MK commander passes on

Eric Naki

Eric Naki

When the history of this country, in general, and Umkhonto we Sizwe (the ANC's former military wing), in particular, is written, the name of Andrew Masondo will surely feature prominently.

Lieutenant-General Masondo died on April 20 at One Military Hospital in Thaba Tshwane of kidney failure. He was 71.

When the ANC changed its focus from non-violence to the armed struggle, Masondo was among the first MK recruits.

He later formed a unit at Fort Hare University, where he was an applied mathematics lecturer.

He and his cell took part in operations throughout a large part of the eastern Cape without being detected by the university and apartheid authorities.

Black universities, by and large, were under constant security police surveillance.

He was among the first MK members to take part in sabotage between 1961 and 1964 before he was arrested and imprisoned on Robben Island with Joe Gqabi, Indres Naidoo and Ismael Ebrahim.

The group served 13-year terms. On his release Masondo continued his work in MK. He went into exile for further military and advanced political training.

After intensive military training in various countries, including the Eastern bloc and West Africa, Masondo rose to become the ANC's national commissar in Angola and one of the commanders at Quattro Camp.

Masondo served on the ANC's national executive committee for several terms in exile. As NEC member one of the tasks he was given in 1985 was to make representations on behalf of the movement to the United Nation's special committee against apartheid.

Masondo used the platform to call for the release of political prisoners, including many United Democratic Front activists who were in jail at the time.

He was among a large group of top ANC leaders who applied to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for amnesty with Thabo Mbeki, Jacob Zuma and Joe Modise, among others.

Masondo also played a central role in the formation of the SA National Defence Force, serving as a senior figure on the integration committee.

This week the ANC described Masondo as: "A distinguished veteran of the South African liberation struggle. The country owes much to his undying commitment to a free and democratic society at peace with itself and the world.

"The ANC extends its condolences to the Masondo family and to his comrades, colleagues and friends. His fighting spirit will live on in the struggle to build a better life for all."

He is survived by four children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Masondo's funeral service will be held at Vista Campus, Soweto, tomorrow at 8am.

The cortege will then proceed to Avalon Cemetery, Soweto, at 11am.