Sicelo Mhlauli (1949 - 1985)
The Order of Luthuli in
Profile of Sicelo Mhlauli
Sicelo Mhlauli was born in Cradock in 1949.
After completing high school, he trained as a teacher at Lovedale College, Alice and taught at Tembalabantu High School in Zwelitsha Township in the mid-70s. He married Nombuyiselo Mhlauli (née Zonke) in 1980. They were blessed with three children.
Mhlauli was arrested and taken into custody for taking part in the students' strike at Tembalabantu High School. Ciskei police periodically interrogated him wherever he was. He was labelled a 'trouble-maker' and survived by relocating from one place to another without the police being able to trace him. He befriended another fierce activist, Matthew Goniwe. When Goniwe was arrested, Mhlauli often visited him.
Mhlauli was one of many who attended the launch of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in 1982. He eluded the police when he relocated to Oudtshoorn, where he started teaching in 1982. He continued with his political involvement in Oudtshoorn, despite attempts to stop him.
Mhlauli was an active member of the UDF. In 1983, he survived an arson attack in which his office and personal belongings were destroyed – an act attributable to the dirty tricks campaign of the apartheid securocrats.
In 1985, Mhlauli and his comrades Fort Calata, Matthew Goniwe and Sparrow Mkhonto were abducted, assaulted and brutally killed by the apartheid police while returning from a meeting in Port Elizabeth in what became known as the killing of the Cradock Four.
They sustained fatal injuries and were burnt 'to prevent identification'. The post-mortem results showed that Mhlauli was stabbed 43 times with different weapons and that the attackers poured acid on his face and chopped off his hand.
These murders sent shock waves around the country and about 40 000 mourners converged at the Lingelihle Stadium to pay their last respects to the young comrades who had sacrificed their lives for South Africa's liberation.
The spirits of the mourners were lifted when a massive South African Communist Party flag was unfolded and 'flown defiantly' at the funeral. The young lions were roaring from the grave.
Their murders came shortly after the murders of the Port Elizabeth Black Civic Organisation (PEBCO) members Sipho Hashe, Champion Galela and Qaqawuli Godolozi (known as the PEBCO Three). The Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings confirmed that the security police were indeed responsible for the murders of the PEBCO Three and the Cradock Four.
Sicelo Mhlauli is a symbol of selfless dedication to the cause of justice and equality. He was an outstanding teacher and his lessons to the communities of Cradock and Oudtshoorn spread across the whole country as a guiding light for all to realise the importance of selfless dedication to justice, democracy, and equality.
Mhlauli's contribution and unwavering commitment to the struggle for liberation will forever be etched in the minds of all freedom- loving South Africans.