Obituary - Soto Ndukwana: a man of principle and honour

2010-12-07 14:19

Soto Ndukwana and I attended the funeral service of Sipho Hadebe, an ex-Robben Islander, in ­Soweto two months ago.

The ­proceedings left a deep impression on us. It made us ­reflect on our lives and the time we spent on Robben ­Island. It also made us ­reflect on the issue of our legacy.

We are both products of ­Anglican mission stations.

It was this background that drew us into politics at an early age, starting with the usual student politics.

By the mid-70s, we were touched by the spirit of black ­consciousness and helped form the South African Students Movement.

We had our first encounter with the security branch in 1975.

By then we had come to the conclusion that it was essential that we ­encouraged our peers to take up arms against apartheid.

It was the implementation of this decision that was to land Soto on Robben Island with a 10-year sentence.

I followed him within six months and we ended up in A Section – the isolation section.

The five years that I spent with him there was the most intense in terms of our political and intellectual development.

There could be no better university. We were bombarded by ideological ­debates from all directions.

Eventually, we decided that black consciousness was a necessary philosophical building block of our liberation theory but not a sufficient one.

And so we started the migration towards the politics and the theory of liberation of the Congress Movement.

In the debates that were a part of our daily lives, I found Soto to be diligent, an avid reader and a deep thinker. I also found him to be an excellent tactician.

Soto treasured education.

That is what drove him to enrol at Wits for a teaching degree.

He, Vuyo Mbuli and Fennie Zulu, among others, ran a private school called Khululeka High School.

For him, education was an ­instrument for changing society.

There is nothing he despised more than what we used to ­characterise as intellectual ­indolence.

Soto was a very passionate man.

If you were ever in a fight it would be better if he were on your side.

He demonstrated his spirit and resilience in the business ­dispute between Makana ­Investments and Safika ­Holdings.

What mattered to him was the principle and what he ­believed was right.

Soto was passionate about his home in Qoboqobo and all things rural.

It is so sad that he died just as he was contemplating legacy projects in his beloved town and village.

It is my hope that those ­responsible for his estate and his legacy will remember his passion for ­rural people and the need to end their poverty and ­marginalisation.

Lala ngoxolo Ngxabi, idabi ­ulilwile, ugqa tso ulufezile!

» Macozoma is chairperson of Stanlib, ­Liberty Group and Safika Holdings; and deputy chairperson of the Standard Bank of SA and Volkswagen SA

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