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Job Richard Rathebe (1897 - 1982)

The Order of the Baobab in

Job Richard Rathebe (1897 - 1982) Awarded for:
Exceptional dedication to offering social services to war orphans, widows and dependents of solders during and after World War II, and the struggle against racial discrimination and educational advocacy.

Profile of Job Richard Rathebe

Job Richard Rathebe was born in 1897 in the Potchefstroom district in the then Western Transvaal. In 1900, his family relocated to Doornfontein near Johannesburg.

After obtaining his Standard Six certificate, he qualified as a primary school teacher at the Grace Dieu (Diocesan) Teachers' Training College in Polokwane (then Pietersburg). He taught at the St Cyprian's Primary School in Sophiatown and was later promoted to the position of principal. Apart from helping the school to achieve excellent pass rates every year, Rathebe also encouraged his pupils to participate in extramural activities such as the Boy Scouts, athletics, football, netball, and inter-school music competitions.

In 1932, he established Safrica, the first black-owned funeral parlour initially based in Sophiatown and which later opened branches in Evaton and Orlando, after the forced removals.

When World War II broke out, Rathebe recruited part-time soldiers for service in the Middle East, especially Egypt. He also attended to the needs of war orphans, widows and soldiers' dependents. He even facilitated the rental and maintenance monies of the soldiers to support their families back home.

Rathebe later obtained a diploma in Social Work from the United States. In 1948, on his return to South Africa, he and Mr Ray Phillips started the Jan Hoffmeyer Schhol of Social Work, he became a Secretary of the only black social club, the Bantu Men's Social Centre in Eloff Street, Johannesburg, and later leader of the Donaldson community centre in Orlando. He was also a member of the Institute of Race Relations, and a committee member of the Bantu Trust Fund, which raised considerable funds to assist need high schools and those at Fort Hare and Witwatersrand universities.

Before the National Party took over from the Smuts Government in 1948, Rathebe had an altercation with white school inspectors. Following a futile court action and lengthy deliberations with his church hierarchy, he reluctantly left the teaching profession.

He was also a very dependable candidate for his vast Johannesburg Diocese at the annual Church of the Province Synod, representing his people with distinction. He also persuaded the Synod to accord the same privileges to black priests as their white counterparts enjoyed eg. the use of cars instead of motorcycles.

Rathebe's high moral standards in his home became a cornerstone of the Sophiatown community. Following the notorious forced removals there, he went to court on 7 July 1959 and won a stay of eviction for Sophiatown. This embarrassed the apartheid government to the extent that they immediately promulgated new law to overturn the victory. He promptly named his newborn grandson Victor.