A true professional and activist
Zoli fought selflessly for workers, students’ rights
Born: May 5 1961 Died: September 6 Funeral: Tomorrow at Yeoville Boys School in Johannesburg, Hunter Street
Burial: Waterfall Cemetery, Midrand Zolile Benjamin “China” Mtshelwane was an activist who fought selflessly for students and workers’ rights.
Mtshelwane, who was also a journalist for various media houses, including Sowetan, will be buried in Johannesburg tomorrow.
He died at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital last Wednesday after a short illness.
Mtshelwane, who was born in Mamelodi, east of Pretoria, was the second child of Edmond and the late Ellina Mtshelwane.
He started school in Boekenhout, Winterveldt, north of Pretoria. He later moved to Atteridgeville and attended Flavius Mareka Secondary School in Saulsville and matriculated at Mamelodi Technical High School in 1980.
He was an active member of the Young Christian Students, which was used as one of the vehicles to achieve the formation of the Congress of South African Students (Cosas).
As an activist, Mtshelwane was also involved in mobilising and organising the working class in Rosslyn, Watloo and other workplaces around Tshwane.
In the early 1980s, he worked for the South African Allied Workers Union (Saawu). He was instrumental in setting up a Saawu branch in Pretoria in 1982.
As a national executive committee member, he was elected as Saawu’s deputy president and later participated in unity talks with Cosatu.
In 1984, after the collapse of the unions’ unity talks, Mtshelwane was part of a delegation that went to Lusaka to meet with the executive committees of the ANC, SACP and SA Congress of Trade Unions to discuss the revival of the unity talks, which later led to the formation of Cosatu in 1985.
Mtshelwane later worked for the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) as a farmworkers’ organiser for a number of years.
Mtshelwane, a trained media practitioner, was also instrumental in the formation of the editorial collective of The Eye, a community newspaper that mobilised and organised the communities of Soshanguve, Mamelodi, Atteridgeville, Mabopane, Winterveldt and GaRankuwa.
He was also involved in the distribution of the SA Students Press Union national newspaper that offered an alternative to mainstream media at the time.
He then joined New African newspaper in Tshwane as a sub-editor. After resigning from New African newspaper, he joined the National Union of Mineworkers and worked in its media/communications department producing its newsletter.
Later, he worked for Sowetan as a sub-editor. Before his untimely death, he worked as a freelance journalist for various media houses.
Former Sowetan night editor Horatio Motjuwadi said: “Zolile was deceptively quiet. He minded his own business but was a very sensitive man.
“He was a professional whose product was seldom questioned.
“He was absolutely devoted to his children and protective of his eldest son, who has autism.”
He is survived by two children, three siblings and his father.
Former Sowetan senior sub-editor Zolile Mtshelwane was a man of few words yet a hardworker.