GRAVES FOR OUR HEROES

Everson Luhanga

To commemorate June 16th we join Linda Twala of Alexandra

Linda Twala has been a godfather to Alexandra for half a century. 

He has spent most of his life protecting victims of apartheid – arranging graves for activists killed by the police, and giving food and clothing to the poor.

Now he has another enemy to deal with – Covid-19. Bab’ uTwala is on the streets of Alexandra, dressed in full protective gear, giving out food parcels to people whose lives have been wrecked by the lockdown.

Twala calls himself a “servant of the people”.

In an exclusive interview with Scrolla.Africa at his house in Alexandra, Bab’ uTwala says his proudest achievements have been arranging headstones for the youths who died in the 1976 uprising and the 1986 police clampdown in Alex.

He says he buried many of the victims of these attacks under apartheid – including Sipho Mavimbela. We recently interviewed Sipho’s mother Emily, who said “I am very grateful and thankful to Mr Linda Twala. I’ll never stop appreciating him. The good work that he does is from God and his heart cannot be compared with anyone on earth”.

Under apartheid, Bab’ uTwala was a community activist. He said he has survived assassination attempts – including one time when “two hitmen came to my house to kill me. But when I arrived back from work, the hitmen saw me, left the guns and money they were paid to kill me on the table and left.”

The 76-year-old Twala says he is lucky to be alive today.

Linda Twala and his younger sister Philisile Twala outside their mud house in Alex

With tears in his eyes he reflects on “the dark past,” saying:

  • “The freedom we enjoy today didn’t come cheap”
  • “There was a bloodbath”
  • “There was pain and tears”
  • “People lost lives”
  • “It was a very hard time to live”
  • “People lost close friends and family members they loved”

But in all these years, many of these people have not been recognised.

“With the help of some well wishers, I personally took the lead and became the voice to have the slain youth be recognised as heroes, especially in Alexandra.”

It all started when he was 23 years old, when he buried gogo Rose Tshabalala. Gogo Rose was one of the many people who used to get food from Twala’s mom. “Whenever gogo Rose came to get food she would point at me with her walking stick, telling me that when she dies, I should bury her.”

So when she died, Twala decided to grant gogo Rose’s wish.

He asked an undertaker, BOS Sibeko Funeral, to help him bury the gogo.

Although his parents didn’t think he would arrange a proper funeral for the gogo, Twala said he surprised them. Gogo Rose was buried and Twala’s dad congratulated him for the good job.

Bab’ uTwala has had a colourful and varied business career. “I worked as a salesman at different companies as a young man. I enjoyed working but serving people has been my calling.”

He attributes his love for people to his mother. “My mother would take all our food and give it to a visitor who had just arrived at our home, and prepare us another meal. She loved people,” he said.

What has kept Bab’ uTwala strong at his age?

Bab’ uTwala said love for the people has kept him going. 

For the past three months when South Africa has been in Lockdown, Bab’uTwala has been with people in many different communities.

He has been giving the most vulnerable food packages and personal protective equipment in Alexandra, Diepsloot, Soweto, Tembisa, Honeydew, Vosloorus, and other communities – working with the help of One People Fund, Tebogo Mogashoa, Rotary Rosebank, Gift of the Givers, Feed SA, Maningi Metals, Rail to Rail Furnishes, 30 Strong Voices of Alex and other donors.