Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Motsamai journeys from prison to Parliament

From swapping the orange overalls of a prisoner for the red overalls of the Economic Freedom Fighters, to the National Council of Provinces, Kenny Motsamai says his fight for freedom is not over.

The newly sworn-in delegate was only recently released from Boksburg prison and is on parole after serving almost 28 years behind bars. He was convicted in 1989 for the murder of a traffic officer in Rustenburg.

At the time he was a commander in the Azanian People’s Liberation Army (Apla), the armed wing of the Pan Africanist Congress.

During a bank robbery, which Apla said was to finance its armed struggle, combatants encountered police and the traffic officer was killed.

He was released on parole in January 2017 but arrested later for violating his parole conditions. He was released again in 2018 and, that July, joined the EFF.

“There’s a lot of change,” says Motsamai, after being sworn in last week as a member of the sixth democratically elected Parliament. “I’m happy that, at the end of the day, all South Africans are free. We are enjoying the democracy that we fought for. Even though there are some political prisoners who are still not free.”

He was welcomed by a round of applause and cheering from most members of the National Council of Provinces.

Technically, Motsamai should not qualify for his seat. The Constitution says people who are sentenced to a prison term of more than 12 months without the option of a fine cannot serve in Parliament or any provincial legislature. But, before the swearing-in ceremony, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng explained why Motsamai qualified. “The particular delegate was convicted in 1989 and the Constitution took effect in 1996 … So this section seems not to extend to or to exclude that delegate.”

Motsamai says that, although the EFF’s legal team hadn’t expected any problems, he was still anxious. “After the chief justice commented on that it was a shock to me. I didn’t know what to say.”

Motsamai believes that he and other political prisoners who are still serving time have been forgotten by the current democratic dispensation governed by the ANC since 1994. “I served for 28 years. More than Nelson Mandela. I’m in the league of President Mandela, Tokyo Sexwale, Mathews Phosa and other political prisoners. I served 28 years like Jafta Masemola, but I was not recognised by our black people.”

Even though he’s now a representative in the legislature, Motsamai says he still wants to clear his name and have his criminal record erased. “There’s nothing to be expunged. Apartheid was a crime against humanity. And if you say I have a criminal record? I feel I can’t be a criminal in a criminal state.”

Motsamai says his task in the National Council of Provinces will be to serve on committees dealing with military veterans and to bring attention to the many apartheid-era political prisoners still in jail.

“I want to focus on the issue of military veterans. Those who are now old and suffering. Those who I was with in the liberation struggle. I also want to focus on political prisoners. Those I was fighting with against the system, they are still behind bars. I have to talk to the government of the ANC to release those political prisoners, and to ensure their criminal records are squashed.”

Subscribe to the M&G

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and receive a 40% discount on our annual rate..

Related stories

Advertising

Subscribers only

Seven years’ radio silence for taxpayer-funded Rhythm FM

Almost R50-million of taxpayers’ money has been invested but the station is yet to broadcast a single show

Q&A Sessions: Zanele Mbuyisa — For the love of people-centred...

She’s worked on one of the biggest class-action cases in South Africa and she’s taken on Uber: Zanele Mbuyisa speaks to Athandiwe Saba about advocating for the underrepresented, getting ‘old’ and transformation in the law fraternity

More top stories

ANC confirms it will oppose Magashule’s court application

The ruling party has briefed senior counsel Wim Trengove to head the team that will contest Magashule’s bid to fight his suspension and oust Ramaphosa instead

Magashule defies suspension order and KZN leaders’ advice that he...

A strategy by the KwaZulu-Natal ANC to control the narrative coming out of former president Zuma’s court appearance for arms deal corruption and fraud was thwarted

Landmark Deadly Air case: 10 000 deaths annually can be...

There is no legal mechanism in place to implement and enforce measures to prevent toxic air pollution in the Highveld

No masks. No Covid. But problems do abound

With no cases of Covid-19, a Zimbabwe informal settlement’s residents are more concerned about making ends meet – and their imminent eviction
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×