Chief among them have been world icon and the first president of a democratic South Africa, Nelson Mandela, who was born in Mvezo, Oliver Tambo from Nkantolo and Govan Mbeki whose birthplace was Nqamakwe.
All dedicated their lives to fighting apartheid and serving the poorest of the poor. All will be turning in their graves at the thought of what the Eastern Cape has become in recent times. It has become a haven for merciless looters.
And the biggest disgrace of all has been that these looters are members of the ANC, which Mandela, Tambo and Mbeki helped to build into an internationally-respected organisation. Some of the stories of graft, theft and corruption that have emerged in the province are beyond belief.
Over the past few days, Public Protector Busi Mkhwebane has lifted the lid on excesses by some government officials that will fill many South Africans with revulsion. Those involved in this feeding frenzy have had respect for no one.
They even tried to make a quick and illegal buck - well, actually, millions of rand - around the funeral of Mandela in 2013.
Mkhwebane reported how one senior ANC official demanded R15million for preparations for Mandela’s funeral.
Pumlani Mkolo, the ANC’s Buffalo City regional secretary, wanted the money for a programme for the memorial services in the period leading up to the funeral.
There was even a dispute over who actually asked for the money. Former Buffalo City mayor Zukiswa Ncitha claimed that she had in fact asked for the R15m.
In the end they were given R10m by the Buffalo City Municipality, most of which was then looted. “It is very scary and concerning that people can use a funeral to do such a thing,” the public protector said.
But this not new for the Eastern Cape.
Looting has become synonymous with its administration.
It was the prime reason that voters in the metro that is named after Nelson Mandela opted for a DA administration after the City had been bled dry by criminal syndicates and factional groups within the ANC.
Everyone who is an ANC member or official should be hanging their heads in shame. Mandela dedicated his life to serving South Africans from all communities and all political persuasions. What has occurred in the Eastern Cape is a blight on his name.
Is it too much to hope that the thieves and those who abetted them will be arrested, tried and jailed for a long time if convicted?
It is the least that can be done to protect Mandela’s name.
* Dougie Oakes is the Group Opinion Editor for Independent Media