Read of the Week

Parcel of Death: The biography of Onkgopotse Abram Tiro

Gaongalelwe Tiro

Picador Africa

Review: Phiri Cawe

Onkgopotse Abram Tiro’s death stunned everyone.

Anti-apartheid activist Tiro was the president of the South African Student Movement (SASM), organiser of the South African Student Organisation (SASO) and a leading Black Consciousness proponent.

He was assassinated with a parcel bomb by the apartheid government while in exile in Botswana.

In his book, author Gaongalelwe Tiro recounts his uncle’s life and the moment when he first heard about his untimely death.

The book has a foreword written by Azanian People’s Organisation president Mosibudi Mangena who also worked with Onkgopotse.

In the book, Gaongalelwe narrates the journey of Onkgopotse from a poor, young boy from Dinokana, North West, to “troublemaker” at university as well as his resistance against the pass laws and going into exile.

Tiro survived a difficult upbring and worked in the mines to sustain his family and siblings. He was an inspiration to many young students and was also a staunch church-goer who didn’t smoke or consume meat or fizzy drinks.

After his gruesome death, his family and friends were further traumatised because the South African government made it difficult for his family to bring his corpse, or what was left of it, back home for burial.

They were told if they wanted to do so they had to adhere to a number of conditions: the body had to be embalmed, brought back in a steel coffin and the family should pick up the remains at the border, go straight to the cemetary to bury him and only immediate family could attend the burial. In the end he was buried in Botswana.

Tiro believed there was no struggle without casualties. He was one of the many who paid with their lives for our freedom.

And there was no justice for his murder.

As the book notes, nobody came forward to apply for amnesty at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

His mother, Moleseng or Mma Abram said: “Who will I forgive? I don’t know his murderers.”

With university students currently embarking on campaigns for their rights, many believe that the Black Consciousness Movement hero is still with us even today.