THE fateful events of the June 16 1976 uprising not only highlighted the atrocities of the apartheid regime to the world, but also awakened a Port Elizabeth schoolboy’s political consciousness and led him to join the armed struggle that would change his life.
Malusi Pane, 50, is the western regional chairman of the uMkhonto we Sizwe veterans, but has little to show for the years he sacrificed fighting for liberation.
He joined the armed struggle in 1980 as a 19-year- old pupil at Masibambane High School in Kwazakhele.
"I saw things were not right. The Boers were very vicious. They were killing us. I came to study in PE at Masibambane High School in Kwazakhele, where I joined the SA Student Movement. But because the Boers were against everyone who was against the apartheid system, I had to leave the country for Lesotho in December 1980. I was 19 years old.”
ANC armed wing Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) was formed by then leaders Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela on December 16 1961.
It became a second home for youths like Pane who saw it as the only militant means to topple an unjust regime.
In Lesotho, Pane and his other comrades were welcomed by SA Communist Party leader Chris Hani, before leaving for Swaziland and Maputo in Mozambique in March 1981.
"From Maputo, I left for Angola, where I underwent tough military training. I was angry because I wanted to come back to the country and fight off the Boers. MK soldiers are politically advanced. We can impart knowledge at all levels.”
While in Angola, Pane and other MK cadres fought in the Angolan civil war alongside MPLA against the rebel group Unita.
Pane, who was in battalion logistics in the war which ended in 2002, was injured when the truck he was travelling in hit a land mine.
"I suffered some internal bleeding. In fact, when the weather is cold I still feel some pains in my body,” he said.
"The ANC had some programmes, so from Angola I went on to study electrical engineering in Ghana in 1985. I came back to South Africa in November 1994.
"We love the ANC so much, we are prepared to die for it.”
Pane is unemployed, but was elected MK western region chairman last year.