Sunday, 8 March 2020

The Scarlet Thread


"Where is the string that Theseus laid?
Find me out this labyrinth place."
- Bauhaus, In the Flat Field, 1980

In mythology, The Scarlet Thread refers primarily to the ball of red twine given to Theseus, the Athenian hero, by the Cretan princess Ariadne to enable him to find his way back out of the Labyrinth after fighting and killing the carnivorous Minotaur who devours both men and women. 

What is occluded is that the tale is a portmanteau: on the surface, a heroine helps a hero defeat a monster and escape from a place of disconcerting shadow and dire threat; but the deep maze of the Labyrinth itself provides the necessary disorienting full immersion in the “little death” of initiation.

As an ancient initiatory tomb, with which the mystery schools of the Greeks, Egyptians, Persians, Hindus, Mayans, Moche and Incas approximated death, the Labyrinth was also an initiatory womb out of which the seeker was resurrected, mastering their primordial self by reaffirming their ties to it.

This vermilion binding to the past also anticipates the future; so the Hindus wear the red Lakshmi string on their wrists to symbolise their connection to divine providence, while for the Chinese, a red thread around the ankles symbolises people who are destined to meet at a significant future juncture.

The Scarlet Thread is not a means of escaping one’s fears, but a bloodline maintaining one’s umbilical link to the netherworld, as in Pan's Labyrinth where the red ribbon of blood running from Ofelia's nose as she lies dead – in alternate reality enthroned – connects her to the navel of the Underworld that she entered by initiatory contests, and won by sacrifice.

So, this multidisciplinary online project, The Scarlet Thread, is a creative near-future conjuncture of significant talents between women and men mastering their antediluvian selves and guiding them through the maze of life, while maintaining their illuminated bonds with the “Western Lands” of a death that is ever-present within us.

[ENDS]

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Selby Semela und die Generation des Aufstands


Michael Schmidt
Die Klasse von 1976
Selby Semela und die Generation des Aufstands
Holger Marcks & Matthias Seiffert (Hg.): Die groRen Streiks, UNRAST-Verlag, Münster, Deutschland, 2008

Selby Semela, 1958 in eine große »schwarze« Arbeiterfamilie geboren, spielte eine führende Rolle bei dem Aufstand, der am 16 Juni 1976 in Soweto ausbrach 
Innerhalb eines Jahres wurde er vom Apartheid-Staat ins Exil gezwungen Niedergelassen
in den USA, stand er in Verbindung mit der ExilbewegUng und der radikalen Szene
in Amerika. In dieser Zeit wurde er vom Situationismus beeinflusst. Er kehrte nie
wieder nach Südafrika zurück.
1976 war Semela 18 Jahre alt Er war aktiv im African Student Movement (ASM),
einem Zusammenschluss, der zu der Bewegung des Black Consciousness (BC) gehörte
und der Schüler in den Schulen Sowetos organisierte Das ASM versuchte später seinen
Wirkungskreis auf andere Townships auszudehnen und änderte seinen Namen
in South African Student Movement (SASM). Als die Unzufriedenheit 1976 anwuchs,
spielte das SASM eine Schlüsselrolle bei der Mobilisierung von Schülern. Semela selbst
wurde zum Kassenwart des »Aktionskomitees« gewählt, das von Oberstufenschülern
gegründet wurde, um die Massendemonstrationen an jenem schicksalhaften 16. Juni
zu organisieren. An diesem Tag kam es zum Zusammenprall zwischen Schülern und
der Polizei in Soweto. Bis zum Mittag waren die Townships von Krawallen überzogen
und die Proteste breiteten sich schnell über das Land aus, sich zu einer Reihe von
Generalstreiks und Erhebungen in deh Städten auswachsend. Es sollte mehr als ein
Jahr dauern, bis der Aufstand niedergeschlagen werden konnte.
Semela war unter den Hunderten, womöglich Tausenden von Aktivisten, die während
dieses heißen Jahres ins Exil flohen. Wie andere Aktivisten Sowetos war er ein
Ziel von Polizeiaktionen, und tatsächlich wurde er auch von eihem »schwarzen«
Polizisten angeschossen und verwundet. Er lebte zunächst im Untergrund, floh dann
nach Botswana und schließlich nach Großbritannien, von wo aus er in die USA kam.
Ein Foto, das 1977 in London gemacht wurde, zeigt ihn mit seinem Freund Teboho
»Tsietsi« Mashinini, seinem Weggefahrten und Vorsitzender des Aktionskomitees,
der eine zentrale Rolle während des Aufstands spielte. Ihre jugendlichen Gesichter
sind erfüllt von Hoffnung, im Schulterschluss strecken sie ihre Fäuste in die Luft
Mit 19 Jahren war Mashinini eine Art Dandy, der von Mädchen wegen seiner abgefahrenen
Schlaghosen und seines Afros begehrt wurde, aber auch ein ernsthafter Militanter, 
der sich seine Sporen in Straßenkämpfen gegen lokale Gangster und als Redner im Debam'erclub der Schule verdiente.
Doch das Band ihrer Freundschaft sollte nur kurz währen. Wie in anderen Gemeinden
politisch Emigrierter rieben sich die Exilanten der »Klasse von 1976« in heftigen Debatten und Auseinandersetzungen auf. Viele Exilanten traten schließlich den älteren nationalistischen Gruppen bei, insbesondere dem African National Congress
(ANC), der in Südafrika verboten war. Andere versuchten, die BC-Bewegung
zu reformieren, indem sie 1979 eine BC-Exilorganisation gründeten mit den Zentren
in Großbritannien und Nigeria.
Semela jedoch zog andere Konsequenzen. Aus den Eifahrungen von 1976 entwickelte
er zunehmend Kritik an der BC-Tradition. 1979 lebte er in der Radikalenhochburg 
Berkeley (Kalifornien) und wurde vom Situahonismus inspiriert. In einem Text
kritisierte er dann die autoritaren Elemente der Kampfe von 1976-1977. Die Revolte
zeigte seines Erachtens die Wichtigkeit von Selbstorganisahon - und dennoch wurde
das Aktionskomitee im August 1976 in den Soweto Students' Representative
Council (SSRC) umgewandelt, dem das Konzept einer »selbsternannten Exekutive
zugrunde lag, die diktatorisch kontrolliert wurde von dessen Vorsitzenden«, zu
jenem Zeitpunkt Murphy Morobe, der später ein ANC-Führer werden sollte. Die
exilierte BC-Bewegung habe diese Lektion nicht gelernt. Der Aufstand machte die
Kraft der Spontaneität der Arbeiterklasse und des Massenkampfes deutlich, doch
die selbsternanntep BC-Führer wendeten sich dem leninistischen Autoritarismus
zu und »erhobeh laut Anspruch auf die zweifelhafte Ehre einer Avantgarde-Partei«.
Das ganze Projekt degenerierte zu »isolierten Gruppen radikaler Cheerleaders«,
hungrig nach Medienberühmtheit und Auslandsanlagen und besessen von Macht.
Zweifelsohne hatte er bereits solche Tendenzen bei seinem einstweiligen Genossen
Mashinini feststellen müssen.
Das Pamphlet wurde in weiten Kreisen der Exil- und Antiapartheidbewegung gelesen
-weltweit. Doch es wurde gemieden von den Verfechtern sowohl des ANC als
auch der BC-Exilorganisation und hatte keine Wirkung in Südafrika. Ab Ende 1970er
Jahre befand sich die BC-Tradihon in einem steilen Abstieg. Der ANC, der nur eine
Randerscheinung in den 1970er Jahren war, wurde neu aufgebaut und übernahm
die Fackel der nationalen Befreiungsbewegung. Schon relativ früh befürwortete
der ANC politische Gewalt gegen die BC-Bewegung: so rief er in einer Rundfunkübertragung aus dem Untergrund von 1978 ausdrücklich dazu auf, dass eine Reihebestimmter BC-Persönlichkeiten »liquidiert« werden sollte.
Semelas scharfe Kritikan der Bürokratisierung und Verknöcherungdurch Machtstrukturen
in »Volksbewegungen« ist auch heute noch von Wert - wenn auch mehr in
dem Licht betrachtet, wie z.B. der ANC an der Macht zunehmend zu einer autoritären
Partei degenerierte, die eine Mischung aus elitärer Bereicherung, afrikanisch-
nationalistischer Demagogie uhd neoliberaler Umstrukturierung hervorbringt.
Semela lebt heute zurückgezogen in New York City. Sein Name ist so gut wie vergessen
in Südafrika: keine umfangreiche Biographie, kein Platz in der nationalen
Erinnerung. Für den ANC und die BC-Exilanten ist er eine unbequeme Person, die
man besser vergisst.

[ENDE]

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Apartheid's Bushveld Bomb


Simulation of an 18 kiloton air-detonated nuclear blast over the SABC in Auckland Park, Johannesburg. The light grey outer circle (more than 80 square kilometres) is moderate blast damage, the inner orange and purple rings are the almost coterminous fireball and thermal radiation radii (anything within this area would be vapourised instantly), while the green circle is the 500 rem radiation radius. Image courtesy of Nukemap (c) Alex Wellerstein

At the macro-strategic end of the apartheid state’s Total Strategy scale on which small-teams reconnaissance operations sat at the micro-tactical end, the ultra-secret Project Chalet of the South African Defence Force (SADF) achieved a major milestone in November 1979 by producing the pariah state’s first operational nuclear weapon. The first demo model, a cumbersome one-ton-plus device 2m long and 60cm in diameter, designed not to go critical but merely demonstrate the precision of its electro-mechanical components, had been produced under Project Kerktoring (Church-tower) in 1977 by Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Atomic Energy Corporation (AEC) scientists. An underground “cold,” non-explosive, test had been scrapped in August that year after the test site at Vastrap in the northern Cape had been spotted by a Soviet spy satellite and US spy plane. On 31 October 1978, Prime Minister P.W. Botha ordered Kerktoring transferred to exclusive military control and renamed Project Chalet. According to former AEC nuclear physicist Nic von Weilligh (1) who had worked on Project Chalet, starting in 1979, a “300 series” eventually developed into five pre-production models – two of which were of such high quality that one, 305, was retained as a training device called Hobo, after its warhead was removed. 
     The famous telltale double-flash of a nuclear detonation over South Africa’s south Atlantic Prince Edward Islands possessions detected by the US Vela satellite at 42 seconds past 4.53am on 22 September 1979 appears by all of the scientific data and coinciding evidence to have been a secret 3-kiloton Israeli nuclear test, with the SADF as a mere facilitating and keenly-observing partner. The scientific evidence includes: the signature double-flash light-intensity reading of the bhangmeters on board Vela 6911 – one of a series of Vela satellites monitoring compliance with the Limited Test Ban Treaty; the detection by the radio-astronomy observatory at Arecibo in Puerto Rico at the same time as the twin flash of an anomalous ionospheric wave consistent with a nuclear detonation, a finding that aligns neatly with seismic data from New Zealand and ocean wave and hydro-acoustic data analysed by the US Naval Research Laboratory; plus the low levels of iodine-131, a short-lived radioactive product of nuclear fission, found shortly afterwards in sheep in the states of Victoria and Tasmania, downwind of the incident site. 
     Respected investigative journalist Seymour Hersh (2) had claimed that according to Israeli officials, the Vela incident was the third joint Israeli-South African test in the South Atlantic; Hersh wrote that the actual warhead tested was a low-yield artillery shell, in other words, a miniaturised, tactical battlefield nuke; Israel’s initial nuclear tests are believed to have been conducted in the Algerian desert under French cover and supervision: Israel is believed to have first observed French tests in southern Algeria from 1960 and to have conducted its own underground tests in the Negev Desert in 1963 and 1966, producing its first deliverable nuke by December 1966; by 1979, the CIA believed it possessed between 10 to 20 warheads. A French foreign policy shift three days before the Six-Day War in 1967 closed the door of French collaboration to them; as a nuclear-collaborative state that supplied it with uranium, apartheid South Africa was the obvious option.  Soviet spy Dieter Gerhardt – who had served as a commander in the SA Navy before being exposed and arrested for high treason – claimed in a 1994 interview: ‘“I learned unofficially that the flash was produced by an Israeli-South African test, code-named Operation Phoenix.” (3) 
     There are two options for how the weapon was tested: either the warhead was fired on an Israeli Jericho II two-stage ballistic missile from the Overberg Test Range in the southern Cape downrange towards an aerial detonation point near the target islands, or, as suggested by Leonard Weiss of the Centre for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University in the USA, (4) it was placed on a heavy barge sited off the Prince Edward Islands. Weiss notes that an SA Navy task force was conducting still-classified secret manoeuvures in the relevant period, which would support either delivery option. Wiess cites H.T. Hawkins, Senior Scientist Global Security at the Los Alamos laboratories in the USA, as recalling having shown Vela 6911’s bhangmeter readout to the instrument’s developer Herman Hoerlin. Without hesitation and without knowing the source of the reading, Hoerlin pronounced: “No doubt about it: an atmospheric nuclear explosion, several kilotons in yield, probably surrounded by lots of mass like a barge or the likes of it.”




The Vela Incident? Comparative simulation of a 3 kiloton surface blast (on a heavy barge) at the Prince Edward Islands in 1979. Image courtesy of Nukemap (c) Alex Wellerstein.

     Von Weilligh states that after the Vela incident, an SADF production series of true, deliverable nuclear weapons started with the completion in November 1979 of Video – later renamed Melba and used as a demo model – plus Cabot, number 306, which was upgraded into an active device. Hobo’s warhead was integrated into the first production model called Cabot in December 1982 – “a Christmas gift for PW Botha.” The naming of the nukes is quirky: Hobo is common military slang for “homing bomb,” while Cabot may have been named after Vienese explorer Zuan Chabotto (John Cabot in its Anglicised form) who discovered the east coast of North America in 1497, which as Botha’s “gift” nuke could indicate a deliberate celebration of European colonialism; on the other hand, Melba may be a crude joke, the device being intended to “toast” its target to a crisp. 
     Thereafter, the “500 series” of live nukes produced between 1988 and 1989 gave a total of six operational fission weapons with yields of 10 to 18 kilotons. The fissible yield of the nuke that levelled Hiroshima was measured at 12,5 kilotons.(5) The SADF’s nukes were, however, designed as a deterrent and not for actual combat use: the initial strategy was to secretly reveal their existence to key Cold War powers (the USA and Russia especially), and if that failed, to conduct a cold test, then a hot test (live test detonation) in an escalating battle of wills to force USSR-backed forces in Angola to withdraw. This would later change to a more aggressive stance.
     The SADF nukes were soon stored – noses separate to tails as a safety precaution – in heavy-doored vaults at Advena, a nondescript facility tucked away off the road between south of the Hartebeespoort Dam. Five of them were designed to be dropped from a specially modified SAAF Bucaneer bomber, or fired from a mobile artillery platform, while the last was intended to be launched from an SA-manufactured version of the Jericho II that was thinly disguised as the RSA-2 satellite launch rocket, with a range capable of threatening all hostile Frontline State capitals and ANC/MK and SWAPO exile training camps with utter annihilation. (6) The battle for the maintenance of white supremacy at the continent’s southern tip was entering by far its hottest phase.
     In November 1986, a new nuclear weapons deterrence strategy was approved by Defence Minister Magnus Malan and President P.W. Botha that called for one demonstration model, three gun-type nuclear weapons (a design with a plutonium projectile fired into a highly enriched uranium 235 core to precipitate the fission chain-reaction) that could be delivered by ballistic missiles, and three versions “boosted” with tritium to attain a yield five times larger that would be delivered by medium-range missiles, plus another seven weapons which could be delivered by aircraft. And a massive new facility was planned to produce weapons-grade plutonium and other heavy metals – aiming at an eventual thermonuclear fusion bomb with a yield of around 100 kilotons that would be delivered by intermediate-range ballistic missile by the mid 1990s. But in the 1986 strategy’s worst-case scenario, of South Africa facing a losing war in Angola, the nukes would have not been used strategically against enemy capitals like Luanda, but rather tactically in support of naval and ground forces. This was nevertheless a ratcheting-up of the tension on the previous strategy which had called for a gradual revelation, then mere test demonstration, of SA’s nuclear weapons capacity in order to force Russian-backed forces including the MPLA, SWAPO, and the ANC to step down. 




Comparative simulation of a 100 kiloton thermonuclear blast over Luanda, Angola. The entire city would be destroyed. Estimated casualties: 426,070 dead, 918,160 wounded. Image courtesy of Nukemap (c) Alex Wellerstein.

Notes:
1) Nic von Weilligh and Lydia von Weilligh-Steyn, The Bomb: South Africa’s Nuclear Weapons Programme, Litera Publications, Pretoria, South Africa, 2015.
2) Seymour Hirsch, The Samson Option: Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy, Random House, New York City, USA, 1991. 
3) David Albright, South Africa and the Affordable Bomb, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Taylor and Francis, Abingdon, UK, July/August 1994.
4) Leonard Weiss, The Vela Event of 1979 (or the Israeli Nuclear Test of 1979, presentation at a conference entitled The Historical Dimensions of South Africa’s Nuclear Weapons Programme, near Pretoria, South Africa, 10 December 2012, online here
5) By far the most superior telling of the developments in nuclear physics leading to the only use of nukes in warfare is Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb, Penguin Books, London, UK, 1988. The Hiroshima yield is his figure (the bomb being of the same gun-design as that used many decades later in SA); he gave a yield of 22 kilotons for the Nagasaki implosion-design bomb.
6) The slowly unraveling revelations of Projects Kerktoring and Chalet over a period of years are examined in my book Drinking with Ghosts (2014), and were added to by von Weilligh and von Weilligh-Steyn (2015).

[ENDS]

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

If My House Were to Date Your House


© Michael Schmidt 2019

If my house were to date your house
There would be hats on the hat-rack
But old photographs in the spice-rack
If my house were to date your house
There would be tiny succulents in pots
And bunches of forget-me-nots
If my house were to date your house
There would be curious boxes everywhere
And books under the stairs
And books in the kitchen cupboards
And books under the chairs
And books on the bathroom shelf
And books on the garage workbench
And books amongst the Delft

If my house were to date your house
There would be Piaf on the turntable
And Bauhaus on the headphones
If my house were to date your house
There would be ballet-shoes and boots
Side by side under the bed
If my house were to date your house
There would be curious boxes everywhere
And books under the stairs
And books in the kitchen cupboards
And books under the chairs
And books on the bathroom shelf
And books on the garage workbench
And books amongst the Delft

If my house were to date your house 
There would be stockings in the shower
And a fruit-bowl in a bower
If my house were to date your house
There would be sculptures to the ceiling
And paintings of exquisite feeling
If my house were to date your house
There would be curious boxes everywhere
And books under the stairs
And books in the kitchen cupboards
And books under the chairs
And books on the bathroom shelf
And books on the garage workbench
And books amongst the Delft

And books in the garden grove
And books in the rowboat in the cove
And books to sweetly smile by
And books to measure miles by
And books to cuddle up with
And books to share a pup with
And books to beat night’s terror
And books for rainy weather

If my house were to date your house
Hats and heels for space would wrestle
Gods and glass bunnies on shelves would jostle
If my house were to date your house
There would be curious boxes everywhere
And books under the stairs
And books in the kitchen cupboards
And books under the chairs
And books on the bathroom shelf
And books on the garage workbench
And books amongst the Delft

[ENDS]

Monday, 30 September 2019

Elvis' Stillborn Brother


© Michael Schmidt 2012 

Elvis’ stillborn brother
in his cardboard box he sings
of their souls’ might
two hundred sev’ty nights
when they both were kings

Elvis’ darkling brother
in his old shoebox he croons
of the gods they’d be
his brother and he
before they broke the strings

Never wanted to be famous
never wanted to be born
only wanted to be linked
undivided in dark embrace

Elvis’ changeling brother
with his third eye he spies
a Dravidian maid
his heartstrings she plays
until he all but cries

Never wanted segregation
never wanted to be scorned
only wanted to be twinned
whisp’ring like hummingbirds

Elvis’ monstrous brother
in the lonesome night he howls
for his sweet monster-girl
like a Bedouin bereft
pain shrouded in a cowl

Never wanted to be ground
winnowing of his seed
only wanted to be binary
their harmonics on the wind

Elvis’ lovelorn brother
head a nest of wasps he sings
of their souls’ might
two hundred sev’ty nights
when they both were kings

[ENDS]

Monday, 12 August 2019

Hammerl Arts Rights Transfer (HART) established



Named after South African freelance photojournalist Anton Hammerl, killed covering the "Arab Spring" in Libya in 2011, the Hammerl Arts Rights Transfer (HART) has now been legally registered as a non-profit organisation with its own bank accounts. 

HART is a fully-funded Fellowship in recognition of excellence in human and creative rights, offering a 6-month or 12-month residency in Johannesburg. Successful applicants for the Fellowship will be able to showcase their work through exhibition / debate / event space kindly provided by AFDA: The School for the Creative Economy. 

HART is currently run by a group of five arts and media specialists, being three black women, one white woman, and one white man: a co-ordinator, a logistics manager and assistant, a curator, and a hostess. We are putting the finishing touches on its selection process before we announce that the Fellowship is open for applications from across the African continent and beyond. 

HART is a project of the Professional Journalists' Association of South Africa (ProJourn), the sole organisation that issues press cards to freelance journalists and media workers. Today it proudly joins the growing arts rights justice ecosystem as one of the first such initiatives on the African continent.

[ENDS]

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Hamba Kahle, Mandla Khoza, Swazi Revolutionary Anarchist!


- Michael Schmidt, South Africa

Mandla Khoza was a tall, charming, self-deprecating man who nevertheless remained a tough and committed anarchist-communist militant – despite numerous perils – right up until his death on 26 July 2019 last week at the age of 45 in the Sthobelweni Hospital in rural Swaziland.
It was a warm autumn day with clouds flecking the sky on Wednesday 22 May 1974 when Mandla was born at Kagucuka. The landlocked hilly kingdom of Eswatini (Swaziland), shaped like a full-mouthed bite out of the eastern flank of South Africa, was at the time somnolent under the rod of a man who would turn out to be the world’s longest-ruling monarch, King Sobhuza II. 
Sobhuza’s father, Dlamini IV, on ascending the throne at only 16 in 1895 had inherited a rural, deeply traditional kingdom that had just become a protectorate of the Boer’s Transvaal Republic; by 1974, Swaziland, though it had become a British protectorate following the defeat of the Boers in 1902 until independence in 1968, had fallen back under the tutelage of its more powerful, white supremacist neighbour. 
The monarchy has always self-servingly believed that its “Tinkundla” system of rule via clan chiefs was preferable to modern democracy, and a hide-bound, conservative Manzini suited the war-chiefs in Pretoria: the Royal Swazi Police often collaborated with apartheid death-squads and raiders in combating ANC guerrillas using the country as an exile springboard for operations into Zululand or the Eastern Transvaal. 
It was into this comprador sugarcane-growing state with its proxy actions on behalf of apartheid that Mandla was born, growing up to become a looming, raw-boned man with a ready smile deeply carving his cheeks – and a burning desire to set his people free from Africa’s last absolute monarchy, that of Sobhuza’s son, Mswati III.
By late 1996 / early 1997, the struggle for democracy in Swaziland had attracted the attention of the first serious anarchist organisation to operate in South Africa since anarchists built the first trade unions for people of colour 80 years previously, the anarcho-syndicalist Workers’ Solidarity Federation (WSF). 
As a WSF activist, I travelled through the country for its journal Workers’ Solidarity, being deeply impressed by a pro-democracy general strike by 200,000 workers lead by the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU), the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), and its youth wing the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO). 
There, I also met Simon Noge, the Swazi revolutionary who had been involved with the democratic-Marxist Movement for a Democracy of Content (MDC) in South Africa in the 1950s, a living link to our forgotten libertarian communist past – which the WSF was reviving – who had just been released from a Swazi prison. 
Founded in 2003, the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation (ZACF) was the direct descendant of the WSF, and very soon made stronger and more direct and consistent links with PUDEMO and SWAYOCO’s exile structures in Johannesburg – the Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN) – and its underground in Swaziland.  There was a strong sense within the SSN that now that it was in government, the ANC (though not its COSATU union allies) had abandoned its earlier dedication to seeing in the dawn of democracy in Swaziland.
We had also encountered and befriended, via one of the ZACF’s two Soweto branches, Mandla Khoza, who for security reasons we rapidly dubbed “MK” (with tongue in cheek as it is the acronym for the ANC’s former armed wing), and his shorter, muscular sidekick, “MD”. The two friends formed the nucleus of a ZACF branch near the St Phillip’s Mission, south of Manzini in central Swaziland, making the Federation a transnational organisation.
By 2005, MD was writing for the ZACF journal Zabalaza (Struggle) on developments in Swaziland, and MK followed the next year, writing about a rather futile, small-scale hand-grenade attack campaign by a SWAYOCO that was increasingly frustrated by the deadlock between royal and democratic forces; it was a risky exercise, as those charged with the “bombings” faced the death penalty for treason.
The two Swazi friends loved the succinct, clear polemics of pint-sized Italian motor mechanic and world-traveling revolutionary anarchist Errico Malatesta, in particular his text Fra Contadini (Between Peasants), a dialogue in which a young firebrand returning from the city explains to an older peasant why anarchism makes sense, and surreptitiously distributed this and other anarchist pamphlets, journals and books throughout the benighted kingdom. 
The challenges the little ZACF cell faced started, primarily, with poverty and the HIV/AIDS pandemic that has devastated Swaziland; they were continually trying to develop self-help schemes that would feed themselves and the neighbours in their community – along the lines of what the ZACF’s Phambili Motsoaledi Community Project had done in Soweto.
Mandla lived an uncomplaining Spartan life, in a corrugated iron shack with a compacted dirt floor, and vacant windows through which the wind blew across the spindly wires marking out his tiny plot; it was unforgivingly hot in summer and icy in the winter; he was trying to raise funds for a drum that could store rain-water and irrigate a little vegetable patch.
But his little cell also faced the deadly attentions of the Royal Swazi Police. In a country as small as Swaziland, it was impossible for the militants to remain unknown to the political police and intelligence agents. In October 2005, for example, ZACF member “PN” was arrested at the Swazi border on a visit to Mandla’s cell, and had to be bailed out.
By November 2006, things were building towards a head in Swaziland: PUDEMO had produced a new strategic document, the Road Map Towards a New and Democratic Swaziland, that referred to the guerrilla wars fought in Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Chile, and which called for “a new and organised force for liberation that captures the imagination of the oppressed masses and inspires them to action.” 
That force seemed to have emerged clandestinely in the shape of Swaziland Liberation, a nascent guerrilla formation drawn from the ranks of SWAYOCO militants, secretly trained and armed in South Africa allegedly by Young Communist League cadre (and weirdly, former RENAMO guerrillas from Mozambique), and inculcated with an iron discipline aimed at “Rush Hour,” the overthrow of the Mswati III monarchy.
The ZACF took a stance against Swaziland Liberation both because its actions were premature, adventurist, and would likely split the liberation movement at the very point it needed to be united, and because its authoritarianism saw it holding members at gunpoint against their will; this ethical stance, however, drove a wedge between the ZACF and the SSN; but in the event, Swaziland Liberation failed to achieve “Rush Hour.”
In December 2007, the ZACF, having experienced internal problems of its own because of inconsistent levels of dedication and political-tactical understanding in its members, changed from a federation of semi-autonomous collectives into a more tightly-knit unitary organisation called the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (also ZACF). 
Because of the pragmatic difficulties of co-ordinating between the parent organisation in Johannesburg and the cell in St Phillips, it was decided to allow the latter to go its own way as an autonomous Swazi entity. They were not isolated in this: the Swazis had developed their own international contacts, for example, guiding visiting German anarchists through Swaziland, and had a long-standing relationship with anarcho-syndicalists of the Solidarity Federation (SolFed) in Britain. 
Yet in retrospect, I feel that the move towards autonomy – which I had endorsed – amounted to somewhat of an abandonment of support by the ZACF for St Phillips. In 2009, however, the writings of MK and MD contributed towards a ZACF pamphlet, A Bitter Taste to the Sugar-cane: 10 Years of African Anarchist Writings on the Pro-Democracy Struggle in Swaziland (1996-2006), which showed how the anarchist approach to Swazi liberation had evolved and become more sophisticated with time.
Meanwhile, Mandla Khoza tended to shuttle between the Atteridgeville township outside Pretoria and the Manzini district of Swaziland, living by his wits and the aid of friends. His uncomplicated charm and firmness of character had often attracted women, but he found relationships to be a distraction from the struggle for democracy, so he stoically avoided them. 
Mandla made a habit over the past decade or so since his cell’s autonomy of visiting me in Johannesburg at least once a year, and I also met less frequently with MD. They told me how that apart from themselves, the entire militant network they had built up around St Phillips had been implacably and slowly destroyed, the police cunningly opting to poison militants one by one so that they simply died of “mysterious illnesses” that could not be traced back to the authorities.
Mandla Khoza himself was increasingly subject to bouts of recurring illness; whether this meant he too had been poisoned by the police is unknown. At times he would be full of towering dynamism; months later, he would be huddled into a blanket, his chest sunken, his voice a whisper, his smile a rictus, battling to eat a thin diet of porridge supplemented by milk and vitamins. 
On these occasions he spoke to me about dying and pronounced that he was totally unafraid of death, being satisfied with his life. I believed him as he was always deeply resolute in his commitment to anarchism and his struggle for his country’s liberation. He leaves a sister, Nthombenhlope – and a trans-national pro-democracy movement celebrating his life. Hamba Kahle (Go Well), Comrade MK! 

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