A true pro­fes­sional and ac­tivist

Zoli fought self­lessly for work­ers, stu­dents’ rights

Sowetan - - Obituaries - By Sisa Njike­lana

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.

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