The unhappy MK and APLA soldiers

11 June 2007

Cadres of the African National Congress and Pan Africanist Congress military wings played a pivotal role in the demise of apartheid, but many are finding life difficult in the new South Africa.

While some are doing well in their lives, many had great difficulty making the transition to normal life, felt betrayed and abandoned by their organisations, and marginalised in society.

So says Lynda von den Steinen, who graduates with a PhD in history this week, in her thesis, Experiencing the Armed Struggle: the Soweto generation and after.

Von den Steinen interviewed over two dozens soldiers who joined the struggle after the massacre, widely motivated by reggae music, sports, and their experiences with discrimination.

Supervised by Professor Christopher Saunders, Von den Steinen found that many rank-and-file UmKhonto weSizwe (MK) and Azanian People's Liberation Army (APLA) soldiers suffered from psychological and physical troubles.

However, they are proud of their contributions and access to education and skills training, and job placement would solve a lot of their problems, Von den Steinen suggested.

"If properly supported, they have a lot to contribute to the country."

She also looked for their experiences in leaving South Africa, their time, training, and life in exile, and their operations and work inside South Africa.

Von den Steinen was born in California in the US, obtained a BA at the University of California, San Diego, before her interest in African history led her to complete her honours, master's and, now, PhD at UCT.

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