Dlomo ka Dlomo an Apla cadre of distinction

FORMER Apla commander and PAC stalwart Abram Mfanimpela Magagula, fondly known as "Gags", "General" and "Dlomo ka Dlomo" died on November 6.

FORMER Apla commander and PAC stalwart Abram Mfanimpela Magagula, fondly known as "Gags", "General" and "Dlomo ka Dlomo" died on November 6.

His was a tough journey that he began at birth on December 16 1957, in the then eastern Transvaal (now Mpumalanga) town of Standerton. He was young when his family left Mpumalanga for Gauteng.

Gags, pictured , began his schooling at Tsokodibane Primary School in Evaton, before proceeding to Sekanantoane High School in Senaoane, Soweto. After matric, he secured a job at Naschem in Lens.

In the volatile Vaal Triangle, a young Magagula was politicised and became embroiled in the rent boycott in the early 1980s.

The older residents of Sebokeng still remember him as a fiery and dependable leader. The Pan Africanist Congress identified a leader in him and gave him more challenging tasks. And he executed them with distinction.

Naturally, this evoked the wrath of the state and Magagula became a wanted man. He skipped the country in 1984 and sought political asylum in Lesotho. From Lesotho he went to Tanzania. Gags was in a group of 35 Apla cadres who underwent military training in Libya in 1986. This group included former world boxing champion Mpush Makambi.

One midnight, General and his PAC comrades together with the Libyan soldiers and Soviet Union military advisers were rudely woken by fighter planes, raining bombs on their positions.

Washington had invaded Tripoli.

The following morning, as they counted casualties and assessed damage, Dlomo ka Dlomo is said to have assured all PAC cadres that none would be injured or killed.

He spent the day pleading and praying to the ancestors to intervene and repel the Yankee invaders. Magagula was fiercely proud of his African roots. In the late 1980s, he led an Apla unit that infiltrated the country. Unfortunately they were arrested, charged, convicted and sentenced. He served his sentence on Robben Island until he was pardoned in 1991.

On his release, the PAC leadership assigned him the task of heading the Task Force, a party self-defence organ, in the face of inter-party political violence. A firm believer in the philosophy of peace among Africans, General redefined the role of the Task Force as he mounted one operation after another, targeting the apartheid soldiers and police.

He moved from township to township, organising the youth and encouraging them to stop fighting one another and redirect their anger at the oppressive state. His former recruits in Thokoza township, Ekurhuleni, now family men and women, still vividly remember him riding a small bicycle, bearded and smoking a pipe as he sliced through army and police road blocks.

A master of disguise and camouflage, he was mistaken for a harmless madman longing to be a child again. He, who commands many guerrillas, is bound to be betrayed . Soon the disguise of Gags was relayed to the police and he had to flee to the relatively safe Transkei, then under Bantu Holomisa.

The ultimate orator, Magagula mesmerised audiences with his moving speeches. When the MK celebrated its anniversary in Mthatha in 1993, he shared a platform with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, and he stole the show.

Sadly, it was in Mthatha where the beginning of the end of his life set in. In 1994, he sustained serious head injuries in a car accident in Paine, just outside Mthatha. Then he suffered a stroke in 2005, followed by a series of strokes. Behind that pain-disfigured face, the PAC knew it had a disciplined, diligent and selfless member. What a loss!

He will be buried tomorrow at Vanderbijlpark Cemetery in the Vaal. The procession will leave from 594008 Sebokeng Zone 3 at 9am.