CARTER SELEKA: AN AFRICANIST AT THE TIME WHEN BEING ONE WAS A POLITICAL OFFENCE

It is grudgingly fitting that the late Carter Nthutang Martin Seleka (1954 – 2020) was an ambassador of the republic, an envoy of the president in far off countries, because at the prime of his political activities Seleka was an overt representative of the PAC leadership when the organisation was prohibited. He did this very dangerous job with the art of diplomatic acumen.

He was among the founder members of the Azanian National Youth Unity (Azanyu) when it was most risky to do so. Azanyu was a front of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania established in 1981, when detractors of the PAC were wishful that it were dead.

The PAC had come out bruised and battle hardened from the marathon secret Bethal Trial that ended in 1979 and the aborted 1978 Arusha conference in Tanzania where the mission in exile was in disarray over legitimate leadership after the death of Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe in 1978 and that of David Maphumzane Sibeko in 1979.

Azanyu was an idea initially expressed by the newly elected chairman Comrade John Nyathi Pokela and it was embraced by the Central Committee in exile. Many leaders of Azanyu instantly faced brutality from the security branch police. The young braves nevertheless openly associated with the PAC ideals.

Seleka sternly faced the task of leadership overtly to represent the stoic determination of the Africanists in the task of renewal and regenerating themselves in the face of setbacks and insurmountable challenges. He worked with community organisations, labour unions, women’s associations and other mass based structures.

Seleka was arrested and detained in 1981 with Khotso Seatlholo (of SAYRCO) in a house in Naledi when the former Soweto Students Representative Council leader had clandestinely infiltrated the country. With renowned journalist, Thami Mazwai, they refused to be state witnesses in Seatlholo’s trial and were each sentenced to two years in Leeuwkop maximum prison.

On his release, Seleka continued with the leadership role in Azanyu. The organization was represented at the National Forum consultative conference, hosted by former SASO/BPC trialist, Saths Cooper, in Hammanskraal in 1983. The PAC was punting an alliance with the Black Consciousness movement. A trade union federation, Azactu, came out of this initiative.

Meanwhile, Azanyu grew its membership in leaps and bounds. Most of the time new leaders would find reasons to flee into exile, while Seleka stayed to bear the brunt. He interacted with new recruits and inspired them to pick up the baton and run with it.

It was no wonder then that the PAC’s underground leadership sent him to a strategic session in Gaborone, Botswana, in 1985, with the exiled leadership of Pokela, Sabelo Phama and senior members of the high command of the Azanian Peoples Liberation Army (APLA). A week after the session Cde Pokela died of cardiac arrest in Zimbabwe at Parirenyatwa Hospital.

It was at this meeting that Carter Seleka was assigned to do diplomatic work. He interacted with solidarity groups in the Scandinavian and Benelux countries, Down Under, and the Frontline States. The PAC later arranged for his further training in diplomacy in Pakistan. He reported to the then PAC Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Cde Gora Ebrahim.

He was held in detention without trial during the state of emergency in 1986 along with many members of the Azanyu executive committee members.

Azanyu questioned the participation of the PAC in talks about talks with the settler regime. It also condemned a discussion document that proposed Thatcherite economics for the new political dispensation. Seleka’s loyalty to the PAC was however unshaken, displaying his political maturity.

He joined the PAC delegates team at the Multi Party Negotiating Forum after the Convention for Democracy in South Africa had collapsed. He was elected Deputy Secretary General of the PAC at the congress held in Mahikeng in the North West province in December 1994.

Seleka discharged his duties without any form of remuneration for longer than three years, personifying the motto of service to the African people, suffering with the most exploited, and sacrificing his being and the family for the common good as an ultimate outcome of the national liberation struggle.

Seleka discharged himself with aplomb in the Department of International Relations and Cooperation from 1996. He was assigned as an ambassador in Malawi. His career blossomed at DIRCO.

Thick and divisive elements, who are blinded by their own uncontrollable rage, have refused to acknowledge the role of the PAC in the initial setting up of the South African state. Seleka is a good example of the PAC’s selfless contribution to uplift the state apparatus in the field of diplomacy. He retired in 2019.

He was admitted in Flora Hospital for a pinched nerve on his spinal chord. He unfortunately contracted Covid-19 in the process and succumbed to its complications. He leaves behind his wife, Ntombizodwa, and three of their children.

A funeral service will be held at the NG Kerk in Constantia Kloof in Roodepoort on Saturday 26 September 2020 at 08:00 and the cortege will leave for the Fourways Memorial Park at 11:00.

By Jaki Seroke

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