Remembering Thomas Mapikela

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Lungile Nangu, Senior Manager – Corporate Affairs at Safika Holdings and Mapikela's great-granddaughter, Candy Mapikela-Fikizolo. PHOTO: SEITHATI SEMENOKANE

When the then apartheid government wouldn’t let Thomas Mapikela buy two plots of land, one for his business and one for his home, he decided to build them right on top of each other in a boss move, building the first double storey house in Bloemfontein.

For a long time it was known that the well-known Mapikela House was the birthplace of the African National Congress (ANC). However, it was declared that the accurate birthplace was the Waaihoek Wesleyan Church, which survived demolition to make way for a railway line from the city to Cape Town. As one of the founding fathers of the South African Liberation movement, Mapikela’s contribution to political change in South Africa has always been a pride-instilling historical fact for the Bloemfontein community.

Part of the original wall from the Wesleyan Church

Safika Holdings has funded The Thomas Mapikela Debating Chamber, which will be opened on Wednesday, 9 October 2019 at the Graham House Gardens in Grahamstown (Makhanda). The Anglican Institution was founded in 1860 alongside St Andrew’s College. A large number of priests, teachers and civil servants, many of whom became leaders and activists in early political movements, were trained at the school. Several of its alumni, including Josiah Gumede, Daniel Letanka, Samuel Masabalala and Thomas Mapikela, were founding fathers of the South African Liberation Movement.

Makhwenkwe Fikizolo (Candy’s husband) and Mapikela’s great-granddaughter, Candy Mapikela-Fikizolo. PHOTOS: SEITHATI SEMENOKANE

“Not much is known about Thomas Mapikela, and as a company we think that this is an opportunity to tell people a story that can never be forgotten. The best tribute we can pay to these renowned men, is to transform the old building into a Debating Chamber in which the next generation of leaders can grapple with the contemporary issues facing our society and the world. Photographs and memorabilia from the time of the Anglican Institution will be exhibited in the room, thereby bringing to life this significant part of our heritage,” said Lungile Nangu, Senior Manager – Corporate Affairs at Safika Holdings.

Part of the original wall from the Wesleyan Church

Mapikela trained as a carpenter in Grahamstown and once he was in Waaihoek, he established a successful business as a builder and contractor in Bloemfontein. Many important ANC meetings were held in Mapikela House, which is now a National Monument.

He also created some of the wooden furniture for the Wesleyan Church, which can be viewed at the national heritage site.

Seithati Semenokane

seithati@centralmediagroup.co.za