Big Brother of struggle

Frans Pale

Frans Pale

Major Mogorosi Benny Morake is no more.

"Big Brother", as he was fondly known, died at his home in Central Western Jabavu, Soweto, last Thursday. He was 51.

Morake was no ordinary man. His life touched many people across the continent, especially in Botswana, where he had lived in exile.

At the South African Air Force (SAAF) headquarters in Tshwane, where he was corporate communications officer, news of his death was received with pain and sorrow.

"I really cannot believe Big Brother is no more. He was such a wonderful soldier," said a cleaner at the Kieppersol officers' mess, where Morake once resided.

He was an activist and a poet. In Soweto, Morake was known for his favourite slogan, Bua Mokoena, ke madi a haho [Speak brother, it is your blood], during the turbulent 1970s.

Those were the days when black consciousness was popular in the country. As a student then, he used his poetry to conscientise blacks to fight for their freedom.

Renowned poet Don Mattera said Morake's love for black people was unwavering. "He was a small lion of Azania. He raised the name of Steve Biko at Regina Mundi during the black power days in this country."

Mattera's words about Morake are true. This writer met Morake in the mid-1980s at Dukwe refugee settlement in Botswana. Though he was then a member of the Pan Africanist Congress and I belonged to the Black Consciousness Movement, everyone, including ANC members, respected him.

My relationship with him grew stronger and he came to stay with me and my family in Tlokweng village, near Gaborone.

He had an incessant sense of humour that kept my family entertained. Everyone called him "Big Brother". I called him Mo-Afrika or Afrique.

Morake joined the SAAF in 1998, and in 2006 I also joined him in the army.

He introduced me to his friends at Salvokop, where he was based.

His love for children was unsurpassed.

Every year he organised SAAF staff visits to Kalafong Hospital's children's ward. He is survived by his mother, two sisters and two sons.

His funeral service will be held at Vista University, Soweto Campus, tomorrow, from 8.30am.

He will be buried at West Park Cemetery.