Mbulelo Grootboom

Clive Stuurman, Mzukisi Skosana and Mansoor Jaffer

Cape Town - Mbulelo Grootboom, one of the Karoo’s foremost liberation activists, will be buried in Oudtshoorn this week.

Grootboom popularly known as “Spi”, died early on August 9, National Women’s Day. He had been ill for several years.

He and the late Reggie Oliphant were the most prominent members of a core group that led militant resistance to apartheid in the conservative rural town that housed a military base and the headquarters of the feared security police.

Born in Oudtshoorn in 1960, he matriculated in the former Ciskei. He studied law in 1983 and 1984 at Fort Hare, where he was politicised.

He returned to Oudtshoorn around the time of the tricameral elections and helped to turn initial anger against a brutal system of racial discrimination into a full-scale revolt.

He was instrumental in establishing and building youth and civic structures in Bhongolethu and very soon organised and mobilised across the Southern Cape and beyond.

Inspired by the Freedom Charter’s vision of a non-racial and democratic South Africa, Grootboom threw much of his energies into building the United Democratic Front and the inspirational rural community paper Saamstaan.

He suffered lengthy detentions and banning orders and spent harrowing periods on the run.

His university studies were twice disrupted. However, he returned to university almost a decade later and completed a BA and honours degree in development studies.

Grootboom’s humble nature, dedication to family and his unwavering commitment to the rural poor, were among his defining features.

He leaves his wife Zama, sons Mpilo and Sima, daughter Hombisa, and brother Kenneth.

He will be buried from the Congregational Church in Bhongolethu in Oudtshoorn at 10am on Saturday.

* The writers were fellow activists of Mbulelo Grootboom, who was based in Oudtshoorn in the ’80s.

Cape Argus