STRUGGLE hero and ANC veteran Bra Ike Maphoto was described as a fearless man who risked his life in his 20s, and faced the barren of the gun of the apartheid regime to liberate his own people.
At his birthday celebration in Polokwane, Limpopo last week, young and old heaped praise on him for sacrificing his future for the sake of the country.
The veteran politician and soldier, who spent years in exile and returned after the unbanning of the ANC in 1990, was honoured for serving his movement and the country with integrity.
Members of the Ike Maphoto ANC branch in the suburb of Bendor, the richest in the province and named after the veteran leader, listened to stories of heroism involving him at the packed Osskool Primary School in Polokwane. The function was attended by prominent politicians and businesspeople including Limpopo Health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba and Sports, Arts and Culture MEC Onicca Moloi.
Si Matome, the Chairperson of the Ike Maphoto branch, said they were honoured to have a politician of Maphoto’s calibre in their midst.
“To the young man of the evening, I know we have worked closely along with the Secretary of the Region immediately after the unbanning of the ANC. We were assigned to comrade Ike, Comrade Mark Shope, Comrade Lawrence Phakanoka and Comrade [Mothupi] Pharephare because they had to be part of the negotiations and spreading of the word to the villages there. We were very young by then when they assisted us. We dismantled even some of the structures that were very disruptive to our communities, like the Phuzarivandla somewhere around Mapela as they were harassing our communities,” said Matome.
He called on the party to celebrate veterans while they are still alive than do so when they are no more.
“Comrade General you are a rare breed amongst us the young ones. I hope that we will emulate your heroism. You have sacrificed a lot for us. In 1961 some of us were barely walking but today I can address you as my hero.
“Very few of our fathers could do what you did for us and we are very happy that we are celebrating a living legend.
“I want to challenge most, especially the membership of the branch, and say to all comrades, besides naming statues and all that. What else can we do for comrade Ike Maphoto,” he asked.
Born at Ga-Makgatho in Senwabarwana on February 26, 1931, Maphoto left the country for exile in 1952. He spent years in exile in countries such as Russia and Tanzania, where he received military training and occupied senior positions within the ANC’s then military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK).
He was captured by the Rhodesian Army in Zimbabwe and handed a death sentence. The sentence was later converted to life after Robert Mugabe took over as Zimbabwean president.
For some, like ANC Youth League leader at the Ike Maphoto Branch, Mahlatse Kobe, Maphoto’s birthday was an opportunity to reminisce about the veteran politician’s bravery and old days.
“In 1961, when you were in your 20s, what were you thinking? What propelled you to say, as that organisation said in its preamble, there comes a time for a nation to decide: you either submit or you fight. And him and his friends chose the latter,” Kobe said.
“What is on his mind when he stayed there, on hung pal, until Mugabe took over and the sentence was converted to life?”
Another female comrade said Maphoto remained a source of inspiration for many in and outside the ruling party.
“On this occasion we reflect and acclaim your contribution to humanity and draw inspiration as we continue with the struggle against hunger, poverty and disease,” she said.
The occasion was punctuated by struggle-related music, including struggle veteran Miriam Makeba’s song, “Aluta Continua”, which served as one of the rallying points for black resistance against the apartheid regime in the 1980s.
After his release from prison in Zimbabwe, Maphoto returned home and served as an MPL, and head of the Limpopo Premiers Bursary, among others. Former President Thabo Mbeki bestowed on him one of the country’s highest honours.