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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 589
Paragraph Numbers 212 to 217
Resistance and revolutionary groupings
212 In the wake of the Soweto protests and the intensified repression that followed, hundreds of students began secretly leaving the country. The largest exodus appears to have begun in October 1976, when students fled to Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland. The head of the security police, Brigadier CF Zietsman, estimated in June 1978 that 4 000 black South Africans were undergoing guerrilla training in various African countries under the auspices of the ANC or PAC.
213 Mr Tsietsi Mashinini was amongst those who fled the country in the wake of the Soweto protest. His mother and his teacher, Mr Fanyana Mazibuko, told the Commission about the police harassment that followed the 16 June march, the social isolation and economic hardship the family suffered as a result, and how it forced not only Tsietsi but all his siblings into exile.
214 Many of those who left wanted to return immediately to use their training at home. The ANC similarly was beginning to change its strategy to focus on organisation within the country. Mr Murphy Morobe, who decided to leave the country for training after the violent response to student demonstrations against Kissinger’s visit, told the Commission:
Our aim was to go to get crash courses in military training which we knew that the ANC was providing in its forward bases like around Swaziland or Mozambique … by then the ANC had decided that instead of continuing to have such courses outside, they were beginning to deploy the operatives inside the country …
It was not my intention and certainly that of my colleagues to leave the country. We wanted to see ourselves continuing inside the country and we had an interest in ensuring that the student movement remained intact… We then came back, and it is after we came back that, once again, we were able to link up with the ANC underground operatives and carried on to do what we wanted to do.
215 Mr Joe Gqabi [JB00703/01GTSOW], a Robben Island veteran, played an important role in linking students who had been involved in the Soweto protest with the ANC’s armed wing. Mr Gqabi was responsible for reactivating an ANC leadership in Soweto in late 1975 and establishing what ANC links existed with the SSRC. Unknown gunmen later shot him dead through the window of his car in Zimbabwe on 31 July 1981.
216 From Morobe’s testimony to the Commission, it is evident that Gqabi played a central mentoring role in Soweto during the 1970s, both before and after the June 1976 protest. Although students such as Morobe operated within the paradigm of Black Consciousness, they retained strong ideological and political links with the ANC through operatives such as Gqabi. As violence escalated after 16 June, students continued to turn to older ANC activists such as Gqabi for advice about how to handle an increasingly difficult situation:
It was through those processes that our interaction with people like Joe Gqabi, for example, of the ANC continued. He was banned. We could not meet in his house. Each time we came into his house we did not speak, you know, everything will be written down on paper and we would just exchange paper because the houses would be bugged and [then] he would take all those papers and burn them up and throw them away …
We would go to the rails in Mfula Park and we will sit there, at about eight, nine pm and we would talk about issues that we were involved in. And they will help us to have much broader perspective and … to try to bring things under control and not to give [the system] any other excuses just to willynilly shoot and kill people.
217 The Black Consciousness Movement was given organisational expression through SASO and the Black People’s Convention (BPC). It was influential in the formulation and propagation of new ideas that critiqued the apartheid government and began to create the organisational and intellectual framework through which it could be substantively challenged. Morobe, who joined South African Students’ Movement (SASM)22 in 1973, gives a unique insight into perceptions of Black Consciousness organisations at this time. Morobe saw Black Consciousness organisations as necessary to fill the political and organisational vacuum left by the exiled liberation movement, rather than as a competing ideological force. The ethos of Black Consciousness was not seen as incompatible with the political philosophy of the ANC or PAC.
Even within the Black Consciousness organisation there was a general understanding that our role … is to keep the home fires burning, because we understood that those liberation organisations that were banned were going to eventually come back one day. And we saw our role as continuing on where they left off and preparing the ground for their eventual return into the country. So, within the Black Consciousness organisation there was general acceptance that you could belong to either of the liberation organisations: it was a matter of your individual choice.22 The secondary school equivalent of SASO and part of the Black Consciousness Movement.