Sibusiso Saul 'Minus' Mashinini died for his conviction that SA would be liberated
He was a talented actor, singer and had a great sense of humour. He had a passion for cooking and baking and took care of all of us six siblings when my parents were working awkward shifts. He didn’t speak at the time of his departure. He just disappeared shortly after the 1976 upheavals.
I learnt later when I reconnected with him outside the country that he was a staunch devotee of a liberated South Africa. He believed that it was his destiny to free South Africa from oppression. He hated to see any form of oppression, whether it be ageism, sexism and racism. He fervently believed that we are all born equal and that we should treat each other as such. He treated me as his peer although he was far older than I am. He had a conviction that the country would be liberated, that is why he was prepared to die for this ideal.
In hindsight, I wouldn’t say he was aware of what he was getting himself into, although I believe he was advanced for his time. He may have realised after being sold out by his would-be comrades and shot during his underground work what he had gotten himself to. I also believe that he may have realised, in his final hour, when what he thought were his comrades pulled their machetes and mangled his body beyond recognition. He was martyred for his fervent belief in the liberation of the country.
I believe he died with honour because he did not succumb to torture and divulge secrets of his department. He died with honour because he thought his blood would nurture the tree of liberation.
I don’t think they wanted the June 16, 1976 heroes to come back home. It is not a coincidence that he was murdered just when the exiles were coming back home.
My parents were devout Christians. They had no formal education and they wanted us to acquire an education and live better than them. My father was a rail worker and my mother worked as a cleaner in a hotel in Braamfontein.
Long before June 16, my brother was the main character of a play called Whose to Be Blamed, which Seth Mazibuko directed. I suspect each character wrote their own lines. It was a highly political play. They used the play to mobilise pupils around the country and prepared them for the June 16 upheavals. They travelled all over. Minus was the youngest member of the play.
Minus skipped the country with about 10 cast members. They joined the ANC/MK and became members of what is commonly known as the June 76 Detachment. Minus was the youngest member of the June 16 Detachment. They received military training in Pierivalne, Ukraine and came back to become instructors of the other pupils who joined the MK post ’76 uprising. Minus was deployed in the Ordnance Department.
As a senior member of Ordnance, Minus was responsible for smuggling arms and ammunition into the country. He smuggled among others, the Katyusha, which the Barney Molokoane unit used to bombard Sasol, and the headquarters of the SADF in Voortrekkerhoogte. Indeed, he was the typical June 16 hero. There is a lot that he gifted the country. He had a strong passion with clear objectives and ended up being persecuted for that, like many of the June 16 heroes.
I have never encountered his name anywhere, save for File SAB, K345, Volume 148, part 19 of the Collie Commission of Inquiry into the so-called Riots of Soweto. In his court testimony, which may have taken place in the late 1970s, Seth Mazibuko mentions Saul Mashinini (Minus) was one of the students who participated in the June 1976 upheavals. Strangely, Seth does not mention him when he is interviewed about June 16. Neither does the ANC. It is as if he never existed.
Minus had four children that I know of. I guess one is here, one in Mozambique and one in Swaziland. There is one who died tragically when an off-duty policeman drove his car over him. I was made to believe that there was one child in Lusaka, Zambia. I travelled to Lilanda in Lusaka, trying to trace her but my attempts bore no fruit.
Looking at what is happening right now, I understand why his life was cut short when he was only 30 years old. True revolutionaries do not live long. Even when they are in exile, they do not come back.
The ANC said he died in a car accident. Now we know that he was sliced with machetes. We also know why the ANC failed to probe into his mysterious murder. There is no closure but I wish those who ordered his killing to live long to witness the day when their treachery would be exposed.
The Sunday Independent.