The Case for a rebel with a cause

2017-10-19 06:00
LOwercaseLunga Adam

LOwercaseLunga Adam

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Although Boyisile ‘Stya’ Mafilika, seems to have taken a back seat when it comes to community matters these days, it can be said without much doubt that he has seen and done it all.

A former Ward 35 councillor in Lower Crossroads, Mafilika,45, is now far from the public glare and scrutiny.

So, with that it mind, I gave him a call in order to get it all from him, rather than hearsay.

The genesis and metamorphosis of Stya is all that I’m curious about.

From the days of growing up as a skinny lad in violence riven Crossroads of old, I figured it would be nice having him for breakfast on a Saturday morning. To have to shoulder the responsibility of a community must have been a daunting but doable task, I proffer.

But first things first. How did he acquire the moniker, ‘Stya’, I enquire.

Legend has it that as a young lad and together with others-boys being boys- they were on the hunt for little birds. They must have netted a catch and were busy munching it.

So an adult passes by and inquires as to their activity.

‘Stya’mahobe,” he is said to have blurted. And Stya he became, was, and still is to all and sundry.

He also seems to have fallen in love with the name ever since.

“I once considered putting it as official on my ID document,”.

In case people did not recognise the name Boyisile during elections! Go figure.

“My late father would have none of that, though,”.

Stya was born here, specifically at Brown’s Farm, and his passion for politics was ignited during his primary school years in New Crossroads, to which the family had moved into in 1981.

It was while he was at Andile Primary School and mingled with kids from other townships that he grew an interest in politics.

“I got to mingle with kids from areas like Gugs and I was exposed to(politics) a lot.”

Later, the family moved back to Crossroads. It was during the time of the internecine war between the so-called ‘witdoeke’ and so-called township agitators.

Up to that time, Stya had been an ordinary boy who enjoyed watching movies and collecting scrap material.

In his first year at Mandela High in 1989, he was elected a class president, then became a member of the Student Representative Council and later president of the SRC.

He also held the position of Regional Executive Member of Township Students Congress and the ANC Youth League. Tosco later morphed into the Congress of South African Students, the Cape Youth Congress and the South African Youth Congress. The seeds had been planted and the activist bug had bitten.

When warlords Johnson Ngxobongwana and Jeffrey Nongwe clashed heads in 1986, Stya and a group of youths saw it as an opportunity to make a stand of their own.

“We were a group of about 10 youngsters, who decided that the extortion fees demanded by the warlords from the people of Crossroads should be our basis for taking up arms.

Obviously, no one was going to be happy about this, and so factions sprang up.

We sought refuge in Unathi.

Informal settlements were springing up around us, and each had a warlord who wanted to be taken care of; collecting money for this and that cause.

There was also a Nongwe who sought fame and fortune. They had a habit of appointing themselves as headman once people settled in an area.

Greed and avarice were commonplace.

As a result, so many people died in Lower Crossroads in those years.

In 1991, five people were killed in one day... old men who were coming from a meeting. It was heady days.

So many people are asking how I survived those troubled times.”

The death of Siyabulela Hermanus- aka ‘Gebraai’ due to the burn marks on his face- brought the whole youth rebel structure to its knees.

After all this weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, Stya decided to relocate to the Eastern Cape to continue with his education- repeating Grade 10.

But this also brought its own problems, as he ran into people against whom he had been fighting in Cape Town. It left him feeling uneasy.

Discretion became the better part of valour and Stya trekked back to Cape Town.

“I returned to Mandela High(School),” he says.

I put it to him that it must have been rough times.

“Yes,” he nods, adding, “Before the Witdoeke conflict, we knew that the people to run away from were the police and soldiers. During that time, it was not easy to know who was your enemy or your best friend.

“I used to work at the Newlands Stadium during the cricket season, and we had to quit(our jobs) because it was not safe at all.”

As young men, the risks of being associated with the kind of rebelliousness they were involved in, was not lost on them. “When you were out and about, you had to know the signals and how to respond to them. If you were not from Crossroads, you wouldn’t know those codes. The moment you don’t answer, you are gone. The necklace was there; black-on-black violence. It was not easy.

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