Speech by His Excellency Dr. Kenneth D Kaunda, first President of the Republic of Zambia at the memorial service of the late Johnston Mfanafuthi Makhathini, Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Lusaka, 20 February 2010
Director of Ceremonies,
The Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of the Republic of South Africa, Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane
Your Excellency, Dr. Zweli Mkhize, the Premier of Kwazulu Natal Province of the Republic of South Africa
Mrs Valerie O’Connor Makhathini and other family members,
Your Excellency, Mr. M Chikane, High Commissioner of South Africa to Zambia,
Members of the Clergy,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Distinguish ladies and gentlemen,
21 years ago, a patriotic son of South Africa who dedicated his entire life to the cause of justice, liberty, dignity and freedom for all South Africans passed on here in Lusaka following a short illness. Comrade Johnston Mfanafuthi Makhathini was a fearless and dedicated freedom fighter who sincerely believed that all men and women irrespective of race, colour and tribe were created equal.
Comrade Makhathini had an impeccable record of service from his early life as a teacher, freedom fighter, representative of African National Congress at the United Nations Headquarters in New York and as Director of the Department of International Affairs of the African National Congress (ANC).
While serving as head of the ANC’s permanent observer mission to the United Nations from 1977 to 1985, Comrade Makhathini worked tirelessly to bring to the fore and to the attention of the international community of the crimes of the abominable system of Apartheid in South Africa. He interacted with many Diplomats from all the regional groups particularly the African group and members of the Non Aligned Movements. Indeed, he also worked closely with Diplomats from the Nordic countries most of whom rendered invaluable support to the liberation movements in Africa, and especially in South Africa.
Comrade Makhathini was well known at the United Nations as a persuasive representative of the people of South Africa who spoke eloquently about what was taking place there. He was at the United Nations at the height of the freedom struggle by all means including mounting frequent and indiscriminate military attacks of the frontline states because of their support to the liberation movements.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Comrade Makhathini was an eloquent debater at the United Nations where he participated in many deliberations regarding the situation in South Africa and the neighbouring countries. On 30th October 1985, he addressed the Plenary Session of the United Nations General Assembly to bring to attention of the international community about apartheid South Africa’s reckless attacks on some member countries of the front line states. What was remarkable about his statement was that even in the face of hostilities from the regime, Comrade Makhathini saw the need to present the picture by referring to the universal support that the liberation struggle enjoyed at international level against apartheid.
I would like to quote his statement in part: “countless men and women of conscience around the world, outraged by the regime’s barbarism and moved by the resilience and determination of the South African people to rid themselves of racist minority rule and to win their freedom, have responded with appropriate action. With one powerful voice they have demanded the immediate imposition of comprehensive and mandatory sanctions against the Pretoria regime. They have embarked on campaigns for increased all-round support and assistance to the African National Congress in its role as the vanguard of the broad based national liberation movement. A growing number of Governments, academic institutions, labour organisations and other non-governmental organisations, as well as intergovernmental organisations, are unilaterally imposing various packages of sanctions against Pretoria”. End of quote.
By the end of 1985, Comrade Makhathini was transferred to Lusaka as the Director of the ANC’s Department of International Affairs. He was introduced to me by Comrade Oliver Tambo who was then the President of the African National Congress, living here in Zambia. My first impression of Comrade Makhathini was that he was a committed freedom fighter who had a vision for his country. He was a patriotic South African who had a vision for his country where all its citizens would live in peace and harmony. I viewed him to be an immensely gifted pan-Africanist with a rare sense of fairness and unfailing courtesy to the others, attributes, which earned him immense respect not only among his comrades but also among other people with whom he interacted.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As we pay deserving tribute to the great son of South Africa, I wish to humbly submit that we should continue to remember the role that his dear wife Valerie O’Connor Makhathini played during the difficult era. For she whole heartedly supported her husband and the freedom movement during those dark days.
On this auspicious occasion, I would like to appeal to the people of South Africa and Zambia to emulate our compatriot Comrade Johnston Makhathini who stood for justice, fair play, harmony, peace and reconciliation among all people of South Africa. In his honour and memory as well as in memory of our courageous freedom fighters, we need to build bridges of understanding and cooperation between South Africa and Zambia, indeed, among all the African countries. Let us soldier on to keep Comrade Makhathini’s dream and vision alive.
May His Soul continue to rest in eternal peace!
God Bless South Africa!
God Bless Zambia!
God Bless Africa!
Goodwill to Humanity!
I thank you for your attention!