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Max Sisulu

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South Africa’s truth commission on Monday began its first major hearing into the African National Congress guerilla campaign against apartheid, starting with testimony on a spate of bombings. Ten cadres from the ANC’s military wing Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) are seeking amnesty from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in exchange for acknowledging responsibility for bombings that took place from 1980 to 1988. At least 23 people were killed and more than 350 injured in 13 attacks orchestrated by the Umkhonto special operations unit.

The first witness, Aboobaker Ismail, was the special operations commissar of Umkhonto. Now 43 years old and a senior official in the post-apartheid defense department, he admitted before the panel that he had ordered the bombings. Ismail said he regretted the loss of civilian life, but still believed the ANC’s struggle was just, saying “The ANC has never been callous in its struggle. We never set out deliberately to attack civilian targets.” Ismail denounced the killing of civilians by the former white government during its cross-border raids into neighboring states in the search for ANC operatives, saying, “Their deaths were never justifiable.”

Today, a conversation with Max Sisulu who was a commander of the Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the ANC, which is currently before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.; he is now the chief whip of the South African parliament. His father, Walter Sisulu, was the founder of Umkhonto we Sizwe and a close friend of President Nelson Mandela.


  • Max Sisulu, the ANC chief whip of the South African parliament. He was in exile for 27 years. His father, Walter Sisulu was head of the armed wing of the ANC.

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