A tribute to a young great BC life by Moemedi Kepadisa

Unlike some of our young Black Consciousness (BC) stalwarts, Mokete Masetle never aspired for or held high office in any of the numerous structures he served in. He never made any pretensions to intellectual prowess nor sought the political spotlight in his duties and roles as an activist. Yet very few in the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM), can claim not to have taken notice of him, and been inspired by his work and commitment in serving the movement and the people. 

AZAPO has lost one of its most dedicated and hardworking young cadres. Mokete Masetle was born into struggle, and was one of those that BC giant, Muntu ka Myeza once described as  “children who had learnt too many things too soon”. 

From his formative years as a member of the Azanian Student Movement at Kgothalang High School in Bekkersdal, he was thrown into the crucible of struggle, when as young activists they had to defend the ideological legitimacy of Black Consciousness and the right of the Azanian People’s Organisation (AZAPO), to exist in the tiny West Rand township in the mid 80’s.

They defended BC, the name Steve Biko and the formation AZAPO, at a time when political intolerance was rife within the broad liberation movement, against their charterist ideological foes who were materially better armed than them, and who employed the barbaric necklace weapon to resolve political differences.

Many of his comrades paid the supreme price through life and limb, others were hounded out of their homes and townships, but he was one of those who held fort and asserted the right of the people’s movement to operate in their township. 

Responding to the call then, of the Azanian Youth Organization (AZAYO) for BC youth to swell the ranks of the peoples fighting organ, the Azanian National Liberation Army (AZANLA) in exile, Masetle left the shores of this country in 1992, to join the liberation army in Zimbabwe.  

After undergoing Military training he was deployed to the Northern Transvaal (now Limpopo) detachment of Azanla.

He served the movement with distinction in the underground, where he was part of a command structure and cell that was responsible for setting up the famous Sekhukhune Caves operation, before the enemy agents uncovered it, and was aborted in 1994.

When the BCMA, the exiled wing of the BCM repatriated in 1994, Masetle was integrated into the political structures of AZAPO and served for a long time in the youth structures in the West Rand. It is during this time that his true leadership qualities and discipline shown through. 

He was a highly principled comrade who brooked no tolerance and compromise with misconduct and trivialities. He contributed greatly in rebuilding and consolidating the structures of the movement in the west rand areas of Gauteng. 

Mokete Masetle – the valiant one – was a soldiers’ soldier. In 1996, when AZAPO was rattled by ill disciplined and disaffection by some of its cadres, he literally put his life on the line to preserve the integrity and respect for the organization. At a Central Committee meeting that was held in Wilgespruit, a group of suspended members of AZAPO from Gauteng and Kwa Zulu had conjured up a plan to overrun the Central Committee while in session.

On their appointed hour, little did they know that the door they had contrived to use as a breakthrough point was assigned to Masetle to secure.  They arrived there armed to the teeth but were confronted by the valiant one, who repulsed all of them single handedly and with bare fists, before reinforcements were summoned.  

At that stage I was the National Treasurer of AZAPO, and had borne first hand witness of the valour of this young hero in action. I and the rest of the leadership of AZAPO then, owe our lives to this young brave life. As we mourn his passing, many of us shudder to think what could have been, if he had not stepped into the breach at that crucial moment.

It is a credit to his bravery, that the Central Committee continued without disruption and none of the top leadership suffered casualties, which was clearly the intention of those detractors on that day. To this day, the bravery of Mokete Masetle is legend in AZAPO.  

During the 2000 municipal elections, he was one of three AZAPO councilors who were elected to the Westonaria Municipality, where he was assigned to the portfolio of roads and infrastructure development. He was also instrumental in the Bekkersdal Regeneration Project, which was launched by President Thabo Mbeki. 

His fellow councilors and colleagues across the political spectrum, within the Westonaria Municipality, speak in glowing terms about his passion to serve the grassroots people. 

We dip our banners in honour of a young great life well lived. A true flower of the revolution. One who gave our people’s struggle colour, vigour and energy, without which our efforts at national liberation would have come to naught. 

It was in part his absolute commitment to serve the poor and the working masses and the travails of struggle, that took a toll on this promising young life. He leaves a huge vacuum across the movement that will be hard to fill, especially as we approach the coming local government elections. 

AZAPO will honour his illustrious legacy by redirecting its focus and that of the state towards the pressing aspirations of our people and the goals of our national liberation. Some of these are; reconquest of the land, universal and free education, access to basic services and the redistribution of wealth from the colonial white settler minority to the indigenous poor black majority. 

As the incumbent Chairman of the Bekkersdal Branch of AZAPO, he leaves an indelible mark on the community , a solid branch, youth and regional structures of  the west rand areas, which are the envy and model of many of our formations.

He is survived by his parents, five sisters and a brother.  

In the words of Amilcar Cabral, Mokete Masetle was “an ordinary man, who did his duty, for his people, in the context of his time”. E hulere namane ya tholo, mmina tshipi e ntsho. Seja mogopo se o lala. Ngwana wa Azania!

A memorial service will be held today at Paul Nel Hall at 05h00, and a special Chamber meeting will be convened by the Westonaria municipality at 14h00 in his honour tomorrow Thursday 11August. The Funeral service will be held on Saturday 13th August at 7: 30 At Paul Nel hall and the cortege will leave for the cemetery at 11am