Moving tributes to struggle veteran

2010-03-01 00:00

HOPES for reconciliation between the ANC and the IFP were boosted at the weekend as IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi received a warm welcome from ANC supporters at the reburial service for ANC struggle stalwart Johnston Mfanafuthi “Johnny” Makhathini.

The remains of Makhathini, who died and was buried in exile in Lusaka 22 years ago, were reburied at the Heroes’ Acre in Slangspruit after a moving service held at Woodburn Stadium on Saturday.

Makhathini’s remains were exhumed last week after President Jacob Zuma declared a provincial official funeral for his reburial.

Zuma, leaders of the tripartite alliance, representatives of southern African governments and Buthelezi were among the speakers at the three-hour official service to honour the former head of the ANC’s international affairs desk.

Before rendering a moving tribute to her husband, Makhathini’s widow, Jamaican-born Valerie O’Connor-Makhathini, asked for the song Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton to be played. She said she and her daughter Nandi Makhathini, always play the song when they miss Makhathini.

“Johnny was a special person, but I was never aware that I was married to the giant he is.

“I am very happy that you are finally resting in the land you fought and died for. Nandi knows who you are and I have tried to instill in her the values we believed in. Hamba kahle Makhathini wami [Go well, Makhathini, my love].”

Speaking at the service, Buthelezi said he knew Makhathini and last met him in Nairobi in the 1970s with former ANC president, the late Oliver Tambo.

“I am yet to see a more hard-working human being than he was. He had very little sleep. In my view, this probably made a major contribution to his premature death in the very prime of his life.

“I am privileged to be here to salute this great liberation warrior,” Buthelezi said to applause and ululations from the audience.

Before leaving the podium, Buthelezi revealed that he nearly declined the invite to attend the reburial service because of fear that he might receive a hostile welcome from ANC’s “hotheads”, whom he described as worse than the those of the IFP.

“We have ‘hotheads’ in the IFP, but the ANC’s …” Buthelezi said to the rapturous laughter.

In a lighter moment afterwards, KZN Premier Zweli Mkhize insinuated that since Buthelezi is a former member of the ANC Youth League, he should be invited to a youth league veterans’ gathering, which will be organised by the league president Julius Malema.

During the run-up to last year’s elections, there was a public spat between Buthelezi and Malema following the latter’s statement that he was going to campaign for the ANC in Buthelezi’s homestead.

When it was Zuma’s turn to deliver his address, he stopped just short of appealing to Buthelezi to come back home.

He described Buthelezi as “our father” and said there was an “issue that needed to be completed” between the IFP and the ANC.

Zuma used an IsiZulu idiom which insinuated that since Buthelezi was once a member of the youth league, he could still rejoin.

It was not the first time that Zuma has proposed unity between the ANC and the IFP. Shortly after last year’s elections he did so, but the IFP leader rejected the proposal, saying that there were irreconcilable differences between the two parties.

On Makhathini, Zuma said the ANC and the people of South Africa achieved a lot through the leadership of Makhathini.

“… As a leading figure in the movement’s international campaign to isolate apartheid South Africa over many decades, Makhathini left behind what was probably the largest global movement of our time, the Anti-Apartheid Movement.

“He taught us that there is no greater human calling than the struggle for freedom.

Life itself meant nothing to him if he could not be free in the land of his birth,” Zuma said.

NAMIBIAN Parliament Speaker Theo-Ben ­Gurirab recalled the days he spent with Johnston “Johnny” Mfanafuthi Makhathini when they were representing their liberation movements in Algeria. Gurirab represented Swapo and Makhathini the ANC.

Katele Kalumba, the secretary-general of Zambia’s ruling party, the Movement for Multiparty Democracy, delivered a message on behalf of the people of Zambia, where Makhathini died in December 3, 1988.

Retired Bishop John Osmers, who buried Makhathini in 1988 and officiated during the exhumation service last week, conducted the homily for the reburial.

Police and members of Mkhonto Wesizwe did a military drill and handed the South African and ANC flags respectively, to O’ConnorMakhathini, as military tradition dictates.

After the service the cortege left for the reburial of the remains at the Heroes’ Acre in Slangspruit.

Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Inkatha Freedom Party president, said: "I am privileged to be here to salute this great liberation warrior."

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