‘Papa lived and died ANC’

2012-05-12 15:24

‘Papa never cried,” says Karabo Phakoe (30) as she wipes away the water welled up at the sides of her eyes.

“In court, the time I was affected most was when Papa’s colleagues came to testify. We were not aware of the hatred some people had for Papa.

“When they stood there and testified I heard it for the first time. He had to go through this and never even showed any signs, or cried.”

Karabo struggles to speak about her slain father, Cosatu leader and ANC councillor Moss Phakoe, whose life was cut short by two bullets fired at close range on March 14 2009 when he was just 52.

Phakoe’s boss, former Rustenburg Local Municipality mayor Matthews Wolmarans and his bodyguard Enoch Matshaba are on trial for the murder.

Karabo and her younger sister, Tshepiso (26), now live in their dad’s modest house in Middle Street. Things are not okay.

“There are things I need to express,” says Tlholo (27), their brother, who works for the Compensation Commission in Pretoria.

“I have one thing to say: leaders who fail to act decisively against corruption failed a father, a brother, a friend and a comrade who was in the movement of the ANC since we were very young.”

The young man with anger in his eyes spits disgust at those accused of murdering the man he adored.

“It hurts us that nobody senior in the ANC has come to listen to us. It feels like Moss Phakoe was just killed and buried. Our father died in the movement; our father died in the ANC. It hurts me so bad.”

Tlholo is the only sibling with a job.

“It pains me. When I come home, they are waiting for my salary. They sit at home, sometimes without any electricity or water. There is no food in the fridge.”

Tshepiso, the youngest sibling, takes her brother’s hand. She studied journalism in Johannesburg but had to return to Rustenburg when the money ran out.

“We relied on his salary. When my father lost his job as MMC, the family started struggling. We had to help where we could,” she says.

Wolmarans axed him as a member of the mayoral council.

“He was tortured because he was exposing the Rustenburg municipality; he was exposing Wolmarans and his friends.”

Phakoe was a factory worker in Brits and became politically active through the trade unions. He was instrumental in establishing the then banned ANC in the region.

“They were very difficult circumstances,” says Tlholo.

“The police came to intimidate us, to harass us in the house. He was brutally assaulted by the Bophuthatswana police in front of me. My father was seriously beaten.”

After 1994, Phakoe became an organiser in the National Union of Metalworkers in Brits. But it was through the municipality that he could live out his dreams.

“His passion was politics and helping people, his ANC and his God,” says Tlholo, repeating his last sentence.

“That’s why we are seeing these revelations today. He would leave his wife and children and go to ANC conferences abroad.

“My father was killed by his loyalty to the movement; he was too loyal to the movement and died for the movement.”

Moss Phakoe used to tell his children that some people had joined the ANC for the wrong reasons.

His children never knew he had become a crucial whistle-blower who begged the ANC – from branch level to President Jacob Zuma himself – to root out corruption in Rustenburg.

“He never spoke to us about the corruption. He couldn’t show his children. He was trying to protect us from any information,” says Karabo.

It was only after his death that they discovered what their father was on to.

“On the day of his murder lots and lots of people came here,” says Tlholo.
 
“Police dogs, comrades, everyone. Nathi Mthethwa came the following day, with Edna Molewa, to pay their respects. It was the last time they came here.

“It feels like my father dedicated his life to the ANC, but I don’t see any reward for that. I only see fights and cabals. The blood of Moss Phakoe must nourish us. Because we never had our father.”

What do they want from the ANC?

Tlholo answers. “I wanted someone to be assigned to come here and ask: ‘What can we do as an organisation?’

“My father always helped when someone was in need. My father used to say, ‘I know when I pass on one day you will never suffer. I know people will take care of you.’”

The Phakoe siblings are dreading that, for at least once, their father was dead wrong.

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