Tribute to struggle’s unsung heroes

Thulani Gqirana

“TOO much of South Africa’s history is not recorded and we are not helping our country by keeping the information that could be shared to ourselves.”

This was the view of Eastern Cape-born author Mzwakhe Ndlela, who launched his new book, For the Fallen: Honouring the unsung heroes and heroines of the liberation struggle, at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s Missionvale Campus yesterday.

The launch, themed “Valour and sacrifice: lessons from the liberation struggle”, was attended by academics, politicians and religious leaders last night.

In the book, Ndlela, general manager of the Central Energy Fund (CEF), tells touching stories about life in exile and the underground movements of liberation organisations.

He said he would not have written the book had he not heard a radio interview with late ANC stalwart Govan Mbeki. “In the interview Oom Gov said that if you do not write your story, someone else will, and that rang true.

“If you wait for someone from overseas to write your story, they will distort it and write it out of context. So write your story,” he challenged the audience.

Ndlela, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his role in the struggle, said his book was about the true heroes of the revolution – “the ordinary people who might not have been in the forefront but were involved in the struggle. Young people who fought and died, because they had a vision of a free and democratic South Africa.”

Ndlela said he only wrote about people he knew and it was up to others to write more stories about unsung heroes.

“People asked me, ‘how do you decide who is a hero and who is not?’ I leave it up to you to write about the heroes you know, because all of us have stories to tell and must write and record these stories or they will be lost.”

The book was discussed by Professor Velile Notshulwana and Dr Janet Cherry.

Ndlela said he hoped the book would make young people value the freedom that was fought for. “People lost loved ones inside and outside the country. This book is a tribute to those people, the women who were maybe walking down the street with a child on their back, killed by a stray bullet.

“And with this book I wish that young people would challenge their leaders… and I hope people will ask if we are leading with the vision of the people who fought and lost their lives for freedom.”

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