'A life dedicated to freedom' - ANC pays tribute to late stalwart Tom Manthata

Tom Manthata.
Tom Manthata.
  • The ANC on Saturday said it was saddened by the death of struggle stalwart Tom Manthata.
  • Manthata died on Friday night at the age of 80 of Covid-19-related complications.
  • The party described Manthata as one of the architects of the country's new democracy. 

The ANC on Saturday said it was "saddened by the death of comrade Thomas Madikwe Manthata, popularly known as Tom Manthata.

"His passing marks the end of a revolutionary life that was dedicated to the freedom of the people of South Africa," ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe said in a statement. 

Manthata died on Friday night at the age of 80. He died of Covid-19-related complications, according to a report by SABC News.

"The African National Congress, its alliance partners and the rest of the mass democratic movement are devastated by the death of one of the most loyal and dedicated cadres. We mourn the passing of this stalwart and veteran of our movement, who never wavered in the face difficulties or setbacks, but remained loyal to the struggle of our people up to his last day," Mabe said. 

Mabe added that Manthata contributed enormously to the downfall of apartheid and was one of the architects of the country's new democracy.

"Indeed, his real contribution to our struggle and the reconstruction and development of our nation is still to be fully acknowledged and documented. 

"Together with other leaders of the United Democratic Front (UDF), Popo Molefe, Moss Chikane and Patrick 'Terror' Lekota, Ntate Tom Manthata was convicted of treason during the famous Delmas Treason Trial. Following this miscarriage of justice, AZASO (a UDF affiliate) declared: 'Our leaders' struggle for peace and justice is not an act of treason!'

Not consumed by bitterness

"The criminalisation of the struggle against the oppression and injustices of apartheid was calculated to break the back of the mass democratic movement. Stalwarts such as Ntate Manthata and his generation made sure this strategy did not succeed," Mabe said. 

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu described Tom Manthata as "a person who, after being tortured while in police custody, after spending more than 200 days detained without trial, after being in 'preventive detention' for nearly a year, came out of prison to say to his friends in the council: 'Let's not be consumed by bitterness'".

According to Mabe, as a part-time student at Unisa, Manthata was a member of both the University Christian Movement and the South African Students' Organisation (SASO). 

"He will be remembered as one of the most progressive teachers and politically conscious teachers while at Sekano Ntoane High School in Soweto. He instilled progressive values among his learners, who included [President] Cyril Ramaphosa and [former Johannesburg mayor] Amos Masondo.

'Supreme price in pursuit of liberation'

"He joined the struggle for freedom at a time when it was extremely dangerous to do [so]. He spent six years behind bars in a series of detentions and court cases. He belonged to that generation of freedom fighters who were prepared to pay the supreme price in pursuit of the liberation of our people. This unwavering revolutionary served his people selflessly, and with no expectation of any material rewards or personal glory. He is an example worthy of emulation by the younger generation." 

After 1974 he worked for the South Africa Council Churches (SACC), primarily assisting families of detainees.

We salute him for his unwavering and steadfast commitment to serve selflessly and with humility. We commit to continue to celebrate his life and leadership and preserve his legacy for future generations to learn from him.

"The people of our country will treasure his memory as one of our most distinguished sons who consciously chose to fight a cruel and inhumane system at a time when it was extremely dangerous to do so. Even up to his last day, he placed his life and service in the hands of the ANC and the people of his country.

"The best tribute we can pay to this son of the soil is to continue to work tirelessly in pursuit of the kind of society for which he sacrificed most of his life for. In his memory, let us build a society that enables all its citizens, including women, children and people with disabilities, to taste the fruits of our liberation. Let us pick up his spear and continue where he left off," Mabe added.

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