Long road home for remains of MK cadre

Published Jun 21, 2008


Job Tabane's family were so determined to bring his remains back to SA, where they belonged, that they began collecting money among themselves five years ago.

The youngest member of the ANC's national executive committee, and a heroic Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) cadre known by his nom de guerre Cassius Maake, Tabane was assassinated by South African security police on July 9 1987 in Swaziland.

For 21 years, his community of Mosenthal near Rustenburg in North West struggled to accept the way in which he had had to be buried so far away from them, in a graveyard in Lusaka, Zambia. It was not his destiny; they wanted to honour him appropriately.

But, controversially, the ANC did not have a policy in place to provide funding for the return of the remains of its soldiers who had died in exile.

Families had been encouraged to find their own means to return their loved ones, sometimes from as far away as Russia and Ukraine, where many cadres received military training. It has been financially impossible for most.

So when Tabane's bones finally arrived at OR Tambo International from Lusaka on Friday, it was with emotion and jubilation that the Tabanes and a large contingent of MK comrades greeted his gilded coffin.

He was home - at last. And it had been through the unrelenting efforts of his wife Grace and his former comrade Zachariah Tolo - the chairperson of the Cassius Maake Reburial Committee - that he would finally be laid to rest not far from his mother Wilhelmina's home in Mosenthal.

ANC NEC member Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was one of the pall-bearers, together with ex-combatants Ayanda Dlodlo and Kebby Maphatsoe, who are now in the leadership of the MK Military Veterans' Association (MKMVA).

They proudly walked the guard of honour while veterans in full MK uniform saluted the memory of Cassius Maake.

Once his coffin had been placed in front of the group gathered to greet him, the former soldiers broke loudly into song, lifting their legs high as they danced in memory of a man who, had he not been murdered by the apartheid state at the age of 45, was expected to have remained in the top leadership of the party after liberation.

Tabane was killed alongside fellow cadre Peter Sello Motau in a car they were using after Motau picked Tabane up from Mbabane airport for a mission in Swaziland. They were forced off the road between Matsapa and Mbabane.

Tabane was the father of two young children, Phakiso and Karabo. The children, now in their late 20s, arrived in Joburg from Sweden this week for their father's reburial at his village on Friday.

The MKMVA has expressed its confidence in the ANC NEC elected at Polokwane in December, and particularly in ANC president Jacob Zuma - who is expected to preside over the reburial - to adjust its policy towards the returning of the remains of cadres slain in exile. For many, the arrival home of Tabane is only the beginning.

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