TRIBUTE TO THE GLORIOUS MARTYRS: THE MUNSIEVILLE FOUR!!

Once again, I must say it is a singular pleasure to be afforded this opportunity to be part and parcel of this history making reburial in the  West Rand, in  particular, and generally in Gauteng Province and maybe nationally and internationally.

This Reburial of our gallant heroes is taking place against the backdrop of a difficult and painful past. At the time when the oppressing class was tightening its noose around the necks of the indigenous African majority. The Group Areas Act, the pass laws, no land ownership and no security of tenure for Africans were implemented at unprecedented and alarming proportions. 

The activities of the oppressing class were in a panic mode. They knew and could feel it that a revolution was coming. They should have felt that Poqo will soon be at their door step. International intelligence agencies warned them that their time is up. Thus even all operations and preparations by Poqo, the forerunner of the Azanian Peoples Liberation Army (APLA), were deep and clandestine. Hence, I personally did not know Thami Motsoahae’s activities. He was my colleague and comrade but when we met in the street it was just only ‘heita!’ – secrecy reigned supreme.

These men and women of valour never undermined the words of a true sage, Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, that we must be our own liberators. This is also why the cadres of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) and its armed wing Poqo were not a big number but were sufficiently and politically well-grounded and ready to serve, suffer and sacrifice for their country and people. PAC never went for quantity but quality.

The evil forces of the regime crushed any form of dissent with maximum force and brutality. Hence, the 21 March 1960 Sharpeville massacre. One thing clear was that the brutality of the regime only strengthened the resolve of the youth to strive for the total overthrow of white domination. It is no surprise that the ages of the Munsieville Four and many of The Class of ’63 were in their twenties. The belief was that the same whip used on Africans will be used to whip the oppressing class too. The Africans are their own liberators. No devil was going to stand in the way of the method used and principle of liberating the African people.

The youth said they not only want bread, or the bakery or the mill. They want the farm with all that is on it.  The land question remained paramount in the national liberation struggle, dating back to our forebears.

The late Tony Tsholetsane, a compatriot of some of the Munsieville Four, made sense when he said we have to care for our people at all times in one form, shape or the other. The unification of stokvels could maximise the African agenda and solidarity. If the stokvels generate more than a billion rand per annum, why can’t the Africans start their own bank? Tsholetsane, an eldest Poqo veteran, believed the 1959 Status Campaign and the 1960 Anti-Pass Campaign were the unfolding of the 1949 Program of Action. The massacre of Africans in 1960, March 21, closed all avenues to peaceful protest and gave justification to armed struggle. The aim was to first free the African from the fear of death and to develop a cadreship of distinction and integrity. May the spirit of Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe, Zeph Mothopeng, Fly Monedi , Tony Tsholetsane,  Toby Motshwanedi, Gab Moeketsi be ever present in one form or the other. They inspired the Munsieville Four:

1. Josia Mocumi, Bra Hunter 

He was the direct product of the Mayibuye iAfrika era. He held strong views about ANC Youth League and the implementation of the 1949 Program of Action.

They met frequently at a place called “Center” in the company of political giants from Alexandra and Soweto, like Kotane, Moabi, Maruping, etc.  I was not part of those meetings. I was just there to admire their dress and their polished discussions from a few paces away, me and a friend whose name was Funny Face.

Bra Hunter and Ntate Tsholetsane held the view that the PAC is the real ANC.  They held the view that rolling mass action is the only solution for the stubborn occupiers of our land. Non-collaboration with the oppressors is what drove them. Bra Hunter was at the epicentre of all these political events, including his migration to the formation of the PAC. 

He was a cobbler. His profession illustrated his humility. He was a leader of distinction. I can only surmise that he was a leader of the group due to age, demeanour, political track record and wisdom. The profession was to cover the real activities of the underground activities due to the prevailing security challenges.

2. Thomas Molatlhegi – Bra Champ

History places you were it wishes. Bra Champ was divinely directed to serve his term in prison for a non-political offence where Sobukwe was also serving a term for the 1960 anti pass campaign. Bra Champ had an encounter with one of the greatest revolutionary intellectuals of the time, Robert Sobukwe. Champ had to be in the right place, at the right time, for this special encounter sent by divine providence to meet Sobukwe. This was the same as the Biblical woman who ran like a mad person into town shouting “I have met a prophet!” So it was the case with Champ Molatlhegi.

Champ Molatlhegi had an encounter with a person feared by foe and friend, and hurried to inform the Munsieville people that he had met a prophet! Those who have ears listened.

3. Ou Piet Ntshole

In all the revolutions, music played a central and cardinal role. If you listen to Apla in song, you will understand where I come from. Ntshole is one of those who brought rhythm, rhyme and beat to our underground songs.  A trumpeter with a natural gift, he used it to advance the struggle for freedom and liberation. 

The songs sung at the time had messages.  Unzima lomthwalo ufuna simanyane (unity). 

They were Four. They remained so until the end. They did not betray each other to buy their freedom or escape the noose. They were martyrs in every respect. 

Those who die fighting for freedom, who die in the national liberation struggle, find the gates of heaven wide open for them. They are our national saints.

When we were in pain in the deep dungeons of apartheid, song and dance uplifted and inspired us.  Song recharged us. That is how we remember Pete Ntshole. How can we forget him? How can we forget them?

4. Thami Motsoahae

We both attended the Methodist missionary school. This from Sub Standard A to Standard Five, when the chief apostle of apartheid, Hendrik Verwoed dismantled all the missionary  schools claiming they bred cheeky English-speaking natives who did not respect the White man, and did not know their place in society. 

Thami was the direct product and victim of apartheid, as it was implemented by people doing so in the name of Christianity. This arbitrary system made him resolve to destroy it by every means available, including armed struggle. Indeed, men and women are nothing but tools of history and change. He too was a tool of history. 

Thami was a true revolutionary. He was resolute and determined that all methods to remove apartheid and regaining our land are legitimate. He was there when school children walked out of class on learning, in 1956, that our leaders were arrested for treason. This was Thami who heard the voice of historical and political obligation that the solidarity of the masses is a prerequisite and indication of rejection of oppression in whatever form or shape. He was one of the organisers that felt solidarity against this repugnant deed. 

We were moved to the cattle kraals as support for the incarceration of the leadership increased. Our short-lived protest  was cut short by the school principal, Mr Tutu, father of Desmond Tutu who also comes from Munsieville. 

Fare thee well noble Sons of the Soil! Your contribution in the struggle was not in vain. This freedom is not perfect or complete. But it is not as before. We are allowed to cry and to rejoice. The enemy deliberately left us in these squalid conditions. We are unable to assert our rights to stay where we wish to. The barrier is money and education. How we wish we lived and stayed in some of these plum areas of our beloved country. The country remain with these historically designed barriers.

Correlation with the Bethal Trial that took place from 1976 to1979: June 16, 1976 was alleged to have been in vengeance of the Munsieville Four at the signal of Zephania Lekoane Mothopeng. The Munsieville Four were executed at the gallows on 16 June 1964. There were massive detentions of students, youth, and many adults, in various parts of the country. The detentions were incommunicado, with no access to lawyers, legal protection and family.

A school was converted into torture chambers. This is where no less than four comrades perished at the hands of security police.  Many more died from consequential suffering from these detentions. Many were mentally incapacitated from the date of their detention without trial and imprisonment up until they were released. Many more were permanently disabled. Johnson Nyathi was hurled from 4th Floor and he sustained permanent injuries and a broken back. He is now no more. But many of the perpetrators of these evil deeds are still roaming the streets freely.

I served on the Board of Trustees at the Wilgespruit Fellowship Centre in Roodeport, West Rand. Zeph Mothopeng was working for the Urban Resources at this very centre.

He was viewed as the internal commander of APLA, the PAC’s wing forces. According to the prosecution, he was to give a signal on the 16th June, to avenge the Munsieville Four.

Number 1118 Bathoeng Drive, Kagiso. This is where I stayed and it was a meeting place of student leaders. In one of the meeting, it was alleged in court that I told the students that the tree of liberty must be watered with the blood of martyrs. Zeph Mothopeng was present. The line of interrogation during detention “Why did the uprising start on the 16th of June and not any other date?” THIS IS THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE CORRELATION BETWEEN JUNE 16 1976 AND THE EXECUTION OF THE MUNSIEVILLE FOUR ON JUNE 16, 1964.

To the heroines, very few are aware that Lizzy Majadibodu was in the leadership of Poqo in1963. She is from Munsieville. There were several female detainees. Two died soon after they were released, as a consequence of the Bethal Trial interrogation and torture. 

Very few people would know that these heroes, Bra Hunter, Champ, Ou Piet and Thami, left behind their own families. Fare thee well noble sons of the soil … your death was not in vain. Your blood will forever inspire and encourage and keep the fire burning… the fire of a desire for total and true liberation. 

By Mike Matsobane 

This is a speech delivered on 13 April 2019, on the occasion of the Reburial of the Munsieville Four (Josia Mocumi – Bra Hunter,   Thomas Molatlhegi – Bra Champ, Ou Piet Ntshole and Thami Motsoahae) held at the Munsieville Stadium. These gallant heroes were reburried at the Sterkfontein Cemetery in Mogale City. Mike Matsobane served two terms on Robben Island maximum prison for underground activities of the then banned PAC of Azania. He was accused No. 13 in the The Secret Bethal Treason Trial.

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