‘He was their protector’

2012-08-08 00:00

ABDUL Awetha was not a warlord. He was a protector and that was a role thrust on him by the community. This is how Inkatha Freedom Party deputy national chairperson Velaphi Ndlovu wants his friend and fellow IFP member to be remembered. Ndlovu was reacting to last week’s column on Awetha, who died last month after being sick.

Ndlovu said that the tag “warlord” was unacceptable because Awetha was a devout Muslim and he operated within the guidance of his faith. He said the former Imbali deputy mayor did not leave his house to go and attack others, and that Awetha and his family were the initial targets of several attacks in the early eighties.

“People must remember that Awetha lost his eldest son Dumisani immediately after the violence broke out in Imbali. He himself was attacked by 15 minibus taxi drivers, hand grenades were thrown at his house, completely destroying the front structure, and then there was the roadside ambush that saw three children killed. It is a miracle that he escaped all these incidents and that he eventually died of natural causes,” said Ndlovu

He added that Awetha was one of 15 members of the community who protected the pupils who were due to write their matric exams in 1985. “This was the time when the UDF [United Democratic Front] said ‘no education without freedom’. One of the students who was protected by the late Dr Bongani Hlatshwayo later thanked Mr Awetha and his group for protecting them and allowing them to get on with their education.”

Ndlovu said that it was the parents of children in Imbali who went to see Awetha and asked him to help them because they had proof that their children were getting military training at the Federal Theological Seminary (Fedsem). “The decision to march to Fedsem was made by him at the urging of the parents and he led the delegation. It was sad that the institution was used in this way when it was the leader of the IFP, Dr Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who allowed Fedsem to come to KwaZulu-Natal after Chief Kaiser Matanzima chased them away from Alice in the Eastern Cape,” he said.

According to Ndlovu, all of this would have come out if Awetha had gone to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

He did not go because the IFP had taken a decision not to participate as individuals. The party’s submission was done by its president in Cape Town on behalf of the members.

“His funeral took place at night on the same day he died because of his religion, but by the next day his house was packed with people who had come to pay their respects. He had assisted many families in Imbali; he was their protector,” said Ndlovu.


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