Recognition for a brave man

Siyanda walked to the podium and accepted a medal on behalf of a man he hardly knew.

The medal was for bravery and it was for Siyanda’s father Looksmart Ngudle.

One of the few photographs of Looksmart Ngudle. This was taken of him as a young man.

Siyanda was a small boy when his father disappeared. As he got older he learnt that his father was one of the first members of the African National Congress’s military wing Umkonto we Sizwe (MK).
In the early 1960s Looksmart had heeded Nelson Mandela’s call for arms.

Back then the methods used to disrupt the State were primitive. Denis Goldberg, Looksmart’s then commander, recalled that the guerrilla perfected a way of pulling down electricity pylons with rope.
Home made explosives were made from gun powder. Looksmart’s field of operation was the Cape Town area and it wasn’t long before the State began hunting him.

For months he evaded the security forces, but eventually a fellow guerrilla broke under interrogation and revealed where Looksmart was in hiding.
Looksmart disappeared.

He became the first person to die in police detention.

When Siyanda was old enough he started searching for his father’s grave.
In 2006 he wrote a letter to the Department of Justice asking for help. That letter ended up in the hands of Madeleine Fullard. For six months I watched as Madeleine and her team from the National Prosecuting Authority’s Missing Persons Task Team searched for  Looksmart.

Denis Goldberg, Looksmart’s commander was also a recipient of a medal last Thursday

It was an emotional ride, at the time I didn’t think they would find him.
Madeleine pored through old mortuary records and located a possible site. In the paupers section of the Mamelodi cemetery she and her team found a skeleton. DNA proved it was Looksmart.

His remains were bought home to the Eastern Cape, and he was laid to rest next to his wife.

Last Thursday I watched on as Looksmart Ngudle’s bravery and contribution to South Africa’s armed struggle was finally recognised.
At Bloemspruit Airforce base in Bloemfontein, Siyanda walked to the podium and accepted the medal from President Jacob Zuma.

The artillery gun salute, blew perfect smoke rings into the cold Free State sky.
The medal was the Military Veterans Decoration in Platinum Class III, an award given to MK members who were in the regional command structures of the ANC and distinguished themselves with acts of bravery.

“My dad has finally been acknowledged,” said Siyanda.

About Shaun Smillie

Journalist, with a love of bones, fossils and other things dug up. Fisherman and occasional beer maker.
This entry was posted in south african history, stories behind the news and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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