President Jacob Zuma will never forget Groot Marico in North West, he said on Wednesday.
“I will never forget this place. It is where I was arrested in 1963, while we were on our way to exile,” he said at the unveiling of the President Jacob Zuma Arrest Site.
Zuma and 52 other Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) recruits were on their way via Botswana for military training abroad, when they were arrested in Groot Marico.
Narrating how they were arrested, Zuma said they were travelling in three minibus taxis from Johannesburg, the driver of their minibus taxi wanted to take a short road to the Botswana border but got lost.
“The driver confessed that we were lost and wanted to go back because they were only dropping people off at night, he came with stories like his fuel tank was leaking and the petrol was not enough to take us to our destination. We told him to go we will take out our money and fill the car,” he said.
“We arrived here [Groot Marico] and the police stopped us, we were taken to Zeerust and questioned. We were taken in one by one, and we did not have a story to tell, others said we were a [soccer] team, the were a lot of stories.”
He said they were beaten and separated from others after questioning.
“We were put in one cell and planned to escape, in the morning the police formed a chain from the door of the cell to the door of the van, we realised that there is no way we can escape except one fellow Riot Mkhonazi, he saw a small gap between the police and went for it. They caught him before he reached the gate. We realised no one could take a risk…”
He said they were kept in police custody in Pretoria and beaten for nine days. He was later sentenced to ten years at the Robben Island.
The Groot Marico Heritage and Arrest Site along the N4 highway between Zeerust and Rustenburg was dedicated to the liberation heritage struggle and to the contribution to the freedom of the oppressed in South Africa by the countless activists who crossed through the Zeerust/Lobatse border into exile.
The six metre tall oblique was unveil amid concerns from opposition parities in North West, that the money used on it could have best used for service delivery.
North West premier Supra Mahumapelo said the money used at the site was less than R2-million.