1983: Simon Thelle Mogoerane, Jerry Mosololi and Marcus Motaung, anti-apartheid soldiers

This date at dawn in 1983, three African National Congress cadres were hanged — together with two unrelated common criminals — for attacks on apartheid-era South African police stations.

“Terrorists” in the eyes of the white government and “freedom fighters” in the eyes of many blacks, the “Moroka Three” — Simon Thelle Mogoerane, Jerry Mosololi and Marcus Motaung — bore arms against as part of the ANC’s military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK).

Their attacks in 1979 and 1981 had claimed the lives of four (black) policemen.

South African law until 1990 mandated hanging for a murder conviction without any extenuating circumstances — a “fact associated with the crime which serves in the mind of reasonable men to diminish morally, albeit not legally, the degree of the prisoner’s guilt.” The courtroom adjunct to MK’s guerrilla operations was establishing its position that its soldiers were prisoners of war under international law, and that that classification constituted an extenuating circumstance under South African law.

1977 protocols had extended the Geneva Conventions governing treatment of prisoners of war to explicitly cover anti-colonial and anti-racist insurgents. South Africa, unsurprisingly, did not ratify this amendment. The judge dismissed the argument that these protocols had acquired the binding force of customary international law — “we do not need to waste time.”

A decade or so later, in the waning years of apartheid, this sort of argument would find a toehold. But not in a defiantly “anti-terrorist” Pretoria of the early eighties.

The three were hanged in the face of worldwide appeals for clemency — such as this one from U.S. Congressmen and -women, and the pamphlet below by the British Anti-Apartheid Movement:

The entirety of this 24-page pamphlet is available free (at least for the remainder of this month) at the Aluka collection of digital Africa-related documents.

The executions likewise met outcry both domestic (South Africa banned public demonstrations) and international (like this U.N. resolution).

On this day..

32 thoughts on “1983: Simon Thelle Mogoerane, Jerry Mosololi and Marcus Motaung, anti-apartheid soldiers

  1. I am going deeper in this story of three young African men hanged by an apartheid cruel government. Maybe it’s time to open real history.

  2. Consider if you will, that the victims of these men were Black policemen, not soldiers. Police uphold the law, even if it is unjust, but the murder of Police, and civilians is not justified under any circumstances. These men received a trial and punishment according to the law, what crime had their police victims committed, other than to earn a wage to feed their families.

    • Peter, your statement is historically and factually incorrect. The apartheid era police was an integral part of the oppressive system orchestrated by an alien minority of Boer settlers in order to maintain their illegitimate and internationally outlawed reign over the population of South Africa. The apartheid era police was not acting as a typical police force comparable to democratic societies, but often in a paramilitary and a political capacity, which included extrajudicial killings of South Africans, who opposed the illegitimate reign and state terrorism of the foreign Boer settlers. We South Africans salute these brave soldiers of liberation, who defied the state sponsored terror of the alien apartheid regime! It’s also overdue that the perpetrators of apartheid terrorism against South Africans are prosecuted. These two legged dogs of the former Security Branch, Vlakplaas and other state terrorist entities, who cowardly murdered defenseless women and children, finally deserve their just penalty. It’s a shame that these two legged dogs are still enjoying their freedom, enjoying government pensions or employment by the state: https://mg.co.za/article/2012-11-09-00-neil-aggetts-tormentor-does-work-for-state

  3. Frank Shandon you an idiot your self. Whether you are rich with man, rich boer man, rich Indian man or rich African man. The depth and length of our graves are the same and you must remember that we are going to die one day. So fuck you many times. I love ANC, it liberated the people of colours in RSA. I vote for ANC till I die. Viva AFRICAN NATIONAL CONGRESS VIVA. Long live the spirit of comrade Thelle Simon Mogoerane, Murcus Motaung,Thabo Mosololi long live.

    • “I vote for ANC till I die. Viva AFRICAN NATIONAL CONGRESS ”

      Lol. People like you who blindly follow and don´t care about right or wrong do not deserve democracy. You get the leaders you deserve. And happily pay for their pools and everything they can take off you

  4. The three cdes & many others who paid the ultimate price with their lives,are true patriots & not cowards that are old fashioned racists.Viva the fighting spirit of the Moroka three!!!viva the undying spirit of the G5 unit!!! Their efforts weren’t in vain!!Aluta Continua

    • The actual political system in South Africa is as corrupt as it can be. The criminality rate is te highest of the world. I live in South-Africa, the country has become the Far West with a very arrogant black population taking revenge, raping, murdering and stealing. The “soldiers” died for a wrong cause.

  5. The struggle has to continua, our incomplete democracy is a direct insult to those who died to liberate the masses, economic struggle must be waged in a very same manner the political struggle was waged.

    • Good! Glad that you want to expend some effort! To wage economic struggle can be daunting, and few have the requisite abilities and intelligence. To be successful, you need to
      1. Get educated. (Education is something you do for yourself, it is not something done to you)
      2. Work hard.
      3. Create things.
      4. Delay gratification.
      5. Accept that you are yourself responsible for your condition, rather than the universe.
      6. Develop self-discipline. Lots of it.
      I have many more useful suggestions for you. If you’re interested, just ask.

  6. Well, Jack, if you are from South Africa, I would guess that you think of the Boors who fought the English as soldiers. If you are from the United State I would guess that you would think of the confederates as soldiers.

    So the question is what would be the difference do you think? Color, maybe?

    • Well, lawguy, I’m just defending the notion of ‘soldier’, which is of something positive and pure. A soldier will act, often selflessly, to protect his friends, his property, his family, and the institutions created and funded by the society he is part of. And he would do so by focusing his efforts on only those who directly threaten to destroy these things.

      And so – no, colour has nothing to do with it.

      • “A soldier will act, often selflessly, to protect his friends, his property, his family, and the institutions created and funded by the society he is part of. And he would do so by focusing his efforts on only those who directly threaten to destroy these things.”

        That’s exactly why these three heroes of the struggle for the democratisation of South Africa are soldiers! They selflessly entered into Apartheid South Africa, after they have narrowly escaped the terrorism of the two-legged Boeredogs, who have just slaughtered hundreds of school-aged children in Soweto and other townships in 1976. They did so in oder to engage the enemy, the internationally outlawed criminal apartheid regime and it’s brutal agents and mercenaries, who posed as policemen, while they actually served the political interests and ideology of the Afrikaans-Nationalist government. This foreign and occupational police force of the alien Boer minority posed a threat to the majority of South Africans, so these three brave young liberation soldiers took measures to protect their communities from further harm by these state sponsored SAP-terrorists. We South Africans salute these three brave patriots, who were cowardly murdered by their captors, the mercenaries and biased courts (most judges were members of the Broederbond) of the internationally outlawed Apartheid Regime!

        • They were terrorists and murderers, and they would’ve been executed by every country that had capital punishment at the time.

          We need to remember that Umkhonto we Sizwe rarely targeted anyone other than civilians, mostly women and children, by planting bombs in churches, schools and bars.

          We also need to remember that the ANC murdered more than eighteen thousand blacks between 1992 and 1994. We need to remember that almost all black people killed in South Africa were killed by other black people – the South African security forces contributing only a tiny portion to that. This remains true today, where about 18000 people are murdered in South Africa every year. Again almost all of them are black, and almost all of them are murdered by other blacks.

          We need to remember that during the Soweto uprisings, the rioters ran around burning schools, houses, trains, buses, and other people. Once again, the victims of these crimes were almost exclusively black civilians. No government in the world could allow that to happen – it is the responsibility of every government to protect the people within its borders.

          We need to remember that the ANC and in particular Umkhonto we Sizwe were communists, were trained in Russia, China and East Germany, and were bankrolled by the Soviet Union. We need to remember that, had South Africa capitulated to these communist terrorists, South Africa would today have been a communist dictatorship with an economy akin to that of Zimbabwe. We need to remember that every single person in South Africa today can thank his lucky stars that that did not happen

  7. My uncle and those who fought for our freedom, my elders that sacrificed their lives for the freedom i have today. Long Live!!! All those who didn’t oppsose Apartheid can go back to the hatred section of hell where they came from.(black or white)

  8. Please. It is not possible to speak of ‘anti-apartheid soldiers’ without sullying the concept of ‘soldier’ beyond redemption.

    Do refrain from doing so.

  9. As a young woman, who is today enjoying the freedom fought for by these Heroes, and the likes Kalushi (Khala) Mahlangu, Tsietsi Mashinini the Cradock Four, the Gugulethu Seven and other unsung heroes. I’d like to salute and may their memories be engraved in our hearts, may we never forget the sacrifices they made, laying down their lives for this country to be free. Viva brave sons of the soil, Viva……

  10. As a soldier of Umkhonto we Size I feel honoured that the Natalspruit Hospital has been named after this great martyr…Long live the undying spirit of Thelle Mogoerane long live

  11. The same way we remember Hintsha, Bambatha and Nat Turner, we remember these sons of the soil – fearless patriots. It’s difficult to defy the temptation for vengeance with some of the comments…

  12. Long Live the spirit of the G5 Long Live! To you Frank they may be idiots but to me they are my heroes. They stood up for what they believe for. I am proud that my uncle fought the fight you couldnt fight for.

  13. Pingback: ExecutedToday.com » 10 executions that defined the 1980s

  14. As a soldier of umkhonto wesizwe i feel obligated to comment and raise or air my views about these three comrades, matyrs. I personaly know them, i have seen them in angola though i did not stay with them that long, what i can say is the freedom they have fought and die for is being enjoyed by other peole, their families are living below breadline, today the sacrifice of their lives not even a single member of their families is enjoying. We are witnessing foreign attitudes in the anc of expelling comrades who differ with certain people, that is dictatorship in the true sense of the word, you may differ with a person but to expell that is tantamount to’sabotage.

  15. My cousin and the other three comrades were brave soldiers of our liberation. They fought and died for our independence today, of which so many politicians abuse to enrich themselves.

  16. Three ANC idiots were hanged? Ought to be the case with the rest of the ANC. Bunch of damned Marxists. Let ’em ALL hang!

    • You just remind us, that we still haven’t dealt properly with the criminal elements in our society, who participated in apartheid era crimes against the majority of South Africans! The former mercenaries, mass murderers and torturers, who as members of the Special Branch, the SAP or the SADF have cowardly slaughtered the South African people need to receive their final judgement. We should reinstitute the death penalty in order to deal with this despicable scum.

      • A good place to start would be to start hanging the murderers who right now murder 18000 people in South Africa ever year.
        Imagine: Should the pathetic police force manage to capture and successfully prosecute every murderer, and assuming that there is only one murderer per person murdered, they would have to hang about 350 murderers ever week, or about 50 per day. I dare say that after about 5 years or so, the number of murderers would probably decline. This is a good thing. Maybe you have a point.

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