Late on the winter night of 27 June 1985, Apartheid’s security forces abducted four activists on a lonely mountain pass and brutally murdered them. Matthew Goniwe and his three comrades would become known as “The Cradock Four” in one of Apartheid’s murkiest and most controversial assassinations. “The Cradock Four” explores who they were and the circumstances that led to their death
Matthew Goniwe was a popular schoolteacher in a small South African rural town. His inspirational community leadership in resisting Apartheid resulted in the government secretly ordering his "permanent removal from society".
As the Eastern Cape region “went up in flames” a secret police death squad abducted Matthew with three colleagues and brutally murdered them.
Goniwe produced excellent results as a teacher, and he introduced discipline. He had been politicised by the death in a guerrilla skirmish of his elder brother Jacques, who had returned to fight Apartheid. Matthew had also spent four years in jail for possessing banned communist literature, feared by the regime as “the Red Danger”.
In the small farming town of Cradock, in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa, Matthew turned community outrage with high rents and bad roads into an effective Cradock Residents’ Association (Cradora). But the Security Police connived to transfer the troublesome teacher out of town. When he refused, he was suspended.
This resulted in a schools boycott, which spread countrywide. Matthew was also organising for the United Democratic Front, a grouping of more than 500 organisations opposed to Apartheid, and he was working underground for both the communist party and the armed wing of the banned African National Congress.
Matthew’s contribution was to set up alternative structures in the “townships”, creating, in effect, a “liberated zone”. This was known as the “G Plan” and would become a model throughout South Africa, and help lead to the demise of Apartheid.
But the generals had decided that Matthew was too dangerous. Late on the winter night of 27 June 1985, South Africa’s Security Forces set up a roadblock near Port Elizabeth, and abducted Matthew and three other activists, Fort Calata, Sparrow Mkonto and Sicelo Mhlauli. They murdered them in cold blood, then burnt the bodies. “The Cradock Four", as they came to be known, were later found near the Port Elizabeth suburb of Bluewater Bay.
The film shows the oppressive climate of the sombre racist regime in the seventies and early eighties. It shows how the system broke the freedom, and the lives, of four young men. Using compelling archive materials, incisive interviews and dramatic recreations, the film reveals the ideals which led Matthew and his friends to support the liberation struggle, The assassinations signalled the “Beginning of the End” of the racist Apartheid regime. Within five years Nelson Mandela would walk free, and later lead the country to liberation in 1994