The late Jolidee Matongo

There aren’t many politicians whose death evoked so much emotion as has the sudden passing of Joburg Mayor Jolidee Matongo, who died in a tragic car accident a fortnight ago.

There were tears everywhere – even in the opposition. I wept too – grieving for both the activists and the course. I was part of the struggle he joined as a child and I now fear that we may be off course. 

I have a vivid imagination of a 13-year-old Matongo clutching a stone in a daring combat against the apartheid police in Orlando West, Soweto, sometime during the volatile 1980s.

I see him in thousands of split images – in almost every township in the country.

This makes me wonder if souls are reincarnated. Cosas members, the cohort from 1979 to 1990 in particular, distinguished themselves as revolutionaries.

I liken the fighting spirit of the Cosas that was sewn together in 1979 by the political mastery of Joe Gqabi to that of Amabutho led by Ntshingwayo kaMahole. These unmatched soldiers defended the Ulundi royal capital in the battle of Isandlwana exactly a century earlier under the leadership of King Cetshwayo. Like them, the courage of the over 2 million high school children led by Ephraim Mogale – the founding President of Cosas – was unrivalled. In a never-seen-before feat, they demanded freedom in their lifetime and achieved it in a mere decade. This has secured that generation a special chapter in the history of the liberation struggle.

These young people rendered the apartheid state unworkable and the country ungovernable. Like their ancestors a century earlier, they reduced white arrogance to shambles.

They made “Die Groot Krokodil” (PW Botha) to stare defeat in the eye like the British General Frederic Augustus Thesiger, 2nd Baron Chelmsford did at the hands of Amabutho a KwaZulu.

This epochal contribution by these young lions, created a historic opportunity to end centuries-old degradation, subjugation and racial oppression of Africans in South Africa.

But alas, it wasn’t to be.

We, the progeny of supreme warriors of Africa and heirs to the world’s oldest liberation movement, have turned on each other – dashing hopes of building a united nation.

The children that Nelson Mandela taught reconciliation and tolerance, exchange insults worse than those spewed by inebriated drunks in the sleaziest of watering holes.

Onlookers who marvel at all this are the descendants of white supremacist are consolidating what one can only describe as their sadistic hate of Africans. Under a democratic government, white supremacy is on the rise.

This is much to the betrayal of all those who bear indelible scars as its victims and those who were subjected to conditions of apartheid degradation and oppression and their gallant battles to rid us of this evil.

Up until his last breath, Matongo fought and died like a soldier with his boots on. On the day of his passing, he was with President Cyril Ramaphosa to canvas votes for the ANC in the upcoming 1 November local government elections.

On his arrival at the place of inordinate stature of Amathongo, he would have accounted well for his role in the struggle and the public service.

 A diligent servant of the people, Matongo, alongside his late predecessor, Geoff Makhubu, and late MKMVA leader, Kebby Maphatsoe, as new arrivals and members of the young lions, are now part of a broader otherworldly discussion to ensure a lasting emancipation of the dispossessed.

He sits in an illustrious council piloted by the likes of Shaka, Moshoeshoe, Sekhukhune, Cetshwayo, queens of the calibre of Nandi, Modjadji and political giants the likes of Tambo, Mandela and Hani, among others.

They are probably pondering why the graves of former ANC Secretary-General Duma Nokwe – and others, the likes of Gert Sibande and Florence Mophosho are growing grass in faraway lands.

I suspect that their discussion may include the economic hardships of our people. They may be asking how it was that victims of exploitation, oppression and poverty have become accused of plunder.  They might be asking why Africans are the face of the country’s corruption when, in fact, they play such a minuscule role it is almost non-existent in its R4,5 trillion annual GDP.

Perhaps, they may be musing on why we can’t see the obvious relationship between racism and the stark contrast between the rich and the poor.

They are probably saying that’s the reason for our dubious status as the world’s most unequal society. They could be saying: “Why did the movement of the people dissolve organs of people’s power that defeated apartheid? Is it not obvious now that space has been occupied by the right-wing?”

I am certain our forebears are keen to know why those at the helm of the movement of the majority do not realise it is not in their interest – or the survival of the movement – to kowtow to the interests of capital, which is invariably white, instead of the poor majority.

Matongo, please tell them it is time for another panacea, like in 1879 and 1979. Tell them that we need to deliver our people from racial economic oppression, urgently.

They must free us from the grips of Stellenbosch, Davos, Washington and London. 

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