MK soldier Lennox Klaas, a communicator in a class of his own

Lennox Klaas, Umkhonto weSizwe veteran, and as a trained soldier, his mission was to use the barrel of a gun to free the oppressed people of SA.
Lennox Klaas, Umkhonto weSizwe veteran, and as a trained soldier, his mission was to use the barrel of a gun to free the oppressed people of SA.
Image: ZOLILE NQOSE COLLECTION

The adage that the pen is mightier than the sword, cannot gain more currency than when one looks back at the life and times of the legendary Umkhonto weSizwe soldier-cum-seasoned government communicator.

A gentle giant who has served the Government Communication Information System (GCIS) for nearly 20 years, Lennox Klaas is in a class of his own.

From humble beginnings of Kwazakhele in the Eastern Cape to the battlefields of Angola, Lusaka and then back to Pretoria.

As a trained soldier, his mission was to use the barrel of a gun to free the oppressed people of SA.

Klaas is a walking archive, able to effectively communicate the liberation movement's stories and the government's policies. He has seen them all, from the reconciliation and development programme (RDP) to growth, employment and redistribution (Gear) and the national development plan (NDP) policies in the presidencies of Thabo Mbeki, Jacob Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa.

Born in Kwazakhele as Lennox Klaas, he later had several names to conceal his identity from the apartheid regime operatives. He was Sipho; Mthethwa; Monwabisi; and Nkosinathi.

After his arrest, the apartheid police paraded him in the cell in which the late Steve Biko was detained in Port Elizabeth, asking him if this was where he would want to end up.

After being shown Biko's blood stains, you can image what went through the mind of a 16-year-old boy.

Later his family home was raided. Torture hardened his spirit to intensify the struggle against the brutal system of apartheid.

As early as 1978, he stopped staying and sleeping at his parents' home.

Prior to skipping the country in 1982, he joined the ANC's MK or Umkhonto we Sizwe in 1981, what he described as the beginning of a exciting journey.

His role became that of an anti-aircraft counter insurgency guerrilla.

A turning point came when his commander informed him he had been identified to join other cadres in Lusaka to join the DIP.

He later learnt that DIP was the department of information and publicity (DIP), a communications wing of the ANC, which ran Radio Freedom.

He completed his mass communication diploma exams in Harare in 1993 . The same year he returned to SA, and headed home in Port Elizabeth.

His passion for radio saw him work for the Open Learning System Education (OSLET).

Those radio programmes are still being used today by the SABC for the benefit of grade one to three learners. They also include voter education programmes commisioned by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).

Exactly twenty years ago when he joined the Government Communications Information System (GCIS), GCIS radio unit. It had only one person and he had to turn the unit into a fully fledge radio unit.

When he finally took over the management of the radio unit in 2007, he managed to get the community radio stations central to the government communications strategy

In his own words, Klaas said he has propagated the strategic importance of this sector of community radio as the mainstream media often fall short of articulating the government's programmes.

Klaas early retirement from government leaves a significant void.

*Muthambi is the former minister of communications. She writes in her personal capacity.

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