Zuma welcomes Kotane and Marks home

Struggle icons Moses Kotane and JB Marks were on Sunday given a heroes' welcome by President Jacob Zuma during a ceremony for the repatriation of their remains from Russia.

"Their homecoming is a beginning of a new chapter," Zuma said in a speech prepared for delivery at the Waterkloof Airforce Base in Pretoria.

"It enables us to celebrate their contribution, and to raise awareness amongst our people, especially the youth, of what these two great men did for this country."

Political activist and trade unionist John Beaver (JB) Marks served as president of the Transvaal Branch of the African National Congress and was elected chairman of the SA Communist Party in 1962.

In 1963 he was sent to the ANC external mission in Tanzania.

He became ill in 1971 and went to the then-Soviet Union. He died of a heart attack in Moscow the following year.

Kotane was the secretary general of the SACP from 1939 until his death in 1978. He was selected to study at the Lenin School in Moscow.

Kotane, one of the first activists to be banned under the Suppression of Communism Act, suffered a stroke in 1968 and went for treatment in the then-Soviet Union, where he died in 1978.

Both were buried in the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow.

Zuma said the men's remains were returning to a South Africa that was very different from how it was when they left it.

"Today we have brought them back home, to a free South Africa.

"South Africa is today a democratic country based on the rule of law and

fundamental human rights, largely owing to the sacrifices made by Moses

Kotane, JB Marks and all other leaders as well as activists of their


Zuma thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian government for caring for the South African struggle stalwarts both in life and in death.

"Their tombstones at the cemetery which became their temporary home in

Moscow indicated the respect and the status that they were accorded in that country, and further the cemented the strong historic ties between South Africa and Russia.

"The co-operation of the Russian Federation in our efforts to bring these two giants of our struggle back to their land of birth, and the remarkable and stately send-off yesterday when they left Russia will also forever be remembered by the South African people as a gesture of true friendship."

Kotane would be reburied in Pella, North West, on March 14, while Marks would be reburied in Ventersdorp on March 22.

The Congress of the People expressed satisfaction with the repatriation of the remains of Kotane and Marks to South Africa.

"These were two outstanding leaders of the struggle, who went abroad to fight for the freedom of our people, needed to come home and lie in South African soil," Cope spokesman Dennis Bloem said in a statement.

The party believed, however, that the men would have been disappointed at persisting poverty, corruption and service delivery problems in South Africa today.

"They would also have been shocked at how huge and rampant corruption has become in our country; or how some of their former comrades are in the forefront of corrupt activities and self-enrichment," Bloem said.

"Cope is convinced, more than ever before, that the best way to honour the fallen heroes of the struggle, such as Moses Kotane and JB Marks for

example, is to continue the fight to end the poverty and inequality that

blight our society."