Chapter 6 – No more suppers for my comrades

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From the book: Le Rona Re Batho (An account of the 1982 Maseru Massacre) by Phyllis Naidoo, South Africa, 1992

The raid into Lesotho, not only killed 12 Basotho but also 30 South Africans.

Not all the 30 South Africans killed were members of the ANC. The only common thread between the 30 was the fact that they were all Black South Africans. Some were students at school in Lesotho. Some were visitors from South Africa. Others, recently arrived students, were escaping the horror and strangulation of Bantu education, hoping to further their studies and waiting for transport to Tanzania.

Not all ANC members are members of Umkhonto We Sizwe.

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Many of our youth were asked to elect whether they wished to further their formal education or wished to acquire military training. Being a member of the ANC does not make you a member of MK. The ANC was born on 8 January 1912 and its history of non-violent struggle is recorded and certainly known to successive White regimes that have kept the majority of South Africans out of the body politic. It was the banning of the organisation in 1960, rendering it devoid of its legal existence that gave birth to the establishment of the military wing of the ANC, MK, on 16 December 1961. The many trials that characterised the national life of our country from the early sixties testify to this division clearly.

The present negotiation process CODESA, tells for all to know that not every member of the ANC was MK. Some who displayed openly an anti – MK stance in the period of its illegality continue today their membership of the ANC.

Not being a member of MK, I am not in a position to say who were MK and who were not. But all those that I will describe were known to me as ANC members. I worked with some of them and knew them intimately. At 54,I was their mother, their comrade and mostly their friend. It was a great privilege to wear all three hats.

What was denied me in my country – South Africa, was afforded me in Lesotho. I was group area-ed at home. Here we lived, as human beings should. We worked together, we lived together, we played together and we cried together when and if the need arose. These were the precious memories that the mountain kingdom afforded us.

Can we ever thank you Mme ‘ Ntate? Your generosity is mind-boggling. In the face of so much provocation and stark poverty you continued to shelter us. The words of your then Foreign Minister Ntate C.D. Molapo ring through my being again and again,

” Lesotho is a nation of refugees – and whenever people seek asylum in Lesotho it is because they are confident that they will be welcome to live in peace.”

Khotso Ntate, Mme’

So let us look at the first home in which two students, a visitor and an ANC comrade visiting the recent arrival were killed. Pule, an ANC comrade, came see to the visitor. Perhaps there was news from home? All four were South Africans.

ISAAC MATLHARE, TSEPO MAKOA (14 & 15 yr. old students- Not refugees) SIPHO MCHUNU (visitor) PULE aka MAZIBUKO THEMBA (an ANC member & refugee)

The parents of both Isaac Matlhare and Tsepo Makoa, from Soweto, visited me in Maseru and recalled that to ensure safety of their children they were sent to Lesotho.

With all the problems of the school boycott after the uprising in June 1976 and the senseless murder of children in Soweto and elsewhere, these parents thought it would be safe to send their young boys to school at Matsieng in Lesotho. They held South African passports and visited family from time to time or family came to Lesotho to visit their children. They had a room and both cooked and cared for themselves since boarding facilities were few and expensive or non-existent.

Sipho Mchunu was their visitor from home and he brought news from home and a parcel of food and goodies. Sipho, a salesman, had come through the border at Maseru with a passport. Pule was in exile in Lesotho.

If you did not experience the rigour of the border checks at Maseru bridge or elsewhere in Lesotho on the South African side then that experience you are best without. Invariably Blacks had the most difficult time. These three South African passport-holders, all Blacks, must have passed the security check.

The police gave Blacks with South African passport a rough time at the border. The issue of a South African passport was not a right. Many could not get a passport, as the security police check before issue, was stringent. A Coloured cricketer, Basil D’Oliviera and M. N. Pather of “no normal sport in an abnormal society “fame, had their passports withdrawn. My brother, Paul David could never obtain a passport but was given temporary passports when I was bombed and when my son was assassinated. Several attempts to obtain one proved pur­poseless. So a Black having a passport has been checked and is double checked at the border.

The list of politically WANTED people in South Africa adorned the walls of the border/customs office. They checked, while adults and children waited for hours at the border.

All three, Sipho, Isaac and Tsepo must have been kosher. They were checked and passed through the border. That did not help, they were killed? So what was the basis of your intelligence. General?

Two children, 14 and 15 years and a young man, Sipho were killed. All were unarmed, sitting and chatting on their beds with Pule. The chips that Sipho/ no doubt, brought from home were strewn all over the bloodied floor. So many bullets for four people? Is your training lacking that coupled with the grenades and finding no one firing back at you, you had to fill 4 South African compatriots with so many bullets just to kill them?

Again, their last supper came so unannounced with no premonition of death and with their bodies digestive functions held in abeyance.

One of the parents of above the scholars told me the following story.

It was 16 December 1982, 7 days after the raid. What name has the 16th taken on now in anti – apartheid circles, I am not sure. It used to be MK day – perhaps it is now Heroes’ Day. On this day, White South Africa celebrated a conquest holiday.

However in many churches services were held to com­memorate the lives of compatriots killed in Maseru and else­where. After the service in Soweto people came in great numbers to the late student’s home to console and comfort the family.

It was not enough that you had murdered their innocent children; you refused, thereafter, to allow parents to bury their children in graves of their choice.

Both students’ families had attempted to take home their children’s bodies for burial.

The parents, with their dead children were held at the Maseru border for hours waiting for permission to return home. Eventually a refusal from South Africa in its distorted wisdom resulted in our children being buried in Lesotho. What pain was caused those parents?

The Hlapane home, next door, was not in mourning. On the contrary, there was a party with raucous music, thunderous drums, like a pack of elephants on the run – an ear shattering being cacophony penetrating the neighbourhood. The smell of meat being braaied filled the air. Both the music and braai continued throughout the day in contrast to the quiet of a neighbour mourning the loss of her son. Much liquor was being consumed. Non-stop drunken laughter, loud and noisy, came from this home. The success of the raid was being celebrated at the Hlapane home. The same raid that blotted out our son next door.

Who is this Hlapane? Bartholomew Hlapane?

He was the Judas of our struggle. Unlike Judas betrayed one man, our Hlapane betrayed hundreds. Court records will show this from 1963/4 to 1982. By the time he gave evidence in the Harry Gwala trial in 1977, many trials later, his use had ended. He was pathetic in the witness box, given anti gross and communist rhetoric that were beginning to bore even his racist masters, despite having gone to the USA and giving evidence at the Denton Hearings.

He was an executive member of the South African Communist Party, a top member of the ANC and founding member of the South African Congress of Trade Unions – SACTU

He emerged from countrywide detentions in 1963 to give evidence in the Bram Fisher trial sending many to imprisonment and Bram to his eventual death. He was reputed to have given evidence in over 15 trials.

Many sat on death row, Robben Island, Barberton and Pretoria due to the evidence he volunteered against his erstwhile comrades. Scores of homes lost their breadwinners to prison or death. However, the apartheid state has taken good care of their Black running dogs, albeit in their locations, homelands, self-governing states and ethnic councils. He was no exception.

So the party next door, the booze, meat and the music were most probably provided by the regime. The crying mother could not hear the several mourners who had come to comfort her. About 9 pm it seemed the Hlapane celebratory party reached a peak. It got really noisy and the drums louder.

Much later, she found out when the police arrived in a siren screaming vehicles that MK had put paid to the Hlapanes Bartholomew, his wife Matilda and Brenda a teenage daughter.

ZWELINDABA GOVA (42) AND ZETHILE DYANK (36)

Zwelindaba Gova and Zethile Dyani, two Transkeians, arrived in Lesotho in August 1982. Both came from the Enqcobo area. Mantu also arrived on the 2 August 1982. He lived in ‘Cuba House’ next door with the youth. He was injured in the massa­cre and taken to Queen 2 Hospital where ‘journalists’ looking for him by name threatened him. Until then the Foreign Office had given no names to the media. So suspicious of the ‘journalists’ authenticity, he was removed and brought to me to tend his broken leg and injuries, until he could be sent out of Lesotho for medical treatment.

After Adrian, an Irish journalist had helped me to bathe him, he told us the following, over dinner one evening:

“I worked at the Labour Recruiting Offices in the Transkei dealing with workers wishing to work in the Republic of South Africa or those wishing to renew their contracts after comple­tion of a year’s contract. AECI in Modderfontein was the largest contractor of labour in our office. AECI paid R258.00 per month for labourers, and R400.00 for Clerks. They did not provide transport. AECI paid top wages.

Rand Administration Board paid R33.00 per week and did not provide transport.

TEBA, recruiting for the mines was the only company that provided transport from the Transkei to the Mines. Both the Transkei passport and the Book of life (new name for the dompass) were vital in ensuring a job if other preliminaries were satisfied.”

One evening, throwing some envelopes into my waste paper basket, I wondered who had thrown away Dyani or Gova’s photograph.

These photographs of their burn bodies are Transkeians who did not offer themselves for a migrant labour. Which is Gova and which Dyani is anybody’s guess

I was mistaken. In fact the ‘photograph’ was an advert of AECI in the then Rand Daily Mail of 18 March 1983. The advert was hauntingly similar to the photograph.

I was reminded of Mantu’s story. Both Gova and Dyani were not migrant workers. I wondered if the firepower that AECI manufactured were used in the raid. Had they been sought and punished for not becoming migrant workers at their plant? The advert and their photographs looked so similar.

Nobody was able to tell how Gova and Dyani had met deaths. The Mosotho neighbour, 18-year-old Mapuleng was beyond speech when she was discovered. The little children found over her dead body were traumatised beyond description. The boys across the road, eight of whom were dead and two escaped nursing their injuries, could not help.

Whether all three attacks happened at the same time or in what order, is your guess.

Which is Gova

No, the story is not over. Please stay with me. Gova and Dyani’s wives and children arrived a day after the massacre to join their spouses.

I GO BEFORE YOU; TO PREPARE A PLACE FOR YOU- might be the title of this story. It was told me on Boxing Day 1982 after lunch with all the widows and their children

A lovely American, Chris, a Lecturer at the University of Roma, had all the widows and their children to Christmas lunch. Thank you, Chris.

Gova was married to Novinish in 1970 and they lived in Enqcobo in the Transkei. They had three children: Zukiswa (12) a girl, Xolile (6) a boy, and Malibongwe (4) a boy. Zukiswa was left behind to take care of the home, while the rest came in advance to check out Lesotho. If they were satisfied they would return home, pack their belongings and return with Zukiswa. Gova had been detained for more than six times in the Transkei. The South African version of the detention laws had just claimed its latest victim, Dr. Neil Aggett.

The appalling conditions of Transkei’s prisons were told by the injuries to Father Cass Poulsen’s body. The lack of a press has made it difficult to document accurately the use of deten­tion in its repressive control arsenal. However, the increasing number of Transkeians seeking political asylum in Lesotho told the tale of terror. Gova left Transkei after his recent detention of nearly four months.

Novinish – Malibongwe

Dyani was married to Sosayinile in 1975 and they had three children as well. Their eldest boy Melikaya was 8 years who stayed home in Enqcobo, like Zukiswa. Wesiswe a girl was 4 and Lusindiso, a boy was 2 years, the latter refused to be parted from his mother. The Transkeian police had detained Dyani on several occasions. He left with Gova and others.

Sosayinile, like Novinish, had arrived with part of their families to case the joint.

Both wives and their children had known no formal educa­tion. Asking for Maseru, they arrived with their shoes worn out. Their soles bleeding and feet dirty, they arrived with their tired children. The babies had to be carried throughout this strange, non-verbal journey. Xhosa was the only language they knew, and they were in Sesotho country. For them neither English nor Afrikaans had any existence. After medical examinations, and a hot bath, they were taken to Cuthberts for shoes for all.

It was 26 December 1982,17 days after the massacre, when I talked to them through a comrade interpreter. They had learned of the deaths of their spouses on arrival on 10 December, Human Rights Day. They had asked to see the bodies. The bodies could not be identified. Nobody was able to point out which charred body was Gova’s and which Dyani. They were cared for by strangers- all ANC comrades. They had attended the mass funeral on Sunday, 19 December. They did not understand the funeral ceremony. The speeches were in English and Sesotho. They met Oliver Tambo, President General of the ANC, at dinner after the funeral. They understood him but could not reply in their shocked state. And here was this woman asking about their husbands. Much of this interview was a shake of the head. Their vacant faces were impenetrable.

Sosayinile, Wesizwe Lusindiso

My own comrades who had lost their husbands were on a high. Our husbands died like soldiers. We are soldier’s wives we cannot cry,” they comforted themselves. Gova and Dyani’s widows were strangers to this talk. They comforted their crying children and looked on, not comprehending. It seemed as if they were forbidden to cry, by example. Sitting on the floor of my living room and while talking about Gazi whom I worked with, I burst out crying. I think it was the single most important thing that I did in my whole life. We were mostly women and children. We all broke down holding each other and cried. Yes, we cried. Novinish and Sosayinile also held on to each other, crying. Tears and more tears.

Much, much later, we all washed and waded into pudding and ice cream.

Yes, Gova and Dyani’s last supper was burnt out of their skeletons, my compatriots.

By your definition, these were not South Africans, but Transkeians, holding Transkei passports, who sought asylum in Lesotho. They were not trained ANC terrorists about to wreak vengeance on the Eastern Cape at Christmas. Why then?

They understood OR

I must apologise for the lack of proper names in the next account. This is the list as published by Refugee Section, Ministry of the Interior, Maseru, Lesotho. BIZA TOTO (20), ZIBA VUYANI (23), NGXITO PAKAMISA CECIL (22), MLENZE MICHAEL (24), MATANDELA DUMISOUTH AFRICANI (21), BONGANE MBUSO (19), NOTANA SIPHO (28), KANA NONELELI SAMPSON (19)

Which name belongs to whom, only those who know can tell. I do not know.

It was the practice in exile to take on new names, so that the agents amongst us would not be able to identify us in their reports to their handlers in South Africa. What our success rate in this endeavour was I am unable to estimate.

I shall tell their stories in the names by which I knew them.

VISTA, VIDO, ARRAH, CECIL, SAMSON, DUMI, ELS TOTO

I drew a diagram of Cuba House and both Mantu and Santo, the only survivors of Cuba House, corrected it. While the diagram below shows our pathetic architectural skills, it should give you an idea of what I shall be talking about. We were fortunate in having survivors, albeit wounded, to tell us about Cuba. For those prone to research, I would advise that you look at all the accounts of the raid and a minute description of this homestead in our daily and weekly papers. Do not forget, at the time The Rand Daily Mail was in print.

Look at all the pictures especially the posters on the wall of “CUBA” House. All those pictures are of leaders on the African continent. There is none of Yasser Arafat. The posters are of Baba Luthuli, OR, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Dr Agostino Neto, Samora Machel but none of Yasser Arafat.

I have always been curious as to how we were connected to the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO)? Could it not be that in trying to justify your copycat theory, you invented a parallel. SA’s military connection with Israel is well known. We support the struggle of the Palestinian people. The military connection is an invention of the General.

All 8 of the comrades here left homes in South Africa to come out to the ANC to advance their pathetic Bantu Education. The decision to enter MK would be made in Tanzania. Comrades had a choice to further their education or to choose a MK. Your terrorist massacre in Maseru of their friends certainly limited their choice.

What incentives did the ANC offer? There were no payments in our army. Our comrades lived on rice with worms for breakfast, lunch and dinner in Angola. If you doubt me, ask Professor Jack Simons, who lived in the camps for most of 1978.

Comrades died of Malaria and lack of medical facilities. Bread, was a great luxury if ever it became available. Passing through Angola, enroute to Budapest for medical treatment after the uk parcel bomb that hurt me in July 1979, I had to wait in Luanda for a few days for the Aeroflot connection. In the week that I was there the only fresh food we had was the lucky catch of the Soviet navy. It looked like a whale for it took up all the space on a three-metre kitchen table. Before that we had rice and corned meat from the Soviet Union. Agents of the South African government masquerading in our ranks in Luanda can cor­roborate that story.

In Tanzania it was no better. The ANC did not offer us a better life in exile. Mostly we begged for our keep. Comrade TG, our Treasurer, will tell that story better than my faltering pen. Sweden helped us enormously as did the anti – apartheid movement worldwide. The Socialist countries contributed so much to our educational needs/ our food, our clothing and our military expertise. Our African hosts in all their poverty offered us a home in their countries. The ANC could offer no one a better life in exile.

CUBA HOUSE:

The home of 10 of my comrades tells that story better than any description I could proffer. CUBA HOUSE consisted of three rooms, each having a door leading onto an open verandah. The 10 ANC comrades used the small room at the far end as a kitchen. In the middle room was a pantry of sorts. I saw it at 6 am on the 9th. There were burnt out polish tins. Oh yes! We keep our own homes polished too. Judson Khuzwayo in detention in 1975/6 used to polish his cell until he could see his bony face in it. The large room was the bedroom for all ten. The only furniture was a double bed on which four comrades slept. The bags with their earthly possessions were pushed under the bed. The other six slept on foam rubber mattresses on the floor.

These were stacked up against the wall during the day and spread out at night.

On that horrible night Santo, Arrah, Vasta and Vido were on bed while Cecil, Mantu, Samson, Dumi, Els and Toto were on the floor. Candles and a paraffin lamp lit the bedroom at night. The bathroom was the shed outside. Its mud floor had a few boards to stand and bathe on. The garden tools and primus stoves were also stored here. There was no running water nor was there a bath. ‘We heated the water on the gas stove, poured it into a bucket, collected some cold water from the tap outside and carried it into the bathroom. We soaped ourselves and poured water scooped out from the bucket with a Jam tin onto our bodies.

The toilet was a pit toilet and was cleaned on Monday. If anyone disobeyed ‘Cuba’s Laws ‘ they were punished with daily scrubbing of the toilet.

This is Cuba’s Laws which was published in The Rand Daily Mail of 10 December 1982 under the heading – ‘document found in another house – apparently called Cuba House – which attacked during the raid. Eight people died in the house during the attack.’

CUBA’S LAWS Order and Rules

Cleaning and Cooking – Daily Routine

  • 1. Making of bed by everybody
  • 2. Coffee making for who’s responsible for that day.
  • 3. Sweeping or (Scrubbing and polishing) (Tuesdays and Saturdays)
  • 4. Breakfast
  • 5. Window seal cleaning.
  • 6. Toilet sweeping and washing on Mondays
  • 7. Yard cleaning
  • 8. Lunch
  • 9. Coffee time on Sunset.
  • 10. Dish washing and water fetching

Rules

  • 1. Failure to fulfil these duties is a punishable offence
  • 2. To use a stove without permit is an offence.
  • 3. Discussions should be conducted by everybody at the table.
  • 4. You must inform the house if you are going to be late.
  • 5. Rebels will be referred to higher Courts,
  • 6. Rules not amendable on any circumstances
  • 7. The offender shall be given three days to fulfil his sentence.
  • 8. If a comrade borrows a book he will exchange it with another.
  • 9. Undermining the Court is a serious crime.

Our youth produced this document.

This was the daily routine by which Cuba House was run. It provided for sanctions for breach. A law without sanctions for breach is no law. This is a good legal document. No apology is intended or made for its English. That, Bantu Education can take credit for. Apartheid, that monstrosity, which spawned Bantu Education, can take full and sole responsibility grammar and spelling.

Let Santo tell you what this meant

” Vasta and Arrah came in at 11.30 pm. The rule was that all had to be in by 7.30pm. There was a curfew as we had seen the “boers” in Maseru. It was dangerous on the streets after 7.30pm and safe in their homes. (How wrong this proved to be.) Both Vasta and Arrah did not live to get their punishment for breach.”

“What punishment would you have imposed on them, I asked. Punishment was a week of cooking, scrubbing the house and toilet daily.

Let me introduce you to this ‘terrorist called Santo whose shoulder you shot. He was born on 2 March 1956 to Eunice, a nursing sister, who was widowed in 1978. His father died of a heart attack.

Santo had a brother in Form V and Santo gave up school in 1977 due to the schools boycott and several detentions .

In 1978 he worked at Ford Motor Company for R54.00 per week. He took part in the strike where workers were asking for R2.00 per hour. They were paid 95 cents per hour in a R3 million rand factory. The factory was closed and a shop steward was banned and house arrested (South African business claims it always opposed Apartheid). They returned to work on 8 January 1981 and earned R1.80 with 100 workers made redun­dant. Santo, too, was made redundant and though he was promised his Job when conditions improved. Conditions did not improve and he was never re-employed. Factories have no use for strikers. Free enterprise is not a charitable institution but seeks hungrily the best returns on its investment.’

In 1981 Santo worked for Pioneer Ford. During 1980-1981 he was detained for 9 months. Knowing that his mother and brother were going to be hurt by his activities, he decided to leave the country. He found that he knew several comrades in Maseru when he arrived on the 11 September 1982. He lived at the arrival centre for the first 2 days and thereafter was taken to Cuba House where he Joined 6 other comrades.

“I was quickly absorbed into regular discussions. Vista would lead the discussions on our history and topical subjects. Those who could afford newspapers shared them with us. We were fed properly. I have no complaints about food. The ANC gave me clothes, bedding and a foam mattress. I had cooked at home so I soon took over the cooking and making bread daily. We had no servants at home so very early in life, I attended to household chores and with time, became proficient in cooking. Daily I steamed bread over a gas cooker. Sometimes I cooked it dry. This was a Friday treat.”

Not believing him I asked him to describe how he made bread. He was spot on. Mantu confirmed his bread making skills.

On Thursday, only the shell of Cuba House remained and 8 comrades were bombed out of existence.

But what did they do on Wednesday 8 December 1982. What preparatory terrorist activity?

Let Santo tell us

” I woke up early at 5 am. Toto and I cleaned the kitchen. With flour, salt and yeast I prepared the dough and left it to rise. Later I put it into a pot to steam. I prepared tinned fish with Royco soup. At 8 am, all 10 had breakfast of fish and bread. Another comrade cleaned the kitchen while I washed my clothes. Between 10.00 -12.00, we had a discussion on the role of the ANC during World War II from 1939-1945. Vasta led the discussion. His last. We asked questions. Some contributed to the discussion. Details of which I cannot recall now.

I prepared lunch of thick porridge (pap), cabbage and mashed potatoes. I dished out the food. There was bread for those who might be hungry. We cleaned up after lunch and carried on the discussion from 2-4 pm.

From 4.45 – 7.00 pm we went to the Hilton where Dumi Toto Mantu and Arrah played football.

For supper, I prepared tinned fish with tomatoes and onions and bread. I received many compliments for my cooking. ( N0 WARNING SIGNS OF THIS, THEIR LAST SUPPER ) Toto washed dishes. I can see him now taking the basin of water and throwing out the water in the yard. We locked the kitchen at 10 pm. We were tired. The football players were soon asleep. No one read that night. Someone snuffed out the candle and we were soon asleep. Vasta and Arrah had gone visiting their girl friends in breach of the curfew. They returned at 11.00.”

No food parcels from home, no Sunday radiobroadcast to the boys (on the border) no Red Cross parcels, no lifts for home leave, no job guaranteed at the end of service. No perks whatsoever.

We love our country too. We love that country whose government has reduced us to beggars, denying us the basic of human rights and mostly the franchise enjoyed by all people over the world. We are not soldiers paid for our patriotism. We have sustained our commitment to the Freedom Charter on empty stomachs, through your continued repression and Carnage. Our reward would be the freedom of our country.

Can you tell me as accurately as possible what happened on that night I ask of Santo

” Vido and I were joined on the double bed, by Arrah and Vasta on their return. The other 6 were asleep on the floor on foam mattress. I was awakened when the curfew breakers returned, but went off the sleep soon thereafter. An explosion awakened me. We rolled off the bed as the bullets were flying low in the room. The door was not locked. We had lost the key and it was merely closed. After 5 minutes all was quite. They were possibly waiting for us to return the fire. BUT WE WERE NOT ARMED. The door was being opened and Arrah nearest to it kicked it closed. But a board had come off the door with the first explosion, one SADF put his hand through it and started firing. We had no lights. The moonlight did naught for our room. One SADF came in with a torch. No grenades were thrown into the bedroom. But explosions went on, on the outside. The first man shot me in the shoulder and I rolled over into the corner under the window with my head under the bed. I covered myself with the clothing we had removed from our persons earlier. Arrah, got up to fight, but he was shot down and fell. Two comrades had jumped out the window. I was too afraid to move. The SADF picked up the bed to remove the suitcases. They threw the empty bags on top of some clothing and me. One searched while the other stood at the door shouting, DIE FREEDOM FIGHT­ERS. The fellow inside was English speaking while the fellow at the door was Portuguese speaking.”

How do you know, I asked.

” Oh, there are many Portuguese traders at home and here in Lesotho. It seemed an age lying there. I knew my ear was exposed but dare not move to cover it as that would draw attention to me. So, I stayed there trying not to think about the pain in my shoulder, and breathing gently. I wasn’t sure when they left the room, but there was a big fire outside and many explosions. I must have lain in that one spot for three hours. At one stage, I heard them dragging the bodies and heard them count the bodies. The room was brightened with flashes of light. It is possible that they photographed my comrades but explosions on the outside could equally have caused the flashes. Eventually I crept up to the door. I felt my comrades. All were cold and still. No one breathed. There were no pulses. They lay there with their gaping wounds like many open mouths. Vasta and Arrah were still.”

From Santo’s description, if two comrades escaped, there were 8 left. If he lived to tell the tale, there were seven bodies at the broken bedroom door that morning.

Mantu, another occupant, and escapee take up the story. Cuba was machine-gunned. The bathroom, shed was destroyed and the motorcar parked in the yard was burning. The kitchen was bombed out with all the food destroyed. The pantry shelves were burnt out. The loo strangely was left intact.

Cde. Father Michael Lapsley too lost his hands and his right eye on the 28 April 1990 a few days before the meeting at Grooter Schuur.

“When there was a lull, I jumped out of the window, Cecil followed but his injury made his movements slower. I helped him out. We hid in the hedges behind Cuba. We checked to see that if we were followed and ran to the car and hid behind it. We realised that the whole yard would be checked, so we decided to jump over the fence. But Cecil could not jump and while trying to help him, an explosion lit up the yard. The illumination told the boers where we were. We were spotted and one SADF called out to another with a machine gun. As the two came towards us, I decided to run. For as long as I live I shall not forget Cecil pleading with the boers. “PLEASE SIR, SAVEMYLIFE “. They fired at me and I was hit on the knee. I fell, and got up hopping away and slowly distancing myself .

Poor, poor, Cecil, in the face of so much bombing he hoped that the boers would spare his life. His plea was met with a barrage of bullets.

When I crossed the street, and hid behind some trees, I looked at what was Cuba and saw 6-8 jubilant boers, their black polished faces lit up by the burning fires.”

No, the boers did not heed Cecil’s pathetic plea, he was murdered as he went unarmed towards them. We found him with the others, his once playful body made motionless with bullets. Oh, so many bullets.

Here too, the last supper of tinned fish, tomatoes and bread so excessively complimented earlier, was barely digested be­fore they were blasted out of existence.

No crossfire here, just children, some South African, some Transkeian undoing your Bantu Education. What did your expert intelligence tell you about these children? Such happy kids they were. You put paid to all their laughter and so much love of their country.