People Against Gangsterism, (PAGAD, Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), UJAMA, Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Way of Life Church, The Voice of the Province (rastas organisation), Black Land First (BLF), AbaThembu Royal House held a meeting in Nyanga over the weekend.
The purpose was to start a campaign on “Free APLA Prisoners” also to inform other organisations and the broader community the truth behind their incarceration, for them to be aware that some people’s fathers and sons who have fought for the liberation of this country were being denied justice.
Most of these APLA political prisoners were detained in the 80’s and they were APLA commanders who were fighting against apartheid. Apparently there have been some numerous attempts and engagements for them to be release but all fall on to the deaf ears. Most people in the house accused the government of refusing to pardon them.
Mzimasi Sibeko, National Organizer said last year the PAC had a march to parliament and they have done it on a political level seeking a political solution and the ANC has sent them from pillar to post.
‘I believe the ANC government doesn’t want to give them a parole. It doesn’t work for APLA cadres but it works for the boere. Jannie Louise was given it. The government’s stance is that there are no APLA political prisoners in prison but only criminal prisoners. We want the community to know why they are being called criminals instead of political prisoners. These people were APLA commanders who were fighting for the liberation of this country.”
“We can’t claim to have a freedom while they are in jail. We want to have a legal campaign for them to be granted a parole then apply a presidential pardon then criminal element be removed. We can’t carry it without a political support. Prisoners who have served more than 10 years are legible to a parole, that what the Act says. These cadres are the most serving the long sentences, some have been in jail for 27 years and they are still there. Since we’ve started this process the APLA cadres have been tortured, he says.
Chief Bandile Joyi from Abathembu Royal House also concurred with him by saying that there are two comrades who have served the same years as Mandela.
It’s comrade Kenny Motsamai and George Mbonani from Port Elizabeth. Kenny was arrested on the 15 October 1986 and George was arrested on the 15 October 1984. I support this campaign and I’m glad that we are doing this on their behalf,” he said.
Some PAC members stressed that the Truth and Reconciliation Commision (TRC) gave amnesty to white soldiers and commanders but not the PAC.
Lifa Msaseni said these commanders including De Klerk were responsible for the deaths of countless African people.
“Honestly it kills me to a point sometimes I even cry when I think about it. I have sleepless nights. APLA combatants were overlooked and despite several attempts to receive presidential pardon. These soldiers who fought for the liberation of this country are still in bars,” he says.
One community member who declined to be named said the state is playing with the people and with their families too. She also said that the ANC government has the power to release them but it has failed to do so.
“Their families don’t even know where they are.Today the government put them here and tomorrow you don’t find them there and you don’t know where they are. One comrade was given amnesty the next day the state gets him. The ANC government is completely refusing them a parole. This is a continuation of the unfinished story, this is the revolution,” she says.
They believed that their campaign must connect to #FeesMustFall campaign because it has to do with the liberation of black people. Also that those comrades in jail might have kids who can’t afford to pay their fees because their fathers are serving their long sentences.
Pastor Xola Skosana from The Way Of Life Church in Khayelitsha said this is a catastrophic moment and we are not interested in the campaign but we are interested in the liberation of black people. “Any vehicle that takes us there we going to use that vehicle. We are here to get a buy in and comrades we must use this opportunity to be in a direction. If it’s not 2016 there won’t be another moment. Children have gasoline we need a person with a match to set it alight,’ he says.
BLF member Lindsay Maarsdorp said: “The reason we are in this space is that we want APLA forces to come out. We can’t have free education without land. We need to connect our struggles. We can’t have free APLA Campaign without land we need to connect, we need to create systems not creating layers.”
Abdussalaam Ebrahim, PAGAD National Coordinator said they have PAGAD members who are in prison for 20 years and they have engaged with the government but no assistance.“The campaign is bigger than brothers in prison the struggle is much bigger than that,” says Ebrahim.
Mthunzi Zuma from the Voice of the Province said it’s painful to see prisoner’s families breaking up because of poverty.