Return: hero’s remains back in SA

2010-02-22 00:00

“I WILL always miss not having my father when I was growing up. Now all I know about him is from other people. I would have loved to know the man other than as the hero whom I know now.”

These are the words of Nandi Makhathini (27), the only child of ANC struggle icon Johnstone Mfanafuthi “Johnny” Makhathini, who died in exile in Lusaka more than 20 years ago.

Makhathini’s remains were exhumed in Zambia on Saturday by a government delegation led by International Relations and Co-ope­rative Affairs Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and KwaZulu-Natal Premier Dr Zweli Mkhize.

Uniformed members of Mkhonto Wesizwe and hundreds of people welcomed his remains at Durban International Airport on Saturday evening.

President Jacob Zuma will speak at his reburial, which has been declared a provincial official funeral, next Saturday at Slangspruit Ce­metery in Pietermaritzburg.

At the time of his death, Makhathini was the head of the ANC’s international desk and played a crucial role in establishing the ANC’s profile abroad.

In an exclusive interview with The Witness shortly after the return of her father’s remains, Nandi confirmed that she and her Jamaican-born mother, Valerie, will return “home for good” after she finishes her studies at Georgia State University in the United States in May. She is studying towards a degree in political science and African history.

“I am extremely overjoyed that my father’s remains are being returned. He is now coming home to rest in the country he fought and died for. For a long time we have been looking forward to this day,” Nandi said with pride.

Nandi was only five years old when her father succumbed to diabetic complications on December 3, 1988. She does not recall much about her relationship with her father, “except that I was a daddy’s girl”.

“My return to South Africa will not be for the first time, since I was staying with my father’s family in South Africa from 1997 till 2002. I even matriculated at Durban Girls’ College. I also relate very well to my father’s family,” she said.

Mkhize said Makhathini “established 54 ANC offices worldwide while apartheid South Africa had only 30”.

“His death was very painful as it happened a few months before the unbanning of the liberation movements and the dawn of freedom.”

Tomorrow there will be an official memorial service for him at Thafamasi BC School in Ndwedwe, his place of birth.

His reburial on Saturday will be preceded by a memorial lecture at Durban City Hall on Thursday.

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