By Moemedi Kepadisa – Gauteng Chairman of AZAPO.

On Friday, 23rd June, the ominous dark clouds hung over the nation as we received the sad news on the passing of one of the great sons of Azania/South Africa and liberation theologian, The Reverend Father Tebogo “Jeff”  “Khala” Moselane. 

Bra. Jeff was one of the products of the milieu of the Black Power Movement that was sweeping this country, United States and other parts of the diaspora in the sixties. He entered the priesthood at the same time with his friends and homeboys Stanley Ntwasa, Drake Tshenkeng and Ananias Nduna Mpunzi, in the mid sixties at the Lutheran Maphumulo Pre -Theological Seminary.

All four trace their roots to the famous St. James “Anglican” Parish in Galeshewe. This is the church where many a young political activist in Kimberley and surrounds, cut their political teeth, and to which also belonged notable Black Consciousness proponents and martyrs of our struggle such as Phakamile Mabija and Jerry Modisane. The former was killed in police custody in 1978 at the Transvaal Road Police Station, and the latter died under mysterious circumstances in exile in Lesotho. 

Bra. Jeff and all three of his fellow clergy, made a lasting contribution in the theory and praxis of theology. Most of them are cited extensively in texts and commentary on Black Consciousness and Black Theology.

Drake Tshenkeng is the former deputy president of the Black People’s Convention (BPC), prior to its banning in 1977, and has returned from exile i to practice as a church minister. Nduna Mpunzi left the shores of this country in 1978 for exile in England, after constant harassment from the police, and he is still resident and engaged in theological work there. 

Rev. Sabelo Ntwasa died last year, and is one those who, together with Steve Biko, Onkgopotse Tiro, Mthuli ka Shezi, Mapetla Mohapi, Muntu ka Myeza,  Ranwedzi Nengwenkhulu, Strini Moodley and Mamphela Ramphela, laid the ideological seeds for the Black Consciousness Movement in our country.

Father Moselane and his generation of youth in the early 70’s in Kimberley were conscientized and inspired by the late PAC leader, Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, who was banished there after his release from Robben Island. Those who have interacted with Bras’ Jeff and Stan at least, would attest that they spoke very fondly and admiringly about their encounters with “Prof”, as the Africanist leader was known in activist circles.  

Father Moselane was no bleeding heart christian when it came to the quest of the oppressed people of Azania for freedom. He played a large part in fomenting the people’s uprising against the illegitimate regime and its surrogate black local authorities in the 80’s. In 1984, as a priest in Sebokeng, he was a part of and led the famous Vaal Uprising through rent boycotts, and plotted the collapse of the puppet civic administration. 

The Vaal Civic Uprising gave impetus to the mass movement inside the country. It was during this uprising that for the first time, after a long while since the June 16th 1976 student revolution when the struggle was led by the youth, that we saw parents, workers, students and youth fighting side by side against the system. 

This uprising served as a blue print for many civic struggles far and wide, in places such as Port Elizabeth and Upington. Communities undermined these pseudo-administrations for their lack of legitimacy, and it is these mass struggles that were to prove the ultimate nemesis and downfall of the apartheid regime.  

The Vaal Civic Uprising culminated in the marathon 1985 Delmas trial, where 22 members of AZAPO, PAC and the UDF, where jointly charged and tried for instigating the people to resist the racist government. The trial started in 1985 and ended in 1988.  

Father Moselane, Patrick Baleka, Oupa Hlomuka, Terror Lekota, Popo Molefe and Tom Manthata  were some of the accused at this long drawn out  trial, during which the accused were denied bail.    

Many will also recall Father Moselane’s eloquent tribute at the memorial requiem for fellow Kimberlite and seminarian, Father Sabelo Ntwasa in 2004.  He spoke about how they were imbued by Black Consciousness/Africanist teachings, and the fearlessness and arrogance they displayed towards authority and the police, as a result. 

At one time, he related, the rector found a group of them in the room at the college in Maphumulo. He accused them of having a political meeting.  Sabelo Ntwasa, who was then SRC President, was the fisrt to ask the white rector what he meant by  “politics”. He went on to give the rector a free tutorial on the origin and meaning of the word, and advised him to verify that in the Greek, Latin and English dictionaries.  

“In our own understanding politics is a derivative of the Greek word polis, which means city, and the word city is a roman extraction from the word civis which means citizen or people.” “So”, they reasoned with the rector, “in Athenian society, politics or a polity is a place where people meet to discuss their affairs”. And all they were doing in that room, they told the rector “was nothing wrong but politics indeed. Only that this time, we are discussing affairs of our people, black people. ” Needless to say, the intruder left their room craven and embarrassed. 

Father Moselane regaled us also about how back at home during college recess in Kimberley, after Sabelo Ntwasa had attracted Special Branch attention for his prominent role in the revolutionary South African Student Organization (SASO), they would mix with him in spite of the banning order, and them risking their own arrest. They would also do the same by visiting Robert Sobukwe.

At times, in their irreverence as youth, they would pass the notorious Galeshewe Police station, and chant this chorus, led by Sabelo Ntwasa of course, “When the day of freedom dawns, we shall turn parliament into a lavatory”, which obviously incensed the apartheid police no end.

AZAPO mourns the passing of a great servant of the people. One who sparred no ounce of his energy in working for our nation’s freedom. A leading light in the church and the community.  We salute a hero who has bequeathed to our people the spirit of struggle and resilience for the betterment of their own lives.

We will march forth with courage and in his honour, knowing fully well that the struggle against inequality, poverty and unemployment; for access to free basic social services, for quality education and housing, must be waged and ultimately won. We will live his legacy of activism and botho that he always displayed towards others. 

Azania has lost a great activist and humanitarian. During his last days, Father Moselane was a chaplain in the corrections department, serving once again the condemned and forgotten section of our society. 

We shall remember him, by saying the prayer made famous by his close comrade and friend, Sabelo Ntwasa, “ God give us life, not just a smallanyana life. But life in its fullness and abundance ”. O dirile Bra Jeff!