A FIGHTER FOR BLACK POWER AND SOCIALISM:A TRIBUTE TO CDE.PUMZILE MSUTU-1970-2015
On the morning of 8th March 2015, the Azanian People’s Organisation (AZAPO) and the nation woke up to the news that Pumzile Msutu was no more. Shock and disbelief reverberated across the length and breadth of Azania. Msutu was a proud Black man who refused to be defined by the racist notions of inferiority peddled by the apartheid regime. For this reason, he dedicated his entire being to nothing else but the liberation of his people.
Born on the 30 January 1970 in New Brighton, eBhayi, Msutu did his basic education at Newell High School. He later went to Iqhayiya Technical College and eventually, the old Vista University, now the Nelson Mandela Metro University.
He was naturally endowed with extraordinary leadership abilities; and this enabled him to serve his organisation AZAPO and the community of eBhayi and the Eastern Cape in a number of capacities. He began his association with AZAPO in the mid-1980s.
This was quite bold of him, considering his age and the fact that, during this period, to merely associate yourself with the name AZAPO-was to risk your life. He joined AZAPO, through its high school student- wing, AZASM and served in a number of capacities, the highest being that of National President, between 1994 and 1995.
It was in this capacity that Msutu’s AZASM championed what is arguably one of the most progressive and radical campaigns in the contemporary history of AZAPO-the Employ Black Teachers campaign. This campaign catapulted Msutu to national prominence and as a result, he found himself in a live television debate, with the then national secretary of SADTU, Mr. Thulas Nxesi, who by all accounts, he effortlessly out-classed.
Through this campaign, AZASM set the country alight and fearlessly confronted the crisis of unemployed Black teachers and further sought to conscientise the Black community about the dangers of out-sourcing the education of Black children to other groups. Even today, the Black community is still struggling to extricate itself from this psychological paralysis.
Owing to his exceptional leadership abilities, he went on to serve and help found various other AZAPO youth structures such as AZASCO and AZAYO in the eBhayi area. This prepared him for a much senior roles as AZAPO’s branch secretary for the Ebhayi area, between 1996 and 1997.
Msutu was an indefatigable community activist, who didn’t hesitate to take up issues on behalf of various sections of the Black community, and never made the political or religious affiliation of those he served, an issue. For him, if you were Black, you were his sister, brother, mother or father. This is why it was natural for him to later assume much bigger community roles such as the Administrative Secretary for the Ubomi Advice Centre, between 1991 and 1992.
Consistent with this concern for the plight of Black people, between 1996 and 1997, he assumed the risky role of facilitator between the local taxi organisations Uncedo and BATA. It is no exaggeration to say that Msutu’s efforts contributed greatly to restoring peace within the taxi industry, and also prevented the persistence of unnecessary Black-on-Black violence.
Msutu was an avid reader, who had a penchant for political and philosophical discourse. He was blessed with a razor-sharp-mind that could dissect and simplify some of the most complex phenomena. This is perhaps why many of his AZAPO peers often referred to him as a natural-born Political Commissar. Despite all the prestige he enjoyed- he remained humbled to the end.
He was a true Freedom fighter and Son of the Soil, who gave thirty one solid years of his life to AZAPO and the Azanian Revolution. And through-out all this, he never sought any special recognition, treatment or reward, for the selfless service he had rendered to his people. He was indeed one of AZAPO’s finest Cadres.
Like the young Steve Biko, Onkgopotse Tiro, Mthuli kaShezi, Mapetla Mohapi and many of the BCM’s finest Cadres-Msutu forsook the possibility of a comfortable and detached middle-class life, and instead chose to donate his youth, body and soul to the Azanian Revolution. This is the measure of Pumzile Msutu.
It is therefore no embellishment to say that, when the great Donato Mattera wrote the poem, Salute The Warrior and said: ‘salute the warrior, motionless on the battlefield, shorn of life, yet living evermore, he who gave his last, gave his sacred best, that we might be free, carrying our load, he wrote our destiny…’. Mattera was referring to people of the calibre of Pumzile Msutu.
Lala ngoxolo Mzangwe! Chayi! Zongozi! Mjanana! Ntubi! Msuthu!
By Cde Veli Mbele