Tiro, Abram Onkgopotse (1947-1974)

Writing about heroic leaders in the African Valhalla, the late Professor Ivan Van Sertima wrote that when a star dies it does not vanish from the firmament. Its light keeps streaming across the fields of time and space so that centuries later we may be touched by a vision of the fire and brilliancy of its former life. The lives of the truly great are just like that. Death does not diminish them in the firmament of our consciousness, where their words and deeds still twinkle like the lights of long-dead stars. But we are touched by these lights in different ways in different times and it is not always easy for the observer to distinguish the startling flash of a transitory meteor from the paler, ghostly light of a grander and greater star.

We are the eyes of the universe and we often measure the size and significance of what we see through the myopic lenses of our own lives rather than through the high-powered glasses of gods that sweep across the heavens, commanding visions of a more total reality. Thus any selection of the lights and stars of a nation or a race is inevitably subjective. In South Africa it is not only subjective but also selective and animated by a passionate hatred by some leaders of the ANC of Africanists and to a lesser extent Black Consciousness adherents.

On the 1st February it will be the 36th anniversary of the death of Onkgopotse Tiro. Tiro was killed by a parcel bomb at Kgale, Gaborone, Botswana, where he was a teacher. That letter which indicated that it was from the International University Exchange Fund (IUEF) was delivered to Tiro by a student only known as Lawrence. Bureau of State Security (BOSS) spy, Craig Williamson worked for IUEF and it was BOSS’s Z-Squad which sent a letter containing a bomb to Tiro, according to Gordon Winter’s book Inside Boss published in 1981 and whose imminent publication sent Williamson running back to thiscountry. Williamson did not appear before that circus called the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

There is no statutory limitation on death so the Botswana government can open a case of murder against Craig Williamson and request the ANC government which is colluding with Apartheid demigods to extradite Williamson to Botswana to go and stand trial for the brutal murder of Tiro. Botswana authorities must have information from Lawrence where he got that deadly letter from. A letter containing explosive devices cannot make its way undetected from Geneva, (the IUEF offices were situated there) where it purportedly came from, to Gaborone. One wonders what Barolong High in Mahikeng where Tiro matriculated does to remember its former student hero.

Williamson must also be questioned about the whereabouts of Mbuyisa Makhubu (the guy who is carrying Hector Peterston in that famous June 16, 1976 photo). Mbuyi once complained about a white man who always followed him around in Nigeria and said that white man looks like he was from South Africa. Let us enshrine in our hearts the memory of heroes such as Tiro. For the light of their words and deeds still travels across space and time to touch our souls with the fire and brilliancy of their former lives.

By Sam Ditshego


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