Elias Phakane Moretsele (Posthumous)
The Order of Luthuli in
Profile of Elias Phakane Moretsele
Elias Phakane Moretsele was born in Sekhukhune in 1897. As a teenager, he became involved in the fight for black people’s trading rights in cities and joined the ANC in 1917.
His enterprise and business acumen saw him become the first black person to own a cafe and a hotel inside Johannesburg. He was opposed on all sides through the Native Urban Areas Act, 1923 and later the Group Areas Act, 1950, which designated urban areas for white people. In the early 1940s, he was elected as ANC Transvaal Treasurer. He succeeded Nelson Mandela as the Transvaal President of the ANC in 1953 and led many campaigns in the 1950s Defiance Campaign, which was marked by marches, demonstrations, pickets, protests, boycotts and various other forms of defiance.
He was one of the founders of the Sebatakgomo Rural Resistance alongside John Phala, Elias Motsoaledi, Phirime Mashego and others, and was involved in the events leading to the launch of the Freedom Charter. As President of the ANC’s Transvaal branch, he opened the Congress of the People in Kliptown, Johannesburg in June 1955, where the Freedom Charter was discussed and adopted.
Moretsele was charged in the 1956 marathon Treason Trial, but died on 10 March 1961, three weeks before the acquittal of all the accused. He remains an inspiration to the nation.