ON April 17 1990 our country was robbed of an intrepid freedom fighter, Jafta Kgalabi Masemola.

Masemola died in a mysterious car accident on his way to hospital. He had been released six months earlier from Robben Island after serving 26 years, nine of which were spent in solitary confinement. He was tortured almost daily and had to go on numerous hunger strikes as a protest.

Though enduring such hardships, he didn't attract international media attention. So far, he doesn't even attract local media attention. The PAC, to which he gave his life, also fails to do justice to him and Zeph Mothopeng.

Their anniversaries just come and go without incident.

Masemola was a victim of a systematic assassination campaign. Others were journalist Sam Mabe and Azapo's Muntu Myeza

Masemola's death has not been properly explained and the PAC is doing little or nothing to ensure that his case reaches finality. For instance, who was the driver of the truck that collided with his car? Did he appear in court to answer charges? Which court? Are there records of the scene of the accident? Who were the police officers who were dispatched to the scene of the accident?

There were reports that emergency service vehicles arrived late and Masemola died minutes after arriving at the GaRankuwa Hospital.

He had dedicated his life to others. He was very generous. He had an undying love for his people and was determined to liberate them.

In 1963 Masemola, Samuel Chibane, Philemon Tefu, John Nkosi, Isaac Mthimunye and Dimake Malepe were sentenced to life for furthering the aims of the PAC.

In 1964 Rivonia trialists Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, Wilton Makwayi, Raymond Mhlaba, Elias Motsoaledi and Andrew Malangeni joined the PAC freedom fighters, but the media hardly reports about the PAC members.

A founder PAC member, Masemola once said: "We cannot negotiate with the usurpers of our land."

After his release, Masemola said the time was not ripe for genuine negotiations. He had foresight. It is now clear that the political settlement reached at Codesa didn't benefit the African people.

This was confirmed by Winnie Madikizela-Mandela about six weeks ago in an interview with the London Evening Standard, an interview she now denies ever giving to Nadira Naipaul.

She denies it, but who believes her? Moreover, Naipaul couldn't have thumb-sucked the explosive information contained in that interview.

Other PAC stalwarts, such as former president Zeph Mothopeng, who had foresight and whose analysis was insightful, said: "We must put our heads together over this question of negotiations because it is bandied about as the most important thing in the liberation struggle.

"You cannot go to a negotiating table for your liberation."

The PAC's founding president Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe said: "We do not wish to use anybody, nor do we wish to be used by anybody. We want to make the African people conscious of the fact that they have to win their own liberation, relying on themselves to carry on a relentless and determined struggle instead of relying on court cases and negotiations on their behalf by 'sympathetic whites'."

An oppressor is an oppressor. There is no benevolent oppressor. The people will have to fight for their freedom. That is the lesson we learned from people like Masemola. If we shirk our responsibility, these freedom fighters will turn in their graves.

Masemola contributed enormously to our liberation struggle. The people of this country for whom people like Masemola dedicated their lives should keep their memory alive.

l The writer is a media commentator and an independent researcher