What stood out in the illustrious life of Castalia Motshabi Moleke is that she was a people’s person. Her gift was the ability to treat almost everyone she came across with dignity and respect, and make them feel they owned the world. She could disarm any hostility confronting her and bring you at ease with her beautiful smile.
Motshabi Moleke sadly passed on last Wednesday at 3 Military Hospital in Bloemfontein. She had suffered a mental illness and deteriorating health from the mid 1990s when she returned from exile, which took her out of public site.
She grew up in Orlando East, Soweto, and like many others of her age in the area, devoted her life to the aims and objectives of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC).
Moleke was at first a high primary school teacher in Phiri location. She then joined the theatre production, ‘Meropa’, which toured Europe in 1975, as a dancer, actor and singer. She was on the entertainment beat at the World newspaper when the 1976 student uprisings took place. She was also an activist in the Union of Black Journalists which was banned along with other Black Consciousness organisations on 19 October 1977.
Motshabi Moleke was among the group of Black journalists who marched to the notorious John Vorster Square in downtown Johannesburg to demand freedom of expression and other human rights after the World and its sister newspapers were banned. They subsequently formed the Writers Association of South Africa with Zwelakhe Sisulu as its first chairperson.
She took a journalism course to upgrade her skills at an institution in Kitwe, Zambia, in 1978. On her return she joined ‘The Voice’, a weekly ecumenical newspaper, where she ran a column on youth matters. She kept the close association of young and militant Turks in the writing field, such as Thembeka Mbobo, Ruth Bengu, Zodwa Mshibe and Belede Mazwai.
She also took on leadership responsibilities in the PAC underground and worked on the formation of the Azanian National Youth Unity (Azanyu). A focus group met regularly at her place in Orlando East.
She was hunted down by the security branch police when the influence of Azanyu and related PAC activities spread throughout the country. In 1982, she was recalled to join the PAC Mission-In-Exile in order to avoid an impending swoop on the underground leadership. She was frisked out to Lesotho and to Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania.
She edited the newsletter, ‘PAC News and Views’ and had a regular program on Radio Tanzania. She was in the PAC’s Information and Publicity department led by Edwin Makoti. She also worked on gender issues with Maud Jackson. They organised solidarity groups in the Pan African Diaspora worldwide, including down south in Australia where she continued to live with her family.
What sticks out like a sore thumb is the harsh treatment she received from nasty bureaucrats and gate keepers in the military veterans’ community. It took a struggle by progressive forces to get her comfort and assistance in her failing health state.
Her funeral service will be held in Kroonstad in the Free State on Saturday 11 February at the glory Acts Pentecostal Church, Smaldeel Road, in Gelukswaarts. She lived in Seeisoville, Kroonstad.
PAC Secretary for Political and Pan African Affairs
Other contacts for funeral service arrangements:
Mr Dikobe Moleke – 0736669070
Mr Themba Mathomane – 0826320306