Speech by Deputy Minister Andries Nel, Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, on the occasion of the hand over of the remains of Xolile Sam “MK Valdez”, Port Elizabeth
4 May 2012
The Sam Family, friends and relatives;
Cde Thandi Shongwe;
MEC for Human Settlements: Ms Helen Sauls-August;
The Deputy Mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay: Cllr Nancy Sihlwayi and other Councillors here present;
ANC Regional Secretary, Cde Zandisile Qupe, and members of the regional leadership of the ANC;
Leadership of MKMVA, the ANC Veteran's and Women's League;
MKMVA National Exhumation Team co-ordinated by Cde Brian Ndlovu;
The Chief Director of TRC Unit in the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development: Dr Mochubela Seekoe;
Members of the Missing Persons Unit of the NPA;
Religious leaders present;
Comrades and friends,
I would like to start by conveying the greetings and apologies of Minister Jeff Radebe who is not able to be with us because he is out of the country on an official mission.
I also convey the greetings and best wishes of the Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Thabang Makwetla.
It is with profound humility that we are gathered here today to return to the Sam family the remains of their son, brother, father, uncle and dear relative.
This is part of a process undertaken by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, to help to restore the dignity of those whose lives and rights were grossly violated by the apartheid regime.
It was part of the outcomes and recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) that we have come to know of some of the atrocities committed by the apartheid regime, resulting in the gruesome murder of heroes such as Xolile Sam, who served our national liberation movement under the name “MK Valdez” or Valdez Mbatha.
Today, we are here to honour our pledge that we will leave no stone unturned in searching for missing persons through the Missing Persons Task Team of the NPA and the TRC Unit of the DoJ, which were established to carry out the recommendations made by TRC when it concluded its mandate in 2002.
As a consequence of the TRC process and the effort to recover the bodies of those murdered by the apartheid regime's secret security operations, the remains of 77 persons have been retrieved from where they were secretly disposed of after being killed.
We must take this opportunity to express gratitude for the dedicated work done by the TRC Unit to help bring a dignified closure to the family and comrades of those loved ones who perished in this cruel and gruesome manner.
The fact that this effort has been coordinated by the TRC Unit demonstrates that as government we will not leave any stone unturned in restoring the dignity and pride of our people that had been grossly violated by the colonial and apartheid regimes.
We also recognise the contribution of members of the Argentinian forensic team for their contribution in identifying the remains of many of our missing heroes. This is the same team that assisted in identifying the remains of another great revolutionary, Che Guevara.
We bring back to his home of birth, the remains of a brave cadre of our liberation struggle, who died in the line of duty to free our people from the bondage of oppression and discrimination. Xolile Sam, who was born on 2 July 1957, cut his teeth in the political arena during the 1976 student uprising and subsequently went into exile the following year in 1977 where he joined uMkhonto weSizwe and acquired his underground name MK Valdez Mbatha. At times he also used the name “Thabang”, to evade capture by the apartheid security forces.
A member of MK’s Special Operations Unit, Valdez was amongst the cadres who were sent on several missions into the country in the 1980’s, in order to ensure that they keep the fires of the struggle burning amidst the spirited protests by our youth against the apartheid regime. We recall with pride that the youth were responding to the call by then ANC President OR Tambo to make the country ungovernable, and their response to this clarion call earned them the stripes of “young lions” from the then ANC President.
However, the apartheid security forces were following his moves, and after determining that he was hiding in a house in Vosloorus through telephone tapping, the Security Police sent some of its officers to encircle and capture him. Those were the members of the notorious Vlakplaas Unit commanded by Eugene de Kock and the police’s Special Task Force as well as the Germiston and Witbank Security Police. As Valdez retreated from the security police encircling the house, he was shot in the leg by Vlakplaas member Leon Flores with an Uzi sub-machine gun. He was taken and handcuffed to the metal seats in a police truck, and then tortured and suffocated to reveal information. He died in the police truck from blood loss and shock shortly thereafter. Had he received proper medical attention, he may have survived.
Comrades and friends
Today we are not just to hand over these mortal remains of a hero who was prepared to offer his life for our freedom and democracy, but also to honour him and celebrate his life. Many of our people perished during the struggle against apartheid and the letter and spirit of our Constitution enjoins us to heal the divisions of the past, as part of going forward as a new democratic nation.
In this same month that we are gathered here, we remember not only Xolile Sam, but many who perished like him at the hands of the apartheid forces such as Solomon “Kalushi” Mahlangu, whose birthday was commemorated on the 6th April a week ago. In this same month, yet another hero of our people, Chris Hani, was gunned down in 1993 on the eve of our 1994 democratic breakthrough.
There are many others, who perished in secret location sat the hands of the apartheid regime, but whose remains we shall make every effort to trace and return to their rightful families for proper send off as it is customary amongst our people to bury the deceased in dignity. We think today of the family of MK member Thamsanqa Poto from New Brighton, who has been missing since 1988, who are here today, still hoping that their loved one’s remains may be found and brought home.
Today we say thank you to Xolile Sam for your unwavering commitment to the freedom of our people. We also thank your dear partner, Thandi Shongwe, for upholding the torch of freedom that fell when you were gunned down on that fateful day on the 7th November 1988.
That love for our country and our people must be the legacy that Xolile Sam left for all of us to emulate. It is the same spirit that inspired countless others such as Chris Hani and Solomon Mahlangu to fight to the end of their lives.
In the words of former Justice of the Constitutional Court, Albie Sachs, himself a victim of apartheid's death squads, on the occasion of the Imam Haroon Memorial Lecture, and I quote, "It is a matter of some pride for all the survivors, then, that the lives and deaths of their loved ones are permanently memorialised in the most enduring monument to the sacrifices of generations of freedom fighters, the Constitution of South Africa."
Indeed as we honour the memory of Cde Xolile Sam we recall the words of President Jacob Zuma on Freedom Day this year, I quote:
"In turn the Freedom Charter inspired the democratic constitution that we have today which in its preamble also declares that “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.”
"It is those ideals which were formalised in the adoption of a Constitution that entrenches democracy, through the Bill of Rights which enshrines rights of all people of our country, and affirms democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom.
"We also celebrate our unique and model Constitution which is an envy of many nations all over the world.
"Our Constitution is among the best in the world with equality clauses, which guarantees equality before the law, right to life, and human dignity, right to privacy, freedom of religion, belief and opinion, freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of assembly, demonstration, picket and petitions."
Indeed it was befitting that Cde. Xolile Sam's remains were exhumed at Vosloorus Cemetery on June 26, 2011, the day on which the Freedom Charter was adopted.
As we hand over these remains, we recognise that, had it not been for Cde Thandi Shongwe’s courageous testimony before the TRC, and confronting face to face Xolile Sam's assassins, they would not have been forced to confess their heinous crimes, and it would have been very difficult if not impossible to locate his remains.
Once again, thank you for allowing us to do this handover today, and let us reiterate our sincere apologies for the continued delays in this regard in the past.
On behalf of our government, we reaffirm our support and solidarity with you as you re-bury the remains of this hero of our people in a manner befitting the human dignity recognised and enshrined in the Constitution for which he struggled and ultimately gave his life.
May his soul rest in peace!
Lala ngoxolo qhawe lamaqhawe!
I thank you!
Issued by: Department of Justice and Constitutional Development
4 May 2012
[ Top ]