Elections 2014: 'Dad was on the wrong side'

Shack of shame: Tambo Sealanyane was scarred by the ordeal of witnessing his father – a member of the National Party – being stoned to death on the street outside the family's home in 1994. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Shack of shame: Tambo Sealanyane was scarred by the ordeal of witnessing his father – a member of the National Party – being stoned to death on the street outside the family's home in 1994. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Tambo Sealanyane’s father was stoned to death six weeks before democracy dawned in South Africa. In the violence of early 1994, Sello Sealanyane, a National Party (NP) member, was considered to be “on the wrong side”. The incident rendered Tumahole, near Parys in the Free State, a no-go zone for NP members.

Tumahole remains ANC country.
Or more specifically, it remains Ace Magashule country.

This is the home town of the province’s premier, and the place where he voted this week with hundreds of supporters in tow. The ANC’s longest-serving provincial chairperson is something of an urban legend here. Residents tell stories of his generosity, the time he stopped them on a street corner and gave them some money or paid for their school fees.

But his provincial administration is mired in controversy – from the R40-million provincial website corruption claims to the Vrede dairy farm scandal. Yet Magashule is well loved here.

Magashule and Tambo Sealanyane (28) have never met, but their stories intersect at the often misunderstood truth about how things work in this province: the past is never forgotten. Here in Tumahole, time is circular.

Tambo has a scar on his left hip, which he earned when a family friend hurled the child as far as she could from the scene of his father’s stoning.

The scar resembles the kind you expect would follow a small, yet serious, surgical procedure, such as an appendectomy. It was a well-intended attempt to shield the boy from the horror unfolding close by.

“Then I jumped a fence here,” he says, pointing to what is now a brick wall. But he had already seen too much. His father died in the ambulance before he could reach hospital.

A Beeld report at the time quoted NP district leaders who blamed the ANC for Sello’s death. The ANC denied it and Tambo doesn’t know who is responsible.

He only learned that his father was an NP member when he stumbled on the newspaper clipping. His family tried to protect him from the incident in more ways than one. His grandmother in particular harbours fears that Tambo will be victimised because of who his father was.

Yet Tambo has succeeded in spite of his father’s legacy. He has a diploma in hospitality management and runs his own bottled-water supply company. He hopes to branch out into the juice market soon. One day, he wants to own his own hotel.

The scene of the crime is the only shack in Phiri Street, Tumahole, that remains exactly as it was in 1994. The street, tarred just seven months ago, is lined with state-subsidised houses. The Sealanyanes’ corrugated-iron shack, where his grandparents have always lived, seems alien here.

Tambo spends a great deal of his time trying to secure government housing for his grandparents. He went to court to have the title deed changed to reflect his name instead of his father’s. He has visited the municipality so many times attempting to have his grandparents put on the housing list that he has lost count.

“The municipal officials always accuse me of being emotional. I am worried that they think I’m still a fragile, damaged child.”

The subtext is the inescapable truth that Sello was “on the wrong side”, and everybody knows that Tambo is his son.

“I think about it every night. I remember the whole thing: there were 10 guys. My dad was lying on the couch. It was a Sunday afternoon. They came in and carried him outside. They just kept throwing stones and throwing … “

He has been shaking for some time, his lip quivering while telling his story. Now he hides his face while he cries. Two streets away, a peaceful election is taking place.

“It makes me think maybe my dad didn’t die for nothing.”

Sarah Evans

Sarah Evans

Sarah Evans interned at the Diamond Fields Advertiser in Kimberley for three years before completing an internship at the Mail & Guardian Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane). She went on to work as a Mail & Guardian news reporter with areas of interest including crime, law, governance and the nexus between business and politics.  Read more from Sarah Evans

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