The Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, took to social media to remember the revolutionary Teboho Mashinini. He thanked him for fighting for the freedom we enjoy today.
Tsietsi Mashinini was born on 27 January 1957 in Soweto. He was active in his local Methodist parish and chairperson of the Methodist Wesley Youth Guild at the age of 16.
His education started at the Amajeli crèche in 1963. In 1971 he became a student at Morris Isaacson High. He was a passionate reader. His History and English teacher, Abram Onkgopotse Tiro, noticed this. Tiro had great influence in shaping Mashinini's political thinking and his love for Black Consciousness.
Mashinini joined the South African Students Movement, a student body established to assist students with the transition from Matric to university.
On 13th June 1976, approximately 500 Soweto students met to discuss ways of confronting and challenging the Department of Bantu Education. They decided to stage a peaceful protest on 16 June.
An Action Committee was set up to prepare for the campaign. Mashinini was elected chairperson of the Action Committee, which was later renamed the Soweto Students Representative Council (SSRC), with Mashinini as its first president.
On the day of the march, about 2000 uniformed students showed up. As they marched, they came across a police barricade on their way to the assembly point. Mashinini climbed a makeshift podium to deliver a spirited address, telling students to march peacefully, to remain orderly and not to provoke the police.
The horrific events of that day, which saw the South African police shoot live bullets at peacefully protesting students, turned him into an instant hero and an activist of national importance. He stood steadfast against State harassment and imminent arrest, issuing press statements, and calling for students to boycott classes, and wrote critically of the police’s actions on 16 June that saw innocent students massacred.
The police frequently bombarded his home in an attempt to arrest him. He even came dressed in a woman's outfit and eluded arrest, becoming the most wanted man in the country. The police offered a R500 reward for anyone who could supply information that would lead to his arrest.
Mashinini eventually had to flee the country. He went to Botswana in August 1976, living there for few months before moving to the West Coast of Africa. He resided in countries like Nigeria where he was briefly hosted in the presidential guest house in Lagos. While in exile Mashinini was interviewed by many media organisations and he addressed students at universities.
He finally settled in Liberia, where he married Welma Campbell, the daughter of a parliamentarian, in 1978. The marriage was blessed with two daughters. However the marriage ended after a few years.
Mashinini died under mysterious circumstances in 1990. He was hospitalised for multiple injuries, aparently the result of an attack. He died a few days later. Mashinini's body was terribly disfigured: his left eye had fallen out into his coffin; his left ear was bleeding and he had deep bruises on his face, including a large scar on his forehead.
Tsietsi Mashinini will always be remembered as a fearless fighter and student leader whose name will forever be etched in memory as one of the outstanding leaders of the South African revolution.
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