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Mandela In Lobatse (Part 4)

We left off with select members of the Bechuanaland Protectorate (BP) Police busy giving Constable Moabelo, Sergeant Pio and other members of the South African Police (S.A.P.) Special Branch (SB) the run around in their efforts to discover the location of Mandela.

Across the border in Zeerust the S.A.P. operational commander, Major Moolman waited in vain with his extradition papers.

Acting on high level instruction from London, the BP Resident Commissioner, Peter Fawcus, had a clear duty to ensure that Mandela did not fall into S.A.P. hands while under British jurisdiction. In this context, his Divisional Special Branch Officer responsible for the Southern Protectorate, Inspector Innes-Ker, feared Moolman and his team might have more sinister cards up their sleeves. Reporting to his superiors of “possible eventualities” he observed:

“It can be accepted that the S.A.P. are fairly sure that Mandela is in the territory, but that they do not know he is actually in Lobatsi. The least the S.A.P. will do if they become aware of Mandela’s location is to apply for extradition. The possibility, despite the repercussions of the Ganyile affair, of a kidnap should not entirely be discounted.”

Innes-Ker in this context was referring to an August 1961 incident when ANC activist Anderson Khumani “Dan” Ganyile and two other refugees were kidnapped by S.A.P. from their home inside Lesotho. Fortunately, Ganyile was able to smuggle out a letter detailing his circumstance causing an international outcry, including British MPs amongst others, which ultimately resulted in his and his colleagues’ release and repatriation back to Lesotho.

As it was in his conversations with BP, Corporal Kiba, “Moabelo said that the S.A.P. wanted to come in at night and take Mandela to the Republic.”

Although “Mandela’s presence was [then] known to only a limited number of Africans in Peleng, and to the Police and Administrative Officers in the European community of Lobatsi,” Innes-Ker was especially concerned about the MK fugitive’s flight delay. This concern was heightened by the knowledge that through Rybricki the S.A.P. were also aware that Mandela’s onward flight could not take place for at least another four days, that is until January 19, 1962.

Anticipating a further increase in the S.A.P. undercover presence in his jurisdiction, Innes-Ker felt that it would be highly desirable, if not likely, that Mandela would take off from a location other than Lobatse.

The possibility of Mandela finding safer sanctuary before catching a flight out of somewhere further north was contemplated, but until the eve of the flight he remained in and around Peleng.

Notwithstanding the shadow of S.A.P., Madiba apparently enjoyed his stay, later recalling:

“I stayed with my fellow Treason Trialist Fish Keitseng, who had since moved to Lobatse. That afternoon I met Professor

K.T. Motsete, the President of the Bechuanaland People’s Party, which had been formed mainly by ex-ANC members. I now had unexpected spare time, which I used for reading, preparing my speech for the conference and hiking through the wild and beautiful hills above the town.

“I felt as though I was in an exotic land. I was often accompanied by Max Mlonyeni, the son of a friend from Transkei and a young member of the PAC. It was as though we were on safari, for we encountered all manner of animals, including a battalion of sprightly baboons, which I followed for some time, admiring their military-like organisation and movements.”

Mandela’s account of the period dovetails with that of Fish Keitseng:

“Mandela slept there with me, and at five o’ clock in the morning, he woke up. He said he wanted to go do some training. He didn’t even want to wait for tea, and he only drank some in the evening. We went on top of a big hill, Peleng Hill, crossed it, and then went by the Kanye road until we went on top of another hill near Bathoen’s siding. You know, Mandela used to eat just once a day. Also, if we stopped somewhere to rest, he used to read books.

He said he was teaching himself how to be a freedom fighter. The man was always that way. I you want to cut the tree you must first sharpen the axe. Mandela was just staying in Lobatse with me. We spent many days together, going out training in the bush. Some of the time Max Mlonyeni would join us.”

The routine continued for a couple of days when Keitseng and Mandela were joined by Joe Matthews, who was also to fly out to Tanganyika. Unable to arrange a northern departure, and with the S.A.P. keeping a close eye on Jonas Matlou who had replaced Cajee as Mandela’s local transport, Keitseng reached out to Sam Chand in Mochudi:

“I decided to go find another Indian who lived in Mochudi, called Sam Chand, who used to help refugees…early in the morning I took them to Chand’s house. Mandela was supposed to go to Kasane by car to get a plane, but the airstrip was damaged there. So instead they changed the plan and they brought the plane to Lobatse. Chand and I took Mandela and Matthews to the plane when it arrived, and they went.”

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