1964: Vuyisile Mini, Zinakile Mkaba and Wilson Khayingo

2 comments November 6th, 2014 Headsman

On this date in 1964, anti-apartheid fighters Vuyisile Mini, Zinakile Mkaba and Wilson Khayingo went to the gallows of Pretoria Central Prison — the first three members of the African National Congress’s military arm to be executed by apartheid South Africa.

In 1960, on the 21st of March — a date still kept as South Africa’s Human Rights Day, and worldwide as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination — white police gunned down 69 black civilians protesting the color line.

After the Sharpeville Massacre the struggle over racial apartheid in South Africa escalated to a much more violent plane.

Confrontations throughout South Africa following Sharpeville led the white government to declare a state of emergency and begin rounding up thousands of regime opponents. Pretoria also immediately outlaws the leading black resistance organizations, the Pan Africanist Congress and the African National Congress.

Driven underground, both PAC and ANC spun off military wings in 1961 to meet force with force.

We have already visited the “Langa Six”, members of the PAC’s Poqo.

Shortly thereafter, on December 16, Umkhonto we Sizwe (“Spear of the Nation” in Zulu, but better known simply as “MK”) announced its advent with placards in city streets.

The time comes in the life of any people when there remain two choices: to submit or fight. That time has now come to South Africa. We will not submit but will fight back with all means at our disposal in defence of our rights, our people and our freedom.

MK conducted its first dynamite attacks that very evening in Port Elizabeth; over the ensuing 18 months, it carried out more than 200 bombings and other acts of sabotage against the facilities of the apartheid state: train tracks, power stations, telephone wires, offices.

A security crackdown naturally ensued.* By 1963, the white government had managed to expose and arrest three-quarters of MK’s regional Eastern Cape High Command. Vuyisile Mini, Wilson Khayingo, and Zinakile Mkaba were all swiftly condemned on multiple counts of sabotage plus one of murdering a police informant. International appeals for clemency fell on deaf ears; one fellow-traveler later remembered the men taking leave of their fellow-prisoners in a haunting song.**

“The last evening was devastatingly sad as the heroic occupants of the death cells communicated to the prison in gentle melancholy song that their end was near … It was late at night when the singing ceased, and the prison fell into uneasy silence. I was already awake when the singing began again in the early morning. Once again the excruciatingly beautiful music floated through the barred windows, echoing round the brick exercise yard, losing itself in the vast prison yards. And then, unexpectedly, the voice of Vuyisile Mini came roaring down the hushed passages. Evidently standing on a stool, with his face reaching up to a barred vent in his cell, his unmistakable bass voice was enunciating his final message in Xhosa to the world he was leaving. In a voice charged with emotion but stubbornly defiant he spoke of the struggle waged by the African National Congress and of his absolute conviction of the victory to come. And then it was Khayinga’s turn, followed by Mkaba, as they too defied all prison rules to shout out their valedictions. Soon after, I heard the door of their cell being opened. Murmuring voices reached my straining ears, and then the three martyrs broke into a final poignant melody which seemed to fill the whole prison with sound and then gradually faded away into the distant depths of the condemned section.

* It was during this crackdown that future president Nelson Mandela was rolled up. Mandela had helped to found MK.

** According to The Road to Democracy in South Africa, 1960-1970, the song was Mini’s own composition titled “Pasop — nants’in-dod’inyama, Verwoerd” (“Watch out, here is the African man, Verwoerd!”). If it is available online, I have not been able to find it.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Activists,Capital Punishment,Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,History,Martyrs,Milestones,Murder,Revolutionaries,South Africa,Terrorists

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1985: Benjamin Moloise, revolutionary poet

3 comments October 18th, 2011 Headsman

On this date in 1985, poet Benjamin Moloise was hanged in Pretoria for murdering a (black) policeman in apartheid South Africa.

Moloise’s controversial execution occurred in the context of violent resistance to apartheid in South Africa’s black townships and an ultimately fatal crisis for the apartheid state.

The black majority, long treated as second-class citizens by the white powers-that-be, turned to increasingly confrontational tactics aiming to break official power at the township level. Attacks on black officials and police officers who administered state authority at that level were part and parcel.

Moloise was convicted in a plot to kill such an officer in 1983. (The African National Congress claimed responsibility for the killing, and said that Moloise wasn’t involved.)

His hanging approached as the township rising grew into a mass movement that the hardline government of P.W. Botha answered mostly with force* — so, little surprise that Botha spurned both American and Soviet entreaties not to hang Moloise and little surprise that the execution further escalated racial violence.

Furious black protesters rioted in downtown Johannesburg itself, which (like much of white South Africa) had theretofore remained mostly immune to the violence gripping the townships. Here’s a French news report on Moloise’s execution and its aftermath.

All of which dovetailed with a dramatic fall in South Africa’s international position, vividly symbolized by the months-long collapse of the rand — which bled about three-quarters of its value in 1985. International outrage at the blood shed to enforce South Africa’s color line subjected it to a cascade of diplomatic and economic sanctions in the mid-1980s.

Apartheid went out with the Cold War at the end of the decade — vindicating Moloise’s poetic final message, subsequently a staple message at anti-apartheid rallies.

I am proud to be what I am …
The storm of oppression will be followed
By the rain of my blood

I am proud to give my life

My one solitary life.

* It had implemented a state of emergency that very summer. At the same time, Botha pursued tweaks around the edges of apartheid to preserve it: weeding out “petty apartheid” provocations like whites-only/coloreds-only facilities, and implementing a new constitution with a tricameral, race-based parliament.

Part of the Themed Set: Illegitimate Power.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Artists,Arts and Literature,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Famous,Famous Last Words,Hanged,History,Martyrs,Murder,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Revolutionaries,South Africa,Terrorists

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1986: Andrew Sibusiso Zondo and two other ANC cadres

12 comments September 9th, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 1986, African National Congress cadre Andrew Sibusiso Zondo was hanged in Pretoria nine months after bombing a shopping center near Durban, with five white fatalities.

Zondo claimed he had intended to non-fatally target the South African Airways office at Amanzimtoti’s Sanlam Centre, but couldn’t find a functioning, available telephone in time to phone in his attempted bomb warning. Did we mention that he was 19?

Zondo, it turned out, had been radicalized by South African security forces’ indiscriminate violence against claimed ANC “strongholds” — and specifically by a still-infamous attack, the “Matola raids,” on neighboring Mozambique.

The apartheid regime wasn’t out to win hearts and minds. And it didn’t.

[T]here have never been any ANC bases or camps in Mozambique. There are residences … and if the qualification to make a home a base is only that the people in it can use a gun, then let us be told now: because every white man in South Africa can use a gun and there are weapons in every white household. Are these bases too? (ANC Acting President Oliver Tambo)

The bomb (actually a mine) was planted three days after a South African raid on Lesotho. One of Zondo’s accomplices later turned state’s evidence in exchange for immunity.

Both the ANC, which had an official policy of avoiding civilian casualties, and Zondo himself portrayed the affair as a regrettable rogue operation carried out unofficially by an understandably frustrated cadre.

It was not the last word in the bloody tit-for-tat

Two other persons suspected of being involved in the Amanzimtoti blast, Mr Phumezo Nxiweni and Mr Stanley Sipho Bhila, were [extrajudicially] executed by Security Branch members after they were acquitted in court … At Andrew Zondo’s memorial service, his brother was so severely assaulted that he developed epilepsy, which subsequently killed him. Two mourners were shot dead leaving his parents’ home after the memorial service. Lembede, one of the security policemen involved in the killing of Zondo’s alleged accomplice, was himself later killed, allegedly by members of MK.


Hanged along with Zondo were two unrelated ANC cadres, plus three unrelated common criminals.

I have no information about the criminals, but the other revolutionaries to swing were Clarence Lucky Payi and Sipho Brigitte Xulu (or Sipho Bridget Xulu — but a guy, by either name).

Payi and Xulu assassinated another ANC agent, Benjamin Langa, the brother of present-day South African Chief Jutsice Pius Langa.

South Africa’s post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission has officially attributed the murder to a false flag operation conducted by Pretoria — whereby a mole in the ANC ordered the killing and, with its perpetrators’ subsequent execution, achieved for the white government “a triple murder … without firing a single shot themselves.”

A murky affair by any standard, and one that may not be entirely buried. There’s been some attempt (hotly disputed) to establish a sinister (if vague) alternate hypothesis linking current South African President Jacob Zuma himself to the Langa murder.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Assassins,Capital Punishment,Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Hanged,History,Mass Executions,Murder,Revolutionaries,Ripped from the Headlines,South Africa,Terrorists

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