Remembering Rev Marawu, an unsung hero

2017-12-07 06:00
House of truthThembile Ndabeni

House of truthThembile Ndabeni

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The is in honour of Reverend Sikolakhe Marawu.

Affectionately called Rev, Mrev or Comrade Rev”, was a committed liberation fighter and allowed his lot to be used as a cover for those who were oppressed and were involved in the liberation struggle.

Because of his activism, the apartheid regime focused their searchlight on him, and he became a marked man, with all manner of intended isolation visited upon him.

However, they could not separate him from his people, as he became a popular “chaplain to the masses of the Western Cape”, albeit an unofficial one in the eyes of the oppressor.

In the black townships The Rev presided in many political funerals.

His “official duties” included visiting and comforting bereaved families. He was the to-go-to priest for ANC funerals.

While other men of the cloth danced to the tune of the Apartheid regime, The Rev danced to the tune of the masses.

He was a thorn on the side of the oppressors.

What made him participate in both religion and politics was his belief that religion and politics “is saliva to the tongue”.

Author and ANC veteran Archie Sibeko, who knew him from their days in Kraaifontein before all moved to Nyanga West(Gugulethu) and then to Langa said of The Rev:: “He had decided early on that religion and ANC politics coincide in many respects and we recognized his commitment to both the church and the struggle”.

He was also a good trade unionist, organizing workers to join the trade union. Sibeko: “Most of the pastors I know are delicate specimens, not rabble- rousers”. Unionists were perceived by the racist regime as communists and they had no protection in terms of the law. It was not in Cape Town only where he organized workers but in Durban as well.

That is why at the formation of the United Democratic Front(UDF), he fitted like a glove to a hand, playing a prominent role as well. Some comrades from the Eastern Cape were highly impressed by him at the funeral of the “Cradock Four”, Matthew Goniwe, Fort Calata, Sparrow Mkhonto and Sicelo Mhlauli. Before the freedom song “Hamba Kahle Mkhonto” became widely known, he sang it at that funeral carrying an uMkhonto (a spear).

Even his birth year, 1922, coincides with the year of the strike action by mine workers.

The Rev was hailed as a hero by his peers.

Unfortunately he did not live to see the freedom he tirelessly fought for. But the then ANC led government in Western Cape honoured with The Order of the DISA. Unfortunately Comrade Saleem Badat, in his book, “The Forgotten People: Political Banishment Under Apartheid”, doesn’t mention “The Rev”. Jeremy Seekings, in his book “The UDF: A History of the United Democratic Front in South Africa, 1983-1991”, also doesn’t mention Rev Marawu. Both are unfortunate omissions.

It’s unfortunate that he didn’t only miss the freedom he fought for but also meeting his comrades and friends he last saw before they were forced to skip the country into exile.

The authorities didn’t realize that they were shooting themselves in the foot by taking his license. He got enough time to organize workers to join trade unions and challenge both capitalism and Apartheid, two sides of the same coin, exploitative-oppressive machinery to Africans/Blacks.

His stance against Apartheid earned him much credibility to the masses of the oppressed, as compared to compliant men of the cloth.

Many thanks to Archie Sibeko for also writing about him as well in his book, titled “Roll of Honour”.

The 13rd of November 2017 marked the 30th anniversary of his death but this passed on without as much as a murmur.

It has been three decades of silence on this great son of the soil who made his mark sacrificing a great deal to lead his people to a freedom he did not come to celebrate.

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