Sibonelo Mtshali

Here is one full chapter from the book …

Struan Douglas, Graham Michael Lesch, Sibonelo Mtshali

The Story of Sibonelo Mtshali

Graham went into Umlazi every day for nine years. This was how he came to know Sibonelo. Graham used to visit him in the old age home. Sibonelo Mtshali’s late father used to work at Umkomaas, ’Pulp and Paper’. Graham knew him very well. The Africans called Graham, ’Satan’ because he was always having a go amongst the whites. They called him ’Dennis the devil amongst the whites.’

Sibonelo is a struggle hero, he lives in Umlazi. In 1985 education was badly disrupted in the Makhubene township where he lived. In this township, the chief hade the say, and these elders had the mentality of supporting the I.F.P. They trained Inkhata youth at Umandleni to rebel against ANC. These people were coming from rural areas and disrupting the children from school. Even the principal had the same attitude as the older people in the area. Sibonelo lived there three years.

In his second year, he didn’t write his exams, because the people who were supporting I.F.P chased the children away from school. They came with guns. They threatened the children and shot people. Sibonelo buried so many people who were his friends, who were with him in the struggle. It was hard. They went to Diakonia and asked for donations for funds for funerals. People had no money for food because of this violence.

The violent youth with guns in their hands, threatened and killed the peaceful ones unknowingly. As peaceful youth, Sibonelo organized a meeting. When they attended this meeting, the police came and distracted them and claimed they were having an unauthorized gathering. The peaceful youth were demonstrating by handing out pamphlets and picketing in a nonviolent way to air their views. They had made a roadblock in the area to secure the place where they were having the meeting. The first roadblock was in the area belonging to the chief and controlled by the police. In that area the chief used to come to the police station and beat the police. He was the one telling the police what to do.

The peaceful youth had a second roadblock. There, they met this white car with one guy in it. There was a steep road, so they only saw the car from a very short distance away.

The peaceful protestors did not know this guy was an enemy because he had no uniform. He was wearing civilian clothes. Sibonelo told him, “My brother you can’t go past this area because the other side of the road is blocked. We are trying to make a roadblock here. You cannot pass here.” That guy was very foolish not to listen.

He insisted that he wanted to go through the roadblock. Sibonelo told him, “No, we know what we are saying to you. You can’t go there.” Sibonelo was playing the marshal role. Some of the peaceful protestors became annoyed, trying to turn him back. His intention was to go through the roadblock.

He had two guns: one rifle and a pistol. When Sibonelo was trying to talk to him calmly, Sibonelo lost attention to his hands. One of Sibonelo’s cousins noticed he was pulling a gun. Luckily he couldn’t shoot anybody before this cousin opened the door and grabbed the gun. On the dashboard this guy had a tray of about forty-five ’nine millimetre’ bullets. His magazine was loaded and the spare magazine was in his waist. The peaceful protestors held him without doing any harm.

Sibonelo took control at that moment. He was chasing people away from this guy. He was using his sjambok to beat other people who were trying to attack this guy. Sibonelo said, “No no this is not the way we planned.” Sibonelo got together with a few comrades who were more understanding and attempted to talk to this guy and find out what his intention was. He said he was working for Huletts and was going to his home place in Meshyamname. However that was a lie, because if he was going to go there, he was supposed to go in the Port Shepstone direction.

Sibonelo asked him why he chose this part of the road and why he was trying to shoot them. He said he was trying to defend himself. Sibonelo said, “From who, because we are not attacking you. You pulled the gun. You were trying to kill us.”

And then one guy from the mob of peaceful protestors came and said that he recognized this guy. This guy was the bodyguard of the chief. He’s had cuts all over his body to protect him from bullets. He was still sitting in the car. Sibonelo couldn’t let him out the car because people were going to kill him or assault him. After the bodyguard of the chief had been recognised, he reached back and brought another gun from the back seat. That was an R4 rifle. That was a problem. He was trying a bad move. He couldn’t kill the protestors. They were more than two hundred people gathering there. He tried to grab the rifle but it was not cocked. In the time trying to cock it, Sibonelo’s cousin’s brother, Mkhize, got the first hand on the second gun. People were more unruly now. Sibonelo had to beat so many people with the sjambok trying to protect this guy. There was violence. This guy tried to come out the car. But the people pushed him back in.

Sibonelo said, “Explain to us, what is your aim and who are you working for?” He said, “I come from the chief and the other people are trying to attack you from the other side, so we come from both angles.” He was a trustee of the chief. They knew that the protestors were not armed and were not trained for any war. Sibonelo’s aim was to launch the branch and air their views to the community. The chiefs bodyguard managed to come out of Sibonelo’s protection and went into the field. Sibonelo was trying to save him and take him to the ANC lawyers to confess that the chief had sent him to kill the peaceful protestors for no reason. Sibonelo could not control the mob of peaceful protestors. People were angered and they stoned this bodyguard. He was dead.

From then, Sibonelo was the first target. That day they attacked his house. He was lucky to escape on the Monday night. They shot at his house during the day. All the families in his area heard that the chief was going to attack the whole area and people went and hid themselves in caves in the jungle. When Sibonelo came to his house, he met Mkhize. He said, “Have you heard the chief is going to attack the whole area.” By the time Sibonelo was in the kitchen trying to make something to eat, Mkhize came and said, “There is a car parked at the upper gate, you must switch off the light.” Sibonelo blew out the candle and went down to the kraal where the cattle were sleeping. Sibonelo and Mkhize laid down on their stomachs and saw seven guys come past the kraal.

They approached Sibonelo’s house. One had a gallon of petrol. He was spraying something on Sibonelo’s door. They set the door alight and surrounded Sibonelo’s house, and started shooting at his house with automatic rifles. Sibonelo had a small sixteen shot handgun. He crawled behind them and made some flimsy action. He just shot at random. They were distracted and ran away. After fifteen minutes, Sibonelo went round the house and got some buckets and stopped the door from burning. That door was a meranti door and was burning very slowly. Sibonelo saw the car lights going back to the main road. Whilst he was talking to the elder people, they heard another gun shot. The chiefs people were attacking another house. One guy was shot, an elder guy was killed and one uncle survived a gunshot.

On Friday, the police came to attack Sibonelo. The chief had told the police they must bring him dead or alive. He wanted to see him. The police came early that morning of Good Friday. They surrounded Sibonelo’s house. He had been monitoring his house in shifts. His shift was from six up to twelve o’clock. He rested three o’clock because there was so much noise. He was woken up by gunfire. People scattered themselves in the veldt. He was the last to come out of the house. And he started running, following the attackers. The other attackers were at his back. he managed to come to a small ditch with water. He hid himself there. He heard the gunshot and footsteps going past him. But, he was worried about his house. He wanted to see his house. He stayed in the ditch about thirty minutes. When he heard the area was quiet, he crawled out the ditch to see his house. When he came to another steep area, he recognized the policemen. He couldn’t run away and he had no crime against them.

Sibonelo called to the cops and said, “Baba, here am I,” and I lifted his hands. When he tried to approach the policeman, Sibonelo saw he had two guns: a shotgun and a revolver. Sibonelo lifted his arms. The other police were lying on their stomachs aiming their guns at him. When he looked up, he saw the policeman dropping his rifle and holding his pistol with two hands aiming at him. The other policemen were shouting: “shoot him, shoot him.” Four shots were fired and one shot hit him in his back and put him down. The other shots never hit him.

When he was on the floor, the policemen all came to him. They put guns in his ears. They were arguing about Sibonelo. They stripped him naked and grabbed him, putting his clothes on his shoulder. They dragged him from that terrain to the upper area where they parked their vans. Sibonelo had bruises on his nose and heals from being dragged in the gravel. They policemen went to the other areas chasing other comrades.

When they saw other comrades they said, “Here’s your king at the back. Your ring leader is dead.” They were saying all those sarcastic things. They went to the police station, left their guns and changed their shift. Sibonelo was injured and was lying at the back of the van. The place was hard and he couldn’t turn. He was bleeding from inside. His chest was congested. He could not breathe. He had to collapse so many times before he got into the hospital.

The driver was refusing to take Sibonelo to the hospital because the driver didn’t know what to say the reason was for Sibonelo being shot. The police were arguing and not agreeing about what had happened to Sibonelo.

Sibonelo had to hit the door van to get attention from the police. One of the guys eventually agreed to drive him to the hospital. From the police station to the hospital was more than thirty minutes drive in a gravel area. On the drive, they were trying to kill Sibonelo. He was tossing and turning at the back of the van. He came to the hospital injured. He collapsed. He woke up the next morning, he had oxygen and he couldn’t move. Every time he called the nurses, they ran away. They didn’t want to help him. He had one nurse who was more kind. Sibonelo told her he wanted to use the toilet. She said, “You cannot go to the toilet. You are disabled.” Sibonelo stayed there two weeks. His father had medical aid. He transferred Sibonelo to St. Augustine’s. Sibonelo stayed there for seven months. The first week he was there, he developed a terrible pressure sore from the negligence at the hospital. They were not taking care of him.


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