Revolutionary Speaking – President’s Weekly Column – Volume 1 Issue 21

Vol 1: Issue 21
24 February 2023
A Tribute to Cde Peter Cyril Jones
“A tear that refuses to drop”, that’s what Cde Peter Cyril Jones (72) said when he was asked about how he felt about the loss of his Comrade, Bantu Biko.  That tear dropped on 15 February 2023 when he succumbed to multiple strokes, the major one of which hit him in 2019 when he was on holiday in Mauritius.
This past Wednesday at 09h00 he was cremated, and his ashes delivered home at 12h00.  In the form of ashes, the Son of the Soil has returned to the soil.  At the appointed time by the family, his ashes will be scattered in the Atlantic Ocean.  Some structure of remembrance will be housed at the Steve Biko Foundation in Ginsberg with the objective of reuniting him with Biko.
It is right that his ashes will be scattered into the sea.  He loved the sea and its creatures.  But he also cared for human life.  That is why he was a volunteer lifesaver at Kogel Bay in the Western cape.  He could do that because he was as fit as a fiddle, and as strong as an ox.  He was endowed with a huge frame that was muscular as that of a bodybuilder.  Though sweet, but he didn’t shy away from fighting when his dignity and life was at stake.  No wonder thugs in the Cape Flats kept some safe distance from him.
Through his NGO Masifundise Development Trust, this freedom fighter and lifesaver fought for the poor fishermen to assert their fishing rights and quotas on the western coastline.  The creatures in the sea and those on land were important to Jones so much so that he was troubled by the displacement of the families that were running away from the political infighting in Embekweni in Paarl.  This was in the mid-1980s.  At that time there were unoccupied sites with toilet structures in Site B in Khayelitsha.  He quickly organised resources and bought building material for the displaced families to settle in Site B.  A civic leader and AZAPO Chairperson in Embekweni, Monelo Bongo was accommodated at the Jones residence for over a year.  Cde Jones didn’t mind the inconvenience.  What mattered for him was to demonstrate love and magnanimity to his people.
Community development was in his blood.  This was a skill and value he learned from working with Biko in the Black Consciousness Movement.  Self-help projects were important for the poor Black communities because they were in keeping with the principles and values of self-determination, self-reliance, self-initiative, self-assertiveness and self-definition. Cde Jones knew that the people could not fight to repossess their land from the enemy and still rely on the enemy for their livelihood.  Self-help projects were also critical in the fight for the restoration of humanity and dignity of Black people.
Imbued with the skills of community development, Jones combined with his AZAPO Comrades Pandelani Nefolovhodwe, Monelo Bongo and Hlako Rachidi to establish a rural development NGO called Is’baya, which was working in the agricultural space where they train small farmers to thrive in the farming sector and develop into commercial farmers, where possible.  They worked with 15 villages in the OR Tambo district in the Eastern Cape.  They rearranged those villages into 50 working zones.  As an accountant by profession, Jones imparted his business skills to help the agricultural zones to access markets to sell their products.  Until his health failed him, he was still active in this community development space.
Cde Jones was a political being.  When he enrolled for a BCom degree at the University of the Western Cape in 1968, he immediately got involved in the efforts towards forming the South African Students Organisation (SASO) in December of the same year.  This BCM pioneer organisation was launched in 1969 with Biko as the inaugural President.  Those constructive activities positioned Jones as one of the founders of the BCM.  The liberatory effect of these efforts come sharply into focus when we consider the fact that they mobilised the masses and reignited the revolution.  Following the banning of the ANC and PAC in 1960, there was political lull that was characterised by a paralysing fear of the power structure of the time. 
The fearlessness and adventurism of the young Jones and his Comrades helped to shatter the political doldrums.  They quickly established a plethora of sectoral structures that gave shape to the BCM.  With the formidable political and ideological foundation they built, the 1972 General Strike erupted.  That was followed by the 1974 Viva Frelimo Rallies to celebrate the independence of Mozambique.  Soon thereafter, the June 16 Uprising erupted like a volcano in 1976.  All these radical activities owed their initiation to the political and institutional foundation set up by Cde Jones and his Comrades.  There is a sense in which today’s democracy is traceable to the contributions and sacrifices of Jones and his peers.
There must be something about trustworthiness and reliability that struck Biko about Cde Jones.  Biko invited Cde Jones to settle in Qonce (King William’s Town) and work with him in the Black Community Projects (BCP).  It is during that time when the two Comrades decided to undermine Biko’s banning order and drove on 17 August 1977 to Cape Town.  The mission was to unite the liberation movement.  Jones was the one who was making the arrangements and appointments for the organisations and the people to be met in Cape Town.  That unity trip ended up in a damp squib.  They left without meeting the people they had set out to meet.  Despite the prior arrangements, one leader refused to meet and talk with them.  In the morning of 18 August, they drove into a roadblock in Makhanda where they were arrested and sent to different police stations in Gqeberha.  Last year AZAPO staged a silent protest at the Roadblock Spot calling for a liberation monument to be built as a contrast to the colonial Settlers’ monument.  We have yet to receive a response from the democratic government.
Cde Jones spent about 18 months in detention.  He got to know of Biko’s death weeks later through the help of young detainees that arrived at the police cells.  He never got to attend the funeral of his Comrade, a poignant situation that gave meaning to his statement: “A tear that refuses to drop”.  That tear will now drop into the ocean in the form of ashes.  It will be the union of soil and water.  There is no doubt that the salty ocean will be sweetened by Cde Jones’ mortal remains.  He was as sweet as honey.
On Cde Jones’ release, Cde Nthibedi Tloubatla relates that they worked with him in the Western Cape towards founding AZAPO as the institutional reconstitution of the banned BCM organisations on 19 October 1977.  Like Biko, Cde Jones undermined his banning order and led his Comrades into the various communities to organise for AZAPO, which was founded on 28 April 1978.  In this regard, Cde Jones is the founder of AZAPO.  In 1984 he was elected into the position of Vice President.  I had the honour to serve with Cde Jones in the Western Cape Province where he was the Treasurer in the early 2000s.
AZAPO has engaged the State to honour Jones with an Official Funeral.  The President has responded and offered a Provincial Funeral Category 2.