Bonteheuwel community pays tribute to Kriel

The crowd at the free screening of the documentary Action Kommandant, at Bonteheuwel civic centre.

Bonteheuwel civic centre was packed to the rafters on Youth Day, Thursday June 16, for the screening of the documentary Action Kommandant: The Untold Story of the Revolutionary Freedom Fighter Ashley Kriel, about the young Bonteheuwel anti-apartheid activist who was murdered at the age of 20 by security police on July 9, 1987.

Known as the Ché Guevara of Bonteheuwel, director Nadine Cloete tells Ashley’s story in a series of intimate interviews with those closest to him.

Upon his release in 1990, former president Nelson Mandela, in his first speech as a free man, paid tribute to Ashley and other anti-apartheid activists for paying the ultimate price for the freedom of South Africans.

The free film screening for the community on the 40th commemoration of the 1976 student uprisings came shortly after Action Kommandant’s international premiere at the Seattle Film Festival, seven sold-out screenings at the Encounters Film Festival and after winning the audience award for Best South African Film at Encounters on June 12.

Speaking at the screening, Ashley’s sister, Melanie Adams, said: “It’s bitter-sweet. He should have been here to see the democracy he fought for.”

She said they are very grateful to Ms Cloete and proud of her.

Ms Adams also thanked everyone for the support they have shown the family over the years. She also urged youngsters to make positive choices for their lives.

“I appeal to the youngsters when watching the film to find something you can hold onto. It’s about choosing your life. People have given up their lives so that today you can make choices.”

Hip hop artist Emile YX? was MC at the event, which also featured music from the Jazz Yard Academy and various speakers who spoke about Ashley’s legacy and their hopes for the youth in the community.

The event was also a platform for the community to celebrate their achievements such as those of champion athlete Aneesah Haupt who grew up in Bonteheuwel.

In an inspirational speech, she urged youngsters to keep following their dreams.

Speaking about her father who, too, was an anti-apartheid activist who was shot several times by security police, Aneesah said doctors told him that he would never walk again. “Yet he defied the odds and is walking today,” said an emotional Aneesa.

Bonteheuwel High School also announced plans to start The Ashley Kriel Skills Development Centre. The centre hopes to be running from July 8.

“We are going to empower the youth. We are not unprivileged, we are under-resourced. We will make sure that he (Ashley) did not die in vain. We want to pump that back into our community. Let’s build our community and make sure that we have youth who are employable. I want us as the community to stand together,” said principal Nicola Pather.

Dr Iqbal Survé, the executive chairman of Independent Media, which publishes the Athlone News, had, through his philantrophy organisation, Survé Philanthropies, donated R75 000 to complete Action Kommandant.

“I am excited that through our media platforms we have been able to spread awareness of stories like this. It is critical to tell the stories of those struggle heroes who so unselfishly gave their lives to gain a democratic South Africa. Ashley Kriel’s history needs to be known by all South Africans and this film will ensure that this is done,” said Dr Survé.

“Ashley Kriel’s story will inspire young people who will learn from those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms that we value today.”

In line with contributing to South African democracy, Independent Media launched a campaign to help fight racism, Racism Stops With Me in February.

In partnership with the Fibre Processing and Manufacturing (FP&M) Seta, Independent Media has also launched an internship programme aimed at equipping young journalists with skills to produce and manage multimedia content on the topic of race and racism in South Africa, available on Independent’s “Racism Stops With Me” website.