Thursday, December 17, 2009

They mention him in the same breath as Gandhi?

The day that blew open the pathway to freedom


EXACTLY 48 years ago, five powerful explosions ripped through Port Elizabeth, causing mayhem and panic among residents and police.

As the bombs exploded, thousands of pamphlets were thrown from a car which sped through the city’s townships. They advertised the existence of the ANC’s newly launched military wing Umkhonto weSizwe and attacked the government, stating that “violence will no longer be met with non-violence”. That historic night on December 16, 1961, was when MK began its campaign of sabotage against the apartheid government with a series of bomb blasts at state installations across the country.

Six months earlier, on June 26, founding commander-in-chief Nelson Mandela sent a letter to newspapers, stating: “I shall fight the government side by side with you, inch by inch, until victory is won ... Only through hardship, sacrifice and militant action can freedom be won.”
In the following months, the MK leadership – among them Port Elizabeth’s Vuyisile Mini, head of the Eastern Cape Regional Command – considered what form of action they would undertake; sabotage, guerilla warfare or open revolution.

December 16 is now regarded by the MK as its founding date. The day was chosen as the attack date because it was the Day of the Covenant, marking the 1838 Battle of Blood River when the Voortrekkers under Piet Retief inflicted a humiliating defeat on the Zulu nation.

The five targets in Port Elizabeth, chosen in line with MK’s policy of not causing any deaths, were:

An electrical transformer at the sub-station in Brickmakers Kloof, Central, where two blasts were heard.

The Kragga Kamma electrical sub-station near Frames Drift, where a bomb thrown on the roof burnt a hole through the asbestos sheeting.

The Bantu Administration building in KwaFord, next to the bus depot, where a door was blown out.

The old Native Administration office where windows were smashed.

The New Brighton School Board office, where a door was blackened by a bomb.

Access to the Brickmakers Kloof sub-station transformer was obtained by sawing through a padlock with a hacksaw later found at the scene.

The government was taken totally by surprise, and within a few hours every available policeman was on guard countrywide watching power stations, post offices, administrative buildings, sub- stations, magazines and other vital installations to prevent attacks, while constables in groups of six maintained regular patrols in the townships.

The attack came the same day the director of the Atomic Energy Board, Dr AJA Roux, announced South Africa had the scientific knowledge, ability and industrial potential to produce an atomic bomb.

A resident who lived nearby said the Brickmakers blast had thrown him out of a chair. Within minutes, traffic police with sirens wailing were on the scene.

Police Colonel A J van Zyl, senior CID officer in the Eastern Cape, said melted plastic bags had been found at the scene of the bombings as well as a few other items, including a piece of plastic piping.

Govan Mbeki, 50, Harold Strachan, 35, Joseph Jack, 31, and John Soyeye, 32, were later charged for contravening the Explosives Act.

Soyeye, caught in Rink Street outside St George’s Park after the Brickmakers Kloof blasts, turned state’s evidence but fled the country after being granted bail. His three accomplices escaped capture until 1962.

Pamphlets were also distributed in Johannesburg, where five bombs went off, one of which killed a man placing one and seriously injuring another at municipal offices in Dube, Soweto. Bombs also went off at Engcobo near Mthatha in the Transkei.

Three bids to bomb buildings on the Reef were discovered and a plastic bag with turpentine-soaked cotton wool was pushed into the letter box of the curator of the Portuguese Natives in South Africa, but the flames soon went out. A bomb was also thrown at a window of the Orlando West post office in Soweto, but hit the wall instead and caused no significant damage.

A bid was made to bomb the Bantu Administration offices in Durban, while explosive devices at a Pass Office and the back door of the Roeland Street Jail in Cape Town failed to detonate.

Rivonia treason trialist Denis Goldberg, one of the men involved in Cape Town, told The Herald in an exclusive interview: “I was the technical officer in the Western Cape Regional Command. My job was to make explosive devices to go off at a pass office and the back door of the Roeland Street Prison. None of them went off.”

Goldberg said comrade George Peake was chosen to plant the bomb at the jail.

“The guy was betrayed. He was arrested and nothing happened – explosively, I mean,” said Goldberg.

“I think it was Archie Sibeko who was supposed to place (one) at the pass office, but I can’t be sure. I’m guessing.

Nelson Mandela was commander-in-chief. Although (the MK manifesto) was anonymous, it was signed by him. He issued it as the commander. Joe Slovo was directly involved.

“We were building (the Western Cape cell) up slowly. We didn’t use explosives very much. We went for destroying telephone lines and telephone cables and learning how to be soldiers.”

At the end of their 1962 trial, Strachan was the only one found guilty, due to incriminating evidence found in his flat, car and a garage he rented in Cape Road.

He was sentenced to three years, served in North End Jail. Mbeki and Jack, held in solitary confinement for two months, were acquitted and freed due to lack of evidence after an unidentified 17-year-old testified he was forced to sign a statement implicating them that was drawn up by the security police. Another state witness, Win Mabandla, simply disappeared.

3 Opinion(s):

FreeThinker said...

Policy of not causing deaths?

And we wonder why journalism is dead...

Anonymous said...

Journalism is becoming a calling for the deaf and blind.

Anonymous said...

Ghandi was a anti black least Ghandi was honest about it.
Mandela professed to be non racist but he proved himself to be a liar....