Makhenkesi Arnold Stofile 1944 - 2016

2016-08-16 14:17

"Ubani Ozofakaza Ngawe?" Makhenkesi Arnold Stofile 1944 - 2016

He found out he was ill a mere four weeks or so ago. He woke up with a debilitating abdominal pain; so debilitating he could not stand or walk. Always able to handle pain but this time he agreed that he needed to go to the hospital but not before he delivered an eulogy at one of his former aides who had passed after a long illness.

Assisted by his wife, Nambitha he mustered getting dressed for the funeral. His eulogy had to be cut short as Nambitha realized that her loving husband and university sweetheart just could not handle the pain. Dashing to the hospital in a frenzy, this man who could take Special Branch police torture was going through excruciating pain just like that, unannounced and certainly not welcomed.

Reverend Stof, as he was affectionately known was soon diagnosed with an aggressive cancer needing an urgent operation. Maybe I took the news lightly as I spoke on the phone with Sis’Nambitha. I still referred to the recommendation letter Mfundisi had to write for me to be accepted into an international masters degree.

Mfundisi was one who disliked the media, wait, not for the reasons I hold. He just did not get the idea of media and self-attention or self-promotion. When I worked as one of his only two political aides in 1994, I knew to keep the media away and very far away from him. I ended up delivering most of his media glare public speeches too. I learnt the “no comment” line from him. He did communicate. He knew his audience and constituency and was a prolific letter writer. He preferred that personal touch, the eyeball, and the direct and personal contact and visitations. He was a non-elitist elite, a humble man, an educated man who remained iqaba. He was free.

His media distance was felt the most by those who thought he should be leading the hosting of the FIFA 2010 tournament from the glare of the cameras. You could feel the frustration around. I of course knew those who were frustrated would not win to pull him off his comfort of leading from the ground and not through cameras and sound bites.

Minister Ngconde Balfour bided for the FIFA 2010 tournament; Reverend Makhenkesi Stofile implemented and hosted it. The Minister for Women in the Presidency ended up being the one the media sort for comments around issues FIFA and the staging. He just did not seek personal glory. He ran from it even when it was all his to luxuriate on.

He delivered what FIFA said was a “10 over 10 satisfaction but we shall score you 9 over 10”, a great and truly memorable World Cup. He took not to the headlines to promote himself. Even though there is no stadium named after him, he built them.

As the first Chief Whip of the Majority in Parliament, Reverend Stofile had one of the most unnerving tasks. Here we had over two thirds of new members of parliament who had no clue what a member of parliament is. We often joked to members that indeed there was a whip in our office and it is legal to give lashes to members who misbehaved. Some believed this for the longest time. He performed this task with so much ease.

Mfundisi, as a sports administrator and player too during apartheid, a task he lived with during his tenure as Dean and Professor of Theology in University of Fort Hare, He saw it compelling that the fight against apartheid must move to international sports too.

After skipping the country on foot across Lesotho and training as Umkhonto WeSizwe combatant, he sought to get Oliver Tambo’s permission to duplicate what was the Apartheid Cultural Boycott Campaign to Sports. In 1981, teaming up with Peter Hain in England and others down under, he put the shame on Prime Minister Robert Muldoon who opted to host the Springboks against the Gleneagles Agreement of the Commonwealth Heads of States and Governments. He had insight that the Afrikaner saw their rugby only close to God and to talk to them, rugby was the most peaceful tactic.

Oom Stof, Comrade Stof, Tatu’Stofile, Mfundisi went to cause the biggest mayhem in New Zealand and organized a huge rally and march against the Springboks playing the All Blacks there. It shook the world and the Springboks fell. The Afrikaner were brought exactly where they ought to be, the pariahs and skunks.

Only last year we celebrated his 70th birthday outside Alice. Close family and friends organized to get him a lazy chair, you know the one that massages you. We saw him in that chair, napping to his glory days with his little grandchildren with him. He was strong, wiser than wise, he felt and felt very strong about the poor, the Africans and human race. He loved the ANC. He loved his wife.

This man would call me to just give me a pep-talk when he heard through the grapevine of my maybe personal troubles, he was a pillar is deep strength, dependable, a true father figure, a rare breed. Many who knew him know him this way. I also knew I will get a strong rebuke phone call if I misstep, I got a few of those too.

Now he is with Sikhulule, his teenage son who passed on in 1995. He is with his brother Michael and others. But who are we without him now? Who am I now without this constant life support? Who are we without this silent and constant pillar of strength and wisdom? Will those who are against us triumph now that we can’t call on Stof to defend and lead us as he silently did for 50 years? Your living mother is going to do the unnatural again, bury her child once again. What does Sis’Nambi do now? Her true friend is gone. Mathahle and your young children, Sive, I know you from little age, what do I say to you now?

A non-drinker but as a student representative at Fort Hare he co-led a demand to have alcohol accepted in the premises for occasional use. He did not believe in unjustifiable banning’s but freedom.

As ANC’s Treasurer General in Nelson Mandela’s top 6, he had to perform a task of ANC’s reboot from an international donor funded organization into a locally funded one. He had to repatriate ANC assets from across the globe in over 50 countries. At the same time he had to be the first democratic Chief Whip and excel at it for we had to restructure the entirety of apartheid statutes fast. When called upon to replace Oom Ray, Raymond Mhlaba as Premier of the Eastern Cape Province he answered the call. As Ambassador to Germany he told me of his great work with local communities there, he even started coaching rugby there again and got a loser team up in the league. He became the go to guy to place young South African rugby players with European clubs. He beamed at it.

Student Leader, Presbyterian ordained Minister, Dean and Professor, Anti-Apartheid Activist, Umkhonto WeSizwe combatant, ANC Treasurer General, ANC Provincial Chairman, Minister of Sports, Ambassador, Chancellor of UFH, worlds best father and husband, role model and mentor, my former boss and father, Mfundisi, the Incorruptible; I wish I could wake you. Your passing is cruelty to this humankind, your people.

‘Tis dark. 'Tis unacceptable.'Tis gonna be very lonely.

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