“The Upington 26 and their families deserve better. They must be respected and taken care of by the government.”
THE EFF in the Northern Cape has spoken out in support of the remaining Upington trialists, whom they believe have been “thrown out of the history books” and have been subjected to poor treatment.
The Struggle heroes removed their faces from the historical monument that was erected in their honour in Upington by daubing black paint over their portraits earlier this month.
The trialists were sentenced to death row for the crowd killing of a municipal police officer in Paballelo in 1985. They were later released after their sentences were overturned on appeal in 1991 following an international outcry.
Former political prisoner Zonga Mokgatla indicated that no attempt had been made to meet with the trialists, despite the ANC promising to send a delegation to discuss their grievances.
Mokgatla believed that the ANC had failed the Struggle heroes, where they and their families had been left destitute, without jobs or a source of income.
EFF provincial secretary Shadrack Tlhaole said that the monument amounted to a “grandstanding mockery of those who fought against the apartheid regime”.
“It is indeed a mockery because those who fought for the organisation are still alive and others have left families behind. They don’t have anything to show from their sweat and pain. The poverty, unemployment and suffering they face … while the selfish individuals are feeding themselves and their families and have forgotten about these freedom fighters,” said Tlhaole.
He added that the trialists felt disrespected and robbed of their dignity.
“They feel like they were thrown out of the pages of history by the current ANC leaders and its government. They don’t have anything to show, they don’t have proper shelters, proper health care benefits or even a decent job for themselves or their children.
“They have failed those who fought for democracy. The Upington 26 and their families deserve better. They must be respected and taken care of by this government.”
ANC provincial secretary Deshi Ngxanga said that a delegation from the provincial executive committee, led by himself, had met with the Upington trialists.
“We requested not to meet with the broader group at this point until we concluded on some critical issues,” said Ngxanga.
“We are recording major strides on this matter and our discussions are at a sensitive stage. The EFF does not have the same responsibility as the ANC does in relation to addressing the plight of the Upington 26. Talk is cheap.”