Jafta was a great thinker, a very creative and resourceful leader.

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


  1. An edifying article indeed. Why did the PAC leadership allow Jafta Masemola to travel alone? Why was he not provided with bodyguards? I think our problem is to place too much goodwill in the ANC even during elections. Masemola knew a lot about Nelson Mandela because Mandela and the other Rivonia trialists all found Masemola on Robben Island and seventeen years later Mandela left Masemola on Robben Island. I explained in my other articles where he went. Muntu Myeza who also died under mysterious circumstances in a car “accident” apparently had damning information about Mandela which he got from Masemola while they were political prisoners on Robben Island. Myeza’s death should also be probed because it is related to the information he got from Masemola. Azapo must also come on board and also request a probe into Onkgopotse Tiro’s death. While in Canada before Masemola was assassinated, I saw snippets of an interview the late Barbara Frum conducted with Masemola on the Canadian Broadcastion Corporation (CBC). The PAC should contact the SABC and request an unedited version of that interview. That’s not asking for too much.

  2. I understand Nelson Mandela invited Jafta Masemola for a meeting about twice in1990 but Masemola declined the invitation. Can those with information on this issue educate us.

    There is ‘This day in history’ slot on Xolani Gwala’s radio show in which clips of past events are played and listeners are told to identify the speaker or event. This is their chance to do something on Masemola on the 17th and I have already written an email more than a week ago reminding them about that day. That slot featured Chris Hani last week and did an hour long programme on Xolani Gwala’s Forum at Eight. I asked Gwala why is it that we in the PAC should beg them to feature PAC leaders while they have the calendar of events of ANC and SACP at their finger tips. Gwala has not only not read my email but has also not responded to my email.

    About two weeks ago ‘This day in history’ played a 1955 clip of Winston Churchill announcing his resignation due to ill-health, but the SABC archives have not a single clip of Robert Sobukwe that were recorded after 1955 until his death in 1978. Do they have Masemola’s clips and if they do will they play one on the 17th of this month? Let me repeat what I always say about the SABC – it is ideological and extremely partisan. It is or should be the African National Congress Broadcasting Corporation (ANCBC). The apparatchicks and party hacks at the SABC pretend they don’t know that the SABC is a public broadcaster.

    1. Comrade Jeff Masemola like Uncle Zeph, President Sobukwe and most of our elders in the party were very principled Africans. Jeff understood the Colonial media would have taken the visit out of context in an effort to try to drive a wedge within the PAC. Like uncle Zeph, he refused to place himself above his own political party. As far as I can remember, he consulted to make sure that every contact he made with whomever was public knowledge and transparent and approved by the structures of the PAC. In the same vein, remember also that when the racist illegal regime contacted Uncle Zeph regarding the CODESA, uncle Zeph told them that
      it is only the structures of the party who will make decisions regarding actions to be taken on such matters and he made the contents of the letters public knowledge.

      1. Moshe, I am trying to trace the death of Masemola to the overtures Mandela made towards him. I am not casting doubts on the integrity of the late Bra Jeff. I mean Mandela never made those overtures towards Bra Jeff when Bra Jeff was on Robben Island or towards the end of 1989 after Bra Jeff’s releaase from prison. Mandela never invited the PAC when he held secret talks with Apartheid authorities or when Codesa resumed. That is why Bra Jeff refused to meet Mandela. I wrote an article on Masemola in Sowetan in April 2010. Maybe Moshe can peruse it and understand where I am coming from.

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