REMEMBERING ONKGOPOTSE TIRO 36 YEARS AFTER HIS BRUTAL MURDER

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.

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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15 thoughts on “REMEMBERING ONKGOPOTSE TIRO 36 YEARS AFTER HIS BRUTAL MURDER

  1. @Sam Just to let you know that I have shared this on FB – Are you on FB – you knowledge and ability to deliver information will be of great use. People are teaching and learning from each other all the time.

    I lso noted you comments to me in another e-mail. I support those propositions – we could work together better were we to network using facilities such as FB. The social capital on that network is of profound importance to any ideas on Africanism. I am already on – so look me up if you join or are already joined.

    1. @Mbarika and Siphiwe can we correspond on facebook, there is an idea that I will like to execute relating to Tiro. I went to Turfloop and graduated in the very same hall Tiro in named after. facebook name: Moshoeu Timothy Monyai. This includes everyone that may have an interest in Tiro.

  2. Thank you Sam for this enlightening article. I never really knew how Tiro died except for the explanation from my husband, when he war trying to explain why our first child had to be named Tiro. She is nine years old now and starting to ask questions about her unusual name. Thank again.

  3. good day Sam, is there any biography of Onkgopotse, i just need to read all about this guy. by reading this and reminding me of Mbuyi, i rememeber there was a documentary on SABC2 named ” where is Mbuyisa “. we need guys like yourself to write about this bad things that happened to our legends, keep up the good work

  4. he is hero to be remembered hey even though i was around at his times but he sure was a hero

  5. correction 2 the above message even though i was not around during his time but i will always rememebered what he fought for

  6. I was expose to Onkgopotse Tiro’s life through a documetary on TV on this day(Sunday 10 April).What a remakable man he was.As a South African i think we need to know much more about people like Tiro O. We should not only be exposed to people of our own movement but all South Africans who had a contribution to the liberation of this country.I subsequent to the documentary got into the internet an google him just to get extra literature about him but what is not right about it is there are different birth dates of please give me the correct birth day is it 1945 or 1947.1945 is the date of the documentary while in his web site 1947.

  7. Sam Ditshego sometimes others choose to be insane because sanity will only bring pain.You are one of the few who chose sanity. some say courage is with fear but doing what you have do.you are a courageous man SAM

    bravo bravo SAM

    Thank you

  8. I am so touched by Tiro. I never heard anything about this outstanding man and hero. I was just browsing the internet reading articles on the AZAPO website. Whiles I was still reading I collided with the speech that he delivered in his graduation ceremony and after that I went on to read about him. All I can say we lost a true leader I can see that he was born to speak a truth and stand for what is moral correct. I can see he was a servant leader he was a leader of the people. ANC has forgotten about these leaders. We who found an opportunity to read about them we need to make something in remembrance of them and also find ways to study more about them and keep the embers of the legacy alive.

  9. It was on this day exactly, (29 April 1972)that he delivered that blistering speech. The Herenvolkist regime knew very well how hungry this african was for education that it disguised his death in the potential scholarship letter. This I didn’t know. Well what is sad is that the indelible mark left by Tiro in South African history is today eclipsed by the Royal Wedding.

  10. Thank you for a thought-provoking narrative about our hero Sam.
    I am glad we have people like yourself that can report accurately about giants such as Onkgopotse Abram Tiro, Steven Bantu Biko, Solomon Mahlangu and others.
    Dreams of our heroes are not fully fulfilled yet, but need us to carry their batons to respectfully complete their journies.
    Let us not forget that.
    A commendable chronicle.

  11. Inspiring – I loved Tiro’s speech, erudite and impassioned and courageous leader he was. I had never heard of him until today, when I noticed a posting from a friend on Facebook commemorating his life. Thank you for this article. God bless.

  12. I am a young motswana and this weekend i shall be doin a play dedicated to the life of Tiro and informing people of who he was and what he did. It is quite shocking how many people don’t know of this great man. The struggle in South Africa left many heroes and most of them unsung. On the year of his 40th anniversary since he passed on we decided it was about high time he had his time to shine, be acknowledged and appreciated. The performance is called ‘The Quiet Fire’.

    1. Hi Keletso, it will be my requests that you also share that great reflection on a stalwart to us in South Africa. Will you do it in JHB at some point?Seventh Day Adventists in Botswana ans else where will realise in Tiro’s Speeches his language will look and sound familiar to them. Great man indeed…

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