Having left home in the 1960s for the apartheid gallows in Pretoria, where they were hanged on June 16, 1964, four men finally returned home where they were given a decent burial on home turf.
Known as the Munsieville Four, the men were reburied at the Heroes’ Acre of the Sterkfontein Cemetery, just outside the West Rand township, after a four-hour service at the local stadium on Saturday.
Petrus Ntshole, 22, Thomas Molatlhegi, 31, Richard Motsoahae, 23 and Josiah Mocumi, 40, were soldiers of the Azanian People’s Liberation Army, the military wing of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) and were sentenced to death for killing a security guard they accused of selling them out to the police at the time.
The four, known in the annals of PAC history as the 4+1, after they agreed among themselves that one of them, Oupa Moroeng, be spared culpability, went to the gallows saying they had killed no one. They insisted they were fighting for dispossessed land. Buried like paupers by the racist regime at the Mamelodi Cemetery, their bodies were exhumed late last year for the reburial that took place this past Saturday, finally closing a sad chapter for the families.
PAC president Narius Moloto, who gave the keynote address, said: “We are burying them, not reburying them because they were just dumped.”
Like many who spoke before him, Moloto urged unity among the followers of the party of Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, the founding president.
The priest who presided over the ceremony touched hearts when he told those gathered that “their deaths must help revive the PAC”.
The PAC is disintegrating from internal wranglings. But last Saturday, all who wore party T-shirts were united in their respect and adulation for the Munsieville Four. Sufficiently pacified, they even allowed Mogale City mayor Naga Lipudi to pay his tributes while they would normally get their knickers in a knot over an ANC-aligned speaker.
Handover of recovered remains by Minister Masutha at Freedom Park:— Madeleine Fullard (@mfullard2) March 16, 2019
Richard Motsoahae, age 22, and Josiah Motsumi, age 40, were among four PAC members executed on the Gallows on 16 June 1964 for the killing of a security policeman in Munsieville in 1963. pic.twitter.com/sXBvimHPa0
At the podium, the families were represented by Lazarus Molatlhegi, Thami Motsoahae, Peggy Seloro, Nee Ntshole and Doctor Mocumi.
Former PAC president Dr Motsoko Pheko also urged unity among members, to wild applause. Perhaps the man who spoke best about the Munsieville Four was local PAC stalwart Mike Matsobane, who knew the men well.
“The aim of the 4+1 was to liberate the mind to let it think out of the box. Their aim was to free the African warrior from the fear of death and to develop a cadreship of distinction and integrity. Those dying fighting for freedom have the gates of Heaven wide open for them. Indeed they are saints,” said Matsobane, a former Robben Island inmate.
Matsobane told of how Mocumi, affectionately known as Bra Hunter “held the view that the PAC is the real ANC”.
According to Matsobane, Molatlhegi had returned to Munsieville to “tell all who could hear that he had met a prophet”.
This was after his encounter with Sobukwe. In a previous interview, Molatlhegi’s son Pius had told a reporter that, growing up, all he knew about his father was that he was hanged. Peggy Seloro has lived to see her elder brother Petrus Ntshole finally get a decent burial.
As a young woman in her early twenties, she used to visit him while he was on death row. She remembered their mother fainting at the news that her brother had been arrested in 1961. The old woman would never see her son alive again.
Seloro had fond memories of her brother, who died at 22.
She recalled that her brother, a dandy dresser of the time, bequeathed her and her other sister a Pringle jersey each. “He then said my other brother, Chimane, should have the rest of his wardrobe. To my father he gave his Plymouth.”
The Plymouth was the car they used on the numerous visits to her brother. Matsobane recalls that Ntshole was a trumpeter, “a natural gift he possessed, which he used to advance the struggle for freedom”.
“He is one of those who brought rhythm and beat to our underground songs,” said Matsobane.
The songs sung at the time had messages - like Unzima lomthwalo, ufuna simanyane, meaning “this burden is heavy and requires of us to unite,” said Matsobane.