Metele kept apartheid in check

Eric Naki

Eric Naki

One of the ANC's most persecuted activists, a former United Democratic Front stalwart and ex-campaigner for nonracial sport, Alfred Toto Metele, kept apartheid in check.

Metele's parents were farmworkers. He grew up amid exteme hardship in the farming area of Qumrha in Eastern Cape.

He started his schooling at Mooiplaas, outside East London, where he was an avid rugby player and cricketer. He later worked at various local firms before joining the Border Council of Churches (BCC) as a fieldworker in 1976.

His leadership qualities were recognised by the church and in sporting circles. The Methodist lay preacher joined the ANC in the early 1960s and vowed to fight the apartheid system and pay any price for the ANC's cause. His resolve increased after 90 days in detention in 1965. After that he was in and out of detention.

Like all BCC workers he was monitored by the apartheid authorities and further exposed to persistent harassment by the then notorious Bureau of State Security.

In the 1980s Metele was in a nine months detention with fellow activist Dlaki Vabaza for refusing to testify against his comrades.

Former Ciskei police force chief Charles Sebe declared his fierce hatred for Metele because he believed he was a threat to the Sebe rule in the then Ciskei bantustan.

Because activists such as Metele lived in Mdantsane, the Ciskei homeland authorities hated the entire township.

Metele made several trips to the ANC in Lusaka. In 1990 one of several attempts on his life was made when his home was petrol-bombed at night in Mdantsane. His family survived the attack.

He was elected president of the Border Rugby Union, which he used as a platform to achieve transformation to nonracial sport.

Metele, who died on April 9, aged 74, became a member of then senate and later of the Eastern Cape legislature after 1994. He retired but remained active in community and church work.

"This great revolutionary's moral compass was principled conduct," the ANC in Eastern Cape said in a statement.

"No storms swayed his conviction and resolve. No amount of intimidation and atrocities could dampen his spirit."

He will be buried at his rural home in Mooiplaas near East London tomorrow.

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