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Paul Trewhela Calls Up the Thami Zulu Question and Pays Tribute to a Fallen Heroine, Panduleni Kali

Inside QuatroPaul Trewhela wants to straighten out the facts regarding Umkhonto we Sizwe commander Thami Zulu’s death. This comes as a response to a column written by Jeremy Gordin in which Gordin writes that “it was unknown who actually administered poison to TZ (if it was poison that killed him). Trewhela says that Gordin’s statement, drawn from Gordin’s reading of Trewhela’s Inside Quatro: Uncovering the Exile History of the ANC and SWAPO is incorrect.

Rather it is very much undisputed that TZ (as he was known) was poisoned (an examination of his stomach contents revealed traces of diazinon, an organic phosphorus pesticide). Also, Trewhela clarifies that though it is true that it is unknown who administered the poison, this is not because the individual responsible cannot be found, but rather, because a formal investigation is yet to take place:

Jeremy Gordin’s column, “The Justice Malala Question” (Politicsweb, 27 October), creates more confusion than clarity in relation to the death of the Umkhonto we Sizwe commander, Thami Zulu (real name, Muziwakhe Ngwenya, also known as TZ), in Lusaka on 16 November 1989, three months before the unbanning of the ANC.

Gordin states “it was unknown who actually administered poison to TZ (if it was poison that killed him)”.

The first half of this sentence is true. The second half is false.

Meanwhile, Trewhela’s been active on other fronts. Here’s his obituary for Panduleni Kali, a Namibian political activist who survived brutal torture and imprisonment at the hands of SWAPO, the very party to which she had dedicated her life:

Panduleni Kali was an outstanding and emblematic woman of contemporary southern Africa. Her life embodied the schizophrenic contradictions of the region, torn between suffering and modernity. Kali was chief statistician in the Division of Labour Market Information in the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, but her distinguished professional service was remarkable for having taken shape after a terrible experience when she and her twin sister, Ndamona, were in their 20s.

For almost six years in the 1980s, the twin sisters and well over a hundred other Namibian women endured torture and imprisonment in pits in southern Angola at the hands of men who led the organisation to which they had dedicated their youthful political energies, the South West African People’s Organisation (Swapo). Since 1990 Swapo has been the sole governing party of Namibia; over the previous 24 years it had been engaged in a guerrilla war against white South African rule.

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