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Former Johannesburg State Attorney, Webster Sekwati, is buried at Mohlaletsi in Sekhukhune Land, Limpopo Province.

Former Johannesburg State Attorney, Tswaledi Webster Sekwati, was laid to rest at Mohlaletsi village in Sekhukhune land on Saturday, 14 September 2019. It was an emotional ceremony as speaker after speaker described how the former state lawyer had touched the lives of many who came into contact with him. The funeral service was attended by dignitaries from all over the country including his long-time friend, former minister of Justice and Correctinal Service, Adv Michael Masutha, his colleagues from the office of the State Attorney and Acting King KK Sekhukhune of the Bapedi kingdom.

Barney Barnato, the university residence where Mr Sekwati stayed as a student at Wits Law School

Mr Sekwati was killed by a minibus taxi in downtown Johannesburg on 09 September 2019 while crossing Pritchard street from his office to the South Gauteng High Court to attend to a case that was due to be heard that morning. According to Johannesburg Metro Police Department spokesman, Wayne Minnaar, the driver of the taxi was taken in for questioning and would be charged with culpable homicide.

Mr Sekwati was addressed by many of the speakers at the ceremony by his clan name, Dimo ‘a Hlabirwa, signifying his royal ancestry. King Sekwati, (1775-1861) is the father of King Sekhukhune 1 (Matsebe Sekhukhune:1814-1882), who succesfully defended the Bapedi Kingdom against the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (the ZAR) and the British in the second half of the 1800s. He managed to do so because he was able to buy weapons from the Portuguese in Delagoa Bay using earnings brought home by young pedi men from the diamond fields in Kimberley.

Mr Sekwati (in white shirt) at a student canteen, University of the Witwatersrand, circa 1990.

The Bapedi have been locked in a dispute for the control of the kingdom between acting King KK Sekhukhune and his half brother, Rhyne Thulare since 1976. Rhyne died in 2006 before the dispute could be resolved. His son, Thulare Victor Thulare, inherited the disputed leadership from Rhyne and the dispute continues between Thulare Victor Thulare, also known as Sekhukhune 111 and his uncle Kgasudi Kenneth Sekhukhune. The High Court in Pretoria has decided that Thulare was the rightful king of the Bapedi, a decision against which KK has appealed.

Oliver Schreiner School of Law Building, Wits University

Sekwati was partially blind but despite his disability, he completed his Matric at Siloe School for the Blind in 1985 and enrolled for a B Iuris degree at the University of the North outside the then Pietersburg in 1986. He completed this degree in record time in 1989 and registered for an LLB degree at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, in 1990 completing it in 1991. He went on to serve his articles of clerkship at the Legal Resources Centre in Johannesburg from 1992 to 1993. He was admitted as an attorney of the High Court of South Africa early in 1994.

Law Clinic, School of Law, University of the Witwatersrand

He first practised for his own account under the name and style of TW Sekwati Attorneys in Johannesburg.  Later on, he joined the State Attorney in Johannesburg.  He worked for a few years there and then moved to Pretoria to become advisor to the then Minister of Justice and Correctional Service, Adv Michael Masutha.  He returned to the State Attorney in 2017 where he was working at the time of his untimely death.

The German class at the University of the North, 1987, Mr Sekwati is on the far right.

While at the University of the North, he studied German as a language and was a fond German speaker.  He often preferred to be called by his German nickname, Herr Grossman. I met him in Braamfontein on a Thursday afternoon about four days before he died. Although he was in a happy mood, he was very much concerned about his life and worried that the speeding vehicles are going to kill him.  We spent sometimes that evening at the Saratosa Spur Restaurant in Braamfontein. He mentioned that in February of 2020, he would have been in Johannesburg for 30 years. He said that he did not want his friends to die before him as he did not want to be left alone with unpleasant characters. Later that evening   he took an Uber taxi to his home in Struben’s valley in Roodepoort.  He called to confirm that he arrived safely. He called again on the Friday morning at 7am and said that he was already at work. The last call he made was at 9pm that evening to confirm that we were travelling very well to Phalaborwa.  That was the last time I heard from him as on Monday morning news began to spread that he was killed by a speeding taxi in front of the Johannesburg High Court.

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D-Day: 06 June 1944 -The Invasion of France by the Allied Forces.

D-Day 06 June 1944, the Invasion of France by the Allied Forces

Background to the Invasion: Germany invaded France on 10 May 1940 and the battle of France began. By 26 May 1940, German troops had advanced deep into France, trapping over 336 000 British, French, Belgian, Dutch and other allied troops at the port of Dunkirk. Hitler ordered his forces to halt. This gave the British an opportunity to organise the biggest evacuation of troops in history. Historians do not agree as to the reasons why Hitler would have made such an order as the French and British troops were trapped at Dunkirk and their defeat was a foregone conclusion. There are those who argue that he was persuaded by Herman Goring, chief of the Luftwaffe, to halt the advance of the ground forces so as to give the Luftwaffe and opportunity to finish the battle and claim victory for themselves. Others would say that he wanted to give the rest of the German infantry a chance to catch up with the panzers which had advanced rapidly across France. Yet others would say that he wanted to give Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister,  an opportunity to negotiate for peace under favourable terms, while others would say that the German panzers advanced so rapidly into France that Hitler was convinced that the French and British forces would strike back viciously while the German troops were over-stretched and vulnerable. Whatever the reason was, the British were given an opportunity to evacuate thousands of troops within a matter of days. The French sued for peace and it so happened that France, for the next four years, until June 1944, remained under German occupation while elsewhere in Europe and the World and on the Eastern Front, the war raged on.

A meeting of Allied Commanders Planning for D-Day.

Operation Overlord was the codename for the Battle of Normandy, the Allied operation that launched the successful invasion of German-occupied Western Europe during World War II. The operation was launched on 6 June 1944 with the Normandy landings (Operation Neptune, commonly known as D-Day). A 1,200-plane airborne assault preceded an amphibious assault involving more than 5,000 vessels. Nearly 160,000 troops crossed the English Channel on 6 June, and more than two million Allied troops were in France by the end of August.

The decision to undertake a cross-channel invasion in 1944 was taken at the Trident Conference in Washington in May 1943. General Dwight D. Eisenhower was appointed commander of Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF), and General Bernard Montgomery was named as commander of the 21st Army Group, which comprised all the land forces involved in the invasion. The coast of Normandy of north-western France was chosen as the site of the invasion, with the Americans assigned to land at sectors codenamed Utah and Omaha, the British at Sword and Gold, and the Canadians at Juno. To meet the conditions expected on the Normandy beachhead, special technology was developed, including two artificial ports called Mulberry harbours and an array of specialised tanks nicknamed Hobart’s Funnies. In the months leading up to the invasion, the Allies conducted a substantial military deceptionOperation Bodyguard, using both electronic and visual misinformation. This misled the Germans as to the date and location of the main Allied landings.  Adolf Hitler placed German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in charge of developing fortifications all along Hitler’s proclaimed Atlantic Wall in anticipation of an invasion.

The Allies failed to accomplish their objectives for the first day, but gained a tenuous foothold that they gradually expanded when they captured the port at Cherbourg on 26 June and the city of Caen on 21 July. A failed counterattack by German forces on 8 August left 50,000 soldiers of the 7th Army trapped in the Falaise pocket. The Allies launched a second invasion from the Mediterranean Sea of southern France (code-named Operation Dragoon) on 15 August, and the Liberation of Paris followed on 25 August. German forces retreated east across the Seine on 30 August 1944, marking the close of Operation Overlord.

The ruins of Caen, World War 2

The battle for Caen.

Summary of the scale of the battle: The invasion took place from 06 June 1944 until 30 August 1944 in northern France and resulted in victory for the allies.  Soldiers from the following countries took part In the invasion on the side of the Allies namely, The USA, the UK, Canada, France, the French Resistance, Poland, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Danish sailors. On the Axis side, only Germany was involved, Italy having been taken out of action with the demise of Benito Mussolini on 25 July 1943. Japan was preoccupied with the United States in the Far East and could not come to the assistance of the Third Reich.

General Bernard L. Montgomery watches his tanks move up.” North Africa, November 1942

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel  and General Bernard L. Montgomery

The Commanders: The Allied Forces were commanded by Dwight Eisenhower as the Supreme Allied Commander, Arthur Tedder as Deputy Supreme Allied Commander and Bernard L Montgomery as Commander in Chief of Ground Forces. The German Forces on the Western Front were under the overall command of Adolf Hitler himself, Field Marshall Gerd von Runstedt OB of the Western Front and Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, commander of Army Group B. The Allies deployed just over 2 million soldiers while Germany could only manage to deploy just over 640 000, just a quarter of the troops deployed by the allies.  Close to 40 000 civilians were killed during this phase of the conflict.

TT Thete is a World War II Historian based in Phalaborwa, South Africa.

This Article is published courtesy of Wikipedia. Pictures are supplied by Goodfreephotos.