This week I celebrate a week in my life in which we the ordinary people of Mafikeng and Mmabatho shook South Africa in 1994 and showed the possibilities of revolution by the ordinary masses of the people in overthrowing a Bantustan dictator, one Lucas Mangope, and defeating the attempt to create a Boere/Tswana Staat. I drink to all my comrades and friends who so bravely took to the streets. Below is a summary of the chronology of events as captured by the Tebbut Commission. It leaves out the actions of Broadcast workers, bus drivers, teachers and nurses who actually carried the struggle, because when elites write history the struggles of ordinary people do not matter,
- 31 December 1993: Revellers throw their Bophuthatswana identity documents in water.
- 1 January 1994: South African citizenship restored to citizens of Bophuthatswana.
- January 1994: 150 R4 rifles were moved from the Molopo Base to the Air Force Base.
- January 1994: Meeting between African National Congress and the Bophuthatswana Government.
- January 1994: Appointment of Judge Kriegler as chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission.
- January 1994: President Mangope announced his intention to retrench public servants.
- 18 February 1994: Meeting between the Bophuthatswana Government and the African National Congress.
- 18 February 1994: Bophuthatswana Police raided offices of the African National Congress.
- February 1994: Members of the public servants of Bophuthatswana went on strike.
- 4 March 1994: President Mangope announces that Bophuthatswana will not take part in the election.
- 5 March 1994: President Mangope addressed the public servants, calling them pigs.
- 6 March 1994: Teachers meet at Rooigrond to discuss Mangope’s attempts at preventing the reincorporation of Bop into South Africa and his jeopardising of their pensions. Cde Tlhabanyane a teacher from a local technical school plays a major role in events. Teachers hijacked Bop transport Holdings buses to get to the event, transport comes to a stand still as bus drives happily join the defiance.
- On 6 March in the late afternoon we take the road back to Mafikeng in a convoy of buses and cars our strategy, every time we hit a security road block and anyone is arrested we stop all our vehicles and sit down in the road refusing to move until the arrested parties are released. At every road block we implore the police and security forces to join us against Mangope.
- 6 March 1994: Broadcast Workers at Bop Radio and TV go on strike, defying CEO Eddie Mangope, they are all summarily dismissed after demanding to know what is going to happen to their pensions. Mangope retorts that “Your pensions are invested in Megacity Mall.”
- 6 March 1994: Mangope addresses University Students at UNIBO, the defy him and refuse to let him speak, asking “why are you speaking to the children of pigs?”
- 7 March 1994: Broadcast workers meet at Rooigrond to discuss Mangope’s intransigence.
- 7 March 1994: Teachers blockade the South African “Embassy”, preventing Chart vander Walt from leaving. Eventually teacher’s delegation meet him in his residence, we demand protection from the Bop Security forces as South African citizens.
- 7 March 1994: Broadcast workers take Eddie Mangope hostage. Mangope no longer has a voice Bop Radio and TV is shut down. We set up an alternative information centre at Mmabatho High School Hostels, using its phones and fax machines communicating the unfolding situation every 30 minutes. We establish links to journalists globally through Reuters, Sapa and Alpha Page.
- 7 March 1994: Forming of the Crisis Committee by the public servants of Bophuthatswana
- 7 March 1994: Demonstrations by students of the former University of Bophuthatswana.
- 8 March 1994: Emergency meeting of the Town Council of Mmabatho.
- 8 March 1994: Meeting between the Crisis Committee and the Transitional Executive Council.
- 8 March 1994: Meeting of the Bophuthatswana National Security Council attended by General Viljoen. Mangope allegedly dismissed General Kwena Mangope his son, for suggesting that Mangope stop listening to Rowan Cronje, Constant Viljoen and General Turner. Mangope replaces Kwena with Turner.
- 9 March 1994: Meeting between the Crisis Committee and the Transitional Executive Council.
- 9 March 1994: R4 rifles at Air Force Base are cleaned. The rightwing radio station at Donkerhoek calls on all AWB and Freedom Front militia to “report for duty” in Mafikeng. The SADF has military exercises in Lichtenburg and Zeeurust. They set up road blocks in and out of Mafikeng/Mmbabatho.
- March 1994: President Mangope address troops of the Bophuthatswana Defence Force. Mangope disarmed all black soldiers in his own army sending them back to barracks. He handed the keys of his armory to Viljoen and the white right wing extremists he invited into the capital.
- 10 March 1994: We continue our subversive media centre at Mmabatho High School Hostels. The Airforce base assigned by Mangope as the HQ for the right wing reactionaries are just behind the school. They are unaware that we are monitoring their activities, but are aware of the fact that we are broadcasting to the media from somewhere in the town. I send my wife and children out of town. I am now alone at the hostels, the school administrators had long closed the school and the kids had been sent off a week before. Students from my history classes, black teachers from MHS and teachers from other nearby schools join me in gathering and broadcasting news.
There is fighting next door at UNIBO, a cloud of tear gas hangs in the air. Magope’s security police arrive at the hostel gates. we lock them out. We phone police headquarters incessantly asking them to join the struggle against Mangope. We tell Mangope’s security police to go and protect their boss because his fall is immanent.
By afternoon Mangope’s Administration of Bophuthatswana collapses after his police finally agree to join us. At the entrance to the University the police hand over their weapons to the students and the police burn their own police armoured vehicle. Black Mercedes Benzes, those of Mangope’s ministers flee the town in all directions, Mangope flees in his Helicopter. We agree to gather at Montshiwa Stadium in the village and March to Garona to occupy the government buildings. To get there we must pass Megacity mall. We are tens of thousands. As we reach the Shell Garage next to Kentucky we are told that the AWB and white right wingers are definding Mega Citty and Garona. The mass of people become incensed as bees and with sticks and stones storm Megacity. Shop owners and managers flee leaving shops unlocked and unprotected. People shout “lets go fetch our pensions.” Widespread looting follows and soon spreads to the rest of the Bantustan.
General Viljoen and his “Boere People’s Army” requested to assist the Bophuthatswana Government.
Eugene Terre’Blanche phoned President Mangope, and mobilized the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging and moved into Bophuthatswana.
Discussions between Eugene Terre’Blanche, General Turner and Mr Rowan Cronje. Pick up trucks (bakkies) arrive in Mafikeng passing through SADF roadblocks on the way from Zeerust, Lichtenburg and Vryburg carrying, fascist militia to quell the uprising on behalf of Mangope. Invasion of the former Bophuthatswana by members of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging and the Afrikaner Volksfront. Members of the Afrikaner Volksfront entered Bophuthatswana and are guided to the Air Force Base.Members of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging are escorted to the Air Force Base. Members of the Afrikaner Volksfront are issued with 140 R4 rifles. They start shooting randomly at people. We ask why the SADF did not disarm them at roadblocks. We are told that “they have valid licenses, we could not take their guns.” No autopsies were done on the 65 unfortunate people they killed to trace the ballistics back to the guns of the racists.
At 6 in the late afternoon Winnie Mandela phones us for a report on the situation in Mafikeng. After that the Transitional Executive Council and media from all over the world. We inform them that Mangope’s regime collapsed.
At Midnight the right wing identified our communication centre, we shut down and I was smuggled out of Mafikeng and dropped off at Shell House, ANC Head Quarters in down Town Johannesburg at 8 am.
Members of the Bophuthatswana Police and/or Defence Force shot and killed members of the Afrikaner Volksfront.
Internal Stability Unit entered the regions Odi, Garankuwa and Temba.
Judge J Kriegler, chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission, visited President L M Mangope.
- 12 March 1994: Emergency Meeting of the Management Committee of the Transitional Executive Council.
- 12 March 1994: President Mangope deposed.
- 12 March 1994: Professor Tjaart van der Walt appointed as Administrator of Bophuthatswana.
- 14 March 1994: Public servants return to work.
Stocktaking of weapons at Air Force Base prevented.
Mr Job Mokgoro appointed as Joint Administrator of the Former Bophuthatswana.
- 15 March 1994: Alleged date on which the Parliament of Bophuthatswana would have sat to decide on the issues of re-incorporation into South Africa and participation of the election.