TRC helped start a national dialogue with past — but was not enough
Tando Tullia Keke is a remarkable young women who takes risk for the Lord to what some would say is the extreme. But she is not afraid to step out of the boat when she hears God’s voice.
It’s not surprising. Born in exile 29 years ago to the then UK head of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), former Robben Islander, the late Zolile Hamilton Keke, and his nursing sister wife, Nomtunzi, the elder Keke’s took a stand and left the brutality of the apartheid state on Valentine’s Day in 1981.
First Zolile fled to Tanzania, via Lesotho and then to London. His wife and baby son, Khanyisa, joined him later. Two daughters were born in exile: Tando and her younger sister Anelisa. A third sister, Busisiwe, 21, was born after the family returned in 1992.
Now this joy-filled, passionate, eloquent and sensitive young woman who is remarkably free of any bitterness, has a vision for authentic healing, restoration and reconciliation in Africa and the world. She is not interested in taking up the political mantle of her father because she was born for a different purpose: she wants to see the nation and its people reconciled and healed.
Prophetic ministry and inner healing
To this end she has been accepted for the 2014 fall internship in prophetic ministry and inner healing at the House of Prayer Evansville (HOPE). HOPE is a praying missional community in Indiana, USA, which focuses on sustainable missions, training and transformational justice in local and global contexts.
“It is a community where Christ is at the centre of all activity, a place where love, grace and honour abound in vibrant communities and in families,” Tando says.
“My internship is for three months from September with a focus on inner healing and during this time I will serve fulltime alongside their staff.”
She will serve in the HOPE justice department, crisis pregnancy centre, soup kitchen, food and clothing pantry, urban farming, prayer room, Healing Rooms, and the crisis response unit among others.
“After my internship I intend to give back by teaching and equipping people in my local community about the spiritual and emotional healing tools that I have acquired during this internship,” she says.
Next year a Masters in Justice and Transformation at University of Cape Town (UCT) is on the cards with her dissertation focusing on trauma, memory and truth. The Evansville internship will provide her with a spiritual strategy and Biblical perspective to accompany her academic knowledge.
“I am passionate about social justice transformation in South Africa and Africa through spiritual and emotional healing,” says Tando.
“The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was effective in opening our national dialogue with the past. It was cathartic to provide people with the opportunity to tell their stories, to find answers to their questions but it wasn’t enough.”
Our nation still bleeds, she says, as the spectre of apartheid’s trauma refuses to die but she wants to see justice “God’s way”.
Freedom and justice for the marginalised
Although her dad had a bigger mandate to see “this nation and the nations of Africa set free” for her it is the smaller picture, the individuals, everyday stories that never get told, people who disappear into the background of society and are marginalised.
She says she knew from a young age that politics was not going to be her path although it was her legacy.
“With that legacy, what I carry on is to see people personally set free and to see justice. I have the same very strong heart for justice that my father had. He was in despair at the resource-rich but starving Africa and watched as the gains of independence were ravaged by greed, individualism and civil war. He saw a measure of freedom in his lifetime and he got to live it but many didn’t.”
Her own family were deeply and directly affected by apartheid. Following the Sharpeville massacre in 1960, her father became active in POQO, the armed wing of the PAC. Ripped from his family and imprisoned as a teenager at 17, he spent 10 years on Robben Island along with Robert Sobukwe and other PAC leaders.
The man who was described by his comrades as a dignified and honest revolutionary, continued the struggle after his release. In 1977 he was one of 86 PAC members arrested and one of 18 charged at the Bethal Treason Trial for fomenting revolution and organising the Soweto Uprising. Four men died during interrogation and he was one of those who were severely tortured. He was the only one released and given a suspended sentence as there was not enough evidence to convict him.
After his release he continued working with the underground PAC, working closely with the Black Consciousness Movement and Steve Biko before leaving the country. He later acted as adviser to Richard Attenborough during the filming of Cry Freedom.
Her father was a friendly, charismatic man who made lots of friends and once famously arrived at an anti-apartheid rally dressed up as Santa.
Keke died in February last year after complications following chest surgery and uncontrolled diabetes. He was a man who lived out his convictions.
The apple does not fall far from the tree. Tando is not afraid to step out in faith and follow hers. Last year she courageously went to the USA to explore a relationship: ultimately it wasn’t the reason God took her there but he uses all things to accomplish his purposes and in the process opened up opportunities for her to minister powerfully through sharing her testimony to hurting people in America. While there she was invited to speak at a homeless women’s shelter in Evansville, as well as at a faith-based drug and alcohol abuse recovery centre.
What is remarkable in this determined young woman’s life is the fact that despite having faced racism and discrimination, she has risen above it and although she has been emotionally wounded by some of the attacks, she has not embraced any form of hostility towards others. Some of these incidents include being rejected by black students she was lecturing at a local university because they felt cheated that a black person was teaching them English; and being called a coconut because she speaks with an English accent and battles with the clicks of Xhosa.
“I’m very aware of what I have lived through but I don’t magnify bad things. It is easy to get caught up in negatives and in the past but I don’t want to harbour bitterness, resentment and unforgiveness towards others.
“I understand emotional wounding because I saw it in my dad,” she says. “He experienced a lot and had constant reminders but he did not discuss his personal experiences in prison.
“We can’t sweep the past under the carpet. That is very, very dangerous because it is a time bomb. It is also a spiritual issue because if you don’t deal with it, you just pass it on.”
The TRC had opened wounds and was a first step in the process to get people talking.
“We can’t leave it septic. My mom still remembers how the secret police would arrive at funerals to arrest mourners and shoot those who fled. It is still a painful memory. They would sing the song ‘Senzeni na?’ Which means, ‘what have we done to deserve this?’ ”
God has healed a lot of brokenness in Tando’s own life.
“Every day it is a case of what do I choose. Transformation and people taking ownership; that’s what I have been called to.”
Asked about her unusual middle name, Tullia, she explains that it was a name her father gave her.
“When Caesar sent his army to arrest Marcus Tullius Cicero (a Roman philosopher committed to justice) for treason Cicero woke his family to flee to exile but his wife refused to leave a comfortable life for the unknown. Tullia left with her father and was with him when he was caught and killed by Caesar’s soldiers. My dad always felt I would stay at his side until the end which in fact did happen.”
Studying in Cape Town when he took ill in 2010, Tando returned home and finished her thesis, graduating the following year with an Honours degree in Gender and Transformation from UCT, and remaining till her father passed away. Tando also has a BA in Media, Communication and Culture majoring in Cultural Studies and English and another Honours degree in English Literature — both from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.
She gave her life to Christ at the age of 10 at a church holiday club and since the age of 15 has been involved in children’s ministry and helping to run holiday youth activities. Her desire is to see children unlock the potential for greatness that lies within them.
Passionate about training children in prayer and intercession, she has served as a teacher at children’s church at God Adventure, in Quigney, where she worships and is also involved in prophetic ministry.
As a self-funding missionary she has volunteered at Iris Ministries’ Zimpeto Children’s Centre as a childcare worker for homeless, abandoned, vulnerable and abused children where she was involved in providing relief to the poor.
She is currently applying for her visa documentation for the US and exploring various forms of fundraising.
If you would like to contact Tando or partner with her in her vision, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or call her on 081 594 7607.