MK vets still await reward

2011-12-17 12:41

When I related to my three boys the story of how Robert McBride, an Umkhonto Wesizwe (MK), an armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC) cadre and his comrades burst into a ward in Edendale hospital, Pietermaritzburg, and whisk away another MK cadre who had been injured during a battle with the apartheid state security forces in the 1980’s, my boys were filled with so much awe, they made me almost regret telling the story.

At the time I was working as a nurse at another hospital not far from Edendale hospital, and the news item came over the radio how men, wearing white gowns and stethoscopes hanging in front as if they were doctors, entered the hospital and went to the ward where Gordon Webster lay injured under heavy police protection, grabbed him and put him on a stretcher and whisked him away.

According to the report the incident took place in the evening, and the operation was over and done in a matter of minutes.

The newsreader also mentioned that as the heavily armed freedom fighters wheeled their comrade into safety, nurses on duty and patients ululated, with some lifting up their clenched fists high in the air. By early morning the next day, it was reported that both McBride and Webster were safely in Botswana.

I am reminded of this story as I read n the media that MK will be commemorating its 50th anniversary on December 16, which will be attended by, amongst others, President Jacob Zuma.

As can be seen from the story above, MK played a significant role in our struggle. It brought a much need hope and resolve, even to ordinary people like nurses and patients, that one day South Africa would be free.

The apartheid regime might have referred to these freedom fighters as terrorists, but to the freedom-yearning black people, they were liberators from the yolk of oppression and degradation.

The South African liberation struggle might not have ended in the manner that some of us hoped it would, with an armed takeover of the state but instead through a negotiated settlement, but this does not in any way, minimizes the crucial role that Mk played.

When, as ordinary people, read in the media that ANC cadres, facing stiff sentence, including hanging, were refusing to answer a judge’s questions because they claimed they did not recognize his authority as he was put there by an illegitimate regime, we knew that there was not going back. Also we knew that whatever the regime did to us, one day it was going to be made to pay.

It is therefore somewhat painful to see that many of those who were prepared to lay down their lives for all of us today live sorrowful lives, with no shelter, education or security.

The poor condition of most MK soldiers was related to me the other day by a guy who was driving me to the O.R. Tambo Airport, himself a former MK cadre. He told me that other that the R30 000 demobilization money that he got, he had nothing else to show for his contribution.

Even the taxi that he was driving was not his.

The anti- apartheid was brought about by the efforts of the broad liberation movement, both internal and external, and MK’s role was critical to that struggle.

Says Business Day columnist Aubrey Matshiqi, himself a former Mk operative, says today the MK soldier, like many South Africans, lives in conditions of underdevelopment. “The MK soldier is, in many cases, an angry and bitter person because he is not living the dream of liberation.” Perhaps as MK cadres remember the birth of their organization, and see they are not the only ones still struggling to live in democratic South Africa, they will come up with strategies on how best to build a better life for all of us now that we are all free, politically at least.

The writer is media and social commentator

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