let’s stop fighting with each other,” he added as he symbolically threw down an ANC flag.
ANC deputy provincial chair, Abe Bekeer, who represented the ANC in the absence of the provincial leader, Marius Fransman, said it was important that Fransch’s bravery be known for many generations to come.
“Today we honour one of the bravest soldiers in the fight against apartheid. We are saying that the time has come that our unsung heroes be recognised.”
Bekeer said Fransch represented a cohort of young activists who were deeply committed to the struggle against apartheid – prepared to risk their lives for their beliefs.