Cape Town — Celebrating Freedom Day today while launching commemorations for the 50th anniversary of the historic march by South African women on the Union Buildings in Pretoria, Western Cape premier Ebrahim Rasool paid tribute to the heroes of the liberation struggle who gave their lives to bring South Africa the democracy it enjoyed today.
At the Athlone Civic Centre Mr Rasool paid tribute to members of the Guguletu Seven gunned down in an ambush by apartheid security forces, as well the youths who numbered among the Trojan Five, shot down by apartheid-era police officers hiding on the back of a truck in a road only about a kilometre from the centre.
The Guguletu Seven: Mandla Simon Mxinwa, 23; Zanisile Zenith Mjobo, 21; Zola Alfred Swelani, 22; Godfrey Jabulani Miya, 21; Christopher Piet, 23; Themba Mlifi, 30; Zabonke John Konile, 28 - were shot down, some while trying to surrender, in NY1 in Guguletu in 1986 in a trap set up by security police.
The Trojan Five in fact comprised two different incidents on consecutive days: three youths - Michael Miranda, 11; Shaun Magmoed, 16 and Jonathan Claasen, 21 - were gunned down when policemen, concealed in wooden crates on the back of a truck, burst out and opened fire on protesters.
The following day the operation was repeated in Crossroads, killing Goodman Mengxane Mali, 19, and Mabhoti Alfred Vetman, 20.
The premier also paid tribute to Cape freedom fighters Ashley Kriel, killed in 1987 at the age of 21 by apartheid-era security policemen at a house in Athlone, and Anton Fransch, who refused to surrender when surrounded by police in 1989 and, vastly outnumbered and outgunned, nonetheless kept the security forces at bay for virtually an entire night before dying from a hand-grenade explosion, aged 20.
Slain democracy activists Robbie Waterwitch, aged 20, and Coline Williams, aged 22, killed in a mysterious bomb blast in 1989, were also named by Mr Rasool as contributing with their lives to the democracy that the city, province and country enjoyed today.
"Don't forget where we came from," Mr Rasool told about 400 people, mostly women, at an event organised by the provincial department of Cultural Affairs and Sport in conjunction with Malibongwe Women's Development.
Mr Rasool then urged people to build unity in the sometimes fractious and divisive province, adding that the biggest challenge people faced today was overcoming the poverty that continued to weigh heavily on the shoulders of the province's poor.
Accompanied to the event by Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture Ntombazana Botha, as well as provincial finance minister Lynne Brown, Mr Rasool said that freedom also meant the freeing of women from "oppressive religious practices" and the enjoyment of sound health.
A number of cultural groups and choirs performed in the crowded hall, creating a mood that light and festive on South Africa's 12th Freedom Day.