Retired General Dan Romero Mofokeng, PAC secretary-general Narius Moloto and NEC member Mohlakore Mopedi during the Apla Day commemoration at Mamelodi West Cemetery.Picture: Jacques Naude / ANA
RUDZANI MATSHILI 

PAC members were in high spirits yesterday as they commemorated the 56th anniversary of the party's former military wing, the Azanian People’s Liberation Army (Apla), at the Mamelodi West Cemetery.

The day, which marked the formation of Apla - formerly known as Poqo - in 1961, is celebrated annually.

It was at the cemetery where the remains of 10 Poqo stalwarts who were hanged by the apartheid regime from 1963 to 1967 were exhumed about a week ago.

The exhumations are part of the Gallows Exhumation Project launched by Justice Minister Michael Masutha in 2016 which is aimed at recovering the remains of 130 political prisoners.

The bodies remained the property of the state with families being denied the opportunity to bury them.

PAC spokesperson Kenneth Mokgatlhe said the military wing was formed in the aftermath of the bloody and brutal Sharpeville and Langa massacres of 1960.

He said Poqo was the forerunner of Apla and was formed on September 11, 1961. The day, the PAC said, remained on their yearly calendar as justice for the fallen heroes of the Struggle, especially those who were hanged during the glory days of Poqo.

“Poqo martyrs were targeted and brutally killed,” Mokgatlhe said, adding that the PAC became the first political organisation to formally launch its radical military wing, which directly confronted the enemy.

The party said Poqo lost close to 100 people through the “ungodly hangings” and, party members said the successes recorded by democratic South Africa could be attributed to the struggle they had fought.

The PAC broke away from the ANC in 1956, established to form cells and commence work towards the armed struggle.

Its first president was Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, said to be an unsung hero among apartheid Struggle stalwarts, while being attributed with leading from the front in the anti-pass campaign, which resulted in the infamous March 21, 1960, Sharpeville massacre.

The PAC’s Jackie Seroke said it was important that the day be celebrated.

“It is important to always commemorate this day because we are reminded of where we come from and also because these people deserve a celebration as they made a huge contribution to the Struggle.”

The day was also a celebration of the PAC’s heritage.

“We are also celebrating our heritage as a party. We want to celebrate and examine our pros and cons, our losses and setbacks, all on this same day,” he said.

The party was weak and its members needed to redirect themselves, he said.