Kenny Motsamai: Why I Don’t Want to Be Out Without Freedom

[Editor’s note: Piece written by supporters of Kenny Motsamai, PAC Freedom Fighter currently held as political prisoner in Occupied Azania (South Africa) on charges which he was illegitimately convicted of during the apartheid regime. The Burning Spear supports all political prisoners and demands that all political prisoners be released immediately. However, The Burning Spear does not necessarily agree with all views presented by the authors in this piece.]

Many a man have been known to take any and every chance to get out of prison, by hook or crook. Hardly has it ever happened that a person is offered an opportunity to get out of prison and they refuse to walk out. Such is the case of Kenny Doshane Motsamai, a member of the African People’s Liberation Army, who has spent 27 years in jail for daring to fight against the apartheid regime and defend his fellow Africans from crimes against humanity being perpetrated against them.

Amazingly for M-Afrika Kenny, as he is affectionately known, more than 80% of his prison time has been at the hands of those he helped to get to power after the apartheid regime left political office. Constitutional democracy, for him and other APLA cadres still languishing in jail, has a different meaning altogether.

Not many seem to understand the regionale behind his seemingly absurd decision to refuse to be let out of prison. In a letter leaked to the press, he points out to the Minister of Correctional Services, Mr Masutha, that what the minister is giving him is, in essence, an insult.

The conditions and his own words, make it blatantly clear that being out of prison is not the same thing as being a free man. The only change is that he is being offered a life without spending more than 3/4 of the day, in a prison cell but still being denied his freedom. As against being given unconditional freedom or, at worst, parole he is being offered a right to temporarily leave the prison precinct, under supervision. Listed below is a summary of some of the conditions attached to his prison outside prison offer.

1. Day parole subject to round the clock Electronic Monitoring

2. Permission to leave the prison on Mondays to Fridays (only week days) at 06:00am to 17:30 to a particular address

3.To be confined to this address for the duration of the so-called release

4.  To temporarily leave the Correctional Center under conditions such as:          

A) Direct supervision. 

B) Abstinence from alcohol/drugs/any intoxicating substance.         

C) You may not grant any interviews to the media or pose for photographs.                                      

D) Should you neglect to report to the head of Center on the appointed dat and time in order to serve the remainder of your sentence, it will be regarded that, from the date and time, you are illegally out of custody and a warrant for your arrest will be issued.                      

E) The breach of any of the conditions will, besides any other steps, have a negative infiuence on your date of placement on parole or futher concession to temporarily leave the Correctional Center and the total withdrawal of your parole placement.                                                 

F) You may at any time receive a visit from an authorised volunteer/official of the Department of Correctional Services.                                            

G) Should extra -ordinary circumstances prevent you from returning to the Correctional Center from where you came at the appointed date and time, you must report to the nearest Correctional Center for admission and also make a statement that you are the offender mentioned in the concession.                          

H) You may not enter into any contractual indebtedness or incur any debt.                                        

I) You shall not leave the magisterial district of BOKSBURG without written approval of the head of Correctional Center.        

J) You shall not bring any unauthorised items to the Center either for yourself or any other person in custody or otherwise.

Totally dissatisfied by the conditions, M-Afrika Kenny took up the matter further by writing the following letter to the Minister of Correctional Services, Minister Masutha:

Dear Sir

re: My Parole Representations (Prison Number 674037)

Honourable Minister, I approach you about my intended parole. As you are aware I am currently serving two (2) life sentences plus 19 years at Boksburg Correctional Centre, Gauteng. 

Basic Facts:

I was arrested, charged, tried, convicted and sentenced on the following allegations:

1. Armed Robbery

2. Murder

3. Illegal possession of firearm

4. Illegal possession of ammunition

During the course of my trial, in 1989, for fear of disclosing sensitive information which could have potentially compromised my fellow comrades and/or the Azanian People’s Liberation Army (APLA) I chose not to advancve a defence based on the political motivation behind the acts that I was charged with. Even though I did not advance a political defence, due to my political conviction I refused to recognize the jurisdiction and authority of the court and officials presiding over my matter.

My refusal meant that I did not lead any evidence in my defence, thus leading to an effective trial in absentia. This was an indictment to the apartheid justice system as a whole. I took and maintained a clear political position that the apartheid regime and its institutions were all illegitimate, as they represented the colonization of Africans by “illegal settlers”.

That the apartheid judiciary and justice system, as a whole, was racially biased and unfair is common knowledge. Having refused to recognize such jurisdiction and authority I was effectively tried unfairly and thus convicted as though I was a common criminal, whereas, in actual fact, I was a political convict, a prisoner of conscience, more-so that the United Nations, under the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of Apartheid, had already declared apartheid a crime against humanity.

Subsequently I was found guilty and sentenced as stated above.

I now approach you regarding my parole, and the issue of conditions:

Firstly, I appreciate the efforts that have been made and the gesture to release me on parole but there are some issues that need to be brought to your personal attention and therefore consideration and decision.

Given the fact that I was imprisoned for political reasons and that my political organisation has, over the years confirmed my membership and operations I should be treated as a political prisoner and not a criminal and should therefore be considered for unconditional parole.

Further complication is that I am being cornered to sign up on my release without the right to consult my legal representatives on the matter. How can I take such a decision whilst being denied my constitutional right to legal representation?

My matter is political and not criminal. The political nature of the matter is stated here:

It is common cause that drastic measures had to be taken to respond to and therefore seek to bring an end to the oppressive, discriminatory, inhumane, demeaning and genocidal rule of the apartheid regime. Amongst the said drastic measures was the sanctioned elimination of anyone and everyone who was identified as the enemy.

Further, it is common cause that the liberation movements were ill-resourced and had to rely on the philanthropy of well-wishers, in the absence of which financing the struggle was near impossible, as a direct consequence of the application of apartheid laws. Given the obviously limited resources, any and all means were utilized to ensure the freedom of the oppressed people. Amongst the avenues used to finance the struggle, was what, under “normal circumstances”, could be viewed and considered as acts of criminality, namely theft, car-jacking, plain robbery and armed robbery. 

After the necessary verification processes, with the necessary supporting documentation, from the Azanian People’s Liberation Army (APLA) and the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC), being supplied to the Case Management Committee and the Parole Board, there is no doubt as to the authenticity of the fact that I was an official operative of APLA.

It is not in dispute that APLA was a guerilla movement falling under the auspices of the PAC, just as much as the African National Congress had Umkhonte weSizwe as the guerilla arm of the movement. It is further not in dispute that PAC, just like the ANC, was involved in the active fight against the apartheid regime and exercised the universal human right to self determination by an oppressed people.

The contradiction behind my case is that I have effectively spent more than 26 years in jail; 5 of those years under the illegitimate and illegal apartheid regime that I fought against and the other 21 years under a constitutional democracy that I laid my life down for, under the same charges and sentence. With the latter simply having taken over the sentences and continued recognizing them without challenge or question. 

With apartheid having been declared over, as far back as 1994, it defies logic that a freedom fighter whose freedom was taken away by the apartheid regime, under the circumstances such as mine should, on every 27th of April, be sitting out Freedom Day, without freedom, in a jail cell.

Despite being sentenced under common law crimes it is evident, from the stance that I took when I first appeared in court that I made a political statement and hence suggesting that the acts I was charged with were politically motivated. In view of the politically sensitive and militarized state of South Africa at the time, it was not possible to advance a defence which would have compelled me to disclose, militarily and politically sensitive information in my defence. Such disclosure would have been of no use to my personal defence but would, on the contrary, have potentially compromised me further, other operatives and the movement in general.

Despite being locked up for almost 4 years in an apartheid prison my spirit was never broken. In complete defiance and continued refusal to recognize the authority of the apartheid regime and inspired by the desire to see the fight against apartheid to the very end I escaped from prison in 1993. After my escape I rejoined the APLA forces operating within South Africa and was arrested again in 1994.

Even though I a political prisoner, I have attended pre-release programs and have been very pivotal in making a positive contribution in advancing prison safety for inmates. Inspired by principles and values of Ubuntu and the unity of African people I helped to create programs to end gangsterism in prison.

The mere fact that I am now applying for unconditional parole, does not mean I am voluntarily waiving my right to apply for full Presidential Pardon in terms of the Constitution of South Africa, given the political nature of my matter. I reserve the right to make such application in the future, should such need arise.

To be called upon to accept conditional release is no different from when the apartheid regime was offering freedom to political prisoners on condition that they renounce the armed struggle, now I am being offered freedom if I renounce my status as a political prisoner and accept a criminal status.

Minister Masutha, I therefore implore you to use your authority and discretion to give me my freedom unconditionally so that, like other South Africans Freedom Day may have a different meaning.

Please kindly acknowledge receipt.

Your urgent attention to this matter will most appreciated.

Yours faithfully

Kenny Motsamai​

Sabelo Sibanda

Ubuntu Finance and Investments Group

Cell:+27 (0)73 084 5415 || Fax Number:+27 (0)862709390 || Skype: sabelo.dawu

Twitter: @sabelosibanda || Linkedin: Sabelo Sibanda || Website:


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