Jafta Kgalabi Masemola - “The Tiger of Azania”

Jafta Kgalabi Masemola – “The Tiger of Azania”

Jafta Kgalabi Masemola, ‘The Tiger of Azania’ died in a mysterious car crash on 17 April 1990. 17 April 2013 marks 23 years since ‘The Tiger of Azania’ died in this mysterious car crash. This accident remains mysterious because the person who was driving the truck that killed Jafta Masemola disappeared into thin air. No one ever claimed responsibility if this accident was politically motivated or simply reported the accident to the nearest police station if this was an innocent accident or wait at the scene of the accident until police or traffic cops arrive.

This accident robbed the PAC of a leader of stature and credibility just a mere 6 months after his release from Robben Island and other prisons where he had spent over 26 years (he was sentenced to life imprisonment on 2 July 1963 and released on 15 October 1989). Jafta died at the time when Zephania Mothopeng, ‘The Lion of Azania’ who was then President of PAC was in poor state of health because of torture and torment while in prison for 15 years following the Bethal-18 Secret Trial of 1976. His death also occurred at the time when PAC needed a strong leader of his caliber, credentials and track record especially on the eve of the All-Party negotiations and CODESA that would eventually lead to the first democratic elections of 27 April 1994.

Jafta Masemola, ‘The Tiger of Azania’ died at the age 59. He was comparatively still very young and full of energy, vigour and strength. As soon as he was out of prison he plunged into intensive and extensive political activity reviving and organizing PAC structures the length and breadth of the country. He turned the church near where he lived into a political forum to address school children, his neighbours, PAC members and the Atteridgeville community at large. He was a tireless and relentless organizer who pursued the immediate aims and objectives of the PAC with courage and determination driven by its vision of the total liberation and unification of Africa from Cape to Cairo, Madagascar to Morocco.

Jafta was a great thinker, a very creative and resourceful leader. He was a skillful carpenter and blacksmith and as such his main work on Robben Island was stone dressing. His sculptures could still be seen even after he had been released from Robben Island though they seem to have now been removed by the powers that be. He used these skills with the collaboration of Dr. Sedick Isaacs and others to create a master key to open all the doors of Robben Island prison and for this he was sent to solitary confinement for nine years.

Like Sobukwe, Jafta was forthright and uncompromising. He was not the darling of the apartheid authorities. In 1986 he rejected the offer of conditional release made by P.W. Botha then President of racist South Africa. He remained in a fighting and defiant mood throughout his imprisonment on Robben Island and other prisons he was transferred to after Robben Island in 1986. He was the embodiment of the fighting and defiant spirit of Africanism. This hard line and uncompromising position made him the worst enemy of the racist apartheid authorities as he was not the type of leader they could do business with except on the terms of the majority.

This also explains why he had to die because he was not suitable for the new dispensation that has left the apartheid economic status quo and land dispossession intact buttressed by the neoliberal capitalism and the free market economy. It is this that explains the continued inequality and the poverty of the African majority. This state of affairs Jafta Masemola would not have countenanced or accepted because he stood for the equitable distribution of wealth and the control of the resources of our country for the benefit of the African majority.

Jafta died a staunch Africanist and Pan Africanist who did not only espouse Pan Africanism but believed in it. He believed in and fought for the total liberation and unification of Africa. He did not pay lip service to African unity. He was honest, selfless and incorruptible and only guided by the interests and aspirations of the poorest of the poor, the have-nots and the dispossessed African majority who still live in abject poverty and squalor 19 years since national freedom on the 27 April 1994. His fighting, defiant and uncompromising spirit will continue to guide and inspire all honest, committed and dedicated Africanists and Pan Africanists.

Izwe Lethu!

By Molefe Ike Mafole
The writer is a Member of the PAC and APLA Military Veterans Association (APLA-MVA) in Tshwane Region. He can be contacted on 072 630 2206

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