'Bra Babes' Jordaan lived for the Struggle

The 'go-to' BCM stalwart joins celestial heroes

Michael Mathew "Bra Babes" Jordaan
Michael Mathew "Bra Babes" Jordaan

Most remember Michael Mathew “Bra Babes” Jordaan, who passed away on Monday, as one who did something for others without expecting anything back in return.

“Bra Babes” was born on November 27 1942 in Kroonstad, Free State, the province whose name belies the truth about it. As Orange Free State, it was one of the most oppressive provinces under the apartheid rule. Sadly, post-apartheid Free State inhabitants are among the worst deceived and swindled in new SA.

Bra Babes left Kroonstad for "greener pastures" in the so-called City of Gold – Johannesburg. He settled in Alexandra, where he stayed until his banishment from there returned him to Kroonstad in 1977.

His political activities in Alexandra drew the unwanted but always expected attention of the Special Branch police unit. This was in the early days of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) as represented by SA Students Organisation (Saso). He was very active in its activities, campaigns and projects.

Bra Babes worked closely with "renegade" pastor of the NG Kerk, Beyers Naude. That association also linked him up with the late Rev Sam Buti also of the NGK, also known as the Dutch Reformed Church, on 5th Avenue in Alexandra. 

It was in Alexandra where he met and interacted with the likes of Bokwe Mafuna, Wally Mongane Serote, Welile Nhlapho, Tomeke Mafole and other leading lights within the BCM. For a number of activists, he was the "go-to" bespectacled guy for any transportation or travel needs.  

Grounded in the BCM teachings of black solidarity, he assisted people from across the liberation movements including the ANC and PAC to leave the country. He worked with several ANC cadres in the underground, including Joe Gqabi, Caleb Motshabi, Zeph Mothopeng and Robert Sobukwe.  

Bra Babes also worked for the SA Council of Churches, visiting and assisting banned and banished people across the whole country.

Part of his main work was tending to the needs of those banned and banished to far-flung places such as Sada and Dimbaza in Eastern Cape. Little did he know that it would soon be his fate. He was hounded by the Special Branch until he was finally captured in Soweto and served with banning orders.

The apartheid cops drove him to Alexandra, leaving his car in Soweto where it stood idle for days on end, to collect all his personal belongings and then taken to Kroonstad where he was banished. 

As the saying goes, "you can’t keep a good man down". Bra Babes found life in Kroonstad debilitating and limiting. The only option left for him was to go into exile. Lesotho, being closest to Free State, was his next place of sojourn.  

In Lesotho, he worked in the NGO sector, particularly in research institute the Transformation Resources Centre. 

Even in Lesotho, he remained true to the BCM philosophy as an attitude of mind and a way of life up to his return to the country under the new dispensation.  

Like many of the erstwhile activists from exile, he found it difficult to find gainful employment and continued to work within the NGO sector, lending a hand here and there.

Jordaan was buried in Kroonstad yesterday.

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