SOCIETY is divided into different and distinctive categories of people. There are those who never challenge the status quo but conform to the current practice by submitting to the authority of the day, even if this can be detrimental to their well-being. Another group is of those who correctly identify a problem but never do anything about it. The third group does not only confront the problem but work tirelessly to eradicate it. The last group can even sacrifice anything and everything including dear life to achieve its goal of eliminating the problem.

Thabang Motlolisi, or Cobra as he was known by his comrades, belonged to the last group of people. For Cobra, issues were quite clear. When it was time to fight, he fought bravely. When it was time to work in the garden, he worked with devotion. Some of us who were with him at Devon, the BCMA house in Harare, have fond memories of comrade Sticks waking us at about 4:30 a.m to be engaged in “production”.

In line with Mao’s teaching that guerillas should not only be trained in the use of arms but also in producing food for the people, AZANLA cadres worked on the land. Cobra, like all of us, would work in the garden.

When his home township was besieged by the notorious Three Million gang that subjected the entire community to a reign of terror, Cobra did the honourable thing. He took a stand against these trigger-happy thugs and defended his community by fighting along-side the Ma-Canada who were formed to end the Three Million gang’s reign of terror.

In the early 1980’s, Cobra went to Qwaqwa to pursue his high school education. As a political consciousness increased, he realised that the Boers would not be defeated by chanting slogans from the secret meetings. He realised that the powerful apartheid state would not be brought to its knees by youths who pelted stones at heavily armed members of the security forces.

He resolved to get involved in the principal form of struggle – the armed struggle. He went into war to end the one sided war once visited upon the black people by the illegal settler minority racist regime.

It was at the prime of his youth, he could have shunned the revolution to pursue his personal advancement and achievement through getting a career for himself. He was brilliant to succeed in any filed that he could have chosen. He could have perfected the art of insulting the regime through writings that only circulated within the oppressed. However, he chose the difficult path – the path decorated by detention, torture and death. The road to a free, Socialist Azania.

He gave up his education, his youth, his family, his personal life. In fact, he gave up everything and skipped the country to join the Azanian National Liberation Army in exile in 1987.

He received training in several Southern African states. In 1989 he went to Libya for advanced military training. After this training, he became a weapon. A lethal weapon who deserved to be called “Sebata” (dangerous animal) as he called those like him. He distinguished himself as one of the most brave fighters ever. He was a Commander of Azanla’s elite unit that infiltrated the country in 1990 to train new recruits and co-ordinate military missions in the then Northern Transvaal.

He joined MEWUSA, a labour union led by Thivhileli Mutobvu in the North, to disguise his revolutionary activities. Cobra, who read and understood Mao, depended on the support of the masses like fish would on water.

He was humble and cool-headed. He gained the confidence of the elderly people by doing basic house chores such as washing of dishes and cooking. He became a humble hero for the people of Ga-Radingwana in Sekhukhune where he trained many recruits. Even today, the village is still an Azapo stronghold, boasting a huge membership and an Azapo initiated school.

While by day, he was a unionist, by night he continued with activities of the guerilla army. Those who shared trenches with him would know that he had vowed that he would never be captured alive.

During lessons on how to deal with torture which were usually offered by Azanla Chief Nkutsoeu “Skaap” Motsau, Cobra would just smile and confide to his comrades that he would never be arrested.

“The person who will try to arrest me, will die with me,” he always said. Little did we know that this was a sacred vow until he blew himself up with policeman Calvin Dikgale in Mahwelereng township on the 5th March 1991. During that memorable gun-battle between Azanla cadres and the security forces, three policemen were injured while Dikagale and another Azanla cadre, Ronald Malatji were killed in the shoot-out.

The Motlolisi family should be proud that they gave us this gallant fighter whose contribution will always inspire us to continue to wage the struggle for the betterment of black people.

We will remember him by among others his soprano ululation and his popular chant, “ Abashe Capitalismo, abashe!. Indeed, Cobra, like Biko and other Black Consciousness cadres fought for land and the transformation of our society from the shackles of capitalism and racism to a democratic socialist order in which the colour of a person’s skin will be as irrelevant as the shape of his or her nose.

We salute him like Mzwandile Mcoseli, Mongameli Gxowa and many others who died in combat. As Azapo, the flag bearer of the Black Consciousness ideology, we had erected this tombstone to ensure that the youth of Maokeng and of Azania in particular are inspired by his selfless son of the soil who died so that we can be free.

It should be known that the new national defence force has accepted members of two former liberation armies, there is another breed of soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice and equally contributed to the attainment of the present dispensation.

One Azania ! One People ! One Army ! One Nation !

© Azanian People’s Organisation 2000.