We were caught pants down writes Former APLA Commander Michael Masala

Spoke of the Legacy of APLA, the armed wing of the Pan Africanist Congress. He defined legacy as the gift handed down by the predecessors. This legacy affects everyone, he had tasted liberation in Soweto. According to him the 1976 apprising’s in Soweto proved how self-determination would feel like to an African child. He warned the audience of Pseudo APLA members who claim the revolutionary movement, yet their credentials are questionable, whereas many people dream even today of the hardship they suffered away from home. Many soldiers were left behind, and their sacrifices are not recognized today. He mentioned the unnecessary deaths they encountered abroad such as from malaria, road accidents, floods, assassinations, and TB.

The price paid was heavy under the leadership of Potlako Leballo. Being tormented and still haunts you for the rest of your life, and he made reference to a poem made famous by Winston Churchill during the Second World War “how can a man die better? without fulfilling his ancestral oath’’. When cornered will turn to the hills and say some are talking about the valley of death, (referring to the camp in the valley of mountains and will say ‘’some speak of the valley of death, when they forget the valley of Keiskamahoek’’.

“We were maimed and slaughtered by the Tanzanian Peoples Defence Force, from the orders given by our leaders under the term ‘’Mutiny in the camp’’ later to cover it as a wrong message was sent, and lives were lost. 16 shot and crippled 4 dead”.

He mentioned how APLA was always a step ahead of everyone. When MK went to Algeria APLA was already coming from there. He said 1963 was the year, and the first group was trained in Egypt.

Templeton Ntantala was trained in China, his training was in the line of Commissariat that disadvantaged him from earning the respect that he deserved, trained cadres always referred to the fact that he is not militarily trained but politically training. Soldiers could not easily obey his orders since he was regarded to be a commissar and not a commander.

We had several forces trained in different countries in the continent ahead of other liberation armies in the continent, e.g.  Algeria, the group included the likes of BD, Egypt the great Ndibongo, who later became one of the great strategists in APLA, Ethiopian trained groups and their bases in the Congo.

There is also a mystery that we cannot unlock, some of us to date still have a fear of boarding the British automobile the Land rover, it has claimed lives of many of our senior and strategic leaders, Commander Ndibongo who died in the Congo in a Land Rover, Commander Phiri, Commander Sabelo Phama, not leaving behind the Zimbabwean Commander (Magama Tongogara), who was on his way to give a briefing to his soldiers of the outcome of the Lancaster negotiations.

The APLA leadership in exile adopted the two tier commander structure based on the People’s Liberation Army of China, where a Commander and a Commissar (of all units) will consider jointly any engagement decision based on the political and military point of view, although I must admit when I was appointed/promoted to a squad commander post I ask my platoon commander who has the last say in our unit, the answer was unit commander, from there onwards I assumed a full command position, when a commissar wants to say something I would suppress him because I thought (commissars talk too much politics.), Battles are always lost because of politicians.

He turned to the battle of Vila Perri, Commander Gasson  Ndlovu  leaked the  information to Chris Hani of MK(who they were friends) of the imminent infiltration via Villa Perri. When looking at the two battles Villa Perri and Wankie are around the same time period. APLA sent in a unit of 14 fighters only two survived, one captured (Thamsanqa Guma) and executed by the Portuguese Settlers in Mozambique. The other eleven were massacred. He maintained how that battle was so costly to the APLA army.

The monkey that bewitched our army is still running wild somewhere, as they say in’’ Isixhosa Impundulu yakho iyandilandela chomi’’, and the owner has lost control of it. Mr Masala maintained. He was taking this phrase from a famous Xhosa proverb which explains when a house is plagued by misfortune.

He maintained that “We were always blessed, by having the best of the best in all field of specialisation in the Army, but.” Brain-drainage, was always a drawback factor, we lost some of our best trained to MK, defectors, who could not stand the heat of hard living and stringent discipline met in our camps. Some of generals of SANDFs were groomed by APLA, e.g. Commander Lucky Ngema of  the air force, Head of JOPS Sipho Mashobane, Themba Nkabinde of Works Regiment and others that I cannot list today are the product of APLA, yet they do not mention it in their CV’s.

Accompanied by the above, APLA’s heavy artillery was exchanged or ceded and used by ZANUPF, to liberate Zimbabwe, the reason for this was the Lusaka OAU’s Liberation Committee and the front line States, (preposterous approach) to break a rock you have to concentrate the efforts on the cracks (first the Portuguese Colonies then the Anglophones) then the hard surface will be easy to deal with. This proved to have strangled the momentum of the South African war of liberation, only to be caught pants down by the secret negotiations that took place.
Beware today Imperialists have now changed forms they bear isiXhosa/Zulu or Sesotho names, and not only English, Germany, Dutch or French name. Remember that People suffered and paid the price. The spirits of those Martyrs left behind their spirits cannot rest in peace if laid in the foreign land.  If you say a prayer please say one for those families that have not seen their loved ones return home, as the others did.

To conclude please treat this legacy with honour and understanding do not take it for granted for it is made of tears and sweat and cannot be played with because it is full of blood, as our future leaders remember what we are made of.

Thank You,

Michael Masala

trnscribed by Sinethemba Mandyoli

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