“DUTCHMEN” – that is how Nelson Mandela and another anti-apartheid struggle icon, James Moroka, would refer to apartheid political leaders such as Hendrik Verwoerd and Johannes Vorster, back in the early 60s when Madiba was an underground operative organising the struggle.
Mandela, dubbed the Black Pimpernel by the then government, had been forced to go underground to avoid arrest and briefly stayed with the Morokas at their Ratlou location home in Thaba Nchu, 65 km east of Bloemfontein.
Moroka, a medical doctor who died in 1985, nine years before apartheid was defeated in 1994, was ANC president between 1949 and 1952.
His home was among several belonging to ANC activists from the Free State where Madiba would stay for very brief periods before moving on to avoid arrest.
Moroka’s daughter-in-law, Mantombi Moroka, 82, recalls, in an exclusive interview with the Free State Times, how his father-in-law and his comrade in arms would quietly discuss the struggle and how they would in due course put the “Dutchmen” where they belong.
“I was a young woman then but I remember they would be talking about these ‘Dutchmen’ saying ‘we are going to put them where they belong’,” recalled Mantombi, who said she was about 20 years old at the time of Mandela’s stay with her family.
She could not recall the exact year that Mandela had stayed with her family but said he had been there for just over a week preparing himself for a “sabotage operation” in the Eastern Cape.
Although operating underground, Mandela would still traverse the country mobilising the ANC rank and file to step up the struggle for freedom.
This was after his first treason trial that began in 1956 and ended in 1961 with the acquittal of Madiba and 156 other people charged with him.
Mandela was responsible for organising meetings and the stay-at-home protests that black workers would participate in to cripple the economy, solely run by white people.
Mantombi, who was married to Moroka’s son Kenosi, recalled how on the occasion of Mandela’s visit the former president, her father-in-law and other ANC leaders such as Walter Sisulu would gather in the house for long political meetings to plot how to defeat the apartheid government.
She described how as the as the young woman in the house she would prepare meals for the guests whose only concern was changing the political landscape of the country and freeing black people from apartheid.
The Moroka homestead has since been declared a national monument by the National Heritage Council of South Africa.
“He was already a very good leader back then because he was a listening person. I remember a few times when I would bring them food that he would be listening as the others were talking – he had a listening ear,” Mantombi said, adding that she never saw Mandela again at her home until after the 1994 general elections.
She said a few days after Mandela left the Moroka house the power lines in East London were bombed.
“They called Dr Moroka and told him they were responsible for the bombings. I remember how concerned the old man was when they told him they had bombed those power lines,” Mantombi said.
Another anti-apartheid struggle veteran from the Free State, Pule Matjoa, who first met Madiba in the 1960s, in Sudan, described him as an inspiring leader.
Matjoa is the Free State chairman of the Veterans League comprising of senior members of the uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) and ANC aged above 60 years.
At just 18 years, Matjoa was one of the first crop of young men to leave South Africa to go abroad to receive training to fight the apartheid government.
A medical doctor who is based in Bloemfontein, Matjoa said his meeting with Mandela was a chance event.
Matjoa was on his way to Cuba for military training, while Madiba was en route to Ethiopia to meet Emperor Haile Selassi I to seek support for the war of liberation.
Mandela had just formed the MK in December 1961 to wage armed struggle against the apartheid government.
Matjoa said although he had already decided to join the MK it was Madiba who finally convinced him of the morality and rightness of his decision to take up arms against the white supremacist government.
“Mandela made an impact on me and the group that I was with in Sudan. He explained the struggle in a way that I could understand and relate. And it was very interesting to listen to him,” said Matjoa yesterday.
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the father of the nation, died yesterday at the age of 95.
President Jacob Zuma made the announcement from the Union Buildings in Pretoria last night, saying Mandela had passed away at 20:50 in his Houghton home surrounded by his wife Graça Machel and members of his family.
Zuma said Mandela would have a state funeral and that the flags would fly at half-mast from December 6 until after the funeral.