Thabang Mabuza

Phila Ndwandwe’s son
The skeleton of Phila Portia Ndwandwe was unearthed in a shallow grave in March 1997, nine years after the freedom fighter had gone missing. Phila had been a member of ‘Umkhonto we Sizwe’, the military wing African National Congress and in those days, members’ disappearance was not unusual.
The discovery of her remains shocked her father who had clung to the hope that was she was still alive and her sister, to find the grave had been so close to where she lived. But for her son, who had never known her, it was the start of a long, painful journey of discovery.
It was only through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that Phila’s son, Thabang, found out what happened to his mother. He remembers aged just ten years old, going to a mass funeral for bodies recovered after the end of apartheid. But footage from that time shows a disorientated child, as if he understandably couldn’t, quite take in what was occurring. Mandela stands behind the boy as his arm is raised by a fellow mourner.
The TRC established that Hendrik Botha, a former member of the Port Natal Security Police had abducted Phila in the hope of turning her into an informer. Despite being stripped naked and tortured, she refused. So, a single bullet was used to end her life and a shallow grave dug not far from where she was executed. Lawrence Wasserman, the Security Policeman who executed her, commented how brave she had been in her resistance and it was he who led the TRC to her burial site. On disinterring her remains, it was found she’d died clutching a piece of fabric in a last dignified attempt to retain her modesty.