Yes, there were real martyrs. It is not simply a grand narrative where heroic mythologies have been invented!
Reading the report that I posted on the death of 20 year old Anton Fransch,which I post again at the end of this, three things stuck in my mind:
1. Before Fransch faced battle with the apartheid forces, according to Mohamed ‘Gori’ November, his MK comrade, he ‘allowed the police to first take the family to safety, who lived in the house where he rented.’
In other words, for Anton Fransch all lives were precious and there was no such thing as people to be ‘caught in the crossfire’. Everyone mattered. Even though he must have known he would die, he ensured that there would be no unnecessary additional sacrifices.
2. Then it is said ‘He was 20 years old but he had to take on the responsibility of a man at a very young age. He became a man long before he completed being a boy.’
Chris Hani also used to say: ‘I never had a youth’.
3. In these shameful and shameless times we need to remember that people did sacrifice. In these times when many scholars write cynically of the struggle, we need to remind them that there were those who paid with their lives to ensure that there would be the possibility of democracy.
Some of those who were involved in significant ways are amongst the ANC and allied leadership and hold office but they too did brave things at various times. How they link what they are doing now and what they did then is of course puzzling.
Some who are in leadership now, in fact some with the loudest voices and constantly talking of counter-revolution, were not around or avoided being around when the time was hard and they could have been part of that struggle.
The police were clear what would happen, saying: Kom uit jou vark, vandag gaan jy vrek. Come out you pig today you will die. And Basil Snayer reports how he died through a hand grenade:
“It was a most heroic and brave fight. From quarter to one to quarter to eight… In the end his flesh was stuck to the walls.”