No rest for former exiles

2018-07-06 06:01
Monwabisi Sikhenjana leads a tough life on a farm in Cedarville.PHOTO: khaya magenu

Monwabisi Sikhenjana leads a tough life on a farm in Cedarville.PHOTO: khaya magenu

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THEY fought for freedom against brutal apartheid for many years, but they never enjoyed the fruits of freedom.

These are the sentiments of the former ANC military veterans who said, despite being sidelined, they remain fiercely loyal to the ANC.

In 1990, when the first steps were taken to dismantle the apartheid system, thousands of ex-combatants, who for many years had been living in exile, began to return home.

However today, 24 years after apartheid ended, the majority of those ex-combatants are on the street of towns searching for food in dust bins.

Monwabisi Sikhenjana was born in the former Transkei but now stays in the farm at Cedarville near Matatiele

When he returned home from exile in 1990, he found that he no longer had a home, nor a family.

“I decided to stay on the streets, collecting food out of dust bins to eat because I was unemployed and had no home” said Sikhenjana.

He said he was very frustrated as he had no money, no food, no identity document, no clothes nor a job.

Sikhenjana received comprehensive military training to deal with the enemy in Angola, Zambia, Swaziland and later received advanced military operations training in Russia.

“When I came back to South Africa, the problem that I faced was that of hunger and confusion because promises were not delivered on,” said Sikhenjana.

He said that, when he returned home, he hoped that things would change but the ANC government disappointed him because he never even received the housing, pension fund, employment, medical aid and compensation he was promised.

Ronnie Matshaya from Kokstad, another former ANC military wing, said he decided to bring together all ANC and Pan Africanist Congress of Azania military veterans to one place —a farm near Kokstad in Cedarville.

“When I saw that most of former combatants are battling in life, I decided to negotiate with our government to buy a farm for us four years back” said Matshaya.

He said that, even at the farm, life is still hard because government bought the R47 million farm but offered no mentoring on how to farm. He said the farm also did not have any livestock and some of the machinery at the farm was old and rusted.

“The few livestock we have were donated by former members from Umkhonto Wesizwe who have the means to do so.

He said they decided to name their farm after their former training camp in Angola, Kela training camp, and now the farm is named Kela Farm.

Matshaya is a former body guard of then South African Communist Party Secretary Chris Hani and former President Nelson Mandela. The ANC could not be reached for comment, despite numerous attempts.


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