Rashaka Frank Ratshitanga (1933 - )
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Profile of Rashaka Frank Ratshitanga
Rashaka Frank Ratshitanga was born in August 1933 in Venda. He was educated at the University of Witwatersrand. Like most of his contemporaries, he migrated to Johannesburg where he worked at the South African Railways and Harbours from 1958 to 1960.
After observing the hardship faced by most black workers, Ratshitanga became an anti-apartheid activist. His political life began through his African National Congress (ANC) membership in 1958 as an executive member of the Vendaland Guide Association, a regional anti-apartheid organisation, which was the key organisation in the ANC’s underground activities and its Rural Political Programme in the then far-Northern Transvaal (Limpopo).
During the volatile years of 1961 to 1969, Ratshitanga’s activities in the community started through the formation of the Northern Community Development, which mobilised crafters to self-help and socio-economic development programmes and raised political awareness among the people.
After a stint as a teacher at Thonondo High School, Ratshitanga co-ordinated an educational programme to help the activist youth on the run from the apartheid authorities, to study with international institutions. The significance of this role rose, especially after the 1976 uprisings.
Like most of his political contemporaries, Ratshitanga was not spared the wrath of the apartheid forces, enduring periods of intermittent detentions from 1978 to 1984. In this period, he was detained in Musina, Venda Central Prison and in Sibasa. During this time, he managed to co-found Liivha School, a non-racial school independent from the then Department of Bantu Education and Christian National Education.
As a founding member of the Congress of Traditional Leaders in South Africa, he was deployed as deputy secretary whose principal objective was to rally the traditional leaders and their communities behind the fight for freedom in South Africa in the period between 1987 and 1993.
Later in his life, in the period 1986 to 1989, he studied towards a BA degree at the University of the Witwatersrand, majoring in History, Politics and African Literature. In the early 1990s, Ratshitanga also established a non-governmental organisation, the Rural Development Collective, to initiate holistic development in the disadvantaged communities in Venda.
Ratshitanga has played various political roles in Limpopo, for example:
• in 1995, he was deployed as an ANC MP and a whip, heading various Parliamentary standing committees
• in 1997, he visited Zimbabwe as part of the South African Representatives on Parliamentary Democracy to study the British multiparty system, sponsored by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association
• in 2002, he was deployed in the Interim Leadership Core, reviewing the state of the ANC and its leadership in Limpopo
• he was part of the provincial health delegation which visited Uganda to study and observe how the country managed the HIV and AIDS challenge
• in 2007, he was one of the election commissioners for the 52nd ANC National Conference in Polokwane.
As an active member of the community, Ratshitanga is a founding member of Ndima Community Services and a member of the board. Since 1994 he has assisted in facilitating land claims for various communities, including Ratombo, Manenzhe, Tshilata and Matidza. In 2002, he participated in the Right to Land Seminar at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, representing Ndima, as part of a study trip to Belgium and the Netherlands.
Ratshitanga is also a cultural activist and a published poet, with a poetry anthology, Tsengela Tsiwana – Speaker of the Needy, that was published in 1973. Nineteen other poems were published in Muungo Wa Vhuhwi. His film of the early 1980s, Two Rivers, depicted socio-political transformation in the country.
Rashaka Ratshitanga thought nothing of the risk posed by speaking against the apartheid government and served his community with courage and integrity. He resides in Sibasa where is actively involved with organising the ANC Veterans’ League.