The Cradock Four
The first time someone brought up the story about the Cradock four, was when the late Sister B decided to tell me about them. May her beautiful soul continue to rest in peace 🕊️
I remember asking why we weren’t taught this part of our history and she laughed at me and said “They wont tell you everything because they don’t want to put themselves in a position where they beg us for mercy”
De Klerk continues to freely surf on the wave of freedom powered by his apartheid denialism, and yet those who tweet their mind are jailed.
Who were they?
They were anti-apartheid activists who the state viewed as threats. It has been 36 years since their lives were stripped from them by the apartheid state on the 27th of June in 1985.
The four activists were coming from a meeting hosted by the UDF in Gqeberha where they were intercepted by a police roadblock , this was where the abductions occurred which led to the torturing of these men and the burning of their bodies when they were no more! These men had families and yet this is how their lives were taken is embarrassing having to tell the story again without any improvements to accompany it as nothing has been done since then.
-Tat’ Goniwe and Tat’ Calata were perceived by the apartheid state to be threats and were labelled as the frontliners or a revolutionary attack against the state. When the bodies of Tat’ Mhlauli and Tat’ Mkhonto were found, shortly after not far from PE Tat’ Goniwe and Tat’Calata’s bodies followed a few days after in sea scrub bush land near blue water bay.
-The rumors had already begun making their way into the ears and mouths of people, there was this belief of Tat’ Goniwe and Tat ’Calata in particular were on a hit list which was meant to remain a secret as it belonged to the police. They were to be dealt with for their active participation in the struggle against apartheid in the Cradock area. The apartheid state obviously distanced itself from this by denying their involvement in the killings of the Cradock four, despite the fact that their actions were clear to see and quick to calculate. Their arrogance and privilege may have assisted in this but it surely failed in preventing the leak of a document that rubbished their claims. A copy of a secret military signal which suggested that the four be taken out and murdered, this was anonymously sent to the Transkei’s then Min. of Defense Major-General Bantu Holomisa – who forwarded the document to the director of military intelligence in the Transkei.
The Fight For Justice
When I came across an article stating that the NPA was considering a request to charge De Klerk for his role in authorizing the murder of anti-apartheid activists in 1985. De Klerk who served as the apartheid regime’s last president, is among those who should be charged for complicity in the murder of the following freedom fighters: Tat ‘Matthew Goniwe, Tat ‘Ford Calata, Tat ‘Sparrow Mkhonto and uTat’Sicelo Mhlauli known as the Cradock Four.
Back in 2018 (January) this case was among 20 related to the TRC that the Hawks and the NPA had listed for re-opening for investigation, this takes us back to the point I once made about the TRC and its true purpose being that of promoting the idea of peace and forgiving people who never asked for our forgiveness. The fact that delays brewed and we witnessed the removal of investigators linked to the security branch of the apartheid regime, is enough proof to confirm suspicions on white supremacy in a country where the majority is worthless and De Klerk is treated like a diamond.
A former TRC Commissioner, Yasmin Sooka along with the victims’ families and NGOs have been lobbying for the cases to be re-opened ever since 2005.
In an article covered by the Mail & Guardian the following was said: “There is a discussion with the NDPP. We have been putting a lot of pressure to try and ensure that there are no further delays as people who were involved in the killings are dying. One of the things we have suggested is that the NPA get Calata and the Pebco three matter on the roll. These cases go right to the top. Whether there is an inquest first or whether the matter goes straight to trial, is the discussion that is with the NPA, the Cradock Four were murdered by Security Branch operatives after being abducted at a road block allegedly on the instruction of the state security council which recommended that they be permanently removed from society” Sooka said.
The commission said the use of words like “elimeneer” and “verwyder” (Get Rid Of) by members of the SSC including the likes of De Klerk,Magnus Malan and Niel Barnard who would have probably stopped this from happening instead the trio opted to give out the instruction to kill with no mercy. Shortly before the report
Shortly after the release of the final report in October 1988, De Klerk went to court to prevent the TRC from publishing a finding with regards to his knowledge on the Khotso House bombing which was the base of the South African Council of Churches and other organizations in the year 1988. The TRC retracted the finding on De Klerk to prevent further delay in the release of the report, but eventually released a finding that he must have had knowledge of the operation at the time he testified during a session in August 1996, where he failed to make a full disclosure prior the commission.[the finding never became a court order].
In an article written in 1987, a two year inquest began into the deaths of the Cradock four and the presiding magistrate was an E. De Beer who on the 22nd of February 1989 concluded that the four were murdered by unknown persons. This again proves how shallow these people were and how shady this magistrate was.
A second inquest followed in 1992 after the New Nation newspaper published the top-secret military signal which read as follows: “Dit woord voorgestel dat bogenoemde persone uit die saamelewing” which means,”permanent removal from society” and their names were then listed which included Goniwe’s cousin Mbulelo. The second inquest was then presided over by judge Neville Zietsman who despite the overwhelming evidence available pointing to the complicity of several security branch officials in the murders, was only prepared to concede that security branch officials were responsible for the deaths pf the Cradock four. He also went on to say that a case of suspicion had been made out against SAP officials, which include Colonel Snyman, Colonel Winter and suspicions against SADF members which included Brigadier Van Der Westhuizen, colonel Du Plessis and Major-general Van Rensburg.
Following the establishment of the SATRC in the year 1996, 6 security branch officials including Harold Snyman, Eric Alexander Taylor, Gerhadus Johannes Lotz, Nicolaas Janse Van Rensburg, Johan Van Zyl and Hermanus Du Plessis applied for amnesty for the murders of the Cradock four. It then so happened that Snyman issued the order to have the four anti-apartheid activists killed, though Taylor confessed to the murders. Janse and Van Zyl also testified that the four were deemed as a threat to the government hence their deaths. They were however refused amnesty.
My Problem with the Cradock Four story is, when looked into through a magnifying glass we are exposed to the truth which is far from being pretty. The system and its operation style anchor my argument as their method of handling things has resulted in nothing but pure chaos where massacres,assasinations and abductions are conducted with the black majority paying a hefty price for their activism. In their final report the TRC found that “it could not accept” cabinet serving on the SSC could not foresee that their terminology for actions against anti-apartheid activists “could be interpreted by members of the security force as authorization under certain circumstances to kill persons involved in resistance”
The Cradock Four were very powerful cadres of the movement, they were anti-apartheid activists who stood against the massacres that occurred in the 60s and mobilized the masses to fight this evil system, what happened to them was so unfortunate when they were intercepted from a meeting by the heat squad also known as the special branch, only for them not to return.
May their souls rest and their spirits continue to live on- their stories shall continue to be told without fear or favor as it is clear who the enemy is.
Long Live The Undying spirit of Cde Matthew Goniwe long live! Long Live The Undying Spirit of Cde Ford Calata long live! Long Live The Undying spirit of Cde Sicelo Mhlauli long live! Long Live The Undying spirit of Cde Sparrow Mkhonto long live!
2 thoughts on “The Cradock Four”
Thank you for sharing, please don’t stop.
What an insightful piece of history. May the Gods of Azania continue to bless your prose and craft. May we spend the rest of our lives telling the good story of these selfless and brave men. Long live the Cradock 4!
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