Remembering a struggle hero

Vanessa November-Mettler, hands over a candle to Nathan Asher, the son of Anton Fransch, in memory of his father.

A wreath-laying ceremony in remembrance of the 28th anniversary of the death of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) commander, Anton Fransch, turned into a call for South Africans to take up the baton once again, in the fight for justice and freedom.

The ceremony was held at the memorial site, in Church Road, Athlone – where Fransch was killed after a seven-hour gun battle with apartheid security forces – on Friday November 17.

It was arranged by the ANC’s Ward 49 and Ward 60 branches.

Both guest speakers, struggle stalwart Dr Allan Boesak, and former ambassador to America Ebrahim Rasool, were critical of the current state of the nation.

Speaking at the event, Dr Boesak said: “We are fighting again for justice that was never given. The freedom given to us, we did not choose. It was certainly not the one Anton died for.

One of the remains of the struggle, is forgetfulness. We tend to forget the sacrifices so many people made. Those years we found the faith, hope and resilience and decided we will not stop until our people found freedom. Since 1994, we have forgotten the road we have traveled.

We are also facing the struggle against unremembering – people who try to erase the memory of the struggle, as if the deaths of Anton, Robbie Waterwitch and the Trojan Horse Massacre and many others, never happened. The freedom and democracy Anton died for is being stifled, which we never imagined would happen 30 years ago,” he said.

“As long as there is huge gap between rich and poor, we are not yet done. As long as children and women cannot walk in safety, as long as we are known as the rape capital of the world…as long as our people are not united, where we tolerate or deny the existence of racism, we are not yet done. Thank you for saying I will not forget. The work started so long ago, and we will only see the real freedom when the current generation comes through.”

At his turn, Mr Rasool said that “it is not over until God said it’s over”.

He added: “Our country and our movement have faced so much that is epitomised on this day 28 years ago. This hero became our legend. It is in the Anton story that we know that our constitution was not written in ink, it was written in blood and because of that it is a holy constitution. It has since then been subverted and undermined. All of us have different remedies of what must be done. We may need to do more drastic things. Our voices need to be heard. We have the horrors of the apartheid state, the difference now is that we never thought we were off the moral high ground. We have never been in an ethical and moral crisis like we are in today. We cannot recover from the ethical when the compass is lost. Nostalgia is not the way out of our crisis. Bureaucratic leadership will not get us out of the crisis. We need to regroup, strategise,and think to calm the turmoil in our hearts. If you want to pay homage to Anton, nostalgia is not the way. Pick yourself up, continue your legacy and the unfinished business.”

Veteran MK soldier, Heinrich Margeman, agreed that the the country is in a moral crisis.

“Young people question the struggle, given the state of our democracy. We need to renew our commitment to that the Freedom Charter said – the people shall govern. Anton’s legacy must inspire us to continue the struggle, as it is not over,” Mr Margeman said.