Motsamai parole in democratic South Africa a sham

Kenny Motsamai. Picture credit: Mabuti Kali/Sunday World
Kenny Motsamai. Picture credit: Mabuti Kali/Sunday World

Kenny Motsamai took what could be his last steps towards real freedom this week after nearly three decades in prison for killing a traffic officer during the fight against apartheid.

It is worth noting that Motsamai, now in his 50s, has spent 22 of his 27 years in prison under ANC rule.

His death sentence for the 1989 Azanian People's Liberation Army- sanctioned robbery in Rustenburg, North West - that led to the officer's murder - was commuted to life imprisonment after 1994.

The pseudo-freedom he got on his day parole release from Boksburg prison must rightly be denounced as a sham by all who have been behind Motsamai's release. Nevertheless, his day parole offers him an opportunity to become the father he could never be behind bars to his two children.

Motsamai's daughter Busi was born a month after his incarceration, and until Monday, she had only ever seen the former-Apla commander either in prison or in court, unsuccessfully fighting for his freedom. There is no door Busi has not knocked in her attempts to have her father freed and his role in the fight against apartheid acknowledged like other brave youths of his generation.

Sadly, very few of the top government functionaries she asked help from were ever willing to offer Motsamai any concrete assistance besides hollow promises.

Granted, most of them are aligned to the ANC and its former military wing uMkhonto weSizwe, and there was little incentive in helping the daughter of a PAC man.

One can argue that Motsamai's case had ceased from being party-political and was elevated to a fight for justice.

Unlike pre-1994 ANC members, MK operatives as well as apartheid murderers like "Prime Evil" Eugene de Kock, Adriaan Vlok, Wouter Basson, Steven Whitehead and Magnus Malan, PAC and Apla veterans do not have unfettered access to state lawyers, resources and other perks like pensions.

PAC and Apla veterans rely on the goodwill of their comrades, progressive South Africans and others outside the country for support and solidarity that many take for granted.

For example, the legal team that took Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha to the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg in December last year in a bid to have Motsamai freed unconditionally, did so pro bono.

The Pan Africanist activists who ran social media campaigns, distributed posters and pamphlets to help free Motsamai never billed anyone or expected lucrative state contracts or high-paying jobs in return. Most were driven by the belief that Motsamai was suffering great injustice under a democratic ANC government.

Motsamai is usually the first to admit that his eventual freedom will mean nothing if over 100 of his fellow Apla combatants are still imprisoned across the country for the crime of fighting oppression.

Having missed out on growing up with their father, Busi and her brother Karabo will have to endure more heartache as Motsamai can only be with them for no more than nine hours every weekday.

After missing out on raising Busi and Karabo, Motsamai is not even allowed to be with his now adult children on weekends in terms of the conditions of his partial freedom.

He cannot even go outside his township Katlehong, on the East Rand, yet De Kock - who left a blood trail across southern Africa - was recently spotted at the Franschhoek Literary Festival in the Western Cape.

On Monday, when Motsamai was first released, it was the first time his grandchild saw him outside prison.

Motsamai, like imprisoned MK operative Voice Sambo, who also killed a police officer who had shot him in the leg, should have been freed more than two decades ago if there was any justice in the new South Africa.

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