By: Staff Reporter
The Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) has on Thursday, dipped their revolutionary banner in remembering one of their greatest heroes. A young soldier of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), comrade Ashley James Kriel, who was killed by the apartheid regime today 33 years ago, on the 9th of July 1987.
Comrade Ashley Kriel was born on the 17th of October 1966. He grew up in Bonteheuwel township on the Cape Flats. In the context of the notorious Group Areas Act, it was a ‘colored’ designated area.
According to the MKMVA, many of the families who lived there had been forcefully removed from District Six, or other areas around Cape Town, that had been designated as ‘white’ under the Group Areas Act.
“Comrade Ashley went to school in Bonteheuwel. After he finished primary school at Central Park Primary, he started high school in 1981 at Bonteheuwel High, and he finished Grade 12 there in 1985. He was a model student, and excelled in science and mathematics. His attendance of the Cape Argus Winter for Science in 1984 saw him described as a “voracious learner … and an engaging conversationalist”, the movement said.
“From an early age comrade Ashley became conscious of the economically deprived, poverty stricken, and oppressed conditions of the community that he was living in. This led to him developing a strong political consciousness, and he became a member of various student organizations where he developed public speaking and organizational skills. He was a member of the Bonteheuwel Inter-Schools Congress (BISCO), and of the Bonteheuwel Youth Movement (BYM), which was an affiliate of the Cape Youth Congress (CAYO).”
“Comrade Ashley’s family and friends described him as a natural leader, whose leadership skills were further honed by him being closely attuned to the challenges that his people were faced with. As a result, despite still being a teenager, he quickly became an influential leader of the youth in Bonteheuwel, and a spokesperson for their many grievances under
“Comrade Ashley took a lead in organizing the youth of Bonteheuwel into school boycotts, protests and other actions in line with the call made by the African National Congress (ANC) to make the country ungovernable.”
“As a result of the increasing political mobilization and resultant unrest in Bonteheuwel the apartheid security police assigned a special unit to the area. Comrade Ashley Kriel was one of five student leaders that were specifically targeted. The other four were Anton
Fransch, Andrew ‘Gorrie’ November, Coline Williams and Gary Holtzman. Of the five, three would be dead by 1990, with comrades Coline Williams and Anton Fransch having been killed in 1989.
“Due to the intense attention by the security police, and his life being in danger, comrade Ashley had to go underground at the tender age of 18. While he was underground he joined MK. Eventually he was forced into exile, and left South Africa on the 27th of December 1985. He moved across various borders, and eventually ended up at the Kibashe MK training camp in Angola. He was trained in the use of various firearms, as well as in the use of explosives. In 1987 comrade Ashley re-entered South Africa via Lusaka,
and Gaborone. He returned to the Bonteheuwel area from where coordinated various MK operations. ”
Furthermore, the MKMVA added: “On the 9th of July 1987 comrade Ashley was apprehended by security police officers, who were disguised as municipal workers. There are two versions of how he was killed. The one is that a scuffle ensued when the officers wanted to arrest him, and that he was mortally wounded by a shot from his own pistol. This was the version told to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) by the notorious security police officer, Captain Jeffrey
Benzien, who was involved in the arrest of comrade Ashley. The second version, that is in all probability the truth, is that after Comrade Ashley had been arrested, he was execution style shot dead by the security police. An independent forensic investigator, the highly regarded Dr. David Klatzow, refuted Benzien’s version of events, and pointed out that the
gunshot wound was not from close contact, but instead consistent with a shot fired from further away. Despite this scientific, and compelling, evidence Benzien’s unbelievable story was accepted by the TRC, and he was granted amnesty for the killing of comrade Ashley, and other heinous apartheid era crimes. ”
“Comrade Ashley Kriel’s funeral was held on the 20th of July 1987, and it became a site of violent contestation between the apartheid police, and the people of Bonteheuwel who wanted to their last respects to one of their very own, and a liberation struggle hero. The police refused to give the community of Bonteheuwel the opportunity to give comrade Ashley a dignified funeral. They fired teargas at the mourners, and tried to remove the
ANC flag that was draped over his coffin. Amidst flying teargas canisters the young and dedicated comrades of Bonteheuwel carried comrade Ashley’s coffin shoulder high to his last resting place, while singing liberation songs.
Comrade Ashley Kriel was posthumously awarded the Joe Modise Commanding and
Leadership Excellence Award, as well as the Stanza Bopape Young Martyr Memorial
Award on the 27th of October 1996.
MKMVA deliberately decided to recall the life of comrade Ashley Kriel in some detail in this media statement, because as the years go by the memories of the huge sacrifices that liberation heroes such as comrade Ashley Kriel made, tend to recede and slowly fade. It is our revolutionary duty not to allow this to happen!
Younger generations, who now live in a democratic South Africa, must be reminded that the freedoms that we now have were gained through the blood, sweat and tears of young people who sacrificed their youth, and indeed their very lives, for our liberation.
All of us also need to be reminded the sacrifices of comrades, such as Ashley Kriel, were not only for voting in universal franchise elections, but for the full economic liberation and empowerment of all black (especially African) South Africans.
Comrade Ashley was deeply affected by the terrible, and systemic poverty, on the Cape Flats, and all the social ills that result from that. He often spoke with great passion and conviction about how the ultimate aim of our liberation struggle must be to fundamentally, and radically, transform our economy to create fully empowered communities, and a better
life for all. It is critical that we never let go of our commitment to achieve exactly that.
No matter what the challenges are, we must prevail, because if we fail we will not only fail ourselves, but we will also fail the sacrificed young lives of comrades, such as comrade Ashley Kriel.
“MKMVA also calls, on this anniversary day of comrade Ashley’s murder, that the ongoing investigations into what truly happened when comrade Ashley and many other comrades, throughout the length and breadth our country, were killed by the operatives of the apartheid regime, must be given the priority that these investigations deserve, and the
perpetrators of those terrible crimes must be brought to book.
“MKMVA demands that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) must give apex priority, with all the resources required, to these investigations. It cannot be that the family and community of comrade Ashley Kriel, as well as the families and communities of many other
liberation struggle heroes, are denied closure in the knowledge of what truly happened to their loved ones. It also cannot be that the TRC was ultimately used as an instrument to cover up the truth, and let cold blooded racist lying murderers walk free.
“MKMVA shall not rest until the likes of Jeffrey Benzien, and all the other apartheid butchers and monsters, are brought to book – either while they are still alive, or posthumously. The liberation history of our country must tell the unfiltered truth of how evil they were, and relentlessly expose the crimes that they have committed”.
The MKMVA added: “Those apartheid murderers who are still alive must be charged, and made to pay the full price for the crimes that they have committed. This must be the case for the apartheid operatives on the ground who tortured and killed our people, but even more so for the apartheid political leadership whose foot soldiers they were, and whose instructions they executed.”
“In this regard MKMVA remains of the opinion that FW de Klerk, and all the other apartheid National Party leaders who are still alive, ought to be charged and sentenced for the apartheid crimes that they have ordered and were complicit in.
“It is an insult to the revolutionary memory of comrade Ashley Kriel, and all other liberation heroes who have been detained, imprisoned, tortured and killed, that the likes of De Klerk can continue to – arrogantly and callously – deny that apartheid was a crime against humanity, and are allowed to close the last years of their lives in comfort without any
consequences. Just like the racist Nazi criminals were charged and sentenced in the Nuremberg trials, they should be charged and made to pay for their crimes.
This is the least that we owe to our fellow MK combatants, who laid down their lives for our freedom”.
Hamba Kahle Mkhonto!