Mxolisi Ace Mgxashe Source:
Mxolisi Ace Mgxashe

Sadly, Bra Ace Mgxashe passed away in his hometown of Cape Town on Sunday 21 July 2013 after a severe bout of shortness of breath. He had always complained to most Africanists close to him that he was not well, but that he would soldier on and among the many projects he had to continue included work on his manuscript of liberation struggle memoirs as a follow up to his book titled “Are you with Us – The Story of a PAC Activist”, published by Tafelberg.

Bra Ace was a journalist for several major newspapers in Southern Africa during his years in exile and when he returned home after the PAC was un-banned in 1990. He wrote boldly about the inner workings of the Party and he invariably disturbed the even tenor of many cadres and leaders with his controversial insights. A kind of maverick you could say, but clearly a man with a dose of opinions on many issues pertaining to the history of the PAC. He was seconded to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a scribe and became privy to the securicrats’ evil operations and the many excesses committed by the liberation movement as well. He particularly gave me overwhelming support when I had a run-in with some ANC bigwigs enriching themselves by stealing from the poor in the community of former political prisoners.

I first met Bra Ace in Botswana around 1982 or so when the PAC chief representative introduced us to one another. At the time, I was secretary of the African Writers Association and book editor at Skotaville Publishers. Ace was going to take me to Bessie Head’s place in Serowe for me to complete a series of interviews with South African writers. It was good for me to learn that Bessie Head – a great African woman writer – was also a PAC activist. Mxolisi and I instead had evening long discussions on political treatise and the many frustrations and advantages of working as a writer from exile. But I regrettably could not interview him at the time. He later wrote something that the Botswana authorities were not happy with and he was shunted out of the country.

At some point Bra Ace also attacked then PAC Chairman, John Nyati Pokela, from his embedded journalism vantage point, and made many PAC cadres unhappy. I took it he was an impulsive man and did not give time to critical thought and serious reflection when he articulated his views. In the newsroom they are pressed to meet deadlines and raise the heckles of their subjects through sensationalism in order to sell the newspapers. He could easily have fallen victim to this subjective condition. At heart, he was well meaning with his writings. Blinkered comrades do not understand that among us we have creative talent that cannot be muzzled. This talent needs an open platform within the Party to ventilate their opinion and get feedback in debates and objective discussions. Harnessed properly, this talent becomes your gift to society to be appreciated and acknowledged as true sons and daughters of the nation.

The late Mxolisi rubbed shoulders with reknown leftist academics such as the late Archie Mafeje. He waxed lyrical about the advent of Letlapa Mphahlele in the leadership of the PAC in 2006. I held a contrary view – not about personalities but the way in which desperation and the slide backwards into anarchy were pushing the PAC’s revival the wrong way. We would disagree strongly. His reference was to the experience in exile and the reverses brought about by undemocratic behavior. After a few months he came back fuming when Letlapa disappointed him in a political scheme they had planned for the Western Cape. He could now see the writings on the wall and he broke ranks.

Bra Ace was against corruption and dictatorial tendencies. He is one of those who think the PAC in its current form is beyond redemption. I respectfully disagree. It is not the PAC that is beyond redemption. It is a few lost characters who have stolen the Party machinery. We are going through a reactionary phase of our history of struggle. We unfortunately have the propensity to learn the hard way. Revolutionaries need to learn to be patient and to work hard sharpening their skills in order to serve the African people in a systematic way. They must not follow the four winds. We must not work for instant personal gratification.

My views are informed by Sobukwe’s approach: history will choose its tools. Time is longer than rope. The African Revolution is ultimately going to achieve victory. Sobukwe said we must learn not to be blinded by the dust of the struggle – the glittering golden gates of total liberation were up the road. We must soldier on. Mxolisi Ace Mgxashe trials and tribulations in his life experience is for me a page to read from, to learn from it, and to appreciate his contributions. Another son of the soil has fallen.

Izwelethu! I-Afrika!

By Jaki Seroke


  1. Hawu!….laze latshona iqhawe! I knew “Bra Ace” as passionate about politics and having a sharp mind that took you down political paths you had not thought of. It was always a pleasure to engage with him on topical issues, his passing is regrettable. He will be sorely missed. May his soul eternally rest in peace.

  2. Rest in peace Bra Ace. We are surely going to miss you. To comrades Martha, Zweli, the PAC and the rest of the Bra Ace’ s family tsithi lalani ngenxeba Ma-Afrika.

    Comrade Jaki, I agree with you, despite the difficult times our Party and continent is going through, the ideological foundation laid down by our ancestors especially AP Mda, Sobukwe, Lembede, Mothopeng, Leballo,
    Nkrumah, Padmore, Garvey, Phama and countless revolutionaries at home and in the diaspora, will sustain the PAC in all the storms.

    Izwe lethu!

  3. Bro Ace never menaced his words. He was brilliant and fun. I will miss him. May, his soul rest in peace.

  4. A mouthful Jaki. Sad news indeed about Mxolisi Mgxashe. I heard about the news of Bra Ace’s passing yesterday from a former Azanyu leader who asked me if I knew him. He had just read his obituary in the Sowetan. I last saw Bra Ace at the funeral of Ntate Setlhodi’s duaghter in Lobatse in the early 1980’s. He had a remarkable sense of humour. Before the service commenced he regaled us with jokes. As a journalist at the Botswana Guardian, Bra Ace wrote satirical as well as insightful articles. He once wrote about a party he attended at one of the foreign embassies in Gaborone where there were some Botswana Cabinet Ministers, High Commissioners, Ambassodors and the wife of Botswana’s Commissioner of Police, Simon Herschfeildt (pardon my spelling).He wrote that the way Herschfeildt’s was so tipsy when he danced waltz or quickstep with some other gentleman, it seemed as if her feet did not touch the floor. He also wrote that the way chicken that was served at that function was so big, it looked like a crossbreed of an ostritch and an elephant. If you read (as in past tense) between the lines, Bra Ace was pointing out that the elite were enjoying themselves while the poor starved and that the ruling classes’s wives got just as drunk and coquettish as the porvo. When SADF raided Botswana on the 14th June 1985 and killed fourteen people in Gaborone, Bra Ace wrote a scathing article in the Botswana Guardian which led to his deportation from that country. The Botswana government did not even care that he was married to a citizen of Botswana. They did not eevn give a hoot about his freedom of expression as a journalist.That was a very sad moment. A few days back The Botswana Guardian published my article pointing out how former Minister Daniel Kwelagobe deported South Africans after the death of their former President Seretse Khama who displayed benevolence towards us.I did not know that Bra Ace was ill. Another saddest moment for us exiles in Botswana was when Welile Faku was murdered in prison and nobody has been brought to book up to today. This was the time that I wrote my first article anonymously in the Botswana Guardian complaining about the death of Welile Faku. It is heartbreaking that Stalwarts of the PAC such as Bra Ace are passing on leaving the organisation in tatters and those who are wrecking the PAC won’t let up. On Thursday they are from court fighting over the sole parliamentary seat that the party has won instead of fixing the mess that they have created in the organisation. Going to parliament is and should not be a priority, rebuilding and strengthening the PAC is. I am asking the wreckers of the PAC and PAC members in general what message should Bra Ace take to Sobukwe, Mothopeng, Masemola and Sabelo Phama?

    1. I omitted Herschfeildt’s wife. I don’t appreciate it when people are reading my articles then they should gues I wanted to say. Bear with me MaAfrika.

    2. We must strive to record the history and give different views on the pertinent issues. When young people try to get meaning to their hopeless conditions, they must find that many other patriots have stepped on the same path and stirred the authorities to do the right thing. Personalities such as Ace Mgxashe, when studied closely, shine the light on the pursuit of true democracy and knowledge. I am also keen to know the story of exile (from those who experienced it) in order to join the dots that led to the outcome of the Kempton Park negotiations for a peaceful settlement. Were those in exile desperate to go back home? I know that most of the imprisoned were throwing in the towel, and ready to give up. Except for Jeff Masemola and Uncle Zeph. They were a tower of strength and they were principled. You must write a book, Ditshego.

      1. Hi M’Afrika,

        The Kempton Park talks are in line with the the “Lusaka manifesto”. Remember that the Lusaka manifesto negated the revolutionary Africanist thesis that called for the decolonisation of every square inch of Afrika, including occupied Azania. like the document “misnamed” the freedom charter, the lusaka manifesto views the conflict in occupied Azania as a big misunderstanding between siblings who love each other to death.

        Like the freedom charter, the authorship of the lusaka manifesto is atributted to Africans ( I have my doubts on this-truth will come out one day). The African uncles were merely used in this instance to carry out foreign and western colonial agenda to keep us in perpertual slavery until this side of eternity. With support of revolutionary African states shrinking, PAC was fighting, the western colonialist, the Soviet Union and the African uncles (and maybe some aunties).

        When the talks in Darka and Tynhuis and other places gained momentum and the uncles privately agreed to consumate their marriage with colonialism, a good excuse was legitimised to get rid or silence those
        who do not see the struggle for a free Azania in rosy sun glasses. I hope we can pursue this discussion further with input from diverse sources.

        Izwelethu- i Afrika.

        1. The Lusaka Manifesto led to the detente “toenadering” that saw Kenneth Kaunda and John Voster agreeing to a peaceful approach to change. It also led to the hostile attitude that the then Lusaka government held towards ZANU and ZANLA forces (including the PAC) and eventually led to their expulsion in Zambia with the flimsy excuse of the assassination of Herbert Chitepo by a car bomb. They only accepted Tambo and Joshua Nkomo – who aligned their organisations with the Lusaka Manisfesto. The Americans brought in an international perspective later on with Chester Crocker – a leading academic and Republican – devising the constructive engagement claptrap. This was under the guise of finding peaceful resolution in Southern Africa.

          Settler colonialism is not easy to resolve. I do not have an example of successful settlement at the peace negotiations under these circumstances. Zimbabwe is a case in point. Without Robert Mugabe and his comrades, the ex Rhodesians would want to rule by fiat and get their Black men and women in the seat of power. The Azanian tendency was a major threat and at every level we were cut out by the support groups and solidarity organisations. The Kempton Park settlement has major deficiencies in the material benefits due to the dispossessed. It is the same thing as in Kenya. The Mau Mau Land and Freedom Movement is still being marginalised to date. Mugabe is the best we have.

    3. I now Ma-AFRIKA am starting to believe that PAC is beyond redemption.internal conflicts has made this genuine movement to diminish. I as a member of poqo will abstain from voting till the leadership re-organise poqo.even here walter sisulu university we greatly disappointed of the squables hitting poqo.every member of PASMA HAS LOST its FAITH.THESE LEADERS WHO R TEARING PAC

      1. M’Afrika, difficult times like this affirm to us that a liberation struggle is not easy. It is true that at this moment we have been temporarily denied space in the “rainbow nation” but we can still learn and educate each other. There are other revolutionary dimensions that are open to us,namely time and consciousness. Another advantage is that compared to the new colonial functionaries on the continent, our culture is deeply rooted throughout the world. The enemy may continue to chop down the trees, but as long as the roots are there, stronger trees will always pop up, sometimes in places where they are least expected like desert areas.

        Gudnite MaAfrika and always remember that we are the descendants of Shaka, Mohlomi, Lepoqo, Sekhukhuni, Makhado, Ndlambe, Modjadji,
        Manthathisi, Nzinga, Garvey, Desalline, Padmore, Nkrumah, Ture, Lembede, Sobukwe , Mda, Mothopeng, Phama, Biko Chitepo etc.
        Tell PASMA not to lose faith. As individuals our time is short, but the revolution will continue. Sobukwe always reminded us that “it is the darkest hour before dawn”. Ours will not usher a flag independence, it will be an everlasting solution to Afrika’s problems.

  5. Bra Ace was a man of his conviction. He has accomplished his purpose. Ours is to continue the struggle from where he left off. We will all miss his rich sense of humour – which conveyed a powerful political narrative. Rest in peace bra Ace!

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