New name honours hero of the struggle

Unveiling the plaque to mark the renaming of Mimosa Complex are, from the left, Gift van Staden (MEC for Social Development), Premier Sylvia Lucas and Patric Mabilo (cousin to the late Latlhi Mabilo).
Unveiling the plaque to mark the renaming of Mimosa Complex are, from the left, Gift van Staden (MEC for Social Development), Premier Sylvia Lucas and Patric Mabilo (cousin to the late Latlhi Mabilo).

The Mimosa Complex, used as the offices of the Department of Social Development, has been renamed after the late struggle hero Latlhi Mabilo, following several postponements of the event.

According to the provincial government, the name change is an effort to rectify that and to do justice to the people of South Africa.

The Mimosa Complex was opened on 3 December 1970 as a home and a place of safety that housed coloured children.

It housed orphaned, abandoned foster children, children in conflict with the law and served as a safe haven where young people could live and learn in relative peace and security.

This was one of four homes, or places of safety as it became known, and was later regarded as displaying an ugly side, as it was part of a segregated system in which people were placed based on the race they were classified as.

It was only after the 1994 integration process that the children of the Mimosa Home of Safety were moved to the Tlhokomelo and Lorato Place of Safety.

The move was an effort to ensure equality and that all children in care could be accommodated at the two places of safety.

After a consultation process, the Mimosa Place of Safety was converted into offices from which social development services were rendered.

Peter Gaolatlhwe Latlhi Mabilo was born on 10 December 1965 in Galeshewe, Kimberly, and was killed by apartheid security branch members in September 1987.

His murder followed his arrest on 21 August 1987, when the South African apartheid security forces carried out an early raid (at about 04:00) at his safe house in Kagisho Street, Ipopeng, Galeshewe.

He had attended primary and high school at St Boniface High School until Gr. 11 and is reported to have been a vibrant person from an early age, as he had participated in various youth and community programmes.

Latlhi’s political consciousness was formed at an early stage, in particular by the 1980 school boycotts against Bantu Education, when all Galeshwe schools and the entire township was affected by the political events spearheaded by the students.

Latlhi was the founding member of the Galeshewe Students Organisation during 1985, which were by then affiliates of the United Democratic Front (UDF).

According to Patric Mabilo, a close cousin to Latlhi, houses of councillors were burnt down, including other infrastructure associated with the apartheid system, which was targeted by the protestors at that time.

“What further shaped his political understanding was the harsh manner in which the apartheid police brutally assaulted students with batons, set police dogs on the protestors and the brutal manner in which they dealt with the situation,” said Patric, who had shared the struggle hero’s life and times.

According to him, Latlhi and many young students at Saint Boniface High got involved in the early student boycotts through the movement of a team of student leaders from Galeshwe high schools, who had moved from school to school to ensure no learning and teaching took place.

This was to mobilise students to attend mass student meetings and to participate in the entire student campaign.

“The seed of political acti­vism was then planted.”

Latlhi and many students were inspired by the senior student leaders, who then took a strategic decision to use Saint Boniface as a “safe” venue for student mass meetings, because the police had been required to obtain permission before they could enter the premises during student mass meetings.

“The premises were private, and permission was never given, whereas at the government high schools, the police forcefully broke up those student mass gatherings without any difficulty.”

The late Mabilo did not complete his high school education, as his passion for politics deepened and he invested much of his energy in mobilising his fellow students at Saint Boniface to become politically involved and to join the Galeshewe Student Organisation (Gaso) and the Galeshewe Youth Organisation (Gayo).

Both of these organisations were affiliated with the UDF.

“Latlhi and his fellow classmate, Demontfort Kgotso Flatela, were both expelled from Saint Boniface High School for their political involvement and as active members of both Gaso and Gayo,” said Patric.

The authorities of the school did not allow students freedom of association and regarded Latlhi and Kgotso as a bad influence on other students.

“He actively participated in the broader campaigns of the UDF, such as stayaways, rent boycotts, consumer boycotts and mass demonstrations.

“He was arrested and detained for more than nine months in the Bougroep Prison in Kimberley, where he was subsequently charged for arson, public violence and participation in furthering the aims of a banned organisation.”

According to Patric, he was released on bail and re-arrested when the charges where reinstated.

“During the 1985 state of emergency, he left the country to join the then banned ANC.

“He left the country through Botswana and was arrested and later on released, before he was a trained Mkhonto we Sizwe (MK) cadre in Caculam in Angola during 1985, when he belonged to the detachment called the Young Lions.”

He secretly returned to the country and lived under cover with a clear mission to further the aims and objectives of the ANC and to advance the broader struggle for liberation when he was arrested and killed.

In honour of his memory, an ANC branch has been named after Latlhi Mabilo, a street in Galeshewe has been renamed after him and now the Mimosa Complex has been renamed to honour him as well.

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