Tembisa honoursstruggle stalwart

Kingdom Mabuza

Tom Manthata, a commissioner of the South African Human Rights Commission, believes education is a priority in maintaining the new South African democracy.

Manthata was speaking at a ceremony to honour struggle stalwart, the Reverend Makgale Mapheto, in Tembisa in Ekurhuleni at the weekend.

He said the collapse of discipline in schools was a threat to South Africa's democracy.

Mapheto, 80, was one of the founder-members of the South African Council of Churches (SACC) and was also a trialist in both the Delmas and Rivonia treason trials.

He served in the SACC's committee responsible for visiting and encouraging families of political detainees.

He was constantly harassed by the previous regime after his two sons, Andrew and Thabo, skipped the country to join the ANC's armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe.

Andrew was killed in a car accident in 1995. A street in Tembisa was named after him.

Thabo died in exile and was buried in Angola. The family intends to bring his body to South Africa for reburial.

Mapheto was also instrumental in the establishment of the Tembisa Careers Centre.

Professor Humphrey Mogashoa, who also attended the ceremony, is writing a book on the life of Mapheto.

A member of the Gauteng legislature and chairman of the education committee, Amon Msane, said Mapheto offered leadership during the turbulent period when most people avoided leadership positions fearing victimisation.

"We will never forget his role in the struggle. He was the voice of Tembisa during the state of emergency when all political formations were banned.

"He presided in almost all political funerals when other priests were reluctant to provide the service," said Msane.

Mapheto said he was happy the community had honoured him when he was still alive.

"The little contribution that I have made was because I was requested by the people. We were faced with death, but we had to fight the system," he said.

Bheki Khumalo, a former spokesman for President Thabo Mbeki, also attended the event.