What Nhlanhla did that day made us recognise just how big the fire in his belly was. The only child of a nurse mother and teacher father, it was interesting to see the speed with which he took revolution to his heart.

The late 80’s were days of unrest. I have never stayed away from school on as many stay- aways as I did in 1988.

That same year I heard it whispered how Nhlanhla stood up with suggestions in secret political meetings. That same year Nhlanhla revealed that flames raged in his belly.

Disrupting schools was a big part of making the country ungovernable. Nhlanhla was an advocate of this. Near my home there was a school that didn’t participate in stay-aways. We loitered around on the streets while all the learners of Hlabelela High School went to school. Hlabelela was notorious for three things: being too strict, corporal punishment, and perfect pass rates. I begged my parents not to enrol me there.

The wing of the revolution that dealt with disrupting schools was scared of messing with Hlabelela. An attempt to interrupt classes there had ended with teachers and security guards caning the mob all over the street.

“Open these gates,” a loudspeaker woke me from a midday nap on a stay-away day. I went out on the street and made out Nhlanhla’s short frame at the front gate of Hlabelela High School. He had a loudspeaker against his mouth. The security guard repeatedly gestured him away.

“They don’t want me to get in. But I’m prepared for this,” he blurted out through the loudspeaker. He shadowed the school fence. Got on with the job at hand.

“What is with the hypocrisy, young lions of Hlabelela High School? This freedom will be for all of us. Let’s fight for it together!

Young lions of Hlabelela the future depends on what you do. Show that you are aware of this unfair, unjust country.

Take your backpacks. Go home. What will you say when your children ask what you contributed to the fight for freedom? I am not telling you to jump borders and join the revolution in exile. All I’m asking is that you take your schoolbags and go home.”

At the front gate all the male teachers tested their caning sticks by whipping them in the air. From my viewing spot they looked in the mood for giving Nhlanhla some of the major corporal punishment Hlabelela was notorious for. At the back, Nhlanhla climbed over the fence into the school. He strolled across the school lawn, shoutin into the loudspeaker repeatedly:

“This freedom will be for all of us.” Classrooms dimmed as Hlabelela learners flooded to windows for a view. He burst into a slogan that sounded very much like it was made up right there and then:

“Revolution! Together! Hlabelela! Take your school bags! Go home! Revolution! Together! Hlabelela! Take your school bags! Go home!” He soon broke into a toyi-toyi but quickly ran out of breath. What Nhlanhla didn’t realise was the teacher were heading straight for him…

Tell us what you think: Will Nhlanhla get caught?