This year 21 March 2013 will not only mark the 53rd Anniversary of the Sharpeville and Langa Massacres but also marks the 50th Anniversary of the brutal clampdown on PAC-Poqo underground activists and operatives. This I am reminded by the discussion I had with the late Philemon Tefu before he passed on. He had expressed the wish that we observe this day to remember those who were arrested, tortured, prosecuted, convicted, sentenced to long terms of imprisonment on Robben Island, other prisons and some sentenced to death and hanged at the Pretoria Central Prison.

The emergence of Poqo, the forerunner of the Azanian People’s Liberation Army (APLA), was one of the consequences of the Sharpeville and Langa Massacres of the 21 March 1960 that also led to the declaration of the state of emergency on the 30 March, 1960, followed by the banning of PAC on 8 April 1960. It will be remembered that the banning also affected ANC and its alliance partners and other organizations opposed to white minority rule and apartheid. It is these repressive measures and conditions of illegality that forced the PAC to go underground and to exile to forge new forms and methods of struggle as dictated by the new conditions. Exile was a tactical retreat to prepare for the continuation of the struggle.

At the time of the clampdown on PAC-Poqo underground activities some PAC leaders and cadres had regrouped in Maseru, Basutoland (now Lesotho) where PAC had established its first external headquarters before moving to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in 1964. It was from Maseru that the underground activities and networks of Poqo underground structures were coordinated under the leadership of the Presidential Council headed by Potlako Leballo and other members of the PAC National Executive Council including Regional leaders who had fled to Maseru following the Sharpeville and Langa Massacres. It will be remembered that John Nyati Pokela was also in Maseru before he was kidnapped, tried, convicted and sentenced to 13 years on Robben Island in 1965.

The discovery of Poqo underground structures following attacks by some cells that had become impatient but also because some had already burst at the cims due to their organsational strength and size, as confirmed by Edward Roux in his book ‘TIME LONGER THAN ROPE’ (P.429) where he says the PAC-Poqo organization was strongest in the Cape with 64 000 members. The Free State was the smallest with 12 000 members. The PWV area had cells stretching from the East to the West Rand. In the Vaal area the key townships were Sharpeville and Evaton including the high schools in that area. In Pretoria the most active townships were Mamelodi and Atteridgeville including the high schools such as Kilnerton Training Institution (KTI) which had been moved to Hebron, Mamelodi and Hofmeyr High Schools as well as Sekitla and Nchaupe High Schools.

It will be remembered that the first PAC-Poqo activists sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island came from Mamelodi and Atteridgeville including those arrested at Kilnerton Training Institution (KTI) which had been moved to Hebron. These included Japhta Kgalabi Masemola, John Nkosi, Ike Mthimunye, Philemon Tefu, Samuel Chibane (Chips) and Dimake Malepe (Pro). Not only were they the first to be sentenced to life imprisonment but they had also arrived on Robben Island before Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki and other Rivonia trialists whose prison numbers end with 64. However, it is known that Nelson Mandela was in prison since 1962 but not on Robben Island. It is also known that the majority of freedom fighters who were hanged at the Pretoria Central Prison were PAC-Poqo operatives who were arrested during the clampdown on PAC-Poqo underground structures in 1963 and those who participated in the attack on the Paarl police station in the 1962 and other armed encounters with the apartheid security forces and elimination of puppet chiefs.

This is to remind those who were victims of this brutal clampdown and those who lost their love ones at the hands of the Pretoria hangman to remember this day and to rededicated ourselves to the struggle of the poorest of the poor, the have-nots and the dispossessed who have yet to enjoy the fruits of the freedom for which they served, sacrificed and suffered.

Izwe Lethu!

By Molefe Ike Mafole
The writer is a member of APLA Military Veterans Association (APLA-MVA) Tshwane Region and member of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) of Azania. He can be contacted on 072 630 2206 or mmafole@gmail.com.


  1. Most important to me is the realisation of the important role played by some liberation movements through historical events that changed the course of history in this country. One of these was the PAC, which today is offered a cursory by line when the history of this country is written and talked about. Yet to some of us, it played a very huge spiritual and qualitative role in giving vigour and sustenance to our liberation politics, reminding all and sundry what the true practical conditions, issues and challenges are facing the African people. The Sharpville and Langa massacres changed everything, thanks to the PAC’s energetic diligence and focus.

  2. This is the second edifying article by Ike Mafole in this web magazine. I think those APLA cadres some of whom died during clashes with Portuguese colonial security forces in Mozambique in 1968 need special mention. However, I noted that they were included in general in the article. Nelson Mandela was in prison in 1962 after spending time on the African continent and abroad but returned to this which thing infuriated Govan Mbeki. Every African country Mandela went to he was asked about Robert Sobukwe. Even Kenneth Kaunda asked Mandela about Sobukwe. Other African leaders like Kwame Nkrumah even refused to meet Mandela, Young Mandela by David James Smith. Smith says that the SACP and the ANC wanted a hero so they used Mandela as a sacrificial lamb. Sobukwe was the most spoken about leader at that time. There was no need for Mandela to have returned to this coutry after skipping the country. He squandered an opportunity Sobukwe needed but didn’t get. He was denied permission to go abroad even when he was very ill. But today we hear a lot about people who did not matter, who were not feared by the apartheid government.

  3. There is an omission in my comment where I wrote that Nelson Mandela “returned to this” and left out the word ‘country’. Please bear with me.

  4. I reflected on the concluding paragraph of M’Afrika Mafole’s concluding paragraph about rededicating the struggle to the poorest of the poor, the have-nots. I am now in George having flown here yesterday with three other people. The plane was full but we were the only four passengers who were Africans in that plane, the rest were white people. If one goes to an African country, say Nigeria or Tanzania, planes there are full of Africans. I am using this as an example of the lopsidedness of this country’s ownership of the economy. The distribution of this country’s resources is skewed and has always been like that. The ANC was coopted into governance, to the exclusion of the PAC, to make sure that the status quo remains in tact. The front-page of the Star of 22 March 2013 reported that Zanu PF leader Gift Mtete told a gathering of the PAC in Sharpeville the previous day that the ANC were sellouts. The PAC also had guests from the US based new Black Panther Party and All African Peope’s Party who had joined the PAC to commemorate the Sharpeville massacre. Besides the factional battles in the PAC which are a blight on the organisation, the fact that these organisations identified with the PAC it means the PAC is recognised as a revolutionary organisation by Africans here at home and abroad. The PAC should therefore rise to the occasion and fulfill the expectations of the Africans on the continent and in the diaspora by cutting rivalries and factional battles and focusing on the mission for which Ike Mafole said in his article PAC and POQO/APLA cadres gave their lives. Africans still live in shacks. These shacks are an eye sore. White people do not live in shacks. The ANC was preferred to the PAC by the West and Apartheid government to manage the continued oppression and marginalisation of the African people. With the ANC in government the West and former Apartheid leaders are comfortable. That is why they keep on “winning elections” and keeping the DA as the “opposition” party. What are they opposing since some of the ANC’s alliance partners are saying the National Development Plan was the DA’s brainchild? The PAC leadership must make the ANC and its bed fellows in the DA uncomfortable by telling them in their faces about the issues raised in these artcles. There should be no preoccupation with petty issues such as rivalries and factional battles.

  5. Ma-Afrika izwe lethu lidliwa izinja sibhekile!…my illustrous elders and fearless warriors you have said a mouthfull, your words are enough to spur us into action.

    our immediate test lies in wait in just a few months from now. time is now to crash this ruling alliance of african sellouts and their foreign masters.

    we need a strong push to break the stranglehold in the popular media held by the anc elite-white liberal ruling class. we must expose the deep schasm between the corrupt, incompetent elitist anc and the ordinary african people some of whom were led to a blind alley and made to believe the 1994 “settlement” as “liberation”. all major mass publications and electronic mediums must have an article with a clear PAC line and the most robust denounciation of the status quo.

    we must depict the opulent lifestyles of this ruling elite and contrast it with the miserable lives of the african masses. we must expose the fraud that the DA is, as some may even mistake it for a saviour from the corrupt anc. they are racist to the core just as they were in the 50’s and 60’s only that they’ve just found new, clever ways of accessing political power through which they can protect past racist privileges.

    1. My two cents worth. You need to be strategic in order to effect a radical change to our political status quo. Megaphone politics, haranguing and shouting people down should be a thing of the past; stop the carping, pettiness and political chauvinism! We need to cultivate a culture of substantive discourse in our policy caucus meetings where ideas rule the roost, not rhetoric and diatribe, even though the former does serve the purpose of stirring people from their slumber sometimes.

      Also there needs to be a clear unity of purpose, and none is glaringly staring us all in the face more than the Black Consciousness influenced parties and organisations coming together with all Pan-Africanist formations in this country. Paramount principles to flesh out is the floundering and disappearing notion of an Afro-centric policy program which all others align themselves to, not the other way round, as this will then form the basis of a defined South African national interest more in line with the aspirations of an African program which unfortunately is flimsy and wishy-washy at present, due mainly to individual economic self interests. From that socio-political policy program, you then drive the socio-economic program which reflects the healthy realities of the times we live in, not pursue selfish exploitative economic policies that do little to nothing to MOVE people out of poverty, emphasis on movement inclusive of engenderment, empowerment and eventually self sustenance, thus contributing towards a healthy, strong and vibrant economy which ours should be due to broad based economic activity and participation instead of the narrow rubbish and nonsense we have seen before 1994, and continues unashamedly in the present!

      As I have said before, this country can achieve double digit economic growth if you break the stranglehold of influence of big business on curbing and stiffling bold economic reform programs. Incrementalism and systemic reform in the face of DIRE needs for economic transformation are in themselves a stumbling block and therefore problematic, whereas if you boldly institute reforms that are transformative from the bottom-roots up, then the long term investment will payoff in buckets because nobody is advocating for the destruction of what is already there, just the focus and spreading of transformation towards a just economic landscape that is broad based! Like I said at the begining, just my two cents worth of views…

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