Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane’s speech on the occasion of the exhumation and repatriation of the mortal remains of Mr. Johnny Mfanafuthi Makhathini – January 20th 2010(Lusaka-Zambia)
Members of the Makhathini family,
Representatives of the Zambian Government,
The First President of the Republic of Zambia – Dr. Kenneth David Kaunda,
Premier of the Province of Kwa-Zulu Natal – Dr. Zweli Mkhize and Honourable MECs,
High Commissioner of the Republic of SA in Zambia – Mr. M Chikane,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Ladies and gentlemen
On behalf of the entire South African delegation, including the Makhathini family, I would like to express our collective sense of gratitude to the Government and people of Zambia for the hospitality extended to us since our arrival. My President, Dr. Jacob Zuma and the people of South Africa, also extend their words of gratitude to the Government and the people of Zambia for having been there – in their time of need.
Our working visit to Zambia to exhume and repatriate to South Africa the mortal remains of the late Mr. Johnstone Mfanafuthi Makhathini is indeed a solemn occasion. It is occasions like this that continue to remind us of the bonds of solidarity that exist between Zambia and South Africa. The spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood that was built during the times of the Anti–Apartheid struggle should not be allowed to fade, but instead be deepened, strengthened and consolidated via mutually beneficial bilateral relations that exist between our two countries.
Honourable Guests, Ladies and gentlemen,
South African-Zambian relations until 1990 were shaped by Zambia's support for the liberation movements. As one of the leaders of the Frontline States against South Africa, Zambia provided safe haven for the ANC, which had its headquarters here in Lusaka, prompting military reprisals by South Africa in the late 1980s. One would rightly ask, how does the “birth of a democratic South Africa” then relate to the life and times of Comrade Johnny Makhathini?
At this moment, I am reminded of the words of President Jacob Zuma on December 11th, 2009, when he passionately spoke about Mr. Johnny Mfanafuthi Makhathini. He did not only describe him as a selfless cadre of the movement, but as someone:
“who made an enormous contribution in the ANC’s Department of International Affairs and led it effectively and with courage”. According to President Zuma, “JM” as Johnny Makhathini was affectionately known “was at times referred to as the person who almost single-handedly, isolated South Africa and never slept, let alone oftentimes changing tickets at airports and really worked hard”.
Johnstone “Johnny” Mfanafuthi Makhathini was born in Durban on February 8th, 1932 – which means he would have been exactly 78 years and 8 days today, had he not passed on. Those who knew him and struggled side-by-side with him tell us that he was a gifted, bright and talented debater with an aptitude for languages. He attended school at Adams College in Durban where he trained as a teacher and taught at Mzinyathi in the Inanda area.
He became politically active when Bantu Education was imposed in African schools and subsequently resigned from the teaching profession rather than continue to serve under the Bantu Education system and pursued part time studies at the University of Natal. JM, devoted the rest of his time organising the people of South Africa as an ANC activist at a time when the Nationalist Party was busy establishing by force its racial policies.
Comrade Johnny Makhathini became a key youth organiser around the city of Durban and the rural surroundings of Natal where he was actively involved in the campaigns of that period and was arrested on a number of occasions. He was one of the key organisers of the historic Pietermaritzburg Conference of March 1961 which was addressed by Nelson Mandela among others. Owing to the brutal suppression of political activity, arrest of political activists by the Apartheid regime, in 1962 Johnny was among the first group of volunteers from Natal to be sent out of the country for military training.
Honourable Guests, Ladies and gentlemen,
Whilst in Johannesburg, Johnny and his group were joined by volunteers from other parts of South Africa. When the volunteers were in Tanganyika they were surprised to meet Nelson Mandela who they thought was in South Africa. JM was tasked with leading a group of trainees that were to undergo training in Morocco. He was instructed to remain in that country upon completion of his training in order to receive new groups of trainees, thus becoming the ANC’s representative in that country. This was the beginning of diplomatic work by Makhathini in the service of the people of South Africa.
He quickly learnt the French language which enabled him to discuss the oppression of the people of South Africa with a wide range of people in both English and French speaking countries. He thus had gained a tool which he used effectively to further the cause of the people of SA, the liberation of the black majority. During his sojourn in Morocco, he struck a close friendship with African liberation movement leaders like Amilcar Cabral of Guinea Bissau, Marcelino Dos Santos of Mozambique and Agostinho Neto of Angola.
When Algeria obtained her independence in 1963, the ANC opened a Mission in that country. JM was transferred to join the then Chief Representative, Robert Resha – during which time Algeria hosted most of the liberation movements and was a centre of political activity including support for the liberation struggle. The diplomatic work of Johnny and Resha raised the status of the ANC to unprecedented heights.
JM became the ANC Chief Representative in Algeria in 1966. He extended his diplomatic work to cover France and later became a popular personality in the solidarity movement. At this time he was emerging as one of the ANC’s most accomplished diplomats. From his Algerian base he visited the Western European capitals carrying out the work of the ANC.
In 1974, he became a member of the National Executive Committee of the African National Congress. This was at a time when he was already known in the Organisation of the African Union (OAU) and the United Nations (UN). In both these multilateral forums, Comrade JM earned the reputation of being the articulate champion of the cause of the oppressed masses of South Africa. These are some of the sterling qualities which contributed to his appointment as Head of the ANC mission to the United Nations in 1977, and subsequently in 1983, as Head of the ANC’s Department of International Affairs.
JM, we are told, had a unique flair for diplomatic work and this flowered during his years at the United Nations. He was well known at the United Nations, where a few diplomats escaped his persuasive tongue. This was a time when the ANC was accused of dominating the UN - thanks to the persuasive abilities of Johnny Makhathini.
Honourable Guests, Ladies and gentlemen,
During his time at the UN and the OAU, JM established relationships for the ANC with government representatives, numerous organizations and peoples throughout the world, especially in Africa. He paid special attention to the solidarity movement in the United States and won over millions of supporters for the struggle of the people of South Africa, amongst which were prominent Americans and civil rights leaders.
Following the National Consultative Conference of the ANC which was held in Kabwe in 1985, he returned to Africa to give personal attention to his departmental responsibilities. He travelled extensively without stop to perform the work of the ANC throughout the world - with one objective in mind - the liberation of the people of SA. His punishing work schedule unfortunately had a negative impact on his health. He diligently followed his demanding work schedule despite advices from his colleagues that - he needed to slow down his pace of work. Some days prior to being hospitalized, he had returned to Lusaka from a strenuous mission in Egypt, Mali and Nigeria. Although he felt unwell during this mission – he nevertheless continued with the mission – demonstrating utmost dedication and loyalty to our cause.
On 3 December 1988, Johnstone Mfanafuthi Makhathini passed away after being admitted at the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka - with complications arising from a diabetic condition. South Africa will always remember this day as a day on which we lost a leader, an accomplished diplomat and a dedicated freedom fighter.
As we pick up Comrade Johnny Makhathini’s spear, we find solace in the speech of former President Kaunda on the occasion of the opening of the University of Zambia on March the 18th, 1966. Dr. Kaunda said the following about Constitutions, governments and us leaders of the people – he said:
“Our cornerstone (pre-occupation) should be - to be of service to mankind”. He counseled that “those of us who are leaders of our people must not only think about the importance of man, it must be an obsession”. He also said “we must think and think and think again - about how best we shall serve (our people) and not about how important we are as leaders or how we can safeguard our own positions as leaders”.
Honourable Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, we are here today to recommit ourselves and demonstrate to you our “unshakeable obsession” with being of “service to mankind” and making sure that Africa continues to rise from the shackles of colonialism and Apartheid.
On behalf of the Government and people of South Africa I would like to convey our sincere gratitude to the Government and people of Zambia for supporting our struggle. We in particular wish to thank the people of Zambia for looking well after the graves of our fallen heroes and heroines.
We further wish to thank the Zambian Government for facilitating this important ceremony and consequently the repatriation of the mortal remains of our own – Mr. Johnstone Mfanafuthi Makhathini. These mortal remains will be reburied at his final resting place in Kwa-Zulu Natal on February the 27th, 2010.
To the Makhathini family, we cannot find appropriate words to thank you for allowing JM to dedicate his entire life to the liberation of the people of SA – under the banner of the African National Congress. I am however sure that - our leadership on whose behalf I am speaking - will have an opportunity to thank you appropriately at the reburial.
I thank you!