R.I.P Phila Ndwandwe: Her death and grave came to be known, when her killer asked for amnesty.

This is Phila Ndwandwe. In 1985, Phila was recruited into the ANC. She became an MK fighter. 3 years later, she was abducted in Swaziland by Apartheid police. She suffered unspeakable horror and was tortured, in an effort to turn her into an informer. One always gets the sense that the fight against Apartheid, was a masculine one. To a certain extent we can not fault people for thinking that it is only men, through the sacrifice of their bodies who liberated this country, because somehow history chooses to ignore the women who fought alongside glorified men.

Phila Ndwandwe was breastfeeding, when she was abducted, (A makarov in one hand and a baby in the other). Aaah! Mbokodo! Her family was made to believe that she had eloped to Tanzania, when the shallow grave of their child was a mere 10 kilometers from where they lived. Her death and grave came to be known, when her killer asked for amnesty for her brutal murder. Her killers testified before the TRC that she was repeatedly beaten and kept naked for 10 days, until she made herself a pair of panties using a plastic bag. When they realized they weren’t going to get the Commander to betray her comrades, her killers blindfolded her, took her to a veld and shot her in the skull.

When her remains were unearthed, the bullet hole in her skull was clearly visible and her killer testified that she had been shot while kneeling. Other articles have suggested that she was hit over the head and shot while unconscious. One of the men who murdered Phila, described her as “Brave. Very brave”.

Members of the Durban Security Branch organised an operation to abduct Ndwandwe. They travelled from Durban to Onverwacht border post where they crossed into Swaziland, using false passports with two informers that knew Ndwandwe, in a Toyota minibus (the Kombi) and an Isuzu bakkie. All the vehicles were fitted with false number plates. At Onverwacht they were met by two informers who helped them to illegally cross the border. Upon arrival, dwandwe was abducted from Swaziland by Lieutenant Sam du Preez, Sergeant Lawrence Wasserman, Colonel Andy Taylor, Mr J A Steyn and Mr J A Vorster in October 1988. At the time of her kidnapping, she had a two-month old baby boy, Thabani, who was with his father, Bheki Mabuza, a fellow ANC cadre.

After interrogating her, the next morning they travelled to a safe house on a farm Elandskop near Pietermaritzburg. She was held in a small concrete chamber on the edge of the small forest. She was held naked and interrogated in this chamber, for some time before her death. During the interrogation, she refused to cooperate with the police and it became clear that she would not be turned into a police informer. In addition she vowed that she would continue her activities should she be released. The police did not charge or prosecute Ndwandwe. They also calculated that there was no way in which she could be released to continue her activities. In addition, not only would the two informers; safety now be compromised, but the exposure of the whole informer network would be at risk.

The police then dug a grave at the Elandskop Farm. Ndwandwe was blindfolded and led to the grave some fifty to eighty metres from the house among high trees. She was hit her on the head with a baton which rendered her unconscious and was then shot her in the head. She was disrobed and placed in the grave. Lime was sprinkled over the body, which was then covered with plastic bags and the grave filled with soil. Her whereabouts remained a mystery. Many believed that she had defected to the security forces.

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