Johnstone Mfanafuthi Makatini (1932 - 1988)
The Order of Luthuli in
Profile of Johnstone Mfanafuthi Makatini
Johnstone Mfanafuthi Makatini was born in Durban on 8 February 1932. Makatini attended high school at Adams College, Natal, where after he trained as a teacher in the Inanda area.
He soon became active in organising opposition to the imposition of Bantu Education in African schools. Rather than serve under this obnoxious system, he resigned from the teaching profession and registered as a part-time law student at the University of Natal. As an activist of the African National Congress (ANC), he became a key youth and student organiser around Durban and in the rural areas of Natal. He was actively involved in all the ANC campaigns and was arrested on numerous occasions. Makatini was one of the principal organisers of both the historic Pietermaritzburg Conference of March 1961, which was addressed by Nelson Mandela, and the highly successful anti-fascist Republic Strike of May 1961.
In 1962, Makatini was among the first group of volunteers from Natal to be sent out of the country for military training, where he remained afterwards to receive new groups of trainees. He worked and struck up close friendships with leaders of liberation movements from the then Portuguese colonies, among them Marcelino Dos Santos of Mozambique, Dr Agostinho Neto of Angola and Amilcar Cabral of Guinea-Bissau.
Algeria gained independence in 1963. An ANC mission was promptly opened there, headed by Robert Resha, a member of the National Executive of the ANC. Makatini, his vision of the struggle broadened and deepened by fraternal association with freedom fighters from other African countries, was transferred to Algeria, where he joined Resha. The two formed a dynamic partnership. Algeria, which hosted many liberation movements, mainly from Africa and including the Palestine Liberation Organisation, was a beehive of political activity, involving solidarity support for the liberation struggle.
In 1966, Makatini succeeded Resha as chief representative in Algeria, and soon extended the activities of his mission to cover France and other European countries. In 1974, Makatini became a member of the National Executive Committee of the ANC. He was already a well-known figure in the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and United Nations (UN) circles, where he earned a well-deserved reputation as an articulate champion of the cause of freedom. It was these qualities that contributed to his appointment as head of the ANC mission to the UN in 1977 and later, in 1983, as head of the ANC Department of International Affairs.
While establishing strong relationships with government representatives and organisations in many countries, Makatini paid special attention to the solidarity movement in the United States of America, winning millions of friends of and supporters to the struggle, including the Reverend Jesse Jackson.
The hectic schedule took its toll on his health. However, despite the appeals and remonstrations of his colleagues, he persisted with a rigorous schedule of appointments and meetings. The very weekend before he was hospitalised he had returned from strenuous missions to Nigeria, Mali and Egypt, although he wasn’t feeling well.
Johnstone Mfanafuthi Makatini was an unrelenting freedom fighter. He worked tirelessly and travelled extensively across the world, especially the African continent, for the attainment of a non-racial, non-sexist, just and democratic society.
Makatini passed away on 3 December 1988 following complications from a diabetic condition from which he suffered during the last year of his life. He is survived by his wife and daughter, as well as by his mother, three brothers, and a sister.