Zuma recounts apartheid police arrest during Groot Marico monument launch

Zeerust – President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday recalled the day in 1963 when he, along with 51 others were arrested by the apartheid security branch police.

Zuma was speaking at the launch of the Groot Marico Heritage Site and Liberation Heritage Route of Bokone Bophirima near Zeerust, in the North West.

Speaking of that fateful day, June 8, 1963, Zuma said he and other freedom fighters left Johannesburg in four minibus taxis (combis) and a private car driven by their commander, Lombard Mbatha.

Mbatha would accompany the comrades to the Botswana border for their crossing into exile and back again for their return to South Africa.

On that day, there were 52 people including Mbatha.

"Three combis plus him [Mbatha] were arrested in the evening and our driver, who thought he was bright, did not follow the national road, he wanted to take shortcuts and he got lost.

"So we stopped in the morning and he told us we could not go because people only get dropped off at night, not during the day..."

Zuma promises to tell his story 

Zuma, who was 21 years-old at the time, said the group of men forced their driver to continue driving.

The men were eventually stopped by security branch police but they did not even know they were in grave danger until they were taken to Zeerust for questioning.

"So we are sitting in the van and this policeman told us in Setswana that three combis and a private car had been arrested and taken to Pretoria. He asked us where we were going, but we did not understand what he was saying."

A comrade whose code name was Piet Mahlangu whispered to the men: "Kuphelile madoda (It is over gentlemen)." 

"That is when we realised that the whole group was arrested... We were eventually taken to a Marabastad police station where we were beaten, and beaten and beaten..."

He said the monument was important because it told of events that he would never forget.

Zuma said, once again, that he would write a book in which he would tell his story, his way.  

"I am giving you snippets because I am going to write a book with the greatest details including what happened." 

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