Struggle stalwart Tom Manthata succumbs to Covid-19

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South African struggle stalwart Thomas Madikwe Manthata has died after a battle with Covid-19.

The news of Manthata’s death was confirmed by SABC News on Saturday morning, the day after he passed on.

The 81-year-old was born on 29 November 1939 in Soekmekaar in the Northern Transvaal.

According to South African History Online, he began teaching at Sekano Ntoane High School in Soweto in 1967, where he “became known as a rigorous, critical teacher who encouraged political debates among his students.”

The likes of President Cyril Ramaphosa and Amos Masondo are counted among some of his more politically prominent former students.

“In 1970 and 1973, he facilitated contact between Soweto students and older black consciousness activists who came into the schools as tutors, teachers and speakers,” writes South African History Online.

Manthata was a part-time student at the University of South Africa (Unisa) and during that time he joined both the University Christian Movement and the South African Students’ Organisation (SASO) between 1972 and 1989.

According to the website, he was also involved in nearly every organized form of opposition politics in Transvaal and went on to spend six years behind bars after a series of detentions and court cases.

Following extensive involvement in a number of political movements, he spoke at the inaugural conference of the Azanian People’s Organisation (APO) in 1979, an organisation that he was a founder member of. He later became APO’s general secretary.

In 1988, he was reportedly convicted of treason and spent some time incarcerated before he and all the accused were acquitted on appeal a year later.

In the early ’90s, Manthata completed a master’s degree at Coventry University in Britain and went on to be a commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He also chaired a ministerial committee on care for the elderly and served on the Human Rights Commission.

The Citizen/Kaunda Selisho