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By Vhahangwele Nemakonde

Digital Deputy News Editor

‘We will never forget their sacrifice’ – Mashatile honours fallen former MK operatives

The MK operatives were murdered between 1986 and 1990.

Deputy President Paul Mashatile honoured fallen MK operatives as he attended the handing over of headstones to 21 affected families in Soweto on Thursday.

Mashatile, was accompanied by Minister and Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Thandi Modise and Thabang Makwetla, respectively.

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Before addressing the families of the former MK operatives, Mashatile led a wreath-laying ceremony at five cemeteries including Ga-Rankuwa (1 headstone); Avalon (7 headstones); Emfihlweni, Tembisa (4 headstones); Westpark, Johannesburg (8 headstones); and Crystal Park, Benoni (2 headstones).

“This is important for; we are living up to the constitutional injunction which enjoins us to recognise the injustices of our past, honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land and heal the divisions of the past.

“With today’s ceremony, we hope to bring closure to the suffering and agony of the families of the combatants of uMkhonto weSizwe. They braved the pain of the loss of their loved ones in the course of the struggle for liberation,” he said at the ceremony.

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He said those who were honoured had lost their lives during a turbulent period in history and strived for democratic freedom.

“For us to understand the immense contribution made by these combatants to the victory of the democratic forces and the demise of the apartheid regime, we need to reflect on the extraordinary sacrifices that were made.

“Some of the families didn’t even know, but even those who knew didn’t know where their loved ones were going. They didn’t know whether they would survive where they were going. For most cases for many years, you didn’t hear about your loved ones.

“They left their families to fight for freedom – major, major sacrifices on their part.”

MK soldiers during apartheid

Apartheid security forces murdered and abducted the 21 former MK operatives throughout the country between 1986 and 1990.

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“The notorious regime ambushed the fallen freedom fighters and worked tirelessly to preserve a system of apartheid. This system sought to sustain national oppression and suppress the struggle for freedom. The then apartheid state buried the freedom fighters in unmarked graves and others in bushes,” said Mashatile.

Following the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) processes, the NPA’s Missing Person Task Team retraced the remains in unmarked graves, conducted DNA analysis, exhumed, and reburied the remains of the ex-combatants in different gravesites, as guided by their families.

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“We will never forget their selflessness and courage and commitment to defending our nation,” said Mashatile.

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