Struggle hero saw his contribution to liberation as a calling

Masilo Malekane

Revolutionary student Cedric Ntloane Bapela has died.

Like most of his contemporary students and youth leaders, he was vehemently opposed to the apartheid system.

After the June 1976 students uprisings, Bapela went into exile in Botswana, where he joined the South African Youth Revolutionary Council (Sayrco) led by Tsietsi Mashinini and Khotso Seatlholo.

He was born 51 years ago in GaMasemola village in Limpopo.

He enrolled at the University of Botswana for a Bachelor of Commerce degree.

In 1985, he was appointed representative of Sayrco in Botswana, a position he held until the unbanning of the liberation movements in 1990. As a Sayrco representative and organisational coordinator in Botswana, he played a vital role in the recruitment of activists who fled South Africa and landed in Botswana.

"Wapapa" or "Morwa", as he was fondly called, was a militant but rational activist who had an open-door policy on matters related to the liberation struggle.

Rather, he saw his contribution to the struggle as a calling that required the cooperation of all liberation forces in Africa and beyond. To him, every individual in the liberation struggle was a comrade. He took part in every event organised both in South Africa and exile to denounce the apartheid regime, irrespective of who might have organised it, and contributed to the best of his ability when given a chance.

To this extent, it is not surprising that he saw political affiliation as a non-issue. In 2005, when there was a cultural "cleansing ceremony" at Gaborone Cemetery organised jointly by the South African and Botswana governments, he was given the task of identifying the graves of the exiles who were buried there.

Bapela diligently managed to identify all the graves. In this case, he helped to put to rest some of the unanswered questions regarding the remains of liberation fighters and refugees who perished at the hands of the apartheid regime.

He also served as the deputy chairman of the Association of South Africans in Botswana, formed to foster cordial relations between South Africans living in Botswana and locals.

In 2000, he registered a company and practised as a business consultant. He was a member of various international professional bodies and was just about to complete a doctorate in economics when he died.

On September 10, Bapela was admitted to Princess Marina Hospital in Gaborone, but he was discharged shortly thereafter.

However, 10 days later he went back to his home village, GaMasemola, and was admitted at a provincial hospital, where he died last Thursday.

Bapela will be buried at the local cemetery tomorrow.