News and Information

Another S African apartheid victim exhumed
September 24, 2004
24 September, 2004

GABORONE - The remains of Thamsanqa Mnyele, killed in a South African Defence Force (SADF) cross-border raid in Gaborone in 1985, left Gaborone on Wednesday for a home reburial. The remains were exhumed Wednesday at the Gaborone cemetry where he was buried together with other South African refugees killed in a raid by apartheid commandos 19 years ago.

Mnyele, who was among 11 people killed in the attacks, was to be reburied in Thembisa, Johannesburg, yesterday. He was initially buried at Extension 14 cemetery with the other six victims of the June 14 raids.

The 1985 attacks on Gaborone that were carried out by the apartheid South African special forces had left 11 people dead and several others wounded.

Among the dead included two Batswana, a Netherlands citizen as well as a six-year-old boy of Lesotho.

The argument given by the minority government in Pretoria was that “Botswana was harbouring terrorists, actively participating in the planning and execution of violence and murder in South Africa” according to The Star report of June 14, 1985.

The then South Africa minister of foreign affairs, who has since joined the ANC, argued that South Africa had “no alternative” but to protect itself from a growing number of terrorist attacks emanating from Botswana.

Botswana then took the matter up with the United Nations (UN) Security Council in an effort aimed at bringing a halt to the attacks on Botswana and ordering the racist regime to desist from further acts of terrorism against her.

Speaking at the exhumation ceremony, South African High Commissioner Eunice Khomani thanked Batswana for having supported the anti-apartheid movements by sheltering exiles like Mnyele.

She described Mnyele as having been an artist who used his skill to teach and mobilise people against minority rule in South Africa.

She said Mnyele and the other fallen heroes were labelled “enemies of the state” for showing resentment of the then Pretoria regime, and that had they been caught they were going to be charged with terrorism and could have faced execution.

“Our freedom was not free. We are here today because people died. This freedom should not be taken for granted in any way because it was bought expensively,” said Khomani.

She regretted that there were many other victims of the struggle against apartheid who were unaccounted for because they were lying in unmarked graves while others had to change their names when they fled the “brutal Pretoria regime”.

Speaking for the Botswana government, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co operation permanent secretary Ernest Mpofu said Botswana appreciated the contribution of the fallen heroes of the South African campaign against oppression because their sacrifices had brought peace not only for their country but for the region.“Presently we live in harmony. We will remain indebted to heroes like ‘Thami’ and the greatest challenge facing us is that we the beneficiaries of their sacrifices, ensure that the ideals they died for are brought to fruition.” He said their loss was a great gain for the continent because a free South Africa was now playing a big role in finding solutions to many of Africa’s problems. “There should be no need for complacency in this regard,” he said.

The ceremony, which was emotional, was attended by Mnyele’s family members, including his mother and widow, South African and Botswana officials, and the members of the diplomatic corps.

What was even more striking was the manner in which an 84-year-old mother of Mnyele described her son’s life. She said she still “remembers her son as a soft spoken man who was killed by the brutal regime, as he tried to escape death not knowing that he was going to meet his fate so early”.

The exhumation was marked with liberation songs, which used to characterise funerals of the activists that fell victims of the brutal apartheid regime before the new popular government took over in 1994.According to South African media, Mnyele who was an artist designed the ANC and the ANC Women’s League logos.

The first apartheid victim to be exhumed from the Gaborone cemetry was Abrham Onkgoptse Tiro who was killed by a letter bomb at Kgale. BOPA


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