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This week in 1994: Democracy 25
3 July 2019, 4:37 PM

This week marks 25 years since the man credited with taking down the foundation of apartheid was transferred from the Pretoria Central Prison to a mental institution.

Dimitri Tsafendas, a temporary Parliament messenger, killed the so-called architect of state racism Dr Hendrik Verwoerd in cold blood on the floor of the then House of Assembly on 06 September 1966. He had followed him into the debating chamber; where he was due to make a speech.

He pulled out a sheaf knife and plunged it into his heart and lungs four times.

Pandemonium broke and Tsafendas was restrained after being punched in the face.

The Prime Minister died within minutes from his wounds, which some believe could only have been made with training.

In a statement to the police six days after the assassination, Tsafendas admitted to the murder, saying he was disgusted by apartheid.

“I did not care about the consequences for what would happen to me afterwards. I was so disgusted with the racial policy that I went through with my plans to kill the Prime Minister.”

A point he repeated during a documentary on his life 21 years ago.

“Dr Hendrik Verwoerd was an immoral man. I decided to stab him and kill him,” he said.

According to SA History, it was after the gunning down of unarmed peaceful anti-pass law protesters in the 1960 Sharpeville massacre when he decided to take violent action against the apartheid regime.

He had previously wanted to kidnap the man who was once described as having seen Black people as a problem he couldn’t solve.

Truth or conspiracy theory

 In a documentary on his life, Tsafendas’ friend and church mate Patrick O’Ryan paints a story of frustration, heartache and injustice that drove a decent man to such a horrific act.

O’Ryan says Tsafendas once expressed disgust for Verwoerd, saying he’d bash his skull should he ever get hold of him.

However, he says these are the facts he never disclosed to authorities during the inquiry into the killing.

Instead, he says, they went along with the cover-up worm story that investigators asked them to give as an account while testifying to get Tsafendas off the death row.

Tsafendas had, after all, been hospitalised for a tapeworm delusion at Grafton State Hospital, Massachusetts, in 1946, and again in Hamburg, in 1955. After the assassination, at least six psychiatrists confirmed his diagnosis of schizophrenia and/or delusion.

More than what meets the eye

While some still believe the killing was an act of mindlessness – others suspect the murder was well planned. They cite his detachment to the gravity of his deeds as reason enough to believe Tsafendas was trained to kill Verwoerd.

Right wing extremists have suspiciously pointed the missile to then Police Minister John Vorster, whom they believe appeared too calm when the knife was plunged into Verwoerd’s body.

The psychiatrist who treated him and David Pratt, the man who had shot Verwoerd six years before the assassination, is another suspect.

He apparently treated both men in 1959 and was present at the Rand Show during an attempt on Verwoerd’s life in 1960.

Unsung hero?

Writer and former political prisoner Breyten Breytenbach has described Tsafendas and struggle icon Nelson Mandela as two sides of the same coin.

“The one of companions and because of the fact that he could hold on to the belief of the justice that he had done. The one could transform the whole 27 years into a building block for what comes later. The other one left a shadow part of that experience. Deprived of all objectivity and deprived of any form of self-justification,” Breytenbach told filmmaker, Liza Key.

In her thesis, Dr Zuleiga Adams says Verwoerd’s assassination exposed the fault lines of apartheid governance.

“Tsafendas’ life story had, as we shall see, defied the rules of racial rationalism upon which the apartheid state was based. He had crisscrossed South African and international borders with seeming impunity. His personal genealogy was the very antithesis of a system where racial laws were tightly designed to eliminate frontier zones between white and black. His very presence in South Africa attested to the failure of an immigration regime to keep out ‘half-castes’, ‘communists’, and the ‘mentally disturbed’, as he was variously referred to in official documentation.

The author of a book on Tsafendas, The Man who killed Apartheid, Harris Dousemetzi has petitioned government to correct history books on Tsafendas.

He wants Tsafendas to go down in history as a sane man who had killed Verwoerd with the hope that apartheid would collapse.

Dousemetzi’s call has the blessing of some of the country’s great legal minds, including Human Rights Lawyer George Bizos, former Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner Dumisa Ntsebeza as well as retired Constitutional Court Justice Zak Yacoob.

 Life in Prison

A three-day inquiry into the murder was conducted and on 20 October 1966, Tsafendas was declared unfit to stand trial – getting him off the murder charge.

Judge Andries Beyers committed him as a state President’s patient, creating an expectation that he would be held in a mental hospital.

However, instead of keeping him at a psychiatric hospital as expected, it placed him on death row after exploiting a loophole in the law.

He was held for four months on Robben Island and was later placed on death row in the Pretoria Central Prison, in a cell specially designed for him where he was punished daily for his deed for at least 23 years.

The cell was within an earshot of the execution chamber; he could hear prisoners when they were being taken for their last journey of life; hear them breathing; their cries and the silence that follows their hanging.

In the mornings, he used to wake up and see them hanging.

Tsafendas has said warders used to put a strait jacket on him and punched him until he was unconscious.

They also threw out his food, wet his bed with water and sometimes even threw it on the floor and asked him to clean it up.

Tsafendas was transferred to Zonderwater Prison in 1989.

Last days 

On 30 June 1994, Correctional Services Minister Dr Sipho Mzimela announced that he would be moved to Sterkfontein Psychiatric Hospital, where he spent most of his remaining days on earth.

Government reportedly wanted to release him from custody, but couldn’t find any family or friends who could accommodate him at the time.

Tsafendas died a lonely man, in 1999 from pneumonia.

He was buried in an unmarked grave, something that doesn’t sit well with former ANC Eastern Cape Provincial Member of Parliament, Christian Martins.

Martins believes Tsafendas shouldn’t go down in history as a deranged man, but a man who played a part in liberating Black people from the National Party’s oppressive racial policies.

In 2013, he applied for Tsafendas and Verwoerd’s graves to be declared national heritage sites.

He believes their story is not one to be swept under the carpet, adding that had Verwoerd lived longer the holocaust was going to be a child’s play compared to the devastating impact the policies that he advocated for and had effectively developed could have had.

 Changing the course of history

Tsafendas was 48 years old when he made history, sending the Afrikaner world into mourning and exhilarating those who either disagreed or were on the receiving end of the brutal apartheid laws.

He managed to carry out an act wealthy businessman and farmer, David Pratt had tried six years earlier against a man he called the epitome of apartheid.

Pratt shot Verwoerd twice on the face at close range in 1960 during an event in Johannesburg. He later told authorities that he had not wanted to kill him but had hoped the incident could give him time to re-think his government’s policies.

The assassination attempt happened 19 days after the Sharpeville massacre, a tragedy that reportedly also got Tsafendas hopping mad.

 

‘We should not see each other through the prism of tribe’
2 July 2019, 5:19 PM

Writer and editor Goodenough Mashego is disappointed with government’s snail pace to develop indigenous languages. Mashego says the Mapulana community has hoped in vain, since 1994, for its mother tongue to finally be recognised.

The 46-year-old envisions a South Africa that is like Europe, where all languages are equally recognised.

 

This week in 1994: Democracy 25
26 June 2019, 10:00 AM

 

This week in 1994, South Africa was re-admitted as a member of the United Nations, ending years of international isolation for the country.

The milestone followed the country’s successful first democratic elections, which were held on 27 April 1994; the establishment of a Government of National Unity and the adoption of a non-racial Constitution for the transitional period.

On 23 June, the UN General Assembly approved the credentials of the South African delegation. The question of apartheid was removed from the agenda of the General Assembly and the Security Council on the 27th.

The move meant that South Africa, one of the 51 founding members of the world body, could resume participating in the activities of the General Assembly from which the country was suspended in 1974 for its racist ideology.

Watch the acceptance of the SA delegation’s credentials:

In 2006, the African Union (AU) endorsed South Africa and it was subsequently elected, with an overwhelming majority, to serve as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for 2007 to 2008.

The country again served in the UNSC during the 2011 and 2012 period and has now returned for a third term.

Watch President Ramaphosa addressing the UN in 2018:

The current tenure will end in 2020 and is dedicated to promoting the legacy of the late statesman, Nelson Mandela, his commitment to world peace and the African agenda.

 

Watch related video:

UN’s role in the fight against apartheid

The first major UN declaration on apartheid happened on 2 December 1950 when the General Assembly declared that the system is based on doctrines of racial discrimination.

The Sharpville massacre in 1960 raised the ire of the world body, with the Security Council taking its first action against apartheid South Africa. The Council adopted Resolution 134, slating the draconian laws and urged Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd’s government to abandon its oppressive system.

Police had gunned down 69 peaceful protesters on 21 March and seriously injured 180 others. The victims of the brutality were part of a Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) march calling for an end to pass laws, which prohibited Black South Africans from moving around the country without identity documents (IDs).

Three other civilians were killed and 26 others injured in Cape Town on the same day. Police pounced on them for defying a ban of public meetings and gatherings. They had converged at the Langa Flats bus terminus after hearing the news of the massacre, which had spread across the world already.

The Sharpville tragedy marked a turning point in the struggle against apartheid. In retaliation, angry South Africans engaged in strikes and the state began its crackdown on political activity across the country, jailing PAC and ANC members.

On 7 April, both parties were banned and some of the movements’ members skipped the country and went into exile.

PAC leader Narius Moloto says the heavy-handed tactics of the police had not come as a surprise to political leaders of the time as they knew that blood would have to flow for freedom to be attained. He describes the moment as the beginning of victory for South Africa’s Black majority.

Special Committee Against Apartheid

Three years after the tragedy, the UN Special Committee Against Apartheid met for the first time. On 7 August of the same year, the Security Council adopted Resolution 181 leading the calls for sanctions against Verwoed’s administration.

The UNSC called upon all states to cease the sale and shipment of arms, ammunition and military vehicles to South Africa. The arms embargo was made mandatory on 4 November 1977.  Civil society in Europe and the United States had also ramp pressure on their governments to impose economic and cultural sanctions against apartheid South Africa.

After years of supporting the regime, the US government had a change of heart. In 1986, the country passed the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act, which saw many multinational companies withdrawing from South Africa. The move put enormous strain on Pretoria’s economy as local revolt by South Africans had intensified. The country was in flames and the economy was on its knees with government struggling with the effects of the internal and the burden of its military commitment in occupying Namibia.

Amid growing turmoil and failed State of Emergency measures in 1989, President P.W. Botha suffered a stroke and was forced to resign seven months later. He had lost control of his ruling National Party, which was unhappy with his failure to stabilise the country.

His successor, FW de Klerk – nearly six months after assuming office – stunned the world and announced sweeping reforms. In his address to Parliament in February 1990, De Klerk lifted a ban on political parties and announced the release of anti-apartheid activists, including Nelson Mandela.

Watch related video:

While Mandela, South Africa’s first democratic President, has previously acknowledged the role of the international community in collapsing apartheid, former President F.W. de Klerk hasn’t.

De Klerk has cited the realisation of the futility of ongoing violence and repentance as reasons for putting an end to the brutal policies that left children orphaned; parents childless and trapped millions of South Africans in a cycle of poverty.

“The basis for the fundamental reforms in South Africa was established, not by external pressure, but primarily by  social changes, which economic growth generated. The realisation that far-reaching change had become inevitable  was  primarily influenced, not by political speeches and manifestos, but by the exposure to realities, which  were   brought into millions of  homes  by  television and radio. However, the single most important factor, which became  the driving force towards  a  totally new dispensation in  South Africa, was a fundamental change of  heart. This  change occurred on both sides, which had been involved in conflict over decades,” he said in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech.

De Klerk and Mandela shared the prize for their role in ensuring a peaceful end of apartheid and laying the foundation for a democratic South Africa.

Watch both leaders accepting the award at the Oslo City Hall in Norway:

 

SA and Botswana flags
This week in 1994: Democracy 25
18 June 2019, 3:55 PM

This week marks 25 years since South Africa and Botswana signed an agreement upgrading the two countries’ diplomatic relations.

The ties were first formalised in 1992 with the establishment of Representative Offices in both countries in 1992. The upgrading of relations to full diplomatic level came into force on 22 June 1994.

Both countries have enjoyed good relations over the years, with then President Jacob Zuma in 2011 telling Members of Parliament (MP) during a question and answer session in the National Assembly that, “History has bound the two countries and peoples in a friendship and kinship that goes beyond normal diplomatic relations.”

“Our relations were cemented during the days of our struggle for liberation from colonial oppression and apartheid.”

Watch related clip:

Diplomatic relations were rocked in April 2019 after Botswana accused mining mogul Bridgette Motsepe-Radebe of trying to influence that country’s leadership elections. President Cyril Ramaphosa swiftly sent then Minister of International Relations Lindiwe Sisul to Gaborone to diffuse the situation. After talks, Botswana said it was satisfied that no South African official was involved in the suspected coup plot.

The country, however, made it clear that Motsepe-Radebe, who has mining operations in Botswana, will now have to apply for a visa to enter Gaborone. This is a deviation from the norm as South African passport holders don’t need a visa to visit Botswana.

The incident was a second diplomatic spat between the two countries over the years. In 2017, Botswana lodged a complaint with the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) after then North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo’s convoy allegedly pushed then President Ian Khama’s vehicles off the road. The incident had apparently occurred in Botswana’s capital Gaborone, which is a two-hour drive from the North West.

Trade relations

Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho, Namibia and Eswatini are members of the Southern African Customs Union (Sacu). The union allows for free flow of trade between the two countries. However, according to South African Market Insights, trade balance between the two nations seemed heavily skewed towards that of South Africa in 2017. Pretoria was exporting more to Gaborone than what the country was importing from South Africa, with exports in 2017 amounting to around R36.85 billion. South African imports from Botswana during the same period were worth a little more than R4.2 billion.

 

 

The Lion King celebrates a quarter of a century

Another milestone worth to note this week is the 25th anniversary of the Lion King.

The award-winning show celebrated its 1994 screen debut on June 15. The highest-grossing animated film in history had its stage premier in 1997. Over a 100-million people worldwide have watched the musical, which is a coming of age story about Simba – a lion cub separated from the kingdom he should rightfully rule.

According to the President of Disney Theatrical Productions Thomas Schumacher, South Africa has played an important role in the life of The Lion King.

“South African performers have been in every single production of The Lion King, from the first show in New York to the nine other productions which have played to packed houses around the world. Audiences have seen and felt the extraordinary talent, warmth and spirit which these performers and the South African music bring to the show.”

South Africans enjoy privilege in the show. For more than 20 years now, the musical has reserved at least six places in its cast for South African performers. They have been posted to cities around the world, including productions staged in Dutch, German and Spanish, among others.

The man credited with being the voice and spirit behind the show, Lebo Morake, known as Lebo M, is said to have made this practice due to the rich timbre and emotional essence South African singers’ voices add to the musical. Lebo M was choral director on the Broadway hit at the  time.

The heart of the show is African. It celebrates music, language and costumes. It features a fusion of popular Western music and rich and beautiful rhythms of African music based on Lebo M’s album, Rhythm of the Pride Lands, which was inspired by the film.

The producer and composer has arranged and performed much of the music for the movie and stage. His voice is the first one heard singing a chant over the opening sequence when the film begins.


Lebo M co-produced the local version of the musical with Pieter Toerien. Its debut was on 6 June 2007.

While The Lion King partly mirrors story lines of biblical figures Joseph and Moses, some of the musical’s cast members have drawn parallels with Nelson Mandela and the apartheid system. Mandela is seen as having represented the land that was enslaved and returns from prison as a hero who assumes power after years in exile.

 

 

Tito Mboweni tin fish
Social media – an eye opener!
18 June 2019, 12:01 PM

The emergence of social media has brought out the good, the bad and the ugly side of some of the country’s politicians. It’s let South Africans into the hearts and minds of many public figures that without it – their convictions would otherwise remain a mystery to many.

Ambassador to Denmark and daughter of struggle icons Winnie and Nelson Mandela, Zindzi Mandela, former President Jacob Zuma, ex-DA leader Helen Zille, Ekurhuleni Mayor Mzwandile Masina, ANC National Executive Committee member Tony Yengeni and Finance Minister Tito Mboweni are some politicians who are using the platform fearlessly; sometimes striking a raw nerve of some South Africans.

Mandela has been trending for several days now following her post on the land issue.

 

The Tweet has taken a life of its own – with racism, her father’s legacy and whether the diplomat should be fired taking centre-stage. The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) is investigating the incident.

 

 

 

 

 


Mandela’s views are not the only ones that have exposed South Africa’s racial division and the hurt many still feel over the brutality of the apartheid rule and the settlement reached by politicians during the negotiations held before the country’s first democratic elections in 1994.

The DA’s Helen Zille is another public figure who has stirred the pot in the past. Her most recent controversial post was on Black Privilege, which saw former Public Protector Professor Thuli Madonsela stepping into the murky waters of a Twitter war.

 

 

 

The two leaders have since kissed and made up over a cup of tea.


The platform has, on the other hand, also revealed a soft and fun side of some leaders, like Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, who was previously only known to the public as a no-nonsense and bottom-line type of a guy. However, now South Africans have had a glimpse not only of his love for tin fish, Rwanda and farming, but his culinary skills too.

 

This led to some having fun with the Minister.


Former President Jacob Zuma also took to social media, openly throwing his weight behind embattled eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede.

He contradicted the ANC’s stance on Gumede a day after she was instructed to temporarily bow out of office until the outcome of her corruption case is pronounced.

South Africans fired back.

Masina and Yengeni are other ANC leaders who’ve lashed out at some of the Ramaphosa administration’s decisions on social media.

names @City_Ekurhuleni

— Mzwandile Masina (@mzwandileMasina) June 13, 2019

While others have accused these leaders of sowing divisions with their controversial and sometimes blunt statements, others believe it is good for the country’s healing from the trauma of apartheid and development. They say it should be encouraged rather than suppressed.

Weather

 

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