Esau Tshehlo Mokhethi was born on the 29 April 1952 in Koolfontein, Meyerton District. 

He matriculated at Morris Isaacson High School in Central Western Jabavu under the principalship of Lakgau Mathabatha. His political life started there as a young inquisitive student. His uncle, Mr. Mokhethi, a former teacher in Soweto who left the profession in 1956 because he could not tolerate the introduction of the Bantu Education Act of 1956 played a vital role in shaping the political outlook of the comrade. The 1971/2 workers strikes in Durban under the banner of the Black Allied Workers Union (BAWU) of Drake Koka and Cecil Fanekiso, both deceased, intensified his awareness of the need to be free. The Turfloop students’ strikes of 1972; SASO/FRELIMO rally of 1974; SASO/BPC trial of 1974/5/6 are some of the highlights of the struggle Esau Mokhethi witnessed. 

When Abram Onkgopotse Tiro went to teach at Morris Isaacson in 1972 after his expulsion from The University of the North (Turfloop), he sought to find students at high school with the view to politicising them and also to form SASM (South African Student Movement). Esau Mokhethi was one those students. He was in the Form IV history class of Tiro, and Tsietsi Mashinini was his junior. Like Tsietsi, who was Donald “Don” Mashinini; Khotso Seatlholo who was Sidney “Tiny” Seatlholo, Esau Mokhethi suddenly became Tshehlo Mokhethi. Much as he wanted to be known as Tshehlo due to conscientisation, he could not shrug off the biblical name Esau. It stuck with him.

Esau joined the University of the North in 1974, a few days after his teacher Abram Tiro was assassinated. He joined SASO and became very active on campus. Many a leader in this country who received their education through Turfloop, owe it to Esau Mokhethi, for he had received B.C. conscientisation directly from the master himself, Abram Tiro.

In 1975/76 when the system of the S.R.C was not working at Turfloop because Professor Boshoff, the rector, had banned SASO on campus and he had appointed his men to be in the S.R.C. the students rendered Turfloop ungovernable. A new and credible body (Interim Committee) was elected to represent the students. Esau Mokhethi was one of the six member structure. 

June 16 1976 broke-out in Soweto and the entire country. Those who were in the forefront of this struggle were his juniors at Morris Isaacson. Esau left the campus to go to Soweto to agitate and guide the SASM leaders. When he came back to the university he was arrested with Sello Selele (living in Holland), Tom Moyana (suspended Commissioner of SARS) and Strike Thokoane ( President of AZAPO)  for activities relating to June 16. They were charged with sabotage and arson. After undergoing interrogation at the hands of the Special Branch and incarceration for a period of three months, they were released on bail. They left the country for exile in Botswana. He continued with the struggle in exile. He worked under the former president of AZAPO, comrade Mosibudi Mangena.

Esau became the political secretary of the Botswana region and was instrumental in the formation of the BCMA and AZANLA. His activities took him to Arusha, Tanzania where he represented the BCM at the PAC conference together with Gerald Phokobye in 1978. In Botswana he made his contribution by spearheading the move to form a secondary school in Tlokweng, Botswana and another one at the Dukwe refugee camp. 

After graduating for a BA degree at the University of Botswana in 1982, Esau suffered a long illness which was later diagnosed as brain tumour and could not function any more. He had to undergo operation. There were only two countries where this could be done, namely South Africa and Kenya. He obviously chose Nairobi. When he left Gaborone airport, Esau was walking. A few weeks later he came back escourted by a South African nurse based in Kenya. He was on a wheel chair. Worse than when he left Gaborone. Negotiations were done to have him operated at the Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare.  He died in Zimbabwe in July, 1987. He was buried at the Gaborone Cemetery next to Abram Tiro.

He is survived by his widow Jabulile and son Tiisetso.



Prepared by: Strike Thokoane (President of AZAPO)