Interview with Thozamile Botha

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no.8 January/February 1981 

Thozamile Botha 

The interview below was given to us by Thozamile Botha whilst on a speaking tour in Britain, organised by the Anti Apartheid Movement and the South African Congress of Trade Unions.

Thozamile Botha is a black South African working class leader who played a leading role in the famous strike at Fords in Port Elizabeth. The history of this strike is recorded in the interview, and particular emphasis placed on the unity between the striking Ford workers and the Port Elizabeth Black Civic Organisation. From the interview we obtain a very clear and stirring picture of the unity that exists between all aspects of the revolutionary struggle in South Africa. It is noteworthy that the racist apartheid regime is now attempting to break up this unity. It is preparing legislation which makes it illegal for any black trade union to have links or association with black community organisations. What fools to believe that this unity can be broken by a piece of legislation. Throughout the whole of last year the black masses of South Africa faced the apartheid regime's mass murder, torture and imprisonment. Their unity did not break. When there is a mass revolutionary movement led by the ANC no legislation, however many are the guns which back it up, can break the spirit of the black working class. This legislation reveals only the fears of the apartheid regime.

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The ANC 12 Treason Trial - Never on Our Knees

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No. 2 - January/February 1980

On Thursday 19 November 1979 the racist apartheid regime of South Africa sentenced James Mange to death in a 'court' in Pietermaritzburg. The South African regime intends to add James Mange's name to a long list of people murdered 'judicially' — the most recent being Solomon Mahlangu who was hanged on 6 April 1979. James Mange is one of the African National Congress 12 Treason Triallists.

The ANC 12 Treason Trial was part and parcel of the war between the South African regime and the ANC(SA). This is obvious from the background to the trial, the conduct of the ANC 12 in the trial and the viciousness of the racist court at Pietermaritzburg.

War in South Africa

All 12 comrades were charged under the treason laws, with 43 alternate counts under the Terrorism laws. Two were also charged with conspiracy to incite murder. All 12 were alleged to have been involved in armed actions against the security forces. This was the first time that a South African 'court' has admitted that the security forces are engaged in a war with Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation — the military wing of the ANC).

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Communists and the revolution in South Africa

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no 62 - September 1986

On 30 July 1986 the South African Communist Party celebrated its 65th anniversary at a rally in London's Conway Hall. Joe Slovo was the main speaker. David Reed analyses the issues raised in Slovo's speech: issues at the heart of the South African revolution.

Everywhere communists are watching, assessing and analysing the South African revolution. Its outcome will have a dramatic, perhaps decisive, impact on revolutionary developments worldwide. This fact alone would give enormous significance to the speech* made on 30 July 1986 by Joe Slovo, chairman of the South African Communist Party (SACP), Chief of Staff of Umkhonto we Sizwe, and member of the National Executive Committee of the ANC. That this speech was commemorating the 65th anniversary of the SACP and was given in London, the political centre of the imperialist power which is the main backer of the apartheid regime, would add to its significance for British communists.

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Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela
18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013

Throughout the 1980s, the Revolutionary Communist Group and City of London Anti-Apartheid Group actively campaigned against apartheid and for the release of all political prisoners. In particular our members were central to the organisation of the non-stop picket outside the South African Embassy in Trafalgar Square from April 1986 until Mandela was released in February 1990.*

For around the world today, we still see children suffering from hunger and disease. We still see run-down schools. We still see young people without prospects for the future. Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs; and are still persecuted for what they look like, or how they worship, or who they love.’

US President Barack Obama, Tribute to Nelson Mandela Soweto, 10 December 2013

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Obituary: Zolile Hamilton Keke /FRFI 232 Apr/May 2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 232 April/May 2013

31 October 1945 - 6 February 2013

‘There are people whom you meet who say things that they don’t do, but in our father’s case he lived what he said, not just publicly, even in his private life. So that is what we are taking with us going forward.’ Khanyisa Keke, at his father’s funeral

The Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG) was saddened by the news of the death of an old comrade and friend Zolile Hamilton Keke, who was Chief Representative of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) in the UK at a crucial time in the 1980s.

In the years that followed the Soweto Uprising in 1976, the struggle to liberate South Africa from apartheid rule had spread and deepened into a revolutionary challenge to imperialism itself in Africa. The apartheid regime represented not only the cruel and barbaric oppression of the black majority in South Africa itself, but also the interests of British and US imperialism across the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, as liberation wars were bitterly fought in Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. This was the time when the building of a solidarity movement in Britain to challenge the role of British imperialism in the region was of vital importance, not only for the future of the majority in South Africa, but also for humanity itself.

Comrade Keke’s determination to fight for freedom was forged in struggle over many years. As a teenager, following the Sharpeville massacre in 1960, he had been active in POQO, the armed wing of the PAC. At the age of 17 he was imprisoned for ten years on Robben Island along with Robert Sobukwe and other PAC leaders, who faced a regime of unparalleled brutality. Keke’s commitment to the struggle did not falter and on his release in 1973 he continued his political activities. As a result of his involvement he was one of 86 members of the PAC who were arrested in 1977. 18 men were charged under the Terrorism Act, including PAC leader Zephaniah Mothopeng and Comrade Keke, with fomenting revolution and organising the Soweto Uprising. Most of those detained were severely tortured and four men died during interrogation. The Bethal Treason Trial was held in secret and all 18 were found guilty. As the youngest, Comrade Keke was given a suspended sentence and banned from political activity. Later, when Comrade Keke acted as adviser to Richard Attenborough during the filming of Cry Freedom, in particular in relation to the life of Steve Biko, his experiences of struggle in South Africa were vibrantly portrayed.

As a result of the Bethal trial, in 1981 Comrade Keke went into exile, as many had been forced to, and became Chief Representative for the PAC in London. It was in the course of building City of London Anti-Apartheid Group that we met Comrade Keke and it was no accident that he worked with us to build a principled anti-imperialist solidarity campaign at this crucial time. Comrade Keke’s post was not a sinecure, and despite massive difficulties he inspired everyone he worked with by his commitment to the struggle. He actively gave his time to support events organised by City AA over many years, speaking on platforms, pickets of the South African Embassy, and even turning up as Santa on Christmas day during the Non-Stop Picket. Despite the fact that the Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM) in Britain was ostensibly acting in solidarity with all liberation forces in South Africa, in practice their support was given only to the African National Congress. As a consequence the representatives of the PAC and the black consciousness movement AZAPO, even of the calibre of Comrade Keke, were never invited on to AAM platforms or given support. It was only as a result of pressure from City AA members present that Comrade Keke was the first PAC representative to speak on the AAM AGM platform in 1985 – such was the AAM’s sectarian contempt for those who devoted their lives to the struggle.

In 1992 Comrade Keke returned to South Africa with his family and he never gave up the fight for the liberation of his homeland. He will always be remembered by us as a most dignified and honest revolutionary leader.

Izwe Lethu – the Land is Ours

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