Johannesburg - For their 67 Minutes, a slew of military veterans, including Deputy Minister Kebby Maphatsoe, took to repainting an unassuming house in Mzimhlophe, Soweto, on Saturday.
The double-storey dwelling looked like it could do with a lick – or more – of paint. But in its heyday, it was called the Pink House and was of particular significance to the struggle for liberation.
It was the safe house out of which many activists received their political orientation and from which they left for exile.
The man who best captured the essence of the house, Isaac Makopo, said: “If the Order of Isithwalandwe was ever conferred on objects and buildings, this house would be worthy of such an honour.”
Makopo, who is now 81, left for exile in Botswana a fit and energetic young man of 27.
“It was from here,” he said.
He would spend 31 years outside the country, based mostly on the continent. He was the ANC’s chief representative in Botswana.
Most of the homes the ANC used in Lusaka, Zambia – where he also lived – were rented, Makopo said.
On Saturday, a representative from the Gauteng Department of Sports, Art, Culture and Recreation, who spoke on behalf of MEC Molebatsi Bopape, granted the veterans’ wish for the Pink House to be turned into a heritage site.
This sat well with Makopo, who was adamant “this house played a role and it needs to be treated well”.
One of 32 young men who left the country at that time, he was part of the famous Luthuli Detachment.
Makopo had the audience eating out of his hand when he regaled them with the heroics of the detachment on the banks of the Zambezi River, fighting alongside their Zimbabwean comrades from Zapu against their common enemy.
Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Maphatsoe, who is also the chairman of the MK Military Veterans Association, was first to pick up a paintbrush.
Why this house?
“It was a hiding place for the first generation of Umkhonto we Sizwe – the Luthuli Detachment.
“They were hiding here when they were preparing to leave the country – 32 of them. They left from this house.
“I don’t think they came back after our liberation to say thank you to the family.
“The Department of Military Veterans says we must preserve our history and heritage. This is part of our mandate.
“I’m happy it will be a heritage site,” Maphatsoe said.
It was not immediately clear if any of the Mashiloanes, the family who owned the house in those days, were still on the property.