National honours for city heroes

2011-04-27 00:00

TWO of Pietermaritzburg’s struggle heroes, William Khanyile and Bhekimuzi Magubane, will be posthumously honoured when President Jacob Zuma presents national orders today.

The two men were among 12 South Africans and a Mozambique national killed on January 30, 1981, when the South African Defence Force raided a house in Matola, near Maputo, where unsuspecting exiled members of the African National Congress were living.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the raid and the Matola martyrs will be getting the Order of Mendi (gold) for bravery.

The chief whip in the Msunduzi Municipality, Truman Magubane, is deeply moved that his younger brother and one of his close friends are finally being honoured.

Khanyile was Magubane’s fellow accused in a trial involving firebrand nationalist Harry Gwala and nine others. Khanyile was acquitted for a lack of evidence.

He had previously spent eight years on Robben Island for being an ANC operative. An ardent trade unionist, Khanyile continued to be harassed by the security police after his acquittal and he went into exile.

Magubane said Bhekimuzi was his younger brother .

“Bheki was a musician and was in Swaziland working on his music when I was arrested. He came back and when he visited me in prison he indicated that he was also going to join MK [Mkhonto weSizwe].

“I tried to discourage him, saying it would be better for him to stay at home and support the family, but all the political discussions we had growing up had more of an impact and I could not change his mind.”

Magubane is particularly proud that his brother is going to be doubly honoured.

He was a member of the Amandla Cultural Ensemble while in exile, and the ensemble is to receive the Order of Ikhamanga (gold) for its contribution to the struggle against apartheid through its cultural performances.

Truman Magubane’s wife, Mavis, recalls that her husband was on Robben Island when his brother was killed and that the biggest blow to the family was being prevented by the South African authorities from attending the funeral in Maputo.

Magubane recalls finding out about the raid while in prison. “When it happened we did not know all the names of those who were killed. We were still shocked. It was like part of ourselves died as we were relying on those soldiers of ours to carry on the struggle.

“When I later learnt that one of those who died was my younger brother it was a double shock. As soldiers you prepare for death, but the pain never leaves you and still today I catch myself expecting him to walk through the door,” said Magubane.

Alexander Sibeko, writing about Khanyile, said the late Harry Gwala was his mentor.

“His whole life was devoted to the struggle. I remember him as a young worker just out of his teens selling New Age [the Communist Party newspaper] in Pietermaritzburg.

“Come rain or sunshine, he was out on the streets selling our newspaper and he used to walk great distances on his rounds.”

Those who were killed in the raid and who are to be honoured are Guma Mduduzi Eric, Mokgabudi Motso, Khanyile William Fano, Hadebe Lancelot Mfanafuthi, Molebatsi Daniel, Ngcobo Steven, Rabilal Krishna, Manakazi Levinson Solly, Bookolane Thabang Henry, Magubane Bhekimuzi Felix, Skweyiya Sizinzo and Mvula Nduna.

Others who will be receiving the Order of Mendi for Bravery are Sarah Holland (posthumous) who receives a silver award for rescuing orphans trapped in a blaze at the Newcastle children’s home that she founded.

Bronze awards in the same order will be awarded posthumously to Donald Mboto for saving a drowning child on St Michael’s beach on the South Coast and Raymond van Staden for saving a person from drowning at Warner Beach.

In all, 36 national honours awards will be bestowed today.

Several political figures will be honoured, as will sportspeople, sports administrators, musicians and others who have made significant contributions to the civic life of South Africa.

The Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo, reserved for foreign heads of state, will be bestowed on former Brazilian president Luis Inacio “Lula” da Silva.



When I later learnt that one of those who died was my younger brother it was a double shock. Truman Magubane, brother


His whole life was devoted to the struggle. Alexander Sibeko

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