politics, medicine close to his hear t

If it is indeed true that we are products of our environment, then Nchaupe Aubrey Mokoape, a medical doctor by training, is the epitome of this assertion.

Like a Stompie Seipei of sorts - only with a lot more formal education - he was, at 13, already involved in the politics of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM).

He was spokesman of the PAC youth at 15, with none of the lapses in language of Julius Malema and Anele Mda!

He holds the distinction of having been the youngest political prisoner in the country.

He's 65 now, but if you thought crosstitution was a word in his vocabulary, you have another think coming - the loyalist is still BC, through and through. He's just been elected, on September 13, president of the Black Consciousness Party, a vehicle meant to unite parties on the extreme left of the political centre.

All manner of postulations and expostulations have been advanced to try and form parties such as the PAC, Azapo, Sopa and the APC into a potent political force but with very little success hitherto.

"Everybody says so. I say so myself," he confesses regarding efforts to unite the Left. "It is one of my greatest disappointments that today, when our people need us most, we're not there."

He spent the past 12 months speaking with stakeholders and interest groups but at the last moment "when we were about to consummate the marriage, some of our members shrunk and chose to stay in their comfort zones".

He hopes that those that remain will help propel the dream forward.

Ask Mokoape about the once-proud PAC, the party he joined as a schoolboy before the Sharpeville massacre of 1960, and for once he's at a loss for words.

"It is difficult to talk about the PAC," he says, "because you wouldn't know which one you're referring to."

The party of Sobukwe, Leballo and Mothopeng - the very stalwarts the younger Mokoape hung around with as he cut his teeth in Africanist politics, is in disarray and if you ask what would save it from extinction, there's only a sad look on a face that is generally happy.

If it is not saved by the BCP maybe the only redemption would be its own death.

He speaks with an orator's voice, a ready smile lingering at the corners of his mouth. The subject - BC, is as close to his heart as medicine.

Mokoape was on the first flight out of Durban when he heard of the death of Dr Nthato Motlana, "a relative, a friend, my inspiration, my mentor".

"He's the man who urged me to go to medical school.

"He bought me my first ticket to Durban."

Like Motlana, Mokoape would distinguish himself as a struggle doctor, serving the community of Umlazi the same way Motlana did those in Soweto.

His surgery in the Durban location was in the heartland of the IFP in the heyday of the so-called internecine violence that tore townships apart.

But like a true BC disciple, in the same mould as Dr Mamphela Ramphele, and steeped in the politics of community advancement, he emerged unscathed and was, in fact, a much idolised figure in the area.

When he finished school at Orlando High, he says, all he wanted to do was "fight, go into exile" but at the insistence of Motlana and the late Dr Phokobye, he was taken by the scruff of his neck and frog-marched to medical school.

It was here that he'd meet Steve Bantu Biko: "He found me at medical school. I think he came a year after me."

Biko, says Mokoape, came from a Christian background, while "I came from a strong leftwing political family".

When Mokoape took up medicine he'd already served a prison sentence and had endured a year of exile in Lesotho before he was PI'd, declared a prohibited individual. BC politics is still relevant in modern-day South Africa, he says: "We have to give our people a road map. They need to know that the struggle to free them can only be carried out by them."

He says the "change that has occurred in the country has been by blacks, largely influenced by BC".

His brand of politics remains adamant that communities can only prosper if those with an education plough back. When he speaks to young doctors these days, it is with the aim to inculcate such a sense of duty in them.

Like Sobukwe, once a neighbour in Mofolo, Mokoape makes a passionate case for Black Consciousness; he demystifies it and shows it to be unlike the monster the liberal media have made it out to be.

Now retired, the good old doctor, a former (Robben) Islander, still does community work.

"My interest now is in the arts," says Mokoape, who is chairman of the Bat Centre.

His wife Gwen - the woman who had to give permission that he stays overnight in Johannesburg so he could speak at Motlana's memorial service - is a dancer now running an HR company.

One son, also a doctor, is up here in Johannesburg, while another is in Cairo, eking out a living as a journalist.

One of the two daughters works with their mother in the family business.

This allows Mokoape ample time to indulge his hobby - making clay pots: "They break."

And he laughs - straight from the heart.

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