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SACP: Statement by Malesela Maleka, South African Communist Party spokesperson, on the passing away of Curtis Nkondo (04/12/2009)

4th December 2009

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The South African Communist Party joins thousands of South Africans in mourning the death on Thursday, 3 December 2009 of comrade Curtis Nkondo, a life-long revolutionary and champion of democracy, justice and equality in our country.

 

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Cde Nkondo, who died in Johannesburg at the age of 81 after a long illness, was an activist throughout his life, both in the struggle to end apartheid and, after 1994 in the struggle for a better life for all South Africans. At various times he was active in the ANC, Cosatu and the SACP.

 

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A passionate educationist who taught English and Geography for 20 decades until banned from entering school premises by "Bantu Education" authorities, Cde Nkondo was headmaster of Lamula High in Meadowlands when student resistance to apartheid erupted in 1976. He chaired the Soweto Teachers' Action Committee established to support protesting students until his detention by apartheid police in November 1977.

 

On his release following nearly a year in detention - much of it in solitary confinement - he was elected president of the Azanian People's Organisation (Azapo), but suspended three months later by elements opposed to his explicit pro-ANC views. He nevertheless assisted in the establishment of the Azanian Students' Organisation (Azaso) - in which both his sons were active members - and contributed to its pro-ANC stance.

 

With resistance of apartheid growing steadily, he was detained in 1980 and subject to vicious torture before his release and banning apartheid authorities.

 

Despite this, he chaired the Release Mandela Campaign from 1980, and was elected president of the newly-formed National Education Union of South Africa (Neusa) -a decade later, he was instrumental in merging Neusa with other teachers' unions to form the South Africa Democratic Teachers' Union (Sadtu), of which he was elected vice-president and a lifetime honorary member.

 

He played a central role in the formation of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in 1983 and served as its Transvaal vice-president.

 

A year later he and 15 other UDF leaders were detained and, after several months, charged with high treason. The prospection collapsed and all charges were withdrawn in late 1985.

 

He went into hiding when the apartheid government imposed a nationwide state of emergency in 1986, and remained active but working underground until the end of the emergency in 1987.

 

He continued to campaign against apartheid, both at home and internationally, throughout the 1980s.

 

With the lifting of the ban on the ANC and SACP in 1990, he served on the ANC's Education Desk until elected to the Gauteng Provincial Legislature in the country's first democratic election in 1994.

 

His active commitment to ending apartheid and to decent, equal education was recognised by the Gauteng Department of Education in 1999 and by the Soweto Education Summit a year later, both of which conferred awards on him.

 

From 2000 to 2004 he served as South African High Commissioner (ambassador) to Namibia.

 

Although he formally retired in 2004, he remained politically active (serving, among other things, as a member of the provincial disciplinary committee of the ANC) and was active in NGOs and parastatal organisations, with a strong focus on his great passion - education, and particularly English tuition - and against the abuse of women and children.

 

In the past two years the damage wrought by apartheid torture caught up with him and he was hospitalised repeatedly.

 

He remained an energetic commentator on South African political life and a committed Marxist-Leninist until his death on Thursday.

 

He lived his life as a committed and disciplined democratic activist and serves as a role model to all who are committed to liberty and justice.

He is survived by his wife, Rose and his three sons, Reavell (Ricky), Ruskin and Ephraim.

 

We South African Communists, salute Cde Curtis Nkondo, a lifelong democrat and revolutionary, a hero of our country's democratic struggle, and a champion of decent, equal education for all.

 

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