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​A memorial to Petrus Molefe, the first Umkhonto weSizwe casualty, is a potent reminder of South Africa’s turbulent past.
THE memorial commemorating the first Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) soldier to be killed in the struggle against apartheid, Petrus Molefe, serves as a grim reminder of the country’s turbulent past.

The memorial consists of four columnsUnveiling the memorialUmkhonto weSizwe, which means Spear of the Nation, was the armed wing of the ANC. It was formed in 1961, and Molefe was killed on 16 December 1961. MK suspended operations on 1 August 1990, in preparation for the dismantling of apartheid. By 1994, it was integrated into the old South African Defence Force; the new army, combining the old army and the freedom armies, was renamed the South African National Defence Force.

The monument, at Petrus Molefe Eco Park in Soweto, was unveiled on 9 December 2011, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the founding of MK. It has been decided to mark this historical occasion on 16 December every year.

Andrew Lindsay of the Spaza Art Gallery created and co-ordinated the making of the artwork. “The piece commemorates the first MK combatant who died in action,” says the City’s deputy director of immovable heritage, Eric Itzkin. “It serves also to highlight traditions of non-racialism in the anti-apartheid movement.”

Molefe died in Dube, Soweto when the explosive device he was carrying went off. He was accompanied by Benjamin Ramutsi, who was seriously injured in the blast.

Petrus MolefePetrus Molefe, the first MK to be killed in the struggle against apartheidFour brick columns surround the memorial’s artwork. In the middle of the columns is a wide circle, with mosaic on the floor of the MK emblem of a warrior with a spear and a shield. The logo is decorated with pebbles against a white stone background.

The columns are five metres high by 700cm wide, with cement tops. The circle is five metres in diameter. “The four equidistant columns resemble sentry boxes facing different directions,” explains Itzkin. “Each of the pillars is decorated with mosaic bearing inscriptions from key documents in the annals of the struggle for democracy.”

The lettering is in black mosaic set on a white and off-white background. The main pillar has a mosaic portrait of Molefe.

It is linked to the Freedom Charter memorial in Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication in Kliptown, and is positioned between large planters on either side in the form of a voting cross.

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