Andrew Zondo, was a courageous freedom fighter, whose life was marked by a fierce determination to resist the oppressive apartheid regime that sought to perpetuate racial segregation and discrimination.
Born around 1966 or 1967 in KwaMashu, a township near Durban, Andrew Zondo developed an early interest in politics. Joining the ANC at the age of 16, he later became a member of the Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) paramilitary wing.
Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) was founded by Nelson Mandela in response to the Sharpeville massacre, in which the apartheid authority killed 69 people, 29 of whom were children, and injured 180 peaceful demonstrators. Its mission was to combat the oppressive rule of the South African government, which perpetuated racial segregation and injustice.
At the age of 16, Zondo was sent to Angola, where he underwent training as a guerrilla fighter with the objective of challenging South Africa’s apartheid government.
Fueled by the apartheid government’s violent suppression of anti-apartheid movements, Zondo committed to the cause, participating in various acts of sabotage against symbols of apartheid.
One of the most significant events in Zondo’s activism was the bombing of a shopping center in Amanzimtoti on December 23, 1985 as a response to the South African security forces conducting a raid in Lesotho, which resulted in the deaths of nine innocent anti-apartheid civilian activists just three days earlier.
Unfortunately, the bombing resulted in the tragic death of five people and injured dozens. While Zondo’s intentions were to challenge the system, the loss of lives sparked a debate surrounding his actions.
In reaction to the bombing, former ANC president Oliver Tambo stated that killing civilians went against ANC policy, and accordingly he disapproved of the bombing, but understood the reasons for it being carried out.
Zondo was arrested 6 days later and tried for his involvement in the Amanzimtoti bombing. Despite widespread calls for clemency, he was convicted and sentenced to death on each of the five counts and refused leave to appeal.
During Zondo’s trial, he claimed that he intended to call the shopping centre to warn them about the blast but couldn’t find an available telephone booth.
On September 9, 1986, Andrew Zondo was hanged, becoming a martyr for the anti-apartheid cause. Two of his co-accused, Phumezo Nxiweni and Stanley Sipho Bhila, were acquitted but were later extrajudicially executed by the apartheid security branch. Nxiweni was thrown off a cliff and Bhila was shot, their murderers were granted amnesty at the Truth and Reconciliation Trial (TRC).
At Zondo’s memorial service, his brother was severely assaulted by the apartheid state security forces in retaliation to Zondo’s bombing. The assault led to him developing epilepsy, ultimately resulting in his death. The security forces also shot two mourners dead while they were leaving Zondo’s parents’ home after the memorial service.
In the post-apartheid era, Andrew Zondo is remembered as a symbol of resistance and sacrifice. While the ethical implications of his actions remain a subject of debate, his commitment to dismantling an oppressive system continues to inspire those who strive for justice and equality.
General Siphiwe Nyanda, former Chief of Staff of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), when asked about Zondo’s legacy, said “The fact that Andrew Zondo was engaged in such an act, does not make him an outcast in our own vocabulary. He is still our hero.”
Today, Zondo’s contribution to the struggle against apartheid lives on as a reminder of the sacrifices made by freedom fighters like him, who dared to challenge an unjust system—ultimately paving the way for a free and democratic South Africa.