Jafta Kgalabi Masemola


The heading of this article reminds me of “to be or not to be” passage in Shakespeare’s Hamlet in which Hamlet is musing on the comparison between the pain of life which he sees as inevitable and the fear of the uncertainty of death and of possible damnation of suicide. Nelson Mandela has indeed caused us the pain of life to the extent that perhaps some people are contemplating suicide.

The gist of Youngster’s article (“How Mandela sold out Blacks”) in a recent edition of one of South Africa’s dailies, that Nelson Mandela sold us out, is true. Youngster should have written his name and not hide under the veil of anonymity. Mandela did not start negotiating with representatives of the Apartheid government in 1985 as some people seem to think. He was released from Robben Island in 1981 alone and taken to Pollsmore Prison where he was bought new shoes and a suit was cut for him. He was removed from other political prisoners including those he was close to like Walter Sisulu and other Rivonia treason trialists. It was in 1981 that the process of secret talks and negotiations started in smoke-filled rooms where there was horse-trading.


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.

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