A memorial service was held in the Johannesburg City Hall on Friday for two South African anti- apartheid heroes whose mortal remains returned from Russia last week.
“It is a joyful moment because after 50 years away from home, these two African heroes have returned to the land of their birth. They have returned to a South Africa that is free and democratic,” Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said at the service.
The remains of Moses Kotane and John Beaver Marks, popularly known as JB Marks, were brought home last Sunday from Moscow.
The two men played a key and integral role in the liberation struggle of South Africa and formed part of the generation that paved the way for Nelson Mandela, first black president in the country, and his generation to usher in democracy and social justice.
JB Marks served as president of the Transvaal Branch of the African National Congress (ANC) and was elected chairman of the South African Communist Party (SACP) in 1962. He died of a heart attack in Moscow in 1972.
Kotane was the secretary general of the SACP from 1939 until his death in 1978 when studying at the Lenin School in Moscow.
South Africans, Ramaphosa said, are bound at this moment to reflect on the tragedy of their past, that such devoted sons of this soil should have had to spend their last years so far from the people they loved.
“As we confront the challenges of the present, the role of Moses Kotane and JB Marks in the revival of the ANC and in the growth of the Communist Party is profoundly instructive,” Ramaphosa said.
He took the opportunity to stress the importance for the unity of the alliance the two heroes helped to build.
The alliance involves the ANC, the SACP and the Congress of South African Trade Unions.
A divided alliance serves no-one but those who want to maintain the current patterns of privilege and exclusion, Ramaphosa said.
“A divided working class weakens the ability of our people to advance their rights and improve their lives,” he said.
Moreover, a divided trade union movement threatens to render ineffective one of the most powerful weapons that workers possess, said Ramaphosa.
“Whatever differences we may have today – whether personal or political – they are not greater than the responsibility we have to work together to achieve economic emancipation,” he said.
The country that Moses Kotane and JB Marks were forced to leave over 50 years ago is a very different place to the one to which they have now returned, Ramaphosa said.
They would see profound, meaningful change but there is also much that they would find familiar — most whites still live more comfortable lives than most blacks; young men and women still unemployed and poverty and hardship still existing in many of the rural areas, Ramaphosa said.
“But, at the same time, they would also recognize in our people their resilience and determination to be free. They would continue to see the interaction of class and race – and gender – in the economic and social fabric of our society.”
The remains of Kotane and JB Marks will be reburied in North West Province, where they were born. Enditem