Umkhonto we Sizwe ( MK ) marching on Vilakazi Street in Soweto, as Winnie Madikizela Mandela arrived for her birthday. File picture: Bhekikhaya Mabaso/African News Agency (ANA)
Umkhonto we Sizwe ( MK ) marching on Vilakazi Street in Soweto, as Winnie Madikizela Mandela arrived for her birthday. File picture: Bhekikhaya Mabaso/African News Agency (ANA)

June 16, MK heroes will never be forgotten

By Johnny Sexwale Time of article published Jul 5, 2020

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Reading the Sunday Independent electronic newspaper of June 14, 2020, my eye was caught by an article titled; Soweto's Forgotten Heroes, by journalists Zingisa Mkhuma and Sipho Mabaso.

The article was about two gallant warriors of our liberation struggle, Barney Molokoane and Sibusiso Mashinini (Minus) who died fearlessly fighting the enemy, during the liberation struggle of South Africa.

Barney and Minus fled into exile in 1976. During that period, I was working in the underground unit of the African National Congress (ANC), which smuggled Barney, Minus and hundreds of Soweto students out of South Africa into Swaziland.

What came to mind while reading the story was the many other struggle heroes, who sacrificed their youth and those who gave their lives to the struggle. Those Heroes will never be forgotten.

Their names and their heroic deeds should be etched in monuments across South Africa for the future generations to learn about them.

Nearly two weeks ago, it was the 44th anniversary of June 16, (Youth Day). Those who were present on that chilly day can still hear the staccato of the police machine guns and the smell of tear gas.

This is the day that changed the history of South Africa, and it is also a day that ignited the fire that led to our freedom.

The murder and arrests of students in Soweto did not stop the momentum and the determination of the students to fight the racial system of the white minority rule in South Africa.

Barney, together with more than five hundred Soweto students, underwent military training in Angola, where Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) established its first military camps in Africa, under the instruction of the Cuban military personnel.

At the end of the six months of military training, the MK soldiers were inaugurated, and their detachment was named “June 16 Detachment”.

Each MK soldier took an oath in front of the President of the ANC, who was also the Commander-in-Chief of Umkhonto, we Sizwe. The MK soldiers pledged to serve the people of South Africa, and also pledged die for their country.

Barney Molokoane excelled in the military skills and he later became a commander of a specialised underground MK unit, (Special Operations).

He and his unit underwent a further rigorous specialised training in the use of limpet mines (a mine that is placed on the belly of a ship for maximum destruction), sea diving and the use of Soviet-made rocket launchers.

The brave military attacks that Barney's unit conducted, against the enemy, were remarkable and will never be forgotten, and more especially by the enemy.

Many liberation struggle heroes were killed while confronting the enemy, during cross-border raids in neighbouring countries, ambushed by rebel forces in Angola, kidnapped, arrested and hanged.

Among the many, some of the names that will always be remembered are those of heroes of the struggle such as:

- Montsho Mokgabudi (Obadi) - A Special operations commander who was killed by the South African Defence Force in Matola-Mozambique.

- Sello Motau (Paul Dikeledi) - ambushed and killed by South African forces near Matsapa Airport in Swaziland.

- Cassius Maake - An ANC National Executive Member - ambushed and killed by South African forces near Matsapa Airport in Swaziland.

- Lesetja Sexwale (Reggie - Krappies) - Killed together with three of his comrades during a skirmish with the South African police in the Eastern Cape.

- Jerry Mosolodi (Dragon) - Arrested and sentenced to death by the racist judge in South Africa.

- Solomon Mahlangu - Arrested and sentenced to death by the racist judge in South Africa.

- Zweli Nyanda (Phokojwe) - killed by the apartheid murder squad in Swaziland.

- Dulcie September - assassinated by a parcel bomb in Paris-Frans.

- Vernon Nkadimeng (Rogers Mevi) - killed by a car bomb planted by the South African security forces in Gaborone-Botswana.

- Mary Mini - killed in Maseru-Lesotho during a nighttime raid at her apartment by the South African Defence Force.

These gallant fighters of our liberation army, Umkhonto we Sizwe, heroes will never be forgotten.

The ongoing government programme of erecting monuments across South Africa for the heroes of the struggle should be fast tracked. South African citizens and the future generations should know and honour the men and women who dedicated their lives towards the freedom of South Africa.

The military training, received by Umkhonto we Sizwe, the moral and material support received from the governments of Angola, Soviet Union, Cuba and many progressive forces around the world, has made it possible for the liberation movement to sustain the momentum of the offensive for the destruction of the system and the creation of a new order in our country.

Long live the spirit of the youth of June 16, 1976. 

* Johnny Sexwale is South African Ambassador to the Republic of Congo.

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

Sunday Independent

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