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A mother’s memories

Sicelo Dlomo’s mother has always wanted the best for her six children. Like all mothers, her greatest wish was to see them all grow up and become something in life.

But her dream for her children was smashed on the 24th of January. Mama Sylvia will never forget that day for as long as she lives.

She arrived home at midday after visiting a friend in Emdeni, near her home in Soweto. She was about to open the gate when a police van stopped next to her house. She knew something terrible had happened when she saw Maxwell, her eldest son, climb out of the van with Sicelo’s shoes in his hands.

She was told that Sicelo was found lying dead in a field outside Emdeni township in Soweto early that morning. He had a bullet wound in the back of his head. Mama Sylvia agreed to speak to Learn and Teach about Sicelo a few days after the funeral. In a sad, quiet voice, she shared her memories with us:


“Sicelo was a wonderful child. He was very kind. As a young child Sicelo was very curious. He asked about everything. He always wanted to learn more.

“There were times when he, like all children, was naughty. But he always listened and was very sweet. He always used to sit and listen to his grandmother tell him stories. Sometimes he would sing and dance for her. He was his grandmother’s baby.

“Sicelo was always very helpful. He was always around to go to the shop or clean the garden. He would wake up in the morning and clean the house and iron the school uniforms of all the children before he went to school. He was not the kind of boy who would sit around and watch you work.

“He loved the children very much. They also liked him a lot. He would call them and let them stand in a row and tell them to sing for him. They loved singing with him. Sometimes he would phone me from the DPSC office in town where he was working and ask me to call the children to sing for him. That was Sicelo – he had the heart of a young boy and the mind of a man.

“He was a very caring young man. He used to visit the Orphanage in Jabulani to see the children who lived there. He even adopted a small boy from the orphanage called Mongezi.

“Mongezi and Sicelo loved being together. Sicelo always gave him his old clothes and used to say that he was his son. Mongezi always comes to visit us on weekends. The poor boy will miss Sicelo as much as we do.”


“When Sicelo started school, he did very well. He was a very clever person. He also liked school a lot. He liked to sit down after school and read any book he could get. He loved reading so much that sometimes we forced him to leave his books and to go play with other children.

“Sicelo went to Luyoyo Primary School. During his last year there, the school principal visited me one day and said, “l know your son. He is a very clever young man. He is going to be something one day. Take him to Pace College next year. It is a good school and that is where Sicelo must go to.”

“What a lucky mother I am to have a son like Sicelo,’ I said to myself. I wanted him to go to Pace College but I did not have the kind of money for such a good and expensive school. But luckily the primary school principal helped me to get the money.

“It was during Sicelo’s first year at Pace that I saw a change in him. He still liked reading a lot but he was becoming responsible. He used to sit and read till early in the morning. Life was now a serious thing for him. The man in Sicelo was beginning to rise.

“It was then that we all saw that Sicelo had become part of the struggle. He started talking about how people suffer. At first I feared for his safety. I told him about the dangers that go with the struggle. He said he was prepared to go to prison and even die for what he believed in. He was a very strong person – not even a mountain could move him.


“Besides being a busy Soweto Students Congress (Sosco) member and a student leader, he still had time for everything. He would do his schoolwork, then dash off to a meeting and come back to sit with the family. In the evening he liked to read aloud from the Bible for his grandmother.

“Soon the police started to keep an eye on him. He was among those people who were taken under the State of Emergency in 1986. I will not forget that time. It was sad for me because I could not see him for a long time. He was taken to Krugersdorp Prison.

“That was the beginning of a change in me. I asked myself if I was doing enough, not only for Sicelo, but also for my people. I saw that he was right in all that he was doing and told myself that I would always stand by him.

“Soon I started meeting other women whose children were also in detention. I joined a women’s organisation. I saw that I had been living with my eyes closed. It was my son who opened my eyes to the real world.

“My advice to all the mothers and families who have lost their loved ones like me is that they must try and understand their children. They must not tell them to stop going to meetings, but they must go with them to these meetings and stand with them, side by side. That is what Sicelo taught me.”


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