The demise of Thembekile Ambrose ‘’Ghost’’ Plaatjie leaves the communities of the Western Cape without the services of a dedicated educator, a freedom fighter and community worker.
He passed away a week ago, after a long battle with illness.
The first of five children born to Buyiselo ‘’Frank Lord’’ and Puleka Victoria Plaatjieas, Ghost, as he was affectionately called, started his formative education at Mokone Primary School and then proceeded to Moshesh Higher Primary School in Langa.
After matriculating from Langa High School in 1979, he applied and was accepted for a teacher training Diploma at Lennox Sebe Teachers College in the former Ciskei between 1980 to 1982.
Ghost later taught English at Langa High School from 1983 until 1991.
He later became a headmaster at the school, during the height of the apartheid Struggles, and Ghost was one of those who were prepared to put their lives on the line for our liberation.
In 1985, he, together with fellow teachers Monde Mbekwa, Ernest Henda, both from I.D Mkhize Secondary School and British Fonya were served with 18 months suspension by the Department of Education, because they dared the latter’s instructions to take part in apartheid sport.
The defiance was in line with the South African Council on Sports’(Sacos) call for schools to boycott such activities under the banner of: “No normal sport in an abnormal society”.
After their arrest, the whole of Langa High School went on an indefinite shut- down, as students from the Congress of South African Students(Cosas) demanded the release of their teachers.
After a protracted spell of protest, the trio were released from detention and came back to the school to a heroes welcome and resumed their duties.
The defiance was also under the auspices of the Democratic Teacher’s Union(Detu), which Ghost had helped found.
Detu was the precursor to the present day Sadtu, the South African Democratic Teacher’s Union.
Detu, as a teachers’ union, hit the ground running, so to speak, as it was formed at the height of student-teacher activism both at Langa High School where Ghost taught, and the rest of the Western Cape, including the country.
In Langa High School, he worked closely with the student leadership of Cosas and the Student Representative Council, flying the banner of people’s education for people’s power high.
His quiet but unassuming militancy eventually caught the attention of the Security Branch.
Together with fellow teacher comrades the likes of Duke Ngcukana, Luvuyo ‘’Pro’’ Hlaba, Baba Bala, Zolile ‘’British” Fonya and Willie Maliwa ,they managed to literally turn the things around as far as teacher activism was concerned.
As part of this group, Ghost was involved in running battles with the DET around sports administration, student registration and recognition teachers’ union.
Ghost was also instrumental in the establishment of the Parent-Teacher-Student Association (PTSA) at Langa High School, serving as the teacher representative in the executive of the PTSA. The PTSAs are currently known as the School Governing Bodies or SGBs.
The last spell of his detention was in the period 1988/89, when a State of Emergency was declared. He shared the same cell with the late struggle stalwart Christmas Tinto (Com T) and Trevor Manuel, who would later become his boss at Treasury.
He was still an employee at the Ministry of Finance and National Treasury at the time of his untimely death.
In 1997 he left to work at WBHO as a Human Resources Manager until 1998. Then he moved to work in Parliament as an ANC Caucus researcher between 1999 to 2003.
A courageous man who took to tasks with verve, it is worth noting that his achievements include being the team captain of the LL Sebe College football team, and during his teaching years, he was the coach of the Langa High School soccer team, taking them to the finals of the Coca Cola Schools Championships in 1984, where they qualified for the SA High Schools, bringing the first prize trophy back home. In that same year and under his tutelage, the team won the Ellerines Cup, playing at the iconic Orlando Stadium, in Soweto.
He showed much prowess on the playing fields with his team, Spes Bona F.C, which he joined in the late 1970s, after leaving arch-rivals Cubs F.C.
An excellent midfielder who would also take up the cudgels as coach in the absence of the incumbent. Ghost became famous for his drill as a coach, if only because these entailed mastery of the one-two’s, one touch, two touch and so on.
In 1983 he was elected as the club secretary of Spes Bona FC. In 1984 he discontinued as secretary to focus on his coaching of the Langa High School soccer teams.
Thembekile also played cricket for both Langa High School and the Langa Cricket Club. He played as opening batsman for both. He gained prominence as a prolific defensive batsman as well as a reliable fielder.
A seldom known fact about his life is that of an ANC and MK (Umkhonto WeSizwe) operative, taking orders from Ndodomzi Mamba, aka Dopla or Chicks. But the person he worked closely with was the late Solly Mutsi, also known as Reggie, from Port Elizabeth who operated in the Western Cape. During 1987/1988 Ghost was instrumental in recruiting many of us from Langa into MK cells. Due to his secretive nature, the Security Branch never cracked his file, at a time when detection meant death or jail, if you were lucky.
Ghost met his life partner Nobuhle Cecilia Nodlela, during his years at the teacher training institute- she passed on in 1992- and the pair were blessed with Thandekile, their only child. He was born on 1 October 1960.
To his family, he was a pillar of strength as well as a very supportive, fun-loving brother, cousin and uncle. A memorial service in his honour will be held at Langa High School Hall this evening and his funeral takes place on Saturday. Lala Ngoxolo Bhele, Langa, Qunta, Mafu.
Hamba Kahle Mkhonto we Sizwe!