The martyr of the struggle presented a threat even in death, writes Zithulele Cindi
It is said that a nation that forgets its youth and martyrs will not understand its history, and runs the risk of itself being forgotten.
Human memory tends to be short, especially in remembering those events and moments that made it possible for us to enjoy the fruits of the democratic dispensation.
In the early years of a newly-found freedom where the universal suffrage was extended to all citizens, the tendency might be to regard those at the helm of government as our saviours and the only heroes.
In the minds of many people in our country today the Black Consciousness Movement to which Steve Biko, Onkgopotse Tiro, Mapetla Mohapi, Muntu kaMyeza and Mthuli kaShezi belonged, to mention a few, is not credited for its contributions to our liberation.
The political activism and community development projects of the late 1960s and early 1970s, which culminated in the 1976 uprisings, were the hallmark of the BCM and each one of those mentioned above paid the ultimate price in the process.
Shezi stands out as the first martyr in the Black Consciousness movement.
He was pushed in front of an oncoming train in 1972 by a white railway worker.
He had protested against the way in which the worker had harassed and molested black mothers on the platforms.
He later died of his wounds while his political organisation, the Black People's Convention, was holding its first national congress. He held the position of vice-president.
The tombstone erected in his honour was destroyed within six weeks of its unveiling in 1973.
We were left with no doubt then that his enemies were so afraid of his indomitable spirit that a tombstone in the shape of a clenched fist presented a threat to them even after his death.
Over the years his family has agonised about this and, in consultation, we decided to re-erect the tombstone.
It will be unveiled tomorrow.
Relatives and people wishing to pay homage to this hero of our struggle from as far afield as KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape and Limpopo, will descend on his home in Tembisa tomorrow.
A short prayer service will be held at his home in the morning.
This will be followed by the main service at the Rabasotho Hall at 9am. The tombstone unveiling will take place later in the morning at the local Emfihlweni Cemetery.
Shezi was an avid actor and interlocutor, as can be discerned from his participation in debates and drama sessions during his high school days.
At the University of KwaZulu-Natal he penned a play called Shanti.
The play spoke to the black consciousness philosophy of the need for the so-called coloureds, Indians and Africans to work together as black people for the eradication of their collective oppression.
He was honoured posthumously and received an award under the auspices of the National Orders in 2005.
l Zithulele Cindi is national chairman of Azapo