In 1979, the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) of Azania was facing serious problems. Many of its leaders were either sentenced to long imprisonment or in detention without trial, and others were struggling to gather both financial and military support for the armed struggle against the apartheid minority government led by the Nationalist Party.
I remember as a young uneducated cadre of the Party, I was required to step up and close the lacuna created by the sentencing of great leaders like Uncle Zeph Mothopeng and many others. Taking that responsibility, my first stop was Zakes Mofokeng and David Phetoe. They later on took me to Catholic Father Buti Thlagale at the church in Dube, not far from David Phetoe’s house.
I spent months being taught labour relations and how it actually fits both in the liberation struggle and the arts. As a young man and just like all other young men at the time, this was a waste of my time. I wanted quick solutions to my problems – all I wanted from them was money to be able to buy equipment’s for my unit of fighters. We wanted to be able to do target reconnaissance and have transport to move around the country. Unfortunately for me, they had their own plans. They saw a need for leadership in the labour field and the only person to close that gap was myself.
The elder brothers (David and Zakes) had made their decision, as they said, military solution must be delayed until such time that the Azanian People’s Liberation Army (APLA) is reorganised in its home coming programme. For then, we would focus our energy in the arts and labour. We needed to lay the foundation for military solution that may come late or not at all. David Phetoe, Zakes Mofokeng and others became living libraries for me and my fellow revolutionaries, for many years that followed.
I led the 1980 strike of Municipal workers in Johannesburg. Our unit became labour union leaders. After the 1980 Johannesburg Municipal strike, one of the great African pop singers by the name of Mpharanyana sang a song “Mofokeng oa boulela; Ona sebetsa ha Masipala”, that made me upset. I went to see David and Zakes complaining that Mpharanyana was reactionary and they laughed at me, saying I owe Mpharanyana an apology because he has made the struggle of municipal workers more known and popular in the country and abroad. I learned that music and arts in general are revolutionary and that news are news.
During the time when David Phetoe was still acting as a patriarch of the Moroka family on the television series Generation, we visited him accompanied by the ever green Zakes Mofokeng and my three children. He left an ever lasting impression on my children.
On behalf of the cadres of the PAC and its then military wing APLA – with special emphasis to those cadres that worked with David and Zakes – we say a great African library has gone down. It has been burned down and thousand of thousands of extra ordinary ideas and advice are gone.
The great Africanist tree is no more, the shade we used to enjoy is no more, the fruits that sustained the existence of the Africanist Ideas are no more and the good ideas we used to enjoy are no more.
We say when the sun rises we shall always remember you and when the sun set we shall remember you.Hamba kahle son of the soil! Hamba kahle my leader! Hamba kahle Commander and Hamba kahle my big brother.
By Phillip Dhlamini
The writer is the National Chairperson of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania
Pic: David Letsebe Phetoe (1932 – 2018) Inset:Phillip Dhlamini(Green T-Shirt) with Comrades at the funeral of David Phetoe