During the celebrations of June month as we mark the 39th year of June 16 this year, I take this rare opportunity to pay a fitting tribute to a gallant hero of our armed struggle, Richard Barney Molokwane for his courage and brevity in the execution of his political and military task to wipe off oppression and usher in an era of national independence, social progress and human dignity for the oppressed majority in our country.
Barney Molokwane, an outstanding MK trained soldier of the People’s Army Umkhonto we Sizwe, belonged to one of the specialized elite units of its June 16 Detachment which carried out some of the heroic missions in the history of MK.
Like many of his contemporaries such as Solomon Mahlangu, Andrew Zondo, Ting Ting Masango and Neo Potsane, just after the June 16 1976 uprisings, Barney Molokwane chose to join the vast army of young revolutionaries who swelled the ranks MK and received military training in order to prosecute the struggle for national liberation.
It is this generation of cadres, even before they went into exile to join MK, they ferociously waged countless epic battles and skirmishes with the apartheid security forces (the army and the police) in the dusty streets of our townships and villages. Whilst some defied death others were unfortunately hanged by the apartheid regime, killed in the battlefield or tortured to death.
As we celebrate the June activities, we must remember Barney Molokoane and be inspired by his scrupulously faith and pride to the ideals of the ANC and MK. We must recall the unflinching commitment he made in the struggle for justice and freedom and at the same time remember with heavy hearts, 30 years ago, the callous, coldblooded and cowardly act that tragically ended his life in the battlefield while together with his fellow combatants, Vincent Sekete and Victor Khayiyane.
As a dedicated soldier of MK, Barney Molokoane was gifted in many fields. He was always eager to learn through listening and debating with his fellow cadres. At all material times, he was a disciplined soldier, concerned with maintaining good health and peak physical condition. He was particularly fond of the rigours of military survival courses, which he believed prepared him for any contingency and the prosecution of armed activities. As an MK commander he was exceptional, taking particular care of the safety and the well-being of those under his command and also led by example.
It was in 1978 when his MK unit came into contact with the enemy forces for the first time in Zeerust in the then Western Transvaal (now North West). In that battle he was shot in the leg but managed to outmanoeuvre the enemy to complete the 200km retreat to his base in Botswana.
As an MK cadre, Barney Molokoane knew that military action was an important tactic of armed struggle to complement other pillars of struggle for the liberation of South Africa. He knew that military action was the ground of life and death, the path to survive or perish hence he was well trained.
Barney Molokoane led repeated military operations into the country and undertook a number of dangerous missions, including the sabotage of the SASOL plant and the shelling of the headquarters of the South African Defence Force in Voortrekkerhoogte.
The success of these military operations was as a result of his ability to genuinely assess the way, the weather, the terrain, the leadership and discipline. His tactical ingenuity and leadership were recognized and appreciated by the Military Headquarters in Lusaka when he was promoted to become a commander of his military unit.
In 1985, Barney Molokwane together with his cadres were on a mission to sabotage the Secunda Industrial Complex when they were intercepted by the enemy forces. Rather than surrendering to these forces, they died fighting in a battle that eyewitnesses say it lasted for more than 4 hours until the enemy dropped a napalm bomb which incinerated them instantly.
Undoubtedly, Barney Molokoane paid a supreme price and the heaviest of sacrifices for his abiding love of his country and for his belief in the fundamental right of every person to equality, dignity and freedom in South Africa.
Because of his heroic struggle and his sacrifice, in 1994 we attained freedom and this is encapsulated and guaranteed in our constitution, united in our resoluteness to overcome the vast justices our society is still facing today.
With this tribute to Barney Molokoane, we pay a deposit in his moral bank account so that our youth must emulate his virtues, examples, leadership and acts of heroism. We equally express our commitment to the principles for which he as a cadre of MK lived and died for.
One of the pillars of our democratic dispensation which is expected to uphold the values and principles that Barney Molokoane fought and died for is the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA). A public entity established in terms of an act of Parliament to mainstream youth development across all sectors of South African society.
We will be committing a fatal mistake if we think that all of us live up to the principles Barney Molokoane stood for. Equally, we will be committing a judgmental error if we sit in our laurels and think that we have attained political and economic freedom.
In his honour and memory, we must ensure that our students at institutions of higher learning should not for financial reasons, be unable to access them and complete their studies. As per his vision, students must have the right to effective education and the issues like financial exclusions, institutional racism and academic marginalization must be resolved.
Because of his struggle and sacrifice we are able to proclaim without any fear of contradiction that today is bettter than yesterday and so tomorrow will be better than today for our youth.
In prosecuting military struggle, Barney Molokoane was propelled by an unwavering commitment to respond to ever-greater repression with ever-deeper determination and ever-deeper vitality to make South Africa a better place to live in.
Barney Molokoane didn’t die for nothing. Throughout his entire life he never lost faith in the justness of the cause he championed. He never betrayed his people and his organization, the ANC, at the altar of position and good life. He never slackened in his determination that the poor and the marginalized people of our country deserved the better. In fact, what underpinned his conviction was to free his people from the shackles of injustices and apartheid.
As an MK cadre, Barney Molokoane never sat back in helpless surrender when injustices were meted against his people. He neither succumbed to the whims and dictates of the apartheid security forces nor to succumbed to self-pity and despondency. He remained resolute to the end hence he perished in the battlefield.
Barney Molokoane retained his faith in the resoluteness of the people of South Africa particular the youth of the time who were a dynamo of militancy and activism to galvanise and rejuvenate the unity of our people and rendered the system of apartheid ungovernable.
Through his actions as an MK cadre and an unassuming way in which he pursued his beliefs, Barney Molokoane earned the undying respect of his acquaintances and ANC leadership and the love of his people who strongly believed in him. In this regard, he never sought glory or personal accreditation for his military sterling work.
It is for that reason that in 2004, the South African government bestowed him with the Order of Mendi for Bravery at the National Orders Awards. This was to acknowledge his inspiring leadership, his exceptional bravery and readiness to risk his life fighting for liberation.
Barney Molokoane taught us the values to serve, suffer and sacrifice. He taught us what defines a champion for justice and human rights. Through his teachings we must go Back to Basics and feel very deeply any injustice visited upon any person from whatever station of life, whoever they are and wherever they may be.
In his honour and memory, we must go Back to Basics and be driven by a strong abiding love for justice, a sense of human solidarity, a genuine empathy and a concern for the suffering of others more especially the poor and the downtrodden.
As we translate into action Barney Molokoane’s deeply felt desire for justice to combat and defeat injustice, we must take up the struggle to confront the forces of evil and manipulation which oppress and exploit fellow South Africans today.
As we celebrate the June month, in his honour and respect, we must go Back to Basics and endeavour to do something remarkably good, driven by the passion for freedom
for all as espoused by Barney Molokoane. This is indeed possible because of the generosity of Barney Molokoane’s lasting legacy and the resounding passion with which he prosecuted the struggle for justice.
Today, more than ever before, we need young people of courage to fight fraud and corruption. We need young people who are ready to endure hardships and make personal sacrifices to make South Africa a better country to live in. We need young people who will be concerned about the suffering of others and further the course of economic freedom and youth development.
We need young people who will be like Barney Molokoane, generous in spirit, be deeply concerned about the future of South Africa. We need young people who through their actions, equally and fairly serve the people, treat them with decency and respect and to adequately fulfil the noble ideas that Barney Molokoane stood for.
Indeed the greatest tribute we can pay to Barney Molokoane and all other cadres who fell in the battle for freedom before we achieve the 1994 breakthrough, is to reaffirm through our actions, the solemn commitment to build the kind of future to which they dedicated their lives; a future full of possibilities.
As cadres of the movement, let us rise to the challenge of the hour, by emulating Barney Molokoane who paid the ultimate price and made a humble contribution to the creation of a just society we are constructing.
Today, Barney Molokoane and his comrades are symbols of dedication, selflessness and courage. It is my considered view that our strongest commitment to emulate their examples will fail if we do not follow in their footsteps.
Let’s go Back to Basics and follow the ideals of Barney Molokoane.
Long Live the fighting spirit of Barney Molokoane Long Live!
Cde Kenny Morolong is a member of the ANC in the North West Province and Deputy Chairperson of the National Youth Development Agency