SHORT PROFILE OF JAFTA KGALABI “THE TIGER OF AZANIA” MASEMOLA

Jafta Kgalabi Masemola – “The Tiger of Azania” also popularly known as “Bra Jeff” by many others, was born at Bon Accord near Pretoria on the 12th December 1931. He lost both his parents at an early age and was raised by his sister like one of her own children. The family moved to Marabastad and then to Atteridgeville in 1942 where he enrolled at De Jong Primary School and completed standard six in 1947. He proceeded to Hofmeyr Secondary School where he obtained a Junior Certificate in 1950. Then he went to Kilnerton Training Institution (KTI) where he did his Higher Primary or Teacher’s Training Certificate.

His first teaching post was in Atteridgeville where he worked on a temporary basis until he got a permanent post at Mmakau Primary School (Rama) in Western Transvaal . In 1956 he returned to Atteridgeville to teach at Banareng Primary School where Mr. Rammopo Makhudu was principal. In 1958 he joined the Youth League of the African National Congress. He was impressed by the vigorous politics of the principal. In 1959 he joined the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) of Azania at its inception and thus became one of its founding leaders. His Africanist politics influenced the school children and some his colleagues. As a result some of his pupils became members of the PAC when they got to high schools and were later incarcerated with him on Robben Island in 1963.

After the banning of the PAC on April 8, 1960 under the Unlawful Organizations Act, Jafta Masemola continued with underground activities. He and other operatives formed underground structures that were planning an armed revolt in 1963; to this effect they gathered whatever weapons they could put their hands on for the planned uprising. The state security police uncovered these activities and Jafta Masemola and other underground activists were arrested during a swoop on PAC-Poqo suspects on the night of March 21st, 1963.

Jafta Kgalabi Masemola – “The Tiger of Azania” also popularly known as “Bra Jeff” by many others, was born at Bon Accord near Pretoria on the 12th December 1931. He lost both his parents at an early age and was raised by his sister like one of her own children. The family moved to Marabastad and then to Atteridgeville in 1942 where he enrolled at De Jong Primary School and completed standard six in 1947. He proceeded to Hofmeyr Secondary School where he obtained a Junior Certificate in 1950. Then he went to Kilnerton Training Institution (KTI) where he did his Higher Primary or Teacher’s Training Certificate.

His first teaching post was in Atteridgeville where he worked on a temporary basis until he got a permanent post at Mmakau Primary School (Rama) in Western Transvaal . In 1956 he returned to Atteridgeville to teach at Banareng Primary School where Mr. Rammopo Makhudu was principal. In 1958 he joined the Youth League of the African National Congress. He was impressed by the vigorous politics of the principal. In 1959 he joined the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) of Azania at its inception and thus became one of its founding leaders. His Africanist politics influenced the school children and some his colleagues. As a result some of his pupils became members of the PAC when they got to high schools and were later incarcerated with him on Robben Island in 1963.

After the banning of the PAC on April 8, 1960 under the Unlawful Organizations Act, Jafta Masemola continued with underground activities. He and other operatives formed underground structures that were planning an armed revolt in 1963; to this effect they gathered whatever weapons they could put their hands on for the planned uprising. The state security police uncovered these activities and Jafta Masemola and other underground activists were arrested during a swoop on PAC-Poqo suspects on the night of March 21st, 1963.

Jafta Masemola was arraigned before the Pretoria Supreme Court along with 14 others charged with conspiracy to commit acts of sabotage and with the intention to overthrow the government by violent means. He was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island .

He spent over 26 years on Robben Island and other prisons. He was released on October 15, 1989. On the eve of his release, Nelson Mandela asked to have a meeting with him. Jafta Masemola was flown from Johannesburg (Leeukop Prison) to Victor Verster Prison in Cape Town to meet Nelson Mandela. Nothing has ever been disclosed about what transpired in that meeting.

On his return home, Jafta Masemola immediately plunged into active politics of mass mobilisation. He used the church just opposite where he lived on 26 Makgatho Street to address masses of people who came to his meetings every evening. The church belonged to Rev. Brander whose son Simon Brander died on Robben Island convicted as a PAC-Poqo activist. As a former teacher ‘Bra Jeff’, invited teachers to a meeting at the Atteridgeville Community Hall, where he was showered with presents.

The meeting with teachers was followed by a homecoming reception by the Atteridgeville Community at the Super Stadium that was filled to capacity. This disturbed the Apartheid authorities who instructed the police to intervene and ordered the people to disperse before the occasion could come to an end. The meetings by Jafta Masemola were growing by the day and as a result the PAC was becoming more visible. Jafta Masemola travelled the length and breadth of the country reviving PAC structures. He was asked to intervene in conflicts between the PAC and UDF members and this enhanced his stature and influence.

In all these activities Jafta Masemola did not seem to take care of his personal security. He never thought anything bad could happen to him because he had so much trust in the African people. This lax attitude to security meant that Jafta Masemola travelled without a bodyguard on the fateful day of April 17, 1990 when he was killed in a car crash just six months after his release from prison. This accident brought the life of this young, dynamic and promising leader to an end. The truck that was involved in the crash with Jafta Masemola’s car disappeared from the scene of the accident and has to this day never been traced.

This is how the life of this hard working, powerful, intelligent, creative and Fearless leader Ended. Jafta Masemola’s death was a serious blow and setback for the PAC as he was looked upon as the next to succeed the then aging and ailing President of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC), Zephaniah Mothopeng -The Lion of Azania. We are meeting on the 31st July 2010, set aside by PAC as Heroes’ Day to honour and memorialize this great son of Africa .

By Ike Mafole
(The writer is the current Chairperson of Tshwane APLA Military Veterans Association and a former member of the PAC National Executive Committee (NEC) and the Central Committee (CC))

16 thoughts on “SHORT PROFILE OF JAFTA KGALABI “THE TIGER OF AZANIA” MASEMOLA

  1. To who it may concern.

    This hero died from an accident.Has the PAC done anything to investigate this matter?If so,what was the outcomes of bra Jeffs death.Was the family notified of the outcomes?Was the track or driver identified?

    I have been reading about heroes like Steve Biko and other ANC members,but i realise after reading this that Bra Jeff was one of a kind.PAC should ensure that the legacy it bra Jeff stays for ever.Do we have any remebrance of bra Jeff.a tombstone or anything.How about his family.is someone or PAC taking care of them or we just write about him and do nothing?????

    Why is Bra Jeff only being commemorated know after 15 years of his death?

    The least PAC can do for his family is to ensure that all who were involved in bra Jeff case be mentioned.A man spend 27 tears in prison fighting for what we call today freedom,dies 6 six month after his realise and the party that hededicated his life for does nothing??????????????this is not right at all.How do you expect other parties or members to respect your organisation if people of bra Jeff caliber are not even respected.PAC PLEASE DO SOMETHING ABOUT JAFTAS DEATH.izwelethu

    1. Dear Maodi

      Point noted.
      We had a commemoration on Saturday and the family participated and were involved from the begining.
      In fact, preparatory meetings took place at his home were he stayed at the time of his death. We also had dinner there, after commemoration.
      The family was happy and sincerely appreciated our efforts to give Masemola the honour he deserves fo his selfless contribution. I was personally happy that, having assembled at home, we spent hours singing revolutionary songs and chanting in the streets.
      Many mistakes were made in the past and our responsibility as the youth is to put things right. It is never too late to make up for the mistakes of the past.
      The bigger plan is to build a monument at the spot were he was murdered, under the pretext of a car accident, and also erect a tombstone to be unveiled at the 21st anniversarry of his death on April 17 2011. We will work very hard to make sure this plan materialises.
      We have been advised that the case was investigated by the PAC together with the family and that however same was not done thoroughly. This is an issue that i believe should still be taken up especially by PAYCO, the youth wing of the PAC. The police bungled the investigation for obvious reasons.
      I am content that we are beginning to right wrongs of the past and in the long run this will enhance cohension and unity in the party which will lead to more public confidence. Izwelethu!

  2. mandela must say something about the death of this man as he died weeks just after meeting him. It is believed he named mandela traitor. Arrest mandela

  3. Our history is written in blood no amount of lies shall wipe it,Mandela uyalazi iqiniso(Mandela knows the truth),let us all remember all the unsung martyrs who laid their lives for a free Azania..Izwe lethu..IAfrika

  4. In the 1980s I was active on the Non-Stop Picket of the South African Embassy in London organised by the City of London Anti-Apartheid Group. On 21 March 1990 I had the honour of hearing Jafta Masemola speak at a rally in London to commemorate the Sharpeville Massacre. I have just blogged about that event and Sharpeville rallies in other years around that time when leading PAC comrades spoke to sympathetic British anti-apartheid activists:
    http://nonstopagainstapartheid.wordpress.com/2012/03/21/remembering-sharpeville/

  5. In Azania there’s apparent bias as far as telling history . One leader has been presented as the sole custodian of struggle for the liberation of Afrikan people in Azania. Cde Masemola and the other Afrikanist leaders are not presented as great contributors in the struggle in the same bombarding fashion as it is with ANC leaders! History should be told correctly and please with no bias! Izwe lethu!

  6. I agree with the sentiments expressed above. Many were imprisoned. Women were also imprisoned, some in solitary confinement. Women were tortured. Others died under torture without reaching prison. Who knows their names? Only a handful are credited with having liberated South Africa. The same is true for the SANROC. One man is credited with having had SA kicked out of the Olympic games. It is not true. That campaign began in the Eastern Cape. Not by people in exile. See my blog: ‘A One Man Band’?

  7. What a sad story.the forgotten freedom fighter,son of the soil.South Africa forget you Jefta Masemola as if didn’t sacrifice your life this democracy we’re enjoying today.I don’t believe that your soul had rest in peace by the way our country administration is controlled by brainless & visionless leaders who are only interested in filling in their pocket.appoint themselves in key positions without any experience.

  8. very touched to read Bra Jafta’ profile.What is sad about him is that only 1 street @ the outskirt of tshwane in sunyside is named after.am apealing 2 al Pac n APLA members,stalwarts n Veterance to wite n publish more stories about their heroes n heroins of azania.izwe lethu maAfrka

  9. It is with regret that Mr Japhta Masemola died six months after his release from prison what he was talking with mandela before he died,Pac do something about this Lions death mandela knows something that we dont know and he took that to his grave.History will judge him

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