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Address by His Excellency President Jacob Zuma, at the Funeral of Henry “Squire” Makgothi, Emmerantia, Johannesburg

The family and relatives of Ntate Henry Makgothi;
Honourable Deputy President Mr Kgalema Motlanthe,
Honourable Ministers,
The Premier of Gauteng, Ms Nomvula Mokonyane and other Premiers present,
ANC Officials and Members of the National Executive Committee,
Leadership of the Alliance,
Esteemed ANC Veterans;
Fellow South Africans,

Good morning, sanibonani, dumelang!

Our country is endowed with a legion of leaders of a high quality, who have made generations of our people proud of being South Africans and Africans.

It is a generation of leaders who possess clarity of vision, dedication and commitment to this country and its people as well as selflessness.

It is a brave generation that was able to inspire the South African people to soldier on towards the goal of achieving freedom and justice, in the face of brutality, arrests, murders and a host of other state-sanctioned human rights violations.
Today, we honour the life of one outstanding leader and national hero, Ntate Henry Gordon “Squire” Makgothi, the former Deputy Secretary-General of the ANC, former ANC Youth League Transvaal President and former chief whip of the ANC in the National Council of Provinces in 1997 to 1999.

We are humbled by this opportunity to pay tribute and bid farewell to this stalwart and freedom fighter, who dedicated his entire life to the struggle for the liberation of this country.

We are called upon to celebrate Ntate Makgothi’s outstanding leadership qualities and to draw strength and lessons from his selflessness, humility and undying love for his country and its people. 

We urge the family, relatives, friends and comrades not only to grieve because he has passed on, but to also celebrate the fact that he lived amongst us, and that we gained so much from his exemplary life.

We admired the tenacity of this fountain of wisdom, and were inspired by his willingness to go as far as humanly possible, to ensure the achievement of freedom. That is the type of leader we are bidding farewell to.

We admire the fact that he resisted the lure of relative comfort which was a possibility for him.

He could have closed his eyes to the suffering and lived a better life with his Fort Hare university education, but he chose the life of struggle, as he preferred to be truly free.

Ntate Makgothi participated in various phases and aspects of the liberation struggle. 

He joined the youth league of the ANC in 1944, which had a militant programme of action at the time, which defined the politics, character and direction of the ANC. While militant, the League acted responsibly. 

It was the type of responsible militancy that was designed to take the struggle for freedom forward, guided by the discipline of the collective and respect for the movement, its members, leadership and its character and traditions.

We pay tribute to the leadership abilities of Ntate Makgothi and other founding fathers of the League, for steering that period of struggle forward successfully.

All who know Ntate Makgothi will profess that he was one of the most disciplined cadres of the ANC, a trait he learned early on in struggle.
This is something many cadres learned from him too, and sought to emulate – the discipline and the need to respect all people one comes across, young and old, rich or poor.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is also remarkable that Ntate Makgothi never looked for positions within his organisation, despite being highly capable and experienced. He always humbled himself and was willing to be led. He taught us that if you are a leader, you should also be ready to be led.


Ntate Makgothi was truly a remarkable leader. We should be thankful that he touched our lives and made his contribution to bringing forth the freedom we are enjoying today.

He participated in critical moments in our history.

He was actively involved in the Defiance Campaign of 1952, eventually losing his career as an educator, but this did not make him abandon the struggle.

Arrest and imprisonment did not deter him either.

He was one of the accused in the first Treason Trial but was acquitted. 

Later, he was to be arrested as part of the group of ANC cadres in Botswana by the police who handed him over to the South African Police.  He was charged for leaving the country without a passport. 

He was sentenced to two years.  He was further charged for ANC activities and then sentenced to eight years.  He spent part of the two – year sentence in Leeuwkop Prison, and more than eight years on Robben Island.

Whilst in prison, this selfless patriot mentored many fellow political prisoners. In the early 1970s he skipped the country again and joined his comrades in Tanzania, serving at the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College.


Ntate Makgothi has really served his time and paid his dues for this country and this nation. We express our gratitude to him and all his peers for their steadfast contribution to ensuring the dawn of freedom.

Since 1994, we have achieved peace and stability and a fully functional constitutional democracy.

We achieved national reconciliation and brought to life in the Constitution of the Republic, the Freedom Charter assertion that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white.

Ntate Makgothi was part of the secretariat that drew up the Freedom Charter, and understood the need for unity.

He was part of a leadership collective that had remarkable foresight, which laid the foundation for a free, democratic and non-racial South Africa.
The reconciliation achieved in 1994 was therefore not a miracle, but arose from decades of hard work and conscientisation of the masses by leaders such as Henry Makgothi.

Chief Albert Luthuli, Nobel Peace Prize winner and former president of the ruling party, outlined this point well when he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1961.

He said: “How easy it would have been in South Africa for the natural feelings of resentment at white domination to have been turned into feelings of hatred and a desire for revenge against the white community...

“Here it could well be expected that racialism equal to that of their oppressors would flourish to counter the white arrogance towards blacks.  That it has not done so is no accident. It is because, deliberately and advisedly, African leadership for the past 50 years, with the inspiration of the African National Congress which I had the honour to lead for the last decade or so until it was banned, had set itself steadfastly against racial vain-gloriousness”.


As we bid this hero and freedom fighter farewell, we are humbled that he sacrificed so much, so that we can today be able to live as free and equal beings.

Lest we forget, during the 1950s, the people of South Africa were separated in their residential areas by the Group Areas Act.
There was enforced social segregation of all public amenities such as transport, schools, sports and important facilities, through the Reservation of Separate Amenities Act of 1953.

Today the Constitution of the democratic South Africa says nobody should be discriminated against on the basis of amongst other things, the colour of their skin.

The 1923 Urban Areas Act and the 1955 Natives Urban Areas Amendment Act were at their full might, constantly limiting the rights of the African people to settle in the urban areas.

Bantustans or so-called homelands and certain locations or townships were designated for black people, areas with no social amenities, a legacy we are still battling to finish addressing.

There are many other laws dating back a century ago, which were designed to keep the majority in bondage.

Fortunately, sound leadership and the quest of the South African people for freedom ensured that they would break free.
Comrades, in the era of freedom and democracy, Ntate Makgothi never failed to remind us of the need to speed up service delivery to improve the lives of our people. 

Although he was in his 80s in terms of age, he still found time to come to the ruling party headquarters every Monday to make his views heard on matters and to provide leadership and guidance.

We have to ensure that we work harder to deliver the better life that he fought so hard and tirelessly for.

Some progress has been made in the past 17 years, although much more still needs to be done.

To date, over two and half million houses have been built for the poor giving shelter to over ten million people.

Six million households have gained access to clean water since 1994 and electricity has been connected to nearly five million homes.

In 1994, only 62% of households had access to clean drinking water, today 93% do.

In 1994, only 50% of households had access to decent sanitation, today 77% do.  In 1994, only 36% of South Africans had access to electricity – today 84% do.

Today the majority of our people are provided free basic services in water and electricity.

More than 400 000 additional people were provided with basic water supply last year.

During Ntate Makgothi’s struggle times, the 1953 Bantu Education Act imposed inferior curriculum on the African people.

This was further underscored through the separation of higher education in 1959, with crass divisions of institutions according to all races and ethnic backgrounds.

It is this crude racialism that the youth confronted in 1976, most paying with their dear lives in that struggle. Ntate Makgothi was part of the underground in 1976 that guided the student uprisings.

To date, all the doors of learning are open for all, the young and the old.

Our students can enrol at any tertiary education institution, and we continue to improve our financial resources to enable access of our learners to tertiary education.

We can count all these achievements because our stalwarts laid the foundation for the type of South Africa we live in today.


Ntate Makgothi has departed just as we had begun focusing on ensuring that the political freedom we attained translates faster into economic freedom in order to create a more prosperous society and a better life.

On behalf of the government and the people of South Africa, we extend our heartfelt condolences to the family, relatives, the ANC and its Alliance partners on the fall of this soldier.

His passing on, as the saying goes, signifies not the extinction of the light, but the putting out of the lamp because the dawn has come.

That dawn is the freedom and democracy that we all enjoy today as South Africans.

May His soul rest in peace!  Lala ngoxolo, akwehlanga lungehli.

I thank you!