Two nights ago, I watched the Netflix movie SILVERTON SIEGE, and I was aghast at a number of things. I understand artistic licence, but what I saw was not artistic licence at work but rather yet another contribution to fake news and yet another attempt at falsely putting whites at the heroic centre of a black story. So, I wasn’t surprised today in seeing a new report where the family of one of the real Silverton Trio, Stephen Mafoko has turned to the courts to try and stop the movie.
In January 1980 Stephen Mafoko, Humphrey Makhubo and Wilfred Madela, an MK cell who were pursued by police took refuge in a branch of Volkskas Bank in Silverton, Pretoria, and thus began a siege where 25 people in the bank became hostages. The three MK soldiers were killed in a fire-fight and 2 civilians caught up in the crossfire lost their lives and others were injured.
In the movie we have a contrived trio of stereotypes to make a “Rainbow-Nation” story of a “Black” man, “Coloured” man, and “Black” woman the unit of MK of cadres – screen names Calvin Khumalo, Aldo Erasmus and Mbali Terra, with the stereotype of the “Coloured” man being treacherous. We then have the contrived notion of a professional and enlightened and thoughtful security policeman caught between racist dumb-assed uniformed police and a radical ‘terrorist group’ just trying to do his job. There are a range of stereotype hostages, but taking the cake is a sub-stories of a stereotyped white-in-appearance black woman, playing for white, and an African American boxing promoter in the role of honorary-white.
But at the centre of the story with much revolving around her is the “Jesus-Figure” white woman CHRISTine, the heroine of the story. A black story becomes a white story – as CHRISTine the sacrificial lamb who dies for “Freedom of Black South Africans” after seeing the light.
For young South Africans, black and white, in fictionalising and faking the story of the Silverton Trio, in an age where fake news is beginning to fashion our history and heritage, approaches like this are doing South Africa a huge disservice besides being insulting to our real history and heritage. This is particularly distressing in an age where everything the liberation struggle stood for is being betrayed by the current incompetent, corrupt, and delinquent Political Estate often who have a fake cultivated hero status.
On one Freedom Day a few years back, I watched a news broadcast where a TV journalist was walking on campus and stopping to talk to groups of students to gauge their understanding of significant elements of history. Microphone in hand he stopped a group of students to ask “Can any of you explain who Oliver Tambo was?”
They looked with blank faces and smiles to each other, and then one young woman got excited and started flapping her hands and saying “wait, wait, wait, I’ve got this one… yes, I know it, I know it! It’s the airport guy, isn’t it?” And they all started saying “yeah, you got it…. The airport guy.”
Our history and heritage is being stripped to pieces and abused for all sorts of things. I wrote a book, THE LIE OF 1652 and really got annoyed when people started using it to back their false narratives and fake claims around the Observatory fiasco. I had initially said to myself let me keep quiet and try to ensure a non-partisan view. But then my own work was being dragged into this ugly and unjustifiable bunfight and distorted. Day by day the claims began to become obscenely false. I have removed myself from any remote decision-making role around these matters and have subsequently explained my non-partisan view which critiques both sides in this fiasco. The modern-day causes have now become the REALITY to hell with the past. Everything is shaped around the opportunism of the day. Its all quite disgusting and as contemptuous as the “empty land” theories and other denialism in history.
Here, like with this movie, again everything is about two opposing groups of white people and their vested interests, drawing in two groups of black people into a divide and rule bunfight based on falsehoods simply to give credibility to their claims. In the bunfight all round, there is a torrential rainfall of fakery in the realm of modern-day invented identities based on mimicking colonial stereotypes and falsehood narratives of the 17th century, just like this fictionalisation of Silverton Siege, will become a fake version that overshadows the real events. There is a shifting of sites of struggle away from the areas in which it happened and the creation of white heroes with feet of clay.
Of course, when one critiques this from a historical and heritage position each side accuses one of taking the other side. So deep is the indoctrination around the fakery those involved simply cannot conceive that there may be a totally different critique of both white stories. Their ends justifies the means. In this case, the fact that as an 8-year-old I was an actual witness to a disastrous set of ravaging actions that created a fake environment that is now being hidden by those who were culprits doesn’t matter because fake versions are the new truth. The patterns that set the lies of 1652 now become the same patterns used to create the lies of the 21st century.
I feel for the Mafoko family as the only thing that they have left of Stephen Mafoko, and for that matter the other families too of Humfrey Makhubo and Wilfred Madela, is that they were liberation fighters that are etched in memory for all time as the SILVERTON TRIO and their SILVERTON SIEGE. What we once all were witnesses to as the events of our time will simply become “The guys in that movie!” The arguments of “it is fiction” don’t wash. It seems that every precious event in our history is altered to put white heroism and morality at the centre. The struggle is increasingly told as though it was a white struggle against Apartheid where black role-players are an incidental sideshow. The crucifixion scene of CHRISTine shows a scene of her arms outstretched as though on a cross falling backwards into a Pieta-type scene following that. She is cast as the true self-sacrificing heroine of the movie….. just like the journalist-editor Donald Woods was cast as the sacrificing hero of the Steven Biko story….. not much has changed over the years in South Africa since 1977….. and 1980.
Written by Patric Tariq Mellet