Family to finally bury fallen MK operative, 41 years after his death

The remains of fallen MK operative Bheki 'Bismark' Hlatshwayo to be handed to family 41-years after his death.
The remains of fallen MK operative Bheki 'Bismark' Hlatshwayo to be handed to family 41-years after his death.
Supplied, ANC Gauteng

Forty-one years after his death, Umkhonto we Sizwe operative Bheki Cyprian Hlatshwayo - aka MK Bismark - will finally be buried on Saturday at the Thomas Nkobi Memorial Park in Boksburg.

"At the height of apartheid, Bismark was one of the many comrades who paid with their lives when they chose to stand opposed to the repressive regime. Their blood continues to nourish the tree of our young democracy," ANC Gauteng PEC spokesperson Bones Modise said in a statement.

Hlatshwayo was born in Soweto in 1949, but was schooled and grew up in Mahikeng, North West.

He was a male nurse up until the time he left South Africa in the 1970s to join the ANC and Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK).

He underwent his basic military training in Angola, as well as a further six months training in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), followed by a survival course in Zambia with ZIPRA (Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army) forces, according to the ANC.

He was later deployed to Botswana for infiltration into South Africa. 

"Bismark, together with Comrade Vuyani Goniwe (MK Jorrisen), formed part of a reconnaissance unit of three that infiltrated South Africa from Botswana on foot near the Ramatlabama border post and walked through the night.

"In the morning of 27 October 1978, once near Mahikeng, they were spotted by a helicopter and confronted by members of the Bophutatswana National Guard. Bismark and Jorrisen reportedly died from shootings and grenade explosions in the skirmish that followed," Modise said.

Tladitsaga Moses "Moss" Molefe (aka MK Ncosi), who was with them, was shot in the leg. Following his capture the next day, Molefe was charged in the well known Pietermaritzburg treason trial and later imprisoned on Robben Island.

The families of Hlatswayo and Goniwe searched for years to find their remains, until the Missing Persons Task Team (MPTT) of the NPA conducted extensive investigations and excavations at a cemetery.

"After opening twelve sites, a grave containing two young males with multiple traumatic injuries buried in a single coffin was located.

"Forensic examination and DNA tests were conducted by the MPTT to distinguish between the two skeletal remains, to confirm their identities and their cause of death," Modise said.

The remains were handed over to the families in 2015 and Goniwe was laid to rest in the Eastern Cape. Hlatshwayo's remains were kept at a morgue. 

Hlatshwayo's funeral will be held at the Zonkezizwe Community Hall in Katlehong, before his burial at the Thomas Nkobi Memorial Park on Saturday.

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