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LUKHANYO CALATA | Tata, your beloved ANC government has failed you and your real comrades

They have allowed your murderers to die without being held accountable

It's been 38 years since Struggle heroes Fort Calata, Mathew Goniwe, Sicelo Mhlawull and Sparrow Mkhonto, known as the Cradock Four, were murdered by apatheid police.
It's been 38 years since Struggle heroes Fort Calata, Mathew Goniwe, Sicelo Mhlawull and Sparrow Mkhonto, known as the Cradock Four, were murdered by apatheid police.
Image: Tembile Sgqolana

Dear Tata 

There’s not a single day that has passed these 38 years that I have not thought about you, missed you and wondered what you would have made or said about so many things. I wonder what you would say about Kwezi’s latest school report card (he scored 86% by the way) or Tumani’s cute little baby girl Ava. It’s her birthday on Friday, she’ll be turning one. 

I know Mama is probably going to cook up a storm back at home in Cradock. Abigail, Kwezi and I will send some money home for them to buy cake and a present for your youngest grandchild. Ava’s so cute Tata, she looks just like Tumani did at that age. I’m sure you would love her. I know Mama dotes over her every move and in the last few weeks, Ava is almost all she talks about. I think she does that to mask her pain. 

Tata, a few weeks ago, the government, through the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), informed us that Hermanus Barend du Plessis has died. He was the last suspect who we had a prima facie case against in your murder. He was one of the police officers who was there the night you and your comrades Matthew Goniwe, Sparro Mkonto and Sicelo Mhlauli were murdered. The news of Du Plessis’ death has hit us all like an out-of-control freight-train.

My emotions are like a pendulum on an old grandpa’s clock. One minute I am crying because I now have to accept that no one will ever be arrested, charged, prosecuted, found guilty and sentenced for taking your precious life away from us.The next minute, I am engulfed by an all-consuming anger and rage. At that point Tata, all I can think of is ensuring that I expose the truth and some of the “comrades” who’ve politically interfered in matters of the NPA to deny you and your true comrades the justice you so richly deserve. 

We have for years now been begging and pleading with the ANC and of course the government that it leads for truth and justice for you, but those pleas – I am sorry to inform you Tata – have fallen on deaf ears. Instead, we’ve helplessly witnessed the deaths of Harold Snyman, Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, Gerhardus Johannes Lotz, Johan Martin “Sakkie” van Zyl, Eric Alexander Taylor, Du Plessis, Eric Winter, Adriaan Johannes Vlok and, of course, Frederik Willem de Klerk. 

Tata, despite the overwhelming evidence that has existed against these men, I am sorry again to have to tell you that it was the ANC and its successive administrations under Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki (two terms), Jacob Zuma (two terms) and Cyril Ramaphosa (first term) that allowed your murderers to die natural deaths (probably surrounded by their families) without them ever being held accountable for the crimes that they committed against your humanity.

While we’re on the subject of the ANC, I must tell you of our deep disappointment with it. I’m sorry that you have to hear this from me, but it is no longer the movement of your grandfather Rev James Calata. I remember as kids how your mother Sis’ Ntsiki (after Sunday school) would teach us to recite the Freedom Charter and how I always gravitated towards point number five: “All shall be equal before the law”. Well, it all just seems like empty meaningless words now.

Tata, you were taken from us on June 27 1985, that’s 38 years ago today. Your beloved ANC assumed power in 1994 – that’s 29 years ago now, yet we are still not any closer to justice today than what we were under the apartheid regime of PW Botha. Just last week, the NPA cancelled a long standing meeting with us (the families of the Cradock Four) at the last minute because they did not agree with the agenda that our lawyers had sent them. Mind you, when they cancelled, Mrs Mhlauli was on a bus, braving Cape Town’s storms to make it in time for the meeting. The inhumanity of it all is simply too much for me to comprehend. 

I must therefore conclude that you and your comrades are not equal before the law. If you were, as the Freedom Charter prescribes, then surely we would’ve had justice for your lives by now.

To conclude Tata, I thought I’d let you know that on a personal level, I am quite afraid of what the next few months have in store for me. You see, I have never done the hard work of mourning, grieving and setting you free to rest in peace. Instead, I had focused my entire life on securing justice for you and your comrades. I guess that was my way of keeping you alive and close to me, but now with all the suspects dead and no realistic prospect of a successful prosecution I am faced with the difficult task of finally having to let you go. I don’t know how I will do that. 

Long live the Cradock Four!  

 I miss you more with each passing day.

Your loving son, Lukhanyo     

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