A COMMITTED COM­RADE

CityPress - - Voices - HLULA MSI­MANG [email protected]­press.co.za

As we mourn the pass­ing of Com­rade Mendi Msi­mang, an un­wa­ver­ing and committed rev­o­lu­tion­ary, we are re­minded of his hu­mil­ity, hu­mane­ness and wis­dom for which he will be dearly missed.

Msi­mang had an il­lus­tri­ous life. From an early age, through his Chris­tian up­bring­ing, Msi­mang was im­bued with a sense of jus­tice. This formed the ba­sis for his life-long ac­tivism in the strug­gle against apartheid and in ef­forts to build a new South Africa founded on the prin­ci­ples of jus­tice and equal­ity. He was in­spired by an ear­lier gen­er­a­tion of rel­a­tives – Wil­liam, Richard and Selby Msi­mang – who were part of the found­ing gen­er­a­tion of the African Na­tional Congress in 1912.

The sec­ond child of seven sib­lings, Msi­mang was born in Mar­shall­town to Vangile Martha Vi­lakazi and Mjele Msi­mang on De­cem­ber 8 1928. The fam­ily was moved first to Sophi­a­town and then to the West­ern Na­tive Town­ship by forced re­movals. He at­tended high school at the Maria Rats­chitz School in Was­bank and spent much of his early years in Wee­nen in KwaZulu-Natal with his grand­mother whom he adored.

His as­so­ci­a­tion with the ANC and the strug­gle be­gan in the West­ern Na­tive Town­ship in the 1940s, work­ing with young com­rades who had formed the ANC Youth League, as well as com­rades who had mo­bilised com­mu­ni­ties against forced re­movals. Ow­ing to con­stant run-ins with the re­pres­sive po­lice and de­ten­tions, his par­ents sent him to Mar­i­annhill High School to com­plete his ma­tric. In 1951 he en­rolled for a BA de­gree at the Pius XII Col­lege in Le­sotho where he met and worked with com­rades, such as for­mer trea­surer-gen­eral of the ANC Thomas Nkobi.

Msi­mang left the univer­sity af­ter two years due to political ac­tivism. He later joined the law and real estate firms of Tambo and Man­dela as an ar­ti­cle clerk and was a ded­i­cated ac­tivist dur­ing the tur­bu­lent 1950s.

This was a decade that saw events such as the launch of the De­fi­ance Cam­paign; the Congress of the Peo­ple, which drew up the Free­dom Char­ter; and the Trea­son Trial in which 156 ac­tivists were ar­rested, charged and even­tu­ally ac­quit­ted.

Af­ter the ANC was banned Msi­mang was dis­patched by the lead­er­ship to join Oliver Tambo to es­tab­lish the ANC’s ex­ter­nal mis­sion abroad.

While in ex­ile Msi­mang trav­elled ex­ten­sively, or­gan­is­ing ma­te­rial sup­port for the ANC and for the cause against apartheid.

Hav­ing left the coun­try in 1960 through Botswana, he pro­ceeded to Tan­za­nia where, with Ruth Mom­pati, Duma Nokwe, JB Marks and Nkobi, he es­tab­lished the ANC mis­sion in Tan­za­nia.

He was sub­se­quently sent to In­dia as the ANC’s chief rep­re­sen­ta­tive in 1968. On his re­turn from In­dia, he was de­ployed to the ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment in Tan­za­nia as a co­or­di­na­tor, re­spon­si­ble among other things, li­ai­son with Un­esco.

Msi­mang, in as­so­ci­a­tion with com­rades Makhunga Wintshi Njobe, Henry “Squire” Mak­gothi, Tim Maseko, Tim Den­nis and Mo­hammed Tickly, es­tab­lished the Solomon Mahlangu Free­dom Col­lege in Tan­za­nia in 1979. Here many young ANC cadres com­pleted their high school ed­u­ca­tion.

Msi­mang helped thou­sands of ANC cadres and stu­dents who left South Africa af­ter the 1976 stu­dent upris­ing to fur­ther their ed­u­ca­tion, by or­gan­is­ing in­ter­na­tional schol­ar­ships with in­sti­tu­tions across the world.

He moved to Lusaka where he worked in the of­fice of trea­sur­ergen­eral Nkobi.

In 1985 he moved to the UK where he served as the ANC’s chief rep­re­sen­ta­tive until the eve of the 1994 elec­tions.

On his re­turn from ex­ile, Msi­mang worked at the ANC head­quar­ters and was de­ployed as an MP in the first demo­crat­i­cally elected Parliament in 1994. He be­came the first chair­per­son of the ANC par­lia­men­tary cau­cus.

Af­ter a year in Parliament Msi­mang was posted by then pres­i­dent Man­dela as high com­mis­sioner to the UK, the first to rep­re­sent a demo­cratic South Africa.

His calm and warm de­meanour en­deared him to many and he rep­re­sented South Africa with dis­tinc­tion.

Msi­mang was elected to the ANC na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee in 1991. He was elected trea­surer-gen­eral in Mahikeng in 1997 and served until the 2007 Polok­wane con­fer­ence.

He con­tin­ued to serve the coun­try and the ANC with dis­tinc­tion as a mem­ber of the ad­vi­sory coun­cil on na­tional or­ders and as a mem­ber of the first ANC in­tegrity com­mis­sion ap­pointed in 2013. Ndle­lanhle Thabi­zolo

Com­rade Mendi Msi­mang

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